Dorothea Lange Arkansas flood refugee family near Memphis, Texas 1937
It’s still a bit of a battle to get started again, as you can see, but we’ll get there. All day yesterday for instance my head was much more occupied with the banning of Mark Twain and Harper Lee than with corona. But I already wrote about To KIll A Mockingbird.
Worldometer reports new cases for June 23 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 162,994 .
As Texas, where our resident GP is located, continues to surge:
From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-:
Fauci’s statement here is stunning.
To paraphrase, he lied in March when he said masks don’t work. The Govt needed medical providers to have them first, not The People.
But now he’s not lying — promise! — because we have enough masks and, yes, they work.pic.twitter.com/qyIHgp7dCn
— BDW (@BryanDeanWright) June 23, 2020
But how about now?
A new study suggests that as many as 8.7 million Americans came down with coronavirus in March, but more than 80% of them were never diagnosed. A team of researchers looked at the number of people who went to doctors or clinics with influenza-like illnesses that were never diagnosed as coronavirus, influenza or any of the other viruses that usually circulate in winter. There was a giant spike in these cases in March, the researchers reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine. “The findings support a scenario where more than 8.7 million new SARS-CoV-2 infections appeared in the U.S. during March and estimate that more than 80% of these cases remained unidentified as the outbreak rapidly spread,” Justin Silverman of Penn State University, Alex Washburne of Montana State University and colleagues at Cornell University and elsewhere, wrote.
Only 100,000 cases were officially reported during that time period, and the US still reports only 2.3 million cases as of Monday. But there was a shortage of coronavirus testing kits at the time. The team used data collected from each state by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for influenza-like illness. The CDC uses this data to track the annual seasonal flu epidemic. It asks doctors to report all cases of people coming in for treatment for fever, cough and other symptoms caused by influenza. “We found a clear, anomalous surge in influenza-like illness (ILI) outpatients during the COVID-19 epidemic that correlated with the progression of the epidemic in multiple states across the US,” Silverman and colleagues wrote.
“The surge of non-influenza ILI outpatients was much larger than the number of confirmed cases in each state, providing evidence of large numbers of probable symptomatic COVID-19 cases that remained undetected.”
Makes me think of playing Monopoly.
The market capitalization of the five largest stocks combined – the “Giant 5:” Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet, and Facebook – rose to a new record today of $6.18 trillion. Since their combined low point on March 16, their market capitalization has soared by 51%. That’s an increase of $2.1 trillion in a little over three months. Since January 2017, my Giant 5 index has soared by 164% (market cap data via YCharts):
So how big did they get? The overall stock market capitalization, as measured by the Wilshire 5000 Market Cap Index tracking 3,451 US-listed companies, ticked up to $31.8 trillion, up by 41.6% from its low on March 23. Today, the “Giant 5” accounted for 19.4% of the total US stock market capitalization, as measured by the Wilshire 5000, a new record. On January 3, 2017, the Giant 5 had accounted for 10% of the Wilshire 5000. In the three months since the crash in March, the share of the Giant 5 has soared from abound 16% to 19.4% today (Wilshire 5000 data via YCharts):
Let’s take the five largest stocks out of the largest stock market in the world, with 3,451 companies, and see what’s left over. What’s left over is now valued at $25.7 trillion. It’s up by 28.4% from the March 23 low, and while that’s till strong for a three-month rally, it’s a far cry from the 51% for the Giant 5. And here is the thing: All these companies combined, minus the “Giant 5,” are way below their peak in February 2020, and below a whole bunch of other dates before then, and below where they’d first been in at the end of January 2018. For the entire rest of the stock market – all its winners and losers combined – minus the “Giant 5” the period since January 2018 was a very rough and unpleasant ride to nowhere. It declined 1%. You would have been better off putting your money in one of those despicable freaking savings accounts:
Seen the other way around: If you had shorted on January 26, 2018, the entire stock market minus the “Giant 5,” you would have had a wild unpleasant ride and made 1%. But if you had shorted the “Giant 5” over the same period, you would have lost 70%. This is how dependent the stock market, and broad portfolios reflecting it, have become on the Giant 5. It’s not that there aren’t a bunch of other companies that have gained as much or more than the Big 5 in percentage terms – there are – but in dollar terms, and in weight in the market, they just don’t measure up to these five giants. Apple and Microsoft both are now worth over $1.5 trillion. Amazon is at nearly $1.4 trillion, Alphabet at $1.0 trillion. These are gigantic valuations. They also speak of an immense concentration of power in a single company.
Russia holds its parade to honor the victims of WWII. The western press needs to make that look sinister. As Putin simply calls for cooperation. He must have sinister reasons for doing so.
President Vladimir Putin reviewed a spectacular Red Square military parade on Wednesday, a patriotic display critics said was designed to lift his lower-than-usual ratings on the eve of a nationwide vote that could extend his rule until 2036. Putin watched as intercontinental ballistic missile launchers trundled past, nuclear-capable bombers flew overhead, and columns of tanks and over 14,000 troops, including some from allies like China, marched past under hot sunshine. The parade, to mark the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s World War Two victory over the Nazis, was postponed from May 9 because of the novel coronavirus outbreak, but critics said it was still irresponsible to go ahead with it.
The Kremlin dismissed that assertion, saying new daily infections, though still in the thousands, were on the wane, especially in the Russian capital, the original epicentre of the outbreak, and that all safety precautions were taken. Volunteers gave masks and gloves to those watching on Red Square and ordered them to sit two seats apart. Putin, flanked by veterans, did not wear a mask, but people around him had been tested for the coronavirus, including veterans quarantined at a resort outside Moscow beforehand. Thousands of people thronged Moscow’s streets to watch tanks roll through the city on what was a public holiday. Putin struck a conciliatory tone towards the West, despite complaining beforehand about what he called attempts by some European countries to rewrite history.
He said Moscow would never forget the contribution made by the Soviet Union’s wartime allies, including their opening of a second front in 1944. Putin also made an indirect reference to his desire for the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council to hold a summit to try to tackle the world’s problems. “We are open to dialogue and cooperation on the most current international questions,” said Putin. “Among them is the creation of a reliable and general system of security, which the complex fast-changing modern world needs. Only together can we defend it from new dangerous threats,” he said.
“A Chain Of Stupidity” is what Assange smearer Luke Harding sees in Russia’s intelligence. But the smart folks at Atlantic Council-sponsored Bellingcat will save us from their stupidity. By claiming that Assad conducted chemical attacks on his people. By claiming that Russia downed MH17.
A man named Eliot Higgins was following events in Libya, too – not from the front line, but from his home in the east Midlands. Specifically, from his sofa. It was a safer place to be – and, as it turned out, as good a perch as any from which to analyse the conflict, and to consider questions that, in the heat of battle, were interesting, but seemingly unanswerable. Questions such as: where did the rebels get their arms? Higgins recalls growing up as a shy “nerd”. According to his brother Ross, Higgins was an obsessive gamer and early computer enthusiast. He liked Lego, played Pong on an antediluvian 1980s Atari and was a fan of Dungeons and Dragons. He spent hours immersed in the online roleplay game World of Warcraft, where participants pooled skills and collaborated across virtual borders. His instincts were completist: he wanted to finish and win the game. This would prove useful later on.
Higgins tried for a career in journalism and enrolled on a media studies course in Southampton. It didn’t work out, and he left without a degree. Next, he earned a living via a series of unlikely administrative jobs. One day Higgins logged on to the Guardian’s Middle East live blog. Libya was the centre of international attention. Higgins made his own contributions to the comment section of the Guardian blog, using the name Brown Moses – taken from a Frank Zappa song. The blog often featured videos uploaded by anti-regime fighters. There was fierce debate as to whether these images were authentic or bogus.
One such video showed a newly captured town. The rebels claimed it was Tiji, a sleepy settlement with a barracks that had been recently bombed by Nato jets, close to the border with Tunisia, and on the strategic main road leading to Tripoli. There was a mosque, a white road and a few little buildings with trees around them. The video showed a rebel-driven tank rolling noisily down a two-lane highway. There were utility poles. Higgins used satellite images to see if he could identify the settlement and thereby win the discussion. The features were sufficiently distinctive for him to be able to prove he was correct: the town was Tiji. “I’m very argumentative,” he says. It was the first time he had used geolocation tools. He realised he could collect user-generated videos and later work out exactly where they had been filmed.
Ah, Harding has a new book out and that needs to be promoted. So let’s use the Steele Dossier for that. Its credibility hasn’t survived Mueller, but who in Britain knows that? Just throw in that Russia especially hates Britain, that’ll do it.
Boris Johnson and Theresa May ignored claims the Kremlin had a “likely hold” over Donald Trump and may have covertly funded Brexit, the former spy Christopher Steele alleges in secret evidence given to MPs who drew up the Russia report. In testimony to MPs, the MI6 veteran accused the government led by May and in which Johnson was foreign secretary for two years of turning a blind eye to allegations about Trump because they were afraid of offending the US president. Steele first presented a dossier about Trump to senior UK intelligence figures in late 2016, who he says took it seriously at first. But, he writes, “on reaching top political decision-makers, a blanket appeared to be thrown over it”.
“No inquiries were made or actions taken thereafter on the substance of the intelligence in the dossier by HMG [Her Majesty’s government],” Steele says in the critical document. The allegation is contained in a short summary of a larger file of information presented in August 2018 by Steele to parliament’s intelligence and security committee (ISC), inquiring into Kremlin infiltration into British politics and public life. Steele accuses May’s government of selling British interests short by not taking matters further: “In this case, political considerations seemed to outweigh national security interests. If so, in my view, HMG made a serious mistake in balancing matters of strategic importance to our country.”
The Russia expert concluded: “A prospective trade deal should never be allowed to eclipse considerations of national security.” Steele’s confidential testimony is revealed for the first time in a book by the Guardian journalist Luke Harding, Shadow State: Murder, Mayhem and Russia’s Remaking of the West, to be published next week.
Siberia has an extreme climate. But it’s now even more extreme.
Scientists have expressed concerns about the implications for the rest of the world after a heatwave in Russia’s Siberia region. On Saturday, the thermometer hit a likely record of 38C – or 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit – in the Siberian town of Verkhoyansk in Russia’s Sakha Republic. The World Meteorological Organisation said it is looking to verify the temperature reading, which would be a record for the region north of the Arctic Circle. The increasing temperatures in Siberia have been linked to wildfires that grow bigger and more severe every year, as well as the thawing of the permafrost.
University of Michigan environmental school dean Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist, said: “The Arctic is figuratively and literally on fire – it’s warming much faster than we thought it would in response to rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and this warming is leading to a rapid meltdown and increase in wildfires. “The record warming in Siberia is a warning sign of major proportions.” Much of Siberia had high temperatures this year that were beyond unseasonably warm. From January through to May, the average temperature in north-central Siberia has been about 8C above average, according to the climate science non-profit organisation Berkeley Earth.
Siberia is in the Guinness Book of World Records for its extreme temperatures. It is a place where the thermometer has swung by 106C (190 degrees Fahrenheit), from a low of minus 68C to 38C.
Verhojansk, a Russian town in East Siberia known for its exceptionally cold winters, just broke its all-time heat record with a whopping 38.0°C (100.4°F)! Records kept since 1885.#ArcticHeatwave pic.twitter.com/P6tbJ4DbKd
— Mika Rantanen (@mikarantane) June 20, 2020
Very scary people, the lot of them.
After decades of widespread use as company scientists played down research showing a definitive link between the product and growing rates of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, Monsanto parent company Bayer has agreed to pay up to $10 billion to settle claims that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, causes cancer. Citing people familiar with the matter, German newspaper Handelsblatt reported that the company has agreed to settle tens of thousands of glyphosate-related lawsuits in the US for between $8 billion to $10 billion. Of that number, $2 billion is considered a “reserve” which can be used to settle future claims. The rest will be used to settle all of the lawsuits pending in the United States from users of the controversial weed killer, the number of active lawsuits against the Roundup purveyor recently numbered more than 50k.
Talks for an out of court settlement have been ongoing since last summer. Last year, scientists evaluated a batch of existing studies and determined that Monsanto’s ubiquitous weed-killer Roundup and its active ingredient glyphosate increased cancer risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) by 41%, according to a research published in February 2019. Back in 2018, a San Francisco Jury awarded $289 million in damages to a former school groundskeeper, Dewayne Johnson, who said Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller gave him terminal cancer. That award consisted of $40 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages.
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The illusion held for so long by academics that one can be both free & on a salary is finally crashing.
Worse, something J-P Sartre figured out: you cannot be both free & attached to an institution. Any institution.
A truck driver is freer than any academic.
— Nassim Nicholas Taleb (@nntaleb) June 23, 2020
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