Mar 312020
 


Vincent van Gogh The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring 1884 (stolen yesterday)

 

Fauci Offers More Conservative Death Rate In Academic Article Than In Public Briefings (JTN)
Hospital Equipment Shortages Renew Spotlight On Supply Chain Middlemen (JTN)
US COVID19 Job Losses Could Be 47 Million, Unemployment May Hit 32% (CNBC)
Trump Rips Pelosi For Criticizing His Handling Of Coronavirus Pandemic (NYP)
Pelosi Aims To Move Fast On Next Rescue Package (Pol.)
Rachel Maddow’s Recent Predictions Get Roasted (JTN)
Political Distancing (Turley)
Many Brick & Mortar Stores Will Not Reopen, CMBS will Default (WS)
How Will COVID-19 Impact US Manufacturing? First Indications Are Ugly (WS)
“We Are Temporarily A Company With No Product And No Revenue” (WS)
Airbnb To Pay Out $250 Million To Hosts To Help Ease Cancellation Pain (R.)
China Says Manufacturing Activity Expanded In March (CNBC)
Hungary’s Viktor Orbán Wins Vote To Rule By Decree Indefinitely (Pol.)
Portugal Gives Migrants, Asylum-Seekers Full Citizenship Rights (CNN)
Five Days Of Worship That Set A Virus Time Bomb In France (R.)
People Get Ready! (Kunstler)
Italian Politicians Criticize Netherlands Over Lack Of Solidarity (NLT)

 

 

More countries are demanding people wear face masks, even the CDC in the US talks about making it obligatory, but masks are no more available in many places than tests are. We’re three months into this thing -though I know for most people it’s been just 2 weeks-, and we’re still debating this.

In the US, half the people have it easy, they can just blame everything on Trump, it’s a entire industry, even though his approval numbers rise at the same time. But in all those other countries, who do you blame when you have face the coordinated efforts to praise your government of the day? Life isn’t easy. Maybe you can blame Trump too.

Meanwhile, we’re sadly waiting for US cases and death numbers to explode. 15,000 new cases and close to 1,000 new deaths is devastating, but nowhere near what we expect the trend to become.

 

 

Cases 799,723 (+ 64,792 from yesterday’s 734,931)

Deaths 38,720 (+ 3,940 from yesterday’s 34,780)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-. Note: Turkey’s in the ascendancy (though not in the zodiac)

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 19% –

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Live.info:

 

 

 

 

Sharyl Attkisson noticed something too. Fauci must be more careful.

Fauci Offers More Conservative Death Rate In Academic Article Than In Public Briefings (JTN)

You’ve probably heard that COVID-19 is far deadlier than the flu. But it could turn out to be more akin to a severe flu season. Surprisingly, both of those assessments come from the same authority at the same time: Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s chief infectious disease specialist. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has repeatedly cited more jarring figures in public. For instance, Fauci declared in March 11 congressional testimony that the current coronavirus “is 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu,” which would be about 1 percent. His testimony generated news headlines that blared across the internet and television news, and it remains frequently cited today. But among his learned colleagues in academia, he has provided the more conservative analysis.


“[T]he case fatality rate may be considerably less than 1%,” Fauci wrote in an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine on March 26. “This suggests that the overall clinical consequences of COVID-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1%) or a pandemic influenza (similar to those in 1957 and 1968) rather than a disease similar to SARS or MERS, which have had case fatality rates of 9 to 10% and 36%, respectively.” A day after the NEJM article was published, Fauci was back to repeating the higher fatality number in public rather than “considerably less than 1%.” “The mortality of [COVID-19] is about 10 times [flu],” Fauci told Comedy Central host Trevor Noah on March 27.

Read more …

A lot of things won’t happen without kickbacks. The system is one sick puppy.. and no reform in sight, since both parties are beholden to the industry as a whole.

Hospital Equipment Shortages Renew Spotlight On Supply Chain Middlemen (JTN)

Healthcare providers facing medical equipment shortages and exorbitantly high drug prices during the coronavirus outbreak are captive to kickback-receiving “middlemen” who lock up hospitals in exclusive contracts that enable price gouging and supply bottlenecks, according to a network of physician advocacy groups representing 3,000 physicians. Nearly 90% of U.S. mayors who responded to a national survey released Friday by the U.S. Conference of Mayors said they lack enough protective equipment for their coronavirus medical workers, and 85% said they do not have enough ventilators for their hospitals.


Dr. Marion Mass, a Duke-educated physician who founded Practicing Physicians of America (PPA), told Just the News that so-called “safe harbor” (legal protection) provisions allowing for payments from medical equipment and drug manufacturers to pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and group purchasing organizations (GPO) — what Dr. Mass calls the “middlemen” between providers and manufacturers — amount to “kickbacks.” The “safe harbor” payments are overseen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), monitored by the HHS Inspector General (IG), and are currently protected by law, but Dr. Mass and her physician network argue they should be repealed.

“After significant consolidation, four behemoth GPOs now control 90% of the entire chain of hospital and nursing home supplies, and we are in the grip of an unspeakably corrupt, pay-to-play system of financial kickbacks,” Mass wrote in a white paper co-authored by the Physicians for Reform and Texas Public Policy Foundation. “If the law that established the ‘safe harbor’ for kickbacks to the GPOs (and extended to PBMs in 2003) was repealed, the cost for medical supplies and medications would fall by an estimated 25% to 30%. The cost of prescription medications would fall by 35% to 43%. Additional declines in prices are projected as true competition replaces a rigged marketplace. We estimate this reform would save Medicare and Medicaid an estimated $75 billion each year.”

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DiMartino Booth tweet: “(Bloomberg) 3 days after President Trump signed $2T stimulus, Kohl’s, Macy’s & Gap joined growing number of retailers to halt pay for much of their workforce while preserving some benefits. With these furloughs, total number of employees out a paycheck at major US chains >500,000”

US COVID19 Job Losses Could Be 47 Million, Unemployment May Hit 32% (CNBC)

Millions of Americans already have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus crisis and the worst of the damage is yet to come, according to a Federal Reserve estimate. Economists at the Fed’s St. Louis district project total employment reductions of 47 million, which would translate to a 32.1% unemployment rate, according to a recent analysis of how bad things could get. The projections are even worse than St. Louis Fed President James Bullard’s much-publicized estimate of 30%. They reflect the high nature of at-risk jobs that ultimately could be lost to a government-induced economic freeze aimed at halting the coronavirus spread. “These are very large numbers by historical standards, but this is a rather unique shock that is unlike any other experienced by the U.S. economy in the last 100 years,” St. Louis Fed economist Miguel Faria-e-Castro wrote in a research paper posted last week.


There are a couple of important caveats to what Faria-e-Castro calls “back-of-the-envelope” calculations: They don’t account for workers who may drop out of the labor force, thus bringing down the headline unemployment rate, and they do not estimate the impact of recently passed government stimulus, which will extend unemployment benefits and subsidize companies for not cutting staff. However, the jobless picture already looks bleak. A record 3.3 million Americans filed initial jobless claims for the week ended March 21. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expect another 2.65 million to join them this week. Friday’s nonfarm payrolls count for March is expected to show a decline of just 56,000, but that’s largely due to a statistical distortion [..]

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Pelosi falls innto the Chuck Todd “blood on his hands” trap. It’s a cheap political game that should not now be played. Sure, Trump was way off. But so were his advisers (Fauci), all other western and other leaders, and Pelosi herself, who was busy fiddling with impeachment when she could have been focusing on what she now says Trump should have been doing.

Trump Rips Pelosi For Criticizing His Handling Of Coronavirus Pandemic (NYP)

President Trump unleashed on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in an early morning phone interview on “Fox & Friends,” slamming her comments about his “deadly” handling of coronavirus. Speaking to the Fox News hosts Monday morning, the commander-in-chief described the California Democrat as “a sick puppy,” who has “a lot of problems,” when asked about Pelosi’s criticism of his response to the virus. Trump added that her remarks were “a horrible thing to say.” “When I stopped some very, very infected, very, very sick people — thousands coming in from China — earlier than anyone thought [was necessary], including the experts.

Nobody thought we should do it, except me,” Trump said, adding that he was praised by government infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci for his decision to close the borders. “If I didn’t do that, you would’ve had deaths like you have never seen before,” he continued before knocking Pelosi for not crediting him for the move. Trump went on to call San Francisco, a city that is part of Pelosi’s district, a “slum,” adding that the federal government may need to address the city’s problems. Speaking about Pelosi’s impeachment crusade against the president — which passed the House but failed in the Senate — Trump said, “Don’t forget, she was playing the impeachment game where she ended up looking like a fool.”

On Sunday, Pelosi slammed Trump’s response to the pandemic, telling CNN, “We should be taking every precaution. What the president, his denial at the beginning was deadly.” “As the president fiddles, people are dying. And we just have to take every precaution,” she continued. CNN host Jake Tapper pressed the speaker on whether she believed Trump’s downplaying of the crisis had cost American lives, to which Pelosi responded, “Yes, I am. I’m saying that.”

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More games. Scheduled to take at least another month. Posing and posturing.

Pelosi Aims To Move Fast On Next Rescue Package (Pol.)

House Democrats are moving rapidly on ambitious plans for a fourth coronavirus relief package, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi eager to put her imprint on legislation that she says could be ready for a vote in the coming weeks. Pelosi told reporters Monday that Democrats are in the early stages of drafting another major bill that will not only shore up health systems and protect frontline health care workers but could include substantial investments in infrastructure. “Our first bills were about addressing the emergency. The third bill was about mitigation. The fourth bill would be about recovery. Emergency, mitigation, recovery,” Pelosi said on a conference call. “I think our country is united in not only wanting to address our immediate needs — emergency, mitigation, and the assault on our lives and livelihoods — but also, how we recover in a very positive way.”


But Democrats’ approach could put them on a collision course with senior Republicans, who say they are very much in wait-and-see mode when it comes to another potential multi-trillion-dollar bill and are warning Pelosi not to try to jam the Senate with a progressive plan. “They’re approaching it — it seems like — as an opportunity to pass their political and ideological agenda. We’re approaching it as, ‘How do we protect the public health and our economy?’ And those are pretty divergent goals,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) [..]

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RussiaRussiaRussia is speeding up those hospital boats just to make here look bad. Actually, I don’t want to talk about Maddow.

Rachel Maddow’s Recent Predictions Get Roasted (JTN)

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on March 20 cast doubt on the notion that two Navy hospital ships would soon reach ports on the East and West coasts to relieve hospitals combatting the coronavirus pandemic as President Trump had promised. The ships have since arrived at their respective destination ports in California and New York where they will serve non-COVID-19 patients in an effort to decrease pressure on the hospitals ashore. “In terms of the happy talk we’ve had on this front from the federal government, there is no sign that the Navy hospital ships that the president made such a big deal of, the Comfort and the Mercy, there’s no sign that they’ll be anywhere on site helping out anywhere in the country for weeks yet,” Maddow said on her television show.


“The president said when he announced that those ships would be put into action against the COVID-19 epidemic, he said one of those ships would be operational in New York harbor by next week. That’s nonsense, it will not be there next week,” Maddow asserted. The USNS Comfort arrived in New York harbor on Monday March 30, while the USNS Mercy arrived in the Port of Los Angeles on Friday March 27 and began accepting patients on Sunday March 29. Republicans on Monday highlighted the Maddow clip.

It isn’t the first time the popular liberal host has faced criticism — both on the left and the right — for her prognostication or promotion. Maddow was criticized in March 2017 when she over-hyped a story about Donald Trump’s 2005 tax returns, underwhelming many viewers once she finally divulged the information she had been teasing. “In positioning it as a grand revelation, a vital step in comprehending Trump’s corruption, MSNBC created an exceedingly cynical spectacle,” Willa Paskin wrote on Slate.com.

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Lesson in federalism. There are lots of things the federal government can’t do that are normal in other countries.

Political Distancing (Turley)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called on the federal government to take control of the medical supply market. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker demanded that President Trump take charge and said “precious months” were wasted waiting for federal action. Some critics are even more direct in demanding a federal takeover, including a national quarantine. It is the legal version of panic shopping. Many seem to long for federal takeovers, if not martial law. Yet like all panic shopping, they are buying into far more than they need while not doing as much as they could with what they have. For decades, governors tried to retain principal authority over public emergencies, but they did very little with those powers.

While many are doing impressive work now, some governors seem as eager to contain the blame as the coronavirus. Call it political distancing. Even if Trump nationalized the crisis by deploying troops, imposing price controls, and forcing production of ventilators, the Constitution has left most police authority and public health safety to the states in our system of federalism. The Framers believed liberties and powers were safest when held closest to citizens in local and state governments. Elected officials at the local and state levels are more readily held accountable than unknown Washington bureaucrats. Of course, with authority comes responsibility, and the latter notion is not always as welcomed as the former.

Despite all the hyperbole of the last few days, the federal authority of the president to act is much more limited than many appear to believe. Trump cannot, and should not, simply take over the crisis. While he may want to “open for business” by Easter, he has no clear authority to lift state orders for citizens to stay at home. His greatest authority is supplying assistance in the production and delivery of necessary resources such as ventilators. While he can put conditions on some assistance, he cannot commandeer the authority of governors in their responses to the pandemic.

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The virus will change the entire country. But people find it hard to comprehend. Wolf Richter doing well. “Nothing Goes to Heck in a Straight Line”

Many Brick & Mortar Stores Will Not Reopen, CMBS will Default (WS)

Macy’s announced today that it would lay off “the majority” of its 123,000 employees after it had closed all its Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury stores on March 18. Even before the lockdowns, its headcount was already down 17% from four years ago, in line with the decline of its brick-and-mortar operations. It said these stores would “remain closed until we have clear line of sight on when it is safe to reopen.” Whenever that may be. But “at least through May,” the furloughed employees who were already enrolled in its health benefits program “will continue to receive coverage with the company covering 100% of the premium.” And it said, “We expect to bring colleagues back on a staggered basis as business resumes.” That is, if business at these brick-and-mortar stores resumes.

Department stores have been on a 20-year downward spiral that has ended for many of them in bankruptcy court where they got dismembered and sold off in pieces. The survivors, which have been shuttering their brick-and-mortar stores for years, are now getting hit by the lockdowns. The chart depicts the brick-and-mortar business that Macy’s, Nordstrom, Kohl’s, JCPenney, Neiman Marcus, Sears, Bon-Ton Stores, Barney’s and others are in – or were in. Over the past 20 years, department store revenues declined by 43%. And now they’re getting whacked for good by the lockdowns. That declining line of revenues is going to make a 90-degree downward kink in Q1, Q2 and Q3, to violate the WOLF STREET beer-bug dictum that “Nothing Goes to Heck in a Straight Line”:

As many brick-and-mortar stores have shut down, and as people are fearful about going to those stores that are still open (such as grocery stores), ecommerce sales have exploded. Americans have long been reluctant to buy groceries online. But that has changed overnight. Amazon, Walmart and other online retailers have gone on a hiring binge to deal with the onslaught of online buying, including the stuff people normally bought in grocery stores. Online retail is the huge winner of COVID-19. When the Q1 and Q2 ecommerce revenues emerge, we will see a historic spike in online sales even as brick-and-mortar sales went straight to heck.

Read more …

More from Wolf. Depression.

How Will COVID-19 Impact US Manufacturing? First Indications Are Ugly (WS)

Most of the economic data is released weeks and months after the fact. But surveys of manufacturing and service companies foreshadow what will happen with the official data when it finally appears. The Texas manufacturing production index, for which data was collected between March 17 to 25 from 110 Texas-based unnamed manufacturers, plunged from +16.4 in February to -35.3 in March, the largest month-to-month drop in the history of the index going back to 2004, the Dallas Fed reported this morning:

Many manufactures in Texas supply the oil and gas industry, where mayhem had broken out long before the coronavirus lockdowns started impacting the economy. Manufacturer’s perceptions of broader business conditions collapsed from an already low 1.2 reading in February to -70.0, the lowest in survey history. The report observed laconically: “Perceptions of broader business conditions turned quite pessimistic in March”:

The price of crude-oil grade West Texas Intermediate (WTI) has now plunged into the range of $20 per barrel, which is catastrophic for the entire oil and gas sector. This is down from a range of $80 to $110 per barrel from 2010 through mid-2014. In an effort to stay alive a little longer, exploration-and-production companies and oil-field services companies are cutting operations, and as they’re running out of funds, they are slashing orders for equipment and supplies. And this ripples through the Texas economy. The comments made by the executives in the survey ranged from: “We are mostly just concerned.” …to something more apocalyptic: “If we see this downward trend continue, we will run out of cash within four months. New orders and inquiries have stopped instantly. Our work in-house will be finished mid to end of April, with no new orders coming in, all due to this real or imagined shutdown. I believe the country will be in a depression by the fall unless the work environment changes dramatically.”

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Cruise companies lining up for bailouts. Support people instead. The companies go, but the people will remain.

“We Are Temporarily A Company With No Product And No Revenue” (WS)

TUI, the global travel and vacation giant that owns six European airlines, 1,600 travel agencies, over 300 hotels and 14 cruise ships, desperately needs help. And it appears to have got it. On Friday, the company announced that the German government had approved a €1.8 billion loan to help keep the group afloat as COVID-19 brings the global travel sector to a literal standstill. The bridge loan, which still needs to be approved by TUI’s creditors, would be one of the biggest ever issued through German state-owned lender KfW. “We are currently facing unprecedented international travel restrictions. As a result, we are temporarily a company with no product and no revenue. This situation must be bridged,” TUI CEO Fritz Joussen said in a statement. The same could be said for millions of companies around the world. But unlike TUI, many of them don’t have the ear of their national government.


Even as giant travel companies like TUI line up with airlines and cruise owners for multi-billion dollar bailouts, huge question marks loom over the global travel industry’s future. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), in its updated assessment of the potential impact of COVID-19 — based on the optimistic assumption that the tourism industry will experience a swift recovery over the next 3-4 months — projects that for the whole year 2020, tourist arrivals will have fallen 20-30% from 2019, and international tourism revenues will have plunged by $300 billion to 450 billion, almost one third of the $1.5 trillion generated in 2019. Taking into account past market trends, this would mean that between five and seven years’ worth of accumulated industry growth will have been wiped out in one fell swoop.

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Why on earth does Airbnb need a $250 million war chest?

Airbnb To Pay Out $250 Million To Hosts To Help Ease Cancellation Pain (R.)

U.S. home rental firm Airbnb said on Monday it was allocating $250 million to help offset losses by hosts around the world whose guests have canceled bookings in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The aid, which will pay hosts 25% of their normal cancellation fees, is being offered globally except for China, the company said in a letter sent to hosts by Chief Executive Brian Chesky. The payments apply to the cancellation of reservations with check-in dates between March 14 and May 31. Because hosts can choose different cancellation policies – some requiring a penalty payment, with others allowing free cancellation up to a certain date before check-in – not all canceled reservations will qualify.


Airbnb had earlier announced that guests would receive a full refund for the cancellation of reservations made on or before March 14 for check-in between March 14 and April 14, which angered many hosts. Airbnb also said that hosts could cancel reservations without a charge. Airbnb said it is funding the program for hosts itself and will begin to issue the payments in April. Airbnb’s revenue in 2019 exceeded $4.8 billion, up 35% on the year, and it has $3 billion in cash, a source told Reuters last week. [..] Airbnb also said it is creating a $10 million relief fund for its Superhosts – so-named for meeting certain requirements including good ratings – who rent out their own home and need help paying their rent or mortgage, and some Experience hosts who charge for sharing an experience like food tours.

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Not much has changed. China still cares little about credibility.

China Says Manufacturing Activity Expanded In March (CNBC)

China on Tuesday said the official Purchasing Manager’s Index for March was 52.0, beating expectations for an economy hit by the coronavirus outbreak. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected the official PMI to come in at 45 for the month of March. In February, the official PMI hit a record low of 35.7. PMI readings above 50 indicate expansion, while those below that level signal contraction. China’s National Bureau of Statistics said in its announcement of the PMI reading that there was continued improvement in the prevention and control of the outbreak in March, with a significant acceleration in the resumption of production. Sub-indices for production, new orders and employment expanded, the bureau said.


The bureau attributed the expansionary PMI reading to the low base in February, but cautioned that it does not mean that the country’s economic activities have returned to normal levels. Earlier this year, manufacturing activity slowed dramatically in China as the government instituted large-scale lockdowns and quarantines to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease, formally known as COVID-19. Qian Wang, Asia Pacific chief economist at Vanguard Investment Strategy, said March’s manufacturing PMI reading was “totally expected” as activity improved during the month. “In February, the Chinese economy was at a full stop. It doesn’t take much to rise from such a low base,” she told CNBC’s “Street Signs.”

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The EU will have to throw out Hungary.

– State of emergency w/o time limit
– Rule by decree
– Parliament suspended
– No elections
– Spreading fake news + rumors: up to 5 yrs in prison
– Leaving quarantine: up to 8 yrs in prison

Hungary’s Viktor Orbán Wins Vote To Rule By Decree Indefinitely (Pol.)

The Hungarian parliament on Monday voted by a two-thirds majority to allow the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to rule by decree without a set time limit. While the new legislation remains in place, no elections can be held and Orbán’s government will be able to suspend the enforcement of certain laws. Plus, individuals who publicize what are viewed as untrue or distorted facts — and which could interfere with the protection of the public, or could alarm or agitate a large number of people — now face several years in jail. In the vote, 137 members of parliament were in favor, 53 against and 9 did not cast a ballot. The new rules can only be lifted with another two-thirds vote of the parliament and a presidential signature.

The legislation has elicited deep concern both among civil rights groups in Hungary and international institutions, with officials from the Council of Europe, United Nations and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe publicly expressing fears about the bill. The legislation also drew criticism from members of the European Parliament. Critics say that emergency measures to address the coronavirus crisis should be temporary and time-limited to allow for checks and balances. Hungary is currently facing Article 7 proceedings under the EU Treaty, used when a country is considered at risk of breaching the bloc’s core values.

“Civil society, journalists and international and European organizations will have to step up their efforts even more in this new situation to ensure that the potential for grave abuses by government overreach are monitored, documented and responded to,” Márta Pardavi, co-chair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a human rights NGO, said following the passage of the bill. “It’s now essential that the idea that executive power cannot be unlimited is reinforced by action,” she said. “The health crisis cannot be allowed to turn into a constitutional crisis.”

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To make sure they have access to health care.

The opposite of Orban.

Portugal Gives Migrants, Asylum-Seekers Full Citizenship Rights (CNN)

Portugal has temporarily given all migrants and asylum seekers full citizenship rights, granting them full access to the country’s healthcare as the outbreak of the novel coronavirus escalates in the country. The move will “unequivocally guarantee the rights of all the foreign citizens” with applications pending with Portuguese immigration, meaning they are “in a situation of regular permanence in National Territory,” until June 30, the Portuguese Council of Ministers said on Friday. The Portuguese Council of Ministers explained that the decision was taken to “reduce the risks for public health” of maintaining the current scheduling of appointments at the immigration office, for both the border agents and the migrants and asylum seekers.


Portugal declared a State of Emergency on March 18 that came into effect at midnight that day and was due to last for 15 days. Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said during a news conference that “democracy won’t be suspended.” The country was a dictatorship for decades, with democracy being restored in 1974. President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa called the Covid-19 pandemic “a true war,” which would bring true challenges to the country’s “way of life and economy.” Rebelo de Sousa also praised the behavior of Portuguese citizens, “who have been exemplary in imposing a self-quarantine,” reflecting “a country that has lived through everything.”

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Mass gatherings. Religious, soccer, carnival. That’s where most infections originate in Europe.

Five Days Of Worship That Set A Virus Time Bomb In France (R.)

From the stage of an evangelical superchurch, the leader of the gospel choir kicked off an evening of prayer and preaching: “We’re going to celebrate the Lord! Are you feeling the joy tonight?” “Yes!” shouted the hundreds gathered at the Christian Open Door church on Feb. 18. Some of them had travelled thousands of miles to take part in the week-long gathering in Mulhouse, a city of 100,000 on France’s borders with Germany and Switzerland. For many members of this globe-spanning flock, the annual celebration is the highpoint of the church calendar. This time, someone in the congregation was carrying the coronavirus. The prayer meeting kicked off the biggest cluster of COVID-19 in France – one of Europe’s hardest-hit countries – to date, local government said.

Around 2,500 confirmed cases have been linked to it. Worshippers at the church have unwittingly taken the disease caused by the virus home to the West African state of Burkina Faso, to the Mediterranean island of Corsica, to Guyana in Latin America, to Switzerland, to a French nuclear power plant, and into the workshops of one of Europe’s biggest automakers. Weeks later, Germany partially closed its border with France, suspending a free-movement pact that has been in place for the past 25 years. The church cluster was a key factor, two people familiar with the German decision told Reuters. Church officials told Reuters that 17 members of the congregation have since died of complications linked to the disease.

[..] As the faithful gathered on a clear Tuesday evening in the church, an old shopping centre converted into a 2,500 seat auditorium, the disease seemed remote. France had 12 confirmed cases, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data. There were none in the Mulhouse area. France, like other governments in northern Europe, had imposed no restrictions on big meetings. There was no alcohol gel for the congregations to clean their hands, no elbow bumps instead of handshakes. “At the time, we viewed COVID as something that was far off,” said Jonathan Peterschmitt, son of the lead pastor and grandson of the church’s founder. His father, Samuel, was unavailable for an interview because he had been sickened by the virus, his son and a church spokeswoman said.

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“The world is still here. We’re just going to have to learn to live in it differently.”

People Get Ready! (Kunstler)

The cable news announced the other day that Covid-19 patients placed in critical care may have to be on ventilators for 21 days. Only a few years ago, I went in for an ordinary hip replacement. A month or so later, I got the hospital billing statement. One of the line-items went like this: Room and board: 36 hours…$23,482.79. I am not jiving you. That was just for the hospital bed and maybe four lousy hospital meals, not the surgery or the meds or anything else. All that was billed extra. Say, what…? Now imagine you have the stupendous good fortune to survive a Covid-19 infection after 21 days on a ventilator and go home. What is that billing statement going to look like? Will the survivors wish they’d never made out of the hospital alive?

Right now, we’re in the heroic phase of the battle against a modern age plague. The doctors, nurses, and their helpers are like the trembling soldiers in an amphibious landing craft churning toward the Normandy beach where the enemy is dug in and waiting for them, with sweaty fingers on their machine guns and a stink in the pillbox. Some of the doctors and nurses will go down in the battle. The fabled fog-of-war will conceal what is happening to the health care system itself, while the battle rages. After that, what? One thing will be pretty clear: That the folks in charge of things gave trillions of dollars to Wall Street while tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 survivors got wiped out financially with gargantuan medical bills.

Do you think the Chargemaster part of the hospital routine will just stop doing its thing during this emergency? The billings will continue – just as the proverbial beatings will continue until morale improves! In the aftermath, I can’t even imagine the ‘splainin’ that will entail. The rage may be too intense to even get to that. For some, it may be time to lubricate the guillotines? Meantime, of course, the global economy has shut down which suggests to me, anyway, that any prior frame of reference you may have had about money and business and social normality goes out the window. The world is still here. We’re just going to have to learn to live in it differently.

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“..the Netherlands will “no longer be a rich country in the North if the South falls.”

Italian Politicians Criticize Netherlands Over Lack Of Solidarity (NLT)

A group of 12 Italian politicians lambasted the Netherlands on Tuesday, angered by Dutch reticence to support European financial assistance to countries most affected by coronavirus. The Netherlands blocked emergency aid to EU member states, despite “using its tax system to withdraw tax revenue from major European countries for years,” they wrote in an open letter published in German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. At issue are “coronabonds”, where the funds raised from selling such bond instruments would be used to help all member states overcome economic hurdles during the ongoing health crisis. The money could then be invested in supporting any EU member state, while repayment obligations would be the responsibility of the entire EU.

Nine nations supported the plan. “However, the Netherlands are currently leading a group of countries that oppose this strategy, and Germany also seems to want to follow this group,” the politicians said, accusing the Dutch tax regime of siphoning money away from other member states which would otherwise have allowed them to assist “the socially week… who are most affected by the crisis today.” The politicians, led by Member of Europea Parliament Carlo Calenda, called for the German public to recall the unified support it had to rebuild after World War II, up through the country’s reunification. “The Dutch attitude is an example of a lack of ethics and solidarity in every respect.”

That sentiment was echoed by the leader of Dutch political party ChristenUnie, one of the parties in the governing coalition led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte. “[Italy] is in ruins. The first message, in my opinion, would be: we are going to help you,” said Gert-Jan Segers. He also called for an approach like the U.S. Marshall Plan which promoted the reconstruction of European nations after the War. The large European rescue fund could be structured similarly to the billions of deutschmarks Germany needed even though it “could never have repaid the accumulated debts,” the Italians stated. Former Dutch Central Bank leader Nout Wellink was also critical of the Dutch approach, saying that the crisis and the debt needed to get past it is “a shared responsibility.” He said, “the Netherlands will “no longer be a rich country in the North if the South falls.”

Read more …

 

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

Thanks everyone for your wonderful and generous donations over the past days.

 

 

 

 


Jennifer Baer

 

 

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

 

Mar 232020
 


Harris&Ewing House-Capitol tunnel (may get moving walk), Washington, DC 1939

 

How Long to 1 Million US Cases? (Mish)
Nobel Laureate Predicts A Quicker Coronavirus Recovery (LAT)
Canadian Doctor Rigs Ventilator to Treat 9 Patients Instead of One (IE)
Coronavirus May Have Existed In Italy Since November: Local Researcher (CGTN)
The Epicenter of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Humanitarian Crises in Italy (NEJM)
The Government Budget Deficit Is About To Explode (CNBC)
Senate Democrats Block Mammoth Coronavirus Stimulus Package (Hill)
Blame Game Heats Up As Senate Motion Fails (Hill)
Total Cost of Her COVID-19 Treatment: $34,927.43 (Time)
Coronavirus Reveals Financial Irresponsibility Of Americans (Hill)
Preventing COVID-19 From Infecting the Commercial Mortgage Market (Barrack)
Singapore Airlines Slashes 96% Of Capacity, Grounds Most Planes (CNA)
China’s Housing Bubble Bursts (ZH)
New Zealand To Go Into Month-Long Lockdown (G.)

 

 

Cases 345,292 (+ 33,496 from yesterday’s 311,796)

Deaths 14,925 (+ 1,854 from yesterday’s 13,071)

 

 

Haven’t shown these two graphs from Worldometer in a while. Obvious enough?!

 

 

 

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

One look at the US suffices:

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 13% !! –

 

 

From SCMP: (SCMP appears to have given up on timely updating)

 

 

From COVID2019Live.info:

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

Reported US coronavirus cases via @CNN:

3/1: 89
3/2: 105
3/3: 125
3/4: 159
3/5: 227
3/6: 331
3/7: 444
3/8: 564
3/9: 728
3/10: 1,000
3/11: 1,267
3/12: 1,645
3/13: 2,204
3/14: 2,826
3/15: 3,505
3/16: 4,466
3/17: 6,135
3/18: 8,760
3/19: 13,229
3/20: 18,763
3/21: 25,740
Now: 35,070

Note: unlike many other nations, US numbers are updated several times a day.
Note 2: about half of US cases are in New York State. It it were a country, it would be in 7th place in the world.

 

 

The US would have to pass China in total infections by Thursday, 35,000 vs 81,000 now. Almost tripling in 3 days. I don’t know, and I’m not the biggest optimist around here.

How Long to 1 Million US Cases? (Mish)

Inquiring minds are investigating a relatively new data feed from the Covid Tracking Project. I plot four data series for the US: Negative tests, positive tests, hospitalized, and deaths. Arguably, hospitalizations are the most significant column but the project only has two days worth of data. Once I have another dfats point or two, I will plot a trendline manually.


Trendlines At the current pace, the number of positive coronavirus cases would hit 100,000 on March 26, and 1,000,000 on April 3. At the current pace, the number of coronavirus deaths would hit 1,000 on March 26, and 10,000 on April 5. Those are not my projections, those are observations of what would happen if the current trends last that long at the same pace.

Read more …

Your good news of the day. Based on new deaths levelling off.

Nobel Laureate Predicts A Quicker Coronavirus Recovery (LAT)

Michael Levitt, a Nobel laureate and Stanford biophysicist, began analyzing the number of COVID-19 cases worldwide in January and correctly calculated that China would get through the worst of its coronavirus outbreak long before many health experts had predicted. Now he foresees a similar outcome in the United States and the rest of the world. While many epidemiologists are warning of months, or even years, of massive social disruption and millions of deaths, Levitt says the data simply don’t support such a dire scenario — especially in areas where reasonable social distancing measures are in place. “What we need is to control the panic,” he said. In the grand scheme, “we’re going to be fine.”

Here’s what Levitt noticed in China: On Jan. 31, the country had 46 new deaths due to the novel coronavirus, compared with 42 new deaths the day before. Although the number of daily deaths had increased, the rate of that increase had begun to ease off. Essentially, although the car was still speeding up, it was not accelerating as rapidly as before. “This suggests that the rate of increase in number of the deaths will slow down even more over the next week,” Levitt wrote in a report he sent to friends Feb. 1 that was widely shared on Chinese social media. And soon, he predicted, the number of deaths would be decreasing every day.

Three weeks later, Levitt told the China Daily News that the virus’ rate of growth had peaked. He predicted that the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in China would end up around 80,000, with about 3,250 deaths. This forecast turned out to be remarkably accurate: As of March 16, China had counted a total of 80,298 cases and 3,245 deaths — in a nation of nearly 1.4 billion people where roughly 10 million die every year. The number of newly diagnosed patients has dropped to around 25 a day, with no cases of community spread reported since Wednesday. Now Levitt, who received the 2013 Nobel Prize in chemistry for developing complex models of chemical systems, is seeing similar turning points in other nations, even ones that did not instill the draconian isolation measures that China did.

He analyzed 78 countries with more than 50 reported cases of COVID-19 every day and sees “signs of recovery.” He’s not looking at cumulative cases, but the number of new cases every day — and the percentage growth in that number from one day to the next. [..] Based on the experience of the Diamond Princess, he estimates that being exposed to the new coronavirus doubles a person’s risk of dying in the next two months. However, most people have an extremely low risk of death in a two-month period, and that risk remains extremely low even when doubled.

Read more …

More good news. He can do it in 10 minutes.

Canadian Doctor Rigs Ventilator to Treat 9 Patients Instead of One (IE)

As hospitals scramble to secure more ventilators, some doctors are getting creative in order to help their patients. Such is the case with Canadian doctor Dr. Alain Gauthier, an anesthetist at the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital in Ontario. Gauthier, who has a Ph.D. in respiratory mechanics, turned one hospital ventilator into a machine that can serve nine clients using do-it-yourself mechanics. The process was so brilliant that some have even called him an “evil genius.” Gauthier was inspired by YouTube videos created by two Detroit doctors in 2006, according to CBC News. He said he created a complex ventilator to offer people the best chance at survival. “At one point we may not have other options,” Gauthier told CBC News. “The option could be well, we let people die or we give that a chance.”

Read more …

I would lend much more credence to this if it didn’t come from the state-run China Global Television Network. It feels like they want to plant the narrative out there that it didn’t start in China at all.

Coronavirus May Have Existed In Italy Since November: Local Researcher (CGTN)

As COVID-19 spreads across the world, many are interested in the origin of the virus behind this deadly disease. Fingers have been pointed at China, the U.S. and other places. Recently, a pharmacological researcher provided another possible lead to National Public Radio (NPR), a U.S. media outlet. Dr. Giuseppe Remuzzi, director of the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Italy, said he heard from general practitioners in the country’s Lombardy region that “they remember having seen very strange pneumonia, very severe, particularly in old people in December and even November.” “This means that the virus was circulating, at least in [the northern region of Lombardy and before we were aware of this outbreak occurring in China,” he told NPR.

Though Dr. Remuzzi originally used these words to answer a different question – why Italy acted later than expected on COVID-19 – NPR singled out this particular information in a tweet because it may relate to the origin of the novel coronavirus. China’s CCTV did the same thing by putting it on the headline of their report, though Dr. Remuzzi’s latest research mainly concerns how dire the situation is for Italy rather than the origin of the disease. What’s more interesting is that the English-language comments under the NPR tweet seem to completely differ from the Chinese-language ones under the CCTV Weibo. Many English comments suspect that China hid the situation from the world for a long time and that’s why similar symptoms showed up in Italy before the outbreak.

“China lied, people died” was most liked comment under NPR’s tweet. “So the Chinese government covered it up for even longer than we thought,” another comment said. A lot of Chinese comments, on the other hand, concluded that the virus originated in the U.S., so both China and Italy are victims. “Go to Trump for answers,” said a Weibo comment with more than 2,500 likes. “COVID-19 is a U.S. virus,” said another comment.

Read more …

When hospitals become super-spreaders. All it takes is enough sick people.

“Lombardy’s health care workers have been badly hit w/ infections–the differences with other regions are staggering. A recent paper by local docs argues that hospitals might be a key source of transmission there.”

The Epicenter of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Humanitarian Crises in Italy (NEJM)

In a pandemic, patient-centered care is inadequate and must be replaced by community-centered care. Solutions for Covid-19 are required for the entire population, not only for hospitals. The catastrophe unfolding in wealthy Lombardy could happen anywhere. Clinicians at a hospital at the epicenter call for a long-term plan for the next pandemic. We work at the Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Bergamo, a brand-new state-of-the-art facility with 48 intensive-care beds. Despite being a relatively small city, this is the epicenter of the Italian epidemic, listing 4,305 cases at this moment — more than Milan or anywhere else in the country. Lombardy is one of the richest and most densely populated regions in Europe and is now the most severely affected one. The WHO reported 74,346 laboratory-confirmed cases in Europe on March 18 — 35,713 of them in Italy.


Our own hospital is highly contaminated, and we are far beyond the tipping point: 300 beds out of 900 are occupied by Covid-19 patients. Fully 70% of ICU beds in our hospital are reserved for critically ill Covid-19 patients with a reasonable chance to survive. The situation here is dismal as we operate well below our normal standard of care. Wait times for an intensive care bed are hours long. Older patients are not being resuscitated and die alone without appropriate palliative care, while the family is notified over the phone, often by a well-intentioned, exhausted, and emotionally depleted physician with no prior contact. But the situation in the surrounding area is even worse. Most hospitals are overcrowded, nearing collapse while medications, mechanical ventilators, oxygen, and personal protective equipment are not available.

Patients lay on floor mattresses. The health care system struggles to deliver regular services — even pregnancy care and child delivery — while cemeteries are overwhelmed, which will create another public health problem. In hospitals, health care workers and ancillary staff are alone, trying to keep the system operational. Outside the hospitals, communities are neglected, vaccination programs are on standby, and the situation in prisons is becoming explosive with no social distancing. We have been in quarantine since March 10. Unfortunately, the outside world seems unaware that in Bergamo, this outbreak is out of control.


Western health care systems have been built around the concept of patient-centered care, but an epidemic requires a change of perspective toward a concept of community-centered care. What we are painfully learning is that we need experts in public health and epidemics, yet this has not been the focus of decision makers at the national, regional, and hospital levels. We lack expertise on epidemic conditions, guiding us to adopt special measures to reduce epidemiologically negative behaviors. For example, we are learning that hospitals might be the main Covid-19 carriers, as they are rapidly populated by infected patients, facilitating transmission to uninfected patients. Patients are transported by our regional system,1 which also contributes to spreading the disease as its ambulances and personnel rapidly become vectors. Health workers are asymptomatic carriers or sick without surveillance; some might die, including young people, which increases the stress of those on the front line.

Read more …

“It’s truly a bridge to the other side of an act of God…”

The Government Budget Deficit Is About To Explode (CNBC)

Remember when people were all worked up over trillion-dollar government budget deficits? Those might seem like the good old days, once Congress and the White House finish up the coronavirus rescue package expected to be approved in the next few days. Estimates of just how big the final bill would be vary, but it’s assured that it will be a historic moment for sheer fiscal force being exerted at a time of economic duress. Administration statements over the past few days point to something on the order of $2 trillion in economic juice. By contrast, then-President Barack Obama ushered an $831 billion package through during the financial crisis.

That type of fiscal burden comes as the government already has chalked up $624.5 billion in red ink through just the first five months of the fiscal year, which started in October. That spending pace extrapolated through the full fiscal year would lead to a $1.5 trillion deficit, and that’s aside from any of the spending to combat the coronavirus. Already, the national debt stands at more than $23.5 trillion and will be on track to eclipse $25 trillion. Taxpayers shelled out $574.6 billion in fiscal 2019 on interest payments for the debt and another $229.1 billion in fiscal 2020. In short, the shock from the COVID-19 spread will blow a fiscal hole through Washington, D.C., that could take years if not decades to patch.

Hand-wringing over what this will all do to the debt and deficit situation, however, will have to wait for another day. In times of crisis, there is little patience for fiscal austerity, only a sense of urgency that while government spending can’t stop the virus from spreading, it can mitigate what will be profound economic damage. “It’s truly a bridge to the other side of an act of God,” economist Paul McCulley told CNBC.com. “We’ll deal down the road with the impacts on so many fronts of society with the whole thing. Right now, worrying about fiscal incontinence is the exact opposite of where we should be. We should have fiscal robustness implemented through effectively a joint venture between fiscal and monetary policy.”

Read more …

Romney to Senate Dems: “Keep this up a little longer and we will go from social distancing to social destruction.”

Senate Democrats Block Mammoth Coronavirus Stimulus Package (Hill)

Senate Democrats on Sunday blocked a coronavirus stimulus package from moving forward as talks on several key provisions remain stalled. Senators voted 47-47 on advancing a “shell” bill, a placeholder that the text of the stimulus legislation would have been swapped into, falling short of the three-fifths threshold needed to advance the proposal. Hopes of a quick stimulus deal quickly unraveled on Sunday as the four congressional leaders and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin failed to break the impasse. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also delayed the procedural vote for three hours as they tried to get a deal. Democratic senators argue that the GOP bill includes several “non-starters” and walks back areas of agreement, such as expanding unemployment insurance, they thought they had reached with Republicans.

They emerged from a closed-door lunch fuming over the bill circulated by Republicans and called for McConnell to hold off on the 3 p.m. cloture vote. “We are pleading with McConnell not to call this vote,” Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said after the lunch. “It’s a serious mistake. We have not negotiated this to the point of agreement yet.” Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who is up for reelection in a deeply red state, said that the Senate needed to be “as unified as possible.” “We don’t need split votes,” he said. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) added that the proposal put forward by Republicans was “totally inadequate.” That resulted in McConnell delaying the vote to 6 p.m.

Read more …

I vote against all politicians.

Blame Game Heats Up As Senate Motion Fails (Hill)

The finger-pointing on Capitol Hill reached a fever pitch Sunday evening, as both sides rushed to blame the other after a Senate motion to move a mammoth coronavirus relief bill failed on the chamber floor. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) quickly took to the floor to hammer Democratic leaders, particularly Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), for what he characterized as petty obstruction that ignores the urgency of the crisis. “We were doing a good job of coming together until this morning, when the Speaker showed up — we don’t have a Speaker in the Senate, that’s in the House — and when the leader [Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)] and the speaker came in [they] blew everything up,” an agitated McConnell, his face flushed, said walking off the Senate floor.

Democrats quickly countered with accusations that it was McConnell who had abandoned the negotiations the night before, when the Senate leader announced that Republicans would begin drafting the massive stimulus package before Democrats had endorsed it. “There was a good spirit of negotiation into early last night. And right about 8 o’clock, our side sensed a sort of change in attitude, an unwillingness to give and negotiate, for reasons we don’t fully understand,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.). The tense back-and-forth came moments after Democrats blocked a procedural motion to advance Congress’s third round of emergency relief — a package approaching $2 trillion — in response to the global coronavirus pandemic, which has devastated markets, sparked mass layoffs and ravaged businesses large and small across the country.

Democrats have raised a long list of objections to the Republicans’ proposal, saying the bill does too little to protect the unemployed, feed the hungry, subsidize states and cushion students facing mounds of debt. They’re also up in arms over language to provide up to $500 billion in loans and guarantees for corporations, at the sole discretion of the administration.

Read more …

And she was lucky enough to get tested.

Total Cost of Her COVID-19 Treatment: $34,927.43 (Time)

When Danni Askini started feeling chest pain, shortness of breath and a migraine all at once on a Saturday in late February, she called the oncologist who had been treating her lymphoma. Her doctor thought she might be reacting poorly to a new medication, so she sent Askini to a Boston-area emergency room. There, doctors told her it was likely pneumonia and sent her home. Over the next several days, Askini saw her temperature spike and drop dangerously, and she developed a cough that gurgled because of all the liquid in her lungs. After two more trips to the ER that week, Askini was given a final test on the seventh day of her illness, and once doctors helped manage her flu and pneumonia symptoms, they again sent her home to recover. She waited another three days for a lab to process her test, and at last she had a diagnosis: COVID-19.

A few days later, Askini got the bills for her testing and treatment: $34,927.43. “I was pretty sticker-shocked,” she says. “I personally don’t know anybody who has that kind of money.” Like 27 million other Americans, Askini was uninsured when she first entered the hospital. She and her husband had been planning to move to Washington, D.C. this month so she could take a new job, but she hadn’t started yet. Now that those plans are on hold, Askini applied for Medicaid and is hoping the program will retroactively cover her bills. If not, she’ll be on the hook. She’ll be in good company. Public health experts predict that tens of thousands and possibly millions of people across the United States will likely need to be hospitalized for COVID-19 in the foreseeable future.

And Congress has yet to address the problem. On March 18, it passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which covers testing costs going forward, but it doesn’t do anything to address the cost of treatment. While most people infected with COVID-19 will not need to be hospitalized and can recover at home, according to the World Health Organization, those who do need to go to the ICU can likely expect big bills, regardless of what insurance they have. As the U.S. government works on another stimulus package, future relief is likely to help ease some economic problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but gaps remain.

Read more …

Of course there are Americans who borrow and spend too much. But how for the love of God is that a licence to even risk labeling people working 3 jobs and still not making ends meet, as irresponsible idiots who should save more? Who is irresponsible around here?

Coronavirus Reveals Financial Irresponsibility Of Americans (Hill)

How long could you sustain your household if you were to stop earning income? If you are like most Americans, the answer is not for long. Only 40 percent of Americans can afford an unexpected $1,000 expense with their savings. In fact, nearly 80 percent of workers are living paycheck to paycheck. It is no surprise that the probability of an economic recession brought on by the coronavirus pandemic caused many to worry. In major cities such as Boston, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, restaurants and businesses have been ordered to close. For many hourly workers, this means no paychecks in the coming weeks. Almost one in five Americans have already lost their jobs or have reduced hours.

At the same time, salaried workers are concerned about job security, as mass layoffs at numerous companies loom. While the situation is understandably stressful for every person affected, it serves as a sobering reminder that Americans must learn to live within their means and regularly save money. The need for all Americans to be able to sustain themselves for at least a few months on savings is accentuated during a time of crisis. This means planning ahead when times are good. Financial planners suggest saving at least 20 percent of take home income, while spending at most 30 percent on discretionary items. Yet too many workers still fail to think twice about spending entire paychecks for things they want but do not need.

Recent decades have offered us relative luxury. More than 80 percent of Americans own smartphones. The same portion of households own one high definition flat screen television, while over half of households own more than one. Over 60 percent of Americans dine out at least once a week, while nearly 20 percent dine out three or more times a week. The current panic is refocusing us on what is important. We now stockpile the things necessary for our health. Smartphones, fancy televisions, and restaurant meals are usually luxuries rather than necessities. Living within our means is not just rhetoric. It is a means of guarding ourselves during times like these. We have so much to learn from those who came before us. How many of our grandparents fared the austerity of the World Wars and the Great Depression, discovering to save, mend, and repair?

Read more …

The richer suffer more, they’ll have you know. What pricks this dick’s balloon, though, is suggesting that prior to corona, there was a “normal chain of revenue generation etc.” and “solid economic fundamentals”. There haven’t been any normal markets, and that includes commercial mortgages, since Alan Greenspan. You may like to disagree, but just wait till the Fed folds.

Preventing COVID-19 From Infecting the Commercial Mortgage Market (Barrack)

As a major participant in the non-bank real estate lending industry, I am fully supportive of the nation’s extraordinary response to contain COVID-19. The profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the public health and safety of all Americans is unprecedented and the response measures being taken by federal, state, and local government agencies are essential and critical. One aspect of this all-out assault on an invisible enemy — in the effort to suppress the contagion and manage the precious resources of our medical community and first responders — has been the unfortunate but necessary cessation of general commerce nationwide.

Now everyone, from corporations and small and mid-sized businesses to employees and laborers from all walks of life, has been displaced from the normal chain of revenue generation, cash flow, and income necessary to meet their obligations, from payment of salaries, rent payments, mortgage payments, and all other debts and bills required in the daily life of every business and every American. As a direct consequence of the necessary response measures to COVID-19, high performing mortgage loans across the entire commercial real estate sector (approximately $16 trillion in aggregate), which had previously been grounded in solid economic fundamentals, are suddenly experiencing a temporary meltdown in cash flows.

We are seeing the beginning of a second crisis that will occur in the financial markets that underpin the lifeblood of these employees, workers, and businesses. Based on my own personal past experiences I would like to share with you some thoughts on how to alleviate the potential blockage in the commercial mortgage market which is beginning to raise its perilous head. Addressing this major looming crisis in liquidity in a coordinated manner will be essential in averting a crisis in credit and a long term economic recession.

Read more …

This is just one of many such reports, of course. What I found interesting is that just 5 days ago, Singapore Airlines said it would cut flight capacity by 50%. And you wonder: what happened since Wednesday?

Emirates announced yesterday they would cut all flights, only to be told some flights are essential to services. Those are reinstated.

Singapore Airlines Slashes 96% Of Capacity, Grounds Most Planes (CNA)

Singapore Airlines (SIA) will cut 96 per cent of its capacity that had been scheduled up to the end of April, said the airline on Monday (Mar 23). The decision was made after the further tightening of border controls around the world over the last week to stem the COVID-19 outbreak, SIA said in a news release. About 138 SIA and SilkAir planes, out of a total fleet of 147, will be grounded as a result. Scoot, the company’s low-cost unit, will suspend “most of its network” and will ground all but two of its 49 planes. This comes amid the “greatest challenge that the SIA Group has faced in its existence”, the company said.


“It is unclear when the SIA Group can begin to resume normal services, given the uncertainty as to when the stringent border controls will be lifted,” it said. “The resultant collapse in the demand for air travel has led to a significant decline in SIA’s passenger revenues.” Over the last few days, the SIA Group has drawn on its lines of credits to meet its immediate cash flow requirements, it said, adding that it is in discussions with several financial institutions on its future funding requirements. “The company is actively taking steps to build up its liquidity, and to reduce capital expenditure and operating costs,” it added. SIA said it is in talks with aircraft manufacturers to defer upcoming deliveries, in the hopes of delaying payment for those deliveries.

Read more …

This is a bigger threat to Xi than the coronavirus. And why does it happen? Because China’s second-largest property developer wants to be the world’s biggest maker of electric cars…

China’s Housing Bubble Bursts (ZH)

Now that the world is firmly focusing on apocalyptic forecasts about the state of the US and global economy, with St Louis Fed president James Bullard the latest to pour gasoline into the fire with his worst-case prediction of a 50% GDP drop and 30% surge in unemployment in Q2, it is easy to forget that China, which started this whole pandemic, is still in economic lockdown. And while Beijing is pretending that the Shanghai Sniffles are now firmly behind it, and forcing people back to work while openly fabricating disease numbers – because like Lloyd Blankfein it has realized that an economic depression is an even worse outcome than millions infected – the reality is that China’s economy is facing an unprecedented crisis of its own.


Today we got a stark reminder of that, when Evergrande Group – China’s second-largest property developer by sales – tumbled in early trading Monday after saying it expects full-year earnings to fall by half. As Bloomberg first reported, the residential property developer said in an exchange filing Sunday that net profit for 2019 is expected to come in it around 33.5 billion yuan ($4.7 billion), a drop of about 50% from the previous year. “The decrease in profit is mainly attributable to the delivery and settlement of the lower-priced clearance stock properties in 2019, which drove down the unit price of the property delivered,” Evergrande said. That sent the firm’s Hong Kong-traded shares down as much as 17.4% on Monday, the biggest intraday drop since July 2015.

And with the stock tumbling by more than two-thirds since its late 2017 highs, Citigroup downgraded the stock to “sell” and slashed its price target by 56%, as the expected decline in core profit was far below Citigroup’s estimate of a 27% year-on-year drop. To be sure, there are plenty of reasons to dump the stock: Evergrande is one of China’s most-indebted developers with net debt of $88.5 billion as of June. As Bloomberg reminds us, the company has been pouring billions of dollars into acquisitions as its Chairman and major shareholder Hui Ka Yan pursues an ambition to make Evergrande the world’s biggest maker of electric cars in the next three to five years.

Read more …

Ardern sounds a bit too convinced. It’s still just one view.

New Zealand To Go Into Month-Long Lockdown (G.)

New Zealand is preparing to enter a month-long nationwide lockdown from Wednesday night, with the entire country ordered to stay home apart from those in essential services. On Monday the nation was given two days to prepare for schools, businesses and community services to turn off the lights in a desperate bid to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The move came after the number of cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand rose past 100. In an address to the nation, the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said she was not willing to put the lives of her citizens in danger. “The worst-case scenario is simply intolerable, it would represent the greatest loss of New Zealanders’ lives in our history and I will not take that chance.”

Ardern announced the country would move to level three measures immediately, and then to four – the highest level – on Wednesday from 11.59pm. “I say to all New Zealanders: the government will do all it can to protect you. Now I’m asking you to do everything you can to protect all of us. Kiwis – go home.” The lockdown will last a month, and if the trend of cases slowed, could be partially eased in specific areas after that. Ardern said it was now established that community transmission was happening in New Zealand and that, if it took off, the number of cases would double every five days, with modelling advising the government that tens of thousands of New Zealanders could die.

[..] Ardern said if the country did not lock down it would face a death toll beyond anything ever experienced before, and she wanted to give health services “a fighting chance”. Thirty-six new cases of the coronavirus were confirmed on Monday, bringing the nationwide total to 102, spread across the North and South islands. Ardern said she knew the measures would be anxiety-inducing for many New Zealanders and they needed to be “strong and kind” to each other during the unprecedented crisis. “Today, get your neighbour’s phone number, set up a community group chat, get your gear to work from home, cancel social gatherings of any size or shape, prepare to walk around the block while keeping a two-metre distance between you.

Read more …

 

 

Oddly appropriate:

 

 

 

 

 

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Mar 142020
 

 

“Flattening the Curve” Is A Deadly Delusion (Bach)
Higher Temperatures Affect Survival Of New Coronavirus (Accu)
South Korea’s Drive-Through Testing For Coronavirus Is Fast – And Free (NPR)
Nancy Pelosi, Trump Administration Reach Deal On Coronavirus Aid Package (NYP)
EU Ready To Trigger Crisis Clause Allowing Fiscal Stimulus (BBG)
Big Pharma Prepares To Profit From The Coronavirus (IC)
Apple To Close All Stores Outside Of China (BI)
Bad Coronavirus News Starts To Hit US Auto Dealers (R.)
Next Week’s Primaries To Proceed Despite Coronavirus, Louisiana Delay (R.)
Major US Internet Firms Agree Not To Cancel Service Over Next 60 Days (R.)
FBI’s Russia Collusion Case Fell Apart In January 2017
‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ At DC Museum Of The Bible Are All Forgeries (NatGeo)
It Would Take 50 Million Years To Recover New Zealand’s Lost Bird Species (F.)

 

 

Yay! We’re setting records! Over 10,000 cases in one day, 2,547 of which in Italy, and 451 deaths, with 250 in Italy.

 

Cases 146,327 (+ 10,518 from yesterday’s 135,809)

Deaths 5,443 (+ 453 from yesterday’s 4,990)

 

Something went wrong with my usual snapshot from last night’s Worldometer numbers, so yesterday’s “gains” per country are lost. Apologies.

Trajectories are clear though. Spain is a country to watch, as are Denmark, Norway and Sweden. And Switzerland with 220 new cases today, and and and.

Other than that, economic policies are taking the spotlight, and especially the failures. The question arises: can the west do what it did in WWII, and confiscate production facilities?

Just as abhorrent to US “values”: Tulsi Gabbard and Bush economic adviser Greg Mankiw, separate from each other I think, want the US to give every citizen $1,000 a month to counter the corona fallout.

Can America as a nation unite, or is that ability forever lost? Because: if you give out that $1,000, will you allow your firms, say Big Pharma, to charge exorbitant prices for essentials?

In that same vein, Germany appears ready to abandon its long term fiscal prudence, and to drag Europe along for the ride.

I changed the order of the graphs around a bit, SCMP is getting further behind all the time.

 

From Worldometer (NOTE: mortality rate is back up to 7%!)

 

 

From COVID2019.app: (This site is playing with its formats while expanding, now over 200 global contributors)

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Joshua Bach is a scary dude.

“Flattening the Curve” Is A Deadly Delusion (Bach)

You have all seen a version of this curve of COVID-19 case loads by now:

Or this one:

There are many more. What all these diagrams have in common: They have no numbers on the axes. They don’t give you an idea how many cases it takes to overwhelm the medical system, and over how many days the epidemic will play out. They suggest that currently, the medical system can deal with a large fraction (like maybe 2/3, 1/2 or 1/3) of the cases, but if we implement some mitigation measures, we can get the infections per day down to a level we can deal with. They mean to tell you that we can get away without severe lockdowns as we are currently observing them in China and Italy. Instead, we let the infection burn through the entire population, until we have herd immunity (at 40% to 70%), and just space out the infections over a longer timespan.

These suggestions are dangerously wrong, and if implemented, will lead to incredible suffering and hardship. Let’s try to understand this by putting some numbers on the axes. What is the capacity of the healthcare system? This is a difficult question and cannot be answered in a short post like this. The US has about 924,100 hospital beds (2.8 per 1000 people). California has only 1.8. Countries like Germany have 8. South Korea has 12. (Their hospital system got overloaded nonetheless.) Most of these beds are in use, but we can create more, using improvisation (for instance using hotels and school gyms) and strategic resources of the military, national guard and other organizations.

Based on Chinese data, we can estimate that about 20% of COVID-19 cases are severe and require hospitalization. However, many severe cases will survive if they can be adequately provided for at home (which may include oxygen, IVs and isolation). More important is the number of ICU beds, which by some estimates can be stretched to about a 100,000, and of which about 30,000 may be available. About 5% of all COVID-19 cases need intensive care, and without it, all of them will die. We can also increase the number of ICU beds somewhat, but the equipment that we need to deal with sepsis, kidney, liver and heart failure, severe pneumonia etc. cannot be stretched arbitrarily between them.

An important part of the equation are ventilators. Most of the critically ill COVID-19 cases die of an infection of the lungs that makes it impossible to breathe and even destroys so much tissue that the blood can no longer be sufficiently oxygenated. These patients need intubation and mechanical ventilation to give them a chance of survival, or even an ECMO machine, which oxygenates the blood directly. About 6% of all cases need a ventilator, and if hospitals put all existing ventilators to use, we have 160,000 of them. In addition, the CDC has a strategic stockpile of 8900 ventilators that can be deployed in hospitals that need them. If we take the number of ventilators as a proximate limit on the medical resources, it means we can take care of up to 170,000 critically ill patients at the same time.

How many people will get infected? Without containment, the virus becomes endemic, and leading epidemiologists like Marc Lipsitch (Harvard) and Christian Drosten (Charité Berlin) estimate that between 40% and 70% of the population get infected until we develop some degree of herd immunity. (Unfortunately, we do not know how long this immunity lasts. We already observe multiple strain of COVID-19, and will see many more, due to the large number of carriers.) In a population like the US (327 million), that means between 130 million and 230 million. Let’s assume that 55% of the US population (the middle ground) get infected between March and December, and we are looking at 180 million people.

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Saw that picture with the narrow yellow band before. But of course they still don’t agree on anything.

Higher Temperatures Affect Survival Of New Coronavirus (Accu)

Research from a laboratory-grown copy of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes the COVID-19 illness shows that heat affects the virus and impacts its behavior, a top pathologist said new research has shown. But other infectious disease experts aren’t yet convinced. “In cold environments, there is longer virus survival than warm ones,” Hong Kong University pathology professor John Nicholls told AccuWeather exclusively. Nicholls and colleagues from a team at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, previously produced a study, which was published in February and has yet to be peer-reviewed, noting the effect of heat. Their research is based on one of the world’s first lab-grown copies of SARS-CoV-2.


“Temperature could significantly change COVID-19 transmission,” the authors note in the study. They also pointed out that the “virus is highly sensitive to high temperature.” On March 11, the World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic. This is the first pandemic in 11 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One recent research paper supported this assertion by pointing out the proximity of the major hotspots. The authors of the study, which was published last week, wrote that COVID-19 “has established significant community spread in cities and regions only along a narrow east-west distribution roughly along the 30-50 North latitude corridor at consistently similar weather patterns (5-11 degrees C [41 to 51 F] and 47-79 percent humidity).”

“Notably, during the same time, COVID-19 failed to spread significantly to countries immediately south of China,” the paper notes. “The number of patients and reported deaths in Southeast Asia is much less when compared to more temperate regions noted … The association between temperature in the cities affected with COVID-19 deserves special attention.” Some have suggested the possibility that weather factors might affect the virus – particularly the intensity and amount of hours of sunshine as well as heat and humidity. “Obviously, the virus is something we’ve never dealt with before, but if we look at other viruses … they all had their peak during the cold season,” said AccuWeather Founder and CEO Dr. Joel N. Myers.

“The statistics all show that they breed and survive longer when it’s cold and dry,” Myers said. “So, when it’s warmer and more humid and there’s a lot of sunshine, the statistics on all of the others show a virus is less lethal, it spreads less efficiently and less effectively among humans.” Dr. Joseph Fair, a virologist, epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist, suggested sunshine is a critical factor in subduing the virus. “It really doesn’t have anything to do with the warmth, but it has to do with the length of the day and the exposure to sunlight, which inactivates the virus through UV light,” Fair [said]. “We expect a dip in infections as we would see with the cold and flu in the spring and summer months.


But, he cautioned, “The science is still out. We can assume this will follow typical other coronavirus cases. We can expect a dip in the summer. But that doesn’t mean that we will be out of the woods … Everyone in the scientific and public health community expects it to be back in the fall and we expect to be in this for quite some time.”


Transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like. (NIAID-RML)

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What a nation is capable of when it starts working together.

South Korea’s Drive-Through Testing For Coronavirus Is Fast – And Free (NPR)

If you roll up to a drive-through COVID-19 testing center in South Korea, you might notice that safety procedures extend all the way to your car’s air conditioning. You will be advised to hit the recirculation button so that if you’re sick, you can keep your pathogens to yourself, in your car, and avoid infecting the medical personnel doing the testing. The test takes 10 minutes at most. Results are texted to you, usually the next day. And it’s free — paid for by the government. Drive-through centers have helped South Korea do some of the fastest, most-extensive testing of any country. And while nobody is claiming that South Korea has defeated the outbreak, experts credit the emphasis on testing with reducing case numbers and fatalities.

“I think our approach was right,” says professor Lee Hyukmin of the Yonsei University College of Medicine in Seoul. “We will continue to see sporadic infections,” he predicts. “But still, the situation in Daegu,” the epicenter of the outbreak, “is being stabilized.” South Korea has about 8,000 infections. Italy and Iran overtook it this week as the countries with the most cases outside of China. South Korea’s new cases have gradually declined since the end of last month. For the first time since Jan. 20, the number of patients released from treatment on Friday, March 13 — 510 — outnumbered the 110 new cases. A nation of 51 million, South Korea has tested about 250,000 people since its outbreak began on Jan. 20, with a daily capacity of 15,000. It has conducted 3,600 tests per million people compared to five per million in the U.S.


South Korea’s aggressive testing may make it unnecessary to impose the sort of lockdowns to which China and Italy have resorted, although health officials insist that all options remain on the table in dealing with the epidemic. “It’s much better to test and then quarantine a specific person than to do a citywide or provincewide lockdown, which in certain ways prevents the virus from leaving the province but actually doesn’t make the province any less likely to have high infection rates,” says Eric Feigl-Ding, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, D.C., and an epidemiologist at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health.

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Just like Tulsi: “Greg Mankiw, a former top economic adviser to President George W. Bush, advocated sending $1,000 checks to everyone as soon as possible.”

Nancy Pelosi, Trump Administration Reach Deal On Coronavirus Aid Package (NYP)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Trump administration reached a last-minute deal Friday on a sweeping coronavirus aid package that will provide free testing for all Americans. The “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” will guarantee free tests for all Americans, including the uninsured, and provide two weeks of paid sick leave for those affected by the health crisis, Pelosi said. It will also provide up to three months of paid family and medical leave and strengthened unemployment Insurance for those facing layoffs amid the health and economic crisis. The aid package will also strengthen food banks, seniors’ meals and the food stamps program, known as SNAP.

Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had been locked in feverish negotiations as the crisis rapidly escalated — speaking up to seven times a day — and by Friday morning, senior Democrats were confident the package would pass the House by the end of the day. But the deal appeared to hit a snag when Trump on Friday declared a State of Emergency at the White House Rose Garden and announced he didn’t support the aid package. “We don’t think the Democrats are giving enough,” Trump told reporters. “We are negotiating. We thought we had something, but all of a sudden they didn’t agree to certain things that they agreed to,” he added, without specifying the sticking point.


The president has repeatedly demanded a payroll tax cut be included in the bill, something that has been met with tepid support from within his own administration. “We could have something but we don’t think they are giving enough. They are not doing what is right for the country,” he concluded. Pelosi was bullish about passing the bill on Friday, even though it now languishes until Monday when the Senate returns from a break, calling the health outbreak a “grave and accelerating challenge.” The new bill comes after Trump last week signed into law a separate $8.3 billion in emergency aid for states and local authorities to combat the spread of the virus.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1238516118391791617

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Jim Bianco on Twitter:

“German Gov’t will offer unlimited loans to all companies that want them. Will buy stakes in German Governments. Guaranteed every job in Germany. Said “no on will lose their job over a virus.” They are essentially asking all EU countries to do the same as Germany. Couple this with the Fed trillions, the ECB yesterday , the BOE wed and the BoJ overnight … Everyone is “all-in” to stop the decline. If this does not work, closing mkts might be all that is left.”

EU Ready To Trigger Crisis Clause Allowing Fiscal Stimulus (BBG)

Denmark, Poland and Cyprus tightened their borders to limit the spread of the coronavirus even as European leaders called for more concerted action to contain the economic fallout. Germany, which borders two of those countries, pledged to spend whatever was necessary to protect its economy and the European Commission said it’s ready to green-light widespread spending after a market meltdown and a forecast that the euro zone was headed for recession. With Group of Seven policy makers struggling to forge a united front, the response from national capitals reflects the urgency to avoid the lockdown that hit Italy amid an epidemic that seemed to be spiraling out of control.

In Denmark, only Danes, Danish residents and green card holders will be let in. For everyone else, the country’s borders will be closed until April 14 and people arriving in Denmark will be sent back. “We’re painfully aware that this will have severe consequences,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said in Copenhagen on Friday, as she announced borders would close. “We can see how the situation in Italy developed in a catastrophic direction,” she said. “Everything we’re doing is to ensure that we get through this situation in a different way.” Likewise, Cyprus is closing its borders for 15 days to foreigners who don’t live or work on the Mediterranean island, President Nicos Anastasiades said in a televised address.

[..] The ability to travel without border checks has been a fact of life for more than two decades in most of Europe, with passport-free movement arguably the most successful feature of daily life for more than 400 million people in the EU. Officials in Brussels are accepting the new – if temporary – restrictions through gritted teeth. “General travel bans are not seen as being the most effective by the World Health Organization,” said Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm. “Moreover, they have a strong social and economic impact. They disrupt people’s lives and business across the borders.”

Just hours earlier, German officials announced KfW, the state bank, can lend as much as €550 billion to companies to ensure they survive the pandemic and shield their workers from its impact. Switzerland pledged 10 billion francs ($10.5 billion) of aid for its companies. European stocks surged. “This is the bazooka,” Finance Minister Olaf Scholz. “We’re using it to do what is necessary. We’ll check later to see if we need additional smaller weapons.”

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Suspect that unlike in WWII, US industry would be allowed to turn huge profits.

Big Pharma Prepares To Profit From The Coronavirus (IC)

As the new coronavirus spreads illness, death, and catastrophe around the world, virtually no economic sector has been spared from harm. Yet amid the mayhem from the global pandemic, one industry is not only surviving, it is profiting handsomely. “Pharmaceutical companies view Covid-19 as a once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity,” said Gerald Posner, author of “Pharma: Greed, Lies, and the Poisoning of America.” The world needs pharmaceutical products, of course. For the new coronavirus outbreak, in particular, we need treatments and vaccines and, in the U.S., tests. Dozens of companies are now vying to make them.

“They’re all in that race,” said Posner, who described the potential payoffs for winning the race as huge. The global crisis “will potentially be a blockbuster for the industry in terms of sales and profits,” he said, adding that “the worse the pandemic gets, the higher their eventual profit.” The ability to make money off of pharmaceuticals is already uniquely large in the U.S., which lacks the basic price controls other countries have, giving drug companies more freedom over setting prices for their products than anywhere else in the world. During the current crisis, pharmaceutical makers may have even more leeway than usual because of language industry lobbyists inserted into an $8.3 billion coronavirus spending package, passed last week, to maximize their profits from the pandemic.

[..] According to calculations by Axios, drug companies make 63 percent of total health care profits in the U.S. That’s in part because of the success of their lobbying efforts. In 2019, the pharmaceutical industry spent $295 million on lobbying, far more than any other sector in the U.S. That’s almost twice as much as the next biggest spender — the electronics, manufacturing, and equipment sector — and well more than double what oil and gas companies spent on lobbying. The industry also spends lavishly on campaign contributions to both Democratic and Republican lawmakers. Throughout the Democratic primary, Joe Biden has led the pack among recipients of contributions from the health care and pharmaceutical industries.

Big Pharma’s spending has positioned the industry well for the current pandemic. While stock markets have plummeted in reaction to the Trump administration’s bungling of the crisis, more than 20 companies working on a vaccine and other products related to the new SARS-CoV-2 virus have largely been spared. Stock prices for the biotech company Moderna, which began recruiting participants for a clinical trial of its new candidate for a coronavirus vaccine two weeks ago, have shot up during that time. On Thursday, a day of general carnage in the stock markets, Eli Lilly’s stock also enjoyed a boost after the company announced that it, too, is joining the effort to come up with a therapy for the new coronavirus. And Gilead Sciences, which is at work on a potential treatment as well, is also thriving.

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1 day (or is it 2?) after re-opening all Chinese stores.

Apple To Close All Stores Outside Of China (BI)

Apple will be temporarily shuttering all stores outside China until March 27, in response to mounting concern over the novel coronavirus, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced on Saturday. Cook also said in a tweet that the company will be committing $15 million to recovery efforts and matching employee donations two-to-one as the coronavirus, which causes the disease known as COVID-19, continues to grip the US. “What we’ve learned together has helped us all develop the best practices that are assisting enormously in our global response,” Cook wrote in a press release. “One of those lessons is that the most effective way to minimize risk of the virus’s transmission is to reduce density and maximize social distance.” “As rates of new infections continue to grow in other places, we’re taking additional steps to protect our team members and customers.” The retailer will continue to fulfill purchases made online or through the Apple phone apps.

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Can you self-isolate in a car?

Bad Coronavirus News Starts To Hit US Auto Dealers (R.)

A relentless barrage of bad news surrounding the coronavirus epidemic has begun to affect customer visits at some U.S. auto dealers and even those businesses that have thrived so far believe a big sales decline is imminent if China’s experience is any guide. Since the coronavirus outbreak began in China last year it has killed more than 5,000 people globally, including 41 so far in the United States, where President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency. The outbreak has caused automakers to shutter plants in Asia and Europe, and the mounting responses in the United States – school closures, pro sports leagues suspending play and other big events canceled – are now being felt by some U.S. dealers. For a sign of what may be in store, analysts said look no further than China, where auto sales plunged 79% last month.


“Sales are definitely falling,” said John Luciano, managing partner with Street Volkswagen in Amarillo, Texas, and chairman of Volkswagen’s national dealer council. “We’re waking up in a different world a little bit more every day.” At Russ Shelton’s Buick GMC dealership in Rochester Hills, Michigan, so far this month customer visits are down 30% while the service department has seen a 40% drop in business due to the outbreak. “When schools close, mothers get worried – and this stops economic activity,” industry consultant and former GM executive Warren Browne said. Cox Automotive now sees negative U.S. economic growth in the second quarter and has withdrawn its forecast for 16.6 million new-vehicle sales in the United States this year.

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“We’re definitely voting. They voted during the Civil War. We’re gonna vote..”

Next Week’s Primaries To Proceed Despite Coronavirus, Louisiana Delay (R.)

Louisiana on Friday became the first U.S. state to postpone its presidential nominating contest because of the coronavirus pandemic, while four states holding their primaries next week said those elections would go forward as planned. The Southern state said it would reschedule voting in the run-up to the Nov. 3 election because of the outbreak. Officials there said they would postpone their scheduled April 4 primary to June 20 “to best protect the health and safety of Louisiana voters and voting officials,” Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said at a news conference. The four states holding their primaries on Tuesday – Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio – said in a joint statement they would proceed with their contests while taking steps to ensure public safety.

“Americans have participated in elections during challenging times in the past, and, based on the best information we have from public health officials, we are confident that voters in our states can safely and securely cast their ballots in this election, and that otherwise healthy poll workers can and should carry out their patriotic duties on Tuesday,” election officials from the four states said. “We’re definitely voting. They voted during the Civil War. We’re gonna vote,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis told reporters on Friday. Louisiana’s move poses a problem for the Democratic Party, which mandates all nominating contests must be held by early June or states risk losing delegates to the party convention in July.


[..] Biden’s attempt to connect with voters via a virtual town hall on Friday was plagued by early technical glitches that delayed its start and made most of his early remarks impossible to understand. The event provided the first glimpse into the challenges of running a virtual campaign. He used his opening remarks to discuss his plan for tackling the coronavirus crisis and pleading for citizens to listen to public health officials and wash their hands. He then turned to virtual attendees for questions and comments. The first person said, “Mr. Biden’s speech was garbled the entire time.”

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Let Washington handle it, make it free.

Major US Internet Firms Agree Not To Cancel Service Over Next 60 Days (R.)

The Federal Communications Commission said Friday that major internet providers – including Comcast Corp, AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc – agreed not to terminate service for subscribers for the next 60 days if they are unable to pay their bills due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said after calls with more than 50 companies that they also agreed to waive any late fees residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic. They also agreed to open Wi-Fi hotspots to anyone who needs them, the FCC said.

Millions more Americans are expected to work from home as employers and states urge people to telework to reduce the potential to spread the coronavirus outbreak. Others agreeing to take part are Alphabet Inc’s Google Fiber, Charter Communications Inc, CenturyLink Inc, Cox Communications, Sprint Corp, T-Mobile US Inc. “As the coronavirus outbreak spreads and causes a series of disruptions to the economic, educational, medical and civic life of our country, it is imperative that Americans stay connected,” Pai said in a statement. “Broadband will enable them to communicate with their loved ones and doctors, telework, ensure their children can engage in remote learning.”


FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, praised the companies adopting the pledge, but said the FCC should do more. She called on the commission to “provide hotspots for loan for students whose school doors have closed” and should “work with health care providers to ensure connectivity for telehealth services are available for hospitals, doctors, and nurses treating coronavirus patients and those who are quarantined.” Pai also said he had asked providers that offer low-income consumers lower-speed cheaper service to increase speeds and expand eligibility. Comcast said Thursday it was raising its speeds for all its low-income users, while AT&T said it was waiving data caps for consumers that have plans with usage caps.

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John Solomon promises more. Will there be elections, though?

FBI’s Russia Collusion Case Fell Apart In January 2017 (Solomon)

Flynn’s motion is confirmed by a 2018 letter obtained by Just the News between Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office and defense lawyers. It shows the DOJ exoneration memo was written after Flynn had been interviewed by FBI agents in January 2017 and after the government learned the former Defense Intelligence Agency chief had kept his old agency briefed on his contacts with Russia, something that weighed heavily against the notion he was aiding Moscow.

“According to an internal DOJ memo dated January 30, 2017, after the Jan. 24 interview, the FBI advised that based on the interview the FBI did not believe Flynn was acting as an agent of Russia,” Mueller’s team wrote in the letter. U.S. District Judge Emmett Sullivan so far has concluded that the exoneration of Flynn on the Russia collusion charge wasn’t relevant to his conviction since he pled guilty to a different crime, making a false statement to the FBI. But for the American public, such a revelation is momentous. Less than two weeks into Trump’s presidency the FBI had concluded his national security adviser had not been working as an agent of Russia.

While that was the view of federal law enforcement, the false storyline of Flynn as a Russian stooge was broadcasted across the nation, with leaks of his conversations with a Russian ambassador and other tales, for many more months. In an interview with Just the News and its John Solomon Reports podcast, Powell confirmed she was provided by letter three sentences from the DOJ memo but has been unable to get the full document. “It’s just horrible,” Powell said. “They gave us a little three lines summary of it and the letter and told us it existed but have refused to give us the actual document, which I know means there’s a lot of other information in it that would be helpful to us.” Powell also confirmed that Mueller was fully aware of a letter sent in early January 2017 to Flynn from Britain’s national security adviser raising concerns about Steele’s credibility.

The British government “hand-delivered” a letter to Flynn’s team that “totally disavowed any credibility of Christopher Steele, and would have completely destroyed the Russia collusion narrative,” Powell said. Flynn himself has no memory of receiving the communique, but people around him at the time do and confirmed the existence of the document, Powell explained. Flynn was questioned about it during his debriefings by Mueller’s team, she added. “I was told that a copy of the document would have been given to [then-National Security Adviser] Susan Rice as well,” she added. “So the Obama administration knew full well that the entire Russia collusion mess was a farce.”

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Evangelical humor.

‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ At DC Museum Of The Bible Are All Forgeries (NatGeo)

On the fourth floor of the Museum of the Bible, a sweeping permanent exhibit tells the story of how the ancient scripture became the world’s most popular book. A warmly lit sanctum at the exhibit’s heart reveals some of the museum’s most prized possessions: fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient texts that include the oldest known surviving copies of the Hebrew Bible. But now, the Washington, D.C. museum has confirmed a bitter truth about the fragments’ authenticity. On Friday, independent researchers funded by the Museum of the Bible announced that all 16 of the museum’s Dead Sea Scroll fragments are modern forgeries that duped outside collectors, the museum’s founder, and some of the world’s leading biblical scholars. Officials unveiled the findings at an academic conference hosted by the museum. “The Museum of the Bible is trying to be as transparent as possible,” says CEO Harry Hargrave.


“We’re victims—we’re victims of misrepresentation, we’re victims of fraud.” In a report spanning more than 200 pages, a team of researchers led by art fraud investigator Colette Loll found that while the pieces are probably made of ancient leather, they were inked in modern times and modified to resemble real Dead Sea Scrolls. “These fragments were manipulated with the intent to deceive,” Loll says. The new findings don’t cast doubt on the 100,000 real Dead Sea Scroll fragments, most of which lie in the Shrine of the Book, part of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. However, the report’s findings raise grave questions about the “post-2002” Dead Sea Scroll fragments, a group of some 70 snippets of biblical text that entered the antiquities market in the 2000s. Even before the new report, some scholars believed that most to all of the post-2002 fragments were modern fakes.

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How long does it take to kill 50 million years?

It Would Take 50 Million Years To Recover New Zealand’s Lost Bird Species (F.)

Long before people arrived in New Zealand, it was dominated by multitudes of unique birds. They were absolutely everywhere: big birds, little birds, colorful birds, flightless birds. In the absence of reptilian and mammalian predators, birds evolved to fill every available niche, from giant moas that stood 11 feet tall and weighed as much as 230 kilograms (510 pounds) that were the ecological equivalent of deer and antelopes, to the largest eagle that ever lived, which was New Zealand’s apex predator, functioning similarly to lions and tigers and other big cats. But after humans arrived 700 years ago, it took us only a few hundred years to drive more than half of New Zealand’s bird species into extinction, and more than 30% of the birds that survived our original onslaughts are threatened with extinction today. Nearly two-thirds could be under threat in the future.

Considering these dire circumstances, an international team of scientists wondered how long it might take for New Zealand to recover its full diversity of bird species lost to human actions. According to their recently published study, the researchers estimated this process would take approximately 50 million years (50Ma). Further, they found that, if bird species that are currently threatened are allowed to go extinct, it would take an additional 10Ma for New Zealand to achieve today’s (severely compromised) level of species diversity. “The conservation decisions we make today will have repercussions for millions of years to come”, said the lead author of the study, Luis Valente, a Research Associate at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin.


“Some people believe that if you leave nature alone it will quickly recuperate, but the reality is that, at least in New Zealand, nature would need several million years to recover from human actions — and perhaps will never really recover.” New Zealand is home to a collection of odd birds, including the wrybill, a small shorebird whose bill curves sideways; the iconic kiwis, whose feathers resemble fur and which are the only bird species in the world to have nostrils at the tip of their beak; the flightless kakapo, which resembles a large moss-colored owl and is the heaviest parrot alive today; and of course, the kea, which is the world’s only alpine parrot and who is pushing the boundaries of our understanding of how astonishingly clever parrots can be. Despite this modern surfeit of avian biodiversity, it is just a mere whisper of what once lived on New Zealand, which was the result of many millions of years of evolutionary history.

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Feb 062020
 


Seattle, WA during Spanish Influenza. No ride on street cars without wearing a mask 1918/19

 

China May Delay Annual Meeting Of Parliament Due To Virus Outbreak (R.)
“Leaked” Infection Numbers Over 154,000; Deaths Approach 25,000 (NN)
Major Mainland Chinese Airlines Place All Foreign Pilots On Unpaid Leave (SCMP)
With Virus Deaths At 565 China Considers Trade Deal Disaster Clause (SCMP)
Chinese Scholar Blames Xi Jinping, CCP For Not Controlling Outbreak (SCMP)
Who Owns The Coronavirus Cure? (SCMP)
Pelosi Shreds Decades Of Tradition In Demonstrating Against Trump (Turley)
Buttigieg and Sanders Separated By Razor-Thin Margin In Iowa (Pol.)
Biden Vows To Press On Despite Iowa ‘Gut Punch’ (BBC)
In This Impeachment, People Only Heard What They Wanted To (Turley)
Nancy Pelosi Should Resign (Turley)
Bloomberg Surrogates Have Seats on DNC Rules Committees (Sludge)

 

 

There we go again:

• 565 deaths (up 72 from yesterday, biggest increase in official numbers to date)

• 28,339 cases (up 3,797 from yesterday’s 24,542, and yeserday’s rise of 3872)

• There are suggestions from China that the increase in cases is slowing, but that’s after yesterday’s record increase. We’ll see.

• At the same time, the increase in severe cases appears to be accelerating.

• 10 more infections on cruise ship off Yokohama

• One thing that’s certainly increasing is the skepticism about the official numbers.

 

 

 

Some interesting things in this article:

1) Officials returning to Beijing from other provinces after Lunar New Year are in 14-day quarantine. First time I see mandatory quarantines for Beijing.

2) There’s talk of delaying the (10+ days) National People’s Congress, which only starts on March 5.

Events have been cancelled as far out as April 15. That syncs quite well with what I said in my article The Big Lockdown.

China May Delay Annual Meeting Of Parliament Due To Virus Outbreak (R.)

China is considering delaying the annual meeting of its top legislative body, five people familiar with the matter said, as it grapples with a coronavirus epidemic that has forced drastic curtailment of travel and other activity to curb its spread. The National People’s Congress (NPC), made up of about 3,000 delegates, typically gathers for a session lasting at least 10 days in Beijing, beginning on March 5, to pass legislation and unveil key economic targets for the year. A postponement would be the first since China adopted the current March schedule in 1995 for the meeting of parliament. “The focus remains on taking steps forward towards meeting on schedule, but we are discussing a range of options as the (virus) situation doesn’t look likely to be contained by March,” a senior government official told Reuters, declining to be identified given the sensitivity of the matter.

“A delay is one of those options,” the official said. “It should come as no surprise given that we are in a very difficult time.” Many officials who would ordinarily be involved in preparation for the NPC are staying at home under 14-day mandatory quarantines after returning to Beijing from their home provinces following the Lunar New Year holidays. Central government officials in Beijing were told to resume work on Feb. 3. China has already postponed a high-level business event, the China Development Forum, which is usually held in late March, and the venue for the Canton Fair, a trade fair in the southern city of Guangzhou, has been suspended until further notice. The spring session of the trade fair was due to begin on April 15.

The NPC gathering is crucial this year, as it is set to ratify China’s first-ever civil code, a key milestone in President Xi Jinping’s legal reform effort. The NPC is also widely expected to discuss the months-long protests in Hong Kong, and to announce the annual economic growth target along with China’s defence budget. Under China’s constitution, a full plenary session of the NPC must be held every year. Chucheng Feng, a partner at Plenum, an independent research firm in Hong Kong, put the chance of a delay at just 10% because of the meeting’s political importance. “However, as the epidemic extends into February, the gathering of China’s entire political elite in a confined Great Hall of the People for over a week looks quite dangerous,” he said.

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Tyler broke the story. This is a handy write-up. It’s the smaller numbers above the big ones that all but prove we’re looking at an automatically updating database.

“Leaked” Infection Numbers Over 154,000; Deaths Approach 25,000 (NN)

Zero Hedge reported this morning, “As Taiwan [News] reports in a report first spotted by user @TheHKGroup, over the weekend, Tencent “seems to have inadvertently released what is potentially the actual number of infections and deaths, which were astronomically higher than official figures”, and were far closer to the catastrophic epidemic projections made by Jonathan Read.” According to official numbers from mainland China, which are updated daily, the current number of coronavirus infections is still under 25,000. Even then, it currently appears to be expanding at roughly 20% per 24-hour period, which represents a doubling of infections every 3.5 days (because the growth is compounded). (The left column is infections, and the right column is deaths.)

However, observers have noted that the official numbers reported by the communist Chinese government recently slipped into the “real numbers,” suddenly showing far higher confirmed infections and deaths: 154,024 infections and 24,589 deaths. Here’s a screen shot that was captured before the numbers reverted back to the lower, “official” numbers:The initial reaction from observers might be something along the lines of, “That was just a typo. So they corrected it.” However, there’s more to this story:

The higher numbers didn’t merely appear by themselves, out of context. Above each number is an “increase” factor that calculates how much larger today’s numbers are compared to yesterday’s numbers. For the 24,589 deaths, located at the lower right of this graphic, you’ll notice a number above it that states, “+1546.” The Chinese characters next to the numbers explain, “Compared to yesterday.” This means there is an underlying database that’s tracking daily numbers and being used to calculate the day-to-day differences. Similarly, there’s a number above the infection count of 154,023 that explains, “+20979.” This indicates the day-over-day increase from the previous day.


These numbers are clearly being automatically calculated, because if human error were to blame for typing the wrong numbers representing infections and deaths, it would be extremely unlikely that two more typos would coincidentally appear above those numbers, accidentally showing day-to-day increases that are consistent with a second set of numbers that are obviously being stored in parallel.

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The highest paid.

Major Mainland Chinese Airlines Place All Foreign Pilots On Unpaid Leave (SCMP)

All foreign pilots working for China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines, and a host of smaller mainland Chinese carriers have been placed on indefinite unpaid leave, according to multiple sources and a memo seen by the Post. With the coronavirus crisis forcing airlines to slash flights, several hundred foreign pilots have seemingly become surplus overnight, with some telling the Post they were considering their options amid the uncertainty now facing the world’s fastest-growing air market. “All foreign pilots, including those who have applied for leave exemption and those who have not, shall start a non-fixed term leave without pay as soon as possible,” a Tuesday memo to a batch of foreign pilots for China Southern, the country’s largest carrier, said.


Their grounding was effective that day, with the pilots told they would “return to work when [the] situation gets better.” Xiamen Airlines along with Hainan Airlines, Tianjin Airlines and Beijing Capital Airlines (BCA) – a trio of carriers owned by debt-laden HNA Group – have also placed foreign aircrew on unpaid leave, according to multiple sources. A source at BCA said their pilots had been offered the option of taking a significant pay cut that would bring them in line with their Chinese counterparts. China Eastern Airlines, meanwhile, was understood to have offered unpaid leave to its foreign pilots but had not made it mandatory at this point.

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The trade deal should be the least of Beijing’s worries by now.

Also, there are suggestions here that new cases rise less fast than before. But severe cases seem to rise.

With Virus Deaths At 565 China Considers Trade Deal Disaster Clause (SCMP)

Daily deaths caused by the new coronavirus have reached another record in China, with 73 fatalities confirmed in figures released by health authorities on Thursday morning, taking the death toll in mainland China to 563. The number of new infections in mainland China and Hubei province both fell on Wednesday compared to the day before, with 3,694 additional cases in the country and 2,987 in Hubei, national and provincial health authorities announced Thursday morning. The last time new infection figures dropped was January 28, with the daily increase in confirmed cases in China and Hubei steadily rising to a record high on Tuesday – 3,887 and 3,156, respectively. The deadly new coronavirus, which first emerged at the end of December, has killed at least 565 people worldwide, and sickened more than 28,000.

Mainland media on Tuesday reported that China may consider using a disaster-related clause in the phase one trade deal with the US because of the coronavirus outbreak. The Global Times, a nationalist newspaper affiliated to People’s Daily, cited an unnamed Chinese trade expert close to the government as saying a decision on launching a consultation with the US on the disaster clause was unlikely until the end of the first quarter. In a commentary published on Wednesday, the newspaper said that even if China was unable to reach the goal of increasing purchases from the US, there was still a sensible path forward without jeopardising the agreement and the negotiation process.

“The phase one agreement clearly stated that the two parties would consult with each other, ‘in the event that a natural disaster or other unforeseeable event outside the control of the parties delays a party from timely complying with its obligations under this agreement’. Without doubt the epidemic fits this scenario,” it said.

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Very popular man, I’m sure.

Chinese Scholar Blames Xi Jinping, CCP For Not Controlling Outbreak (SCMP)

A prominent Chinese scholar has published an article criticising the country’s leadership for failing to control the coronavirus outbreak that has infected almost 25,000 people around the world. Xu Zhangrun, a law professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, who has been under close surveillance by the authorities, blamed Communist Party leaders for putting politics ahead of the people in his strongly worded piece, which was published on several overseas Chinese-language websites this week. “The political system has collapsed under the tyranny, and a governance system [made up] of bureaucrats, which has taken [the party] more than 30 years to build has floundered,” he said in a reference to how reform-minded leaders sought to rebuild the country and modernise the government after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 and moved away from one-man rule to collective leadership.

Xu was suspended from teaching at Tsinghua University in 2018, after the publication of an article in which he criticised the decision by party leaders to lift the two-term limit for presidents, allowing Xi Jinping to remain in office beyond his second term, which ends in 2023. His latest criticism came as China’s leaders and law enforcement officials warned that internet controls must be tightened to prevent the spread of rumours and misinformation. On Monday, Xi chaired a meeting of the Politburo Standing Committee at which it was agreed that officials must maintain a tight grip on online media and direct public opinion about “winning the war over the virus”.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Public Security held a meeting to remind all police officers that political security was of utmost importance in handling the outbreak. The police would “strike harshly” on any and all disruption by “hostile forces”, according to a report by Xinhua. One of Xu’s close friends confirmed on Wednesday that the professor had written the article. “He has already been stripped of his teaching position but he is likely to face more punishment this time,” said the person, who asked not to be named. “We are concerned they [the police] will take him away now that he has published this article.”

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There’s no such thing. Ridiculous headline.

Who Owns The Coronavirus Cure? (SCMP)

China has applied to patent a drug candidate being developed by Gilead Sciences as the government rushes to find the cure for the deadly coronavirus, a move that could raise questions on intellectual property and marketing rights. The state-backed Institute of Virology in Wuhan filed the patent for using remdesivir to fight the novel coronavirus on January 21, according to a statement posted on its website two weeks later on February 4. If approved, the drug will be used to facilitate its potential global market entry, it added. Studies have been conducted outside the human bodies and found that Gilead’s remdesivir compound and the off-patent chloroquine malaria drug are both “highly effective” in the control of coronavirus infection, the Wuhan institute and the Beijing Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology said in a research published in Cell Research Journal.


“Since these compounds have [separately] been used in human patients with a safety track record and shown to be effective against various ailments, we suggest that they should be assessed in human patients suffering from the novel coronavirus disease,” the researchers wrote. Remdesivir has not been approved anywhere globally and has not been showed to be safe or effective for any use, Gilead’s chief medical officer Merdad Parsey said in a statement on Friday. The firm is working with Chinese health authorities to conduct a clinical trial on patients with pneumonia symptoms to test its safety and efficacy, it said. Past clinical data on other coronaviruses give it “hope,” it added.

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3 Turley articles today. One at the Hill, one at the BBC, one on his own site.

When The Dems lost to Trump in 2016, I said his role was to show how rotten the entire system is. And that they should take a good look at themselves, and try to figure out how that loss could ever come about. They never did, they only ever and exclusively looked at Trump, not themselves. This will not change as long as Hillary, Biden, Schiff et al lead the party.

Pelosi Shreds Decades Of Tradition In Demonstrating Against Trump (Turley)

Forty-four years ago, I walked on to the floor of the House of Representatives as a new Democratic 15-year-old page from Chicago. I stood and marveled at the beehive of activity on the floor in the People’s House. I can still remember that moment because it forged a bond and reverence that has never weakened for me. As a Democratic leadership page during the speakership of Tip O’Neill, I watched some of the most passionate and important debates of the generation from the Neutron Bomb to civil rights legislation to sweeping national park bills. The country was deeply divided, but both parties maintained the tradition of civility and decorum. I was struck how members, even in the heat of furious debates, would not attack each other by name and followed rigid principles of decorum.

They understood that they were the custodians of this institution and bore a duty to strengthen and pass along those traditions to the next generation. That is why I was (and remain) so offended by this display. I believe that President Trump himself is worthy of criticism for not shaking the hand of Pelosi. I also did not approve of aspects of his speech, including bestowing the Medal of Freedom on Rush Limbaugh in the gallery like a reality show surprise scene. There was much to object to in the address, but presidents often make comments that enrage or irritate speakers. However, none of that excuses Pelosi. At that moment, she represents the House as an institution — both Republicans and Democrats. Instead, she decided to become little more than a partisan troll from an elevated position.

The protests of the Democratic members also reached a new low for the House. Pelosi did not gavel out the protest. She seemed to join it. It was the tradition of the House that a speaker must remain in stone-faced neutrality no matter what comes off that podium. The tradition ended last night with one of the more shameful and inglorious moments of the House in its history. Rather than wait until she left the floor, she decided to demonstrate against the President as part of the State of the Union and from the Speaker’s chair. That made it a statement not of Pelosi but of the House. For those of us who truly love the House as an institution, it was one of the lowest moments to unfold on the floor. That is why I argue in the Hill that, if Pelosi does not apologize and agree to honor the principle of neutrality and civility at the State of the Union, she should resign as speaker.

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Tweet: “Buttigieg campaign manager’s wife owns the app company that ruined the Iowa caucuses, and his campaign DONATED $42,500.00 to that same company, Shadow Inc.”

The video is educative.

Buttigieg and Sanders Separated By Razor-Thin Margin In Iowa (Pol.)

Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders are running neck and neck in the Iowa caucuses with almost all of the votes counted. Buttigieg has 26.23 percent of the state delegate count to 26.06 percent for Sanders with 97 percent of precincts reporting, making the race too close to call, according to The Associated Press. Elizabeth Warren is in third at 18 percent of the state delegate count, followed by Joe Biden at nearly 16 percent and Amy Klobuchar at 12 percent. After a technical meltdown created significant delays in the reporting of results in Monday’s caucuses, the Iowa Democratic Party released almost all of the remaining data Wednesday night. The latest results came as CNN wrapped up a series of town halls with candidates in New Hampshire.

Earlier results came Wednesday afternoon as Sanders, Warren and Klobuchar were in the Senate voting in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. The Republican-led chamber ultimately voted to acquit Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress as the numbers from Iowa were released. The latest results don’t change the order of the top five candidates, but they do show a razor-thin race at the top, where both the Buttigieg and Sanders campaigns have already declared themselves winners. Buttigieg insisted as early as Monday night that he was the clear victor, and he reportedly reassured supporters of that in a phone call on Wednesday. Sanders, meanwhile, told supporters in New Hampshire that he was leading in popular-vote totals and would come out of Iowa with the same number of national convention delegates as Buttigieg.


In terms of raw votes, Sanders leads in by more than 2,500 votes in the final alignment of Iowa caucus-goers, after supporters of non-viable candidates had the chance to realign at their precincts on Monday night.

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The entire impeachment trial was based on Trump wanting dirt on his “main political rival”. But Biden was never that. At the time of the Trump/Zelensky call, enough was known about Hunter/Burisma to realize Joe had no chance. And there was very little to suggest that Hunter/Burisma did not warrant an investigation. But Dems keep on saying it was “debunked”, without being able to suggest who did the debunking.

Biden Vows To Press On Despite Iowa ‘Gut Punch’ (BBC)

White House hopeful Joe Biden has called his poor performance in the Democrats’ first 2020 leadership vote, in Iowa’s caucuses, a “gut punch”. Mr Biden has come fourth, according to incomplete results from the election to pick a Democratic presidential nominee. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” Mr Biden said. “This isn’t the first time in my life I’ve been knocked down.” With most results declared in Monday’s glitch-plagued caucuses, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders are neck and neck. But Mr Biden told an audience in New Hampshire: “I’m not going anywhere.”

According to partial results from Iowa, the former US vice-president under Barack Obama has failed to pick up a single one of the delegates needed to clinch the Democratic White House nomination under America’s quirky political system. New Hampshire will be the next state to vote on 11 February in a string of nationwide votes culminating with the crowning of the party’s presidential candidate in July. Eleven contenders remain in the race to challenge President Donald Trump, a Republican, in November’s election.

[..] On Wednesday, Mr Biden sharpened his attacks, targeting the two Democratic front-runners by name. “We need a nominee who can help Democrats up and down the ticket,” Mr Biden said. He suggested that self-described democratic socialist Mr Sanders would be unelectable in a general election. Mr Biden also said it would be a “risk” to nominate 38-year-old Mr Buttigieg, “someone who’s never held an office higher than mayor of a town of 100,000 people”. Mr Buttigieg responded by saying “the bulk of the credit for the achievements of the Obama administration belong with President Obama”.

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As go strictly partisan battles.

In This Impeachment, People Only Heard What They Wanted To (Turley)

Recently, MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell declared that his show will not allow Trump supporters on as guests because all Trump supporters are “liars”. Likewise, Trump recently denounced Fox for even interviewing Democratic senators. When that is the state of our news, why should trials be any different? In our hardened political silos, even Framers are bit players in a crushingly formulaic play. Witnesses are as immaterial as facts when the public demands the same predictability from politicians that they do from cable hosts. We are all to blame. Politicians achieve their offices by saying what voters want to hear and today voters have little tolerance for hearing anything that contradicts their preset views of Trump.

As a result, the trial was pre-packed by popular demand. Speaker Nancy Pelosi even declared that Trump would “not be acquitted” even if he was acquitted. When the actual vote doesn’t matter, why should the actual testimony? Just as voters get the government that they deserve, they also get the impeachment trials that they demand. Watching on their favourite biased cable networks, voters raged at the bias of the opposing side in the impeachment as refusing to see the truth. Viewers thrilled as their side denounced their opponents and hissed when those opponents returned the criticism. The question and answer period even took on a crossfire format as senators followed up one side’s answer with a request for the other side to respond.

It was precisely the “fight, fight” tempo that has made cable news a goldmine. As the trial ends, perhaps justice has been done. The largely partisan vote showed that the trial could have had the sound turned off for the purposes of most viewers. We are left with our rage undiluted by reason. It really did not matter what anyone had to say because we were only hearing half of the trial anyway. It provided the perfect verdict on our times.

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Nancy should go home and be a grandma. She acted like a 5-year old during and after the SOTU. You don’t express your “hatred” of someone by imitating their behavior. Grace.

Nancy Pelosi Should Resign (Turley)

The House has its share of infamies, great and small, real and symbolic, and has been the scene of personal infamies from brawls to canings. But the conduct of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) at the State of the Union address this week will go down as a day of infamy for the chamber as an institution. It has long been a tradition for House Speakers to remain stoic and neutral in listening to the address. However, Pelosi seemed to be intent on mocking President Trump from behind his back with sophomoric facial grimaces and head shaking, culminating in her ripping up a copy of his address.

Her drop the mic moment will have a lasting impact on the House. While many will celebrate her trolling of the president, she tore up something far more important than a speech. Pelosi has shredded decades of tradition, decorum and civility that the nation could use now more than ever. The House Speaker is more than a political partisan, particularly when carrying out functions such as the State of the Union address. A president appears in the House as a guest of both chambers of Congress. The House Speaker represents not her party or herself but the entirety of the chamber. At that moment, she must transcend her own political ambitions and loyalties.

Tensions for this address were high. The House impeachment managers sat as a group in front of the president as a reminder of the ongoing trial. That can be excused as a silent but pointed message from the Democrats. Trump hardly covered himself with glory by not shaking hands with Pelosi. I also strongly disliked elements of his address which bordered on “check under your seat” moments, and the awarding of conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom inside the House gallery like a Mardi Gras bead toss. However, if Trump made the State of the Union look like Oprah, then Pelosi made it look like Jerry Springer.

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Yeah. Buttigieg’s campaign manager is married to a woman who owns Shadow Inc. , which produced an app developed by among others Hillary’s campaign manager Robby Mook. And Bloomberg has his people inside the DNC. As does Biden, obviously. It smells like incest.

Bloomberg Surrogates Have Seats on DNC Rules Committees (Sludge)

As the Democratic National Committee establishes procedures for the Democratic presidential nominating process, two members of DNC rules committees simultaneously work on the campaign of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Having surrogates on the Democratic National Convention’s Rules Committee and the Standing Rules and Bylaws Committee could be a boon for Bloomberg if nominating rules are re-opened for amendment ahead of the July convention. Some DNC members who are concerned about the polling support of Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) have discussed reversing rule changes limiting the power of superdelegates that were put in place after the 2016 election, according to a report from Politico. Those discussions have been sharply rebuked by DNC leadership.

The DNC passed intensely-negotiated rule changes in August 2018 that sought to reduce the influence of superdelegates—appointed at-large delegates whose ranks include influential party consultants—primarily by preventing them from casting votes on the first nomination ballot, as they did in 2016. If no candidate receives a majority on the first ballot at the upcoming convention, which will be voted on by 3,979 pledged delegates, then the 771 superdelegates—including some lobbyists for corporate clients—can vote on the second ballot, under the new rules. If the superdelegates were to vote as a block, they could add over 16% to a candidate, potentially pushing their favorite over the top.

Michael Nutter, the former Mayor of Philadelphia who is a member of the Standing Rules and Bylaws Committee, was selected by Bloomberg in December 2019 to serve as his campaign’s national political chair. “Nutter will advise the campaign on policy development and strategy, and serve as a national surrogate on behalf of the campaign, recruiting key voices to join the campaign and traveling to field offices and events, speaking to constituents and press about why Mike Bloomberg is uniquely qualified to unite and rebuild the country at a time when it is more divided than ever,” the Bloomberg campaign said in a December statement.

Nutter was nominated by former DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) in 2013 and he has served on the rules committee since 2017. Nutter co-hosted a kick-off fundraiser for former vice president Joe Biden in April 2019 after Bloomberg announced a month earlier that he would not run for president, but he quickly switched to Bloomberg’s camp after the former New York mayor reversed course and entered the race.

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Who needs drug labs?

 

 

 

Please donate what you can.

 

Feb 052020
 


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

 

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

 

 

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

• Total cases 24,542 (+3872)

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

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

• 185,555 cases under medical observation

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

Note also the addition of recovered cases.

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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But Hong Kong’s airline is not listening…

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

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

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

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

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


How some Republicans watched SOTU

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Mighty OPEC loses to tiny virus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Trading hot air.

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

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


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

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Fridges for Inuit.

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

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


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

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Now apply the Force.

Council of Europe Sides With Julian Assange (IA)

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Please donate what you can.

 

Feb 022020
 
 February 2, 2020  Posted by at 11:00 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


NPC “Georgetown-Marines game” 1923

 

US Confirms Its Eighth Case Of Coronavirus (R.)
Uber Suspends 240 Accounts In Mexico To Prevent Coronavirus Spreading (R.)
US Senator Shreds China’s Official Virus Story, Warns Of “Super Laboratory” (ZH)
Pelosi Questions Why The President’s Lawyers Are Not Disbarred (Turley)
CNN’s Blatant And Bizarre Tulsi Gabbard Snub (Hill)
Is Hillary Clinton Angling To Become Vice President? (Hill)
DNC Members Planning Move To Block Bernie Sanders . . . Again (Turley)
NPR Demands Cassandra Fairbanks’s Conversations with Julian Assange (CC)
Fukushima Radioactive Water Should Be Released Into Ocean – Japan Experts (G.)
Kremlin Warns Chemical Provocation Coming Near Aleppo (ZH)

 

 

Are we truly leveling off? There are a few voices out there who like the idea. But perhaps it’s a bit early to say. First today’s numbers:

• Confirmed cases: 14,562 in China, 140 abroad (from 11,945, up 2617) yesterday up 2124

• Deaths: 305 (up 46, yesterday also 46)
(deaths over past 9 days: 15, 15, 25, 25, 26, 38, 43, 46, 46)

• Recovered: 328

• First death outside China (Philippines, patient from Wuhan)

• 8 cases in US

 

 

What gives me pause still in the leveling off ‘debate’ is the January 31 2020 report by Gabriel Leung and his team at HKU which states: “In our baseline scenario, we estimated 75,185 infections as of Jan 25.” On Jan 25 there were 1,200-1,300 confirmed cases. Today there are 14,500. Would their infection estimate also have risen tenfold?

Also, this updated BBC graph brings home once again the speed at which the infections have increased: less than two weeks ago, there were less than 300 vs today’s 14,550. Let’s hope the worst is over, but let’s not jump to conclusions. It’s one thing to look at numbers day-to-day, it’s another to look at longer term developments.

 

 

And this one doesn’t make me feel much better either for some reason:

 

 

 

Looks doable for now.

US Confirms Its Eighth Case Of Coronavirus (R.)

U.S. health officials on Saturday confirmed an eighth case of the fast-spreading new coronavirus in the United States and the Pentagon said it would provide housing for people arriving from overseas who might need to be quarantined. The latest U.S. patient, who is in Massachusetts, recently returned from Hubei province in central China, the epicenter of the outbreak, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in an emailed statement. The person was not identified and no other details were provided. The flu-like coronavirus, which is believed to have originated in a market that traded illegally in wildlife in Hubei’s provincial capital Wuhan, has so far resulted in 304 deaths in China, state broadcaster CCTV said early on Sunday in China.


Confirmed cases of the virus have been reported in 27 other nations, according to the CDC. All but one of the patients in the United States was believed to have contracted the disease while they were traveling in the Wuhan area. U.S. officials this week reported the first human-to-human transmission of the disease in the United States in Illinois. Concerns about the virus spurred the Trump administration to declare a public health emergency and bar entry to the United States for foreign nationals who have recently visited China. In addition, U.S. citizens who have traveled within the past two weeks to Hubei will be subject to a mandatory quarantine of 14 days, believed to be the incubation period of the virus, officials said.

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I include this because I don’t understand it. 2 drivers “may” have transported one user, and that suspends 240 accounts?

Uber Suspends 240 Accounts In Mexico To Prevent Coronavirus Spreading (R.)

U.S. ride-hailing application Uber Technologies Inc. said on Saturday that it suspended 240 accounts of users in Mexico who may recently have come in contact with someone possibly infected with the new coronavirus. The newly identified coronavirus, which is believed to have originated late last year from illegally traded wildlife at an animal market in Wuhan, China, has created alarm because it spreads quickly and there are still important unknowns surrounding it. There are no confirmed cases in Mexico and all nine suspected cases were later declared negative.


Uber said in a statement posted on its Twitter account that two drivers may have transported a user who is possibly infected with the new coronavirus. It added the suspended users should contact health authorities if they develop symptoms. [..] Mexican state news agency Notimex reported on Saturday that 18 of the 52 Mexican students who are studying in China had returned. Notimex did not specify whether the students are in quarantine.

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Time for China to come clean about the lab?! Yeah, right. Reminds me of the novichok affair, that also had a bioweapon lab nearby. And gee, were the UK eager to open up about it.

US Senator Shreds China’s Official Virus Story, Warns Of “Super Laboratory” (ZH)

Cotton referenced a Lancet study which showed that many of the first cases of the novel coronavirus, including patient zero, had no connection to the wet market — devastatingly undermining China’s claim. “As one epidemiologist said: ‘That virus went into the seafood market before it came out of the seafood market.’ We still don’t know where it originated,” Cotton said. “I would note that Wuhan also has China’s only bio-safety level four super laboratory that works with the world’s most deadly pathogens to include, yes, coronavirus.” [..] Cotton appears to be referring to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the country’s foremost virus research facility.

The Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory, which is part of the institute, is located only 20 miles from the Wuhan wet market, the “official” source of the outbreak according to China. Snakes, bats and other animals were identified as possible originators for the coronavirus in early investigations. The rapid spread of the virus, which makes previous contagions like SARS and swine flu look benign by comparison, seems to lend weight to the theory that the novel coronavirus is a tailored bioweapon. Ten days ago, China reported less than 300 had the virus. The country’s latest update now numbers the infected at over 11,000. An additional 15,000 in China are suspected of having the virus, but a reported lack of test kits prevents the government from giving an accurate number.


When the number of infected was still low, China instituted a wide-reaching quarantine, sealing over 40 million inside cities. Now, the world appears to be sealing China in. Russia, Nepal, Mongolia and North Korea have all closed their borders with China. Even more countries are refusing Chinese nationals, including an unprecedented announcement from the administration of President Donald Trump barring entry into America for foreign nationals who have traveled to China. While the virus has been found in several countries around the world including America, all eyes are now on China as the outbreak there shows no signs of slowing.

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“Pelosi added that Trump “will not be acquitted” even if he is acquitted..”

Pelosi Questions Why The President’s Lawyers Are Not Disbarred (Turley)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Cal.) made an extraordinary statement yesterday that suggests that lawyers representing President Donald Trump should be disbarred: “I don’t know how they can retain their lawyer status, in the comments that they’re making.” Just as I have been highly critical of President Donald Trump’s attacks on Adam Schiff and others, this is a truly outrageous suggestion. These lawyers are performing a key function in our constitutional system in not just representing an accused person but fulfilling a vital role in an impeachment trial. Because Pelosi disagrees with their legal arguments, she insinuates that they should not be licensed attorneys. It is precisely the type of ad hominem attack that Democrats criticize with the President.


Pelosi added that Trump “will not be acquitted” even if he is acquitted — entirely decoupling the Democratic position from either constitutional or ethical norms. She is not the only person engaging in such low-grade, personal attacks. Harvard Law Professor Larry Tribe denounced Alan Dershowitz as a “charlatan” for his views. Dershowitz denounced another Harvard professor as a “coward” for his criticism. These are good-faith disagreements over the scope and meaning of the constitutional standard. Moreover, the White House counsel has done an able job in responding to the House, including landing a couple of haymakers on the record. Both sides have had brilliant and not-so-brilliant moments. However, they have all conducted themselves will professionalism and civility for the most part.

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The DNC does the exact same thing again that lost them the 2016 election. It’s like a comedy act.

CNN’s Blatant And Bizarre Tulsi Gabbard Snub (Hill)

CNN has held more town hall events than any of the three cable news networks over the past few years and continues that programming strategy as we head into the meat of the 2020 campaign. For the most part, the network has made an effort to provide every candidate on the Democratic side during the primary season with an hour-long stage to answer questions from moderators and voters alike. And that’s what makes CNN’s decision to snub Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) from a series of town halls just days before the New Hampshire primary not only odd, but optically nonsensical. Note: Gabbard is currently polling at 4.8 percent in the RealClearPolitics index of polls in New Hampshire. That puts her ahead of tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang (4.0 percent), businessman Tom Steyer (1.8 percent) and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (no polling available).

So what do these low-polling candidates all have in common? They all received invites to the CNN New Hampshire town hall. The most recent poll from America Research Group released out of the state even has Gabbard ahead of Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), with the Hawaii congresswoman clocking in at 8 percent to Klobuchar’s 7 percent. And if we’re just talking CNN/UNH polling, Gabbard is at 5 percent, which places her 3 points higher than Steyer and 5 points higher than Patrick, who clocks in a 0.0 percent. “We have reached out, I think, more than once, and we received no explanation,” Gabbard told Fox News on Tuesday regarding the non-invite. “I don’t even think we’ve gotten a response to date about why they’re excluding the first female combat veteran ever to run for president, the only woman of color in the race,” she added.

[..] The last time Gabbard appeared on CNN during one of its special events was at a Democratic debate in Ohio last October. It was then that the Iraq War veteran addressed allegations made by the New York Times and a CNN commentator that she was an asset of the Russian government, an allegation launched (and unchallenged) by 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. “Just two days ago The New York Times put out an article saying that I’m a Russian asset and an [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad apologist and all these different smears,” she said. “This morning a CNN commentator [Bakari Sellers] said on national television that I’m an asset of Russia. Completely despicable.”


Sellers actually called Gabbard a “puppet for the Russian government” without presenting any evidence to back up the claim. “There is no question, there is no question that Tulsi Gabbard, of all the 12, is a puppet for the Russian government,” alleged Sellers, a former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives. “There is a chance that Tulsi is not just working for the United States,” he added. “That’s not just an allegation.”

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The impechment trial defeat seemed like a good time to reorganize the party. Instead, it’s doubling down.

Is Hillary Clinton Angling To Become Vice President? (Hill)

A number of people in politics, the media and elsewhere are openly speculating that if Democrats wind up with a “brokered convention,” with no strong or viable nominee evident, Hillary Clinton might enter the arena as the “savior” who could unite the delegates and go on to defeat President Donald Trump. Clinton herself seemed to throw shade at that theory during an interview with Variety at the Sundance Film Festival. When asked about the “urge” to beat Trump, the former Democratic nominee said, “Yeah. I certainly feel the urge because I feel the 2016 election was a really odd time and an odd outcome. And the more we learn, the more that seems to be the case. But I’m going to support the people who are running now and do everything I can to help elect the Democratic nominee.”

Several politically savvy Democrats have told me that “everything” may be a much more plausible and powerful scenario. That is, Clinton and/or her team could be negotiating with former Vice President Joe Biden, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg or the last candidate standing to join the ticket as vice president. She would add the gravitas, delegates and, eventually, millions of votes needed to get them over the finish line on Nov. 5. I am assured that Clinton is on every shortlist for that position. If I were in Trump’s world, this scenario would send chills down my spine. There is no doubt that the former first lady, New York senator and secretary of State once again is raising her profile and stepping back into the spotlight to reengage in political discussions.


One such spotlight was provided by the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. There, aside from commenting on her presidential “urge,” Clinton not only promoted the incredibly flattering four-part Hulu documentary about her, titled “Hillary” — which premiered, coincidently, just 10 days before the Iowa caucus — but she also attended the debut of a documentary about the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The first event was tailor-made to allow her to shine. The other gave her a timely platform to bash President Trump on a number of topics.

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They don’t want to win.

DNC Members Planning Move To Block Bernie Sanders . . . Again (Turley)

In 2016, many of us objected to the concerted effect of the Democratic establishment and the Democratic National Committee to rig the primary for Hillary Clinton. Later it was revealed that the Clinton has largely taken over the DNC by taking over its debt and the DNC openly harassed and hampered Sanders at every stage. Despite this effort, Sanders came close to beating Clinton, who has never forgiven him for contesting a primary that she literally bought and paid for with the DNC. The simmering rage was still evident recently in Clinton’s attack on Sanders and suggestion that she might not support him if he were the nominee (a suggestion that she later took back). She continued her attacks this week and it has served to remind voters, particularly younger voters, of the DNC interference with the primary election.

After the scandal, the DNC pledged to reform itself and reduce the power of establishment figures and superdelegates at the convention. Now, however, Politico is reporting that DNC members are again discussing changing the rules to stop Sanders. This follows the selection of Clinton allies to control the convention and a shocking level of anti-Sanders bias shown by CNN at the last debate. In the meantime, the DNC has been criticized for clearing the way for Michael Bloomberg by changing its rules to help him make the debates. Reportedly, a group of Democratic National Committee members are discussing ways to undermine Sanders and allow for a convention stop on his candidacy. The plan centers around the superdelegates to reverse reforms and allow them to vote on the first ballot. In other words, the supers would be brought back in to keep Sanders out.


[..] The fear is that Sanders could win Iowa and come to the convention with the most votes. It would challenge the view that Biden is the unassailable nominee — just as he challenged the same view with Clinton. These moves are likely to only strengthen the resolve of the surging Sanders supporters. Sanders is receiving the most support among young voters — an extraordinary accomplishment given his age and mainstream opposition. The Democratic Party is clearly not willing to move beyond the control and fealty extended to the Clintons. That could easily force a final reckoning at the convention over who controls the Democratic party.

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Not sure what she’s talking about. Post the subpoena perhaps?

Yves Smith says: “NPR cannot subpoena you. Only an attorney acting on behalf of a court or admin law judge can. If an NPR lawyer has anything to do with this, you should file a bar complaint v. him.”

NPR Demands Cassandra Fairbanks’s Conversations with Julian Assange (CC)

In 2018, National Public Radio (NPR), the publicly funded radio organization, was forced to retract a false claim that Donald Trump Jr. lied to the Senate about plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, Now, NPR is now demanding journalist Cassandra Fairbanks give them records of her conversations with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. NPR has published salacious allegations that WikiLeaks is “a mouthpiece of the Russian government.”

https://twitter.com/CassandraRules/status/1223799010940669959

In a subpoena, NPR also demanded Fairbanks’s conversations with dozens of people, including deceased DNC staffer Seth Rich, long-rumored to be the leaker who passed Democrat emails to Assange. Fairbanks is well known supporter of Assange, and is already declaring she will not hand over her conversations with Assange. “NPR lawyers are on 90 different drugs if they think I would ever give up a single sentence of a convo I’ve had with him,” wrote Fairbanks.

https://twitter.com/CassandraRules/status/1223804978734813186

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Calling Greta!

Fukushima Radioactive Water Should Be Released Into Ocean – Japan Experts (G.)

A panel of experts advising Japan’s government on a disposal method for radioactive water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant has recommended releasing it into the ocean, a move likely to alarm neighbouring countries. The panel, under the industry ministry, came to the conclusion after narrowing the choice to either releasing the contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean or letting it evaporate – and opted for the former. Based on past practice, it is likely the government will accept the recommendation. The build-up of contaminated water at Fukushima has been a sticking point in the clean-up, which is likely to last decades, especially as the Olympics are due to be held in Tokyo this year with some events less than 60km (35 miles) from the wrecked plant.


Neighbouring South Korea has retained a ban on imports of seafood from Japan’s Fukushima region imposed after the nuclear disaster and summoned a senior Japanese embassy official last year to explain how the Fukushima water would be dealt with. Its athletes are planning to bring their own radiation detectors and food to the Games. In 2018, Tokyo Electric apologised after admitting its filtration systems had not removed all dangerous material from the water, and the site is running out of room for storage tanks. But it plans to remove all radioactive particles from the water except tritium, an isotope of hydrogen that is hard to separate and is considered to be relatively harmless. “Compared to evaporation, ocean release can be done more securely,” the committee said, pointing to common practice around the world where normally operating nuclear stations release water that contains tritium into the sea.

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More repetition. Call Bellingcat and the OPCW!

Kremlin Warns Chemical Provocation Coming Near Aleppo (ZH)

Amid the ongoing Russian-Syrian military offensive to liberate Idlib province from the al-Qaeda linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, suburbs near Aleppo have been scene of intense fighting in recent days, despite government forces liberating the major northern city in December 2016, which marked a turning point in the war. Turkish-backed Syrian rebels have in recent days and weeks mounted new insurgent attacks on the outskirts of the provincial capital city at a moment the Syrian Army has made huge gains into neighboring Idlib. A key reason Damascus has vowed to retake every inch of Idlib is that for years al-Qaeda has launched terrorist attacks on suburbs of Aleppo from there as civilians and the government attempt to rebuild the largely destroyed urban center.

This latest renewed fighting in Aleppo appears a concerted effort by Turkey to use its proxy forces to repel and distract the brunt of the Syrian Army offensive on Idlib, considering on Friday President Erdogan warned he’s ready to use military force if Assad doesn’t halt Idlib operations. “Syrian insurgents carried out at least three car bomb attacks against government forces west of Aleppo on Saturday and opened a new front northeast of the city, an attempted fight back after territorial advances by Damascus.” — Jerusalem Post “We will not allow the regime’s cruelty towards its own people, with attacks and causing bloodshed,” Erdogan said. Ankara has been alarmed that hundreds of thousands of civilians are now trying to flee the embattled province toward the Turkish border.


“Turkey with complete sincerity wants Syria’s stability and security, and to this end, we will not shy away from doing whatever is necessary, including using military force.” Erdogan has also accused Russia of violating key agreements for a reduction in fighting in Idlib, while Moscow has cited ongoing attacks against its nearby Hmeimim airbase launched by HTS insurgents based in Idlib. Over the past years HTS and affiliate jihadist groups have also attacked civilian areas of western Aleppo. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded to Erdogan’s charge by pointing out Idlib is a haven for terrorists who launch attacks on civilians as well as Russian and Syrian forces. Erdogan has also recently threatened to “open the gates” of millions of refugees on Europe if it doesn’t received political support. Needless to say, we are headed toward the final Syrian war showdown over Idlib.

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Jan 162020
 
 January 16, 2020  Posted by at 11:02 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  20 Responses »


G. G. Bain Asbury Park, Jersey Shore 1914 (just 35 years before Springsteen was born)

 

House Delivers Articles Of Impeachment To Senate (ZH)
Warren Told Sanders He Called Her A Liar On National TV (R.)
CNN’s Debate Performance Was Villainous and Shameful (Matt Taibbi)
Sen. Rand Paul Says GOP Will Shaft Trump (GP)
Americans Beware! Russia Can Hack Your Brain (Bridge)
What Is Russia’s Putin Up To? (BBC)
Bloomberg Is Wasting His Money Attacking Teflon Don (DC)
Over 40% Of Listed US Companies Don’t Make Money (ZH)
US Freight Shipments Plunge at Fastest Rate since 2009, Hit 2011 Level (WS)
“It’s Unthinkable” Australia Sells Arms To Countries Accused Of War Crimes (G.)
Virgin Islands Alleges Epstein Used Private Island To Abuse And Traffic Girls (G.)
Julian Assange at the Westminster Magistrates Court (OffG)

 

 

I was amazed and profoundly Bizarro puzzled watching this attempt at a solemn procession, designed to make it look like this was some time-honored tradition on the Hill (no such thing). I read somewhere they were going to present the articles in a wooden box, but I guess they couldn’t find any. Topped off with Pelosi having dozens of pens printed for the occasion. Entertainment for the echo chamber.

House Delivers Articles Of Impeachment To Senate (ZH)

Update (1745ET): House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signed two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump on Wednesday shortly before they were delivered to the Senate, where the US president faces trial on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. “So sad, so tragic for our country, that the actions taken by the president to undermine our national security, to violate his oath of office and to jeopardize the security of our elections, has taken us to this place,” Pelosi said shortly before using several ceremonial pens to sign the articles. The articles were ceremonially walked through the US Capitol to the US Senate.

Trump’s impeachment trial will begin Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the chamber’s floor. On Thursday, the House managers will present the impeachment articles to the full Senate at noon, and Chief Justice John Roberts will swear in the senators at 2 p.m., McConnell said. Then the Senate will notify the White House of the pending trial and summon Trump to answer the impeachment articles and send his lawyers, he said. “So the trial will commence in earnest on Tuesday,” McConnell said. The next step in the process will be a formal reading of the impeachment charges against Trump on the Senate floor by the seven House prosecutors Thursday morning.


Update: As expected, the House of Representatives officially voted Wednesday to send the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate and approved the House’s impeachment managers. The vote to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate and approve the impeachment managers was 228-193. Democratic Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson was the only Democrat to vote nay, breaking with the rest of his party. House Republicans all voted together. [..] After waiting four weeks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House will finally transmit the two articles of impeachment against President Trump to the Senate, and that they have chosen seven impeachment managers to prosecute the case during the upcoming trial.


Nancy Pelosi’s souvenir pens served up on silver platters to sign the articles of impeachment…

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“Anderson Cooper says CNN “obtained” the audio recorded by CNN microphones on the CNN debate stage..”

Warren Told Sanders He Called Her A Liar On National TV (R.)

The mystery of what presidential rivals Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders said to each other in a heated exchange after Tuesday night’s Democratic debate has been solved, with debate host CNN revealing that Warren accused Sanders of calling her a liar on national television. In an exchange caught on camera after the debate but unable to be heard by the television audience, Sanders responded to Warren that it was she who had called him a liar. Moments earlier Warren had refused to shake Sanders’ hand. The two U.S. senators and liberal standard bearers in the Democrats’ nominating contest to pick a candidate to take on Republican President Donald Trump in November had been locked in a dispute before and during the debate over an allegation by Warren that Sanders had told her in a private 2018 meeting that a woman could not be elected president.


Sanders disputed that claim before and during the debate but Warren insists it’s true. CNN said on Wednesday that its microphones had caught the post-debate exchange and released its contents. After failing to shake Sanders’ hands, Warren said: “I think you called me a liar on national TV.” “What?” Sanders replied. “I think you called me a liar on national TV,” Warren repeated. Sanders replied: “You know, let’s not do it right now. If you want to have that discussion, we’ll have that discussion.” Warren said: “Anytime.” Sanders said: “You called me a liar. You told me – all right, let’s not do it now.” Another Democratic candidate, billionaire Tom Steyer, who was standing behind the two, said: “I don’t want to get in the middle. I just want to say ‘hi’ to Bernie.”

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Matt is much too kind to CNN: “Over a 24-hour period before, during, and after the debate, CNN bid farewell to what remained of its reputation as a nonpolitical actor via a remarkable stretch of factually dubious reporting, bent commentary, and heavy-handed messaging.”

CNN’s Debate Performance Was Villainous and Shameful (Matt Taibbi)

CNN debate moderator Abby Phillip asked Bernie Sanders in the Tuesday debate in Des Moines: “CNN reported yesterday — and Senator Sanders, Senator Warren confirmed in a statement — that, in 2018, you told her you did not believe that a woman could win the election. Why did you say that?” Not “did you say that,” but “why did you say that?” Sanders denied it, then listed the many reasons the story makes no sense: He urged Warren herself to run in 2016, campaigned for a female candidate who won the popular vote by 3 million votes, and has been saying the opposite in public for decades. “There’s a video of me 30 years ago talking about how a woman could become president of the United States,” he said. Phillip asked him to clarify: He never said it? “That is correct,” Sanders said.

Phillip turned to Warren and deadpanned: “Senator Warren, what did you think when Senator Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?” That “when” was as transparent a media “fuck you” as we’ve seen in a presidential debate. It evoked memories of another infamous CNN ambush, when Bernard Shaw in 1988 crotch-kicked Mike Dukakis with a question about whether he’d favor the death penalty for someone who raped and murdered his wife, Kitty. This time, the whole network tossed the mud. Over a 24-hour period before, during, and after the debate, CNN bid farewell to what remained of its reputation as a nonpolitical actor via a remarkable stretch of factually dubious reporting, bent commentary, and heavy-handed messaging.

The cycle began with a “bombshell” exposé by CNN reporter MJ Lee. Released on the eve of the debate, Lee reported Warren’s claim that Sanders told her a woman couldn’t win in a December 2018 meeting. Lee treated the story as fact, using constructions such as, “Sanders responded that he did not think a woman could win,” and “the revelation that Sanders expressed skepticism that Warren could win.” Lee said “the conversation” opened a window into “the role of sexism and gender inequality in politics”: The conversation also illustrates the skepticism among not only American voters but also senior Democratic officials that the country is ready to elect a woman as president … Although Lee said she based the story on “the accounts of four people,” they were “two people Warren spoke with directly soon after the encounter,” and “two people familiar with the meeting.” There were only two people in the room, Sanders and Warren. Lee’s “four people” actually relied on just one source, Warren.

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Cold feet? If the Dems get their witnesses and Trump does not, the 21st century equivalent of pitchforks can’t be far.

Sen. Rand Paul Says GOP Will Shaft Trump (GP)

Senator Rand Paul warned his colleagues who plan to let the Democrats choose witnesses that they will lose their reelections. Senator Paul, who has seemingly been leading the charge to defend the president during this process, also explained that he would vote for Rep. Adam Schiff and Speaker Nancy Pelosi to have to testify, especially since Schiff has a staff member who is friends with the whistleblower — potentially making him a material witness. Additionally, Sen. Paul stated that he wants the impeachment process to be over as soon as possible, but that if the Democrats are allowed to call witnesses, President Trump must be afforded the same right.

When asked if any other Republicans have been supportive of Sen. Paul’s assertion that he wants to call in the whistleblower and Hunter Biden to testify, he asserted that there are a lot of people who do, but that they have been quiet. “There’s a lot of people who are quiet, so I’ve been kind of loud,” Sen. Paul said. “My goal in this is to be done with the impeachment as soon as possible, and probably the best way to do that is actually no witnesses — but, if we’re going to have witnesses we should have witnesses from both sides. In our interview, Sen. Paul warned that his Republican colleagues may be in trouble when they go up for re-election if they defy the president and allow Democrats to run amok, like they did in the House.

“What I keep trying to convince my colleagues, particularly the ones that might vote to allow the witnesses that the Democrats want to call, is that if they do that and they don’t vote to allow the president to bring his witnesses in, I think the Republican base and Trump supporters are going to be very very unhappy with them. I think it will have electoral consequences — which is sort of my way of saying that maybe they should reconsider having any witnesses at all,” Sen. Paul said. “My hope is some will reconsider and we will just be done with one vote.” [..] Sen. Paul explained that if there does end up being a vote for each individual witness, which could potentially be dozens, he believes that only the ones who are antagonistic to the president will get through.

This means that “Hunter Biden, Joe Biden and the whistleblower may not pass a majority vote.” He said that if this is how witnesses are decided, the senate will end up with a situation like the House did — a lopsided witness list that would be mostly people hostile to the president. When asked if he had any other specific witnesses in mind that he was looking to hear, besides Hunter Biden and the whistleblower, Sen. Paul said that “if they end up approving witnesses like Bolton, who I think are harmful, I will insist on a motion that says the president should get to call all witnesses that he or his team deem to be necessary to his defense.” “I don’t want to limit it, I’m not his lawyer, I don’t want to tell him who he has to call — I’m just going to say anyone. ‘Anyone’ includes people he has mentioned, like Hunter Biden and Joe Biden,” Sen. Paul said.

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The meme is still not dead.

Americans Beware! Russia Can Hack Your Brain (Bridge)

I suppose it is necessary, considering the bleak and humorless times we live in, to immediately start by acknowledging that the headline is meant as satire, what Webster defines as a form of “ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.” In other words, nyet, the Kremlin does not have a hotline to the American brain that can trigger card-carrying Democrats to enter a catatonic trance on Election Day and vote against Joe Biden, or any of the other flawless Democratic gems for that matter. By this time, especially following the release of the Mueller Report, you would think that conspiracy theories involving Russia and American democracy would have subsided; instead they’ve only escalated as the U.S. enters the hot end of the 2020 presidential election campaign.

Courtesy of Bloomberg: “U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials are assessing whether Russia is trying to undermine Joe Biden in its ongoing disinformation efforts with the former vice president still the front-runner in the race to challenge President Donald Trump, according to two officials familiar with the matter… Part of the inquiry is to determine whether Russia is trying to weaken Biden by promoting controversy over his past involvement in U.S. policy toward Ukraine while his son worked for an energy company there.” So how exactly does Russia, in a scene straight out of A Clockwork Orange, tap into the frontal lobe section of the U.S. electorate and cause them to lose all confidence in their political favorites?

“A signature trait of Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘is his ability to convince people of outright falsehoods,’ William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said in a statement. ‘In America, [the Russians are] using social media and many other tools to inflame social divisions, promote conspiracy theories and sow distrust in our democracy and elections.’” Yes, somehow those dastardly Russians have outsmarted the brightest and best-paid political strategists in Washington, D.C. by brandishing what amounts to some really persuasive memes over social media, and for just rubles on the dollar. The techies at Wired went so far as to call this epic assault on the fragile American cranium, “meme warfare to divide America.”

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Putin is not power hungry. He would love to be able to step back. But he fears for Russia, he fears the US neocons will take it as soon as he leaves.

What Is Russia’s Putin Up To? (BBC)

It came out of nowhere. Even ministers in the Russian government apparently did not see their departure coming. Was it a case of a new working year in Moscow – out with the old and in with the new? But it was clear Vladimir Putin, 67, had change in mind. With four years to go before he leaves office, and 20 years already served, it was clear he was planning ahead. A new government, led by Mikhail Mishustin, a technocrat who turned Russia’s hated tax service into an efficient operation, and the end of a man who has worked hand in glove with Mr Putin since he became president. Dmitry Medvedev even filled in as president for four years, because under the constitution Mr Putin could not.

Mr Medvedev, the unpopular head of the United Russia party, is not going away, but his new role as deputy head of Russia’s security council is far more behind the scenes. “It’s a golden parachute. It means he is in reserve, as the security council is Putin’s closest inner circle – his own mini-government,” says Alexander Baunov of the Carnegie Moscow Center. Mr Putin is coming to the same point he reached after his second term, when Dmitry Medvedev deputised for him. But this time the president will not take a false backseat as prime minister. It now appears that Mr Putin’s fourth term as president will be his last. On the face of it, it means more powers for parliament – selecting the prime minister and approving the cabinet, for a start. But that won’t happen yet. Mr Putin has chosen Mr Medvedev’s successor and parliament will have to ratify him.

[..] One of the standout proposals is making the State Council a formal government agency enshrined in the constitution. At the moment it is an advisory body packed with 85 regional governors and other officials including political party leaders. It is so large that when it meets it fills a hall in the Kremlin. But Mr Putin clearly has designs on its future. One theory is that he could become a new, powerful leader of the State Council. “The very fact he’s started a discussion on the State Council is that he’s maybe trying to create another place where power resides, where he can step above the presidential post,” Mr Baunov suggests.

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From the right.

Bloomberg Is Wasting His Money Attacking Teflon Don (DC)

They say money can’t buy you love, but billionaire Michael Bloomberg is living proof that it can’t buy you common sense, either. Bloomberg has now spent $200 million on his campaign to defeat President Donald Trump — but that hasn’t put him on track to earn a single delegate. The long-shot Democratic presidential candidate announced that he is also shelling out roughly $10 million for a 60-second ad during the Super Bowl. His campaign previously announced that it would spend $100 million on an online ad campaign going after the president. But does anyone understand what Bloomberg plans to do for America? Has all that money passed on a clear political message?

Bloomberg remains fifth in the crowded Democratic field with only eight weeks to go until Super Tuesday. Internal data from one of his rivals suggested he is not polling above 10 percent in any of the four early voting states or the 15 that follow in March. The massive campaign spending coming from the former mayor is unheard of politically. No one is setting up a field operation that is even close to what Bloomberg is spending to influence American politics. “Mike Bloomberg is either going to be the nominee or the most important person supporting the Democratic nominee for president,” Kevin Sheekey, Bloomberg’s campaign manager, recently told NBC News. “He is dedicated to getting Trump out of the White House.”

Since his late entrance into the race in November, he has hired more than 800 staff members and is opening a dozen offices in Ohio, nine in Michigan, and 17 in Florida. His campaign has repeatedly said that their mission is to make sure Trump loses in 2020, whether Bloomberg wins the nomination or not. Apparently, like other Democrats and media bigwigs, Bloomberg hasn’t been paying attention for the past few years.

Ever since Donald Trump walked down the escalator in Trump Tower and announced he was running for president, he has been the target of a relentless attack by the media. A recent study found that 90 percent of all coverage he received in 2018 was negative. From the “Access Hollywood” tape to voting to impeach him, opponents of Trump have thrown everything they can at him to change public opinion, but nothing sticks. A Media Research Center analysis found that 93 percent of the coverage of the impeachment on ABC, CBS and NBC was negative. Evening news viewers of these networks heard 72 positive statements vs. 981 negative statements about the president since September 24.

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The other day we saw how the US builds giant monopolies. This is why: they’re the only ones making money. That this is due to share buybacks, who cares as long as the press don’t ask questions?

Over 40% Of Listed US Companies Don’t Make Money (ZH)

It’s absolutely stunning how the Fed/ECB/BoJ injected upwards of $1.1 trillion into global markets in the last quarter and cut rates 80 times in the past 12 months, which allowed money-losing companies to survive another day. The leader of all this insanity is Telsa, the biggest money-losing company on Wall Street, has soared 120% since the Fed launched ‘Not QE.’ Tesla investors are convinced that fundamentals are driving the stock higher, but that might not be the case, as central bank liquidity has been pouring into anything with a CUSIP. The company has lost money over the last 12 months, and to be fair, Elon Musk reported one quarter that turned a profit, but overall – Tesla is a blackhole. Its market capitalization is larger than Ford and General Motors put together. When you listen to Tesla investors, near-term profitability isn’t important because if it were, the stock would be much lower.

The Wall Street Journal notes that in the past 12 months, 40% of all US-listed companies were losing money, the highest level since the late 1990s – or a period also referred to as the Dot Com bubble. Jay Ritter, a finance professor at the University of Florida, provided The Journal with a chart that shows the percentage of money-losing IPOs hit 81% in 2018, the same level that was also seen in 2000. The Journal notes that 42% of health-care companies lost money, mostly because of speculative biotech. About 17% of technology companies also fail to turn a profit.


A more traditional company that has been losing money is GE. Its shares have plunged 60% in the last 42 months as a slowing economy, and insurmountable debts have forced a balance sheet recession that has doomed the company. Data from S&P Global Market Intelligence shows for small companies, losing money is part of the job. About 33% of the 100 biggest companies reported losses over the last 12 months.

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Less transport. Good for the climate.

US Freight Shipments Plunge at Fastest Rate since 2009, Hit 2011 Level (WS)

Shipment volume in the US by truck, rail, air, and barge plunged 7.9% in December 2019 compared to a year earlier, according to the Cass Freight Index for Shipments. It was the 13th month in a row of year-over-year declines, and the steepest year-over-year decline since November 2009, during the Financial Crisis. The Cass Freight Index tracks shipment volume of consumer goods and industrial products and supplies by all modes of transportation, but it does not track bulk commodities, such as grains. As always when things get ugly, the calendar gets blamed – Christmas fell on a Wednesday, as it does regularly.

More realistically, December was also the month when Celadon Group, with about 3,000 drivers and about 2,700 tractors, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and ceased operations — the largest truckload carrier ever to file for bankruptcy in US history. It rounded off a large wave of bankruptcies and shutdowns of trucking companies in 2019, most of them smaller ones, but also some regional carriers, and on December 9, Celadon. Rail traffic in December capped off a miserable year, with carloads down 9.2% year-over-year in December, and container and trailer loads (intermodal) down 9.6%, according to the Association of American Railroads. For the 52-week period, traffic of carloads and intermodal units fell 5%. The 7.9% year-over-year drop of the Cass Freight Index pushed it below a slew of prior Decembers, including December 2011. The top black line represents 2018, the fat red line 2019:

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Will Australians ever wake up to their political reality?

“It’s Unthinkable” Australia Sells Arms To Countries Accused Of War Crimes (G.)

Human rights groups say it is “unthinkable” that Australia has been secretly exporting arms to the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo and other countries whose militaries have been consistently accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Guardian revealed on Tuesday that the Australian government had approved the export of weapons to the Democratic Republic of Congo four times in 2018-19. It has also issued more than 80 weapons export permits to Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The DRC has been gripped by successive waves of violence, rebellions, protests and political turmoil for decades. As recently as Friday, the United Nations warned ethnic killings and rape occurring in the DRC represented crimes against humanity.

Save the Children estimates more than five million people have been forced to flee their homes in the DRC alone, and says millions of children are “desperately in need of humanitarian assistance”. The chief executive of Save the Children Australia, Paul Ronalds, said the public would be shocked to learn their government was approving weapons sales in such an environment. “The fact we weren’t previously aware that Australia was exporting weapons to the DRC says it all really,” Ronalds told the Guardian. “It is unthinkable that Australian arms could potentially be fuelling these conflicts, and it’s kept a secret from the public.

“The public has a right to know where Australian-made arms are going, especially when taxpayers’ money is being used to market the industry to the world.” [..] Over the 2018-19 financial year, Australia issued 45 weapons export permits to the United Arab Emirates, 23 to Saudi Arabia, 14 to Sri Lanka and four to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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“Some as young as 11″. But of course that’s no reason to go talk to Ghislaine.

Virgin Islands Alleges Epstein Used Private Island To Abuse And Traffic Girls (G.)

Disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein continued to sexually abuse and traffic young women and girls to his private island as recently as 2018, with potentially hundreds of previously unknown victims, a new lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit, filed by the attorney general of the Virgin Islands, cites new evidence that Epstein used a computerized database to track women and girls – some as young as 11 – to Little Saint James island, a private estate Epstein purchased in 2016. According to the lawsuit, one girl attempted an escape by swimming, but was later found and had her passport confiscated. According to Wednesday’s complaint, Epstein and his alleged accomplices “trafficked, raped, sexually assaulted and held captive underage girls and young women” at his Virgin Islands properties.


In July last year, Epstein faced federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges for allegedly exploiting dozens of women and girls in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005. He had previously pleaded guilty in 2008 to a Florida state prostitution charge and completed a 13-month jail sentence. Epstein pleaded not guilty to the fresh charges. He died by suicide in a New York jail cell in August. According to Denise N George, attorney general for the US Virgin Islands, the suit aims to recoup damages from Epstein’s estate, estimated to be worth $577.7m. This suit marks the first against Epstein’s estate by the American territory or any government entity. George enlisted her office’s independent investigators and court documents from other cases to allege that Little Saint James was the epicenter of a decades-long sex trafficking scheme.

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“Peirce is aiming to finalise the exhibits for submission to the prosecution by January 18. The government deadline for responding to those documents will be February 7.”

Julian Assange at the Westminster Magistrates Court (OffG)

Another slot of judicial history, another notch to be added to the woeful record of legal proceedings being undertaken against Julian Assange. The ailing WikiLeaks founder was coping as well as he could, showing the resourcefulness of the desperate at his Monday hearing. At the Westminster Magistrates Court, Assange faced a 12-minute process, an ordinary affair in which he was asked to confirm his name, an ongoing ludicrous state of affairs, and seek clarification about an aspect of the proceedings. Of immediate concern to the lawyers, specifically seasoned human rights advocate Gareth Peirce, was the issue that prison officers at Belmarsh have been obstructing and preventing the legal team from spending sufficient time with their client, despite the availability of empty rooms.

“We have pushed Belmarsh in every way – it is a breach of a defendant’s rights.” Three substantial sets of documents and evidence required signing off by Assange before being submitted to the prosecution, a state of affairs distinctly impossible given the time constraints. A compounding problem was also cited by Peirce: the shift from moving the hearing a day forward resulted in a loss of time. “This slippage in the timetable is extremely worrying.” Whether this shows indifference to protocol or malice on the part of prosecuting authorities is hard to say, but either way, justice is being given a good flaying. The argument carried sufficient weight with District Judge Vanessa Baraitser to result in an adjournment till 2 pm in the afternoon, but this had more to do with logistics than any broader principle of conviction.

As Baraitser reasoned, 47 people were currently in custody at court; a mere eight rooms were available for interviewing, leaving an additional hour to the day. In her view, if Assange was sinned against, so was everybody else, given that others in custody should not be prevented from access to counsel. (This judge has a nose for justice, albeit using it selectively.) As things stand, Peirce is aiming to finalise the exhibits for submission to the prosecution by January 18. The government deadline for responding to those documents will be February 7. The case proceeding itself was adjourned till January 23, and Assange will have the choice, limited as it is, of having the hearing at the Westminster Magistrates Court or Belmarsh.

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The Taleb approach to forest fires. Antifragility.

 

 

 

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Jan 112020
 
 January 11, 2020  Posted by at 10:50 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Milton Greene “Actress Marilyn Monroe in bed” 1955

 

US Rejects Iraq Request To Discuss Troop Withdrawal (R.)
US, Iran Used An Encrypted Swiss Fax Machine To Defuse Crisis (ZH)
Iran Admits It Shot Down Ukrainian Plane (AlJ)
The Cost of Debt-Financed War (Peltier)
Trump Impeachment Charges May Go To Senate As Early As Next Week (R.)
How’s This Working Nancy? (Kunstler)
Central Bankers Are Quietly Freaking Out About How To Fight The Next Recession (F.)
Boeing’s Ousted CEO Departs With $62 Million, Even Without Severance Pay (R.)
FAA Seeks To Fine Boeing $5.4 Million For Defective Parts On 737 MAX (R.)
Key Boeing 737 MAX Supplier Spirit Aerosystems To Cut 2,800 Jobs (CNBC)
Joe Biden Gets $Millions In TV Ads In Iowa From Undisclosed Donors (IC)

 

 

Cue mass demonstrations. Here’s where the US empire is drawing to a close. See the video for those who resist that close.

US Rejects Iraq Request To Discuss Troop Withdrawal (R.)

The United States rebuffed an Iraqi request on Friday to prepare to pull out its troops, amid heightened US-Iranian tensions following the US killing of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani. Seeking to tighten pressure on its rival, the US, meanwhile, imposed more sanctions on Iran, responding to an attack on US troops in Iraq launched by Tehran in retaliation for the assassination of Soleimani. Iraq looks set to bear the brunt of any further violence between neighbouring Iran and the US. Its leaders are caught in a bind as Washington and Tehran are also the Iraqi government’s main allies and vie for influence there.

Iraq’s caretaker prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, made his request in a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo late on Thursday in line with a vote by Iraq’s parliament last week, his office said in a statement. Abdul Mahdi asked Pompeo to “send delegates to put in place the tools to carry out the Parliament’s decision,” it said, adding without elaborating, that the forces used in the killing had entered Iraq or used its airspace without permission. However, the US State Department said any US delegation would not discuss the withdrawal of US troops as their presence in Iraq was “appropriate”. “There does, however, need to be a conversation between the US and Iraqi governments not just regarding security, but about our financial, economic, and diplomatic partnership,” spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

The latest flare-up in the long shadow-war between Iran and the US started with the killing of Soleimani in a US drone attack on January 3. Iran responded on Wednesday by firing missiles at US forces in Iraq. In the aftermath, both sides backed off from intensifying the conflict but the region remains tense, with Iranian commanders threatening more attacks. [..] Iraq’s top Shia leader on Friday condemned the US-Iranian confrontation taking place on Iraqi soil, saying it risked plunging an already war-ravaged country and the wider Middle East into deeper conflict. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said it was Iraqis who stood to suffer most from the US-Iranian conflict.

In a message delivered through a representative at Friday prayers in the holy city of Karbala, al-Sistani said no foreign powers should be allowed to decide Iraq’s fate. “The latest dangerous aggressive acts, which are repeated violations of Iraqi sovereignty, are a part of the deteriorating situation” in the region, al-Sistani said. Al-Sistani, who wields huge influence over public opinion in Iraq, only weighs in on politics during times of crisis and is seen as a voice of moderation. “The people have suffered enough from wars … Iraq must govern itself and there must be no role for outsiders in its decision-making,” Sistani said.

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As Russiagate showed with great clarity, presidents must be able to talk to each other. Safety requires it.

US, Iran Used An Encrypted Swiss Fax Machine To Defuse Crisis (ZH)

Even as Trump was rage-tweeting on Jan 4, two days after the killing of Iran’s top military leader Qassem Soleimani, that he would hit 52 targets including Iranian heritage sites for potential retaliation if America suffered losses following an Iranian attack, warning that “those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD”, the US president was busy, secretly using an encrypted back-channel to bring the world back from the brink of war. As the WSJ reports, just hours after the U.S. strike which killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the Trump administration sent an urgent back channel message to Tehran: “Don’t escalate.”

The encrypted fax message was sent via the Swiss Embassy in Iran, one of the few means of direct, confidential communication between the two sides, U.S. officials told the WSJ. Then, in frantic attempts to de-escalate even as top US and Iranian leaders were stirring patriotic sentiment and nationalistic fervor, the White House and Iranian leaders exchanged further messages in the days that followed, which officials in both countries described as far more measured than the fiery rhetoric traded publicly by politicians.

It worked: a week later, and after a retaliatory, if highly theatrical, Iranian missile attack on two military bases hosting American troops that purposefully inflicted no casualties, Washington and Tehran have stepped back from the brink of open hostilities (for now). “We don’t communicate with the Iranians that much, but when we do the Swiss have played a critical role to convey messages and avoid miscalculation,” a senior U.S. official said. While a spokesman at Iran’s mission to the United Nations declined to comment on the exchanges, he said “we appreciate [the Swiss] for any efforts they make to provide an efficient channel to exchange letters when and if necessary.” Another Iranian official said the back channel provided a welcome bridge, when all others had been burned: “In the desert, even a drop of water matters.”

[..] The first American fax was sent immediately after Washington confirmed the death of Soleimani, the most important figure in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the U.S. officials said. It arrived on a special encrypted fax machine in a sealed room of the Swiss mission – the most enduring, and secret, method since the 1979 Islamic Revolution – for the White House to exchange messages with Iran’s top leadership, especially when the two nations are concurrently parading in public media in their bellicose propaganda to earn political brownie points. The equipment operates on a secure Swiss government network linking its Tehran embassy to the Foreign Ministry in Bern and its embassy in Washington, say Swiss diplomats. Only the most senior officials have the key cards needed to use the equipment.

Former Swiss ambassadors say the diplomatic channel is effective because the U.S. and Iran can trust a message will remain confidential, be delivered quickly, and will reach only its intended recipients.

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Allegedly, Khameini personally intervened. There are too many voices speaking for Tehran.

Iran Admits It Shot Down Ukrainian Plane (AlJ)

Iran has announced that its military “unintentionally” shot down a Ukrainian jetliner, killing all 176 on board. The statement on Saturday morning blames “human error” for the incident, adding that the military mistook Flight 752 for a “hostile target”. Press TV also quoted Iran’s General Staff of the Armed Forces as saying that the plane had flown close to a “sensitive military site”. The military said it was at its “highest level of readiness” amid the heightened tensions with the United States. “In such a condition, because of human error and in a unintentional way, the flight was hit,” the military said. It apologised and said it would upgrade its systems to prevent future tragedies.

In a statement posted on social media, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wrote that the country “deeply regrets this disastrous mistake”. “My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences,” he said, adding that “investigations continue to identify and prosecute this great tragedy and unforgivable mistake”. Iran had denied for several days that a missile downed the aircraft. But then the US and Canada, citing intelligence, said they believe Iran shot down the aircraft. On Friday, Ali Abedzadeh, head of Iran’s civil aviation authority, said it was impossible due to close coordination between Iran’s air defence and the civil aviation department. “What is obvious for us, and what we can say with certainty, is that no missile hit the plane,” Abedzadeh told reporters in Tehran.

[..] Al Jazeera’s Assed Baig, reporting from Tehran, said questions were now being raised as to why Iranian authorities kept the country’s air space open during a military operation. “There’s a lot of explaining to do by Iranian authorities. People want to know why and how it happened.” In a social media post, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that “human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to the disaster”. “Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims and to other affected nations.”

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PDF file from Brown University. The changes in US war financing, from war bonds and direct taxation until the Korean War, to limitless borrowing – and interest payments- ever since.

The Cost of Debt-Financed War (Peltier)

Throughout the 18 years the U.S. has been engaged in the “Global War on Terror,” mainly in Iraq and Afghanistan, the government has financed this war by borrowing funds rather than through alternative means such as raising taxes or issuing war bonds. Thus, the costs of the post-9/11 wars include not only the expenses incurred for operations, equipment, and personnel, but also the interest costs on this debt. Since 2001 these interest payments have been growing, resulting in more and more taxpayer dollars being wasted on interest payments rather than being channeled to more productive uses. This paper calculates that the debt incurred for $2 trillion in direct war-related spending by the Department of Defense and State Department has already resulted in cumulative interest payments of $925 billion.

Even if military interventions ceased immediately, interest payments would continue to rise, and will grow further as the U.S. continues its current military operations. War is expensive — in terms of lives lost, physical damage to people and property, mental trauma to soldiers and war-zone inhabitants, and in terms of money. The expense of war is not restricted to the annual budgetary costs of the war spending itself, but also depends upon the way in which war is financed. When war is financed through debt, the costs are much greater than when it is financed through taxation or other revenues, since interest payments must be made as long as the debt is outstanding. In fact, interest payments can sometimes grow to beyond the level of the debt itself, as will likely be the case with the post-9/11 wars.

If war spending ceased immediately, interest payments on the $2 trillion of existing war debt would rise to over $2 trillion by 2030 and to $6.5 trillion by 2050. These interest payments will grow larger as the U.S. continues its post-9/11 military interventions and continues amassing debt to pay for the costs of war. This level of borrowing to pay for the post-9/11 wars has been unique. Since the country’s founding, U.S. wars have been funded at least partly through revenues raised specifically for that purpose, including war bonds and direct taxes levied for war. As noted by Boston University political scientist Rosella Cappella-Zielinski, “Taxation as a percent of war finance was significant during the World Wars, meeting 30 percent of the cost of World War I and almost 50 percent of the cost of World War II, and peaked as a method of war finance during the Korean War, which was fully financed by taxes. Starting with the Civil War and ending with the Korean War, the government made a systematic effort to pay for its wars via direct taxation

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Looks like Pelosi was losing her own people.

Trump Impeachment Charges May Go To Senate As Early As Next Week (R.)

The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives will send formal impeachment charges against President Donald Trump to the Senate as early as next week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday, setting the stage for his long-awaited trial. Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, has been engaged in a three-week cat-and-mouse game with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over the rules for Trump’s trial in the Republican-controlled Senate. Democrats have demanded it include new witness testimony and evidence about the Republican president’s pressuring of Ukraine to probe former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democrat running for the right to face Trump in the November election.


McConnell slammed the door on that idea this week, saying he had enough Republican votes to start the trial without a commitment to hear from additional witnesses, including former Trump national security adviser John Bolton. Democrats are trying to convince a few moderate Republican senators to allow witnesses. One moderate, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, told reporters in her home state that she and a “fairly small group” of her fellow Republican senators are working to ensure witnesses can be called. The Senate is expected to acquit Trump before the 2020 presidential election campaign heats up, as no Republicans have voiced support for ousting him, a step that would require a two-thirds majority.

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Whose side is the Trojan horse on?

Also, if Pelosi makes Adam Schiff a “manager”, can the GOP still call him to testify?

How’s This Working Nancy? (Kunstler)

The case for House members to get access to all that backstage Mueller material could go up to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, Impeachment’s second act is about to get underway whether Mrs. Pelosi likes the terms or not. It’s the Senate’s prerogative to decide. These terms appear to be exactly the same as the ones used by the Senate for Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial — which means that each side chooses a team of “managers” to present its case, and then the managers are subject to grilling by senators. The House Democrats are insisting on calling witnesses solely to maintain their court claim for testimony from the White House counsel, with which the aforesaid Mueller material is associated in the case.

If the rules eschew witnesses, that case is moot, and the Democrats lose access to a trove of political oppo research obtained for them under false pretenses by their own operatives in the Department of Justice. Secondarily, the impeachment was designed to get senators in swing states on the record voting to acquit the president in the hopes that it will somehow taint their re-election prospects and possibly flip control of the Senate to the Democrats. That outcome would above all insure that Mr. Trump could not get another Supreme Court nominee confirmed in his second term, nor continue the wholesale appointment of lesser federal district judges. Plus, of course, it would obstruct any other legislative initiative his party brought for four years.

Personally, I would miss the chance to hear from the so-called “whistleblower” who instigated the impeachment phase of the long-running coup against Mr. Trump. Contrary to the disinformation put out by The New York Times and other coup co-conspirators, the “whistleblower” enjoys no right to anonymity. It would also be satisfying to hear how his enabler, Intel Community IG Michael Atkinson, might account for the process that steered the “whistleblower” to Rep. Adam Schiff and his staff — for instance, back-dating the official documents that green-lighted the “whistleblower’s” case. Mr. Atkinson is deeply implicated himself as a player in the earlier 2017 RussiaGate FISA court mischief, since his previous job was agency counsel to DOJ National Security chief John Carlin, who signed off on fraudulent FISA warrants. Mr. Atkinson must have counseled Mr. Carlin to do that.

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Where the main economic damage continues to emanate from.

Central Bankers Are Quietly Freaking Out About How To Fight The Next Recession (F.)

The world’s top central bank officials are rightly concerned that politicians in rich economies missed one key lesson of the last recession: Interest rate cuts can help to moderate a downturn, but aggressive fiscal policy is key to a healthy recovery. It was a pro-austerity stance both in the United States, and even more saliently in the euro zone, that arguably prolonged the period of high unemployment and low wage growth that plagued most of the decade-long recovery from the 2007-2009 U.S. Great Recession. Outgoing Bank of England Governor Mark Carney told the Financial Times this week that central banks are running low on fuel. “If there were to be a deeper downturn, [that requires] more stimulus than a conventional recession, then it’s not clear that monetary policy would have sufficient space,” he said.


“It’s generally true that there’s much less ammunition for all the major central banks than they previously had and I’m of the opinion that this situation will persist for some time.” That echoed the sentiment of Christine Lagarde, who recently took over the ECB. She’s telling budget-shy European politicians (especially in Germany) to get to work. Now, a new paper from Fed board economist Michael Kiley points to similar alarm among U.S. central bankers about their ability to fight future slumps. Drawing up two basic assumptions of what a downturn might look like, Kiley finds that “a recession may result in near-zero interest rates at long maturities, bringing U.S. experience closer to that seen in Europe and Japan.” This, says Kiley, “could imply limits on the ability of monetary policy to support a recovery.”

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“This is corruption, plain and simple,” U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren said on Twitter.”

No, Elizabeth, this is legal. Corruption is not. Look it up.

Boeing’s Ousted CEO Departs With $62 Million, Even Without Severance Pay (R.)

Boeing Co’s ousted chief executive officer, Dennis Muilenburg, is leaving the company with $62 million in compensation and pension benefits but will receive no severance pay in the wake of the 737 MAX crisis. Muilenburg was fired from the job in December as Boeing failed to contain the fallout from a pair of fatal crashes that halted output of the company’s bestselling 737 MAX jetliner and tarnished its reputation with airlines and regulators. The compensation figures were disclosed in a regulatory filing late on Friday during a difficult week for Boeing when it also released hundreds of internal messages — two major issues hanging over the company before new CEO David Calhoun starts on Monday.


The messages contained harshly critical comments about the development of the 737 MAX, including one that said the plane was “designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys.” The 737 MAX has been grounded since March following the second of two crashes that together killed 346 people within a span of five months. “It is incredibly heart wrenching to see the man at the heart of our loss walk away with a reward,” said Zipporah Kuria, whose 55-year-old father from Kenya died in the second crash. Lawmakers also blasted Boeing. “346 people died. And yet, Dennis Muilenburg pressured regulators and put profits ahead of the safety of passengers, pilots, and flight attendants. He’ll walk away with an additional $62.2 million. This is corruption, plain and simple,” U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren said on Twitter.

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As CEO, Muilenburg was responsible for the installation of defective parts on 737 MAX. His golden handshake is worth about 12 times the FAA’s fine for that. And he doesn’t even have to pay it.

FAA Seeks To Fine Boeing $5.4 Million For Defective Parts On 737 MAX (R.)

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Friday it was seeking to fine Boeing $5.4 million, alleging it failed to prevent the installation of defective parts on 737 MAX airplanes. The FAA alleged Boeing “failed to adequately oversee its suppliers to ensure they complied with the company’s quality assurance system, … Boeing knowingly submitted aircraft for final FAA airworthiness certification after determining that the parts could not be used due to a failed strength test.” The FAA proposed a $3.9 million civil penalty against Boeing for the same issue in December involving 133 737 NG airplanes, which is the prior generation of the 737.


The 737 MAX has been grounded since March after two fatal crashes killed 346 people. Boeing’s safety record on a number of issues have come under scrutiny from lawmakers and the FAA. The parts issue is completely unrelated to the crashes, Boeing said. The FAA disclosed in June that about 300 NG and 737 MAX airplanes could contain improperly manufactured parts and said it would require these parts to be quickly replaced. The parts at issue are tracks on the leading edge of the wings used to guide the movement of slats that provide additional lift during takeoff and landing, the FAA said. The issue could result in a slat striking an airplane, potentially resulting in injury to passengers or preventing a safe landing.

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More Muilenburg fallout.

Key Boeing 737 MAX Supplier Spirit Aerosystems To Cut 2,800 Jobs (CNBC)

A key Boeing 737 Max supplier said Friday that it is planning to cut about 2,800 jobs as the planes remain grounded far longer than expected and the financial impact ripples through the aerospace company’s supply chain. Wichita, Kansas-based Spirit Aerosystems, which produces fuselages for the beleaguered planes, said it made the decision due to uncertainty around the Max’s return to service. The company’s shares fell after its announcement, trading down 2.7%. Boeing was off nearly 1.5%. The 737 Max accounts for half of Spirit’s revenue. The planes have been grounded since mid-March [..] Regulators haven’t said when they would allow the planes to fly again.


“This is not the news I wanted to share, and I know it’s not the news you wanted to hear,” CEO Tom Gentile told employees on Friday. “But the continued grounding of the Max fleet and the suspension of production has created a challenging situation for us.” In addition to fuselages, Spirit makes thrust reversers, engine pylons and wing parts. Spirit, which issued what’s known as a WARN notice that requires companies to give employees 60 days notice of mass layoffs, said more job cuts are possible, a sign of how Boeing’s 737 Max crisis continues to hurt suppliers and the communities where they’re based. The laid-off employees, while they will have to depart in the coming weeks, will be paid for the entire 60-day notice period, Spirit said.

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Going through all the amounts spent, how can you not despair? What is fair about this sytem?

Joe Biden Gets $Millions In TV Ads In Iowa From Undisclosed Donors (IC)

Heading into the Iowa caucus, a Super PAC backing Joe Biden is spending big on TV ads in the state, giving him a boost over his fellow Democratic presidential frontrunners. Unite the Country PAC, which was launched in October by longtime advisers to the former vice president and allies of former President Barack Obama, has spent $2.3 million on TV ads in support of Biden in Iowa, according to recent disclosures. In recent years, political campaigns have devoted more of their resources to digital advertising and email distribution, but they continue to spend big on TV ads. For candidates like Biden, whose campaign had been struggling with fundraising in the fall, Super PACs can play a key role in helping reach people on the airwaves.

Biden had disavowed the support of Super PACs early in his campaign, but walked that position back just before Unite the Country launched in October. The timing of the launch comes with an additional benefit: The PAC will be able to keep its donors under wraps until just three days before the February 3 Iowa caucus. Under Federal Election Commission rules, the Super PAC’s first disclosure is due on January 31. The schedule gives Biden more of a chance to escape scrutiny of who exactly is bundling for the PAC — a list likely to include more major industry players, far and away from the working-class voters for whom Biden has cast himself as a hero. Asked about the date the group was required to file its next disclosure, a spokesperson for the PAC said it followed the FEC’s reporting schedule.

As Sen. Cory Booker’s campaign continues to flounder, his Super PAC, United We Win, has spent $250,000 on TV advertising on his behalf. Other campaigns have made massive investments in TV ads in Iowa. Both Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg have spent around $3.9 million on TV ads in the state so far. Andrew Yang has spent $2.5 million, Biden has spent $1.8 million, and Elizabeth Warren has spent $1.6 million. Billionaire Tom Steyer has spent $9 million in Iowa and $116.5 million overall, and it’s paying off: According to a Fox News poll released this week, Steyer is polling ahead of Sanders, Warren, and Buttigieg in South Carolina, where he’s spent $8.3 million on TV ads, and ahead of Warren in Nevada, where he’s spent $8.7 million. Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who is self-funding his campaign, has spent $153.1 million on TV ads so far.

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This aged remarkably well.

 

 

 

Include the Automatic Earth in your 2020 charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Jan 092020
 
 January 9, 2020  Posted by at 9:50 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


John Vachon Five o’clock crowds, Chicago 1941

 

Pelosi Seeks To Limit Trump’s War Powers (USAT)
Pelosi Loses Senate Democrats On Trump Impeachment Delay (BBC)
McConnell Won’t Haggle With House Over Impeachment Trial Plan (R.)
Can You Locate Iran On A Map? Few Americans Can. (MC)
World Bank Trims 2020 Growth Forecast (R.)
Ghosn: Seeds of Renault-Nissan Crisis Were Sown By Macron (R.)
Carlos Ghosn And The Dark Corners Of Japanese Justice (G.)
Come Home, America: Stop Policing the Globe (Whitehead)
Juan Guaidó’s Surreal Regime Change Reality Show (GZ)
Hunter Biden ‘Biological And Legal Father’ Of Stripper’s Child – Judge (Fox)

 

 

“…citing ‘urgent’ concerns on Iran strategy…”

This of course cannot be about Trump alone. It has to concern an assessment of all past and future presidents too. Plus, you may be forced to change the Constitution. So future potential Democrat presidents will see their hands tied by Pelosi in 2020, and we’ll need an in-depth discussion about Obama and Hillary’s actions in Syria, Libya etc., because, again, it can’t be just about Trump. Is taking out Soleimani so much worse than raping Ghadaffi to death with a bayonet?

This is going to take a lot of time. More than the 10 months until the next election. In which Pelosi should ostensibly run if she wants to usurp the president’s powers.

 

Pelosi Seeks To Limit Trump’s War Powers (USAT)

The House will vote Thursday on a measure that would limit President Donald Trump’s ability to wage war with Iran, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced. The Democratic House speaker said Trump’s action last week – authorizing a drone strike that killed top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani – was “provocative and disproportionate” and done without consulting Congress. Thursday’s debate will shine a spotlight on the Soleimani killing and the possibility of further escalation between the U.S. and Iran. It will also air constitutional questions about the president’s ability to order military action without congressional authorization.

“Members of Congress have serious, urgent concerns about the administration’s decision to engage in hostilities against Iran and about its lack of strategy moving forward,” Pelosi said. “To honor our duty to keep the American people safe, the House will move forward with a War Powers Resolution to limit the President’s military actions regarding Iran.” But even if the measure passes the House, which is controlled by Democrats, it will face hurdles in the GOP-controlled Senate. And Trump can veto the measure, as he did last year when Congress tried to end the American military role in Yemen.

Pelosi’s decision to move forward with the war powers measure came after Iran retaliated on Tuesday for Soleiman’s killing by launching ballistic missiles at two Iraqi airbases that house U.S. and coalition forces. Trump said that incident did not cause any American casualties and resulted in only minimal damage, as he sought to lower tensions with Iran in an address to the nation Wednesday. But Pelosi and other Democrats said they remained alarmed at the possibility of further military confrontation. “The consequences of this strike already … have been cataclysmic,” said Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He and others said the situation could still easily spiral out of control.

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They get worried over their seats.

Pelosi Loses Senate Democrats On Trump Impeachment Delay (BBC)

The US Congress’ most powerful Democrat is losing support among Senate allies as she holds up President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has delayed sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate in a tussle over rules with Republicans. Senator Dianne Feinstein called on Mrs Pelosi, her fellow California Democrat and ex-neighbour, to “send it over”. The Senate’s Republican leader vowed there would be “no haggling”. Mitch McConnell said he can muster the majority of 51 votes needed among his fellow Republicans in the Senate to codify the proceedings without Democratic support. Senate Democrats said prolonging the standoff would be pointless.


“The longer it goes on the less urgent it becomes,” Senator Feinstein said on Wednesday, Bloomberg News reported. “So if it’s serious and urgent, send them over. If it isn’t, don’t send it over.” The political trial of Mr Trump cannot begin until the Democratic-controlled House sends its articles of impeachment, the charges against the president, to the Senate. Senator Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, told Politico: “I respect the fact that [Pelosi] is concerned about the fact about whether or not there will be a fair trial, but I do think it is time to get on with it.” Senator Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, said: “I don’t know what leverage we have. It looks like the cake is already baked.” Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, also said he believed it was time to start the Senate trial.

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“If Pelosi sought leverage over the Senate, McConnell said, “no such leverage exists … it will never exist.”

McConnell Won’t Haggle With House Over Impeachment Trial Plan (R.)

U.S. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday the Senate would not haggle with the House of Representatives over procedures for President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, adding that the Senate would make a decision on calling witnesses for the trial at the appropriate time. Speaking on the Senate floor, the Republican senator expressed exasperation that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a letter to her fellow Democrats on Tuesday night, had indicated she would continue holding back the House-passed articles of impeachment from the Senate until she knows more about Senate plans for the impeachment trial.

McConnell did not specifically answer Pelosi’s demand, but lambasted her actions as “game-playing” and said she could not dictate the Senate’s trial proceedings. “There will be no haggling with the House over Senate procedure. We will not cede our authority to try this impeachment,” McConnell said. If Pelosi sought leverage over the Senate, McConnell said, “no such leverage exists … it will never exist.” He accused Pelosi of wanting to keep Trump “in limbo” over the trial indefinitely. The House in December charged Trump with abusing his power for personal gain by asking Ukraine to announce a corruption investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in November’s presidential election.

It also charged the president with obstructing Congress by directing administration officials and agencies not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. Under the U.S. Constitution, the House brings impeachment charges, while impeachment trials are held by the Senate. But McConnell has said that Senate rules prevent the Senate from starting the trial until the House sends it the articles of impeachment, and the House has not done so.

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I like the ones who locate Iran inside the USA.

Can You Locate Iran On A Map? Few Americans Can. (MC)

As tensions between the United States and Iran rise in the aftermath of the American drone strike that killed the country’s most powerful commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a new Morning Consult/Politico survey finds fewer than 3 in 10 registered voters can identify the Islamic republic on an unlabeled map.

Twenty-eight percent of registered voters were able to accurately label Iran on a map of the Middle East region, according to new Morning Consult/Politico polling conducted Jan. 4-5, before the Iranian military fired missiles at two bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops. Twenty-three percent could identify the country on a larger, also unlabeled, global map. Eight percent of voters thought Iran was Iraq on the smaller map.


The polling experiment sheds light on voters’ geographical unfamiliarity with foreign countries, even those with which the United States has been engaged in sustained conflict. Some respondents fared better than others, however.

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When will the first people stand up and say we can’t afford to grow any longer?

World Bank Trims 2020 Growth Forecast (R.)

The World Bank on Wednesday trimmed its global growth forecasts slightly for 2019 and 2020 due to a slower-than-expected recovery in trade and investment despite cooler trade tensions between the United States and China. The multilateral development bank said 2019 marked the weakest economic expansion since the global financial crisis a decade ago, and 2020, while a slight improvement, remained vulnerable to uncertainties over trade and geopolitical tensions. In its latest Global Economic Prospects report, the World Bank shaved 0.2 percentage point off of growth for both years, with the 2019 global economic growth forecast at 2.4% and 2020 at 2.5%.

“This modest increase in global growth marks the end of the slowdown that started in 2018 and took a heavy toll on global activity, trade and investment, especially last year,” said Ayhan Kose, the World Bank’s lead economic forecaster. “We do expect an improvement, but overall, we also see a weaker growth outlook.”

The latest World Bank forecasts take into account the so-called Phase 1 trade deal announced by the United States and China, which suspended new U.S. tariffs on Chinese consumer goods scheduled for Dec. 15 and reduced the tariff rate on some other goods. While the tariff rate reduction will have a “rather small” effect on trade, the deal is expected to boost business confidence and investment prospects, contributing to a pickup in trade growth, Kose said. Global trade growth is expected to improve modestly in 2020 to 1.9% from 1.4% in 2019, which was the lowest since the 2008-2009 financial crisis, the World Bank said. This remains well below the 5% average annual trade growth rate since 2010, according to World Bank data.

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Ghosn also has a French passport.

Ghosn: Seeds of Renault-Nissan Crisis Were Sown By Macron (R.)

Ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn said on Wednesday that a surprise corporate move, orchestrated five years ago by French President Emmanuel Macron who was then economy minister, soured relations between Renault and Nissan and contributed to his ouster. Ghosn, the former head of the car alliance, said Nissan executives and Japanese officials were shocked by a 2015 decision by the French government to increase its voting rights at Renault. “This left a big bitterness. Not only with the management of Nissan, but also the government of Japan,” Ghosn told reporters, although he did not name Macron. “And this is where the problem started.”


In April 2015, as a 37-year-old minister with then-unknown presidential ambitions, Macron ordered a rise in the state’s stake in Renault here designed to secure double voting rights. The overnight move gave the French state a blocking minority in Renault, which in turn controlled Nissan via its 43.4 percent stake in the Japanese firm. According to French and Japanese sources, that rattled the Japanese side of the Renault-Nissan alliance, which feared a national champion was falling under the control of the French government.

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Ghosn was citing a 99.4% conviction rate in Japanese cases. Why have a lawyer?

Carlos Ghosn And The Dark Corners Of Japanese Justice (G.)

Given his brash demeanour and immense wealth, Ghosn is not a sympathetic character. Indeed, he may well be guilty of financial misconduct. But he is right to shine a light into the dark corners of Japan’s justice system. Anyone familiar with the Japanese justice system would know that Ghosn’s allegations are not far-fetched. In Japan, laws are used as weapons against targeted people and not applied equally. One example of this is the “hostage justice” (hitojichi-shiho) system. Hostage justice boils down to the accused remaining in custody until they incriminate themselves by signing a confession. Often this is drawn up by prosecutors who browbeat the accused without defence counsel.

Knowing that the playing field is tilted in favour of the prosecutors and that they could spend a very long time in jail even before going to court, many innocent defendants confess. Ghosn spent more than 120 days in detention. In the late 1980s, a once high-flying company president called Hiromasa Ezoe was accused of bribery. Despite extreme pressure to confess, Ezoe defied prosecuting authorities by pleading not guilty. Over a decade of judicial purgatory later, he was effectively exonerated by receiving a suspended three-year sentence in 2003. In 2010 he published a book, Where is the Justice?, a savage indictment of a system in which the presumption of innocence is abandoned and defendants are railroaded. Ghosn may well have wanted to avoid this fate.

In Japan, the accused can be held for 23 days without charge – this is almost indefinitely renewable as judges normally give prosecutors the benefit of the doubt. In April 2019, more than 1,000 lawyers and scholars submitted a petition to the justice ministry demanding an end to this antediluvian system. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations has also long lobbied against it. The 2019 petition doesn’t mince its words, asserting that the “long-term detention in the Carlos Ghosn case has triggered surprise and criticism overseas, leading to doubts about Japan’s integrity as a democratic nation that guarantees human rights”.

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“Worldwide, the military runs more than 170 golf courses.”

Come Home, America: Stop Policing the Globe (Whitehead)

It’s time to bring our troops home. Bring them home from Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Bring them home from Germany, South Korea and Japan. Bring them home from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Oman. Bring them home from Niger, Chad and Mali. Bring them home from Turkey, the Philippines, and northern Australia. That’s not what’s going to happen, of course. The U.S. military reportedly has more than 1.3 million men and women on active duty, with more than 200,000 of them stationed overseas in nearly every country in the world. Those numbers are likely significantly higher in keeping with the Pentagon’s policy of not fully disclosing where and how many troops are deployed for the sake of “operational security and denying the enemy any advantage.”

As investigative journalist David Vine explains, “Although few Americans realize it, the United States likely has more bases in foreign lands than any other people, nation, or empire in history.” Don’t fall for the propaganda, though: America’s military forces aren’t being deployed abroad to protect our freedoms here at home. Rather, they’re being used to guard oil fields, build foreign infrastructure and protect the financial interests of the corporate elite. In fact, the United States military spends about $81 billion a year just to protect oil supplies around the world. The reach of America’s military empire includes close to 800 bases in as many as 160 countries, operated at a cost of more than $156 billion annually.

As Vine reports, “Even US military resorts and recreation areas in places like the Bavarian Alps and Seoul, South Korea, are bases of a kind. Worldwide, the military runs more than 170 golf courses.” This is how a military empire occupies the globe. Already, American military servicepeople are being deployed to far-flung places in the Middle East and elsewhere in anticipation of the war drums being sounded over Iran. This Iran crisis, salivated over by the neocons since prior to the Iraq War and manufactured by war hawks who want to jumpstart the next world war, has been a long time coming. Donald Trump, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton: they all have done their part to ensure that the military industrial complex can continue to get rich at taxpayer expense.

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The opposition will get rid of Guaidó, Maduro doesn’t have to do much.

Juan Guaidó’s Surreal Regime Change Reality Show (GZ)

Fistfights and screaming matches broke out at Venezuela’s National Assembly on January 5, when the legislative body was scheduled to elect its leader. But the melee was not what the corporate US media has portrayed it as. The fights weren’t between the Chavistas who support the Bolivarian Revolution and President Nicolás Maduro on one side and opposition members on the other, but rather between competing members of the opposition itself. The opposition imploded because Juan Guaidó, the former president of the National Assembly and self-declared “interim president” of the country, lost his campaign to be reelected as head of the legislature.

The Venezuelan opposition is in a state of disaster — as it has been since former President Hugo Chávez’s first election in 1998. It’s a loose and ever-changing coalition of around a dozen political parties, with differing ideologies, strategies, and constituencies. The far right, which is comprised mainly of the Voluntad Popular and Primero Justicia parties, is filled with people who have been receiving financial and logistical support from the United States for the past 20 years. In the 2002 coup against then President Chávez, the far right briefly took over, and excluded the more moderate opposition from positions of power. The moderates learned the wrong lesson: instead of challenging the US-backed right, it caved to them, acceding to their plans of regime change and undemocratic maneuvers.

But an important split occurred between the moderates and the extremists during the presidential elections in May 2018. The moderates ignored the far right’s calls for a boycott and won 3 million votes in the presidential elections, out of a voting electorate of around 15 million people (with approximately 20 million eligible voters). In September 2019, these moderate opposition figures sat down with the Maduro administration and came to a wide-ranging agreement that included a bipartisan rejection of US sanctions and the appointment of new members of the National Electoral Council.

Between them, the moderates and Chavistas now represent more than 9 million votes, accounting for a full 60 percent of likely voters and 45 percent of eligible voters. This dialogue between two important sectors of Venezuela electoral politics helps explain why September, October, and November were easily the most stable three months for Venezuela in the past year. The dialogue led directly to the events of January 5 in Caracas.

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Get out of the race, Joe, you’re muddying the field.

Hunter Biden ‘Biological And Legal Father’ Of Stripper’s Child – Judge (Fox)

Hunter Biden, the son of presidential candidate Joe Biden, is the “biological and legal father” of a child he fathered with an ex-stripper, an Arkansas judge ruled Tuesday, contradicting the younger Biden’s previous denials that he had any role in the pregnancy. In an order establishing paternity, Independence County, Ark., Circuit Judge Holly Meyer noted that the results of DNA tests indicated Biden was the father “with near scientific certainty,” and instructed the Arkansas Department of Health to issue a birth certificate listing Biden as the father of 29-year-old Lunden Alexis Roberts’ child.

Roberts, who The New York Post reported was a stripper at a Washington, D.C., club that Biden patronized, received “primary physical and legal custody” of the child. In previous filings, Roberts told the court that Hunter Biden “had no involvement in the child’s life since the child’s birth, never interacted with the child, never parented the child,” and “could not identify the child out of a photo lineup.”

Biden “shall have visitation with the child as agreed between the parties,” Judge Meyer ruled. The next hearing in the case is now set for Jan. 29 at 9:30 a.m. ET, to address “temporary child support for the minor child and other matters,” the judge wrote, adding that the parties have until Jan. 16 to comply with all “pending discovery” which is currently “past due.” Another hearing is set for the morning of March 13 to handle any remaining discovery issues, with a final hearing on May 13 to set “permanent child support for the minor child.”

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Jan 022020
 


VIncent van Gogh Weeping woman seated on a basket 1883

 

Military Moves In To Help Mass Evacuation From Australian Bushfires (R.)
House Democrats Would Have Impeached Lincoln (Blagojevich)
Obama’s NSC Holdovers Finally Booted After Three Years Of Non-Stop Leaks (ZH)
Trump Calls Pelosi The ‘Most Overrated Person I Know’ (Hill)
The Syrian Conflict Is Awash With Chemical Warfare Propaganda (Fisk)
Epstein ‘Madam’ Ghislaine Maxwell ‘Is A Foreign Spy Hiding In Israel’ (DM)
Prince Andrew and Ghislaine Maxwell Are Still Chums And Still Talk (MN)
EU Nationals Face Humiliation Of Applying To Stay In The UK Post-Brexit (NBC)
Airbus Deliveries Soar To Record High As Boeing’s Crash (ZH)
UN Special Rapporteur Melzer Accuses US Of Torturing Chelsea Manning (G.)
Why Can’t We Find The Vast Majority Of Ocean Plastic? (G.)

 

 

I wondered here the other day where the military was. If this were the US the National Guard would have been sent in weeks ago. So this was a hopeful headline. Was, because it’s actually just about a few boats and helicopters. That’s not “the military”.

What I read these days about the fires is always about the same things: PM Scott Morrison is a fool. But Australia has a political class made up entirely of fools, far as I can see, so nothing special there. Blaming him means evading the real problems.

The second issue is everyone blames climate change. That is also evasive. The earth is such a complex system that we should be careful with claiming that A automatically means B; it takes years of intensive study to link the two.

Moreover, it’s not just a temperature change. Australia’s landscape has been drastically changed since Europeans arrived and forced it to look like England, with rolling lawns etc., something Australia was never made for.

The Aboriginees lived in harmoney with the land for 10s of 1000s of years. It’s the white man who made the land prone to large scale disaster.

Military Moves In To Help Mass Evacuation From Australian Bushfires (R.)

Tens of thousands of holiday makers raced to evacuate popular seaside towns on Australia’s east coast on Wednesday, fleeing ahead of advancing bushfires, as military ships and helicopters planned missions to rescue thousands more trapped by the blazes. Long queues formed outside supermarkets and petrol stations near high-danger areas as both residents and tourists sought supplies to either bunker down or escape, but many shops and fuel stations had already run out of supplies. Major roads were closed due to fire risks, leaving motorists only a handful of escape routes causing lengthy traffic jams.

More than 50,000 people were without power and some towns had no access to drinking water, after catastrophic fires ripped through the region on Dec. 31 sending the sky blood red and destroying towns. Authorities have urged a mass exodus from several towns on Australia’s southeast coast, an area that is hugely popular in the current summer peak holiday season, warning that extreme heat forecast for the weekend will further stoke raging fires. “It is vital, critical,” NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance said on Australian Broadcasting Corp television. “We need everybody to leave. We are going to face a worse day on Saturday than what we have been through.”

[..] Five military helicopters and two naval ships were en-route to the south coast to back up firefighters, bring in supplies like water and diesel and to evacuate people, the Australian Defense Force said. One ship was headed for the coastal town of Mallacoota in Victoria, where around 4,000 people have been stranded on the beach front since New Year’s Eve when they watched much of the town burn down. The navy rescue team will include 1.6 tonnes of water and paramedics, officials said. The only road in and out of Mallacoota was expected to remain blocked for several weeks.

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Rod Blagojevic was the the 40th governor of Illinois. He has time to think in prison. Nice angle.

House Democrats Would Have Impeached Lincoln (Blagojevich)

I, like most people from my home state of Illinois, am a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln. Recently I’ve wondered what would have happened had Nancy Pelosi been the Speaker of the House when Abraham Lincoln was president. Would Speaker Pelosi’s House Democrats use the same flimsy impeachment standard they are currently using to impeach Honest Abe, one of the greatest presidents in the history of our country? In 1998 I was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives during the Clinton impeachment, and in 2009, as the 40th governor of Illinois, I had the unhappy experience of being impeached and removed from office. Nevertheless, I offer this interesting and unique perspective about impeachment as I sit here in prison.

Consider the possibilities. First, today’s Democrats would have impeached Lincoln for obstruction of Congress and abuse of power when he unilaterally issued his Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln didn’t ask Congress for permission when he declared an end to nearly 250 years of slavery and offered freedom to millions of slaves in the American South. He neither consulted Congress nor sought its consent before he acted. In fact, at the time Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, the Democrats of that day opposed it. And then there’s the matter of the job offer to Robert E. Lee. Shortly after the firing on Fort Sumter by secessionists in South Carolina, and one day after Virginia seceded from the Union, President Lincoln sent an emissary to Robert E. Lee to offer him command of the Northern armies.

General Lee declined the offer. When his native state of Virginia left the Union, General Lee left with it, eventually going on to become the commanding general of the Army of Northern Virginia and the greatest military leader of the Civil War. Can’t you see how a Speaker Pelosi and many of today’s House Democrats would call for the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate Lincoln for “Confederate Collusion” and bring impeachment charges for abuse of power for offering the top military command to a guy who would go on to become the top military commander of the other side? And surely, articles of impeachment would be brought against Lincoln by today’s House Democrats for suspending the writ of habeas corpus across the Union as it related to traitors, spies, prisoners of war and Union soldiers.

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I’ll never understand why it took so long.

Obama’s NSC Holdovers Finally Booted After Three Years Of Non-Stop Leaks (ZH)

The White House National Security Council is sharply downsizing ‘in a bid to improve efficiency’ by consolidating positions and cutting staff, according to the Washington Times – which adds that a secondary, unspoken objective (i.e. the entire reason) for the cuts is to address nonstop leaks that have plagued the Trump administration for nearly three years. “Leaks of President Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders and other damaging disclosures likely originated with anti-Trump officials in the White House who stayed over from the Obama administration, according to several current and former White House officials.” -Washington Times The reform is being led by National Security Adviser Robert C. O’Brien, who told the Times that 40-45 NSC staff officials had been sent back to their home-agencies, and more are likely to be moved out.

“We remain on track to meeting the right-sizing goal Ambassador O’Brien outlined in October, and in fact may exceed that target by drawing down even more positions,” said NSC spokesman John Ullyot. Under Obama, the NSC ballooned to as many as 450 people – and officials wielded ‘enormous power’ according to the report, directly telephoning commanders in Afghanistan and other locations in the Middle East to give them direct orders in violation of the military’s strict chain of command. Meanwhile, the so-called second-hand ‘whistleblower’ at the heart of President Trump’s impeachment was widely reported to be a NSC staffer on detail from the CIA, Eric Ciaramella, who took umbrage with Trump asking Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky to investigate former VP Joe Biden – who Ciaramella worked with.

After O’Brien is done, less than 120 policy officials will remain after the next several months. The downsizing will be carried out by consolidating positions and returning officials to agencies and departments such as the CIA, the State and Defense departments and the military. “Mr. O’Brien noted that the NSC had a policymaking staff of 12 in 1962 when President Kennedy faced down the Soviet Union during the Cuban missile crisis. During the 2000s and the George W. Bush administration, the number of NSC staff members increased sharply to support the three-front conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan and the war on terrorism. However, it was during the Obama administration that the NSC was transformed into a major policymaking agency seeking to duplicate the functions of the State and Defense departments within the White House.” -Washington Times

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‘T is the season to be jolly.

Trump Calls Pelosi The ‘Most Overrated Person I Know’ (Hill)

President Trump on Tuesday ripped Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as the “most overrated person I know” as he fumed over the uncertainty surrounding his impeachment trial in the Senate. Trump has spent a chunk of his December vacation at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida complaining about Pelosi’s decision to withhold the two articles of impeachment from the Senate until after lawmakers return from recess. “They produced no case so now she doesn’t want to go to the Senate. She’s all lies. Most overrated person I know!” Trump tweeted Tuesday.


“Remember when Pelosi was screaming that President Trump is a danger to our nation and we must move quickly. They didn’t get one Republican House vote, and lost 3 Dems. They produced no case so now she doesn’t want to go to the Senate. She’s all lies. Most overrated person I know!” [..] The Speaker’s decision to hold onto the articles has proven to be a sticking point for Trump, who has tweeted more than a dozen times about Pelosi since arriving at his West Palm Beach property. Trump tweeted Tuesday morning that Democrats “will do anything to avoid a trial in the Senate” in an effort to protect former Vice President Joe Biden. The president has called for Biden, his son Hunter Biden and the anonymous whistleblower who triggered the impeachment inquiry to testify.

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Robert Fisk has a better understanding than most, but can’t refrain from blaming, among others, Russia while he’s at it. That really drags him down. Pity. The story here is Bellingcat,OPCW, White Helmets as propaganda channels for US intelligence and western media. Not unsubstantiated accusations.

The Syrian Conflict Is Awash With Chemical Warfare Propaganda (Fisk)

The most recent information – published on WikiLeaks, in a report from Hitchens again and from Jonathan Steele, a former senior foreign correspondent for The Guardian – suggests that the OPCW suppressed or failed to publish, or simply preferred to ignore, the conclusions of up to 20 other members of its staff who became so upset at what they regarded as the misleading conclusions of the final report that they officially sought to have it changed in order to represent the truth. (The OPCW has said in a number of statements that it stands by its final report.) At first, senior OPCW officials contented themselves by merely acknowledging the Henderson report’s existence a few days after it appeared without making any comment on its contents.

When the far more damaging later reports emerged in early November, Fernando Arias, the OPCW’s director general, said that it was in “the nature of any thorough enquiry for individuals in a team to express subjective views. While some of the views continue to circulate in some public discussion forums, I would like to reiterate that I stand by the independent, professional conclusion [of the investigation].” The OPCW declined to respond to questions from Hitchens or Steele. But the new details suggest that other evidence could have been left unpublished by the OPCW. These were not just from leaked emails, but given by an OPCW inspector – a colleague of Henderson – who was one of a team of eight to visit Douma and who appeared at a briefing in Brussels last month to explain his original findings to a group of disarmament, legal, medical and intelligence personnel.

[..] This weekend, for example, WikiLeaks sent to The Independent an apparent account of a meeting held by OPCW toxicologists and pharmacists “all specialists in CW (Chemical Warfare)”, according to the document. The meeting is dated 6 June 2018 and says that “the experts were conclusive in their statements that there is no correlation between symptoms [of the victims] and chlorine exposure.” In particular, they stated that “the onset of excessive frothing, as a result of pulmonary edema observed in photos and reported by witnesses would not occur in the short time period between the reported occurrence of the alleged incident and the time the videos were recorded”.

[..] The deep concerns among some of the OPCW staff and the deletion of their evidence does not mean that gas has not been used in Syria by the government or even by the Russians or by Isis and its fellow Islamists. All stand guilty of war crimes in the Syrian conflict. The OPCW’s response to the evidence should not let war criminals off the hook. But it certainly helps them.

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Daily Mail, so perhaps a few pounds of salt.

Epstein ‘Madam’ Ghislaine Maxwell ‘Is A Foreign Spy Hiding In Israel’ (DM)

An explosive new report has asserted that deceased sex criminal Jeffery Epstein and his alleged ‘madame’ Ghislaine Maxwell were foreign intelligence ‘assets’, and that she is currently hiding in a safehouse in Israel. ‘Ghislaine is protected. She and Jeffrey were assets of sorts for multiple foreign governments. They would trade information about the powerful people caught in his net — caught at Epstein’s house,’ a unnamed source told Page Six. Maxwell, 58, has been accused in lawsuits of procuring underage girls for Epstein to sexually traffick among his wealthy and powerful friends, and is reportedly the subject of an ongoing FBI probe.m She has always denied any wrongdoing.

After Epstein’s re-arrest last year and death behind bars in August, Maxwell has remained out of sight and her whereabouts unknown. Now the Page Six source claims she is being protected by powerful foreign interests. ‘She is not in the US, she moves around. She is sometimes in the UK, but most often in other countries, such as Israel, where her powerful contacts have provided her with safe houses and protection,’ the source said. Maxwell is being ‘protected because of the information she has on the world’s most powerful people,’ the source said. The source also claimed that Prince Andrew begged Maxwell to come forward and clear his name, after Virginia Roberts Giuffre claimed Epstein forced her to have sex with the royal when she was 17.

Prince Andrew, 59, strenuously denies having sex with Roberts and claims he can’t remember meeting her despite a photograph of him with his arm around her. ‘Andrew pleaded with Ghislaine to publicly defend him. She carefully considered it, but decided no good would come of it (if she came forward). It isn’t in her best interests,’ the source told Page Six.

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MI6 can accommodate Andrew.

Prince Andrew and Ghislaine Maxwell Are Still Chums And Still Talk (MN)

For Prince Andrew, it appears that some old habits die hard — even if those habits led to his international downfall and ejection from his official role in the British royal family. The Duke of York’s habit of being friends and staying in contact with Ghislaine Maxwell reportedly continues, even though the one-time U.K. socialite is under FBI investigation for her alleged role in Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking operation. Laura Goldman, a longtime friend of Maxwell’s, revealed to The Sun that the socialite, while in hiding and protected by “wealthy connections,” continues to text and call her friends.

Maxwell, 57, also is confident that she has enough “dirt” on enough powerful people that she’ll be able to evade prosecution and eventually clear her family name and return to her high-society life, Goldman said. As for Andrew, Maxwell still “adores” him, Goldman said. After all, Maxwell credits the 59-year-old duke with helping her to return to high-society after the controversial 1991 death of her father, publishing magnate Robert Maxwell. Maxwell also reportedly introduced Andrew to Epstein, whom she dated for several years in the 1990s.

However, Goldman said that Maxwell is not about to come out of hiding right now and offer up any information that could clear Andrew’s name, which has been tarnished by allegations that he had sex with Virginia Roberts Giuffre, one of Epstein’s alleged underaged “sex slaves.” Goldman said: “(Maxwell) adores Prince Andrew, they’re still in touch now, but she won’t come out of hiding, even for him. “She’d only reveal herself if it was in her best interest, which it isn’t yet,” Goldman continued. “So she’ll be staying out of the limelight for now and leaving him to fend for himself, despite her huge affection for him and the fact that she could have taken some of the heat off him recently.”

[..] The Sun reported in early December that Andrew had a secret meeting with Maxwell at Buckingham Palace in June and has kept in constant contact with her by phone and email — even as the scandal escalated. “They talk regularly.” a source told The Sun. “If he wasn’t in the spotlight at the moment he would have found a way to meet up with her.”

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The EU will have to respond in kind.

EU Nationals Face Humiliation Of Applying To Stay In The UK Post-Brexit (NBC)

Over the course of years and in some cases decades, millions of Europeans have built their careers and families in the U.K. – a place they call home. But with Britain set to leave the European Union at the end of January, European citizens living in the U.K. have been forced to apply for permission to stay in the country after it pulls out of the 28 nation bloc. Some 2.6 million of the more than 3 million E.U. citizens who live in the U.K. have already applied to remain as part of a settlement scheme introduced by the British government this year. For some, having to apply to stay in the country they call home has been a humiliating experience.

Richard Bertinet, a baker, has lived in the U.K. for 31 years after moving from France. He was granted the right to remain, but getting it wasn’t easy. To his surprise, he initially qualified only for “pre-settled status,” intended for people who have lived in the U.K. for less than five years and one step before the full “settled status.” “I spent more of my life in the U.K. than in France,” Bertinet, 53, told NBC News, as he took a break from teaching a baking class at his cooking school in the picturesque city of Bath in southwest England where he lives with his British wife and three children. “To have to prove 31 years of your life here? It’s a joke,” he said. “They can go to my Wikipedia page and see who I am.”

Frustrated, he shared his ordeal on Instagram, where it went viral. Bertinet appealed the decision and can now stay in the U.K. indefinitely. But he said he was worried about more vulnerable people — the elderly, those with fewer resources, insufficient language skills or simply confused about the application process. “If this happened to me, it will happen to other people,” Bertinet said. [..] “I really can’t get over the fact that I am made to apply to stay in my own home,” said Corinne Byron, 47. Born in Belgium and raised in Switzerland, Byron moved to the U.K. in 2004 after marrying a British soldier. “I was a rather proud army wife, as I even sang with the military wives choirs,” she said. “I guess you could say that I was the proudest non-British British person you could imagine.”

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And CEO Muilenburg, the man responsible for it all, walks away with $100 million or so. If that’s not crazy, I must be.

Airbus Deliveries Soar To Record High As Boeing’s Crash (ZH)

A new report from Reuters specifies how Airbus locked in a record number of aircraft deliveries in Dec. to exceed full-year delivery targets while outshining troubled Boeing in becoming the world’s top planemaker. By midnight on New Year’s Eve, Airbus delivered 863 aircraft for the year, up 7.9% from 800 in 2018, sources told Reuters. The sources said the numbers aren’t official and must be audited before officially published. Shown in The Seattle Times chart below (updated on Dec. 29), the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max and now suspension of its production had more than halved deliveries from 806 in 2018 to 370 in 2019. With Max sales stalled, deliveries tanking, and production halted, Airbus is now soaring ahead as Boeing is facing its biggest crisis in 100 years with no word on a timeline of an ungrounding.

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Happy 2020 for Chelsea too, as for Julian. Stop this.

UN Special Rapporteur Melzer Accuses US Of Torturing Chelsea Manning (G.)

A top United Nations official has accused the US government of using torture against Chelsea Manning, the former army intelligence analyst currently jailed in the US over her refusal to testify against WikiLeaks. Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture, made the charge in a letter sent in November but only released on Tuesday. In the missive, Melzer says Manning is being subjected to “an open-ended, progressively severe measure of coercion fulfilling all the constitutive elements of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. Manning, who was detained on 16 May after refusing to testify before a grand jury, is currently being held at the Alexandria detention center in Virginia until she agrees to give evidence or until the grand jury’s term expires in November next year.

She also faces fines currently running at $1,000 a day. In the letter, Melzer writes: “The practise of coercive deprivation of liberty for civil contempt … involves the intentional infliction of progressively severe mental and emotional suffering for the purposes of coercion and intimidation at the order of judicial authorities.” Warning that “victims of prolonged coercive confinement have demonstrated post-traumatic symptoms and other severe and persistent mental and physical health consequences”, Melzer said Manning’s detention “is not a lawful sanction but an open-ended, progressively severe coercive measure amounting to torture & should be discontinued & abolished without delay”.

Mannings’ lawyers have argued that her detention is “for refusing to comply with a grand jury is pointless, punitive, and cruel” and warned that she is not likely to change her mind. In a letter released in March when Manning was first sent back to jail, her lawyers warned: “Chelsea has clearly stated her moral objection to the secretive and oppressive grand jury process. We are Chelsea’s friends and fellow organizers, and we know her as a person who is fully committed to her principles. They warned US authorities that if they “believe that subjecting Chelsea to more punishment will change her mind, they are gravely mistaken”.

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Lemme guess: because it sinks?!

Why Can’t We Find The Vast Majority Of Ocean Plastic? (G.)

Every year, 8m tons of plastic enters the ocean. Images of common household waste swirling in vast garbage patches in the open sea, or tangled up with whales and seabirds, have turned plastic pollution into one of the most popular environmental issues in the world. But for at least a decade, the biggest question among scientists who study marine plastic hasn’t been why plastic in the ocean is so abundant, but why it isn’t. What scientists can see and measure, in the garbage patches and on beaches, accounts for only a tiny fraction of the total plastic entering the water. So where is the other 99% of ocean plastic? Unsettling answers have recently begun to emerge. What we commonly see accumulating at the sea surface is “less than the tip of the iceberg, maybe a half of 1% of the total,” says Erik Van Sebille, an oceanographer at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.


“I often joke that being an ocean plastic scientist should be an easy job, because you can always find a bit wherever you look,” says Van Sebille. But, he adds, the reality is that our maps of the ocean essentially end at the surface, and solid numbers on how much plastic is in any one location are lacking. It is becoming apparent that plastic ends up in huge quantities in the deepest parts of the ocean, buried in sediment on the seafloor, and caught like clouds of dust deep in the water column. Perhaps most frighteningly, says Helge Niemann, a biogeochemist at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, it could fragment into such small pieces that it can barely be detected. At this point it becomes, Niemann says, “more like a chemical dissolved in the water than floating in it”.

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Ghislaine Maxwell in 1999 photoshoot for Sotheby’s

 

 

 

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