Mar 172021
 


Vincent van Gogh Peach trees in blossom 1888

 

Russia Stoked Ukraine Allegations To Undermine Biden – US Intel (Pol.)
Big Media Outlets “Independently Confirm” Each Other’s Falsehoods (Greenwald)
US Admits Waging InfoWar Against Russia’s Sputnik Vaccine (ZH)
Biden Gets Away With Exactly What Cuomo Is Accused Of (Emmons)
Pandemic Blunder (Hirschhorn)
New Covid-19 Variant Found In Brittany May Not Show Up In Regular Tests (RT)
Why We All MUST Reject Vaccine Passports (Krainer)
Wall Street Is Greenwashing The Financial World (Fancy)
US Joins India And China In Ramping Up Coal Usage (ZH)
Courts Close In On Gig Economy Firms Globally (G.)
Getting Hyperinflation Right (Dmitry Orlov)

 

 

 

 

This stuff must stop, but it won’t. These idiots are endangering the entire world. And that wanking rodent Schiff pops up again too.

Russia Stoked Ukraine Allegations To Undermine Biden – US Intel (Pol.)

Russia tried again last year to help then-President Donald Trump win the White House, the U.S. intelligence community said Tuesday in a long-awaited postmortem — adding that a “primary” tactic in that effort was the spreading of corruption allegations involving Democratic challenge Joe Biden and Ukraine. But the effort fell short of the Kremlin-backed efforts to assist Trump in his 2016 contest against Hillary Clinton, the spy community wrote in its unclassified assessment of foreign threats to the 2020 U.S. federal elections. And the agencies found no attempts by foreign countries to change vote tallies or final results.

“We assess that Russian President [Vladimir] Putin authorized, and a range of Russian government organizations conducted, influence operations aimed at denigrating President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process, and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the U.S.,” the assessment said. “The primary effort,” the document added, “revolved around a narrative-that Russian actors began spreading as early as 2014-alleging corrupt ties between President Biden, his family, and other US officials and Ukraine.” It said Russia’s intelligence services “relied on Ukraine-linked proxies and these proxies’ networks-including their US contacts-to spread this narrative.”


Unlike in 2016, however, “we did not see persistent Russian cyber efforts to gain access to election infrastructure,” added the document, issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Iran, meanwhile, waged a “covert influence campaign intended to undercut” Trump’s reelection bid without directly promoting his rivals in order to “undermine public confidence in the election process” and “sow division and exacerbate societal tensions” in the country. “We assess that Supreme Leader Khamenei authorized the campaign and Iran’s military and intelligence services implemented it using overt and covert messaging and cyber operations,” the examination states. The agencies found no efforts by China to interfere in the election, although one intelligence official maintained in a minority opinion that Beijing “took at least some steps to undermine” Trump’s chances, “primarily through social media and official public statements and media.”

Schiff

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Russia Russia Russia Russia Russia

Big Media Outlets “Independently Confirm” Each Other’s Falsehoods (Greenwald)

For a few weeks following the issuance of the Mueller report, Democrats and media figures gamely attempted to deny that it obliterated the conspiracy theories to which they had relentlessly subjected the country for the prior four years. How could they do otherwise? They staked their entire reputations and the trust of their audience on having this be true. To avoid their day of reckoning, they would hype ancillary events such as Paul Manafort’s conviction on unrelated financial crimes or Michael Flynn’s guilty plea for a minor and dubious charge (for which even Mueller recommended no prison time) or Roger Stone’s various process charges to insist that there was still a grain of truth to their multifaceted geopolitical fairy tale seemingly lifted straight from a Tom Clancy Cold War thriller about the world’s two largest nuclear powers.

But even they knew this was just a temporary survival strategy and that it was unsustainable for the long term. That the crux of the scandal all along was that key Trump allies if not the President himself would be indicted and imprisoned for having conspired with the Russians was too glaring to make people forget about it. That was why former CIA Director John Brennan assured the MSNBC audience in March — just weeks before Mueller closed his investigation with no conspiracy crimes alleged — that it was impossible that the investigation could close without first indicting Trump’s children and other key White House aides on what Brennan correctly said was the whole point of the scandal from the start: “criminal conspiracy involving the Russians . . . . whether or not U.S. persons were actively collaborating, colluding, cooperating, involved in a conspiracy with them or not.”


Brennan strongly insinuated that among those likely to be indicted for criminally conspiring with the Russians were those “from the Trump family.” As we all know, literally none of that happened. Not only were Trump family members not indicted by Mueller on charges of “criminal conspiracy involving the Russians,” no Americans were. Brennan believed there was no way that the Mueller investigation could end without that happening because that was the whole point of the scandal from the start. To explain why it had not happened up to that point after eighteen months of investigation by Mueller’s subpoena-armed and very zealous team of prosecutors, Brennan invented a theory that they were waiting to do that as the final act because they knew they would be fired by Trump once it happened. But it never happened because Mueller found no evidence to prove that it did.


The Advocate, Mar. 10, 2017

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“Combatting malignant influence in the Americas…”

Who’s the actual malignant influence?

US Admits Waging InfoWar Against Russia’s Sputnik Vaccine (ZH)

The Kremlin on Tuesday called out what’s it’s dubbed the “unprecedented” propaganda war against Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. The words were issued by spokesman Dmitry Peskov in response to widespread allegations that the Untied States is actively trying to dissuade its allies from purchasing the Russian-produced vaccine. This despite the emerging scientific consensus that’s found it to be at least 91% effective while further preventing inoculated persons from becoming severely ill. The Kremlin is responding to newly emerged proof that the US intervened with the largest country in South America, Brazil.


The Washington Post details that “Buried deep in the dry, 72-page annual report of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lay a startling admission: U.S. health officials under President Donald Trump worked to convince Brazil to reject Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine.” Brazil has long stood as the second highest COVID-19 infected country in the world behind the US, with over 11.5 confirmed infections so far (with the US now approaching the 30 million mark). Here’s the key controversial section from the 71-page document. The section is entitled “Combatting malignant influence in the Americas”…

“Examples include using OGA’s Health Attache office to persuade Brazil to reject the Russian COVID-19 vaccine,” the government report spelled out explicitly. Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has since claimed it never received directives or “consultations” such as are described in the report from the US, with a statement saying, “the Embassy of Brazil in Washington has not received consultations or actions from United States authorities or companies regarding the possible purchase, by Brazil, of the Russian vaccine against Covid-19.” Kremlin spokesman Peskov in his comments didn’t name the allegations specifically but only denounced generally that “In many countries the scale of pressure is quite unprecedented… such selfish attempts to force countries to abandon any vaccines have no prospects.

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“Cuomo is not liked and, now, not useful. If Biden becomes similarly expendable in the future, he may finally face the same kind of treatment.”

Biden Gets Away With Exactly What Cuomo Is Accused Of (Emmons)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been accused of unwanted touching and sexual harassment. President Joe Biden has been accused of everything from creepily sniffing women’s hair to sexual assault. Yet Biden is the one who gets the folksy treatment, perceived as merely touchy-feely, while Cuomo, despite his status as prince of the pandemic press conference, could be facing the end of his career. Prominent Democrats have called for the governor’s resignation over the scandal. Seven women now say they experienced unwanted touching at the governor’s hands. Cuomo claims he never did it, and apologized for making anyone feel bad. By his own admission, Cuomo may be a little handsy. He’s said that “You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people . . . it is my usual and customary way of greeting.”

The public is meant to believe that it’s simply part of his charm. Contrast this to Biden in 2019, who said “I’m not sorry for any of my intentions, I’m not sorry for anything that I have ever done. I have never been disrespectful intentionally or a man or a woman. So that’s not the reputation I’ve had since I was in high school for God’s sake.” Cuomo apologized and he’s going down. Biden refused to apologize, and he’s practically sanctified. “Social norms are changing. I understand that,” Biden said, “and I’ve heard what these women are saying. Politics to me has always been about making connections, but I will be more mindful about respecting personal space in the future. That’s my responsibility and I will meet it.”

But has he? He barely gave a glance at Tara Reade’s accusations, never mind the myriad other women who stepped forward to say that Biden made them uneasy either with touching or his penchant for sniffing. The charges against Biden are well-documented, but it’s Cuomo that’s in the hot seat, and Biden chilling in the Oval. A take down of Biden over sexual harassment charges is simply not politically expedient. But for Democrats, Cuomo has got to go. While they are loath to admit it, the outcry over the sexual harassment scandal is likely about something else. Cuomo is embarrassing for Democrats who praised him during the COVID-19 outbreak. An investigation by the attorney general’s office found that not only did the Cuomo administration undercount nursing home deaths by up to 50 percent, they did so on purpose in order to avoid political fallout.

The Democrats who are intent on hounding Cuomo out of office do not want the political fallout of the nursing home deaths. It’s easier to hold Cuomo’s hands to the fire over these allegations of unwanted touching than it is to deal with the intentional cover-up of elder deaths, in which they may find themselves to have been complicit. In short, Cuomo is not liked and, now, not useful. If Biden becomes similarly expendable in the future, he may finally face the same kind of treatment.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1371660114629849094

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Hirschhorn reached out to me after I published VandenBossche’s piece. I haven’t read his book -yet-. The video seems interesting.

Pandemic Blunder (Hirschhorn)

A huge amount of data and information not covered by mainstream media are in Pandemic Blunder that tells the story of how over 300,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 unnecessarily because the government has blocked early home treatment and prevention.  With 500,000 COVID deaths, learning about safe and effective early home treatment/prevention more important than ever. About the Book: Pandemic Blunder contains considerable medical information and data to support a number of proven safe, cheap generic medicines and protocols that knock out the coronavirus when given early. Read about the pioneering, courageous doctors who have been using innovative approaches to prevent their COVID patients from needing hospital care and facing death.

The book includes many expert opinions from doctors who support the view that 70 to 80 percent of COVID deaths could have been prevented—and still can be. Don’t be victimized by disinformation and propaganda from leftist media. Learn how corrupt forces are aiming to make billions of dollars from expensive medicines and vaccines, and how hundreds of thousands of deaths could have—and should have—been prevented! Pandemic blunder is defined as the failure of the United States public health system and federal agencies to support and promote early home/outpatient treatment for the COVID-19 pandemic disease. 

Considerable medical information and data convincingly show that when given early a number of proven safe, cheap generic medicines and protocols knock out the coronavirus. Early means within the first few days of getting symptoms or a positive test. Some pioneering and courageous doctors have been using innovative approaches to prevent their covid patients from needing hospital care and facing death. Many expert views of doctors support the view that 70 percent to 80 percent of covid deaths could have been prevented – and still can for future victims of the disease.  Learn how hundreds of thousands of deaths could have and should have been prevented.

This book does more than describe the pandemic blunder, particularly in terms of the influence of Dr. Anthony Fauci. It can help Americans protect their lives by not being victimized by disinformation and propaganda from leftist media.  Pandemic management has failed because of corrupt forces aiming to make billions of dollars from expensive medicines and vaccines. There has been a widespread dereliction of duty on the part of many local, state, and federal government officials.

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The virus is endemic. New variants will keep emerging.

New Covid-19 Variant Found In Brittany May Not Show Up In Regular Tests (RT)

France’s health ministry has warned that a new variant of Covid-19 found in the country’s north may evade conventional PCR testing, but initial analysis suggests it is not more contagious or deadly. On Monday, the Directorate General of Health (DGS) said in a press release that a new Covid-19 variant was being investigated after genomic sequencing confirmed the existence of 8 cases at a single hospital, where the new strain had been identified but had initially not shown up after PCR tests. The DGS said the new variant does not appear to be more contagious or deadly, although this is a very early assessment.


The statement adds that the virus appears to have evaded RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test results on nasopharyngeal samples. Instead, the diagnosis had to be made “by serology or by performing RT-PCR on deep respiratory samples.” The statement concludes by noting that the local authorities and prefectures are stepping up measures to curb the transmission of the virus, “as a precaution.” Measures include “speeding up vaccination, reminding people of the importance of social distancing and limiting gatherings.” In a message to healthcare professionals, the DGS said analysis carried out by the Pasteur Institute had revealed the new variant was “carrying nine mutations in the region encoding the S protein but also in other viral regions.”

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Freedom.

Why We All MUST Reject Vaccine Passports (Krainer)

The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but it is really fear.
– Mohandas Gandhi


To ‘normalize’ vaccine passports, the idea is increasingly being discussed in the media as we trudge on through the umpteenth version of lockdowns. On Saturday (13 March 2021) I got accosted by the police in Cap d’Ail (south of France) for the offense of taking my kids out in the sun without having a justificatif. I have long lost track of the ever changing rules and shifting logic, but I didn’t feel like arguing. The police were just doing their jobs, enforcing shitty rules that harass and antagonize people. For example, I would have been allowed to be where I was if it were a working day, but since it was Saturday, it was verboten. The objective of such rules is nothing to do with public health; they are intended to exasperate us all to the point where we yield to the indignity of vaccine passports when they are rolled out, just so we can live our lives and be left in peace.

Alexis de Tocqueville understood the nature of this dumb, slow march of bankers’ tyranny. In “Democracy in America” (1835) he predicted that the society would fall into a new kind of servitude which, “covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules,” which “does not tyrannise but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes and stupefies people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the sheppard.” De Tocqeville’s book was published mere two years after President Andrew Jackson ended the Second Bank of the United States, and the struggles between the bankers and the society was very pertinent to his observations.


The small complicated rules are a sinister trap and it is imperative that we not fall into it. Even if we are ready to yield on vaccines and vaccine passports to end our present predicament, our children and grandchildren will have to live with the consequences of our compromises. We therefore have no right to decline this struggle.

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Former chief investment officer of Sustainable Investing at BlackRock

Wall Street Is Greenwashing The Financial World (Fancy)

The financial services industry is duping the American public with its pro-environment, sustainable investing practices. This multitrillion dollar arena of socially conscious investing is being presented as something it’s not. In essence, Wall Street is greenwashing the economic system and, in the process, creating a deadly distraction. I should know; I was at the heart of it. As the former chief investment officer of Sustainable Investing at BlackRock, the largest asset manager in the world with $8.7 trillion in assets, I led the charge to incorporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) into our global investments. In fact, our messaging helped mainstream the concept that pursuing social good was also good for the bottom line. Sadly, that’s all it is, a hopeful idea. In truth, sustainable investing boils down to little more than marketing hype, PR spin and disingenuous promises from the investment community.

In many instances across the industry, existing mutual funds are cynically rebranded as “green” — with no discernible change to the fund itself or its underlying strategies — simply for the sake of appearances and marketing purposes. In other cases, ESG products contain irresponsible companies such as petroleum majors and other large polluters like “fast fashion” manufacturing to boost the fund’s performance. There are even portfolio managers who actively mine ESG data to bet against environmentally responsible companies in the name of profit, a short-selling strategy. Risk managers are focused on protecting their investment portfolios from potential damages done by a worsening climate rather than helping prevent that damage from occurring in the first place.


As disheartening as this reality is, claiming to be environmentally responsible is profitable. Last year alone, ESG mutual funds and exchange-traded funds nearly doubled. The investment community understandably reacted to this with cheers. But those cheers were only for fund managers and their bottom lines. No matter what they tout as green investing, portfolio managers are legally bound (as well as financially incentivized) to do nothing that compromises profits. To advance real change in the environment simply doesn’t yield the same return.

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Green New Deal.

US Joins India And China In Ramping Up Coal Usage (ZH)

Major users of coal across the world are set to ramp up their usage of the fossil fuel in coming months. Power plants in the U.S. are expected to consume 16% more coal this year than in 2020 and another 3% on top of that in 2022. China and India also have “no plans to cut back” their use of burning the fossil fueld. In fact, “it’ll almost be as if the pandemic-induced drop in emissions never happened,” Bloomberg reports. Inevitably, this will result in higher emissions, which stands at stark odds with the climate initiatives that President Joe Biden ran on. Amanda Levin, policy analyst at the New York-based National Resources Defense Council said: “We’re going to see a really marked increase in emissions with coal consumption at U.S. power plants returning almost to 2019 levels.”

She says that changes to mitigate usage could happen quickly if Biden implements his planned green-energy policies. In the U.S., the ramp comes as a result of both costlier natural gas, and a broad re-opening from the pandemic. For India and China, the steady use is indicative of growing demand, despite the fact that both countries are trying to use wind and solar, as well. China’s power consumption, for example, has grown, despite the country reducing coal’s share in the nation’s energy makeup. President Biden’s upcoming infrastructure bill is expected to include plans to “fulfill his campaign pledges on climate change, making the U.S. best poised to salvage progress in reducing global emissions,” Bloomberg reports. In China, President Xi Jinping has committed to net-zero emissions by 2060.

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It will be a long fight.

Courts Close In On Gig Economy Firms Globally (G.)

Gig economy companies, including Uber and Deliveroo, have faced at least 40 major legal challenges around the world as delivery drivers and riders try to improve their rights. The analysis of 39 employment cases, and seven linked cases on matters such as competition law, covers legal action in 20 countries including Australia, Chile, Brazil, South Korea, Canada and across Europe. The cases have been brought by gig economy workers seeking access to basic rights, such as minimum wages and sick pay. Put together by the International Lawyers Assisting Workers Network of more than 600 lawyers from at least 70 countries, the report highlights a string of court rulings in favour of drivers including in Italy, where authorities have fined Uber Eats, Glovo, Just Eat, and Deliveroo €733m (£628m) for misclassifying 60,000 couriers. That case is being appealed against.

A court in Spain ruled last year that drivers for food delivery firm Glovo were employees and the government in Madrid has since announced legislation confirming delivery riders’ status as salaried staff. In South Korea, a driver working via the Tada van hailing app was also ruled to be an employee. Last month, the UK supreme court dismissed Uber’s appeal against a landmark employment tribunal ruling that its drivers should be classed as workers with access to the minimum wage and paid holidays. On Tuesday night, Uber announced it will guarantee its 70,000 UK drivers a minimum hourly wage, holiday pay and pensions, in a dramatic u-turn which could put pressure on other gig economy firms to change tack.


Jeff Vogt, at the Washington DC based Solidarity Center workers rights group, said there was a clear trend towards recognising improved rights and employment status for those working for gig economy companies dealing with food delivery and taxi hire. “The courts are closing in on them,” he said. However, the report also warns that not all claims are successful and states must act to enforce the regulations as gig economy firms use their considerable resources to defend their practices. Tactics include contracts with mandatory arbitration clauses, which fend off legal action by forcing those with a grievance to pay costly administration and filing fees in the preliminary stages. This has proved a particular problem in the US.

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”..we have the technology to make hyperinflation safe, comfortable, convenient and fun for the whole family!”

Getting Hyperinflation Right (Dmitry Orlov)

The sheer mechanics of hyperinflation—of printing and issuing ever more notes, repeatedly exchanging older, increasingly worthless notes for newer ones, making payments using cartloads and wagonloads of cash—become increasingly burdensome. When it takes an entire suitcase of cash to pay for a pack of cigarettes or a bar of soap, soap and cigarettes themselves become a makeshift form of currency. Hyperinflation is most unpopular with people who insist on storing their savings in the form of cash. In response, they turn to buying up and hoarding other things, causing shortages and further driving up prices. But all of these problems can now be solved because we have the technology to make hyperinflation safe, comfortable, convenient and fun for the whole family!

However, this requires a change in mindset and a different approach to money. To start with, we need to recognize that money is not a physical quantity. It is dimensionless because it can only be measured relative to other currencies. Unlike any physical quantity, it is measured with infinite precision; any physical measurement, be it in kilograms, cubic meters or kilowatt-hours, has to have error bars on it to be meaningful, while monetary quantities, no matter how large, are precise down to the last penny. It is circularly defined: money derives its value from things that can be purchased with it, and these things in turn derive their price from the value of money.


Although money can be given a physical representation in the form of coins or paper currency, its essential nature is ephemeral, nonphysical and intangible. In essence, money only exists as pure thought in the minds of people who are involved in its exchange. Its physical embodiments are just theatrical props. Its reality is conceptual, similar to that of the irrational number π, which can also be given a physical representation—as, say, a one-meter-diameter circle carved in stone that has a circumference of π meters—but that would be pointless. Just as π is ubiquitous in mathematics, money is ubiquitous in economics.

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Mar 122021
 
 March 12, 2021  Posted by at 9:46 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  23 Responses »


Paul Gauguin Yellow haystacks (Golden harvest) 1889

 

The New COVID-19 Relief Bill Is Good, But Not Good Enough (Jac.)
The Rights Of The Naturally Immune (AIER)
Fauci Was ‘Blind To The Harms Of The Lockdowns’ That Didn’t Work Anyway (JTN)
Advisory Committee On Pandemic Needs Variety Of Experts, Not Just Doctors (K.)
Generation Threatened As Pandemic Sets Back Childhood Development (Barrons)
Sweden’s Failed Covid Strategy Leaves The Country Deeply Divided (Peroni)
These Seven States Have Dropped All Covid-19 Restrictions (F.)
EU Investigates 30 Reports Of Blood-clotting Linked To AstraZeneca jab (RT)
New York Assembly Speaker Lays Groundwork For Cuomo Impeachment (JTN)
1000s Of Illegal Immigrant Children Penned In ‘Facilities Akin To Jails’ (JTN)
House Price Inflation in CPI is of Course Complete Baloney, But … (WS)
China Is Winning The Great 21st Century Tech War (Chang)
Journalists Start Demanding Substack Censor its Writers (Greenwald)
The Golden Question — Time vs Money (Ren.)

 

 

 

 

BIDEN: “If we do our part… by July 4, there’s a good chance you, your families, and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout or a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day… Small groups will be able to get together”

 

 

 

 

“..the party avoided including any measures that might generate significant opposition from powerful corporate lobbies in Washington. ”

The New COVID-19 Relief Bill Is Good, But Not Good Enough (Jac.)

When Joe Biden signs the American Rescue Plan (ARP) on Friday, he will prove that the Democratic Party is finally willing — at least for a moment — to turn on the money hose and for once aim it not at Wall Street moguls, but instead at the raging wildfire of poverty and desperation incinerating the poor and middle class. That’s the very good news. The bad news is that the party’s COVID-19 relief bill also indicates that Biden might have been serious when he promised a room full of wealthy donors that nothing would fundamentally change about the macro-economy’s structure. Democrats did not use the must-pass bill to make essential, long-term changes to protect Americans against future emergencies. Instead, the party avoided including any measures that might generate significant opposition from powerful corporate lobbies in Washington.

Even worse, the ARP could make it far more difficult to enact structural changes in the health care sector that has been at the center of the pandemic and that helped make our country so uniquely unprepared for such a threat in the first place. To be sure, the package is a necessary rejection of austerity politics that have dominated Democratic politics since Bill Clinton promised in 1996 that “the era of big government is over” and since Joe Biden proudly cast himself as a deficit hawk in juxtaposition to his party’s New Deal tradition. This tectonic shift has been abrupt: When Democrats held a whopping fifty-eight Senate seats during the 2009 recession, Barack Obama listened to austerians like Lawrence Summers and passed a wholly inadequate $787 billion stimulus bill.

By contrast, with Democrats only holding fifty Senate seats amid the COVID crisis, Biden rejected Summers’s and his acolytes, and passed a $1.9 trillion bill.Biden only begrudgingly arrived at his current position. In August 2020, his campaign was telling reporters that “the pantry is going to be bare” and deficits meant “we’re going to be limited” in being able to spend any money at all. Then, in December, the New York Times reported that Biden was urging Democratic lawmakers to accept a COVID-19 aid package that included no direct aid checks at all.

After promising voters in Georgia that $2,000 checks “will go out the door immediately,” Biden quickly downgraded the amount to $1,400. The White House also entertained sharply limiting eligibility for those checks and cutting off payments to forty million Americans who received them in previous bills. (The final legislation wasn’t quite as draconian: it only penalized eleven million people.) The larger shift against this kind of austerity, then, reflects progressive pressure successfully shifting the terms of the budget debate away from the deficit scolds and away from Biden’s own previous ideology.

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Those rights are being vaccinated away. That makes the virus more dangerous.

The Rights Of The Naturally Immune (AIER)

There is an important issue that, in the midst of all the talk of vaccines, has not gotten nearly the attention it deserves: the civil rights of those who have already developed natural immunity to the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that is said to cause Covid. Yesterday, I got the results of the test I took to detect whether I had developed a T-Cell response to the virus. Like the antibody test I took almost 2 months ago, it was positive. These two things would appear to demonstrate that for all intents and purposes my body knew exactly what to do with this virus and that it probably has the equipment to dispose of it again were it, or one of its cousins, to revisit me in the near-to-medium term. And even if one or another related strain were to visit me in that future, studies suggest strongly that the attack would be considerably less virulent than the one I overcame without excessive trouble in December.

In a halfway rational world, what to do going forward in regard to getting a vaccine for the SARS-CoV-2 virus would be something I’d discuss with my doctor in the discreet quarters of the examination room. Were it to be offered, I would politely refuse it. And he, seeing the test evidence in my file, would raise no objection. And since the danger to me in the future from the virus is minuscule, and the science has clearly borne out what Fauci and Maria Van Kerkhove of the WHO flatly said was true before someone upstairs got to them—that asymptomatic transmission of respiratory diseases of this type is virtually nonexistent—I’d be free to live my life as I pleased without a mask, and with complete freedom of movement. But instead of this, I am facing enormous pressure to get a vaccine in order to recover my basic rights as a citizen.

And even then, those in charge are saying, I will still have to run around with a completely useless, breath-robbing and personality-canceling mask on my face. And all this for a disease that, even before the introduction of vaccines, gave those infected by it a roughly 997.5 out of 1,000 chance of survival. The civil authorities have decided, in effect, that fully indemnified pharmaceutical companies, whose pasts are obscenely littered with fraud, and the calculated creation of crises in order to up revenues on their products (OxyContin anyone?), have the de facto “right” to force me to take an experimental vaccine that, in the very, very best of circumstances, will only match what my apparently well-functioning body has already given me without any side effects.

And this, while straight out telling me that even if I submit to their government-coerced medical experiment I will probably still not get my full constitutional rights back. This is an important issue that needs to be addressed much more vigorously than has been the case up until now.

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Don’t let a virologist with large ties to Big Pharma run your country for a whole year.

Fauci Was ‘Blind To The Harms Of The Lockdowns’ That Didn’t Work Anyway (JTN)

Stanford University Professor of Medicine Jay Bhattacharya has been arguing for months that coronavirus lockdowns ultimately cause far more harm than good. As a co-author of the Great Barrington Declaration, he has been advocating an alternative to the public health establishment’s comprehensively restrictive COVID-19 mitigation policies — a strategy known as “focused protection,” which would instead tailor protective measures to the elderly and other high-risk groups while minimizing harm to the larger society by allowing those at lower risk to resume a semblance of their normal lives. Now Bhattacharya and the other signatories to the declaration may have received some empirical support from an unlikely source — a little-remarked new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the very epicenter of the pro-lockdown public health establishment.

While the study trumpets its findings of statistical correlations of mask mandates and in-person dining bans with better outcomes for coronavirus case rates and death rates, the positive effects reported were decidedly modest in scale. Bhattacharya, who spoke with Just the News earlier this week, said that despite clear evidence that “lockdowns haven’t worked to stem the pandemic,” he sees a “strange desire to continue the lockdown,” especially in the upper echelons of the federal government. In Bhattacharya’s view, Biden administration chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci and other top public health officials have failed to view the risks to a subset of the U.S. population in the indispensable context of risks to the larger population produced by drastic mitigation policies like socially and economically stultifying lockdowns that blanketed much of the country over the past year.

“Part of the problem for Dr. Fauci,” Bhattacharya said, “is that he is blind to the harms of the lockdown … He seems not to understand that the lockdown creates all kinds of physical problems, psychological problems, harms that I’ve never seen him talk about.” Among the issues to which Bhattacharya alludes are rises in child abuse, depression, and divorce rates. Not to mention the large swaths of the American economy that have been decimated, and countless small businesses that will never reopen. Many of the pandemic restrictions didn’t “actually have any effect on slowing the pandemic or protecting people,” Bhattacharya asserted. “They were just indiscriminate closures that essentially protected the ‘Zoom class’ — the people who could afford to stay at home — while exposing the working class, other poor people and the vulnerable.”

[..] Beyond mask mandates (which he has previously said do not work to slow the spread of the disease) and restaurant closures, though, Bhattacharya says that the “single biggest problem” America is going to see as a result of a year of lockdowns “is the harm to children.” “There’s one estimate that the closure of schools will cause almost five and a half million life years lost to our children,” he said. “That’s because, if you’re less well-educated, you live a less healthy life, you live a less long life, it has this ripple effect that lasts forever.”

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From Greece. Dysfunctional.

Advisory Committee On Pandemic Needs Variety Of Experts, Not Just Doctors (K.)

The existing committee of experts advising the government on the pandemic must reshape to add experts from different research disciplines instead of one to become more efficient, according to a professor on Friday. Manolis Dermitzakis, professor of genetics at the University of Geneva, told Skai television that, in the first wave of the pandemic, the decisions for the committee were simple. It only had to decide whether some activities should open or close, while the public largely complied with the restrictive measures. But the complexity of the situation as the pandemic continued from the summer onwards was so great that a commission which includes only doctors could not function.


Dermitzakis also argued that the panel must have fewer members. “A committee that has 30-40 members and consists only of doctors cannot function,” he said. “It is a moment when we have to say that this committee is tired, perhaps it has passed the point where it can function. Maybe some of its members could continue to be useful, but what is needed is interdisciplinarity, that is, many different experts and a fewer people – five not 30.” Dermitzakis also said he supported the reopening of schools, stores and outdoor eating venues.

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“The number of children who are hungry, isolated, abused, anxious, living in poverty and forced into marriage has increased..”

Generation Threatened As Pandemic Sets Back Childhood Development (Barrons)

Closed schools, surging poverty, forced marriages and depression — after a year of the pandemic, indicators measuring child and adolescent development have all regressed, a setback that heralds lasting stigma for an entire generation, UNICEF has warned. “The number of children who are hungry, isolated, abused, anxious, living in poverty and forced into marriage has increased,” Henrietta Fore, executive director of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, said in a statement released exactly one year since the World Health Organization classified Covid-19 as a pandemic. “Their access to education, socialization and essential services including health, nutrition and protection has decreased. The signs that children will bear the scars of the pandemic for years to come are unmistakable,” Fore said in the statement.


Faced with such “devastating” effects, Fore urged for children to be placed “at the heart of recovery efforts,” particularly by “prioritizing schools in reopening plans.” UNICEF cited a series of worrying figures in support of Fore’s words. While the pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the elderly, children and adolescents under 20 make up 13 percent of the 71 million coronavirus cases reported in the 107 countries that provided age-specific data. In developing countries, projections show a 15 percent increase in child poverty. Six to seven million more children could suffer from malnourishment in 2020, an increase of 14 percent that could translate to more than 10,000 additional deaths per month, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

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‘opinion corridor’

Sweden’s Failed Covid Strategy Leaves The Country Deeply Divided (Peroni)

Sweden, a bastion of welfare and one of the countries that scores highest on pretty much anything to do with the wellbeing of its inhabitants, seems to have woken up to a serious identity crisis.The choice to adopt and follow a COVID-19 strategy unlike any other in Europe has recently led to an extreme polarization in an otherwise rather homogenous public debate. Statistics prove beyond a shadow of doubt that the other Scandinavian countries, which enforced much stricter policies, have suffered considerably fewer losses. Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, who firmly opposed face masks and believed that measures should rely only on the Swedish people’s sense of personal responsibility, enjoyed overwhelming support in the early phases of the crisis.

Fan pages, mostly on Facebook, counted tens of thousands of members. His face featured on T-shirts, gadgets and even a tattoo, worn on the arm by one of his proudest admirers. The alluring message that Sweden’s approach was right and everybody else’s self-isolation regime was hopelessly wrong reached well beyond the nation’s borders. In other European countries, staunch critics of lockdowns pointed at footage of happy, bare-faced Swedes hanging out in crowded bars as evidence that the draconian measures imposed elsewhere were an unnecessary violation of civil rights. The Swedish model became a symbol for anti-lockdown and no-mask movements across the world. But now, one year after the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in Scandinavia, the situation has changed dramatically.

Sweden’s Public Health Agency recently announced that several among its key figures have been granted police protection. Tegnell himself is currently enduring massive criticism and even death threats. In one instance, a citizen went so far as to argue that he should be “executed by a firing squad on live state television”. And yet, despite the fact that both King Carl XVI Gustaf and prime minister Stefan Löfven in December publicly acknowledged that the Swedish approach had failed, Tegnell has never retracted anything, let alone made an official apology. Until very recently, an astounding, near total lack of criticism, not only from public opinion but even from major opposition parties, characterised Sweden’s COVID. This might be due to the so-called åsiktskorridor (‘opinion corridor’). This is a Swedish concept meaning that the public debate tends to take place within certain limits, along an established path. Those who disagree, often choose not to speak out. They feel out of tune with the rest of society.

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Inevitable.

These Seven States Have Dropped All Covid-19 Restrictions (F.)

Oklahoma became the latest to lift virtually all Covid-19 restrictions on Thursday, bringing the total number of states that have chosen to fully reopen—despite warnings from public health officials—to seven, with a number of others also moving in that direction.

Oklahoma: Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) said he will be signing an executive order on Friday that will roll back his few remaining coronavirus restrictions, removing limits on events and public gatherings, as well as the state-wide mask mandate (the state averaged 643 cases and 23.9 deaths each day over the past week).

Wyoming: Gov. Mark Gordon (R) announced March 8 that the state would repeal its statewide mask mandate and allow “bars, restaurants, theaters and gyms to resume normal operations” on March 16, but stipulated face masks will remain mandatory inside the state’s schools (the state averaged 7,343 cases and 1.3 deaths each day over the past week).

Texas: The largest state to remove all restrictions, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced on March 2 that Texas would be nixing its mask mandate and allowing businesses to reopen “100%” this Wednesday, banning jurisdictions from implementing local mask mandates unless they meet certain hospitalization metrics (the state averaged 4,909 cases and 189.9 deaths each day over the past week).

Mississippi: Gov. Tate Reeves (R) also decided to drop the state’s mask mandate and all Covid-19 restrictions on March 2, with the limits lifted the next day (the state averaged 396 cases and 14.6 deaths each day over the past week).

Montana: Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) announced the end of Montana’s mask mandate on Feb. 12, removing the last of the state’s restrictions, though some local jurisdictions have kept face covering requirements in place (the state averaged 129 cases and 2 deaths each day over the past week).

North Dakota: The state opted not to renew its mask mandate, first enacted in November, when it expired in January 2021, ending North Dakota’s restrictions (the state averaged 78 cases and 0.4 deaths each day over the past week).

Iowa: Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) ended the last of the state’s restrictions, the mask mandate issued in November 2020, in early February (the state averaged 481 cases and 14.4 deaths each day over the past week).

All seven of the states that have fully reopened are run by Republican governors. A number of other states have also significantly rolled back restrictions this month, but haven’t gone as far as the above states in eliminating both statewide mask mandates and limits on businesses. Connecticut and West Virginia, for example, have both lifted limits on most businesses, but kept their mask mandates, with Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) noting: “This is not Texas, this is not Mississippi.” South Carolina has dropped some of its mandatory mask requirements, though the state never had a full mandate, and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said he will remove his state’s mask mandate if hospitalizations rates and test positivity is below a certain threshold when it’s set to end on March 31.

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“thromboembolic events.”

EU Investigates 30 Reports Of Blood-clotting Linked To AstraZeneca jab (RT)

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Thursday that it was investigating after two people inoculated from the same batch of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine died from blood clotting and several countries stopped using the jabs. The inquiry comes after Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Latvia all suspended their rollouts of the AstraZeneca vaccine over fears that they may induce blood clotting – known medically as “thromboembolic events.” “There is currently no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions, which are not listed as side effects with this vaccine,” the EMA said in a statement, adding that its own risk assessment committee was investigating the matter.


As of March 10, there were 30 cases of thromboembolic events reported out of the 5 million people to have received the AstraZeneca jab so far in the European Economic Area, the EMA said in an update on Thursday. The agency also stressed that the vaccine’s “benefits continue to outweigh its risks.” A 60-year-old woman in Denmark died from blood clotting after she received an AstraZeneca jab from batch ABV5300, Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten reported on Thursday. On Wednesday, it was reported that a 49-year-old nurse in Austria who was vaccinated from the same batch died from multiple thrombosis 10 days after her jab. Another woman in Austria was hospitalized with a pulmonary embolism after she received one of the batch’s 1 million doses that were sent to 17 different EU countries.

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Drip.

New York Assembly Speaker Lays Groundwork For Cuomo Impeachment (JTN)

The speaker of New York’s state Assembly has asked that its Judiciary Committee begin an investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which would be the first in moving toward an impeachment of the Democratic governor. Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat, during a closed-door meeting strongly recommended launching the probe during a private meeting of select Assembly Democrats, and again during a meeting of the entire party conference, multiple sources told The New York Post. Heastie said the committee should examine the accusations that Cuomo groped and sexually harassed several female aides and his administration’s alleged cover-up of the total number of nursing home deaths from COVID-19, at least one of the sources told the newspaper.

The news report came after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday called for Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, to resign after a sixth woman accused him of sexual misconduct. “It is disgusting to me,” de Blasio said during a press conference. “He can no longer serve as governor. It’s as simple as that. Anna Ruch, a former Biden 2020 campaign worker, told The New York Times this month that the governor made unwanted sexual advances toward her after they met at a wedding in New York City in 2019. She also accused Cuomo, 63, of kissing her without her permission, even as she tried to pull away. Ruch said the encounter left her “confused and shocked and embarrassed.” Another accuser, Charlotte Bennett, a former Cuomo aide, alleges that the governor inquired about her sex life and asked her whether she would be amenable to a relationship with an older man.

And another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, said Cuomo “made inappropriate comments about her appearance, kissed her without her consent at the end of a meeting and once suggested they play strip poker while aboard his state-owned jet,” the Associated Press reported. Three more women have made similar allegations. The latest woman said the governor groped her last year at the executive mansion after she had called there to do some work. She said she was alone with the governor in the mansion when he “closed the door and allegedly reached under her blouse and began to fondle her,” a source told the Albany Times Union. The incident has not been corroborated.

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Where is the press? Where is AOC?

1000s Of Illegal Immigrant Children Penned In ‘Facilities Akin To Jails’ (JTN)

The Biden administration has reportedly penned thousands of illegal immigrant children in federal facilities following a massive surge of immigration at the southern U.S. border — a striking reversal from the anguished immigration rhetoric of the Biden-Harris campaign, which mourned it as a “national shame” when “children are locked away in overcrowded detention centers and the government seeks to keep them there indefinitely.” Immigration officials are reportedly holding more than 3,200 migrant children, many of them in “facilities akin to jails,” according to the New York Times. Multiple media outlets reported that many of the detained children were being held past the statutory deadline for such detainment, and in shelters that were originally built to house adults.

The detention crisis comes as border patrol agents have been contending with a major surge of illegal immigration activity along the southern border. According to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s most recent statistics, the U.S. Border Patrol logged 285,217 “encounters” at U.S. borders through January of fiscal year 2021. That’s roughly 70% of the total for all of fiscal year 2020 in just three months. The Border Patrol claimed last week that the agency is on track to arrest a “record number” of immigrant sex offenders this year. Agents in Laredo, Texas, meanwhile, have multiple times this month apprehended over one hundred illegal immigrants over short periods of time.

Much of the surge is likely driven by immigrants hoping the Biden administration will show leniency toward immigrants seeking entry into the country and/or asylum. During his presidential campaign, Biden famously criticized the Trump administration’s relatively tough immigration policy, vowing a more compassionate approach to dealing with both legal and illegal immigrants. The current mass detention of child immigrants, on the other hand, presents a sobering challenge to both the Biden administration and to immigration advocates who hoped for a major shift under Biden in how the U.S. deals with illegal entries across the southern border.

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CPI is of Course Complete Baloney, But

House Price Inflation in CPI is of Course Complete Baloney, But … (WS)

For most Americans, housing costs are the largest item in their budget, ranging from 30% to 60% of their total monthly spending. In its Consumer Price Index (CPI) for February, released yesterday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the costs of homeownership (which the BLS calls “Owner’s equivalent rent of residence”) have increased by just 2.0% from a year ago, and that rents (“rent of primary residence”) have increased by 2.0%. They’re the biggest items among the 211 items in the CPI basket and together account for about one-third of overall CPI. They play a huge role in CPI. So… Rent inflation of 2.0% year-over-year on average across the US might be roughly on target, from what I can see in other rental data. But homeowner’s inflation of just 2.0%, given the skyrocketing home prices? Ludicrous. In its latest release, the Case-Shiller National Home Price index jumped by 10.4%.


This discrepancy between home price increases and the CPI for homeowners – which has for years contributed to understating the overall CPI – is depicted in the chart of the Case-Shiller National Home Price Index (red line) and the CPI for “owner’s equivalent rent of residence” (black line). I set the homeowners CPI at 100 for January 2000 to match the Case-Shiller index, which is set by default at 100 for January 2000. This allows you to see the progression of both indices on the same axis. The “owner’s equivalent rent of residence” accounts for 24.2% of CPI. If it had increased by 10.4%, in line with the Case-Shiller index, instead of 2.0%, the overall CPI would have increased by 2.03 percentage points more. So add the 2.03 percentage points to the reported overall CPI increase of 1.7%. And the thus corrected overall CPI would have shot up by 3.7%!

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The real WWIII?

China Is Winning The Great 21st Century Tech War (Chang)

At the ongoing “Two Sessions” in Beijing, the Communist Party has publicly told us how it will accomplish its ambitious goal. If the Chinese ruling party succeeds, the rest of the 21st century will be painted only in shades of red. Fortunately, America is beginning to mobilize itself. Americans, however, need to act, immediately. Tech is the real arms race of our era. On March 5, at the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp legislature, Premier Li Keqiang announced the 14th Five-Year Plan, which begins this year. China, pursuant to the plan, will increase spending 7% per year to achieve “major breakthroughs” in areas of “frontier technology.” Specifically, the country, will devote resources to artificial intelligence; quantum information; semiconductors; brain science; genomics and biotech; clinical medicine and health; and deep space, deep sea, and deep earth.


Moreover, Beijing is also talking about the Sci-Tech Innovation 2030 Agenda and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035. Officials are silent when it comes to Xi Jinping’s now-notorious Made in China 2025 initiative — the plan is on its face a violation of the country’s trade obligations — but there is no question that the effort remains underway nonetheless. China is going all-in on what Wang Zhigang, the head of the Ministry of Science and Technology, called the development of a “new ecology” for innovation. In that ecology, China has been able to lead the world in important areas, such as “unhackable” quantum communications. Moreover, the country is not far behind — if it is behind at all — in quantum computing and artificial intelligence.

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Glad I have a platform.

Journalists Start Demanding Substack Censor its Writers (Greenwald)

On Wednesday, I wrote about how corporate journalists, realizing that the public’s increasing contempt for what they do is causing people to turn away in droves, are desperately inventing new tactics to maintain their stranglehold over the dissemination of information and generate captive audiences. That is why journalists have bizarrely transformed from their traditional role as leading free expression defenders into the the most vocal censorship advocates, using their platforms to demand that tech monopolies ban and silence others. That same motive of self-preservation is driving them to equate any criticisms of their work with “harassment,” “abuse” and “violence” — so that it is not just culturally stigmatized but a banning offense, perhaps even literally criminal, to critique their journalism on the ground that any criticism of them places them “in danger.”

Under this rubric they want to construct, they can malign anyone they want, ruin people’s reputations, and unite to generate hatred against their chosen targets, but nobody can even criticize them. Any independent platform or venue that empowers other journalists or just ordinary citizens to do reporting or provide commentary outside of their repressive constraints is viewed by them as threats to be censored and destroyed. Every platform that enables any questioning of their pieties or any irreverent critiques of mainstream journalism — social media sites, YouTube, Patreon, Joe Rogan’s Spotify program — has already been systematically targeted by corporate journalists with censorship demands, often successfully.

Back in November, the media critic Stephen Miller warned: “It’s only a matter of time before the media tech hall monitors turn their attention to Substack.” And ever since, in every interview I have given about the success of Substack and every time I have written about journalist-led censorship campaigns, I have echoed that warning that they would soon turn their united guns on this platform. Miller’s prediction was prompted by a Columbia Journalism Review article entitled “The Substackerati” which claimed that Substack was structurally unfair because “most” of “the most successful people on Substack” are “white and male; several are conservative” and “have already been well-served by existing media power structures.”

All of that was false. The most-read and highest-earning writer on Substack is Heather Cox Richardson, a previously obscure Boston College History Professor who built her own massive readership without ever working at a corporate media outlet. And the writers that article identified in support of its claim — Matt Taibbi, Andrew Sullivan, Matt Yglesias and myself — do not remotely owe our large readerships to “existing media power structures.”

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“My grandfather would get home from work [and the family]… would sit around the dinner table, and have a conversation”, says Skoyles. “Nobody can be making money from that. Maybe they’d sit and listen to the radio…[which is]…something that’s already been paid for. Nobody can really be making any more money from that.”

The Golden Question — Time vs Money (Ren.)

In a capitalist society the pressure people have to do more, quickly, runs up against a number of problems. As Jan Skoyles acknowledges, the ‘time is money’ paradigm not only inhibits the creative process but, perhaps counter-intuitively, also undermines efficiency: “I think we see that often with governments”, says Skoyles. “They have a four or five year window. They think they have to achieve things quickly [but]…actually nothing’s really achieved in the end….We also have to think about how our time is becoming increasingly an economic activity…Even when we’re in our homes people can be using our time for their own financial gain.” Skoyles illustrates how much more economic value is extracted from the technologically more advanced societies of today compared to the traditional, stable ‘nuclear families’ of the past:

“My grandfather would get home from work [and the family]… would sit around the dinner table, and have a conversation”, says Skoyles. “Nobody can be making money from that. Maybe they’d sit and listen to the radio…[which is]…something that’s already been paid for. Nobody can really be making any more money from that. Now we’ll get home from work, we’ll sit around the table, we’ll hopefully have a conversation, but nine times out of ten someone’s got their phone out.” Consequently, data companies, advertisers, websites and Amazon are all making money [on the back of it]. “You’re constantly being advertised to and listened to and so our time is actually becoming increasingly valuable. But at the same time more and more decisions are being made for us which have a bigger impact”, claims Skoyles.

As the analyst acknowledges, with reference to Brexit, this comes with not only financial but also health costs: “People are stressed — that’s money in itself. So I think ‘time is money’ is definitely becoming more and more of an economic concept than I think it’s ever been.” A capitalist system that’s wrapped up in an ethos in which time and money increasingly overlap and which the notion of being busy is fetishized, imbues a sense of guilt for those who are not busy. Skoyles explains the phenomenon with reference to the ‘new mum’ perspective: “Everyone works more than an eight hour day. But if you had a full time job beforehand and then you go to looking after this little baby and it needs you, the fact that you’re focused on one thing — which to many people that’s the most important job in the world — but.. you feel quite guilty that that’s all you’ve been doing all day.”

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deserve respect. If you
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can nudge the world
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fed chairs

 

 

 

 

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Feb 062021
 


Giovanni Battista Tiepolo Allegory of the Planets and Continents 1752

 

New Covid Strains ‘May Even Escape The Immune Response’ – Biden Advisor (CNBC)
Domestic Violence Is a Pandemic Within the COVID-19 Pandemic (Time)
YouTube Censors Senate Testimony From Doctor On Possible Covid Drug (Turley)
Biden Revokes Terrorist Designation For Yemen’s Houthis (Fox)
Biden: Trump Should No Longer Receive Classified Intelligence Briefings (CNN)
Trump’s Decision Not To Testify Is Not Evidence Of His Guilt (Turley)
The Fire This Time (Kunstler)
Sanders Says He Never Intended To Raise Minimum Wage To $15 During Pandemic (JTN)
EU Parliament Snubs Anti-Corruption Researchers (EUO)
Ecuador Gov’t Scrambles to Privatize the Central Bank Before Elections (MPN)
Nevada Bill Would Allow Tech Companies To Create Governments (AP)
The WEF’s Simulation of a Coming “Cyber Pandemic” (Webb/Vedmore)

 

 

 

 

Not sure what to make of this. Is she just selling vaccines?

New Covid Strains ‘May Even Escape The Immune Response’ – Biden Advisor (CNBC)

A member of the Biden-Harris Transition Covid Advisory Board warned about the highly transmissible new Covid variants and vaccine resistance during a Thursday evening interview on CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith.” “They’re more virulent, can cause more death, and some of them may even escape the immune response, whether it’s natural or from the vaccine,” said Dr. Celine Gounder. “So it’s really important right now that we do everything possible to preserve the vaccines to make sure they keep working and that means preventing the spread of these new variants.” Three highly contagious mutations of Covid have been detected in at least 33 states across the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers say these highly transmissible variants could prolong the pandemic and potentially create another surge. Projections out of the CDC even predict the U.K. variant to be the dominant variant in the U.S. by March. Gounder, an epidemiologist at NYU, told host Shepard Smith that she’s “concerned” that people will let their guards down in March and that it could potentially lead to another surge. “That’s a time when you might have some families taking spring break, so you would have the additive effect of, again, a holiday where people might be socializing, not taking all the safety measures, on top of this far more contagious variant,” warned Gounder.

Johnson & Johnson announced that it filed emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for its coronavirus vaccine. Last week it released data showing it was about 66% effective in protecting against the virus. If J&J’s application is approved, it would be the third vaccine in the arsenal authorized for emergency use in the U.S. behind vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Unlike the other two shots, however, the J&J vaccine only requires one shot and requires basic refrigeration for storage.

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“The abuser says, ‘You can’t go out; you’re not going anywhere,’ and the government also is saying, ‘You have to stay in.’”

Domestic Violence Is a Pandemic Within the COVID-19 Pandemic (Time)

Growing evidence shows the pandemic has made intimate partner violence more common—and often more severe. “COVID doesn’t make an abuser,” says Jacky Mulveen, project manager of Women’s Empowerment and Recovery Educators (WE:ARE), an advocacy and support group in Birmingham, England. “But COVID exacerbates it. It gives them more tools, more chances to control you. The abuser says, ‘You can’t go out; you’re not going anywhere,’ and the government also is saying, ‘You have to stay in.’” That was Sheila’s experience. “The abuse was going to happen anyway,” she says. “Having the excuse of there’s nowhere to go, there’s nothing to do, didn’t help.”

Surveys around the world have shown domestic abuse spiking since January of 2020—jumping markedly year over year compared to the same period in 2019. According to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine and the United Nations group U.N. Women, when the pandemic began, incidents of domestic violence increased 300% in Hubei, China; 25% in Argentina, 30% in Cyprus, 33% in Singapore and 50% in Brazil. The U.K., where calls to domestic violence hotlines have soared since the pandemic hit, was particularly shaken in June by the death of Amy-Leanne Stringfellow, 26, a mother of one and a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, allegedly at the hands of her 45-year-old boyfriend.

In the U.S., the situation is equally troubling, with police departments reporting increases in cities around the country: for example, 18% in San Antonio, 22% in Portland, Ore.; and 10% in New York City, according to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine. One study in the journal Radiology reports that at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, radiology scans and superficial wounds consistent with domestic abuse from March 11 to May 3 of this year exceeded the totals for the same period in 2018 and 2019 combined. And as the pandemic has dragged on, so too has the abuse. Just as the disease continues to claim more lives, quarantine-linked domestic violence is claiming more victims—and not just women in heterosexual relationships. Intimate partner violence occurs in same-sex couples at rates equal to or even higher than the rates in opposite sex partners.

What’s more, the economic challenges of the pandemic have hit same-sex couples especially hard, with members of the LGBTQ community likelier to be employed in highly affected industries like education, restaurants, hospitals and retail, according to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. That means higher stress and, concomitantly, the higher risk that that stress will explode into violence. As with so many things, communities of color are affected more severely as well, with systemic inequities often meaning lower income and less access to social and private services. “While one in three white women report having experienced domestic violence [during the pandemic], the rates of abuse increased dramatically to about 50% and higher for those marginalized by race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, citizenship status, and cognitive physical ability,” says Erika Sussman, executive director of the Center for Survivor Advocacy and Justice (CSAJ), a support and research organization.

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Turley noticed what happened right after I posted the Pierre Kory video -again- in last week’s Criminal COVID Negligence. A few hours later it was gone. I replaced it with a Kory video from Vimeo. Easy. Still, censoring Senate hearings should be out of the question for Big Tech.

YouTube Censors Senate Testimony From Doctor On Possible Covid Drug (Turley)

We have have been discussing how writers, editors, commentators, and academics have embraced rising calls for censorship and speech controls, including President-elect Joe Biden and his key advisers. The erosion of free speech has been radically accelerated by the Big Tech and social media companies, including YouTube. Now YouTube has censored actual testimony given to the United States Senate by Dr. Pierre Kory, who was testifying on different drug treatment. So now these companies are going to censor what was told to the government and decide what viewers will be allowed to consider from the public debate. It is a continuation of the movement to prevent people from hearing opposing views and to control what is shared or discussed in a growing attack on free speech.

YouTube removed two videos from a December 8th hearing before the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. It featured Kory who discussed the use of Ivermectin as a potential treatment for Covid-19, particularly in the early stages. It is a drug that treats tropical diseases caused by parasites. Kory was calling for a review by National Institutes of Health on trials for the drug. Ultimately, it does appear that the NIH did change the status of the drug. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) has said that the videos were blocked on his account, including Kory’s testimony. The Federalist maintained that YouTube removed the videos to the platform’s COVID-19 Medical Misinformation Policy. That policy stipulates that anything which goes against “local health authorities’ or the WHO medical information about COVID-19” will be removed.

I can hardly shed light on the merits of the medical debate but this is the censoring of an actual Senate hearing that is so disturbing. YouTube is preventing citizens from watching testimony on an issue of national importance. It is an example of the slippery slope of censorship and how such speech regulation becomes an insatiable appetite for many. [..] There is ample ability of people to challenge such testimony. However, many do not want to engage in a debate. They want to silence others and control what fellow citizens are allowed to consider. In the meantime, hosts on CNN are assuring people that they do not have to call such acts censorship but “harm reduction.” Sen. Richard Blumenthal recently calling for “robust content modification” on the Internet. Those voices of censorship are only growing stronger in the United States.

Indeed, in the wake of the Capitol riot, Democratic members and others are calling for a crackdown on free speech and punitive actions for those viewed as complicit with Trump. What is striking is how censorship, blacklists, and speech controls are being repackaged as righteous and virtuous. Indeed, the failure to sign such anti-free speech screeds is a precarious choice for many as writers and publishers call for blacklists. We are watching the most successful campaign against free speech in the history of the United States. It is being supported by many in the media and academia. If we allow companies like YouTube to succeed in such speech controls, true free speech could become a quaint historical relic in the United States.

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Sounds okay, but this whole thing started when he was VP. And he can still bomb the crap out of them.

Biden Revokes Terrorist Designation For Yemen’s Houthis (Fox)

President Joe Biden’s administration is moving to revoke the designation of Yemen’s Houthis as a terrorist group, citing the need to mitigate one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. President Donald Trump’s administration had branded the Iranian-backed Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization, a move that limited the provision of aid to the beleaguered Yemeni people, who have suffered under a yearslong civil war and famine. A senior State Department official confirmed the move Friday after members of Congress were notified of the administration’s plans. The official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the removal changed nothing about the Biden administration’s views of the Houthis, who have targeted civilians and kidnapped Americans.


“Our action is due entirely to the humanitarian consequences of this last-minute designation from the prior administration, which the United Nations and humanitarian organizations have since made clear would accelerate the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” the official said. The move comes a day after Biden announced an end to offensive support to Saudi Arabia’s campaign against the Houthis. The Obama administration in 2015 gave its approval to Saudi Arabia leading a cross-border air campaign targeting Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who were seizing ever more territory, including Sanaa. The Houthis have launched multiple drone and missile strikes deep into Saudi Arabia. The U.S. says the Saudi-led campaign has entrenched Iran’s role in the conflict, on the side of the Houthis.

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Obama kept getting the intelligence briefings while he was colluding with intelligence against Trump.

Biden: Trump Should No Longer Receive Classified Intelligence Briefings (CNN)

President Joe Biden doesn’t believe former President Donald Trump should receive classified intelligence briefings, as is tradition for past presidents, citing Trump’s “erratic behavior unrelated to the insurrection.” When asked in an interview with “CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell if he thought Trump should receive an intelligence briefing if he requested one, Biden said, “I think not.” “I’d rather not speculate out loud,” Biden said when asked what he fears could happen if Trump continued to receive the briefings. “I just think that there is no need for him to have the — the intelligence briefings. What value is giving him an intelligence briefing? What impact does he have at all, other than the fact he might slip and say something?”


Former presidents traditionally have been allowed to request and receive intelligence briefings. A senior administration official previously told CNN that Trump has not submitted any requests at this point. There are many ways intelligence can be presented, the official said, something the intelligence community would formulate should any request come in. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told CNN on Thursday that “the intelligence community supports requests for intelligence briefings by former presidents and will review any incoming requests, as they always have.” Trump was not known to fully or regularly read the President’s Daily Brief, the highly classified summary of the nation’s secrets, when he was in office. He was instead orally briefed two or three times a week by his intelligence officials, CNN has reported.

Read more …

“As the Supreme Court declared in 1964, it is the embodiment of “many of our fundamental values and most noble aspirations.”

Trump’s Decision Not To Testify Is Not Evidence Of His Guilt (Turley)

[..] the statement of House manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., this week was breathtaking. A former law professor, Raskin declared that the decision of Trump not to testify in the Senate could be cited or used by House managers as an inference of his guilt — a statement that contradicts not just our constitutional principles but centuries of legal writing. Presidents have historically not testified at impeachment trials. One reason is that, until now, only sitting presidents have been impeached and presidents balked at the prospect of being examined as head of the Executive Branch by the Legislative Branch. Moreover, it was likely viewed as undignified and frankly too risky. Indeed, most defense attorneys routinely discourage their clients from testifying in actual criminal cases because the risks outweigh any benefits.

Despite the historical precedent for presidents not testifying, Raskin made an extraordinary and chilling declaration on behalf of the House of Representatives. He wrote in a letter to Trump that “If you decline this invitation, we reserve any and all rights, including the right to establish at trial that your refusal to testify supports a strong adverse inference regarding your actions (and inaction) on January 6, 2021.” Raskin justified his position by noting that Trump “denied many factual allegations set forth in the article of impeachment.” Thus, he insisted Trump needed to testify or his silence is evidence of guilt. Under this theory, any response other than conceding the allegations would trigger this response and allow the House to use the silence of the accused as an inference of guilt. This is the nature of “the cruel trilemma of self-accusation, perjury or contempt.” Murphy v. Waterfront Commission, 378 U.S. 52, 55 (1964)

The statement was a conflict with one of the most precious and revered principles in American law that such a refusal to testify cannot be used against an accused party. The statement also highlighted the fact that the House has done nothing to lock in testimony of those who could shed light on Trump’s intent. After using a “snap impeachment,” the House let weeks pass without any effort to call any of the roughly dozen witnesses who could testify on Trump’s statements and conduct in the White House. Many of those witnesses have already given public interviews. Of course, the relative passivity of the House simply shows a lack of effort to actually win this case. The Raskin statement is far more disturbing. The Fifth Amendment embodies this touchstone of American law in declaring that “[n]o person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” It was a rejection of the type of abuses associated with the infamous Star Chamber in Great Britain. As the Supreme Court declared in 1964, it is the embodiment of “many of our fundamental values and most noble aspirations.”

Read more …

“It sure won’t be like 1957 again, but it would give an awful lot of idle people more to do when they get up in the morning.”

The Fire This Time (Kunstler)

The economy won’t be fixed by policy because the things that have to happen to fix it will be resisted to the death by the parasitical entities feeding on what little remains. For instance, Walmart. Do you think it’s unhealthy that all the profit in American commerce is funneled into Bentonville, Arkansas? It used to be distributed in hundreds of thousands of small businesses in tens of thousands of US towns and cities. What do you think will die first: Walmart or the organism its feeding on? Since the dynamic at work is emergent and non-linear, other forces can come between these relationships and change things. We are already in conflict with China, the land that supplies most of the merchandise in Walmart.

The conflict right now is mostly playing out in the capture of US corporate and cultural enterprise, and in cyberwarfare, and it’s liable to hotten up around the continued sovereignty of Taiwan (America’s China). It’s difficult to assign intentions to another country but it appears that China’s China wishes to cancel the USA as the fading hegemon on the world stage, at least neutralize us, and perhaps dominate us. Mr. Trump is no longer in place to resist that, and the country might be forced to consider all those deals that our new president, “China Joe” enjoyed from the Biden family’s business ventures there over the years. Emergently, then, the Big Box business model could fail, and in fairly short order, which would at least give Americans a chance to self-reorganize the production and distribution of goods in our own country.

It sure won’t be like 1957 again, but it would give an awful lot of idle people more to do when they get up in the morning. Wait for it, and plan accordingly. In the meantime, we are treated to the sordid spectacle of Democratic Wokesters endeavoring to destroy what remains of American cultural life. It’s an incomparably stupid and malign distraction from the imperatives of this historical moment. They will not succeed in cancelling those who object to the systematic disassembly of our national language, myth, and meaning, even if we have to go back to the mimeograph machine to keep these things alive. They will not turn a republic into a psychopathic despotism. Politics, they say, is downstream from culture. Truth is the antidote to a culture of lies. The upcoming impeachment trial of former president Trump will be a showcase for that, and it may prove to be a hoax too far.

Read more …

Everyone just walks back what they’ve said like it never meant a thing.

“On Biden’s Inauguration Day, Sanders vowed to use budget reconciliation to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour..”

Sanders Says He Never Intended To Raise Minimum Wage To $15 During Pandemic (JTN)

Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders overnight Thursday helped nix Democrats’ effort to include a hike in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, as part of their $1.9 trillion COVID relief package, despite having championed such an increase. However, Sanders made clear that he supported the GOP-backed amendment to keep an immediate wage hike out of the relief measure became he wants a gradual increase. “It was never my intention to increase the minimum wage to $15 immediately and during the pandemic,” Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said on the Senate floor late Thursday night. “My legislation gradually increases the minimum wage to $15 an hour over a five-year period and that is what I believe we have got to do.”

The vote took place during a “vote-a-rama” session in which senators voted on amendments to President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, which fellow Democrats are seeking to pass through “budget reconciliation” without GOP votes. Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, proposed the amendment that would prohibit an increase of the federal minimum wage during the global COVID-19 pandemic. “A $15 federal minimum wage would be devastating for our hardest-hit small businesses at a time when they can least afford it,” she said. After Sanders spoke up, the measure to keep the hike out of the COVID relief package was then approved through a voice vote, helping avoid a partisan showdown on the issue.

However, Democrats and Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats, are expected to reinsert the wage hike into the package as a gradual increase. On Biden’s Inauguration Day, Sanders vowed to use budget reconciliation to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour if the GOP does not support the move.

Read more …

“The parliament did the same in 2014, when the NGO launched a similar probe. A letter sent by the parliament’s president at that time claimed itself to be “extremely transparent” and so saw no need to cooperate. It has now sent the very same letter to its most recent study.”

EU Parliament Snubs Anti-Corruption Researchers (EUO)

The European Parliament refused to cooperate with an EU institutional-wide study on integrity and ethics by Transparency International, one of the world’s most prestigious anti-corruption NGOs. “The European Parliament, despite its publicly-stated support for greater transparency was, in fact, the only institution that refused to cooperate,” said Michiel van Hulten, who heads Transparency International’s EU office in Brussels. The parliament did the same in 2014, when the NGO launched a similar probe. A letter sent by the parliament’s president at that time claimed itself to be “extremely transparent” and so saw no need to cooperate. It has now sent the very same letter to its most recent study.


“They unfortunately did not go through the trouble of writing a new letter,” noted the lead author of the reports, Transparency International’s Leo Hoffmann-Axthelm. He ascribed the parliament’s decision as an overall lack of accountability within its administrative leadership. This includes the ‘Bureau’, composed of the secretary general and the vice presidents. “Honestly we are not sure what ultimately the reason is,” he said, noting that the initial response had been positive. But the final study, also published on Thursday, noted almost zero penalties whenever an MEP breaks internal house conduct rules.

Read more …

Lenin Moreno is outta here.

Ecuador Gov’t Scrambles to Privatize the Central Bank Before Elections (MPN)

With just days until Ecuador’s February 7 presidential election and four months remaining on President Lenin Moreno’s mandate, the Ecuadorian government and right-wing elites are still scrambling to privatize the country’s central bank. The process involves fast-tracking an emergency law dubbed the Humanitarian Support Organic Law, which will “lockdown” the central bank, siphon it from the public sector, and place Ecuador’s financial sovereignty at the whims of private interests. According to right-wing figures and the country’s mainstream media apparatus that protects and serves its interest, the unconstitutional move is being touted as a necessity. Both parties have claimed that the measure would “safeguard” the country’s dollarization.

In 2000, the U.S. dollar was implemented as part of the country’s national monetary system during the neoliberal administration of Jamil Mahuad. Sixteen financial institutions were bailed out by his government at a whopping cost of $2.6 billion. Ecuador’s dollarization occurred just months after the infamous “bank holiday,” in which 70% of all banking institutions declared bankruptcy, hurling the Andean Republic into its worst economic crisis in a century. Millions of people lost their life savings during the chaos and the former national currency, the sucre, plummeted in value by 195%. A migrant crisis accompanied the economic downturn. More than 267,000 Ecuadorians fled the country during a two year period (1999 and 2000), eventually leading to a total of 2.2 million Ecuadorians migrating, a figure that at the time represented nearly 20% of the country’s population.

Even more lost their life savings. The middle class was obliterated and inequality worsened. The current claim that the country’s dollarization needs to be “safeguarded,” a claim repeated by the political and economic elites, local media, and the bulk-some of the 15 presidential hopefuls, is rooted in the work of the leading presidential candidate, Andrés Arauz. Since the end of Rafael Correa’s term in office, Arauz has been in charge of the Dollarization Observatory. This organization informs the public on economic matters, often focusing on the ways in which neoliberal interests threaten Ecuador’s economy. The myth claiming that Arauz wants to forcibly remove the dollar as the national currency comes from an article he wrote last April in which he gave examples of “good and bad” de-dollarization processes.

Read more …

Mussolini smiles.

Nevada Bill Would Allow Tech Companies To Create Governments (AP)

Planned legislation to establish new business areas in Nevada would allow technology companies to effectively form separate local governments. Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak announced a plan to launch so-called Innovation Zones in Nevada to jumpstart the state’s economy by attracting technology firms, Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Wednesday. The zones would permit companies with large areas of land to form governments carrying the same authority as counties, including the ability to impose taxes, form school districts and courts and provide government services. The measure to further economic development with the “alternative form of local government” has not yet been introduced in the Legislature.

Sisolak pitched the concept in his State of the State address delivered Jan. 19. The plan would bring in new businesses at the forefront of “groundbreaking technologies” without the use of tax abatements or other publicly funded incentive packages that previously helped Nevada attract companies like Tesla Inc. Sisolak named Blockchains, LLC as a company that had committed to developing a “smart city” in an area east of Reno after the legislation has passed. The draft proposal said the traditional local government model is “inadequate alone” to provide the resources to make Nevada a leader in attracting and retaining businesses and fostering economic development in emerging technologies and industries.

The Governor’s Office of Economic Development would oversee applications for the zones, which would be limited to companies working in specific business areas including blockchain, autonomous technology, the Internet of Things, robotics, artificial intelligence, wireless, biometrics and renewable resource technology.

Read more …

“The forum’s current agenda and its past track record of hosting prophetic simulations demands that the exercise be scrutinized.”

The WEF’s Simulation of a Coming “Cyber Pandemic” (Webb/Vedmore)

On Wednesday, the World Economic Forum (WEF), along with Russia’s Sberbank and its cybersecurity subsidiary BI.ZONE announced that a new global cyberattack simulation would take place this coming July to instruct participants in “developing secure ecosystems” by simulating a supply-chain cyberattack similar to the recent SolarWinds hack that would “assess the cyber resilience” of the exercise’s participants. On the newly updated event website, the simulation, called Cyber Polygon 2021, ominously warns that, given the digitalization trends largely spurred by the COVID-19 crisis, “a single vulnerable link is enough to bring down the entire system, just like the domino effect,” adding that “a secure approach to digital development today will determine the future of humanity for decades to come.”

The exercise comes several months after the WEF, the “international organization for public-private cooperation” that counts the world’s richest elite among its members, formally announced its movement for a Great Reset, which would involve the coordinated transition to a Fourth Industrial Revolution global economy in which human workers become increasingly irrelevant. This revolution, including its biggest proponent, WEF founder Klaus Schwab, has previously presented a major problem for WEF members and member organizations in terms of what will happen to the masses of people left unemployed by the increasing automation and digitalization in the workplace.

New economic systems that are digitally based and either partnered with or run by central banks are a key part of the WEF’s Great Reset, and such systems would be part of the answer to controlling the masses of the recently unemployed. As others have noted, these digital monopolies, not just financial services, would allow those who control them to “turn off” a person’s money and access to services if that individual does not comply with certain laws, mandates and regulations. The WEF has been actively promoting and creating such systems and has most recently taken to calling its preferred model “stakeholder capitalism.” Though advertised as a more “inclusive” form of capitalism, stakeholder capitalism would essentially fuse the public and private sectors, creating a system much more like Mussolini’s corporatist style of fascism than anything else.

Yet, to usher in this new and radically different system, the current corrupt system must somehow collapse in its entirety, and its replacement must be successfully marketed to the masses as somehow better than its predecessor. When the world’s most powerful people, such as members of the WEF, desire to make radical changes, crises conveniently emerge—whether a war, a plague, or economic collapse—that enable a “reset” of the system, which is frequently accompanied by a massive upward transfer of wealth.

In recent decades, such events have often been preceded by simulations that come thick and fast before the very event they were meant to “prevent” takes place. Recent examples include the 2020 US election and COVID-19. One of these, Event 201, was cohosted by the World Economic Forum in October 2019 and simulated a novel coronavirus pandemic that spreads around the world and causes major disruptions to the global economy—just a few weeks before the first case of COVID-19 appeared. Cyber Polygon 2021 is merely the latest such simulation, cosponsored by the World Economic Forum. The forum’s current agenda and its past track record of hosting prophetic simulations demands that the exercise be scrutinized.

Read more …

 

 

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Apr 222020
 


Saul Leiter Man in straw hat 1955

 

 

 

The following was written by Bruce Wilds, who runs the Advancing Time blog. Bruce is a small business owner in the Midwest.

I get lots of articles sent to me, but hardly ever publish any (sorry I can’t send everyone a reply) because they’re not what I think this site should be. But with this article it’s different. I think what Bruce describes is interesting, important even. The US has been losing small businesses for a long time, and the virus response is set to greatly accelerate the process. The huge stimulus plans will bypass most small businesses, because they are too small for governments to know what to do with.

The article was written before the latest round of handouts, but there’s very little reason to believe it will change much of anything. It’s not so much a grand plan or conspiracy, it just that the system has come to recognize only that bigger is better. America doesn’t like small. This is as true for banks as it is for various levels of government. But small businnesses have not only built the country, and are crucial for the faces of Main Streets and small towns, they also employ enormous amounts of Americans.

 

 

Bruce Wilds: The Paycheck Protection Program or PPP was funded with $350 billion in the last stimulus bill, this money is now gone. Of the thirty million small businesses in America, only 1.7 million received money from the 2.3 trillion dollar aid package passed to help sustain America during this difficult time. If the government blew through this money and was only was able to help only around 5% of small businesses. it is difficult to think another 250 billion dollars will set things straight. Clearly, because when the government made promises it delayed the wave of firing while companies waited for help.

The government has failed to keep its promise so now we should expect unemployment to soar as reality sets in. One of the largest problems facing small companies is they are often underfunded and have difficulty getting financing at reasonable rates. Banks find larger companies much more profitable. The sector of the economy most damaged by the covid-19 shutdown is small business. When this is over America will find many small businesses have been decimated and are not able to reopen. Others will never recover and be forced to close within months. Since small businesses employ over 54 million people in America and their importance in the economy should not be underestimated.

• Small businesses contribute 44 percent of all sales in the country.
• Small businesses employ 54.4 million people, about 57.3 percent of the private workforce.

Rest assured government employees and bureaucrats will still continue to get paid but small business, the most productive part of the economy has a knife to its throat. As a landlord and small business owner, I can tell you the program was structured in a way that will be of little help to most small businesses. The government slammed expensive legislation through with no idea of the damage they were doing and how it will cause hundreds of thousands of businesses to close their doors forever. Washington has become so attuned to dealing with lobbyists from mega-companies it has lost sight of the fact small is small, and when this comes to business, this means usually under twenty employees, not hundreds.

 

 

The government’s answer to keeping people employed was to promise small businesses an easy to get, rapid maximum loan amount of two and a half times a company’s average monthly payroll expense over the past 12 months. This loan would turn into a grant and be forgiven if a company did not fire its employees. Sadly, legislators failed to take into consideration that not all small businesses are labor or payroll intense. Some businesses with large or expensive showrooms are getting hammered by rent, others by inventory, or things like taxes, utilities, or even by having to toss products due to spoilage.

The PPP also failed to address the issue of what these employees are going to do while the company has no customers and business barely trickling. In the past, these employees were expected to pursue activities that earned revenue and garnered profits for the business but with no costumers, this is difficult to do. The PPP also ignored the fact that by keeping these employees on the payroll a generous employer is left open to the harsh mandates laid out in the government’s previous bill. The hastily drawn up 110-page federal covid-19 economic rescue package, which Trump fully supported dealt a hard blow to small business. For a small business this is a disaster, the bill requires;

• Employers with fewer than 500 employees and government employers offer two weeks of paid sick leave through 2020.
• Those same employers must now provide up to 3 months of paid family and medical leave for people forced to quarantine due to the virus or care for family because of the outbreak

As expected, this measure, named “Families First Coronavirus Response Act.” resulted in millions of workers suddenly losing their jobs. Ironically, it was held before the voters as proof lawmakers could work together during a crisis. By framing the poorly crafted pork-packed bill this way promoters positioned themselves to demonize those unwilling to support it. Remember, this bill is was in addition to the $8.3 billion emergency spending bill first approved to curb the spread of covid-19.

 

 

As government has grown larger it seems to have become totally oblivious to the fragility of many small businesses and how much it can cost a community when they close. By framing these pork-packed bills as bipartisan their promoters imply they are fair and balanced. This is not true, small business is the big loser and hundreds of thousands will soon have to close. With so many tenants looking at foregoing rent small landlords that don’t have deep pockets also face huge problems. We have our heads in the sand if we think companies that exist on events where people gather will overnight regain their luster. It is not like someone can simply flick a switch and things will return to normal.

Reality undercuts the idea of the “V-shaped recovery” theory and the idea after the economy has come to a dead stop it can quickly reboot and be back at full speed in a few months. The government has presented us with an extension of crony capitalism structured to throw just enough to the masses to silence their outrage but in the coming weeks, we will see it failed. Large businesses with access to cheap capital are the winners and the big losers are the middle-class, small businesses, and social mobility. All those people that want a higher minimum wage can forget that ever happening if we don’t have jobs.

As for just how much small business owners make, according to figures from 2015 from the Small Business Administration the median income for self-employed individuals at an incorporated business was $49,804 and $22,424 for unincorporated firms. According to PayScale’s 2017 data, the average small business owner’s income is $73,000 per year. But, total earnings can range from $30,000 – $182,000 per year. This means it varies greatly depending on where and just how big the business is. However, it is important to remember these people have “skin in the game” and most risk losing everything if their business fails.

 

It is important to recognize that starting your own business has always been about the opportunity to design and build your own future. It is a symbol of freedom not a guarantee of wealth. Many people choose this path proudly, not to make more money but as a way to express their individuality. For these competent and talented people, a job in government or at a large company often offers more security and benefits but far less freedom. Do not underestimate the value of small business and what it contributes to our society. Companies such as Amazon are the anti-thesis of small business making their workers a cog in a machine and stealing their soul.

Based on the government’s promise to small businesses a great many held off on letting employees go but with each passing day in order to survive they are now in the process of letting hundreds of thousands of employees go. This is a ticking time-bomb. By telling these businesses to close and then through its failure to carry out its promise of helping them the government has created a situation with massive negative economic ramifications. To make matters worse, people going on unemployment look to get almost as much as those that do work. Why will anyone want to work, especially government workers when they can get paid to stay home? This is not about wanting more money for small business, it is about the reality that the firings are just beginning.

 

 

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It’s very bad luck to draw the line
On the night before the world ends
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Apr 172020
 


Dorothea Lange American River camp, Sacramento, CA. Destitute family. 5 children, aged 2 to 17 years 1936

 

China Didn’t Warn Public Of Likely Pandemic For 6 Key Days (AP)
US Alerted Israel, NATO To Disease Outbreak In China In November (ToI )
Wuhan Death Toll Up By 50% As 1,290 ‘Delayed & Omitted’ Fatalities Added (RT)
Men Are Much More Likely To Die From Coronavirus. Why? (G.)
France Summons Chinese Envoy Over Criticism Of COVID19 response (RT)
Chinese Economy Shrank For The First Time Since 1976 In Q1 (SCMP)
Biophysical Economics and the Coronavirus Pandemic (Fix)
22 Million New Jobless Claims, 9.2 Million Lost Health Care In Past Month (NBC)
43,000 US Millionaires Will Get ‘Stimulus’ Averaging $1.6 Million Each (NYP)
Fed Just Jawboning, Massively Tapered QE-4, Hasn’t Bought Any Junk Bonds (WS)
Cut Military Spending To Fund Human Security – Gorbachev (RT)
Chinese Airlines Poised For Post-Coronavirus ‘Revenge Travelling’ (SCMP)
Greece to Celebrate Easter Under Coronavirus Lockdown (GR)
Russiagate Godfather Obama Promotes NYTimes’ “Putin + Covid-19” (RT)
Roger Stone Denied Bid For New Trial (G.)
Surviving Plague in an Early Modern City (Henderson)

 

 

Well, I now know Taleb read my essay. And he likes it. Shame he linked to Yves’ repost, not the original at the Automatic Earth.

 

 

• US new cases 29,567

• US new deaths 2,174

 

• Revised COVID-19 death toll for New York City: 10,367

• Total US military death toll for Iraq War: 4,424.

 

 

Note: both cases and deaths jump by a lot today. It’s not just the Wuhan deaths number revised up by 1,290.

 

Cases 2,193,558 (+ 98,674 from yesterday’s 2,094,884)

Deaths 147,378 (+ 11,809 from yesterday’s 135,569)

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Jan. 14 to Jan. 20 was already late in the game.

China Didn’t Warn Public Of Likely Pandemic For 6 Key Days (AP)

In the six days after top Chinese officials secretly determined they likely were facing a pandemic from a new coronavirus, the city of Wuhan at the epicenter of the disease hosted a mass banquet for tens of thousands of people; millions began traveling through for Lunar New Year celebrations. President Xi Jinping warned the public on the seventh day, Jan. 20. But by that time, more than 3,000 people had been infected during almost a week of public silence, according to internal documents obtained by AP and expert estimates based on retrospective infection data. Six days. That delay from Jan. 14 to Jan. 20 was neither the first mistake made by Chinese officials at all levels in confronting the outbreak, nor the longest lag, as governments around the world have dragged their feet for weeks and even months in addressing the virus.

But the delay by the first country to face the new coronavirus came at a critical time — the beginning of the outbreak. China’s attempt to walk a line between alerting the public and avoiding panic set the stage for a pandemic that has infected more than 2 million people and taken more than 133,000 lives. “This is tremendous,” said Zuo-Feng Zhang, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “If they took action six days earlier, there would have been much fewer patients and medical facilities would have been sufficient. We might have avoided the collapse of Wuhan’s medical system.” Other experts noted that the Chinese government may have waited on warning the public to stave off hysteria, and that it did act quickly in private during that time.

But the six-day delay by China’s leaders in Beijing came on top of almost two weeks during which the national Center for Disease Control did not register any cases from local officials, internal bulletins obtained by the AP confirm. Yet during that time, from Jan. 5 to Jan. 17, hundreds of patients were appearing in hospitals not just in Wuhan but across the country. [..] The punishment of eight doctors for “rumor-mongering,” broadcast on national television on Jan. 2, sent a chill through the city’s hospitals. “Doctors in Wuhan were afraid,” said Dali Yang, a professor of Chinese politics at the University of Chicago. “It was truly intimidation of an entire profession.”

Read more …

May not be coronavirus, though. In November, Beijing hospitals reported three instances of pneumonic plague (transmitted by fleas, not a virus) in people coming from Inner Mongolia:

US Alerted Israel, NATO To Disease Outbreak In China In November (ToI )

US intelligence agencies alerted Israel to the coronavirus outbreak in China already in November, Israeli television reported Thursday. According to Channel 12 news, the US intelligence community became aware of the emerging disease in Wuhan in the second week of that month and drew up a classified document. Information on the disease outbreak was not in the public domain at that stage — and was known only apparently to the Chinese government. US intelligence informed the Trump administration, “which did not deem it of interest,” but the report said the Americans also decided to update two allies with the classified document: NATO and Israel, specifically the IDF.

The network said Israeli military officials later in November discussed the possibility of the spread of the virus to the region and how it would affect Israel and neighboring countries. The intelligence also reached Israel’s decision makers and the Health Ministry, where “nothing was done,” according to the report. Last week, ABC News reported that US intelligence officials were warning about the coronavirus in a report prepared in December by the American military’s National Center for Medical Intelligence. It was unclear if that was the same report that was said to have been shared with Israel. In its first major step to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Israel announced on January 30 it was barring all flights from China, ten days after Chinese leader Xi Jinping issued his first public comments on the virus and the Asian country’s top epidemiologist said for the first time it could be spread from person to person.

An Associated Press report on Wednesday said Xi’s warning came seven days after Chinese officials secretly determined that they were likely facing a pandemic, potentially costing China and other countries valuable time to prepare for the outbreak. Doctors in Wuhan, the city at the center of the outbreak in China, are reported to have first tried to have warn about the virus in December, but were censored.

Read more …

Many countries should follow suit. Hidden deaths are everywhere, and the incentive to report them is mostly lacking.

Holland just reported the 2nd week in a row with 2,000 more deaths than usual, but their testing is still terribly deficient.

Wuhan Death Toll Up By 50% As 1,290 ‘Delayed & Omitted’ Fatalities Added (RT)

The Chinese city of Wuhan – ground zero for the coronavirus pandemic – has revised its fatality count, increasing the total by just shy of 1,300 deaths, which officials say went unreported due to “delays” and “omissions.” Authorities in Wuhan added another 1,290 deaths to the city’s death toll on Friday, putting the overall figures at 50,333 infections and 3,869 fatalities in the virus’ first epicenter. The revision was necessary to “address incorrect reporting, delays and omissions of cases,” city officials said, with the new numbers increasing Wuhan’s death tally by some 50%. “In the early stage of the epidemic, due to insufficient capacity for admission and treatment, a small number of medical institutions failed to connect with the disease prevention and control information system in a timely manner,” Wuhan health officials said, adding that a “statistical investigation” had been conducted to correct the figures.

Read more …

More things we don’t know.

Men Are Much More Likely To Die From Coronavirus. Why? (G.)

Early on, smoking was suggested as a likely explanation. In China, nearly 50% of men but only about 2% of women smoke, and so underlying differences in lung health were assumed to contribute to men suffering worse symptoms and outcomes. The smoking hypothesis was backed by a paper, published last month, that found smokers made up about 12% of those with less severe symptoms, but 26% of those who ended up in intensive care or died. Smoking might also act as an avenue for getting infected in the first place: smokers touch their lips more and may share contaminated cigarettes. Behavioural factors that differ across genders may also have a role. Some studies have shown that men are less likely to wash their hands, less likely to use soap, less likely to seek medical care and more likely to ignore public health advice.

These are sweeping generalisations, but across a population could place men at greater risk. However, there is a growing belief among experts that more fundamental biological factors are also at play. While there are higher proportions of male smokers in many countries – in the UK, 16.5% of men smoke compared with 13% of women – the differences are nowhere near as extreme as in China. But men continue to be overrepresented in Covid-19 statistics. “The growing observation of increased mortality in men is holding true across China, Italy, Spain. We’re seeing this across very diverse countries and cultures,” said Sabra Klein, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “When I see that, it makes me think that there must be something universal that’s contributing to this. I don’t think smoking is the leading factor.”

Previous research, including by Klein, has revealed that men have lower innate antiviral immune responses to a range of infections including hepatitis C and HIV. Studies in mice suggest this may also be true for coronaviruses, though Covid-19 specifically has not been studied. “Their immune system may not initiate an appropriate response when it initially sees the virus,” Klein said. Hormones can also play a role – oestrogen has been shown to increase antiviral responses of immune cells. And many genes that regulate the immune system are encoded on the X chromosome (of which men have one, and women have two) and so it is possible that some genes involved in the immune response are more active in women than in men.

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The embassy talked about France leaving elderly patients “to die of hunger and disease.”

France Summons Chinese Envoy Over Criticism Of COVID19 response (RT)

Paris has summoned its Chinese envoy after the embassy published a blistering critique of the West’s response to the Covid-19 crisis, accusing leaders of failing to act and abandoning vulnerable citizens to death and starvation. “Certain publicly voiced opinions by representatives of the Chinese Embassy in France are not in line with the quality of the bilateral relations between our two countries,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement late on Tuesday, calling on Ambassador Lu Shaye to answer for an article published on the Chinese Embassy website over the weekend.

Entitled ‘Restoring distorted facts,’ the lengthy post – which listed no author – tore into the US and European governments for their handling of the pandemic, while defending Beijing from accusations of concealing information and of a sluggish response. “In the West, we have seen politicians tearing themselves apart to recover votes; advocate herd immunity, thus abandoning their citizens alone in the face of the viral massacre.” The article claimed that some nursing homes had been “deserted,” leaving elderly patients “to die of hunger and disease.”

The post also took aim at Western news outlets, “which take themselves for paragons of impartiality and objectivity,” yet appear to care more about “slandering, stigmatizing and attacking China” than covering the raging health crises in their own countries. “Do these media and these experts, so fond of objectivity and impartiality, have a conscience? Do they have ethics?” Responding to the blustery article, the French FM insisted “there is no room for polemics” amid the Covid-19 pandemic, stating he made his “disapproval” clear to Lu and that France and other nations must pursue “unity, solidarity and the greatest international cooperation.”

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What a surprise.

Chinese Economy Shrank For The First Time Since 1976 In Q1 (SCMP)

China’s economy shrank by 6.8 per cent in the first quarter of 2020, the first contraction since the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, confirming the economic damage done by the coronavirus pandemic. Over the first three months of the year, the world’s second largest economy faced an extensive shutdown as it battled to contain the spread of the coronavirus, and has subsequently struggled to fully reopen. New data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on Friday confirmed the slump, which was worse than predictions of minus 6.0 per cent from a survey of analysts’ forecasts by Bloomberg. NBS data also showed that over the single month of March the economy remained under huge pressure, with the industrial sectors, retail and fixed asset investment all shrinking again, following a dramatic collapse over the first two months of the year.


Industrial production, a gauge of manufacturing, mining and utilities, fell by 1.1 per cent last month, after a 13.5 per cent decline over January and February, when the data was combined. This was much better than expectations of a 6.2 per cent decline, according to the Bloomberg survey. Within that, however, manufacturing contracted by 10.2 per cent, suggesting that even as factories reopen, headwinds remain. Retail sales, a key measurement of consumption in the world s most populous nation, fell by 15.8 per cent, following a record 20.5 per cent collapse in the first two months, much worse than forecasts of a 10.0 per cent slump. Fixed asset investment, a gauge of expenditure over the year to date on items including infrastructure, property, machinery and equipment, fell by 16.1 per cent over the first three months, from an all-time low of minus 20.5 per cent in January-February. Analysts had forecast a 15.1 per cent slump.

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Terrible headline, but interesting concept: ..how many jobs can society do without? The answer, it would appear, is an awful lot. David Graeber, pay attention.

Biophysical Economics and the Coronavirus Pandemic (Fix)

[..] there are two constraints on our ability to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. The first constraint is money. This gets all the press right now — and rightly so. To slow the spread of the coronavirus, millions of people are staying home from work. Since we don’t want these people to starve, we need to somehow give them money. But where should this money come from? While this appears like a monetary constraint, it’s actually a social constraint. Money is a social fiction that we can create and destroy at will. So at the societal level, ‘not having enough money’ isn’t a real constraint. No, the real constraint is about who has the power to create and distribute money. We usually give most of this power to the private sector. (Banks create the majority of money when they issue credit.) We forget that the government can also create money. Fortunately, many governments of the world are rediscovering this power, and are paying their citizens to stay at home.

While this (apparent) monetary constraint is on the top of our minds, there are also biophysical constraints on how we can deal with the coronavirus pandemic. These biophysical constraints are little discussed, but they’re more fundamental than the lack of money. [..] Two hundred years ago, most people lived in rural areas. This made it easy to keep your distance from other people (if you had to). Now the vast majority of us live in cities, making it hard to stay away from other people. So urbanization has made it more difficult to fight pandemics.

Fortunately, another demographic change offsets the affects of urbanization. To slow the spread of the virus, many of us are being paid to sit at home and do nothing. Two hundred years ago this would have been impossible. Why? Because at the time, most people were farmers. If they didn’t go to work, the population would starve. So a sweeping ‘stay-at-home’ order would have been impossible. Now things are different. As Figure 1 shows, the US has undergone an astonishing
demographic inversion. The vast majority of people now work in the service sector. This means that many of us can simply not work. Sure, without a large service sector we can’t get our lattes or our manicures. But we won’t starve. So the coronavirus pandemic is forcing us to run a vast social experiment. The research question is this: in the short run, how many jobs can society do without? The answer, it would appear, is an awful lot.


Figure 1: The demographic inversion in the US. The sector composition of the US in 1800 (left) and in 2010 (right). [Source: Rethinking Economic Growth Theory from a Biophysical Perspective]

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Millions losing health care in a pandemic….

22 Million New Jobless Claims, 9.2 Million Lost Health Care In Past Month (NBC)

The number of unemployed Americans continues to climb with another 5 million people filing jobless claims last week, bringing the total number of people applying for unemployment to 22 million in the last month. But an unsettling undercurrent of that number is the amount of people who are also losing access to health insurance because they lost their job. Approximately 9.2 million workers have likely lost their employer-provided health care coverage in the past four weeks, an analysis from the Economic Policy Institute concluded.


Two weeks ago, the nonprofit think tank concluded that nearly 3.5 million among the 8.7 million claims likely lost their employer coverage. An additional 11.4 million people have since applied for unemployment, with the biggest losses of insurance coming from the health care/social assistance, manufacturing and retail sectors. NBC News previously reported that states are bracing for an increase in the number of people who have applied for Medicaid, the public health care coverage option, since the coronavirus pandemic caused states to shutter businesses and caused workers to lose access to their insurance.

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…vs the other side of America…

43,000 US Millionaires Will Get ‘Stimulus’ Averaging $1.6 Million Each (NYP)

At least 43,000 American millionaires who are too rich to get coronavirus stimulus checks are getting a far bigger boost — averaging $1.6 million each, according to a congressional committee. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act trumpeted its assistance for working families and small businesses, but it apparently contains an even bigger benefit for wealthy business owners, the committee found. The act allows pass-through businesses — ones taxed under individual income, rather than corporate — an unlimited amount of deductions against their non-business income, such as capital gains, the Washington Post said. They can also use losses to avoid paying taxes in other years.


That gives the roughly 43,000 individual tax filers who make at least $1 million a year a savings of $70.3 billion — or about $1.6 million apiece, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. Hedge-fund investors and real estate business owners are “far and away” the ones who will benefit the most, tax expert Steve Rosenthal told the Washington Post. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) called it a “scandal” to “loot American taxpayers in the midst of an economic and human tragedy.” Sen. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) claimed that “someone wrongly seized on this health emergency to reward ultrarich beneficiaries.” “For those earning $1 million annually, a tax break buried in the recent coronavirus relief legislation is so generous that its total cost is more than total new funding for all hospitals in America and more than the total provided to all state and local governments,” he stressed in a statement.

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And there are the dollar-denominated debts again…

Fed Just Jawboning, Massively Tapered QE-4, Hasn’t Bought Any Junk Bonds (WS)

Since the Fed announced its market bailouts and interventions on March 15, it has printed and handed to Wall Street $2.06 trillion. But here is the thing: This was front-loaded, and over the past two weeks, it has cut its bailouts in half, and it has stopped lending new funds to its SPVs that were expected to buy all manner of securities, including equities, junk bonds, and old bicycles. But those loan amounts haven’t moved in four weeks. What it has bought were Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities – and it’s cutting back on those too. Total assets on the Fed’s balance sheet rose by $285 billion during the week through April 15, reported Thursday afternoon, to $6.37 trillion.


Over the past five weeks, including the partial bailout-week which started March 16 and ended March 18, total assets increased by these amounts. Note the big taper from $586 billion and $557 billion early on to $287 billion in the latest week: • $356 billion (Mar 18, partial bailout week started Mar 16) • $586 billion (Mar 25) • $557 billion (Apr 1) • $272 billion (Apr 8) • $285 billion (Apr 15).

The $6.37 trillion of assets on the Fed’s balance sheet are mostly composed of Treasury securities, mortgage-backed securities (MBS), repurchase agreements (repos), “foreign central bank liquidity swaps,” and “loans” to its Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs). We’ll go through them one at a time. The Fed added $154 billion in Treasury securities during the week, down 47% from the $293 billion it had added the week before, and down 57% from the $362 billion it had added two week ago. This is a major factor in the Big Taper of QE-4.

The sharp reduction in purchases of Treasuries confirms for now that the Fed is sticking to its announcement that it would drastically cut QE after the initial blast. Fed Chair Jerome Powell in a webcast on April 10 said that the Fed would pack away its emergency tools once “private markets and institutions are once again able to perform their vital functions of channeling credit and supporting economic growth.” Whatever that means. [..] The Fed has “dollar liquidity swap lines” with [many central banks]. The total on its balance sheet increased by $20 billion from the prior week to $378 billion but has been in the same range all April. Of note: • 83% of outstanding liquidity swaps are with the ECB ($138 billion) and the BOJ ($176 billion). • The Bank of England is far behind ($22 billion). And there no swaps with the central banks of Canada, Brazil, New Zealand, and Sweden.

[..] neither the ECB nor the BOJ need the dollars for trade. They need them to support their banks and companies have large dollar-denominated debts and speculative bets that they need to refinanced with cheap dollars. And those swaps make that possible.

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Wisdom.

Cut Military Spending To Fund Human Security – Gorbachev (RT)

The Covid-19 pandemic shows that governments that think of security in mostly military terms are simply wasting money, Mikhail Gorbachev has said. Defence spending must be cut globally to fund things that humanity actually needs. The former Soviet leader called on the world to move away from hard power in international affairs. He remains especially worried about the kind of military brinkmanship that lately has almost led to a shooting war in the Middle East. “What we urgently need now is a rethinking of the entire concept of security,” he wrote, in an op-ed published by TIME magazine. “Even after the end of the Cold War, it has been envisioned mostly in military terms. Over the past few years, all we’ve been hearing is talk about weapons, missiles and airstrikes.”

The Covid-19 outbreak has highlighted once again that the threats humanity faces today are global in nature and can only be addressed by nations collectively. The resources currently spent on arms need to go into preparation for such crises, Gorbachev said. “The overriding goal must be human security: providing food, water and a clean environment, and caring for people’s health,” he said. The first thing that nations should do after the coronavirus is dealt-with is to make a commitment to a massive demilitarization. “I call upon [world leaders] to cut military spending by 10 percent to 15 percent. This is the least they should do now, as a first step toward a new consciousness, a new civilization.”

Gorbachev, the former leader of the USSR who is credited with de-escalating the Cold War against the US and with negotiating a dramatic reduction in the nuclear arsenals of the two powers, shared his opinions and aspirations as the global number of Covid-19 cases surpassed the two-million benchmark. The pandemic has led to over 130,000 deaths and is projected to plunge the world economy into a recession of a magnitude unseen since the 1920s.

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It should be easy for Xi to prevent this.

Chinese Airlines Poised For Post-Coronavirus ‘Revenge Travelling’ (SCMP)

China’s airlines are poised for a bout of “revenge travelling” in the coming weeks, as soaring reservations ahead of the annual Labour Day holiday and demand by residents returning home from quarantines helped them recover 40 per cent of their traffic. Regional carriers like Guizhou Airlines, Fuzhou Airlines, and China Eastern Airlines’ low-cost unit China United Airlines have added new routes around the country, according to CAAC News, a newspaper run by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). United has added 25 routes, eight of which depart from the new Daxing airport in the Chinese capital.

“Chinese carriers are hoping that they could make a breakthrough on the Labour Day holiday,” said the Institute for Aviation Research’s founder and president Lei Zheng, adding that airlines do tend to make seasonal scheduling adjustments. “If they have decent recovery during May, then they can be well-prepared for summer, one of the two most profitable seasons other than the Lunar New Year.” The recovery in air travel, underpinned by an easing coronavirus outbreak in mainland China, is welcomed news for an industry that has suffered 39.82 billion yuan (US$5.6 billion) in first-quarter losses as air passenger traffic shrank 53.9 per cent.

[..] At the height of the outbreak in China a month ago, the aviation regulator grounded most aircraft, limiting each airline to one weekly international route at 75 per cent capacity. As the daily caseload of coronavirus infections fell to single digits, carriers resumed their services, increasing the average aircraft utilisation to 2.8 hours a day, compared with 9 hours per day before the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Flight Master, a Chinese travel intelligence and data company.
China’s Labour Day holiday begins on May 1 and lasts until May 5, an annual weeklong break that usually marks the first peak for travelling and shopping in calendar following the Lunar New Year. Flights are resuming to destinations with lighter caseloads of the coronavirus infections, and where local authorities have either lifted, or are implementing less draconian isolation and quarantine measures than some of the most severely afflicted cities.

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I see people say that Greece was very early in its response. It wasn’t, the second half of March was not ‘very early’. What they did right was to be rigorous when they finally got going.

Greece to Celebrate Easter Under Coronavirus Lockdown (GR)

Greece will celebrate Easter on Sunday, the most important religious holiday of the Orthodox Church, behind closed doors this year after the authorities strictly forbade the traditional spirited celebrations of mass church attendance, firecrackers and large family gatherings. Authorities are desperate to avoid the traditional mass exodus of city dwellers, when hundreds of thousands of Greeks traditionally flock to churches and to their ancestral homes to celebrate Christ’s resurrection, in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus. As of Friday, officials reported 2,207 cased and the death toll at 105, one of the lowest rates in Europe. But compliance will be tested over the long Easter weekend.


The government has doubled fines and included removal or car plates for anyone who travels without reason for Greek Orthodox Easter, Civil Protection Deputy Minister for Crisis Management Nikos Hardalias said on Thursday. Extra controls will be in place at toll posts and ports, and only those with a permanent residency in the area will be allowed to travel to prevent trips to visit relatives or second homes in the countryside. “This virus doesn’t distinguish days, whether it’s a celebration or not,” said Hardalias, who spoke extensively of the great majority of Greek citizens who have observed faithfully the lockdown restrictions, and explained the introduction of additional ones, particularly for Easter. As he said, “One in ten Greeks has said directly or explicitly that they will not follow directions. They do not want to change their habits for one day, as if nothing is going on.”

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If anything, RT has been surprisingly calm in its responses. But sometimes there’s a column that is a bit less that. And c’mon, Biden…

Russiagate Godfather Obama Promotes NYTimes’ “Putin + Covid-19” (RT)

What does Joe Biden have in common with a New York Times article even critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin have described as “incompetent”? Both have received ringing endorsements from former US President Barack Obama. “Democracy depends on an informed citizenry and social cohesion. Here’s a look at how misinformation can spread through social media, and why it can hurt our ability to respond to crises,” Obama tweeted on Wednesday – linking to an article published three days prior. Written by William S. Broad, the top science journalist at the New York Times, the piece contains no actual science – merely a laundry list of conspiracy theories blaming Russia and Putin personally for wanting to “discredit the West and destroy his enemies from within.” “Analysts say” that Putin personally “played a principal role in the spread of false information” about vaccines, the coronavirus, and just about anything really, Broad argues.

Which analysts? Well, Broad cites only three professional Russia-baiters by name, uses two entirely unrelated stories from years ago that were in the general “blame Russia for disinformation” ballpark, and cites “sources” such as the infamous “Intelligence Community Assessment” blaming Russia for the 2016 presidential election. Remember that one? The “Trump-Russia collusion” claim that Russia “hacked our democracy” (whatever that means) that the Democrats flogged for four years to explain losing to Donald Trump and attempt to oust him from office – until it imploded last May and they had to scramble to invent a bogus “Ukrainegate” conspiracy to actually impeach him – and the outlets like the Times and the Washington Post leveraged to get Pulitzers?

Or has all this vanished in the mists of time, due to the month-long brain scrambling induced by the coronavirus lockdowns? May 2019, incidentally, is when Broad wrote another hit piece along the exact same lines, only narrower in scope: he accused RT America of doing Putin’s bidding by reporting on theories that 5G wireless networks could be dangerous. No matter that mainstream US news outlets have reported on the issue in the exact same way – Broad saw “RUSSIA” and had to jump in. Then, too, he chose not to interview actual scientists but Russiagate-pushers such as Ryan Fox, CEO of New Knowledge – the notorious outfit that blamed Russia for its own bot campaign in the 2017 Senate election in Alabama. In other words, a literal false-flag perpetrator.

By way of illustration, one of the “experts” Broad quotes has a line about “a cloud of Russian influencers,” which the NY Times journalist then describes thusly: The players, he said, probably include state actors, intelligence operatives, former RT staff members and the digital teams of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a secretive oligarch and confident [sic] of Mr. Putin’s who financed the St. Petersburg troll farm. “Probably!” Also, you left out the kitchen sink.

And Cooper and Gupta sit there listening, serious faces and all, because this is supposed to be their man.

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A very biased hudge decides that a jury frontperson is not biased.

Roger Stone Denied Bid For New Trial (G.)

A federal judge on Thursday denied a bid for a new trial by Donald Trump’s longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone after the veteran Republican operative accused the jury forewoman of being tainted by anti-Trump political bias. Amy Berman Jackson, a US district court judge, rejected Stone’s claim that the forewoman was biased against Trump and therefore could not be impartial in deciding Stone’s guilt or innocence during the trial. “There is zero evidence of ‘explicit bias’ against Stone, and defendant’s attempts to gain a new trial based on implied or inferred bias fail,” Berman Jackson said in an 81-page decision. Stone, a longtime confidant and former aide to Trump, was convicted in November of seven felonies in an attempt to interfere with a congressional inquiry. He was sentenced to 40 months in prison.


In her memorandum, Berman Jackson said the lawyers had not proved the forewoman was biased or that any jurors acted inappropriately. She included details of their juror questionnaires in her explanation. “The assumption underlying the motion – that one can infer from the juror’s opinions about the president that she could not fairly consider the evidence against the defendant – is not supported by any facts or data and it is contrary to controlling legal precedent,” she wrote in denying the new trial. “The motion is a tower of indignation, but at the end of the day, there is little of substance holding it up.” Stone must appear in person “at the institution designated by the Bureau of Prisons” within 14 days to serve out his sentence, Jackson ruled. She also released Stone and his lawyers from a gag order.

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“In the cold autumn of 1629, the plague came to Florence, Italy..”.

Notable for the ‘lavish’ provision of food for the poor, backed by the thought that underfed people are more likely to spread a disease.

Surviving Plague in an Early Modern City (Henderson)

The officials of the Sanità, the city’s health board, wrote anxiously to their colleagues in Milan, Verona, Venice, in the hope that studying the patterns of contagion would help them protect their city. Reports came from Parma that its ‘inhabitants are reduced to such a state that they are jealous of those who are dead’. The Sanità learned that, in Bologna, officials had forbidden people to discuss the peste, as if they feared you could summon death with a word. Plague was thought to spread through corrupt air, on the breath of the sick or trapped in soft materials like cloth or wood, so in June 1630 the Sanità stopped the flow of commerce and implemented a cordon sanitaire across the mountain passes of the Apennines.

But they soon discovered that the boundary was distressingly permeable. Peasants slipped past bored guards as they played cards. In the dog days of the summer, a chicken-seller fell ill and died in Trespiano, a village in the hills above Florence. The city teetered on the brink of calamity. By August, Florentines were dying. The archbishop ordered the bells of all the churches in the city to be rung while men and women fell to their knees and prayed for divine intercession. In September, six hundred people were buried in pits outside the city walls.

[..] The Sanità arranged the delivery of food, wine and firewood to the homes of the quarantined (30,452 of them). Each quarantined person received a daily allowance of two loaves of bread and half a boccale (around a pint) of wine. On Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays, they were given meat. On Tuesdays, they got a sausage seasoned with pepper, fennel and rosemary. On Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, rice and cheese were delivered; on Friday, a salad of sweet and bitter herbs. The Sanità spent an enormous amount of money on food because they thought that the diet of the poor made them especially vulnerable to infection, but not everyone thought it was a good idea. Rondinelli recorded that some elite Florentines worried that quarantine ‘would give [the poor] the opportunity to be lazy and lose the desire to work, having for forty days been provided abundantly for all their needs’.

The provision of medicine was also expensive. Every morning, hundreds of people in the lazaretti were prescribed theriac concoctions, liquors mixed with ground pearls or crushed scorpions, and bitter lemon cordials. The Sanità did devolve some tasks to the city’s confraternities. The brothers of San Michele Arcangelo conducted a housing survey to identify possible sources of contagion; the members of the Archconfraternity of the Misericordia transported the sick in perfumed willow biers from their homes to the lazaretti. But mostly, the city government footed the bill. Historians now interpret this extensive spending on public health as evidence of the state’s benevolence: if tracts like Righi’s brim over with intolerance towards the poor, the account books of the Sanità tell an unflashy story of good intentions.

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Apr 152020
 


Henri Cartier-Bresson A visitor to the Forbidden City, Beijing 1948

 

Today, I’m going to try to show you how and why we know that in the case of a pandemic like the one we’re in, surrounded by doubts and uncertainties, there are still a series of measures that we can and, more importantly, must take. But also, how these measures are hardly ever taken, and if they are, not in the correct fashion. This has to date led us into a ton of preventable misery and death. If only we would listen. And there’s still more we can do to prevent more mayhem, there is at every step of the process.

It took me a while to get this together. But in the end I wound up with the only COVID19 analysis that makes sense. It doesn’t leave much room for discussion, at least not in the steps needed to be taken in order to tame the virus (I despise the war analogies everyone uses, taming sounds much better). How to fill in those steps once they have -kind of- been taken is another matter.

I’ve been reading up on this for a while, adding -much- more stuff as I went along (this will be a long essay), and at some point realized that the coronavirus is an issue you can’t leave to epidemiologists and virologists, because there are far too many unknowns for them to create a working model, and without such a model they are lost. These fine people are not good at 10-dimensional chess, even if they like you to think otherwise.

These people are useful for the knowledge they possess of past epidemics, not for predicting what will happen in the next one, certainly not if it’s caused by a virus which they -and we- simply don’t know enough about to build a reliable model. In that case, you need to step back and apply more basic principles. Lucky for us, those exist.

 

 

This leads us into a territory that is not familiar to epidemiologists and virologists. Since a virus, and a pandemic, like the one we’re in the middle of, is linked to so many different facets and factors, and so many uncertainties, it takes us into the territory of risk management, assessment, engineering, and from there eventually pretty seamlessly into complex systems.

If you can’t know what will happen next because you can’t oversee the multitude of variables involved, and there are no models that can do so either, the best -only- thing you can do is to halt the growing complexity as soon as you are able to, in order to create a situation, an environment, which the epidemiologists and virologists DO recognize, and can work with.

That is the point where they come in, not before. At present, they are asked to do things beyond their knowledge. And, typical human trait, they don’t tend to acknowledge that. Well, there’s a second reason: some actually think they do understand. The outcome is the same: we- and they- are led astray, away from science and into “scientism” (more on that in a moment).

Which would be fine if this concerned just a hobby, or even if it was only an academic paper left to discuss in classrooms and web forums. But we are talking about 10s of 1000s of deaths, 100s of 1000s of gravely ill people, and in the wake of that an economy as much in need of assisted breathing as the human patients involved.

Lucky for us, we have people who DO understand these things. Unlucky for us, our “leadership” doesn’t listen to them. They think that an epidemiologist or two, three, should be enough. But neither the “leaders” nor the epidemiologists understand the limits every single scientific field has. They don’t understand what happens when scientists venture out of their chosen field. And most of all, they don’t understand what complex systems are.

Please note that the above also means that any and all virus modeling going forward should be taken with an ocean full of salt. We get new examples every day of “qualities” of the virus that are not in any models. Where the virus originated, asymptomatic patients, re-infection, huge discrepancies in ‘modeled’ numbers predicted vs factual ones, Asians vs whites, blacks vs whites, men vs women, smokers vs non-smokers, chloroquine (non-)effectiveness, contagiousness, the list goes on for miles.

There is a way to leave those discussions, based on, we must admit, far too little verifiable information, leaving us groping in the pitchblack, behind for now.

 

Most people who read a site like the Automatic Earth, where finance is a main topic, will know who Nassim Nicholas Taleb is, for instance because he wrote The Black Swan before the 2008 financial crisis. Or because a hedge fund he advises recently announced a 6,000%+ gain in “virustime”. But Taleb is also, and more interesting for this essay, “distinguished professor of risk engineering at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering”.

For much of his coverage of COVID19, Taleb has been co-operating with Yaneer Bar-Yam, president of the New England Complex System Institute, and Joseph Norman, a postdoctoral researcher at the same New England Complex System Institute. That means “real scientists”, just not from where you might expect. Which in turn means they can help the other guys get out of the ditch they’re in.

I’ll refer to “Taleb” here, nice and short, but that often means his co-operators too. Key terminology you’ll find, and need, is “asymmetry”, “precautionary principle” (“first do no harm”, which is close to the Hippocratic Oath’s “to abstain from doing harm”), and perhaps also “convexity” (a term from the finance world that depicts a relation between interest rates and bond duration).

First, here are a few bits from a piece the three wrote on January 26, to get you familiar with some of the ideas. These are ground rules for approaching a pandemic such as this one, but they are also ground rules for -any- other problems with too many unknown variables.

This is crucial because it denotes that if you have a disease that is both contagious and deadly, you don’t -have to- first wait and (build a model to) see how deadly and contagious it is, as an epidemiologist is wont to do, you can act right off the bat. Of course the scientists at the WHO and various government know this basic stuff, but they still haven’t acted accordingly. On January 26 and after, the ground rules were ignored.

So then you’re forced into the next basic steps. Still -mostly- not an epic disaster, but surely an unnecessary -and potentially deadly- risk. Taleb doesn’t take prisoners, and labels the WHO “criminally incompetent”. And I fully agree: they get paid billions a year to be the world’s ears and eyes in case a new disease pops up somewhere, and they have still let it happen. Here’s that first bit:

 

Systemic Risk Of Pandemic Via Novel Pathogens – Coronavirus: A note

General Precautionary Principle : The general (non-naive) precautionary principle [3] delineates conditions where actions must be taken to reduce risk of ruin, and traditional cost-benefit analyses must not be used. These are ruin problems where, over time, exposure to tail events leads to a certain eventual extinction. While there is a very high probability for humanity surviving a single such event, over time, there is eventually zero probability of surviving repeated exposures to such events. While repeated risks can be taken by individuals with a limited life expectancy, ruin exposures must never be taken at the systemic and collective level. In technical terms, the precautionary principle applies when traditional statistical averages are invalid because risks are not ergodic.

Spreading rate : Historically based estimates of spreading rates for pandemics in general, and for the current one in particular, underestimate the rate of spread because of the rapid increases in transportation connectivity over recent years. This means that expectations of the extent of harm are underestimates both because events are inherently fat tailed, and because the tail is becoming fatter as connectivity increases. Global connectivity is at an all-time high, with China one of the most globally connected societies. Fundamentally, viral contagion events depend on the interaction of agents in physical space, and with the forward-looking uncertainty that novel outbreaks necessarily carry, reducing connectivity temporarily to slow flows of potentially contagious individuals is the only approach that is robust against misestimations in the properties of a virus or other pathogen.

Asymmetric Uncertainty : Properties of the virus that are uncertain will have substantial impact on whether policies implemented are effective. For instance, whether contagious asymptomatic carriers exist. These uncertainties make it unclear whether measures such as temperature screening at major ports will have the desired impact. Practically all the uncertainty tends to make the problem potentially worse, not better, as these processes are convex to uncertainty.

Conclusion : Standard individual-scale policy approaches such as isolation, contact tracing and monitoring are rapidly (computationally) overwhelmed in the face of mass infection, and thus also cannot be relied upon to stop a pandemic. Multiscale population approaches including drastically pruning contact networks using collective boundaries and social behavior change, and community self-monitoring, are essential. Together, these observations lead to the necessity of a precautionary approach to current and potential pandemic outbreaks that must include constraining mobility patterns in the early stages of an outbreak, especially when little is known about the true parameters of the pathogen.

It will cost something to reduce mobility in the short term, but to fail do so will eventually cost everything—if not from this event, then one in the future. Outbreaks are inevitable, but an appropriately precautionary response can mitigate systemic risk to the globe at large. But policy- and decision-makers must act swiftly and avoid the fallacy that to have an appropriate respect for uncertainty in the face of possible irreversible catastrophe amounts to “paranoia,” or the converse a belief that nothing can be done.

 

As you can see, that already contains the next steps in case the initial response is warped (it has been). An expensive failure, but not necessarily an all too fatal one yet. Missing the next steps as well, though, turns this into a whole other story, and one that must be familiar to you, because you’re living it.

Yaneer Bar-Yam on March 23 gave it another try when he wrote in USA Today that “We Need An Immediate Five-Week National Lockdown To Defeat Coronavirus In America”. We know how that went (I don’t really have space to include that piece). According to this little graph I picked up last week, the US is barely 50% locked down. And that’s not going to cut it.

 

 

Two days after Yaneer Bar-Yam’s USA Today article, Taleb and Bar-Yam had a piece in the Guardian, which focused on the UK situation. And guess what? Nobody listened, again. You have to understand, these guys are perceived by the “science crowd” in “epidemic land”, who demand to be seen as the ultimate authorities on the topic, as big threats to their perceived power.

The last thing the “science crowd” want is for a bunch of complex systems guys, who they don’t understand anyway, to upstage them. And granted, the headline alone is ample threat to the UK government’s scientific advisers. But that attitude leads to more entirely preventable deaths; as I said above, the epidemiology etc. crowd simply lack the knowledge that the risk engineers do have, and which could help them prevent those deaths.

 

Something related, before I forget: I’ve been following Nassim Taleb’s opinions on genetically modified organisms (GMO) for a long time, because in that field, too, he applies the same ground rules that he does vis-a-vis the virus. First, precautionary principle (do no harm), and in the wake of that, asymmetry (asymmetric risk). In “Monsanto’s GMO field”, just like with deadly viruses, the risks when something goes wrong are devastating. If you get that wrong, you’re literally talking potential extinction.

And that makes any “normal” cost/benefit analysis obsolete. If you get the preliminary risk assessment wrong, the consequences are so far-reaching that your only realistic option is extreme carefulness (precautionary principle). Ergo: you don’t allow GMO crops until you’re 100% sure they have zero negative impacts on human health. What Monsanto does is use “scientists” who declare that no negative effect has been found so far, so it must be okay.

Taleb asserts that that is not science, but “scientism”. It is obvious that the negative effects can take decades to show, but if they do, things have probably become irreversible (all corn contains GMO traces). In other words, the burden of proof MUST lie with Monsanto; you can’t demand that everybody else proves their GMO crops are harmful. On the one hand, Monsanto gets to make a profit, while on the other billions of human lives can get lost. That’s the asymmetry Taleb is talking about.

Labeling any such deliberation, any such cost-benefit analysis, scientific, is an affront to any- and everybody’s intelligence. There are things that you cannot afford to take risks with. Mankind, the animal kingdom, the planet, are some of these things. You can’t argue that a lockdown might cost jobs if and when a non-lockdown will cost lives; you can’t argue for measures that kill people.

The only thing we can really do is to apply those measures that best mitigate job losses, not the ones that keep jobs but mitigate loss of life. It’s not even an actual choice; it’s a false dichotomy, because the risk of consciously allowing people to continue to infect others who may then die, which you could have prevented from happening, is so much greater than the loss of a job. The risk is asymmetric. A job is not a life.

It’s nuts to argue that we should allow someone to die because his/her neighbor might lose their job or because his/her neighbor beats his wife. In case someone loses their job, a government can issue a bailout or even a UBI. That they don’t do that and/or not properly, is another matter. But not one that justifies murder.

And you can’t take the conscious risk of letting people die because someone married an abusive person either. Yaneer Bar-Yam wrote some good stuff on community efforts with regards to COVID19, to be found at the New England Complex System Institute site, which might help in that regard. But you can’t aim for letting a deadly virus spread in order to prevent joblessness, loneliness or poor -life- choices.

 

Back to Taleb and Bar-Yam’s March 25 piece in the Guardian. I have a hard time selecting only some of it, a general problem with well-written essays.

 

The UK’s Coronavirus Policy May Sound Scientific. It Isn’t

When, along with applied systems scientist Dr Joe Norman, we first reacted to coronavirus on 25 January with the publication of an academic note urging caution, the virus had reportedly infected fewer than 2,000 people worldwide and fewer than 60 people were dead. That number need not have been so high [..] Our research did not use any complicated model with a vast number of variables, no more than someone watching an avalanche heading in their direction calls for complicated statistical models to see if they need to get out of the way.

We called for a simple exercise of the precautionary principle in a domain where it mattered: interconnected complex systems have some attributes that allow some things to cascade out of control, delivering extreme outcomes. Enact robust measures that would have been, at the time, of small cost: constrain mobility. Immediately. Later, we invoked a rapid investment in preparedness: tests, hospital capacity, means to treat patients. Just in case, you know. Things can happen. The error in the UK is on two levels. Modelling and policymaking.

First, at the modelling level, the government relied at all stages on epidemiological models that were designed to show us roughly what happens when a preselected set of actions are made, and not what we should make happen, and how. The modellers use hypotheses/assumptions, which they then feed into models, and use to draw conclusions and make policy recommendations.

Critically, they do not produce an error rate. What if these assumptions are wrong? Have they been tested? The answer is often no. [..] Risk management – like wisdom – requires robustness in models. But if we base our pandemic response plans on flawed academic models, people die. And they will.

This was the case with the disastrous “herd immunity” thesis. The idea behind herd immunity was that the outbreak would stop if enough people got sick and gained immunity. Once a critical mass of young people gained immunity, so the epidemiological modellers told us, vulnerable populations (old and sick people) would be protected. Of course, this idea was nothing more than a dressed-up version of the “just do nothing” approach.

Individuals and scientists around the world immediately pointed out the obvious flaws: there’s no way to ensure only young people get infected; you need 60-70% of the population to be infected and recover to have a shot at herd immunity, and there aren’t that many young and healthy people in the UK, or anywhere. Moreover, many young people have severe cases of the disease, overloading healthcare systems, and a not-so-small number of them die. It is not a free ride.

This doesn’t even include the possibility, already suspected in some cases, of recurrence of the disease. Immunity may not even be reliable for this virus. Worse, it did not take into account that the duration of hospitalisation can be lengthier than they think, or that one can incur a shortage of hospital beds.

[..] No 10 appears to be enamoured with “scientism” – things that have the cosmetic attributes of science but without its rigour. [..] Social science is in a “replication crisis”, where less than half the results replicate (under exact same conditions), less than a tenth can be taken seriously, and less than a hundredth translate into the real world. So what is called “evidence-based” methods have a dire track record and are pretty much evidence-free.

[..] when one deals with deep uncertainty, both governance and precaution require us to hedge for the worst. While risk-taking is a business that is left to individuals, collective safety and systemic risk are the business of the state. Failing that mandate of prudence by gambling with the lives of citizens is a professional wrongdoing that extends beyond academic mistake; it is a violation of the ethics of governing. The obvious policy left now is a lockdown, with overactive testing and contact tracing: follow the evidence from China and South Korea rather than thousands of error-prone computer codes.

 

If that’s not sufficient, here’s Taleb in a March 31 Bloomberg interview. Please watch:

 

 

And just in case it’s still not clear, I have collected a series of Taleb tweets that should make his position that much clearer. That is, after we failed to halt the virus while we could, thanks to China, the WHO and your own government, in that order, mass mask wearing is inevitable -because not doing so involves an asymmetric risk: even the worst mask reduces infection rates by 30%, and if both people involved in an interaction wear one, that may be 90%.

In that same vein, you need mass testing. And reliable testing, which is still not a given. These are things that people like to question, but those people are in the wrong time capsule. The proper time for that was December in China, and perhaps January in Europe and the US. Not now. Now you can only save what you can save, and that inevitably means taking measures that appear drastic. But which will look walk-in-the-park-ish compared to what follows if you don’t take them.

Tweets first; please do read them all. Note: Fat Tony is Taleb’s best friend and alter ego, and there’s controversy about whether he actually exists. For what it’s worth, I agree with Fat Tony that we don’t need a conspiray theory to explain COVID19, we have a virus that is deadly and highly contagious, and 1000s of scientists and politicians who have no idea what they do.

Those are all the basic ingredients you need for absolute mayhem. Not that all theories, whether it’s glyphosate or 5G, China lab or US lab, intential release or not, are necessarily wrong or baseless, but because in the face of a virus that doesn’t need any of these things to replicate the way COVID19 has, you need to come up with very solid proof. And I have seen none, just plenty theories.

 

 

 

 

I don’t know about you, but where I am right now, Holland, there are no masks available on a grand scale. There is so little testing going on in large parts of the West that even medical personnel often go without testing. I would love to be tested, if only so I know I either can or can’t infect people, but who am I to take away a test from a nurse, even if I could?

And this happens 3+ months after all our governments should have made testing and masks for everyone their no. 1 priority. And that was onnly after they failed to crush the curve when they could have.

Donald Trump was talking over the weekend about the “biggest decision of his life”, referring to the moment the US economy could be re-opened. Trump, as well as all the other “leaders”, even if their science advisers don’t like it one bit, or maybe because of it, should contact Nassim Taleb and the risks scientists he works with, within the next 5 minutes.

What is happening right now is not because all the epidemiologists and virologists around the world are wrong, but because they’re asked to make decisons and construct models about something they don’t know nearly enough about.

Call Taleb, Donald, Emmanuel, Shinzo, Angela et al. If you care enough about the lives of your people. I see a lot of rational-looking measures today, in all the lockdown variations, but I also see many countries and states clamoring for peaks to be called, and subsequent calls galore for less stringent lockdown measures. Decisions prone to be taken by politicians and epidemiologists who are -way- out of their league.

Please be careful. Call Taleb. You have nothing -more- to lose.

 

 

 

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Mar 302020
 


Hasui Kawase Mimhae Pavilion, Kyongju, Korea 1940

 

Earlier today in the March 30 Automatic Earth Debt Rattle aggregator I promised to come back to this. I wrote:

Dr. Fauci, Trump’s main medical/epidemic advisor, said yesterday that 200,000 Americans could die from COVID19. The same Fauci, as I quoted two days ago, recently changed his case fatality rate prediction from 1% to 0.1%. I had to let that sink in for a while, because if those 200,000 people represent that 0.1%, he now apparently believes that 200 million Americans could be infected with the coronavirus. The official number of infected Americans right now according to Worldometer is 142,735. The official death number is 2,489.

On top of that, Trump said, undoubtedly after conferring with Fauci among others, that the coronavirus peak in the USA is expected to take place in two weeks (Easter). You get where I’m going with this: how on earth are the numbers supposed to add up? In proven Trumpian fashion, Fauci did cover himself: “We’re going to have millions of cases.” But he added “I don’t want to be held to that” because the pandemic is “such a moving target.“ We’re going to have millions of cases, but don’t hold me to that…”


I think most people see these numbers flash by without realizing what they mean.

I found that remarkable not only because of the 200 million number implied, But also because Dr. Fauci had said a number of different, varying things off late. Here I am from the March 28 Debt Rattle:

Weird turnarounds: Fauci goes from a 1.0% CFR to 0.1% in 2 weeks, Neil Ferguson takes just 10 days to move from 500,000 [UK] deaths to under 20,000. Oh, and Deborah Brix claims the US have “..enough data now of the real experience with the coronavirus on the ground..” and, well, after all: “Models are [just] models”.


Now, she of course in fact merely has new models based on new data (so why diss models?), and it’s not nearly enough; re: testing. What Fauci and Ferguson hope to accomplish in risking their credibility with their sudden “moodswings” is unclear, but they’re not sufficiently supported by new data either. Not in that amount of time. Political pressure perhaps?

Dr. Fauci mentioned the 0.1% case fatality rate here on March 24:

Dr. Fauci: Coronavirus Death Rate Like Very Bad Flu

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, co-authored an article published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine predicting the fatality rate for the coronavirus will turn out to be like that of a “severe seasonal influenza.” In an exceptionally bad flu season, the case fatality rate is about one-tenth of 1 percent, the authors write. Regarding the current coronavirus pandemic, they said: “If one assumes that the number of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic cases is several times as high as the number of reported cases, the case fatality rate may be considerably less than 1%.”

While the reference to Dr. Fauci talking about a 1% case fatality rate comes for instance from this, on March 4 (a view he didn’t correct until the March 24 piece above):

Fauci Says It’s Too Early To Determine US Death Rates From Coronavirus

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the House Appropriations subcommittee in Congress on Wednesday [March 4] that it remains difficult to determine accurate mortality rates of the new coronavirus outbreak, given that we simply do not know yet how many have been infected with the disease. [..] amid the coronavirus outbreak, many representatives took the opportunity to grill Fauci on the latest developments.

“We don’t know the denominator,” Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., noted to Fauci when asking whether mortality rates are reliable. “You said it, sir,” Fauci responded [..] “If you look at the cases that have come to the attention of the medical authorities, in China, and you just do the math — the math is about 2%. If you look at certain age groups, certain risk groups, the fatality is much higher.”


[..] Amid continuing questions around the numbers, Harris asked Fauci about the accuracy numbers published by the WHO on Tuesday stating the death rate is 3.4% globally. [..] In the U.S., the administration is still working to ascertain the full number of Americans infected by the disease. The administration has been hamstrung by a slow rollout of testing, making it difficult to track. “I’m torn,” Fauci said. “If we get enough data to have a big [numerator] it’s gonna be bad news for us.” “You know as well as anybody that the mortality for seasonal flu is .1%,” he added. “So even if it goes down to 1%, it’s still 10 times more fatal.”

And then yesterday, the good doctor says the following:

Dr. Fauci Says 200,000 Americans Could Die From The Coronavirus

The coronavirus outbreak could kill 100,000 to 200,000 Americans, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease expert warned on Sunday as smoldering hot spots in nursing homes and a growing list of stricken cities heightened the sense of dread across the country. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made the dire prediction of fatalities on CNN, adding that millions in the U.S. could become infected. “I would say between 100,000 and 200,000 cases,” he said, correcting himself to say he meant deaths. “We’re going to have millions of cases.” But he added “I don’t want to be held to that” because the pandemic is “such a moving target.”

 


Graph by Mike Shedlock based on data from Covid Tracking Project. (Mind the scale)

 

What I find remarkable is that I haven’t seen a single reporter, TV, newspaper, add that up to the “200 million Americans infected” number. It’s a simple 2+2=4. If 200,000 people die with an 0.1% infection rate, total infections are 200 million.

Unless Dr. Fauci would now claim that either the 0.1% OR the 200,000 deaths claims or wrong. And I obviously know he also said ‘the pandemic is “such a moving target”’, But he should know he’s in the public eye, and adjust his claims to that fact. Besides, he just changed his claims.

Granted, I also wrote this morning:: “Wonder if he’s included the effects of a health care system collapse. Ironically, that might make his numbers more realistic.”, but that wouldn’t negate his claims.

And then of course you get the following, given that Dr. Fauci is the no. 1 medical/epidemic advisor to President Trump, or at least the most visible -with Dr. Deborah Brix:

Trump: Keeping US COVID-19 Deaths To 100,000 Would Be A ‘Very Good Job’

Donald Trump has extended America’s national shutdown for a month, bowing to public health experts, and scientific reality, and warning that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is yet to come. Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, the US president claimed that, if his administration keeps the death toll to 100,000, it will have done “a very good job” – a startling shift from his optimistic predictions of a few days ago when he said he hoped to restart the economy by Easter.

It’s easy to slam Trump for these things, and part of that will be justified and well deserved, but Trump relies on his medical staff to a large extent, even if he deviates from what they say from time to time. If only because as you now know, his medical team change their opinions quite a bit. And he never “predicted” the economy would reopen by Easter, he merely said he hoped it would.

Moreover, in this case he’s right: if Dr. Fauci predicts 200,000 fatalities, limiting it to half that number would be a good thing. But more importantly, as Trump predicts a peak by Easter, after talking to Dr. Fauci, but we’re still 200,000 deaths minus 2,600 removed from Dr. Fauci’s “goal”, and 200 million cases minus 144,000, why don’t we read and hear about the gigantic numbers closely ahead of us in the press?

Perhaps you don’t have to be halfway at the peak, but you certainly must be quite a ways there. What would that mean for the next two week though? Dr.? And I know, Dr. Fauci said between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths, but given the gap between today and either of those numbers, it hardly even seems to matter.

15 days to Easter to -only?!- get to 100,000 deaths means 6,667 deaths a day, or maybe a little less. Because otherwise you can’t credibly claim a peak. Your homework for the day: Color the pictures and finish the story.

 

 

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Feb 282020
 


Lewis Wickes Hine Gus Hodges, 11, instructs brother Julius 5. I found Gus selling as late as 9 pm, Norfolk VA 1911

 

England Only Has 15 Beds For Worst Respiratory Cases (G.)
Diagnosis Of Coronavirus Patient In California Was Delayed For Days (NPR)
The Last Time This Happened Was Days Before The Great Depression (ZH)
Whistleblower Claims ‘Corrupt Cover-Up’ Of Dangerous Coronavirus Quarantines (ZH)
Greece Reports 4 Coronavirus Cases, Cancels Carnival (K.)
Abe Urges Japan March School Shutdown To Stem Coronavirus (R.)
EU Experts: Closing Borders ‘Ineffective’ For Coronavirus (EUO)
Turkey Says Can’t Contain Europe-Bound Syrian Refugees Amid Idlib Battle (RT)
Idlib Attack That Killed 33 Turkish Soldiers Was ‘Also Against NATO’ (RT)
East Africa Faces New Locust Threat (R.)
Not Quack-Checked! MSM Dives For ‘Chinese Duck Army’ Story (RT)
How Gold Is Manipulated (Rickards)
Biden Treated Ukraine ‘As His Private Property’ – Ex-Prosecutor Shokin (RT)
Ethics Complaint Questions How Devin Nunes Pays For Lawsuits (Hill)
UK Mainstream Media Participate In Assange Crucifixion (Galloway)
Julian Assange Leaked US Files For Political Ends – Lawyers (G.)
Your Man in the Public Gallery – The Assange Hearing Day 3 (Craig Murray)

 

Cases 83,733 (+ 1,314 from yesterday’s 82,419).

Deaths 2,860 (+ 52 from yesterday’s 2,808)

 

• Holland (2), N-Ireland, New Zealand, Nigeria(!!), Lithuania first case
• Italy 653 cases, 17 deaths
• France 38 cases from 18 yesterday
• Germany 14 new cases, total 48
• Iran 245 confirmed cases, 26 deaths
• South Korea 256 new cases, total 2,337, over 1,000 new cases in 48 hours.
• China 327 new cases and 44 new deaths
– 180 million students homeschooled
• California 28 cases, monitoring 8400
• Greece 4 cases
• Starbucks says 85% of Chinese restaurants reopened
• Countries (Japan, UK) prepare to close down schools for months on end

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer (Note: mortality rate down to 7%)

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I said yesterday: Coming to a town near you soon.

England Only Has 15 Beds For Worst Respiratory Cases (G.)

England only has 15 available beds for adults to treat the most severe respiratory failure and will struggle to cope if there are more than 28 patients who need them if the number of coronavirus cases rises, according to the government and NHS documents. Ministers have revealed in parliamentary answers that there are 15 available beds for adult extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) treatment at five centres across England. The government said this could be increased in an emergency. There were 30 such beds in total available during the 2018-19 winter flu season. But an NHS England document prepared in November 2017 reveals the system will struggle to cope if more than 28 patients need the treatment, describing that situation as black/critical.

It suggests that if no beds are available “within the designated and surge capacity” in the UK, they might have to be sourced from other countries, for example, from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. ECMO treatment is used in only the most severe cases of respiratory failure when other treatments are not working. It uses an artificial lung located outside the body to put oxygen into a patient’s blood and continuously pump this blood into and around their body. It has been used to treat Covid-19 cases in China, which is ordering more machines from Germany, according to state media.

In answer to a Labour MP’s question on Thursday about coronavirus preparedness, Jo Churchill, a health minister, said: “Since April 2013, NHS England has commissioned a total of 15 adult respiratory extra corporeal membrane oxygenation beds from five providers in England, with further provision in Scotland. In periods of high demand, capacity can be increased.” Jon Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, questioned the readiness of the NHS to deal with a sharp escalation of coronavirus cases after years of cutbacks. “After years of Tory austerity, we know we’ve lost well over 15,000 beds since 2010,” he said. “We know that last week critical care bed occupancy was running at over 80%…”

https://twitter.com/TVRav/status/1232985651831812096

Read more …

Curious: “..in some labs, the third step of that, they were having trouble with getting a quality control validation on that, so it led to inconclusive results,” Azar said. “We now, as of yesterday afternoon, the FDA authorized the use of those tests by using just the first and second step.”

Diagnosis Of Coronavirus Patient In California Was Delayed For Days (NPR)

The first suspected U.S. case of a patient getting the new coronavirus through “community spread” — with no history of travel to affected areas or exposure to someone known to have the COVID-19 illness — was left undiagnosed for days because a request for testing wasn’t initially granted, according to officials at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, Calif. The patient in Northern California is now the 60th confirmed case of the coronavirus in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disclosed the latest case Wednesday evening, as President Trump assigned Vice President Pence to lead the administration’s response to the disease.

“This case was detected through the U.S. public health system — picked up by astute clinicians,” the CDC said in a brief statement about the new patient. UC Davis included more details about the case in its own statement, drawing on an email sent to staff at its medical center. It said the CDC initially ruled out a test for the coronavirus because the patient’s case didn’t match its criteria. “UC Davis Health does not control the testing process,” the hospital noted. The new patient, who lives in Solano County and has not been identified, was transferred to UC Davis Medical in Sacramento County from another hospital this month.

Staff at UC Davis then suspected the patient might be infected with the coronavirus that has caused more than 2,800 deaths. “Upon admission, our team asked public health officials if this case could be COVID-19,” the hospital said. “We requested COVID-19 testing by the CDC, since neither Sacramento County nor CDPH [California Department of Public Health] is doing testing for coronavirus at this time. Since the patient did not fit the existing CDC criteria for COVID-19, a test was not immediately administered. UC Davis Health does not control the testing process.”

[..] The CDC has completed more than 3,600 coronavirus tests, Azar said during a congressional budget hearing on Thursday. While he said it hasn’t had a testing “backlog,” he added that the agency’s test has three steps — and that the last step has posed some problems. “What we found was that in some labs, the third step of that, they were having trouble with getting a quality control validation on that, so it led to inconclusive results,” Azar said. “We now, as of yesterday afternoon, the FDA authorized the use of those tests by using just the first and second step.”

Read more …

The “markets” woke up 5-6 weeks late, but now they’re clued in

The Last Time This Happened Was Days Before The Great Depression (ZH)

The US equity market is suffering its worst start to a year since 2009…

In the space of just six days, we went from record high to a ‘correction’ (over 3,000 Dow points and down over 10.5%)…

What is most ominous is the fact that, as NatAlliance Securities reports, “This would be only the second time in history that this has happened. The other? 1928.”

In other words, the only other time the Dow Jones entered a correction this fast from an all time high was months before the start of the Great Depression.

Read more …

“..the coronavirus response [is] officially an election issue now…”

Whistleblower Claims ‘Corrupt Cover-Up’ Of Dangerous Coronavirus Quarantines (ZH)

A complaint filed with Health and Human Services (HHS) and promptly leaked to the New York Times alleges that federal health employees interacted with Americans quarantined for possible coronavirus exposure without proper medical training or protective gear, and that health agency leaders engaged in a ‘corrupt cover-up’ when staff members complained, according to the Times. Filed with the Office of the Special Counsel, a whistleblower described as a ‘senior leader’ at HHS said the team was “improperly deployed” to two California military bases to assist with processing American evacuees from coronavirus hot zones in China and elsewhere.

The staff members were sent to Travis Air Force Base and March Air Reserve Base and were ordered to enter quarantined areas, including a hangar where coronavirus evacuees were being received. They were not provided training in safety protocols until five days later, the person said. Without proper training or equipment, some of the exposed staff members moved freely around and off the bases, with at least one person staying in a nearby hotel and leaving California on a commercial flight. Many were unaware of the need to test their temperature three times a day. -New York Times

[..] The Times notes that the complaint comes right after President Trump began to downplay the risks of coronavirus on US soil “amid bipartisan concern about a sluggish and disjointed response by the administration to an illness that public health officials have said is likely to spread through the United States.” In other words, the coronavirus response officially an election issue now.

“The whistle-blower’s account raised questions about whether the Trump administration has taken adequate precautions in its handling of the virus to date, and whether Mr. Trump’s minimization of the risks has been mirrored by other top officials when confronted with potentially disturbing developments.” -New York Times

Read more …

Update just in from Reuters:

“Greek woman who recently returned home from northern Italy became Greece’s fourth coronavirus case and is being closely monitored, health authorities said on Friday. The 36-year-old woman has been admitted to a coronavirus isolation unit of the capital’s Attikon Hospital.”

Greece Reports 4 Coronavirus Cases, Cancels Carnival (K.)

Greece reported two new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to three, and said it would suspend all carnival celebrations in the country. The health ministry said one of the cases involved a relative of a 38-year-old woman in the northern town of Thessaloniki who became the first confirmed case in Greece. The woman had recently returned from Milan in northern Italy, epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe. The third reported case, in Athens, was a female who had also visited northern Italy. Among events to be canceled is a carnival parade in the coastal city of Patra slated for March 1, authorities said.

Read more …

But the Olympics are on. When you close schools, hospitals close too, because that’s where the mothers work.

Abe Urges Japan March School Shutdown To Stem Coronavirus (R.)

Angry Japanese parents joined bewildered teachers and businesses on Friday in a rush to find new ways to live and work for a month after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s shock call for all schools to close in a bid to stop coronavirus spreading. Abe’s unprecedented move late on Thursday to ask local authorities to shut down their schools means students will be out of school from Monday at least until the new academic year starts in early April. Earlier this week the government urged that big gatherings and sports events be scrapped or curtailed for two weeks to contain the virus while pledging that the 2020 Summer Olympics will go ahead in Tokyo.

As of Friday, confirmed cases in Japan topped 200, with four deaths, excluding more than 700 cases and four more deaths from the quarantined cruise liner Diamond Princess. While the virus has hit China hardest so far, causing nearly 80,000 infections and almost 2,800 deaths, according to official Chinese figures, its rapid spread to a number of other countries around in the world in the past week has stoked fresh alarm. Abe’s move – issued as a formal request rather than an order – drew scathing criticism, with health officials left scratching their heads and analysts said the plan was politically motivated and made little sense.

“We’ll just have to get our revenge at the next elections,” @Ayu49Sweetfish tweeted, as working parents with young children were left wondering what to do for the duration. In the northern Hokkaido prefecture, which has seen the largest number of coronavirus cases in Japan, the governor had already announced a closure of all schools until March 4. That left one hospital closing doors to patients without reservations on Friday because about a fifth of its nurses were unable to work while their children were out of school.

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They’ll close their borders to refugees and migrants but not virus carriers. Wonder what happens when Turkey is forced to report corona cases.

EU Experts: Closing Borders ‘Ineffective’ For Coronavirus (EUO)

EU experts said on Thursday (27 February) that refusing entry to an EU country of people with coronavirus symptoms would be counter-productive and “ineffective” to prevent the spread of the virus. “Refusal of entry is not considered an appropriate preventive measure as the virus would spread further” since those potential patients would keep moving in the region without being treated, EU sources said. Instead, the experts advised having “systematic” checks for all those arriving, ensuring a coordinated approach between border guards and national authorities, as well as a real-time exchange of information. The principle of free movement of people in the EU was already in danger in 2015 when some member states introduced border check due to the migration crisis.


Today, six EU countries – Germany, France, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Norway – still have temporary border controls to prevent irregular migrant flows. However, any member state can notify the EU authorities of the intention of closing borders temporary due to the coronavirus outbreak – a decision that can only be made by member states and that cannot be vetoed by the European Commission. None have yet done so. If national authorities decide to introduce this exceptional measure, it must be justified passing a “test of proportionality”. Additionally, the commission is working on a joint procurement to ensure there is enough protective and medical equipment for health-care workers – and other authorities like the army – over fears that the outbreak of the coronavirus could lead to a supply shortage in some member states. However, this joint initiative has not been launched yet but there is an “increasing interest” among member states to be part of it, EU sources told reporters in Brussels.

Read more …

Twitter: “Turkish coastguard not patrolling as before. They just approached a boat heading to Northern #Lesbos and then they left without intercepting” a local from Skala village just told me. It seems that #Turkey‘s government meant what they said.”

Turkey Says Can’t Contain Europe-Bound Syrian Refugees Amid Idlib Battle (RT)

Turkey is no longer able to contain millions of displaced Syrians and has reached “full capacity,” Ankara’s ruling AK party said in a fresh threat to open the floodgates into Europe as tensions over Idlib reach boiling point. With Ankara vowing to go “all in” to halt a Syrian Army offensive to retake Idlib province from rebel militias, AKP spokesman Omer Celik suggested Turkey would soon allow hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees to pour into Europe, a threat repeatedly made by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the past. “Turkey can not bear the pressure of the new refugees, we now say that Turkey is at full capacity,” Celik told CNNTurk early on Friday.

While the spokesman noted Turkey’s refugee policy remains “the same,” he said “We are no longer in a position to hold refugees” amid an expected influx of newly displaced Syrians. An earlier report at Reuters cited an unnamed Turkish official who said much the same, although the official went further in stating that police, coast guard and border security officers had been ordered to “stand down” and allow the refugees to cross into Europe. Turkey and the European Union (EU) struck an agreement in 2016 in hopes of stemming the flow of refugees passing into Europe, with the EU providing some €6 billion ($6.6 billion) to help resettle the displaced people.

Erdogan, however, has slammed the multinational body time and again, insisting it has yet to hand over all of the promised aid. With at least 33 Turkish troops killed in the effort to stop Damascus’ offensive on Idlib – the last remaining militant stronghold, some of which are backed by Ankara – tensions between the two countries have reached new heights. Still engaged in intense skirmishes with militants in Idlib, the Syrian Army has signaled no intention of halting its advance, putting Damascus and Ankara on a collision course as the former fights to reclaim its territory.

Read more …

Western media are reluctant to mention Russia, they want the blame to be on Assad. Russia has said that Turkey is supporting terrorists in Syria.

Idlib Attack That Killed 33 Turkish Soldiers Was ‘Also Against NATO’ (RT)

The spokesman for Turkey’s ruling AK party has labelled the Syrian airstrike that allegedly claimed the lives of dozens of Turkish soldiers in rebel-held Idlib an attack on NATO, calling for the US-led alliance to intervene. “We call on NATO to [start] consultations. This is not [an attack] on Turkey only, it is an attack on the international community. A common reaction is needed. The attack was also against NATO,” AKP spokesman Omer Celik told Turkish media on Thursday. At least 33 Turkish soldiers are said to have been killed in Idlib, the last militant stronghold in Syria, in an airstrike Ankara blamed on Damascus. In the wake of initial reports that dozens of Turkish servicemen perished in the raid, Turkish President Receep Erdogan held a 6-hour marathon meeting that concluded early Friday.


The military bloc itself, while pledging support to its “ally Turkey,” has been wary of making any promises. Apparently shocked by reports of the Turkish casualties, US envoy to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchinson reportedly exclaimed “Oh my gosh” in response to the news when speaking to media late Thursday, but dodged the question of whether the US-led alliance would consider invoking Article 5 – which would pave the way for a collective military response to an armed attack on one of its members. However, she did not miss out on a chance to call on Turkey to tear up its deal to buy the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system, while also taking a jab at Moscow: “They see what Russia is, they see what they are doing now” – despite the fact that Ankara has not blamed Moscow for the attack.

Read more …

And Pakistan. Now add a coronavirus outbreak.

East Africa Faces New Locust Threat (R.)

Countries in East Africa are racing against time to prevent new swarms of locusts wreaking havoc with crops and livelihoods after the worst infestation in generations. A lack of expertise in controlling the pests is not their only problem: Kenya temporarily ran out of pesticides, Ethiopia needs more planes and Somalia and Yemen, torn by civil war, can’t guarantee exterminators’ safety. Locust swarms have been recorded in the region since biblical times, but unusual weather patterns exacerbated by climate change have created ideal conditions for insect numbers to surge, scientists say. Warmer seas are creating more rain, wakening dormant eggs, and cyclones that disperse the swarms are getting stronger and more frequent.


In Ethiopia the locusts have reached the fertile Rift Valley farmland and stripped grazing grounds in Kenya and Somalia. Swarms can travel up to 150 km (93 miles) a day and contain between 40-80 million locusts per square kilometer. If left unchecked, the number of locusts in East Africa could explode 400-fold by June. That would devastate harvests in a region with more than 19 million hungry people, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned. Uganda has deployed the military. Kenya has trained hundreds of youth cadets to spray. Lacking pesticides, some security forces in Somalia have shot anti-aircraft guns at swarms darkening the skies. Everyone is racing the rains expected in March: the next generation of larvae is already wriggling from the ground, just as farmers plant their seeds.

Read more …

Popular story though.

Not Quack-Checked! MSM Dives For ‘Chinese Duck Army’ Story (RT)

Western media have fallen hard for an apparently fake if adorable story about a 100,000-strong “duck army” China has supposedly marched to fight the billions of locusts currently laying waste to Pakistan’s food supply. Initially published by local Chinese outlet Ningbo Evening News, the clickbait-tastic story, complete with a video showing a herd of ducks supposedly marching in formation, proved impossible to resist – or to factcheck – and spread around the world by the time people started asking questions. Supposedly reputable outlets including the BBC, Bloomberg, and Time unquestioningly parroted the story about “special Chinese ducks” that would be “more effective than pesticide” – not to mention better for the environment – in taking on the ravenous swarms.

Citing Lu Lizhi, said to be a senior researcher with the Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, the stories called the ducks a “biological weapon” and predicted they’d be unleashed against the hungry insects “as early as the second half of this year” following a test-run in China’s Xinjiang province. Alas, the story of locust-eating ducks fighting the devastating biblical plague has proved to be largely quackery, media that had covered it began realizing on Thursday. Unfortunately for Pakistan, which declared a national emergency earlier this month over the devastating infestation, an avian army is not waddling to their rescue, and even if they were, they wouldn’t do much good.

The Food and Agriculture Organization did the math and found an army of 100,000 ducks could only eat 20 million locusts in a day, while just one square kilometer of swarming locusts contains anywhere from 40 to 80 million of the insects. Also, swarms may stretch over hundreds of square kilometers, as they have in some locust-stricken areas of Africa.

Read more …

Markets are falling off a cliff, and gold hardly moves. That’s what manipulation looks like.

How Gold Is Manipulated (Rickards)

Currently the price of gold is set in two places. One is the London spot market, controlled by six big banks including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan. The other is the New York gold futures market controlled by COMEX, which is governed by its big clearing members, also including major western banks. In effect, the big western banks have a monopoly on gold prices even if they do not have a monopoly on physical gold. The easiest way to perform paper manipulation is through COMEX futures. Rigging futures markets is child’s play. You just wait until a little bit before the close and put in a massive sell order. By doing this you scare the other side of the market into lowering their bid price; they back away.

That lower price then gets trumpeted around the world as the “price” of gold, discouraging investors and hurting sentiment. The price decline spooks hedge funds into dumping more gold as they hit “stop-loss” limits on their positions. A self-fulfilling momentum is established where selling begets more selling and the price spirals down for no particular reason except that someone wanted it that way. Eventually a bottom is established and buyers step in, but by then the damage is done. Futures have a huge amount of leverage that can easily reach 20 to 1. For $10 million of cash margin, I can sell $200 million of paper gold.

[..] Another way to manipulate the price is through gold leasing and “unallocated forwards.” “Unallocated” is one of those buzzwords in the gold market. When most large gold buyers want to buy physical gold, they’ll call JPMorgan Chase, HSBC, Citibank, or one of the large gold dealers. They’ll put in an order for, say, $5 million worth of gold. The bank will say fine, send us your money for the gold and we’ll offer you a written contract in a standard form. Yet if you read the contract, it says you own gold on an “unallocated” basis. That means you don’t have designated bars.

There’s no group of gold bars that have your name on them or specific gold bar serial numbers that are registered to you. In practice, unallocated gold allows the bank to sell the same physical gold ten times over to ten different buyers. It’s no different from any other kind of fractional reserve banking. Banks never have as much cash on hand as they do deposits. Every depositor in a bank thinks he can walk in and get cash whenever he wants, but every banker knows the bank doesn’t have that much cash. The bank puts the money out on loan or buys securities; banks are highly leveraged institutions.

Read more …

How long can Biden keep this documentary under wraps?

Biden Treated Ukraine ‘As His Private Property’ – Ex-Prosecutor Shokin (RT)

Former top Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin says he was pushed out under pressure from US Vice President Joe Biden, after he seized the assets of the oligarch behind Burisma, the gas company that employed Biden’s son. President Donald Trump’s efforts to investigate Biden’s role in getting Shokin fired served as a pretext for his impeachment in the House of Representatives back in December. However, after Trump was acquitted by the Senate, the US media forgot about Burisma — and Ukraine. French investigative journalist Olivier Berruyer, founder of popular anti-corruption and economics blog Les Crises, did not.

In the fourth installment of his documentary series ‘UkraineGate: Inconvenient facts,’ Shokin reveals why and how he was ousted and what role the US has played in Ukraine. Shokin tells Berruyer that Biden and the US government had approved his appointment as prosecutor-general — as, indeed, they did all major appointments in Ukraine since the 2014 Maidan upheaval? — and worked with him well until he started getting too close to Burisma. He rejected reports that described his probe as “dormant.” “Biden was acting on behalf of his own interests, and those of his family, and not in the interest of the American people,” Shokin said, adding that Barack Obama’s VP “believed that Ukraine was his private property, his fiefdom and that he could do whatever he wanted here.”

Within a few days of Shokin seizing the assets of Mykola Zlochevsky, the oligarch owner of Burisma, President Petro Poroshenko summoned him and told him to back off. “Don’t you understand what Biden wants from you? Why are you getting into this Burisma stuff again?” Shokin quoted Poroshenko as saying. Within a few weeks, he was replaced by someone Biden called “more solid” – Yuriy Lutsenko, who had no training in law, and whom Shokin describes as a traitor to Ukraine.

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Absolutely non-partisan.

Ethics Complaint Questions How Devin Nunes Pays For Lawsuits (Hill)

A nonpartisan watchdog group in an ethics complaint Wednesday asked Congress to investigate how Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is paying for several ongoing lawsuits against critics. In its complaint to the Office of Congressional Ethics, the Campaign Legal Center notes Nunes’s annual congressional salary of $174,000 would likely not cover the costs of the various suits, indicating that he is either receiving free or discounted legal services or working on contingency with an attorney, all of which would require him to disclose the assistance. Nunes has yet to file a legal expense fund with the Office of Congressional Ethics. “Representative Nunes’s overt involvement with the highly-publicized lawsuits threatens to establish a precedent that the Legal Expense Fund regulations no longer apply to Members,” the complaint states. “Although Representative Nunes is entitled to legal representation and he may pursue any legal action to protect and defend his interests, he must comply with House rules,” it continued.


“An [Office of Congressional Ethics] investigation will preserve Representative Nunes’s legal right to counsel while upholding well-established House rules and precedent.” Defendants in Nunes’s lawsuits include Twitter, CNN, McClatchy and two anonymous Twitter accounts that have mocked him. The complaint also claims that even if Nunes was paying Virginia attorney Steven Biss based on contingency — meaning that should Nunes win his cases, Biss would get paid by taking a percentage the resulting award — Biss has also sent two letters demanding apologies for criticisms from Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Nunes’s 2017 opponent Andrew Janz. “Mr. Biss sent a letter to Representative Lieu threatening to bring an ethics complaint against him,” the complaint reads. “An ethics complaint will not result in a monetary award that could support payment under a contingency fee agreement.”

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“..the arrow that flies in the night..”

UK Mainstream Media Participate In Assange Crucifixion (Galloway)

The vast majority of the Fourth Estate in Britain either care nothing for the plight of Julian Assange, or are actively participating in his crucifixion. On the face of it, that makes no sense. If it were the intention of these journalists to actually be worthy of that name, then the proceedings in Belmarsh would be the biggest story in their world. The law being tested in the Woolwich Crown Fort would be a mortal danger to them, a dagger at their throat, a sword of Damocles hanging over their head. The prosecution made perfectly clear that the mere possession by a newspaper or a broadcaster of the foreign state secrets published by Assange would itself be a crime under the US Espionage Act, and thus they themselves open to an extradition request from a foreign state.


Though this statement was made in “open court,” virtually no msm journalist even reported it, never mind condemned it. How has this situation come about? Whatever happened to Woodward and Bernstein, to the Sunday Times devastating campaign against the Thalidomide scandal, the New York Times revelations of the Pentagon Papers? Where is the reporting about My Lai? The answer lies in the words of Francis Bacon four centuries ago, when he foretold of the impact of self-censorship: “the arrow that flies in the night” he called it. You don’t see it but it kills its quarry just the same. If Julian Assange is sent into the dungeons of America, free journalism, free speech and even democracy itself will have been murdered in plain sight. On the British mainstream media watch.

Read more …

“Fitzgerald responded that Assange didn’t only seek to change US government policy, but that he succeeded.”

Julian Assange Leaked US Files For Political Ends – Lawyers (G.)

Julian Assange’s legal team has rejected a suggestion by lawyers for US authorities that his actions were not “political offences”, arguing that the WikiLeaks founder had published classified documents to highlight human rights abuses. On the fourth day of Assange’s extradition hearing in London, before proceedings were adjourned until May, his barrister, Edward Fitzgerald QC, said the motives for publishing confidential information about Guantánamo Bay and the actions of the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan were political. Assange faces 18 charges in the US of attempted hacking and breaches of the Espionage Act over the publication of classified US cables a decade ago.

His defence argues that he should be protected from extradition because the US-UK treaty rules it out for political offences. James Lewis QC, a barrister for the US authorities, argued earlier on Thursday that Assange’s actions were not inherently political as they did not have the direct purpose of overthrowing the US government or changing US government policy. “Any bare assertion that WikiLeaks was engaged in a struggle with the US government … needs to be examined far more,” he told Woolwich crown court. Fitzgerald responded that Assange didn’t only seek to change US government policy, but that he succeeded. “WikiLeaks didn’t just seek to induce change, it did induce change,” he said, referring to the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

“What other purpose can there be publishing the Apache helicopter strike [video, showing the killing of 12 people] and [US] rules of engagement than to show that the war was being waged in a way that conflicted with fundamental human rights? “What other point can there be to releasing the Guantánamo Bay files than to induce a government change of policy? And the same for revealing civilian deaths in the Iraq war – [it] was to induce a change in government policy.’’

Read more …

Murray in court.

Your Man in the Public Gallery – The Assange Hearing Day 3 (Craig Murray)

Edward Fitzgerald made a formal application for Julian to be allowed to sit beside his lawyers in the court. Julian was “a gentle, intellectual man” and not a terrorist. Baraitser replied that releasing Assange from the dock into the body of the court would mean he was released from custody. To achieve that would require an application for bail. Again, the prosecution counsel James Lewis intervened on the side of the defence to try to make Julian’s treatment less extreme. He was not, he suggested diffidently, quite sure that it was correct that it required bail for Julian to be in the body of the court, or that being in the body of the court accompanied by security officers meant that a prisoner was no longer in custody.

Prisoners, even the most dangerous of terrorists, gave evidence from the witness box in the body of the court nest to the lawyers and magistrate. In the High Court prisoners frequently sat with their lawyers in extradition hearings, in extreme cases of violent criminals handcuffed to a security officer. Baraitser replied that Assange might pose a danger to the public. It was a question of health and safety. How did Fitzgerald and Lewis think that she had the ability to carry out the necessary risk assessment? It would have to be up to Group 4 to decide if this was possible. Yes, she really did say that. Group 4 would have to decide.

Baraitser started to throw out jargon like a Dalek when it spins out of control. “Risk assessment” and “health and safety” featured a lot. She started to resemble something worse than a Dalek, a particularly stupid local government officer of a very low grade. “No jurisdiction” – “Up to Group 4”. Recovering slightly, she stated firmly that delivery to custody can only mean delivery to the dock of the court, nowhere else in the room. If the defence wanted him in the courtroom where he could hear proceedings better, they could only apply for bail and his release from custody in general. She then peered at both barristers in the hope this would have sat them down, but both were still on their feet.

In his diffident manner (which I confess is growing on me) Lewis said “the prosecution is neutral on this request, of course but, err, I really don’t think that’s right”. He looked at her like a kindly uncle whose favourite niece has just started drinking tequila from the bottle at a family party. Baraitser concluded the matter by stating that the Defence should submit written arguments by 10am tomorrow on this point, and she would then hold a separate hearing into the question of Julian’s position in the court.

Read more …

 

From Greece.

 

 

 

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Feb 252020
 


Venice carnival or Black Death? Mary Poppins?

 

 

Many of the things we see happening now with the coronavirus, COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, take your pick, I “predicted” a while ago. But I’m not in the predicting business, and anyone who would have said even just a week ago that Italy would have 11 deaths today and/or Iran would have 50, or the US 53+ cases of infection, would have been labeled a raving lunatic.

Wuhan apparently relaxed some of their lockdown measures yesterday (and walked that back hours later), as did other places in China when they hadn’t had any new cases for 24 hours or so, and we know why they do it -it’s the economy, stupid!- but that is really the worst possible thing to do. China’s even trying to telegraph that they are in control again, as per Zero Hedge:

“As the WHO team wrapped up its Monday press conference with what was essentially tantamount to a global confidence-building exercise in China’s response, a senior official from China’s National Health Commission said the coronavirus risk from Wuhan had gone ‘way down.’ Of course, if that’s true, then why did officials cancel a planned easing of the lockdown? The official added that China has “..managed to stop the ‘rapid rise’ of infections in Wuhan, though they haven’t stopped the epidemic yet..”

Of course it’s lovely that at the very moment China – falsely- claims to be regaining control, markets worldwide sink into a deep well and gold climbs the Kilimanjaro. Surprising it is not. It simply shows that “investors” are mostly completely clueless about the virus, and the media they follow mostly don’t know dick all either or prefer not to rock the cradle.

The so-called investors follow the same behavioral pattern that civil servants, politicians, “management” at companies, and journalists do. They check first and last what others are doing, so they won’t look out of tune and they can’t be accused of crying wolf. They tend to only act when the rest do, and by then it will inevitably be too late. Man as a social animal, covering their asses by hiding behind others.

For those so-called investors, who cares what they do or why? But for politicians and civil servants, this mindset means they will NOT be ordering test-kits, medicine and the like, when they should. And not warning the public about various upcoming threats and shortages.

For journalists it means their readers and viewers are only clued in when the wolf’s right on their doorstep. I’ve used the Chinese politburo as an example in The Party and the Virus (Feb 2), but I don’t think western countries are much, if any, faster or wiser or more aware. These are all jobs replete with born followers who have only ever learned how to hide behind mom’s skirts and aprons.

And for the rare few who don’t think in herd terms, they will be ridiculed by the sheep in that herd, who will again seek strength in numbers and behind aprons when they are found wanting. Which is fine for investors, they are only playing with money. The others, though, are playing with human lives.

 

A comment on my article last week, Go Forth and Multiply (Feb 20), suggested that I merely collected the most alarmist articles and turned them into an article. Nope.

The article deals with the failures of all the groups of people mentioned above, in various countries, which have led to where we are today. There are plenty other reports which are far more “alarmist”. I am not personally talking about worst-case scenarios, but in other instances I have quoted a few scientists who would fit that description. Take for instance Gabriel Leung at Hong Kong University, whom I’ve quoted more than once. Leung and his team contend:

• Most experts thought that each person infected would go on to transmit the virus to around 2.5 other people. That gave an “attack rate” of 60-80%.
• Even if the general fatality rate is as low as 1%, which Leung thinks is possible once milder cases are taken into account, the death toll would be massive.
• “Is 60 to 80% of the world’s population going to get infected? Maybe not. Maybe this will come in waves. Maybe the virus is going to attenuate its lethality because it certainly doesn’t help it if it kills everybody in its path, because it will get killed as well..”

There’s Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch, who predicts that “within the coming year, some 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected..” And Lancaster University epidemiologist/biostatistician Jonathan Read isn’t all that much cheerier.

Compared to those guys, I am not an alarmist, nor do I go out to look for articles in that vein. I did see quite a while ago that this virus had “potential”, though. And I did see The Big Lockdown (Feb 5) coming before it did. Actually, I see a lot more of that. My intent is to go back to Athens in April, but I seriously have no idea if that will be on offer 5-6 weeks from now, as Italy already today has 11 deaths, 322 cases, and over 100,000 people under lockdown, and deployed the military. Italy had nothing a week ago. And Italy is not that far from Greece.

Come to think of it, nor is it from Holland, where I am right now. That is a situation that people should have woken up to a long time ago. Holland has a number of its citizens locked up in a hotel on Tenerife, Canary Islands, a Spanish province off the northwest coast of Africa. There are 1000 guests in the hotel, all confined to their rooms, because one guest was an Italian who tested positive for COVID19.

There’s also a hotel in Innsbruck, Tyrol, Austria on lockdown. It has an Italian receptionist who is infected. Check the quarantine time for theose people. If it’s less than two weeks, you know nobody’s learned a thing.

This is the shape of things to come. As is Italy admitting a hospital actually spread the virus. And Japan saying it will now attempt to limit virus deaths, instead of preventing them. That may sound like mere semantics, but it’s not. It sounds like Japan giving up on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics without pronouncing it.

Also in Holland, yesterday a high end webshop, which sells electronics, including iPhones, etc., said they want to sell less!! and will raise prices because they foresee they can’t get sufficient supplies from China anymore soon. The obvious media reaction is they must be crazy, because competitors haven’t done the same. But that’s too easy. Maybe they just broke free of the mold of waiting for others to act.

What I find interesting in that light is that Holland’s dependence on the global China trade is much less than for other rich nations, and for south east Asia as a whole. Whither Amazon, Walmart, whither the Silk Road? Quo Vadis?

 

 

On February 6, the day after I published The Big Lockdown , a friend at the Global Change Research Institute, reacting to my question “Will [the Chinese] have an economy left by then?” (I don’t remember the exact time I referred to), said “Isn’t that TOO pessimistic?”

My reply was: “There’ll always be something left. There was an economy 100 years ago, and 500, and 1,000. It started when Eve made a deal with a snake. My point was more: what KIND of economy will there be? Nobody seriously considers a collapse such as this, and I think they should.”

He retorted: “I am not really convinced this will be a trigger of (chinese) economic collapse, but well, I am open-minded about such possibility… For now, I am corona-triggered-collapse-skeptic. ;-)”

I wonder how he feels about it today.

Me, I don’t think the biggest issue with the virus is the number of deaths and cases, at least not in the short term. The biggest issue is that there is a virus on the loose than has proven it CAN be lethal, and for which there is no vaccine.

The biggest issue is that we are stumbling woefully unprepared into the future, and therefore our only defense is to lock each other, and ourselves, up in our homes, (and our communities and cities if we’re lucky) until we can’t, social animals that we are.

The biggest issue will not be the cases or even deaths, it will be that ever more of the things we have come to rely on far away lands for, will slowly cease to arrive on our shores. Some of it will be trinkets we never needed, but some of it will also be things without which our lives and communities can no longer function the way we’re used to.

It will be a slow process. Or will it, nothing really moves slow with this virus; it appears to move in virus time, not human time.

You should probably get some immune system boosters while they are available, like Vit.D(3) and echinacea. Facial masks perhaps, while there are any. There are professionals who are regular commenters on the Automatic Earth and who can answer questions on that.

We should also likely prepare for a large-scale reduction in large-scale activities, events that require crowds. Olympics, sports games, concerts, arenas, but also supermarkets and department stores. And then after that come public transport and factories. Alarmist again? Just wait till the first case or death comes to a town near you. Observe how people react. You can see it today in Wuhan, Beijing, Milan, Qom.

By the way, how do you know there are no cases near you? Is anyone testing? Do they have test kits? They will test soon, and they will have kits if they can find any. Note: Japan said today their supply of test kits will be used only for the most serious cases. Everyone else is on their own.

New reports of infections are coming in today from Canada, Bahrain, Croatia, Austria, Switzerland, Romania, Barcelona and more. Ask yourself: what are the odds this will stop tomorrow morning? Or that the US won’t get worse? Face masks, Vit. C, Vit.D(3), echinacea and other things won’t bankrupt most of you, and they’re good for you anyway, so maybe get them while you can.

Oh, and prepare for an enormous amount of misinformation emanating from the politicians and media who are always way behind the curve, and who right now are all actively pondering how to protect the economy. They can’t conceive of a world where a virus can trump the economy. Pun intended. Neither can those who call themselves “investors”. It’s the virus, stupid. HedgeEye got that one particulary well:

 

 

Me, I’m sitting here wondering what the link is between the masks for the -now cancelled- Venice carnival, and the Black Death. But that sounds at least a little alarmist, too, doesn’t it?

Please remind me to pick up a copy of Boccaccio’s Decameron(e), in which ten people tell ten stories each while in quarantine outside of Florence during the Plague, around 1350 AD. Should be popular soon.

 

 

If you read us, please support us. It’s the only way the Automatic Earth can survive. Donate on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Feb 252020
 


Andreas Feininger Production B-17 heavy bomber at Boeing plant, Seattle Dec 1942

 

The Fall of Wuhan (Ben Hunt)
40-70% Of People Will Be Infected With COVID19 – Epidemiologist (Atl.)
Xi Jinping Rings Alarm On Economy As China Shifts Priority To Growth (SCMP)
Confusion In Wuhan As Move To Ease Coronavirus Lockdown Is Reversed (SCMP)
How Iran’s Death Toll Came To Be The Highest Behind Only China (SCMP)
China Overestimating Economic Recovery By Leaving Out Small Businesses (SCMP)
South Korea To Test 200,000 Sect Members As Pandemic Fears Hit Markets (G.)
Virus Spreads Despite Best Efforts Of Top Healthcare Systems (Fox)
Closures Reveal Vast Scale Of China’s Secretive Wildlife Farm Industry (G.)
Why Didn’t We See That Coming? (Kunstler)
Airline Stocks Tumble As Coronavirus Spreads Outside Of China (CNBC)
Weinstein To Face 8 More Allegations After New York Verdict (G.)
US Proposals To Whitewash Idlib Terrorists Unacceptable – Lavrov (RT)
Julian Assange ‘Suicide Risk’ If Extradited From UK To US – Lawyer (SCMP)
Assange Fight Draws In Trump’s New Intel Chief (Pol.)
Julian Assange ‘At High Risk Of Suicide’ If Extradited To US -Lawyer (Ind.)

 

 

Now that the MSM is slowly and finally waking up to the reality of the virus, the information to read and post and comment on, becomes overwhelming. Last week I twice took out the virus-related info to include in separate articles (Virus Rattles if you will), but today I need the extra time doing that involves, for other things.

Still, one observation: yesterday, we saw the highest daily death toll of the entire crisis. Today, we see the lowest. As Xi is pushing hard for the economy. Credibility remains a major issue.

 

Cases 80,328 (+ 621 from yesterday’s 79,707).

Deaths 2,707 (+ 81 from yesterday’s 2,626)

 

From SCMP:

 

 

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

Ben Hunt keeps his eyes on the ball:

“..build dedicated treatment wards before they’re required..”

“..protect healthcare professionals before they get sick..”

“..update our testing and diagnostic capabilities before they are swamped..”

“..bolster our healthcare systems BEFORE the need overwhelms the capacity..”

The Fall of Wuhan (Ben Hunt)

Last week I wrote about the corrupt political response of the World Health Organization to COVID-19. This week I’m writing about the corrupt political response of the United States to COVID-19. Because it’s happened before. In August 2005, the city of New Orleans fell. New Orleans did not fall because of Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans fell because of the corrupt political response to Hurricane Katrina. “We can stabilize the situation. Again, I want to thank you all. Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job!” – President George W. Bush. In January 2020, the city of Wuhan fell. Wuhan did not fall because of COVID-19. Wuhan fell because of the corrupt political response to COVID-19.

“Wuhan is a heroic city, and people of Hubei and Wuhan are heroic people who have never been crushed by any difficulty and danger in history. All regions and departments performed their duties actively and conscientiously.” – Xi the Commander (no, I am not making this up; this is how the Xinhua news service describes him now … “Xi the Commander”) A corrupt political response is always the same. It never changes in form. It never changes in function. A corrupt political response occurs when a political leader sacrifices national interest for regime or bureaucratic interest … when a constructed narrative of “Yay, Calm and Competent Control!” is maintained for the political benefit of the Leader at the expense of the Led.

Oh, the Leader and his flunkies will convince themselves that the narrative “is in the public interest” … that the narrative will “buy them time” … that the narrative is necessary because “the other side” would do the same or worse if given half a chance. It’s all the excuses that all the Renfields to all the professional politicians tell themselves as they slowly sell their souls. It’s what every President and every Director-General and every Senator and every CEO eventually comes to believe, that their personal interests are identical to “their” people’s interests.

[..] Every once in a very great while, an honest-to-god crisis reveals the political self-interest and mendacity behind your carefully constructed narrative of “Yay, Calm and Competent Control!” . Like the fall of New Orleans revealed George W. Bush. Like the fall of Wuhan revealed Xi Jinping. What we must prevent today is the NEXT city to fall. We must prevent the fall of Daegu. We must prevent the fall of Qom. We must prevent the fall of Milan. Looking ahead, we must prevent the fall of Yokohama. We must prevent the fall of San Francisco. Because containment has failed. What we’re seeing in South Korea, Iran and Italy is what exponential disease propagation looks like in the real world. Real world data is spiky. Real world data is messy. Real world exponential growth looks like nothing, nothing, nothing … then cluster, cluster, cluster … then BOOM!

[..] Containment has failed. And so now we must fight. As individuals that means social distancing. As individuals that means doing what we can to stay healthy and prepare for a storm. As a nation that means a war-footing to build dedicated treatment wards before they’re required, to protect healthcare professionals before they get sick, to update our testing and diagnostic capabilities before they are swamped … to do everything possible to bolster our healthcare systems BEFORE the need overwhelms the capacity. Above all, that means calling out our leaders for their corrupt political responses to date, and forcing them through our outcry to adopt an effective virus-fighting policy for OUR benefit, not theirs. We got this.

Read more …

2nd-3rd scientist saying this. By then mortality rate will likely be 1% or so. But 1% of a huge number is a huge number in itself.

40-70% Of People Will Be Infected With COVID19 – Epidemiologist (Atl.)

The Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch is exacting in his diction, even for an epidemiologist. Twice in our conversation he started to say something, then paused and said, “Actually, let me start again.” So it’s striking when one of the points he wanted to get exactly right was this: “I think the likely outcome is that it will ultimately not be containable.” [..] Lipsitch predicts that, within the coming year, some 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. But, he clarifies emphatically, this does not mean that all will have severe illnesses. “It’s likely that many will have mild disease, or may be asymptomatic,” he said. As with influenza, which is often life-threatening to people with chronic health conditions and of older age, most cases pass without medical care. (Overall, around 14 percent of people with influenza have no symptoms.)

Lipsitch is far from alone in his belief that this virus will continue to spread widely. The emerging consensus among epidemiologists is that the most likely outcome of this outbreak is a new seasonal disease—a fifth “endemic” coronavirus. With the other four, people are not known to develop long-lasting immunity. If this one follows suit, and if the disease continues to be as severe as it is now, “cold and flu season” could become “cold and flu and COVID-19 season.” At this point, it is not even known how many people are infected. As of Sunday, there have been 35 confirmed cases in the U.S., according to the World Health Organization. But Lipsitch’s “very, very rough” estimate when we spoke a week ago (banking on “multiple assumptions piled on top of each other,” he said) was that 100 or 200 people in the U.S. were infected.

That’s all it would take to seed the disease widely. The rate of spread would depend on how contagious the disease is in milder cases. On Friday, Chinese scientists reported in the medical journal JAMA an apparent case of asymptomatic spread of the virus, from a patient with a normal chest CT scan. The researchers concluded with stolid understatement that if this finding is not a bizarre abnormality, “the prevention of COVID-19 infection would prove challenging.” Even if Lipsitch’s estimates were off by orders of magnitude, they wouldn’t likely change the overall prognosis. “Two hundred cases of a flu-like illness during flu season—when you’re not testing for it—is very hard to detect,” Lipsitch said. “But it would be really good to know sooner rather than later whether that’s correct, or whether we’ve miscalculated something.

The only way to do that is by testing.” Originally, doctors in the U.S. were advised not to test people unless they had been to China or had contact with someone who had been diagnosed with the disease. Within the past two weeks, the CDC said it would start screening people in five U.S. cities, in an effort to give some idea of how many cases are actually out there. But tests are still not widely available. As of Friday, the Association of Public Health Laboratories said that only California, Nebraska, and Illinois had the capacity to test people for the virus.

Read more …

The sleight of hand used to argue for factories restarting: “Xi said that as many as 1,396 counties and districts, some 46% of the nation’s total, had not reported a single confirmed case of the coronavirus.”

Xi Jinping Rings Alarm On Economy As China Shifts Priority To Growth (SCMP)

President Xi Jinping has rung the alarm bell on China’s economic growth as worries mount over the coronavirus’ impact on the economy, unemployment and global supply chains. Speaking on Sunday, Xi made it clear that the priority for most of the country was to get the world’s second biggest economy up and running after extensive delays. “It is unavoidable that the novel coronavirus epidemic will have a considerable impact on the economy and society,” said Xi in a lengthy televised address that was watched by as many as 170,000 officials and published by state news agency Xinhua. But Xi, China’s most powerful leader in decades, added the country’s social and economic system “can’t be paused for a long”.


The edited version of Xi’s speech was published soon after it was delivered, reflecting the urgency of the guidelines. Containment measures including mandatory quarantine for workers, partial shutdowns of factories and transport restrictions have caused significant disruptions to the economy, which was already growing at record low levels before the virus outbreak. Xi said that as many as 1,396 counties and districts, some 46 per cent of the nation’s total, had not reported a single confirmed case of the coronavirus. These low-risk zones, along with areas with only a small number of infections, should “comprehensively restore production” and life as usual, he said. “Medium-risk” regions should resume production in an “orderly manner”, while the priority for hard-hit areas like Hubei, the province at the centre of the outbreak, was still containing the virus, he said.

Read more …

Comments about Wuhan from the video:

• 40 portable incinerators X 30 corpses/incinerator/day = 1,200 corpses/day
• 100 additional portable incinerators ordered
• In addition to 47 crematories running in full capacity
• Another 1MM incinerators on the way!

And people tell me I’m exaggerating!

Confusion In Wuhan As Move To Ease Coronavirus Lockdown Is Reversed (SCMP)

Just three hours after announcing that visitors trapped in Wuhan – the Chinese city at the heart of the coronavirus epidemic – could leave on Monday, authorities reversed the decision, saying it had been made without approval. The local government revoked the notice it said had been issued by a subordinate working group from the city’s disease control command centre without approval from their superiors. “The centre, headed by Wuhan mayor Zhou Xianwang, said the officials who had issued the order without authorisation had been reprimanded. “Wuhan resolutely adheres to the spirit of Chinese President Xi [Jinping] … strictly controls every exit from Wuhan and the management of personnel, in order to prevent the spread of the [coronavirus],” it said in a statement retracting the earlier notice.

Extreme lockdown measures have been in place in Wuhan – capital of Hubei and home to 11 million people – since January 23, with all residential areas quarantined and roads and transport links closed. The retracted order would have allowed non-residents who did not have symptoms of the virus and had not had contact with infected patients to leave the city. It had also said locals involved in disease control efforts or essential daily services such as utilities and the delivery of necessities, as well as those who needed specialist medical treatment outside Wuhan, could leave without permission.

[..] More than 75 per cent of deaths in China from the new coronavirus – which causes a disease known as Covid-19 – have been in Wuhan, where the outbreak is believed to have originated in December. [..] According to Taoran Notes, a social media account affiliated with the official Economic Daily newspaper, the earlier notice had been issued by one of Wuhan’s five deputy mayors without authorisation, but it did not name the official.

Read more …

600 “official” cases, 50 deaths. That rhymes with Worldometer’s 9% mortality rate. But sure, it could also mean a huge amount of undetected or unconfirmed cases.

How Iran’s Death Toll Came To Be The Highest Behind Only China (SCMP)

Iran has been thrust to the forefront of rising global concern about the spread of the novel coronavirus after reporting by far the most deaths of any country apart from China. Iranian health officials have confirmed 12 deaths from the Covid-19 disease among 61 cases in the country, while a parliamentarian representing the city at the centre of the outbreak in the country has claimed the death toll stands at 50. Either figure would dwarf death tolls in South Korea, Japan and Italy, until now the most severely-affected countries outside China…

After insisting as recently as last week that the country had no cases of the coronavirus, Iranian authorities on February 19 confirmed the deaths of two elderly people in the city of Qom, about 145km south of the capital Tehran, followed by more fatalities in subsequent days. On February 24, officials raised the death toll to 12, from eight the previous day – making the outbreak in Iran the deadliest outside China. Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani, a lawmaker for the city of Qom, said on the same day there had been in fact 50 deaths, claiming the government was late to announce the outbreak and his city was ill-equipped to deal with the public health emergency.

Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi disputed those claims in a press conference on state television, pledging to resign if the death toll was even one-quarter of the higher figure. [..] After officials earlier speculated about possible sources of the outbreak including Chinese workers and pilgrims from Pakistan, Iran’s health minister Saeed Namaki on Sunday said the contagion was believed to be linked to a merchant from Qom who regularly travelled between Iran and China. The Iranian, who died from the virus, had been using indirect flights to get around a ban on direct flights between the countries introduced at the end of January.

[..] The disproportionately high fatality rate in Iran’s official figures – with about one in five of those infected succumbing to the virus, compared to one in 50 in China – has been taken by some experts as a sign the true number of cases in the country is far higher than currently known. Assuming a fatality rate of about 2 per cent, the official death toll so far would translate into about 600 cases overall in Iran, about 10 times the current count.

Read more …

More sleight of hand. I’ve been saying for a long time that it’s sbout SMEs, not Apple suppliers. Small firms account for at least 80% of jobs.

China Overestimating Economic Recovery By Leaving Out Small Businesses (SCMP)

China’s economic recovery amid the coronavirus outbreak has likely been overstated as data only covers larger companies and excludes the vast majority of the smaller workshops and manufacturers. [..] On Monday, National Development and Reform Commission spokesman Cong Liang said that over 90 per cent of industrial enterprises in Zhejiang province, one of the country’s top manufacturing bases, had resumed operation. According to Cong, over 70 per cent of production in the manufacturing and export hubs of Guangdong, Jiangsu, Shandong and Liaoning had also restarted. However, the official figures only cover larger firms, namely enterprises with capacities “above state designated sizes”, which are enterprises that have a minimum annual turnover of 20 million yuan (US$2.85 million), according to the government’s official definition.


China’s state statistics system normally only covers industrial enterprises with an annual turnover above this level as they accounted for around 90 per cent of the nation’s output in terms of value. In addition, the figures concerning firms that have resumed operation overlook the level of production within a specific factory, as the official data classes a factory that may have only resumed slightly more than half of its capacity as having resumed production. [..] The smaller firms, for example, are often unable to met virus prevention conditions set by local governments, including having enough facial masks for employees. A monthly survey of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in China, conducted by Standard Chartered Bank for the period up to the start of last week, found that firms were on average operating at 42 per cent, while only 47 per cent of workers had returned on average.

Read more …

Please imagine how you would test 200,000 people. Do they really have that many test kits? Where do they buy them?

South Korea To Test 200,000 Sect Members As Pandemic Fears Hit Markets (G.)

South Korea has stepped up its “maximum measures” to contain the coronavirus with plans to test around 200,000 members of a secretive church believed to be at the centre of the country’s outbreak. Along with an emergency budget and a crackdown on the hoarding of face masks, the government in Seoul will test members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus after its founder agreed to provide authorities with the names of all its members in the country. It came as financial markets saw more heavy losses across Asia Pacific on Tuesday over fears the coronavirus was spreading more widely from China and will cause disruption in countries such as South Korea, the world’s 12th biggest economy.

The Nikkei in Tokyo was down 3.3% while the Shanghai Composite sank 2%. Stocks in Australia fell 1.6% and Hong Kong was also in the red although futures trading pointed to a recovery later in the day in European and US markets. In Japan, a fourth person from the Diamond Princess cruise ship died and the country’s education minister said schools with reported coronavirus cases should be temporarily closed. Koichi Hagiuda told reporters on Tuesday that education boards of Hokkaido in northern Japan and Chiba City near Tokyo have been told to take this preventive measure, NHK says.

In China, where 71 new deaths and 508 new cases were reported on Tuesday, health officials said strict control and prevention measures would remain in place in Hubei province, the epicentre of the global outbreak. The national health commission added it would also strictly control the outbound movement of people in Wuhan and other cities in Hubei province with existing traffic controls. At Tianjin University, near Beijing, scientists said they had developed an oral vaccine for Covid-19. The professor who led the project, Huang Jinhai, said the vaccine could also serve as a potential therapy for infected patients. Chinese state media said the university was looking for partners to run clinical trials.

Read more …

” South Korea has a fantastic health care system. They tested over 20,000 people and ended up with over 800 positive cases. That’s showing that this is a highly contagious virus..”

Virus Spreads Despite Best Efforts Of Top Healthcare Systems (Fox)

Fears of a global pandemic continue to grow as coronavirus cases spike in several countries, including Italy, South Korea and Iran, as the U.S. stock market nosedived early Monday. A staggering 50 people died in the Iranian city of Qom from the new coronavirus in the month of February, Iran’s semiofficial ILNA news agency reported on Monday. The new death toll is significantly higher than the latest number of confirmed cases that Iranian officials had reported just a few hours earlier, which stood at just 12 deaths out of 47 cases, according to state TV. The 50 deaths date back as far as Feb. 13, according to an Iranian official. Iran previously reported its cases and deaths from the virus on Feb. 19.


Authorities are struggling to contain and understand the outbreak in those countries, where infected cases have skyrocketed as they have increased over 2,000 percent in the past couple of weeks. Italy is considered the site of Europe’s first major outbreak and the largest outside of Asia. The number of infected cases jumped to 152, compared to just three 10 days ago. Siegel told anchor Ed Henry that it’s even “more concerning” to hear there are more than 800 cases reported in South Korea. “I’ve been saying that it’s all about health care infrastructure, that China doesn’t have it, we have it, other Western countries have it. Well, guess what, South Korea has a fantastic health care system. They tested over 20,000 people and ended up with over 800 positive cases. That’s showing that this is a highly contagious virus that is spreading despite the best efforts of top health systems to contain it,” he said.

Read more …

China is also the main market for many endangered species from elsewhere in the world. Can we please stop that too? Just boycott the country for allowing rhino, tiger and elephant body parts trade. Full boycott. Here’s our chance..

Closures Reveal Vast Scale Of China’s Secretive Wildlife Farm Industry (G.)

Nearly 20,000 wildlife farmsraising species including peacocks, civet cats, porcupines, ostriches, wild geese and boar have been shut down across China in the wake of the coronavirus, in a move that has exposed the hitherto unknown size of the industry. Until a few weeks ago wildlife farming was still being promoted by government agencies as an easy way for rural Chinese people to get rich. But the Covid-19 outbreak, which has now led to over 1,800 deaths and more than 72,000 known infections, is thought to have originated in wildlife sold at a market in Wuhan in early December, prompting a massive rethink by authorities on how to manage the trade. China issued a temporary ban on wildlife trade to curb the spread of the virus at the end of January and began a widespread crackdown on breeding facilities in early February.


The country’s top legislative officials are now rushing to amend the country’s wildlife protection law and possibly restructure regulations on the use of wildlife for food and traditional Chinese medicine. The current version of the law is seen as problematic by wildlife conservation groups because it focuses on utilisation of wildlife rather than its protection. “The coronavirus epidemic is swiftly pushing China to reevaluate its relationship with wildlife,” Steve Blake, chief representative of WildAid in Beijing, told the Guardian. “There is a high level of risk from this scale of breeding operations both to human health and to the impacts on populations of these animals in the wild.” Further instructions from the National People’s Congress are expected next week to give authorities more tools to enforce the ban and restrict trade until the law is amended.

Read more …

“The China boom was a lot like the shale oil “miracle.” They were both great stunts. They produced a lot of stuff by borrowing from the future. Now we have all that stuff and we have to maintain it, keep if running, borrow more money to make that happen… and suddenly, that’s no longer plausible. ”

Why Didn’t We See That Coming? (Kunstler)

And now the Corona virus steps onstage to ramify that situation, beginning with a virtual shut-down of the excessively complex, over-engineered, just-in-time global economy. Things are not being produced and supply lines are shutting down. Car-makers outside China have a couple of weeks before their production lines halt for a lack of parts. But, of course, every other industry will have similar problems and stoppages. Many working Americans are barely getting by from one paycheck to the next. How many missed paychecks will it take for genuine hunger to kick in and desperation with it? We don’t know because the US news media has been busy conjuring the many loves of Vlad Putin.

This is getting serious now. Some of you may have noticed this morning that the stock indexes are heading into the worst open in years. Today, Mr. Market woke up, like Rip Van Winkle, and discovered that the world changed while he was sleeping. There’s a fair chance that the conditions of daily life in America will deteriorate sharply in the months ahead. We’ve been remote-viewing the empty streets of Wuhan and other Chinese cities since January, thinking it was like one of our cable-network horror shows. It’s not inconceivable that an American City, or more than one, will be subject to quarantine, or that a whole lot of people just won’t leave their houses for a period of time. Will the truckers still truck things that people need? We don’t know. How do you hold a political convention in a situation like that, or even an election?

The situation in China may be too far gone already. The country’s finances were a gigantic game of pretend. In the old Soviet Union, beloved by Bernie, the joke was, “they pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work” — not a great formula for enduring prosperity. In China, the updated joke was “we pretend to make loans, and you pretend to pay them back.” The China boom was a lot like the shale oil “miracle.” They were both great stunts. They produced a lot of stuff by borrowing from the future. Now we have all that stuff and we have to maintain it, keep if running, borrow more money to make that happen… and suddenly, that’s no longer plausible. The entire industrialized world has fallen for the debt stunt. Observers have been waiting to see what would finally provoke the unwinding of massive false promises. Looks like the wait is over.

Read more …

Gee, what a surprise.

Airline Stocks Tumble As Coronavirus Spreads Outside Of China (CNBC)

Airline stocks fell Monday as fears about the spread of the coronavirus beyond China added to worries about travel demand and the broader economy, despite a drop in fuel prices. American Airlines shares led the S&P 500 lower with an 9.8% slide in midday trading, hitting a more than four-month low. Delta Air Lines’ stock lost 7.2% to the lowest price in nearly four months, while United Airlines was off 4.3%. All U.S. airline stocks were down more sharply than the broader market. The S&P 500 fell 2.6%. Close to 80,000 cases of the virus, now known as COVID-19, have been reported along with at least 2,621 deaths. Cases outside of China, where most of the infections are located, have increased, with Italy reporting more than 220 and South Korea confirming more than 830.


Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade warned citizens not to travel to affected areas, helping drive down shares of European carriers. Budget airline easyJet lost more than 16% while rival Ryanair was down 12%. Deutsche Lufthansa fell 8.8%, British Airways’ parent, International Consolidated Airlines Group, was off 9% and Air France-KLM fell 8.4%. More than 200,000 flights to, from and within China have already been canceled because of the virus, according to aviation consulting firm Cirium, and more disruptions are possible if the virus continues to spread. The coronavirus is expected to eat into carriers’ revenue this year. Air travel demand globally is set to fall for the first time since 2009 and cost airlines some $29 billion — mostly in the Asia-Pacific region — in revenue, the International Air Transport Association warned last week.

Read more …

Weinstein still has plenty money to pay for whoever he wants. They couldn’t get him on the most serious charges. Just throw away the key.

Weinstein To Face 8 More Allegations After New York Verdict (G.)

The verdict in the New York case against Harvey Weinstein is only the beginning of the movie mogul’s prosecution, with separate charges against the disgraced producer ahead in Los Angeles. In the most high-profile trial of the #MeToo movement yet, a New York jury on Monday found Weinstein guilty of third-degree rape for an attack in a New York hotel and guilty of a criminal sex act for forcing oral sex on a former television production assistant. The fallen titan of Hollywood, who was taken away in handcuffs, could face 25 years in prison and will have to register as a sex offender. Next, Weinstein is due to face a criminal case in LA, which stems from investigations by law enforcement in southern California into eight allegations.


LA prosecutors have filed charges for two incidents that allegedly occurred within a two-day period. Those charges include forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by use of force and sexual battery by restraint, carrying a potential 28-year prison sentence. It’s not yet clear how LA prosecutors plan to proceed following Monday’s verdict in New York. Weinstein could be immediately brought to California after his 11 March sentencing in New York. He could pursue a plea deal in LA after his guilty verdict in Manhattan, or he could end up facing a second trial, said Laurie Levenson, criminal law professor at Loyola Law School. Either way, it’s an uphill battle for the former movie producer, she said: “When he heads to LA, he’s already a convicted rapist.”

Read more …

Putin is about to hand Erdogan an ultimatum or two. The US must go home.

US Proposals To Whitewash Idlib Terrorists Unacceptable – Lavrov (RT)

Moscow will resist any attempts to whitewash the terrorists holed up in Idlib, Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, adding that engaging in talks with them as the US is hinting is out of question. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an Al-Qaeda offshoot previously known as Al-Nusra, which controls Idlib, has been designated as a terrorist organization not only by the UN, but by the US itself, Lavrov said. However, officials in Washington, including the special envoy for Syria, James Jeffrey, “allow themselves statements, from which a conclusion can be made that ‘it’s not such a terrorist organization anymore’ and that dialogue with it can be established under some circumstances,” he said. “It’s not the first time we hear such hints and we consider them absolutely unacceptable.”


The foreign minister also said that another round of consultations between Russia and Turkey is currently being prepared in ordered “to agree on ways of turning Idlib into a real de-escalation where the terrorists aren’t in charge.” Tensions are high between Moscow and Ankara after Turkey sent troops to Idlib a few weeks ago amid a large-scale offensive by the Syrian military on the last terrorist stronghold in the country. The move provoked clashes between the Turkish and Syrian forces, with casualties on both sides. Ankara is demanding that Moscow pressure Damascus into ceasing its operation, while Russia has told Turkey that its promise to separate the ‘moderate opposition’ from the terrorists still remains unfulfilled.Lavrov insisted that it was no surprise for the Turkish military that the terrorists were being targeted. Earlier Russian-Turkish agreements on Idlib never envisaged that strikes against Hayat Tahrir al-Sham would stop, he added.

Read more …

“Edward Fitzgerald QC: Mental state of Assange deteriorating such that there is possibility he may not be able to participate in his own trial. Defense outlines why they believe it’s unjust an oppressive to pursue trial so long after alleged offenses..”


“Julian Assange faces life in prison for publishing true information that was in the public interest..if truth becomes treason we are all in trouble.”

Still, making it all against Trump doesn’t seem the wisest move. Try US Intel. Obviously, Trump’s role is terrible as well, but Assange went into the Embassy in 2012. Trump became president in 2017.

Julian Assange ‘Suicide Risk’ If Extradited From UK To US – Lawyer (SCMP)

Julian Assange should not be extradited to the United States as he would not get a fair trial and would be a suicide risk, his lawyer told a British court hearing on Monday. Assange’s lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, said extradition would expose Assange to inhumane and degrading treatment by a disproportionate sentence and prison conditions. Fitzgerald said the extradition request was motivated by politics rather than any genuine crimes. He said it would be unjust and oppressive to extradite him because of his mental state and risk of suicide. He said the US attitude to Assange had changed when Donald Trump came to power and that the US president wanted to make an example of his client.


Fitzgerald said in 2013 the US government under former President Barack Obama had decided that Assange should not face any action. But that in 2017, after the 2016 election of Trump, an indictment was brought against Assange. Why the change? “The answer is President Trump came into power with a new approach to freedom of speech and a new hostility to the press amounting effectively to declaring war on investigative journalists,” Fitzgerald said. The indictment was brought, “not on the basis of new revelations, but because it had become politically expedient and desirable,” Fitzgerald said.

Read more …

The background Assange’s lawyers will provide. They promise big surprises.

Assange Fight Draws In Trump’s New Intel Chief (Pol.)

Attorneys for Julian Assange [..] plan to introduce evidence in the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition hearing involving President Donald Trump’s new intel chief Richard Grenell. Gareth Peirce, a lawyer representing Assange in his extradition proceedings in London, plans to argue this week that the process to try to extradite her client was abused from early on. Representatives for Assange’s defense team say they expect to introduce recordings and screenshots of communications of a close Grenell associate, including a secondhand claim that Grenell was acting on the president’s orders. Grenell’s sudden embroilment in Assange’s extradition fight comes at an inconvenient time, as Democrats and national security veterans criticize him as ill-suited and unqualified to be the acting director of national intelligence.

And it threatens to spotlight his close relationship with President Trump, feeding the widespread perception that the president is politicizing intelligence work for partisan ends. At the heart of the Assange team’s argument is an ABC News report from last April alleging that, while serving as Trump’s ambassador to Germany, Grenell told Assange’s Ecuadorean hosts that the U.S. government would not pursue the death penalty for Assange if Ecuador allowed British officials to enter its embassy in London and arrest him. Assange’s legal team will claim that Grenell’s role was more extensive than previously known, and that it corrupted the extradition process early on. The suggestion will be that the U.S. was so desperate to get Assange in its custody that American officials, via Grenell, agreed in advance to take a particular sentence off the table before even allowing a trial and sentencing to play out.

The WikiLeaks founder’s attorneys are also expected to present evidence that they believe shows Trump explicitly tasked Grenell with making the offer, thereby politicizing the process. One of Assange’s lawyers, Edward Fitzgerald, hinted at this argument in his opening statement on Monday, when he said that Assange’s prosecution was “not motivated by genuine concerns for criminal justice but politics.” The evidence submitted this week will include new materials submitted to Assange’s legal team by political activist and journalist Cassandra Fairbanks, a staunch defender of Assange who has worked for the Russian state-run news site Sputnik and the far-right outlet Gateway Pundit. She is expected to be listed as a formal witness in the case.

Fairbanks recorded two phone calls she had with one of Grenell’s close associates, Arthur Schwartz, and took screenshots of their conversations about Assange and Grenell. [..] Schwartz appeared to grow frustrated and fearful after Fairbanks tweeted, on Sept. 10, 2019, that Grenell “was the one who worked out the deal for Julian Assange’s arrest.” “I don’t want to go to jail,” Schwartz told Fairbanks in a September 2019 phone call, accusing her of posting “classified information” in the tweet. Fairbanks posted the tweet around the time Grenell’s name was being floated to replace John Bolton as Trump’s national security adviser. “Please. I’m begging you,” Schwartz says in the recording. “They look at you, they see that we speak, that’s bad.”

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The US is trying to make this about the risk Assange has exposed sources to. But in 2013, even anti-Assange paper the Guardian said

The US counter-intelligence official who led the Pentagon’s review into the fallout from the WikiLeaks disclosures of state secrets told the Bradley Manning sentencing hearing on Wednesday that no instances were ever found of any individual killed by enemy forces as a result of having been named in the releases.

Not only did none of them die, they weren’t even hurt. It’s all a fable, coming from US intel hiding behind state secret veils. The actual story for at least some of the releases is more or less the opposite: that Assange spent entire sleepless nights redactingout namea and details in docs that sources like the Guardian wanted to publish in full.

Julian Assange ‘At High Risk Of Suicide’ If Extradited To US -Lawyer (Ind.)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is at “high risk of suicide” if he is sent to the US to face claims he endangered the lives of whistleblowers around the world, a court has heard. At an extradition hearing in London, Assange’s lawyers argued he is the victim of a politically motivated prosecution that forms part of Donald Trump’s “war on investigative journalists”. But the US government claimed some sources had “disappeared” after the WikiLeaks founder put them at risk of “serious harm, torture or even death” by leaking classified information. James Lewis QC, opening the case against Assange, said on Monday that information published by WikiLeaks was useful to enemies of the US.Mr Lewis told Woolwich Crown Court, which is sitting as a magistrates’ court, that most of the charges related to “straightforward criminal activity” in a “conspiracy to steal from and hack into” the Department of Defence computer system.


“These are ordinary criminal charges and any person, journalist or source who hacks or attempts to gain unauthorised access to a secure system, or aids and abets others to do so, is guilty of computer misuse,” the barrister said. “Reporting or journalism is not an excuse for criminal activities or a licence to break ordinary criminal laws.” Mr Lewis said that the US identified hundreds of “at-risk and potentially at-risk people” around the world due to WikiLeaks’ actions and made efforts to warn them of the danger they faced. “The US is aware of sources, whose redacted names and other identifying information was contained in classified documents published by WikiLeaks, who subsequently disappeared, although the US can’t prove at this point that their disappearance was the result of being outed by WikiLeaks,” he added.

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