May 312020
 


Monastiraki Square deserted due to lockdown, Athens, Greece 2020

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

Some of the crew preparing meals in the central place:

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

The usual hot meal in the big pot:

 

 

But lots of other things too, all individually wrapped:

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

And at the port of Piraeus:

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Thank you.

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Mar 032020
 


Ben Shahn Quick lunch stand in Plain City, Ohio 1938

 

Italy Has Exported Cases Of Coronavirus To 24 Countries – WHO (TMZNaija)
China Manufacturing Collapse Confirmed By Private Sector Factory Survey (SCMP)
China Reports Surprising Rail Freight Growth In February (SCMP)
A Modern Jubilee As A Cure To Financial Ills Of Coronavirus (Steve Keen)
This Ain’t No Fooling’ Around (Kunstler)
Tucker Carlson On Dems’ Biden Push: ‘They’re Pushing A Defective Product’ (Fox)
What Could Divide The Democrats More Than Conspiring To Stop Bernie? (Tracey)
Ukraine Court Throws Wrench Into Joe Biden’s 2020 Election Plans (Solomon)
Hillary Clinton Ordered To Give Sworn Deposition On Email Server, Benghazi (ZH)
Erdogan’s Use Of Refugees To Pressure EU Is ‘Unacceptable’ – Merkel (RT)
Greece Seeks To Fortify Borders Amid Erdogan Threats (K.)
UN Says Greece Has No Right To Stop Accepting Asylum Requests (K.)
The Armoured Glass Box is an Instrument of Torture (Craig Murray)

 

 

Is COVID19 topping out in China? It’s possible, but they want it too much, and they’ve played loose with the numbers a lot. Strangest thing is perhaps that despite a cavernous drop in manufacturing PMI, a rise in freight train cargo is reported for February.

Most interesting these days, I find, are Italy, South Korea, Iran, which are in their exponential rise phases, and other countries (US?) that may soon follow suit. As I said yesterday: “Italy: only 10 days ago, on Feb 22, when S. Korea cases jumped to 156(!) [now 5,186], Italy first became a thing with 30 cases and 2 deaths. 2,000 cases now, 52 deaths and a 2.5% death rate.”

That Italy has exported the virus to as many as 24 countries also gives me pause for thought. So for now I’ll keep the usual numbers and graphs coming.

But in the run-up to Stupid Tuesday I can also finally pay some attention to the Dems, now that the DNC power grab has become so blatantly obvious.

 

Cases 91,317 (+ 2,069 from yesterday’s 89,248, when gain was 1,616)

Deaths 3,120 (+ 62 from yesterday’s 3,058)

 

• Hubei 114 new cases, 31 new deaths – Total 67,217 cases, 2,834 deaths.
• South Korea 851 new cases, total 5,186, 34 deaths
• Italy 346 new cases, total 2,048, 52 deaths
• Iran 523 new cases, total 1,501, 66 deaths
• France 191 (from 130 yesterday), 3 deaths
• US 103 cases, 6 deaths

 

From SCMP:

 

 

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

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

This article is a few days old, but I like the idea. Original title was “Italy Has Exported 24 Cases Of Coronavirus To 14 Countries”, but time won’t stand still.

A list I picked up on Twitter of countries linking infections to Italy: China, Holland, Denmark, Nigeria, US (GA, NH, MA), Iceland, UK, Croatia, Israel, Romania, Spain, Austria, Algeria, Brazil, Finland, Switzerland, Macedonia, Greece, Estonia, Sweden, France, Germany, Lithuania, San Marino.

Italy Has Exported Cases Of Coronavirus To 24 Countries – WHO (TMZNaija)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that Italy has exported 24 cases of coronavirus to 14 countries. The global health body also revealed that 97 cases have been exported from Iran to 11 countries. In his opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – on Friday, 28 February 2020, WHO’s Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stated that in the past 24 hours, China reported 329 cases – the lowest in more than a month. Ghebreyesus who reeled out figures regarding the spread of the virus said that as of 6am Geneva time this morning, China reported a total of 78,959 cases of COVID-19 to WHO, including 2791 deaths. “Outside China, there are now 4351 cases in 49 countries and 67 deaths.

“Since yesterday, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Netherlands, and Nigeria have all reported their first cases. All these cases have links to Italy,” Ghebreyesus told newsmen. The Director-General also said that the continued increase in the number of cases, and the number of affected countries over the last few days, are clearly of concern. He, however, noted that WHO’s epidemiologists have been monitoring these developments continuously, and have now increased its assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of the impact of COVID-19 to very high at a global level.


“What we see at the moment are linked epidemics of COVID-19 in several countries, but most cases can still be traced to known contacts or clusters of cases. We do not see evidence as yet that the virus is spreading freely in communities. “As long as that’s the case, we still have a chance of containing this virus, if robust action is taken to detect cases early, isolate and care for patients and trace contacts. “As I said yesterday, there are different scenarios in different countries and different scenarios within the same country,” Ghebreyesus said.. According to him, the key to containing this virus is to break the chains of transmission. Meanwhile, according to BBC, not less than 210 people has died from coronavirus disease in Iran.

Read more …

An index of smaller companies than the Beijing one covers.

China Manufacturing Collapse Confirmed By Private Sector Factory Survey (SCMP)

A collapse in China’s manufacturing sector in February was confirmed on Monday, with a new survey of privately-owned producers emphasising the economic damage caused by the coronavirus epidemic. The Caixin/Markit manufacturing purchasing managers’ Index (PMI), a gauge of sentiment among the country’s smaller factory operators, plunged to 40.3 in February from 51.1 in January. The weak data will reinforce expectations that China could report negative growth in the first quarter of 2020 for the first time since the Cultural Revolution in the late-1960s and early-1970s. It will also renew calls for Beijing to take more aggressive steps to support the economy.


The survey was well below market expectations for a drop to 46.0 and marks the lowest reading since the survey began in April 2004. It was weaker than 40.9 in November 2008 amid the global financial crisis. The Caixin index follows Saturday’s release of the official manufacturing PMI, which crashed to a record low of 35.7 in February, below the previous trough of 38.8 reached in November 2008 at the start of the global financial crisis, the National Bureau of Statistics said. The survey for the official gauge covers more larger and state-owned firms, while the Caixin survey covers smaller firms. A reading below 50 means activity in the manufacturing sector is contracting. The further below 50 the index falls, the larger the contraction.

Read more …

Was this coordinated with Xi?

China Reports Surprising Rail Freight Growth In February (SCMP)

China’s official railway operator has said that rail freight rose in February, despite the coronavirus outbreak forcing large parts of the country into lockdown, and the official purchasing managers’ indices for manufacturing and services tumbling to all-time lows. China Railway, the state-owned railway operator, said in a statement on Sunday that total railway freight amounted to 310 million tonnes in February, a rise of 4.5 per cent from a year earlier, just a day after the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced that China’s factory and service sector activity sunk into deep contraction.


The supplier delivery time sub-index in China’s manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI), which measures logistics efficiency by railway, road and air for factories, dropped to 32.1 in February, a sign that raw material supplies to the manufacturing sector were at record lows last month, the NBS said. China Railway, meanwhile, said that China loaded 171,000 railway cars per day on average last month, a daily increase of 4,945 from a year earlier. Container freight on railways surged 39.5 per cent to 26.61 million tonnes, it added, in an surprisingly stable account of China’s rail freight network. In the January-February period, China’s freight cargo rose by 0.6 per cent to 670 million tonnes, an all-time high, according to China Railway.

Read more …

Steve’s elaborate write-up of things to do.

A Modern Jubilee As A Cure To Financial Ills Of Coronavirus (Steve Keen)

Extraordinary measures are needed now to stop the health effects of the Coronavirus triggering a financial crisis that could in turn make the Coronavirus worse. All of these actions can be undertaken by Central Banks and financial regulators, once they have been given permission by governments. Two of these measures are already being undertaken by some Central Banks:

• A per capita payment to all citizens so that renters can pay the rent, mortgagors can service their mortgages, and workers, whether unemployed or not, can buy food and other critical goods. This can be financed as Quantitative Easing was financed, without recourse to the Treasury, or taxation (Hong Kong has already done this);

• Normal bankruptcy rules for companies and especially banks should be suspended, to allow them to continue operating despite falling into negative equity if revenues fall sharply and share prices plunge; and

• Central Banks should buy shares directly to support share prices, rather than simply buying bonds under Quantitative Easing, to prevent a stock market collapse undermining both business and banks (Japan’s Central Bank is already doing this, though for other reasons).

Argument – There is no doubting now that the Coronavirus is a pandemic. This is the first one we have experienced since the “Spanish Flu”, which lasted from January 1918 till December 1920. Other recent serious diseases have had much lower levels of transmissibility. This is the first disease to compare to the Spanish Flu in terms of both transmissibility and virulence. Europe was embroiled in World War I at the outbreak of the Spanish Flu. Its health and population impacts were huge: estimates of the death toll vary between 40 and 100 million in a global population of 1.8 to 1.9 billion.

Here I want to focus on its financial effects. They were mild, because the great financial crisis of the 20th century, the Great Depression, lay ten years in the future. Disruptions to life were extreme, but disruptions to the economy were relatively small, and it was a war economy anyway for much of the world. This meant there was guaranteed employment and wages for military personnel, rationing for the general public, and other wartime measures. All these things limited the financial contagion from the medical contagion. Crucially, private debt was a mere 55% of US GDP when the flu outbreak began. The private sector was relatively robust.

Read more …

“Is there anything you can think of over at the Wal Mart or the Walgreens that isn’t made in China?”

This Ain’t No Fooling’ Around (Kunstler)

Is there anything you can think of over at the Wal Mart or the Walgreens that isn’t made in China? I mean, everything from a dustpan to a lint brush? I can’t say for sure, because I’m not over in China, but the place is apparently not open for business these days. One must surmise that a lot of activities in the USA may not be open for business much longer, either. The action in my local supermarket yesterday had an undercurrent of stealth desperation; no overt panic buying, no fighting in the aisles, but an edge of suspense. Personally, I cleaned out an entire product-line of cat food, loaded up on cooking oil, rice, dry beans, and evaporated milk — and I wasn’t the only one checking out with the sixteen-roll bindle of toilet paper.

Obviously, many products were still there on the shelves to get (minus that cat food). Is the time perhaps at hand when a lot of stuff won’t be? Just sayin’. The message is getting out — though not from US authorities yet — that everybody may soon be spending a lot of time home alone. That’s exactly what has happened in China and a region of northern Italy. France banned events with more than 5,000 people (why that number, exactly?). Japan has canceled school for the time being — duration unknown for now. So a USA lockdown is not merely hypothetical. These, then, are two fundamental conditions the world faces for a while: nobody moves and nothing gets produced.


Are we taking this thing too seriously (some might ask)? I don’t pretend to know the answer, except, again, to point to China and think that they can’t possibly just be fooling around with all those zombified cities and shuttered factories. The next question might be: will the global economy return at some point to “normal” operating conditions, that is, the fabulously complex network of supply lines, markets, and payment arrangements as they worked up until January 2020? I am for sure not sure about that. Once a gigantic and fantastically precise mechanism breaks, I doubt it comes back together neatly and quickly. In the physical universe, the power of emergence is like the cue ball on a billiard table, and it appears that all the rest of the colored balls will be bouncing off the bumpers and sinking into pockets for while… and eventually the global table will look a lot different.

Read more …

Stupid Tuesday.

Tucker Carlson On Democrats: ‘They’re Pushing A Defective Product’ (Fox)

Tucker Carlson mocked those pushing and supporting former Vice President Joe Biden Monday, in particular those who think he’s the candidate to stop the nomination of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. “And tonight, they have found their war horse, a hero they imagine will carry them forth to victory against the wild-haired infidel from Vermont. It is this candidate whom you should know is literally now the youngest man in the Democratic race,” Carlson said on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” “This is the man they believe has the competence, the intensity, the intellect to repel the seething horde of Sanders-ites. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Joe Biden.” Carlson played a montage of clips showing Biden fumble on the campaign. The host then chastised those pushing Biden to continue running, calling it “cruel.”

“Running Joe Biden for president is like making your dog wear a dress,” Carlson deadpanned. “It may make for an amusing Instagram post, but it’s wrong. You can see the confusion in the dog’s eyes.” The host ripped former Democratic presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, among others, for endorsing Biden who he referred to as a “defective product.” “Today, both Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar endorsed Biden. So did former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Beto O’Rourke,” Carlson said. “These are party people doing the bidding of their corporate masters. There’s nothing warm or sentimental about it. They’re pushing a defective product on consumers and they know it. They’re selling lawn darts.”


Carlson believes the threat from Sanders is about “institutional control.” “The Biden campaign isn’t about ideas, much less ideals. The Democratic establishment’s only concern is institutional control,” Carlson said. “That’s where all of their power comes from. From holding together and running things. If the Democratic coalition breaks down, they are by definition powerless.” “They have nothing. And the real threat of Bernie Sanders is the threat he poses to the party. He could split it in half and break it forever,” Carlson added. “That cannot happen. Joe Biden is their last chance. That’s why they’re backing him.”

Read more …

If they fail to stop his candidacy, what other tricks are up their sleeves?

What Could Divide The Democrats More Than Conspiring To Stop Bernie? (Tracey)

Perhaps the intense wave of establishment Democratic party consolidation around Joe Biden over the past 48 hours isn’t a concerted conspiracy — no smoke-filled rooms, no corrupt deals, no villainous blackmail schemes. But the Democratic party establishment (which we’re often told does not exist) is clearly making every effort to give the appearance of something conspiratorial going on. Take yesterday, for instance. Pete Buttigieg meets for breakfast with 95-year-old Jimmy Carter (?), ensures the visit is well-publicized, then heads home to South Bend and pulls the rug out from under his campaign. Wait, what? Is this the same Pete Buttigieg whose aides just a few days earlier released an elaborate memo detailing his surefire path to a formidable delegate acquisition?


Yet suddenly his Super Tuesday plans are scrapped, and the thousands of early votes already cast for him in California and elsewhere are effectively nullified. We’re all supposed to pretend this is normal behavior? Because it seems a bit sociopathic. I personally would never have voted for Pete. Nor would I have voted for Amy Klobuchar, who pulled the same 11th-hour dropout stunt today. But part of me still finds it disgraceful that these candidates would gut-punch their staff, volunteers, supporters, and voters in such a manner — hours before a major national election they’d been working toward for a full year — after both candidates gave every indication that they were going to actively contest. Instead of patting themselves on the back, shouldn’t Amy and Pete be begging for forgiveness, especially from those who already voted for them in Super Tuesday states — as it turns out, on false pretenses?

Beto 9 months ago:

Read more …

John Solomon is back again.

Ukraine Court Throws Wrench Into Joe Biden’s 2020 Election Plans (Solomon)

A Ukrainian court has ordered an investigation into whether Joe Biden violated any laws when he forced the March 2016 firing of the country’s chief prosecutor. The ruling could revive scrutiny of Hunter Biden’s lucrative relationship with an energy firm in that corruption-plagued country just as the former vice president’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination is surging after a lackluster start. Former Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, who has long alleged he was fired because he would not stop investigating the Burisma Holdings firm that employed Hunter Biden, secured the ruling last month. Ukrainian officials confirmed the State Bureau of Investigation has since complied and initiated the probe.

The Pecherskyi District Court of Kyiv ruled last month that Shokin’s lawyers had provided sufficient evidence to warrant a probe and “obliged the authorized officials of the State Bureau of Investigation” to accept the ex-prosecutor’s complaint and “start pre-trial investigation of the reported data,” according to an official English translation of the ruling provided by Shokin’s attorney. The ruling does not mention Biden by name, but court filings by Shokin’s lawyers that led to the decision show that the former prosecutor had alleged “the commission of a criminal offense against him by Joseph Biden, a citizen of the United States of America, in Ukraine and abroad: interference in the activities of a law enforcement officer.”


[..] Joe Biden and his defenders have denied any wrongdoing, saying the vice president sought Shokin’s firing because the prosecutor was ineffective in fighting corruption. His supporters have also claimed that the Burisma investigation was dormant at the time Shokin was fired and therefore not a high priority. But evidence has emerged in recent weeks that the probe into Burisma, in fact, was heating up when Shokin was fired in spring 2016. The prosecutor’s office had secured a ruling re-seizing assets of Burisma’s owner in early February 2016, and the Latvian government acknowledges it sent a warning to Ukraine officials that same month flagging several Burisma transactions, including payments to Hunter Biden, as “suspicious.”

Read more …

“..the Justice Department inexplicably still takes the position that the court should close discovery and rule on dispositive motions. The Court is especially troubled by this.”

Hillary Clinton Ordered To Give Sworn Deposition On Email Server, Benghazi (ZH)

Hillary Clinton has been ordered to give a sworn deposition to Judicial Watch regarding her emails and documents related to the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya while she was Secretary of State. The ruling is in response to the conservative legal group’s lawsuit, “Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State” – specifically regarding “talking points or updates on the Benghazi attack.” “Judicial Watch famously uncovered in 2014 that the “talking points” that provided the basis for Susan Rice’s false statements were created by the Obama White House. This Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit led directly to the disclosure of the Clinton email system in 2015.” -Judicial Watch

Discovery in the case began in December, 2018, when Judge Royce C. Lamberth allowed Judicial Watch to explore whether Clinton’s use of a private email server was intended to circumvent the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). JW also sought to determine: “whether the State Department’s intent to settle this case in late 2014 and early 2015 amounted to bad faith; and whether the State Department has adequately searched for records responsive to Judicial Watch’s request.” “The court also authorized discovery into whether the Benghazi controversy motivated the cover-up of Clinton’s email. The court ruled that the Clinton email system was “one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency.” The State and Justice Departments continued to defend Clinton’s and the agency’s email conduct.” -Judicial Watch

On Monday, Judge Lamberth overruled Clinton and the State Department’s objections to limited additional discovery, writing “Discovery up until this point has brought to light a noteworthy amount of relevant information, but Judicial Watch requests an additional round of discovery, and understandably so. With each passing round of discovery, the Court is left with more questions than answers.” Lamberth also said that he is troubled by the fact that both Clinton and the State Department want discovery to end.

“[T]here is still more to learn. Even though many important questions remain unanswered, the Justice Department inexplicably still takes the position that the court should close discovery and rule on dispositive motions. The Court is especially troubled by this. To argue that the Court now has enough information to determine whether State conducted an adequate search is preposterous, especially when considering State’s deficient representations regarding the existence of additional Clinton emails. Instead, the Court will authorize a new round of discovery “-Judge Lamberth

Read more …

Erdogan told Bulgarian PM he doesn’t want to talk to Greek PM, and won’t send any refugees to Bulgaria (a few km away from Greek-Turkish border)

Erdogan’s Use Of Refugees To Pressure EU Is ‘Unacceptable’ – Merkel (RT)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called Turkey’s decision to release thousands of migrants toward the EU “unacceptable,” and accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of pressuring the EU “on the back of the refugees.”Turkey allowed thousands of migrants to leave its territory over the weekend, accusing EU leaders of failing to back its plans for a Turkish-controlled ‘safe zone’ inside Syrian territory. With Turkish forces engaged in open warfare with the Syrian government in Idlib, Erdogan opened the floodgates to Europe, in a move seemingly designed to put pressure on his NATO allies to back his Syrian offensive.

“I understand that Turkey is facing a very big challenge regarding Idlib,” Merkel told reporters on Tuesday. “Still, for me it’s unacceptable that he – President Erdogan and his government – are not expressing this dissatisfaction in a dialogue with us as the European Union, but rather on the back of the refugees. For me, that’s not the way to go forward.”


Already, Greek authorities have struggled to hold back the human wave that has crashed upon its border with Turkey. “This is an invasion,” Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis told Skai TV on Monday, as police fired tear gas at migrants attempting to storm the border fence, and as the Greek coast guard tried to stop dinghies full of refugees from landing on the country’s southern islands. Though criticized for her “open door” migration policy during the 2015 migrant crisis, Merkel has since attempted to reduce the influx. However, despite promising Erdogan additional aid in January in exchange for holding more than 3 million migrants on Turkish soil, Merkel refused to support her Turkish counterpart’s military operation in northern Syria, prompting Erdogan to follow through last weekend on his long-standing threat to release the migrants into Europe.

Read more …

Stories about Greek guards killing refugee(s) are fake news, says Athens, spread by Erdogan.

Greece Seeks To Fortify Borders Amid Erdogan Threats (K.)

As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on Monday that soon the number of refugees crossing into Europe “will reach millions” unless the European Union takes responsibility for the crisis, Greece continued efforts to fortify its borders and diplomatic initiatives to tackle what it calls an “asymmetrical threat.” On the diplomatic front, the government’s initiatives have led to a planned visit on Tuesday to the Greek-Turkish border in Evros by the presidents of the European Commission, Council and Parliament – Ursula von der Leyen, Charles Michel and David Sassoli – accompanied by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Even though Athens believes the visits send a powerful message, it is expecting practical support from its partners, stressing that Greece’s borders with Turkey are also European.


On Sunday, Greece announced emergency measures to tackle the crisis, including a further tightening of border controls to the maximum level, a temporary one-month suspension of asylum applications and the immediate return of undocumented migrants to their country of origin. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the number of refugees and migrants at the Greek border is estimated at around 13,000 people and tensions are rising as they try to push through. Tensions were also running high on the islands following the arrival over the weekend of around 1,000 refugees and migrants, with locals trying to prevent one smuggling boat from docking. A child died when one vessel capsized.

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Yeah, you’re really helping.

UN Says Greece Has No Right To Stop Accepting Asylum Requests (K.)

The United Nation’s refugee agency said on Monday that Greece had no right to stop accepting asylum applications as Athens struggled with a sudden increase of arrivals at its border of Middle East refugees and migrants from Turkey. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Sunday his country would not be accepting any new asylum requests for a month after two days of clashes between border police and thousands of people seeking to enter the EU from Turkey. “It is important that the authorities refrain from any measures that might increase the suffering of vulnerable people,” UNHCR said in a statement.


“All states have a right to control their borders and manage irregular movements, but at the same time should refrain from the use of excessive or disproportionate force and maintain systems for handling asylum requests in an orderly manner.” The UN agency said neither international nor EU law provided “any legal basis for the suspension of the reception of asylum applications.” Its statement came as the EU scrambled to help Greece police the frontier and sought to put pressure on Turkey to go back to preventing refugees and migrants stranded on its territory from seeking to reach Europe.

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“I am as confident as a psychiatrist can ever be that, if extradition to the United States were to become imminent, Mr Assange would find a way of suiciding.”

The Armoured Glass Box is an Instrument of Torture (Craig Murray)

The defence was impeded by their inability to communicate confidentially with their client during proceedings. In the next stage of trial, where witnesses were being examined, timely communication was essential. Furthermore they could only talk with him through the slit in the glass within the hearing of the private company security officers who were guarding him (it was clarified they were Serco, not Group 4 as Baraitser had said the previous day), and in the presence of microphones. Baraitser became ill-tempered at this point and spoke with a real edge to her voice. “Who are those people behind you in the back row?” she asked Summers sarcastically – a question to which she very well knew the answer. Summers replied that they were part of the defence legal team.


Baraitser said that Assange could contact them if he had a point to pass on. Summers replied that there was an aisle and a low wall between the glass box and their position, and all Assange could see over the wall was the top of the back of their heads. Baraitser said she had seen Assange call out. Summers said yelling across the courtroom was neither confidential nor satisfactory. This is the photo taken illegally (not by me) of Assange in the court. If you look carefully, you can see there is a passageway and a low wooden wall between him and the back row of lawyers. You can see one of the two Serco prison officers guarding him inside the box. Baraitser said Assange could pass notes, and she had witnessed notes being passed by him. Summers replied that the court officers had now banned the passing of notes.

Baraitser said they could take this up with Serco, it was a matter for the prison authorities. Summers asserted that, contrary to Baraitser’s statement the previous day, she did indeed have jurisdiction on the matter of releasing Assange from the dock. Baraitser intervened to say that she now accepted that. Summers then said that he had produced a number of authorities to show that Baraitser had also been wrong to say that to be in custody could only mean to be in the dock. You could be in custody anywhere within the precincts of the court, or indeed outside. Baraitser became very annoyed by this and stated she had only said that delivery to the custody of the court must equal delivery to the dock. To which Summers replied memorably, now very cross “Well, that’s wrong too, and has been wrong these last eight years.”


I have been wondering why it is so essential to the British government to keep Assange in that box, unable to hear proceedings or instruct his lawyers in reaction to evidence, even when counsel for the US Government stated they had no objection to Assange sitting in the well of the court. The answer lies in the psychiatric assessment of Assange given to the court by the extremely distinguished Professor Michael Kopelman [..] : “Mr Assange shows virtually all the risk factors which researchers from Oxford have described in prisoners who either suicide or make lethal attempts. … I am as confident as a psychiatrist can ever be that, if extradition to the United States were to become imminent, Mr Assange would find a way of suiciding.”

Read more …

 

Automatic Earth commenter/contributor Dr. John Day telling Tulsi Gabbard yesterday at a townhall in Austin, Texas that the US needs to purchase 6 billion doses of chloroquine phosphate to treat everybody (assuming a high infection rate, eventually).

 

 

 

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

 

Mar 022020
 


John Vachon Big Four Cafe, Cairo, Illinois 1940

 

China Leaves Asymptomatic Patients off Coronavirus Infection Tally (Caixin)
Epidemic Won’t Spark Financial Crisis In China (Global Times)
CDC Retesting Patient After Testing Negative, Being Released (KSAT)
CDC Testing Limits May Have Delayed Coronavirus Response (HP)
US Agency Investigating Production Of Faulty Coronavirus Test Kits (R.)
Murder Probe Sought For South Korea Sect At Center Of Coronavirus Outbreak (R.)
China Gives Relief to Shield Trillions of Yuan in Bad Debt (BBG)
Australia Warns It Can’t Stop The Spread Of Coronavirus From Overseas (R.)
Indonesia Confirms First Cases, Linked To Japanese Citizen In Malaysia (SCMP)
Japan’s Factory Activity Shrinks At Fastest Pace Since 2016 (R.)
Buttigieg Drops Out Of Democratic Race Two Days Before Super Tuesday (R.)
Klobuchar Cancels Campaign Rally After Protests (Hill)
Tulsi Gabbard Urges Trump: Don’t Drag Us Into War With Russia (ZH)
Assange Enters The Kangaroo Court (MStar)
EU Accepts Greek Demand For Emergency Foreign Affairs Council (K.)

 

 

 

Cases 89,248 (+ 1,616 from yesterday’s 87,632)

Deaths 3,058 (+ 64 from yesterday’s 2,994)

 

Everyone just dances on. China pretends it’s fine, and the Global Times assures us there will be no financial crisis. As the US CDC is found painfully wanting on multiple fronts. As Super Tuesday draws near, Trump will be criticized heavily for the US response to COVID19, especially now the first US deaths are on the tally. But though he certainly stumbles his way awkwardly through, the CDC would be what it is no matter which party is in charge.

And while western governments, along with China, have no strong desire to perform the best testing they can, because it can only make them look worse, “newly infected” countries like Nigeria (190 million) and Indonesia (260 million), don’t have the desire, and not the means either. This will keep official infection numbers low(er), but does that mean we can all go visit without any worries?

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer (Note: mortality rate fell to 6%):

 

 

A more complete pic of COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

“If you don’t have symptoms, it’s not an illness,” he said. “There’s no need to announce it.”

And at the same time, the first lung transplant:

Twitter: “Oh gosh – first lung transplant done for a #COVID19 patient. Hope only a fraction of the 20% severe cases ever need this. Though there is currently 50% 28-day mortality if someone enters ICU (based on China data). But what % or total infected will need ICU? Unclear.”

China Leaves Asymptomatic Patients off Coronavirus Infection Tally (Caixin)

China’s decision to exclude individuals who carry the new coronavirus but show no symptoms from the country’s public tally of infections has drawn debate over whether this approach obscures the scope of the epidemic, with a document received by Caixin showing a significant proportion of one province’s cases show no symptoms. Since early February, the National Health Commission (NHC) has concluded that “asymptomatic infected individuals” can infect others and demanded local authorities to report those cases. However, the commission has also decided not to include these people in its statistics for “confirmed cases” or indeed to release data on asymptomatic cases.

On Feb. 25, in Northeast China’s Heilongjiang province there were 104 asymptomatic infected individuals, according to a Feb. 26 Heilongjiang Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention document obtained by Caixin. That same day the province said it had 480 “confirmed cases,” a tally which did not include the 104 asymptomatic cases. In its Jan. 28 virus prevention and control plan, the NHC demanded the prompt detection and reporting of those with light or no symptoms. According to a document obtained by Caixin, the Heilongjiang CDC confirmed its first asymptomatic individual on Feb. 1 and asked the NHC for permission to leave the case off its public list of confirmed cases.

[..] two days after the fourth edition of the NHC’s Covid-19 guidelines released on Feb. 7 said asymptomatic cases should be reported separately and excluded from the confirmed case tally, Heilongjiang removed 13 asymptomatic infected individuals from its tally of “confirmed cases.” However, multiple studies from both Chinese and overseas researchers have been published, suggesting that individuals infected with Covid-19 can be contagious even if they do not feel ill.

In earlier guidelines, asymptomatic individuals were supposed to be observed and treated at home. But by the fifth edition of the NHC guidlines released Feb. 21, they had to undergo a 14-day quarantine as well as test negative in two separate nucleic acid tests before being released. Health authorities have also developed criteria to determine whether an asymptomatic individual is the source of infection in any given cluster. Nevertheless, at a Feb. 14 press conference, NHC deputy director Zeng Yixin said that the country would only publicize “suspected” and “confirmed cases.” “If you don’t have symptoms, it’s not an illness,” he said. “There’s no need to announce it.”

Read more …

The Party speaks. It’s not feeling well.

Epidemic Won’t Spark Financial Crisis In China (Global Times)

China is not facing a financial system crisis, despite mounting pressure from the coronavirus epidemic on the economy and global stock market routs, but further macro stabilizing measures, including more liquidity injections, might be necessary, analysts said on Sunday. Ominous signals have begun to suggest that the epidemic might have hit the Chinese economy harder than some had expected, which in turn has fueled speculation that China might face a financial crisis. On Saturday, official data showed that China’s manufacturing sector may have experienced a sharp downturn in February worse than during the global financial crisis in 2008.

The official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) dropped to 35.7 in February, the lowest level on record, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The non-manufacturing PMI plunged to 29.6, deep in contraction territory. The downbeat data followed hefty losses in the Chinese A-share market on Friday amid a worldwide stock market rout due to concerns over the coronavirus epidemic. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index plummeted 3.71 percent on Friday to drop below the psychologically important level of 3,000. The index lost 4.87 percent for the week. Although the Chinese stock market fared better than Wall Street, where the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 12 percent last week, concerns over a potential downtrend in the A-share market or even a broader financial crisis grew.

“Suggestions that China is facing risk of a financial crisis are just absurd,” Dong Dengxin, director of the Finance and Securities Institute at the Wuhan University of Science and Technology, told the Global Times on Sunday. “If anything, China’s A-share market is facing an upward trajectory given the fact that it has been at its historic lows and that the economic fundamentals have not changed.” [..] In light of moves by China’ s central bank to inject liquidity and local governments to support businesses, some argue the potential risks of a spike in non-performing loans among local governments could cause a financial crisis.

But Dong said that China’s government debt level remains significantly lower than those of developed countries and banks are among the world’s biggest and most regulated. “Everything is very much under control,” he said. China’s A-share market might be at the start of a bull run, according to Yang Delong, chief economist at Shenzhen-based First Seafront Fund. “US stocks have reached its top, whereas the A-share market is bottoming out. Therefore I think the A-share market will increase by 20 percent this year,” he wrote in a note sent to the Global Times on Sunday.

Read more …

The CDC is being exposed as a pretty incompetent entiry.

CDC Retesting Patient After Testing Negative, Being Released (KSAT)

A patient released from isolation in San Antonio on Saturday is being retested for the coronavirus at a local health facility, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Officials say the patient met the criteria for release after testing negative for the virus twice. Both of the tests were administered more than 24 hours apart. However, the patient later returned to isolation after a pending lab test came up positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the CDC. The patient was isolated when they were treated at the local medical facility for several weeks after returning from Wuhan, China, on a State Department chartered flight, the CDC says. Out of caution, the CDC says the individual was brought back into isolation at a local medical facility and is getting retested.


The patient did have contact with others while outside of isolation, and health officials are working to trace others that may have been exposed. Metro Health is working to track where the patient went, who they interacted with, the time frames they spent outside of the quarantined facility and who may have been exposed, officials say.“This is an unfolding situation with many unknowns. CDC is making decisions on a case-by-case basis using the best available science at the time. CDC’s priority is to protect both patients and communities,” said the CDC in part, in a press release. Several Texas officials are speaking out after the CDC’s announcement that a patient was released into San Antonio with possible coronavirus exposure. Mayor Ron Nirenberg says it’s unacceptable that CDC officials released the patient and allowed the public exposure.

Read more …

You could be minutes from death, but if you didn’t visit China or French kiss with someone who did, no tests for you.

CDC Testing Limits May Have Delayed Coronavirus Response (HP)

Genetic sequencing of two cases of the novel coronavirus in Washington suggests the disease had been circulating in the state for six weeks — but went undetected because of strict testing restrictions set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a scientist who compared the genetic fingerprints. The study of the coronavirus contracted by a high school student in Snohomish County north of Seattle links the illness to the very first COVID-19 case in the nation, a man who tested positive Jan. 19 after returning to his home in Snohomish county from China. He has since recovered, but the illness was passed on, undetected, via community transmission for “the past six weeks,” noted Trevor Bedford, an associate professor at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington.

He attributed the lack of earlier detection of an “already substantial outbreak” to the CDC’s “narrow case definition requiring direct travel to China” (or contact with someone known to be ill with coronavirus) before people could be tested. [..] Besides restrictions until recently on when it could be used, the test created by the CDC in early February initially only worked predictably in a handful of labs. Early detection is critical so that people can begin treatment and be isolated before passing on the virus to someone else. As of Friday, fewer than 500 people had been tested in the U.S., according to the CDC, compared with countries like South Korea, where 65,000 have been tested.

[..] Dr. Jeff Duchin, public health officer for Seattle and King County, complained about the testing system Saturday when addressing the first coronavirus death in the nation in Kirkland, Washington. “Testing capacity is so limited,” he said at a press conference. The state public health lab only began testing for COVID-19 on Friday, but officials hope soon to be able to also rely on commercial and university labs. “If we had the ability to test earlier, I’m sure we would have identified patients earlier,” said Duchin. [..] To ease the testing logjam, the FDA announced Saturday that labs and hospitals across the nation will now be able to conduct the test for COVID-19 and won’t have to wait for results from the CDC.

Read more …

You can always export them to Africa.

US Agency Investigating Production Of Faulty Coronavirus Test Kits (R.)

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed on Sunday that it is investigating a manufacturing defect in some initial coronavirus test kits that prompted some states to seek emergency approval to use their own test kits. On Saturday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state would immediately begin using its own test kit developed in-state after asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday for permission to do so. The FDA said on Saturday it would allow some laboratories to immediately use tests they have developed and validated to achieve more rapid testing capacity for the coronavirus. On Sunday, New York confirmed its first case of coronavirus.


FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement on Sunday that “upon learning about the test issue from CDC (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), FDA worked with CDC to determine that problems with certain test components were due to a manufacturing issue. We worked hand in hand with CDC to resolve the issues with manufacturing.” Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday the United States has 75,000 test kits on hand “and over the next week that will expand radically.” He said over 3,600 people in the United States have been tested to date. Hahn added that the “FDA has confidence in the design and current manufacturing of the test that already have and are continuing to be distributed. These tests have passed extensive quality control procedures.”

Read more …

Also for Chinese government, western governments? They also hid facts.

As for Seoul, they tested only a few 1000 of the 317,320 Shincheonji members and “trainees”..

Murder Probe Sought For South Korea Sect At Center Of Coronavirus Outbreak (R.)

The government of Seoul asked for a murder investigation into leaders of a Christian sect at the center of the country’s deadly coronavirus outbreak, saying the church was liable for its refusal to cooperate with efforts to stop the disease. A large majority of the more than 4,000 confirmed cases of the South Korean outbreak, the largest outside China and still growing, have been linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a secretive movement that reveres founder Lee Man-hee. Park Won-soon, mayor of Seoul, said if Lee and other leaders of the church had cooperated, effective preventive measures could have saved those who later died of the virus. “The situation is this serious and urgent, but where are the leaders of the Shincheonji, including Lee Man-hee, the chief director of this crisis?” Park said in a post on his Facebook page late on Sunday.


Seoul’s city government said in a separate statement that it had filed a criminal complaint with the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, asking for an investigation of Lee and 12 others on charges of murder and disease control act violations. The prosecutors’ office said it had received the complaint and was reviewing it. Health authorities said the vast majority of the 3,000 cases confirmed in Daegu, another Korean city, were linked to a branch of the church there, where a person who had tested positive in February attended services twice. [..] Health authorities said they have obtained a list of 317,320 Shincheonji members and “trainees”, but have been told by some local governments that it was not exhaustive.

Read more …

When money is your only answer to all questions.

China Gives Relief to Shield Trillions of Yuan in Bad Debt (BBG)

China’s financial regulators will allow the nation’s lenders to delay recognizing bad loans from smaller businesses reeling from the deadly coronavirus outbreak, giving temporary reprieve to trillions of yuan of debt. Qualified small- and medium-sized businesses nationwide with principal or interest due between Jan. 25 and June 30 can apply for a delay to the end of the second quarter, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory said in a joint statement with the central bank on Sunday. In Hubei province, the center of the outbreak, the waiver applies to all companies, including large firms, according to the statement. Chinese banks are taking extraordinary steps to avoid recognizing bad loans, seeking to protect themselves and cash-strapped borrowers from the economic fallout of the epidemic, as Bloomberg News reported last week.


Regulators told lenders not to downgrade loans with missed payments or report delinquencies to the country’s centralized credit-scoring system before the end of June, according to the statement. The push by banks and regulators to ease the wave of debt going bad is part of a broader effort by President Xi Jinping’s government to shore up the Chinese economy, which some forecasters predict may suffer a rare quarter-on-quarter contraction to start 2020. Gross domestic product may shrink by 2.5% in the first quarter, Nomura Holdings Inc. economists led by Lu Ting said in a report on Saturday, after the country’s manufacturing sector reported record-low activity in February. In addition to pumping billions of yuan into the banking system to make it easier for lenders to extend credit, authorities have cut interest rates, reduced taxes and pledged to adopt more “proactive” fiscal policies.

Read more …

It’s a choice, a trade-off. Close the borders OR get infected.

Australia Warns It Can’t Stop The Spread Of Coronavirus From Overseas (R.)

Australia’s chief medical officer said on Monday it was no longer possible to completely prevent people with the coronavirus from entering the country, citing concerns about outbreaks in Japan and South Korea. Australia, one of the first countries to put restrictions on its borders in a bid to limit the spread of the virus, confirmed its first death from the disease on Sunday. “It is no longer possible to absolutely prevent new cases coming in,” Brendan Murphy, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, told reporters in Canberra. “We have got concerns about Japan and South Korea. They are working hard to control their outbreaks but we are still concerned that people in those countries and other high risk countries may present with an infection.”


The chief medical officer’s comments came as Australian officials confirmed the country’s 30th case of coronavirus, a 40-year old man who arrived in Australia’s second most populated city, Melbourne from Iran. He later travelled to Tasmania. Meanwhile, Australia named the 78-year old man who became the country’s first person to die from coronavirus as James Kwan. He was a passenger on the Diamond Princess ship that was held off Japan’s coast for weeks. Kwan and his wife, who also has the virus, were transferred back to Australia for treatment. Australia barred entry from Feb. 1 to any foreigners who had travelled through China in the two weeks prior to arriving in Australia. It extended that ban to Iran on Sunday. Both bans are in force until at least March 7. Australian citizens and permanent residents are exempted.

Read more …

That country of 260 million with a very sparse health care system. That has neither the desire nor the means to count its victims.

Indonesia Confirms First Cases, Linked To Japanese Citizen In Malaysia (SCMP)

Two Indonesians have tested positive for the coronavirus after being in contact with an infected Japanese national, Indonesian President Joko Widodo revealed on Monday, marking the first confirmed cases in the world’s fourth most populous country. The two had been hospitalised in Jakarta, Widodo told reporters at the presidential palace in the capital. The president said a 64-year-old woman and her 31-year-old daughter had tested positive after being in contact with a Japanese national who lived in Malaysia and was found to have the virus after returning from a trip to Indonesia. Widodo said an Indonesian medical team had traced the movements of the Japanese visitor before uncovering the cases.


“After checks, they were in a sick state. This morning I got a report that the mother and the daughter tested positive for coronavirus,” said Widodo, who said they were being treated at Jakarta’s Sulianti Saroso infectious diseases hospital. Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto told reporters the Japanese visitor was a friend of the two women’s family and had visited their house. He said authorities were checking who else the Japanese visitor may have come into contact with. The confirmation of the first cases of coronavirus came after authorities had defended their screening processes, with some medical experts raising concerns of a lack of vigilance and a risk of undetected cases in the Southeast Asian country of more than 260 million people.

Read more …

Who could have predicted that?

Japan’s Factory Activity Shrinks At Fastest Pace Since 2016 (R.)

Japan’s factory activity was hit by its sharpest contraction in nearly four years in February, raising a red flag over manufacturing in the world’s third-largest economy as the impact from the coronavirus outbreak spreads. The manufacturing slowdown offers the clearest evidence yet of the epidemic’s damaging effects on global growth and businesses and is likely to ramp up pressure on Japanese policymakers to boost growth. The au Jibun Bank Japan Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) slipped to a seasonally-adjusted 47.8 from a final 48.8 in the previous month. The February reading was its lowest since May 2016.


The index stayed below the 50.0 threshold that separates contraction from expansion for a 10th month, marking the longest stretch since a 16-month run to June 2009 during the global financial crisis. “Near-term prospects for Japan’s industrial sector appear very bleak,” said Joe Hayes, economist at IHS Markit, which compiles the survey. “Weakness was driven by the demand-side in a broad-based fashion. Consumer, intermediate and capital goods producers recorded faster declines in demand and overall order books fell at the sharpest rate in over seven years.” The pressure on the world’s third-largest economy has built rapidly during the past weeks as the virus outbreak is dealing a sharp blow to China’s economy, Asia’s biggest.

Read more …

Good DNC boy. All against Bernie.

Buttigieg Drops Out Of Democratic Race Two Days Before Super Tuesday (R.)

Pete Buttigieg dropped out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination on Sunday, saying he no longer saw a chance of winning, the day after fellow moderate Joe Biden won a big victory in South Carolina. The move shook up the Democratic contest to pick a candidate to take on Republican President Donald Trump in November’s election and came two days before the 14-state Super Tuesday nominating contests that will offer the biggest electoral prize so far. Buttigieg, a 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who gained early momentum after he narrowly won the Iowa caucuses last month and finished a close second in New Hampshire, had sought to unite Democrats, independents and moderate Republican voters.


But he finished a distant third in Nevada and fourth in South Carolina. “Today is a moment of truth … the truth is that the path has narrowed to a close for our candidacy if not for our cause,” Buttigieg told supporters in South Bend on Sunday night. “Our goal has always been to unify Americans to help defeat Donald Trump and to win the era for our values.” [..] An adviser told Reuters that Buttigieg was dropping out to avoid helping the odds of front-runner Bernie Sanders, a senator from Vermont and self-described democratic socialist. “Pete was not going to play the role of spoiler,” said the adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Could he have went through Super Tuesday and beyond? Sure. But this was not a vanity exercise.”

Read more …

Klobuchar out today? Place your bets. She has zero chance, but can take away votes from Sleepy Joe. They’ll keep Warren in, so she can dig into Bernie’s support.

And as all the TV clowns talk about Bernie’s support among black voters, check this:

“Klobuchar was the lead attorney in the county at the time of his initial trial, and she later denied a request for him to attend his mother’s funeral after he was imprisoned.”

Klobuchar Cancels Campaign Rally After Protests (Hill)

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) canceled a campaign rally in St. Louis Park, Minn., on Sunday after protesters reportedly affiliated with Black Lives Matter and other civil rights groups took the stage at her event for over an hour. In a statement obtained by The New York Times, Klobuchar’s campaign said the senator offered to meet with demonstrators in exchange for them exiting the stage and allowing her rally to proceed, adding that the protesters initially agreed to such terms before reportedly backing out and refusing to leave the stage.

“The campaign offered a meeting with the senator if they would leave the stage after being on the stage for more than an hour,” a spokesperson for the Klobuchar campaign told the Times. “After initially agreeing, the group backed out, and we are now canceling the event.” The campaign did not immediately return a request for further comment from The Hill. Klobuchar has faced calls to suspend her campaign from Black Lives Matter and NAACP activists over her role in the criminal prosecution of Myon Burrell, an African American man who was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison while still a teenager. Klobuchar was the lead attorney in the county at the time of his initial trial, and she later denied a request for him to attend his mother’s funeral after he was imprisoned.

Burrell’s case has become a point of criticism for Klobuchar’s campaign, as many including the victim’s father believe he may have been wrongfully convicted. “What I need people to understand is this isn’t about partisanship and this isn’t about politics,” said Leslie Redmond, president of the Minneapolis NAACP, in January. “This is about justice. … This isn’t just a situation that happened to the Central Park Five alone. This is a situation that happens all around America. This is a situation that happens right here in Minnesota.” “Young people, young adults were given life sentences to rot away in prison,” he added at the time. “This benefits no one. However, it does benefit politicians who use the criminal justice system to benefit their political careers. Enough is enough.”

Read more …

But Tulsi is still running.

Tulsi Gabbard Urges Trump: Don’t Drag Us Into War With Russia (ZH)

Tulsi Gabbard has once again gone on the offensive, skewering Washington mainstream foreign policy and the Trump administration’s refusal to stand up to “dictator” Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Trump reportedly told Erdogan in a phone call last week as the Idlib crisis escalates, now in an open state of war between the Turkish and Syrian armies, and with Russia supporting the latter, that the US “reaffirmed” its support for Turkey in Idlib. Ankara is now demanding greater support from NATO as well, after Russian jets were widely believed behind last Thursday’s massive air strike which killed 33 Turkish soldiers.


Congresswoman and Democratic presidential hopeful Gabbard attacked this stance in a weekend video statement, urging Trump instead to make clear that “the United States will not be dragged into a war with Russia by the aggressive Islamist expansionist dictator of Turkey via NATO.” She also slammed the mainstream media’s efforts to renew holding up al-Qaeda terrorists on the ground in Idlib as mere “rebels” and “freedom fighters” — saying it’s a disgrace to men and women in uniform who signed up to fight terrorists in the wake of 9/11. “Turkey’s been supporting ISIS and al-Qaeda terrorists from behind the scenes for years,” she pointed out. “Turkey’s Erdogan wants to create an Islamist caliphate in Syria, reestablish the Islamist Ottoman Empire, and is working with al-Qaeda and other terrorists to achieve his goal.” “He wants to be the caliph,” she added, explaining further he’s not a “friend” of America, but remains one of the most dangerous dictators in the world.

Read more …

A kangaroo court in a banana republic.

Assange Enters The Kangaroo Court (MStar)

The most visually striking aspect of the Woolwich courtroom is where Assange sits — in a box covered by bullet-proof glass. This obviously unnecessary “security” measure was aimed at portraying Assange as a dangerous, violent terrorist who must be restrained at all times. Not only was the bullet-proof box dehumanising and degrading, it also made it impossible for Assange to participate in his own defence — a basic principle of due process. Assange could barely even hear the proceedings, let alone communicate with his legal team. Any communications that did occur in the box were not confidential since he was flanked at all times by at least one security guard. On Wednesday, Assange finally had enough. He stood up and began to address the judge, requesting he be permitted to properly communicate with his own lawyers.

The judge cut him off and sent the court into recess rather than allow him to speak. When the court reconvened, Assange’s lawyer formally requested Assange be permitted to sit with his legal team — a position that astonishingly was supported by the lawyer for the prosecution, who apparently found the whole set-up so gross as to discredit the entire proceeding. Yet still, the judge would not relent and Assange remained caged like an animal. However the abuse in the courtroom pales in comparison to the abuse behind closed doors in Belmarsh prison. The night after the trial opened, prison authorities relentlessly harassed Assange. He was shuffled from room to room all night, stripped naked and handcuffed multiple times throughout the ordeal. His legal papers were also confiscated.

When the defence lawyers complained the following day in court, the judge shrugged her shoulders and said that she had no authority over the prison administration who subjected him to such humiliation. The years of suffering Assange has endured while being persecuted by the US, British and other governments is evident simply from his physical appearance. Assange was clearly exhausted in the courtroom, sometimes slumped over. Even before being subjected to nearly a year of HMP Belmarsh, Assange had to deal with the psychological torment of nearly seven years’ confinement in the Ecuadorian Embassy. At the same time it is clear he still has the will to fight and has not compromised his principles an inch. The trial resumes in May, and will likely be followed by an extensive series of appeals.

Read more …

The pace the EU moves at. As Greece’s borders are being overrun. Erdogan is to visit Putin on Thursday.

Greece swears it won’t let the “migrants” enter, which Erdogan has selected for women and children (photo-ops) and militant youth (severity).

EU Accepts Greek Demand For Emergency Foreign Affairs Council (K.)

Josep Borrell Fontelles, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has convened an extraordinary Foreign Council for next week on developments in Syria and the ensuing migration emergency, at the request of Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias. Dendias had formally requested an extraordinary meeting Saturday. In his statement, Borrell says that the EU-Turkey agreement on repatriation of refugees needs to be upheld and confirms EU supports Greece and Bulgaria in addressing the migration issue. Borrell’s statement:


“The ongoing renewed fighting in and around Idlib represents a serious threat to international peace and security. It is causing an untold human suffering among the population, and having a grave impact on the region and beyond. The European Union needs to redouble efforts to address this terrible human crisis with all the means at its disposal. I am therefore calling for an extraordinary meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council next week to discuss the unfolding situation, in particular at the request of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece. Over the past days, I have been in contact with key actors. I have called for an immediate de-escalation and for a lasting ceasefire, deplored the loss of lives, and offered EU support to mitigate the consequences of the crisis. There is only a political solution to this crisis.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Mar 012020
 


Arthur Rothstein Accident on US 40 between Hagerstown and Cumberland, Maryland 1936

 

 

 

HK Coronavirus Outbreak Not At Peak: Gabriel Leung (RTHK)
Indonesia’s Frontline Hospital Defends Policies To Tackle Coronavirus (R.)
Don’t Test, Don’t Tell! (Ben Hunt)
Markets Expected To Fall Further As Coronavirus Hits China’s Economy (G.)
China Pollution Clear Amid Coronavirus Slowdown (BBC)
Bernie Sanders Looks To Blow Away Rivals On Super Tuesday (G.)
US and Taliban Ink Afghanistan Peace Agreement (RT)
‘Get Out Of The Way, Let Us Deal With Assad’, Erdogan Says He Told Putin (RT)
Threat Of Russia-Turkey-NATO Hot War A Godsend For US Foreign Policy (RT)
Greece Vetoes NATO Communique Intended to Support Turkey in Syria (GR)
Turkey Minister: 76,358 Migrants Headed To Border With Greece (K.)

 

Cases 85,683 (+ 1,950 from yesterday’s 83,733)

Deaths 2,933 (+ 73 from yesterday’s 2,860)

 

• First cases: Armenia, Ireland, Luxembourg

• First deaths: US, Australia, Thailand

• China 79,824 cases, 593 new, total deaths 2,870, 41,625 recovered, 2 more doctors die
– new Hubei cases rise, 565 in the provincial capital Wuhan

• South Korea 3,736, 1023 new cases, but :
– estimates of 4,200 infections among Shincheonji church members
– that’s 80% of those tested, there are 210,000 church members, some of whom visited Wuhan

• Italy 1,178 (up 31%!), 29 deaths

• Iran 593, 43 deaths
– Twitter: “The country is imploding – law and order to disappear in the next days.”

• Japan 241 cases, 2 deaths

Singapore 102 cases
France 100
Hong Kong 95, 2 deaths
US 71, 1 death
Thailand 42 cases, 1 death
Bahrain 38
UK 23
Switzerland 18
Norway 15
Iraq 13
Lebanon 7
Holland 7
Pakistan 4
Mexico 4

59 countries affected

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

I added a third counter, from COVID2019.app, a project where 70 people -and counting- work together

 

 

 

 

Leung is behind some of the most dire predictions. But not for his homebase HK.

HK Coronavirus Outbreak Not At Peak: Gabriel Leung (RTHK)

The Dean of the University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Medicine, Professor Gabriel Leung, on Sunday warned that the coronavirus outbreak in Hong Kong had not yet reached its peak, saying it was too early to tell when it would be over and people should not let their guard down against the respiratory disease. As of Saturday, Hong Kong had reported 95 confirmed cases of the virus, known as Covid-19, and two deaths. But speaking after a radio programme, Professor Leung said the overall decline in new cases on the mainland did show that the first wave of the outbreak there was largely under control, except in Hubei province, where the disease appears to have originated.

On Sunday, the mainland reported 573 new Covid-19 infections, up from the 427 on Saturday and the highest for a week, although much lower than earlier in the month. The mainland’s National Health Commission also reported 35 deaths, fewer than the 47 on Saturday, which took the death toll to 2,870. All but one of Sunday’s deaths – and all but three of its new cases – were in Hubei. The total number of cases on the mainland is now approaching 80,000. Professor Leung said the rest of the world was now only seeing the beginning of the outbreak and this would make containing the spread of the virus in Hong Kong more difficult. However, he said Hong Kong had actually been doing well at virus control.

“The rest of the world actually views Hong Kong, along with Singapore, as the gold standard in epidemic control,” he said. “If you look at these two places, we have very similar absolute numbers of confirmed cases, yet we have a population that is one third bigger then Singapore, so – on a per capita basis – we’re not doing too badly.”


Corona timeline develops in very similar ways in various locations

Read more …

Over 260 million people, 141 tests. It’s almost like the US.

Indonesia’s Frontline Hospital Defends Policies To Tackle Coronavirus (R.)

Indonesia has the resources to cope with a coronavirus outbreak, the director of its leading infectious diseases hospital said, defending detection procedures in the Southeast Asian nation of more than 260 million, where no cases have been reported. The world’s fourth most populous nation has tested 141 suspected cases, a small figure for its population, sparking concern among some medical professionals of a lack of vigilance and a risk of undetected cases. Neighboring Malaysia has reportedly run about 1,000 tests, and Britain more than 10,000. “We can’t doubt our skills and the facts we gather,” said Muhammad Syahril, director of the Sulianti Saroso hospital in Jakarta, the capital, when asked why Indonesia had detected no cases.

“If we don’t have cases, we don’t have cases,” he said in an interview at the hospital on Friday. “Why would we cover it up?” [..] The hospital was ready to tackle any outbreak, armed with experience gained in handling disease such as the 2003-2004 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), he said. A health ministry official previously told Reuters that some hospitals, particularly in eastern Indonesia, had smaller capacity to handle virus cases. But even in Jakarta not all best practices appear to be followed and a recent visit to another hospital revealed some nurses without masks, despite attending to a patient with fever.

Fuelling concern about Indonesia’s vulnerability, four infections were confirmed in travelers who had spent time there, including a Japanese national living in Malaysia and one returning to New Zealand from Iran via the resort island of Bali. Indonesian physician Shela Putri Sundawa worries that screening could miss potential carriers without symptoms. “When people have travel or contact history, but they only have issues with coughing or minor fever, they’ll just be monitored,” she said, calling for tighter surveillance. Tests were run when doctors determined that symptoms pointed “to that direction”, Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto saidlast week. “Imagine if everybody who had a cough or flu was checked, then millions would be checked,” he said, adding that it was “a blessing from the Almighty” that no cases had been found.

Read more …

Now repeat this in dozens of other countries.

Don’t Test, Don’t Tell! (Ben Hunt)

Patient comes in from another hospital on Wednesday, Feb. 19 – this is one week ago – already intubated and on a ventilator, and the doctors at UC Davis – who have treated other COVID-19 cases – IMMEDIATELY suspect COVID-19. But the CDC refuses to test for COVID-19. Why? Because it didn’t fit their “criteria” for testing. They didn’t know for sure that the patient was in mainland China within the past 14 days, and they didn’t know for sure that the patient was in close contact with another confirmed case, so BY DEFINITION this patient can’t possibly have COVID-19. No test for you! This is “Don’t Test, Don’t Tell” and it is the single most incompetent, corrupt public health policy of my lifetime. And it’s happening all over the country.

[..] the update: 83 people are in self-quarantine at home, where they are supposed to “check their temperature” daily. Don’t have a thermometer? Not to worry! The Nassau County Health Commission will provide one for you! Who are the 83 in self-quarantine? Why, they’re everyone that Homeland Security says should be in self-quarantine, based on “current guidelines” of someone who was in mainland China within the past 14 days. Has it been 15 days since your mainland China visit? Have you been to Northern Italy in past 14 days? Have you been to Iran in past 14 days? Have you been to South Korea in past 14 days? Well, no self-quarantine for you! You’re fine!

And here’s the kicker. Not only is there ZERO tracking or monitoring of anyone who has been swimming in the coronavirus stew of South Korea, Northern Italy and Iran, but let’s say that you have in fact been to one of those areas recently and now you’re feeling sick. You go to the doctor and you tell her the whole story. Both of you suspect it might be COVID-19. You’re trying to do the right thing here. You call the county health authority. You call the state health authority. You call the CDC. And then you learn the awful truth of Don’t Test, Don’t Tell. It’s not that testing is not available…It’s that testing is not ALLOWED. [..] here’s the other quote from the UC Davis email that I’d like you to pay close attention to:

“When the patient arrived [Wednesday], the patient had already been intubated, was on a ventilator, and given droplet protection orders because of an undiagnosed and suspected viral condition. … On Sunday, the CDC ordered COVID-19 testing of the patient and the patient was put on airborne precautions and strict contact precautions.” Translation: for four days, every healthcare professional treating this patient at UC Davis was exposed to airborne transmission of COVID-19. And so was every healthcare professional at the hospital before UC Davis. Because the CDC refused to test this patient for COVID-19 in a timely manner, the doctors and nurses and technicians caring for this patient were put at risk.

Read more …

But!: “The most horrible week for the Dow since the GFC in 2008 is hardly visible on the long-term chart.”

Imagine what would need to happen to make it visible.

Markets Expected To Fall Further As Coronavirus Hits China’s Economy (G.)

It is likely the fresh data, which measures the economic impact of Beijing’s efforts to clamp down on the virus, will further spook investors who sent global markets tumbling 11% last week in the worst seven-day period for stocks since the 2008 financial crash. With factories forced to remain closed after the traditional lunar new year holiday shutdown, China’s official Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), a widely watched measure of economic activity, fell further in February than at any time in the last 12 years, China’s National Bureau of Statistics said. The bureau found a significant collapse in domestic and export orders and a contraction of the country’s burgeoning service sector.

Similar surveys expected next month covering Japan and South Korea, both seriously affected by the coronavirus outbreak, could prolong the rout on global stock markets, analysts said. The outbreak has already disrupted supplies to factories in Europe, where companies have struggled to access vital components sourced from east Asia. Investors expect to find out in the next few days whether the outbreak is accelerating in the US, the world’s biggest economy, and how far central banks and governments are prepared to go to deal with an epidemic. “Right now the market is saying that this is unbounded. We don’t know what the limits are and we don’t know where it’s going to peak,” said Graham Tanaka, the chief investment officer at New York-based Tanaka Capital. Stock markets globally lost about $5tn of value last week, as measured by the MSCI all-country index.

Last weekend China’s president, Xi Jinping, told local officials that low-risk areas should “resume full production and normal life”. The government reported that larger factories reached 85.6% of their capacity by the middle of last week. Analysts at ING said: “This isn’t as positive as it sounds. Even if China‘s factory production can recover in March, it will still face the risk of a low level of export orders. This is because the supply chain will continue to be broken, this time in South Korea, Japan, Europe, and the US, where Covid-19 has begun to spread.” Unofficial reports show that factories outside Hubei province, where the virus started, could be working at no more than 75% of their capacity and many nearer 25% to 50% while millions of workers remain trapped in their home province, unable to travel back to their place of work.

Read more …

Silver linings are everywhere.

China Pollution Clear Amid Coronavirus Slowdown (BBC)

Satellite images have shown a dramatic decline in pollution levels over China, which is “at least partly” due to an economic slowdown prompted by the coronavirus, US space agency Nasa says. Nasa maps show falling levels of nitrogen dioxide this year. It comes amid record declines in China’s factory activity as manufacturers stop work in a bid to contain coronavirus. [..] Nasa scientists said the reduction in levels of nitrogen dioxide – a noxious gas emitted by motor vehicles and industrial facilities – was first apparent near the source of the outbreak in Wuhan city but then spread across the country.

Nasa compared the first two months of 2019 with the same period this year. The space agency noted that the decline in air pollution levels coincided with restriction imposed on transportation and business activities, and as millions of people went into quarantine. “This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event,” Fei Liu, an air quality researcher at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement. She added that she had observed a decline in nitrogen dioxide levels during the economic recession in 2008, but said that decrease was more gradual. Nasa noted that China’s Lunar New Year celebrations in late January and early February have been linked to decreases in pollution levels in the past. But it said they normally increase once the celebrations are over.

Read more …

Oh ye of little faith in the DNC.

Bernie Sanders Looks To Blow Away Rivals On Super Tuesday (G.)

Bernie Sanders doesn’t do things by half measures. As he vies to become the 46th president of the United States he is looking to shatter no fewer than three historic records. President Sanders would be the first Jewish incumbent of the most powerful office on Earth. Aged 79 on inauguration day, he would become the oldest president in US history having unseated the current record-holder, Donald Trump, 73. Most striking of all, he would be the first American commander-in-chief describing himself as a “democratic socialist”. Judging by recent attacks from his detractors – Democratic ones, not Trump supporters – that is the political equivalent of carrying the coronavirus.

“I’ll tell you what it adds up to,” said Pete Buttigieg, his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, at this week’s TV debate ahead of Saturday’s primary in South Carolina. Buttigieg referenced Sanders’ “radical” policies of universal tax-funded healthcare, debt-free college tuition and a Green New Deal to tackle the climate crisis, then said: “It adds up to four more years of Donald Trump.” On Tuesday Sanders has the chance to take his political insurgency and wipe it across the nation. In the 2020 cycle, Super Tuesday is even more super-charged than usual, providing him with an opportunity to take his already impressive lead over Buttigieg and six other Democratic rivals and virtually blast them out of the water.

In Iowa he finished a splinter-thin second to Buttigieg. In New Hampshire he won. In Nevada he sealed his frontrunner status with a slam-dunk victory. Now Super Tuesday promises to project him to all-but invincible heights. Fourteen states go to the polls on 3 March, between them commanding two-thirds of the 1991 delegates he needs to win outright.

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At least it sounds good.

If only because John Bolton said on Twitter:

Signing this agreement with Taliban is an unacceptable risk to America’s civilian population. This is an Obama-style deal. Legitimizing Taliban sends the wrong signal to ISIS and al Qaeda terrorists, and to America’s enemies generally.”

US and Taliban Ink Afghanistan Peace Agreement (RT)

Washington and the Taliban movement have signed a deal that lays out conditions for the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan. The agreement was signed by US peace envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and one of the Taliban’s senior leaders, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, in Qatar’s capital Doha on Saturday. The deal will see Washington and its allies withdrawing their troops from five bases in Afghanistan within the next 135 days. The remaining American soldiers will leave the country in 14 months if the Taliban fulfills its commitments. The document lays the groundwork for future negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government, aimed at bringing a lasting peace to the country.


The US has agreed to facilitate the talks and lift sanctions from Taliban members by August, provided the negotiations commence as planned. Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada called on all of his fighters to honor and abide by the agreement. The US and Afghan governments said earlier that the peace agreement will include guarantees that Afghan territory will not be used by terrorist groups to target the US and its allies. Also, Washington and Kabul agreed on a prisoner exchange with the Taliban by March 10, vowing to release up to 5,000 and 1,000 people respectively. Calling the deal “a decisive step toward real peace in Afghanistan,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke about the victories against Al-Qaeda, the group behind the 9/11 attacks. “Al-Qaeda today is a shadow of its former self. We have decimated its leadership, and now we have the Taliban agreeing that Al-Qaeda must never again find safe haven in Afghanistan,” he said.

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Seeing 33 of his troops killed didn’t bring home Putin’s message to Erdogan. Whose claims are for domestic purposes only, until someone dares him.

‘Get Out Of The Way, Let Us Deal With Assad’, Erdogan Says He Told Putin (RT)

As tensions in Idlib province reach the boiling point, Turkey has asked Russia to let it fight the Syrian government face-to-face, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan revealed. Erdogan asked Putin “to get out of the way” and let the Turkish troops deal with Syrian President Bashar Assad, the Turkish leader told his AK Party on Saturday. Erdogan was explaining to lawmakers his government’s handling of the escalation in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, where Turkish and Syrian troops have engaged in several clashes over the past weeks. The hostilities have all but ruined Turkey’s 2018 agreement with Russia on de-escalating the violence in the area, which remains the last major stronghold of anti-government forces in Syria.

Describing his phone conversation with Putin, Erdogan said if Russia’s interest in Syria was to keep a military presence there, Turkey, a NATO member, does not object to it. I asked Mr Putin: What’s your business there? If you establish a base, do so but get out of our way and leave us face to face with the regime. Moscow intervened in the Syrian conflict in 2015 to help Damascus fight against jihadist groups. Moscow said helping the Syrian government prevented future attacks launched by this would-be entity against other nations, including Russia. Erdogan said Ankara now considers Syrian government troops a legitimate target for its attacks, claiming Damascus lost over 2,100 soldiers in Idlib.

It was not immediately clear if the casualty number only represents Syrian troops killed directly by the Turkish military or includes those killed by Turkish-backed armed groups. Erdogan added that “seven warehouses with chemicals” were also destroyed in Syria, but did not offer any details or evidence regarding whether Syria still had chemical weapons in its possession. The Turkish leader said fighting against the Syrian government is necessary to prevent a humanitarian disaster in Idlib, which would cause a new influx of refugees into Turkey across the border. Part of the Turkish response to the situation was opening the border with Europe to asylum-seekers. Erdogan said the EU failed to support Turkey, which already hosts over 3,6 million refugees from Syria and faces as many as 4 million new arrivals now.

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Does NATO Article 5 apply to members invading the sovereign soil of other nations?

Threat Of Russia-Turkey-NATO Hot War A Godsend For US Foreign Policy (RT)

Turkey is calling for NATO’s protection after 33 of its soldiers were killed in an apparent Syrian airstrike in Idlib, allegedly while fighting in terrorist ranks. In the regional chaos that ensues, only one player stands to gain.
Speculation over what’s to come next has seen #article 5 trending on Twitter in the hours following the attacks, after Omer Celik, spokesman for Turkey’s ruling AKP party, indicated to reporters in Ankara that he was looking at requesting formal NATO protection against Damascus and, by proxy, the Russian air force. “We call on NATO to [start] consultations. This is not [an attack] on Turkey only, it is an attack on the international community. A common reaction is needed. The attack was also against NATO,” Celik told Turkish media.

Article 5 of the NATO treaty says an attack on one member is an attack on them all. The US State Department also condemned the attack, stating that it stands by its “NATO ally Turkey.” It further stated that it continues to “call for an immediate end to this despicable offensive by the Assad regime, Russia and Iranian-backed forces.” Never one to let us down, the US envoy to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchinson also told journalists that “everything is on the table.” However, it is unclear if NATO has the stamina to back Turkey in any meaningful way in a war against a Syrian government which is backed by Russian air power. It is also unclear if Article 5 extends to NATO allies when they have effectively invaded a foreign entity. In fact, even if no corporate media entity would willingly admit it, the nation defending itself in this specific set of facts is Syria – not Turkey.

That being said, Ankara has found a way to ensure that European nations do not flat-out ignore the situation. Just recently, Turkey reportedly opened up the Idlib border to allow an influx of Syrian refugees to flee to Europe, which will surely magnify regional tensions to a significant extent. Moscow has responded to the situation by highlighting Ankara’s relationship with the various jihadist entities in Syria. According to Russia’s Defense Ministry, the airstrike was carried out when the Syrian Army was repelling an offensive by Syria’s official al-Qaeda offshoot, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, inside the Idlib “de-escalation zone.” Of course, anyone who has been paying attention to the war in Syria can appreciate that Ankara’s material and financial support for terrorist groups in Syria, including and especially Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), has long been documented.

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Erdogan buys Russian anti-rocket systems, then asks NATO for support with air defense.

Greece Vetoes NATO Communique Intended to Support Turkey in Syria (GR)

Greece blocked the issuance of a joint communique from NATO on Friday night, intended to support Turkey in its war inside Syrian territory. According to Greece’s Kathimerini daily, which quotes Greek Foreign Ministry officials, Athens decided to block the joint NATO declaration because several of its members denied Greece’s demand to add a paragraph, which would have mentioned the issue of refugee and migrant influx from Turkey to Greece. According to this report, the USA, the UK, France, and Germany disagreed with Greece’s demand.


Meanwhile, Turkey asked NATO for additional support, particularly in its air defense in Syria. Most of the members of the North Atlantic alliance see this situation as an opportunity to bring Turkey closer to its allies in the West, pausing Ankara’s flirt with Russia. This was the reason why most of NATO’s ”big” players did not want to anger Turkey, by adding a clause that would mention immigration, particularly at a time when Ankara declares its inability to deal with approximately 4 million refugees and migrants currently in its territory.

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Greece has sent in the army to hold of some 13,000 migrants at the border. Either the EU acts now, or people are going to be killed.

Turkey Minister: 76,358 Migrants Headed To Border With Greece (K.)

Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu claims, in a Twitter post, that 76,358 migrants had passed through the border city of Edirne by Sunday morning on their way to the border crossing with Greece. “As of 09.55 hours, the number of immigrants leaving our country via Edirne is 76 thousand 358,” said Soylu, according to the Demiroren News Agency. Turkey has opened its borders for migrants to cross into the EU and has aided them by providing buses to Edirne.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Feb 282020
 


Lewis Wickes Hine Gus Hodges, 11, instructs brother Julius 5. I found Gus selling as late as 9 pm, Norfolk VA 1911

 

England Only Has 15 Beds For Worst Respiratory Cases (G.)
Diagnosis Of Coronavirus Patient In California Was Delayed For Days (NPR)
The Last Time This Happened Was Days Before The Great Depression (ZH)
Whistleblower Claims ‘Corrupt Cover-Up’ Of Dangerous Coronavirus Quarantines (ZH)
Greece Reports 4 Coronavirus Cases, Cancels Carnival (K.)
Abe Urges Japan March School Shutdown To Stem Coronavirus (R.)
EU Experts: Closing Borders ‘Ineffective’ For Coronavirus (EUO)
Turkey Says Can’t Contain Europe-Bound Syrian Refugees Amid Idlib Battle (RT)
Idlib Attack That Killed 33 Turkish Soldiers Was ‘Also Against NATO’ (RT)
East Africa Faces New Locust Threat (R.)
Not Quack-Checked! MSM Dives For ‘Chinese Duck Army’ Story (RT)
How Gold Is Manipulated (Rickards)
Biden Treated Ukraine ‘As His Private Property’ – Ex-Prosecutor Shokin (RT)
Ethics Complaint Questions How Devin Nunes Pays For Lawsuits (Hill)
UK Mainstream Media Participate In Assange Crucifixion (Galloway)
Julian Assange Leaked US Files For Political Ends – Lawyers (G.)
Your Man in the Public Gallery – The Assange Hearing Day 3 (Craig Murray)

 

Cases 83,733 (+ 1,314 from yesterday’s 82,419).

Deaths 2,860 (+ 52 from yesterday’s 2,808)

 

• Holland (2), N-Ireland, New Zealand, Nigeria(!!), Lithuania first case
• Italy 653 cases, 17 deaths
• France 38 cases from 18 yesterday
• Germany 14 new cases, total 48
• Iran 245 confirmed cases, 26 deaths
• South Korea 256 new cases, total 2,337, over 1,000 new cases in 48 hours.
• China 327 new cases and 44 new deaths
– 180 million students homeschooled
• California 28 cases, monitoring 8400
• Greece 4 cases
• Starbucks says 85% of Chinese restaurants reopened
• Countries (Japan, UK) prepare to close down schools for months on end

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer (Note: mortality rate down to 7%)

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I said yesterday: Coming to a town near you soon.

England Only Has 15 Beds For Worst Respiratory Cases (G.)

England only has 15 available beds for adults to treat the most severe respiratory failure and will struggle to cope if there are more than 28 patients who need them if the number of coronavirus cases rises, according to the government and NHS documents. Ministers have revealed in parliamentary answers that there are 15 available beds for adult extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) treatment at five centres across England. The government said this could be increased in an emergency. There were 30 such beds in total available during the 2018-19 winter flu season. But an NHS England document prepared in November 2017 reveals the system will struggle to cope if more than 28 patients need the treatment, describing that situation as black/critical.

It suggests that if no beds are available “within the designated and surge capacity” in the UK, they might have to be sourced from other countries, for example, from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. ECMO treatment is used in only the most severe cases of respiratory failure when other treatments are not working. It uses an artificial lung located outside the body to put oxygen into a patient’s blood and continuously pump this blood into and around their body. It has been used to treat Covid-19 cases in China, which is ordering more machines from Germany, according to state media.

In answer to a Labour MP’s question on Thursday about coronavirus preparedness, Jo Churchill, a health minister, said: “Since April 2013, NHS England has commissioned a total of 15 adult respiratory extra corporeal membrane oxygenation beds from five providers in England, with further provision in Scotland. In periods of high demand, capacity can be increased.” Jon Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, questioned the readiness of the NHS to deal with a sharp escalation of coronavirus cases after years of cutbacks. “After years of Tory austerity, we know we’ve lost well over 15,000 beds since 2010,” he said. “We know that last week critical care bed occupancy was running at over 80%…”

https://twitter.com/TVRav/status/1232985651831812096

Read more …

Curious: “..in some labs, the third step of that, they were having trouble with getting a quality control validation on that, so it led to inconclusive results,” Azar said. “We now, as of yesterday afternoon, the FDA authorized the use of those tests by using just the first and second step.”

Diagnosis Of Coronavirus Patient In California Was Delayed For Days (NPR)

The first suspected U.S. case of a patient getting the new coronavirus through “community spread” — with no history of travel to affected areas or exposure to someone known to have the COVID-19 illness — was left undiagnosed for days because a request for testing wasn’t initially granted, according to officials at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, Calif. The patient in Northern California is now the 60th confirmed case of the coronavirus in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disclosed the latest case Wednesday evening, as President Trump assigned Vice President Pence to lead the administration’s response to the disease.

“This case was detected through the U.S. public health system — picked up by astute clinicians,” the CDC said in a brief statement about the new patient. UC Davis included more details about the case in its own statement, drawing on an email sent to staff at its medical center. It said the CDC initially ruled out a test for the coronavirus because the patient’s case didn’t match its criteria. “UC Davis Health does not control the testing process,” the hospital noted. The new patient, who lives in Solano County and has not been identified, was transferred to UC Davis Medical in Sacramento County from another hospital this month.

Staff at UC Davis then suspected the patient might be infected with the coronavirus that has caused more than 2,800 deaths. “Upon admission, our team asked public health officials if this case could be COVID-19,” the hospital said. “We requested COVID-19 testing by the CDC, since neither Sacramento County nor CDPH [California Department of Public Health] is doing testing for coronavirus at this time. Since the patient did not fit the existing CDC criteria for COVID-19, a test was not immediately administered. UC Davis Health does not control the testing process.”

[..] The CDC has completed more than 3,600 coronavirus tests, Azar said during a congressional budget hearing on Thursday. While he said it hasn’t had a testing “backlog,” he added that the agency’s test has three steps — and that the last step has posed some problems. “What we found was that in some labs, the third step of that, they were having trouble with getting a quality control validation on that, so it led to inconclusive results,” Azar said. “We now, as of yesterday afternoon, the FDA authorized the use of those tests by using just the first and second step.”

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The “markets” woke up 5-6 weeks late, but now they’re clued in

The Last Time This Happened Was Days Before The Great Depression (ZH)

The US equity market is suffering its worst start to a year since 2009…

In the space of just six days, we went from record high to a ‘correction’ (over 3,000 Dow points and down over 10.5%)…

What is most ominous is the fact that, as NatAlliance Securities reports, “This would be only the second time in history that this has happened. The other? 1928.”

In other words, the only other time the Dow Jones entered a correction this fast from an all time high was months before the start of the Great Depression.

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“..the coronavirus response [is] officially an election issue now…”

Whistleblower Claims ‘Corrupt Cover-Up’ Of Dangerous Coronavirus Quarantines (ZH)

A complaint filed with Health and Human Services (HHS) and promptly leaked to the New York Times alleges that federal health employees interacted with Americans quarantined for possible coronavirus exposure without proper medical training or protective gear, and that health agency leaders engaged in a ‘corrupt cover-up’ when staff members complained, according to the Times. Filed with the Office of the Special Counsel, a whistleblower described as a ‘senior leader’ at HHS said the team was “improperly deployed” to two California military bases to assist with processing American evacuees from coronavirus hot zones in China and elsewhere.

The staff members were sent to Travis Air Force Base and March Air Reserve Base and were ordered to enter quarantined areas, including a hangar where coronavirus evacuees were being received. They were not provided training in safety protocols until five days later, the person said. Without proper training or equipment, some of the exposed staff members moved freely around and off the bases, with at least one person staying in a nearby hotel and leaving California on a commercial flight. Many were unaware of the need to test their temperature three times a day. -New York Times

[..] The Times notes that the complaint comes right after President Trump began to downplay the risks of coronavirus on US soil “amid bipartisan concern about a sluggish and disjointed response by the administration to an illness that public health officials have said is likely to spread through the United States.” In other words, the coronavirus response officially an election issue now.

“The whistle-blower’s account raised questions about whether the Trump administration has taken adequate precautions in its handling of the virus to date, and whether Mr. Trump’s minimization of the risks has been mirrored by other top officials when confronted with potentially disturbing developments.” -New York Times

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Update just in from Reuters:

“Greek woman who recently returned home from northern Italy became Greece’s fourth coronavirus case and is being closely monitored, health authorities said on Friday. The 36-year-old woman has been admitted to a coronavirus isolation unit of the capital’s Attikon Hospital.”

Greece Reports 4 Coronavirus Cases, Cancels Carnival (K.)

Greece reported two new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to three, and said it would suspend all carnival celebrations in the country. The health ministry said one of the cases involved a relative of a 38-year-old woman in the northern town of Thessaloniki who became the first confirmed case in Greece. The woman had recently returned from Milan in northern Italy, epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe. The third reported case, in Athens, was a female who had also visited northern Italy. Among events to be canceled is a carnival parade in the coastal city of Patra slated for March 1, authorities said.

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But the Olympics are on. When you close schools, hospitals close too, because that’s where the mothers work.

Abe Urges Japan March School Shutdown To Stem Coronavirus (R.)

Angry Japanese parents joined bewildered teachers and businesses on Friday in a rush to find new ways to live and work for a month after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s shock call for all schools to close in a bid to stop coronavirus spreading. Abe’s unprecedented move late on Thursday to ask local authorities to shut down their schools means students will be out of school from Monday at least until the new academic year starts in early April. Earlier this week the government urged that big gatherings and sports events be scrapped or curtailed for two weeks to contain the virus while pledging that the 2020 Summer Olympics will go ahead in Tokyo.

As of Friday, confirmed cases in Japan topped 200, with four deaths, excluding more than 700 cases and four more deaths from the quarantined cruise liner Diamond Princess. While the virus has hit China hardest so far, causing nearly 80,000 infections and almost 2,800 deaths, according to official Chinese figures, its rapid spread to a number of other countries around in the world in the past week has stoked fresh alarm. Abe’s move – issued as a formal request rather than an order – drew scathing criticism, with health officials left scratching their heads and analysts said the plan was politically motivated and made little sense.

“We’ll just have to get our revenge at the next elections,” @Ayu49Sweetfish tweeted, as working parents with young children were left wondering what to do for the duration. In the northern Hokkaido prefecture, which has seen the largest number of coronavirus cases in Japan, the governor had already announced a closure of all schools until March 4. That left one hospital closing doors to patients without reservations on Friday because about a fifth of its nurses were unable to work while their children were out of school.

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They’ll close their borders to refugees and migrants but not virus carriers. Wonder what happens when Turkey is forced to report corona cases.

EU Experts: Closing Borders ‘Ineffective’ For Coronavirus (EUO)

EU experts said on Thursday (27 February) that refusing entry to an EU country of people with coronavirus symptoms would be counter-productive and “ineffective” to prevent the spread of the virus. “Refusal of entry is not considered an appropriate preventive measure as the virus would spread further” since those potential patients would keep moving in the region without being treated, EU sources said. Instead, the experts advised having “systematic” checks for all those arriving, ensuring a coordinated approach between border guards and national authorities, as well as a real-time exchange of information. The principle of free movement of people in the EU was already in danger in 2015 when some member states introduced border check due to the migration crisis.


Today, six EU countries – Germany, France, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Norway – still have temporary border controls to prevent irregular migrant flows. However, any member state can notify the EU authorities of the intention of closing borders temporary due to the coronavirus outbreak – a decision that can only be made by member states and that cannot be vetoed by the European Commission. None have yet done so. If national authorities decide to introduce this exceptional measure, it must be justified passing a “test of proportionality”. Additionally, the commission is working on a joint procurement to ensure there is enough protective and medical equipment for health-care workers – and other authorities like the army – over fears that the outbreak of the coronavirus could lead to a supply shortage in some member states. However, this joint initiative has not been launched yet but there is an “increasing interest” among member states to be part of it, EU sources told reporters in Brussels.

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Twitter: “Turkish coastguard not patrolling as before. They just approached a boat heading to Northern #Lesbos and then they left without intercepting” a local from Skala village just told me. It seems that #Turkey‘s government meant what they said.”

Turkey Says Can’t Contain Europe-Bound Syrian Refugees Amid Idlib Battle (RT)

Turkey is no longer able to contain millions of displaced Syrians and has reached “full capacity,” Ankara’s ruling AK party said in a fresh threat to open the floodgates into Europe as tensions over Idlib reach boiling point. With Ankara vowing to go “all in” to halt a Syrian Army offensive to retake Idlib province from rebel militias, AKP spokesman Omer Celik suggested Turkey would soon allow hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees to pour into Europe, a threat repeatedly made by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the past. “Turkey can not bear the pressure of the new refugees, we now say that Turkey is at full capacity,” Celik told CNNTurk early on Friday.

While the spokesman noted Turkey’s refugee policy remains “the same,” he said “We are no longer in a position to hold refugees” amid an expected influx of newly displaced Syrians. An earlier report at Reuters cited an unnamed Turkish official who said much the same, although the official went further in stating that police, coast guard and border security officers had been ordered to “stand down” and allow the refugees to cross into Europe. Turkey and the European Union (EU) struck an agreement in 2016 in hopes of stemming the flow of refugees passing into Europe, with the EU providing some €6 billion ($6.6 billion) to help resettle the displaced people.

Erdogan, however, has slammed the multinational body time and again, insisting it has yet to hand over all of the promised aid. With at least 33 Turkish troops killed in the effort to stop Damascus’ offensive on Idlib – the last remaining militant stronghold, some of which are backed by Ankara – tensions between the two countries have reached new heights. Still engaged in intense skirmishes with militants in Idlib, the Syrian Army has signaled no intention of halting its advance, putting Damascus and Ankara on a collision course as the former fights to reclaim its territory.

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Western media are reluctant to mention Russia, they want the blame to be on Assad. Russia has said that Turkey is supporting terrorists in Syria.

Idlib Attack That Killed 33 Turkish Soldiers Was ‘Also Against NATO’ (RT)

The spokesman for Turkey’s ruling AK party has labelled the Syrian airstrike that allegedly claimed the lives of dozens of Turkish soldiers in rebel-held Idlib an attack on NATO, calling for the US-led alliance to intervene. “We call on NATO to [start] consultations. This is not [an attack] on Turkey only, it is an attack on the international community. A common reaction is needed. The attack was also against NATO,” AKP spokesman Omer Celik told Turkish media on Thursday. At least 33 Turkish soldiers are said to have been killed in Idlib, the last militant stronghold in Syria, in an airstrike Ankara blamed on Damascus. In the wake of initial reports that dozens of Turkish servicemen perished in the raid, Turkish President Receep Erdogan held a 6-hour marathon meeting that concluded early Friday.


The military bloc itself, while pledging support to its “ally Turkey,” has been wary of making any promises. Apparently shocked by reports of the Turkish casualties, US envoy to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchinson reportedly exclaimed “Oh my gosh” in response to the news when speaking to media late Thursday, but dodged the question of whether the US-led alliance would consider invoking Article 5 – which would pave the way for a collective military response to an armed attack on one of its members. However, she did not miss out on a chance to call on Turkey to tear up its deal to buy the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system, while also taking a jab at Moscow: “They see what Russia is, they see what they are doing now” – despite the fact that Ankara has not blamed Moscow for the attack.

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And Pakistan. Now add a coronavirus outbreak.

East Africa Faces New Locust Threat (R.)

Countries in East Africa are racing against time to prevent new swarms of locusts wreaking havoc with crops and livelihoods after the worst infestation in generations. A lack of expertise in controlling the pests is not their only problem: Kenya temporarily ran out of pesticides, Ethiopia needs more planes and Somalia and Yemen, torn by civil war, can’t guarantee exterminators’ safety. Locust swarms have been recorded in the region since biblical times, but unusual weather patterns exacerbated by climate change have created ideal conditions for insect numbers to surge, scientists say. Warmer seas are creating more rain, wakening dormant eggs, and cyclones that disperse the swarms are getting stronger and more frequent.


In Ethiopia the locusts have reached the fertile Rift Valley farmland and stripped grazing grounds in Kenya and Somalia. Swarms can travel up to 150 km (93 miles) a day and contain between 40-80 million locusts per square kilometer. If left unchecked, the number of locusts in East Africa could explode 400-fold by June. That would devastate harvests in a region with more than 19 million hungry people, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned. Uganda has deployed the military. Kenya has trained hundreds of youth cadets to spray. Lacking pesticides, some security forces in Somalia have shot anti-aircraft guns at swarms darkening the skies. Everyone is racing the rains expected in March: the next generation of larvae is already wriggling from the ground, just as farmers plant their seeds.

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Popular story though.

Not Quack-Checked! MSM Dives For ‘Chinese Duck Army’ Story (RT)

Western media have fallen hard for an apparently fake if adorable story about a 100,000-strong “duck army” China has supposedly marched to fight the billions of locusts currently laying waste to Pakistan’s food supply. Initially published by local Chinese outlet Ningbo Evening News, the clickbait-tastic story, complete with a video showing a herd of ducks supposedly marching in formation, proved impossible to resist – or to factcheck – and spread around the world by the time people started asking questions. Supposedly reputable outlets including the BBC, Bloomberg, and Time unquestioningly parroted the story about “special Chinese ducks” that would be “more effective than pesticide” – not to mention better for the environment – in taking on the ravenous swarms.

Citing Lu Lizhi, said to be a senior researcher with the Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, the stories called the ducks a “biological weapon” and predicted they’d be unleashed against the hungry insects “as early as the second half of this year” following a test-run in China’s Xinjiang province. Alas, the story of locust-eating ducks fighting the devastating biblical plague has proved to be largely quackery, media that had covered it began realizing on Thursday. Unfortunately for Pakistan, which declared a national emergency earlier this month over the devastating infestation, an avian army is not waddling to their rescue, and even if they were, they wouldn’t do much good.

The Food and Agriculture Organization did the math and found an army of 100,000 ducks could only eat 20 million locusts in a day, while just one square kilometer of swarming locusts contains anywhere from 40 to 80 million of the insects. Also, swarms may stretch over hundreds of square kilometers, as they have in some locust-stricken areas of Africa.

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Markets are falling off a cliff, and gold hardly moves. That’s what manipulation looks like.

How Gold Is Manipulated (Rickards)

Currently the price of gold is set in two places. One is the London spot market, controlled by six big banks including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan. The other is the New York gold futures market controlled by COMEX, which is governed by its big clearing members, also including major western banks. In effect, the big western banks have a monopoly on gold prices even if they do not have a monopoly on physical gold. The easiest way to perform paper manipulation is through COMEX futures. Rigging futures markets is child’s play. You just wait until a little bit before the close and put in a massive sell order. By doing this you scare the other side of the market into lowering their bid price; they back away.

That lower price then gets trumpeted around the world as the “price” of gold, discouraging investors and hurting sentiment. The price decline spooks hedge funds into dumping more gold as they hit “stop-loss” limits on their positions. A self-fulfilling momentum is established where selling begets more selling and the price spirals down for no particular reason except that someone wanted it that way. Eventually a bottom is established and buyers step in, but by then the damage is done. Futures have a huge amount of leverage that can easily reach 20 to 1. For $10 million of cash margin, I can sell $200 million of paper gold.

[..] Another way to manipulate the price is through gold leasing and “unallocated forwards.” “Unallocated” is one of those buzzwords in the gold market. When most large gold buyers want to buy physical gold, they’ll call JPMorgan Chase, HSBC, Citibank, or one of the large gold dealers. They’ll put in an order for, say, $5 million worth of gold. The bank will say fine, send us your money for the gold and we’ll offer you a written contract in a standard form. Yet if you read the contract, it says you own gold on an “unallocated” basis. That means you don’t have designated bars.

There’s no group of gold bars that have your name on them or specific gold bar serial numbers that are registered to you. In practice, unallocated gold allows the bank to sell the same physical gold ten times over to ten different buyers. It’s no different from any other kind of fractional reserve banking. Banks never have as much cash on hand as they do deposits. Every depositor in a bank thinks he can walk in and get cash whenever he wants, but every banker knows the bank doesn’t have that much cash. The bank puts the money out on loan or buys securities; banks are highly leveraged institutions.

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How long can Biden keep this documentary under wraps?

Biden Treated Ukraine ‘As His Private Property’ – Ex-Prosecutor Shokin (RT)

Former top Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin says he was pushed out under pressure from US Vice President Joe Biden, after he seized the assets of the oligarch behind Burisma, the gas company that employed Biden’s son. President Donald Trump’s efforts to investigate Biden’s role in getting Shokin fired served as a pretext for his impeachment in the House of Representatives back in December. However, after Trump was acquitted by the Senate, the US media forgot about Burisma — and Ukraine. French investigative journalist Olivier Berruyer, founder of popular anti-corruption and economics blog Les Crises, did not.

In the fourth installment of his documentary series ‘UkraineGate: Inconvenient facts,’ Shokin reveals why and how he was ousted and what role the US has played in Ukraine. Shokin tells Berruyer that Biden and the US government had approved his appointment as prosecutor-general — as, indeed, they did all major appointments in Ukraine since the 2014 Maidan upheaval? — and worked with him well until he started getting too close to Burisma. He rejected reports that described his probe as “dormant.” “Biden was acting on behalf of his own interests, and those of his family, and not in the interest of the American people,” Shokin said, adding that Barack Obama’s VP “believed that Ukraine was his private property, his fiefdom and that he could do whatever he wanted here.”

Within a few days of Shokin seizing the assets of Mykola Zlochevsky, the oligarch owner of Burisma, President Petro Poroshenko summoned him and told him to back off. “Don’t you understand what Biden wants from you? Why are you getting into this Burisma stuff again?” Shokin quoted Poroshenko as saying. Within a few weeks, he was replaced by someone Biden called “more solid” – Yuriy Lutsenko, who had no training in law, and whom Shokin describes as a traitor to Ukraine.

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Absolutely non-partisan.

Ethics Complaint Questions How Devin Nunes Pays For Lawsuits (Hill)

A nonpartisan watchdog group in an ethics complaint Wednesday asked Congress to investigate how Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is paying for several ongoing lawsuits against critics. In its complaint to the Office of Congressional Ethics, the Campaign Legal Center notes Nunes’s annual congressional salary of $174,000 would likely not cover the costs of the various suits, indicating that he is either receiving free or discounted legal services or working on contingency with an attorney, all of which would require him to disclose the assistance. Nunes has yet to file a legal expense fund with the Office of Congressional Ethics. “Representative Nunes’s overt involvement with the highly-publicized lawsuits threatens to establish a precedent that the Legal Expense Fund regulations no longer apply to Members,” the complaint states. “Although Representative Nunes is entitled to legal representation and he may pursue any legal action to protect and defend his interests, he must comply with House rules,” it continued.


“An [Office of Congressional Ethics] investigation will preserve Representative Nunes’s legal right to counsel while upholding well-established House rules and precedent.” Defendants in Nunes’s lawsuits include Twitter, CNN, McClatchy and two anonymous Twitter accounts that have mocked him. The complaint also claims that even if Nunes was paying Virginia attorney Steven Biss based on contingency — meaning that should Nunes win his cases, Biss would get paid by taking a percentage the resulting award — Biss has also sent two letters demanding apologies for criticisms from Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Nunes’s 2017 opponent Andrew Janz. “Mr. Biss sent a letter to Representative Lieu threatening to bring an ethics complaint against him,” the complaint reads. “An ethics complaint will not result in a monetary award that could support payment under a contingency fee agreement.”

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“..the arrow that flies in the night..”

UK Mainstream Media Participate In Assange Crucifixion (Galloway)

The vast majority of the Fourth Estate in Britain either care nothing for the plight of Julian Assange, or are actively participating in his crucifixion. On the face of it, that makes no sense. If it were the intention of these journalists to actually be worthy of that name, then the proceedings in Belmarsh would be the biggest story in their world. The law being tested in the Woolwich Crown Fort would be a mortal danger to them, a dagger at their throat, a sword of Damocles hanging over their head. The prosecution made perfectly clear that the mere possession by a newspaper or a broadcaster of the foreign state secrets published by Assange would itself be a crime under the US Espionage Act, and thus they themselves open to an extradition request from a foreign state.


Though this statement was made in “open court,” virtually no msm journalist even reported it, never mind condemned it. How has this situation come about? Whatever happened to Woodward and Bernstein, to the Sunday Times devastating campaign against the Thalidomide scandal, the New York Times revelations of the Pentagon Papers? Where is the reporting about My Lai? The answer lies in the words of Francis Bacon four centuries ago, when he foretold of the impact of self-censorship: “the arrow that flies in the night” he called it. You don’t see it but it kills its quarry just the same. If Julian Assange is sent into the dungeons of America, free journalism, free speech and even democracy itself will have been murdered in plain sight. On the British mainstream media watch.

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“Fitzgerald responded that Assange didn’t only seek to change US government policy, but that he succeeded.”

Julian Assange Leaked US Files For Political Ends – Lawyers (G.)

Julian Assange’s legal team has rejected a suggestion by lawyers for US authorities that his actions were not “political offences”, arguing that the WikiLeaks founder had published classified documents to highlight human rights abuses. On the fourth day of Assange’s extradition hearing in London, before proceedings were adjourned until May, his barrister, Edward Fitzgerald QC, said the motives for publishing confidential information about Guantánamo Bay and the actions of the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan were political. Assange faces 18 charges in the US of attempted hacking and breaches of the Espionage Act over the publication of classified US cables a decade ago.

His defence argues that he should be protected from extradition because the US-UK treaty rules it out for political offences. James Lewis QC, a barrister for the US authorities, argued earlier on Thursday that Assange’s actions were not inherently political as they did not have the direct purpose of overthrowing the US government or changing US government policy. “Any bare assertion that WikiLeaks was engaged in a struggle with the US government … needs to be examined far more,” he told Woolwich crown court. Fitzgerald responded that Assange didn’t only seek to change US government policy, but that he succeeded. “WikiLeaks didn’t just seek to induce change, it did induce change,” he said, referring to the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

“What other purpose can there be publishing the Apache helicopter strike [video, showing the killing of 12 people] and [US] rules of engagement than to show that the war was being waged in a way that conflicted with fundamental human rights? “What other point can there be to releasing the Guantánamo Bay files than to induce a government change of policy? And the same for revealing civilian deaths in the Iraq war – [it] was to induce a change in government policy.’’

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Murray in court.

Your Man in the Public Gallery – The Assange Hearing Day 3 (Craig Murray)

Edward Fitzgerald made a formal application for Julian to be allowed to sit beside his lawyers in the court. Julian was “a gentle, intellectual man” and not a terrorist. Baraitser replied that releasing Assange from the dock into the body of the court would mean he was released from custody. To achieve that would require an application for bail. Again, the prosecution counsel James Lewis intervened on the side of the defence to try to make Julian’s treatment less extreme. He was not, he suggested diffidently, quite sure that it was correct that it required bail for Julian to be in the body of the court, or that being in the body of the court accompanied by security officers meant that a prisoner was no longer in custody.

Prisoners, even the most dangerous of terrorists, gave evidence from the witness box in the body of the court nest to the lawyers and magistrate. In the High Court prisoners frequently sat with their lawyers in extradition hearings, in extreme cases of violent criminals handcuffed to a security officer. Baraitser replied that Assange might pose a danger to the public. It was a question of health and safety. How did Fitzgerald and Lewis think that she had the ability to carry out the necessary risk assessment? It would have to be up to Group 4 to decide if this was possible. Yes, she really did say that. Group 4 would have to decide.

Baraitser started to throw out jargon like a Dalek when it spins out of control. “Risk assessment” and “health and safety” featured a lot. She started to resemble something worse than a Dalek, a particularly stupid local government officer of a very low grade. “No jurisdiction” – “Up to Group 4”. Recovering slightly, she stated firmly that delivery to custody can only mean delivery to the dock of the court, nowhere else in the room. If the defence wanted him in the courtroom where he could hear proceedings better, they could only apply for bail and his release from custody in general. She then peered at both barristers in the hope this would have sat them down, but both were still on their feet.

In his diffident manner (which I confess is growing on me) Lewis said “the prosecution is neutral on this request, of course but, err, I really don’t think that’s right”. He looked at her like a kindly uncle whose favourite niece has just started drinking tequila from the bottle at a family party. Baraitser concluded the matter by stating that the Defence should submit written arguments by 10am tomorrow on this point, and she would then hold a separate hearing into the question of Julian’s position in the court.

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From Greece.

 

 

 

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Jan 282020
 
 January 28, 2020  Posted by at 10:17 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  27 Responses »


Walker Evans Vicksburg, Mississippi. “Vicksburg Negroes and shop front.” 1936

 

Coronavirus Has Killed 106 And Infected 4,515 People In China (CNBC)
Coronavirus Death Toll Climbs To 106, Infections Rise To 4,515 (BBC)
US and Japan To Fly Out Citizens As Coronavirus Deaths Rise (G.)
China Coronavirus Cases Almost Double Overnight (ZH)
Hong Kong Scientist Insists 44,000 Already Infected In Wuhan (ZH)
How Testing Woes Slowed China’s Coronavirus Response (R.)
Coronavirus ‘Significant Threat’ To Chinese Economic Growth (G.)
Japan Warns About Risks To Economy From China Virus Outbreak (R.)
Coronavirus Prompts Automakers To Evacuate Workers From China (CNBC)
Boeing Secures Over $12 Billion In Financing To Fight 737 Max Crisis (CNBC)
Oil Chief Urges West To Call Out Foreign Meddling In Libya Conflict (G.)
Canary Trap (Kunstler)
Prince Andrew Told To ‘Stop Playing Games’ Over Epstein Inquiry (G.)
Aid Groups Seek Safe Ports For Nearly 500 Migrants Rescued In The Mediterranean (RT)

 

 

Watched a fair bit of the Trump team arguments in the Senate yesterday, quite a bit seemed to make sense, but it no longer appears to matter. Tricky, because in the end the law is the law. But what that is, is ultimately up to the Supreme Court. Until it gets involved, every word said is one too many. So I won’t say too much about this.

I do wonder why Democrats argue that the Biden corruption story has been debunked (please tell me when and by whom) but the Russia meddling tale stands tall (remember Mueller?). But them, that is just the character of the “conversation”. Everyone only talks to those who already agree with them. Boring as hell. Yesterday, I said:

“There doesn’t appear to be any underlying proof for Bolton’s claim that Trump tied aid to an investigation (or he wouldn’t/couldn’t have held on to it for so long). That in turn makes it another he said/she said topic, and we’ve seen enough of those in this “trial” process.


Moreover, if Trump would have asked for an investigation into a guy who was kicked out of the Navy for cocaine abuse only to land a very plush job just months later at a very corrupt company operating in a field and a country that he knew nothing about, while his dad was US VP, would that have been a high crime?”

 

 

Given developments in the past 24 hours, we can’t very well not focus on the coronavirus. Note: Some of the numbers appear more than once in the articles below, but they all have different numbers as well. China’s official data today say:

• Hubei infections 2,714 (up 1291 overnight – 91% surge).

• China total infections 4,515. (Almost as many cases outside Wuhan as inside. The virus spreads).

• 1,000 people in critical condition

• 30,453 under observation

..nearly 7,000 more cases suspected and awaiting confirmation .. From 5,800 Monday

• 2 days in a row of 15 deaths added, followed by 2 days with 25 added. Too much coincidence.

• A few days ago, the big news was a 1,000 bed hospital being built in 1 week. Today, the news is that 100,000 beds (!) are being reserved (opened up) in existing Hubei hospitals.

• China tells people not to travel abroad, US tells Americans not to travel to China. Businesses are getting hurt. So are stock “markets”, obviously.

• Hong Kong scientist says: at the peak of the pandemic [April/May], as many as 150,000 new cases could be confirmed every day in Chongqing alone

 

And we are still skirting close to the Fibonacci sequence:


Fibonacci

 

Medical supplies sent to Wuhan: 14,000 protective suits and 110,000 pairs of gloves. Emergency supplies of 3 million masks, 100,000 protective suits and 2,180 pairs of goggles.

Coronavirus Has Killed 106 And Infected 4,515 People In China (CNBC)

Chinese health authorities said Tuesday that the coronavirus outbreak has killed 106 people and infected 4,515. The officials also said 60 people had been discharged. The majority of the reported cases are in mainland China, where local authorities have quarantined several major cities and canceled Lunar New Year’s events in Beijing and elsewhere. The U.S. Department of State on Monday raised its travel advisory for China from Level 2 to Level 3 asking Americans to “reconsider travel to China due to the novel coronavirus.” They added that some areas have “added risk.” [..] Multiple cases of the virus have been confirmed in Hong Kong, Macao, Taipei, Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, France and the United States.


On Monday, local authorities in Germany confirmed the country’s first case. Nepal has confirmed one case. Cambodia confirmed its first case on Monday, according to Reuters, citing Health Minister Mam Bunheng. Sri Lanka also confirmed its first case on Monday, Reuters reports. [..] China stepped up efforts to increase medical supplies to Wuhan that includes transferring 14,000 protective suits and 110,000 pairs of gloves from the central medical reserves, according to the State Council. Emergency supplies of 3 million masks, 100,000 protective suits and 2,180 pairs of goggles were also made available. More than 1,600 medical staff are said to be sent to the Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, to assist in containing the virus.

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Beijing annd Shanghai may be about to be locked down. Hong Kong residents demand for the border to be closed.

Coronavirus Death Toll Climbs To 106, Infections Rise To 4,515 (BBC)

The death toll from the new coronavirus now stands at 106, as cases of new infections have almost doubled in a day, Chinese authorities have said. The number of total confirmed cases in China rose to 4,515 as of 27 January, up from 2,835 a day earlier. Travel restrictions have been tightened and wearing masks in public is now mandatory in some cities. The city of Wuhan is at the epicentre of the outbreak but it has spread across China and internationally. Wuhan, and the province it is located in Hubei, are already effectively in lockdown with transport restrictions in and out of the area.


On Tuesday, the country’s immigration administration encouraged citizens to reconsider the timing of overseas travel to reduce cross-border movement. Beijing and Shanghai have introduced a 14-day observation period for people arriving from Hubei. Of the 106 deaths in China, 100 were in Hubei province while the province’s number of reported infections is at 2,714. Authorities have postponed the new semester for schools and universities nationwide, without giving a resumption date.

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They will all have to spend 14 days in quarantine.

US and Japan To Fly Out Citizens As Coronavirus Deaths Rise (G.)

The death toll from the coronavirus has risen to 106, Chinese officials confirmed on Tuesday, as countries scrambled to fly their citizens out of the city at the centre of the outbreak. Japan said it would send a chartered flight to Wuhan on Tuesday night to evacuate its citizens, while the US government is also preparing an airlift. The state department had planned a flight for Tuesday evening, but it was unclear if it would land as scheduled. Both South Korea and France are also aiming to fly out citizens this week. Several countries have also stepped up their warnings over travel to China, including the US, which now advises citizens to avoid non-essential visits to any part of the country.

[..] Around 4,515 cases of the illness have now been recorded across China, with almost 1,000 people in critical condition, according to state media. On Tuesday, Beijing confirmed the city’s first death from the virus. Though the number of cases appears to have risen quickly, from 2,887 on Monday, this was likely to be due to better reporting, and the numbers remain small compared with the population. Japanese foreign minister Toshimitsu Motegi said around 650 Japanese citizens were hoping to return to Japan, and that the first flight could carry around 200 passengers. He added the government was making arrangements for additional flights that would leave for Wuhan as early as Wednesday.

It was not clear if a US flight scheduled to land in Wuhan at 10pm on Tuesday would arrive as scheduled, with some reports suggesting it had been delayed until Wednesday. American citizens have been told there is only limited space available on the plane. [..] China has encouraged citizens to reconsider the timing of overseas travel, and introduced sweeping measures to try to stop the spread of the disease across the country. On Monday, officials postponed the end of this week’s Lunar New Year holiday until at least 2 February in an effort to reduce the chances of infection during what is the country’s busiest travel season. In Shanghai, which has recorded 66 cases of the virus, the end of the holiday has been postponed until 9 February.

Travel restrictions have been announced in many cities, with long-distance bus services banned, while big chains have said they will temporarily close their stores in some areas. There were nearly 7,000 more cases suspected and awaiting confirmation, China’s national health commission said on Monday.

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Hubei has 2714 cases, but opens up 100,000 hospital beds. Nuff said.

China Coronavirus Cases Almost Double Overnight (ZH)


• 4,515 Cases confirmed worldwide
• 106 Dead worldwide
• 2714 Cases in Hubei (up 1291 overnight – a stunning 91% surge)
• 100 Dead in Hubei (up 24 overnight – a 24% surge)

While China currently has about 3,000 total cases as reported earlier, according to the latest report from China’s Center for Disease Control, the real number of infections may be substantially higher, because as of Jan 26 (the update for Jan 27 is due shortly) some 30,453 people are currently under observation for the coronavirus. Needless to say, it is very likely that a substantial number of these people will end up positive for the disease, even as the total of people under observation grows by thousands every single day.


Earlier in the day, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, China’s Hubei Province, is opening up 100,000 hospital beds in an effort to contain the disease, the province’s vice governor announced on Jan. 27. In a press conference on Jan. 27 evening, Hubei vice governor Yang Yunyan said authorities have designated 112 medical institutions to treat patients with the deadly novel coronavirus, according to Chinese state media. They have freed up around 100,000 hospital beds in the province, with 3,000 of them in Wuhan city alone, where the disease first broke out. As the Epoch Times observes, “The urgency and scale of the authorities’ orders have raised fears that the outbreak has spread far more widely than authorities admit.”

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“..peak between late April and early May, and at the peak of the pandemic, as many as 150,000 new cases could be confirmed every day in Chongqing alone..”

Hong Kong Scientist Insists 44,000 Already Infected In Wuhan (ZH)

University of Hong Kong academics are urging the city’s government to embrace “draconian” measures to stop history from repeating itself. Hong Kong was rocked by SARS 17 years ago, when the virus – one of seven coronavirus strains (a family that also includes nCoV and MERS) – tore through the city’s financial district, causing 300 deaths, according to the SCMP. As we mentioned earlier, the dean of HKU’s med school revealed research during a presser on Monday showing that the virus had already infected nearly 44,000 people in Wuhan. Meanwhile, Professor Neil Ferguson, at least the second UK academic to publicly share his projections, said over the weekend that 100,000 people could already be infected with the virus around the world, according to the Guardian. Lead researcher and dean of HKU’s faculty of medicine Gabriel Leung said their models indicated that the number of cases in China would double in 6.2 days.

Officials around the world have only confirmed 2901 cases so far, while 2839 of those are in Mainland China. Among other things, Leung said sustained human-to-human transmission has already been proven. “We have to be prepared, that this particular epidemic may be about to become a global epidemic,” he said. Though Leung warned that additional measures to contain the virus could improve projections, the team’s model predicted the number of infections in five mainland megacities – Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chongqing – would peak between late April and early May, and at the peak of the pandemic, as many as 150,000 new cases could be confirmed every day in Chongqing alone because of its large population and intense travel volume with Wuhan.


Since Leung sits on Carrie Lam’s advisory committee, he said he would encourage “draconian” steps to stop the virus, including a travel lockdown, cancellation of all public gatherings, and forcing all companies to come up with work-from-home arrangements. “Substantial, draconian measures limiting population mobility should be taken immediately,” he said, calling for the cancellation of mass gatherings, along with school closures and work-from-home arrangements. Possibly with an eye toward Beijing, Leung called on the government to take “one, two, three or more steps” to broaden the scope of the border closure.

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Fist death was Jan 10, but “testing kits for the disease were not distributed to some of Wuhan’s hospitals until about Jan. 20”..

How Testing Woes Slowed China’s Coronavirus Response (R.)

“My brother and I have been queuing at the hospital every day. We go at 6 and 7 in the morning, and queue for the whole day, but we don’t get any new answers,” Zhang told Reuters. “Every time the responses are the same: ‘There’s no bed, wait for the government to give a notice, and follow the news to see what’s going on.’ The doctors are all very frustrated too.” [..] Officially known as 2019-nCoV, the new form of coronavirus was first identified as the cause of death of a 61-year-old man in Wuhan on Jan. 10, when China shared gene information on the virus with other countries. Some, such as Japan and Thailand, started testing travelers from China for the virus within three days.


However, testing kits for the disease were not distributed to some of Wuhan’s hospitals until about Jan. 20, an official at the Hubei Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Hubei CDC) told Reuters. Before then, samples had to be sent to a laboratory in Beijing for testing, a process that took three to five days to get results, according to Wuhan health authorities. During that gap, hospitals in the city reduced the number of people under medical observation from 739 to just 82, according to data compiled by Reuters from Wuhan health authorities, and no new cases were reported inside China.


REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Despite the lack of reliable data and testing capacity in Wuhan, Chinese authorities assured citizens in the days after the virus had been identified that it was not widely transmissible. In previous weeks, it had censored negative online commentary about the situation, and arrested eight people it accused of being “rumor spreaders.” “The doctor didn’t wear a mask, we didn’t know how to protect ourselves… no one told us anything,” a 45-year-old woman surnamed Chen told Reuters. Her aunt was confirmed to have the virus on Jan. 20, five days after she was hospitalized. “I posted my aunt’s photos on (Chinese social media site) Weibo and the police called the hospital authorities. They told me to take it down.”


[..] Wuhan’s mayor, Zhou Xianwang, told Chinese state television on Monday he recognized that “all parties were not satisfied with the disclosure of our information.” But he pointed to strictures placed upon him by provincial and national leaders. “In local governance, after I receive information, I can only release it when I’m authorized,” he said. Zhou told a media briefing on Sunday that a further 1,000 people could be diagnosed with the virus in Wuhan, based on the number of patients yet to be tested.

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Apple has announced potential iPhone delivery issues.

Coronavirus ‘Significant Threat’ To Chinese Economic Growth (G.)

The coronavirus outbreak will have a “significant” impact on Chinese growth, economists have warned, with the “wildcard” of still unknown infections posing potentially serious risks for the global economy. Shares in Asia Pacific continued to fall on Tuesday in the wake of heavy losses at the start of the week which has seen the death toll from the outbreak in China almost double in two days to 105. The number of infections has risen to 4,500, – that’s up 45% from Monday, with China’s authorities confirming the virus can be transmitted by “respiratory droplet transmission” or by touch. Markets in mainland China are closed until 3 February at the earliest, providing a bulwark to losses, but the financial contagion has spread across Asia and the rest of the world.


South Korea, where a fourth case was confirmed on Tuesday, saw its Kospi index fall more than 3% and Australia’s ASX200 was off 1.3%. Shares in Europe and the US suffered similar heavy losses on Monday. The yuan, China’s currency, dropped to its lowest level for a month. Economists agreed that the outbreak will have a negative impact in China but the lack of understanding about how the virus spreads and how bad it might be was adding to uncertainty to the mix and compounding investor concerns. Citigroup said on Tuesday: “The wildcard is not the fatality rate, but how infectious the Wuhan virus is. The economic impact will depend on how successfully this outbreak is contained.” “The outbreak is developing too rapidly to predict with any confidence the final extent of the economic damage,” said Capital’s chief Asia economist Mark Williams. “But it is now certain that the outbreak will have a significant impact on China’s GDP this quarter.”

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” The Chinese make up 30% of all tourists visiting Japan and nearly 40% of the total sum foreign tourists spent last year..”

Japan Warns About Risks To Economy From China Virus Outbreak (R.)

Japanese Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura warned on Tuesday that corporate profits and factory production might take a hit from the coronavirus outbreak in China that has rattled global markets and chilled confidence. Asian stocks extended a global selloff as the outbreak in China, which has killed 106 people and spread to several countries, fueled concern over the damage to the world’s second largest economy – an engine of global growth. “There are concerns over the impact to the global economy from the spread of infection in China, transportation disruptions, cancellation of group tours from China and an extension in the Lunar Holiday,” Nishimura told a news conference after a regular cabinet meeting.


“If the situation takes longer to subside, we’re concerned it could hurt Japanese exports, output and corporate profits via the impact on Chinese consumption and production,” he said. China is Japan’s second largest export destination and a huge market for its retailers. The Chinese make up 30% of all tourists visiting Japan and nearly 40% of the total sum foreign tourists spent last year, an industry survey showed. The outbreak could hit Japanese department stores, retailers and hotels, which count on a boost to sales from an inflow of Chinese tourists visiting during the Lunar Holiday.

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And it’s early days still..

Coronavirus Prompts Automakers To Evacuate Workers From China (CNBC)

Automakers are withdrawing employees from China and weighing whether to suspend manufacturing in the country as the virus that emerged in the city of Wuhan less than a month ago ravages the mainland. Most major automakers have restricted or banned travel to the country due to the fast-spreading disease, which as of Monday had taken the lives of at least 82 people in China and sickened 2,900 worldwide. Manufacturing in China was temporarily halted in honor of the Lunar New Year, which kicked off this weekend, but normal operations were due to resume this week. Automakers across the globe with operations in China could keep those plants closed even longer, people familiar with the matter said. Automakers with notable operations in Wuhan include GM, Honda and Nissan, which currently has a facility under construction with Wuhan-based Dongfeng.

Honda Motor and PSA Group are withdrawing employees working around Wuhan, a city of 11 million people. A Honda spokesman on Monday confirmed 30 “associates and their families” who work at the plant near Wuhan were being sent home to Japan. PSA Group said in an email to CNBC that the decision to repatriate its employees working in Wuhan will be done “according the proposition of the French authorities in complete cooperation with Chinese authorities.” They are expected to start flying French citizens home from Wuhan by the middle of this week, company spokesman Pierre-Olivier Salmon said. Nissan also has plans to withdraw a majority of its employees and their family members from the Wuhan area back to Japan, a person familiar with the company’s plans told CNBC on Monday.


General Motors, which is by far the largest U.S. automaker in China, is “taking it one day at a time” regarding the outbreak, according to a spokesman. It hasn’t yet decided whether it will extend the work stoppage in China beyond Feb. 2, particularly at an assembly plant in Wuhan that employs about 6,000 workers, he said. The automaker operates 15 assembly plants with Chinese partners in the country. “Out of an abundance of caution, GM has placed a temporary restriction on travel to China,” the company said. “Employees are also reminded to take necessary protection measures suggested by medical authorities. GM will continue to closely monitor this situation.” Others, such as Ford Motor, Fiat Chrysler and Volkswagen of America, are said to be doing the same regarding business operations and travel to the country.

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Secret deal with the Fed?!

Boeing Secures Over $12 Billion In Financing To Fight 737 Max Crisis (CNBC)

Boeing has secured commitments of more than $12 billion in financing from more than a dozen banks, according to people familiar with the matter, as the industrial giant shores up its balance sheet amid the nearly yearlong grounding of the 737 Max. The manufacturer was trying to secure a loan of at least $10 billion, CNBC reported last week. [..] The size of the loan, at least $2 billion more than originally sought, is a vote of confidence in the manufacturer from lenders. Boeing is expected to detail its financing strategy when it reports earnings before the market opens on Wednesday.


The financing will be a two-year delayed-draw loan, the people said, meaning that Boeing doesn’t have to use it all immediately, and is set to cost 100 points over Libor. [..] The timing of the jets’ return to service is still uncertain. Boeing last week said it doesn’t expect regulators to recertify the 737 Max until midyear, but the head of the Federal Aviation Administration recently told airlines that the agency’s approval may come before that. New CEO Dave Calhoun told reporters last week that the company is planning to resume 737 Max production before the planes return to service.

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But it’s the west that’s doing the meddling…

Oil Chief Urges West To Call Out Foreign Meddling In Libya Conflict (G.)

World powers will be complicit in the collapse of the rule of law in Libya if they do not do more to call out the countries backing those responsible for disrupting the country’s oil exports, the head of the Libyan national oil corporation has said. Mustafa Sanalla said too many western powers were happy to let the countries meddling in Libya sign non-intervention agreements that they had no intention of honouring. He said his country was facing “a disaster and a nightmare” as a nine-day blockade of oil ports by forces loyal to the Libyan National Army (LNA), headed by Gen Khalifa Haftar, continued. Oil production has fallen from 1.2m barrels a day to 260,000 barrels.

Sanalla said production would soon drop to 70,000 barrels, and the cumulative impact would be a loss of $440m. He said it would soon be impossible to pay 1.3m public sector salaries in east and west Libya, requiring the country to look for loans on the international market. The production blockage could also be causing long-term damage to Libyan pipelines, as crude oil left in pipes will corrode them. Sanalla, seen as one of the few authoritative neutral voices in Libya, said: “The international community has to understand that if it tolerates or even rewards those who break the law in Libya, then it will be complicit in the end of the rule of law in our country. And that means more corruption, more crime, more injustice and more poverty.”


He said world powers “seem happy when they secure agreement from a wide range of countries to international statements calling for ceasefires and political settlements. But they know that many of those countries will sign anything and then continue to supply weapons to the war fighters, and to pour poison into social media with their sophisticated disinformation campaigns, undermining the very solutions they have officially supported. “We need not just words but action from UN security council members, particularly the UK, US and France, who all pride themselves on their support for the rule of law. We need them to call out the hypocrisy of those countries – or those within their governments – who prefer instead to pursue their own national interests at the expense of the Libyan people.”

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“..Adam Schiff has been hurling false accusations and retailing mendacious narratives for three years. He deserves the most public disgrace that can possibly be arranged..”

Canary Trap (Kunstler)

Surely Adam Schiff thinks that testimony from John Bolton was his ace-in-the-hole to corroborate the House’s impeachment case. Maybe his staff (of former NSC moles) had a hand in orchestrating the leaks from the NSC to The New York Times at exactly the right moment — hours before Mr. Trump’s lawyers would begin to argue the main body of his defense in the Senate, to produce an orgasmic gotcha. But what if Mr. Trump’s lawyers and confidants were ahead of the scheme and knew exactly when and how Mr. Schiff would call the play? It’s actually inconceivable that Mr. Trump’s team did not know this play was coming. Do you suppose they didn’t know that Mr. Bolton had written a book on contract for Simon & Schuster, and much more?

After all, a president has access to information that even a sedulous bottom-feeder like Mr. Schiff just doesn’t command. Maybe the canary trap is only the prelude to a booby trap — and remember, boobies are much larger birds than canaries. Maybe, despite prior protestations about not calling witnesses, the Bolton ploy will actually be an excuse for Mr. Trump’s defense team to run the switcheroo play and accede to the calling of witnesses. Perhaps they are not afraid of what Mr. Bolton might have to say in the ‘splainin’ seat. Perhaps what he has to say turns out to be, at least, the proverbial nothingburger with mayo and onion, or, at worst, a perfidious prevarication motivated by ill-will against the employer who sacked him ignominiously.

Perhaps Mr. Trump’s lawyers are longing for the chance to haul in some witnesses of their own, for instance the “whistleblower.” It is also inconceivable that the actual progenitor of this mighty hot mess would not be called to account in the very forum that his ploy was aimed to convoke. And from the unmasked “whistleblower,” the spectacle would proceed straightaway to Adam Schiff himself in the witness chair. That will be an elongated moment of personal self-disfigurement not seen in American history since William Jennings Bryan was left blubbering in the courtroom at Dayton, Tennessee, 1925, after he spearheaded the malicious prosecution of John Scopes for teaching evolution in a high school biology class…

…or the moment of national wonder and nausea in June 1954 when Army Chief Counsel Joseph Welch rose from his chair and asked witch-hunting Senator Joseph McCarthy, “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” In a deeply imperfect world, California’s 28th congressional district has produced a true marvel: the perfect scoundrel. Adam Schiff has been hurling false accusations and retailing mendacious narratives for three years. He deserves the most public disgrace that can possibly be arranged, on nationwide television, with all his many media enablers at CNN and MSNBC having to call the play-by-play. Then the nation needs to expel him from the House of Representatives. And then, maybe, the USA can get on with other business.

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They must shame him on a daily basis. And the Queen for letting him get away.

Prince Andrew Told To ‘Stop Playing Games’ Over Epstein Inquiry (G.)

A US lawyer has called on Prince Andrew to “stop playing games” and assist authorities with their investigation into the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking inquiry. Lisa Bloom, who represents five of Epstein’s alleged victims, said it was time for the Duke of York to “do the right thing” and speak with investigators in the US. The US attorney Geoffrey Berman said at a news conference on Monday that Andrew had provided “zero cooperation”, despite his lawyers being contacted by prosecutors and the FBI as part of the investigation. Bloom told BBC News on Tuesday: “It is time for anyone with information to come forward and answer questions. “Prince Andrew himself is accused of sexual misconduct and he also spent a great deal of time with Jeffrey Epstein. So it’s time to stop playing games and to come forward to do the right thing and answer questions.”


She said Berman had been left with “no choice” but to comment publicly about Andrew’s alleged lack of cooperation into the investigation. She said: “He [Berman] doesn’t have the power to subpoena Prince Andrew as part of the criminal investigation, so what else can he do except use the power of the press to come forward publicly and say: ‘You know what, Prince Andrew, you said you would fully cooperate with law enforcement and you have not done it.’”] Berman, who is overseeing the Epstein investigation, told reporters outside the disgraced financier’s New York mansion that “to date, Prince Andrew has provided zero cooperation”. Buckingham Palace was not commenting on the matter, but a source said: “This issue is being dealt with by the Duke of York’s legal team.”

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What year is this?

Aid Groups Seek Safe Ports For Nearly 500 Migrants Rescued In The Mediterranean (RT)

Nearly 500 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean by two boats run by aid agencies were looking for safe ports in Malta and Italy, the groups said on Monday. The ‘Ocean Viking’ vessel run by SOS Mediterranee in partnership with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) was carrying 407 people rescued in a total of five operations carried out over 72 hours. Another 78 people were taken on board the ‘Alan Kurdi’, run by the Sea-Eye organization based in Germany. They were rescued in two operations. Sea-Eye tweeted on Sunday that the ‘Alan Kurdi’ was headed for Italy, after Malta refused them a safe port.


Ocean Viking has rescued 184 men, women and children on two inflatable rafts, off the Libyan coast. Despite the winter, bad weather, and very few vessels dedicated to the rescue in the area, “boats are still leaving Libya in numbers,” Aloys Vimard, MSF’s coordinator on board the Ocean Viking, told AFP. “The survivors tell us about the deteriorating security situation in Libya where there is active conflict.” MSF had refused an offer to land them at Libya as “it is not a safe place.”

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Bernie leads in Iowa one week before the primary, and Trump is catching up on all Democrats.

 

 

 

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

 

Dec 232019
 


Mathew Brady Three captured Confederate soldiers, Gettysburg, PA 1863

 

ECB’s Knot Says Low Rate Policy Risks Becoming Counterproductive (R.)
Doomsday Debt Machine: Impeach Congress, Too! (Stockman)
Nancy Pelosi: The Woman Who Stood Up To Trump (G.)
Adam Schiff Has ‘No Sympathy’ For FBI Victim Carter Page (ZH)
SmoCo Sneaks Home Amid The Ashes Of His Government (MB)
Why Public College Should Be Free (Covert)
London Will Never Give Independence – We Must Take It (Craig Murray)
West Africa Renames CFA Franc But Keeps It Pegged To Euro (R.)
Erdogan Says Turkey Can’t Handle New Migrant Wave From Syria, Warns Europe (R.)

 

 

Central banker who makes an excellent case against central bank interference in interest rates. But he doesn’t even get it himself, so how can a petty journalist? The idea that somehow magically conditions will (re-)appear that favor raising rates is as faulty as it is dumb. There is no way back. They’ve entered a black hole, they’ve crossed the event horizon.

ECB’s Knot Says Low Rate Policy Risks Becoming Counterproductive (R.)

Interest rates in the euro zone could remain historically low for years, but the European Central Bank’s (ECB) ultra-loose monetary policy risks becoming counterproductive, ECB governing council member Klaas Knot said in an interview published on Monday. “I do not have a crystal ball, but I cannot rule out that the current low interest rate environment could last another five years”, Knot told Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant. “This worries me, because temporarily low interest rates are something quite different from persistently low interest rates.” The Dutch central bank president said the current low rates lead to excessive risk taking among investors, while younger generations on the other hand might feel forced to keep increasing their savings.


“From a macro-economic perspective that would be undesirable,” Knot said. “And it is also an example of how our low interest rate policy may eventually shoot itself in the foot. If people start saving more in response to the low interest rates, this will add further downward pressure on inflation.” Knot is a frequent critic of the ECB’s ultra-easy monetary policy, and slammed the bank’s new stimulus measures earlier this year as disproportionate. The Dutchman has repeatedly said he is looking forward to the strategic review of ECB policy, promised by its new President Christine Lagarde, and has called for the bank to adopt a more flexible inflation target. “The balance between positive and negative effects of the low interest rates is shifting in the wrong direction”, he told the paper.

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High crimes.

Doomsday Debt Machine: Impeach Congress, Too! (Stockman)

If bringing one’s country to fiscal ruin were an impeachable offense, you’d have to impeach the entire city of Washington. On December 16 the gross Federal debt breached a new level to $23.1 trillion, while the net debt after $401 billion of cash weighed in at $22.71 trillion. The latter monstrous figure is notable because on June 30, 2019 it stood at $21.76 trillion. So what has happened in the last 167 days is a $948 billion increase in the Uncle Sam’s net debt, which amounts to a gain of $5.7 billion per day – including, as we like to say, weekends, holidays and snow days.

Worse still, not a single dollar of that gain got absorbed in government trust funds. The Treasury float held by the public actually rose by $953 billion. So why in the world do the knuckleheads on bubblevision not understand where the spiking rates and ructions in the repo market came from? The law of supply and demand is still operative, and the US Treasury is literally flooding the bond pits with new supply. Even at the bottom of the Great Recession, Uncle Sam did not drain $5.7 billion per day from the bond market.


But nary a soul down in the Imperial City has noticed this borrowing eruption at the tippy-top of the business cycle, which now teeters on borrowed time at a record 127 months of age. Instead, this very day the Congress is busily engaged in what is a fair approximation of abolishing the election process at the heart of American democracy. We will address today’s hideous impeachment Gong Show below. But here we note that every talking head showing up on the screen today is claiming that the market can keep on bubbling higher because the pending impeachment of the nation’s 45th president is a great big nothingburger. Au contraire!

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It’s not easy to even imagine, but there are people who see Pelosi as a hero. That they need to quote Leon Panetta to make that case should say enough. Still, after, Russiagate, Mueller, Ukrainegate, Pelosi refusing to send article to the Senate, this is just deaf, dumb and blind.

Nancy Pelosi: The Woman Who Stood Up To Trump (G.)

In December 2018, weeks after the Democrats’ conquest of the House, the soon-to-be speaker arrived for a White House meeting with Donald Trump. The subject was a government shutdown but the subtext was a showdown between the most powerful woman in American politics and the president of the United States. In the extraordinary, televised exchange that followed, Trump sought to undermine Nancy Pelosi, whom he repeatedly addressed as “Nancy”, by reminding his audience in the Oval Office – and those watching at home – that she had yet to secure the 218 votes needed to reclaim the speakership and was “in a situation where it’s not easy for her to talk right now”. Her response was sharp and sure. “Mr President, please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting.”

It was the first test of a new power dynamic in Washington and when it ended, there was little disagreement over who had won. Pelosi emerged from the White House wearing a now-famous burnt-orange coat, sunglasses and the triumphant smile of a woman who has never forgotten the advice imparted to her by the late Louisiana congresswoman Lindy Boggs: “Darlin’, know thy power and use it.” That 15-minute Oval Office meeting marked the beginning of a struggle between Pelosi and Trump that culminated last week in the president’s impeachment by the House of Representatives for “high crimes and misdemeanors”. Pelosi, dressed in funeral black, banged down her speaker’s gavel to finalize the vote, binding together their legacies for all time.

It was not how Pelosi, who once said Trump was “not worth” impeaching, had hoped to end a year that began with her historic, second ascension to the speakership. Pelosi, the first – and only – woman ever to serve as Speaker of the House, would rather be remembered for legislative accomplishments – the Affordable Care Act above all – than for impeachment. But Trump, Pelosi said, left her “no choice”. She quoted Thomas Paine: “The times have found us.” In the wake of Trump’s impeachment, however, Democrats believe there was perhaps no leader better suited to the times. “She is, thank God, the exact right person in the right place at the right time,” said Leon Panetta, a former defense secretary and CIA director and a California native who’s known Pelosi for decades.

“I’m not sure anybody else would have had the experience or capability to be able to do what she has done.” “Donald Trump really has met his match with Nancy,” Panetta added. Her grace under fire as speaker has earned comparisons to Sam Rayburn, the country’s longest-serving speaker, who died in 1961. One Democrat called her an “as good or better” legislative leader than Lyndon Johnson, who was a Senate majority leader before he was president. And when the question is asked whether a female presidential candidate can beat Trump in 2020, the Democrats point to Pelosi, who “does it every single day”.

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It’s OK for the FBI to break the law 6 ways from Sunday because Schiff doesn’t like the guy they spied on. And it’s not even 2020 yet.

Adam Schiff Has ‘No Sympathy’ For FBI Victim Carter Page (ZH)

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) says it’s hard to feel sympathetic for former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, despite the fact that he was spied on by the FBI after the agency fabricated evidence to obtain a surveillance warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. After the FISA court denied their request, FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith fabricated evidence to exclude the fact that Page was a CIA source, with “positive assessment,” despite the fact that the CIA informed Clinesmith of Page’s prior work for the agency. Schiff, however, has no love for Page despite DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz finding 16 significant ‘errors’ in the FBI’s FISA applications used to surveil Page.


“I have to say, you know, Carter Page came before our Committee and for hours of his testimony, denied things that we knew were true, later had to admit them during his testimony,” Schiff told PBS News’ Margaret Hoover. “It’s hard to be sympathetic to someone who isn’t honest with you when he comes and testifies under oath. It’s also hard to be sympathetic when you have someone who has admitted to being an adviser to the Kremlin.” Hoover countered, noting “But then was also informing the CIA,” to which Schiff replies “Yes, yes.” “Which we didn’t know about,” replied Hoover. “Who was both targeted by the KGB but also talking to the United States and its agencies and that should have been included, made clear, and it wasn’t, according to the inspector general,” Schiff responded.

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When is the last time Australia had an actual politician? How is the entire country not a province for US and UK bankers to loot?

SmoCo Sneaks Home Amid The Ashes Of His Government (MB)

There are moments in politics when everything that has come before is crystalised in a moment. Malcolm Turnbull branded himself a phony when he leapt into bed with the Coalition’s right wing. Tony Abbott captured himself when he recommended Prince Phillip be offered an Australian knighthood. Before him, John Howard made himself a political legend when he threw children overboard. Julia Gillard did it in her act of backstabbing. Kevin Rudd did it when he dumped climate change mitigation for Big Australia. Paul Keating branded himself forever with the “recession we had to have”. So on and so forth. These are moments when the truth about a leader’s character is revealed for all to see and branded that way forever more.

For Keating it was arrogance. For Howard it was opportunism. For Rudd it was narcissism. For Gillard it was illegitimacy. For Abbott it was archaic ineptitute. For Turnbull it was hollowness. That moment arrived last week for Scott Morrison. He will henceforth be remembered as SmoCo, the guy that fled to Hawaii – sand, sun and Mai Tais – as his nation burned to the ground. No doubt his minders will kid themselves that he can spin his way out of it. That the marketing guru will find a new angle to shift the blame elsewhere. They are wrong. The Morrsion Government is now covered in ash and forever will be. Over Christmas tables across the nation for the next week, SmoCo will be a combined laughing stock and object of incredulous anger.

SmoCo of the “quiet Australians” has become instead the incredible vanishing PM. In truth, it’s not all SmoCo’s fault. His party is really to blame. It has made destructive climate politics the centre of its value system for thirty years. It has unilaterally blockaded global action. It has embraced and defended carbon interests. It has ruined the debate with pseudo-science. It has trashed energy policy and twisted mitigation policy to such an extent that Australia now faces combined environmental and energy calamity. From day one, it has divided and conquered instead of uniting and acting.

Read more …

Another one of those discussions that cannot be avoided or ignored. Still, Sanders and Warren haven’t found the solution yet.

Why Public College Should Be Free (Covert)

Nearly all of the Democratic presidential candidates have plans to reduce the exorbitant cost of college. But there’s an emerging rift: On one side, candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have proposed making public college free for all; on the other, candidates like Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar want to make it free for only a slice of the population. The latter worry that by providing free college to everyone who wants it—including, in Buttigieg’s words, “the children of millionaires and billionaires”—too many resources will be squandered on the rich. In reality, we already subsidize college for kids from wealthy families, and those further down the income scale would benefit the most if public institutions were free.

In 2017, the most recent year for which we have data, all of the tuition and fees charged by public colleges came to $75.8 billion. That’s less than what the federal government spends to subsidize the cost of college. In the same year, the government disbursed about $160 billion in the form of student loans, grants, and tax breaks to help make higher education less of a burden on American families. Certainly the students who take advantage of those federal funds use them to go to a variety of higher education institutions, not just public colleges. But it would be more efficient to simply eliminate public college tuition than to spend all that money propping up institutions through a maze of grants and tax breaks.

Right now, the government’s money flows largely to well-off students. After student loans, the biggest chunk of student aid is delivered through the tax code; excluding loans, it makes up more than half of all aid. In 2012 the federal government gave $34 billion in tax breaks, a billion more than it spent on Pell Grants for those in financial need. And most of that money is going to the wealthiest families. In 2013, for example, families that made $100,000 or more a year captured more than half of the tuition and fees deduction as well as the exemption for dependent students.

Read more …

Murray is a proud Scot.

London Will Never Give Independence – We Must Take It (Craig Murray)

Yesterday the Scottish Government published “Scotland’s Right to Choose“, its long heralded paper on the path to a new Independence referendum. It is a document riven by a basic intellectual flaw. It sets out in detail, and with helpful annexes, that Scotland is a historic nation with the absolute and inalienable right of self-determination, and that sovereignty lies not in the Westminster parliament but with the Scottish people. It then contradicts all of this truth by affirming, at length, in detail, and entirely without reservation, that Scotland can only hold a legitimate Independence referendum if the Westminster Parliament devolves the power to do so under Section 30. Both propositions cannot be true. Scotland cannot be a nation with the right of self-determination, and at the same time require the permission of somebody else to exercise that self-determination.


I was trying to find the right words to discuss the document. One possibility was “schizophrenic”. The first half appears to be written by somebody with a fundamental belief in Scottish Independence, and contains this passage: “The United Kingdom is best understood as a voluntary association of nations, in keeping with the principles of democracy and self determination. For the place of Scotland in the United Kingdom to be based on the people of Scotland’s consent, Scotland must be able to choose whether and when it should make a decision about its future. The decision whether the time is right for the people who live in Scotland again to make a choice about their constitutional future is for the Scottish Parliament, as the democratic voice of Scotland, to make.”

Read more …

Colonialism takes many forms.

West Africa Renames CFA Franc But Keeps It Pegged To Euro (R.)

West Africa’s monetary union has agreed with France to rename its CFA franc the Eco and cut some of the financial links with Paris that have underpinned the region’s common currency since its creation soon World War Two. Under the deal, the Eco will remain pegged to the euro but the African countries in the bloc won’t have to keep 50% of their reserves in the French Treasury and there will no longer be a French representative on the currency union’s board. Critics of the CFA have long seen it as a relic from colonial times while proponents of the currency say it has provided financial stability in a sometimes turbulent region.

“This is a historic day for West Africa,” Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara said during a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron in the country’s main city Abidjan. In 2017, Macron highlighted the stabilizing benefits of the CFA but said it was up to African governments to determine the future of the currency. “Yes, it’s the end of certain relics of the past. Yes it’s progress … I do not want influence through guardianship, I do not want influence through intrusion. That’s not the century that’s being built today,” said Macron. The CFA is used in 14 African countries with a combined population of about 150 million and $235 billion of gross domestic product.

However, the changes will only affect the West African form of the currency used by Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo – all former French colonies except Guinea Bissau. The six countries using the Central African CFA are Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, – all former French colonies with the exception of Equatorial Guinea. The CFA’s value relative to the French franc remained unchanged from 1948 through to 1994 when it was devalued by 50% to boost exports from the region.

Read more …

Another attack on Assad, under a different guise. We eagerly await comment from Bellingcat and the White Helmets. And what’s that smell?

Erdogan Says Turkey Can’t Handle New Refugee Wave From Syria, Warns Europe (R.)

Turkey cannot handle a fresh wave of migrants from Syria, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday, warning that European countries will feel the impact of such an influx if violence in Syria’s northwest is not stopped. Turkey currently hosts some 3.7 million Syrian refugees, the largest refugee population in the world, and fears another wave from the Idlib region, where up to 3 million Syrians live in the last significant rebel-held swathe of territory. Syrian and Russian forces have intensified their bombardment of targets in Idlib, which Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has vowed to recapture, prompting a wave of refugees toward Turkey.

Speaking at an awards ceremony in Istanbul on Sunday night, Erdogan said more than 80,000 people were currently on the move from Idlib to Turkey. “If the violence toward the people of Idlib does not stop, this number will increase even more. In that case, Turkey will not carry such a migrant burden on its own,” Erdogan said. “The negative impact of the pressure we will be subjected to will be something that all European nations, especially Greece, will also feel,” he said, adding that a repeat of the 2015 migrant crisis would become inevitable. He also said Turkey was doing everything possible to stop Russian bombardments in Idlib, adding that a Turkish delegation would go to Moscow to discuss Syria on Monday.

[..] Turkey is seeking international support for plans to settle 1 million Syrians in part of northeast Syria that its forces and their Syrian rebel allies seized from the Kurdish YPG militia in a cross-border incursion in October. Ankara has received little public backing for the proposal and has repeatedly slammed its allies for not supporting its plans. Turkey’s offensive was also met with condemnation from allies, including the United States and European countries. “We call on European countries to use their energy to stop the massacre in Idlib, rather than trying to corner Turkey for the legitimate steps it took in Syria,” Erdogan said on Sunday, referring to the three military operations Turkey has carried out in Syria.

After a global refugee forum in Geneva last week, the United Nations refugee agency said states pledged more than $3 billion to support refugees and around 50,000 resettlement places. But, Erdogan, who attended the forum, said on Sunday that sum was not enough. U.N agencies say hundreds of people have been killed in Idlib this year after attacks on residential areas. Russia and the Syrian army, which is loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, both deny allegations of indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas and say they are fighting al Qaeda-inspired Islamist militants.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Nov 142019
 


Pablo Picasso Pitcher of flowers on a table 1942

 

The Impeachment Pantomime (Patrick Lawrence)
The Real Ukraine Controversy: An Activist US Embassy (Solomon)
Trump Impeachment Inquiry: New Claims Amid Public Hearing (BBC)
Trickster Adam Schiff Conjuring ‘Guilt’ Out Of Thin Air (NYPost)
Trump Impeachment Is Blueprint To Overthrow Government From Within (Rives)
Here Are The Payments To Hunter Biden, Leaked From Ukraine (CDMedia)
Lawmaker Posts Cryptic Jeffrey Epstein Message During Impeachment Hearing (G.)
The Holy-Cow Moment for Subprime Auto Loans (WS)
Le Mesurier Gets Cross (Craig Murray)
Greek Refugee Camp For 640 People Is Found To Be Housing 3,745 (G.)

 

 

I have too much to say about the impeachment thing to do it here, I’ll do that separately later. Meanwhile, a few strong commentaries:

The Impeachment Pantomime (Patrick Lawrence)

The impeachment probe starts to take on a certain reek. It starts to look as if contempt for Trump takes precedence over democratic process — a dangerous priority. Sperry quotes Fred Fleitz, a former National Security Council official, thus: “Everyone knows who he is. CNN knows. The Washington Post knows. The New York Times knows. Congress knows. The White House knows…. They’re hiding him because of his political bias.” Here we come to another question. If everyone knows the whistleblower’s identity, why have the corporate media declined to name him? There can be but one answer to this question: If Ciaramella’s identity were publicized and his professional record exposed, the Ukrainegate narrative would instantly collapse into a second-rate vaudeville act — farce by any other name, although “hoax” might do, even if Trump has made the term his own.


There is another half to this burlesque. While Schiff and his House colleagues chicken-scratch for something, anything that may justify a formal impeachment, a clear, documented record emerges of Joe Biden’s official interventions in Ukraine in behalf of Burisma Holdings, the gas company that named Hunter Biden to its board in March 2014 — a month, it is worth noting, after the U.S.–cultivated coup in Kiev. There is no thought of scrutinizing Biden’s activities by way of an official inquiry. In its way, this, too, reflects upon the pantomime of the impeachment probe. Are there sufficient grounds to open an investigation? Emphatically there are. Two reports published last week make this plain by any reasonable measure.

Read more …

Nobody appears to know more about the Ukraine boondoggle than John Solomon. But the Hill seems to have dumped him. He publishes on his own site now.

The Real Ukraine Controversy: An Activist US Embassy (Solomon)

The first time I ever heard the name of U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was in early March of this year. It did not come from a Ukrainian or an ally of President Trump. It came from a career diplomat I was interviewing on background on a different story. The diplomat, as I recall, suggested that Yovanovitch had just caused a commotion in Ukraine a few weeks before that country’s presidential election by calling for the firing of one of the prosecutors aligned with the incumbent president. The diplomat related that a more senior State official, David Hale, was about to travel to Ukraine and was prepping to be confronted about Yovanovitch’s comments. I remember the diplomat joking something to the effect of, “we always say that the Geneva Convention is optional for our Kiev staff.”

The Geneva Convention is the UN-backed pact enacted during the Cold War that governs the conduct of foreign diplomats in host countries and protects them against retribution. But it strictly mandates that foreign diplomats “have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that State” that hosts them. You can read the convention’s rules here. I dutifully checked out my source’s story. And sure as day, Yovanovitch did give a speech on March 5, 2019 calling for Ukraine’s special anticorruption prosecutor to be removed. You can read that here. And the Ukraine media was abuzz that she had done so. And yes, Under Secretary of State Hale, got peppered with questions upon arriving in Kiev, specifically about whether Yovanovitch’s comments violated the international rule that foreign diplomats avoid becoming involved in the internal affairs and elections of their host country.

Hale dutifully defended Yovanovitch with these careful words. “Well, Ambassador Yovanovitch represents the President of the United States here in Ukraine, and America stands behind her statements. And I don’t see any value in my own elaboration on what they may or may not have meant. They meant what she said.” You can read his comments here. Up to that point, I had focused months of reporting on Ukraine on the U.S. government’s relationship with a Ukraine nonprofit called the AntiCorruption Action Centre, which was jointly funded by liberal megadonor George Soros’ charity and the State Department. I even sent a list of questions to that nonprofit all the way back in October 2018. It never answered.

Given that Soros spent millions trying to elect Hillary Clinton and defeat Donald Trump in 2016, I thought it was a legitimate public policy question to ask whether a State Department that is supposed to be politically neutral should be in joint business with a partisan figure’s nonprofit entity.

Read more …

The one thing that was new in yesterday’s circus was Bill Taylor claiming more third-hand stories.

Trump Impeachment Inquiry: New Claims Amid Public Hearing (BBC)

A top US diplomat told impeachment hearings that President Trump directly asked about a Ukrainian investigation into his Democratic rival Joe Biden. In previously unheard testimony, Bill Taylor, the acting US ambassador to Ukraine, said a member of his staff was told Mr Trump was preoccupied with pushing for a probe into Mr Biden. He was speaking at the first public hearings in the impeachment inquiry. Mr Trump told reporters he did not recall making such comments. Mr Trump is accused of withholding US military aid to Ukraine in order to pressure the country’s new president to publicly announce a corruption inquiry into Mr Biden, among the favourites to take him on in the 2020 presidential race.


[..] During a detailed opening statement, Mr Taylor said a member of his staff had overheard a telephone call in which the president inquired about “the investigations” into Mr Biden. The call was with Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, who reportedly told the president over the phone from a restaurant in Kyiv that “the Ukrainians were ready to move forward”. After the call, the staff member “asked ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine”, Mr Taylor said. Mr Taylor said: “Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden.” Meanwhile observers and former officials have drawn attention to the security implications of making the call from a restaurant, potentially exposing the conversation to eavesdropping by Russian intelligence.

Read more …

“Thanks to the false charges made by James Comey, John Brennan and others that Trump was a running dog for Vladimir Putin, uniforms and badges are no longer proof of rectitude. Count diminished public trust in those institutions as a lasting legacy of the Obama presidency.”

Trickster Adam Schiff Conjuring ‘Guilt’ Out Of Thin Air (NYPost)

The conclusion has always come first — get Trump — then create a justification by weaving a few thin threads together into a noose. In both cases, the Dems have relied on members of the resistance embedded in the government to serve as the hanging party. Some wear military uniforms while others are in the CIA and FBI. Thanks to the false charges made by James Comey, John Brennan and others that Trump was a running dog for Vladimir Putin, uniforms and badges are no longer proof of rectitude. Count diminished public trust in those institutions as a lasting legacy of the Obama presidency. The main problem now is that, three years after Trump’s election, these constant hair-on-fire screams sound and feel like partisan politics pretending to be apolitical.

The smell of a continuing dirty trick is hard to ignore. Schiff, of course, comes by his current role honestly in the sense that he has been a chief proponent of anything and everything that might turn the public against the president. He insisted that Trump was guilty of collusion for two years before Mueller said otherwise and then continued to say it despite Mueller. But after the special counsel’s public testimony turned out to be the dud of all duds, Russia, Russia, Russia dropped off the earth and Schiff instantly proclaimed Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine the new crime of the century. In a rational world, where facts matter and credibility counts, Schiff would already be consigned to history’s dustbin alongside Sen. Joe McCarthy.

Like the infamous red baiter who saw a commie behind every desk, Schiff sees evidence of “high crimes and misdemeanors” every time the president opens his mouth. It’s been that way since before Trump was inaugurated. McCarthy was not burdened by decency, as Army lawyer Joseph Welch famously noted. Schiff is similarly unburdened and so he, too, willy-nilly ruins lives and trashes reputations without a sense of guilt. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is no less culpable. In the early months after she got the gavel, she skillfully pushed back against the tide of radicalism sweeping through her party. Repeatedly, she insisted that impeachment was extremely divisive, should only be a last resort and had to have bipartisan support.

Those were her red lines, and she violated all of them. Her resolution for a formal inquiry got zero GOP votes and the public support for removing Trump is essentially limited to her party’s voters. There is no national emergency that would justify such an extreme action, and yet she gave Schiff the green light.

Read more …

Jenna Ellis Rives is a member of the Donald Trump 2020 advisory board. She is a constitutional law attorney.

Trump Impeachment Is Blueprint To Overthrow Government From Within (Rives)

The House is ready to begin public hearings this week, furthering the partisan move by the Democrats to impeach President Trump in a blatant abuse of constitutional authority. Representative Adam Schiff said in a press conference, “These open hearings will be an opportunity for the American people to evaluate the witnesses for themselves and also to learn firsthand about the facts of the president’s misconduct.” There are several problems with this statement. First, Schiff is already characterizing the outcome of the investigation. As the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, he serves as a key arbiter of the inquiry under the resolution. As such, he is in a position that demands an unbiased irreproachable ethic in evaluating requests for subpoenas and testimony.

Any judge in a similar position would be required to recuse himself with even a hint of the pure bias Schiff has displayed, including coordination with the Ukraine whistleblower and other actions. The Democrats do not even pretend that their impeachment game is fair or actually about fact finding. This is simply about using a grant of power in the Constitution arbitrarily and politically, outside the bounds of due process and the purpose of that authority. Although the House does have the “sole power” of impeachment, that is a grant of jurisdiction, not a license to proceed on purely partisan motivation. Article One must work coordinately and not inconsistently with Article Two, which provides the legal basis upon which a sitting president may be impeached.

Second, Schiff demonstrates this is all about media play in the court of public opinion. Voters have no power or responsibility in an impeachment proceeding. The drafters of the Constitution intended the impeachment and removal process to be exercised only when there was sufficient evidence that the subject of the impeachment had committed a legally qualifying offense. This is not about whether impeachment is popular in the polls or whether a majority of Americans prefer it. Transparency in the context of this quasi judicial process is to provide fundamental fairness and due process for the president. Why are the Democrats so hellbent on blatantly refusing to allow Republican subpoenas and witnesses?

It is because it is a sham. Yet the Democrats are openly admitting that their goal is to try this in the media and attempt to dishonestly convince us that somehow we too should hate Donald Trump. They are hoping to convince us not to vote for him. That is not a legitimate or constitutional purpose of an impeachment. It is rather ironic that they claim his “crime” is an alleged quid pro quo to gain political advantage, while they are manipulating the power of impeachment for their political advantage. It is Schiff and other Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who should be impeached. There is an actual constitutional basis for that.

Read more …

And the series keeps going on.

Here Are The Payments To Hunter Biden, Leaked From Ukraine (CDMedia)

The information below has been leaked from the Ukrainian General Prosecutor’s office and acquired from intelligence sources within Ukraine; it is part of investigative materials acquired during an investigation into Biden corruption. As CD Media has reported previously, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau Of Ukraine (NABU) has succeeded in shutting down all investigations into Hunter Biden, Joseph Biden, Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevskiy, former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewskiy. NABU is controlled by Obama/Soros linked operatives and was created to coverup Democrat, Biden, Deep State, State Department corruption during the Obama Administration and the years after in which this cabal went after duly-elected President Trump.

Prosecutors who desire the information to get out in spite of the Deep State’s efforts to prevent such a release and prevent investigations to continue, have leaked to CD Media. The highlighted sections describe: According to the Department of Financial Monitoring (Counter-intelligence) of Latvia, the following sums of money were obtained from Busima Holding Limited (Cyprus) to the account of Burisma Holding Limited (Cyprus) which is open at AS PrivatBank in Latvia: money transfer of 14 655 982 US Dollars and 366 015 EUR from the company “Wirelogic Technology AS”, and 1 9 64 375 US dollars from “Digitex Organization LLP” based on the credit agreements. (Note: credit agreements here mean “intra-company” transactions to decrease the taxes to be paid or “credit agreement” also serve as means of hidden dividend payments).


Further, the part of the sums described above, the money was transferred to Alan Apter (302 885 EUR), Alexander Kwasniewski (1 150 000 EUR), Devon Archer and Hunter Biden. Additional information was leaked: BURISMA HOLDINGS LIMITED during a period from 18th November 2014 to 16th November 2015 transacted 45 money transfers through MORGAN STANLEY SMITH BARNEY LLC in the sum of 3.5 mln US Dollars. The recipient of the money transfer is the company Rosemont Seneca Bohai LLC (belongs to Devon Archer). Note: The company belongs to Devon Archer and Kerry Family including Kerry Senior, Kerry Junior, Heinz Jr and Hunter Biden. Devon Archer, Kerry Jr, Heinz Jr and Hunter Biden are listed as partners in Rosement Seneca Fund, Rosemont Seneca Partners and affiliated Rosemont Seneca other companies.

Read more …

“EPSTEIN DIDN’T KILL HIMSELF”

Lawmaker Posts Cryptic Jeffrey Epstein Message During Impeachment Hearing (G.)

Conspiracy theories have abounded ever since Jeffrey Epstein’s death in a New York jail was ruled a suicide, with figures on the right and left claiming he was murdered. On Wednesday, a US congressman weighed in with his own cryptic message. Republican Paul Gosar, a staunch conservative from Arizona, issued a series of 23 tweets over a roughly eight-hour period railing against the Democrats’ impeachment investigation of Donald Trump. Taken together, the first letter of each tweet spells: “EPSTEIN DIDN’T KILL HIMSELF”. As the first public impeachment hearing got under way, it was unclear what prompted the timing of Gosar’s message. Asked whether it was intentional, his communications director, Ben Goldey, replied with an equally cryptic comment:

All of the tweets pertained to testimony from today’s hearing.

Rest assured, they are substantive.

Every one of them.

All of them.

5 were brilliant.

1 was ok.

Zealous Twitter users picked up on the original message, which was easy to miss as it was couched in standard-issue rightwing complaints: “No quid pro quo”, “Democrats are desperate”, “Hillary Clinton and the DNC funded a foreign spy”. A few hours later, however, Gosar’s account posted Goldey’s comment with the first letter of each line bolded, making the message clear.

Read more …

Yeah, Jay Powell, very strong economy.

The Holy-Cow Moment for Subprime Auto Loans (WS)

Serious auto-loan delinquencies – auto loans that are 90 days or more past due – in the third quarter of 2019, after an amazing trajectory, reached a historic high of $62 billion, according to data from the New York Fed today. This $62 billion of seriously delinquent loan balances are what auto lenders, particularly those that specialize in subprime auto loans, such as Santander Consumer USA, Credit Acceptance Corporation, and many smaller specialized lenders are now trying to deal with. If they cannot cure the delinquency, they’re hiring specialized companies that repossess the vehicles to be sold at auction. The difference between the loan balance and the proceeds from the auction, plus the costs involved, are what a lender loses on the deal.

The repo business, however, is booming. But delinquencies are a flow: As current delinquencies are hitting the lenders’ balance sheet and income statement, the flow continues and more loans are becoming delinquent. And lenders are still making new loans to risky customers and a portion of those loans will become delinquent too. And now the flow of delinquent loans is increasing – and this isn’t going to stop anytime soon: These loans are out there and new one are being added to them, and a portion of them will be defaulting. Total outstanding balances of auto loans and leases in Q3, according to the New York Fed’s measure (higher and more inclusive than the Federal Reserve Board of Governors’ consumer credit data) rose to $1.32 trillion:

Read more …

Upon the death of White Helmets co-founder James Le Mesurier, Murray lists some 20 UK journalists who all follow the Twitter account of “Philip Cross”, which has only ever retweeted things without posting one original tweet. “Philip Cross”, though, has changed Wikipedia pages for 2,987 consecutive days, and made dozenns of changes to Le Mesurier’s page in the 24 hours after his death.

Le Mesurier Gets Cross (Craig Murray)

This week, on the day of Le Mesurier’s death, “Philip Cross” made 48 edits to Le Mesurier’s Wikipedia page, each one designed to expunge any criticism of the role of the White Helmets in Syria or reference to their close relationship with the jihadists. “Philip Cross” has been an operation on a massive scale to alter the balance of Wikipedia by hundreds of thousands of edits to the entries, primarily of politically engaged figures, always to the detriment of anti-war figures and to the credit of neo-con figures. An otherwise entirely obscure but real individual named Philip Cross has been identified who fronts the operation, and reputedly suffers from Aspergers. I however do not believe that any individual can truly have edited Wikpedia articles from a right wing perspective, full time every single day for five years without one day off, not even a Christmas, for 2,987 consecutive days.


I should declare here the personal interest that “Philip Cross” has made over 120 edits to my own Wikipedia entry, including among other things calling my wife a stripper, and deleting the facts that I turned down three honours from the Crown and was eventually cleared on all disciplinary charges by the FCO. I hazard the guess that at least several of the above journalists follow “Philip Cross” on twitter because they are a part of the massive Wikipedia skewing operation operating behind the name of “Philip Cross”. If anybody has any better explanation of why they all follow “Philip Cross” on twitter I am more than willing to hear it.

Read more …

“Nine unaccompanied girls were sleeping on the floor in a 10 metre sq container next to the police office, with no bathroom or shower.”

Greek Refugee Camp For 640 People Is Found To Be Housing 3,745 (G.)

An EU-funded refugee camp on the Greek island of Samos built to house 640 people is home to 3,745, with unaccompanied children forced to sleep on the floor of windowless and overcrowded containers, an official audit has revealed. Other children were found to be living in makeshift tents or in derelict buildings on the outskirts of the camp in what the special report from the European court of auditors described as “dire conditions”. “Seventy-eight unaccompanied minors were in tents or abandoned derelict houses outside the hot spot, in unofficial extensions to the facility,” the auditors said. “Nine unaccompanied girls were sleeping on the floor in a 10 metre sq container next to the police office, with no bathroom or shower.”


The situation at Greek facilities on Samos and at the island of Lesbos are described as “highly critical in terms of capacity and the situation of unaccompanied minors”, due to a failure of the bloc’s relocation and return scheme for migrants coming to Europe from countries such as Syria. The auditors’ findings were echoed on Wednesday in appeals made by the mayor of Samos, Georgios Stantzos, who warned of riots due to the “primitive” conditions. Last month, a fire broke out in the camp after a brawl in town between rival groups of Syrians and Afghans.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Nov 032019
 
 November 3, 2019  Posted by at 6:43 pm Finance, Primers Tagged with: , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Nelly’s Tzistarakis Mosque in Monastiraki Square, Athens c1930

 

It’s been too long, way too long since I wrote about our Athens fund, I know, and I apologize. It’s just that for the longest time, things were too unclear and changing too fast for me to write an article. I was waiting for things to settle down to a point where I could have faith they weren’t going to turn upside down again within days or weeks. Well, we finally seem to have reached such a point. But again, I know it has taken too long.

 

In -mostly- chronological order, here’s what happened. In early 2017, I had a meeting with Konstantinos Polychronopoulos, the man I -and the very generous Automatic Earth readers- had been financially supporting since 2015 in his O Allos Anthropos organization to feed homeless and refugees in Greece.

At that meeting, Konstantinos had promised to bring the administration he said he had kept about what the money had been spent on. But instead, he started rattling off what he could remember off the top of his head. Which was impressive, but that was not the issue. He had told me numerous times he had it all on paper, but it was not true. And I knew it was not something lost in translation either.

It wasn’t that he had spent it on himself or kept it in a box, I checked that with as many people as I could, and I could see how he lived. That wasn’t it. He was simply disorganized. And he somehow thought he had the right to be. Because after all, he was the boss. And that’s true enough, it was his idea and organization. But being the boss doesn’t give you the right to say things that are not true, when tens of thousands of euros have been donated to you and your project.

Being the boss comes with obligations attached, and he apparently didn’t like those. A boss needs to look ahead, organize, delegate, make sure there’s continuity, be careful of how he treats employees, who in his case were all volunteers to boot. He did none of that, not structurally. It’s one thing that all that money lands where it is needed, but it’s another where tomorrow’s money will come from. Things a boss must have his eye on.

I had said many times that he could not continue to count on my readers for that money, that I thought at some point it would be enough. I drew up a plan to address the Greek diaspora in New York, Boston, Melbourne, Sidney etc., for financial help, for instance through their Chambers of Commerce. And I said I would always be there to help, but that I was not going to do it alone. Not speaking Greek would have disqualified me anyway.

But nothing came of that. There was never a serious effort. I had not expected that. In hindsight I think maybe it was because he saw it as a challenge to his authority, to have to communicate in a language he didn’t speak. That he couldn’t play the boss over that.

Long story short, as 2017 went on, I didn’t see how I could continue my involvement with the project. I couldn’t ask for donations to someone who rejected all accountability. But then just as I was about to say I quit, two things happened.

 


Monastiraki Sqaure. The same mosque as in the 1930s picture above. It hasn’t been used as a mosque for a very long time. In the background on the hill, the Akropolis.

 

The first was that I increasingly heard about dissatisfaction among the people who worked with/for Konstantinos, with the way he ran things. They didn’t want to continue any more than I did. That led the people who run the ‘kitchen’ in Monastiraki Square, which had always been my main meeting point with everyone, to declare themselves independent of O Allos Anthropos (it took quite some time, but they did).

Monastiraki had always been part of the entire set-up, but also separate. It was run by my friend Tassos -longtime translator between Konstantinos and I- and his friend Filothee, partner of famed Greek singer Antonis Vardis, who died of cancer in 2014 but had always supported Konstantinos. By the end of 2017, I decided I would try and continue to support at least them.

They insisted from the start on not ever having to handle money, because they didn’t like the way Konstantinos had. And they came up with a clever plan for it; more on that in a minute.

The second thing that happened in late 2017 was that I received an email from a Greek man -let’s call him ‘Mark’- who said he was living abroad with his wife and young children but planning to move -back- to Greece, and he wanted to help me with a lot of money. We mailed to and fro for a bit, he sounded credible, and in March 2018 I went back to Athens to meet him (a few days before he was bound to leave again for 6 weeks).

The meeting went fine, we kept mailing, and in June 2018 we took the first step in that ‘clever plan’. Tassos and Filothee had set up a deal with a local supermarket chain in which they would receive ‘coupons’, or ‘checks’ for an amount I would pay to the supermarket. No cash. Mark chipped in some money as well. This still works fine to this day, and everyone’s happy with it. When Filothee needs food, she gets it in bulk and pays with coupons. This is what they look like:

 

 

But then the strangest thing happened. ‘Mark’ disappeared, I think it was August. I’ve never seen him again. And I’m still thinking today: why would you do such a thing? Why all the time spent on the mails and meetings and promises and then nothing anymore? Why not just say: sorry, I don’t have the money, or I don’t want to any longer, or well, anything? Why just vanish? Just a few words would have been enough.

Other than that, though, things appear to be running well right now. I paid for another €1,000 worth of coupons this July and handed them to Filothee, and she still has quite a few left. Less fun is that Tassos last year moved to Shanghai. His wife is from there and his construction business for large projects went belly up in Athens, where there are no large building projects. He was over in August, but left again. Plenty big projects in China.

Not that we sit still, either. The gang has decided to start a second kitchen in the port of Piraeus, because they saw the need there. Filothee explained that in Monastiraki, most people who come for food have a roof over their head, but it’s often six to a single room without electricity or water. No amenities, they can’t cook their own food. In Piraeus, they feed ‘real’ homeless.

The new rightwing government has approved new asylum laws that make it much easier to evict refugees. They are also evicting squatters from buildings across the city, many of them refugees, who are now taken to camps, that are still beyond squalid. Some people face a six year waiting time for their asylum requests. Not that Greece can be blamed for too much, it’s the EU that is failing terribly. Greece is simply the outer border of the union.

Camps and islands are insanely overcrowded, Turkey sends more people across the Aegean again, and winter is coming. Nor is there much that anyone can do to help in that situation, because after 5 years that help has been fully institutionalized through the hanky-panky between Brussels, Athens and the NGOs, and very little of the money involved gets to where it belongs.

We gave it our shot, Konstantinos despite his shortcomings really tried, and we did manage to achieve lots of stuff, but some problems are just too big. We’re talking thousands, tens of thousands of people even, and more keep on coming all the time, and at some point that requires not a band of good willing folk but a society, a government, or something even bigger than that. And that’s where it all goes wrong. It always does.

But we still try, with all our faults. We don’t have millions or even billions, but we can still help people. And so that’s what we do. Filothee does, I do, and I’m sure Konstantinos does as well, though I haven’t seen him in a long time. It’s just what you do.

 

 

And now it’s time to move on to the part that I’m really bad at, and which has kept me for ages from writing this article: asking for donations. Not donations for Greece, I can do that, but those for the Automatic Earth itself, debanked and perhaps going under. I tried to explain that a few days ago already, that the way sites like this are funded has changed irrevocably in my view.

Google and Facebook take all the money and everyone else can take a hike. Unless the Automatic Earth disappears behind a paywall (which I don’t want) OR our readers start chipping in more than they have. Easily more than 5,000 people read the Automatic Earth each day, so at 5 cents a day -and what is 5 cents?- we’d be fine. But it doesn’t work that way. People are used to free.

Still, I don’t want to confuse the two, Greece and the site itself, too much. Then again, I have spent a lot of time here in Athens over the past years, and that isn’t free -I pay double rent for half the year-, and my personal presence here is greatly appreciated by the people who run the Monastiraki kitchen. As they expressed in the note you can see below. They appreciate that it’s not just a check being sent, but I go visit them all the time to see how things are going.

Anyway, I’m obviously still bad at this. So if you’re inclined to donate to either the Automatic Earth or the Monastiraki kitchen, or both, you figure it out. Put us on your Christmas charity list and be generous, be part of helping out those who have least. You may read raving pieces on Greece and Athens and tourism and Airbnb, but this is still a very challenging place for all but the rich.

What I would like to do is to hand Filothee another $1,000 in coupons before I leave for Christmas, that should be sufficient for both kitchens -Monastiraki and Piraeus- until I get back in spring. And I promise it won’t be this long again between articles.

Thank you so much for making this all possible.

 

 

 

 

For donations to the Monastiraki kitchen and the Automatic Earth, the Automatic Earth has a Paypal widget on our front page, top left hand corner, and a Patreon one top right hand corner. On our Sales and Donations page, there is an address to send money orders and checks if you don’t like Paypal. Our Bitcoin address is 1HYLLUR2JFs24X1zTS4XbNJidGo2XNHiTT. For other forms of payment, drop us a line at Contact • at • TheAutomaticEarth • com.

To tell donations for Monastiraki apart from those for the Automatic Earth (which badly needs them too!), any amounts that come in ending in either $0.99 or $0.37, will go to the social kitchen.

 

Please give generously.

 

 

A list of the articles I wrote before about our support for homeless and refugees in Athens.

June 16 2015

The Automatic Earth Moves To Athens

June 19 2015

Update: Automatic Earth for Athens Fund

June 25 2015

Off to Greece, and an Update on our Athens Fund

July 8 2015

Automatic Earth Fund for Athens Makes First Donation

July 11 2015

AE for Athens Fund 2nd Donation: The Man Who Cooks In The Street

July 22 2015

AE Fund for Athens: Update no. 3: Peristeri

Nov 24 2015

The Automatic Earth -Finally- Returns To Athens

Dec 25 2015

Help the Automatic Earth Help the Poorest Greeks and Refugees

Feb 1 2016

The Automatic Earth is Back in Athens, Again

Mar 2 2016

The Automatic Earth for Athens Fund Feeds Refugees (Too)

Aug 9 2016

Meanwhile in Greece..

Nov 28 2016

The Other Human Needs Your Help This Christmas

Dec 21 2016

The Automatic Earth in Greece: Big Dreams for 2017

Mar 23 2017

The Automatic Earth Still Helps Greeks and Refugees

Dec 24 2017

The Automatic Earth for Athens Fund – Christmas and 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 152019
 
 October 15, 2019  Posted by at 7:29 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


Rembrandt van Rijn Self portrait with tousled hair 1629

 

If you ask me, this is brilliant, but I know you’re not asking me. Still, what I’m reading today is genius. That is, Donald Trump and his people have found a way to communicate with Vladimir Putin and his people while the entire crew that’s listening in to his talks with foreign leaders were doing something else, whatever that may be.

The overall impression of Trump’s order to redeploy an entire 50 US soldiers within Syria is that he opened the floodgates to mayhem and genocide, but perhaps that picture is not entirely accurate. Perhaps Trump did not act on some whiff of the moment instinct. Perhaps he’s not as shallow and stupid as the press makes him out to be. I know, big challenge and all, but let’s look at what actually happened.

Me, I’m sure Trump talked to Putin before he withdrew the 49 or 50 troops , just to make sure all-out disaster wouldn’t ensue. This is from Newsweek, not exactly a pro-Trump outlet:

US Cedes Syrian City To Russia In Battlefield ‘Handover’ As Turkey Tries To Take It

The U.S. was scheduled as of Monday to officially withdraw from Manbij within 24-hours, leaving the mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces behind as two rival factions—the Syrian government, backed by Russia and Iran, and the Turkey-backed Syrian insurgents opposed to it—sought to seize control of the strategic location. A senior Pentagon official told Newsweek that U.S. personnel, “having been in the area for longer, has been assisting the Russian forces to navigate through previously unsafe areas quickly.”


“It is essentially a handover,” the official said. “However, it’s a quick out, not something that will include walk-throughs, etc., everything is about making out with as much as possible of our things while destroying any sensitive equipment that cannot be moved.” Contacted by Newsweek on Monday, no reply was returned from the Pentagon before publication. Faced with a potentially imminent clash with Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies, the Syrian Democratic Forces have chosen to realign themselves with the central government and its Russian backer, a partnership that would soon be put to the test.

I don’t claim to know how the two presidents manage to communicate in the face of all the scrutiny (re: Trump’s call with Ukraine president Zelensky), but communicate they did. Or we would never have arrived at the outcome we have. Trump, I’m convinced, did not leave the Kurds to die at the hand of Erdogan. He got Putin involved. And yes, that means Russia strengthening its position in Syria.

But it also means Trump being able to fulfill his campaign promise to withdraw US troops from “endless wars”. And Russia may well be the best bet to prevent further mayhem and bloodshed in the region. See, Syria, as I’ve said a million times by now, is Russia’s only stronghold in the Middle East, and they will therefore never let go of it. Not a chance.

That is the reason why the insane US policy of regime change in Iraq, Libya, etc., was never going to work in Syria. Syria = Russia. Not because Putin is a big admirer of Assad, but because without Syria Russia is gone from the Middle East. So, zero chance. A bit more from the BBC:

Russia Vows To Prevent Turkey-Syria Clashes

Russia has said it will not allow clashes between Turkish and Syrian forces, as Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria continues. “This would simply be unacceptable… and therefore we will not allow it, of course,” said Moscow’s special envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentyev. The withdrawal of US troops from the region, announced last week, gave Turkey a “green light”, critics say. Russia is a key military ally of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Russia’s defence ministry said its forces, which have been deployed in Syria since 2015, were patrolling along the “line of contact” between Syrian and Turkish forces.


During a visit to the United Arab Emirates, Mr Lavrentyev described Turkey’s offensive as “unacceptable”. He said that under previous agreements Turkey can only go 5-10km (3-6 miles) into Syria – far less than the 30km “safe zone” Ankara is proposing – and that Turkey has no right to permanently deploy its troops in the country. Syria is in contact with Turkey to avoid a conflict, he said. Mr Lavrentyev also confirmed that Russia had helped to broker a deal between Kurds and Damascus that saw Kurdish-led forces cede territory to Syrian government troops in return for military support.

All the talk about Erdogan genociding the Kurds is, well, greatly exaggerated. His hands are tied. By Trump, who has warned him with a threat of obliterating his economy, and far more by Putin who simply states some things are not acceptable.

The outcome of all this is going to be that Turkey will have its safe zone on the Syrian border, just smaller than Erdogan wants. The Kurds will have their territory just behind that safe zone. Millions of Syrian refugees will be able to resettle in these two territories. It is a pretty genius solution to the whole issue. US troops, gone, Russia and Assad keeping the peace, no 3.6 million refugees coming to Europe.

And you were saying Trump is an idiot who leaves the Kurds to be slaughtered? You see, I’m never sure about anything, but I’m having to doubt that judgment. That’s not what I’m seeing.

But, you know, I am big time wondering what channels Trump and Putin have found to talk to each other. It’s not phone calls, given how the Zelensky call led to an alleged impeachment inquiry, but how have they managed to do it? Shouldn’t be all that hard, perhaps, just a friend talking to a friend under the radar. But still.