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.)

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.”

Read more …

“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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

“..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.

Read more …

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.”

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

These people have zero connection to reality.

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

A Perfect Storm Of Nationalism And Financial Speculation (Varoufakis)

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

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

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

Read more …

Maybe electric cars should run on electric tires?

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

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


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

Read more …

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

Putin Saves Erdogan From Himself (Escobar)

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

 


 

 

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Mar 082020
 


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

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Getting close.

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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


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


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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

And forget about soccer Eurocup, Olympics etc.

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

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


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

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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.

Read more …

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

Saudi Arabia Starts All-Out Oil War (ZH)

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

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


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

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

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Mar 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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Feb 192020
 


Arthur Siegel Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. Liberty ship construction. Welding on a hatch assembly at night. 1943

 

Elderly Guests Leave First As Diamond Princess Quarantine Ends In Japan (SCMP)
Japan Releases First 500 ‘Diamond Princess’ Passengers (ZH)
Coronavirus Up To 20 Times More Likely Than Sars To Bind To Human Cells (SCMP)
Russia To Ban Entry Of Chinese Nationals To Halt Virus (AP)
Foreign Pilots At Chinese Airlines Return Home On Unpaid Leave (R.)
Xi Jinping, Under Fire From Virus Outbreak, Also Faces Economic Crisis (CNBC)
Trump Commutes Prison Sentence Of Rod Blagojevich (AP)
Fox Has Been “More Fair”: Why Bernie’s Team Has Had It With MSNBC (VF)
The Magic Of Retirement Is Gone (Alhambra)
Boeing Finds Debris In Fuel Tanks Of Undelivered 737 MAX Planes (CNBC)
After Learning Of Whitey Bulger LSD Tests, Juror Has Regrets (AP)
EU To Unveil Plans To Boost European Firms, Rein In US Tech Giants (R.)
Britain’s Row With Greece Over Treasures Spills Into Brexit Tensions (R.)
Religion is a Repeating Chapter in the History of Politics (CP)

 

 

• Cases 73,433 75,197 (+ 1,764 from yesterday)

• Deaths 2,010 (+ 137 from yesterday)

• Second death in Hong Kong

 

 

 

How old do you have to be to count among the “elderly” on a cruise ship?

Elderly Guests Leave First As Diamond Princess Quarantine Ends In Japan (SCMP)

Passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship on Wednesday began disembarking after a controversial two-week quarantine period in Yokohama that raised questions about the Japanese government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. The disembarkation of nearly 3,000 people was expected to take three days at least, according to the government. In the first group, some 500 mainly elderly passengers who have tested negative for the virus will leave the ship after final check-ups with doctors. The cruise ship was initially carrying about 3,700 passengers and crew from more than 50 countries and regions. The number of cases confirmed on board increased day by day, reaching 542 on Tuesday.


Those found to be infected with the pneumonia-causing virus have been transported to medical facilities. Test samples have now been collected from all passengers, the health ministry said. Disembarking passengers will be transported to Yokohama and other train stations in the area. Those who have had close contact with infected people on the ship will be kept on board for the time being for further monitoring even though they have tested negative. The ship’s operator will decide when crew who have not been infected will leave the ship, according to the ministry. With some passengers planning to stay on the ship it was unclear when their quarantines would end.

Read more …

“..it was a mess on board, and the mess is now moving off board..”

Japan Releases First 500 ‘Diamond Princess’ Passengers (ZH)

Japanese health authorities are beginning the process of offloading the remaining 2,000+ passengers and crew aboard the ‘Diamond Princess’, a ship that has been under quarantine for 14 days. The offloading will take place in phases over three days, finally wrapping up on Friday. The first 500 people are set to leave at around 10:30 am Tokyo time on Wednesday. There will be no preference given to different nationalities, according to Japan’s Ministry of Health. Many who depart will be subject to another 14 days of quarantine, including any Americans who elected to stay on the ship instead of traveling back to the US on the evac flight. Roughly 40 Americans were also excluded from that flight because they were being treated for the virus in a Japanese hospital.

So far, 542 people – including at least 14 of the 300 or so Americans who traveled back to the US on Monday in Japan – have tested positive for the virus. And while Japan says it has tested everybody aboard, doctors and experts say there’s no way to certain that people being released won’t be carrying the virus – hence the quarantines when they return home. But where will they go between now and then? And with no immediate after-care plans – at least none that have been publicly disclosed, it looks like Japan is about to set thousands of people aboard the most infected environment outside China loose in Tokyo. Of course, Japanese authorities are so paranoid about the Olympics, one would think they would be doing everything in their power to stop an outbreak in Tokyo, especially at such a sensitive time.

About 500 people are set to leave the ship from around 10:30 a.m. Tokyo time on Wednesday, with no preference given to any particular nationality, Japan’s Health Ministry said. Hopefully, health officials will manage to convince the world that they successfully screened for the virus. The ship was first quarantined on Feb. 5 more than a week after a man who tested positive for the virus in Hong Kong disembarked. Journalists have shared stories of desperation and paranoia from those trapped on the ship, making it sound like such a nightmare that many who read those stories may never want to travel on a cruise.

In other news, Yonhap reported minutes ago that South Korea has another 15 cases, increasing the countries total by roughly one-third to 46 one day after the country’s president warned of an “economic emergency” as companies like Hyundai suffer from supply shortages from China. The South Korean government has already announced a fiscal stimulus package to help companies hurt by the virus.

Read more …

ACE2, the receptor much more common among Asian people.

Coronavirus Up To 20 Times More Likely Than Sars To Bind To Human Cells (SCMP)

The deadly new coronavirus is up to 20 times more likely to bind to human cell receptors and cause infection than severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), a new study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin has found. The novel coronavirus and Sars share the same functional host-cell receptor, called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). The report, published on the website bioRxiv on Saturday, said the new coronavirus had around 10 to 20-fold higher affinity – the degree to which a substance tends to combine with another – for human ACE2 compared with Sars. But the researchers added that further studies were needed to explore the human host-cell receptor’s role in helping the new virus to spread from person to person.

“Compared with SARS-CoV, 2019-nCoV appears to be more readily transmitted from human to human,” the report of the study said. “The high affinity of 2019-nCoV S for human ACE2 may contribute to the apparent ease with which 2019-nCoV can spread from human to human.” The disease caused by the new coronavirus, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) has named Covid-19, has killed more than 1,800 people and infected over 70,000 worldwide. The number of Covid-19 deaths is more than double the global figure of 813 attributed by the WHO to the Sars epidemic of 2002-03.

The new study found that although the novel coronavirus’ receptor-binding domain (RBD) had a relatively similar structure to that of Sars, it did not have appreciable binding to three published Sars RBD-specific monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), which are copies of one type of antibody used to neutralise pathogens. The researchers said this suggested antibody cross-reactivity – the extent to which different antigens appear similar to the immune system – may be limited between the two virus RBDs, meaning Sars-directed mAbs will not necessarily work against the new virus.Instead, they identified the spike protein of coronaviruses, which is essential to gain entry into host cells during the infection process, as the most important target for vaccines, therapeutic antibodies and diagnostics.

Read more …

How long before the rest of the world follows?

Russia To Ban Entry Of Chinese Nationals To Halt Virus (AP)

Russia will temporarily ban Chinese nationals from entering the country due to the virus outbreak centered in China that has infected more than 73,000 people worldwide, Russian authorities said Tuesday. The entry ban goes into effect Thursday at midnight Moscow time (2100 GMT) for an indefinite period, according to a decree signed by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. The government said it took the move due to the “worsening epidemiological situation” in China. Russia already had cut off most Chinese visitors by closing the long land border with China and Mongolia and imposing other travel restrictions. The new entry ban won’t affect travelers who need to transfer flights at Russian airports, authorities said.


So far, Russia has had only three confirmed cases of the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus — two Chinese citizens who were treated and released, and a Russian national infected on the Diamond Princess cruise ship now quarantined in Japan. However, Russian authorities have taken significant steps to try to keep the virus from spreading, including hospitalizing hundreds of people as a precaution after they returned from China. Russia halted most air traffic to China, suspended all trains to China and North Korea, and temporarily stopped issuing work visas to Chinese citizens. Chinese students studying in Russia were told not to return until March 1.

Read more …

Perspective: 1,500 foreign pilots in 2019, double from 2010. In next 20 years, 6,000 pilots needed every year. Guess they won’t be foreigners.

Foreign Pilots At Chinese Airlines Return Home On Unpaid Leave (R.)

Foreign pilots at some Chinese airlines have returned to their home countries and are considering other jobs after being placed on unpaid leave as demand falls because of the coronavirus, affected flight crew told Reuters. Meanwhile, Chinese pilots with greater job security said their income has been sharply reduced because most of their pay is based on flying hours. Data firm OAG estimates about 80% of scheduled airline capacity to, from and within China has been cut this week because of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that has killed more than 2,000 people. Chinese airlines have been the hardest hit. Major employers of foreign pilots, including China Southern Airlines and HNA Group’s Hainan Airlines, have acted swiftly to cut their losses, according to pilots and industry experts.

“All the foreign pilots are on leave until the virus situation gets better,” said an expatriate captain at China Southern who, like all of those who spoke to Reuters, requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with media. “For the moment we are all in our home countries.” Expats are typically paid more than local staff and work on contracts, which means they are more expendable in a downturn, industry experts said. “We have seen pilots heading back to Australia in January and February due to the stand down and seeking new roles,” said Kirsty Ferguson, the head of Sydney-based airline interview coaching firm Pinstripe Solutions.

[..] the number of foreign pilots flying with Chinese airlines more than doubled to over 1,500 between 2010 and 2019, according the Civil Aviation Administration of China. China will need another 124,000 pilots in the next 20 years, according to Boeing, as an expanding middle class drives demand for air travel. But foreign pilots said being put on leave without pay makes it less likely they’ll return when demand recovers.

Read more …

Simple really: companies have a few weeks supplies and parts in stock. Then chains start to break.

Xi Jinping, Under Fire From Virus Outbreak, Also Faces Economic Crisis (CNBC)

Already under heavy fire as the coronavirus outbreak shutters factories, disrupts supply chains and is set to shock China’s already-slowing economy, Chinese President Xi Jinping, it seems, is also under pressure to still deliver the country’s promised growth. In a speech delivered Feb. 3 and released over the weekend, Xi said: “Currently, we still have to deliver this year’s economic and social targets.” Last year, China’s growth dropped to its slowest pace in nearly three decades. Xi, according to a translation of his remarks, said those tasks must still be “done well,” with a message for provinces — other than those most severely affected by the outbreak — to keep a balancing act: Control the epidemic, but make sure they are fulfilling reform and development goals.

The Chinese government could face an “economic crisis” if the outbreak doesn’t abate, The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) wrote in a note last Friday, before the Xi speech was published. Public frustration could “escalate dangerously” if the outbreak proves to be uncontrollable by the end of March, EIU wrote. It said the economic costs of China’s shutdown as it seeks to contain the epidemic will be apparent at that point. “At that point, the central authorities will not have room to pin the blame on local officials, given that they will have been directing the crisis response for longer than two months,” the EIU note said, adding it could be why Xi is now taking “more personal control” over the crisis.

Earlier this month, over half of China extended shutdowns to contain the outbreak. Last year, those parts of China accounted for more than 80% of national GDP and 90% of exports. That disruption of the world’s manufacturing hub has severely hit supply chains globally, with companies still dealing with the fallout. As China struggles to get back on its feet, with factories starting to reopen and workers trickling back, progress is slow. Returning workers need to follow quarantine orders, meaning factories are still operating at limited capacity. “Many smaller companies have stated that they will not be able to survive beyond the first quarter of the year in the current business climate,” the EIU wrote. “Besides a health crisis, the authorities could face an economic crisis, with implications for incomes and jobs.”

Read more …

Throwing in Blagojevich with Stone, Flynn, Manafort. Hmmm.

Trump Commutes Prison Sentence Of Rod Blagojevich (AP)

U.S. President Donald Trump has gone on a clemency blitz, commuting what he called a “ridiculous” 14-year prison sentence for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and pardoning former New York Police Department commissioner Bernie Kerik, among a long list of others. Others who got a break from Mr. Trump include financier Michael Milken, who served two years in prison in the early 1990s after pleading guilty to violating U.S. securities laws, and Edward DeBartolo Jr., the former San Francisco 49ers owner convicted in a gambling fraud scandal after building one of the most successful NFL teams in history.

In all, Mr. Trump took clemency actions related to 11 people, his latest interventions in the justice system as he is under growing fire for weighing in on the cases of former aides. Mr. Trump made clear that he saw similarities between efforts to investigate his own conduct and those who took down Mr. Blagojevich, a Democrat who appeared on Mr. Trump’s reality TV show, Celebrity Apprentice. “It was a prosecution by the same people – Comey, Fitzpatrick, the same group,” Mr. Trump said. He was referring to Patrick Fitzgerald, the former U.S. lawyer who prosecuted Mr. Blagojevich and now represents former FBI Director James Comey, whom Mr. Trump fired from the agency in May, 2017.

[..] Mr. Trump said he had yet to think about pardoning his long-time confidant Roger Stone, who is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday, or granting clemency to several former aides who have ended up in legal jeopardy, including his former campaign manager Paul Manafort and disgraced former national security adviser Mike Flynn. “Somebody has to stick up for the people,” Mr. Trump said. As for Mr. Stone, in particular, he added: You’re going to see what happens. I think he’s treated unfairly.”

Read more …

Their approach to Bernie is similar to that of Trump. But Bernie picks their side when it comes to the latter. That’s his main blind spot: Trump and Russia.

Fox Has Been “More Fair”: Why Bernie’s Team Has Had It With MSNBC (VF)

Faiz Shakir had seen enough. As summer turned to fall, and the 2020 Democratic presidential race entered the stretch run before the first caucuses and primaries, Shakir, who manages Bernie Sanders’s campaign, approached MSNBC president Phil Griffin to discuss his concerns with the network’s treatment of the Vermont senator’s second White House bid. “We watched a ton of terrible coverage occurring and we thought we’d at least try to address it,” he recalled For months, the campaign bristled at slights from MSNBC’s stable of hosts and commentators. Jason Johnson, an MSNBC contributor, predicted in January 2019 that Sanders would drop out by August, and network analyst Mimi Rocah said in July that Sanders made her “skin crawl.”

On-screen graphics have omitted Sanders and misrepresented his poll numbers, a trend that inspired a sendup from the Onion. “It’s been a struggle to change the tone and the tenor of the coverage that we receive,” Shakir said in an interview. “They’ve been among the last to acknowledge that Bernie Sanders’s path to the nomination is real, and even when it’s become real, they frequently discount it.” (A study from progressive magazine In These Times buttresses Shakir’s critique). Sanders also attended the off-the-record discussion with Griffin; an MSNBC spokesperson said the network has hosted similar meetings with other Democratic candidates. Shakir said the 30 Rock chat was “open” and “cordial,” but now, months later, he’s “not sure it really changed anything.”

Sanders has long contended that the agenda of “corporate media” doesn’t necessarily reflect the people’s needs, and his 2020 campaign has doubled as a rolling media criticism shop. On Twitter, Sanders’s speechwriter David Sirota, a veteran reporter, has become a one-man rapid-response machine; last week, he chided a New York Times reporter for downplaying Sanders’s victory in the New Hampshire primary. Several key campaign figures hail from the media’s left flank: deputy campaign manager Ari Rabin-Havt (Media Matters), national press secretary Briahna Joy Gray (The Intercept), and Shakir (ThinkProgress). Sanders himself has suggested that the Washington Post “doesn’t write particularly good articles about” him because of his efforts to raise the minimum wage at Amazon, the company founded by the newspaper’s owner, Jeff Bezos. He’s also railed against networks taking Big Pharma ads while on the debate stage.

Entering Wednesday’s debate in Las Vegas, which will be cohosted by MSNBC and NBC News, the ongoing tension between the titular liberal cable news network and the current Democratic front-runner has only intensified, and appears symptomatic of generational and ideological rifts within the party. It is at once a test of both MSNBC’s influence over the process and Sanders’s ability to withstand establishment resistance. Shakir said unflattering coverage on MSNBC has been “actively damaging” to the campaign. “The constant diminishment of Bernie Sanders on MSNBC,” he added, “hurts his case for electability.”

Read more …

1) “..medical costs for a couple are estimated to be $200,000 during their retirement years..”

2) 70-80% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.

3) Nuff said.

The pension Ponzi will grind to a halt. And as these things go, that will happen sooner than you expect.

The Magic Of Retirement Is Gone (Alhambra)

Social Security hasn’t considered 65 as full retirement age for a long time. The last workers who received full Social Security benefits at that age were born in 1937. For people born in 1938 and beyond, full retirement age has been increasing by 2 months per year up to those born in 1960 and after, when full retirement age caps at 67. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016, almost 27% of Americans between 65 and 74 were still working. That’s projected to exceed 30% by 2026. And the number of people 75 and older who continue to work has gone from 6.4% in 2006 to 8.4% in 2016, projected to hit almost 11% by 2026. Why is it happening? Some people continue working to have something to do. I’ve talked to people still in the workforce, and some who retired and went back to work.

They say, “There’s only so much golf you can plan and so many fish you can catch.” They were bored. They needed something to do. Some continue to work so they’ll have health insurance. But the majority of people still working are doing it because they have to. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that almost 29% of households age 55 and older don’t have anything saved for retirement and they don’t have a pension. The National Institute on Retirement Security calculated the number. That means 40 million U.S. households have no retirement savings at all. The Employee Research Institute estimates that all households with a head of household between 25 and 64 years old, cumulative, are $4.3 trillion short of what they need for retirement.

Among households that do have retirement accounts, The Federal Reserve found the median account balance was $60,000. When you consider medical costs for a couple are estimated to be $200,000 during their retirement years—Not Good. Numbers from the Social Security Administration (SSA) show 50% of retired couples and 70% of unmarried elderly receive 50% of their income from Social Security. Among all Social Security beneficiaries, 21% of married couples and 45% of unmarried persons rely on Social Security for 90% of their income.

Read more …

“Boeing produced some 400 MAX planes since the grounding..” Well, no more. Maybe the workers were thinking: those planes will never be delivered anyway.

Boeing Finds Debris In Fuel Tanks Of Undelivered 737 MAX Planes (CNBC)

Boeing has told employees that it discovered foreign-object debris in fuel tanks of “several” 737 Max planes the manufacturer has in storage, CNBC learned Tuesday. Foreign object debris “is absolutely unacceptable,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes executive Mark Jenks, a vice president and general manager of the 737 program and Renton production facility, according to the company’s website, said in a note to employees. “One escape is one too many. “With your help and focus, we will eliminate FOD from our production system,” he wrote. The company plans to investigate the foreign objects in the tanks and said that the discovery won’t impact the plane’s return to service.


“The success of this initiative is dependent on you. We need our entire team to make this a priority. Thank you for your commitment to put safety, quality and integrity into everything we do,” Jenks wrote. The Federal Aviation Administration said it was aware that Boeing “is conducting a voluntary” inspection for debris in the undelivered aircraft “as part of the company’s ongoing efforts to ensure manufacturing quality.” “The agency increased its surveillance based on initial inspection reports and will take further action based on the findings,” the agency said in a statement. Boeing also plans to inspect all undelivered 737 Max planes. Boeing produced some 400 Max planes since the grounding last year until it halted production last month. The company suspended delivery of the new planes after regulators grounded them worldwide ..

Read more …

He signed up for the trial.
The CIA “dosed” him over 50 times.
“He didn’t murder prior to the LSD. His brain may have been altered..”.
But his lawyers never brought up LSD in his trial.

After Learning Of Whitey Bulger LSD Tests, Juror Has Regrets (AP)

One of the jurors who convicted notorious crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger says she regrets her decision after learning that he was an unwitting participant in a covert CIA experiment with LSD. Bulger terrorized Boston from the 1970s into the 1990s with a campaign of murder, extortion, and drug trafficking, then spent 16 years on the lam after he was tipped to his pending arrest. In 2013, Janet Uhlar was one of 12 jurors who found Bulger guilty in a massive racketeering case, including involvement in 11 murders, even after hearing evidence that the mobster was helped by corrupt agents in the Boston office of the FBI. But now Uhlar says she regrets voting to convict Bulger on any of the murder charges.

Her regret stems from a cache of more than 70 letters Bulger wrote to her from prison. In some, he describes his unwitting participation in a secret CIA experiment with LSD. In a desperate search for a mind control drug in the late 1950s, the agency dosed Bulger with the powerful hallucinogen more than 50 times when he was serving his first stretch in prison — something his lawyers never brought up in his federal trial. “Had I known, I would have absolutely held off on the murder charges,” Uhlar told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “He didn’t murder prior to the LSD. His brain may have been altered, so how could you say he was really guilty?” At the same time, Uhlar says she would have voted to convict Bulger on the long list of other criminal counts, meaning he still would likely have died in prison.

Uhlar has spoken publicly about her regret before but says her belief that the gangster was wrongly convicted on the murder charges was reinforced after reading a new book by Brown University professor Stephen Kinzer: “Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control.” The book digs into the dark tale of the CIA’s former chief chemist and his attempts to develop mind control techniques by giving LSD and other drugs to unsuspecting individuals, including colleagues, and observing the effects. [..] Gottlieb’s secret program, known as MK-ULTRA, enlisted doctors and other subcontractors to administer LSD in large doses to prisoners, addicts and others unlikely to complain. In Bulger’s case, the mobster and fellow inmates were offered reduced time for their participation and told they would be taking part in medical research into a cure for schizophrenia.

Read more …

I get the idea. But I don’t get which EU companies this is supposed to help.

EU To Unveil Plans To Boost European Firms, Rein In US Tech Giants (R.)

The European Commission will on Wednesday launch the first of a raft of proposals to help European companies exploit their rich trove of industrial data and at the same time rein in online giants Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Amazon.com Inc . The data strategy and artificial intelligence discussion papers are part of a bigger scheme to help European companies better compete with U.S. tech giants and state-aided Chinese companies in the digital world. European digital and antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager and European industry chief Thierry Breton will present the proposals around noon. They will come up with a final draft by the end of the year following feedback from interested parties.


The core of the EU’s data strategy is the creation of a single European data market and smaller data markets centered on key industries, according to a draft seen by Reuters last month. Other elements include new rules covering cross-border data use, data interoperability and standards related to manufacturing, climate change, the auto industry, healthcare, financial services, agriculture and energy. One of the possibly controversial proposals calls for doing away with EU competition rules against anti-competitive data sharing. In response to complaints about the power wielded by large online platforms, the Commission is also considering introducing rules to stop these companies from unilaterally imposing conditions for access and use of data or benefiting from this in a disproportionate manner.

Read more …

Twitter comment: “The Parthenon marbles don’t speak English so under the latest post-Brexit immigration guidelines they wouldn’t have been allowed into the UK from the EU anyway.”

But seriously, how do you defend buying stuff from the Nazis, or any occupying force, and then claim that’s legal?

Britain’s Row With Greece Over Treasures Spills Into Brexit Tensions (R.)

The British Museum in London has refused to return the Parthenon Marbles, 2,500-year-old sculptures that British diplomat Lord Elgin removed from Athens in the early 19th century when Greece was under Ottoman Turkish rule. A draft of the 27 EU nations’ position on negotiations with Britain on their future relationship, which was seen by Reuters on Tuesday, seeks the “return or restitution of unlawfully removed cultural objects to their countries of origin”. The document did not specify any cultural objects. However, an EU diplomat said the line was added at the request of Greece, with support from Italy.


Greece’s culture minister said last month that Athens would step up its campaign for the return of the Parthenon Marbles from London and expected to win more support from European peers as Brexit diminishes Britain’s influence. The British Museum says the marbles, which are roughly half of a 160-metre frieze that adorned the fifth century BC Parthenon temple, were acquired by Elgin under a legal contract with the Ottoman empire. Greece says they were stolen. A British government spokeswoman, commenting on the draft EU document, said the UK’s position on the sculptures remained that they are “the legal responsibility of the British Museum”.


The Parthenon Marbles displayed at the British Museum in London October 16, 2014. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/

Read more …

John Gray begins his book, Black Mass (2007), with the sentence: “Politics Is A Chapter In The History Of Religion.”

Hazel Henderson Said In 2006: “Economics, Never A Science, Has Always Been Politics In Disguise.”

Religion is a Repeating Chapter in the History of Politics (CP)

In 1949 the German philosopher Karl Jaspers coined the term ‘the axial age’ in his book, ‘The Origin and Goal of History.’ He defined the Axial Age as the pivotal period in human moral and spiritual development that has conferred upon the world the political, cultural and philosophical shape it has today. It occurred, according to Jaspers, between 2 and 3 thousand years ago in various places around the world. This pivot point in history comes after the emergence of the State and civilization in these areas, which current anthropological and archaeological thinking sets at about 5 to 6 thousand years ago.

What Jaspers and other historians had noticed in studies of ancient history was that over a relatively short span of time all the great founding philosophies or systems of morality that we still refer to today – such as Daoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Platonism, the Abrahamic religions – appeared in parallel, with no obvious connection, in different civilizations.

Jaspers looked for reasons for this ancient ‘enlightenment’ in the political situations of the various civilizations he analysed and suggested the opportunity for new thinking was provided in each area by the destabilization of the previous, originary, monolithic, State and the formation of smaller, competing States that were in a process of navigating a new course for themselves and in relation to adjacent territories. Several of the founding philosophers, for example, are known to have wandered around their region, disseminating their ideas in the cities and districts of different States.

Read more …

 

If Martin Scorsese made horror movies…

 

 

 

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Feb 182020
 


Jack Delano Entrance to colored drivers’ lunchroom at truck service station on U.S. 1 (New York Avenue) 1940

 

338 Americans Flown Home From Cruise Ship, Including 14 With Coronavirus (R.)
US Breaks Cruise Ship Quarantine (ZH)
Virus Kills Chinese Film Director and Family in Wuhan (Chow)
Disease Modelers See The Future Of COVID-19 (STAT)
China Faces Back To Work Concerns As Firms Report Coronavirus Infections (SCMP)
Apple Unlikely To Meet Revenue Guidance Due To Coronavirus Impact (R.)
American Factories In China Unable To Staff Production Lines (SCMP)
At Stake (Jim Kunstler)
Senate Braces For Fight Over Impeachment Whistleblower Testimony (Hill)
NYC Taxpayers Spend Millions on Cyber Center with Ties to Israeli Intel (Webb)
WikiLeaks Locked Out of Twitter Account One Week Before Assange Hearing (GP)
Doctors Call For End Of Assange ‘Torture’ (AAP)
Julian Assange Must Be Freed, Not Betrayed (John Pilger)
Amazon’s Bezos Pledges $10 Billion To Climate Change Fight (R.)

 

 

Actually saw a Reuters headline that said “Coronavirus Infections Slow In China…”, and I thought: why would you say that, the number of new cases is still above 2,000, in spite of all the measures and containment and quarantines in the country.

But it was probably because of the second part of the headline that said “…As Apple Warns Of iPhone Shortages”. That’s what it took for people to take notice, though iPhones are a poor indicator of the economic consequences of the virus; the Big Hurt won’t be in the biggest firms. Look around your home and your stores and see how much stuff come from China. iPhones are but a blip on that radar.

Obviously, another matter people notice is the evacuation of Americans and other people from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama. If only because it allows CNN and BBC to endlessly lament the “terrible ordeal” their compatriots have endured. As entire families in Wuhan have been wiped out, and people are banned from any social activities.

 

• Cases 73,433 (+ 2,103 from yesterday)

• Deaths 1,873 (+ 98 from yesterday)

 

 

 

 

The Westerdam cruise ship unwind is even crazier than the Diamond Princess, and that’s saying something.

338 Americans Flown Home From Cruise Ship, Including 14 With Coronavirus (R.)

More than 300 Americans who had been stuck on a cruise ship affected by the coronavirus were back in the United States on Monday, flown to U.S. military bases for two more weeks of quarantine after spending the previous 14 days docked in Japan. Among those repatriated on a pair of U.S.-chartered jets were 14 people who tested positive for the fast-spreading virus, seven on each plane. The Diamond Princess cruise ship held by far the largest cluster of cases outside China, with more than 400 people infected out of some 3,700 on board. The coronavirus outbreak has killed 1,770 people in China and five elsewhere, with Chinese officials reporting another 2,048 cases on Monday, raising the total to 70,548.

Washington previously flew hundreds of Americans from China to military bases in the United States, and then arranged to bring back the 338 cruise ship passengers once their 14-day quarantines on board had expired. Another 60 Americans remained in Japan for monitoring, State Department officials said. A further 200 U.S. citizens were stuck in Cambodia, among them 92 still on board another cruise ship, the Westerdam, that was also affected by the virus. The Diamond Princess was ordered to stay under quarantine at Yokohama port on Feb. 3 after an 80-year-old Hong Kong man, who was on board from Jan. 20 to Jan. 25, developed the virus. U.S. officials previously pledged to keep infected Americans in Japan for treatment. But they said they were forced to change plans after the passengers disembarked and were on their way to the airport when Japanese officials informed them that 14 of those in transit had tested positive.

“It was only when they were loaded onto these buses that we were made aware these positive results had come back from the government of Japan,” Dr. William Walters, a senior medical official for the State Department, told a news briefing. “They were then taken off the bus, moved into the aircraft and that dedicated isolation area, which was the safest place for them to get away from the rest of the passengers and give us time to make decisions,” Walters said. The infected passengers were isolated in specialized containment areas aboard the two chartered jets. They were exposed to other passengers for about 40 minutes during the bus ride.

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The US accuses Japan of utter failure, but never in those words. Main ally.

US Breaks Cruise Ship Quarantine (ZH)

[..] the Princess Cruises ship was carrying 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew when it set sail and was quarantined after 10 cases of coronavirus were reported Feb. 4. Since then the number of cases on board has exploded, and on Monday alone, Japan announced an additional 99 infections on the Diamond Princess, raising the ship’s total number of cases to 454. And since most of the people on the ship have yet to be tested, the real number of infections may not be known for days. Where things gets problematic, is that whereas until now most of those on board the cruise ship had remained in isolation, the self-imposed quarantine is now over, and on Sunday, fourteen evacuees from the Diamond Princess were allowed to fly back to the United States Sunday despite testing positive for coronavirus, the U.S. State Department and Health and Human Services said in a joint statement.


Why were they released? Because supposedly they were not symptomatic, and in a very ominous twist, they had tested negative initially! “These individuals were moved in the most expeditious and safe manner to a specialized containment area on the evacuation aircraft to isolate them in accordance with standard protocols,” the statement, published Sunday, read. The State Department was unaware the individuals had coronavirus when they were being removed from the ship; they had tested negative just a few days before, Robert Kadlec, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, said on a phone call with reporters. “If those results had come back four hours earlier before we’d started to disembark the ship and before these people were evacuees within an evacuation system, then it would’ve been a different discussion.” Dr. William Walters, director of operational medicine at the U.S. Department of State, said on the call.

In other words, the quarantine that had isolated the biggest incubator of coronavirus cases outside of Wuhan was broken simply because an initial test had given a false negative, and subsequents test confirmed that at least 14 indeed had the coronavirus. Kadlec said that individuals received multiple screenings when moving from ship to bus to plane and a more extensive medical assessment upon arrival. In any case, the Diamond Princess quarantine is now broken, and two charter flights carrying at least 14 infected passengers landed at military bases in California and Texas overnight, starting the clock on a 14-day quarantine period to ensure those passengers don’t have coronavirus. In total, approximately 380 Americans were on board the Diamond Princess ship for the duration of the cruise and quarantine at sea.


[..] Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, told the USA TODAY editorial board and reporters Monday that the original idea to keep people safely quarantined on the ship wasn’t unreasonable. Yet where the entire story falls on its face is that even with the quarantine process on the ship, virus transmission still occurred. One can only hope that there are proper precaution pathways in place to prevent transmission now that at least 13 infected cruise passengers are now on US soil. “ The quarantine process failed,” Fauci said. “I’d like to sugarcoat it and try to be diplomatic about it, but it failed. People were getting infected on that ship. Something went awry in the process of the quarantining on that ship. I don’t know what it was, but a lot of people got infected on that ship.”

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Mild? Mildly contagious? One wonders.

Virus Kills Chinese Film Director and Family in Wuhan (Chow)

A Chinese film director and his entire family have died from the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. Chang Kai, a film director and an external communications officer at a Hubei Film Studio subsidiary, died in hospital on Feb. 14 from the virus now called COVID-19, according to a statement from the studio. He was 55. But Chang’s death was not the first in his family—the Chinese media reported that Chang’s father and mother were infected and died one after the other. Chang and his sister, who looked after their parents at home, were both infected with the virus as a result. His sister died just hours later. Chang’s wife is also infected, still alive, and is still battling the virus in an intensive care unit.


A note written by Chang, said to be his last words, has gone viral on the Chinese Internet. Chang wrote that his father succumbed to the illness on the first day of the Lunar New Year (January 25). “My father had a fever, cough and trouble breathing. [We] tried to send him to the hospital but none of the hospitals we visited took him, because they had no more beds,” he wrote. Instead, Chang brought his father home where ha died a few days later, having passed on the virus to the other family members. Chang’s note said that he and his wife were denied the opportunity to be treated early. Wuhan built a new hospital in six days, but capacity to handle the virus remains strained. Chang bade farewell to his family, friends and his son, who is reportedly studying in the U.K.

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Too many unknowns. Too easily lost in various favorite interpretations.

Disease Modelers See The Future Of COVID-19 (STAT)

At least 550,000 cases. Maybe 4.4 million. Or something in between. Like weather forecasters, researchers who use mathematical equations to project how bad a disease outbreak might become are used to uncertainties and incomplete data, and Covid-19, the disease caused by the new-to-humans coronavirus that began circulating in Wuhan, China, late last year, has those everywhere you look. That can make the mathematical models of outbreaks, with their wide range of forecasts, seem like guesswork gussied up with differential equations; the eightfold difference in projected Covid-19 cases in Wuhan, calculated by a team from the U.S. and Canada, isn’t unusual for the early weeks of an outbreak of a never-before-seen illness.

But infectious-disease models have been approximating reality better and better in recent years, thanks to a better understanding of everything from how germs behave to how much time people spend on buses. “Year by year there have been improvements in forecasting models and the way they are combined to provide forecasts,” said physicist Alessandro Vespignani of Northeastern University, a leading infectious-disease modeler. That’s not to say there’s not room for improvement. The key variables of most models are mostly the same ones epidemiologists have used for decades to predict the course of outbreaks. But with greater computer power now at their disposal, modelers are incorporating more fine-grained data to better reflect the reality of how people live their lives and interact in the modern world — from commuting to work to jetting around the world.

These more detailed models can take weeks to spit out their conclusions, but they can better inform public health officials on the likely impact of disease-control measures. Models are not intended to be scare machines, projecting worst-case possibilities. (Modelers prefer “project” to “predict,” to indicate that the outcomes they describe are predicated on numerous assumptions.) The idea is to calculate numerous what-ifs: What if schools and workplaces closed? What if public transit stopped? What if there were a 90% effective vaccine and half the population received it in a month?

“Our overarching goal is to minimize the spread and burden of infectious disease,” said Sara Del Valle, an applied mathematician and disease modeler at Los Alamos National Laboratory. By calculating the effects of countermeasures such as social isolation, travel bans, vaccination, and using face masks, modelers can “understand what’s going on and inform policymakers,” she said.

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Said it a few times before: factories become petri dishes too, the virus loves those.

China Faces Back To Work Concerns As Firms Report Coronavirus Infections (SCMP)

Cracks have appeared in China’s eagerness to resume economic activities amid the coronavirus outbreak, with a number of work-related cases reported. Gree Electric, the country’s biggest air-conditioner manufacturer located in the city of Zhuhai in Guangdong province, was forced to take emergency action last week to check and quarantine its employees after a bus driver was found to have had close contact with a suspected case, according to a notice published by the company’s labour union on its social media account. The contracted driver, surnamed Feng, had been driving employees to and from work last week until Saturday, with Gree now “intensely” checking the condition of employees who had travelled on the bus.

In addition, Feng was found to have had a meal with three colleagues last week, which was against his company’s policy concerning coronavirus control. According to the statement, Gree recommended that the contractor sack all four drivers despite the quartet, plus Feng’s son, later testing negative. The Gree statement, which was later removed, did not provide details on how many workers have been placed under quarantine. Gree was one of the first to resume production in Guangdong, with provincial party secretary Li Xi visiting the plant last week, two days after 11,000 workers – around one third of the total workforce – resumed operations, according to a report by the official Nanfang Daily.

In another case in Chongqing, more than 130 employees of Chongqing Titanium Industry, a unit of Pangang Group, had to be quarantined and the factory was again forced to halt production after two members of staff were confirmed as being infected at the start of last week, according to a notice by the local industrial estate where the plant is based. In Guangzhou, an employee tested positive for coronavirus, forcing the company to quarantine its remaining members of staff since Friday.

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This sinks the “markets”. And shows how dumb the people in them are.

Apple Unlikely To Meet Revenue Guidance Due To Coronavirus Impact (R.)

Apple warned on Monday it was unlikely to meet a sales target set just three weeks ago amid lost production and weakening demand in China from the coronavirus outbreak. The illness has killed 1,770 in China and stricken some 70,500 people, with millions of others confined to their homes and factories slow to reopen after the Chinese New Year holiday break was extended due to the virus. Manufacturing facilities in China that produce Apple’s iPhone and other electronics have begun to reopen, but they are ramping up more slowly than expected, Apple said. That will mean fewer iPhones available for sale around the world, making Apple one of the largest Western firms to be hurt by the outbreak.


Some of its retail stores in the country remain closed or are operating at reduced hours, which will hurt sales this quarter. China accounted for 15% of Apple’s revenue, or $13.6 billion, last quarter, and supplied 18% of revenue in the year-ago quarter. In late January, Apple had forecast $63 billion to $67 billion in revenue for the quarter ending in March. It did not offer a new revenue estimate nor provide a profit forecast on Monday. “The magnitude of this impact to miss its revenue guidance midway through February is clearly worse than feared,” Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives wrote in a note. Apple’s stock is expected to face a knee-jerk reaction on Tuesday, when Wall Street reopens after the Presidents Day holiday, Ives said.

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It’s irresponsible to open most of these factories.

American Factories In China Unable To Staff Production Lines (SCMP)

As China tries to put its economy back to work amid a novel coronavirus outbreak that has left swathes of the country on lockdown, American manufacturers have warned that they do not have enough staff to man their production lines. The Lunar New Year holiday was officially extended until February 10 in a bid to stem contagion, but factories begun reopening last week across the country, with differing rules applying across China’s almost 3,000 counties.
A survey of 109 companies in the manufacturing powerhouse of the Shanghai region found that while two-thirds of factories were up and running by the end of last week, 78 per cent did not have enough workers to kick-start full production. Almost half, meanwhile, said that their global operations have already been hit by the spread of the coronavirus.


Companies in the area, which includes Suzhou, Nanjing and the wider Yangtze River Delta, had to apply for permission to reopen, and of those that were granted a licence, just 58 per cent were permitted to open all of their production lines, according to the survey conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Shanghai between February 11 and 14. “The biggest problem is lack of workers as they are subjected to travel restrictions and quarantines, the number one and number two problems identified in the survey. Anyone coming from outside the immediate area undergoes a 14 day quarantine,” said Ker Gibbs, AmCham Shanghai president. “Therefore, most factories have a severe shortage of workers, even after they are allowed to open. This is going to have a severe impact on global supply chains that is only beginning to show up.

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A convenient list of names.

At Stake (Jim Kunstler)

I have a theory about the McCabe case: The Attorney General has taken the rinky-dink “lying to the FBI” charge off the table. It has become a liability, virtually the emblem for government misconduct, and Mr. Barr is getting rid of it in these matters. It has already caused too much mischief, insulted Americans’ sense of justice, and damaged the DOJ’s standing. Note, Andrew McCabe has been let off only on this charge, stemming from only one particular IG referral; he may well yet be liable for more serious charges-to-come. From here on, there will be no more rinky-dink lying charges against any of those implicated in the coup, only the most serious charges, and only those that add up to a solid case.

The coup has been so broad, deep, and thick that I predict cases will have to be brought under the RICO statutes in batches for different groups in separate agencies and branches of government. For instance, there is the Intel Mob, including former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intel (DNI) James Clapper, current Intel IG Michael Atkinson, so-called whistleblower (he that cannot be named, E*** C**********) and International Man of Mystery Joseph Mifsud. There is gang from the State Department who helped engineer UkraineGate, including former Ambassador Marie Yovanovich, former Sec’y of State John Kerry, and others. There is that big herd of rogue lawyers in the DOJ and its stepchild, the FBI, the names widely disseminated by now, Comey, Strzok, Baker, Boente, Carlin, Clinesmith, et. al.

There’s Robert Mueller and his henchpersons, Andrew Weissmann, Jeannie Rhee, et. al. There’s another a band of seditionists in Congress that includes Mark Warner of the Senate Intel Committee, the now notorious idiot Adam Schiff over in the House, and staffers who worked for both. There’s a bunch in the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment that paid over a million dollars to Alternate International Man of Mystery (actually, CIA asset) Stefan Halper to run entrapment schemes against people working for Mr. Trump. There’s a swarm from Barack Obama’s White House, including Valarie Jarrett, Susan Rice, Samantha Powers, Alexandra Chalupa, former Vice-President Joe Biden and the former President himself.

And finally, there is the 800-pound-gorilla over in the Democratic Party thicket, namely Hillary Clinton, and those connected to her and her charity fraud, the Clinton Foundation, which is the real and actual predicate for the whole sordid affair — a list that includes Viktor Vekselberg of Russia’s Skolkovo Project, $25-million donor Russian oligarch Victor Pinchuk, Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, and Dmitri Alperovich of CrowdStrike, (Russian collusion, anyone?) as well as rascally freelancers such as Christopher Steele, Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS, lawyer / Lobbyist Adam Waldman, and Hillary errand boys Sidney Blumenthal and Cody Shearer. The stories behind those names are all over the web, in case you want to hjedify yourself.

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The networks are bent in a strange pretzel to justify keeping the long known identity “secret”. It’s not about the identity, it’s about having an excuse not to let him testify.

Senate Braces For Fight Over Impeachment Whistleblower Testimony (Hill)

Senators are reviving the fight over the whistleblower complaint at the center of the months-long impeachment effort against President Trump. With Trump’s trial in the rearview mirror, the Senate Intelligence Committee is quietly shifting its attention back to its investigation into the complaint process after hitting pause on the inquiry as the impeachment effort consumed Washington. The probe will force senators to decide if, and how, they speak with the whistleblower — a controversial call that could test the bipartisan reputation the Intelligence panel has maintained even amid deeply partisan fights in Congress. Asked by The Hill if he was willing to formally compel and subpoena the whistleblower to testify, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) didn’t rule out the possibility.

“I think you can rest assured that I’m prepared to do whatever we have to to interview the whistleblower,” Burr said. The renewed interest in speaking with the whistleblower comes after committee staff and lawyers for the individual hit a stalemate late last year over potential questioning. Lawyers for the individual made offers at the time to both the House and Senate Intelligence committees that their client was willing to provide written answers under oath, but Burr rejected that offer. The North Carolina senator indicated no progress had been made since then in trying to reach a deal on testimony and that while he hadn’t spoken recently with Mark Zaid, one of the whistleblower’s lawyers, his plan is “an interview with committee staff.”

[..] A Democratic committee source said that protecting the whistleblower’s safety and anonymity “is a top priority.” “We do not expect to be asked to cooperate with any effort that might endanger his or her safety,” the source said. The prospect of calling the whistleblower to speak with the committee has been talked up most recently not by a member of the panel but by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a close ally of the president. “The Senate Intel Committee under Richard Burr has told us that we will call the whistleblower,” Graham said earlier this month during a Fox News interview. He added in a subsequent interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the “whistleblower episode needs to be investigated by Richard Burr” and in an interview with Fox News Radio that “the Intel Committee should be looking at whether or not the whistleblower had a bias.”

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Whitney with a new angle. Includes some Epstein.

NYC Taxpayers Spend Millions on Cyber Center with Ties to Israeli Intel (Webb)

Early last week, the city of New York launched — with little media scrutiny — one of two new massive cybersecurity centers that will be run by private Israeli firms with close ties to Israel’s government, the so-called “Mega Group” tied to the Jeffrey Epstein scandal and prominent pro-Israel lobby organizations operating in the United States. The centers were first announced in 2018 as was the identity of the firms who would run them: Israel-based Jerusalem Venture Partners and SOSA. As MintPress has reported on several occasions, all three of these entities have a history of aggressively spying on the U.S. federal government and/or blackmailing top American politicians, raising concerns regarding why these companies were chosen to run the new centers in the heart of Manhattan.

The news also comes as Israeli cybersecurity companies tied to Israeli military intelligence Unit 8200 were revealed to have access to the U.S. government’s most classified systems and simulating the cancellation of the upcoming 2020 presidential election. The new cybersecurity centers are part of a new New York City public-private partnership called “CyberNYC” that is valued at over $100 million and officially aims to “spur the creation of 10,000 cybersecurity jobs and make New York City a global leader in cyber innovation.” CyberNYC is an initiative of New York City’s Economic Development Corporation. However, the companies that will be responsible for creating those cybersecurity jobs will benefit foreign companies, namely Israeli and most of the jobs to be created will go to foreigners as well, as media reports on the partnership have quietly noted.

Those reports also stated that, while the stated purpose of the centers is to create new jobs, the Israeli firms chosen to run them — Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP) and SOSA — view it as an opportunity to provide Israeli cybersecurity companies with a foothold into the American market and to see Israeli cybersecurity products adopted by both small and medium-sized American businesses, not just large corporations and government agencies. [..] the founder of JVP and former Knesset member, Erel Margalit, told the Jerusalem Post that “the center we are setting up [in New York] will assist Israeli hi-tech companies in collaborating with customers and companies in the US and around the world.”

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I think I saw it’s been restored. Twitter saying it had been compromised or something like that.

WikiLeaks Locked Out of Twitter Account One Week Before Assange Hearing (GP)

WikiLeaks has been locked out of their Twitter account just one week before Julian Assange’s extradition hearing is scheduled to begin in the UK. WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson tweeted on Monday that “all attempts to get it reopened via regular channels have been unsuccessful. It has been impossible to reach a human at twitter to resolve the issue.” A source familiar with the situation explained to the Gateway Pundit that WikiLeaks social media admins received an automated email on February 9 saying that they needed to reset their password to regain access, but were not able to do so. They were unsure about the reason for the email in the first place — whether it was a glitch from Twitter, a targeted effort, or a hack.

The source said that when the WikiLeaks admins attempted to change the password and log in they received responses from Twitter saying that they were unable to verify them as the owner of the account and that the email on file did not match the one that they were using. WikiLeaks maintains that they are indeed using the same email that has been associated with the account for years. Efforts by WikiLeaks to reach someone at Twitter, since the 9th, have been unsuccessful. Assange’s extradition hearing is scheduled to begin on February 24 at Belmarsh Magistrates Courts, which is a court under the jurisdiction of South London Magistrates Courts.

Assange faces charges under the Espionage Act in the United States for his publication of the Iraq and Afghan War Logs. If extradited and convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of 175 years for the “crime” of publishing material that the US government did not want the public to know. On Monday evening, a Twitter spokesperson confirmed to The Gateway Pundit that the “account was locked due to indicators it was compromised.”

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February 14 is the next hearing.

Doctors Call For End Of Assange ‘Torture’ (AAP)

A group of 117 doctors and psychologists has called for an end to what it calls “the psychological torture and medical neglect of Julian Assange”. WikiLeaks founder Assange is being held in London’s Belmarsh Prison awaiting a hearing on February 24 which could see him extradited to the US. In a 1200-word letter published in the medical journal The Lancet, the Doctors For Assange group expresses concern over his fitness for the legal proceedings. The letter says that “Assange is in a dire state of health due to the effects of prolonged psychological torture in both the Ecuadorian embassy in London and Belmarsh Prison, where he has been arbitrarily detained according to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

“Should Assange die in a UK prison, as the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture (Nils Melzer) has warned, he will have effectively been tortured to death,” the letter states. “Much of that torture will have taken place in a prison medical ward, on doctors’ watch. The medical profession cannot afford to stand silently by, on the wrong side of torture and the wrong side of history, while such a travesty unfolds.” The first hearing into the United States’ request for Assange’s extradition was held on May 2, 2019. When asked by the judge if he consented to the extradition, Assange said: “I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that has won many, many awards and protected many people.”

A copy of the Doctors For Assange letter has been sent to the Australian minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, following up on a previous letter sent on December 16, calling on Ms Payne to bring Assange home to Australia for urgent medical care. A copy has also been sent to the UK Government, which the doctors accuse of violating Assange’s human right to health. The letter condemns what it calls the “torture” of Assange and “the denial of his fundamental right to appropriate healthcare”. It adds: “Politics cannot be allowed to interfere with the right to health and the practice of medicine.

“Abuse by politically motivated medical neglect sets a dangerous precedent, ultimately undermining our profession’s impartiality, commitment to health for all, and obligation to do no harm. “Our appeals are simple: we are calling upon governments to end the torture of Mr Assange and ensure his access to the best available healthcare, before it is too late.” The letter is signed by Stephen Frost, Lissa Johnson, Jill Stein and William Frost on behalf of 117 signatories.

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“..the “damage done personally to you” by Julian Assange.”

Julian Assange Must Be Freed, Not Betrayed (John Pilger)

WikiLeaks has informed us how illegal wars are fabricated, how governments are overthrown and violence is used in our name, how we are spied upon through our phones and screens. The true lies of presidents, ambassadors, political candidates, generals, proxies, political fraudsters have been exposed. One by one, these would-be emperors have realised they have no clothes. It has been an unprecedented public service; above all, it is authentic journalism, whose value can be judged by the degree of apoplexy of the corrupt and their apologists. For example, in 2016, WikiLeaks published the leaked emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta, which revealed a direct connection between Clinton, the foundation she shares with her husband and the funding of organised jihadism in the Middle East — terrorism.


One email disclosed that Islamic State (ISIS) was bankrolled by the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, from which Clinton accepted huge “donations”. Moreover, as U.S. Secretary of State, she approved the world’s biggest ever arms sale to her Saudi benefactors, worth more than $80 billion. Thanks to her, U.S. arms sales to the world — for use in stricken countries like Yemen — doubled.

[..] Revealed by WikiLeaks and published in The New York Times, the Podesta emails triggered a vituperative campaign against editor-in-chief Julian Assange, bereft of evidence. He was an “agent of Russia working to elect Trump”; the nonsensical “Russiagate” followed. That WikiLeaks had also published more than 800,000 frequently damning documents from Russia was ignored. On an Australian Broadcasting Corporation programme, Four Corners, in 2017, Clinton was interviewed by Sarah Ferguson, who began: “No one could fail to be moved by the pain on your face at [the moment of Donald Trump’s inauguration] … Do you remember how visceral it was for you?” Having established Clinton’s visceral suffering, the fawning Ferguson described “Russia’s role” and the “damage done personally to you” by Julian Assange.


Clinton replied, “He [Assange] is very clearly a tool of Russian intelligence. And he has done their bidding.” Ferguson said to Clinton, “Lots of people, including in Australia, think that Assange is a martyr of free speech and freedom of information. How would you describe him?” Again, Clinton was allowed to defame Assange — a “nihilist” in the service of “dictators” — while Ferguson assured her interviewee she was “the icon of your generation”. There was no mention of a leaked document, revealed by WikiLeaks, called Libya Tick Tock, prepared for Hillary Clinton, which described her as the central figure driving the destruction of the Libyan state in 2011. This resulted in 40,000 deaths, the arrival of ISIS in North Africa and the European refugee and migrant crisis.

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1) Be as destructive as you can and get rich off your efforts. 2) Spend 1-2% of your dirty wealth and expect to be hailed as a philantropist.

Amazon’s Bezos Pledges $10 Billion To Climate Change Fight (R.)

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos will commit $10 billion to fund scientists, activists, nonprofits and other groups fighting to protect the environment and counter the effects of climate change, he said on Monday. Cutting emissions will be challenging for Amazon. The e-commerce company delivers 10 billion items a year, has a massive transportation and data center footprint, and has faced criticism from within its own workforce. Bezos, the world’s richest man, is among a growing list of billionaires to dedicate substantial funds to battling the impact of global warming. “Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet,” Bezos said in an Instagram post. “I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share.”


The Bezos Earth Fund will begin issuing grants this summer as part of the initiative. “It’s going to take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organizations, and individuals,” Bezos said. Counteracting climate change has become a popular cause for U.S. billionaires in recent years, with Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg and hedge fund manager Tom Steyer counted among the world’s wealthiest environmental philanthropists. Last year, Bezos pledged to make online retailer Amazon net carbon neutral by 2040 – the first major corporation to announce such a goal – and to buy 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from U.S. vehicle design and manufacturing startup Rivian Automotive.

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Feb 172020
 


Jack Delano Discarded oil cans at truck service station on U.S. 1, New York Avenue, Washington, DC 1940

 

Japan Braces For Hundreds More Cases Onboard Cruise Ship (G.)
Taiwan Confirms First Coronavirus Death On Island, Cases At 20 (R.)
Pay Attention To Shanghai, Beijing, Japan Infection Rates (F.)
Japan’s Economy Shrinks At Fastest Rate Since 2014 (BBC)
Coronavirus Cases Rise Again In China, Recession Looms In Japan, Singapore (R.)
Americans Disembark From Virus-Hit Cruise; China Says New Cases Slow (R.)
Scramble To Track Cambodia Cruise Ship Passengers After Virus Case Found (R.)
‘Animals Live For Man’: China’s Appetite For Wildlife To Survive Virus (R.)
Armed Robbers Steal Hundreds Of Toilet Rolls In Hong Kong (BBC)
Devin Nunes Says Trump ‘Has To Tweet’ To Combat ‘Hard Left’ Media (Fox)
1,100 Former DOJ Employees Call On Barr To Resign (NPR)
German Court Halts Work On New Tesla ‘Gigafactory’ (BBC)
Australia Broadcaster Loses Newsroom Raid Case (BBC)
Breakdown or Breakthrough? Degrowth and the Great Transition (NC)
US Peach Grower Awarded $265 Million From Bayer, BASF In Weedkiller Suit (R.)

 

 

Well, we do have some numbers:

 

• Cases 71,330, up 2,076 from yesterday

• Deaths 1,775, up 106 from yesterday

• 760 million Chinese under quarantine

 

We also have plenty confusion. For instance, Reuters has two headlines that say Coronavirus Cases Rise Again In China and China Says New Cases Slow. That clears things up.

But the most dramatic event over the weekend must be the repatration of various nationalities to their homelands. About 400 Americans were evacuated from the Diamond Princess, with Australian Canadian, Italian, South Korean and Hong Kong passengers set to follow soon. 44 of these Americans are infected with the virus, and they won’t be going home. The rest will, though.

This is happening while “Japan is bracing for the possibility of hundreds of additional cases of the coronavirus onboard the stricken Princess Diamond”, says the Guardian. So the Americans that are flown home go into quarantine, right? Well… Some Diamond Princess passengers face another two weeks in isolation if they have shared a cabin with someone who tests positive.”

Remember, as of the start of the evacuation, there were 3,711 people on board. 1,219 had been tested of which 355 have been confirmed positive for the virus (among them the 44 Americans). Ergo, 2,492 people were not tested, among them the remaining 356 Americans. Who will only go into isolation if they shared a cabin with a positive case. The rest can do what they want.

We see the issue here, don’t we? How many of those 356 Americans may be infected? How many of the other nationalities which will fly home? There have been suggestions that the onboard air circulation system on the ship may have played a role in spreading the virus. If so, it could be everywhere. And yes, there could be “hundreds of additional cases”.

Then there’s the Werkendam cruise ship, from which hundreds were allowed to spread all over the world, taking off from Cambodia and/or Malaysia, before a positive case was found. Now it’s a “Scramble To Track Cambodia Cruise Ship Passengers”. Sort of like a modern version of the biblical “Go Forth and Multiply”. Where were these decisions made? Anyone ask the WHO, or China?

 

Meanwhile, China keeps trying. In Hubei province, Xiaogan city – with a population of nearly 5 million people, 3,279 confirmed cases of Covid-19, the second highest number in China, and 70 deaths, “all vehicles including motorcycles, electric bikes, bicycles and tricycles are prohibited from driving on the road”. Try that in NYC, LA, Paris, Moscow, name a major city.

And the economic effects get increased attention as well. “Barclays analysts estimate that real [Japan] GDP contracted 3.2% on a quarterly basis, a little better than market consensus of -3.8%. This is all pre-coronavirus…] Take it from there. At this point hearing from economists, bankers, investors is pretty useless, because they have little idea what goes on, and, like politicians, they won’t consider really bad scenarios until it’s too late.

But it’ll come trickling through. Served in a sauce of “we’ll be fine”.

UPDATE: 99 additional people tested positive aboard the Diamond Princess. 14 American evacuees who tested positive made the flight anyway, in a separate compartment

 

 

 

 

“Xiaogan, 70km from the city of Wuhan, has 3,279 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and has recorded 70 deaths.”

Japan Braces For Hundreds More Cases Onboard Cruise Ship (G.)

Japan is bracing for the possibility of hundreds of additional cases of the coronavirus onboard the stricken Princess Diamond, as experts warned the country was still in the “early stages” of the outbreak. The passengers evacuated from the ship face further uncertainty too, with the US and Australian citizens set for a further two weeks of quarantine after arriving homeHundreds of American passengers have flown back to the US and Australia said it would follow suit on Wednesday. Onboard the Diamond Princess, 355 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 out of an original total of about 3,600 passengers and crew, and after testing 1,219. Forty American passengers who were diagnosed with the virus have been transferred to hospitals in Japan.

Some Diamond Princess passengers face another two weeks in isolation if they have shared a cabin with someone who tests positive. The total number of people infected around the world climbed to more than 71,000 on Monday, including a further 2,048 confirmed cases in China, where the total number of deaths stands at 1,770. Five people have died outside China. Of the 105 deaths reported in China on Monday, 100 were in Hubei province, the centre of the outbreak. Cities in Hubei have stepped up measures to stop the virus’s spread.


Xiaogan city – which has a population of nearly 5 million people and the second highest number of confirmed cases in China – ordered residents to stay in their homes or face detention of up to 10 days. State media reported that “all vehicles including motorcycles, electric bikes, bicycles and tricycles are prohibited from driving on the road”. Xiaogan, 70km from the city of Wuhan, has 3,279 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and has recorded 70 deaths.

Read more …

Fifth location outside China.

Taiwan Confirms First Coronavirus Death On Island, Cases At 20 (R.)

A taxi driver has died from the coronavirus in Taiwan, marking the first such death on the island and the fifth fatality outside mainland China from an epidemic that has curbed travel and disrupted global supply chains. Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said during a news conference on Sunday that the deceased person was a 61-year-old man who had diabetes and hepatitis B. Taiwan has to date accumulated 20 confirmed cases. The deceased person had not traveled abroad recently and was a taxi driver whose clients were mainly from Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China, the minister said. One of his family members was also confirmed to have the virus.

The pair constituted Taiwan’s first local transmission cases, the minister said, adding that authorities were trying to find out as soon as possible the source of contraction. “So far, we are not able to gather his contact history, so we are actively making investigations, hoping to find out the source of the contraction,” Chen said. The island will on Monday start testing all patients who show symptoms associated with coronavirus and had traveled abroad recently, the health ministry said.


The coronavirus, thought to have emerged at a wildlife market in the central Chinese province of Hubei, has killed 1,665 people in China with latest figures showing 68,500 cases of the illness. Taiwan has banned entry to Chinese visitors and foreigners with a recent history of travel to China and suspended most flights to its giant neighbor. Many schools have also extended their Lunar New Year holiday to late February to curb the spread of the virus. In a response to panic buying of masks on the island, the government scrambled to build several mask production lines and Premier Su Tseng-chang has vowed to more than double its daily mask production to 10 million by early March.

Read more …

Economic consequences. Japan was doing awful under Abenomics already.

Pay Attention To Shanghai, Beijing, Japan Infection Rates (F.)

Beijing and Shanghai have under 1,000 reported cases and only four deaths, based on data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Their data is sourced from the World Health Organization, the U.S. Center for Disease Control, the European Center for Disease Control and two China health agencies. China is the main source of the numbers. There are many people outside of China who doubt Beijing and Shanghai’s low case load. Watch for those numbers to rise in the weeks ahead. [..]

Covid-19 remains a mystery pathogen. It can be deadly. It’s like a bad pneumonia. Scientists believe it came from a species of bat. There is also concern that it escaped a virology research lab in Wuhan. There is no vaccine for Covid-19 yet, so those who have it are being treated with a variety of anti-viral medications and have to wait for the virus to work its way out of the body. Markets are repricing everything China related. Barclays Capital analysts released a 20-page report on the coronavirus on Friday where they said they were pushing out the recovery period, and think Japan heads into a technical recession because of it. Japan will release its fourth quarter GDP numbers on Monday.

Barclays analysts led by Tetsufumi Yamakawa in Tokyo estimate that real GDP contracted 3.2% on a quarterly basis, a little better than market consensus of -3.8%. This is all pre-coronavirus and mostly due to domestic tax matters. Yamakawa does see an increasing risk in first quarter weakness due to the Covid-19 impacts, and if that leads to negative growth, and it could, Japan hits a technical recession with back to back contraction. Weaker China tourism and a decrease in trade with China is a huge headwind for Japan. For Barclays, the probability of a recession there has surged to 69%.


Barclays’ China view is basically Wall Street consensus: so long as the virus stays concentrated in Hubei, they are going to trust China keeps it that way. [..] Xi Jinping last week called for even tighter restrictions on Hubei, and put two new Party bosses in charge to make sure the clampdown is enforced. “We think these efforts showed the urgency and determination of the government to stabilize the epicenter as soon as possible,” says Eric Zhu, an economist with Barclays in Hong Kong. “We expect incremental improvements,” he says.

Read more …

How is Abe still the PM there?

Japan’s Economy Shrinks At Fastest Rate Since 2014 (BBC)

Japan’s economy shrank at the fastest rate in five years at the end of 2019 as it was hit by a sales tax rise, a major typhoon and weak global demand. Annualised GDP fell by a much steeper than expected 6.3% in October-December. There are also concerns the coronavirus outbreak will mean the slump continues this quarter. That has raised fears that the world’s third-biggest economy may fall into recession. During the period Japanese consumer spending fell 2.9% after the country’s sales tax was raised in October to 10% from 8%. In the same month Typhoon Hagibis hit large parts of the country.


Last quarter, capital spending dropped by 3.7% and exports slipped 0.1% amid the ongoing US-China trade war. Investors are now watching to see whether the economy will rebound after the coronavirus forced China to shut down factories and led to a big drop in Chinese tourists visiting Japan. In response to today’s data economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said the Japanese government was ready to take all necessary steps to deal with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the economy and tourism.

Read more …

Recession looms everywhere by now. We just don’t want to know it.

Coronavirus Cases Rise Again In China, Recession Looms In Japan, Singapore (R.)

Japan and Singapore appeared to be on the brink of recession on Monday as the coronavirus epidemic disrupted tourism and supply chains around the world, and as China imposed tougher restrictions to try and stop the virus spreading further. The number of reported new cases of coronavirus in China’s Hubei province, the epicenter of the epidemic, rose on Monday by more than 1,933, after two days of falls, and there were 100 deaths reported since Sunday. Across mainland China, officials said the total number of cases rose by 2,048 to 70,548, with 1,770 deaths. Nearly 90% of new cases were in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people where the virus is believed to have originated at a market illegally trading wildlife late last year.

The virus, which is believed to have a 14-day incubation period, has forced thousands of people to be quarantined around the world. In Cambodia, authorities were scrambling to track down hundreds of passengers who disembarked from the Holland America Line cruise ship Westerdam after an American woman left the ship and was tested positive for coronavirus in Malaysia. More than 100 have already left the country, while some 300 are reportedly still in Cambodia. “I believe there’s 300 Americans here at this hotel plus a few hundred from other countries. We will all be tested for the coronavirus today and tomorrow by the Cambodian Ministry of Health,” said passenger Holley Rauen, a public health nurse and midwife from Fort Myers, Florida.


“We have no idea when we get to get home…” American passengers were taken off another cruise liner on Sunday to fly home after being quarantined for two weeks off Japan. Seventy new coronavirus cases were confirmed on board the Carnival Corp. Diamond Princess in Yokohama. The 3,700 passengers and crew have been held since Feb. 3. Some 355 people on board have tested positive for the disease, by far the largest cluster of cases outside China. Those with the disease have been taken to hospital in Japan and no one from the ship has died. Around half of the guests onboard are from Japan.

Read more …

It’s just a matter of waiting for new clusters to pop up now.

Americans Disembark From Virus-Hit Cruise; China Says New Cases Slow (R.)

American passengers were taken off a cruise liner on Sunday to fly home after being quarantined for two weeks off Japan, while China said the rate of new coronavirus cases had slowed, calling that proof its steps to fight the outbreak were working. An announcement aboard the Diamond Princess, where 3,700 passengers and crew have been held since Feb. 3, told Americans to get ready to disembark on Sunday evening for charter flights home. Passengers wearing masks could later be seen waving through the windows of buses parked near the ship. Of the roughly 400 Americans on the cruise, more than 40 are infected with the virus and will stay in Japan for treatment, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute on Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

“They are not going to go anywhere. They’re going to be in hospitals in Japan,” Fauci told the CBS News program “Face the Nation.” “People who have symptoms will not be able to get on the evacuation plane. Others are going to be evacuated starting imminently to air force bases in the United States.” Kyodo News Agency said the flights carrying U.S. passengers left Haneda Airport at around 1700 ET (2200 GMT). Canadian, Italian, South Korean and Hong Kong passengers were expected to follow soon, after their governments also announced plans to repatriate passengers. “Leaving in a few hours. No details. Might be going to Texas or Nebraska,” U.S. passenger Gay Courter told Reuters.


Seventy new coronavirus cases were confirmed on board, bringing the total on the ship to 355, by far the largest cluster of cases outside China. Fauci told the Washington Post there were 44 infected Americans. Within China, authorities reported 2,009 new cases on Sunday, noting that this was down from more than 2,600 the previous day. They said this showed their efforts to halt the spread of the virus were bearing fruit.

Read more …

Is anyone criminally responsible?

Scramble To Track Cambodia Cruise Ship Passengers After Virus Case Found (R.)

Holland America Line said it is working with governments and health experts to track passengers who disembarked from its Westerdam cruise ship docked in Cambodia after an American woman tested positive for coronavirus in Malaysia. The cruise line, which is owned by cruise giant Carnival Corp, said none of the other 1,454 passengers and 802 crew have reported any symptoms. “Guests who have already returned home will be contacted by their local health department and be provided further information,” a statement from the company said. Passengers had been cleared to travel by Cambodian authorities after health checks when the cruise ship docked on Thursday. It had spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand.


But on Saturday, Malaysia said an American woman who arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Friday on a chartered flight had tested positive for the new coronavirus that has killed more than 1,700 people, the vast majority in China. The woman’s husband tested negative for the coronavirus. About 137 of the 145 passengers on the chartered flight had already left for other countries as of Sunday after showing no signs of illness, Malaysian authorities said. Dozens more of the Westerdam passengers had flown through Thailand and onward to other countries, Thai officials said. At least 236 passengers and 747 crew remain aboard the vessel off the Cambodian port city of Sihanoukville, Holland America said. Others were in hotels in Phnom Penh, the capital.

Read more …

Did you know the Chinese see the world the same way Christian religions do? G-d appointed man the master of the world! Must be the dumbest facet of religion: man declares himself G-d.

‘Animals Live For Man’: China’s Appetite For Wildlife To Survive Virus (R.)

For the past two weeks China’s police have been raiding houses, restaurants and makeshift markets across the country, arresting nearly 700 people for breaking the temporary ban on catching, selling or eating wild animals. The scale of the crackdown, which has netted almost 40,000 animals including squirrels, weasels and boars, suggests that China’s taste for eating wildlife and using animal parts for medicinal purposes is not likely to disappear overnight, despite potential links to the new coronavirus. Traders legally selling donkey, dog, deer, crocodile and other meat told Reuters they plan to get back to business as soon as the markets reopen. “I’d like to sell once the ban is lifted,” said Gong Jian, who runs a wildlife store online and operates shops in China’s autonomous Inner Mongolia region.

“People like buying wildlife. They buy for themselves to eat or give as presents because it is very presentable and gives you face.” Gong said he was storing crocodile and deer meat in large freezers but would have to kill all the quails he had been breeding as supermarkets were no longer buying his eggs and they cannot be eaten after freezing. Scientists suspect, but have not proven, that the new coronavirus passed to humans from bats via pangolins, a small ant-eating mammal whose scales are highly prized in traditional Chinese medicine. [..] “In many people’s eyes, animals are living for man, not sharing the earth with man,” said Wang Song, a retired researcher of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.


[..] Much of the farming and sale of wildlife takes place in rural or poorer regions under the blessing of local authorities who see trading as a boost for the local economy. State-backed television programs regularly show people farming animals, including rats, for commercial sale and their own consumption. However, activists pushing for a ban describe the licensed farms as a cover for illegal wildlife trafficking, where animals are specifically bred to be consumed as food or medicine rather than released into the wild.

Read more …

Brace for much more of this.

Armed Robbers Steal Hundreds Of Toilet Rolls In Hong Kong (BBC)

Armed robbers in Hong Kong made off with hundreds of toilet rolls worth more than HKD1,000 ($130). Toilet rolls are currently in short supply in Hong Kong due to shortages caused by panic-buying during the coronavirus outbreak. Knife wielding men robbed a delivery man outside a supermarket in the Mong Kok district, police said. Police have arrested two men and recovered some of the stolen loo rolls, local media reports said. The armed robbery took place in Mong Kok, a district of Hong Kong with a history of “triad” crime gangs, early on Monday.


According to local reports, the robbers had threatened a delivery worker who had unloaded rolls of toilet paper outside Wellcome Supermarket. An Apple Daily report said that 600 toilet paper rolls, valued at around HKD1,695 ($218), had been stolen. Stores across the city have seen supplies massively depleted with long queues when new stock arrives. Despite government assurances that supplies remain unaffected by the virus outbreak, residents have been stocking up on toilet paper. Other household products have also seen panic-buying including rice, pasta and cleaning items.

Read more …

“What’s happening here with Barr, I think people need to understand that he’s cleaning up the mess from not only the Obama administration, but also the mess that was left with the whole Russia-gate fiasco…”

Devin Nunes Says Trump ‘Has To Tweet’ To Combat ‘Hard Left’ Media (Fox)

House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes, R-Calif., fired back at Democrats who criticized Attorney General William Barr for his role in former Trump associate Roger Stone’s sentencing and defended the president’s use of Twitter after he used the platform to comment about the ongoing criminal case. “What’s happening here with Barr, I think people need to understand that he’s cleaning up the mess from not only the Obama administration, but also the mess that was left with the whole Russia-gate fiasco,” Nunes told “Fox & Friends Weekend,” saying taxpayers paid tens of millions of dollars to fund then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team “that went chasing and trying to put us into a status of a permanent coup against the president of the United States.”

Nunes’ comments came days after Barr himself publicly swiped at Trump, declaring Thursday that the president’s tweets about Justice Department prosecutors and open cases “make it impossible for me to do my job.” [..] “I think what the attorney general said was very clear, that the president should be careful making comments about criminal investigations. One should not see that as anything other than but what it is,” Nunez said, adding that Barr “didn’t say to stop tweeting, because the fact of the matter is, with 90 percent of the media being hard left and really just working for the Democratic Party, the president has to be able to tweet.”


Earlier in the week, Trump applauded Barr on Twitter for the decision to reverse the sentencing recommendation, writing: “Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought.” “He’s built a powerful tool reaching millions of Americans, millions of people around the globe,” Nunes added, “so the president has to tweet. At the same time, the attorney general has to be able to do his job.” He also said, “It’s understandable that the president can be frustrated,” and called Stone’s dramatic early-morning arrest by federal agents in January 2019 “ridiculous.”

Read more …

It’s ilke the interagency debate in the House testimonies. The civil servants think they have the right to set policy. And don’t you dare question that. But wasn’t it perhaps high time someone did?

1,100 Former DOJ Employees Call On Barr To Resign (NPR)

More than 1,100 former Department of Justice officials are calling on Attorney General William Barr to resign after his department lowered the prison sentence recommendation for Roger Stone, a longtime ally of President Trump, in a move that’s led to accusations of political interference. In a letter released Sunday, the former DOJ officials, who have worked across Republican and Democratic administrations, wrote that Barr’s intervention in the Stone case has tarnished the department’s reputation. “Such behavior is a grave threat to the fair administration of justice,” the former officials wrote.

“In this nation, we are all equal before the law. A person should not be given special treatment in a criminal prosecution because they are a close political ally of the President. Governments that use the enormous power of law enforcement to punish their enemies and reward their allies are not constitutional republics; they are autocracies.” On Monday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington had recommended a prison sentence of up to nine years for Stone’s 2019 conviction on charges including making false statements to Congress and witness tampering. On Twitter, Trump said the sentencing recommendation amounted to “a horrible and very unfair situation.” But then on Tuesday, the Justice Department intervened, ordering a new sentencing memo and calling for lighter punishment. A senior DOJ official told NPR that officials were “shocked” at the original recommendation.


[..] To Julie Zebrak, who’s among the former DOJ officials who signed the letter, Barr’s behavior shatters a cardinal norm that has been in place for decades: that the Justice Department’s prosecutorial decisions should not be influenced by the White House. Zebrak told NPR that Barr’s move “sent shockwaves through the former DOJ alumni.” She added: “We are all watching in a really rapid and terrifying way the undermining of the department and the diminishment of the rule of law. We have to sort of speak up and speak out when we can.”

Read more …

“Clean cars” require cutting forests. This is where the environmental movement meets its Armageddon; there’s just not enough knowledge, they’ll believe anything that sounds good.

German Court Halts Work On New Tesla ‘Gigafactory’ (BBC)

Tesla has been ordered to temporarily halt preparations for a car factory in Germany after environmentalists won a court injunction on Sunday. The electric carmaker had been clearing forest land near the capital, Berlin, ahead of building its first European car and battery plant. The court emphasised the injunction was temporary and subject to further hearings, probably this week. Protesters say the factory is a threat to local wildlife and water supplies. To much fanfare, Tesla’s boss Elon Musk announced plans last November to build a European facility known as a “gigafactory” in Grünheide, in the eastern state of Brandenburg.


But the factory has become a flashpoint between environmentalists and Germany’s pro-business Christian Democrat and Free Democrat parties, who fear the issue could damage the country’s image as a place to do business. The dispute highlights the risks for the US carmaker, which has not been officially granted permission to build the factory. Tesla was, however, granted permission by Germany’s environment ministry to begin site preparations “at its own risk”. This has involved clearing about 91 hectares (225 acres) of forest and the felling of thousands of trees – something that outraged an alliance of environmentalists called the Green League. In a statement on Sunday, the court representing the Berlin and Brandenburg region cautioned: “It should not be assumed that the motion seeking legal protection brought by the Green League lacks any chance of succeeding.”

Read more …

If the goverment can let its journalists rot in Belmarsh, this shouldn’t be a surprise. How loud has ABC been in its defense of Assannge?

Australia Broadcaster Loses Newsroom Raid Case (BBC)

Australia’s national broadcaster has lost its legal challenge to controversial police raids on its Sydney newsroom last year. In June, police searched the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the home of a newspaper journalist over articles which relied on leaks from government whistleblowers. The raids sparked public outrage and protests across the nation’s media. However, the Federal Court of Australia has ruled the searches were legal. ABC’s managing director David Anderson said the decision was “disappointing”. He said the raids had been a high-profile “attempt to intimidate journalists for doing their job”. Australian Federal Police alleged the stories and reporters at the centre of its searches had breached national security laws.


In the raid last year, they seized thousands of documents over a 2017 ABC investigation which alleged Australian armed forces had committed war crimes in Afghanistan. Police also raided the home of News Corp reporter Annika Smethurst. In 2018, she had reported an alleged attempt by a government agency to spy on Australian citizens. Australia’s conservative government tightened its security laws in 2018 to make it a criminal offence for journalists to receive classified information from military or intelligence sources. Canberra has previously said it backs press freedom but that “no one was above the law”.

Read more …

Never voluntarily.

Breakdown or Breakthrough? Degrowth and the Great Transition (NC)

When mainstream approaches to sustainability fail to challenge economic growth they provide limited, sometimes even false solutions to today’s crises. Technological and political interventions that reduce environmental impacts and enhance overall efficiency – though contributing to sustainability in a narrow sense – end up adding to global inequality and ecological overshoot, insofar as they accelerate growth. Growth is one of the chief drivers of social inequality and environmental degradation; it is also what sustains the global capitalist economy. Sustainability solutions that promote growth under the banner of “green growth” are the easiest to accept and implement, but they are the least able to address the roots of today’s crises.

Proponents of green growth believe that growth can be decoupled from environmental impacts, yet there is no empirical evidence that this is possible. Meanwhile, acting on such an unproven assumption obscures the real harm being done by sustaining extractive and exploitative capitalism. We have already surpassed the known limits to growth, so degrowth is our only option. Sustainability is an outcome of healthy metabolic relationships between an organism and its environment. When consumption depletes resources faster than their rate of regeneration – which is what we are currently doing – it is by definition unsustainable.

Although essential, today’s most progressive reforms, including the Green New Deal and the circular economy, will only be effective when combined with a more equitable distribution of resources and decreasing per capita consumption in advanced economies. For sustainability efforts to be effective, they must be part of a comprehensive degrowth agenda focused on systems change. Contrary to common misunderstandings, degrowth does not mean negative growth or imply sacrifices to one’s quality of life. Rather, it is focused on reducing a society’s material and energy throughput while actually enhancing quality of life. [..]


The next 30 years constitute what systems theorists call a ‘decision window.’ How societies decide to respond to mounting social and ecological pressures will determine whether the system evolves or collapses. Once the decision window ends and the global system passes the chaos point, the system irreversibly changes, and there are only two futures left – breakthrough or breakdown. There is no chance that a wildly optimistic techno-future can sustain growth beyond social and planetary boundaries. Civilization will either collapse or it will follow a path of managed descent and sustainable reorganization. The only breakthroughs remaining follow paths of degrowth.

Read more …

They’ll appeal. Check back in a decade.

US Peach Grower Awarded $265 Million From Bayer, BASF In Weedkiller Suit (R.)

A Missouri jury’s $265 million award to peach grower Bill Bader in his lawsuit against herbicide providers Bayer and BASF has raised the stakes for the two companies as at least 140 similar cases head to U.S. courts later this year. A jury in U.S. District Court in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, handed Bader, the state’s largest peach farmer, $15 million in actual and $250 million in punitive damages. He sued the companies saying his 1,000-acre orchard was irreparably harmed by herbicide that they produce, which drifted onto its trees from nearby farms. The three-week trial was the first case in the United States to rule on the use of dicamba-based herbicides alleged to have damaged tens of thousands of acres of U.S. cropland.

The herbicide can become a vapor and drift for miles when used in certain weather, farmers have claimed. Bayer said it was “disappointed with the jury’s verdict,” and plans to appeal. BASF also said it was “surprised and disappointed” by the decision and plans to appeal. Both companies said their dicamba-based herbicides are safe when used as directed. Bayer faces separate multi-billion-dollar litigation over the Roundup weedkiller made by Monsanto, the U.S. firm it took over for $63 billion in 2018. Monsanto made Roundup and dicamba, and Bayer is being sued over both products.


[..] Bayer and BASF face other dicamba lawsuits that could begin late his year before the same judge in Missouri, said attorney Billy Randles, whose firm represented Bader and also represents dozens of others with similar claims. “These are all the same” allegations, said Randles. “They claim negligent design, failure to warn and all allege a joint venture” between Bayer and BASF. The jury found the two equally liable for the damages.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Feb 162020
 


John Collier Trucks on highway en route to Utica, New York 1941

 

Chinese Doctors Say Wuhan Coronavirus Reinfection Even Deadlier (ZH)
70 More Infections On Diamond Princess Cruise Ship Bring Total To 355 (SCMP)
Cruise Passengers Face 14 More Days In Quarantine On Return To Hong Kong (SCMP)
Quarantined Cruise Ship Passenger Speaks Out Against US Evacuation Plan (Fox)
American From Cruise Ship Docked In Cambodia Tests Positive In Malaysia For Coronavirus (R.)
Cruise Firm Seeks New Virus Test For Passenger From Ship In Cambodia (R.)
New Coronavirus Threatens Meltdown In China’s Economy (SCMP)
Coronavirus Scare Leaves China’s Empty Restaurants Selling Off Stocks (R.)
Chinese Students -Used To- Spend Billions Overseas (CNN)
Fiat Chrysler Suspends 500L Production Over China Supply Disruption (R.)
Looming Hill-Berg: Bloomberg Considering Hillary Clinton As Running Mate (NYP)
TV Execs Celebrate Unprecedented Flood Of Bloomberg Campaign Spending (IC)
Why Wasn’t Andrew McCabe Charged? (NR)

 

 

• Cases: 69,264, up 2,162 from yesterday

• Deaths: 1,669, up 143 from yesterday

 

Cruise ship the Diamond Princess -off Yokohama- has 3,711 people on board. 1,219 have been tested of which 355 have been confirmed positive for the virus. The ship has been in quarantine for 11 days, so capacity for testing is apparently limited to just over 100 per day. Not impressive. And this doesn’t yet tell us how many people have been tested more than once. But that appears to be necessary.

The main development over the past 24 hours concerns the cruise ships and getting infected more than once. The Diamond Princess is turning into one of Dante’s circles of hell -take your pick- just as governments send planes to pick up their citizens aboard the ship. Who will arrive home just in time to start another 14 days of quarantine. Lovely. Hong Kong and Canada have reported this renewed quarantine, the US must follow suit.

The Diamond Princess is also a loud flashing warning sign about the ease with which the virus spreads. Everyone has been isolated in their cabins for 10+ days, yet there are 70 more cases daily. With a 14-day incubation time, less than a third of passengers tested in those 10+ days with a 30% infection rate, and questionable testing quality, what awaits these people? What awaits those who are not at present considered suspect?

Another cruise ship, the Werkendam, finally accepted in Cambodia after being shunned by 4-5 other countries, has let well over 1,000 passengers leave the ship before one was diagnosed positive for COVID19. It arrived on Thursday carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew, 236 passengers and 747 crew remain on board.

Potentially even more ominous is Tyler’s piece on re-infection. If people can be infected more than once, that means their immune systems have successfully fought the virus once, only to be weakened by both the fight and the medication applied in that fight. Imagine large scale re-infection. Imagine the hospital accomodation needed. Which country has that kind of spare capacity?

 

 

 

 

A second infection of a recovered patient will hit a body with compromised immunity. Cytokine storms, ACE2.

Chinese Doctors Say Wuhan Coronavirus Reinfection Even Deadlier (ZH)

Doctors working on the front lines of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak have told the Taiwan Times that it’s possible to become reinfected by the virus, leading to death from sudden heart failure in some cases. “It’s highly possible to get infected a second time. A few people recovered from the first time by their own immune system, but the meds they use are damaging their heart tissue, and when they get it the second time, the antibody doesn’t help but makes it worse, and they die a sudden death from heart failure,” reads a message forwarded to Taiwan News from a relative of one of the doctors living in the United Kingdom.

“The source also said the virus has “outsmarted all of us,” as it can hide symptoms for up to 24 days. This assertion has been made independently elsewhere, with Chinese pulmonologist Zhong Nanshan saying the average incubation period is three days, but it can take as little as one day and up to 24 days to develop symptoms. Also, the source said that false negative tests for the virus are fairly common. “It can fool the test kit – there were cases that they found, the CT scan shows both lungs are fully infected but the test came back negative four times. The fifth test came back positive.” -Taiwan Times

Notably, one of the ways coronaviruses cripple the immune system is via an HIV-like attachment to white blood cells, which triggers a ‘cytokine storm’ – a term popularized during the avian H5N1 influenza outbreak – in which an uncontrolled release of inflammatory ‘cytokines’ target various organs, often leading to failure and in many cases death. The cytokine storm is best exemplified by severe lung infections, in which local inflammation spills over into the systemic circulation, producing systemic sepsis, as defined by persistent hypotension, hyper- or hypothermia, leukocytosis or leukopenia, and often thrombocytopenia. In addition to lung infections, the cytokine storm is a consequence of severe infections in the gastrointestinal tract, urinary tract, central nervous system, skin, joint spaces, and other sites. (Tisoncik, et. al, Into the Eye of the Cytokine Storm – 2012)

According to the 2012 study, “Cytokine storms are associated with a wide variety of infectious and noninfectious diseases and have even been the unfortunate consequence of attempts at therapeutic intervention.” How do coronaviruses enter the body? With SARS (sudden acute respiratory syndrome), another coronavirus, researchers discovered that one of the ways the disease attaches itself is through an enzyme known as ACE2, a ‘functional receptor’ produced in several organs (oral and nasal mucosa, nasopharynx, lung, stomach, small intestine, colon, skin, lymph nodes, thymus, bone marrow, spleen, liver, kidney, and brain).

ACE2 is also “abundantly present in humans in the epithelia of the lung and small intestine, which might provide possible routes of entry for the SARS-CoV,” while it was also observed “in arterial and venous endothelial cells and arterial smooth muscle cells” – which would include the heart. This has led some to speculate that Asians, who have higher concentrations of ACE2 (per the 1000 genome project) may be affected to a greater degree than those of European ancestry, who produce the least of it – and have largely been the asymptomatic ‘super spreaders’..

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The Diamond Princess is a mess. But would it have been better to let potentially infected passengers leave and spread the disease? Perhaps this is one of those situations that we don’t have an solution for.

70 More Infections On Diamond Princess Cruise Ship Bring Total To 355 (SCMP)

The number of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which remains quarantined in a dock in Yokohama, Japan, has risen to 355, up 70 from the last government count, the country’s health minister said on Sunday. “So far, we have conducted tests for 1,219 individuals. Of those, 355 people tested positive. Of those, 73 individuals are not showing symptoms,” Katsunobu Kato told public broadcaster NHK. Canada has chartered a plane to evacuate its citizens from the ship, the Canadian government said in a statement late on Saturday. Canadian passengers who exhibit symptoms of infection will not be allowed to board the flight and will instead be transferred to the Japanese health care system, the government said. Passengers who fly to Canada will enter a 14-day quarantine on arrival.

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I lost count, which circle of hell is this again?

Cruise Passengers Face 14 More Days In Quarantine On Return To Hong Kong (SCMP)

Hong Kong passengers stranded on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan have baulked at the suggestion they spend another 14 days in quarantine when they return home, even as they welcomed the government’s move to arrange chartered flights to bring them back to the city. The evacuation plan came as 70 new cases of the coronavirus were confirmed by Japanese health officials on Sunday morning, taking the total number of infections aboard the vessel to 355, including at least 11 Hongkongers who have been hospitalised. Among the 330 passengers from Hong Kong who have been held on the ship for 11 days, Young Wo-sang, who was stranded with his wife, welcomed the news, but said he did not understand the need for another two weeks in quarantine.


“We have been placed in quarantine in Japan from February 5, and it has been nearly 14 days already. Why is there a need to quarantine us for another 14 days?” The Hong Kong Immigration Department said the move was to protect against the health risks associated with repatriating the residents, 260 of whom are SAR passport holders, with the remaining 70 travelling on other passports. Young said his wife received text messages from the department in the early hours of Sunday, that said the couple would be notified when they could leave, once Japanese authorities had confirmed the detailed plans for disembarkation.

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Damned if you do and doomed if you don’t.

Quarantined Cruise Ship Passenger Speaks Out Against US Evacuation Plan (Fox)

A passenger aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which is currently quarantined off the coast of Japan amid a coronavirus outbreak, is speaking out against the United States’ plan to evacuate American passengers. Matthew Smith, who has been quarantined with his wife since Feb. 5, told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto that he prefers to stay on the cruise ship. “Our greatest desire at this point is to maintain the quarantine that the Japanese health officials have established,” Smith said, “then get a test for the virus at the end of that quarantine so we can establish with relative certainty that we are not infected and be free to go. “Unfortunately, the State Department has thrown a monkey wrench into that,” he added.

Approximately 400 Americans and their families on the Diamond Princess will be offered seats on two flights that could arrive at Travis Air Force Base near Sacramento, Calif., as early as Sunday, a CDC official told The Wall Street Journal. A CDC team will screen passengers and those exhibiting symptoms won’t be allowed on the flights. Smith, however, said he’s skeptical about the proposed plan. “I understand getting off the ship to be in another space, but under this circumstance, the offer is we’re going to put you on buses with other people who haven’t completed their quarantines and have not been tested for the virus,” Smith said.


“We’re going to then put you on a plane with all these people and take you back to the United States, and because of the risk you still pose due to that situation we’re going to stick you in another quarantine.” Smith said he would rather stay put on the Diamond Princess ship. While the ship is “getting a bad rap” for its living conditions, Smith said he is content where he is. “We have access to the balcony, we are fed well – three times a day along with excess food — they provide all the necessities we need in there,” he said.

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Or did she?

American From Cruise Ship Docked In Cambodia Tests Positive In Malaysia For Coronavirus (R.)

An 83-year-old American woman who had been a passenger on a cruise ship that docked in Cambodia has tested positive for the new coronavirus on landing in Malaysia, health authorities said on Saturday. The American woman flew to Malaysia on Friday from Cambodia along with 144 others from the ship, the Malaysian health ministry said in a statement. The woman’s husband had tested negative, it said. The MS Westerdam, operated by Carnival Corp unit Holland America Inc, docked in the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville on Thursday after being shunned by five countries on fears that passengers could be carrying the virus.


The Westerdam, carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew, spent two weeks at sea. The passengers were tested regularly on board and Cambodia also tested 20 once it docked. None was found to have the new coronavirus that has killed more than 1,500 people, the vast majority in China. U.S. President Donald Trump has thanked Cambodia for taking in the ship in a rare message to a country that is one of China’s closest allies and has often been at odds with Washington.

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Holland America Line doesn’t think she was ever really positive.

Cruise Firm Seeks New Virus Test For Passenger From Ship In Cambodia (R.)

More tests are needed to confirm that an American passenger from a cruise ship docked in Cambodia has the new coronavirus after she tested positive in Malaysia, the MS Westerdam’s operator said on Sunday. The 83-year-old woman was the first passenger from the MS Westerdam, operated by Carnival Corp unit Holland America Inc, to test positive for the virus. “While the first results have been reported, they are preliminary at this point and we are awaiting secondary testing for confirmation,” Holland America said in a statement. Cambodian authorities called on Malaysia to review its test results.

Holland America said 236 passengers and 747 crew remained aboard the vessel, which is docked in the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville. It arrived on Thursday carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew. It had spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand. The passengers were tested regularly on board and Cambodia also tested 20 once it docked. None was found to have the new coronavirus that has killed more than 1,500 people, the vast majority in China.


The American woman flew to Malaysia on Friday from Cambodia along with 144 others from the ship, the Malaysian health ministry said in a statement, adding that she was in stable condition. The woman’s husband had shown symptoms but tested negative, it said. The couple were the only ones among the 145 to show symptoms, the ministry said. Cambodia’s government said its own tests had been done in collaboration with the World Health Organisation and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The Ministry of Health requests the Malaysian authorities to review the results of the test,” Cambodia’s Ministry of Health said in statement.

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Everything stands still. Nobody believes China’s official numbers anymore. How about 0% GDP growth?

New Coronavirus Threatens Meltdown In China’s Economy (SCMP)

Given the rapid advance of medical science and globalisation of recent decades, the scale, spread and economic costs of human epidemics are rocketing up, even if fatality rates are starting to fall. Never before has China paid such an economic price for an epidemic as it has done already with the coronavirus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan and causes the disease now officially known as Covid-19. And the damage is spreading. It is too soon to assess the full impact of the virus as the data changes day after day and not even the brightest expert can say with any certainty when the outbreak might end. Nevertheless, that has not stopped economists from attempting to forecast the likely economic cost based on precedents such as the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or Sars.

Sars sickened about 8,000 people and killed fewer than 800 and in these terms has already been surpassed by the new coronavirus, though its fatality rate of 9.6 per cent is significantly higher than that of Covid-19, which some estimates put at around 2.4 per cent. Sars cut two percentage points from China’s real GDP growth in the second quarter of 2003 and caused US$50 billion of damage to the global economy. Of course, the economic losses from Covid-19 will depend somewhat on how long the outbreak lasts and on what policy support the Chinese government comes up with to offset the impact. But even at this stage, it is obvious that the economic impact of Covid-19 will be far more severe than that of Sars, or any other previous epidemic, for a number of reasons.


Firstly, the Chinese economy is four times as big as it was in 2003, so its losses and the impact on the global economy are likely to be correspondingly larger. China’s gross domestic product accounted for around 16 per cent of the global total last year while it was just four per cent in 2003. A rough estimate is that Covid-19 will cause at least four times as big a loss as Sars. Secondly, the timing is far worse. The outbreak took place just days before the Lunar New Year holiday, when hundreds of millions of Chinese travel domestically and internationally to attend family reunions and festive events. Sars happened in the second quarter of the year, when there was far less activity to disrupt. [..] Thirdly, China’s rapid urbanisation means Chinese are now much more likely to travel domestically and abroad than two decades ago. This also means that when they stop travelling, the disruption is greater.

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Not a good time for small business in China.

Coronavirus Scare Leaves China’s Empty Restaurants Selling Off Stocks (R.)

Wang Chuanchao shuttered his restaurant in central Beijing three weeks ago as the scare over the coronavirus epidemic in country kept customers away and now he’s reduced to selling off vegetables on the street outside to cut losses. Anticipating packed tables at his 125-seater restaurant over the Lunar New Year, Wang says he bought in 300,000 yuan (nearly $43,000) worth of ingredients, ranging from celery to ox tripe. Now, he has to find ways to pay the rent, and his staff, so he can re-open for business once his customers find the courage to come back. “We must help ourselves as we can’t count on anything else,” the 32-year-old Wang, standing in front of a stall laden with vegetables that would perish unless they’re sold quickly. “We must try all efforts to cut our losses.”


Most other restaurants have been forced to do the same, as demand has plummeted following the outbreak in the central city of Wuhan in December, with local authorities across the country curbing travel and closing off public areas to prevent the coronavirus spreading. “We purchased stocks of foodstuffs worth 500,000 yuan before the new year, but now the fresh vegetables have started rotting,” said Liu, a young man working at The Cheng’s restaurant in downtown Beijing. “We threw it all away yesterday.” A report published this week by China Cuisine Association said scare over the epidemic has cost the catering sector 500 billion yuan in lost earnings during the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, with 93% restaurants shutting down operations.

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“In 2017, an estimated 900,000 Chinese tertiary students studied abroad.”

Chinese Students -Used To- Spend Billions Overseas (CNN)

If it weren’t for the novel coronavirus outbreak, Xu Mingxi would have been in class at a prestigious New York university this week. Instead, the 22-year-old has spent the past three weeks confined to his family’s apartment in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the center of the outbreak, which is currently on lockdown to prevent the virus spreading. But even if Xu could leave home, the United States – where he’s studied for the past four-and-a-half years – won’t let him in. Over 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) away in Beijing, Alex – who asked not to use her real name for fear of online retribution – is in a similar situation. She’s spent the past two weeks at home with her mom and grandpa, being delivered groceries by community leaders.

She’s worried she won’t be able to fly to Sydney to study later this month and may have to delay her law degree by a semester. As novel coronavirus spreads, over 60 countries have imposed travel restrictions on Chinese citizens, hoping to limit their exposure to the virus that has killed more than 1,600 people, almost all in mainland China, and infected over 68,000 worldwide. Both Australia and the US have put temporary bans on foreign nationals who visited China in the 14 days prior to their arrival. That has locked Xu and Alex out of their studies — and they are by no means alone. In 2017, an estimated 900,000 Chinese tertiary students studied abroad. Around half of those went to either the United States or Australia, contributing billions of dollars to their economies — money that those countries now stand to lose.


It is not clear how many of the 360,000 Chinese students studying in the US were outside the country when the US travel ban hit on January 31, shortly before many universities were due to resume. But when Australia imposed its restrictions at the start of February, authorities estimated that 56% of Chinese students — about 106,680 people — were still abroad. Term was due to begin in late February or early March. “For Australia, it couldn’t have come at a worse time. It’s exactly the time of the year in which people are coming from China to Australia,” said Andrew Norton, a professor in the practice of higher education policy at the Australian National University. The virus outbreak coincided with the Lunar New Year — the most important holiday in the Chinese calendar, when many students go home to see their family.

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First of many?

Fiat Chrysler Suspends 500L Production Over China Supply Disruption (R.)

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said it had temporarily halted production at its Serbian plant due to disruptions related to components sourced from China, where companies have been hampered by the outbreak of a new coronavirus. Planned downtime at the Kragujevac plant in Serbia has been rescheduled, an FCA spokesman said on Friday. Production will restart later this month, the spokesman said, adding that the group did not expect the changes would affect total production forecasts for this month. “We are in the process of securing future supply of the affected parts,” the spokesman said. The automaker builds the 500L in Kragujevac.


The spokesman said the supply of audio system parts had been disrupted. Output at the Kragujevac plant was about 40,000 units last year, Serbian media reported, or a quarter of total capacity. FCA had said on Feb. 6 that it might have to temporarily close a European plant within two to four weeks if the impact of the coronavirus in China created supply line issues. The Kragujevac stoppage marks first time an automaker has had to idle a facility in Europe due to the virus. The next few weeks will be critical for automakers. Parts made in China are used in millions of vehicles assembled around the world. China’s Hubei province, epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, is a major hub for vehicle parts production and shipments.

Read more …

The ultimate fight for control over the party. How can Bernie, Tulsi and AOC be expected to support the Looming Hill-Berg?

Looming Hill-Berg: Bloomberg Considering Hillary Clinton As Running Mate (NYP)

He’s with her? Mike Bloomberg could team up with Hillary Clinton to try to take down President Trump in November — by making her his running mate. Bloomberg’s internal polling found the combo “would be a formidable force,” sources close to the campaign told the Drudge Report Saturday. Bloomberg’s communications director did not deny the rumored matchmaking effort. “We are focused on the primary and the debate, not VP speculation,” Jason Schechter said in a statement. But minutes after Drudge broke the news, Bloomberg himself posted a coy message about working with female colleagues. “I would not be where I am today without the talented women around me,” he tweeted. “I’ve depended on their leadership, their advice and their contributions.”

A Bloomberg campaign insider told The Post that the two have long been simpatico – going back to the days when she represented New York in the U.S. Senate and he was Gotham’s mayor. “I am sure that they polled it, just because you would be dumb not to wonder,” the insider said. “You want to see what a match-up might look like.” But the pairing is a “net negative” for Bloomberg, a Democratic strategist said. “It doesn’t make any sense to me,” said Brad Bannon, a consultant not affiliated with any presidential campaign. “If he wins the nomination, there’s going to be a lot of unhappiness in the progressive wing of the party,” Bannon explained. “You can’t afford to have them sit on their hands in November.”


[..] Asked about the looming Hill-Berg, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has endorsed Sanders, deflected. “I would hope [Bloomberg] would not be in a position to be choosing a running mate at all,” she told The Post during her Queens campaign office opening Saturday. “I think Bloomberg’s past on stop and frisk, on harassment of women— all of these claims are huge red flags.” Clinton and Bloomberg were spotted together in December at Orso in the Theatre District, where they dined with daughter Chelsea, Barry Diller, Diane von Furstenberg, and others, Page Six reported – supposedly to celebrate the birthday of socialite Annette de la Renta. “From what I have seen they have always been friendly,” the campaign insider said.

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Trump draws the viewers, Bloomberg pays for them.

TV Execs Celebrate Unprecedented Flood Of Bloomberg Campaign Spending (IC)

Fox news hosts regularly bash former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg as a globalist demagogue intent on seizing Americans’ firearms and big gulp sodas. High-level executives at the company, however, are much more enthusiastic about the billionaire politician and Democratic presidential candidate. Lachlan Murdoch, the chief executive of Fox Corp., the parent company of Fox News, is one of several media executives to welcome Bloomberg’s unprecedented spending spree on television advertisements. In a February 5 briefing for investors, Murdoch noted that he had heard “the Bloomberg campaign has expected to sort of double its advertising spend earlier this week.” The billionaire’s campaign, Murdoch noted, makes purchases on a week-to-week basis, making it difficult to project the ultimate benefit for his company.

“But obviously,” he added, “we expect it to be very strong and particularly, as I mentioned, in the markets of our local TV stations.” Bloomberg, the ninth wealthiest person in the world, with a fortune estimated at almost $62 billion, has upended the Democratic presidential primary with an infusion of cash that has smashed through historical records in a matter of weeks. Advertising Analytics, which tracks campaign spending, reported Thursday that Bloomberg has already spent $363 million on cable, broadcast, and radio advertisements alone. The 2020 campaign is shaping up to be an incredible financial opportunity for media companies, with one market research firm recently estimating that nearly $7 billion of paid advertising be spent this year, up over 60 percent since the 2016 presidential race.


Bloomberg alone has enticed media executives to see the race as a golden opportunity. “The political is going to be huge this year,” boasted Christopher Ripley, president and chief executive of Sinclair Broadcast Group, one of the largest owners of television stations in the country, speaking last month at the Citi 2020 Global TMT West conference in Las Vegas. “The amount of fundraising that’s happened through this year has broken all records. And the good news about politicians is they never return the money, they spend it,” Ripley quipped.

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Well, it’s going to be an election like never before.

Why Wasn’t Andrew McCabe Charged? (NR)

The Justice Department announced Friday that it is closing its investigation of Andrew McCabe, the FBI’s former deputy director, over his false statements to investigators probing an unauthorized leak that McCabe had orchestrated. McCabe was fired in March 2018, shortly after a blistering Justice Department inspector general (IG) report concluded that he repeatedly and blatantly lied — or, as the Bureau lexicon puts it, “lacked candor” — when questioned, including under oath. Why not indict McCabe on felony false-statements charges? That is the question being pressed by incensed Trump supporters.

After all, the constitutional guarantee of equal justice under the law is supposed to mean that McCabe gets the same quality of justice afforded to the sad sacks pursued with unseemly zeal by McCabe’s FBI and Robert Mueller’s prosecutors. George Papadopoulos was convicted of making a trivial false statement about the date of a meeting. Roger Stone was convicted of obstruction long after the special counsel knew there was no Trump–Russia conspiracy, even though his meanderings did not impede the investigation in any meaningful way. And in the case of Michael Flynn’s false-statements conviction, as McCabe himself acknowledged to the House Intelligence Committee, even the agents who interviewed him did not believe he intentionally misled them.

I emphasize Flynn’s intent because purported lack of intent is McCabe’s principal defense, too. Even McCabe himself, to say nothing of his lawyers and his apologists in the anti-Trump network of bureaucrats-turned-pundits, cannot deny that he made false statements to FBI agents and the IG. Rather, they argue that the 21-year senior law-enforcement official did not mean to lie, that he was too distracted by his high-level responsibilities to focus on anything as mundane as a leak — even though he seemed pretty damned focused on the leak while he was orchestrating it. The “he did not believe he intentionally misled them” defense is not just implausible; it proved unavailing on McCabe’s watch, at least in General Flynn’s case.

Hence, McCabe has a back-up plan: To argue that it would be extraordinary — and thus unconstitutionally selective and retaliatory — for the Justice Department to prosecute a former official for false statements in a “mere” administrative inquiry (which the leak probe was), as opposed to a criminal investigation. Again, tell that to Flynn, with whom the FBI conducted a brace-style interview — at the White House, without his counsel present, and in blithe disregard of procedures for FBI interviews of the president’s staff — despite the absence of a sound investigative basis for doing so, and whom Mueller’s maulers squeezed into a guilty plea anyway.

Read more …

 

Don’t ask.

 

 

 

The Automatic Earth will not survive without your Paypal and Patreon donations. Please support us.

 

Feb 132020
 


Saul Leiter 463 1956

 

Hubei’s Coronavirus Cases Rise 10-Fold After Change In Diagnostic Criteria (SCMP)
COVID-19 Coronavirus Cases (Worldometer)
Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Mortality Rate (Worldometer)
44 More Cases On Diamond Princess Cruise Ship Anchored Off Japan (SCMP)
WHO Team Arrives In China As Wuhan Coronavirus Deaths Top SARS (CNN)
Beijing’s Purge Over Virus Takes Down Top Communist Party Officials In Hubei (SCMP)
Botched Wuhan Quarantine Left Dead Bodies In The Street (ZH)
What Happened After One Chinese Company Reopened After The Corona-Chaos (ZH)
China Struggles To Balance Coronavirus Containment With Economic Cost (SCMP)
Protecting The US From Global Pandemics (Scott Gottlieb)
South Korea’s Moon Says Virus Epidemic To End Soon (YNA)
Epidemics Are Tough To Turn Into Profit (R.)

 

 

Major developments today (overnight for many) with regards to the COVID19 coronavirus. Probably not so much in infections or deaths per se (at least not that we know), but in the way(s) cases are reported. Or, if a spade is called a spade, the way they have been severely underreported so far.

What happened is Hubei’s health commission changed the diagnostic criteria used to confirm cases. And that looks something like this:

 

 

Which leads to this global picture:

 

 

What it comes down to is Hubei used to count cases according to “the old method”, which required clinical diagnosis PLUS testing, and has now switched to “the new method”, in which clinical diagnosis suffices. “Clinically diagnosed cases” here means those cases that show up positive on a CT scan (CT: computed tomography, a way to “look at” internal organs). The changes are in red in the doc:

 

 

Basically, “showing up positive on a CT scan” refers to the detection of pneumonia. For weeks, officials maintained that in an area under heavy siege of a disease for which pneumonia is one of the main symptoms, additional testing was mandatory to confirm a case as COVID19. Yeah, that’s a little crazy.

Ironically, the WHO went along with these counts based on “the old method”, with its chief effusively praising China for its efforts to combat the virus, but the switch to “the new method” comes just two days after a first team of WHO specialists arrived in China, which will “lay the groundwork for a larger international team.” Looks like Beijing has lost control.

The Party understood that it would no longer be able to keep up appearances, so it fired a whole bunch of politicians (Wuhan Party Chief et al) and other functionaries, appointed others in their place, and now vows a fresh start without the Party being blamed for a thing. And it can say nothing really changed, there is no large amount of additional cases, it’s all just a diagnostic ”tweak”.

Still, this hides the reasons behind the diagnostic changes: China either doesn’t have enough testing kits, or can’t get them out -and used- in the field fast enough. And that means too many potentially infectious patients are out there able to spread the virus. Add the WHO team of specialists to the mix and they chose to do damage control.

 

 

All of which leads to these provisionary official numbers:

 

 

Obviously, this has blown all previously referenced models out of the water.

Even JPMorgan’s most pessimistic case can’t keep up. Everybody needs to go back to the drawing board. And will do so, much more suspicious of anything China says from here on in. Tomorrow’s official numbers are likely to “normalize” again, 2,000 new cases, 90 deaths, that sort of thing. But they will now be reported with big question marks. Still, politicians and media alike, whether in the west or in China, will tell you things are improving. They can’t help themselves. But you can.

 

 

Here are some of the relevant news stories. Regular news in the Automatic Earth Debt Rattle will follow later today.

 

 

“Hubei’s new confirmed cases pegged at 14,840, nearly 10 times more than the previous day, while deaths more than doubled to 242.”

Note: that may look like a mortality rate of 20%, but that is far too high. Then again, 2% max doesn’t look tenable anymore either. More on that below.

Hubei’s Coronavirus Cases Rise 10-Fold After Change In Diagnostic Criteria (SCMP)

Health authorities in China’s Hubei province – the epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic – reported on Thursday 14,840 new confirmed cases, almost 10 times the number reported a day earlier, and new deaths attributable to the contagion rose to 242, more than double on the day. This brings the totals announced by the province’s health commission to 48,206 and 1,310, respectively, as of Wednesday. Officials in Hubei had reported 94 fatalities and 1,638 newly confirmed cases a day earlier. Hubei’s health commission said in its daily statement that it had changed the diagnostic criteria used to confirm cases, effective Thursday, meaning that doctors have broader discretion to determine which patients are infected.

“From today on, we will include the number of clinically diagnosed cases into the number of confirmed cases so that patients could receive timely treatment,” the health authority said. Previously, patients could only be diagnosed by test kits, which has seen a shortage of supply across the country. Tong Zhaohui, an expert in the central guidance group and vice-president of Beijing Chaoyang Hospital, said the move was in line with the National Health Commission’s latest diagnostic guidelines to include clinical diagnosis, using CT scans and other tests. “When doctors diagnose pneumonia, they can only get the etiology of the disease 20 to 30 per cent of the time. We have to rely on clinical diagnosis 70 to 80 per cent of the time. Increasing the diagnosis of clinical cases will help us make an additional judgment on the disease,” he told state broadcaster CCTV in an exclusive interview.

[..] Some 13,436 of the new cases announced on Thursday were confirmed in Hubei’s capital of Wuhan …

Read more …

The mortality rate looks bad. See more in next article. (h/t Doc Robinson)

COVID-19 Coronavirus Cases (Worldometer)

There are currently 60,373 confirmed cases and 1,369 deaths from the Wuhan Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak as of February 13, 2020, 05:20 GMT. The condition of patients, according to the World Health Organization (Feb. 7 press conference) and based on 17,000 cases in China, are: • 82% mild •15% severe •3% critical


“Total Cases” = total cumulative count (60,373). This figure therefore includes deaths and recovered/discharged patients (cases with an outcome). By removing these from the “total cases” figure, we get “currently infected cases” (cases still awaiting for an outcome). The charts include provisional data and values for Feb. 12 that are the result, for the most part, of a change in diagnosis classification, for which an additional 13,332 cases and 107 deaths were counted on Feb. 12..

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Mortality rate in Hubei/mainland China looks awful at 18%. Is that just because no “light” cases are counted, which the world outside China does seem to do?

Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Mortality Rate (Worldometer)

Let’s take, for example, the data at the end of February 8, 2020: 813 deaths (cumulative total) and 37,552 cases (cumulative total) worldwide. If we use the formula (deaths / cases) we get: 813 / 37,552 = 2.2% CFR (flawed formula). With a conservative estimate of T(ime) = 7 days as the average period from case confirmation to death, we would correct the above formula by using February 1 cumulative cases, which were 14,381, in the denominator: Feb. 8 deaths / Feb. 1 cases = 813 / 14,381 = 5.7% CFR (correct formula, and estimating T=7).

T could be estimated by simply looking at the value of (current total deaths + current total recovered) and pair it with a case total in the past that has the same value. For the above formula, the matching dates would be January 26/27, providing an estimate for T of 12 to 13 days. This method of estimating T uses the same logic of the following method, and therefore will yield the same result. An alternative method, which has the advantage of not having to estimate a variable, and that is mentioned in the American Journal of Epidemiology study cited previously as a simple method that nevertheless could work reasonably well if the hazards of death and recovery at any time t measured from admission to the hospital, conditional on an event occurring at time t, are proportional, would be to use the formula:

CFR (case fatality rate)= deaths / (deaths + recovered) which, with the latest data available, would be equal to: 1,369 / (1,369 + 6,032) = 18% CFR (worldwide) If we now exclude cases in mainland China, using current data on deaths and recovered cases, we get: 2 / (2 + 76) = 2.6% CFR (outside of mainland China) The sample size above is extremely limited, but this discrepancy in mortality rates, if confirmed as the sample grows in size, could be explained with a higher case detection rate outside of China especially with respect to Wuhan, where priority had to be initially placed on severe and critical cases, given the ongoing emergency.

Unreported cases would have the effect of decreasing the denominator and inflating the CFR above its real value. For example, assuming 10,000 total unreported cases in Wuhan and adding them back to the formula, we would get a CFR of 7.9% (quite different from the CFR of 18% based strictly on confirmed cases). Neil Ferguson, a public health expert at Imperial College in the UK, said his “best guess” was that there were 100,000 affected by the virus even though there were only 2,000 confirmed cases at the time. [11] Without going that far, the possibility of a non negligible number of unreported cases in the initial stages of the crisis should be taken into account when trying to calculate the case fatally rate.

Read more …

Ship has 2,600 passengers, 1,100 crew. Only a few hundred have been tested. And we get it, it’s very hard to isolate that many untested people off the ship, where do you get the accomodation.

Now crew members are increasingly getting infected, while attending to the passengers. A crew member told CNN the quality of meals is getting real good, children get new toys every day etc.

The same crew member said she herself waited for 2 days to see a doctor. Crew also don’t have private rooms. They must be very anxious.

44 More Cases On Diamond Princess Cruise Ship Anchored Off Japan (SCMP)

Another 44 people on board a cruise ship moored off Japan’s coast have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the country’s health minister said on Thursday. Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said the 44 new cases were detected from another 221 new tests. They raise the number of infections detected on the Diamond Princess to 218, in addition to a quarantine officer who also tested positive for the virus. Kato said authorities now want to move elderly people off the ship if they test negative for the virus, offering to put them in government-designated lodging. “We wish to start the operation from tomorrow or later,” Kato told reporters.


Of the newly diagnosed infections, 43 are passengers, and one a member of the crew. The Diamond Princess set off from Hong Kong on January 25 for a trip scheduled to end on February 4. Instead, it has been moored off Japan since February 3, after it emerged that a former passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong last month had tested positive for the virus now named Covid-19.

Read more …

At the WHO, the administrative leadership is miles apart from the medical specialists. The latter are now taking over.

WHO Team Arrives In China As Wuhan Coronavirus Deaths Top SARS (CNN)

The number of deaths from the Wuhan coronavirus had risen to over 1,000 by Tuesday morning, as experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) arrived in China to assist with controlling the epidemic. Chinese health authorities said 108 people died from the virus in mainland China on Monday, with the majority of those deaths occurring in Hubei province, the capital of which is Wuhan – the city where the virus was first found. The total number of deaths stands at 1,018, all but two of those in mainland China. Globally, 43,114 have now been diagnosed with the virus, again with the majority in China. Around 4,000 patients have been treated and released from hospital in China since late December.


A team of World Health Organization (WHO) experts landed in China on Monday. The organization’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said they will “lay the groundwork for a larger international team,” which will join them “as soon as possible.” The WHO group in China is led by Bruce Aylward, who helmed the body’s response to Ebola, as well as initiatives for immunization, communicable diseases control and polio eradication. Their arrival comes as the WHO is facing increasing criticism for its initial decision not to declare a global health emergency, and for officials’ effusive praise of China’s handling of the crisis, even as Beijing faces outrage domestically for, among other things, the death of whistleblower doctor Li Wenliang, and the subsequent censorship of that news.

Read more …

Spring cleaning.

Beijing’s Purge Over Virus Takes Down Top Communist Party Officials In Hubei (SCMP)

Beijing’s purge of officials in Hubei province picked up pace with the removal of the top Communist Party leaders in the region as the central government responded to public anger over what is seen as a botched response to the deadly coronavirus outbreak in the region. China’s official Xinhua news agency reported that Hubei party secretary Jiang Chaoliang will be replaced by Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong, 61, a close ally of Chinese President Xi Jinping. The Communist Party leader of Wuhan city Ma Guoqiang, 56, is also set to be dismissed, according to a person familiar with the development who was not authorised to speak on the issue. Ma will be replaced by Wang Zhonglin, 57, party secretary of Shandong’s provincial capital Jinan.


Jiang, 61, is the highest-ranking political casualty so far in the outbreak, which has killed more than 1,100 people in mainland China, the vast majority in Hubei and its capital, Wuhan city. As details have trickled out on how local officials mismanaged the outbreak, public anger has swelled on social media. Academics have also signed a public petition to demand free speech after the police punished doctors who raised the early alarm about the outbreak. “Sending Ying Yong and Wang Zhonglin to Hubei shows the central government is determined to fix Hubei and give people answers. The cadres there have been really disappointing,” the unnamed person said. “The outbreak cost the party dearly. Those who are responsible will be held accountable.”

Read more …

“Then on day 8, the reporters saw their first dead body in the street. He’s a man, in his sixties, who is lying on his back in front of a closed furniture store. Officials in hazard suits slowly approach the body, taking every conceivable precaution.”

Botched Wuhan Quarantine Left Dead Bodies In The Street (ZH)

[..] few have captured the atmosphere of the situation quite like a team of AFP journalists who lingered in Wuhan after the lockdown, and have detailed their experiences in diary format. The diary begins on Jan. 23, the day Wuhan was placed under lockdown. It starts as one might expect: Though the news was a shock, few tried to escape the city before the lockdown officially went into effect. Police chase the last travelers out of the railroad station. But the situation doesn’t really start to escalate until Jan. 25, or New Year’s Day in China. Those who went to worship at the city’s Guiyan temple, normally packed this time of year, found it empty: nobody was allowed inside.

“No-one is allowed inside in order to prevent the virus spreading,” a uniformed man – who is not wearing the compulsory mask – tells AFP. On the fourth day of the crackdown, conditions in Wuhan really started to deteriorate. This marked the beginning of hard times for Wuhan. Overwhelmed hospitals arbitrarily turned people away if their swab tests came back negative for the virus. One man told an AFP reporter that he had been turned away by four hospitals, despite being seriously ill. “I haven’t slept,” he said. He was getting ready to wait in line all night to hopefully be admitted to another hospital. For the first in their memory, the AFP reporters said Chinese out on the streets approached them to complain about the government’s handling of the lockdown.

“Like a horror film,” says one witness, who tells AFP bodies were left unattended for hours. [..] On day 6, the AFP spoke to a French doctor who had decided to stay in Wuhan, a Dr. Philippe Klein. “It’s not an act of heroism,” he said. “It’s been well thought out, it’s my job.” More signs of the government crackdown are beginning to appear: Guards take the temperature of customers at supermarkets and other stores hawking essential goods. Then on day 8, the reporters saw their first dead body in the street. He’s a man, in his sixties, who is lying on his back in front of a closed furniture store. Officials in hazard suits slowly approach the body, taking every conceivable precaution.

Read more …

Well, you can’t say I didn’t warn you. This is precisely what I warned about. And the new numbers will do nothing to restore any confidence at all.

What Happened After One Chinese Company Reopened After The Corona-Chaos (ZH)

Today, two days after China officially returned to work, we got the first confirmation of just how catastrophic Beijing’s order to local enterprises and businesses to rush back reboot the economy could be, when Jennifer Zeng reported that a company in Suzhou reopened, and immediately at least one CoVid2019 case found. As a result, the company’s 200+ employees couldn’t go home and were immediately placed under quarantine. At least the workers managed to “organize” quilts for themselves. This is just the first such case. Expect many more – especially across Hubei and its neighboring provinces – as latent cases of Coronavirus which were never caught and cured spark new infections and mini epidemics, all of which dutifully captured on a smartphone clip for everyone in China to watch and freak out even more.

Which reminds us of another comment from Rabobank, which last week explained why the dilemma facing China is “truly awful”: The quandary for China between releasing the quarantine straitjacket in days to stop its economy from getting truly sick, and allowing a virus like this to spread further as people start to mingle again is truly awful. There are no good options. For a world with a serious lack of final end-demand, and which has been relying on China, along with increasingly “Chinese” central banks, this is going to be a nasty shock either way that Mr Market is treating like he is Mr Magoo.

And since Beijing has no way out, especially since the epidemic is still raging despite Beijing’s “doctored”, no pun intended, infection and death numbers, expect China to unleash the most draconian censorship crackdown on any reports Covid-2019 has not only not been purged but is making unwelcome appearances across China’s enterprises, which will be quietly put under blanket quarantine even as Beijing pretends that all is well and its economy is once again humming on all cylinders until eventually the epidemic reaches a critical mass and China has no choice but to once again admit the full extent of the social and economic fallout. And just like in the case of SARS, don’t expect such “honesty” to emerge for at least several weeks if not months.

Read more …

“The city governments of Zhongshan and Foshan in Guangzhou province have postponed the resumption of work until March 1, while companies must apply for special permission in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province. The local administration has so far only given the green light to 1,462 out of nearly 30,000 companies based in the city”

Will these party officials be fired for being too strict?

China Struggles To Balance Coronavirus Containment With Economic Cost (SCMP)

To work or not to work – that is proving a crucial question for Chinese officials, companies and employees as the world’s second largest economy struggles to balance the risk of the deadly coronavirus with the need to resume business. Most provinces across China restarted operations on Monday after an extended Lunar New Year holiday, but an influx of workers returning from their hometowns is posing a headache for authorities. The coronavirus, which has killed more than 1,100 people and infected nearly 45,000, shows few signs of being contained, stoking fears of a potential spike in infections as people return to work. While the central government has made it clear that containing the outbreak is an overriding priority, Communist Party leaders know they cannot afford to freeze industrial production indefinitely, especially as China’s economy grows at its slowest pace in decades.

[..] As the virus has spread from Hubei’s provincial capital Wuhan, authorities across China have imposed travel restrictions, cancelled public events and locked down neighbourhoods. Last week, the government of Suzhou, a major manufacturing hub in Jiangsu province, which is known for its silk products, asked local communities to tell workers from Hubei and Zhejiang provinces not to return until further notice. This employee “blacklisting” was echoed by other cities, including Wuxi in the south of Jiangsu, which banned migrant workers from at least seven provinces. While most provincial level governments have urged companies to resume operations this week, officials at local levels are dragging their feet.

The city governments of Zhongshan and Foshan in Guangzhou province have postponed the resumption of work until March 1, while companies must apply for special permission in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province. Once approved, employees are required to report their body temperatures to local authorities daily. The local administration has so far only given the green light to 1,462 out of nearly 30,000 companies based in the city, an approval rate below 5 per cent. Small and medium-sized enterprises in China, which are a cornerstone for employment and social stability, are at most risk from the efforts to contain the outbreak. A recent survey conducted by researchers from Tsinghua and Peking universities in Beijing, two of China’s top institutions of higher learning, found that 67.1 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises had only enough financial reserves to sustain operations for two months if revenues dried up. The survey of 995 companies also found that 30 per cent expected revenues to shrink by at least half from 2019.

Read more …

In case the virus didn’t scare you enough:

“80 percent of the U.S. supply of antibiotics are made in China…”

Protecting The US From Global Pandemics (Scott Gottlieb)

About 40 percent of generic drugs sold in the U.S. have only a single manufacturer. A significant supply chain disruption could cause shortages for some or many of these products. Last year, manufacturing of intermediate or finished goods in China, as well as pharmaceutical source material, accounted for 95 percent of U.S. imports of ibuprofen, 91 percent of U.S. imports of hydrocortisone, 70 percent of U.S. imports of acetaminophen, 40 to 45 percent of U.S. imports of penicillin, and 40 percent of U.S. imports of heparin, according to the Commerce Department. In total, 80 percent of the U.S. supply of antibiotics are made in China.

While much of the fill finishing work (the actual formulation of finished drug capsules and tablets) is done outside China (and often in India) the starting and intermediate chemicals are often sourced in China. Moreover, the U.S. generic drug industry can no longer produce certain critical medicines such as penicillin and doxycycline without these chemical components.iv According to a report from the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, China’s chemical industry, which accounts for 40 percent of global chemical industry revenue, provides a large number of ingredients for drug products.

It’s these source materials – where in many cases China is the exclusive source of the chemical ingredients used for the manufacture of a drug product – that create choke points in the global supply chain for critical medicines. Moreover, when it comes to starting material for the manufacture of pharmaceutical ingredients, a lot of this production is centered in China’s Hubei Provence, the epicenter of coronavirus. Most drug makers have a one to three-months of inventory of drug ingredients on hand. But these supplies are already being drawn down. Among big API makers in Wuhan are Wuhan Shiji Pharmaceutical, Chemwerth, Hubei Biocause, Wuhan Calmland Pharmaceuticals.

[..] We’re facing the potential for unprecedented supply chain disruptions. You can’t easily switch component part suppliers — either starter material for the manufacture of drugs or components for device devices. You have to qualify those alternative sources, make sure they meet regulatory standards for Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), and meet the conditions set by those incorporating these materials into their finished goods. Even if FDA is able to offer manufacturers flexibility in making these component changes, substitutions are often complex.

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Some people are just not all that smart.

South Korea’s Moon Says Virus Epidemic To End Soon (YNA)

President Moon Jae-in expressed confidence Thursday that South Korea will soon bring the novel coronavirus pandemic under control and stressed it is time to resume full-scale efforts to revitalize the economy, meeting with a group of local business leaders. “COVID-19 will be terminated (in South Korea) before long,” he said, using the official name of the disease, during the session held at the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) in Seoul. Fortunately, he said, domestic quarantine management “appears to have entered a stable stage to some extent,” although it is still too early to be complacent. He emphasized that quarantine authorities here would continue their efforts “until the end” to contain the virus.


The president voiced regret once again over the outbreak’s negative impact on the country’s economy, which he said had been showing clear indications of recovery. “It’s very regrettable that the ankle of the economy has been seized by the occurrence of the COVID-19 incident,” Moon told the attendees including Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, CJ Group Chairman Lee Jae-hyun and Park Yong-maan, chairman of the KCCI. “Now, it’s time for the government and business circles to join forces and revive the recovery trend of the economy,” Moon said. He reaffirmed the government’s resolve to ramp up its bid to create more jobs with massive investment projects and support private firms with “bold” tax incentives and regulatory reform.

Read more …

And here’s for the morally challenged. If it won’t make us rich, we should we develop a vaccine?

Epidemics Are Tough To Turn Into Profit (R.)

Epidemics are catastrophic for humans, and it turns out they aren’t much better for healthcare companies. The number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus has multiplied more than 80-fold over three weeks despite measures such as travel bans, and exceeded 45,000 across 26 countries on Wednesday, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Tests and treatments are in demand. Yet past events like SARS show slow research, high production costs and political pressure on pricing often add up to disappointing returns. Tests for the virus now called SARS-CoV-2 are here. These are vital for diagnosing, isolating carriers, and tracking exposure.

Meridian Bioscience saw its stock pop on news it had developed a test, but the shares then dropped as investors realized Roche, Qiagen and others would all fight for thin margins. So far, none of the stocks has moved much. A treatment has better profit potential, as competition probably will be limited. The snag is, proving a drug’s effectiveness typically takes years. There are already multiple trials started using existing anti-viral treatments, and potential new drugs by Gilead Sciences and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals have begun testing, or will soon. Even if one company hits the jackpot, production can be a problem. Flu fears in 2009 made Roche’s Tamiflu a blockbuster. But securing enough production of spice star anise to make the drug proved troublesome.

The best long-term hope for coronavirus control is a vaccine. Old-school giant Novartis, biotechnology outfit Moderna and others want to make one. But drug development is hard, and vaccines can be particularly tricky due to viral mutation. World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday a vaccine might be available in 18 months, a long way off even assuming no hiccups. Vaccines can be profitable for endemic diseases – Pfizer sold $1.6 billion of a pneumonia vaccine last year. But the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in 2003 flared up and hasn’t been seen in humans since. SARS-CoV-2 might follow the same path.

Read more …

 

 

 

The Automatic Earth will not survive without your Paypal and Patreon donations. Please support us.

 

Feb 102020
 


Arnold Genthe 17th century Iglesia el Carmen, Antigua, Guatemala 1915

 

Japan: 60 More Coronavirus Infections On Diamond Princess Cruise Ship (SCMP)
iPhones Will Display China’s Back-to-Work Power (R.)
Beijing Officially Declares Lockdown (GNews)
Taiwan’s Foxconn Gets OK To Restart Plant In Zhengzhou, China (R.)
Nikkei Denies Reuters Story That Foxconn Will Restart Production (ZH)
Shenzhen Denies Blocking Apple Supplier Foxconn From Resuming Production (R.)
Amazon Latest To Pull Out Of Major Barcelona Tech Show (BBC)
Millions Left Wuhan Before Quarantine. Where Did They Go? (AP)
The Mysterious Origin of the Wuhan Coronavirus (ET)
Rick Gates Told Mueller The Black Ledger Was Fabricated (Solomon)

 

 

Lots of ‘China back to work’ articles today, because I was curious how that would go. Well, it’s not clear -what a surprise. Beijing put itself on lockdown today, maybe that’s a clear sign. They, too, must have seen that the cruise ship floating off Yokohama found an additional 60 infections. And factories, like trains etc., can be almost as bad as cruise ships in spreading viruses.

The best line on the topic is perhaps that Citi estimates that by Tuesday, only 30% of China’s total workforce will be able to return to work. Much less today. Reuters claims that Foxconn can open its Zhengzhou factories, only to have Nikkei deny it. Nikkei in turn says Shenzhen ordered Foxconn’s plants there shut, but Shenzhen denies that.

That Amazon, LG, Ericsson and NVIDIA have all withdrawn from a conference as far away as Barcelona should also tell you something about the overall mood. People say: how iPhones fare will tell you a lot. I say: look at the less iconic stuff.

 

• Deaths 910, up 97 from yesterday’s 813 – people say: Daily Record! I say: every day has been a record so far, or the same as the day before.

• New cases 2,973 from 2,652 yesterday – no more levelling off

• Global confirmed cases 40,614

Hubei

• 29,631 confirmed cases
• 871 deaths
• 1,795 discharged from hospitals
• 73,127 under medical observation

 

Note: the SCMP app where the numbers below come from appears to have some troubles. The detailed numbers are not there. At first, no numbers at all. Then they re-appeared, and then started counting backward. But they’re about right as official numbers go.

 

 

 

 

Petri dish. Newer studies suggest the virus can survive 9 days on surfaces. Good luck.

Japan: 60 More Coronavirus Infections On Diamond Princess Cruise Ship (SCMP)

Testing aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan has found 60 more confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, national broadcaster NHK said on Monday. That brings total cases on the ship docked in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, to 130. Japanese authorities have so far tested about 280 people on board the Diamond Princess, which was placed on a two-week quarantine after a former passenger, who disembarked in Hong Kong last month, was diagnosed with the coronavirus. About 3,700 people are on board the vessel, which usually has a crew of 1,100 and a passenger capacity of 2,670.


The Princess Cruise website describes the ship as “your home away from home” and it will remain so for most passengers at least until February 19. The quarantine period could be extended if necessary, a Japanese government official said. One of those found infected is in serious condition. Many on board are elderly and at greater risk of developing complications from the virus. Mike Ryan, the World Health Organisation’s top emergency expert, said new cases would push back the quarantine. “We need to find a way to break that vicious cycle and find a way of organising the patients on board in a way that we can get people off the ship in due course, Ryan said.

Read more …

Sure sounds strict.

Beijing Officially Declares Lockdown (GNews)

As the novel coronavirus spreads from Wuhan, China has been implementing “closed management” by putting 80 cities under lockdown. Today, Beijing authorities also issued a “Strict Closed Management of Residential Communities” in an epidemic prevention and control announcement. It is an official declaration that Beijing, the country’s capital city of China, is now under lockdown. According to the notice, Beijing will further enforce “community closed management” in a strict manner. Outside vehicles and personnel are not allowed to enter the city. People arriving in Beijing must also report their health status and complete the registration of personal information. Those who have left the epidemic area or have physical contact with persons in the epidemic area within 14 days of their arrival at Beijing, shall be inspected or quarantined at home in accordance with the regulations.


They should take the initiative to report their health conditions, and cooperate with relevant management services. They shall not go out. Anyone who refuses to accept epidemic prevention measures such as medical observation and home quarantine constitutes a violation of public security management and shall be severely punished by the public security bureau according to the law. In addition, all public places in the Beijing community that are not essential for people’s living are closed. All agencies and enterprises must strictly strengthen body temperature monitoring. Housing agencies and landlords in Beijing must provide local government with information on rental houses and tenants. This is a measure for epidemic prevention.

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I’m still not convinced. But I realize that Xi really really wants it.

China Slowly Gets Back To Work (R.)

Authorities told businesses to add up to 10 extra days onto Lunar New Year holidays that had been due to finish at the end of January. Even on Monday, a large number of workplaces remained closed and many people worked from home. Few commuters seen during the morning rush-hour on one of Beijing’s busiest subway lines. All were wearing masks. Jin Yang, who works in a department of China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange, rode a bicycle to work instead of public transport. Staff were told to wear masks, avoid face-to-face meetings and the canteen was closed. Another employee surnamed Chen said the insurance company he worked for had barred people from taking public transport. “I usually take subways but this morning it cost me 200 yuan one way by cab,” he said.

Hubei, the province of 60 million people that is the hardest hit by the outbreak, remains in virtual lockdown, with its train stations and airports shut and its roads sealed off. The extended closure of factories in the world’s second-largest economy has raised concerns about disruptions cascading through global supply chains. China’s central bank has taken a raft of steps to support the economy, including reducing interest rates and flushing the market with liquidity. From Monday, it will provide special funds for banks to re-lend to businesses combating the virus. Taiwan’s Foxconn has received Chinese government approval to resume production at a key plant in the north China city of Zhengzhou, a source with direct knowledge of the situation told Reuters on Monday.

But the southern city of Shenzhen rejected a company request to resume work at a plant there. Tesla, Daimler and Ford Motor are among carmakers that have said that they will restart production at their factories on Monday. Gaming giant Tencent Holdings said it had asked staff to continue working from home until Feb. 21. Samsung Electronics resumed production at its home appliance factory in China on Monday, while it continues to run its chip factory there, a spokeswoman said. It extended the suspension of work at a television factory to Feb. 17. Hyundai said its suppliers in China resumed production but volume was negligible. Kia Motors is suspending production at all three Korean plants due to a shortage of parts, although one of them will resume production on Tuesday.

Read more …

Beijinng can make iPhones a priority, knowing the west will watch them more than other products. So, bad barometer.

iPhones Will Display China’s Back-to-Work Power (R.)

The next iPhones will test China’s ability to restart its economy. Apple supplier Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry, is re-opening a key Chinese plant as authorities ease curbs. But the handset-maker and other companies face labour shortages as workers struggle to travel with ongoing contagion fears around a coronavirus outbreak. It’s a reminder of the complexity of restarting supply chains. Foxconn has won permission to resume operations at its mega Zhengzhou facility in northern China. Production at the plant, which some analysts reckon account for the bulk of the iPhone’s assemblies, has been halted for over two weeks.

The company is still in talks with officials to restart two other major plants, according to Reuters. One, in the southern city of Shenzhen, is focused on new iPhone models slated for this year, local media reports. There are practical limitations, though. Barely 16,000 workers, less than 10% of the workforce, returned to the Zhengzhou factory, Reuters reported on Monday [..] Many employees of Chinese companies crisscrossed the country to go back to their hometowns for the Lunar New Year holiday, that was then extended. Citywide lockdowns make it hard for people to move around. Analysts at Citi estimate that by Tuesday, only 30% of China’s total workforce will be able to return to work.

And that doesn’t factor in the immense challenge of preventing fresh cases of infection on factory floors. Most companies may have to enforce additional quarantines for people returning from virus-hit areas, as well as implement daily temperature checks. Foxconn has even resorted to manufacturing its own surgical face masks – up to two million a day – for its hundreds of thousands of employees. Following China-U.S. trade tension, the current disruption will fuel debate about the merits of companies allowing supply chains to consolidate too much in a single country. China’s looming labour shortage, though, is even more pronounced because the virus outbreak coincided with the holidays.

Read more …

Or do they?

Taiwan’s Foxconn Gets OK To Restart Plant In Zhengzhou, China (R.)

Taiwan’s Foxconn has received approval to resume production at a plant in the northern Chinese city of Zhengzhou that had been shuttered due to a coronavirus outbreak, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Monday. About 16,000 people, or under 10% of Foxconn’s workforce in Zhengzhou, have returned to the plant, the person said, adding that company executives were “trying very hard” to negotiate with authorities to resume production in other parts of China. The development comes as the coronavirus outbreak – declared a global health emergency by the WHO – threatens to disrupt Chinese manufacturing and force policymakers to ready measures to stabilize the economy.


At Foxconn, the delayed resumption of operations could impact the global technology supply chain and shipments to customers including Apple Inc, a source with direct knowledge of the matter previously told Reuters. The contract manufacturer is in talks to resume production at key plants including in Shenzhen and Kunshan, said the person on Monday [..] Tens of thousands of Foxconn employees have returned to work following an extended Lunar New Year holiday. They have been told to wear masks, undergo temperature checks and adhere to a specified dining system, showed internal memos reviewed by Reuters. Most senior Taiwanese officials have been told to refrain from returning to China and those who needed to do so required approval from Chairman Liu Young-Way, the person said.

Read more …

Are these contradictory stories spread on purpose?

Nikkei Denies Reuters Story That Foxconn Will Restart Production (ZH)

[..] after futures sprinted into the green following a Reuters report that Foxconn had received Chinese government approval to resume production at a key plant in the northern China city of Zhengzhou, Nikkei now denies this, reporting that “Foxconn’s plan to resume production on Monday has been called off by the Chinese authorities due to worries surrounding the coronavirus outbreak” The Japanese publication adds that “the action further worsens the supply chain disruption for global electronics companies, including Apple, Amazon, Google and Huawei. Foxconn is the world’s biggest iPhone assembler, and it makes Huawei smartphones and Amazon Kindle tablets as well as echo speakers, while it also supplies HP, Dell and most the major electronics brands.”


Public health experts in Shenzhen informed Foxconn, which trades as Hon Hai Precision Industry, that its factories there face “high risks of coronavirus infection” after conducting on-site inspections and therefore are not suitable to restart work, four people familiar with the matter told Nikkei. “Violation of epidemic prevention and control could potentially face the death penalty,” the internal meeting memo seen by the Nikkei Asian Review said. More importantly, Foxconn’s Zhengzhou complex, which according to Reuters would reopen on Monday, also canceled plans to resume work on Monday, they said.

Read more …

Where politics meets business. Local officials feel the heat from all sides.

Shenzhen Denies Blocking Apple Supplier Foxconn From Resuming Production (R.)

Local Chinese authorities have not blocked Apple supplier Foxconn from resuming production amid a coronavirus outbreak, they said in a statement on Sunday, denying an earlier report in the Nikkei Business Daily. The Nikkei, citing four people familiar with the matter, said on Saturday that public health experts had carried out inspections at Foxconn’s factories and told the company that there was a “high risk of coronavirus infection” at the facilities, making them unsuitable for a production restart. Shenzhen’s Longhua district, where Foxconn’s largest factory is located, said in a statement on its official WeChat account on Sunday that those reports were untrue and that it was still conducting checks, adding that the company would restart production once inspections were completed.


It said it had received proposals from three Foxconn subsidiaries on Feb. 6 detailing how the Taipei-headquartered firm, which makes smartphones for Apple and other brands, planned to put in place epidemic prevention and control measures. The thousands of workers that work in Foxconn’s factories will need to wear masks, undergo temperature checks, and adhere to a dining system considered safe, it said in the statement.

Read more …

How far is that from Wuhan?

Amazon Latest To Pull Out Of Major Barcelona Tech Show (BBC)

Amazon is the latest major company to pull out of one of the world’s largest tech shows because of risks posed by coronavirus. Amazon said “due to the outbreak and continued concerns about novel coronavirus” it would no longer take part in Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The organiser said the event, which attracts 100,000 people, will go ahead. But it admitted other companies are considering whether to attend. South Korea’s LG Electronics, Ericsson, the Swedish telecoms equipment-maker, and US chip company NVIDIA have already withdrawn from the conference which runs between 24-27 February.


The GSMA, which organises the show in the Spanish city, said that while it could “confirm some large exhibitors have decided not to come to the show this year with others still contemplating next steps, we remain more than 2,800 exhibitors strong”. However, it revealed that it had put in place additional measures to “reassure attendees and exhibitors that their health and safety are our paramount concern”. These include a ban on all travellers from China’s Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, while people who have been in China must provide proof they have been outside the country for 14 days.

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Most stayed in China. That’s at least something.

Millions Left Wuhan Before Quarantine. Where Did They Go? (AP)

For weeks after the first reports of a mysterious new virus in Wuhan, millions of people poured out of the central Chinese city, cramming onto buses, trains and planes as the first wave of China’s great Lunar New Year migration broke across the nation. Some carried with them the new virus that has since claimed over 8 00 lives and sickened more than 37,000 people. Officials finally began to seal the borders on Jan. 23. But it was too late. Speaking to reporters a few days after the the city was put under quarantine, the mayor estimated that 5 million people had already left. Where did they go?

An Associated Press analysis of domestic travel patterns using map location data from Chinese tech giant Baidu shows that in the two weeks before Wuhan’s lockdown, nearly 70% of trips out of the central Chinese city were within Hubei province. Baidu has a map app that is similar to Google Maps, which is blocked in China. Another 14% of the trips went to the neighboring provinces of Henan, Hunan, Anhui and Jiangxi. Nearly 2% slipped down to Guangdong province, the coastal manufacturing powerhouse across from Hong Kong, and the rest fanned out across China. The cities outside Hubei province that were top destinations for trips from Wuhan between Jan. 10 and Jan. 24 were Chongqing, a municipality next to Hubei province, Beijing and Shanghai.

The travel patterns broadly track with the early spread of the virus. The majority of confirmed cases and deaths have occurred in China, within Hubei province, followed by high numbers of cases in central China, with pockets of infections in Chongqing, Shanghai and Beijing as well. “It’s definitely too late,” said Jin Dong-Yan, a molecular virologist at Hong Kong University’s School of Biomedical Sciences. “Five million out. That’s a big challenge. Many of them may not come back to Wuhan but hang around somewhere else. To control this outbreak, we have to deal with this. On one hand, we need to identify them. On the other hand, we need to address the issue of stigma and discrimination.”

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Too many theories to keep up.

The Mysterious Origin of the Wuhan Coronavirus (ET)

Scientific studies based on phylogenetic analysis have researched the sequence of the novel coronavirus, compared it to other coronavirus sequences, and found it likely originated in bats. Researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology found the genome in the virus found in patients was 96 percent identical to that of an existing bat coronavirus, according to a study published in the journal Nature. But there have been other theories as well. One Chinese study suggested, for example, that snakes were the source of transmission to humans. However, many scientists believe that reptiles are a less likely source and that mammals like rats and pigs, and some birds, have been the primary reservoir for coronaviruses.

With this in mind, phylogenetic studies of viral genome sequences need to be supported by animal studies to confirm the origin of the infection, as well as to determine whether there is an intermediate host. It is not an easy task for a virus to establish zoonotic transmission, and coronaviruses rarely leap from animal to human infection with high transmissibility. There is even less chance to see a coronavirus leap directly from bats to humans. To infect new hosts, mutations need to occur with the viral surface proteins and/or envelope and structural genes, so that the mutated viruses can bind and enter the cells of new species, and efficiently complete the replication cycles in the new hosts. Some scientists have argued that coronaviruses can jump directly to humans, without mutating or passing through an intermediate species.

However, an intermediate host was clearly needed to establish zoonotic transmission to humans in the previous outbreaks of coronaviruses. Many studies suggested that the bat coronavirus jumped from its natural host bats to civets and then to humans during the 2003 SARS outbreak, and it jumped from bats to camels and then to humans for the MERS outbreak. So, civets and camels would serve as intermediate hosts for zoonotic transmission. Because bats were not sold at the Huanan market in Wuhan—the epicenter of the infection—at the time of the outbreak, this suggests the existence of another intermediate animal host that may have transferred the virus to humans. What is the most puzzling is that there have been no reports on the testing of animal samples collected in any epicenters in Wuhan, especially at the Huanan seafood market, to identify what animals might be the host or intermediate hosts of this novel Wuhan coronavirus.

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Both the Steele dossier and the black ledger are fabricated files.

Rick Gates Told Mueller The Black Ledger Was Fabricated (Solomon)

One of Robert Mueller’s pivotal trial witnesses told the special prosecutor’s team in spring 2018 that a key piece of Russia collusion evidence found in Ukraine known as the “black ledger” was fabricated, according to interviews and testimony. The ledger document, which suddenly appeared in Kiev during the 2016 U.S. election, showed alleged cash payments from Russian-backed politicians in Ukraine to ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. “The ledger was completely made up,” cooperating witness and Manafort business partner Rick Gates told prosecutors and FBI agents, according to a written summary of an April 2018 special counsel’s interview. In a brief interview with Just the News, Gates confirmed the information in the summary. “The black ledger was a fabrication,” Gates said.

“It was never real, and this fact has since been proven true.” Gates’ account is backed by several Ukrainian officials who stated in interviews dating to 2018 that the ledger was of suspicious origins and could not be corroborated. If true, Gates’ account means the two key pieces of documentary evidence used by the media and FBI to drive the now-debunked Russia collusion narrative — the Steele dossier and the black ledger — were at best uncorroborated and at worst disinformation. His account also raises the possibility that someone fabricated the document in Ukraine in an effort to restart investigative efforts on Manafort’s consulting work or to meddle in the U.S. presidential election.

Much mystery has surrounded the black ledger, which was publicized by the New York Times and other U.S. news outlets in the summer of 2016 and forced Manafort out as one of Trump’s top campaign officials. After gaining wide attention as purported evidence of Russian ties to the Trump campaign, the ledger was never introduced as evidence at Manafort’s 2018 trial or significantly analyzed in Mueller’s final 2019 report, which concluded that Trump did not collude with Russia to influence the 2016 election. No FBI 302 interview reports have been released either showing what the FBI concluded about the ledger. Gates’ interview with the Mueller team now provides a potential clue as to why.

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