Mar 222021
 
 March 22, 2021  Posted by at 9:00 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  32 Responses »


Paul Gauguin Tahitian village 1892

 

3 Fully Vaccinated People Catch Covid-19 Coronavirus in Hawaii (Forbes)
Travel Changes For Those Who Are Fully Vaccinated (Forbes)
European Trust In AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine Plunges (R.)
Ivermectin: Game changer vs Covid-19? What’s the Controversy? (Manila Times)
Greece Mobilizes Private Doctors to Cope With Surging Covid Infections (GR)
Growing Rebellion Against Draconian Covid Restrictions By Canadians (RT)
V. Putin Ain’t No Corn Pop (Kunstler)
Welcome To The Age Of Modern Monetary Theory (Kodrik)
Next Round Of Us Fiscal Legislation Could Reach $4 Trillion – Goldman (FXS)
Media Pseudo-Debates and the Silence of Leftist Critics (Curtin)
Biden Pushes Colombia to Restart Glyphosate Spraying Program
Bipartisan Australian MPs Meet With US Embassy About Julian Assange (SMH)

 

 

“It is spring again.
The earth is like
a child that knows
poems by heart.”
~ Rainer Maria Rilke

 

 

 

 

 

 

This from Forbes is actually part of the sales job. It’s “only” 3 people. And:

“just because you catch the virus after getting fully vaccinated doesn’t mean that the vaccine didn’t help you. You don’t know how much worse the infection could have been without the vaccine”

3 Fully Vaccinated People Catch Covid-19 Coronavirus in Hawaii (F.)

While the Covid-19 vaccines may protect you against Covid-19, their protection is not perfect. Even after getting vaccinated , you can still catch the virus. You can still get Covid-19. Case in point. Or rather three cases in point. According to the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH), three people in Hawaii who had received both doses of either the Moderna or the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine subsequently tested positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus. Additionally, a fourth person who had received the first of two doses of the vaccine ended up catching the B.1.1.7 variant of the severe acute respiratory respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2). That be a more contagious version of the SARS-CoV2.

Don’t press the panic button just because you saw this news though. In general, pressing a button labeled “Panic” is a bad idea. Plus, three people catching the Covid-19 coronavirus does not mean that the Covid-19 vaccines do not work. Getting the vaccine does not mean that a giant six-feet thick concrete condom forms around your body. The vaccine does not serve as a solid 100% effective barrier to the virus. Even though the vaccines may be quite effective at preventing more severe Covid-19, you still have a chance of getting Covid-19 after being fully vaccinated. And there is still a chance that this Covid-19 can be severe. It’s just that your chances after vaccination may be significantly lower.

Ultimately, three people is not that many people. It’s not even enough to form a four-person bobsled team or a typical boy band or a combination of the two. And it’s only a tiny fraction of the people who have been fully vaccinated to date. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Covid-19 Vaccine Tracker, over 35 million people have gotten both doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna Covid-19 vaccines. [..] just because you catch the virus after getting fully vaccinated doesn’t mean that the vaccine didn’t help you. You don’t know how much worse the infection could have been without the vaccine, unless you’ve somehow mastered time travel.

Read more …

Sales job continued:

“A rebound in travel and day-to-day life most likely won’t be complete until after a vaccine for children becomes available..”

Travel Changes For Those Who Are Fully Vaccinated (F.)

The coronavirus vaccine is becoming available to more people across the United States and the world. Given the uptick in travel, it seems that more people are becoming confident to travel once they become fully vaccinated. Here are some travel changes to know about for those who have been (or will soon be) vaccinated. What Does “Fully Vaccinated” Mean? Your body must develop antibodies after receiving the recommended coronavirus vaccine dosage before you are “fully vaccinated.” The waiting period is 14 days after receiving your final dose. The 14-day period starts after receiving your second dose if you receive the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. The Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine only requires one dose.

If you want to travel after getting the vaccine, your travel dates should start 14 days after receiving the second dose. As always, you should stay home if you’re showing potential signs and symptoms. People can still contract the coronavirus after being fully vaccinated. Vaccines For Children Are Coming A rebound in travel and day-to-day life most likely won’t be complete until after a vaccine for children becomes available. Moderna is currently testing a children’s vaccine for recipients between ages 6 months and 12 years. For now, fully vaccinated adults have fewer social distancing restrictions. Current social distancing guidelines remain in place for unvaccinated households and travelers.

Being fully vaccinated isn’t a free pass to unrestricted travel as it was before the pandemic. The CDC interim guidelines do not expressly state that those who are fully vaccinated should avoid non-essential travel. However, the vaccinated must limit their exposure to the unvaccinated, who can be at more risk of getting the virus in close contact. The fully vaccinated can visit these people without masks or social distancing: • Other fully vaccinated persons (in small groups only) • Visit with unvaccinated people from a single household if they are “low-risk”.

Read more …

“EMA did not rule out a possible link, however..”

European Trust In AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine Plunges (R.)

Confidence in the safety of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine has taken a big hit in Spain, Germany, France and Italy as reports of rare blood clots have been linked to it and many countries briefly stopped using it, poll data showed on Monday. The polling firm YouGov said it had already found in late February that Europeans were more hesitant about the AstraZeneca vaccine than about those from Pfizer Inc/BioNTech and Moderna Inc, and that the clot concerns had further damaged public perceptions of the AstraZeneca shot’s safety. At least 13 European countries in the past two weeks stopped administering the AstraZeneca shot, co-developed with scientists at Oxford University, after reports of a small number of blood disorders.

Many resumed its use on Friday after the European Medicines Agency regulator said in a preliminary safety review on Thursday that the vaccine was safe and effective and not linked with a rise in the overall risk of blood clots. EMA did not rule out a possible link, however, with rare cases of blood clots in the brain known as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST). YouGov’s poll – which covered about 8,000 people in seven European countries between March 12 and 18 – found that in France, Germany, Spain and Italy, people were now more likely to see the AstraZeneca vaccine as unsafe than as safe. Some 55% of Germans say it is unsafe, while less than a third think it is safe, the poll showed. In France, where AstraZeneca’s COVID vaccine was already unpopular, 61% of people polled say they now see it as unsafe.

In Italy and Spain, most people previously felt the AstraZeneca vaccine was safe – at 54% and 59% respectively – but those rates have fallen to 36% and 38% respectively, in the latest poll. The survey showed that only in Britain, where the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has been used in a national rollout since January, have the blood clot concerns had little to no impact on public confidence. The majority of people polled in the UK – 77% – still say the shot is safe. Their trust in it is on a par with Pfizer’s 79% perceived safety rating.

Read more …

A lot of material here. Good for the Philippines.

Ivermectin: Game changer vs Covid-19? What’s the Controversy? (Manila Times)

Desperation time is arriving at our door. Our infection rates are reaching all-time highs, hospitals are full, people are unnerved already and the Philippines is far behind other countries in the recovery. Most of us will survive, but many will die unnecessarily; millions of jobs are lost.Real tests are needed, not speeches. Let’s not kid ourselves that survival is proof of resilience and innovativeness; we must improve all performance indicators, including time to adopt the best practical practices. Can we improve this reality test of our nation’s ability to anticipate, select talent, plan and execute by turning around the Covid health and economic situation quicker? When do we kick out demagogues and incompetents?

One potentially very powerful decision that is simple to execute can bypass the costs, vaccine availability and logistics issues we have (but not the pharma politics and traditional medical bureaucracy?) is the properly managed use of ivermectin.Game changer? Worldwide cases on ivermectin have been accumulating since the middle of 2020. Many highly competent doctors and research institutions are asserting that it can massively decrease infection rates, periods, and severity, at low risk, even prior to the arrival and use of vaccines. What are the arguments for or against ivermectin use for Covid control and treatment? The National Institute of Health (NIH) of the US in January 2021 had upgraded their recommendation on ivermectin, from “against” to “neither for nor against,” making it an option for use against Covid-19.

With the All-Indian Institute of Medical Sciences of Bhubaneswar, India’s Dr. Batmanabane says of his experience: “Earlier, at least 20 to 25 health care workers were getting infected with the virus daily. After the workers started taking Ivermectin, the number of infections has come down to one or two per day.” Their study indicates an over 70 percent overall improvement. While ivermectin is associated at times with some nausea or dizziness or other mild reactions, there have not been serious cases. The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) notes that of 49 ivermectin studies, all show favorable results. Patients are dying, while over a billion doses have been used since the 1980s of this “very safe drug”. “Perhaps with this change, patients won’t need a court order to get a lifesaving drug,” according to AAPS executive director Dr. Jane Orient.

Read more …

“Greece will start offering Covid-19 self-testing kits next month to the entire population of the country.” “Greece will be the first EU member-state to offer these tests to the entire population free-of-charge.”

Greece Mobilizes Private Doctors to Cope With Surging Covid Infections (GR)

Greece announced on Monday it is mobilizing private doctors in an effort to contain the pressure on public hospitals struggling to cope with surging Covid-19 infections.Minister of Health, Vassilis Kikilias, said that despite an appeal for volunteers in the last few weeks “very few doctors came forward.” Of about 200 doctors requested by the government to assist their colleagues in the public sector, just 50 have come forward. Worse yet, attempts over the weekend to woo them with bonus fees failed. “Taking into account the emergency conditions and the urgent need for treatment of our fellow human beings, the Ministry of Health is mobilizing the services of Pathologists, Pulmonologists and General Practitioners in Attica,” Kikilias announced.

Doctors associations say the government should first recruit residents at state hospitals and other medical staff waiting to be hired before proceeding with the order, which they describe as absolutely extreme. On Sunday, Greece recorded another 1,514 new Covid-19 cases and the country broke yet another grim record, as a total of 674 people are now intubated in ICU units.The situation in Greece’s hospitals remains critical, with the capacity of many of them in Athens and other large cities being almost overwhelmed. Kikilias confirmed last week that Greece is “at the toughest point of the pandemic’s development.”He added that public hospitals are “on high emergency mode.”

Greece will start offering Covid-19 self-testing kits next month to the entire population of the country, the government said on Saturday.This comes as the latest addition to a series of measures that aim to curve the rising coronavirus infections in the country.Information and details on the new self-tests were announced by the Greek authorities, who claim that Greece will be the first EU member-state to offer these tests to the entire population free-of-charge.

Read more …

“The government’s response has lacked a risk variant analysis on all our populations.”

Growing Rebellion Against Draconian Covid Restrictions By Canadians (RT)

Some Canadians, armed with knowledge of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, aren’t complying with the draconian and absurd measures, and instead are walking out of airports instead of being incarcerated in quarantine hotels. In March, nurse Jessica Faraone made headlines for doing just that and walking out of Toronto’s Pearson airport instead of subjecting herself to a costly $2,000-plus quarantine hotel stay. In a later interview, Faraone said a border guard had attempted to intimidate and shut her up, but she knew her rights. She added: “I have worked in the hospitals and more than ever I’m seeing suicide, depression, strokes, heart attacks, addiction issues. Masking people and children, oppressing health-care workers’ opinions that go against the grain, socially isolating people, and instilling fear into Canadians… is not how we solve this problem.”

And it’s not just well-informed individuals who are contesting the drastic measures. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has been active in challenging the government both on quarantine hotels and on tickets issued to citizens for alleged violations of public health orders. The centre is also disseminating resources for Canadians to know their rights regarding Covid measures. Liberty Coalition Canada was formed after Covid restrictions were brought in. The coalition is a “national network of clergymen, elected officials, small business owners, legal experts and other concerned citizens” that now has a number of sub-groups addressing specific aspects of the measures Canada has taken. These include the social media campaign Save Our Youth, Reopen Ontario Churches, and the End the Lockdowns Caucus.

The latter comprises a number of current and former elected representatives who came together in February “resolved to ensure there is open, honest, and public debate regarding the Covid government response.” This body espouses what many ordinary Canadians have been feeling: “After careful examination and scrutiny of mitigation measures undertaken by all levels of government, it is now evident that the lockdowns cause more harm than the virus and must be brought to an end.” Likewise, the newly-formed Professionals Against Lockdowns – already listing over 100 professionals, including doctors, nurses, healthcare professionals, legal experts, police and teachers – aims to provide “evidence-based, scientific research that will educate and empower the public.”

Noting the widespread censorship of any dissenting voices on issues Covid, its statement reads: “It is our professional duty to protect the public, our communities, and our children. We will advocate for what is right and speak up against harm. Together, we will continue to be the voice for the voiceless to ensure that the truth about these lockdowns is heard. “The government’s response has lacked a risk variant analysis on all our populations. We are seeing the harm being done first-hand. We know lockdowns, isolation of healthy individuals, and the violation of our rights are causing more harm than good.”

Read more …

“They’re strangely compelled to seek every possible opportunity to insult the public’s intelligence while destroying what’s left of American culture..”

V. Putin Ain’t No Corn Pop (Kunstler)

Pretty soon, the president’s handlers will have to forbid him to open his pie-hole in public altogether. No more one-on-one interviews even with slow-pitch party shills like Mr. Stephanopoulos. They’ll just wheel him into the rose garden periodically like a cigar store Indian for proof-of-life demonstrations and leave the management of the nation… to others.

And how’s that going after a couple of months? Apparently, economic collapse is not enough for the party in charge of things now. They’re strangely compelled to seek every possible opportunity to insult the public’s intelligence while destroying what’s left of American culture. Case in point out of Nancy Pelosi’s Congress: HR1, the so-called “For the People Act,” institutionalizing ballot fraud in US elections. The law would make permanent the Covid-19 emergency mail-in voting system, over-riding whatever each state’s election law says — which makes the act appear patently unconstitutional — plus permitting same-day motor-voter registration of any live body, citizen or not, plus removing all voter ID requirements, and much more to ensure the country is never again threatened by a fair election.

Next up: HR5, the so-called “Equality Act,” institutionalizing the notion that categories of “male” and “female” are mere cultural constructs and must in no way be allowed to order any cultural activity from school to work to leisure. The bill was initially conceived to harden into law President Obama’s EO expanding the Department of Education’s Title IX rules on school sports — which eventuated in “trans women” disrupting girls’ sports. Now, men pretending to be women (and vice-versa) will be allowed to disrupt everything else in American life, especially the civil courts, with frivolous lawsuits.

Also in the pipeline: HR6, the so-called “American Dream and Promise Act,” and its Senate companion, S264, the plain “Dream Act,” that will grant permanent residency and then citizenship to currently “undocumented” people who snuck into the USA as children. The dreams and promises have already been delivered, even before the final passage of any new act, with an unprecedented flood of unaccompanied migrant children crashing the border, as well as a surge of adults fleeing Mexico and Central America. Apparently, the thinking in Washington these days is that we don’t have enough poor people in America, that their lives are not difficult enough. The message couldn’t be clearer to millions outside the United States: by all means, cross the border and we will do nothing about it.

Read more …

“When overspending does cause inflation, the MMT remedy is to remove money from circulation through progressive taxation, rather than by reducing spending and sacrificing the poor to unemployment.”

Welcome To The Age Of Modern Monetary Theory (Kodrik)

Congress has authorized $6 trillion in deficit spending to defeat the coronavirus. That’s more than the United States spent fighting World War II, when $4 trillion of government spending released the country from the clutches of the Great Depression. Naturally, politicians and pundits debate whether the amount is excessive. But implicit in their seemingly routine deficit debate is a remarkable shift: Inflation has replaced debt — the old stalking horse for defeating progressive legislation — as the primary concern with deficit spending. It’s a subtle change, with profound consequences. And it augurs the rise of a revolutionary approach to political economy, Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), as the dominant paradigm in the politics of money.

Like Keynesians of yesteryear, Modern Monetary Theorists urge government to achieve full employment through fiscal policy, even when it requires deficit spending. Their comfort with large deficits emerges from an understanding that an obsession with national debt is a relic of another time, the age of gold standards and fixed currency arrangements. Today, in the age of national monetary sovereignty and free-floating currencies, countries like the United States can fulfill all financial obligations with a simple keystroke. Still, MMT economists don’t exactly scoff at deficits. Their point is that inflation, rather than rising national debt, is the best indicator of whether deficits are too large.

Short of extreme inflation, MMT encourages policymakers to juice the economy through government spending. Seen through MMT goggles, a tenet of economic orthodoxy is flipped on its head: Deficits appear as virtuous public investments, while surpluses become scourges, condemned for sucking money out of the economy. In this brave new world, the refusal of monetary sovereigns to run substantial deficits seems cruel and inefficient. According to MMT economist Stephanie Kelton, deficit spending can and should continue while additional spending can be absorbed by an economy’s productive resources. When overspending does cause inflation, the MMT remedy is to remove money from circulation through progressive taxation, rather than by reducing spending and sacrificing the poor to unemployment.

Read more …

We are all MMT now.

Next Round Of Us Fiscal Legislation Could Reach $4 Trillion – Goldman (FXS)

Analysts at Goldman Sachs eye another US fiscal stimulus, ranging to as high as $4.00 trillion, in their latest note published recently. The US bank suggests a minimum of $2.00 trillion of the infrastructure spending package, which could go to $4.00 trillion if including health care, education, and child care initiatives, in the next round of relief from US President Joe Biden. It should be noted that the bank anticipates higher taxes as a resource for paying the fiscal relief bill. “The tax plan proposed by President Biden in his election campaign would raise the statutory corporate tax rate on domestic income from 21% to 28%, partially reversing the cut from a rate of 35% passed in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The plan would also raise the tax rate on foreign income (also called the “GILTI” tax) and institute a minimum corporate tax rate,” said the note further.

Read more …

Edward Curtin starts out alright, but then…

Media Pseudo-Debates and the Silence of Leftist Critics (Curtin)

You’ve heard of them, no doubt, the U.S. rulers who can’t rule too well and are always getting surprised by events or fed bad advice by their underlings. Their “mistakes” are always well intentioned. They stumble into wars through faulty intelligence. They drop the ball because of bureaucratic mix-ups. They miscalculate the perfidy of the elites whom allegedly they oppose while ushering them into the national coffers out of necessity since they are too big to fail. They never see the storm coming, even as they create it. Their incompetence is the retort to all those nut cases who conjure up conspiracy theories to explain their actions or lack thereof. They are innocent. Always innocent.

They and their media mouthpieces offer Americans, who are most eager to accept, what Lutheran pastor and anti-Nazi dissident Dietrich Bonhoeffer, executed at age thirty-nine by Hitler, called cheap grace: “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance…” These incompetents are, in the immortal words of the New York newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin, “The Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight.” Except they could and can. They’ve actually shot a lot of people, here and abroad. It’s one of their specialities. But they mean well. They screw up sometimes, but they mean well. They care, even while they kill millions with their guns and bombs. But they have their followers.

As another dissident thirty-nine-year-old pastor, executed by the American state, Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” The US rulers have their defenders. Most are corporate mainstream journalists whose jobs are to defend the ruling elites of both political parties. They will criticize across the political divides depending on their organizations’ political leanings at the moment. But they will never attack the fundamentals of the oligarchic war system since they are part of it. Their jobs depend on it. So CNN and The New York Times will obsessively attack Trump while Fox News will do the same to Obama or Biden. This is a game.

These days such massive media conglomerates are seemingly starkly divided and basically serve as adjuncts of one political party or the other. They are essentially political propagandists for either the Democrats or the Republicans and have abandoned any pretense to be anything else. They speak to their respective audiences in self-enclosed vacuums. They promote the divide that runs down the middle of the USA, a divide they helped to create.

Read more …

Round-Up used to destroy entire crops. Anything else you wish to know?

Biden Pushes Colombia to Restart Glyphosate Spraying Program

After a six-year halt, Colombia plans to restart the toxic aerial spraying of glyphosate on coca crops as early as next month—drawing “most welcome” support from U.S. President Joe Biden and sharp criticism from 150 regional experts who wrote to Biden, “your administration is implicitly endorsing former President Trump’s damaging legacy in Colombia.” On March 2nd, the Biden administration welcomed Colombia’s decision to restart its aerial coca eradication program in Biden’s first annual 2021 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report: “The government of Colombia has committed to re-starting its aerial coca eradication program, which would be a most welcome development.”

Colombia halted the controversial spraying program in 2015. In 2018, Colombia’s then-new President Ivan Duque vowed to resume the program but has yet to restart the aerial spraying The country faced increasing pressure from the United States to restart the program. “You’re going to have to spray,” former US President Donald Trump told Duque at the White House during a March 2, 2020 meeting. Aerial fumigation had been a central component of Plan Colombia, the 2005 multi-billion dollar U.S. program to finance the Colombian government war on coca cultivation and their war on FARC, which was Colombia’s largest rebel group before being disbanded in 2017.

But in 2015, the Colombian Supreme Court ruled that the spraying must end if the spraying of glyphosate was creating health problems. Also, in 2015, the World Health Organization found that glyphosate—also known as “Roundup”—was harmful to the environment and health, potentially causing cancer. In 2014, ending aerial fumigation was central to peace negotiations with FARC, with the Colombian government agreeing with FARC negotiators that it would transition away from aerial spraying. The Colombian government was also facing significant pressure from the rural poor, who were organizing national protests against aerial fumigation and other forms of forced eradication.

Read more …

Hmmm. Sounds pretty weak.

Bipartisan Australian MPs Meet With US Embassy About Julian Assange (SMH)

A cross-party delegation of Australian MPs has met with Washington’s top envoy in Canberra in their continued attempts to encourage the United States to drop its extradition attempts against the WikiLeaks founder. Nationals MP George Christensen, Independent Andrew Wilkie and Labor’s Julian Hill lobbied the US embassy’s charge d’affaires, Michael Goldman, on Monday morning, arguing the Australian citizen should be allowed to return home. The US Justice Department has appealed a British judge’s ruling that prevents Mr Assange from being extradited from London to face espionage charges. Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled last month that while the case against the Australian was sound, his fragile mental health put him at “substantial risk” of taking his own life in prison.

Supporters of Mr Assange had hoped that new US President Joe Biden’s administration would opt to drop the case, which the Obama administration had declined to charge over concerns that doing so would put press freedoms at risk. He is accused of helping former army private Chelsea Manning obtain and leak classified information on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Mr Wilkie, a whistleblowing intelligence officer-turned-MP, said the delegation raised numerous issues with Mr Goldman, including the increasing cross-party and public support for the US extradition of Mr Assange from the UK to be dropped. The trio argued the US was at risk of “reputational damage” over the inconsistency that WikiLeaks source, Chelsea Manning, had her sentence commuted while WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, was still being pursued.

[..] “It was heartening that Mr Goldman agreed to the meeting and gave us a fair hearing,” Mr Wilkie said. “Hopefully our representations this morning impressed upon him the broad concern in Australia, and indeed right around the world, at the shocking injustice being meted out to Julian Assange. The US’s pursuit of Mr Assange is obviously not in the public interest and must be dropped.”

Read more …

 

 

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If the Queen moves four squares forward the Bishop can take her.

 

 

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Mar 152021
 


Mark Chagall Peace window, UN 1967

 

 

In Holland Sunday, a protest demonstration against government Covid policies provoked a emergency order from that same government against thousands of people gathering in a place to … protest. The police and government had only “allowed” 200 demonstrators. So the government “allowed” a protest against itself, but demanded the right to determine where, how, and with how many people it could take place. But that’s not really a protest, is it? The police deployed dogs, horses and water cannons to disperse the crowd.

In Greece, a video appeared last Sunday of a policeman severely beating a man. Protests against that have occurred daily since. The prime minister spoke out against the protests, not the policeman. That made people even angrier. And then he proposed a “police reform” law. Yeah. And everybody lived happily ever after. But under heavy restrictions.

In the UK, a peaceful vigil for a woman kidnapped and murdered -by a policeman!- was broken up by police Saturday because there was “no permission” given for it. Several women were handcuffed and dragged across the pavement. Meanwhile, the government is introducing a “police reform” law (they’re popular these days!) that would impose conditions even on one-person protests. And protesters can’t make noise. And so much police will be deployed that it may become too costly to “allow” the protest.

In Canberra, capital of Australia, 10s of 1000s protested because of a rape scandal inside government buildings. Good thing the restrictions were recently eased, or the same government that’s so busy trying to hide the scandal would have not “allowed” the protest.

 

 

It’s perfectly safe to call this extremism. It all takes place against the background of one year of failed Covid measures and restrictions. Though of course governments will always claim the pandemic would have been much worse without them. But after a year, what right do they still have to impose restrictions? What right did they ever have in the first place to tell people they cannot travel, assemble, see their family or go to work? And how has that right, if they ever had it, changed after a year-long “emergency”?

I’ve talked about legal issues before, but I still don’t see them discussed. I see no supreme courts testing laws or calling governments back. People in democracies are told they have basic and inalienable rights. But not anymore. Joe Biden talked about how Americans could, if they were good and obedient, maybe invite a few friends over for the Fourth of July. How many inalienable rights does that trample on in one go?

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Where did these governments all go wrong? Well, here:

 

 

And here:

 

 

They’re not benign public servants, they’re drug pushers -in this case vaccines- with armies and bodyguards. They protect corporations and institutions, not the rights of their people. They’re not democrats, they’re authoritarians. We are ruled by ideologies, not principles. The only rights we have are those that they “allow” us to have. There are no basic or inalienable rights left. Our politicians represent, and serve, long established parties and systems that have ruled for at least decades, in a symbiosis with corporations.

If there’s one lesson to learn from the sordid never-ending Covid episode it must be that: your human rights are just a thin veneer that serves to make your reality look nice and shiny, but may be scraped off at any moment. What does that say about our forefathers and -mothers who fought, and died, in order to provide us with inalienable rights? Do we really owe those people less than we owe our current ruling classes?

I read yesterday that the health minister of Jordan has resigned because 6 Covid patients died due to a failing oxygen supply in a hospital. I think that’s the first time I’ve seen a politician being held to account for Covid failure. And even he is probably just a scapegoat.

I’ve seen a few reports on the damage the lockdowns and other measures do to children’s minds. They mostly talk about schools being closed, as if schools are every child’s happy place. Of course not. Children simply need other children, so they can find their place in the world, it has nothing to do with a school. But this goes far beyond children, untold millions of adults also will come away with mental traumas. People need people.

We have a few questions we should ask ourselves. History teaches us that rights being taken away are awfully hard to regain. That the Constitution talks about the Consent of the Governed also means that the governed were considered to be able to make proper, just decisions about their own lives, and had the right to do that, without goverment intervention.

But you are not.

 

 

 

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Mar 072021
 
 March 7, 2021  Posted by at 10:14 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  29 Responses »


Vincent van Gogh Red Vineyards at Arles 1888

 

American Rescue Plan Could Set Stage for $4 Trillion of Debt (CRFB)
Yellen Coddles Up to Powell on Rising Long-Term Yields (WS)
Italy’s Government Is Outsourcing Its Economic Strategy To McKinsey (Jac.)
US Covid Cases Continue To Decline After Brief Plateau (JTN)
Connecticut Lifting All Covid-19 Capacity Restrictions On Businesses (F.)
The Nightingale Alternative (Gillian Dymond)
Trump Sends Legal Notice To GOP To Stop Using His Name (Pol.)
Congressmen Demand Twitter’s Internal Docs Regarding Trump Censorship (JTN)
Is China Hacking Random Servers To Put Itself Into A Bad Light? (MoA)
Bitcoin Could Soon Run Head First Into US Money Laundering Laws (ZH)
The Dark Side Of “Eating Lower On The Food Chain” (Turchin)
Mobile Devices Alter Children’s Minds, Change How They Perceive The World (JTN)

 

 

 

 

Jack Posobiec: Trump sent $1800 stimulus out, Biden sent $1400 but if you look closely you may start to notice the media being slightly biased about this story.

Kevin Gosztola: Jobless benefits were $600/week for 4 months in the COVID-19 relief that passed under Trump in March 2020. Biden and Senate Democrats are cutting jobless benefits for citizens in crisis to $300/week for same period—half of what passed in GOP-controlled Senate.

 

 

 

 

Already, people will get $1,400 checks, while the rescue will cost them some $5,700 each.

American Rescue Plan Could Set Stage for $4 Trillion of Debt (CRFB)

The American Rescue Plan Act is estimated to cost over $1.9 trillion through 2031, but the ultimate price tag could be twice as high if some of the policies in the bill are extended beyond their current expiration dates. The bill includes several extensions of tax credits that supporters have previously proposed on a permanent basis and several temporary economic relief measures that are slated to end before the economy has fully recovered. If the tax credits were made permanent and these relief measures were extended for the duration of the crisis, it would raise the total cost of the bill to $3.8 trillion through 2031, or $4.1 trillion with interest.

Several measures in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act that provide temporary relief are likely to be extended past their expiration dates. Most significantly, expanded unemployment benefits would expire at the end of August (though that may soon be changed to September), after which all unemployed workers would lose the benefit supplement and many would lose benefits entirely. In addition, a 15 percent increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits would end in September, after which benefits would immediately snap back to their previous level. Other smaller relief efforts also end abruptly. Extensions of these policies are likely in our view. While the actual cost would depend on the length and nature of those extensions, we believe a reasonable extension and phase-out scenario could cost roughly $300 billion.

More substantially, the American Rescue Plan Act includes one- or two-year versions of several longstanding policy priorities of President Biden’s or Congressional Democrats’. It includes over $100 billion for a one-year expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which increases the credit from $2,000 to $3,000 (or $3,600 for children under age 6) and makes it fully refundable. The bill also includes a $15 billion, one-year expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for childless workers that many have been seeking for years, and an $8 billion expansion of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC), which closely matches President Biden’s campaign proposal to increase the maximum credit from $2,100 to $8,000 and from covering 35 percent of expenses to 50 percent of expenses. Finally, the legislation includes a $35 billion, 2-year increase in Affordable Care Act premium subsidies that closely matches a similar proposal in President Biden’s campaign plan and $10 billion in small Medicaid expansions that last five years.

Making the expanded CTC permanent would cost an additional $1.1 trillion, assuming the expiring provisions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which boosted the credit from $1,000 to $2,000 and eliminated the dependent exemption, are eventually extended or the policy is modified after 2026. Relative to current law, we estimate this would cost more like $1.5 trillion. Meanwhile, making the EITC and CDCTC extensions permanent would cost over $200 billion, and making the health care provisions permanent would cost about $250 billion. Altogether, we estimate these potential extensions would cost $1.9 trillion before interest, boosting the overall cost of the bill to $4.1 trillion when interest is included.

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“The Wall Street crybabies are clamoring for this because massive highly leveraged bets on Treasury securities are producing massive losses.”

Yellen Coddles Up to Powell on Rising Long-Term Yields (WS)

It seems to be a rare sight that a Treasury Secretary and a Fed Chair color-coordinate their comments about rising long-term yields. On Friday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in an interview on PBS NewsHour echoed what Fed Chair Jerome Powell had said on Thursday in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. When Yellen was asked about the rising long-term yields that the crybabies on Wall Street are getting so nervous about, Yellen said in her quiet manner: “Long term interest rates have gone up some, but mainly I think because market participants are seeing a stronger recovery, as we have success with getting people vaccinated and a strong fiscal package that’s going to get people back to work.” “Rising interest rates don’t concern you?” she was then asked.


“I think they’re a sign that the economy is getting back on track, and market participants see that, and they expect a stronger economy,” Yellen said. “And instead of inflation lingering below levels that are desirable for years on end, they’re beginning to see inflation get back to a normal range of around 2%.” And inflation may rise more than that, but it’s going to be transitory, she said. So on Friday, the Treasury 10-year yield rose to 1.57%, still ludicrously low, given the outlook on inflation, and given the Fed’s insistence that it will let inflation run over 2% – as measured by “core PCE,” the inflation measure that nearly always produces the lowest inflation readings in the US. But that 1.57% was nevertheless the highest since February 14, 2020:

The spread between the Treasury 2-year yield (0.14%) and the 10-year yield (1.57%) widened to 1.43 percentage points. By this measure, the yield curve is the steepest since November 2015:

This rise in the 10-year yield has set off clamoring among the crybabies on Wall Street for the Fed to do something to bring them down. They have already outlined the remedies, including prominently another “Operation Twist,” where the Fed sells Treasury securities with short maturities and buys Treasury securities with long maturities. This concentrated buying of long-dated Treasuries would raise their prices and thereby push down their yields. The Wall Street crybabies are clamoring for this because massive highly leveraged bets on Treasury securities are producing massive losses.

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This must be crossing some line.

Italy’s Government Is Outsourcing Its Economic Strategy To McKinsey (Jac.)

Upon its formation last month, Mario Draghi’s new government was heralded by almost all Italian and international media as a rescue operation. Where the former European Central Bank (ECB) chief Draghi had “saved the euro” in the 2010s, most outlets gushed over “Super Mario” and his plan to “save Italy” by splashing a mooted €209 billion in European recovery fund cash while “reforming” its lackluster economy. The kind of “reforms” this meant went unmentioned — and after all, this government bears no relation to voter decisions, or the coalitions that ran in the last general election. But for the fourth time since the 1990s, a president called on a technocrat from the world of finance and banking to form a cabinet, halfway through a parliament. Eight of Draghi’s twenty-three ministers are unelected technocrats, in a so-called government of experts.

If these figures are not party-political, they have similar backgrounds and instincts. Economy minister Daniele Franco is a former Bank of Italy official who drafted the famous 2011 ECB letter instructing the government to implement privatizations and cut back collective bargaining. Former Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao — today innovation and digital transition minister — is a former partner at private consultants McKinsey & Company. Now, it has been revealed that McKinsey is going to be tasked with writing Italy’s economic plan for the coming period, to be submitted for review by the European Commission at the end of next month. Notorious for its role in the Enron scandal as well as the 2008 financial crisis — as it promoted the boundless securitization of mortgage assets — and the botched vaccine rollout in France, the firm is now being called on to shape the Draghi government’s “reform” agenda.

La Repubblica, the country’s leading center-left daily, gushed over the move. “Faced with a race against time,” Draghi’s government “has assumed the position of a private corporation faced with a new business opportunity that isn’t part of its core activities.” While this same paper reported on March 1 that the need for “hurry” meant Draghi himself would write the recovery plan, together with finance minister Franco, this has now been outsourced. The suggestion that this is a purely “technical” collaboration — that McKinsey’s choices will not be political — is patently absurd, not least given that this claim is also widely made for Draghi’s “technical” government itself. For decades, the imposition of neoliberal recipes in Italy has been advanced through this same procedure, with the agenda advanced by privatizers couched in the dogma of “unavoidable choices.”

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And still nobody knows why?!

US Covid Cases Continue To Decline After Brief Plateau (JTN)

Daily new COVID-19 cases in the United States have continued declining after a brief plateau following a sharp drop from the beginning of the year. Cases have declined steeply since early January, baffling scientists who are struggling to explain the unexpected drop in COVID activity, particularly after weeks of dire warnings from health officials about the potential for a post-holiday spike. That decline leveled out in late February, with daily average case numbers appearing to be on a slightly upward trajectory at one point, leading experts to warn that positive test results could be preparing to explode again.


Yet cases appear to be dropping again, according to several data sources. The COVID Tracking Project indicates that daily average case numbers began slowly decreasing again around Feb. 27 and have continued on that downward trend over the past week. Likewise, the data website Worldometers also identifies average daily case numbers beginning a new decline at right around the same day. According to COVID Tracking, COVID-19 hospitalizations have continued on a seemingly unabated downward trajectory since early January, on Friday reaching levels not seen since late October.

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Not all restrictions.

Connecticut Lifting All Covid-19 Capacity Restrictions On Businesses (F.)

Connecticut will lift all capacity limits on certain businesses including restaurants, gyms, offices and houses of worship starting March 19, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Thursday, going further than most other Democratic-led states to roll back Covid-19 restrictions even as public health officials advise governors not to do so. Restaurants, retail businesses, libraries, personal services, indoor recreation facilities, gyms, fitness centers, museums, aquariums, zoos, offices and houses of worship will all have their capacity limits repealed. Social distancing protocols will still be in place and face masks will be required, and there will be some restrictions: theaters will remain restricted to 50% capacity, restaurants are limited to eight people per table and must close at 11 p.m. and bars that only serve beverages will still be closed entirely.


The state’s mask mandate will remain in effect. Gathering limits on social and recreational gatherings will also be increased March 19 to 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors at a private residence, or 100 people indoors and 200 outdoors at a commercial venue. On April 2, the state will open outdoor amusement parks, open indoor stadiums at 10% capacity and increase occupancy at outdoor event venues to 50% capacity or up to 10,000 people. Connecticut will be one of only a few Democratic-led states to have such relaxed capacity restrictions: Virginia does not have capacity restrictions at restaurants or places of worship but does at gyms, Wisconsin’s capacity limit order has expired and Kansas’ restrictions are determined by county, with many having few or no limits.

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“..depriving us all of autonomy and of the comforting, real-world support of friends and family, and robbing the less fortunate among us of health, of livelihoods, and, in the worst cases, of life itself.”

The Nightingale Alternative (Gillian Dymond)

It is a year now since I last took a train: a short return trip, from Leamington Spa to Oxford. On the journey out, I was lucky enough to find a seat in which, for some forty minutes, I shared the air with my fellow travellers. At Oxford station I rubbed shoulders with a multiplicity of strangers as I joined the throng surging towards the exit and proceeding slowly through the congested barriers, then made my way along busy streets, brushing against other human beings on the narrow pavements. At the Ashmolean I met a friend, and together we mingled freely with the rest of the visitors at the well-frequented Rembrandt exhibition, then chatted at length over a late lunch in the museum café, where the tables – disdaining any hint of anti-social distancing – were full to capacity.

Later, after a walk through Christchurch Meadow and along the river, exchanging smiles and occasionally the odd word with those I passed along the way, I spent some time browsing the shelves of Blackwell’s in daring proximity with other booklovers before deciding on a purchase and braving the jostle of the station platform to board a packed train back to Leamington. It was a very ordinary day – a day passed without fear as I came into contact with numerous unknown people, some of whom, no doubt, were suffering from the common cold or harbouring incipient or suppressed symptoms of influenza or even of Covid-19 (which, as we now know, had already been on the loose for several, possibly many, months at that time). Not for a moment did this disturb me.

Like all those in good health and unafflicted by obsessive-compulsive disorder, I judged the hasard of stepping out boldly into the microbial soup which surrounds and permeates our existence to be a risk worth taking in exchange for the spontaneous social interaction without which human beings cannot thrive. I never guessed that this could be the last time I would be free to enjoy a day of such unexceptionable pleasures. True, rumblings of the pandemic had been growing over the previous weeks, but memories of previous damp squibs – SARS, bird flu, swine flu – which the worst-case speculations of computer-modellers had repeatedly failed to ignite encouraged me to hope that present reports from China and Italy, too, would soon fade into a penumbra of failed sensationalism.

[..] And the lockdowns, distancing and masking began. For close on a year now official statistics and figures spun out by a team of approved government experts into webs of cautionary speculation have justified rule by decree, depriving us all of autonomy and of the comforting, real-world support of friends and family, and robbing the less fortunate among us of health, of livelihoods, and, in the worst cases, of life itself. To anyone with the most rudimentary understanding of economic interdependence, the consequences of this decision to quarantine the whole nation were obvious from the start, and were uncannily favourable to the objectives of Agendas 21 and 2030, as handed down from the UN, via national administrations, to local governments throughout the world: but the people of the UK, it seemed, were convinced by the official “narrative”, thousands of them assembling on their doorsteps each Thursday evening to shake their fists at The Virus, and demonstrate solidarity with the NHS.

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Ha ha!

“As one of President Trump’s MOST LOYAL supporters, I think that YOU, deserve the great honor of adding your name to the Official Trump ‘Thank You’ Card.”

Trump Sends Legal Notice To GOP To Stop Using His Name (Pol.)

Lawyers for former President DONALD TRUMP sent out cease-and-desist letters Friday to the three largest fundraising entities for the Republican Party — the RNC, NRCC and NRSC — for using his name and likeness on fundraising emails and merchandise, a Trump adviser tells Playbook. We reported yesterday that Trump was furious that his name has been bandied about by organizations that help Republicans who voted to impeach him — without his permission. Trump, who made his fortune in licensing, has always been sensitive to how his name has been used to fundraise and support members, even while in office.

On Friday, the RNC sent out two emails asking supporters to donate as a way to add their name to a “thank you” card for Trump. “President Trump will ALWAYS stand up for the American People, and I just thought of the perfect way for you to show that you support him!” the email states. “As one of President Trump’s MOST LOYAL supporters, I think that YOU, deserve the great honor of adding your name to the Official Trump ‘Thank You’ Card.” A follow-up email was sent hours later to “President Trump’s TOP supporters” warning of a deadline of 10 hours to get their names on the card.

None of the committees returned a request for comment. But privately GOP campaign types say it’s impossible not to use Trump’s name, as his policies are so popular with the base. If Trump really wants to help flip Congress, they argue he should be more generous. His team, however, sees this differently. “President Trump remains committed to the Republican Party and electing America First conservatives, but that doesn’t give anyone – friend or foe – permission to use his likeness without explicit approval,” said a Trump adviser.

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They’ll refuse.

Congressmen Demand Twitter’s Internal Docs Regarding Trump Censorship (JTN)

Two Republican representatives are renewing a demand that Twitter hand over internal documents regarding its decisions to censor and moderate content on its platforms, accusing the tech company of harboring significant bias against a large part of its user base. Reps. Jim Jordan and Ken Buck claimed in a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey this week that Twitter itself has played “a leading role in silencing and censoring political speech of conservative Americans.” The letter repeats a request that Jordan lodged last summer with which Twitter reportedly did not comply.


“In recent months, Twitter throttled the dissemination of a mainstream newspaper article critical of then-candidate Joe Biden’s son,” they wrote in the letter, “and later took the unprecedented step of de-platforming the sitting President of the United States. If Twitter can do this to the President of the United States, it can do it to any American for any reason.” The politicians demanded that Twitter hand over “an accounting of all content moderation decisions made by Twitter over the past year for users located within the United States, including which Twitter rule or policy the user allegedly violated and the content of the moderated tweet,” as well as “all documents and communications” related to its decision to censor several of then-President Donald Trump’s tweets last year.

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“Why would a state sponsored hacking campaign, especially from China, actually want that? Why would China want to attract more negative news about its country?”

Is China Hacking Random Servers To Put Itself Into A Bad Light? (MoA)

In January 2021, through its Network Security Monitoring service, Volexity detected anomalous activity from two of its customers’ Microsoft Exchange servers. Volexity identified a large amount of data being sent to IP addresses it believed were not tied to legitimate users. A closer inspection of the IIS logs from the Exchange servers revealed rather alarming results. … Through its analysis of system memory, Volexity determined the attacker was exploiting a zero-day server-side request forgery (SSRF) vulnerability in Microsoft Exchange (CVE-2021-26855). The attacker was using the vulnerability to steal the full contents of several user mailboxes. This vulnerability is remotely exploitable and does not require authentication of any kind, nor does it require any special knowledge or access to a target environment. The attacker only needs to know the server running Exchange and the account from which they want to extract e-mail.

The hackers used four different zero-day security holes in Exchange Server products. A zero-day security hole is one that was previously unknown and has never been used before. To find new zero-day security holes is difficult and expensive. But after they are found and made operational they are often easy to use. Whoever did this hack has invested quite some effort. Besides extracting emails the hackers also installed backdoors that give them remote access to the hacked Exchange systems. On March 2 Microsoft released patches for the four security holes. In its release it accused China of being behind the hack:

“Today, we’re sharing information about a state-sponsored threat actor identified by the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) that we are calling Hafnium. Hafnium operates from China, and this is the first time we’re discussing its activity. It is a highly skilled and sophisticated actor. Historically, Hafnium primarily targets entities in the United States for the purpose of exfiltrating information from a number of industry sectors, including infectious disease researchers, law firms, higher education institutions, defense contractors, policy think tanks and NGOs. While Hafnium is based in China, it conducts its operations primarily from leased virtual private servers (VPS) in the United States.”

[..] The attribution Microsoft makes is in light of the above quite weak. The direct attacks came from rented virtual private servers within the U.S. These were, says Microsoft, operated through machines in China. But how does Microsoft know who has actually control over those machines in China? Could they not be hacked too? Couldn’t the real actors sit anywhere on this planet and access them through the Internet? Microsoft also says that its attribution is “based on observed victimology, tactics and procedures”. The victims are described as “infectious disease researchers, law firms, higher education institutions, defense contractors, policy think tanks and NGOs”.

For a state sponsored campaign, especially one that burns four expensive zero-days, that victimology is unusually wide. It practically guaranteed that the attack would be detected fairly soon. “Tactics and procedures” are something that is even harder to attribute than the code used in the attack. Microsoft details some of these: “HAFNIUM has previously compromised victims by exploiting vulnerabilities in internet-facing servers, and has used legitimate open-source frameworks, like Covenant, for command and control. Once they’ve gained access to a victim network, HAFNIUM typically exfiltrates data to file sharing sites like MEGA.

This hack used legitimate open source tools that are widely available and are also used by many cybercrime organizations and secret services. What then are the specific ‘tactics and procedures’ which attribute this to China? Microsoft won’t say. There is also a fact that the hackers have gone into overdrive as soon as Microsoft released the patches. They now infect any system they can find. That surely will result in an extreme amount of international publicity. Why would a state sponsored hacking campaign, especially from China, actually want that? Why would China want to attract more negative news about its country? Could there be some other country that has an interest in pushing public accusations against China by linking it to massive global hacking campaign?

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Governments and central banks want control.

Bitcoin Could Soon Run Head First Into US Money Laundering Laws (ZH)

Among the challenges in regulating bitcoin will be the Biden administration’s handling of recent anti-money laundering laws put into place by the Trump administration pertaining to bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. The rules, implemented at the last-minute by the Trump administration, seek requirements for financial services firms to report identities of cryptocurrency holders, according to Bloomberg. The point of the rules is to stop attempts to use crypto as a means of transferring money illicitly. Lobbying against the regulations are “heavyweights from both K Street and Wall Street”, according to Bloomberg, including Fidelity and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce has said the rule would have “unintended long-term consequences” on the virtual currency industry.

Also lobbying against the rule have been “Republican lawmakers, including former Representative Cynthia Lummis, who is now a Wyoming senator; Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton and Democratic Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii”. The rules were implemented by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network or FinCEN, after President Trump lost the 2020 election. The move drew criticism and even the threat of lawsuits from pro-crypto trade groups. The rule would require filings to the Treasury every time a customer moves at least $10,000 worth of virtual currency into a wallet not hosted at an exchange. These are similar to the reports that banks already send under existing AML laws when customers take out $10,000 or more in cash.

The regulation would also require banks and exchanges to keep records of customers who send $3,000 or more of virtual currencies to someone else’s unhosted wallet. Obviously, such regulation would maim one of bitcoin’s biggest “assets”: the ability to transfer money anonymously and “outside the system”. Should Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen move forward with the rules, crypto services could wind up becoming more expensive – and some cryptocurrencies could even disappear altogether.

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Nice take.

The Dark Side Of “Eating Lower On The Food Chain” (Turchin)

Nine years ago I made one of the most consequential decisions of my life—I switched to the so-called Paleo Diet (“paleo” is a bit misleading, as I explain in the post). Had I not done so, I would certainly have contributed to the rising obesity statistics for the United States. Within six months of switching to Paleo diet I lost 20 pounds before equilibrating at my current weight. But weight is actually the least important thing. Much more important was a dramatic improvement of my general health I experienced in the months since switching. I feel better today than ten years ago, despite being (obviously enough) ten years older. The major change was eating much higher on the food chain. The only way to get protein on a purely plant-based diet is to eat grains and pulses, which means wheat and beans.

But those are precisely the foods elimination of which resulted in my health improvement. I sometimes unknowingly consume small amounts of wheat, when a restaurant chef uses flour for the sauce (despite explicit entreaties not do so). The next day I know that I had been poisoned. The other thing is that it’s not just protein deficiency. Your body doesn’t need that much protein. The biggest problem with purely plant diet is that you don’t get enough healthful fat. Instead you end up poisoning yourself with seed oils. This is why I watch with increasing alarm the current trend to “cancel” meat. Last year the town of Cambridge, home of one of two best universities in UK, banned meat. So Cambridge is now off my list of places to go to (fortunately, I visited it years ago, when it was still safe for carnivores).

I am very worried that the veganism tide will continue spreading, leaving us carnivores on reservations (or even driving people following Paleo diet to extinction). Somebody is sure to immediately accuse me that I don’t care about the environment. Au contraire. Some of the most depressing environments that I’ve seen are giant agricultural fields (e.g. driving through Iowa).

Compare it to what they looked like before:

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“..children who frequently use mobile devices are more likely to process stimuli on a “local” level, for example they “process the details” of an image first rather than the overall image itself.”

Mobile Devices Alter Children’s Minds, Change How They Perceive The World (JTN)

Researchers in Hungary this week announced the findings of studies into what effects digital devices have on young minds, concluding that the increased usage of such technology has changed how younger individuals interact with the world around them. In a press release, scientists at Eötvös Loránd University said that children of the “Alpha Generation,” or those born after 2010, “typically grow up with mobile devices in their hands” which “seems to change how they perceive the world.” Summarizing their findings, the Hungarian researchers claim that children who frequently use mobile devices are more likely to process stimuli on a “local” level, for example they “process the details” of an image first rather than the overall image itself.


The results “show that the type of experiences children meet matters much,” the release said, “because at this age the brain is very plastic, so such massive early exposure may have a significant long-term effect.” “The atypical attentional style in mobile user children is not necessarily bad,” one of the scholars commented, “but different for sure, and we cannot ignore this – for example in pedagogy.

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Mar 032021
 


Jean-Michel Basquiat Irony of the Negro Policeman 1981

 

Texas And Mississippi Drop Covid Restrictions – Even Mask Mandates (F.)
Russian Deputy PM Golikova Predicts ‘Herd Immunity’ By End Of Summer (RT)
Microsoft, LA School District Develop COVID ‘Daily Pass’ App (DC)
Israel Launches Covid-Tracking ‘Freedom Bracelet’ (RT)
Is Europe Open For Summer? All Bets Are Off For US Travelers (F.)
EU’s Faltering COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Triggers Rebellion (G&M)
The Age of Social Murder (Chris Hedges)
Warren’s Wealth Tax Would Cost 100 Richest Americans $78 Billion (Hill)
Andrew Cuomo Is Living To Regret The Deal He Pushed On Letitia James (IC)
Tanden Withdraws Nomination As Biden Budget Chief (Hill)
Remember That GDP = Waste (CHS)
The Goldilocks Stimulus Myth (Varoufakis)
The Opposite of 2008 (Ben Hunt)
Dr. Seuss Didn’t Have ‘A Racist Bone’ In His Body – Stepdaughter (NYP)
There Is No Such Thing as “White” Math (Klainerman)

 

 

“With” COVID.

 

 

Do we all understand why this is inevitable? Abbott’s biggest critic says he “is doing what he does best: leaving Texans to fend for themselves.”

But isn’t what what Texans want? Florida is open, and doing much better than New York, which is closed. Science as a religion does not work.

Texas And Mississippi Drop Covid Restrictions – Even Mask Mandates (F.)

Texas and Mississippi are both dropping their Covid-19 restrictions on businesses and ending their mask mandates, the states’ governors announced Tuesday, the latest in a string of states that have relaxed or dropped restrictions as cases have fallen nationwide despite public health officials strongly urging against it. “It is time to open Texas 100%,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said at a press conference Tuesday, saying “all businesses, of any type” can fully open as of next Wednesday. Abbott said increased Covid-19 testing, personal protective equipment and vaccines put the state in a “far better position” than when orders were first issued, and “Texans have mastered the daily habits to avoid getting Covid.”

County judges can impose local restrictions if hospitalizations raise to more than 15% of the region’s hospital bed capacity for seven days straight, Abbott said, but they cannot impose occupancy restrictions of less than 50% and cannot impose penalties against people who don’t wear masks. Gov. Tate Reeves announced Mississippi will also rescind a mask mandate that required them only in certain counties—the state already dropped a statewide mask order in September—and will lift all business restrictions except in schools and a 50% capacity limit for indoor arenas. Though less stringent than some other states, Texas does have social distancing restrictions in place for now for many businesses, such as a 75% capacity limit on indoor dining and gyms and a 50% capacity limit on bars, as well as an order for them to stop serving alcohol at 11 p.m.

Texas is the largest state so far to entirely drop its Covid-19 restrictions, but the state and Mississippi follow Florida and other Republican-led states that have taken similar measures. “Personal vigilance to follow the safe standards is still needed to contain Covid. It’s just that now, state mandates are no longer needed,” Abbott said. “At this time, people and businesses don’t need the state telling them how to operate.” “Abbott removing a statewide mandate while preaching personal responsibility to prevent the spread of COVID is an abdication of his own personal and professional responsibility to keep Texans safe,” Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement Tuesday. “By removing all previous state mandates and opening the state to 100 percent, Governor Abbott, who has never taken this pandemic seriously, is doing what he does best: leaving Texans to fend for themselves.”

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I’m still a bit amazed at how the meaning of “herd immunity” seamlessly came to include vaccines.

Russian Deputy PM Golikova Predicts ‘Herd Immunity’ By End Of Summer (RT)

If the current Covid-19 vaccination rates are maintained, there will be collective immunity in Russia by August, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova has predicted, while making it clear the pandemic is still “quite serious.” Speaking in an interview with news network TASS, published Tuesday, Golikova revealed that the government is planning to reach 60 percent collective immunity – one of the prerequisites for removing all pandemic-related restrictions. “In order to determine the final date of achieving collective immunity, we have developed an epidemiological and mathematical model,” Golikova said. “If vaccination is carried out at the same pace as it is now, and the number of vaccination points remains the same, then the country will achieve collective immunity in August 2021.”

The deputy prime minister also noted that the number of detected cases is slowly declining, after a peak in late December. On Tuesday, the official Covid-19 HQ reported 10,565 new daily instances of coronavirus – a steep drop from the 29,935 figure of just over two months ago. “The numbers of new cases of coronavirus infection are still quite serious, although reassuringly decreasing,” she said. “You will remember that we decided to ease measures last May, when we were at just around this point in terms of the number of new cases.” However, Golikova was also careful to note that viral infections spread more in winter and at the beginning of spring, meaning precautions still need to be taken. She also refused to name a date when life in Russia would get back to normal.

“Neither we nor the world has yet accumulated enough experience to understand how long the immune defense lasts,” she explained. “Of course, everyone is now relaxed and believes that Covid is going away. The situation is better now, but the virus is still not going anywhere. You need to take care of yourself and your loved ones.”

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Wow, this is scary: “School staff members dedicated to be ‘Welcomers’ will be at every site to scan the QR code and take your temperature at the entrance.”

Microsoft, LA School District Develop COVID ‘Daily Pass’ App (DC)

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has worked with Microsoft to develop the “Daily Pass” app to monitor coronavirus the vaccination status, health symptoms and temperatures of its students. “Sort of like the golden ticket in ‘Willy Wonka,’ everyone with this pass can easily get into a school building,” LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said during his weekly update on Sunday, according to Fox News. “Los Angeles Unified has launched a one-stop shop web app built specifically for the District to ensure that we get students, faculty and administrators back to schools and district offices as safely as possible,” read a statement on the school’s website, which included an animated clip about the app.


In the video, a student uses the app in order to gain their “daily pass” to go back to school. The pass includes a daily health check, details about their “weekly” coronavirus test and scheduling for their vaccination once it becomes available. “Students, parents and visitors will access the Daily Pass on any computer, tablet or mobile device at dailypass.lausd.net. Answer the daily health check questions (not more than a two-minute process!),” the LAUSD website reads, describing the process for students. “If the individual has recently tested negative for COVID-19 and completes the online health check, a QR code will be generated for that day and specific site location,” it continues. “School staff members dedicated to be ‘Welcomers’ will be at every site to scan the QR code and take your temperature at the entrance.”

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And so is this. It definitely looks like the opposite of freedom.

Israel Launches Covid-Tracking ‘Freedom Bracelet’ (RT)

Israel has unveiled a coronavirus-tracking bracelet as an alternative to a two-week quarantine for incoming travelers, sparking privacy concerns as a top court moved to curb the Shin Bet spy agency’s role in contact tracing. A pilot program for the tracking bracelet kicked off at Ben Gurion Airport on Monday, where 100 devices were doled out to arriving travelers as a way to avoid a stay at a military-administered quarantine hotel. Instead, those opting for the bracelet system – which features the electronic wristband, a smartphone app and a wall-mounted tracking device – will be free to return home to wait out the two-week isolation period.

While the device will alert authorities if participants venture too far from the wall-mounted tracker, Ordan Trabelsi, the CEO of SuperCom, the company behind the bracelet, said it does not collect any other information, insisting the tech is minimally intrusive. “Nobody is forced to do it, but for those who are interested, it gives them another option: more flexibility,” he said. The pilot project – which Trabelsi has already called to expand to “thousands of units” for “wide-scale use” – may trigger further anxiety given SuperCom’s past work with a number of governments around the world to provide “offender monitoring” services, using its tracking tech to surveil prisoners and detainees. The firm signed a contract last year with a government agency in Wisconsin to offer the same service, and also sells technology used for electronic IDs, voter biometrics and cybersecurity.

As the rollout of the tracking bracelets got underway on Monday, Israel’s top court ruled that the country’s domestic spying agency, the Shin Bet, must rein in its Covid-19 contact-tracing efforts, calling the surveillance “draconian” and a threat to Israeli democracy. While the government has employed the Shin Bet for tracing since last March, the court has repeatedly challenged the practice, finally ruling that the agency may only be used under special circumstances beginning on March 14. “From [that] day on, the use of the Shin Bet will be limited to cases in which a confirmed coronavirus patient was not cooperating in his [epidemiological] investigation, whether intentionally or not, or gave no report of his encounters,” the court said.

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“..all we know about the vaccines is that they will very effectively reduce your risk of severe disease. We haven’t seen any evidence yet indicating whether or not they stop transmission.”

Is Europe Open For Summer? All Bets Are Off For US Travelers (F.)

There is some optimism in the U.S. that increased vaccination rates, decreasing Covid-19 rates and the rise of health passport schemes could open international travel up for the summer. At a time when EU countries are raising borders, however, all the signs in Europe point to the fact that summer 2021 is still incredibly uncertain for anyone wishing to travel from outside the region. There are extremely conflicting views about summer. On one side, the optimists. Intelligencer gave 9 Reasons To Believe The Worst Of The Pandemic Is Over and The Atlantic quoted Anthony Fauci’s prediction that herd immunity might be reached by August and that Covid-19 cases across the U.S. are declining much more sharply than anticipated, declaring that “the summer of 2021 is shaping up to be historic.”

On the other side are reports that the summer might indeed be historic but for entirely different reasons. The United Nations World Tourism Organization called 2020 the worst year on record for tourism but recently stated that 2021’s prospects had worsened. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, tourist destinations had been hoping for a sorely needed rebound but “with vaccine rollouts delayed in some places and new virus strains appearing, it is looking more likely that international travel could be stalled for years.” Worse still, 41% of experts polled by the UN didn’t think that pre-pandemic levels of tourism would be reached until 2024. It’s a view supported by the International Air Transport Association which said that air travel might only improve by 13% this year and industry insiders who said that it may be that long haul travel doesn’t properly resume until 2023 or 2024.

Many people are pinning hopes on the idea of vaccination passports, coupled with increased vaccination rates, to open up borders by the summer. But as reported by Bloomberg, this is far from sure. As stated by the World Health Organization, no one yet knows how vaccines will stop the spread of Covid-19, nor is it clear how the vaccines will hold up against variant strains. Digital health cards or vaccination/immunity passports are fraught with political and social obstacles, raising issues of equality and discrimination, never mind logistics. Margaret Harris, a WHO spokesperson in Geneva told Bloomberg, “it’s very important for people to understand that at the moment, all we know about the vaccines is that they will very effectively reduce your risk of severe disease. We haven’t seen any evidence yet indicating whether or not they stop transmission.”

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The EU doing what it does best. Be useless.

EU’s Faltering COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Triggers Rebellion (G&M)

The European Union’s vaccine unity has shattered as shortages push a few desperate countries to seek outside supplies and create foreign partnerships. Frustrated by the vaccine shortages, at least four EU countries – Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland – have struck deals to buy Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, or are considering doing so. The Chinese vaccine is also a contender. The Russian and Chinese products have not been approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The EU’s vaccine rollout remains stubbornly slow, although the pace has picked up somewhat in recent days. By Tuesday, the 27-country EU – population 450 million – had administered only 33.5 million doses, equivalent to 7.5 per 100 citizens.


[..] In a blow to the EC vaccine strategy, which is overseen by EC president Ursula von der Leyen, Slovakia and Hungary granted emergency approval of the Sputnik vaccine. Slovakia, which currently has the highest number of pandemic deaths per capita over a seven-day period, is to receive two million doses of the Sputnik vaccine. The question is whether one of the EU’s big countries will also break ranks and order outside vaccine supplies. Francesco Galietti, chief executive of the Rome political consultancy Policy Sonar, said that Mario Draghi, Italy’s new prime minister, might be forced to buy the Russian vaccine if Italy’s campaign doesn’t pick up momentum soon. “Draghi will have to carefully assess whether the Western vaccines are enough,” he said in an interview. “He seems to have realized that Italy cannot survive economically if the vaccine is not rolled out before the summer. He knows the importance of tourism to Italy.”

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The larger picture.

The Age of Social Murder (Chris Hedges)

The two million deaths that have resulted from the ruling elite’s mishandling of the global pandemic will be dwarfed by what is to follow. The global catastrophe that awaits us, already baked into the ecosystem from the failure to curb the use of fossil fuels and animal agriculture, presage new, deadlier pandemics, mass migrations of billions of desperate people, plummeting crop yields, mass starvation, and systems collapse. The science that elucidates this social death is known to the ruling elites. The science that warned us of this pandemic, and others that will follow, is known to the ruling elites. The science that shows that a failure to halt carbon emissions will lead to a climate crisis and ultimately the extinction of the human species and most other species is known to the ruling elites. They cannot claim ignorance. Only indifference.

The facts are incontrovertible. Each of the last four decades have been hotter than the last. In 2018, the UN International Panel on Climate Change released a special report on the systemic effects of a 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) rise in temperatures. It makes for very grim reading. Soaring temperature rises — we are already at a 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.16 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels — are already baked into the system, meaning that even if we stopped all carbon emission today, we still face catastrophe. Anything above a temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius will render the earth unhabitable. The Arctic ice along with the Greenland ice sheet are now expected to melt regardless of how much we reduce carbon emissions. A seven-meter (23-foot) rise in sea level, which is what will take place once the ice is gone, means every town and city on a coast at sea level will have to be evacuated.

[..] As the climate crisis worsens, the political constrictions will tighten, making public resistance difficult. We do not live, yet, in the brutal Orwellian state that appears on the horizon, one where all dissidents will suffer the fate of Julian Assange. But this Orwellian state is not far away. This makes it imperative that we act now. The ruling elites, despite the accelerating and tangible ecological collapse, mollify us, either by meaningless gestures or denial. They are the architects of social murder. Social murder, as Friedrich Engels noted in his 1845 book “The Condition of the Working-Class in England,” one of the most important works of social history, is built into the capitalist system. The ruling elites, Engels writes, those that hold “social and political control,” were aware that the harsh working and living conditions during the industrial revolution doomed workers to “an early and unnatural death:”

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Something tells me they can afford it.

Warren’s Wealth Tax Would Cost 100 Richest Americans $78 Billion (Hill)

A new wealth tax proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and other progressives on Monday would result in the 100 richest Americans paying over $78 billion in taxes annually, according to analysis by Bloomberg News. The bill, called the Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act, would require households with a net worth of more than $50 million to pay 2 percent of their wealth every year. A 1 percent surtax would be added for those with a net worth in excess of $1 billion. That would mean Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the richest person in the world, would face an additional $5.4 billion in taxes if the bill were signed into law this year, according to Bloomberg News. Tesla CEO Elon Musk would pay an additional $5.2 billion, Bill Gates would pay $4 billion more and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg would see his tax bill increase by about $3 billion.


The legislation, which is unlikely to pass Congress, would affect tax payments starting in 2023. “As Congress develops additional plans to help our economy, the wealth tax should be at the top of the list to help pay for these plans because of the huge amounts of revenue it would generate,” Warren said on Monday when unveiling the new proposal. “This is money that should be invested in child care and early education, K-12, infrastructure, all of which are priorities of President Biden and Democrats in Congress,” she added. “I’m confident lawmakers will catch up to the overwhelming majority of Americans who are demanding more fairness, more change, and who believe it’s time for a wealth tax.” According to Bloomberg News, the 100 richest Americans added $598 billion to their fortunes last year. Warren’s proposed tax would take 13 percent of that added wealth.

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Your daily drip drip.

Andrew Cuomo Is Living To Regret The Deal He Pushed On Letitia James (IC)

In 2003, Letitia “Tish” James shook the New York Democratic political establishment, becoming the first City Council candidate to win office solely as a nominee of the Working Families Party. James spent the next 15 years as an outspoken, independent-minded progressive and a leading voice for the city’s social movements. In 2013, despite being vastly outspent, she won a tight race for New York City public advocate, a stepping stone to mayor. Her close alliance with the city’s grassroots was considered by political observers to be both a benefit and an obstacle. She had people behind her, but she didn’t have money — and moving to the next level required lots of it. When New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was forced to resign amid a #MeToo scandal in 2018, James was quickly discussed as a potential successor. But could she raise the funds?

That’s where Andrew Cuomo came in. The state’s governor, who was seeking his third term, was in the midst of a long-running feud with the organization that was so intimately linked with James’s rise, the WFP. Under pressure from Cuomo, local unions had left the party, taking their clout and financing with them. In April 2018, the WFP came for the king, endorsing activist and actor Cynthia Nixon for the Democratic primary over Cuomo, who vowed to destroy the organization. Cuomo had long treated figures in New York politics — his playground — like kids to be bullied. He turned his attention to James. In May, Cuomo made James an excruciating offer: He would endorse her and open his donor network to her, but it would come at a price. Not only would she have to endorse him, she would have to publicly refuse the support of the WFP.

Ripped from the pages of a cliched mafia screenplay, James would have to prove her loyalty by executing her longtime ally. James was left with two bad options: Accepting Cuomo’s offer was the most likely route to winning the election, but it would come with accusations that she had traded in her trademark independence and social justice values. Rejecting it could cost her the election and make Cuomo into a fatal enemy. James took the deal. The WFP endorsed her anyway, against her public will, while jointly endorsing Zephyr Teachout. The bulk of their spending went toward opposing the most right-leaning candidate, Sean Patrick Maloney, who represents a congressional district upstate.

In the fictional version of these parables, a deal with the devil always ends the same way: The devil always gets his due. But New York politics is not a parable. The story’s new plot twist conforms more closely to a Disney version: Cuomo is getting his due of a different kind, with scrutiny over his failed coronavirus response and an investigation into sexual harassment claims. His fate now rests with Tish James.

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She’s just one of a large group. And she’ll be in the administration anyway.

Tanden Withdraws Nomination As Biden Budget Chief (Hill)

Neera Tanden has withdrawn her nomination to head President Biden’s White House budget office after her prospects of Senate confirmation flamed out.The White House made the announcement on Tuesday evening, capping a tumultuous few weeks surrounding the fight over her nomination. Tanden, who would have been the first woman of color to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), faced scrutiny over mean tweets she had written about Republicans and progressive Democrats alike in her previous role heading the Center for American Progress think tank.“I have accepted Neera Tanden’s request to withdraw her name from nomination for Director of the Office of Management and Budget,” Biden said in a statement.

“I have the utmost respect for her record of accomplishment, her experience and her counsel, and I look forward to having her serve in a role in my Administration. She will bring valuable perspective and insight to our work.”Tanden is Biden’s first Cabinet nominee to be withdrawn from consideration, making this an early blow for the president. The White House spent the past two weeks insisting there was a path to confirmation for Tanden and vowed to fight for her, even as her prospects dimmed.Tanden is expected to be appointed to an administration role that does not require Senate confirmation.A handful of names have circulated as potential replacements for Tanden. Shalanda Young, who on Wednesday underwent a confirmation hearing to be the deputy OMB director, is seen as the most likely nominee.

In her controversial tweets, many of which were deleted in recent months, Tanden compared Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to Voldemort and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to a vampire and insinuated that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) benefited from Russian hacking in the 2016 election.In two confirmation hearings, she repeatedly apologized for the tweets and promised to strike a more collegial tone as a member of the administration.Her nomination began to unravel when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) pulled his support, citing the need for comity. In the evenly divided Senate, that left Tanden reliant on support from centrist Republicans such as Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), who also was a target of Tanden’s tweets. That support was not forthcoming.

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As I’ve said 1000 times: Our economies run on waste.

Remember That GDP = Waste (CHS)

We’re told the gross domestic product (GDP) measures growth, but what it really measures is waste: capital, labor and resources that are squandered and then mislabeled “growth” for PR purposes. If we only manage what we measure, then we’re mismanaging our economy by promoting waste as the only metric we measure and incentivize. Forecasts now predict a rousing 6.8% “growth” in 2021 GDP. In other words, the amount of resources and capital being squandered is going parabolic and we love it! 50 million autos and trucks stuck in traffic, burning millions of gallons of fuel while going nowhere? Growth! All that wasted fuel adds to GDP. Everyone who works from home detracts from “growth” since they didn’t waste fuel sitting in traffic jams. That’s bad! Wasting millions of gallons of gasoline is “growth”!

Repaving a little-used road: growth! Never mind the money could have been invested in repairing a heavily traveled road, or adding safe bikeways, etc.–in the current neo-Keynesian system, building bridges to nowhere is “infrastructure growth.” GDP has no mechanism to measure the opportunity costs of squandering capital, labor and resources on investments with marginal or even negative returns. Buying a new refrigerator to replace a broken one that could have been fixed by replacing a $10 sensor: growth! GDP has no mechanism for calculating the utility still remaining in roads, vehicles, buildings, etc. that are replaced–throwing away all the fixed-investment’s remaining utility to buy a new replacement is strongly encouraged because it adds to “growth.”

Planned obsolescence that sends everything on a conveyor belt to the landfill is “growth”– we love the Landfill Economy because all that incredibly needless waste is “growth”! Building and maintaining extraordinarily costly weapons systems that are already obsolete: growth! The gargantuan future costs of interest paid by taxpayers on the debt borrowed to pay for failed weapons systems like the trillion-dollar rathole known as the F-35 aircraft program is not calculated by GDP. The staggering costs of indebting future taxpayers is ignored by GDP– the only thing that counts in GDP is “growth” in spending, no matter how useless. [..] GDP has no mechanism to measure the value of alternatives that use less capital, labor and resources to get the same results.

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How to get it just right.

The Goldilocks Stimulus Myth (Varoufakis)

To see why there can be no “Goldilocks” stimulus that gets the amount “just right,” it helps to engage the critics who argue that the administration’s proposal would overheat the economy and hand the Republicans the midterms. Central to their prediction is their tacit assumption that there is also a Goldilocks interest rate and a corresponding stimulus size that will deliver it. What would render any rate of interest “just right”? First, it would achieve the right balance between available savings and productive investment. Second, it would not unleash a cascade of corporate bankruptcies, bad loans, and a fresh banking crisis. And there’s the rub: It is not at all clear that there is a single interest rate that can do both.

Once upon a time, there was. In the 1950s and early 1960s, under the Bretton Woods system, an interest rate of around 4% did the trick of balancing savings and investment while keeping bank profitability at a level that allowed credit to reproduce itself sustainably. Back then, if investment fell below available savings for too long, and failed to recover despite a reduction in the interest rate, a well-designed government stimulus raised investment back to the level of savings, the rate of interest picked up, and balance was restored. Alas, we no longer live in that kind of world. The reason capitalism no longer works like that is the manner in which the Obama administration, aided and abetted by the Federal Reserve, re-floated the sinking Western banks. The 2008 crisis was as deep and terrible as that of 1929.

As in 1929, sequential bankruptcies, unemployment, and falling prices meant no one was willing to borrow. Interest rates nosedived to zero and capitalism fell into what John Maynard Keynes referred to as the “liquidity trap.” Once at zero, the interest rate could not go much lower without destroying what was left of the banking sector, insurance companies, pension funds, and other financial institutions. The great difference between 1929 and 2008 was that in 2008 the banks were not allowed to fail. One way to save them was a large enough fiscal stimulus. Direct injections of freshly minted money to consumers and firms – to pay off debts and to increase consumption and investment – would have re-floated Main Street and, indirectly, Wall Street. This was the road not taken by the Obama administration.

Instead, the Fed printed trillions of dollars, and the failing banks were re-floated directly. But while the banks were saved, the economy was not freed from the liquidity trap. The banks lent the new money to corporations, but, because their customers were not re-floated, managers were unwilling to risk plowing the money into good jobs, buildings, or machines. Instead, they took it to the stock market, causing the largest-ever disconnect between share prices and the real economy.

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The warnings of inflation are getting louder.

The Opposite of 2008 (Ben Hunt)

In late 2007 I started counting the For Sale signs on the 20 minute drive to work through the neighborhoods of Weston and Westport, CT. I’m not exactly sure why it made my risk antenna start quivering in the first place … honestly, I just like to count things – anything – when I’m doing a repetitive task. Coming into 2008 there were a mid-teen number of For Sale signs on my regular route, up from high single-digits in 2007. By May of 2008 there were 35+ For Sale signs. If there’s a better real-world signal of financial system distress than everyone who takes Metro North from Westport to Grand Central trying to sell their homes all at the same time and finding no buyers … I don’t know what that signal is. The insane amount of housing supply in Wall Street bedroom communities in early 2008 was a crucial datapoint in my figuring out the systemic risks and market ramifications of the Great Financial Crisis.


Last week, for the first time in years, I made the old drive to count the number of For Sale signs. Know how many there were?Zero. And then on Friday I saw this article from the NY Times – Where Have All the Houses Gone? – with these two graphics:I mean … my god.Here’s where I am right now as I try to piece together what the Opposite of 2008 means for markets and real-world.

1) Home price appreciation will not show up in official inflation stats. In fact, given that a) rents are flat to declining, and b) the Fed uses “rent equivalents” as their modeled proxy for housing inputs to cost of living calculations, it’s entirely possible that soaring home prices will end up being a negative contribution to official inflation statistics. This is, of course, absolutely insane, but it’s why we will continue to hear Jay Powell talk about “transitory” inflation that the Fed “just doesn’t see”.

2) Cash-out mortgage refis and HELOCs are going to explode. On Friday, I saw that Rocket Mortgage reported on their quarterly call that refi applications were coming in at their fastest rate ever. As the kids would say, I’m old enough to remember the tailwind that home equity withdrawals provided for … everything … in 2005-2007. This will also “surprise” the Fed.

3) Middle class (ie, home-owning) blue collar labor mobility is dead. If you need to move to find a new job, you’re a renter. You’re not going to be able to buy a home in your new metro area. That really doesn’t matter for white collar labor mobility, because you can work remotely. You don’t have to move to find a new job if you’re a white collar worker. Or if you want to put this in terms of demographics rather than class, this is great for boomers and awful for millennials and Gen Z’ers who want to buy a house and start a family.

4) As for markets … I think it is impossible for the Fed NOT to fall way behind the curve here. I think it is impossible for the Fed NOT to be caught flat-footed here. I think it is impossible for the Fed NOT to underreact for months and then find themselves in a position where they must overreact just to avoid a serious melt-up in real-world prices and pockets of market-world. Could a Covid variant surge tap the deflationary brakes on all this? Absolutely. But let’s hope that doesn’t happen! And even if it does happen, that’s only going to constrict housing supply still more, which is the real driver of these inflationary pressures.

It’s just like 2008, except … the opposite.In 2008, the US housing market – together with a Fed that thought the subprime crisis was “contained” – delivered the mother of all deflationary shocks to the global economy.In 2021, the US housing market – together with a Fed that thinks inflationary pressures are “transitory” – risks delivering the mother of all inflationary shocks.It’s the only question that long-term investors MUST get right. You don’t have to get it right immediately. You don’t have to track and turn with every small movement of its path. But you MUST get this question roughly right: Am I in an inflationary world or a deflationary world? And yes, there’s an ET note on this. Because the Fourth Horseman is inflation.

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Louis-Ferdinand Céline certainly did. But his work is still great literature.

Dr. Seuss Didn’t Have ‘A Racist Bone’ In His Body – Stepdaughter (NYP)

One of Dr. Seuss’ stepdaughters insisted to The Post on Tuesday that the world-famous children’s author was no racist — and that she hopes his six controversial kiddie books yanked from publication will be back. “There wasn’t a racist bone in that man’s body — he was so acutely aware of the world around him and cared so much,’’ Lark Grey Dimond-Cates said of her late, now-embattled stepdad, whose real name was Theodor Seuss Geisel. The company overseeing the legacy of the Dr. Seuss books, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, announced Tuesday that it will stop selling six of his titles because they “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.”

Dimond-Cates said DSE, which works with publisher Penguin Random House, informed her Monday about its decision to not continue printing “If I Ran the Zoo,” “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!,” “Scrambled Eggs Super!” and “The Cat’s Quizzer.” “I think in this day and age it’s a wise decision,” she told The Post of the move.“I think this is a world that right now is in pain, and we’ve all got to be very gentle and thoughtful and kind with each other.“This is just very difficult, painful times that we live in,” said Dimond-Cates, a California sculptor, who added that Geisel came into her life when she was in grade school.

“We’re taking that into account and being thoughtful. We don’t want to upset anybody.’’Dimond-Cates’ mother was Geisel’s second wife, Audrey Geisel, and the sculptor also has a sister, another of the author’s stepdaughters, Leagrey Dimond. Dr. Seuss did not have any children of his own. Still, Dimond-Cates said she hopes the six pulled books will eventually go back into print “because his body of work is unique.”

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“The real antiracists will stand up and oppose this nonsense.”

There Is No Such Thing as “White” Math (Klainerman)

In my position as a professor of mathematics at Princeton, I have witnessed the decline of universities and cultural institutions as they have embraced political ideology at the expense of rigorous scholarship. Until recently — this past summer, really — I had naively thought that the STEM disciplines would be spared from this ideological takeover. I was wrong. Attempts to “deconstruct” mathematics, deny its objectivity, accuse it of racial bias, and infuse it with political ideology have become more and more common — perhaps, even, at your child’s elementary school. This phenomenon is part of what has been dubbed “The Great Awokening.” As others have explained powerfully, the ideology incubated in academia, where it indoctrinated plenty of bright minds. It then migrated, through those true believers, into our important cultural, religious and political institutions. Now it is affecting some of the country’s most prominent businesses.

[..] For historical reasons, we often discuss contributions to the field of mathematics from the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Chinese, Indians and Arabs and refer to them as distinct entities. They have all contributed through a unique cultural dialogue to the creation of a truly magnificent edifice accessible today to every man and woman on the planet. Though we pay tribute to great historical figures who inform the practice of mathematics, the subject can be taught — and often is — with no reference to the individuals who have contributed to it. In that sense it is uniquely universal. Schools throughout the world teach the same basic body of mathematics. They differ only by the methodology and intensity with which they instruct students.

It is precisely this universality of math — together with the extraordinary ability of American universities to reward hard work and talent — that allowed me, and so many other young scientists and mathematicians, to come to this country and achieve success beyond our wildest dreams. The idea that focusing on getting the “right answer” is now considered among some self-described progressives a form of bias or racism is offensive and extraordinarily dangerous. The entire study of mathematics is based on clearly formulated definitions and statements of fact. If this were not so, bridges would collapse, planes would fall from the sky, and bank transactions would be impossible. The ability of mathematics to provide right answers to well-formulated problems is not something specific to one culture or another; it is really the essence of mathematics.

To claim otherwise is to argue that somehow the math taught in places like Iran, China, India or Nigeria is not genuinely theirs but borrowed or forged from “white supremacy culture.” It is hard to imagine a more ignorant and offensive statement. Finally, and most importantly, the woke approach to mathematics is particularly poisonous to those it pretends to want to help. Let’s start with the reasonable assumption that mathematical talent is equally distributed at birth to children from all socio-economic backgrounds, independent of ethnicity, sex and race. Those born in poor, uneducated families have clear educational disadvantages relative to others. But mathematics can act as a powerful equalizer. Through its set of well-defined, culturally unbiased, unambiguous set of rules, mathematics gives smart kids the potential to be, at least in this respect, on equal footing with all others. They can stand out by simply finding the right answers to questions with objective results.

There is no such thing as “white” mathematics. There is no reason to assume, as the activists do, that minority kids are not capable of mathematics or of finding the “right answers.” And there can be no justification for, in the name of “equity” or anything else, depriving students of the rigorous education that they need to succeed. The real antiracists will stand up and oppose this nonsense.

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Feb 042021
 


John William Godward Dolce Far Niente (Sweet Idleness, or A Pompeian Fishpond) 1904

 

 

One year into the continuing COVID emergency, it’s high time to ask questions about the “legal status” of various measures and restrictions applied by various governments- as well as their other policies. Having those questions asked out in the open is good for everyone, not least for the governments themselves. If only because a government doesn’t make law, it is only supposed to abide by it while governing.

Which means the law has to be tested by courts. That someone would have to start a court case to do this in these unusual and “extreme” times is already a step too far; courts should take that upon themselves (and I know, courts don’t usually do that). Whenever a government announces another measure or restriction, its legality should be tested immediately. It is not a good sign that this hardly appears to happen. The government itself should initiate the process.

Imagine if a court waits a year or more to issue an opinion on the measures, and finds -some of- them to be illegal. How do you explain that to people, as a government, or as a court? People who’ve lost their jobs, their savings, their businesses, and are then told it was all illegal to begin with?! Nobody should want that mess.

 

Much of what governments decide is presented as being justified by the term “emergency”. But this particular “emergency” has lasted for a year now, and you could begin by asking a court how long an “emergency” can and should be able to last. Also, what extra powers can a government claim just because it chooses to label something an emergency? Before you know it, it starts to feel like a dictatorship.

Applicable legislation will differ from country to country, but there is little doubt that in most western democracies, laws concerning the legal powers of a government will be quite similar. If only because they copied from each other all the time. Governments do all appear to think they have a lot of power, though, and I personally would like to see where that power is engraved in their respective laws, and what part of it is truly democratic.

A bit of an aside, something I’ve talked about multiple times, and something I think perhaps originates in legal overreach: Our societies appear to have become one dimensional (never a good idea) : governments act as if there is only one problem, COVID, and discard all others, cancers, mental health, economic bereavement.

Also one dimensional: the only response to COVID is a vaccine; all other possible responses are ignored. This is curious in a 3-dimensional world, though perhaps not in a one dimensional one. Still, even there too, the law must be tested.

 

Back to legal issues: Does a government have the legal standing to force millions of people not to work, millions of businesses not to open, millions of kids not to go to school? My answer would be: perhaps, but certainly never before they’ve exhausted every single other avenue to solve the problem they seek to solve.

And that is something no government I’ve seen has done. Still, what does the law say? If and when you, as a government, allow an emergency to last for a year, then what part of the blame for that falls on you?

For instance, none have attempted to boost the immune systems of their citizens, they’ve simply put facemasks on weak immune systems. But COVID is a disease that attacks weaknesses in the immune system. And we know most westerners have a vitamin D deficiency, especially in winter, which hugely weakens their immune systems. Still, governments declare month after month of lockdowns and measures without having provided adequate vitamin D, which is dirt cheap, to their citizens, and then tell them to go get vaccinated, or else.

And there’s more: Professor of Medicine Dr Peter McCullough says: “..the virus invades inside cells, so we have to use drugs that go inside the cell and work to reduce viral replication“. “The drugs that work within the cell and actually reduce viral replication are hydroxychloroquine, Ivermectin, doxycycline and azithromycin” Have you seen those drugs made available, let alone promoted, where you live?

You don’t even have to make vitamin D and ivermectin mandatory to make them work, people will take them voluntarily. Plenty studies say that boosting your vitamin D levels decreases your risk of getting infected with COVID as well as dying from it by 50% or more. And then you take it from there: things will add up: 50% now, becomes 50%+x next week, and so on. Who needs a vaccine at all? And that’s before you even mention ivermectin, of which Dr Pierre Kory said: “If you take ivermectin, you won’t get sick”. As in: end of story, end of problem.

 

Whether a government can make a vaccine mandatory is questionable to begin with. But a vaccine that hasn’t been approved, other than through an emergency authorization, and for which proper research won’t be completed for at least two-three years? What is the legal basis for that? On top of that, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are based on mRNA technology that has never before been tested on humans. How do you legally make those mandatory? How slippery is this legal scale, and how far have we already slid down it?

And then we want to issue vaccination passports to prove people have had a jab or two of these untested things? Look, they may well work, but we don’t know that, and we won’t for quite some time. But in the meantime we still want to curtail people’s freedom of movement for not getting an untested vaccine?

These questions have nothing to do with anti-vaxxers, if anything they’re about blind pro-vaxxers. And about the law. Go ask a judge, go ask the highest court in your land, what their respective laws say about this situation.

 

The following, sent to me by a friend, is from a Greek lady, Nelly Psarrou, who has a background in Political science and Law. She’s asking the questions in her country that everybody should ask in theirs. You can’t let a government absorb emergency powers without asking these questions. It is too dangerous.

 

 

Whether or not you get vaccinated, get informed!

 

1. Vaccination, like any medical action, requires citizen consent. Consent is not regarded as valid if it is not fully informed, nor “if it is the result of deceit, fraud or threat, or conflicts with the demands of decency” (Medical Code of Ethics, Greek law 3418/2005). Failing this, the consent is waived and the person/body who has exerted the pressure or extortion to vaccinate is subject to penal sanctions and/or civil damages in the event of harm.

2. Vaccination is not a prerequisite for the exercise of any other institutional requirement, such as education or otherwise recognized basic right such as the right to employment and free movement. Correspondingly, no private company has the legal authority to impose restrictions violating citizens’ constitutional rights. Discrimination and Stigmatization are forbidden (Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights, UNESCO). Moreover, imposition of a medical action in any manner constitutes torture and is illegal.

3. Non-consensual participation by citizens in medical research is specifically forbidden, as prescribed by the Nuremberg Code instituted following the trial of the Nazi-collaborator doctors. Any coercion of people to participate in research transforms them into experimental animals and amounts to a reintroduction of Nazi practices and crimes on a public health pretext.

The COVID19 vaccine has an emergency licence (not final approval), which means that research and clinical studies are still under way (they are to be completed in 2023)! It is INVESTIGATIONAL, as declared by the companies themselves, and any forced vaccination with it by any means (legal obligation, extortion, fraud) falls in the category of coercion in research, which is BANNED under numerous laws and international agreements and has penal and civil consequences.

4. As indicated by doctors and companies, the vaccines HAVE NOT BEEN STUDIED to determine whether they reduce viral infection or to ascertain the duration of immunity and/or the effects of their interaction with other drugs or vaccines. Therefore, neither are other people protected from infection by the virus, nor will restrictions be lifted – as is now announced.

5. The measures themselves which have been imposed are both illegal and unscientific. They are illegal in so far as they impose medical actions (e.g. the mask), they impose individual administrative measures restricting freedoms without individual legal mandate (Article 5 of the Constitution) and THEY ARE NOT EMERGENCY AND TEMPORARY (for example since June everybody talks about a second wave of viral infection, and this has already lasted for months).

The measures are unscientific in many ways. Specifically a) they ignore the strengthening of primary health care, which is demanded by all scientific specialists. b) they impose lockdown, which is classifiable, from a medical viewpoint, as a criminal policy (it does not reduce infections and it increases mortality from other causes, worsening health overall – mental illness, cancellation of programmed examinations and operations, c) they impose masks (which is a medical action) outdoors, which does not provide protection against the virus as they themselves assert: “they are a “symbolic measure”, a slogan which says MASKS EVERYWHERE! ) d) they focus on vaccination as the only solution, instead of including the existing possibility of effective treatment with pharmaceutical drugs.

6. From the moment that vaccinations started, serious side-effects have already been recorded, auto-immune reactions but also deaths, which are, however, attributed to underlying conditions. The provision of new vaccines stopped immediately, the official justification being the impossibility of production – which had just commenced. At the same time doctors working with the government as advisors are evidently in receipt of funding from the same companies that are producing the vaccines: that amounts to, and/or would amount to, “conflict of interest”. Finally, the Prime Minister has claimed falsely that vaccination is voluntary, yet as early as 25/2/2020 the Parliament had voted the relevant laws: they are simply not in a position yet to enforce them because they do not have the vaccines.

What is most important is that citizens are denied information and doctors of alternative persuasion are muzzled, ridiculed and hounded! The mass media have already been paid for spreading this disinformation, with the 40 million euros “for strengthening information on the Corona virus” and the writing off of 30 million euros of debt. And we know that information is the most precious value in a society of freely thinking citizens. This, informing our fellow human beings is the number one priority and a socially responsible action. Seek out the information and disseminate it freely.

1. For all the above, articles with data: www.nellypsarrou.com
2. The views of numerous specialists: Radio Crete (the programs of the journalist Sachinis (in Greek) https://www.youtube.com/user/984radio

 

 

As for point 6 and 7, I think it’s not very useful to claim doctors and media are being paid off, without linking to evidence you have of that. Stick with the legal issues if you can’t.

And the legal issues raised by Nelly Psarrou look strong. Time for a lawyer and a court.

 

 

 

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Dec 262020
 


Salvador Dali Christmas Tree 1959

 

Pfizer’s Vaccine Maximizes Profit, Not The Greater Good (Quelch)
UK Scientists Trial Drug To Prevent Infection That Leads To Covid (G.)
Rolling Out the Vaccine (Dorman)
Pfizer COVID19 Vaccine Causing More Allergic Reactions Than Expected (NYP)
Millions Wake Up To Tougher Restrictions As UK Covid Deaths Pass 70,000 (PA)
Pelosi, Democrats, UniParty and Media Spin Narrative Around COVID Relief (CTH)
Our Upside-Down Postelection World (Hanson)
Georgia Democrats Shatter Fundraising Records (DC)
Full Brexit Trade Deal ‘Goes Beyond Canada-style Accord’ (G.)
Boeing 737 Max Makes Emergency Landing After Engine Failure (ZH)
Christmas Awokenings (Jim Kunstler)

 

 

 

 

“Pfizer has cut deals at high prices with about 20 developed countries. Their government agencies can’t reject the Pfizer vaccine as too expensive because they can’t ask their frontline healthcare workers to wait for a cheaper alternative. They have to act now.”

Pfizer’s Vaccine Maximizes Profit, Not The Greater Good (Quelch)

Pfizer just inked a second deal with the federal government to supply an additional 100 million doses of its mRNA COVID-19 vaccine by July 2021. This is on top of Pfizer’s earlier deal for 100 million doses, currently being shipped. At around $20 per dose, Pfizer shareholders will do nicely, and the Pfizer CEO cashed in $5.6 million in stock at the time of the FDA’s emergency use authorization. Pfizer deserves enormous credit for the speed with which its vaccine secured the Food and Drug Administration’s approval. But Pfizer’s vaccine strategy was designed from the outset to maximize shareholder profit, not the greater good. Pfizer set out to be first across the finish line and reap a public relations bonanza. That’s why it pursued an mRNA vaccine, which can be developed and manufactured much faster than traditional vaccines.

But Pfizer’s vaccine has to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius to retain its efficacy. Developing countries do not have and cannot afford such a cold chain. That means Pfizer is off the hook to provide low- or no-cost doses to billions of people in poorer nations. The Moderna vaccine, also an mRNA vaccine, was designed to require normal vaccine refrigeration at around minus 20 degrees Celsius . Note, also, that Pfizer declined U.S. government subsidies to fund its vaccine development. This preserved Pfizer’s negotiating independence, avoided bureaucratic delays and helped Pfizer get to the finish line first. Taking no subsidies enabled Pfizer to deflect any government pressure to make its vaccine available at lower cost.

There’s another problem. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses with 21- and 28-day intervals, respectively, between vaccinations. Typically, this will result in 50 percent slippage; half those who receive the first shot will not return for the second. Some will forget, others will experience side effects, and others will believe wrongly that one jab is good enough. Meanwhile, Britain’s AstraZeneca has developed an equally effective COVID-19 vaccine that requires normal refrigeration and can therefore use existing vaccine supply chains that extend to rural areas. The AstraZeneca vaccine is being sold at $2 per dose versus $20 per dose (that is, $40 per person) for Pfizer’s. AstraZeneca has pledged not to profit from COVID-19 vaccine sales and to waive patent protections. Pfizer has done neither.

Pfizer’s strategy is simple. Be first to market and make a boatload of money by “skimming the cream,” supplying vaccines to those willing to pay. Pfizer has cut deals at high prices with about 20 developed countries. Their government agencies can’t reject the Pfizer vaccine as too expensive because they can’t ask their frontline healthcare workers to wait for a cheaper alternative. They have to act now.

Read more …

“Rather than antibodies produced by the body to help fight an infection, AZD7442 uses monoclonal antibodies, which have been created in a laboratory.”

UK Scientists Trial Drug To Prevent Infection That Leads To Covid (G.)

British scientists are trialling a new drug that could prevent someone who has been exposed to coronavirus from going on to develop the disease Covid-19, which experts say could save many lives. The antibody therapy would confer instant immunity against the disease and could be given as an emergency treatment to hospital inpatients and care home residents to help contain outbreaks. People living in households where someone has caught Covid could be injected with the drug to ensure they do not become infected too. It could also be given to university students, among whom the virus has spread rapidly because they live, study and socialise together.

Dr Catherine Houlihan, a virologist at University College London Hospitals NHS trust (UCLH) who is leading a study called Storm Chaser into the drug, said: “If we can prove that this treatment works and prevent people who are exposed to the virus going on to develop Covid-19, it would be an exciting addition to the arsenal of weapons being developed to fight this dreadful virus.,” The drug has been developed by UCLH and AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical company that has also, along with Oxford University, created a vaccine that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is expected to approve for use in Britain next week. The team hope the trial shows that the cocktail of antibodies protects against Covid-19 for between six and 12 months. Trial participants are receiving it as two doses, one after the other.

If it is approved, it would be offered to someone who has been exposed to Covid in the previous eight days. It could be available as soon as March or April if it is approved by the medicines regulator after it has reviewed evidence from the study. The trial involves ULCH, several other British hospitals and a network of 100 sites globally. This month University College hospital became the first site in the world to recruit patients into the randomised control trial and give them the jab or a placebo. “To date we have injected 10 participants – staff, students and other people – who were exposed to the virus at home, in a healthcare setting or student halls,” said Houlihan. She and colleagues would closely follow the participants to see which of them develop Covid-19.

The immediate protection that the drug promises could play a vital role in reducing the impact of the virus until everyone has been immunised. The vaccination programme is under way using the Pfizer/BioNTech jab and is expected to take until next summer. NHS England accelerated the vaccine deployment this week after criticism from hospital bosses, GP leaders and the former health secretary Jeremy Hunt that it was taking too long. “The advantage of this medicine is that it gives you immediate antibodies,” Houlihan said. “We could say to trial participants who have been exposed: yes, you can have the vaccine. But we wouldn’t be telling them that would protect them from the disease, because it’s too late by then [because the Pfizer and Oxford vaccines do not confer full immunity for around a month].”

[..] The drug involves a long-acting antibody combination known as AZD7442, which has been developed by AstraZeneca. Rather than antibodies produced by the body to help fight an infection, AZD7442 uses monoclonal antibodies, which have been created in a laboratory. In documents on a clinical trial that AstraZeneca has registered in the US, it explains that it is investigating “the efficacy of AZD7442 for the post-exposure prophylaxis of Covid-19 in adults. The Sars-CoV-2 spike protein contains the virus’s RBD [receptor-binding domain], which enables the virus to bind to receptors on human cells. By targeting this region of the virus’s spike protein, antibodies can block the virus’s attachment to human cells, and therefore is expected to block infection.”

Read more …

“Some substantial portion of the early vaccines could be reserved for community trials. A number of communities could be given treatments in which a designated proportion of the population is vaccinated as soon as possible; this portion could be varied (30%, 50%, 70%) so that a variety of treatments could be tested.”

Rolling Out the Vaccine (Dorman)

The vaccines approved by the FDA, along with those approved by other countries like China and Russia, have gone through the fastest possible testing. Tens of thousands of individuals have been placed in control and treatment groups in order to determine two things: to what extent do the vaccines reduce the likelihood of getting infected (efficiency) and how common and severe are the side effects (safety)? Meeting both criteria is sufficient for approval, which is how it should be. But there is another crucial question, to what extent do the vaccines reduce transmission of the virus to others?

The answer does not affect whether these vaccines should be employed, but they do have large consequences for other policies during this phase of the pandemic, such as rules for separation and masking, restrictions on activities and events, resumption of in-person schooling, and how much should be spent on interventions like ventilation overhauls. To the extent that vaccination reduces transmission, other restrictions and investments can be modified as the vaccinated portion of the population increases. Unfortunately, our knowledge of this issue is minimal. We don’t have any published lab results at all, and we are at least months away from meaningful epidemiological data.

A rollout that prioritizes crucial learning could change this. Some substantial portion of the early vaccines could be reserved for community trials. A number of communities could be given treatments in which a designated proportion of the population is vaccinated as soon as possible; this portion could be varied (30%, 50%, 70%) so that a variety of treatments could be tested. Others matched to them by relevant demographic, economic and other variables would be controls and would not receive any vaccines during the trial period. (Note that the lack of blinding at the community level should not be a serious problem as long as unvaccinated individuals in treatment communities are given a convincing placebo.) Everyone living in these communities would be tested regularly. We could then observe differences between community infection rates corresponding to treatment and infer transmission probabilities under real world conditions. It might also be possible to learn how transmission varies across the different viral strains that have emerged. The entire operation could be accomplished within the space of a month or less.

Read more …

You have allergies? Stay away.

Pfizer COVID19 Vaccine Causing More Allergic Reactions Than Expected (NYP)

The chief scientific adviser for Operation Warp Speed said the frequency of allergic reactions to the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine is higher than what would be expected for other jabs, according to a report.Dr. Moncef Slaoui said the last time he was updated on allergic reactions was Tuesday, when there were six cases, and added that the data on COVID-19 immunizations is lagging behind the actual numbers, CNN reported. “That frequency, as it stood yesterday, is superior to what one would expect with other vaccines,” he said. Slaoui said discussions are underway between the vaccine makers and the National Institutes of Health to consider holding clinical trials of vaccines in very allergic populations, such as people who always have to carry anti-allergy medication in an EpiPen.

Read more …

January will be bleak.

Millions Wake Up To Tougher Restrictions As UK Covid Deaths Pass 70,000 (PA)

Millions more people will be waking to harsher coronavirus restrictions on Boxing Day when new tier changes come into force in England. New lockdowns are set to be introduced in Scotland and Northern Ireland, while restrictions that were eased for Christmas Day in Wales will be reimposed on Saturday. Those in the strict tier 4 in England will increase by 6 million to 24 million people, representing 43% of the population, in response to a more transmissible variant being discovered in the UK. It comes after the government said a further 570 died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus as of Christmas Day, taking the UK’s total deaths within 28 days of a positive test to 70,195. Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 86,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.


There were also 32,725 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, bringing to 244,146 the number of positive tests in the past seven days. The new measures were being imposed against a backdrop of increasing infections, hospital admissions and a new more contagious variant in the UK which was announced last week. Areas moving into tier 4 are Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, parts of Essex not yet in the highest tier, Waverley in Surrey and Hampshire, with the exception of the New Forest. Tier-4 restrictions include a warning to stay at home, a limit on household mixing to two people outdoors and the forced closure of many shops, hairdressers and gyms.

Read more …

“In essence Trump is asking for a stand alone COVID relief bill for $2k/person, then drop the $600/person payment out of the pork-laden COVID relief bill and start that economic relief bill over.”

Pelosi, Democrats, UniParty and Media Spin Narrative Around COVID Relief (CTH)

There has been a great deal of political narrative engineering/fabrication surrounding President Trump’s admonitions to congress about a pork-filled COVID relief package. With a budgetary “shut-down” date looming on Monday, let’s look at the issues. First, there’s no such thing as a federal government “shut-down”; the only thing that happens if with a budgetary date exceeded is “non essential” government employees told to stay home (reference the prior “sequestration” nonsense). Second, the jaw-droppingly tone-deaf and pork-filled scheme of spending within the $900 billion COVID relief package is disconnected from the Omnibus spending bill ($1.5 trillion) that was combined into a single legislative construct for convenience only.

The Omnibus bill (non budget spending/allocation) and the COVID bill can be separated, because they are technically separate bills. President Trump wants congress to re-write the $900 billion COVID bill to provide $2,000 per person instead of $600 per person. In essence Trump is asking for a stand alone COVID relief bill for $2k/person, then drop the $600/person payment out of the pork-laden COVID relief bill and start that economic relief bill over. This is not a hard issue to resolve. The only reason UniParty congress is fighting Trump is because their lobbyist and foreign government bribes are part of the $900 billion and will not pass the scrutiny of public opinion if standing alone.

To try and conflate the issues Pelosi changed on part of the pork-laden COVID bill to $2k/person, without removing all the pork. The GOP voted against that scheme and the media are now claiming that loggerhead derails the omnibus part of the spending “package”. Again, Omnibus is separate from COVID relief. The obtuse arguments are conflated and false. The Omnibus spending bill can be sent to POTUS without the COVID part included. The reason why McConnell and Pelosi want to keep them attached is because the combination makes a 5,500 page mess that hides the pork.

Read more …

“Why ask a president whether he is a traitor or a crook when you can focus on his favorite flavor of milkshake or compliment him on his socks?”

Our Upside-Down Postelection World (Hanson)

After Nov. 3, the meaning of some words and concepts abruptly changed. Have you noticed how new realities have replaced old ones? Media cross-examination of the president is now an out-of-date idea. The time for gotcha questions has come and gone. Why ask a president whether he is a traitor or a crook when you can focus on his favorite flavor of milkshake or compliment him on his socks? The old pre-election truth was that new vaccines take years to develop. The new postelection truth is that it’s no big deal to bring out new vaccines in nine months. Impeaching a first-term president after his first midterm election — on a strictly partisan vote, for political reasons other than the Constitution’s “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” — is now a terrible idea.

Worse would be to appoint a special counsel to harass a president on unfounded charges of collusion with China. An even scarier notion would be a conservative dream team of partisan lawyers hounding President Joe Biden — using a 22-month, $40 million blank check. It would be unprofessional for university psychologists and physicians from a distance to diagnose, in pop fashion, the mental faculties of a President Biden. Certainly, there would never be talk about Department of Justice officials contemplating wearing a wire as part of an entrapment scheme to remove a President Biden through the 25th Amendment. That would almost constitute a coup attempt. Almost as bad would be for the holdover FBI director to start “memorializing” his private conversations with Joe Biden on FBI devices. He might then leak such memos to the press — just in case he were to be fired for secretly investigating Biden for “Chinese collusion” and then lying about such a probe.

What happened to the Logan Act? Not long ago it was assumed to be a critically needed guardrail. Wouldn’t it now ensure that presidential transition team members were not calling foreign leaders while Donald Trump is still president? How has it suddenly become a defunct, ossified relic? Leaking classified material would be about the worst thing government officials could do. Imagine if a Trump holdover, burrowed into the new Biden administration, released a transcript of Biden’s private conversations with the Mexican president or the Australian prime minister. Such a breach of trust would be almost as bad as a turncoat anti-Biden mole seeking to resist presidential directives. Imagine if this anonymous staffer were given an op-ed in the New York Tines to claim that a cadre of old-time Democrats were shocked by Biden’s cognitive decline and resisting his directives.

Read more …

$100 million for a Senate seat. Inflation much?

Georgia Democrats Shatter Fundraising Records (DC)

Georgia Democrats Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock have each raised over $100 million in the past two months, shattering Senate fundraising records and out-raising their respective challengers, Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Their $210 million total was split almost evenly, with Ossoff reporting $106.8 million and Warnock reporting $103.4 million, two totals funded largely by small-dollar donors across the country, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Though outraised, Perdue and Loeffler raised over $130 million in total, reporting $68 and $64.1 million, respectively. All four totals broke the previous Senate fundraising record set by South Carolina challenger Jaime Harrison in the third quarter of 2020 when he reported raising $57 million in his bid against South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.


Ossoff and Warnock have spent $67 and $53 million on television advertisements since the November election, compared to $34 million and $36 million for Perdue and Loeffler. But while the two Democrats have outspent both incumbents, outside GOP groups have erased much of their financial edge, Politico reported. Georgia’s two Senate runoffs have become almost completely nationalized given their stakes. If Democrats flip both seats then they would have 50 seats, just enough for a majority with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote. If Republicans, however, can defend both seats, then they would have a 52-48 Senate majority, which would prevent Democratic control of Congress and the White House and likely block much of President-elect Joe Biden’s agenda once he takes office in January.

Read more …

1,246 pages.

Full Brexit Trade Deal ‘Goes Beyond Canada-style Accord’ (G.)

The post-Brexit trade deal agreed by the UK and the European Union goes beyond the bloc’s so-called “Canada-style” trade accord, the BBC has reported, citing a full copy of the agreement. The 1,246-page document, which includes about 800 pages of annexes and footnotes, includes a late compromise on electric cars, the corporation said. The EU had sought to offer tariff-free access only to those British vehicles that are made mostly with European parts. This measure will now be phased in over six years but is less generous than the UK requested. The BBC also reported there is a commitment not to lower standards on the environment, workers’ rights and climate change with mechanisms to enforce it.

However there is also a mutual right to “rebalance” the agreement if there are “significant divergences” in future that are capable of “impacting trade”. The dispensations go beyond standard free-trade agreements such as those between the EU and Canada or Japan, reflecting the UK’s history in the single market which was established in 1993. Johnson had described the agreement, which was reached on Christmas Eve, as a “jumbo” free trade deal along the lines of that between the EU and Canada and urged Britain to move on from the divisions caused by the 2016 Brexit referendum.

The BBC reported that restrictions compensation for unfair subsidies to companies “do not apply” in situations such as natural disasters which will exempt the EU’s large current pandemic support package for aviation, aerospace, climate change and electric cars. Parliament will debate and vote on the deal on Wednesday, a day before the transition period lapses. Downing Street has thus far published only a short summary of the agreement that sets out the shape of the future relationship between the EU and Brussels.

Read more …

Make it stop!

Boeing 737 Max Makes Emergency Landing After Engine Failure (ZH)

Last month, commercial flights with Boeing 737 Max jetliners resumed after a 20-month worldwide grounding, following two deadly accidents. Now we’re finding out, weeks later, after the Max was cleared by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to return to the skies safely, an Air Canada Boeing 737-8 Max suffered engine issues during flight. According to Aviation24.be, an Air Canada Boeing 737-8 MAX (registered C-FSNQ) was on a test flight after storage from Marana Pinal, Arizona, to Montreal, Canada, when the incident occurred. Luckily, the aircraft had no passengers and only three crew members.


Engine issues shortly developed after the plane took off. The crew noticed the “left engine had low hydraulic pressure,” said Aviation24.be. Then more complications developed with the aircraft: “The crew and airline dispatch/engineering controllers initially decided to continue to Montreal but the crew received an indication of a fuel imbalance from the left-hand wing and shut the left hand engine down,” said the aviation website. The crew was forced to declare a “PAN-PAN” emergency, meaning the plane was in severe jeopardy and had to divert from its pre-planned flight route and land in Tucson. The incident took place on Dec. 22, according to Aviation24.be.

Read more …

“In short, the self-demolition of America was fait accompli.”

Christmas Awokenings (Jim Kunstler)

And so, on Christmas morning, having suffered the night visitations of vexing spirits — or was that just the strange interaction of Zyprexa and Zolpidem — Joe Biden woke up (in a manner of speaking) to find himself transformed. He was no longer dogged by the prospect of being president of the US, but, rather, was convinced he had become the provincial plenipotentiary of a Chinese overseas possession known as Golden Wok West, where CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping can order up any asset for take-out. What a relief, Joe thought, as they brought in his morning meds. Here, now, was a one-horse pony of a different color, Joe mused, chugging down his 5mg of Haldol.

Ol’ Joe went to bed on the blessed silent night fretting that soon he’d have to answer to all those caterwauling losers about to be tossed from their McHouses and apartments after nearly a year of nonpayment. But no, the shabby dwellings would now just become the property of the People’s Liberation Army, as that very fine organization prepared to sort things out in the flea market once known as America.

Was there anything left of value? Wasn’t that a puzzlement? The former so-called Yang-kees had squandered all their laid-up treasure turning their continent into a demolition derby — six-laners lined by muffler shops, chain stores, and fried food shacks — and when all their financial resources were used up, they’d borrowed so much more money that all the certified public accountants who ever lived could not keep up with the compounded interest calculations if they worked double-shifts until the end of time. In short, the self-demolition of America was fait accompli.

Now, all that was left for Joe Biden to do was to sign some paperwork and, maybe three times a week, emerge from his basement to smile and explain to eager members of the inquisitive news media why he preferred General Tso’s Chicken over Hunan Beef. At least that’s how things seemed to shake out in Joe Biden’s brain on Christmas morning as Dr. Jill helped him to the bathroom….

Read more …

 

 

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Apr 242020
 


Banksy Girl With a Pierced Eardrum (and face mask) 2020

 

Americans Prioritize Staying Home, Worry Restrictions Will Lift Too Fast (CBS)
Doctors Rethink Rush To Ventilate (R.)
First Known US COVID19 Death Occurred On Feb. 6 In Santa Clara County (SFC)
Chinese Scientists ‘Unable To Judge’ If US Lab Is Virus Source (Global Times)
House Passes $484 Billion Coronavirus Relief Package (Hill)
Fed Balance Sheet Increases To Record $6.62 Trillion (R.)
No, Trump Did Not Put A Labradoodle Breeder In Charge Of Covid19 Response (DN)
Lawmaker Who Thanked Trump To Face Censure Vote From Michigan Democrats (JTN)
News Outlets Have Received Millions In Forgivable Stimulus Loans (JTN)
Ousted US Health Official To File Whistleblower Complaint (R.)
WTO Report Says 80 Countries Limiting Exports Of Face Masks, Other Gear (R.)
Biden Campaign’s Outside Economic Advisers Include Larry Summers (R.)
Steele Testified Emails Were Wiped, No Docs Related To Primary Source (DC)
Insect Numbers Down 25% Since 1990 (G.)
Banksy’s ‘Girl with a Pierced Eardrum’ Gains A Coronavirus Face Mask (R.)

 

 

• US records 3,176 #coronavirus deaths in 24 hours – total fatalities near 50,000: Johns Hopkins tally

• The US has 866,646 confirmed cases, up 26,971 from the previous day

 

 

Yaneer Bar-Yam
@yaneerbaryam

• Our Getting to Zero list:
Yesterday new cases:
South Korea +11
Greece +7
Iceland +7
Estonia +7
Australia +4
Hong Kong +4
New Zealand +3
Jordan +2
Taiwan +1
Vietnam 0

 

 

 

Cases 2,745,469 (+ 89,078 from yesterday’s 2,656,391)

Deaths 191,791 (+ 6,635 from yesterday’s 185,156 )

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer – NOTE: among Active Cases, Serious or Critical fell to 3%. Among Closed Cases, Deaths have fallen to 20%

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live: Note: Turkey, Russia, UK are the biggest risers

 

 

 

 

Or maybe it’s simply too soon?

Americans Prioritize Staying Home, Worry Restrictions Will Lift Too Fast (CBS)

Health concerns still take precedence over economic concerns by a wide margin for Americans in their views on when to reopen the economy — both in what they want for the nation, and in what they’d do themselves. Many say they need to be confident the coronavirus outbreak is over before returning to public places, and big majorities of all partisans agree the stay-at-home orders are effective. The health concerns may be so salient that even for those whose finances have been impacted and even for those concerned about job loss, most of them still worry the country will open up too fast. 63% of Americans are more worried about restrictions lifting too fast and worsening the outbreak — than worry about lifting restrictions too slowly and worsening the economy.

And what would Americans actually do if restrictions were lifted right now? Would anyone show up to public places or would they be too worried about health risks? That could be the most important factor in the economy. Only 13% say they would definitely return to public places over the next few weeks if restrictions were lifted right now, regardless of what else happened with the outbreak. Almost half — 48% — say they would not return to public places until they were confident the outbreak was over. Another 39% are “maybes”: they’d return depending on whether they saw the outbreak getting better. These views are not decidedly partisan: most Republicans are “maybes” at best, as are most Democrats and independents.

Small numbers for specific things:
• Only 13% would be comfortable going to a large sports or entertainment event.
• Only 15% would be comfortable getting on an airplane.
• 29% would be comfortable going to restaurants or bars.

Read more …

Just a few lines from a long Reuters piece, which leaves you realizing there are as many doctors and studies as there are opinions. And when you read that in some cases 90% of people put on ventilators die, it’s obvious some people got some things pretty wrong.

Doctors Rethink Rush To Ventilate (R.)

Luciano Gattinoni, a guest professor at the Department of Anaesthesiology, Emergency and Intensive Care Medicine, University of Göttingen in Germany, and a renowned expert in ventilators, was one of the first to raise questions about how they should be used to treat COVID-19. “I realised as soon as I saw the first CT scan … that this had nothing to do with what we had seen and done for the past 40 years,” he told Reuters. In a paper published by the American Thoracic Society on March 30, Gattinoni and other Italian doctors wrote that COVID-19 does not lead to “typical” respiratory problems. Patients’ lungs were working better than they would expect for ARDS, they wrote – they were more elastic. So, he said, mechanical ventilation should be given “with a lower pressure than the one we are used to.”

Ventilating some COVID-19 sufferers as if they were standard patients with ARDS is not appropriate, he told Reuters. “It’s like using a Ferrari to go to the shop next door, you press on the accelerator and you smash the window.” The Italians were swiftly followed by Cameron Kyle-Sidell, a New York physician who put out a talk on YouTube saying that by preparing to put patients on ventilators, hospitals in America were treating “the wrong disease.” Ventilation, he feared, would lead to “a tremendous amount of harm to a great number of people in a very short time.” This remains his view, he told Reuters this week. When Spain’s outbreak erupted in mid-March, many patients went straight onto ventilators because lung X-rays and other test results “scared us,” said Delia Torres, a physician at the Hospital General Universitario de Alicante.

They now focus more on breathing and a patient’s overall condition than just X-rays and tests. And they intubate less. “If the patient can get better without it, then there’s no need,” she said. In Germany, lung specialist Voshaar was also concerned. A mechanical ventilator itself can damage the lungs, he says. This means patients stay in intensive care longer, blocking specialist beds and creating a vicious circle in which ever more ventilators are needed. Of the 36 acute COVID-19 patients on his ward in mid-April, Voshaar said, one had been intubated – a man with a serious neuro-muscular disorder – and he was the only patient to die. Another 31 had recovered.

Read more …

The virus was in the US in January.

First Known US COVID19 Death Occurred On Feb. 6 In Santa Clara County (SFC)

A person who died at home in Santa Clara County on Feb. 6 was infected with the coronavirus at the time of death, a stunning discovery that makes that individual the first recorded COVID-19 fatality in the United States, according to autopsy results released by public health officials late Tuesday. That death — three weeks before the first fatality was reported in the U.S., in Washington state on Feb. 28 — adds to increasing evidence that the virus was in the country far earlier than once thought. Santa Clara County on Tuesday announced three previously unidentified deaths from the coronavirus: the Feb. 6 case; one on Feb. 17, which also predates the death that was earlier believed to be the first; and one on March 6. Initially, the first death in the county had been reported March 9.

“What it means is we had coronavirus circulating in the community much earlier than we had documented and much earlier than we had thought,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County’s public health officer. “Those deaths probably represent many, many more infections. And so there had to be chains of transmission that go back much earlier.” Cody did not provide details about the people who died in February but said the deaths “tell us we had community transmission – probably significant community transmission – far before we realized it and documented it.” “From what we understand, neither of the cases had a history of travel,” Cody said. “So we assume that they were acquired locally.”

People typically die of COVID-19 about a month after they are infected with the coronavirus, suggesting that the person who died Feb. 6 likely was infected in early January. At that time, the virus had been reported only in China — the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had not yet issued any advisories to Americans about the potential threat.

Read more …

Predictably, Chinese state media strike back. What caught my eye is:

“..infected more than 2.6 million Americans with nearly 20,000 deaths as of 4:30 pm Thursday.”

Worldometer, as I write this, says 886,000 infections and 50,000 deaths.

Chinese Scientists ‘Unable To Judge’ If US Lab Is Virus Source (Global Times)

Responding to viral reports alleging that the novel coronavirus was leaked from a US military biochemical laboratory, Chinese scientists said that they could not make a judgment on the allegation, as the US had not given any public response on the issue. Shi Yi, a research fellow from the Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, made the remarks at a press conference Thursday, noting that the origin of the virus is a scientific issue requiring a long period of research and involves a great deal of uncertainty. The remarks came amid circulating reports alleging that the Fort Detrick laboratory, which handles high-level disease-causing materials such as Ebola, in Fredrick, Maryland, may be the origin of the deadly novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 2.6 million Americans with nearly 20,000 deaths as of 4:30 pm Thursday.


The lab was ordered to shut down in July 2019, reportedly for multiple causes, including failure to follow local procedures and a lack of periodic recertification training for workers in the biocontainment laboratories. Some other posts on social media platforms also alleged that a US armed diplomatic driver and cyclist who was in Wuhan in October 2019 for the cycling competition in the Military World Games, could be patient zero for COVID-19 in Wuhan. Netizens from both China and the US have called on the US government to respond to public concerns over the above mentioned issues. Some have even launched a petition on the White House website, but the US government has not made any comment so far.

Read more …

The US political system is inherently incapable of getting this right. Not going to happen.

House Passes $484 Billion Coronavirus Relief Package (Hill)

The House on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to pass legislation providing roughly $484 billion in coronavirus relief for small businesses, hospitals and expanded medical testing, capping weeks of contentious negotiations that had stalled Washington’s latest round of emergency aid. The vote was 388-5-1, with four conservative Republicans breaking with GOP leaders to oppose the measure, citing its effect on federal deficit. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) also voted against the measure, while Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) voted present. The four Republicans who voted “no” were House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (Ariz.) and Reps. Ken Buck (Colo.), Jody Hice (Ga.) and Thomas Massie (Ky.).


The legislation, which the Senate passed unanimously on Tuesday, now goes to the desk of President Trump, who has promised to sign it quickly into law. The massive package is the fourth coronavirus bill to move through Congress over the last seven weeks, and brings the federal response to the global pandemic up to a whopping $2.8 trillion — by far the largest emergency relief effort in modern U.S. history. It came after two weeks of tense talks between the White House, led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the top Democrats in both chambers, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), over the scope and direction of the latest infusion of emergency funds.

Read more …

By now fully meaningless numbers for 99% of the population.

Fed Balance Sheet Increases To Record $6.62 Trillion (R.)

The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet increased to a record $6.62 trillion this week as the central bank used its nearly unlimited buying power to soak up assets to keep markets functioning amid an abrupt economic free fall due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since early March, the Fed has slashed interest rates to zero, restarted bond purchases and rolled out an unprecedented range of programs to keep credit flowing and shore up business and household confidence. The central bank’s balance sheet as of Wednesday rose about $200 billion from $6.42 trillion a week earlier. That is up from just $4.29 trillion in the first week of March. It is now the equivalent of roughly 30% of the size of the U.S. economy before the crisis struck, and will certainly grow larger in the weeks ahead as the Fed keeps piling on assets and the economy shrinks.


The central bank continued to snap up Treasury securities, mortgage bonds and other assets, according to data released on Thursday. The Fed’s holdings of mortgage-backed securities rose to $1.62 trillion from $1.57 trillion. Treasury holdings rose to $3.91 trillion from $3.79 trillion. Use of the Fed’s central bank liquidity swap lines, which allow foreign central banks to exchange their local currencies for dollars, rose to $409.7 billion on Wednesday from $378.3 billion the previous week. Loan balances for the Fed’s discount window, its last-resort lending program for banks, fell to $33.7 billion from $36.3 billion a week ago.

Read more …

Worked for CNN though. They need new stories every day, or people will switch off.

No, Trump Did Not Put A Labradoodle Breeder In Charge Of Covid19 Response (DN)

No, the Trump administration did not put a professional dog breeder from Dallas in charge of COVID-19 response. Yes, the chief of staff at the Department of Health and Human Services briefly owned a family business raising Labradoodles. But he’s also served three administrations in high level posts at HHS, the White House and the Pentagon. Colleagues who hired Harrison and served with him in government were appalled to see him disparaged Thursday as a mere “dog breeder,” as if Joe Exotic had catapulted from tiger king to head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


“This is so silly. He went home and worked in a family business,” said Jack Kalavritinos, who served with Harrison at HHS during the administrations of both George W. Bush and President Donald Trump, most recently as director for intergovernmental and external affairs, working on the opioid crisis and drug prices. “Brian was a no-brainer pick,” said another colleague, Michael Reilly, who hired Harrison for his first job at HHS under Bush. “His private sector experience is irrelevant.…He was a complete known commodity who had extensive experience.” Trump’s irritation with Harrison’s current boss, Secretary Alex Azar, has been apparent for months and some confidants suspect that he’s has gotten caught in the crossfire of a classic Washington ritual: finger pointing.

Read more …

“At the end of the day, we have political systems,” Jonathan Kinloch, district chair of Michigan 13th Congressional District Democratic Party said according to The Detroit News. “We have political parties, and political parties exist for a reason.”

Lawmaker Who Thanked Trump To Face Censure Vote From Michigan Democrats (JTN)

Michigan Democratic state Rep. Karen Whitsett, publicly expressed her gratitude toward President Trump for her coronavirus recovery, and now she is facing possible censure from her fellow Democrats. Whitsett has indicated that the president may have helped save her life by publicly discussing the drug hydroxychloroquine, which she says helped her to recover. The Detroit Free Press reported that when questioned about “whether she thinks Trump may have saved her life, Whitsett said: ‘Yes, I do,’ and ‘I do thank him for that.'” Whitsett earlier this month met with the president at a meeting of coronavirus survivors and expressed her gratitude. “At the end of the day, we have political systems,” Jonathan Kinloch, district chair of Michigan 13th Congressional District Democratic Party said according to The Detroit News.


“We have political parties, and political parties exist for a reason.” “I’m a Democrat, and I plan on continuing to be a Democrat, but they will change their ways,” Whitsett said according to the outlet. “I have my First Amendment right, and no one will take that away from me.” The Detroit News reports that one of the items mentioned in the resolution to censure Whitsett says she “‘has repeatedly and publicly praised the president’s delayed and misguided COVID-19 response efforts in contradiction with the scientifically based and action-oriented response’ from Michigan’s Democratic leadership, ‘endangering the health, safety and welfare of her constituents, the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan.'”

Read more …

Shouldn’t they be able to sell more papers? If not now, when?

News Outlets Have Received Millions In Forgivable Stimulus Loans (JTN)

News outlets are receiving tens-of-millions in federal stimulus money as part of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package that President Trump signed into law, among them such venerable newspapers as The Seattle Times and Tampa Bay Times. The money is coming through forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans under the CARES Act that Congress passed last month. According to the Small Business Administration, businesses with under 500 employees can apply for PPP loans, which are forgivable if they are used for qualifying expenses such as payroll costs and rent. However, it’s unclear whether any of the news outlets intend to repay the money, or how much they’ll repay.


The Tampa Bay newspaper, which received an $8.5 million loan, told Just the News on Thursday that its chairman and CEO, Paul Tash, says the federal government will “likely forgive much of the loan” and that the “remaining balance” will carry an interest rate of 1 percent. The Seattle Times received a $9.9 million PPP forgivable loan from the federal government. In its voluntary announcement of the loan, the Seattle Times stated that the loan is forgivable but didn’t specify whether the company plans to repay any of the money. The paper did not respond to a request for comment before publication. The media outlet Axios, based in Arlington, Va., disclosed that it had received a forgivable PPP loan of roughly $5 million. Axios did not respond when asked if it plans to repay the loan.

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Why has the word whistleblower been injected here? Wrongful dismissal doesn’t sound catchy enough?

Ousted US Health Official To File Whistleblower Complaint (R.)

Lawyers for the ousted director of a U.S. agency responsible for the development of drugs to fight the COVID-19 pandemic said on Thursday he will file a whistleblower’s complaint with two government offices over his reassignment. Rick Bright said on Wednesday he was replaced as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, because he resisted the Trump administration’s efforts to push hydroxychloroquine and the related chloroquine as cures for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly touted the malaria drugs as a treatment for coronavirus though few studies suggest a possible benefit.


“In our filing we will make clear that Dr. Bright was sidelined for one reason only — because he resisted efforts to provide unfettered access to potentially dangerous drugs, including chloroquine, a drug promoted by the administration as a panacea, but which is untested and possibly deadly when used improperly,” his lawyers said in a statement. His lawyers said they will file the complaint with the Office of Special Counsel and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Inspector General. Bright hopes he will be reinstated in his post at BARDA once the facts of the case become known, his lawyers said. The Office of Special Counsel, an independent U.S. government agency, investigates and can prosecute abuses against federal employees.

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Wonder how this will evolve when food gets scarce.

WTO Report Says 80 Countries Limiting Exports Of Face Masks, Other Gear (R.)

Eighty countries and customs territories have banned or limited the export of face masks, protective gear, gloves and other goods to mitigate shortages since the coronavirus outbreak began, the World Trade Organization reported on Thursday. It said the bans were imposed by 72 WTO members and eight non-WTO member countries, but only 13 WTO members had notified the global trade body as required by its regulations. Lack of transparency about restrictions and failure to cooperate internationally could undermine efforts to slow the spread of the COVID-19 disease, which has infected 2.64 million people around the world and killed 184,910, the WTO said.


“While the introduction of export-restrictive measures is understandable, the lack of international cooperation in these areas risks cutting off import-reliant countries from desperately needed medical products and triggering a supply shock,” the WTO report said. “And by interfering with established medical supply chains, such measures also risk hampering the urgently required supply response.” Export bans and restrictions are generally prohibited in the WTO, although there are exceptions which allow temporary measures to “prevent or relieve critical shortages of foodstuffs or other products essential to the exporting contracting party.” Travel restrictions had already slowed the flow of goods needed to fight the pandemic, but export restrictions made it difficult for governments and businesses to adjust purchasing decisions and find new suppliers, the report said.

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As someone remarked: Jeffrey Epstein wasn’t available.

Biden Campaign’s Outside Economic Advisers Include Larry Summers (R.)

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, an academic and longtime economic aide to Democratic presidents, is among the people now advising Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, according to two people familiar with the matter. Summers is a renowned economist with long ties to presidential administrations, including Barack Obama’s. Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, served as Obama’s vice president. Summers is viewed critically by some liberals, who view his policy prescriptions as too centrist. Dozens of economic and public health policy officials are briefing Biden ahead of the Nov. 3 election, when Republican President Donald Trump hopes to win a second term.


If he is elected, Biden would be faced with a U.S. economy scarred by a pandemic that has brought large segments to a standstill, forced more than 26 million people to seek unemployment benefits since March 21, and raised the prospect of job losses not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Before then, Biden has to bring together his own party behind his candidacy, including liberals who once backed Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The two senators have both endorsed Biden, but it is not clear how many of their supporters will turn out to vote for Biden. [..] “Joe Biden’s will be the most progressive agenda of any president in generations, and he looks forward to his continuing engagement with progressive leaders to build on his existing policies and further the bold goals driving his campaign,” [an] adviser said.

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Simple question: who did the wiping and deleting?

Steele Testified Emails Were Wiped, No Docs Related To Primary Source (DC)

The former MI6 officer made the disclosures during a March 17-18 deposition in a defamation case related to the dossier. The DCNF obtained a transcript of the deposition. Steele suggested in a Dec. 10 statement that he had evidence that would shed light on what his main dossier source told him back in 2016, when Steele was working for the firm Fusion GPS to investigate the Trump campaign. Steele’s statement was a response to an IG report released the day before that said that Steele’s source — dubbed the “Primary Sub-Source” — told the FBI in January 2017 that Steele misrepresented or embellished information in the dossier. That bombshell severely undermined Steele’s report, which the FBI used as part of its investigation into the Trump campaign.

In a rebuttal to the IG, Steele’s lawyers disputed what the dossier source purportedly told the FBI, and said that the source’s debriefings to Steele “were meticulously documented and recorded.” They also asserted that if Steele had been given a chance to respond to the IG report, “the statements by the ‘Primary Sub-Source’ would be put in a different light.” It is unclear if Steele made audio or video recordings of the debriefings with the source, or if the retired spy was referring to written or electronic documents. It is also unclear whether Steele got rid of the information himself, or if it was lost through other means. Steele’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

The status of the information was revealed during an exchange Steele had on March 18 with Hugh Tomlinson, a lawyer for Petr Aven, German Khan, and Mikhail Fridman, the owners of Alfa Bank. The three Russian bankers are suing Steele for defamation over a memo in the dossier that accused them of making illicit payments to Vladimir Putin. Tomlinson pressed Steele over the accuracy of his memo, as well as his relationship with “Primary Sub-Source,” the transcript shows. The lawyer asked Steele about the existence of the documents and recordings that his attorneys mentioned in their rebuttal to the IG report. “But none of these documents exist, so they have all been destroyed?” a lawyer asked Steele. “They no longer exist,” Steele said.

Steele indicated that many other records related to the dossier were deleted, including from a personal email account he used for the Fusion GPS project. “As I understand your position, you have no contemporaneous notes or emails, save for your notes of interactions with the FBI; is that right?” Tomlinson asked. “I believe that is true, yes,” Steele replied. Steele said he had no records related to the creation of his dossier memos, including “Report 112” from the dossier, which dealt with the Alfa Bank owners. “You have no record of anything, have you?” Tomlinson asked. “I haven’t got any records relating to the creation of 112,” said Steele.

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So 75% in Germany, France, but only a third of that overall? Anything to do with population density?

Insect Numbers Down 25% Since 1990 (G.)

The biggest assessment of global insect abundances to date shows a worrying drop of almost 25% in the last 30 years, with accelerating declines in Europe that shocked scientists. The analysis combined 166 long-term surveys from almost 1,700 sites and found that some species were bucking the overall downward trend. In particular, freshwater insects have been increasing by 11% each decade following action to clean up polluted rivers and lakes. However, this group represent only about 10% of insect species and do not pollinate crops. Researchers said insects remained critically understudied in many regions, with little or no data from South America, south Asia and Africa.

Rapid destruction of wild habitats in these places for farming and urbanisation is likely to be significantly reducing insect populations, they said. Insects are by far the most varied and abundant animals, outweighing humanity by 17 times, and are essential to the ecosystems humanity depends upon. They pollinate plants, are food for other creatures and recycle nature’s waste. The previous largest assessment, based on 73 studies, led scientists to warn of “catastrophic consequences for the survival of mankind” if insect losses were not halted. Its estimated rate of decline was more than double that in the new study. Other experts estimate 50% of insects have been lost in the last 50 years. Recent analyses from some locations have found collapses in insect abundance, such as 75% in Germany and 98% in Puerto Rico.

The new, much broader study found a lower rate of losses. However, Roel van Klink, of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research in Leipzig, who led the research, said: “This 24% is definitely something to be concerned about. It’s a quarter less than when I was a kid. One thing people should always remember is that we really depend on insects for our food.” The research, published in the journal Science, also examined how the rate of loss was changing over time. “Europe seems to be getting worse now – that is striking and shocking. But why that is, we don’t know,” said van Klink. In North America, the declines are flattening off, but at a low level.

Read more …

Ever seen him do anything wrong?

Banksy’s ‘Girl with a Pierced Eardrum’ Gains A Coronavirus Face Mask (R.)

Banksy’s “Girl with a Pierced Eardrum” has been updated for the coronavirus era with the addition of a blue surgical face mask. The mural, a take on Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” but with a security alarm replacing the pearl, was painted on a harbourside building in the street artist’s home city of Bristol in west England in 2014. It is not known whether Banksy, whose identity is a closely guarded secret, or somebody else attached the fabric face mask to the painted girl.


The newly adorned mural did not appear on Banksy’s Instagram page where he usually posts images of his work. The COVID-19 pandemic has already inspired the artist. He unveiled a scene of his trademark stencilled rats running amok in a bathroom rather than on the streets last week, reflecting official advice form the British government to stay at home. “My wife hates it when I work from home,” he commented alongside the photos.

Read more …

 

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Thanks for your generosity.

 

 

From Upton Sinclair’s 1927 book “Oil!”, which inspired the movie There Will Be Blood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth for your own good.

 

Mar 202020
 


David Hockney Do remember they can’t cancel the spring 2020 (released for corona crisis)

 

 

“We’re Not Even Counting The Dead Any More” (R.)
One Iranian Dies Of Coronavirus Every 10 Minutes, 50 Get Infected Every Hour (RT)
Madrid Reports One Coronavirus Death Every 16 Minutes (MT)
Young Adults Make Up A Big Part Of US Coronavirus Hospitalizations (CNN)
France Tightens COVID-19 Lockdown Restrictions To ‘Max 2km From Home’ (RT)
Severe Restrictions On Movement In California Now In Place (JTN)
‘Zero Prospect’ Of London Lockdown Involving Movement Limits, Says No 10 (G.)
4 GOP Senators Implicated In Stock Dumping Scandal (RawS)
Sen. Loeffler (R-GA) Dumped Stocks After Jan 24 Meeting On Coronavirus (NYP)
Untested Health Workers Put Elderly at Risk for Coronavirus
Senate GOP Coronavirus Bailout Bill Caps Executive Pay At $425,000 (CNBC)
South Korea Success In Virus Control Due To Acceptance Of Surveillance (Conv.)
Everyone In Iceland Can Get Tested For The Coronavirus (BF)
Baltimore Mayor Begs Residents To Stop Shooting Each Other (WJZ)

 

 

Saw some numbers come in yesterday, one coronavirus death in Madrid every 16 minutes on Monday, and one death in Iran every 10 minutes, with 50 new infections every hour. That sounds real horrible.

Then I saw that in Italy over the 24 hours prior to their announcement of their new numbers around 12 pm EDT, there had been 427 new deaths and 5,322 new cases. Off the top of my head, correct me if I’m wrong, that is one death every 3 minutes, and 3.7 new cases every minute (221.7 every hour).

The numbers below continue their relentless rise, and no, it’s not the numbers themselves that matter, it’s the trajectory. And as much as people can maintain that lockdowns are overkill, the alternative appears to be Italy. And of course that country has been far too late in its initial response, and made some huge mistakes in the process, but so has very other single country and government in the world.

Ergo, Boris Johnson solemnly swearing that that there will be no lockdown in London will only serve to isolate Britain even more than if it did have a lockdown. The most amazing images yesterday came from the British Parliament, which, as nations after nation forbids gatherings of more than 100 or even just 10, people, still has all these folk sitting practically on each other’s lap for hours on end.

One other point: I said last week that I did not agree with the accepted view, that the US would come in a separate wave behind France, Germany and Spain, even though the numbers back then seemed to indicate that view was correct. Today, the US, where both cases and deaths shot up some 45% in 24 hours, is right in the middle of what I called the Wave 2 group.

My prediction: The US has overtaken France, and will in the next few days pass Germany, Spain, and then Iran.

 

 

 

Cases 250,618 (+ 28,684 from yesterday’s 221,934)

Deaths 10,255 (+ 1,256 from yesterday’s 8,999)

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 10% –

 

 

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

 

 

From COVID2019.app: (New format lacks new cases and deaths)

 

 

 

 

US #coronavirus March :

3/1: 89
3/2: 105
3/3: 125
3/4: 159
3/5: 227
3/6: 331
3/7: 444
3/8: 564
3/9: 728
3/10: 1,000
3/11: 1,267
3/12: 1,645
3/13: 2,204
3/14: 2,826
3/15: 3,505
3/16: 4,466
3/17: 6,135
3/18: 8,760
Now: 14,366

 

 

 

 

 

https://twitter.com/Talking_Monkeys/status/1240443538170617857

 

 

Remember, this from 12 days ago is still very much relevant: The Virus is a Time Machine. What’s happening in Italy today will very likely happen to your country and community in a week, or 2 or 3.

“We’re Not Even Counting The Dead Any More” (R.)

Doctor Romano Paolucci, who came out of retirement to help at a hospital in Italy’s coronavirus epicenter, says one of the hardest things for him is not so much seeing people die – he is used to that. It is seeing them die alone, without a loved one by their side, often having to say their final farewell over a scratchy cell phone line. Paolucci is one of 70 doctors working long and exhausting shifts at the small Oglio Po Hospital, which until only a month ago was a normal provincial institution treating everything from tonsils to tumors. Now, it has been totally converted to treat coronavirus as Cremona province became the fourth-worst impacted province in Italy.

“I would say that we are at the end of our strength. This is a small hospital and we are taking in a lot of people … capacity is filled,” he said in a hallway amid the sounds of ventilators pumping oxygen, equipment beeping, and colleagues bustling. More of that type of noise would be music to his ears. “We do not have sufficient resources and especially staff because apart from everything else, now the staff are beginning to get sick,” he said. While medical staff work exhausting shifts of 12 hour or more and struggle to keep the patients alive, they also have to deal with the heartbreak of people dying without a loved one by their side, a measure necessary to contain the virus. “We have started a service in which we contact relatives on the phone to explain to them what is happening. So there is at least some contact,” he said.

[..] Nearly every inch of the hospital has been turned over to the coronavirus emergency, said Doctor Daniela Ferrari. There is no longer a paediatric ward or a cardiology ward and only three beds have been kept aside for emergency surgery. Six of the nine surgeons tested positive and had to go home, she said, adding that the hospital had a rate of about 20 percent of staff infected. Daniela Confalonieri, a nurse at the an San Raffaele hospital in the Lombardy regional capital of Milan, is also worried about sick medical staff. “We too are working in a situation of total emergency. The problem is that so many of our staff are at home as they are (have tested) positive. So that leaves a handful of us to run everything,” she said on a video posted on the internet.

“Psychological tension has gone through the roof. Unfortunately we can’t contain the situation in Lombardy, there’s a high level of contagion and we’re not even counting the dead any more,” she said.

Read more …

We still know so little of what goes on in Iran. But strenghtening sanctions, as the US is doing, is murderous and brainless.

One Iranian Dies Of Coronavirus Every 10 Minutes, 50 Get Infected Every Hour (RT)

Iranian authorities have provided shocking statistics showing the massive scale of the local Covid-19 outbreak. The country remains the worst-affected in the Middle East, with 1,284 coronavirus deaths already. “Based on our information, every 10 minutes one person dies from the coronavirus and some 50 people become infected with the virus every hour in Iran,” Kianush Jahanpur, the health ministry spokesman, wrote on Twitter. The death toll from the disease in Iran has reached 1,284 people, with 149 deaths coming in the last 24 hours. With 18,407 infected, Iranian medics are overwhelmed with the number of patients. The fight against the highly-contagious virus is being hampered by the harsh US sanctions against Tehran which Washington refuses to remove or soften despite international calls.

Read more …

One day, one city.

Madrid Reports One Coronavirus Death Every 16 Minutes (MT)

The latest official figures produced by the Spanish government show that the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 throughout the country has risen to 17,147 with nearly 7,000 of the cases in the region of Madrid. The Region of Madrid is in crisis, with one death recorded every 16 minutes on Monday, the 88 deaths on Monday exacerbated by the influx of more than 3,000 people in one day taken into hospitals and clinics. At the same time, the latest data presented at lunchtime on Thursday include an increase in the number of fatalities related to the virus to 767. The number of cases increased by around 25% in the last 24 hours.

939 are in intensive care and 1,107 have recovered fully from the virus. One nurse has died in the Basque Country from the virus. It is hoped that the strict confinement of members of the public to their homes throughout Spain will slow the spread of the virus, but it is not known when the effects will become clear; according to Fernando Simón, who presented the latest data. Yesterday it was stated that the virus is expected to peak around 3 weeks after the start of the containment measures and nobody is under any illusions that this is not going to be a short-term lockdown.

The spokesman also reiterated that the virus is not only attacking elderly people. 33% of the cases are those aged 65 and more, 18% of whom are aged over 75. He also stated that 3 of the dead are known to have been under the age of 65, although it is also known that the young are less vulnerable to serious attacks and their symptoms are generally milder. He also reminded the public of the need for patience during the confinement period which has been established during the emergency, recognizing that frustration is beginning to mount and that tempers will be fraying. It is important to remember, he says, that staying at home is essential in order to make the period of confinement as short as possible for everyone and reduce the number of deaths. 

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About time that fable was halted.

Young Adults Make Up A Big Part Of US Coronavirus Hospitalizations (CNN)

Up to 20% of people hospitalized with coronavirus in the United States are young adults between ages 20 to 44, a new federal study shows. While the risk of dying was significantly higher in older people, the report issued Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows younger people are making up a big portion of hospitalizations. Nearly 9,000 Americans have tested positive for the virus. At least 149 have died. The CDC analyzed the cases of about 2,500 patients in the United States whose ages were known. Of the 508 patients known to have been hospitalized, 20% were notably younger — between ages 20 and 44, while 18% were between ages 45 and 54, the report says. The highest percentage of hospitalized patients was at 26% between ages 65 and 84. And of the 121 patients known to have been admitted to an ICU, 36% were adults ages 45 to 64, while 12% were ages 20 to 44. There were no ICU admissions reported for those under age 19, the report says.

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France is done fooling around.

France Tightens COVID-19 Lockdown Restrictions To ‘Max 2km From Home’ (RT)

France has dramatically tightened restrictions on movement amid its coronavirus lockdown, warning citizens that they should limit their travel to within one kilometer of their homes – and a maximum of two kilometers. The country went into a 15-day lockdown over the Covid-19 outbreak at noon on Tuesday, and a list of acceptable reasons for travel was published by the government. Those reasons include shopping for basic necessities, seeking medical treatment, helping a neighbor or relative, and walking the dog. Getting exercise was also seen as a legitimate reason – provided that it was done alone. All tolerated activities were only acceptable if a person filled out a government form stating their reasons for movement (those without a printer were permitted to handwrite a statement).


As of Thursday, a new advisory from the Ministry of Sport reminded people that the goal of the lockdown was for “everyone to be confined” and not to leave home unless it was for an “urgent” matter. The ministry said people should now stay within one (maximum two) kilometers of their home and that a “little jogging” was possible, but “not a 10k” run. Cycling is also now completely out of the question, with the French Cyclist Federation noting on Twitter that the activity “does not comply with the criteria” outlined by the government. The federation urged cyclists to help save lives and “stay at home!” In a joint statement, Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo and Paris Police Chief Didier Lallement made a “solemn appeal” to walkers and joggers, who are still frequenting the banks of the Seine and other areas in large numbers, to limit their movement to what is “strictly necessary.”

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How on earth can you call this “the most severe restrictions yet”?

Severe Restrictions On Movement In California Now In Place (JTN)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday night ordered residents in America’s largest state to mostly stay at home, imposing the most severe restrictions yet aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus. The order will impact the state’s population of approximately 40 million people “until further notice.” “The California State Public Health Officer and Director of the California Department of Public Health is ordering all individuals living in the State of California to stay home or at their place of residence except as needed to follow the federal critical infrastructure sectors,” a state coronavirus response website says.


“Those that work in critical sectors should go to work. Grocery stores, pharmacies, banks and more will stay open,” the governor tweeted. Some of the places that will be closed include: “Dine-in restaurants,” “Bars and nightclubs,” “Entertainment venues,” “Gyms and fitness studios,” “Public events and gatherings” and “Convention Centers.”

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France has already threatened to close it borders on all Britons.

‘Zero Prospect’ Of London Lockdown Involving Movement Limits, Says No 10 (G.)

There is “zero prospect” of a London lockdown involving limits on movement but new restrictions could be put in place on pubs and cafes to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the capital, the government has said. The prime minister’s official spokesperson sought to quash overnight reports that there would be limits on transport or on who can enter or leave London, saying there was also no truth to reports that key workers would be asked to present papers to prove their status. But with people still being asked to avoid congregating in public, details of new steps to slow the virus in London – where it is spreading faster than anywhere else in the UK – are expected to be released later and are likely to include new conditions on pubs, cafes, bars and theatres.


The spokesperson said: “There are no plans to close down the transport network in London and there is zero prospect of any restriction being placed on travelling in or out of London. The prime minister and his advisers have set out the need for social distancing measures to limit the spread of the virus and to protect lives. “What we’re focused on is ensuring as many people as possible take that advice and don’t unnecessarily put themselves in a position where they could be spreading coronavirus.” He said speculation that households could be limited to only one person at a time leaving their home were untrue and he dismissed claims that people could be fined if they left their homes. Sweeping changes to ordinary life in the capital are already in place, with Transport for London announcing on Wednesday night that it was closing 40 tube stations that are not interchange hubs. A reduced service is expected on the underground and buses.

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Stay home!

Note: I think these people can’t even be investigated for this because of their jobs. Kick them out!

4 GOP Senators Implicated In Stock Dumping Scandal (RawS)

The GOP Senate Caucus faced a massive scandal on Thursday after multiple GOP senators revealed in public filings that they had sold large stock holdings after private briefings on the coronavirus scandal. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) have all be implicated in the scandal. Now conservative Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe has also been caught up, after reporting he sold in late February. There have been calls for the implicated lawmakers to resign from office over the scandal.

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“Kelly Loeffler’s net worth is almost $500,000,000. She is the wealthiest member of Congress … and … it … just … isn’t … enough.”

“For some 18 years, Kelly Loeffler worked for Intercontinental Exchange. Most recently, she was the CEO of Bakkt, its cryptocurrency platform.”

“Sen. Kelly Loeffler is married to Jeffrey Sprecher, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, and the chairman and CEO of Intercontinental Exchange, which is NYSE’s parent company.”

Sen. Loeffler (R-GA) Dumped Stocks After Jan 24 Meeting On Coronavirus (NYP)

A wealthy Georgia senator is reportedly the second member of Congress to have dumped massive shares of stocks following a private, chamber-wide meeting on the new coronavirus. Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), whose husband is the chairman and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, began selling off more than a million dollars in stocks on the same day as the closed-door Senate meeting on Friday, Jan. 24, reports The Daily Beast. Over the next three weeks, through Feb. 14, Loeffler made 27 sales worth between $1,275,000 and $3,100,000, before the market nosedived and her holdings’ values tanked. She also purchased stocks on Feb. 14 from two work-from-home related companies Citrix, which specializes in teleworking software, and another tech frim, Oracle, according to the report.

“Appreciate today’s briefing from the President’s top health officials on the novel coronavirus outbreak,” she tweeted after the meeting. Even after allegedly dumping her holdings, Loeffler bashed Democrats for playing up the threats of the virus. “Democrats have dangerously and intentionally misled the American people on #Coronavirus readiness,” she tweeted in late February. “Here’s the truth: @realDonaldTrump & his administration are doing a great job working to keep Americans healthy & safe.” The freshman senator didn’t make any market moves before the meeting since taking office on Jan. 6, the Daily Beast reported. [..] A spokesperson for Loeffler said the senator didn’t directly handle her stock portfolio and wasn’t aware of the transactions until weeks after the meeting, on Feb 16.

“This is a ridiculous and baseless attack. Sen. Loeffler does not make investment decisions for her portfolio,” the spokesperson said. “Investment decisions are made by multiple third-party advisors without her or her husband’s knowledge or involvement.” She was the second member of Congress to reportedly dump large stock holdings following the briefing. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and his wife, Brooke, sold between $628,000 and $1.7 million in publicly traded stocks on Feb. 13, a week before the market fell, the Center for Responsive Politics first reported.

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Insane. These things should have been arranged 2 months ago, whe those senators were selling their stocks.

Untested Health Workers Put Elderly at Risk for Coronavirus

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes-Kropf has reason to fear that she might be infected with the new coronavirus. Just last week, her husband was sick with a dry cough after taking several flights and attending conferences. And this past weekend, her 8-year-old daughter had a high fever and cough. Rhodes-Kropf was able to get her daughter tested for the flu and cytomegalovirus, another common viral infection — and she was negative for both — but she hasn’t been able to get a coronavirus test for herself or anyone else in her family. And while everyone who hasn’t already had the viral illness now sweeping the world is now likely fearing for their health, Rhodes-Kropf has a particular reason to worry: She cares for 185 patients whose an average age is 91.

And if she has the new coronavirus known as SARS CoV-2 and passes it onto them, it could be disastrous. “They’re often very frail,” said Rhodes-Kropf, a geriatrician who practices in Boston. “If they do get the virus, a lot of them would not survive it.” A report released yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control confirms her fears, showing that 27 percent of 130 patients who contracted the virus in the Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington, had died as of March 9. Rhodes-Kropf, who is now seeing urgent patients after being fitted with an N95 face mask, tried to get tested. She asked her daughter’s pediatrician first and then inquired at a local hospital.

But, even after explaining that she was a doctor caring for many elderly patients and had reason to suspect she might have been exposed, she wasn’t able to find a site that would test her. CDC testing guidelines say that coronavirus testing should be done on people who are residents of affected communities and have symptoms. Nevertheless, many people who are already ill with fever and the dry cough that is a signature of the viral Covid-19 infection are finding it impossible to get tested. For the asymptomatic, it is virtually impossible, even though there is ample evidence that they can spread the disease.

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Help people who make $10k working 3 jobs. Help health workers risking their lives. This is just grotesque.

Senate GOP Coronavirus Bailout Bill Caps Executive Pay At $425,000 (CNBC)

Executives at companies that would receive bailout cash from the coronavirus-relief bill unveiled by Senate Republicans on Thursday would see their annual compensation capped at $425,000 for two years. The legislation would also allow the government a chance to make money off its investments in these firms. Under the proposal, the American airline industry would receive $50 billion, cargo air carriers would get $8 billion, and other ailing industries would get $150 billion. The money for cargo air carriers was an addition to the White House’s original proposal, a person familiar with the situation told CNBC. Senate Republicans now must negotiate the terms of the final bill with their Democratic counterparts, as well as with lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled House.

According to the measure, no executive at a company receiving money may make more than $425,000 in total annual compensation for two years, retroactive to March 1. Company employees whose salary has already been determined through collective bargaining agreement may be exempt from that restriction. That likely applies to the union workers at companies accepting aid. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have acknowledged a need to offer aid to industries like the airlines, for fear their fall would eliminate jobs for thousands of workers. But Democrats have warned against any corporate aid that appears to be lining the pockets of executives. Republicans have worried about the appearance of flagrant spending.

[..] President Donald Trump said Thursday he would consider taking an equity stake in companies accepting federal aid, a move that would ultimately dilute shareholders. Trump didn’t specify which companies he was referring to but called out those that have bought back stock. Delta, American, Southwest and United airlines have collectively spent about $39 billion over the last five years buying back shares. Democrats have said they may push for more restrictions, like forbidding stock buybacks. Trump himself said he would be “OK” with such a stipulation. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a joint statement: “Any economic stimulus proposal must include new, strong and strict provisions that prioritize and protect workers, such as banning the recipient companies from buying back stock, rewarding executives, and laying off workers.”

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Western countries all have such scenarios waiting as well.

South Korea Success In Virus Control Due To Acceptance Of Surveillance (Conv.)

South Korea has been widely praised for its management of the outbreak and spread of the coronavirus disease COVID-19. The focus has largely been on South Korea’s enormous virus testing programme. What hasn’t been so widely reported is the country’s heavy use of surveillance technology, notably CCTV and the tracking of bank card and mobile phone usage, to identify who to test in the first place. And this is an important lesson for more liberal countries that might be less tolerant of such privacy invading measures but are hoping to emulate South Korea’s success.

While Taiwan and Singapore have excelled in containing the coronavirus, South Korea and China arguably provide the best models for stopping outbreaks when large numbers of people have been infected. China quarantined confirmed and potential patients, and restricted citizens’ movements as well as international travel. But South Korea accomplished a similar level of control and a low fatality rate (currently 1%) without resorting to such authoritarian measures. This certainly looks like the standard for liberal democratic nations. The most conspicuous part of the South Korean strategy is simple enough: test, test and test some more. The country has learned from the 2015 outbreak of MERS and reorganised its disease control system. It has a good, large-capacity healthcare system and a sophisticated biotech industry that can produce test kits quickly.

These factors enable the country to carry out 15,000 tests per day, making it second only to China in absolute numbers and third in the world for per person testing. But because COVID-19 is a mild disease for most people, only a small fraction of patients tend to contact health authorities for testing based on their symptoms or known contact with infected people. Many patients with mild symptoms, especially younger ones, don’t realise they are ill and infecting others. If these patients can’t be found, testing capacity doesn’t mean much. This is where smart city infrastructure comes in. The aim is to work out where known patients have been and test anyone who might have come into contact with them. There are three main ways people are tracked.

First, credit and debit cards. South Korea has the highest proportion of cashless transactions in the world. By tracking transactions, it’s possible to draw a card user’s movements on the map. Second, mobile phones can be used for the same purpose. In 2019, South Korea had one of the world’s highest phone ownership rates (there are more phones than people). Phone locations are automatically recorded with complete accuracy because devices are connected to between one and three transceivers at any time. And there are approximately 860,000 4G and 5G transceivers densely covering the whole country. Crucially, phone companies require all customers to provide their real names and national registry numbers. This means it’s possible to track nearly everyone by following the location of their phones.

Finally, CCTV cameras also enable authorities to identify people who have been in contact with COVID-19 patients. In 2014, South Korean cities had over 8 million CCTV cameras, or one camera per 6.3 people. In 2010, everyone was captured an average of 83.1 times per day and every nine seconds while travelling. These figures are likely to be much higher today. Considering the physical size of the country, it is safe to say South Korea has one of the highest densities of surveillance technology in the world.

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Screw globalization. Get self-sufficient.

Everyone In Iceland Can Get Tested For The Coronavirus (BF)

As countries around the world scramble to fight back the spread of the coronavirus, Iceland is doing things a little differently from the rest — and the approach could have a much larger impact on our understanding of the virus. The small island nation of 364,000 is carrying out large-scale testing among its general population, making it the latest country to put aggressive testing at the heart of its fight against the pandemic. But — crucially — the testing also includes people who show no symptoms of the disease. Iceland’s government said it has so far tested a higher proportion of its citizens than anywhere else in the world.

The number of individuals tested by the country’s health authorities and the biotechnology firm deCode Genetics — 3,787 — roughly translates to 10,405 per million, which compares to about 5,203 in South Korea, 2478 in Italy, and 764 in the UK. “Iceland’s population puts it in the unique position of having very high testing capabilities with help from the Icelandic medical research company deCode Genetics, who are offering to perform large scale testing,” Thorolfur Gudnason, Iceland’s chief epidemiologist, told BuzzFeed News. “This effort is intended to gather insight into the actual prevalence of the virus in the community, as most countries are most exclusively testing symptomatic individuals at this time.”

Of 3,787 individuals tested in the country, a total of 218 positive cases have been identified so far. “At least half of those infected contracted the virus while travelling abroad, mostly in high-risk areas in the European Alps (at least 90),” the government said on Monday. Those numbers include the first results of the voluntary tests on people with no symptoms, which started last Friday. The first batch of 1,800 tests produced 19 positive cases, or about 1% of the sample. “Early results from deCode Genetics indicate that a low proportion of the general population has contracted the virus and that about half of those who tested positive are non-symptomatic,” said Gudnason. “The other half displays very moderate cold-like symptoms.”

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The greatest country on earth.

Baltimore Mayor Begs Residents To Stop Shooting Each Other (WJZ)

Baltimore Mayor Jack Young urged residents to put down their guns and heed orders to stay home after multiple people were shot Tuesday night amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Young said hospital beds are needed to treat positive COVID-19 patients and not for senseless violence. Seven people were shot Tuesday night in the Madison Park neighborhood, as Baltimore reported its fifth positive coronavirus case Wednesday. “I want to reiterate how completely unacceptable the level of violence is that we have seen recently,” Young said. “We will not stand for mass shootings and an increase in crime.”


“For those of you who want to continue to shoot and kill people of this city, we’re not going to tolerate it,” Young implored. “We’re going to come after you and we’re going to get you.” He urged people to put down their guns because “we cannot clog up our hospitals and their beds with people that are being shot senselessly because we’re going to need those beds for people infected with the coronavirus. And it could be your mother, your grandmother or one of your relatives. So take that into consideration.”

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