Jul 112020
 


Berenice Abbott Murray Hill Hotel, New York 1935

 

Trump Commutes Roger Stone’s Sentence (Hill)
Blood Clots Found In ‘Almost Every Organ’ Of COVID Victims (NZH)
Official Covid-19 Statistics Are Missing Something Critical (EM)
The Risk-Free Upsides For China In The WHO’s Coronavirus Origin Quest (SCMP)
Ghislaine Maxwell Wants Bail Release Due To ‘Unprecedented’ COVID19 Risks (G.)
Catholic Church Lobbied For Taxpayer Funds, Got $3.5 Billion (AP)
Now What? (Jim Kunstler)
Democracy and the Illusion of Choice (CP)
American Airlines Tells Boeing: No Financing, No 737 MAX Deliveries (CNBC)
NYPD Limits Retirement Applications Amid 400% Surge This Week (NYP)
Erdogan Declares Hagia Sophia A Mosque After Turkish Court Ruling (R.)

 

 

Like the election of Donald Trump is the perfect symbol for what America has become, Roger Stone is the embodiment of Washington DC. There must be so much to be found out there if they want to go after him. But it’s not about him. Stone made the mistake of bragging about his links to Wikileaks, which he never had. If not for that, they would have left him alone.

That link was needed because from Wikileaks Robert Mueller could get to Russia on the entirely fabricated claims of connections Julian Assange was alleged to have had to Russian hackers (DNC files). Mueller’s investigation ended in absolute and embarrassing failure, and zero evidence, but what he could leave standing, because they could not defend themselves, were accusations against Assange and “13 Russians”.

Mueller chose that route. Which is why I have called him a coward and a liar.

I was reading earlier about the insane pre-dawn FBI raid on Stone’s home, executed by an entire army of agents, and including even helicopters. While they could have simply rung his doorbell. No love lost here for the man, but yeah, let him be.

 

 

Another round of new records all over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ben Hunt

 

 

Commuted, nor pardoned, in order for Stone to be able to fight on in court,

Trump Commutes Roger Stone’s Sentence (Hill)

President Trump on Friday commuted the prison sentence of longtime confidant Roger Stone after the former campaign adviser was sentenced to three years and four months in prison in connection with former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. The decision capped a months-long saga that has roiled the Justice Department and divided some of the president’s advisers. Stone was set to report to prison July 14, but his allies had lobbied for a pardon or a commutation, citing his risk of contracting coronavirus while in jail. The move Friday did not come as a particular surprise, as Trump had at various points in recent months signaled he was leaning toward intervening in Stone’s case. Trump told reporters he was considering a commutation or pardon for Stone as the date he was scheduled to report to prison loomed.

The announcement from the White House came roughly an hour after an appeals court denied Stone’s motion to delay the start of his prison term, scheduled to begin Tuesday. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany issued a statement Friday evening describing Stone as “a victim of the Russia Hoax that the Left and its allies in the media perpetuated for years in an attempt to undermine the Trump Presidency.” McEnany said that Trump had signed an executive grant of clemency commuting his “unjust” sentence. Trump has regularly railed against the prosecutors involved in the case, singled out the Obama-appointed federal judge overseeing the trial for criticism and complained that the conservative provocateur was the victim of a “ridiculous” process.

Stone, who has maintained his innocence and tried to appeal his conviction, was the last of six Trump associates to be charged in connection with Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia that dogged the president’s first two years in office. Mueller did not find evidence to charge Trump campaign associates with conspiring with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election, but found that the campaign welcomed Moscow’s interference efforts. Justice Department leadership moved to reduce Stone’s sentencing recommendation in February in a highly controversial move, leading all four career prosecutors working on his case to quit. Stone was convicted in November by a jury in Washington, D.C., of all counts he was charged with, including lying to Congress in connection with its separate investigation into Russian interference, witness tampering and obstructing an official proceeding.

McEnany argued Friday that Stone was charged with “alleged crimes” arising “solely” from Mueller’s “improper” investigation and that the GOP operative’s imprisonment would put him at “serious medical risk.” However, she said that Trump did not want to “interfere” with Stone’s efforts to appeal his conviction, meaning that those efforts will move forward and his conviction will stand. “Roger Stone has already suffered greatly. He was treated very unfairly, as were many others in this case. Roger Stone is now a free man,” the spokeswoman said in a statement.

Read more …

It’s the blood, not the lungs.

Blood Clots Found In ‘Almost Every Organ’ Of COVID Victims (NZH)

Doctors have revealed fresh details on the terrible toll taken on the body by Covid-19, releasing the results of autopsies of those who have died in the pandemic. In a study published in The Lancet journal EClinicalMedicine, Dr Amy Rapkiewicz, the chair of the Department of Pathology at NYU Langone Medical Centre, showed the role played by blood clots in the progression of the disease. Describing how scientists found clotting in tiny blood vessels throughout the body, Rapkiewicz told CNN the findings were “dramatic”. “Because though we might have expected it in the lungs, we found it in almost every organ that we looked at in our autopsy study.” The autopsies also showed the extensive presence of megakaryocytes, large bone marrow cells that don’t usually appear outside the lungs and bones.


“We found them in the heart and the kidneys and the liver and other organs,” Rapkiewicz said. “Notably in the heart, megakaryocytes produce something called platelets that are intimately involved in blood clotting.” “I could not remember a case before where we saw that,” Rapkiewicz told the Washington Post. “It was remarkable they were in the heart.” Speaking to TCTMD, Rapkiewicz said it is “a very interesting observation that seems to be consistent across multiple Covid cases.” Noting that Covid’s effect on blood clotting is at the opposite end of the spectrum from other killer viruses such as ebola, Rapkiewicz said researchers need to be diligent and “learn from our history” and explore what is known about other contagious diseases that affect the body’s coagulation systems.

Read more …

Mortality vs Morbidity. The Quality-Adjusted Life Year (QALY) and its sister statistic, the Disability-Adjusted Life Year (DALY).

Official Covid-19 Statistics Are Missing Something Critical (EM)

At the moment, official record-keeping offers only three options when it comes to Covid-19: infection, recovery, or death. This misses a broad range of other potential outcomes for people who catch the virus — many of them bad. In medicine, physicians talk about “M&M,” or “Mortality and Morbidity.” Many hospitals even hold closed-door “M&M” conferences, where their providers discuss everything that’s gone wrong with their patients over the last week or month. Mortality is a pretty straightforward concept. Have patients died from a particular disease process, and if so, how? Were their deaths avoidable? Can the field of medicine learn anything from them which will improve patient care in the future?

Morbidity, though, is a much trickier concept. It includes the complications, health issues, and other negative outcomes (other than death) that a disease causes. Basically, it’s all the ways that a disease can make you unwell, even if it doesn’t actually kill you. Official statistics capture deaths that occur from Covid-19 reasonably well. Reporting methods are often updated, and epidemiologists have gone back and attempted to quantify Covid-19 deaths that were originally missed. But overall, death counts are a relatively easy metric to apply. Patients are either alive or dead. Knowing the difference is comparatively simple. But these official statistics miss quite a lot. Specifically, they fail to represent Covid-19 morbidity — the harm that the disease causes, even in people that it doesn’t kill.

In terms of measuring the long-term impact of the disease — and accurately evaluating risk — that’s a big problem. Mounting evidence shows that even if Covid-19 kills less than 1% of patients, it doesn’t necessarily leave the others it infects unharmed. Even those who have “recovered” may have long-term impacts from it. Morbidity can happen over a long-term period, so it is a harder variable to study and track in the early stages of a pandemic than death. Anecdotal reports and early data, though, show that Covid-19 morbidity may be a very real concern. According to a report in The Atlantic which followed several people with Covid-19 over multiple months, many had long-lasting symptoms and impairments (including headaches and debilitating fatigue) that didn’t resolve when their active infection stopped.

All of these cases were considered “mild” and didn’t result in the use of a ventilator or a stay in the ICU. And they occurred in people from a variety of age groups, not only older adults and the infirm. Yet despite these “low risk” factors, patients were still experiencing major impacts from the disease months after contracting it. A handful of studies about Covid-19 (as well as scholarship on previous coronaviruses) bears this out. Covid-19 infection can have long-term impacts on the lungs, heart, immune system, and even the brain. These include an increased risk for heart attacks, future respiratory infections (including more severe cases of flu), and neurological impacts like cognitive impairment.

[..] As risk professionals like Nassim Nicholas Taleb have pointed out, the failure to measure Covid-19 morbidity makes it far harder to evaluate the true risk from the pandemic. Simply looking at deaths is not enough. Mortality statistics fail to account for the people who survive the disease but suffer long-term harm — or those who die from its complications long after their initial infection has subsided. This blindness to morbidity may push populations toward more aggressive reopening, or away from risk-reduction measures like mandating face coverings. If deaths are declining, the picture may appear rosy. But in reality, the disease may be causing irreparable harm to millions of people — just in a way that’s invisible in current statistics.

Read more …

How much control do they really have? Are they sending their best people?

The Risk-Free Upsides For China In The WHO’s Coronavirus Origin Quest (SCMP)

China’s decision to allow in a WHO-led coronavirus investigation could offer a risk-free boost to its reputation and help to find an answer to a big question – how the disease began. That was the assessment of health specialists, who said the answers were needed to prevent future outbreaks. Two World Health Organisation experts, an animal health specialist and an epidemiologist, are expected to arrive in Beijing this weekend to meet Chinese scientists and doctors to discuss the terms of a WHO-led mission to trace the origin of the coronavirus. China agreed to the mission after a resolution passed unanimously in May at the World Health Assembly, the WHO’s governing body, calling for the WHO to work to identify the virus’ animal source.

Countries like Australia and the United States had previously led a call for a broader investigation into China’s handling of the outbreak, which was first identified in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December. Sara Davies, an international relations professor specialising in global health governance at Griffith University in Australia, said China might have given approval because WHO officials were clear that the investigation was not about laying blame. “This is a scientific investigation, and that is a deliberate attempt to establish a clear marker that this is not about fault. It’s not the type of investigation that Australia and others were proposing earlier this year,” Davies said. The message was underlined earlier this week when Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian stressed that the search for the origin would not just be in China.

Zhao said China had reached a “fundamental consensus” with the WHO that tracing the source of the disease should take place around the globe, a process that the WHO suggested would be ongoing and involve many countries. Wang Huiyao, president of the Centre for China and Globalisation, said China was honouring its promise to allow a WHO-led investigation when domestic outbreaks were under control. Wang added that China would benefit by addressing persistent claims about the pathogen’s origins. “There have been some doubts and rumours internationally, like the conspiracy theory concerning the laboratory in Wuhan. The investigation will help quash such rumours,” he said.

Read more …

So does Assange.

Ghislaine Maxwell Wants Bail Release Due To ‘Unprecedented’ COVID19 Risks (G.)

Ghislaine Maxwell should be released on bail while awaiting trial for her alleged involvement in Jeffrey Epstein’s child sex trafficking ring because of “the Covid-19 crisis and its impact on detained defendants”, the British socialite’s lawyers argued in Manhattan federal court papers filed on Friday. Maxwell, 58, was arrested on 2 July at her Bradford, New Hampshire, home. She faces up to 35 years in federal prison if convicted. Her lawyers insisted that Maxwell is not a flight risk, and said she is trying to keep a low profile amid unrelenting “carnival-like” media scrutiny. “As this court has noted, the Covid-19 pandemic represents an unprecedented health risk to incarcerated individuals, and Covid-19-related restrictions on attorney communications with pre-trial detainees significantly impair a defendant’s ability to prepare her defense,” Maxwell’s lawyers claimed in their bail argument.

“Simply put, under these circumstances, if Ms Maxwell continues to be detained, her health will be at serious risk and she will not be able to receive a fair trial.” Maxwell’s legal team proposed several bail conditions, including a $5m personal recognizance bond co-signed by six financially responsible people, backed by property in the UK worth over $3.75m. They also proposed limiting her travel to the New York City area, turning in all her travel documents, imposing home confinement in New York City with GPS monitoring, and restricting visitors to her immediate family, close friends and lawyers. A judge has set a hearing for Tuesday to hear bail arguments and to arraign Maxwell on multiple charges, including that she conspired to entice girls as young as 14 to engage in illegal sex acts with Epstein from 1994 through 1997 at his homes in New York City, Florida and New Mexico, and at Maxwell’s residence in London.

[..] “Ever since Epstein’s arrest, Ms Maxwell has been at the center of a crushing onslaught of press articles, television specials and social media posts painting her in the most damning light possible and prejudging her guilt. The sheer volume of media reporting mentioning Ms Maxwell is staggering,” her lawyers argued in the court papers. “The ‘open season’ declared on Ms Maxwell after Epstein’s death has come with an even darker cost – she has been the target of alarming physical threats, even death threats, and has had to hire security guards to ensure her safety. The media feeding frenzy, which has only intensified in recent months, has also deeply affected her family and friends,” they said. They said later that “Ms Maxwell will be at significant risk of contracting Covid-19 if she is detained, and she will not be able to meaningfully participate in the preparation of her defense due to the restrictions that have been placed on attorney visits and phone calls in light of the pandemic.”

Read more …

And here’s some more rich sex offenders.

“Catholic dioceses whose financial stress was due not simply to the pandemic, but also to recent payouts to victims of clergy sex abuse…”

Catholic Church Lobbied For Taxpayer Funds, Got $3.5 Billion (AP)

The U.S. Roman Catholic Church used a special and unprecedented exemption from federal rules to amass at least $1.4 billion in taxpayer-backed coronavirus aid, with many millions going to dioceses that have paid huge settlements or sought bankruptcy protection because of clergy sexual abuse cover-ups. The church’s haul may have reached — or even exceeded — $3.5 billion, making a global religious institution with more than a billion followers among the biggest winners in the U.S. government’s pandemic relief efforts, an Associated Press analysis of federal data released this week found. Houses of worship and faith-based organizations that promote religious beliefs aren’t usually eligible for money from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

But as the economy plummeted and jobless rates soared, Congress let faith groups and other nonprofits tap into the Paycheck Protection Program, a $659 billion fund created to keep Main Street open and Americans employed. By aggressively promoting the payroll program and marshaling resources to help affiliates navigate its shifting rules, Catholic dioceses, parishes, schools and other ministries have so far received approval for at least 3,500 forgivable loans, AP found. The Archdiocese of New York, for example, received 15 loans worth at least $28 million just for its top executive offices. Its iconic St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue was approved for at least $1 million. In Orange County, California, where a sparkling glass cathedral estimated to cost over $70 million recently opened, diocesan officials working at the complex received four loans worth at least $3 million.

[..] There is no doubt that state shelter-in-place orders disrupted houses of worship and businesses alike. Masses were canceled, even during the Holy Week and Easter holidays, depriving parishes of expected revenue and contributing to layoffs in some dioceses. Some families of Catholic school students are struggling to make tuition payments. And the expense of disinfecting classrooms once classes resume will put additional pressure on budgets. But other problems were self-inflicted. Long before the pandemic, scores of dioceses faced increasing financial pressure because of a dramatic rise in recent clergy sex abuse claims.

The scandals that erupted in 2018 reverberated throughout the world. Pope Francis ordered the former archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, to a life of “prayer and penance” following allegations he abused minors and adult seminarians. And a damning grand jury report about abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses revealed bishops had long covered for predator priests, spurring investigations in more than 20 other states. As the church again reckoned with its longtime crisis, abuse reports tripled during the year ending June 2019 to a total of nearly 4,500 nationally. Meanwhile, dioceses and religious orders shelled out $282 million that year — up from $106 million just five years earlier. Most of that went to settlements, in addition to legal fees and support for offending clergy.

Loan recipients included about 40 dioceses that have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the past few years paying victims through compensation funds or bankruptcy proceedings. AP’s review found that these dioceses were approved for about $200 million, though the value is likely much higher.

Read more …

“..this bare ruin of a crooked old pol..”

Now What? (Jim Kunstler)

[..] the linchpin of Wokesterism: it’s Whitey’s fault. Whitey is racism incarnate. White Fragility makes redemption impossible. No amount of penance, apology, or remediation can fix it. Which raises another question: why even bother entertaining reparations for slavery? It will never be enough. Which may be exactly why the Woke Inquisition’s real aim is to undermine all of America’s institutions and then bust up the republic. The petulant “Resistance” that dug in after Hillary’s shocking 2016 election loss did the groundwork by enlisting the FBI, CIA, NSC, DOJ and other federal agencies into seditious intrigues that made the federal apparatus of justice look (and act) corrupt and untrustworthy.

Everything about the Mueller inquiry was an exercise in bad faith and perfidy, leaving the engines of official justice so broken that their misdeeds can barely be corrected, let alone prosecuted. To this day, the Lawfare cadres sponsor the continued persecution of General Michael Flynn, months after the DOJ formally dropped its case against him. Do you suppose these turpitudes don’t rankle the substantial number of citizens who still refuse to be driven insane by the Woke terror? And who is the figurehead leading this Democratic Woke party wrecking crew of coercion? The empty shell of Joe Biden, a bumbling senator turned grifting vice-president, now a mere hologram of a candidate.

The renewed campaign of Covid-19 hysteria in the Woke press may be just a psy-op to stuff poor Joe back in his basement and make sure he stays off public view. They took him out for a brief airing yesterday in Pennsylvania, a low-grade fiasco. In a formal speech, Mr. Biden said, “So today, I’m releasing a brewplint [sic] — I think the press had — how to create millions of good-paying union jobs, using Protestant technology [say what?] that we need now, and in the future.” Hmmm. Protestant technology? What could that be? Sounds like another one of Whitey’s endless tricks.

After the speech, some media cornered the candidate beside a campaign limo. He managed to decline taking any questions and waddled stiffly away, glassy-eyed, his hands strangely splayed like seal flippers (another symptom?). Who are they kidding with this pathetic wind-up mummy, this bare ruin of a crooked old pol? What treacherous game are they playing now? What’s next…?

Read more …

Excellent from Rob Urie.

The Russiagate allegations shifted attention away from rejection of the Democrat’s political program in 2016 so that they could run the same program again in 2020…

Democracy and the Illusion of Choice (CP)

[..] from the potential victory of a social democratic program five months ago, electoral choice is now between a right-wing demagogue and the chief architect of the carceral state, militarization of the police and liberal obeisance to capital. There is a connection between the Democrats three-plus years spent pushing the un/disproven Russiagate story and Joe Biden’s miraculous ascent as the establishment candidate in 2020. The Russiagate allegations shifted attention away from rejection of the Democrat’s political program in 2016 so that they could run the same program again in 2020. Amongst the political variables open for ‘discussion,’ the choice of candidate is all there is. The political program is determined at the intersection of campaign contributions, the needs and desires of capital, and the ids of oligarchs freed from public accountability. Democracy has nothing to do with it.

The ‘left’ argument for electing Joe Biden is as a placeholder, without precisely explaining how placeholding has supported the upward redistribution of political and economic power for four decades running. Donald Trump made himself known— seemingly to his political detriment, while five decades in public life left Joe Biden a political unknown who oversaw the writing of the 1994 Crime Bill and the Patriot Act, supported the misguided U.S. war against Iraq, and acted as collection agent for the credit card company MBNA. That both men represent the interests of capital and disjoint constituencies within the neoliberal order again suggests political guidance from outside of electoral politics.

This description is difficult for Democrats because they never took account of their loss in 2016. The stories they told themselves of foreign intrigue and racial backlash weren’t, and still aren’t, supported by the data. The Russiagate pillars have fallen one by one until nothing is left but tribal shorthand for aesthetic aversion to ‘Trump!’ Otherwise, the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) has been the gold standard of ‘ascendance of hate’ reporting since the 2000s. Outside of its made-for-the-establishment-press headlines, the number of racist and neo-Nazi hate groups is falling.

Read more …

Barely an industry anymore.

American Airlines Tells Boeing: No Financing, No 737 MAX Deliveries (CNBC)

American Airlines executives have told Boeing they will not take delivery of 17 737 Max airplanes unless the carrier can secure financing to pay for the aircraft, people familiar with the discussions told CNBC. The 17 Max planes are already built, but will not be delivered until the Federal Aviation Administration recertifies the aircraft and removes a grounding order, which is expected to happen later this summer or by early fall. When the FAA grounded the Max in March 2019, it meant Boeing was not allowed to deliver the 17 Max planes it had built for American. During the 15 months since the grounding, the financing for some of the 737 Max planes expired, leaving them unfunded.

The situation means Boeing Capital, which is Boeing’s financing division, will have to find a way to arrange financing for those planes. This could involve Boeing Capital buying the planes and leasing them to American. Another possible scenario could involve third-party aircraft leasing companies financing the planes in question. While Boeing will not comment specifically on its discussions with American, or on any other order, the company told CNBC: “Our focus continues to be on working with global regulators on the rigorous process they have put in place to safely return the 737 MAX to commercial service. We are not going to comment on discussions with our customers. It is an unprecedented time for our industry as operators confront a steep drop in traffic.

“We continue to work closely with our customers to support their operations, while balancing supply and demand with the realities of the market.” American has already taken delivery of 24 Max planes, and has another 76 ordered with Boeing. The Wall Street Journal previously reported American executives have threatened to cancel some of its Max orders.

Read more …

Who wants the job?

NYPD Limits Retirement Applications Amid 400% Surge This Week (NYP)

New York’s Finest are putting in for retirement faster than the NYPD can handle — while citing a lack of respect and the loss of overtime pay, The Post has learned. A surge of city cops filing papers during the past week more than quadrupled last year’s number — as the city grapples with a surge of shootings — and the stampede caused a bottleneck that’s forcing others to delay putting in their papers, officials and sources said. The NYPD said Wednesday that 179 cops filed for retirement between June 29 and Monday, an astounding 411 percent increase over the 35 who filed during the same period in 2019. The astonishing rush for the door came as 503 cops filed for retirement between May 25 — the day George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, sparking anti-cop protests around the country — and July 3, the NYPD said.

That number represents a 75 percent increase over the 287 who filed for retirement during the same time last year, the NYPD said. Sources said the deluge of applications had overwhelmed the department — due to cancellation of overtime for the workers who process them — and that the number of daily applicants was being limited as a result. On Tuesday, The Post spotted a line of cops waiting outside the office at One Police Plaza where retirement papers get filed. “Apparently, the pension section is only taking a certain amount of people per day and I think they are backed up ’til late July, early August,” one cop said. “That’s why you don’t see like 100 a day, because they are only doing like 35 to 40 a day, by appointment.” A spokeswoman for the NYPD confirmed the “surge in the number of officers filing for retirement.”

“While the decision to retire is a personal one and can be attributed to a range of factors, it is a troubling trend that we are closely monitoring,” the spokesperson added. An NYPD spokeswoman noted that the department is not turning down any applications for officers retiring in the next 30 days — but has told cops putting in to retire after that to come back when a month out due to the increased activity. Sources blamed the situation — which comes amid an alarming spike in shootings — on growing anti-cop sentiment, coupled with a pending city law that would make it a crime for cops to use chokeholds while trying to subdue violent suspects. “There’s just droves and droves of people retiring. But there’s no surprise here, who the hell wants to stay on this job?” one cop said. “Why would you want to stay on this job when people don’t appreciate what you do?”

Read more …

Erdogan turns his back on Turkey’s founder Kemal Ataturk and reaches back to 15th century Ottoman empire.

“For those who don’t know, really near to Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, the Turks built the Blue Mosque, which is newer and big enough for all the muslims in the area (and then some). Erdogan is just trying to provoke christians and show to muslims worldwide he is their leader.”

Erdogan Declares Hagia Sophia A Mosque After Turkish Court Ruling (R.)

President Tayyip Erdogan declared Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia a mosque on Friday with the first Muslim prayers to begin in two weeks, after a top court ruled the ancient building’s conversion to a museum by modern Turkey’s founding statesman was illegal. Erdogan spoke on Friday just hours after the court ruling was published, brushing aside international warnings not to change the status of the nearly 1,500-year-old monument that is revered by Christians and Muslims alike. The United States, Russia and church leaders were among those to express concern about changing the status of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, a focal point of both the Christian Byzantine and Muslim Ottoman empires and now one of the most visited monuments in Turkey.

Greece’s culture ministry described the court decision as an “open provocation” to the civilized world, while UNESCO said it regretted it was not notified ahead of time and would now review the building’s status. Erdogan has sought to shift Islam into the mainstream of Turkish politics in his 17 years at the helm. He has long floated restoring the mosque status of the sixth-century building, which was converted into a museum in the early days of the modern secular Turkish state under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. “With this court ruling, and with the measures we took in line with the decision, Hagia Sophia became a mosque again, after 86 years, in the way Fatih the conqueror of Istanbul had wanted it to be,” Erdogan said in a national address.


In a telling of history at times critical of the Byzantine Empire and the modern republic’s founders, Erdogan said Turkey could now leave behind “the curse of Allah, profits and angels” that Fatih – the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II – said would be on anyone who converted it from a mosque. “Like all our mosques, the doors of Hagia Sophia will be open to all, locals and foreigners, Muslims and non-Muslims,” said Erdogan, who earlier on Friday signed off on the Religious Affairs Directorate managing the site.

Read more …

 

 

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Jul 102020
 


Gerry Cranham Protection for the pretty 1963

 

 

Imagine you’re standing across the street from a house that’s on the verge of falling apart, a condemned building, an edifice devoured by rot from bottom to top. Now imagine you see a construction crew arriving to repair it, and they start to fix the roof. You would think that’s not much use if the walls, floor and foundation are just one wolf’s huff and puff away from collapse.

Still, that is what the world’s central banks are doing today: they “fix” the top by bailing out banks and allege that somehow that will fix the rest of the edifice too. In that same analogy, while central banks prop up banks, governments try to support the walls, by bailing out businesses. Again, while the floors and foundations keep on rotting away. And when the floors cave in, so of course will the walls, just like the roof.

There may appear to be some logic to all this, but it’s only the “inner logic” of an economic and political ideology that deals exclusively with how things should be, not how they are. Of course it’s nice to have a shiny new roof, and strong walls. But neither have any value if there are no more floors to support them.

This is what is happening today to our economies and societies. The 2008 crisis wasn’t bad enough to expose the failures of the “inner logic” of the system, but the fallout of COVID19 will be. And it’s not the virus that does it all, or the lockdowns, they merely expose a system that’s been rotting for many years without its floors and foundations ever being repaired.

(And yes, you’re right, the central banks are not merely fixing the roof, they’re gold-plating it for good measure).

 

So you got the Fed team working on the roof and the government team working on the walls, and absolutely nobody working on the floors and foundations. And at some point you’re going to have to ask what these people actually know about building and construction, even about gravity: are they aware that roofs and walls are infinitely more dependent on solid floors than floors are on them?

Actually, I think they are. They just don’t think it’s possible that the floor may fall out from underneath them (i.e. they deny gravity). But that is what is threatening to happen. Not only in the US, but all over the western world. And if there’s one thing you don’t want to happen to your house, or your economy/society, it’s for the bottom to fall out. Because where will you live?

Still, with headlines such as

“More Than Half Of The US Population Is Not Working”,
“50 Million Americans Have Lost Their Job In Past 6 Weeks”,
“42 Million Unemployed, 25.5% Unemployment Rate”,
“52% Of Small Businesses Expect To Be Out Of Business Within Six Months”,
“53% Of Restaurants Closed Amid Coronavirus Have Shuttered Permanently”,
“US Retail Apocalypse: Over 25,000 Stores Could Close By Year End”
,

and more of the same on the way, we should at least consider the possibility of the bottom falling out, and prepare accordingly.

It’s one thing to want to save the businesses, but if you have huge amounts of people who can’t afford to buy anything from them, businesses will inevitably fail in huge numbers. If the bottom threatens to fall out, you need to focus on saving the floor and foundations, the people, not the businesses. Nothing to do with socialism or anything like that, but with preserving your society as a going concern.

 

The first thing I didn’t quite get, but then again did, was that all the PPP’s and their equivalents, the various global payment protection programs, were aimed at protecting businesses by guaranteeing wages and salaries of their employees. What an odd idea, I thought. After all, if you want to protect wages, there is no reason to do that through a business, you might as well pay the employee directly.

If you pay the business which must then pay the employee, how would that help or protect that business? By giving off the false impression it can still pay the wages? Of course, if you do pay it through businesses, at least no-one can bring up a theme such as Universal Basic Income, anymore than they can MMT. While you in effect practice both, you can also deny practicing either. Pretty smart, right? Neat!

But turn this around for a moment. Say the governments pay the wages and salaries. These are the biggest cost for many if not most businesses, certainly the small ones, which are, obviously, the most vulnerable to sudden events like a pandemic and lockdown. So as a government, you take that liability, and that risk, away.

It would appear that then you can assess much better how viable such a business really is. Because a business that doesn’t have to pay its biggest cost should be able to survive for a few months, even if there’s no revenue coming in, unless it has deeper problems, like -too much- debt. The advantages for everyone are clear: less paperwork for government and business owner, guaranteed wages for employees, and a better view of a business’s financial situation for everyone.

 

Not that you should pay employees 100% of their wages, as many countries have. You would only do that if you think the problems will be over soon, but in reality you have no idea if they will be. You need to support the lowest-paid people -because they are the bottom that’s about to fall out- but as you work your way up to higher wages, you start taking off a percentage, rinse and repeat, and end up paying maybe $50,000 to people who made $100,000 (and yes, that goes for government employees too).

Why would you hand someone, anyone over $100,000 for not working? Of course there are people with mortgages and car loans that are so elevated that they need more than $100,000 to keep their families alive, but that is a different story. That does not deal with the bottom falling out. For those cases, you need a separate program. Just like you do for businesses that still can’t survive once all their wages have been taken care of by the government.

Obviously, as Midwest small businessman Bruce Wilds said recently in his guest post here, Small Business Firings to Start, for some businesses showrooms, or inventory, taxes, utilities, can be major liabilities. Again, separate program. Support the bottom, the people, first. Because it’s urgent. Because you risk too many people having too little to survive on. In fact, so many that your businesses come under threat from having no customers left.

 

As one of its first measures, Greece, when it went into lockdown, lowered rents for businesses by 40%, without as much as a plan for how to compensate landlords. That’s the spirit. But it’s a spirit few will understand, let alone politicians. In the end, the reality is that most landlords and mortgage lenders will get less money. For a long time. You can try to help everyone out with cheap loans to individuals and businesses to pay off their mortgages, but that’s a just another short term plan, and has nothing to do with long time views.

And cheap loans won’t save the bottom from falling out. If you put it like that, people will actually understand: you don’t save a failing economy by pouring in cheap money. Any more than a lick of paint will save a condemned building.

But at the same time, that’s all our political systems manage to come up with. While fervently hoping for, counting on, a miraculous recovery, and planning to make the poor pay by raising taxes when we’re “back to normal”. It’s just that there comes a time when the poor have nothing left to pay with, not even for their food. That’s when the bottom falls out.

To be continued. I have much more to say on this. Like: what to do now?

Look, it’s quite simple really: if you ask yourself, or your friends, or someone on the street, if they think the economy will recover within a “reasonable” timeframe, most will say yes. Conditioned by politicians, by the media, and by their own fear of what will be their fate if it doesn’t. But that is a giant blind spot. If half of businesses and half or restaurants are shut for good where ever it is you live, where would that recovery have to come from? Do ask yourself that question, and try not to be afraid of the answer for a moment.

 

 

 

 

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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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May 052020
 


G.G. Bain ‘Casino Theater playing musical ‘The Little Whopper’, NY 1920

 

30,000 New Cases, 3,000 New Deaths Daily Expected in US (CNN)
New Projection Puts US COVID19 Deaths At Nearly 135,000 By August (R.)
New Zealand PM: No Open Borders For ‘A Long Time’ (BBC)
Just 273 Of 18.1 Million People Arriving In UK Prior To Lockdown Quarantined (G.)
France’s First Known COVID19 Case ‘Was In December’ (BBC)
US Treasury Seeks To Borrow A Record $3 Trillion This Quarter (CNBC)
New York AG Asks Major Banks To Clarify Handling Of Small Business Loans (R.)
When the Birdies Sing Like the Fat Lady (Kunstler)
Apple, Google Ban Use Of Location Tracking In Contact Tracing Apps (R.)
Immunity Passports And Vaccination Certificates (Lancet)
‘Time Has Come’ For Universal Basic Income – Scottish PM Sturgeon (Ind.)
US Mortgage Firms Push For Support As Borrowers Halt Payments (R.)
Safe Climate Niche Closing Fast, With Billions At Risk (SMH)
Assange Extradition Hearing Delayed Until September (PR)

 

 

• The tally by Johns Hopkins University recorded 1,015 deaths in the past 24 hours, the lowest one-day figure in a month, with more than 1.17 million cases in the country as of 8:30 pm Monday (0030 GMT Tuesday), and a total 68,689 deaths

• US is improving only in NY,NY,CT and MA. Exclude those states and numbers are rising:

 

 

And while we’re at it, another success story: Sweden.

 

 

 

Cases 3,662,271 (+ 79,382 from yesterday’s 3,582,889)

Deaths 252,747 (+ 4,180 from yesterday’s 248,567)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

I don’t want to quote CNN anymore than NYT or WaPo, but I was looking for these numbers, and CNN has them here. Note: they are from different sources, and the CDC one is only a draft “report”, of which the White House said it’s “not reflective of any of the modeling” done by the White House Coronavirus Task Force or “data that the task force has analyzed.”

Indicative of the level at which CNN “functions” are sentences like these: “Trump, who has consistently appeared to care most about his political prospects during three miserable months..”

30,000 New Cases, 3,000 New Deaths Daily Expected in US (CNN)

President Donald Trump now knows the price of the haunting bargain required to reopen the country — tens of thousands more lives in a pandemic that is getting worse not better. It’s one he now appears ready to pay, if not explain to the American people, at a moment of national trial that his administration has constantly underplayed. Depressing new death toll projections and infection data on Monday dashed the optimism stirred by more than half the country taking various steps to reopen an economy that is vital to Trump’s reelection hopes and has shed more than 30 million jobs. Stay-at-home orders slowed the virus and flattened the curve in hotspots like New York and California, but they have so far failed to halt its broader advance, leaving the nation stuck on a grim plateau of about 30,000 new cases a day for nearly a month.

New evidence of the likely terrible future toll of Covid-19 came on a day when Trump stayed out of sight — his wild briefings that hurt his political prospects now paused — meaning he could not be questioned on his enthusiasm for state openings in the light of new evidence. The White House also took new steps to limit testimony to the House from members of the President’s coronavirus task force, prompting Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi to warn on CNN that it was “afraid of the truth.” Trump, who has consistently appeared to care most about his political prospects during three miserable months, mounted another victory lap on Monday — boasting on Twitter that he was finally getting “great reviews” for his virus management.

A new model from the University of Washington, previously used by the White House suggested that 134,000 Americans could now die by August — in a revised toll prompted by the likely impact of state openings. The total was more than double the same organization’s estimate last month. A draft internal report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention obtained by The New York Times buckled the White House narrative that the worst of the pandemic is passed and it’s time to get going again. It found that the daily death toll will reach about 3,000 by June 1, nearly double the current number.

Read more …

More from the IHME.

New Projection Puts US COVID19 Deaths At Nearly 135,000 By August (R.)

A new forecast projects nearly 135,000 deaths due to COVID-19 in the United States through the beginning of August mainly due to reopening measures under way, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington said on Monday. The forecast U.S. death toll through early August totaled 134,475, a midrange between 95,092 and 242,890, the IHME said. The revised projection almost doubles the number of deaths foreseen in the United States since the last estimate in mid-April. The new projections reflect rising mobility and the easing of social distancing measures expected in 31 states by May 11, said the IHME, whose models are used by the White House.


The increasing contacts among people will promote transmission of the coronavirus, it said. “This new model is the basis for the sobering new estimate of U.S. deaths,” said IHME director Christopher Murray, referring to the reopening measures. The IHME said its new model assumes that public health orders that are currently in place will stay in place until infections are minimized. The IHME’s forecast increases the projected number of deaths in the U.S. by more than 62,000, with a rise of more than 8,700 deaths in New Jersey and more than 7,800 in New York state for the same period, up from estimates released last month.

Read more …

Good thing the Lord of the Rings is finished.

New Zealand PM: No Open Borders For ‘A Long Time’ (BBC)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the country will not have open borders with the rest of the world for “a long time to come”. Ms Ardern was speaking after attending part of Australia’s cabinet meeting via video link. The meeting discussed a possible “trans-Tasman bubble”, where people could go between Australia and New Zealand freely, and without quarantine. But she said visitors from further afield were not possible any time soon. Both Australia and New Zealand have closed their borders to almost all foreigners as part of their Covid-19 response. Ms Ardern said New Zealand and Australia were discussing a “bubble of sorts between us, a safe zone of travel”.


She stressed there was “a lot of work to be done before we can progress…but it’s obviously been floated because of the benefits it would bring”. But, in response to a question about the country’s tourism sector, Ms Ardern said: “We will not have open borders for the rest of the world for a long time to come.” Tourism is one of New Zealand’s biggest industries, directly employing almost 10% of the country’s workforce, and contributing almost 6% of GDP. Most visitors are from Australia, followed by China, the US, and the UK. Ms Ardern said any “trans-Tasman bubble” was only possible because of “the world leading actions” of both countries.

Read more …

And few and far between after, from what I’ve seen.

Just 273 Of 18.1 Million People Arriving In UK Prior To Lockdown Quarantined (G.)

Fewer than 300 people out of the 18.1 million who entered the UK in the three months prior to the coronavirus lockdown were formally quarantined, figures reveal. Passengers on three flights from Wuhan, in China, the source of the Covid-19 outbreak, and one flight from Tokyo, Japan, that was carrying passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, were taken to government-supported isolation facilities between 1 January to 22 March. The figures, provided by the government to the Labour MP and member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Stephen Doughty, show this totalled 273 people. Additional data provided to the committee shows that there were 18.1m arrivals at the UK border by air, land and sea in the same period.

Although that includes arrivals from all destinations, it is understood that Home Office estimates would still put the number of potentially infected individuals entering the UK from coronavirus-affected countries in that period in the tens of thousands. Doughty said: “The admission that just four flights from two locations, barely a few hundred individuals – out of literally millions of arrivals – were formally quarantined while the pandemic was already raging in a series of locations beggars belief. “On what scientific basis were a handful of flights from Wuhan and one from a Tokyo singled out for extreme attention? But not a single flight from Northern Italy, Spain or the US?

“The fact that many of these people then likely arrived and travelled onwards across the UK with little or no adherence to social distancing, and with no checks or protections at the border – barely a whiff of hand sanitiser – is deeply disturbing. Let alone the arrival of 3,000 fans from Madrid as the pandemic picked up speed.

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But I thought the French strand didn’t come from China?!

France’s First Known COVID19 Case ‘Was In December’ (BBC)

A patient diagnosed with pneumonia near Paris on 27 December actually had the coronavirus, his doctor has said. Dr Yves Cohen told French media a swab taken at the time was recently tested, and came back positive for Covid-19. The patient, who has since fully recovered, said he had no idea where he caught the virus as he had not been to any infected areas. This news means the virus may have arrived in France almost a month earlier than previously thought. Dr Cohen, head of emergency medicine at Avicenne and Jean-Verdier hospitals near Paris, said the patient was a 43-year-old man from Bobigny, north-east of Paris. He was exhibiting what later became to be known as the main symptoms of coronavirus, including a dry cough, a fever and trouble breathing.


He was admitted to hospital on 27 December, four days before the World Health Organization’s China country office was informed of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause being detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The French patient told French broadcaster BFMTV that he had not travelled before falling sick. Dr Cohen said two of the patient’s children had fallen ill but that the wife had not shown any symptoms. But Dr Cohen pointed out that the patient’s wife worked at a supermarket near Charles de Gaulle airport and could have come into contact with people who had recently arrived from China. The patient’s wife said that “often customers would come directly from the airport, still carrying their suitcases”.

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The banks need more help, I’m sure.

US Treasury Seeks To Borrow A Record $3 Trillion This Quarter (CNBC)

Massive stimulus to support the U.S. economy through the coronavirus crisis will cause the Treasury to borrow a record $3 trillion this quarter. The department on Monday announced the total, which is actually $2.999 trillion. “The increase in privately-held net marketable borrowing is primarily driven by the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, including expenditures from new legislation to assist individuals and businesses, changes to tax receipts including the deferral of individual and business taxes from April – June until July, and an increase in the assumed end-of-June Treasury cash balance,” the department said in a statement. On top of that borrowing, the Treasury also said it anticipates another $677 billion in the third quarter. First-quarter borrowing totaled $477 billion.


The red ink comes thanks to multiple stimulus efforts Congress has passed to resuscitate an economy brought to a standstill amid social distancing efforts to halt the virus spread. Allocations thus far have totaled more than $2 trillion, and at last one more package is expected to help the more than 30 million Americans who have hit the unemployment line as well as thousands of other businesses that have seen their revenue streams evaporate. The Treasury Department also is backstopping several lending programs for the Federal Reserve, which is leveraging Treasury guarantees in programs aimed at providing another $2.2 trillion in funding to businesses and households.

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They’ll laugh in her face.

New York AG Asks Major Banks To Clarify Handling Of Small Business Loans (R.)

New York’s Attorney General said on Monday she has asked 11 major U.S. banks to clarify how they had issued loans tied to the U.S government’s $660 billion program to rescue small businesses from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Known as the Paycheck Protection Program, the plan was intended to help small firms weather the worst global economic crisis in decades but has been hobbled by missing paperwork, technology failure and a misdirection of funds to big corporations. Attorney General Letitia James said she is seeking information on the practices, marketing and procedures that banks undertook when they issued those loans.


Also of interest is whether some companies had used their lobbying power to influence the way banks had dispensed the loans, she said. “We are concerned that women and minority groups did not have equal access to loans,” James said in an interview, adding that she worried a disproportionate amount of money had flowed to big companies. A spokesman for James declined to name the 11 banks that had received a letter from the office, sent on April 29, but said they are “large” U.S. banks. The United States has been hardest hit by the coronavirus, which causes a respiratory disease, having seen 67,821 deaths in the country, higher than any other nation in the world.

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“The beauty of springtime is sublime and, as Edmund Burke noted, that very beauty provokes our thoughts of pain and terror.”

When the Birdies Sing Like the Fat Lady (Kunstler)

And so here we are at a fraught moment in the convergent crises of corona virus and the foundering economic system that it infected, with all its frightful pre-existing conditions. Of course, it isn’t capitalism, so-called, that is failing, but the perversions of capitalism, starting with the appendage of the troublesome term: ism. It isn’t a religion, or even a pseudo-religion like Zoroastrianism or communism. It’s simply the management system for surplus wealth. In a hyper-complex society, the management of wealth naturally grows hyper-complex, too, with lavish opportunities and temptations for chicanery, cheating, fraud, and swindling (the perversions of capital). It’s in the interest of the managers to cloak all that hyper-complex perversity in opaque language, to make it seem okay.

How many ordinary Americans have a clue what all the Municipal Liquidity Facilities, Primary Dealer Credit Facilities, Primary and Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facilities, Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facilities, Main Street New Loan Facilities and Expanded Loan Facilities, Commercial Paper Funding Facilities, currency swap lines, the TALFs TARPs, PPPs, SPVs represent – besides the movement, by keystrokes, of “money” from one netherworld to another (both conveniently located on Wall Street), usually to the loss of non-elite citizens generally and to their offspring’s offspring’s offspring?

Real capital is grounded in the production of real things of real value, of course, and when it’s detached from all that, it’s no longer real capital. Money represents capital, and when the capital isn’t real, the money represents…nothing! And ceases to be real money. Just now, America is producing almost nothing except money, money in quantities that stupefy the imagination – trillions here, there, and everywhere. The trouble is that money is vanishing as fast as it’s being created. That’s because it’s based on promises to be paid back into existence that will never be kept, on top of prior promises to pay back money that were broken or are in the process of breaking. The net result is that money is actually disappearing faster than it can be created, even in vast quantities.

All this sounds like metaphysical bullshit, I suppose, but we are obviously watching money disappear. Your paycheck is gone. That activity you started – a brew-pub, a gym, an ad agency – no longer produces revenue. The HR department at the giant company you work for told you: don’t bother coming into the office tomorrow, or possibly ever again. Your bills are piling up. The numbers in your bank account run to zero. That sure smells like money disappearing. Wait until the pension checks and the SNAP cards mysteriously stop landing in the mailbox. There’s going to be a lot of trouble. Ordinary Americans are going to get super-pissed if money doesn’t disappear from the stock markets, too.

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Every country develops its own app. And they’re all the best one, I’m sure.

Apple, Google Ban Use Of Location Tracking In Contact Tracing Apps (R.)

Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google on Monday said they would ban the use of location tracking in apps that use a new contact tracing system the two are building to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Apple and Google, whose operating systems power 99% of smart phones, said last month they would work together to create a system for notifying people who have been near others who have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The companies plan to allow only public health authorities to use the technology. Both companies said privacy and preventing governments from using the system to compile data on citizens was a primary goal. The system uses Bluetooth signals from phones to detect encounters and does not use or store GPS location data.

But the developers of official coronavirus-related apps in several U.S. states told Reuters last month it was vital they be allowed to use GPS location data in conjunction with the new contact tracing system to track how outbreaks move and identify hotspots. The Apple-Google decision to not allow GPS data collection with their contact tracing system will require public health authorities that want to access GPS location to rely on what Apple and Google have described as unstable, battery-draining workarounds. Alternatives likely would miss some encounters because iPhones and Android devices turn off Bluetooth connections after some time for battery-saving and other reasons unless users remember to re-activate them. But some apps said they planned to stick to their own approaches.

Software company Twenty, which developed the state of Utah’s Healthy Together contact tracing app with both GPS and Bluetooth, said on Monday the app “operates effectively” without the new Apple-Google tool. “If their approach can be more effective than our current solution, we’ll eagerly incorporate their features into our existing application, provided it meets the specifications of current and prospective public health partners,” Twenty said. Canada’s Alberta province, which does not collect GPS data, said it has no plans to adopt the Apple-Google system for its ABTraceTogether app. Privacy experts have warned that any cache of location data related to health issues could make businesses and individuals vulnerable to being ostracized if the data is exposed. Apple and Google also said Monday they will allow only one app per country to use the contact system, to avoid fragmentation and encourage wider adoption. The companies said they would, however, support countries that opt for a state or regional approach, and that U.S. states will be allowed to use the system.

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The Lancet should stand for quality. So sure, talk about why immunity passports won’t work. But what’s the use of discussing vaccination certificates when there’s no vaccine?

Immunity Passports And Vaccination Certificates (Lancet)

Many governments are looking for paths out of restrictive physical distancing measures imposed to control the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). With a potential vaccine against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) many months away,1 one proposal that some governments have suggested, including Chile, Germany, Italy, the UK, and the USA,2 is the use of immunity passports—ie, digital or physical documents that certify an individual has been infected and is purportedly immune to SARS-CoV-2. Individuals in possession of an immunity passport could be exempt from physical restrictions and could return to work, school, and daily life. However, immunity passports pose considerable scientific, practical, equitable, and legal challenges.

On April 24, 2020, WHO highlighted current knowledge and technical limitations, advising “[t]here is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection…[a]t this point in the pandemic, there is not enough evidence about the effectiveness of antibody-mediated immunity to guarantee the accuracy of an ‘immunity passport’”.3 In a follow-up tweet, WHO clarified that it is expected that infection with SARS-CoV-2 will result in some form of immunity.4 Caution is warranted about how population level serology studies and individual tests are used. It is not yet established whether the presence of detectable antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 confers immunity to further infection in humans and, if so, what amount of antibody is needed for protection or how long any such immunity lasts.3

Data from sufficiently representative serological studies will be important for understanding the proportion of a population that has been infected with SARS-CoV-2. These data might inform decisions to ease physical distancing restrictions at the community level, provided that they are used in combination with other public health approaches.5 The use of seroprevalence data to inform policy making will depend on the accuracy and reliability of tests, particularly the number of false-positive and false-negative results, and requires further validation.6

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Not her decision, so easy talk. And the Tories will never go there.

‘Time Has Come’ For Universal Basic Income – Scottish PM Sturgeon (Ind.)

The “time has come” for universal basic income (UBI) in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has said. Speaking at the daily coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh, the first minister said there will be “constructive discussions” with the UK government on the matter. Under the scheme, residents would be given a universal payment from the government, with some benefits scrapped. The Scottish government has brought forward four pilots of a similar scheme in different council areas, but it is the UK government that has the ultimate power over creating a national scheme. When asked about the move at the briefing, the first minister said: “The experience of the virus and the economic consequences of that have actually made me much, much more strongly of the view that it is an idea that’s time has come.


The Scottish government would need more control over taxation and social security to make such a scheme a reality but the first minister said she hopes to “get into a constructive discussion” with the UK government about the scheme. She added she would like conversations to take place “hopefully reasonably quickly” after the coronavirus pandemic is over. The first minister added: “Watch this space.” Think tank Reform Scotland devised a detailed proposal for a UBI scheme. It would consist of an annual payment of £5,200 a year for adults and £2,600 for those under 16. Annually, the scheme would cost the Scottish government £20 billion, with measures found to raise £18.34 billion in revenue to support the scheme. When the think tank published its report in April, the first minister described it as “interesting and timely”, adding the coronavirus outbreak strengthened the case “immeasurably”.

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Support the most bloated zombies! Or: look, if you want to support these guys, forget about supporting anyone else.

US Mortgage Firms Push For Support As Borrowers Halt Payments (R.)

U.S. mortgage firms facing billions of dollars of missed home loan repayments are continuing to push for emergency government support as data published Monday showed a further rise in borrowers asking to halt payments. The number of people seeking to have mortgage payments paused or reduced rose to 7.5% as of April 26 from 7.0% a week earlier as the economic effects of the novel coronavirus outbreak stretched household finances, figures from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) showed. The MBA estimates that 3.8 million homeowners are now in forbearance. The surge in delayed payments could leave mortgage service companies, which pool home loans and sell them to investors, with a liquidity shortfall of as much as $100 billion over the next nine months, according to the MBA.


That is because mortgage servicers still have to advance scheduled payments to investors even if borrowers fail to make their payments. Mortgage servicers want the Federal Reserve and Treasury to introduce an emergency liquidity facility to cover those payments but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last week there were no current plans to offer such a lifeline. In an interview, the MBA’s Chief Executive Officer Bob Broeksmit said it was still discussing the issues with the Fed, Treasury and Federal Housing Finance Agency. “We don’t see it as the end of the matter,” he said. “We understand that the Fed and Treasury will continue to monitor the situation. We continue to advocate for the facility so we can prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

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“..3.5 billion people will be exposed to “near-unliveable” temperatures averaging 29 degrees through the year by 2070 [..] That heat compares with the narrow 11- to 15-degree range that has supported civilisation over the past six millennia

Safe Climate Niche Closing Fast, With Billions At Risk (SMH)

As much as one-third of the world’s population will be exposed to Sahara Desert-like heat within half a century if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at the pace of recent years. Scientists from China, the US and Europe found that the narrow climate niche that has supported human society would shift more over the next 50 years than it had in the preceding 6000 years. As many as 3.5 billion people will be exposed to “near-unliveable” temperatures averaging 29 degrees through the year by 2070. Less than 1 per cent of the Earth’s surface now endures such heat. That heat compares with the narrow 11- to 15-degree range that has supported civilisation over the past six millennia, according to research published Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Absent climate mitigation or migration, a substantial part of humanity will be exposed to mean annual temperatures warmer than nearly anywhere today,” the paper said. Xu Chi, a researcher at China’s Nanjing University and one of the paper’s authors, said: “We were frankly blown away by our own initial results. As our findings were so striking, we took an extra year to carefully check all assumptions and computations.” “Clearly we will need a global approach to safeguard our children against the potentially enormous social tensions the projected change could invoke.” Among the most exposed nations will be India – where many people live in “already-hot places” – with as many as 1.2 billion people likely to be forced to move if population and warming trends continue. For Nigeria, the number exposed could be 485 million, according to a media release distributed along with the paper.

The scenario used projected the total populations in India and Nigeria to reach 2.2 billion and 600 million, respectively, by 2070, Dr Xu told the Herald and The Age. In Australia, areas of Western Australia and the Northern Territory home to about 200,000 people will be at risk. The research extended current population and greenhouse gas emissions trends into the future, and excluded impacts from the coronavirus pandemic on both. The researchers also considered possible rainfall changed. “The global pattern of population distribution seems less constrained by precipitation – while there is also an optimum around 1000 mm [of rainfall a year ] – so we focused on temperature,” Dr Xu said. “Changes of precipitation regime would definitely have impacts, but such impacts together those of temperature change would be more complex to foresee.”

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“The UK is proud to be part of the Media Freedom Coalition championing press freedom around the world today.”

Assange Extradition Hearing Delayed Until September (PR)

Hearings in the extradition of WikiLeaks founder, publisher, and editor Julian Assange will resume in September after being postponed from May 18 because of the coronavirus outbreak, which would have prevented lawyers from attending the hearing. Judge Vanessa Baraitser said it would not be possible for it to recommence this month because of strict restrictions on gatherings to curb the spread of COVID-19. Assange’s lawyers have said they have been unable to discuss the case with their client since the coronavirus outbreak. “There have always been great difficulties in getting access to Mr. Assange. But with the coronavirus outbreak, the preparation of this case cannot be possible,” his attorney Edward Fitzgerald told the court. Today, Judge Baraitser said the case would be moved to another Crown Court in September, once one with availability is secured.

The parties were unable to schedule the three week hearing for July or August. In addition, time was needed so that US prosecutors could attend the hearing. The Daily Mail reported the government lawyer, James Lewis, saying, ‘We think it is doubtful flights will have resumed earlier than then so we would rather have a September date because it gives more opportunity to have the American prosecutors actually in court.’ The parties agreed September 7 as the earliest date for the hearings to resume, although an exact date and an appropriate venue were yet to be decided. “It’s going to take some negotiation to find a Crown Court that is open in September, in the current climate, and willing and available to take this hearing,” Judge Baraitser said in Westminster Magistrates’ Court today. The judge will announce the new location, which might be outside London, and the start date for the remaining three weeks of the hearing in writing to the lawyers on Friday.

Assange was not able to attend Monday’s hearing via videolink because his lawyers said he was not well enough to appear. Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief, said in a video posted on social media on Monday that it was “completely unacceptable” that Assange has to spend another four months — and potentially longer — in prison. He described the hearing as a disgrace and denounced the tiny courtroom where only a few journalists could attend. He said this was not open justice and it needs to end. [..] Assange’s father John Shipton was delighted about the delay, saying it will allow family and supporters from Australia to attend. He’s also optimistic Assange might not be behind bars for the whole four months. He said, ‘I’m hoping there will be a very strong and firm bail application. It appears his lawyers held the power in today’s hearing and got the hearing dates they wanted, so it’s a good sign.’

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We try to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. Since their revenue has collapsed, ads no longer pay for all you read, and your support is now an integral part of the process.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CNN in Greece

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth for your own good.

 

Apr 252020
 


Jack Delano “Untitled” near Durham, North Carolina 1940

 

Wuhan Was The Fentanyl Capital Of The World. Then Coronavirus Hit (LAT)
‘Wuhan Plague’ Plaques Are Popping Up Around Atlanta (Vice)
Trump Owed Tens Of Millions To Bank Of China (Pol.)
Trump Doesn’t Owe Bank of China Money (Christopher Balding)
Small Business Owners Asked To Sign PPP Loans Without Forgiveness Pledge (IC)
Small Business Rescue Earned Banks $10 Billion In Fees (NPR)
People In Their 30s And 40s, Barely Sick With COVID19, Die From Strokes (WP)
South Dakota County Offers Drive-Through Covid-19 Testing Friday (Strong)
Nearly 60 New Coronavirus Cases Confirmed On Cruise Ship In Japan (R.)
China Pressured EU To Drop COVID19 Disinformation Criticism (R.)
US Weighs Taking Equity Stakes In US Energy Companies – Mnuchin (R.)
Economics Professor: Australia Would Be ‘Better Off’ Without Lockdown (DM)
Brazil Justice Minister Resigns Over Bolsonaro’s Investigations Meddling (IC)
Denver Health Execss Get Bonuses 1 Week After Workers Asked To Take Cuts (CBS)
Amazon To Be Fined €100K For Every ‘Non-Essential’ Delivery in France (RT)

 

 

Daily US coronavirus death toll down sharply in past 24 hours to 1,258, the lowest daily toll in the country in nearly three weeks: Johns Hopkins

4/24/20 – Top 12 State Cases
New York: 271,590
New Jersey: 102,196
Mass : 46,023
Illinois: 39,658
California: 39,254
Pennsylvania: 38,652
Michigan: 36,641
Florida: 30,174
Louisiana: 26,140
Connecticut: 23,921
Texas: 22,806
Georgia: 22,147

• “At least 30 New Yorkers ingested household cleaners in the 18 hours since the president suggested using it to fight #coronavirus”

• “The timing on the bleach stuff is interesting, since the DOJ started cracking down on MMS, the diluted form of bleach being sold as a miracle cure for any disease under the sun on social media… six days ago.”

 

 

Cases 2,845,858 (+ 100,389 from yesterday’s 2,745,469)

197,846
Deaths 191,791 (+ 6,055 from yesterday’s 185,156 )

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep it locked down.

Wuhan Was The Fentanyl Capital Of The World. Then Coronavirus Hit (LAT)

For drug traffickers interested in getting in on the fentanyl business, all roads once led to Wuhan. The sprawling industrial city built along the Yangtze River in east-central China is known for its production of chemicals, including the ingredients needed to cook fentanyl and other powerful synthetic opioids. Vendors there shipped huge quantities around the world. The biggest customers were Mexican drug cartels, which have embraced fentanyl in recent years because it is cheaper and easier to produce than heroin. But the novel coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan late last year before spreading across the planet has upended the fentanyl supply chain, causing a ripple effect that has cut into the profits of Mexican traffickers and driven up street drug prices across the United States.

Few industries — illicit or not — have been unscathed by the pandemic that has upended the global economy and killed more than 190,000 people worldwide. The narcotics trade, which relies on the constant movement of goods and people, has been stymied by lockdowns, travel bans and other efforts to contain the virus, according to government officials, academic researchers and drug traffickers. Mexican production of fentanyl and methamphetamine appears especially hard hit. Both drugs are made with precursor chemicals that are typically sent on planes or cargo ships from China, where despite U.S. pressure to ban them, they continue to be sold legally. That supply chain was shut down in January when authorities in Wuhan enacted a lockdown that forced residents to stay inside for more than two months.

In February, after a major manufacturer of the chemicals closed, vendors began posting apologies on the online sites where chemicals are typically sold, said Louise Shelley, a professor at George Mason University who tracks global fentanyl production. “They were saying: ‘We’re not producing or selling or shipping,’” she said.

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The headline says: “racist”. I like everything Winnie.

‘Wuhan Plague’ Plaques Are Popping Up Around Atlanta (Vice)

Racist plaques depicting Winnie the Pooh holding a bat with chopsticks have begun to pop up around Atlanta, and police have no leads as to who is responsible. The round, bronze and teal plaques bearing the words “Wuhan Plague,” referencing the Chinese city where the coronavirus originated, first appeared April 13 on an electrical box in Inman Park, according to Atlanta police. Another appeared three days later at a coffee shop in the neighborhood of Reynoldstown. The most recent incident occurred on April 18 at Atlanta’s Candler Park Market. Winnie the Pooh’s association with Chinese culture originated in 2013 when parody comparisons between the cuddly bear and Prime Minister Xi Jinping went viral on social media — and China then banned Pooh images.


The plaques appeared to be glued to the sites where they were posted. Hodgepodge Coffeehouse owner Kristle Rodriguez said her employees alerted her to the plaque at her site. Rodriguez said she immediately called the cops and the building’s landlord, who quickly removed the plaque. “The adhesive was still wet, meaning this happened late morning or early afternoon,” she wrote in a Facebook post Friday. “This isn’t amusing, funny, politically incorrect, edgy, or punk rock. This is super fucking gross and racist. There’s enough xenophobia and ignorance being spouted from this administration, we certainly don’t need street art reinforcing this shit.”

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Curious article, because it’s not true.

Trump Owed Tens Of Millions To Bank Of China (Pol.)

But Trump himself has taken on debt from China. In 2012, his real estate partner refinanced one of Trump’s most prized New York buildings for almost $1 billion. The debt included $211 million from the state-owned Bank of China — its first loan of this kind in the U.S. — which matures in the middle of what could be Trump’s second term. Steps from Trump Tower in Manhattan, the 43-story 1290 Avenue of the Americas skyscraper spans an entire city block. Trump owns a 30 percent stake in the property valued at more than $1 billion, making it one of the priciest addresses in his portfolio, according to his financial disclosures. Trump’s ownership of the building received a smattering of attention before and after his 2016 campaign.

But the arrangement with the Bank of China in 2012 has gone largely unnoticed. The questions surrounding Trump’s ties to the Bank of China come as his campaign is claiming that Biden would be a gift to the Communist country and America’s chief economic rival. After the first version of this article was published, the Bank of China issued a statement Friday evening stating that it sold its debt on the building weeks after the 2012 loan on the property. Vornado Realty Trust owns 70 percent of the building. “On November 7, 2012 several financial institutions including the Bank of China participated in a commercial mortgage loan of $950 million to Vornado Realty Trust,” said Peter Reisman, managing director and chief communications officer of Bank of China U.S.A.

“Within 22 days, the loan was securitized and sold into the [commercial mortgage-backed securities] market, as is a common practice in the industry. Bank of China has not had any ownership interest in that loan since late November 2012.”

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Balding explains.

Trump Doesn’t Owe Bank of China Money (Christopher Balding)

Let me explain the deal structure and why Trump doesn’t owe Bank of China money. First, Trump is a minority passive owner of a real estate trust. 30% so not nothing and he is the president but it isn’t even his company. He doesn’t manage it even before he became president 1/n

Second, the nitty gritty of the financing goes like this (and this is very common in general especially in real estate) assume Citibank agrees to lend the building $1 billion to refinance their loan in 2012. Rather than lend the entire $1 billion themselves, Citibank will 2/n

get on the phone to other banks to take a piece of the $1b they need to raise. Let’s assume in this case it was five banks of $400m, $200m, $200m, $100m, and $100m. In this case Bank of China is one of the $200m slots. They lend that company the $1b to refinance their other 3/n

loan. However, the banks aren’t done. They don’t want to make a 10 year loan on real estate when they make more money from fee and churn of debt securities. So right after they made they $1b loan, Citibank lawyers (I don’t know if it was Citibank just an example) are 4/n

Drafting offering documents to sell off different pieces of the entire $1b loan to investors. The $1b loan is not actually 5 different loans but 5 different injections into a special purpose vehicle that is capitalized with the loan capital from those banks. The SPV 5/n

Which will receive the annual payments then sells off pieces of the loan in say $10m or $25m increments to investors. The banks then receive all of their original loan back as the entire $1b is sold off piece by piece. Typically, banks will have capital out on these projects 6/n

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In the US, small is ugly.

Small Business Owners Asked To Sign PPP Loans Without Forgiveness Pledge (IC)

Randy George had never laid anyone off in his 20 years running his bakery and café in Middlesex, Vermont. But after Vermont Gov. Phil Scott shut down restaurants to slow the spread of the coronavirus, half of his sales disappeared virtually overnight. He’s had to put 28 of the staff of Red Hen Baking Co. on furlough. George decided to sign up for a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program, created by Congress’s CARES Act relief bill to help small business owners stay afloat. At first, the program was funded with $350 billion, an amount that ran out about two weeks after it began; Congress is now working on a deal to add another $320 billion.

The key feature of these loans, which are being run by the Small Business Administration, is that they are supposed to be entirely forgiven if an owner spends most of the money on payroll and doesn’t lay anyone off. The details of how that forgiveness will work, however, are far from clear, making some small business owners wary to use it at all. In bank loan contracts reviewed by The Intercept, owners have been asked to sign onto terms that said that “forgiveness may apply” or “all or part of the Loan may be forgiven” — releasing the banks from liability but giving business owners no contractual guarantee of loan forgiveness, or even guidance on how to comply with the rules or how to pursue it. One didn’t mention forgiveness at all. The application materials, which are produced on SBA letterhead, have even fewer details.

“Loan forgiveness will be provided for the sum of documented payroll costs, covered mortgage interest payments, covered rent payments, and covered utilities,” most applications read. No other information is offered about what “covered” means. The CARES Act contains some details about how these are defined, but it’s buried in an almost 900-page bill. And no concrete information has been given to small business owners about how they should go about getting their loans forgiven. Some owners were told that to gain forgiveness, they’d have to submit a request to their banks. Others were told that they have to go straight to the SBA. That’s left many people questioning whether the loans will indeed be converted to grants at all. “The keystone, the cornerstone of this program is not assured,” George said.

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Won’t surprise a single soul.

Small Business Rescue Earned Banks $10 Billion In Fees (NPR)

Banks handling the government’s $349 billion loan program for small businesses made more than $10 billion in fees — even as tens of thousands of small businesses were shut out of the program, according to an analysis of financial records by NPR. The banks took in the fees while processing loans that required less vetting than regular bank loans and had little risk for the banks, the records show. Taxpayers provided the money for the loans, which were guaranteed by the Small Business Administration. According to a Department of Treasury fact sheet, all federally insured banks and credit unions could process the loans, which ranged in amount from tens of thousands to $10 million. The banks acted essentially as middlemen, sending clients’ loan applications to the SBA, which approved them.


For every transaction made, banks took in 1% to 5% in fees, depending on the amount of the loan, according to government figures. Loans worth less than $350,000 brought in 5% in fees while loans worth anywhere from $2 million to $10 million brought in 1% in fees. For example, on April 7, RCSH Operations LLC, the parent company of Ruth’s Chris Steak House, received a loan of $10 million. JPMorgan Chase & Co., acting as the lender, took a $100,000 fee on the one-time transaction for which it assumed no risk and could pass through with fewer requirements than for a regular loan. In total, those transaction fees amounted to more than $10 billion for banks, according to transaction data provided by the SBA and the Treasury Department.

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As he used a needlelike device to pull out the clot, he saw new clots forming in real time around it.

People In Their 30s And 40s, Barely Sick With COVID19, Die From Strokes (WP)

Thomas Oxley wasn’t even on call the day he received the page to come into Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan. There weren’t enough doctors to treat all the emergency stroke patients, and he was needed in the operating room. The patient’s chart appeared unremarkable at first glance. He was male, no medications, no history of chronic conditions. He had been feeling fine, hanging out at home during the lockdown like the rest of America, when suddenly, he had trouble talking and moving the right side of his body. Imaging showed a large blockage on the left side of his head. Oxley gasped when he got to the patient’s age and covid-19 status: 44, positive.

The man was among several recent stroke patients in their 30s to 40s who were all infected with the virus. The median age for that type of severe stroke is 74. As Oxley, an interventional neurologist, began the procedure to remove the clot, he observed something he had never seen before. On the monitors, the brain typically shows up as a tangle of black squiggles – “like a can of spaghetti,” he said – that provide a map of blood vessels. A clot shows up as a blank spot. As he used a needlelike device to pull out the clot, he saw new clots forming in real time around it. “This is crazy,” he remembers telling his boss.

Reports of strokes in the young and middle-aged – not just at Mount Sinai but in many other hospitals in hard-hit communities – are the latest twist in our evolving understanding of the mysteries of covid-19. Even as the virus has infected nearly 2.8 million people worldwide and killed 195,000 as of Friday, its origins, biological mechanisms and weaknesses continue to elude top scientific minds. Once thought to be a pathogen that primarily attacks the lungs, it has turned out to be a much more formidable foe – affecting nearly every major organ system in the body.

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Small is beautiful. A lot of the solutions will have to come from communities.

South Dakota County Offers Drive-Through Covid-19 Testing Friday (Strong)

A health center in Stanley offered one of the first COVID-19 test drive through services in the state that did not require symptoms or pre-screening. As southern Mountrail County continues to be a hotspot for COVID-19, one medical center stepped up to offer free drive through testing without an appointment. At least 160 cars came through the testing site in Stanley from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with some holding as many as nine people who wanted to be tested. “We’re preparing probably to do between three and 400 tests,” said Dr. Rich Laksonen. Stanley is not in the southern part of the county, but Laksonen said the center wanted to help the state learn more about where the virus is spiking in the county.


“Being that we are the facility that services the count, we saw that need to determine where in Mountrail County these hotspots are located,” said Laksonen. Laksonen said they were compelled to drop restrictions on the site making it “no appointment, or symptoms necessary.” It’s one of the only in the state. “We also wanted our residents in northern Mountrial County to come in and get a test whether we have symptoms or not,” he said. Laksonen said the community was appreciative of the effort. Medical staff say it is too soon to tell how many will test positive. It will take 24 to 48 hours for the dozens of people that came out Friday to know their results.

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It’s fitting this should be in Japan again.

Nearly 60 New Coronavirus Cases Confirmed On Cruise Ship In Japan (R.)

Nearly 60 new cases of coronavirus infections were confirmed among crew members of an Italian cruise ship docked in Japan, domestic media reported on Saturday. With testing of all crew members now complete, the new number, reported by public broadcaster NHK, brings the total infections onboard the Costa Atlantica to around 150, roughly one quarter of the vessel’s 623 crew members. TV Asahi said 57 crew members tested positive. The infection cluster onboard the vessel docked in Nagasaki comes as hospitals are running out of beds in some parts of Japan, where the national tally of virus cases has risen above 12,800. Some 345 people have died.


Of those infected onboard the Costa Atlantica, only one crew member has been admitted to hospital, NHK said, while others remain on board, having shown slight or no symptoms. The vessel has been docked in Japan since February for repairs and maintenance after the pandemic prevented scheduled repairs in China. Nagasaki authorities had quarantined the vessel on arrival, and ordered its crew not to venture beyond the quay except for hospital visits. But prefecture officials said earlier this week that some of the crew had departed without their knowledge, and sought detailed information on their movements.

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And China refuses an international investigation.

China Pressured EU To Drop COVID19 Disinformation Criticism (R.)

China sought to block a European Union report alleging that Beijing was spreading disinformation about the coronavirus outbreak, according to four sources and diplomatic correspondence reviewed by Reuters. The report was eventually released, albeit just before the start of the weekend Europe time and with some criticism of the Chinese government rearranged or removed, a sign of the balancing act Brussels is trying to pull off as the coronavirus outbreak scrambles international relations. The Chinese Mission to the EU was not immediately available for comment and China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to faxed questions about the exchange. An EU spokeswoman said “we never comment on content or alleged content of internal diplomatic contacts and communication with our partners from another countries.”

Another EU official said that the disinformation report had been published as usual and denied any of it had been watered down. Four diplomatic sources told Reuters that the report had initially been slated for release on April 21 but was delayed after Chinese officials picked up on a Politico news report hat previewed its findings. A senior Chinese official contacted European officials in Beijing the same day to tell them that, “if the report is as described and it is released today it will be very bad for cooperation,” according to EU diplomatic correspondence reviewed by Reuters. The correspondence quoted senior Chinese foreign ministry official Yang Xiaoguang as saying that publishing the report would make Beijing “very angry” and accused European officials of trying to please “someone else” – something the EU diplomats understood to be a reference to Washington.

The four sources said the report had been delayed as a result, and a comparison of the internal version of the report obtained by Reuters and the final version published late Friday showed several differences. For example, on the first page of the internal report shared with EU governments on April 20, the EU’s foreign policy arm said: “China has continued to run a global disinformation campaign to deflect blame for the outbreak of the pandemic and improve its international image. Both overt and covert tactics have been observed.”

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Yeah, let’s buy us some shale.

US Weighs Taking Equity Stakes In US Energy Companies – Mnuchin (R.)

The U.S. government is considering taking equity stakes in U.S. energy companies as it seeks to help the nation’s oil and gas sector amid the coronavirus outbreak, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Friday. President Donald Trump, speaking at a White House event with Mnuchin, said he wants to help industry and suggested the federal government could buy fuel for the country in advance as well as purchase airline tickets in advance. “We’re looking at a whole bunch of alternatives,” Mnuchin said. “You can assume that’s one of the alternatives, but there’s many of them,” Mnuchin said, referring to possible equity stakes.


The oil sector has been hit hard by a dramatic drop in demand as the coronavirus has effectively shut down economies around the globe. “The energy business is very important to me, and we’re going to build it up. This really hurt the energy business as much as any other business because it totally knocked out – the supply kept coming,” Trump said. Trump helped negotiate a reduction in output from OPEC and other countries including Russia, but the move has not removed the market’s oversupply. The president encouraged Mnuchin to look at buying oil for later use. “The United States is the largest user of oil. We could buy oil at a great price into the future. That gives them the infusion they need, and we have oil at a great price into the future,” Trump said.

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Well, if you wait long enough… Meanwhile, there are no buyers for your products anyway, so why bother?

Economics Professor: Australia Would Be ‘Better Off’ Without Lockdown (DM)

An economics professor has been slammed as ‘cold’ and ‘heartless’ for suggesting Australia prioritised health over the economy by going into coronavirus lockdown. University of New South Wales Professor Gigi Foster sparked outrage from fellow panellists and other economic professors while answering questions about the impacts of shutdown measures on Q&A on Monday. Professor Foster suggested Australia hadn’t properly weighed up the economic consequences of tough restrictions introduced to reduce the death toll, and argued the ‘economy is about lives’ too. ‘What frustrates me is when people talk about the economic costs of the lockdown they often don’t think in detail in terms of counting lives,’ Professor Foster said.

‘Has anyone thought about how would you get a measure of the traded lives when we lock an economy down? What are we sacrificing in terms of lives? ‘Economists have tried to do that and we try to do that in currencies like the value of a statistical life. ‘If you do that kind of calculus you realise very quickly that even with a very, very extreme epidemic, in Australia, we are still potentially better off not having an economic lockdown in the first place because of the incredible effects that you see. ‘Not just in a short-run way but in many years to come.’ Her views prompted a shocked response from fellow panellists on the ABC program.


‘How can you say that?’ ACTU secretary Sally McManus fired back. ‘We’re avoiding what’s happened in the UK, what’s happening in the US, the idea of having our ICUs overrun, our healthcare workers dying as well is just the most horrible thought.’ ‘It’s horrible either way,’ Professor Foster replied. ‘The coronavirus has made the world awful. There’s absolutely no doubt about that. ‘In order to have a proper discussion about trade-offs, you need to think in terms of lives you’re giving up. ‘I know it’s invisible lives and difficult to imagine when we aggregate, for example, all of the health effects and the mental health effects and the effects of people right now who have illnesses other than COVID-19.’

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Moro is no Mother Teresa himself.

Brazil Justice Minister Resigns Over Bolsonaro’s Investigations Meddling (IC)

As the country slept Friday morning, far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro fired the Federal Police Director Maurício Valeixo, bringing to a head a long-simmering battle with Justice Minister Sergio Moro. Moro, in turn, promptly resigned — in a new, major episode of deepening chaos in Brazilian politics. The official notice firing the Federal Police head bears Moro’s digital signature, but in a press conference Friday morning, the outgoing justice minister claimed that he was not informed of the move and did not sign the document. This and other revelations made by Moro could serve as grounds for impeachment, if the Brazilian body politic can muster the political will to support such a drastic measure. Members of Congress are already gathering signatures for a congressional inquiry into Moro’s allegations.

In his press conference, Moro suggested that Bolsonaro removed Valeixo because the president opposed investigations being conducted by the Federal Police. “He was concerned about investigations underway in the Federal Supreme Court and that a change would also be opportune at the Federal Police,” Moro said of Bolsonaro’s thinking. Moro said Bolsonaro’s concerns were not a reasonable justification for firing Valeixo, but added that he nonetheless searched for “an alternative solution, to avoid a political crisis during a pandemic.” In the end, Moro said, “I understood that I could not set aside my commitment to the rule of law.”

Notably, the Federal Police are conducting several investigations that could impact Bolsonaro, his politician sons, and several members of their inner circle. Moro loomed large over Brazilian politics during the past several years, even before he accepted Bolsonaro’s offer to serve as justice minister. He was the judge at the center of the influential Operation Car Wash anti-corruption investigation that put former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in prison, removing the popular politician from the 2018 presidential election and clearing the way for Bolsonaro’s victory. When he entered government, Moro was among the most popular political figures in the country and was seen as an important ally for Bolsonaro, but also as a potential rival in the 2022 elections.

The ex-judge’s standing, however, was seriously weakened after The Intercept began publishing an explosive series, in English and Portuguese, on malfeasance and potential illegal actions by Moro and Car Wash prosecutors. As a result of the series, Lula was eventually released from prison.

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Is there anything more American?

Denver Health Execss Get Bonuses 1 Week After Workers Asked To Take Cuts (CBS)

Top executives at Denver Health Medical Center received significant bonuses this month for their performance in 2019, ranging from $50,000 up to $230,000, one week after frontline hospital workers were asked to voluntarily take leave without pay or reduce their hours as the hospital dealt with the financial downturn resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. On April 3, Denver Health CEO Robin Wittenstein emailed hospital workers noting “the current situation will stress us financially.” She announced a hiring freeze and asked employees to voluntarily take leave without pay, use personal time off or reduce their normal work week.


“The goal is to reduce our total salary expense without the need to lay off employees or implement mandatory PTO/furloughs,” wrote Wittenstein. She said the hospital was also considering mandating workers to use their paid time off, mandatory leave without pay and other steps. “The goal is to avoid these extreme measures if at all possible,” she wrote. One week later, on April 10, Wittenstein and her executive staff saw their 2019 Management Incentive Plan bonuses deposited into their bank accounts.

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Macron pleasing the unions AND his small businesses.

Amazon To Be Fined €100K For Every ‘Non-Essential’ Delivery in France (RT)

Amazon will face a fine each time it delivers non-essential goods in France until it improves the safety conditions of its workers amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The company earlier closed its warehouses in protest. On Friday, an appeals court in Versailles, outside Paris, upheld last week’s ruling, which restricted Amazon’s French warehouses to only shipping IT products, health items, groceries and pet food until it ensures the safety of its workers. Jeff Bezos’ e-commerce giant was given 48 hours to comply with the ruling, and will be fined €100,000 ($108,020) for every delivery that doesn’t meet the court’s requirements.


On April 14, a court ruled that Amazon had failed to guarantee the safety of its workers amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and said that the company must submit an updated professional risk assessment before it can resume full operations. Amazon argued that it had already updated its work safety protocols and introduced disease-control measures to prevent its workers from being infected with the coronavirus. Following the ruling on April 14, the company completely shut down its French warehouses until Saturday.

Read more …

 

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Apr 222020
 


Saul Leiter Man in straw hat 1955

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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