Aug 272020
 


Boris Ignatovich Moscow At the Hermitage, Leningrad 1930

 

Hurricane Laura Makes Landfall as Cat. 4 Storm, Moves Inland (WC)
Biden’s Polling Lead Has Collapsed (Palumbo)
Trump Job Approval Rating Hits Record At 52%, Up With Blacks, Even Dems (WE)
DOJ Asks Four States For COVID Data On Nursing Home Deaths (JTN)
Obesity Increases Risk Of COVID19 Death By Almost 50% (G.)
Non-Woven Masks Better To Stop COVID19, Says Japanese Supercomputer (G.)
6 Feet May Not Always Be Enough Distance To Protect From COVID19 (NBC)
The Tragic Hydroxychloroquine Debate and Dr. Fauci’s Denial of Evidence (RCP)
What Is Gilead’s Role In The War On Hydroxychloroquine? (Chaves)
Airlines Threaten October Jobs Massacre Unless they Get 2nd Bailout (WS)
France & Italy Throw Weight Behind Greece As Naval War Games Kick Off (RT)
The New Media Elite Are Rapacious Monopolists, And We Are Their Food (Lewis)
Good News for Birds – and Wind Power (Adler)
Your Dreams Are A Continuation Of Your Reality (RT)

 

 

US new daily cases look sort of okay, as a trendline, when you watch the past 2 months. But they have crossed the 6 million figure now, as global cases are gunning for 25 million, and the trend there is much less positive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We don’t do jobs

 

 

Be safe.

Hurricane Laura Makes Landfall as Cat. 4 Storm, Moves Inland (WC)

Laura is near the extreme southwest Louisiana coast and tracking to the north-northwest at about 15 mph. The hurricane is a Category 4 and steady weakening is now expected through the morning hours. Laura’s maximum sustained winds jumped from 75 mph to 140 mph in the 24 hours ending 1 p.m. CDT Wednesday. That increase in maximum sustained winds easily meets the definition of rapid intensification in a hurricane. Hurricane conditions are ongoing in southwestern Louisiana. More than 9 feet of storm surge is inundating the coast near Cameron, Louisiana. A water level station at Eugene Island, Louisiana reported about 3.2 feet of inundation above ground level early Wednesday afternoon and a wind gust of 45 mph.

A 133 mph gust and an 85 mph sustained wind were measured in Lake Charles early Friday morning. A 127 mph wind gust was measured early Thursday morning at Calcasieu Pass, Louisiana and a sustained wind of 93 mph was recently measured in Cameron, Louisiana. NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center has issued a tornado watch valid until 8 a.m. CDT for parts of Louisiana and southeastern Texas. The watch area includes Baton Rouge, Alexandria, Lake Charles and Beaumont. Laura has prompted hurricane and storm surge warnings for the northwest Gulf Coast.


A storm surge warning is in effect from Freeport, Texas, to the mouth of the Mississippi River in southeast Louisiana, including Galveston Bay and areas inside the Port Arthur, Texas, hurricane flood protection system. This means a life-threatening storm surge is expected in the next 36 hours. Residents in these areas should heed all evacuation orders and instructions from local emergency management and take necessary precautions to protect life and property.

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Rasmussen is changing fast.

Biden’s Polling Lead Has Collapsed (Palumbo)

Just a month and a half ago, Rasmussen Reports had Joe Biden 10-points ahead of President Donald Trump in the polls. Now he’s only ahead by one point, within the margin of error. Even if Biden’s now-slim lead in the polls were to remain frozen as of today, Trump would still have a clear path to an electoral college victory, as Hillary Clinton lead Trump in the popular vote by just over two points in the 2016 election. While it is impossible to know the exact reason (or reasons) for Biden’s polling collapse, it comes as the economy continues to rebound from the coronavirus, riots continue to ravage liberal run cities longer than anyone expected (to no condemnation from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris), and a Democrat National Convention widely viewed to be a snoozefest was held.


It’s hard to imagine how anyone could’ve had their mind changed by the extended Zoom meeting that was the DNC, but the RNC is changing hearts and minds – or at least some. Of note, Rasmussen was among the closest mainstream pollster in approximating the popular vote in the 2016 election. Rasmussen had Hillary Clinton up 1.7 points over Trump on election day 2016, while she ended up winning the popular vote by 2.1 points above him (48.2% vs. 46.1%). The Real Clear Politics average of polls had Hillary up for six points. Unlike the other polls, Rasmussen correctly saw Trump had a path to victory in the electoral college.

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The tables are starting to turn. Is it just the riots? Or should I ask again if Dems really want to win?

Trump Job Approval Rating Hits Record At 52%, Up With Blacks, Even Dems (WE)

Buoyed by blacks and independent voters, as well as urban dwellers shocked by the Black Lives Matter protest violence raging in some cities, President Trump’s approval rating has hit a new high, according to a survey heavy with minority voters. The latest Zogby Analytics poll just shared with Secrets had Trump’s approval at 52%. “The president has recorded his best job approval rating on record,” said pollster Jonathan Zogby. What’s more, his approval rating among minorities was solid and, in the case of African Americans, shockingly high. Zogby said 36% of blacks approve of the president, as do 37% of Hispanics and 35% of Asians. Approval among independent voters is also up, to 44%. And “intriguingly,” said Zogby, 23% of Democrats approve of Trump.

It was the latest to show that Trump’s approval went up during the Democratic National Convention. Rasmussen Reports had it at 51% at the end of the convention. In a shock from past election years, Joe Biden got no convention poll bounce, according to a newly released Reuters/Ipsos poll. The Republican National Convention still has two days to go. Last night’s address by first lady Melania Trump won good reviews. Tonight, Vice President Mike Pence speaks, and Thursday is Trump’s night. Pollsters have been somewhat at a loss to explain the rise of Trump’s approval ratings, considering that there has been little positive news to help his standings other than the peace deal he helped negotiate between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.


Zogby, in his analysis, took a stab at the reasoning. First, he said, his and other polls are confirming that the nation is nearly evenly divided politically and that despite some showing a big Biden lead, the race is extremely close. He suggested that the battle is for the “10%-20%” who haven’t made their minds up on whom to vote for and who likely won’t make up their minds until Election Day, just like in 2016. “We are as polarized a nation, on a level not seen since the Civil War,” said Zogby. He also said that the violence playing out in cities such as Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Portland, Oregon, are pushing urban voters to Trump.

Rasmussen

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This should happen in many countries. Familes have a right to know.

DOJ Asks Four States For COVID Data On Nursing Home Deaths (JTN)

The Justice Department on Wednesday requested COVID-19 data from four states it says required nursing homes to accept residents infected with the coronavirus, policies that may have rendered elderly Americans “unnecessarily put at risk.” The department said in a Wednesday press release that it was seeking “COVID-19 data from the governors of states that issued orders which may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of elderly nursing home residents.” The department named New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan as the states in question.

Data indicate that a significant percentage of all COVID-19 deaths worldwide—possibly approaching half of all fatalities—have been in long-term care facilities, locations where advanced ages and chronic medical conditions make patients much more vulnerable to infectious diseases. The Justice Department notes that in late March New York State ordered that “no resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to [a nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.” “Protecting the rights of some of society’s most vulnerable members, including elderly nursing home residents, is one of our country’s most important obligations,” Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband said in the press release.

“We must ensure they are adequately cared for with dignity and respect and not unnecessarily put at risk.” The requests “are not accusations of fault or wrongdoing by the states or any other individual or entity, and the department has not reached any conclusions about these matters,” the department noted. The letters to the four state governors request various types of state-run nursing home-related data, including the number of residents and staff of such homes that contracted COVID-19, the number of deaths at the homes, and “all State-issued guidance, directives, advisories, or executive orders regarding admission of persons to Public Nursing Homes.”

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Keto. Ditch sugar, ditch carbs. Someone open a chain of keto restaurants.

Obesity Increases Risk Of COVID19 Death By Almost 50% (G.)

Obesity increases the risk of dying of Covid-19 by nearly 50% and may make vaccines against the disease less effective, according to a comprehensive study using global data. The findings, which the lead researcher described as “scary”, show that the risks for people with obesity are greater than previously thought. The study, commissioned for the World Bank, will increase pressure on governments to tackle obesity, including in the UK where Boris Johnson has put himself at the head of a drive to reduce the nation’s weight. The prime minister hit out last year at “sin taxes” such as the UK’s sugary drinks levy, but his own spell in intensive care with Covid-19, which he blames on his weight, has convinced him that tough measures are needed to reduce obesity levels.


It is understood that even taxes are no longer off the table. The US and UK have some of the highest obesity rates in the world. US government data shows that more than 40% of Americans are obese. The figure in England is more than 27% of adults. The new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill into the effects of Covid-19 on people with obesity, defined as a BMI over 30, finds they are at greater risk from the virus in every way. Their risk of ending up in hospital with Covid-19 increases by 113%, of needing intensive care by 74%, and of dying of the virus by 48%. The study was led by Prof Barry Popkin, of the department of nutrition at the UNC Gillings Global School of Public Health, who said he was shocked by the findings. The risk of dying of Covid-19 for people with obesity was significantly higher than anyone had thought.

“That’s a pretty big effect for me,” he said. “It is a 50% increase essentially. That’s a pretty high scary number. All of it is actually, much higher than I ever expected.” The risk of being admitted to hospital for people with obesity was doubled, he said. “That, ICU admission and mortality are really high. They all shocked me, to be honest.” The study, published in the journal Obesity Reviews, is a meta-analysis, bringing together data from many studies carried out around the world, including China, France, Italy, the UK and the US. Obesity is a global problem that no country has yet successfully tackled. People with obesity often have underlying medical conditions that put them at greater risk from the coronavirus, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Obesity can also cause metabolic changes, such as insulin resistance and inflammation which make it harder for the body to fight off infections.

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“Cotton and polyester masks were slightly less effective, but were still able to block at least 80% of droplets.”

“Polyester and cotton masks allowed up to 40% of the smaller droplets to escape.”

The whole mask thing is made so complex by the “experts” and the media that nobody understands it anymore, so you got all these people walking the steets with masks on, where they serve zero purpose, and people in confined spaces, where they do, wearing none and clamoring about their liberty and birth rights. Some things we can still figure out ourselves. Wear the things where they are appropriate, but only there.

Non-Woven Masks Better To Stop COVID19, Says Japanese Supercomputer (G.)

Face masks made from non-woven fabric are more effective at blocking the spread of Covid-19 via airborne respiratory droplets than other types that are commonly available, according to modelling in Japan by the world’s fastest supercomputer. Fugaku, which can perform more than 415 quadrillion computations a second, conducted simulations involving three types of mask, and found that non-woven masks were better than those made of cotton and polyester at blocking spray emitted when the wearer coughs, the Nikkei Asian Review said. Non-woven masks refer to the disposable medical masks that are commonly worn in Japan during the flu season, and now during the coronavirus pandemic.

They are made from polypropylene, and are relatively cheap to make in large numbers. Woven masks, including those used in the Fugaku simulation, are typically made from fabrics such as cotton, and appeared in some countries after non-woven versions were temporarily in short supply. They can be reused and generally offer more breathability but, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), should be washed in soap or detergent and water of at least 60C at least once a day. The non-woven variety blocked nearly all droplets emitted in a cough, according to experts at Riken, a government-backed research institute in the western city of Kobe.

Cotton and polyester masks were slightly less effective, but were still able to block at least 80% of droplets. Non-woven “surgical” masks were slightly less effective at blocking smaller droplets measuring 20 micrometres or less, with more than 10% escaping through gaps between the edge of the mask and the face, according to the computer model. One micrometre is one millionth of a metre. Polyester and cotton masks allowed up to 40% of the smaller droplets to escape. [..] Makoto Tsubokura, team leader at Riken’s centre for computational science, encouraged people to cover up despite the heatwave gripping large parts of Japan.

“What is most dangerous is not wearing a mask,” Tsubokura said, according to the Nikkei. “It’s important to wear a mask, even a less effective cloth one.” Fugaku, which was named the world’s fastest supercomputer last month, has also run simulations on how respiratory droplets spread in partitioned office spaces and on packed trains when the carriage windows are open. Although it will not be fully operational until next year, experts are hoping the 130bn yen ($1.2bn) supercomputer will help identify treatments for Covid-19 from about 2,000 existing drugs, including those that have yet to reach the clinical trial stage.

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No, you don’t get to change your ideas every other day just because you call yourself an expert.

This has nothing to do with COVID19 specifically. This is a general virus issue, and we could have defined these things well before the pandemic. And some people did.

6 Feet May Not Always Be Enough Distance To Protect From COVID19 (NBC)

The current guidance for safe social distancing may not be enough to stop the spread of COVID-19, a new analysis suggests. In the report, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Oxford say other factors, such as ventilation, crowd size, exposure time and whether face coverings are worn, need to be considered, as well. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the advice has been to keep at least 6 feet away from other people indoors and outdoors. “COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) for a prolonged period of time,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, in the report, published Tuesday in The BMJ, the researchers wrote that “physical distancing should be seen as only one part of a wider public health approach to containing the covid-19 pandemic.” Lydia Bourouiba, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at MIT and co-author of the report, said, “It’s not just 6 feet and then everything else can be ignored or just mask and everything else can be ignored or just ventilation and everything else can be ignored.” It’s important to distinguish between high-risk and low-risk exposure, Bourouiba said.

Some evidence suggests that the coronavirus may travel more than 6 feet through activities like coughing and shouting, the researchers wrote. In the highest-risk situations, such as indoors with poor ventilation, large crowds, prolonged contact time and no face coverings, distancing beyond 6 feet should be considered. Locations that fall under this category include bars, stadiums or restaurants. In low-risk scenarios, such as in outdoor spaces with few people nearby, less stringent social distancing should be adequate.

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Nobody is testing HCQ, azithromycin or doxycycline, and zinc (“triple therapy”) appropriately.

The Tragic Hydroxychloroquine Debate and Dr. Fauci’s Denial of Evidence (RCP)

There are well-established criteria for when an observed association can be ascribed to causation, which Dr. Risch meticulously took into consideration. These criteria were originally developed by the pioneering British epidemiologist Sir Austin Hill. Thus Dr. Risch’s scientific inference of the treatment efficacy of administering HCQ, azithromycin or doxycycline, and zinc (“triple therapy”), as early as possible in outpatient settings to people at greatest risk, in order to prevent the SARS-CoV-2 infection from turning into a dangerous life-threatening “florid disease” is sound. In an open letter to Dr. Anthony Fauci, George C. Fareed, MD, of Brawley, California, Michael M. Jacobs, MD, MPH, of Pensacola, Florida, and Donald C. Pompan, MD, of Salinas, California, demonstrate the flaws in the positions adopted by NIH and FDA and give strong support to Dr. Risch. In particular, they criticize the nihilism of demanding proof of efficacy from randomized clinical trials (RCTs), when time is short and when highly suggestive observational proof of the efficacy of these inexpensive drugs exists.

In the past, the FDA has approved many drugs without RCTs; penicillin was so efficacious in the treatment of pneumonia that there was no need for an RCT to have penicillin registered. Perhaps most disturbing is that not a single RCT is designed to test the efficacy of the triple therapy in outpatient settings as early as possible among those most at risk. Nevertheless, the official position is that “the overwhelming evidence from properly conducted RCTs indicates no therapeutic efficacy of HCQ,” though the RCTs are simply designed not to answer the right question: whether the triple therapy prevents deaths among the elderly and those with comorbidities when taken in outpatient settings, even before people are notified about the lab result as to whether they have Covid-19. It cannot be ethical for public health bodies to demand impossible standards of proof for potential lifesaving therapies.

[..] Dr. Fauci’s position seems remarkably similar to that of the famous English statistician Ronald A. Fisher, who, in 1957, denied that tobacco smoking caused lung cancer, despite evidence of the strong statistical relationship. Fisher argued vehemently that observational data cannot prove causality. It is disturbing that Dr. Fauci does not engage in honest scientific debate based on observational evidence but rather resorts to personalized attacks. As Dr. Risch put it: “The pushback has been furious. Dr. Anthony Fauci has implied that I am incompetent, notwithstanding my hundreds of highly regarded, methodologically relevant publications in peer-reviewed scientific literature.”

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Yes, the Lancet screwed up badly.

What Is Gilead’s Role In The War On Hydroxychloroquine? (Chaves)

Is Gilead, the maker of Remdesivir, waging war on HCQ (hydroxychloroquine)? Attacks on the drug have been continuous ever since Dr. Didier Raoult used this quinine derivative to save the lives of COVID-19 patients last March. The first attempt to discredit HCQ was a hastily compiled Veterans’ Administration hospital system study last April. Notably, one of the study’s authors had in the past received numerous grants from Gilead, with one grant in 2018 totaling nearly a quarter of a million dollars. After deep flaws in the V.A. study were exposed, Surgisphere came to the rescue in May with a “15,000 patient” megastudy allegedly compiled from hospitals all over the world.

This strategy succeeded: following its publication in the Lancet and the NEJM, all outpatient use of HCQ was severely restricted in the U.S., Australia, and most of Europe. When the Surgisphere scam was exposed, both articles were quietly retracted, and the editor-in-chief of the Lancet tried to wash his hands of this embarrassing incident by denouncing Surgisphere’s “monumental fraud.” However only a few days earlier, Lancet editors played a major role in persuading the WHO to suspend all trials for HCQ. Who put them up to it? The study’s main author, Mandeep Mehra, also apologized for his reliance on a third party for the data. He may not have known that the data were fabricated, but the hospital he directed was conducting two trials for Remdesivir. Was he under pressure from his sponsors?

These are the stakes: a five-day treatment with Remdesivir costs around $3,000. A five-day supply of generic HCQ costs around $10. Drug companies have every right to recoup their cost of research and development, but lobbying to suppress access to a life-saving treatment that is both cheaper and more effective is a crime against humanity. Progressives mistakenly believe that socialized medicine protects patients from the abuses of big pharma, but the first nation to severely restrict access to HCQ was France. This policy compelled Dr. Raoult to testify against Gilead’s disproportionate leverage over the medical community during a meeting of the French National Assembly last June.

Notably in the U.S., a third of the FDA’s budget comes from pharmaceutical user fees, and according to the NIH’s website, eight out of 55 members of the panel responsible for COVID-19 treatment guidelines are currently affiliated with Gilead. These government ties to Gilead more than triple when you include panel members with past associations.

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We need to stop looking in the rear view mirror only. Some things will never return. And the more we try to hold on to them, the harder it gets to replace them with other things.

Airlines Threaten October Jobs Massacre Unless they Get 2nd Bailout (WS)

October 1 and the days that follow are going to be rough in terms of tens of thousands of well-paid service jobs – that’s what airlines are threatening unless they get another $25-billion bailout. Airlines have been trying to shed employees by offering packages that induce employees to depart voluntarily because the $25-billion bailout package under the CARES Act banned “involuntary” furloughs or layoffs through the end of September. The air passenger business is still down roughly 70% in the US, six months after the initial collapse of traffic began, according to TSA airport screenings of air travelers entering into security zones. And demand has hardly improved any since early July, and airlines continue to slash costs and cash-burn to survive:

“It was assumed that by Sept. 30, the virus would be under control and demand for air travel would have returned. That is obviously not the case,” American Airlines CEO Parker and President Robert Isom told employees in a grim message on Tuesday. Under its buyout, early retirement, and long-term leave-of-absence programs, 23,500 employees had already voluntarily departed. But that wasn’t enough. So the executives told employees what the next step would be: 19,000 “involuntary” furloughs on October 1. American, which started the year out with about 140,000 employees, expects to have fewer than 100,000 employees in October. “The one possibility of avoiding these involuntary reductions on Oct. 1 is a clean extension” of the bailout package, they said.


So if given another bailout, American, which received $5.8 billion under the first bailout package, will then not lay off those employees on October 1 – but instead on the date when the second bailout package would expire? In the fourth quarter, American expects to fly only one-fourth of its usual international schedule and less than half of its usual domestic schedule. Last week, it announced that it would pull out of 15 smaller cities in October, “as a result of low demand and the expiration of the air service requirements associated with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This is the first step as American continues to evaluate its network and plans for additional schedule changes in the coming weeks.”

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Greece is not impressed with EU and US support so far.

France & Italy Throw Weight Behind Greece As Naval War Games Kick Off (RT)

France, Italy, Greece and Cyprus are staging a massive maritime exercise in the Eastern Mediterranean, in an apparent veiled nod to Turkey, which recently began researching oil and gas deposits in the area, raising ire in Athens. Codenamed ‘Eunomia’, the aeronautical exercises launched on Wednesday off the southern shores of Cyprus, the host nation of the war games. Athens’ defense minister announced the start of the drills earlier in the day, saying they are to reinforce “the rule of law as part of the policy of de-escalating tensions.” France, in turn, also confirmed the news, having dispatched its ‘Lafayette’ frigate, as well as three Rafale fighter jets. Italian and Cypriot vessels were also said to have joined the exercise in the eastern part of the Mediterranean.


A day prior, separate drills kicked off near the Greek island of Crete, this time involving Hellenic and US armed forces. The string of military exercises appears to be upping the ante in the festering feud between Greece and Turkey. Formally allies within NATO, the two nations have been at loggerheads over a number of issues, from historical discords to overlapping territorial claims in the Eastern Mediterranean. Tensions recently flared up when a trove of gas and oil was discovered in the contentious waters. This week, Ankara announced that its Oruc Reis research vessel will carry on navigating the disputed waters between Cyprus and Crete. The news has caused outrage in Greece which views the research activities as unlawful and considers them an affront to its sovereignty.

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More revolving doors. Just what we needed. Taleb has addressed this.

The New Media Elite Are Rapacious Monopolists, And We Are Their Food (Lewis)

The likes of Facebook & Google are spending tens of millions on lobbying and buying up government insiders. We need to call their bluff and bring in controls over their ever-growing financial and networked empires. In recent weeks, there has been heightened media concern that Facebook is cultivating a close relationship between government and big tech monopolies by poaching and recruiting former senior policy officials. The findings reveal a systematic hiring of government insiders with knowledge of regulation by offering them huge incentives to join. Three senior regulatory staff at the UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport are among those who recently joined Facebook. Other policy officials joined from the Cabinet Office, the Home Office and UK Counterterrorism Policing.

And earlier this year, it was revealed that Facebook had recruited Tony Close as their new director of content regulation. Close was Ofcom’s director of content standards, who had been heavily involved with drawing up rules to rein in the tech giants and protect the public. And, of course, do not forget the fact that Facebook recruited former UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg as its vice president for global affairs and communications, who has been leading Facebook’s policy and communications work, as part of a concerted effort to preach and lobby against Big Tech breakups. But it is not only Facebook that is behaving like this. The Times reports that at least 14 special advisers had moved to tech companies, including Uber, Google and Facebook, in the past five years after a stint in ministerial offices.

These officials have had access to departmental chiefs and the policy formation process. In the face of growing concern about online content and antitrust investigations, the monopolistic positions of Silicon Valley’s Big Tech giants have increasingly come under scrutiny. As a result, they have all been ramping up their lobbying capacities by recruiting well-connected insiders. The Wall Street journal revealed that in 2019, Facebook increased its expenditure on lobbying by nearly 25 percent, to $12.3 million, through the first nine months of the year. Amazon notched a 16 percent jump in lobbying outlays, to $12.4 million. Apple boosted its spending by eight percent, and Microsoft by nine percent.

The main goal of this is the protection of their existing and future businesses. When Facebook announced its move into the financial sphere by unveiling plans for a global cryptocurrency, it drew a barrage of trenchant criticism. Undaunted, it hired seven new outside lobbying firms to work on financial issues, including two former aides to the GOP chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. Amazon, too, has brought on seven additional outside lobbying shops since the middle of 2018, including former members of Congress and congressional aides who work to influence federal spending.

Taleb Carney

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Got to love the simplicity: “Painting one blade black dramatically reduces bird kills by wind turbines..”

Good News for Birds – and Wind Power (Adler)

Birds have been a problem for wind power. Wind turbines, whatever their other merits, have the tendency to kill birds, and possibly bats. This has been a longstanding problem, particularly because those areas best for wind power are often important for birds, particularly those species that tend to ride on wind currents. The bird problem has meant that environmental organizations have been inconsistent advocates of wind power, endorsing the such carbon-free power in the abstract, but often opposing particular wind power development proposals. I wrote about this problem over twenty years ago in The Weekly Standard, and it has not gone away.


New research suggests that one solution to the bird problem is rather simple: Painting one blade black dramatically reduces bird kills by wind turbines–70 percent in one location under study. This is an important development because the effect appears quite large, and it’s a relatively inexpensive fix. Assuming this research pans out, there is a cheap way to address the biggest environmental drawback of wind power, and that’s a big deal.

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“..everyday life influences what you dream about and vice versa..”

Your Dreams Are A Continuation Of Your Reality (RT)

A groundbreaking new study of over 24,000 dreams has provided the strongest evidence yet that our dreams are a continuation of our waking lives, with certain recurring elements shared between our sleeping and everyday selves. “Most dreams are a continuation of what is happening in everyday life,” say the researchers led by computer scientist Alessandro Fogli from Roma Tre University in Italy. The scientist explained that everyday life influences what you dream about and vice versa. So anxiety in life leads to anxious dreams, while on the positive side, dreaming can help solve problems that present themselves during waking hours.

On the one hand, traditional psychological analysis of dreams dates back to the days of Freud, who posited that the hidden meanings of dreams could be revealed through analysis of their waking experiences in the real world. On the other hand, modern dream analysis looks for symbols, metaphors, structures and characters which might correspond to other parts of a person’s life. Such methodologies include the Hall and Van de Castle system, which codifies all of the aforementioned elements and explores how they interact with each other in the dreamworld. This is, however, an extremely slow and time-consuming process, as evidenced by Christopher Nolan’s film Inception.

Dream scientists have long sought an algorithmic solution to automate the task of sifting through dream reports, the academic equivalent of counting sheep, which is exactly what Fogli and his team undertook to accomplish at scale. The researchers devised a way to track large numbers of dreams at scale, by parsing the language from dream reports of 24,000 dreams contained in a giant public database called DreamBank. More specifically, they honed in on characters, social interactions, and emotional words to search for recurring patterns. These three dimensions are considered the most important aspects of dream interpretation, defining the overall “plot.”

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Zschaepitz USD debasement

 

 

Biden clown. Don’t know who made it, but it’s done well.

 

 

And this is just some stupid fun:

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Aug 142020
 


Marlon Brando screentest 1951

 

US Obesity Epidemic Threatens Effectiveness of Any COVID Vaccine (KHN)
Israeli Hospital Trials Fast Saliva Test for COVID-19 (R.)
The Pandemic and Medicare for All (TMI)
NYC Is Dead Forever. Here’s Why (Altucher)
What Kamala Harris Really Thinks of WikiLeaks (Lauria)
Some Questions About Kamala Harris’ Eligibility (NW)
China’s Banks At Risk As $500 Billion In Non-Performing Loans Revealed (SCMP)
China’s Debt Collectors Flourish As Consumers Flounder (R.)
US Seizes $2 Million From Terror-Linked Cryptocurrency Accounts (CNBC)
United Arab Emirates Sells Out Palestine For Israel (EI)
Experts Debunk Claims of GMO Crops Success (OffG)
Ford Is Slashing 10,000 Jobs, 6 Factories In Europe (ZH)
7 Million Jobs At Risk, European Airlines Could See “Further Declines” (ZH)
Volume of Greek Air Traffic Plunged 74.3% in 2020 (GR)

 

 

I was reading a piece by law professor John Eastman yesterday, before the entire left stumbled over each other to condemn it. I was thinking in my innocence that it’s interesting to know if questions over who’s a “natural born citizen” in America have ever truly been settled by politics or courts.

But I’m naive, and it’s attack time. They will defend Kamala Harris with all they got, with the entire MSM serving as their bullhorns. Which means Trump and his people have no choice but to go after her with all they got. Still, remembering the Obama birther fiasco, do they really want to die on this hill? Can’t we just leave it to the court system and legal experts? Or simply answer Eastman’s questions?

It’s all among signs of things to come between here and Nov. 3. Bill Barr yesterday promised that a first news flash from the Durham investigation into Russiagate origins will come out today, and that all of it will before Nov. 3. US elections are really just entertainment. Opium for the masses. Clickbaits, drama, anger, scandal. And I always thought it should be about people.

 

 

Not much movement in the numbers. We’re stuck in a broken record, with no progress anywhere. Not good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are 328 million Americans. 74 million of them are children. That leaves 254 million adults, of which 107 million are obese, or 42%. 42.4% have a BMI over 30. 9% are morbidly obese.

From this point of view, COVID is hardly the worst threat to either the people or the health care system. Or, to put it another way, it’s the people themselves that are the threat to the health care system.

Again, take high fructose corn syrup out of the diet, and you solve a huge chunk of that problem. Ban stuff that kills people, or make it much harder to get.

US Obesity Epidemic Threatens Effectiveness of Any COVID Vaccine (KHN)

For a world crippled by the coronavirus, salvation hinges on a vaccine. But in the United States, where at least 4.6 million people have been infected and nearly 155,000 have died, the promise of that vaccine is hampered by a vexing epidemic that long preceded COVID-19: obesity. Scientists know that vaccines engineered to protect the public from influenza, hepatitis B, tetanus and rabies can be less effective in obese adults than in the general population, leaving them more vulnerable to infection and illness. There is little reason to believe, obesity researchers say, that COVID-19 vaccines will be any different. “Will we have a COVID vaccine next year tailored to the obese? No way,” said Raz Shaikh, an associate professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

“Will it still work in the obese? Our prediction is no.” More than 107 million American adults are obese, and their ability to return safely to work, care for their families and resume daily life could be curtailed if the coronavirus vaccine delivers weak immunity for them. In March, still early in the global pandemic, a little-noticed study from China found that heavier Chinese patients afflicted with COVID-19 were more likely to die than leaner ones, suggesting a perilous future awaited the U.S., whose population is among the heaviest in the world. And then that future arrived.

As intensive care units in New York, New Jersey and elsewhere filled with patients, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that obese people with a body mass index of 40 or more — known as morbid obesity or about 100 pounds overweight — were among the groups at highest risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19. About 9% of American adults are in that category. As weeks passed and a clearer picture of who was being hospitalized came into focus, federal health officials expanded their warning to include people with a body mass index of 30 or more. That vastly expanded the ranks of those considered vulnerable to the most severe cases of infection, to 42.4% of American adults.

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More rapid testing. Good. Bring it. Test yourself everyday at breakfast.

Israeli Hospital Trials Fast Saliva Test for COVID-19 (R.)

A newly developed saliva test aims to determine in less than a second whether or not you are infected with the novel coronavirus, Israel’s largest medical center said Thursday. Patients rinse their mouth with a saline wash and spit into a vial. This is then examined by a small spectral device that, in simple terms, shines light on the specimen and analyzes the reaction to see if it is consistent with COVID-19. With machine learning it gets more accurate over time. Eli Schwartz of the Center for Geographic Medicine and Tropical Diseases at Sheba Medical Center, who is leading the trial, said it was easier to use than PCR swabs commonly used to detect COVID-19.


“So far we have very promising results in this new method which will be much more convenient and much cheaper,” he said. The center said in an initial clinical trial involving hundreds of patients, the new artificial intelligence-based device identified evidence of the virus in the body at a 95% success rate. Amos Panet, an expert in molecular virology at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, said he would like to see more data and comparisons with existing tests before making a final judgment. The amount of virus present in saliva increases as patients get sicker, he said, and a big challenge is to detect in “people who are borderline.” “It will be a game changer only if we see validation of this technology against the current technology,” he said.

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Would M4A benefit the obese and hence diabetic? A long time ago, someone said: we’re raising a generation of blind amputees. How would a health care system deal with that?

The Pandemic and Medicare for All (TMI)

When the novel coronavirus first arrived in the United States, it spurred on remarkable message discipline among America’s political class. The consensus that emerged on both sides of the aisle dictated that no matter what happened, Americans ought to be glad they do not live in a country with socialized medicine. At the final Democratic presidential debate on March 15, former Vice President Biden pointed to COVID numbers in Italy as evidence that not only was Medicare for all not a solution to the crisis, but it would put the country at greater risk. “With all due respect for Medicare for all, you have a single-payer system in Italy,” the former vice president said. “It doesn’t work there. It has nothing to do with Medicare for all. That would not solve the problem at all.”

Weeks later, in early April, Center for American Progress president Neera Tanden echoed the sentiment in a Twitter spat with a Medicare for All supporter. “You might want to check out the death rate in France before you think the form of health system is the answer here,” she tweeted. Not long after, the Washington Post ran an op-ed by former George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen declaring the COVID-19 pandemic was “an indictment of socialized medicine.” “If you think today’s pandemic bolsters the case for socialized medicine, then ask yourself a simple question: If you came down with a serious case of COVID-19, would you rather be in an Italian hospital or an American one?” the piece opens, before lauding Biden’s debate answer.

Such arguments were never fair — the pandemic was only just starting in the United States, while COVID-19 had indeed rampaged across Europe, there were contributing factors like years of austerity and a lack of supply chain redundancy in the modern globalized economy. But now, just a few months later, these arguments completely and utterly fail. New infections are still surging in the U.S. while countries with national health care programs have long since gotten a handle on the virus. On Tuesday, the U.S. reported more new COVID cases in a single day than Italy, France, and the U.K. reported last month combined, and roughly 45 percent of their total deaths.

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Nice account from James Altucher. is he just getting old, or is New York really beyond salvation?

NYC Is Dead Forever. Here’s Why (Altucher)

People say, “NYC has been through worse” or “NYC has always come back.” No and no. First, when has NYC been through worse? Even in the 1970s, and through the 80s, when NYC was going bankrupt, and even when it was the crime capital of the US or close to it, it was still the capital of the business world (meaning: it was the primary place young people would go to build wealth and find opportunity), it was culturally on top of its game – home to artists, theater, media, advertising, publishing, and it was probably the food capital of the US. NYC has never been locked down for five months. Not in any pandemic, war, financial crisis, never. In the middle of the polio epidemic, when little kids (including my mother) were going paralyzed or dying (my mother ended up with a bad leg), NYC didn’t go through this.

This is not to say what should have been done or should not have been done. That part is over. Now we have to deal with what IS. In early March, many people (not me), left NYC when they felt it would provide safety from the virus and they no longer needed to go to work and all the restaurants were closed. People figured, “I’ll get out for a month or two and then come back.” They are all still gone. And then in June, during rioting and looting a second wave of NYC-ers (this time me) left. I have kids. Nothing was wrong with the protests but I was a little nervous when I saw videos of rioters after curfew trying to break into my building. Many people left temporarily but there were also people leaving permanently. Friends of mine moved to Nashville, Miami, Austin, Denver, Salt Lake City, Austin, Dallas, etc.

Now a third wave of people are leaving. But they might be too late. Prices are down 30-50% on both rentals and sales no matter what real estate people tell you. And rentals soaring in the second and third-tier cities. I’m temporarily, although maybe permanently, in South Florida now. I also got my place sight unseen. Robyn was looking at listings around Miami and then she saw an area we had never been to before. We found three houses we liked. She called the real estate agent. Place #1. Just rented that morning 50% higher than the asking price. Place #2. Also rented (New Yorkers – “they came from New York for three hours, saw the place, got it, went back to pack.”). Place #3. “Available.” “We’ll take it!” The first time we physically saw it was when we flew down and moved in. “This is temporary, right?” I confirmed with Robyn. But…I don’t know. I’m starting to like the sun a little bit. I mean, when it’s behind the shades. And when I am in air conditioning.

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All US politics is united against Julian Assange.

What Kamala Harris Really Thinks of WikiLeaks (Lauria)

During a September 2017 U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee debate on an intelligence bill a line was inserted that said WikiLeaks “resembles a non-state hostile intelligence service” and that the U.S. “should treat it as such.” “This language would help investigators secure the authorization needed to surveil those U.S. citizens thought to be associated with WikiLeaks,” a McClatchy report quoted a government lawyer as saying. “You need to show that someone is an agent of a foreign power,” said the lawyer, Robert Deitz, who held senior legal positions at the Pentagon, the CIA and the National Security Agency. “It’s possible that Assange has colleagues in this country that they need to focus on,” McClatchy quoted Deitz as saying, “noting that such action can only be done under court order.”

The non-state hostile agency phrase was directly lifted from a scurrilous speech by Mike Pompeo in his first address as CIA director. The language survived the committee and made it into the bill voted on by the full Senate. But before it did two senators raised objections to it. One was Ron Wyden of Oregon. The other was Sen. Kamala Harris of California, the presumptive Democratic vice presidential candidate in November’s election. According to the McClatchy report, “Harris declared that she is ‘no supporter of WikiLeaks,’ which she said had done ‘considerable harm’ to the United States. But the clause on the group is ‘dangerous’ because it ‘fails to draw a bright line between WikiLeaks and legitimate news organizations that play a vital role in our democracy,’ according to her remarks for the record.”

Harris left no doubt that she is an enemy of WikiLeaks, as is her running mate, Joe Biden, who agreed it was more like a high-tech terrorist organization that Daniel Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers. Harris made clear she cared only about establishment media (which almost universally undergirds aggressive U.S. foreign policy) and was worried about it getting caught up in a WikiLeaks dragnet. She said she wants a “bright line” between publications such as The New York Times and WikiLeaks. Except, there can be no such legal line drawn as both establishment papers, like the Times, and WikiLeaks have done the exact same thing: possessed and published classified material.

Because there is no legal distinction, the Obama administration, which desperately wanted to indict WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, backed away citing its “New York Times problem.” The Trump administration had no such qualms and had Assange arrested in April 2019 and indicted on conspiracy to commit computer intrusion and 17 counts of the Espionage Act. The only bright line that can be drawn is political: a decision by the Department of Justice to not prosecute big media but to prosecute WikiLeaks for the same “crime”, which conflicts with First Amendment press freedoms. This is what Harris was calling for: Protect the state-managed corporate media but go after a serious publication that dares to reveal crimes of the U.S. government, which Harris wants to protect. In other words, for the same activity, the Times is afforded First Amendment protections, but WikiLeaks is not.

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There are questions one can’t ask.

Some Questions About Kamala Harris’ Eligibility (NW)

The fact that Senator Kamala Harris has just been named the vice presidential running mate for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has some questioning her eligibility for the position. The 12th Amendment provides that “no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.” And Article II of the Constitution specifies that “[n]o person except a natural born citizen…shall be eligible to the office of President.” Her father was (and is) a Jamaican national, her mother was from India, and neither was a naturalized U.S. citizen at the time of Harris’ birth in 1964. That, according to these commentators, makes her not a “natural born citizen”—and therefore ineligible for the office of the president and, hence, ineligible for the office of the vice president.

“Nonsense,” runs the counter-commentary. Indeed, PolitiFact rated the claim of ineligibility as “Pants on Fire” false, Snopes rated it simply “False,” and from the other side of the political spectrum, Conservative Daily News likewise rated it “False.” All three (and numerous others) simply assert that Harris is eligible because she was born in Oakland—and is therefore a natural-born citizen from location of birth. The 14th Amendment says so, they all claim, and the Supreme Court so held in the 1898 case of U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark. But those claims are erroneous, at least as the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment was originally understood—an error to which even my good friend, renowned UCLA School of Law professor Eugene Volokh, has fallen prey.

The language of Article II is that one must be a natural-born citizen. The original Constitution did not define citizenship, but the 14th Amendment does—and it provides that “all persons born…in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens.” Those who claim that birth alone is sufficient overlook the second phrase. The person must also be “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States, and that meant subject to the complete jurisdiction, not merely a partial jurisdiction such as that which applies to anyone temporarily sojourning in the United States (whether lawfully or unlawfully). Such was the view of those who authored the 14th Amendment’s Citizenship Clause; of the Supreme Court of the United States in the 1872 Slaughter-House Cases and the 1884 case of Elk v. Wilkins; of Thomas Cooley, the leading constitutional treatise writer of the day; and of the State Department, which, in the 1880s, issued directives to U.S. embassies to that effect.

The Supreme Court’s subsequent decision in Wong Kim Ark is not to the contrary. At issue there was a child born to Chinese immigrants who had become lawful, permanent residents in the United States—”domiciled” was the legally significant word used by the Court. But that was the extent of the Court’s holding (as opposed to broader language that was dicta, and therefore not binding). Indeed, the Supreme Court has never held that anyone born on U.S. soil, no matter the circumstances of the parents, is automatically a U.S. citizen.

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I’ve said it often before: none of this means much without also tallying shadow banks’ numbers.

China’s Banks At Risk As $500 Billion In Non-Performing Loans Revealed (SCMP)

China’s top banking regulatory official said on Thursday that the country’s banks have to deal with 3.4 trillion yuan (US$489.5 billion) worth of non-performing loans in 2020 – flagging a big risk for the banking system in the world’s second-largest economy. The total marks a hefty increase from 2.3 trillion yuan in 2019, and the value of bad loans could be even higher in 2021. Guo Shuqing, chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, said in an interview with the official Xinhua News Agency that the increase in non-performing loans (NPLs) – loans in default or close to default – will put huge pressure on the country’s banks, especially small and regional ones.

“As many loans are rolled over [in 2020], some problems will only emerge next year,” Guo was quoted by Xinhua as saying, adding that a rebound in bad loans is “inevitable” since the coronavirus shock has adversely affected so many companies. The warning by Guo, who is also the Communist Party secretary at the People’s Bank of China, came at a time when many of the country’s small banks are facing a moment of reckoning after years of undisciplined balance sheet expansion, as well as instances of fraud and corruption. Meanwhile, Guo said, Chinese banks have improved their loan structure – with more lending going toward manufacturing, infrastructure, technology and small businesses.

Guo added that Chinese banks are now being told to enhance their support of small businesses. In addition, he said he will encourage banks to invest more in corporate bonds. According to official statistics from Guo’s agency, the NPL ratio in China was among the lowest in the world. The ratio for Chinese commercial banks rose 0.03 percentage points in the second quarter to 1.94 per cent at the end of June. But hidden bad loans, if exposed, could easily wipe out bank profits and erode capital bases. In the first half of this year, the combined profits of Chinese banks dropped for the first time in more than a decade – falling 9.4 per cent to 1 trillion yuan in the first half of the year, government data shows.

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So, question is: who are the shadow banks’ debt collectors? Vinnie the Kneecapper and his friends?

China’s Debt Collectors Flourish As Consumers Flounder (R.)

It’s not a good sign for any economy when debt collectors are booming and in China right now, the industry is on a hiring spree. Whole Scene Asset Management, a debt recovery firm based in the southern province of Hunan, plans to double staff numbers to 400 people this year as it expands into new cities. “Debt collection companies have been mushrooming,” said company founder Zhang Haiyan. “And with bad loans growing this year, everyone is adding new hands.” Rival Bricsman is also hiring – hoping to boost headcount of around 1,000 by 400-500 this year after landing a deal to collect delinquent consumer loans for China Minsheng Bank (600016.SS), people with knowledge of the matter said, declining to identified as they were not authorised to talk to media.

Bricsman, which is based in the eastern province of Jiangsu and counts other large banks amongst its clients, did not respond to a request for comment. As increasing numbers of consumers struggle with lost income in an economy battered by the coronavirus and U.S-China tensions, a burgeoning wave of non-performing loans is sparking concern among lenders – both at specialist consumer financing firms and traditional banks – and even among debt collectors. China is the midst of “an unfolding debt crisis”, says Joe Zhang, a business consultant and until last month vice chairman at the country’s largest debt collector YX Asset Recovery. The delinquency rate for consumer debt is climbing and collecting on those loans has become much harder, he added, estimating that at some weaker non-bank consumer lenders, soured loans may account for 30% to 50% of their portfolios.

[..] Chinese consumer debt has ballooned over the past five years, fuelled in part as banks scrambled to issue credit cards, with outstanding debt for bank-issued cards doubling to 17.6 trillion yuan ($2.5 trillion). Internet-based consumer financing, which is only lightly regulated, has also grown – by a dizzying 400 times to nearly 8 trillion yuan since 2014, according to the Guanghua School of Management. And Chinese household debt – including mortgages and unsecured consumer loans – has swollen to levels equivalent to nearly 60% of GDP, up from 18% in 2008, the peak of the global financial crisis.

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300 anonymous accounts?!

US Seizes $2 Million From 300 Terror-Linked Cryptocurrency Accounts (CNBC)

The Justice Department said it dismantled an elaborate cyber campaign used by overseas terror organizations to finance their operations and seized $2 million from more than 300 cryptocurrency accounts in what it described as the largest-ever seizure of its kind. The Justice Department said three overseas terrorist groups — al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing; al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS — used cryptocurrencies and social media to raise funds for their terror campaigns. “It should not surprise anyone that our enemies use modern technology, social media platforms and cryptocurrency to facilitate their evil and violent agendas,” Attorney General William Barr said in a release.


“As announced today, we will seize the funds and the instrumentalities that provide a lifeline for their operations whenever possible,” he added. “Terrorist networks have adapted to technology, conducting complex financial transactions in the digital world, including through cryptocurrencies. IRS-CI special agents in the DC cybercrimes unit work diligently to unravel these financial networks,” Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said in a release. In one of the cases, the U.S. secretly took over websites that were operated by al-Qassam Brigades and monitored those who thought they had opened up their cyber wallets to the terror group but instead donated money to an account controlled by the U.S. government, according to court documents unsealed Thursday in the District of Columbia.

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Successfully dividing the Arab world’s support for Palestinians.

United Arab Emirates Sells Out Palestine For Israel (EI)

The United Arab Emirates and Israel have agreed to full normalization of relations, bringing their decades-long clandestine dealings proudly into the open. The so-called “Abraham Accords” sealing the deal were brokered by US officials. The deal is named for “the father of all three great faiths,” David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, told reporters at the Oval Office on Thursday. Religious and cultural tolerance is often used by Arab states and Israel to mask their efforts to normalize ties. Painting conflict in the region as stemming from a lack of understanding among religions is also a way to obscure its true origin: Israel’s violent dispossession of Palestinians and ongoing military occupation and steady ethnic cleansing of their land.

In exchange for normalization, Israel agreed to suspend plans to annex large swaths of the occupied West Bank “and focus its efforts now on expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world,” according to the joint statement. However, this is spin. In reality, it was the United States that put Israel’s annexation plans on ice weeks ago. In fact, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed his commitment to annexation shortly after the announcement of the agreement. The UAE is merely using the American-imposed freeze as an opportunity to bring its secret ties with Israel dating back to the 1990s into the open. These secret relations have included military and intelligence cooperation and even joint military exercises.

[..] Relations between Israel and Gulf States including Saudi Arabia and the UAE are founded on a mutual enmity towards Iran. Liquidating Palestinian rights and bypassing the Palestinian issue is seen as key to building up this anti-Iran alliance under American oversight. Annexation, moreover, would only be a formal rubber stamp for what Israel has been doing on the ground for decades: stealing land, forcibly displacing Palestinians and building colonies in flagrant breach of international law. This violent colonization has never ceased and will not stop as a result of this agreement.

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India is Monsanto’s wet dream.

Experts Debunk Claims of GMO Crops Success (OffG)

On 6 July 2020, an article extolling the benefits of genetically modified (GM) crops appeared on the BloombergQuint website based on an interview with Dr Ramesh Chand, a member of the key Indian Government think tank Niti Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India) . On 17 July, another piece that placed a positive spin on GM crops and gene-editing technology (Feeding 10 Billion People will Require Genetically Modified Food) appeared on the same site. According to Prof Andrew Paul Gutierrez, Dr Hans R Herren and Dr Peter E Kenmore, internationally renowned agricultural researchers, the pieces reported “sweeping unsupported claims” about the benefits of and need for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and related technologies in agriculture in India.

The three academics felt that “a responsible and factual response” was required and have written a letter – containing what could be described as the definitive analysis of Bt cotton in India – to Dr Ramesh Chand, Dr Rajiv Kumar (Niti Aayog Vice Chancellor) and Dr Amitabh Kant (Niti Aayog CEO). Chand is reported as saying that there is no credible study to show any adverse impact of growing Bt cotton in the last 18 years in the country (India’s only officially approved GM crop). This is simply not the case. Moreover, Gutierrez et al argue that all of the credible evidence shows any meagre increases in cotton yield after the introduction of Bt cotton in 2002 were largely due to increases in fertiliser use. Before proceeding, it is pertinent to address the claim that ‘feeding 10 billion people will require genetically modified food’.

If we take the case of India and its 1.3 billion-plus population, it has achieved self-sufficiency in food grains and has ensured that, in theory at least, there is enough food available to feed its entire population. It is the world’s largest producer of milk, pulses and millets and the second-largest producer of rice, wheat, sugarcane, groundnuts, vegetables and fruit. However, food security for many Indians remains a distant dream. Hunger and malnutrition remain prevalent. But that is not because farmers don’t produce enough food. These problems result from other factors, including inadequate food distribution, social and economic policies, inequality and poverty. It is a case of ‘scarcity’ amid abundance (reflecting the situation globally). India even continues to export food while millions remain hungry. Productivity is not the issue.

And while proponents say GM will boost productivity and help secure cultivators a better income, this too ignores crucial political and economic contexts; with bumper harvests, Indian farmers still find themselves in financial distress. India’s farmers are not experiencing hardship due to low productivity. They are reeling from the effects of neoliberal policies and years of neglect. It’s for good reason that the calorie and essential nutrient intake of the rural poor has drastically fallen. Yet the pro-GMO lobby has wasted no time in wrenching these issues from their political contexts to use the notions of ‘helping farmers’ and ‘feeding the world’ as lynchpins of its promotional strategy.

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Everything travel related is getting hammered. There is no telling when it all will be back, or if it ever will. Bailing out the firms involved seems an awful waste of money. You do that for firms that have a future, not those that have a past.

Ford Is Slashing 10,000 Jobs, 6 Factories In Europe (ZH)

The auto industry continues to grapple with one of the worst recessions ever for the notoriously capital intensive sector. Ford, which feels like it has been in the midst of a yearslong “restructuring” that has never fully panned out or ended (and has involved numerous CEOs), continues to make major changes to its global personnel to try and find the right mix for its business going forward. This means that 10,000 positions are now being cut across Europe, the automaker disclosed yesterday. Ford is also going to be reducing the number of its plants in Europe to 17 from 23, the company revealed in a JP Morgan conference presentation on Wednesday.

In a slide called “Ford Euope: Road to Sustainable Profitability”, the company also disclosed it would be discontinuing underperforming vehicles, like its C-MAX and Grand C-Max. The company also plans on “leveraging” its relationship with VW. The company says it is on track to deliver on its 2020-2021 CO2 targets without credits or penalties and 13 new electic vehicles will be on sale by the end of 2020, up from just 5. This news comes days after it was announced that Ford would be replacing its CEO on relatively short notice. Ford said days ago it had tapped Jim Farley to replace a relatively still-newly appointed Jim Hackett as CEO. Hackett replaced former CEO Mark Fields and, for the most part, has failed to inspire confidence during his tenure at Ford.

Ford is currently in the middle of an $11 billion restructuring that is supposed to help to accelerate its development of new vehicles, including hybrids and EVs. Hackett had only just started with Ford back in 2017 and has said he will retire effective October. General Motors is following with a C-suite shakeup of its own, as its CFO leaves after just two years to work at a fintech startup. The company announced earlier this week that John Stapleton, GM North America chief financial officer, has been named its acting global chief financial officer, effective Aug. 15, after the resignation of the company’s current CFO, Dhivya Suryadevara.

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Isn’t that what we wanted? Less flying, less pollution?

7 Million Jobs At Risk, European Airlines Could See “Further Declines” (ZH)

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) published a new report Thursday that warns the virus-induced downturn will continue to pressure air passenger numbers, employment and economies across Europe. IATA said passenger flights are expected to decline by 60% in 2020, resulting in millions of job losses in the aviation and tourism industries. IATA issued a similar warning of what has been announced by airlines, of which, complete recovery in passenger demand might not be seen until 2024. “The near-term outlook for recovery in Europe remains highly uncertain with respect to the second wave of the pandemic and the broader global economic impact it could have. Passenger demand in Europe is expected to recover gradually and will not reach 2019 levels until 2024. -IATA

IATA’s job loss estimate was increased by 17% from its June report, from 6 million to 7 million, mostly because the highly anticipated V-shaped recovery has failed to materialize. “It is desperately worrying to see a further decline in prospects for air travel this year, and the knock-on impact for employment and prosperity. said Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Europe. Schvartzman said, “It shows once again the terrible effect that is being felt by families across Europe as border restrictions and quarantine continue. It is vital that governments and industry work together to create a harmonized plan for reopening borders.”

If another wave of the virus were to hit Europe, justifying nationwide lockdowns, it could intensify the recession. Though the German tabloid newspaper Bild has said: “There will be no second hard lockdown in Europe because that would lead to a monster recession that would not be accepted by the population.”

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20% of Greek GDP is tourism. So are at least 20% of jobs.

Volume of Greek Air Traffic Plunged 74.3% in 2020 (GR)

A report came out on Thursday confirming the worst fears of Greek economic experts, stating that the country had seen a drop of 74.3% in the number of passengers who had traveled through their airports so far this year. This amounts to only 9 million air travelers who had used airports in the country so far in 2020, a staggering drop of almost three-quarters of its business. The number of international visitors coming into Greek airports this year so far amounts to 1,126,429, a stunning decrease from last year’s banner tourism season, which saw a total of 4,096,657 international arrivals. Although very disappointing, the numbers did not come as a shock to any in the sector, due to the punishing effects of travel bans imposed on many nations because of the coronavirus pandemic.


According to Greek media reports, the Civil Aviation Authority, or CAA, reported the precipitous drop in business in the first seven months of this year relative to the numbers seen in 2019. For the month of July 2020 alone, the high season for summertime travel to the country, passenger traffic at Greek airports had decreased 72.6%. During the month of July, a total of only 2,722,854 million passengers came through Greece’s airports; in that same period, there was a precipitous drop of 72.5% in the number of foreign arrivals. This means that there were fewer passengers overall in the first seven months of 2020 than there had been in the month of July only in 2019.

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Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Aug 052020
 


Workmen next to the screws of the RMS Titanic at Belfast shipyard, 1911

 

Victoria Records Australia’s Worst Day Of COVID19- 15 Deaths, 725 New Cases (G.)
Failing the Coronavirus-Testing Test (Harvard)
Big Pharma Giants GSK, Sanofi Get $2.1 Billion to Develop COVID Vaccine (MPN)
An Effective COVID Treatment the Media Continues to Besmirch (RCP)
Authors of Pro-HCQ Study Defend Their Work From Fauci Attack(BLP)
US Jobless Claims Rise To 1.43 Million, Crisis Total Tops 54 Million (NYP)
US Plans to Relocate Factories from Asia to Latin America (PPost)
New Guidelines Call For Fundamental Shift In Obesity Treatment (CTV)
Understanding The Gravity Of The Russia Hoax (Widburg)
Trump: DOJ Found ‘Breathtaking’ Evidence Of Wrongdoing In Russia Probe (JTN)
86% Of Americans Say Media Is Biased, To Blame For Political Division (Fed.)
Bias And Commercialism Is Killing MSM, Journalists Have Had Enough (RT)

 

 

Just the other day, I watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown series he did for CNN, in which he visited Beirut and called it his favorite city in the world, one which he kept coming back to whenever he could. Maybe it’s good that he can’t see anymore what happened yesterday.

 

 

Numbers look somewhat mixed. New cases are not too bad, but deaths up are sharply, let’s hope that’s because they weren’t reported over the weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yaneer

 

 

Australia was doing fine. It no longer is.

Victoria Records Australia’s Worst Day Of COVID19- 15 Deaths, 725 New Cases (G.)

Wednesday marked Victoria’s most devastating day of Covid-19 cases and deaths, with a man in his 30s among 15 people who died overnight including many from aged care, and 725 new cases of the virus identified. Three men and a woman in their 70s, three women and a man in their 80s, and a woman in her 90s were among the deaths. Twelve deaths were linked to outbreaks in aged care. There are 538 Victorians in hospital, 42 of them in intensive care. The premier, Daniel Andrews, confirmed the man in his 30s – who is the youngest person to die from Covid-19 in Australia – was not a healthcare worker. There are currently more than 700 health workers with active cases of the virus. He said he could not provide further details about those who died without permission from families.


“Can I send my heartfelt condolences and sympathies to each of those families,” Andrews said on Wednesday. “This will be a terrible time and any and all support we can provide to you we will, and we are with you in this very difficult time.” The deputy chief health officer, Prof Allen Cheng, said when there was an outbreak in aged care, an assessment was made as to whether residents would be better off in hospital or aged care. But sending many patients to hospital could not continue indefinitely because “everything has a limit”. “The number of people in hospital has increased primarily but not only because of transfers from aged care and a lot of those transfers are not for clinical [reasons], not because they’re sick but because of infection control reasons,” Cheng said.

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Everyone tested everyday with a non-invasive less-sensitive testing method.

Failing the Coronavirus-Testing Test (Harvard)

At the moment, the United States has no semblance of public-health testing” for the coronavirus, says Michael Mina, an assistant professor of epidemiology at both Harvard Medical School and the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. What does Mina—an expert in viral testing protocols—mean by that? Current tests for active infection with SARS-CoV-2 are highly sensitive—but most are given to suspected COVID-19 patients long after the infected person has stopped transmitting the virus to others. That means the results are virtually useless for public-health efforts to contain the raging pandemic. These PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests, which amplify viral RNA to detectable levels, are used by physicians, often in hospital settings, to help guide clinical care for individual patients. In general, members of the public have not had access to such tests outside clinical settings, but even if they did, would find them too expensive for frequent use.

Furthermore, such tests detect tiny fragments of viral RNA even after the patient has recovered. Mina says that means “the vast majority of PCR positive tests we currently collect in this country are actually finding people long after they have ceased to be infectious.” In that sense, a positive result can be misleading, because the results can’t be relied on to guide the epidemiological efforts of public-health officials, which are focused on preventing transmission and controlling outbreaks: “The astounding realization is that all we’re doing with all of this testing is clogging up the testing infrastructure,” with results arriving a week or more after tests are administered, “and essentially finding people for whom we can’t even act because they are done transmitting.” In fact the testing backlog is so dire, and so “absolutely horrendously useless as system for public-health surveillance” that Mina believes the United States should at the very least throw away the millions and millions of samples that are waiting to be tested—and perhaps even halt the current testing regime and just start over.

“We need to change the whole script of what it means to test people,” he says. “In our country, we have always assumed that testing belongs in the clinical sphere, in the diagnostic sphere, and has to be run by laboratories or diagnosticians. The result is that we have a system for coronavirus testing…which is flailing, with raging outbreaks occurring.” What the country needs instead are rapid tests, widely deployed, so that infectious individuals can be readily self-identified and isolated, breaking the chain of transmission. To do that, Mina says, everyone must be tested, every couple of days, with $1, paper-based, at-home tests that are as easy to distribute and use as a pregnancy test: wake up in the morning, add saliva or nasal mucous to a tube of chemicals, wait 15 minutes, then dip a paper strip in the tube, and read the results.

Such tests are feasible—a tiny company called E25Bio, and another called Sherlock Biosciences (a startup spun out of Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the Broad Institute in 2019) can deliver such tests—but the they have not made it to the marketplace because their sensitivity is being compared to that of PCR. But Mina says that is beside the point. “Imagine you are a fire department,” he says, “and you want to make sure that you catch all the fires that are burning so you can put them out. You don’t want a test that’s going to detect every time somebody lights a match in their house—that would be crazy: you’d be driving everywhere and having absolutely no effect. You want a test that can detect every time somebody is walking the streets with a flame thrower.”

FOR PUBLIC-HEALTH PURPOSES, speed and frequency of testing are vastly more important than sensitivity: the best test would actually be less sensitive than a PCR test. As Mina explains, when a person first becomes infected, there will be an incubation period when no test will reveal the infection, because the viral loads are so low. About “three to five days later, the PCR test will turn positive, and once that happens the virus is reproducing exponentially in a very predictable fashion.” At that point, critically, “even if a rapid test is 1,000 times less sensitive than a PCR test,” Mina says, the virus is increasing so rapidly that the test “will probably turn positive within eight to 15 or 24 hours.

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First, you pay for the research; then you play for the product.

Big Pharma Giants GSK, Sanofi Get $2.1 Billion to Develop COVID Vaccine (MPN)

The Trump administration’s “Manhattan project” for a COVID-19 vaccine has topped its biggest award given only two weeks ago to Novavax, Inc with its latest grant of $2.1 billion to pharmaceutical giant, GlaxoSmithKline, and partner Sanofi Pasteur to “speed up clinical development and manufacturing” of its recombinant vaccine candidate for the novel coronavirus. The deal clocks in at over $400 million more than the program’s previous investment of $1.6 billion earlier this month. Most of the GSK/Sanofi grant will be used for clinical trials and the rest to “scale-up and delivery” of 100 million vaccine doses destined for the U.S. population. The deal also offers the USG an option to buy a “supply of 500 million doses over the long term.”

This latest infusion of tax-payer money into Big Pharma’s hands by the Trump administration comes on the heels of the rumored failure of an early vaccine candidate. Moderna’s SARS-CoV-2 mRNA-1273 vaccine has received nearly a billion in federal funds, but recent reports of the company’s CMO, Tal Zaks, selling almost all of his shares as the vaccine is set to begin late-stage trials have sparked speculation that the “pre-fusion stabilized Spike protein” vaccine is dead in the water. Neither Novavax or Moderna, however, have ever had a single product go to market despite years in the business. GSK and Sanofi, in contrast, have plenty. Sanofi produces an FDA-approved flu shot and GSK, producer of some of the most recognizable pharmaceutical brand names like Binaca and Paxil, also produced a flu vaccine for the H1N1 “bird flu” called Pandermix.

Nevertheless, the fact that these large pharmaceutical firms have had some market success doesn’t necessarily mean anything in terms of the safety of their vaccines. GSK’s Pandermix turned out to induce narcolepsy and after studies confirmed the association between the drug and the chronic sleeping disorder, it has not been used since.

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Sometimes I feel like an HCQ advocate. But I really only thought it was crazy to label it lethal after 200 million people had been given chloroquine over 65 years without even a hint of mortality risks.

An Effective COVID Treatment the Media Continues to Besmirch (RCP)

On Friday, July 31, in a column ostensibly dealing with health care “misinformation,” Washington Post media critic Margaret Sullivan opened by lambasting “fringe doctors spouting dangerous falsehoods about hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 wonder cure.” Actually, it was Sullivan who was spouting dangerous falsehoods about this drug, something the Washington Post and much of the rest of the media have been doing for months. On May 15, the Post offered a stark warning to any Americans who may have taken hope in a possible therapy for COVID-19. In the newspaper’s telling, there was nothing unambiguous about the science — or the politics — of hydroxychloroquine: “Drug promoted by Trump as coronavirus game-changer increasingly linked to deaths,” blared the headline.

Written by three Post staff writers, the story asserted that the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine in treating COVID-19 is scant and that the drug is inherently unsafe. This claim is nonsense. Biased against the use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 — and the Washington Post is hardly alone — the paper described an April 21, 2020, drug study on U.S. Veterans Affairs patients hospitalized with the illness. It found a high death rate in patients taking the drug hydroxychloroquine. But this was a flawed study with a small sample, the main flaw being that the drug was given to the sickest patients who were already dying because of their age and severe pre-existing conditions. This study was quickly debunked. It had been posted on a non-peer-reviewed medical archive that specifically warns that studies posted on its website should not be reported in the media as established information.

Yet, the Post and countless other news outlets did just the opposite, making repeated claims that hydroxychloroquine was ineffective and caused serious cardiac problems. Nowhere was there any mention of the fact that COVID-19 damages the heart during infection, sometimes causing irregular and sometimes fatal heart rhythms in patients not taking the drug. To a media unrelentingly hostile to Donald Trump, this meant that the president could be portrayed as recklessly promoting the use of a “dangerous” drug. Ignoring the refutation of the VA study in its May 15 article, the Washington Post cited a Brazil study published on April 24 in which a COVID trial using chloroquine (a related but different drug than hydroxychloroquine) was stopped because 11 patients treated with it died. The reporters never mentioned another problem with that study: The Brazilian doctors were giving their patients lethal cumulative doses of the drug.

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Time to lose Fauci. But he’ll stay.

Authors of Pro-HCQ Study Defend Their Work From Fauci Attack(BLP)

The doctors responsible for a controversial pro-hydroxychloroquine study are defending their work after it was attacked by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director Dr. Anthony Fauci at a recent Congressional hearing. Drs. Adnan Munkarah and Steven Kalkanis wrote in an open letter that “a whole scientific field exists in which scientists examine how a drug is working in the real world to get as best an answer as they can as soon as possible,” which Dr. Fauci did not acknowledge in his complete dismissal of their work. Munkarah works as the chief clinical officer of the Henry Ford Health System while Kalkanis works as the chief academic officer for the system. They are standing by their findings and refusing to buckle under the political pressure.

“Our promising Henry Ford treatment study should be considered as another important contribution to the other studies of hydroxychloroquine that describes what the authors found in our patient population,” Munkarah and Kalkanis wrote. “We — along with all doctors and scientists — eagerly support the need for randomized clinical trials.” “Unfortunately, the political climate that has persisted has made any objective discussion about this drug impossible, and we are deeply saddened by this turn of events,” they wrote, noting they they believe that the science should “speak for itself.” “To that end, we have made the heartfelt decision to have no further comment about this outside the medical community,” the doctors said.

Munkarah and Kalkanis call for more research to take place but believe that their findings could save lives and should not be discounted. “As an early hot spot for the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen and lived its devastating effects alongside our patients and families,” Munkarah and Kalkanis wrote. “Furthermore, it is not unusual that results from such studies vary in different populations and at different times, and no one study can ever be considered all by itself,” they added. Big League Politics reported on how Dr. Fauci disregarded the Henry Ford Health System study, which appeared in a scholarly journal, because it wasn’t approved by the federal Big Pharma cartel. “We know from another study (corticosteroids) gives benefit in reducing deaths with advanced disease,” Fauci said during a House subcommittee hearing on Friday.

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It’s going to take a long time. Meanwhile, the economy must keep going. Nobody has a plan for that other than return to a time we can’t go back to.

US Jobless Claims Rise To 1.43 Million, Crisis Total Tops 54 Million (NYP)

Some 1.43 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, pushing the number of initial jobless claims filed during the coronavirus pandemic above 54 million, new data show. Last week marked the second consecutive week with an increase in new jobless filings, a further indication that the economic recovery from the pandemic is faltering. “Jobs are a key part to this recovery and this shows yet again how bumpy the recovery is going to be,” said Ryan Detrick, chief investment strategist at LPL Financial. The uptick came as surging coronavirus infections forced some states to renew lockdowns that led to massive layoffs in March and April, raising questions about how quickly the labor market can rebound from its worst collapse in a century.

New jobless claims have now remained above 1 million for 19 consecutive weeks, a level that would have been unprecedented before the pandemic caused a record spike in unemployment as government lockdown orders shuttered restaurants, theaters, hotels, and even some offices. At 54 million, the number of people who have filed for unemployment claims during the course of the pandemic is now greater than the population of South Korea, which boasts 51 million people — and has long since surpassed the 37 million jobs lost over 18 months during the Great Recession.

Bloomberg reported Thursday that Wal-Mart has laid off hundreds of workers in store planning, logistics, merchandising and real estate as part of a larger consolidation effort, while Reuters said Exxon Mobil Corp is gearing up for job cuts to preserve an 8-percent shareholder dividend in the face of a multi-billion-dollar quarterly loss to be reported Friday. Continuing claims, which measure sustained joblessness on a one-week lag, also climbed to about 17 million in the week ending July 18 after falling by more than 1 million the prior week, the US Department of Labor said.

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American jobs?!

US Plans to Relocate Factories from Asia to Latin America (PPost)

The campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” could soon go beyond the borders of the United States. The Trump administration has announced that it is preparing a financial incentive plan to encourage U.S. companies with factories in Asia to return to the Americas, including Latin America and the Caribbean. “We are essentially creating a ‘Back to the Americas’ initiative,” said Mauricio Claver-Carone, the White House national security advisor for Latin America and an aspiring president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).


This project could generate investments ranging from 30 to 50 billion USD across the continent. Although Claver-Carone did not name any particular company, he said that talks had already begun, but the pandemic helped convince them that it was time to get on board. Infrastructure, energy, and transport could be the first potential focus areas for this initiative. In this way, the United States seeks to gain ground in Latin America, where China has been positioning itself since 2015 with large investments and loans of over 40 billion USD, according to the Inter-American Dialogue.

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Oh c’mon, weight loss pills… Start by banning high fructose corn syrup from your country. Then we can talk.

New Guidelines Call For Fundamental Shift In Obesity Treatment (CTV)

A new guideline to treat obesity in Canada recommends a fundamental shift in how doctors and physicians address people living with the condition. The new guideline, published Tuesday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal and in partnership with Obesity Canada, suggests doctors begin focusing on goals that patients consider to be important, rather than focusing on weight loss alone, while also shifting away from the “diet and exercise” weight loss model to instead address the root causes of someone’s excessive weight. “We’re no longer going to be focusing on speaking about calories when we talk about decreasing weight,” Dr. Sean Wharton, co-lead author of the guideline and adjunct professor at McMaster University, said in an phone interview with CTVNews.ca.

“We’re going to more so focus on healthy eating, something we call medical nutrition therapy.” Wharton said simply cutting calories and increasing exercise is not a sustainable way to lose weight and can ultimately lead to the patient regaining the weight. “We know that willpower and motivation will allow for a dietary plan that lasts for a short period of time and then our body compensates and regains the weight,” he said. “Any time we look at lowering calories, we always activate a very strong biological compensatory mechanism, which is why we are doing our best to deemphasize diet.” In the past 30 years, the rate of obesity in Canada has tripled, while the rate of severe obesity has increased tothe point that it includes more than 1.9 million Canadians today.

When it comes to treating obesity, the new guidelines suggest expanding the options to include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), weight loss medication and bariatric surgery, depending on the each patient’s individual needs. Wharton calls these the “three pillars” of effective long-term weight loss. “Most people understand diet and exercise,” he said. “They don’t understand that the pillars that are necessary to keep the diet and the exercise going.” Cognitive therapy, Wharton said, is essentially teaching the patient to be more cognisant of what they’re eating, especially when it comes to snacking on impulse. One strategy is to wait five minutes before eating a desired snack, to make sure you still want it. “Some people can do that skill without even being taught that skill, but the majority of people have to be taught those skills and that’s where CBT treatment and psychological intervention is coming from,” Wharton said.

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How can people understand when their media completely ignores the story?

Understanding The Gravity Of The Russia Hoax (Widburg)

One of the claims Democrats love to tout about the Obama administration is that it was “scandal free.” For those who paid attention to the IRS targeting, Benghazi, Fast & Furious, and the cash smuggled to Iran, to name just a few illegal and/or immoral activities, that was always a peculiar boast. The Obama administration was up to its eyeballs in scandals. It was Obama who finally said what had really happened, which was that “We didn’t have a scandal that embarrassed us.” In other words, the issue wasn’t that the administration was scandal-free. The issue was that the media protected the administration from voters’ wrath should they learn about those scandals.

The Russia Hoax has benefitted from the media’s continued unwillingness to report on Obama-era scandals. When it looked as if the Russia Hoax could achieve a coup against the Trump presidency, members of the press developed a form of Tourette syndrome that saw them obsessively mouth “Russia, Russia, Russia” all day, every day. However, when Robert Mueller’s handpicked Democrat-friendly team, despite two years and 35 million dollars, was unable to find a smidgen of proof that Trump or his administration had colluded with the Russians, leftists inside and outside of the media fell silent. Sure, they’ll still raise the fact that Trump, at a press conference, said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 [Hillary Clinton] emails that are missing,” but their hearts aren’t in it.

They know that normal people understand that Trump was making a pointed joke about the fact that the Russians, the Chinese, and every other hacker on earth had read through Hillary’s emails for years. Aside from leftists being utterly humorless, the media learned that raising this statement periodically was chum to the true believers but not very interesting to anyone else. When it came to burying the whole Russia Hoax, the Democrats and their media lackeys were helped by the fact that the story is so gosh-darned complicated. It involved dozens of people (some genuinely bad actors and some useful idiots), several countries, thousands of pages of cryptic papers, and a dizzying timeline. It’s hard to get people who aren’t political junkies excited about something like that, and even harder to arouse them to a sense of outrage over what the Obama administration did.

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It’ll be discarded by the media, if they even mention it, as politically driven.

Trump: DOJ Found ‘Breathtaking’ Evidence Of Wrongdoing In Russia Probe (JTN)

President Trump said Tuesday night that he believes the Justice Department has uncovered “breathtaking” evidence of misconduct during its investigation of the bungled Russia collusion probe, and he expect results to be released soon. “I caught them, we caught them spying, using the intelligence apparatus of our country to spy on an opponent or an opposing party’s campaign both before and after the election,” Trump said when asked during an interview with Fox Business host Lou Dobbs what he expects U.S. Attorney John Durham to have found during his investigation. Attorney General William Barr named Durham, a prosecutor from Connecticut, to be special prosecutor for reviewing the FBI and DOJ’s conduct in the Russia collusion fiasco.


Trump said he didn’t want to “get overly involved” in the Durham review but expects a dramatic conclusion to the investigation of the investigators. “I do hear it is breathtaking what they found. That’s all I can say, breathtaking. And hopefully it will come out soon. But it is beyond what anybody ever thought even possible,” the president said. Trump also addressed the state of relations with China since the coronavirus pandemic struck, saying Beijing’s failure to stop the virus before it reached U.S. shores has had “a negative impact.” “Well, it’s been very badly hurt by what happened because I really believed they could have stopped it in Wuhan,” the president said. “…It’s been such a horrible thing.”

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They understand. But then where do they get their news?

86% Of Americans Say Media Is Biased, To Blame For Political Division (Fed.)

Eighty-six percent of Americans believe there is “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of political bias in the way the media covers news, according to a Knight Foundation/Gallup poll released on Tuesday. The number of Americans that see bias in the media is up almost 25 percentage points from 62 percent in 2007. Almost half of Americans — 49 percent — now say there’s a great deal of political bias in news coverage. While Republicans are more likely to say there’s a “great deal” of bias and Democrats more often said there was a “fair amount,” large majorities of both political parties believed that some bias existed: 78 percent of Democrats and 94 percent of Republicans.


These numbers were collected from polling of more than 20,000 Americans between November and February, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the death of George Floyd, and the resulting media coverage of both events. Not only do most Americans recognize media bias, they also believe it’s intentional. When asked about their views of news organizations they distrust, 79 percent of poll respondents said those outlets were “trying to persuade people to adopt a certain viewpoint.” When news is inaccurate, 54 percent of Americans think it’s because reporters are “misrepresenting the facts,” while 28 percent assume they’re “making them up entirely.” And more than 8 in 10 Americans — 84 percent — assign the media either a great deal (48 percent) or a moderate amount (36 percent) of blame for political division.

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Everything has turned into clickbait.

Bias And Commercialism Is Killing MSM, Journalists Have Had Enough (RT)

An MSNBC producer has quit the network, lamenting an editorial process that chases approval and ratings rather than presenting facts. When even employees label the MSM as a “cancer with no cure”, we should all be concerned. If you were to ask your mother who Ariana Pekary is, more than likely she’s not going to know unless she’s already met her. That’s because Ariana was a producer at MSNBC. Although she wasn’t someone who’d be in front of the camera, she is definitely someone who’s an expert on what goes on behind it. But now she’s left the TV network and, on her exit, wrote an extremely scathing letter about the nature of its programming. Although she described her colleagues as intelligent people with good intentions, she lamented the way the news has gone, blaming an overemphasis on the chase for ratings as opposed to straight reporting.

Specifically, she stated that it “forces skilled journalists to make bad decisions on a daily basis.” And she went so far as to reference an unnamed colleague who described what they were doing as “a cancer with no cure”. Pekary also admitted that fringe voices are constantly given airtime because it boosts those ratings, even if those guests’ views are divisive and offer little in the way of solutions. And we’ve recently seen two other major figures cite similar problems within the news industry. On leaving the New York Times, Bari Weiss described a hostile work environment in which her colleagues would much rather ‘cancel’ her than allow her to express a different opinion. She even made the extraordinary claim that Twitter has become “the ultimate editor” of the New York Times. This would explain why so much of the Times’ content seems to cater for Twitter’s woke extremists.

Andrew Sullivan, formerly of New York Magazine, had a similar lament. He spoke of his endless frustration at the lack of diversity of thought: “If the mainstream media will not host a diversity of opinion, or puts the ‘moral clarity’ of some self-appointed saints before the goal of objectivity in reporting, if it treats writers as mere avatars for their race and gender or gender identity, rather than as unique individuals whose identity is largely irrelevant, then the non-mainstream needs to pick up the slack.”

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It’s The Healthcare System, Stupid (Thomas Frank)
‘Brain Fog’ To Heart Damage, COVID19’s Lingering Problems (AAAS)
The Protein Expression Profile Of ACE2 In Human Tissues (EMBO) span>
Red Sox Ace Rodríguez Out For Season With COVID-Related Heart Ailment (G.)
Obese People Are Twice As Likely To Die From COVID (ZH)
America’s Coin Shortage Is Getting Worse (ZH)
Obama Issues Private Warning About Trump Voters To Top Democratic Donors (LZ)
CIA Fabricated Russiagate ‘Evidence’ – Bill Binney (Zuesse)
Ten Years Since WikiLeaks Published The Afghan War Logs (WSWS)
US Seeks To Re-Arrest Julian Assange With New Extradition Request (Sky.au)
Former UC Global Staff Confirm Embassy Surveillance Against Julian Assange (CW)
‘Apocalyptic’ Sky Sounds During Lockdown Baffle Experts (G.)

 

 

A few medical reports today on the brain and heart damage that’s being diagnosed increasingly. The medical community appears to have seriously dropped the ball when they all focused on lungs and the respiratory system. That’s just part of what’s happening.

 

 

“Moderate” or moderating numbers. We would love to see this trend continue. But it’s the weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Puppy mask

 

 

In favor of the original populism. From Le Monde Diplomatique.

It’s The Healthcare System, Stupid (Thomas Frank)

Unfortunately, it’s all a mistake. Donald Trump’s prodigious stupidity is not the sole cause of our crushing national failure to beat the coronavirus. Plenty of blame must also go to our screwed-up healthcare system, which scorns the very idea of public health and treats access to medical care as a private luxury that is rightfully available only to some. It is the healthcare system, not Trump, that routinely denies people treatment if they lack insurance; that bankrupts people for ordinary therapies; that strips people of their coverage when they lose their jobs — and millions of people are losing their jobs in this pandemic. It is the healthcare system that, when a Covid treatment finally arrives, will almost certainly charge Americans a hefty price to receive it.

And that system is the way it is because organised medicine has for almost a century used the prestige of expertise to keep it that way. Populism, meanwhile, was the reform impulse that tried (and failed) to change the system so that it served ordinary people. Which is to say that the pundits and the scholars and the thinktankers in their grave solemnity have got it entirely backward. Bowing down before expertise is precisely what has made public health an impossible dream. And the populism that our pundits so hate and fear is, in fact, the cure for what ails us. Who was a populist? Begin with the word. The term ‘Populist’ was coined in Kansas in 1891 to describe members of a brand-new American farmer-labour party who demanded a modern currency, a war on monopoly, and the nationalisation of the railroads.

The movement caught fire, and the people who called themselves Populists seemed poised to succeed at first. Instead, their party fizzled out by the end of that decade. Still, Populism’s influence lived on for decades; its ideas can be traced through the American Socialist Party, the New Deal of the 1930s and 40s, and the Bernie Sanders campaigns of 2016 and 2020. The rise and fall of the American Populists — again, the people who invented the word — has long been a favourite subject of romantically inclined historians. The Populist party’s principles and its leading figures are well known to scholars and are the subject of many books. A curious fact that is repeated often in those books: the Populists were not opponents of science or learning.

On the contrary: Populists produced homages to technology and scholarship and education that were so earnest and ornate that they are embarrassing to read today. They thought their own ideas about regulation and the welfare state were in full alignment with the scientific advances of the late 19th century. At the same time, the Pops fought endlessly with the business and academic elites of their day — experts who regarded the established order as the work of God. Populists regarded all special privilege with suspicion, including the prestige that props up the professional class. [..] The Populist way of looking at things was radically democratic: the people came first. The correct role of experts, the original Populists thought, was to serve and inform the people as they went about their lives as citizens of a democracy.

The original Populist movement didn’t have much to say about healthcare policy. In the 1890s, American medicine had not yet hardened into the supremely costly bureaucratic labyrinth we know today. But as the price of medicine grew out of reach in the decades that followed, farmers and unions and charities proposed all kinds of alternative, more democratic arrangements, and always with the same aim: to make healthcare an affordable part of life for ordinary, working-class people.

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People who can’t think straight months after being discharged. A baseball starting pitcher whose season is gone because of heart inflammation.

‘Brain Fog’ To Heart Damage, COVID19’s Lingering Problems (AAAS)

By now it’s clear that many people with COVID-19 severe enough to put them in a hospital face a long recovery. The virus ravages the heart, for example, in multiple ways. Direct invasion of heart cells can damage or destroy them. Massive inflammation can affect cardiac function. The virus can blunt the function of ACE2 receptors, which normally help protect heart cells and degrade angiotensin II, a hormone that increases blood pressure. Stress on the body from fighting the virus can prompt release of adrenaline and epinephrine, which can also “have a deleterious effect on the heart,” says Raul Mitrani, a cardiac electrophysiologist at the University of Miami who collaborates with Goldberger.


Many people the pair has seen with heart complications post–COVID-19 had preexisting conditions, most commonly diabetes and hypertension. COVID-19, Goldberger suspects, tips them into more hazardous terrain or accelerates the onset of heart problems that, absent the coronavirus, might have developed later. But other patients are affected without apparent risk factors: A paper this week in JAMA Cardiology found that 78 of 100 people diagnosed with COVID-19 had cardiac abnormalities when their heart was imaged on average 10 weeks later, most often inflammation in heart muscle. Many of the participants in that study were previously healthy, and some even caught the virus while on ski trips, according to the authors.

Severe lung scarring appears less common than feared—Gholamrezanezhad knows of only one recovered patient who still needs oxygen at rest. Scarring seems most likely to accompany underlying lung disease, hypertension, obesity, and other conditions. Lung damage is also seen in people who spend weeks on a ventilator. Gholamrezanezhad suspects that, as with harm to the heart, previously healthy people are not exempt from the virus’ long-term effects on the lungs, though their risk is likely lower.

[..] Then there’s the nervous system, a worrying target. Severe complications seem relatively rare but aren’t limited to those whom the virus renders critically ill. Brown, Zandi, and colleagues described 43 people with neurologic complications this month in Brain; many had been hospitalized during their acute infection, but not always for long—and for some, neurologic problems were their most debilitating symptom and the reason for hospital admission. Several were struggling to recover from encephalitis. Others had inflammation in their brain’s white matter, which helps transmit electrical signals.

Separately, doctors are starting to see a class of patients who, like Akrami, struggle to think clearly—another outcome physicians have come upon in the past. After some severe viral infections, there are “those people who still don’t feel quite right afterward, but have normal brain scans,” Brown says. Some neurologists and patients describe the phenomenon as “brain fog.” It’s largely a mystery, though one theory suggests it’s similar to a “postviral fatigue related to inflammation in the body,” Brown says.

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“..mainly observed in enterocytes, renal tubules, gallbladder, cardiomyocytes, male reproductive cells, placental trophoblasts, ductal cells, eye, and vasculature..”

The Protein Expression Profile Of ACE2 In Human Tissues (EMBO)

The novel SARS coronavirus 2 (SARS CoV 2) poses a global challenge on healthcare and society. For understanding the susceptibility for SARS CoV 2 infection, the cell type specific expression of the host cell surface receptor is necessary. The key protein suggested to be involved in host cell entry is angiotensin I converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). Here, we report the expression pattern of ACE2 across > 150 different cell types corresponding to all major human tissues and organs based on stringent immunohistochemical analysis. The results were compared with several datasets both on the mRNA and protein level.


ACE2 expression was mainly observed in enterocytes, renal tubules, gallbladder, cardiomyocytes, male reproductive cells, placental trophoblasts, ductal cells, eye, and vasculature. In the respiratory system, the expression was limited, with no or only low expression in a subset of cells in a few individuals, observed by one antibody only. Our data constitute an important resource for further studies on SARS CoV 2 host cell entry, in order to understand the biology of the disease and to aid in the development of effective treatments to the viral infection.

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Eduardo Rodríguez is a prominent example of what the research above warns about. And he’s a young fit top athlete.

Red Sox Ace Rodríguez Out For Season With COVID-Related Heart Ailment (G.)

Boston Red Sox ace Eduardo Rodríguez will miss the rest of the 2020 season as he recovers from a heart issue the team believes is related to the pitcher’s recent battle with the coronavirus. The 27-year-old left-hander, the team’s presumptive No 1 starter who had been expected to start on opening day before he was sidelined, has been diagnosed with myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart that has been found at a high rate in recovered coronavirus patients. Rodríguez tested positive for the virus before flying to Boston for an abbreviated training camp in early July, describing symptoms including headaches, nausea and a high fever. After recovering and joining the club, he was diagnosed with the temporary ailment.


“We are confident that he’s going to make a full recovery and that his longterm prognosis is excellent, but the fact of the matter is there’s just just not enough time left this season to safely ramp him back up to pitching,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said. Rodriguez had said last Sunday that his doctors told him that 10-20% of people who have had Covid-19 also have been diagnosed with myocarditis. “That’s the most important part of your body, so when you hear that, the first time I hear it was kind of scared a little,’’ Rodriguez said. “Now that I know what it is, it’s still scary, but I know exactly what it is. Just talk to my mom, talk to my wife, they know what I have and everything. Now we just gotta take the rest. That’s hard, but you gotta take a rest.”

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Shed some pounds. Get fit(ter).

Obese People Are Twice As Likely To Die From COVID (ZH)

Just in case Americans – the most obese nation in the world – needed another reason to lose some weight, here it is. In what is emerging as a perfidious Catch 22, at a time when the US population is rapidly gaining weight due to mandatory work from home regulation (hence the Covid 19 pounds) as described here and here, while a surge in domestic alcohol consumption is only making the matters worse… Public Health England has published a paper titled “Excess Weight and COVID-19 Insights from new evidence”, indicating that the risks of hospitalization, intensive care treatment and death increase progressively with increasing body mass index (BMI) above the healthy weight range even after adjustment for potential confounding factors, including demographic and socioeconomic factors. In other words, the fatter one is, the higher the risk that person may die from covid.


Some more details: according to the Public Health England paper, the hazard ratios of ICU admission patients who are overweight (BMI ≥25-29.9), obese (BMI ≥30-34.9) or severely obese (BMI ≥35) are 1.64, 2.59 and 4.35, respectively see figure below) relative to patients with a BMI of ≥20-24.9. The study also showed an increasing risk of death with increasing BMI with hazard ratios of 1.05, 1.40 and 1.92 for people with a BMI of 30-34, 35-39.9 and ≥40, respectively, relative to BMI <30. In a nutshell, people who are severely obese are twice as likely to die from Covid. Which, in a world where facts could be discussed instead of dismissed and slammed as “racist”, would mean that certain races and genders are especially at risk. However, because charts like the one below are racist, it’s best to wallow in ignorance and accuse white people for what is taking place.

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The Fed can’t do its laundry anymore.

America’s Coin Shortage Is Getting Worse (ZH)

The nation’s coin shortage, prompted by less cash circulating as a result of Covid-19 – is getting worse. And believe it or not, cash is still being used in 49% of payments that are $10 or below, according to a recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, reported on by Bloomberg. The irony of the situation lies in the fact that the Fed can print trillions for bonds, but can’t come up with a couple of quarters to do its laundry. Despite the Fed’s best efforts to keep money circulating, there is still a coin shortage in the U.S. The effects are being felt in places like laundromats, where coins are used to do laundry. Brian Wallace, president and CEO of the Coin Laundry Association (we swear this is an actual organization), said: “This is just an unexpected wrench in the works that I don’t think any of us could have anticipated, finding ourselves short on quarters.”

Only about 20% of laundromats offer a card option and 27% accept credit cards. In other words, most laundromats still rely on coins to do business. “The people that show up to the laundromat each weekend are there for a purpose. It’s an essential service. Anything that impedes that progress certainly impacts tens of millions of families that use vended laundry each week,” Wallace continued. Coinstar, which processed $2.7 billion worth of coins last year, collects an 11.9% fee from customers. The company has said its business has decreased during the lockdown, but it is now starting to see a slight bounce back. And despite operating in Japan, Canada, Italy, and several other European countries, it hasn’t seen the same issues outside the U.S. “There’s something unique about the U.S. that we can’t figure out why this has come to this crisis,” says Jim Gaherity, chief executive officer of Coinstar.

“I don’t refer to it as a shortage, I refer to it as ‘We don’t have coin moving.’ It’s there, it’s just not in the right place.” Jerome Powell said in June that the shortage would be temporary, while at the same time U.S. mints spool up more production. The Fed has, in the interim, put together a “coin task force” to liaise with companies like Coinstar to help come up with solutions. Organizations like the Coin Laundry Association have suggested the Fed distributing additional coins and prioritizing to “consumer businesses in the essential critical infrastructure workforce.” Banks and businesses are also offering premiums and deals for turning in your coins. One Wisconsin bank is offering a $5 bonus for every $100 worth of coins that are turned in. Recall, days ago, we wrote that Chick-Fil-A was giving away free food to customers who paid in coins.

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Obama’s own side has this problem. They operate solely in their echo chamber. The people getting their information from the MSM get zero info from anywhere else. So who is the threat to democracy around here? An individual’s answer to that question can be precisely predicted once you know where (s)he gets her “news”.

Obama Issues Private Warning About Trump Voters To Top Democratic Donors (LZ)

Barack Obama has reportedly just warned top Democratic donors that this election is far from a lock for Joe Biden because President Donald Trump’s voters are “glued” to rightwing outlets like Fox News and Breitbart News. Over the past two months, Obama has raised $24 million for Biden by having conversations with people like LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, actor George Clooney, as well as with top party leaders, according to The New York Times. Donors who have paid six-figure sums have been given the opportunity to watch these conversations on Zoom. In these talks, Obama claimed that because the mainstream media doesn’t reach some Trump supporters, they can filter “out any contradictory information” by getting their news from Breitbart News, Fox News, and Rush Limbaugh.


“It’s just glued to Fox News and Breitbart and Limbaugh and just this conservative echo chamber — and so, they’re going to turn out to vote,” Obama reportedly said in a discussion with Illinois Democrat Governor J.B. Pritzker. “What he has unleashed and what he continues to try to tap into is the fears and anger and resentment of people who, in some cases, really are having a tough time and have seen their prospects, or communities where they left, declining. And Trump tries to tap into that and redirect in nativist, racist, sexist ways.” The Times reported that Obama also has said that he sees Trump as a threat to American democracy, “even making an oblique reference to Nazi Germany” during one of the conversations.

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The former US intelligence technical specialists are still being silenced. Very effectively. Binney’s message: nothing was hacked.

CIA Fabricated Russiagate ‘Evidence’ – Bill Binney (Zuesse)

An important public statement was made on July 27th by Bill Binney, the U.S. Government’s top expert on the internet, and on computer hacking. He had been the Technical Director of the NSA when he quit and became a whistleblower against that Agency while George W. Bush was the U.S. President and invaded Iraq on the basis of faked evidence. Binney has now laid out, in this speech, the evidence that he wants to present in court against Barack Obama’s CIA, that it defrauded Americans to believe in “Russiagate” (the allegation that Russia ‘hacked’ the computers of Hillary Clinton and Democratic Party officials and fed that information to Wikileaks and other organizations). Binney cites evidence, which, if true, conclusively proves that Russiagate was actually created fraudulently by the CIA’s extensive evidence-tampering, which subsequently became covered-up by the Special Counsel Robert Mueller, in his investigations for the Democratic Party’s first (and failed) try at impeaching and removing from office U.S. President Donald J. Trump.


[..] NOTE: This news-report was submitted, in advance, to each of the following 40 mainstream news-media, offering it as an exclusive, to: ABC, BBC, CBS, FNC, NBC, New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Guardian, McClatchy, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The Nation, The Spectator, The New Republic, Time, The Week, Progressive, Jacobin, New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Economist, National Interest, Rolling Stone, Huffington Post, Salon, Slate, Business Insider, Politico, The Hill, The Gray Zone, The Intercept, The Daily Beast, Vice, Spiked, Bloomberg, Truthdig, Truthout, Vox, Common Dreams. None accepted it. None of them wanted their audience to see it. So, this article is now being submitted for publication, free of charge, to all English language (and a few other) news-media, simply in order to make known to as many of the public as possible, the information that it contains.

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Can you even imagine the New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel cooperating with Assange today? It’s only been ten years. The narrative has (been) solidified enormously.

Ten Years Since WikiLeaks Published The Afghan War Logs (WSWS)

Last Saturday marked ten years since WikiLeaks published the Afghan war logs, a vast trove of leaked US military documents, which provided an unprecedented insight into the criminality of a war that has become the longest in American history. The documents were released, with commentary, analysis and contextual material, in partnership with the New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel, some three months after WikiLeaks published “Collateral Murder,” the infamous video showing a 2007 US army massacre of civilians, including two Reuters journalists, in Iraq. Taken together, the exposures had an immense impact on popular consciousness, fortifying and deepening the mass anti-war sentiment first revealed in the huge international protests against the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Significantly, the 2010 releases by WikiLeaks followed the suppression of that movement by upper middle-class pseudo-left groups. They had increasingly dispensed with opposition to imperialist war as they supported the 2008 election of Barack Obama, and aligned with other militarist parties of the ruling elite, such as the Labor Party in Australia. The Afghan logs particularly exposed the claims of innumerable liberal pundits that the occupation of that country was the “good war,” supposedly waged to defeat terrorism, extend democracy and protect women’s rights. This they contrasted with the “failed” operation in Iraq. This dovetailed with the agenda of the new US administration. Obama’s phony anti-war posturing during the 2008 election had been accompanied by plans for a massive surge in Afghanistan.

The mythmaking was facilitated by the suppression of any information about the real situation on the ground by the US, its allies and a pliant corporate media. WikiLeaks lifted the veil on the lies, revealing a neo-colonial occupation aimed at looting natural resources and securing control of the geo-strategically critical Central Asian region. Mass civilian killings, widespread popular opposition and demoralisation within US army ranks all came to the surface, more fully than they had in the nine years since the US invasion. The publication was based on 91,000 US army logs covering the period of January 2004 to December 2009, provided to WikiLeaks by Chelsea Manning, who had access to the material as a military intelligence analyst.

Indicating the extent of corporate media integration into the military, Manning only turned the material over to WikiLeaks after her attempts to contact the New York Times and the Washington Post were ignored. In releasing the material, WikiLeaks publisher and then editor-in-chief Julian Assange described it as “the most comprehensive history of a war ever to be published, during the course of the war.” Unlike the corporate hacks, who seek to hide their alignment with imperialist war behind a mask of impartiality, Assange was unapologetically partisan. The documents suggested thousands of war crimes, he stated, and their release would serve to shift public opinion. “The most dangerous men are those who are in charge of war. And they need to be stopped,” he said.

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“If Julian is freed and rearrested simultaneously then we will sue for false imprisonment and malicious torture..”

US Seeks To Re-Arrest Julian Assange With New Extradition Request (Sky.au)

Julian Assange’s lawyers have suggested the WikiLeaks founder may soon be re-arrested in London after a new extradition request citing the same 18 offences, according to Sky News host Brent O’Halloran. American authorities are seeking to have Mr Assange, who is currently imprisoned in England, sent to the United States to face trial for charges relating to WikiLeaks publication of troves of confidential information. The WikiLeaks organisation has published a number of classified documents detailing mistreatment of Guantanamo Bay detainees and Democratic national committee emails showing the party was trying to rig the 2016 primaries for Hillary Clinton.


His lawyers, supporters and free press advocates argue Mr Assange is being prosecuted for exposing wrongdoing and the whole case sets a dangerous precedent, Mr O’Halloran said. Mr Assange’s father, John Shipton told Sky News the prison conditions in which his son was being kept were “farcical and dire”. “If Julian is freed and rearrested simultaneously then we will sue for false imprisonment and malicious torture,” he said.

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Wonder what the Spnish judge will conclude, and what will come of it.

Former UC Global Staff Confirm Embassy Surveillance Against Julian Assange (CW)

The Spanish National Court, Audiencia Nacional, this week heard testimony from four former employees of a company that provided security services to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London when it offered sanctuary to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The court in Madrid is investigating whether Undercover Global SL and its owner, David Morales Guillén, secretly recorded meetings between Assange and his visitors during the seven years he spent in the Ecuadorian Embassy. One of the victims of the operation is the former president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa. Court documents show that UC Global staff secretly photographed Correa at a meeting at Spain’s Adolfo Suárez-Barajas Airport. Correa claims the mobile phones of his family were hacked.

The court is investigating whether UC Global breached the privacy rights of journalists, politicians, diplomats, doctors and celebrities who visited Assange during his stay at the Embassy. Aitor Martínez Jiménez, a member of Assange’s Spanish legal team, said the four UC Global staff had confirmed email evidence already presented to the court that detailed the surveillance operation. “They have confirmed what we had said, that the cameras recorded audios, that they kept the hard drives with the recordings, that when there were sensitive visits, they were asked for the recordings,” said Martínez Jiménez. “And they took the documentation of the people who visited Assange.”

UC Global’s spying operation came to light in April 2019 when the Spanish newspaper El País revealed that the security company that monitored Assange until 2017 had installed surveillance cameras equipped with microphones and compiled reports on hundreds of people who visited Assange during his exile.

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More high class journalism from the Guardian. it’s what we count on from them.

‘Apocalyptic’ Sky Sounds During Lockdown Baffle Experts (G.)

During the months of lockdown, people have heard and recorded strange sounds seemingly emanating from the sky. Some believe these are celestial trumpets heralding the apocalypse; there may be other explanations. The sounds – heard in the US, Mexico, Slovakia, Italy, Brazil and Argentina – do not seem to correspond to angelic heralds. Some resembled aircraft noises when there were no planes flying. A sound in Bratislava was described as “Darth Vader breathing”, while a recording from Colorado was like a shrieking whistle. Another recorded over several evenings at Lake Garda was more of a vibration. No single scientific cause has been suggested, and the wide variety points to multiple causes.


The lack of human noise during lockdown has made people more aware of background meteorological sounds, from wind to distant thunder. Refraction carries sound for long distances over lakes at night, sound previously masked by traffic and other activity. Some cases may be manifestations of the enigmatic “global hum” heard in many places previously but never satisfactorily explained. A snowball effect means that when one person reports a “new” sound, others listen out and notice it too. Many of these may not be new at all. However, any reports of hail mixed with blood and fire, may mean the celestial trumpet theory needs to be revisited.


The seven angels with seven trumpets: detail from the 11th-century Bamberg Apocalypse manuscript. Photograph: The Picture Art Collection/Alamy

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Jul 272020
 


Opening of Golden Gate Bridge May 27 1937

 

$1,200 Stimulus Check, Eviction Moratorium, and Reduced Unemployment Aid (ZH)
Gold Soars To All-Time High As Dollar Dive Boosts Safety Rush (R.)
Lockdown Has Made The Nation Happier – Study (Ind.)
Vietnam Orders Evacuation Of 80,000 People After Three Test Positive (Ind.)
Spain’s COVID19 Death Toll Could Be 60% Higher Than Reported – El Pais (RT)
The $52 Trillion Bubble That Has “Hijacked China’s Economy”
Britain Unveils Plans To Tackle ‘Obesity Time Bomb’ (R.)
Riots Are Driving Portland’s Small Businesses Under (RT)
Biden Campaign Declines ‘Fox News Sunday’ Interview (Fox)
More Willful Blindness By The Media On Spying By Obama Administration (Turley)

 

 

Don’t know why, is it because it’s Monday, or because I worked hard all weekend, but I had a bit of a hard time finding things today that I found interesting. That was mostly made up for when I saw these headlines in Britain’s Independent newspaper: “Lockdown Has Made The Nation Happier” and “Lockdown Took Away My Freedom But Set Me Free Spiritually”. That is genius. Especially when followed by the news that Vietnam is evacuating 80,000 people from Danang because three were infected. That’s 80,000 people about to be happier.

Plus more news that the dollar is diving. Nor sure against what. I still think it’s gold that is rising, not the other way around. One look at gold vs euro confirms it. But that’s just me. Then again, sure, there’s tons of people betting against the dollar right now. That doesn’t mean it’s smart bet, though.

 

And as I write this, there’s another Assange circus “trial” happening. Intensely sad.

 

 

Substantial declines in new cases for both the world and the US. I just wish I could be a bit happier about them, but it was only a Sunday yesterday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Power, not people. From both sides. Down to the wire it is.

$1,200 Stimulus Check, Eviction Moratorium, and Reduced Unemployment Aid (ZH)

With the Trump Treasury sitting on $1.8 trillion and three months to spend it, the White House and Senate Republicans are set to introduce a $1 trillion spending bill on Monday which would be released in stages – angering Democrats who are pushing for an immediate, $3 trillion shotgun blast of stimulus. Speaking with ABC’s “This Week,” White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said “I see us being able to provide unemployment insurance, maybe a retention credit, to keep people from being displaced or brought back into the workplace, helping with our schools,” adding “we can negotiate on the rest of the bill in the weeks to come.” “The Trump administration opposes an extension of a $600-a-week enhanced unemployment payment that expired this month, Mnuchin and Meadows said.

Instead, White House officials favor a plan to reimburse an individual’s lost wages or salary by up to 70%”, said Mnuchin and Meadows.” -Newsday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) popped a fuse at the GOP proposal, blaming Republicans for waiting too long to negotiate for more relief after House Democrats passed a fifth, $3 trillion relief bill which would have included immediate aid to state and local governments, expanded testing and contact tracing for COVID-19. Appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Pelosi said that Republicans are “in disarray and that delay is causing suffering for America’s families. So we have been ready for two months and 10 days. I’ve been here all weekend hoping they had something to give us.” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, meanwhile, says the White House is “prepared to act quickly.” We bet they are.

Mnuchin added that unemployment benefits would be extended, while schools and universities would receive protection against “frivolous” lawsuits – part of overall GOP support for protections that would also include corporations. “Within the trillion-dollar package, there’s certain things that have time frames that are a bigger priority, so we could look at doing an entire deal, we could also look at doing parts,” said Mnuchin, adding that he would push for a “technical fix” to unemployment insurance after many have criticized the $600 weekly benefit as being too high, and a disincentive to searching for a job.

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Oh wait, I covered this yesterday. This morning, gold rises about as much vs the euro as vs the USD. So what is the dollar “diving” against other than gold and silver?

Gold Soars To All-Time High As Dollar Dive Boosts Safety Rush (R.)

Gold surged to record highs on Monday as an intensifying U.S.-China row and a weaker dollar sent investors scurrying to the safety of bullion to hedge against the risks to a global economy already reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic. Spot gold rose 1.6% to $1,931.50 per ounce by 0627 GMT after hitting a record high of $1,943.93. U.S. gold futures gained 1.6% to $1,927.50. Silver too joined the rally, jumping more than 6% to $24.36, its highest since September 2013. Gold is in “perfect condition to move higher,” said ANZ commodity strategist Soni Kumari, amid the virus crisis and central banks pushing for liquidity.


“Further support is also coming from falling yields, weaker dollar and geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and China. The safe-haven demand (for gold) has been rising while there is none for USD anymore.” The dollar fell to a near two-year low on increased bets the U.S. Federal Reserve could flag another accommodative policy shift when it meets this week, implying lower interest rates for longer. China seized the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, retaliating to the closure of its own consulate in Houston. Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases surged to over 16.13 million globally, driving expectations of more stimulus to stem the economic blow. “As long as the (virus) situation gets worse, the market is discounting more stimulus for a longer period of time and in bigger quantities,” said Edward Meir, analyst at ED&F Man Capital Markets.

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Brilliant. Evokes the image of a guy pointing a gun at your forehead saying: I’m here to make you happy.

The Independent today also runs a story entitled “Lockdown Took Away My Freedom But Set Me Free Spiritually”. Just so you know.

Wonder what this pays.

Lockdown Has Made The Nation Happier – Study (Ind.)

Lockdown helped to restore people’s happiness after national levels fell when the pandemic began, new research suggests. According to a study by Cambridge University’s Bennett Institute for Public Policy, the number of Britons self-reporting as “happy” halved in just three weeks at the start of lockdown. Using data taken from YouGov Weekly Mood Tracker surveys and Google searches, the researchers found that the number of people declaring themselves as “happy” went from 51 per cent just before the UK’s first Covid-19 fatality to 25 per cent by the time lockdown began on 23 March. However, once lockdown restrictions started to be lifted, these figures reversed, with happiness levels increasing back to close to what they were pre-pandemic, reaching 47 per cent by the end of May.


The study also identified a distinction between life satisfaction among social groups, with those in wealthy categories experiencing a decline while the most deprived groups reported a relative rise in life satisfaction. Dr Roberto Foa, from Cambridge’s Department of Politics and International Studies and director of the YouGov-Cambridge Centre for Public Opinion Research, commented: “It was the pandemic, not the lockdown, that depressed people’s wellbeing. “Mental health concerns are often cited as a reason to avoid lockdown. “In fact, when combined with employment and income support, lockdown may be the single most effective action a government can take during a pandemic to maintain psychological welfare.”

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And here’s 80,000 more and happier Vietnamese.

Vietnam Orders Evacuation Of 80,000 People After Three Test Positive (Ind.)

Vietnam has ordered the evacuation of 80,000 people from the coastal city of Danang after three residents there tested positive for coronavirus. The government said the evacuation would take four days and involve flights chartered to 11 different Vietnamese cities. Vietnam, which has been praised for its pandemic response after reporting just 400 cases and no deaths, went back on high alert at the weekend as it confirmed its first local infections since April, all in the popular tourism destination of Danang. An aggressive and widespread testing regime plus a strict quarantine had helped the South-East Asian nation almost eradicate Covid-19 within its borders, but the authorities are now grappling with its first internal infections for months. Although foreign tourists are still barred from entering the country, there has been a surge of domestic travel as the Vietnamese take advantage of discounted flights and hotel deals.


Anyone who had recently returned home from a break in Danang would be required to quarantine at home for 14 days, the health ministry has said. In addition, the prime minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has also ordered police to step up a crackdown on illegal immigration. It is not clear if the new Danang cases are connected to people entering Vietnam secretly but Vietnamese state media said on Sunday police had arrested a Chinese man accused of running a gang which smuggled people into the country from China. On Monday, the government announced more than 1,500 people had been caught illegally crossing the border from China into Ha Giang province in Vietnam since May. Most of those caught were Vietnamese citizens and had been sent into quarantine.

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Probably true in many places.

Spain’s COVID19 Death Toll Could Be 60% Higher Than Reported – El Pais (RT)

Spain’s Covid-19 death toll could be off by 60 percent, according to calculations by the country’s leading newspaper, El Pais, which suggest Spain has the second-highest number of deaths in Europe after the UK. An El Pais investigation published on Sunday found that the official figure of 28,432 deaths is likely far less than the true number of people who have died with the virus. Spain’s official death toll only includes people who had a confirmed Covid-19 diagnosis, and not those who were suspected of having it but were never tested. El Pais looked at regional statistics on all suspected and confirmed deaths from the virus and concluded that 44,868 people died with Covid-19.


This figure is close to the number of excess deaths recorded by the National Epidemiology Centre and National Statistics Centre (INE) in June. It found that there were 43,945 more deaths between January and May 2020 than the previous year. The Spanish Association of Professionals and Funeral Services and the Carlos III Health Institute also calculated similar excess mortality figures during this time. If El Pais’ figures are accurate, it would mean that Spain has seen the second most deadly outbreak in Europe after the UK, which has recorded over 45,000 deaths. There was a lack of widespread testing carried at the beginning of the outbreak, which might explain the discrepancy with the official figures. At the end of May, the country lowered its death toll by 2,000 as a result of duplicate records and some regions reporting suspected cases as confirmed cases.

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All our money on one horse.

The $52 Trillion Bubble That Has “Hijacked China’s Economy”

More than three years ago, we explained why “the fate of the world economy is in the hands of China’s housing bubble.” As we said at the time, “China has always been a serial bubble inflator courtesy of a closed (capital account) economy, and nearly $30 trillion in bank deposits [$40 trillion as of July 2020] which slosh from one asset class to another, be it the stock market, bitcoin, commodities, farm animals or – most often – housing. ” Why is it so important for China to consistently reflate this bubble? The answer is simple: for China’s middle class there is no more important asset than housing: as Deutsche’s Zhiewi Zhang wrote in 2017 when discussing the macro and market consequences of the Chinese bubble, it is nothing more (or less) than “a massive wealth effect.”


Furthermore, unlike the US, which is hyperfinancialized and the bulk of household net worth is in financial assets (less than 30% is in real estate), in China it is the opposite, and roughly three-quarters of all household worth is in real estate. And since a global healthy economy starts with a growing, stable and inflating Chinese economy, unless China’s housing bubble is growing at a steady, measured pace created a “wealth effect” illusion among several hundred million middle-class Chinese, we concluded three years ago that the global economy is just as reliant on China’s housing market as it is on the global – and certainly US – stock market. Fast forward a little over three years, when China’s housing bubble is bigger than ever, and now the WSJ has picked up on what we said three years ago, namely that China’s epic housing market is perhaps the world’s most defining bubble, and more importantly, not even the covid pandemic did anything to threaten the sanctity of this bubble.

First, some context why China’s housing bubble currently eclipses the one in U.S. housing in the 2000s: “At the peak of the U.S. property boom, about $900 billion a year was being invested in residential real estate. In the 12 months ended in June, about $1.4 trillion was invested in Chinese housing. More was invested last month in Chinese real estate than any other month on record.” Some more statistics: “the total value of Chinese homes and developers’ inventory hit $52 trillion in 2019, according to Goldman Sachs, twice the size of the U.S. residential market and outstripping even the entire U.S. bond market.” China’s housing market is certainly bigger than the US stock market, and at its current growth rate will surpass the total value of all global stocks (which is currently about $85 trillion) in just a few years!

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He’ll be forever known as Fat Boris now.

Britain Unveils Plans To Tackle ‘Obesity Time Bomb’ (R.)

Britain unveiled plans to tackle an “obesity time bomb” on Monday, banning TV and online adverts for junk food before 9.00 p.m., ending “buy one get one free” deals on such foods and putting calories on menus.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has lost weight since he was in intensive care with COVID-19, wants to tackle obesity after research showed those who are obese or overweight are at increased risk of death or severe illness from the coronavirus. Last month, he said Britain was fatter than most European countries apart from Malta and his government described “tackling the obesity time bomb” as a priority.

Ditching his earlier stance as a non-believer of “nannying” politics, his government is announcing a new drive to help people to “take control of their own future by losing weight, getting active and adopting a healthier lifestyle”. Alongside the ban on adverts before 9.00 p.m. (2000 GMT), on food deals and plans for the calorific content of meals to be displayed on menus, the government will also launch a consultation on displaying calories on alcohol. “Losing weight is hard but with some small changes we can all feel fitter and healthier,” Johnson said in a statement. “If we all do our bit, we can reduce our health risks and protect ourselves against coronavirus – as well as taking pressure off the NHS (National Health Service).”

With more than 60% of adults in Britain considered overweight or obese, according to Public Health England, the coronavirus crisis has put the obesity issue at the forefront of the government’s thinking, with a “Better Health” campaign being launched alongside the new measures.

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Thought experiment: imagine this happening in a French or German city. How do you think their governments would react?

Riots Are Driving Portland’s Small Businesses Under (RT)

After nearly 60 straight nights of violence, business owners in Portland are sick and tired of riots. But as their stores go under, the coastal media treats the rioters to glowing coverage and city authorities do nothing. Portland is a liberal stronghold, and as ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests fizzle out around the country, anger remains at boiling point in the Oregonian city. The protests there have not been all banner-waving and slogan-chanting affairs though. Instead, droves of ‘Antifa’ types have laid siege to the city’s Justice Center for almost two months, tearing down barricades, lobbing fireworks, setting fires and stabbing each other.

Most of those involved in the riots would probably say they’re fighting police brutality or fascism, or something of the sort, but besides those injured in that fight there are other victims of the unrest – local business owners have repeatedly complained about the riots to the local media. In articles published every few days, these store owners, barmen and restaurateurs describe how the riots have driven them to the brink of bankruptcy. One clothing store manager told Oregon Live on Saturday that within days of coronavirus restrictions being lifted, he reopened his family’s store, only to watch rioters trash the premises in late May, days after the killing of George Floyd kicked off the season of unrest.

[..] While local news tells tales of shuttered stores and bankrupt businesses, national media outlets describe the violence in Portland as a good v evil showdown between protesters and federal “stormtroopers.” As store owners told their stories to local media, the New York Times ran an article last week celebrating the “diverse elements” taking part in the protests. The “mothers in helmets,” and “anti-fascist activists” are “largely peaceful,” the paper wrote, describing how they have been “galvanized” by the “militarized” feds on the streets. The Washington Post was even more effusive in its praise, describing the feds’ use of tear gas as a “chemical weapon,” and honoring the moms, dads, teachers and healthcare workers who refuse to disperse and willingly stride into the choking fumes. The motives of the protesters – beyond vague demands for “racial justice” – are never explained, but the Post painted a truly heroic image of one man using a leaf blower to fire gas back at the agents.

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For now, the basement is winning. So why change?

Biden Campaign Declines ‘Fox News Sunday’ Interview (Fox)

During his interview with Chris Wallace last week, President Trump questioned whether the Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee, Joe Biden, could handle the barrage of questioning that Wallace posed to Trump. The answer to that question – at least for now – we may never know. Wallace on Sunday informed viewers that the Biden campaign told Fox News he was “not available” for an interview. “In our interview last week with President Trump, he questioned whether his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, could handle a similar encounter,” Wallace said. “This week, we asked the Biden campaign for an interview and they said the former vice president was not available.” He added, “We’ll keep asking every week.”


The Trump campaign has hit Biden for months for abstaining from holding rallies and news conferences while continuing to do interviews amid the coronavirus pandemic. While Biden recently has returned to the stump, Trump and his allies continued to mock the former vice president for “hiding” in his home in Delaware. Biden’s reticence to do public events, however, has done little to hurt his candidacy as the latest polls had Biden comfortably ahead of Trump both nationally and in key battleground states.

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Wondering how the MSM will cover future indictments, subpoenas etc. Those will come.

More Willful Blindness By The Media On Spying By Obama Administration (Turley)

The Washington press corps seems engaged in a collective demonstration of the legal concept of willful blindness, or deliberately ignoring the facts, following the release of yet another declassified document which directly refutes prior statements about the investigation into Russia collusion. The document shows that FBI officials used a national security briefing of then candidate Donald Trump and his top aides to gather possible evidence for Crossfire Hurricane, its code name for the Russia investigation. It is astonishing that the media refuses to see what is one of the biggest stories in decades. The Obama administration targeted the campaign of the opposing party based on false evidence.

The media covered Obama administration officials ridiculing the suggestions of spying on the Trump campaign and of improper conduct with the Russia investigation. When Attorney General William Barr told the Senate last year that he believed spying did occur, he was lambasted in the media, including by James Comey and others involved in that investigation. The mocking “wow” response of the fired FBI director received extensive coverage. The new document shows that, in summer 2016, FBI agent Joe Pientka briefed Trump campaign advisers Michael Flynn and Chris Christie over national security issues, standard practice ahead of the election. It had a discussion of Russian interference. But this was different.

The document detailing the questions asked by Trump and his aides and their reactions was filed several days after that meeting under Crossfire Hurricane and Crossfire Razor, the FBI investigation of Flynn. The two FBI officials listed who approved the report are Kevin Clinesmith and Peter Strzok. Clinesmith is the former FBI lawyer responsible for the FISA surveillance conducted on members of the Trump campaign. He opposed Trump and sent an email after the election declaring “viva the resistance.” He is now under review for possible criminal charges for altering a FISA court filing. The FBI used Trump adviser Carter Page as the basis for the original FISA application, due to his contacts with Russians. After that surveillance was approved, however, federal officials discredited the collusion allegations and noted that Page was a CIA asset. Clinesmith had allegedly changed the information to state that Page was not working for the CIA.

Strzok is the FBI agent whose violation of FBI rules led Justice Department officials to refer him for possible criminal charges. Strzok did not hide his intense loathing of Trump and famously referenced an “insurance policy” if Trump were to win the election. After FBI officials concluded there was no evidence of any crime by Flynn at the end of 2016, Strzok prevented the closing of the investigation as FBI officials searched for any crime that might be used to charge the incoming national security adviser. Documents show Comey briefed President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on the investigation shortly before the inauguration of Trump.

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Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Jul 162020
 


Irving Underhill Irving Trust Building, Trinity Church, Wall Street, New York 1931

 

‘Over Half’ Of Trial Participants Had Adverse Reactions To Moderna Vaccine (JTN)
Obesity May Stack the Deck for COVID-19 Risk (WebMD)
Victoria Gov’t Refuses To Say How Many Health Workers Have COVID19 (G.)
Italy’s Call For Urgent Help Was Ignored As Virus Swept Through Europe (G.)
Hackers Convinced Twitter Employee to Help Them Hijack Accounts
Twitter Silences Some Top Accounts After Internal Systems Hacked (R.)
Twitter Hack Is A Nightmare Not Just For Twitter (BV)
Delta’s Passenger Revenue -94%. How it Plans to Stay Alive (WS)
Adam Schiff Just Can’t Stop Lying (Roger Stone)
“They Always Do It Within 24 to 48 Hours” – Sidney Powell (GP)
Ghislaine Maxwell Is Married, Refuses To Name Spouse (G.)
Cleaners Remove Banksy Artwork From London Tube Train (BBC)
Indigenous Group Accidentally Blows Up Rio Tinto’s Headquarters (Chaser)

 

 

The most disturbing thing about the Twitter hacks may not even be how easy it is to break into the company and take control over many things, but that, as screenshots show, Twitter very much DOES appear to have the power to shadow ban etc. accounts. And that is not what @jack told Congress.

 

 

Both the US and the world come up just short of new records. But there are rumblings about manipulated and inflated Florida numbers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moderna

 

 

So much for a rapid vaccine: “..they intend to follow participants “for 1 year after the second vaccination..”

‘Over Half’ Of Trial Participants Had Adverse Reactions To Moderna Vaccine (JTN)

A highly anticipated clinical trial for a potential COVID-19 vaccine managed in part by the American drug company Moderna has resulted in some adverse effects in more than half of the trial’s participants, with one test group reporting “severe” symptoms. The trial, which is also being sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, administered the vaccine “as a 0.5-ml injection in the deltoid muscle” in two shots spaced about one month apart. Two separate groups received 25-microgram and 100-microgram doses, respectively. A third group with a 250-microgram dose was subsequently added. The vaccine “induced anti–SARS-CoV-2 immune responses in all participants,” the research team reported Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers said that “no trial-limiting safety concerns were identified.” Yet a majority of participants still reported at least one side effect. “Solicited adverse events that occurred in more than half the participants included fatigue, chills, headache, myalgia, and pain at the injection site,” the report states. Fever, joint pain and nausea were also reported. Side effects grew more common with more (and larger) injections, the scientists write: “Systemic adverse events were more common after the second vaccination, particularly with the highest dose, and three participants (21%) in the 250 microgram dose group reported one or more severe adverse events.”

Notably, every participant in the two larger-dose groups reported adverse reactions after their second injections. One study participant in the smallest-dose group, meanwhile, was removed due to having developed hives after the first round of injections. The scientists said that due to the ongoing status of the project, they are not yet “able to assess the durability of the immune responses” generated by the vaccine, but that they intend to follow participants “for 1 year after the second vaccination” and examine regular blood samples to monitor the vaccine’s effects.

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Overall big risk. As is smoking, which also returns as a major COVID risk.

Obesity May Stack the Deck for COVID-19 Risk (WebMD)

Stephen O’Rahilly recently spent a week in a hospital, sick with COVID-19 and struggling to breathe. “My lungs were quite badly affected,” says O’Rahilly, 62, who spent almost a week getting extra oxygen in what’s known as a high-intensity care unit in the U.K. The experience got him thinking: While about 80% of cases of COVID-19 can be treated at home, why do some people, including him, wind up with more severe infections? Besides his age, O’Rahilly knew he had another strike against him when it comes to COVID-19 infection: his weight. His BMI, or body mass index, is over 30. O’Rahilly, who directs the MRC Metabolic Diseases Unit at Cambridge University, is considered one of the world’s leading obesity researchers.

He was knighted in 2013 by Queen Elizabeth II for his work, which includes the discovery of a genetic condition that robs the body of the hormone leptin, which controls appetite and weight. And so after his brush with the coronavirus, he started digging into exactly what it is about obesity that makes it so risky for a COVID-19 infection. It has become clearer that people who are obese are one of the groups at highest risk from the disease, regardless of their age. The CDC recently refined its risk categories for COVID-19, stating that obesity was as big a risk for COVID as having a suppressed immune system or chronic lung or kidney disease. The agency also lowered the bar for where that risk starts — from a BMI of 40 to a BMI of 30. Roughly 40% of Americans have a BMI over 30.

The CDC’s change in BMI risk comes after a British study of more than 17 million people found that people living with severe obesity were about twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as people who were not obese. That was true even after other things like their age and sex were taken into account. The study also found that risk rises with the degree of obesity. The bigger a person, the higher their risk of a COVID-19 death. [O’Rahilly] he thinks the risk comes from the fact that fat makes and regulates hormones. For example, people who are obese make more of something called “complement” proteins. These proteins can trigger out-of-control blood clotting, which is a problem in patients with severe COVID-19.

People with obesity also have lower blood levels of a hormone called adiponectin. Recent studies in mice show that adiponectin protects the lungs. O’Rahilly thinks that if you have lower levels to begin with, you may be more likely to have lung inflammation during an infection like COVID-19. Adiponectin also helps keep blood vessels clean and open. So if the insides of your blood vessels are sticky, and a virus causes your immune system to go haywire and create more blood clots, that sets the stage for blockages. These blockages can cause heart attacks, strokes, and lung damage — all problems seen in COVID-19 patients. To compound the problem, people with obesity appear to have more ACE2 receptors on their cells than others. ACE2 receptors are the doors the virus uses to infect cells and then make more copies of itself.

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Oh, why not, you’re at the other end of the world anyway.

Victoria Gov’t Refuses To Say How Many Health Workers Have COVID19 (G.)

The Victorian government has refused to answer questions about hospital surge capacity or the number of healthcare workers and medical institutions coping with outbreaks of Covid-19, with hundreds of health staff now in precautionary quarantine due to potential exposure to the virus. An email from the chief executive of Victoria’s largest public health service, Monash Health, said 77 staff across the service were in precautionary quarantine following three potential sources of exposure. Infections have been found in five employees. Monash Health services a quarter of the state. “We must use this opportunity to reinforce processes, to make sure that we all understand them, and are doing what we need to do to stay safe,” the email said, urging staff to use protective gear properly and undertake frequent infection risk assessments.


Meanwhile, 14 staff from St Vincent’s hospital in Melbourne are recovering from the virus, an email sent from the chief executive to staff on Thursday said. The emergency and general medical departments of the hospital are undergoing deep cleaning following “potential exposures,” the email said. All emergency staff have undergone testing. There are 10 inpatients with Covid-19 at the hospital. The email said “a small number of emergency department staff” had contracted the virus, so precautions were being taken. There had also been a potential exposure in the intensive care ward, the email said. Contact tracing is underway and several intensive care and general medical team staff are now in isolation. As of Thursday, 70 staff associated with the Royal Melbourne Hospital were also in precautionary quarantine, with 12 positive staff and 48 inpatients with the virus. The ABC has confirmed Melbourne’s Northern Health has 142 staff in self-isolation.

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EU has zero power, and zero decision-making process.

Italy’s Call For Urgent Help Was Ignored As Virus Swept Through Europe (G.)

It was a moment of chilling clarity. On 26 February, with the numbers of Italians known to be infected by coronavirus tripling every 48 hours, the country’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, appealed to fellow EU member states for help. His hospitals were overwhelmed. Italian doctors and nurses had run out of the masks, gloves and aprons they needed to keep themselves safe, and medics were being forced to play God with the lives of the critically-ill due to an acute lack of ventilators. An urgent message was passed from Rome to the European commission’s Berlaymont headquarters in Brussels. The specifications of Italy’s needs were uploaded into the EU’s Common Emergency Communication and Information System (CECIS). But what happened next came as a shock. The distress call was met with silence.

“No member state responded to Italy’s request and to the commission’s call for help,” said Janez Lenarcic, the European commissioner responsible for crisis management. “Which meant that not only is Italy is not prepared … Nobody is prepared … The lack of response to the Italian request was not so much a lack of solidarity. It was a lack of equipment.” It was as millions of Europeans prepared for their New Year’s Eve celebrations that officials in the Stockholm office of the EU public health agency, the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC), first received notice of a cluster of pneumonia cases in China of unknown origin. Established in 2005 in reaction to the Sars outbreak two years before, the ECDC offers scientific advice. It can do no more.

Responsibility for health remains entirely with the national governments of the EU, and not in the European commission or its agencies. Despite its limitations, the ECDC’s job is to look to the full European horizon, and call the alarm whether capitals listen or not. The agency gave its first threat assessment on 9 January, the body’s director Dr Andrea Ammon recalled. “At that time, the notion [was] most of the cases were linked to this live animal market [in the Chinese city of Wuhan]”, she told the Guardian. “Roughly two weeks later it turned out it is human to human transmission which of course changes what you need to do”. The initial concern was how to keep the disease outside the EU’s borders. On 17 January a first coronavirus conference call was held by another EU body born out of previous health crises – but again lacking the powers retained by the national governments.

[..] The stark reality was that in the months and years before coronavirus arrived in Europe, stocks of personal protective equipment (PPE) had dwindled. Emergency supplies of masks had expired, been destroyed and never replaced. Pandemic preparedness plans were out of date. “Several European countries had a strategic stock of masks that were outdated … Most of them were just destroyed,” said one scientific adviser. France held 1.7bn protective masks in 2011, but now had only 117m. Between January and March this year it incinerated 1.5m. In 2017, Belgium ordered the destruction of 38m masks and they were never replaced. No one, it appeared, had a hold on what was out there. Up until 23 February, flights carrying donations of PPE were leaving Europe for China in the hope of containing the virus there. But the unpalatable truth was that Europe itself was exposed.

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Hmmm…looks like@jack lied to Congress.

“Alleged leaked pictures from the Twitter admin control panel that was compromised showcase the buttons ‘Trends Blacklist’ and ‘Search Blacklist’, indicating Twitter DOES have the ability to shadowban its users.”

What is Congress going to do about that?

Hackers Convinced Twitter Employee to Help Them Hijack Accounts

A Twitter insider was responsible for a wave of high profile account takeovers on Wednesday, according to leaked screenshots obtained by Motherboard and two sources who took over accounts. On Wednesday, a spike of high profile accounts including those of Joe Biden, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Uber, and Apple tweeted cryptocurrency scams in an apparent hack. “We used a rep that literally done all the work for us,” one of the sources told Motherboard. The second source added they paid the Twitter insider. Motherboard granted the sources anonymity to speak candidly about a security incident. A Twitter spokesperson told Motherboard that the company is still investigating whether the employee hijacked the accounts themselves or gave hackers access to the tool.

The accounts were taken over using an internal tool at Twitter, according to the sources, as well as screenshots of the tool obtained by Motherboard. One of the screenshots shows the panel and the account of Binance; Binance is one of the accounts that hackers took over today. According to screenshots seen by Motherboard, at least some of the accounts appear to have been compromised by changing the email address associated with them using the tool. In all, four sources close to or inside the underground hacking community provided Motherboard with screenshots of the user tool. Two sources said the Twitter panel was also used to change ownership of some so-called OG accounts—accounts that have a handle consisting of only one or two characters—as well as facilitating the tweeting of the cryptocurrency scams from the high profile accounts.

Twitter has been deleting some screenshots of the panel and has suspended users who have tweeted them, claiming that the tweets violate its rules. The panel is a stark example of the issue of insider data access at tech companies. Whereas in other cases hackers have bribed workers to leverage tools over individual users, in this case the access has led to takeovers of some of the biggest accounts on the social media platform and tweeted bitcoin related scams in an effort to generate income. The screenshots show details about the target user’s account, such as whether it has been suspended, is permanently suspended, or has protected status. One of the screenshots is a Twitter user posting images of the panel themselves. At the time of writing that account has been suspended.

Data breach monitoring and prevention service Under The Breach obtained a similar screenshot and tweeted it as the worker hijacked several accounts. The person in control of the Under The Breach account told Motherboard Twitter then removed the tweet with the screenshot and suspended them for 12 hours. A message replacing the tweet now says it violated the Twitter rules.

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Most are back up.

Twitter Silences Some Top Accounts After Internal Systems Hacked (R.)

Twitter said hackers accessed its internal systems to hijack some of the platform’s top voices including U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden, reality TV star Kim Kardashian, former U.S. President Barack Obama and billionaire Elon Musk and used them to solicit digital currency. Twitter said employees with access to its internal systems had been successfully targeted by hackers who “used this access to take control of many highly-visible (including verified) accounts and Tweet on their behalf.” “We’re looking into what other malicious activity they may have conducted or information they may have accessed and will share more here as we have it,” the company said.


Twitter temporarily took the extraordinary step of preventing for several hours at least some verified accounts from publishing messages altogether. It said it would restore access only when it was certain it could do so securely. Publicly available blockchain records show the apparent scammers received more than $100,000 worth of cryptocurrency. Chief Executive Jack Dorsey earlier said the company was diagnosing the problem and pledged to share “everything we can when we have a more complete understanding of exactly what happened.” “Tough day for us at Twitter. We all feel terrible this happened,” he said in a tweet. Shares in the social media company tumbled almost 5% in trading after the market close before paring their losses.

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“Twitter’s average monetizable daily active users hit 166 million in the first quarter, an almost 25% increase.”

Twitter Hack Is A Nightmare Not Just For Twitter (BV)

A hack of prominent Twitter accounts is a nightmare for more than just the social network itself. Fake tweets soliciting digital currency on Wednesday from figures like Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk and U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden mean Twitter’s cybersecurity costs will rise. But if that’s all that happens, founder Jack Dorsey can count himself lucky. Posts on the social network have the potential to move markets, or worse. The intrusion was severe enough that Twitter locked down so-called verified accounts – its label for those owned by high-profile people. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, former President Barack Obama and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos were among those that had appeared to solicit bitcoins from other users – saying that whatever was given would be doubled by them and returned. It sent Twitter’s stock down by almost 4% in after-market trading.

For investors in tech companies, a major hacking incident usually means one thing: higher costs. Twitter’s expenses already rose nearly 20% in the first quarter of the year, resulting in an operating loss of $7 million compared to a profit of $94 million a year earlier. Ideally, that’s offset by a reduced risk of future embarrassing events. The scam, though, could have been worse. Tweets from business leaders can move markets. Then there’s President Donald Trump, who uses the platform to announce new policies – and communicate with, or about, other world leaders. It’s not hard to see how a fake tweet could send markets reeling, or even pose a national security risk.

So what can be done? Users with public profiles could start behaving differently online, even if Trump doesn’t. The company, like other social media networks, benefits from having highly active celebrity users, and Covid-19 has actually proved good for business. Twitter’s average monetizable daily active users hit 166 million in the first quarter, an almost 25% increase. Fewer prominent tweeters could impact that trend, and hurt ad revenue. And if users don’t proceed with caution, regulators could also step in. Expect law enforcement agencies, and Congress, to want to know more about Twitter’s security processes. The social network could even emerge stronger for the scrutiny. The world, as well as the company’s investors, should hope it does.

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There go the jobs.

Delta’s Passenger Revenue -94%. How it Plans to Stay Alive (WS)

Delta Airlines confirmed today why Warren Buffett dumped his huge stake in mid-crash: Airlines are in an existential crisis, and there is no V-shaped recovery, according to Delta’s earnings report for the second quarter this morning, which was beyond dismal. There were the huge losses. In the quarter ended June 30, Delta booked a pretax loss of $7.01 billion and an after-tax net loss of $5.72 billion. That translates into a loss of $9.01 a share. These losses include $2.1 billion in write-downs of its stakes in Latam Airlines and Aeromexico, both of which filed for bankruptcy in the US recently, and in Virgin Atlantic Airways, which may go into “administration” in the UK.

Then there were the revenues, with a breath-taking plunge:
• Passenger revenue – which last year was 90% of total revenues – collapsed by 94% year-over-year to just $678 million.
• Its highly profitable business cabin and other premium sales (usually over 1/3 of total revenues): -95%.
• Revenues, domestic flights -93%; Atlantic -97%; Latin America -98%; Pacific -95%.
• Cargo revenue: -42% to just $108 million.
• “Other revenues” (loyalty programs, its own refinery, etc.): -31% to $682 million.
• Total revenues: -88%, to $1.47 billion, from $12.5 billion a year ago

So Delta is shrinking into “a smaller, more efficient airline,” and is shedding its older less efficient planes this year, including all of its ancient MD-88, MD-90, plus its 777 and 737-700 fleets, and portions of its 767-300ER and A320 fleets. Shedding these planes comes with shedding the people that fly them and take care of them. Today, Delta said it would “proactively manage headcount and rescale operations” via “voluntary separation and early retirement programs.” In late June, Delta said it would send WARN notices to nearly 20% of its pilots, notifying them of potential furloughs. On October 1, the layoff restrictions attached to the bailout funds expire, and then the involuntary layoffs can commence.

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Let Stone talk for a minute. He has as much right as anyone else.

Adam Schiff Just Can’t Stop Lying (Roger Stone)

On Dec. 10, 2017 Schiff once again stated, “We have all of these facts in chronology, you’d have to believe that these were all isolated incidents, not connected to each other — just doesn’t make rational sense … We do know this: the Russians offered help, the campaign accepted help, the Russians gave help and the president made full use of that help. That is pretty damning, whether it is proof beyond a reasonable doubt of conspiracy or not.” Again, the Trump campaign accepted and made use of nothing. But don’t interrupt little Adam Schiff when he’s on a rhetorical roll. Schiff stated on Feb. 7, 2018 that there was “certainly a lot of evidence” of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. He added, “In terms of ethical violations and acting against the interest of the United States, that evidence is already ample and in the public view.”

Again, the congressman from West Hollywood has produced evidence of no such thing. In what appeared to be a direct reversal, Schiff appeared on ABC’s “The View” on March 1, 2018. He refused to cite any specific evidence the panel he co-chaired had found that proved that the Trump campaign “colluded” with the Russian government during the 2016 election. Yet on April 15, appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Schiff made a point to say that it was “simply not true” that there had been no evidence the 2016 presidential campaign for Donald Trump colluded with Russia. Schiff, the ever-hopeful wannabe star, continued making headlines such as this one on April 27, 2018: “ADAM SCHIFF ANNOUNCES DEMOCRATS HAVE EVIDENCE OF TRUMP/RUSSIA COLLUSION.” The story quoted Schiff: “In fact, we found evidence of collusion in the abundant secret meetings and communications between Trump campaign officials and associates.”

None of this of course even touches on his ridiculous antics during the Ukrainian impeachment hoax where Schiff once again got caught lying about contact with the so-called “whistleblower.” Now, incredibly, Schiff is trying to fan the embers of the Russian collusion delusion one more time. One thing is abundantly clear. If Robert Mueller and his minions had any proof whatsoever that I worked with Russian intelligence to steal and disseminate data from the democrats, they most certainly would have charged me with it. If Mueller and his henchmen had any evidence that I had received documents from WikiLeaks and passed them on to the Trump campaign, they would have charged me with that. In fact, if Mueller and his 12 angry Democrats had any proof beyond the plea bargain-induced uncorroborated claims of convicted liars Michael Cohen and Rick Gates that I ever even spoke to Donald Trump about WikiLeaks, they surely would have indicted me on that charge and would have used it to impeach the president.

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It’s not Bill Barr, it’s her.

“They Always Do It Within 24 to 48 Hours” – Sidney Powell (GP)

General Michael Flynn was lied to, set up multiple times before and after the Trump inauguration, excessively and to the point of illegally unmasked, targeted, ambushed in the White House, falsely accused, threatened with his son being indicted, provided corrupt legal counsel (the same firm where corrupt Obama former AG Eric Holder works), harassed for 3 years, belittled, slandered, besmirched by the judge, harassed by the judge, and then the attorneys going after him were the same attorneys who represented the corrupt Sally Yates who lied and told President Trump General Flynn lied.

The government reviewed General Flynn’s case and determined it never should have occurred. When the government and Flynn’s attorneys, including Sidney Powell, went to the court to have the case thrown out, the judge overseeing the case wouldn’t do it. Next the government and Powell went to the DC Circuit court to have the case thrown out and the Circuit Court two weeks ago ordered Judge Sullivan to do so. This interview discusses the entire case from Sidney Powell’s perspective and the current status of this corrupt case not being thrown out by this corrupted judge. At the 1:30 mark in the video the following exchange occurs:

Jan Jekielek: The DC Circuit Court of Appeals has basically said, has ordered Judge Sullivan to close the case and I think he had 24 hours to do so and he didn’t do it, so what’s going on? Where we at here?

Sidney Powell: Well they don’t really put a time limit on the order but I can’t say in my decades of practice, and we’re not going to number those, that I’ve ever seen a judge not do what he was told to do by what’s called a ‘writ of mandamus’ or extraordinary writ order directly from the Circuit Court of Appeals to do something. They always do it within 24 to 48 hours. I just haven’t seen that happen with the possible exception of one case way back when I had to get a writ of mandamus against a Federal District Judge twice in the same case. Now we are certainly hoping that doesn’t have to happen here and that the order will be signed shortly. Because he’s not party to the case. That doesn’t mean the full court can’t review the case on its own but it would be unprecedented to do so in these circumstances.

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Let’s go crazier. Anyway, no bail for her, which would have set up a storm.

Ghislaine Maxwell Is Married, Refuses To Name Spouse (G.)

The British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who faces federal charges in Manhattan for allegedly enabling Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking of minor girls, is married, prosecutors said during a court proceeding. Prosecutors made the revelation on Tuesday when arguing that Maxwell should be detained pending trial. Maxwell, who had asked for release on a $5m bond co-signed by six people, was ultimately denied bail. Maxwell pleaded not guilty to the charges. They also said Maxwell had “declined” to identify her spouse to court officials. “In addition to failing to describe in any way the absence of proposed co-signers of a bond, the defendant also makes no mention whatsoever about the financial circumstances or assets of her spouse whose … identity she declined to provide to pretrial services,” assistant US attorney Alison Moe told Judge Alison Nathan.

“There is no information about who will be co-signing this bond or their assets and no details whatsoever.” News of Maxwell’s purported marriage surfaced in earnest on Wednesday morning. Maxwell’s arraignment and bail proceeding was conducted via video, and audio repeatedly cut out for those observing from the courthouse; transcripts that became available late last night filled in some of these gaps. However, many details of Maxwell’s secretive personal life were audible – including information on how she wound up living on the 156-acre Bradford, New Hampshire, estate where she was arrested on 2 July. A real estate agent involved with the property’s sale told an FBI agent that the buyers introduced themselves as “Scott and Janet Marshall, who both have British accents”.

“Scott Marshall told her that the … that he was retired from the British military and he was currently working on writing a book. Janet Marshall described herself as a journalist who wants privacy. They told the agent they wanted to purchase the property quickly through a wire and that they were setting up an LLC,” Moe said, noting that this conversation took place in November 2019. “Following [Maxwell’s] arrest, the real estate agent saw a photograph of [Maxwell] in the media and realized that the person who had introduced herself as Janet Marshall … was the defendant, Ghislaine Maxwell.”

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Love it. This is why he made the video. But it’s still a few million pounds they cleaned off.

Cleaners Remove Banksy Artwork From London Tube Train (BBC)

It was a smudge on a cleaning cloth long before the artist revealed on social media he’d done it. In the current climate, it is perhaps reassuring that the cleaners on the Tube did their job quickly and efficiently and cleaned off the work so quickly. Graffiti is regarded – certainly in the transport world and by many commuters – as something that contributes to a threatening, unwelcoming atmosphere. Of course there will be those who say it should have been kept or protected as art but that is somewhat academic. You get the feeling Banksy, who has previously destroyed his art on purpose, knew exactly what would happen to his work by putting it inside a carriage.


This was perhaps all part of the plan. An official statement said the art was removed “some days ago” in line with the London Underground’s “strict anti-graffiti policy”. All public transport users in London must wear a face covering, and TfL said it appreciated “the sentiment of encouraging people” to do so. “We’d like to offer Banksy the chance to do a new version of his message for our customers in a suitable location,” it added.

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Bit of Australian humor.

Indigenous Group Accidentally Blows Up Rio Tinto’s Headquarters (Chaser)

The Pinikura Aboriginal Corporation have today apologised to the traditional owners of the Rio Tinto headquarters located in urban-Australia after learning that the site held special importance to the group who hold claim over the land. “We apologize to the traditional owners of the site,” explained a representative for the indigenous group, “and we hope that we can work together in the future to ensure that other mining-related artifacts aren’t destroyed without consultation with the corporation’s elders.” However, critics have pointed out that Rio Tinto was simply getting in the way of progress, with the P.A.C. acting well within their rights to explore for minerals underneath the skyscraper.


“We can’t seriously expect to just waste such precious resources because of some group that superstitiously believes that some rocks are valuable and are a source of power,” explained one Aboriginal expert with a degree in White Studies. “The reality is that at the end of the day, if we lost a few accounting books tracing the history of the company, that’s a small price to pay for progress.” Asked what they will be doing to make amends, the Aboriginal group said it all happened in the past, so instead of any meaningful action they will simply put up a plaque explaining why blowing up a building might be considered bad in hindsight, but also pointing out that people three hours ago held different views around these things so we shouldn’t judge them by the standards of the current time.

Read more …

 

 

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Apr 132020
 


John M. Fox WCBS studios, 49 East 52nd Street, NYC 1948

 

Obesity The Single Biggest Factor In New York COVID19 Hospitalizations (ZDN)
Coronavirus Spreads At Least 13 Feet, Travels On Shoes: CDC (NYP)
Fauci: US Given Wrong Information About Virus “Right From The Beginning” (JTN)
102-Year-Old NY Woman Beats COVID-19 With Hydroxychloroquine (CBS)
New Zealand Preparing To End Lockdown (Metro)
America Should Be Ready For 18 Months Of Shutdowns – Fed’s Neel Kashkari (MW)
China Is Censoring Research On COVID-19 Origins (NW)
Experts See Worrisome Link Between Coronavirus, Pollution (Hill)
After The Lockdown, Europe Debates Exit Strategies (AFR)
Giant Oil Output Cuts Make Ripple, Not Big Waves (R.)
Greek Government To Go After Priests Flouting Quarantine (K.)
Lockdown: Not Novels And Family Time But Food Parcels And Hardship (G.)

 

 

I must admit I’m getting fed up with the stories and narratives. People may have short attention spans, but how is that a reason to just go and invent narratives about something as serious as a pandemic? The disgusting morally hollow Brits celebrating the recovery of Boris Johnson as he’s thanking the same NHS he actively helped defund, at the same time that he’s murdering Julian Assange, get a life.

From Dr. Fauci I don’t expect anything else anymore than putting the blame on anyone but himself. “We got the wrong infomation!” If you were an investor, that would be your fault, not someone else’s. See, the WHO will make the same argument: the Chinese gave us false info, don’t blame us. But if you’re in positions like that, it’s your own responsibility to get your info right. And if you fail at that, to be open and honest about it.

The pedestal upon which New Zealand PM Jacintha Ardern is placed -“a masterclass in crisis management!- while one look at a timeline shows that she, too, like all the rest, was way too late in her reaction. The WHO was criminally slow in declaring a pandemic, they finally did so on March 11, and STILL New Zealand didn’t lock down. Ardern closed the borders only on March 19 and locked down the country on the 26th. She’s just lucky New Zealand has the geographical advantages it has, far away from anyone else.

 

 

The next narrative has already started: what are we going to do after it’s all over. But how are you going to do the right thing today when all you think about is tomorrow? Moreover, the virus hasn’t even started for the next 5 billion people, who often live in the most vulnerable places. And we’re going to forget about that just because the West, China, Japan, can’t keep focused for more than 2 weeks?

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Info.live:

 

 

 

 

If this is why the US gets hits so hard, watch out for Mexico. Chronic inflammation sounds like a credible factor.

Obesity The Single Biggest Factor In New York COVID19 Hospitalizations (ZDN)

For months, scientists have been poring over data about cases and deaths to understand why it is that COVID-19 manifests itself in different ways around the world, with certain factors such as the age of the population repeatedly popping up as among the most significant determinants. Now, one of the largest studies conducted of COVID-19 infection in the United States has found that obesity of patients was the single biggest factor in whether those with COVID-19 had to be admitted to a hospital. “The chronic condition with the strongest association with critical illness was obesity, with a substantially higher odds ratio than any cardiovascular or pulmonary disease,” write lead author Christopher M. Petrilli of the NYU Grossman School and colleagues in a paper “Factors associated with hospitalization and critical illness among 4,103 patients with Covid-19 disease in New York City..”


Among other things, the presence of obesity in the study points to a potentially important role of heightened inflammation in patients, a phenomenon that has been a topic of much speculation in numerous studies of the disease. Petrilli and colleagues at the Grossman School, and doctors at the NYU Langone Health center, studied the electronic patient records of 4,103 individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 in the New York City healthcare system between March 1st and April 2nd. It is “the largest case series from the United States to date,” write Petrilli and colleagues. The motivation of the work, they write, was that “Understanding which patients are most at risk for hospitalization is crucial for many reasons,” such as how to triage patients and how to anticipate medical needs.


click to enlarge in new tab

Half of those patients were admitted to a hospital. What the researchers found is that “In the decision tree for admission, the most important features were age >65 and obesity.” Obesity, in this case, was measured as weight relative to a person’s height. The authors use a metric scale, so a body mass index of 30 kilograms of weight and higher is considered obese. The “decision tree” in this case refers to the statistical method they used to analyze the patient data. A decision tree is a way to group members of a sample based on their shared characteristics. “For a given population, the decision tree classification method splits the population into two groups using one feature at a time, starting with the feature that maximizes the split between groups relative to the outcome in question.” They keep splitting groups into smaller and smaller groups until they arrive at groups that “[have] similar characteristics and outcomes.”

https://twitter.com/StephanieKelton/status/1249465834029932545

Read more …

Twitter: “Which is right? CDC officially says 6’ for #SocialDistancing . But a new CDC report, says #COVID19 can travel through the air at least 13 feet. Meanwhile, WHO says 3’ should be enough. And Dr Fauci rejects recent research, wherein virus could travel up to 27 feet.”

Coronavirus Spreads At Least 13 Feet, Travels On Shoes: CDC (NYP)

The coronavirus can travel through the air at least 13 feet — more than twice as far as social distancing guidelines, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Research published in the federal agency’s Emerging Infectious Diseases journal shows the contagion spreading far further than previous official suggestions — and also getting spread on people’s shoes. “The aerosol distribution characteristics … indicate that the transmission distance of [COVID-19] might be 4 m,” the report says, translating as more than 13 feet. “Furthermore, half of the samples from the soles of the ICU medical staff shoes tested positive,” the researchers wrote of samples taken at Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan.

“Therefore, the soles of medical staff shoes might function as carriers.” The report, based on research by a team at the Academy of Military Medical Sciences in Beijing, appears to reaffirm fears that the current social distancing guidelines of 6 feet may not be enough. It also suggests people — especially medical staff on the frontlines — could inadvertently be spreading the bug away from its source, recommending stringent disinfecting measures.

High levels were also found on frequently touched surfaces like computer mice, trashcans and bed rails. The CDC recommends 6 feet for social distancing, while the World Health Organization claims just 3 feet should be enough, less than a quarter of the distance the current study suggests it spreads. Research last month said the virus could travel up to 27 feet. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, however called that “terribly misleading,” saying it would require a “very, very robust, vigorous, achoo sneeze” to travel that far and the scenario was “not practical.”

Read more …

First WHO warning was December 31.

Fauci: US Given Wrong Information About Virus “Right From The Beginning” (JTN)

The U.S. was given inaccurate information about the coronavirus at the beginning of the crisis Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Saturday. When Fox News host Jesse Watters asked Fauci if he believes China or the World Health Organization “misled” him or if the WHO leader himself could have been “deceived,” Fauci noted that while he does not know the details behind the inaccurate information, it was disseminated from the start of the crisis. “You know I don’t know where the missteps went, the only thing I know what the end result was, that early on we did not get correct information,” Fauci said.


“And the incorrect information was propagated right from the beginning because you know when the first cases came out, that were identified I think on December 31st in China and we became aware of this, they said this was just animal to human period.” “Now we know retrospectively that there was ongoing transmission from human to human in China, probably at least a few weeks before then,” he said. Fauci said once the illness hit the U.S. it became evident “that was misinformation right from the beginning.” He added that “whosever fault that was, you know, we’re gonna go back and take a look at that when this is all over, but clearly it was not the right information that was given to us.”

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She’s Greek, and those guys are all doing well. It’s the olive oil.

102-Year-Old NY Woman Beats COVID-19 With Hydroxychloroquine (CBS)

A 102-year-old woman who was diagnosed with the coronavirus defied the odds and is now recovering. At 102 years old, Sophie Avouris, of Yonkers, has seen a lot in her life, entering this world in 1918 at the start of the Spanish flu. “She survived it, thank goodness,” her daughter, Effie Strouthides, said. Strouthides says back in March, doctors at a Manhattan nursing home and rehab facility called to tell her Avouris, who was recovering at the facility from hip surgery, tested positive for COVID-19. “And we were thinking at 102 years old, at high risk, she might not make it,” Strouthides said. Because the facility was on lockdown, Strouthides called her mom to have a conversation that she thought would be the last.


“Once or twice I managed to let her know how much I loved her and she told me how much she loved me,” she said. According to the CDC, 8 out of 10 deaths reported in the U.S. have been adults who are 65 and older. Dr. Taimur Mirza oversaw Avouris’ care and says her prognosis initially was not good. “Her course in the beginning, it was a little bit rough. For a while there, she required some oxygen, then we started her on the combination of the hydroxychloroquine and the azithromycin,” Mirza said. After a week of treatment, Avouris started showing signs of improvement. By week three, she no longer had the virus. “She didn’t have the cough anymore, and, you know, it was just miraculous to see a woman of her age recover from this,” Mirza said.

Read more …

Waaaay too late.

New Zealand Preparing To End Lockdown (Metro)

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the country is ‘turning a corner’ in the battle against coronavirus after recording the lowest number of new cases in three weeks. She praised residents for mounting a ‘wall of defence’ which is ‘breaking the chain of transmission’ following the swift implementation of lockdown measures. The country has recorded 992 confirmed cases of Covid-19 with just one death so far. Health officials said there were 29 new cases on Thursday, the fourth successive daily drop since 89 were recorded on Sunday and the latest sign of a flattening of the curve. Ms Ardern suggested the four-week lockdown could be softened in just over a weeks’ time, allowing some to return to work if social distancing rules can be maintained.

The PM said New Zealanders’ strict adherence to the rules during the four-week lockdown had ‘saved lives’. She added: ‘At the halfway mark I have no hesitation in saying, that what New Zealanders have done over the last two weeks is huge. ‘In the face of the greatest threat to human health we have seen in over a century, Kiwis have quietly and collectively implemented a nationwide wall of defence. ‘You are breaking the chain of transmission. And you did it for each other.’ But she cautioned against taking a foot off the pedal, adding: ‘We have what we need to win this marathon. You have stayed calm, you’ve been strong, you’ve saved lives, and now we need to keep going.’ Ms Ardern said the government will decide on April 20 whether to relax or extend lockdown measures, which are currently due to expire on April 22.

Read more …

But don’t worry about Kashkari, he’ll be fine. No matter how many trillions he wastes.

America Should Be Ready For 18 Months Of Shutdowns – Fed’s Neel Kashkari (MW)

‘This could be a long, hard road that we have ahead of us until we get to either an effective therapy or a vaccine. It’s hard for me to see a V-shaped recovery under that scenario.’ That’s Neel Kashkari, the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, painting a rather gloomy picture in a CBS interview on Sunday morning of what lies ahead for the U.S. economy as the country continues to battle the coronavirus outbreak. Kashkari, while acknowledging the downside of what a prolonged shutdown could mean for the economy, said the U.S., ‘barring some health-care miracle,’ is looking at an 18-month strategy of rolling shutdowns based on what has happened in other countries.


“We could have these waves of flareups, controls, flareups and controls until we actually get a therapy or a vaccine,” he said. “We need to find ways of getting the people who are healthy, who are at lower risk back to work and then providing the assistance to those who are most at risk, who are going to need to be quarantined or isolated for the foreseeable future.” Looking ahead, Kashkari doesn’t envision a quick rebound for the U.S. economy, which has already endured more than 16 million job losses in the past three weeks. “This could be a long, hard road that we have ahead of us until we get to either an effective therapy or a vaccine,” he said. “It’s hard for me to see a V-shaped recovery under that scenario.”

Read more …

This started back in December.

China Is Censoring Research On COVID-19 Origins (NW)

The Chinese government appears to be censoring research on the origins of the COVID-19 epidemic by requiring scientists to run their studies by the Ministry of Science and Technology, a since-deleted page on a university website shows. According to a cached version of that page from the China University of Geosciences in Wuhan that Newsweek reviewed, requirements were updated so that scientists would need to have their study approved by China’s Ministry of Science and Technology before publication: “1. Academic papers on the traceability of the new coronavirus must be reviewed by the academic committee of the school before publication, focusing on the authenticity of the paper and whether it is suitable for publication.

After the review is passed, the school reports to the Ministry of Science and Technology, which can only be published after the review by the Ministry of Science and Technology.” China has faced repeated internal and external accusations of censorship surrounding research into COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Local Chinese officials in Wuhan also are known to have suppressed information about the initial outbreak, even detaining whistleblower doctor Li Wenliang. Wenliang later died from COVID-19, and Chinese authorities offered a “solemn apology” to the medical practitioner’s family for how he had been treated. Back in February, The New York Times shared videos of Chinese citizens warning that research into coronavirus was being censored and removed from the internet.

“My purpose is to make sure that all this information is not lost or deleted,” one of the unidentified Chinese nationals said with her face covered in the clip. “We don’t know what information and when the authorities will censor,” another unidentified person said. “So we are trying to be faster than the authorities.” U.S. government officials, and other international leaders, have criticized China for not being transparent about the coronavirus pandemic. Toronto-based cyber research group Citizen Lab reported in early March that Chinese social media had begun censoring keywords associated with the coronavirus as well as criticism of the government’s response to the crisis, according to Reuters.

Read more …

Since there is such a link between pollution and literally everything else on the planet, feel free to consider this a piece of empty fluff.

Experts See Worrisome Link Between Coronavirus, Pollution (Hill)

Advocates and Democratic lawmakers are raising concerns over new research that suggests air pollution, water access and other environmental conditions are exacerbating the effects of the coronavirus on low-income and minority communities. A recent Harvard study found that people who live in areas with more exposure to air pollution are more likely to die from the pandemic, while other research shows that black and Latino communities people are disproportionately affected by the disease. “In public health, it’s often said that your ZIP code is more indicative of your health outcomes than your genetic code,” Lubna Ahmed, the director of environmental health at WE ACT for Environmental Justice, told The Hill.


Polluting industries are frequently located near low-income and minority communities. One assessment published by the American Public Health Association in 2018 showed that nonwhite and low-income communities are harder hit by pollution. Authors of the more recent Harvard study on the coronavirus said their results “suggest that long-term exposure to air pollution increases vulnerability to experiencing the most severe COVID-19 outcomes.” That study added to a growing body of research on the overall health risks to communities exposed to high pollution levels, neighborhoods that are often occupied by people of color and low-income residents.

Read more …

“But first they need to actually work.”

After The Lockdown, Europe Debates Exit Strategies (AFR)

Across Europe there are signs that observance of stringent social distancing measures by the vast majority of the public – better compliance than many experts had expected – has led to a big decline in viral transmission. The key figure is the “reproduction number” R, measuring the average number of new cases generated by an infected individual. If R is above 1, an outbreak spreads; if it is below 1, it contracts. For COVID-19, R was between 2.5 and 3 in most places before any measures were introduced. According to a leading scientist in the UK’s fight against the disease, the latest evidence shows a steep fall in the R rate to around 0.6 now, which would quickly suppress the pandemic. However, deaths are still rising fast because of the delay between infection and when serious symptoms develop.

[..] If the UK can achieve its target of carrying out 100,000 tests a day by the end of April and ramp up capacity further over the following months, it will be possible to test individuals in the community who report COVID-19 symptoms. In theory, this would then be followed by the tracing, testing and isolating of people who have been in contact with them if they are infected. This type of contact tracing, which involves questioning patients directly, took place when the first UK cases were reported but soon stopped when the pandemic swamped the country’s extremely limited testing capacity. “Evidence suggests that countries that are able to do very high levels of testing have many more options to allow people greater social mobility,” says Steven Riley at Imperial College London. “Some really innovative solutions will play a part. Contact tracing based on a mobile phone app is being looked at.”

[..] For many scientists, the key to ending the lockdowns is mass testing for COVID-19 infection, which detects the presence of the virus. Paul Romer, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, has outlined a plan for mass testing in the US that he believes would allow for much of the economy to reopen. However, this requires each person being tested every 14 days – or 22 million tests a day – a mammoth undertaking in terms of labs, chemicals, health workers and data analysis, even if such tests are constitutionally acceptable. In the UK, the epidemiologist Julian Peto has made a similar proposal – weekly tests, running to 10 million a day. Large-scale antibody testing, to show whether individuals have been infected in the past and still have some immunity, is a more tantalising prospect because they would only need to be conducted occasionally and could potentially be bought at a pharmacy.

But first they need to actually work. Specialised labs are carrying out studies to determine antibody levels in samples of the population but no one has yet developed an antibody kit reliable enough for widespread use in homes. Kits evaluated by the UK government have failure rates of 30 to 50 per cent. Eventually antibody tests could give individuals “immunity passports” to show that they are safe from infection, Professor Riley says, “but there’s some very important science to do first”. The key questions that have still to be answered are how different antibody levels relate to resistance to infection and how long any immune protection is likely to last.

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Demand is down 20%, production maybe 10%. You do the math.

Giant Oil Output Cuts Make Ripple, Not Big Waves (R.)

Muted oil price gains on Monday show record output cuts by giant producers will still leave them with a mountain to climb to restore market balance, industry watchers said, with the coronavirus pandemic decimating demand just as stocks swell. The morning after OPEC and allies led by Russia agreed to reduce output by 9.7 million barrels per day (bpd) in May and June – equal to nearly 10% of global supply – prices gained less than 5% and are still 50-60% down for the year so far. That headline cut by the grouping known as OPEC+ may be more than four times deeper than the previous record set in 2008, and may provide a floor for prices according to some analysts, but the reduction still dwarfed by the near 30 million bpd drop in demand in April already anticipated by forecasters like Goldman Sachs.

What’s more, governments in countries around the globe are considering extending travel and social lockdown measures that have sapped fuel use in order to prevent the coronavirus from spreading. “Even if these cuts provide a floor to prices they will not be able to boost prices given the scale of inventory builds we are still staring at,” Energy Aspects analyst Virendra Chauhan said, referring to storage tanks and ships around the world the are filling up fast amid the slide in demand from end-users. “The absence of hard commitments from the United States or other G20 members is (a) shortcoming of the deal.” G20 nations have been urged to help reduce the supply glut, but there was little detail on the outcome of Friday talks between energy ministers from the group and Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile analysts said that while the core number in the deal suggests a near 10 million bpd cut, Middle East producers like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait will likely have to reduce by more than the 23% cut to which they signed up, as they had begun to ramp up output in April amid a price war before the agreement was struck. “This 9.7 million b/d ‘headline’ deal represents a 12.4 million bpd cut from claimed April OPEC+ production (given the Saudi, UAE, Kuwait ongoing surge) but an only 7.2 million bpd cut from 1Q20 average production levels,” Goldman Sachs analysts said in a note.

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It’s not just Texas where various religious sects feel exempt from society at large. Remember the one that started the epidemic in South Korea? Nice thing in Greece is the government actually pays the salaries of the priests.

Greek Government To Go After Priests Flouting Quarantine (K.)

The government has asked for a prosecutor to press charges against two priests who provided communion to the faithful Sunday despite a ban on church attendance. One of the priests, in the Athens neighborhood of Koukaki, was photographed from a nearby building secretly giving communion to people through the back door. The other incident happened in St. Spyridon Church in the city of Corfu. “What happened today in churches in Koukaki and Corfu is a violation of the law and of the Holy Synod’s orders and put the lives of citizens and public health in great danger. I contacted the Minister of Justice so that he can ask the prosecuting authorities to intervene,” said Nikos Hardalias, Deputy Minister of Civil Protection.


Authorities’ main concern remains attempts to flout strict quarantine measures during the week up to Orthodox Easter, which is celebrated next Sunday, by attending church and engage in the customary exodus from the cities to the countryside. From 6 am to 3 pm Sunday, 38 people were stopped trying to leave cities and fined 300 euros each.

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The mortally lost British nation cheer their PM’s health as he’s slow-murdering Julian Assange and letting people starve.

Lockdown: Not Novels And Family Time But Food Parcels And Hardship (G.)

Last week, I spoke to Anna Rogers, a Polish-born Londoner who lives in Brixton. She works for a charity called Money A+E, which operates across the south of the capital. It offers advice about debt, benefits and other financial issues to people who are often facing extreme hardship. It is a small set-up, with only four dedicated advisers. Since the coronavirus crisis began, the number of people getting in touch has tripled and is rising all the time. Rogers spoke matter-of-factly about the defining feature of many who now need her help. “They are people without any income,” she said. Many are migrant workers who have been sacked by small businesses or had cash-in-hand work – in, say, the building trade – suddenly withdrawn. In desperation, some say they would like to return to their countries of origin to be with their families, but that option is cut off right now.

A lot of them have no experience of the British benefits system, and few of the language skills and insider knowledge needed to navigate it. “The universal credit system never worked terribly well,” Rogers said. “But now people are saying that the system crashes, or they can’t upload documents.” Not everyone has internet access, and the sudden closure of public libraries has meant that even fewer people can get online. Even if they manage to do so, there is now an ominous sense that with the system under such pressure, the standard five-week wait for universal credit is bound to increase.

So, for now, Rogers and her colleagues have to introduce people to the most basic kinds of help. One fairly reliable source of food assistance, she said, was the array of new mutual aid groups that have sprung up at the most local level: “Fingers crossed, they can get people some food parcels.” When she spoke about the details of her work, her words had a palpable sense not just of sadness, but of urgency and a clear sense that things were only going to get worse, and quickly. The fact that we now rarely leave our homes means few people are aware of what is actually going on all over the country. Our field of vision is replete with statistics, and broad-brush warnings about the near future: from the daily death toll to the warnings from big banks of $5.5 trillion in lost global output, to the million or so people said to have newly applied for benefits in the UK. A very human crisis caused by Covid-19 is already here, beyond the illness itself, and it demands our attention.

Read more …

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Apr 032020
 


Elliott Erwitt National Congress Building by Oscar Niemeyer, Brasilia, Brazil 1961

 

US Paying Russia For Entire Planeload Of Coronavirus Equipment – Official (R.)
Our Finest Hour (Ben Hunt)
New York City Nurses Demand Personal Protection Equipment (WABC)
New Orleans Coronavirus Death Rate Is Twice New York. Obesity Is A Factor (R.)
US Weekly Jobless Claims Blow Past Six Million As Lockdowns Spread (R.)
Israeli Scientists: Coronavirus Vaccine Tested On Humans By June 1 (JPost)
France’s Coronavirus Death Toll Jumps As Nursing Homes Included (R.)
Germany Has A Low Coronavirus Mortality Rate: Here’s Why (CNBC)
Fed’s Dilemma: Picking Winners For $4 Trillion In Credit (R.)
This Hard Truth About The Mortgage Markets Isn’t Being Told (Jurow)
A Corporate Debt Reckoning Is Coming (13D)
US Air Force To Release $882 Million To Boeing (R.)
US Crude Futures Trim Record Gain (R.)
Cuomo’s Bubble is Starting to Burst (Lauria)
Google Releases Location Data On Lockdowns In 131 Countries (R.)
Leaked Amazon Memo Details Plan to Smear Fired Warehouse Organizer (Vice)

 

 

We’ll keep setting records for a while longer yet, driven by the US in particular.

US cases doubled in 8 days. That rate will speed up.

All countries, the US first of all, need to move their focus away from saving companies and onto saving people. Now would be a good time.

 

 

Cases 1,030,181 (+ 79,756 from yesterday’s 950,425)

Deaths 54,194 (+ 5,918 from yesterday’s 48,276)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 20% –

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Live.info:

 

 

 

 

Who said the RussiaRussia obsession couldn’t be fun? Bottom line between the lines: the US pays, but as the Russians say, both cover half the cost. In other words, the US pays half price. Will that satisfy the American propaganda voices? Stay tuned. Putin was criticized at home for selling these things to the US while Russia may not have enough for itself.

Compare that to Tucker’s America First declaration. And Thailand’s response.

US Paying Russia For Entire Planeload Of Coronavirus Equipment – Official (R.)

The United States is paying Russia for a planeload of medical equipment sent by Moscow to help fight the coronavirus outbreak, a senior Trump administration official said on Thursday, clearing up confusion as to who footed the bill. It had been unclear whether Russia had sent the 60 tons of equipment as a gift or whether it had sold the shipment of ventilators, masks, respirators and other items following a phone discussion between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump, asked about the shipment at a White House news briefing, said he was happy to take delivery of it. “I am not concerned about Russian propaganda, not even a little bit. He (Putin) offered a lot of medical, high-quality stuff that I accepted. And that may save a lot of lives. I’ll take it every day,” he said.


The Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow had paid half the cost with the other half picked up by Washington. But the senior administration official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the United States paid. “The United States is purchasing the supplies and equipment outright, as with deliveries from other countries,” the official said. “We appreciate Russia selling these items to us below market value.” The official did not give an exact cost. The State Department did not respond to requests for more information. The plane arrived on Wednesday at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and the gear was to be inspected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make sure it met U.S. quality standards.

https://twitter.com/ColumbiaBugle/status/1245881131225890816

Read more …

Ben Hunt is setting up a program to purchase and distribute masks and other PPE equipment in the US. It’s a terrible shame that he, like so many Americans, thinks he must, for some reason, put this in terms of warfare. Shouldn’t it be the opposite?

“There is no country in the world that mobilizes for war more effectively than the United States. And I know you won’t believe me, but I tell you it is true: This will be #OurFinestHour.”

Our Finest Hour (Ben Hunt)

Last week we wrote a brief note (Getting PPE to Healthcare Workers and First Responders) to introduce our efforts to get personal protective equipment (PPE) directly into the hands of frontline heroes: healthcare professionals and emergency responders who put their own lives and their families’ lives at risk every freakin’ day to stem the tide against this virus. Today I want to share with you the story of how this effort has come together into something real and tangible. Today I want to invite you to join us. First let me tell you what we’re NOT doing. We are not competing with federal or state emergency management authorities in their big bulk orders of PPE.


We are not going to drive up the price of these supplies any more than they have already been driven up in this global scramble to acquire medical gear. But we are also not waiting on these federal or state emergency management authorities to get these big bulk orders and then trickle the supplies down to the frontlines. What we ARE doing is putting together an end-to-end grassroots PPE distribution effort, where we source the equipment from certified manufacturers who meet accepted international standards, we pay for these purchases out of a 501(c)(3) foundation where 100 cents of every dollar goes to this effort, and we distribute that PPE all the way through the “last-mile”, getting small quantities of PPE directly into the hands of clinicians and first responders who are in urgent need.

Over the past 10 days we’ve purchased and distributed about 15,000 N95 and N95-equivalent masks directly to the doctors and nurses and firemen and EMTs who need the equipment NOW, in deliveries as small as 30 masks and as large as 500, depending on need. More importantly, we’ve set up a pipeline where we think we can get a steady delivery of 2,000 or so masks per day AND the occasional larger order AND the distribution capacity + knowledge to get this equipment directly to our frontline heroes. We’ve raised more than $200,000 to support this effort. We’ve partnered with incredibly generous private companies ranging in size from a Fortune 50 megacorp to the owners of the local UPS franchise. And we’re just getting started.


[..] If you are a healthcare worker or a first responder anywhere in the United States in urgent need of PPE, or you know someone who is, please fill out the online form below to get on our distribution list. Right now we are focused on N95 and N95-equivalent masks (more on the different types of masks in the Sourcing section of this note), although in the future we will try to supply isolation gowns and other PPE items..

https://twitter.com/AvidCommentator/status/1245892087020572672

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Ask Ben Hunt.

New York City Nurses Demand Personal Protection Equipment (WABC)

There’s a growing concern among nurses and doctors in New York City that they’ll run out of personal protection equipment (PPE) and supplies. A dozen health care workers spoke out Thursday near Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx about their concerns. “We’re running out of PPE, we’re running out of pain medication, we’re running out of sedatives,” third-year resident physician Laura Ucik said. State leaders say hundreds of thousands of personal protection masks and supplies have been shipped to New York, but some health care workers say their emergency rooms haven’t benefited yet. “If front line care givers are sick, are dying, there won’t be anyone left to take care of the public,” said Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, ER nurse and president of the New York State Nurses Association.


Some health care workers are saying they’re being told to reuse not only critical N95 masks but every day supplies. “I was given one disposable gown to use all day to take care of COVID-19 patients,” Ucik said. “And I would hang it up on an IV pole in between patients and put my single N95 mask into a brown paper bag.” It’s a problem at hospitals throughout the area. The New York City Health Department recently sent an alert to hospitals, telling them to “conserve all personal protective equipment now.” It isn’t a request, and the language in the alert states health care facilities must immediately implement these measures. “It puts me at risk, it puts you at risk, everyone in the health care building at risk,” nurse Victoria Lanquah said.

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It’ll prove to be a major factor all over the US.

New Orleans Coronavirus Death Rate Is Twice New York. Obesity Is A Factor (R.)

The coronavirus has been a far deadlier threat in New Orleans than the rest of the United States, with a per-capita death rate twice that of New York City. Doctors, public health officials and available data say the Big Easy’s high levels of obesity and related ailments may be part of the problem. “We’re just sicker,” said Rebekah Gee, who until January was the health secretary for Louisiana and now heads Louisiana State University’s healthcare services division. “We already had tremendous healthcare disparities before this pandemic – one can only imagine they are being amplified now.” Along with New York and Seattle, New Orleans has emerged as one of the early U.S. hot spots for the coronavirus, making it a national test case for how to control and treat the disease it causes.


Chief among the concerns raised by doctors working in the Louisiana city is the death rate, which is twice that of New York and over four times that of Seattle, based on Thursday’s publicly reported data. New Orleans residents suffer from obesity, diabetes and hypertension at rates higher than the national average, conditions that doctors and public health officials say can make patients more vulnerable to COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. Some 97% of those killed by COVID-19 in Louisiana had a pre-existing condition, according to the state health department. Diabetes was seen in 40% of the deaths, obesity in 25%, chronic kidney disease in 23% and cardiac problems in 21%. Orleans Parish, which encompasses the city, reported 125 confirmed coronavirus deaths as of Thursday, the equivalent of 32 coronavirus deaths per 100,000 people. That rate for New York City was at 15.9 on Thursday.

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Will Reuters stop polling the team of economists now, after another ridiculously off the mark prediction? No, it will not.

US Weekly Jobless Claims Blow Past Six Million As Lockdowns Spread (R.)

The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits shot to a record high of more than 6 million last week as more jurisdictions enforced stay-at-home measures to curb the coronavirus pandemic, which economists say has pushed the economy into recession. Thursday’s weekly jobless claims report from the Labor Department, the most timely data on the economy’s health, reinforced economists’ views that the longest employment boom in U.S. history probably ended in March. With a majority of Americans now under some form of lockdown, claims are expected to rise further. Economists said worsening job losses underscored the need for additional fiscal and monetary stimulus. President Donald Trump last week signed a historic $2.3 trillion package, with provisions for companies and unemployed workers.

The Federal Reserve has also undertaken extraordinary measures to help companies weather the highly contagious virus, which has brought the country to a halt. “These data underscore the magnitude of the stop-work order that has been imposed on the economy,” said Conrad DeQuadros, senior economic advisor at Brean Capital in New York. “The scale of the increase should also focus policymakers on getting the cash into the economy with possibly a fourth fiscal package and additional Fed lending programs.” [..] Initial claims for state unemployment benefits surged 3.341 million to a seasonally adjusted 6.648 million for the week ended March 28, the government said. That was double the previous all-time high of 3.307 million set in the prior week. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims would jump to 3.50 million in the latest week, though estimates were as high as 5.25 million.

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There are dozens of these things happening. This is the Jerusalem Post on an Israeli company, which makes the “news” suspicious right off the bat.

Israeli Scientists: Coronavirus Vaccine Tested On Humans By June 1 (JPost)

A team of Israeli researchers says that they are days away from completing the production of the active component of a coronavirus vaccine that could be tested on humans as early as June 1. “We are in the final stages and within a few days we will hold the proteins – the active component of the vaccine,” Dr. Chen Katz, group leader of MIGAL’s biotechnology group, told The Jerusalem Post. In late February, MIGAL (The Galilee Research Institute) committed to completing production of its vaccine within three weeks and having it on the market in 90 days. Katz said they were slightly delayed because it took longer than expected to receive the genetic construct that they ordered from China due to the airways being closed and it having to be rerouted.

As a reminder, for the past four years, researchers at MIGAL have been developing a vaccine against infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), which causes a bronchial disease affecting poultry. The effectiveness of the vaccine has been proven in preclinical trials carried out at the Veterinary Institute. “Our basic concept was to develop the technology and not specifically a vaccine for this kind or that kind of virus,” said Katz. “The scientific framework for the vaccine is based on a new protein expression vector, which forms and secretes a chimeric soluble protein that delivers the viral antigen into mucosal tissues by self-activated endocytosis, causing the body to form antibodies against the virus.”

In preclinical trials, the team demonstrated that the oral vaccination induces high levels of specific anti-IBV antibodies, Katz said. “Let’s call it pure luck,” he said. “We decided to choose coronavirus as a model for our system just as a proof of concept for our technology.”

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This can’t be the exception. Such “counting errors” maust be commonplace.

France’s Coronavirus Death Toll Jumps As Nursing Homes Included (R.)

The coronavirus death count in France surged to nearly 5,400 people on Thursday after the health ministry began including nursing home fatalities in its data. The pandemic had claimed the lives of 4,503 patients in hospitals by Thursday, up 12% on the previous day’s 4,032, said Jerome Salomon, head of the health authority. A provisional tally showed the coronavirus had killed a further 884 people in nursing homes and other care facilities, he added. This makes for a total of 5,387 lives lost to coronavirus in France – an increase of 1,355 over Wednesday’s cumulative total – although data has not yet been collected from all of the country’s 7,400 nursing homes. “We are in France confronting an exceptional epidemic with an unprecedented impact on public health,” Salomon told a news conference.


The country’s broad lockdown is likely to be extended beyond April 15, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Thursday, extending a confinement order to try and deal with the crisis that began on March 17. The government was racing to try to ensure it can produce or procure itself certain medications needed to treat coronavirus patients as stocks were running low, Philippe told TF1 TV, echoing concerns across Europe as the pandemic places a huge strain on hospitals in Italy, Spain and elsewhere. More than two-thirds of all the known nursing home deaths have been registered in France’s Grand Est region, which abuts the border with Germany. It was the first region in France to be overwhelmed by a wave of infections that has rapidly moved west to engulf greater Paris, where hospitals are desperately trying to add intensive care beds to cope with the influx of critically ill patients.

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A few remarks: Germany has a huge amount of ICU places. Neighbor the Netherlands has far fewer. But that’s also partly due to a different philosophy: where most countries try to keep people alive as long as possible, the Netherlands has a tradition, way before corona, of focusing more on quality than quantity of life. Old people with multiple ailments are not kept alive at all costs.

And if Andrew Cuomo is correct when he stated that of all people put on a ventilator only 20% survives, a question mark may be suitable. Is Germany’s low death rate a result of them keeping people on ventilators for a long time that will not have a quality life again? Religion is a big issue, but on the other hand there’s a huge increase in Do Not Resuscitate documents.

Note: Germany this morning, like many other countries have, issued a warning that it may run out of ICU places. That may lead to German doctors having to make decisions that they’re not used to making, unlike their Dutch counterparts.

Germany Has A Low Coronavirus Mortality Rate: Here’s Why (CNBC)

Germany seems to be taking the epidemic in its stride with a high number of cases but a low number of deaths, thanks to a number of factors. In Europe, while Italy and Spain are the worst hit countries with over 100,000 cases each, as of Friday, Germany has recorded 84,794 confirmed cases but has witnessed just 1,107 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The low mortality rate in Germany, at just over 1%, is far below its neighboring European countries, and this has been put down to Germany’s decision to implement widespread testing of people suspected of having the virus, as opposed to Italy or the U.K.’s decision to only test symptomatic cases.

Karl Lauterbach, a professor of health economics and epidemiology at the University of Cologne, and a politician in the Social Democratic Party (SPD) of Germany, told CNBC that Germany’s less severe experience of the pandemic so far was down to a handful of factors. “I think so far we’ve been lucky because we were hit by the wave of new infections later than many other European countries, for example Italy, Spain and France,” he told CNBC Thursday. “So we had a minor but important delay in the wave of infections coming to Germany. Secondly, the first people that got infected in Germany tended to be younger than the average of the population … so we were hit later and with younger patients initially.”

Lauterbach noted that a third factor that helped Germany was a slow increase in the number of infections, allowing those patients to be treated at the country’s top medical institutions, including some of the country’s best university hospitals (including those in Bonn, Dusseldorf, Aachen and Cologne) in the Heinsberg region where there was a cluster of infections at the start of the outbreak. “Number four, all things considered, the German health-care system and hospital system has been modernized by the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats over the last 20 years … this meant we had more hospital beds, more ventilators, more ICU (Intensive Care Units) beds and more hospital doctors, roughly speaking, than any other comparable country in Europe … So our system is in a reasonable shape for such an epidemic.”

While almost all European countries have introduced lockdowns to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, fatality rates have differed wildly. The mortality rate in Italy around the end of March stood at 11%, for example. Germany’s rate is comparable with South Korea, a country that has also attracted plaudits for its management of the coronavirus crisis with extensive testing, contact tracing and digital surveillance of its citizens. Germany’s lockdown, alongside a rigorous testing regime, has also helped, Lauterbach said. While countries like the U.K. now have to build a diagnostics industry from scratch, Germany already had one built around the multinational might of Roche.

The country reportedly has the capacity to carry out up to 500,000 tests a week, whereas the U.K. can currently only manage just over 10,000 a day. Asked about the possible trajectory Germany’s coronavirus rate could take, Lauterbach said his worst-case scenario was that 10% of Germany’s 83 million population contract the virus, and with a 1% fatality rate, then 80,000 people would die. “It must be lower than that, it would be a tragedy if 10% of the population get infected, that’s my personal worst-case scenario.”

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We all know who will be the winners.

Fed’s Dilemma: Picking Winners For $4 Trillion In Credit (R.)

When the Federal Reserve polled Wall Street about financial stability risks last fall, “global pandemic” didn’t make the list. But the coronavirus outbreak has triggered virtually every other shock that was mentioned – from a stock market rout to a looming global recession – and is forcing the U.S. central bank and the U.S. Treasury to triage a system springing leaks by the day. Compared with the 2007-2009 meltdown, which was centered in the mortgage and financial markets, the current crisis is a massively more complex problem with the Fed pulled to intervene in virtually every aspect of U.S. household and corporate commerce and finance.

The challenge now facing the central bank, in consultation with the Treasury, is prioritizing which market, set of companies or group of institutions to help next as it plans how to leverage more than $450 billion of seed money from the Treasury into perhaps $4.5 trillion in credit programs. It is an uncomfortable role that could push the Fed beyond its traditional job of keeping financial markets open and running smoothly, to picking winners and losers in whatever economy emerges from a pandemic that has brought business activity to a virtual standstill.

“You’ve entered not just the world of accepting credit risk but of allocating it as well,” said Mark Spindel, a Fed historian who is the chief executive officer of Potomac River Capital. Through the emergency $2.3 trillion legislation passed last week, “Congress and Treasury have decided to cast the Fed as the only balance sheet large enough” for the measures that might be needed. In the extreme, that could include roughly $26 trillion in debt held by non-financial companies and households – $16 trillion if home mortgages are excluded.

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Keith Jurow omits one way the housing zombie has been kept alive: ultra low rates.

This Hard Truth About The Mortgage Markets Isn’t Being Told (Jurow)

Everyone wants to know what impact the coronavirus and the government response to it will have on housing markets. While it is too early to hazard a guess, some things are becoming increasingly clear. Already, it looks as if the U.S. is moving towards a temporary moratorium on mortgage payments. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac unveiled an emergency program which provides a two-month deferral of mortgage payments for any homeowner who claims to be facing a hardship because of the virus. The payments will be tacked on at the end of the mortgage term. The coronavirus rescue law just enacted by Congress includes a provision which requires all firms that service federally-backed mortgages to grant a forbearance of up to 360 days for any borrowers who say they have been harmed by the coronavirus outbreak.

It is not much of a stretch to say that this virus has changed everything. Many of you may sense that the virus has undermined what you thought was still a fairly strong housing market around the country. In truth, the so-called housing recovery since 2010 has been little more than a carefully constructed illusion. The belief in a strong housing recovery was carefully devised using a strategy of misleading information, withheld data and false impressions. As I have explained in recent columns, the strategy to turn around collapsing housing markets unfolded in three parts: (1) restrict the number of foreclosed properties placed on the market; (2) radically reduce the number of seriously delinquent homes actually foreclosed and repossessed, and (3) provide millions of delinquent homeowners a mortgage modification as an alternative to foreclosure.

This strategy fooled nearly everyone into believing that the disaster has been overcome. The best example is Los Angeles County — ground zero for the collapse. In 2008, more than 37,000 properties were foreclosed. The plunge in foreclosures didn’t really kick in until 2012 when the number dropped to slightly over 10,000. The next year, foreclosures plunged to 3,340. Don’t think for a minute that this was due to an improving economy. Not at all. It was simply the strategy of desperate servicers. With so few properties foreclosed and even fewer placed on the market, home prices had no where to go but up.

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The Fed will be dragged to the ground by the zombies it’s carrying.

A Corporate Debt Reckoning Is Coming (13D)

Corporate debt is the timebomb everyone saw ticking, but no one was able to defuse. Ratings agencies warned about it: Moody’s, S&P. Central banks and international financial institutions did too: the Fed, the Bank of England, the Bank for International Settlements, the IMF. Financial luminaries expressed concern: Jamie Dimon, Seth Klarman, Jes Staley, Jeffrey Gundlach, Henry McVey. Even a presidential candidate brought the issue on the campaign trail: Elizabeth Warren. Yet, as we’ve documented in these pages for more than two years, corporations have only piled on more debt as their balance sheet health has deteriorated.


Total U.S. non-financial corporate debt sits at just under $10 trillion, a record 47% of GDP. One in six U.S. companies is now a zombie, meaning their interest expenses exceed their earnings before interest and taxes. As of year-end 2019, the percentage of listed companies in the U.S. losing money over 12 months sat close to 40%. In the 12 months to November, non-financial S&P 500 cash balances had declined by 11%, the largest percentage decline since at least 1980.
For too long, record-low interest rates inspired complacency, from companies to lenders to regulators and investors. As we warned in WILTW August 8, 2019, corporate fundamentals will eventually matter. Now, with COVID-19 grinding the global economy to a halt, that time has come.

Systemic threats are littered throughout the corporate debt ecosystem. Greater than 50% of outstanding debt is rated BBB, one rung above junk. As downgrades come, asset managers will be forced to flood the market with supply at a time demand has dried up. Meanwhile, leveraged loans — which have swelled by 50% since 2015 to over $1.2 trillion — threaten unprecedented losses given covenant deterioration. And bond ETFs could face a liquidity crisis as a flood of redemptions force offloading of all-too-illiquid bonds. Red lights are now flashing. Distressed debt in the U.S. has quadrupled in less than a week to nearly $1 trillion. Last week, bond fund outflows quadrupled the previous record, which was set the previous week. Moody’s and S&P have already declared a significant portion of outstanding debt under review for potential downgrade.


Source: FInancial Times

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Boeing’s miliary division is as fault-prone as its 737MAX part. And that’s what the country’s security depends on.

US Air Force To Release $882 Million To Boeing (R.)

The U.S. Air Force will release $882 million in payments to Boeing that were held back due to flaws in the KC-46 air refueling tanker, a Pentagon official said on Thursday. The release of the payment to Boeing is part of a broader recommendation sent to Air Force contracting officials, according to a memo seen by Reuters, aimed at maintaining the financial health of suppliers to the Department of Defense. Will Roper, the Air Force’s chief buyer, told reporters the initiative will free up billions of dollars in funding for numerous contractors, not just Boeing. “If we want to have a defense industrial base coming out of COVID-19, that’s able to continue building,” Roper said, “every day is a new challenge.”


Boeing’s financial situation has become increasingly precarious as economic fallout from the coronavirus has frozen key lending markets and cut off demand for Boeing’s commercial aircraft. The Air Force had the right to hold back about $28 million of the cost of each of the first 52 KC-46 Pegasus jets on order to ensure Boeing delivers fully functional tankers. With 33 jets delivered thus far, the Air Force could have withheld up to $924 million. The Air Force plans to buy 179 of the aircraft, which refuel other aircraft mid-air, but the program has been plagued with problems, including foreign object debris found onboard the planes and issues with a camera system used during the refueling process.

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A lot of money changed hands yesterday. But who won?

US Crude Futures Trim Record Gain (R.)

Benchmark U.S. crude fell more than 1% in early trade on Friday, coming off its biggest one-day gain in the previous session after U.S. President Donald Trump said he expected Saudi Arabia and Russia to announce a major oil production cut. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 1.4%, or 36 cents, at $24.96 a barrel at 2223 GMT, after having surged 24.7% on Thursday. Even with the huge gains, prices have still slumped nearly 60% this year as oil demand has plummeted due to the coronavirus pandemic while Saudi Arabia and Russia have flooded the market with crude in a price war.


Trump said he had spoken to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and expects Saudi Arabia and Russia to cut oil output by as much as 10 million to 15 million barrels, as the two countries signaled willingness to make a deal. Analysts said even if Russia and Saudi Arabia agreed to cut production by as much as 15 million barrels per day (bpd) that would not be enough to balance the market in face of a deep economic recession. “The 10-15 million bpd oil production cut reportedly being brokered by President Trump is a great start, but deeper cuts will likely be needed to get through a difficult Q2,” said Stephen Innes, chief global market strategist at AxiCorp. A deal between Russia and Saudi Arabia could effectively establish a floor for WTI in the $30s, he said.

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At times it feels like he closely follows a Rudy Giuliani scenario. Rule of thumb: if someone has never been really popular and all of a sudden is, do ask why.

Cuomo’s Bubble is Starting to Burst (Lauria)

Cuomo’s present regard for the well-being of every New Yorker, rich or poor, and his lyrical demands to ramp up the number of hospital beds and ventilators is undermined by an ongoing record of drastically cutting back on the state’s assistance to public medical facilities that serve the poor. While he is now frantically trying to add hospital beds in the state (which has lost 20,000 in the past 20 years), Cuomo, over the past decade, agreed to close and consolidate numerous public hospitals, mostly serving the poor, to save money. For instance, in 2013 he approved the closure of the 500-bed Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, despite objections from the community.

Even in these extraordinary circumstances his budget proposal to shave $400 million off the state’s $35 billion Medicaid bill—which provides care to the poorest New Yorkers—was accepted by the state Senate on Thursday when it passed Cuomo’s 2020 budget. It comes precisely as Medicaid recipients need it most. The state Assembly is to vote on the budget Friday. “So determined is Cuomo to slash Medicaid spending that he’s prepared to reject more than $6 billion in matching federal aid approved earlier this month because it would force him to alter his austerity strategy,” The Nation reported on Monday. It said:

“If Cuomo gets his way with the state budget [which the Senate has now given him], many of the city’s most besieged hospitals will lose money at a time when Covid-19 is threatening to crash New York’s health care system. Central Brooklyn hospitals, serving many of the borough’s working class and poor, could lose $38 million a year. Manhattan hospitals could lose up to $58 million a year.” Naomi Zewde, an assistant professor in the Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy at CUNY, told the magazine: “’The proposal to cut funding to public hospitals during a pandemic reflects really poor decision-making.’” Making it worse, is that Cuomo’s budget did not include rises in property or wealth taxes, despite a $10-15 billion shortfall. “There were no new taxes on the ultrarich, a measure many liberals had clamored for,” The New York Times reported.

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Yes, surveillance state. But no, it’s nothing new.

Google Releases Location Data On Lockdowns In 131 Countries (R.)

Google’s analysis of location data from billions of users’ phones is the largest public dataset available to help health authorities assess if people are abiding with shelter-in-place and similar orders issued across the world. Its reports show charts that compare traffic from Feb. 16 to March 29 at subway, train and bus stations, grocery stores and other broad categories of places with a five-week period earlier this year. In Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the virus, visits to retail and recreation locations, including restaurants and movie theaters, plunged 94% while visits to workplaces slid 63%. Reflecting the severity of the crisis there, grocery and pharmacy visits in Italy dropped 85% and park visits were down by 90%.

In the United States, California, which was the first in the with a statewide lockdown, cut visits to retail and recreation locations by half. By contrast, Arkansas, one of the few states without a sweeping lockdown, has seen such visits fall 29%, the lowest for a U.S. state. The data also underscore some challenges authorities have faced in keeping people apart. Grocery store visits surged in Singapore, the United Kingdom and elsewhere as travel restrictions were set to go into place. Visits to parks spiked in March in some San Francisco Bay Area counties, forcing them to later put the sites off limits. By contrast, in Japan where authorities have been relatively relaxed in urging social distancing measures but where calls have been growing daily for a state of emergency, visits to retail and recreational places fell 26%. Visits to workplace dropped a mere 9%.

[..] Facebook Inc, which like Google has billions of users, has shared location data with non-governmental researchers that are producing similar reports for authorities in several countries. But the social media giant has not published any findings. Infectious disease specialists have said analyzing travel across groups by age, income and other demographics could help shape public service announcements. Google, which infers demographics from users’ internet use as well as some data given when signing up to Google services, said it was not reporting demographic information. The company said, though, it was open to including additional information and countries in follow-up reports.

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The biggest winner in the lockdown economy still finds time to abuse its workers.

Leaked Amazon Memo Details Plan to Smear Fired Warehouse Organizer (Vice)

Leaked notes from an internal meeting of Amazon leadership obtained by VICE News reveal company executives discussed a plan to smear fired warehouse employee Christian Smalls, calling him “not smart or articulate” as part of a PR strategy to make him “the face of the entire union/organizing movement.” “He’s not smart, or articulate, and to the extent the press wants to focus on us versus him, we will be in a much stronger PR position than simply explaining for the umpteenth time how we’re trying to protect workers,” wrote Amazon General Counsel David Zapolsky in notes from the meeting forwarded widely in the company. The discussion took place at a daily meeting, which included CEO Jeff Bezos, to update each other on the coronavirus situation.

Amazon SVP of Global Corporate Affairs Jay Carney described the purpose to CNN on Sunday: “We go over the update on what’s happening around the world with our employees and with our customers and our businesses. We also spend a significant amount of time just brainstorming about what else we can do” about COVID-19. Zapolsky’s notes also detailed Amazon’s efforts to buy millions of protective masks to protect its workers from the coronavirus, as well as an effort to begin producing and selling its own masks. So far, the company has secured at least 10 million masks for “our operations guys,” with 25 million more coming from a supplier in the next two weeks, Zapolsky wrote. Amazon fired the warehouse worker Smalls on Monday, after he led a walkout of a number of employees at a Staten Island distribution warehouse.

Amazon says he was fired for violating a company-imposed 14-day quarantine after he came into contact with an employee who tested positive for the coronavirus. Smalls says the employee who tested positive came into contact with many other workers for longer periods of time before her test came back. He claims he was singled out after pleading with management to sanitize the warehouse and be more transparent about the number of workers who were sick. [..] “We should spend the first part of our response strongly laying out the case for why the organizer’s conduct was immoral, unacceptable, and arguably illegal, in detail, and only then follow with our usual talking points about worker safety,” Zapolsky wrote. “Make him the most interesting part of the story, and if possible make him the face of the entire union/organizing movement.”

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It must be possible to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. These are no longer the times when ads pay for all you read, your donations have become an integral part of it. It has become a two-way street; and isn’t that liberating, when you think about it?

Thanks everyone for your wonderfully generous donations over the past days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support us in virustime. Help the Automatic Earth survive. It’s good for you.

 

Oct 132018
 
 October 13, 2018  Posted by at 9:24 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Two naked figures 1908

 

40% Of The American Middle Class Face Poverty In Retirement (CNBC)
One-Third Of Young Americans Too Overweight To Join The Military (AFP)
We Are All In….Again! (Roberts)
American Pastor Freed In Turkey Will Visit White House Saturday (AP/R.)
Saudi Isolation Grows Over Khashoggi Disappearance (G.)
UK ‘Gears Up’ To Target Saudis With Sanctions After Journalist Vanishes (Ind.)
‘Pressure Will Be On Turkey’ If Saudis Found Guilty Of Journalist’s Murder (RT)
Theresa May Faces Her Party As A Desperate Gambler In Hope Of A Break (G.)
UK Consumers Face ‘Catastrophic’ Consequences From No-Deal Brexit (Ind.)
Merkel Faces Poll Disaster As Coalition Support Collapses (Ind.)
The New Face of the Eurozone Bailout Fund (Spiegel)

 

 

There doesn’t seem to be any initiative to do something about this. Big mistake.

40% Of The American Middle Class Face Poverty In Retirement (CNBC)

Nearly half of middle-class Americans face a slide into poverty as they enter their retirement, a recent study by the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at the New School has concluded. That risk has been driven by depressed earnings, depressed asset values and increased health-care costs — causing 74 percent of Americans planning to work past traditional retirement age. Additionally, both private and public pension plans have been allowed to become seriously underfunded. So what can be done? Fundamental changes in the structure of the U.S. economy, combined with increased health-care costs and lack of saving, have created a financial trap for millions of American workers heading into retirement.

Roughly 40 percent of Americans who are considered middle class (based on their income levels) will fall into poverty or near poverty by the time they reach age 65, according to the study. The study also concluded that if workers age 50 to 60 decide to retire at age 62, 8.5 million of them are projected to fall below twice the Federal Poverty Level, with retirement incomes below $23,340 for singles and $31,260 for couples. Further, 2.6 million of those 8.5 million downwardly mobile workers and their spouses will have incomes below the poverty level — $11,670 for an individual and $15,730 for a two-person household.

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In total, “71 percent of Americans aged 17-24 do not meet the military’s sign-up requirements..”

One-Third Of Young Americans Too Overweight To Join The Military (AFP)

Forget about the high-tech military challenges from China and Russia, the Pentagon is facing a fast-growing national security threat that could be even trickier to tackle: America’s obesity crisis. A study released this week has found that nearly one-third of young Americans are now too overweight to join up, a worrying statistic for military officials already facing recruitment challenges. “Obesity has long threatened our nation’s health. As the epidemic grows, obesity is posing a threat to our nation’s security as well,” the Council for a Strong America states in its new report. The Army last month announced it would miss its goal of attracting 76,500 new recruits in 2018. The shortfall is of about 6,500 soldiers — the first time since 2005 the service had missed its hiring targets.

A strong US economy and tight jobs market played a role, but the numbers highlight the dwindling pool of applicants the Pentagon has to draw from. According to the Defense Department, obesity is one of the top reasons why a stunning 71 percent of Americans aged 17-24 do not meet the military’s sign-up requirements. “Given the high percentage of American youth who are too overweight to serve, recruiting challenges will continue unless measures are taken to encourage a healthy lifestyle beginning at a young age,” states the study, entitled “Unhealthy and Unprepared.”

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Double or nothing.

We Are All In….Again! (Roberts)

Despite the recent angst in the market over increasing interest rates, there has been little evidence of concern by investors overall. A recent report showed that investors have the LEAST amount of cash in their investment accounts…EVER. “Individual investors drew down cash balances at brokerage accounts to record lows as the S&P 500 surged 7.2 percent in the three months ended Friday. Cash as a percentage of assets among Charles Schwab Corp. clients in August fell to 10.4 percent, matching the level in January that marked the lowest since at least 2004.” Of course, eight months ago the markets suffered a 10.4% decline just as investors scrambled to “get in.”

The monthly survey from the American Association of Individual Investors shows the same. Individuals are carrying some of the highest levels in history of equities, are reducing their exposure to bonds, and carrying very low levels of cash. As Dana Lyons recently noted: ” From the Federal Reserve’s Z.1 release, we find that U.S. Households had a reported 34.3% of their financial assets invested in the equity market as of the 2nd quarter. Outside of a slightly higher reading in the 4th quarter of 2017, that is the highest level of stock investment in the 70-plus year history of the series, other than the 1999-2000 bubble top.”

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What did Erdogan get?

American Pastor Freed In Turkey Will Visit White House Saturday (AP/R.)

The pastor who was at the center of a diplomatic spat between Turkey and the United States will land at a military base near Washington on Saturday and will likely visit the White House the same day, President Donald Trump said on Friday. “We’re very honored to have him back with us,” Trump told reporters, referring to the release of pastor Andrew Brunson by a Turkish court. “He suffered greatly but we’re very appreciative to a lot of people,” Trump added, saying no deal had been made with Turkey on lifting U.S. sanctions in exchange for Brunson’s release.

Earlier Friday, a Turkish court convicted Brunson of terror links but released him from house arrest and allowed him to leave the country, removing a major irritant in fraught ties between two NATO allies that still disagree on a host of other issues. The court near the western city of Izmir sentenced North Carolina native Brunson to just over three years in prison for allegedly helping terror groups, but let him go because the 50-year-old evangelical pastor had already spent nearly two years in detention. An earlier charge of espionage was dropped.

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“Khashoggi was wearing an Apple watch when he entered the consulate..”

Saudi Isolation Grows Over Khashoggi Disappearance (G.)

Saudi Arabia has found itself further isolated over the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi after the business world turned its back on a high-profile investment conference in the kingdom and US officials claimed audio and video recordings had captured the moment the journalist was murdered in Istanbul. The Future Investment Initiative conference, to be held in Riyadh later this month, was rapidly turning into a fiasco on Friday after most media partners and several top business allies pulled out. More were expected to follow. All said they had been disturbed by the circumstances of Khashoggi’s disappearance from the Saudi consulate in Turkey and the lack of credible responses.

Saudi Arabia has been under pressure to explain what happened to Khashoggi after he entered the consulate building at 1.14pm on 2 October. Turkey has claimed the exiled journalist and critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was murdered by a hit squad sent from Riyadh. Authorities in Istanbul have hinted they hold undisclosed evidence that proves what took place. On Friday, US officials revealed to Khashoggi’s employer, the Washington Post, that Turkish investigators had claimed audio and video tapes existed of conversations between the missing 59-year-old and his alleged killers. “You can hear his voice and the voices of men speaking Arabic,” an official said. “You can hear how he was interrogated, tortured and then murdered.”

The references to recordings could suggest that Turkish intelligence officers had bugged the consulate or some of the accused killers. Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancee, told the Associated Press on Friday that Khashoggi was wearing an Apple watch when he entered the consulate and investigators were examining his cellphones, which he had left with her. In written responses to questions by the AP, Cengiz said Turkish authorities had not told her about any recordings and that Khashoggi was officially “still missing”. Cengiz said Khashoggi was not nervous when he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and did not suspect anything bad would happen to him. “He said ‘See you later my darling’ and went in,” Cengiz said, and they were his last words to her.

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As long as the arms sales can go on…

UK ‘Gears Up’ To Target Saudis With Sanctions After Journalist Vanishes (Ind.)

UK officials have begun drawing up a list of Saudi security and government officials who could potentially come under sanctions pending the outcome of investigations into the disappearance of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a source close to both Riyadh and London told The Independent. The list being drawn up by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office could be used in case the UK decides to invoke the “Magnitsky amendment,” passed this year, which allows Britain to impose sanctions on foreign officials accused of human rights violations, or to apply restrictions on Saudi trade and travel in coordination with the European Union.

Asked to confirm or deny the drawing up of the list, the Foreign Office said it “had nothing to add” to the Khashoggi matter other than comments the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, made on Thursday. “Across the world, people who long thought themselves as Saudi’s friends are saying this is a very, very serious matter,” said Mr Hunt. “If these allegations are true there would be serious consequences.” The source, a former government advisor, told The Independent they were briefed by a UK intelligence official and others. “Initially this was a position-paper scenario,” the source said. “Now it is definitely being looked at as a real possibility.”

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“..the sudden attention “seems very strange” considering the “bloody murder that the Saudis have gotten away with for decades.”

‘Pressure Will Be On Turkey’ If Saudis Found Guilty Of Journalist’s Murder (RT)

Former US diplomat Jim Jatras and investigative journalist Rick Sterling tell RT what could happen if allegations that the Gulf monarchy, headed by Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, is behind the plot prove to be true. If Saudi Arabia is found to be complicit in Khashoggi’s disappearance, Sterling believes “the pressure will be on [Turkish president] Erdogan and Turkey to escalate.” “Saudi Arabia effectively abducted Lebanese Prime Minister [Saad] Hariri and he appeared in Riyadh, resigned – supposedly – and then it turned out he was coerced in some form or manner,” Sterling added. “The Saudi government is extreme, it’s bizarre and we’ll have to see how the facts develop in this case but it points towards the instability of that government that beheads hundreds of citizens a year.”

However, he adds, the Saudi regime has been “an extremely close ally of the US and Israel. This would be a huge earthquake in international relations if the calls for a serious reduction in relations continues.” Despite the years of brutality against their own people, Khashoggi’s disappearance seems to have ushered the Saudi regime’s reckless violence into the global spotlight, Jatras told RT. “Saudi Arabia is usually immune from criticism from the American establishment, They can destroy Yemen, they can cut people’s heads off… and suddenly over one journalist everyone is outraged; We discover that Saudi Arabia is an oppressive regime that kills people,” Jatras said, adding that the sudden attention “seems very strange” considering the “bloody murder that the Saudis have gotten away with for decades.”

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Can’t please everyone.

Theresa May Faces Her Party As A Desperate Gambler In Hope Of A Break (G.)

Brexit is unusual as a game of poker, in that one side folded long ago but has still not revealed its losing hand. For months, the EU has insisted that Theresa May’s only options for a deal would lead to either a soft Brexit for the whole UK, or a sea border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. For months, critics have challenged the government to spell out which of these two ostensibly intolerable concessions it intends to make. Now it seems we know. The prime minister will concede both. Capitulating to Brussels will be the easy part. After that, May will have to lie to the hard Brexiters, bully the Tory remainers, and call the bluff of the Democratic Unionist party. As the Brexit circus enters its final month, here is its tightrope.

First, Brussels. The EU’s offer springs from its immutable and non-negotiable red lines: to preserve the single market, the Good Friday agreement, and Ireland’s invisible border. Only two outcomes can satisfy all those requirements: the whole UK remains in the whole single market and customs union, or Northern Ireland stays in the customs union and single market in goods while Great Britain diverges. May has decided to mix and match those outcomes. It appears the whole UK will remain in the customs union, so there are no tariff divergences or checks either on the island of Ireland or within the United Kingdom. And Great Britain will leave the single market, thus necessitating “de-dramatised” regulatory checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea.

May’s surrender is not in doubt. Neither is the resistance to this deal from all opposition parties. Consequently, the prime minister’s only task is to fool or blackmail her MPs into supporting it. Her most pressing duty will be to hoodwink the parliamentary hardliners in thrall to Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg. May will attempt this ambitious deception principally by insisting that the permanent customs union will in fact be temporary. It will not.

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“..many people were shocked and questioned why they had not been made aware of the implications sooner.”

UK Consumers Face ‘Catastrophic’ Consequences From No-Deal Brexit (Ind.)

Millions of consumers could face “immediate” and “catastrophic” consequences in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the watchdog Which? has said. The consumer group said the government’s preparations for a no-deal exit suggested a reduction in consumer rights and choice as well as price hikes that would have a “direct and hard” impact in areas ranging from travel to food and energy. The watchdog, which based its conclusions on its assessment of the government’s technical notices in preparation for the event of a no-deal Brexit, online forums and surveys, said two in five people did not understand the potential implications of a no-deal scenario.

In its report – Brexit no deal: a consumer catastrophe? – Which? says: “Our latest consumer research shows that most people are unprepared for what ‘no deal’ would mean in practice – and many do not understand how it would have multiple impacts across so many aspects of their daily lives. “When the everyday repercussions and government’s plans on issues such as food and medical supplies were explained to people in our research, many people were shocked and questioned why they had not been made aware of the implications sooner.”

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Good to see support for the Greens.

Merkel Faces Poll Disaster As Coalition Support Collapses (Ind.)

Angela Merkel’s conservative allies in the German state of Bavaria are facing losses in regional elections as liberal-minded voters defect to the Greens. The Christian Social Union, which has enjoyed six decades of dominance in the state, is predicted to suffer heavy losses in the vote on 14 October. The party is part of Germany’s grand coalition with its sister party, Ms Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CD) and the centre-left Social Democrats (SDP). A Forschungsgruppe Wahlen poll predicted the CSU could lose up to 14 percentage points in the upcoming elections as voters flock to the pro-immigration Greens.

Support for the CSU stood at 34 per cent, compared to the 48 per cent it won in the last regional election in 2013. The Greens appear poised to overtake the Social Democrats (SPD) to become Bavaria’s second-largest party, with up to 19 per cent of the vote, an increase of 10 percentage points since the last elections. If the polls are correct, the Greens could become a potential coalition partner for the CSU in Bavaria. The polls also showed the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party on 11 per cent, which would be enough to enter the Bavarian state parliament for the first time.

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Europe’s IMF. Too much power.

The New Face of the Eurozone Bailout Fund (Spiegel)

The first step is that of transforming the ESM into a kind of European replacement for the IMF. The IMF played a central role in Greece during the crisis, but there were often clashes over the best way to help the country. In the future, the IMF does not intend to participate in state bankruptcies in Europe. For the ESM to function as a European IMF, the organization is to be granted oversight rights to look over the individual finances of eurozone member states. Should a new crisis crop up, the ESM would be armed with additional control and enforcement rights.

[..] One of the ESM’s new tasks is ringing the alarm bells early when there are signs of an approaching crisis. The ESM possess a deep knowledge of the financial situations of former crisis countries, in part because analysts tag along when donor state representatives visit those countries’ capitals. The organization also knows a lot about larger member states like Germany and France, Regling says. “But if, purely hypothetically, something were to happen in, say, Austria or Malta, we would currently be at a loss.” To fulfill its role as an early-warning system, the ESM must recruit experts on all member countries. A larger staff is also needed for the ESM’s second area of operation. In the future, the plan is for the ESM to provide financial backing for the European mechanism for the resolution of failing credit institutions. For this, Regling needs banking experts.

The ESM will also receive a set of new financial instruments geared toward helping ailing countries quickly. A precautionary line of credit is in discussion that could be extended to countries not yet in acute need but which require help to calm wary investors. In a paper for the Eurogroup, as the board of eurozone finance ministers is known, the ESM also proposes another instrument. It would provide short-term liquidity assistance to countries that have temporarily run out of money because they have unfairly landed in speculators’ crosshairs. “These funds would be paid out without a big fuss, and the country wouldn’t have to subject itself to a complete adjustment program,” the paper reads.

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Aug 152018
 
 August 15, 2018  Posted by at 9:11 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  10 Responses »


Paul Signac Maison de Van Gogh Arles 1933

 

Two Greek Soldiers Released From Turkish Jail Return Home (K.)
Turkey Shows Damage Of Fading World Order (R.)
Turkey Hikes Tariffs On Imports Of Selected US Products (AFP)
US Household Debt Rises To $13.3 Trillion In Second Quarter (R.)
Has Bezos Become More Powerful In DC Than Trump? (VF)
Trump Criticizes Some Russia Provisions Of Defense Bill (USAT)
Tonga PM Calls On China To Write Off Pacific Debt (AFP)
“Hothouse Earth” And Neoliberal Economics (IC)
We’re In A New Age Of Obesity. How Did It Happen? (Monbiot)
More Recycling Won’t Solve Plastic Pollution (SciAm)
Glyphosate Is Here To Stay In EU – At Least For Now (Pol.eu)
Help Me, My Prince: Guernsey Resident Halts Roadworks With Ancient Plea (G.)

 

 

Here’s what interesting about this: the two soldiers, who had been in detention for almost half a year for accidentally stepping across the border, were released by a provincial court, and get back home on a Greek national holiday (August 15). On that same day, another court decides that an appeal for pastor Brunson is denied. Ergo, Erdogan can claim the latter’s fate is out of his hands: it’s the court system that decides. That victory over Trump is worth more to him than the defeat of not exchanging the soldiers for the 8 Turkish servicemen who have aylum in Greece.

Two Greek Soldiers Released From Turkish Jail Return Home (K.)

Two Greek soldiers freed after months in a Turkish prison returned to Greece by government jet early Wednesday after their unexpected release by a provincial court. Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said he phoned his Turkish counterpart to express his satisfaction with the soldiers’ release and invite him to visit Greece. “This is a great day for our motherland, the day of Our Lady, the day of Tinos in 1940,” Kammenos told reporters, referring to the Feast of the Dormation, which falls on August 15 and to the Italian torpedoing on a Greek warship on this day in 1940. “I hope that their release … will herald a new day in Greek-Turkish relations. We can live together peacefully, for the benefit of both our peoples.”

The soldiers – 2nd Lieutenant Angelos Mitretodis and Sergeant Dimitris Kouklatzis – were met by Kammenos, the army chief of staff and an honor guard after their arrival at 3 a.m. at the airport in the northern city of Thessaloniki. “All I want to say is thank you,” Mitretodis told reporters. The men were arrested on March 1 for illegally entering Turkey after crossing the heavily militarized land border. Greece strongly protested their long detention in the western town of Edirne, arguing that they had strayed across during a patrol of a trail of suspected illegal immigration amid poor visibility due to bad weather.

[..] The men’s arrest had considerably strained Greek-Turkish relations. Kammenos had claimed that they were being held “hostage” by Turkey, which is trying to secure the extradition of eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece after the 2016 failed military coup in Turkey. Ankara accuses its servicemen of involvement in the coup, but Greek courts have refused to extradite them, arguing they would not get a fair trial in Turkey and their lives would be in danger there.

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The world order does too much damage. Just look at the IMF.

Turkey Shows Damage Of Fading World Order (R.)

Turkey’s currency crisis was easy to predict. What is more surprising is how weak the global response has been. The old world financial order is badly missed. A big mess was almost certain to arrive in a country that continually relied on short-term loans to finance a large current account deficit. That was not the only invitation to disaster. Heavy domestic borrowing denominated in foreign currencies and high inflation added to the strains. So did a government that spurned the counsel of the foreign financiers who help keep the economy afloat. President Tayyip Erdogan was lucky to avoid serious trouble so far. Now, though, he faces a disaster. The Turkish lira has fallen 42% against the dollar since the beginning of May. It will take a miracle or an international rescue to avoid a domestic banking crisis.

Much has changed since 2009 when the government, then led by Prime Minister Erdogan, announced that it no longer needed advice from the IMF. The country would “move forward without a walking stick”. Turkey had leaned heavily on the IMF crutch over preceding decades. The country had a standby arrangement with the global lender for more than half the period between 1970 and 2009. The IMF promised support if the government kept working on economic reforms. This time, however, the IMF is still waiting for a phone call from Ankara. The Washington-based institution has the expertise and probably the money needed to stabilise the lira, but Erdogan has cast it in the role of enemy of the Turkish people.

The antipathy fits with the president’s nationalist and authoritarian agenda, but it is also part of a distressing pattern. The traditional authority figures in global financial matters are crippled. The IMF’s reputation has been damaged by what was widely perceived as its blind allegiance to the doctrines of free trade, free capital movements and free markets. Though the multilateral institution’s approach has softened under Christine Lagarde, managing director since 2011, Turkey’s intransigence suggests the IMF lacks its former moral authority.

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And the lira is gaining.

Turkey Hikes Tariffs On Imports Of Selected US Products (AFP)

Turkey is hiking tariffs on imports of certain US products in response to American sanctions on Ankara that caused the value of the lira to plunge, a decree published Wednesday said. Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said that the rises were ordered “within the framework of reciprocity in retaliation for the conscious attacks on our economy by the US administration”. The hikes were published in Turkey’s Official Gazette in a decree signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The move comes after US President Donald Trump announced that the United States was doubling steel and aluminium tariffs on Turkey, as the two NATO allies row over the detention by Turkish authorities of American pastor Andrew Brunson.

The tensions and the tariff hike by the United States have caused the Turkish lira to bleed value, fanning fears the country is on the verge of an economic crisis that could spillover into Europe. Erdogan has repeatedly described the crisis as an “economic war” that Turkey will win. The tariff increases amount to a doubling of the existing rate, the state-run Anadolu news agency said, in an apparent parallel response to Trump’s move. The decree said the move brought tariffs to 50% on imports of US rice to 140% on hard alcoholic drinks like spirits, 60% in leaf tobacco and 60% on cosmetics. The tariffs on auto imports are now up to 120% depending on the type of vehicle.

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The rising debt is linked to a ‘solid labor market’. Well, if it were all that solid (as in higher wages etc.), people wouldn’t need to get into debt.

US Household Debt Rises To $13.3 Trillion In Second Quarter (R.)

Americans’ borrowing reached $13.29 trillion in the second quarter, up $454 billion from a year ago, marking a 16th consecutive quarter of increases, a New York Federal Reserve report released on Tuesday showed. The level of U.S. consumer debt was $618 billion higher than the previous peak of $12.68 trillion in the third quarter of 2008. It was 19.2% above a post global credit crisis low set in the second quarter of 2013, the New York Fed said. The ongoing growth in home, auto, student and credit loans has been linked with a solid labor market. The rise in indebtedness did not make it more difficult for borrowers to meet their monthly payments last quarter.

The rate on seriously delinquent loans, or those that are 90 days or more past due, was 2.3% in the second quarter, unchanged from the prior quarter. Notably, the pace of student loans turning seriously delinquent slowed to 8.6% from 8.9%, the N.Y. Fed survey showed. “While overall delinquency rates have remained stable at relatively low levels, transition rates into delinquency have fallen noticeably for student loan over the past year, reflecting an improved labor market and increased participation in various income-driven repayment plans,” Wilbert van der Klaauw, senior vice president at the New York Fed, said in a statement.

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The Big Tech mix with intelligence and military takes on scary forms.

Has Bezos Become More Powerful In DC Than Trump? (VF)

There’s a new scandal quietly unfolding in Washington. It’s far bigger than Housing Secretary Ben Carson buying a $31,000 dinette set for his office, or former EPA chief Scott Pruitt deploying an aide to hunt for a deal on a used mattress. It involves the world’s richest man, President Trump’s favorite general, and a $10 billion defense contract. And it may be a sign of how tech giants and Silicon Valley tycoons will dominate Washington for generations to come. The controversy involves a plan to move all of the Defense Department’s data—classified and unclassified—on to the cloud. The information is currently strewn across some 400 centers, and the Pentagon’s top brass believes that consolidating it into one cloud-based system, the way the CIA did in 2013, will make it more secure and accessible.

That’s why, on July 26, the Defense Department issued a request for proposals called JEDI, short for Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure. Whoever winds up landing the winner-take-all contract will be awarded $10 billion—instantly becoming one of America’s biggest federal contractors. But when JEDI was issued, on the day Congress recessed for the summer, the deal appeared to be rigged in favor of a single provider: Amazon. According to insiders familiar with the 1,375-page request for proposal, the language contains a host of technical stipulations that only Amazon can meet, making it hard for other leading cloud-services providers to win—or even apply for—the contract. One provision, for instance, stipulates that bidders must already generate more than $2 billion a year in commercial cloud revenues—a “bigger is better” requirement that rules out all but a few of Amazon’s rivals.

What’s more, the process of crafting JEDI bears all the hallmarks of the swamp that Trump has vowed to drain. Though there has long been talk about the Defense Department joining the cloud, the current call for bids was put together only after Defense Secretary James Mattis hired a D.C. lobbyist who had previously consulted for Amazon. The lobbyist, Sally Donnelly, served as a top advisor to Mattis while the details of JEDI were being hammered out. During her tenure, Mattis flew to Seattle to tour Amazon’s headquarters and meet with Jeff Bezos. Then, as the cloud-computing contract was being finalized, Donnelly’s former lobbying firm, SBD Advisors, was bought by an investment fund with ties to Amazon’s cloud-computing unit.

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Not enough. He should have refused to sign.

Trump Criticizes Some Russia Provisions Of Defense Bill (USAT)

At a bill signing ceremony in New York on Monday, President Donald Trump took credit for a $716 billion defense policy bill that he said would strengthen America’s military. “I am very proud to be a big, big part of it,” he said. “It was not very hard.” In a written statement hours later, Trump raised objections to 52 provisions of the law – including four of the eight provisions dealing specifically with Russia. The signing statement suggests he may not enforce provisions that he said raise constitutional concerns. As passed by Congress, the defense bill attempts to tie the president’s hands on Russia in a number of ways. It forbids him from using federal funds to recognize Russian control over Crimea and bans military cooperation with Russia until Russia pulls out of Ukraine.

It requires him to report back to Congress on steps he has taken to address Russian violations of the Open Skies Treaty, which allows reconnaissance flights over Russian territory, and the New START Treaty on nuclear weapons. Trump said those provisions undermine the president’s role “as the sole representative of the nation in foreign affairs.” Trump objected to a section requiring him to send to Congress a strategy to combat “malign foreign influence operations and campaigns.” That strategy, he said, is covered by executive privilege. Though presidential objections in signing statements are not uncommon, Trump’s pushback on Russia-related provisions is notable given his attempts to forge closer relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin [..]

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“If we fail to pay, the Chinese may come and take our assets, which are our buildings.”

Tonga PM Calls On China To Write Off Pacific Debt (AFP)

Tonga Prime Minister Akalisi Pohiva has called for China to write-off debts owed by Pacific island countries, warning that repayments impose a huge burden on the impoverished nations. Chinese aid in the Pacific has ballooned in recent years with much of the funds coming in the form of loans from Beijing’s state-run Exim Bank. Tonga has run-up enormous debts to China, estimated at more than US$100 million by Australia’s Lowy Institute think tank, and Pohiva said his country would struggle to repay them. He said the situation was common in the Oceania region and needed to be addressed at next month’s Pacific Island Forum summit in Nauru. “We need to discuss the issue,” he told the Samoa Observer in an interview published on Tuesday.

“All the Pacific Island countries should sign this submission asking the Chinese government to forgive their debts. “To me, that is the only way we can all move forward, if we just can’t pay off our debts.” Tonga took out the Chinese loans to rebuild in the wake of deadly 2006 riots that razed the centre of the capital Nuku’alofa. Beijing has previously refused to write-off the loans by turning them into aid grants but did give Tonga an amnesty on repayments. Pohiva said China now wanted the debts repaid. “By September 2018, we anticipate to pay $14 million, which cuts away a huge part of our budget,” he said. Tonga’s ability to pay has been further dented this year by another massive rebuilding effort in Nuku’alofa, this time after a category five cyclone slammed into the capital in February.

“If we fail to pay, the Chinese may come and take our assets, which are our buildings.” “That is why the only option is to sign a submission asking the Chinese government to forgive our debts.” His comments come as Australia and New Zealand ramp up aid efforts in the Pacific to counter China’s growing presence in the region. Australia has raised fears in recent months Pacific nations’ debts to China leaves them susceptible to Beijing’s influence.

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Not sure climate scientisis talking economics will be taken seriously.

“Hothouse Earth” And Neoliberal Economics (IC)

[..] embedded within the paper is a finding that’s just as stunning: that none of this is inevitable, and one of the main barriers between us and a stable planet — one that isn’t actively hostile to human civilization over the long term — is our economic system. Asked what could be done to prevent a hothouse earth scenario, co-author Will Steffen told The Intercept that the “obvious thing we have to do is to get greenhouse gas emissions down as fast as we can. That means that has to be the primary target of policy and economics. You have got to get away from the so-called neoliberal economics.” Instead, he suggests something “more like wartime footing” to roll out renewable energy and dramatically reimagine sectors like transportation and agriculture “at very fast rates.”

That “wartime footing” Steffen describes is a novel concept in 2018, but hasn’t been throughout American history when the nation has faced other existential threats. In the lead-up to World War II, the government played a heavy hand in industry, essentially shifting the U.S. to a centrally planned economy, rather than leaving things like prices and procurement of key resources up to market forces. By the end of World War II, about a quarter of all manufacturing in the United States had been nationalized. And while governments around the world continue to intervene heavily in the private sector — including in the U.S. — those interventions tend now to be on behalf of corporations, be it through subsidies to fossil fuel companies or zoning laws that favor luxury real estate developers.

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Who are you educating? A kindergarten?

We’re In A New Age Of Obesity. How Did It Happen? (Monbiot)

The light begins to dawn when you look at the nutrition figures in more detail. Yes, we ate more in 1976, but differently. Today, we buy half as much fresh milk per person, but five times more yoghurt, three times more ice cream and – wait for it – 39 times as many dairy desserts. We buy half as many eggs as in 1976, but a third more breakfast cereals and twice the cereal snacks; half the total potatoes, but three times the crisps. While our direct purchases of sugar have sharply declined, the sugar we consume in drinks and confectionery is likely to have rocketed (there are purchase numbers only from 1992, at which point they were rising rapidly. Perhaps, as we consumed just 9kcal a day in the form of drinks in 1976, no one thought the numbers were worth collecting.) In other words, the opportunities to load our food with sugar have boomed.

As some experts have long proposed, this seems to be the issue. The shift has not happened by accident. As Jacques Peretti argued in his film The Men Who Made Us Fat, food companies have invested heavily in designing products that use sugar to bypass our natural appetite control mechanisms, and in packaging and promoting these products to break down what remains of our defences, including through the use of subliminal scents. They employ an army of food scientists and psychologists to trick us into eating more than we need, while their advertisers use the latest findings in neuroscience to overcome our resistance.

They hire biddable scientists and thinktanks to confuse us about the causes of obesity. Above all, just as the tobacco companies did with smoking, they promote the idea that weight is a question of “personal responsibility”. After spending billions on overriding our willpower, they blame us for failing to exercise it.

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Stop making the stuff.

More Recycling Won’t Solve Plastic Pollution (SciAm)

The real problem is that single-use plastic—the very idea of producing plastic items like grocery bags, which we use for an average of 12 minutes but can persist in the environment for half a millennium—is an incredibly reckless abuse of technology. Encouraging individuals to recycle more will never solve the problem of a massive production of single-use plastic that should have been avoided in the first place. Beginning in the 1950s, big beverage companies like Coca-Cola and Anheuser-Busch, along with Phillip Morris and others, formed a non-profit called Keep America Beautiful. Its mission is/was to educate and encourage environmental stewardship in the public. Joining forces with the Ad Council (the public service announcement geniuses behind Smokey the Bear and McGruff the Crime Dog), one of their first and most lasting impacts was bringing “litterbug” into the American lexicon through their marketing campaigns against thoughtless individuals.

Two decades later, their “Crying Indian” PSA, would become hugely influential for the U.S. environmental movement. In the ad, a Native American man canoes up to a highway, where a motorist tosses a bag of trash. The camera pans up to show a tear rolling down the man’s cheek. By tapping into a shared national guilt for the history of mistreatment of Native Americans and the sins of a throwaway society, the PSA became a powerful symbol to motivate behavioral change. More recently, the Ad Council and Keep America Beautiful teams produced the “I Want to Be Recycled” campaign, which urges consumers to imagine the reincarnation of shampoo bottles and boxes, following the collection and processing of materials to the remolding of the next generation of products.

At face value, these efforts seem benevolent, but they obscure the real problem, which is the role that corporate polluters play in the plastic problem. This clever misdirection has led journalist and author Heather Rogers to describe Keep America Beautiful as the first corporate greenwashing front, as it has helped shift the public focus to consumer recycling behavior and actively thwarted legislation that would increase extended producer responsibility for waste management.

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EU inertia.

Glyphosate Is Here To Stay In EU – At Least For Now (Pol.eu)

Monsanto’s glyphosate-based weedkiller will be used in Europe for years to come, legal experts and campaigners say, despite a U.S. court ruling the company should pay $289 million in damages for causing cancer. The EU last year renewed use of the controversial weedkiller for another five years after a yearslong political debate over its safety and impact on the environment. That means Europe will have to wait until the end of 2022 at the earliest before making any attempt to ban the substance outright. Campaigners also say the mounting legal pressure Monsanto faces in the U.S. from thousands of other plaintiffs filing suits against the company is unlikely to be replicated in Europe, namely because Europe doesn’t have the same legal mechanism of a class action lawsuit as the U.S.

“I’m not very confident that the decision in the U.S. will expedite a ban in Europe as it’s a complicated legal process that takes time,” said Arnaud Apoteker, managing director of the NGO Justice Pesticides. “Countries could go back to the Commission to say that the proposal [to renew glyphosate] could be re-tabled, but this is a very lengthy process.” Apoteker has compiled all lawsuits involving pesticides into a single database and has so far only discovered two made against Monsanto in the EU. One dates back to 2007 and was filed by a farmer named Paul François, who alleged Monsanto’s Lasso herbicide caused his chronic illness and that the product was inadequately labeled. The other was filed at a court in Lyon last year by Sabine Grataloup, who accuses Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller of causing severe malformations in her 11-year-old son Théo.

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What’s not to love?

Help Me, My Prince: Guernsey Resident Halts Roadworks With Ancient Plea (G.)

A woman has activated the ancient Norman rite of Clameur de Haro to protest against the narrowing of a road which she claims would endanger pedestrians and motorists. Rosie Henderson, from Guernsey, raised the clameur by kneeling and calling for help and reciting the Lord’s Prayer in Norman French. Fully enforceable in Guernsey and Jersey law, it means the construction work in St Peter Port must stop until a court decides the case. Henderson, a parish councillor, raised the clameur on Tuesday by the roads of Les Échelons and South Esplanade, near the construction site. The clameur states: “Haro! Haro! Haro! A l’aide, mon prince, on me fait tort”, translated as “Come to my aid, my prince, for someone does me wrong”.

Whoever calls the clameur has 24 hours to register it in court, but whoever it is called against must stop all work immediately. Legend says the raising of a clameur stretches back to the early Norman period in the Channel Islands and is thought to have been a plea to Rollo, the first Duke of Normandy. The feudal law dates back to the 10th century as a form of self-policing when there was no law enforcement. In 2016, plans to overhaul St Peter Port’s sunken gardens, by levelling the site with the street and moving the war memorial, were withdrawn after protesters pledged to use the Clameur de Haro to block the proposals.

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