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.

 

 

 

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Feb 192020
 


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

 

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

 

 

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

• Deaths 2,010 (+ 137 from yesterday)

• Second death in Hong Kong

 

 

 

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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“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 ..

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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.

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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.

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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/

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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.

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If Martin Scorsese made horror movies…

 

 

 

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Feb 092020
 


Dorothea Lange Play street for children. Sixth Street and Avenue C, NYC June 1936

 

Authorities Order Foxconn To Keep Chinese Facilities Closed (AI)
China To Stagger Back To Work As Coronavirus Deaths Surpass SARS (R.)
In-Hospital Infection Blamed In Wuhan Hospital (NHK)
Coronavirus Outbreak Has Affected 4 Different Cruise Ships (H.)
Still No Port For Cruise Ship Westerdam (NHK)
Five Britons Contract Coronavirus In French Ski Resort (R.)
Coronavirus Brings China’s Surveillance State Out Of The Shadows (R.)
Coronavirus Threatens The Chinese Communist Party’s Grip On Power (SCMP)
Yesterday’s Gone: Iowa Was Waterloo for Democrats (Taibbi)
The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President (Atl.)
A Stock Market Boom Is Not The Basis Of Shared Prosperity (Palley)
Argentina Won’t Repay IMF Debt Till Recession Over – VP Kirchner (R.)

 

 

Late last night in my present timezone, CET, initial new coronavirus numbers came out and everyone said they meant the virus has now killed more people (805-806) than SARS. Everyone except for SCMP which cited a WHO number of 813 SARS deaths (they still haven’t figured that out after 17 years). And then, wouldn’t you know, when I got up in the morning, SCMP had revised their new deaths number to … exactly 813. If I weren’t born so wonderfully gullible I would ask myself something.

Global death toll for new coronavirus hits 805, exceeding that of SARS

The global death toll from the new coronavirus is now at 805, higher than that of SARS. Hubei province reported Sunday morning that there were 81 additional deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities in the mainland to 803 so far. The global death toll for the new coronavirus currently stands at 805, including one death in the Philippines and another in Hong Kong. That compares to the SARS outbreak which killed at least 774 people and infected 8,096 people worldwide in 2002 and 2003, according to data from the World Health Organization.

NOTE: SARS deaths took 9 months. This epidemic is just 1-2 months old.

China’s Hubei reports 81 deaths, global total just short of WHO’s SARS figure

China’s Hubei province, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus epidemic, reported 81 new deaths from the disease on Saturday, bringing the province’s total fatalities from the outbreak to 780. Total deaths globally stood at 805, just short of the 813 total fatalities attributed to the deadly Sars epidemic of 2002-2003 by the World Health Organisation. The provincial health authorities also reported 2,147 newly confirmed cases of the disease in the past 24 hours. This brings the total cases in Hubei to 27,100. These figures compared to the reported deaths and newly confirmed cases of 81 and 2,841, respectively, on Friday.

 

 

• 813 deaths, up from 724 yesterday. 89 new deaths is a new record again.

• Confirmed new cases rose to 37,198, an increase of 2,652 overnight

• 3,916 suspected new cases, bringing the total to 28,942 suspected cases.

 

And this little map looks promising, but I do have questions about it:

 

 

Questions like: what are the effects of the ever wider and ever more stringent lockdowns on this? Do fewer people get infected if they’re all locked up in their homes? Or are infected people also harder to find when they’re behind closed doors? Would families volunteer to deliver potentially infected family members to authorities, or would they wait until they’re as good as dead?

I found this interesting as well: “Wuhan has 49 crematoriums, which can each burn 5 bodies every two hours. They’ve been working 24 hours a day for 17 days now. 49 x 17 x 24 x 5/2 = 49,980 bodies.”

 

Still, as I said yesterday, it’s really all about Monday morning, when the economy is supposed to start “working” again. On Friday, Tesla said its Shanghai plant would re-open tomorrow morning. But then today, the government ordered Foxconn’s Shenzhen factories to remain closed. Will Tesla really open?

As I also said somewhere yesterday, “restarting” the economy where 100s of millions are under some form of lockdown now, means shoving all those millions into planes, trains and subways to bring them to plants where they spend 8-10-12 hours in close proximity to potential virus carriers. Thousands more petri dishes.

I’ll believe it when I see it.

 

 

Well, that’s my question: “No-one wants to bear the responsibility for restarting work at this critical moment.”

Authorities Order Foxconn To Keep Chinese Facilities Closed (AI)

As authorities attempt to stem the spread of the coronavirus in China, Foxconn did its part to help on Friday by telling staff not to return to work on February 10, following the Lunar New Year. Rather than resuming operations on the originally anticipated return date, the assembly partner told its tens of thousands of employees to stay away from the Shenzhen plant. A report by Nikkei claims the calling off of production has been further halted by the Chinese authorities, who have told Foxconn not to reopen. People familiar with the matter advised the factory was subject to on-site inspections by public health officials, which found there were “high risks of coronavirus infection” if it did reopen.

One internal memo about the inspection and government-ordered closure mentioned “Violation of epidemic prevention and control could potentially face the death penalty.” Part of the problem is the production facilities use central air condition and have a high density of workers, conditions ripe for viral transference. “The local governments do not want to risk the potential virus spreading in such a labor-intensive working environment,” a source told the report. “No-one wants to bear the responsibility for restarting work at this critical moment.” On Friday, Foxconn took the extra step of canceling flight bookings for employees from Taiwan returning from their home country to China between February 7 and February 14.


The measure was allegedly announced by Chairman Young Liu in a video conference that morning, who also confirmed the company’s Zhengzhou complex would need to be evaluated by the local government before it could be reopened. Foxconn has previously confirmed the coronavirus will affect production, and it is allegedly affecting Apple’s AirPods along with other products it makes, such as iPhones.

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What will stocks do?

China To Stagger Back To Work As Coronavirus Deaths Surpass SARS (R.)

China raised the death toll from the coronavirus epidemic to 811 on Sunday, passing the number killed globally by the SARS epidemic in 2002/2003 and raising anxiety among people preparing to return to work after an extended Lunar New Year break. Struggling to contain the spread of the disease, authorities had told businesses to tack up to 10 extra days onto holidays that had been due to finish at the end of January as the rising numbers of dead and infected cast a pall over the country. Many of China’s usually teeming cities have almost become ghost towns during the past two weeks, as the Communist Party rulers ordered virtual lockdowns, cancelled flights, closed factories and kept schools shut.


The sight of an economy regarded as a workshop to the world laid so low has also taken a toll on international financial markets, as shares slumped and investors switched into safe-havens like gold, bonds and the Japanese yen. Even on Monday, a large number of workplaces will remain closed and many white-collar workers will continue to work from home. The new deaths on Saturday reached another daily record at 89, data from the National Health Commission showed, pushing the total well over the 774 who died from SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

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“..around 40 percent of the patients with the new coronavirus they have treated may have contracted the illness at their hospital.”

In-Hospital Infection Blamed In Wuhan Hospital (NHK)

A team of medical professionals at a hospital in Wuhan says that around 40 percent of the patients with the new coronavirus they have treated may have contracted the illness at their hospital. The team works at a Wuhan University hospital in the Chinese city at the heart of the outbreak. They published their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Friday. The study says 138 cases were confirmed at the hospital between January 1 and 28. Of those, 41 percent, or 57 people, were medical staff or patients who were initially hospitalized for other reasons.


The study found that one patient in the surgical department may have infected more than 10 members of hospital staff. It says that while patients had symptoms such as high fever and sense of fatigue, researchers revealed that 10 percent either had atypical symptoms such as diarrhea, or complained of nausea. It concludes that it was difficult to screen patients with symptoms not previously associated with the virus. The team says that an important feature of the new coronavirus is the rapid human-to-human transmission among people in close contact.

Read more …

I think the ship off Hong Kong was freed today. The Yokohama one with 61 infected won’t be so lucky.

Coronavirus Outbreak Has Affected 4 Different Cruise Ships (H.)

Cruises are, for the most part, meant to elicit feelings of relaxation—literally floating away from your landlocked responsibilities for a few days. But, for thousands of passengers aboard at least four different cruise ships, their vacations quickly turned into nightmare scenarios. As of Friday, four major vessels—the Diamond Princess, Westerdam, World Dream, and Royal Caribbean’s The Anthem of the Seas cruise ships—have been impacted by the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), aka the Wuhan coronavirus. Most affected by the outbreak is the Diamond Princess cruise ship, currently quarantined off the coast of Yokohama, near Tokyo.

The ship was docked Tuesday after a former passenger tested positive for the coronavirus. Since then, 61 passengers of the 3,700 people on board have tested positive for the virus, reports CNN. The ship’s quarantine is expected to last until at least February 19. The two other ships—the Westerdam, currently in search of a port in the East China Sea; and the World Dream, docked in Hong Kong—have also come to a halt due to fears of coronavirus, per CNN. No current or former passengers on the Westerdam have been reported as having the coronavirus, nor have any current passengers on the World Dream, though eight former passengers of the cruise ship have been confirmed as having the illness.


And most recently, on Friday, the Royal Caribbean’s The Anthem of the Seas was docked near New York City, at a port in Bayonne, New Jersey, where 27 passengers were screened for the coronavirus, according to CNN. Four of those passengers were sent to the hospital for further investigation, while the other 23 were cleared. In a statement, per CNN, Royal Caribbean confirmed that, like airlines, they too are working to help limit the spread of the coronavirus. “We continue to work in close consultation with the CDC, the WHO, and local health authorities to align with their guidance and ensure the health and wellbeing of our guests and crew.”

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Sailed on Feb 1. Now it’s like the original Flying Dutchman ship.

Still No Port For Cruise Ship Westerdam (NHK)

The operator of the cruise ship Westerdam is searching for a port to call at after being rejected by destinations including Japan amid fears of the spreading coronavirus. The US-based Holland America Line said in a statement on Friday that the ship is “currently sailing on a southwesterly course off the coast of Taiwan.” The firm says it is positioning the ship “for access to potential port locations.” The Westerdam departed Hong Kong on February 1 with more than 2,200 passengers and crew onboard. Taiwan denied it permission to call, citing a suspicion of coronavirus infection among the passengers. Japanese authorities followed suit, preventing it from entering a port in the southwestern prefecture of Okinawa. Holland America Line said in the statement that “The ship is not in quarantine” and there is “no reason to believe there are any cases of coronavirus on board.” It added the ship has sufficient fuel and food, and passengers are provided with free internet and phone access.

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Is this the first cluster than doesn’t involve Chinese people? Note that the original infection came from Singapore, not China.

Five Britons Contract Coronavirus In French Ski Resort (R.)

Five British nationals including a child have been diagnosed with the new coronavirus at a French mountain village, and health officials said they were checking who else might have been exposed, including at local schools. In total, 11 people, including the five who tested positive, have been hospitalized in southeastern France and were being examined, the French health ministry said on Saturday, adding that none were in serious condition. The group of Britons included holidaymakers and a family currently residing in the Alpine village and ski resort, Les Contamines-Montjoie. They shared neighboring apartments in a chalet and temporarily hosted a British man believed to have contracted the virus at a business congress in Singapore before his short visit to France in late January, the ministry added.


Two schools would be shut next week for checks, regional health official Jean-Yves Grall said, after it emerged that the nine-year-old who tested positive had attended lessons and French classes in different establishments. Two other children were also part of the group of 11 now in hospital in the cities of Lyon, Saint-Etienne and Grenoble, and they had been schooled in the area too, according to Etienne Jacquet, mayor of Les Contamines-Montjoie. Some parents in the village, nestled in the mountains close to the Mont Blanc peak and the Swiss city of Geneva, said on Saturday they had received little information so far and were being cautious.

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Thermal cameras, cameras that see through face-masks, a good crisis to step up state control.

Coronavirus Brings China’s Surveillance State Out Of The Shadows (R.)

When the man from Hangzhou returned home from a business trip, the local police got in touch. They had tracked his car by his license plate in nearby Wenzhou, which has had a spate of coronavirus cases despite being far from the epicenter of the outbreak. Stay indoors for two weeks, they requested. After around 12 days, he was bored and went out early. This time, not only did the police contact him, so did his boss. He had been spotted near Hangzhou’s West Lake by a camera with facial recognition technology, and the authorities had alerted his company as a warning.

“I was a bit shocked by the ability and efficiency of the mass surveillance network. They can basically trace our movements with the AI technology and big data at any time and any place,” said the man, who asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions. Chinese have long been aware that they are tracked by the world’s most sophisticated system of electronic surveillance. The coronavirus emergency has brought some of that technology out of the shadows, providing the authorities with a justification for sweeping methods of high tech social control. Artificial intelligence and security camera companies boast that their systems can scan the streets for people with even low-grade fevers, recognize their faces even if they are wearing masks and report them to the authorities.

If a coronavirus patient boards a train, the railway’s “real name” system can provide a list of people sitting nearby. Mobile phone apps can tell users if they have been on a flight or a train with a known coronavirus carrier, and maps can show them locations of buildings where infected patients live. Although there has been some anonymous grumbling on social media, for now Chinese citizens seem to be accepting the extra intrusion, or even embracing it, as a means to combat the health emergency. “In the circumstances, individuals are likely to consider this to be reasonable even if they are not specifically informed about it,” said Carolyn Bigg, partner at law firm DLA Piper in Hong Kong.

[..] Facial recognition firm Megvii said on Tuesday it had developed a new way to spot and identify people with fevers, with support from the industry and science ministries. Its new “AI temperature measurement system”, which detects temperature with thermal cameras and uses body and facial data to identify individuals, is already being tested in a Beijing district. SenseTime, another leading AI firm, said it has built a similar system to be used at building entrances, which can identify people wearing masks, overcoming a weakness of earlier technology. Surveillance camera firm Zhejiang Dahua says it can detect fevers with infrared cameras to an accuracy within 0.3ºC.

Read more …

Wishful thinking?

Coronavirus Threatens The Chinese Communist Party’s Grip On Power (SCMP)

China missed the best opportunity to contain the spread of the virus because officials at first delayed – or possibly covered up – the release of information and were slow in taking precautionary actions. The first patient who experienced symptoms was found on December 1, 2019, suggesting the origin of the disease was even earlier. And there has been some evidence of human-to-human transmissions since late December, with more emerging in early January when several medical workers were infected. These vital bits of information were not released to the public in time. Nor was any decisive action taken between early December and January 23, the day Beijing told the world about the severity of the epidemic and declared war on it just two days before the Lunar New Year on January 25.

Lives continued as normal in Wuhan in the week before then. On January 18, the Wuhan government hosted a banquet attended by more than 40,000 families in a bid to set a Guinness world record. On January 20, the municipal government said it was distributing 200,000 free tickets to residents for festive new year activities. Videos show few people wearing face masks in Wuhan before mid-January. Compare that to Hong Kong, where since early January the government has been updating people on the situation daily and holding frequent news briefings.


In terms of human-to-human transmissions, the alarm wasn’t raised until the prominent epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan spoke out on January 20 – nearly 50 days after the first patient was found and three weeks after it was established that human-to-human infections were taking place. Instead of acting against the virus, the government focused on controlling the information. In an effort to underscore the CCP’s determination to crack down on unsanctioned information, the broadcaster CCTV reported on January 2 that Wuhan police had interrogated and warned eight whistle-blowers, frontline doctors, for “rumourmongering” about the epidemic. It seemed all too familiar to 2003, when military doctor Jiang Yanyong defied government rules and risked his own life to break the news about the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) to the international media.

Read more …

“Perhaps all the Democrats need to win the presidency is a Rust Belt millennial who’s gay and speaks Norwegian.”

Yesterday’s Gone: Iowa Was Waterloo for Democrats (Taibbi)

Democratic campaign events have long been more pep rally than discussion, more about the terribleness of Republicans than substance. “They’re so used to events where everyone is rooting for them,” says Redd. “It’s like, ‘No, we’re actually here to challenge you on issues that matter.’” Biden performed surprisingly well all year in polls, but he headed into Iowa like a passenger jet trying to land with one burning engine, hitting trees, cows, cars, sides of mountains, everything. The poking incidents were bad, but then one of his chief surrogates, John Kerry, was overheard by NBC talking about the possibility of jumping in to keep Bernie from “taking down” the party.

“Maybe I’m fucking deluding myself here,” Kerry reportedly said — mainstream Democrats may not have changed their policies or strategies much since Trump, but they sure are swearing more — then noted he would have to raise a “couple of million” from people like venture capitalist Doug Hickey. Kerry later said he was enumerating the reasons he wouldn’t run, though those notably did not include humility about his own reputation as a comical national electoral failure, or because there’s already a candidate in the race (Biden) he’d been crisscrossing Iowa urging people to vote for, but instead because he’d have to step down from the board of Bank of America and give up paid speeches. French aristocrats who shouted “Vive le Roi!” on the way to the razor did a better job advertising themselves.

With days, hours left before the caucuses, there were signs everywhere that the party establishment was scrambling to find someone among the remaining cast members to stop what Kerry called the “reality of Bernie.” But who? Yang said smart things about inequality, so he was out. Tulsi Gabbard was Russian Bernie spawn. Tom Steyer was Dennis Kucinich with money. Voters had already rejected potential Trump WWE opponents like the “progressive prosecutor” (Kamala Harris), the “pragmatic progressive” (John Delaney), “the next Bobby Kennedy” (Beto O’Rourke), “Courageous Empathy” (Cory Booker), Medicare for All can bite me (John Hickenlooper), and over a dozen others.

Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg seemed perfect, a man who defended the principle of wine-based fundraisers with military effrontery. New York magazine made his case in a cover story the magazine’s Twitter account summarized as: “Perhaps all the Democrats need to win the presidency is a Rust Belt millennial who’s gay and speaks Norwegian.”

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The Trump people meddle in conspiracy theories. The “others” don’t. This is how and why you will lose the election.

The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President (Atl.)

One day last fall, I sat down to create a new Facebook account. I picked a forgettable name, snapped a profile pic with my face obscured, and clicked “Like” on the official pages of Donald Trump and his reelection campaign. Facebook’s algorithm prodded me to follow Ann Coulter, Fox Business, and a variety of fan pages with names like “In Trump We Trust.” I complied. I also gave my cellphone number to the Trump campaign, and joined a handful of private Facebook groups for MAGA diehards, one of which required an application that seemed designed to screen out interlopers. The president’s reelection campaign was then in the midst of a multimillion-dollar ad blitz aimed at shaping Americans’ understanding of the recently launched impeachment proceedings.

Thousands of micro-targeted ads had flooded the internet, portraying Trump as a heroic reformer cracking down on foreign corruption while Democrats plotted a coup. That this narrative bore little resemblance to reality seemed only to accelerate its spread. Right-wing websites amplified every claim. Pro-Trump forums teemed with conspiracy theories. An alternate information ecosystem was taking shape around the biggest news story in the country, and I wanted to see it from the inside. The story that unfurled in my Facebook feed over the next several weeks was, at times, disorienting. There were days when I would watch, live on TV, an impeachment hearing filled with damning testimony about the president’s conduct, only to look at my phone later and find a slickly edited video—served up by the Trump campaign—that used out-of-context clips to recast the same testimony as an exoneration. Wait, I caught myself wondering more than once, is that what happened today?

[..] Every presidential campaign sees its share of spin and misdirection, but this year’s contest promises to be different. In conversations with political strategists and other experts, a dystopian picture of the general election comes into view—one shaped by coordinated bot attacks, Potemkin local-news sites, micro-targeted fearmongering, and anonymous mass texting. Both parties will have these tools at their disposal. But in the hands of a president who lies constantly, who traffics in conspiracy theories, and who readily manipulates the levers of government for his own gain, their potential to wreak havoc is enormous.

The Trump campaign is planning to spend more than $1 billion, and it will be aided by a vast coalition of partisan media, outside political groups, and enterprising freelance operatives. These pro-Trump forces are poised to wage what could be the most extensive disinformation campaign in U.S. history. Whether or not it succeeds in reelecting the president, the wreckage it leaves behind could be irreparable.

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How you tie your impression of Trump as a con-man in with the topic is unclear. Today’s bubbles started with Greenspan and Bill Clinton, not Trump.

A Stock Market Boom Is Not The Basis Of Shared Prosperity (Palley)

The United States is currently enjoying another stock market boom. If history is any guide, it may well end in a bust. In the meantime, the boom is having a politically toxic effect. Donald Trump uses it to make the case for his reelection in the fall. But his argument, at a minimum, requires a big leap of faith. Trump’s assertion — that a stock market boom is the basis for shared prosperity — is just that, an assertion. It certainly hasn’t led to any broad-based prosperity. The beneficiaries are the happy few at the top of the U.S. economic pyramid. Anyone who ever read John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Great Crash 1929, his 1954 classic, has run across Galbraith’s idea of the “bezzle.” In addition to Ponzi schemes, Galbraith’s bezzle also captures the dynamic of speculative bubbles.

Those bubbles are a form of fraud we collectively inflict on ourselves. Investors buy in believing they will be able to sell at a higher price, and their purchases drive up prices and attract new investors who hope to jump on the price appreciation band wagon. The bubble continues until belief in ever higher prices is punctured, whereupon buyers evaporate and the bubble implodes. Once again, all feel richer along the way. Today’s stock market increasingly has the smell and feel of another bezzle. That smell is metaphorically rather perfectly reflected in President Trump who has all the integrity of a con man. Better yet, Trump’s business history, in addition to reliance on funding from suspect sources, is marked by serial bankruptcies.


Trump has also managed to use the presidential bully pulpit to cajole the U.S. Federal Reserve into further inflating asset prices by enjoining it to lower interest rates. In addition to directly impacting asset pricing, the Federal Reserve has given a green flag for speculative buying. In that process, it has strengthened beliefs that it stands ready to guarantee stock prices, via the so-called “Powell put.” That put is an amplification of the prior “Bernanke put,” which was in turn an amplification of the “Greenspan put” which launched the Federal Reserve’s commitment to stock prices. To be honest, it did not take much cajoling from Trump as the Federal Reserve has evidently learned little from the past 35 years of serial asset price bubbles.

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A lesson for Greece.

Argentina Won’t Repay IMF Debt Till Recession Over – VP Kirchner (R.)

Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said on Saturday that the government will not pay “even half a cent” of its debt back to the International Monetary Fund before the country has exited recession. “The first thing we have to do in order to be able to pay is to exit the recession,” Fernandez de Kirchner said at a presentation of her book “Sinceramente” (Sincerely) at Havana’s international book fair. “If there is a recession no-one will pay even half a cent and the way you exit recession is through a lot of state investment.” Argentina needs to restructure $100 billion in sovereign debt with creditors, including part of a $57 billion credit facility that the IMF extended the country in 2018.


Dealings with the IMF are key as Argentina hopes to avoid a default amid a currency crash, steep inflation and a contracting economy. An IMF technical mission is expected in Buenos Aires next week to discuss obligations owed to the fund. Fernandez de Kirchner said Argentina should get a “substantial haircut” on its IMF debt. A leftist and militant Peronist, she has traveled frequently to Communist-run Cuba over the past year to visit her daughter Florencia Kirchner who is undergoing medical treatment there.

Read more …

 

Just one of those timelines where Dean Koontz wrote a book about a Chinese super virus called Wuhan that escaped a secret lab.

 

 

 

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Jan 292020
 


M.C. Escher Fluorescent sea 1933

 

It’s a little amusing, though that word may not fit the topic, to see how people react to the 2019-nCoV (Wuhan coronavirus) “epidemic” that appears to have started in the city of that name. It’s understandable that people compare the warnings about it to those about for instance SARS (also a coronavirus, so either call this one 2019-nCoV or “Wuhan coronavirus”), and conclude that since that episode was not so bad, neither will this one be, but that’s certainly not the definitive story.

If only because stating that the world is due for a large-scale epidemic, a pandemic, is not some scare-mongering exercise, it’s basic statistics and broadly recognized. The last really big one is over 100 years ago. The Spanish flu of 1917-1918 killed an estimated 50 million people, more than WWI which took place from 1914-1918, and saw an estimated 40 million fatalities.

(Un)predictability is key: Adolfo Garcia-Sastre, director of Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York City says: “There is no good way to predict [when a flu pandemic will occur], but “this is something that happens every 10 to 40 years”. In essence, since a real flu pandemic hasn’t happened in 100 years, we’re overdue.

There are of course vast differences between today and 1918. But then again, these differences may balance each other out to an extent: on the one hand: 1) medical science has made enormous progress in the past 100 years. But on the other: 2) there are many more people, and they move around and come in contact with each other a lot more too.

 


Cross-sectional model of a coronavirus. Source:
Scientific Animations (CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

World population in 1918 was 1.8 billion; today it’s over 4 times that at 7.7 billion. Add increased mobility through planes, trains and automobiles -in the west and now China- and you will find the number of miles traveled and the number of people “met” per capita has probably gone up by a factor of 10 or more. Just what a virus wants: 10+ times more potential hosts.

The 2009 swine flu killed “only” 200,000 people. Not the “real thing”. SARS affected about 8,000 people and killed 774 in the early 2000s. Hardly even an epidemic, let alone a pandemic. MERS, another coronavirus, infected 186 people and with a death toll of 36. Small change in comparison.

But of course scientists are looking into the matter all the time. And, certainly compared to 1918, they have developed much more sophisticated models to do that, aided greatly by computing power. A simulation of a global pandemic that involves a coronavirus, developed late last year by scientist Eric Toner at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, showed that 65 million people might die within 18 months in such an event.

A more recent model was developed by a team led by Hong Kong University’s medicine dean Gabriel Leung:

The Coronavirus outbreak doubles every 6.2 days [..] That figure validates the forecast of top virologists who claim that Coronavirus is ten times worse than SARS. Hong Kong University is ranked a top 25 college globally and houses the world’s top 1% scientists according to Thomson Reuters. Based on the model used by HKU, up to 150,000 individuals could be affected by Coronavirus in the next three to four months on a daily basis.

Leung’s team said that it confirmed transmission from humans to humans is already occurring in virtually every major city in China. By April to May, Leung said Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chongqing are likely to see widespread infections of Coronavirus, [before the number of infections could begin to gradually decline in June or July, Leung said.


As many as 44,000 people could be infected in Wuhan alone, with only 25,000 likely to be showing symptoms at this time..] Specifically, Leung noted that due to the close ties between Chongqing and Wuhan, Chongqing could see nearly 150,000 people affected per day at its peak.

Chongqing is sometimes presumed to be the world’s most populous city, with 30 million inhabitants, though data are somewhat opaque.

SCMP adds:

Leung, who sits on Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s advisory committee on the coronavirus, called for drastic measures to curb the spread of the virus. “Substantial, draconian measures limiting population mobility should be taken immediately,” he said, calling for the cancellation of mass gatherings, along with school closures and work-from-home arrangements.

He would undoubtedly also cancel all flights to and from Wuhan, and perhaps even all of China, as British Airways has already done, and as other airlines will be forced to follow suit.

Yesterday was the first day that the 2019-nCoV virus had infected over 1,000 new patients. And that’s in official numbers, those are the confirmed ones for a disease with a 2-week incubation period and an R0 rate (how many people are infected by each positive person) of 2.5 to 4. It was also the first day that more new cases were reported outside of Hubei province than inside it.

Scores of new countries were added to the list of those with confirmed cases. There are now 19: China, United States, France, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, Nepal, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Canada, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Germany and UAE (Finland was just added; now there’s 20). Moreover, several of these countries have confirmed human-to-human transmission.

Still, while Hong Kong University’s Gabriel Leung estimates the 2019-nCoV peak at late April-early May 2020, Chinese respiratory diseases expert Zhong Nanshan, echoed by Gao Fu, the director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said the peak would be reached in 10 days.

 


Infection cycle of a coronavirus

 

The WHO is, as I speak, burying China in compliments for its efforts to control the disease. Which is fine, and likely more constructive than criticism, but we’ve all been able to see the footage of dead and dying people in the corridors of Wuhan hospitals. And we know China’s history on SARS reporting. Beijing is worried sick by now, but the CCP’s biggest worry will always remain power and control. The Hong Kong protests have only enforced that attitude.

But who are we to criticize China anyway? In our own countries, the main concern in the media is still about the economic effects of what may or may not become a pandemic. “It’s going to hurt global trade, it’s going to hurt our economy, woe, woe..” As if it’s such a disaster that for a few months fewer non-essential goods are schlepped halfway across the globe. That period is likely too short for us to realize than we would do good to produce at least essential goods closer to home. The main concern is money, not that 132 people have died and many more will soon. Those are our priorities.

For a bright light to hit home upside our heads that we would actually notice, that would make us take a look at ourselves, we would need a real bad pandemic. Or we will not learn that we should not need a pandemic to realize we should take care of ourselves, our own basic needs, and not let someone 10,000 miles away do that.

As for fewer airline bookings or Louis Vuitton or Apple sales, if that’s your priority, maybe you’re overdue a lesson no matter what. A lesson about what your society needs to survive, vs what are extras, luxuries, added benefits. We seem to have lost comprehension of that difference entirely.

Summary: no panic, but vigilance. Same as every other day. And not too much focus on money and profits. 2019-nCoV doesn’t care about those either. In 2020, with all the resources at our disposal, and with 1918 to guide us, we should be able to see these things coming from miles away, and not need any time to respond. It should be no more than flicking a switch.

Now it’s like: but where will our food come from, and our iPhones? We should have the answers to such questions ready at all times, or we have failed as societies. Maybe someone’s holding up a mirror to us.

A question I can’t resist is: Are we better prepared today than people were in 1918? And I can’t give you the answer. I know we should be with all the wealth and resources and available energy we’ve added, but I can’t.

 

 

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Jan 292020
 


Marion Post Wolcott Main Street. Sheridan, Wyoming 1941

 

Number Of Coronavirus Cases Surpasses SARS (ZH)
Coronavirus May Disrupt Apple’s iPhone Production Ramp Up (R.)
White House Tells Airlines It May Suspend All China-US Flights (CNBC)
British Airways Suspends All Direct Flights To And From Mainland China (BBC)
China Boom Exposes Airlines To Coronavirus Risk (R.)
Viewers Choose Day Time Soaps Over The Impeachment Trial (Turley)
Democrats’ Dubious Impeachment Subtext of Treason (Michael Tracey)
Shoot Article II and Call The Witnesses (Turley)
Trump and Netanyahu Dictate Terms of Palestinian Surrender (IC)
Israel Will Now Officially Become an Apartheid State (Lauria)
Hamas Calls Trump’s Mideast Plan ‘Aggressive’ (RT)
Brexit Britain To Outperform Brussels As ‘Ineffective’ Bloc Gamble Backfires (Exp.)
Human Rights Report To Oppose Extradition Of Julian Assange To US (G.)
Democratic Super PAC Ad Targets Bernie Sanders, Mentions Heart Attack (Hill)
No Points For Saying Anything Good About Russia – Stephen Cohen (RT)

 

 

First, we’re getting into faulty territory as far as terminology is concerned. We can call the current virus, “coronavirus”, and I have as well, but we can’t say things like “Number Of Coronavirus Cases Surpasses SARS”, because SARS is also a coronavirus, like MERS. They belong to the same “family”. The current virus is officially called “2019-nCOV”. Not too catchy. Perhaps “Wuhan coronavirus” is a good compromise, but that’s long. Here’s why they have that name:

 


Coronavirus under electron microscope

 

At dawn Beijing time, the latest numbers came out, and they said 131 deaths, which would have been another increase of 25, the third day in a row. later it was raised to 132. So over the past 5 days we have increases of 15, 15, 25, 25 and 26.

60,000 people are under observation, 20,000 of which in Hubei. 263 cases are deemed “severe.” Today was the first time that more new cases were reported outside of Hubei province than inside it. It was also the first time that the numbers of increases was over 1,000 (I’ve seen that called a tipping point). There are 19 countries that have reported cases: China, United States, France, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, Nepal, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Canada, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Germany, UAE.

A remarkable stsatement came from Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory diseases expert, who said the outbreak hasn’t yet reached its peak, though he thinks the number of new cases will plateau within the next ten days.

But that is very different from what HKU’s faculty of medicine dean Gabriel Leung says. Does Zhong do Beijing damage control? Or will the epidemic fizzle out within a week?

SARS reached its peak after 4-5 months. The episode lasted 9 months. The “2019-nCOV” “Wuhan coronavirus” has already infected more people in one month than SARS during its entire episode.

Leung said his team’s research showed self-sustaining human-to-human transmission was already happening in all major mainland cities and warned that a pandemic might be close. “We have to be prepared, that this particular epidemic may be about to become a global epidemic,” he said. The team’s model predicted the number of infections in five mainland megacities – Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chongqing – would peak between late April and early May.


At the height of the epidemic, as many as 150,000 new cases would be confirmed every day in Chongqing, because of its large population coupled with intense travel volume with Wuhan. But Leung added that their projections could be too pessimistic as they only took into account lockdown measures in Wuhan and not other health intervention policies.

Compare with Fibonacci:

 


Fibonacci

 

 

Already more cases than during 9 months of SARS.

Number Of Coronavirus Cases Surpasses SARS (ZH)

It’s only 8:15 am in Beijing and health officials have already confirmed more than 840 new cases in Hubei Province. That brings the toll to 6,049, including 263 cases deemed “severe.” The death toll has climbed to 132, according to SCMP. Those who have been closely comparing this outbreak with the 2003 SARS outbreak may notice that the coronavirus has achieved an important milestone. Barely a week into global response to the outbreak, the number of confirmed cases has already passed the number of SARS cases reported during the entire monthslong ordeal. Sars infected 5,327 people in mainland China in nine months and killed 349 people, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).


Another 60k people are said to be under observation across China, with 20k in Hubei alone. Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory diseases expert who spoke with the SCMP on Tuesday, the outbreak hasn’t yet reached its peak, though he thinks the number of new cases will plateau within the next ten days. Back in the US, the Trump Administration is denying reports that it’s considering a total ban on passenger travel between the US and China. Will the fact that the coronavirus has already surpassed SARS – and is on track to achieve some of the more dire projections shared by epidemiologists – shake the market’s confidence? Or will a few soothing words from Jerome Powell save the day?

Read more …

Airlines don’t fly. Borders are closing. What will happen to business? Will we keep importing Chinese products? Will they still export?

Tourism in EU and US will be hit very hard.

But Apple was doing so well, up 86% in 2019. “Apple has bought back $319 billion in stock over the past 7 years, which is greater than the market cap of 490 companies in the S&P 500.”

Coronavirus May Disrupt Apple’s iPhone Production Ramp Up (R.)

Apple’s plan to ramp up iPhone production by 10% in the first half of this year may hit a roadblock as the coronavirus outbreak spreads across China, the Nikkei Asian Review reported on Tuesday. The company has asked its suppliers, many of whom have manufacturing centers in China, to make up to 80 million iPhones in the first half of 2020, the Nikkei reported, citing people familiar with the company’s plans. Apple has booked orders for up to 65 million of its older iPhones and up to 15 million units of a new cut-price model that it plans to unveil in March, according to the report. However, the mass production which is due to start in the third week of February might be delayed due to the virus outbreak, the Nikkei reported.


The coronavirus outbreak has so far killed more than 100 people and infected over 4,500 in China, stranded tens of millions during the Lunar New Year holiday and rattled global markets. Apple’s shares rose about 86% in 2019, outperforming a 29% rise in the S&P 500 index. The stock closed down nearly 3% at $308.95 on Monday as coronavirus fears dragged down high-flying U.S. chip and technology stocks. Cupertino, California-based Apple, which raked in more than $142 billion in iPhone sales in fiscal 2019, has introduced lower priced smartphone variants to woo budget conscious shoppers and check declining sales of its biggest product category.

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They will regret not having done it already. Note: this concerns flights to all of China, not just Wuhan.

White House Tells Airlines It May Suspend All China-US Flights (CNBC)

White House officials have told U.S. airlines the Trump administration is considering suspending flights from China to the U.S. amid an escalating outbreak of a new coronavirus that has infected thousands of people across the world, people familiar with the matter said. The Trump administration is looking at a variety of measures to contain the fast-spreading virus, U.S. health officials told reporters on a conference call Tuesday. White House officials called executives at major U.S. carriers on Tuesday, telling them that a temporary ban on China flights is on the table, according to people familiar with those conversations. As of Tuesday evening, the Trump administration had not taken that step and there was no guarantee that it would do so.


Two of the people said the White House told them it doesn’t immediately plan to ban China air travel, but administration officials are constantly evaluating the situation. United Airlines, which has the most service of the U.S. airlines to Hong Kong and mainland China with about a dozen daily flights, on Tuesday announced it would cancel dozens of flights next month to Hong Kong and mainland China as the outbreak worsens. The Chicago-based airline said it has experienced a “significant decline in demand for travel to China.” United and its rivals Delta and American are waiving cancellation and change fees for travelers booked to China.

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More will follow. No choice. No customers.

British Airways Suspends All Direct Flights To And From Mainland China (BBC)

British Airways has suspended all direct flights to and from mainland China because of the coronavirus outbreak, the airline has said. It comes after the UK Foreign Office advised against all but essential travel to the country. The virus has caused more than 100 deaths, spreading across China and to at least 16 other countries. Hundreds of foreign nationals have been evacuated from the city of Wuhan, the centre of the outbreak. The UK government is arranging to evacuate Britons from Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province, with up to 300 British people thought to be in the area. Australia plans to quarantine its 600 returning citizens for two weeks on Christmas Island – some 2,000km (1,200 miles) from the mainland. Japan, the US and other EU countries are also repatriating their citizens.

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Boeing can’t catch a break. They don’t deserve one.

China Boom Exposes Airlines To Coronavirus Risk (R.)

Margins at many carriers remain narrow, economic growth has been fragile amid a U.S.-China trade war and there are fears that the return of the 737 MAX, expected mid-year, could lead to overcapacity and push down fares. Airbus and Boeing orders have fallen from the peak levels of 2013 and 2014. The epidemic is particularly concerning to the industry because China is the world’s biggest outbound international travel market and the second-largest domestic aviation market. The country accounts for about 25% of global sales for airplane manufacturers Airbus and Boeing. About 450 million more passengers fly to, from and within China per year compared with a decade ago, according to the IATA.


For Chinese airlines, the biggest of which are state-backed, the impact of the new coronavirus has been swift. On Wednesday, 23% of departures from Shanghai Hongqiao airport had been canceled, according to FlightRadar24, compared with 8% at the more internationally focused Shanghai Pudong airport. Mike Boyd, head of U.S.-based aviation consultancy Boyd Group International, said that he had forecast airport traffic in China to rise 8.1% in 2020, but that he now sees traffic growing at less than half that rate. “It is a real slam,” he said. Cathay Pacific, already battered by a fall in demand because of anti-government protests in its home market of Hong Kong, said on Tuesday evening it would cut flights to mainland China by 50% or more through the end of March.

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“For viewers, the result is the equivalent to watching professional wrestling with the same fake matches but without the thrill of an occasional pile driver.”

Viewers Choose Day Time Soaps Over The Impeachment Trial (Turley)

In the 1960s, many of the Senators heard the anti-war slogan of “what if they held a war and nobody came?” This week, they finally learned the answer . . . at least in holding an impeachment. Senators have expressed surprise at the empty seats in the Senate gallery. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said he was “really surprised . . . because this is kind of historic.” It is but the members are increasingly making history alone. Not only are spectators sparse, but the television audience has been declining to the point that, by the second day, the networks quickly switched over to shows in greater demand like The Young and The Restless.

Of course, there was a time when impeachment actually involved real trials. The trial of Andrew Johnson had dozens of witnesses. While the rage and partisanship was if anything greater in 1868, the trial itself was more substantive and deliberative. The Clinton trial abandoned that model at the insistence of Democrats like Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) who opposed any witnesses and even wanted a summary vote without a trial. Only three depositions were allowed and then live testimony was blocked. For viewers, the result is the equivalent to watching professional wrestling with the same fake matches but without the thrill of an occasional pile driver. If the two teams are going to pretend to have a match, Schiff could at least pretend to hit Sekulow with a chair. The game – and ratings – changer may be the chance of witnesses which increased with the leaking of the material from the book of John Bolton.

While a Bolton appearance might “jump the shark” like Happy Days, it would add precisely what is missing in his ratings flop: drama. The size of the viewing audience should not matter, but it does because there is no real effort to try this case to a verdict. The arguments are tailored for public consumption, not jury deliberation. Edward R. Morrow once noted that “If we were to do the Second Coming of Christ in color for a full hour, there would be a considerable number of stations which would decline to carry it on the grounds that a Western or a quiz show would be more profitable.” This is not the Second Coming. It is more like the hundredth retelling the same scripted narrative. That is why viewers prefer to see how Pamela on The Bold and the Beautiful is going to kill Donna in the cabin while a bear is circling outside. Why? Because they do not know who will win: Pamela, Donna, or the bear. Now that is a drama.

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Fast and loose with terminology. Not a great idea for lawmakers.

Democrats’ Dubious Impeachment Subtext of Treason (Michael Tracey)

Less than 72 hours before Donald Trump was impeached last month, the House Judiciary Committee released a behemoth 658-page report outlining the rationale for the final articles produced by the Democratic majority. It would be interesting to conduct a secret ballot asking members of Congress — and indeed, members of the media — to confide whether they actually read the report before the vote took place. [..] Even if the Senate trial fails to result in a conviction (as is exceedingly likely) the long-term implications of what the House of Representatives has already ratified by way of its impeachment vote in December are highly ominous. For instance — and the fact that this has been overlooked is especially mind-blowing — the first article alleges that Trump “betrayed the Nation.” Grave stuff.

No president has ever been impeached for “betraying the Nation” before. What does this mean, exactly? The Judiciary Committee report helpfully provides a definition of the relevant terms. In a section describing what they believe constitutes “impeachable treason,” the Democratic majority writes, “At the very heart of ‘Treason’ is deliberate betrayal of the nation and its security.” There’s that phrase: “betrayal of the nation.” According to the drafters of the impeachment articles, then, Trump has been effectively impeached for treason — except the drafters presumably recognized that inserting the word “treason” in the actual text might prove a tad controversial. So instead they just heavily insinuate it, and confirm that they are charging the president with treason in supporting materials that few will ever read.

“Such betrayal would not only be unforgivable,” the report’s explication of treason reads, “but would also confirm that the President remains a threat if allowed to remain in office. A President who has knowingly betrayed national security is a President who will do so again. He endangers our lives and those of our allies.” This language is then imported into the impeachment articles almost verbatim: “Wherefore President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office.” So let’s be clear on what was done here. The Democrats set forth a definition of treason in their lengthy impeachment report, and then inserted that same definition into the final impeachment articles — except without using the actual word “treason” in the text.

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A.k.a. Call Article II and Shoot The Witnesses.

Shoot Article II and Call The Witnesses (Turley)

Famed economist John Kenneth Galbraith once described politics as “the art of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.” Those words could not more aptly describe the choice now facing the House managers who lost this case before it began. Not because of the Republican majority but because of its own historic blunder in rushing the impeachment forward on an incomplete record. It now must make a choice between the disastrous in simply staying the course to certain acquittal or the unpalatable in admitting the blunder and offering a compromise. Thus far, the suggestions of a compromise has centered on an unlikely horse trade of a witness like former National Security Adviser John Bolton for Hunter Biden.

However, such a compromise does not address the separate institutional concern of some senators, which likely includes the four swing senators. For them, the threshold issue is not the inclusion of witnesses in the Senate but their omission by the House. This week, a key Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska), indicated that she was not inclined to call witnesses that the House failed to pursue in its rushed vote. The decision is now with the House managers. They can either just grab the face time on national television or they can move to deal with its blunder and try to resuscitate this case. It might be able to do so but it will have to offer more than a witness swap.

A better compromise might be found in the two articles themselves. To put it simply, it may be time to dismiss Article 2. The obstruction of Congress article was dead on arrival but its dismissal could allow the Senate to go on the record in opposition to the House handling of this impeachment. It just might be enough to open a path for witnesses on Article 1 and abuse of power. The House destroyed any chance for an obstruction article when made an impeachment by Christmas its overriding priority despite warnings that it would effectively hand over an incomplete case to not just the other house but the opposing party.

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The UN should scrap its articles on self-determination in protest.

Trump and Netanyahu Dictate Terms of Palestinian Surrender (IC)

Flanked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but no Palestinian leader, President Donald Trump unveiled “a vision for peace” in the Middle East on Tuesday which permits Israel to annex much of the occupied West Bank immediately, offering the Palestinians only local control in isolated Bantustans surrounded by Israeli territory. As many Israeli political observers noted, the timing of the announcement, just hours after Netanyahu was indicted on corruption charges in Jerusalem, looked like an effort to boost the prime minister’s bid to win reelection in March, his best hope for avoiding prison.

The release of the 180-page plan — which was drafted by aides to Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and an old family friend of Netanyahu — was staged as a celebration, and acted as a dual campaign rally, with the American president and the Israeli prime minister boasting of all they had achieved for Israel to a room filled with far-right supporters of the Jewish state, including Sheldon Adelson, the Republican and Likud megadonor who spent millions of dollars to elect both leaders. Trump, who intervened in a previous Israeli election campaigns on Netanyahu’s behalf — by recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights last year — gave the embattled prime minister a podium at the White House to detail conditions imposed on the Palestinians which sounded like terms of surrender.

To start with, Netanyahu said, the Palestinians would be required to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, cede the entire Jordan Valley, disarm Hamas, and abandon the hope for both the return of refugees who fled homes in what is now Israel and for a capital in Jerusalem’s Old City. [..] Crisis Group analyst Tareq Baconi observed, “The plan sets out parameters that are impossible for Palestinians to accept, and effectively provides Israel with a blueprint to sustain the one-state reality that exists on the ground.” That sentiment was echoed by Hagai El-Ad, the executive director of B’Tselem, an Israeli rights group that monitors the occupation. “What the Palestinians are being ‘offered’ now is not rights or a state, but a permanent state of Apartheid. No amount of marketing can erase this disgrace or blur the facts,”

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An invitation for violence.

Israel Will Now Officially Become an Apartheid State (Lauria)

Within hours of the so-called Trump peace plan on the Palestine-Israel question being revealed on Tuesday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would propose the first phase of West Bank annexation to the Israeli cabinet on Sunday. Netanyahu sprang into action after the plan, which he essentially created, was unveiled by Trump with Netanyahu at his side at the White House. It was the final piece of a strategy that only a U.S. administration as slavishly pro-Israel as Trump’s could give Netanyahu. First the Israeli prime minister got the U.S. on Dec. 6, 2017 to recognize all of Jerusalem, including Arab East Jerusalem, as Israel’s capital with the move of the U.S. embassy there, something every previous U.S. administration had refused to do. Then on March 25, 2019 Trump recognized Israel’s illegal 1981 annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights.


Just three months ago Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared expanding Israeli colonies on the West Bank as legal, a violation of the 4th Geneva Convention, which says: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The last piece Netanyahu needed was Tuesday’s much-awaited “peace plan” from the most anti-Palestinian administration in U.S. history. Even The New York Times‘ coverage admitted the plan was strongly biased towards Israel and that Netanyahu was in on the secretive plan all along. The operation was run by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, whose family are close personal friends with Netanyahu. It is a plan being imposed on the Palestinians rather than arising out of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations as past U.S. administrations tried to do.

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“Trump’s statement is aggressive and it will spark a lot of anger…”

Hamas Calls Trump’s Mideast Plan ‘Aggressive’ (RT)

Hamas has brushed off US President Donald Trump’s proposal on Jerusalem as “nonsense.” The group rejected his peace plan altogether by calling his statement “aggressive,” adding that it would only spark “anger.” “Trump’s statement is aggressive and it will spark a lot of anger,” Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters. Zuhri particularly slammed the US leader’s proposal on the future of Jerusalem, calling it “nonsense.” He added that the city will always be a land for the Palestinians, and that they would oppose Trump’s deal. Zuhri particularly slammed the US leader’s proposal on the future of Jerusalem, calling it “nonsense.”


He added that the city “will always be a land for the Palestinians”, and that they would oppose Trump’s deal. Trump’s speech contained conflicting messages, with him first declaring that Jerusalem would be Israel’s “undivided” capital, only to then say that Eastern Jerusalem will be turned into the capital of a newly formed Palestinian state if Palestinians accept his deal. He even vowed to open a US embassy there.

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Says Steve Keen. Not sure I would agree. For this to happen, Britain being successful, Boris would need to create some kind of unity in the country that does not today exist. But he’s much more likely to create more austerity, and divide it even more.

Brexit Britain To Outperform Brussels As ‘Ineffective’ Bloc Gamble Backfires (Exp.)

The European Union and Britain are expected to begin trade talks once EU leaders agree on a mandate in the weeks after Brexit on January 31, 2020. Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Monday insisted the EU27 will hold the cards in the negotiations but economist Steve Keen said the bloc is likely to avoid any new “gambit” to secure an agreement and avoid the fall out of Britain leaving the EU. Speaking to RT News, Mr Keen said: “The whole reason the European Union was doing this ever since the Brexit vote is because they were trying to stop the vote going ahead. “Now, with Boris’ success in the election, they know that particular gamble is no longer workable, they have to make some sort of arrangement over the long-term.


“And they’ve got the hope the UK does worse and pleads to come back into the fold sometime down the track.” Mr Keen continued: “But I think that’s wishful thinking. “The European Union is a very poorly designed, ineffective trade bloc and it’s likely to do less well rather than better than the UK over time.” Speaking to the BBC, Irish Taoiseach Varadkar insisted the size of the European Union will play a significant role when the time comes to strike a Brexit trade deal with the United Kingdom in the coming months. Mr Varadkar said: “I think the reality of the situation is that the European Union is a union of 27 member states. “The UK is only one country. And we have a population and a market of 450 million people. The UK, it’s about 60. “So if these were two teams up against each other playing football, who do you think has the stronger team? So long as we’re united.”

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Why would Britain feel compelled to listen to the Council of Europe’s parliamentary arm? They’re leaving the EU in 2days.

Human Rights Report To Oppose Extradition Of Julian Assange To US (G.)

Julian Assange’s detention “sets a dangerous precedent for journalists”, according to politicians from the Council of Europe’s parliamentary arm, who voted on Tuesday to oppose the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition to the US. The words of support for Assange and implicit criticism of the UK government will be contained in a final report produced by the Labour peer Lord Foulkes for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which focuses on upholding human rights across the continent. Assange is being held in London’s Belmarsh prison prior to an extradition hearing that will begin in February. A US grand jury has indicted him on 18 charges – 17 of which fall under the Espionage Act – around conspiracy to receive, obtaining and disclosing classified diplomatic and military documents.

Foulkes had drafted an initial report – Threats to Media Freedom and Journalists’ Security in Europe – that will now contain amendments referring to Assange tabled by a number of European parliamentarians. One of the amendments backs the recommendation of the UN special rapporteur on torture who called last year for Assange’s release and for extradition to the United States to be blocked. The other states that his possible extradition to the US “would set a precedent and threaten journalists’ freedoms in all member states”.

Foulkes told the Guardian that campaigners and supporters of Assange had written to him while he was writing the report, which addresses media freedoms and threats to journalists in countries including Russia, Turkey and Malta, and asked that he consider including an amendment mentioning Assange. As a rapporteur for the assembly, he said it was not his role to do so but that colleagues from other states had done so. He added: “I was in favour of him being sent back to Sweden when there were allegations against him to face that, but as far as the US is concerned I think there would be deep concerns if he were to be sent there.”

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The Democratic Majority for Israel PAC. Let’s get uglier.

Democratic Super PAC Ad Targets Bernie Sanders, Mentions Heart Attack (Hill)

A Democratic super PAC is expected to release a new ad campaign Wednesday that targets Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and the heart attack that he suffered late last year. The ad from Democratic Majority for Israel features six Iowa voters and argues Sanders would be unable to beat President Trump in November, The New York Times reported. “I like Bernie, I think he has great ideas, but in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa, they’re just not going to vote for a socialist,” a male voter says in the ad, according to the Times. “I just don’t think Bernie can beat Trump.” Another voter highlights the heart attack that Sanders, 78, suffered while on the campaign trail in Las Vegas at the beginning of October.


“I do have some concerns about Bernie Sanders’s health considering the fact that he did have a heart attack,” the person says, according to the newspaper. PAC president Mark Mellman told the publication that the goal of the ad is to highlight concerns that some Democratic voters have about Sanders’s electability, asserting the senator was in a “uniquely bad position” to defeat Trump. “For many months people were saying he really didn’t have much of a chance, but you have to look at the data now and say he does have a realistic chance of winning Iowa and potentially the nomination,” he said. “This is the point at which there could be room for someone else to make their case and have a better candidate emerge.”

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I don’t think Schiff “misunderstands” Russia or Putin. I think he wants war. And Trump won’t deliver.

No Points For Saying Anything Good About Russia – Stephen Cohen (RT)

US Congress heavyweights like Adam Schiff deeply misunderstand Russia but keep on bashing Moscow because it has become “politically advantageous” in Washington, Russia researcher Stephen Cohen said. “Being highly-critical of Russia is good politics in the United States,” Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies at New York University and Princeton University, told the Grayzone’s Aaron Mate in an interview, uploaded online on Monday. “Nobody ever gets any points for saying anything good about Russia – and only rarely for advocating any kind of partnership with Russia.” Cohen said that “politically it’s advantageous to a lot of people to bash Russia,” and even some of the “progressive” Democratic Party candidates in the 2020 presidential race employ rhetoric, which is hostile toward Moscow.


“It has become an American way of life to blame Russia when things go wrong. Of course, sometimes Russia is to blame, but not all the time. And yet that’s become part of our discourse.” The US Democratic Party’s lead impeachment manager, Representative Adam Schiff, has invoked Russia a lot during the trial in the Senate. Democrats want to oust President Donald Trump because they believe he briefly suspended military aid to Ukraine while trying to pressure Kiev into investigating the dealings of his chief 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Sending weapons to Ukraine serves America’s “abiding interest in stemming Russian expansionism,” Schiff argued.

Cohen, however, said that shipping weapons to Kiev would effectively amount to the US turning its back on Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky’s efforts to resolve the conflict with Russia through peaceful means. Instead, he thinks Washington should focus on encouraging the neighbors to negotiate. “If Zelensky had full American backing for his peace talks with Putin – that would help him a lot.” Speaking on the Senate floor, Schiff accused Moscow of trying to undermine the faith in democracy and government institutions around the globe. Cohen argued that the congressman misunderstands what Russian President Vladimir Putin actually “sees as his own historical mission,” and it is almost the opposite of what Schiff attributes to him.

According to the researcher, Putin’s chief ambition is “to rebuild Russia from the disaster into which it fell in the 1990s” after the collapse of the Soviet Union. “The last thing Putin wants is instability. He’s trying to build economy at home and economic relations with countries abroad because he sees that as a way to modernize Russia.” Speaking on the Senate floor, Schiff accused Moscow of trying to undermine the faith in democracy and government institutions around the globe. Cohen argued that the congressman misunderstands what Russian President Vladimir Putin actually “sees as his own historical mission,” and it is almost the opposite of what Schiff attributes to him.

According to the researcher, Putin’s chief ambition is “to rebuild Russia from the disaster into which it fell in the 1990s” after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The last thing Putin wants is instability. He’s trying to build economy at home and economic relations with countries abroad because he sees that as a way to modernize Russia.

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