Jul 262020
 
 July 26, 2020  Posted by at 9:35 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Dorothea Lange Youngest little girl of motherless family, Toppenish, Yakima Valley WA 1939

 

The Key To Defeating COVID19 Already Exists. We Need To Start Using It (NW)
Over 40% Of US Adults Are Susceptible To Severe COVID-19 (ZH)
UK Quarantines Travellers From Spain In Sudden Blow To Europe’s Revival (R.)
Australia Reports Jump In Daily New Cases, Record Deaths (R.)
US Renters Brace For Evictions As Moratorium Ends (Pol.)
Mass Evictions Set To Begin – Communities Of Color To Be Hardest Hit (F.)
A Record 170 Tons Of Physical Gold Were Just Delivered On The COMEX (JN)
49% of Voters Believe Kremlin Interfered In Brexit Referendum (O.)
How Our Spies Missed Russian Bid To Sway Brexit (G.)
Dozens Gather In MAGA Hats In Hopes Washington Post Will Defame Them (BBee)

 

 

I’d like to pay more attention to the spreading protests/riots in the US, but I find it’s very hard to find anything neutral. Who are the bad guys and who the good guys entirely depends on your news source. And then you have opinion, not news. Lots of videos of violence perpetrated by both sides. I don’t like the use of the term stormtroopers, because that’s straight out of nazi Germany. Which is not where we are, though I know, some people would say it is.

 

 

It’s Sunday, so no new records. Just persistently high numbers. Flare-ups in Melbourne, Hong Kong, EU countries. South Africa is getting bad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, HCQ. From a professor of epidemiology at Yale. Sometimes it feels like HCQ has its own private cancel culture.

The Key To Defeating COVID19 Already Exists. We Need To Start Using It (NW)

As professor of epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health, I have authored over 300 peer-reviewed publications and currently hold senior positions on the editorial boards of several leading journals. I am usually accustomed to advocating for positions within the mainstream of medicine, so have been flummoxed to find that, in the midst of a crisis, I am fighting for a treatment that the data fully support but which, for reasons having nothing to do with a correct understanding of the science, has been pushed to the sidelines. As a result, tens of thousands of patients with COVID-19 are dying unnecessarily. Fortunately, the situation can be reversed easily and quickly.

I am referring, of course, to the medication hydroxychloroquine. When this inexpensive oral medication is given very early in the course of illness, before the virus has had time to multiply beyond control, it has shown to be highly effective, especially when given in combination with the antibiotics azithromycin or doxycycline and the nutritional supplement zinc. On May 27, I published an article in the American Journal of Epidemiology (AJE) entitled, “Early Outpatient Treatment of Symptomatic, High-Risk COVID-19 Patients that Should be Ramped-Up Immediately as Key to the Pandemic Crisis.” That article, published in the world’s leading epidemiology journal, analyzed five studies, demonstrating clear-cut and significant benefits to treated patients, plus other very large studies that showed the medication safety.

Physicians who have been using these medications in the face of widespread skepticism have been truly heroic. They have done what the science shows is best for their patients, often at great personal risk. I myself know of two doctors who have saved the lives of hundreds of patients with these medications, but are now fighting state medical boards to save their licenses and reputations. The cases against them are completely without scientific merit. Since publication of my May 27 article, seven more studies have demonstrated similar benefit. In a lengthy follow-up letter, also published by AJE, I discuss these seven studies and renew my call for the immediate early use of hydroxychloroquine in high-risk patients.

These seven studies include: an additional 400 high-risk patients treated by Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, with zero deaths; four studies totaling almost 500 high-risk patients treated in nursing homes and clinics across the U.S., with no deaths; a controlled trial of more than 700 high-risk patients in Brazil, with significantly reduced risk of hospitalization and two deaths among 334 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine; and another study of 398 matched patients in France, also with significantly reduced hospitalization risk. Since my letter was published, even more doctors have reported to me their completely successful use.

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How about you close McDonald’s permanently?

Over 40% Of US Adults Are Susceptible To Severe COVID-19 (ZH)

Several studies have found that the risk of contracting severe Covid-19 that can result in hospitalization, ICU admission, mechanical ventilation or death increases with age as well as the presence of underlying health conditions. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a study showing that a considerable share of the American population has some form of underlying health issue, which, as Statista’s Niall McCarthy details below, places them at risk from severe forms of the virus. The study’s findings are based on the 2018 Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and U.S. Census population data and it determined that 40.7 percent of U.S. adults (aged 18 and over) have a pre-existing health condition.

The most prevalent condition in the study is obesity, affecting just over 30 percent of Americans and it followed by diabetes which has a national prevalence of 11.2 percent. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cardiovascular disease have a prevalence of just under 7 percent while chronic kidney disease is at approximately 3 percent. The CDC stated that “while the estimated number of persons with any underlying medical condition was higher in population-dense metropolitan areas, overall prevalence was higher in rural nonmetropolitan areas.” It also added that “the counties with the highest prevalences of any condition were concentrated in Southeastern states, particularly in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and West Virginia, as well as some counties in Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and northern Michigan, among others”.

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Several EU countries have new flare-ups. Second Wave? I don’t think so. Just the effect of loosening restrictions, and people thinking it’s all over.

UK Quarantines Travellers From Spain In Sudden Blow To Europe’s Revival (R.)

Britain abruptly imposed a two-week quarantine on all travellers arriving from Spain after a surge of coronavirus cases, a dramatic and sudden reversal on Saturday to the opening of the European continent to tourism after months of lockdown. The quarantine requirement was due to take effect from midnight (2300 GMT on Saturday), making it impossible for travellers to avoid it by rushing home. The British foreign ministry also announced it was recommending against all but essential travel to mainland Spain, a move likely to prompt tour operators to cancel package holidays and trigger claims against insurers.

Spain’s Canary and Balearic Islands were not covered by the advice to avoid travel to the mainland, but holidaymakers returning to Britain from the islands will still be subject to quarantine on return. Britain’s government urged employers to be “understanding” towards staff who are unable to return to their place of work for two weeks after they return from holiday. The sudden British move followed steps this week by other European countries. On Friday Norway said it would re-impose a 10-day quarantine requirement for people arriving from Spain from Saturday, while France advised people not to travel to Spain’s northeastern region of Catalonia.

But the total collapse of tourism from Britain would have far more impact. Britain accounted for more than 20% of the foreign visitors to Spain last year, the largest group by nationality. Tourism normally accounts for some 12% of Spain’s economy. Spain had been on a list of countries that the British government had said were safe for travellers to visit – meaning tourists returning home would not have to go into quarantine. The announcement of such lists just weeks ago had allowed Europe’s tourism sector to begin its revival after the near total shut-down prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Almost all Melbourne.

Australia Reports Jump In Daily New Cases, Record Deaths (R.)

Australia’s second-most populous state, Victoria, recorded 459 cases of the new coronavirus, the second-highest daily total and up from 357 cases the previous day, the state’s leader said on Sunday. Premier Daniel Andrews also told a press briefing that Victoria had reported 10 COVID-19 deaths in past 24 hours, Australia’s highest ever daily number. The state’s second wave is being driven by workplace infections, including at aged-care and healthcare facilities, big distribution centres, slaughterhouses, cold-storage facilities and warehouses, Andrews said. “What that tells you is that some people… are feeling sick, they have symptoms and they are still going to work,” he said.


“If that continues, then we will just continue to see more and more cases.” The cases were found on the day with the highest number of coronavirus tests, at more than 45,000. Australia has avoided the worst of coronavirus crisis seen in other countries, but authorities are struggling to contain an outbreak in Victoria. It has recorded more than 14,400 cases so far. Victorians are subject to a six week lockdown, border closures with other states and mandatory face mask wearing.

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I’d like to know how many “homeowners” face eviction.

US Renters Brace For Evictions As Moratorium Ends (Pol.)

Columbus, Ohio, has turned part of its convention center into an evictions court. Denver is creating a handful of designated campsites for homeless people. And Milwaukee saw a 17 percent increase in eviction filings last month after a state ban lapsed. Cities across the country are bracing for a surge of evictions as a four-month federal moratorium that has protected millions of tenants from losing their homes in the middle of the pandemic expires Friday at midnight, with no relief in sight from Congress. The ban is ending just as a federal enhancement to unemployment benefits — a $600-a-week boost that has helped many laid off tenants pay at least some of their rent — also lapses this weekend.

Estimates of the number of people who stand to lose their homes are rough, given the patchwork of state and local bans on evictions, many of which are also expiring. But they range in the millions, and a disproportionate share of them are people of color. “The wave of evictions has already begun, and now Congress needs to act to prevent it from becoming a tsunami,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “If the federal ban is not extended, if the state and local eviction moratoriums that are scheduled to expire in the coming weeks do, and if no emergency rental assistance is provided, then from the end of August through fall, millions of Americans will be evicted from their homes,” Yentel said.

While states have imposed their own eviction moratoriums, 24 of them have already allowed the temporary bans to lapse. That leaves somewhere between 19 million and 23 million people — about one in five renters in the U.S. — at risk of eviction by the end of September if Congress fails to extend both the federal ban and supplemental unemployment benefits, according to an estimate by the Aspen Institute. The situation was dire even before both protections lapsed: Roughly 9.4 million renters have no confidence they will be able to make next month’s rent payment, according to the latest weekly survey by the Census Bureau, conducted the second week of July. Another 14.3 million have only “slight” confidence they will be able to make rent next month.

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Well, duh!

Mass Evictions Set To Begin – Communities Of Color To Be Hardest Hit (F.)

On March 27, the CARES Act was signed into law and included a moratorium through July 24 on evictions for those living in homes funded by federally backed mortgages or who rely on housing vouchers. This protection covers roughly a third of renters and expires today, putting millions of families at risk of losing their homes in the middle of an unprecedented health and unemployment crisis. Once the moratorium ends, landlords must still give renters 30 days’ notice before filing a complaint in court. Some states and cities have their own bans on evictions so renters should check with their local government if they receive notice. Over 17 million Americans are still unemployed and unable to find work, and the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases only continues to rise.


Removing families from their homes amid the surge in cases will result in even more lives being lost. According to a report by The Center for Public Integrity, communities of color are most at risk of losing their homes. This same group is also the most vulnerable to the disease because of structural conditions. One example is that Black and other people of color are more likely to be considered essential workers or work in jobs that can’t be done remotely. The disparities in the quality and access to healthcare for Black individuals has been widely documented as well. These factors mean that the expiration of the moratorium on evictions will disproportionately affect Black and brown communities, and widen the racial wealth gap.

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Interesting story. If the spread between New York and London gold is too large, it pays to fly huge gold shipments around the world.

A Record 170 Tons Of Physical Gold Were Just Delivered On The COMEX (JN)

Three elements cause physical delivery on the COMEX to have reached record highs this year: strong demand for futures in New York, a persisting spread between the price of futures in New York versus spot gold in London, and arbitrage. Physical delivery on the largest gold futures exchange in the world, the COMEX in New York, has reached all time highs this year. In June more than 170 tonnes were physically delivered (5.5 million ounces). Usually, delivery is “neglectable.” What has changed? An important change in the global gold market occurred on March 23, 2020. On that day the price of gold futures in New York started drifting higher than the price for spot gold in London. Ever since, the spread has persisted, though it continuously widens and narrows.

[..] The world’s most dominant gold spot market is the London Bullion Market, where mostly “loco London” gold is traded. Meaning the metal is physically settled within the environs of the M25 London Orbital Motorway. The most dominant gold futures market is located in New York, where metal can be physically delivered within a 150-mile radius of the City of New York. Before March 23, the price in London (spot) and the price in New York (near month futures contract) always traded in tight lockstep because of arbitrage. If, for example, the futures price would trade above spot, arbitragers would “buy spot and sell futures” until the spread was closed. Arbitragers would hold their positions—long spot, short futures—until maturity of the futures contract, because at expiry the price of the futures contract was guaranteed to converge with the spot price.

In this example we can see that strong demand in New York would be translated into spot buying in London. Worth noting is that when a futures trader rolled its position into the next month, and his initial futures buying was translated into spot buying in London by an arbitrager, on a systemic level the arbitrager would roll its position as well. Of course, the opposite happened as well. When futures traded below spot, arbitragers would “buy futures and sell spot” until the spread was closed. So far, a simplified version of the market before March 23. Since March 23 of this year, futures have persistently been trading above spot, though the spread isn’t constant. As a result, arbitragers aren’t assured the futures price in New York will converge with the spot price in London. An arbitrage trade as described above, through a position in both markets, incurs risk.

What arbitragers currently do to profit from the spread is buy spot, sell futures, fly the metal to New York, and physically deliver the gold. This is how the profit is locked in. If the spread between spot and futures is $40 per ounce, the arbitrager’s profit is $40 minus costs for transport, insurance, storage, etc. Now you can see why the persistent spread between New York and London has increased physical delivery on the COMEX through arbitrage. Conclusion: Physical delivery on the COMEX is elevated because of the current unusual situation in the global gold market. The gold delivered in New York has been imported from spot markets such as Singapore, Switzerland and Australia. U.S. imports directly from the U.K. are rare, because in London 400-ounce bars are traded and the main futures contract in New York requires smaller bars for delivery.

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Just the Guardian confirming its propaganda works in Britain.

49% of Voters Believe Kremlin Interfered In Brexit Referendum (O.)

Almost half the British public believes the Russian government interfered in the EU referendum and last year’s general election, according to a poll. The latest Opinium poll for the Observer found that 49% of voters think there was Russian interference in the Brexit referendum, with 23% disagreeing. Some 47% believed Russia interfered in the December general election. The poll findings come after the long-awaited publication of the report into Russian interference by parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee last week. It found that the government had not attempted to investigate potential Russian interference in the referendum. It said the UK had “badly underestimated” the Russian threat.

Opinium asked people whether they thought there was any involvement from Russia in the last three general elections, the EU referendum and the Scottish referendum. For each, the public were more likely to think that the Russian government had interfered than that it had not. Two-fifths (40%) thought Russia had interfered in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. Remainers were more likely (63%) to think that the Russian government interfered in the EU referendum than Leavers (39%). Asked about the 2019 general election, 70% of Lib Dem voters and 62% of Labour voters believed the Russian government interfered, compared with 39% of Conservative voters. However, even Conservative voters were more likely to believe that the Russian government interfered in that election (39%) than not (33%).

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And for those still not with the program, Luke Harding explains that the only possible reason no Russian interference was found is that they weren’t looking. Just like Robert Mueller.

How Our Spies Missed Russian Bid To Sway Brexit (G.)

[..] the Russia report – published last week after a 10-month delay – paints a damning picture of British spooks who were too timorous or too incompetent to do much about a growing Russian threat, or the Kremlin’s surreptitious attempt to sway the Brexit vote. Over the last four years British and Russian policy have been remarkably aligned. For Theresa May as prime minister and her successor Boris Johnson, Brexit has been about delivering the “will of the people”. From Moscow, Brexit is seen as a wild success, diminishing the UK and estranging London from its European partners. And perhaps hastening Scottish secession too. The MPs who sit on parliament’s intelligence and security committee (ISC) were incredulous at the lack of cooperation from the UK’s security agencies.


Asked about Moscow and Brexit, MI5 produced “six lines of text”, the report said. GCHQ didn’t drill down into the St Petersburg troll factory, which pumped out millions of pro-Leave messages. And MI6 failed to ask its secret agents what exactly the Kremlin was up to. Agency sources suggest such criticism is unfair. Yes, they say, MI5 has a permanent counter-intelligence mission. Its job is to keep Britain safe. Yet it also has a statutory duty to protect UK democracy. Whitehall sources last night insisted the security services fulfilled such responsibilities without political interference. Others say the security services depend on “tasking” from inside Whitehall – the Cabinet Office, the joint intelligence committee, and No 10. They have less operational freedom than the FBI in the US and they are culturally and historically reluctant to wade into politics. Plus the instructions never came.

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Babylon Bee.

Dozens Gather In MAGA Hats In Hopes Washington Post Will Defame Them (BBee)

After Nick Sandmann settled yet another nine-figure lawsuit today, dozens of people went out in MAGA hats, gathering outside The Washington Post’s offices in hopes that they too would be defamed by the newspaper. The clever entrepreneurs stood outside the paper’s headquarters wearing the pro-Trump headgear. They just stood there, not chanting or protesting or breaking anything, a protest tactic that immediately confused the liberals working at the Post. “It’s very strange — they’re not burning anything. They must not be peaceful protesters. Nonetheless, we will not be fooled by this tactic,” said a WaPo editor. “We will be able to resist the urge to commit libel against these deplora–I mean, these ordinary Americans.” At publishing time, The Washington Post had written defamatory articles about all of them. They are all preparing to retire comfortably.

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Jul 222020
 


Ben Shahn for the Farm Security Administration Daughter of Virgil Thaxton, farmer, near Mechanicsburg, Ohio 1938

 

It Has Become Clear Elimination Of The Virus Is The Best Option (Age)
Antibodies From Mild COVID-19 Infections Could Disappear Within A Year (CBS)
Yale Epidemiologist: Hydroxychloroquine Could Save 100,000 Lives (ZH)
Moderna, Merck Won’t Limit Price Of Coronavirus Vaccines To Company Cost (R.)
Our History Is A Battle Against The Microbes (Roser)
N.Y, N.J, Conn. Expand Travel Quarantine To Over Half Of U.S. States
Democrats Cry ‘Foreign Meddling’ In 2020 Election In Letter To FBI (RT)
House Bill Would Require Feds to Identify Themselves (.)
China’s Shipbuilding Industry Continues Leading Position Globally (Xinhua)
Britain Nears Abandoning Brexit Trade Deal Hope (R.)
Passengers Scramble For Limited Seats On Flights To Australia (G.)
Book Sales Hit Record Highs In 2019, But Publishers ‘Now Need Help’ (G.)
Smithsonian: ‘Rationality’ & ‘Hard Work’ Are Racist (RC)
Judicial Watch Sues DOJ/FBI/ODNI for Records of Obama Oval Office Meeting (JW)
Greta Thunberg Gets €1 Million ‘Humanity Prize’ From Oil Tycoon Foundation (RT)

 

 

An Australian hospital doctor writes that the best solution if for the virus to be eliminated from his country. But can that still be done? Is it realistic? Do you really want to isolate yourself from most of the world?

 

 

U.S. records over 1,000 coronavirus deaths in a single day for first time since early June.

And the world passed 15 million cases.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sidney Powell Hillary should be subpoenaed

 

 

A doctor in Victoria, Australia. The worries are very understandable, and the problem is clear, but as for the solution, is it possible? Realistic? Or just too late?

It Has Become Clear Elimination Of The Virus Is The Best Option (Age)

The hospital where I work has finally had to use its surge plan for COVID-19 patients, devised months ago but which has until now laid dormant. There is still capacity for more patients, but it is not infinite. People are starting to worry. Concerningly, while patient numbers around the state have climbed, staff numbers have fallen. Many front-line healthcare workers have become infected with the virus, forcing them to take time off work. Many more have been forced into mandatory quarantine following close contact with a known case. This is entirely necessary to stop the spread of the virus, but it is a cost we simply cannot afford. Our already-stretched health system is at risk of being stretched beyond its limit.

We have tried to suppress this virus; to keep infection numbers low enough to allow our hospitals to cope, while not actively trying to stamp it out. In Melbourne, it has failed. We may be seeing the beginnings of a similar story in Sydney, with cases slowly climbing. We may yet see it elsewhere. Many have argued for an explicit elimination strategy, acknowledging that while not without its costs, ultimately it is the best choice for our society and economy. As John Daley from the Grattan Institute wrote in March, this would be the “least-bad” option. We know elimination is possible. New Zealand implemented a harsh lockdown early in the pandemic, prompting some to criticise Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for overreacting. Yet they have not seen a single case of community transmission in months.

Life across the ditch is returning to a “new normal”, and people and businesses are starting to plan for the future with a bit more certainty. There is no reason why Australia – and in particular Victoria – couldn’t follow suit. Yet the current six-week lockdown is unlikely to eliminate the virus, according to new analysis in the Medical Journal of Australia. We must either go harder, or go longer. While it is the best option for Australia, elimination has three important drawbacks: its impacts would be disproportionately felt by disadvantaged and marginalised people; it would require a longer, more intense period of initial lockdown; and it would make us dependent on a vaccine. A longer, harsher lockdown in Melbourne – and anywhere the virus begins to take hold again – would be enormously challenging for many, especially those who are disadvantaged, marginalised, or poor.

But so would repeated lockdowns, which are all-but inevitable under a suppression strategy. Better to do it once (or twice, as in Melbourne) and do it properly, rather than wait for infections to rise again in a few months and have to do it all again. If we succeed in ridding ourselves of SARS-CoV-2, we will make ourselves reliant on a vaccine. Until one is found, our borders will have to remain closed. The virus will become endemic in many other countries – countries who, unlike us, no longer have the option of eliminating it. Opening our borders too early would simply be kicking the can down the road. Things are moving faster than we have ever seen in vaccine development, but there is no guarantee we will have a safe and effective product soon – if at all. Until we do, we will be forced to seal ourselves off from countries where the virus remains.

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And the antibodies that you do have may attack you. Good luck with that vaccine.

Antibodies From Mild COVID-19 Infections Could Disappear Within A Year (CBS)

Antibodies from a mild case of COVID-19 appear to fall dramatically in the first three months after infection, and could disappear within about a year, according to a small study by UCLA researchers. The study, published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, tested 20 women and 14 men between 21 and 68 years old who recovered from mild cases of COVID-19. Each participant was tested at an average of 36 and 82 days after they initially showed symptoms. The study found that antibodies in these study participants dropped sharply after the first three months, and decreased by roughly half every 73 days.


At that rate, antibodies would disappear within about a year. The UCLA study was a more detailed look into previous reports that suggested antibodies against the novel coronavirus were short-lived, and the first to estimate the rate at which antibodies disappear. The study’s authors said the role of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 is not known, but the findings should prompt caution regarding antibody-based “immunity passports,” the goal of herd immunity, and vaccine durability.

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One positive report about HCQ after the other.

Yale Epidemiologist: Hydroxychloroquine Could Save 100,000 Lives (ZH)

Yale epidemiology professor Dr. Harvey Risch told Fox News’s “Ingraham Angle” that he thinks hydroxychloroquine could save 75,000 to 100,000 lives if widely used to treat COVID-19, and that it’s unfortunate that a “propaganda war” has been waged on the commonly prescribed drug which is not based on “medical facts.” “There are many doctors that I’ve gotten hostile remarks about saying that all the evidence is bad for it and, in fact, that is not true at all,” Risch said on Monday, adding that he believes the drug should be used as a prophylactic for front-line healthcare workers, as has been done in India. Researchers at the Henry Ford Health System in Southeast Michigan have found that early administration of hydroxychloroquine makes hospitalized patients substantially less likely to die.

“The study, published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, determined that hydroxychloroquine provided a “66 percent hazard ratio reduction,” and hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin a 71 percent reduction, compared with neither treatment. In-hospital mortality was 18.1 percent overall; 13.5 percent with just hydroxychloroquine, 22.4 percent with azithromycin alone, and 26.4 percent with neither drug. “Prospective trials are needed” for further review, the researchers note, even as they concluded: “In this multi-hospital assessment, when controlling for COVID-19 risk factors, treatment with hydroxychloroquine alone and in combination with azithromycin was associated with reduction in COVID-19 associated mortality.” -Fox News

“All the evidence is actually good for it when it is used in outpatient uses. Nevertheless, the only people who actually say that are a whole pile of doctors who are on the front lines treating those patients across the country and they are the ones who are at risk being forced not to do it,” Risch added, arguing that the MSM refuses to cover the benefits of the drug, and is actively silencing those trying to address the efficacy of HCQ.

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Not only do they seek to profit from the pandemic, their research was funded by … you.

Moderna, Merck Won’t Limit Price Of Coronavirus Vaccines To Company Cost (R.)

Moderna Inc and Merck & Co on Tuesday told a U.S. Congressional panel that they expect to profit from their coronavirus vaccines once approved, amid concerns the vaccines may not be accessible to all. “We will not be selling our vaccine at cost, although it is premature for us as we’re a long way from understanding the cost-basis,” Julie Gerberding, chief patient officer for Merck, told the House of Representatives subcommittee on oversight and investigations in a virtual, off-site hearing. Merck’s has yet to begin human studies of its experimental vaccine, lagging the leading candidates. Executives from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca Plc testified that they will price their respective potential vaccines at no profit while the pandemic rages on.

Gerberding and a representative from Moderna did not comment on the price they have in mind for their vaccines at the hearing, which focused on efforts to develop a safe, effective and widely accessible vaccine against COVID-19, which has claimed 600,000 lives globally. Pfizer Inc has said the company intends to make a profit from its potential coronavirus vaccine if approved. However, Pfizer Chief Business Officer John Young, testified: “We recognize that these are extraordinary times and our price will reflect that.” Unlike rivals Moderna and AstraZeneca, Pfizer has not received funding from the United States for its vaccine development.

Lawmakers questioned whether Pfizer had declined government funding so it could price the vaccine at a profit. “We didn’t access federal funding solely for the reason that we wanted to move the vaccine faster to the clinic,” Young said. AstraZeneca said its vaccine would be provided at no profit under its agreement with the United States for allocation of some 300 million doses.

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Long history thread at the Twitter link.

Our History Is A Battle Against The Microbes (Roser)

Humanity’s history is a continuous battle between us and the microbes. For most of our history we were on the losing side. It wasn’t even close. We were losing very decisively. Billions of children died from infectious diseases. They were the main reason why child mortality was so high: No matter where or when they were born, around half died as children. We looked at the evidence of child mortality in pre-modern times here. The recurring epidemics of influenza, measles, cholera, diphtheria, the bubonic plague, and smallpox also killed large parts of the adult population. Within just a few years the Black Death killed half of Europe’s population. The epidemics – especially of smallpox, but also measles, typhus and other diseases – that the colonialists brought from Europe with them to the Americas killed often an even larger share of the population in many places.

The world today is obviously very different. Infectious diseases are the cause of fewer than 1-in-6 deaths, and as the world made progress against the microbes our lives became much longer. Life expectancy doubled in every world region and the global average is now 73 years. How is it possible that for millennia we were losing the battle against the microbes so awfully and then turned things around in the span of just a few generations? It was science that laid the foundation for our success. 150 years ago nobody knew where diseases came from. Or more precisely, people thought they knew, but they were wrong. The widely accepted idea at the time was the ‘Miasma’ theory of disease. Miasma, the theory held, was a form of “bad air” that causes disease. The word malaria is testament to the idea that ‘mal aria’ – ‘bad air’ in medieval Italian – is the cause of the disease.

Thanks to the work of a number of doctors and chemists in the second half of the 19th century humanity learned that not noxious air, but specific germs cause infectious diseases. The germ theory of disease was the breakthrough in the fight against the microbe. Scientists identified the pathogens that cause the different diseases and thereby laid the foundation for perhaps the most important technical innovation in our fight against them: vaccines. Vaccines protect us from infectious diseases by offering our body a training session for how to fight the germs that cause the disease. “The fundamental idea of a vaccine is deliberate exposure to a relatively harmless or dead version of a germ. The immune system will then recognise and eliminate that germ rapidly if it is encountered again,” as vaccine developer Richard Moxon puts it.

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Two countries?!

N.Y, N.J, Conn. Expand Travel Quarantine To Over Half Of U.S. States

As the pandemic continues to surge across America, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut expanded their travel quarantine lists for the fourth consecutive week on Tuesday, adding 10 more states for a total of 31. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut require incoming travelers from the 31 states to self-isolate for two weeks upon arrival. New states added to the tri-state list on Tuesday are Alaska, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Virginia and Washington. Minnesota was taken off the list this week, while Delaware returned after being removed last week. The list also includes Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also issued a rule that out-of-state travelers must fill in a form for state officials to verify they are complying with the rules; failure to submit can result in a $2,000 fine and mandatory quarantine. Gov. Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont launched the travel list last month as parts of the country began to see rising case numbers. New York and New Jersey, in particular, were hit hard early on in the pandemic (New York still has the country’s highest number of deaths) and hope the travel limitations will prevent a resurgence from out-of-state travelers. The quarantine applies to states that report 10 or more new cases per 100,000 residents per day or a 10% rise in daily test positivity over a seven-day rolling period.

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It’s probably the Russians.

Whatever comes out of any investigation between now and November 3, will be blasted as being political. But Trump has been under investigation his entire first term, and that, too, was political, though it will be vehemently denied. Guess we’ll have to say along with the Dems that nobody is above the law, and that goes for them as well.

Democrats Cry ‘Foreign Meddling’ In 2020 Election In Letter To FBI (RT)

A probe into former VP Joe Biden’s dealings in Ukraine is reportedly the ‘foreign interference’ in US elections that prompted Democrats to demand an urgent defensive briefing from the FBI for all members of Congress. “We are gravely concerned, in particular, that Congress appears to be the target of a concerted foreign interference campaign, which seeks to launder and amplify disinformation in order to influence congressional activity, public debate, and the presidential election in November,” says a letter by four Democrats on the congressional ‘Gang of Eight’ that deals with intelligence matters. The letter was dated July 13, but was made public on Monday – the deadline the Democrats set for the FBI to schedule the defensive briefings with all members of Congress.

It was signed by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-California), and ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner (D-Virginia). The fact that it lacked specifics, and was released a week after it was sent to the FBI, raised some eyebrows in Washington. Former acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell tweeted that the ‘Gang of Eight’ and others were briefed “weeks ago” and that the letter amounted to a CYA – short for “cover your a**” – adding, “why the panic now?” One possibility is that it provided a pretext for the Democrats’ presidential nominee Joe Biden to announce on Monday evening that he was putting “the Kremlin and other foreign governments on notice” that he would impose “substantial and lasting costs on those who interfere with American elections” if elected.

According to Politico, who cited “two people familiar with the demand,” the letter is about an investigation led by Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) into Biden’s dealings with the former government of Ukraine. The most recent FBI briefing on “foreign influence operations” – back in early April – was also prompted by Johnson’s investigation, as Democrats objected to his efforts to subpoena former Ukrainian official Andrii Telizhenko. Ukrainians themselves have been investigating the role of former president Petro Poroshenko in getting corruption charges dropped against Burisma, a gas company that hired Biden’s son Hunter to nominally sit on its board of directors. Members of parliament and former prosecutors have made a case that Burisma paid Hunter Biden millions of dollars for acting as a de facto shield against prosecution, offering as evidence recordings of what they said were Biden and Poroshenko.

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Interesting. All of them? And the rioters too?

House Bill Would Require Feds to Identify Themselves (.)

Following a storm of controversy over arrests by federal agents in Portland, Ore., New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Washington, D.C., Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton will be introducing legislation this week that would require federal law enforcement officials to clearly identify themselves, according to a draft bill provided exclusively to The Nation. The bill would require on-duty federal agents to display not just the name of their agency but also the individual agent’s last name and identification number. It would also mandate a new form of oversight for the Justice Department, requiring its inspector general to conduct routine audits to ensure compliance with the legislation. The results of these audits would then be reported to Congress.

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) drew scrutiny after federal agents in military fatigues used unmarked vehicles to arrest protesters in Portland. Among these federal agents were members of elite Border Patrol Tactical Units (BORTAC), Custom and Border Protection’s SWAT team equivalent. Despite the mayor of Portland’s demand that federal agents leave the city, DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf refused. “I offered DHS support to help them locally address the situation that’s going on in Portland, and their only response was: please pack up and go home,” he said to Fox News. “That’s just not going to happen on my watch.”

Internal CBP documents obtained by The Nation revealed that these federal agents would be operating indefinitely and in undisclosed locations, with drones “on standby to assist as needed.” The documents describe the DHS’s creation of the Protecting American Communities Task Force in response to President Trump’s executive order “Protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues and Combating Recent Criminal Activity.” While this incident was clearly a catalyst for public concern, a spokesperson for Representative Ocasio-Cortez said that her office had been working on this legislation for months.

Provided a copy of the draft legislation, Irvin McCullough, deputy director of legislation at the Government Accountability Project, said, “Lots of lawyers are asking the same thing: Where’s the transparency? Unidentified internal security forces are apprehending American citizens, and accounts allege these apprehension processes are more similar to overseas renditions than traditional arrests. Citizens deserve to know who’s arresting them—or at least what entity—to report any abuses they suffer or witness.”

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China’s Shipbuilding Industry Continues Leading Position Globally (Xinhua)

China’s shipbuilding industry maintained its leading position globally in the first half of the year (H1) as it held sway in three key aspects, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has said. The completion volume of shipbuilding in China, dropping by 10.6 percent year on year to 17.58 million deadweight tonnes (dwt) in H1, accounted for 37.2 percent of the global market share. New shipbuilding orders, up by 3.4 percent from last year to reach 12.47 million dwt in H1, took up 67.5 percent of the market share worldwide. The volume of holding orders, down by 6.3 percent year on year to 76.54 million dwt in H1, accounted for 48.2 percent of the global market share.

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Blame COVID.

Britain Nears Abandoning Brexit Trade Deal Hope (R.)

Britain and the European Union will fail to sign a post-Brexit trade deal, with only a few days left before Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s July deadline, The Telegraph reported. The UK government’s assumption is that there will not be a deal, though it remains possible that a “basic” agreement could be reached if the EU gives ground in the autumn, the newspaper said, citing government sources. The government expects it will trade with Europe on World Trade Organisation terms when the transition period ends, the report added.


Britain left the EU on Jan. 31 and its relationship with the bloc is now governed by a transition arrangement that keeps previous rules in place while the two sides negotiate new terms. Negotiators remain deadlocked on fishing rights, the deal’s governance, the European Court of Justice’s role and so-called level playing field guarantees, the newspaper reported. Britain is pursuing trade deals with other countries and setting up its own sanctions regime, and has previously insisted it should not have to sign up to the bloc’s standards.

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Double the price? Triple?

Passengers Scramble For Limited Seats On Flights To Australia (G.)

International airlines flying into Australia are having to bump passengers, often with little notice, in order to meet strict daily passenger caps set for airports still accepting flights from overseas. The passenger limits introduced to alleviate pressure on quarantine facilities in Australia have meant airports like Brisbane can only accept 70 passengers per day, while services bringing Australians back to Sydney are limited to as few as 30 travellers per flight. While the passenger caps have seen a surge in the cost of airfares into Australia – the cost of a one-way flight from Doha to Sydney on Qatar Airways is $3,729 in economy, a class of seat booked out until 9 August – some economy travellers who are concerned they will be bumped due to their cheaper seats are upgrading to business class tickets.

However airlines including Qatar Airways denied passengers with cheaper tickets would be more likely to be rescheduled, telling the Guardian that passenger lists were based on a range of criteria, including compassionate and medical requests. Originally introduced earlier this month “in order to manage and maintain quarantine arrangements” at hotels, the caps have shrunk from their original limits, now allowing 350 arrivals per day at Sydney, 75 per day at Perth and 70 per day at Brisbane. Melbourne airport remains closed to international visitors, with incoming capacity for Adelaide and Canberra assessed on a case-by-case basis. Between seven to eight international flights are scheduled to land each day at Sydney Airport. However, the cap per flight could increase if some scheduled services do not go ahead.

“The amount allocated to each airline for each flight varies depending on how many flights are operating on each day but within a total daily cap,” a spokeswoman for the federal Department of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development said. “Airlines have the ability to request more than their per-flight passenger allocation on a particular day if there is any spare capacity available on that particular day.”

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You have to love a publication like the Guardian printing a sentence like this, straight-faced:

“In an age of often unreliable sources..”

Book Sales Hit Record Highs In 2019, But Publishers ‘Now Need Help’ (G.)

Book sales in the UK hit record levels in 2019, driven by a surge in audiobook and nonfiction titles, according to new figures released as publishers warn of the huge impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on the industry. Book sales rose to £6.3bn in 2019, up 4% on 2018, when sales fell for the first time in five years, and 20% on 2015. According to the latest figures from the Publishers Association (PA), overall print sales were up 3% to £3.5bn in 2019 and digital sales were up 4% to £2.8bn, driven by a 39% increase in audiobook downloads. Digital formats accounted for 44% of the market in 2019, up from 40% in 2015. Strong nonfiction and reference sales, seen in bestsellers such as cookbook Pinch of Nom, Caroline Criado-Perez’s Invisible Women, and Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, saw the sector grow 23.1% to £1bn in 2019, when compared with 2015.

“In an age of often unreliable sources, people are increasingly looking to books for trusted information and are reading nonfiction voraciously across formats,” Hachette chief executive David Shelley told the association. The growth in nonfiction stands in contrast to fiction. Despite the publication of highly anticipated novels such as Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, sales fell to £582m in 2019, down 5.6% when compared with 2015. “Before the coronavirus pandemic, the industry was flourishing, with 2019 being the strongest year in the history of publishing. These robust figures reflect people’s ongoing need and desire for books,” said PA chief executive Stephen Lotinga.

“[The figures] tell a story of pre-Covid success, but they do not reflect the significant challenges that publishers have faced during this pandemic. Despite those difficulties, we know that many people have continued to look to books for solace, enlightenment and entertainment.” Publishers have anticipated declines in revenue of up to 75% as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, with bookshops closed for more than two months, publication dates postponed, orders for books cancelled and author tours called off. One success story was revealed on Tuesday, however, when Harry Potter publisher Bloomsbury reported a 28% growth in consumer sales in the four months ending in June 2020. Previously, Bloomsbury had predicted that its print revenues could fall up to 75% due to coronavirus, but print sales actually rose by 9%.

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Yeah, the Smithsonian appears to be woker than the woke.

Smithsonian: ‘Rationality’ & ‘Hard Work’ Are Racist (RC)

In the wake of the police killing of George Floyd and subsequent protests over police brutality, interest in “anti-racist” education has exploded among educators and advocates. The case that educators should seek to combat racism seems self-evident. What’s less clear is how the admirable cause of “anti-racism” is fueling, in some corners, the inclination to denounce universal virtues and useful skills as the product of “white culture.” Witness last week’s contretemps at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum, which bills itself as “the only national museum devoted exclusively” to educating the public on these topics, recently debuted the online guide “Talking about Race.”

The guide included a chart cataloguing the “aspects and assumptions” of “white culture” that “have been normalized over time and are now considered standard practices in the United States.” What are these sinister aspects of “white culture,” you ask? Well, according to the Smithsonian, values like “hard work,” “self-reliance,” “be[ing] polite,” and timeliness are all a product of the “white dominant culture.” Indeed, it turns out that conventional grammar, Christianity, the notion that “intent counts” in courts of law, and the scientific method and its emphasis on “objective, rational linear thinking” are all proprietary to “white culture.”

There are several things that might be said about all this. But the place to start may be by observing just how insidious it is to teach black children to reject intellectual and personal traits that promote personal and civic success — in the U.S. or anywhere else. After all, in what land are students well-served when they’re encouraged not to work hard, make decisions, think rationally, or be polite and on time? Among the extraordinarily accomplished people honored by the museum, those such as Frederick Douglass; Harriet Tubman; Jackie Robinson; Martin Luther King, Jr.; Toni Morrison; John Lewis; Oprah Winfrey; Michael Jordan; Condoleezza Rice; and Barack Obama might be surprised to learn that hard work and rational thinking are somehow alien to black culture.

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104 days till the election?!

Judicial Watch Sues DOJ/FBI/ODNI for Records of Obama Oval Office Meeting (JW)

Judicial Watch announced today it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) for all records related to the January 5, 2017, meeting at the Obama Oval Office during which the Steele Dossier and the investigation of General Flynn were discussed (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice and ODNI (No. 1:20-cv-01947)). The Oval Office meeting reportedly included President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, national security adviser Susan Rice, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and other Obama administration political and law enforcement officials.

At least two records describing the meeting – a January 20, 2017, memo Rice sent to herself and a set of notes taken by FBI counterespionage chief Peter Strzok – have been declassified and made public. Sally Yates also detailed the meeting to Robert Mueller’s investigation. Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit after the DOJ, FBI, and ODNI failed to respond to identical May 20, 2020, FOIA requests for: “All records regarding the January 5, 2017, meeting at the White House between former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director James Comey, President Obama, and others. This request includes all records created in preparation for, during, and/or pursuant to the meeting, as well as any and all related records of communication between any official or representative of the Department of Justice and any other individual.”

“Obama’s infamous January 5, 2017, Oval Office meeting is a key moment in the corrupt effort to smear and spy on President Trump and target General Flynn with a malicious prosecution,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said. “Rather than delay and stonewall, it is urgent the FBI, DOJ, ODNI release all records about this malicious, seditious conspiracy.”

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Greta, go to school, don’t fall for being a marketing ploy.

Greta Thunberg Gets €1 Million ‘Humanity Prize’ From Oil Tycoon Foundation (RT)

Climate activist Greta Thunberg has been awarded the first Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity, in the form of €1 million. Problem is, Gulbenkian was a massive oil industrialist who paved the way for Western states to exploit Iraqi oil. Grand Jury Chair Jorge Sampaio said that “Thunberg has been able to mobilize younger generations for the cause of climate change” and is “one of the most remarkable figures of our days.” He also added that the decision was made by consensus. The Swedish activist, however, declined the opportunity to become a millionaire. Thunberg released an Instagram monologue, accompanied by some ambient spiritual music, in which she said she was “extremely honored” to receive the prize, but pledged to donate the money to various climate causes “as quickly as possible.”

It seems, though, that Thunberg is going to be spending fossil-fuel money to advance her cause. The foundation and the Humanity Prize are named after Calouste Gulbenkian, a British-Armenian oil tycoon who died in 1955. One of the wealthiest people of his era, he was a major shareholder in Royal Dutch Shell, developed many oil companies of his own and is historically credited with being the first person to exploit oil in Iraq, which made the petroleum riches of the Middle East ripe for the taking by the West. “By awarding this Prize, the Foundation highlights its commitment to urgent climate action,” the president of the Gulbenkian Foundation, Isabel Mota, commented.

The irony of an oil magnate of historic proportions financing an anti-oil climate activist, though indirectly, was not lost on the Internet. Both Thunberg’s supporters and detractors caught the humor in her now being sponsored by the money “of the polluters against whom she protests.” The prize money will supposedly be split between projects supporting people enduring the worst of the current “climate catastrophe.” For now, Thunberg mentioned she will donate to causes in countries of the Global South, specifically Brazil’s SOS Amazonia campaign to tackle Covid-19 in the Amazon, and the Stop Ecocide Foundation; each will receive €100,000.

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We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, your support is now an integral part of the process.

Thank you.

 

 

Kanye

 

 

I hear this is the perfect protection. Smoking with a mask on.

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Jun 092020
 


Harris&Ewing War Savings Stamps poster, Washington DC 1917

 

Fed Eases Terms Of Main Street Loans (R.)
Nasdaq Ends At Record, Confirms Bull Market On Economic Recovery Hopes (R.)
WHO Warns of COVID19 Rebound Risk, Says Pandemic ‘Worsening’ Globally (RT)
WHO Says Pandemic ‘Far From Over’ As Daily Cases Hit Record High (R.)
Asymptomatic Spread Of Coronavirus Is ‘Very Rare’ – WHO (CNBC)
57% of People Tested In Italy’s Bergamo Have COVID19 Antibodies (R.)
University of Washington Forecasts 145,000 US COVID19 Deaths By August (R.)
Lockdowns Could Have Saved Three Million Lives Across Europe – Study (Ind.)
Arizona State Health Director: Hospitals Must Activate Emergency Plan (ABC15)
EasyJet CEO Says Legal Case Against UK Quarantine Is Strong (R.)
Tesla’s Double-WTF Chart of the Year (WS)
Chinese Investment In 2019 In Australia Down 60% To Lowest Since 2007 (G.)
Barr: Clearing Of Lafayette Park Was Unrelated To Church Photo Op (Turley)
Ex-Warren Surrogate Blasts White Dems For Kneeling In African Cloth (Fox)
The Appallingly Bad Neoclassical Economics of Climate Change (Steve Keen)

 

 

Worldometer has global new cases for June 8 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 107,270.

My count from about 6 am EDT to 6 am EDT is about + 106,175 cases. If the fall from 130,000 continues, that would be good.

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 19,006
• Brazil + 18,925
• Russia + 8,985
• India + 8,442
• Pakistan + 4,646
• Chile + 4,696

 

 

Cases 7,219,187 (+ 106,175 from yesterday’s 7,113,012)

Deaths 409,108 (+ 2,559 from yesterday’s 406,549)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 


 

 

Ali at his best. Don’t miss.

 

 

The Fed finds yet another way for banks to make money, that can be disguised as helping those in need. Banks get money for virtually free, lend it to small and medium-sized businesses at an elevated rate, pocket the difference, and let the Fed buy up 95% of the loans afterward.

Fed Eases Terms Of Main Street Loans (R.)

The U.S. Federal Reserve eased the terms of its “Main Street” lending program on Monday, cutting the minimum loan size in half to $250,000 and lengthening the term by a year to encourage more businesses and banks to participate. The central bank also said registration for the program will begin soon and that lenders will be able to start making the loans to small and medium-sized businesses shortly thereafter. The changes, which the Fed said was based on outreach with potential lenders and borrowers, address some of the concerns raised by lenders, lawyers and small business consultants that the previous minimum loan amount of $500,000 was too large to help many businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.


“Supporting small and mid-sized businesses so they are ready to reopen and rehire workers will help foster a broad-based economic recovery,” Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said in a statement. The Fed is further minimizing downside risks for banks and credit unions by purchasing 95% of all loans issued through the program, rather than a range of 85% to 95%. The new borrowing minimum may still not be low enough as some businesses need loans smaller than $250,000, Jill Castilla, president and CEO of Citizens Bank of Edmond in Oklahoma said on Twitter after the Fed announced the changes.

Read more …

All banks and investors who’ve received bailout packages will now have to repay them, right?

Nasdaq Ends At Record, Confirms Bull Market On Economic Recovery Hopes (R.)

The Nasdaq posted a record closing high on Monday, becoming the first of the major indexes to confirm a new bull market, while the S&P 500 ended in positive territory for the year as expectations for a swift recovery from a coronavirus-driven downturn increased. Rising technology and communication stocks have driven gains in the Nasdaq, which confirmed a new bull market just 16 weeks after coronavirus fears crushed stocks and pushed the U.S. economy into recession. The Nasdaq has climbed 44.7% from its March 23 bottom. A bull market is confirmed once the index makes a new high and is considered to have begun at the index’s low, according to a widely accepted definition.


The S&P 500 remains about 4.5% below its record high close, while the Dow is about 6.7% below. A closely watched monthly jobs report on Friday showed an unexpected fall in unemployment rate, bolstering views that the worst of the economic damage from the virus outbreak was over. “It’s optimism surrounding the reopening of the global economy, and the likely confirmation that the U.S. economy will experience a V-shaped recovery in the second half,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research in New York.

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If there is a general second wave, it will hit very hard. Lockdown 2.0 will be difficult to explain, let alone enforce. That’s what you get when you f*ck up 1.0.

WHO Warns of COVID19 Rebound Risk, Says Pandemic ‘Worsening’ Globally (RT)

Now is not the time to become complacent and drop our guard about the coronavirus as the pandemic is still growing globally, World Health Organization officials have warned. Despite some improvements in infection rates in Europe, the global Covid-19 situation is “worsening” yet again, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday during an online press briefing. Sunday, June 7, had most reported cases in a single day so far of the outbreak, he added. According to Tedros, active surveillance and contact tracing are still essential to ensure the virus doesn’t rebound. “More than six months into the pandemic this is not the time for any country to take its foot off the pedal,” he warned.

The alarming comments by Tedros come as many countries are lifting their Covid-19 lockdowns after reporting success in containing the spread of disease. Businesses are reopening and people are starting to return to offices, with timelines for the resumption of international air travel also being announced. But the WHO has been warning that easing restrictions will inevitably lead to a ‘second wave’ of the coronavirus, with the disease making a comeback in a different part of the population after an initial decline in cases. [..] Worldwide, more than 7 million people have been infected with the novel coronavirus and 403,000 have died since the pandemic was first reported in China’s Wuhan in December 2019.

The US remains the worst-hit country with almost 2 million confirmed cases and a death toll of over 110,000, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. It’s followed by Brazil which has more than 691,000 infections and some 36,400 fatalities. Russia, which has been one of the world leaders in Covid-19 testing, has recorded 476,000 confirmed cases, with almost 6,000 people succumbing to the disease. The WHO has been heavily criticized over its initial response to the Covid-19 outbreak. The UN health agency held off calling the spreading coronavirus a “pandemic,” despite it being found in Asia, North America, Europe and the Middle East, until March, 11.

Read more …

More on that WHO briefing.

WHO Says Pandemic ‘Far From Over’ As Daily Cases Hit Record High (R.)

New coronavirus cases had their biggest daily increase ever as the pandemic worsens globally and has yet to peak in central America, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday, urging countries to press on with efforts to contains the virus. “More than six months into the pandemic, this is not the time for any country to take its foot off the pedal,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told an online briefing. More than 136,000 new cases were reported worldwide on Sunday, the most in a single day so far, he said. Nearly 75% of them were reported from 10 countries, mostly in the Americas and South Asia. In response to a question on China, WHO’s top emergencies expert, Dr. Mike Ryan, said retrospective studies of how the outbreak has been addressed could wait, adding: “We need to focus now on what we are doing today to prevent second peaks.”


Ryan also said infections in central American countries including Guatemala were still on the rise, and that they were “complex” epidemics. “I think this is a time of great concern,” he said, calling for strong government leadership and international support for the region. Brazil is now one of the hotspots of the pandemic, with the second highest number of confirmed cases, behind only the United States, and a death toll that last week surpassed Italy’s. After removing cumulative numbers for coronavirus deaths in Brazil from a national website, the Health Ministry sowed further confusion and controversy by releasing two contradictory sets of figures for the latest tally of infection cases and fatalities.

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Very curious statement. And they don’t provide the sources it’s based on.

Asymptomatic Spread Of Coronavirus Is ‘Very Rare’ – WHO (CNBC)

Coronavirus patients without symptoms aren’t driving the spread of the virus, World Health Organization officials said Monday, casting doubt on concerns by some researchers that the disease could be difficult to contain due to asymptomatic infections. Some people, particularly young and otherwise healthy individuals, who are infected by the coronavirus never develop symptoms or only develop mild symptoms. Others might not develop symptoms until days after they were actually infected. Preliminary evidence from the earliest outbreaks indicated that the virus could spread from person-to-person contact, even if the carrier didn’t have symptoms. But WHO officials now say that while asymptomatic spread can occur, it is not the main way it’s being transmitted.


“From the data we have, it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, said at a news briefing from the United Nations agency’s Geneva headquarters. “It’s very rare.” [..] To be sure, asymptomatic and presymptomatic spread of the virus appears to still be happening, Van Kerkhove said but remains rare. That finding has important implications for how to screen for the virus and limit its spread. “What we really want to be focused on is following the symptomatic cases,” Van Kerkhove said. “If we actually followed all of the symptomatic cases, isolated those cases, followed the contacts and quarantined those contacts, we would drastically reduce” the outbreak.

https://twitter.com/ganeshran/status/1270082616834826242

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With Wuhan, the worst hit place on earth. But 57% still doesn’t appear enough for herd immunity.

Testing for antibodies is still shaky, and so is its effect on the disease.

57% of People Tested In Italy’s Bergamo Have COVID19 Antibodies (R.)

More than half the residents tested in Italy’s northern province of Bergamo have COVID-19 antibodies, health authorities said on Monday, citing a sample survey. Of 9,965 residents who had blood tests between April 23 and June 3, 57% had antibodies indicating they had come into contact with the coronavirus, the survey showed. Health authorities in Bergamo said the results were based on a “random” sample which was “sufficiently broad” to be a reliable indicator of how many people had been infected in the province, which became the epicentre of Italy’s outbreak. In a separate statement issued later, the Bergamo health agency said that most of those in the sample were residents of the worst-hit areas.


Many had already been put under quarantine, the statement added. Antibodies were found in just over 30% of the 10,404 health operators tested although they are generally considered more at risk than other people. In a report released in early May, national statistics institute ISTAT said the number of deaths in Bergamo was up 568% in March compared with the 2015-2019 average, making it Italy’s worst-hit city in terms of deaths. Its hospitals were overwhelmed by infected people and, with morgues unable to keep up, convoys of army trucks carrying away the dead became a chilling symbol of the global pandemic.

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Now we’re just throwing numbers around. They “estimated on Monday that 145,728 people could die of COVID-19 in the United States by August”. Not 145,729.

University of Washington Forecasts 145,000 US Covid-19 Deaths By August (R.)

University of Washington researchers estimated on Monday that 145,728 people could die of COVID-19 in the United States by August, raising their grim forecast by more than 5,000 fatalities in a matter of days. On Friday, the widely cited Institute for Health Metrics and evaluation at the university projected 140,496 deaths by August from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. Researchers did not give a reason for the abrupt revision. The new estimate came on the same day that Texas reported its highest number of hospitalizations so far in the pandemic and 22 U.S. states showed at least a small uptick in the number of new confirmed cases, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.


Among the states with the sharpest increases were Michigan and Arizona, according to Johns Hopkins, while Virginia, Rhode Island and Nebraska showed the greatest decreases. Infectious disease experts have said that large street protests held in major U.S. cities after the death of a black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis police custody, could touch off a new outbreak of the disease. A total of more than 1.9 million cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, have been reported in the United States, according to a Reuters tally, which has confirmed 110,000 deaths.

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Or could not. Could be half, could be twice as much. Who has faith in the Imperial College?

Lockdowns Could Have Saved Three Million Lives Across Europe – Study (Ind.)

Europe’s lockdowns over coronavirus may have saved around three million lives, according to a new study. Imperial College London scientists found restrictions had a “substantial effect” in reducing transmission levels of the virus in a modelling study involving data from 11 countries from the continent up to early May. European nations began implementing social distancing, school closures and national lockdowns in March, with the UK going into lockdown on 23 March. The Imperial researchers estimate across the countries looked at – including France, Germany, Italy and Spain – between 12 and 15 million people were infected with Covid-19 up to 4 May, representing between 3.2 per cent and 4.0 per cent of the population. Scientists also studied data from the UK, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

In their paper, published in the Nature journal, they said the results show that major non-pharmaceutical interventions and lockdown in particular have had a “large effect on reducing transmission”. The researchers estimated 3.1 million deaths had been prevented across the 11 countries due to interventions since the beginning of the pandemic. They came up with the figure after comparing the deaths predicted under a model with no interventions to the deaths predicted in an intervention model. The paper says: “Continued intervention should be considered to keep transmission of SARS-CoV-2 under control.”

Meanwhile, a second study from the University of California, looking at China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, France, and the United States, has estimated interventions in those countries prevented or delayed around 530 million cases. The paper, also published in Nature, said: “In the absence of policy actions, we estimate that early infections of Covid-19 exhibit exponential growth rates of roughly 38% per day.” Researchers said they found that anti-contagion policies “significantly and substantially” slowed this growth, adding: “Some policies have different impacts on different populations, but we obtain consistent evidence that the policy packages now deployed are achieving large, beneficial, and measurable health outcomes.”

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Several states need to watch out.

Arizona State Health Director: Hospitals Must Activate Emergency Plan (ABC15)

The Arizona Department of Health Services director sent out a letter this weekend, informing hospitals in our state to “fully activate” their facility emergency plans. In doing so, the hospitals are going to be preparing surge beds, cross-training staff, and possibly reducing or suspending elective surgeries to “ensure adequate bed capacity for both COVID and non-COVID admissions.” The Saturday letter states the hospitals need to identify additional ICU and inpatient beds to meet the 50 percent additional bed increase. The state’s hospitals now must determine whether or not to move their facilities from conventional care to contingency care, and also prepare for crisis care.


The letter was dated the same day that ADHS director Dr. Cara Christ told ABC15 that her department’s staff had made errors and reported incorrect hospitalization numbers since April on the Arizona Department of Health Services coronavirus dashboard. ADHS miscalculated the number of hospital beds currently available and in use in Arizona, due to staff members’ confusion about the hospitals’ licensed bed capacity and surge capacity.

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The quarantine comes at the wrong end of the lockdown. They should have isolated the 100,000 they let in during the lockdown, but instead never even tested them, as a matter of policy.

EasyJet CEO Says Legal Case Against UK Quarantine Is Strong (R.)

Britain’s quarantine plan was rushed into existence, is out of proportion and should be challenged in the courts, according to the head of easyJet which has joined rivals in threatening legal proceedings. Chief Executive Johan Lundgren said he believed easyJet, Ryanair and British Airways had a good chance of winning any legal battle and warned that if the measure stayed in place for a long time he could have to make further job cuts. Britain on Monday introduced a 14-day quarantine for international arrivals despite the threat of legal action. “We think that there’s enough evidence and there’s a strong case here that this should be challenged by the courts. This is something that has been rushed through. It’s not in proportion,” Lundgren told Sky News on Monday.


EasyJet is already planning to cut 4,500 jobs or 30% of its workforce because of the coronavirus crisis, and Lundgren said quarantine would make the situation even worse. He said he hoped the threat of legal action would push the government to replace the measure with “a targeted approach that is based on the solutions of air bridges”, which allow people to travel freely between countries with low infection rates. When asked if the quarantine could lead to more job losses, he said, “I fear so…I think and I fear unless there is a change to this (the quarantine rule), that the aviation industry as we know it here in the UK will not be in tact.”

Read more …

Fun with Musk.

Tesla’s Double-WTF Chart of the Year (WS)

Tesla’s shares closed at a new closing high today of $949.92. This beat the prior closing high of February 19 of $917.42. But it remains a tad below the intraday high of 968.99 of February 4. So let me walk you through this in chronological order because it’s just too juicy to pass up. On February 4, 2020, when Tesla’s shares hit $968.99, I posted the “WTF chart of the year,” calling Tesla a “Supernatural Phenomenon.” The shares had surged 170% from mid-December. And Tesla’s market cap had skyrocketed during the less than two-month period by over $110 billion:

Then it came unglued. On the way down, on February 13, Tesla sold new shares at $767 a share and collected over $2 billion in cash from investors. This was a wise move for Tesla. Perhaps Musk saw that the pandemic might be shutting down the factory in Fremont, after it had already shut down the factory in Shanghai, and perhaps he saw that Tesla would burn through cash a lot faster during the pandemic than before, and it was a lightning-fast drive-by share sale.


And shares swooned. Then on March 18, Tesla shares plunged another 16% to $361.22, amid allegations that it was flouting the lockdown order of Alameda County, by running two full shifts at its Fremont factory. This was a confusing story with allegations and counter-allegations, that then threatened to spiral out of control, and we won’t get into it. Nevertheless, that fateful March 18, I posted the new version of the WTF chart of the year, one of the most majestic double-sided spikes:

And then the whole circus started all over again. Since March 18, the stock has re-skyrocketed 163%, and Tesla’s market capitalization has re-skyrocket by $110 billion, which brings us to the new-and-improved Double-WTF chart of the year.

Read more …

Is it mainly coal?

Chinese Investment In 2019 In Australia Down 60% To Lowest Since 2007 (G.)

Chinese investment in Australia has fallen by almost 60% as Beijing shifts its focus towards developing nations that have signed up for its Belt and Road Initiative. Despite record trade between the two nations, Chinese investment in Australia fell from $8.2bn in 2018 to $3.4bn in 2019, with 43% fewer deals struck. A new report puts the plunge down to tighter Chinese regulations, a negative perception of Australia’s investment rules, and a shift towards Latin America and Belt and Road projects in developing countries. The KPMG and University of Sydney study found new Chinese investment in Australia had plunged to its lowest level since 2007.


Hans Hendrischke, one of the report’s authors, said the decline mirrored similar patterns in other western countries. But he said Chinese investment into Australia had fallen at a faster rate than other nations including the United States. Australian food and agricultural businesses were the biggest recipients of Chinese investment, with 44% of the total funding flowing into the sector. The result was largely driven by the acquisition of the Bellamy’s dairy company. The commercial real estate sector was the second largest recipient despite an annual decline of 51%.

Read more …

Apparently CBS cut out all sorts of things Barr said.

Barr: Clearing Of Lafayette Park Was Unrelated To Church Photo Op (Turley)

Margaret Brennan just completed an interview with Attorney General Bill Barr on CBS Face the Nation. For days, the allegation from politicians, the press, protesters, and pundits has been that the Park was cleared for the purpose of the widely criticized photo op held by Trump in front of St. John’s Church. [..] The photo op allegation continues to be repeated on the Internet despite various media reports debunking it. This morning Barr confirmed the details in those reports and offered some new details. Barr however continues to support the level of force used in the Park and the decision to go forward with the clearing of the Park. Barr confirmed that the plan to clear the park came from the Park Police, which asked for the expansion of the perimeter on Sunday night. He reviewed the plan Monday morning and, with others, approved the plan. The order was transmitted to Park Police at 2 pm.

[..] Brennan does challenge what she said was Barr’s assertion that the Secretary Mark Esper did not rule out the use of the Insurrection Act. This may have been a lost in legal translation moment. It think Barr was making a narrower legal point while Brennan thought it was a more general statement. Here is what Barr said: “The option to use active duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.” Esper was not saying that the Act could not be used but should only be used as a “last resort.”

Neither Barr not Esper supported invoking the Act, i.e., ordering deployments under the Act. Both however agreed it could be used as a legal matter if circumstances warranted. Here is what Barr said: MARGARET BRENNAN: So in this Monday meeting with the president, when the Defense Secretary, who has now publicly said that he opposed using the Insurrection Act, you said what to the president? BARR: I don’t think the Secretary of Defense said he opposed it. I think he said that it was a last resort and he didn’t think it was necessary. I think we all agree that it’s a last resort, but it’s ultimately the president’s decision. The- the reporting is completely false on this. Both Esper and Barr seem to agree that the Act is available but that current circumstances do not warrant their use. Both agree it should be used as a “last resort.”

Read more …

I know this is Fox, and only one black voice (many more have spoken), but this must be one of the most racist things I’ve seen in a long time.

I was wondering at what point in the carefully planned spin doctor meeting, was the suggestion voted down to go in blackface.

Ex-Warren Surrogate Blasts White Dems For Kneeling In African Cloth (Fox)

A former national surrogate for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., ripped into white congressional Democrats on Monday after they wore African-patterned garb and knelt in a demonstration against racism and police brutality. “I still can’t wrap my mind around the fact that they draped these white people in kente cloth to ‘honor’ him. This has to be hell,” author Frederick Joseph tweeted, also arguing that black Americans are “being pandered to, and ultimately, disrespected.” In a tweet thread, he argued that Democrats were failing in their attempts to be helpful amid ongoing strife surrounding George Floyd’s death.

He specifically took aim at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who joined other Democrats in kneeling inside of the Capitol Visitor Center on Thursday. Democratic members of both the House and Senate knelt for 8 minutes and 46 seconds to honor Floyd, representing the amount of time he was pinned down by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. The kneeling also touched on an ongoing protest trend harkening back to former NFL player Colin Kaepernick and demonstrations during the national anthem. Pelosi said on Monday that members of Congress would be kneeling in a place where they typically recited the Pledge of Allegiance.


“This is a mess,” Joseph said in one tweet. In another, he added: “If anyone can’t understand why Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and them dressed up like they’re trying to sneak into Wakanda is disrespectful and appropriative you have a great deal to learn.” Wakanda is the fictional land in Africa associated with the Marvel superhero Black Panther.

Read more …

Very long from Steve on the nonsense most economists spout about the role of energy in an economy. They basically treat it as if it doesn’t play any role, much in the same way that people like Paul Krigmen deny the role that banks play.

The Appallingly Bad Neoclassical Economics of Climate Change (Steve Keen)

Nordhaus justified the assumption that 87% of GDP will be unaffected by climate change on the basis that: “..for the bulk of the economy—manufacturing, mining, utilities, finance, trade, and most service industries—it is difficult to find major direct impacts of the projected climate changes over the next 50 to 75 years”. (Nordhaus 1991, p. 932) In fact, a direct effect can easily be identified by surmounting the failure of economists in general—not just Neoclassicals—to appreciate the role of energy in production. Almost all economic models use production functions that assume that “Labour” and “Capital” are all that are needed to produce “Output”.

However, neither Labour nor Capital can function without energy inputs: “to coin a phrase, labour without energy is a corpse, while capital without energy is a sculpture” (Keen, Ayres et al. 2019, p. 41). Energy is directly needed to produce GDP, and therefore if energy production has to fall because of global warming, then so will GDP. [..] if climatic changes caused by the increase in global temperature persuade the public and policymakers that we must stop adding CO2 to the atmosphere “now”, whenever “now” may be, then global GDP will fall roughly proportionately to the ratio of fossil-fuel energy production to total energy production at that time.

As of 2020, fossil fuels provided roughly 85% of energy production. So, if 2020 were the year humanity decided that the growth in CO2 had to stop, GDP would fall by of the order of 85%. Even if the very high rate of growth of renewables in 2015 were maintained—when the ratio of renewables to total energy production was growing at about 3% per annum—renewables would still yield less than 40% of total energy production in 2050—see Figure 8. This implies a drop in GDP of about 50% at that time. The decision by Neoclassical climate change economists to exclude “manufacturing, mining, utilities, finance, trade, and most service industries” from any consequences from climate change is thus utterly unjustified.

Read more …

 

 

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May 312020
 


Monastiraki Square deserted due to lockdown, Athens, Greece 2020

 

Well, actually, there is no Automatic Earth in Athens right now. But we’re working on it. And I have had a hard time finishing articles recently for some reason. It may be because it’s virustime, and it’s certainly because of the lockdown. People are social animals, and I am no exception. Living alone and working alone makes it more extreme.

Not that I have changed my mind on lockdowns; they are the only option to tame the virus under the circumstances. Still, a lockdown must be executed properly, to make it “as close to impossible as possible” for the virus to jump to new hosts, and that has only been done in very few places, either because politicians and “experts” don’t understand how and why, or they find it too inconvenient. But enough about that for the moment, even as today’s new global cases top 130,000 in yet another new record.

 

In mid-December I went from Athens to Holland, where I still rent a small apartment though I’ve been spending most of my time in Athens. I thought I’d stay a few months in the Lowlands, do some of the everyday -or every year- stuff that needs doing, taxes, medical things etc., and return to Athens in spring.

I had a ticket back to Athens from Holland on April 1, which I had bought early February, when things still seemed somewhat normal. But as the date approached, of course, we moved ever further away from normal. If I had booked a few weeks earlier, things might have worked out, but Greece implemented a very strict lockdown, so it wouldn’t have been much fun.

I could change the ticket for free until two weeks before departure, after which the cost for changing it would be close to the original ticket price. So I changed it. By then, there was a two-week mandatory full quarantine in place for new arrivals in Greece. Not very tempting, but more importantly I was thinking I didn’t want to become a burden on the Greek healthcare system.

Which according to some has shrunk by 75% (imagine that) due to EU-mandated austerity. I was thinking the odds of Greece and the Greek system being overwhelmed were much higher than that it would happen in Holland. Boy, was I wrong. The irony is that it is exactly this that made Greece adopt the strict lockdown measures it did, as early as it did, and faring so much better because of it.

For 2 months, until 2 weeks ago, everyone who was out in the street had to carry a piece of paper detailing why they were out (try that in the US!). The only valid reasons to be out were shopping for food or medicine. All stores other than supermarkets and pharmacies were closed anyway. Greece was early and strict. They didn’t feel they had a choice.

And even if so much of the healthcare system has been bulldozed, the core is still very strong, that is a major factor. The professionals (experts) running the system and advising the government are of a very high caliber, which is more than one can say of many other countries.

 

 

 

 

In Holland, it’s been a very different story. It was late to the game, and when it did decide on a lockdown, it called it an “intelligent” lockdown. Like Dutch people are smarter than others. Which, of course, people like to hear. Most stores have remained open (though not public transport), there was no mass testing, only people with obvious symptoms were tested, and the Dutch version of the CDC still maintains today that face masks don’t actually work (i.e. we are more intelligent than 4.5 billion Asians).

Like in many other countries, the lack of testing and masks really only had one reason behind it, and it wasn’t that they would not work, or that anyone believed they didn’t, it was that they didn’t have any. And then when a government says they’re not needed, the pace at which they are purchased abroad or can be produced domestically slows down too, even with all the high tech industries in the country. That way you sort of boil in your own fat.

We’re 5 months into the pandemic, and only now can one get tested without already being on the verge of death [Update May 31: still no test available without symptoms, asymptomatic carriers be damned. Should I fake symptoms?]. And only now are masks obligatory in public transport. This means the virus has become pretty much embedded, though perhaps not yet endemic, in the population.

It’s a giant gamble with the lives of your citizens when you try to hide your failure to acquire the necessary tools and implement the needed procedures, behind stories about how well “we” are really doing. The kind of gamble that politicians should at the very least by forced to quit for, but that is not going to happen.

But, more irony, they’re real popular. People buy the narrative that “this is the best we could have done”, and hang on to their lips every day for a shred of good news. That happens in many countries, of course, and, yes, it has a function: if you want to do a lockdown, above all you need a sense of unity. That it is used to hide lies and failures is almost an afterthought.

I don’t try to point out to people here -the few I see- anymore that their government has done a terrible job; they all watch the same news, and they’ve all bought the same “we’re in this together” kool-aid. Which, again, does serve a purpose, but it’s also very false. Here are the latest numbers from Worldometer:


Holland:
17.3 million people,
46,257 cases of COVID19, and
5,951 deaths.


Greece:
10.7 million people,
2,915 cases and
175 deaths.

I don’t even have to do the percentages, do I? The “successful” and “intelligent” Holland not only, 5 months in, still has an “official” worse “deaths per million population” rate than the US(!), the Dutch numbers also invariably come with the official addition that “real” numbers of both cases and deaths are much higher due to the lack of testing.

Almost as if they’re proud of it. As if it’s a waste of time to try and keep track of how and where the virus is spreading in your society, something you won’t ever know if you only test and count people who are already in hospital or dead.

 

High time for a more uplifting story. In early March, as Greece lockdown measures took hold one by one, almost all of the social kitchens were quickly shut down. But not the people the Automatic Earth has been supporting for 5 years running with your kind help. “Our” crew changed strategy as cooking in the street was no longer an option, and started preparing meals in a central place, only to drive down and hand them out fully ready in the familiar places near Monastiraki square and the Piraeus port.

And because so many other social kitchens had closed and the homeless still needed to eat (always the first to bear the brunt, no exception this time), they made -and make- a lot more meals as well than they were used to doing, and worked 4 days instead of 2, preparing some 700 meals every week.

It’s not just many more meals, but every meal takes much more time and energy to prepare than usual; each has to be packaged separately, because of course fears were that the homeless would be most susceptible to the virus. In short, they’ve all been working their behinds off. Everyone talks about heroes, and these people are mine. Let me show you with a few pictures:

Here’s Monastiraki square, deserted (with the Acropolis on top of the mountain):

 

 

Some of the crew preparing meals in the central place:

 

 

And posing (that’s Tassos doing his finest Greek Zorro):

 

 

Then there’s of course -some of- Da Boyz:

 

 

The usual hot meal in the big pot:

 

 

But lots of other things too, all individually wrapped:

 

 

Which then end up in these crates before they’re loaded into cars to be distributed.

 

 

I love this picture, these are some of the things served on Greek Easter, April 19, because the homeless, too, should celebrate:

 

 

And then the packages are handed to the people in central Athens:

 

 

And at the port of Piraeus:

 

 

Greece, like other countries, is slowly easing its lockdown, first the stores opened, last week it was terraces at bars and restaurants, and next week it will be the inside of these places too.

“The Crew” is not yet back to cooking in the streets, that will take a bit more time. I’ve been keeping in close touch with them, and it’s high time to replenish the supermarket “checks” I last arranged for in December. First thing I’ll do when I get there. Been offering it all the time, a bank transfer might have worked, but so far they manage.

Air traffic is resuming as well, bit by bit. When I changed my ticket in mid-March, I had no idea what would be realistic, and picked June 16 “out of a hat”. Not a bad guess, it turns out. June 16 became 17, and 2 days ago the Greeks said Holland is a risk country, so no flights before July, but this morning they changed that again, to mandatory testing at the airport followed by a night in a designated hotel; it now looks as if this might actually happen. Then again, 17 days is an eternity in virustime of course.

And in the process I’ll get tested, something I can’t get done in Holland. I’ve been holed up in an area of Holland with very few infections, but I’ll still have to do the train-airport-plane routine to get to Athens, all places where the danger of being infected is -relatively- high. Holland is a country the size of a postage stamp, and it still today averages more new cases than Greece has had total deaths.

 

As always when I write about the Automatic Earth in Athens project, I ask you to support it. There are still a few hundred dollars left, but I want to buy at least €1000 worth of supermarket checks, so the crew can fill their by now empty pantries and cupboards and do something extra for the clients, who haven’t had an easy time.

The way it goes is simple and identical to how we’ve always done this: you can donate through our Paypal widget at the top left corner of the site. Any donations that end in $0.99 or $0.37 go straight to the crew, other amounts go to the Automatic Earth, which also badly needs support, and which you can of course also support via Patreon, see top right corner of the site.

I am honored and proud to be associated with these people, and proud of the bonds we have forged since 2015, and I think you should be too. Together, we support the most vulnerable people, homeless and refugees, in a city still overflowing with vulnerable people (with many more added because of the virus), and we do it through a crew that doesn’t cease to amaze with their selflessness.

I don’t remember if I ever mentioned this, but a few years ago I was talking to a guy who did a project on Lesbos, maybe still does, and we were saying: many years from now, when looking back on your life, what will you be most proud of? We both concluded that this would certainly among the top in the list: supporting the weakest members of society. But I can’t do it without your help, which has been amazing all this time, and which I hope will continue in the same way that I am determined to continue to support this wonderful little shimmer of light.

 

 

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

Thank you.

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 232020
 


Adam Zyglis The son of man May 19 2020

 

US Grants Tentative OK For 15 Air Carriers To Cut Service To 75 Airports (R.)
UK Confirms 14-Day Quarantine Post-Travel (Y!)
Remdesivir Study Finds Mortality Too High For Standalone Treatment (ZH)
NIH Trial: Redesivir Works Best In COVID Patients On Oxygen (R.)
US Veterans Agency Has Given HCQ To 1,300 Coronavirus Patients (R.)
COVID19 ‘Taking Different Path In Africa’, Says WHO (G.)
Peruvian President Extends Nationwide Lockdown Through June 30 (CNN)
Chileans Rediscover Community Kitchens As Coronavirus and Hunger Bite (R.)
Car Rental Giant Hertz Files For Bankruptcy (Solomon)
This Sucker Is Going Down (Kunstler)
Argentina Set For Default As Bondholders Reject New Terms (G.)
FBI Launches Internal Investigation Into Its Handling Of Flynn Case (JTN)
FBI Opened Russia Probe On Third-Hand ‘Suggestion’ Of Collusion (JTN)

 

 

Global new cases in past 24 hours: 107,743

New cases in:
• US + 23,591
• Russia + 9,434
• Brazil + 21.461
• India + 6,568
• Chile + 4,726

New deaths in past 24 hours:
• US + 1,260 (total deaths 97,655)
• Russia + 139
• Brazil + 1,034
• Spain + 688
• UK +351
• Mexico + 337

 

 

https://twitter.com/SteveGuest/status/1263901535462928386

 

 

 

Cases 5,326,230 (+ 107,743 from yesterday’s 5,218,496)

Deaths 340,383 (+ 5,314 from yesterday’s 335,069)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Now that their lockdowns end, the US and UK take measures they should have when they started. The cart and the horse.

How is this not insane? During the lockdowns, US airlines have kept flying everywhere, and people have entered the UK without even being checked (an official policy).

Now that the virus is solidly embedded in the home population, they start acting to prevent it from embedding itself in the population.

US Grants Tentative OK For 15 Air Carriers To Cut Service To 75 Airports (R.)

The U.S. Transportation Department said late on Friday it had granted tentative approval to 15 airlines to temporarily halt service to 75 U.S. airports because of the coronavirus pandemic. Airlines must maintain minimum service levels in order to receive government assistance but many have petitioned to stop service to airports with low passenger demand. Both United Airlines and Delta Air Lines won tentative approval to halt flights to 11 airports, while JetBlue Airways, Alaska Airlines and Frontier Airlines were approved to stop flights to five airports each. The department said all airports would continue to be served by at least one air carrier.


The Transportation Department said objections to the order can be filed until May 28. U.S. air carriers are collectively burning through more than $10 billion in cash a month as travel demand remains a fraction of prior levels, even though it has rebounded slightly in recent weeks. They have parked more than half of their planes and cut thousands of flights. The department has previously granted airlines waivers to cancel some additional flights and denied others. On May 12, the department said it would allow carriers to halt flights to up to 5% of required destinations.


Getty

Read more …

Millions of travelers since January, and 100,000 air passengers alone from April 1-26, have entered the UK unhindered. No More! We have all the virus we need!

UK Confirms 14-Day Quarantine Post-Travel (Y!)

The UK government confirmed in a statement that it will put in place a 14-day period of quarantine for anyone that lands on British soil in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The move, which was announced at the government’s daily press briefing, will be a huge blow for the airline industry that is predicted to lose $314bn this year, according to the latest prediction from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). That number is still 25% more than previously forecasted. This is also due to a 55% drop in 2020 passenger revenue compared with last year.


Home secretary Priti Patel confirmed at the daily coronavirus briefing from Downing Street on Friday that alongside the 14-day quarantine, those under that lockdown could be contacted regularly throughout this period to ensure compliance. “As the world begins to emerge from what we hope is the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, we must look to the future and protect the British public by reducing the risk of cases crossing our border,” she said in a statement. “We are introducing these new measures now to keep the transmission rate down and prevent a devastating second wave. “I fully expect the majority of people will do the right thing and abide by these measures. But we will take enforcement action against the minority of people who endanger the safety of others.”

Read more …

When a ‘pivotal’ study is released on a Friday at 6pm, you know something’s wrong. But we still see headlines today like:

“Gilead’s drug works best in COVID patients on oxygen” and “Anti-viral drug ‘remdesivir’ effective against coronavirus, study finds”.

Remdesivir doesn’t work. It may have a little effect on people who already get oxygen, but that’s it. It doesn’t cure a thing.

There’s a Chinese study out on a drug with the great plus that it hasn’t killed anyone in phase 1 testing.

That is the new standard. All investors should move in! This could be the one!

Remdesivir Study Finds Mortality Too High For Standalone Treatment (ZH)

… According to a pivotal study published in the New England Journal of Medicine late on Friday, Remdesivir, which was authorized to treat Covid-19 in a group of 1063 adults and children (split into two groups, one receiving placebo instead of remdesivir) who need i) supplemental oxygen, ii) a ventilator or iii) extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), only significantly helped those on supplemental oxygen. Meanwhile, and explaining the 6pm release on a Friday, the study also found no marked benefit from remdesivir for those who were healthier and didn’t need oxygen or those who were sicker, requiring a ventilator or a heart-lung bypass machine.

The NEJM, almost apologetically, stated that “the lack of benefit seen in the other groups might have stemmed from a smaller number of patients in each group.” Still, as a result of the partial benefit for patients in the supplemental oxygen group, the study from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was evaluated early and led to the authorization of remdesivir before the full trial was completed. Our findings highlight the need to identify Covid-19 cases and start antiviral treatment before the pulmonary disease progresses to require mechanical ventilation.

A visual representation of the outcomes is below; it shows that whereas there was a modest benefit only to patients who were receiving oxygen, the results were statistically insignificant vs placebo for patients not receiving oxygen, while in a surprising twist patients on high-flow oxygen or mechanical ventilator/ECMO did modestly better in the placebo group than those taking remdesivir. Also, the overall results showed a very modest, but not statistically significant improvement in the remdesivir group vs placebo. [..] Another disappointment: the study found that overall “mortality was numerically lower in the remdesivir group than in the placebo group, but the difference was not significant”, in other words the alleged “miracle drug” has largely the same effect as a placebo in terms of overall disease mortality.

Read more …

It looks like advertizing gone wrong.

NIH Trial: Redesivir Works Best In COVID Patients On Oxygen (R.)

The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) on Friday said that data from its trial of Gilead Sciences Inc’s (GILD.O) remdesivir show that the drug offers the most benefit for COVID-19 patients who need extra oxygen but do not require mechanical ventilation. The peer-reviewed data was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The trial, for which final results are still trickling in, showed that recovery time for patients given remdesivir was shortened by four days, or 31%, compared to placebo patients. The biggest benefit was seen in patients who were sick enough to need supplemental oxygen, but were not on a ventilator. The data detailed in the journal is similar to early results that the NIH released last month from the study, which began in February with 1,063 participants in 10 countries.


Researchers now calculate that after follow up, 7% of patients given remdesivir will have died, compared with 12% in the placebo group, but they said the difference in the death rate was not significant. “Our findings highlight the need to identify COVID-19 cases and start antiviral treatment before the pulmonary disease progresses to require mechanical ventilation,” the researchers wrote. They noted that “given high mortality despite the use of remdesivir,” it is likely that the antiviral drug would be more effective in combination with other treatments for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus. Gilead said it expects results from its own study of remdesivir in patients with moderate COVID-19 at the end of this month.

Read more …

Chuck Schumer is only interested because he can smear Trump. That the VA employs thousands of doctors makes no difference. They are all wrong.

US Veterans Agency Has Given HCQ To 1,300 Coronavirus Patients (R.)

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has treated 1,300 coronavirus patients with the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which a study has tied to an increased risk of death, according to a document released by a Senate Democrat on Friday. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, who received the information from the VA in response to questions he submitted on the issue, said he was “deeply troubled” by the data. President Donald Trump has long urged use of hydroxychloroquine against coronavirus and recently said he has been taking it himself, despite evidence that the treatment could be harmful.

A study published on Friday in the medical journal Lancet tied the drug to an increased risk of death in hospitalized patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. In April, doctors at VA itself also said hydroxychloroquine did not help COVID-19 patients and might pose a higher risk of death. The VA, which provides care to 9 million veterans, said that about 1,300 coronavirus patients who received the drug are among more than 10,000 COVID-19 patients it has treated.

It has also dispensed hydroxychloroquine to about 7,500 patients with other conditions including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. The VA said it will continue to dispense the drug under the guidelines of the Food and Drug Administration. In answer to a question from Schumer, the VA said it was not pressured into using hydroxychloroquine by the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services or any other federal agency. “VA, like so many medical facilities across this nation, is in a race to keep patients alive during this pandemic, and we are using as many tools as we can,” the VA told Schumer.

Read more …

Sure, younger population. But more than that, no health care systems, no ways to keep track of infected or dead, let alone with what.

Different path alright.

COVID19 ‘Taking Different Path In Africa’, Says WHO (G.)

There had been apocalyptic forecasts for the potential impact of the coronavirus pandemic in Africa. On Friday evening, after the 100,000th case was reached, the World Health Organization’s Africa office circulated a note saying that it now seemed clear that the pandemic “appears to be taking a different pathway in Africa.” The note continued: Case numbers have not grown at the same exponential rate as in other regions and so far Africa has not experienced the high mortality seen in some parts of the world. Today, there are 3,100 confirmed deaths on the continent. By comparison, when cases reached 100,000 in the WHO European region, deaths stood at more than 4,900.

Early analysis by WHO suggests that Africa’s lower mortality rate may be the result of demography and other possible factors. Africa is the youngest continent demographically with more than 60% of the population under the age of 25. Older adults have a significantly increased risk of developing a severe illness. In Europe nearly 95% of deaths occurred in those older than 60 years. WHO also noted that African governments swiftly imposed restrictive measures on their populations in an attempt to contain the spread of the disease. However, it also said that despite “significant progress in testing”, rates of testing remain low in comparison to other regions.

It insisted that, despite the relatively low number of cases, “the pandemic remains a major threat to the continent’s health systems”. Now that countries are starting to ease their confinement measures, there is a possibility that cases could increase significantly, and it is critical that governments remain vigilant and ready to adjust measures in line with epidemiological data and proper risk assessment.

Read more …

Peru has it bad.

Peruvian President Extends Nationwide Lockdown Through June 30 (CNN)

Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra announced Friday that a national state of emergency, which includes mandatory social isolation measures, will be extended through June 30. He announced that “a national state of emergency is being declared from Monday, May 25 until June 30, including obligatory social isolation, quarantine, due to the grave circumstances that affect the life of the nation due to Covid-19,” according to state news agency Andina. Vizcarra first declared a nationwide state of emergency, which included mandatory self-quarantine and closed the country’s borders, on March 15. With the current extension, Peru will be under a state of emergency for at least three and a half months.

Read more …

“On the first night, the word “hunger” was projected onto one of Santiago’s tallest buildings.”

Chileans Rediscover Community Kitchens As Coronavirus and Hunger Bite (R.)

Poor neighbourhoods in the Chilean capital Santiago have seen a resurgence in the use of community kitchens once prevalent in the darkest days of dictatorship, as coronavirus shutdowns put pressure on jobs and send thousands into poverty. With winter approaching and temperatures chilling, canteen-style operations provide plates of hot food to those with dwindling incomes or nothing at all. They are organized by neighbors, local leaders and councils, who donate money or food. “My people are getting desperate, they have nothing to eat so we asked for help and as always, the people answered,” Sandra Cariz, the president of a community association, told Reuters in the Puente Alto suburb of Santiago on Friday.


The kitchens come alongside a growing number of drives circulating on social media for food, money and clothing donations. Chile has about 62,000 coronavirus cases and 600 deaths. Its economy has taken a hit unlike anything since the 1980s, government officials have said, when almost half of Chileans lived below the poverty line and the country was rocked by protests against Augusto Pinochet’s regime. When the coronavirus hit in March, Chile was just recovering from intense social protests over inequality which included arson attacks and looting. Protests restarted this week, with skirmishes between police and people denouncing the highest job losses in a decade. On the first night, the word “hunger” was projected onto one of Santiago’s tallest buildings.

Read more …

Uber.

Car Rental Giant Hertz Files For Bankruptcy (Solomon)

Hertz Global Holdings on Friday eveing filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as large debts and 700,000 vehicles mostly idled by the pandemic brought the car rental giant to its knees. The Florida-based company, which listed more than $24 billion in debt, took the action in a Delaware bankruptcy court in an effort to avoid permanent closure and a liquidation of its fleet. The company said it had $1 billion in cash to keep operating on a limited basis while it negotiated with its lenders and vendors. Its financial problems became apparent last month when it missed a round of payments. Hertz is the nation’s second largest car rental agency and boasts the brands Hertz, Dollar, Thrifty, and Firefly.

Read more …

“As in any extinction event, it will be the smaller organisms that survive and eventually thrive and that’s how it will go in the next edition of America..”

This Sucker Is Going Down (Kunstler)

It was only a few decades ago that Walmart entered the pantheon of American icons, joining motherhood, apple pie, and baseball on the highest tier of the altar. The people were entranced by this behemoth cornucopia of unbelievably cheap stuff packaged in gargantuan quantities. It was something like their participation trophy for the sheer luck of being born in this exceptional land, or having valiantly clawed their way in from wretched places near and far – where, increasingly, the mighty stream of magically cheap stuff was manufactured. The evolving psychology of Walmart-ism had a strangely self-destructive aura about it. Like cargo cultists waiting on a jungle mountaintop, small town Americans prayed and importuned the gods of commerce to bring them a Walmart.

Historians of the future, pan-frying ‘possum cutlets over their campfires, will marvel at the potency of their ancestors’ prayers. Every little burg in the USA eventually saw a Walmart UFO land in the cornfield or cow-pasture on the edge of town. Like the space invaders of sci-fi filmdom, Walmart quickly killed off everything else of economic worth around it, and eventually the towns themselves. And that was where things stood as the long emergency commenced in the winter of early 2020, along with the Covid-19 corona virus riding shotgun on the hearse-wagon it rolled in on. We’re in a liminal, transitional moment of history, like beach-goers gawking at the glassy-green curve of a great wave in the throes of breaking. Such mesmerizing beauty!

Alas, most people can’t surf. It looks easy on TV, but you’d be surprised at the conditioning it takes, and Americans are way, way out of condition. (All those tattoos don’t give you an ounce of extra mojo.) And so, in this liminal moment, the people still trudge dutifully to the Walmarts with their dwindling reserves of cash money to get stuff, going through all the devotions that we took for granted before the wave welled up and threatened to break over us. Which is happening. Despite all the fake-heroic blather from the Federal Reserve, from Nancy Pelosi, from Mr. Trump and Mr. Mnuchin – from everybody in charge, to be really fair – and in the immortal words of another recent president — this sucker is going down. Specifically, what’s going down is the aggregate of transactions we call “the economy.”

[..] As in any extinction event, it will be the smaller organisms that survive and eventually thrive and that’s how it will go in the next edition of America, whether we remain states united or find ourselves organized differently. Accordingly, the giants must fall. When the communities of America rebuild, it will be the thousands of small activities that matter, because they will entail the rebuilding of social capital as well as exchanges that amount to business. Social capital is exactly what Walmart and things like it killed in every community from sea to shining sea. People stopped doing business with their neighbors. It took a cataclysm for them to finally notice.

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On average once every decade?!

Argentina Set For Default As Bondholders Reject New Terms (G.)

Argentina is on course for a technical default on its government borrowing on Friday as the country continues to hold talks with international investors over plans to restructure its debts. Financial investors said they expected the country to miss $500m (£410m) in interest payments on its borrowing, according to the Reuters news agency, as the government tries to renegotiate its borrowing before a 2 June deadline. With the economy in recession even before the coronavirus outbreak and spiralling inflation, Argentina has about $65bn in debt owned by overseas investors, which both the state and its creditors believe is unsustainable. The government has asked bondholders to accept significantly lower interest payments on its debts and to defer payments until 2024. Investors had thus far rejected the terms proposed by president Alberto Fernández’s centre-left government, which came to power late last year.


This month, a group of leading economists including Thomas Piketty and the Nobel prize-winner Joseph Stiglitz urged bondholders to take a constructive approach to restructuring Argentina’s debts. They argued debt relief for the country would be “the only way to combat the pandemic and set the economy on a sustainable path”. A group of international investors – including Ashmore, BlackRock and AllianceBernstein – that hold about $16.7bn of Argentinian bonds said on Friday that they recognised the country was seeking a comprehensive deal, even though failure to pay would trigger a default, Reuters reported. Sarah-Jayne Clifton, director of Jubilee Debt Campaign, said that Argentina was right to demand a deep debt restructuring and to default if lenders did not accept a deal. “Reckless lending at high interest rates helped to create the current crisis, so lenders and speculators should share in the costs,” she said.

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Oh, get serious.

FBI Launches Internal Investigation Into Its Handling Of Flynn Case (JTN)

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Friday ordered an internal investigation into the bureau’s handling of the Michael Flynn case, just two weeks after the Justice Department declared that it was dropping the case against him and that federal investigators had no standing to interview the general in early 2017. Wray “today ordered the Bureau’s Inspection Division to conduct an after-action review of the Michael Flynn investigation,” the FBI announced on Friday. The Inspection Division essentially functions similarly to an internal affairs office found in lower law enforcement agencies. Fox News reported on Friday that the bureau will seek to identify whether any current FBI officials “engaged in misconduct” during the investigation, as well as whether or not the agency can improve its investigation process moving forward.


The bureau “does not have the ability to take any disciplinary action” against former employees, the FBI’s statement said. Flynn’s plight has received new attention in recent weeks, starting with the stunning Justice Department announcement at the beginning of the month. Following the department’s decision, the judge overseeing the Flynn case, Emmet Sullivan, declined to immediately dismiss it per the recommendation from Justice, instead inviting an amicus curiae brief from retired Judge John Gleeson in support of continuing the case against the general.

Read more …

Boy what a sh*tshow.

FBI Opened Russia Probe On Third-Hand ‘Suggestion’ Of Collusion (JTN)

The FBI’s probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia was opened on a third-hand “suggestion” of wrongdoing and the thinnest of suspicions that illegal foreign lobbying had occurred, according to a declassified memo released Friday that shows agents immediately flagged the strong limitations of their evidence. The July 31, 2016 electronic communication that officially open the counterintelligence investigation codenamed Crossfire Hurricane was obtained by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch. It shows the criminal basis for opening the probe was suspected violations of the Foreign Agent Registration Act, but it did not identify a single episode that it said violated the law.

Rather it focused on a “suggestion” passed on by Australian ambassador Alexander Downer that Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos might be coordinating with Russia the release of damaging information about Hillary Clinton. Downer had heard the information about the Russians during a bar conversation in May 2016 from Papadopoulos, who had heard it two months earlier from a European professor who had heard it from Russians allegedly. The memo shows the case agent, Peter Strzok, expressed some doubts and reservations about the limitations of the evidence even as he opened the probe. The memo cited concerns about “suggestions from the Russians that they (the Russians) could assist the Trump campaign with the anonymous release of information during the campaign that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton.”

Papadopoulos “suggested the Trump team had received some kind of suggestion from Russia” that it had damaging information, the memo said. But Strzok’s memo immediately noted the limitations of the allegations forwarded from the Australians. “It was unclear whether he or the Russians were referring to material acquired publicly of through other means. It was also unclear how Mr. Trump’s team reacted to the offer,” the memo stated. Kevin Brock, the former chief of intelligence for the FBI, said the electronic communication did not meet the bureau’s rigorous standards for predicating the opening of a criminal or counterintelligence case. [..] Asked whether as an FBI assistant director he would have approved opening Crossfire Hurricane based on what was in the memo, Brock said: “Not in a millions years. I wouldn’t have approved it as a squad supervisor either. This would have set off alarm bells in any FBI field for not meeting our standards for a predicate.”

Read more …

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May 062020
 


Harris&Ewing Less taxes, more jobs, US Chamber of Commerce campaign 1939

 

Now-Dominant Strain Of Coronavirus Could Be More Contagious Than Original (LAT)
New Mutation Indicates That Coronavirus Might Be Weakening (NYP)
Coronavirus Started Infecting People Globally Late Last Year (Hill)
UK COVID-19 Death Toll Rises Above 32,000, Highest In Europe (R.)
Pseudo-Science Behind The Assault On Hydroxychloroquine (ZH)
Goat and Pawpaw ‘Test Positive’ For COVID19 In Tanzania (AlJ)
Pennsylvania Woman Jailed For Refusing To Quarantine After Positive Test (Hill)
White House To Wind Down Coronavirus Task Force, Focus Shifts To Aftermath (R.)
UK Government ‘Using Pandemic To Transfer NHS Duties To Private Sector’ (G.)
K Street Requests Taxpayer Bailout Of Corporate Lobbyists (IC)
US Airlines Burn Through $10 Billion A Month As Traffic Plummets (R.)
After The Covid Rush: Brace For America’s Version Of Saudi Aramco (Cox)
Bluetooth Inventors See Problems For Coronavirus Contact Tracing (IC)
French Beekeepers Look To Lockdown Exit To Sell Bumper Honey Harvest (R.)
Did The Mueller Team Violate Brady and Flynn Orders? (Turley)
China Fires Entire Propaganda Team: US Media Already Does Their Job (BB)

 

 

• US #coronavirus deaths rise by 2,333 in 24 hours: Johns Hopkins

 

 

 

Cases 3,744,765 (+ 82,494 from yesterday’s 3,662,271)

Deaths 258,884 (+ 6,137 from yesterday’s 252,747)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

I was reading two things (first two articles in this overview): 1) that a new dominant corona strain appears more contagious, and 2) that it is a weakening strain. Now, that makes perfect sense, it’s a trade-off that’s ubiquitous in nature: when a virus becomes more contagious, it kills fewer of its new hosts. That way the death number remains the same, and enough potential hosts remain.

But that’s not necessarily what people see. The LA Times seems to expect the opposite: “The Los Alamos study does not indicate that the new version of the virus is more lethal than the original.”

It’s of course possible that a more contagious strain is also more lethal, but it wouldn’t seem to be the more logical chain of events.

Now-Dominant Strain Of Coronavirus Could Be More Contagious Than Original (LAT)

Scientists have identified a new strain of the coronavirus that has become dominant worldwide and appears to be more contagious than the versions that spread in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study led by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The new strain appeared in February in Europe, migrated quickly to the East Coast of the United States and has been the dominant strain across the world since mid-March, the scientists wrote. In addition to spreading faster, it may make people vulnerable to a second infection after a first bout with the disease, the report warned.

The 33-page report was posted Thursday on BioRxiv, a website that researchers use to share their work before it is peer-reviewed, an effort to speed up collaborations with scientists working on COVID-19 vaccines or treatments. That research has been largely based on the genetic sequence of earlier strains and might not be effective against the new one. Scientists with major organizations working on a vaccine or drugs to combat the coronavirus have told The Times that they are pinning their hopes on initial evidence that the virus is stable and not likely to mutate the way the influenza virus does, requiring a new vaccine every year. The Los Alamos report could upend that assumption.

The mutation identified in the new report affects the now-infamous spikes on the exterior of the coronavirus, which allow it to enter human respiratory cells. The report’s authors said they felt an “urgent need for an early warning” so that vaccines and drugs under development around the world will be effective against the mutated strain. In many places where the new strain appeared, it quickly infected far more people than the earlier strains that came out of Wuhan, China, and within weeks it was the only strain that was prevalent in some nations, according to the report. The new strain’s dominance over its predecessors suggests that it is more infectious, according to the report, though exactly why is not yet known.

The coronavirus, known to scientists as SARS-CoV-2, has infected more than 3.5 million people around the world and caused more than 250,000 COVID-19 deaths since its discovery late last year. The report was based on a computational analysis of more than 6,000 coronavirus sequences from around the world collected by the Global Initiative for Sharing All Influenza Data, a public-private organization in Germany. Time and again, the analysis found the new version was transitioning to become dominant.

[..] The Los Alamos study does not indicate that the new version of the virus is more lethal than the original. People infected with the mutated strain appear to have higher viral loads. But the study’s authors from the University of Sheffield found that among a local sample of 447 patients, hospitalization rates were about the same for people infected with either virus version. Even if the new strain is no more dangerous than the others, it could still complicate efforts to bring the pandemic under control. That would be an issue if the mutation makes the virus so different from earlier strains that people who have immunity to them would not be immune to the new version.

Read more …

If it would follow SARS, it would die out completely. But that’s a long way away, and wishful thinking.

New Mutation Indicates That Coronavirus Might Be Weakening (NYP)

A new coronavirus mutation discovered by Arizona researchers mirrors a change that occurred as the 2003 SARS virus began to weaken, the researchers announced. Lead study author Dr. Efrem Lim, an assistant professor at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, and his team use a new technology called next-generation sequencing to rapidly read through all 30,000 chemical letters of the SARS-CoV-2 genome, or genetic code. That technology helps researchers determine how the virus is spreading, mutating and adapting over time. Out of the 382 nasal swab samples the researchers examined from coronavirus patients in the state, a single sample was missing a significant chunk of its genome. 81 of the letters were permanently deleted, according to the new study published in the Journal of Virology.

“One of the reasons why this mutation is of interest is because it mirrors a large deletion that arose in the 2003 SARS outbreak,” Lim said in a statement. During the middle and late phases of the 2003 SARS epidemic, the virus accumulated mutations that lessened its strength, according to the researchers. “Where the deletion occurs in the genome is pretty meaningful because it’s a known immune protein which means it counteracts the host’s antiviral response,” Lim told the Daily Mail. A weakened virus that causes less severe symptoms may get a leg up if it is able to spread efficiently through populations by people who don’t know they are infected, the scientists say. However, it’s too soon to say whether the novel coronavirus is beginning to lose its potency, according to the researchers.

“The takeaway is that one virus had a large deletion which demonstrates that it is possible for the virus to transmit without having complete portions of its genetic material,” study co-author Matthew Scotch said in an email. “This was one virus and we do not suggest that this means a ‘weakening’ of any kind.” All of the patients whose samples the Arizona scientists analyzed had some clinical coronavirus symptoms — meaning that even the version with 81 deletions was still strong enough to make the patient at least somewhat sick, the Mail reported. This is the first time such a deletion has been seen in the 16,000 coronavirus genomes that have been sequenced to date, according to the researchers. That’s less than half a percent of the strains circulating, according to the scientists. There are about 3.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide. “This is a drop in the bucket,” Lim told the Mail.

Read more …

This would be a less contagious strain.

Coronavirus Started Infecting People Globally Late Last Year (Hill)

The coronavirus has been circulating among people since late 2019 and appears to have experienced a highly rapid spread after the first infection, according to a new genetic analysis of 7,600 patients around the world. Researchers in Britain wrote in a report published Tuesday in the journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution that they examined samples taken at different times and from different places, concluding that the virus first began infecting people late last year. The researchers found evidence of quick spread but found no indication that it is becoming any easier to transmit the virus, which was first identified in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province, in December 2019.


“The virus is changing, but this in itself does not mean it’s getting worse,” genetics researcher Francois Balloux of the University College London Genetics Institute told CNN. The study indicated that infections in the U.S. and Europe specifically could have occurred weeks or months before the first official cases were reported in January and February, making it more difficult to find “Patient Zero” in any particular area. The findings shot down hopes from some doctors that the virus had in fact been circulating under the radar for months before it burst onto the scene, which would have indicated that there could be some immunity already built up. But Balloux told CNN at most only 10 percent of the population has been exposed to the coronavirus.

Read more …

I was wondering why the numbers are so different, but one thing at least is that numbers for the UK, which includes Scotland and Northern Ireland, do not include Scotland and Northern Ireland. Curious.

And then there’s more: the UK appears to undercount deaths by some 20,000.

UK COVID-19 Death Toll Rises Above 32,000, Highest In Europe (R.)

More than 32,000 people in the United Kingdom have died with suspected COVID-19, the highest official toll yet reported in Europe, according to data published on Tuesday. The Office for National Statistics said 29,648 deaths had taken place as of April 24 in England and Wales with COVID-19 mentioned in death certificates. Including deaths for Scotland and Northern Ireland, the official toll now stands at 32,313. That is more than Italy, previously Europe’s worst hit country, though its toll does not include suspected cases. Ministers dislike comparisons of the headline death toll, saying that excess mortality – the number of deaths from all causes that exceed the average for the time of year – is a more meaningful metric.

 

Chris Giles is economics editor at the FT.

Read more …

The case of the “whistleblower”, Rick Bright, is strongly linked to HCQ.

Pseudo-Science Behind The Assault On Hydroxychloroquine (ZH)

Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) was accepted as a COVID-19 treatment by the medical community in the US and worldwide by early April. 67% of the US physicians said they would prescribe HCQ or chloroquine CQ for COVID-19 to a family member (Town Hall, 2020-04-08). An international poll of doctors rated HCQ the most effective coronavirus treatment (NY Post, 2020-04-02). On April 6, Peter Navarro told CNN that “Virtually Every COVID-19 Patient In New York Is Given Hydroxychloroquine.” This might explain decrease in COVID-19 deaths in the New York state after April 15. The time lag is because COVID-19 deaths happen on average 14 days after showing symptoms. But on April 21, several perfectly coordinated events took place, attacking HCQ’s use for COVID-19 patients.

• The COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel of the National Institute of Health issued recommendations with negative-ambivalent stance regarding the use of HCQ as a COVID-19 treatment. This surprising stance was taken contrary to the ample evidence of the efficacy and safety of HCQ and despite absence evidence of its harm. The panel also strongly recommended against the use of hydroxychloroquine with azithromycin (AZ), the combination of choice among practitioners.

• On the same day, a paper (Magagnoli, 2020) was posted on a pre-print server medRxiv, insinuating that HCQ is not only ineffective, but even harmful. This not-yet peer reviewed paper, by unqualified authors with conflicts of interest, received wall-to-wall media coverage, as it if were a cancer cure. It used data from Veterans Administration hospitals, spicing its effects. The paper has shown to be somewhere between junk science and fraud.

• Rick Bright, a government official who was probably more responsible for the low level of preparedness to the epidemic than most others, and had been re-assigned to a lower position earlier, emerged as a “whistleblower.” He claimed he had been demoted for opposing hydroxychloroquine, the claim to be soon debunked by documents bearing his signature. The media also gave him a wall-to-wall coverage.

On April 24, the FDA struck its own blow, issuing a stern warning against use of HCQ for COVID-19 treatment. While these warnings are not binding to doctors, they do produce a chilling effect. Consequently, either patients do not receive necessary treatment, or they receive it with a delay, sharper decreasing its effect. This allows detractors to question HCQ efficacy even more aggressively. Below, I review problems in the NIH COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines and other sources, used to wage anti-HCQ propaganda.

Read more …

Not sure if laughing is the best reaction here.

Goat and Pawpaw ‘Test Positive’ For COVID19 In Tanzania (AlJ)

Tanzania’s President John Magufuli has dismissed imported coronavirus testing kits as faulty, saying they returned positive results on samples taken from a goat and a pawpaw. Magufuli made the remarks during an event in Chato in northwestern Tanzania on Sunday. He said there were “technical errors” with the tests. The president, whose government has already drawn criticism for being secretive about the coronavirus outbreak and has previously asked Tanzanians to pray the coronavirus away, said he had instructed Tanzanian security forces to check the quality of the kits. They had randomly obtained several non-human samples, including from a pawpaw, a goat and a sheep, but had assigned them human names and ages.

These samples were then submitted to Tanzania’s laboratory to test for the coronavirus, with the lab technicians left deliberately unaware of their origins. Samples from the pawpaw and the goat tested positive for COVID-19, the president said, adding this meant it was likely that some people were being tested positive when, in fact, they were not infected by the coronavirus. “There is something happening. I said before we should not accept that every aid is meant to be good for this nation,” Magufuli said, adding the kits should be investigated.

On Saturday, Magufuli announced that he had placed an order for a herbal treatment for the coronavirus touted by the president of Madagascar. “I have already written to Madagascar’s president and we will soon dispatch a plane to fetch the medicine so that Tanzania can also benefit from it,” he said. The herbal remedy, called “Covid Organics” and prepared by the Malagasy Institute for Applied Research, is made out of Artemisia, a plant cultivated on the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar. Despite a lack of scientific evidence, President Andry Rajoelina of Madagascar claimed that the remedy has already cured some Madagascans of COVID-19. Children returning to school have been required to take it.

Read more …

We can neatly divide the country, if not the world, according to people’s reaction to this.

Problem is even if she wasn’t tested at all, she could still be positive.

Pennsylvania Woman Jailed For Refusing To Quarantine After Positive Test (Hill)

A Pennsylvania woman was jailed over the weekend for refusing to quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19, officials said Saturday. Erie County President Judge John Trucilla ordered that the woman be kept on electronic monitoring at home for at least a week after she spent a night in jail Friday for repeatedly violating her isolation order, the Erie Times-News reported. County Solicitor Richard Perhacs said the woman, who was unidentified at her Saturday court hearing, attended a party, did some banking and had her vehicle repaired after she tested positive. As a result, 27 people are now in quarantine after coming in contact with her or someone who was in contact with her.

The woman reportedly cried throughout the emergency proceeding as she appeared via a video call from the Erie County Prison, according to the news outlet. She told Trucilla that she did not understand a letter she signed on April 29 saying the county could take legal action if she did not self-isolate. “I want to explain from the bottom of my heart that I apologize,” she told the judge, according to the Times-News. “It was a mistake. I’ve learned from my actions. I want to go home.” Trucilla ruled in a preliminary order that she had to remain at home until she was tested again on Friday but said she could be jailed for longer if she violated the order again. The judge will determine whether her self-isolation period needs to be extended based on that test.

County officials said they explained the letter to her multiple times. The woman first developed symptoms on April 12 and said Saturday that she was no longer experiencing them. Erie County Chief Public Defender Pat Kennedy, who represented the woman, requested she be electronically monitored at her home. “Based on my interaction with her, I don’t think that day in jail was lost upon her,” Kennedy said, according to the news outlet.

Read more …

Shouldn’t Fauci and Birx simply resign? Or do they agree with the re-opening?

White House To Wind Down Coronavirus Task Force, Focus Shifts To Aftermath (R.)

The White House coronavirus task force will wind down as the country moves into a second phase that focuses on the aftermath of the outbreak, President Donald Trump said on Tuesday. Trump confirmed the plans after Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the group, told reporters the White House may start moving coordination of the U.S. response on to federal agencies in late May. “Mike Pence and the task force have done a great job,” Trump said during a visit to a mask factory in Arizona. “But we’re now looking at a little bit of a different form and that form is safety and opening and we’ll have a different group probably set up for that.” Asked if he was proclaiming “mission accomplished” in the fight against the coronavirus, Trump said, “No, not at all. The mission accomplished is when it’s over.”

Trump said Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, doctors who assumed a high profile during weeks of nationally televised news briefings, would remain advisers after the group is dismantled. Fauci leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Birx was response coordinator for the force. “We can’t keep our country closed for the next five years,” Trump said, when asked why it was time to wind down the task force. More than 70,000 people in the United States have died from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus. The U.S. death toll is the highest in the world. Trump acknowledged there might be a resurgence of the virus as states loosen the restrictions on businesses and social life aimed at curbing its spread. “It’ll be a flame and we’re going to put the flame out.”

Earlier, Pence said Trump was starting to look at Memorial Day on May 25 as the time to shift management of the response to the pandemic. [..] Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Food and Drug Administration chief Stephen Hahn said the Trump administration was committed to accelerating the search for a vaccine, with the goal of producing 100 million doses by the autumn and 300 million doses by the end of the year. “Whether that can be achieved or not, it is realistic,” said Azar. “We would not be doing this if we did not think it were realistic. Is it guaranteed? Of course it is not.” Most experts have suggested clinical trials to guarantee a vaccine is safe and effective could take a minimum of 12 to 18 months.

Read more …

The government is intentionally doing such a shitty job, might as well let the for-profit boys do it.

UK Government ‘Using Pandemic To Transfer NHS Duties To Private Sector’ (G.)

The government is using the coronavirus pandemic to transfer key public health duties from the NHS and other state bodies to the private sector without proper scrutiny, critics have warned. Doctors, campaign groups, academics and MPs raised the concerns about a “power grab” after it emerged on Monday that Serco was in pole position to win a deal to supply 15,000 call-handlers for the government’s tracking and tracing operation. They said the health secretary, Matt Hancock, had “accelerated” the dismantling of state healthcare and that the duty to keep the public safe was being “outsourced” to the private sector. In recent weeks, ministers have used special powers to bypass normal tendering and award a string of contracts to private companies and management consultants without open competition.


Deloitte, KPMG, Serco, Sodexo, Mitie, Boots and the US data mining group Palantir have secured taxpayer-funded commissions to manage Covid-19 drive-in testing centres, the purchasing of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the building of Nightingale hospitals. Now, the Guardian has seen a letter from the Department of Health to NHS trusts instructing them to stop buying any of their own PPE and ventilators. From Monday, procurement of a list of 16 items must be handled centrally. Many of the items on the list, such as PPE, are in high demand during the pandemic, while others including CT scanners, mobile X-ray machines and ultrasounds are high-value machines that are used more widely in hospitals.

Read more …

Not sure I can fully incorporate the irony involved here.

K Street Requests Taxpayer Bailout Of Corporate Lobbyists (IC)

K Street may soon have its own taxpayer-funded bailout. Industries as varied as oil refining, construction, fast food restaurants, and chemical manufacturing are seeking federal cash to support their lobbyists in Washington, D.C. Many of the largest lobbying forces are organized under the 501(c)(6) section of the tax code as trade groups. Corporations with similar concerns pool their money together to fund trade groups, which in turn employ thousands of lobbyists to shape elections and legislation on a daily basis. But the Paycheck Protection Program, the centerpiece of the small business rescue program, excluded such trade groups. That could change in the next round of stimulus legislation, which Congress is scheduled to debate later this month.


Lobbyists have stepped up a campaign to make sure professional influence peddlers are eligible for the PPP, or P3, funds. The push also includes a demand for an additional $25 billion for canceled events and other lost revenue from the coronavirus pandemic. The American Society of Association Executives, which represents trade group leadership, explained in a letter to lawmakers that trade group lobbyists need federal funding to better advocate for their clients. “These organizations are already relied upon to help coordinate federal resources to combat the coronavirus pandemic, and they require staff to fulfill this duty,” ASAE wrote. Trade groups, the ASAE letter notes, have faced declining revenue as corporations wind down dues payments and sponsorship fees in response to the economic downturn.

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So many sectors of the economy are entire bubbles, and we’re going to bail them all out.

US Airlines Burn Through $10 Billion A Month As Traffic Plummets (R.)

U.S. airlines are collectively burning more than $10 billion in cash a month and averaging fewer than two dozen passengers per domestic flight because of the coronavirus pandemic, industry trade group Airlines for America said in prepared testimony seen by Reuters ahead of a U.S. Senate hearing on Wednesday. Even after grounding more than 3,000 aircraft, or nearly 50% of the active U.S. fleet, the group said its member carriers, which include the four largest U.S. airlines, were averaging just 17 passengers per domestic flight and 29 passengers per international flight. “The U.S. airline industry will emerge from this crisis a mere shadow of what it was just three short months ago,” the group’s chief executive, Nicholas Calio, will say, according to his prepared testimony.


Net booked passengers have fallen by nearly 100% year-on-year, according to the testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee. The group warned that if air carriers were to refund all tickets, including those purchased as nonrefundable or those canceled by a passenger instead of the carrier, “this will result in negative cash balances that will lead to bankruptcy.” Separately, Eric Fanning, who heads the Aerospace Industries Association, will ask Congress to consider providing “temporary and targeted assistance for the ailing aviation manufacturing sector,” in testimony made public by the group. Boeing Co said last week it would cut 16,000 jobs by the end of the year, while GE Aviation plans to cut up to 13,000 jobs and airplane supplier Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc is cutting 1,450 jobs.

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So much for competition as a model.

After The Covid Rush: Brace For America’s Version Of Saudi Aramco (Cox)

Calamity creates opportunity. That has always been true when it comes to corporate consolidation. Recall how a series of mega-mergers and acquisitions transformed the banking industry after the 2008 financial panic. Wells Fargo snagged Wachovia. Bank of America scooped up Merrill Lynch. Lloyds TSB bought HBOS. BNP Paribas grabbed Fortis. JPMorgan got Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns. And so on. Before the coronavirus has taken its full physical and economic toll, expect more of the same. Strong banks ate the weak, and they were chivvied along by federal and state governments and regulators worried about the sustainability of their financial systems. Governments will play a central role now, too.

Even before the Great Lockdown, leaders were calling for relaxation of antitrust restrictions as a response to the emergence of stronger Chinese competitors. France and Germany railed against the European Commission blocking the merger between the rail businesses of Siemens and Alstom, complaining it would give Chinese giant CRRC free reign. President Donald Trump has tried to encourage telecom mergers to combat Huawei. These concerns have only become more pronounced as China appears to have rebounded from the virus more rapidly than the rest of the world. The political logic of protecting domestic companies through strategic alliances will apply after the pandemic and across a broad range of industries.

Governments will come away from Covid-19 with new priorities, ranging from safer, more domestic, manufacturing and supply chains to less risky balance sheets. If history rhymes, then pre-virus views about competition may take a back seat. As Edward Chancellor argued, this will lead to an unhealthy concentration of power. For the M&A business it opens all sorts of possibilities once considered taboo. Take the oil patch. Sliding demand has combined with efforts by the world’s largest producer, Saudi Arabia, to flood the market and nudge U.S. drillers toward bankruptcy. As the price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude has fallen below $20 a barrel from $60 at the start of the year, producers have been lobbying Trump for a rescue.

It’s not inconceivable to imagine the largest American producers banding together to squeeze out costs and take a better grip of U.S. oil supply, maybe even aided by government loans and a streamlined regulatory process, effectively creating a potential rival to Saudi Aramco. Merging Exxon Mobil with Chevron would forge a company worth some $350 billion with 35 billion barrels of proved reserves. Heck, they might even fold in BP’s 20 billion of reserves and $75 billion market cap and “ExChevBrit”. It would be a shrimp compared to Aramco’s $1.6 trillion value and 270 billion barrels of proved barrels of oil – and that’s how they would justify a deal.

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The sytem cannot tell if you’re 2 meters or 20 meters away. Next!

Bluetooth Inventors See Problems For Coronavirus Contact Tracing (IC)

Named for the 10th century king Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson, famous in Scandinavia for uniting (and Christianizing) the Danes, the humble, oft-derided wireless technology included in some form in nearly every portable device from the past decade and beyond is central to coronavirus contact tracing apps pushed by Apple, Google, and governments across the world. Banking on the standard’s ubiquity, and considerably improved reliability since the ’90s, these entities hope to turn billions of Bluetooth-enabled devices into an army of public health automatons that can map anyone who came into contact with someone who tests positive for Covid-19.


Although the exact plans for using Bluetooth vary between governments, the gist is simple: In order for your iPhone to connect to your friend’s Bluetooth speaker, it has to essentially shout its existence into the electromagnetic spectrum, sending repeated radio messages that announce that the device is turned on and willing to pair with another. It’s exactly these short, repeating radio wave bursts that tech companies and public health authorities hope can be used for contact tracing, by collecting an anonymized record of every Bluetooth announcement within a certain range. If one of these “HELLO, I AM BLUETOOTH!” messages ends up coming from an individual who later tests positive for Covid-19, the hope is that anyone else whose phone was able to detect that message could then be alerted and tested (or treated) accordingly.

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No-one here links the good harvest to less pollution or glyphosate. Odd.

French Beekeepers Look To Lockdown Exit To Sell Bumper Honey Harvest (R.)

Beekeepers in France are celebrating a bumper spring honey harvest after weeks of warm weather but will need a smooth unwinding of the coronavirus lockdown if they are to find a market for their produce. Down an overgrown track near the Chantilly Palace, where the James Bond film “A View to a Kill” was filmed in the 1980s, beekeeper Franck Portefaix says it could be the best season in four decades. “The blossom was almost three weeks early and the harvest is very, very good,” said Portefaix, who followed his parents into beekeeping 30 years ago. Nearby, colleagues in protective suits sprayed smoke over hives before opening them to extract the raw honey, most of which Portefaix’s business sells in markets. Temperatures in the l’Oise, north of Paris, in April hit as high as 30 degrees Celsius, more typical of early summer.


In a mediocre harvest, a beehive can produce 4-6 kg of honey, rising to 10 kg in a good harvest, but this spring Portefaix said the best performing among his 500 hives could produce up to 20 kg each. “1976 was really the year of reference, a very good year. And this year has begun much like that year. But not all beekeepers are cheering 2020. While northern and western regions of France basked in ideal April weather, prolonged dry spells hurt harvests in the south. Unfavourable weather also in the Landes region hurt acacia honey production. “With the upheaval to our climate, harvests are becoming increasingly unpredictable. It’s still early in the season, we need to temper our expectations,” said Henri Clement, a spokesman for the National Union of French Beekeeping.

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The FBI is above the law.

Did The Mueller Team Violate Brady and Flynn Orders? (Turley)

With the release of the new material from the case of Michael Flynn, an array of experts came forward to assure the public that it was all standard procedure for investigators to conclude that there was no criminal conduct uncovered and then prosecutors creating a crime (including the use of a clearly unconstitutional law never used to convict anyone since the start of the Republic). Many of these same experts who have been espousing untethered (and ultimately rejected) theories for criminal and impeachment charges for years. Yet, what was most striking is how many also rejected any claim that the undisclosed evidence, at a minimum, violated Brady, the case requiring the government to turn over exculpatory information.

Indeed, Ben Wittes, a staunch defender of James Comey, assured readers “while you might not know much about federal law enforcement,” this is all “standard practices.” In fact, this is a clear and flagrant violation of the both Brady and the orders of Judge Emmet Sullivan. The fact that such violations are also dismissed by mainstream media and experts reflects how rage has distorted legal analysis in this Administration. Brady v. Maryland is a 1963 decision of the Supreme Court that prosecutors must under the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments disclose favorable evidence to defendants upon request, if the evidence is “material” to either guilt or punishment. There are also due process rights requiring the disclosure of any evidence that would allow the defense to attack the reliability, thoroughness, and good faith of the police investigation or to impeach the credibility of the state’s witnesses. Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S. 419 (1995).

Courts like Judge Sullivan in the Flynn case issue standard orders under this and other cases requiring disclosure of evidence that are exculpatory or material to issues like impeachment. Many of us who work on the criminal defense side have long frustrating histories with courts in dealing with violations of Brady and other cases. Often these violations are exposed after sentencing (unlike in Flynn). Courts often cite cases like Strickler v. Greene to decline to order a new trial unless “the nondisclosure was so serious that there is a reasonable probability that the suppressed evidence would have produced a different verdict.” That is a standard that is difficult to overcome. However, this case exposes a particularly obvious set of violations.

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Babylon Bee

China Fires Entire Propaganda Team: US Media Already Does Their Job (BB)

The Chinese government has laid off its entire propaganda arm, cutting thousands of jobs at China Central Television and other state-run media outlets as the American media is already doing their job for them. “It seemed kinda redundant for us to have a state-run media when we have the American press,” said President Xi at a press conference Monday. “The American media is carrying water for us. It’s pretty incredible. We unleashed a virus on the world and lied about it for months, and the American press can’t stop praising us. As long as they make their orange leader look bad, they’ll repeat any line we feed them.”


“Really, we Commies could learn a lot from the propaganda of the press over in America,” he added admiringly. The Communist dictator sat the nervous, state-owned journalists down and asked them, “What would you say you do there?” to which they responded, “We take the propaganda and tell it to the people.” But President Xi wasn’t fooled, saying that the American press already does that and the redundancy would be eliminated. Luckily for the state-owned journalists and broadcasters who lost their jobs in China today, CNN was hiring.

Read more …

 

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

Thank you.

 

 

A great thread, putting together lots of studies:

 

 

Taleb. People often don’t get why you need not median values but extremes, maxima, to build a good model, building, theory, policy.

EVT= Extreme value theory

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth for your own good.

 

May 032020
 


Wyland Stanley Pedestrians ascending steep grade, San Francisco 1940

 

The US Just Reported Its Deadliest Day For Coronavirus (CNBC) /span>
For Many COVID19 Patients Symptoms Last More Than A Month (BI)
Women, Children Just As Likely To Get COVID19, Men Have Worse Symptoms (F.)
Half Of All New UK Infections Last Week Were Among Healthcare Workers (O.)
Is Sweden’s Covid-19 Handling a Failure or a Success?
New Mexico Governor Quarantines Entire Town Over Coronavirus Outbreak (JTN) /span>
Saudi To Take ‘Strict, Painful’ Measures To Deal With Coronavirus Impact (R.)
Italy’s Daily Coronavirus Death Toll Jumps, New Cases Stable (R.)
French Coronavirus Strain Did Not Come From China Or Italy (SCMP)
France Set To Impose 14-Day Coronavirus Quarantine For Travellers (R.)
European Leaders Join Forces To Combat COVID19 (PA)
China Faces Economic Reckoning As World Turns Against Globalisation (SCMP)
PPP Program Was Not Designed To Help Small Business (BI)
The Coronavirus Is Rewriting Our Imaginations (NYer)
Warren Buffett Sold All His Airline Stocks (MF)
Buffett Says: ‘Never Bet Against America’ (F.)

 

 

• A record 2,909 Americans died of Covid in last 24 hrs;

• U.S. CDC reports 1,092,815 coronavirus cases, 64,283 deaths

• Russia had 10,633 new cases in 24 hours for the first time

 

 

 

 

Cases 3,500,652 (+ 83,170 from yesterday’s 3,417,482)

Deaths 245,048 (+ 5,153 from yesterday’s 239,895 )

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer – Among Active cases, Serious/Critical fell to 2%

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Yeah, sure, open it all up.

The US Just Reported Its Deadliest Day For Coronavirus (CNBC) /span>

The United States just had its deadliest day on record due to the coronavirus as states across the country begin to ease restrictions meant to curb the spread of the virus, according to data published by the World Health Organization. The U.S. saw 2,909 people die of Covid-19 in 24 hours, according to the data, which was collected as of 4 a.m. ET on Friday. That’s the highest daily Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. yet, based on a CNBC analysis of the WHO’s daily Covid-19 situation reports. Before May 1, the next highest U.S. daily death toll was 2,471 reported on April 23, according to the WHO. State officials have previously warned that data on Covid-19 deaths are difficult to analyze because they often represent patients who became ill and were hospitalized weeks ago.


The country’s deadliest day comes as state officials weigh reopening parts of the economy and easing stay-at-home orders. Public health officials and epidemiologists have warned that as the public grows fatigued by restrictions and businesses reopen, the virus could spread rapidly throughout communities that have yet to experience a major epidemic. Protesters in at least 10 states on Friday demanded that the government lift stay-at-home orders and other emergency measures put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Among the states that saw protests are California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Tennessee and Washington.

Dozens of states have unveiled reopening plans and several, including Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, have already begun to allow nonessential retailers to reopen. New York state, which has reported more than 27% of all confirmed cases in the U.S., according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, has borne the brunt of the U.S. outbreak so far. The state has reported at least 24,039 of the country’s 65,173 Covid-19 deaths, according to Hopkins. The toll of the deadliest day of Covid-19 in the U.S. rivals that of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which claimed the lives of 2,973 people in one day, according to a government commission.


The WHO data differs from data collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which does not report historical daily Covid-19 deaths. The CDC’s site says that 2,349 people died in the U.S. of Covid-19 on May 1. However, the agency warns that its data might not be complete. CDC spokeswoman Kate Grusich told CNBC that the agency’s data is “validated through a confirmation process with jurisdictions.” “CDC does not know the exact number of COVID-19 illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths for a variety of reasons,” the agency says, adding that asymptomatic patients, delays in reporting and limited testing make it difficult to accurately track the data.

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More to add to the “We know nothing about the virus” pile.

For Many COVID19 Patients Symptoms Last More Than A Month (BI)

When Lauren Nichols felt a dry, burning sensation in her throat, her first instinct was to laugh it off. “I joked at the start that I was a baby dragon in the making and I was going to be on ‘Games of Thrones,’” she said. A few hours later, she developed diarrhea. The next day, she had a low-grade fever, accompanied by body aches and pounding headaches. A week and a half later, Nichols started feeling short of breath. Just climbing a step ladder made her winded. “I usually walk about 5 to 6 miles a day and I’m very active, very healthy,” she said. “That was sort of my wake up call that this isn’t normal. There’s something going on.”

Nichols, who is 32 years old, got tested for the coronavirus on March 17 in Boston, Massachusetts, where she lives. Her test was positive, but her symptoms still haven’t gone away: Friday was day 51 of her illness. Nichols is still recovering at home. Not a day has passed in which she didn’t have diarrhea. Her appetite has disappeared, she sweats and shivers through the night, and there’s a rattling in her chest. Her second coronavirus test came back positive again on April 20. She is one of a growing number of young coronavirus patients with mild or moderate cases who have reported being sick for more than a month.

Three other patients under 40 gave Business Insider similar accounts of their illnesses. That contradicts guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has suggested that mild coronavirus symptoms typically last for 14 days. For severe or critical patients, the World Health Organization reports, recovery can last up to six weeks. But the limited nature of data about patients in recovery so far means we don’t have much information about how long symptoms typically last. In scientific studies, patients who are considered “recovered” are usually those who have been discharged from the hospital. Since mild cases are encouraged to stay home, they’re less likely to be reflected in that research.

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Also new information.

Women, Children Just As Likely To Get COVID19, Men Have Worse Symptoms (F.)

n analysis of COVID-19 cases in Shenzhen, China, found that infection rates in young children were no lower than the population average, and that women were roughly equally represented as men, but men were 2.5 times as likely to exhibit severe symptoms. The analysis of cases identified by the Shenzhen Center for Disease Control from January 14 to February 12 included 187 men and 204 women—but the men were 2.5-times more likely to have severe symptoms like respiratory or organ failure, according to the study, which was published Monday in The Lancet. Though children were less likely to develop severe symptoms, they were infected at the same rate as their adult counterparts, though the average age of those who tested positive for the disease was 45.


It took five days, on average, for patients in the study to manifest symptoms of COVID-19, but contact tracing and extensive testing reduced identification time to three days, as the study also looked at 1,286 close contacts of the 391 COVID-19 patients. Only 9% of the patients showed severe symptoms at their first doctor evaluation. On average, each patient infected 0.4 others with coronavirus, and 11.2% of these infections were among housemates; though researchers note this number is observational, it suggests that the “disease that will quickly die out instead of spreading” and is so low due in part “to the Shenzhen CDC’s efforts to detect and isolate the index cases and their contacts.” However, not all cases are created equal: 8.9% of patients known as superspreaders caused 80% of infections among contacts, which could “relatively easily reignite outbreaks.”

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Never mind, just call them HEROES and you’re fine. Q: at what point do you get to be called a failed state?

Half Of All New UK Infections Last Week Were Among Healthcare Workers (O.)

British scientists are racing to try to answer fundamental questions about the Covid-19 virus and its transmission before the lifting of the current national lockdown is approved by the government in the near future. Researchers say relaxing social distancing should occur only once it is understood why new infections of the disease are still being diagnosed in their thousands every day. Such a rate means efforts to test and trace infected contacts – a key plank in the government’s anti-Covid strategy in coming months – would be quickly overwhelmed. Far more information is needed about the way the coronavirus is transmitted, they say. The new data will feed into the debate about the settings in which lockdown will be lifted first – for instance, whether it’s relatively safe to stage outdoor events.

And last week, several groups launched studies aimed at providing answers. These include projects to analyse how virus-laden aerosols behave in the air in a bid to understand how the disease is passed between humans. In addition, other schemes will target healthcare workers to investigate how the virus is being spread to them from patients and then on to others. The importance of this latter approach was revealed in recent figures for cases of Covid-19 which have shown a drop in numbers of new cases in hospitals but reveal significant rises among health and social care workers. This point was stressed by epidemiologist Anne Johnson at University College London. She said cutting transmissions of Covid-19 to health and social care workers had now emerged as a major priority.

“Half of all new infections reported last week were among healthcare workers,” she told the Observer. “This has now become the leading edge of the spread of the disease.” Lack of protective equipment and clothing may have worsened the situation, she added. “However, what is certain is that care workers are still at risk from their patients from whom they can pick up the virus and, in turn, pass it on to their colleagues, to their own families and possibly to other patients. We need to focus on limiting the spread of Covid-19 among health and social care workers as an absolute priority if we want to have a chance of bringing this epidemic to a halt.”

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I don’t really see how to call it a success.

Is Sweden’s Covid-19 Handling a Failure or a Success? (Mish)

Sweden did not have a hard lockdown like its neighbors although people were advised to work from home when possible. It also banned nursing home visits on April 7. Sweden says its model worked, but Numbers Suggest a Different Story. Sweden’s Covid-19 deaths per capita are 3 to 6 times its Nordic neighbors.

 

On a per capita basis, Sweden’s Covid-19 deaths are 3 to 5.5 times the other Nordic countries. Sweden has just over 3 times the death rate of Denmark. But note Denmark’s population density disadvantage of 138:25. Success is in the eyes of the beholder. A death rate 5.5x is acceptable to some but not others. But Sweden has a ton of pressure to under-report Covid deaths. I would be shocked if they didn’t. Regardless, one can easily look at this data, ignore the undercounts (perhaps even factor some in), and conclude Sweden did the right thing.

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This is going to lead to real life battles.

New Mexico Governor Quarantines Entire Town Over Coronavirus Outbreak (JTN)

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Grisham on Friday formally quarantined the entire town of Gallup, a decision she said came at the request of the city’s mayor as the municipality battles a rapidly spreading COVID-19 outbreak. In a press release on the New Mexico state website, the governor’s office announced Grisham had invoked New Mexico’s Riot Control Act, which the state said grants her the authority to “enact further temporary restrictions to mitigate the uninhibited spread of COVID-19.” The order shuts down all roads to and from Gallup. Businesses are ordered to be closed from 5 p.m. until 8 a.m. No more than two individuals may ride in a car at the same time.


And residents are urged to remain in their homes “except for emergency outings and those essential for health, safety and welfare.” Per state law, emergency declarations of this type only last three days. Grisham’s order is set to expire on May 4. In her Apr. 30 letter to Grisham, then-Gallup Mayor Jackie McKinney, who that same day was succeeded as mayor by Louis Bonaguidi, urged Grisham to enact the order to counteract the “unprecedented health crisis” the virus posed to her city and the surrounding county. McKinley County, in which Gallup is located, has seen 20 deaths from the coronavirus out of a little over 1,000 confirmed cases.

Read more …

Saudi Arabia is becoming a hit fast.

Saudi To Take ‘Strict, Painful’ Measures To Deal With Coronavirus Impact (R.)

Saudi Arabia will take strict and painful measures to deal with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the finance minister said on Saturday, adding that “all options for dealing with the crisis are open”. “We must reduce budget expenditures sharply”, Mohammed al-Jadaan said in an interview with Al Arabiya TV, adding that the impact of the new coronavirus on Saudi Arabia’s state finances will appear from the second quarter of the year. “Saudi finances need more discipline and the road ahead is long,” he said. One measure would be to slow down government projects, including mega-projects, to reduce spending, he said.


The world’s largest oil exporter is suffering from historically low oil prices, while measures to fight the coronavirus are likely to curb the pace and scale of economic reforms launched by Crown Price Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi Arabia’s central bank foreign exchange reserves fell in March at their fastest rate in at least 20 years, hitting their lowest level since 2011, while the kingdom slipped to a $9 billion budget deficit in the first quarter as oil revenue collapsed. Jadaan said last month that Riyadh could borrow $26 billion more this year while it would draw down up to $32 billion from its foreign reserves to finance the deficit. On Saturday Jadaan told Al Arabiya Saudi Arabia had used some revenue from investments to plug the deficit, and that the crisis presented investment opportunities.

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Ease a little and then flare back up.

Italy’s Daily Coronavirus Death Toll Jumps, New Cases Stable (R.)

Deaths from the COVID-19 epidemic in Italy jumped by 474 on Saturday, against 269 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said, posting the largest daily toll of fatalities since April 21. The steep increase in deaths followed a long, gradual declining trend and was due largely to Lombardy, the country’s worst affected region, where there were 329 deaths in the last 24 hours compared with just 88 the day before. The daily tally of new infections was broadly stable for a third day running at 1,900 against 1,965 on Friday.


The total death toll since the outbreak came to light on Feb. 21 now stands at 28,710, the agency said, the second highest in the world after that of the United States. The number of confirmed cases amounts to 209,328, the third highest global tally behind those of the United States and Spain. People registered as currently carrying the illness fell to 100,704 from 100,943 on Friday. There were 1,539 people in intensive care on Saturday, slightly down from 1,578 on Friday and maintaining a long-running decline. Of those originally infected, 79,914 were declared recovered against 78,249 a day earlier.

Read more …

“..the ancestor of Sars-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID19, might have left bats between 50 and 70 years ago..”

French Coronavirus Strain Did Not Come From China Or Italy (SCMP)

The coronavirus outbreak in France was not caused by cases imported from China, but from a locally circulating strain of unknown origin, according to a new study by French scientists at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. Genetic analysis showed that the dominant types of the viral strains in France belonged to a clade – or group with a common ancestor – that did not come from China or Italy, the earliest hotspot in Europe. “The French outbreak has been mainly seeded by one or several variants of this clade … we can infer that the virus was silently circulating in France in February,” said researchers led by Dr Sylvie van der Werf and Etienne Simon-Loriere in a non-peer reviewed paper released on bioRxiv.org last week.

The Covid-19 pandemic has infected more than 128,000 people in France and caused more than 23,000 deaths. France detected the virus in late January, before any other country in Europe. A few patients with a travel history that included China’s Hubei province were sampled on January 24 and tested positive. Benjamin Neuman, professor and chair of biological sciences with the Texas A&M University-Texarkana, said the French strains might have come from Belgium, where some sequences most closely related to the original strain from China were clustered.

“Since the earliest European strains of [the coronavirus] Sars-CoV-2 seem to be associated with Belgium, the idea that the virus spread from Belgium to both Italy and France at around the same time seems plausible, as this paper contends,” he said. France is the latest in a growing number of countries and areas where no direct link between China and local outbreaks could be established. The dominant strains in Russia and Australia, for instance, came from Europe and the United States, respectively, according to some studies.

[..] Some prominent scientists, including Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health, said the virus might have been spreading quietly in humans for years, or even decades, without causing a detectable outbreak. The virus had thus adapted well to the human body. Some genes regulating its binding to host cells were similar, or even identical, to those found in some other highly infectious human viruses, such as HIV and Ebola. According to some estimates, the ancestor of Sars-CoV-2, the virus causing Covid-19, might have left bats between 50 and 70 years ago. A recent study by a team of geneticists in Oxford University estimated the first outbreak of the current pandemic could have occurred as early as September last year.

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That’s at the very least 3 months too late.

France Set To Impose 14-Day Coronavirus Quarantine For Travellers (R.)

Travellers to France, including French citizens returning home, will face a compulsory two-week quarantine and possible isolation when they arrive in the country to help slow the spread of coronavirus, the health minister said on Saturday. France, which has been the fifth-hardest hit country with 24,594 deaths from COVID-19, is preparing to gradually lift lockdown measures from May 11. The new quarantine rules, however, will be included in a decree specifying measures laid out in a bill extending a state of emergency until July 24, a move that allows the government to restrict freedom of movement.


“This quarantine will be imposed on any person returning on French soil,” Health Minister Olivier Veran told a press briefing after the weekly cabinet meeting. He said the duration and conditions of both quarantine for asymptomatic people and isolation for those showing symptoms of COVID-19, the flu-like disease caused by the new coronavirus, would be defined in a decree to be published. Decisions to isolate people would be scrutinised by judges to ensure they are justified and fair, he added. It was not immediately clear whether the quarantine would only apply to people arriving from outside Europe’s open-border Schengen area, whether they would need to self-isolate at home or in hotels, and for how long the measures would be in place.

Read more …

Incompetence as an official statement.

Many of these countries have strong medicine industries. And only now …..

European Leaders Join Forces To Combat COVID19 (PA)

European leaders have pledged to raise billions of pounds to help find a vaccine and treatments for Covid-19 as part of an “international alliance” fighting the disease. An online pledging conference due to be held on Monday will aim to pull in raise €7.5bn in funding to support the global response to the coronavirus pandemic. Writing in the Independent newspaper, the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Norway and senior EU officials said the outbreak had “caused devastation and pain in all corners of the world”. They said responding to the “global challenge” required “bringing together the world’s best – and most prepared – minds to find the vaccines, treatments and therapies we need to make our world healthy again”.


This would accompany “strengthening the health systems that will make them available for all, with a particular attention to Africa”. The politicians declared their support for the World Health Organization (WHO) and backed the recent launch of the “Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator”. The “global cooperation platform” aims to accelerate research, development, access and distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine and other treatments, the leaders wrote, adding that it has “laid the foundation for a real international alliance to fight Covid-19”. Money pledged through the online conference on Monday will make up a global funding “shortfall” estimated by the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB) – an independent monitoring and accountability body that ensures preparedness for global health crises – and others.

Read more …

“One of the more worrying consequences of the coronavirus..”?

I think it’s one of the few positives.

China Faces Economic Reckoning As World Turns Against Globalisation (SCMP)

One of the more worrying consequences of the coronavirus is that it looks likely to become a catalyst for deglobalisation. At the centre of this will be the decoupling of the Chinese economy with developed economies and the US in particular. The world’s three largest free economies – the European Union, the United States and Japan – are all drawing up separate plans to lure their companies out of China. EU trade commissioner Phil Hogan has called on companies to consider moving away from China; US President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser Larry Kudlow has said the government should pay the costs of American firms moving manufacturing back from China onto US soil; and Tokyo has unveiled a US$2.2 billion fund to tempt Japanese manufacturers back to Japan or even to Southeast Asia.


Meanwhile, bills are piling up in the US Congress aimed at reducing America’s reliance on Chinese supply chains and pushing for a decoupling of the world’s two largest economies. While these are recent moves, the truth is the debate on globalisation – and deglobalisation – began more than a decade ago in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008. After decades of globalisation in trade, capital flows and even people-to-people exchanges, the trend has reversed over the past decade as trade and financial integration stalled.

Read more …

I changed the headline to reflect what the article inadvertently says.

PPP Program Was Not Designed To Help Small Business (BI)

As the federal government’s aid to businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic has gone out, a curious new breed of public moralizer has emerged: the wealthy businessman or their political allies angry at businesses getting money that isn’t “meant for them.” People are angry at larger companies that participate in the Paycheck Protection Program, a loan fund created by the CARES Act and administered through banks and the Small Business Administration to help ease the economic pain of the pandemic. The program is designed to give generous loans that would cover 2.5 times the monthly payroll of a qualified business and that loan would then be forgiven if they were spent on a few categories of expenses — most notably paying employees.

The program has been castigated by critics across the political spectrum for a slew of issues, most notably for letting larger companies participate who may not seem like a “small business.” In particular, this criticism is directed at companies that are publicly traded and thus might be able to tap to the equity markets for funding. But it’s not a failing of the PPP that some larger companies got money — the program was designed to include them and, if the purpose of it was to protect employment, then letting a wider as opposed to a narrower range of companies participate could be helpful. The PPP, despite getting another infusion of $320 billion on top of the $349 billion already disbursed, has clearly been underfunded and, second, its actual goal of protecting employment has been confused with its marketing as a way to assist sympathetic small businesses.

The PPP deliberately designed its rules so that large restaurants could access the funding, leading to name brands like Shake Shack, steakhouse chain Ruth’s Chris, sandwich chain Potbelly and others getting checks. This stirred up substantial opprobrium as many truly small businesses have received nothing so far. After the uproar, Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer and the company’s chief executive Randy Garutti took to LinkedIn to say that the burger chain would give back its $10 million loan, while the sushi chain Kura Sushi said it would return its $6 million in PPP funding, along with Ruth’s Chris. None of these companies are “small businesses,” but their qualification under the plan isn’t a “loophole” — it was deliberate. The Treasury’s guidance specifically says that hotels and restaurants get special treatment under the plan, specifically that the standard is that if there are 500 or fewer employees per location, not for the entire business.

“Few, if any restaurants in America employ more than 500 people per location. That meant that Shake Shack — with roughly 45 employees per restaurant – could and should apply to protect as many of our employees’ jobs as possible,” Meyer and Garutti wrote on LinkedIn. Marcus Lemonis, the CNBC host and Camping World chief executive, has been on the warpath against public companies who’ve participated, tweeting, “We will not and cannot accept this… it’s go time… as the largest shareholder of a public company I cannot stand by and watch this… public companies can sell equity or raise debt,” and “These companies have alternative avenues of raising capital…. no excuses… and I will make it my mission to find out why.”

Read more …

“.. “we” includes many other creatures and societies in our biosphere and even in ourselves. Even as an individual, you are a biome, an ecosystem, much like a forest or a swamp or a coral reef. ”

The Coronavirus Is Rewriting Our Imaginations (NYer)

The critic Raymond Williams once wrote that every historical period has its own “structure of feeling.” How everything seemed in the nineteen-sixties, the way the Victorians understood one another, the chivalry of the Middle Ages, the world view of Tang-dynasty China: each period, Williams thought, had a distinct way of organizing basic human emotions into an overarching cultural system. Each had its own way of experiencing being alive. In mid-March, in a prior age, I spent a week rafting down the Grand Canyon. When I left for the trip, the United States was still beginning to grapple with the reality of the coronavirus pandemic. Italy was suffering; the N.B.A. had just suspended its season; Tom Hanks had been reported ill.

When I hiked back up, on March 19th, it was into a different world. I’ve spent my life writing science-fiction novels that try to convey some of the strangeness of the future. But I was still shocked by how much had changed, and how quickly. Schools and borders had closed; the governor of California, like governors elsewhere, had asked residents to begin staying at home. But the change that struck me seemed more abstract and internal. It was a change in the way we were looking at things, and it is still ongoing. The virus is rewriting our imaginations. What felt impossible has become thinkable. We’re getting a different sense of our place in history. We know we’re entering a new world, a new era. We seem to be learning our way into a new structure of feeling.

[..] Margaret Thatcher said that “there is no such thing as society,” and Ronald Reagan said that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” These stupid slogans marked the turn away from the postwar period of reconstruction and underpin much of the bullshit of the past forty years. We are individuals first, yes, just as bees are, but we exist in a larger social body. Society is not only real; it’s fundamental. We can’t live without it. And now we’re beginning to understand that this “we” includes many other creatures and societies in our biosphere and even in ourselves. Even as an individual, you are a biome, an ecosystem, much like a forest or a swamp or a coral reef.

Your skin holds inside it all kinds of unlikely coöperations, and to survive you depend on any number of interspecies operations going on within you all at once. We are societies made of societies; there are nothing but societies. This is shocking news—it demands a whole new world view. And now, when those of us who are sheltering in place venture out and see everyone in masks, sharing looks with strangers is a different thing. It’s eye to eye, this knowledge that, although we are practicing social distancing as we need to, we want to be social—we not only want to be social, we’ve got to be social, if we are to survive. It’s a new feeling, this alienation and solidarity at once. It’s the reality of the social; it’s seeing the tangible existence of a society of strangers, all of whom depend on one another to survive. It’s as if the reality of citizenship has smacked us in the face.

Read more …

The real patriot. Watch airline shares Monday morning. He owned 10 or so of each company.

Warren Buffett Sold All His Airline Stocks (MF)

Warren Buffett has bailed on the airlines, with Berkshire Hathaway selling its entire stakes in Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and United Airlines. Airline stocks have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with travel demand all but evaporating. Most airline stocks have lost half of their value or more this year as a result, with the industry now focused more on survival than earnings growth. Speaking at Berkshire’s annual meeting on Saturday, Buffett said he did not sell due to the declining share prices. Rather, “I just decided that I’d made a mistake.” The announcement is sure to put further pressure on airline shares, as investors have made a lot of money over the years doing as Buffett does. But is the Oracle of Omaha right this time around?

Berkshire has a long and turbulent history with the airlines. Three decades ago, he bought shares in USAir (now part of American) but ended up writing off much of that investment. In 2001, he swore off the industry, declaring that “if capitalists had been present at Kitty Hawk when the Wright brothers’ plane first took off, they should have shot it down.” But in recent years he warmed to the sector, becoming one of the largest shareholders in each of the four biggest U.S. airlines. The industry in the late 2000s went through a period of restructuring and consolidation that reduced the number of competitors chasing every passenger and allowing all the remaining participants to be more profitable.

Buffett was so enamored with airlines that in 2019 he broke one of his cardinal rules and allowed Berkshire’s position in Delta, and then Southwest, to climb above the 10% threshold. Crossing 10% led to Berkshire having to make more disclosures about its stakes in those carriers, which back in early April gave us our first hints Berkshire was selling.

Read more …

He doesn’t want it to be a crowded trade.

Buffett Says: ‘Never Bet Against America’ (F.)

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, speaking at Berkshire Hathaway’s first-ever virtual shareholders meeting on Saturday, said that he is optimistic that the U.S. economy can bounce back and overcome coronavirus. While Buffett admitted that “we haven’t faced anything that quite resembles this problem” before, he said that the United States has “faced tougher problems” and overcome them in the past. “I remain convinced… nothing can basically stop America,” he said. “The American miracle, the American magic has always prevailed and it will do so again.” Buffett acknowledged that the virus is “still hard to evaluate” and “we’re learning as we go along,” though he says that he does take solace in the fact that it is “not as lethal as it may have been.”

While he is optimistic about America’s economic future, Buffett said that the fallout from coronavirus is still unclear—and hard to compare to past crises: “In 2008-2009, our economic train went off the tracks,” he described. “This time, we just pulled the train off the tracks and put it on a siding.” The Oracle of Omaha took a big-picture view to demonstrate his optimism about the economy: The United States today is “an incredibly more wealthy country than we were in 1789.” He calculated that the net worth of the United States in 1789 amounted to around $1 billion, while the wealth of the country today is well over $100 trillion: “That’s mind blowing,” he said. “In the end, the answer is: Never bet against America,” Buffett said.

BIG NUMBER: $49.75 BILLION That’s how much Buffett’s investing conglomerate, Berkshire Hathaway, lost in the first quarter. The company reported a massive net loss of nearly $50 billion, as the coronavirus-driven market sell-off took a significant toll on the company’s stock holdings. U.S. economic activity plunged during the first quarter, with GDP contracting by 4.8%—the biggest downturn since the 2008 financial crisis. The benchmark S&P 500 index had fallen over 30% by late March, before recouping some of those losses in April: It’s now down 13% so far in 2020.

Read more …

 

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Mar 292020
 


Joseph Mallord William Turner The Fifth Plague of Egypt 1800

 

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m under the impression that President Trump yesterday wanted to quarantine New York City but let himself get talked out of that by, among others, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo went as far as calling such a measure not merely “un-American”, he said it would be “preposterous” and “anti-American”.

Obviously, Cuomo is not just of the belief, like most Americans, that a country with less than 5% of the world population is really special and superior, but also that a city with less than 4% of that country’s population is even more special than the rest. All pigs are equal, but…

There doesn’t appear to be another explanation for labeling attempts to keep New Yorkers from spreading the coronavirus around the entire country “anti-American”. Still, it would be anti-New York at best, and probably not that either. After Wuhan, China and Lombardy, Italy, New York City has become the third consecutive epicenter for the virus. Cuomo is well aware of this.

Still, he pontificates: “Then we would be Wuhan, China, and that wouldn’t make any sense..” Actually,. it would. Just look at the numbers. But: “..this would cause the stock market to crash in a way that would make it impossible for the US economy to “recover for months, if not years”.

This is possible. But that’s what Wuhan and Milan also experience(d). No stock markets there, true, but both the Italian and Chinese markets have been hit hard nonetheless. In the end it’s a trade-off. You let people die while trying to prop up markets, or you put people first. Cuomo made his choice.

Trump Backs Away From New York Quarantine

Speaking to reporters earlier on Saturday about the situation in New York, Mr Trump said: “We’d like to see [it] quarantined because it’s a hotspot… I’m thinking about that.” He said it would be aimed at slowing the spread of the virus to other parts of the US. “They’re having problems down in Florida. A lot of New Yorkers are going down. We don’t want that,” he said. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo responded by saying that quarantining the state of New York would be “preposterous” and “anti-American”.

“If you said we were geographically restricted from leaving, that would be a lockdown.” He said New York had already implemented “quarantine” measures, such as banning major gatherings and ordering people to remain at home, but that he would oppose any “lockdown” efforts. “Then we would be Wuhan, China, and that wouldn’t make any sense,” he told CNN, adding that this would cause the stock market to crash in a way that would make it impossible for the US economy to “recover for months, if not years”.

“You would paralyse the financial sector,” he said. He added later: “I don’t know how that can be legally enforceable. And from a medical point of view, I don’t know what you would be accomplishing. “But I can tell you, I don’t even like the sound of it.” Mr Cuomo also said he would sue nearby Rhode Island if the authorities there continued targeting New Yorkers and threatening to punish them for failing to quarantine.

And of course Trump made his choice, too, no two ways about it. He’s as close to literally fiddling while Rome burns as you can get in the 21st century. But when he’s trying to limit the damage with a quarantine, the folks who criticize him hardest for not doing enough, protest the loudest.

The idea that it is Trump who killed off the US health care system is tempting for media and politics alike, but it is utter nonsense. Even Fareed Zakaria agrees with me on that one just now on CNN, and that’s so rare I can’t help taking note.

At the very latest starting with Reagan, the idea has been that government is America’s enemy. And now the country needs its government, which is full of people who agree with Reagan’s ideas. So no, this is not going to go well

It’ll be something to behold what happens going forward, with 150,000 Americans infected today, moving towards 1 million by next weekend. Blame it all on Trump? Well, they’ll try. Here’s a little map of flight movements dated March 28, maybe that gives you an idea of how this disease pandemic is spread stateside:

https://twitter.com/flightradar24/status/1244003511098134529

Just about every country has stalled just about any movement of planes, but not the US. And if it’s up to Cuomo, that’s not going to happen either. Not being able to spread the disease is “anti-American”, after all. Sounds like Cuomo should agree with Trump who says: “They’re having problems down in Florida. A lot of New Yorkers are going down. We don’t want that..” Cuomo apparently does not agree.

 

A letter originating from the Henry Ford Health System was published (leaked?) online over the past week that perhaps provides a better definition/description of what is “anti-American” than a NYC quarantine. You be the judge. This is the best version I could find, it was published on Scribd, but later removed (wonder why). Pray tell: is publishing the letter anti-American, or is removing it? It’s still obvious enough.

 

 

The letter was sent to multiple hospitals and deals with the situation that would ensue if and when the health system become overwhelmed, something that’s hardly hypothetical anymore. It describes the practice of “triage” in the world’s richest nation: doctors removing patients who don’t improve fast enough, from equipment such as ventilators, and giving them painkillers to soothe their way into a certain and imminent death. “The other Cuomo” explains in this video:

 

 

But New Yorkers should still be allowed to fly -or drive- to Michigan, right? See, maybe that’s even better. C’mon Manhattanites, drive to Detroit. Support the US automobile industry, they’re having such a hard time.

Meanwhile, hundreds of doctors and nurses have already been infected, as have similar numbers of policemen- and women, and thousands more of each will follow. But that’s all perfectly pro-American.

 

PS: the funniest thing in all this is perhaps that normally Trump would agree with Governor Cuomo’s “exceptionalism” ideas, for both America and New York, but he no longer can, he has a tsunami coming straight at him. Still, doesn’t that mean that maybe Cuomo should drop those silly notions too?

 

 

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Thanks everyone for your wonderful and generous donations over the past few days. The rest of you: don’t be strangers.

 

 

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Mar 252020
 


Harris&Ewing Washington DC in April April 1924

 

Coronavirus Stimulus Package To Exceed $6 Trillion – Kudlow (NYP)
US Senate Leaders Reach Deal With White House On $2tn Coronavirus Package (G.)
Share Buybacks, $4.6 Trillion Driver of Stock Market Bubble, Are Toast (WS)
White House Tells New Yorkers Who Leave State To Self Quarantine (USAT)
LA To Shut Off Water, Power For Non-Essential Businesses That Stay Open (GP)
United States Could Become Coronavirus Epicenter – WHO (R.)
South Korea Says Trump Asked For Equipment To Fight Coronavirus (R.)
EU Left Italy Alone To Fight Coronavirus, Russia, China Didn’t – Ex-FM (RT)
EU Shrugs Off US Sanctions, Gives Millions In Coronavirus Aid To Iran (ZH)
EU Urged To Evacuate Asylum Seekers From Cramped Greek Camps (G.)
Czech Borders May Remain Closed For Two Years, Says Top Official (ExpCZ)
Turkey’s Coronavirus Situation Is Out Of Control – Health Experts (Ahval)
Bolsonaro Says He ‘Wouldn’t Feel Anything’ If Infected With COVID-19 (G.)
Australian Doctors Warned Off After Prescribing Hydroxychloroquine (G.)
Assange Lawyer Baltasar Garzon Hospitalized With Coronavirus (RT)
Pablo Escobar’s ‘Cocaine Hippos’: Invasive Species Restore A Lost World (G.)

 

 

Only yesterday, I quoted a tweet and said: “As for these numbers: It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach the first 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000 cases and just four days for the third 100,000 cases. 300,000 cases were reached sometime early March 22″.

It took two days to reach 400,000. Not even.

And Prince Charles has it.

 

 

Cases 434,568 (+ 42,621 from yesterday’s 391,947)

Deaths 19,062 (+ 2,464 from yesterday’s 17,138)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 15% !! up 1% every day-

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Live.info:

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

“We’re heading for a rough period but it’s only going to weeks, we think. Weeks and months. It’s not going to be years, that’s for sure..”

Coronavirus Stimulus Package To Exceed $6 Trillion – Kudlow (NYP)

An emergency stimulus package to bailout the U.S. economy amid the coronavirus pandemic will total $6 trillion — a quarter of the entire country’s GDP, the White House said Tuesday. Trump administration economist Larry Kudlow said the package would include $4 trillion in lending power for the Federal Reserve as well as a $2 trillion aid package currently being hammered out by Congress. “This package will be the single largest main street assistance program in the history of the United States,” Kudlow said at the White House coronavirus task force briefing on Tuesday evening.

Included in the package is Congress’ almost $2 trillion emergency bill which, when passed, will issue direct checks for American families, bailouts for the airline industry and a $350 billion loan program for struggling small businesses. The other $4 trillion will allow the Federal Reserve to make huge emergency bailouts to whatever entity it chooses — a measure that was used to prop-up Wall Street firms from collapse during the 2008 financial crisis. “This legislation is urgently needed to bolster the economy,” Kudlow added, warning the economy had tough times ahead. “We’re heading for a rough period but it’s only going to weeks, we think. Weeks and months. It’s not going to be years, that’s for sure,” he said, echoing comments from President Trump that the economy will bounce back to its pre-pandemic high.

Kudlow, a former Reagan administration adviser and media personality, said the huge bailout would “position us for what I think can be an economic rebound later this year.” A tidal wave of U.S. workers are facing unemployment in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak — with White House officials warning of a 20 percent unemployment rate.

Read more …

Forget about re-arranging deckchairs, these people are fighting while the Titanic sinks.

US Senate Leaders Reach Deal With White House On $2tn Coronavirus Package (G.)

US Senate leaders have reached a deal with the Trump administration on a nearly $2tn stimulus package to help rescue the American economy ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic as Donald Trump considers easing restrictions aimed at combating the contagion. After days of around-the-clock negotiations amongst senators and administration officials, a bipartisan compromise was struck over what is expected to be the largest US economic stimulus measure ever passed. “We have a deal,” said Eric Ueland, the White House legislative affairs director, just before 1am, adding that the text of the bill still needed to be completed.

“We have either, clear, explicit legislative text reflecting all parties or we know exactly where we’re going to land on legislative text as we continue to finish.” Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell confirmed a deal had been reached. The bill will then go to the House, and then to Donald Trump, who is expected to ratify it. Tempers flared on Monday on Capitol Hill as senators grappled with the need to pass the critical aid. Democrats twice blocked efforts to move forward with a vote on the legislation, arguing the proposal did not provide strong enough protections for workers, families and healthcare providers nor did it impose strict enough restrictions on businesses that receive federal bailout money.

Republicans, in turn, fumed that Democrats were playing politics in a time of crisis. Late into the night, Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and Ueland ironed out details with the Republican and Democratic Senate leaders. “This is not a juicy political opportunity,” McConnell, said in a remarks from the floor on Monday. “This is a national emergency.” The deal would provide direct payments of up to $1,200 to most adults and expand unemployment insurance. It also includes a $367bn program for small businesses, to allow them to pay employees who have to stay home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Waffle House Index is an informal measure of disaster severity, because all its restaurants stay open every hour of every day. After floods, tornados and hurricanes, Waffle Houses are quick to reopen, even with a limited menu.

Read more …

Why those bailouts must fail.

Share Buybacks, $4.6 Trillion Driver of Stock Market Bubble, Are Toast (WS)

Share buybacks by companies in the S&P 500 Index in the fourth quarter 2019, before the Coronavirus was even a factor, fell 18% from a year earlier, to $181.6 billion, after falling 13% and 14% year-over-year in the prior two quarters, from the blistering tax-cut records set in 2018, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices today. For the full year, buybacks fell 9.6% from the tax-cut record in 2018, to $729 billion in 2019, the second highest annual total ever. Since the beginning of 2012, these companies have bought back $4.6 trillion with a T of their own shares. To provide a comparison of how big this T-number really is: It blows past the magnitude of Germany’s annual GDP.

Share buybacks were considered illegal market manipulation until 1982, when the SEC issued Rule 10b-18 which provided corporations a “safe harbor” to buy back their own shares. The only thing that share buybacks are supposed to accomplish is to manipulate up share prices. The four biggest US banks were among the 10 biggest share buyback queens in terms of the amount of capital they wasted on share buybacks in Q4 2019. Combined they incinerated $95 billion in capital last year, and $275 billion over the past five years (if your smartphone clips the 6-column table, slide the table to the left):

But now, Financial Crisis 2 has kicked in, and the share buybacks of these four banks along with the share buybacks of other banks have dropped to zero, along with many other companies that are now facing a liquidity crisis. The banks could have used those funds to shore up their capital, which would have been useful now as the bubbles in corporate debt and commercial real estate, that the Fed was so worried about, are coming unglued. But aside from generating fees for Wall Street, share buybacks do zero for the economy. What would have happened in the US economy if that $4.6 trillion in capital that companies incinerated by buying back their own shares since 2012 would have been invested in equipment, structures, expansion projects, and people, or would have been used to reduce debt so that companies, such as Boeing and the airlines, wouldn’t be in such a precarious situation today?

That capital that was incinerated by companies buying back their own shares would come in handy for companies that are now begging for and getting mega-bailouts from taxpayers and to an even larger extent from the Federal Reserve. “COVID-19 has significantly changed the 2020 landscape, as dividends are under pressure and buybacks appear to be gasping for air,” said the report by S&P Dow Jones Indices, adding that “buybacks must now compete with other corporate priorities as uncertainty over liquidity is at its highest since the 2008 financial crisis.” For Q2 2020, buybacks are “expected to be dismal,” and for the rest of the year, “buybacks may see a complete reversal of the 2018 buyback bonanza.” And the report by S&P Dow Jones Indices adds, even after the bottom is perceived to be in, “buybacks may be slow to come back” as companies, struggling for cash, limit spending amid potential government restrictions on buybacks and their dismal public image.

Read more …

New York City: “..56% of all the coronavirus cases in the United States, as well as 60% of all new cases..”

White House Tells New Yorkers Who Leave State To Self Quarantine (USAT)

Travelers leaving the New York metro area should self-quarantine for 14 days to make sure they aren’t passing on the coronavirus, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force said Tuesday. In making the recommendation, task force coordinator Deborah Birx said that the quarantine should apply even to those who aren’t showing symptoms. She said many travelers are headed to locations outside New York City, from Long Island to North Carolina or other states. Brix said 56% of all the coronavirus cases in the United States, as well as 60% of all new cases, are coming from the New York metro area. Greater New York City also accounts for 31% of deaths in the country.


The recommendation follows an order that took effect Tuesday by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis requiring anyone flying to Florida from New York, New Jersey or Connecticut to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. Alaska and Hawaii are also requiring anyone arriving from other states to self-quarantine. Already, New Yorkers have been ordered to stay in their homes and the city has virtually shut down in an effort to quell spread of the virus.

Read more …

“..Our city will rise again..”

LA To Shut Off Water, Power For Non-Essential Businesses That Stay Open (GP)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has announced that the city will be shutting off water and power to any non-essential businesses that defied orders and stayed open during the coronavirus crisis. During his Tuesday press briefing Garcetti announced that the Department of Water and Power will be shutting off services for the businesses that don’t comply with the “safer at home” ordinance. “This behavior is irresponsible and selfish,” Garcetti said of businesses that remained open. KTLA reports that neighborhood prosecutors will implement safety measures and will contact the businesses before issuing further action, according to Garcetti.


“The easiest way to avoid a visit is to follow the rules,” he said. The mayor also noted that Los Angeles is “six to 12 days behind New York” for being hit with a wave of coronavirus cases. He said that he does not believe his city will be running as normal by Easter. “The peak is not here yet,” he said. “It will be bad.” The grimness of his press conference did not end there. He also warned residents to be “prepared for some of the darkness that is ahead.” “Each one of us can be a light. We can light a match of hope. We can navigate that tunnel with each other and not alone. And more importantly, what we do can ensure that more people exit that tunnel together… and that our city will rise again,” he added.

Read more …

Could become? It already is.

United States Could Become Coronavirus Epicenter – WHO (R.)

The United States has the potential to become the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic due to a “very large acceleration” in infections there, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday. The highly contagious respiratory virus has infected more than 42,000 people in the United States, prompting more governors to join states ordering Americans to stay at home. Over the past 24 hours, 85 percent of new cases worldwide were from Europe and the United States, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters. Of those, 40 percent were from the United States. Asked whether the United States could become the new epicenter, she said: “We are now seeing a very large acceleration in cases in the U.S. So it does have that potential. We cannot say that is the case yet but it does have that potential.”


“…They (the United States) have a very large outbreak and an outbreak that is increasing in intensity,” Harris added. However, she identified some positive signs such as more comprehensive testing, and further efforts to isolate the sick and trace their immediate contacts exposed to the virus. She also referred to “extremely heartwarming” stories of how Americans were helping each other during the crisis. [..] Harris said that new records were to be expected each day until new confinement measures begin to take effect. Up until now, Europe has been the center of transmission with Italy the most badly-hit country with the world’s highest number of deaths, although fatalities have begun slowing there. Asked about a potential tipping point in Italy, she said: “There is a glimmer of hope there. We’ve seen in the last two days fewer new cases and deaths in Italy but it’s very, very early days yet.”

Read more …

Every government asks every other government for help.

South Korea Says Trump Asked For Equipment To Fight Coronavirus (R.)

President Donald Trump asked South Korea to send medical equipment to the United States to fight the coronavirus, promising to help Korean companies gain U.S. government approval, South Korea’s presidential office said. South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in offered to send the equipment if his country has any spare, his Blue House office said in a statement late on Tuesday, after the 23 minute phone call, which it said was arranged at Trump’s urgent request. The request for help highlights the diverging paths the two countries took since both discovered their first coronavirus cases on the same day.


South Korea rolled out widespread testing within days, swiftly launching an aggressive program to isolate confirmed cases and trace their contacts. After a big early outbreak, it won praise for slowing the spread of the disease with comparatively little disruption and just 125 deaths, and has brought the number of new infections per day to below 100 for the past 13 straight days. The United States did little testing initially, and has now been shutting parts of the country en masse, with fast-growing outbreaks in a number of states and thousands of new cases per day. Moon told Trump that South Korea “will provide as much support as possible, if there is spare medical equipment in Korea”.

Read more …

The EU fails even where you think it wouldn’t be possible.

EU Left Italy Alone To Fight Coronavirus, Russia, China Didn’t – Ex-FM (RT)

The EU’s initial response to the massive outbreak of coronavirus in Italy was largely “inadequate,” and a lack of European solidarity opened the doors for Russia and China, former Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told RT. The new epicenter of the dreaded pandemic, Italy, has been struggling to stop the spread of Covid-19 for weeks now. The disease has already killed more than six thousand people in the country, with over 60 thousand people infected. The EU clearly underestimated the virus, blaming the outbreak in Italy on its national healthcare system flaws, according to the two-time foreign minister and OSCE representative. As a result, Brussels, which preaches pan-European solidarity, failed to act when this solidarity was needed in the face of a crisis that eventually affected the entire bloc.

Frankly speaking, Brussels is not doing enough. At the very first moment, Italy was practically alone against the virus. Many said it was all because of the Italian habits, because Italians do not respect the rules. Suddenly, they realized all the other countries were equally affected. The situation in other major EU states like Germany and France deteriorated rapidly, forcing them to deal with thousands of infected on their own soil. “Everyone just focused on the situation at home before even thinking about helping others,” Andrea Giannotti, the executive director of the Italian Institute of Eurasian Studies, told RT. The lack of solidarity was recently noted from outside of the bloc – Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic decried European solidarity as a myth, while praising Beijing for its assistance. His remarks came after Serbia received five million masks from China, which it could not get in Europe.

The EU is now trying “to do more” and somehow “make up” for its initial poor execution of a coordinated response, former Italian MP Dario Rivolta said.

Read more …

Proper thing to do, but what about the refugees in Greece?

EU Shrugs Off US Sanctions, Gives Millions In Coronavirus Aid To Iran (ZH)

The White House has not backed off it’s ‘maximum pressure’ campaign on Iran even as the Islamic Republic’s Covid-19 cases and deaths continue to soar, approaching 25,000 confirmed cases Tuesday. Despite even close US ally Britain quietly signalling it’s had enough of Washington’s ill-timed pressures, Secretary of State Pompeo has upped the ante further, on Monday accusing the Iranian regime of everything from hoarding masks and equipment to intentionally spreading the deadly disease to at least five countries. But it appears Europe has finally begun to shirk US demands. On Monday EU foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell announced 20 million euros in new aid to Iran, and more crucially said the body will support Tehran’s request for IMF assistance.

“We’ve not been able to provide a lot of humanitarian help but there is some 20 million euros in the pipeline … that we expect to be delivered over the next weeks,” Borrell said in a video news conference Monday. “We also agree in supporting the request by Iran and also by Venezuela to the International Monetary Fund to have financial support,” he said further but without disclosing details. European officials consider the situation as urgent and see the US pressure campaign as greatly exacerbating the death toll given Iran lacks much of the basic medicines and equipment to treat at-risk patients and mitigate the outbreak. Recently Iranian health officials said shockingly that one person is dying from the virus every 10 minutes.

The pressure for some kind of dramatic blanket easing of US sanctions is only set to grow, given that last week Iran’s leaders for the first time in a half-century turned to the IMF. Bloomberg reported of the urgent IMF appeal: “Iranians say that their economy is weak and unable to cope with the humanitarian toll because of the U.S. sanctions. Last week, Iran turned to the International Monetary Fund for the first time since the 1960s for aid, though Ali Vaez, the Crisis Group’s Iran project director, said the U.S. may try to block the IMF loan in order to keep up the pressure on the regime.”

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They don’t care. They haven’t in 5 years.

EU Urged To Evacuate Asylum Seekers From Cramped Greek Camps (G.)

The European Union has been urged to evacuate asylum seekers from overcrowded camps on the Greek islands in order to save lives. The European parliament’s civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee has called for the evacuation of 42,000 people on the Greek islands as “an urgent preventive” measure to avoid “many deaths” from coronavirus. Holding facilities on all five Aegean isles opposite the Turkish coast are currently six times over capacity. The first case of Covid-19 on the islands was confirmed earlier this month when a Greek woman on Lesbos, the island long on the frontline of the refugee crisis, tested positive. A Greek man, recently returned from Thailand, was diagnosed with the virus on Monday, reinforcing fears of an outbreak in camps seen as especially high-risk environments .

MEPs fear that if the virus spreads it could become a public health emergency in the squalid camps, where thousands live in unsanitary conditions, often without electricity, heating or running water. “Many of those in the camps are already in precarious health situations due to the bad conditions in which they have lived for a long time,” states the letter from Juan Fernando López Aguilar, a Spanish socialist MEP, who chairs the committee. “There is no chance of isolation or social distancing, nor is it possible to ensure appropriate hygienic conditions,” he wrote. The letter adds that only six intensive care beds are available on Lesbos for residents and asylum seekers. The notorious Moria camp on Lesbos houses nearly 20,000 people in a space designed for 2,200.

[..] The MEPs want people over 60 with existing health conditions evacuated first, but do not spell out whether they should go to other EU member states or the Greek mainland. The European commission said it was working with Greece on an emergency response plan to deal with a potential outbreak of coronavirus on the islands. A commission spokesperson said Greek authorities were taking action to prevent the spread of the disease, with compulsory temperature testing of new arrivals to the camps, suspension of visits, regular cleaning of communal areas, and the setting up of quarantine and recovery areas. The spokesperson also referred to an ongoing push to encourage EU member states to give a home to unaccompanied children on the Greek islands. Seven countries pledged earlier this month to take in 1,600 children from the islands.

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“There is no time for pessimistic scenarios now..”?! Pray tell, when is that time?

Czech Borders May Remain Closed For Two Years, Says Top Official (ExpCZ)

Czech Crisis Staff head Roman Prymula told Czech Television today that border restrictions in the Czech Republic over the coronavirus situation may last up to two years, and largely depend on the management of the epidemic in other countries in Europe and across the globe, reports the Czech News Agency and Novinky.cz. While the situation in the Czech Republic is thought to improve from mid-April, estimates aren’t as optimistic for other countries in Europe. “The situation in other European countries will not be good,” Prymula told Czech Television. “There it will take months and long months.” According to Prymula, international travel will most likely be limited for the next year or two, and Czech residents should count on taking their summer holidays within the Czech Republic this year.

Prymula’s statements were supported by Czech Minister of Health Adam Vojtech. “The point is to avoid having a second or third wave of the epidemic, so that people from other countries such as Italy, France, Spain, Germany, do not begin to flow [into the Czech Republic],” he told Czech Television. “I do not want to provide false optimism, but I hope that it will be possible to keep the number to 10,000 [infected with coronavirus],” Prymula added. “We are able to operate effectively with up to 15,000 [cases].” [..] He further stated that if the number of infections does not exceed 8,500 by the end of March, it would be possible to ease the current restrictions on movement within the country during the following 10 days. This could theoretically take place place by the Easter holiday (April 12-13).

Prymula’s statement was “shocking”, said TOP 09 chairman Miroslav Kalousek. The statement has presented the urgent question of whether it was right that the emergency staff is headed by a person without political responsibility, Kalousek said. What was said is quite quite unfortunate, TOP 09 leader Marketa Adamova Pekarova said. There is no time for pessimistic scenarios now, she added.

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Turkey reported its first case only on March 11. It kept its soccer league going for much longer than others.

Turkey’s Coronavirus Situation Is Out Of Control – Health Experts (Ahval)

Health experts have warned that Turkey’s coronavirus situation is out of control and that deaths from the disease could soon be on a par with Italy or Spain, reported the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network on Tuesday. “The recent data on cases and death tolls shows that the situation is out of control in Turkey. If the necessary measures are not taken, Turkey will be like Italy or Spain, where the daily death toll is in the hundreds,” Emrah Altındis, a Turkish professor from Harvard University’s Medical Faculty, told BIRN. Turkey only reported its first coronavirus patient on March 11, but cases and deaths have rapidly risen since then.


The Turkish health minister confirmed on Tuesday seven more deaths due to the coronavirus and announced 343 new cases, raising the total number of cases in the country to 1,872. Turkey has halted incoming flights from dozens of countries and closed a wide range of non-essential businesses and venues, and announced a curfew on elderly and vulnerable citizens over the weekend, though it has refrained from enforcing a full lockdown. However, some medical experts have said that the measures are insufficient.

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“The first political suicide broadcast live on national radio and television..”

Bolsonaro Says He ‘Wouldn’t Feel Anything’ If Infected With COVID-19 (G.)

Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has claimed he “wouldn’t feel anything” if infected with coronavirus and rubbished efforts to contain the illness with large-scale quarantines as his country’s two biggest cities went into shutdown in a desperate bid to save lives. In a televised address to the nation on Tuesday night, Bolsonaro slammed what he branded the economically damaging “scorched earth” tactics being used to slow the advance of an illness that has now claimed about 15,000 lives around the world. “The virus has arrived and we are fighting it and soon it will pass,” claimed Bolsonaro, who is facing a growing backlash in Brazil for repeatedly dismissing coronavirus as a media “fantasy” and “trick”.

Bolsonaro’s incendiary remarks came as both Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo were placed under partial lockdown by municipal and state authorities who fear an explosion of cases in the coming days. João Doria, the governor of São Paulo, Brazil’s most economically important and populous state, has declared a 15-day quarantine period affecting about 46 million of Brazil’s 210 million citizens. Meanwhile Rio’s mayor, Marcello Crivella, has ordered an indefinite shutdown of that city’s commerce and schools with Rio’s state governor, Wilson Witzel, also introducing drastic measures to counter coronavirus.

But in his five-minute address – which sparked loud protests in both Rio and São Paulo – Bolsonaro railed against such steps and attacked the media for spreading a “feeling of dread” among the population by reporting on the death toll in Italy. “Our lives have to go on. Jobs must be kept … we must, yes, get back to normal,” Bolsonaro said as his government’s health officials announced that the number of deaths in Brazil had risen to 46 with more than 2,200 cases. “A small number of state and municipal authorities must abandon their scorched-earth ideas: the banning of public transport, the closing of commerce and mass confinement,” Bolsonaro said. “What is happening around the world has shown that the at-risk group are those over 60 years old. So why close schools? … Ninety per cent of us will show no sign [of infection] if we are infected.”

[..] “The first political suicide broadcast live on national radio and television,” tweeted Ricardo Noblat, a prominent Brazilian journalist. Brian Winter, the editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly, tweeted: “Pray for Brazil.”

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But there are a lot of positive reports too.

Australian Doctors Warned Off After Prescribing Hydroxychloroquine (G.)

Australia’s drugs regulator has been forced to restrict powers to prescribe a drug undergoing clinical trials to treat Covid-19, because doctors have been inappropriately prescribing it to themselves and their family members despite its potentially deadly side-effects. The anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and the similar compound chloroquine are currently used mostly for patients with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, but stocks in Australia have been diminished thanks to global publicity – including from Donald Trump – about the potential of the drug to treat Covid-19.


Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have potentially severe and even deadly side effects if used inappropriately, including heart failure and toxicity. Some Australian media outlets have wrongly reported the drug as a “cure” for the virus even though trials have been either inconclusive or too small to be useful, have only been conducted in test tubes, are not yet complete, or have not even received ethics approval. Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration said it was concerned about shortages of the drug for people who need it following increased off-label prescribing as a result of the Covid-19 reports. As well as heart attacks the drug can lead to irreversible eye damage and severe depletion of blood sugar potentially leading to coma, the TGA warned.

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I think today’s the day for the request to free Assange.

Assange Lawyer Baltasar Garzon Hospitalized With Coronavirus (RT)

Famous Spanish jurist Baltasar Garzon has been admitted to a hospital in Madrid after testing positive for Covid-19. He has provided legal counsel to WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, among other things. Garzon, 64, was admitted to the Ruber clinic in Madrid on Tuesday, after five days of high fever at home. He tested positive for the coronavirus and was given the prognosis of respiratory failure, Spanish media reported. The former judge of the National Court had self-isolated at his home after complaining about a fever and chest pains, before the symptoms worsened.


Garzon became famous as a judge who cracked down on the Basque separatist organization ETA, and pursued human rights abuse charges against Spain’s Franco government, the Pinochet junta in Chile, and the Argentine military dictatorship. He has provided legal counsel to Assange since 2012, finding himself under considerable pressure at times – such as when masked raiders broke into his office in 2017. The second hardest-hit country in Europe by the Covid-19 outbreak, Spain is struggling with almost 40,000 reported cases, of which 2,700 have been fatal so far.

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Your good news for today.

Pablo Escobar’s ‘Cocaine Hippos’: Invasive Species Restore A Lost World (G.)

When the drug lord Pablo Escobar was shot dead in 1993, he left behind a zoo stocked with wild animals alongside his multibillion dollar cocaine empire. The lions, giraffes and other exotic species were moved from the luxurious Hacienda Nápoles estate east of Medellín to new homes, but nearly three decades later, dozens of hippos, descendants of animals left behind, are thriving in small lakes in northern Colombia, making them the world’s largest invasive animal. Now scientists say that contrary to the conventional wisdom that large invasive herbivore mammals have strictly negative effects on their new environments, Escobar’s “cocaine” hippos show how introduced species can restore a lost world.

A team of conservation biologists has compared the traits and impacts on the ecosystems from large invasive herbivore species like the Colombian hippo with their extinct counterparts from the Late Pleistocene (around 116,000-12,000 years ago) period like mammoths, giants sloths and giant wombats. They found some modern day invasive species restore parts of ecosystems not seen since before humans began driving the widespread extinctions of megafauna. Their new study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that some introduced herbivore species are an almost perfect ecological match for extinct species from the Late Pleistocene, such as modern day wild horses known as mustangs and the extinct pre-domestic horses in North America, while others bring back a mixture of traits.

“The feral hippos in South America are similar in diet and body size to extinct giant llamas, while a bizarre type of extinct mammal – a notoungulata – shares with hippos large size and semiaquatic habitats,” explained study co-author John Rowan, Darwin fellow in organismic and evolutionary biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “So, while hippos don’t perfectly replace any one extinct species, they restore parts of important ecologies across several species.”


Toxodon-Notoungulata

By comparing ecological traits of herbivore species from before the Late Pleistocene extinctions to the present day, such as body size, diet and habitat, researchers were able to quantify the extent to which introduced species were more or less similar to extinct predecessors. The analysis found that by introducing large herbivore species across the world, humans had restored lost ecological traits to many ecosystems, thereby counteracting a legacy of extinctions and making the world more like the pre-extinction late Pleistocene.

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Someone asked if this was performance art, fair enough. I was wondering what would happen if Trump did this.

 

 

 

 

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

 

Mar 162020
 


DPC Manhattan landmark Flatiron Building under construction 1902

 

UK Corona Crisis ‘To Last Until Spring 2021, 7.9m To Be Hospitalised’ (G.)
NYC & LA Mayors Order Bars, Nightlife, Gyms, & Restaurants To Shut (ZH)
Americans Urged To Scrap Gatherings Of 50 Or More People (G.)
Anger In Germany At Report Trump Seeking Exclusive Coronavirus Vaccine Deal (G.)
More Coronavirus Cases Outside Of Mainland China Than Inside (CNN)
Scientists Worry About Coronavirus Spread In Africa (ScienceMag)
The American Mask of Death (Lauria)
Goldman Sachs Predicts A 5% Contraction In The US Economy In Q2 (CNBC)
Fed Cuts Rates To Zero, Launches Massive $700 Billion QE (CNBC)
The End of the Central Bank [Put]? (Jim Bianco)
Fed Disaster: S&P Futures Crash, Halted Limit Down; Gold, Treasuries Soar (ZH)
America’s Biggest Banks Suspend Buybacks In Effort To Support Economy (F.)
China’s Industrial Output, Retail Sales Plummet (MW)
World’s Most Powerful Supercomputer Tasked With Finding COVID19 Cure (ZH)

 

 

We’re setting regrettable records, and there’s very little reason to think the upward trend in cases and deaths will halt any time soon. Most of Europe is under some form of quarantine, only supermarkets and pharmacies remain open, and the UK and US have no choice but to follow suit -preferably very- soon. A -very- different world.

The central banks are so off in their approaches it’s getting harder to see how they will survive in their present shapes. This is not a time to bail out banks, it’s a time to help people. But they refuse that.

 

Cases 170,852 (+ 13,375 from yesterday’s 157,477)

Deaths 6,526 (+ 681 from yesterday’s 5,845)

 

These numbers are fit to silence a body. Just look at all the new cases.

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

 

 

While everyone is discussing whether the case mortality rate is 0.1%, 1% or 2%, the rate for known cases just crept back up to 8%. That is much scarier than I see anyone admit.

From Worldometer (NOTE: mortality rate is back up to 8%!)

 

 

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

 

 

COVID2019.app graph is not avaliable, the site is closed. But this is even better:

 

 

Note: what this graph does not sufficiently reflect is that Switzerland has 10 million people, and China 1,400 million. The graph starts at the 10th death.

 

 

The UK cannot hospitalize 7.9 million people, not even spread over a year. Does that cover all of your questions?

UK Corona Crisis ‘To Last Until Spring 2021, 7.9m To Be Hospitalised’ (G.)

The coronavirus epidemic in the UK will last until next spring and could lead to 7.9 million people being hospitalised, a secret Public Health England (PHE) briefing for senior NHS officials reveals. The document, seen by the Guardian, is the first time health chiefs tackling the virus have admitted that they expect it to circulate for another 12 months and lead to huge extra strain on an already overstretched NHS. It also suggests that health chiefs are braced for as many as 80% of Britons becoming infected with the coronavirus over that time. Prof Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical adviser, has previously described that figure as the worst-case scenario and suggested that the real number would turn out to be less than that.

However, the briefing makes clear that four in five of the population “are expected” to contract the virus. The document says that: “As many as 80% of the population are expected to be infected with Covid-19 in the next 12 months, and up to 15% (7.9 million people) may require hospitalisation.” [..] “For the public to hear that it could last for 12 months, people are going to be really upset about that and pretty worried about that”, said Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia. “A year is entirely plausible. But that figure isn’t well appreciated or understood,” added Hunter, an expert in epidemiology. “I think it will dip in the summer, towards the end of June, and come back in November, in the way that usual seasonal flu does. I think it will be around forever, but become less severe over time, as immunity builds up,” he added.

[..] The document also discloses that an estimated 500,000 of the 5 million people deemed vital because they work “in essential services and critical infrastructure” will be off sick at any one time during a month-long peak of the epidemic. The 5 million include 1m NHS staff and 1.5 million in social care. However, the briefing raises questions about how Britain would continue to function normally, warning that: “It is estimated that at least 10% of people in the UK will have a cough at any one time during the months of peak Covid-19 activity.”

[..] A senior NHS figure involved in preparing for the growing “surge” in patients whose lives are being put at risk by Covid-19 said an 80% infection rate could lead to more than half a million people dying. If the mortality rate turns out to be the 1% many experts are using as their working assumption then that would mean 531,100 deaths. But if Whitty’s insistence that the rate will be closer to 0.6% proves accurate, then that would involve 318,660 people dying.

Read more …

Time to make it a national policy. And as I said yesterday, cut down on domestic flights, close down highways, the works. There’s no escaping anyway, and delaying it will kill lots of people.

NYC & LA Mayors Order Bars, Nightlife, Gyms, & Restaurants To Shut (ZH)

Update (1130ET): Shortly after New York’s mayor de Blasio pulled the plug, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti has ordered the closing of all bars, nightclubs, gyms and entertainment venues from midnight March 16 until March 31. Restaurants will be limited to take-out and delivery. Grocery stores will remain open. “There is no food shortage and grocery stores will remain open. We’re taking these steps to help protect Angelenos, limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, and avoid putting a dangerous strain on our health care system. This will be a tough time, but it is not forever. Angelenos have always risen to meet difficult moments, and we will get through this together.”


Update (1030ET): After announcing earlier that restaurants and venues would be enforced to ensure no more than 50% occupancy, Mayor Bill de Blasio just tweeted that he is ordering all “nightclubs, movie theaters, small theater houses, and concert venues to close”. That leaves restaurants still open, but with max 50% occupancy, as the city encourages residents to order our and stay in instead of venturing anywhere outdoors.

Update (1630ET): Germany joined the list of European nations reporting new coronavirus figures on Sunday, and like France and Italy, it reported its largest daily spike in new cases, confirming another 1,228 new cases for a new total of 5,813, a roughly 20% increase. It also reported 4 new deaths, bringing its national total to 12. Update (1555ET): France just reported 901 new cases diagnosed on Saturday, bringing the country’s total confirmed cases to ~5,400. The death toll climbed by 29 cases to 120.

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Yeah, yeah, let’s pretend Fauci contradicts Trump. Scores well with 50% of the people. Problem is, they have two very different tasks in this. And Trump’s is not to worry Americans. It’s to reassure them, while working to solve issues. If you want to blame Trump for saying things are not so bad, you need a crash course in politics. If you want to blame him for policy failures, you’re right, but you will have to do the same with just about every other world leader as well. They all make such mistakes. How about Italy PM Conte to begin with? A lot more of his people died so far.

Americans Urged To Scrap Gatherings Of 50 Or More People (G.)

The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended that gatherings of 50 people or more be cancelled or postponed for the next eight weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic, as officials across the country continued to curtail freedoms to fight the coronavirus outbreak. The CDC guidance was soon followed by an announcement on Sunday night that several Las Vegas hotels and casinos would suspend operations, and New York City would limit restaurants, bars and cafes to only offer take-out and delivery starting on Tuesday, and nightclubs, movie theaters and other entertainment venues would close.

“These places are part of the heart and soul of our city. They are part of what it means to be a New Yorker,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement on Sunday night. “But our city is facing an unprecedented threat, and we must respond with a wartime mentality.” Moments later, the Washington state governor, Jay Inslee, took a similar step, announcing restaurants and bars would be limited to take-out only until the end of March, and entertainment and recreational facilities such as gyms would also close. Illinois, Ohio, Massachusetts had already taken similar steps. MGM Resorts International, which operates several vast Las Vegas hotels and casinos including Bellagio and Luxor, said it would begin to suspend operations in the city from Monday.

[..] The new advice came as the nation sank deeper into chaos over the crisis. Hours earlier, Donald Trump urged Americans to refrain from panic buying basic supplies, as the administration announced plans to expand testing for the virus and health officials were preparing to release “advanced guidelines” on how to mitigate its spread. During a press briefing at the White House on Sunday evening, Trump again appeared to downplay the threat of the virus. “Relax, we’re doing great,” he said, during short, meandering comments that focused mostly on celebrating a decision by the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates. “It all will pass.”

But the president’s remarks stood in marked contrast to his lead infectious diseases expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, who used the same conference to warn: “The worst is ahead for us”, describing the crisis as reaching a “very, very critical point now”. Earlier in the day, Dr Fauci had declined to rule out a national lockdown of bars and restaurants as he urged more aggressive measures, similar to those in Europe and elsewhere, to contain the virus. “I think Americans should be prepared that they are going to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing,” said Fauci, a member of the White House task force on combating the spread of coronavirus. He heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

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Don’t worry, I know exactly what half the (US) population will say about what I say here. It doesn’t matter. If Trump wants to buy a German medical company that makes a vaccine (and that’s two really big ifs), how can that be portrayed negatively? Well, we’ll say he wants to keep it all to himself. But doesn’t he perhaps want it for the 330 million Americans, those his job description tells him to look after? Cue: this is an anonymous source quoted by a German yellow paper.

“The German government is trying to fight off what it sees as an aggressive takeover bid by the US, the broadsheet Die Welt reports, citing German government circles. The US president had offered the Tübingen-based biopharmaceutical company CureVac “large sums of money” to gain exclusive access to their work, wrote Die Welt. According to an anonymous source quoted in the newspaper, Trump was doing everything to secure a vaccine against the coronavirus for the US, “but for the US only”.”

Along the same line, I see a lot of people combining Trump’s “We have no shortages” with pictures of empty shelves, insinuating he is lying. But those can exist together, and in fact do in many European countries as well as the US. The cause is panic buying. Would these folk like to blame those empty EU shelves on Trump as well? Or are they caused by these countries’ own politicians, many of whom claim to despise Trump? Your call.

Look, Trump makes a lot of mistakes. But saying that things are not that bad is not one of them (literally: “Relax, we’re doing great; It all will pass”). Would you rather he said things are terrible, thereby inviting more panic buying and empty shelves, that you could then blame on him as well? That way you could blame him for two completely opposite things.

Anger In Germany At Report Trump Seeking Exclusive Coronavirus Vaccine Deal (G.)

German ministers have reacted angrily following reports US president Donald Trump offered a German medical company “large sums of money” for exclusive rights to a Covid-19 vaccine. “Germany is not for sale,” economy minister Peter Altmaier told broadcaster ARD, reacting to a front page report in Welt am Sonntag newspaper headlined “Trump vs Berlin”. The newspaper reported Trump offered $1bn to Tübingen-based biopharmaceutical company CureVac to secure the vaccine “only for the United States”. The German government was reportedly offering its own financial incentives for the vaccine to stay in the country.

The report prompted fury in Berlin. “International co-operation is important now, not national self-interest,” said Erwin Rueddel, a conservative lawmaker on the German parliament’s health committee. Christian Lindner, leader of the liberal FDP party, accused Trump of electioneering, saying: “Obviously Trump will use any means available in an election campaign.” The German health minister, Jens Spahn, said a takeover of CureVac by the Trump administration was “off the table”. CureVac would only develop vaccine “for the whole world”, Spahn said, “not for individual countries”.

[..] At a news conference on Sunday, interior minister Horst Seehofer was asked to confirm the attempts to court the German company. “I can only say that I have heard several times today from government officials today that this is the case, and we will be discussing it in the crisis committee tomorrow,” he said. A US official told AFP on Sunday that the report was “wildly overplayed”. “The US government has spoken with many [more than 25] companies that claim they can help with a vaccine. Most of these companies already received seed funding from US investors.” The official also denied the US was seeking to keep any potential vaccine for itself. “We will continue to talk to any company that claims to be able to help. And any solution found would be shared with the world,” the official said.

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That still took a long time.

More Coronavirus Cases Outside Of Mainland China Than Inside (CNN)

There have now been more cases of the novel coronavirus outside of mainland China than inside, according to numbers from the World Health Organization and from public health agencies tracked by CNN. While China, the early epicenter of the outbreak, has still had more confirmed cases than any other country – more than 80,000 – a number of other countries have surged in recent days, including Italy with more than 24,000 cases, Iran with almost 14,000 and Spain with more than 7,000. On February 26, the World Health Organization reported for the first time that the majority of new cases per day had come from outside of China. This trend has continued as newly confirmed cases in China have dwindled in recent days, while other countries have discovered thousands of new infections – including the United States, which has now reported more than 3,000 cases.

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It’s starting. 100 million frail forms at Europe’s door soon?

Scientists Worry About Coronavirus Spread In Africa (ScienceMag)

Late on Sunday evening, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, in a televised address to the nation, declared that COVID-19, the respiratory disease spreading globally, had become a “national disaster.” [..] “Never before in the history of our democracy have we been confronted by such a severe situation,” Ramaphosa said before announcing a raft of measures to curb the virus’ spread, including school closures, travel restrictions, and bans on large gatherings. So far, the official numbers seemed to suggest that sub-Saharan Africa, home to more than 1 billion people, had been lucky. The interactive map of reported COVID-19 cases run by Johns Hopkins University shows big red blobs almost everywhere—except sub-Saharan Africa.


But now the numbers are rising quickly. South Africa, which had its first case 10 days ago, now has 61. According to Ramaphosa, the virus has begun spreading inside the country. And just yesterday, Rwanda, Equatorial Guinea, and Namibia all reported their first cases, bringing the number of affected countries to 23. Some scientists believe COVID-19 is circulating silently in other countries as well. “My concern is that we have this ticking time bomb,” says Bruce Bassett, a data scientist at the University of Cape Town who has been tracking COVID-19 data since January. And while Africa’s handling of the pandemic has received scant global attention so far, experts worry the virus may ravage countries with weak health systems and a population disproportionately affected by HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and other infectious diseases. “Social distancing” will be hard to do in the continent’s overcrowded cities and slums.

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“And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all..”

The American Mask of Death (Lauria)

The U.S. is unlike the rest of the industrialized world, which, since the end of the Second World War, has had some kind of nationalized health insurance covering all citizens, regardless of their ability to pay. Many of the partisans who helped defeat the Nazis were socialists who demanded something in return from their governments after the war. Many British soldiers were Labour voters. They threw out war leader Winston Churchill in the 1945 election and the National Health Service was begun in 1948. Though Harry Truman around the same time floated the idea of socialized medicine in the U.S., and the 1965 Medicare Act was to eventually cover all Americans, the greed of medical business interests has always won. It leaves millions of potentially infected Americans unable to be tested or treated. And that endangers even those in their high towers who “might bid defiance to contagion.”


The Mask of the Red Death by FlamiatheDemon (Deviant Art- flamiathedemon.deviantart.com)

“And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.”


When the oligarchs’ economic system crashed in 2008 from over-speculation, the U.S. government did the unimaginable. It nationalized industries to save them. It used socialism to rescue capitalism. But it was temporary. Once the economy had sufficiently recovered, the U.S. returned to its market fundamentalism. If the coronavirus crisis approaches the numbers recent studies point to—as many as 240 million Americans infected and one million dead—expect serious consideration to a single-payer system sweeping through Congress and signed into law. But once the virus is contained expect your premiums to rise again. Just like the nationalizations in the 2008 financial crisis, a temporary national health insurance would only be enacted to save the oligarchs from the Red Death.

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Can the US fall 5% without breaking?

Goldman Sachs Predicts A 5% Contraction In The US Economy In Q2 (CNBC)

Goldman Sachs on Sunday downgraded its outlook for the economy in the first two quarters of 2020 as the coronavirus zaps all growth from the U.S. Jan Hatzius, Goldman’s chief economist, lowered his first-quarter GDP growth forecast to zero from 0.7%. The economist also sees a 5% contraction in the second quarter, followed by a sharp snapback for the remainder of the year. “We expect US economic activity to contract sharply in the remainder of March and throughout April as virus fears lead consumers and businesses to continue to cut back on spending such as travel, entertainment, and restaurant meals,” Hatzius said in a note to clients Sunday. [..] The rapid spread of the virus has sent stocks tumbling into a bear market, with both the Dow Jones and S&P 500 now trading more than 20% below their record highs set just last month.


“Even with monetary and fiscal policy turning sharply further toward stimulus … these shutdowns and rising public anxiety about the virus are likely to lead to a sharp deterioration in economic activity in the rest of March and throughout April,” Hatzius said. In addition to the consumer spending hit, Goldman also noted the growing likelihood of “significant supply chain disruptions” as the outbreak sends business activity to a standstill. Hatzius believes that U.S. economic growth should pick up in the second half of 2020. He expects GDP growth of 3% in the third quarter and a 4% expansion in the final three months of the year. Factoring in his new estimates, for 2020 he sees the economy growing 0.4%, compared with a prior growth estimate of 1.2%.

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Save people not banks. Didn’t we say that 10 years ago as well?

Fed Cuts Rates To Zero, Launches Massive $700 Billion QE (CNBC)

The Federal Reserve, saying “the coronavirus outbreak has harmed communities and disrupted economic activity in many countries, including the United States,” cut interest rates to essentially zero on Sunday and launched a massive $700 billion quantitative easing program to shelter the economy from the effects of the virus. The new fed funds rate, used as a benchmark both for short-term lending for financial institutions and as a peg to many consumer rates, will now be targeted at 0% to 0.25% down from a previous target range of 1% to 1.25%. Facing highly disrupted financial markets, the Fed also slashed the rate of emergency lending at the discount window for banks by 125 basis points to 0.25%, and lengthened the term of loans to 90 days.

Despite the aggressive move, the market’s initial response was negative. Dow futures pointed to a decline of some 1,000 points at the Wall Street open Monday morning. The discount window “plays an important role in supporting the liquidity and stability of the banking system and the effective implementation of monetary policy … [and] supports the smooth flow of credit to households and businesses,” a separate Fed note said. The discount window is part of the Fed’s function as the “lender of last resort” to the banking industry. Institutions can use the window for liquidity needs, though some are reluctant to do as it can indicate they are experiencing financial issues and thus sends a bad message.

The Fed also cut reserve requirements for thousands of banks to zero. In addition, in a global coordinated move by centrals banks, the Fed said the Bank of Canada, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan, the European Central Bank, the Federal Reserve, and the Swiss National Bank took action to enhance dollar liquidity around the world through existing dollar swap arrangements.

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The Fed is choking on its own policies.

The End of the Central Bank [Put]? (Jim Bianco)

The past week has seen unprecedented market movements and action taken by central banks. We have also seen unprecedented action by governments. Given the events that took place in 2008, this is saying a lot.

We’ll save detailing what happened for another time. Instead, we’ll focus on what it means and what to focus on next. Two titanic forces are at play. First, the economy is at a real risk of collapsing. This is not hyperbole. Goldman Sachs has already revised its Q2 GDP forecast to -5%.

We fear this might look optimistic in a few weeks. Yes, this virus-driven economic collapse is temporary, one or two quarters, but the risk is very real that long-lasting damage is being done that will hamper the economy for years. The other titanic force is world central banks and governments going “all in” to keep markets from falling further. They have effectively done everything they can. This better work. This better stimulate risk markets to hold last week’s low. If risk markets continue to fall, effectively there is nothing left that central banks can do. They can always invent more programs, but they already fired their most potent weapons.

Many will argue that the Fed should buy corporate bonds and/or equities, but this requires Congress amending the Federal Reserve Act. Considering Congress has still not passed virus relief, this will not happen fast enough and is not advisable as it could make things worse. Simply put, if this does not work, the central bank “put” no longer works. So stop devising new ways to exercise it and move on to other actions. So that leaves one tool left should risk markets continue to fall through last week’s low – close financial markets before they collapse.

The S&P 500 has already declined more than 25% in just 16 days. We have never seen this big a decline this fast. Should stock prices fall to new lows and corporate bond prices decline accordingly, it risks chaos in financial markets. Margin calls will force involuntary liquidation. The inability to properly price illiquid securities like high yield bonds and emerging market securities may prompt funds to halt redemptions. People’s money may be trapped. Covenants will be triggered, forcing unwanted restructurings or change of control. Pension fund minimum funding requirements are at risk of being violated.

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Not done yet.

Fed Disaster: S&P Futures Crash, Halted Limit Down; Gold, Treasuries Soar (ZH)

The Fed may have a very big problem on its hands. After firing the biggest emergency “shock and awe” bazooka in Fed history, one which was meant to restore not just partial but full normalcy to asset and funding markets, Emini futures are not only not higher, but tumbling by the -5% limit down at the start of futures trading on Sunday evening… … with Dow futures down over 1,000, and also limit down… … the VIX surging 14%…. … perhaps because the Fed has not only tipped its hand that something is very wrong by failing to wait just an additional three days until the March 18 FOMC, but that it can do nothing more to fix the underlying problem, while gold is surging over 3% following today’s dollar devastation (if only until risk parity funds resume their wholesale liquidation at some point this evening when we expect gold to tumble again)…


… as US Treasury futures soar (which will also likely be puked shortly once macro funds are hit again on their basis trades), as it now appears that the Fed’s emergency rate cut to 0% coupled with a $700BN QE is seen as not enough by a market which is now openly freaking out that the Fed is out of ammo and has not done enough. In short, with the ES plunging limit down, this has been an absolutely catastrophic response to the Fed’s bazooka; expect negative interest rates across the curve momentarily… oh and Trump demanding Powell’s resignation in the next 48 hours.

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Jamie Dimon loves you long time. Nationalize the suckers. Divvy up the spoils and start anew.

America’s Biggest Banks Suspend Buybacks In Effort To Support Economy (F.)

America’s largest and most important lenders are temporarily suspending their stock buybacks so they can help pump money into an economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic. The move means that Wall Street is prioritizing supporting the U.S. economy with its cash, instead of using it to engineer stock prices higher after a sharp market drop. Eight of the biggest banks in America said on Sunday evening they will be suspending their stock buybacks for the remainder of the first quarter, ending on March 30, and the second quarter, so as to use the spare cash to lend to individuals and businesses in need of credit. Banks suspending their buybacks are JPMorgan, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of New York Mellon and State Street.


The coordinated move, among firms who’ve recently bought back a collective tens of billions of dollars in stock annually, underscores Wall Street’s vital role in helping to pull the American economy though what economists increasingly forecast will be a deep recession. “The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented challenge for the world and the global economy and the largest U.S. banks have an unquestioned ability and commitment to supporting our customers, clients and the nation,” said the Financial Services Forum, an advocacy group for banks, on behalf of the eight lenders. “The decision on buybacks is consistent with our collective objective to use our significant capital and liquidity to provide maximum support to individuals, small businesses, and the broader economy through lending and other important services,” it added

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CHINA BREAKING NEWS:
• Jan-Feb Fixed Investment: -25.5% vs -2% estimate
• Jan-Feb Retail Sales: -20.5% vs -4%
• Jan-Feb Industrial Production: -13.5% vs -3% estimate

“#China is able to achieve 6% GDP growth in 2020 despite #COVID19, as the impact is temporary and China has uniquely high savings to help cushion shocks by black swan events”
Liang Hong, chief economist of China International Capital Corp

China’s Industrial Output, Retail Sales Plummet (MW)

China’s economic activity contracted sharply across the board in the first two months of the year amid Beijing’s aggressive measures to contain the coronavirus epidemic. Industrial output declined 13.5% in the January-February period from a year earlier, compared with December’s 6.9% increase, the National Bureau of Statistics said Monday. The result was worse than the 3.0% drop expected by economists polled by The Wall Street Journal. China typically combines economic data for the first two months to reduce distortions from the Lunar New Year holiday.

Fixed-asset investment, a gauge of construction activity, slid 24.5% during the period, reversing growth of 5.4% in 2019. Economists expected fixed-asset investment to fall 1.0%. Retail sales tumbled 20.5% in the first two months of the year–typically a boom season for consumption–compared with growth of 8.0% in December. Economists expected retail sales to fall 5%. Meanwhile, China’s urban unemployment rate rose to 5.7% in February from 5.2% in December, official data showed. To contain the spread of the coronavirus, Beijing in January locked down cities hit most by the epidemic, ordered an extended shutdown of factories and businesses and advised residents to stay home.

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Somehow I could see this succeed. In 2021.

World’s Most Powerful Supercomputer Tasked With Finding COVID19 Cure (ZH)

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have used the world’s most powerful supercomputer to identify 77 drug compounds that could lead to scientific breakthroughs to combat Covid-19. The supercomputer, dubbed Summit, has been tasked to run complex computation across existing databases of drug compounds to see which combinations could thwart Covid-19 from infecting cells. Summit has been able to “simulate 8,000 compounds in a matter of days to model which could impact that infection process by binding to the virus’s spike, and have identified 77 small-molecule compounds, such as medications and natural compounds, that have shown the potential to impair COVID-19’s ability to dock with and infect host cells,” read an IBM press release, whose technology is present in Summit.

“Summit was needed to rapidly get the simulation results we needed. It took us a day or two whereas it would have taken months on a normal computer,” said Jeremy Smith, Governor’s Chair at the University of Tennessee, director of the UT/ORNL Center for Molecular Biophysics, and principal researcher in the study. “Our results don’t mean that we have found a cure or treatment for COVID-19. We are very hopeful, though, that our computational findings will both inform future studies and provide a framework that experimentalists will use to further investigate these compounds. Only then will we know whether any of them exhibit the characteristics needed to mitigate this virus.” Smith’s team is expected to pass on the findings to others in the scientific community, who will then begin to experiment on Summit’s 77 compounds to see which one is the most effective against Covid-19.

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Things to do while staying home: feed a mini donkey, watch the remarkably enticing marble racing.

 

https://twitter.com/i/status/1239196410857340933

 

 

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