Apr 032020
 


Elliott Erwitt National Congress Building by Oscar Niemeyer, Brasilia, Brazil 1961

 

US Paying Russia For Entire Planeload Of Coronavirus Equipment – Official (R.)
Our Finest Hour (Ben Hunt)
New York City Nurses Demand Personal Protection Equipment (WABC)
New Orleans Coronavirus Death Rate Is Twice New York. Obesity Is A Factor (R.)
US Weekly Jobless Claims Blow Past Six Million As Lockdowns Spread (R.)
Israeli Scientists: Coronavirus Vaccine Tested On Humans By June 1 (JPost)
France’s Coronavirus Death Toll Jumps As Nursing Homes Included (R.)
Germany Has A Low Coronavirus Mortality Rate: Here’s Why (CNBC)
Fed’s Dilemma: Picking Winners For $4 Trillion In Credit (R.)
This Hard Truth About The Mortgage Markets Isn’t Being Told (Jurow)
A Corporate Debt Reckoning Is Coming (13D)
US Air Force To Release $882 Million To Boeing (R.)
US Crude Futures Trim Record Gain (R.)
Cuomo’s Bubble is Starting to Burst (Lauria)
Google Releases Location Data On Lockdowns In 131 Countries (R.)
Leaked Amazon Memo Details Plan to Smear Fired Warehouse Organizer (Vice)

 

 

We’ll keep setting records for a while longer yet, driven by the US in particular.

US cases doubled in 8 days. That rate will speed up.

All countries, the US first of all, need to move their focus away from saving companies and onto saving people. Now would be a good time.

 

 

Cases 1,030,181 (+ 79,756 from yesterday’s 950,425)

Deaths 54,194 (+ 5,918 from yesterday’s 48,276)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 20% –

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Live.info:

 

 

 

 

Who said the RussiaRussia obsession couldn’t be fun? Bottom line between the lines: the US pays, but as the Russians say, both cover half the cost. In other words, the US pays half price. Will that satisfy the American propaganda voices? Stay tuned. Putin was criticized at home for selling these things to the US while Russia may not have enough for itself.

Compare that to Tucker’s America First declaration. And Thailand’s response.

US Paying Russia For Entire Planeload Of Coronavirus Equipment – Official (R.)

The United States is paying Russia for a planeload of medical equipment sent by Moscow to help fight the coronavirus outbreak, a senior Trump administration official said on Thursday, clearing up confusion as to who footed the bill. It had been unclear whether Russia had sent the 60 tons of equipment as a gift or whether it had sold the shipment of ventilators, masks, respirators and other items following a phone discussion between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump, asked about the shipment at a White House news briefing, said he was happy to take delivery of it. “I am not concerned about Russian propaganda, not even a little bit. He (Putin) offered a lot of medical, high-quality stuff that I accepted. And that may save a lot of lives. I’ll take it every day,” he said.


The Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow had paid half the cost with the other half picked up by Washington. But the senior administration official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the United States paid. “The United States is purchasing the supplies and equipment outright, as with deliveries from other countries,” the official said. “We appreciate Russia selling these items to us below market value.” The official did not give an exact cost. The State Department did not respond to requests for more information. The plane arrived on Wednesday at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and the gear was to be inspected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make sure it met U.S. quality standards.

Read more …

Ben Hunt is setting up a program to purchase and distribute masks and other PPE equipment in the US. It’s a terrible shame that he, like so many Americans, thinks he must, for some reason, put this in terms of warfare. Shouldn’t it be the opposite?

“There is no country in the world that mobilizes for war more effectively than the United States. And I know you won’t believe me, but I tell you it is true: This will be #OurFinestHour.”

Our Finest Hour (Ben Hunt)

Last week we wrote a brief note (Getting PPE to Healthcare Workers and First Responders) to introduce our efforts to get personal protective equipment (PPE) directly into the hands of frontline heroes: healthcare professionals and emergency responders who put their own lives and their families’ lives at risk every freakin’ day to stem the tide against this virus. Today I want to share with you the story of how this effort has come together into something real and tangible. Today I want to invite you to join us. First let me tell you what we’re NOT doing. We are not competing with federal or state emergency management authorities in their big bulk orders of PPE.


We are not going to drive up the price of these supplies any more than they have already been driven up in this global scramble to acquire medical gear. But we are also not waiting on these federal or state emergency management authorities to get these big bulk orders and then trickle the supplies down to the frontlines. What we ARE doing is putting together an end-to-end grassroots PPE distribution effort, where we source the equipment from certified manufacturers who meet accepted international standards, we pay for these purchases out of a 501(c)(3) foundation where 100 cents of every dollar goes to this effort, and we distribute that PPE all the way through the “last-mile”, getting small quantities of PPE directly into the hands of clinicians and first responders who are in urgent need.

Over the past 10 days we’ve purchased and distributed about 15,000 N95 and N95-equivalent masks directly to the doctors and nurses and firemen and EMTs who need the equipment NOW, in deliveries as small as 30 masks and as large as 500, depending on need. More importantly, we’ve set up a pipeline where we think we can get a steady delivery of 2,000 or so masks per day AND the occasional larger order AND the distribution capacity + knowledge to get this equipment directly to our frontline heroes. We’ve raised more than $200,000 to support this effort. We’ve partnered with incredibly generous private companies ranging in size from a Fortune 50 megacorp to the owners of the local UPS franchise. And we’re just getting started.


[..] If you are a healthcare worker or a first responder anywhere in the United States in urgent need of PPE, or you know someone who is, please fill out the online form below to get on our distribution list. Right now we are focused on N95 and N95-equivalent masks (more on the different types of masks in the Sourcing section of this note), although in the future we will try to supply isolation gowns and other PPE items..

Read more …

Ask Ben Hunt.

New York City Nurses Demand Personal Protection Equipment (WABC)

There’s a growing concern among nurses and doctors in New York City that they’ll run out of personal protection equipment (PPE) and supplies. A dozen health care workers spoke out Thursday near Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx about their concerns. “We’re running out of PPE, we’re running out of pain medication, we’re running out of sedatives,” third-year resident physician Laura Ucik said. State leaders say hundreds of thousands of personal protection masks and supplies have been shipped to New York, but some health care workers say their emergency rooms haven’t benefited yet. “If front line care givers are sick, are dying, there won’t be anyone left to take care of the public,” said Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, ER nurse and president of the New York State Nurses Association.


Some health care workers are saying they’re being told to reuse not only critical N95 masks but every day supplies. “I was given one disposable gown to use all day to take care of COVID-19 patients,” Ucik said. “And I would hang it up on an IV pole in between patients and put my single N95 mask into a brown paper bag.” It’s a problem at hospitals throughout the area. The New York City Health Department recently sent an alert to hospitals, telling them to “conserve all personal protective equipment now.” It isn’t a request, and the language in the alert states health care facilities must immediately implement these measures. “It puts me at risk, it puts you at risk, everyone in the health care building at risk,” nurse Victoria Lanquah said.

Read more …

It’ll prove to be a major factor all over the US.

New Orleans Coronavirus Death Rate Is Twice New York. Obesity Is A Factor (R.)

The coronavirus has been a far deadlier threat in New Orleans than the rest of the United States, with a per-capita death rate twice that of New York City. Doctors, public health officials and available data say the Big Easy’s high levels of obesity and related ailments may be part of the problem. “We’re just sicker,” said Rebekah Gee, who until January was the health secretary for Louisiana and now heads Louisiana State University’s healthcare services division. “We already had tremendous healthcare disparities before this pandemic – one can only imagine they are being amplified now.” Along with New York and Seattle, New Orleans has emerged as one of the early U.S. hot spots for the coronavirus, making it a national test case for how to control and treat the disease it causes.


Chief among the concerns raised by doctors working in the Louisiana city is the death rate, which is twice that of New York and over four times that of Seattle, based on Thursday’s publicly reported data. New Orleans residents suffer from obesity, diabetes and hypertension at rates higher than the national average, conditions that doctors and public health officials say can make patients more vulnerable to COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. Some 97% of those killed by COVID-19 in Louisiana had a pre-existing condition, according to the state health department. Diabetes was seen in 40% of the deaths, obesity in 25%, chronic kidney disease in 23% and cardiac problems in 21%. Orleans Parish, which encompasses the city, reported 125 confirmed coronavirus deaths as of Thursday, the equivalent of 32 coronavirus deaths per 100,000 people. That rate for New York City was at 15.9 on Thursday.

Read more …

Will Reuters stop polling the team of economists now, after another ridiculously off the mark prediction? No, it will not.

US Weekly Jobless Claims Blow Past Six Million As Lockdowns Spread (R.)

The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits shot to a record high of more than 6 million last week as more jurisdictions enforced stay-at-home measures to curb the coronavirus pandemic, which economists say has pushed the economy into recession. Thursday’s weekly jobless claims report from the Labor Department, the most timely data on the economy’s health, reinforced economists’ views that the longest employment boom in U.S. history probably ended in March. With a majority of Americans now under some form of lockdown, claims are expected to rise further. Economists said worsening job losses underscored the need for additional fiscal and monetary stimulus. President Donald Trump last week signed a historic $2.3 trillion package, with provisions for companies and unemployed workers.

The Federal Reserve has also undertaken extraordinary measures to help companies weather the highly contagious virus, which has brought the country to a halt. “These data underscore the magnitude of the stop-work order that has been imposed on the economy,” said Conrad DeQuadros, senior economic advisor at Brean Capital in New York. “The scale of the increase should also focus policymakers on getting the cash into the economy with possibly a fourth fiscal package and additional Fed lending programs.” [..] Initial claims for state unemployment benefits surged 3.341 million to a seasonally adjusted 6.648 million for the week ended March 28, the government said. That was double the previous all-time high of 3.307 million set in the prior week. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims would jump to 3.50 million in the latest week, though estimates were as high as 5.25 million.

Read more …

There are dozens of these things happening. This is the Jerusalem Post on an Israeli company, which makes the “news” suspicious right off the bat.

Israeli Scientists: Coronavirus Vaccine Tested On Humans By June 1 (JPost)

A team of Israeli researchers says that they are days away from completing the production of the active component of a coronavirus vaccine that could be tested on humans as early as June 1. “We are in the final stages and within a few days we will hold the proteins – the active component of the vaccine,” Dr. Chen Katz, group leader of MIGAL’s biotechnology group, told The Jerusalem Post. In late February, MIGAL (The Galilee Research Institute) committed to completing production of its vaccine within three weeks and having it on the market in 90 days. Katz said they were slightly delayed because it took longer than expected to receive the genetic construct that they ordered from China due to the airways being closed and it having to be rerouted.

As a reminder, for the past four years, researchers at MIGAL have been developing a vaccine against infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), which causes a bronchial disease affecting poultry. The effectiveness of the vaccine has been proven in preclinical trials carried out at the Veterinary Institute. “Our basic concept was to develop the technology and not specifically a vaccine for this kind or that kind of virus,” said Katz. “The scientific framework for the vaccine is based on a new protein expression vector, which forms and secretes a chimeric soluble protein that delivers the viral antigen into mucosal tissues by self-activated endocytosis, causing the body to form antibodies against the virus.”

In preclinical trials, the team demonstrated that the oral vaccination induces high levels of specific anti-IBV antibodies, Katz said. “Let’s call it pure luck,” he said. “We decided to choose coronavirus as a model for our system just as a proof of concept for our technology.”

Read more …

This can’t be the exception. Such “counting errors” maust be commonplace.

France’s Coronavirus Death Toll Jumps As Nursing Homes Included (R.)

The coronavirus death count in France surged to nearly 5,400 people on Thursday after the health ministry began including nursing home fatalities in its data. The pandemic had claimed the lives of 4,503 patients in hospitals by Thursday, up 12% on the previous day’s 4,032, said Jerome Salomon, head of the health authority. A provisional tally showed the coronavirus had killed a further 884 people in nursing homes and other care facilities, he added. This makes for a total of 5,387 lives lost to coronavirus in France – an increase of 1,355 over Wednesday’s cumulative total – although data has not yet been collected from all of the country’s 7,400 nursing homes. “We are in France confronting an exceptional epidemic with an unprecedented impact on public health,” Salomon told a news conference.


The country’s broad lockdown is likely to be extended beyond April 15, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Thursday, extending a confinement order to try and deal with the crisis that began on March 17. The government was racing to try to ensure it can produce or procure itself certain medications needed to treat coronavirus patients as stocks were running low, Philippe told TF1 TV, echoing concerns across Europe as the pandemic places a huge strain on hospitals in Italy, Spain and elsewhere. More than two-thirds of all the known nursing home deaths have been registered in France’s Grand Est region, which abuts the border with Germany. It was the first region in France to be overwhelmed by a wave of infections that has rapidly moved west to engulf greater Paris, where hospitals are desperately trying to add intensive care beds to cope with the influx of critically ill patients.

Read more …

A few remarks: Germany has a huge amount of ICU places. Neighbor the Netherlands has far fewer. But that’s also partly due to a different philosophy: where most countries try to keep people alive as long as possible, the Netherlands has a tradition, way before corona, of focusing more on quality than quantity of life. Old people with multiple ailments are not kept alive at all costs.

And if Andrew Cuomo is correct when he stated that of all people put on a ventilator only 20% survives, a question mark may be suitable. Is Germany’s low death rate a result of them keeping people on ventilators for a long time that will not have a quality life again? Religion is a big issue, but on the other hand there’s a huge increase in Do Not Resuscitate documents.

Note: Germany this morning, like many other countries have, issued a warning that it may run out of ICU places. That may lead to German doctors having to make decisions that they’re not used to making, unlike their Dutch counterparts.

Germany Has A Low Coronavirus Mortality Rate: Here’s Why (CNBC)

Germany seems to be taking the epidemic in its stride with a high number of cases but a low number of deaths, thanks to a number of factors. In Europe, while Italy and Spain are the worst hit countries with over 100,000 cases each, as of Friday, Germany has recorded 84,794 confirmed cases but has witnessed just 1,107 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The low mortality rate in Germany, at just over 1%, is far below its neighboring European countries, and this has been put down to Germany’s decision to implement widespread testing of people suspected of having the virus, as opposed to Italy or the U.K.’s decision to only test symptomatic cases.

Karl Lauterbach, a professor of health economics and epidemiology at the University of Cologne, and a politician in the Social Democratic Party (SPD) of Germany, told CNBC that Germany’s less severe experience of the pandemic so far was down to a handful of factors. “I think so far we’ve been lucky because we were hit by the wave of new infections later than many other European countries, for example Italy, Spain and France,” he told CNBC Thursday. “So we had a minor but important delay in the wave of infections coming to Germany. Secondly, the first people that got infected in Germany tended to be younger than the average of the population … so we were hit later and with younger patients initially.”

Lauterbach noted that a third factor that helped Germany was a slow increase in the number of infections, allowing those patients to be treated at the country’s top medical institutions, including some of the country’s best university hospitals (including those in Bonn, Dusseldorf, Aachen and Cologne) in the Heinsberg region where there was a cluster of infections at the start of the outbreak. “Number four, all things considered, the German health-care system and hospital system has been modernized by the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats over the last 20 years … this meant we had more hospital beds, more ventilators, more ICU (Intensive Care Units) beds and more hospital doctors, roughly speaking, than any other comparable country in Europe … So our system is in a reasonable shape for such an epidemic.”

While almost all European countries have introduced lockdowns to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, fatality rates have differed wildly. The mortality rate in Italy around the end of March stood at 11%, for example. Germany’s rate is comparable with South Korea, a country that has also attracted plaudits for its management of the coronavirus crisis with extensive testing, contact tracing and digital surveillance of its citizens. Germany’s lockdown, alongside a rigorous testing regime, has also helped, Lauterbach said. While countries like the U.K. now have to build a diagnostics industry from scratch, Germany already had one built around the multinational might of Roche.

The country reportedly has the capacity to carry out up to 500,000 tests a week, whereas the U.K. can currently only manage just over 10,000 a day. Asked about the possible trajectory Germany’s coronavirus rate could take, Lauterbach said his worst-case scenario was that 10% of Germany’s 83 million population contract the virus, and with a 1% fatality rate, then 80,000 people would die. “It must be lower than that, it would be a tragedy if 10% of the population get infected, that’s my personal worst-case scenario.”

Read more …

We all know who will be the winners.

Fed’s Dilemma: Picking Winners For $4 Trillion In Credit (R.)

When the Federal Reserve polled Wall Street about financial stability risks last fall, “global pandemic” didn’t make the list. But the coronavirus outbreak has triggered virtually every other shock that was mentioned – from a stock market rout to a looming global recession – and is forcing the U.S. central bank and the U.S. Treasury to triage a system springing leaks by the day. Compared with the 2007-2009 meltdown, which was centered in the mortgage and financial markets, the current crisis is a massively more complex problem with the Fed pulled to intervene in virtually every aspect of U.S. household and corporate commerce and finance.

The challenge now facing the central bank, in consultation with the Treasury, is prioritizing which market, set of companies or group of institutions to help next as it plans how to leverage more than $450 billion of seed money from the Treasury into perhaps $4.5 trillion in credit programs. It is an uncomfortable role that could push the Fed beyond its traditional job of keeping financial markets open and running smoothly, to picking winners and losers in whatever economy emerges from a pandemic that has brought business activity to a virtual standstill.

“You’ve entered not just the world of accepting credit risk but of allocating it as well,” said Mark Spindel, a Fed historian who is the chief executive officer of Potomac River Capital. Through the emergency $2.3 trillion legislation passed last week, “Congress and Treasury have decided to cast the Fed as the only balance sheet large enough” for the measures that might be needed. In the extreme, that could include roughly $26 trillion in debt held by non-financial companies and households – $16 trillion if home mortgages are excluded.

Read more …

Keith Jurow omits one way the housing zombie has been kept alive: ultra low rates.

This Hard Truth About The Mortgage Markets Isn’t Being Told (Jurow)

Everyone wants to know what impact the coronavirus and the government response to it will have on housing markets. While it is too early to hazard a guess, some things are becoming increasingly clear. Already, it looks as if the U.S. is moving towards a temporary moratorium on mortgage payments. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac unveiled an emergency program which provides a two-month deferral of mortgage payments for any homeowner who claims to be facing a hardship because of the virus. The payments will be tacked on at the end of the mortgage term. The coronavirus rescue law just enacted by Congress includes a provision which requires all firms that service federally-backed mortgages to grant a forbearance of up to 360 days for any borrowers who say they have been harmed by the coronavirus outbreak.

It is not much of a stretch to say that this virus has changed everything. Many of you may sense that the virus has undermined what you thought was still a fairly strong housing market around the country. In truth, the so-called housing recovery since 2010 has been little more than a carefully constructed illusion. The belief in a strong housing recovery was carefully devised using a strategy of misleading information, withheld data and false impressions. As I have explained in recent columns, the strategy to turn around collapsing housing markets unfolded in three parts: (1) restrict the number of foreclosed properties placed on the market; (2) radically reduce the number of seriously delinquent homes actually foreclosed and repossessed, and (3) provide millions of delinquent homeowners a mortgage modification as an alternative to foreclosure.

This strategy fooled nearly everyone into believing that the disaster has been overcome. The best example is Los Angeles County — ground zero for the collapse. In 2008, more than 37,000 properties were foreclosed. The plunge in foreclosures didn’t really kick in until 2012 when the number dropped to slightly over 10,000. The next year, foreclosures plunged to 3,340. Don’t think for a minute that this was due to an improving economy. Not at all. It was simply the strategy of desperate servicers. With so few properties foreclosed and even fewer placed on the market, home prices had no where to go but up.

Read more …

The Fed will be dragged to the ground by the zombies it’s carrying.

A Corporate Debt Reckoning Is Coming (13D)

Corporate debt is the timebomb everyone saw ticking, but no one was able to defuse. Ratings agencies warned about it: Moody’s, S&P. Central banks and international financial institutions did too: the Fed, the Bank of England, the Bank for International Settlements, the IMF. Financial luminaries expressed concern: Jamie Dimon, Seth Klarman, Jes Staley, Jeffrey Gundlach, Henry McVey. Even a presidential candidate brought the issue on the campaign trail: Elizabeth Warren. Yet, as we’ve documented in these pages for more than two years, corporations have only piled on more debt as their balance sheet health has deteriorated.


Total U.S. non-financial corporate debt sits at just under $10 trillion, a record 47% of GDP. One in six U.S. companies is now a zombie, meaning their interest expenses exceed their earnings before interest and taxes. As of year-end 2019, the percentage of listed companies in the U.S. losing money over 12 months sat close to 40%. In the 12 months to November, non-financial S&P 500 cash balances had declined by 11%, the largest percentage decline since at least 1980.
For too long, record-low interest rates inspired complacency, from companies to lenders to regulators and investors. As we warned in WILTW August 8, 2019, corporate fundamentals will eventually matter. Now, with COVID-19 grinding the global economy to a halt, that time has come.

Systemic threats are littered throughout the corporate debt ecosystem. Greater than 50% of outstanding debt is rated BBB, one rung above junk. As downgrades come, asset managers will be forced to flood the market with supply at a time demand has dried up. Meanwhile, leveraged loans — which have swelled by 50% since 2015 to over $1.2 trillion — threaten unprecedented losses given covenant deterioration. And bond ETFs could face a liquidity crisis as a flood of redemptions force offloading of all-too-illiquid bonds. Red lights are now flashing. Distressed debt in the U.S. has quadrupled in less than a week to nearly $1 trillion. Last week, bond fund outflows quadrupled the previous record, which was set the previous week. Moody’s and S&P have already declared a significant portion of outstanding debt under review for potential downgrade.


Source: FInancial Times

Read more …

Boeing’s miliary division is as fault-prone as its 737MAX part. And that’s what the country’s security depends on.

US Air Force To Release $882 Million To Boeing (R.)

The U.S. Air Force will release $882 million in payments to Boeing that were held back due to flaws in the KC-46 air refueling tanker, a Pentagon official said on Thursday. The release of the payment to Boeing is part of a broader recommendation sent to Air Force contracting officials, according to a memo seen by Reuters, aimed at maintaining the financial health of suppliers to the Department of Defense. Will Roper, the Air Force’s chief buyer, told reporters the initiative will free up billions of dollars in funding for numerous contractors, not just Boeing. “If we want to have a defense industrial base coming out of COVID-19, that’s able to continue building,” Roper said, “every day is a new challenge.”


Boeing’s financial situation has become increasingly precarious as economic fallout from the coronavirus has frozen key lending markets and cut off demand for Boeing’s commercial aircraft. The Air Force had the right to hold back about $28 million of the cost of each of the first 52 KC-46 Pegasus jets on order to ensure Boeing delivers fully functional tankers. With 33 jets delivered thus far, the Air Force could have withheld up to $924 million. The Air Force plans to buy 179 of the aircraft, which refuel other aircraft mid-air, but the program has been plagued with problems, including foreign object debris found onboard the planes and issues with a camera system used during the refueling process.

Read more …

A lot of money changed hands yesterday. But who won?

US Crude Futures Trim Record Gain (R.)

Benchmark U.S. crude fell more than 1% in early trade on Friday, coming off its biggest one-day gain in the previous session after U.S. President Donald Trump said he expected Saudi Arabia and Russia to announce a major oil production cut. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 1.4%, or 36 cents, at $24.96 a barrel at 2223 GMT, after having surged 24.7% on Thursday. Even with the huge gains, prices have still slumped nearly 60% this year as oil demand has plummeted due to the coronavirus pandemic while Saudi Arabia and Russia have flooded the market with crude in a price war.


Trump said he had spoken to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and expects Saudi Arabia and Russia to cut oil output by as much as 10 million to 15 million barrels, as the two countries signaled willingness to make a deal. Analysts said even if Russia and Saudi Arabia agreed to cut production by as much as 15 million barrels per day (bpd) that would not be enough to balance the market in face of a deep economic recession. “The 10-15 million bpd oil production cut reportedly being brokered by President Trump is a great start, but deeper cuts will likely be needed to get through a difficult Q2,” said Stephen Innes, chief global market strategist at AxiCorp. A deal between Russia and Saudi Arabia could effectively establish a floor for WTI in the $30s, he said.

Read more …

At times it feels like he closely follows a Rudy Giuliani scenario. Rule of thumb: if someone has never been really popular and all of a sudden is, do ask why.

Cuomo’s Bubble is Starting to Burst (Lauria)

Cuomo’s present regard for the well-being of every New Yorker, rich or poor, and his lyrical demands to ramp up the number of hospital beds and ventilators is undermined by an ongoing record of drastically cutting back on the state’s assistance to public medical facilities that serve the poor. While he is now frantically trying to add hospital beds in the state (which has lost 20,000 in the past 20 years), Cuomo, over the past decade, agreed to close and consolidate numerous public hospitals, mostly serving the poor, to save money. For instance, in 2013 he approved the closure of the 500-bed Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, despite objections from the community.

Even in these extraordinary circumstances his budget proposal to shave $400 million off the state’s $35 billion Medicaid bill—which provides care to the poorest New Yorkers—was accepted by the state Senate on Thursday when it passed Cuomo’s 2020 budget. It comes precisely as Medicaid recipients need it most. The state Assembly is to vote on the budget Friday. “So determined is Cuomo to slash Medicaid spending that he’s prepared to reject more than $6 billion in matching federal aid approved earlier this month because it would force him to alter his austerity strategy,” The Nation reported on Monday. It said:

“If Cuomo gets his way with the state budget [which the Senate has now given him], many of the city’s most besieged hospitals will lose money at a time when Covid-19 is threatening to crash New York’s health care system. Central Brooklyn hospitals, serving many of the borough’s working class and poor, could lose $38 million a year. Manhattan hospitals could lose up to $58 million a year.” Naomi Zewde, an assistant professor in the Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy at CUNY, told the magazine: “’The proposal to cut funding to public hospitals during a pandemic reflects really poor decision-making.’” Making it worse, is that Cuomo’s budget did not include rises in property or wealth taxes, despite a $10-15 billion shortfall. “There were no new taxes on the ultrarich, a measure many liberals had clamored for,” The New York Times reported.

Read more …

Yes, surveillance state. But no, it’s nothing new.

Google Releases Location Data On Lockdowns In 131 Countries (R.)

Google’s analysis of location data from billions of users’ phones is the largest public dataset available to help health authorities assess if people are abiding with shelter-in-place and similar orders issued across the world. Its reports show charts that compare traffic from Feb. 16 to March 29 at subway, train and bus stations, grocery stores and other broad categories of places with a five-week period earlier this year. In Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the virus, visits to retail and recreation locations, including restaurants and movie theaters, plunged 94% while visits to workplaces slid 63%. Reflecting the severity of the crisis there, grocery and pharmacy visits in Italy dropped 85% and park visits were down by 90%.

In the United States, California, which was the first in the with a statewide lockdown, cut visits to retail and recreation locations by half. By contrast, Arkansas, one of the few states without a sweeping lockdown, has seen such visits fall 29%, the lowest for a U.S. state. The data also underscore some challenges authorities have faced in keeping people apart. Grocery store visits surged in Singapore, the United Kingdom and elsewhere as travel restrictions were set to go into place. Visits to parks spiked in March in some San Francisco Bay Area counties, forcing them to later put the sites off limits. By contrast, in Japan where authorities have been relatively relaxed in urging social distancing measures but where calls have been growing daily for a state of emergency, visits to retail and recreational places fell 26%. Visits to workplace dropped a mere 9%.

[..] Facebook Inc, which like Google has billions of users, has shared location data with non-governmental researchers that are producing similar reports for authorities in several countries. But the social media giant has not published any findings. Infectious disease specialists have said analyzing travel across groups by age, income and other demographics could help shape public service announcements. Google, which infers demographics from users’ internet use as well as some data given when signing up to Google services, said it was not reporting demographic information. The company said, though, it was open to including additional information and countries in follow-up reports.

Read more …

The biggest winner in the lockdown economy still finds time to abuse its workers.

Leaked Amazon Memo Details Plan to Smear Fired Warehouse Organizer (Vice)

Leaked notes from an internal meeting of Amazon leadership obtained by VICE News reveal company executives discussed a plan to smear fired warehouse employee Christian Smalls, calling him “not smart or articulate” as part of a PR strategy to make him “the face of the entire union/organizing movement.” “He’s not smart, or articulate, and to the extent the press wants to focus on us versus him, we will be in a much stronger PR position than simply explaining for the umpteenth time how we’re trying to protect workers,” wrote Amazon General Counsel David Zapolsky in notes from the meeting forwarded widely in the company. The discussion took place at a daily meeting, which included CEO Jeff Bezos, to update each other on the coronavirus situation.

Amazon SVP of Global Corporate Affairs Jay Carney described the purpose to CNN on Sunday: “We go over the update on what’s happening around the world with our employees and with our customers and our businesses. We also spend a significant amount of time just brainstorming about what else we can do” about COVID-19. Zapolsky’s notes also detailed Amazon’s efforts to buy millions of protective masks to protect its workers from the coronavirus, as well as an effort to begin producing and selling its own masks. So far, the company has secured at least 10 million masks for “our operations guys,” with 25 million more coming from a supplier in the next two weeks, Zapolsky wrote. Amazon fired the warehouse worker Smalls on Monday, after he led a walkout of a number of employees at a Staten Island distribution warehouse.

Amazon says he was fired for violating a company-imposed 14-day quarantine after he came into contact with an employee who tested positive for the coronavirus. Smalls says the employee who tested positive came into contact with many other workers for longer periods of time before her test came back. He claims he was singled out after pleading with management to sanitize the warehouse and be more transparent about the number of workers who were sick. [..] “We should spend the first part of our response strongly laying out the case for why the organizer’s conduct was immoral, unacceptable, and arguably illegal, in detail, and only then follow with our usual talking points about worker safety,” Zapolsky wrote. “Make him the most interesting part of the story, and if possible make him the face of the entire union/organizing movement.”

Read more …

 

It must be possible to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. These are no longer the times when ads pay for all you read, your donations have become an integral part of it. It has become a two-way street; and isn’t that liberating, when you think about it?

Thanks everyone for your wonderfully generous donations over the past days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Mar 222020
 
 March 22, 2020  Posted by at 11:25 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  44 Responses »


DPC Grand Central Station and Hotel Manhattan, NY 1906

 

Italy To Shut All Non-Strategic Business Activities Until April 3 (R.)
India Starts 14-Hour Curfew To Curb Virus Spread (R.)
FDA Approves New Coronavirus Test That Can Diagnose Within Hours (Solomon)
Most Cases In New York City Are Of People Under 50 (NBC)
38 Positive For Coronavirus In NYC Jails, Including Rikers (AP)
Britain ‘Two Or Three Weeks’ Behind Italy On Coronavirus: PM Johnson (R.)
NHS Could Be Overwhelmed Like Italy – Boris (R.)
Doctors Given New Guidelines On Choosing Which Patients To Treat (Ind.)
Airlines Appear To Come Up Short In Bid To Win Cash Grants In Rescue Package (R.)
Grocery Clerks Unlikely Heroes In US Coronavirus Fight (R.)
Banks Pressure Health Care Firms To Raise Prices On Drugs, Supplies (IC)
Russia Ready to Send 100 Specialists Including Virologists to Italy (Sp.)
The Coronavirus Did Not Escape From A Lab. Here’s How We Know. (LiveScience)

 

 

 

Cases 311,796 (+ 32,476 from yesterday’s 279,320)

Deaths 13, 071 (+ 1,481 from yesterday’s 11,587)

 

 

I dubbed it “Virus Time” myself, but even my brain has trouble comprehending what that truly is. It’s been less than two days since I wrote:

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

Less than 48 hours later, it’s done. This is what things looked like the day before I said that:

 

 

And here we are this morning:

 

 

 

Difference in timing of emergency declarations between San Francisco and Miami-Dade:

 

 

The virus still is a time machine. Project the next two weeks:

 

 

 

 

Here are the usual graphs. Note: I replaced the last one, COVID2019.app, with COVID2019Live.info, because the former keeps on closing off access.

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 12% !! –

 

 

From SCMP: (SCMP appears to have given up on timely updating)

 

 

From COVID2019Live.info: (Replacement for COVID2019.app, which -again- had their pages closed)

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s real wartime measures. Contrast it with Germany politely asking its car manufacturers to produce medical equipment. Everyone’s waiting till the very last moment, and that’s always too late. But that’s politicians for you, and we’re not going to change that anytime soon.

Italy To Shut All Non-Strategic Business Activities Until April 3 (R.)

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Saturday that all Italian businesses must close until April 3, with the exception of those essential to maintaining the country’s supply chain, in the latest desperate effort to halt the coronavirus epidemic. Italy recorded a jump in deaths from the virus of almost 800 on Saturday, taking the toll in the world’s hardest-hit country to almost 5,000. “It is the most difficult crisis in our post-war period,” Conte said in a video posted on Facebook, adding that “only production activities deemed vital for national production will be allowed”.


Supermarkets, pharmacies, postal and banking services will remain open, Conte said, and essential public services including transport will be ensured. “We are slowing down the country’s production engine but we are not stopping it,” he said. The government is expected to publish an emergency decree on Sunday to make the latest crackdown immediately effective.

Read more …

So let them roam free for 10 hours a day, and that should solve what exactly?

India Starts 14-Hour Curfew To Curb Virus Spread (R.)

India launched a 14-hour curfew on Sunday (March 22) to limit the fast-spreading coronavirus epidemic in the country, where 315 people have so far been found to have contracted the disease. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an address to the nation last week, urged citizens to stay indoors from 7am to 9pm local time – a move that he said would be a crucial test for a country to assess its abilities to fight the pandemic. “Let us all be a part of this curfew, which will add tremendous strength to the fight against the Covid-19 menace,” Mr Modi tweeted minutes before the curfew commenced. “The steps we take now will help in the times to come.” Health experts said India’s cases have been growing at a rate seen during the early stages of the outbreak in other countries, which subsequently reported exponential increases in infections.


Several Indian states announced measures to curb the spread of coronavirus. Four cities in Mr Modi’s home state of Gujarat have declared a complete shutdown until Wednesday. The neighbouring desert state of Rajasthan ordered a shutdown until March 31, while eastern and central states suspended inter-state bus operations to prevent an exodus of daily wage earners from urban centres to villages. State leaders urged citizens not to rush to villages and avoid crowding trains and buses to prevent the virus spread. Tensions have mounted, however, with angry labourers protesting at some bus stations against sudden closures of basic transport services.

Read more …

Funny they don’t say who gets to be tested, and who doesn’t. Until we know, what’s the difference with today?

FDA Approves New Coronavirus Test That Can Diagnose Within Hours (Solomon)

The Food and Drug Administration announced approval Saturday for a new coronavirus test that can diagnose patients within hours, instead of days. The new rapid test, manufactured by California-based Cepheid, is expected to be in the market by March 30, officials said. “The test we’re authorizing today will be able to provide Americans with results within hours, rather than days like the existing tests,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said. “With the development of point of care diagnostics, Americans who need tests will be able to get results faster than ever before.


“More and more options for reliable, convenient testing are becoming available at an incredibly rapid pace, thanks to the hard work of our FDA team and the ingenuity of American industry.” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said the approval “marks an important step in expanding the availability of testing and, importantly, rapid results.” Hahn said because the rapid test can be administered at the point of care, it “means that results are delivered to patients in the patient care settings, like hospitals, urgent care centers and emergency rooms, instead of samples being sent to a laboratory.”

Read more …

Tell the braindead on the Florida beaches that. I was thinking: let them get infected, good riddance. But they will infect others too, and besides, shouldn’t the blame rest with Florida state for leaving the beaches open, with the stores and bars for serving them, and with the parents who send their kids into the infection pools?

Most Cases In New York City Are Of People Under 50 (NBC)

Most people who have tested positive for coronavirus in New York City are younger than 50, according to figures released by the city Saturday. This does not reflect the ages of those who have died, only people confirmed to be infected with the virus. Overall, 57 percent of those who have tested positive in the city are 49 or younger. People 18 to 49 years old make up the majority, 54 percent, the city said. The next largest group are those age 50 to 64, who account for 23 percent of positive test results so far. The accounting reflects data known to the city through 5:30 p.m. Friday. On Friday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “We are now the epicenter of this crisis” in the United States.

Read more …

About 2.5 million people are incarcerated in the US.

38 Positive For Coronavirus In NYC Jails, Including Rikers (AP)

At least 38 people have tested positive for coronavirus in New York City jails, including at the notorious Rikers Island jail complex, the board that oversees the city’s jail system said Saturday. In a letter to criminal justice leaders, Board of Correction interim chairwoman Jacqueline Sherman wrote that at least 58 other people were currently being monitored in contagious disease and quarantine units. “It is likely these people have been in hundreds of housing areas and common areas over recent weeks and have been in close contact with many other people in custody and staff,” Sherman warned, predicting a sharp rise in the number of infections.


“The best path forward to protecting the community of people housed and working in the jails is to rapidly decrease the number of people housed and working in them.” In the past six days, she wrote, the board learned that at least 12 Department of Correction employees, five Correctional Health Services employees, and 21 inmates have tested positive for the virus. The city’s jail agency and its city-run healthcare provider did not respond to messages seeking comment on the letter. On Friday, the city’s Department of Corrections said just one inmate had been diagnosed with coronavirus, along with seven jail staff members.

Read more …

Of all the failing “world leaders”, Boris is vying for the no. 1 position. This came one day after he refused to close pubs and schools.

What triggered him is this: “UK yesterday saw total deaths reach 233. Italy was at exactly that figure on March 7th. 2 weeks behind.”

Britain ‘Two Or Three Weeks’ Behind Italy On Coronavirus: PM Johnson (R.)

Britain was only “two or three” weeks behind Italy on the spread of coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. In comments carried in the Sunday Telegraph and other Sunday newspapers, Johnson said Britain’s health service could be overwhelmed. “Unless we act together, unless we make the heroic and collective national effort to slow the spread – then it is all too likely that our own NHS will be similarly overwhelmed,” he said.

Read more …

Turning around on a dime with no mea culpa whatsoever should really boost people’s confidence in you.

NHS Could Be Overwhelmed Like Italy – Boris (R.)

Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) could be “overwhelmed” by the coronavirus like the Italian health system in just two weeks, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned. The death toll in Italy reached almost 5,000 on Saturday, while in the UK it hit 233. In comments carried in the Sunday Telegraph and other Sunday newspapers, Johnson again urged Britons to stay at home to stop the spread of the virus. “Unless we act together, unless we make the heroic and collective national effort to slow the spread – then it is all too likely that our own NHS will be similarly overwhelmed,” he said. “The Italians have a superb health-care system. And yet their doctors and nurses have been completely overwhelmed by the demand,” Johnson noted.


He advised people to keep away from elderly parents on Mothering Sunday (March 22). “The single best present that we can give … is to spare them the risk of catching a very dangerous disease,” he said. Earlier, Britain urged 1.5 million people identified by the NHS as being at higher risk of severe illness if they contract coronavirus to not leave their homes to protect themselves. On Friday, Johnson effectively closed down the United Kingdom, ordering pubs, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and gyms to shut their doors to fight the virus. Stores are also starting to shut.

Read more …

Also from f#*king Boris. And I kid you not: in the corner of my eye I see a BBC show called “The Big Questions”, in which people who all sit the “correct” 10 feet or so apart, discuss the urgent issue: “Should fat-shaming be against the law?”, as their health system is set to crash. And I’m thinking: those glaciers can’t melt fast enough.

Doctors Given New Guidelines On Choosing Which Patients To Treat (Ind.)

New guidelines have been published to help doctors and nurses decide how to prioritise patients during the coronavirus pandemic. The advice from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) was produced amid concerns that the NHS would be overwhelmed by the demand for intensive care beds and ventilators. It follows reports from the worst-hit parts of Italy where older and sicker patients had to be rejected in favour of the younger and fitter. The three new Nice guidelines, which have been drawn up within a week rather than the usual timescale of up to two years, cover patients needing critical care, kidney dialysis and cancer treatment.


They say all patients admitted to hospital should still be assessed as usual for frailty “irrespective of Covid-19 status”. Decisions about admitting patients to critical care should consider how likely they are to recover, taking into account the likelihood of recovery “to an outcome that is acceptable to them”. Doctors are advised to discuss possible “do not resuscitate” decisions with adults who are assessed as having increased frailty, such as those who need help with outside activities or are dependent for personal care. The document says critical care treatment should be stopped “when it is no longer considered able to achieve the desired overall goals”, following a discussion with family, carers, the patient or an independent advocate.

Read more …

“If there was a meteor racing towards earth right now, they would be passing a bill to give that meteor a tax credit.”
– @jimmy_dore

Airlines Appear To Come Up Short In Bid To Win Cash Grants In Rescue Package (R.)

A last-ditch effort by the chief executives of major U.S. airlines to try to win cash grants to weather the coronavirus crisis looked to be unsuccessful, four congressional aides and airline officials said late Saturday. Airlines had made a last ditch plea urging that $29 billion of $58 billion sought in assistance for airlines be in the form of cash grants. They had offered not to make any job cuts through Aug. 31 if they won the cash and to accept restrictions on executive pay and to forgo paying dividends or stock buybacks. The CEOs of 10 U.S. passenger and cargo carriers had said in a letter that without direct cash assistance, “draconian measures” such as furloughs may be necessary.

Senate Republicans hope to unveil the text of the rescue and stimulus package Sunday that could total $1.6 trillion and is set to include $50 billion in collateralized loan and loan guarantees for passenger airlines and $8 billion for cargo carriers. Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer said there was still “no deal,” so it is possible the final airline provisions could change in negotiations. Senator John Thune, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, said earlier airline grants were not winning backing “at this point, I don’t sense support for it here or with the administration. But like I said, nothing is done.”

Airlines are expected to soon turn their attention to applying for government collateralized loans and the terms the legislation will include. The initial Republican plan said the U.S. Treasury could demand stock, warrants or options as part of any airline loans. The global coronavirus outbreak has forced airlines to cancel tens of thousands of flights and resulted in massive revenue losses. On Saturday, United Airlines said it was canceling 90% of its international flights in April.

Read more …

It’s been obvious for a long time that Americans have completely lost sight of what a hero is. But even then. Pay them a decent salary, then we can talk.

The article is the picture painted for you. The reality is:

“I have been coming in sick because I’m worried that I’ll lose my job or just be punished if I call out,” said Angel Duarte, a package handler at a UPS hub in Tucson, Ariz. “I am 23, and I have no savings, and I have a 4-month-old son.“

Grocery Clerks Unlikely Heroes In US Coronavirus Fight (R.)

For Philip, a grocery store clerk, it’s not a matter of if he gets coronavirus, but when. He is among millions of supermarket employees who have been classified as critical U.S. workers at “essential businesses” that will stay open to prevent disruption in food supply. While other workers are being told to stay home to slow the spread of the coronavirus, these employees are being asked to put themselves in constant contact with the public. Coronavirus cases are beginning to appear among them. Whole Foods Market on Thursday reported a positive case in a New York City worker.

California late on Thursday issued an unprecedented statewide “stay at home order” directing the state’s 40 million residents to hunker down in their homes for the foreseeable future. Grocery stores, along with pharmacies, banks and gas stations, will remain open under the order. Working low-paying jobs, these unlikely heroes in the produce section and behind the meat counter are both terrified and gratified to be on the frontlines of the U.S. coronavirus fight. Some employers have raised wages and granted paid sick leave, but there is pressure on them to do more.

“I didn’t sign up to be in a position where I’m constantly exposed to a deadly virus, but I understand too that if grocery stores close then there are way bigger problems,” said Philip, who works in the produce section of a Whole Foods store in a southern U.S. state. Philip asked that his last name and location not be used. “I’d just like to get the virus now, and get it out of the way, so I can come back to work,” said Philip, who is in his 30s. “Everyone’s terrified there, deep down, apart from the few who think it’s not a big deal yet.”

Read more …

Words? Not me.

Banks Pressure Health Care Firms To Raise Prices On Drugs, Supplies (IC)

In recent weeks, investment bankers have pressed health care companies on the front lines of fighting the novel coronavirus, including drug firms developing experimental treatments and medical supply firms, to consider ways that they can profit from the crisis. The media has mostly focused on individuals who have taken advantage of the market for now-scarce medical and hygiene supplies to hoard masks and hand sanitizer and resell them at higher prices. But the largest voices in the health care industry stand to gain from billions of dollars in emergency spending on the pandemic, as do the bankers and investors who invest in health care companies.

Over the past few weeks, investment bankers have been candid on investor calls and during health care conferences about the opportunity to raise drug prices. In some cases, bankers received sharp rebukes from health care executives; in others, executives joked about using the attention on Covid-19 to dodge public pressure on the opioid crisis. Gilead Sciences, the company producing remdesivir, the most promising drug to treat Covid-19 symptoms, is one such firm facing investor pressure. Remdesivir is an antiviral that began development as a treatment for dengue, West Nile virus, and Zika, as well as MERS and SARS.

The World Health Organization has said there is “only one drug right now that we think may have real efficacy in treating coronavirus symptoms” — namely, remdesivir. The drug, though developed in partnership with the University of Alabama through a grant from the federal government’s National Institutes of Health, is patented by Gilead Sciences, a major pharmaceutical company based in California. The firm has faced sharp criticism in the past for its pricing practices. It previously charged $84,000 for a yearlong supply of its hepatitis C treatment, which was also developed with government research support. Remdesivir is estimated to produce a one-time revenue of $2.5 billion.

Read more …

Just days after the EU accused Russia of using the virus to spread disinformation in Europe.

Russia Ready to Send 100 Specialists Including Virologists to Italy (Sp.)

“In accordance with instructions from the Russian Defence Minister, Army Gen. Sergei Shoigu, the Russian Aerospace Forces have completed the creation of a necessary air group to deliver forces and equipment from the Russian Defence Ministry allocated to assist the Italian Republic in the fight against the coronavirus”, the statement says. The ministry added that nine Il-76 military transport aircraft with trained crews had been transferred to the Chkalovsky military airfield in the Moscow Region from the Pskov, Ulyanovsk, and Orenburg regions.


The group of about 100 people, including experienced virologists and epidemiologists, is ready to depart for Italy, the ministry said. On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte by phone that Moscow was ready to promptly assist Rome in the fight against the coronavirus. The defence ministry then said that Russia would send eight mobile teams of Russian military virologists and doctors, vehicles for aerosol disinfection, and medical equipment to Italy.

Read more …

For your daily group discussion,. WHich you’re not allowed to have anymore.

The Coronavirus Did Not Escape From A Lab. Here’s How We Know. (LiveScience)

As the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 spreads across the globe, with cases surpassing 284,000 worldwide today (March 20), misinformation is spreading almost as fast. One persistent myth is that this virus, called SARS-CoV-2, was made by scientists and escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began. A new analysis of SARS-CoV-2 may finally put that latter idea to bed. A group of researchers compared the genome of this novel coronavirus with the seven other coronaviruses known to infect humans: SARS, MERS and SARS-CoV-2, which can cause severe disease; along with HKU1, NL63, OC43 and 229E, which typically cause just mild symptoms, the researchers wrote March 17 in the journal Nature Medicine. “Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus,” they write in the journal article.


Kristian Andersen, an associate professor of immunology and microbiology at Scripps Research, and his colleagues looked at the genetic template for the spike proteins that protrude from the surface of the virus. The coronavirus uses these spikes to grab the outer walls of its host’s cells and then enter those cells. They specifically looked at the gene sequences responsible for two key features of these spike proteins: the grabber, called the receptor-binding domain, that hooks onto host cells; and the so-called cleavage site that allows the virus to open and enter those cells. That analysis showed that the “hook” part of the spike had evolved to target a receptor on the outside of human cells called ACE2, which is involved in blood pressure regulation. It is so effective at attaching to human cells that the researchers said the spike proteins were the result of natural selection and not genetic engineering.


© Andriy Onufriyenko/Getty Images

Here’s why: SARS-CoV-2 is very closely related to the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which fanned across the globe nearly 20 years ago. Scientists have studied how SARS-CoV differs from SARS-CoV-2 — with several key letter changes in the genetic code. Yet in computer simulations, the mutations in SARS-CoV-2 don’t seem to work very well at helping the virus bind to human cells. If scientists had deliberately engineered this virus, they wouldn’t have chosen mutations that computer models suggest won’t work. But it turns out, nature is smarter than scientists, and the novel coronavirus found a way to mutate that was better — and completely different— from anything scientists could have created, the study found.


Another nail in the “escaped from evil lab” theory? The overall molecular structure of this virus is distinct from the known coronaviruses and instead most closely resembles viruses found in bats and pangolins that had been little studied and never known to cause humans any harm. “If someone were seeking to engineer a new coronavirus as a pathogen, they would have constructed it from the backbone of a virus known to cause illness,” according to a statement from Scripps.

Read more …

 

German doctor, during plague in 14th century:

 

 

 

 

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

 

Mar 042020
 


DPC North approach, Pedro Miguel Lock, Panama Canal 1915

 

 

 

WHO Raises Global Mortality Rate For COVID-19 Up To 3.4% (CNBC)
Maybe Jay Powell’s Not Cut Out For This Fed Chair Thing (Shazar)
Airlines Rush To Boost Demand As Coronavirus Shreds Crisis Playbooks (R.)
Market Mayhem Exposes Fears About Oil Companies (CNN)
China’s Funding Breakdown Emphasises Economic Imbalances (SCMP)
CIA Has Been Attacking Multiple Chinese Bodies For 11 Years (PDaily)
Court: Clinton Must Testify On Email Scandal (Turley)
Napolitano: Hillary Clinton Faces A Catch-22 Over Private Email Server (Fox)
The Establishment Struggles With The “Nightmare” Of Authenticity (Turley)
Russia Says Turkey Does Not Meet Terms Of Pact In Syria’s Idlib (R.)
Russia Says Turkey Trying To Push 130,000 Refugees From Syria Into Greece (R.)
EU Pledges €700 Million To Help Greece Fight Migrant Influx From Turkey (F24)
Planet Plastic (Rolling Stone)

The virus has been reported in 81 countries and counting (+ Diamond Princess).

First cases in last 48 hours:

– Chile
– Argentina
– Liechtenstein
– Ukraine
– Gibraltar
– Morocco
– Senegal
– Tunisia
– Latvia
– Jordan
– Andorra
– Portugal
– Indonesia
– Saudi Arabia

This is from Worldometer (I include them daily, see below), yesterday afternoon. They change to a “new day” at a for me odd time, which would make the numbers unclear. Check the huge increases in cases in Iran, Italy and South Korea -which added aother 435 cases today-. Also, WA state is a cluster. 9 deaths in no time. US cases up to 128 now. Virus may indeed, as has been suggested, have been around for 6 weeks.

 

 

• Germany reports 46 new cases
• Iran: 300,000 “volunteers” and soldiers, 54,000 prisoners out on bail
• Oregon officials warn up to 500 cases may be in state already
• Italy mulls cancelling all sporting events for a month

 

From SCMP:

 

 

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

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

And of course there’s Joe Biden’s huge win. CNN and the Dems act as if they own the world and he’s about to beat Trump. Last night, CNN switched to one of their people in one of the Super Tuesday states, and he started off saying: “The Republicans are getting vey nervous…”

Why on earth would they, though? I’ve always maintained the Hunter affair makes him unfit, but there’s more. He’s a desperate choice by those who’ve held the reins in the party for decades. We’ll see stuff like this repeated 1000 times:

 

 

As we already saw yesterday, the mortality rate is very diffrent from one location to another. Much higher in the US and Italy than in South Korea?! Same virus?

WHO Raises Global Mortality Rate For COVID-19 Up To 3.4% (CNBC)

World health officials said Tuesday the mortality rate for COVID-19 is 3.4% globally, higher than previous estimates of about 2%. “Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press briefing at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva. In comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected, he said. The World Health Organization had said last week that the mortality rate of COVID-19 can differ, ranging from 0.7% to up to 4%, depending on the quality of the health-care system where it’s treated. Early in the outbreak, scientists had concluded the death rate was around 2.3%.

During a press briefing Monday, WHO officials said they don’t know how COVID-19 behaves, saying it’s not like influenza. They added that while much is known about the seasonal flu, such as how it’s transmitted and what treatments work to suppress the disease, that same information is still in question when it comes to the coronavirus. “This is a unique virus, with unique features. This virus is not influenza,” Tedros said Monday. “We are in uncharted territory.” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program, said Monday that the coronavirus isn’t transmitting the same exact way as the flu and health officials have been given a “glimmer, a chink of light” that the virus could be contained.


“Here we have a disease for which we have no vaccine, no treatment, we don’t fully understand transmission, we don’t fully understand case mortality, but what we have been genuinely heartened by is that unlike influenza, where countries have fought back, where they’ve put in place strong measures, we’ve remarkably seen that the virus is suppressed,” Ryan said.

 

Read more …

Unless you think his job is to transfer money to Fed member bannks.

Maybe Jay Powell’s Not Cut Out For This Fed Chair Thing (Shazar)

For 10 days, while the markets were cratering as if they themselves had contracted a very serious case of coronavirus, Fed officials made all of their Fed-y reassuring mouth sounds: We’re keeping an eye on things, we’ll do something if it’s warranted, but it’s not yet, so just calm down. And then the markets did, soaring yesterday and continuing that rise today. At least until, after watching everyone else—including the White House, which although it wants to make clear thinks this whole China-virus or whatever things is totally overblown and invented like climate change to hurt the Dear Leader, did think that Jay Powell & co. were doing their typically horrible job containing a thing that Larry Kudlow said was already contained and oh yea doesn’t exist anyway—overreact for a week and a half, the Fed decided it would like to go a little nuts itself.

“The Federal Reserve cut its benchmark rate by a half percentage point on Tuesday morning, delivering a booster shot to stem potential economic disruptions from the spreading coronavirus epidemic with its first between-meeting move since the financial crisis…. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell at a press conference following the rate cut said the central bank “judged that the risks to the U.S. outlook have changed materially” and that the Fed “can and will do our part, however, to keep the U.S. economy strong as we meet this challenge.” Well, if Powell’s goal was to get the panic-selling on Wall Street to resume, he did his usual heckuva job.

“Stocks initially shot higher, propelling the Dow Jones Industrial Average up more than 300 points. But within 15 minutes, stocks’ initial gains gave way to jerky up-and-down trading action—with the blue-chip average and Treasury yields falling to session lows after Fed Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged the limits of the central bank’s actions in a press conference…. The Dow fell 510 points, or 1.9%, to 26194, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite were down 1.7% and 1.6%, respectively. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note, a benchmark for everything from mortgage rates to student loans, slipped to 1.036%.”

Read more …

Much of that industry is set to go under.

Airlines Rush To Boost Demand As Coronavirus Shreds Crisis Playbooks (R.)

The rapid spread of coronavirus cases worldwide is complicating a standard strategy used by airlines when disease, disaster or conflict hit travel destinations: lower fares and redirect flights to trouble-free areas. For now, some airlines have resorted to suspending change fees for new ticket reservations in the hope of winning over hesitant travelers until it becomes clearer where coronavirus outbreaks are localized and which routes could benefit from price drops. While lower fares have proven effective in the past in reviving demand, aviation consultant Samuel Engel said, “The pocketbook only works so far against emotion.” The coronavirus, which emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, has spread around the world, with more new cases now appearing outside China than inside.

JetBlue Airways Corp, which does not fly to Asia, was the first airline to launch free rebooking options last week, as it became clear that cases were not isolated to China. JetBlue pulled together and announced its plan in a matter of hours, President Joanna Geraghty told Reuters. “We tried to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers and think about what we would want if we were, for example, booking a spring-break trip right now,” Geraghty said. U.S. majors have since followed suit with varying waivers on change fees for new reservations to many destinations, a switch from a previous policy that covered only pre-booked flights to areas hardest-hit by the coronavirus.

[..] with none of the offers so far guaranteeing money-back refunds, travelers say the policies are not enough. “I understand that there are a lot of question marks right now for the industry on how this will unfold, but I don’t feel like there’s a truly customer-friendly policy out here,” said Amanda Elman-Kolb of Chicago, who has put on hold plans for a family trip to Europe in August. Declining demand to fly abroad is not limited to U.S. travelers. International travel to the United States will fall 6% over the next three months amid coronavirus concerns, the largest decline since the 2007-2008 financial crisis, the U.S. Travel Association forecast on Tuesday.

Read more …

And then came cratering demand due to the virus… Putin’s said he’s fine with $40 oil. Few others are.

Market Mayhem Exposes Fears About Oil Companies (CNN)

Oil prices have plunged into yet another bear market in response to demand destruction caused by flight cancellations, factory shutdowns and slowdowns in passenger traffic. Natural gas is sitting near a four-year low. The commodities crash will intensify the financial stress facing oil and gas companies that have piled on debt to capitalize on the shale boom. Energy stocks, already the biggest losers of last decade, are getting crushed. ExxonMobil and Chevron, two giants built to withstand weak oil, have plunged more than 20% apiece this year. “It’s making an already bad situation worse,” said Spencer Cutter, credit analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. The pain is more acute among independent exploration and production companies, some of which are highly leveraged.

Marathon Oil, Devon Energy and Noble Energy have all seen a third of their market values vanish this year. The turmoil has formed deep cracks in the junk bond market. Alarmingly, the gap between high-yield energy debt and ultra-safe government bonds has blown out to levels unseen since 2016, when oil prices crashed to $26 a barrel. The junk ratings for these energy companies aren’t new — only concerns about their financial health are. Cutter found that about one-third of the junk bonds in the Bloomberg/Barclays high-yield energy index are trading at distressed levels (roughly 10 percentage points above benchmark Treasuries, compared with just one percentage point for companies with strong credit ratings). That includes the bonds of companies including Chesapeake Energy, Whiting Petroleum, California Resources and Range Resources.

At those levels, highly leveraged oil and gas producers have effectively been locked out of the junk bond market. To raise cash, they will have to slash costs, sell assets, accept harsh borrowing terms from a hedge fund or seek a financial lifeline through a merger. Some debt-riddled oil companies won’t survive at all. “You could see a wave of bankruptcies,” said Cutter, the Bloomberg Intelligence analyst. The bill is coming due on a mountain of debt in the coming years. North American exploration and production companies have roughly $86 billion of debt maturing by 2024, according Moody’s Investors Services. More than half of those maturities, 62%, are in junk bonds.

Read more …

“After decades of pursuing balanced development nationwide, China now aims to concentrate resources on the best-performing provincial and municipal economies rather than pumping money into poor areas to help them catch up..”

China’s Funding Breakdown Emphasises Economic Imbalances (SCMP)

Cash from China’s financial system flowed mainly to the affluent Pearl River and Yangtze River Deltas in 2019, while funding for hard hit rust-belt provinces dried up, according to new figures published by its central bank. The figures offered fresh evidence of an increasing unequal financial landscape in the world’s second biggest economy. Rich areas continue to absorb more funds and talent to become richer, while poor areas lag behind. This imbalance presents a significant challenge for Beijing, as it attempts to navigate the wider issues that come with slowing economic growth.

Guangdong, the economic powerhouse adjoining Hong Kong, topped the list of provincial funding compiled by the People’s Bank of China, receiving 2.92 trillion yuan (US$417 billion) in the form of bank loans, bond issuance, and trust investments. This was 11.4 per cent of the national total. Guangdong accounts for 8.1 per cent of China’s population and 10.9 per cent of economic output. In second place was Jiangsu, China’s second largest provincial economy, which received 2.41 trillion yuan, followed by Zhejiang, another economic heavyweight, on 2.22 trillion. China’s capital of Beijing was the only northern region to feature high up in the rankings, absorbing 1.46 trillion yuan in financial flows. Hubei, meanwhile, the epicentre of the coronavirus, was in 10th position, with funding of 873.4 billion yuan (US$125 billion) last year.

Funding from China’s banking system, the bond market and even the shadow banking network is often key to regional economic growth. China’s southwesterly Yunnan province, for example, registered a nationwide high 8.1 per cent in gross domestic product growth. Over the same period, its fundraising rose by 43.5 per cent year-on-year to 492.6 billion yuan. [..] The disparity is also a product of a shift in policy by the Politburo, the 25-member decision-making body headed by President Xi Jinping, taken last summer. After decades of pursuing balanced development nationwide, China now aims to concentrate resources on the best-performing provincial and municipal economies rather than pumping money into poor areas to help them catch up.

Read more …

Is this a veiled attack on WikiLeaks?

CIA Has Been Attacking Multiple Chinese Bodies For 11 Years (PDaily)

A hacking group affiliated with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been attacking multiple Chinese bodies for 11 years, a new report found. According to the report by Chinese tech giant 360 Security Technology released on Tuesday, the attack by the group, coded by 360 Security as APT-C-39, has conducted a series of attacks against China’s aviation industry, scientific research institutions, petroleum industry, large-scale internet companies, and government bodies for more than a decade. The report analyzed “Vault7,” a trove of documents on cyber weapons disclosed by WikiLeaks in 2017. The report said that the group started launching advanced persistent threat (APT) attacks against China as early as September 2008 and they mainly targeted provincial regions like Beijing, Guangdong, and Zhejiang.


The Chinese tech giant was able to make the link thanks to Joshua Adam Schulte, a former CIA employee who played a core role in developing many of the CIA’s hacking tools and cyberspace weapons and participated in the development of Vault 7. Schulte provided evidence to 360 Security Technology and the trove of documents, the authenticity of which was confirmed by US prosecutors, became key to confirming that APT-C-39 was affiliated with the CIA, the Global Times reported, It has been proven repeatedly that the United States has been conducting large-scale, organized, and indiscriminate cyber theft and surveillance activities against foreign governments, businesses, and individuals, China’s defense ministry spokesperson said at a press conference on Friday.

Read more …

“..she will not be able claim the privilege against self-incrimination on the original alleged offenses since the statute of limitations has passed.”

Court: Clinton Must Testify On Email Scandal (Turley)

In a remarkable turnaround, Hillary Clinton will have to testify after all on the email scandal. Clinton has never been subject to true examination on the issue under oath. Instead, she was allowed to meet with investigators shortly before being cleared during the Obama Administration. D.C. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth ruled that her prior answers were insufficient and cursory. One interesting twist is that she will not be able claim the privilege against self-incrimination on the original alleged offenses since the statute of limitations has passed. While she would have been unlikely to do so, she would have evoked on a crime that could be prosecuted.

Ironically, it will be the Trump Administration that will have to defend her in opposing such demands since they are handling the litigation as it relates to her prior public service as Secretary of State. This surprising order follows the disclosure by watchdog group Judicial Watch last December that the FBI released “approximately thirty previously undisclosed Clinton emails.” Judicial Watch has argued that the State Department “failed to fully explain” where they came from. Lamberth decided that Clinton has not answered the troubling questions related to her email system:

“As extensive as the existing record is, it does not sufficiently explain Secretary Clinton’s state of mind when she decided it would be an acceptable practice to set up and use a private server to conduct State Department business. The court believes those responses were either incomplete, unhelpful, or cursory at best. Simply put, her responses left many more questions than answers.” While I expect that Clinton will have a lot of “I do not recall” answers given the passage of time, such examinations come at a risk of false statements under oath. Moreover, Judicial Watch can refresh her money with documents.

Read more …

“..Hillary Clinton could potentially fight a ruling that she must sit for a sworn deposition before a federal judge, but she would have to ask Attorney General William Barr for help..”

Napolitano: Hillary Clinton Faces A Catch-22 Over Private Email Server (Fox)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could potentially fight a ruling that she must sit for a sworn deposition before a federal judge, but she would have to ask Attorney General William Barr for help, Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano explained Tuesday. In an interview on “Fox & Friends,” Napolitano said that the former presidential candidate would have to ask Barr to file an appeal on her behalf because the Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyers would be representing her in the matter. [..] “Judicial Watch has been trying to get copies of these documents [under The Freedom of Information Act]. When they looked at the documents, some of which have been prepared by Mrs. Clinton, you heard what the judge said: the answers were deceptive, misleading, and generated more questions than they answered.


Therefore, he ordered her to be deposed.” “She has never been deposed under oath on this,” he continued. “She was interrogated, but not under oath, in a secret interrogation by the FBI three days before they exonerated her.” Additionally, he noted, this deposition will also be videotaped. “She can’t plead the fifth, right?” asked host Ainsley Earhardt. “She can’t plead the fifth because the statute of limitations to prosecute her for failure to safeguard state secrets has come and gone. She can’t be prosecuted for that,” he replied. “She could be prosecuted if she lies under oath in this deposition. She is represented in the deposition by lawyers form the Justice Department.” “The same Justice Department that would prosecute her if she lies under oath,” he added.

Read more …

Very true. No authenticity left in the DNC.

The Establishment Struggles With The “Nightmare” Of Authenticity (Turley)

Heading into Super Tuesday, the media appears at its collective wit’s end. After the victory of Joe Biden in South Carolina, many attempted to portray a new day until the they faced polls in the morning showing Bernie Sanders again surging in states from California to Texas to even Massachusetts (where Elizabeth Warren is struggling to win her own state). Described as the “nightmare scenario,” the media and political establishment in Washington is back to clutching its pearls and speaking of a convention strategy to block Sanders, including Warren whose campaign calls such a move the “final play.”

The continuing support win for Bernie Sanders has sent the D.C. political and media establishment into vapors. On the eve of Super Tuesday, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke all lined up to endorse Joe Biden to try to stop the momentum for Sanders. Others are growing more and more shrill. Democratic strategist James Carville proclaimed the winner to be Valdimir Putin. His point was that both Sanders and Trump continue surging despite unrelenting attacks in the media. The fact is that many in Washington still cannot compute why so many voters will not listen to them about Sanders and Trump. The reason is that they are valued for the one thing that the establishment cannot offer: authenticity.

[..] Authenticity is a word rarely applied to Trump, but it remains his greatest selling point outside Washington. While rarely acknowledged, Trump has fulfilled many of his campaign promises with his push on immigration, the wall, taxes, Jerusalem, renegotiating NAFTA, dropping the Iran deal, rolling back regulations, opening areas like the artic to drilling, finishing the Keystone pipeline, gutting Obamacare and other promises. More importantly, he does not try to pretend what he is not: honest or moral. He openly talks about delivering wealth and having people vote their pocketbooks. He is the ultimate car salesman who you don’t trust but still want to get a good deal from.

Bernie Sanders is genuinely authentic. Indeed, Sanders seems immune from changes from clothing or political styles. There was never a popular time to be socialist but Sanders never budged. To the contrary, he praised Castro and spent his birthday in the Soviet Union during the cold war. He changes his positions at the speed of tectonic plate shifts. That is why you can hate socialism but love Sanders because you know (like Trump) exactly what you are getting. Elizabeth Warren in comparison was known as a pro-corporate, anti-consumer academic for much of her career before being a champion of the downtrodden.

Read more …

Russia comments from the sidelines for now. Why would it help Europe when the MH17 “trial” is to start next week?

Russia Says Turkey Does Not Meet Terms Of Pact In Syria’s Idlib (R.)

Russia accused Turkey on Wednesday of failing to meet its obligations under a pact to create a demilitarised zone in Syria’s Idlib province and of helping militants instead. The RIA news agency quoted a Russian defense ministry spokesman as saying “terrorist” fortifications had merged with Turkish outposts in Idlib, resulting in daily attacks on Russia’s Hmeimim air base in Syria. Turkey had amassed troop numbers in Idlib equal to a mechanised division, violating international law, the Russian spokesman said. The Russian accusation came on the eve of a Thursday meeting in Moscow between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. They are expected to try to de-escalate tensions that have brought Turkey and Russia dangerously close to direct military confrontation.

Read more …

No link to Idlib. Just human pawns.

Russia Says Turkey Trying To Push 130,000 Refugees From Syria Into Greece (R.)

Russia on Tuesday said that Turkey was trying to push 130,000 refugees from Syria into Greece, the Interfax news agency cited the Defense Ministry as saying. The two thirds of these refugees – that Turkey is pushing from temporary camps in Syria – are Afghans, Iraqis and Africans, not Syrians, it added.

Read more …

In case you didn’t get yet that in Brussels it’s all exclusively about money.

EU Pledges €700 Million To Help Greece Fight Migrant Influx From Turkey (F24)

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU would provide Greece with “all the support needed” as it struggles with an influx of migrants allowed to cross from neighbouring Turkey after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that “millions” of migrants would soon head for Europe. EU chiefs on Tuesday pledged millions of euros of financial assistance to Greece to help tackle the migration surge from neighbouring Turkey, warning against those wishing to “test Europe’s unity”. Flying by helicopter over the Greek-Turkish border, where thousands of desperate asylum-seekers have tried to break through for days, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc would provide Greece “all the support needed”.

“Those who seek to test Europe’s unity will be disappointed,” von der Leyen said, standing alongside Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the chiefs of the European Council and European Parliament. “We will hold the line and our unity will prevail.” The European Commission president said the bloc would provide 700 million euros ($777 million), half of it immediately, to help manage the migrant situation. In addition, the EU border agency Frontex will deploy a rapid intervention team including an additional 100 guards backed by coastal patrol vessels, helicopters and vehicles, she said. “Our first priority is making sure that order is maintained at the Greek external border, which is also the European border,” von der Leyen told journalists.

“I am fully committed to mobilising all the necessary operational support to the Greek authorities,” she said, adding that Greece was acting as a “shield” for Europe.

Read more …

Hopeless?!

Planet Plastic (Rolling Stone)

More than half the plastic now on Earth has been created since 2002, and plastic pollution is on pace to double by 2030. At its root, the global plastics crisis is a product of our addiction to fossil fuels. The private profit and public harm of the oil industry is well understood: Oil is refined and distributed to consumers, who benefit from gasoline’s short, useful lifespan in a combustion engine, leaving behind atmospheric pollution for generations. But this same pattern — and this same tragedy of the commons — is playing out with another gift of the oil-and-gas giants, whose drilling draws up the petroleum precursors for plastics. These are refined in industrial complexes and manufactured into bottles, bags, containers, textiles, and toys for consumers who benefit from their transient use — before throwing them away.

“Plastics are just a way of making things out of fossil fuels,” says Jim Puckett, executive director of the Basel Action Network. BAN is devoted to enforcement of the Basel Convention, an international treaty that blocks the developed world from dumping hazardous wastes on the developing world, and was recently expanded, effective next year, to include plastics. For Americans who religiously sort their recycling, it’s upsetting to hear about plastic being lumped in with toxic waste. But the poisonous parallel is apt. When it comes to plastic, recycling is a misnomer. “They really sold people on the idea that plastics can be recycled because there’s a fraction of them that are,” says Puckett. “It’s fraudulent. When you drill down into plastics recycling, you realize it’s a myth.”

Since 1950, the world has created 6.3 trillion kilograms of plastic waste — and 91 percent has never been recycled even once, according to a landmark 2017 study published in the journal Science Advances. Unlike aluminum, which can be recycled again and again, plastic degrades in reprocessing, and is almost never recycled more than once. A plastic soda bottle, for example, might get downcycled into a carpet. Modern technology has hardly improved things: Of the 78 billion kilograms of plastic packaging materials produced in 2013, only 14 percent were even collected for recycling, and just two percent were effectively recycled to compete with virgin plastic. “Recycling delays, rather than avoids, final disposal,” the Science authors write. And most plastics persist for centuries.

Read more …

 

 

 

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

 

Mar 022020
 


John Vachon Big Four Cafe, Cairo, Illinois 1940

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

From SCMP:

 

 

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

 

 

A more complete pic of COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

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

And at the same time, the first lung transplant:

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

China Leaves Asymptomatic Patients off Coronavirus Infection Tally (Caixin)

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

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

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

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

Read more …

The Party speaks. It’s not feeling well.

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

The CDC is being exposed as a pretty incompetent entiry.

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

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


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

Read more …

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

CDC Testing Limits May Have Delayed Coronavirus Response (HP)

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

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

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

Read more …

You can always export them to Africa.

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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


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

Read more …

When money is your only answer to all questions.

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

Who could have predicted that?

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

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


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

Read more …

Good DNC boy. All against Bernie.

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

Klobuchar Cancels Campaign Rally After Protests (Hill)

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

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

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

Read more …

But Tulsi is still running.

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

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


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

Read more …

A kangaroo court in a banana republic.

Assange Enters The Kangaroo Court (MStar)

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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


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

Read more …

 

 

 

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

 

Feb 232020
 


Jack Delano Spectators at annual barrel rolling contest in Presque Isle, Maine 1940

 

COVID19 Cases Outside China Go Exponential (ZH)
Millions Of Chinese Ordered Back To Work (Obs.)
China’s 92% Car Sales Collapse Sign Of Sharp Trade Decline To Come (SCMP)
Trump Furious Americans Infected With Coronavirus Flown Back To US (Fox)
18 Koreans Test Positive For COVID-19 After Israel Pilgrimage (KH)
US Says Russia Behind Coronavirus Disinformation Campaign (G.)
Roger Stone Deserves A New Trial (Turley)
Julian Assange, Lawyers Were Secretly Recorded In Ecuador Embassy (ABC.au)
Subprime Credit Card Delinquencies Spike to Record High, Past Financial-Crisis Peak (WS)
Trump Reportedly Calls John Bolton A ‘Traitor’ And Wants To Block His Book (G.)
Trump: ‘Congrats Bernie…Don’t Let Them Take It Away From You!’ (SAC)

 

 

Cases 78,866 (+ 938 from yesterday’s 77,928).

Deaths 2,464 (+ 102 from yesterday)

 

• Italy: Thursday 3 cases, Sunday 115 cases, 89 in Lombardy, declares “national emergency”;
second death reported, first case in Milan city; much of Northern Italy put on lockdown. Top-level soccer games cancelled.

• South Korea: total 556 cases (10x increase in 5 days), 123 new cases, 1 new death

• Iran: 29 cases 6 deaths

• US: 35 cases, 200 under observation in San Diego

• Japan: 750 cases, 634 from Diamond Princess, Others triple in a week to 121

• Cases outside China go exponential

• WHO team visits Wuhan; will give Monday press conference

• 18 Koreans test positive after Israel pilgrimage. Israel Ministry of Health expects to close borders for non-residents soon

• Worldometer mortality rate for closed cases (recovered/discharged or dead) is 10%

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer (note: mortality rate for closed cases is still 10%!)

 

 

 

 

Big week to come. Given all the new clusters forming, outside of China, things don’t look particularly good. Inside China there are efforts to start moving people around again, to work. Very risky. Many of the clusters and cases outside of Hubei are relatively new, so infection hasn’t worked its worst there.

COVID19 Cases Outside China Go Exponential (ZH)

South Korea reported 229 new confirmed cases on Saturday, as the number of infections more than doubled in a day to 433, an eightfold jump in just four days. [..] the number of new cases in South Korea has now doubled each day for the past 4 days, a true exponential increase. South Korea’s fourth-largest city, is where the initial cluster of cases of emerged; it has since been designated a “special management zone.” The central government is channeling medical support to the zone with more staff, hospital beds and equipment. In Daegu, more than half of South Korea’s cases have been among members of a secretive religious sect who often crowd together in worship, and their relatives or contacts.

Another 111 are patients or staff members at the Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo, where the two South Koreans who have died of the virus had been admitted. It gets worse: more than 1,250 members of the sect, the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, have reported potential symptoms, and officials are still trying to locate 700 members so they can be screened. “In accordance with law and principles, the government will sternly deal with acts that interfere with quarantine efforts, illegal hoarding of medical goods and acts that spark uneasiness through massive rallies,” Chung said, pointing out just how convenient the coronavirus will be when government seek to squash all future protests.

It gets even worse: Samsung, the world’s biggest smartphone maker, shut down a factory after a worker tested positive. The factory, located in the city of Gumi, about an hour north of Cheongdo, is expected to resume operations on Monday morning, Samsung said. But the floor of the factory where the patient has worked will be closed until Tuesday morning, it said. We wonder how long until it truly reopens. But the scariest development in the past 24 hours is that almost all patients at a psychiatric ward of a South Korean hospital tested positive for the coronavirus, with local reports saying members of the abovementioned Shincheonji Church of Jesus sect which has rapidly emerged as the single biggest cluster of new S. Korean cases, had attended a funeral in the same complex.

South Korea’s two confirmed deaths from the virus were also from the Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo hospital’s mental health division, Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Saturday. Both patients had been moved out of the psychiatric ward for medical treatment before their deaths, Vice Health and Welfare Minister Kim Kang-lip said at a briefing. In other words, of the total 443 confirmed cases, more than half, or 231 were linked to Daegu, sect, while at least 111 – including four nurses – were from the psychiatric ward of the hospital in Cheongdo County. The two clusters account for almost 80% of the confirmed cases.

Read more …

Dumb understatement: “An influential Chinese economist has already warned that the coronavirus crisis could slice a full percentage point off growth this year”

Millions Of Chinese Ordered Back To Work (Obs.)

The Chinese authorities are trying to usher the country back to work, a month after announcing the unprecedented quarantine of millions of people. But they face a difficult balancing act between containing the virus and supporting a faltering economy. Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province, the centre of the outbreak, have been the focus of disease prevention efforts. over the last four weeks. As the death toll climbed to more than 2,000 worldwide, and infections to over 75,000, the vast majority of cases were still inside that quarantined zone. But the disease had spread far across the country before Hubei was sealed off, and some of the worst-affected places are the manufacturing and economic centres that power China’s economy.

Southern Guangdong province, just across from Hong Kong and home to international giants such as Apple supplier Foxconn, is the second-worst affected province after Hubei, with 1,339 cases of the coronavirus confirmed and five deaths. Eastern Zhejiang, near Shanghai, is the fourth most seriously hit, with 1,205 cases by , although only one death. It is also the base for companies including the hugely influential Alibaba, China’s answer to Amazon and eBay. Those total numbers of infections are far above the 639 cases registered across all of China on 23 January, when Hubei was put on sudden lockdown. The situations are not directly comparable; coronavirus had been spreading almost unchecked in Wuhan for weeks before the quarantine, and overwhelmed hospitals appear to have sent patients home, only to spread the disease.

Authorities in other areas started tracking cases much earlier and have better resources to isolate and treat those who fall sick, something reflected in a much lower death rate. The speed of the disease’s spread is perhaps not surprising given Wuhan’s position as a regional economic hub, with links to other key centres, and the fact that the coronavirus has proved contagious in the early days of infection when patients have few symptoms, making it hard to identify carriers as clusters spread. Yet China cannot afford for its factories to sit idle, or its restaurants and shops to stay empty indefinitely. Authorities were already worried about faltering growth after last year saw the slowest rate of expansion in almost three decades; GDP growth had not slid so low since 1990, when China was isolated in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

An influential Chinese economist has already warned that the coronavirus crisis could slice a full percentage point off growth this year. So authorities are trying to balance two unfathomable risks – of either fuelling the coronavirus by pushing too much for normal routines, or paving the way for the collapse of their local economy by keeping everything on lockdown. Many small and medium companies in particular are already hovering on the brink, and a wave of bankruptcies is expected. Retail and hospitality companies expected bumper sales over the lunar new year, and even factories that closed for the holiday expected to reopen in early February.

[..] In Shenzhen, the border city that has come to rival Hong Kong, businesses have been told they can resume work immediately if they have virus control measures that include disinfecting, giving employees at least two masks a day, making temperature checks, and having their plans approved by local officials. There is already a gap between regulation and reality, however. “We started today, but the boss only gave us one mask when we all know he’s supposed to give out two,” said one 52-year-old woman employed at a Shenzhen factory making plastic items such as skateboard wheels, cups and toy parts. “My husband, who works at a restaurant near here, is also only getting one mask per day,” she added, giving only her last name, Xiao, over fears of being fired or getting her boss into trouble.

Read more …

Why would anyone expect sales to pick up anytime soon?

China’s 92% Car Sales Collapse Sign Of Sharp Trade Decline To Come (SCMP)

A 92 per cent drop in car sales in China in the first half of February provided the first real indicator of the economic impact of the coronavirus epidemic, with officials also warning of a sharp decline in Chinese exports and imports for the first two months of the year. The China Passenger Car Association (CPCA) on Friday said that sales dropped to just 4,909 units in the first 16 days of the month, down from 59,930 vehicles in the same period a year earlier. “Very few dealerships opened in the first weeks of February and they have had very little customer traffic,” said the CPCA. China’s car market is likely to see sales slide more than 10 per cent in the first half of the year due to the outbreak, and around 5 per cent for the whole year, provided the virus is effectively contained before April, the country’s top industry body, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), said last week.

The sector was already under pressure from the cooling economy, with car sales falling 3 per cent in 2018 in the first sales contraction since the 1990s, and 8.2 per cent in 2019, CAAM said. “We must firmly believe that China’s auto market still has great development space and potential, and the automobile consumption demand is still strong,” Wang Bin, vice-director of the commerce market operation department at the commerce ministry, said on Thursday. To stabilise the market, in which more than 25 million vehicles were sold last year, China’s commerce ministry said it will introduce more measures to boost consumption.


Li Xingqian, head of foreign trade at the Ministry of Commerce, said the growth rate for China’s exports and imports would decline sharply in the January-February period due to a collapse in logistics and the delayed start of work following the extended Lunar New Year holiday, which was aimed at controlling the coronavirus outbreak.

Read more …

Simply not their call to make.

Trump Furious Americans Infected With Coronavirus Flown Back To US (Fox)

President Trump was furious that 14 Americans infected with the coronavirus returned to the United States without his permission rather than remain in quarantine overseas, according to a new report. Trump had been briefed that the healthy U.S. passengers who spent weeks quarantined aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan would be allowed to fly home on two chartered planes – while those who were sick or infected would stay in Japan to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. The president became “furious” with senior advisers after learning the 14 Americans who tested positive had been put on a plane with healthy passengers, according to The Washington Post.


One official told the paper that the failure to inform Trump of the decision in advance of the plane’s departure was a “big operational mistake.” Trump complained that bringing home the infected Americans could damage the adminstratration’s response to the global health outbreak. While the Americans evacuated from the ship were on buses on the tarmac in Tokyo, U.S. officials got the results back that 14 had tested positive for COVID-19 but had not yet shown symptoms. Officials made the decision to have them fly home anyway, but “isolated” from the other passengers on the plane.

Read more …

“The South Korean government lodged a complaint with Israel over its abrupt entry ban against South Koreans over concerns about the new coronavirus: “demand that such an incident not occur again”

18 Koreans Test Positive For COVID-19 After Israel Pilgrimage (KH)

Of 76 Koreans who traveled to Israel for religious pilgrimages in February, 18 tested positive for the deadly coronavirus upon returning home, local health authorities said Sunday. Two groups of Roman Catholic travelers stayed in Israel for about a week each for religious tourism earlier this month, visiting packed religious sites. Among 39 Koreans from North Gyeongsang Province who visited Israel from Feb. 8-16, 18 have been confirmed positive, including a tour guide residing in Seoul. A 59-year-old woman who lives in Yecheon County, North Gyeongsang Province, was the first confirmed patient. She was unable to go to work upon arrival due to a high fever and respiratory problems.


Local health authorities are scrambling to narrow down the exact times when the patients could have been infected, leaving open the possibility that a group member may have caught the virus prior to departure or somewhere along the travel route either in Israel or Korea. Another group of 37 people from Jeju Island traveled to Israel from Feb. 11-21, and one person with a cough was waiting for their test results as of Sunday afternoon. The presence of COVID-19 in these Korean tourists, as well as the skyrocketing number of confirmed cases here, prompted Israel to bar travelers from Korea from entering the country, the Israeli government said. As a result, some 130 Koreans who landed in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening, local time, were sent back to Korea after being denied entry.

Read more …

Using the same accounts they use for Syria, Yellow Vests etc. Just to make it easier for those smart Americans to figure out it’s them. That’s also why they [..] “carry messages similar to Russian-backed outlets such as RT..” You know, just so Americans don’t get all confused and stuff.

US Says Russia Behind Coronavirus Disinformation Campaign (G.)

Thousands of Russian-linked social media accounts have launched a coordinated effort to spread misinformation and alarm about coronavirus, disrupting global efforts to fight the epidemic, US officials have said. The disinformation campaign promotes unfounded conspiracy theories that the US is behind the new coronavirus outbreak, in an apparent bid to damage America’s image around the world. State department officials tasked with combatting Russian disinformation told the AFP false personas were being used on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to advance Russian talking points in multiple languages.

“Russia’s intent is to sow discord and undermine US institutions and alliances from within, including through covert and coercive malign influence campaigns,” said Philip Reeker, acting assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia. “By spreading disinformation about coronavirus, Russian malign actors are once again choosing to threaten public safety by distracting from the global health response,” he said. Some accounts have falsely claimed the US is waging “economic war on China” and that the virus is a biological weapon manufactured by the CIA.


[..] Several thousand online accounts – previously identified for airing Russian-backed messages on major events such as the war in Syria, the Yellow Vest protests in France and Chile’s mass demonstrations – are posting “near identical” messages about the coronavirus, according to a report prepared for the state department’s Global Engagement Center and seen by the AFP. The accounts are run by humans, not bots, and post at similar times in English, Spanish, Italian, German and French. They can be linked back to Russian proxies, or carry messages similar to Russian-backed outlets such as RT and Sputnik, the report said.

Read more …

Turley doesn’t acknowledge why Stone was dragged in front of Congress. Which was on a completely fabricated charge. That Stone himself did some of the fabricating seems a bit beside the point. I would be interested in Turley’s view on that, rather thann the obvious bias involved.

Roger Stone Deserves A New Trial (Turley)

With his sentencing this week, “agent provocateur” Roger Stone finally provoked himself into prison. However, his latest “performance art” may be nowhere near its conclusion. That is not because he has a “very good chance of exoneration,” as President Trump himself predicted. Stone has about the same chance of exoneration as he does of canonization. Rather, it is not clear that Stone received a fair trial due to alleged juror bias or, even if his trial is now finished, whether it will become undone by a presidential pardon. If nothing else, one thing should be clear. Stone holds a far greater claim to a new trial than to a presidential pardon. The decision of Judge Amy Berman Jackson to move forward with his sentencing was a surprise to many of us, following disturbing reports of potential juror bias by the trial foreperson.

It was a curious twist on the position of the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, who declared, “Sentence first! Verdict afterwards.” In this case, the court decided to resolve the sentence before resolving if there was a valid verdict. I have previously discussed the statements made by Tomeka Hart before she became the jury foreperson. She exhibited intense hostility against Trump and his associates and protested against the administration. She also expressed support for investigations of the administration and even discussed this case. Worse yet, the transcript of the voir dire hearing did not suggest that the defense counsel was aware of this history. Either she disclosed the information and defense counsel was less than effective, or Hart had withheld the information and was less than transparent.


Jackson may have two equally unappealing choices. First, the court could order a new trial, making this sentencing drama a meaningless exercise. Second, she could dismiss any concerns as speculative and refuse to take any action. Such a decision would make a mockery of the jury selection process. What is the value of voir dire if a juror with such alleged bias can find her way not just onto the jury but into the position as foreperson?

Read more …

Roger Waters: “We will speak so loudly even the deaf will hear. We will write so clearly even the blind will read. You write injustice on the earth. We will write revolution in the sky.”

Julian Assange, Lawyers Were Secretly Recorded In Ecuador Embassy (ABC.au)

The case is being investigated by Spain’s federal court, the Audencia Nacional, which is examining whether Morales and UC Global are guilty of breaching both Assange’s privacy and lawyer-client privilege, as well as crimes relating to misappropriation of funds, bribery, and money laundering. “From 2015 to mid-2018, when UC Global lost the embassy’s security contract, a battery of illegal espionage measures was deployed, with massive interference in the privacy of [Assange], in his communications with his [legal] team, in meetings with his doctors, and in general against everyone close to him,” a criminal complaint filed by Assange’s Spanish lawyers stated.

“In those years the defendants created a sort of ‘Big Brother’ in which all the movements of Mr Assange and the people close to him were monitored.” The case commenced after a group of Spanish citizens contacted senior WikiLeaks employees and demanded a significant sum of money in return for what they said was voluminous proof of the espionage. A former UC Global employee — who cannot be identified for legal reasons — also separately approached WikiLeaks, wanting to reveal what they saw as the illegal behaviour of their former company. WikiLeaks referred the case to Spanish courts, who launched an investigation and arrested Morales. He was later released on bail. “This spying did not only affect Mr Assange’s lawyers, it also affected all of his visitors, including journalists,” Martinez said.

“It got to the point where, during a visit to Mr Assange, the head of Ecuador’s intelligence service [Rommy Vallejo, on December 21, 2017] was also spied on,” Martinez added. “In the meeting between Mr Vallejo and Mr Assange the possible release [from the embassy] of Mr Assange in a few days later was discussed.” Within hours of that secret meeting, which was known to only a few people, the US Ambassador to Ecuador complained to Ecuadorian authorities, and the next day the US issued an international arrest warrant for Assange, Martinez said. “That leads us to believe that the conversation was urgently sent to the US authorities and that they urgently issued the international arrest warrant the next day,” he said.

Martinez was himself spied on while having legal meetings with Assange at the embassy. “Mr Assange began to suspect that he was being spied upon … so he asked us to hold the most sensitive meetings in the women’s toilet at the back of the building,” Martinez recalled. “We honestly thought it was an exaggerated step to hold our legal meetings in the women’s toilet, where he would even open the water tap to avoid anyone listening. “It was interesting to find out that Mr Assange was, in fact, correct: the material before the court proves that UC Global knew the meetings were held inside the women’s toilet, as they proceeded to install an additional microphone [there].”

Read more …

Meanwhile in the not-yet-infected part of the world:

Subprime Credit Card Delinquencies Spike to Record High, Past Financial-Crisis Peak (WS)

The rate of credit card balances that are 30 days or more delinquent at the 4,500 or so commercial banks that are smaller than the top 100 banks spiked to 7.05% in the fourth quarter, the highest delinquency rate in the data going back to the 1980s (red line). But at the largest 100 banks, the credit-card delinquency rate was 2.48%, which kept the overall credit-card delinquency rate at all commercial banks at 2.7% (blue line), though it was the highest since 2012, according to the Federal Reserve. What’s going on here, with this bifurcation of the delinquency rates and what does that tell us about consumers?

Clearly, those consumers that have obtained credit cards at the smaller banks are in a heap of trouble and are falling behind at a historically high rate. But consumers that got their credit cards at the big banks – lured by 2% cash-back offers and other benefits that are being heavily promoted to consumers with top credit scores – do not feel the pain. A similarly disturbing trend is going on with auto loans. Seriously delinquent auto loans jumped to 4.94% of total auto loans and leases outstanding. This is higher than the delinquency rate in Q3 2010 amid the worst unemployment crisis since the Great Depression. On closer inspection, there was that bifurcation again; prime-rated loans had historically low delinquency rates; but a shocking 23% of all subprime loans were 90+ days delinquent.

Read more …

“I give the guy a break,” he added. “I give him a job. And then he turns on me. He’s just making things up.”

Trump Reportedly Calls John Bolton A ‘Traitor’ And Wants To Block His Book (G.)

John Bolton is “a traitor” and his book should not be published before the election in November, Donald Trump reportedly told aides and media figures. The president’s views on news of a book deal for Marie Yovanovitch, another key figure in the Ukraine scandal which led to Trump’s impeachment, were not immediately clear. Bolton, a former ambassador to the UN, was Trump’s third national security adviser until he was fired in September last year. He refused to testify in the House impeachment inquiry into Trump’s attempts to have Ukraine investigate his political rivals, which resulted in two articles of impeachment, concerning abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

He offered to testify in the Senate but Republicans voted not to call witnesses during a trial which duly ended in Trump’s acquittal, despite leaks from Bolton’s book manuscript seeming to show he possessed key knowledge about the affair. The Room Where It Happened was slated for publication in March but it has been held up, the national security council telling Bolton’s lawyer it would “move forward as expeditiously as possible” with determining what could be published. On Friday night, the Washington Post cited two anonymous sources as saying Trump had told his own lawyers the book should not come out before the election.


Trump has attacked Bolton publicly on Twitter but the Post also reported notes of an off-the-record briefing of TV anchors on 4 February. “We’re going to try and block the publication of the book,” Trump reportedly said. “After I leave office, he can do this. But not in the White House. “I give the guy a break,” he added. “I give him a job. And then he turns on me. He’s just making things up.”

Read more …

CNN’s desperate attempt to attract a handful viewers still bores me to tears. Andrew Yang and Donald Trump know what’s wrong.

Trump: ‘Congrats Bernie…Don’t Let Them Take It Away From You!’ (SAC)

President Trump congratulated Bernie Sanders in his projected win in democratic primary in Nevada. As of Saturday evening, Sanders is leading with 53.84 percent of the vote in the Nevada caucuses. “Congratulations Bernie, & don’t let them take it away from you!” he added in a tweet. “Looks like Crazy Bernie is doing well in the Great State of Nevada,” Trump wrote. “Biden & the rest look weak, & no way Mini Mike can restart his campaign after the worst debate performance in the history of Presidential Debates.” Trump followed with another tweet, quoting Jon Scott of Fox News, on a report that showed Sanders having strong support from within the Kremlin. “The Kremlin is reportedly backing Bernie Sanders bid to win the White House.” Jon Scott @FoxNews,” the president wrote. “Why didn’t somebody tell me this?”

Read more …

 

 

 

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

 

Feb 212020
 


Jack Delano Cafe at truck drivers’ service station on U.S. 1, Washington DC 1940

 

Coronavirus Kills Young Wuhan Doctor, 100s Infected In China’s Prisons (G.)
Whopping Rise In Infections At Beijing Hospital Puts Capital On Alert (GT)
South Korea Coronavirus Cases Jump To 156 (SCMP)
South Korea Designates Daegu, Cheongdo As ‘Special Care Zones’ (Yonhap)
Woman Returning From Iran 6th Case Of COVID19 in British Columbia (NP)
Australia Cruise Evacuees Test Positive Only After Arriving Home (G.)
China Says January-February Trade To Take Sharp Hit From Virus Outbreak (R.)
China Supply Chains Pummelled From All Sides (SCMP)
NYT Secret Sources Claim Russia Backing Trump Re-Election (ZH)
‘Disgusted’ Judge Jails Roger Stone (BBC)
Defense Lawyers Say They Will Seek French Asylum For Assange (AP)
Parts Of UK Have One Airbnb Listing For Every Four Properties (G.)

 

 

The virus has started spreading in places other than Wuhan and Hubei. Clusters are forming. It looks like a perfectly normal pattern.

Cases 76,790 (+ 1,033 from yesterday’s 75,757).

Yesterday’s increase was “only” 560

Deaths 2,247 (+ 117 from yesterday)

• Large increase in South Korea cases. Cities of Chengdo, Daegu under quarantine (“special care”)

• Large increase in cases in Chinese prisons (or did they start testing just now?)

• Positive case in British Columbia, visited only Iran

• Positive cases in Australia from cruise ship, confirmed only after arrival

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

A second graph from Worldometer:

 

 

 

 

Groups of people in close proximity. What’s the alternative in the case of prisons and hospitals?

Coronavirus Kills Young Wuhan Doctor, 100s Infected In China’s Prisons (G.)

A 29-year-old doctor in Wuhan has become the latest victim of the coronavirus as China reported infections in prisons in three provinces, as well as clusters in Beijing. Wuhan health authorities said Peng Yinhua, who worked in respiratory and critical care at Jiangxia district’s First People’s Hospital, had contracted the infection while working on the “front line”. Peng, who had been featured in state media previously for delaying his wedding to continue working, was admitted to hospital on 25 January. His condition dramatically worsened by 30 January, when he was sent to the Jinyintan hospital in Wuhan for emergency treatment. He died on Thursday at 9.50pm, according to a statement from his hospital.

[..] more than 500 cases have been confirmed in prisons across China. On Friday, Hubei province revised its number of newly confirmed cases to add 220 infections from the province’s prison system. Officials did not say when those infections took place but said that a total of 271 cases, of which 51 had already been counted, had been diagnosed. Of those, 230 were in Wuhan’s women’s prison. The head of the women’s prison has been dismissed. In Rencheng prison in the eastern province of Shandong, 200 prisoners and seven guards tested positive as of Thursday, after infections among correctional officers were first detected last week.

At Shilifeng prison in the southern province of Zhejiang, a total of 34 prisoners have been confirmed to have contracted the virus, including 27 new cases as of Thursday. According to state media, two prison officials have been fired over the incident in Shilifeng. In Shandong, seven prison officials as well as the party secretary for the province’s department of justice have been removed. Officials said 2,077 people in Rencheng prison had now been tested. Authorities said they were setting up a specialist hospital and sending inspection teams to other prisons and detention centres.

Meanwhile in Beijing, 36 people at Fuxing hospital have tested positive for the virus, prompting renewed anxiety about the virus as residents in the capital were slowly returning to work. The hospital had already been partly under lockdown after cases there were confirmed earlier this month. At another hospital, Peking University People’s Hospital, three people were confirmed to have contracted the virus, according to state media. The three patients are family members. One had been hospitalised for kidney problems and may have contracted the illness when her daughter and son-in-law, who had recently travelled to Xinjiang, visited her in hospital.

Read more …

Global Times is an “official” paper. So this is the news that’s allowed to spread.

Whopping Rise In Infections At Beijing Hospital Puts Capital On Alert (GT)

A central Beijing hospital reported 36 novel coronavirus cases as of Thursday, a sharp increase from nine cases from two weeks earlier, leading many to fear a potential explosion of infection numbers in the capital. Among the infected at Fuxing Hospital in Xicheng district were eight medical workers, nine cleaning staff and 19 patients along with their families, the Beijing government’s leading group for COVID-19 prevention and control work said at a press conference on Thursday. “Considering 36 confirmed cases were found in Fuxing Hospital, it is more about one case of multiple infections rather than an epidemic of the whole area,” Wang Guangfa, director of the department of respiratory and critical care medicine at Peking University First Hospital, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Another major hospital, Peking University People’s Hospital, on Thursday for the first time reported confirmed cases of infection. Three patients at the hospital were confirmed to have the novel coronavirus on February 17 and were sent to designated medical institutions for treatment, authorities at the press conference said. A total of 164 people including medical staff at Peo-ple’s Hospital who have had close contact with the patients have been put under close medical observation. The hospital also conducted coronavirus tests on 251 personnel and nine environments, and the results were all negative. The hospital has sterilized places that the patients may have touched, and hemodialysis rooms were sterilized when each shift was completed.


The three patients are from one family. Tian, a patient in the geriatrics department, had been hospitalized for six months for a kidney illness and had to undergo hemodialysis regularly. After her daughter and son-in-law came back from Xinjiang, they visited Tian separately. The couple became infected on February 17.

Read more …

Clusters ‘R’ Us. Cruise ships, prisons, hospitals, and cults.

South Korea Coronavirus Cases Jump To 156 (SCMP)

South Korea confirmed 52 more cases of novel coronavirus infection on Friday as the number of infections linked to a religious sect in Daegu spiked, making it the worst-infected country outside China. Thirty-nine of the new cases were linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the southern city of Daegu, the Korean Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said, taking the country’s overall figure to 156. More than 80 members of Shincheonji have now been infected, starting with a 61-year-old woman who developed a fever on February 10 but attended at least four church services before being diagnosed.


The mayor of Daegu – South Korea’s fourth-biggest city, with a population of over 2.5 million – has advised residents to stay indoors, while access to a major US base in the area has been restricted. Residents wore masks to go about their daily activities on Friday, but the streets remained active. Outside the Shincheonji church in the city, Seo Dong-min, 24, said: “With so many confirmed cases here I’m worried that Daegu will become the second Wuhan,” referring to the Chinese city where the virus first emerged. Shincheonji is often accused of being a cult and claims its founder, Lee Man-hee, has donned the mantle of Jesus Christ and will take 144,000 people with him to heaven on the day of judgment.

Read more …

There’s a new term in town. Quarantine sounds so negative, we’ll go for “Special Care” instead.

South Korea Designates Daegu, Cheongdo As ‘Special Care Zones’ (Yonhap)

South Korea designated the southeastern cities of Daegu and Cheongdo as “special care zones” over infectious disease Friday, as a cluster of new coronavirus cases has been reported there in recent days. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun vowed government efforts to take “strong and swift” measures to prevent further spread of the virus, calling the latest development an “emergency” situation. “The government will take special measures by declaring the Daegu and Cheongdo areas as special care zones as a sudden rise in confirmed cases was reported there,” Chung said at the start of a pan-government meeting over the virus.


The country confirmed its first death of a COVID-19 patient in Cheongdo on Thursday, with the total number of confirmed cases in the country surpassing 100 since its first outbreak on Jan. 20. Concerns about community spread have mounted as 70 new cases were reported this week in Daegu, the country’s fourth-largest city and home to 2.4 million people, and its surrounding North Gyeongsang Province. “It is urgent to find people who have contacted infected people and cure patients,” Chung said. He said the government is ready to “fully” support necessary resources, including sickbeds, health workers and equipment. The government has so far focused on curbing infections coming from outside the country. From now on, the government will further prioritize preventing the virus from spreading locally,” Chung said.

Read more …

She travelled only to Iran. Which announced its first cases yesterday. But how many are there really?

Woman Returning From Iran 6th Case Of COVID19 in British Columbia (NP)

A sixth case of the novel coronavirus has been diagnosed in British Columbia after a woman in her 30s returned to the province this week from travel in Iran. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday the woman’s presumptive case is relatively mild and a number of her close contacts have already been put in isolation. She said health officials are working on a detailed investigation of the woman’s travel and when her symptoms started to help determine if they need to notify those who travelled with her on the same aircraft. Henry said the woman lives in the Fraser Health region, which is located east of Vancouver.

“This one, clearly, is a bit unusual in that the travel to Iran is something new,” she told a news conference at the B.C. legislature. “Iran has recently started reporting cases and we’ll be working with our national and international colleagues to better understand where she may have been exposed to this virus prior to her return to Canada.” It is a presumptive case of the virus until positive test results come back from samples sent to the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. Henry said the woman went to a local hospital concerned about influenza-like symptoms. She was examined and released, Henry added. “My understanding, from initial discussions with the clinician who saw her as well as the patient herself, was they did think it was influenza,” Henry said.


She said the woman’s novel coronavirus diagnosis was surprising, primarily because of her travel only to Iran. “That could be an indicator there’s more widespread transmission,” said Henry. “This is what we call an indicator or sentinel event. A sentinel event means it’s a marker that something many be going on broader than what we expect. She said B.C. has reported the case to the Public Health Agency of Canada and it will also be reported to the WHO. Henry said the diagnosis shows B.C. has a robust system for identifying people who have the virus. “We still believe the risk in Canada and here in B.C. is low,” she said.

Read more …

As I said: false negatives is the big story going forward. We need to know more about the tests. Are they all the same? Is there an international standard? The topic is far too vague so far.

Australia Cruise Evacuees Test Positive Only After Arriving Home (G.)

Two Australians evacuated from the coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise liner in Japan have tested positive to the disease in Darwin. The two, one young person and one elderly, remain well and are being housed in a separate isolation unit inside the Manigurr-ma village outside Darwin, Australia’s chief medical officer said Friday morning. Public health authorities from their home states were organising medical transfers for the patients and their partners. Australia’s chief medical officer, Prof Brendan Murphy, said all of the 164 Australian citizens and permanent residents evacuated from the Diamond Princess on Thursday, and flown to Darwin, were health screened before boarding the Qantas flight out of Japan. None of those allowed to board returned positive tests or displayed any symptoms of the disease.


The passengers were screened again when they landed in Darwin and six showed minor respiratory symptoms and fevers. They were isolated from others in the group. Four of those patients have returned negative tests. “Given there was continued evidence of spread of infection on board the Diamond Princess in recent days, the development of some positive cases after return to Australia is not unexpected, despite all of the health screening before departure.” Murphy said. “Fellow passengers and crew on the Qantas flight which returned people trapped on the Diamond Princess can be assured all measures were taken to ensure their protection.” Murphy said there was no public health risk from the new infections. “This development poses no risk to the broader community.”

Read more …

How about we call it zero percent?

China Says January-February Trade To Take Sharp Hit From Virus Outbreak (R.)

China’s exports and imports will fall sharply in January and February as the coronavirus outbreak severely disrupts activity in the world’s second-largest economy, the commerce ministry said on Friday, adding more measures are being studied to support companies. “The outbreak has posed severe challenges to China’s current foreign trade development,” Li Xingqian, director of the ministry’s foreign trade department, told a news conference that was held online. “We expect January-February import and export growth to decline sharply,” he said, citing delays in business reopenings and logistics issues in addition to seasonal holiday factors.

With transport restrictions still in place in many parts of the country to contain the spread of the virus, many companies are struggling to resume production due to a shortage of workers and raw materials, while others can’t get their finished products out. Parts shortages are starting to cascade through supply chains worldwide. China is the world’s largest exporter of goods, with shipments accounting for nearly 20% of China’s gross domestic product (GDP). Analysts forecast the supply and demand shocks from the crisis could cut first-quarter GDP growth by up to half from 6% in the previous quarter. The outbreak has also brought considerable pressure on the country’s services trade, especially in the tourism and transport sectors, said Xian Guoyi, director of the ministry’s department of trade in services and commercial services.


To cushion the impact on companies, the ministry is speeding up a study of new fiscal, tax, financial, insurance measures to further support companies with other government entities, said Chu Shijia, director of the ministry’s comprehensive department. He did not give details. The ministry expects foreign companies in most parts of the country to resume production by the end of February. It has advised 32 South Korean auto parts companies in eastern Shandong province to fully resume work before Feb. 15, said Zong Changqing, director of the ministry’s department for foreign investment.

Read more …

It’s the entire economy, not just supply chains.

China Supply Chains Pummelled From All Sides (SCMP)

Choked off from suppliers, workers, and logistics networks, China’s manufacturing base is facing a multitude of unprecedented challenges, as coronavirus containment efforts hamper factories’ efforts to reopen. Many of those that have been granted permission to resume operations face critical shortages of staff, with huge swathes of China still under lockdown and some local workers afraid to leave their homes. Others cannot access the materials needed to make their products, and even if they could, the shutdown of shops and marketplaces around China means demand has been sapped. Those who manage to assail the challenges, meanwhile, have found that trucking, shipping and freight services are thin on the ground, as China’s famed logistical machine also struggles to find workers and navigate provincial border checkpoints that have popped up across the country.

“It really is death by a thousand cuts,” said John Evans, managing director of Tractus Asia, a company that has 20 years’ experience helping firms move to China, but which over the past two has had more enquiries from businesses looking to leave. “This is a black swan event and I don’t think we’ve seen anything like it in recent history, in terms of the economic and supply chain impact in China and across the globe.” Australian company B&R Enclosures, which makes units for protecting industrial equipment, said the outbreak has cut it off from suppliers and delayed the return of its migrant workers from their hometowns, following the extended Lunar New Year break. Only 15 per cent have come back, B&R China general manager Marko Dimitrijevic said.


“All supply chains are having trouble, it’s very serious,” he said. “Even if we declare force majeure [to avoid paying hefty damages for late deliveries], we will not be delivering and that means many of us will risk losing our customers. For many companies, this could mean bankruptcy.” Dimitrijevic said he had to charter special buses to transport his workers from other parts of China back to Suzhou, a city west of Shanghai. When they returned, he had to book hotel rooms to house them for another 14 days in quarantine as their neighbours “will not let them go home”. He was paying about 350 yuan (US$50) in accommodation for each employee. [..] Based on the Baidu Migration Index, analysts at Nomura estimated that only 25.6 per cent of migrant workers had returned to work across 15 sample cities by February 19, compared to 101.3 per cent a year earlier.

Read more …

Is this America’s own virus, or is it just Groundhog Day? The damage done to the country by this entirely false narrative will take a very long time to heal.

And it’s cross-platform, everyone’s in on the delusion.

NYT Secret Sources Claim Russia Backing Trump Re-Election (ZH)

The New York Times would like everyone to know that if Trump is re-elected in November, it wasn’t because of his accomplishments, the economy, or packed stadiums full of dedicated supporters. Nope – Putin’s at it again! In an unbelievable Thursday report, the Times claims that five anonymous sources leaked the details of a Feb. 13 briefing to House Lawmakers by intelligence officials warning that Russia has already been interfering in the 2020 election. So – the Kremlin wants the president who, according to political analyst Ian Bremmer, has been tough on Russia – instead of, say, Bernie Sanders – the Democratic socialist who honeymooned in Moscow and would likely crash the US economy, thus weakening it, with his draconian socialist policies.

The Times report gets better; the House briefing reportedly angered President Trump so much that he berated outgoing director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, and that he was particularly irritated that Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) was included in the session. The report implies that Maguire was replaced with pro-Trump ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, as a result of the incident.

“During the briefing to the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Trump’s allies challenged the conclusions, arguing that Mr. Trump has been tough on Russia and strengthened European security. Some intelligence officials viewed the briefing as a tactical error, saying that had the official who delivered the conclusion spoken less pointedly or left it out, they would have avoided angering the Republicans. That intelligence official, Shelby Pierson, is an aide to Mr. Maguire who has a reputation of delivering intelligence in somewhat blunt terms. The president announced on Wednesday that he was replacing Mr. Maguire with Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany and long an aggressively vocal Trump supporter”. -New York Times

Moments after the Times report was published, CNN immediately picked it up for their dozens of viewers.

Read more …

“US intelligence officials have concluded the messages were stolen by Russian hackers.”

It’s all based on a big fat lie. The lies Stone told about it vanish in comparison. He’s being used to keep a false narrative alive.

Is it normal for a judge to be “disgusted”, or is this just a way to avoid talking about what actually happened?

Also, she sentences him pending a new trial request. that she has to decide on?!

‘Disgusted’ Judge Jails Roger Stone (BBC)

A judge has expressed “disgust” at US President Donald Trump’s former adviser Roger Stone, as she sentenced him to 40 months in prison. Stone, 67, was found guilty in November on seven counts of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering. The judge said Stone threatened her, but Mr Trump said he should be cleared. He is the sixth Trump aide convicted on charges linked to a justice department inquiry that found Russian attempts to boost Mr Trump’s 2016 campaign. Stone was found guilty of lying to the House Intelligence Committee about his attempts to contact Wikileaks, the website that released damaging emails about Mr Trump’s 2016 Democratic election rival Hillary Clinton. US intelligence officials have concluded the messages were stolen by Russian hackers.


Stone will serve two years’ probation after his custodial sentence. He has also been fined $20,000 and must serve 250 hours of community service. He will not have to report to prison until the judge rules on a pending defence appeal. Stone’s sentence fell short of an initial seven- to nine-year recommendation from prosecutors. Speaking in her Washington DC court on Thursday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Stone had engaged in “threatening and intimidating conduct” towards her. She said Stone “knew exactly what he was doing” when he posted an image on social media last year of a gun’s crosshairs next to her head.

Stone had claimed he thought the crosshairs were a Celtic cross. “This is intolerable to the rule of justice,” she said. “The court cannot just sit idly by and say ‘that’s just Roger being Roger.'” Judge Jackson also said Stone “was not prosecuted for standing up for the president, he was prosecuted for covering up for the president”. She continued: “The dismay and disgust at the defendant’s belligerence should transcend party.” “At his core, Mr Stone is an insecure person who craves and recklessly pursues attention.” She said the politics surrounding the case did not inform her ultimate decision. “The truth still exists. The truth still matters,” she said.

Read more …

Interesting twist. They must have had at least some communication with Paris before going public with this.

Defense Lawyers Say They Will Seek French Asylum For Assange (AP)

Julian Assange’s European defense team said Thursday it will try to seek asylum in France for the Wikileaks founder, whose full hearings for extradition to the United States on spying charges start next week in London. French team member Eric Dupont-Moretti said Assange’s case placed at stake “the fate and the status of all journalists. “We consider the situation is sufficiently serious that our duty is to talk about it” with French President Emmanuel Macron, the lawyer said. He was one of a team of lawyers lined up at a Paris news conference to explain why they view the case against Assange as unfair, citing his poor health and alleged violations of his rights while in jail in London.

French members of the team said they have been working on a “concrete demand” for Macron to grant Assange asylum in France, where he has children and where Wikileaks was present at its founding. “It is not an ordinary demand,” lawyer Antoine Vey said, noting that Assange is not on French soil. Baltasar Garzon, the Spanish coordinator of Assange’s team, reiterated his client’s plan to claim that the Trump administration offered him a pardon. The alleged condition was that Assange must agree to say that Russia was not involved in leaking Democratic National Committee emails during the 2016 U.S. election campaign. Garzon insisted that Assange was “pressured by the Trump administration” but resisted and “the order was given to demand the extradition of Julian Assange,” he said.


The White House has firmly denied the claim. However, Garzon said that both testimony and “documentary proof” of the claim will be offered to the court at the full hearing that opens Monday. [..] Assange, who is Australian, has received backing from numerous quarters. The council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, Dunja Mijatovic, added a voice of opposition Thursday, citing both concerns over Assange’s eventual treatment in a U.S. prison and the impact on press freedoms were he to be extradited. “I think this is one of the most important and significant political trials of this generation, in fact longer,’ senior Labour Party official John McDonnell said in London. The father of Assange, an Australian, insisted at the Paris news conference that his son was not a criminal. “I can’t for the life of me understand why he’s still in prison,” said John Shipton.

Read more …

Airbnb kills cities and communities. And we just let them. Homes are for people to live in. Any other us comes far far behind that.

Parts Of UK Have One Airbnb Listing For Every Four Properties (G.)

Airbnb has become so prevalent in Great Britain that some parts of the country now have one listing for every four properties, prompting concern that the rapid expansion in short-term lets is “out of control” and depriving communities of much-needed homes. Exclusive analysis by the Guardian identified Airbnb hotspots in both rural areas and inner-city neighbourhoods, where the ratio of active Airbnb listings to homes was more than 20 times higher than the average across England, Scotland and Wales. The highest incidence of Airbnbs was in Edinburgh Old Town, where there were 29 active listings for every 100 properties.


The north-west of Skye had the second-highest concentration, at 25 listings per 100 properties, including a seafront bothy (£50 a night), a modern cottage clad in corrugated tin (£190) and an isolated cottage with ocean and mountain views (£160). In England, the area with the highest rate of Airbnb lets was Woolacombe, Georgeham and Croyde, in Devon, with 23 listings for every 100 properties. In one area of the Lake District: Windermere North, Ambleside and Langdales, there were 19 listings per 100 properties. Local MP Tim Farron described the growth of Airbnb in an area already dominated by second home owners as “a really disturbing issue”.

Read more …

 

 

 

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

 

Feb 202020
 


NPC Newsstand with Out-of-Town Papers, Washington DC 1925

 

2 Diamond Princess Passengers Die, Countries Rush To Evacuate Citizens (RT)
Two Coronavirus Patients From Diamond Princess Cruise Ship In Japan Die (SCMP)
New Coronavirus Spreads More Like Flu Than SARS (R.)
First Batch Of Diamond Princess Passengers Arrive In Hong Kong (R.)
Cruise Passengers Relieved To Be Ashore But Stranded In Cambodia (G.)
South Korea Reports 31 New Cases Of Coronavirus (SCMP)
Virus-Hit China Limps Back To Work (R.)
Trump ‘Offered Julian Assange A Pardon If He Denied Russia Link To Hack’ (G.)
Did Trump Offer Assange A Pardon? (ZH)
German Politicians And Professionals Demand Release Of Julian Assange (WSWS)
Roger Stone To Be Sentenced By Judge He Antagonized (R.)
Greece Labels Erdogan A Liar (K.)
Bolton Says His Impeachment Testimony Would Not Have Changed Outcome (NBC)
Russia Becomes A Safe Haven In An Increasingly Turbulent World (BNE)

 

 

Cases 75,757 (+ 560 from yesterday’s 75,197).

Number seems low because China used their accounting again (h/t ZH):

 

China’s National Health Commission may report – as soon as this evening – the first official drop in new cases since the pandemic started. Why does this matter? Because that is now the catalyst everyone is waiting for to pounce and declare that the epidemic is effectively over, even if of course isn’t.


But since for China it is no longer an option to not have people go to work, the Chinese Communist Party will take its chances with another major breakout in coronavirus, or rather pneumonia, which is how all the thousands of new “mystery” deaths will be tagged by the friendly Chinese coroner, who will be instructed to never use the word coronavirus again and instead attributed covid-19 fatalities to far more mundane causes such as pneumonia, and ordinary flu.

 

Deaths 2,130 (+ 120 from yesterday)

• First death among Diamond Princess passengers, first cases in Iran

 

 

I’ll go use these numbers from Worldometer as well:

 

 

 

 

“..as the number of those infected soared to over 620 people, Japanese authorities allowed some 600 passengers to leave the ship on Wednesday ..”

2 Diamond Princess Passengers Die, Countries Rush To Evacuate Citizens (RT)

An elderly couple aboard Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan, where over 620 cases of coronavirus were confirmed, has succumbed to the illness. The fatalities come as Tokyo allows hundreds of passengers to return home. Both passengers were in their 80s, according to public broadcaster NHK, and are the first on board the ship to die of the virus, which has spread to more than 75,000 people and killed over 2,100 worldwide since last December. So far, the majority of fatalities have involved elderly patients with preexisting conditions. The ship was initially quarantined on February 3 with around 3,700 people aboard, and has since turned into the largest disease hotspot outside China.

After more than two weeks in isolation, as the number of those infected soared to over 620 people, Japanese authorities allowed some 600 passengers to leave the ship on Wednesday and board flights back home, with several hundred more expected to disembark the following day. So far, the US has evacuated some 328 American citizens from the vessel on two chartered flights, 14 of whom were confirmed to carry the virus just as they were heading to the airport. They were isolated from the others on board the plane and remain in quarantine in the US.

Over 150 Australian passengers were allowed to return home – where they face another two-week observation period – while several Hong Kongers also disembarked. Canada, Britain and Indonesia are slated to carry out similar evacuations for citizens aboard the ill-fated cruise liner in the coming days. More than 130 Indian crew members will be the last to depart the ship, forced to endure another two weeks on board before facing yet another 14-day quarantine at home.

Read more …

“Americans flown back will have to complete another 14 days quarantine, as will returning Hong Kong residents. Disembarked Japanese passengers, however, face no such restrictions..”

Two Coronavirus Patients From Diamond Princess Cruise Ship In Japan Die (SCMP)

Two passengers from a coronavirus-hit cruise ship moored near Tokyo have died, public broadcaster NHK said on Thursday, as a second group of passengers began disembarking after two-weeks quarantined on-board. More than 620 of the passengers on the Diamond Princess liner have been infected on the ship, which has been quarantined since February 3, initially with about 3,700 people on board. NHK, citing a government source, said the passengers were a man and woman in their 80s. Both had underlying conditions and had been taken off the ship on February 11 and 12 before being treated in hospital, NHK said. The rapid spread of the disease – Japan has well over half of the known cases outside China – has sparked criticism of authorities just months before Tokyo is due to host the Summer Olympics.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato on Thursday defended Japan’s response in parliament, telling lawmakers that officials have taken expert advice and responded to issues on a daily basis. In a move to reassure the public, the health ministry also issued a statement in both English and Japanese that said all passengers had been required to stay in their cabins since February 5 to contain the virus. [..] About 500 passengers were set to disembark on Thursday while another 100 people were to leave for chartered flights home, a health ministry official said. An initial batch of passengers who had tested negative and shown no symptoms left the vessel on Wednesday.

Those who have shared a room with people testing positive were required to remain in quarantine, as were crew. The ministry could not confirm how many people remained on board, or when disembarkation would be complete. More than 150 Australian passengers arrived home after a predawn departure from Tokyo’s Haneda airport. They face another 14-day quarantine. Some Hong Kong passengers also went home, while Canadians were due to leave on a charter flight in the early hours of Friday, Tokyo time, a Canadian government spokeswoman said. An evacuation flight was also being arranged for British nationals to leave Tokyo on Friday.

Earlier in the week, the United States evacuated more than 300 nationals on two chartered flights. A State Department official said there were still about 45 US citizens on board the cruise ship as of Thursday. Americans flown back will have to complete another 14 days quarantine, as will returning Hong Kong residents. Disembarked Japanese passengers, however, face no such restrictions, a decision that has sparked concern.

Read more …

Transmissibility.

New Coronavirus Spreads More Like Flu Than SARS (R.)

Scientists in China who studied nose and throat swabs from 18 patients infected with the new coronavirus say it behaves much more like influenza than other closely related viruses, suggesting it may spread even more easily than previously believed. In at least in one case, the virus was present even though the patient had no symptoms, confirming concerns that asymptomatic patients could also spread the disease. Although preliminary, the findings published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, offer new evidence that this novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 2,000 people mostly in China, is not like its closely-related coronavirus cousins.

“If confirmed, this is very important,” said Dr. Gregory Poland, a virologist and vaccine researcher with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who was not involved with the study. Unlike Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which causes infections deep in the lower respiratory tract that can result in pneumonia, COVID-19 appears to inhabit both the upper and lower respiratory tracts. That would make it not only capable of causing severe pneumonia, but of spreading easily like flu or the common cold. Researchers in Guangdong province monitored the amount of coronavirus in the 18 patients. One of them, who had moderate levels of the virus in their nose and throat, never had any disease symptoms.

Among the 17 symptomatic patients, the team found levels of the virus increased soon after symptoms first appeared, with higher amounts of virus present in the nose than in the throats, a pattern more similar to influenza than SARS. The level of virus in the asymptomatic patient was similar to what was present in patients with symptoms, such as fever. “What this says is clearly this virus can be shed out of the upper respiratory tract and that people are shedding it asymptomatically,” Poland said. [..] “This virus is clearly much more capable of spreading between humans than any other novel coronavirus we’ve ever seen. This is more akin to the spread of flu,” said Andersen, who was not involved with the study.

Read more …

Yet another new name for the virus is spreading: SARS-CoV-2.

First Batch Of Diamond Princess Passengers Arrive In Hong Kong (R.)

More than 100 Hong Kong residents who were quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise in Japan for over two weeks landed on Thursday morning in the Asian financial hub, where they will face a further 14 days of quarantine. Arriving on a chartered Cathay Pacific aircraft, the 106 passengers were part of a first batch of at least two government arranged flights to bring back hundreds of remaining citizens. Authorities said 55 of the 364 Hong Kong residents on the ship were infected with the coronavirus. They will remain in Japan along with 33 other citizens who have been in close contact with them.


The British-flagged Diamond Princess arrived in Yokohama, near Tokyo, on Feb 3. with about 3,700 people onboard after the virus was diagnosed in a man who disembarked last month in Hong Kong. Over 600 passengers have tested positive for the virus, SARS-CoV-2, so far. Passengers began disembarking on Wednesday from the ship, which is operated by Carnival Corp. The process will be finished by Friday, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said. Passengers arriving in Hong Kong are being taken straight into quarantine at a new public housing estate in the city’s New Territories region.

Read more …

The Westerdam had 2,257 people, 1,455 passengers and 802 crew aboard. There are now 255 passengers and 747 crew. 1,200 potentially infected people have spread all over the globe. Countries are now “scrambling” to find them.

Cruise Passengers Relieved To Be Ashore But Stranded In Cambodia (G.)

The MS Westerdam arrived in Cambodia on 13 February, after repeatedly being denied entry to other ports. But the thrill of the moment, has now evaporated for those still facing a logistical nightmare. Travel options – already limited by the number of airlines serving Cambodia – have been narrowed by a growing list of countries denying entry to passengers from the ship. “We showed up in a city unexpected and there’s only so many flights a night and we have a lot of people we’re trying to funnel through that system and we’re putting a lot of stress on that system,” said Orlando Ashford, president of the Holland America Line, which operates the Westerdam. “It’s a math problem: how many people do you have? How many seats do you have?”

Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan are among those refusing to allow passengers in, making flying to Europe and the Americas difficult. Some airlines, such as Emirates, make a stop in Bangkok before proceeding to hubs such as Dubai, further limiting available flights. Still, Ashford expressed hope that remaining passengers would be on their way home “in a couple of days”. The Westerdam, with 2,257 passengers and crew aboard, began letting passengers off on Friday as they found flights home. But that was stopped once news broke that an 83-year-old American woman who had been on the ship and subsequently traveled to Malaysia was found to be carrying the virus. Some 255 passengers and 747 crew members were held on the ship while further testing was conducted.

Cambodia’s ministry of health said on Wednesday that all the tests came back negative and that all passengers were reported to be healthy and fever-free. After that, remaining passengers were allowed off the ship. Tony Martin-Vegue, whose wife, Christina Kerby, remains in Phnom Penh, began immediately preparing for her return home to California’s Bay Area once she got off the ship. Now he’s not sure when that might happen. “It’s kind of limbo right now,” he said. “I’m worried about how she’s going to get home.”

Read more …

Yesterday 20, now 31. 90 people at a temple service show symptoms.

South Korea Reports 31 New Cases Of Coronavirus (SCMP)

The mayor of a South Korean city at the centre of a new coronavirus outbreak told residents to stay indoors on Thursday as a surge in confirmed cases linked to a local church raised the prospect of wider transmission. Malls, restaurants and streets in Daegu, the country’s fourth largest city with a population of 2.5 million, were largely empty in scenes that local social media users likened to a disaster movie. “We are in an unprecedented crisis,” Daegu Mayor Kwon Young-jin said at a briefing in the city, about 240km (miles) southwest of the capital Seoul, as he warned of likely further cases. Korea’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 31 new cases of the virus on Thursday, following 20 a day earlier, taking the total across the country to 82.


Of that national tally, 49 patients are from Daegu or nearby and have been traced to an infected person who attended a local church, a scenario that KCDC described as a “super-spreading event”. Kwon cautioned that at least 90 more of the around 1,000 other people who attended services at the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony were also showing symptoms. [..] The cases previously reported in South Korea had mostly involved people who had travelled individually to China or come in contact with somebody who had. Daegu authorities ordered the shutdown of all kindergartens, while schools considered postponing the beginning of the spring semester scheduled for early March The Defence Ministry banned troops stationed in Daegu from leaving their barracks and receiving guests.

Read more …

Breaking the -supply- chains.

Virus-Hit China Limps Back To Work (R.)

The Chinese manufacturing engine that powers much of the world economy is struggling to restart after an extended Lunar New Year break, hindered by travel and quarantine restrictions imposed to curb the coronavirus epidemic and still in place in many parts of the country. Case in point: in the southern China manufacturing hub of Dongguan, a factory that makes vaporizers and other products had just half of its workforce of 40 last week and was struggling to function without key personnel. “The quality inspectors, they’re all out,” said Renaud Anjoran, who runs the factory. “One is stuck in Hubei, the other is in an area with no transportation open.” Anjoran said other Dongguan manufacturers were also scrambling with half their normal staff levels, with some having even less than that.

The problems are exacerbating pain inflicted by loss of business from the U.S.-China trade war and present huge logistical challenges as companies, many dependent on migrant workers, grapple with a myriad of restrictions that differ by province, city and local district. Apple on Monday rescinded a quarterly sales target made just weeks ago, saying the ramp up of factories in China was slower than anticipated. Hyundai and Nissan have had to suspend some production – not just in China but also at home – for lack of parts. Some smaller firms, particularly in Southeast Asia and reliant on supplies from China, are having to make tough decisions. Taiwan’s Sica New Materials abruptly shut its factory in Thailand at the end of January, laying off about 350 workers.

“They couldn’t produce because raw materials weren’t being sent from China,” said Pairote Panthakarn from the government’s welfare and labor protection office in Kanchanaburi province, where the factory is located. Sica New Materials did not respond to a request for comment. Sinoproud Cambodia Garments, whose customers include fashion retailer Zara’s parent Inditex, told Reuters it may scale back production as stocks of fabric were getting low. “We hope we get the product in March and if we don’t get the product in March, we might just have to cut back and put the workers on half pay,” said general manager Tu Ailan. Nearly half of 109 U.S. companies responding to a poll by Shanghai’s American Chamber of Commerce said plant shutdowns have already had an impact on their supply chains, while almost all of the remainder expect an impact within the next month.

Read more …

WikiLeaks says on Twitter that there’s much more where this came from.

Julian Assange has always said Russia was not behind the leaked mails, and said they were not hacked, but leaked.. But that was not convenient. And now he’s locked up.

In early 2017, Assange negotiated with Congressmembers (?!) about providing proof Russia was not involved. James Comey shut that down.

Mollie Hemingway on Twitter: “Not only have the media not had a proper reckoning for their deceitful years-long push of the dangerous and false Russia collusion conspiracy theory, THEY ARE STILL DOING IT AS LATE AS TODAY. This propaganda is dangerous to domestic and national security and must stop.”

Trump ‘Offered Julian Assange A Pardon If He Denied Russia Link To Hack’ (G.)

Donald Trump offered Julian Assange a pardon if he would say Russia was not involved in leaking Democratic party emails, a court in London has been told. The extraordinary claim was made at Westminster magistrates court before the opening next week of Assange’s legal battle to block attempts to extradite him to the US, where he faces charges for publishing hacked documents. The allegation was denied by the former Republican congressman named by the Assange legal team as a key witness. Assange’s lawyers alleged that during a visit to London in August 2017, congressman Dana Rohrabacher told the WikiLeaks founder that “on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr Assange … said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC [Democratic National Committee] leaks.”


A few hours later, however, Rohrabacher denied the claim, saying he had made the proposal on his own initiative, and that the White House had not endorsed it. “At no time did I talk to President Trump about Julian Assange,” the former congressman wrote on his personal blog. “Likewise, I was not directed by Trump or anyone else connected with him to meet with Julian Assange. I was on my own fact finding mission at personal expense to find out information I thought was important to our country. “At no time did I offer Julian Assange anything from the president because I had not spoken with the president about this issue at all. However, when speaking with Julian Assange, I told him that if he could provide me information and evidence about who actually gave him the DNC emails, I would then call on President Trump to pardon him,” Rohrabacher added. “At no time did I offer a deal made by the president, nor did I say I was representing the president.”

Read more …

Zero Hedge appears to be confused here when they say According to Assange’s lawyer, Rohrabacher, it was him that informed Gen. Kelly..”

It wasn’t Assange’s lawyer, it was Rohrabacher (they are not the same person) who “said it was him that informed Gen. Kelly that “Assange would provide information about the purloined DNC emails in exchange for a pardon..” It should read: “According to Assange’s lawyer, Rohrabacher said it was him that informed Gen. Kelly..”

So their headline “Assange’s Lawyer Flip-Flops – Admits He Offered Russia Exoneration Quid Pro Quo, White House Ignored” doesn’t seem to make sense.

Did Trump Offer Assange A Pardon? (ZH)

Update: The story appears to have changed dramatically. According to Assange’s lawyer, Rohrabacher said it was him that informed Gen. Kelly that “Assange would provide information about the purloined DNC emails in exchange for a pardon,” but never heard back from the White House. It was Assange’s lawyer (not Assange) that offered a quid prod quo to expose the truth that Russia did not hack the DNC emails (none of which has been proven) in exchange for a pardon… but The White House never responded. [..] Attorneys for Julian Assange told a London court on Wednesday that they will provide evidence that the Trump administration offered to pardon the WikiLeaks founder if he was willing to say that Russia had nothing to do with leaks of Democratic Party emails, according to Bloomberg.

During the preliminary extradition hearing, Assange’s lawyers said that former GOP congressman Dana Rohrahbacher offered the deal in 2017, one year after WikiLeaks published emails which were damaging to then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. At the time, the FBI’s ‘Russiagate’ investigation was in full swing as the agency tried in vein to prove that Trump colluded with Russia to win the 2016 US election.

“At a preliminary hearing Wednesday, Assange’s lawyer Edward Fitzgerald asked the court to allow more witness statements during the extradition hearing that will start next week. The new information includes a witness statement by Jen Robinson, another of Assange’s lawyers, that deals with the alleged offer made by then U.S. Representative. Dana Rohrabacher, he told the court. The witness statement will address “Mr. Rohrabacher going to see Mr. Assange, and saying on instructions of the president, offering pardon or some other way out if Mr. Assange played ball and said the Russians had nothing to do with” the leaks, Fitzgerald said.” -Bloomberg

Read more …

Where were they the past few years?

German Politicians And Professionals Demand Release Of Julian Assange (WSWS)

German-speaking politicians, cultural workers and journalists have published a joint appeal, “Release Julian Assange from prison,” which supports the demand “for the immediate release of Julian Assange, on medical grounds as well on the basis of the rule of law.” The 130 initial signatories have now been joined by 22,000 other supporters. The appeal expresses “great concern for the life of the journalist and founder of Wikileaks” and quotes the findings of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, saying, Assange showed “all the symptoms typical of victims of prolonged psychological torture.” The appeal also refers to the open letter from more than 60 medical doctors, who demand “Assange be transferred to a university hospital, as his state of health is now considered life-threatening.”


“It is obvious that Julian Assange cannot recuperate under the current conditions of detention, nor can he prepare for his extradition proceedings, which are scheduled to begin on February 24, 2020,” the appeal says. “Both constitute serious violations of fundamental principles of human rights and the rule of law, making a fair trial impossible and exposing Julian Assange to considerable suffering and health risks.” The appeal goes on to say, “We remind the German media that Assange is one of their own and that the defence of press freedom is a fundamental tenet of democracy. Notwithstanding the allegations levelled against Assange, we urge the United Kingdom, on the human rights and medical grounds outlined above, to release Julian Assange from custody immediately so that he can recover under expert medical supervision and exercise his fundamental rights without hindrance. We also call on the German Government to make representations to the British Government to this effect.”

Read more …

He’ll either get a new court case or be pardoned.

Roger Stone To Be Sentenced By Judge He Antagonized (R.)

Since his January 2019 arrest, President Donald Trump’s longtime adviser Roger Stone has repeatedly tested the patience of the federal judge who presided over his trial. On Thursday, that judge will tell the self-described “dirty trickster” how long he will serve in prison. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson is scheduled to sentence Stone, a veteran Republican operative whose friendship with Trump dates back decades, after a 12-member jury in November found him guilty on all seven counts of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering. The judge on Tuesday rejected Stone’s bid to delay the sentencing.

The high-profile case has taken on additional importance since Trump last week blasted the federal prosecutors who won Stone’s conviction as “corrupt” after they recommended to the judge a prison sentence of seven to nine years. Attorney General William Barr, appointed last year by Trump as the top U.S. law enforcement official, swiftly intervened and the Justice Department withdrew the recommendation as “excessive,” with all four prosecutors then quitting the case. The Republican president thanked Barr for “taking charge” of the Stone matter, though Barr rebuked Trump for tweeting about the case. Congressional Democrats have accused Trump and Barr of politicizing the U.S. criminal justice system and threatening the rule of law.

Stone has repeatedly pushed the boundaries set by Jackson since his arrest in a dramatic pre-dawn FBI raid on his Florida home. Stone violated the judge’s orders not to talk about the case or post on social media, and she accused him of “middle school” behavior. At one point, Stone posted an image of Jackson on Instagram with what looked like the crosshairs of a gun over her head. “His antics are definitely an aggravating factor, and he can expect a longer sentence than he otherwise would have received,” said Mark Allenbaugh, a co-founder of Sentencing Stats, LLC who previously worked for the U.S. Sentencing Commission that sets federal sentencing guidelines.

[..] Stone, 67, was convicted of lying under oath to U.S. lawmakers about his outreach to WikiLeaks – the website that disclosed many hacked Democratic emails ahead of the 2016 election that proved embarrassing to Trump’s Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton – to protect Trump from looking bad. Mueller’s investigation concluded the emails were hacked by Russia. Stone sought to cast doubt on Moscow’s role.

Read more …

Erdogan has a wild plan to destroy the Treaty of Lausanne, and now out of nowhere tells his party that Greece has agreed with that plan. It didn’t and never will.

Greece Labels Erdogan A Liar (K.)

Greece vehemently dismissed the claim by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that it has accepted the status quo Turkey wants in the Eastern Mediterranean, saying that not only it has not done so, but it has, along with the international community, condemned Turkey’s illegal moves in the region. “As we have repeatedly stressed, illegal actions produce no legal effect,” said Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexandros Gennimatas, who denounced “moves that continue to undermine regional peace and security, creating, among other things, pretexts for the violation of the arms embargo in Libya and for the attempt to usurp the sovereign rights of countries in the region.” ”Unfortunately, in this, too, Turkey continues to be a minority of one,” he said.


Erdogan said earlier Wednesday that Ankara’s resolute stance has led “the rest of the countries in the region, but mainly Greece,” to accept the status quo that Turkey wants in the Eastern Mediterranean. He also stressed that Europeans have no jurisdiction in the region. Moreover, he announced that Turkey has purchased its third offshore drilling ship which will arrive in Turkey next month and begin drilling in 2020, without specifying the location. Speaking to the ruling AKP’s parliamentary group, he stressed that the new drilling rig could reach a depth of 11,400 meters. Meanwhile, the third day on Wednesday of contacts in Athens between Greek and Turkish delegations on confidence building measures coincided with 39 airspace violations over the Aegean Sea by Turkish fighter jets.

Read more …

“Per the audio obtained, Bolton says the House committed “malpractice” and “made a mess” of the impeachment inquiry, calling it “grossly partisan.”

Bolton Says His Impeachment Testimony Would Not Have Changed Outcome (NBC)

Former national security adviser John Bolton said Wednesday he was surprised that Senate Republicans rejected his offer to testify in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. But he said that even if he had testified, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the trial because of how House Democrats handled their investigation. “I think the House committed impeachment malpractice,” Bolton said at an event at Vanderbilt University with Susan Rice, who was national security adviser during the administration of former President Barack Obama. “The process drove Republicans who might have voted for impeachment away” because “it was so partisan,” he said. But, he added, “my testimony would have made no difference to the ultimate outcome.”

All but one Senate Republican voted to acquit Trump of abusing the power of his office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate a political opponent. Rice challenged Bolton repeatedly over his decision not to testify in the House or publicly discuss what he knows about the president’s Ukraine pressure campaign, particularly as officials who worked for him on the National Security Council have done so and have since endured Trump’s wrath. [..] Bolton noted that he offered to testify in the Senate trial and that the House didn’t subpoena him after Democrats learned that he would seek a court ruling because the White House had told him not to testify. He wouldn’t speculate about testifying before the House now if he is subpoenaed, because, he said, his lawyer has advised him not to take a position during a national security review by the White House of his book on his time as national security adviser.

Bolton also tried to deflect growing criticism that he isn’t speaking out because he’s simply out to sell his book about his 17 months in the Trump White House. He said he couldn’t speak out now because his book — “The Room Where it Happened”— is still undergoing a prepublication national security review and he believes Trump would have his administration sue him if he discussed its contents before that’s complete. “I’m not out here flacking for it,” he said. “I believe I wrote a book that does not contain any classified information. The staff reviewing it says it does.

Read more …

The benefits of sanctions.

Russia Becomes A Safe Haven In An Increasingly Turbulent World (BNE)

A year ago the main concern of international investors looking at Russia was uncertainty due to its geopolitical showdown with the West. A year on and global economic uncertainty is the main worry, not geopolitics. Russia is now seen by an increasing number of investors as a safe haven in an increasingly turbulent and unpredictable world. “Russia has seen a sharp change from the dominating attitudes from just a year ago: global uncertainty, not geopolitics, now seems the key risk factor. Russia is now seen as a “safe haven,” helped by reserves and sound macroeconomic policies. Low valuations are overtaking high dividend payments in importance and the new Russian government with Putin’s spending initiatives have been taken positively,” BSC Global Markets chief economist Vladimir Tikhomirov said in a note.

The majority of investors are already overweight Russian equities: 59% of dedicated funds are overweight, 33% are even weight and the remainder underweight. Russian President Vladimir Putin has spent the last few years constructing a “fiscal fortress” of record high gross international reserves (GIR) that have now surpassed the pre-crisis peak and are approaching $600bn. At the same time, the budget has been overhauled and the break-even price of oil for the budget to balance has tumbled from $115 in the boom years to around $40 now – well below the average oil prices of the last few years. Under Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, when he ran the tax office, the tax take grew by 20% despite the tax burden only rising by 2pp. And both external and public debt are now covered dollar for dollar with cash.

In short, Russia has probably the best macro fundamentals of any major country in the world. All this has not been lost on bond investors, who have piled into the market and now own about a third of all the Russian Ministry of Finance ruble-denominated OFZ treasury bills – the ministry’s main source of financing the budget. But last year the increasingly good story spilled over into the equity markets. Russia’s dollar-denominated Russia Trading System (RTS) index returned just under 50%, making it on of the top three performing equity markets in the world. This year got off to a very strong start with the market up 10% in the first two weeks, but the coronavirus epidemic in China took the wind out of its sails and the market is currently flat YTD, with the notable exception of the utilities sector, which is up a whopping 16% YTD.

Read more …

 

I have nothing against Warren. But politics sold in the same way as American Idol, and therefore ultimately in the same way as detergent, is very creepy.

 

 

 

The Automatic Earth cannot survive without your Paypal and Patreon donations. If you read us, please support us.

 

Feb 192020
 


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

 

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

 

 

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

• Deaths 2,010 (+ 137 from yesterday)

• Second death in Hong Kong

 

 

 

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

ACE2, the receptor much more common among Asian people.

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

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

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

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

Read more …

How long before the rest of the world follows?

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

Trump Commutes Prison Sentence Of Rod Blagojevich (AP)

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

3) Nuff said.

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

The Magic Of Retirement Is Gone (Alhambra)

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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


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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

 

If Martin Scorsese made horror movies…

 

 

 

The Automatic Earth cannot survive without your Paypal and Patreon donations. If you read us, please support us.

 

Feb 072020
 
 February 7, 2020  Posted by at 10:28 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  22 Responses »


Marjory Collins “Crowds at Pennsylvania Station, New York” Aug 1942

 

China Reports 73 New Deaths From Coronavirus, 3,143 New Cases (SCMP)
Trump Expresses Confidence In China’s Confronting Its Coronavirus Outbreak (R.)
Texas Congresswoman Says Russia Responsible For Iowa Caucus Mess (WE)
The GIGO Impeachment (Turley)
Russian, Turkish Military Among 100s Killed & Injured In Idlib Terrorism (RT)
UK Town Halls Told To Fly Union Jack For Prince Andrew’s Birthday (Ind.)
Boeing’s Fraying 737 MAX Suppliers See Capacity Crunch (R.)
Ohio Pension System Slashes Health-Care Benefits To Stave Off Insolvency (ZH)
Interest Rate Controls Could Reduce Real Per Capita Growth (IMF)
Encourage Banks To Tap Discount Window To Prevent Repo Freeze – Quarles (MW)
End of QE-4: Fed’s Repos Drop Below Oct 2 Level, T-Bills Balloon (WS)
Seven In 10 Greeks Threatened By Poverty (K.)
Bumblebee Survival Chances In EU, US Drop 30% In Single Generation (Hill)
Can We Have Prosperity Without Growth? (New Yorker)
Canada To Aid Alberta As Deadline For Massive Oil Sands Project Nears (R.)

 

I collected so many “corona”-related articles over the past 24 hours, I’ll do a separate thread with them, because this one would get too long. It’ll be up in a few hours.

China is making an effort to make it seem like they have things under control to the extent that numbers are rising less. Don’t trust them. For one thing, it’s not reflected at all in this graph. For another, Xi is real anxious to get the economy restarted. But that’s not possible while the lockdowns remain. Nice quote I heard: if even just 1% of your car parts are from China, and you can’t get them anymore, you can’t build a car.

 

 

Asking myself: why are there practically no children infected? Does anyone know?

Numbers today:

• China reports 73 new deaths from coronavirus and 3,143 new cases (from 3,797 yesterday)
• Hubei province reports 69 new deaths and confirms 2,447 new cases
• 185,555 people under medical observation, down from 186,354 yesterday
• Japan says 41 new infections on board Yokohama cruiseliner, total now 61 out of 273 tested

 

 

 

Most interesting here is XI: “We are fully confident and capable of fighting the epidemic. The long-term trend of China’s economic development will not change.”

China Reports 73 New Deaths From Coronavirus, 3,143 New Cases (SCMP)

Health authorities in China pegged deaths caused by the novel coronavirus epidemic on Thursday at 73, with 69 in Hubei province, according to official figures released early Friday. The updated numbers raise the death toll in mainland China to 636. Newly confirmed cases rose by 3,143, a second consecutive daily drop, bringing the total to 31,161 cases in the country, according to data released on Friday morning by China’s National Health Commission (NHC). Most the deaths came from Hubei province, epicentre of the outbreak, where 69 new fatalities from the epidemic were reported on Thursday, one less fatality compared with the day before. The total death toll in Hubei rose to 618, the province’s health commission said.


[..] Chinese President Xi Jinping told his US counterpart Donald Trump on Friday that China’s economic development would not be affected by the outbreak, according to CCTV, China’s state broadcaster. CCTV reported that, in a phone conversation with Trump, Xi said the Chinese government and people had put their fullest efforts into containing the outbreak since it had started. “We have adopted the most comprehensive and strictest prevention and control measures through mobilising and rapid responses. We have declared a people’s war against the epidemic through prevention and control,” Xi was quoted as saying. “We are fully confident and capable of fighting the epidemic. The long-term trend of China’s economic development will not change.”

Read more …

After closing the borders.

Trump Expresses Confidence In China’s Confronting Its Coronavirus Outbreak (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump expressed confidence in China’s strength and resilience in confronting its coronavirus outbreak during a conversation with President Xi Jinping on Thursday, a White House spokesman said. The two leaders agreed to continue extensive communication and cooperation between both sides, the spokesman, Judd Deere, added. Trump and Xi also reaffirmed their commitment to implementing Phase 1 of the trade deal between the United States and China, he added.

Read more …

Honest question: what do you think is more dangerous, RussiaRussiaRussia or the coronavirus?

Texas Congresswoman Says Russia Responsible For Iowa Caucus Mess (WE)

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat, suggested during an FBI oversight hearing on Wednesday that Russia is responsible for the vote-reporting issues from Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses. “I hope that the Iowa Democrats will ask for an FBI investigation on the app,” the Texas Democrat told FBI Director Christopher Wray. “I believe that Russia has been engaged in and interfering with a number of our elections dealing with the 2016 election.” Wray responded by reassuring Jackson Lee that the FBI shares her concern about Russian interference. “Certainly, we are also concerned about potential Russian interference with our elections,” Wray said. “That’s why I created the foreign influence task force, which is acutely focused on that topic among other nation-states that are attempting to influence our elections.”


Democrats have faced criticism for not properly testing the voting system in Iowa, which includes an app the Iowa Democratic Party spent $60,000 to implement. “How can anyone trust you now?” a reporter yelled at the chairman of the state’s Democratic Party after reporting issues had still not been cleared up the day after voters caucused. An official winner has still not been announced as of Thursday evening. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez expressed his frustration on Thursday by calling for a recanvassing. “Enough is enough. In light of the problems that have emerged in the implementation of the delegate selection plan and in order to assure public confidence in the results, I am calling on the Iowa Democratic Party to immediately begin a recanvass.”

Read more …

Starting to feel Turley is writing more than he should.

The GIGO Impeachment (Turley)

Every line of work — from law to carpentry to software — has its own house rule about how bad results come from bad beginnings. There is even an initialism for this: GIGO, or garbage in, garbage out. Unless senators use their closing arguments this week to clarify that they are not endorsing either the prosecution or defense premises in reaching their verdicts, this will go down as the GIGO impeachment: precedent created by false assumptions in both houses. The House blundered in rushing an impeachment by Christmas rather than waiting a couple of months to submit a more complete case with added witnesses, court orders and evidence.

Instead of seeking to compel such direct evidence, the House pushed the vote to impeach on the basis of what my co-witnesses called by the Democrats admitted was an inferential case. There is no question that you can make an inferential case for impeachment, but it is the difference between a strong and a weak case. Rather than wait a couple months to strengthen that record (as I suggested at the Judiciary hearing), the House muscled through an impeachment after the shortest investigation of a president in history. The greatest concern in the House’s case was always the obstruction-of-Congress charge. The House declared that the administration’s failure to yield to demands for witnesses and evidence was by itself a high crime and misdemeanor.

The problem is that other administrations have raised the presidential immunity claims made by the Trump administration, and those claims were supported by legal opinions from the Justice Department. Both Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton were able to litigate their privilege claims all the way to the Supreme Court before facing impeachment. [..] This is a great case marred by passion and distortion. What is surprising is that both blunders were not “accidental” but premeditated by the two parties. It undermined the legitimacy and authenticity of the actions in both chambers. Even if the senators cannot agree on what is appropriate for impeachment, they should at least agree on what is not appropriate.

Read more …

Who supports those terrorists? Is it Turkey or the US?

Russian, Turkish Military Among 100s Killed & Injured In Idlib Terrorism (RT)

Terrorists took over the Idlib de-escalation zone and carried out thousands of attacks in the last two months, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that the West is portraying them as “moderate opposition.” Idlib governorate, the last stronghold of anti-government forces in Syria, saw a surge of violence by radical jihadists who have no desire for a peaceful resolution to the almost nine-year-long conflict, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday. Most of the attacks are carried out by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the latest iteration of al-Qaeda in Syria. The area was proclaimed a de-escalation zone under the Russia-Turkey agreements. In mid-January, Russian and Turkish forces tried to impose a ‘regime of silence’ there, but the attacks only escalated.


In December 2019 there were over 1,400 terrorist attacks staged from Idlib, with some operations seeing the use of armor and even tanks. The scale of violence remains high, with over 1,000 attacks recorded in the last two weeks of January. Hundreds of Syrian civilians and government troops have been killed, as well as “Russian and Turkish military specialists.” “The relocation of some armed groups out of the de-escalation zone to northeastern Syria and later to Libya has boosted the concentration of radical extremists over the boiling point,” the ministry said. This situation was recently discussed during an interview with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. He explained that Turkey needed to separate the armed opposition it is working with from the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorists, saying that it has failed to do so.

Read more …

Retracted now, but still illustrative of post-Brexit Britain. Ruled by white guys from the 18th century.

UK Town Halls Told To Fly Union Jack For Prince Andrew’s Birthday (Ind.)

Town halls across the UK have been officially reminded they must fly the Union Jack flag on 19 February, to celebrate Prince Andrew’s 60th birthday. Politicians and public alike have slammed the Whitehall order, which they say puts protocol before principles. The prince is not currently performing royal duties amid an ongoing scandal over his friendship with millionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, and claims that then-teenager Virginia Roberts was coerced into having sex with Prince Andrew in 2001 and 2002. He denies the allegation, saying he was at a birthday party at the Woking branch of Pizza Express on one of the nights the pair are said to have slept together.


However, the order is now likely to be withdrawn, after the prime minister’s spokesman described it as “an administrative email about a longstanding policy”. “I understand that DCMS [the digital, culture and media department] and the royal household are considering how the policy applies for changed circumstances, such as when members of the Royal Family have stepped back from public duties,” the spokesman said – in a clear hint it will be pulled. The instruction had drawn heavy criticism, Labour MP and deputy leadership candidate Ian Murray saying: “This protocol has to be binned given the allegations against the prince.” [..] ..a council source said: “It seems ridiculous. The government doesn’t appear to be noticing what has happened recently, or factoring in the mood of the nation.”

Read more …

And that’s before the virus halted 10s of 1000s of flights.

Boeing’s Fraying 737 MAX Suppliers See Capacity Crunch (R.)

Boeing Co suppliers are shedding jobs and capacity to cope with a halt in 737 MAX output, but while that staves off chaos, aerospace executives worry the industry might be unable to ramp factories quickly enough when the plane wins approval to fly again. Boeing, struggling to restore public confidence and recover from the biggest crisis since its founding in 1916, has halted production of the once fast-selling 737 MAX, which was grounded in March following two deadly crashes. As a result, industrial heavyweights like fuselage maker Spirit Aerosystems have already laid off workers. Now a cluster of other crucial companies small and big that forge metal, assemble and paint 737 MAX winglets, and build data systems have followed suit with no indication that Boeing will offer a lifeline, people familiar with the matter said.


Losing payments and workers in a tight labor market heaps pressure on Boeing’s U.S.-dominated 737 MAX supply chain, which involves hundreds of suppliers of more than half of the roughly 400,000 parts for each 737 built in the Seattle-area. “One of the main questions is how much capacity will be lost in the supply chain by the time production resumes at significant rates,” said an industry executive with knowledge of Boeing’s industrial network. Such concerns dominated the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference north of Seattle this week, where some executives vented frustration over what they called Boeing’s lack of financial support. One executive from a supplier that derives a quarter of its business from the MAX said Boeing has treated his company like “a commodity” in a “transactional” relationship. He predicted Boeing would let some suppliers fail.

Read more …

The Fed’s (and ECB’s) ultra-low interest rates killed all pension systems. We just don’t -want to- realize it yet.

Ohio Pension System Slashes Health-Care Benefits To Stave Off Insolvency (ZH)

For the first time in years, a major public pension system has slashed benefits for retirees: The Ohio Public Employees’ Retirement System voted last week to cut health care benefits provided to the pension’s current and future retirees beginning in 2022 to try and prevent the fund from plunging into insolvency in the not-too-distant future. It’s just the latest reminder that America’s ‘pension timebomb’ isn’t as far off into the future as many retirees, investors and public officials would like to believe. According to Chief Investment Officer and the Bond Buyer, if these changes had not been enacted, the fund would run out of money in about 11 years, executive director Karen Carraher said during a board meeting. The measure passed by a 9-2 vote.

“There is no available funding for health care,” a report from the board said. “All of the employer contribution[s] must be allocated to pension funding until that funding improves. Based on current projections, no funding will be available for health care for 15 or more years.” The vote, which was undertaken after polls showed members would be open to the changes to preserve their retirement benefits, eliminated the system’s group health-care plan and replaced it with stipends that will defray costs for members who purchase plans on the state ObamaCare exchange. Beneficiaries will receive a wide variety of quantitative cuts, depending on their age of retirement, the year in which they retired, and the number of years working in the state.

“Surveys indicate members willing to accept changes/reductions in health care in the interest of preserving it,” the board’s report said. Nearly everyone in OPERS likely will be affected by these changes. The board’s vote constituted the elimination of the pension’s healthcare group plan, and replaced it with a stipend that will help supplement for some members the cost of a new healthcare plan on the marketplace. “Pre-Medicare group plan is unsustainable for OPERS and members as risk core and costs continue to increase,” the report said. The board “needs to reduce the cost of health care to preserve current health care trust fund until such time funding can resume.”

Read more …

Protesting what your own employer supports, and after the damage is done. Lovely.

Interest Rate Controls Could Reduce Real Per Capita Growth (IMF)

With the surge in public debt in the wake of the global financial crisis, financial repression—administrative restrictions on interest rates, credit allocation, capital movements, and other financial operations—has come back on the agenda. In our recent working paper, we argue that countries would be better-off without financial repression. By distorting market incentives and signals, financial repression induces losses from inefficiency and rent-seeking that are not easily quantified. Losses from rent-seeking might occur when administrative restrictions reduce access to certain financial services (such as credit) and improve the benefits (e.g., through low interest rates) for the selected users (at the cost of those excluded), and when these lead to wasteful competition among potential users for such gains.


Using an updated index of interest rate controls covering 90 countries over 45 years, this IMF staff study estimates that financial repression in the form of interest rate restrictions could reduce real per capita growth by about 0.4–0.7 percentage points, on average, with the effect being larger in countries with larger financial systems. The study also finds that a full liberalization of interest rates is necessary to significantly increase growth, and changes in interest rate restrictions short of full liberalization have a limited impact. The case studies suggest that interest rate controls may also disrupt financial stability and may reduce access to financing for small enterprises.

Read more …

The Fed should take care of people, not banks, by now. No body has ever been more destructive to a society.

Encourage Banks To Tap Discount Window To Prevent Repo Freeze – Quarles (MW)

The Federal Reserve could encourage banks to tap a key funding source that has been scarcely used since the financial crisis as a solution to the September dislocations in short-term lending markets, said Fed Vice Chairman for Supervision Randal Quarles on Thursday. Quarles said financial institutions should not be afraid of accessing the discount window, where banks have historically borrowed funds from the Fed in return for collateral during short-term liquidity shortages, in a speech held at an event by the Money Marketeers of New York University. The use of the window, however, has been stigmatized following the financial crisis amid worries that tapping the window could end up creating the perception that a bank was in precarious shape and could even be insolvent, precipitating further outflows.

He noticed that despite the equivalence between Treasurys and reserves as sources of capital that could meet the Fed’s liquidity coverage regulations, which are designed to ensure banks can meet sudden cash outflows, the reality was banks would prefer to hold cash reserves as banks could struggle to sell government bonds swiftly if it wanted to raise funds. Quarles’ remarks come as investors and bank executives have pointed to the preference of reserves over Treasurys as one factor that contributed to the surge in overnight repo rates in September, which briefly pushed the benchmark fed funds rates above its target range and raised questions whether the Fed was losing its grip on a key monetary policy tool.

Pushing banks to use the discount window during stress scenarios could help resolve the issues in money markets, as it gave banks sufficient time to sell high-quality capital like Treasurys and raise cash, diminishing the need to accrue reserves as a way of handling liquidity issues. “I think it is worth considering whether financial-system efficiency may be improved if reserves and Treasury securities’ liquidity characteristics were regarded as more similar than they are today,” said Quarles.

Read more …

Stupid games. Close it down or it will destroy you.

End of QE-4: Fed’s Repos Drop Below Oct 2 Level, T-Bills Balloon (WS)

Under these “repurchase agreements,” the Fed buys Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities (MBS), guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or Ginnie Mae, whereby the counterparties commit to buy back these securities at a fixed price on a specific date, such as the next day (overnight repo) or a longer period, such as 14 days (term repo). Repos are by definition in-and-out transactions. When a repo matures and unwinds, the Fed gets its money back, and the repo on the Fed’s balance sheet goes to zero. By buying these securities, the Fed adds liquidity to the market for the duration of the repo. When the repo matures and unwinds, the liquidity gets drained from the market. When a new repo transaction occurs, the process starts over again, but with a different amount and with a different maturity date.

The Fed raised the interest rate at which it offered the repos – for borrowers, the money is getting a little less cheap. Through January 29, the Fed’s average offering rate for overnight repos was 1.55%. On January 30, this increased to 1.60%. And the rate for 14-day repos increased from 1.58% effective through January 29, to about 1.61%. The Fed had been the lender-of-first-resort in the repo market, by offering to lend at these low rates. By increasing the rate, the Fed is gradually making the cash it is handing out less cheap and less attractive compared to what banks might offer, and more of the demand is switching over to banks. Overnight repos have been undersubscribed all year, so there is less and less demand for them at this rate. But the 14-day term repos are often oversubscribed, meaning there is more demand for this two-week cash at 1.61% than the amount the Fed is offering.


[.] The Fed continued to increase its ballooning stash of T-bills (Treasuries with maturities of one year or less) at a rate of about $60 billion per month. To increase its stash, the Fed has to buy the amount of the maturing T-bills, and it has to buy the amounts needed to obtain the targeted increase of about $60 billion a month. Over the five weekly balance sheets since January 1, the Fed has added $78 billion in T-bills, and the total amount of T-bills on the Fed’s balance sheet has now ballooned to $248 billion: These T-bills are a major part of the Fed’s strategy to bail out the repo-market. The purpose is to increase Excess Reserves that banks have on deposit at the Fed. The Fed blames low Excess Reserves last September for the banks’ refusal to lend to the repo market, which then caused the repo market to blow out. So bringing up Excess Reserves to an “ample” level is the goal of these T-bill purchases.

Read more …

Greece is being hit hard by the virus’s effect on tourism. But that’s just the icing on the cake.

Seven In 10 Greeks Threatened By Poverty (K.)

Almost seven in every 10 Greeks are in a dire financial situation, according to data compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The figures published in the bulletin of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) indicate that 68.3 percent of the population in Greece are living close to or below the poverty line, with 12.9 percent already having to make do with an income below that line and 55.4 percent categorized as vulnerable, as they too could drop below the poverty line if they miss out on three months’ salary.


The proportion of Greeks who are unable to make a decent living is far above the OECD average, which stands at 50.4 percent. In the United States, which also shows high levels of inequalities, the rate comes to 55.5 percent, while in Denmark it stands at 36.3 percent. Greece’s rate is second only to Latvia’s in the European Union. SEV commented that Greece is among the European countries with the greatest inequalities in incomes, a situation that has been aggravated by the financial crisis of the 2010s, which hurt lower incomes in particular.

Read more …

This sounds too bland for me. Been there done that. And I don’t think suggesting that it’s all climate change is all that smart. If only because it isn’t. Chemicals still play a major role.

Bumblebee Survival Chances In EU, US Drop 30% In Single Generation (Hill)

Bumblebee populations are in decline across North America and Europe due to hotter and more frequent extremes in temperatures, and climate change is playing a big role, according to a recently released study. The study by researchers from the University of Ottawa published in the journal Science examined changes in the populations of 66 bumble species across the two continents, and compared them with climate changes. The research found that in the course of one human generation, the likelihood of a bumblebee population surviving in a given place in North America and Europe declined by an average of over 30 percent.


“We’ve known for a while that climate change is related to the growing extinction risk that animals are facing around the world,” lead author of the study Peter Soroye said in a statement. “Bumblebees are the best pollinators we have in wild landscapes and the most effective pollinators for crops like tomato, squash, and berries,” Soroye said. “Our results show that we face a future with many less bumblebees and much less diversity, both in the outdoors and on our plates.” Researchers used data collected over a 115-year period showing where bumblebees have been found over the decades. They mapped the places the bees lived and how their distribution changed over time. They found the bees were disappearing in areas that had gotten hotter, and some are colonizing in new areas that were previously too cold.

Read more …

Ideal world: “There are very substantial reductions in unemployment, the human poverty index and the debt to GDP ratio. Greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by nearly 80%. This reduction results from the decline in GDP and a very substantial carbon tax.”

Can We Have Prosperity Without Growth? (New Yorker)

“If growth were to be abandoned as an objective of policy, democracy too would have to be abandoned,” Wilfred Beckerman, an Oxford economist, wrote in “In Defense of Economic Growth,” which appeared in 1974. “The costs of deliberate non-growth, in terms of the political and social transformation that would be required in society, are astronomical.” Beckerman was responding to the publication of “The Limits to Growth,” a widely read report by an international team of environmental scientists and other experts who warned that unrestrained G.D.P. growth would lead to disaster, as natural resources such as fossil fuels and industrial metals ran out. Beckerman said that the authors of “The Limits to Growth” had greatly underestimated the capacity of technology and the market system to produce a cleaner and less resource-intensive type of economic growth—the same argument that proponents of green growth make today.

Whether or not you share this optimism about technology, it’s clear that any comprehensive degrowth strategy would have to deal with distributional conflicts in the developed world and poverty in the developing world. As long as G.D.P. is steadily rising, all groups in society can, in theory, see their living standards rise at the same time. Beckerman argued that this was the key to avoiding such conflict. But, if growth were abandoned, helping the worst off would pit winners against losers. The fact that, in many Western countries over the past couple of decades, slower growth has been accompanied by rising political polarization suggests that Beckerman may have been on to something.

Some degrowth proponents say that distributional conflicts could be resolved through work-sharing and income transfers. A decade ago, Peter A. Victor, an emeritus professor of environmental economics at York University, in Toronto, built a computer model, since updated, to see what would happen to the Canadian economy under various scenarios. In a degrowth scenario, GDP per person was gradually reduced by roughly fifty per cent over thirty years, but offsetting policies—such as work-sharing, redistributive-income transfers, and adult-education programs—were also introduced. Reporting his results in a 2011 paper, Victor wrote, “There are very substantial reductions in unemployment, the human poverty index and the debt to GDP ratio. Greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by nearly 80%. This reduction results from the decline in GDP and a very substantial carbon tax.”

More recently, Kallis and other degrowthers have called for the introduction of a universal basic income, which would guarantee people some level of subsistence. Last year, when progressive Democrats unveiled their plan for a Green New Deal, aiming to create a zero-emission economy by 2050, it included a federal job guarantee; some backers also advocate a universal basic income. Yet Green New Deal proponents appear to be in favor of green growth rather than degrowth. Some sponsors of the plan have even argued that it would eventually pay for itself through economic growth.

Read more …

Upside down world. You now have to pay for what nature provides for free. Pay people not to pollute. You want less pollution? Sure, but it’s going to cost you… Nice place you got there. You wouldn’t want anything to happen to it, would you?

Canada To Aid Alberta As Deadline For Massive Oil Sands Project Nears (R.)

Canada is preparing an aid package for Alberta, heart of the country’s struggling oil industry, that would help dull the pain if it blocks an oil sands project that could create thousands of jobs, sources familiar with the matter said this week. Ottawa must decide by end-February if Teck Resources Ltd can build the C$20.6 billion ($15.7 billion) Frontier mine in northern Alberta despite climate and wildlife concerns. The decision is a major test of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s 2019 election pledge to put Canada on the path to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Complicating the decision, unhappiness with the government’s energy and pipeline policy cost Trudeau’s Liberals all their Alberta seats in October 2019 elections.


“There will be a big fight inside cabinet over this,” said one source directly familiar the matter who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation. “Rejecting Teck without providing Alberta something in return would be political suicide,” the source added. In Alberta, the project is considered essential for employment and growth. Teck says it would eventually create 7,000 jobs, although the company’s chief executive recently questioned whether it will ever be built. About 20 oil sands projects currently sit dormant despite receiving approval.

Read more …

 

 

 

Please donate what you can.

 

Jan 202020
 


Unknown

 

Nadler Says Dems Unwilling To Negotiate Hunter Biden Testimony (Fox)
Warren Joins Bernie in Jabbing Biden on Social Security (Pol.)
Lindsey Graham Broke My Heart’ (Amy Klobuchar)
John Durham Investigaties Months Before Mueller Appointment (WE)
India’s Half-Finished “Ghost Towns” Leave Middle Class In Crisis (ZH)
Boris Johnson Urged To Publish Report On Russian Meddling (G.)
World’s Richest 2,000 People Hold More Than Poorest 4.6 Billion Combined (R.)
UN Decarbonisation Target For Shipping To Cost Over $1 Trillion (R.)
Oil Firms Risk Public Backlash If Profits Put Before Climate, Says IEA (G.)
EU Could Waste €29bn On Gas Projects Despite Climate Action Plan (G.)
Huge Dust Storms In Australia Hit Central New South Wales (AAP)

 

 

Warming up for the fight. Get your gloves on, check ’em twice, practice some jabs in front of the mirror, have a last drink of water and let the trainer put in your mouthguard. This may get ugly.

Nadler Says Dems Unwilling To Negotiate Hunter Biden Testimony (Fox)

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., one of the House impeachment managers, dismissed on Sunday any notion that Democrats would be willing to negotiate on witnesses called during the Senate trial – adding that Republicans who want to block or negotiate what witnesses testify are “part of the cover-up.” Nadler, who as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee led the writing of the articles of impeachment brought against President Trump, said that all “relevant witnesses must be heard” and balked at the idea of Democrats agreeing to having former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter testify in exchange for the witnesses Democrats want to hear from.


“This whole controversy about whether there should be witnesses is really a question about does the Senate want to have a fair trial or are they part of the cover-up of the president,” Nadler said during an interview on CBS’ “Face The Nation.” Nadler added that “Hunter Biden has no knowledge of the accusations against the president.” “Any Republican senator who says there should be no witnesses, or even that witnesses should be negotiated, is part of the cover-up,” Nadler added.

Read more …

The Warren campaign has noticed Bernie’s gains after attacking Biden. They want a piece of the action.

Warren Joins Bernie in Jabbing Biden on Social Security (Pol.)

Elizabeth Warren hit Joe Biden for his past stances on changing Social Security and expressed solidarity with Bernie Sanders on the issue as the two liberal senators seek to move past their recent feud. “Bernie Sanders and I established the ‘Expand Social Security Caucus’ in the Senate,” Warren said in a quick interview as she hopped into her car outside a candidate forum in Iowa. “As a senator, Joe Biden had a very different position on Social Security, and I think everyone’s records on Social Security are important in this election.” Warren’s comments come as Sanders has been relentlessly bashing Biden for his past openness to freezing cost-of-living spikes or raising the retirement age as part of larger bipartisan deals — proposals that Sanders opposed during his time in Congress.


Warren linking arms with Sanders on the issue also comes after long-simmering tensions between the two exploded into the open this week. The campaigns have been trying to move on from the conflict — which climaxed Tuesday night when each accused the other of calling them a “liar” on the stage immediately following the debate —and are largely not responding to media questions about the rift. The Social Security issue provides a potential opportunity for a liberal tag-team against Biden as both senators have long fought to expand the program and have rolled out plans on the campaign trail.

Read more …

The NYT endorsed Warren and Klobuchar yesterday. Everyone yawned. At least seeing Klobuchar praise McCain and Poroshenko means there’s no doubt where she stands. War it is.

Lindsey Graham Broke My Heart’ (Amy Klobuchar)

Transcript from Sen. Amy Klobuchar interview with the editorial board of The New York Times:

Who has broken my heart? O.K., so here we go. Lindsey Graham’s broken my heart lately in the political system. Senator Lindsey Graham has transformed from a Trump critic, who called the president “xenophobic” and “race-baiting,” to one of his most staunch supporters. He told The Times Magazine, “If you don’t want to get re-elected, you’re in the wrong business.” Just because I like him and know him really well and traveled with him and Senator McCain all over the, all over the world. I’m just more thinking of Senator McCain and how much I miss him right now because I think he would have been really strong on Ukraine and on standing up against some of the things the president did and he’s no longer with us.

And Lindsey and McCain and I were actually on the front line with former President Poroshenko in a blizzard on New Year’s Eve, and I think about this now every New Year’s Eve — because John McCain wanted to show — after Trump got elected — wanted to show those countries that we were on their side. And so of course I was disappointed with how the Kavanaugh hearing was handled. I think everyone could see me on TV to see that, but I just hope that he has the ability to rise up here, and has a very important job right now as chair of the Judiciary Committee and certainly smart enough and has shown some tendency in the past to stand up for things and I just wish he would do it again when it comes to this conduct and a whole range of issues about our judicial system.

Read more …

Meanwhile, in the background:

John Durham Investigaties Months Before Mueller Appointment (WE)

A trail of documents has reportedly led Attorney General William Barr’s handpicked federal prosecutor to focus his inquiry into the origins of the Russia investigation on the first several months of President Trump’s tenure. John Durham, a U.S. attorney from Connecticut, is zeroing in on the period spanning from January 2017, when Trump took office, to May of that year. A “strong” paper trail, as CBS News senior investigative correspondent Catherine Herridge put it on Friday, has led the investigation into possible misconduct by federal law enforcement and intelligence officials to that time frame.

While Trump and his allies have championed Durham’s effort, Democrats have dismissed the allegations of wrongdoing during the Trump-Russia investigation and are concerned the inquiry may be an effort to discredit the work of special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump gave Barr full declassification authority for the endeavor. Barr and Durham have traveled around the world for the investigation, and Durham’s team has already asked witnesses about possible anti-Trump bias among former FBI officials.

The secretive DOJ inquiry includes scrutiny of former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former FBI special agent Peter Strzok, and British ex-spy Christopher Steele. In October, it was reported that Durham was expanding the scope of his investigation, adding agents and resources, to examine the post-election timeline up to the appointment of Mueller as special counsel in May 2017. The “investigation into the investigators” was reported to be upgraded to a criminal inquiry later that month, which would give Durham the power to impanel a grand jury and hand down indictments. Durham has also reviewed the Intelligence Community’s conclusions about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Little else is known about the investigation other than that Durham is exploring whether a crime was committed by Kevin Clinesmith, a former FBI lawyer who was found by the Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz to have altered a document during the FBI’s efforts to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant renewal to continue wiretapping onetime Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Among those known to be cooperating with Barr is retired Adm. Michael Rogers, the former director of the National Security Agency who has a history of uncovering FISA violations.

Read more …

US, EU, China, India, everyone gets their turn.

India’s Half-Finished “Ghost Towns” Leave Middle Class In Crisis (ZH)

If you thought the American housing market was a mess during the immediate aftermath of the collapse, wait until you read about what’s going in India. Rapid economic growth and the government’s gradual economic liberalization have caused the ranks to India’s middle class to boom. The emerging Hindu middle class is already reshaping Indian society: Prime Minister Narendra Modi owes his electoral victories to this group, and his reform agenda was designed with the goal of sheparding even more of the country’s 1.4 billion citizens into the higher income bracket.

Modi’s first term included several important reforms, including simplifying India’s byzantine tax system and instituting a simplified system for taxing goods and services (though some argue that it must still be simplified further. He’s also helped modernize the country’s bankruptcy laws. But as the country’s growing wealth has sparked a flight from India’s crowded urban slums to its more spacious suburbs, they’re struggling with a shortage of homes, a shortage that has been made even more intense thanks to roughly half a million apartments that have been sitting unfinished for years.

Across the country, outside major cities like New Delhi and Mumbai, hundreds of developments have been stranded by developers, many of which have declared bankruptcy, or simply run out of money to finish the projects, according to the Wall Street Journal. India’s banks, already saddled with bad loans, are refusing to lend any more money to the developers. As a result, millions of Indians who put up their life savings as a down payment on a new, yet-to-be-built apartment have essentially been left bereft, with no money and nowhere to live. Most are now making ends meet by cutting out any and all luxuries, and relying on friends and family, as they wait to see if the apartments they paid for will ever be finished.

Read more …

If the Royal Family can’t unite the nation, there’s always the Big Bad Wolf.

Boris Johnson Urged To Publish Report On Russian Meddling (G.)

The SNP’s leader at Westminster has written to Boris Johnson demanding that he take immediate steps to allow the suppressed report into Russia’s interference in the British political system to be published. Ian Blackford, the leader of the third-largest party in the Commons, called on the prime minister to begin appointing members of parliament’s intelligence and security committee, necessary to allow the controversial document to be released. “It is unacceptable that your government has repeatedly and intentionally failed to take steps to establish the committee and has sought to escape scrutiny on vital issues,” Blackford writes in a letter that has been shared with the Guardian.

“The public interest and the imperative is and has always been clear: lift your sanction on publishing this report and re-establish the intelligence and security committee so that it can be immediately published,” the SNP MP added. A report on Russia’s spying activities against the UK and its attempts to penetrate the British establishment had been prepared by the committee in the last parliament, and had been made ready to publish when the election was called. Members of the committee saw evidence of Russian infiltration in Conservative political circles, but it is unclear how much of that concern reached the final document, which some sources say was watered down even before it went to Johnson.

Ministers have repeatedly said there are no examples of “successful Russian interference” in the 2016 EU referendum or an election, although there is scepticism as to whether that has been properly investigated. The report was nevertheless awaiting final clearance from Downing Street, to check it did not contain any classified information, when the election was called. No 10 said it was not possible to clear it in time, a point disputed by the previous chairman of the committee, former MP Dominic Grieve. Downing Street eventually said after the election that the report was cleared. But its release depends on the appointment of nine cross-party backbench MPs and peers to the committee’s membership, a task that falls to Johnson after consulting with other parties.

Read more …

And what are you going to do about it?

World’s Richest 2,000 People Hold More Than Poorest 4.6 Billion Combined (R.)

The world’s richest 2,153 people controlled more money than the poorest 4.6 billion combined in 2019, while unpaid or underpaid work by women and girls adds three times more to the global economy each year than the technology industry, Oxfam said on Monday. The Nairobi-headquartered charity said in a report released ahead of the annual World Economic Forum of political and business leaders in Davos, Switzerland, that women around the world work 12.5 billion hours combined each day without pay or recognition. In its “Time to Care” report, Oxfam said it estimated that unpaid care work by women added at least $10.8 trillion a year in value to the world economy – three times more than the tech industry.


“It is important for us to underscore that the hidden engine of the economy that we see is really the unpaid care work of women. And that needs to change,” Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India, told Reuters in an interview. To highlight the level of inequality in the global economy, Behar cited the case of a woman called Buchu Devi in India who spends 16 to 17 hours a day doing work like fetching water after trekking 3km, cooking, preparing her children for school and working in a poorly paid job. “And on the one hand you see the billionaires who are all assembling at Davos with their personal planes, personal jets, super rich lifestyles,” he said.

Read more …

Davos counts in trillions. This is just shipping. And that is just 2.2% of CO2 emissions.

UN Decarbonisation Target For Shipping To Cost Over $1 Trillion (R.)

At least $1 trillion of investment in new fuel technology is needed to enable the shipping industry to meet U.N. targets for cuts in carbon emissions by 2050, a study published on Monday showed. The global shipping fleet, which accounts for 2.2% of the world’s CO2 emissions, is under pressure to reduce those emissions and other pollution. About 90% of world trade is transported by sea. U.N. shipping agency, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), aims to reduce the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50% from 2008 levels by 2050, a target that will require the swift development of zero or low emission fuels and new ship designs using cleaner technology.

In the first study into costs, researchers estimated that the cumulative investment needed between 2030 and 2050 would be between $1 trillion to $1.4 trillion, or an average of $50 billion to $70 billion annually for 20 years. If the shipping industry was to fully decarbonise by 2050, this would require further investment of some $400 billion over 20 years, bringing the total to $1.4 trillion to $1.9 trillion. “Our analysis suggests we will see a disruptive and rapid change to align to a new zero carbon system, with fossil fuel aligned assets becoming obsolete or needing significant modification,” said Tristan Smith, reader at University College London’s (UCL) Energy Institute, which was involved in the study.

Apart from more than a decade of tough market conditions, the shipping industry is also contending with the exit of many European banks from providing finance, leaving a capital shortfall of tens of billions of dollars annually. Around 87% of investments needed would be in land-based infrastructure and production facilities for low-carbon fuels, the study said. This includes investments in the production of low-carbon fuels as well as the land-based storage and bunkering infrastructure needed for their supply. The remaining 13% of investments are related to the ships themselves including the machinery and onboard storage required for a ship to run on low-carbon fuel. “Sustainable investing is here to stay,” said Michael Parker, chairman of Global Shipping Logistics & Offshore at Citigroup.

Read more …

Let’s see what shareholders have to say.

Oil Firms Risk Public Backlash If Profits Put Before Climate, Says IEA (G.)

The world’s energy watchdog has warned the oil and gas industry that it risks a public backlash by failing to act on the climate crisis in favour of making short-term profits. The International Energy Agency (IEA) said oil companies must balance their desire for near-term returns and a long-term future by playing a much more significant role in combating the climate crisis. The IEA is preparing to make its most direct call for oil companies to help tackle the climate crisis at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos on Tuesday. The oil and gas industry faces “twin threats” to its financial profitability and social acceptability, according to the IEA.


“There are already signs of both, whether in financial markets or in the reflexive antipathy towards fossil fuels that is increasingly visible in the public debate, at least in parts of Europe and North America,” it said. Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, said: “No energy company will be unaffected by clean-energy transitions. Every part of the industry needs to consider how to respond. Doing nothing is simply not an option.” The report said that although some oil and gas companies have taken steps to support efforts to combat the climate crisis, the industry as a whole could play a much more significant role. Oil companies could do more now to help shrink the industry’s giant carbon footprint but most companies were yet to play a meaningful role, according to the report.

Read more …

Basically: be careful what you waste our money on.It’s fine to waste those €29bn on that climate action plan.

EU Could Waste €29bn On Gas Projects Despite Climate Action Plan (G.)

The European Investment Bank risks wasting €29bn (£25bn) of EU taxpayers’ money by overinvesting in gas projects which will be unnecessary under Europe’s climate action plans, according to a report. The EIB vowed late last year to end its support for fossil fuels within the next two years to become the world’s first “climate bank”, but 32 gas projects are still eligible for funding before the crackdown. The majority of these projects would waste billions of euros of taxpayers’ money, according to Artelys, an independent data science company, because they would be left as “stranded assets” in the move towards cleaner energy.

The report warns that gas investments will be unnecessary in the decades ahead because Europe already has enough infrastructure – such as pipelines and processing plants – to meet the continent’s future demand. The European commission set out a sweeping Green Deal plan late last year which aims to create a carbon-neutral EU by 2050, in part by increasing renewable energy and energy efficiency. Under Europe’s climate action roadmap, gas demand is expected to fall by almost 30% by 2030 compared with 2015 levels. But even in scenarios in which gas demand climbs higher, the report found that new investments in gas infrastructure would be “superfluous” from an economic perspective.

[..] Claude Turmes, Luxembourg’s energy minister, said it “makes absolutely no sense” that EU decision-makers are supporting investments in new gas infrastructure with public funds. “This report debunks the argument that these investments would be needed for the EU’s security of gas supply. We risk wasting €29bn on future stranded assets while locking our energy system into fossil gas addiction for the next 40 years,” he said.

Read more …

Some 90 years after the US dust bowl.

Huge Dust Storms In Australia Hit Central New South Wales (AAP)

Damaging winds produced by thunderstorms across central New South Wales have whipped up dust storms that turned daytime into night in some towns. The Bureau of Meteorology issued a series of severe thunderstorm warnings on Sunday evening for inland NSW with the associated winds generating massive dust clouds. Videos posted to social media showed dust storms descending on Dubbo and nearby towns that were so thick they blocked out the sun. A gust of 94 km/h was recorded at Parkes about 6.30pm while a gust of 107 km/h was recorded at Dubbo about 7.45pm, the bureau said.


A bureau meteorologist, Rose Barr, said Sunday’s significant rain was concentrated across central and northern parts of the state on, and east, of the ranges. Rain and hail also lashed Victoria, sparking almost 1500 calls for assistance with more severe weather on the way as bushfires continue. The State Emergency Service received 1453 calls for assistance since Sunday morning, more than 1000 of them for building damage. Many towns on the NSW mid-north coast and the northern rivers regions received between 100mm and 180mm from 9am to 10.30pm on Sunday. In the southern part of the state, high winds saw storms race overhead quickly, resulting in lower measured falls.

Read more …

Social behaviour of striped catfish.

 

 

 

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