Mar 092020
 


 

‘Fake Wealth’ Set To Pop (ABR)
Global Markets Plunge 7-8%, Oil Falls 30% To $30 (G.)
Goldman Cuts Brent Forecasts To $30 On Price War, Virus (R.)
Gig Economy Workers Can’t Afford To Be Ill (G.)
Plummeting Oil Prices And Mortgage Rates Could Boost Consumers (CNBC)
More Countries Will Adopt Italy’s Measures – Austria PM (G.)
Leaked Italy Quarantine Plans Create Chaos, Threaten To Spread Virus (ZH)
Charities Preparing To Feed Children If Schools Shut Over Coronavirus (G.)
NYC Asks Commuters to Stay Off Public Transit ‘If You Can’ (NBC)
A Perfect Storm Of Nationalism And Financial Speculation (Varoufakis)
Tyre Wear Produces 1,000 Times More Harmful Pollution Than Car Exhausts (BW)
Putin Saves Erdogan From Himself (Escobar)
Fiona Hill Says Putin Has America ‘Exactly Where He Wants Us’ (CNN)

 

 

As I wrote yesterday in The Virus is a Time Machine, it’s not about the number of deaths or cases, it’s about the disruption. Today, stock markets are down 7-8%, and oil plummeted 30% to $30. At your service. “Fake Wealth” is popping, say some.

Italy has an oversized role today so far, but there are a number of countries that could take off at any time now. As I said in that article, US, Germany, France, Spain appear to be in a phase where for instance Italy was about a week ago.

Something odd about the numbers today is that COVID2019.app puts South Korea at 8,100 cases, while the other two have it at around 7,400. It must be hard getting the numbers right, and on time.

 

Cases 110,607 (+ 4,120 from yesterday’s 106,487)

Deaths 3,831 (+ 231 from yesterday’s 3,600)

 

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

 

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

Smart cookie.

‘Fake Wealth’ Set To Pop (ABR)

Sharemarket and property investors are about to experience a reckoning that sweeps away the pretence of “fake wealth and artificial economy”, Lucerne Investment Partners portfolio manager Jerome Lander says. In a note to clients issued on Monday, Mr Lander said investors were “reacting in horror to the reality of the coronavirus as it begins its exponential growth around the world”. His note came as the Australian sharemarket was experiencing its biggest one-day fall since the global financial crisis, with the S&P/ASX 200 plunging 6 per cent to a 14-month low of 5840.90 amid a collapse in oil prices. “This is a truly frightening pandemic with significant ramifications which much of the developed world is unlikely to cope with well,” Mr Lander said.

“The reality is ICUs [intensive care units] are likely to be overrun around the world and people will increasingly seek to avoid social contact and hide at home in order to avoid contracting the deadly virus.” Mr Lander said a 10 per cent ICU admission rate for Italy’s 1492 cases of coronavirus was a “truly horrifying statistic”. Underlying economic weaknesses was being expose, he said. “One bubble after another is at risk of popping, as the fake wealth and artificial economy of the last few years explodes in the face of a devastating global recession.” With sharemarkets now “crashing, with delusional housing prices likely to follow”, he predicted central banks would shortly attempt to restore order to financial markets through so-called quantitative easing.

“Unlimited QE is likely but won’t help alter the destruction from the pandemic,” Mr Lander said. “These are truly dangerous times for all investors, but particularly for those holding large amounts of overvalued equity and property assets at fake economy prices.”

Read more …

Trillions upon trillions in fake wealth are going POOF. And the central banks that created the fake wealth will throw more fake money at the walls.

Global Markets Plunge 7-8%, Oil Falls 30% To $30 (G.)

Global stock markets have suffered their biggest falls since the 2008 financial crisis while the oil price crashed amid panic selling because of the double threat of a coronavirus-driven global recession and an oil price war. The FTSE 100 index in London plunged 8.5% to 5,911 points, losing 550 points, when trading began on Monday morning. Germany’s Dax tumbled 7.5% and Spain’s Ibex lost 7%. Asian markets also recorded huge losses as fears over the world economy were exacerbated by the shock decision by Saudi Arabia over the weekend to ramp up oil production in an attempt to drive rivals such as Russia and the US out of the market.

The price of Brent crude oil fell almost 30% to $31.14 on Monday, its biggest decline since the start of the Gulf war in 1991. Some experts expect it to fall further unless the Saudis and Russians return to the bargaining table. Turmoil spread on international markets as the coronavirus epidemic deepened around the world. Italy, the worst-hit country in Europe, was plunged into chaos as government plans to quarantine more than 16m people – more than a quarter of its population – were leaked to the media. Italian bond yields jumped on Monday. The number of people infected by coronavirus worldwide has passed 110,000.

Stock markets in Asia Pacific experienced the worst wave of selling since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 heralded the onset of the global financial crisis. With fears growing of a recession in Australia because of the virus, the Australian share market closed down 7.4%. The Nikkei in Japan fell more than 5%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Sen lost 3.9% and the Shanghai stock exchange dropped just over 3%. US 10-year government bond yields fell to fresh record lows and the Japanese yen and gold soared as investors rushed into safe haven investments.

Read more …

Putin stopped supporting MbS. Isn’t that a good thing? How much do we like MbS?

Goldman Cuts Brent Forecasts To $30 On Price War, Virus (R.)

Goldman Sachs cut its second- and third-quarter Brent price forecasts to $30 per barrel, citing the oil price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia and a significant collapse in oil demand due to the coronavirus that has killed more than 3,500 globally. Oil fell by the most since 1991 on Monday after Saudi Arabia started a price war with Russia by slashing its selling prices and pledging to unleash its pent-up supply onto a market reeling from falling demand because of the virus outbreak. “The aggressive cut to Saudi’s Official Selling Prices and Russia’s reluctance to be pushed into a deal on Friday point to a low probability of an immediate (OPEC+) agreement,” Goldman said in a note dated March 8.

A three-year pact between OPEC and Russia ended in acrimony on Friday after Moscow refused to support deeper oil cuts and OPEC responded by removing all limits on its own production. “While we can’t rule out an OPEC+ deal in coming months, we also believe that this agreement was inherently imbalanced and its production cuts economically unfounded,” the bank said. Goldman’s base case is now for no such deal, it said. Goldman’s base case is now for no such deal, it said. Lower oil prices will start creating acute financial stress and declining production from shale as well as other high cost producer, the bank said.

There will be a negligible response from U.S. shale producers in the second quarter, but output will fall in the third quarter by 75,000 barrels per day (bpd) and a further 250,000 bpd in the fourth quarter of 2020, the bank said. This will not prevent, however, a third-quarter supply surplus of 1.2 million bpd. “At that point, the fundamental rebalancing could require oil prices falling to operational stress levels for high-cost producers with well-head cash costs near $20/bbl,” it said.

Read more …

Home deliveries are set to double, but the people working the field don’t get paid anything. The future’s so bright…

Gig Economy Workers Can’t Afford To Be Ill (G.)

Shane Stephen, a Deliveroo rider, pulls a snood over his mouth and nose as he manoeuvres his mountain bike down a narrow side-street in central London. It is his makeshift defence against coronavirus. “If I catch something I’m screwed,” explains the 23-year-old. “Gig economy workers can’t afford to be ill. My bank balance is literally £4 something right now.” Stephen – like tens of thousands of other couriers and drivers in the UK – is classed as self-employed and therefore not entitled to any sick pay. He stands to gain nothing from Boris Johnson’s pledge last Wednesday to give coronavirus-hit workers statutory sick pay from the first day off work rather than the fourth. Yet Stephen and other gig economy couriers could be called on to deliver food and other essentials to self-isolating households when the virus reaches its peak.

Some industry analysts foresee the number of home deliveries doubling if people are told to work from home and avoid large gatherings under the government’s so-called social-distancing strategy, which will kick in if the virus continues to spread across the country. Unions representing gig economy workers, such as the GMB and Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), fear couriers with coronavirus symptoms may keep working. “Many will carry on because they need to put food on the table and pay the rent. They will then come into contact with other people and spread the virus,” says Mick Rix from the GMB, which represents thousands of couriers. “This would be going against everything the government is trying to achieve at the moment.”

[..] Josh Lane (not his real name) jumps into his DPD Local van after making a delivery in Tottenham. He cleans his hands with hand sanitiser. “I’m in a rush, but I’m doing my bit,” he says through the rolled-down window. However, the 30-year-old cannot afford to stop work if he contracts the virus. “It’s like a flu and I’ve worked through flu before. If you’re self-employed you have to continue working,” he says. “It’s not about me. I’ve got three children. I’m not about to make them starve because of coronavirus. If I’m physically able to work, then isolation is not happening for me.”

Read more …

The kind of stuff that stumps me: “This resiliency of the consumer will once again support equities and most likely show that this current market reaction is a ‘blip’..

These people have zero connection to reality.

Plummeting Oil Prices And Mortgage Rates Could Boost Consumers (CNBC)

As the deadly coronavirus spreads across the globe, oil prices are down 30% for the year and the average rate on the popular 30-year fixed mortgage has fallen to an eight-year low. It’s positive news for consumers in the short term, even as some economists warn that the virus could tip the U.S economy into recession as the outbreak escalates. The drop in mortgage rates and oil prices could boost consumer confidence, which rose less than expected in February just one day after the stock market had one of its worst days amid virus concerns. A boost in consumer confidence, in turn, could ease those recession fears. “The U.S. economy is 70% consumer driven,” said John Kilduff, founding partner of Again Capital.

“A drop in gasoline prices acts like a tax cut, freeing up money to spend in other sectors of the economy, especially discretionary sectors, such as travel and leisure and dining.” The relentless pace of headlines related to the coronavirus, however, could ultimately act as a psychological break on any boost in confidence that low oil prices and mortgage rates might deliver to the consumer. “The question is whether the fear factor attributable to the virus will overwhelm any positive impact from lower gasoline prices and lower mortgage rates,” said Edward Yardeni, president of Yardeni Research. “That’s hard to answer, but it seems to me that fear is winning the tug of war currently as evidenced by the drop in stock prices and the panicky responses of governments, the media … and the public,” he added.

[..] Jeff Kilburg, founder and CEO of KKM Financial, said that the short-term reaction to lower oil prices will translate into lower prices at the pump for Americans, and that in combination with historically low mortgage rates will provide substantial strength for consumers in the second quarter. “This resiliency of the consumer will once again support equities and most likely show that this current market reaction is a ‘blip,’ not the end of this bull market … and certainly not the beginning of a recession,” Kilburg said.

Read more …

Absolutely right. Will I be able to get to Greece in time?

More Countries Will Adopt Italy’s Measures – Austria PM (G.)

Austria’s chancellor has said other European countries will be forced to adopt containment measures as drastic as Italy’s, after Rome placed a quarter of the population in lockdown in an effort to halt the rapid spread of the coronavirus. As the head of the World Health Organization praised Italy’s “genuine sacrifices”, Sebastian Kurz said the situation in Austria, which has reported 99 Covid-19 cases, was under control and the measures it had adopted were appropriate for the time being. He said EU leaders and health ministers were in close contact over their countries’ handling of the epidemic [..] “It will be important to decide which steps to take when,” Kurz said. “You can close schools for one or two weeks and this is urgently necessary in Italy. It will happen in other European countries. The decisive question is when to do it.”

The difficulty will be in balancing the need to head off a peak in infections that could paralyse public health systems against excessive economic damage, he said. “You have to consider carefully when to adopt these measures, because a national economy cannot handle this over too long a period.” Speaking to French radio, the EU commissioner for the single market, Thierry Breton, said European countries were “each acting according to the latest available data in their countries. The virus has spread faster in some places than in others, so naturally the measures in each differ”. In the US, Anthony Fauci, the head of the infectious diseases unit at the National Institutes of Health, said Americans , and particularly those who are vulnerable, may have to stop attending big gatherings. Nor could large-scale quarantines be ruled out, he said.

The WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, tweeted his appreciation for Rome’s efforts after the government published a decree barring people from entering or leaving vast areas of northern Italy without good reason until 3 April. The quarantine zones are home to about 16 million people and include the regions around Venice and the financial capital, Milan. Cinemas, theatres and museums will be closed nationwide and leave has been cancelled for health workers as the prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, said the country was facing a national emergency.

Read more …

You announce an upcoming travel ban, so what do people do? Travel.

Leaked Italy Quarantine Plans Create Chaos, Threaten To Spread Virus (ZH)

Italians have become inured to alarming news over the past month as the outbreak has spiraled out of control in Lombardy. But following a flurry of uncontrolled leaks warning about an imminent lockdown as part of the government’s planned emergency decree, restaurants and bars started emptying out and many fled to the train station, where they hopped trains to get out of the region, especially those who had plans to travel elsewhere that were being interrupted by the lockdown. According to an SCMP reporter in Padua, packed bars and restaurants quickly emptied out as news of a coming lockdown hit, as many people rushed to the railway station. Travellers with suitcases, wearing face masks, gloves and carrying bottles of sanitising gel shoved their way on to the local train.

This appears to have been a phenomenon across the North. The video shows passengers with large bags packed heading toward a cross-country train to take them out of the quarantine zone and into the Italian south, where the virus has penetrated, but infection numbers and deaths remain much lower than in the north. This could be terrible news for the impoverished south: experts have repeatedly warned that southern Italy – best known as an agricultural and fishing center rife with organized crime – doesn’t possess the medical infrastructure to handle a surge in life-threatening cases of pneumonia. While Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly insisted during his seemingly never-ending series of press conferences that the panic is worse than the virus itself, in Italy, the situation is rapidly deteriorating on both fronts.

One epidemiologist described the series of panic-provoking leaks as “pure madness.” Fortunately, Italian markets were closed during the panic, and now people have more or less accepted the new rules. But at this point, the horse is already out of the barn. Panicked Italians are now traveling around the country, potentially bringing the virus with them. “The draft of a very harsh decree is leaked, sparking panic and prompting people to try and flee the [then] theoretical red zone, carrying the virus with them,” wrote Italian virologist Roberto Burioni on Twitter. “In the end, the only effect is to help the virus to spread. I’m lost for words.”

Read more …

Even before the virus, Britain’s reality is devastating: ““or so many families now, schools are the first line of defence against hunger..“

Charities Preparing To Feed Children If Schools Shut Over Coronavirus (G.)

A charity led by the archbishop of Canterbury is preparing to help feed children if schools are closed by coronavirus, amid fears the withdrawal of free school dinners could leave up to 3 million children at risk of hunger. Feeding Britain, which runs food poverty schemes in 12 areas of England including Cornwall, Leicester, Barnsley and South Shields, is exploring how to set up emergency programmes similar to those used to feed the poorest children during the summer holidays. The Akshaya Patra Foundation, which serves thousands of hot meals to children every summer in London boroughs, is also “prepared to enter crisis mode”, while food projects in Bristol and Huddersfield said they were exploring how their schemes to feed hundreds of children in school holidays could be adapted to help cope with emergency closures.

“For so many families now, schools are the first line of defence against hunger,” said Andrew Forsey, the national director of Feeding Britain, whose president is the Most Rev Justin Welby. “In many cases it is breakfast as well as lunch, so if the schools close it’s two meals we have to find. There is early-stage planning going on around ensuring supplies of food and the extent of voluntary support that could be drawn upon if some schools do need to close.” Downing Street said on Tuesday that school closures would be among “distancing strategies” used if the virus became established in the UK. On Thursday, Italy closed all of its schools and colleges for a month.

[..] An immediate challenge is likely to be finding a way to deliver meals in a way that maintains the distance between people that school closures are meant to achieve. The Bristol project said it could involve delivering food parcels door-to-door. Forsey also said panic-buying that cleared supermarket shelves could hinder efforts as many free meal programmes relied on retailers’ donations.

Read more …

“106 people in New York have confirmed cases of Coronavirus. But- “As of Saturday only about 120 people in New York City had been tested..”

The dumbest advice ever. “Take the next train”.

NYC Asks Commuters to Stay Off Public Transit ‘If You Can’ (NBC)

City and state officials issued new travel suggestions amid growing novel coronavirus cases in the tri-state area. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio asked sick people to stay off public transit, especially subways and buses. Their warnings included a suggestion to avoid dense crowds on buses, subways and trains, or take alternate travel if possible. “If you take the subway and you are able to wait for a less packed train, please do. If you have the option of walking or biking, please do. Buses can be crowded too, but less than subways, so please use these if you can,” de Blasio said. “Move to a train car that is not as dense. If you see a packed train car, let it go by. Wait for the next train. Same if you’re taking a bus,” Cuomo said.


Avoiding public transit is not an option for most New Yorkers and they’re not afraid to let the mayor know. “Happy to ride a bike to work. Can you make it so people don’t die in Queens while biking? Vehicular deaths are a public health crisis too,” one Twitter user said in response to de Blasio’s announcement. In the city’s other effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, transit workers started to disinfect subway turnstiles, station handrails, MetroCard and ticket vending machines daily and other frequently used parts of the system, according to a statement from Transport Workers Union President Tony Utano. The deep clean extends to Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North and Access-A-Ride services as well. In addition to the daily cleaning, the MTA says its full fleet of subway trains and buses will undergo sanitization every 72 hours.

Read more …

I think Yanis is getting ahead of himself. What the situation will be once the pandemic is over is so murky right now we must all be very cautious about predicting anythig.

A Perfect Storm Of Nationalism And Financial Speculation (Varoufakis)

Nationalism and speculation have seldom had a better opportunity to combine forces as the one riding today on the coattails of Covid-19, known as the coronavirus. When Covid-19 leapfrogged from China to Italy, even ardent Europeanists normally appreciative of open borders joined the deafening calls to end freedom of movement across Europe’s national borders – a longstanding demand of nationalists. Meanwhile, the money men speculating on government debt are performing a classic flight from Italian to German government bonds, seeking the financial safety that only the continent’s hegemon can offer during any crisis. As if in a bid to remind us of the great contradiction of our times, Covid-19 is illuminating gloriously the freedom of money to transcend a borderless financial universe while humans remain as fenced in as ever.

Meanwhile in the United States, President Trump is combining his standard call for taller walls with a fresh instruction to moneymen to “buy the dip” in Wall Street, rather than to follow their natural instinct to seek refuge in the boring but safe bond markets. A great deal will depend on whether financiers believe Mr Trump or not, and not just because this is an election year. If speculators do believe the American president, Wall Street will recover swiftly even before the epidemic subsides. The forces of xenophobic financialisation will then have triumphed and America’s progressives will face an uphill struggle on every political front. As for the European Union, ruling elites will breathe a sigh of relief that a new depression was avoided and return to managing as best as they can the economic stagnation of recent times, tinged this time with a large dose of additional, coronavirus-reinforced, xenophobia.

Will Wall Street follow Mr Trump’s advice to “buy the dip”? For now, the large players are in two minds. The drop in the stock market does not worry them as such. Their concern is that the recent bull market was running on increasingly suspect debt and that Covid-19 may have pricked a bubble that was going to burst anyway. Similarly in Europe, the worst spectre hovering over investors’ heads is that large corporations, relying for too long on free money from the European Central Bank, may be downgraded from investment to junk-grade – especially so at a time of stagnant domestic demand and a collapsed Chinese import market.

Read more …

Maybe electric cars should run on electric tires?

Tyre Wear Produces 1,000 Times More Harmful Pollution Than Car Exhausts (BW)

Car tyres could be doing more damage to our health than the fumes from exhaust pipes, according to the results from a new test. Measurements found that 5.8 grams per kilometre of harmful particles are emitted by tyres as they wear when a car is being driven. That compares to 4.5 milligrams per kilometer produced from exhaust pipes of the latest vehicles on sale today – meaning harmful tyre outputs are higher by a factor of over 1,000. Assessments were conducted by UK-based experts Emissions Analytics, which specialises in calculating the pollution produced by cars in real-world driving.


The type of emissions tyres have been found to produce is harmful particulate matter that is almost impossible to see with the naked eye. It’s made up of microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they can be inhaled and cause serious health problems. Particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter – also known as PM2.5 – pose the greatest risk to our health. Exposure can affect both the lungs and heart, with numerous scientific studies linking them to a variety of problems. This includes premature death in people with heart or lung disease, nonfatal heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, aggravated asthma, decreased lung function and wider respiratory symptoms.

Read more …

But there are videos of Turkish troops destroying Greek fences to let migants pass. Erdogan is in Brussels today.

Putin Saves Erdogan From Himself (Escobar)

At the start of their discussion marathon in Moscow on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with arguably the most extraordinary diplomatic gambit of the young 21st century. Putin said: “At the beginning of our meeting, I would like to once again express my sincere condolences over the death of your servicemen in Syria. Unfortunately, as I have already told you during our phone call, nobody, including Syrian troops, had known their whereabouts.” This is how a true world leader tells a regional leader, to his face, to please refrain from positioning his forces as jihadi supporters – incognito, in the middle of an explosive theater of war. The Putin-Erdogan face-to-face discussion, with only interpreters allowed in the room, lasted three hours, before another hour with the respective delegations.

In the end, it all came down to Putin selling an elegant way for Erdogan to save face – in the form of, what else, yet another ceasefire in Idlib, which started at midnight on Thursday, signed in Turkish, Russian and English – “all texts having equal legal force.” Additionally, on March 15, joint Turkish-Russian patrolling will start along the M4 highway – implying endless mutating strands of al-Qaeda in Syria won’t be allowed to retake it. If this all looks like déjà vu, that’s because it is. Quite a few official photos of the Moscow meeting prominently feature Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu – the other two heavyweights in the room apart from both Presidents. In the wake of Putin, Lavrov and Shoigu must have read the riot act to Erdogan in no uncertain terms.

That’s enough: now behave, please – or else face dire consequences. A predictable feature of the new ceasefire is that both Moscow and Ankara – part of the Astana peace process, alongside Tehran – remain committed to maintaining the “territorial integrity and sovereignty” of Syria. Once again, there’s no guarantee that Erdogan will abide. It’s crucial to recap the basics. Turkey is deep in financial crisis. Ankara needs cash – badly. The lira is collapsing. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) is losing elections. Former prime minister and party leader Ahmet Davutoglu – who conceptualized neo-Ottomanism – has left the party and is carving his own political niche. The AKP is mired in an internal crisis.

Erdogan’s response has been to go on the offensive. That’s how he re-establishes his aura. Combine Idlib with his maritime pretensions around Cyprus and blackmail pressure on the EU via the inundation of Lesbos in Greece with refugees, and we have Erdogan’s trademark modus operandi in full swing. In theory, the new ceasefire will force Erdogan to finally abandon all those myriad al Nusra/ISIS metastases – what the West calls “moderate rebels,” duly weaponized by Ankara. This is an absolute red line for Moscow – and also for Damascus. There will be no territory left behind for jihadis. Iraq is another story: ISIS is still lurking around Kirkuk and Mosul.

[..] No NATO fanatic will ever admit it, but once again it was Russia that just prevented the threatened “Muslim invasion” of Europe advertised by Erdogan. Yet there was never any invasion in the first place, only a few thousand economic migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Sahel, not Syrians. There are no “one million” Syrian refugees on the verge of entering the EU. The EU, proverbially, will keep blabbering. Brussels and most capitals still have not understood that Bashar al-Assad has been fighting al Nusra/ISIS all along. They simply don’t understand the correlation of forces on the ground. Their fallback position is always the scratched CD of “European values.” No wonder the EU is a secondary actor in the whole Syrian tragedy.

Read more …

To think there were scores of people who said Hill made so much sense. Very simple questions that remain unanswered: what exactly do the Russians do according to her, and how exactly does that divide Americans? Never an answer, other than “US intelligence believes that…”

Fiona Hill Says Putin Has America ‘Exactly Where He Wants Us’ (CNN)

President Donald Trump’s former top Russia adviser is warning that President Vladimir Putin has America “exactly where he wants us.” “Putin, sadly, has got all of our political class, every single one of us, including the media, exactly where he wants us. He’s got us feeling vulnerable…on edge, and he’s got us questioning the legitimacy of our own systems,” Fiona Hill told CBS’ Lesley Stahl in an interview set to air on “60 Minutes” Sunday. The interview marks the former top White House official’s first since testifying in the impeachment inquiry into Trump. During congressional hearings in the inquiry, Hill warned that the Republican defense of the President — by peddling Ukraine conspiracy theories — was in danger of extending Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

Hill, who left the Trump administration last summer, has studied Russia for decades and is a critical biographer of Putin, authoring or co-authoring a number of books on Russia, including two editions of a book titled “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin. In the interview, Hill said Russia understands how to exploit American divisions. “The Russians didn’t invent partisan divides. The Russians haven’t invented racism in the United States,” Hill said. “But the Russians understand a lot of those divisions, and they understand how to exploit them.” Russian interference in the last presidential election — which the US intelligence community believes was aimed at boosting Trump’s candidacy and hurting his opponent, Hillary Clinton — led to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Part of the election interference included a Russian government-linked troll operation that sought to help Trump’s candidacy and undercut that of Clinton in part by posting messages in support of Sanders. Concerns over the Kremlin’s role in US politics have continued. The US intelligence community has assessed that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election and has separately assessed that Russia views Trump as a leader they can work with. In February, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders also said his campaign was briefed about Russian efforts to help his operation. It was unclear how Russia was attempting to help the Vermont senator.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

Today is International Women’s Day. So of course the DNC changes its rules yet again, this time to bar its only remaining female candidate from participating in the next debate.

 


 

 

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Mar 082020
 


Heinrich Hofmann Christ and the Rich Young Man 1889

 

Around mid-January I started including coronavirus news in the daily Automatic Earth “Debt Rattle” news aggregators, and wrote the first essay on the topic on January 29. Tons of people since have asked why, but I thought the virus had “potential”. Though not everybody would agree, I still think that. So the Debt Rattles are full of coronavirus these days.

For a proper understanding, we must remember that China was 4-5 weeks too late in reporting the disease, and after that the west was 4-5 weeks late in acting on the news. This happens simply because a politician who cries wolf will have a short career, and reporters, certainly today, follow that same model.

I explained 5 weeks ago why this happens the way it does in China in The Party and the Virus, but western countries’ political and media systems are structured very much the same way. Being early to warn does not help your job prospects. Unless you’re 100% sure, but then you won’t be alone and there’s nothing left to warn about. So might as well stay mum.

Until you must speak, and then you’re way behind, and you’ll be as wrong as you are late. Cast in stone. Bias “R” Us. But then, that’s why there’s the Automatic Earth. The Matrix is never perfectly sealed.

 

In the case of COVID19, the story is not about the numbers of cases or fatalities at any given point after two months and change, it’s about the disruption it will cause. We have a highly contagious virus that can cause death. That is all you need to know really. Feel free to claim that reactions and measures are over the hill, but no government has the option to say things are not all that bad and it’s business as usual.

They all tried again though. It’s in their job description. One of their tasks is to prevent panic, and yes, they use that to hide their ignorance behind, but they still must do it. But that’s alright, because all halfway smart people know what to do when a politician says not to panic.

However, they will still quarantine you and close borders, no matter what you think. Politicians are dead set to react too late, and then when they do, to order measures that are over the top and at best partly effective. But it’s not them, it’s the model they function within.

I first said this days ago, that it’s easy for people to look past that reality, but it’s always good to see Nassim Taleb share that view, that what you think about your own situation is not an option for politicians:

 

 

And people comparing COVID 19 to seasonal flu are therefore way off base. It’s not apples and oranges, it’s apples and baseballs -if not baseball bats-. Both are round but they have little else in common. The seasonal flu has been around since at least 1899, when the first epidemic was reported, what ever that meant back then.

The COVID19 virus is, far as we know, 3 months and change old. So any numbers you can toss around, of so many people killed by one and not the other, are pretty much meaningless. They are completely different entities that just happen to perhaps look alike if you don’t look to close. You can bring up the comparison, but you don’t say a thing about COVID19 if you do.

 

There are more interesting things to say about COVID 19. Unlike seasonal flu (largely), this one is not standing still. That means it will take 12-18 months to develop a vaccine, while any given year’s vaccine vs that year’s “normal” flu takes a few weeks. That difference may not say it all, but it comes close.

The most striking characteristic of the virus may be, if not should be, its exponential (or quadratic, if you will) progress once it gets hold. Ben Hunt tweeted earlier today, in reaction to Rome shutting down a quarter of the entire country, that “Italy is a time machine that shows us our future. Why do we ignore it?” But it’s not just Italy. It’s a pattern, it’s a dynamic, it’s motion. All things that regular flu is not.

And here’s what that dynamic looks like:

 

First, South Korea till March 4. when it had 5,621 cases. Today it has 7,313. But it is suspicious; they have very few deaths AND very few recovered cases. Well over 90% of cases are unresolved, way more than in other countries. It also has by far the largest numbers infected per million people.

 


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Italy till March 4. when it had 3,089 cases. Today it has 7,375. 1,492 new cases today, and 133 new deaths (366 total). Ouch. 25% more cases, 57% more deaths.

 


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China may have leveled off a little (who knows, really?), but the rest of the world is just getting started.

 


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The US is starting to get in line:

 

 

And this pair of graphs from Worldometer just keeps going as well:

 

 

COVID19 is not a point in space, it’s not standing still. You can’t look at it and compare it to anything else around today, because it moves much faster. Let’s try this vein:

I would suggest we’re looking at something like this:
Wave 0: Wuhan/Hubei (11/58.5 million people)
Wave 1: Rest of China (1.375 million people, total China 1,435)
Wave 2: Italy, South Korea, Iran (59, 51 and 81 million people)

And the next wave could well be, given their development in new cases, countries that are following the early phases of the graphs for Italy and South Korea above:
Wave 3: US, Germany, France, Spain (?!) (330, 83, 67, 47 million people)

The UK is a candidate with its 66.8 million people, but it’s either cheating (don’t test) or it may “have to wait” for Wave 4. Note: the US doesn’t have all that many cases either, but its death rate is high.

I mention the numbers of inhabitants because Wave 3 may also include some countries with fewer people (Wave 3.5?):

Switzerland, Sweden, Belgium, Netherlands (8.5, 10.1, 11.5 and 17.1 million people) are all countries with relatively small populations and relatively high numbers of new cases that may well contain the same sort of clusters that have caused the explosion in cases in Wave 1 countries. We can not predict excatly what happens, but we can see trendlines.

 

The virus is a time machine in the sense that whereas we can -in theory- assume that the regular flu moves in human time, COVID19 very much appears to move in virus time. Almost something you would ask a quantum theorist to look into.

Meanwhile of course you can theorize about the possibility that this is a bioweapon, but first of all that doesn’t help any patients right now, and second it’s only interesting if you can find out whether it was made on purpose or by accident, released by accident or on purpose, and was it the Chinese, the Americans, the Russians, the British, or someone else, why did they do it, why does it target which group, etc etc.

This thing plays out today, not in an imaginary future where you may have found out the who what and why. In the meantime, people are dying.

If you look at the graphs for Italy and South Korea above, you can see your future. Not in a precise way, but certainly in a general one. You can see ahead. Time machine.

 

 

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Mar 012020
 


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

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

• First cases: Armenia, Ireland, Luxembourg

• First deaths: US, Australia, Thailand

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

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

• Italy 1,178 (up 31%!), 29 deaths

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

• Japan 241 cases, 2 deaths

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

59 countries affected

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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


Corona timeline develops in very similar ways in various locations

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

Now repeat this in dozens of other countries.

Don’t Test, Don’t Tell! (Ben Hunt)

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

Imagine what would need to happen to make it visible.

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

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

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

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

Read more …

Silver linings are everywhere.

China Pollution Clear Amid Coronavirus Slowdown (BBC)

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

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

Read more …

Oh ye of little faith in the DNC.

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

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

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

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

Read more …

At least it sounds good.

If only because John Bolton said on Twitter:

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

US and Taliban Ink Afghanistan Peace Agreement (RT)

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

Read more …

 

 

 

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Feb 292020
 


Harris&Ewing National Emergency War Garden Commission display, Wash. DC 1918

 

China Reports Catastrophic Data: PMIs Crash To Record Lows (ZH)
New York Scrambles To Replace US Government’s Faulty Coronavirus Test Kits (R.)
US Sanctions on Iran Helped Coronavirus Spread Undetected (NI)
Chinese Lab That First Shared Virus Genome Closed For ‘Rectification’ (SCMP)
Australia Defied WHO On Coronavirus (SMH)
Israeli Scientists Claim To Be Weeks Away From Coronavirus Vaccine (NYPost)
A Big Coronavirus Mystery: What About The Children? (Harvard)
China Will Meet US Trade Deal Ag Demands, But May Invoke Force Majeure (SCMP)
China’s Consumers Will Not Rescue Economy When Outbreak Is Over (SCMP)
Southeast Asian Supply Chains Feel The Squeeze From Covid-19 (SCMP)
No More Kid Gloves (K.)
Barr Is Wrong On FISA Reforms (Turley)
The Public Doesn’t Really Decide The Nominee (Turley)
The Only Questions That Should Matter In The Assange Extradition Battle (SMH)
Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day Four (Craig Murray)

 

Numbers are rising very fast in South Korea, Iran and Italy. Total cases were up 841, 621, 901, 1,190, 1,314 in the past few days. Today: 1,950.

Major batch of new cases expected today from South Korea due to intensified testing.

 

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

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

 

• South Korea 813 new cases, total 3.150, 16 deaths, one case of reinfection
• Italy 896 (yesterday 653) cases, 21 deaths
• Iran 593 (yesterday 245) cases, 26 deaths
• Japan 241 (+705 Diamond Princess)
• China 427 new cases and 47 new deaths, total 2,835
• UK 20 cases, first death is Diamond Princess’s 6th death
• Germany 60 cases
• US 66 cases
• France cases 57 from 38 yesterday
• First case: Israel (3 cases), Mexico, Iceland, Azerbaijan, Wales, Belarus, Estonia

 

Trump names Pence, Kudlow, Mnuchin, aka an economic team, to face the crisis. China tries something similar by talking about what happens when the outbreak is over.

 

From SCMP:

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Xi’s biggest worry.

China Reports Catastrophic Data: PMIs Crash To Record Lows (ZH)

[..] it turns out that Nomura’s dire forecast was optimistic, because moments ago China’s National Statistics Bureau reported the latest, February PMIs and they were absolutely catastrophic: Manufacturing PMI crashed to 35.7 in Feb, far below the 45.0 consensus estimate, and sharply down from 50.0 in January. A record low. Non-Manufacturing PMI plummets to 28.9, also far below the 50.5 consensus, estimate, and down nearly 50% from the 54.1 in Jan. This too was a record low. Putting these numbers in context, they are far, far worse than the prints for both series reported during the financial crisis, when the mfg PMI dropped to “only” 38.8, while the non-manufacturing PMI never even contracted.

What is even more ominous is that while China’s non-mfg PMI has traditionally been stronger, in February not only did it collapse into deep contraction, but it plunged to 5 points below where the manufacturing sector currently finds itself, a catastrophic 20-handle. This means that China’s service industries, long seen as the guiding light to China’s successful transition away from a manufacturing-led economy, is now devastated. Commenting on the unprecedented number, Bloomberg’s China economist Tom Orlik said that “the first credible gauge of how China’s economy is fairing under virus lock down – the official PMI – is pointing to a brutal drop into contraction.” Well, no: anyone who read our recent series analyzing “high-frequency”, real-time Chinese data already was already aware of the catastrophic collapse in China’s economy.

Read more …

Because the testing issue was’t confusing enough yet.

New York Scrambles To Replace US Government’s Faulty Coronavirus Test Kits (R.)

New York health officials are trying to get their own coronavirus testing kits up and running after getting stuck with faulty tests from the federal government that they said left them unable to diagnose people quickly in the nation’s most populous city. New York state’s Department of Health filed an emergency application on Friday with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be allowed to use a testing kit for the new coronavirus it has developed in-state, according to an official involved in the process. “Upon FDA approval, which we believe is imminent, New York State’s public health laboratory, the Wadsworth Center, can immediately begin testing,” Jonah Bruno, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Health, wrote in an email.

Public health officials say the ability to test locally and get results within hours will be critical to a rapid response to the fast-spreading virus that originated in China, causing a sometimes fatal respiratory illness, and has spread to 46 countries. The weeks-long struggle to expand local testing has been criticized as an early misstep in the response by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to the outbreak. Three weeks ago, the FDA gave the green light for state and local labs to start using a testing kit developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But most labs that received the kits complained they had faulty components and produced inconclusive results, which the CDC later acknowledged.

[..] The CDC kits were meant to work by comparing a sample swabbed from a patient’s nose or mouth against three distinctive stretches of the virus’ genetic material, which are in small tubes labeled N1, N2 and N3. Most labs only had issues with the kit’s third component, N3. After reviewing their data, the FDA and CDC told labs this week that the tests would work fine if they only looked for the N1 and N2 bits of the virus, ignoring the faulty N3 component. But in New York, both the state lab and the New York City lab said that in their kits the N1 component was also flawed, and that the workaround proposed by the CDC and FDA was of no use.

Read more …

US sanctions kept Iran from buying the same faulty test kits that New York is using?!

US Sanctions on Iran Helped Coronavirus Spread Undetected (NI)

The Trump administration is partially reversing course on economic sanctions that have slowed down Iran from importing coronavirus test kits as the country faces down the most deadly COVID-19 outbreak outside of East Asia. Iranian authorities have confirmed 388 cases of the new coronavirus disease as of Friday afternoon. U.S. sanctions, the Iranian government’s record of dishonesty, and the elusive nature of the virus itself have made it difficult to understand the true extent of the epidemic. The U.S. Treasury announced on Thursday morning that it was lifting some terrorism-related sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, which re-opens a channel for humanitarian trade that had been closed since September 2019. The announcement does not lift the restrictions on humanitarian trade with other Iranian banks under terrorism-related sanctions.

Iran’s healthcare sector has blamed the banking sanctions for a lack of testing equipment to diagnose COVID-19. Thirty-four people have reportedly died from the virus in Iran, suggesting a large number of undiagnosed cases of COVID-19, which scientists believe has a two percent mortality rate. In fact, independent researchers estimate that eighteen thousand Iranians may have been infected already. “Several international companies are ready to ship the coronavirus diagnosis kit to Iran, but we cannot pay them,” said Ramin Fallah, vice president of the Iranian Union of Importers of Medical Equipment, in a Monday interview with Iranian media. “They also insist that the money should only be sent through banks. Although there are ways to get around [sanctions], it is time-consuming.”

[..] Iranian authorities have not inspired confidence in their current ability to deal with the outbreak transparently, either. [..] Officials have downplayed the extent of the outbreak even as the virus spreads within the government itself. Member of Parliament Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani claimed on Monday that fifty people had died in his home district of Qom alone, but Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi denied accusations of a coverup. On Tuesday, Harirchi announced that he had contracted COVID-19. Another lawmaker, Mahmoud Sadeghi, tested positive for the virus the same day. But President Hassan Rouhani continued to claim that the viral panic was worse than the virus itself, denouncing “foreign propaganda,” refusing to quarantine cities, and promising a return to normalcy.

By Wednesday, the tone in the Rouhani administration turned to panic as cabinet member Ma’soumeh Ebtekar was diagnosed with COVID-19 and retired Amb. Hadi Khosrowshahi suddenly died of the disease. The government proceeded to ban Chinese nationals from entering the country, canceled flights to India, halted religious pilgrimage groups, and canceled Friday prayers in major cities. Presidential advisor Hesameddin Ashena called for “taking the situation seriously” and “not politicizing the issue.”

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The Party was not amused.

Chinese Lab That First Shared Virus Genome Closed For ‘Rectification’ (SCMP)

The Shanghai laboratory where researchers published the world’s first genome sequence of the deadly coronavirus that causes Covid-19 has been shut down. The laboratory at the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre was ordered to close for “rectification” on January 12, a day after Professor Zhang Yongzhen’s team published the genome sequence on open platforms. It closed temporarily the following day. The release of the data helped researchers develop test kits for the virus. “The centre was not given any specific reasons why the laboratory was closed for rectification. [We have submitted] four reports [asking for permission] to reopen but we have not received any replies,” a source with the centre said, requesting anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

“The closure has greatly affected the scientists and their research when they should be racing against the clock to find the means to help put the novel coronavirus outbreak under control,” the source said. The laboratory is a Level 3 biosafety facility, the second-highest level, and passed an annual inspection by the China National Accreditation Service for Conformity Assessment on January 5. It also obtained the required credentials to conduct research on the coronavirus on January 24. It was not clear whether the closure was related to the publishing of the sequencing data before the authorities. China’s National Health Commission announced hours after the release by Zhang’s team that it would share the genome sequence with the World Health Organisation. It later emerged that the information had been sent through the officially designated Wuhan Institute of Virology.

[..] Zhang’s team isolated and finished the genome sequence of the then-unknown virus on January 5, two days before China’s official announcement that mysterious pneumonia cases in Wuhan were caused by a hitherto unknown coronavirus.
The Shanghai centre reported its discovery to the National Health Commission on the same day and recommended “relevant prevention and control measures” be taken in public places, because the patient from whom the sample was collected had suffered very severe symptoms and the virus resembled a group previously found in bats. The team made the finding public on January 11 after it saw that the authorities had taken no obvious action to warn the public about the coronavirus.

The findings by Zhang’s team were published in the scientific journal Nature on February 3. The research said the virus sample was collected from a patient who showed symptoms of fever, dizziness and coughing and was admitted to a Wuhan hospital on December 26. The Shanghai centre has a long-term cooperation relationship with Wuhan Central Hospital. The patient was identified as a 41-year-old male vendor who worked at the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market in Wuhan, which was believed to be a key link of infections at the early stage of the outbreak. The lab’s closure not only affected Zhang’s research but also studies by other scientists since it is an open facility, according to another researcher with knowledge of the matter.

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“Australia’s group of state and federal medical officers, convening daily, usually by phone hook-up, is the peak point of the pure medical advice, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC). No politicians sit in on their meetings.

Australia Defied WHO On Coronavirus (SMH)

Countries have shut down some of the institutions they hold dearest. Japan has closed all schools. Saudi Arabia has halted pilgrimages to Mecca. And the Chinese government has postponed indefinitely its two big annual political assemblies. Australia’s group of state and federal medical officers, convening daily, usually by phone hook-up, is the peak point of the pure medical advice, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC). No politicians sit in on their meetings.

[..] The medical officers’ “pandemic” call was a big moment. For a start, they were way ahead of the UN body that is supposedly the lead global agency on international health emergencies, the Geneva-based World Health Organisation. Why were the Australians ahead of the world? For a very simple reason. They don’t trust the WHO. The information from multiple international sources is that the WHO is under intense pressure from the Chinese government, and succumbing to it. The Australian Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy, told the NSC that it was medically inexplicable that the WHO hadn’t already declared a global pandemic. It’s politics, in other words.

That’s why Australia had earlier forged ahead of the WHO in declaring the China travel ban, on February 1. It was, again, on the unanimous advice of the AHPPC. The travel ban was decided immediately after the US made the same call. Beijing instantly lashed both the US and Australia on that occasion – the Chinese Communist Party’s official mouthpiece, People’s Daily, calling it “racist”. But, of course, that decision now looks very wise, more so with each passing day. The WHO followed suit 10 days later. When Morrison announced the China travel ban four weeks ago, there were about 7000 infections disclosed by Beijing. By Thursday this week that number had ballooned to 78,000. The number of countries announcing travel bans has grown proportionately, and mostly they have acted too late.

In any case, the political manipulation of the WHO is nothing novel. It was slow to declare HIV-AIDS to be a pandemic in the 1980s because of intense political pressure. Then it was pressure from the US. Now it’s from China. Either way, the politics trumps the medical advice. So this week the AHPPC didn’t hesitate to act ahead of the Geneva-based outfit. And when the medical officers’ advice went to federal health minister, Greg Hunt, and to Morrison, they didn’t hesitate, either. Morrison convened a three-hour meeting of the National Security Committee of cabinet on Thursday morning. They discussed the unfolding evidence, reviewed the state of medical preparations, and made three key decisions.

[..] The Australian system for dealing with communicable diseases is less prone to politics. Morrison hid from the bushfires; he had no such option on the coronavirus. The Chief Medical Officer, Murphy, does not need the government’s permission to invoke the Biosecurity Act. He informed Health Minister Greg Hunt on January 20 that he was triggering the act, automatically setting in train a pre-ordained process of monitoring and advice. Hunt encouraged Murphy and the AHPPC to give the government the full, frank and unvarnished medical advice without any view to politics. And so far, Morrison and his NSC have respected the medical advice.

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One of multiple “hopeful” vaccine stories yesterday.

I said yesterday: “Note: they’re ‘adapting’ a vaccine (against an avian virus), not developing a new one”, and “Note 3: I’m not sure it’s the antibodies that do the harm nor that it’s the virus that uses them. The problem I think is a “cytokine storm”, in which the immune system causes the overproduction of immune cells (and their activating compounds – called cytokines), which then attack the host body.”

Israeli Scientists Claim To Be Weeks Away From Coronavirus Vaccine (NYPost)

Israeli researchers scrambling to develop a coronavirus vaccine say it could be ready in just three weeks – and available for use within 90 days, according to reports. The scientists at the Galilee Research Institute, known as MIGAL, are adapting its vaccine against the avian coronavirus infectious bronchitis virus, or IBV, to work for the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19, the Jerusalem Post reported. “Congratulations to MIGAL on this exciting breakthrough. I am confident that there will be further rapid progress, enabling us to provide a needed response to the grave global COVID-19 threat,” said Ofir Akunis, Israel’s minister of science and technology.

The independent research institute, which specializes in the fields of biotechnology, environmental sciences and agriculture, says on its website that its team “includes 80 PhDs and a total of 260 researchers distributed into 53 labs that are managed by seasoned senior group leaders.” Its vaccine for IBV, a bronchial illness that affects poultry, has already been proven in preclinical trials conducted at Israel’s Veterinary Institute, according to the news outlet. “Our basic concept was to develop the technology and not specifically a vaccine for this kind or that kind of virus,” said Dr. Chen Katz, MIGAL’s biotech group chief.

“The scientific framework for the vaccine is based on a new protein expression vector, which forms and secretes a chimeric soluble protein that delivers the viral antigen into mucosal tissues by self-activated endocytosis, causing the body to form antibodies against the virus,” he added.

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Children and caretakers.

A Big Coronavirus Mystery: What About The Children? (Harvard)

GAZETTE: You’ve been quoted you as saying you expect between 40 percent and 70 percent of humanity to be infected with this virus within a year. Is that still the case?

LIPSITCH: It is, but an important qualifier is that I expect 40 to 70 percent of adults to be infected. We just don’t understand whether children are getting infected at low rates or just not showing very strong symptoms. So I don’t want to make assumptions about children until we know more. That number also assumes that we don’t put in place effective, long-term countermeasures, like social distancing for months at a time which, I think, is a fair assumption. It may be that a few places like China can sustain it, but even China is beginning to let up.

GAZETTE: You mentioned children having been hit only lightly by this. What about other parts of the population? What do we know about the impact of this from a demographic standpoint?

LIPSITCH: It’s definitely the case that the older you are, the more at risk of getting infected you are and, if you get symptomatic infection, the more at risk of dying you are. Men also seem to be overrepresented among those getting severe illness. The reasons why are a really important research question. One thing that also needs to be looked at is the impact on health-care workers because they are at high risk of getting infected, and I would like to know whether they’re at higher risk of getting severe infection. Some of the anecdotal cases of young physicians dying make me wonder whether they’re exposed to a higher dose and that’s making them sicker.

[..] GAZETTE: What’s the most important unanswered question to your mind?

LIPSITCH: One of the most important unanswered questions is what role do children play in transmission? The go-to intervention in flu pandemic planning is closing schools, and that may be very effective or it may be totally ineffective. It’s a costly and disruptive thing to do, especially in the United States, because many people rely on school breakfast and lunch for nutrition. So we really need evidence that closing schools would help. We need detailed studies in households of children who are exposed to an infected person. We need to find out if the children get infected, if they shed virus, and if that virus is infectious.

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Michael Pettis tweets: “I understand that Chinese agriculture will be badly affected by Covid-19, and so I am not surprised that China will go ahead with planned agricultural imports. In fact I suspect they’ll actually increase them.”

China Will Meet US Trade Deal Ag Demands, But May Invoke Force Majeure (SCMP)

China will “definitely” honour its agricultural purchase commitments as part of its phase one trade deal signed with the United States in January, despite the coronavirus epidemic, a former senior Chinese government official said on Friday. Wei Jianguo, a former deputy minister responsible for foreign trade at the Ministry of Commerce, told a press conference organised by the government in Beijing that China was fully committed to the deal. However, the coronavirus outbreak that followed the signing of the deal in Washington may mean China has to invoke a force majeure clause in the trade deal with regard other planned purchases, “if some parts fail to happen”, Wei said, adding that Beijing will redouble its efforts to implement the deal “once the coronavirus epidemic is over”.


“China is fully able to complete the agreed amount of agricultural product imports [from the US],” Wei said, without mentioning purchases of non-agricultural products, such as manufactured goods and energy. Wei’s comments mark the first on-the-record confirmation from Beijing insiders that China has no plan to walk away from the trade deal because of the coronavirus epidemic, which has caused huge damage to its economy. It is also the latest suggestion, however, that China may look to a clause in the deal which states that both parties will enter consultations if “a natural disaster or other unforeseeable event outside the control of the parties delays a party from timely complying with its obligations”.

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How to sneakily invoke the idea that it’ll all soon be over.

China’s Consumers Will Not Rescue Economy When Outbreak Is Over (SCMP)

Around a third of Chinese consumers will not increase spending once the outbreak of coronavirus has been brought under control, a private survey has shown, challenging Beijing’s hope that consumer expenditure will quickly rebound to cover losses suffered amid the epidemic. China has repeatedly said that the impact of the coronavirus, which has infected over 78,000 people and killed over 2,700 in China alone, will be short-lived and that it is still on track to achieve its economic development goals in 2020. However, according to the online survey conducted by Rong360.com, a Beijing-based firm providing financial and credit information and products, 31.4 per cent of respondents said they would not increase consumer spending.


More importantly, nearly two thirds, or 64.4 per cent, said they would be more “restrained” in spending in the long term, while another 12.6 per cent said they would cut spending, with only 11 per cent saying they would increase expenditure. The remaining 12 per cent said they would keep their lifestyle unchanged. Spending on travel, pets, gifts and accessories would be among the first items to be cut, with around 30 per cent of the 1,000 respondents to the survey, which was conducted between February 11-17, saying they would reduce travel and entertainment. For short-term spending, 68.6 per cent of respondents said they would increase expenditure after the epidemic, especially on entertainment, cosmetics, catering, movies, massages, fitness and sportswear.

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And soon, so will Europe and America.

Southeast Asian Supply Chains Feel The Squeeze From Covid-19 (SCMP)

As countries brace themselves for the full economic impact of the virus, one country has its eye on the future. Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said the country had a two-pronged line of attack for dealing with the virus: a US$4.7 billion war chest to help companies and individuals through the economic storm, and a plan to ensure the city state would be first out of the gate towards full recovery. The plan involved having Singapore businesses re-examine their labour and material supply chains to “make sure that we’re never held to ransom by a single source or a single market”, Chan said at a meeting with business leaders on Wednesday. Singapore learned a similar lesson in 2007, when the construction sector – then reliant on Indonesia for 90 per cent of its sand – nearly came to a standstill after Indonesia banned sand exports to the republic.

With a new train line and the two integrated resorts in the works, the government released its national stockpile of sand to the market and bore 75 per cent of the price hike of sand for public projects. Since then, the government has made it mandatory for the sector to diversify its sources of sand. Chan said at the business meeting that the Singapore government wanted to delve deeper and examine where the suppliers of Singapore businesses got their raw material from. “We’re not just talking about the first layer of the supply chain, we’re even going into the second, third layer to look at where the components form that supply chain in order for us to have a really resilient supply chain for our respective businesses,” said Chan.

“If the supply chain breaks, even if it’s the smallest part, it disrupts the entire supply chain.” What is unclear is how much countries really can diversify their sourcing, given that China is the top supplier of intermediate goods for many countries. China’s size, broad-based supply chain, and infrastructure provisions made it an “unmissable market for most”, said Wiranto. Half of Vietnam’s imports come from China, Korea and Japan; almost half of Korea’s come from China, Japan and the United States; while over 20 per cent of Malaysia’s imports are from China. Raw materials aside, there is also a fear that the rapid spread of the coronavirus outside China will affect other supply chains. “Businesses might be looking at alternatives from Vietnam, but as the virus becomes more global over recent days, even supply chains which they thought are safe from interruptions could be disrupted,” said Song, the CIMB economist.

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Turkey’s actions threaten Greece. For now, neither NATO or the EU have taken Ankara’s side, but…

No More Kid Gloves (K.)

Facts on the ground change rapidly. Turkey’s President has been trapped in a huge quagmire exclusively of his own making. His embroiling Turkey in adventures abroad has turned into a boomerang. For the first time, his handling of the situation is openly questioned in Ankara itself. He seems to have no exit strategy. With his barefaced move to send crowds of migrants and refugees to the border with Greece, Erdogan has handed us a great diplomatic gift. Europeans finally understand that they have to deal with an unpredictable unreasonableness. But they are still groping for a response. Like the United States, they are afraid to “lose” Turkey, which, in turn, plays the usual haggling game with Moscow, Washington and Brussels, only this time with a strong dose of desperation.

How about Greece? The government is doing the right thing. It reminds Europe where its responsibilities lie and also shows that it will no longer be “business as usual.” National, and not political, reasons necessitate a different approach in dealing with the problem. When you face open blackmail and the open, undisguised use of the migration/refugee issue as a means to an end, you can no longer handle it with kid gloves. Some will take exception to this and recommend patience. The drama of the refugees is unspeakable, but no country should bear the burden alone. Especially a country bruised by a great crisis and which bears no responsibility for what has happened in Syria. Northern Europeans should grasp the gravity of the situation and stop facing the issue from the coziness of their sofas.

One last thing: this crisis is at its very beginning and could transmute into something else. Erdogan under pressure, including pressure from nationalists, can become even more unpredictable. A national consensus is imperative! It makes no sense to debate who is responsible for which things. The situation is critical.

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And Trump is right.

Barr Is Wrong On FISA Reforms (Turley)

Attorney General Bill Barr appears on a collision course with President Donald Trump over reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court. Civil libertarians like Sen Rand Paul (R., Tenn.) are pushing for reforms in light of the abuses uncovered from the Russian investigation. Despite my respect and friendship for Barr, he is wrong in my view and the President should push forward with the reforms. When President Trump declared “Now is our chance to fix it,” he is absolutely correct. Sen. Paul has indicated that the President is onboard with reforms, tweeing “Good talk with @realdonaldTrump yesterday and I’m pleased he is urging FISA reform NOW – and not a reauthorization of the current Patriot Act.”

I have long respected Sen. Paul’s fight for such reforms and I have been a long critic of FISA since I first went into that “court” as a young intern with the National Security Agency in the Reagan Administration. Such legislative reforms are even more pressing given the FISA court’s baffling decision to appoint a defender of the abusive use of the court as its “reformer.” Paul is pushing for limits on how the court can be used against Americans. They include modest limitations that would still allow robust surveillance, including mandatory and random audits of FISA applications by the Inspector General, ending the Call Detail Records program, mandatory disclosure of exculpatory evidence in FISA applications, and appointing amici in all “sensitive investigative matters” with access to all FISA court documents.

This includes dealing directly and honestly with the status of the controversial records program under Section 215, that gathers metadata on domestic text messages and phone calls. I am leery of efforts to again kick this can down the road with temporary extensions of existing authority. The FISA court was designed to circumvent the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of probable cause of a crime — using the term but making it little more than probable cause to suspect someone is working for a foreign power. That is why applications for surveillance are uniformly approved. The court has little real basis to deny such applications.

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Superdelegates revisited.

The Public Doesn’t Really Decide The Nominee (Turley)

As we have been discussing, establishment figures in the Democratic party and the media have been preparing to block any nomination of Bernie Sanders, including using the “superdelegates” to hand the nomination to another candidate. The New York Times reported Thursday that the Democratic establishment was preparing for open warfare over blocking Sanders, even if it shatters the unity of the party. If Sanders does not receive the necessary votes, they intend to take away the nomination even if he has the most votes in the first round. The key again are the superdelegates who are not elected in the primaries but given votes as elected officials. On MSNBC, former Obama adviser Anton J. Gunn was particularly blunt. He declared “The party decides its nominee. The public doesn’t really decide the nominee.”

In 2016, many of us objected to the concerted effect of the Democratic establishment and the Democratic National Committee to rig the primary for Hillary Clinton. Later it was revealed that the Clintons have largely taken over the DNC by taking over its debt and the DNC openly harassed and hampered Sanders at every stage. Despite this effort, Sanders came close to beating Clinton, who has never forgiven him for contesting a primary that she literally bought and paid for with the DNC. The simmering rage was still evident in Clinton’s attack on Sanders and suggestion that she might not support him if he were the nominee (a suggestion that she later took back). Well the supers are back and Sanders may again find that it is the party elite, not the voters, who determine who will be the next nominee.

The irony is that the elite hardly has an inspiring record. In 2016, every poll showed that voters did not want an establishment figure so the establishment rigged the process for the ultimate establishment figure. Clinton lost to the most unpopular Republican candidate in history. I remain convinced that Sanders could have won that election, a position recently suggested by Michael Bloomberg. Yet, the same people that gave us the Clinton nomination will be working their magic again at the Democratic Convention. What is fascinating is that the establishment would prefer to risk the election by alienating the huge young following of Sanders rather than allow Sanders to be the nominee. If they give the nomination to another establishment figures like Biden or a billionaire like Bloomberg, the establishment would enrage millions of Sanders followers who could well stay home in 2020.

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Two claims: A) that Assange’s work is not political, and B) that nothing in the law applies even if it were.

The Only Questions That Should Matter In The Assange Extradition Battle (SMH)

Murray’s account contains some astonishing observations. On day one, he says, the US prosecutor, James Lewis QC, explicitly addressed his opening remarks “not to the court but to the media”. This is unprecedented. In this address, says Murray, Lewis explicitly denied that the espionage charges against Assange also threatened mainstream media like The Guardian and The New York Times. Later under questioning from the magistrate, Murray says, Lewis changed his mind and admitted that yes, they would be affected, but this part of his remarks was not offered to the media (who might well find such assertions alarming).


On day two, Assange’s defence, Edward Fitzgerald QC, said the prosecution must prove three things: that Assange had helped Manning decode a hash key necessary to hack classified material, that Assange had solicited the material from Manning and that he had knowingly put lives at risk. There is, said Fitzgerald, no evidence on any of these counts, some of which were disproved in Manning’s court-martial. And the prosecution has admitted it cannot prove harm. But even that is not the point. No one should be arguing the substantive case here. For now, the questions are; is this a political crime? Should Assange receive a fair trial? Does anyone believe he’ll get one in Trump’s America? And do we really think, given his poor health, he would survive prison there? The answers have to be yes, yes, no and, resoundingly, no.

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The hearing resumes only in March?!

“During Lewis’s presentation, he was interrupted by Judge Baraitser precisely once. During Fitzgerald’s reply, Baraitser interjected seventeen times.”

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

Yesterday the prosecution continued its argument that the provision in the 2007 UK/US Extradition Treaty that bars extradition for political offences is a dead letter, and that Julian Assange’s objectives are not political in any event. James Lewis QC for the prosecution spoke for about an hour, and Edward Fitzgerald QC replied for the defence for about the same time. During Lewis’s presentation, he was interrupted by Judge Baraitser precisely once. During Fitzgerald’s reply, Baraitser interjected seventeen times. In the transcript, those interruptions will not look unreasonable: “Could you clarify that for me Mr Fitzgerald…” “So how do you cope with Mr Lewis’s point that…” “But surely that’s a circular argument… “But it’s not incorporated, is it?…”


All these and the other dozen interruptions were designed to appear to show the judge attempting to clarify the defence’s argument in a spirit of intellectual testing. But if you heard the tone of Baraitser’s voice, saw her body language and facial expressions, it was anything but. The false picture a transcript might give is exacerbated by the courtly Fitzgerald’s continually replying to each obvious harassment with “Thank you Madam, that is very helpful”, which again if you were there, plainly meant the opposite. But what a transcript will helpfully nevertheless show was the bully pulpit of Baraitser’s tactic in interrupting Fitzgerald again and again and again, belittling his points and very deliberately indeed preventing him from getting into the flow of his argument. The contrast in every way with her treatment of Lewis could not be more pronounced.

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Feb 272020
 


‘Daly’ Store, Manning, South Carolina 1941

 

China City Offers $1,400 To Virus Patients Who Report To Authorities (R.)
UK Hospitals To Deny Care To Weakest If Pandemic Hits (Ind.)
The Hunt For ‘Patient Zero’ – The World’s Health May Depend On It (SCMP)
Japanese Woman Tests Positive For Second Time (R.)
HIV-Like Mutation Makes Coronavirus Far More Infectious Than Sars (SCMP)
Virus Response Delay Could Have Added 100,000 Cases, China Expert (SCMP)
60 Cases In US, One May Be Due To ‘Community Spread’ Of Infection (SCMP)
At This Rate, How Is China’s Economy Going To Recover Lost Ground? (SCMP)
Saudi Arabia Halts Travel To Islam’s Holiest Site To Prevent Spread (AP)
Pandemic Bonds: A “Scheme Like No Other” (Webb)
Judge Refuses to Intervene In Mistreatment of Assange by Prison Officials (Sp.)
Assange Blasts Court For Preventing Communication With “Spied-On” Lawyers, (RT)
Assange Detention Illegal Under English, European And International Law (RT)
Prosecution of Julian Assange Violates First Amendment (Napolitano)
Trump Campaign Sues New York Times For Libel Over Russia Story (R.)

 

Cases 82,419 (+ 1,190 from yesterday’s 81,229).

Deaths 2,808 (+ 39 from yesterday’s 2,769)

 

• Italy 468 cases (25% rise)

• South Korea 334 new cases, total 1,595 (26% rise)

• Japan 16 new cases, total 196, Diamond Princess 705

• US 60 cases
– 14 “US cases”, 3 repatriated from Wuhan and 42 from the Diamond Princess
– 83 monitored in Nassau County, Orange County declares state of emergency
– Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar: “We have 30 million surgical masks. Those would be the gauze tied behind the ear-type masks meant to really protect people from the healthcare workers spreading. We have 12 million N95 NIOSH-certified masks in the stockpile and we have about 5 million N95 masks that I believe may have expired, they’re no longer NIOSH-certified.”

• France 18 cases

• Pakistan confirms first 2 cases

• Norway, Greece first case

• Saudi Arabia bars pilgrims from Mecca

• South Korea has tested 40,000 people. Japan 900.

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

 

 

Coming soon to a town near you.

China City Offers $1,400 To Virus Patients Who Report To Authorities (R.)

A city in China’s Hubei province, the epicenter of the global coronavirus epidemic, will pay residents as much as 10,000 yuan ($1,425.96) if they proactively report symptoms of the illness and it is confirmed after testing. Qianjiang, a city of around one million people located about 150 km (90 miles) from the stricken provincial capital of Wuhan, has reported a total of 197 cases so far and is stepping up efforts to ensure its infected people are confined and treated. It is the latest of a number of regions to offer cash rewards to encourage members of the public to volunteer for medical checks.


Hubei has reported over 65,000 cases and more than 2,600 deaths from the epidemic. Worldwide, the death toll is about 2,800 and about 80,000 have been infected. The Qianjiang task force handling the epidemic said in a notice that residents would be entitled to the full 10,000 yuan payment if their coronavirus diagnosis is confirmed. Those who have previously been diagnosed will not be eligible. Those who are not immediately ruled out as suffering from the disease will be given 1,000 yuan, while those declared to be “suspected” cases will earn 2,000 yuan, it said.

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Also coming soon to a town near you.

UK Hospitals To Deny Care To Weakest If Pandemic Hits (Ind.)

NHS patients could be denied lifesaving care during a severe coronavirus outbreak in Britain if intensive care units are struggling to cope, senior doctors have warned. Under a so-called “three wise men” protocol, three senior consultants in each hospital would be forced to make decisions on rationing care such as ventilators and beds, in the event hospitals were overwhelmed with patients. The medics spoke out amid frustration over what one said was the government’s “dishonest spin” that the health service was well prepared for a major pandemic outbreak. The doctors, from hospitals across England, said the health service’s existing critical care capacity was already overstretched and “would crumble” under the demands of a pandemic surge in patients who may all need ventilation to help them breathe.


Those denied intensive care beds could be those suffering with coronavirus or other seriously ill patients, with priority given to those most likely to survive and recover. Doctors said this would lead to “tough decisions” needing to be made about the wholesale cancellation of operations to free-up beds. One consultant said the “three wise men” protocol had been discussed at his hospital in recent weeks while another from the north of England said it had been raised “informally”. It was initially developed after the 2009 swine flu pandemic but is still included in several NHS trust plans seen by The Independent. One doctor explained: “If you can imagine the real worst-case scenarios where supply is massively outstripped by demand we would have to refuse to admit many people who would normally get ventilated.

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Yeah, like when it turns out (s)he was infected in the Wuhan biolab.

The Hunt For ‘Patient Zero’ – The World’s Health May Depend On It (SCMP)

Chinese officials are still trying to trace the epidemic back to its source in China. The first coronavirus case was reported to the WHO on December 31 and has been linked to Wuhan’s Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market. However, a new study published by a team of Chinese scientists last week said the virus might have been imported from somewhere else. The first known Covid-19 patient, a male who showed symptoms on December 8, had been discharged but said he was not at the Huanan market, the Wuhan government said in a Weibo post on Wednesday. “We don’t know who the very first patient zero was, presumably in Wuhan, and that leaves a lot of unanswered questions about how the outbreak started and how it initially spread,” Borwein said.


Knowing who patient zero is would help prevent future outbreaks and provide information about how to prevent transmission, Borwein said. But as time passes, identifying the index case grows increasingly difficult. “Figuring out who patient zero was wouldn’t give us all the answers but it would help to map the path the virus has taken and how it’s travelling,” she said. “It’s hard to draw that map without knowing where it starts.” John Nicholls, a University of Hong Kong clinical professor in pathology, said identifying patient zero during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) epidemic in 2002-03 was vital from an epidemiological perspective, as it highlighted the mode of its spread. The disease, which infected over 8,000 and killed 813 people globally, was traced to a then 64-year-old medical professor from Guangzhou, who had infected at least 13 tourists staying at the Metropole Hotel in Hong Kong.

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Reinfection warrants much more attention than it gets.

Japanese Woman Tests Positive For Second Time (R.)

A woman working as a tour bus guide in Japan has tested positive for coronavirus for a second time, in what authorities say is the first such case. The woman, in her 40s and a resident of Osaka in western Japan, tested positive on Wednesday after developing a sore throat and chest pains, the prefectural government said. She first tested positive on 29 January and was discharged from the hospital after recovering on 1 February, before testing negative on 6 February. The health ministry confirmed the case was the first in Japan where a patient tested positive for coronavirus for a second time after being discharged from hospital, Japanese media said. Though a first in Japan, cases of second positive tests have been reported in China. The outbreak has spread rapidly and widely, infecting about 80,000 people globally and killing nearly 2,800, the vast majority in mainland China.


“Once you have the infection, it could remain dormant and with minimal symptoms, and then you can get an exacerbation if it finds its way into the lungs,” said Professor Philip Tierno at New York University’s school of medicine. He said much remained unknown about the virus: “I’m not certain that this is not bi-phasic, like anthrax,” he said, meaning the disease might appear to go away before recurring. The woman’s second positive test came as the number of confirmed cases in Japan rose by 16 to 186, in addition to the 704 diagnosed from the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Tokyo has urged that big gatherings and sports events be scrapped or curtailed for two weeks to contain the virus, while pledging the 2020 Olympic Games will still go ahead.

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We’re going to see large-scale HIV-drug testing on corona cases.

HIV-Like Mutation Makes Coronavirus Far More Infectious Than Sars (SCMP)

The new coronavirus has an HIV-like mutation that means its ability to bind with human cells could be up to 1,000 times as strong as the Sars virus, according to new research by scientists in China and Europe. The discovery could help to explain not only how the infection has spread but also where it came from and how best to fight it. Scientists showed that Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) entered the human body by binding with a receptor protein called ACE2 on a cell membrane. And some early studies suggested that the new coronavirus, which shares about 80 per cent of the genetic structure of Sars, might follow a similar path.

But the ACE2 protein does not exist in large quantities in healthy people, and this partly helped to limit the scale of the Sars outbreak of 2002-03, iwhich infected about 8,000 people around the world. Other highly contagious viruses, including HIV and Ebola, target an enzyme called furin, which works as a protein activator in the human body. Many proteins are inactive or dormant when they are produced and have to be “cut” at specific points to activate their various functions. When looking at the genome sequence of the new coronavirus, Professor Ruan Jishou and his team at Nankai University in Tianjin found a section of mutated genes that did not exist in Sars, but were similar to those found in HIV and Ebola.

“This finding suggests that 2019-nCoV [the new coronavirus] may be significantly different from the Sars coronavirus in the infection pathway,” the scientists said in a paper published this month on Chinaxiv.org, a platform used by the Chinese Academy of Sciences to release scientific research papers before they have been peer-reviewed. “This virus may use the packing mechanisms of other viruses such as HIV.” According to the study, the mutation can generate a structure known as a cleavage site in the new coronavirus’ spike protein. The virus uses the outreaching spike protein to hook on to the host cell, but normally this protein is inactive. The cleavage site structure’s job is to trick the human furin protein, so it will cut and activate the spike protein and cause a “direct fusion” of the viral and cellular membranes.

Compared to the Sars’ way of entry, this binding method is “100 to 1,000 times” as efficient, according to the study. Just two weeks after its release, the paper is already the most viewed ever on Chinarxiv. [..] Chinese researchers said drugs targeting the furin enzyme could have the potential to hinder the virus’ replication in the human body. These include “a series of HIV-1 therapeutic drugs such as Indinavir, Tenofovir Alafenamide, Tenofovir Disoproxil and Dolutegravir and hepatitis C therapeutic drugs including Boceprevir and Telaprevir”, according to Li’s study.

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Government ‘expert’ Zhong Nanshan does more whitewashing, praising the government response. Problem is, there WAS a huge delay. It should read: Virus Response Delay DID Add 100,000 Cases.

The same Zhong Nanshan said on Jan 28 that “..the number of new cases will plateau within the next ten days..”

Virus Response Delay Could Have Added 100,000 Cases, China Expert (SCMP)

The number of daily coronavirus infections in South Korea could exceed those in China, with Beijing reporting 433 new cases on Thursday – slightly higher than the 406 of a day earlier – while South Korean cases surged on Thursday morning to 334, bringing its total infections to 1,595. If the number of new infections reported by Seoul continues to rise at the rate of recent days, South Korea’s cases could surpass China’s as early as Thursday afternoon, when health officials there are due to report their latest figures. China’s National Health Commission said 409 of its new cases were reported in Hubei province – the epicentre of the outbreak. [..] But cases outside Hubei returned to double digits, with 24 cases reported, a jump from just nine and five cases over the past two days respectively.

Zhong Nanshan, China’s top respiratory disease expert, said the number of patients would have been greatly reduced if China had taken action in early December, or even in early January. China announced human-to-human transmission of the virus on January 20, and Zhong said a delay of just a few more days could have led to well over 100,000 infections. “There have been three coronavirus outbreaks since the beginning of the 21st century. We should take actions to prevent it spreading whenever there is a coronavirus infection case. This is a big lesson for us,” Zhong said. He also called for more authority to be given to the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its local branches.

Currently local CDCs only reports to their local governments who decide what action to take on communicable diseases. “In other countries, the CDC can report to the central government, and even alert the public directly under ‘special circumstances’. Although our expert team announced on January 20 that human to human transmissions had occurred, but that (the transmission) was discovered much earlier … nobody paid attention to it,” Zhong said. He said doctors, including Li Wenliang, had raised the alarm in mid to late December but it was not reported to the government until December 30, adding that the local government had not paid attention to the warnings, “or they did not understand what it was. That is why the spread has not been stopped”.

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Why just the one?

60 Cases In US, One May Be Due To ‘Community Spread’ Of Infection (SCMP)

US health officials said on Wednesday they had detected a possible case of “community spread” of Covid-19 – the disease caused by the new coronavirus – with a patient testing positive, despite having no travel history to places with outbreaks or of being exposed to someone already infected. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statement was released soon after President Donald Trump said in a White House press briefing that he had appointed Vice-President Mike Pence to lead the containment effort against the spread of the illness that emerged in China’s Hubei province. Community transmission – in which multiple cases are detected without any clear source of infection – could significantly weaken the effectiveness of containment measures such as travel restrictions.


“At this time, the patient’s exposure is unknown. It’s possible this could be an instance of community spread of Covid-19, which would be the first time this has happened in the United States,” the CDC statement said. “It’s also possible, however, that the patient may have been exposed to a returned traveller who was infected,” it said. The patient tested positive for the illness after being screened by “astute clinicians” in the public health system in California, the CDC said. [..] The new case brings the total number of coronavirus infections in the US to 60. This includes 45 people who were either brought back from the central Chinese city of Wuhan – the epicentre of the outbreak – or from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan

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More government propaganda: “..normality could gradually return to the other 96 per cent of the economy.”

At This Rate, How Is China’s Economy Going To Recover Lost Ground? (SCMP)

The escalation of the coronavirus epidemic has completely changed the consensus narrative about China’s economic performance in 2020. The cautious optimism that followed the signing of the phase one trade deal between the US and China has now given way to acute concerns about an economy that has been paralysed by a severe epidemic for more than a month. Even assuming a quick resolution to the crisis, followed by a decent recovery, the Chinese economy will probably struggle to deliver growth much higher than 5 per cent. Therefore, the consensus forecast for full-year growth of 5.8 per cent despite the epidemic – according to the latest Bloomberg survey – must reflect expectations of significant policy easing by China.

However, while stimulus measures may help the economy, it is worth cautioning that their effectiveness is heavily contingent on how the Covid-19 outbreak evolves. To the extent that much of China’s macro outlook will be driven by the epidemic, it is encouraging to see some progress in the fight against the coronavirus. Since early February, the daily increase in infection cases in China has fallen steadily, from nearly 4,000 to about 500. Recent changes in diagnostic methodology have created volatility in the data, but not derailed the overall declining trend. What is also encouraging is that the infection rate outside the epicentre of Hubei has dipped to below 10 cases a day, thanks to Beijing’s aggressive quarantine tactics to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Since Hubei accounts for 4 per cent of China’s GDP, this means that normality could gradually return to the other 96 per cent of the economy. However, a rapid containment of the coronavirus is only a necessary, but by no means sufficient, condition for the realisation of the upbeat consensus forecast. Two other conditions are necessary: namely, an orderly resumption of the economy, and sufficient policy support. On the first point, there are fewer reasons for optimism. The draconian restrictions imposed by Beijing to contain the outbreak continue to hamper both the movement of people and the resumption of economic activity.

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Middle East pressure cooker.

Saudi Arabia Halts Travel To Islam’s Holiest Site To Prevent Spread (AP)

Saudi Arabia on Thursday halted travel to the holiest sites in Islam over fears about a new viral epidemic just months ahead of the annual haj pilgrimage, a move coming as the Middle East has over 220 confirmed cases of the illness. The extraordinary decision by Saudi Arabia stops foreigners from reaching the holy city of Mecca and the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims pray toward five times a day. It also said travel was suspended to Prophet Muhammad’s mosque in Medina. The decision showed the worry about the outbreak potentially spreading into Saudi Arabia, whose oil-rich monarchy stakes its legitimacy on protecting Islam’s holy sites.


The epicentre in the Middle East’s most-affected country, Iran, appears to be in the holy Shiite city of Qom, where a shrine there sees the faithful reach out to kiss and touch it in reverence. “Saudi Arabia renews its support for all international measures to limit the spread of this virus, and urges its citizens to exercise caution before travelling to countries experiencing coronavirus outbreaks,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement announcing the decision. “We ask God Almighty to spare all humanity from all harm.” Disease outbreaks always have been a concern surrounding the haj, required of all able-bodied Muslims once in their life, especially as pilgrims come from all over the world. The earliest recorded outbreak came in 632 as pilgrims fought off malaria. A cholera outbreak in 1821 for instance killed an estimated 20,000 pilgrims. Another cholera outbreak in 1865 killed 15,000 pilgrims and then spread worldwide.

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If a pandemic is declared after July 15, people stand to make a lot of dough.

Pandemic Bonds: A “Scheme Like No Other” (Webb)

A little known specialized bond created in 2017 by the World Bank may hold the answer as to why U.S. and global health authorities have declined to label the global spread of the novel coronavirus a “pandemic.” Those bonds, now often referred to as “pandemic bonds,” were ostensibly intended to transfer the risk of potential pandemics in low-income nations to financial markets. Yet, in light of the growing coronavirus outbreak, the investors who purchased those products could lose millions if global health authorities were to use that label in relation to the surge in global coronavirus cases. On Tuesday, federal health officials at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that they are preparing for a “potential pandemic” of the novel coronavirus that first appeared in China late last year.

[..] some have argued that the CDC’s concerns about a likely pandemic have come too late and that action should have been taken much earlier. For instance, in early February, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, had told the New York Times that the novel coronavirus is “very, very transmissible, and it almost certainly is going to be a pandemic,” while former CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden had echoed those concerns at the time, stating that it is “increasingly unlikely that the virus can be contained.” Despite those warnings, among many others, the CDC waited to announce its concerns that the virus could spread throughout the United States. Their Tuesday announcement riled markets, wiping out $1.7 trillion in stock market value in just two days.

[..] In June 2017, the World Bank announced the creation of “specialized bonds” that would be used to fund the previously created Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (PEF) in the event of an officially-recognized (i.e. WHO-recognized) pandemic. They were essentially sold under the premise that those who invested in the bonds would lose their money if any of six deadly pandemics hit, including coronavirus. Yet, if a pandemic did not occur before the bonds mature on July 15, 2020, investors would receive what they had originally paid for the bonds back in addition to interest and premium payments on those bonds that they recieve between the date of purchase and the bond’s maturation date.

The PEF, which these pandemic bonds fund, was created by the World Bank “to channel surge funding to developing countries facing the risk of a pandemic” and the creation of these so-called “pandemic bonds” was intended to transfer pandemic risk in low-income countries to global financial markets. According to a World Bank press release on the launch of the bonds, WHO backed the World Bank’s initiative. However, there is much more to these “pandemic bonds” than meets the eye. For example, PEF has a “unique financing structure [that] combines funding from the bonds issued today with over-the-counter derivatives that transfer pandemic outbreak risk to derivative counterparties.” The World Bank asserted that this structure was used in order “to attract a wider, more diverse set of investors.” Critics, however, have called the unnecessarily convoluted system “World-Bank-enabled looting” …

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“..precedent of a High Court judge who called up Belmarsh prison’s governor on the phone to instruct him to change the prison’s practices towards an inmate..”

Judge Refuses to Intervene In Mistreatment of Assange by Prison Officials (Sp.)

Julian Assange’s lawyers have repeatedly submitted unsuccessful requests to the Judge on his case, over the past few months, for her to intervene over his prison conditions, which have included denying Assange proper access to his case file. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been subjected to “horrendous” treatment at the hands of prison authorities, the Belmarsh Magistrate’s Court (sitting at Woolwich Crown Court) heard on 25 February. The award-winning journalist and publisher was handcuffed 11 times as he was shuttled between the courthouse and the prison (despite the two locations being practically connected to each other), he was also strip-searched twice, and his legal papers were confiscated from him, according to his legal team and fellow WikiLeaks journalists.


Edward Fitzgerald QC, one of Assange’s barristers, pleaded with Judge Vanessa Baraitser to intervene with prison authorities. But she refused to intervene in any way, stressing that she had repeatedly told Assange’s lawyers that as far as she was concerned she had “no jurisdiction over [Assange’s] prison conditions”. Baraitser, who appeared frustrated with the request and points made by Fitzgerald, suggested that “surely this is a matter for the prison governor”. On 13 January 2020 Gareth Pierce, veteran human rights solicitor and part of Assange’s legal team, gave Baratiser precedent of a High Court judge who called up Belmarsh prison’s governor on the phone to instruct him to change the prison’s practices towards an inmate. But Baraitser was only prepared to go as far as to make a generalised statement in court that it would be “helpful” if the prison improved Assange’s access to his lawyers and his case file. Baraitser had also previously refused to intervene on 19 November 2019.

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“Mr Assange, generally defendants do not have a voice.”

Truer words were never spoken about Julian.

Assange Blasts Court For Preventing Communication With “Spied-On” Lawyers, (RT)

On the third day of his extradition hearing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has rebuked the court for preventing him from communicating with his legal team, saying his prosecutors have “100 times more contact hours each day.” Amid a prosecution argument about whether or not he stands charged with “political offenses” Assange stood and told the court that “the problem is I cannot participate, I cannot privately communicate with my lawyers.” Judge Vanessa Baraitser responded to the 48-year-old journalist and publisher by saying she would not allow him to address the court: “Mr Assange, generally defendants do not have a voice.”

The Australian continued to try and get his point across so the magistrate adjourned the court for five minutes while the defense team held a ‘private’ meeting. “The other side must have something like 100 contact hours each day,” Assange said upon the conclusion of the adjournment, before adding that his legal team is being spied on. There is already enough spying on my lawyers as it is. There are a number of unnamed embassy officials here. There are two microphones in here. What’s the point of asking if I can concentrate if I can’t participate? “I am as much a participant in these proceedings as I am at Wimbledon,” Assange wistfully joked while alleging that there was a microphone in the glass defendants dock.

The defense team asked for Assange to be removed from the dock so that he could sit with them; prosecutors reportedly didn’t object but the judge felt the security team might. “It is your call Madam,” the prosecutors said. Defense counsel Edward Fitzgerald argued that Assange is “no threat to anyone,” adding: “He is a gentle man of an intellectual nature. There’s no reason for him not to sit with us.” The judge then asked whether they would like to submit a formal bail application to make that a reality. The defense team will now submit such a formal bail application and a decision will be made on Thursday morning. For the time being, Assange will remain in the dock away from his legal team.

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“..the existence of a treaty is the fundamental basis of the Assange extradition request and that, without a treaty, there would be no such request in the first place. Choosing to ignore the provisions of such a treaty is itself an abuse of process..”

Assange Detention Illegal Under English, European And International Law (RT)

Day three of the Julian Assange extradition hearing is focusing on whether the allegations against Assange amount to “political offenses.” If so, it would likely be outside of the judge’s jurisdiction to approve extradition. Kicking off proceedings at Woolwich Crown Court on Wednesday, defense counsel Edward Fitzgerald argued that 17 of the 18 counts with which the WikiLeaks founder has been charged fall under the US Espionage Act, which makes them political on face value. He added that the 18th count, of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, was in order to carry out the other alleged offenses. Discussing the policy of not extraditing for political offenses, Assange’s lawyer said: “It is an essential fundamental protection, which the US puts in every single one of its extradition treaties.”

Fitzgerald said that political defence from extradition goes back 100 years and is standard in treaties based on the UN model, including the European Union convention on extradition, the Interpol convention and many others. “The more we research this, the more one sees this is a universal norm.” He also noted that while the US adds the ‘political defense’ extradition provision into all of its treaties, authorities there only take issue when it is invoked against them, despite using it to protect US citizens from extradition to hostile nations. WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hrafnsson provided a video update from outside the court, saying that the case should be thrown out. “This is in contravention to all international treaties, to European Convention on Human Rights to UN treaties,” he said.

Fitzgerald cited numerous precedents tying international law and the ECHR with English law in determining the legality of detention, essentially arguing that Assange’s detention is illegal under all three. Furthermore, the initial charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion is illegal under US law, not English law, rendering all subsequent arguments inadmissible. He continued that the right to due process has been a part of English law since the Magna Carta, while also forming a cornerstone of the constitution. Fitzgerald then added that the existence of a treaty is the fundamental basis of the Assange extradition request and that, without a treaty, there would be no such request in the first place. Choosing to ignore the provisions of such a treaty is itself an abuse of process, he added.

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Illegal under American law too.

Prosecution of Julian Assange Violates First Amendment (Napolitano)

“Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech.” — First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution In the oral argument of the famous U.S. Supreme Court cases known collectively as the Pentagon Papers Case, the late Justice William O. Douglas asked a government lawyer if the Department of Justice views the “no law” language in the First Amendment to mean literally no law. The setting was an appeal of the Nixon administration’s temporarily successful efforts to bar The New York Times and The Washington Post from publishing documents stolen from the Department of Defense by Daniel Ellsberg. The documents were a history of the Vietnam War, which revealed that President Lyndon B. Johnson and his secretaries of defense and state and the military’s top brass materially misrepresented the status of the war to the American people.


Stated differently, they regularly, consistently and systematically lied to the public and the news media. Though LBJ was retired, Nixon did not want this unvarnished version of the war he was still fighting to make its way into the public arena. The Nixon DOJ persuaded a federal district court judge to enjoin the publication of the documents because they contained classified materials and they had been stolen. In a landmark decision, the court ruled that all truthful matters material to the public interest that come into the hands of journalists – no matter how they get there – may lawfully be disseminated. That does not absolve the thief – though the case against Ellsberg was dismissed because the FBI committed crimes against him during his prosecution – but it does insulate the publisher absolutely against civil and criminal liability.

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Trump can launch a hundred of these lawsuits against the NYT alone. This is from Reuters, published in the Guardian. All MSM, and all clinging to the “Mueller established so-and-so” narrative. Mueller didn’t establish a thing, other than an all-pervasive bias. All he had left after 3 years was 13 Russians and Assange who could’t speak up for themselves. And there’s still people who say Mueller is not a liar and a coward.

Trump Campaign Sues New York Times For Libel Over Russia Story (R.)

Donald Trump’s re-election campaign said on Wednesday it had filed a libel suit against the New York Times accusing the newspaper of intentionally publishing a false opinion article related to Russian interference in the 2016 US election. In an escalation of the Republican president’s long-running battle with the news media, campaign officials said the lawsuit was being filed in New York state supreme court, the state’s trial-level court. A statement from the campaign said the aim of the litigation was to “hold the news organization accountable for intentionally publishing false statements against President Trump’s campaign”. The lawsuit relates to a 27 March 2019, opinion article written by Max Frankel, who served as executive editor of the Times from 1986 to 1994.

The campaign attached to a news release a draft copy of the suit accusing the newspaper of “extreme bias against (the campaign) and animosity” and cited what it called the Times’ “exuberance to improperly influence the presidential election in November 2020”. Trump is seeking re-election on 3 November. The opinion piece was headlined, “The Real Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo” with a subhead adding, “The campaign and the Kremlin had an overarching deal: help beat Hillary Clinton for a new pro-Russian foreign policy.” Quid pro quo is a Latin term meaning a favor in exchange for a favor. The lawsuit originated with the Trump re-election campaign, but Trump himself has contended the Times has at times been biased against him.

Former special counsel Robert Mueller documented Moscow’s campaign of hacking and social media propaganda to boost Trump’s 2016 candidacy and harm his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. It documented numerous contacts between people associated with Trump’s campaign and Russians. Mueller found insufficient evidence to show a criminal conspiracy between Trump’s team and Russia but did not exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice related to the investigation. In the opinion piece, Frankel stated, “Collusion – or a lack of it – turns out to have been the rhetorical trap that ensnared President Trump’s pursuers.”

Frankel added: “There was no need for detailed electoral collusion between the Trump campaign and Vladimir Putin’s oligarchy because they had an overarching deal: the quid of help in the campaign against Hillary Clinton for the quo of a new pro-Russian foreign policy, starting with relief from the Obama administration’s burdensome economic sanctions. The Trumpites knew about the quid and held out the prospect of the quo.”

Jenna Ellis, senior legal adviser to Donald J Trump for President Inc, said: “Today the President’s re-election campaign filed suit against the New York Times for falsely stating the Campaign had an ‘overarching deal’ with ‘Vladimir Putin’s oligarchy’ to ‘help the campaign against Hillary Clinton’ in exchange for ‘a new pro-Russian foreign policy, starting with relief from … economic sanctions’. “The statements were and are 100% false and defamatory. The complaint alleges the Times was aware of the falsity at the time it published them, but did so for the intentional purpose of hurting the campaign, while misleading its own readers in the process,” Ellis said. In a copy of the lawsuit provided by his re-election team, the campaign stated, “The Times was well aware when it published these statements that they were not true.”

Read more …

 

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Feb 262020
 


‘Daly’ Somewhere in the South, possibly Miami 1941

 

First US Soldier Stationed In South Korea Tests Positive For Coronavirus (CNN)
China Outbreak Could Cause Critical Shortages Of Medical Products In US (CNN)
Larry Kudlow: US Has Contained Coronavirus, Economy Holding Up Nicely (CNBC)
Coronavirus Wipes Out $1.7 Trillion In US Stock Market Value In 2 Days (CNBC)
US Could See A Similar Death Rate To China If The Virus Spreads – Fauci (CNN)
Japan Now Aims to Limit, Not Prevent Virus Deaths (ZH)
UK Schools Close Doors Over Coronavirus Threat As NHS Steps Up Testing (Ind.)
EU Keeps Borders Open As Virus Spreads Across Continent (RT)
How The British Invented The Syrian “Opposition” (MEE)
Assange Tried To Call White House, Hillary Over Data Dump – Lawyer (R.)
Julian Assange Handcuffed 11 Times And Stripped Naked After 1st Court Day (G.)
US Mulled ‘Kidnapping, Poisoning, Killing’ Assange – Lawyer (RT)
Acting DNI Chief Grenell ‘Was Taking Orders’ From Trump On Assange Arrest (RT)
Thread For Day 2 Of Julian Assange’s Week-Long Extradition Hearing (Gosztola)
Trump’s Betrayal of Julian Assange (Ron Paul)

 

 

Cases 81,229 (+ 901 from yesterday’s 80,328).

Deaths 2,769 (+ 62 from yesterday’s 2,707)

 

• China has fewer deaths today, but many more new cases, + 901 from yesterday’s +621

• Japan gives up on defeating virus., moves to mitigation, With “only” 171 cases and one death.
– That does not include the Diamond Princess’s 691 cases and four deaths.
– Tokyo Olympics still supposedly on

• First US soldier stationed In South Korea tests positive, 18 South Korean soldiers infected

• One week ago 51 people were reported infected in South Korea. Today, there are 1,146. 169 new cases today.

• Italy 322 cases, 11 deaths. The new infections include three in southern Sicily, 1,200km from Milan
– one of the victims is just 4 years old

• EU borders stay open despite Italy cluster(s)

• Spain has 7 confirmed cases

• Taiwan 32 cases

• Thailand 40 cases

• Neighboring countries try to close borders with Iran

• Brazil reports first case in South America

• Large international gatherings in Vatican for Ash Wednesday

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer (Note: mortality rate is down to 8%)

 

 

 

 

This is the military. They live in barracks. All you need to know.18 South Korean soldiers infected

First US Soldier Stationed In South Korea Tests Positive For Coronavirus (CNN)

Public health officials warned Wednesday that the spread of the novel coronavirus is inching closer toward meeting the definition of a global pandemic, as the number of cases outside mainland China continues to grow, including in South Korea where a US soldier has tested positive for the virus. [..] a top official from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that the United States could see the virus spread within its borders. “Ultimately we expect we will see community spread in this country. It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

South Korean authorities are attempting to contain an outbreak that has gone from just 51 people infected last week to at least 1,146 as of Wednesday. The outbreak began in the southern city of Daegu and was centered around the Shincheonji religious group, but the virus appears to have spread now beyond practitioners. Eighteen South Korean soldiers have been confirmed infected, and the country’s defense ministry has placed significant restrictions on soldiers leaving their bases due to fears surrounding the virus. On Wednesday, it was announced that a US service member stationed in South Korea tested positive for the virus, according to US Forces Korea statement.

The soldier, who is stationed at Camp Carroll which is approximately 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) from the city of Daegu, is the first US service member to test positive for the novel coronavirus. “The patient, a 23-year old male, is currently in self quarantine at his off-base residence. He visited Camp Walker on 24 February and Camp Carroll 21-25 February. KCDC and USFK health professionals are actively conducting contact tracing to determine whether any others may have been exposed,” the statement said. The virus’ spread also prompted South Korea and the United States to scale back joint military drills, according to three US officials.

The three officials said this would be the first major impact of coronavirus on US military readiness, according to the officials. Without the full exercise, the US could lose ground in being able to quickly conduct future operations in a coordinated and highly synchronized manner with South Korea against North Korea in the event of a crisis, one of the officials said.

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Pretty much a sure thing by now. Question is how bad it will get.

China Outbreak Could Cause Critical Shortages Of Medical Products In US (CNN)

No drug manufacturers have reported that they anticipate shortages of particular drugs due to the novel coronavirus, according to the US Food and Drug Administration, but the agency and experts in the pharmaceutical industry are paying close attention to the potential challenges the virus might pose. “FDA is keenly aware that the outbreak will likely affect the medical product supply chain, including potential disruptions to suppliers [and] shortages of critical medical products in the US,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn told reporters Tuesday. The US relies heavily on Chinese-made medical devices, drug ingredients and drugs for humans and animals, and, with heavy Chinese investment in the industry in recent years, its share of the global market has steadily grown.


As of 2018, China ranked second among countries that exported drugs and biologics to the United States, and first for medical devices, according to the FDA. The FDA said Monday it has been in touch with 180 drug manufacturers to remind them of their regulatory obligation to notify the FDA if they do anticipate any disruption in drugs supplies. The agency asked companies to evaluate their supply chain in light of the coronavirus outbreak and what potential challenge the virus may pose to the global drug supply, the agency said. The FDA said it has identified about 20 drugs that either solely source their active pharmaceutical ingredients or produce finished drug products from or in China.

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Oh Larry, why say such things when you don’t have to?

Larry Kudlow: US Has Contained Coronavirus, Economy Holding Up Nicely (CNBC)

National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow tried on Tuesday to assuage concerns over the cornavirus and its impact on the U.S. economy. “We have contained this. I won’t say [it’s] airtight, but it’s pretty close to airtight,” Kudlow told CNBC’s Kelly Evans on “The Exchange.” He added that, while the outbreak is a “human tragedy,” it will likely not be an “economic tragedy.” “There will be some stumbles. We’re looking at numbers; it’s a little iffy,” Kudlow said. “But at the moment … there’s no supply disruptions out there yet.” Kudlow’s comments came as the stock market tanked for a second straight day amid worries that the coronavirus outbreak would lead to a prolonged global economic slowdown.


The Dow Jones Industrial Average was more than 700 points lower Tuesday, down 2.7%. On Monday, the 30-stock average had its worst day in two years, dropping more than 1,000 points. Investors dumped equities in favor of U.S. Treasurys, which are traditionally seen as a safe haven during volatile stretches for the stock market. The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield dropped to 1.32% to reach an all-time low. The 30-year also traded at a record low. Yields move inversely to prices. Still, Kudlow said the U.S. is “holding up nicely,” adding, “All I can do is look at the numbers.”

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European markets are falling again today. US futures down as well.

Coronavirus Wipes Out $1.7 Trillion In US Stock Market Value In 2 Days (CNBC)

The S&P 500 just wiped out about $1.737 trillion of its value during its two-day market sell-off, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices. The equity benchmark lost $810 billion in value on Tuesday, adding to its $927 billion loss on Monday, according to the firm s Senior Index Analyst Howard Silverblatt. It s down $2.138 trillion since last Wednesday s high, according to S&P Dow Jones. Stocks cratered again on Tuesday as investors fled riskier assets amid intense fears about a slowdown in global growth caused by the deadly coronavirus. The S&P 5002 s two-day loss of 6.3% was the largest for the benchmark since August 2015, when the Chinese government devalued the yuan amid the U.S.-China trade war. Tuesday’s 900 point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average added to Monday’s stunning 1,000 point plunge.


The Nasdaq Composite fell 2.8% on Tuesday and joined the S&P 500 and Dow in turning negative for the year. Bond yields also plunged as investor sought safer havens. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell to a record low of 1.32%. The spreading deadly virus, that has infected more than 80,000 and killed more than 2,700, has sent shock waves through the markets. Companies like Apple, Nike, United Airlines and Mastercard have all raised flags about the coronavirus and its impact on their earnings. Chip stocks, which rely heavily on revenues from China, are being abandoned by Wall Street as it becomes more apparent supply chain disruption will persist until the epidemic is contained.

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Anthony Fauci is director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Wonder if he means the real or the “official” rate.

US Could See A Similar Death Rate To China If The Virus Spreads – Fauci (CNN)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN the US needed more resources to fight the coronavirus outbreak, which has infected 53 people in the US. “We’ve had a pandemic preparedness plan that we really developed in preparation for pandemic influenza, that we can extrapolate to this. We certainly need more resources, and that’s what you heard today with the supplemental request. Because we can only go a certain way with the resources we have,” Fauci said.


Death rate: Fauci added that the fatality rate of the outbreak could reach the same levels in the US as in China because there is no vaccine or cure available. “I mean, the people who are dying who require intensive care, for example in an intensive care unit – maybe even intubation for respiratory assistance in breathing – the Chinese have that. They have a pretty good system, and yet you’re still seeing the 2% mortality. So it isn’t a question of, ‘they don’t have as good care as we have.’ So if, in fact, we do get a pandemic that does impact us in this country, I think you’re going to see comparable types of morbidity and mortality,” he said.

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I think this is a milestone. Japan admits they can’t handle it. With just 171 cases and one death. That, admittedly, does not include the Diamond Princess’s 691 cases and four deaths.

Japan Now Aims to Limit, Not Prevent Virus Deaths (ZH)

Overwhelmed by a flurry of ‘unsolved’ cases (that is, cases with no obvious connection to the outbreak in China, or anywhere else), Japanese health authorities announced on Tuesday a new plan intended to focus the country’s precious medical resources on the most serious cases, while advising those with mild symptoms to treat themselves at home. The approach differs markedly from the heavy handed tactics employed by Beijing, which at its peak had 760 million – roughly half the country – under some form of lockdown restriction. According to the Washington Post, the “basic premise” of the Japanese plan is that the virus can’t be stopped. That’s right: The Japanese are essentially acknowledging that the thesis proposed by Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch – ie that 70% of the world’s population might someday contract the virus – has at least some legitimacy.


Japan has at least 160 confirmed cases of the virus outside the ~700 people who caught it aboard the ‘Diamond Princess’. Japanese health officials claim that a large-scale outbreak hasn’t taken hold; rather, small clusters of the disease have broken out around the country. One senior advisor who spoke with WaPo put it the starkest of terms: We can’t stop it, so the best we can do is keep the body count as low as possible. “We shouldn’t have illusions,” said Shigeru Omi, a senior government adviser. “We can’t stop this, but we can try to reduce the speed of expansion and reduce mortality.” In keeping with this maxim, hospital space will be reserved for patients with the most serious symptoms, while those with simple colds and fevers have been asked to rest at home. They’re only to contact health authorities if a fever persists for four days. Or two for the elderly, people with chronic diseases or pregnant women .

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In certain areas.

UK Schools Close Doors Over Coronavirus Threat As NHS Steps Up Testing (Ind.)

Schools across the UK have closed their doors to students at risk of coronavirus while all patients are to be routinely tested for the disease in a dramatic escalation of screening by health officials Cransley School in Cheshire and Trinity Catholic College in Teeside have both closed while Brine Leas School in Cheshire has shut its sixth form unit after pupils and staff returned from a ski trip in the Lombardy region of Italy, which has been badly hit by coronavirus. Elsewhere at least 10 schools in Cornwall, Yorkshire, Pembrokeshire, Guernsey, Co Antrim, Co Derry and Co Down have sent pupils home to self-quarantine after returning from similar trips.

It comes as England’s top doctor warned the UK could be forced to quarantine families and reduce transport if the virus becomes a global pandemic. NHS bosses have also expressed concerns about the impact any surge in cases could have on an already under pressure health system. Public Health England said flu patients in intensive care units and respiratory wards at eight NHS hospitals would be tested for coronavirus as well as at 100 primary care centre such as GP surgeries. Up to now tests have only been carried out on those suspected of being infected but this new regime is designed to identify whether the virus, which originated in China, is spreading throughout the country without being detected.

PHE said it did not believe this was currently happening but widening the testing would allow it to spot any circulation and act immediately to prevent it spreading further. Medical director Professor Yvonne Doyle said this was about taking a “belt-and-braces approach”, adding: “There is no change in risk for the public but taking this preparatory step now will enable us to better detect and contain the spread of the virus.”

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To keep the EU idea alive. And the economy.

EU Keeps Borders Open As Virus Spreads Across Continent (RT)

Italy’s health minister has said that neighboring countries will not close their borders, amid an outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 coronavirus. It comes as Rome confirmed 11 people dead in the epidemic, with hundreds infected. “We agreed to keep borders open, closing borders would be a disproportionate and ineffective measure at this time,” Health Minister Roberto Speranza told reporters in Rome on Tuesday. Four more people infected with the deadly virus died in northern Italy on Tuesday, bringing the death toll in the Mediterranean country to 11. Three of the dead were in their eighties and came from Lombardy, the worst affected region of Italy, Civil Protection agency chief Angelo Borrelli told reporters. The fourth was from the Veneto region.

Alongside the three fatalities, Italian authorities confirmed more than 90 new cases of the illness on Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases in Italy to 322. Nearly a dozen towns have been quarantined across the northern Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto, and supplies across the north have run low. Public events have been cancelled, and panicked shoppers have stripped supermarket shelves of provisions. Though Speranza insisted that Italy’s international borders will remain open, the disease has already begun to spread into mainland Europe. A hotel in Spain’s Canary Islands remains locked down after a guest and his wife were found to be infected, and mainland Spain reported its first case – an Italian woman living in Barcelona – on Tuesday.

Since then, another two people have been diagnosed with the virus in mainland Spain – a man from the city of Villarreal in the east of the country and a 24-year-old man in Madrid who travelled to Italy. This brings the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Spain to 7. Before that, a German tourist and a British man tested positive for the virus on the Canary Islands and in Mallorca, respectively, but both have since been discharged from hospital.

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What Putin is up against.

How The British Invented The Syrian “Opposition” (MEE)

The British government covertly established a network of citizen journalists across Syria during the early years of the country’s civil war in an attempt to shape perceptions of the conflict, frequently recruiting people who were unaware that they were being directed from London. A number of leaked documents seen by Middle East Eye show how the propaganda initiative began in 2012 and gathered pace the following year, shortly after the UK parliament refused to authorise British military action in Syria. Drawing upon British, American and Canadian funding, UK government contractors set up offices in Istanbul and Amman, where they hired members of the Syrian diaspora, who in turn recruited citizen journalists inside Syria.

These journalists, many of them young, were commissioned to produce TV footage, radio programmes, social media, posters, magazines and even children’s comics. While many Syrians turned spontaneously to media activism from the start of the war, the documents describe the way in which the British government sought to guide some of their output, seeing citizen journalism as a way of covertly influencing Syrian audiences. The papers also make clear that those people who were recruited were often unaware that they were part of a British propaganda initiative.

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The Guardian denies everything. It even claims: “The Guardian has made clear it is opposed to the extradition of Julian Assange.” The paper that published a fully fake piece on Manafort repeatedly visiting Assange, without ever retracting it. Their people knew exactly what they did, and forced Assange into late night redacting of names. Now HE stabns accused of what THEY did.

Assange Tried To Call White House, Hillary Over Data Dump – Lawyer (R.)

Julian Assange tried to contact Hillary Clinton and the White House when he realised that unredacted U.S. diplomatic cables given to WikiLeaks were about to be dumped on the internet, his lawyer told his London extradition hearing on Tuesday. On Monday, the lawyer representing the United States told the hearing that Assange, 48, was wanted for crimes that had endangered people in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan who had helped the West, some of whom later disappeared. U.S. authorities say his actions in recklessly publishing unredacted classified diplomatic cables put informants, dissidents, journalists and human rights activists at risk of torture, abuse or death.

Outlining part of his defence, Assange’s lawyer Mark Summers said allegations that he had helped Manning to break a government password, had encouraged the theft of secret data and knowingly put lives in danger were “lies, lies and more lies”. He told London’s Woolwich Crown Court that WikiLeaks had received documents from Manning in April 2010. He then made a deal with a number of newspapers, including the New York Times, Britain’s Guardian and Germany’s Der Spiegel, to begin releasing redacted parts of the 250,000 cables in November that year. A witness from Der Spiegel said the U.S. State Department had been involved in suggesting redactions in conference calls, Summers said.

However, a password that allowed access to the full unredacted material was published in a book by Guardian reporters about WikiLeaks in February 2011. In August, another German newspaper reported it had discovered the password and it had access to the archive. A spokesman for The Guardian said the authors were told the password was temporary and the book contained no details about the whereabouts of the files. Summers said Assange attempted to warn the U.S. government, calling the White House and attempting to speak to then- Secretary of State Clinton, saying “unless we do something, people’s lives are put at risk”. Summers said the State Department had responded by suggesting that Assange call back “in a couple of hours”.

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Beyond shame.

Julian Assange Handcuffed 11 Times And Stripped Naked After 1st Court Day (G.)

Julian Assange was handcuffed 11 times, stripped naked twice and had his case files confiscated after the first day of his extradition hearing, according to his lawyers, who complained of interference in his ability to take part. Their appeal to the judge overseeing the trial at Woolwich crown court in south-east London was also supported by legal counsel for the US government, who said it was essential the WikiLeaks founder be given a fair trial. Edward Fitzgerald QC, acting for Assange, said the case files, which the prisoner was reading in court on Monday, were confiscated by guards when he returned to prison later that night and that he was put in five cells.


The judge, Vanessa Baraitser, replied that she did not have the legal power to comment or rule on Assange’s conditions but encouraged the defence team to formally raise the matter with the prison. The details emerged on the second day of Assange’s extradition hearing, during which his legal team denied that he had “knowingly placed lives at risk” by publishing unredacted US government files. The court was told Wikileaks had entered into a collaboration with the Guardian, El País, the New York Times and other media outlets to make redactions to 250,000 leaked cables secret cables in 2010 and publish them. Mark Summers, QC, claimed the unredacted files had been published because a password to this material had appeared in a Guardian book on the affair. “The gates got opened not by Assange or WikiLeaks but by another member of tha partnership,” he said.

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Make it look like an accident.

US Mulled ‘Kidnapping, Poisoning, Killing’ Assange – Lawyer (RT)

The US government plotted to kidnap or kill Julian Assange while he was holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, a UK court was told yesterday during the WikiLeaks publisher’s extradition hearing. Assange’s lawyer Edward Fitzgerald told Judge Vanessa Baraitser that the US wanted to make the WikiLeaks founder’s death look like an accident and that US intelligence agencies worked with Spanish company UC Global to extensively spy on Assange inside the embassy. Fitzgerald claimed that recordings were collected every 14 days and handed over to US intelligence services. The surveillance even included footage of Assange meeting with his legal team, breaching attorney-client privilege, he said.

“There were conversations about whether there should be more extreme measures contemplated, such as kidnapping or poisoning Assange in the embassy,” Fitzgerald told the court. Assange’s lawyers have long-warned that kidnapping or extraordinary rendition could be on the table for Washington if the US could not get to him any other way. The source of the claim heard in court on Monday is a whistleblower known only as ‘witness two’, responsible for exposing UC Global owner David Morales and his role in the surveillance operation for “the dark side” — meaning the US government. The witness described the Americans as “desperate.”

One suggestion was that the embassy door could be left open, which could make a kidnapping look like an “accident.” There wasn’t as much information given about the poisoning claim. This was not the first time claims had been made that the US considered such extreme measures for dealing with Assange. In a 2019 presentation on the technical aspects of the surveillance operation, German hacker Andy Muller-Maguhn, who had visited Assange inside the embassy, claimed that kidnapping and poisoning were options for the US government and that all doors and windows in the embassy were documented so various options could be explored. The surveillance was so intense that bugs were even implanted in a fire extinguisher and in a bathroom that Assange used, he said.

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Cassandra to the rescue.

Acting DNI Chief Grenell ‘Was Taking Orders’ From Trump On Assange Arrest (RT)

A GOP operative, known as the Trump family ‘fixer,’ appears to have admitted in a recorded call that the new US spy chief acted on the president’s orders when he allegedly secured the arrest of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange. The contents of the call between GOP operative Arthur Schwartz and journalist Cassandra Fairbanks – which could turn Julian Assange’s UK extradition trial upside down – were reported on Tuesday by several US media outlets citing nonprofit transparency group Property of the People. The recording itself was later released by Fairbanks on Twitter. In the call, dated September 2019, Schwartz pleads with Fairbanks to delete a September 10 tweet in which she says that Richard Grenell, then a controversial US envoy to Germany, “was the one who worked out the deal for Julian Assange’s arrest.”

Initially, Fairbanks refused to budge, arguing that her tweet was based on an ABC News report from last April alleging that Grenell was instrumental in persuading Ecuador to let British police into its London embassy, where Assange spent some seven years under political asylum. The report suggested that Grenell promised Quito that the US would not pursue the death penalty for the self-exiled publisher if it gave the go-ahead for the raid. Schwartz, however, insisted that Fairbanks must scrub the tweet, accusing her of publishing “classified information.” Schwartz, however, insisted that Fairbanks must scrub the tweet, accusing her of publishing “classified information.” Sounding increasingly frustrated with Fairbank’s unwillingness to pull the post, the Trump fixer says he could go to jail over the information he had apparently shared with her.

“Rick’s role is classified… You can’t do that… you are posting things that are classified, that no one knows, that has not been reported… I know what’s been reported, I see what you’re tweeting, what you’re tweeting is not what was reported. Someone’s going to go to jail. You need to stop this.” Fairbanks then reminded him that it is Assange who was imprisoned due to his work to expose US war crimes, but Schwartz only doubled down on his request. At the same time, Schwartz appears to confirm that Trump himself had pulled strings behind the covert diplomatic op to nab Assange, reportedly orchestrated by Grenell. “Please. I’m begging you… They look at you, they see that we speak, that’s bad. He’s [Grenell] is taking orders from the president. OK? So you’re going to punish me because he took orders from the president? I’m begging you, I’m begging you, please.”

https://twitter.com/CassandraRules/status/1232466714098466816

A source privy to the Assange defense team’s strategy told Politico the call would be only “one piece of the argument,” part of a larger trove of evidence to be unveiled in court on Wednesday. The materials are intended to prove that the request for the publisher’s extradition was based on a desire for vengeance, rather than on any legal basis. Schwartz himself attempted to dismiss the bombshell as a nothingburger, telling the outlet that he “highly doubts” he would have told the journalist anything of substance, describing her as “not someone that I trust.”

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Thread of Kevin Gosztola tweets from the courtroom.

Thread For Day 2 Of Julian Assange’s Week-Long Extradition Hearing (Gosztola)

Defense raises issue of alleged mistreatment of Assange. He was handcuffed 11 times, strip searched multiple times, and moved between cells yesterday. Judge is, once again, insisting no authority to do anything about it. “Powers are very limited in this respect.” Prosecutor won’t speak into the microphone. Keeps it off to the side, and we in the press annex cannot hear a word. #Assange Defense is going over what they claim are examples of Zakrzewski abuse, which means offenses in extradition request are false or outlined inaccurately as proffered by the prosecution #Assange Defense: “False allegation” “Provably wrong.”


That Assange enabled Manning to log on to secret network with databases of information known as SIPRnet Defense also says it is “provably false” that “Assange knowingly put people’s lives at risk.” He mentions this is what US argues to get around First Amendment issues implicated in “pure publication counts.” Defense: “The case has lies, lies, and more lies.” #Assange Defense refers to Chelsea Manning’s plea statement. This is the key statement she made about her disclosures, which prosecutors desperately want to undermine. This is part of why she was subpoenaed to appear before grand jury and is still in jail. #Assange

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No kidding: “The deep state Trump is serving by persecuting Assange is the same deep state that continues to plot Trump’s own ouster.”

Trump’s Betrayal of Julian Assange (Ron Paul)

Donald Trump upset the Washington apple cart as presidential candidate and in so doing he set elements of the deep state in motion against him. One of the things candidate Donald Trump did to paint a deep state target on his back was his repeated praise of Wikileaks, the pro-transparency media organization headed up by Australian journalist Julian Assange. More than 100 times candidate Trump said “I love Wikileaks” on the campaign trail. Trump loved it when Wikileaks exposed the criminality of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party, as it cheated to deprive Bernie Sanders of the Democratic Party nomination. Wikileaks’ release of the DNC emails exposed the deep corruption at the heart of US politics, and as a candidate Trump loved the transparency. Then Trump got elected.

The real tragedy of the Trump presidency is nowhere better demonstrated than in Trump’s 180 degree turn away from Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange. “I know nothing about Wikileaks,” he said as president. “It’s really not my thing.” US pressure and bribes to the Ecuadorian government ended Assange’s asylum and his seven years in a room at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. After his dramatic arrest by London’s Metropolitan Police last April, he has been effectively tortured in British jails at the behest of the US deep state. Today, Monday the 24th of February, Assange faces an extradition hearing in a UK courthouse. The Trump Administration – led by a man who praised Assange’s work – seeks a show trial of Assange worthy of the worst of the Soviet era. The US is seeking a 175 year prison sentence.

The Trump Administration argues that the Australian Assange should be tried and convicted of espionage against a country of which he is not a citizen. At the same time the Trump Administration argues that the First Amendment does not apply to Assange because he is not an American citizen! So Assange is subject to US law when it comes to publishing information embarrassing to the US deep state but he is not subject to the law of the land – the US Constitution – which protects all journalists and is the backbone of our system of government. It is ironic that a President Trump who has been victim of so much deep state meddling has done the deep state’s bidding when it comes to Assange and Wikileaks.

President Trump should preempt the inevitable US show trial of Assange by granting the journalist blanket pardon under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The deep state Trump is serving by persecuting Assange is the same deep state that continues to plot Trump’s own ouster. Free Assange!

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20 years of Pluto:

 

 

 

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

 

Feb 252020
 


Andreas Feininger Production B-17 heavy bomber at Boeing plant, Seattle Dec 1942

 

The Fall of Wuhan (Ben Hunt)
40-70% Of People Will Be Infected With COVID19 – Epidemiologist (Atl.)
Xi Jinping Rings Alarm On Economy As China Shifts Priority To Growth (SCMP)
Confusion In Wuhan As Move To Ease Coronavirus Lockdown Is Reversed (SCMP)
How Iran’s Death Toll Came To Be The Highest Behind Only China (SCMP)
China Overestimating Economic Recovery By Leaving Out Small Businesses (SCMP)
South Korea To Test 200,000 Sect Members As Pandemic Fears Hit Markets (G.)
Virus Spreads Despite Best Efforts Of Top Healthcare Systems (Fox)
Closures Reveal Vast Scale Of China’s Secretive Wildlife Farm Industry (G.)
Why Didn’t We See That Coming? (Kunstler)
Airline Stocks Tumble As Coronavirus Spreads Outside Of China (CNBC)
Weinstein To Face 8 More Allegations After New York Verdict (G.)
US Proposals To Whitewash Idlib Terrorists Unacceptable – Lavrov (RT)
Julian Assange ‘Suicide Risk’ If Extradited From UK To US – Lawyer (SCMP)
Assange Fight Draws In Trump’s New Intel Chief (Pol.)
Julian Assange ‘At High Risk Of Suicide’ If Extradited To US -Lawyer (Ind.)

 

 

Now that the MSM is slowly and finally waking up to the reality of the virus, the information to read and post and comment on, becomes overwhelming. Last week I twice took out the virus-related info to include in separate articles (Virus Rattles if you will), but today I need the extra time doing that involves, for other things.

Still, one observation: yesterday, we saw the highest daily death toll of the entire crisis. Today, we see the lowest. As Xi is pushing hard for the economy. Credibility remains a major issue.

 

Cases 80,328 (+ 621 from yesterday’s 79,707).

Deaths 2,707 (+ 81 from yesterday’s 2,626)

 

From SCMP:

 

 

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

Ben Hunt keeps his eyes on the ball:

“..build dedicated treatment wards before they’re required..”

“..protect healthcare professionals before they get sick..”

“..update our testing and diagnostic capabilities before they are swamped..”

“..bolster our healthcare systems BEFORE the need overwhelms the capacity..”

The Fall of Wuhan (Ben Hunt)

Last week I wrote about the corrupt political response of the World Health Organization to COVID-19. This week I’m writing about the corrupt political response of the United States to COVID-19. Because it’s happened before. In August 2005, the city of New Orleans fell. New Orleans did not fall because of Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans fell because of the corrupt political response to Hurricane Katrina. “We can stabilize the situation. Again, I want to thank you all. Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job!” – President George W. Bush. In January 2020, the city of Wuhan fell. Wuhan did not fall because of COVID-19. Wuhan fell because of the corrupt political response to COVID-19.

“Wuhan is a heroic city, and people of Hubei and Wuhan are heroic people who have never been crushed by any difficulty and danger in history. All regions and departments performed their duties actively and conscientiously.” – Xi the Commander (no, I am not making this up; this is how the Xinhua news service describes him now … “Xi the Commander”) A corrupt political response is always the same. It never changes in form. It never changes in function. A corrupt political response occurs when a political leader sacrifices national interest for regime or bureaucratic interest … when a constructed narrative of “Yay, Calm and Competent Control!” is maintained for the political benefit of the Leader at the expense of the Led.

Oh, the Leader and his flunkies will convince themselves that the narrative “is in the public interest” … that the narrative will “buy them time” … that the narrative is necessary because “the other side” would do the same or worse if given half a chance. It’s all the excuses that all the Renfields to all the professional politicians tell themselves as they slowly sell their souls. It’s what every President and every Director-General and every Senator and every CEO eventually comes to believe, that their personal interests are identical to “their” people’s interests.

[..] Every once in a very great while, an honest-to-god crisis reveals the political self-interest and mendacity behind your carefully constructed narrative of “Yay, Calm and Competent Control!” . Like the fall of New Orleans revealed George W. Bush. Like the fall of Wuhan revealed Xi Jinping. What we must prevent today is the NEXT city to fall. We must prevent the fall of Daegu. We must prevent the fall of Qom. We must prevent the fall of Milan. Looking ahead, we must prevent the fall of Yokohama. We must prevent the fall of San Francisco. Because containment has failed. What we’re seeing in South Korea, Iran and Italy is what exponential disease propagation looks like in the real world. Real world data is spiky. Real world data is messy. Real world exponential growth looks like nothing, nothing, nothing … then cluster, cluster, cluster … then BOOM!

[..] Containment has failed. And so now we must fight. As individuals that means social distancing. As individuals that means doing what we can to stay healthy and prepare for a storm. As a nation that means a war-footing to build dedicated treatment wards before they’re required, to protect healthcare professionals before they get sick, to update our testing and diagnostic capabilities before they are swamped … to do everything possible to bolster our healthcare systems BEFORE the need overwhelms the capacity. Above all, that means calling out our leaders for their corrupt political responses to date, and forcing them through our outcry to adopt an effective virus-fighting policy for OUR benefit, not theirs. We got this.

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2nd-3rd scientist saying this. By then mortality rate will likely be 1% or so. But 1% of a huge number is a huge number in itself.

40-70% Of People Will Be Infected With COVID19 – Epidemiologist (Atl.)

The Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch is exacting in his diction, even for an epidemiologist. Twice in our conversation he started to say something, then paused and said, “Actually, let me start again.” So it’s striking when one of the points he wanted to get exactly right was this: “I think the likely outcome is that it will ultimately not be containable.” [..] Lipsitch predicts that, within the coming year, some 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. But, he clarifies emphatically, this does not mean that all will have severe illnesses. “It’s likely that many will have mild disease, or may be asymptomatic,” he said. As with influenza, which is often life-threatening to people with chronic health conditions and of older age, most cases pass without medical care. (Overall, around 14 percent of people with influenza have no symptoms.)

Lipsitch is far from alone in his belief that this virus will continue to spread widely. The emerging consensus among epidemiologists is that the most likely outcome of this outbreak is a new seasonal disease—a fifth “endemic” coronavirus. With the other four, people are not known to develop long-lasting immunity. If this one follows suit, and if the disease continues to be as severe as it is now, “cold and flu season” could become “cold and flu and COVID-19 season.” At this point, it is not even known how many people are infected. As of Sunday, there have been 35 confirmed cases in the U.S., according to the World Health Organization. But Lipsitch’s “very, very rough” estimate when we spoke a week ago (banking on “multiple assumptions piled on top of each other,” he said) was that 100 or 200 people in the U.S. were infected.

That’s all it would take to seed the disease widely. The rate of spread would depend on how contagious the disease is in milder cases. On Friday, Chinese scientists reported in the medical journal JAMA an apparent case of asymptomatic spread of the virus, from a patient with a normal chest CT scan. The researchers concluded with stolid understatement that if this finding is not a bizarre abnormality, “the prevention of COVID-19 infection would prove challenging.” Even if Lipsitch’s estimates were off by orders of magnitude, they wouldn’t likely change the overall prognosis. “Two hundred cases of a flu-like illness during flu season—when you’re not testing for it—is very hard to detect,” Lipsitch said. “But it would be really good to know sooner rather than later whether that’s correct, or whether we’ve miscalculated something.

The only way to do that is by testing.” Originally, doctors in the U.S. were advised not to test people unless they had been to China or had contact with someone who had been diagnosed with the disease. Within the past two weeks, the CDC said it would start screening people in five U.S. cities, in an effort to give some idea of how many cases are actually out there. But tests are still not widely available. As of Friday, the Association of Public Health Laboratories said that only California, Nebraska, and Illinois had the capacity to test people for the virus.

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The sleight of hand used to argue for factories restarting: “Xi said that as many as 1,396 counties and districts, some 46% of the nation’s total, had not reported a single confirmed case of the coronavirus.”

Xi Jinping Rings Alarm On Economy As China Shifts Priority To Growth (SCMP)

President Xi Jinping has rung the alarm bell on China’s economic growth as worries mount over the coronavirus’ impact on the economy, unemployment and global supply chains. Speaking on Sunday, Xi made it clear that the priority for most of the country was to get the world’s second biggest economy up and running after extensive delays. “It is unavoidable that the novel coronavirus epidemic will have a considerable impact on the economy and society,” said Xi in a lengthy televised address that was watched by as many as 170,000 officials and published by state news agency Xinhua. But Xi, China’s most powerful leader in decades, added the country’s social and economic system “can’t be paused for a long”.


The edited version of Xi’s speech was published soon after it was delivered, reflecting the urgency of the guidelines. Containment measures including mandatory quarantine for workers, partial shutdowns of factories and transport restrictions have caused significant disruptions to the economy, which was already growing at record low levels before the virus outbreak. Xi said that as many as 1,396 counties and districts, some 46 per cent of the nation’s total, had not reported a single confirmed case of the coronavirus. These low-risk zones, along with areas with only a small number of infections, should “comprehensively restore production” and life as usual, he said. “Medium-risk” regions should resume production in an “orderly manner”, while the priority for hard-hit areas like Hubei, the province at the centre of the outbreak, was still containing the virus, he said.

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Comments about Wuhan from the video:

• 40 portable incinerators X 30 corpses/incinerator/day = 1,200 corpses/day
• 100 additional portable incinerators ordered
• In addition to 47 crematories running in full capacity
• Another 1MM incinerators on the way!

And people tell me I’m exaggerating!

Confusion In Wuhan As Move To Ease Coronavirus Lockdown Is Reversed (SCMP)

Just three hours after announcing that visitors trapped in Wuhan – the Chinese city at the heart of the coronavirus epidemic – could leave on Monday, authorities reversed the decision, saying it had been made without approval. The local government revoked the notice it said had been issued by a subordinate working group from the city’s disease control command centre without approval from their superiors. “The centre, headed by Wuhan mayor Zhou Xianwang, said the officials who had issued the order without authorisation had been reprimanded. “Wuhan resolutely adheres to the spirit of Chinese President Xi [Jinping] … strictly controls every exit from Wuhan and the management of personnel, in order to prevent the spread of the [coronavirus],” it said in a statement retracting the earlier notice.

Extreme lockdown measures have been in place in Wuhan – capital of Hubei and home to 11 million people – since January 23, with all residential areas quarantined and roads and transport links closed. The retracted order would have allowed non-residents who did not have symptoms of the virus and had not had contact with infected patients to leave the city. It had also said locals involved in disease control efforts or essential daily services such as utilities and the delivery of necessities, as well as those who needed specialist medical treatment outside Wuhan, could leave without permission.

[..] More than 75 per cent of deaths in China from the new coronavirus – which causes a disease known as Covid-19 – have been in Wuhan, where the outbreak is believed to have originated in December. [..] According to Taoran Notes, a social media account affiliated with the official Economic Daily newspaper, the earlier notice had been issued by one of Wuhan’s five deputy mayors without authorisation, but it did not name the official.

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600 “official” cases, 50 deaths. That rhymes with Worldometer’s 9% mortality rate. But sure, it could also mean a huge amount of undetected or unconfirmed cases.

How Iran’s Death Toll Came To Be The Highest Behind Only China (SCMP)

Iran has been thrust to the forefront of rising global concern about the spread of the novel coronavirus after reporting by far the most deaths of any country apart from China. Iranian health officials have confirmed 12 deaths from the Covid-19 disease among 61 cases in the country, while a parliamentarian representing the city at the centre of the outbreak in the country has claimed the death toll stands at 50. Either figure would dwarf death tolls in South Korea, Japan and Italy, until now the most severely-affected countries outside China…

After insisting as recently as last week that the country had no cases of the coronavirus, Iranian authorities on February 19 confirmed the deaths of two elderly people in the city of Qom, about 145km south of the capital Tehran, followed by more fatalities in subsequent days. On February 24, officials raised the death toll to 12, from eight the previous day – making the outbreak in Iran the deadliest outside China. Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani, a lawmaker for the city of Qom, said on the same day there had been in fact 50 deaths, claiming the government was late to announce the outbreak and his city was ill-equipped to deal with the public health emergency.

Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi disputed those claims in a press conference on state television, pledging to resign if the death toll was even one-quarter of the higher figure. [..] After officials earlier speculated about possible sources of the outbreak including Chinese workers and pilgrims from Pakistan, Iran’s health minister Saeed Namaki on Sunday said the contagion was believed to be linked to a merchant from Qom who regularly travelled between Iran and China. The Iranian, who died from the virus, had been using indirect flights to get around a ban on direct flights between the countries introduced at the end of January.

[..] The disproportionately high fatality rate in Iran’s official figures – with about one in five of those infected succumbing to the virus, compared to one in 50 in China – has been taken by some experts as a sign the true number of cases in the country is far higher than currently known. Assuming a fatality rate of about 2 per cent, the official death toll so far would translate into about 600 cases overall in Iran, about 10 times the current count.

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More sleight of hand. I’ve been saying for a long time that it’s sbout SMEs, not Apple suppliers. Small firms account for at least 80% of jobs.

China Overestimating Economic Recovery By Leaving Out Small Businesses (SCMP)

China’s economic recovery amid the coronavirus outbreak has likely been overstated as data only covers larger companies and excludes the vast majority of the smaller workshops and manufacturers. [..] On Monday, National Development and Reform Commission spokesman Cong Liang said that over 90 per cent of industrial enterprises in Zhejiang province, one of the country’s top manufacturing bases, had resumed operation. According to Cong, over 70 per cent of production in the manufacturing and export hubs of Guangdong, Jiangsu, Shandong and Liaoning had also restarted. However, the official figures only cover larger firms, namely enterprises with capacities “above state designated sizes”, which are enterprises that have a minimum annual turnover of 20 million yuan (US$2.85 million), according to the government’s official definition.


China’s state statistics system normally only covers industrial enterprises with an annual turnover above this level as they accounted for around 90 per cent of the nation’s output in terms of value. In addition, the figures concerning firms that have resumed operation overlook the level of production within a specific factory, as the official data classes a factory that may have only resumed slightly more than half of its capacity as having resumed production. [..] The smaller firms, for example, are often unable to met virus prevention conditions set by local governments, including having enough facial masks for employees. A monthly survey of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in China, conducted by Standard Chartered Bank for the period up to the start of last week, found that firms were on average operating at 42 per cent, while only 47 per cent of workers had returned on average.

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Please imagine how you would test 200,000 people. Do they really have that many test kits? Where do they buy them?

South Korea To Test 200,000 Sect Members As Pandemic Fears Hit Markets (G.)

South Korea has stepped up its “maximum measures” to contain the coronavirus with plans to test around 200,000 members of a secretive church believed to be at the centre of the country’s outbreak. Along with an emergency budget and a crackdown on the hoarding of face masks, the government in Seoul will test members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus after its founder agreed to provide authorities with the names of all its members in the country. It came as financial markets saw more heavy losses across Asia Pacific on Tuesday over fears the coronavirus was spreading more widely from China and will cause disruption in countries such as South Korea, the world’s 12th biggest economy.

The Nikkei in Tokyo was down 3.3% while the Shanghai Composite sank 2%. Stocks in Australia fell 1.6% and Hong Kong was also in the red although futures trading pointed to a recovery later in the day in European and US markets. In Japan, a fourth person from the Diamond Princess cruise ship died and the country’s education minister said schools with reported coronavirus cases should be temporarily closed. Koichi Hagiuda told reporters on Tuesday that education boards of Hokkaido in northern Japan and Chiba City near Tokyo have been told to take this preventive measure, NHK says.

In China, where 71 new deaths and 508 new cases were reported on Tuesday, health officials said strict control and prevention measures would remain in place in Hubei province, the epicentre of the global outbreak. The national health commission added it would also strictly control the outbound movement of people in Wuhan and other cities in Hubei province with existing traffic controls. At Tianjin University, near Beijing, scientists said they had developed an oral vaccine for Covid-19. The professor who led the project, Huang Jinhai, said the vaccine could also serve as a potential therapy for infected patients. Chinese state media said the university was looking for partners to run clinical trials.

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” South Korea has a fantastic health care system. They tested over 20,000 people and ended up with over 800 positive cases. That’s showing that this is a highly contagious virus..”

Virus Spreads Despite Best Efforts Of Top Healthcare Systems (Fox)

Fears of a global pandemic continue to grow as coronavirus cases spike in several countries, including Italy, South Korea and Iran, as the U.S. stock market nosedived early Monday. A staggering 50 people died in the Iranian city of Qom from the new coronavirus in the month of February, Iran’s semiofficial ILNA news agency reported on Monday. The new death toll is significantly higher than the latest number of confirmed cases that Iranian officials had reported just a few hours earlier, which stood at just 12 deaths out of 47 cases, according to state TV. The 50 deaths date back as far as Feb. 13, according to an Iranian official. Iran previously reported its cases and deaths from the virus on Feb. 19.


Authorities are struggling to contain and understand the outbreak in those countries, where infected cases have skyrocketed as they have increased over 2,000 percent in the past couple of weeks. Italy is considered the site of Europe’s first major outbreak and the largest outside of Asia. The number of infected cases jumped to 152, compared to just three 10 days ago. Siegel told anchor Ed Henry that it’s even “more concerning” to hear there are more than 800 cases reported in South Korea. “I’ve been saying that it’s all about health care infrastructure, that China doesn’t have it, we have it, other Western countries have it. Well, guess what, South Korea has a fantastic health care system. They tested over 20,000 people and ended up with over 800 positive cases. That’s showing that this is a highly contagious virus that is spreading despite the best efforts of top health systems to contain it,” he said.

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China is also the main market for many endangered species from elsewhere in the world. Can we please stop that too? Just boycott the country for allowing rhino, tiger and elephant body parts trade. Full boycott. Here’s our chance..

Closures Reveal Vast Scale Of China’s Secretive Wildlife Farm Industry (G.)

Nearly 20,000 wildlife farmsraising species including peacocks, civet cats, porcupines, ostriches, wild geese and boar have been shut down across China in the wake of the coronavirus, in a move that has exposed the hitherto unknown size of the industry. Until a few weeks ago wildlife farming was still being promoted by government agencies as an easy way for rural Chinese people to get rich. But the Covid-19 outbreak, which has now led to over 1,800 deaths and more than 72,000 known infections, is thought to have originated in wildlife sold at a market in Wuhan in early December, prompting a massive rethink by authorities on how to manage the trade. China issued a temporary ban on wildlife trade to curb the spread of the virus at the end of January and began a widespread crackdown on breeding facilities in early February.


The country’s top legislative officials are now rushing to amend the country’s wildlife protection law and possibly restructure regulations on the use of wildlife for food and traditional Chinese medicine. The current version of the law is seen as problematic by wildlife conservation groups because it focuses on utilisation of wildlife rather than its protection. “The coronavirus epidemic is swiftly pushing China to reevaluate its relationship with wildlife,” Steve Blake, chief representative of WildAid in Beijing, told the Guardian. “There is a high level of risk from this scale of breeding operations both to human health and to the impacts on populations of these animals in the wild.” Further instructions from the National People’s Congress are expected next week to give authorities more tools to enforce the ban and restrict trade until the law is amended.

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“The China boom was a lot like the shale oil “miracle.” They were both great stunts. They produced a lot of stuff by borrowing from the future. Now we have all that stuff and we have to maintain it, keep if running, borrow more money to make that happen… and suddenly, that’s no longer plausible. ”

Why Didn’t We See That Coming? (Kunstler)

And now the Corona virus steps onstage to ramify that situation, beginning with a virtual shut-down of the excessively complex, over-engineered, just-in-time global economy. Things are not being produced and supply lines are shutting down. Car-makers outside China have a couple of weeks before their production lines halt for a lack of parts. But, of course, every other industry will have similar problems and stoppages. Many working Americans are barely getting by from one paycheck to the next. How many missed paychecks will it take for genuine hunger to kick in and desperation with it? We don’t know because the US news media has been busy conjuring the many loves of Vlad Putin.

This is getting serious now. Some of you may have noticed this morning that the stock indexes are heading into the worst open in years. Today, Mr. Market woke up, like Rip Van Winkle, and discovered that the world changed while he was sleeping. There’s a fair chance that the conditions of daily life in America will deteriorate sharply in the months ahead. We’ve been remote-viewing the empty streets of Wuhan and other Chinese cities since January, thinking it was like one of our cable-network horror shows. It’s not inconceivable that an American City, or more than one, will be subject to quarantine, or that a whole lot of people just won’t leave their houses for a period of time. Will the truckers still truck things that people need? We don’t know. How do you hold a political convention in a situation like that, or even an election?

The situation in China may be too far gone already. The country’s finances were a gigantic game of pretend. In the old Soviet Union, beloved by Bernie, the joke was, “they pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work” — not a great formula for enduring prosperity. In China, the updated joke was “we pretend to make loans, and you pretend to pay them back.” The China boom was a lot like the shale oil “miracle.” They were both great stunts. They produced a lot of stuff by borrowing from the future. Now we have all that stuff and we have to maintain it, keep if running, borrow more money to make that happen… and suddenly, that’s no longer plausible. The entire industrialized world has fallen for the debt stunt. Observers have been waiting to see what would finally provoke the unwinding of massive false promises. Looks like the wait is over.

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Gee, what a surprise.

Airline Stocks Tumble As Coronavirus Spreads Outside Of China (CNBC)

Airline stocks fell Monday as fears about the spread of the coronavirus beyond China added to worries about travel demand and the broader economy, despite a drop in fuel prices. American Airlines shares led the S&P 500 lower with an 9.8% slide in midday trading, hitting a more than four-month low. Delta Air Lines’ stock lost 7.2% to the lowest price in nearly four months, while United Airlines was off 4.3%. All U.S. airline stocks were down more sharply than the broader market. The S&P 500 fell 2.6%. Close to 80,000 cases of the virus, now known as COVID-19, have been reported along with at least 2,621 deaths. Cases outside of China, where most of the infections are located, have increased, with Italy reporting more than 220 and South Korea confirming more than 830.


Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade warned citizens not to travel to affected areas, helping drive down shares of European carriers. Budget airline easyJet lost more than 16% while rival Ryanair was down 12%. Deutsche Lufthansa fell 8.8%, British Airways’ parent, International Consolidated Airlines Group, was off 9% and Air France-KLM fell 8.4%. More than 200,000 flights to, from and within China have already been canceled because of the virus, according to aviation consulting firm Cirium, and more disruptions are possible if the virus continues to spread. The coronavirus is expected to eat into carriers’ revenue this year. Air travel demand globally is set to fall for the first time since 2009 and cost airlines some $29 billion — mostly in the Asia-Pacific region — in revenue, the International Air Transport Association warned last week.

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Weinstein still has plenty money to pay for whoever he wants. They couldn’t get him on the most serious charges. Just throw away the key.

Weinstein To Face 8 More Allegations After New York Verdict (G.)

The verdict in the New York case against Harvey Weinstein is only the beginning of the movie mogul’s prosecution, with separate charges against the disgraced producer ahead in Los Angeles. In the most high-profile trial of the #MeToo movement yet, a New York jury on Monday found Weinstein guilty of third-degree rape for an attack in a New York hotel and guilty of a criminal sex act for forcing oral sex on a former television production assistant. The fallen titan of Hollywood, who was taken away in handcuffs, could face 25 years in prison and will have to register as a sex offender. Next, Weinstein is due to face a criminal case in LA, which stems from investigations by law enforcement in southern California into eight allegations.


LA prosecutors have filed charges for two incidents that allegedly occurred within a two-day period. Those charges include forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by use of force and sexual battery by restraint, carrying a potential 28-year prison sentence. It’s not yet clear how LA prosecutors plan to proceed following Monday’s verdict in New York. Weinstein could be immediately brought to California after his 11 March sentencing in New York. He could pursue a plea deal in LA after his guilty verdict in Manhattan, or he could end up facing a second trial, said Laurie Levenson, criminal law professor at Loyola Law School. Either way, it’s an uphill battle for the former movie producer, she said: “When he heads to LA, he’s already a convicted rapist.”

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Putin is about to hand Erdogan an ultimatum or two. The US must go home.

US Proposals To Whitewash Idlib Terrorists Unacceptable – Lavrov (RT)

Moscow will resist any attempts to whitewash the terrorists holed up in Idlib, Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, adding that engaging in talks with them as the US is hinting is out of question. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an Al-Qaeda offshoot previously known as Al-Nusra, which controls Idlib, has been designated as a terrorist organization not only by the UN, but by the US itself, Lavrov said. However, officials in Washington, including the special envoy for Syria, James Jeffrey, “allow themselves statements, from which a conclusion can be made that ‘it’s not such a terrorist organization anymore’ and that dialogue with it can be established under some circumstances,” he said. “It’s not the first time we hear such hints and we consider them absolutely unacceptable.”


The foreign minister also said that another round of consultations between Russia and Turkey is currently being prepared in ordered “to agree on ways of turning Idlib into a real de-escalation where the terrorists aren’t in charge.” Tensions are high between Moscow and Ankara after Turkey sent troops to Idlib a few weeks ago amid a large-scale offensive by the Syrian military on the last terrorist stronghold in the country. The move provoked clashes between the Turkish and Syrian forces, with casualties on both sides. Ankara is demanding that Moscow pressure Damascus into ceasing its operation, while Russia has told Turkey that its promise to separate the ‘moderate opposition’ from the terrorists still remains unfulfilled.Lavrov insisted that it was no surprise for the Turkish military that the terrorists were being targeted. Earlier Russian-Turkish agreements on Idlib never envisaged that strikes against Hayat Tahrir al-Sham would stop, he added.

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“Edward Fitzgerald QC: Mental state of Assange deteriorating such that there is possibility he may not be able to participate in his own trial. Defense outlines why they believe it’s unjust an oppressive to pursue trial so long after alleged offenses..”


“Julian Assange faces life in prison for publishing true information that was in the public interest..if truth becomes treason we are all in trouble.”

Still, making it all against Trump doesn’t seem the wisest move. Try US Intel. Obviously, Trump’s role is terrible as well, but Assange went into the Embassy in 2012. Trump became president in 2017.

Julian Assange ‘Suicide Risk’ If Extradited From UK To US – Lawyer (SCMP)

Julian Assange should not be extradited to the United States as he would not get a fair trial and would be a suicide risk, his lawyer told a British court hearing on Monday. Assange’s lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, said extradition would expose Assange to inhumane and degrading treatment by a disproportionate sentence and prison conditions. Fitzgerald said the extradition request was motivated by politics rather than any genuine crimes. He said it would be unjust and oppressive to extradite him because of his mental state and risk of suicide. He said the US attitude to Assange had changed when Donald Trump came to power and that the US president wanted to make an example of his client.


Fitzgerald said in 2013 the US government under former President Barack Obama had decided that Assange should not face any action. But that in 2017, after the 2016 election of Trump, an indictment was brought against Assange. Why the change? “The answer is President Trump came into power with a new approach to freedom of speech and a new hostility to the press amounting effectively to declaring war on investigative journalists,” Fitzgerald said. The indictment was brought, “not on the basis of new revelations, but because it had become politically expedient and desirable,” Fitzgerald said.

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The background Assange’s lawyers will provide. They promise big surprises.

Assange Fight Draws In Trump’s New Intel Chief (Pol.)

Attorneys for Julian Assange [..] plan to introduce evidence in the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition hearing involving President Donald Trump’s new intel chief Richard Grenell. Gareth Peirce, a lawyer representing Assange in his extradition proceedings in London, plans to argue this week that the process to try to extradite her client was abused from early on. Representatives for Assange’s defense team say they expect to introduce recordings and screenshots of communications of a close Grenell associate, including a secondhand claim that Grenell was acting on the president’s orders. Grenell’s sudden embroilment in Assange’s extradition fight comes at an inconvenient time, as Democrats and national security veterans criticize him as ill-suited and unqualified to be the acting director of national intelligence.

And it threatens to spotlight his close relationship with President Trump, feeding the widespread perception that the president is politicizing intelligence work for partisan ends. At the heart of the Assange team’s argument is an ABC News report from last April alleging that, while serving as Trump’s ambassador to Germany, Grenell told Assange’s Ecuadorean hosts that the U.S. government would not pursue the death penalty for Assange if Ecuador allowed British officials to enter its embassy in London and arrest him. Assange’s legal team will claim that Grenell’s role was more extensive than previously known, and that it corrupted the extradition process early on. The suggestion will be that the U.S. was so desperate to get Assange in its custody that American officials, via Grenell, agreed in advance to take a particular sentence off the table before even allowing a trial and sentencing to play out.

The WikiLeaks founder’s attorneys are also expected to present evidence that they believe shows Trump explicitly tasked Grenell with making the offer, thereby politicizing the process. One of Assange’s lawyers, Edward Fitzgerald, hinted at this argument in his opening statement on Monday, when he said that Assange’s prosecution was “not motivated by genuine concerns for criminal justice but politics.” The evidence submitted this week will include new materials submitted to Assange’s legal team by political activist and journalist Cassandra Fairbanks, a staunch defender of Assange who has worked for the Russian state-run news site Sputnik and the far-right outlet Gateway Pundit. She is expected to be listed as a formal witness in the case.

Fairbanks recorded two phone calls she had with one of Grenell’s close associates, Arthur Schwartz, and took screenshots of their conversations about Assange and Grenell. [..] Schwartz appeared to grow frustrated and fearful after Fairbanks tweeted, on Sept. 10, 2019, that Grenell “was the one who worked out the deal for Julian Assange’s arrest.” “I don’t want to go to jail,” Schwartz told Fairbanks in a September 2019 phone call, accusing her of posting “classified information” in the tweet. Fairbanks posted the tweet around the time Grenell’s name was being floated to replace John Bolton as Trump’s national security adviser. “Please. I’m begging you,” Schwartz says in the recording. “They look at you, they see that we speak, that’s bad.”

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The US is trying to make this about the risk Assange has exposed sources to. But in 2013, even anti-Assange paper the Guardian said

The US counter-intelligence official who led the Pentagon’s review into the fallout from the WikiLeaks disclosures of state secrets told the Bradley Manning sentencing hearing on Wednesday that no instances were ever found of any individual killed by enemy forces as a result of having been named in the releases.

Not only did none of them die, they weren’t even hurt. It’s all a fable, coming from US intel hiding behind state secret veils. The actual story for at least some of the releases is more or less the opposite: that Assange spent entire sleepless nights redactingout namea and details in docs that sources like the Guardian wanted to publish in full.

Julian Assange ‘At High Risk Of Suicide’ If Extradited To US -Lawyer (Ind.)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is at “high risk of suicide” if he is sent to the US to face claims he endangered the lives of whistleblowers around the world, a court has heard. At an extradition hearing in London, Assange’s lawyers argued he is the victim of a politically motivated prosecution that forms part of Donald Trump’s “war on investigative journalists”. But the US government claimed some sources had “disappeared” after the WikiLeaks founder put them at risk of “serious harm, torture or even death” by leaking classified information. James Lewis QC, opening the case against Assange, said on Monday that information published by WikiLeaks was useful to enemies of the US.Mr Lewis told Woolwich Crown Court, which is sitting as a magistrates’ court, that most of the charges related to “straightforward criminal activity” in a “conspiracy to steal from and hack into” the Department of Defence computer system.


“These are ordinary criminal charges and any person, journalist or source who hacks or attempts to gain unauthorised access to a secure system, or aids and abets others to do so, is guilty of computer misuse,” the barrister said. “Reporting or journalism is not an excuse for criminal activities or a licence to break ordinary criminal laws.” Mr Lewis said that the US identified hundreds of “at-risk and potentially at-risk people” around the world due to WikiLeaks’ actions and made efforts to warn them of the danger they faced. “The US is aware of sources, whose redacted names and other identifying information was contained in classified documents published by WikiLeaks, who subsequently disappeared, although the US can’t prove at this point that their disappearance was the result of being outed by WikiLeaks,” he added.

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Size matters.

 

 

 

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

 

Feb 232020
 


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

 

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

 

 

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

Deaths 2,464 (+ 102 from yesterday)

 

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

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

• Iran: 29 cases 6 deaths

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

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

• Cases outside China go exponential

• WHO team visits Wuhan; will give Monday press conference

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

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

 

From SCMP:

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

COVID19 Cases Outside China Go Exponential (ZH)

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

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

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

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

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

Millions Of Chinese Ordered Back To Work (Obs.)

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

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

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

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

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

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Why would anyone expect sales to pick up anytime soon?

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

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

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


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

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Simply not their call to make.

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

US Says Russia Behind Coronavirus Disinformation Campaign (G.)

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

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


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

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

Roger Stone Deserves A New Trial (Turley)

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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Feb 222020
 


DPC The Mammoth Oak at Pass Christian, Mississippi 1900

 

Asymptomatic Wuhan Woman Infects Five Relatives With Coronavirus (G.)
COVID19 Mortality Rate Hits New Lifetime High Of 3.0% (ZH)
Italy Reports 1st Virus Death, Cases More Than Quadruple (AP)
10 Italian Towns In Lockdown Over Coronavirus Fears (IBT)
US Prepares For Coronavirus Pandemic, School And Business Closures (R.)
Judge Blocks Transfer Of 50 Coronavirus Patients To Costa Mesa (CBS)
France Should Use Virus Outbreak To Reduce Reliance On China – FinMin (RT)
Bernie Sanders Told By US Officials That Russia Supports His Campaign (G.)
Keep Throwing Spaghetti at That Wall (Kunstler)
Intelligence Community Feels Impact Of Trump’s Diplomatic ‘Disruptor’ (CNN)
Trump’s New Intel Chief Was A Trump Critic In 2016 (Pol.)
Lady Justice Spurns Her Blinders For Trump Associates (AmG)
Twitter Suspends 70 Pro-Bloomberg Accounts Over ‘Platform Manipulation’ (R.)

 

 

The game is changing. The virus has taken the logical next step: first, expand beyond Hubei, now expand beyond China. Major cluster in South Korea, first death in Italy. Big question mark is Iran, what health care structure is in place there? Four deaths out of seemingly nowhere doesn’t spur confidence.

 

Cases 77,928 (+ 1,138 from yesterday’s 76,790).

Deaths 2,362 (+ 115 from yesterday)

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

And a list of affected countries so far. Check back again in a week or so. Note: death in Italy is not yet included.

 


 

 

As I wrote 2 days ago in Go Forth and Multiply, the key terms going forward will be “false negative” and “asymptomatic”.

CNN had an interview live with a woman who just got off the ship. Yay! No quarantine!

Asymptomatic Wuhan Woman Infects Five Relatives With Coronavirus (G.)

A 20-year-old Chinese woman from Wuhan travelled hundreds of miles to another city where she infected five relatives without showing signs of infection, Chinese scientists have said, offering new evidence that the new coronavirus can be spread asymptomatically. The case study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, offered clues about how the coronavirus is spreading, and suggested that it might be difficult to stop. According to the study by Dr Meiyun Wang of the People’s Hospital of Zhengzhou University and colleagues, the woman travelled 400 miles (650km) from Wuhan to Anyang in Henan province on 10 January and visited several relatives.

When they started getting sick, doctors isolated the woman and tested her for coronavirus. Initially, the young woman tested negative for the virus, but a follow-up test was positive. All five of her relatives developed Covid-19 pneumonia, but as of 11 February, the young woman still had not developed any symptoms, her chest CT remained normal and she had no fever, stomach or respiratory symptoms, such as cough or sore throat. Scientists in the study said if the findings are replicated, “the prevention of Covid-19 infection could prove challenging”.

World Health Organization officials have praised China’s lockdown of millions of people as helping to buy time for the rest of the world to prepare for the new virus. But as hot spots emerge around the globe, such as South Korea and Iran, health officials are having difficulty finding and isolating the first source of the virus – the so-called index case. This is fuelling concern that the disease has begun spreading too widely for tried-and-true public health steps to stamp it out. “A number of spot fires occurring around the world is a sign that things are ticking along, and what we are going to have here is probably a pandemic,” said Ian Mackay, who studies viruses at the University of Queensland in Australia.

[..] Dr William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University medical centre in Nashville, who was not involved in the Zhengzhou University study, said the Wuhan woman’s case provided a “natural laboratory” to study Covid-19. “Scientists have been asking if you can have this infection and not be ill? The answer is apparently, yes,” he said. “You had this patient from Wuhan where the virus is, traveling to where the virus wasn’t,” he said. “She remained asymptomatic and infected a bunch of family members and you had a group of physicians who immediately seized on the moment and tested everyone.”

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“China, which officially has over 76,000 cases, had just 397 cases, while South Korea with just 204 cases, had an increase of 142, or about a third of all of China’s new cases..”

COVID19 Mortality Rate Hits New Lifetime High Of 3.0% (ZH)

[..] as China scrambles to goal seek its propaganda number, the world’s attention has shifted to what has emerged as the second coronavirus hotspot, South Korea, where the number of cases is certainly not doctored, pardon the bad pun, and where there is a truly exponential increase in new cases, which are now doubling with every passing day in a terrible, if accurate, representation of what indeed happens when there is a viral epidemic. Late on Friday we got painfully clear example of just this when China reported that on Feb 21, there were just 397 new Coronavirus cases bringing the total to 76,288, a plunge of more than 50% from the previous day’s adjusted increase of 889 and a number which is now completely meaningless in light of what has become a daily adjustment by China.

Meanwhile, the number of deaths, which China has so far failed to revise (but will surely try before this is all over), rose by 109 to 2345, and with the number of cases barely rising, it also means that the mortality rate his now hit a new lifetime high of 3.0%. Which also means that China has to pick: keep fabricating the number of cases while the real deaths keep rising and the mortality rate creep ever higher, or change the definition of death. So if Chinese data is now meaningless (and the only thing that matters is if and when its economy will come back on line), there is South Korea, and it is here that things have turned south quick.


Or rather north if one follows the latest number of cases, because one day after total South Korean cases doubled (having doubled the day before that, and again the day prior), on Saturday South Korea reported that there was another stunning increase in the total number of cases which rose by 142 in one day, a 70% increase from the prior day, to a new high of 346; Putting this stunning increase in context, China, which officially has over 76,000 cases, had just 397 cases, while South Korea with just 204 cases, had an increase of 142, or about a third of all of China’s new cases! South Korea also reported its second coronavirus linked death.

With the number of people in South Korea being tested for coronavirus surging to 5,481, up from 3,180 last night, it is virtually certain that this exponential increase in new confirmed cases will last for quite a while, perhaps even longer than China’s, unless of course, South Korea learns from Beijing just how to change the “definition” of cases and fast. Thanks to South Korea, the number of cases in the top 7 countries outside China with the most cases, including Iran, and excluding the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship, is close to turning exponential as well.

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Italy has two separate issues. A cluster of 15 cases in Lombardy, and a death in Padua, 250km from there.

Italy Reports 1st Virus Death, Cases More Than Quadruple (AP)

Italy reported its first death from the new virus from China early Saturday and the number of people infected more than quadrupled due to a cluster of cases that prompted officials to order schools, restaurants and businesses to close. State-run RAI television reported a 78-year-old man, one of two people in northern Veneto region to have been infected, died Friday. Italian news agencies ANSA and LaPresse also reported the death, citing the Veneto regional president, Luca Zaia. In Lombardy, at least 14 new cases were confirmed, representing the first infections in Italy acquired through secondary contagion and bringing the country’s total to 19.


The cluster was located in a handful of tiny towns southeast of Milan, said Lombardy regional health chief Giulio Gallera. “This was foreseeable even if we hoped it wouldn’t have happened,” Gallera said. The first to fall ill was a 38-year-old Italian who met with someone who had returned from China on Jan. 21 without presenting any symptoms of the new virus, health authorities said. That person was being kept in isolation and appears to present antibodies to the virus.

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15 tested positive, 5 of them doctors.

10 Italian Towns In Lockdown Over Coronavirus Fears (IBT)

Authorities in northern Italy on Friday ordered the closure of schools, bars and other public spaces in 10 towns following a flurry of new coronavirus cases. Five doctors and 10 other people tested positive for the virus in Lombardy, after apparently frequenting the same bar and group of friends, with two other cases in Veneto, authorities said at a press conference. Over 50,000 people have been asked to stay at home in the areas concerned, while all public activities such as carnival celebrations, church masses and sporting events have been banned for up to a week. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said “everything is under control”, and stressed the government was maintaining “an extremely high level of precaution”.


Streets in the towns were deserted, with only a few people seen abroad, and signs showing public spaces closed. In Casalpusterlengo, a large electronic message board outside the town hall read “Coronavirus: the population is invited to remain indoors as a precaution”. The first town to be shuttered was Codogno, with a population of 15,000, where three people tested positive for the virus, including a 38-year old man and his wife, who is eight months pregnant. Three others there have tested positive to a first novel coronavirus test and are awaiting their definitive results. Codogno mayor Francesco Passerini said the news of the cases “has sparked alarm” throughout the town south of Milan. The 38-year old, who works for Unilever in Lodi, was in a serious condition in intensive care. Some 250 people were being placed in isolation after coming into contact with the new cases, according to the Lombardy region, and 60 workers at Unilever have been tested for the virus.

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I see chaos in your future…

US Prepares For Coronavirus Pandemic, School And Business Closures (R.)

U.S. health officials on Friday said they are preparing for the possibility of the spread of the new coronavirus through U.S. communities that would force closures of schools and businesses. The United States has yet to see community spread of the virus that emerged in central China in late December. But health authorities are preparing medical personnel for the risk, Nancy Messonnier, an official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told reporters on a conference call. In coming weeks, if the virus begins to spread through U.S. communities, health authorities want to be ready to adopt school and business closures like those undertaken in Asian countries to contain the disease, Messonnier said.


“We’re not seeing community spread here in the United States yet, but it’s very possible, even likely, that it may eventually happen,” Messonnier said. “Our goal continues to be to slow the introduction of the virus into the U.S. This buys us more time to prepare communities for more cases and possibly sustained spread.” The CDC is taking steps to ensure frontline U.S. healthcare workers have supplies they need, she added, by working with businesses, hospitals, pharmacies and provisions manufacturers and distributors on what they can do to get ready. [..] The United States currently has 13 cases of people diagnosed with the virus within the country and 21 cases among Americans repatriated on evacuation flights from Wuhan, China, and from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan, CDC said.

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And how does the US prepare? By showing solidarity.

Judge Blocks Transfer Of 50 Coronavirus Patients To Costa Mesa (CBS)

A federal judge Friday granted the city of Costa Mesa’s temporary restraining order requesting to block as many as 50 confirmed coronavirus patients from being transferred to the city. Federal court papers filed Friday state that the federal government planned to transfer the patients from Travis Air Force Base near Sacramento to the former Fairview Developmental Center on Sunday or Monday. Thursday night, Costa Mesa city officials began hearing of the plan by the Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC to move between 30 and 5o patients to the state-owned land. Some of the patients are from the Diamond Princess cruise ship from which more than 300 U.S. citizens were removed Monday.


Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley said the city was surprised to learn that the Fairview Developmental Center was being considered for a group of patients who have tested positive for coronavirus, and city leaders filed an injunction to block the transfer in an effort to protect residents. “We have a lot of activity in the area,” she said. “So, it’s not the kind of area that’s isolated and that would be appropriate for quarantining people who have an infectious disease.” The largest concern was the lack of information, despite the fact that the patients were expected to arrive in a matter of days, said Costa Mesa fire chief Dan Stefano. “There has not been an information flow, and in a situation like that, for us, it creates the greatest concern,” he said.

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Wise. But very late. Still, France will do better than most EU coutries if a pandemic hits; it’s more self-reliant.

France Should Use Virus Outbreak To Reduce Reliance On China – FinMin (RT)

French finance minister Bruno Le Maire has warned that the outbreak of the coronavirus should act as a catalyst for France to begin reducing its “dependence” on China for certain goods. Meeting with business figures on Friday, Le Maire said the crisis would have a 0.1 percent impact on France’s GDP growth in 2020, assuming the outbreak is reaching its peak. While the number seems small, it is significant considering the fact that yearly GDP growth is usually in the small single digits. Le Maire announced a series of short-term measures to limit the impact of the slowdown caused by the epidemic. The ministry is also looking into the possibility of using the coronavirus as a ‘force majeure’ to allow certain French companies to free themselves from contractual obligations, Les Echos reported.


“We need to grasp this epidemic to question ourselves on our strategic dependence, in terms of supply, on certain industrial sectors,” Le Maire said, pointing to the automobile and health sectors in particular and noting that almost 80 percent of active ingredients for drugs are produced in China. Ultimately, he said, the coronavirus crisis could be an opportunity for France to “draw good from evil” by fixing vulnerabilities in supply. Le Maire’s comments indicate that reliance on Chinese goods is all well and good in normal circumstances, but this quickly changes in times of crisis. Germany also warned on Friday that the coronavirus crisis could impact its economy due to its dependence on Chinese supply chains.

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Here’s where Bernie’s desperation shines through: “Unlike Donald Trump, I do not consider Vladimir Putin a good friend.” He lost me forever with that cheap innuendo.

And while we’re talking viruses, US intelligence looks very much like the immune system that turns against the body it’s supposed to protect.

Note how the Guardian says “US officials”, not “US intelligence (officials)”.

Michael Tracey: “One of the wealthiest men on Earth is plotting to steal the nomination, the Dem Party cannot even run a caucus in Iowa, corporate media can arbitrarily decide to marginalize candidates at will, but we’re supposed to panic again about Russian bots on Twitter? Ludicrous freak show”

Bernie Sanders Told By US Officials That Russia Supports His Campaign (G.)

US officials have told Bernie Sanders that Russia is trying to help his campaign, prompting the frontrunner in the Democratic race to strongly condemn any interference. Republican Donald Trump and US lawmakers have also been informed about the Russian assistance to Sanders, said a report in the Washington Post, which cited unnamed people familiar with the matter and first broke the news. It was not clear what form the Russian assistance had taken, the paper added. Facebook said it had seen no evidence of Russian support for Sanders on its platform. However, the Vermont senator denounced the reported efforts by Moscow to interfere with the 2020 election on his behalf.

“Unlike Donald Trump, I do not consider Vladimir Putin a good friend. He is an autocratic thug who is attempting to destroy democracy and crush dissent in Russia,” Sanders said of the Russian president. “Let’s be clear, the Russians want to undermine American democracy by dividing us up and, unlike the current president, I stand firmly against their efforts, and any other foreign power that wants to interfere in our election.” Sanders also suggested some of the online vitriol frequently blamed on his supporters may be coming from Russia. “Some of the ugly stuff on the internet attributed to our campaign may well not be coming from real supporters,” Sanders said.

The news follows similar warnings from the intelligence community that Russia has also sought to boost Trump’s re-election campaign. On Friday Trump sought to play down those developments and revive old grievances in claiming that Democrats are determined to undermine the legitimacy of his presidency. Trump claimed on Twitter that Democrats were pushing a “misinformation campaign” in hopes of politically damaging him.

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“..The New York Times, a figment machine so demented that it has come to resemble the proverbial crazy aunt locked in the attic.”

Keep Throwing Spaghetti at That Wall (Kunstler)

We’re reminded this morning by The New York Times, America’s official psychotic fantasy generator, that the Russians are coming (again!) as an ad hoc arm of the committee to re-elect Mr. Trump. You have to ask yourself: Does Mr. Trump actually need their help? His opponents have been self-meddling so diligently that their party now looks like a Frankenstein creature assembled from the spare parts of Herbert Marcuse, Tupac Shakur, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, and Jame Gumb. Imagine that monster running a government. If Vlad Putin happened to express an aversion to the idea at an international cocktail party, can you really blame him? Plenty of Americans surely feel the same way. Anyway, the Times’ story never gets around to saying much about the alleged new Russian campaign besides this:

‘They have made more creative use of Facebook and other social media. Rather than impersonating Americans as they did in 2016, Russian operatives are working to get Americans to repeat disinformation, the officials said. That strategy gets around social media companies’ rules that prohibit ‘inauthentic speech.’”

Wow, that’s pretty scary! Except when you consider that Americans have done a crackerjack job of mind-fucking themselves with disinformation the past several years, coincidentally via this very The New York Times, a figment machine so demented that it has come to resemble the proverbial crazy aunt locked in the attic. The true wonder is the Times’ poverty of imagination, reviving a tattered cockamamie story that bombed abjectly the first time around. I suppose, in a culture addicted to stupid sequels, they expect Robert Mueller will be called back on-duty to sort this one out like he did so nicely before.

Actually, you could make a credible argument that the vaunted US “Intel Community” is a bigger threat to American life than anything the Russians might do on Facebook. Hence, the good news that Mr. Trump has just appointed Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, to the pivotal job as Director of National Intelligence, a position created in 2004 to supposedly coordinate the farflung activities of seventeen armies of spooks and snoops, lately notorious for feeding disinformation to The New York Times and its “Resistance” media allies.

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Grenell was picked to clean up US intel. What a job to have. As Schumer said: Six ways from Sunday.

Grenell “has also been dismissive of the threat of Russia’s meddling in the US…

Let’s get that blasphemist!

Intelligence Community Feels Impact Of Trump’s Diplomatic ‘Disruptor’ (CNN)

Richard Grenell, the newly installed acting director of American spy agencies and loyalist to President Donald Trump, began his temporary tenure by moving aggressively to put his stamp on the intelligence community that Trump has repeatedly attacked. Grenell ousted a veteran intelligence officer on Friday who served as the number two at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, according to The New York Times, and on Thursday he brought on board a former staffer of Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican who’s a staunch Trump ally. He also asked to see the intelligence behind the classified briefing last week where lawmakers were told Russia was interfering in the 2020 election to aid Trump, the Times reported.

Present and past colleagues, as well as diplomats who have tussled with him, describe Grenell as an aggressive, intelligent and caustic operator who loves to pick a fight, air the drama on Twitter and make sure everyone in the room knows his loyalty lies first and foremost with the President. Trump’s discovery that intelligence officials had briefed the bipartisan group of lawmakers on Russia’s efforts led him to angrily jettison acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire on Wednesday and install Grenell in his place. Donald Trump Jr. suggested to CNN on Friday that Grenell’s commitment to the President was a factor in his selection and said he looks forward to having “an honest dealer” leading the intelligence community.

“All I want is honesty in these places. Whether it’s the Justice Department, whether it’s there, I just want people who aren’t partisan hacks,” Trump Jr said, adding that he believes Grenell [..] will be the same kind of disruptive force within the intelligence community that he has been diplomatically. Given Trump’s troubled relationship with the intelligence community, which he has publicly denigrated and undermined, numerous former administration officials said they are concerned that Grenell was appointed to “clean house” and purge the government of those deemed to be leakers or whistleblowers. A spokeswoman for Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, said in a Thursday statement that Grenell “has also been dismissive of the threat of Russia’s meddling in the US, a fact that is doubly concerning as Germany is one of our closest and most important allies in pushing back on Russian aggression on the world stage.”

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A bit more Grenell. Because you’re going to hear a lot about him. US intel doesn’t want to be cleaned up.

Trump’s New Intel Chief Was A Trump Critic In 2016 (Pol.)

President Donald Trump’s new acting director of National Intelligence, Richard Grenell, has for years been a vocal Trump loyalist, using his Twitter account to boost the president’s policies on everything from 5G and NATO to the Iran deal and the economy. But Grenell wasn’t always a Trump supporter: In 2016, before the New York real estate mogul became the GOP presidential nominee, Grenell called Trump “dangerous” and spoke out regularly in favor of then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich, according to deleted tweets recovered via a joint inquiry by POLITICO and the cybersecurity firm Nisos. “He’s dangerous!” read one deleted Grenell tweet from March 24, 2016, the day Trump tweeted that “NATO is obsolete and must be changed to additionally focus on terrorism as well as some of the things it is currently focused on!”

The tweets underscore a key irony of the Trump era: Some of the president’s fiercest critics during the 2016 race have since transformed into his most passionate defenders, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who warned that Trump would be an “authoritarian president”; GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, who denounced Trump as “a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot” who would destroy the Republican Party; and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who called Trump a “terrible human being” right before the 2016 election. Grenell seems to have undergone a similar evolution.

“Trump is dangerous. Wake up. He’s reckless,” he replied on another occasion to a user who had written “vote Trump.” He urged his followers to read Trump’s interview with The Washington Post editorial board, in which Trump said, “I think NATO as a concept is good, but it is not as good as it was when it first evolved … I’m not even knocking it, I’m just saying I don’t think it’s fair, we’re not treated fair.”

[..] he does appear to have atoned for his anti-Trump commentary. He began supporting Trump publicly after he became the GOP nominee, writing in June 2016 that he would support the Republican candidate over Hillary Clinton and, in August, that the election “is a choice between 5,000 conservative appointees and 5,000 liberal appointees.” He also began to mock reports that said Russia had interfered in the election to boost Trump’s candidacy, writing in December 2016: “[T]hose Russians must have demanded that Hillary not campaign in Wisconsin and Michigan, too.” And he promoted the WikiLeaks disclosures, praising news organizations that reported extensively on the hacked DNC materials and criticizing those that didn’t.

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And not even Stone supporters get it right: “..WikiLeaks, the website that eventually leaked the DNC’s hacked emails”. THEY WERE NOT HACKED!

Lady Justice Spurns Her Blinders For Trump Associates (AmG)

The claim sounded like something from Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) or Rachel Maddow or any number of Russian collusion propagandists: “He was not prosecuted for standing up for the president. He was prosecuted for covering up for the president.” Those words, however, were not uttered on MSNBC but rather in a federal courtroom by Amy Berman Jackson, a U.S. district court judge seated in the nation’s capital, whose job is to ensure the fair administration of justice based on the rule of law. The “he” Jackson was referring to is Roger Stone, a Trump confidant; the “president,” of course, is Donald Trump.

Now, Stone wasn’t charged with covering up for the president nor did the indictment against him suggest as much. There was nothing to “cover up” as election collusion is a fantasy concocted by the Democrats and the news media. But the Obama-appointee was on a roll; facts, at that point, didn’t matter to Jackson. (In a tweet Thursday morning, Schiff echoed Jackson’s evidence-free remark, claiming Stone “did it to cover up for Trump.”) Her absurd and blatantly political accusation from the bench was just part of Jackson’s 40-minute monologue Thursday morning prior to sentencing Stone to 40 months in prison for lying to Congress, obstructing justice, and witness tampering. (The loquacious judge doesn’t like competition; she put a gag order on Stone last year that is still in effect.)

The seven charges against Stone stemmed from Robert Mueller’s investigation into nonexistent collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin to sway the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. The Justice Department accused Stone of thwarting a similar investigation conducted by the House Intelligence Committee, then headed by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). The case against Stone is rooted in the claim that the Russians hacked the email system of the Democratic National Committee—an intrusion, it’s important to note, that is backed up solely by an analysis conducted by CrowdStrike, a private cybersecurity firm. The politically connected company was hired to investigate the breach in the spring of 2016 by Perkins Coie, the same law firm that hired Fusion GPS to do opposition research on Trump.

The DNC refused to surrender any devices or data to the FBI, despite several requests by then-director James Comey. Stone allegedly, in no small measure due to his own boasting, was in touch with WikiLeaks, the website that eventually leaked the DNC’s hacked emails. His concealment of communications related to WikiLeaks earned Stone and his wife an early-morning FBI raid at their home in January 2019 as the CNN news cameras rolled.

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Time for the candidates to murder each other.

Twitter Suspends 70 Pro-Bloomberg Accounts Over ‘Platform Manipulation’ (R.)

Twitter Inc on Friday said it had started suspending and restricting dozens of accounts posting content promoting U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg. “We took enforcement action on about 70 accounts, which includes a combination of permanent suspensions and account challenges to verify ownership,” a Twitter spokeswoman said in a statement to Reuters. [..] Twitter said the accounts violated its platform manipulation and spam policy, which prohibits coordination among accounts to amplify or disrupt conversation by using multiple accounts. This can refer to creating several accounts to post duplicative content but also includes “coordinating with or compensating others to engage in artificial engagement or amplification, even if the people involved use only one account.”


The billionaire candidate’s campaign, which has been pouring unparalleled amounts of money into an online advertising campaign, is also hiring hundreds of digital organizers to support the candidate, including by pushing content to their own social media channels. The Wall Street Journal reported that these organizers in California receive $2,500 a month to promote Bloomberg’s candidacy through actions such as posting on social media to their own networks. This month, a paid partnership between the former New York mayor’s campaign and popular Instagram meme accounts pushed Facebook Inc to announce it was allowing U.S.-based political candidates to run branded or sponsored content on its social networking platforms.

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Gloria Allred had this bus drive past Buckingham Palace.

 

 

 

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

 

Feb 212020
 


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

 

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

 

 

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

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

Yesterday’s increase was “only” 560

Deaths 2,247 (+ 117 from yesterday)

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

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

• Positive case in British Columbia, visited only Iran

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

A second graph from Worldometer:

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

South Korea Coronavirus Cases Jump To 156 (SCMP)

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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How about we call it zero percent?

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

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

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


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

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

China Supply Chains Pummelled From All Sides (SCMP)

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Disgusted’ Judge Jails Roger Stone (BBC)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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