Utagawa Yoshitoshi Ariko weeps as her boat drifts in the moonlight 1886
Sometimes I think I can only do this work properly if I’m angry all the time 24/7. But I don’t want to be angry all the time; what kind of life is that? Still, there are days when I just can’t help it. The British intelligence services (please let find another word for that, so as to not insult actually smart people) came out with a couple anti-Putin press releases today, and there we go again.
We can only guess at what they want this time, whether it to keep the UK’s own “RussiaRussia Putin is Hitler” flame alive, or are they seeking to help their US counterparts to rise from the ashes of their fully discredited years-long Orange Man Bad narratives, but boy, is this nauseating. What’s even worse is that people eat it up like candy.
Guys, this is your own highly paid snoops lying to you -along with your government(s)- like there’s no tomorrow, and you’re just sitting there worrying about wearing a face mask next time you go to a store. Know what that makes you? Sheep. I know y’all still know what those look like, and how they behave. So what’s the attraction?
Here’s BIGLY revelation no. 1 per the BBC. Do note the “almost certain” in both pieces, they need an easy way out if the story doesn’t stick. It also means that obviously they’re not at all certain, they’re just making it up.
Russian hackers are targeting organisations trying to develop a coronavirus vaccine, a group of national security services has warned. The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said the hackers “almost certainly” operated as “part of Russian intelligence services”. It said the group used malware to try and steal information relating to Covid-19 vaccine development. NCSC director of operations Paul Chichester said it was “despicable”. The hackers are part of a group called APT29, also known as “the Dukes” or “Cozy Bear”.
Some people will remember the name Cozy Bear from Robert Mueller’s failed $40 million “investigation”. Is that why the NCSC put it in? But to the point: Why would Russia hack the UK for vaccine info if and when the UK has no vaccine? Put it another way: what are the odds that UK “intelligence” is not at the same time trying to hack Russia for its own info? Think British scientists are smarter than Russian ones? How much money would you want to put on that?
Everyone is spying on everyone, always have, and today that may require some hacking skills. Big surprise. You leave your backdoor open, someone may try to have a look inside. Same for everyone. Not even the beginning of a newsworthy story; it happens all the time and everywhere. Next.
Next one is even flimsier. This one implies that since Jeremy Corbyn had some papers on the NHS in the last election, RussiaRussia gave them to him. And he’s an anti-semite too. So there. Can anyone explain why Russia would want to interfere in a UK election?
This seems to allege that Putin wanted to help Corbyn win. But is that for the same reason that he wanted to help Corbyn’s ideological twin Donald Trump win? Which we now know he didn’t? Or is it just that Putin the evil mastermind wants to confuse all parties? Given what I see and hear, he needn’t bother; they’re all already confused as can be.
Dominic Raab’s statement is the first time ministers have admitted that the Kremlin has tried to distort the workings of British democracy – a practice the foreign secretary said was “completely unacceptable”. “On the basis of extensive analysis, the government has concluded that it is almost certain that Russian actors sought to interfere in the 2019 general election through the online amplification of illicitly acquired and leaked government documents,” Raab said in a written statement.
Next. Only days ago, there was this from Britain about a court case concerning the infamous novichok “attack” in Salisbury, in which first former Russian GRU agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, and months later two other Brits, ostensibly came in contact with what was called the deadliest nerve agent in the world.
Neither Sergei Skripal nor his daughter Yulia have ever been seen again. There was a vague message from a niece, but that was it. But the story is alive and kicking. And can thus continue to be used. By the media-intelligence cartel.
Russian agents may have deliberately discarded a bottle of the deadly nerve agent novichok, used in the assassination attempt of former spy Sergei Skripal, in Salisbury in a bid to undermine UK security, the High Court today heard. The claim was made during a legal challenge by the family of Dawn Sturgess, 44, who died in 2018 after coming into contact with novichok in a fake perfume bottle which her partner had found in a park. The family are embroiled in a High Court action in a bid to get ‘key questions’ asked at Ms Sturgess’ inquest.
[..] According to the Guardian, he also referenced then UK prime minister, Theresa May, in September 2018 in which she said: ‘This chemical weapons attack on our soil was part of a wider pattern of Russian behaviour that persistently seeks to undermine our security and that of our allies around the world.’
[..] ‘The use of novichok in Salisbury was the first aggressive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War,’ said Mr Mansfield in a written case summary. ‘It put hundreds of members of the British public at risk and killed Ms Sturgess. ‘The issue of who was responsible for it is a matter of almost unparalleled public concern. ‘There is no realistic prospect that the two suspects will face a criminal trial in the UK or that the Russian state will carry out a comprehensive investigation, and no public inquiry into these events has been established.
This is the pattern: it’s nothing to do with UK security. The pattern is that both the US and UK use their lack of control over Russia as an excuse and reason to blame Russia for anything they feel like. As five-year old kids would. Robert Mueller, the liar and coward, having failed to produce one shred of evidence against Trump, left two things alive in his final report: empty accusations against Assange, who was muzzled, and against “13 Russians”, who he knew would never contest whatever he said.
And when he was challenged because Concord Management decided to show up with a lawyer, he lost that too. The official line was: “It is no longer in the best interests of justice or the country’s national security” to continue. What a bunch of losers.
And we’re not done. Assange smearer no. 1 and hidden intelligence agent Luke Harding, who invented more smear stories about Julian than anyone on the planet, had this three weeks ago. I kid you not, his point was that Russian intelligence is really really stupid. To prove it, he paints a shining portrait of … US/UK intelligence operation Bellingcat.
This is mainly about the Skripal case again, but of course we also remember their role in the never ever existing chemical attack in Syria by Assad on his own people. Yes, the one where they, the OPCW was involved too, planted the canisters and shot some grueling staged photographs.
Bellingcat revealed the identity of poisoner No 1 in a message on its website. Having unmasked one assassin, it seemed likely that Bellingcat would succeed in identifying Petrov, too. Sure enough, in late September I received an invitation to a press conference. It was to be held in an illustrious location: the Houses of Parliament, in an upstairs committee room, number nine. Its subject was Petrov’s real identity. By the time I arrived, the room was full. I spotted a reporter from the New York Times, Ellen Barry, together with leading representatives from the British and US media. It was hard to escape the conclusion that power in journalism was shifting.
It was moving away from established print titles and towards open-source innovators. The new hero of journalism was no longer a grizzled investigator burning shoe leather, à la All the President’s Men, but a pasty-looking kid in front of a MacBook Air. Higgins and Grozev were there, as well as a Conservative MP, Bob Seely. I found a spot on a bench and sat down. The mood was expectant. Seely set the scene. He described Bellingcat as a “truly remarkable group of digital detectives”. Their success was due to an explosion of digital technology and a rise in digital activism, he said.
Here’s Canadian journalist Eva Bartlett about Bellingcat:
Is the Atlantic Council some benevolent organization handing out awards to do-gooding people? No. It’s a Washington DC-based think tank, which promulgates lies and propaganda to further imperialist wars and weapons sales, among other things. One of its Syria “experts” is none other than Bellingcat’s Eliot Higgins, who recently took to social media to tell people to suck his “big balls,” making him more of a laughing stock than this backgrounder on the man with no qualifications to his title.
Some of the Atlantic Council’s funders include: the US State Department, oil and weapons manufacturing companies, banks, NATO, various nations’ ministries of defence, and the US Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy. Even just based on funding alone, and ignoring their pro-NATO policy papers, the Atlantic Council clearly exists to further the interests of those involved in weapons manufacturing, wars, and oil.
Of course the entire lying fanfare is a direct result of the west failing to capture Crimea from Russia. They lost that one too; they sure lose a lot when engaging with Russia, don’t they? All they end up with is stories. John McCain and Victoria Nuland thought they had it all in their hands, and then it slipped right through.
And from Maidan and Crimea it’s just a skip and a hop to MH17, plus more -and heavy- Bellingcat involvement. This made the news again a week ago.
Citizens of 10 different countries died on board the Boeing 777 airliner that was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. More than two-thirds of the victims were Dutch nationals. In March, a trial opened in the Netherlands of three Russian and one Ukrainian citizens – still at large – for the murder of 298 people on board the plane. They are all linked to the pro-Moscow separatists. The trial, in a court near Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, is expected to last for months.
In a statement, the Dutch foreign ministry said the government “decided to bring Russia before the European Court of Human Rights for its role in the downing of Flight MH17”. It said that “by taking this course of action the government is offering maximum support” to individual cases already brought against Russia by victims’ families. “Achieving justice for 298 victims of the downing of Flight MH17 is and will remain the government’s highest priority,” said Mr Blok. “By taking this step today… we are moving closer to this goal,” he added.
Now, I have some interest in this, because I was born in Holland and still have the passport. But from what I can see, this is just yet another western intelligence story. I don’t know what happened with MH17, but I’m pretty sure the Dutch government doesn’t know either, or if they do they’re not telling. And my skepticism isn’t even based on pieces like this from Eric Zuesse two weeks ago (but do read it!).
[..] when Ukraine’s Government authorized Holland’s Government to investigate and rule on what caused the MH17 to be shot down, Holland’s Government signed onto a secret agreement with Ukraine’s Government that included a provision allowing Ukraine’s Government to block and prevent any finding from being issued that would implicate Ukraine’s Government in having shot it down. Holland’s Government violates its own Freedom of Information law by refusing to make public what that secret agreement says.
However, at the time when the existence of the agreement slipped through into mention by a Ukrainian news-site on 8 August 2014, that news-report said “As part of the four-party agreement signed on August 8 between Ukraine, the Netherlands, Belgium and Australia [all of which nations are allies of the United States and are cooperating with its new Cold War against Russia], information on the investigation into the disaster Malaysian ‘Boeing-777’ will not be disclosed.”
My skepticism is kind of linked to this, but it’s much older. When the plane was brought down, I noted that then-US VP Joe Biden, as well as the Ukrainian government of newly (US-)installed president Poroshenko, and also Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans, who got a plush job in Brussels out of it, all three declared within hours that Russia “was what did it”.
None could know at the time they made the statement. But it was a few months after the west lost Crimea, and thereby the chance to rid Russia of its only warm water port. And some people didn’t like that one bit. Some people were very unhappy about being outsmarted by Putin. Nuland must have been livid. And Hillary Clinton, and McCain.
Then when the investigation started, something odd happened. 2/3 of all victims -298 in total- were from the Netherlands. Yet the Dutch got to lead the inquest. As I wrote at the time: have you ever seen a crime series, or a murder one, or a movie, where the main victim (afflicted party) gets to lead the investigation into what happened? No, what we always see is someone taking the aggrieved detective aside saying: sorry, you’re too close to this.
And then on top of that, Ukraine, certainly one of the main suspects, since it happened in their territory, got to be part of the investigation. And not just part, as you can see in Zuesse’s piece, they could veto both what would be investigated and what could be communicated about the results. While they could well be the perpetrator!
If you go back to the murder series metaphor, a producer or writer would say: no can do, it lacks all credibility. But they did it. And it was then that I knew no matter what the report would say, it would be literally incredible. It’s 6 years later, and it’s going to take many more years, of posturing, name-calling, threats, accusations, you name it. And nothing will be proven, there will be only claims of proof. Just like in all the other cases I mentioned above. It’s how these things are done.
MH17 has become just another tool in the hands of “intelligence”.
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As the virus rages on into ever larger record numbers, today we are treated to the hilarious sight of two presidential candidates each accusing the other of being a Marxist. #ComradeTrump goes viral. One gets the feeling that maybe both parties hired the same PR firm. Or at least ones that use the same playbook. Which fails to mention that the Soviet Union dissolved some 30 years ago.
Or maybe those PR guys are all 80 years old, you know, same age as the candidates themselves? See, I’m thinking you must have been at least 15 years old when the wall came down, and therefore now be 45 years or older, to be scared by a portrait of Lenin or Stalin. And that would mean the PR fails to reach anyone younger than that.
Or, yeah, you can say he’s the second coming of Maduro, the man whose life his administration has been trying to turn into a living hell. But then you would fail to reach anyone with one single working neuron left. Or maybe I would just not be a good PR guy.
But at least we now know what that NYT and WaPo Afghan bounty story was planted for: the Democrat House gets to block Trump from bringing American troops home. While accusing each other of being extreme left, which will at some point force entire dictionaries to revise the meaning of such terms, they all move steadily towards the far right and the bidding of the war machine.
It’s theater, nothing in it is real, and you’re -literally- buying into it. Or wait, no, there is one thing that is real: people are going to get killed.
“..an abrupt turn from three days earlier, when the hospital system sent a note to thousands of patients, inviting them to keep their surgical appointments.”
Note to staff at a Houston safety net hospital:
-50% of new COVID tests coming back positive
-No more ICU beds
-No more remdesivir
-No more convalescent plasma
-12 COVID patients in need of ICU care — stuck in the ER
-Tomorrow will be worse…
At Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital on Sunday, the medical staff ran out of both space for new coronavirus patients and a key drug needed to treat them. With no open beds at the public hospital, a dozen COVID-19 patients who were in need of intensive care were stuck in the emergency room, awaiting transfers to other Houston area hospitals, according to a note sent to the staff and shared with reporters. A day later, the top physician executive at the Houston Methodist hospital system wrote to staff members warning that its coronavirus caseload was surging: “It has become necessary to consider delaying more surgical services to create further capacity for COVID-19 patients,” Dr. Robert Phillips said in the note, an abrupt turn from three days earlier, when the hospital system sent a note to thousands of patients, inviting them to keep their surgical appointments.
And at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, staff members were alerted recently that the hospital would soon begin taking in cancer patients with COVID-19 from the city’s overburdened public hospital system, a highly unusual move for the specialty hospital. These internal messages highlight the growing strain that the coronavirus crisis is putting on hospital systems in the Houston region, where the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 has nearly quadrupled since Memorial Day. As of Tuesday, more than 3,000 people were hospitalized for the coronavirus in the region, including nearly 800 in intensive care.
“To tell you the truth, what worries me is not this week, where we’re still kind of handling it,” said Roberta Schwartz, Houston Methodist’s chief innovation officer, who’s been helping lead the system’s efforts to expand beds for COVID-19 patents. “I’m really worried about next week.”
People testing negative for coronavirus antibodies may still have some immunity, a study has suggested. For every person testing positive for antibodies, two were found to have specific T-cells which identify and destroy infected cells. This was seen even in people who had mild or symptomless cases of Covid-19. But it’s not yet clear whether this just protects that individual, or if it might also stop them from passing on the infection to others. Researchers at the Karolinksa Institute in Sweden tested 200 people for both antibodies and T-cells. Some were blood donors while others were tracked down from the group of people first infected in Sweden, mainly returning from earlier affected areas like northern Italy.
This could mean a wider group have some level of immunity to Covid-19 than antibody testing figures, like those published as part of the UK Office for National Statistics Infection Survey, suggest. It’s likely those people did mount an antibody response, but either it had faded or was not detectable by the current tests. And these people should be protected if they are exposed to the virus for a second time. Prof Danny Altmann at Imperial College London described the study as “robust, impressive and thorough” and said it added to a growing body of evidence that “antibody testing alone underestimates immunity”.
Recovered COVID patients are baffling doctors with complaints of freak pains, lungs that just won’t get back to normal, and a range of incapacitating psychological issues. “What we are seeing is very frightening,” Prof. Gabriel Izbicki of Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center told The Times of Israel. “More than half the patients, weeks after testing negative, are still symptomatic.” Izbicki is working on a study that involves follow-up with patients who were in hospitals or coronavirus hotels, looking at the aftereffects of the virus and trying to understand why patients continue to suffer long after being confirmed negative. “There is very little research about the mid-term affect of coronavirus,” he said, adding that it is much needed to guide doctors.
In Bnei Brak, at Israel’s first community clinic, doctors have been seeing a spike in recent days in the patients with pains that appear to come from nowhere. “It can appear in the arms, legs, or other places where the virus doesn’t have a direct impact, and if you ask about the pain level on a 1 to 10 scale, can be 10, with people saying they can’t get to sleep,” said Eran Schenker, director of the month-old clinic in Bnei Brak run by Maccabi Healthcare Services. “It’s something which we’re starting to see much more in the last week.” A patient from the clinic spoke to The Times of Israel on condition that her name is not published. She was diagnosed in March and tested negative a month ago. But the woman, a Bnei Brak resident in her 40s, still has severe fatigue and anxiety, and can only walk for a few minutes at a time.
The House Armed Services Committee voted Wednesday to put roadblocks on President Trump’s ability to withdraw from Afghanistan, including requiring an assessment on whether any country has offered incentives for the Taliban to attack U.S. and coalition troops. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) amendment, from Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), would require several certifications before the U.S. military can further draw down in Afghanistan. The amendment was approved 45-11. Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the No. 3 House Republican, argued the amendment “lays out, in a very responsible level of specificity, what is going to be required if we are going to in fact make decisions about troop levels based on conditions on the ground and based on what’s required for our own security, not based on political timelines.”
“And that is crucially important, and I think it is our number one priority,” she added. The amendment comes as Trump’s withdrawal deal with the Taliban remains precarious as high violence levels persist in Afghanistan. The U.S. military has said it is down to 8,600 troops in line with the agreement to get to that level by mid-July. But military officials have insisted any further drawdown will be based on conditions on the ground that are not yet met, even as Trump pushes for a speedy withdrawal. [..] Among the amendment’s requirements is an assessment of whether any “state actors have provided any incentives to the Taliban, their affiliates, or other foreign terrorist organizations for attacks against United States, coalition, or Afghan security forces or civilians in Afghanistan in the last two years, including the details of any attacks believed to have been connected with such incentives.”
Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) framed the measure as particularly important in light of the revelations. “There’s been bipartisan criticism of what a weak deal [Trump] got with the Taliban, a deal that is already falling apart,” Moulton said. “Now we learned that he was making this deal at the same time as there were bounties on the heads of American troops, American sons and daughters. We clearly need more oversight over what the president is doing in Afghanistan.”
House Democrats on Tuesday introduced a resolution to ‘investigate and consider’ impeaching Attorney General William Barr. The move comes just a few months after their failed attempt to impeach President Donald Trump. Congressman Steve Cohen, R-TN, brought the measure to the House floor with the support of 35 co-sponsors. The group alleges that “Attorney General Barr has undermined our judicial system and perverted the rule of law.” He added, “In the past few weeks alone, Barr has ordered the attack on peaceful protestors in Lafayette Park, in violation of their constitutional rights, and moved to drop charges against Michael Flynn, the President’s former campaign advisor, despite his guilty pleas. He fired without any explanation the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York who was overseeing investigations into the President’s associates and possibly the President himself.”
“The pattern here is unmistakable. Barr obstructs justice by favoring the President’s friends and political allies. He abuses his power by using the Department of Justice to harass, intimidate and attack disfavored Americans and the President’s political opponents. My oath to support and defend the Constitution compels me to confront this corruption. Congress is a co-equal branch of government and we must get to the bottom of this and hold Bill Barr accountable.” Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee Rep. Jim Jordan criticized his colleagues’ move saying, “Are you kidding me?”, adding “Bill Barr is cleaning up the mess that Obama, Biden, and Comey created!”
There is no end to the Russiagate fraud. All major charges have been disproved. No one was convicted of the dreaded “collusion” that was reported endlessly for the last four years. Damning information is now declassified and casts doubt on the veracity of the whole story. CrowdStrike, the Democratic National Committee cyber security firm, admitted under oath they had no proof of hacking by Russia or anyone else. Robert Mueller ended his two-year long, multi-million dollar investigation with nothing except convictions for process crimes. Why then did the New York Times print a story with an unnamed intelligence agency source claiming that the Russian government paid the Taliban to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan? The charge is ludicrous on its face but the story is quite useful to people who want to hide their own criminality while simultaneously keeping Trump hamstrung in an election year.
Russia is the nation least likely to do business with jihadists. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, jihadists nearly tore Russia apart. Separatists from the Chechnya region terrorized the entire country which was weakened and divided after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Because of that experience Russia eagerly assisted the United States after the September 11 attacks. Far from impeding the U.S. presence, Russia and other former Soviet republics were steadfast participants in the Northern Distribution Network (NDN). NDN was a supply line carrying materiel from Russia, through central Asian nations and finally to Afghanistan. Russia allowed the use of its air space in troop transit flights. Far from being an enemy, Russia assisted the U.S. and its coalition in their fight against the Taliban.
Russia’s NDN cooperation lasted until 2015, when U.S. meddling in Ukraine poisoned relations between the two countries. Hostility towards jihadists remains a focus of Russian foreign policy decision making. The concern that ISIS might take control of Syria was the primary reason that Russia finally helped president Assad in 2015. Not only does this latest claim make little sense, but there is no source for this information. We are told that an anonymous intelligence official revealed the Russian bounty and that Donald Trump was aware of it but did nothing. Anonymous intelligence sources are the cause of much mischief. They will tell the public that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction or that Muammar Gaddafi is planning a massacre. In both instances the rationale for lying was to get public approval for U.S. aggression. In this case keeping the failing Russiagate narrative alive is a motive for more disinformation.
The timing of this dubious reporting is significant. An appeal’s court recently ruled that a federal judge must dismiss Michael Flynn’s conviction for lying to FBI agents. Flynn was set up by James Comey and Barack Obama with some involvement or knowledge on the part of Joe Biden. The timing of this development could not have been worse. When Flynn’s charges are dismissed, the story will truly begin to unravel and the corporate media will lose its monopoly on information.
Congressional leaders have demanded answers, and those answers have come in the form of multiple US intelligence agencies and chiefs essentially throwing cold water on the NY Times Russian bounties to kill American troops in Afghanistan story, as we’ve detailed. We expect this “bombshell” will be very short-lived, perhaps being memory holed by the weekend, akin to the fate of other Russiagate-related ‘anonymous sources say’ type stories. The Pentagon is the latest to say that DOD-wide there is currently “no corroborating evidence at this time to validate the recent allegations regarding malight activity by Russian personnel against US forces in Afghanistan,” according to a late Tuesday evening statement by Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
And yet the Times is busy publishing photos of slain Marines to help bolster what’s increasingly looking like a propaganda hit piece ahead of the November election, for which there’s already been considerable backlash from the public. As of Wednesday it’s been revealed that a highly respected career intelligence officer previously made the decision to not brief President Trump on what the Washington Post now belatedly admits was widely “deemed sketchy” information the CIA had obtained in 2019 through either a foreign source or report. This line from the Post is certainly awkward for them and the Times:
“The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that White House officials were first informed in early 2019 of intelligence reports that Russia was offering the bounties to kill U.S. and coalition military personnel, but the information was deemed sketchy and in need of additional confirmation, according to people familiar with the matter.”
Based on anonymous intelligence sources, The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal released bombshell reports alleging that Russia is paying the Taliban bounties for every U.S. soldier they can kill. The story caused an uproar in the United States, dominating the news cycle and leading presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden to accuse Trump of “dereliction of duty” and “continuing his embarrassing campaign of deference and debasing himself before Vladimir Putin.” “This is beyond the pale,” the former vice-president concluded. However, there are a number of reasons to be suspicious of the new reports. Firstly, they appear all to be based entirely on the same intelligence officials who insisted on anonymity.
The official could not provide any concrete evidence, nor establish that any Americans had actually died as a result, offering only vague assertions and admitting that the information came from “interrogated” (i.e. tortured) Afghan militants. All three reports stressed the uncertainty of the claims, with the only sources who went on record — the White House, the Kremlin, and the Taliban — all vociferously denying it all. The national security state also has a history of using anonymous officials to plant stories that lead to war. In 2003, the country was awash with stories that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, in 2011 anonymous officials warned of an impending genocide in Libya, while in 2018 officials accused Bashar al-Assad of attacking Douma with chemical weapons, setting the stage for a bombing campaign. All turned out to be untrue.
“After all we’ve been through, we’re supposed to give anonymous ‘intelligence officials’ in The New York Times the benefit of the doubt on something like this? I don’t think so,” Scott Horton, Editorial Director of Antiwar.com and author of “Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan,” told MintPress News. “All three stories were written in language conceding they did not know if the story was true,” he said, “They are reporting the ‘fact’ that there was a rumor.” Horton continued: “There were claims in 2017 that Russia was arming and paying the Taliban, but then the generals admitted to Congress they had no evidence of either. In a humiliating debacle, also in 2017, CNN claimed a big scoop about Putin’s support for the Taliban when furnished with some photos of Taliban fighters with old Russian weapons. The military veteran journalists at Task and Purpose quickly debunked every claim in their piece.”
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said on Wednesday that his party has assembled a group of 600 lawyers and thousands of other people to prepare for possible “chicanery” ahead of November’s election. “We put together 600 lawyers and a group of people throughout the country who are going into every single state to try to figure out whether chicanery is likely to take place,” Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, said on a video conference with donors to his campaign. “We have over 10,000 people signed up to volunteer. We’re in the process of getting into the states in question to train them to be in a polling place,” he said, in a time when the coronavirus pandemic requires extra precautions.
Biden’s remarks come as the candidate offers dire warnings about efforts by Republicans to cheat in the Nov. 3 election while also criticizing his election opponent, Republican President Donald Trump, for undermining confidence in the vote. A senior political adviser and top lawyer for Trump’s campaign, Justin Clark, said Biden is lying and stoking fear while Democrats are trying to “fundamentally change” how elections are conducted, an apparent reference to their support for widespread mail-in voting. Republicans have argued that mail-in voting and other changes being suggested by Democrats in the midst of the pandemic could create fraud. “They are inserting chaos and confusion into our voting process because it is the only way they can win,” Clark said in a statement, adding that the president is committed to “fair and free elections.”
While Mr. Trump seems to dimly apprehend the urgent need for economic restructuring, he’s able to express it only in messages that sound like a 1961 Frigidaire commercial, with overtones of Marvel Comics superhero grandiosity. The president may understand that a country can’t consume stuff without producing stuff, but he doesn’t get that it’s too late to bring back all that activity at the scale we used to run it when he was a young man in the 1960s. His answer to the call of restructuring — what the Soviets called perestroika before they fell apart — is to pile on more debt, that is, borrow more from the future to pay for hamburgers today.
That dovetails neatly with the needs of the financial community, led by the hapless “Jay” Powell at the Federal Reserve, who is on a mission to destroy the U.S. dollar in order to save the banking system and its auxiliaries in the stock markets. He literally doesn’t know what to do — except “print” more dollars to support share prices, a symbolic talisman of theoretical economics that has less and less to do with what people actually do on-the-ground in the hours when they’re not sleeping. It looks unlikely that the Fed will rescue either Wall Street or Main Street. The longer he props up the former at the expense of the latter, the more certain it is that it will provoke insurrection that goes well beyond the current hostilities.
The looting and arson of recent days hugely aggravated a central feature of it: the destruction of small business. In Minneapolis alone, the damage stands at $100-million. Things were difficult enough under the strictures of Covid-19, but this guarantees that many cities will not see the return of commerce — and there are only a few other reasons for cities to even exist. Not only did the Democratic Party fail to object to the mayhem, but the city governments they controlled abetted, incited, and applauded the anarchy. Meanwhile, last Saturday in Tulsa, Mr. Trump made the signal error of bragging on the latest highs in the stock markets. Hasn’t he learned by now what a flimsy representation of reality that is?
Evidently not. The air may be coming out of that lifebuoy in the next couple of weeks, and his election prospects will sink with it. This will happen as the nation approaches the dark moment when the postponement of debt repayments ends. Imagine how many mortgage, car payments, and small business loan defaults will crackle across the land, and how that will thunder through the banking system.
Tesla’s electrifying rise claimed its biggest victim yet. During morning trading on Wednesday, shares in the Silicon Valley upstart rose some 5% to briefly hit a market value of $210 billion, overtaking Toyota Motor as the world’s largest carmaker by market worth. Undeserved as that may be, it shifts Chief Executive Elon Musk’s performance bonus into overdrive. The maker of the Model 3 has long traded on a far higher multiple of earnings than its traditional, internal combustion engine-focused rivals. But after a 400% share-price turbo boost over the past 12 months – lapping Ford Motor, then General Motors then Volkswagen – Tesla now trades at 69 times estimated 2022 earnings, according to Refinitiv data. Toyota, by contrast, trades just below 10 times earnings for that calendar year.
Tesla’s current price requires the utmost faith in Elon Musk’s ability either to deliver millions more vehicles a year than the 400,000 he managed last year, or to roll out a large fleet of cheap-to-run robo-taxis. Neither looks likely any time soon. But the valuation also starts the clock on another huge payout for Musk. Shareholders two years ago approved a 10-year performance package that allows the boss to be given shares equal to 12% of the amount outstanding, worth in total as much as $60 billion. Getting them requires hitting both a market value target as well as either a revenue or adjusted EBITDA goal.
He was awarded the first of the 12 possible tranches a little over a month ago, based on a $100 billion market value and $20 billion of annual revenue. The shares had already zoomed past the second market-value target – $150 billion – on the way to its current level, though Musk has to wait for that to register on a six-month average basis.
It’s still a bit of a battle to get started again, as you can see, but we’ll get there. All day yesterday for instance my head was much more occupied with the banning of Mark Twain and Harper Lee than with corona. But I already wrote about To KIll A Mockingbird.
Worldometer reports new cases for June 23 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 162,994 .
As Texas, where our resident GP is located, continues to surge:
From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-:
Fauci’s statement here is stunning.
To paraphrase, he lied in March when he said masks don’t work. The Govt needed medical providers to have them first, not The People.
A new study suggests that as many as 8.7 million Americans came down with coronavirus in March, but more than 80% of them were never diagnosed. A team of researchers looked at the number of people who went to doctors or clinics with influenza-like illnesses that were never diagnosed as coronavirus, influenza or any of the other viruses that usually circulate in winter. There was a giant spike in these cases in March, the researchers reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine. “The findings support a scenario where more than 8.7 million new SARS-CoV-2 infections appeared in the U.S. during March and estimate that more than 80% of these cases remained unidentified as the outbreak rapidly spread,” Justin Silverman of Penn State University, Alex Washburne of Montana State University and colleagues at Cornell University and elsewhere, wrote.
Only 100,000 cases were officially reported during that time period, and the US still reports only 2.3 million cases as of Monday. But there was a shortage of coronavirus testing kits at the time. The team used data collected from each state by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for influenza-like illness. The CDC uses this data to track the annual seasonal flu epidemic. It asks doctors to report all cases of people coming in for treatment for fever, cough and other symptoms caused by influenza. “We found a clear, anomalous surge in influenza-like illness (ILI) outpatients during the COVID-19 epidemic that correlated with the progression of the epidemic in multiple states across the US,” Silverman and colleagues wrote.
“The surge of non-influenza ILI outpatients was much larger than the number of confirmed cases in each state, providing evidence of large numbers of probable symptomatic COVID-19 cases that remained undetected.”
The market capitalization of the five largest stocks combined – the “Giant 5:” Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet, and Facebook – rose to a new record today of $6.18 trillion. Since their combined low point on March 16, their market capitalization has soared by 51%. That’s an increase of $2.1 trillion in a little over three months. Since January 2017, my Giant 5 index has soared by 164% (market cap data via YCharts):
So how big did they get? The overall stock market capitalization, as measured by the Wilshire 5000 Market Cap Index tracking 3,451 US-listed companies, ticked up to $31.8 trillion, up by 41.6% from its low on March 23. Today, the “Giant 5” accounted for 19.4% of the total US stock market capitalization, as measured by the Wilshire 5000, a new record. On January 3, 2017, the Giant 5 had accounted for 10% of the Wilshire 5000. In the three months since the crash in March, the share of the Giant 5 has soared from abound 16% to 19.4% today (Wilshire 5000 data via YCharts):
Let’s take the five largest stocks out of the largest stock market in the world, with 3,451 companies, and see what’s left over. What’s left over is now valued at $25.7 trillion. It’s up by 28.4% from the March 23 low, and while that’s till strong for a three-month rally, it’s a far cry from the 51% for the Giant 5. And here is the thing: All these companies combined, minus the “Giant 5,” are way below their peak in February 2020, and below a whole bunch of other dates before then, and below where they’d first been in at the end of January 2018. For the entire rest of the stock market – all its winners and losers combined – minus the “Giant 5” the period since January 2018 was a very rough and unpleasant ride to nowhere. It declined 1%. You would have been better off putting your money in one of those despicable freaking savings accounts:
Seen the other way around: If you had shorted on January 26, 2018, the entire stock market minus the “Giant 5,” you would have had a wild unpleasant ride and made 1%. But if you had shorted the “Giant 5” over the same period, you would have lost 70%. This is how dependent the stock market, and broad portfolios reflecting it, have become on the Giant 5. It’s not that there aren’t a bunch of other companies that have gained as much or more than the Big 5 in percentage terms – there are – but in dollar terms, and in weight in the market, they just don’t measure up to these five giants. Apple and Microsoft both are now worth over $1.5 trillion. Amazon is at nearly $1.4 trillion, Alphabet at $1.0 trillion. These are gigantic valuations. They also speak of an immense concentration of power in a single company.
President Vladimir Putin reviewed a spectacular Red Square military parade on Wednesday, a patriotic display critics said was designed to lift his lower-than-usual ratings on the eve of a nationwide vote that could extend his rule until 2036. Putin watched as intercontinental ballistic missile launchers trundled past, nuclear-capable bombers flew overhead, and columns of tanks and over 14,000 troops, including some from allies like China, marched past under hot sunshine. The parade, to mark the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s World War Two victory over the Nazis, was postponed from May 9 because of the novel coronavirus outbreak, but critics said it was still irresponsible to go ahead with it.
The Kremlin dismissed that assertion, saying new daily infections, though still in the thousands, were on the wane, especially in the Russian capital, the original epicentre of the outbreak, and that all safety precautions were taken. Volunteers gave masks and gloves to those watching on Red Square and ordered them to sit two seats apart. Putin, flanked by veterans, did not wear a mask, but people around him had been tested for the coronavirus, including veterans quarantined at a resort outside Moscow beforehand. Thousands of people thronged Moscow’s streets to watch tanks roll through the city on what was a public holiday. Putin struck a conciliatory tone towards the West, despite complaining beforehand about what he called attempts by some European countries to rewrite history.
He said Moscow would never forget the contribution made by the Soviet Union’s wartime allies, including their opening of a second front in 1944. Putin also made an indirect reference to his desire for the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council to hold a summit to try to tackle the world’s problems. “We are open to dialogue and cooperation on the most current international questions,” said Putin. “Among them is the creation of a reliable and general system of security, which the complex fast-changing modern world needs. Only together can we defend it from new dangerous threats,” he said.
“A Chain Of Stupidity” is what Assange smearer Luke Harding sees in Russia’s intelligence. But the smart folks at Atlantic Council-sponsored Bellingcat will save us from their stupidity. By claiming that Assad conducted chemical attacks on his people. By claiming that Russia downed MH17.
A man named Eliot Higgins was following events in Libya, too – not from the front line, but from his home in the east Midlands. Specifically, from his sofa. It was a safer place to be – and, as it turned out, as good a perch as any from which to analyse the conflict, and to consider questions that, in the heat of battle, were interesting, but seemingly unanswerable. Questions such as: where did the rebels get their arms? Higgins recalls growing up as a shy “nerd”. According to his brother Ross, Higgins was an obsessive gamer and early computer enthusiast. He liked Lego, played Pong on an antediluvian 1980s Atari and was a fan of Dungeons and Dragons. He spent hours immersed in the online roleplay game World of Warcraft, where participants pooled skills and collaborated across virtual borders. His instincts were completist: he wanted to finish and win the game. This would prove useful later on.
Higgins tried for a career in journalism and enrolled on a media studies course in Southampton. It didn’t work out, and he left without a degree. Next, he earned a living via a series of unlikely administrative jobs. One day Higgins logged on to the Guardian’s Middle East live blog. Libya was the centre of international attention. Higgins made his own contributions to the comment section of the Guardian blog, using the name Brown Moses – taken from a Frank Zappa song. The blog often featured videos uploaded by anti-regime fighters. There was fierce debate as to whether these images were authentic or bogus.
One such video showed a newly captured town. The rebels claimed it was Tiji, a sleepy settlement with a barracks that had been recently bombed by Nato jets, close to the border with Tunisia, and on the strategic main road leading to Tripoli. There was a mosque, a white road and a few little buildings with trees around them. The video showed a rebel-driven tank rolling noisily down a two-lane highway. There were utility poles. Higgins used satellite images to see if he could identify the settlement and thereby win the discussion. The features were sufficiently distinctive for him to be able to prove he was correct: the town was Tiji. “I’m very argumentative,” he says. It was the first time he had used geolocation tools. He realised he could collect user-generated videos and later work out exactly where they had been filmed.
Ah, Harding has a new book out and that needs to be promoted. So let’s use the Steele Dossier for that. Its credibility hasn’t survived Mueller, but who in Britain knows that? Just throw in that Russia especially hates Britain, that’ll do it.
Boris Johnson and Theresa May ignored claims the Kremlin had a “likely hold” over Donald Trump and may have covertly funded Brexit, the former spy Christopher Steele alleges in secret evidence given to MPs who drew up the Russia report. In testimony to MPs, the MI6 veteran accused the government led by May and in which Johnson was foreign secretary for two years of turning a blind eye to allegations about Trump because they were afraid of offending the US president. Steele first presented a dossier about Trump to senior UK intelligence figures in late 2016, who he says took it seriously at first. But, he writes, “on reaching top political decision-makers, a blanket appeared to be thrown over it”.
“No inquiries were made or actions taken thereafter on the substance of the intelligence in the dossier by HMG [Her Majesty’s government],” Steele says in the critical document. The allegation is contained in a short summary of a larger file of information presented in August 2018 by Steele to parliament’s intelligence and security committee (ISC), inquiring into Kremlin infiltration into British politics and public life. Steele accuses May’s government of selling British interests short by not taking matters further: “In this case, political considerations seemed to outweigh national security interests. If so, in my view, HMG made a serious mistake in balancing matters of strategic importance to our country.”
The Russia expert concluded: “A prospective trade deal should never be allowed to eclipse considerations of national security.” Steele’s confidential testimony is revealed for the first time in a book by the Guardian journalist Luke Harding, Shadow State: Murder, Mayhem and Russia’s Remaking of the West, to be published next week.
Scientists have expressed concerns about the implications for the rest of the world after a heatwave in Russia’s Siberia region. On Saturday, the thermometer hit a likely record of 38C – or 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit – in the Siberian town of Verkhoyansk in Russia’s Sakha Republic. The World Meteorological Organisation said it is looking to verify the temperature reading, which would be a record for the region north of the Arctic Circle. The increasing temperatures in Siberia have been linked to wildfires that grow bigger and more severe every year, as well as the thawing of the permafrost.
University of Michigan environmental school dean Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist, said: “The Arctic is figuratively and literally on fire – it’s warming much faster than we thought it would in response to rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and this warming is leading to a rapid meltdown and increase in wildfires. “The record warming in Siberia is a warning sign of major proportions.” Much of Siberia had high temperatures this year that were beyond unseasonably warm. From January through to May, the average temperature in north-central Siberia has been about 8C above average, according to the climate science non-profit organisation Berkeley Earth.
Siberia is in the Guinness Book of World Records for its extreme temperatures. It is a place where the thermometer has swung by 106C (190 degrees Fahrenheit), from a low of minus 68C to 38C.
Verhojansk, a Russian town in East Siberia known for its exceptionally cold winters, just broke its all-time heat record with a whopping 38.0°C (100.4°F)! Records kept since 1885.#ArcticHeatwavepic.twitter.com/P6tbJ4DbKd
After decades of widespread use as company scientists played down research showing a definitive link between the product and growing rates of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, Monsanto parent company Bayer has agreed to pay up to $10 billion to settle claims that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, causes cancer. Citing people familiar with the matter, German newspaper Handelsblatt reported that the company has agreed to settle tens of thousands of glyphosate-related lawsuits in the US for between $8 billion to $10 billion. Of that number, $2 billion is considered a “reserve” which can be used to settle future claims. The rest will be used to settle all of the lawsuits pending in the United States from users of the controversial weed killer, the number of active lawsuits against the Roundup purveyor recently numbered more than 50k.
Talks for an out of court settlement have been ongoing since last summer. Last year, scientists evaluated a batch of existing studies and determined that Monsanto’s ubiquitous weed-killer Roundup and its active ingredient glyphosate increased cancer risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) by 41%, according to a research published in February 2019. Back in 2018, a San Francisco Jury awarded $289 million in damages to a former school groundskeeper, Dewayne Johnson, who said Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller gave him terminal cancer. That award consisted of $40 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages.
U.S. stocks lost ground on Thursday as grim economic data and mixed earnings prompted investors to take profits at the close of the S&P 500’s best month in 33 years, a remarkable run driven by expectations the economy will soon start recovering from crushing restrictions enacted to curb the coronavirus pandemic. While risk-off selling pulled all three major U.S. stock averages into the red, the S&P 500 and the Dow posted their largest monthly percentage gains since January 1987, with the Nasdaq having its best month since June 2000. The three indexes remain well within 20% of record highs reached in February, having quickly rebounded since shutdown efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic brought the economy to a grinding halt.
The five-week tally of unemployment claims topped 30 million and consumer spending has plummeted, according to the latest round of dismal indicators providing another snapshot of the crushing economic effects of the widespread shutdown. “We’ve had a tremendous run but we’ve had the worst economic data since the Great Depression,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago. “Business and earnings might not be snapping back as quickly as the v-shaped recovery on Wall Street would imply.” The Federal Reserved announced that it would broaden its “Main Street Lending Program” by lowering the minimum loan size and expanding eligibility. “Wall Street is liking all the programs that the government and the Fed are putting together,” Nolte added. “So Wall Street is doing fine but Main Street is going to be a longer process.”
The Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force Dr. Anthony Fauci told the Today Show’s Savannah Guthrie Thursday that developing a vaccine to combat the coronavirus outbreak by January is “doable.” “What the plan is right now is, as I mentioned to you a couple of times on this show, we’re in the early phases of a trial, Phase 1. When you go into the next phase, we’re gonna safely and carefully, but as quickly as we possibly can, try and get an answer as to whether it works and is safe,” Fauci said.
He added, “And, if so, we’re gonna start ramping up production with the companies involved. And you do that at risk. In other words, you don’t wait until you get an answer before you start manufacturing. You at risk proactively start making it assuming it’s gonna work, and, if it does, then you could scale up and hopefully get to that timeline. So we want to go quickly, but we want to make sure it’s safe and it’s effective.” The Trump Administration announced “Operation Warp Speed” to accelerate the development of a vaccine, Bloomberg News first reported Wednesday. The report states. “The project’s goal is to have 300 million doses of vaccine available by January, according to one administration official. There is no precedent for such rapid development of a vaccine.”
In a letter to Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) presents a frequently updated table of studies that report results of treating COVID-19 with the anti-malaria drugs chloroquine (CQ) and hydroxychloroquine (HCQ, Plaquenil®). To date, the total number of reported patients treated with HCQ, with or without zinc and the widely used antibiotic azithromycin, is 2,333, writes AAPS, in observational data from China, France, South Korea, Algeria, and the U.S. Of these, 2,137 or 91.6 percent improved clinically. There were 63 deaths, all but 11 in a single retrospective report from the Veterans Administration where the patients were severely ill.
The antiviral properties of these drugs have been studied since 2003. Particularly when combined with zinc, they hinder viral entry into cells and inhibit replication. They may also prevent overreaction by the immune system, which causes the cytokine storm responsible for much of the damage in severe cases, explains AAPS. HCQ is often very helpful in treating autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Additional benefits shown in some studies, AAPS states, is to decrease the number of days when a patient is contagious, reduce the need for ventilators, and shorten the time to clinical recovery.
Peer-reviewed studies published from January through April 20, 2020, provide clear and convincing evidence that HCQ may be beneficial in COVID-19, especially when used early, states AAPS. Unfortunately, although it is perfectly legal to prescribe drugs for new indications not on the label, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended that CQ and HCQ should be used for COVID-19 only in hospitalized patients in the setting of a clinical study if available. Most states are making it difficult for physicians to prescribe or pharmacists to dispense these medications. As the letter to Gov. Ducey notes, “Many nations, including Turkey and India, are protecting medical workers and contacts of infected persons prophylactically.
According to worldometers.info, deaths per million persons from COVID-19 as of Apr 27 are 167 in the U.S., 33 in Turkey, and 0.6 in India.” After Morocco and Algeria began using HCQ, a trend break and sharp reduction in their COVID-19 case fatality rate occurred. Vaccines and results of randomized double-blind controlled trials of new drugs are at best months away. But patients are dying now, while affordable, long-used drugs would be available except for government restrictions, AAPS states. The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) has represented physicians of all specialties in all states since 1943. The AAPS motto is omnia pro aegroto, meaning everything for the patient.
As expected, the Texas sharpshooting style ex post change of initial target. Now let's look at the implications. https://t.co/M9KC1ZhcHm
Turkey has the biggest coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East, with more than 117,000 confirmed infections. More than 3,000 people have died. But the government claims to have a lower fatality rate than the global average estimated by the World Health Organization at over 3%. The Turkish government imposed weekend-only lockdowns and banned only those under the age of 20 and over 65 from leaving their homes during the week, in an effort to limit the economic impact of the pandemic. Turkey’s Ministry of Health says the relatively low death toll is thanks to treatment protocols in the country, which involve two existing drugs — the controversial anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine touted by President Trump, and Japanese antiviral favipiravir.
“Doctors prescribe hydroxychloroquine to everyone who is tested positive for coronavirus” Dr. Sema Turan, a member of the Turkish government’s coronavirus advisory board, told CBS News. Hospitalized patients may be given favipiravir as well if they encounter breathing problems, she said. Turan said the combination of drugs appeared to “delay or eliminate the need for intensive care for patients.” But it’s important to note that Turkey’s use of the drug is not a clinically controlled trial; there’s no control group of patients not given the medication to compare the results against. Clinical trials have been underway in the U.S. and elsewhere, but the results aren’t yet clear. Preliminary studies on hydroxychloroquine have yielded uninspiring results thus far.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved emergency use of hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus patients, but has warned it should only be used in clinical trials or under the close observation of doctors, citing an observed risk of heart complications.
China has refused repeated requests by the World Health Organisation to take part in investigations into the origins of COVID-19, the WHO representative in China has told Sky News. “We know that some national investigation is happening but at this stage we have not been invited to join,” Dr Gauden Galea said. “WHO is making requests of the health commission and of the authorities,” he said. “The origins of virus are very important, the animal-human interface is extremely important and needs to be studied. “The priority is we need to know as much as possible to prevent the reoccurrence.” Asked by Sky News whether there was a good reason not to include the WHO, Dr Galea replied: “From our point of view, no.”
The Australian government has said that an independent public enquiry should be held into the origins of COVID-19, a measure EU countries are reportedly considering publicly endorsing. China has reacted angrily, saying that the investigation into the virus should be a matter for scientists. Dr Galea also told Sky News that the WHO had not been able to investigate logs from the two laboratories working with viruses in Wuhan, the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Wuhan CDC. “From all available evidence, WHO colleagues in our three-level system are convinced that the origins are in Wuhan and that it is a naturally occurring, not a manufactured, virus,” he said.
Nevertheless, according to Dr Galea, the laboratory logs “would need to be part of any full report, any full look at the story of the origins”. Dr Galea defended the WHO’s role in the early days of the novel coronavirus outbreak. “We only know what China is reporting to us at that period in time.” From 3 January to 16 January, Wuhan officials reported no new coronavirus cases beyond the 41 already published. “Is it likely that there were only 41 cases for that period of time? I would think not,” Dr Galea told Sky News. [..] The WHO has been criticised for a tweet it posted on 14 January, saying “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission”. The same day, in Geneva, a WHO official said there had been “limited” human-to-human transmission.
Dr Galea told Sky News that, at the time, the “WHO was increasingly worried and convinced, suspecting strongly there would be human-to-human transmission. But as yet the cases that had been presented to us and the investigations had not yet confirmed that 100%.”
Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare released figures Tuesday revealing that the death toll from the coronavirus has been underestimated in public figures. This came as total infections in the country of 10 million passed 20,000 yesterday, with almost 2,500 deaths. The discrepancy is due to the Public Health Agency’s policy of only counting deaths following a positive COVID-19 test confirmed by a laboratory. However, the National Board of Health and Welfare noted that as of 21 April, only 82 percent of the deaths it linked to coronavirus had a positive lab test. Assuming that this difference has persisted over the last week, there would have been approximately 400 more deaths from the virus than the 2,462 officially recorded yesterday by the Public Health Agency.
This significant under-counting of deaths is not to be explained by an error, but is the direct product of the Swedish government’s “herd immunity” strategy. Unlike its Nordic neighbours and other European countries, Sweden avoided imposing a general lock-down and even delayed for some time the issuing of limited social distancing guidelines. Gatherings of up to 50 people are still permitted, and shops, restaurants, schools, and non-essential businesses of all types remain open. As a result, the population has been subjected to a reckless experiment that some scientists have likened to playing “Russian roulette.” Even taking the lower official death toll as a point of comparison, the death rate in Sweden dramatically exceeds neighbouring countries.
In Norway, for example, which has a population approximately half the size of Sweden’s, 7,660 cases and 206 deaths have been recorded. Sweden therefore has a death rate more than five times higher than its neighbour per head of population. The refusal to impose strict social distancing measures is stretching the health care system to its limits. At Tuesday’s daily briefing, Johanna Sandwall, crisis manager at the National Board of Health and Welfare, stated that across the country, intensive care units have 30 percent spare capacity. However, she acknowledged that in some areas, there was zero spare capacity. Asked where these were, she refused to answer.
DYNAMIC vs STATIC
While the wisdom of a tail-risk decision under asymmetries is not to be decided after, comparative numbers for Sweden are much worse.
Sweden’s numbers are growing at ~50-150 a day, Norway’s 1-5. So expect the ratios to soon be 4000-6000 vs 220-250 for Norway. https://t.co/PeFQtNyfQD
The problem in the US is that proportion of overweight (or, to be polite, “exceedingly well fed”) & metabolically challenged pple; the chief vulnerability for Covid. That makes any comparison or mortality rates between the US and Europe unrigorous.
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has gone to hospital after he was diagnosed with coronavirus. His positive test came on the same day that Russia recorded a record 7,099 cases, taking the total number of infections above 100,000. Mr Mishustin was given the role of prime minister in January and has been actively involved in Russia’s handling of the epidemic. Russian TV showed him telling President Vladimir Putin of his diagnosis. “I have just learned that the test on the coronavirus I took was positive,” the prime minister said during the video call.
Mr Mishustin suggested that First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov should take his place and Mr Putin agreed. Mr Mishustin will now go into self-isolation. “What’s happening to you can happen to anyone, and I’ve always been saying this,” Mr Putin told him. “You are a very active person. I would like to thank you for the work that has been done so far.”Despite the sharp rise in cases, the Moscow-based coronavirus headquarters says 1,073 people in Russia have now died of coronavirus, a relatively low number for Russia’s size. Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov says Russia’s reaction to the pandemic has enabled it to avoid an “Italian scenario”.
Three of the largest four U.S. airlines said Thursday they will require passengers to wear facial coverings on U.S. flights, joining JetBlue Airways in taking the step to address the spread of the coronavirus and convince reluctant passengers to resume flying. United Airlines, Delta Air and American Airlines, along with the smaller Frontier Airlines, which is owned by private equity firm Indigo Partners LLC, announced they will require facial coverings next month. Delta and United’s new rules start May 4, while Frontier’s start May 8 and American’s requirements begin May 11. The policies exempt young children from wearing masks or other facial coverings.
Many U.S. airlines are also requiring pilots and flight attendants to use facial coverings while on board aircraft. Airlines in the United States have seen a nearly 95% drop in U.S. passengers and have slashed flight schedules. They are now working to reassure customers about the safety of air travel by instituting new cleaning and social distancing procedures. Some airline unions and U.S. lawmakers have urged the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to require facial coverings for all passengers and crew. United said it will provide complimentary masks to passengers. Southwest Airlines), one of the largest U.S. airlines, has not required facial coverings.
After the 2007-09 financial crisis, the imbalances and risks pervading the global economy were exacerbated by policy mistakes. So, rather than address the structural problems that the financial collapse and ensuing recession revealed, governments mostly kicked the can down the road, creating major downside risks that made another crisis inevitable. And now that it has arrived, the risks are growing even more acute. Unfortunately, even if the Greater Recession leads to a lacklustre U-shaped recovery this year, an L-shaped “Greater Depression” will follow later in this decade, owing to 10 ominous and risky trends.
The first trend concerns deficits and their corollary risks: debts and defaults. The policy response to the Covid-19 crisis entails a massive increase in fiscal deficits – on the order of 10% of GDP or more – at a time when public debt levels in many countries were already high, if not unsustainable. Worse, the loss of income for many households and firms means that private-sector debt levels will become unsustainable, too, potentially leading to mass defaults and bankruptcies. Together with soaring levels of public debt, this all but ensures a more anaemic recovery than the one that followed the Great Recession a decade ago.
A second factor is the demographic timebomb in advanced economies. The Covid-19 crisis shows that much more public spending must be allocated to health systems, and that universal healthcare and other relevant public goods are necessities, not luxuries. Yet, because most developed countries have ageing societies, funding such outlays in the future will make the implicit debts from today’s unfunded healthcare and social security systems even larger. A third issue is the growing risk of deflation. In addition to causing a deep recession, the crisis is also creating a massive slack in goods (unused machines and capacity) and labour markets (mass unemployment), as well as driving a price collapse in commodities such as oil and industrial metals. That makes debt deflation likely, increasing the risk of insolvency.
Consumer prices in Japan’s capital city fell for the first time in three years in April and national factory activity slumped, data showed on Friday, increasing worries the coronavirus pandemic could tip the country back into deflation. The darkening outlook in the world’s third-largest economy is already heightening calls for bigger spending, even after parliament approved an extra budget to fund a $1.1 trillion stimulus package to cushion the blow from the pandemic. “The government will work with the central bank to ensure Japan absolutely does not slip back into deflation,” Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told a news conference on Friday.
Core consumer prices in Tokyo, a leading indicator of nationwide inflation trends, slipped 0.1% in April from a year earlier, government data showed, dashing expectations for a 0.1% rise and following a 0.4% increase in March. It was the first year-on-year decline since April 2017. While the drop was largely due to slumping energy costs following the collapse in the crude oil price, it has consolidated expectations that Japan will see consumer prices fall in coming months as the economy feels a sharper hit from the pandemic. A separate business survey on Friday confirmed Japan’s factory activity shrank at its fastest pace in more than a decade in April, as the coronavirus hurt output and new orders.
British factory output risks falling by more than half during the current quarter after 80% of manufacturers reported a collapse in orders due to the coronavirus, trade body Make UK said on Friday. Make UK said a survey of 297 members, conducted from April 20-27, showed that more than three quarters had already suffered a drop in sales. Britain’s Office for Budget Responsibility said on April 14 that factory output could fall by 55% in the second quarter, as part of a scenario for the broader economy that showed a 35% plunge in total output if lockdown restrictions stay in place. “The extent of the collapse in demand is such it means that the recent OBR forecast could be an underestimate unless there is a quite remarkable turnaround which, to be frank, just isn’t going to happen,” Make UK chief executive Stephen Phipson said.
A separate survey from the Confederation of British Industry showed that private-sector activity fell by the most since July 2009 during the three months to April, and that output expectations were the weakest on record. Britain’s government ordered non-essential businesses to close to the public on March 23 and urged staff to work from home if possible. It is due to review the measures on May 7 but officials have said it is too soon for a major easing. Some 87% of manufacturers are still carrying out some operations, but more than a third had put staff members on leave under a government wage guarantee scheme which was likely to be needed beyond its planned end-June closing date, Make UK said.
The European Central Bank tweaked policy around the edges on Thursday but kept the door wide open to further stimulus — including potentially controversial purchases of junk debt — to help an economy ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic. Facing an unprecedented recession, the ECB said it would make loans to banks even cheaper but kept the terms of its hallmark asset purchase scheme unchanged, disappointing investors who had bet on even more money-printing. Lockdowns in place across Europe to curb the spread of the virus have already cost millions their jobs and governments are borrowing record amounts just to keep their economies going until restrictions on businesses and households can be eased.
ECB President Christine Lagarde made clear the central bank for the 19 countries that use the euro currency would do its part but said political leaders must agree on more ambitious and coordinated action, a goal that has so far eluded them. “The euro area is facing an economic contraction of a magnitude and speed that are unprecedented in peacetime,” Lagarde told a news conference held via webcast. Speaking to an empty press room, Lagarde said the euro zone economy could shrink by 5 percent to 12 percent this year and may contract by 15 percent in the second quarter alone, a rate that would far outpace any decline during the global financial crisis a decade ago.
[..] As part of Thursday’s moves, the ECB said it would allow banks to borrow long-term funds for rates as low as minus 1 percent and it would set up a new shorter-term liquidity operation. Even if markets were disappointed with the measures, Lagarde made clear the ECB would do its job, a signal that more action is coming, perhaps as soon as June. She said the ECB could increase the size of its Emergency Pandemic Purchase Scheme (PEPP) and even extend it beyond 2020. When asked if the ECB could buy bonds below investment grade, she hinted at flexibility. “We have been very clear … we will not accept fragmentation of monetary transmission in the euro area or any pro-cyclical tightening of financing conditions,” Lagarde said. “With these two principles in mind, we will adjust as and when needed.”
The hint at future junk bond purchases is significant as Italy, the euro zone’s third-largest economy, is rated in the lowest investment-grade bracket and seen at risk of downgrades that could lose it access to ECB help just as it needs it most. Letting go of Italy would be politically unacceptable, however and the ECB’s recent decisions to temporarily buy Greek debt and accept bonds recently downgraded to junk as collateral from banks were seen as a way of preparing the ground.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he would consider bringing his fired former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a key figure in the probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, back into his administration. The president’s comments, the latest in a string of remarks about Flynn, go beyond prior suggestions by Trump that the retired general could be in line for a presidential pardon. “I would certainly consider it, yeah. I think he’s a fine man,” Trump told reporters, without specifying which role he might give to Flynn. Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements in a charge brought by then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He is now insisting he did not lie and wants to back out of the plea.
Internal FBI documents turned over by the Justice Department on Wednesday showed FBI officials debated whether and when to warn Flynn that he could face criminal charges as they prepared for a January 2017 interview with him in the Russia probe. Trump blamed Flynn’s predicament on “dirty cops” and said the documents show Flynn was a victim. “He’s in the process of being exonerated. If you look at those notes from yesterday, that was total exoneration,” Trump said.
In another dramatic twist of events 15 documents unsealed Thursday show that the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane team and senior FBI officials had worked diligently behind the scenes to target former National Security Advisor for President Trump Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who has withdrawn his guilty plea and is fighting for his case to be dismissed by the courts. Further, the text messages reveal that there was an original 302 interview with Flynn that was never turned over to the defense. In those text messages between former FBI lovebirds Attorney Lisa Page and FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok, they discuss the interview that was conducted with Flynn at the White House and allude to the alteration of the document.
Those explosive documents suggest that the FBI was planning on closing the case on Flynn because there was no proof that he committed any crimes. In fact, the case against Flynn was closed on January 4, 2017 but reopened, according to text messages unsealed and obtained by Powell. The documents, which reveal his FBI code name ‘Crossfire Razor,’ expose that the Department of Justice withheld large amounts of exculpatory evidence from his defense team and, according to his attorney Sidney Powell, reveal egregious government misconduct. “To be clear, we now know by the production of new text messages between Lisa Page and Peter Strzok that there in fact exists an original 302 document created by SSA 1 from his own notes of the January 24, 2017 ambush interview of Gen Flynn,” said Powell.
“Further, we know in fact that SSA 1’s original 302 document went to Stzrok who rewrote it substantially, but tried not to “completely re-write it so as to save [redacted] voice” and then was shared by Stzrok with a “pissed off” Page who revised it substantively yet again, crafting the narrative to charge Gen Flynn with a crime he did not commit.” She noted that as repugnant as this conduct is on its face, “the travel of this vital document establishes continuously – and until this day – the original FBI agents, the prosecutors, and FBI management’s determination to withhold exculpatory evidence required under Brady, among other violations of Gen Flynn’s civil rights. They withheld it not only to try to convict an innocent man, but to hide their own crimes.”
Greek Prime Minister Kiriakos Mitsotakis who was among the first EU leaders to implement a strict quarantine in Greece, in now transferring the authority of enforcing the quarantine to Greek women. The decision took most by storm but police sources say it was planned since a few weeks ago, when police was needed to help in hospitals in vital positions for the fight against Coronavirus. The PM made his decision known with a tweet in the early hours of Wednesday:
“Police will continue to assist in enforcing the quarantine if needed on a case by case basis, but this won’t be its primary responsibility,” a Greek official clarified. The amendment to the current quarantine law transfers the power of issuing the necessary permits primarily to mothers and grandmothers, as well as wives and sisters where there in no mother or grandmother.
“A checkpoint on Patission street. Groups of 3-4 women will be assembling in each neighbourhood during rush-hour to check cars and individuals if they are on the street legally.” Credit: Greek Government handout
“Women have been defending the Greek household for thousands of years, since the Ancient times when every Greek woman was the protector of ‘estia’” noted the President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou. It is also true that women and especially Greek women are also experts on discovering germs and dirt where you think there is none, so this might be another skill that comes in handy. “If one person of the household is infected the whole family is in danger, notes Antonia Parisi who sees this as a necessary step for a family’s wellbeing. “Women are best to protect the family” adds the shop owner and mother of two from Piraeus, Greece.
[..] some Greeks are not happy by the move. Most complain that Greek mothers and wives are way stricter in accepting fair reasoning to go out during a pandemic. “I don’t know if I will ever see the light of the day,” says Petros Kakavas from Peristeri, Athens who in absence of a mother and a grandmother has to ask his wife for permission to leave the house. In ancient Sparta the male fighters’ health was a responsibility of their mothers and wives. It is since then, we have the saying behind every strong man there is an even stronger woman. But sometimes history just repeats itself.
I got a lot of criticism on my Fauci article 2 days ago, thought I merely connected two things he said over the space of two days, which meant 200 million Americans would become infected. That number is still not mentioned for some reason, but soon it will have to be. For now 240,000 deaths are the new normal.
President Donald Trump prepared Americans for a coming surge in coronavirus cases, calling COVID-19 a plague and saying the U.S. is facing a “very, very painful two weeks.” “This could be a hell of a bad two weeks. This is going to be a very bad two, and maybe three weeks. This is going to be three weeks like we’ve never seen before,” Trump said at a White House press conference Tuesday. White House officials are projecting between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths in the U.S. with coronavirus fatalities peaking over the next two weeks. “When you look at night, the kind of death that has been caused by this invisible enemy, it’s incredible.” The U.S. has more coronavirus cases than any other country across the globe with 184,000 confirmed infections, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
New York has now become the new epicenter of the outbreak in the world with 75,795 confirmed cases as of Tuesday morning, more reported infections than China’s Hubei province where the coronavirus emerged in December. Earlier in the day, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the outbreak in the state may not peak for three weeks. “I’m tired of being behind this virus. We’ve been behind this virus from day one,” the governor said in Albany. “We underestimated this virus. It’s more powerful, it’s more dangerous than we expected.” Trump, who grew up near New York City’s Elmhurst hospital in Queens, said no one can believe officials are setting up refrigerator trucks as temporary mortuaries outside the hospital. Trump said New York “got a late start” in rolling out its mitigation efforts.
New York City is setting up a handful of makeshift field hospitals to house coronavirus patients at the Jacob K. Javits Center, in Central Park and at the tennis courts in Queens that host the U.S. Open. De Blasio said the city is working with the federal government, the hotel industry and various other businesses to turn other buildings into potential medical facilities. More than 1,000 people in New York City alone have already died from the coronavirus, according to data updated at 5 p.m. ET by the NYC Health Department. “This is going to be the roughest three weeks we’ve ever had in this country,” Trump said. “I wanted as few as a number of people to die as possible. And that’s all we’re working on.”
A cargo plane loaded with medical supplies and protection equipment may depart for the US by the end of Tuesday, the Kremlin said, after a phone call between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The issue of protective gear was raised during the Monday phone talks, with Putin asking if the US needed help and Trump accepting, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday. Moscow suggested the aid in anticipation that the US will be able to return the favor if necessary, once its manufacturers of medical and protective equipment catch up with demand, Peskov said. The current situation “affects everyone without exception and is of a global nature,” he added. “There is no alternative to acting together in the spirit of partnership and mutual assistance.”
On Monday, Trump told reporters at the White House press briefing that “Russia sent us a very, very large planeload of things, medical equipment, which was very nice.” The comment left everyone scratching their heads, as no one in the US seemed to know anything about the plane in question. It appears the US president was referring to the aid arranged on the phone call as something that had already happened. Peskov chastised “some of the American side” who “at least did not contribute to the prompt resolution of technical issues” regarding the agreed-upon delivery, which could explain the delay. Official data shows the US has been among the nations hardest-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, with almost 175,000 confirmed cases and 3,416 deaths as of Tuesday afternoon – overtaking China, where the contagion originated in December. Italy still has the highest death toll in the world, at 12,428.
Steve Keen: “an editorial in The Hill by Richard Vague, who is Pennsylvania’s acting Secretary of Banking and Securities. Richard was a highly successful banker, the co-founder of two major personal-finance-oriented companies Juniper Financial, and First USA Bank, and then CEO of the energy marketing company Energy Plus. He is a patron and a close friend. He is the author of “A Brief History of Doom” (2019), which I regard as the best history of financial crises ever written–far better than Kindleberger and Mackay.”
The U.S. government should implement a program of monthly checks of $1,000 for three months — a timeframe which could be extended — to individuals above 18 and below some income threshold, say $200,000. A one-time check is not enough. The continuity of these payments is the most central, critical recommendation. Even if Americans stay cooped up, they can and should be encouraged to spend across the board, including on things like restaurant gift certificates, since the restaurant industry alone now estimates up to 7 million job losses. Even ten years after the Great Recession, households and businesses still have near-record levels of debt and, with this GDP collapse, will now be drowning in that debt.
The U.S. government should institute an immediate three-month moratorium on payments of mortgages, credit cards and student debt, along with a similar moratorium policy for business loan payments. This should be extended beyond three months if necessary. Having spent much of my career in banking, I view this approach as feasible, as long as regulators have the guidance to allow it. As part of this, the federal government would implement this policy for government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, for government-guaranteed student loans and other lending programs that have its full or partial backing; the loans could be extended or restructured to accommodate this, and borrowers could continue to pay if they chose. Regulators also should work with the industry to put together other prudent forms of loan forbearance.
The government should implement a three-month moratorium on all rent payments, and establish a fund to extend money to landlords to accommodate this rent forbearance. It should implement a three-month moratorium on all federal tax payments, which could be extended if necessary. It should commit to cover all healthcare costs associated with the coronavirus, structured such that care providers can bill the government directly so no forms or reimbursements would be required of individuals. It also will be necessary to provide capital support for select, troubled industries beyond the airline, hotel and cruise ship industries. This part does not need to be a handout; it can take the form of a preferred equity investment. It will soon need to provide substantial support to states and local governments. This program will not provide a result that is perfect in its fairness, but the need to move quickly far outweighs that consideration.
The S&P 600 doesn’t include the mega-caps and even with all the stimulus in the world, there has been virtually no bounce at all. This is the index that tells you what is going to happen with the economy. Deep recession, minimal recovery. pic.twitter.com/pL2ofVVmhq
From a right wing source. A different view on this topic: “On March 1, 2003, the NPS became the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) program managed jointly by DHS and HHS. With the signing of the BioShield legislation, the SNS program was returned to HHS for oversight and guidance. In 2018, oversight of Strategic National Stockpile was transferred to HHS/ASPR from HHS/CDC.”
What does the move from CDC to Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response entail?
The Strategic National Stockpile, America’s giant medical storage closet for a terrorist or biological crisis, once boasted more than 100 million respirator masks to protect doctors, nurses and other frontline health care workers in case of a contagion. But when the COVID-19 pandemic started a few months ago, the supply had dwindled down to just 12 million fitted masks, known as N95 respirators, and 30 million surgical masks, a supply deemed to be less than 2 percent of what the nation would need for full-blown pandemic. The tale of how such a critical supply lapsed, leading the Trump administration to scramble for 500 million new masks in the midst of pandemic, is one of government neglect and competing priorities that began in 2009.
That’s when the Obama administration drew down nearly 97 million of the masks to deal with the H1N1 swine flu pandemic, effectively protecting frontline medical workers from a virus that infected more than 60 million Americans. But when it was over, the administration decided not to fully restock the respirators, choosing to spend its $600 million annual budget for the stockpile on other priorities such as key drugs and vaccines to deal with smallpox, anthrax and the like, experts said. There is really “no answer why the supplies were not replenished because the N95 masks are invaluable tools for preparedness and it was important that they be restocked,” said Charles Johnson, President of International Safety Equipment Association, whose members make supplies for the stockpile.
In the end, Johnson said, the Obama administration chose to use its “limited funds” in other ways and “made the best choices at the time even though his association and others periodically restated their calls to replenish” the N95 masks. That trend continued in the early Trump years as well. The Clinton administration first began to examine a national plan to respond to pandemics and create the federal stockpile in 1990s. But the formal National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza was not officially published until 2005 during the George W. Bush administration, following the anthrax scare in 2001 and the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002.
[..] According to a Center for Disease Control report published after the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, 39 million N95 masks were initially distributed from the stockpile, followed by 59.5 million more in second wave. According to Johnson, the stockpile originally was about 100 million masks. From April 12, 2009 to April 10, 2010, there were over 60 million cases of H1N1 requiring 274,304 hospitalizations and resulting in 12,469 deaths in the United States. After the H1N1 virus slowed down in 2010, according to Johnson, “it was important to restock.” That did not happen as the national stockpile budget focused on other priorities deemed higher.
As March winds down, at least 250 million Americans have been told to stay home or “shelter in place” to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Problem is, many can’t help wondering if they can still afford a place to shelter in—if they ever could. Long before the coronavirus pandemic, generous swaths of the United States faced an affordable housing crisis. With millions of Americans losing their jobs and millions more facing unemployment in the near future thanks to a concerted economic shutdown geared at reining in the disease, talk of rent strikes and freezes are in the air.
The Trump administration recently nodded to the problem by ordering a foreclosure moratorium on single-family home mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration or obtained through government-owned lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Fannie and Freddie have also offered forbearance for borrowers experiencing hardship. And the finance giants have dangled payment relief to indebted apartment building owners who grant respite to renters, a move the Federal Housing Finance Agency estimates could affect 43 percent of the market in multifamily leases. Then there’s the $2 trillion stimulus bill that passed last week, which contains language forbidding evictions and late charges on any property receiving virtually any federal aid.
It also permits those owing money to Fannie or Freddie to request up to six months of forbearance, though it leaves the onus on borrowers to do so. If your home doesn’t fall under one of these categories or programs, and you’re wondering if you owe money to your landlord or lender, the answer is probably yes—at least for now. Still, some state and local governments have moved to stem evictions and foreclosures for everyone, and a few are even freezing rent and mortgage payments entirely. Here’s a breakdown of COVID-19 rules on housing across every state and many large metropolitan areas. This story will be updated as events warrant.
It likely represents one of the most ambitious, albeit uncoordinated, educational experiments in history: Can you successfully digitize an entire country’s higher education industry very nearly overnight? And if so, what does that say about the future of distance learning? Where does it go from here? Distance education itself is already widespread throughout the United States: The National Center for Education Statistics estimates that in the fall of 2017 there were well over 6.5 million American students enrolled in online programs, nearly a third of all postsecondary students in the country. Nearly half of those were exclusively enrolled in online programs; slightly more than half had “at least one” online course.
When they hear of online education, most people might picture private, for-profit corporations, the ones that build vanilla, office park-like campuses in the suburbs of American cities and whose commercials pop up regularly on network television and YouTube advertisements: Strayer, the University of Phoenix, DeVry University. Yet those establishments form a relatively small minority of the overall online education industry: the NCES says the vast majority of students who attend virtual classrooms do so at more traditional institutions. Not even 15% of all online attendance is done at private, for-profit organizations.
Distance education, then, is very much a concern for legacy institutions, including those known for their idyllic and venerated campus experiences: Schools like Harvard and Princeton and Northwestern and Chicago all have their own exclusively online divisions, while more and more state and regional schools are expanding their digital opportunities. Indeed, the existence of those programs is likely why many American schools were able to transition with (relative) ease to online learning environments. A vital question to ask, then, is: Does this near-total transition to online learning suggest an upcoming major shift in the distance education economy? Will schools be able to use this monumental adjustment to expand online learning and perhaps fundamentally reshape American higher education?
Dr. Wallace Boston, the president of the private, for-profit, online American Public University System, says yes. “I believe we will see an uptick in distance education” following the pandemic, he told Just the News. “The most likely reason that we will see an uptick is that many institutions will want to keep some form of online instruction and infrastructure in the event that this pandemic recycles through again or that there is another event that might require social distancing or quarantines,” he argued. “Some may even view online offerings as strategic opportunities for their institution.”
[California] Gov. Gavin Newsom Tuesday said that the state is considering guidance around whether people beyond the medical profession should wear some sort of mask or face covering, including in professions like grocery store workers. The science is incomplete in this area, according to Newsom, and there is a concern that people will think masks are a replacement for social distancing, which they aren’t. Surgeon General Jerome Adams has said that the practice often leads to increased touching of one’s face and can produce a “false sense of security,” adding that the World Health Organization and the CDC have reaffirmed in the last few days is that they do not recommend the general public wear masks.
“The virus is not spreading in the general community,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a Jan. 30 briefing. “We don’t routinely recommend the use of face masks by the public to prevent respiratory illness. And we certainly are not recommending that at this time for this new virus.” As the cases of COVID-19 grows across America and supplies like face masks and gowns are in short supply, health experts say implementing guidance may take masks away from the health care providers who are on the frontlines of the pandemic. However others believe that masks, even homemade masks, would help reduce the risk of unknowingly spreading the virus through coughs, sneezes, even yawns or simple conversation.
George Gao, director-general of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said in an interview with Science magazine that “when you speak, there are always droplets coming out of your mouth.” “The big mistake in the U.S. and Europe, in my opinion, is that people aren’t wearing masks,” Gao said. Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Tuesday that the White House coronavirus task force is also seriously considering guidance that Americans wear masks. “The idea of getting a much more broad, community-wide use of masks outside of the health care setting is under very active discussion at the task force. The CDC group is looking at that very carefully,” Fauci told CNN.
The Federal Reserve is ready to do more to help a U.S. economy ground to a sudden halt as businesses shutter and people stay home to slow the coronavirus pandemic, San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly said on Tuesday. “The Federal Reserve is prepared to do whatever it takes within our powers to ensure that we are part of the solution of shoring up people over the virus, shoring up the American economy and putting us in the best position to grow again once the virus recedes,” Daly said in an interview with Yahoo Finance. “If we do the right thing and shelter in place and curb the spread of the virus, the economy will be in the best position to bounce back.”
With the coronavirus infecting tens of thousands of Americans and killing hundreds each day, three-quarters of the U.S. population are under orders to stay home except for essential trips to slow the spread of the virus. With businesses laying off millions of workers as demand dries up and states ordering non-essential businesses to close, the economy is likely already in recession, Daly said. The Fed’s job, along with that of the U.S. government that on Friday finalized a $2.2 trillion rescue package, is to provide the support to financial markets, businesses and people who are doing their duty to boost the public health, Daly said. Once the pandemic threat has passed, the Fed’s programs and low interest rates will help drive the economic recovery, she said.
When John Burn-Murdoch created that daily updated chart he did not anticipate that any country would have more than a 100,000 total cases. That was a reasonable assumption as China, with 1.4 billion inhabitants, stopped the epidemic with less than 85.000 total cases even when it was surprised by the outbreak. As of now the U.S. has 164.435 known cases. It will reach a total number of several dozens of millions and will have several hundreds of thousands of dead caused by the covid-19 disease. Most but not all of those who will die from it will have one or more co-morbid diseases.
The number of death in the U.S. will likely be higher than elsewhere because obesity, diabetes and heart problems are more prevalent in the U.S. than in most other countries. Another reason why the U.S. will have a larger than necessary outbreak is wide mistrust in the authority of the state. A significant number of people will reject stay at home orders or other measures the authorities will have to take. Then there is this: Pouya Alimagham @iPouya – 0:48 UTC · Mar 31, 2020 “The regime doesn’t want to antagonize the religious classes. Thus, it isn’t doing anything about the fact that some religious sites remain open & clerics are encouraging worshippers to come & pray. These gatherings risk exploding #COVID19. I’m talking about the US, not #Iran.”
The U.S. also has many people without health insurance. The many newly laid off people will additionally lose theirs. These people will avoid seeing a doctor or to go to a hospital as the enormous costs would ruin them. The for-profit health system will reject sick persons who are unlikely to be able to pay their bills. The cases of people who die from such circumstance should be put into the death by lack of money category instead of being blamed on something else. Congress has failed to take the necessary measures and to give everyone access to free tests and free care. This will come back to bite everyone as it makes sure that the disease will circulate longer and stronger than in other rich countries.
Every crisis is also a chance. Congress has used it to again loot the people and to push more money to the rich. At the same time the powers that be have denied universal healthcare and paid sick leave to those who need it. The covid-19 epidemic is a chance to change that. There are already a number of strikes at Amazon and similar companies over work safety, health care and pay. Rent strikes must now follow. When the bills come in for families with covid-19 cases many more people will get more interested in medicare for all. A movement can be build from these issues. The Sanders campaign should provide a (virtual) platform for it.
The U.S. has enough money to pay for the security of its people. Security is not a military issue. A hugely expensive aircraft carrier with sick sailors is worth nothing. Pandemics are a real security issues and the U.S. has left its people defenseless against them. Cut the aircraft carriers and other insane military spending and invest it in the health of the people. That message will soon be widely understood. We can all help to reinforce it.
Chinese health authorities began on Wednesday reporting on asymptomatic cases of the coronavirus as part of an effort to allay public fears that people could be spreading the virus without knowing they are infected with it. China, where the coronavirus emerged late last year, has managed to bring its outbreak under control and is easing travel restrictions in virus hot spots. But there are concerns that the end of lockdowns will see thousands of infectious people move back into daily life without knowing they carry the virus, because they have no symptoms and so have not been tested. Up to now, the number of known asymptomatic cases has been classified, and it is not included in the official data, though the South China Morning Post newspaper, citing unpublished official documents, recently said it was more than 40,000.
In an effort to dispel public fears about hidden cases of the virus, the government has this week ordered health authorities to turn their attention to finding asymptomatic cases and releasing their data on them. Health authorities in Liaoning province were the fist to do so on Wednesday, saying the province had 52 cases of people with the coronavirus who showed no symptoms as of March 31, they said in a statement on a provincial government website. Hunan province said it had four such cases, all of them imported from abroad, it said in a statement on its website. The National Health Commission is due to start reporting aggregate, national data on asymptomatic cases later on Wednesday.
With over 11,000 deaths and more than 100,000 cases of Covid-19, Italy is currently a country which feels under siege. But this is no impediment to the think tank racket twisting an offer of support for its propaganda purposes. Here’s what happened. The weekend before last, Vladimir Putin called Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. During the conversation, Conte asked for help, in fighting coronavirus, according to the Kremlin readout which hasn’t been contradicted by Italian officials. Let’s be clear from the outset, there was undoubtably a strong PR, as well as practical, element to Russia’s assistance. However, there were also advantages to Rome from this approach, as the move may have helped to concentrate a few minds among its traditional allies.
Moscow sent teams of “doctors, protective gear and medical equipment” to the stricken country. The detail included 100 military virologists and epidemiologists, along with eight medical teams, according to Russian news outlets. Most importantly, it delivered 600 ventilators. A significant amount given Italy apparently had only about 5,000 of the devices. Indeed, a few days after the Putin/Conte call, the New York Times was writing about Italy’s “ventilator crisis.” There’s usually nothing like a bit of Russian influence to jolt EU and NATO elites into action. As mentioned above, no doubt this was also part of Conte’s reasoning. That said, it’s also worth mentioning that some other Europeans states have tried to help the Italians. Germany and France, in particular, took patients and sent supplies, despite dealing with outbreaks of their own. Yet, many in Italy feel they haven’t done enough.
A few days after the aid landed, a campaign began on Twitter to discredit the Russian initiative. The first I saw of it was a tweet from Oliver Carroll, of London’s Independent newspaper, who presumably speaks Italian (I don’t, so I am relying on his translation). “Some Italians are expressing unease about Putin’s Covid-19 emergency aid,” he wrote. “Acc(ording) to La Stampa, 80 percent of supplies (are) “useless,” (and) sources worry about high-ranking military officers now in (the) country. Russian soldiers (are) free to roam (in) Italy a few steps away from NATO,” the paper stated. “La Stampa says China sent masks (and) ventilators; (but) Russia sent irrelevant equipment used for bacteriological and chemical outbreaks,” Carroll added. “(There is a) belief that Russia … (is) not helping us only for great goodness of its people… now beginning to circulate in broad sectors, military and political.”
Hmm. Italian Ambassador to Russia Pasquale Terracciano says the aid included about 600 medical ventilators. He said the donation was "critically important at this stage of the epidemic."
It must be possible to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. These are no longer the times when ads pay for all you read, your donations have become an integral part of it. It has become a two-way street; and isn’t that liberating, when you think about it?
Thanks everyone for your wonderful and generous donations over the past days.
“Our leaders, if they think of empathy at all, think in terms of Steve Martin’s advice: ‘Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, when you do criticize him, you’ll be a mile away and have his shoes.’”
Don’t know how widespread this is around Italy but in my quarter of Rome, as the economic toll of #COVID19 increases, people have begun leaving basic groceries – tuna, biscuits, pasta – on benches in the streets. The sign says “this is for whoever needs it.” pic.twitter.com/pRHTElvU68
“France, Spain and Germany are about 9 to 10 days behind Italy in #COVID19 progression; the UK and the US follow at 13 to 16 days. In Italy we waited too long, these countries should really start implementing aggressive containment measures now.”
It may well be too late for those containment measures at this stage, even if New York creates a containment zone in New Rochelle. I’m not sure about the US in this graph anyway, I’m still tempted to log it in with France, Spain and Germany, rather than the UK. Let’s see in the rest of this week.
On the same topic::
The US crossed 1,000 cases tonight.
Italy is at 10,000+ today. Italy crossed 1,000 just 11 days ago. Their entire country is locked down.
As is obvious from last night’s Worldometer data, the rise in infections has definitely shifted to Europe for now, with France and Spain “leading the way”, and Scandinavia having lift-off, with Denmark cases more than doubled overnight. Denmark, Sweden and Norway now have over 1,100 cases and not one death.
From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close)
We have an idea by now how poorly the US is testing, but what are the Scandinavians doing?
Same graph again. Waves. Good example from 1918 Philly vs St. Louis.
We don’t yet know the full ramifications of the novel coronavirus. But three crucial facts have become clear in the first months of this extraordinary global event. And what they add up to is not an invocation to stay calm, as so many politicians around the globe are incessantly suggesting; it is, on the contrary, the case for changing our behavior in radical ways—right now. The first fact is that, at least in the initial stages, documented cases of COVID-19 seem to increase in exponential fashion. On the 23rd of January, China’s Hubei province, which contains the city of Wuhan, had 444 confirmed COVID-19 cases. A week later, by the 30th of January, it had 4,903 cases. Another week later, by the 6th of February, it had 22,112. The same story is now playing out in other countries around the world.
Italy had 62 identified cases of COVID-19 on the 22nd of February. It had 888 cases by the 29th of February, and 4,636 by the 6th of March. Because the United States has been extremely sluggish in testing patients for the coronavirus, the official tally of 604 likely represents a fraction of the real caseload. But even if we take this number at face value, it suggests that we should prepare to have up to 10 times as many cases a week from today, and up to 100 times as many cases two weeks from today. The second fact is that this disease is deadlier than the flu, to which the honestly ill-informed and the wantonly irresponsible insist on comparing it. Early guesstimates, made before data were widely available, suggested that the fatality rate for the coronavirus might wind up being about 1 percent. If that guess proves true, the coronavirus is 10 times as deadly as the flu.
[..] so far only one measure has been effective against the coronavirus: extreme social distancing. Before China canceled all public gatherings, asked most citizens to self-quarantine, and sealed off the most heavily affected region, the virus was spreading in exponential fashion. Once the government imposed social distancing, the number of new cases leveled off; now, at least according to official statistics, every day brings more news of existing patients who are healed than of patients who are newly infected. A few other countries have taken energetic steps to increase social distancing before the epidemic reached devastating proportions. In Singapore, for example, the government quickly canceled public events and installed medical stations to measure the body temperature of passersby while private companies handed out free hand sanitizer. As a result, the number of cases has grown much more slowly than in nearby countries.
[..] hen the influenza epidemic of 1918 infected a quarter of the U.S. population, killing tens of millions of people, seemingly small choices made the difference between life and death. As the disease was spreading, Wilmer Krusen, Philadelphia’s health commissioner, allowed a huge parade to take place on September 28; some 200,000 people marched. In the following days and weeks, the bodies piled up in the city’s morgues. By the end of the season, 12,000 residents had died. In St. Louis, a public-health commissioner named Max Starkloff decided to shut the city down. Ignoring the objections of influential businessmen, he closed the city’s schools, bars, cinemas, and sporting events. Thanks to his bold and unpopular actions, the per capita fatality rate in St. Louis was half that of Philadelphia. (In total, roughly 1,700 people died from influenza in St Louis.)
The decision by the Italian government to suspend mortgage payments for its quarantined citizens is a drastic step in the battle to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus but is commensurate with the predicament the country finds itself in. Italy is the eurozone’s weak link. Even before the current lockdown it was facing a fourth recession in little more than a decade and there has been only minimal growth in living standards in two decades. Its manufacturing sector is dominated by low-cost producers vulnerable to disruption in the global supply chain. Government debt is high and its banking system is weak. And it is a strategically important economy: the eurozone’s third biggest . Put simply, if there was one EU country that the European commission and the ECB would have chosen to avoid a severe outbreak of the coronavirus it would have been Italy.
The issue is not whether Italy will have a recession. With schools, universities, theatres and cinemas shut and its hugely-important tourist industry facing a washout summer, the economy is going to shrink in both the first and second quarters of 2020. Nor is it really a question of how deep the downturn will be – although the early estimates are that it is going to be a bad one. Jack Allen-Reynolds, senior European economist at Capital Economics, thinks the economy will shrink by 1% in the first three months of the year and by a further 1.5% in the second quarter. But that assumes the quarantine lasts until the end of April and is then gradually lifted. Were the economy to remain effectively immobilised until the end of June, Allen-Reynolds says there could be a 4.5% drop in output in the second quarter.
The coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. could grow to be as serious as it is in Wuhan, China, Johns Hopkins University Dr. Marty Makary told CNBC on Tuesday. “What happened in Wuhan could happen here. Why do we think otherwise?” Makary said on “Squawk Box,” referencing the Chinese city where the new virus originated in December. The city of 11 million people was locked down on an unprecedented scale as the outbreak intensified. It remains on lockdown even as new cases in the region decline. New cases in Wuhan and its surrounding Hubei province have dropped to below 50 a day, according to figures from the Chinese government, even as the disease spreads at greater rates across the globe. “The American immune system is not stronger than the Chinese immune system,” said Makary, a surgeon and professor of health policy and management.
“Viruses don’t care about politics and they don’t care about location.” [..] There are now more than 750 confirmed cases in the U.S., with 26 deaths. “We need to tell people right now to stop all nonessential travel. I feel strongly about that,” Makary said, adding he does not “like the idea of talking about contingency plans, but we’ve got to start making these plans.” “We’ve got to brace for a three-month problem..” Makary urged that the U.S. should take the disease more seriously, saying he’s was worried about the capacity of the nation’s health-care system to handle a serious spike in cases. America has about 100,000 intensive care unit beds that “operate at full capacity or near full capacity,” he said. “If we get 200,000 critical care cases, we’re going to be overrun,” he warned. “So we need to do more.”
Leaked medical conference documents have warned that hospitals across the United States are preparing for 96 million coronavirus infections. Not only that, but the same document wants hospitals to make preparations for 480,000 deaths from this outbreak. .. the American Hospital Association (AHA) conference in February reveal that US hospitals are preparing for: – 96 million coronavirus infections – 4.8 million hospitalizations from the infection – 480,000 deaths in the United States
According to Business Insider, these leaked documents are telling. Dr. James Lawler, a professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, presented the harrowing “best guess” estimates of the extent of the outbreak to hospitals and health professionals as part of the AHA webinar called What Healthcare Leaders Need to Know: Preparing for the COVID-19 on February 26. These documents paint a bleaker picture for those who are over the age of 60. According to the leaked documents: People aged 80 and over have a 14.8% chance of dying if they contract the infection, the slides revealed. The risk declines with youth, though those aged 70-79 and 60-69 are still placed at a significant risk, with 8% and 3.6% mortality rates respectively. –Business Insider
Additionally, it’s worth noting that Dr. Lawler’s estimate of 480,000 deaths would indicate a death rate of just half a percent (0.5%), which is significantly lower than death rates being reported by the WHO (3.4%) and the nation of Italy (5%). If the death rate in the United States reached just 2% while 96 million Americans are infected, that would result in 1.92 million deaths. The United States has fewer than one million hospital beds, and they are typically around 75% occupied by existing patients, unrelated to the coronavirus. Natural News has calculated that U.S. hospital beds will be overrun by May 30th if nothing is done to stop the exponential spread of the coronavirus.
Angela Merkel says she expects around 60-70 per cent of Germans will be infected with the coronavirus, which equates to about 53 million people. Reportedly, the German Parliament fell completely silent when Merkel stated the number. News outlet Bild reported the German Chancellor’s comments, which echoed numbers forecast by Berlin virologist Christian Drosten, who added that such a total could take 2 years or longer to reach. Given the fact that coronavirus has a mortality rate of around 1 per cent, this could equate to over half a million deaths, although new methods of fighting the virus could reduce this number.
The World Health Organization’s director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus claimed that the death rate was higher at 3.4 per cent, although this has been disputed. Germany, which has recorded 1,565 coronavirus cases and two deaths so far, has yet to impose the kind of quarantine measures seen in Italy, where the entire country has been placed on lockdown. German health authorities have said that people should avoid attending concerts, clubs or football games to limit the spread of the illness.
The U.S. is not prepared for what is coming as COVID-19 spreads rapidly across the country, public health and infectious disease specialist Michael Osterholm told CNBC on Tuesday. The virus has surpassed the containment stage, he said, and the U.S. government is not responding appropriately for the magnitude of spread the country will likely see. “Right now we’re approaching this like it’s the Washington, D.C., blizzard — for a couple days we’re shut down,” the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota said in a “Squawk Box” interview. “This is actually a coronavirus winter and we’re in the first week.”
The U.S. is not containing the virus, Osterholm added, warning that it is substantially more contagious than some U.S. officials have warned. He said the most important thing is to protect people who are most at risk of dying from the virus, mostly older people and those with underlying health conditions. “This is just going to keep spreading. We have to stop fooling people into thinking this is only by close contact where I have to be within 2 or 3 feet. We’re going to see much more transmission,” he said. “There will be widespread transmission of this virus around the country, and what we have to do is keep people who are at high risk of having bad outcomes, older, underlying health conditions, from being exposed.”
Osterholm called on U.S. officials to more clearly communicate to the American public the threat COVID-19 poses. “What I find really concerning is we’ve really not set the agenda here for the American public I think in a realistic way,” he said. “We’re going to see transmission for many, many more weeks to come,” Osterholm said. “We have to prepare for that.”
More places in China lowered emergency response levels to the coronavirus epidemic and relaxed travel restrictions a day after President Xi Jinping visited the epicenter of the outbreak, signaling authorities were turning the tide. Total infections in mainland China stood at 80,778 with 24 new cases by Tuesday, while 22 more deaths took the toll to 3,158, the National Health Commission said on Wednesday. All the latest deaths occurred in Wuhan, the central city which was visited by Xi for the first time on Tuesday since the outbreak began there in December. Home to 11 million people, the provincial capital of Hubei province was placed in lockdown in late January. The most encouraging trend to be taken from the latest infection figures, was lower rate of transmission within communities in China as 10 of Tuesday’s 24 new cases involved people traveling from abroad.
Currently, just 79 of overall cases in China have come from abroad, but as that number increases, authorities are turning their focus on how to deal with that risk. The capital of Beijing saw six new cases on Tuesday involving individuals who traveled from Italy and the United States, while Shanghai had two imported infections, Shandong province one and Gansu province one. Taiwan too has begun reporting an uptick in imported cases. The government said on Wednesday the island’s 48th case was a woman in her 30s who had returned from holiday in Britain and had most likely been infected while overseas. New infections in Hubei continued to stabilize, with new cases declining for the sixth day. All 13 new cases in Hubei were recorded in Wuhan. Amid slowing domestic infections, a few cities in Hubei have started to ease curbs on movement of people and goods.
As Italy scrambles to enact strict quarantine measures to stem the rampant spread of the coronavirus, Pope Francis is issuing a very different directive to the priests under his command: get out and be with those who are sick. At a personal mass on Tuesday morning, and as Italy enters a complete lockdown, the Holy See implored clergymen to “have the courage to go out and go to the sick people.” The Pope’s remarks starkly contradict all the core advice administered by the Italian government – namely to stay home and not to travel unless it’s a medical emergency. With the highest death toll outside of mainland China – hiking from 463 to 631 on Tuesday – Italy is rightly concerned that it could become the super-spreader of Europe.
So why has arguably the most influential religious leader on the planet shunned the expert advice and sent his priests out into this new world of contagion? Well, no-one is quite sure. On other occasions, Francis has been exceedingly health-conscious. He has missed several engagements, live-streamed his general audience events and even ordered a cut-back on the mass gathering of pilgrims. But with today’s short remarks, the Pope has laid waste both to the safety of his own priests and to the many others who may catch the virus as a result of the ministry visits. The Pope’s comments speak of a depressingly common thread running through the response of many religious groups to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Air freight rates are skyrocketing after the grounding of many passenger flights in Asia has left shippers scrambling to book limited spots on cargo planes as Chinese industrial production restarts, according to industry insiders. About half of the air cargo carried worldwide normally flies in the belly of passenger jets rather than in dedicated freighters. But deep flight cuts in response to the coronavirus outbreak have made the market more dependent on freight haulers. Freight forwarder Agility Logistics said on its website that China’s air cargo capacity was down 39% in February relative to last year because of the passenger flight cuts.
Shippers wishing to rush products out of China by air face sticker shock, said Refael Elbaz, chief executive of Israel-based Unicargo, which specializes in freight forwarding for Amazon.com sellers. “The price is three times higher – at least – because there is just no capacity,” Elbaz said. Freight Investor Services said in an update to clients on Monday that cargo pricing on China-to-U.S. routes had reached “abnormal highs” and that intra-Asia traffic was up by 22% over the previous week. TAC Index data shows China-U.S. cargo rates have risen by 27% over the last two weeks to $3.50 a kilogram.
The global lockdown inspired by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has shuttered factories and reduced travel, slashing lethal pollution including the greenhouse gases that are heating the climate. The lockdown may save more lives from pollution reduction than are threatened by the virus itself, said François Gemenne, director of The Hugo Observatory, which studies the interactions between environmental changes, human migration, and politics. “Strangely enough, I think the death toll of the coronavirus at the end of the day might be positive, if you consider the deaths from atmospheric pollution,” said Gemenne, citing, for example, the 84,000 people who die annually in France because of atmospheric pollution and the more than one million in China.
Scientists estimate the U.S. death toll from air pollution at more than 100,000 per year, and the World Health Organization estimates the global toll at 7 million. The global death toll of the pandemic remains largely a matter of conjecture. The most dramatic projections that have been released—too hastily to be peer reviewed—put the global death toll of an unchecked pandemic in the millions total—not annual. Most credible estimates are much less. Some experts have compared it to the 1957 flu outbreak that killed just over 1 million. Reductions in air pollution and global heating could save more lives. “More than likely the number of lives that would be spared because of these confinement measures would be higher than the number of lives that would be lost because of the pandemic,” Gemenne said in an appearance on France 24’s The Debate.
Five Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at Dulles International Airport have been ordered to self-quarantine due to possible coronavirus exposure. The information was provided late Tuesday during an official briefing for members of Congress, Just the News has learned. One CBP National Targeting Center (NTC) officer was also ordered to self-quarantine. The NTC center in Sterling, Virginia, works to “catch travelers and detect cargo that threaten our country’s security.” All six CBP officers have reportedly been told to isolate themselves until March 14. Several additional coronavirus deaths were reported in the U.S. late Tuesday. Most of the fatalities to date have occurred among the elderly in Washington State in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Officials say there have been no serious cases or deaths reported among young Americans.
The new disposition of things is upon us, and the sooner we get with the program, the better. Welcome to The Long Emergency and its aftermath, a world made by hand. Expect that a lot of things crashing, grinding to a halt, and falling to pieces will not get patched back together and restarted. When the dust settles from all that, we’ll discover one of the primary conditions of the new era: we’re poorer — a lot of what we took to be money, or things that represented money, were figments. “Money” itself, as manifested in currencies, may become a slippery concept, with low credibility. If that’s the case, people ought to ask themselves: how can I be useful or helpful to the others around me in a way that will raise my own social capital and accumulate, at least, the good will of these other people, and perhaps some of their help or service in return for mine?
That is the beginning of building a local community — people bound together by mutual obligations, responsibilities, duties, and rewards. We’re lucky for one thing: this crisis of advanced civilization is striking at the very start of the planting season. If you’re prudent, you can begin at once to organize serious gardening efforts, if you live in a part of the country where that is possible. I’d go heavy on the potatoes, cabbages, winter squashes, and beans, because they’re all keepers over winter. Baby chicks sell at the local ag stores for a few bucks each now and you’ll be very grateful for the eggs. Get a rooster — even though they can be a pain-in-the-ass — and you won’t have to buy any more chicks.
If you live in a part of the country where the terrain is rugged and well-watered — as I do — start scoping out local hydro sites that might potentially generate electricity or drive machinery directly from water power. We will probably need more of that. Around here many of those sites are signified by the ruins of decommissioned factories and hydro-stations from not much more than a century ago. They were originally built with a lot less machine power than we would use today, and a lot more power of men working in groups. We’ve forgotten how effective men can be working together with pretty simple tools. We were too busy devaluing men in recent decades for the sake of a moral crusade to erase “gender” differences. Well, that will be bygone so fast your head will spin.
Newly unsealed court documents put Harvey Weinstein’s Rolodex on full display. The fallen movie mogul — who is now a convicted rapist facing up to 29 years in jail and will be sentenced Wednesday — once tried to save his career by emailing his famous peers, including billionaires, powerful agents and Hollywood titans. In emails, reviewed by Variety on Tuesday afternoon at the New York City criminal courthouse, where roughly 1,000 pages of documents were unsealed, Weinstein wrote to the likes of Michael Bloomberg, Quentin Tarantino, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Apple’s Tim Cook and Eddy Cue. The documents made available by the court did not include any responses from these people to Weinstein.
The New York Times broke its bombshell story, which revealed decades of allegations of sexual harassment against Weinstein, on Oct. 5, 2017. Just days later, on Oct. 8, Weinstein sent out a flurry of emails to his powerful contacts, pleading for help to revive his career, and urging people to quickly send him letters of support. That same day, Weinstein was forced out of his own company. Writing to the heads of Apple, Cook and Cue, Weinstein said, “I don’t need you to make any public statements — just a private one to my gmail address, saying that you support me getting therapy and the help I need before the board fires me. I’m in a tough spot. Many of the allegations are false, but I need your help with this private letter of support. I’m going to get well, and if I pass the therapist test, then we can talk about reinstatement et cetera.
But for now, I’m going to take a leave of absence and get healthy. If they fire me now, it’ll destroy me personally and cause a huge legal battle, based on my rights with the company. But if I have support from someone like you getting me going into treatment and having the shot at a second chance (because people deserve a second chance), it would be very helpful. I would need something today if you can — I so appreciate it.”
Veteran chickenhawk Lindsey Graham once again beat his over-used war drum, this time because he wants NATO to get involved in Idlib, Syria to stop “Syrian aggression.” Yes, when will Syria stop intervening in its own country? The South Carolina senator said that he fully supports US President Donald Trump’s efforts to “get NATO more involved in Syria,” arguing that the defensive alliance should aid Turkey as it “defends Idlib against Russian/Syrian aggression.” He further argued that the “fall” of Idlib would result in a humanitarian crisis felt around the world, which is why NATO should be more “supportive” of its Turkish ally. The senior statesman apparently doesn’t seem particularly fazed by the fact that Idlib is part of Syria – making accusations of “Syrian aggression” slightly nonsensical.
The province is now home to the last bastion of extremist jihadist militias, some of which are directly affiliated with Al-Qaeda. This is hardly the first time that the US hawk has demanded direct intervention in Idlib. In February, he called on the Pentagon to impose a no-fly zone over the Syrian province, claiming it would help stop the “destruction” of Idlib by Syrian, Iranian, and Russian forces. As far back as September, Graham was issuing statements warning over “the wholesale massacre” of civilians in Idlib, insisting that “we either act now [in Syria] or pay a heavy price later.” The senator’s melodramatic representation of a terrorist-infested Syrian province being under siege by the Syrian military shouldn’t come as a surprise to US political observers. Graham has been portrayed as part of former Arizona Senator John McCain’s “foreign policy club” – a euphemism for hardcore neocon interventionism.
After years of anti-Putin rhetoric it’s lost on westerners, but Putin would love to retire to his dasha. Only, he’s afraid the neocons would jump in as soon as he does, and there’s no-one ready to take his place to defend his beloved motherland. Yeah, that’s pretty tragic in a way.
Vladimir Putin has moved to cement his hold on power in Russia beyond the middle of the decade, backing a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow him to seek another two terms in the Kremlin. The Russian president is required by the constitution to step down in 2024, and there have been months of conjecture about how he could stay in power beyond then, or at least ensure a safe transition for himself. In the end, the puzzle was resolved in an afternoon, in a series of choreographed political steps that took just over three hours and could result in Putin staying on as president until 2036.
The venture began in parliament, where a member of Russia’s ruling party proposed amending the constitution in a way that would “reset” Putin’s presidential term count back to zero. Putin then announced he would come to address the parliament himself, prompting breathless coverage on state television about whether he would accept or turn down the proposal. “In principle, this option would be possible,” he said at the end of a half-hour speech. “But on one condition – if the constitutional court gives an official ruling that such an amendment would not contradict the principles and main provisions of the constitution.” He also said the move would have to be approved by the public in a referendum next month.
[..] In January, he told a veteran of the second world war that he was worried about a return to the 80s, when Kremlin leaders “stayed in power until the end of their days” and did not provide for a transition of power. On Tuesday, he walked back that statement, saying that modern Russia’s elections made it impossible to return to a Soviet-style procession of leaders-for-life. “I won’t hide that I was wrong,” he said. “It was an incorrect statement because during the Soviet Union there were no elections.” [..] It is unclear whether Putin had planned to stay on as president all along or had come to the decision more recently. In his speech, he said he hoped that one day the institution of the presidency in Russia would not be “so personified in a single person”, but added: “that is how all of our history ended up and of course we can’t not take that into account”.
It feels like the closing of a loop. In March 1988, a dramatic upset in Michigan by the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign brought him into a tie with Michael Dukakis, panicking the Democratic establishment and opening a window to a different future for the party. In March 2016, Sanders delivered a stunning upset to Hillary Clinton in the Rust Belt state, momentarily resetting the primary. Eight months later, Donald Trump did the same to Clinton in Michigan, sealing his Electoral College victory. On Tuesday, Michigan dealt a crushing blow to Sanders’s second presidential campaign — despite an endorsement on Sunday from Jackson.
The Michigan Secretary of State’s office said it would not release official results until midday Wednesday due to a large number of absentee ballots, but several networks called the state for Biden not long after polls closed at 8 p.m. With half the votes counted, Biden sat on a comfortable 14-point lead. The win for Biden comes after a swing toward the former vice president — what Nate Silver described as “probably the fastest in the history of the primaries.” Sanders moved from being the clear frontrunner on February 23, the day after the Nevada caucuses, to a stalled candidate on March 1, the day after South Carolina, to trailing on March 4, the day after Super Tuesday. Polls continued to slide away from Sanders over the next week, leading to his eventual loss in Michigan, Mississippi, and Missouri as early returns came in on Tuesday.
The autopsies will begin soon, even as the campaign struggles forward, with Florida, Arizona, Illinois, and Ohio set to vote in a week — where two critical House contests will pit insurgent primary challengers Morgan Harper in Columbus, Ohio and Marie Newman in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois against Democratic incumbents. Those autopsies will look closely at the decisions made in those days between Nevada and this Tuesday by Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who also competed in the progressive lane until dropping out after Super Tuesday. The main question they’ll have to answer is why the Sanders campaign was unable to turn out the young, working class electorate he needed to beat the more moderate opponent, who dominated him among older white suburban voters as well as older black voters.
Tulsi Gabbard explains why the elites in Washington, and their corporate media partners, continue to erase her candidacy.
Tucker Carlson: “It was meeting with Assad, which I thought was great. He did protect religious minorities, including Christians.” pic.twitter.com/HxlKPLFt8n
Imagine thinking so little of Americans’ intelligence to label a factual video clip ‘manipulated’ because it’s being used as a meme in the presidential election campaign. Twitter just did that, following in Facebook’s footsteps.
For the first time ever, Twitter applied a ‘manipulated’ tag to a video retweeted by President Donald Trump and shared by his social media director Dan Scavino. Mainstream media critics of the president were really excited at the news, calling the video “deceptively edited.” “We cannot get re-elect [sic]….we cannot win this re-election… excuse me, we can only re-elect Donald Trump,” the video shows Democrat front-runner Joe Biden telling a crowd. According to Twitter and the mainstream media, this is deceptive because the clip leaves out the ending: “…if in fact we get engaged in this circular firing squad here.”
The full video of Biden’s remarks makes it clear that he didn’t really endorse Trump. Of course, no actual person out there would think he did, merely that the 78-year-old establishment Democrat is having trouble stringing a coherent sentence together, even with the help of a teleprompter. Last month, when Twitter announced that it would flag posts containing “synthetic or manipulated” media, the only thing clear about its rules was that their wording was so vague they would effectively be arbitrary. According to those rules, a tweet may be labeled as “deceptive” if the context in which it is shared “could result in confusion or misunderstanding” or “suggests a deliberate intent to deceive people.” Who gets to decide that? Twitter. Or should that be the Ministry of Truth?
Keep in mind that the US has constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech – which through some rather creative legal reasoning does not actually apply to private companies, so Twitter, or Facebook, or YouTube have in effect been able to throttle, demonetize, shadowban or just plain kick off anyone whose politics they disagree with. A Project Veritas undercover video from January 2018 shows a Twitter employee explaining the workings behind “shadowbanning.” A July 2019 story in the Washington Examiner documents the political activism of a senior engineer at the company – which continues to this day. Just last week, there was another social media first, when Facebook removed a series of Trump re-election ads. This happened after complaints by Democrat activists, lawmakers and media that the “official census” wording was “misleading” and confusing.
While that may have been true about the titles of the ads, the actual text made it clear they were requesting voters to voluntarily share their information with the campaign – not harvesting it without asking, like, say, Facebook. Quoting politicians out of context is indeed misleading. It’s also the oldest tactic in the book. The mainstream media have happily done it to Trump over and over – recall the “fine people” remark about Charlottesville, or insinuation he called all Mexicans “rapists,” or all illegal immigrants “animals.” There were no corrections, no apologies, no flagging for misleading or doctored edits for those. [..] The entire argument that fake news or “manipulated” social media posts swayed US elections has always been an insult to Americans’ intelligence, coming from people who clearly believe democracy is too important to be left to the voters.
Hunter Biden’s lawyers alerted the Arkansas judge presiding over the child support lawsuit against him that he will be unable to attend his scheduled court deposition this week, citing travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus and the approaching due date of his pregnant wife. Biden was ordered last Thursday to appear at the court on Wednesday, March 11, for a deposition in the ongoing child support case, but his lawyers told the court in a Wednesday filing that Biden would be unable to attend. “Defendant requests continuance of the hearing as he is unavailable to attend due to his wife’s due date in 2 and a half weeks or less and risks involved with travel,” the new filing states.
Biden’s lawyers further argue that it is unreasonable for him to be required to travel to Arkansas at all, saying the appearance is “burdensome and oppressive.” “It is unsafe for the Defendant to travel, as travel restrictions have been implemented both domestically and internationally, particularly on airlines, due to the coronavirus,” the filing states. “Setting aside personal endangerment, Defendant reasonably believes that such travel unnecessarily exposes his wife and unborn child to this virus. California, in particular, has been the site of numerous reported cases of exposure.”
The latest filing in the case also points to “intense media scrutiny” on Biden due to his father Joe Biden’s campaign for president. “The tremendously elevated media scrutiny creates some physical risks and logistics difficulties with travel to Arkansas, invades the privacy of the Defendant and his 8 and a half month pregnant wife, threatens to complicate the Court’s ability to conduct a public hearing, creates a highly prejudicial environment from Defendant, and cannot be in the child’s or his mother’s interest in any way,” the lawyers argue. Biden has already been declared the father of the nearly two-year-old Arkansas child, but has repeatedly avoided appearances in court. Lawyers for the child’s mother, Lunden Alexis Roberts, last Friday called for the court to hold Biden in contempt for his continued failure to provide financial documents.
“The defendant has continued to flaunt the orders of this Court by failing to answer discovery, comply with court orders, and provide his financial information,” lawyers for Roberts argued.
1/ ‘I feel the pressure to give you a quick personal update about what is happening in Italy, and also give some quick direct advice about what you should do.
2/ Lumbardy is the most developed region in Italy and it has a extraordinary good healthcare, I have worked in Italy, UK and Aus and don’t make the mistake to think that what is happening is happening in a 3rd world country.
3/ The current situation is difficult to imagine and numbers do not explain things at all. Our hospitals are overwhelmed by Covid-19, they are running 200% capacity
4/ We’ve stopped all routine, all ORs have been converted to ITUs and they are now diverting or not treating all other emergencies like trauma or strokes. There are hundreds of pts with severe resp failure and many of them do not have access to anything above a reservoir mask.
5/ Patients above 65 or younger with comorbidities are not even assessed by ITU, I am not saying not tubed, I’m saying not assessed and no ITU staff attends when they arrest. Staff are working as much as they can but they are starting to get sick and are emotionally overwhelmed.
6/ My friends call me in tears because they see people dying in front of them and they can only offer some oxygen. Ortho and pathologists are being given a leaflet and sent to see patients on NIV. (Noninvasive ventilation)
With the entirety of Italy put under quarantine, the Mediterranean nation has been seen as the hardest-hit by the coronavirus in Europe. Italian journalist Evgeny Utkin believes, however, that it’s just the most tested one.
Utkin, a journalist based in Italy and an expert on economics and politics, told RT that he believes the situation with the coronavirus as reported in the press – namely, that it is ravaging Italy and yet somehow affecting its neighbors, such as Switzerland and Germany, on a far smaller scale – does not represent the reality on the ground. The catch, he said, is that while in some countries the number of those infected might be underreported, in Italy – at least at the beginning of the outbreak – there was an overreaction instead.
“Italy was the first country whose nerves snapped,” Utkin said. “They started testing absolutely everyone.” Such rigorous testing sent the number of confirmed cases skyrocketing, Utkin believes, with the alarming statistics soon driving panic and scoring international headlines. Over that past weekend, northern Italy, where the outbreak erupted, was put on lockdown, which was further extended to the whole of the country on Monday. At least 463 died of COVID-19 – the disease caused by the coronavirus – across Italy as of Monday, and the total number of cases stands at over 9,000. While the spread of the outbreak is a legitimate reason for concern, Utkin said he does not believe that Italy will bear the brunt of the newest virus scourge in the Old World.
“I don’t’ believe that Italy is the European hotbed of coronavirus. It’s more or less the same everywhere. If you take the percentage [of tests], it’ll turn out, I think, that other countries have had it worse, even.” With Italy’s hospitals filled to the brim with coronavirus patients, suspected and confirmed, authorities have scaled back their zeal for testing, and are now screening only those who display particular symptoms or are considered to be at risk of complications. Italy will be reeling from the economic damage caused by the outbreak for the years to come, the expert told RT, predicting the country’s GDP might plummet as much as 10 percent in the first quarter of 2020.
“It would be a colossal slump, I don’t know how it will recover,” Utkin said, adding that the outbreak has completely “killed” the country’s burgeoning tourism and restaurant industries. Utkin is convinced that Italy will ask for financial assistance from the international community, but noted it will hardly be enough to offset the losses its economy has already suffered. “Italy has never fallen so deeply. I have not seen a crisis like this, in terms of economy as well as privacy.”
Don’t think they thought this through. Trump and Pence are seen together all the time. If both fall gravely ill, Pelosi takes over. Is that what they want? No-go for the same reason they can’t travel together. President must be tested, VP too.
U.S. President Donald Trump has not been tested for the coronavirus, the White House said on Monday, though at least two lawmakers with whom he has recently come into contact have announced they were self-quarantining after attending a conference with a person who had tested positive for the virus. “The President has not received COVID-19 testing because he has neither had prolonged close contact with any known confirmed COVID-19 patients, nor does he have any symptoms. President Trump remains in excellent health, and his physician will continue to closely monitor him,” White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement, referring to the acronym describing the virus.
The Seattle-area nursing home at the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak said on Monday it had no kits to test 65 employees showing symptoms of the virus that has killed at least 13 patients at the long-term care center. The staffers, representing more than a third of the Life Care Center’s 180 employees, are out sick with symptoms resembling the coronavirus and a federal strike team of nurses and doctors is helping care for 53 patients remaining in the center. With the Kirkland, Washington, home accounting for over half of all coronavirus deaths in the United States, and all its patients tested, it was unclear why it had not been given kits for staff even as the University of Washington offered to process tests.
“We would like more kits to test employees,” Life Care Center spokesman Tim Killian told reporters, adding he did not know why they had not been forthcoming. “We’ve been asking the various government agencies that have been supplying us with test kits.” Twenty-six of the nursing home’s 120 patients have died since Feb. 19, with 13 of 15 autopsies carried out so far showing that the coronavirus was the cause. Twenty-one of the center’s residents, including those now in hospitals, have tested positive for the virus. The outbreak has shown how quickly the coronavirus spreads through elderly residents with weak immune systems and underlying health conditions living in close quarters.
“We’ve had patients who, within an hour’s time, show no symptoms to going to acute symptoms and being transferred to the hospital,” Killian told a news conference on Sunday. “And we’ve had patients die relatively quickly under those circumstances.”
People infected by the novel coronavirus tend to develop symptoms about five days after exposure, and almost always within two weeks, according to a study released Monday. That incubation period is consistent with previous estimates from public health officials, and the findings suggest that 14 days of quarantine are appropriate for people potentially exposed to the coronavirus. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has used that standard during the current pandemic — recommending, for example, that people self-quarantine for two weeks after traveling to countries with widespread coronavirus transmission, such as Italy or South Korea.
When it comes to those quarantines, the incubation period “tells us how long it’s reasonable to do that,” said Justin Lessler, an author of the study and an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. His research, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, also suggests that symptomatic screening for the virus — such as temperature checks at an airport — may be missing recently infected people. “If somebody is in their incubation period, that is the window when somebody who’s already been infected can walk into the country and not be detected by symptom-based surveillance” said Lessler. That could explain why the CDC’s efforts to screen more than 46,000 fliers for “fever, cough, and shortness of breath” have resulted in just one positive coronavirus case, according to the CDC’s most recent screening data, which was released at the end of February.
[..] To estimate the incubation period, researchers scoured more than 180 reports of coronavirus in places without widespread transmission of the virus — areas, in other words, where infection was likely due to outside travel. Because the study was conducted early in the coronavirus epidemic, community transmission at the time was limited to Wuhan, China. That allowed researchers to estimate the “time of exposure” to the coronavirus by determining when a person was in Wuhan — the only plausible source of infection. By comparing travel to Wuhan with the emergence of symptoms, researchers could then estimate an incubation period for the virus: usually about 5 days, and rarely more than 12. “We have sort of a narrow window at the beginning of the epidemic to really tease out what’s going,” said Lessler. “If it’s everywhere, you don’t know where people got infected.”
Unlike during the 2008 Great Recession, when the government leaped to assist financial institutions, the first priority this time should be helping individuals in need. Only then should we help businesses caught in this storm. By now, Trump should be wishing that the Federal Reserve Bank had ignored his pressure to lower interest rates. If rates were higher, the Fed would have much more powerful ammunition: it would be able to aggressively lower rates, which is the strongest weapon in its arsenal. But that arsenal is much depleted. In 2008, the government distributed hundreds of billions of dollars, mostly to bail out banks and large corporations. (GM was the main manufacturer rescued by the Obama administration.) While most banks survived, close to 10 million homeowners lost their houses to foreclosure; millions of people lost their jobs.
That overwhelming tilt in favor of helping struggling businesses instead of suffering individuals is, in my view, one of the reasons populism gained strength, as demonstrated by elections throughout western democracies in the 2010s. This time, the source of the problem is not a breakdown in the financial system. This is very different. We now face a major health assault. The pandemic is not only causing illnesses and straining health care resources, it is attacking the economy from a multitude of angles. Manufacturers are facing supply chain disruption, shortages are developing and demand is collapsing. [..] The obvious first order of business is clear: Everyone should have access to health care right now. It’s not only the humane thing to do, it’s the smartest way to slow the contagion. People who become infected should not fear bankruptcy if they go to the doctor. If they do, the epidemic will continue to spread.
China’s Hubei province is studying plans to allow people in areas at a medium- or low-risk of contracting the coronavirus to start traveling, state media reported on Tuesday, citing a meeting chaired by the province’s party chief Ying Yong. The meeting, reported by the official Hubei Daily, said that they may allow people to start traveling by using a “health code”, a mobile-based monitoring system that has been rolled out by many local authorities in China in recent weeks. Hubei province and its capital Wuhan are at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China.
Singapore has started charging visitors for coronavirus treatment, the city-state said as it reported three new imported infections, two of which involved Indonesians. Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most populous country, reported its first virus case earlier this month and officially has just 19 infections compared to 160 in Singapore. Disease experts have questioned how many cases go undiagnosed in Indonesia. Singapore’s new measures announced late Monday came into effect on March 7, when authorities said two symptomatic Indonesian travelers arrived in Singapore. Both had reported coronavirus symptoms in Indonesia before arriving in Singapore. One had previously sought treatment at a hospital in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta.
Another case involved a Singaporean who had visited her sister in Indonesia who had pneumonia. Declaring its new stance on payment for treatment, the health ministry did not mention these specific cases. “In view of the rising number of COVID-19 infections globally, and the expected rise in the number of confirmed cases in Singapore, we will need to prioritise the resources at our public hospitals,” the health ministry said in a statement. Foreigners who are short-term visit pass holders who seek treatment for COVID-19 in Singapore need to pay but testing for the virus remains free. Treatment of severe respiratory infections in Singapore public hospitals typically cost between S$6,000 – S$8,000 ($4,300-5,800), according to the Ministry of Health’s website.
Amid fears of a broader coronavirus contagion across the country, the Holy Synod, the ruling body of the Greek Orthodox Church, on Monday issued a statement saying that the disease does not transmit through the distribution of holy communion by the chalice. “For the members of the Church, attending the Holy Eucharist… certainly cannot be a cause of disease transmission,” the Holy Synod said. “Faithful of all ages know that coming to receive the holy communion, even in the midst of a pandemic, is both a practical affirmation of self-surrender to the Living God and a potent manifestation of love,” it said. The Geek federation of hospital doctors has stressed that no exception “for religious, sacramental or metaphysical reasons” should be made to state health warnings to please the Church. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Greece stands at 73.
Update (2015ET): Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives called the decline of iPhone sales in China a “doomsday type” like decline. Ives said the fall was an “unprecedented” drop and was “not surprising given the essential lockdown that most of China saw” in February. Wedbush expects Chinese demand to come back online in the second half of the year. [..] Alternative data first showed us the incoming economic crash developing in early February, only to be confirmed weeks later. Twin shocks plague the Chinese economy, which is a supply shock with manufacturers operating at less than full capacity, along with a demand shock, where consumers have been confined to their homes in forced quarantine, unable to spend.
So, on Monday morning, when new data from the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT) reveals Apple smartphone sales in China were halved in February, this really shouldn’t surprise ZeroHedge readers, considering they’ve been well informed about what would happen next. And it wasn’t just Apple with plunging activity, all mobile phone brands operating in China saw shipments halved over the month. CAICT said 6.34 million devices were shipped last month, down 54.7% from 14 million in the same month the previous year. This was the lowest level of February shipments since 2012, when the CAICT data first became available. Android brands, including Huawei and Xiaomi, accounted for most of the drop, collectively saw shipments at 5.85 million units for the month, compared to 12.72 million units last year. Apple shipped 494,000 last month, down from 1.27 million in February 2019.
Shares of Boeing dropped more than 12% on Monday amid a broader market plunge as pressure mounted on global aviation from the spread of the coronavirus and U.S. regulators said they disagreed with Boeing’s argument about the safety of wiring bundles on the grounded 737 MAX jet. Underscoring the global risks for America’s largest exporter, Ethiopian investigators singled out faulty 737 MAX systems in a new interim report on last year’s crash, the second of two fatal accidents that plunged Boeing into its worst-ever crisis. Industry sources said airlines, facing a sharp drop in travel demand due to rising coronavirus outbreaks, were starting to request deferring aircraft deliveries and cash downpayments to Boeing and European rival Airbus.
Boeing shares were down at $229.12 in afternoon trading, a level not seen since 2017. Adding to a sense of mounting anxiety, Boeing’s new Chief Executive Officer Dave Calhoun was forced to apologize to senior staff after a rare attack on his predecessor and company leadership, which sources say provoked criticism from within the senior ranks of the company as well as the rank-and file. Calhoun, who took over as CEO in January after serving about a decade on Boeing’s board, told senior staff by email on Friday he was “both embarrassed and regretful” over his comments in a New York Times interview earlier in the week. “It suggests I broke my promise to former CEO Dennis Muilenburg, the executive team and our people that I would have their back when it counted most,” Calhoun said.
“I want to reassure you that my promise remains intact.” Calhoun’s email came as the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) told Boeing on Friday it did not agree with the planemaker’s argument that its 737 MAX wiring bundles meet safety standards. Nonetheless, the FAA said it was now up to Boeing to decide how to proceed. [..] Boeing in February said it did not believe it was required to separate or move wiring bundles on its grounded 737 MAX jetliner that regulators had warned could cause a short circuit on the 737 MAX, and lead to a crash if pilots did not react soon enough. There are more than a dozen different spots on the 737 MAX where wiring bundles may be too close together. Most of the locations are under the cockpit in an electrical bay.
“Erdogan is in Brussels, demanding help from NATO with both the conflict on his southern border and the migrants he tried to unleash on the West, now that neither situation is going according to plan.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in Brussels, demanding help from NATO with both the conflict on his southern border and the migrants he tried to unleash on the West, now that neither situation is going according to plan. After meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday, the Turkish leader said he requested “additional assistance” from the alliance, for the “defense” of the Turkish border with Syria and “in connection with the migration challenge.” “We expect concrete support from all our allies to this struggle,” Erdogan added, urging the allies to support Turkey “without discrimination and with no political preconditions.” Stoltenberg praised Turkey as an “important” ally which has “contributed to our shared security in many ways,” and said the alliance is “prepared to continue to support Turkey and we are exploring what more we may be able to do.”
It is unclear what those platitudes may amount to in practice, however. Ankara did not bother coordinating with its NATO allies when it sent troops into Syria’s Idlib province last month – or back in October 2019, causing some strain within the bloc. Though it seemed for a moment that Turkish and Russian troops in Syria might come to blows, the crisis was averted when Erdogan went to Moscow and agreed to a ceasefire last week. The main focus of Erdogan’s trip to Brussels is Greece’s refusal to open its border to a wave of migrants that the Turkish president unleashed amid the recent fighting in Syria. Tens of thousands of migrants – only a few actual refugees from the Syrian conflict among them, apparently – heard the borders were open and surged towards Greece, only to be halted at the border fence.
Prince Andrew has “completely shut the door” on cooperating with US investigators in the Jeffrey Epstein case and they are now “considering” further options, a New York prosecutor said on Monday. Andrew was a friend of Epstein, the wealthy financier and convicted sex offender whose death in custody while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges in New York last year was ruled a suicide. Andrew denies all claims of sexual misconduct relating to the Epstein case but has stepped back from public duties as a result of his connection to it. Speaking to reporters on Monday, the Manhattan US attorney Geoffrey Berman said: “Contrary to Prince Andrew’s very public offer to cooperate with our investigation into Epstein’s co-conspirators, an offer that was conveyed via press release, Prince Andrew has now completely shut the door on voluntary cooperation and our office is considering its options.”
In November, Andrew said he was “willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations if required”. Berman made a similar claim in January, which former sex crimes prosecutors told the Guardian was most likely a move designed to win political support for the investigation. Buckingham Palace said then it would not comment and the matter was being dealt with by the prince’s legal team. Contacted on Monday, a Palace spokeswoman said: “The issue is being dealt with by the Duke of York’s legal team.” Buckingham Palace has consistently refused to reveal any details of Andrew’s legal team but the Duke has reportedly hired Clare Montgomery, a senior barrister at Matrix Chambers, whose clients have included Augusto Pinochet, Chile’s former dictator [..] She also prosecuted the Metropolitan police over the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, shot dead in a failed anti-terror operation.
The federal proceedings against Joshua Schulte, a former employee of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) who was accused by the American government of providing WikiLeaks with a trove of documents exposing illegal spying operations, have ended in a mistrial. After a week of deliberations, the jury returned on Monday to state that it could not reach an agreement on the most serious charges facing Schulte. The divided opinion centred on eight counts under the Espionage Act, including illegally gathering and transmitting national defence information. The jury had only agreed to convict Schulte on the lesser counts of contempt of court and making false statements to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Schulte will remain imprisoned and likely faces a retrial.
The failure of the prosecution to convict Schulte of the charges relating to WikiLeaks’ 2017 Vault 7 publication, which consisted of leaked documents from within the CIA, is significant. It may mark a hurdle in the campaign of the US government against WikiLeaks and its publisher Julian Assange, who faces extradition from Britain to the US and prosecution under Espionage Act charges over separate 2010 and 2011 releases. It is clear that if he is extradited, Assange could face additional US charges, possibly related to Vault 7. Three days after closing arguments in the Schulte trial, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials confirmed that it was possible that Assange would face additional counts carrying the death penalty if he was dispatched to the US.
The timing of their statements, which contradict the previous claims of US allies, could indicate that there is much at stake for Assange in the attempted US prosecution of Schulte. [..] The publication of Vault 7 in early 2017 was the trigger for a major escalation in the US government vendetta against Assange, culminating in his illegal expulsion from Ecuador’s London embassy last year, his arrest by the British police and imprisonment in a maximum-security prison. Schulte’s trial, moreover, coincided with the first week of the British extradition hearing against Assange, which underscored the similarities in the lawless treatment of the WikiLeaks publisher and his alleged CIA source. Prosecutors have described the Vault 7 leak, which they accuse Schulte of being responsible for, as the largest in the entire history of the CIA.
[..] establishment Democrats were the ones who first spread insinuations and even explicit accusations about Biden’s cognitive decline when they thought doing so could help them defeat him and/or because it genuinely concerned them regarding his ability to defeat Trump.
it is visible to the naked eye that the 77-year-old six-term Senator and two-term Vice President is in serious cognitive decline. That is a grave matter not just because the establishment wing of the Democratic Party wants to put him in charge of the world’s most dangerous nuclear arsenal, a large chunk of the planet’s health, and the welfare of hundreds of millions of people, but also because it directly pertains to whether he can sustain the rigors and spotlight of a General Election against the incumbent President. And multiple incidents over the past couple weeks — from Biden’s forgetting the words of the most iconic and memorized passage of the Declaration of Independence to confusing his wife for his sister to spouting sentences that make no sense — have only intensified those worries.
But, as the Democratic establishment has united with creepy speed and obedience behind Biden in order to stop the Sanders candidacy, those who now raise these concerns instantly come under a withering assault of insults and attacks from Democratic Party operatives along with their crucial media allies: thinly disguised pro-Biden reporters who continue to insist on wearing the unconvincing and fraudulent costume of neutrality. They are invoking the classic Orwellian formulation from the novel 1984: “The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”
CNN’s Democratic Party consultant Karen Finney condemned the discussion of Biden’s cognitive capabilities as “truly a disgusting low blow,” demanding that former Democratic presidential candidates Julian Castro and Cory Booker — both of whom themselves had commented upon Biden’s cognitive failures (on camera!) — announce (falsely) that their prior comments about Biden had been distorted. Castro’s Communication’s Director, Sawyer Hackett, dutifully accused those who were raising these concerns of “push[ing] Trump messaging about Biden”; he also denied that Castro (or Booker) had ever themselves questioned Biden’s cognitive competence, warning those who are raising the issue: “don’t try to throw Julián and Cory in front of you when you do.”
Meanwhile, Politico and CNN reporter Ryan Lizza, more devoted to defending Biden than even DNC functionaries, spent all weekend conspiratorially insinuating that journalists who were raising concerns over Biden’s cognitive fitness were part of a joint “coordinated” attack from the Sanders and Trump campaigns. Lizza and others like him promoted various outraged articles from Democratic Party-loyal sites expressing all kinds of indignation — after four years of open season of musing casually about Trump’s dementia — that anyone would even dare discuss Biden’s cognitive fitness to occupy the most powerful political position in the world. They all insisted that this was some sort of very recent invention on the part of the Sanders and Trump world to stop the Biden juggernaut: a last-minute act of desperation from the Far Right and the Far Left as Biden ascends to his rightful place in the Oval Office.
The problem with all of this? Aside from the fact that Biden’s cognitive decline is visible to the naked eye and it is incredibly reckless and repressive to demand that it be supressed, these concerns were first raised not by Trump operatives nor by Sanders supporters, nor were they first raised within the last several weeks. Quite the opposite is true: they were raised repeatedly over the last year principally by Democratic Party officials and their most loyal allies in the media.
The day the stupid MH17 trial starts, which will take years, The Guardian runs this by Luke Harding. And if there’s anyone to rival Harding in the lying sack-of-shit department, it’s Bill Browder. So that’s who Harding writes about.
Russia has been accused of hiring a network of British politicians and consultants to help advance its criminal interests and to “go after” Vladimir Putin’s enemies in London, MPs who drew up the Russia report suppressed by Boris Johnson were told. In secret evidence submitted to parliament’s intelligence and security committee (ISC), the campaigner and financier Bill Browder claimed Moscow had been able to “infiltrate” UK society by using well-paid British intermediaries. Some had “reason to know exactly what they are doing and for whom”, Browder told the committee. Others “work unwittingly for Russian state interests”, he said.
The alleged intermediaries include politicians from both Labour and the Conservative parties, former intelligence officers and diplomats, and leading public relations firms. Collectively, they form what Browder calls a “western buffer network”. There is no suggestion in Browder’s testimony that British citizens broke the law. The regime in Moscow uses these professionals to mask its “entangled” state and criminal interests, he alleged. It deploys them to attack Putin critics, “enhance Russian propaganda and disinformation” and to “facilitate and conceal massive money-laundering operations”, he said. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov called Browder’s claims false and “totally groundless”. Questions about corruption at the heart of the Russian state were “a perfect example of a maniac-style Russophobia”, Peskov said.
[..] Browder was one of several expert witnesses invited to give evidence to MPs and peers. In September 2018 he submitted a 14-page statement, which included a number of recommendations. They include setting up a US-style register of individuals working for foreign state interests, as well as extra resources for regulators, investigators, police and prosecutors. He calls on Companies House in London to review filings made by firms linked to Russian money-laundering scandals. Speaking to the Guardian, Browder said: “Yes, there are members of the Russian security services working out of the Russian embassy under diplomatic cover. [..] “There are Russian oligarchs who have a much greater impact on the security of this country. What’s most shocking is that the Russian government is indirectly hiring British nationals to assist them in its intelligence operations.”
As I wrote yesterday in The Virus is a Time Machine, it’s not about the number of deaths or cases, it’s about the disruption. Today, stock markets are down 7-8%, and oil plummeted 30% to $30. At your service. “Fake Wealth” is popping, say some.
Italy has an oversized role today so far, but there are a number of countries that could take off at any time now. As I said in that article, US, Germany, France, Spain appear to be in a phase where for instance Italy was about a week ago.
Something odd about the numbers today is that COVID2019.app puts South Korea at 8,100 cases, while the other two have it at around 7,400. It must be hard getting the numbers right, and on time.
• Cases 110,607 (+ 4,120 from yesterday’s 106,487)
• Deaths 3,831 (+ 231 from yesterday’s 3,600)
From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close)
Sharemarket and property investors are about to experience a reckoning that sweeps away the pretence of “fake wealth and artificial economy”, Lucerne Investment Partners portfolio manager Jerome Lander says. In a note to clients issued on Monday, Mr Lander said investors were “reacting in horror to the reality of the coronavirus as it begins its exponential growth around the world”. His note came as the Australian sharemarket was experiencing its biggest one-day fall since the global financial crisis, with the S&P/ASX 200 plunging 6 per cent to a 14-month low of 5840.90 amid a collapse in oil prices. “This is a truly frightening pandemic with significant ramifications which much of the developed world is unlikely to cope with well,” Mr Lander said.
“The reality is ICUs [intensive care units] are likely to be overrun around the world and people will increasingly seek to avoid social contact and hide at home in order to avoid contracting the deadly virus.” Mr Lander said a 10 per cent ICU admission rate for Italy’s 1492 cases of coronavirus was a “truly horrifying statistic”. Underlying economic weaknesses was being expose, he said. “One bubble after another is at risk of popping, as the fake wealth and artificial economy of the last few years explodes in the face of a devastating global recession.” With sharemarkets now “crashing, with delusional housing prices likely to follow”, he predicted central banks would shortly attempt to restore order to financial markets through so-called quantitative easing.
“Unlimited QE is likely but won’t help alter the destruction from the pandemic,” Mr Lander said. “These are truly dangerous times for all investors, but particularly for those holding large amounts of overvalued equity and property assets at fake economy prices.”
Global stock markets have suffered their biggest falls since the 2008 financial crisis while the oil price crashed amid panic selling because of the double threat of a coronavirus-driven global recession and an oil price war. The FTSE 100 index in London plunged 8.5% to 5,911 points, losing 550 points, when trading began on Monday morning. Germany’s Dax tumbled 7.5% and Spain’s Ibex lost 7%. Asian markets also recorded huge losses as fears over the world economy were exacerbated by the shock decision by Saudi Arabia over the weekend to ramp up oil production in an attempt to drive rivals such as Russia and the US out of the market.
The price of Brent crude oil fell almost 30% to $31.14 on Monday, its biggest decline since the start of the Gulf war in 1991. Some experts expect it to fall further unless the Saudis and Russians return to the bargaining table. Turmoil spread on international markets as the coronavirus epidemic deepened around the world. Italy, the worst-hit country in Europe, was plunged into chaos as government plans to quarantine more than 16m people – more than a quarter of its population – were leaked to the media. Italian bond yields jumped on Monday. The number of people infected by coronavirus worldwide has passed 110,000.
Stock markets in Asia Pacific experienced the worst wave of selling since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 heralded the onset of the global financial crisis. With fears growing of a recession in Australia because of the virus, the Australian share market closed down 7.4%. The Nikkei in Japan fell more than 5%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Sen lost 3.9% and the Shanghai stock exchange dropped just over 3%. US 10-year government bond yields fell to fresh record lows and the Japanese yen and gold soared as investors rushed into safe haven investments.
Goldman Sachs cut its second- and third-quarter Brent price forecasts to $30 per barrel, citing the oil price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia and a signiﬁcant collapse in oil demand due to the coronavirus that has killed more than 3,500 globally. Oil fell by the most since 1991 on Monday after Saudi Arabia started a price war with Russia by slashing its selling prices and pledging to unleash its pent-up supply onto a market reeling from falling demand because of the virus outbreak. “The aggressive cut to Saudi’s Official Selling Prices and Russia’s reluctance to be pushed into a deal on Friday point to a low probability of an immediate (OPEC+) agreement,” Goldman said in a note dated March 8.
A three-year pact between OPEC and Russia ended in acrimony on Friday after Moscow refused to support deeper oil cuts and OPEC responded by removing all limits on its own production. “While we can’t rule out an OPEC+ deal in coming months, we also believe that this agreement was inherently imbalanced and its production cuts economically unfounded,” the bank said. Goldman’s base case is now for no such deal, it said. Goldman’s base case is now for no such deal, it said. Lower oil prices will start creating acute ﬁnancial stress and declining production from shale as well as other high cost producer, the bank said.
There will be a negligible response from U.S. shale producers in the second quarter, but output will fall in the third quarter by 75,000 barrels per day (bpd) and a further 250,000 bpd in the fourth quarter of 2020, the bank said. This will not prevent, however, a third-quarter supply surplus of 1.2 million bpd. “At that point, the fundamental rebalancing could require oil prices falling to operational stress levels for high-cost producers with well-head cash costs near $20/bbl,” it said.
Shane Stephen, a Deliveroo rider, pulls a snood over his mouth and nose as he manoeuvres his mountain bike down a narrow side-street in central London. It is his makeshift defence against coronavirus. “If I catch something I’m screwed,” explains the 23-year-old. “Gig economy workers can’t afford to be ill. My bank balance is literally £4 something right now.” Stephen – like tens of thousands of other couriers and drivers in the UK – is classed as self-employed and therefore not entitled to any sick pay. He stands to gain nothing from Boris Johnson’s pledge last Wednesday to give coronavirus-hit workers statutory sick pay from the first day off work rather than the fourth. Yet Stephen and other gig economy couriers could be called on to deliver food and other essentials to self-isolating households when the virus reaches its peak.
Some industry analysts foresee the number of home deliveries doubling if people are told to work from home and avoid large gatherings under the government’s so-called social-distancing strategy, which will kick in if the virus continues to spread across the country. Unions representing gig economy workers, such as the GMB and Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), fear couriers with coronavirus symptoms may keep working. “Many will carry on because they need to put food on the table and pay the rent. They will then come into contact with other people and spread the virus,” says Mick Rix from the GMB, which represents thousands of couriers. “This would be going against everything the government is trying to achieve at the moment.”
[..] Josh Lane (not his real name) jumps into his DPD Local van after making a delivery in Tottenham. He cleans his hands with hand sanitiser. “I’m in a rush, but I’m doing my bit,” he says through the rolled-down window. However, the 30-year-old cannot afford to stop work if he contracts the virus. “It’s like a flu and I’ve worked through flu before. If you’re self-employed you have to continue working,” he says. “It’s not about me. I’ve got three children. I’m not about to make them starve because of coronavirus. If I’m physically able to work, then isolation is not happening for me.”
As the deadly coronavirus spreads across the globe, oil prices are down 30% for the year and the average rate on the popular 30-year fixed mortgage has fallen to an eight-year low. It’s positive news for consumers in the short term, even as some economists warn that the virus could tip the U.S economy into recession as the outbreak escalates. The drop in mortgage rates and oil prices could boost consumer confidence, which rose less than expected in February just one day after the stock market had one of its worst days amid virus concerns. A boost in consumer confidence, in turn, could ease those recession fears. “The U.S. economy is 70% consumer driven,” said John Kilduff, founding partner of Again Capital.
“A drop in gasoline prices acts like a tax cut, freeing up money to spend in other sectors of the economy, especially discretionary sectors, such as travel and leisure and dining.” The relentless pace of headlines related to the coronavirus, however, could ultimately act as a psychological break on any boost in confidence that low oil prices and mortgage rates might deliver to the consumer. “The question is whether the fear factor attributable to the virus will overwhelm any positive impact from lower gasoline prices and lower mortgage rates,” said Edward Yardeni, president of Yardeni Research. “That’s hard to answer, but it seems to me that fear is winning the tug of war currently as evidenced by the drop in stock prices and the panicky responses of governments, the media … and the public,” he added.
[..] Jeff Kilburg, founder and CEO of KKM Financial, said that the short-term reaction to lower oil prices will translate into lower prices at the pump for Americans, and that in combination with historically low mortgage rates will provide substantial strength for consumers in the second quarter. “This resiliency of the consumer will once again support equities and most likely show that this current market reaction is a ‘blip,’ not the end of this bull market … and certainly not the beginning of a recession,” Kilburg said.
Austria’s chancellor has said other European countries will be forced to adopt containment measures as drastic as Italy’s, after Rome placed a quarter of the population in lockdown in an effort to halt the rapid spread of the coronavirus. As the head of the World Health Organization praised Italy’s “genuine sacrifices”, Sebastian Kurz said the situation in Austria, which has reported 99 Covid-19 cases, was under control and the measures it had adopted were appropriate for the time being. He said EU leaders and health ministers were in close contact over their countries’ handling of the epidemic [..] “It will be important to decide which steps to take when,” Kurz said. “You can close schools for one or two weeks and this is urgently necessary in Italy. It will happen in other European countries. The decisive question is when to do it.”
The difficulty will be in balancing the need to head off a peak in infections that could paralyse public health systems against excessive economic damage, he said. “You have to consider carefully when to adopt these measures, because a national economy cannot handle this over too long a period.” Speaking to French radio, the EU commissioner for the single market, Thierry Breton, said European countries were “each acting according to the latest available data in their countries. The virus has spread faster in some places than in others, so naturally the measures in each differ”. In the US, Anthony Fauci, the head of the infectious diseases unit at the National Institutes of Health, said Americans , and particularly those who are vulnerable, may have to stop attending big gatherings. Nor could large-scale quarantines be ruled out, he said.
The WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, tweeted his appreciation for Rome’s efforts after the government published a decree barring people from entering or leaving vast areas of northern Italy without good reason until 3 April. The quarantine zones are home to about 16 million people and include the regions around Venice and the financial capital, Milan. Cinemas, theatres and museums will be closed nationwide and leave has been cancelled for health workers as the prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, said the country was facing a national emergency.
Italians have become inured to alarming news over the past month as the outbreak has spiraled out of control in Lombardy. But following a flurry of uncontrolled leaks warning about an imminent lockdown as part of the government’s planned emergency decree, restaurants and bars started emptying out and many fled to the train station, where they hopped trains to get out of the region, especially those who had plans to travel elsewhere that were being interrupted by the lockdown. According to an SCMP reporter in Padua, packed bars and restaurants quickly emptied out as news of a coming lockdown hit, as many people rushed to the railway station. Travellers with suitcases, wearing face masks, gloves and carrying bottles of sanitising gel shoved their way on to the local train.
This appears to have been a phenomenon across the North. The video shows passengers with large bags packed heading toward a cross-country train to take them out of the quarantine zone and into the Italian south, where the virus has penetrated, but infection numbers and deaths remain much lower than in the north. This could be terrible news for the impoverished south: experts have repeatedly warned that southern Italy – best known as an agricultural and fishing center rife with organized crime – doesn’t possess the medical infrastructure to handle a surge in life-threatening cases of pneumonia. While Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly insisted during his seemingly never-ending series of press conferences that the panic is worse than the virus itself, in Italy, the situation is rapidly deteriorating on both fronts.
One epidemiologist described the series of panic-provoking leaks as “pure madness.” Fortunately, Italian markets were closed during the panic, and now people have more or less accepted the new rules. But at this point, the horse is already out of the barn. Panicked Italians are now traveling around the country, potentially bringing the virus with them. “The draft of a very harsh decree is leaked, sparking panic and prompting people to try and flee the [then] theoretical red zone, carrying the virus with them,” wrote Italian virologist Roberto Burioni on Twitter. “In the end, the only effect is to help the virus to spread. I’m lost for words.”
A charity led by the archbishop of Canterbury is preparing to help feed children if schools are closed by coronavirus, amid fears the withdrawal of free school dinners could leave up to 3 million children at risk of hunger. Feeding Britain, which runs food poverty schemes in 12 areas of England including Cornwall, Leicester, Barnsley and South Shields, is exploring how to set up emergency programmes similar to those used to feed the poorest children during the summer holidays. The Akshaya Patra Foundation, which serves thousands of hot meals to children every summer in London boroughs, is also “prepared to enter crisis mode”, while food projects in Bristol and Huddersfield said they were exploring how their schemes to feed hundreds of children in school holidays could be adapted to help cope with emergency closures.
“For so many families now, schools are the first line of defence against hunger,” said Andrew Forsey, the national director of Feeding Britain, whose president is the Most Rev Justin Welby. “In many cases it is breakfast as well as lunch, so if the schools close it’s two meals we have to find. There is early-stage planning going on around ensuring supplies of food and the extent of voluntary support that could be drawn upon if some schools do need to close.” Downing Street said on Tuesday that school closures would be among “distancing strategies” used if the virus became established in the UK. On Thursday, Italy closed all of its schools and colleges for a month.
[..] An immediate challenge is likely to be finding a way to deliver meals in a way that maintains the distance between people that school closures are meant to achieve. The Bristol project said it could involve delivering food parcels door-to-door. Forsey also said panic-buying that cleared supermarket shelves could hinder efforts as many free meal programmes relied on retailers’ donations.
City and state officials issued new travel suggestions amid growing novel coronavirus cases in the tri-state area. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio asked sick people to stay off public transit, especially subways and buses. Their warnings included a suggestion to avoid dense crowds on buses, subways and trains, or take alternate travel if possible. “If you take the subway and you are able to wait for a less packed train, please do. If you have the option of walking or biking, please do. Buses can be crowded too, but less than subways, so please use these if you can,” de Blasio said. “Move to a train car that is not as dense. If you see a packed train car, let it go by. Wait for the next train. Same if you’re taking a bus,” Cuomo said.
Avoiding public transit is not an option for most New Yorkers and they’re not afraid to let the mayor know. “Happy to ride a bike to work. Can you make it so people don’t die in Queens while biking? Vehicular deaths are a public health crisis too,” one Twitter user said in response to de Blasio’s announcement. In the city’s other effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, transit workers started to disinfect subway turnstiles, station handrails, MetroCard and ticket vending machines daily and other frequently used parts of the system, according to a statement from Transport Workers Union President Tony Utano. The deep clean extends to Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North and Access-A-Ride services as well. In addition to the daily cleaning, the MTA says its full fleet of subway trains and buses will undergo sanitization every 72 hours.
Nationalism and speculation have seldom had a better opportunity to combine forces as the one riding today on the coattails of Covid-19, known as the coronavirus. When Covid-19 leapfrogged from China to Italy, even ardent Europeanists normally appreciative of open borders joined the deafening calls to end freedom of movement across Europe’s national borders – a longstanding demand of nationalists. Meanwhile, the money men speculating on government debt are performing a classic flight from Italian to German government bonds, seeking the financial safety that only the continent’s hegemon can offer during any crisis. As if in a bid to remind us of the great contradiction of our times, Covid-19 is illuminating gloriously the freedom of money to transcend a borderless financial universe while humans remain as fenced in as ever.
Meanwhile in the United States, President Trump is combining his standard call for taller walls with a fresh instruction to moneymen to “buy the dip” in Wall Street, rather than to follow their natural instinct to seek refuge in the boring but safe bond markets. A great deal will depend on whether financiers believe Mr Trump or not, and not just because this is an election year. If speculators do believe the American president, Wall Street will recover swiftly even before the epidemic subsides. The forces of xenophobic financialisation will then have triumphed and America’s progressives will face an uphill struggle on every political front. As for the European Union, ruling elites will breathe a sigh of relief that a new depression was avoided and return to managing as best as they can the economic stagnation of recent times, tinged this time with a large dose of additional, coronavirus-reinforced, xenophobia.
Will Wall Street follow Mr Trump’s advice to “buy the dip”? For now, the large players are in two minds. The drop in the stock market does not worry them as such. Their concern is that the recent bull market was running on increasingly suspect debt and that Covid-19 may have pricked a bubble that was going to burst anyway. Similarly in Europe, the worst spectre hovering over investors’ heads is that large corporations, relying for too long on free money from the European Central Bank, may be downgraded from investment to junk-grade – especially so at a time of stagnant domestic demand and a collapsed Chinese import market.
Car tyres could be doing more damage to our health than the fumes from exhaust pipes, according to the results from a new test. Measurements found that 5.8 grams per kilometre of harmful particles are emitted by tyres as they wear when a car is being driven. That compares to 4.5 milligrams per kilometer produced from exhaust pipes of the latest vehicles on sale today – meaning harmful tyre outputs are higher by a factor of over 1,000. Assessments were conducted by UK-based experts Emissions Analytics, which specialises in calculating the pollution produced by cars in real-world driving.
The type of emissions tyres have been found to produce is harmful particulate matter that is almost impossible to see with the naked eye. It’s made up of microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they can be inhaled and cause serious health problems. Particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter – also known as PM2.5 – pose the greatest risk to our health. Exposure can affect both the lungs and heart, with numerous scientific studies linking them to a variety of problems. This includes premature death in people with heart or lung disease, nonfatal heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, aggravated asthma, decreased lung function and wider respiratory symptoms.
At the start of their discussion marathon in Moscow on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with arguably the most extraordinary diplomatic gambit of the young 21st century. Putin said: “At the beginning of our meeting, I would like to once again express my sincere condolences over the death of your servicemen in Syria. Unfortunately, as I have already told you during our phone call, nobody, including Syrian troops, had known their whereabouts.” This is how a true world leader tells a regional leader, to his face, to please refrain from positioning his forces as jihadi supporters – incognito, in the middle of an explosive theater of war. The Putin-Erdogan face-to-face discussion, with only interpreters allowed in the room, lasted three hours, before another hour with the respective delegations.
In the end, it all came down to Putin selling an elegant way for Erdogan to save face – in the form of, what else, yet another ceasefire in Idlib, which started at midnight on Thursday, signed in Turkish, Russian and English – “all texts having equal legal force.” Additionally, on March 15, joint Turkish-Russian patrolling will start along the M4 highway – implying endless mutating strands of al-Qaeda in Syria won’t be allowed to retake it. If this all looks like déjà vu, that’s because it is. Quite a few official photos of the Moscow meeting prominently feature Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu – the other two heavyweights in the room apart from both Presidents. In the wake of Putin, Lavrov and Shoigu must have read the riot act to Erdogan in no uncertain terms.
That’s enough: now behave, please – or else face dire consequences. A predictable feature of the new ceasefire is that both Moscow and Ankara – part of the Astana peace process, alongside Tehran – remain committed to maintaining the “territorial integrity and sovereignty” of Syria. Once again, there’s no guarantee that Erdogan will abide. It’s crucial to recap the basics. Turkey is deep in financial crisis. Ankara needs cash – badly. The lira is collapsing. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) is losing elections. Former prime minister and party leader Ahmet Davutoglu – who conceptualized neo-Ottomanism – has left the party and is carving his own political niche. The AKP is mired in an internal crisis.
Erdogan’s response has been to go on the offensive. That’s how he re-establishes his aura. Combine Idlib with his maritime pretensions around Cyprus and blackmail pressure on the EU via the inundation of Lesbos in Greece with refugees, and we have Erdogan’s trademark modus operandi in full swing. In theory, the new ceasefire will force Erdogan to finally abandon all those myriad al Nusra/ISIS metastases – what the West calls “moderate rebels,” duly weaponized by Ankara. This is an absolute red line for Moscow – and also for Damascus. There will be no territory left behind for jihadis. Iraq is another story: ISIS is still lurking around Kirkuk and Mosul.
[..] No NATO fanatic will ever admit it, but once again it was Russia that just prevented the threatened “Muslim invasion” of Europe advertised by Erdogan. Yet there was never any invasion in the first place, only a few thousand economic migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Sahel, not Syrians. There are no “one million” Syrian refugees on the verge of entering the EU. The EU, proverbially, will keep blabbering. Brussels and most capitals still have not understood that Bashar al-Assad has been fighting al Nusra/ISIS all along. They simply don’t understand the correlation of forces on the ground. Their fallback position is always the scratched CD of “European values.” No wonder the EU is a secondary actor in the whole Syrian tragedy.
The Russian TV exposed: #Putin humiliated #Erdogan and his entire entourage by making them wait outside the door until he couldn’t stand anymore. Where he sat is where butlers sit and wait for the next order from the boss. When inside, they stood under the statue of Catherine II. pic.twitter.com/WArE5ssway
No doubt #Turkey is planning something very big in #Idlib#Syria. Last night, the longest convoy of military equipment to date has been seen with over 300 vehicles. The #US supports turkeys right to enforce the #Sochi agreement that gives the #Sunni rebels in Idlib a safe zone. pic.twitter.com/BPyzNM8jx8
To think there were scores of people who said Hill made so much sense. Very simple questions that remain unanswered: what exactly do the Russians do according to her, and how exactly does that divide Americans? Never an answer, other than “US intelligence believes that…”
President Donald Trump’s former top Russia adviser is warning that President Vladimir Putin has America “exactly where he wants us.” “Putin, sadly, has got all of our political class, every single one of us, including the media, exactly where he wants us. He’s got us feeling vulnerable…on edge, and he’s got us questioning the legitimacy of our own systems,” Fiona Hill told CBS’ Lesley Stahl in an interview set to air on “60 Minutes” Sunday. The interview marks the former top White House official’s first since testifying in the impeachment inquiry into Trump. During congressional hearings in the inquiry, Hill warned that the Republican defense of the President — by peddling Ukraine conspiracy theories — was in danger of extending Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
Hill, who left the Trump administration last summer, has studied Russia for decades and is a critical biographer of Putin, authoring or co-authoring a number of books on Russia, including two editions of a book titled “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin. In the interview, Hill said Russia understands how to exploit American divisions. “The Russians didn’t invent partisan divides. The Russians haven’t invented racism in the United States,” Hill said. “But the Russians understand a lot of those divisions, and they understand how to exploit them.” Russian interference in the last presidential election — which the US intelligence community believes was aimed at boosting Trump’s candidacy and hurting his opponent, Hillary Clinton — led to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Part of the election interference included a Russian government-linked troll operation that sought to help Trump’s candidacy and undercut that of Clinton in part by posting messages in support of Sanders. Concerns over the Kremlin’s role in US politics have continued. The US intelligence community has assessed that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election and has separately assessed that Russia views Trump as a leader they can work with. In February, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders also said his campaign was briefed about Russian efforts to help his operation. It was unclear how Russia was attempting to help the Vermont senator.
It’s one of the most urgent questions in the United States right now: How many people have actually been tested for the coronavirus? This number would give a sense of how widespread the disease is, and how forceful a response to it the United States is mustering. But for days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has refused to publish such a count, despite public anxiety and criticism from Congress. On Monday, Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, estimated that “by the end of this week, close to a million tests will be able to be performed” in the United States. On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence promised that “roughly 1.5 million tests” would be available this week.
But the number of tests performed across the country has fallen far short of those projections, despite extraordinarily high demand, The Atlantic has found. “The CDC got this right with H1N1 and Zika, and produced huge quantities of test kits that went around the country,” Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC from 2009 to 2017, told us. “I don’t know what went wrong this time.” Through interviews with dozens of public-health officials and a survey of local data from across the country, The Atlantic could only verify that 1,895 people have been tested for the coronavirus in the United States, about 10 percent of whom have tested positive. And while the American capacity to test for the coronavirus has ramped up significantly over the past few days, local officials can still test only several thousand people a day, not the tens or hundreds of thousands indicated by the White House’s promises.
To arrive at our estimate, we contacted the public-health departments of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. We gathered data on websites, and we corresponded with dozens of state officials. All 50 states and D.C. have made some information available, though the quality and timeliness of the data varied widely. Some states have only committed to releasing their numbers once or three times a week. Most are focused on the number of confirmed cases; only a few have publicized the number of people they are capable of testing. The Atlantic’s numbers reflect the best available portrait of the country’s testing capacity as of early this morning. These numbers provide an accurate baseline, but they are incomplete. Scattered on state websites, the data available are not useful to citizens or political leaders. State-based tallies lack the reliability of the CDC’s traditional—but now abandoned—method of reporting.
[..] Our reporting found that the capacity to test for the coronavirus varies dramatically—and sometimes dangerously—from state to state. California claims the highest testing capacity of any state, and has tested the most individuals so far. As of yesterday afternoon, it had tested 516 people, with 53 positive cases, a spokesperson for the Department of Health told us. The department now has the capacity to test 6,000 people every day, and it expects that capacity to expand to 7,400 people a day starting today, the spokesperson said. Washington State, the site of the country’s largest outbreak thus far, can test roughly 1,000 people a day. The state health department’s laboratory can test 100 people a day; the rest of the testing is being done at the University of Washington’s Virology Lab.
Officials have found 70 positive cases in Washington so far, though a genetic study has estimated that there may be hundreds of untested people who have COVID-19 in the greater Seattle area. Oregon, situated between the California and Washington hot spots, can test only about 40 people a day. Texas has 16 positive cases, according to media reports, but the health department’s website still lists only three cases. The Texas Tribune has reported that the state can test approximately 30 people a day.
Everyone up and down the food chain of command should tell their superiors they’ll do it, but only if he/she will be standing there next to them doing the same job, with the same gear and the same protection.
As coronavirus cases exploded across the world, federal medical workers tasked with screening incoming passengers at U.S. airports grew alarmed: Many were working without the most effective masks to protect them from getting sick themselves. Screeners with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked their supervisors this week to change official protocols and require stronger masks, according to an internal document reviewed by Reuters. On Friday evening, they learned their worst fears were realized: Two screeners, both working at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), had tested positive for the virus. “Sad news,” a senior quarantine official at the CDC wrote in an email Friday evening to colleagues about the two workers.
The email, reviewed by Reuters and not previously reported, said the two screeners will be quarantined until March 17. “Let us keep our colleagues at LAX in our thoughts.” The news was not surprising to some CDC screeners. “It was bound to happen,” said a veteran CDC medical official involved with screening who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They are assuring us we are safe. If we were safe, screeners would not be getting sick.” The struggles within the CDC, an agency that advises the country’s health systems about how to protect people against the virus, underscore the difficulties confronting health workers across the nation and illustrate a challenge for the Trump administration, which has faced criticism over its response to the outbreak.
[..] The CDC recommends that so-called “secondary” screeners, who meet with passengers who have traveled to certain countries, such as China, wear a surgical mask, gloves and eye protection, Nordlund said. Secondary screeners are advised to stand six feet away from passengers they observe and do not wear the sturdier N95 masks, also known as respirators, because they aren’t exposed to symptomatic travelers, she said. N95 masks are designed to protect screeners from the smaller pathogens such as coronavirus which can penetrate deeper into the lungs. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, surgical masks are not designed to block very small particles, such as those transmitted by coughs and sneezes, and do not provide complete protection because of the loose fit.
Nordlund said that CDC’s guidance calls for screeners who meet with people exhibiting obvious signs of illness to wear N95 respirators and other protective gear. But people infected with the coronavirus do not necessarily exhibit obvious signs of illness. “Surgical masks won’t protect us from getting the virus – they just protect us from infecting someone else,” the CDC medical official involved in screening said. “We want to know why we can’t wear N-95 masks. It’s crazy.” “You might as well have a tissue over your face for all the good it will do,” the official added.
An attendee at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which U.S. President Donald Trump also attended, has tested positive for COVID-19, the American Conservative Union (ACU) said on Saturday. The exposure occurred prior to the conference held in National Harbor, U.S. state of Maryland, just south of Washington D.C., said the ACU, a conservative grassroots organization, in a statement. A New Jersey hospital tested the person, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the positive result, said the statement. “The individual is under the care of medical professionals in the state of New Jersey, and has been quarantined,” it said. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the gathering, which took place from Feb. 26 to Feb. 29.
Also present at the event were a number of administration and cabinet officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and newly-appointed White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement Saturday that the White House is aware of the attendee testing positive for the virus. “At this time there is no indication that either President Trump or Vice President Pence met with or were in close proximity to the attendee,” Grisham said in a statement. “The president’s physician and United States Secret Service have been working closely with White House Staff and various agencies to ensure every precaution is taken to keep the First Family and the entire White House Complex safe and healthy.”
In Nebraska, there were dramatic scenes as a woman who tested positive for the virus was rushed from a community hospital to the nation’s leading biocontainment unit at he University of Nebraska Medical Center Omaha. The 36-year-old Nebraska resident was photographed being transported to the facility in a hi-tech isolation pod late Friday. The woman, who is the first person in Nebraska to test positive to coronavirus, is ‘very seriously ill’, according to doctors who spoke with Omaha.com Saturday. A chest CT scan conducted yesterday showed the coronavirus is evolving into acute respiratory distress syndrome (ADRS). The syndrome, which is characterized by a rapid onset of widespread inflammation in the lungs, is often fatal. People with ARDS suffer severe shortness of breath and often are unable to breathe on their own without support from a ventilator.
The woman reportedly traveled to England with her father February 18 to February 27. She began to feel ill on February 25, two days before she flew back to the United States. Doctors say they are still trying to piece together where she went and who she had contact with in the 10 days since she arrived back from overseas. According to doctors, her symptoms were quite mild until this Thursday, when she arrived at a local emergency room. As her condition took a turn for the worse Friday, a decision was made to move her from Omaha’s Methodist Hospital to the to the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit. [..] the woman was place in an isolation pod, made of heavy duty plastic and complete with a dozen ports for ventilators and other tubes. Medics donned plastic face shields, rubber gloves and rain boots as they moved her from the ambulance in a stretcher.
The Italian government is to lockdown the northern region of Lombardy, as it battles to contain the spread of the coronavirus. A draft decree would extend the quarantined areas, so-called “red-zones”, ordering people not to enter or leave the region. The country is grappling to contain Europe’s worst outbreak of Covid-19, which has claimed 233 lives and infected a total of 5,883 people. Italian authorities announced that a new decree containing draconian measures would be approved later on Saturday. It will include the power to impose fines on anyone caught entering or leaving Lombardy, the worst-affected region, until 3 April. People may be allowed in and out for serious reasons. The decree provides for banning all public events, closing cinemas, theatres, gyms, discos and pubs. Religious ceremonies such as funerals and weddings will also be banned.
Rome is also considering prolonging the closure of schools across the country until 3 April, while major sporting events, such as Serie A football games, will be played behind closed doors. The number of coronavirus cases in Italy leapt by more than 1,200 in a 24-hour period, the civil protection agency said on Saturday. It is the biggest daily rise since the outbreak began two weeks ago. The number of cases in the country rose to 5,883 on Saturday from 4,636 announced on Friday, with the spread showing little sign of slowing. In total there are now 5,061 cases, not including those who have died or recovered. The northern regions of Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto are the hardest hit, representing 85% of cases and 92% of recorded deaths. “We will win this battle if our citizens adopt a responsible attitude and change their way of living,” the head of Italy’s civil protection agency, Angelo Borrelli, told a press conference.
A final chance to evacuate from the COVID19 red zone. People rush to catch the last trains leaving Lombardy after government declared the quarantine and lockdown of 16 million people in Northern Italy. The mandatory quarantine will last until early April. pic.twitter.com/9m5Sf7nuhH
Italy has formally locked down more than a quarter of its population in a bid to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, as the outbreak reached Washington DC and a political convention attended by Donald Trump and Mike Pence. More than 5,800 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Italy, after an alarming increase of more than 1,200 in a single 24-hour period. Two hundred and thirty-three people have died. Almost 100 countries are now responding to outbreaks. In the early hours of Sunday, Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte signed a decree enacting forced quarantine for the region of Lombardy – home to more than 10 million people and the financial capital, Milan – and multiple other provinces, totalling around 16 million residents.
Affected provinces include Venice, Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia, Rimini, Pesaro and Urbino, Alessandria, Asti, Novara, Verbano Cusio Ossola, Vercelli, Padua, and Treviso. The lockdown decree includes the power to impose fines on anyone caught entering or leaving Lombardy, the worst-affected region, until 3 April. It provides for the banning of all public events, closing cinemas, theatres, gyms, discos and pubs. Religious ceremonies such as funerals and weddings will also be prohibited, and leave for healthcare workers has been cancelled. Rome is also prolonging the closure of schools across the country until at least 3 April, while major sporting events, such as Serie A football games, will be played behind closed doors.
Italy is implementing China-style quarantine in Lombardy. Entry and exit forbidden.
The President of Italy’s players’ union (AIC) has called for soccer to be stopped in the country amid reports that the entire region of Lombardy will be locked down as part of efforts to tackle the coronavirus outbreak. The Italian government has ordered all sporting competitions to be played behind closed doors until April 3 in a bid to control the spread of the disease, which has killed around 200 people in the country. And tough new measures are expected to be approved on Saturday that will tell people not to enter or leave Lombardy, home to around 10 million people, as well as 11 provinces in four other regions.
Damiano Tommasi, head of the players’ union, responded to the news on Twitter by posting a link to the story and issuing a plea to stop games from going ahead. He wrote: “Let’s stop the league!! Do we need anything else? Stop football!!” Tommasi also issued a statement on the AIC website earlier in the day outlining his concerns for players’ welfare. “There is a risk for players and we must take all precautions for the security of those who play: on the pitch you certainly can’t stay at a distance of one meter away. “But every measure must be taken to guarantee the safety of everyone at the stadium, including staff and personnel, to reduce the risks.
Lebanon is to default on a foreign debt payment for the first time in its history as the country struggles with a major financial crisis. Prime Minister Hassan Diab said Lebanon would not be making a bond payment of $1.2bn due on Monday. “The debt has become bigger than Lebanon can bear, and bigger than the ability of the Lebanese to meet interest payments,” Mr Diab said. Lebanon has been struggling since the value of its currency plummeted. The Lebanese pound has been losing value against the dollar for months, in part because the country’s banks have been reluctant to convert local pounds to dollars – leading to an increase in demand for the latter.
This issue with foreign exchange has led to importers having difficulty accessing goods, which have become more expensive. Those with savings have also been affected by the drop in value of the local currency. In a live televised address on Saturday, Mr Diab said that negotiations to restructure the country’s debt, which stands at more than $30bn, would continue “with all creditors… in a manner consistent with the national interest”. Mr Diab added that more than 40% of the population could soon be in poverty as Lebanon tackles its worst economic crisis in decades.
Hezbollah believes that terms required by any IMF bailout package for Lebanon would spark “a popular revolution”, a senior official said on Tuesday, rejecting such a step and calling instead for a “national solution” to a deep economic crisis. Lebanon is in the throes of an unprecedented economic crisis, the result of long-entrenched corruption and bad governance that have landed the state with one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens. Hezbollah, a heavily armed Shi’ite group which is backed by Iran and designated a terrorist organization by Washington, is one of the main backers of a new government that has sought technical but not financial aid from the International Monetary Fund.
Long-standing financial backer France said last week it was looking at options to support Lebanon, including through an IMF program if Beirut sought one. Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah told Reuters the group was against the type of terms typically imposed by the IMF as part of a bailout such as taxes, privatization, reducing the size of the public sector and halting subsidies. “The position is not toward the Fund as an international financial institution but on the terms offered to Lebanon, because they will lead to a popular revolution,” he said. “Our position is against this type of program and not against the Fund as an organization.”
The ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib Province took effect on Friday, and has been holding so far. With every other nation on board, the US blocked a joint UN statement backing the ceasefire, saying it was “premature” to do so. The ceasefire was brokered by Turkey and Russia, and that’s almost certainly the problem from the US perspective. The US broadly refuses to back any Syria agreements Russia is involved in. US officials had also been loudly backing Turkey’s military offensive in Idlib, and probably aren’t happy that Turkey has made a deal not to go to war. US officials weren’t super on board with directly participating in a Turkey-instigated war, but were only too happy to give lip-service to it. Having the UN back a ceasefire, even if it is one not expected to necessarily survive, is usually the norm, though the US may find, in seeking backing for its Afghan deal, they may face similar resistance.
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has had his relatives arrested for plotting a coup against him and King Salman with the help of “foreign powers, including the Americans,” Western media claim. RT asked Middle East analysts to weigh in. Three senior members of the Saudi Royal family were arrested on Friday, several Western media outlets have reported, citing sources. The list of detainees includes prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, the younger brother of King Salman, Mohammed bin Nayef, the king’s nephew and former crown prince, and Nawaf bin Nayef, the younger half-brother of Prince Nayef, as reported by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has allegedly accused them of treason, namely “conducting contacts with foreign powers, including the Americans and others, to carry out a coup d’etat” against King Salman and his son, Reuters, which has also picked up the news, added, citing own sources. While Western media is not above publishing unverified rumors about the ‘regimes’ they dislike, some of which have turned out to be utterly fake, there is no easy way to verify reports on the secretive world of Saudi court affairs. One has to bear in mind the possibility someone in Riyadh has purposefully fed the news to the media. While the reports of the high-profile arrests have yet to be confirmed by Saudi Arabia, they wouldn’t be unprecedented.
The allegations of foreign involvement may be meant for domestic consumption in Saudi Arabia and nothing to do with international politics, believes Sergey Balmasov from the Moscow-based Institute for the Near East. “What other foreign meddler could they have named? Accusing, for example Iran would have not been credible,” he explained. The US has great influence in the Saudi military and intelligence services, thanks to decades of training their members, Balmasov added. So if the US as a nation were actually determined to effect a regime change in Saudi Arabia, “a different person would have now been in the palace.” If the US really needed this, a bloodless coup would have happened already, and I’m sure many Americans wouldn’t have even noticed.
With the commodity world still smarting from the Nov 2014 Saudi decision to (temporarily) break apart OPEC, and flood the market with oil in (failed) hopes of crushing US shale producers (who survived thanks to generous banks extending loan terms and even more generous buyers of junk bonds), which nonetheless resulted in a painful manufacturing recession as the price of Brent cratered as low as the mid-$20’s in late 2015/early 2016, on Saturday, Saudi Arabia launched its second scorched earth, or rather scorched oil campaign in 6 years. And this time there will be blood.
Following Friday’s shocking collapse of OPEC+, when Russia and Riyadh were unable to reach an agreement during the OPEC+ summit in Vienna which was seeking up to 1.5 million b/d in further oil production cuts, on Saturday Saudi Arabia kick started what Bloomberg called an all-out oil war, slashing official pricing for its crude and making the deepest cuts in at least 20 years on its main grades, in an effort to push as many barrels into the market as possible. In the first major marketing decision since the meeting, the Saudi state producer Aramco, which successfully IPOed just before the price of oil cratered launched unprecedented discounts and cut its April pricing for crude sales to Asia by $4-$6 a barrel and to the U.S. by a whopping $7 a barrel in attempts to steal market share from 3rd party sources, according to a copy of the announcement seen by Bloomberg.
In the most significant move, Aramco widened the discount for its flagship Arab Light crude to refiners in north-west Europe by a hefty $8 a barrel, offering it at $10.25 a barrel under the Brent benchmark. In contrast, Urals, the Russian flagship crude blend, trades at a discount of about $2 a barrel under Brent. Traders said the Saudi move was a direct attack at the ability of Russian companies to sell crude in Europe. Confirming the obvious, Iman Nasseri, managing director for the Middle East at oil consultant FGE said “Saudi Arabia is now really going into a full price war.”
The coronavirus focus shifts decidedly to the west. The increases in cases in the US and many European countries are scary. Greece from 9 to 31 cases, Germany doubles to 577, Netherlands have their first death. It’s been a while since we saw over 3,000 new cases in a day. The last time was when most were still in China.
We’ll pass 100,000 cases later today.
And judging from what US political figures and pundits say these days, you’d swear the virus may have reached their brains.
• Cases 98,928 (+ 3,048 from Tuesday’s 95,880)
• Deaths 3,390 (+ 102 from yesterday’s 3,288)
• Italy cases rise to 3,859 from 3,090 yesterday
• Netherlands cases rise from 38 to 82 (First death today)
• Germany cases from 283 to 577
• France cases from 285 to 423
• US cases from 158 to 233
• Canada cases from 37 to 48
• Sweden 52 to 101
• Belgium 23 to 50
• Greece 9 to 31
• Iran shuts 60,000 mosques.
Ben Hunt on Twitter:
• Just heard that Wells Fargo ordered employees to cancel all domestic travel plans, likely to require employees to work from home starting Monday. Wells Fargo has >270,000 employees.
• Walmart canceled a national meeting next week in Dallas of senior execs, store managers and distributors. Domestic travel eliminated.
• Dupont has grounded all domestic and int’l employee travel, banned all visitors from office meetings, and is exploring mandatory WFH.
• Procter & Gamble is doing the same with travel and visitors.
• Rudy Havenstein: “HEALTH NEWS: When you get the coronavirus, the official CDC recommendation to treat a runny nose, sore throat, cough, and fever is to lower the rate hedge funds can borrow at from 1.5% to 0%, and increase Treasury purchases to $200 billion per month.”
China’s CCP media mouthpiece, Xinhua News, has published a new article titled “Be bold: the world owes China a thank you.” In it, the author suggests that the coronavirus outbreak is much worse in the United States than authorities are letting on – while noting that President Trump praised China’s measures to control the outbreak during a recent press conference. Xinhua also points out that the US stock market “has plummeted continuously, with a drop of more than 12% in just one week.” The article then suggests the travel ban imposed on China – including the restriction of people who have visited China – was ‘unkind,’ and has had a ‘great economic impact’ on the country. The punchline? If China retaliates against the United States at this time, including a travel ban or a strategic restriction over medical exports, America would be “plunged into the mighty sea of coronavirus.”
[..] 80% of present medicines consumed in the United States are produced in China. This includes Chinese companies and foreign drug companies that have outsourced their drug manufacture in joint ventures with Chinese partners. According to Rosemary Gibson of the Hastings Center bioethics research institute, who authored a book in 2018 on the theme, the dependency is more than alarming. Gibson cites medical newsletters giving the estimate that today some 80% of all pharmaceutical active ingredients in the USA are made in China. “It’s not just the ingredients. It’s also the chemical precursors, the chemical building blocks used to make the active ingredients. We are dependent on China for the chemical building blocks to make a whole category of antibiotics… known as cephalosporins. They are used in the United States thousands of times every day for people with very serious infections.”
The made in China drugs today include most antibiotics, birth control pills, blood pressure medicines such as valsartan, blood thinners such as heparin, and various cancer drugs. It includes such common medicines as penicillin, ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), and aspirin. The list also includes medications to treat HIV, Alzheimer’s disease, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, cancer, depression, epilepsy, among others. A recent Department of Commerce study found that 97 percent of all antibiotics in the United States came from China.
A fast spreading coronavirus outbreak could knock $211 billion off the combined economies of the Asia-Pacific, with Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia among the most exposed, S&P Global Ratings said on Friday. S&P cut its 2020 growth forecast for China to 4.8% from previous estimate of 5.7%. It forecast Australian growth to slow sharply to 1.2% from an already below-trend 2.2% in 2019. Japan would take 0.5 percentage point hit and Korea a 1 percentage point knock. “The balance of risks remains to the downside due to local transmission, including in economies with low reported cases, secondary transmissions in China as people return to work and tighter financial conditions,” S&P said in a report.
In other forecasts, Hong Kong’s economy would likely contract by -0.8% in 2020, Singapore’s would flat line, and Thailand’s expansion likely slow to 1.6%. [..] S&P did not cut growth forecasts for emerging markets of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and India, citing the fact that reported infections in those countries were still low. However, it noted the outlook could quickly deteriorate if the low level of cases was due to minimal testing and if those countries were swept up in financial contagion.
South Korea issued a strongly worded protest on Friday against Japan’s decision to quarantine South Korean visitors for two weeks, as coronavirus containment measures ignited a fresh diplomatic row between the Asian nations. Japan joined the list of almost 100 countries that have imposed restrictions on South Korean travelers, barring arrivals from highly affected areas starting on Saturday and ordering a two-week quarantine for those from other regions. The South Korean foreign ministry said Japan’s ambassador would be summoned to explain Tokyo’s decision and receive a formal complaint. Seoul has previously summoned ambassadors from Vietnam and Singapore over similar travel restrictions.
“It is extremely regrettable Japan took this unreasonable and excessive step without sufficient prior consultation with us, and we strongly urge immediate reconsideration,” it said. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Seoul would respond with countermeasures, although he gave no details on what actions could be taken. The presidential Blue House discussed the issue at a meeting of its National Security Council, an official said. The row came as the number of new cases in South Korea, the country with the biggest outbreak of the flu-like virus outside China, fell to 196 from 760 the previous day, for a total of 6,284 infections. The death toll rose by seven to 42, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.
The Ministry of Health has licensed commercial production of test kits that help diagnose the novel coronavirus infection in just one hour. It was developed jointly by the Vietnam Military Medical University and tech firm Viet A Corporation. It is based on reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), a technique that combines reverse transcription of RNA into DNA and amplification of specific DNA targets using a polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The kit can detect the new coronavirus in specimens of droplets obtained from the respiratory tract and blood samples.
Do Quyet, director of the university, said all tests done by the university and Viet A Corporation found the kit meeting World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards. Independent testing of the kit by the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology on various disease samples using five different devices turned up completely accurate results every time, he said. [..] Phan Quoc Viet, CEO of Viet A, said his company could make 10,000 kits a day, and triple the capacity if needed. Authorities said this capacity would enable Vietnam to not only meet domestic demand but also export. China, the U.S., Japan, Germany, and now Vietnam are the only countries to make test kits for the new coronavirus.
U.S. Federal Aviation Administration chief Stephen Dickson said on Thursday he thinks a certification test flight for the Boeing 737 MAX – a key milestone for the return of the grounded plane – could come soon. “We’re working though the last few software review and documentation issues and then I think within a matter of a few weeks we should be seeing a certification flight,” Dickson said at a Washington aviation conference. Reuters has previously reported that a certification flight is not expected until April and officials said that is still the case. The 737 MAX has been grounded for almost a year after two fatal crashes killed 346 people in five months.
Donald Trump attacked Joe Biden’s cognitive abilities on Thursday night during an event in the former-vice president’s hometown that could set the tone for an ugly general election. Appearing at a Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Trump – who has faced repeated scrutiny over his own mental acuity – said there was “something going on” with Biden, in what may prove a rehearsal for Republican attacks during the presidential election. Thursday marked Trump’s first public event since Biden’s surprisingly strong performance on Super Tuesday, when he won 10 out of 14 states available to propel him into the lead in the Democratic primary.
Trump said he had been “all set” to face Biden’s rival Bernie Sanders, whom he called a “communist”, until the recent vote. “Then we have this crazy thing that happened on Tuesday, which [Biden] thought was Thursday, but he also said 150 million people were killed with guns and that he was running for the United States Senate. There’s something going on there,” Trump said. Biden – who did say those things – has a track record of gaffes and has turned in bumbling debate performances, but Trump’s line of attack raised the unedifying spectacle of an election focused on two men in their 70s attacking each other’s alleged cognitive decline.
Biden is a huge fraud & pathological liar with no fixed principles or beliefs other than his own power. His career stands for nothing other than serving powerful corporate & militaristic interests for his own power.
U.S. Senator Mitt Romney, the lone Republican to vote to convict President Donald Trump of abuse of power following his impeachment, said on Thursday a Senate Republican investigation of Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden appeared politically motivated. Romney told reporters a probe of Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, by Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson would be better pursued by the FBI or another federal agency “if there’s something of significance that needs to be evaluated.” Johnson is poised to issue the first subpoena in an investigation of Hunter Biden’s seat on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma when his father was U.S. vice president. Hunter Biden’s role has been attacked as corrupt without evidence by Trump and congressional Republicans.
“There’s no question but that the appearance of looking into Burisma and Hunter Biden appears political. And I think people are tired of these kind of political investigations,” Romney, a member of the homeland security panel, said. Trump was impeached on abuse-of-power and obstruction charges in the Democratic-led House of Representatives after he asked Ukraine to investigate the Bidens in July. He was acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate. Democrats said Trump was trying to shore up his re-election prospects by targeting Biden. Trump continues to question Hunter Biden’s position at Burisma. “That will be a major issue in the campaign,” Trump told Fox News on Wednesday night. “I will bring that up all the time.”
Chuck Schumer, the top U.S. Senate Democrat, expressed regret on Thursday for remarks he made a day earlier that two Supreme Court justices appointed by President Donald Trump would “pay the price” if they rule in favor of abortion restrictions. “I’m from Brooklyn. We speak in strong language. I shouldn’t have used the words I did. But in no way was I making a threat. I never, never would do such a thing,” Schumer said on the Senate floor amid Republican demands that he apologize for his comments about Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Schumer seemed to stop short of a full apology, saying instead that the words he used during an abortion rights rally outside the Supreme Court building directed at the two conservative justices “didn’t come out the way I intended to.”
“Of course I didn’t intend to suggest anything other than political and public-opinion consequences for the Supreme Court. And it’s a gross distortion to imply otherwise,” Schumer said. Fifteen Republican lawmakers introduced a Senate resolution on Thursday seeking to formally censure Schumer for what they called his “threatening statements” and to call on senators to “respect the independence” of the federal judiciary. At the Wednesday rally, Schumer said the two justices “won’t know what hit you” if they rule in favor of abortion restrictions in a case the Supreme Court was hearing that day involving a challenge to the legality of a Louisiana law that could make the procedure more difficult to obtain. “I want to tell you Gorsuch, I want to tell you Kavanaugh – you have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price,” Schumer said during the speech.
Chief Justice John Roberts hours later condemned Schumer’s comments as “inappropriate” and “dangerous.”
Throughout 2019, Uncle Joe was barely touched by his opponents, each of whom hoped that either somebody else would hit him first or that Biden would just self-combust. Nobody wanted to look like they were doing Trump’s bidding, as he went after Biden relentlessly for corruption in Ukraine. And the two candidates who hit Biden head-on — Kamala Harris and Julián Castro — soon enough became cautionary tales. But had Warren done to Biden in the fall what she did to Bloomberg just recently, she may not have been the one to pay the price.
If a genuine ideological debate had broke out between Biden and Warren over the social role of Wall Street and corporate America, while Sanders was still struggling to escape the low double digits, a large swath of progressives may have rallied to Warren, eager for the fight. Warren had come into public life battling Biden over bankruptcy, and some of her harshest rhetoric ever has been directed at him, particularly as she warned that “senators like Joe Biden should not be allowed to sell out women in the morning and be heralded as their friend in the evening.” Instead, campaign advisers argued that the race should be treated more as if it was a game of golf — each player hitting their own shots, aiming for the best round — rather than boxing, where a punch is blocked and met with a counterpunch.
Warren situated her campaign as the heir to several generations of persistent women — from the Bread and Roses strike, to the garment workers in New York, washerwomen in Atlanta, and janitors in Los Angeles — but stopped short of taking the fight directly to Biden until it was too late. (Though she did bury Buttigieg in a wine cave, which must have been satisfying, if not ultimately enough to win.) On Super Tuesday, it became clear that in a contest for the support of suburban voters, Sanders is at a major disadvantage. That’s not the case with Warren, but by the time that contest came, she was no longer in it.
Tin-foil hat wearer and Russia conspiracy theorist Rachel Maddow says Bernie supporters hurt Hillary Clinton in 2016 and will do it again in 2020: “Schismatic, factionalist, and injurious.” pic.twitter.com/07wHCw3pmB
In a further demonstration of the abuses that led to the surveillance of Trump officials, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court has barred FBI officials involved in the wiretapping of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page from appearing before the court. in rebuke that exceeded the remedial recommendations made by the independent monitor recently appointed by the court. Notably, this goes beyond the recommendations for David Kris, the highly controversial choice as an independent monitor of reforms. The order of Judge Boasberg further belies arguments that the surveillance of the Trump-relate figures was well-based and justified, as I discussed in any earlier column.
Boasberg declared “FBI personnel under disciplinary review in relation to their work on FISA applications accordingly should not participate in drafting, verifying, reviewing, or submitting such applications to the Court while the review is pending. The same prohibition applies to any DOJ attorney under disciplinary review, as well as any DOJ or FBI personnel who are the subject of a criminal referral related to their work on FISA applications.” We will have to wait to see if there are meaningful reforms of this court. Boasberg made a baffling mistake in the appointment of Kris. Moreover, this is not a permanent ban. Most importantly, Sen. Rand Paul is being opposed in his efforts to put serious protections in place, including opposition from the Justice Department.
Rania Khalek has an excellent overview of the years of western involvement that led to the mess.
The ceasefire doesn’t solve a thing though. Assad and Putin will never accept a terrorist enclave in Syria. They want Al Qeada et al gone. But to achieve that, Turkey will have to withdraw first. That is what Erdogan and Putin discussed for 6 hours yesterday.
Syria’s war-battered Idlib region was quiet but tense on Friday as a ceasefire deal between Moscow and Ankara took effect, with residents and opposition forces describing a lull in air raids that have pounded the last rebel-held enclave in Syria. Russia and Turkey made the agreement on Thursday evening, after six hours of talks in Moscow, to contain a conflict that has displaced nearly a million people in three months in northwest Syria. Russia and NATO-member Turkey back opposing sides in Syria’s nine-year-old war. Moscow supports President Bashar al-Assad and Turkey backs some rebel groups, and the two sides had been edging closer to direct confrontation in recent weeks.
Several previous deals to end the fighting in Idlib have collapsed. Analysts and residents said they feared the latest ceasefire would also fizzle out as it did not address the humanitarian crisis or air protection in any detail. “This deal isn’t designed to last, rather it is designed to fail – and I am afraid in the not too distant future,” said Galip Dalay, IPC-Mercator fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “Any ceasefire arrangement in Idlib, unless it has a no-fly zone dimension, is bound to fail. Deals in the past never de-escalated. They merely froze the crisis until the next escalation.”
Turkey & Russia reached a ceasefire agreement for Idlib but it looks like it’s already failing.
How did Turkey (a NATO member!) end up fighting on the SAME SIDE as al Qaeda against the Syrians & Russia?
Starting last week multiple journalists published proof that Turkish authorities were actively facilitating refugee and migrant movement toward EU borders after Erdogan began making good on his prior threat to ‘open the gates’ — angry over the unfolding Idlib crisis. This included footage of buses staged in Istanbul and other cities to take thousands to the land border with Greece. And now Ankara is now openly saying it’s implemented a policy of not only pushing migrants to the border, but ensuring they won’t come back — even after Greece shut its border and has been seen using harsh tactics to keep people from entering in a heightened militarized response.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu announced Thursday the deployment of 1,000 special operations police officers to ensure migrants can’t return. “Turkey will deploy 1,000 special operations police officers to prevent migrant pushback at the border,” the minister said, according to Turkey’s Daily Sabah. The newspaper reported further: “Soylu told reporters that the European Union’s border protection agency Frontex and Greece have pushed 4,900 migrants back to Turkey since March 1.” He also claimed 164 migrants had been injured by Greek border security and Frontex. The interior minister also estimated that almost 140,000 migrants are in the first wave headed toward Europe, which began departing Turkey last Friday.
If Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan believes he can bully European leaders by provoking a fresh migrant crisis in southern Europe, then he would be well-advised to think again. Ankara’s announcement that it is once again opening the floodgates to allow millions of refugees from Syria’s brutal civil war to travel to south-eastern Europe in search of refuge has been taken to persuade European leaders to back Turkey’s increasingly desperate situation in Syria. Having launched an ill-considered military offensive against the Assad regime in northern Syria, Mr Erdogan now finds himself facing the consequences of his action, with regime forces, backed by Russia and Iran, waging a highly effective campaign against the Turks, which has so far resulted in the deaths of scores of Turkish troops.
In addition, Turkey’s decision to deploy thousands of troops to Idlib province in northern Syria has resulted in a fresh wave of refugees fleeing across the border into southern Turkey, where Turkish officials are already struggling to cope with the estimated four million Syrian refugees that have already sought sanctuary in the sprawling refugee camps. One of the main reasons that Mr Erdogan now finds himself facing this difficult predicament is that he has badly underestimated the nature of his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
When Turkey took the controversial decision last year to purchase Russia’s state-of-the-art S-400 anti-aircraft missile system, Mr Erdogan calculated that it would herald new era of friendly cooperation with Ankara’s long-standing rival in Moscow even if, by pressing ahead with the deal, the Turks risked jeopardising their relationship with NATO, which bitterly opposed the deal. There was certainly an expectation in Ankara that improved relations with Moscow would result in better cooperation between the two countries on the post-conflict settlement in Syria, especially regarding Turkey’s desire to establish a safe zone in northern Syria.