Aug 102020
 


Cy Twombly Fifty Days at Iliam: Like a Fire that Consumes All before It 1978

 

 

Might as well call it a social experiment. Any other name, like “coup” or “fishing expedition” or “hookers peeing on a bed” or “justice being done” would just inflame “passions” and lead away from what should be the actual topic.

Whatever you call it, the fact remains that Donald Trump has been the first US president to be under continued investigation for the entire 4 years of his first term, and for about a year before it as well. And that should be a cause for alarm for anyone who cares even a little bit about the American political system, including those who abhor Trump. Because once you do that, it’s no longer about just one president, it’s about all who will follow him, and inevitably about the integrity and validity of the system as a whole.

In principle, there should be no investigations of a sitting president, and not even of a presidential candidate, because this risks endangering 1) the entire electoral process, and 2) the Office of the President (not for once, but for ever). In principle. If there must be an investigation, it must be based on solid evidence available beforehand, it must be short, and the President must be removed. If all of these three things are not guaranteed, no investigation is warranted, and the accusing parties should be “liberated” from the positions they held when they initiated the investigation regardless. Skin in the game.

 

 

It gets increasingly harder to write about American politics, or express an opinion in any other way, without being dumped into one of two camps, never to be heard from again in the other (except for ridicule or slander). There is no such thing as a neutral or objective viewpoint anymore. You’re either with us or you’re against us – or them.

Seeing -and projecting- the world in black and white is a tempting proposal for anyone afraid of being confused; it should, however, never be an excuse for the media to not present its viewers and readers with a full color palette. But we can see every single day how that went. Black and white it is. And in that environment, too claustrophobic to be put in a box, I might as well paint the picture as I see it. Yes, in color.

 

The “social experiment” I see progressing has two parts:

1) can a political party, aided and abetted by the media and intelligence services, unseat an elected president it has just lost an election to?

2) can a presidential candidate be elected while shunning the media, debates, etc., and only appear at times and in forms that have been pre-selected by her/his handlers for maximum effect, while hiding his/her weaknesses?

 

As for no. 1, it has evidently not succeeded, but that is certainly not for lack of trying. One investigation has followed the other non-stop since 2016, in public and behind the scenes, and they have all come up empty. Of course one side would contest that and still say there was lots of evidence, but if so, it obviously wasn’t very strong, or Trump would have been gone.

People may also claim that the mandate of the Mueller investigation was too narrow, but really, go back and watch the man’s pathetic (sorry, but it was) testimony in Congress after the fact, that should be enough. Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler and others have promised solid and inconvertible evidence many times, but we never saw any. Rest assured, whatever Trump may have done wrong, you would have heard about it by now.

Or to put it another way: he probably did many things wrong, but not the things he was accused of. In fact, the entire Putin puppet narrative is so idiotic it’s impossible not to ponder from time to time that it was designed from the get-go to support Trump, not hurt him.

As for no. 2, that looks even more experimental. The approach is helped along “wonderfully” by the pandemic, which provides plenty excuses to keep Biden hidden, but it goes against everything presidential campaigns have been built upon throughout American history: contact with voters. That very few people would believe Biden is his own man, and not a sock puppet, can’t help.

But there is more at stake. Presidential campaigns are one element of a much bigger process, and you can’t separate the two. Both parts of the “social experiment” seem to run afoul of the respect that bigger process, and ultimately the entire political system, necessarily demands from all participants, from an individual voter to a President. And that is much more important than either candidate. You can’t temporarily switch off that respect if and when that might suit your purpose, because you risk for it never to be switched on again.

 

You may dislike a presidential candidate, perhaps even intensely so, but that should never make you lose sight of the integrity, if not the sacredness, of the election process, of the political system, of the institutions, of the Constitution, and certainly not of the Office of the President of the United States. Because once you do that, you open the door for everyone to do the same in the future. And no, you can’t blame that on the candidate you don’t like, you do it.

When a candidate is selected through the primaries of his/her party, you must respect that, because if you don’t respect the process, you are lost, the system is lost, and there’s no telling when you’ll see it back, if ever. If that candidate is then elected President, a lot of doors that before allowed you to question and criticize him/her, should be closed. The country at that point has either a new President, or a second-term one. A different phase of the political process starts.

The House and the Senate become the critics, empowered by the system to hold the President accountable. But only the House and the Senate. Not the media, whose role it is, other than in the occasional opinion piece, to report on decisions made; not intelligence services, whose role it is to serve the country, and the new President it just elected; and not the opposition party, whose role it is to prepare for the next election, and to provide a degree of counterbalance, depending on how bad their loss was, on Capitol Hill.

The entire picture is crystal clear. So is everybody’s role in it. But now and then people -try to- refuse to accept their roles, obviously believing that they are more important than the integrity of the political system, and ignoring that in doing so they put the whole system at risk.

 

What was happening first became apparent in late 2015 – early 2016, when the New York Times began running multiple stories every day directed against Donald Trump. Mostly small bits, based on innuendo about his past, with a whiff of truth perhaps, but not more. The word “gratuitous” comes to mind. At a certain point, they did a dozen per day of the stories, it became assembly line work for the writers and editors..

The Washington Post chimed in, and so did CNN, MSNBC and others, including international press. It turned into a feeding frenzy, with all of them completely losing sight, voluntarily or not, of their roles as news providers. They all shape-shifted into opinion-only-makers, confident that their audience would not notice the difference, at least not at first. At that point it became a very Pavlovian thing.

Which is why I was initially going to name this essay “Trump vs Pavlov”. 100+ years ago, Ivan Pavlov “found” that if he rang a bell in front of a dog, and then gave her food, she would start to associate the two. When he increased the time-lapse between first, the bell, and then, the food, the dog would salivate in expectation of food at just the sound of the bell. In the end, all he had to do was ring the bell, with no food around, and the dog would salivate. So he had nothing to offer, no food, no substance, but the reaction was the same.

That is a very accurate description of what a large part of the US media have done -and become-. All they have to do at this point is mention Trump, or just show his picture, and their public will react the same every single time: Orange Man Bad. There doesn’t have to be any substance, any factual journalistic reports of wrongdoing. The “conditioned reflex” as Pavlov described it, has set in.

And their readers and viewers have become addicted to this. How could they not? They’ve been bombarded with 1000s of these bells ringing, and the substance may not be there, but the expectation of it is. If you’re a regular viewer of Rachel Maddow, what are the odds that your opinion is still your own after hearing RussiaRussia a million times? The only way it could be yours is if you switch her off.

I’ve written before that I don’t even think they really set out to do this. Initially, there were probably just some CEOs and owners and editors who didn’t like Trump and/or were affiliated in one way or another with the other party -and later candidate-. Who was counted on to win big anyway, so why not (well, because of the integrity of the political system!).

It was only later that they found out 24/7 anti-Trump “reporting” was a great business model for them. CNN was dying in early 2016, the New York Times was nor far behind, and all of a sudden numbers of viewers and readers and subscribers went through the roof.

Their problem is that if they succeed in making Trump lose in November, they will be back to where they came from before he appeared on the political scene. All of their “reporting” on US politics has devolved into a scheme based on ringing a bell, and on the scandal and anger their non-stop salivating audience have become addicted to, and mistake for substance.

If Joe Biden should win, that scheme is dead. They may hope to last a bit longer on the angry scandal of a possible persecution of Trump if he leaves office, but that would be it, and that’s not a business model. They can’t very well now turn on Biden and his puppeteers.

New York Times writer and editor Bari Weiss said it very well when she left the paper a few weeks ago, she summarized the essence of the MSM problem in just a few words:

“[..] the lessons that ought to have followed the election – lessons about the importance of understanding other Americans, the necessity of resisting tribalism, and the centrality of the free exchange of ideas to a democratic society—have not been learned. Instead, a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else”.


Why edit something challenging to our readers, or write something bold only to go through the numbing process of making it ideologically kosher, when we can assure ourselves of job security (and clicks) by publishing our 4000th op-ed arguing that Donald Trump is a unique danger to the country and the world?

 

That’s the media. Second in line is US intelligence. Which, there’s no other way to put it, conspired against a presidential candidate and, when he was elected, a sitting president. The Strzok-Page “insurance policy”, the Obama Oval Office conversations where Comey, Brennan, Clapper, Susan Rice were present, plus 1,000 other things, the overall picture doesn’t exactly point to that famous seamless transition, and US Intel played a pivotal, because accommodating, role in that.

The best way to show this is perhaps that US intelligence themselves did not (could not) come up with a report on alleged links between the -prospective- president’s team and Russia, but took a dossier paid for by the president’s opposition and used it to discredit and persecute him and people in his team. The dossier was written by a two-bit MI6 hustler who hadn’t set foot in Russia in at least a decade, and whose main ‘Russian source’ wasn’t there either, but sitting in an office in the US.

That source in turn had contacts with a group of Russians whose very business model it was to make up and embellish whatever stories the highest bidder required, while failing to deal with their own severe drinking problems. That dossier was the entire foundation (or 99% of it) behind Rod Rosenstein appointing Bob Mueller as a Special Counsel. The appointment would never have been made, never have been possible, without the Steele dossier.

 

How was the dossier vetted by US intelligence, if at all? It’s very clear now what was wrong with it, but the all knowing and very clever intelligence people could not have figured that out 4 years ago, and instead cleared it for Mueller, for further FBI use, for FISA applications? How about their treatment of Michael Flynn, who they had already cleared only to resurrect the dead corpse of their investigation into his talks with Russian ambassador Kislyak? How would you, personally, spell “in good faith”?

We will see in the near future what the Durham investigation into all Russiagate players will come to. Apparently, Durham has just another three weeks to present at least something, because there is a two-month “no-go-zone” before the election, during which he would be accused of tampering with the election. And the premise for the Democrats and their sympathizers is that if Biden wins, all slates will be wiped clean.

They won’t, by the way. America still has a justice system, even if it is oftentimes crippled and grinding(ly) slow. Just watch Michael Flynn attorney Sidney Powell and her team. They have vowed to not only have their client be exonerated, but to fully clear his name, which according to their view has been besmirched by everyone up to and including Joe Biden and Barack Obama.

 

The third leg of the “creature” is the Democratic party. Who have stepped so far over their boundaries, nobody recognizes anymore that there were any. Or that the political system they are an integral part of, dictates that there are things they cannot do, lest they corrupt that system to the core.

Once you lose a presidential election, you prepare for the next one. You don’t use the next 4 years to try and frustrate the president you just lost to with all you got. The system should not allow it and can not tolerate it. There should be skin in the game for opposition politicians, who when they come with accusations of gross misconduct serious enough to remove a president, should be forced to step down when the accusations don’t lead to the intended result.

It should never be a free for all, in which you can simply try again the next morning. Because the system cannot work if that is possible. It can’t be that if you win a midterm election and get a majority in the House, you can then use that majority to make it impossible for a president to work on the agenda that made millions vote for him/her. That would cause the system to grind to a halt, and the system must always be more important than its temporary participants (even those who “sit” for 40-50 years).

When you look at the speaker’s list for the Democrat -non- convention next week where Joe Biden will be confirmed as their -virtual- candidate, you see that other than AOC, it’s just a long list of the same old people who were already there when they lost in 2016, and co-losers Hillary and Obama still have a very tight grip on the power and the purse strings.

Why they stick with Joe Biden, g-d only knows, and the same goes for whichever highly unpopular black woman they pick as VP who could soon be president. And sorry, but they all are. Kamala Harris was among the first to step down during the primaries because she didn’t get any votes. Susan Rice is not exactly “loved by the people” either, and the rest are no-names, except for Warren, but she’s both too left and much too white.

So you’re thinking: what’s going on there? That’s really the best you can do? But it does seem to be, likely because Barackillary have a small group of confidantes to choose from who they themselves are confident will be willing to cede all actual power to them once elected. And if Harris and Rice don’t get picked as VP, they’ll still exert a lot of power.

As will Pelosi, Schiff, Nadler, there’s more new blood at Madame Tussaud’s than at the upper echelons of the Democratic party. Yes, AOC can come in to represent the squad in a cynical move (no power but brings in lots of votes), but that’s it. For the rest it’s still just the broken left wing of the war party. But you’re right, they’re none of them, Trump. And that at the same time is the sole identity they possess.

 

Anti-Trumpism has become a political religion. Because Trump is the only topic that attracts clickbait and viewers. The only topic that rings a bell. Joe Biden rings no bells whatsoever. A while back Donald Trump jr tweeted:

Trump is really running against the media, Silicon Valley, the establishment, the swamp, Hollywood and maybe Joe Biden.

While investor GreekFire23 did even better:

Trump is running against himself in this election. The vote will come down to those who love him vs those who hate him. Biden is totally irrelevant and not even campaigning. Biden has no platform, no slogan, no stickers, no signs, no rallies, no followers. It’s Trump vs Trump.

What can still sink Trump is obvious: it’s the economy and the pandemic. America’s problem is that no matter who wins, those will still be its main problems by January 2021. And another problem has been added in the course of 2020: protests and violence in the streets.

 

Update: I thought I could leave it at that for now, step out for a moment, have a glass of wine, let it all sink in, and write a closing paragraph. But then I was sitting outside in gorgeous Athens and this popped up, which I very obviously can’t leave out:

Senate Chairman Subpoenas FBI Director Wray For Russiagate Records; Puts Bidens On Notice

FBI Director Christopher Wray has been subpoenaed by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs to produce “all documents related to the Crossfire Hurricane Investigation,” which includes “all records provided or made available to the Inspector General” regarding the FISA probe, as well as documents regarding the 2016-2017 presidential transition..

[..] The subpoena was issued by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) as part of his investigation into the origins of Russiagate. It gives Wray until 5 p.m. on Aug. 20 to produce the documents. Johnson also released a lengthy letter on Monday in which he defended his Committee’s investigation and accused Democrats of initiating “a coordinated disinformation campaign and effort to personally attack” himself and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) in order to distract from evidence his committee has gathered on Joe and Hunter Biden’s Ukraine dealings.

[..] Johnson’s committee has secured testimony from at least one State Department official who worked in Ukraine, and says the Bidens’ conduct created the appearance of a conflict of interest. “The appearance of family profiteering off of Vice President Biden’s official responsibilities is not unique to the circumstances involving Ukraine and Burisma,” wrote Johnson. “Public reporting has also shown Hunter Biden following his father into China and coincidentally landing lucrative business deals and investments there.

“Additionally, the former vice president’s brothers and sister-in-law, Frank, James and Sara Biden, also are reported to have benefited financially from his work as well.

I can’t let that go because it addresses exactly what my closing paragraph would have been about. Which is the risk of the giant divide that has developed in US society, getting even wider, and potentially leading to utter mayhem. Actually, it’s not even ‘potentially’ anymore, there already has been a lot of violence.

The Democrats think they will win easily on November 3, and then push through all of their their policies, after dumping on Trump for 4 years with their media and intelligence friends, but the 63 million Americans who voted for Trump, and most of their family and friends with them, don’t think so. That’s not a threat, it’s an observation.

They feel cheated out of their 2016 victory. They realize (or should I say “suspect”) that Russiagate and the Mueller probe and the Zelensky-linked impeachment “hearings” were empty vessels directed against the election outcome that they won fair and square, and I guarantee you they won’t take it sitting down.

Which means that no matter who wins, polarization will reach levels America has never seen, and, frankly, should never wish to. Because all of the people involved, bar just a precious few, will have to live together in the same country, and share the same society, streets, highways, stores and resources.

And sometimes I wonder: how are they going to do that? If Trump should win, how will the entire so-called left react, from the Democrats through the MSM to BLM? Will they just increase the protests and the violence in the streets?

Alternatively, if Joe Biden wins, how will the Conservative side of America react? Will they all go home and wait for what the DNC has in store for them, or will their reaction be pro-active? I know which reaction I would see them lean towards.

You have these two sides in society who appear further apart than even Moses could have hoped to bring back together again, you have the media who thrive on widening that divide even further, it’s a scary picture.

 

And in the meantime, while everyone’s busy blaming each other, who’s going to take care of the country?

 

 

 

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Aug 102020
 


William-Adolphe Bouguereau La naissance de Vénus 1879

 

The Spies Who Hijacked America (Schrage)
Memo Shows FBI May Have Misled Senate About Russia Probe (JTN)
Pelosi, Mnuchin Open Door To Narrower COVID19 Aid Through 2020 (R.)
Fed’s Evans Says Another Coronavirus Aid Package ‘Incredibly Important’ (R.)
The US Economy Is Stronger Than the Eurozone’s (Lacalle)
Hong Kong Media Tycoon, Pro-Democracy Leader Arrested In New Crackdown (JTN)
Should The Government Balance Its Budget? (DO)
One-Fifth Of All Mail-in Ballots Disqualified In NYC Primary (JTN)
The Very Un-Christian Nagasaki Bomb (Kohls)

 

 

We passed 20 million cases, another sad milestone. But both new cases and new deaths are quite low. With US new cases below 50,000, and deaths at “only” 534, overall not a bad weekend, in the grand scheme of things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pelosi

Aaron Maté Russiagate Monsters under the bed

 

 

If you read just one thing today, try this. From Matt Taibbi’s substack.

“As a doctoral candidate at Cambridge working under “FBI Informant” Stefan Halper, I had a front-row seat for Russiagate..”

The Spies Who Hijacked America (Schrage)

Global scandals now labeled Russiagate, Spygate, and what President Trump calls “Obamagate” shook the political world, but hit me closer to home. I’m the reason the so-called FBI “spy” at the center of Spygate, Stefan Halper, met Carter Page, the alleged “Russian Asset” in Russiagate’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation. On May 19, 2018, this realization blindsided me in London as I was about to fly out for my wedding. The New York Times, NBC News and other sources had outed my PhD supervisor, Stefan Halper, as a spy known to the UK’s MI6 intelligence service as “The Walrus.” It didn’t seem real. Could a former professor I once trusted as a mentor have betrayed his word, profession, and country to start these disasters?

I had moved to England to pursue an academic career and leave DC’s politics behind, only to have my PhD supervisor throw me back into the most outrageous political firestorms I could imagine. Just my luck. Then an even worse question began nagging at me. Did I unintentionally light the match that started it all? As I started to piece together what happened over the next few months, I realized something. The stories that The New York Times, Washington Post, and others were pushing didn’t add up. Many seemed planted to cover up or advance the agendas of several individuals whose tentacles secretly ran through these scandals, and who each had longstanding ties to intelligence services like the FBI, CIA, and MI6. I call these individuals the Cambridge Four.

Strangely, all four were linked through that sleepy British academic town thousands of miles from the alleged “ground zeroes” of Russiagate’s conspiracies, Moscow and DC. In addition to the central “Spygate” figure Halper, they include the central source of “Russiagate’s” fake conspiracy theories, Christopher Steele; former MI6 Director Sir Richard Dearlove; and Halper’s and Dearlove’s partner in a Cambridge Intelligence Seminar linked to titillating — but false — tales of a “Russian spy” seducing Trump’s top national security advisor. My years of work with Halper provided an inside view of how their four networks interconnected. The more I dug up new pieces of this puzzle, the more I saw how these individuals’ seemingly separate acts might fit together in an absurd picture of how these scandals really started.

Armed with first-hand knowledge and evidence, I quietly sought to help federal investigators uncover these scandals’ mysteries. It wasn’t my first rodeo. After witnessing the plane that hit the Pentagon on 9/11, I led G8 and State Department international crime and terrorism efforts with Department of Justice (DOJ), FBI, and intelligence officials and had worked for decades in White House, Congressional, and presidential campaign roles. This helped me keep a stiff upper lip when I was falsely accused in 2019 by the House Intelligence Committee’s Ranking Republican and others on television as being part of a secret anti-Trump cabal. As much as I wanted to defend myself, I knew our best shot of exposing the real forces behind these scandals was for me to remain publicly silent and not let those under investigation know what I knew or was willing to say.

Read more …

MAY have?

Memo Shows FBI May Have Misled Senate About Russia Probe (JTN)

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Sunday released a document it says shows the FBI misled senators on the Intelligence Committee during the Russia probe by falsely suggesting Christopher Steele’s dossier was backed up by one of his key sources. “Somebody needs to go to jail for this,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the panel’s chairman, told the Fox News program Sunday Futures with Maria Bartiromo. “This is a second lie. This is a second crime. They lied to the FISA court. They got rebuked, the FBI did, in 2019 by the FISA court, putting in doubt all FISA applications. “A year before, they’re lying to the Senate Intel Committee. It’s just amazing the compounding of the lies,” Graham added.

The document in question contains the draft talking points the FBI used to brief the Senate Intelligence Committee in February 2018, including an assessment that the primary sub-source of the information contained in the Steele dossier had backed up the former MI-6 agent’s reporting. The primary sub-source “did not cite any significant concerns with the way his reporting was characterized in the dossier to the extent he could identify it,” the FBI memo claimed. “…At minimum, our discussions with [the Primary Sub-source] confirm that the dossier was not fabricated by Steele.” In fact, by the time the FBI provided senators the briefing, agents had already interviewed Steele’s primary sub-source who disavowed much of what was attributed to him in the dossier as in “jest” or containing uncorroborated allegations.

Agents also had been warned by the CIA that Steele’s memos contained disinformation fed to him by Russian intelligence services, and had created a spreadsheet showing most of the claims in the dossier were either debunked, unable to be corroborated or Internet rumor. Graham said the document is so misleading he is demanding FBI Director Chris Wray identify the names of those involved in the briefing. “They misled the hell out of them,” he said. There is widespread evidence released by the Judiciary Committee and the DOJ inspector general contradicting the February 2018 FBI briefing memo including that the primary sub-source:

• told the FBI that he “has no idea” where some of the language attributed to him came from or that his contacts and “never mentioned” some information attributed to him.
• told the FBI he “did not know the origins” or “did not recall” other information contained in the dossier that was supposedly from his contacts
• alleged that Steele used “incorrect source characterization” for one of his contacts. told the FBI that the corroboration for the dossier was “zero” and that he takes what the sources for the dossier told him with “a grain of salt.”
• claimed much of what he told Steele was second-hand or even in jest and never intended it to be treated as intelligence because if was “word of mouth and hearsay” and “conversation that [he] had with friends over beers.”

Read more …

Pelosi tried to be a leader and failed. Now she’s a follower. Does that about sum it up?

Pelosi, Mnuchin Open Door To Narrower COVID19 Aid Through 2020 (R.)

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Sunday said they were open to restarting COVID-19 aid talks, after weeks of failed negotiations prompted President Donald Trump to take executive actions that Democrats argued would do little to ease Americans’ financial distress. Discussions over a fifth bill to address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic fell apart on Friday, a week after the expiration of a critical boost in unemployment assistance and eviction protections, exposing people to a wave of economic pain as infections continue to rise across the country.

Trump on Saturday sought to take matters into his own hands, signing executive orders and memorandums aimed at unemployment benefits, evictions, student loans and payroll taxes. Trump told reporters in New Jersey before returning to Washington on Sunday that his suspension of the collection of the payroll tax could be made permanent. He said doing so would have no impact on Social Security because reimbursement would be made through the general fund. Trump, noting that Democrats want to resume stimulus discussions, said the White House would be willing to talk to them again “if it’s not a waste of time.”

On Sunday, both Pelosi and Mnuchin appeared willing to consider a narrower deal that would extend some aid until the end of the year, and then revisit the need for more federal assistance in January. That would come after November’s election, which could rebalance power in Washington. “Let’s pass legislation on things that we agree on,” Mnuchin told Fox News in an interview. “We don’t have to get everything done at once. … What we should do is get things done for the American public now, come back for another bill afterwards.”

DDMB Out of work

Read more …

Protect small businesses? Half of them are gone forever. Protect the people instead.

Fed’s Evans Says Another Coronavirus Aid Package ‘Incredibly Important’ (R.)

The United States should implement another support package to ensure workers can stay safely at home while the novel coronavirus continues to spread, Chicago Fed President Charles Evans said in an interview with CBS News released on Sunday. Evans said it was up to U.S. lawmakers to protect small businesses and vulnerable communities with measures that ensure they can continue to pay their rent and buy food as long as the virus was not under control. “I think that public confidence is really important and another support package is really incredibly important,” Evans said on CBS’s Face the Nation program.


He also said that the most pessimistic economic projections involved not supporting state and local governments, which in turn would have to implement drastic cuts to support some of the federal aid measures. Evans’ comments come after U.S. lawmakers failed to strike an agreement on a second aid package after weeks of negotiations, leaving tens of millions of unemployed Americans without direct federal support.

Read more …

And you would expect to see that reflected in the USD’s exchange rate. But not yet.

The US Economy Is Stronger Than the Eurozone’s (Lacalle)

The United States is showing resiliency and strength compared with other leading economies worldwide. The impact of the covid-19 forced shutdown crisis is lower in the United States than in Japan, Germany, France, the average of the European Union 27, and the euro area countries. The recovery is also stronger and more sustainable. This does not mean that the economic impact is small. Recession is severe and its impact on jobs and growth cannot be underestimated, but it is important to show how other economies with larger government spending plans and important entitlement programs are showing a much weaker performance. The second quarter GDP was much better than in the euro area (–9.5 percent quarterly compared to –12.1 percent in the eurozone), although it reflects a notable quarterly drop, and well below the one seen in 2008.

This comparison is important because most mainstream economists believe that higher government spending and public sector help offset the blow of a recession. They do not. The United States quarterly GDP fall, at –9.5 percent, is small compared to Germany’s –10.1 percent, France’s –13.8 percent, Italy’s –12.4 percent, Spain’s –18.5 percent and the European Union 27’s at –11.9 percent. You may have read about the quarterly annualized –32.9 percent figure for the United States, but it is misleading to compare it with the European published figures, which are not annualized. The annualized rate estimates how much the economy would grow or shrink if the rate of change seen in the quarter continued for four consecutive quarters.

If we compared apples to apples, the quarterly annualized GDP collapse would be from –40 percent in Germany to –55 percent in Spain compared to the US’s –32.9 percent. In any case, it seems relevant to insist on three points: 1) the United States GDP decline was smaller than consensus estimates; 2) it is notably lower than the eurozone figure, which was worse than consensus expected; and 3) the advanced US data points to one of the strongest recoveries in the world. The improvement in domestic demand that we already began to observe in the month of May has been confirmed in June. Retail sales registered an increase of 7.5 percent per month, the second-highest number in the historical series after the May data, and this time with a less relevant “base effect.” In year-on-year terms, retail sales have already grown 1.1 percent and, eliminating vehicle sales, this increase amounts to 7.3 percent year on year. Still a lot to improve, though.

Advanced and leading indicators in the United States point to a third quarter GDP rise of 18 to 20 percent in annualized terms, a recovery of more than half of the decline in first half of the year in three months. There is a lot to do and no one can be complacent. If consumption and investment progress within potential, the US economy could close the year at flat growth and 6 percent unemployment in the most optimistic scenario. However, it is more likely that the economy will end the year down 5 percent and with unemployment at 8.5 percent, all according to our estimates. This compares with a eurozone that may likely fall more than 9 percent in 2020, with official unemployment and furloughed jobs reaching an average of 12.5 percent according to Bloomberg.

Read more …

Cullusion with foreign forces. It’s like the US. And now they can take him to China under the new law?!

Hong Kong Media Tycoon, Pro-Democracy Leader Arrested In New Crackdown (JTN)

Jimmy Lai, a prominent publisher and pro-democracy leader in Hong Kong, was arrested Monday on charges of foreign collusion under a new national security law sharply criticized by the United States. The 71-year-old founder of the Apple Daily outlet and a longtime antagonist of communist China was taken in custody as police raided his newsroom seeking documents. Lai was already facing other charges related to his organization of protests last year, but the new counts sent shockwaves through Hong Kong. Lai’s arrest was part of a larger police operation. Hong Kong law enforcement officials said at least seven people aged 39 to 72 had been arrested on suspicion of collusion with foreign forces against national security, and conspiracy to commit fraud.

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Twitter thread from Deficit Owl h/t Steve Keen. I’ve said it before: we must have these discussions.

Should The Government Balance Its Budget? (DO)

One popular idea in “Keynesian economics” is that the government should balance its budget over the course of the business cycle, running deficits for stimulus during recessions, then surpluses in booms to bring down the debt. This is a bad strategy, because it neglects the interconnectedness of financial positions in the economy. One entity’s spending is another’s income; so for somebody to run a surplus, somebody else has to run a deficit. So if we say “gov should run a surplus,” what does that imply about private financial positions? In the US, because of structural factors that aren’t going away anytime soon, we nearly always run deficits against the rest of the world (the trade/current account deficit), meaning that we send income overseas that doesn’t come back as spending.

That means that for the US private sector balance to be positive (a surplus), the gov sector balance has to be negative (a deficit) and it has to be at least as large as the losses to the foreign sector (the gov deficit ≥ the current account deficit). The private sector doesn’t need to be in surplus at all times. But we also wouldn’t expect it to be continually in deficit – that would imply, on net, ever-worsening financial positions in the private sector, running down saved assets and/or issuing new IOUs. So what happens to the private sector if the gov “balances its budget over the cycle”? In recessions, depending on the size of the gov deficit, the private sector will be balanced or running small surpluses (because the foreign deficit cancels out some/all of the gov deficit). But in booms, the private sector would be deeply in the red (deficit), because the gov surpluses would be subtracting income out of the private sector, while the foreign sector is doing it too. /7

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This discussion is far from over.

One-Fifth Of All Mail-in Ballots Disqualified In NYC Primary (JTN)

Tens of thousands of mail-in voting ballots in the recent New York Democratic presidential primary election were disqualified without being counted — a sign that the country’s looming presidential election, one which may be conducted significantly by mail, could be facing procedural chaos over countless disputed and uncounted votes. A total of more than 84,000 ballots were disqualified in the city primary — roughly 21%, or one out of every five votes — many of them due to late submissions, lack of postmarks and missing signatures. Kings County — the borough of Brooklyn — alone saw 30,000 ballots invalidated. The disorganized voting and tallying process could signal a coming crisis in November, when much of the American vote is expected to be submitted via mail due to fears of the coronavirus.

A Pew Research Center Poll from June found that just one out of every five Americans voted by mail in the 2016 election; many officials across the country have been pushing in recent months for every American voter to receive a mail-in ballot. President Trump has of late warned repeatedly that the mail-in voting process is ripe for fraud and abuse, yet the disarray of New York’s primary suggests procedural issues may form a much larger concern for election integrity in November. A localized ruling by a federal judge last week has thrown the New York primary into even greater disorder. Judge Analisa Torres ruled Aug. 3 that, due to faulty mailing and processing issues, all mail-in votes in the state received up to two days after the election must be counted so long as they were postmarked by the day of the election.

Torres extended that order to cover all elections across the state, claiming that not doing so “would risk running afoul of the Constitution’s guarantee of equal treatment.” State Board of Elections spokesman John Conklin told Just the News that Torres’ ruling has not yet been enforced. “The State Board of Elections is appealing the decision,” he said via email. “If we lose the appeal then all affected boards will have to conduct additional canvassing for absentee ballots received on June 24th and 25th without a postmark. The local boards would then submit amended certifications of their primary results.”

“It is not expected that the outcome in any contest will be changed,” Conklin added. “Absentee ballots can be disqualified for any number of statutory reasons,” he added, including “late postmark, no postmark, the Oath envelope not signed and dated by the voter, the signature on the Oath envelope does not match the signature in the voter’s registration record, the Oath envelope not sealed by the voter, the voter is deceased, the voter showed up in person to vote on Election Day,” and numerous other factors.

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There was zero need to drop it, or the Hiroshima bomb. Japan had been looking for a way to surrender for months. But Russia also declared war on Japan, and that changed things.

The Very Un-Christian Nagasaki Bomb (Kohls)

Seventy-five years ago today, an all-Christian bomber crew dropped “Fat Man,” a plutonium bomb, on Nagasaki, Japan, instantly annihilating tens of thousands of innocent civilians, a disproportionate number of them Japanese Christians, and wounding uncountable numbers of others. For targeting purposes, the bombing crew used St. Mary’s Urakami Cathedral, the largest Christian church in East Asia. At 11:02 a.m., on Aug. 9, 1945, when the bomb was dropped over the cathedral, Nagasaki was the most Christian city in Japan. At the time, the United States was arguably the most Christian nation in the world (that is, if you can label as Christian a nation whose churches overwhelmingly have failed to sincerely teach or adhere to the peaceful ethics of Jesus as taught in the Sermon on the Mount).

The baptized and confirmed Christian airmen, following their wartime orders to the letter, did their job efficiently, and they accomplished the mission with military pride, albeit with a number of near-fatal glitches. Most Americans in 1945 would have done exactly the same if they had been in the shoes of the Bock’s Car crew, and there would have been very little mental anguish later if they had also been treated as heroes. Nevertheless, the use of that monstrous weapon of mass destruction to destroy a mainly civilian city like Nagasaki was an international war crime and a crime against humanity as defined later by the Nuremberg Tribunal. Of course, there was no way that the crew members could have known that at the time. Some of the crew did admit that they had had some doubts about what they had participated in when the bomb actually detonated.

Of course, none of them actually saw the horrific suffering of the victims up close and personal. “Orders are orders” and, in wartime, disobedience can be, and has been, legally punishable by summary execution of the soldier who might have had a conscience strong enough to convince him that killing another human, especially an unarmed one, was morally wrong. When Nagasaki was destroyed, it had been only three days since another U.S. atomic bomb, nicknamed “Little Boy,” had decimated Hiroshima. The Nagasaki bombing on Aug. 9 occurred amid chaos and confusion in Tokyo, where the fascist military government, which had known for months that it had lost the war, was searching for a way to honorably surrender.

The only obstacle to surrender had been the Allied insistence on unconditional surrender, which meant that the Emperor Hirohito, whom the Japanese regarded as a deity, would be removed from his figurehead position in Japan and possible subjected to war crimes trials. That was a deal-breaker, an intolerable demand for the Japanese that prolonged the war and prevented Japan from giving up months earlier.

St. Mary’s Urakami Cathedral after the bomb exploded above it as shown in a photograph dated Jan. 7, 1946.

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1944 CIA memo on how to infiltrate an organisation

 

 

This statue doesn’t like dogs. Think we should topple it?

 

 

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Jun 192020
 


NPC “Largest electric locomotive and Congressman John C. Schafer” 1924 (he’d be in an electric car today)

 

Mainland China Reports 32 New Coronavirus Cases, 25 Of Them In Beijing (R.)
Mexico Posts Record Number Of New Coronavirus Infections (R.)
AMC Theaters To Reopen, Say Face Masks A “Political Controversy” (V.)
John Bolton’s Bad Reviews Don’t Stop Him Topping Us Book Charts (G.)
Bolton, Pelosi Agree: Trump Unfit To Be US President (R.)
Japan’s Deflation Gathers Momentum As Prices Extend Declines (R.)
Fed Chair: Keep Private Entities Out Of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CD)
EU Car Sales Crash 57% In May As Europe Amid Inventory Glut (ZH)
Australia Sees China As Main Suspect In State-Based Cyberattacks (R.)
Report Reveals CIA Incompetence To Blame For Vault 7 Breach (RT)
Americans Are Unhappiest They’ve Been In Nearly 50 Years (Ind.)
Indian Primate Jailed For Life After Carnivorous Rampage (RT)

 

 

Happy Juneteenth!

I made sure to check quite a few times, but it is what it is: according to Worldometer data, over the past 24 hours global new cases went from an almost record 141,872 on June 17 to an all-records shattering 177,168 on June 18. Maybe something’s off, but right now I couldn’t say what.

 

Worldometer reports new cases for June 18 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 140,528. Third consecutive day above 140,000.

My count 6AM EDT to 6AM EDT based on Worldometer numbers is much higher today at 177,168.

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 29,180
• Brazil + 23,050
• Russia + 7,790
• India + 13,827
• Mexico + 5,662

 

 

Cases 8,602,359 (+ 177,168 from yesterday’s 8,425,191)

Deaths 456,802 (+ 4,994 from yesterday’s 451,808)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hunan we have a problem.

Mainland China Reports 32 New Coronavirus Cases, 25 Of Them In Beijing (R.)

Mainland China reported 32 new coronavirus cases as of the end of June 18, 25 of which were reported in the capital city Beijing, China’s National Health Commission said on Friday. This compared with 28 confirmed cases a day earlier, 21 of which were in Beijing. Local authorities are restricting movement of people in the capital and stepping up other measures to prevent the virus from spreading further following a series of local infections. Another five asymptomatic COVID-19 patients, those who are infected with the coronavirus but show no symptoms, were also reported as of June 18 compared with eight a day earlier. China does not count these patients as confirmed cases.

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Did we close the borders yet?

Mexico Posts Record Number Of New Coronavirus Infections (R.)

Mexico’s health ministry reported on Thursday a record 5,662 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections and 667 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 165,455 cases and 19,747 deaths. The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

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“AMC Theater CEO Adam Aron says their cinemas won’t require masks upon reopening because they didn’t “want to be drawn into a political controversy.”

Is testing also a political viewpoint? How about COVID19 treatment at hospitals? Can we deny that to people who have political issues with facemasks?

AMC Theaters To Reopen, Say Face Masks A “Political Controversy” (V.)

AMC Theatres, the world’s largest exhibitor, has unveiled plans to re-open after coronavirus forced it to close its more than 600 venues in the U.S. for nearly four months. The company is expected to resume operations in 450 of those locations on July 15 and expects to be almost fully operational by the time that Disney’s “Mulan” debuts on July 24 and Warner Bros.’ “Tenet” bows on July 31. As part of that process, AMC is reducing its seating capacity in order to help people social distance, it is implementing new cleaning procedures, placing hand-sanitizing stations throughout its theaters and encouraging contact-less and cash-free concessions. “We didn’t rush to reopen,” AMC CEO and president Adam Aron said in an interview with Variety.

“There were some jurisdictions in some states, such as Georgia and Texas, that allowed people to reopen theaters in mid-May. We opted to remain closed, so we could give the country time to get a better handle on coronavirus. We wanted to use this time to figure out how best to open and how to do so safely.” AMC’s competitors Regal and Cinemark announced their own plans to resume business earlier this week, targeting a similar mid-July timeframe for when they expect to be fully operational. [..] Prior to coronavirus there was a great deal of consolidation in the exhibition space, much of it made possible by debt financing. AMC’s decision to acquire rivals such as Odeon Cinemas, UCI Cinemas and Carmike Cinemas left it heavily leveraged with more than $5 billion in debt. In recent filings, AMC acknowledged that the coronavirus pandemic could push it into bankruptcy. [..]

AMC will not mandate that all guests wear masks, although employees will be required to do so. Nor will AMC perform temperature checks on customers, though it will monitor its employees’ temperatures and have them undergo screenings to check for signs of coronavirus. The situation will be different in states and cities that require residents to wear a mask when they’re in public, but Aron said that AMC was wary of wading into a public health issue that has become politicized. “We did not want to be drawn into a political controversy,” said Aron. “We thought it might be counterproductive if we forced mask wearing on those people who believe strongly that it is not necessary. We think that the vast majority of AMC guests will be wearing masks. When I go to an AMC feature, I will certainly be wearing a mask and leading by example.”

[..] the theater chain said that it is going to lean heavily on technological solutions such as deploying electrostatic sprayers, HEPA vacuums and upgraded MERV 13 ventilation filters, which would eliminate airborne particles and reduce the chance that COVID-19 will spread. Other procedures being implemented include cleaning auditoriums between each showtime and allowing extra time between screenings for disinfection; blocking out every other row of seats to decrease congestion; pushing guests to use online ticketing and kiosks to limit interactions with staff, and designating various points within theaters for one-way foot traffic.

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“Orange Man Bad” beats Black Lives Matter.

John Bolton’s Bad Reviews Don’t Stop Him Topping Us Book Charts (G.)

John Bolton’s damning indictment of the Trump presidency is soaring up online charts in the US a week before its release, despite withering reviews describing it as “bloated with self-importance”, as the Trump administration makes a last-ditch attempt to prevent its publication. In the teeth of a series of critical assessments from papers including the New York Times and the Washington Post, Bolton’s The Room Where It Happened is currently No 1 on Amazon’s US charts. Its sales are just ahead of another scathing take on Donald Trump, this time his niece Mary Trump’s forthcoming Too Much and Never Enough, which is subtitled How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. Bolton’s book, which is out on 23 June, and Mary Trump’s, scheduled for 28 July, have knocked anti-racism titles by authors including Ibram X Kendi, Ijeoma Oluo and Robin DiAngelo off the top spots.

As the US justice department on Wednesday sought an emergency order to block publication of Bolton’s memoir, copies of the book were leaked to news outlets which revealed a series of explosive claims from the former national security adviser. According to Bolton, Trump pleaded with China to help him with his 2020 re-election campaign, praised China’s president Xi Jinping for his country’s internment camps, and was willing to halt criminal investigations to “give personal favours to dictators he liked”. Trump also weighed in, claiming on Twitter that the book is “made up of lies & fake stories”. Early reviews of the book have not been favourable. The New York Times said the memoir was “bloated with self-importance, even though what it mostly recounts is Bolton not being able to accomplish very much”.

Filled with “minute and often extraneous details”, the review continued, it “toggles between two discordant registers: exceedingly tedious and slightly unhinged”. The Washington Post said that “for a memoir that is startlingly candid about many things, Bolton’s utter lack of self-criticism is one of the book’s significant shortcomings”, while NPR found that Bolton “clearly does not expect to attract the casual reader, or anyone else unable to digest sentences such as this one on the third page: ‘Constant personnel turnover obviously didn’t help, nor did the White House’s Hobbesian bellum omnium contra omnes (war of all against all)’.”

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Bolton, Pelosi Agree: Trump Unfit To Be US President (R.)

President Donald Trump came under attack from both sides of the American political spectrum on Thursday as liberal Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and former White House aide and conservative hawk John Bolton both declared him unfit to lead the country. “President Trump is clearly ethically unfit and intellectually unprepared to be the president of the United States,” Pelosi, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, told a news briefing. In a new book, Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, has accused the Republican president of sweeping misdeeds, including explicitly seeking Chinese President Xi Jinping’s aid to win re-election in November. “I don’t think he’s fit for office,” Bolton told ABC News in part of an interview aired on Thursday.

“There really isn’t any guiding principle that I was able to discern other than what’s good for Donald Trump’s re-election.” Pelosi told a weekly news conference she was consulting with her fellow Democrats on whether to subpoena Bolton about the allegations in the book, which has not yet been distributed. If Bolton testifies before Congress, it could revive the issue of Trump’s competence as he faces a stiff challenge on Nov. 3 from Joe Biden, the Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee, and fends off criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and protests over racial injustice and police brutality. Bolton refused to testify in the House’s impeachment probe last year and threatened to sue if subpoenaed. He offered to testify in the subsequent trial in the Senate, but the Republican-controlled chamber did not take him up on the offer.

[..] Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman who led the impeachment inquiry, sharply criticized Bolton as unpatriotic for withholding information from the probe. The new allegations are “further proof” that Trump’s actions in Ukraine were part of a pattern of abusing his power and the U.S. government for personal political gain, Schiff said in a statement.

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Abenomics will die with Abe’s political career regardless.

Japan’s Deflation Gathers Momentum As Prices Extend Declines (R.)

Japan’s core consumer prices fell for a second straight month in May, reinforcing deflation expectations and raising the challenge for policymakers battling to revive an economy reeling from the coronavirus pandemic. The data will likely complicate the Bank of Japan’s job of restoring growth and inflation, with a raft of recent indicators suggesting the nation is in the grip of its worst postwar economic slump. Several BOJ board members warned that stronger monetary support and closer policy coordination with the government were needed to prevent Japan from returning to deflation, minutes of the bank’s April meeting showed.

“With the pandemic hurting the economy, there’s a good chance Japan may slide into deflation. Downward pressure on prices will likely persist throughout this year,” said Yoshiki Shinke, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute. The nationwide core consumer price index (CPI), which includes oil but excludes volatile fresh food prices, fell 0.2% in May from a year earlier, government data showed on Friday. That compared with market forecasts of a 0.1% fall and followed a 0.2% drop in April, which was the first year-on-year decline since December 2016. The BOJ kept policy steady this week after expanding stimulus in March and April. But governor Haruhiko Kuroda conceded that inflation would remain well short of its 2% target for years to come.

[..} Some BOJ policymakers were concerned that bolder steps are needed to prevent the country from slipping back to sustained period of damaging price declines, the April minutes showed. “Japan is now facing the risk of deflation, so it’s possible to further enhance coordination between fiscal and monetary policies,” one BOJ board member was quoted as saying.

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“The private sector is not involved in creating the money supply, that’s something the central bank does.”

Fed Chair: Keep Private Entities Out Of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CD)

Private entities aren’t needed to build central bank digital currencies, said the head of the U.S. central bank on Wednesday. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, speaking before the House Financial Services Committee, said the idea of a digital dollar – a blockchain-based version of the current world reserve currency – is complex, and one that the Fed takes seriously, but also that the idea needs to be studied further before one can be created and implemented. However, in response to a question from Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), Powell said he believed private entities did not have a role in designing a digital dollar.

“I do think this is something that the central banks have to design,” he said. “The private sector is not involved in creating the money supply, that’s something the central bank does.” Emmer was asking specifically about a recommendation from the Digital Dollar Project, which was launched earlier this year by former Commodities Futures Trading Commission Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo, Chief Innovation Officer Daniel Gorfine and Accenture Director David Treat. The project suggested a digital dollar be issued by the Fed but designed in partnership with the private sector and accessible through a two-tiered banking system similar to the one in place in the U.S. today.

Powell said the general public may not be receptive to the idea of private employees being responsible for the money supply because they’re not accountable to “the public good.” Still, the idea is apparently being examined. A group of central banks have gotten together to discuss and better understand the concept as well as evaluate the implications on financial inclusion and concerns around cybersecurity, he said. “If this is something that is going to be good for the United States economy and for the world’s reserve currency, which is the dollar, then we need to be there and we need to understand it first and best,” Powell said. “So we’re working hard on it.”

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A guy I know said he was driving from Holland to Germany this week to pick up a car he bought, an 8-month old BMW at half the new price.

EU Car Sales Crash 57% In May As Europe Amid Inventory Glut (ZH)

New car sales in the EU plunged in May, falling 57% to 623,812, as Europe grapples with the same problem that the U.S. has had for weeks: a glut of inventory, despite re-opening some factories and re-starting production in certain areas. All 27 EU member states posted double digit declines in new car sales, with the U.K. falling an astounding 89%, according to MarketWatch. Production coming out of the EU remains “well blow” pre-crisis levels but the lack of demand continues to contribute to a growing inventory problem. This, in turn, has created a slowdown in an industry that’s already moving at a crawl to begin with. Jobs and profits are both threatened from the glut, in addition to the monumental threat they both still continue to face from the ongoing global pandemic.

Unsold cars on dealer lots are “at least 30% above normal” according to industry analysts, while unsold inventory in Germany alone was about $17 billion worth. Antje Woltermann, managing director of the ZDK industry group: “Unsold stocks are climbing, and on the other hand vehicles are not leaving the lots.” While Europe is struggling, many have looked to China, where sales were up 6% in May, for signs of optimism. For example, Stephan Wöllenstein, chief executive of Volkswagen Group China said: “The return of these kinds of figures is encouraging and gives us continued cautious optimism going forward.”

But those numbers don’t account for the recent second wave of lockdowns, including in Beijing, that China now faces. Countries like France and Germany continues to try and spur sales with government incentives, but Germany is focusing primarily on EVs while the glut is in traditional ICE cars. Recall, in May, we were ahead of the curve when we noted that European car registrations had plunged 76% in April. According to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, the number of new cars sold fell from 1,143,046 to just 270,682 YOY in that month.

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Australia is but a lap dog.

The story changed overnight to name China as the main “suspect”. Of course what would be really suspect is if China DID NOT spy on Australia.

Australia Sees China As Main Suspect In State-based Cyberattacks (R.)

Australia views China as the chief suspect in a spate of cyber-attacks of increasing frequency in recent months, three sources familiar with the government’s thinking told Reuters on Friday. The comments came after Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a “sophisticated state-based actor” had spent months trying to hack all levels of the government, political bodies, essential service providers and operators of critical infrastructure. “We know it is a sophisticated state-based cyber actor because of the scale and nature of the targeting,” Morrison told reporters in the capital, Canberra, but declined to say who Australia believed was responsible.


Three sources briefed on the matter said Australia believed China is responsible, however. “There is a high degree of confidence that China is behind the attacks,” one Australian government source told Reuters, seeking anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to media. Australian intelligence has flagged similarities between the recent attacks and a cyber-attack on parliament and the three largest political parties in March 2019.Last year, Reuters reported that Australia had quietly concluded China was responsible for that cyber-attack. Australia has never publicly identified the source of that attack, however, and China denied it was responsible.

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Russiagate revisited.

Report Reveals CIA Incompetence To Blame For Vault 7 Breach (RT)

According to a just-released internal CIA report, “CCI had prioritized building cyber weapons at the expense of securing their own systems. Day-to-day security practices had become woefully lax.” “Most of our sensitive cyber weapons were not compartmented, users shared systems administrator-level passwords, there were no effective removable media controls, and historical data was available to users indefinitely,” the report goes on to say. The heavily-redacted document actually dates back to October 2017 and was only made public Tuesday by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), in an effort to pressure the new Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe into imposing new security measures. While the CIA ineptitude is the obvious takeaway, no one seems to have noticed the real bombshell: the timing of the breach and its implications.

The report says the CIA “did not realize the loss had occurred until a year later, when WikiLeaks publicly announced it in March 2017.” Now, what all was happening between March 2016 and a year later? You guessed it: Russiagate! Even as his own cyber arsenal was getting swiped from under his very nose, CIA chief John Brennan was obsessing about “Russian hackers” of the Democratic National Committee, or Hillary Clinton’s emails, or something – and pushing the bogus ‘Steele Dossier’ alleging Donald Trump’s collusion with Russia, which eventually made it into the infamous ‘Intelligence Community Assessment’ that accused Moscow of meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. It gets worse. According to the report, “Had the data been stolen for the benefit of a state adversary and not published, we might still be unaware of the loss—as would be true for the vast majority of data on Agency mission systems.”

So if the mythic bogeymen ‘Russian hackers’ had actually wanted to harm the US, they could have just used the CIA’s own, unprotected cyberweapons to stage false flags and wreak havoc across the world? None of which happened, obviously. Yet Brennan and his confederates have been telling everyone for years that the Kremlins wanted to “hack our democracy” by publishing some Democrat emails and posting memes on social media! [..] As for how Vault 7 got to WikiLeaks, the jury is still out on that. Joshua Schulte, the employee charged with leaking the files, is being prosecuted again after a hung jury at his first trial in March. His lawyers have argued the CIA security was so lax, anyone else on the team, or even outsiders, could have done it. The next time the media report some incendiary claim based on US intelligence “assessments,” try to keep all this in mind.

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How cann you be lonely when you have a TV set to keep you company?

Americans Are Unhappiest They’ve Been In Nearly 50 Years (Ind.)

Happiness among Americans has fallen to the lowest level in nearly five decades during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new poll. The Covid Response Tracking Study, conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), found that morale was at the lowest point it has ever been since tracking emotional health trends began in 1972. The number of people who described themselves as very happy fell by 17 points to just 14 per cent in 2020. The previous record low – seen shortly after the 2007/8 Financial Crisis – was 29%. For the first time in 48 years, more people said they were unhappy than very happy. More than 60 per cent of Americans reported being “pretty happy”.


Interviews of the 2,279 US adults that took part in the survey took place between 21-29 May, while large parts of the country were under some form of lockdown designed to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Feelings of loneliness have also increased as a result of the coronavirus lockdown, with half of all respondents saying they felt isolated either very often, often or sometimes. When asked the same question two years previously, less than a quarter of respondents said they experienced feelings of isolation.

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An alcoholic pet monkey…

Indian Primate Jailed For Life After Carnivorous Rampage (RT)

An alcoholic pet monkey has been locked up for good in Uttar Pradesh after a terror spree that left 250 people injured and one dead. Efforts to rehabilitate the animal were scrapped and zoo doctors affirm he’s a menace to society. The six-year-old monkey, named Kalua, received a life sentence of solitary confinement at India’s Kanpur Zoo this week after repeated attempts at normalizing his behavior left zookeepers and other monkeys much the worse for wear. Zoo doctor Mohd Nasir told local media the savage simian would harm people wherever he went if set free, explaining “he remains as aggressive as he was” when first brought to the zoo three years ago.

Kalua formerly belonged to an occultist in Mirzapur district, who fed him a diet of meat and copious alcohol. When his owner died, the grieving pet apparently went into withdrawal, becoming vicious and attacking locals. By the time forest and zoo teams succeeded in apprehending the aggressive creature, he had bitten over 250 people, including 30 children. One of his victims died of the injuries, while others – Kalua apparently has a thing for attacking women and girls – were left in need of plastic surgery. While the zookeepers had hoped to calm Kalua down, substituting a vegetarian diet for the human flesh he’d apparently come to rely on, they didn’t have much luck. The carnivorous creature has stayed hostile, especially toward female zookeepers, and plans to release him back into the wild a changed monkey have been shelved.

Kalua’s misbehavior predates the coronavirus outbreak, but he’s not the only monkey in Uttar Pradesh to make the news in recent weeks. A gang of monkeys attacked a lab technician in Meerut last month, stealing several blood samples taken from Covid-19 patients and running off with them in a scene that seemed lifted straight out of a Hollywood pandemic film.

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Jun 112020
 


Cy Twombly Achilles’ Shield 1978

 

Virtue signaling in the US of A has already reached new heights, and there’s little reason to believe it won’t reach even much higher as we happily signal along. In the process, we will find that applying logic to the undertaking will take us to unanticipated, and highly undesirable (for most protesters), places. But by then a lot of damage, whether we think that’s a good thing or not, will have been done.

HBO opened a Pandora’s Box all of its own when it pulled Gone With the Wind, despite that fact that Hattie McDaniel was the first black American Oscar nominee AND winner. Let’s erase that too. Along with ALL other films that depict slavery in the “wrong” light, or, better yet, that depict slavery at all.

Let’s ban all links to slavery, let’s pretend it never existed, because if we don’t we will find it’s impossible to decide between what we do and do not want to last. not all people have the same preferences or opinions, and neither do all black people.

And while we’re talking movies, and Columbus statues are toppled across the nation because Christopher (before there were any “Americans”) treated indigenous Americans poorly, do let’s ban all Hollywood westerns in which “Indians” are depicted as cannon fodder. No more John Wayne for you. Gone even the few non-westerns Wayne appeared in, because his name and face are forever linked to killing “Indians”. No more Duke.

 

And why stop there? Just to name an example, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, arguably a great book and a good movie, depicts a white man “being compassionate” to a black man oppressed by other white men. Can’t have that, the oppression is obviously racist and so is the good(!) white(!) man who’s the protagonist of the story, written by a white woman(!).

Let’s leaf through all American and other world literature of the past half millennium that describes slavery, including that which talks about “good white” men. There are no good white men!

Anything to do with native Americans must go. Because they were badly treated throughout the 500 years of history they share with white people (Europeans). They still are, just like African Americans. Same difference. Phillis Wheatley, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison? Don’t think so. They were all talking about slavery. And we’re toppling statues in order to stop that talk.

Frederick Douglass? You got to be kidding. His autobiography is called “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave“. Isn’t that enough to topple him? James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, they all remind us of a period we don’t want to be reminded of anymore. It’s enough! No more slavery!

Martin Luther King? Get serious, he talks about nothing but oppression. He even claims black people in his lifetime were still slaves. Muhammad Ali is obviously not welcome anymore, he spoke just about exclusively from the viewpoint of an oppressed man.

 

Washington, D.C. is the capital of the United States of America. George Washington was a slaveholder, he’s obviously out. D.C. stands for District of Columbia, named after Columbus, so that needs a new name. The country gets its name from a Columbus contemporary and fellow explorer who was a slave holder and treated indigenous populations of the countries he “visited” no better than Columbus did. Wikipedia:

Amerigo Vespucci wrote his will in April 1511. He left most of his modest estate, including five household slaves, to his wife.


[..] After Hispaniola they made a brief slave raid in the Bahamas, capturing 232 natives and then returned to Spain.

There once was a time when Washington, D.C. was the capital of the United States of America. But those days must soon be gone. How can you hold on to a name for your capital city that belongs to a man who was a brazen slave holder? Or the district the capital is in? And how can you breathe in a country named after a despicable Italian slaveholder and slave trader?

The US constitution was largely written by slave holders. We’re going to need a new one.

 

 

There are 1747 “symbols of the Confederacy” in the US. I’m guessing Pelosi, once those 11 statues at the Capitol have been toppled, will start work on getting rid of the other 1736 too. And mind you, this doesn’t yet include Columbus, Vespucci, or anyone else who’s “mistreated”, enslaved, murdered, native Americans. We will easily have twice the 1747 number once we include those.

For that matter, if you’re Nancy Pelosi, how and why do you dress up in the “kente cloth” fabrics that originate with the Asanthi people that ruled in present-day Ghana from mid-1600s to mid-1900s, and were themselves … slaveholders and slave traders? Who sold god knows how many African slaves to European slave traders? How can you dress up in the garb of slave traders to protest the mistreatment of the grandchildren of slaves? Short circuit? Temporary?

 

 

For all the protesters other than Pelosi, who herself obviously joined in only for political reasons, here’s a question: Do you oppose slavery, or only slavery on US soil? Because, you know, the Romans had slaves, many African tribes had slaves, present day Chinese people did. Australia? Slave country if I ever saw one. The deeper you dig into history, the more you will find. I don’t want to bore you with an extensive list, because it would be too extensive.

 

 

Or maybe a second question, though it has mostly already been answered: Is this protest only about slavery, or about the oppression of people(s) in general? It’s already been answered in toppling the Columbus statues, since Christopher was not a slavetrader as far as we know, so, see above, we’re talking about both “indians” and “negroes”.

I use both derogatory terms on purpose, precisely because they paint the picture of what things used to be like. That they are no longer tolerated tells a story all by itself. And yes, much more is needed, but can that be achieved by toppling statues and banning books and movies? Is that how those two terms were banned?

We cannot escape our past and probably that’s the reason we shouldn’t try. What we need to do, what our role in the story is, is to not follow in the “footsteps of wrong”, and to do better. Do we have a better chance at doing better and escaping “wrong” if and when we ban all symbols of it, so we can no longer see it?

Or is our best chance to let all these things last so we can point at them to say: that is wrong!? If all the statues and books and movies are gone, how will our children know?

And I haven’t even mentioned the music yet, the unique melting pot of European melodies and African beats that gave the world blues and jazz and rock, all born from the plantation life that so many stories depict, and the music itself, growing under the statuesque eyes of the likes of Jefferson Davis or George Washington.

Maybe if you like your blues and jazz and rock and rap, you should call for the statues and books to remain standing, because without the narratives they bear witness to, there would be no blues, or anything that came after. Maybe you should celebrate your ancestors’ genius that gave America (or whatever you wind up calling it soon) its music, which, accidentally, has conquered all the countries of all the slavetraders of the past.

Maybe the music, the books, represent your ancestors’ victory over their oppressors, and maybe you risk tainting that hard-fought victory by trying to erase the memories of those they fought against to attain it.

And no, you can’t just pick the books and statues and music you would like and dump everything else. It doesn’t work that way. Your neighbor might have slightly different criteria and pick other favorites, and so on.

You can’t say we’ll hold on to Toni Morrison and throw out Harper Lee, you can’t dump Gone With the Wind but keep Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, because each of these are part of the exact same story.

It’s a package deal, called history. And you’re not going to get the best end of that deal by pretending history doesn’t exist.

 

 

 

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Jun 112020
 


Banksy Bataclan emergency door 2018 (was stolen in 2019, recovered yesterday)

 

Pelosi Urges Confederate Statues Be Removed From Capitol (AP)
Statues of Christopher Columbus Toppled Across The US (CNN)
Walmart To Stop Keeping ‘Multicutural’ Beauty Products In Locked Displays (R.)
Latin America Hits 70,000 Pandemic Deaths, Daily Record In Mexico (R.)
BHP To Destroy At Least 40 Aboriginal Sites, Up To 15,000 Years Old (G.)
Rio Tinto Destroys 46,000-Year-Old Aboriginal Site: ‘Misunderstanding’ (G.)
Arrival Of Million By Sea Adds To UK Quarantine Doubts (Times)
UK Economy Likely To Suffer Worst COVID19 Damage – OECD (G.)
Fed Vows To Support US Economy’s ‘Long Road’ To Recovery After Dire 2020 (R.)
US Housing ‘Apocalypse’ Coming As Coronavirus Protections Expire (CNBC)
Amazon Bans Police Use Of Facial Recognition Tech – For A Year (BBC)
The Elevator Arises As The Latest Logjam In Getting Back To Work (KHN)
Lilly COVID19 Treatment Could Be Authorized For Use As Soon As September (R.)
Germany Takes In Another 249 Refugee Children From Greece (K.)
FBI Knew Steele Dossier Linked To Clinton, Dems From The Start (JTN)

 

 

Worldometer reports new cases for June 9 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 134,705. A new record.

My count from about 6 am EDT to 6 am EDT is about + 138,341 cases.

New deaths also rose from + 5,032 to + 5,165 (my count + 5,348)

US passed 2,000,000 cases.

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 20,852
• Brazil + 33,100
• Russia + 8,779
• India + 12,375
• Pakistan + 5,834
• Chile + 5,737

 

 

Cases 7,482,561 (+ 138,341 from yesterday’s 7,344,220)

Deaths 419,488 (+ 5,348 from yesterday’s 414,140)

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Pelosi’s Box. She has no idea. She’s only focused on beating Trump.

Pelosi Urges Confederate Statues Be Removed From Capitol (AP)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is demanding that [11] statues of Confederate figures such as Jefferson Davis be removed from the U.S. Capitol. In a letter, Pelosi told a House-Senate committee with jurisdiction over the controversial topic that Confederate statues “pay homage to hate, not heritage. They must be removed.” The California Democrat made the announcement on the very day President Donald Trump vowed on Twitter that he would not rename military bases honoring Confederate generals. Only a short time before Pelosi’s statement, NASCAR announced it would ban displays of the Confederate flag at its races. Confederate monuments have reemerged as a national flash point since the death of George Floyd [..]

Protesters decrying racism have targeted Confederate monuments in multiple cities, and some state officials are considering taking them down. Pelosi lacks the authority to order the removal of the 11 Capitol statues honoring Confederates but is urging the little-noticed Joint Committee on the Library to vote to remove them. Senate Republicans share jurisdiction. “The statues in the Capitol should embody our highest ideals as Americans, expressing who we are and who we aspire to be as a nation,” Pelosi wrote. “Monuments to men who advocated cruelty and barbarism to achieve such a plainly racist end are a grotesque affront to these ideals.” The presence of statues of generals and other figures of the Confederacy in Capitol locations such as Statuary Hall — the original House chamber — has been offensive to African American lawmakers for many years.

Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., was known to give tours pointing out the numerous statues. But it’s up to the states to determine which of their historical figures to display. Jefferson Davis, a former U.S. senator from Mississippi who was president of the Confederate States of America, is represented by one of two statues from that state. Pelosi noted that Davis and Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, whose statue comes from Georgia, “were charged with treason against the United States.” “Several states have moved toward replacing statues and others appear headed in the same direction. This process is ongoing and encouraging,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., chairman of the Library Committee. “As Speaker Pelosi is undoubtedly aware, the law does not permit the Architect of the Capitol or the Joint Committee of Congress on the Library to remove a statue from the Capitol once it has been received.”

Read more …

Well, let’s see…who’s uncomfortably like Columbus?

Statues of Christopher Columbus Toppled Across The US (CNN)

As racial reckoning occurs across the country following the death of George Floyd, many Confederate statues — which some consider racist symbols of America’s dark legacy of slavery — have been removed. Now, statues of Christopher Columbus, another controversial figure in US history, are also being taken down. There have been three reports of Christopher Columbus statues being tampered with — one thrown into a lake, one beheaded, and another pulled to the ground. Columbus has long been a contentious figure in history for his treatment of the Indigenous communities he encountered and for his role in the violent colonization at their expense. In recent years, many cities and states have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, in recognition of the pain and terror caused by Columbus and other European explorers.

[..] Elsewhere in the US, about 1,000 people gathered at Byrd Park in Richmond, Virginia on Tuesday, according to CNN affiliate WTVR. The Richmond Indigenous Society said in a tweet ahead of the rally that “we are gathering at Byrd Park to protest yet another racist monument. Christopher Columbus was a murderer of Indigenous people, mainstreaming the genocidal culture against Indigenous people that we still see today. Bring your sage, drum, jingle dress, and mask!”

[..] in Boston, officials removed the Columbus statue located in the city’s North End after it was beheaded Tuesday evening. The statue, which was erected in 1979, had been previously vandalized in 2015, when it was doused in red paint and the words “Black Lives Matter” were spray-painted on the back, CNN affiliate WBZ reported “This particular statue has been subject to repeated vandalism here in Boston, and given the conversations that we’re certainly having right now in our city of Boston and throughout the country, we’re also going to take time to assess the historic meaning of this action,” Mayor Marty Walsh said, according to WBZ.

Read more …

Oh, the webs we weave: “Many companies have issued statements in support of the black community..”

Walmart To Stop Keeping ‘Multicutural’ Beauty Products In Locked Displays (R.)

Walmart Inc will stop keeping personal care products designed for people of color in locked display cases, the retailer said, after the practice drew flak online with many saying it suggested customers for these products cannot be trusted. “We have made the decision to discontinue placing multicultural hair care and beauty products in locked cases,” the company said in an email statement on Wednesday. Walmart said the practice was in place in about a dozen of its 4,700 stores in the United States and the cases were in place to deter shoplifters from products such as electronics, automotive, cosmetics and other personal care products.


[..] The change in Walmart’s policy was prompted by a June 8 CBS News report cbsloc.al/37iJZxv that a Walmart customer had complained of the practice being discriminatory against people of color, while visiting a store in the city of Denver. “The multi-cultural hair care is all locked behind the glass. That’s so ridiculous,” Lauren Epps, a black woman was quoted as saying in the report. Many companies have issued statements in support of the black community, in addition to setting up funds to fight systematic racism. Walmart Chief Executive Doug McMillon has said the company, along with Walmart Foundation, will commit $100 million to create a new center on racial equity.

Read more …

Columbus opened the doors for the conquistadores. 500+ years later, the population still lives that.

Latin America Hits 70,000 Pandemic Deaths, Daily Record In Mexico (R.)

Latin America’s coronavirus crisis reached a grim new milestone on Wednesday with total deaths exceeding 70,000, according to a Reuters count, as Mexico hit a daily record for confirmed infections. Brazil, with the largest economy in the region, remains Latin America’s most affected country as total fatalities are just shy of 40,000, the world’s third highest death toll after the United States and Britain. In the region’s second biggest country Mexico, a new daily record of 4,883 confirmed cases was reported by the health ministry, along with 708 additional fatalities.


The daily totals bring Mexico’s overall official count to 129,184 infections and 15,357 deaths. The World Health Organization has determined that Latin America is the new hotspot for the pandemic, which began around the beginning of the year in China and quickly spread to Europe and beyond. Governments across the globe acknowledge that the real number of infected people is significantly higher than the official counts. Latin American fatalities attributed to the highly-contagious Covid-19 respiratory illness caused by the virus stand at 70,972, while total infections are at 1.45 million.

Read more …

And talking about slavery and the mistreatment of indigenous people…

BHP To Destroy At Least 40 Aboriginal Sites, Up To 15,000 Years Old (G.)

Mining giant BHP Billiton is poised to destroy at least 40 – and possibly as many as 86 – significant Aboriginal sites in the central Pilbara to expand its $4.5bn South Flank iron ore mining operation, even though its own reports show it is aware that the traditional owners are deeply opposed to the move. In documents seen by Guardian Australia, a BHP archaeological survey identified rock shelters that were occupied between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago and noted that evidence in the broader area showed “occupation of the surrounding landscape has been ongoing for approximately 40,000 years”. BHP’s report in September 2019 identified 22 sites of artefacts scatters, culturally modified trees, rock shelters with painted rock art, stone arrangements, and 40 “built structures … believed to be potential archaeological sites”.


Under section 18 of the Western Australian Aboriginal Heritage Act, the traditional owners – in this case the Banjima people – are unable to lodge objections or to prevent their sacred sites from being damaged. They are also unable to raise concerns publicly about the expansion, having signed comprehensive agreements with BHP as part of a native title settlement. BHP agreed to financial and other benefits for the Banjima people, while the Banjima made commitments to support the South Flank project. But the Banjima native title holders told the WA government in April they did not want any of the 86 archaeological sites within the project area to be damaged, saying the “impending harm” to the area “is a further significant cumulative loss to the cultural values of the Banjima people”.

Read more …

Autralia is built on its own unique legacy of destruction.

Rio Tinto Destroys 46,000-Year-Old Aboriginal Site: ‘Misunderstanding’ (G.)

The head of Rio Tinto’s iron ore division said he has “taken accountability” for the destruction of a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal heritage site but refused to give a direct answer when asked if the company knew traditional owners did not want the rock shelter destroyed, saying: “clearly, there was a misunderstanding”. In an interview on Radio National on Friday, the chief executive of Rio Tinto iron ore, Chris Salisbury, said it it had “taken accountability” for the destruction of the site, which was one of two destroyed in a blast to expand the Brockman 4 iron ore mine last month. The two sites were located in Juukan Gorge in the Hamersley Ranges, about 300km inland from Karratha in Western Australia’s iron ore rich Pilbara region.


Traditional owners the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people only learned of the planned detonation on 15 May, nine days before it took place. They said the loss was “soul destroying”. Salisbury said the company “regrettably … thought we had a shared understanding with the PKKP about the future of the sites” and would conduct a review to learn “how did this go wrong from our point of view”. He also refused to provide a direct answer when asked if a statement released by the company last week, which suggested the PKKP had only “recently expressed concerns” about the site, was incorrect. It released another statement apologising “for the distress we caused” but not the destruction, on Sunday.

Read more …

No testing, no quarantines. More people than this arrived by air. No testing. Now that they’ve all landed and had the chance to infect Britons, there’s a quarentine.

Arrival Of Million By Sea Adds To UK Quarantine Doubts (Times)

More than 1.1 million people have arrived in the UK by sea since the start of the year without being forced to self-isolate as concerns mount over the government’s quarantine policy. Official figures show that there were 346,000 arrivals in the UK in March and April alone despite concerns over the transmission of coronavirus, casting further doubt over the government’s quarantine policy which was introduced for arrivals this week. The figures include HGV drivers, who are exempt from the quarantine measures, although it is not known how many fell into the category. Since Monday, anyone arriving in the UK by air, sea and through the Channel Tunnel rail link has been forced to spend two weeks in isolation. This includes Britons returning from abroad. The scheme does not apply to people from Ireland.


The quarantine is part of measures aimed at avoiding a second outbreak of Covid-19 but critics have questioned its value months after such curbs were introduced elsewhere. Giving evidence to MPs yesterday, Sir David Skeggs, 72, emeritus professor of epidemiology at the University of Otago in New Zealand, told the home affairs committee: “These border measures would be most effective if they were done very early.” Scientists also told MPs that summer holidays abroad risked a fresh wave of coronavirus infections across Europe. Gabriel Leung, 47, a dean of medicine at the University of Hong Kong, said it would be safest if mass-market tourism was discouraged. “I can’t imagine anybody going on holiday in any kind of destination where you go to enjoy the sun and actually doing very good hand hygiene and putting on a mask,” he said.

Read more …

Forget these predictions. Nobody has a single clue.

UK Economy Likely To Suffer Worst COVID19 Damage – OECD (G.)

Britain’s economy is likely to suffer the worst damage from the Covid-19 crisis of any country in the developed world, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. A slump in the UK’s national income of 11.5% during 2020 will outstrip the falls in France, Italy, Spain, Germany and the US, the Paris-based thinktank said. Germany’s decline in GDP is forecast to be 6.6% this year while Spain’s GDP will fall by 11.1%, Italy’s by 11.3 and France’s by 11.4%. The US, the world’s largest economy, is expected to take a hit of 7.3%. Highlighting the task awaiting the UK government as it seeks to ease the lockdown, the OECD warned that countries forced to impose the most draconian restrictions faced a long haul back to previous levels of activity.

Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s shadow chancellor, blamed the “deeply worrying” OECD forecast on the government’s “failure to get on top of the health crisis, delay going into lockdown and chaotic mismanagement of the exit from lockdown”, which she argued made the economic impact of the crisis worse. Responding to the report, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said the UK was suffering “in common with many other economies around the world” and the priority was to “support people, jobs and businesses through this crisis – and this is what we’ve done”.


Britain, which is forecast to post an increase in unemployment to around 9%, could make its situation more difficult if it failed to secure a lasting agreement with the EU on trade and access to the single market, the OECD said. “The failure to conclude a trade deal with the European Union by the end of 2020 or put in place alternative arrangements would have a strongly negative effect on trade and jobs,” it said. Adding to pressure on No 10 to agree concessions with Brussels to secure a Brexit deal amid the economic damage caused by the pandemic, the credit ratings agency Moody’s warned that a no-deal Brexit would “significantly damage the UK’s potentially fragile recovery from its deepest recession in almost a century”.

Read more …

The Fed supports only banks. But Powell can still spout this insulting nonsense. No journalist ever openly disagrees.

Fed Vows To Support US Economy’s ‘Long Road’ To Recovery After Dire 2020 (R.)

The U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday signaled it plans years of extraordinary support for an economy facing a torturous slog back from the coronavirus pandemic, with policymakers projecting the economy to shrink 6.5% in 2020 and the unemployment rate to be 9.3% at year’s end. In the first economic projections of the pandemic era, U.S. central bank policymakers put into numbers what has been an emerging narrative: that the shutdowns, restrictions and other measures used to battle a health crisis will echo through the economy for years to come rather than be quickly reversed as commerce reopens.

Some 20 million or more people have been thrown out of work since February, and Fed Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged it could take years for them to all reacquire jobs – an economic blow that is falling heaviest on minority communities at a time when mass protests over police brutality have thrown a new spotlight on racial inequality in the United States. Powell, acknowledging the nationwide demonstrations in his opening remarks at a news briefing, said it was now the Fed’s single-minded mission to bring the job market back to where it was at the end of last year, with the unemployment rate at a record low 3.5% and wage gains accumulating for some of the very same lower-paid workers in the service sector that have suffered most during the recent collapse.


[..] At the median, officials see the unemployment rate falling to 6.5% at the end of 2021 and 5.5% at the end of 2022 – still a full 2 percentage points above where it was at the end of last year, representing millions of lost years of work and wages. “The ongoing public health crisis will weigh heavily on economic activity, employment and inflation in the near term and poses considerable risks to the economic outlook over the medium term,” the Fed said in its policy statement. The response has been an unparalleled level of unanimity in the outlook for monetary policy. All 17 current Fed policymakers see the key overnight interest rate, or federal funds rate, remaining near zero through next year, and 15 of 17 see no change through 2022.

Read more …

2 million evictions in the pipeline even before COVID19.

US Housing ‘Apocalypse’ Coming As Coronavirus Protections Expire (CNBC)

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. was experiencing what housing experts and advocates deemed an eviction crisis. More than 2 million people face eviction each year, far more than the number of people who faced foreclosure at the height of the 2008 mortgage crisis. Experts expect the eviction crisis to get far worse in the coming months. The Covid-19 economic recession has hit renters especially hard. They make up a disproportionate share of service sector jobs, an industry that has been decimated as a result of the coronavirus shutdowns. In fact, between March 25 and April 10 of this year, nearly half of renters aged 18 to 64 reported that they were having trouble paying their rent or utilities, were food insecure or couldn’t afford needed medical care, according to the Urban Institute.

Thousands of tenants have been missing rent payments over the past few months. People of color have fared worse than white renters due to the disproportionate job loss in their communities, the Urban Institute reports. About 25% of black and Latino renters reported not paying or deferring rent in May, compared to 14% of white renters. To keep people in their homes, the federal government banned evictions in federally assisted properties through July 25, and some cities and states, including Massachusetts, New York and Michigan, put their own temporary eviction moratoriums in place. But many of those bans begin expiring this month depending on the state, according to Princeton University’s Eviction Lab, which tracks evictions across the country.

Plus, the extra $600 per week in federal unemployment benefits is set to expire at the end of July. That extra money is “what has been allowing many people who have lost their jobs to continue paying rent,” Solomon Greene, a senior fellow in housing policy at the Urban Institute, tells CNBC Make It. Coupled with the end of eviction moratoriums, the U.S. is likely to experience an uptick in evictions nationwide in the coming weeks. Evicting people in the middle of a global health crisis puts them at greater risk of contracting and spreading Covid-19, turning “a catastrophe into an apocalypse,” Aaron Carr, founder and executive director of the Housing Rights Initiative, tells CNBC Make It. “A lot of people could be on the streets,” says Carr. “Especially in places like New York City that already have a homeless problem, it could turn into a homeless nightmare.”

Read more …

For a year. That’s all you need to know. About a company that has rich contracts with US intelligence,

Amazon Bans Police Use Of Facial Recognition Tech – For A Year (BBC)

Technology giant Amazon has banned the police from using its controversial facial recognition software for a year. It comes after civil rights advocates raised concerns about potential racial bias in surveillance technology. This week IBM also said it would stop offering its facial recognition software for “mass surveillance or racial profiling”. The decisions follow growing pressure on firms to respond to the death in police custody of George Floyd. Amazon said the suspension of law enforcement use of its Rekognition software was to give US lawmakers the opportunity to enact legislation to regulate how the technology is employed.


“We’ve advocated that governments should put in place stronger regulations to govern the ethical use of facial recognition technology, and in recent days, Congress appears ready to take on this challenge,” Amazon said in a statement. “We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested.” However, the company said that it would still allow organisations that deal with human trafficking to use the technology. Like other facial recognition products, Amazon’s Rekognition can use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to very quickly compare a picture from, for example, an officer’s phone camera and try to match it with mugshots held on police databases that can hold hundreds of thousands of photos.

Read more …

You mean, that wasn’t obvious yet? Sometimes you guys surprise me.

The Elevator Arises As The Latest Logjam In Getting Back To Work (KHN)

When the American Medical Association moved its headquarters to a famous Chicago skyscraper in 2013, the floor-to-ceiling views from the 47th-floor conference space were a spectacular selling point. But now, those glimpses of the Chicago River at the Ludwig Mies van der Rohe-designed landmark, now known as AMA Plaza, come with a trade-off: navigating the elevator in the time of COVID-19. Once the epitome of efficiency for moving masses of people quickly to where they needed to go, the elevator is the antithesis of social distancing and a risk-multiplying bottleneck. As America begins to open up, the newest conundrum for employers in cities is how to safely transport people in elevators and manage the crowd of people waiting for them.

If office tower workers want to stay safe, elevator experts think they have advice, some practical, some not: Stay in your corner, face the walls and carry toothpicks (for pushing the buttons). Not only have those experts gone back to studying mathematical models for moving people, but they are also creating technology like ultraviolet-light disinfection tools and voice-activated panels. “When there is risk of disease spreading from human to human, continuing to maintain a clean and safe vertical transportation system is critical to help people return to work and safe living,” said Jon Clarine, head of digital services at Thyssenkrupp Elevator, in an email.

After all, most elevators are inherently cramped, enclosed spaces that can barely fit two people safely spaced 6 feet apart, much less the dozen or more that elevators in commercial and residential buildings were designed to hold. They’re a minefield of buttons and surfaces tempting to touch. Air circulation is limited to what a few vents and the opening doors can manage. Plus, they’re usually mobbed during the morning, lunchtime and evening rushes.

Read more …

If news agencies write this sort of thing, while there are hundreds such products being touted, how is that not stealth advertizing and promotion?

Lilly COVID19 Treatment Could Be Authorized For Use As Soon As September (R.)

Eli Lilly and Co could have a drug specifically designed to treat COVID-19 authorized for use as early as September if all goes well with either of two antibody therapies it is testing, its chief scientist told Reuters on Wednesday. Lilly is also doing preclinical studies of a third antibody treatment for the illness caused by the new coronavirus that could enter human clinical trials in the coming weeks, Chief Scientific Officer Daniel Skovronsky said in an interview. Lilly has already launched human trials with two of the experimental therapies. The drugs belong to a class of biotech medicines called monoclonal antibodies widely used to treat cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and many other conditions. A monoclonal antibody drug developed against COVID-19 is likely to be more effective than repurposed medicines currently being tested against the virus.


Skovronsky said the therapies – which may also be used to prevent the disease – could beat a vaccine to widespread use as a COVID-19 treatment, if they prove effective. “For the treatment indication, particularly, this could go pretty fast,” he said in an interview. “If in August or September we’re seeing the people who got treated are not progressing to hospitalization, that would be powerful data and could lead to emergency use authorization.” “So that puts you in the fall time: September, October, November is not unreasonable,” he said. Coronavirus vaccines being developed and tested at unprecedented speed are not likely to be ready before the end of the year at the earliest.

Read more …

Out of over 5,000, most of whom have been in Greece for much of their entire lives.

Germany Takes In Another 249 Refugee Children From Greece (K.)

Germany has taken in an additional 249 refugee children from Greece, the country’s interior minister Horst Seehofer said Wednesday, noting that most of the minors are sick or the siblings of migrants that are already in Germany. “As the rates of coronavirus are currently at this low level, we decided as the Interior Ministry… to take in more children from Greece,” Seehofer said, noting that Germany had already received 47 refugee children in April. Seehofer said that some of his associates visited Greece last week to arrange the transfer of the children.


Six of the youngsters who were too sick to travel last week will be transferred on a subsequent trip, he said. “I always said that my migration policy includes order but also humanity,” the German minister said. Luxembourg, Switzerland, Portugal and France are among the countries that have also taken in child refugees from Greece. Many of the children being relocated belong to the ranks of unaccompanied refugee minors in Greece, who number over 5,000.

Read more …

Tomorrow’s the DC Appeals Court Michael Flynn hearing. Fireworks.

FBI Knew Steele Dossier Linked To Clinton, Dems From The Start (JTN)

Notes and emails that have been kept so far from Senate investigators show the FBI knew from its earliest interactions with Christopher Steele in July 2016 that his Russia research project on Donald Trump was connected to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. The information, so far mentioned only glancingly and in footnotes of a Justice Department report, could provide the Senate Judiciary Committee with the most powerful evidence yet to confront witnesses about why the bureau concealed the political origins of Steele’s work from the FISA court. “So far the bureau is slow-walking this stuff,” a source familiar with senators’ frustrations told Just the News. “We need to see these sort of documents before we question key witnesses.”

Chairman Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) is seeking a vote later this week to authorize subpoenas that would compel the Christopher Wray-led FBI to produce witnesses and outstanding documents for the committee’s investigation of the Russia investigators. The effort to acquire the original source materials began last December after DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz released his explosive report blaming the FBI for 17 mistakes, omissions and acts of misconduct in seeking a FISA warrant against Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. While the headlines since that report have mostly focused on FISA abuses, Senate investigators have also zeroed in on a handful of little-noticed passages in Horowitz’s narrative that reference original FBI source documents showing what agents and supervisors knew about Steele, the former MI6 agent, and the firm that hired him, Fusion GPS.

It wasn’t until late October 2017 that the public and Congress first learned that the law firm Perkins Coie, on behalf of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, hired Glenn Simpson’s Fusion GPS research firm to have Steele delve into Trump’s Russia connections. And FBI officials have been vague in their explanations about when they knew Steele’s research was tied to Clinton and the DNC and why they did not explicitly inform the FISA court that the Steele dossier used to secure the warrant was funded by Trump’s election opponent. But one passage and two footnotes in Horowitz’s report that have largely escaped public attention suggest the FBI agent who first interviewed Steele about his anti-Trump research in London on July 5, 2016 was aware immediately of a connection to Clinton and that a separate office of the FBI passed along information from an informant by Aug. 2, 2016 that Simpson’s Fusion GPS was connected to the DNC.

[..] The FBI notes and emails from summer 2016 are consistent with recent testimony that Steele gave in a civil case in London, where he testified he told the bureau his research and the Fusion GPS project was connected to Clinton. “I presumed it was the Clinton campaign, and Glenn Simpson had indicated that. But I was not aware of the technicality of it being the DNC that was actually the client of Perkins Coie,” Steele testified in March under questioning from lawyers for Russian bankers suing over his research. Steele confirmed during that testimony that his notes of a 2016 FBI meeting showed he told agents about the Clinton connection.

Read more …

 

 

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May 182020
 


Jack Delano Myrtle Beach, S.C. Air Service Command Technical Sergeant Choken 1943

 

Ardern Becomes New Zealand’s Most Popular PM In A Century (R.)
116 Countries Back Australia’s Push For Independent Corona Inquiry (SBS.au)
Start ‘Travel Bubbles’ For Low-Risk Countries, Heathrow Urges UK Govt (R.)
Profiting from Coronavirus (Craig Murray)
US Mulls Paying Companies, Tax Breaks To Pull Supply Chains From China (R.)
Cuomo Says No One Should Be Prosecuted For Coronavirus Deaths In New York (CBS)
Pelosi Sees Negotiations On New $3 Trillion Coronavirus Legislation (R.)
Senator Rubio Calls For Fast Action To Extend US Payroll Protection Program (R.)
Los Angeles Tells Everyone To Wear Face Masks At All Times While Outdoors (JTN)
EU’s Vestager: Discrepancy In Coronavirus State Aid Distorts Single Market (R.)
Australia Bankers Hope They’ll Avoid A Bad Debt Tsunami (AFR)

 

 

• US records 857 new #coronavirus deaths in 24 hours. Yesterday: 1,277
• The latest toll, marked at 8:30 pm (0030 GMT Monday), is the lowest since 776 daily deaths were recorded May 10, but the count ranged as high as 1,894 in subsequent days

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cases 4,820,347 (+ 77,166 from yesterday’s 4,743,181)

Deaths 316,967 (+ 3,264 from yesterday’s 313,703)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Say your child sees the Lord of the Rings films and wants to visit New Zealand. What do you think are the odds they’ll be allowed entry any time soon?

Ardern Becomes New Zealand’s Most Popular PM In A Century (R.)


Jacinda Ardern became New Zealand’s most popular prime minister in a century, a Newshub-Reid Research poll showed on Monday, thanks to her COVID-19 response that made the country among the most successful in curbing the spread of the disease. The first public poll since the coronavirus crisis took hold showed popularity for Ardern’s Labour jumped 14 points to 56.5% – the highest for any party ever. Conversely, the biggest party in parliament – the Nationals, slumped to 30.6%, after sliding by 12.7 points. The poll was conducted between May 8 and May 16, with half of the responses taken after the federal budget on Thursday. As preferred PM, Ardern was at 59.5%, up 20.8 points on the last poll and the highest score for any leader in the Reid Research poll’s history.


The poll took into account public sentiment in the final days of the country’s strict level three lockdown, which also got massive support with almost 92% respondents saying it was the right call. The Pacific nation was locked down for more than a month under “level 4” restrictions that were eased by a notch in late April. It has continued to enforce strict social measures on many of its citizens and businesses, helping prevent widespread community spread of the virus. Businesses in the country including malls, cinemas, cafes and gyms reopened last Thursday. (May 14) Ardern’s stratospheric rise to become the country’s youngest prime minister and third woman to hold the office resulted in New Zealanders coining the phrase “Jacinda-mania.” The rate of new cases have slowed dramatically in New Zealand in recent weeks. The virus has so far infected 1,499 people in New Zealand and killed 21.

Read more …

China says it’s premature to start now because the pandemic is not over. What?

116 Countries Back Australia’s Push For Independent Corona Inquiry (SBS.au)

110 countries have backed Australia’s push for an independent coronavirus inquiry which has caused a damaging rift with China. The African Group’s 54 member states will co-sponsor the motion, joining 62 other countries including Russia, Indonesia, India, Japan, Britain and Canada. The European Union’s 27 members are all on board, along with Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, Turkey and New Zealand. Foreign Minister Marise Payne on Monday said it was encouraging to see so many countries backing the inquiry. “I think what it illustrates is a broad view that given the experience of COVID-19 – over 300,000 deaths, millions of people around the world losing their jobs, the impact on economies from one corner of the globe to the other – that there is a strong view that it is appropriate to engage in a review of what has happened.


“I don’t want to preempt speculate about the outcome, those discussions will be under way later this evening. I think it’s a win for the international community.” The draft resolution calls for impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation of the international response to the pandemic. It doesn’t mention China, but Australia’s push for the inquiry has angered Beijing, which has threatened a huge tariff on barley and blocked some beef imports. Health Minister Greg Hunt will represent Australia at the virtual World Health Assembly meeting on Monday night. A vote is expected in the early hours of Tuesday.

Read more …

One little problem: the UK itself is not a low risk country.

Start ‘Travel Bubbles’ For Low-Risk Countries, Heathrow Urges UK Govt (R.)

Britain should set up “travel bubbles” with low-risk countries to allow the movement of people, instead of bringing in new coronavirus quarantine rules when flights restart, according to Heathrow Airport. British government ministers have said they plan a 14-day quarantine for most people arriving in the country in the coming weeks to try to prevent a second peak of the pandemic. Airlines have warned the policy will throttle hopes for a travel recovery. Heathrow Airport, which before the novel coronavirus grounded planes was the busiest in Europe, said that it had been working with the UK government’s Department for Transport on proposals to allow some unrestricted travel.


“The proposal would create ‘travel corridors’ or ‘travel bubbles’ allowing free movement between countries or cities that are very low-risk, but potentially blocking flights from high-risk markets to safeguard public health,” the airport said in a statement. Such a set-up would be much less damaging to the economy than the quarantine policy, said Heathrow. The boss of Ryanair, Europe’s biggest airline by passenger numbers, said on Monday that the 14-day policy was unimplementable and unpoliceable and would be ignored by people wanting to travel. The government is yet to provide further details of the quarantine policy. Culture minister Oliver Dowden said earlier on Monday that Britain was still in talks with France over whether to exempt travellers from across the Channel.

Read more …

You can’t go through years of Russiagate and Syria bombings and expect countries to work together. And western Pharma sees huge profits anyway; that’s society’s model after all.

Profiting from Coronavirus (Craig Murray)

On 5 May, the British security services released to their pet media the claim that Russia, China and Iran were attempting to hack into British research institutes conducting coronavirus research. The BBC reported it. Britain’s shameful copy and paste media all, without exception, just copy and pasted the government press release. The Guardian gave the quote: “Any attack against efforts to combat the coronavirus crisis is utterly reprehensible. We have seen an increased proportion of cyber-attacks related to coronavirus and our experts work around the clock to help organisations targeted”.

If Britain had one single mainstream media journalist willing to think, rather than just regurgitate government propaganda, they might have realised that there is a massive story here if you look at it the other way round. The quote from the Guardian deliberately attempted to give the impression that Russia, China and Iran were trying to disable, destroy or hamper coronavirus research: “Any attack against efforts to combat the coronavirus”. But if you read carefully through those articles, you find that the allegation is merely that they are attempting hack in to gain access to the research. Because the UK and the US are attempting to hide their vaccine and treatment research results from the rest of the world to make money out of them.

Much has been written about the possibility for a new and better kind of world to emerge after coronavirus. Yet our governments cannot conceive of any model for fighting this threat to the whole world, other than the capitalist, money-making model. The much-touted “race to develop a vaccine” is not a race to save lives. It is a race to make billions. The United States and the United Kingdom are working in all international fora to head off efforts to pool global research and to make any vaccine or medicine a good for the world. Governments can reward those working on the vaccine, and the companies for providing the facilities, using economic models other than the patent and the potential for massive profit.

It may come as a shock to you to realise that at the moment all those lovely vaccine and medicine researchers you see being interviewed on TV about their efforts to compress trials and approvals and get the product to the marketplace, are not sharing their results with fellow researchers around the world. They are rather jealously guarding them and each working in a bubble hoping to be the first in order to cash in. It is certainly true that many of the researchers themselves do not like this, but are controlled by their bosses.

For me, the failure to set up a worldwide shared scientific database on all coronavirus vaccine and medicine research, and the failure to set up a prior agreement on free manufacture worldwide of effective resulting vaccines and treatments, is the most revealing fact about the entire coronavirus episode. The fact that the British government is putting massive resources into ensuring the Chinese or Russians cannot “steal” our research – and doubtless the Chinese and Russians are doing the same, all states are hypocrites in these matters – should sicken everybody.

Read more …

More incentive for collective action on vaccines.

US Mulls Paying Companies, Tax Breaks To Pull Supply Chains From China (R.)

U.S. lawmakers and officials are crafting proposals to push American companies to move operations or key suppliers out of China that include tax breaks, new rules, and carefully structured subsidies. Interviews with a dozen current and former government officials, industry executives and members of Congress show widespread discussions underway – including the idea of a “reshoring fund” originally stocked with $25 billion – to encourage U.S. companies to drastically revamp their relationship with China. President Donald Trump has long pledged to bring manufacturing back from overseas, but the recent spread of the coronavirus and related concerns about U.S. medical and food supply chains dependency on China are “turbocharging” new enthusiasm for the idea in the White House.


On Thursday, Trump signed an executive order (here) that gave a U.S. overseas investment agency new powers to help manufacturers in the United States. The goal, Trump said, is to “produce everything America needs for ourselves and then export to the world, and that includes medicines.” But the Trump administration itself remains divided over how best to proceed, and the issue is unlikely to be addressed in the next fiscal stimulus to offset the coronavirus downturn. Congress has begun work on another fiscal stimulus package but it remains unclear when it might pass. The push takes on special resonance in an election year. While anti-China, pro-American job proposals could play well with voters, giving taxpayer money or tax breaks to companies that moved supply chains to China at a time when small business is flailing may not.

Read more …

Now Cuomo starts arguing that “all those old people would have died anyway”. Afraid he’ll be blamed?

Cuomo Says No One Should Be Prosecuted For Coronavirus Deaths In New York (CBS)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Sunday addressed the state’s early response to the coronavirus outbreak and said “nobody” should be prosecuted for the those who died, noting that “older people” were most vulnerable. The governor has been criticized for a decision in March, which has since been reversed, to send patients back to nursing homes after they tested positive for COVID-19. More than 4,800 people died from COVID-19 in nursing homes in the state between March 1 and May 1, according to a tally released by the Cuomo administration on May 1. Cuomo has called nursing homes a “feeding frenzy” for the coronavirus. “Despite whatever you do, because with all our progress as a society, we can’t keep everyone alive,” Cuomo said.

The number of deaths in New York state dropped again Saturday to 139 people. When asked about the nursing home deaths, Cuomo noted the 139 people who died on Saturday and asked who is accountable for everyone who died. “How do we get justice for those families of those 139 deaths?” Cuomo said. “Who can we prosecute for those 139 deaths? Nobody. Mother Nature, God, where did this virus come from? People are going to die by this virus, that is the truth.” When pressed further about how some people thought their loved ones would be safe because of Matilda’s Law, Cuomo continued to stress the point that older and more vulnerable people were “always going to die from this virus.”

He said when talking who is accountable for deaths, the most important thing was to make sure “you can have a situation where everyone did the right thing and everyone tried their best.” Cuomo said his top priority was making sure the medical system did not get overwhelmed, calling that a “accountable, avoidable situation.” “That’s what we protected against and we did it successfully,” Cuomo said. Cuomo pushed for all New Yorkers who have symptoms of COVID-19 to get tested. He said New York is now conducting 40,000 tests per day at 700 testing sites. “If you think you have symptoms, get a test. It’s up to you,” he said. “We just don’t have enough New Yorkers coming to be tested.”

Read more …

The GOP will negotiate to make sure its sponsors get a “fair” chunk of the loot. And that’ll be all she wrote.

Pelosi Sees Negotiations On New $3 Trillion Coronavirus Legislation (R.)

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Sunday there will be negotiations on the new $3 trillion coronavirus relief legislation passed by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and that Democrats have “no red lines.” Asked if there has been a Republican response or counteroffer to begin negotiations on the bill passed late on Friday, Pelosi said, “No bill that is proffered will become law without negotiations, so, yeah.” The Democrats’ measure, passed late on Friday, was likely to trigger new talks with congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump’s administration, who have been talking about the need for new business liability protections in the age of coronavirus, or additional tax cuts.


Democrats oppose both of those ideas. Pelosi, however, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that Democrats had “no red lines.” Republican leaders have dismissed the bill, which Trump said he would veto, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling it “dead on arrival.” Some Republicans have said a new relief package could wait until the effects of funding in previous bills are felt, but Pelosi urged a quick resolution to help jobless Americans. More than 36 million people – or more than one in five workers – in the United States have filed for unemployment since the crisis began. “Time is of the essence,” Pelosi said. “In the past bills, they’ve put forth their proposal and then we worked in a bipartisan way. That’s what we all anticipate.”

Read more …

Just as misguided as Pelosi.

Senator Rubio Calls For Fast Action To Extend US Payroll Protection Program (R.)

The United States needs to quickly revise its coronavirus aid program for small businesses to extend the eight-week period in which the law currently requires companies to spend the money, a key U.S. senator said on Sunday. The Paycheck Protection Program established by Congress in late March was aimed at helping businesses keep making payroll for eight weeks, despite orders to shutdown because of the coronavirus pandemic. The eight-week period may be applied to any time frame from mid-February up to June 30. But with many businesses that received loans under the $660 billion PPP program moving toward the end of their eight-week period, Senator Marco Rubio, the Republican chairman of the Senate’s small business committee, said lawmakers need to move fast to extend it.


“The legislative fix needed to #PPP is extending beyond 8 weeks the time period a #SmallBusiness has to spend the funds on payroll. We are hoping to move quickly on this before the first wave of #PPP loan recipients reach the 8 week point,” Rubio wrote on Twitter. While most states have begun to reopen their economies at least in part, some 36 million Americans — one in five in the workforce — have lost their jobs since the pandemic began. Rubio’s Republican party has the majority in the Senate. But the top Democrat on the small business committee, Senator Ben Cardin, has also expressed support for re-examining the eight-week period in the small business program. “I strongly support extending it,” another Senate Democrat, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, a member of the banking committee, said in a phone interview Sunday. “There’s a real mismatch between that date and the real world situation that many small businesses are facing.

Read more …

How about only when around people?

Los Angeles Tells Everyone To Wear Face Masks At All Times While Outdoors (JTN)

Los Angeles is requiring essentially everybody in the city wear a face covering at all times whenever outdoors, a policy Mayor Eric Garcetti says will help the local economy reopen faster. Garcetti announced the order on Wednesday evening, telling city residents: “Bring your mask with you whenever you leave your home.” Children under 2, as well as a limited number of individuals with disabilities, are exempt from the order, the mayor’s office said in a press release. “Face coverings help stop the spread of the virus,” Garcetti, a Democrat, said in the release. “Wearing them whenever we’re away from home will create a meaningful layer of protection for people we might come into contact with, and that makes sense at this stage of our response to the crisis.”


The order came shortly after Garcetti said that the city will “never be completely open” until scientists discover a cure for coronavirus. The mayor at the time was partially walking back comments made earlier in the day by Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, who said Tuesday that the city’s stay-at-home order would be extended “with all certainty” for the next three months.

Read more …

Complete nonsense: “Ensuring a competitive level playing field within its cherished single market of some 450 million people is a central EU tenet”..

Self-contradicting: “..concern about the “huge differences” in coronavirus state aid among member states, saying they were starting to distort the bloc’s single market.”

vs

“..Germany’s extensive bailouts of coronavirus-hit companies could have a ripple effect across the bloc and work as a locomotive for Europe..”

EU’s Vestager: Discrepancy In Coronavirus State Aid Distorts Single Market (R.)

The European Union’s competition chief Margrethe Vestager has expressed concern about the “huge differences” in coronavirus state aid among member states, saying they were starting to distort the bloc’s single market. Germany accounts for more than half of the emergency coronavirus state aid approved by the EU executive, prompting concerns that countries with the deepest pockets might be getting an unfair advantage in the bloc’s single market. In an interview with German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Vestager said there was a risk that the different levels of state aid among member states would distort competition and slow the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

“And this has already happened to a certain extent”, Vestager said, according to a pre-released extract of the interview that the newspaper will publish in its Monday edition. Ensuring a competitive level playing field within its cherished single market of some 450 million people is a central EU tenet and has long been a key condition for opening up to foreign players from China to, more recently, Brexit Britain. But the executive European Commission suspended the normally-strict state aid restrictions in mid-March, allowing the 27 EU states to pump cash into their economies and companies battered by coronavirus, with more than 1.9 trillion euros worth of national schemes approved so far.

Earlier this month, Vestager said that Germany’s extensive bailouts of coronavirus-hit companies could have a ripple effect across the bloc and work as a locomotive for Europe. Asked about an EU recovery plan expected to be announced on May 27, Vestager said there were no guarantees that it would be sufficient but said officials were trying to do their best.

Read more …

It’s not the virus, it’s the housing bubble that’ll decide this.

Australia Bankers Hope They’ll Avoid A Bad Debt Tsunami (AFR)

On the face of it, the stats look abysmal. There are 7.7 million Australian workers on some form of government welfare. Repayments have been frozen on 10 per cent of mortgages and 15 per cent of SME loans. Bankers have been left with about $220 billion in loans that aren’t being serviced. Little wonder then that some analysts are querying whether the $5 billion that the big four banks have set aside to cover the losses they’ll sustain from the economic collapse triggered by the pandemic will be sufficient. Now, bankers continue to emphasise that they won’t know the extent of their problem loans for another month, when they start contacting the home owners and small business owners who opted to defer their loan repayments.


But at this stage, bankers appear quietly optimistic that the rise in their soured loans this time around are unlikely to be anywhere near as serious as the hit they took from the 1990s recession, or even the losses they sustained during the global financial crisis. There are two reasons for this confidence. In the first place, the latest downturn has been very uneven across the economy. Workers in the services sector – particularly hospitality, accommodation, food services and retail trade – have suffered far more than, say, those employed in the finance or government sectors. But because the jobs in these sectors tend to be lower paid, with a higher proportion of younger employees working casual hours, those working in these sectors tend not to meet the income requirements for a home loan borrower.

Read more …

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Note: Navarro says in this clip that remdesivir has been saving many lives. But we know it has no such effect. It shortens hospital stays at best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Apr 222020
 


DPC Yard of tenement, Manhattan, New York City 1900

 

In US COVID19 Can No Longer Be Listed As Primary Cause Of Death (Salon)
England, Wales COVID19 Death Toll 41% Higher Than Government Figures (FT)
UN: Coronavirus Pandemic ‘Will Cause Famine Of Biblical Proportions’ (G.)
Missouri Is Suing China Over Coronavirus Impacts (CNN)
CDC’s Failed Coronavirus Tests Were Tainted With Coronavirus (AT)
CDC Chief Warns Second COVID-19 Wave May Be Worse (R.)
The COVID-Crisis And Leader Approval Ratings (ZH)
15 Deaths In US Airline Industry In 9 Days Linked To Coronavirus (LAT)
No Screening For Passengers Arriving At Heathrow From Virus Hotspots (DM)
The Risks Of Relying On China For Critical Medical Supplies (SCMP)
Donna Shalala Failed To Disclose Stock Sales In 2019 (MH)
Lawsuit Claims 10 Big Banks Rigged Market For ‘Odd-Lot’ US Corporate Bonds (R.)

 

 

• U.S. reports 37,519 new cases of coronavirus and 2,707 new deaths.
Total of 824,889 cases and 45,042 deaths

• nearly 40,000 new cases reported between Monday 8:30pm local time, and Tuesday at the same time – Johns Hopkins University

• Reported US coronavirus deaths:
8 weeks ago: 0 deaths
7 weeks ago: 9 deaths
6 weeks ago: 31 deaths
5 weeks ago: 111 deaths
4 weeks ago: 704 deaths
3 weeks ago: 3,834 deaths
2 weeks ago: 12,895 deaths
1 week ago: 26,033 deaths
Right now: 45,039 deaths

• Cases-Top 12 States
New York: 251,690
New Jersey: 92,387
Massachusetts: 41,199
Pennsylvania: 34,528
California: 33,261
Illinois: 33,059
Michigan: 32,967
Florida: 27,495
Louisiana: 24,854
Connecticut: 20,360
Texas: 20,196
Georgia: 19,881

• 33 workers at meat processing plant in Minnesota test positive for coronavirus. Plant closed indefinitely.

 

 

Cases 2,573,471 (+ 74,991 from yesterday’s 2,498,480)

Deaths 178,558 (+ 7,225 from yesterday’s 171,333)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer – NOTE: among Active Cases, Serious or Critical fell to 3%. Among Closed Cases, Deaths have fallen to 20%

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live: Note: Turkey, Russia, UK are the biggest risers

 

 

 

 

What a relief! Now the US won’t top 1 million cases in April, but only in May. Then again, at 40,000 cases a day like the past 24 hours, forget about that too

In US COVID19 Can No Longer Be Listed As Primary Cause Of Death (Salon)

George Kelder is CEO and executive director of the New Jersey State Funeral Directors Association, whose members are responsible for dealing with bodies at the hospital, congregant care facilities and private residences. He warns that if we rely solely on official numbers carried on the TV, we may not fully appreciate the lethality of the virus, and indeed may overestimate our success in combating it. In a phone interview, Kelder confirmed that on April 15 New Jersey’s Office of Vital Statistics and Registry, in accordance with the CDC’s National Vital Statistics System, had ordered that deaths of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients should no longer be reported with that disease as the immediate cause of death.

“The guidance, available on the New Jersey’s Electronic Death Registration System website, states that COVID-19 is not considered an immediate cause of death and should NOT be reported by the medical certifier on the first line of section 36a (CAUSE OF DEATH, PART I) of the death certificate,” the association advised its members. “Instead, the immediate cause of death, such as “Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome,” should be listed on the first line. COVID-19 should be listed LAST in Section 36a after the immediate cause(s) has been listed.” “During the five weeks of these fatalities, New Jersey physicians had been instructed to used COVID-19, Coronavirus 19 or ‘pending COVID-19’ as the primary cause of death,” Kelder said.


“Last week, because of changes on the national level, the primary cause of death can no longer be COVID-19. It can be a secondary cause or a consequence of the primary cause of death. But the primary cause of death must be something other than the virus itself.” Kelder observed that pervasive lack of testing, along with this bureaucratic gamesmanship around how COVID-19 deaths are to be classified, could mean that the numbers being used officially “would not be equal to what is happening on the street. “My concern is that we will be getting a false sense of the fatalities based on an administrative and statistical change in reporting,” he said.

Read more …

This happens everywhere.

England, Wales COVID19 Death Toll 41% Higher Than Government Figures (FT)

The true death toll from coronavirus in England and Wales up to April 10 was about 41% higher than the UK government’s daily update, according to data released by the country’s Office of National Statistics (ONS). The daily updates on the government’s website only include deaths in hospitals — not other locations, including hospices, care homes and private residences. They also don’t account for the lag in reporting some deaths. The weekly data released by the ONS records deaths where coronavirus is mentioned on the death certificate — even if only suspected. The latest ONS data for deaths up to April 10 (but recorded by April 18) is 13,121.


By comparison, the ONS says the corresponding figure released on the UK government website for England and Wales was 9,288. That’s a difference of 41%. The data also shows the number of coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes has almost doubled in the five weeks that the ONS has been recording Covid-19 statistics. The total number of deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending 10 April was 18,516 — the highest weekly total since 2000. The number of deaths in care homes has doubled from four weeks earlier, when the first Covid-19 deaths were registered, and there has been a 72.4% increase in hospitals, and a 51.1% increase in private homes, according to the ONS.

Read more …

As westerners worry about when to get a haircut…

UN: Coronavirus Pandemic ‘Will Cause Famine Of Biblical Proportions’ (G.)

The world is facing widespread famine “of biblical proportions” because of the coronavirus pandemic, the chief of the UN’s food relief agency has warned, with a short time to act before hundreds of millions starve. More than 30 countries in the developing world could experience widespread famine, and in 10 of those countries there are already more than 1 million people on the brink of starvation, said David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme. “We are not talking about people going to bed hungry,” he told the Guardian in an interview. “We are talking about extreme conditions, emergency status – people literally marching to the brink of starvation. If we don’t get food to people, people will die.”

Covid-19 is likely to be sweeping through the developing world but its spread is hard to gauge. What appears to be certain is that the fragile healthcare systems of scores of developing countries will be unable to cope, and the economic disaster following in the wake of the pandemic will lead to huge strain on resources. “This is truly more than just a pandemic – it is creating a hunger pandemic,” said Beasley. “This is a humanitarian and food catastrophe.” Beasley took his message to the UN security council on Tuesday, warning world leaders that they must act quickly in a fast-deteriorating situation. He urged them to bring forward about $2bn of aid that has been pledged, so it can get to the frontline as quickly as possible.


Another $350m (£285m) is also needed to set up the logistics network to get food and medical supplies – including personal protective equipment – to where it is needed, including air bridges where ground transport is impossible. Even before the Covid-19 crisis, Beasley was appealing to donor countries to up food relief funding to the poorest, because conflict and natural disaster were putting severe strain on food systems. “I was already saying that 2020 would be the worst year since the second world war, on the basis of what we forecast at the end of last year,” he said. Added to that, earlier this year East Africa was hit by the worst locust swarms for decades, putting as many as 70 million people at risk.

Read more …

Was looking for a better write-up of this, but couldn’t find one. Most comments say this is just posturing since you can’t sue a state, but they’re suing companies and individuals too, and that may work very differently.

Missouri Is Suing China Over Coronavirus Impacts (CNN)

Missouri is suing the Chinese government and other top institutions for the role they played in the coronavirus pandemic and the effects it has had on the state, accusing the country of covering up information, silencing whistleblowers and doing little to stop the spread of the disease, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced Tuesday. At least 6,105 people have been confirmed to have the virus in Missouri and at least 229 have died, according to numbers from Johns Hopkins University Schmitt, in his official role as attorney general of Missouri, filed the civil lawsuit in federal court in the eastern district of Missouri.

The lawsuit, the first of its kind, claims “Chinese authorities deceived the public, suppressed crucial information, arrested whistleblowers, denied human-to-human transmission in the face of mounting evidence, destroyed critical medical research, permitted millions of people to be exposed to the virus, and even hoarded personal protective equipment—thus causing a global pandemic that was unnecessary and preventable.” Legal experts have said the lawsuit faces an uphill battle because China is protected by sovereign immunity. CNN is reaching out to the Chinese government for comment. Missouri’s lawsuit alleges that while the Chinese medical community had indications of human-to-human transmission of the virus, they did not inform the World Health Organization when they first reported the outbreak.


It also alleges Chinese leaders did little to curb spread of the virus, still allowing thousands of people to travel to and out of Wuhan. “In mid-January, on or around January 16, despite knowing the risks of doing so, Wuhan leaders hosted a potluck dinner for 40,000 residents, increasing the potential spread of the virus,” it says. “Defendants allowed these massive public gatherings and massive exodus from Wuhan despite knowing the risks of COVID-19, including the risk of human-to-human transmission.” The filing also outlines how officials initially cracked down on medical professionals who posted information about the virus, including Dr. Li Wenliang, who was accused of rumor-mongering by the Wuhan police after sharing information about a new illness with his medical school alumni group. Wenliang later died of the virus.

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Surprised? Me?

CDC’s Failed Coronavirus Tests Were Tainted With Coronavirus (AT)

As the new coronavirus took root across America, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent states tainted test kits in early February that were themselves seeded with the virus, federal officials have confirmed. The contamination made the tests uninterpretable, and—because testing is crucial for containment efforts—it lost the country invaluable time to get ahead of the advancing pandemic. The CDC had been vague about what went wrong with the tests, initially only saying that “a problem in the manufacturing of one of the reagents” had led to the failure. Subsequent reporting suggested that the problem was with a negative control—that is, a part of the test meant to be free of any trace of the coronavirus as a critical reference for confirming that the test was working properly overall.


Now, according to investigation results reported by The New York Times, federal officials confirm that sloppy laboratory practices at two of three CDC labs involved in the tests’ creation led to contamination of the tests and their uninterpretable results. Shortly after the problems became apparent in early February, the Food and Drug Administration sent Timothy Stenzel, chief of in vitro diagnostics and radiological health, to the CDC to investigate what was going wrong. According to the Times, he found a lack of coordination and inexperience in commercial manufacturing. Problems that led to the contamination included researchers coming and going from labs working on the test kits without changing their coats and researchers sharing lab space to both assemble test components and handle samples containing the coronavirus.

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Or not.

CDC Chief Warns Second COVID-19 Wave May Be Worse (R.)

A second wave of the coronavirus is expected to hit the United States next winter and could strike much harder than the first because it would likely arrive at the start of influenza season, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned on Tuesday. “There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” CDC Director Robert Redfield told the Washington Post in an interview. As the current outbreak continues to taper off, as shown by a recent decline in hospitalization rates and other indicators, authorities need to prepare for a probable resurgence in the months ahead. “We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time,” he said, and the combination would put even greater strain on the nation’s healthcare system than the first outbreak..

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The very people who failed the worst get most praise. Stop it. Yeah, they can be good little managers, but that doesn’t excuse them being months late.

The COVID-Crisis And Leader Approval Ratings (ZH)

Despite the massive impact of the coronavirus crisis in Italy, where over 180 thousand people have so far contracted the virus and 24 thousand people have died, leading to the country’s healthcare system to be catastrophically overwhelmed, its leader Giuseppe Conte is riding an unprecedented wave of popularity. Having Jumped to 71 percent in March, his highest rate since taking office, his approval rating in April is 63 percent – still a whole 11 points higher than his figure for February before the national lockdown was announced.


As Statista’s Martin Armstrong notes, it’s a similar story in the UK too, where Boris Johnson, who spent a couple of nights in intensive care due to Covid-19 himself, is 18 points up on February. This, although his government’s response has been under severe fire in recent weeks due largely to low testing capacity and a drastic lack of PPE for medical staff. Where this coronavirus goodwill ends though is in the United States where the starkly divided population has been unmoved by Donald Trump’s crisis response to cross any of the deeply set party lines. Comparing poll averages in February to those in April show a very modest one-point increase for the president.

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Subtitle: Why Are Planes Still Flying?

15 Deaths In US Airline Industry In 9 Days Linked To Coronavirus (LAT)

Somehow, word got around among retired New York City firefighters about a perfect second-career job: a local company, with lots of travel perks. One by one, they became flight attendants at JetBlue. Ralph Gismondi was among the first of an estimated 30 or so former firefighters who joined the airline. He retired as a fire captain after several decades that included a stint at ground zero on 9/11. He began working as a flight attendant for JetBlue in 2003 and saw each trip as a chance to fine-tune his comedy routine over the public address system. On layovers, he would play the piano in hotel lobbies and rally other flight attendants for nights out on the town, coworkers said. On April 5, Gismondi became the first JetBlue employee to die of COVID-19. Within days, two more JetBlue deaths linked to the coronavirus followed.


Pilot Kevin McAdoo, a U.S. Air Force veteran, died April 7. Then, 27-year-old Jared Lovos, a fitness enthusiast who had been a JetBlue flight attendant and recently transferred to human resources, died April 10. Across the industry, The Times learned of at least 15 workers who have died from COVID-19 from April 5-13, according to the airlines, unions and interviews with family members and friends. Yet without any central tracking, the true number of deaths in the airline industry is likely to be significantly higher. An American Airlines gate agent at Los Angeles International Airport, an aircraft mechanic at a Tulsa, Okla., airport, a baggage handler at Dallas-Fort Worth and a food services manager at JFK airport in New York are all counted among the recent dead. And the human toll of air travel is mounting.

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No wonder airline staff are dying.

No Screening For Passengers Arriving At Heathrow From Virus Hotspots (DM)

Even the blue face mask covering the Iranian-British businessman’s face couldn’t conceal his consternation as he emerged into the arrivals hall at Heathrow Airport. Before boarding his Iran Air flight from Tehran, Farzad Parhizkar’s temperature – and those of the other 80 or so passengers – was checked by a laser-beam thermometer, he told me. They had also been obliged to fill in a form giving such details as their name and address, destination, reason for travel, and whether they had any symptoms of coronavirus. ‘Then, when I arrive here in London, there is nothing at all,’ he said, his eyebrows raising above the mask. ‘There was no temperature check, no questions about my health, no advice on how to avoid catching the virus. Nothing. Everything was all just like the world is normal.’

It was a criticism I heard repeatedly at Heathrow yesterday and on Sunday as I spoke to some of the 15,000 travellers who are – by Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s latest estimate – still flying into Britain every day. Of these, the Department for Transport claims about 10,000 are landing at London’s main hub, while others are coming in through Gatwick, Manchester and Birmingham. At a time when the nation is in lockdown, the very fact that these airports remain open to commercial flights is surely questionable enough. That we are continuing to welcome passengers from countries such as Iran, where the official Covid-19 death rate stood yesterday at 5,209 (though many believe the mullahs are lying and that it is considerably higher) seems like utter madness.


Yesterday morning, flights also arrived from New York – the city with the world’s highest number of coronavirus deaths, 13,869 – Los Angeles (California, 1,072 deaths), Chicago (Illinois, 1,290), Miami (Florida, 764), Dallas (Texas, 467) and Washington DC (624). Later, planes were due in from Rome, Madrid and Paris – three capitals at the epicentre of this pandemic – as well as from Tokyo, Lagos, Lisbon and Ahmedabad in India. According to Heathrow’s website, the purpose of keeping the airport open is to help repatriate British citizens and import vital freight, such as medical equipment and food. It points out that traffic has fallen by 75 per cent while cargo has increased by 200 per cent.

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If you write on the topic, at least give some examples of countries doing something about it. Plenty to do in Japan.

The Risks Of Relying On China For Critical Medical Supplies (SCMP)

[..] when Covid-19 spread to the rest of world, policymakers and politicians in the West were faced with a more critical challenge concerning national health, state security and geopolitics, as they all depend on China for critical medical supplies in their life-and-death battles against the lethal pandemic. Most developed economies rely on China to supply products such as personal protective equipment, testing materials, face masks, medicine and pharmaceutical materials. In this pandemic, China’s dominance in some strategically significant sectors, such as the active pharmaceutical ingredient industry, may well serve as a wake-up call for political elites in Washington’s corridors of power and the chancelleries of Europe.

[..] The Covid-19 pandemic is simultaneously a supply-side and demand-side shock, underscoring the potential public health, humanitarian and geopolitical crisis, and exposing flaws in the global system. Economically, countries have become more connected and interdependent. Politically, however, governments rule in totally different ways with different objectives. Yet, Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations does not take into account the conflicts of politics, economics among them. Similarly, David Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage espouses the effectiveness and efficiency of free-market competition, but says nothing about geopolitical rivalry.


Covid-19 comes amid escalating tension and rivalry between US-led alliances and China, given China’s fast-growing clout and Beijing’s pivot towards greater authoritarian rule domestically and a greater assertiveness internationally in the past decade or so. The pandemic has served to convince policymakers and strategists in the West not only of the economic risk of their over-reliance on a single country for critical supplies, but also the geopolitical risk of relying on a nation they call a “strategic rival”. Covid-19 will undoubtedly hasten the efforts of Western nations to not only diversify their supply sources to reduce economic risks, but also to diversify away from China to reduce the national security and geopolitical hazards.

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As American as apple pie. Pelosi’s go-to girl for the bailouts. “We’re after fraud.”

Donna Shalala Failed To Disclose Stock Sales In 2019 (MH)

Miami Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala, the lone House Democrat on the committee set up to oversee $500 billion in taxpayer money being used for coronavirus-related payouts to large businesses, violated federal law when she failed to disclose stock sales while serving in Congress. Shalala told the Miami Herald on Monday she sold a variety of stocks throughout 2019 to eliminate any potential conflicts of interest after she was elected to Congress in November 2018. But the transactions were not publicly reported as required by the STOCK Act, a 2012 law that prohibits members of Congress and their employees from using private information gleaned from their official positions for personal benefit and requires them to report stock sales and purchases within 45 days. Shalala’s office said the congresswoman and her financial adviser made a mistake.

Shalala, the former head of the Department of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton, is in the process of setting up a blind trust for her assets, and transactions made within a blind trust without a lawmaker’s knowledge are not required to be disclosed. But the blind trust isn’t finalized, meaning any transactions would need to be made public. “She had a misunderstanding about the periodic transaction report process and her need to report the sale of these stocks while preparing a blind trust,” Shalala spokesperson Carlos Condarco said. “As a new member with a broker and attorney who were not familiar with the congressional disclosure rules, there was a misunderstanding.” Shalala acknowledged the transactions after she was selected by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to represent House Democrats on a bipartisan panel that will monitor $500 billion in payouts to large businesses affected by the coronavirus.


On her 2018 financial disclosure, the most recent that is publicly available, Shalala said she owned a number of stocks in companies that could be eligible to seek federal bailouts, a potential conflict of interest. Shalala’s appointment to the five-person commission put her in the role of helping to supervise efforts by the U.S. Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve to stabilize the economy by lending hundreds of billions of dollars to struggling businesses, hospitals, municipalities and states. It will hold hearings and issue monthly reports to Congress. “Treasury got a huge pot of money to bail out large industries, specifically airlines,” Shalala said, of her role on the committee. “What we’re really after is mischief. We’re after fraud.”

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Actually, it wasn’t the banks, it was their execs. So sue them.

Lawsuit Claims 10 Big Banks Rigged Market For ‘Odd-Lot’ US Corporate Bonds (R.)

Ten of the world’s largest banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, have been sued for allegedly conspiring over nearly 14 years to rig prices in the $9.6 trillion U.S. corporate bond market, costing ordinary investors billions of dollars. The proposed class action filed on Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan said the banks have since August 2006 violated antitrust law by overcharging investors on “odd-lot” trades, which are worth less than $1 million and comprise 90% of all corporate bond trading. Other defendants include Barclays, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Scotland and Wells Fargo & Co, or their respective affiliates.


According to the 81-page complaint, the banks leveraged their power from handling more than two-thirds of U.S. corporate bond underwriting to quietly inflate spreads between the prices where they would buy and sell odd-lot bonds. This allegedly resulted in spreads 25% to 300% higher than on “round-lot” trades over $1 million, which are normally conducted by institutional investors, enabling the banks to reap higher compensation while boosting retail investors’ trading costs. “No reasonable economic justification explains the magnitude of the pricing disparity,” the complaint said. It added that odd-lot spreads are narrower even in foreign bond markets with lower volumes and liquidity.

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Apr 112020
 


Dorothea Lange Six tenant farmers without farms, Hardeman County, Texas 1937

 

115-Year-Old Supreme Court Opinion Could Determine Rights In A Pandemic (CNN)
Fauci: Immunity Cards Option For US, Antibody Tests To Come Next Week (Hill)
Fauci: World Health Organization Boss ‘Really An Outstanding Person’ (JTN)
New York Gov. Cuomo Tells Giuliani Coronavirus Modeling ‘100% Wrong’ (JTN)
Democrats Want To Drop Joe Biden For Andrew Cuomo – Poll (NYP)
New York Gov. Cuomo Joins International Criticism Of WHO (JTN)
Progressive Caucus Demands Pelosi Unveil Bold Coronavirus Package (CD)
68% Of COVID-19 Patients Improve After Gilead Drug Remdesivir: NEJM (R.)
New Jersey Loosens Restrictions On Hydroxychloroquine In Nursing Homes (NJ.com)
Less Than 1% Of Austrians ‘Acutely’ Infected With Coronavirus (G.)
French Coronavirus Toll Over 13,000 As Nursing Home Deaths Jump (R.)
Deaths Soar At Britain’s Care Homes As COVID-19 Stalks Elderly (R.)
2,000 Extra Deaths: Dutch Coronavirus Toll May Be Far Higher Than Known (RT)
Refusing To Share Debt Across The Eurozone Threatens EU’s Future (Varoufakis)
Risings and Fallings (Kunstler)
What if Ignored COVID19 Warnings Had Been Leaked to WikiLeaks? (Ray McGovern)

 

 

• The US becomes the first country to record more than 2,000 #coronavirus deaths in one day, with 2,108 fatalities in the past 24 hours, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally

• The US has now recorded 18,586 deaths, closing in on the toll of 18,849 dead in Italy which has seen the most fatalities so far,

• US records more than 500,000 coronavirus cases: Johns Hopkins as of 0030 GMT Saturday, up 35,098 in the past 24 hours

• U.S. Bureau of Prisons reports that 318 federal inmates and 163 employees have tested positive for coronavirus.

• Top 10 States – Positive Tests 4/10/20
1) NY/ 170,512;
2) NJ/ 54,588;
3/ MI/ 22,783;
4) MA/ 20,974;
5) CA/ 20,917;
6) PA/ 20,251;
7) LA/ 19,253;
8) FL/ 17,968;
9) IL/ 17,887;
10)TX 11,671.

 

 

Cases 1,710,152 (+ 95,103 from yesterday’s 1,615,049)

Deaths 103,506 (+ 6,715 from yesterday’s 96,791) (of 6,715 new deaths, over 2,000 were in the US)

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Info.live:

 

 

 

 

The legal game is definitely on.

115-Year-Old Supreme Court Opinion Could Determine Rights In A Pandemic (CNN)

When a US appeals court ruled this week that Texas could prevent physicians from performing abortions because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the judges leaned heavily on a 1905 Supreme Court decision against a Massachusetts man who had refused vaccination during a smallpox outbreak. That case could be invoked more in the months ahead. It is the high court’s touchstone for state power during public health crises. But it is a decision with limits. The 1905 court warned against “arbitrary” or “oppressive” regulation and expressly connected mandatory vaccination to ending the spread of smallpox. Today, the question is how bluntly the case, known as Jacobson v. Massachusetts, might be wielded to justify curbing individual liberties without caveat.

In the first decision of its kind during the coronavirus crisis, the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals relied wholly on the 1905 case to permit Texas to include abortion clinics in its ban on non-essential medical services and surgeries. The panel, ruling by a 2-1 vote, rejected arguments regarding the right to abortion ingrained by the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade and subsequent rulings. “Jacobson instructs that all constitutional rights may be reasonably restricted to combat a public health emergency,” wrote Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan for the majority. The 5th Circuit has a record of decisions against abortion access, including in a Louisiana dispute over physician regulations, begun long before the current pandemic and now pending at the US Supreme Court.

Dissenting in the new case, Judge James Dennis argued that the majority had taken the Jacobson precedent too far. Unlike in the early 1900s, Dennis wrote, when vaccination would stop the smallpox outbreak, “the thread connecting (the Texas measure) to combatting COVID-19 is more attenuated—premised not on the idea that abortion providers are spreading the virus, but that their continuing operation requires the use of resources that should be conserved and made available to healthcare workers fighting the outbreak.”

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Something tells me a few gun-toting Americans will not like those cards.

Fauci: Immunity Cards Option For US, Antibody Tests To Come Next Week (Hill)

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said it’s possible that in the future Americans may carry documents to prove they are immune or not infected with the coronavirus. Fauci, who is one of the public health officials on the administration’s coronavirus task force, said such a system is one of several options they are discussing. “That’s possible,” he said on CNN’s “New Day.” “It’s one of those things that we talk about when we want to make sure who the vulnerable people are and not,” Fauci added. “This is something that’s being discussed, I think it might actually have some merit.”


The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases also said that within a period of “a week or so” there will be a large number of new antibody tests, which allow users to discover whether they possess a unique immune response to the virus. “As soon as they get validated, they’ll be out there for people to use,” Fauci said. “It’s very likely that there are a large number of people out there that have been infected, have been asymptomatic and did not know.”


Coney Island 1940

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This is just nonsense. Ask Fauci why the WHO declared a pandemic only on March 11.

Fauci: World Health Organization Boss ‘Really An Outstanding Person’ (JTN)

The World Health Organization has landed in President Trump’s crosshairs for its handling of the coronavirus, yet Dr. Tony Fauci, a senior adviser on the White House’s coronavirus task force, has recently praised the group’s top leader. WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has come under fire for allegedly failing to warn the world about the speedy, lethal nature of the coronavirus originating in China. Multiple U.S. lawmakers, as well as Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, have called for Ghebreyesus’s removal. A Change.org petition has garnered nearly 780K petition signers urging Tedros’ ouster. “Tedros is really an outstanding person,” Fauci said during the March 25 coronavirus task force briefing. “I’ve known him from the time that he was the minister of Health of Ethiopia.


“I mean, obviously, over the years, anyone who says that the WHO has not had problems has not been watching the WHO. But I think, under his leadership, they’ve done very well.” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), praised Ghebreyesus’ handling of the coronavirus epidemic. “He has been all over this,” Fauci said. “I was on the phone with him a few hours ago leading a WHO call.” “The W.H.O. really blew it,” Trump recently tweeted. “For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?”

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Cuomo called for a lot of ventilators that turn out to be not needed.

New York Gov. Cuomo Tells Giuliani Coronavirus Modeling ‘100% Wrong’ (JTN)

New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been the stoic face of the state’s battle against the deadly coronavirus, but he recently acknowledged that his efforts to save residents’ lives and keep the regional economy afloat have been hampered by “100 percent wrong” projections. “All of the projections, by the way, and the statisticians have been 100 percent wrong at this point,” Cuomo on Thursday told former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on his radio show.


The roughly 9-minute interview on WABC-AM was all pleasantries between the longtime New York pols, as the state, now the epicenter of the virus, appears to be near the height of infection cases and related deaths. “Thank you for asking about Chris, Mr. Mayor,” said Cuomo, who now gives daily TV briefings, when Giuliani inquired about his brother, Chris Cuomo, the CNN anchor recovering from the virus. Giuliani started the interview by telling his audience that his guest is Gov. Cuomo “who, I think, is known to every American as a person who has supplied great, great leadership for his state and for his country.” Giuliani also added: “You’re doing a great job.”

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I have a question. Cuomo is governor of a state where the virus has run way out of hand. But nobody even tries to hold him accountable, it’s as if everything happened beyond his view, or power. It’s everybody’s fault but his. Why is that?

Democrats Want To Drop Joe Biden For Andrew Cuomo – Poll (NYP)

A majority of Democrats want to nominate New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for president instead of Joe Biden, according to poll results shared exclusively with The Post. The national poll found 56 percent of Democrats prefer Cuomo, with 44 percent wanting to stick with presumptive nominee Biden — a 12-point margin well outside the 4.8 percent margin of error for the Democratic sample. Hispanic voters, young people, women and self-identified liberals are most likely to favor dumping the former vice president for Cuomo. The poll, conducted April 3-6, was commissioned by the conservative pro-market Club for Growth, which generally supports Republican candidates.


Cuomo denied last month that he wanted to run for president, but some Democrats still are clamoring for an alternative to Biden, who faded from public view during the coronavirus outbreak, which elevated Cuomo in daily press conferences. Club for Growth vice president of communications Joe Kildea told The Post that the results highlight Biden’s weakness as a candidate. “With every major news event, Democrats realize more and more how bad of a candidate Joe Biden is, and Democrats now preferring Cuomo is just another example,” Kildea said.

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Here Cuomo is blaming yet another party. Not himself.

New York Gov. Cuomo Joins International Criticism Of WHO (JTN)

New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday joined the bipartisan – and international – criticism of the World Health Organization’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. “Where were the warning signs?” Cuomo asked at his daily briefing. “Who should have blown the whistle?” President Trump has been among the most vocal of world leaders on the issue of the WHO’s response, which they argue was slow and less than exact in its reporting and guidance. But the backlash against China appears global. Taiwan officials have suggested the WHO excluding it from membership has hurt the country’s response to the pandemic. Trump has vowed to withhold U.S. support for the group and said Friday that he’ll make a decision on the matter next week.


Cuomo pointed out Friday that headlines appeared in December and January about a new virus emerging in China, while the WHO failed to issue formal warnings. “Did we really need to be in this situation where the United States winds up having a higher number of cases than the places that came before?” he asked. Also in the U.S., congressional bills are being proposed by a number of GOP legislators, including Sens. Tom Cotton (Arkansas) and Marsha Blackburn (Tennessee), and Rep. Mike Gallagher (Wisconsin), to encourage U.S. companies to source ingredients and goods outside of Chinese markets.

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This is as close as you can get to UBI without naming it that.

Progressive Caucus Demands Pelosi Unveil Bold Coronavirus Package (CD)

The Congressional Progressive Caucus is calling on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to meet the coronavirus crisis with the urgency it deserves by advancing another sweeping stimulus package that—unlike the previous business-friendly legislation—guarantees economic security for all, protects public health, and ensures election safety. “Our actions now can lay the foundation for a just and resilient recovery, but only if we recognize the scale of this unprecedented crisis and fashion a response that meets that scale,” the two dozen members of the CPC Executive Board wrote in a letter sent to Pelosi on Thursday. With the U.S. economy rapidly deteriorating as the coronavirus continues to spread—nearly 17 million Americans filed jobless claims between March 15 and April 4—the CPC urged Pelosi to quickly assemble a relief package that provides robust assistance to workers and the unemployed until the coronavirus pandemic completely subsides.


To ensure that Americans will not have to wait for further congressional action if the economic and public health crisis deepens, the CPC called for a legislative package that contains automatic triggers so that “assistance continues based on economic conditions throughout the duration of the pandemic.” CPC’s list of specific demands includes: • Monthly direct cash payments of at least $2,000 to every adult in the U.S., and an additional $1,000 for every child for up to a year; • A nationwide moratorium on all evictions and foreclosures; • At least $30,000 in student debt relief; • Suspending collection of all consumer debt, including medical debt; • Opening Medicare to all people who are unemployed and uninsured; • Ensuring that no one in the U.S. faces out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 treatment; • Increasing federal nutrition assistance benefits; • Creating a “federal Paycheck Guarantee program” to stop mass layoffs; and • Guaranteeing nationwide vote-by-mail to make sure elections don’t contribute to the spread of COVID-19.


Top right: the Rest Of Us

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I’d go for hydroxychloroquine. 68% is hardly spectacular.

68% Of COVID-19 Patients Improve After Gilead Drug Remdesivir: NEJM (R.)

More than two-thirds of severely ill COVID-19 patients saw their condition improve after treatment with remdesivir, an experimental drug being developed by Gilead Sciences, according to new data based on patient observation. The analysis, published on Friday by the New England Journal of Medicine, does not detail what other treatments the 61 hospitalized patients were given and data on eight of them were not included — in one case because of a dosing error. The paper’s author called the findings “hopeful,” but cautioned that it is difficult to interpret the results since they do not include comparison to a control group, as would be the case in a randomized clinical trial.

In addition, the patient numbers were small, the details being disclosed are limited, and the follow-up time was relatively short. There are currently no approved treatments or preventive vaccines for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 100,000 people worldwide. Gilead last month sharply limited its compassionate use program for remdesivir and is conducting its own clinical trials of the antiviral drug, with results expected in coming weeks. Researchers in China as well as the U.S. National Institutes of Health are also testing the drug in COVID-19 patients. The new analysis includes patients in the United States, Europe, Canada and Japan who received a 10-day course of intravenous remdesivir.

Before the treatment, 30 patients were on mechanical ventilators, and four were on a machine that pumps blood from the patient’s body through an artificial oxygenator. After a median follow-up of 18 days, 36 patients, or 68%, had an improvement in oxygen-support class, including more than half of the 30 patients receiving mechanical ventilation who had their breathing tubes removed. A total of 25 patients, or 47%, were discharged from the hospital. Seven patients, 13% of the total, died. Twelve patients, 23%, had serious side effects including multiple-organ-dysfunction syndrome, septic shock and acute kidney injury.

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If people use it anyway, might as well.

New Jersey Loosens Restrictions On Hydroxychloroquine In Nursing Homes (NJ.com)

The state on Friday loosened restrictions on using a controversial malaria drug for COVID-19 patients, making it more readily available for people in nursing homes and other facilities. The decision comes amid reports of nursing home residents dying from complications of the disease and after some doctors, politicians and pharmacists had called for a change in the state’s rules. Until Friday’s order, doctors had been barred from prescribing hydroxychloroquine and some other drugs to treat COVID-19 outside of hospitals unless patients tested positive for the virus. Officials have reported that 262 of 375 of the state’s long-term care facilities have had at least one case of coronavirus, with reports of multiple deaths at some homes.


On Thursday, the National Guard arrived at the New Jersey Veterans Home in Paramus to help its staff cope with an outbreak of the virus that has infected 40 veterans and killed 10. The same home has had nearly 30 other deaths over the last two weeks, but a lack of testing for Covid-19 means they might not be attributed to the disease. The new regulations list a number of settings outside of hospitals “where the prescribing limitations” of the old order “do not apply,” according to a statement released Friday evening by the Division of Consumer Affairs. Doctors already had been prescribing hydroxychloroquine to patients in hospitals, where a positive test was not required by the state. The new regulations add post-acute care facilities, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, field hospitals and “other locations designated as emergency health care centers by the Commissioner of Health.”

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The Guardian left the word ‘Acutely’ out of the headline, That makes all the difference. The article also mentions a “World Health Organization report in February suggesting truly asymptomatic cases were relatively rare”. We now know they could be 50%.

Less Than 1% Of Austrians ‘Acutely’ Infected With Coronavirus (G.)

Less than 1% of the Austrian population is “acutely infected” with coronavirus, new research based on testing a representative sample of more than 1,500 people suggests. The government-commissioned study, reportedly the first of its kind in continental Europe, was led by the polling company Sora, which is known for projecting election results, in cooperation with the Red Cross, the Medical University of Vienna, and other institutions. The study made it possible to estimate the prevalence of acute coronavirus infections in Austria among those not in hospital at the beginning of April, and was designed to provide a clearer picture of the total number of infections, given gaps in testing.

The research, if replicated and confirmed elsewhere, would appear to scotch hopes of countries being remotely close to relying on “herd immunity” – where enough of the population is exposed to the virus to build up a combined immunity – as a viable policy option. The study stands in contrast to controversial modelling by researchers at Oxford University who, in one scenario they examined, suggested most people in the UK might already have been infected with Covid-19. The co-founder of Sora, Christoph Hofinger, told a news conference: “Based on this study, we believe that 0.33% of the population in Austria was acutely infected in early April.” Given the margin of error, the figure was 95% likely to be between 0.12% and 0.76%. The Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, who saw initial findings a few days ago, said on Monday that the rate of infection was around 1%.

This disproved the idea of herd immunity, which requires widespread infection, as a viable policy option, he said. However, researchers, speaking at a press conference to release the results, said the study provided only a “snapshot” and did not account for asymptomatic infections, or people who were immune. “We did not find out how many people are immune, but only how many people in Austria are currently acutely infected,” said Günther Ogris, from Sora. The issue of the proportion of asymptomatic infections in the population remains highly contested, with a World Health Organization report in February suggesting truly asymptomatic cases were relatively rare. However, another small Chinese study, reported in the British Medical Journal earlier this month, posited that up to four-fifths of all infections could be without symptoms

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Nursing homes, care homes, whatever you call them, they’re petri dishes.

French Coronavirus Toll Over 13,000 As Nursing Home Deaths Jump (R.)

The number of people who have died from coronavirus infection in France jumped by nearly 987 or 8% to 13,197 as nursing home deaths swelled but fewer people were in intensive care as the effect of nationwide confinement started to show. The total number of confirmed and probable coronavirus infections in the country rose by 7,120 to 124,869, although the ministry does not provide a total, splitting the number instead between cases in hospitals and cases in nursing homes. That total number is set to increase as just under 5,000 out of 7,400 homes so far have reported coronavirus cases to the government, a ministry official told Reuters.


The health ministry said on Friday that 7,004 people were in intensive care, a fall of 62 or 0.9% following a 1% fall on Thursday. “We seem to be reaching a plateau, albeit a high level,” health ministry director Jerome Salomon told a daily press briefing by video. But the death toll picked up again, with the number of people dying in hospitals up by 554 or 7% to 8,598 on Friday, after increasing 5% on Thursday. The number of people who died in nursing homes – according to incomplete data that cover several days and do not include all nursing homes – went up by 433 or 10% to 4,599 and now make up more than a third of the total toll.

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They should really publish case numbers among their staff as well.

Deaths Soar At Britain’s Care Homes As COVID-19 Stalks Elderly (R.)

Thousands of care homes across Britain were locked down last month to stop COVID-19 from spreading among their frail and elderly residents. For Jamshad Ali, 87, it came anyway. Ali and six other residents at Hawthorn Green Care Home in east London died with “symptoms consistent with COVID-19,” with 21 others also possibly infected, said a spokesman for the home. With growing reports of COVID-19 deaths and cases at other homes, experts fear the disease, caused by the new coronavirus, which has already ripped through the care sector in the United States and the rest of Europe is now doing the same in Britain. Care workers and advocacy groups are calling for more equipment to keep themselves and their residents safe, and for testing to get self-isolating staff back to workplaces already understaffed when the pandemic struck.

They’re also calling for more support for a sector whose workers are, like Britain’s National Health Service, fighting the coronavirus up close, but with less pay, training and recognition. Jamshad Ali’s daughter, Luthfa Hood, is heartbroken but also angry that care homes are considered such a low priority. “Young people, if they get the virus, they can fight it,” she said. “But (with) older people, it just seems like we’re saying, ‘We don’t care about you – you’re too old.’” Reporting delays and lack of testing make the death toll in care homes hard to pinpoint. Over 9% of them had reported cases and the number would continue to rise, said England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty on Tuesday.

“If you have a virus this infectious in a setting with lots of vulnerable older people, then it’s very bad news,” said Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK, which supports older people. “The mortality rate is likely to be very high.” On Monday, France announced there had been more than 2,400 deaths in its care homes. About 433,000 people live in Britain’s 11,000 care homes, which have over 450,000 beds – three times more than the National Health Service.

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2,000 extra people died last week. 881 were COVID19. That leaves 1,119 “undeclared” deaths. Every country should look at these numbers in their own jurisdiction.

2,000 Extra Deaths: Dutch Coronavirus Toll May Be Far Higher Than Known (RT)

The Netherlands suffered 2,000 more deaths than usual during the first week of April, the country’s statistics office has said. The spike suggests the Covid-19 toll might be significantly higher than officially registered. Figures released by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) on Friday show that around 5,100 deaths were registered across the country in the week ending April 5. The number is abnormally large and exceeded expectations, which were based on an average taken of the past several years, by some 2,000 people. Over the same period, the country’s National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) registered 881 coronavirus deaths – and the extra deaths overall in early April may also be due to the dreaded disease.


“The rising mortality rate coincides with the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis in the Netherlands,” the organization said. A more complete picture emerges by looking at the total weekly number of deaths as based on the data received by CBS, regardless of the cause of death. In some municipalities, the weekly death toll exceeded the average twofold and even fourfold, the CBS said. The abnormally large figures alone, however, cannot conclusively show that Covid-19 is to blame, and the spike may be “coincidental and not necessarily related to the coronavirus crisis,” the statistics body noted.

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The complaints about the EU become a broken record. What are the odds it will ever change?

Refusing To Share Debt Across The Eurozone Threatens EU’s Future (Varoufakis)

Most of continental Europe using the euro is in lockdown. The economic shockwaves caused by a lockdown do not care what currency we use. Just as in the United Kingdom, the United States or Japan, the precipitous falls in private incomes must be counterbalanced by substantial increases in public expenditure. If governments fail in this, the sum of private and public expenditure (which equals aggregate income) will crash even faster, bankruptcies will burgeon and government tax revenues will collapse further in the medium turn. The challenge facing the 19 countries of the eurozone is unique. The massive boost in public debt that is now so necessary is hampered by the quaint arrangement of sharing a central bank that, on the one hand, has no common treasury to lean against and, on the other, is banned from backing directly the 19 treasuries that must borrow in euros to fight the crisis.

The euro crisis that began in 2010 stretched this monetary architecture to its limits. The coronavirus recession is now pushing it beyond them. With the countries worst hit by Covid-19, such as Italy, being the most indebted and thus the least able to shoulder the necessary new debt, an impossible conundrum emerges: the new debt needed to revive the private sector will push the state into default, so destroying the banks whose capital is mostly government debt and, in short order, the rest of the private sector. The only way out of this trap is for the new debt not to fall on the weak shoulders of the most indebted eurozone countries but to be shared across the eurozone. Except that this debt-sharing is banned by the treaties that created the eurozone, at the insistence of the northern european countries running a trade surplus with the rest.

[..] The message today to Italians, Spaniards and Greeks is: your government can borrow large amounts from Europe’s bailout fund. No conditions. You will also receive help to pay for unemployment benefits from countries where employment holds up better. But, within a year or two, as your economies are recovering, huge new austerity measures will be demanded to bring your government’s finances back into line, including the repayment of the monies spent on your unemployment benefits.

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“..readers are twanging on me to declare the whole Covid-19 story “a hoax,” which I’m not ready to do.”

Risings and Fallings (Kunstler)

In the corkscrewing anguish of the social sequester, with careers, savings, futures, and dreams whirling down the drain, voices rise above the din of conflicting statistics to ask: what is going on here? To some, it looks like a deliberate attempt to demolish what’s left of the economy for political advantage. Clouds of suspicion gather over the two medical superstars of the Daily Briefing show, Doctors Fauci and Birx, as they somewhat sheepishly revise their numbers for contagion and death downward and attempt to “balance” the formula of modeled projections versus mitigation efforts. Was the stay-at-home panic necessary, after all? Will it save the day or kill off modern life as we knew it? Well, everyplace else in the world was shutting down, weren’t they? Did they all go off their rockers, too?

At least a hundred doctors died in Italy heroically tending the stricken, so they say. South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore opted for flat-out medical Gestapo action. Britain, Spain, France, and Germany about the same, but minus testing at the grand scale and tracing of contacts. Honestly, how is it possible the whole planet punked itself? I certainly don’t know the answer to all this, though readers are twanging on me to declare the whole Covid-19 story “a hoax,” which I’m not ready to do. I do know this: America has become utterly intolerant of uncertainty. And in the absence of certainty, that age-old human cognitive skill called pattern recognition, which has made us such a successful species, kicks into high gear scanning the field-of-view for answers. Any string-of-dots that affords even the slimmest plausibility goes on the table for review, including a lot of stories tagged as “conspiracy theories.”

[..] And meanwhile, the American public sequesters and festers, waiting for those $1,200 checks that will fix… everything! Let’s face it: this is a twilight zone between stupor and fury. Nobody is paying anything to anyone. All obligations are suspended: salaries, rents, mortgages, bills, loans, bets, and vigs, all up in the air somewhere, but definitely not moving to their assigned destinations. The velocity of money is zero and all the various new term facilities and structured vehicles conjured by the Federal Reserve and Congress amount to a mere shadow of money moving – even though they are represented by trillions of brand-new alleged dollars.

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It’s Free Assange Day today.

What if Ignored COVID19 Warnings Had Been Leaked to WikiLeaks? (Ray McGovern)

As I think of my good friend Julian, what comes to mind are the desperate words of Willy Loman’s wife Linda in “Death of a Salesman”: “He’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall in his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person.” (On the chance you are wondering, The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal — as well as National Public Radio — have paid zero attention to the extradition hearing in recent weeks — much less to Judge Baraitser’s Queen of Hearts-style, “off-with-his-head” behavior.)

The pitiable Baraitser, of course, is simply a cog in the imperial machinery, a self-impressed, self-interested, rigid functionary aping the role of Caiaphas, the high priest beholden to an earlier Empire. “It’s better that one man die,” he is said to have explained, when another nonviolent truth-teller dared to expose the cruelties of Empire to the downtrodden of his day — including the despicable accessory role played by the high priests. Here is how theologian Eugene Peterson’s renders Caiaphas’s words in John 11: “Can’t you see that it’s to our advantage that one man die … rather than the whole nation be destroyed.” (“Nation” in that context meant the system of privilege enjoyed by collaborators with Rome — like the high priests and the lawyers of the time.)

The lesson meant to be taken away from Assange’s punishment are as clear — if less bloody — as the crucifixion that followed quickly after Caiaphas explained the rationale. The behavior of today’s empire pretends to be more “civilized” as it manufactures stories of rape, leans on ratty satraps in Sweden, England, and Ecuador, and ostentatiously thumbs its nose at official UN condemnations of “arbitrary detention.” And, if that were not enough, it also practices leave-no-marks torture.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.”

Read more …

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.”

Read more …

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.”

Read more …

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.

Read more …

“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.

Read more …

“..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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Oddly appropriate:

 

 

 

 

 

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