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

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Read more …

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.

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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.

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“..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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.”

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“.. “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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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“..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.

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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.”

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

 

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

 

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

 

 

If you read us, please support us. Help the Automatic Earth survive.

 

Mar 112020
 


Gordon Parks A scene at the Fulton Fish Market, New York Jun 1943

 

Cancel Everything (Mounk)
An Italian Financial Crisis Is Certain – But How Contagious Will It Be? (G.)
Johns Hopkins Doctor: ‘What Happened In Wuhan Could Happen Here’ (CNBC)
Johns Hopkins Doctor: ‘What Happened In Wuhan Could Happen Here’ (CNBC)
Leaked: US Hospitals Prep For 96 Million Infections & 480k Deaths (SHTF)
Merkel Expects 60-70% Of Germans To Be Infected With Coronavirus (PJW)
China Eases Curbs As Infections Retreat, Imported Cases Tick Up (R.)
Pope Francis Tells Clergy To Go To Sick People, Defying Italy’s Lockdown (RT)
Air Freight Rates Skyrocket As Passenger Flights Cut, China Restarts (R.)
Pollution Cuts May Mean Coronavirus Saves More Lives Than It Costs (F.)
Customs and Border Protection Agents Quarantined At DC Airport (Attkisson)
Things Take a Turn (Kunstler)
Weinstein Sent Desperate Emails to Mike Bloomberg, Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos (V.)
All-Star Warmonger Lindsey Graham Urges NATO: Get More Involved In Idlib (RT)
Putin Backs Proposal Allowing Him To Remain In Power Beyond 2024 (G.)
The Waters Parted For Joe Biden (IC)
Twitter ‘Manipulated’ Tag For Trump’s Biden Video Manipulates US Electorate (RT)
Hunter Biden Aims to Skip Court Appearance, Cites Corona, Pregnant Wife (FB)

 

 

Cases 119,389 (+ 4,775 from yesterday’s 114,614)

Deaths 4,300 (+ 270 from yesterday’s 4,030)

 

It appears to be a day of minor milestones, as the US first goes over 1,000 cases (31 deaths), the death toll outside China passes 1,000, and Italy has over 10,000 infections, 2nd only to China

Someone made a graph that illustrates my point in The Virus is a Time Machine, that the virus’ progress moves in waves:

“France, Spain and Germany are about 9 to 10 days behind Italy in #COVID19 progression; the UK and the US follow at 13 to 16 days. In Italy we waited too long, these countries should really start implementing aggressive containment measures now.”

It may well be too late for those containment measures at this stage, even if New York creates a containment zone in New Rochelle. I’m not sure about the US in this graph anyway, I’m still tempted to log it in with France, Spain and Germany, rather than the UK. Let’s see in the rest of this week.

 

 

On the same topic::

 

As is obvious from last night’s Worldometer data, the rise in infections has definitely shifted to Europe for now, with France and Spain “leading the way”, and Scandinavia having lift-off, with Denmark cases more than doubled overnight. Denmark, Sweden and Norway now have over 1,100 cases and not one death.

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

 

 

We have an idea by now how poorly the US is testing, but what are the Scandinavians doing?

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

Same graph again. Waves. Good example from 1918 Philly vs St. Louis.

Cancel Everything (Mounk)

We don’t yet know the full ramifications of the novel coronavirus. But three crucial facts have become clear in the first months of this extraordinary global event. And what they add up to is not an invocation to stay calm, as so many politicians around the globe are incessantly suggesting; it is, on the contrary, the case for changing our behavior in radical ways—right now. The first fact is that, at least in the initial stages, documented cases of COVID-19 seem to increase in exponential fashion. On the 23rd of January, China’s Hubei province, which contains the city of Wuhan, had 444 confirmed COVID-19 cases. A week later, by the 30th of January, it had 4,903 cases. Another week later, by the 6th of February, it had 22,112. The same story is now playing out in other countries around the world.

Italy had 62 identified cases of COVID-19 on the 22nd of February. It had 888 cases by the 29th of February, and 4,636 by the 6th of March. Because the United States has been extremely sluggish in testing patients for the coronavirus, the official tally of 604 likely represents a fraction of the real caseload. But even if we take this number at face value, it suggests that we should prepare to have up to 10 times as many cases a week from today, and up to 100 times as many cases two weeks from today. The second fact is that this disease is deadlier than the flu, to which the honestly ill-informed and the wantonly irresponsible insist on comparing it. Early guesstimates, made before data were widely available, suggested that the fatality rate for the coronavirus might wind up being about 1 percent. If that guess proves true, the coronavirus is 10 times as deadly as the flu.

[..] so far only one measure has been effective against the coronavirus: extreme social distancing. Before China canceled all public gatherings, asked most citizens to self-quarantine, and sealed off the most heavily affected region, the virus was spreading in exponential fashion. Once the government imposed social distancing, the number of new cases leveled off; now, at least according to official statistics, every day brings more news of existing patients who are healed than of patients who are newly infected. A few other countries have taken energetic steps to increase social distancing before the epidemic reached devastating proportions. In Singapore, for example, the government quickly canceled public events and installed medical stations to measure the body temperature of passersby while private companies handed out free hand sanitizer. As a result, the number of cases has grown much more slowly than in nearby countries.

[..] hen the influenza epidemic of 1918 infected a quarter of the U.S. population, killing tens of millions of people, seemingly small choices made the difference between life and death. As the disease was spreading, Wilmer Krusen, Philadelphia’s health commissioner, allowed a huge parade to take place on September 28; some 200,000 people marched. In the following days and weeks, the bodies piled up in the city’s morgues. By the end of the season, 12,000 residents had died. In St. Louis, a public-health commissioner named Max Starkloff decided to shut the city down. Ignoring the objections of influential businessmen, he closed the city’s schools, bars, cinemas, and sporting events. Thanks to his bold and unpopular actions, the per capita fatality rate in St. Louis was half that of Philadelphia. (In total, roughly 1,700 people died from influenza in St Louis.)

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The finance guys want their “normal” back. But money won’t cure this. And certainly not after the fact. “Bank of England cuts rate from 0.75% to 0.25%, Europe sets up $25 billion fund”, no use.

An Italian Financial Crisis Is Certain – But How Contagious Will It Be? (G.)

The decision by the Italian government to suspend mortgage payments for its quarantined citizens is a drastic step in the battle to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus but is commensurate with the predicament the country finds itself in. Italy is the eurozone’s weak link. Even before the current lockdown it was facing a fourth recession in little more than a decade and there has been only minimal growth in living standards in two decades. Its manufacturing sector is dominated by low-cost producers vulnerable to disruption in the global supply chain. Government debt is high and its banking system is weak. And it is a strategically important economy: the eurozone’s third biggest . Put simply, if there was one EU country that the European commission and the ECB would have chosen to avoid a severe outbreak of the coronavirus it would have been Italy.


The issue is not whether Italy will have a recession. With schools, universities, theatres and cinemas shut and its hugely-important tourist industry facing a washout summer, the economy is going to shrink in both the first and second quarters of 2020. Nor is it really a question of how deep the downturn will be – although the early estimates are that it is going to be a bad one. Jack Allen-Reynolds, senior European economist at Capital Economics, thinks the economy will shrink by 1% in the first three months of the year and by a further 1.5% in the second quarter. But that assumes the quarantine lasts until the end of April and is then gradually lifted. Were the economy to remain effectively immobilised until the end of June, Allen-Reynolds says there could be a 4.5% drop in output in the second quarter.


Death rate in Lombardy: 8.1%. Rest of Italy: 3.7%

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US health care will be overrun. In for profit health care, contingency is anathema.

Johns Hopkins Doctor: ‘What Happened In Wuhan Could Happen Here’ (CNBC)

The coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. could grow to be as serious as it is in Wuhan, China, Johns Hopkins University Dr. Marty Makary told CNBC on Tuesday. “What happened in Wuhan could happen here. Why do we think otherwise?” Makary said on “Squawk Box,” referencing the Chinese city where the new virus originated in December. The city of 11 million people was locked down on an unprecedented scale as the outbreak intensified. It remains on lockdown even as new cases in the region decline. New cases in Wuhan and its surrounding Hubei province have dropped to below 50 a day, according to figures from the Chinese government, even as the disease spreads at greater rates across the globe. “The American immune system is not stronger than the Chinese immune system,” said Makary, a surgeon and professor of health policy and management.


“Viruses don’t care about politics and they don’t care about location.” [..] There are now more than 750 confirmed cases in the U.S., with 26 deaths. “We need to tell people right now to stop all nonessential travel. I feel strongly about that,” Makary said, adding he does not “like the idea of talking about contingency plans, but we’ve got to start making these plans.” “We’ve got to brace for a three-month problem..” Makary urged that the U.S. should take the disease more seriously, saying he’s was worried about the capacity of the nation’s health-care system to handle a serious spike in cases. America has about 100,000 intensive care unit beds that “operate at full capacity or near full capacity,” he said. “If we get 200,000 critical care cases, we’re going to be overrun,” he warned. “So we need to do more.”

Read more …

An 0.5% death rate. Optimism galore. But these numbers should be public, people need to understand how bad things can get. Thing is, media and politics play a role that forbids it.

Leaked: US Hospitals Prep For 96 Million Infections & 480k Deaths (SHTF)

Leaked medical conference documents have warned that hospitals across the United States are preparing for 96 million coronavirus infections. Not only that, but the same document wants hospitals to make preparations for 480,000 deaths from this outbreak. .. the American Hospital Association (AHA) conference in February reveal that US hospitals are preparing for: – 96 million coronavirus infections – 4.8 million hospitalizations from the infection – 480,000 deaths in the United States

According to Business Insider, these leaked documents are telling. Dr. James Lawler, a professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, presented the harrowing “best guess” estimates of the extent of the outbreak to hospitals and health professionals as part of the AHA webinar called What Healthcare Leaders Need to Know: Preparing for the COVID-19 on February 26. These documents paint a bleaker picture for those who are over the age of 60. According to the leaked documents: People aged 80 and over have a 14.8% chance of dying if they contract the infection, the slides revealed. The risk declines with youth, though those aged 70-79 and 60-69 are still placed at a significant risk, with 8% and 3.6% mortality rates respectively. –Business Insider

Additionally, it’s worth noting that Dr. Lawler’s estimate of 480,000 deaths would indicate a death rate of just half a percent (0.5%), which is significantly lower than death rates being reported by the WHO (3.4%) and the nation of Italy (5%). If the death rate in the United States reached just 2% while 96 million Americans are infected, that would result in 1.92 million deaths. The United States has fewer than one million hospital beds, and they are typically around 75% occupied by existing patients, unrelated to the coronavirus. Natural News has calculated that U.S. hospital beds will be overrun by May 30th if nothing is done to stop the exponential spread of the coronavirus.

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53 million infected. At a 1% death rate, that means….

Merkel Expects 60-70% Of Germans To Be Infected With Coronavirus (PJW)

Angela Merkel says she expects around 60-70 per cent of Germans will be infected with the coronavirus, which equates to about 53 million people. Reportedly, the German Parliament fell completely silent when Merkel stated the number. News outlet Bild reported the German Chancellor’s comments, which echoed numbers forecast by Berlin virologist Christian Drosten, who added that such a total could take 2 years or longer to reach. Given the fact that coronavirus has a mortality rate of around 1 per cent, this could equate to over half a million deaths, although new methods of fighting the virus could reduce this number.


The World Health Organization’s director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus claimed that the death rate was higher at 3.4 per cent, although this has been disputed. Germany, which has recorded 1,565 coronavirus cases and two deaths so far, has yet to impose the kind of quarantine measures seen in Italy, where the entire country has been placed on lockdown. German health authorities have said that people should avoid attending concerts, clubs or football games to limit the spread of the illness.

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I hadn’t heard from Osterholm in years.

This Is A Coronavirus Winter, And We’re In The First Week (CNBC)

The U.S. is not prepared for what is coming as COVID-19 spreads rapidly across the country, public health and infectious disease specialist Michael Osterholm told CNBC on Tuesday. The virus has surpassed the containment stage, he said, and the U.S. government is not responding appropriately for the magnitude of spread the country will likely see. “Right now we’re approaching this like it’s the Washington, D.C., blizzard — for a couple days we’re shut down,” the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota said in a “Squawk Box” interview. “This is actually a coronavirus winter and we’re in the first week.”

The U.S. is not containing the virus, Osterholm added, warning that it is substantially more contagious than some U.S. officials have warned. He said the most important thing is to protect people who are most at risk of dying from the virus, mostly older people and those with underlying health conditions. “This is just going to keep spreading. We have to stop fooling people into thinking this is only by close contact where I have to be within 2 or 3 feet. We’re going to see much more transmission,” he said. “There will be widespread transmission of this virus around the country, and what we have to do is keep people who are at high risk of having bad outcomes, older, underlying health conditions, from being exposed.”

Osterholm called on U.S. officials to more clearly communicate to the American public the threat COVID-19 poses. “What I find really concerning is we’ve really not set the agenda here for the American public I think in a realistic way,” he said. “We’re going to see transmission for many, many more weeks to come,” Osterholm said. “We have to prepare for that.”

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“Total infections in mainland China stood at 80,778″… “79 of overall cases in China have come from abroad..”

Say no more: “Imported Cases Tick Up”…

China Eases Curbs As Infections Retreat, Imported Cases Tick Up (R.)

More places in China lowered emergency response levels to the coronavirus epidemic and relaxed travel restrictions a day after President Xi Jinping visited the epicenter of the outbreak, signaling authorities were turning the tide. Total infections in mainland China stood at 80,778 with 24 new cases by Tuesday, while 22 more deaths took the toll to 3,158, the National Health Commission said on Wednesday. All the latest deaths occurred in Wuhan, the central city which was visited by Xi for the first time on Tuesday since the outbreak began there in December. Home to 11 million people, the provincial capital of Hubei province was placed in lockdown in late January. The most encouraging trend to be taken from the latest infection figures, was lower rate of transmission within communities in China as 10 of Tuesday’s 24 new cases involved people traveling from abroad.


Currently, just 79 of overall cases in China have come from abroad, but as that number increases, authorities are turning their focus on how to deal with that risk. The capital of Beijing saw six new cases on Tuesday involving individuals who traveled from Italy and the United States, while Shanghai had two imported infections, Shandong province one and Gansu province one. Taiwan too has begun reporting an uptick in imported cases. The government said on Wednesday the island’s 48th case was a woman in her 30s who had returned from holiday in Britain and had most likely been infected while overseas. New infections in Hubei continued to stabilize, with new cases declining for the sixth day. All 13 new cases in Hubei were recorded in Wuhan. Amid slowing domestic infections, a few cities in Hubei have started to ease curbs on movement of people and goods.

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Greek church does the same. G-d will save you if he wants to.

Pope Francis Tells Clergy To Go To Sick People, Defying Italy’s Lockdown (RT)

As Italy scrambles to enact strict quarantine measures to stem the rampant spread of the coronavirus, Pope Francis is issuing a very different directive to the priests under his command: get out and be with those who are sick. At a personal mass on Tuesday morning, and as Italy enters a complete lockdown, the Holy See implored clergymen to “have the courage to go out and go to the sick people.” The Pope’s remarks starkly contradict all the core advice administered by the Italian government – namely to stay home and not to travel unless it’s a medical emergency. With the highest death toll outside of mainland China – hiking from 463 to 631 on Tuesday – Italy is rightly concerned that it could become the super-spreader of Europe.


So why has arguably the most influential religious leader on the planet shunned the expert advice and sent his priests out into this new world of contagion? Well, no-one is quite sure. On other occasions, Francis has been exceedingly health-conscious. He has missed several engagements, live-streamed his general audience events and even ordered a cut-back on the mass gathering of pilgrims. But with today’s short remarks, the Pope has laid waste both to the safety of his own priests and to the many others who may catch the virus as a result of the ministry visits. The Pope’s comments speak of a depressingly common thread running through the response of many religious groups to the Covid-19 outbreak.

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Put your 737 MAX’s to good use.

Air Freight Rates Skyrocket As Passenger Flights Cut, China Restarts (R.)

Air freight rates are skyrocketing after the grounding of many passenger flights in Asia has left shippers scrambling to book limited spots on cargo planes as Chinese industrial production restarts, according to industry insiders. About half of the air cargo carried worldwide normally flies in the belly of passenger jets rather than in dedicated freighters. But deep flight cuts in response to the coronavirus outbreak have made the market more dependent on freight haulers. Freight forwarder Agility Logistics said on its website that China’s air cargo capacity was down 39% in February relative to last year because of the passenger flight cuts.


Shippers wishing to rush products out of China by air face sticker shock, said Refael Elbaz, chief executive of Israel-based Unicargo, which specializes in freight forwarding for Amazon.com sellers. “The price is three times higher – at least – because there is just no capacity,” Elbaz said. Freight Investor Services said in an update to clients on Monday that cargo pricing on China-to-U.S. routes had reached “abnormal highs” and that intra-Asia traffic was up by 22% over the previous week. TAC Index data shows China-U.S. cargo rates have risen by 27% over the last two weeks to $3.50 a kilogram.

Read more …

Silver lining. But it won’t last: they’re all already geared towards burn baby burn again.

Pollution Cuts May Mean Coronavirus Saves More Lives Than It Costs (F.)

The global lockdown inspired by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has shuttered factories and reduced travel, slashing lethal pollution including the greenhouse gases that are heating the climate. The lockdown may save more lives from pollution reduction than are threatened by the virus itself, said François Gemenne, director of The Hugo Observatory, which studies the interactions between environmental changes, human migration, and politics. “Strangely enough, I think the death toll of the coronavirus at the end of the day might be positive, if you consider the deaths from atmospheric pollution,” said Gemenne, citing, for example, the 84,000 people who die annually in France because of atmospheric pollution and the more than one million in China.


Scientists estimate the U.S. death toll from air pollution at more than 100,000 per year, and the World Health Organization estimates the global toll at 7 million. The global death toll of the pandemic remains largely a matter of conjecture. The most dramatic projections that have been released—too hastily to be peer reviewed—put the global death toll of an unchecked pandemic in the millions total—not annual. Most credible estimates are much less. Some experts have compared it to the 1957 flu outbreak that killed just over 1 million. Reductions in air pollution and global heating could save more lives. “More than likely the number of lives that would be spared because of these confinement measures would be higher than the number of lives that would be lost because of the pandemic,” Gemenne said in an appearance on France 24’s The Debate.

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Infecting tourists, are we?

Customs and Border Protection Agents Quarantined At DC Airport (Attkisson)

Five Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at Dulles International Airport have been ordered to self-quarantine due to possible coronavirus exposure. The information was provided late Tuesday during an official briefing for members of Congress, Just the News has learned. One CBP National Targeting Center (NTC) officer was also ordered to self-quarantine. The NTC center in Sterling, Virginia, works to “catch travelers and detect cargo that threaten our country’s security.” All six CBP officers have reportedly been told to isolate themselves until March 14. Several additional coronavirus deaths were reported in the U.S. late Tuesday. Most of the fatalities to date have occurred among the elderly in Washington State in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Officials say there have been no serious cases or deaths reported among young Americans.

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“..a world made by hand..”

Things Take a Turn (Kunstler)

The new disposition of things is upon us, and the sooner we get with the program, the better. Welcome to The Long Emergency and its aftermath, a world made by hand. Expect that a lot of things crashing, grinding to a halt, and falling to pieces will not get patched back together and restarted. When the dust settles from all that, we’ll discover one of the primary conditions of the new era: we’re poorer — a lot of what we took to be money, or things that represented money, were figments. “Money” itself, as manifested in currencies, may become a slippery concept, with low credibility. If that’s the case, people ought to ask themselves: how can I be useful or helpful to the others around me in a way that will raise my own social capital and accumulate, at least, the good will of these other people, and perhaps some of their help or service in return for mine?

That is the beginning of building a local community — people bound together by mutual obligations, responsibilities, duties, and rewards. We’re lucky for one thing: this crisis of advanced civilization is striking at the very start of the planting season. If you’re prudent, you can begin at once to organize serious gardening efforts, if you live in a part of the country where that is possible. I’d go heavy on the potatoes, cabbages, winter squashes, and beans, because they’re all keepers over winter. Baby chicks sell at the local ag stores for a few bucks each now and you’ll be very grateful for the eggs. Get a rooster — even though they can be a pain-in-the-ass — and you won’t have to buy any more chicks.

If you live in a part of the country where the terrain is rugged and well-watered — as I do — start scoping out local hydro sites that might potentially generate electricity or drive machinery directly from water power. We will probably need more of that. Around here many of those sites are signified by the ruins of decommissioned factories and hydro-stations from not much more than a century ago. They were originally built with a lot less machine power than we would use today, and a lot more power of men working in groups. We’ve forgotten how effective men can be working together with pretty simple tools. We were too busy devaluing men in recent decades for the sake of a moral crusade to erase “gender” differences. Well, that will be bygone so fast your head will spin.

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Throw away the key please.

Weinstein Sent Desperate Emails to Mike Bloomberg, Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos (V.)

Newly unsealed court documents put Harvey Weinstein’s Rolodex on full display. The fallen movie mogul — who is now a convicted rapist facing up to 29 years in jail and will be sentenced Wednesday — once tried to save his career by emailing his famous peers, including billionaires, powerful agents and Hollywood titans. In emails, reviewed by Variety on Tuesday afternoon at the New York City criminal courthouse, where roughly 1,000 pages of documents were unsealed, Weinstein wrote to the likes of Michael Bloomberg, Quentin Tarantino, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Apple’s Tim Cook and Eddy Cue. The documents made available by the court did not include any responses from these people to Weinstein.

The New York Times broke its bombshell story, which revealed decades of allegations of sexual harassment against Weinstein, on Oct. 5, 2017. Just days later, on Oct. 8, Weinstein sent out a flurry of emails to his powerful contacts, pleading for help to revive his career, and urging people to quickly send him letters of support. That same day, Weinstein was forced out of his own company. Writing to the heads of Apple, Cook and Cue, Weinstein said, “I don’t need you to make any public statements — just a private one to my gmail address, saying that you support me getting therapy and the help I need before the board fires me. I’m in a tough spot. Many of the allegations are false, but I need your help with this private letter of support. I’m going to get well, and if I pass the therapist test, then we can talk about reinstatement et cetera.

But for now, I’m going to take a leave of absence and get healthy. If they fire me now, it’ll destroy me personally and cause a huge legal battle, based on my rights with the company. But if I have support from someone like you getting me going into treatment and having the shot at a second chance (because people deserve a second chance), it would be very helpful. I would need something today if you can — I so appreciate it.”

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War to deflect attention away from the virus? The risk is too great that troops infect each other.

All-Star Warmonger Lindsey Graham Urges NATO: Get More Involved In Idlib (RT)

Veteran chickenhawk Lindsey Graham once again beat his over-used war drum, this time because he wants NATO to get involved in Idlib, Syria to stop “Syrian aggression.” Yes, when will Syria stop intervening in its own country? The South Carolina senator said that he fully supports US President Donald Trump’s efforts to “get NATO more involved in Syria,” arguing that the defensive alliance should aid Turkey as it “defends Idlib against Russian/Syrian aggression.” He further argued that the “fall” of Idlib would result in a humanitarian crisis felt around the world, which is why NATO should be more “supportive” of its Turkish ally. The senior statesman apparently doesn’t seem particularly fazed by the fact that Idlib is part of Syria – making accusations of “Syrian aggression” slightly nonsensical.


The province is now home to the last bastion of extremist jihadist militias, some of which are directly affiliated with Al-Qaeda. This is hardly the first time that the US hawk has demanded direct intervention in Idlib. In February, he called on the Pentagon to impose a no-fly zone over the Syrian province, claiming it would help stop the “destruction” of Idlib by Syrian, Iranian, and Russian forces. As far back as September, Graham was issuing statements warning over “the wholesale massacre” of civilians in Idlib, insisting that “we either act now [in Syria] or pay a heavy price later.” The senator’s melodramatic representation of a terrorist-infested Syrian province being under siege by the Syrian military shouldn’t come as a surprise to US political observers. Graham has been portrayed as part of former Arizona Senator John McCain’s “foreign policy club” – a euphemism for hardcore neocon interventionism.

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After years of anti-Putin rhetoric it’s lost on westerners, but Putin would love to retire to his dasha. Only, he’s afraid the neocons would jump in as soon as he does, and there’s no-one ready to take his place to defend his beloved motherland. Yeah, that’s pretty tragic in a way.

Putin Backs Proposal Allowing Him To Remain In Power Beyond 2024 (G.)

Vladimir Putin has moved to cement his hold on power in Russia beyond the middle of the decade, backing a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow him to seek another two terms in the Kremlin. The Russian president is required by the constitution to step down in 2024, and there have been months of conjecture about how he could stay in power beyond then, or at least ensure a safe transition for himself. In the end, the puzzle was resolved in an afternoon, in a series of choreographed political steps that took just over three hours and could result in Putin staying on as president until 2036.

The venture began in parliament, where a member of Russia’s ruling party proposed amending the constitution in a way that would “reset” Putin’s presidential term count back to zero. Putin then announced he would come to address the parliament himself, prompting breathless coverage on state television about whether he would accept or turn down the proposal. “In principle, this option would be possible,” he said at the end of a half-hour speech. “But on one condition – if the constitutional court gives an official ruling that such an amendment would not contradict the principles and main provisions of the constitution.” He also said the move would have to be approved by the public in a referendum next month.

[..] In January, he told a veteran of the second world war that he was worried about a return to the 80s, when Kremlin leaders “stayed in power until the end of their days” and did not provide for a transition of power. On Tuesday, he walked back that statement, saying that modern Russia’s elections made it impossible to return to a Soviet-style procession of leaders-for-life. “I won’t hide that I was wrong,” he said. “It was an incorrect statement because during the Soviet Union there were no elections.” [..] It is unclear whether Putin had planned to stay on as president all along or had come to the decision more recently. In his speech, he said he hoped that one day the institution of the presidency in Russia would not be “so personified in a single person”, but added: “that is how all of our history ended up and of course we can’t not take that into account”.

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Yes, it went very fast.

The Waters Parted For Joe Biden (IC)

It feels like the closing of a loop. In March 1988, a dramatic upset in Michigan by the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign brought him into a tie with Michael Dukakis, panicking the Democratic establishment and opening a window to a different future for the party. In March 2016, Sanders delivered a stunning upset to Hillary Clinton in the Rust Belt state, momentarily resetting the primary. Eight months later, Donald Trump did the same to Clinton in Michigan, sealing his Electoral College victory. On Tuesday, Michigan dealt a crushing blow to Sanders’s second presidential campaign — despite an endorsement on Sunday from Jackson.

The Michigan Secretary of State’s office said it would not release official results until midday Wednesday due to a large number of absentee ballots, but several networks called the state for Biden not long after polls closed at 8 p.m. With half the votes counted, Biden sat on a comfortable 14-point lead. The win for Biden comes after a swing toward the former vice president — what Nate Silver described as “probably the fastest in the history of the primaries.” Sanders moved from being the clear frontrunner on February 23, the day after the Nevada caucuses, to a stalled candidate on March 1, the day after South Carolina, to trailing on March 4, the day after Super Tuesday. Polls continued to slide away from Sanders over the next week, leading to his eventual loss in Michigan, Mississippi, and Missouri as early returns came in on Tuesday.

The autopsies will begin soon, even as the campaign struggles forward, with Florida, Arizona, Illinois, and Ohio set to vote in a week — where two critical House contests will pit insurgent primary challengers Morgan Harper in Columbus, Ohio and Marie Newman in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois against Democratic incumbents. Those autopsies will look closely at the decisions made in those days between Nevada and this Tuesday by Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who also competed in the progressive lane until dropping out after Super Tuesday. The main question they’ll have to answer is why the Sanders campaign was unable to turn out the young, working class electorate he needed to beat the more moderate opponent, who dominated him among older white suburban voters as well as older black voters.

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Twitter says Americans are not smart enough to conclude on their own that Biden does’t support Trump. For once, @jack may be on to something. And it’s not that Americans are not smart enough.

Twitter ‘Manipulated’ Tag For Trump’s Biden Video Manipulates US Electorate (RT)

Imagine thinking so little of Americans’ intelligence to label a factual video clip ‘manipulated’ because it’s being used as a meme in the presidential election campaign. Twitter just did that, following in Facebook’s footsteps.
For the first time ever, Twitter applied a ‘manipulated’ tag to a video retweeted by President Donald Trump and shared by his social media director Dan Scavino. Mainstream media critics of the president were really excited at the news, calling the video “deceptively edited.” “We cannot get re-elect [sic]….we cannot win this re-election… excuse me, we can only re-elect Donald Trump,” the video shows Democrat front-runner Joe Biden telling a crowd. According to Twitter and the mainstream media, this is deceptive because the clip leaves out the ending: “…if in fact we get engaged in this circular firing squad here.”

The full video of Biden’s remarks makes it clear that he didn’t really endorse Trump. Of course, no actual person out there would think he did, merely that the 78-year-old establishment Democrat is having trouble stringing a coherent sentence together, even with the help of a teleprompter. Last month, when Twitter announced that it would flag posts containing “synthetic or manipulated” media, the only thing clear about its rules was that their wording was so vague they would effectively be arbitrary. According to those rules, a tweet may be labeled as “deceptive” if the context in which it is shared “could result in confusion or misunderstanding” or “suggests a deliberate intent to deceive people.” Who gets to decide that? Twitter. Or should that be the Ministry of Truth?

Keep in mind that the US has constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech – which through some rather creative legal reasoning does not actually apply to private companies, so Twitter, or Facebook, or YouTube have in effect been able to throttle, demonetize, shadowban or just plain kick off anyone whose politics they disagree with. A Project Veritas undercover video from January 2018 shows a Twitter employee explaining the workings behind “shadowbanning.” A July 2019 story in the Washington Examiner documents the political activism of a senior engineer at the company – which continues to this day. Just last week, there was another social media first, when Facebook removed a series of Trump re-election ads. This happened after complaints by Democrat activists, lawmakers and media that the “official census” wording was “misleading” and confusing.

While that may have been true about the titles of the ads, the actual text made it clear they were requesting voters to voluntarily share their information with the campaign – not harvesting it without asking, like, say, Facebook. Quoting politicians out of context is indeed misleading. It’s also the oldest tactic in the book. The mainstream media have happily done it to Trump over and over – recall the “fine people” remark about Charlottesville, or insinuation he called all Mexicans “rapists,” or all illegal immigrants “animals.” There were no corrections, no apologies, no flagging for misleading or doctored edits for those. [..] The entire argument that fake news or “manipulated” social media posts swayed US elections has always been an insult to Americans’ intelligence, coming from people who clearly believe democracy is too important to be left to the voters.

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Tries to wiggle out of a case on child support payments using another -expected- child as an excuse. But read between the lines and you see he’s going to use his dad as a reason not to comply.

Hunter Biden Aims to Skip Court Appearance, Cites Corona, Pregnant Wife (FB)

Hunter Biden’s lawyers alerted the Arkansas judge presiding over the child support lawsuit against him that he will be unable to attend his scheduled court deposition this week, citing travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus and the approaching due date of his pregnant wife. Biden was ordered last Thursday to appear at the court on Wednesday, March 11, for a deposition in the ongoing child support case, but his lawyers told the court in a Wednesday filing that Biden would be unable to attend. “Defendant requests continuance of the hearing as he is unavailable to attend due to his wife’s due date in 2 and a half weeks or less and risks involved with travel,” the new filing states.

Biden’s lawyers further argue that it is unreasonable for him to be required to travel to Arkansas at all, saying the appearance is “burdensome and oppressive.” “It is unsafe for the Defendant to travel, as travel restrictions have been implemented both domestically and internationally, particularly on airlines, due to the coronavirus,” the filing states. “Setting aside personal endangerment, Defendant reasonably believes that such travel unnecessarily exposes his wife and unborn child to this virus. California, in particular, has been the site of numerous reported cases of exposure.”

The latest filing in the case also points to “intense media scrutiny” on Biden due to his father Joe Biden’s campaign for president. “The tremendously elevated media scrutiny creates some physical risks and logistics difficulties with travel to Arkansas, invades the privacy of the Defendant and his 8 and a half month pregnant wife, threatens to complicate the Court’s ability to conduct a public hearing, creates a highly prejudicial environment from Defendant, and cannot be in the child’s or his mother’s interest in any way,” the lawyers argue. Biden has already been declared the father of the nearly two-year-old Arkansas child, but has repeatedly avoided appearances in court. Lawyers for the child’s mother, Lunden Alexis Roberts, last Friday called for the court to hold Biden in contempt for his continued failure to provide financial documents.

“The defendant has continued to flaunt the orders of this Court by failing to answer discovery, comply with court orders, and provide his financial information,” lawyers for Roberts argued.

Read more …

 

https://twitter.com/i/status/1237629368723279874

 

 

If you read us, please support us. Help the Automatic Earth survive.

 

Mar 092020
 


 

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

 

 

As I wrote yesterday in The Virus is a Time Machine, it’s not about the number of deaths or cases, it’s about the disruption. Today, stock markets are down 7-8%, and oil plummeted 30% to $30. At your service. “Fake Wealth” is popping, say some.

Italy has an oversized role today so far, but there are a number of countries that could take off at any time now. As I said in that article, US, Germany, France, Spain appear to be in a phase where for instance Italy was about a week ago.

Something odd about the numbers today is that COVID2019.app puts South Korea at 8,100 cases, while the other two have it at around 7,400. It must be hard getting the numbers right, and on time.

 

Cases 110,607 (+ 4,120 from yesterday’s 106,487)

Deaths 3,831 (+ 231 from yesterday’s 3,600)

 

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

 

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

Smart cookie.

‘Fake Wealth’ Set To Pop (ABR)

Sharemarket and property investors are about to experience a reckoning that sweeps away the pretence of “fake wealth and artificial economy”, Lucerne Investment Partners portfolio manager Jerome Lander says. In a note to clients issued on Monday, Mr Lander said investors were “reacting in horror to the reality of the coronavirus as it begins its exponential growth around the world”. His note came as the Australian sharemarket was experiencing its biggest one-day fall since the global financial crisis, with the S&P/ASX 200 plunging 6 per cent to a 14-month low of 5840.90 amid a collapse in oil prices. “This is a truly frightening pandemic with significant ramifications which much of the developed world is unlikely to cope with well,” Mr Lander said.

“The reality is ICUs [intensive care units] are likely to be overrun around the world and people will increasingly seek to avoid social contact and hide at home in order to avoid contracting the deadly virus.” Mr Lander said a 10 per cent ICU admission rate for Italy’s 1492 cases of coronavirus was a “truly horrifying statistic”. Underlying economic weaknesses was being expose, he said. “One bubble after another is at risk of popping, as the fake wealth and artificial economy of the last few years explodes in the face of a devastating global recession.” With sharemarkets now “crashing, with delusional housing prices likely to follow”, he predicted central banks would shortly attempt to restore order to financial markets through so-called quantitative easing.

“Unlimited QE is likely but won’t help alter the destruction from the pandemic,” Mr Lander said. “These are truly dangerous times for all investors, but particularly for those holding large amounts of overvalued equity and property assets at fake economy prices.”

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

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

Global stock markets have suffered their biggest falls since the 2008 financial crisis while the oil price crashed amid panic selling because of the double threat of a coronavirus-driven global recession and an oil price war. The FTSE 100 index in London plunged 8.5% to 5,911 points, losing 550 points, when trading began on Monday morning. Germany’s Dax tumbled 7.5% and Spain’s Ibex lost 7%. Asian markets also recorded huge losses as fears over the world economy were exacerbated by the shock decision by Saudi Arabia over the weekend to ramp up oil production in an attempt to drive rivals such as Russia and the US out of the market.

The price of Brent crude oil fell almost 30% to $31.14 on Monday, its biggest decline since the start of the Gulf war in 1991. Some experts expect it to fall further unless the Saudis and Russians return to the bargaining table. Turmoil spread on international markets as the coronavirus epidemic deepened around the world. Italy, the worst-hit country in Europe, was plunged into chaos as government plans to quarantine more than 16m people – more than a quarter of its population – were leaked to the media. Italian bond yields jumped on Monday. The number of people infected by coronavirus worldwide has passed 110,000.

Stock markets in Asia Pacific experienced the worst wave of selling since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 heralded the onset of the global financial crisis. With fears growing of a recession in Australia because of the virus, the Australian share market closed down 7.4%. The Nikkei in Japan fell more than 5%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Sen lost 3.9% and the Shanghai stock exchange dropped just over 3%. US 10-year government bond yields fell to fresh record lows and the Japanese yen and gold soared as investors rushed into safe haven investments.

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

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

Goldman Sachs cut its second- and third-quarter Brent price forecasts to $30 per barrel, citing the oil price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia and a significant collapse in oil demand due to the coronavirus that has killed more than 3,500 globally. Oil fell by the most since 1991 on Monday after Saudi Arabia started a price war with Russia by slashing its selling prices and pledging to unleash its pent-up supply onto a market reeling from falling demand because of the virus outbreak. “The aggressive cut to Saudi’s Official Selling Prices and Russia’s reluctance to be pushed into a deal on Friday point to a low probability of an immediate (OPEC+) agreement,” Goldman said in a note dated March 8.

A three-year pact between OPEC and Russia ended in acrimony on Friday after Moscow refused to support deeper oil cuts and OPEC responded by removing all limits on its own production. “While we can’t rule out an OPEC+ deal in coming months, we also believe that this agreement was inherently imbalanced and its production cuts economically unfounded,” the bank said. Goldman’s base case is now for no such deal, it said. Goldman’s base case is now for no such deal, it said. Lower oil prices will start creating acute financial stress and declining production from shale as well as other high cost producer, the bank said.

There will be a negligible response from U.S. shale producers in the second quarter, but output will fall in the third quarter by 75,000 barrels per day (bpd) and a further 250,000 bpd in the fourth quarter of 2020, the bank said. This will not prevent, however, a third-quarter supply surplus of 1.2 million bpd. “At that point, the fundamental rebalancing could require oil prices falling to operational stress levels for high-cost producers with well-head cash costs near $20/bbl,” it said.

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

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

Shane Stephen, a Deliveroo rider, pulls a snood over his mouth and nose as he manoeuvres his mountain bike down a narrow side-street in central London. It is his makeshift defence against coronavirus. “If I catch something I’m screwed,” explains the 23-year-old. “Gig economy workers can’t afford to be ill. My bank balance is literally £4 something right now.” Stephen – like tens of thousands of other couriers and drivers in the UK – is classed as self-employed and therefore not entitled to any sick pay. He stands to gain nothing from Boris Johnson’s pledge last Wednesday to give coronavirus-hit workers statutory sick pay from the first day off work rather than the fourth. Yet Stephen and other gig economy couriers could be called on to deliver food and other essentials to self-isolating households when the virus reaches its peak.

Some industry analysts foresee the number of home deliveries doubling if people are told to work from home and avoid large gatherings under the government’s so-called social-distancing strategy, which will kick in if the virus continues to spread across the country. Unions representing gig economy workers, such as the GMB and Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), fear couriers with coronavirus symptoms may keep working. “Many will carry on because they need to put food on the table and pay the rent. They will then come into contact with other people and spread the virus,” says Mick Rix from the GMB, which represents thousands of couriers. “This would be going against everything the government is trying to achieve at the moment.”

[..] Josh Lane (not his real name) jumps into his DPD Local van after making a delivery in Tottenham. He cleans his hands with hand sanitiser. “I’m in a rush, but I’m doing my bit,” he says through the rolled-down window. However, the 30-year-old cannot afford to stop work if he contracts the virus. “It’s like a flu and I’ve worked through flu before. If you’re self-employed you have to continue working,” he says. “It’s not about me. I’ve got three children. I’m not about to make them starve because of coronavirus. If I’m physically able to work, then isolation is not happening for me.”

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

These people have zero connection to reality.

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

As the deadly coronavirus spreads across the globe, oil prices are down 30% for the year and the average rate on the popular 30-year fixed mortgage has fallen to an eight-year low. It’s positive news for consumers in the short term, even as some economists warn that the virus could tip the U.S economy into recession as the outbreak escalates. The drop in mortgage rates and oil prices could boost consumer confidence, which rose less than expected in February just one day after the stock market had one of its worst days amid virus concerns. A boost in consumer confidence, in turn, could ease those recession fears. “The U.S. economy is 70% consumer driven,” said John Kilduff, founding partner of Again Capital.

“A drop in gasoline prices acts like a tax cut, freeing up money to spend in other sectors of the economy, especially discretionary sectors, such as travel and leisure and dining.” The relentless pace of headlines related to the coronavirus, however, could ultimately act as a psychological break on any boost in confidence that low oil prices and mortgage rates might deliver to the consumer. “The question is whether the fear factor attributable to the virus will overwhelm any positive impact from lower gasoline prices and lower mortgage rates,” said Edward Yardeni, president of Yardeni Research. “That’s hard to answer, but it seems to me that fear is winning the tug of war currently as evidenced by the drop in stock prices and the panicky responses of governments, the media … and the public,” he added.

[..] Jeff Kilburg, founder and CEO of KKM Financial, said that the short-term reaction to lower oil prices will translate into lower prices at the pump for Americans, and that in combination with historically low mortgage rates will provide substantial strength for consumers in the second quarter. “This resiliency of the consumer will once again support equities and most likely show that this current market reaction is a ‘blip,’ not the end of this bull market … and certainly not the beginning of a recession,” Kilburg said.

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

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

Austria’s chancellor has said other European countries will be forced to adopt containment measures as drastic as Italy’s, after Rome placed a quarter of the population in lockdown in an effort to halt the rapid spread of the coronavirus. As the head of the World Health Organization praised Italy’s “genuine sacrifices”, Sebastian Kurz said the situation in Austria, which has reported 99 Covid-19 cases, was under control and the measures it had adopted were appropriate for the time being. He said EU leaders and health ministers were in close contact over their countries’ handling of the epidemic [..] “It will be important to decide which steps to take when,” Kurz said. “You can close schools for one or two weeks and this is urgently necessary in Italy. It will happen in other European countries. The decisive question is when to do it.”

The difficulty will be in balancing the need to head off a peak in infections that could paralyse public health systems against excessive economic damage, he said. “You have to consider carefully when to adopt these measures, because a national economy cannot handle this over too long a period.” Speaking to French radio, the EU commissioner for the single market, Thierry Breton, said European countries were “each acting according to the latest available data in their countries. The virus has spread faster in some places than in others, so naturally the measures in each differ”. In the US, Anthony Fauci, the head of the infectious diseases unit at the National Institutes of Health, said Americans , and particularly those who are vulnerable, may have to stop attending big gatherings. Nor could large-scale quarantines be ruled out, he said.

The WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, tweeted his appreciation for Rome’s efforts after the government published a decree barring people from entering or leaving vast areas of northern Italy without good reason until 3 April. The quarantine zones are home to about 16 million people and include the regions around Venice and the financial capital, Milan. Cinemas, theatres and museums will be closed nationwide and leave has been cancelled for health workers as the prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, said the country was facing a national emergency.

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

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

Italians have become inured to alarming news over the past month as the outbreak has spiraled out of control in Lombardy. But following a flurry of uncontrolled leaks warning about an imminent lockdown as part of the government’s planned emergency decree, restaurants and bars started emptying out and many fled to the train station, where they hopped trains to get out of the region, especially those who had plans to travel elsewhere that were being interrupted by the lockdown. According to an SCMP reporter in Padua, packed bars and restaurants quickly emptied out as news of a coming lockdown hit, as many people rushed to the railway station. Travellers with suitcases, wearing face masks, gloves and carrying bottles of sanitising gel shoved their way on to the local train.

This appears to have been a phenomenon across the North. The video shows passengers with large bags packed heading toward a cross-country train to take them out of the quarantine zone and into the Italian south, where the virus has penetrated, but infection numbers and deaths remain much lower than in the north. This could be terrible news for the impoverished south: experts have repeatedly warned that southern Italy – best known as an agricultural and fishing center rife with organized crime – doesn’t possess the medical infrastructure to handle a surge in life-threatening cases of pneumonia. While Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly insisted during his seemingly never-ending series of press conferences that the panic is worse than the virus itself, in Italy, the situation is rapidly deteriorating on both fronts.

One epidemiologist described the series of panic-provoking leaks as “pure madness.” Fortunately, Italian markets were closed during the panic, and now people have more or less accepted the new rules. But at this point, the horse is already out of the barn. Panicked Italians are now traveling around the country, potentially bringing the virus with them. “The draft of a very harsh decree is leaked, sparking panic and prompting people to try and flee the [then] theoretical red zone, carrying the virus with them,” wrote Italian virologist Roberto Burioni on Twitter. “In the end, the only effect is to help the virus to spread. I’m lost for words.”

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

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

A charity led by the archbishop of Canterbury is preparing to help feed children if schools are closed by coronavirus, amid fears the withdrawal of free school dinners could leave up to 3 million children at risk of hunger. Feeding Britain, which runs food poverty schemes in 12 areas of England including Cornwall, Leicester, Barnsley and South Shields, is exploring how to set up emergency programmes similar to those used to feed the poorest children during the summer holidays. The Akshaya Patra Foundation, which serves thousands of hot meals to children every summer in London boroughs, is also “prepared to enter crisis mode”, while food projects in Bristol and Huddersfield said they were exploring how their schemes to feed hundreds of children in school holidays could be adapted to help cope with emergency closures.

“For so many families now, schools are the first line of defence against hunger,” said Andrew Forsey, the national director of Feeding Britain, whose president is the Most Rev Justin Welby. “In many cases it is breakfast as well as lunch, so if the schools close it’s two meals we have to find. There is early-stage planning going on around ensuring supplies of food and the extent of voluntary support that could be drawn upon if some schools do need to close.” Downing Street said on Tuesday that school closures would be among “distancing strategies” used if the virus became established in the UK. On Thursday, Italy closed all of its schools and colleges for a month.

[..] An immediate challenge is likely to be finding a way to deliver meals in a way that maintains the distance between people that school closures are meant to achieve. The Bristol project said it could involve delivering food parcels door-to-door. Forsey also said panic-buying that cleared supermarket shelves could hinder efforts as many free meal programmes relied on retailers’ donations.

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

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

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

City and state officials issued new travel suggestions amid growing novel coronavirus cases in the tri-state area. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio asked sick people to stay off public transit, especially subways and buses. Their warnings included a suggestion to avoid dense crowds on buses, subways and trains, or take alternate travel if possible. “If you take the subway and you are able to wait for a less packed train, please do. If you have the option of walking or biking, please do. Buses can be crowded too, but less than subways, so please use these if you can,” de Blasio said. “Move to a train car that is not as dense. If you see a packed train car, let it go by. Wait for the next train. Same if you’re taking a bus,” Cuomo said.


Avoiding public transit is not an option for most New Yorkers and they’re not afraid to let the mayor know. “Happy to ride a bike to work. Can you make it so people don’t die in Queens while biking? Vehicular deaths are a public health crisis too,” one Twitter user said in response to de Blasio’s announcement. In the city’s other effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, transit workers started to disinfect subway turnstiles, station handrails, MetroCard and ticket vending machines daily and other frequently used parts of the system, according to a statement from Transport Workers Union President Tony Utano. The deep clean extends to Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North and Access-A-Ride services as well. In addition to the daily cleaning, the MTA says its full fleet of subway trains and buses will undergo sanitization every 72 hours.

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

A Perfect Storm Of Nationalism And Financial Speculation (Varoufakis)

Nationalism and speculation have seldom had a better opportunity to combine forces as the one riding today on the coattails of Covid-19, known as the coronavirus. When Covid-19 leapfrogged from China to Italy, even ardent Europeanists normally appreciative of open borders joined the deafening calls to end freedom of movement across Europe’s national borders – a longstanding demand of nationalists. Meanwhile, the money men speculating on government debt are performing a classic flight from Italian to German government bonds, seeking the financial safety that only the continent’s hegemon can offer during any crisis. As if in a bid to remind us of the great contradiction of our times, Covid-19 is illuminating gloriously the freedom of money to transcend a borderless financial universe while humans remain as fenced in as ever.

Meanwhile in the United States, President Trump is combining his standard call for taller walls with a fresh instruction to moneymen to “buy the dip” in Wall Street, rather than to follow their natural instinct to seek refuge in the boring but safe bond markets. A great deal will depend on whether financiers believe Mr Trump or not, and not just because this is an election year. If speculators do believe the American president, Wall Street will recover swiftly even before the epidemic subsides. The forces of xenophobic financialisation will then have triumphed and America’s progressives will face an uphill struggle on every political front. As for the European Union, ruling elites will breathe a sigh of relief that a new depression was avoided and return to managing as best as they can the economic stagnation of recent times, tinged this time with a large dose of additional, coronavirus-reinforced, xenophobia.

Will Wall Street follow Mr Trump’s advice to “buy the dip”? For now, the large players are in two minds. The drop in the stock market does not worry them as such. Their concern is that the recent bull market was running on increasingly suspect debt and that Covid-19 may have pricked a bubble that was going to burst anyway. Similarly in Europe, the worst spectre hovering over investors’ heads is that large corporations, relying for too long on free money from the European Central Bank, may be downgraded from investment to junk-grade – especially so at a time of stagnant domestic demand and a collapsed Chinese import market.

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Maybe electric cars should run on electric tires?

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

Car tyres could be doing more damage to our health than the fumes from exhaust pipes, according to the results from a new test. Measurements found that 5.8 grams per kilometre of harmful particles are emitted by tyres as they wear when a car is being driven. That compares to 4.5 milligrams per kilometer produced from exhaust pipes of the latest vehicles on sale today – meaning harmful tyre outputs are higher by a factor of over 1,000. Assessments were conducted by UK-based experts Emissions Analytics, which specialises in calculating the pollution produced by cars in real-world driving.


The type of emissions tyres have been found to produce is harmful particulate matter that is almost impossible to see with the naked eye. It’s made up of microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they can be inhaled and cause serious health problems. Particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter – also known as PM2.5 – pose the greatest risk to our health. Exposure can affect both the lungs and heart, with numerous scientific studies linking them to a variety of problems. This includes premature death in people with heart or lung disease, nonfatal heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, aggravated asthma, decreased lung function and wider respiratory symptoms.

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

Putin Saves Erdogan From Himself (Escobar)

At the start of their discussion marathon in Moscow on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with arguably the most extraordinary diplomatic gambit of the young 21st century. Putin said: “At the beginning of our meeting, I would like to once again express my sincere condolences over the death of your servicemen in Syria. Unfortunately, as I have already told you during our phone call, nobody, including Syrian troops, had known their whereabouts.” This is how a true world leader tells a regional leader, to his face, to please refrain from positioning his forces as jihadi supporters – incognito, in the middle of an explosive theater of war. The Putin-Erdogan face-to-face discussion, with only interpreters allowed in the room, lasted three hours, before another hour with the respective delegations.

In the end, it all came down to Putin selling an elegant way for Erdogan to save face – in the form of, what else, yet another ceasefire in Idlib, which started at midnight on Thursday, signed in Turkish, Russian and English – “all texts having equal legal force.” Additionally, on March 15, joint Turkish-Russian patrolling will start along the M4 highway – implying endless mutating strands of al-Qaeda in Syria won’t be allowed to retake it. If this all looks like déjà vu, that’s because it is. Quite a few official photos of the Moscow meeting prominently feature Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu – the other two heavyweights in the room apart from both Presidents. In the wake of Putin, Lavrov and Shoigu must have read the riot act to Erdogan in no uncertain terms.

That’s enough: now behave, please – or else face dire consequences. A predictable feature of the new ceasefire is that both Moscow and Ankara – part of the Astana peace process, alongside Tehran – remain committed to maintaining the “territorial integrity and sovereignty” of Syria. Once again, there’s no guarantee that Erdogan will abide. It’s crucial to recap the basics. Turkey is deep in financial crisis. Ankara needs cash – badly. The lira is collapsing. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) is losing elections. Former prime minister and party leader Ahmet Davutoglu – who conceptualized neo-Ottomanism – has left the party and is carving his own political niche. The AKP is mired in an internal crisis.

Erdogan’s response has been to go on the offensive. That’s how he re-establishes his aura. Combine Idlib with his maritime pretensions around Cyprus and blackmail pressure on the EU via the inundation of Lesbos in Greece with refugees, and we have Erdogan’s trademark modus operandi in full swing. In theory, the new ceasefire will force Erdogan to finally abandon all those myriad al Nusra/ISIS metastases – what the West calls “moderate rebels,” duly weaponized by Ankara. This is an absolute red line for Moscow – and also for Damascus. There will be no territory left behind for jihadis. Iraq is another story: ISIS is still lurking around Kirkuk and Mosul.

[..] No NATO fanatic will ever admit it, but once again it was Russia that just prevented the threatened “Muslim invasion” of Europe advertised by Erdogan. Yet there was never any invasion in the first place, only a few thousand economic migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Sahel, not Syrians. There are no “one million” Syrian refugees on the verge of entering the EU. The EU, proverbially, will keep blabbering. Brussels and most capitals still have not understood that Bashar al-Assad has been fighting al Nusra/ISIS all along. They simply don’t understand the correlation of forces on the ground. Their fallback position is always the scratched CD of “European values.” No wonder the EU is a secondary actor in the whole Syrian tragedy.

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To think there were scores of people who said Hill made so much sense. Very simple questions that remain unanswered: what exactly do the Russians do according to her, and how exactly does that divide Americans? Never an answer, other than “US intelligence believes that…”

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

President Donald Trump’s former top Russia adviser is warning that President Vladimir Putin has America “exactly where he wants us.” “Putin, sadly, has got all of our political class, every single one of us, including the media, exactly where he wants us. He’s got us feeling vulnerable…on edge, and he’s got us questioning the legitimacy of our own systems,” Fiona Hill told CBS’ Lesley Stahl in an interview set to air on “60 Minutes” Sunday. The interview marks the former top White House official’s first since testifying in the impeachment inquiry into Trump. During congressional hearings in the inquiry, Hill warned that the Republican defense of the President — by peddling Ukraine conspiracy theories — was in danger of extending Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

Hill, who left the Trump administration last summer, has studied Russia for decades and is a critical biographer of Putin, authoring or co-authoring a number of books on Russia, including two editions of a book titled “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin. In the interview, Hill said Russia understands how to exploit American divisions. “The Russians didn’t invent partisan divides. The Russians haven’t invented racism in the United States,” Hill said. “But the Russians understand a lot of those divisions, and they understand how to exploit them.” Russian interference in the last presidential election — which the US intelligence community believes was aimed at boosting Trump’s candidacy and hurting his opponent, Hillary Clinton — led to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Part of the election interference included a Russian government-linked troll operation that sought to help Trump’s candidacy and undercut that of Clinton in part by posting messages in support of Sanders. Concerns over the Kremlin’s role in US politics have continued. The US intelligence community has assessed that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election and has separately assessed that Russia views Trump as a leader they can work with. In February, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders also said his campaign was briefed about Russian efforts to help his operation. It was unclear how Russia was attempting to help the Vermont senator.

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

 


 

 

If you read us, please support us. Allow the Automatic Earth to survive. Donate on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Mar 082020
 


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

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

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

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

It’s one of the most urgent questions in the United States right now: How many people have actually been tested for the coronavirus? This number would give a sense of how widespread the disease is, and how forceful a response to it the United States is mustering. But for days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has refused to publish such a count, despite public anxiety and criticism from Congress. On Monday, Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, estimated that “by the end of this week, close to a million tests will be able to be performed” in the United States. On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence promised that “roughly 1.5 million tests” would be available this week.

But the number of tests performed across the country has fallen far short of those projections, despite extraordinarily high demand, The Atlantic has found. “The CDC got this right with H1N1 and Zika, and produced huge quantities of test kits that went around the country,” Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC from 2009 to 2017, told us. “I don’t know what went wrong this time.” Through interviews with dozens of public-health officials and a survey of local data from across the country, The Atlantic could only verify that 1,895 people have been tested for the coronavirus in the United States, about 10 percent of whom have tested positive. And while the American capacity to test for the coronavirus has ramped up significantly over the past few days, local officials can still test only several thousand people a day, not the tens or hundreds of thousands indicated by the White House’s promises.


To arrive at our estimate, we contacted the public-health departments of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. We gathered data on websites, and we corresponded with dozens of state officials. All 50 states and D.C. have made some information available, though the quality and timeliness of the data varied widely. Some states have only committed to releasing their numbers once or three times a week. Most are focused on the number of confirmed cases; only a few have publicized the number of people they are capable of testing. The Atlantic’s numbers reflect the best available portrait of the country’s testing capacity as of early this morning. These numbers provide an accurate baseline, but they are incomplete. Scattered on state websites, the data available are not useful to citizens or political leaders. State-based tallies lack the reliability of the CDC’s traditional—but now abandoned—method of reporting.

[..] Our reporting found that the capacity to test for the coronavirus varies dramatically—and sometimes dangerously—from state to state. California claims the highest testing capacity of any state, and has tested the most individuals so far. As of yesterday afternoon, it had tested 516 people, with 53 positive cases, a spokesperson for the Department of Health told us. The department now has the capacity to test 6,000 people every day, and it expects that capacity to expand to 7,400 people a day starting today, the spokesperson said. Washington State, the site of the country’s largest outbreak thus far, can test roughly 1,000 people a day. The state health department’s laboratory can test 100 people a day; the rest of the testing is being done at the University of Washington’s Virology Lab.


Officials have found 70 positive cases in Washington so far, though a genetic study has estimated that there may be hundreds of untested people who have COVID-19 in the greater Seattle area. Oregon, situated between the California and Washington hot spots, can test only about 40 people a day. Texas has 16 positive cases, according to media reports, but the health department’s website still lists only three cases. The Texas Tribune has reported that the state can test approximately 30 people a day.

Read more …

Everyone up and down the food chain of command should tell their superiors they’ll do it, but only if he/she will be standing there next to them doing the same job, with the same gear and the same protection.

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

As coronavirus cases exploded across the world, federal medical workers tasked with screening incoming passengers at U.S. airports grew alarmed: Many were working without the most effective masks to protect them from getting sick themselves. Screeners with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked their supervisors this week to change official protocols and require stronger masks, according to an internal document reviewed by Reuters. On Friday evening, they learned their worst fears were realized: Two screeners, both working at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), had tested positive for the virus. “Sad news,” a senior quarantine official at the CDC wrote in an email Friday evening to colleagues about the two workers.

The email, reviewed by Reuters and not previously reported, said the two screeners will be quarantined until March 17. “Let us keep our colleagues at LAX in our thoughts.” The news was not surprising to some CDC screeners. “It was bound to happen,” said a veteran CDC medical official involved with screening who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They are assuring us we are safe. If we were safe, screeners would not be getting sick.” The struggles within the CDC, an agency that advises the country’s health systems about how to protect people against the virus, underscore the difficulties confronting health workers across the nation and illustrate a challenge for the Trump administration, which has faced criticism over its response to the outbreak.

[..] The CDC recommends that so-called “secondary” screeners, who meet with passengers who have traveled to certain countries, such as China, wear a surgical mask, gloves and eye protection, Nordlund said. Secondary screeners are advised to stand six feet away from passengers they observe and do not wear the sturdier N95 masks, also known as respirators, because they aren’t exposed to symptomatic travelers, she said. N95 masks are designed to protect screeners from the smaller pathogens such as coronavirus which can penetrate deeper into the lungs. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, surgical masks are not designed to block very small particles, such as those transmitted by coughs and sneezes, and do not provide complete protection because of the loose fit.


Nordlund said that CDC’s guidance calls for screeners who meet with people exhibiting obvious signs of illness to wear N95 respirators and other protective gear. But people infected with the coronavirus do not necessarily exhibit obvious signs of illness. “Surgical masks won’t protect us from getting the virus – they just protect us from infecting someone else,” the CDC medical official involved in screening said. “We want to know why we can’t wear N-95 masks. It’s crazy.” “You might as well have a tissue over your face for all the good it will do,” the official added.

Read more …

Getting close.

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

An attendee at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which U.S. President Donald Trump also attended, has tested positive for COVID-19, the American Conservative Union (ACU) said on Saturday. The exposure occurred prior to the conference held in National Harbor, U.S. state of Maryland, just south of Washington D.C., said the ACU, a conservative grassroots organization, in a statement. A New Jersey hospital tested the person, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the positive result, said the statement. “The individual is under the care of medical professionals in the state of New Jersey, and has been quarantined,” it said. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the gathering, which took place from Feb. 26 to Feb. 29.


Also present at the event were a number of administration and cabinet officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and newly-appointed White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement Saturday that the White House is aware of the attendee testing positive for the virus. “At this time there is no indication that either President Trump or Vice President Pence met with or were in close proximity to the attendee,” Grisham said in a statement. “The president’s physician and United States Secret Service have been working closely with White House Staff and various agencies to ensure every precaution is taken to keep the First Family and the entire White House Complex safe and healthy.”

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

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

In Nebraska, there were dramatic scenes as a woman who tested positive for the virus was rushed from a community hospital to the nation’s leading biocontainment unit at he University of Nebraska Medical Center Omaha. The 36-year-old Nebraska resident was photographed being transported to the facility in a hi-tech isolation pod late Friday. The woman, who is the first person in Nebraska to test positive to coronavirus, is ‘very seriously ill’, according to doctors who spoke with Omaha.com Saturday. A chest CT scan conducted yesterday showed the coronavirus is evolving into acute respiratory distress syndrome (ADRS). The syndrome, which is characterized by a rapid onset of widespread inflammation in the lungs, is often fatal. People with ARDS suffer severe shortness of breath and often are unable to breathe on their own without support from a ventilator.


The woman reportedly traveled to England with her father February 18 to February 27. She began to feel ill on February 25, two days before she flew back to the United States. Doctors say they are still trying to piece together where she went and who she had contact with in the 10 days since she arrived back from overseas. According to doctors, her symptoms were quite mild until this Thursday, when she arrived at a local emergency room. As her condition took a turn for the worse Friday, a decision was made to move her from Omaha’s Methodist Hospital to the to the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit. [..] the woman was place in an isolation pod, made of heavy duty plastic and complete with a dozen ports for ventilators and other tubes. Medics donned plastic face shields, rubber gloves and rain boots as they moved her from the ambulance in a stretcher.


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

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

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

The Italian government is to lockdown the northern region of Lombardy, as it battles to contain the spread of the coronavirus. A draft decree would extend the quarantined areas, so-called “red-zones”, ordering people not to enter or leave the region. The country is grappling to contain Europe’s worst outbreak of Covid-19, which has claimed 233 lives and infected a total of 5,883 people. Italian authorities announced that a new decree containing draconian measures would be approved later on Saturday. It will include the power to impose fines on anyone caught entering or leaving Lombardy, the worst-affected region, until 3 April. People may be allowed in and out for serious reasons. The decree provides for banning all public events, closing cinemas, theatres, gyms, discos and pubs. Religious ceremonies such as funerals and weddings will also be banned.


Rome is also considering prolonging the closure of schools across the country until 3 April, while major sporting events, such as Serie A football games, will be played behind closed doors. The number of coronavirus cases in Italy leapt by more than 1,200 in a 24-hour period, the civil protection agency said on Saturday. It is the biggest daily rise since the outbreak began two weeks ago. The number of cases in the country rose to 5,883 on Saturday from 4,636 announced on Friday, with the spread showing little sign of slowing. In total there are now 5,061 cases, not including those who have died or recovered. The northern regions of Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto are the hardest hit, representing 85% of cases and 92% of recorded deaths. “We will win this battle if our citizens adopt a responsible attitude and change their way of living,” the head of Italy’s civil protection agency, Angelo Borrelli, told a press conference.

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

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

Italy has formally locked down more than a quarter of its population in a bid to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, as the outbreak reached Washington DC and a political convention attended by Donald Trump and Mike Pence. More than 5,800 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Italy, after an alarming increase of more than 1,200 in a single 24-hour period. Two hundred and thirty-three people have died. Almost 100 countries are now responding to outbreaks. In the early hours of Sunday, Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte signed a decree enacting forced quarantine for the region of Lombardy – home to more than 10 million people and the financial capital, Milan – and multiple other provinces, totalling around 16 million residents.

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

Affected provinces include Venice, Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia, Rimini, Pesaro and Urbino, Alessandria, Asti, Novara, Verbano Cusio Ossola, Vercelli, Padua, and Treviso. The lockdown decree includes the power to impose fines on anyone caught entering or leaving Lombardy, the worst-affected region, until 3 April. It provides for the banning of all public events, closing cinemas, theatres, gyms, discos and pubs. Religious ceremonies such as funerals and weddings will also be prohibited, and leave for healthcare workers has been cancelled. Rome is also prolonging the closure of schools across the country until at least 3 April, while major sporting events, such as Serie A football games, will be played behind closed doors.

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And forget about soccer Eurocup, Olympics etc.

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

The President of Italy’s players’ union (AIC) has called for soccer to be stopped in the country amid reports that the entire region of Lombardy will be locked down as part of efforts to tackle the coronavirus outbreak. The Italian government has ordered all sporting competitions to be played behind closed doors until April 3 in a bid to control the spread of the disease, which has killed around 200 people in the country. And tough new measures are expected to be approved on Saturday that will tell people not to enter or leave Lombardy, home to around 10 million people, as well as 11 provinces in four other regions.


Damiano Tommasi, head of the players’ union, responded to the news on Twitter by posting a link to the story and issuing a plea to stop games from going ahead. He wrote: “Let’s stop the league!! Do we need anything else? Stop football!!” Tommasi also issued a statement on the AIC website earlier in the day outlining his concerns for players’ welfare. “There is a risk for players and we must take all precautions for the security of those who play: on the pitch you certainly can’t stay at a distance of one meter away. “But every measure must be taken to guarantee the safety of everyone at the stadium, including staff and personnel, to reduce the risks.

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A long time coming.

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

Lebanon is to default on a foreign debt payment for the first time in its history as the country struggles with a major financial crisis. Prime Minister Hassan Diab said Lebanon would not be making a bond payment of $1.2bn due on Monday. “The debt has become bigger than Lebanon can bear, and bigger than the ability of the Lebanese to meet interest payments,” Mr Diab said. Lebanon has been struggling since the value of its currency plummeted. The Lebanese pound has been losing value against the dollar for months, in part because the country’s banks have been reluctant to convert local pounds to dollars – leading to an increase in demand for the latter.


This issue with foreign exchange has led to importers having difficulty accessing goods, which have become more expensive. Those with savings have also been affected by the drop in value of the local currency. In a live televised address on Saturday, Mr Diab said that negotiations to restructure the country’s debt, which stands at more than $30bn, would continue “with all creditors… in a manner consistent with the national interest”. Mr Diab added that more than 40% of the population could soon be in poverty as Lebanon tackles its worst economic crisis in decades.

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

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

Hezbollah believes that terms required by any IMF bailout package for Lebanon would spark “a popular revolution”, a senior official said on Tuesday, rejecting such a step and calling instead for a “national solution” to a deep economic crisis. Lebanon is in the throes of an unprecedented economic crisis, the result of long-entrenched corruption and bad governance that have landed the state with one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens. Hezbollah, a heavily armed Shi’ite group which is backed by Iran and designated a terrorist organization by Washington, is one of the main backers of a new government that has sought technical but not financial aid from the International Monetary Fund.


Long-standing financial backer France said last week it was looking at options to support Lebanon, including through an IMF program if Beirut sought one. Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah told Reuters the group was against the type of terms typically imposed by the IMF as part of a bailout such as taxes, privatization, reducing the size of the public sector and halting subsidies. “The position is not toward the Fund as an international financial institution but on the terms offered to Lebanon, because they will lead to a popular revolution,” he said. “Our position is against this type of program and not against the Fund as an organization.”

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Most notable: Erdogan keeps the peace for now.

US Blocks UN Statement Backing Syria Ceasefire (Ditz)

The ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib Province took effect on Friday, and has been holding so far. With every other nation on board, the US blocked a joint UN statement backing the ceasefire, saying it was “premature” to do so. The ceasefire was brokered by Turkey and Russia, and that’s almost certainly the problem from the US perspective. The US broadly refuses to back any Syria agreements Russia is involved in. US officials had also been loudly backing Turkey’s military offensive in Idlib, and probably aren’t happy that Turkey has made a deal not to go to war. US officials weren’t super on board with directly participating in a Turkey-instigated war, but were only too happy to give lip-service to it. Having the UN back a ceasefire, even if it is one not expected to necessarily survive, is usually the norm, though the US may find, in seeking backing for its Afghan deal, they may face similar resistance.

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

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

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has had his relatives arrested for plotting a coup against him and King Salman with the help of “foreign powers, including the Americans,” Western media claim. RT asked Middle East analysts to weigh in. Three senior members of the Saudi Royal family were arrested on Friday, several Western media outlets have reported, citing sources. The list of detainees includes prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, the younger brother of King Salman, Mohammed bin Nayef, the king’s nephew and former crown prince, and Nawaf bin Nayef, the younger half-brother of Prince Nayef, as reported by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has allegedly accused them of treason, namely “conducting contacts with foreign powers, including the Americans and others, to carry out a coup d’etat” against King Salman and his son, Reuters, which has also picked up the news, added, citing own sources. While Western media is not above publishing unverified rumors about the ‘regimes’ they dislike, some of which have turned out to be utterly fake, there is no easy way to verify reports on the secretive world of Saudi court affairs. One has to bear in mind the possibility someone in Riyadh has purposefully fed the news to the media. While the reports of the high-profile arrests have yet to be confirmed by Saudi Arabia, they wouldn’t be unprecedented.


The allegations of foreign involvement may be meant for domestic consumption in Saudi Arabia and nothing to do with international politics, believes Sergey Balmasov from the Moscow-based Institute for the Near East. “What other foreign meddler could they have named? Accusing, for example Iran would have not been credible,” he explained. The US has great influence in the Saudi military and intelligence services, thanks to decades of training their members, Balmasov added. So if the US as a nation were actually determined to effect a regime change in Saudi Arabia, “a different person would have now been in the palace.” If the US really needed this, a bloodless coup would have happened already, and I’m sure many Americans wouldn’t have even noticed.

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

Saudi Arabia Starts All-Out Oil War (ZH)

With the commodity world still smarting from the Nov 2014 Saudi decision to (temporarily) break apart OPEC, and flood the market with oil in (failed) hopes of crushing US shale producers (who survived thanks to generous banks extending loan terms and even more generous buyers of junk bonds), which nonetheless resulted in a painful manufacturing recession as the price of Brent cratered as low as the mid-$20’s in late 2015/early 2016, on Saturday, Saudi Arabia launched its second scorched earth, or rather scorched oil campaign in 6 years. And this time there will be blood.

Following Friday’s shocking collapse of OPEC+, when Russia and Riyadh were unable to reach an agreement during the OPEC+ summit in Vienna which was seeking up to 1.5 million b/d in further oil production cuts, on Saturday Saudi Arabia kick started what Bloomberg called an all-out oil war, slashing official pricing for its crude and making the deepest cuts in at least 20 years on its main grades, in an effort to push as many barrels into the market as possible. In the first major marketing decision since the meeting, the Saudi state producer Aramco, which successfully IPOed just before the price of oil cratered launched unprecedented discounts and cut its April pricing for crude sales to Asia by $4-$6 a barrel and to the U.S. by a whopping $7 a barrel in attempts to steal market share from 3rd party sources, according to a copy of the announcement seen by Bloomberg.


In the most significant move, Aramco widened the discount for its flagship Arab Light crude to refiners in north-west Europe by a hefty $8 a barrel, offering it at $10.25 a barrel under the Brent benchmark. In contrast, Urals, the Russian flagship crude blend, trades at a discount of about $2 a barrel under Brent. Traders said the Saudi move was a direct attack at the ability of Russian companies to sell crude in Europe. Confirming the obvious, Iman Nasseri, managing director for the Middle East at oil consultant FGE said “Saudi Arabia is now really going into a full price war.”

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Mar 012020
 


John Waterhouse Diogenes 1882

 

 

This is a new essay from Alexander Aston. He describes how once the world has passed through the -narrow- bottleneck of the coronavirus and its effects on our societies, which are long overdue for a redo, and on the central bank-engineered distortions of the markets that are -make that were- supposed to be the foundation that allowed us to flourish, there will be a better world waiting.

I’m all for it, and I have no rational issues with it either, but when I read“..these are the moments at which humans are the most creative and most inspiring”, my warped mind can’t NOT think: ..yes, we’re moving towards a better world, and we’re terribly sorry that you didn’t make the cut..”

Here’s Alexander:

 

 

Dear Raúl, I hope you are well. Things are all right on my side. Submitted my thesis, am being examined by the heads of Archaeology for both Cambridge and Oxford, which is a huge, albeit intimidating complement. Otherwise, just watching the world come unglued, so I wrote you something to put up if you like it. All the best – Alex

 

 

“A mighty space it was, with gigantic machines here and there within it, huge mounds of material and strange shelter places.


And scattered about it, some in their overturned warmachines, some in the now rigid handling-machines, and a dozen of them stark and silent and laid in a row, were the Martians—dead!—slain by the putrefactive and disease bacteria against which their systems were unprepared; slain as the red weed was being slain; slain, after all man’s devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in His wisdom, has put upon this earth.”

– HG Wells

 

 

It took until the first two months of 2020 for the long Twentieth Century to finally come to an end. One thing now seems absolutely clear, this will be the decade that the majority finally come to understand that things are never going back to “normal.” To be sure, the complex entanglements of institutions, narratives, cultural practices, and economic relationships that emerged during the previous century have been under immense strain these past two decades. Enormous effort has been expended to maintain the inertia of the global system, from the immense violence of imperial politics and regime change wars, to the more subtle violence of economic dispossession by a privileged elite that control the mechanisms of power.

A few years of relative, but diminishing stability were bought at great expense. Authoritarianism, rentier feudalism, political corruption, regional instability, distrust, anger, and disbelief have wormed their way into every facet of our global society. The cost of refusing to adapt, for the benefit of a very select few, is immense systemic fragility. It is fitting that the hubris, intransigence and bankruptcy of imagination in our modern political economy shall finally be brought low by a microscopic organism.

Some will read this and misunderstand me and believe that I am being apocalyptic about the physical illness brought about by the coronavirus. The virus is serious, and will have dramatic consequences, but it is no black death. The virus is a catalyst, something beyond our agency to control which is triggering cascading changes in a system that has been rotting for some time. As an archaeologist, if I found evidence of intensive and intersecting energetic, ecological and economic disruptions in society, what I would expect to find at the end of those stratigraphic layers is a new cultural phase.

 

That is, I would expect a very different kind of society and culture, albeit causally linked, from that which preceded it. Another way to frame this is that periods of systemic collapse and reorganisation generate new forms of social psychology, new narratives, beliefs and practices. A new epoch is here, and we will all quickly learn that we are very different kinds of people than we thought we were. Soon, things will start looking radically different from what we have known to be the order of things. States, institutions, practices and beliefs that once seemed permanent fixtures of our world will be swept away.

This may seem extreme, the momentum of history has not fully tipped us over the edge yet, which allows psychological space for defaulting to normalcy bias. The problem is that causality is not linear, and it does not operate at singular scales. What we are experiencing has been building for decades, but the synergy of these causal processes, their true emergent effects are about to become fully apparent. The virus is a spark, not the cause, and it is breaking down the last reinforcing bonds holding the global system together. If the ruling class had not been debasing our societies and parasitizing their citizenries for decades, our social resiliency to this pandemic would be much higher. High energy production costs, low demand, and low consumption have been masked by systemic financial fraud.

Instead of innovation, we have spent decades investing in a Potemkin economy. We are about to find out that, despite all our mathematical abstractions and sorcery, the hardcore material basis of our economies rules supreme. Simply put, one cannot shut down countries like China for months on end without powerful material ramifications. Supply chains are going to be severely disrupted, and this is going to implode the illusion of the financialised economy along with our disastrously entwined energy systems. People are going to have difficulty accessing everything from car parts to asthma inhalers, and this is going to shake their fundamental understanding of how the world works. People will be scared, they will be angry, and their final vestiges of faith in the system will begin to collapse.

 

The problem goes deeper than mere economic implosion, it goes to basic principles of trust and belief. Human history is a story of an incredible capacity to self-organise and work collectively. However, this requires collective attention upon shared forms of value, narratives and cultural practices that raise levels of trust necessary for stable social relationships to be organised. Faith in the promise of our societies has been severely eroded on all sides these past few years. People still believe in their societies, but just barely, and usually based on the misapprehension that either they can undo the damage or that their chosen leaders will solve all the problems.

Our narratives have been fundamentally shaken and fractured, but soon they will start collapsing and it is going to be very difficult to rebuild trust once they finally give. Our collective faith in the system will break down completely with the loss of the shared forms of value through which we incorporate ourselves into our social relationships and ensure our well-being; those things that glue our collective narratives together. This is when we will be most vulnerable to social violence, because we won’t know whom to trust, and we will be desperate to survive the upheaval. This is also when radically new forms of organisation will begin to emerge, as people build coalitions and communities to meet new challenges. These relationships will become the bedrock for new cultural relationships.

It is hard to tell exactly what happens, but there are a few predictions that are within reason. Prolonged quarantines could result in cascading defaults from the bottom up while severe supply chain disruptions have the ability to trigger institutional defaults. Likewise, the slowdown in air travel could potentially send Boeing into a complete tailspin. Regardless, we are liable to see massive deflationary pressures in everything other than essential goods. What’s more, the virus will probably devastate countries weakened by imperialist intervention and sanctioning. Places such as Syria and Yemen are very likely to see truly horrific outbreaks due to their obliterated social infrastructure.

 

The virus could also potentially collapse the weakened Iranian state. Ironically, the zero-sum logics of Empire have created conditions through which the pandemic can entrench and project itself. This raises another horrifying possibility, that certain sociopaths will use the synergetic fears of refugees and contagion as political weapons. This will only lead to atrocities against the most vulnerable. Furthermore, the fact that the Coronavirus has established itself in Italy, the most fragile of Europe’s major economies, is a harsh twist of fate. The shutdown of the country is likely to lead to major financial contagion in the Eurozone and place pressures upon core principals such as freedom of movement. Either the European Union will break apart in this process or it will transform into something very different than it has been.

Another likely outcome is that the American health profiteering system will finally be shown for the utter social failure that it is. The infection is liable to spread in a country where people refuse treatment because they are afraid of bankruptcy. Finally, if the virus is not contained, it could very well affect the U.S. elections. The loss of political legitimacy could make the country ungovernable given the social antagonisms surrounding the candidates. At the end of the day, our cultural logics have fetishized competition and treated our societies as zero-sum games designed to provide luxury communism for billionaires and debt slavery for the rest of us. It is not surprising that it is greed, selfishness and entitlement that are undoing our societies, we have failed the prisoners dilemma and now we are being sentenced.

We live in a moment of radical historical change, but do not despair. Things will be difficult, but these are the moments at which humans are the most creative and most inspiring. We will see hard, sometimes brutal things, but we are also going to see new kinds of beauty brought into this world. We must hold on to that, we must hold on to a sense of vision and endeavour, that something better is still possible. More than anything, take care of each other. The future belongs to those who know how to cooperate best, how to share effectively, how to generate new forms of value, new narratives, new communities. We are at the end of the beginning and much will depend on our choices, our courage and our compassion in the coming years. I wish all of you luck and solidarity as we become Twenty-First Century people.

 

 

I know about Persia and Xenophon,
Egypt and the Sudan,
But I prefer to be caressed
By fresh mountain air.

I know the age old history
Of human grudges,
But I prefer the bees that fly
Among the bellflowers.

I know the songs that breezes sing
In the chattering branches;
Don’t tell me that I lie –
I do prefer them.

I know about the frightened buck
Returned to its pen, expiring;
I know that weary hearts die darkly
But free from anger.

– José Martí

 

 

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