Mar 092020
 


 

‘Fake Wealth’ Set To Pop (ABR)
Global Markets Plunge 7-8%, Oil Falls 30% To $30 (G.)
Goldman Cuts Brent Forecasts To $30 On Price War, Virus (R.)
Gig Economy Workers Can’t Afford To Be Ill (G.)
Plummeting Oil Prices And Mortgage Rates Could Boost Consumers (CNBC)
More Countries Will Adopt Italy’s Measures – Austria PM (G.)
Leaked Italy Quarantine Plans Create Chaos, Threaten To Spread Virus (ZH)
Charities Preparing To Feed Children If Schools Shut Over Coronavirus (G.)
NYC Asks Commuters to Stay Off Public Transit ‘If You Can’ (NBC)
A Perfect Storm Of Nationalism And Financial Speculation (Varoufakis)
Tyre Wear Produces 1,000 Times More Harmful Pollution Than Car Exhausts (BW)
Putin Saves Erdogan From Himself (Escobar)
Fiona Hill Says Putin Has America ‘Exactly Where He Wants Us’ (CNN)

 

 

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)

 

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

Smart cookie.

‘Fake Wealth’ Set To Pop (ABR)

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.”

Read more …

Trillions upon trillions in fake wealth are going POOF. And the central banks that created the fake wealth will throw more fake money at the walls.

Global Markets Plunge 7-8%, Oil Falls 30% To $30 (G.)

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.

Read more …

Putin stopped supporting MbS. Isn’t that a good thing? How much do we like MbS?

Goldman Cuts Brent Forecasts To $30 On Price War, Virus (R.)

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.

Read more …

Home deliveries are set to double, but the people working the field don’t get paid anything. The future’s so bright…

Gig Economy Workers Can’t Afford To Be Ill (G.)

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.”

Read more …

The kind of stuff that stumps me: “This resiliency of the consumer will once again support equities and most likely show that this current market reaction is a ‘blip’..

These people have zero connection to reality.

Plummeting Oil Prices And Mortgage Rates Could Boost Consumers (CNBC)

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.

Read more …

Absolutely right. Will I be able to get to Greece in time?

More Countries Will Adopt Italy’s Measures – Austria PM (G.)

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.

Read more …

You announce an upcoming travel ban, so what do people do? Travel.

Leaked Italy Quarantine Plans Create Chaos, Threaten To Spread Virus (ZH)

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.”

Read more …

Even before the virus, Britain’s reality is devastating: ““or so many families now, schools are the first line of defence against hunger..“

Charities Preparing To Feed Children If Schools Shut Over Coronavirus (G.)

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.

Read more …

“106 people in New York have confirmed cases of Coronavirus. But- “As of Saturday only about 120 people in New York City had been tested..”

The dumbest advice ever. “Take the next train”.

NYC Asks Commuters to Stay Off Public Transit ‘If You Can’ (NBC)

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.

Read more …

I think Yanis is getting ahead of himself. What the situation will be once the pandemic is over is so murky right now we must all be very cautious about predicting anythig.

A Perfect Storm Of Nationalism And Financial Speculation (Varoufakis)

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.

Read more …

Maybe electric cars should run on electric tires?

Tyre Wear Produces 1,000 Times More Harmful Pollution Than Car Exhausts (BW)

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.

Read more …

But there are videos of Turkish troops destroying Greek fences to let migants pass. Erdogan is in Brussels today.

Putin Saves Erdogan From Himself (Escobar)

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.

Read more …

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…”

Fiona Hill Says Putin Has America ‘Exactly Where He Wants Us’ (CNN)

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.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

Today is International Women’s Day. So of course the DNC changes its rules yet again, this time to bar its only remaining female candidate from participating in the next debate.

 


 

 

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Mar 082020
 


Unknown Daniels-Wells Pontiac, 3055 Broadway, Oakland CA 1938

 

Strongest Evidence Yet That America Is Botching Coronavirus Testing (Atl.)
US Airport Screeners, Health Workers Plagued By Fear And Anger (R.)
One Tests Positive After Conference Also Attended By Trump, Pence, Pompeo (X.)
Nebraska Woman Rushed To Bio-Containment Unit In Specialized Isolation Pod (DM)
Italy To Quarantine Whole Of Lombardy Due To Coronavirus (O.)
Quarter Of Italy’s Population Put In Quarantine (O.)
Head Of Italy Players’ Union Calls For Soccer To Stop (R.)
Lebanon To Default On Foreign Debt Payments For First Time (BBC)
IMF Deal Would Spark ‘Popular Revolution’ In Lebanon – Hezbollah (R.)
US Blocks UN Statement Backing Syria Ceasefire (Ditz)
Top Saudi Royals ‘Arrested For Plotting With Americans Against King’ (RT)
Saudi Arabia Starts All-Out Oil War (ZH)

 

 

 

Cases 106,487 (+ 3,943 from yesterday’s 102,544)

Deaths 3,600 (+ 99 from yesterday’s 3,501)

 

Lovely. North America moves its clock 3 full weeks ahead of Europe. I lose an hour every morning.

Meanwhile, the virus continues its march unabated. In virus time.

 

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

South Korea has tested 200,000+ people, it says. The Atlantic could only confirm 1,895 tests in the US.

Strongest Evidence Yet That America Is Botching Coronavirus Testing (Atl.)

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.

Read more …

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.

US Airport Screeners, Health Workers Plagued By Fear And Anger (R.)

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.

Read more …

Getting close.

One Tests Positive After Conference Also Attended By Trump, Pence, Pompeo (X.)

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.”

Read more …

Yeah, sure, going for the cheap effect. But this woman is just 36 years old, not 86. Maybe the photo can bring this home.

Nebraska Woman Rushed To Bio-Containment Unit In Specialized Isolation Pod (DM)

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.


A woman who tested positive with the coronavirus is brought to the University of Nebraska Medical Center on Friday. She was transferred from Omaha’s Methodist Hospital in an isolation pod inside an ambulance ©AP

Read more …

Things move fast: mere hours after the closure of Lombardy is reported, a new report says a “Quarter Of Italy’s Population Put In Quarantine” in 11-14 provinces.

Italy To Quarantine Whole Of Lombardy Due To Coronavirus (O.)

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.

Read more …

Ben Hunt: “Italy is a time machine that shows us our future.”

Quarter Of Italy’s Population Put In Quarantine (O.)

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.

https://twitter.com/Dr_FarrisD/status/1236057723621568512

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.

Read more …

And forget about soccer Eurocup, Olympics etc.

Head Of Italy Players’ Union Calls For Soccer To Stop (R.)

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.

Read more …

A long time coming.

Lebanon To Default On Foreign Debt Payments For First Time (BBC)

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.

Read more …

From a few days ago, before the default was announced. France is heavily involved. And the IMF deal should be there any moment now.

IMF Deal Would Spark ‘Popular Revolution’ In Lebanon – Hezbollah (R.)

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.”

Read more …

Most notable: Erdogan keeps the peace for now.

US Blocks UN Statement Backing Syria Ceasefire (Ditz)

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.

Read more …

RT adds a “nice” twist. There are rumors that King Salman has either already died or is about to, and MbS is consolidating his power before his death leads to a revolt.

Top Saudi Royals ‘Arrested For Plotting With Americans Against King’ (RT)

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.

Read more …

Sorry, but no. Putin started this by refusing OPEC+ production cuts. Saudi merely reacted to that.

Saudi Arabia Starts All-Out Oil War (ZH)

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.”

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

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Mar 062020
 
 March 6, 2020  Posted by at 11:22 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  25 Responses »


Russell Lee Proprietor of small store in market square, Waco, Texas Nov 1939

 

China Pharma Exports Cut Would “Plunge US Into Mighty Sea Of Coronavirus” (ZH)
Coronavirus Could Erase $211 Billion From Asia-Pacific Economies – S&P (R.)
South Korea Protests Japan Travel Curbs As Corona Ignites Diplomatic Row (R.)
Vietnam Able To Make 10,000 Coronavirus Test Kits Per Day (VnE)
Boeing 737 MAX Certification Flight Could Come Within ‘A Few Weeks’ (R.)
Trump Attacks Biden’s Cognitive Health (G.)
Romney Says US Senate Republican Probe Of Biden Appears Political (R.)
Senator Schumer Expresses Regret For Supreme Court Comments (R.)
Elizabeth Warren’s Campaign Fell Apart In The Fall, And It Never Recovered (IC)
FBI Agents Linked To Carter Page Surveillance Barred From FISA Process (Turley)
Uneasy Calm In Syria’s Idlib As Russia-Turkey Ceasefire Takes Effect (R.)
Turkey Sends 1,000 Special Forces To EU Border To Prevent Migrant Return (ZH)
Erdogan’s Attempts to Blackmail Europe are Doomed to Fail (Coughlin)

 

 

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.”

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer (Note: mortality rate at 6%):

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

The benefits of globalization keep on giving.

China Pharma Exports Cut Would “Plunge US Into Mighty Sea Of Coronavirus” (ZH)

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.

Read more …

Never a more hollow number was seen. Might as well be a rounding error.

Coronavirus Could Erase $211 Billion From Asia-Pacific Economies – S&P (R.)

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.

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An ideal time to squabble. Well done.

South Korea Protests Japan Travel Curbs As Corona Ignites Diplomatic Row (R.)

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.

Read more …

Everyone’s better prepared than us.

Vietnam Able To Make 10,000 Coronavirus Test Kits Per Day (VnE)

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.

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An A+ for timing. The industry announced just yesterday they expected losses of $120 billion or so.

Boeing 737 MAX Certification Flight Could Come Within ‘A Few Weeks’ (R.)

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.

Read more …

If you kill this an attack, you’ll run out of words soon.

Trump Attacks Biden’s Cognitive Health (G.)

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.

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What sounds really political is Romney saying it.

Romney Says US Senate Republican Probe Of Biden Appears Political (R.)

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.”

Read more …

Brain virus.

Senator Schumer Expresses Regret For Supreme Court Comments (R.)

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.”

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She herself looks on the edge of falling apart too.

Elizabeth Warren’s Campaign Fell Apart In The Fall, And It Never Recovered (IC)

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.

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After obtaining numerous -fraudulent- FISA applications.

FBI Agents Linked To Carter Page Surveillance Barred From FISA Process (Turley)

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.

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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.

Uneasy Calm In Syria’s Idlib As Russia-Turkey Ceasefire Takes Effect (R.)

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.”

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Somebody needs to stop Erdogan in Europe, and Putin doesn’t see that as his job.

Turkey Sends 1,000 Special Forces To EU Border To Prevent Migrant Return (ZH)

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.

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Erdogan sees Brussels as weak. Who’s going to prove him wrong? Or, put another way: what does Erdogan have to lose?

Erdogan’s Attempts to Blackmail Europe are Doomed to Fail (Coughlin)

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.

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

 

Mar 052020
 


DPC Mott Street, Chinatown, New York c1900

 

Wuhan Coronavirus Infections Spike (R.)
Chinese Scientists Identify Two Strains Of The Coronavirus (CNBC)
On The Origin And Continuing Evolution Of SARS-CoV-2 (NSR)
Official US Coronavirus Numbers Are Wrong, and Everyone Knows It (Atl.)
Flybe, Europe’s Largest Regional Airline, Collapses (G.)
California-Based Cruise Ship Quarantined Off Pacific Coast (Pol.)
Purell For $400? US Lawmaker Urges Amazon To Tamp Down Price Gouging (R.)
The Greatest Victory Of The Establishment Since The Defeat Of The Huns (Turley)
Moscow’s Difficult Decision on Idlib (Lawrence)
Russia Reinforces Syria Before Putin-Erdogan Talks (R.)
Tens Of Thousands Blocked At Greek-Turkey Border (K.)
Greece’s Economic ‘Recovery’ Good News For No One But The Rich (Varoufakis)
Half Of Greek Families Still Cite Pensions As Their Main Source Of Income (K.)

 

 

 

Cases 95,880 (+ 4.563 from Tuesday’s 91,317)

Deaths 3,288 (+ 168 from Tuesday’s 3,120)

 

• Fittingly, No Time To Die was postponed

• Biggest news: Scientists find two different corona strains. So what is everyone exactly testing for, at least those that do testing?

• Italy to close all schools and universities, cinemas and theaters, all sports games behind closed doors.
– 587 new cases, 3,089 cases in total, 1,346 hospitalized, 107 deaths, 295 in intensive care

• South Korea 435 new cases, 4 more deaths, 60% linked to Shincheonji church; 136,000 tests

• CDC’s Dr. Fauci said 15-20% of infected people need hospitalization. Britain has 15 beds for worst cases. How many does US have?

• California declares state of emergency, follows WA, FL
– cruise ship stuck off coast

• France 28 new cases, total to 285. 8 deaths.

• UK cases up 34 to 85 – 66% surge.

• Netherlands 40 cases

• Greece 10 cases

• First airline collapses, Flybe, Europe’s largest regional airline

290 million children worldwide locked out of school.
– 13 countries closed all schools, among them Italy, China, Japan, Iran. 9 others have reginal closures, US, Germany, France and more

• “On Tuesday, Ford Motor Company, which employs nearly 200,000 people, told workers to stop all international and U.S. domestic air travel..”

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer (Note: mortality rate at 6%):

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

All is good.

Wuhan Coronavirus Infections Spike (R.)

Mainland China reported a rise in new confirmed cases of coronavirus on Thursday, reversing three straight days of declines, because of a spike in new infections in Wuhan, the city at the center of the outbreak. Mainland China had 139 new confirmed cases as of Wednesday, the National Health Commission (NHC) said, bringing the total accumulated number of cases to 80,409. Authorities reported 119 new cases the previous day and 125 the day before that. The increase was driven by more cases in Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei, where the virus is believed to have emerged in a market late last year.

Wuhan’s new infections climbed to 131 from 114 a day earlier. There was no immediate elaboration and health officials were due to hold a briefing later in the day. After what some critics said was an initially hesitant response to the new virus, China imposed sweeping restrictions to try to stop it, including transport suspensions, lockdowns of cities and extending a Lunar New Year holiday across the country. WHO officials have said other countries have much to learn from the way China has handled the outbreak and Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu said many countries had asked for help and China was responding.

The number of new confirmed cases in Hubei, excluding Wuhan, has remained in single digits for seven consecutive days, with three new infections recorded on Wednesday. In the rest of mainland China, outside Hubei, there were only five new confirmed cases, the health commission said. The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China had reached 3,012 as of the end of Wednesday, up by 31 from the previous day. Hubei accounted for all of the new deaths. In Wuhan, 23 people died. With the downward trend in new cases, Chinese authorities have turned their attention to stopping the virus being brought in from new coronavirus hot spots abroad.

Read more …

A remarkably bland version of the story.

Chinese Scientists Identify Two Strains Of The Coronavirus (CNBC)

Researchers in China have found that two different types of the new coronavirus could be causing infections worldwide. In a preliminary study published Tuesday, scientists at Peking University’s School of Life Sciences and the Institut Pasteur of Shanghai found that a more aggressive type of the new coronavirus had accounted for roughly 70% of analyzed strains, while 30% had been linked to a less aggressive type. The more aggressive type of virus was found to be prevalent in the early stages of the outbreak in Wuhan — the Chinese city where COVID-19 was first detected late last year. But the frequency of this type of virus has since decreased from early January.


The researchers said their results indicate the development of new variations of the spike in COVID-19 cases was “likely caused by mutations and natural selection besides recombination.” “These findings strongly support an urgent need for further immediate, comprehensive studies that combine genomic data, epidemiological data, and chart records of the clinical symptoms of patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19),” they said. Researchers cautioned that data examined in the study was still “very limited,” emphasizing that follow-up studies of a larger set of data would be needed to gain a “better understanding” of the evolution and epidemiology of COVID-19.

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This is more like it. But again, what are we testing for, if we are testing at all? Are all tests exactly the same? And then: do they cover both strains?

On The Origin And Continuing Evolution Of SARS-CoV-2 (NSR)

The SARS-CoV-2 epidemic started in late December 2019 in Wuhan, China, and has since impacted a large portion of China and raised major global concern. Herein, we investigated the extent of molecular divergence between SARS-CoV-2 and other related coronaviruses. Although we found only 4% variability in genomic nucleotides between SARS-CoV-2 and a bat SARS-related coronavirus (SARSr-CoV; RaTG13), the difference at neutral sites was 17%, suggesting the divergence between the two viruses is much larger than previously estimated.


Our results suggest that the development of new variations in functional sites in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the spike seen in SARS-CoV-2 and viruses from pangolin SARSr-CoVs are likely caused by mutations and natural selection besides recombination. Population genetic analyses of 103 SARS-CoV-2 genomes indicated that these viruses evolved into two major types (designated L and S), that are well defined by two different SNPs that show nearly complete linkage across the viral strains sequenced to date. Although the L type (<±70%) is more prevalent than the S type (<±30%), the S type was found to be the ancestral version.

Whereas the L type was more prevalent in the early stages of the outbreak in Wuhan, the frequency of the L type decreased after early January 2020. Human intervention may have placed more severe selective pressure on the L type, which might be more aggressive and spread more quickly. On the other hand, the S type, which is evolutionarily older and less aggressive, might have increased in relative frequency due to relatively weaker selective pressure. These findings strongly support an urgent need for further immediate, comprehensive studies that combine genomic data, epidemiological data, and chart records of the clinical symptoms of patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

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Because no testing.

Official US Coronavirus Numbers Are Wrong, and Everyone Knows It (Atl.)

We know, irrefutably, one thing about the coronavirus in the United States: The number of cases reported in every chart and table is far too low. The data are untrustworthy because the processes we used to get them were flawed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s testing procedures missed the bulk of the cases. They focused exclusively on travelers, rather than testing more broadly, because that seemed like the best way to catch cases entering the country. Just days ago, it was not clear that the virus had spread solely from domestic contact at all. But then cases began popping up with no known international connection. What public-health experts call “community spread” had arrived in the United States. The virus would not be stopped by tight borders, because it was already propagating domestically.

Trevor Bedford’s lab at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, which studies viral evolution, concluded there is “firm evidence” that, at least in Washington State, the coronavirus had been spreading undetected for weeks. Now different projections estimate that 20 to 1,500 people have already been infected in the greater Seattle area. In California, too, the disease appears to be spreading, although the limited testing means that no one is quite sure how far. In total, fewer than 500 people have been tested across the country (although the CDC has stopped reporting that number in its summary of the outbreak). As a result, the current “official” case count inside the United States stood at 43 as of [Tuesday] morning (excluding cruise-ship cases). This number is wrong, yet it’s still constantly printed and quoted. In other contexts, we’d call this what it is: a subtle form of misinformation.

This artificially low number means that for the past few weeks, we’ve seen massive state action abroad and only simmering unease domestically. While Chinese officials were enacting a world-historic containment effort—putting more than 700 million people under some kind of movement restriction, quarantining tens of millions of people, and placing others under new kinds of surveillance—and American public-health officials were staring at the writing on the wall that the disease was extremely likely to spread in the U.S., the public-health response was stuck in neutral. The case count in the U.S. was not increasing at all. Preparing for a sizable outbreak seemed absurd when there were fewer than 20 cases on American soil. Now we know that the disease was already spreading and that it was the U.S. response that was stalled.

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There’s more where that came from.

Flybe, Europe’s Largest Regional Airline, Collapses (G.)

Flybe, Europe’s largest regional airline, has collapsed into administration less than two months after the government announced a rescue deal. The impact of the coronavirus on flight bookings proved the last straw for the Exeter-based airline, which operates almost 40% of UK domestic flights, as the government stalled on a controversial £100m loan. The UK Civil Aviation Authority announced early on Thursday morning that the airline had entered administration. It said all flights were cancelled and urged passengers not to go to airports. Flybe’s bankruptcy has come just a week before a budget that it hoped would help bolster its precarious finances, after the previous chancellor said he would look again at levels of air passenger duty (APD) .


However, the airline’s owners Connect Airways – a consortium of Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Air and hedge fund Cyrus Capital – have pulled the plug, a little over a year after buying it. The airline employed more than 2,000 people and was one of the leading carriers at airports including Belfast, Southampton, Manchester and Birmingham. Around 8 million people a year used its services. Unions have warned that other jobs would be put at risk by Flybe’s collapse, and transport links lost on dozens of domestic routes where it is the sole operator. Flybe has long struggled to balance the books, despite cost-cutting plans and redundancies, and was reporting losses of around £20m a year before the Connect takeover. [..] It is the second major British airline to go bankrupt in six months, following the collapse of Thomas Cook last September.

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Can we close the entire industry yet?

California-Based Cruise Ship Quarantined Off Pacific Coast (Pol.)

Another Princess Cruises ship has set off coronavirus alarms after a California passenger who traveled to Mexico died this week, more than 10 days after returning home without knowledge of his exposure. Two shiploads of passengers may have been exposed. State and federal officials are scurrying to contact 2,500-plus passengers who disembarked Feb. 21 from the San Francisco-Mexico cruise at the same time as the man who died, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday. California is also keeping Grand Princess passengers on the current San Francisco-Hawaii trip in the Pacific Ocean indefinitely until state and federal officials can assess how many passengers and crew have coronavirus or have been exposed.


“We have a number of passengers and crew members who have developed symptoms on this ship,” Newsom told reporters at a briefing this afternoon to announce a state of emergency. He later specified that 11 passengers and 10 crew members had symptoms, though he described the situation as fluid. Sixty-two passengers remain on the ship from the preceding San Francisco-Mexico journey, and they have been quarantined in their rooms, according to Princess Cruises. The Grand Princess was due back tonight in San Francisco until California requested that it remain at sea as the state sends test kits, Newsom said.

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A US Senator who doesn’t like capitalism at its finest. Commie!

Purell For $400? US Lawmaker Urges Amazon To Tamp Down Price Gouging (R.)

Amazon.com should stop third-party sellers from price gouging for items like Purell hand sanitizer as people seek to protect themselves from the coronavirus, U.S. Senator Edward Markey said in a letter to the online retailer on Wednesday. A box of small Purell bottles that usually sells for $10 was listed online for $400, he said. One third-party seller listed a bottle for $600 on Wednesday afternoon. However, the Amazon brand of hand sanitizer was listed for $8.25 for a large bottle. [..] “As the world confronts the prospect of a serious and far-reaching pandemic, corporate America has a responsibility to prevent profiteering on the sales of items such as hand-sanitizer and surgical masks,” Markey wrote in his letter.


Amazon called the price-gougers “bad actors.” “There is no place for price gouging on Amazon,” a spokesman said in a statement. “We continue to actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policies.” Amazon said it was monitoring prices to ensure sellers complied with fair pricing policies and said that it could remove sellers who violate them. Amazon last week barred more than 1 million products that inaccurately claimed to cure or defend against the coronavirus. Amazon also removed tens of thousands of deals from merchants that it said attempted to price gouge customers.

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Even Jonathan Turley doesn’t approve of this.

I like Biden claiming, in response to Bernie saying the establishment is circling the wagons for Biden, that literally everybody’s definition of the establishment is wrong: African Americans and single women in suburbia are the establishment. If you don’t boo that out of the room, who are you?

‘The establishment are all those hard-working, middle-class people, those African Americans, those single women in suburbia. They are the establishment,’ said Joe Biden.

Not as bad, though, as abusing his dead son Beau’s memory by saying Mayor Pete reminds him of Beau. Using your dead son for political games is real low.

But the real establishment are now stuck with Sleepy Joe, even though many will realize he’s roadkill.

The Greatest Victory Of The Establishment Since The Defeat Of The Huns (Turley)

The media and political establishment in Washington was openly celebrating what was portrayed as a near complete victory of Joe Biden over the hoards of Sanders supporters marching toward gates of the Beltway. The establishment united this week behind Biden with candidates like Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and others rallying forces to defeat Bernie Sanders at all costs. Not since the victory over Attila the Hun at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains has the ancien regime experienced such a thrilling moment. However, the history is not good for those celebrating behind the walls of Rome.


I recently wrote how there remains a visceral distaste for the media and political establishment for many voters as they watched the concerted effort to defeat outsider candidates. That was also the case in 2016 with the effort to elect Hillary Clinton. The utter joy expressed this morning will only fuel that feeling of disenfranchisement. What we can expect is the continued strategic endorsements of establishment figures in the coming weeks and exhaustive coverage on the weakening Sanders and the surging Biden. MSNBC was particularly aggressive in framing the election night and attacking the very premise of the Sanders’ movement. MSNBC anchor Nicolle Wallace bizarrely claimed that there was no effort by the establishment to prop up Biden.

Wallace declared “Bernie Sanders… he has turned this idea of the establishment – he’s weaponized it against Biden,” she said. “The Democratic establishment did nothing for Joe Biden.” Really? Various establishment figures lined up behind Biden in the last week while CNN and MSNBC continued a relentless series of attacks on Sanders and his supporters. Nevertheless, host Rachel Maddow agreed that sought to downplay the concerted effort in DC to push Biden: “every headline in all political coverage all around the country is like, ‘The establishment is coalescing the establishment.” She then suggested that this is all a lie that was used against that other seemingly wrongly candidate, Hillary Clinton: “It’s what he did against Hillary Clinton in 2016 as well.”


Maddow simply dismisses the admissions of how the DNC rigged elements of the 2016 primary for Clinton or how Clinton took over the debt of the DNC to exercise such control. She also dismisses how polls showed that Clinton was widely viewed as unauthentic and the ultimate establishment figure when the public clearly wanted a change in Washington. Instead, Maddow and Wallace portray the entire movement by Sanders to be a lie. Not to be subtle, Wallace not only calls this all a lie but portrays Biden’s victory (with a long line of establishment endorsement) as a victory over the establishment: “But it’s a lie, I mean, it’s a lie. Listen, and I say this as a dispassionate former Republican who watched my party sort of implode around fake truths and false grievances, the establishment had nothing to do with Joe Biden’s victory. He’s flat broke, he has not a single ad on the air. He’s not advertising in any Super Tuesday states!”

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Not a great piece, but few people understand what’s going on.

Moscow’s Difficult Decision on Idlib (Lawrence)

The Syrian Arab Army, a force for good, must not stop short of decisive victory in Idlib, the governorate in northwest Syria sheltering the last jihadist militias operating on Syrian soil. Russia, which is correctly (and legally) supporting the S.A.A.’s campaign, should try to avoid a direct conflict with a NATO member but should engage Turkish forces if there is no alternative. NATO, breaking its own Article 5 covenant, will not come to the aid of a member nation engaged in so despicable an assault on another sovereign nation. I am not alone in holding this opinion. Don’t forget: Most NATO members are squeamish, mealy-mouthed Europeans who have given up the ghost in Syria. It will do the entire world much good if the egregious Erdogan sustains the bloodiest nose of his six years as Turkey’s dictatorial president in consequence of this drive into Syria.

Let us say precisely the same of what remains of the U.S. presence in Syria. Excellent it will be if Washington must at last acknowledge that it has lost every chip it has put down in Syria since it began arming, training and financing a variety of vicious Islamist factions, including the Islamic State, in early 2012 at the very latest. At this point it claims to be protecting Syrian oilfields from… Syria. This is not Turkey’s first foray into Syrian territory, let us remember. It launched a similar campaign in 2016; it began another incursion last autumn. Turkey has from the start of the Syrian conflict been a conduit for arms supplies to the Islamic State and other jihadists, while transshipping Syrian oil from ISIS–controlled refineries into international markets.

[..] Erdogan has betrayed the Russians so often it is a wonder Moscow has any patience left for him. A Turkish F–16 shot down a Russian jet two months after Russian aircraft deployed in Syria five years ago. Ankara and Moscow agreed two years ago to establish a ceasefire zone in northwest Syria, with Turkey also committing to remove jihadists led by Hayat Tahrir al–Sham, formerly al–Nusra, which was formerly al–Qaeda in Syria in the name-changing shell game these cutthroats play. That accord went the way of the West (so to say) long ago.

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How to make normal procedures sound scary. Yes, Russia may have send a few ships through the Bosporus, in case Erdogan would have closed it.

Wonder what will be made public about the talks today. Erdogan will declare victory no doubt. How far will Lavrov go to deny that?

Russia Reinforces Syria Before Putin-Erdogan Talks (R.)

Russia is racing to reinforce its troops in Syria by sea and air before talks between the Russian and Turkish leaders in Moscow on Thursday, flight data and shipping movements show. The two presidents, Vladimir Putin and Tayyip Erdogan, agreed to meet after a surge in tensions between their countries over fighting in Syria’s Idlib province between Russian-backed Syrian government forces and rebels allied to Turkey. The fighting has raised the prospect of a direct clash between their armies, which operate in close proximity on opposing sides, and Erdogan hopes the talks will yield a ceasefire in Idlib.


A Reuters analysis of flight data and correspondents’ monitoring of shipping in the Bosphorus Strait in northwestern Turkey show Russia began to step up naval and airborne deliveries to Syria on Feb. 28, the day after 34 Turkish soldiers were killed in an air strike in Syria. That incident prompted concern in Moscow that Turkey might close the Bosphorus to Russian warships and bar Russian military transport planes from using Turkish air space. The Russian Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A Turkish official, who asked not to be identified, said there was no plan to close the strait, which would force Russia to take longer routes to Syria. But Russia appears to be reinforcing Syria at its fastest rate since October, when U.S. forces withdrew from some parts of Syria and Moscow scrambled to fill the vacuum.

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Stalemate.

Tens Of Thousands Blocked At Greek-Turkey Border (K.)

A total of 32,423 individuals were prevented from entering Greece as of Saturday morning and 231 have been arrested, Greek authorities said on Wednesday on the latest count of irregular migrants attempting to enter Greece at the Evros border region with Turkey. According to the data, from 6 a.m. on Wednesday to 6 p.m. the same day, 11 individuals were arrested in Evros, most of which have been identified as Afghani nationals. A total of 4,600 people were prevented from entering illegally in Greece during the same 12-hour period. On Wednesday, Greek authorities fired tear gas and stun grenades to thwart a crowd of migrants making a push to cross the border from Turkey, as tensions increased after Turkey declared it was allowing migrants and refugees to reach Europe.

Read more …

Hedge funds buying family homes for cheap. That is Europe.

Greece’s Economic ‘Recovery’ Good News For No One But The Rich (Varoufakis)

Costas runs a small bookshop in my central Athens neighbourhood. Although jovial by constitution, he finds it difficult to hide the worry lines multiplying on his face. Fifteen years ago he put his flat up as collateral for a business loan to spruce up the bookshop. When the Greek debt crisis wreaked its havoc, it was impossible to service that loan. Today, Costas is one of hundreds of thousands facing foreclosures by funds that have purchased debt like his from the banks at bargain basement prices. The bailiff and the auctioneer are circling above distressed homeowners and small business people such as Costas.

Paradox is a Greek word for good reason: today’s Greece proves that it is perfectly possible for the state and for the majority of citizens to be sinking deeper into insolvency while the oligarchy makes a mint from trading in their assets. But why would investors lend to the Greek government cheaply if it remains bankrupt?

The reason is that the troika of Greece’s creditors – the EU, European Central Bank and the IMF – have taken 85% of government debt out of the money markets and placed it squarely on the shoulders of Europe’s taxpayers. They also deferred all repayments until after 2032 and extended another €30bn of official loans to the Greek government to cover its repayments to privateers. So why not lend to the Greek government at a small, yet positive, interest rate when the alternative is to lend to the German or the Dutch governments at the current negative interest rates? As long as the Greek government remains the troika’s model prisoner, lending to Greece’s insolvent state at minuscule rates is lucrative. Paradox solved!

Turning to Greece’s private sector, how can investors profit from it if it too is bankrupt? With great ease is the answer, as Costas’s case illustrates. His loan of €100,000 was sold on by his bank to a hedge fund for €8,000. If the fund auctions off his flat for €20,000, its profit rate will hit an astonishing 250%. The fact that Costas will lose both his home and his bookshop, with detrimental effects on the state’s taxes and outlays (as he begins to draw unemployment benefit), does not even appear on the radar of the hedge fund or the international media.

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Maybe down a few percentage points from 2015, but not much. Entire families living on $400-$800 a month. And no, Greece is not cheap.

Half Of Greek Families Still Cite Pensions As Their Main Source Of Income (K.)

Pensions remain the main source of income for half of Greece’s households, a survey by the Small Enterprises Institute of the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen & Merchants (IME GSEVEE) has shown. The phenomenon is linked to the particularly large number of pensioners – 2.55 million, according to official figures – and the fact that unemployment remains at high levels while salaries remain low. The survey shows that although the country has successfully concluded its third bailout, the decade-long financial crisis is still having a strong impact on Greek society. This is even more obvious in lower income brackets that continue to be at risk of serious social and economic uncertainties.


The survey was held from late December to early January, that is before the coronavirus outbreak and whatever economic impact it has had so far. The IME GSEVEE survey, conducted in association with Marc researchers, showed that 49.4 percent of households declared pensions as their main source of income, up from 49.1 percent a year earlier.

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Jan 292020
 


Marion Post Wolcott Main Street. Sheridan, Wyoming 1941

 

Number Of Coronavirus Cases Surpasses SARS (ZH)
Coronavirus May Disrupt Apple’s iPhone Production Ramp Up (R.)
White House Tells Airlines It May Suspend All China-US Flights (CNBC)
British Airways Suspends All Direct Flights To And From Mainland China (BBC)
China Boom Exposes Airlines To Coronavirus Risk (R.)
Viewers Choose Day Time Soaps Over The Impeachment Trial (Turley)
Democrats’ Dubious Impeachment Subtext of Treason (Michael Tracey)
Shoot Article II and Call The Witnesses (Turley)
Trump and Netanyahu Dictate Terms of Palestinian Surrender (IC)
Israel Will Now Officially Become an Apartheid State (Lauria)
Hamas Calls Trump’s Mideast Plan ‘Aggressive’ (RT)
Brexit Britain To Outperform Brussels As ‘Ineffective’ Bloc Gamble Backfires (Exp.)
Human Rights Report To Oppose Extradition Of Julian Assange To US (G.)
Democratic Super PAC Ad Targets Bernie Sanders, Mentions Heart Attack (Hill)
No Points For Saying Anything Good About Russia – Stephen Cohen (RT)

 

 

First, we’re getting into faulty territory as far as terminology is concerned. We can call the current virus, “coronavirus”, and I have as well, but we can’t say things like “Number Of Coronavirus Cases Surpasses SARS”, because SARS is also a coronavirus, like MERS. They belong to the same “family”. The current virus is officially called “2019-nCOV”. Not too catchy. Perhaps “Wuhan coronavirus” is a good compromise, but that’s long. Here’s why they have that name:

 


Coronavirus under electron microscope

 

At dawn Beijing time, the latest numbers came out, and they said 131 deaths, which would have been another increase of 25, the third day in a row. later it was raised to 132. So over the past 5 days we have increases of 15, 15, 25, 25 and 26.

60,000 people are under observation, 20,000 of which in Hubei. 263 cases are deemed “severe.” Today was the first time that more new cases were reported outside of Hubei province than inside it. It was also the first time that the numbers of increases was over 1,000 (I’ve seen that called a tipping point). There are 19 countries that have reported cases: China, United States, France, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, Nepal, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Canada, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Germany, UAE.

A remarkable stsatement came from Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory diseases expert, who said the outbreak hasn’t yet reached its peak, though he thinks the number of new cases will plateau within the next ten days.

But that is very different from what HKU’s faculty of medicine dean Gabriel Leung says. Does Zhong do Beijing damage control? Or will the epidemic fizzle out within a week?

SARS reached its peak after 4-5 months. The episode lasted 9 months. The “2019-nCOV” “Wuhan coronavirus” has already infected more people in one month than SARS during its entire episode.

Leung said his team’s research showed self-sustaining human-to-human transmission was already happening in all major mainland cities and warned that a pandemic might be close. “We have to be prepared, that this particular epidemic may be about to become a global epidemic,” he said. The team’s model predicted the number of infections in five mainland megacities – Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chongqing – would peak between late April and early May.


At the height of the epidemic, as many as 150,000 new cases would be confirmed every day in Chongqing, because of its large population coupled with intense travel volume with Wuhan. But Leung added that their projections could be too pessimistic as they only took into account lockdown measures in Wuhan and not other health intervention policies.

Compare with Fibonacci:

 


Fibonacci

 

 

Already more cases than during 9 months of SARS.

Number Of Coronavirus Cases Surpasses SARS (ZH)

It’s only 8:15 am in Beijing and health officials have already confirmed more than 840 new cases in Hubei Province. That brings the toll to 6,049, including 263 cases deemed “severe.” The death toll has climbed to 132, according to SCMP. Those who have been closely comparing this outbreak with the 2003 SARS outbreak may notice that the coronavirus has achieved an important milestone. Barely a week into global response to the outbreak, the number of confirmed cases has already passed the number of SARS cases reported during the entire monthslong ordeal. Sars infected 5,327 people in mainland China in nine months and killed 349 people, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).


Another 60k people are said to be under observation across China, with 20k in Hubei alone. Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory diseases expert who spoke with the SCMP on Tuesday, the outbreak hasn’t yet reached its peak, though he thinks the number of new cases will plateau within the next ten days. Back in the US, the Trump Administration is denying reports that it’s considering a total ban on passenger travel between the US and China. Will the fact that the coronavirus has already surpassed SARS – and is on track to achieve some of the more dire projections shared by epidemiologists – shake the market’s confidence? Or will a few soothing words from Jerome Powell save the day?

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Airlines don’t fly. Borders are closing. What will happen to business? Will we keep importing Chinese products? Will they still export?

Tourism in EU and US will be hit very hard.

But Apple was doing so well, up 86% in 2019. “Apple has bought back $319 billion in stock over the past 7 years, which is greater than the market cap of 490 companies in the S&P 500.”

Coronavirus May Disrupt Apple’s iPhone Production Ramp Up (R.)

Apple’s plan to ramp up iPhone production by 10% in the first half of this year may hit a roadblock as the coronavirus outbreak spreads across China, the Nikkei Asian Review reported on Tuesday. The company has asked its suppliers, many of whom have manufacturing centers in China, to make up to 80 million iPhones in the first half of 2020, the Nikkei reported, citing people familiar with the company’s plans. Apple has booked orders for up to 65 million of its older iPhones and up to 15 million units of a new cut-price model that it plans to unveil in March, according to the report. However, the mass production which is due to start in the third week of February might be delayed due to the virus outbreak, the Nikkei reported.


The coronavirus outbreak has so far killed more than 100 people and infected over 4,500 in China, stranded tens of millions during the Lunar New Year holiday and rattled global markets. Apple’s shares rose about 86% in 2019, outperforming a 29% rise in the S&P 500 index. The stock closed down nearly 3% at $308.95 on Monday as coronavirus fears dragged down high-flying U.S. chip and technology stocks. Cupertino, California-based Apple, which raked in more than $142 billion in iPhone sales in fiscal 2019, has introduced lower priced smartphone variants to woo budget conscious shoppers and check declining sales of its biggest product category.

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They will regret not having done it already. Note: this concerns flights to all of China, not just Wuhan.

White House Tells Airlines It May Suspend All China-US Flights (CNBC)

White House officials have told U.S. airlines the Trump administration is considering suspending flights from China to the U.S. amid an escalating outbreak of a new coronavirus that has infected thousands of people across the world, people familiar with the matter said. The Trump administration is looking at a variety of measures to contain the fast-spreading virus, U.S. health officials told reporters on a conference call Tuesday. White House officials called executives at major U.S. carriers on Tuesday, telling them that a temporary ban on China flights is on the table, according to people familiar with those conversations. As of Tuesday evening, the Trump administration had not taken that step and there was no guarantee that it would do so.


Two of the people said the White House told them it doesn’t immediately plan to ban China air travel, but administration officials are constantly evaluating the situation. United Airlines, which has the most service of the U.S. airlines to Hong Kong and mainland China with about a dozen daily flights, on Tuesday announced it would cancel dozens of flights next month to Hong Kong and mainland China as the outbreak worsens. The Chicago-based airline said it has experienced a “significant decline in demand for travel to China.” United and its rivals Delta and American are waiving cancellation and change fees for travelers booked to China.

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More will follow. No choice. No customers.

British Airways Suspends All Direct Flights To And From Mainland China (BBC)

British Airways has suspended all direct flights to and from mainland China because of the coronavirus outbreak, the airline has said. It comes after the UK Foreign Office advised against all but essential travel to the country. The virus has caused more than 100 deaths, spreading across China and to at least 16 other countries. Hundreds of foreign nationals have been evacuated from the city of Wuhan, the centre of the outbreak. The UK government is arranging to evacuate Britons from Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province, with up to 300 British people thought to be in the area. Australia plans to quarantine its 600 returning citizens for two weeks on Christmas Island – some 2,000km (1,200 miles) from the mainland. Japan, the US and other EU countries are also repatriating their citizens.

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Boeing can’t catch a break. They don’t deserve one.

China Boom Exposes Airlines To Coronavirus Risk (R.)

Margins at many carriers remain narrow, economic growth has been fragile amid a U.S.-China trade war and there are fears that the return of the 737 MAX, expected mid-year, could lead to overcapacity and push down fares. Airbus and Boeing orders have fallen from the peak levels of 2013 and 2014. The epidemic is particularly concerning to the industry because China is the world’s biggest outbound international travel market and the second-largest domestic aviation market. The country accounts for about 25% of global sales for airplane manufacturers Airbus and Boeing. About 450 million more passengers fly to, from and within China per year compared with a decade ago, according to the IATA.


For Chinese airlines, the biggest of which are state-backed, the impact of the new coronavirus has been swift. On Wednesday, 23% of departures from Shanghai Hongqiao airport had been canceled, according to FlightRadar24, compared with 8% at the more internationally focused Shanghai Pudong airport. Mike Boyd, head of U.S.-based aviation consultancy Boyd Group International, said that he had forecast airport traffic in China to rise 8.1% in 2020, but that he now sees traffic growing at less than half that rate. “It is a real slam,” he said. Cathay Pacific, already battered by a fall in demand because of anti-government protests in its home market of Hong Kong, said on Tuesday evening it would cut flights to mainland China by 50% or more through the end of March.

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“For viewers, the result is the equivalent to watching professional wrestling with the same fake matches but without the thrill of an occasional pile driver.”

Viewers Choose Day Time Soaps Over The Impeachment Trial (Turley)

In the 1960s, many of the Senators heard the anti-war slogan of “what if they held a war and nobody came?” This week, they finally learned the answer . . . at least in holding an impeachment. Senators have expressed surprise at the empty seats in the Senate gallery. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said he was “really surprised . . . because this is kind of historic.” It is but the members are increasingly making history alone. Not only are spectators sparse, but the television audience has been declining to the point that, by the second day, the networks quickly switched over to shows in greater demand like The Young and The Restless.

Of course, there was a time when impeachment actually involved real trials. The trial of Andrew Johnson had dozens of witnesses. While the rage and partisanship was if anything greater in 1868, the trial itself was more substantive and deliberative. The Clinton trial abandoned that model at the insistence of Democrats like Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) who opposed any witnesses and even wanted a summary vote without a trial. Only three depositions were allowed and then live testimony was blocked. For viewers, the result is the equivalent to watching professional wrestling with the same fake matches but without the thrill of an occasional pile driver. If the two teams are going to pretend to have a match, Schiff could at least pretend to hit Sekulow with a chair. The game – and ratings – changer may be the chance of witnesses which increased with the leaking of the material from the book of John Bolton.

While a Bolton appearance might “jump the shark” like Happy Days, it would add precisely what is missing in his ratings flop: drama. The size of the viewing audience should not matter, but it does because there is no real effort to try this case to a verdict. The arguments are tailored for public consumption, not jury deliberation. Edward R. Morrow once noted that “If we were to do the Second Coming of Christ in color for a full hour, there would be a considerable number of stations which would decline to carry it on the grounds that a Western or a quiz show would be more profitable.” This is not the Second Coming. It is more like the hundredth retelling the same scripted narrative. That is why viewers prefer to see how Pamela on The Bold and the Beautiful is going to kill Donna in the cabin while a bear is circling outside. Why? Because they do not know who will win: Pamela, Donna, or the bear. Now that is a drama.

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Fast and loose with terminology. Not a great idea for lawmakers.

Democrats’ Dubious Impeachment Subtext of Treason (Michael Tracey)

Less than 72 hours before Donald Trump was impeached last month, the House Judiciary Committee released a behemoth 658-page report outlining the rationale for the final articles produced by the Democratic majority. It would be interesting to conduct a secret ballot asking members of Congress — and indeed, members of the media — to confide whether they actually read the report before the vote took place. [..] Even if the Senate trial fails to result in a conviction (as is exceedingly likely) the long-term implications of what the House of Representatives has already ratified by way of its impeachment vote in December are highly ominous. For instance — and the fact that this has been overlooked is especially mind-blowing — the first article alleges that Trump “betrayed the Nation.” Grave stuff.

No president has ever been impeached for “betraying the Nation” before. What does this mean, exactly? The Judiciary Committee report helpfully provides a definition of the relevant terms. In a section describing what they believe constitutes “impeachable treason,” the Democratic majority writes, “At the very heart of ‘Treason’ is deliberate betrayal of the nation and its security.” There’s that phrase: “betrayal of the nation.” According to the drafters of the impeachment articles, then, Trump has been effectively impeached for treason — except the drafters presumably recognized that inserting the word “treason” in the actual text might prove a tad controversial. So instead they just heavily insinuate it, and confirm that they are charging the president with treason in supporting materials that few will ever read.

“Such betrayal would not only be unforgivable,” the report’s explication of treason reads, “but would also confirm that the President remains a threat if allowed to remain in office. A President who has knowingly betrayed national security is a President who will do so again. He endangers our lives and those of our allies.” This language is then imported into the impeachment articles almost verbatim: “Wherefore President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office.” So let’s be clear on what was done here. The Democrats set forth a definition of treason in their lengthy impeachment report, and then inserted that same definition into the final impeachment articles — except without using the actual word “treason” in the text.

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A.k.a. Call Article II and Shoot The Witnesses.

Shoot Article II and Call The Witnesses (Turley)

Famed economist John Kenneth Galbraith once described politics as “the art of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.” Those words could not more aptly describe the choice now facing the House managers who lost this case before it began. Not because of the Republican majority but because of its own historic blunder in rushing the impeachment forward on an incomplete record. It now must make a choice between the disastrous in simply staying the course to certain acquittal or the unpalatable in admitting the blunder and offering a compromise. Thus far, the suggestions of a compromise has centered on an unlikely horse trade of a witness like former National Security Adviser John Bolton for Hunter Biden.

However, such a compromise does not address the separate institutional concern of some senators, which likely includes the four swing senators. For them, the threshold issue is not the inclusion of witnesses in the Senate but their omission by the House. This week, a key Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska), indicated that she was not inclined to call witnesses that the House failed to pursue in its rushed vote. The decision is now with the House managers. They can either just grab the face time on national television or they can move to deal with its blunder and try to resuscitate this case. It might be able to do so but it will have to offer more than a witness swap.

A better compromise might be found in the two articles themselves. To put it simply, it may be time to dismiss Article 2. The obstruction of Congress article was dead on arrival but its dismissal could allow the Senate to go on the record in opposition to the House handling of this impeachment. It just might be enough to open a path for witnesses on Article 1 and abuse of power. The House destroyed any chance for an obstruction article when made an impeachment by Christmas its overriding priority despite warnings that it would effectively hand over an incomplete case to not just the other house but the opposing party.

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The UN should scrap its articles on self-determination in protest.

Trump and Netanyahu Dictate Terms of Palestinian Surrender (IC)

Flanked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but no Palestinian leader, President Donald Trump unveiled “a vision for peace” in the Middle East on Tuesday which permits Israel to annex much of the occupied West Bank immediately, offering the Palestinians only local control in isolated Bantustans surrounded by Israeli territory. As many Israeli political observers noted, the timing of the announcement, just hours after Netanyahu was indicted on corruption charges in Jerusalem, looked like an effort to boost the prime minister’s bid to win reelection in March, his best hope for avoiding prison.

The release of the 180-page plan — which was drafted by aides to Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and an old family friend of Netanyahu — was staged as a celebration, and acted as a dual campaign rally, with the American president and the Israeli prime minister boasting of all they had achieved for Israel to a room filled with far-right supporters of the Jewish state, including Sheldon Adelson, the Republican and Likud megadonor who spent millions of dollars to elect both leaders. Trump, who intervened in a previous Israeli election campaigns on Netanyahu’s behalf — by recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights last year — gave the embattled prime minister a podium at the White House to detail conditions imposed on the Palestinians which sounded like terms of surrender.

To start with, Netanyahu said, the Palestinians would be required to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, cede the entire Jordan Valley, disarm Hamas, and abandon the hope for both the return of refugees who fled homes in what is now Israel and for a capital in Jerusalem’s Old City. [..] Crisis Group analyst Tareq Baconi observed, “The plan sets out parameters that are impossible for Palestinians to accept, and effectively provides Israel with a blueprint to sustain the one-state reality that exists on the ground.” That sentiment was echoed by Hagai El-Ad, the executive director of B’Tselem, an Israeli rights group that monitors the occupation. “What the Palestinians are being ‘offered’ now is not rights or a state, but a permanent state of Apartheid. No amount of marketing can erase this disgrace or blur the facts,”

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An invitation for violence.

Israel Will Now Officially Become an Apartheid State (Lauria)

Within hours of the so-called Trump peace plan on the Palestine-Israel question being revealed on Tuesday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would propose the first phase of West Bank annexation to the Israeli cabinet on Sunday. Netanyahu sprang into action after the plan, which he essentially created, was unveiled by Trump with Netanyahu at his side at the White House. It was the final piece of a strategy that only a U.S. administration as slavishly pro-Israel as Trump’s could give Netanyahu. First the Israeli prime minister got the U.S. on Dec. 6, 2017 to recognize all of Jerusalem, including Arab East Jerusalem, as Israel’s capital with the move of the U.S. embassy there, something every previous U.S. administration had refused to do. Then on March 25, 2019 Trump recognized Israel’s illegal 1981 annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights.


Just three months ago Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared expanding Israeli colonies on the West Bank as legal, a violation of the 4th Geneva Convention, which says: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The last piece Netanyahu needed was Tuesday’s much-awaited “peace plan” from the most anti-Palestinian administration in U.S. history. Even The New York Times‘ coverage admitted the plan was strongly biased towards Israel and that Netanyahu was in on the secretive plan all along. The operation was run by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, whose family are close personal friends with Netanyahu. It is a plan being imposed on the Palestinians rather than arising out of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations as past U.S. administrations tried to do.

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“Trump’s statement is aggressive and it will spark a lot of anger…”

Hamas Calls Trump’s Mideast Plan ‘Aggressive’ (RT)

Hamas has brushed off US President Donald Trump’s proposal on Jerusalem as “nonsense.” The group rejected his peace plan altogether by calling his statement “aggressive,” adding that it would only spark “anger.” “Trump’s statement is aggressive and it will spark a lot of anger,” Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters. Zuhri particularly slammed the US leader’s proposal on the future of Jerusalem, calling it “nonsense.” He added that the city will always be a land for the Palestinians, and that they would oppose Trump’s deal. Zuhri particularly slammed the US leader’s proposal on the future of Jerusalem, calling it “nonsense.”


He added that the city “will always be a land for the Palestinians”, and that they would oppose Trump’s deal. Trump’s speech contained conflicting messages, with him first declaring that Jerusalem would be Israel’s “undivided” capital, only to then say that Eastern Jerusalem will be turned into the capital of a newly formed Palestinian state if Palestinians accept his deal. He even vowed to open a US embassy there.

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Says Steve Keen. Not sure I would agree. For this to happen, Britain being successful, Boris would need to create some kind of unity in the country that does not today exist. But he’s much more likely to create more austerity, and divide it even more.

Brexit Britain To Outperform Brussels As ‘Ineffective’ Bloc Gamble Backfires (Exp.)

The European Union and Britain are expected to begin trade talks once EU leaders agree on a mandate in the weeks after Brexit on January 31, 2020. Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Monday insisted the EU27 will hold the cards in the negotiations but economist Steve Keen said the bloc is likely to avoid any new “gambit” to secure an agreement and avoid the fall out of Britain leaving the EU. Speaking to RT News, Mr Keen said: “The whole reason the European Union was doing this ever since the Brexit vote is because they were trying to stop the vote going ahead. “Now, with Boris’ success in the election, they know that particular gamble is no longer workable, they have to make some sort of arrangement over the long-term.


“And they’ve got the hope the UK does worse and pleads to come back into the fold sometime down the track.” Mr Keen continued: “But I think that’s wishful thinking. “The European Union is a very poorly designed, ineffective trade bloc and it’s likely to do less well rather than better than the UK over time.” Speaking to the BBC, Irish Taoiseach Varadkar insisted the size of the European Union will play a significant role when the time comes to strike a Brexit trade deal with the United Kingdom in the coming months. Mr Varadkar said: “I think the reality of the situation is that the European Union is a union of 27 member states. “The UK is only one country. And we have a population and a market of 450 million people. The UK, it’s about 60. “So if these were two teams up against each other playing football, who do you think has the stronger team? So long as we’re united.”

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Why would Britain feel compelled to listen to the Council of Europe’s parliamentary arm? They’re leaving the EU in 2days.

Human Rights Report To Oppose Extradition Of Julian Assange To US (G.)

Julian Assange’s detention “sets a dangerous precedent for journalists”, according to politicians from the Council of Europe’s parliamentary arm, who voted on Tuesday to oppose the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition to the US. The words of support for Assange and implicit criticism of the UK government will be contained in a final report produced by the Labour peer Lord Foulkes for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which focuses on upholding human rights across the continent. Assange is being held in London’s Belmarsh prison prior to an extradition hearing that will begin in February. A US grand jury has indicted him on 18 charges – 17 of which fall under the Espionage Act – around conspiracy to receive, obtaining and disclosing classified diplomatic and military documents.

Foulkes had drafted an initial report – Threats to Media Freedom and Journalists’ Security in Europe – that will now contain amendments referring to Assange tabled by a number of European parliamentarians. One of the amendments backs the recommendation of the UN special rapporteur on torture who called last year for Assange’s release and for extradition to the United States to be blocked. The other states that his possible extradition to the US “would set a precedent and threaten journalists’ freedoms in all member states”.

Foulkes told the Guardian that campaigners and supporters of Assange had written to him while he was writing the report, which addresses media freedoms and threats to journalists in countries including Russia, Turkey and Malta, and asked that he consider including an amendment mentioning Assange. As a rapporteur for the assembly, he said it was not his role to do so but that colleagues from other states had done so. He added: “I was in favour of him being sent back to Sweden when there were allegations against him to face that, but as far as the US is concerned I think there would be deep concerns if he were to be sent there.”

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The Democratic Majority for Israel PAC. Let’s get uglier.

Democratic Super PAC Ad Targets Bernie Sanders, Mentions Heart Attack (Hill)

A Democratic super PAC is expected to release a new ad campaign Wednesday that targets Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and the heart attack that he suffered late last year. The ad from Democratic Majority for Israel features six Iowa voters and argues Sanders would be unable to beat President Trump in November, The New York Times reported. “I like Bernie, I think he has great ideas, but in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa, they’re just not going to vote for a socialist,” a male voter says in the ad, according to the Times. “I just don’t think Bernie can beat Trump.” Another voter highlights the heart attack that Sanders, 78, suffered while on the campaign trail in Las Vegas at the beginning of October.


“I do have some concerns about Bernie Sanders’s health considering the fact that he did have a heart attack,” the person says, according to the newspaper. PAC president Mark Mellman told the publication that the goal of the ad is to highlight concerns that some Democratic voters have about Sanders’s electability, asserting the senator was in a “uniquely bad position” to defeat Trump. “For many months people were saying he really didn’t have much of a chance, but you have to look at the data now and say he does have a realistic chance of winning Iowa and potentially the nomination,” he said. “This is the point at which there could be room for someone else to make their case and have a better candidate emerge.”

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I don’t think Schiff “misunderstands” Russia or Putin. I think he wants war. And Trump won’t deliver.

No Points For Saying Anything Good About Russia – Stephen Cohen (RT)

US Congress heavyweights like Adam Schiff deeply misunderstand Russia but keep on bashing Moscow because it has become “politically advantageous” in Washington, Russia researcher Stephen Cohen said. “Being highly-critical of Russia is good politics in the United States,” Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies at New York University and Princeton University, told the Grayzone’s Aaron Mate in an interview, uploaded online on Monday. “Nobody ever gets any points for saying anything good about Russia – and only rarely for advocating any kind of partnership with Russia.” Cohen said that “politically it’s advantageous to a lot of people to bash Russia,” and even some of the “progressive” Democratic Party candidates in the 2020 presidential race employ rhetoric, which is hostile toward Moscow.


“It has become an American way of life to blame Russia when things go wrong. Of course, sometimes Russia is to blame, but not all the time. And yet that’s become part of our discourse.” The US Democratic Party’s lead impeachment manager, Representative Adam Schiff, has invoked Russia a lot during the trial in the Senate. Democrats want to oust President Donald Trump because they believe he briefly suspended military aid to Ukraine while trying to pressure Kiev into investigating the dealings of his chief 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Sending weapons to Ukraine serves America’s “abiding interest in stemming Russian expansionism,” Schiff argued.

Cohen, however, said that shipping weapons to Kiev would effectively amount to the US turning its back on Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky’s efforts to resolve the conflict with Russia through peaceful means. Instead, he thinks Washington should focus on encouraging the neighbors to negotiate. “If Zelensky had full American backing for his peace talks with Putin – that would help him a lot.” Speaking on the Senate floor, Schiff accused Moscow of trying to undermine the faith in democracy and government institutions around the globe. Cohen argued that the congressman misunderstands what Russian President Vladimir Putin actually “sees as his own historical mission,” and it is almost the opposite of what Schiff attributes to him.

According to the researcher, Putin’s chief ambition is “to rebuild Russia from the disaster into which it fell in the 1990s” after the collapse of the Soviet Union. “The last thing Putin wants is instability. He’s trying to build economy at home and economic relations with countries abroad because he sees that as a way to modernize Russia.” Speaking on the Senate floor, Schiff accused Moscow of trying to undermine the faith in democracy and government institutions around the globe. Cohen argued that the congressman misunderstands what Russian President Vladimir Putin actually “sees as his own historical mission,” and it is almost the opposite of what Schiff attributes to him.

According to the researcher, Putin’s chief ambition is “to rebuild Russia from the disaster into which it fell in the 1990s” after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The last thing Putin wants is instability. He’s trying to build economy at home and economic relations with countries abroad because he sees that as a way to modernize Russia.

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Jan 222020
 


Jack Delano Repair and overhauling in Chicago & North Western Railroad locomotive shops, Chicago 1942

 

New Coronavirus Has Unusually High Ability To Bind To A Human Protein (SCMP)
Life After Putin (Dmitry Orlov)
Senate Votes Down Democrats’ Subpoena Proposals (G.)
Adam Schiff Caught ‘Fabricating’ Evidence (US24)
Hillary Clinton Kicks Off ‘Stop Sanders’ Movement. Will Obama Follow? (Y!)
Why Congress Must Keep Investigating Trump After the Impeachment Trial (Pol.)
Ukrainian Prosecutor Biden Pushed To Oust Heavily Investigated Burisma (RT)
Joe Biden’s ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Memo To Media Doesn’t Match The Facts (Solomon)
Brazil Charges Glenn Greenwald With Cybercrimes (ZH)
Boeing Has Officially Stopped Making 737 MAX Airplanes (CNN)
You Won’t Be Flying On A 737 MAX Anytime Soon (CNN)
General Strike Planned On Greek Aegean Islands Today Over Migration (K.)
US Drinking Water Widely Contaminated With ‘Forever Chemicals’ (R.)
People Still Want Plastic Bottles, Says Coca-Cola (BBC)

 

 

A pretty good description. of the virus. There are 11 million people living in Wuhan. Officials now suggest no-one should leave or enter the city. Cases in Thailand, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, US.

New Coronavirus Has Unusually High Ability To Bind To A Human Protein (SCMP)

The coronavirus discovered in Wuhan may share the same bat-related ancestor as Sars, according to the latest study by Chinese scientists, which said the strain was weaker than the devastating 2002-03 Sars outbreak but was still “highly infectious”. The new virus shares a common ancestor with severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), in HKU9-1, a virus found in fruit bats, they found. The connection with wild animals was confirmed on Wednesday by Gao Fu, director general of China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. According to Gao, the coronavirus, which has sickened more than 400 people across the country and led to nine deaths, originated from wild animals sold at a seafood market in Wuhan.

Gao warned that a major challenge was that the new strain was adapting and mutating. The scientists’ findings, published on Tuesday, suggested that the danger posed by the pneumonia-like virus may have been underestimated by the research community, and came a day after the Chinese government’s announcement of emergency measures to contain its spread. A joint research team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the People’s Liberation Army and Institut Pasteur of Shanghai estimated how the viral strain would interact with cells in the human respiratory system using computer simulation based on released data. “The Wuhan coronavirus’ natural host could be bats … but between bats and humans there may be an unknown intermediate,” the researchers said in a statement released with the paper.

Previously, most scientists believed the new virus could not cause an epidemic as serious as that of Sars because its genes were quite different. According to their calculations, the binding-free energy between the virus and the protein would be minus 50.6 kcal per mol, five times what was “usually considered significant”. “Although comparably weaker [than Sars], the Wuhan CoV S-protein is regarded to have strong binding affinity to human ACE2,” they wrote in a paper published on China Science Bulletin. What surprised the scientists most, however, was that the virus could maintain the strong binding ability despite its significant structural differences from Sars. Of the virus’ five amino acids that play important roles in the binding process, four are different from those of Sars.

Further examination of the virus’ structure showed that overall its binding protein had a high resemblance to that of Sars. The researchers also traced the evolution of the new virus in a government coronavirus database. On the evolutionary tree, the new virus belonged to Betacoronavirus, on a close but different branch to Sars. The two shared about 70 to 80 per cent of genes, less than the similarity between pigs and humans. Meanwhile, a senior researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which was not involved in the new study, told the South China Morning Post on Wednesday that the new strain was an RNA virus, meaning that its mutation speed was 100 times faster than that of a DNA virus such as smallpox. RNA (ribonucleic acid) molecules are simpler than DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) molecules.

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Always happy to see my view of Putin shared by others, and certainly when it’s Dmitry. Any major country on the planet could only wish they had Putin to lead it, and serve the best interests of its citizens. Of course we can’t get any real picture of this in the western press, who treat him as the bogey man, along with their governments.

Can you even imagine where the US would be if Putin had been its leader for the past 20 years? Try this stateside: “Proposed changes will insure that incomes and pensions are such that everybody has decent living conditions

Life After Putin (Dmitry Orlov)

[..] we need to draw a distinction between Putin the man and the system of governance he has built over the past 20 years. There is always plenty to complain about, but overall it has been quite effective. During Putin’s period in power, Russia has solved the problems of separatism and domestic terrorism, reigned in the predatory oligarchy, paid off virtually all of its foreign debts including ones it inherited from the USSR, grew its economy by a factor of six (vs. China’s five and USA’s one), regained Crimea (which had been part of Russia since 1783), rebuilt its armed forces to a point where international security is no longer a major concern, and achieved an overall level of societal well-being that is unparalleled in all of Russian history.

The system of governance he has built has worked well with him as the head of government, but it will require some adjustments in order to work well under future presidents, who may not be equally gifted. Recognizing this fact, on Wednesday Putin has launched a limited overhaul of the Russian Constitution. In addition to an entire raft of minor tweaks that will limit the powers of the President and give more powers to the Parliament, to provide for better checks and balances and a more democratically responsive system, there are a few proposed changes that stand out.

[..] Proposed changes will insure that incomes and pensions are such that everybody has decent living conditions. There are also proposed legislative changes to what’s called “maternal capital” to make having more than two children financially attractive. The demographic situation in Russia is not as dire as it was in the 1990s, and certainly a lot less dire than in Western Europe whose native populations are rapidly going extinct, but the fact remains that to achieve its stated goals Russia is going to need a lot more Russians. The Russian government has the money to spend on these initiatives, and getting the job done is largely a matter of lighting a fire under the federal and regional bureaucracies.

Spelling out the social guarantees right in the Constitution is a good way to make that happen. Putin proposed that the constitutional changes be voted for in a referendum. Beyond the procedural nicety and the legitimizing effect of this exercise, it is sure to stimulate a lot more public interest and civic participation, making it more likely that the ever foot-dragging Russian bureaucrats (in the more remote regions especially) will be prevailed upon to act swiftly to enact the changes.

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And this is just the beginning. God help us. More Adam Schiff show.

Senate Votes Down Democrats’ Subpoena Proposals (G.)

Democratic hopes that a moderate bloc of Senate Republicans would join their demand for witnesses and testimony at Donald Trump’s impeachment trial were temporarily disappointed, if not dashed, as arguments on the first proper day of the trial extended past midnight into Wednesday morning. In seven consecutive votes split precisely along party lines, the Senate voted down Democratic proposals to subpoena testimony from four potential witnesses and documents from multiple government agencies. An eighth vote defeated a proposal to prevent the selective admission of evidence. “I know it’s late, but it doesn’t have to be late,” Adam Schiff, the lead impeachment “manager”, or prosecutor in the case, said as the proceedings entered their 12th hour. “We don’t control the schedule. There is a reason why we are still here at five minutes till midnight, and that’s because they don’t want the American people to see what’s going on here.”


Democrats fruitlessly called for testimony and documents from the former national security adviser John Bolton; the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney; Mulvaney’s aide Robert Blair; the budget official Michael Duffey; the White House; the state department; the defense department; and the budget office relevant to an alleged scheme by Trump to twist the powers of the presidency to extract personal political favors from Ukraine. Each of the proposed subpoenas was defeated by a 53-47 vote. Democrats accused Republicans of failing to commit to a fair impeachment trial and of engaging in a “cover-up” of misconduct by the president. “The president is engaged in this cover-up because he is guilty, and he knows it,” said Representative Val Demings of Florida, one of the impeachment managers .

https://twitter.com/i/status/1219661000556847107

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A bit sensational, but still you want to ask: Why?

Adam Schiff Caught ‘Fabricating’ Evidence (US24)

A bombshell new report is derailing the Democrats’ momentum against President Trump on Day One of the Senate impeachment trial. The article — in the left-leaning Politico of all places — on Tuesday night alleges that House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff appears to have “mischaracterized” evidence that was used in House Democrats’ impeachment investigation. But Republicans are ridiculing the report as an attempt to “soft-pedal” his actions, insisting that Schiff “fabricated evidence” in a naked attempt to “frame” Trump. Either way, the shocking late-night report has thrown the Democrats’ Senate plan into complete chaos.

The stunning report focuses on a letter that Schiff sent to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) last week that summarizes “a trove of evidence from Lev Parnas, an indicted former associate of Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani,” Politico reported. “In one section of the letter, Schiff claims that Parnas ‘continued to try to arrange a meeting with President Zelensky,’ citing a specific text message exchange where Parnas tells Giuliani: ‘trying to get us mr Z.’ The remainder of the exchange — which was attached to Schiff’s letter — was redacted.”

Politico added, “But an unredacted version of the exchange shows that several days later, Parnas sent Giuliani a word document that appears to show notes from an interview with Mykola Zlochevsky, the founder of Burisma, followed by a text message to Giuliani that states: ‘mr Z answers my brother.’ That suggests Parnas was referring to Zlochevsky not Zelensky.” Democrat officials did not dispute the suggestion that Schiff’s claim was false. [..] one senior GOP aide told Politico: “[..] given the selective redactions and contextual clues, it seems as though Chairman Schiff sought to deliberately portray an innocuous meeting with Ukrainian oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky as an insidious one with the President of Ukraine simply because both of their surnames start with the letter Z.”

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As I said yesterday: “This week, Bernie is sexist. Stay tuned for next week, when we’ll find he’s racist too. If his numbers still don’t plummet then, he’ll be an anti-semitic Jew.”

Hillary Clinton Kicks Off ‘Stop Sanders’ Movement. Will Obama Follow? (Y!)

Nothing the Clintons do is accidental. And so when the news broke less than two weeks before the Iowa caucuses that in a forthcoming Hulu documentary, Hillary Clinton badmouths her 2016 rival Bernie Sanders as a “career politician” whom “nobody likes,” it didn’t just call attention to the ill feeling still lingering from that year’s bitter primary campaign. It also signaled that Clinton has thrown her weight behind the nascent “Stop Sanders” movement gaining steam among Democratic power brokers. The question now is whether Democratic voters will follow her lead — and whether Barack Obama himself might come out of semiretirement to join the cause. Asked by the Hollywood Reporter whether she would endorse and campaign for Sanders if he were to win the nomination, Clinton refused to commit. “I’m not going to go there yet,” she said.

Clinton immediately added, however, that her beef is “not only” with Sanders but with “the culture around him” — a culture she considers sexist. “It’s his leadership team,” Clinton said. “It’s his prominent supporters. It’s his online Bernie Bros and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women. And I really hope people are paying attention to that because it should be worrisome that he has permitted this culture — not only permitted, [he] seems to really be very much supporting it. And I don’t think we want to go down that road again where you campaign by insult and attack and maybe you try to get some distance from it, but you either don’t know what your campaign and supporters are doing or you’re just giving them a wink and you want them to go after Kamala [Harris] or after Elizabeth [Warren].”

Then Clinton twisted the knife: “I think that that’s a pattern that people should take into account when they make their decisions.” Clinton’s timing is conspicuous. Since the start of the 2016 primary, pundits and mainstream Democrats have refused to consider Sanders a serious threat for the nomination. That’s changed in recent weeks as Sanders has surged to the top of the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, cementing his status as the nearest competitor to frontrunner Joe Biden while also out-fundraising the entire field. Meanwhile, the headlines about Clinton’s remarks come on the heels of Sanders’s clash with Warren over the same subject: his (and his campaign’s) alleged sexism. In other words, this isn’t coming out of nowhere: Clinton is piggybacking on a fresh controversy at a pivotal moment.

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But of course. It must be perennial.

Why Congress Must Keep Investigating Trump After the Impeachment Trial (Pol.)

Unlike a typical trial, the upcoming impeachment trial of President Donald Trump won’t establish facts or put an end to investigations about the Ukraine scheme at the heart of this case. Given that new allegations and evidence continue to emerge, a new investigation will be necessary. Although we still don’t know exactly what the trial will look like, public statements by senators suggest that we won’t hear from many witnesses—and could hear from none at all. That’s exactly what Trump’s legal team is asking for, which comes as no surprise because lawyers rarely want to prolong trials if they think they’ve already got the jury on their side. As it stands now, there is little doubt that Republicans are prepared to vote against removing Trump from office—which is why Democrats want to shake things up with witnesses they haven’t had the opportunity to interview, like former National Security Advisor John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

But the fact that months of Congressional inquiry into Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine is almost certain to end in acquittal does not mean that Congress’s work is done. So much of the story of the Ukraine scheme at the heart of Trump’s impeachment still is not public that Congress is obligated to resume its inquiry regardless of the outcome in the Senate. There can be no serious question that Trump held up military aid in order to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations that would help him politically, but many details of the scheme are still not known. How little we know about the Ukraine scheme headlined by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was underscored by public interviews given last week by Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, who currently faces a federal indictment in the Southern District of New York.

Parnas made sweeping claims, such as his assertion that Trump was “aware of all of my movements” and that Attorney General Bill Barr was “basically on the team.” These are provocative and damning assertions. But how exactly does Parnas claim to know all of this? [..] Parnas presented evidence that former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was under surveillance. The American people—and Yovanovitch—deserve to know whether that allegation is true and exactly why Trump’s associates were surveilling our own ambassador. After all, it is possible this scheme constituted a federal crime, such as a conspiracy to threaten or assault a federal official.

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We knew that already. But Biden is sending around a memo denying it.

Ukrainian Prosecutor Biden Pushed To Oust Heavily Investigated Burisma (RT)

The Ukrainian prosecutor who Joe Biden pushed to oust had six cases against Burisma but they fizzled out after he left, a new documentary shows challenging the narrative by the former vice president that the media failed to check. When Joe Biden lobbied Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to replace Viktor Shokin with Yuriy Lutsenko in 2015, his entourage claimed that Shokin had failed to thoroughly investigate corruption, and by pushing for his replacement “saint” Biden even acted against his family’s interests. But the second episode of the documentary series ‘UkraineGate: Inconvenient facts’ produced by French investigative journalist Olivier Berruyer, founder of popular anti-corruption and economics blog Les Crises, shows information that undermines this narrative.

The American media reported that Shokin’s case against Ukrainian energy company Burisma had gone “dormant,” and that by pressing for Lutsenko’s appointment, Biden was quashing corruption, even if that meant subjecting his own son to investigation in the process. Hunter Biden was on the company’s board from 2014 till 2019. However, documents collected by Berruyer show that Shokin’s Burisma probe was far from “dormant.” Shokin himself even told ABC News that his office had six investigations into Burisma open at the time of his resignation. Lutsenko, he said, “stopped all those cases.”

ABC didn’t air this part of the interview, and the American media – including the Washington Post and the New York Times – continue to label Shokin’s investigation “dormant,” despite a number of publicly available documents showing otherwise and presented in the documentary.

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John Solomon is back.

Joe Biden’s ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Memo To Media Doesn’t Match The Facts (Solomon)

Former vice president Joe Biden’s extraordinary campaign memo this week imploring U.S. news media to reject the allegations surrounding his son Hunter’s work for a Ukrainian natural gas company makes several bold declarations. The memo by Biden campaign aides Kate Bedingfield and Tony Blinken specifically warned reporters covering the impeachment trial they would be acting as “enablers of misinformation” if they repeated allegations that the former vice president forced the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor, who was investigating Burisma Holdings, where Hunter Biden worked as a highly compensated board member.

Biden’s memo argues there is no evidence that the former vice president’s or Hunter Biden’s conduct raised any concern, and that Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin’s investigation was “dormant” when the vice president forced the prosecutor to be fired in Ukraine. The memo calls the allegation a “conspiracy theory” (and, in full disclosure, blames my reporting for the allegations surfacing last year.) But the memo omits critical impeachment testimony and other evidence that paint a far different portrait than Biden’s there’s-nothing-to-talk-about-here rebuttal. Here are the facts, with links to public evidence, so you can decide for yourself.

Fact: Joe Biden admitted to forcing Shokin’s firing in March 2016.

Fact: Shokin’s prosecutors were actively investigating Burisma when he was fired.

Fact: Burisma’s lawyers in 2016 were pressing U.S. and Ukrainian authorities to end the corruption investigations.

Fact: There is substantial evidence Joe Biden and his office knew about the Burisma probe and his son’s role as a board member.

Fact: Federal Ethics rules requires government officials to avoid taking policy actions affecting close relatives.

Fact: Multiple State Department officials testified the Bidens’ dealings in Ukraine created the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Fact: Hunter Biden acknowleged he may have gotten his Burisma job solely because of his last name.

Fact: Ukraine law enforcement reopened the Burisma investigation in early 2019, well before President Trump mentioned the matter to Ukraine’s new president Vlodymyr Zelensky.

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Accused of “..hacking the cellphones of Brazilian prosecutors and public officials..”

Brazil Charges Glenn Greenwald With Cybercrimes (ZH)

Prosecutors in Brazil charged American journalist Glenn Greenwald with cybercrimes on Tuesday for his role in spreading embarrassing text messages that exposed corruption within the Brazilian judicial system, according to the New York Times. In a 91-page criminal complaint made public on Tuesday, Greenwald is accused of participating in a “criminal organization” that spread text messages which called into question the “integrity, professionalism and motives of key members of Brazil’s justice system — particularly of figures directly involved in the investigation of a vast corruption scheme that resulted in the imprisonment of powerful business and political figures.” Greenwald – who moved to Brazil in 2005 with his husband David Miranda – now a congressman, went beyond simply receiving the texts and publishing newsworthy information according to prosecutors.

“Citing intercepted messages between Mr. Greenwald and the hackers, prosecutors say the journalist played a “clear role in facilitating the commission of a crime.” For instance, prosecutors contend that Mr. Greenwald encouraged the hackers to delete archives that had already been shared with The Intercept Brasil, in order to cover their tracks. Prosecutors also say that Mr. Greenwald was communicating with the hackers while they were actively monitoring private chats on Telegram, a messaging app”. -New York Times. Greenwald – an attorney, rose to international prominence in 2013 for his role in the release of classified documents revealing America’s extensive NSA surveillance apparatus, after National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked documents to Greenwald, who worked for The Guardian at the time.

In 2016, Greenwald launched The Intercept Brasil, which began publishing articles based on the leaked text exchanges last June. “The articles raised questions about the integrity, professionalism and motives of key members of Brazil’s justice system — particularly of figures directly involved in the investigation of a vast corruption scheme that resulted in the imprisonment of powerful business and political figures. Among the revelations in the articles, for instance, were chats in which Sérgio Moro, a former federal judge who handled the prosecution of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2017, provided strategic guidance to prosecutors, in violation of legal and ethical norms. Mr. Moro is now Brazil’s justice minister. -New York Times.

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Someone lend them the $10 billion.

Boeing Has Officially Stopped Making 737 MAX Airplanes (CNN)

The Boeing 737 Max is officially on hold. The assembly line in Renton, Washington, has stopped building Boeing’s bestselling plane, the company confirmed late Monday. Boeing announced plans to temporarily halt production for an undetermined period in December, but it had not previously announced a precise day for the shutdown. Boeing will not furlough or lay off workers because of the shutdown, but pain will ripple through its supply chain and could hurt America’s economic growth. The shutdown will make restarting production and recovering from the crisis more difficult for Boeing once it finally gets permission for the plane to fly again. The 737 Max has been grounded since March..

Although Boeing couldn’t deliver the 737 Max planes to customers, the company continued to build the jets, albeit at a slightly reduced pace of 42 a month. It now has about 400 completed jets parked in Washington and Texas, waiting to be delivered to airlines around the world. But Boeing doesn’t get most of its money from the sale of the jets until they are delivered, and it could not indefinitely continue to incur the costs of building them without being able to deliver them. The company hoped that the plane would fly again before the end of 2019. But in December Stephen Dickson, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, announced approval would not come until some time in 2020. Shutdown plans were announced a week later.

Boeing would not release a headcount for people who had been working on the plane. The company said the employees will be reassigned to other duties during the shutdown, and there are a number of reasons for that. First, under federal labor law, Boeing would have to pay them for 60 days following a layoff notice. Since Boeing is still hoping to resume work on the plane soon, it probably would have limited cost savings to go through the process of laying off the workers. And with unemployment in the Seattle metropolitan area at 2.9% – lower than the national unemployment rate that’s at a 50-year low – Boeing can’t risk losing the workers it needs once production resumes.

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All pilots in the US must now do simulator training. The exact issue that made Boeing screw around with the plane to make it appear like it was the same as with the much smaller engine, so no training was needed. Very dumb. When this thing started, there were lerss than a handful simulators available. Have they built a lot more since? I’d like to know. These things don’t come cheap.

You Won’t Be Flying On A 737 MAX Anytime Soon (CNN)

No one knows when the Boeing 737 Max will return to service. But it won’t be any time soon. Boeing eagerly awaits the US FAA’s approval to allow the grounded plane to fly again. But the FAA refuses to provide a specific timeframe, saying only that it will make a decision sometime this year. “We continue to work with other international aviation safety regulators to review the proposed changes to the aircraft,” said the FAA’s most recent statement on the plane, issued on January 9. “Our first priority is safety, and we have set no timeframe for when the work will be completed.” The plane has been grounded since March. Boeing had initially hoped a fix for the safety system, known as MCAS, could be approved in a matter of weeks after the second crash.

But it has missed target date after target date for completion of the process. Aerospace analysts believe regulatory approval could come in the spring. Cai von Rumohr of Cowen now forecasts March. Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group says he’s thinking April or perhaps May. But they both say that is only their best guess at this point. [..] It’s also unclear whether aviation regulators around the world will follow the FAA’s lead and approve the plane to fly when it is cleared to fly in the United States. More than 80% of the planes are in foreign countries. One of the reasons the FAA has emphasized its work with other regulators is the agency hopes they will quickly follow its lead. But the process of getting that consensus is also causing delays, according to industry experts.

After the 737 Max is approved to return to service, it will be at least weeks, if not months, before any of them are carrying paying passengers once again. Boeing and the FAA have agreed that as part of the return to service 737 Max pilots will first complete simulator training. Pilots were previously permitted to fly the 737 Max without learning the specifics of the aircraft on a simulator. The new trainings won’t start until the certification process is complete. That will slow the time it will take to have the teams of pilots necessary to handle the flights. [..] Southwest and American Airlines have both announced they have canceled flights until early June, at the start of the summer travel season.

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The EU has done it. It’s turned the Greeks against immigrants.

General Strike Planned On Greek Aegean Islands Today Over Migration (K.)

The Greek government is under growing strain over immigration amid ongoing protests against plans to create at least 10 closed pre-departure centers across the country coupled with a delay in the disbursement of European Union funds for that purpose. Meanwhile tension at existing hotspots is brewing. A 17-year-old Afghan girl was hospitalized in serious condition on Monday after being stabbed by a 20-year-old fellow Afghan at Lesvos’ Moria camp. The attacker was arrested. On Sunday, newly installed Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarakis was heckled by locals during visits to Lesvos and Samos.

During his trip, Mitarakis stressed that reducing immigration flows is a top priority of the government. However, a general strike is planned on the Aegean islands on Wednesday in response to its perceived failure to do so. Meanwhile, a survey by the diaNEOsis nonprofit think tank shows that most Greeks believe migrants and refugees have a negative impact on the country. The survey found that 85.2 percent of respondents said that the number of immigrants in Greece is “very or too high.” Just 12.1 percent said that the number is “normal.” At the same time, 79 percent disagreed with the statement that migrants are a solution to the country’s demographic problem.

Meanwhile, 56 percent said they believe that migrants have a negative impact on the economy, while 58 percent said that their presence is a “threat to our national identity.” However, 30 percent recognized the cultural enrichment brought by migrants. Asked about crime, 53 percent said they believe that migrants are responsible for soaring crime rates while 44 percent said that Greeks and non-Greeks were as likely to engage in criminal behavior.

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Oh well, overpopulation and things…

US Drinking Water Widely Contaminated With ‘Forever Chemicals’ (R.)

The contamination of U.S. drinking water with man-made “forever chemicals” is far worse than previously estimated with some of the highest levels found in Miami, Philadelphia and New Orleans, said a report on Wednesday by an environmental watchdog group. The chemicals, resistant to breaking down in the environment, are known as perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. Some have been linked to cancers, liver damage, low birth weight and other health problems. The findings here by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) show the group’s previous estimate in 2018, based on unpublished U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data, that 110 million Americans may be contaminated with PFAS, could be far too low.

“It’s nearly impossible to avoid contaminated drinking water from these chemicals,” said David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG and co-author of the report. The chemicals were used in products like Teflon and Scotchguard and in firefighting foam. Some are used in a variety of other products and industrial processes, and their replacements also pose risks. Of tap water samples taken by EWG from 44 sites in 31 states and Washington D.C., only one location, Meridian, Mississippi, which relies on 700 foot (215 m) deep wells, had no detectable PFAS. Only Seattle and Tuscaloosa, Alabama had levels below 1 part per trillion (PPT), the limit EWG recommends.

In addition, EWG found that on average six to seven PFAS compounds were found at the tested sites, and the effects on health of the mixtures are little understood. “Everyone’s really exposed to a toxic soup of these PFAS chemicals,” Andrews said. In 34 places where EWG’s tests found PFAS, contamination had not been publicly reported by the EPA or state environmental agencies. The EPA has known since at least 2001 about the problem of PFAS in drinking water but has so far failed to set an enforceable, nationwide legal limit. The EPA said early last year it would begin the process to set limits on two of the chemicals, PFOA and PFOS.

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Stop drinking the poison.

People Still Want Plastic Bottles, Says Coca-Cola (BBC)

Coca-Cola will not ditch single-use plastic bottles because consumers still want them, the firm’s head of sustainability has told the BBC. Customers like them because they reseal and are lightweight, said Bea Perez. The firm, which is one of the biggest producers of plastic waste, has pledged to recycle as many plastic bottles as it uses by 2030. But environmental campaigners argue many Coke bottles would still go uncollected and end up in landfill. The drinks giant produces about three million tonnes of plastic packaging a year – equivalent to 200,000 bottles a minute. In 2019, it was found to be the most polluting brand in a global audit of plastic waste by the charity Break Free from Plastic.


But speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Ms Perez said the firm recognised it now had to be “part of the solution”. Coke has pledged to use at least 50% recycled material in its packaging by 2030. It is also partnering with NGOs around the world to help improve collection. However, Ms Perez said the firm could not ditch plastic outright, as some campaigners wanted, saying this could alienate customers and hit sales. She also said using only aluminium and glass packaging could push up the firm’s carbon footprint. “Business won’t be in business if we don’t accommodate consumers,” she said. “So as we change our bottling infrastructure, move into recycling and innovate, we also have to show the consumer what the opportunities are. They will change with us.”

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I know, it’s corny

 

 

 

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

 

Jan 212020
 


Alfred Palmer U.S. Marine Corps glider detachment training camp, Parris Island, SC 1943

 

Davos Man Is Richer Than Ever (BBG)
Markets Tumble As Human-to-Human Transmission Coronavirus Confirmed (ZH)
Flynn’s Lawyer: FBI Agents Wrote Flynn Didn’t Lie, We Have Eyewitness (ET)
McConnell Proposes Compressed Schedule For Impeachment Trial (Hill)
How The Senate Trial’s First Day May Proceed (Fox)
White House Appoints GOP House Members To Advise Trump’s Impeachment Team (Hill)
Chief Justice Roberts Under Pressure From Both Sides In Witness Fight (Hill)
Boeing Scrambles to Borrow $10 Bn After $43 Bn in Share-Buybacks (WS)
Putin Sends His Constitutional Proposals to Parliament (ET)
Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition (Eric Mann)
Ukraine, China Knew Hunter Biden Was Chronic Drug Addict, Hired Him Anyway (GP)
Former OPCW Specialist Ian Henderson Speaks At UN (YT)

 

 

I said all I have to say about this in yesterday’s Go Home Greta.

Davos Man Is Richer Than Ever (BBG)

Davos Man is richer than ever. A decade after the financial crisis poured flat champagne on the World Economic Forum, gold-collar executives set to gather there this week have bounced back, and then some. David Rubenstein has doubled his fortune since 2009. Jamie Dimon has more than tripled his net worth. And Stephen Schwarzman has increased his wealth six-fold.It’s a remarkable showing given the economic and political tumult of the past decade, from Lehman Brothers to Brexit to Donald Trump. The fortunes of a dozen 2009 Davos attendees have soared by a combined US$175 billion, even as median U.S. household wealth has stagnated, a Bloomberg analysis found.

The data illustrate the ever-widening gap between the true haves—those in the 0.1 percent—and the have-nots of a global economy. Data from UBS and PwC Billionaires Insights reports show that global billionaire wealth has grown from $3.4 trillion in 2009 to $8.9 trillion in 2017.Central bank actions to fight the financial crisis—record low interest rates and bond-buying programs—have underpinned this ballooning wealth by driving up the prices of stocks and other assets.“Ten years ago, ironically at the lows of the market, what you wanted to own was capital and if you did own capital you did incredibly well,” said Michael Hartnett, Bank of America Corp.’s chief investment strategist. It means Davos Man—the conference remains overwhelmingly male—exerts more authority and visibility than ever.

Dimon is returning to the WEF with JPMorgan Chase & Co. larger and more profitable than ever. Schwarzman—recognizable in his tan winter coat over suit—has built Blackstone Group LP into the world’s largest alternative asset manager with $457 billion of assets as of Sept. 30, 2018, up from $95 billion at the end of 2008. And Davos remains as popular as ever. The forum—titled Globalization 4.0—is expected to host 3,000 people. This year, George Soros is hosting a dinner at which he will speak and Dimon’s JPMorgan is throwing a drinks party. Bill Gates will be present again as will billionaire Carlyle Group co-founder Rubenstein, who hosts a show on Bloomberg Television and whose fortune has doubled over the past decade.

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“There are now sufficient cases that it’s not going to die out by chance..”

Markets Tumble As Human-to-Human Transmission Coronavirus Confirmed (ZH)

Dow futures are down over 100 points, AsiaPac equity markets are down harder, and Treasuries are well bid along with gold after a Chinese officials confirmed the coronavirus can be spread by human-to-human contact, and the deadly disease is spreading to other asian nations. “Now we can say it is certain that it is a human-to-human transmission phenomenon,” Zhong Nanshan, a scientist who is leading a government-appointed expert panel on the outbreak, said in an interview on state-run television on Monday. As The New York Times reports, cases have been reported outside China.

“The authorities in Thailand detected the new coronavirus last week in two Chinese women who had flown from Wuhan to Bangkok on separate trips. The government said the women, aged 74 and 61, were in good condition. In Japan, a Chinese man who returned from Wuhan on Jan. 6 was also confirmed to have the disease. He was discharged after five days in a hospital. South Korea confirmed its first case of the coronavirus on Monday in a 35-year-old Chinese woman from Wuhan who arrived on Sunday at Incheon International Airport, which serves Seoul. The woman was found with a fever, muscle pain and other symptoms while going through customs and was immediately quarantined for tests, said Jung Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The woman was traveling with five other people intending to spend the Lunar New Year holidays in South Korea and Japan, Ms. Jung said. South Korean officials were running tests on anyone believed to have come in contact with the woman in the plane, she said.” And fear of a SARS 2.0 outbreak have sparked risk-off trades in early Asia trading. “There are now sufficient cases that it’s not going to die out by chance,” said Neil Ferguson, a public health expert at Imperial College London who has studied the new virus.

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Michael Flynn’s destiny was turned on its head in June 2019 when he hired Sidney Powell. Good on him. Still wondering how he got from near bankruptcy to hiring an A-list lawyer.

Flynn’s Lawyer: FBI Agents Wrote Flynn Didn’t Lie, We Have Eyewitness (ET)

Sidney Powell, lawyer of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, said the FBI excluded crucial information from a report on their interview of her client. The report, an FBI 302 form, was used to charge Flynn with lying to the FBI, but the original draft of the 302 stated that Flynn was honest with the FBI, according to a witness who saw the draft, Powell said. Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and former national security adviser to President Donald Trump, pleaded guilty on Dec. 1, 2017, to one count of lying to FBI agents during a Jan. 24, 2017, interview. A 302 report summarizing the interview was supposed to be filed within five days. But the earliest draft Flynn’s lawyers were provided was from Feb. 10, 2017—more than two weeks after the interview.

Powell, who took over Flynn’s defense in June 2019, has for months asserted that an earlier 302 must exist. Prosecutors have said they don’t have it, stopping short of saying it doesn’t exist. In an Oct. 24, 2019, court filing, Powell rejected the suggestion that the 302 draft was “missing,” saying neither the bureau nor its digital document system “loses the most important of its reports that is supposed to support the federal felony of the President’s National Security Adviser.” On Jan. 16, Powell disclosed that she has a witness who could attest to what was in the original draft. “I’ve now found a witness who says the original 302 did in fact say that Flynn was honest with the agents and did not lie,” she told Larry O’Connor on his WMAL radio show. “So for somebody to delete that from the 302 is just beyond outrageous.”

She didn’t elaborate much further when asked by The Epoch Times. “Can’t say more about witness but yes, person saw it,” she said via email. [..] In June 2019, after Flynn fired his original lawyers and hired a new legal team led by Powell, prosecutors asked Flynn to testify that he signed [his now-defunct consultancy, Flynn Intel Group (FIG)]’s lobbying forms knowing there were lies in them. He refused, saying he only learned there was something wrong with the registration in retrospect. That angered the lead prosecutor, Brandon Van Grack, notes from a June 27, 2019, conference call indicate. Powell said that ever since then, the prosecutors’ behavior has been “retaliatory, vindictive, and in bad faith” because Flynn refused to lie.

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Every comma must now be vehemently protested.

McConnell Proposes Compressed Schedule For Impeachment Trial (Hill)

House impeachment managers will have 24 hours over two days to make their opening arguments when they begin to present their case against President Trump to the Senate Wednesday, according to a resolution circulated by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). President Trump’s team similarly will have two days to present their arguments and then senators will have a chance to ask questions and consider subpoenas of witnesses. The resolution, as expected, does not require additional witnesses to be subpoenaed and does not allow House prosecutors to admit evidence into the Senate trial record until after the opening arguments are heard.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) quickly pushed back and vowed to force votes on amendments. “Sen. McConnell’s resolution is nothing short of a national disgrace,” Schumer said in a statement Monday afternoon. Both sides will have 24 hours to make their first round of arguments — the same amount of time House impeachment managers and Bill Clinton’s lawyers received in 1999, but on a more compressed time schedule than required more than 20 years ago.

The resolution includes language favored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and other GOP moderates requiring a debate and vote on subpoenaing new witnesses and documents. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who worked with McConnell and Collins to modify the resolution, said it “guarantees a vote on whether we need additional evidence at the appropriate time.” A Senate GOP leadership aide noted that prosecutors in the Clinton trial didn’t use all of their allotted time and finished their opening arguments within three days. Schumer argues that forcing House managers to cram their opening arguments into a two-day window will force them to present on the Senate floor well into the evening and possibly past midnight.

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A handy guide.

How The Senate Trial’s First Day May Proceed (Fox)

Here is how things are expected go down Tuesday in the Senate for President Trump’s impeachment trial. By rule, the trial session begins at 1 p.m. ET. Expect to see Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger reprising his role from last week, bringing order to the Senate. Stenger may appear at other points along the way, too. The first order of business for the Senate will be to swear-in Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. Inhofe wasn’t present last week when all other senators were sworn in. He was attending to a family emergency. Then, there will be some short, administrative activity for documents, et al. Viewers are likely to see two women on the dais, whispering to Chief Justice John Roberts, giving advice and passing messages.

They are Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough and Assistant Parliamentarian Leigh Hildebrand. Once the Senate gets through the basics, it’s time for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to offer his resolution dictating the parameters of the trial. McConnell’s proposal is formally known as a “motion” in Senate parlance. And, by rule, the Senate then has two hours per side to debate the McConnell plan. The Senate will have to eat up all of that two hours, unless there is unanimous consent – meaning all 100 senators agree — to cut things short. The seven House managers and members of Trump’s defense team – not any senators – would debate the proposal. So, barring anything strange, this probably gets us close to 3:30 p.m. ET.

Then, it’s up to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to offer his counter-proposal. The Senate has something known as “the amendment tree.” One could think of the McConnell proposal as the “trunk” of the tree. Schumer’s proposal is a “branch” of the tree. Schumer’s proposal, or proposals – so, sprigs growing off of the Schumer branch of the tree – all would represent possible amendments on which the Senate likely will have to debate and conduct a roll call vote on Tuesday evening. What will Schumer propose? Different time allocations for the trial? Different times when they start or stop the arguments? Proposals on witnesses and documents? By rule, Schumer’s proposal gets two hours of debate as well, with no senators participating in the debate — just the impeachment managers and the president’s counsel.

Timing: If they do this by the book, we probably get 5:30 or 6 p.m. ET, if not later. However, a potential wild card is afoot. Fox News is told to expect a closed Senate session after these two debates, meaning lawmakers essentially would kick everyone out of the chamber: the public, the media, the president’s legal team and the impeachment managers. The only people left: senators, Roberts and essential floor staff. Fox News has no idea how long this could go, but it would happen in the Senate chamber itself, not the Old Senate Chamber.

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“..provided guidance to the White House team, which was prohibited from participating in the proceedings concocted by Democrats in the House of Representatives”

White House Appoints GOP House Members To Advise Trump’s Impeachment Team (Hill)

The White House announced Monday that President Trump appointed several prominent Republican House members to advise his impeachment defense team ahead of the Senate trial set to begin this week. GOP Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), John Ratcliffe Texas), Mike Johnson (La.), Mark Meadows (N.C.), Debbie Lesko (Ariz.), Lee Zeldin (N.Y.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) and Doug Collins are set to play leading roles. A statement from the White House said the lawmakers “have provided guidance to the White House team, which was prohibited from participating in the proceedings concocted by Democrats in the House of Representatives” throughout the House proceedings and would continue to do so in the Senate.

The lawmakers served as some of the president’s strongest allies during the House’s impeachment proceedings, adamantly defending the president’s dealings with Ukraine. Jordan, a firebrand conservative who serves as the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee and a leading member of the House Freedom Caucus, has garnered a reputation for being one of Trump’s most aggressive attack dogs on impeachment.

Ratcliffe, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee and served as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas before being elected to Congress, was previously tapped by the president last year to become the director of national intelligence before he withdrew from consideration. His line of questioning during the public hearings was widely praised by his GOP colleagues in the House. Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee and confidant to the president, played a key role in pushing back against Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) during the final hearings. And Johnson, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee who also sits on the House Judiciary Committee, practiced constitutional law.

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Roberts may regret this job.

Chief Justice Roberts Under Pressure From Both Sides In Witness Fight (Hill)

Senate Democrats are pressing Chief Justice John Roberts to rule in favor of calling witnesses at President Trump’s impeachment trial, while Republicans argue it could force his recusal from potential Supreme Court cases. Democrats say it’s simple: A trial can’t be a fair one without witnesses. Republicans counter that if Roberts rules on witnesses, he will have to recuse himself from any Supreme Court case on Trump’s claims of executive privilege over potential witnesses like former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. “I don’t know how you have a serious trial unless you hear from witnesses who know in fact what the facts are, what happened,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

“I think it would be appropriate for the chief justice to do what I think should be done, and that is to allow witnesses to testify,” he added. While Roberts is expected to refer major disputes over trial procedures to the entire Senate for a vote, some Democrats hope he will make his own rulings on what they say are basic questions of fair jurisprudence. Democrats argue that holding a trial but blocking the consideration of relevant witness testimony and document review would fall well short of what’s considered a fair trial in any court of law.

“We’ve been working to get an agreement with Republicans about the relevant witnesses for the trial and relevant documents and we’re continuing that effort,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). “Those types of questions will have to be considered as the trial proceeds.” Senators who want Roberts to intervene have pointed to the precedent set by then-Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase in the 1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson. Chase broke two ties on procedural deadlocks, including a vote on whether he could break ties.

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All you need to know: “..its total liabilities ($136 billion) exceed its total assets ($132 billion)..”

Boeing Scrambles to Borrow $10 Bn After $43 Bn in Share-Buybacks (WS)

The first thing to know about Boeing’s mad scramble to line up “$10 billion or more” in new funding via a loan from a consortium of banks, on top of the $9.5 billion credit-line it obtained in October last year – efforts to somehow get through its cash-flow nightmare caused by the 737 MAX fiasco – is that the company blew, wasted, and incinerated $43.4 billion to buy back its own shares since June 2013, having become a master of financial engineering instead of aircraft engineering. If Boeing had focused on its business – such as designing a new plane instead of doctoring an ancient design to save money and time – and if it hadn’t blown $43 billion on share-buybacks but had invested this money in a new design, those two crashes wouldn’t have occurred, and it wouldn’t have to beg for cash now.


The chart below shows the cumulative share-buybacks in billions of dollars since Q1 2009. In Q2 2019, it belatedly halted the share buybacks. As is always the case with share buybacks, the idea is to buy high in order to drive shares even higher. This is what you learn on the first day of Financial Engineering 101. So Boeing stopped buying back its shares in Q1 2009 when its shares had plunged into the $35-range, at which point they were a good deal, and then recommenced share-buybacks in Q2 2013 when its shares had already risen to the $100-range.

The second thing to know about Boeing’s mad scramble to borrow another $10 billion is that it already has a huge amount of debt and other liabilities, and that its total liabilities ($136 billion) exceed its total assets ($132 billion) by about $4 billion as of September 2019, meaning that it has negative net equity, that the share buybacks have destroyed its equity, which is what share buybacks do to the balance sheet. It also means that every dime in “cash” and “cash equivalent” listed on the balance sheet is borrowed. And this is about to get a whole lot worse. In October 2019, Boeing had already obtained a new credit line of $9.5 billion, which about doubled the size of its existing credit line. Credit lines serve as liquidity backup. And now Boeing is scrambling to pile “$10 billion or more” in new loans on top of it.

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Note: Putin will be President until 2024.

Putin Sends His Constitutional Proposals to Parliament (ET)

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday submitted to parliament a package of constitutional amendments widely seen as an attempt to secure his grip on power well after his current term ends in 2024. Putin first presented the proposed changes in his state-of-the-nation address Wednesday, arguing they are intended to bolster the role of parliament and strengthen democracy. Kremlin critics have argued that they are intended to allow his rule for life. The Kremlin-controlled lower house, the State Duma, received a draft bill on constitutional proposals from the Kremlin and quickly scheduled the first of three required readings for Thursday.


Putin, 67, has been in power for more than 20 years, longer than any other Russian or Soviet leader since Josef Stalin, who led from 1924 until his death in 1953. Under the law now in force, Putin must step down as president when his current term ends. Putin proposed that the constitution must specify the authority of the State Council, an advisory body that consists of regional governors and top federal officials. The Kremlin’s constitutional bill submitted to parliament empowers the Council to “determine the main directions of home and foreign policy,” its specific authority yet to be spelled in a separate law. Observers say that the proposed changes could allow Putin to stay in charge by shifting into the position of the Council’s head.

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Mann: “..in 1964 I was a field secretary with the Congress of Racial Equality”. Long piece.

Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition (Eric Mann)

Every year, until The Revolution comes again, the counter-revolution manipulates the historic birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, that so many people fought for, as their symbol of Black “integration” into imperialism and “non-violent” acquiescence to, at best, Barack Obama’s cynical negation of his dream. As Donald Trump has just assassinated Iranian General Quassem Soleimani—with Democratic Party token opposition at best and acquiescence at worse, Dr. King reminds us that “the United States, my government, is the greatest purveyor violence in the world.”

As Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren squabble for position and too often, reduce the meaning of life to a barren economic populism, Dr. King reminds us that U.S. society is a moral disgrace and we need a revolutionary movement to challenge its “racism, militarism, poverty, and materialism.” His thoughts offer Democrats and the Movement a challenge. There is an urgent need for a revolutionary worldview to challenge the racism and reaction of Donald Trump’s Make America Great fascist appeal. Meanwhile, on the ground, Black and Latino communities and the world are suffering the worst political, economic, and ecological catastrophe with little help in sight. In this context the most engaged and introspective study of Dr. King’s theory and practice is an urgent corrective than can offer hope and inspiration.

“Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

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To blackmail Joe?!

Ukraine, China Knew Hunter Biden Was Chronic Drug Addict, Hired Him Anyway (GP)

Hunter Biden’s first arrest may have been when he was 18. Hunter was arrested on Jersey Shore related to drug charges in 1988 and had his record expunged. Many years later and after several stops into drug treatment facilities Hunter joined his father the Vice President on a trip to China in 2013 where Hunter — inexperienced and out of place — was able to secure a $1.5 billion from China for private equity fund which he was forming at the time. A year later in early 2014 Hunter was discharged from the Navy for testing positive for cocaine. Then in April 2014, just a couple months later, Hunter Biden Hunter joined the Board of Burisma Holdings in the Ukraine. Hunter served on the Board until early 2019. Hunter was paid approximately $50,000 a month in his position.

The largest oil and gas company in the Ukraine hired a chronic drug addict only a few months after the addict was removed from the US Navy for doing cocaine. In 2016 Hunter Biden returned a rental car with a crack pipe with cocaine residue and a small amount of a white, powdery substance. Hunter was never charged with a crime. In 2018 the IRS placed a tax lien on Hunter Biden seeking $112,805 in unpaid taxes from 2015. And according to Page Six, Hunter Biden allegedly spent time at Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club in New York City in 2018. Hunter allegedly ordered pricey booze, was joined by several strippers in a private room while he did drugs and had strippers run to find him a dildo. These are just a few of the allegations against Hunter Biden. After years of drug abuse there are likely many more episodes not yet public.

Any foreign intelligence service worth their salt would have known Hunter Biden was a chronic drug addict. China and the Ukraine, and likely others, hired Hunter Biden anyway. [..] How many times was Joe Biden warned of his dangerous actions related to his drug addicted son? Will the liberal media ever investigate this? Do Americans really believe that this man and his son should be President? Joe and Hunter Biden would destroy the American dream if Joe was elected President. They would blow it away!

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The text here is a Twitter thread from Philip Watson.

Former OPCW Specialist Ian Henderson Speaks At UN (YT)

The damning words of Ian Henderson at tonight’s OPCW United Nations Security Council Arria-Formula Meeting called for by the #Russia-n Federation into the #Douma affair. All words that follow are direct quotes from Mr Henderson.

“I need to point out from the outset, I am not a whistleblower. I don’t like that term. I am a former OPCW specialist who has concerns in many areas and I consider this a legitimate and appropriate forum to explain again these concerns.” “Secondly, I must point out that I hold the OPCW in the highest regard. As well as the professionalism of the staff members who work there. ” “However the concern I have does relate to some specific management practices in certain sensitive missions. The concern, of course, relates to the FFM investigation into the alleged chemical attack on the 7th April in Douma in Syria.”

“My concern, which is shared by a number of other inspectors, relates to the subsequent management lock-down and the practices in the later analysis and compilation of the final report. ” “There were 2 teams deployed, 1 team which I joined shortly after the start of field deployments was to #Douma in Syria, the other team deployed to Country X. ” The main concern relates to the announcement in July/18, of a new concept, the so-called FFM Core Team which essentially resulted in the dismissal of all the inspectors who’d been on the team deployed to locations in Douma and had been following up with their findings & analysis. “The findings of the final FFM report were contradictory, were a complete turn-around, with what the team had understood collectively. ”

“During and after the Douma deployments and by the time of release of the interim report in July 2018 our understanding was that we had serious misgivings that a chemical attack had occurred. ” “What the final FFM report does not make clear and thus does not reflect the views of the team members who deployed to Douma. (In which case I can really only speak for myself at this stage)” “The report did not make clear what new findings, facts, information, data or analysis in the fields of witness testimony, toxicology studies, chemical analysis, engineering and or ballistics studies…” “..had resulted in a complete turn-around in the situation from what was understood by the majority of the team and the entire Douma team in July 2018.”

“In my case I had followed with a further 6 months of engineering and ballistics studies into the cylinders. The results of which had provided further support for the view there had not been a chemical attack.” “This needs to be properly resolved, we believe (Douma FFM Team), through the rigours of science and engineering. In my situation it is not a political debate. I’m very aware that there is a political debate surrounding this.” “Perhaps a closing comment from my side, is that I was also the inspection team leader who developed and launched the inspections, the highly intrusive inspections, of the Barzah SSRC facility outside of Damascus.” “And I did the inspections and wrote the reports for the 2 inspections prior to and the inspection after the chemical facility, or the laboratory complex at Barzah SSRC, had been destroyed by the missile strike. That however is another story altogether.”

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

 

Jan 192020
 
 January 19, 2020  Posted by at 10:36 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »


John Collier “Grandfather Romero, a member of the family of Juan Lopez, the majordomo, is ninety-nine years old.” Trampas, New Mexico 1943

 

Biden Charges Sanders Camp Issued ‘Doctored Video’ To Attack Him (Pol.)
Rod Rosenstein Admits To Leaking Texts Between Peter Strzok, Lisa Page (NYP)
DOJ Court Filing Reveals Rosenstein Behind Strzok-Page Text Dumps (ZH)
House Files “Framers’ Worst Nightmare” Legal Brief (ZH)
Gowdy: God Help Us If The Trial Lasts Six Weeks (ZH)
Rudy Giuliani Once Had A Real Chance Of Becoming President (G.)
Boris Johnson Plans To Move House Of Lords To York (R.)
A Hidden Parliamentary Session Revealed Trump’s True Motives In Iraq (Webb)
The Petrodollar and the Phantom of the Petroyuan (Webb)
Putin Rejects Idea Of Soviet-Style Leaders For Life (R.)
Russia To Combat Rewriting Of WWII History With New Open-Archive Center (RT)

 

 

Does Biden know how a video is doctored? He’s handing the Sanders camp a big freebee.

Biden Charges Sanders Camp Issued ‘Doctored Video’ To Attack Him (Pol.)

Joe Biden accused Bernie Sanders’ campaign Saturday of issuing a “doctored video” to attack him over Social Security, a false claim that ratcheted up the tension between the two campaigns in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses. “Let’s get the record straight,” Biden said at Simpson College here. “There’s a little, doctored video going around … saying I agreed with Paul Ryan, the former vice presidential candidate, about wanting to privatize Social Security.” But the video in question — of Biden’s 2018 remarks to the Brookings Institution think tank — was not doctored by Sanders, whose campaign this month stepped up criticisms of Biden’s record on Social Security.

Sanders’ campaign did say in a recent campaign email that “Biden lauded Paul Ryan for proposing cuts to Social Security and Medicare” — which PolitiFact said Sanders’ campaign got wrong. But there is no evidence that the campaign altered any video. Biden, however, referenced the fact-checking website in making a muddled claim: “PolitiFact looked at it and they doctored the photo, they doctored the piece and it’s acknowledged that it’s a fake.”


Sanders’ campaign bristled at the criticism from Biden — a serious charge that Democrats recently have begun to level at Republicans, including Donald Trump, for manipulating images and videos on social media. An aide said Sanders might address the criticism head on. “Joe Biden should be honest with voters and stop trying to doctor his own public record of consistently and repeatedly trying to cut Social Security,” said Sanders Campaign Manager Faiz Shakir in a statement Saturday. “The facts are very clear: Biden not only pushed to cut Social Security — he is on tape proudly bragging about it on multiple occasions.”

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Things are moving too fast for me to keep up. Rosenstein was in the Trump camp’s crosshairs forever, but now all of a sudden he’s the other camp’s worst enemy?

Rod Rosenstein Admits To Leaking Texts Between Peter Strzok, Lisa Page (NYP)

Mystery solved. Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has ‘fessed up to giving explosive text messages of FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page to the press in 2017. The messages between the two, exchanged in 2016 while both were involved in sensitive political probes, revealed their antipathy to then-candidate Donald Trump and loyalty to Hillary Clinton. Rosenstein’s admission came in a Friday-night court filing by the Department of Justice, which is seeking to dismiss Strzok’s lawsuit challenging his June 2016 firing, Politico reported. The former agent’s case seeks damages for invasion of privacy, arguing that the texts were disclosed due to political pressure from the White House.

But Rosenstein, who left the DOJ last year, says he made the texts public to protect Page and Strzok — because Congress was about to hear about the embarrassing messages anyway. “Providing the most egregious messages in one package would avoid the additional harm of prolonged selective disclosures” from leaky congressional staffers, wrote Rosenstein, who now has a corporate law gig. The texts showed that Page and Strzok had feared Trump might win the election. Both had worked on the probe into whether Clinton jeopardized classified information by using a private email server while she was secretary of state as well as Crossfire Hurricane, the feds’ investigation into the Trump campaign.

Later, they worked briefly on special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia. “This man cannot be president,” Page wrote in March 2016. “She just has to win now,” she said in a July 2016 message, referring to Clinton. In his texts to Page, Strzok referred to Trump as an “idiot” and a “douche.” Shortly before the 2016 election, he wrote that the prospect of a Trump presidency made him “scared for our organization.”

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Strzok and Page sent 100s, 1000s of messages to each other, often during work hours, but they still get to claim invasion of their privacy?

DOJ Court Filing Reveals Rosenstein Behind Strzok-Page Text Dumps (ZH)

Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein authorized the release to the media of text messages between ‘FBI lovebirds’ Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, many of which revealed deep animus towards then-candidate Donald Trump while they were investigating him during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to Politico. In a Friday night court filing submitted shortly before midnight, Rosenstein says he made the decision to protect Strzok and Page from the damaging effects of lawmakers and others releasing the texts for use as political ammunition.


“In the messages, Strzok and Page regularly disparaged Trump and appeared to seek to reassure each other he could not be elected. Both called Trump an “idiot” and said Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton deserved to win. The texts also included murky discussions of an “insurance policy” to guard against Trump’s election. Trump backers have interpreted the reference as a plan to use the then-ongoing investigation into ties between Trump advisers and Russia as way to prevent him from taking office or undermine his presidency, but Strzok and Page have denied any such intent.” -Politico. Lisa Page – who sued the DOJ and FBI in December over the release, appears to be pissed.

Strzok has separately sued the agencies as well – for which Rosenstein’s admission was submitted as part of the government’s defense. The former DAG says that public disclosure of the texts was inevitable in connection with testimony he was set to give the next day in front of the House Judiciary Committee. “With the express understanding that it would not violate the Privacy Act and that the text messages would become public by the next day in any event, I authorized [Justice’s Office of Public Affairs] to disclose to the news media the text messages that were being disclosed to Congressional committees,” wrote Rosenstein.


“In November, the Justice Department asked U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson to throw out Strzok’s suit, which challenges both his firing from the FBI and the release of the texts. However, Strzok’s attorneys countered in a court filing last month that one reason to allow the suit to proceed was that Justice Department was being vague about just who made the final call to give the messages. Arguing that an air of mystery continued to surround the disclosure, Strzok lawyer Aitan Goelman called “revealing” Justice’s decision to seek dismissal of the suit without identifying the responsible official. “An agency cannot avoid Privacy Act liability for a disclosure actually made for an improper purpose by eliciting a sanitized after-the-fact rationale from an official who does not have all of the facts,” Goelman wrote. -Politico

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Always wonder why people claim to know exactly what the Framers meant, and to the exclusion of their political rivals.

House Files “Framers’ Worst Nightmare” Legal Brief (ZH)

Ahead of Tuesday’s opening arguments in the Senate impeachment trial, House Democrats – seven impeachment managers led by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff – filed their legal brief today. The 111-page summons urges the Senate to “eliminate the threat that the President poses to America’s national security” as it lays out the case against President Trump. The House legal filing (due by 5pmET) reiterates the findings of the House Intelligence and Judiciary panels, which, after hearing from witnesses and experts, settled on charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Additionally, the case that House prosecutors sent to the Senate references new evidence that wasn’t part of the impeachment inquiry, including material from Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, according to Democratic officials familiar with the argument. “The evidence overwhelmingly establishes that he is guilty of both. The only remaining question is whether the members of the Senate will accept and carry out the responsibility placed on them by the Framers of our Constitution and their constitutional Oaths,” the brief reads. “History will judge each Senator’s willingness to rise above partisan differences, view the facts honestly, and defend the Constitution.”

Compiled by the seven Democrats serving as impeachment managers, the brief describes the president’s conduct as “the Framer’s worst nightmare” in arguing that he should be impeached and removed from office. “President Trump’s ongoing pattern of misconduct demonstrates that he is an immediate threat to the Nation and the rule of law. It is imperative that the Senate convict and remove him from office now, and permanently bar him from holding federal office,” they write. President Trump’s legal team outlined the fiery response to its impeachment summons, calling the two articles of impeachment passed by the House last month “a dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their president.”

The six-page document – which they stressed is different from the brief that is not due until Monday – offers a taste of the rhetoric expected to be deployed by the president’s defenders in the Senate. “This is a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election, now just months away,” the filing states. Trump’s legal team, led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump personal lawyer Jay Sekulow, is challenging the impeachment on both procedural and constitutional grounds, claiming Trump has been mistreated by House Democrats and that he did nothing wrong. Notably, at least four of the impeachment managers, including Schiff, are scheduled to appear Sunday on political talk shows.

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Only six weeks? But that only takes us to early March, 8 whole months before the election.

Gowdy: God Help Us If The Trial Lasts Six Weeks (ZH)

Former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) told Fox News this week that he predicts President Donald Trump’s Senate trial will be short and that the president’s best defense is a review of the transcript. “The transcript is the single best piece of evidence that the president has,” Gowdy said. “Who brought up Rudy Giuliani’s name? It wasn’t Donald Trump. It was Zelensky. This was the second call, not the first call. If President Trump were really hell-bent on ensuring that Ukraine investigate the Bidens, would he not have brought that up in the first telephone call he had with Zelensky? Why wait till the second?” “As far as the timing of this trial is concerned, Trey, they are estimates that it could be quick, it could last as long as six weeks,” Fox News co-host Sandra Smith said. “Where do you fall on that, and what is the length of time mean?”

“I mean God help us if it lasts six weeks,” Gowdy responded. “The investigation is over, so it’s Schiff’s job to present the case. If he’s going to present the case on the paper with the depositions, it shouldn’t take that long. I don’t need Adam to read the depositions to me; the jury can go read it themselves.” “If they open it up to witnesses, and they want Bolton, and then there’s some Republicans that want four or five other witnesses, it could last six weeks,” Gowdy continued. “Sandra, I just have not met anyone whose opinion has changed during the pendency of this investigation. I can’t identify – maybe three open-minded jurors in the U.S. Senate. I just don’t, no matter how long it lasts, I don’t think it’s gonna change anyone’s mind in the Senate or among my fellow citizens. The shorter the better.”

Fox News co-host Bill Hemmer asked, “Did you want to give us a time frame for that?” “I’m saying two weeks,” Gowdy said. “If it goes six weeks, then they’re going to have to make some hard decisions on which witnesses are important enough to hear from and which ones, while they may have relevant evidence, we just don’t – I think in terms of a real trial.” “Why would you ever not call a witness if that witness has relevant information?” Gowdy continued. “How do you pick which ones to call and which ones not to? You can never do that in a real trial. So, if we’re going to open this thing up anew to a brand new investigation, then call everybody, and God knows how long that’ll take.”

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Nobody feels bad he didn’t get the job, himself least of all.

Rudy Giuliani Once Had A Real Chance Of Becoming President (G.)

If things had gone a little differently, Rudy Giuliani might have been elected president in 2008. The former New York City mayor turned Donald Trump stooge led polling in the Republican primaries for almost a year, and was seen as someone who could defeat Hillary Clinton – then the presumptive Democratic nominee – in key metropolitan areas. Giuliani, still riding a wave of good feeling from his handling of the 9/11 attacks, was raising serious amounts of cash, and was the best-known of the Republican candidates. He had a very real chance of succeeding George W Bush. But Giuliani’s campaign collapsed in chaotic fashion, and he became a political irrelevance – until re-emerging a decade later as Donald Trump’s lawyer, mouthpiece, bungling envoy to Ukraine and a central character in the third impeachment of an American president.

It’s hard to imagine now, but at the end of 2006, Giuliani was the most popular politician in the country. In March 2007, after Giuliani formally announced his White House campaign, he was the early favorite to win the Republican primary contest, with 44% support nationwide. (John McCain, the eventual nominee, was second with 20%.) Giuliani maintained that lead throughout the year, and raised the most money. Armed with a campaign slogan that read like the responses to a word-association examination – “Tested. Ready. Now” – Giuliani seemed destined to represent the Republican party in the November 2008 election.

“When Rudy Giuliani entered the race he was seen as the frontrunner,” said Capri Cafaro, a former minority leader of the Ohio senate and an adjunct professor at the American University school of public affairs. Oprah Winfrey had dubbed Giuliani “America’s mayor” following the 9/11 attacks – a moniker that stuck – while Time magazine went further, naming Giuliani its person of the year for 2001 and branding him “mayor of the world”. Cafaro said: “His strength predominantly came from being seen as America’s mayor – in light of this being just a few years after 9/11. [He was] playing to his strengths: his strengths in national security and essentially being able to rise to the occasion as a leader.”

[..] Giuliani was still leading the polls in the summer of 2007, six months out from the first Republican vote in Iowa. But he hit an unexpected problem, in the form of a man dressed in a chicken suit – the “Iowa Chicken” – who tirelessly followed Giuliani around in protest at him skipping the Ames straw poll, a traditional barometer of the Republican primary race.

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Can we move the Senate to the Appalachians?? Alabama?

Boris Johnson Plans To Move House Of Lords To York (R.)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is planning to relocate parliament’s upper house, the House of Lords, to the northern English city of York, the Sunday Times reported. In last month’s national election for the lower house, Johnson’s Conservatives won a swathe of seats in the traditional Northern English heartland of the opposition Labour Party as he secured a large majority in parliament. With a view to securing these gains, Johnson has promised to ramp up investment in the north of England, which suffered under the decline of heavy industries and austerity policies since the financial crisis, the Sunday Times said, without citing sources.


York, founded by the Romans and famed for its large minster, is first choice for the move, ahead of Birmingham, Britain’s second-largest city. The unelected House of Lords, which dates back to the 14th Century, is principally seen as a revising and refining mechanism but it technically has the power to block laws.

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Whitney’s laying it on a little thickish.

A Hidden Parliamentary Session Revealed Trump’s True Motives In Iraq (Webb)

Since the U.S. killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis earlier this month, the official narrative has held that their deaths were necessary to prevent a vague, yet allegedly imminent, threat of violence towards Americans, though President Trump has since claimed whether or not Soleimani or his Iraqi allies posed an imminent threat “doesn’t really matter.” While the situation between Iran, Iraq and the U.S. appears to have de-escalated substantially, at least for now, it is worth revisiting the lead-up to the recent U.S.-Iraq/Iran tensions up to the Trump-mandated killing of Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in order to understand one of the most overlooked yet relevant drivers behind Trump’s current policy with respect to Iraq: preventing China from expanding its foothold in the Middle East.

Indeed, it has been alleged that even the timing of Soleimani’s assassination was directly related to his diplomatic role in Iraq and his push to help Iraq secure its oil independence, beginning with the implementation of a new massive oil deal with China. While recent rhetoric in the media has dwelled on the extent of Iran’s influence in Iraq, China’s recent dealings with Iraq — particularly in its oil sector — are to blame for much of what has transpired in Iraq in recent months, at least according to Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who is currently serving in a caretaker role.

Much of the U.S. pressure exerted on Iraq’s government with respect to China has reportedly taken place covertly and behind closed doors, keeping the Trump administration’s concerns over China’s growing ties to Iraq largely out of public view, perhaps over concerns that a public scuffle could exacerbate the U.S.-China “trade war” and endanger efforts to resolve it. Yet, whatever the reasons may be, evidence strongly suggests that the U.S. is equally concerned about China’s presence in Iraq as it is with Iran’s. This is because China has the means and the ability to dramatically undermine not only the U.S.’ control over Iraq’s oil sector but the entire petrodollar system on which the U.S.’ status as both a financial and military superpower directly depends.

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Part 2 from the article above. Of course the US is worried about China’s growing influence, in the Middle East and elsewhere. But how much oil can you trade for services before you run out of those? That only seems a concern if Iraq would become a Chinese satellite. Not going to happen.

China is a threat to the petrodollar only when the yuan becomes freely tradable. But that would be a direct threat to the CCP and Xi.

The Petrodollar and the Phantom of the Petroyuan (Webb)

In his televised statements last week following Iran’s military response to the U.S. assassination of General Soleimani, Trump insisted that the U.S.’ Middle East policy is no longer being directed by America’s vast oil requirements. He stated specifically that: “Over the last three years, under my leadership, our economy is stronger than ever before and America has achieved energy independence. These historic accomplishments changed our strategic priorities. These are accomplishments that nobody thought were possible. And options in the Middle East became available. We are now the number-one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world. We are independent, and we do not need Middle East oil. (emphasis added)”

Yet, given the centrality of the recent Iraq-China oil deal in guiding some of the Trump administration’s recent Middle East policy moves, this appears not to be the case. The distinction may lie in the fact that, while the U.S. may now be less dependent on oil imports from the Middle East, it still very much needs to continue to dominate how oil is traded and sold on international markets in order to maintain its status as both a global military and financial superpower.

Indeed, even if the U.S. is importing less Middle Eastern oil, the petrodollar system — first forged in the 1970s — requires that the U.S. maintains enough control over the global oil trade so that the world’s largest oil exporters, Iraq among them, continue to sell their oil in dollars. Were Iraq to sell oil in another currency, or trade oil for services, as it plans to do with China per the recently inked deal, a significant portion of Iraqi oil would cease to generate a demand for dollars, violating the key tenet of the petrodollar system.

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Putin is being practical.

Putin Rejects Idea Of Soviet-Style Leaders For Life (R.)

President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday he did not want Russia to return to the late Soviet-era practice of having lifelong rulers who died in office without a proper succession strategy. His comments, made to World War Two veterans in St Petersburg, came days after he unveiled a sweeping shake-up of the political system which led to the resignation of Dmitry Medvedev as prime minister along with his government. Putin, in a surprise move, picked Mikhail Mishustin, the low-profile head of the country’s tax service, as the country’s next prime minister. Russians are now waiting to hear which ministers will keep their jobs in a new government.


Putin’s changes, which would amend the constitution to create new centers of power outside the presidency, were widely seen as giving the 67-year-old scope to extend his grip on power once he leaves the presidency in 2024. He has dominated Russian politics, as president or as prime minister, for two decades. Critics accuse Putin, a former KGB officer, of plotting to stay on in some capacity after his term ends. They suspect he wants to continue to wield power over the world’s largest nation, which is also one of its two leading nuclear powers. In his comments on Saturday, Putin, who has already said he wants to limit future presidents to two terms in power despite currently serving out his fourth term himself, rejected the idea of Russian presidents for life.

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I don’t get why RT has to repeat the “shut your filthy mouth” phrase multiple times. Obviously lost in translation. But the narrative changes are real. Poland was very wrong in WWII (see Shoah). And now they try and rewrite that.

Russia To Combat Rewriting Of WWII History With New Open-Archive Center (RT)

Moscow is to create the most extensive collection of WWII documents, open to all persons anywhere, to once and for all “shut the filthy mouth” of those seeking to rewrite history for short-term gains, the Russian president said. Any person, Russian or non-national, will be able to access the archive, including through a website resource, and the ultimate goal is to debunk any disinformation about the most devastating conflict in human history, President Vladimir Putin pledged, during a meeting with veterans of the Great Patriotic War, held in St. Petersburg on Saturday. The creation of the center would leave no chance to those willing to distort the truth about the war for their own political needs, he argued. “We will shut the filthy mouth of some public figures abroad, who open theirs only to achieve short-term political goals. We will shut them up with reliable and fundamental facts.”

The center is expected to incorporate the biggest and most extensive collection of documents, as well as photos and video footage dating back to the World War II era. The president first floated this idea during his annual state-of-the-nation address earlier this week, arguing that Russia should combat “brazen lies and attempts to distort history.” In St. Petersburg, Putin also said that Moscow should follow the example of Tel Aviv, which virtually allows no one on Earth to forget about the true horrors of the Holocaust. “Among the Holocaust victims, a large number were Soviet Jews,” he said, adding that “we should also not forget about the sacrifices of other Soviet peoples, the Russian people” who defended “their homeland and the whole world from the brown plague [of Nazism].”

Putin’s words come amid a row between Moscow and Warsaw over the events that led to the Second World War. Poland has been revising that devastating conflict’s history for quite some time, seeking to shun any responsibility relating to events during that period, while presenting itself as a victim of both Nazi and Soviet aggression and occupation. Warsaw has been removing monuments to Soviet soldiers who died while liberating the city from Nazi Germany occupation, and also initiated an EU Parliament resolution in September, which claims that the 1939 non-aggression pact between Moscow and Berlin had “paved the way for the outbreak of the Second World War.”

This last move did not sit well with Moscow, which labeled it a falsification of history. Putin himself eventually joined the heated debate between the two nations, when he called Jozef Lipski, the Polish ambassador to Berlin from 1934 to 1939, “a bastard and an anti-Semitic pig.” The Russian president referred to the fact that the envoy had promised Adolf Hitler that Poles would “erect for him a beautiful monument in Warsaw” if he expelled all European Jews to Africa. Warsaw took offense to Putin’s remarks, though no one disputed Lipski’s words, which have long been known to the public.

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Jan 172020
 
 January 17, 2020  Posted by at 10:57 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  13 Responses »


Jack Delano Mrs. Marcella Hart, mother of three, employed as a wiper at the roundhouse. Chicago & North Western R.R. 1943

 

BlackRock Will Start Moving Away from Fossil Fuels (NewYorker)
Microsoft Pledges To Eliminate Carbon Footprint By 2050 (Ind.)
With Rivals Stuck In Impeachment Trial, Biden, Buttigieg To Barnstorm Iowa (R.)
Parnas Now Denies Speaking With Trump (WE)
Putin Purged the West from the Kremlin (Luongo)
China’s Economic Growth Hits 29-Year Low (BBC)
Manhattan’s Homeless Shelters Are Full, Luxury Skyscrapers Are Empty (Atl.)
The Loss of Truth In the Media Is a Threat to Our Democracy (Ray Dalio)
Bayer Close To Roundup Settlement – Mediator (R.)
Chemicals In Tap Water Cause Thousands Of Cancer Deaths Across Europe (RT)

 

 

Next week brings not only the Capitol Hill Bizarro circus, there’s also Davos. So we have BlackRock and Microsoft making their solid pledges. Because they see profit in playing nice.

“..there’s about eighty trillion dollars of money on the planet. If that’s correct, then BlackRock’s holding of seven trillion dollars means that nearly a dime of every dollar rests in its digital files”

BlackRock Will Start Moving Away from Fossil Fuels (NewYorker)

If you felt the earth tremble a little bit in Manhattan on Tuesday morning, it was likely caused by the sheer heft of vast amounts of money starting to shift. “Seismic” is the only word to describe the recent decision of the asset-management firm BlackRock to acknowledge the urgency of the climate crisis and begin (emphasis on begin) to start redirecting its investments. By one estimate, there’s about eighty trillion dollars of money on the planet. If that’s correct, then BlackRock’s holding of seven trillion dollars means that nearly a dime of every dollar rests in its digital files, mostly in the form of stocks it invests in for pension funds and the like. So when BlackRock’s C.E.O., Larry Fink, devoted his annual letter to investors to explaining that climate change has now put us “on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance,” it marked a watershed moment in climate history.

He’s right about the financial future, of course—one can’t look at the clouds of smoke now obscuring the Australian continent and come away thinking that we can maintain our present course. But anyone paying attention—which includes investment-fund C.E.O.s—has known the score for years. What’s changed now are a couple of factors. For one, fossil-fuel stocks have begun to drag down portfolios. As the Times observed, “Had Mr. Fink moved a decade ago to pull BlackRock’s funds out of companies that contribute to climate change, his clients would have been well served. In the past 10 years, through Friday, companies in the S&P 500 energy sector had gained just 2 percent in total. In the same period, the broader S&P 500 nearly tripled.”

But, at least as important, public pressure just keeps mounting. Activist campaigns have been working to make the financial industry start to pay attention. (I’m involved with one, and was among those arrested, on Friday, after a sojourn in the lobby of a Chase branch.) In the past few months, Goldman Sachs, Liberty Mutual, and the Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., have all put forth new climate policies, and the European Investment Bank—the largest international public bank in the world—announced that it would stop lending to fossil-fuel projects altogether.

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CEO Satya Nadella said on the BBC this morning that the world needs much more energy by 2040. Grow the world cleaner! Disregard these lying fools.

Microsoft Pledges To Eliminate Carbon Footprint By 2050 (Ind.)

Microsoft has promised to remove as much carbon as it has put into the atmosphere by 2050 – a goal critics say is undermined by the tech-giant’s ongoing contracts with some of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the world. The pledge – one of the most ambitious to be undertaken by a Fortune 500 company – includes the creation of a “Climate Innovation Fund”, which will invest $1bn (£760m) over the next four years to speed up the development of carbon removal technology. Speaking from Washington, chief executive Satya Nadella said the company would seek to be carbon-negative – taking more carbon out of the atmosphere than it puts in – by 2030. “If the last decade has taught us anything, it’s that technology built without these principles can do more harm than good,” he said.

“We must begin to offset the damaging effects of climate change,” Mr Nadella added, commenting that if global temperatures continue to rise unabated “the results will be devastating”. The move was lauded by politicians with the US – with Democratic senator Chris Coons and Republican Mike Braun, both chairs of the bipartisan Senate Climate Solutions Caucus, describing the mood as “exactly the kind of bold action we need from the business community”. However, it is unclear how the pledge will run alongside Microsoft’s work with giants in the oil industry including Chevron and Exxon Mobil – both of which were identified among the globe’s top companies for greenhouse gas emissions from 1988 to 2015, placing in 12th and 5th respectively according to environmental non-profit CDP.

Last February the firm announced it had the potential to expand Exxonmobil’s production by up to 50,000 barrels of oil a day by 2025 from the Permian Basin in the southwest US – and in 2017 it announced a multi-year deal to sell cloud services to US energy giant Chevron Corp. Bill Weihl, former director of sustainability at Facebook Inc, said Microsoft does not take into account that its work with oil companies could outweigh the gains Microsoft makes on its own carbon reduction. “There is good stuff here,” Mr Weihl said of the carbon capture plan. “But the topline message, that this is urgent, is not matched by what they’re focusing on.”

[..] The announcement follows a December lawsuit in which Microsoft was named alongside the likes of Tesla and Google parent firm Alphabet – with the companies accusing the company of being complicit in the deaths of children from the Democratic Republic of Congo who were mining a metal integral to their devices. The children cited in the landmark lawsuit had been put to work to find cobalt – a precious metal vital to the production of modern batteries that has been intensively mined since the dawn of smartphones.

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Unless Biden is called as a witness?!

With Rivals Stuck In Impeachment Trial, Biden, Buttigieg To Barnstorm Iowa (R.)

Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg will blitz Iowa before the state kicks off the party’s nominating contest on Feb. 3, while their key rivals will be largely unable to campaign because they must sit as Senate jurors in Republican President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. Aides to Biden and Buttigieg, locked in a tight four-way battle with U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, would not comment on the unprecedented advantage next week’s Senate trial presents them. Yet newly released schedules reveal an intense on-the-ground push by both candidates in the final stretch in Iowa, while Sanders, Warren and another senator, Amy Klobuchar, will miss most remaining campaign days to participate in the impeachment trial.

“I would rather be in Iowa today,” Sanders told reporters at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday after the trial formally kicked off. “I would rather be in New Hampshire and in Nevada and so forth. But I swore a constitutional oath as a United States senator to do my job, and I’m here to do my job.” A senior aide to former Vice President Biden, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the campaign has not recalibrated its Iowa strategy because of the Senate trial. But their No. 1 priority is getting Biden talking to as many voters as possible in Iowa in the final days of what polls suggest is a virtual tie among the four.

Biden heads to Iowa on Friday and will spend nearly every day between then and the Feb. 3 caucuses in the state, the aide said. Biden’s wife, Jill Biden, who has been campaigning heavily on behalf of her husband in Iowa and other early-voting states, will also spend much of the final 18 days in the state. [..] To be sure, Sanders, Warren and Klobuchar are not ceding Iowa. They plan to campaign there during the final three weekends and will rely on representatives traveling the state for them on weekdays when the Senate trial is in session. Warren’s campaign has said they are considering remote appearances and events hosted by key supporters or family members.

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Parnas is a natural born liar, as the MSM said until now. But not anymore? Now his words “change the entire impeachment trial”? He’s just a guy who’s been indicted and seeks relief.

Parnas Now Denies Speaking With Trump (WE)

Indicted businessman Lev Parnas said he did not speak directly with President Trump about a pressure campaign against Ukraine that sought to benefit Trump politically, despite earlier reports to the contrary. Last November, CNN reported that Parnas told close associates he had spoken to Trump. “At one point during the party that night, Parnas and Fruman slipped out of a large reception room packed with hundreds of Trump donors to have a private meeting with the President and Giuliani, according to two acquaintances in whom Parnas confided right after the meeting,” CNN wrote. “Eventually, according to what Parnas told his confidants, the topic turned to Ukraine that night,” the article continued.


“According to those two confidants, Parnas said that ‘the big guy,’ as he sometimes referred to the President in conversation, talked about tasking him and Fruman with what Parnas described as ‘a secret mission’ to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.” The New York Times told a different story Wednesday, reporting: “Mr. Parnas said that although he did not speak with Mr. Trump about the efforts, he met with the president on several occasions and was told by Mr. Giuliani that Mr. Trump was kept in the loop.” Parnas’s decision to go public has led to congressional Democrats demanding that he and other key players in the pressure campaign be called to testify in next week’s Senate impeachment trial.

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A success story like none other these days.

Putin Purged the West from the Kremlin (Luongo)

[..] the next thing to do was to reform an economy rightly criticized for being too heavily dependent on oil and gas revenues. And that is a much tougher task. It meant getting control over the Russian central bank and the financial sector. Putin was given that opportunity during the downturn in oil prices in 2014. Using the crisis as an opportunity Putin began the decoupling of Russia’s economy from the West. During the early boom years of his Presidency oil revenue strengthened both the Russian state coffers and the so-called oligarchs who Putin was actively fighting for control. He warned the CEO’s of Gazprom, Rosneft and Sberbank that they were too heavily exposed to the U.S. dollar this way in the years leading up to the crash in oil prices in 2014-16.

And when the U.S. sanctioned Russia in 2014 over the reunification with Crimea these firms all had to come to Putin for a bailout. Their dollar-denominated debt was swapped out for euro and ruble debt through the Bank of Russia and he instructed the central bank to allow the ruble to fall, to stop defending it. Taking the inflationary hit was dangerous but necessary if Russia was to become a truly independent economic force. Since then it’s been a tug of war with the IMF-trained bureaucracy within the Bank of Russia to set monetary policy in accordance with Russia’s needs not what the international community demanded. That strong Presidency was a huge boon. But, now that the job is mostly done, it can be an albatross.

Putin understands that a Russia flush with too much oil money is a Russia ruled by that money and becomes lazy because of that money. Contrary to popular opinion, Putin doesn’t want to see oil prices back near $100 per barrel. Because Russia’s comparative advantage in oil and gas is so high relative to everyone else on the world stage and to other domestic industries that money retards innovation and investment in new technologies and a broadening of the Russian domestic economy. And this has been Putin’s focus for a while now. Oil and gas are geostrategic assets used to shore up Russia’s position as a regional power, building connections with its new partners while opening up new markets for Russian businesses. But it isn’t the end of the Russian story of the future, rather the beginning.

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There’s still not enough salt to take the numbers with. But at least at 6.1%, Xi can claim he meant to do this.

China’s Economic Growth Hits 29-Year Low (BBC)

China’s economy grew last year at the slowest pace in almost three decades. Official figures show that the world’s second largest economy expanded by 6.1% in 2019 from the year before – the worst figure in 29 years. The country has faced weak domestic demand and the impact of the bitter trade war with the US. The government has been rolling out measures over the past two years in an attempt to boost growth. It comes after almost two years of trade tensions with the US – although hopes of a better relationship with America have seen improvements in manufacturing and business confidence data. This week Washington and Beijing signed a “phase one” trade deal. However, analysts remain unsure whether those recent gains will continue.

In response to the lower growth rate, Beijing is now widely expected to roll out yet more stimulus measures. The government has used a combination of measures aimed at easing the slowdown, including tax cuts and allowing local governments to sell large amounts of bonds to fund their infrastructure programmes. The country’s banks have also been encouraged to lend more, especially to small firms. New loans in the local currency hit a record high of $2.44 trillion (£1.86tn) last year. So far the economy has been slow to pick up, with investment growth falling to record low levels. Historically, China has seen much stronger economic expansion, with the first decade of the 21st Century seeing double-digit percentage growth.

But – although that 6.1% growth rate is China’s weakest expansion in almost three decades – it is much higher than other leading economies. The US central bank, for example, has forecast that the American economy will grow by around 2.2% this year. As part of the phase one deal, China pledged to boost US imports by $200bn above 2017 levels and strengthen intellectual property rules. In exchange, the US agreed to halve some of the new tariffs it has imposed on Chinese products. Speaking in Washington, US President Donald Trump said the pact would be “transformative” for the American economy.

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The long term effects of the Fed’s bubbles are disastrous. That’s why they should be taken out of the equation.

Manhattan’s Homeless Shelters Are Full, Luxury Skyscrapers Are Empty (Atl.)

In Manhattan, the homeless shelters are full, and the luxury skyscrapers are vacant. Such is the tale of two cities within America’s largest metro. Even as 80,000 people sleep in New York City’s shelters or on its streets, Manhattan residents have watched skinny condominium skyscrapers rise across the island. These colossal stalagmites initially transformed not only the city’s skyline but also the real-estate market for new homes. From 2011 to 2019, the average price of a newly listed condo in New York soared from $1.15 million to $3.77 million. But the bust is upon us. Today, nearly half of the Manhattan luxury-condo units that have come onto the market in the past five years are still unsold, according to The New York Times.

What happened? While real estate might seem like the world’s most local industry, these luxury condos weren’t exclusively built for locals. They were also made for foreigners with tens of millions of dollars to spare. Developers bet huge on foreign plutocrats—Russian oligarchs, Chinese moguls, Saudi royalty—looking to buy second (or seventh) homes. But the Chinese economy slowed, while declining oil prices dampened the demand for pieds-à-terre among Russian and Middle Eastern zillionaires. It didn’t help that the Treasury Department cracked down on attempts to launder money through fancy real estate. Despite pressure from nervous lenders, developers have been reluctant to slash prices too suddenly or dramatically, lest the market suddenly clear and they leave millions on the table.

[..] In the past decade, New York City real-estate prices have gone from merely obscene to downright macabre. From 2010 to 2019, the average sale price of homes doubled in many Brooklyn neighborhoods, including Prospect Heights and Williamsburg, according to the Times. Buyers there could consider themselves lucky: In Cobble Hill, the typical sales price tripled to $2.5 million in nine years. This is not normal. And for middle-class families, particularly for the immigrants who give New York City so much of its dynamism, it has made living in Manhattan or gentrified Brooklyn practically impossible. No wonder, then, that the New York City area is losing about 300 residents every day.

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Look, if you quote the Washington Post’s Executive Editor to make this point, you’ve already lost.

The Loss of Truth In the Media Is a Threat to Our Democracy (Ray Dalio)

While I have reflected on the corrosive effects that fake and distorted media are having on our society’s well-being for the past few years, I am now more concerned about it than ever. To me media distortions + great polarity + the upcoming elections = a significant risk to quality democracy. It is no longer controversial to say that media distortions are a serious problem. Even most of the media folks I speak with share my concern. As Martin Baron, the Washington Post’s Executive Editor, said in reflecting on the problem, “If you have a society where people can’t agree on the basic facts, how do you have a functioning democracy?” This is not just a fringe media problem; it is a mainstream media problem. A 2019 Gallup study said that only 13 percent of Americans surveyed have “a great deal” of trust in the media.


Only 41 percent of those surveyed said that they have either a “fair” or “great deal” of trust in media. That compares with 55 percent having such confidence in 1999 and 72 percent in 1976. The dramatically decreased trustworthiness has even plagued icons of journalistic trust such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, as sensationalism and commercialism have superseded accuracy and journalistic integrity as primary objectives. A number of media writers have in private told me that their editors have specifically hired them to write negative, sensationalistic stories because they sell best. They explained that the financial decline of print media and the public’s short attention span have required them to produce such attention-grabbing headlines and stories or face financial decline.

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This doesn’t smell right at all.

Bayer Close To Roundup Settlement – Mediator (R.)

Bayer is close to settling more than 75,000 cancer claims related to its Roundup herbicide, mediator Ken Feinberg told Bloomberg in an interview, saying he was “cautiously optimistic” a deal could be reached in about a month. Feinberg was quoted as saying that the number of cases had grown to between 75,000 and 85,000 and “maybe more”. Bayer in October said it was now facing 42,700 U.S. plaintiffs blaming its glyphosate-based weedkillers for their cancer. Bayer has ruled out withdrawing from the market in the U.S., saying regulators and extensive research have found glyphosate to be safe.


A spokesman for Bayer said: “The number reported by Bloomberg includes potential plaintiffs with unserved cases and is a speculative estimate about the numbers of plaintiffs who might be included in a potential settlement.” He added: “The number of served cases as reported on a quarterly basis remains significantly below 50,000. Bayer does not report or speculate about potential plaintiffs with unserved cases.”

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Mass suicide continues. We cannot help ourselves, it’s a force that’s bigger than us.

Chemicals In Tap Water Cause Thousands Of Cancer Deaths Across Europe (RT)

Each year, more than 6,500 cases of bladder cancer, roughly five percent of all cases in Europe, are found to be attributable to exposure to trihalomethanes (THMs) in drinking water – and it’s all perfectly legal. For a study of countries’ water quality, the EU28 became the EU26, as adequate data for Bulgaria and Romania could not be obtained. Nevertheless, the project covered 75% of the total EU population, and a reading of its findings is ominous.

What the hell are THMs?THMs are a class of molecule that appear as a by-product of the disinfectants used to clean drinking water. When chlorine, the main chemical used to clean drinking water, comes into contact with organic matter, it breaks down into THMs. And despite being legal up to certain levels, long-term exposure to them has been consistently associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer. The EU has set that legal limit at 100 lg=L, but anything over 50 lg=L causes a 51 percent increase in the probability of bladder cancer, in men at least. This study was undertaken at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, in a city which has THM levels above the present regulatory maximum limit of 100 lg=L. Astonishingly, there is no provision for the lowering of this maximum in the latest European Council directive.

How common is bladder cancer?Bladder cancer is only the tenth most common form of cancer in the UK; 135,000 people in the EU were diagnosed with it in 2016. It is usually quite treatable with a simple surgical procedure as long as it is caught before spreading to other body parts. Some evidence suggests it affects men more than women (although this could be down to lifestyle differences, such as higher rates of smoking).

The countries with the highest percentages of bladder cancer cases attributable to THM exposure were Cyprus (23 percent), Malta (18 percent) and Ireland (17 percent). In other words, 23 out of 100 Cypriot people who are diagnosed with cancer in a given year are likely to have contracted it from their drinking water. Meanwhile, the greatest number of attributable cases actually occurred in Spain (1,482 attributable cases) and the United Kingdom (1,356) although this is a function of population as well as THM contamination.

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


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

 

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

 

 

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

House Delivers Articles Of Impeachment To Senate (ZH)

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The meme is still not dead.

Americans Beware! Russia Can Hack Your Brain (Bridge)

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

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

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

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

What Is Russia’s Putin Up To? (BBC)

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

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

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

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From the right.

Bloomberg Is Wasting His Money Attacking Teflon Don (DC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Less transport. Good for the climate.

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

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

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

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Will Australians ever wake up to their political reality?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Julian Assange at the Westminster Magistrates Court (OffG)

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

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

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

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The Taleb approach to forest fires. Antifragility.

 

 

 

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