Feb 212021
 
 February 21, 2021  Posted by at 10:21 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  26 Responses »


Ceiling painting from the palace of Amenhotep III, New Kingdom ca. 1390–1353 B.C.

 

46 Die in Spain Nursing Home After First Pfizer Shot, Second Shots Halted (CB)
Public Health Authorities Blocking Effective Treatment (PCR)
Newsweek ‘Fact Check’ Claims India Vaccine Ban “Mostly False” (SN)
Russia Registers Third Domestically-Created Vaccine Against Covid-19 (RT)
White House ‘Working Directly’ With Big Tech To Censor ‘Vaccine Hesitancy’ (RT)
Congress Escalates Pressure on Tech Giants to Censor More (Greenwald)
Nursing Home Industry Avoids Scrutiny For Covid-19 Deaths With Lobbying (IC)
For Albany’s Biggest Bully, The Hits Keep Coming (TU)
Lincoln Project Implosion Has Derailed Plan For A Media Empire (VF)
Reuters, BBC, Bellingcat Part Of Covert UK Programs To “Weaken Russia” (GZ)
Texas Blackouts Spark First Lawsuit; AG Vows Probe (ZH)
The Future Of Money Is Gold (Macleod)
Assange’s Lawyers Consider a Cross Appeal (Mercouris)

 

 

 

 

Picked this up. Can’t seem to be able to double check it.

46 Die in Spain Nursing Home After First Pfizer Shot, Second Shots Halted (CB)

The Nuestra Señora del Rosario (Our Lady of the Rosary) nursing home is reeling due to mass deaths after mRNA inoculations. All residents and workers at the facility received the first dose of Pfizer mRNA in early January, according to Spain mainstream media outlet ABC de Sevilla. Most residents became extremely ill shortly after the shots. It is believed many came down with COVID-19, despite being “vaccinated against it.” The Andalusian Health Service reported that at least 46 residents have died since January. For perspective, Our Lady has a maximum capacity of 145 residents. The Junta de Andalucía (regional government) intervened in early February to curtail the death count. But people continued dying. Spain’s Ministry of Health is now in charge of mitigation.


The Ministry said in a statement: “In view of the imminent risk to public health, and in particular for the [residents] and workers of this center, as the current protocol for disinfection and isolation of positive cases cannot be guaranteed.” The situation remains dire, as at least 28 residents and 12 staff members were COVID-19 positive last week. Health officials halted all further mRNA shots as a result. The Federation of Public Services criticized Our Lady for not taking action sooner. The workers’ union said the response was inadequate after eight people died by January 18. The death count grew to 30 by January 28. Spain is continually in the news related to mRNA shots. Health Minister Salvador Illa said in December that his agency is keeping a database of all citizens who refuse the mRNA. He said the list will be shared with all EU members.

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“What reason is there for people in any country to have confidence in their government and public health authorities?”

Public Health Authorities Blocking Effective Treatment (PCR)

[..] the vaccines themselves have not undergone long-run testing, and many serious reactions and more than 1,000 deaths are associated with the vaccinations. Some scientists are concerned that the untested technology in some of the vaccines will have adverse effects on the immune system and result in a jump in the overall death rate. However, we look at it, we are flying at least partly blind. Why as there is a far superior way to proceed? First, begin with prevention. Vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc, and NAC are effective and inexpensive immune boosters that ward off infection and reduce the severity of infection. Then turn to cures. Both the HCQ/zinc/antibiotic treatment and the Ivermectin/zinc/antibiotic treatment are proven, safe, and inexpensive.

Yet the evidence has been kept from the public. Even the most knowledgeable experts are deplatformed when they say anything that is in conflict with the vaccination/lockdown agenda. The media are complicit in keeping the public uninformed. Why is this? How does information suppression help deal with an alleged world pandemic? Clearly, it does not help. I have reported many times on the effectiveness of HCQ/zinc. You can use the search feature on this website to locate my reports. Ivermectin has proven to be even more effective than HCQ. Dr. Marc Wathelet, a leading virologist, has brought the evidence for Ivermectin before the government of Belgium. There is no justifiable reason for not using these cures, and there is no justifiable reason for not initiating a prevention program based on supplements, diet, and a more healthy life style.

The failure of governments and health authorities to employ these proven means amounts to premeditated mass murder. The reason people have died from Covid is the refusal to treat and to prevent with known effective means. Instead, governments and health authorities have interfered with doctors and prevented treatment with HCQ and Ivermectin, while using the presstitutes to brainwash the public that these effective and safe treatments are dangerous. The massive disinformation campaign waged against effective prevention and treatment does not come from ignorance and incompetence of public authorities. It comes from the agendas that Covid is being used to advance, agendas whose toll in human life and suffering is unimportant to those whose agendas are being served. What reason is there for people in any country to have confidence in their government and public health authorities?

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“The Newsweek fact check itself is “mostly false.” The fact checkers have been fact checked.”

Newsweek ‘Fact Check’ Claims India Vaccine Ban “Mostly False” (SN)

Newsweek published a “fact check” which labeled claims that India had banned the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as “mostly false” despite admitting in the article that India has in fact temporarily banned the vaccine. Last week, discussion around the issue intensified after it was revealed that Indian health authorities had refused to give permission for the vaccine to be distributed. “On February 3, 2021, India’s Subject Expert Committee (SEC), a panel that advises the nation’s Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO), a national regulatory body focused on pharmaceuticals and devices, ruled that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine should not be recommended for an EUA in the country “at this stage,” reports Newsweek.

The report quotes India’s Subject Expert Committee (SEC), which ruled, “The committee noted that incidents of palsy, anaphylaxis and other SAE’s have been reported during post marketing and the causality of the events with the vaccine is being investigated. Further, the firm has not proposed any plan to generate safety and immunogenicity data in Indian population.” In response, after the meeting with the regulator, Pfizer Inc. withdrew its application for the vaccine’s use in India. The Newsweek report admits all this, including but then asserts that that the claim India banned the vaccine is “mostly false.”Indian authorities refused to allow the vaccine to be distributed in India. That’s also known as a “ban”. The ban might be lifted at a future date, but it’s a ban nonetheless.

For Newsweek to claim that this is “mostly false” is completely erroneous. The Newsweek fact check itself is “mostly false.” The fact checkers have been fact checked.

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Three different techniques.

Russia Registers Third Domestically-Created Vaccine Against Covid-19 (RT)

A third Covid-19 vaccine has been registered in Russia, the country’s Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announced on Saturday morning. The drug, dubbed CoviVac, has been developed by the Chumakov Scientific Center in Moscow. The new formula, which has yet to complete phase three trials, uses the most traditional technology out of all of the Russian-made anti-coronavirus solutions. CoviVac is a whole virus vaccine that contains either weakened or deactivated strains of the infection, cultivated specifically for its production. Its developers have previously said that the vast majority of vaccines worldwide have been built on this technology and using it against the Covid-19 pandemic was a viable option.

The pilot batch of 120,000 doses is expected to become available for Russia’s public in mid-March, Mishustin stated. The developers are also seeking to export the vaccine to other countries, following in the footsteps of the Gamaleya Center’s pioneering Sputnik V. The virus sample used to create the vaccine was collected from a Covid-19 patient hospitalized in the Moscow region, the head of Chumakov Center, Aidar Ishmukhametov, revealed back in December. The sample turned out to be both bold and ‘cooperative’ enough to thrive in the laboratory, providing scientists with the material needed to produce the vaccine.

The first coronavirus vaccine registered by Russia, Sputnik V, relies on a unique two-vector human adenovirus technology. Basically, coronavirus particles are inserted into a weakened adenovirus, which is a genetically modified flu virus that cannot reproduce in the human body. It then triggers the required immunity reaction. Sputnik V uses two different adenoviral vectors for the first and second dose and is more effective defense compared to other vaccines that use the same vector for both shots. The second jab, the EpiVacCorona developed by the Siberia-based Vector Institute, uses synthesized particles of the virus instead. They are put into the human body by carrier proteins. Unlike some foreign competitors, all the Russian-made vaccines, including the brand new CoviVac, can be stored in regular refrigerators, which greatly facilitates the logistics and distribution of the shots.

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There is only one religion.

White House ‘Working Directly’ With Big Tech To Censor ‘Vaccine Hesitancy’ (RT)

Joe Biden’s administration is reportedly working directly with Silicon Valley giants to root out ‘misinformation and disinformation’ that hampers US vaccination efforts, indicating hands-on involvement in Big Tech censorship. “Disinformation that causes vaccine hesitancy is going to be a huge obstacle to getting everyone vaccinated and there are no larger players in that than the social media platforms,” a source with direct knowledge about the cooperation told Reuters. “We are talking to them… so they understand the importance of misinformation and disinformation and how they can get rid of it quickly.” The White House previously acknowledged working with tech giants like Facebook and Google on the issue, but direct engagement was not confirmed, Reuters said.


The Biden administration wants digital platforms to suppress content that can result in events like the anti-vaccination protest at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in late January, the source said. The arena has been repurposed as a drive-in mass vaccination site, one of the largest in the US, after being used for Covid-19 testing since May. Police shut it down for about an hour on January 30, after around 50 protesters gathered at the entrance, decrying a “Covid scam” and demanding an end to lockdown in California. The event went off peacefully and was rebuked by state officials, including Governor Gavin Newsom – whom the protesters wanted to be recalled, according to one of the signs they carried.

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“..Congress violates the First Amendment when it attempts to require private companies to impose viewpoint-based speech restrictions which the government itself would be constitutionally barred from imposing.”

Congress Escalates Pressure on Tech Giants to Censor More (Greenwald)

For the third time in less than five months, the U.S. Congress has summoned the CEOs of social media companies to appear before them, with the explicit intent to pressure and coerce them to censor more content from their platforms. On March 25, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will interrogate Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, Facebooks’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai at a hearing which the Committee announced will focus “on misinformation and disinformation plaguing online platforms.” The Committee’s Chair, Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), and the two Chairs of the Subcommittees holding the hearings, Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), said in a joint statement that the impetus was “falsehoods about the COVID-19 vaccine” and “debunked claims of election fraud.”

They argued that “these online platforms have allowed misinformation to spread, intensifying national crises with real-life, grim consequences for public health and safety,” adding: “This hearing will continue the Committee’s work of holding online platforms accountable for the growing rise of misinformation and disinformation.” House Democrats have made no secret of their ultimate goal with this hearing: to exert control over the content on these online platforms. “Industry self-regulation has failed,” they said, and therefore “we must begin the work of changing incentives driving social media companies to allow and even promote misinformation and disinformation.” In other words, they intend to use state power to influence and coerce these companies to change which content they do and do not allow to be published.

I’ve written and spoken at length over the past several years about the dangers of vesting the power in the state, or in tech monopolies, to determine what is true and false, or what constitutes permissible opinion and what does not. I will not repeat those points here. Instead, the key point raised by these last threats from House Democrats is an often-overlooked one: while the First Amendment does not apply to voluntary choices made by a private company about what speech to allow or prohibit, it does bar the U.S. Government from coercing or threatening such companies to censor. In other words, Congress violates the First Amendment when it attempts to require private companies to impose viewpoint-based speech restrictions which the government itself would be constitutionally barred from imposing.

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Who thinks there will be a thorough probe?

Nursing Home Industry Avoids Scrutiny For Covid-19 Deaths With Lobbying (IC)

Early in the coronavirus pandemic, as the country was being hit by the first wave of the deadly outbreak, New York state, under the leadership Gov. Andrew Cuomo, issued an order directing over 9,000 coronavirus-positive patients be discharged from hospitals into nursing homes. The Cuomo administration claimed that the order was necessary due to the risk of hospitals becoming overwhelmed by Covid-19. In fact, nursing homes tend to have much less effective infection control policies than hospitals, and the order, which likely contributed enormously to the spread of Covid-19 in nursing homes, was reversed in May.

In the meantime, though, the Cuomo administration moved to further protect nursing homes. In April, New York became one of the first states to implement liability relief for nursing home operators, after aggressive lobbying and years of donations from the hospital and nursing home industries. Besides New York, at least 27 other states have implemented liability protections for nursing homes.

Across the country, 161,000 nursing home and other long-term care residents have died from Covid-19, an astonishing 36 percent of the total coronavirus deaths in the U.S., and there have been over 1.2 million cases in nursing homes, meaning about half of all nursing home residents contracted the virus. The Government Accountability Office released a report in May 2020 titled “Infection Control Deficiencies Were Widespread and Persistent in Nursing Homes Prior to COVID-19 Pandemic.” And study after study has shown a connection between nursing home staffing and Covid-19 deaths, from the New York Attorney General’s office to researchers at the University of Chicago to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco.

[..[ The industry, with its powerful lobby, has escaped significant scrutiny, however. Just two nursing home executives have been indicted for Covid-19 deaths, while the industry showered over $10 million on candidates and political action committees in 2020, according to data collected by the National Institute on Money in Politics. Congress has held just one hearing on Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes, in the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, chaired by progressive Rep. Lloyd Doggett.

And in the CARES Act, passed in March 2020, Congress gave the industry $10 billion through the Provider Relief Fund — with no strings attached for quality or staffing — as the Trump administration reduced nursing home inspections and fines. As a result, “there are some nursing home chains where the chain had more profits in 2020 than in 2019,” said Toby Edelman, an attorney and nursing home resident advocate with the Center for Medicare Advocacy.

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“You haven’t seen my wrath.” Who, other than raging megalomaniacs, talks that way? Why do we insist on electing such miserable people to positions of power?”

For Albany’s Biggest Bully, The Hits Keep Coming (TU)

Andrew Cuomo’s team insists the governor didn’t threaten Ron Kim, the Queens assemblyman who has been a persistent and effective critic of the governor’s nursing home policies. But nobody who follows state government heard Kim’s story and said, “Gee, that doesn’t sound like Andrew Cuomo.” The alleged threat to “destroy” Kim sounds exactly like the governor. It’s who he is. For a decade, until the pandemic temporarily elevated his reputation, Cuomo was Albany’s leading bully, the secretive, scheming, petty narcissist who used fear and threats to subdue friends and opponents alike. Some perhaps believed such distasteful pugilism was needed to wrestle New York’s anarchic government under control. If nothing else, Cuomo seemed competent. He was reelected, twice, without breaking a sweat.

But now, suddenly, everything is crashing down around him. The searing report released at the end of January by Attorney General Letitia James, the one that castigated the governor for dramatically undercounting nursing home deaths, was a watershed, perhaps because James had been considered a Cuomo ally. It’s been a drumbeat of bad news for the governor ever since. The blows keep coming. You probably know that a state judge said the Cuomo administration illegally ignored Freedom of Information Law requests for truthful nursing home information. You’re aware of the firestorm that erupted when a top Cuomo aide blamed a federal inquiry for the administration’s stonewall.

This week, we learned the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn have launched a new probe into the Cuomo administration’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic. Lawmakers, increasingly frustrated by the administration’s intense gaslighting, are calling for investigations and threatening to strip the governor’s pandemic power. There’s even impeachment talk. So, Cuomo was in real trouble even before he spent 20 minutes angrily assailing Kim at a press conference Wednesday, an assault that led the assemblyman to talk publicly about frightening threats from a raging governor. I will destroy you!” Cuomo screamed, according to Kim. “You haven’t seen my wrath.” Who, other than raging megalomaniacs, talks that way? Why do we insist on electing such miserable people to positions of power? Why do they get away with behavior that would get anyone else fired?

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Why does this make me think of Epstein?

Lincoln Project Implosion Has Derailed Plan For A Media Empire (VF)

That executives at the organization—including Steve Schmidt—may have known about allegations against Weaver before they were made public. (Schmidt has denied prior knowledge of the allegations. In a statement, the Lincoln Project said it had been “betrayed and deceived” by Weaver.) If true, the stories, which have blasted through the group with bombshell force, represent a spectacular and horrific denouement. In response, many of the Lincoln Project’s members have fallen back on their favorite mantra: Donald Trump is worse. “You know who would be the happiest man in the world if he knew he’d never have to deal with [Lincoln Project] again? Donald Trump,” tweeted cofounder Stuart Stevens last week. “Pick a side. I’m with [Lincoln Project].” He then urged readers to stand with the group.

“Most effective Super PAC in US history,” Stevens wrote. (In fact, though the Lincoln Project’s viral attack ads racked up millions of views, the videos seemingly didn’t do much to accomplish their stated goal of swaying the GOP electorate. Trump received a larger share of the Republican vote nationally in 2020 than he did in 2016.) Others appeared resigned. “Just shut it down already,” wrote Kurt Bardella, who departed from his position as a senior adviser amid the whirlwind of bad press. George Conway, another since-departed cofounder, likewise tweeted that, at this point, shuttering the PAC is the “right” move. On Thursday, the Lincoln Project announced the formation of a “transition advisory committee” that will support the internal investigation of Weaver, as well as a “Stewardship Report” to outline its finances.

As the organization flounders, its plans for the future have been thrown into doubt. The group’s stars had planned to work for Israeli prime minister hopeful Gideon Sa’ar in his bid against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an election that will be held in March. Sa’ar’s campaign had brought on the Lincoln Project’s Schmidt, Reed Galen, Stevens, and Rick Wilson a few weeks ago in the hopes that the group’s aggressive attack ads would work against Netanyahu, but their relationship has since been dissolved, according to a Tuesday report in the Jerusalem Post. Just before the 2020 election, Axios reported that the Lincoln Project had potential plans for a sprawling media organization—Lincoln Media—and had been approached by “several media and entertainment companies and podcast platforms looking to launch franchises from its brand.”

Those talks reportedly included interest from a TV studio in developing a fiction series; queries from networks about streaming the Lincoln Project’s proprietary show, LPTV; and potentially creating a nonfiction film. The organization had planned to launch a revamped version of its podcast, telling Axios it would be “unveiling new episodes imminently” and expanding its LPTV programming “in the coming weeks.” Those plans are now, presumably, in limbo.

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The incompetence is baffling.

Reuters, BBC, Bellingcat Part Of Covert UK Programs To “Weaken Russia” (GZ)

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) have sponsored Reuters and the BBC to conduct a series of covert programs aimed at promoting regime change inside Russia and undermining its government across Eastern Europe and Central Asia, according to a series of leaked documents. The leaked materials show the Thomson Reuters Foundation and BBC Media Action participating in a covert information warfare campaign aimed at countering Russia. Working through a shadowy department within the UK FCO known as the Counter Disinformation & Media Development (CDMD), the media organizations operated alongside a collection of intelligence contractors in a secret entity known simply as “the Consortium.”

Through training programs of Russian journalists overseen by Reuters, the British Foreign Office sought to produce an “attitudinal change in the participants,” promoting a “positive impact” on their “perception of the UK.” “These revelations show that when MPs were railing about Russia, British agents were using the BBC and Reuters to deploy precisely the same tactics that politicians and media commentators were accusing Russia of using,” Chris Williamson, a former UK Labour MP who attempted to apply public scrutiny to the CDMD’s covert activities and was stonewalled on national security grounds, told The Grayzone. “The BBC and Reuters portray themselves as an unimpeachable, impartial, and authoritative source of world news,” Williamson continued, “but both are now hugely compromised by these disclosures. Double standards like this just bring establishment politicians and corporate media hacks into further disrepute.”

[..] The Grayzone reported in October 2020 on leaked materials released by Anonymous which exposed a massive propaganda campaign funded by the UK FCO to cultivate support for regime change in Syria. Soon after, the Foreign Office claimed its computer systems had been penetrated by hackers, thus confirming their authenticity. The new leaks illustrate in alarming detail how Reuters and the BBC – two of the largest and most distinguished news organizations in the world – attempted to answer the British foreign ministry’s call for help in improving its “ability to respond and to promote our message across Russia,” and to “counter the Russian government’s narrative.” Among the UK FCO’s stated goals, according to the director of the CDMD, was to “weaken the Russian State’s influence on its near neighbours.”

[..] The UK FCO projects were carried out covertly, and in partnership with purportedly independent, high-profile online media outfits including Bellingcat, Meduza, and the Pussy Riot-founded Mediazona. Bellingcat’s participation apparently included a UK FCO intervention in North Macedonia’s 2019 elections on behalf of the pro-NATO candidate.

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Who will be sued?

Texas Blackouts Spark First Lawsuit; AG Vows Probe (ZH)

A Corpus Christi man has accused the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the state’s primary electric grid, of ignoring repeated warnings that the state’s electric power infrastructure had weaknesses, according to a new lawsuit. In a statement by the Dallas law firm which filed the suit, ERCOT and American Electric Power utility are also accused of causing property damage and business interruptions as last week’s cold snap shattered water pipes and caused widespread power outages to millions of Texans, according to NBCDFW. “This cold weather event and its effects on the Texas energy grid were neither unprecedented, nor unexpected, nor unforeseen,” states the lawsuit, filed by Donald McCarley.

“In fact, similar cold weather events in 1989 and 2011 led to exactly the same type of rolling blackouts that have affected and continue to affect Texas residents and businesses.” The lawsuit also cites a clause in the Texas Constitution which holds that “no person’s property shall be taken, damaged or destroyed for or applied to public use without adequate compensation being made.” “The rolling blackouts ordered by Defendant ERCOT took, damaged, or destroyed Plaintiff’s property without adequate compensation,” the suit claims. “The lawsuit filed Friday in a Nueces County court at law in Corpus Christi alleges the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, manager of the state’s main electric grid, ignored repeated warnings of weaknesses in the state’s electric power infrastructure.” -NBCDFW

“The resulting widespread property damage from blackouts was caused by their negligence and gross negligence. In addition, the disruptions rendered private property unusable and amounted to an illegal `taking’ of private property by the government,” the law firm said in a statement. The lawsuit also claims that utility companies should have winterized their plants and increased generation to meet skyrocketing demand, “but consciously chose not to do so.”

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Not everyone will agree, but this is intriguing: “.. when gold is the basis of all transaction settlements, economies become self-regulating and self-correcting..”

The Future Of Money Is Gold (Macleod)

As a circulating medium, gold and its properly established and exchangeable substitutes have proved to be the most effective lubricant for economic progress. It behoves us to take a moment to understand why this is the case, and why its circulation as money was central to the rapid and unprecedented improvement in living standards in the nineteenth century. People in a community, town, city or even a nation set their own monetary requirements and the level of their trade. Let us assume that in doing so, the general price level differs from that of a neighbouring population. The conditions then exist for an arbitrage to take place, whereby gold payments will flow to the community with the lower prices when economic actors in the community with higher prices take advantage of them.

Price differentials will tend to close to a level that reflects transaction and transport costs, so the purchasing power of gold in the two communities converge. This understanding in classical economics is the basis behind purchasing power parity theory. Additionally, savings in gold will seek out the higher investment returns between the two centres. It is likely that the centre with lower costs will offer the greater attraction to capital flows, but this is less certain. However, the quantities of gold held as savings are always significantly less than the quantities spent in consumption in an economy that uses monetary capital efficiently. The arbitrage takes place both through the trade of goods and also by the deployment of capital exploiting interest rate and opportunity differentials, so that a convergence in both prices and interest rates is achieved.

And what applies between two communities using gold as money applies between them all, so that across all unfettered, free market economies which maximise the benefits of the division of labour, the benefits of gold as money are enjoyed by all. It is therefore easy to see that in a commercial world with effective transport and communications, whatever the local preferences for holding money relative to goods may be, multi-centre arbitrage tends to produce a common price level and a common level for interest rates. These adjustment factors are conducive to trade, not only between communities but between nations. And trade priced and settled in gold is, all else being equal, far more efficient than when individual fiat currencies are involved, because with gold as the common money national boundaries are no longer barriers to payments and trade is truly global.

Given gold’s ubiquity as money, the effect of localised changes in general preferences for holding gold relative to goods can be regarded as minimised. An additional but unrelated factor is the inflation of above-ground stocks of gold through mine supply, but this is broadly offset by population growth. And a substantial element of gold usage is non-monetary, mainly for jewellery, which becomes a flexible source of monetary gold if markets demand it. Technological innovation and improvement in production methods as well as competition all tend in the long run to reduce the general price level of goods and services measured in gold. So, while there is little change in the general level of prices from the money side, there can be a significant reduction in prices over long periods of time from the goods side.

The effect is to enhance the purchasing power of savings, leading to stable, low interest rates and improved living standards for all but the indolent. In summary, when gold is the basis of all transaction settlements, economies become self-regulating and self-correcting. Successful economic activity is rewarded with profits and the opportunity to accumulate wealth. In every respect, government intervention and regulation results in the opposite.

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“If Assange’s lawyers do decide to bring a cross appeal, then the High Court hearing of that and the U.S. appeal will acquire epochal importance.”

Assange’s Lawyers Consider a Cross Appeal (Mercouris)

Julian Assange’s lawyers are considering bringing a cross appeal to the High Court in London disputing parts of District Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s Jan. 4 judgment not to extradite Assange to the United States, according to a report by journalist Tareq Haddad. Baraitser refused the U.S. request on narrow grounds, saying Assange’s extradition would put his life and health at risk. But Baraitser sided with the U.S. on every other point of law and fact, making it clear that in the absence of the life and health issues she would have granted the U.S. request. That opens the way for the U.S. government to seek the extradition of other persons, including journalists, who do the same things as Assange did, but who cannot rely on the same life and health issues.

It also means that if the U.S. wins the appeal it filed last Friday in High Court it can try Assange in the U.S. on the Espionage Act charges that went unchallenged by Baraitser. If Assange’s lawyers counter the U.S. appeal with one of their own in the High Court against Baraitser’s upholding of the espionage charges, it would be heard simultaneously with the U.S. appeal. Stella Moris, Assange’s partner, has written that Assange’s lawyers are indeed considering a cross appeal: “The next step in the legal case is that Julian’s legal team will respond to the US grounds for appeal. Julian’s lawyers are hard at work. Julian’s team has asked the High Court to give them more time to consider whether to lodge a cross appeal in order to challenge parts of the ruling where the magistrate did not side with Julian and the press freedom arguments. A cross appeal would provide an opportunity to clear Julian’s name properly.

Although Julian won at the Magistrates’ Court, the magistrate did not side with him on the wider public interest arguments. We wanted a U.K. court to properly quash the extradition and refute the other grounds too. We wanted a finding that the extradition is an attempt to criminalise journalism, not just in the U.S. but in the U.K. and the rest of the world as well; and that the decision to indict Julian was a political act, a violation of the treaty, a violation of his human rights and an abuse of process. Julian’s extradition team is considering all these issues, and whether they can be cross-appealed.”

[..] One should be cautious about the idea of a cross appeal to the High Court on Assange’s behalf. Despite the fact that Baraitser sided with the U.S. government on most of the contentious issues of law and fact in the case, she did in the end refuse the U.S. government’s request for Assange’s extradition. The normal practice in an appeal is to uphold a judgment made in one’s favour, not to challenge it by bringing a cross appeal, which could serve to undermine it. That often means going along with things in the judgment with which one is unhappy.

There is however nothing normal about Assange’s case. As Moris’ comments show, one has to be aware, perhaps more than in almost any other case, of the overriding and even transcendent issues of media freedom and human rights that arise. It may be that Assange’s lawyers will decide that Ainsworth’s comments to the House of Commons in 2003; Davis’s recent comments about parliament’s intentions at the time when the 2003 Extradition Act was passed into law; and any other points of law or fact that carry sufficient weight, justify bringing a cross appeal, despite the attendant risks. If Assange’s lawyers do decide to bring a cross appeal, then the High Court hearing of that and the U.S. appeal will acquire epochal importance.

Assange Facebook

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Feb 202021
 
 February 20, 2021  Posted by at 10:05 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  23 Responses »


Edward Hopper Gloucester Beach, Bass Rocks 1924

 

Infection Down 75% After First Pfizer Shot (JPost)
We’ll Have Herd Immunity by April (Makary)
Democrats Don’t Believe In Returning To ‘Normal‘ (WE)
Two Variants Have Merged Into Heavily Mutated Coronavirus (New Scientist)
Ivermectin Reduces Length Of COVID-19 Infection (JPost)
German Study: Laboratory Accident Most Likely Cause of COVID Pandemic (SPR)
Johnson & Johnson Submits Its Single-Shot Covid Vaccine To WHO (RT)
Fauci: When I Publicly Disagreed With Trump He Let Terrible Things Happen (T.)
Pfizer-BioNTech Tried To Gouge The EU With $65 Vaccine Doses (RT)
Covid or No Covid (Kunstler)
Swiss To Vote In Referendum On Government’s Covid Restrictions (FT)
China Steps Up Online Controls With New Rule For Bloggers (AP)
The Sound and the Fury of Andrew Cuomo (New Yorker)
The Texas Freeze is a Catastrophe of the Free Market (Galbraith)

 

 

 

 

Mike Ryan

 

 

Saw something in a Dutch paper. Can’t find an English version, and it has no sources. So a Google translate.

This is the first time I see a claim that the Pfizer vaccine prevents the virus from spreading, something the company itself, until recently, said it had no proof for.

What I did find in an AFP article is this, which sort of seems to deny the claim: “Gili Regev-Yochay, co-author of the study [..] said that despite the vaccine being “amazingly effective”, scientists are still studying whether fully vaccinated people can transmit the virus to others. “That is the big, big, question. We are working on it. This is not on this paper and I hope we will have some good news soon..”

The Dutch bit: “People vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are much less likely to transmit the coronavirus. That means the vaccines may not only prevent people from getting sick, but also make them much less likely to infect others, two Israeli studies show. The virus would be 89.4 percent less transmissible in vaccinated people without symptoms. In patients who do have symptoms, that percentage is even higher, at 93.7.


This is stated in a data analysis by Pfizer and the Israeli Ministry of Health.” A separate study also yielded good news. Researchers from the Sheba Medical Center concluded that 7,214 vaccinated hospital workers were much less likely to transmit the virus after 15 to 28 days. This is an 85 percent reduction in infected people with symptoms.

 

Infection Down 75% After First Pfizer Shot (JPost)

Data released by Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer on Friday showed that coronavirus infections were reduced by 75% after the first dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. The data, published in the peer-reviewed Lancet medical journal, centered on a study of around 9,000 Sheba healthcare workers, around 7,000 of which received their first dose in January. Sheba’s team found a 75% decrease in all infections and an 85% reduction in symptomatic infections between 15-28 days after vaccination. According to Prof. Gili Regev-Yochay, director of the hospital’s Infectious Disease Epidemiology Unit, only 170 people became infected during the two week period. Of those who contracted the virus, 99 showed symptoms. Eighty-nine of the sick were unvaccinated.

“In real life, the data looks at least as good as in the clinical trials,” Regev-Yochay said. “The first dose is even more effective than we thought.” She said the hospital is now completing research on the impact of the second dose, which she said researchers still believe is essential. However, she noted that the research supports the British government’s decision to spread out the time between the first and second shots of the vaccine in order to inoculate more people. “This is the first study assessing effectiveness of a single vaccine dose in real life conditions and shows early effectiveness, even before the second dose was administered,” said Prof. Eyal Leshem, director of Sheba’s Travel & Tropical Medicine department.

Regev-Yochay noted that there was at least one limitation on the data – that hospital workers tend to be under the age of 65 and healthier than the rest of the population, so it is possible that less people got sick or showed symptoms for that reason.

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“Contingency planning for an open economy by April can deliver hope to those in despair and to those who have made large personal sacrifices.”

We’ll Have Herd Immunity by April (Makary)

Johns Hopkins surgeon, Dr. Marty Makary, penned an Op-ed in the WSJ this morning saying that we will have herd immunity by April. “Experts should level with the public about the good news…” exclaims Makary (who is likely on the verge of getting canceled), as he cites the “miracle” 77% drop in cases over the past 6 weeks and that testing likely only captured about 10% – 25% of infections; he extrapolates that to saying 55% of Americans have natural immunity (and add to that the 15% of Americans that have been vaccinated). Additionally, he cites Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner, who believes that 250mm doses of the vaccine will have be delivered to 150mm people by the end of March.

“There is reason to think the country is racing toward an extremely low level of infection. As more people have been infected, most of whom have mild or no symptoms, there are fewer Americans left to be infected. At the current trajectory, I expect Covid will be mostly gone by April, allowing Americans to resume normal life.”[..] “…the consistent and rapid decline in daily cases since Jan. 8 can be explained only by natural immunity. Behavior didn’t suddenly improve over the holidays; Americans traveled more over Christmas than they had since March. Vaccines also don’t explain the steep decline in January. Vaccination rates were low and they take weeks to kick in.”

[..] “Some medical experts privately agreed with my prediction that there may be very little Covid-19 by April but suggested that I not to talk publicly about herd immunity because people might become complacent and fail to take precautions or might decline the vaccine. But scientists shouldn’t try to manipulate the public by hiding the truth. As we encourage everyone to get a vaccine, we also need to reopen schools and society to limit the damage of closures and prolonged isolation. Contingency planning for an open economy by April can deliver hope to those in despair and to those who have made large personal sacrifices.”

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More on Dr. Makary.

Democrats Don’t Believe In Returning To ‘Normal‘ (WE)

Johns Hopkins University professor Dr. Marty Makary has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this week, asserting with confidence that the U.S. population will have achieved herd immunity against the coronavirus by April “allowing Americans to resume normal life.” That’s a nice thought, but not so fast, Makary. You’re not under the impression that even when we’re at an astonishingly low rate of infection that life will, on its own will, default to what it was pre-2020, are you? Don’t be so naive. The people calling the shots have made no such promises. They have, in fact, done the opposite. When is the last time anyone has heard the sainted Dr. Anthony Fauci or President Biden or anyone at all in the Democratic Party say anything about resuming “normal life.”? I’ll wait.

Just last month, Fauci said that even with as much as 85% of the population vaccinated by the end of the summer, we could still only expect a “degree of normality.” He said that, of course, in a tone that suggested we should be grateful, but it’s what he said. Biden, just this week, made clear that “normal” isn’t part of his vocabulary. During a town hall-style event, he said that the Christmas season might bring “a very different circumstance, God willing, than we are today.” Once we’re all vaccinated, aren’t you looking forward to our “very different circumstance”? Flat-lining new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19 is the immediate goal for everyone, but everyone needs to understand that Democrats have some other things in mind for the pandemic as well.

In Washington, D.C., where I live, we’ve been averaging something like three deaths per day between November and now. The typical person who succumbs to the virus is usually in his mid-70s to mid-80s. New cases are down close to 40% over the last two weeks. And for that, we remain in severe lockdown. Indoor capacity at restaurants, the owners of which have started constructing permanent outdoor seating structures, is limited to 25%. All of our museums are indefinitely closed. There are no clubs, movie theaters, or concert venues in operation. Anyone who believes it’s all going to come roaring back in April is kidding themselves. This is how Democrats believe we should live. They believe it’s better for the planet, but don’t worry, trust them to send you a monthly check to tide you over.

Herd immunity won’t get us back to normal. It will be people who decide they’ll no longer tolerate lockdowns.

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“it carries a mutation making it resistant to some antibodies..”

Two Variants Have Merged Into Heavily Mutated Coronavirus (New Scientist)

Two variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes covid-19 have combined their genomes to form a heavily mutated hybrid version of the virus. The “recombination” event was discovered in a virus sample in California, provoking warnings that we may be poised to enter a new phase of the pandemic. The hybrid virus is the result of recombination of the highly transmissible B.1.1.7 variant discovered in the UK and the B.1.429 variant that originated in California and which may be responsible for a recent wave of cases in Los Angeles because it carries a mutation making it resistant to some antibodies.

The recombinant was discovered by Bette Korber at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, who told a meeting organised by the New York Academy of Sciences on 2 February that she had seen “pretty clear” evidence of it in her database of US viral genomes. If confirmed, the recombinant would be the first to be detected in this pandemic. In December and January, two research groups independently reported that they hadn’t seen any evidence of recombination, even though it has long been expected as it is common in coronaviruses. Unlike regular mutation, where changes accumulate one at a time, which is how variants such as B.1.1.7 arose, recombination can bring together multiple mutations in one go.

Most of the time, these don’t confer any advantage to the virus, but occasionally they do. Recombination can be of major evolutionary importance, according to François Balloux at University College London. It is considered by many to be how SARS-CoV-2 originated. Recombination could lead to the emergence of new and even more dangerous variants, although it isn’t yet clear how much of a threat this first recombination event might pose. Korber has only seen a single recombinant genome among thousands of sequences and it isn’t clear whether the virus is being transmitted from person to person or is just a one-off.

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Baby steps, but something.

Ivermectin Reduces Length Of COVID-19 Infection (JPost)

An Israeli tropical-disease expert says he has new proof that a drug used to fight parasites in third-world countries could help reduce the length of infection for people who contract coronavirus. Prof. Eli Schwartz, founder of the Center for Travel Medicine and Tropical Disease at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, last week completed a clinical trial of the US Food and Drug Administration-approved drug ivermectin, a broad-spectrum antiparasitic agent that has also been shown to fight viruses. The double-blind, placebo-controlled study included 100 people with mild to moderate cases of the disease who were not hospitalized for the virus. It tested whether ivermectin could shorten the viral shedding period, allowing them to test negative for coronavirus and leave isolation in only a few days.


According to his still unpublished data, Schwartz said the drug was shown to help “cure” people of the virus within just six days. Moreover, the chances of testing negative for coronavirus were three times higher for the group who received ivermectin than the placebo, he told The Jerusalem Post. “From a public-health point of view, the majority of patients with corona are mild cases, and 90% of these people are isolated outside of the hospital,” Schwartz said. “If you have any kind of drug that can shorten the duration of the infectiousness of these patients, that would be dramatic, as then they will not infect others.” Moreover, instead of isolating for a minimum of 10 days and maybe more, this period could be shortened, benefiting the economy. Finally, although Schwartz’s study did not focus on this, he said the results indicate that it is likely if the drug were given at the beginning of one’s illness, it could prevent deterioration and hospitalization.

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Full study via the link.

German Study: Laboratory Accident Most Likely Cause of COVID Pandemic (SPR)

For more than a year, the coronavirus has been causing a worldwide crisis. In a study, nanoscientist Prof. Dr. Roland Wiesendanger has now shed light on the origin of the virus. He concludes that both the number and quality of the circumstantial evidence point to a laboratory accident at the virological institute in the city of Wuhan as the cause of the current pandemic. The study was conducted between January 2020 and December 2020. It is based on an interdisciplinary scientific approach and extensive research using a wide variety of information sources. These include scientific literature, articles in print and online media, and personal communication with international colleagues. It does not provide strictly scientific evidence, but it does provide ample and serious circumstantial evidence:

• Unlike previous coronavirus-related epidemics such as SARS and MERS, to date, well over a year after the outbreak of the current pandemic, no intermediate host animal has been identified that could have facilitated the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 pathogens from bats to humans. Therefore, the zoonotic theory as a possible explanation for the pandemic has no sound scientific basis.

• The SARS-CoV-2 viruses are surprisingly good at coupling to human cell receptors and penetrating human cells. This is made possible by special cell receptor binding domains combined with a special (furin) cleavage site of the coronavirus spike protein. Both properties together were previously unknown in coronaviruses and indicate a non-natural origin of the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen.

• Bats were not offered at the suspected fish market in the center of Wuhan city. However, the Wuhan City Virological Institute has one of the world’s largest collections of bat pathogens, which originated from distant caves in southern Chinese provinces. It is extremely unlikely that bats from this distance of nearly 2,000 km would have naturally made their way to Wuhan, only to cause a global pandemic in close proximity to this virological institute.

• A research group at the Wuhan City Virological Institute has been genetically manipulating coronaviruses for many years with the goal of making them more contagious, dangerous and deadly to humans. This has been documented in the scientific literature by numerous publications.

• Significant safety deficiencies existed at the Wuhan City Virological Institute even before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, which have been documented.

• There are numerous direct references to a laboratory origin of the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen. For example, a young female scientist at the virology institute in Wuhan is believed to have been the first to become infected. There are also numerous indications that as early as October 2019, the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen spread from the virological institute to the city of Wuhan and beyond. Furthermore, there are indications that the virological institute was investigated by the Chinese authorities in the first half of October 2019.

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Late to the game?

Johnson & Johnson Submits Its Single-Shot Covid Vaccine To WHO (RT)

Pharma giant Johnson & Johnson has submitted data on its coronavirus vaccine to the World Health Organization (WHO) as it seeks the agency’s greenlight for emergency use. Unlike other shots, this one comes in a single dose. The emergency-use approval is a prerequisite for the vaccine joining the WHO-led COVAX watchdog program, J&J said in a statement on Friday, revealing it had submitted its paperwork to the UN health body. Unlike vaccine competitors already in the Covid-fighting market, the J&J offering comes in a single-dose form, which would make its distribution considerably easier. Moreover, it can be stored under standard refrigerator temperatures, making it an attractive option for countries with less-developed infrastructure.


While Russia’s Sputnik V, British-Swedish AstraZeneca and China’s CoronaVac vaccines can be stored in regular fridges as well, both of the US jabs by Moderna and Pfizer require extremely low temperatures to prevent spoilage. Pfizer said on Friday, however, that it had sufficient data to show its jab can actually be safely stored in a refrigerator and not the extreme cold currently advised. Johnson and Johnson published data on the late-stage trials of its vaccine last month, with the solution showing a rather modest efficacy of 66 percent. The vaccine was tested across several countries and showed mixed results ranging from 72 percent in the US to merely 57 percent in South Africa. [..] Apart from seeking the WHO’s approval, the J&J vaccine is also expected to enter the US market shortly. The solution is currently under review by the US Food and Drug Administration, with its experts expected to discuss its emergency use authorization next week.

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I see Nobel Prize AND Oscar material:

“By the time Biden took office, the pandemic was raging out of control. ‘Oh my goodness, it was,’ Fauci says. ‘When President Biden walked into the White House we were having 300,000 to 400,000 cases per day, 4,000 deaths per day, and our hospitals were on the brink of being overrun.’”

On Jan 18, the US had 150,695 new cases.
On Jan 19, the US had 176,153 new cases.
On Jan 20, the US had 191.222 new cases.

Fauci: When I Publicly Disagreed With Trump He Let Terrible Things Happen (T.)

He appears surprisingly relaxed given his immense responsibilities at this time of crisis, but then it takes a lot to faze Dr Fauci. The evergreen director of Washington’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has been a medical adviser to seven consecutive US presidents, starting with Ronald Reagan, steering them and his country through outbreaks of Ebola, Sars, Zika, avian flu, swine flu and the threat of biological weapons after 9/11. He was one of the first scientists to spot the lethal new syndrome that was Aids in the early 1980s. He was initially reviled by a gay community outraged at the Reagan administration’s apparent indifference to its decimation, then hailed as a hero after championing its cause.

Most recently, during almost all of 2020, he watched in horror as President Trump actively undermined his own government’s battle against the Covid-19 pandemic by holding mass rallies, mocking mask wearers, promoting quack remedies and encouraging his supporters to breach lockdowns. Fauci does not consider this characterisation of Trump’s conduct unfair. ‘No, no, no,’ he says. ‘Unfortunately it’s the truth.’ Donald Trump was initially sceptical of the threat from Covid-19, but Fauci and his fellow scientists did manage to persuade him to back state-by-state lockdowns, and approve social-distancing measures. He also restricted Chinese visitors to the country. By the spring, however, Fauci’s relations with the president had soured as Trump began listening to outsiders with no scientific knowledge and fretting about the damage to the economy and – by extension – his re-election hopes.

Fauci’s challenge was to correct the president’s dangerous falsehoods as diplomatically as possible, often while sharing the stage with him at televised White House briefings, but he says that ‘when it became clear that in order to maintain my integrity and to get the right message [across] I had to publicly disagree with him, he did things – or allowed things to happen – that were terrible. ‘Like he allowed Peter Navarro [Trump’s trade adviser] to write an editorial in USA Today saying that almost everything I’ve ever said was wrong. He allowed the communications department of the White House to send out a list to all of the media, all of the networks, all of the cables, all of the print press, about all of the mistakes I’ve made, which was absolute nonsense because there were no mistakes.’

Trump also began to denigrate Fauci in tweets and press conferences, setting him up as a target for the extreme Right’s hatred. ‘Which I became, to the point that to this day I have to have armed federal agents guarding me all the time,’ Fauci says. And he was not the only target. To his dismay, his wife and three adult daughters were also harassed and threatened. Liberated under President Biden, Fauci can now speak frankly in a way he couldn’t last year. He tells me that in the final two months of his presidency Trump almost completely abandoned his duty to protect the nation from the pandemic. ‘We [the scientists] were trying, but we were acting almost alone, in the sense of without any direction.’

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“..500 million doses would have cost the EU €3 billion more than the annual GDP of Iceland.”

Pfizer-BioNTech Tried To Gouge The EU With $65 Vaccine Doses (RT)

Drugmakers Pfizer and BioNTech wanted to charge the EU Commission €54.08 per dose of their Coronavirus vaccine, according to German media reports. The jab would have cost more than 20 times that of a rival shot from AstraZeneca. The prospective price tag was revealed on Thursday by German broadcasters NDR and WDR, and the Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. The paper claims that Pfizer and BioNTech submitted a bid to the EU offering 500 million doses at €54.08 ($65.58) per dose, for a total cost of €27 billion ($32.74 billion). At €54.08, the BioNTech vaccine would have cost more than 20 times as much as the rival vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, and 500 million doses would have cost the EU €3 billion more than the annual GDP of Iceland.

In comparison, Russia’s ‘Sputnik V’ vaccine was expected to be priced at no more than $10 (€8.26), according to its backers. “I see it as a pursuit of profit that is in no way justified in the current situation of the pandemic,” Wolf Dieter Ludwig, drug chairman of the German Medical Association, told the newspaper. Pfizer-BioNTech has made no profit on the sale of vaccines, according to the Suddeutsche Zeitung, and during negotiations last year reportedly told EU officials that the €54.08 price tag already included “the highest percentage discount” offered to any developed country. The final cost per dose of the vaccine is still unknown, though a document leaked by Belgian MP Eva De Bleeker in December suggested that Pfizer-BioNTech had been bargained down to €12 ($14.55).

Reuters later stated that it had reviewed documents showing the price at €15.50 ($18.79) per dose, “slightly lower than the $19.50 per shot the United States agreed to pay for a first shipment of 100 million doses of the same vaccine.”

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“..$1.5 billion is chump change for the charismatic Elon Musk, whose share of the American GDP can be seen from outer space, like the Great Wall of China.”

Covid or No Covid (Kunstler)

Covid-19 cases are going down fast across the country. If it actually goes away, imagine the giant hole left in the national narrative. No more arguments over lockdowns, kids could go back to school to learn about the scourge of whiteness, and Americans could see each other’s faces again. The “progressives” in power would have to hunt up some new reasons to cancel the bill of rights. That shouldn’t be too difficult for a party adept at making shit up. Right wing extremism would be my bet, even if Antifa and BLM go back to partying in the streets like it’s 2020 when the weather warms up. What won’t go away is the nation’s fantastic economic mess.

In just a few months since Thanksgiving, the financial system has gone through an epic shift, barely noticed by citizens preoccupied with unpaid bills, skipped rents, and empty refrigerators: the stock markets are now based on Bitcoin, which is to say on less than nothing. A whole new dynamic has emerged with publicly-held companies buying the stuff hand-over-fist. An outfit like Tesla, rumored to manufacture electric cars, invested $1.5 billion in the crypto-currency, which has shot up to over $50,000-a-coin in recent weeks. The move was so splendidly shrewd that Tesla’s stock price also shot up, though they don’t make a profit on those cool cars. Of course, $1.5 billion is chump change for the charismatic Elon Musk, whose share of the American GDP can be seen from outer space, like the Great Wall of China.

Other companies are buying Bitcoin on margin, taking advantage of super-low interest rates to make a fast killing. What a great idea! Even better than borrowing to buy back your own company’s stock to jack-up the share value. Don’t be surprised if half of the S & P jumps into the Bitcoin frenzy, bidding it up to six figures. Won’t that do wonders for US productivity and working-class wages? None of that will escape the attention of a “progressive” Congress, which will see a great opportunity to try to compensate for its fiscal profligacy by passing new taxes on “excess wealth” or “windfall profits.” Then, watch the rush-to-the-exits by shareholders in those companies that loaded up on Bitcoin, aggravated by the margin calls on the dough they borrowed to buy the stuff… as well as Bitcoin itself plummeting back to its actual true value: around zero.

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Clincher: the vote is scheduled for “as early as” June.

Swiss To Vote In Referendum On Government’s Covid Restrictions (FT)

Swiss campaigners have triggered a referendum to strip the government of new legal powers to impose lockdowns and curtail public life as the country battles the pandemic. Campaign group Friends of the Constitution on Wednesday handed in a petition of 86,000 signatures collected over the past three months — well in excess of the 50,000 required — to formally initiate a nationwide vote to repeal the 2020 Covid-19 Act under Switzerland’s highly devolved democratic system. The outcome will be legally binding, with a vote scheduled for as early as June. While the pandemic has exposed social and political fractures across Europe over the rights of citizens, in Switzerland — where individuals’ rights are often treated as culturally sacrosanct and government powers are sharply proscribed by law — the strains have become particularly evident.

“In our opinion, the [government] is taking advantage of the pandemic to introduce more control and less democracy,” Christoph Pfluger, a board member of Friends of the Constitution, told the Financial Times. He added: “The long-term problems that will arise from this kind of approach will be grave. We are a movement that says crisis management cannot be done without the will of the sovereign — the people. You cannot govern without the people.” Mr Pfluger said Switzerland would be the first and perhaps the only country to give its citizens a direct vote on coronavirus restrictions. Until late December, Bern’s governing Federal Council had been reluctant to impose restrictions during the second wave of the pandemic.

Staunch opposition from many Swiss to further curbs and dire warnings from several of the country’s most powerful and influential lobbying groups about the economic consequences of another shutdown forestalled action in the run-up to Christmas, even as case numbers rocketed. A poll conducted by Switzerland’s Sotomo Research Institute for state broadcaster SRF in November found that 55 per cent of Swiss were concerned about their individual freedoms being restricted by government measures. The same survey found that even an 11pm curfew for bars and restaurants was considered too restrictive by a third of Swiss respondents.

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Just like Twitter, Facebook.

China Steps Up Online Controls With New Rule For Bloggers (AP)

Ma Xiaolin frequently wrote about current affairs on one of China’s leading microblogging sites, where he has 2 million followers. But recently, he said in a post, the Weibo site called and asked him not to post original content on topics ranging from politics to economic and military issues. “As an international affairs researcher and a columnist, it looks like I can only go the route of entertainment, food and beverage now,” the international relations professor wrote on Jan. 31. Ma, who often posted on developments in the Mideast, is one of many popular influencers working within the constraints of China’s heavily censored web who is finding that their space to speak is shrinking even further with the latest policy changes and a clean-up campaign run by the country’s powerful censors,


Beginning next week, the Cyberspace Administration of China will require bloggers and influencers to have a government-approved credential before they can publish on a wide range of subjects. Some fear that only state media and official propaganda accounts will get permission. While permits have been needed since at least 2017 to write about topics such as political and military affairs, enforcement has not been widespread. The new rules expand that requirement to health, economics, education and judicial matters. “The regulators want to control the entire procedure of information production,” said Titus Chen, an expert in Chinese social media policy at National Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan.

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Chilling. Scorsese.

The Sound and the Fury of Andrew Cuomo (New Yorker)

Last week, Ron Kim, a Democratic State Assembly member from Queens, was preparing a bath for his three daughters—ages six, four, and two—when he got a call from the governor around 8 p.m. An hour earlier, the New York Post had published leaked details of a Zoom meeting between state Democratic lawmakers and Melissa DeRosa, one of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s closest aides. During the two-hour meeting, DeRosa seemed to confirm a suspicion that a number of lawmakers had had for months: the governor had intentionally withheld from them data confirming that thousands more New York nursing-home residents died from covid-19 than official numbers publicly showed. The lawmakers demanded an explanation, and DeRosa offered them one: last year, the Cuomo administration had been worried that Donald Trump and his Justice Department would use the numbers “against us.” “Basically, we froze,” DeRosa told the Democrats.

Kim, who has been a persistent critic of Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic, was in the meeting with DeRosa. A month earlier, he had become the chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Aging, and once the recording of the call leaked, the Post had reached out for comment. Kim told the reporters that, to him, DeRosa’s comments were as bad as they looked—“They were trying to dodge having any incriminating evidence,” he said—a quote that the governor’s office had tried to get Kim to retract. But the quote had stayed in, the story was up, and now the governor was on the phone, fuming. “I will destroy you!” Cuomo screamed, according to notes Kim wrote down after the call—which he shared with me. The governor was so loud that Kim’s wife and daughters grew upset, and Kim stepped out of the bathroom. “You haven’t seen my wrath,” Cuomo told him. “I will go out tomorrow and start telling the world how bad of an Assembly member you are, and you will be finished.”

For Kim, the nursing-home issue was personal as well as political. In April, his uncle Son Kim died, of a suspected case of covid-19, in a nursing home in Queens. He was seventy-eight, and had shaped his nephew’s life. Son Kim had become a dentist at a time when it was almost impossible for a Korean immigrant to set up a dental practice in New York City. He enlisted in the Army, in which he could practice his profession, and eventually sponsored Ron and his family’s visas to the U.S.; in 1987, when Ron was seven, his uncle, a staunch Republican, chose a new American name for him, in honor of President Ronald Reagan. Despite the personal loss, Kim told Cuomo that he’d tried to keep his disagreements about the governor’s pandemic policies on the level of policy. I bit my tongue, Kim said. “I bit my tongue!” Cuomo shot back.

Neither Kim nor his wife slept that night. “I’m trying to calm her down,” Kim told me. Cuomo kept up the pressure through the weekend. That Saturday, Cuomo’s aides and other intermediaries called Kim, trying to get him to talk to the governor. “It’s Lunar New Year—I’m with my family,” Kim told me. “I felt extremely uncomfortable.” Kim believes that Cuomo was trying to silence him. “I realized if I changed course, I’m complicit,” Kim said. “And then, politically, he owns me.” Kim hired a lawyer, to whom he directed any further communications about the issue from the governor’s office. “Ultimately, what he was trying to do was asking me to lie about what I heard,” Kim said, of Cuomo. “It’s like I witnessed a crime, and they’re asking me to say I didn’t witness a crime.”

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“In the aftermath of this debacle, we will return to New Deal-style municipal socialism, or this disaster of power, water, and gas will happen again. Socialism is government, in technical matters, by engineers and others who know their stuff and not by ideologues who do not. Compared to Texas right now, it’s not such a bad prospect.”

The Texas Freeze is a Catastrophe of the Free Market (Galbraith)

Competition would assure bare-bones, lean-and-mean efficiency, and low, low prices most of the time, reflecting the cost of fuel plus the smallest possible profit margin. The role of the state would be minimal – just to manage the common grid, through which power flows from the producer to the consumer. In times of shortage, prices might rise, but then the market would decide; those who did not wish to pay could always flip their switches off. It was a perfect textbook setup, with supply on one side, demand on the other, and a neutral manager in between. True, there were a few loose ends. One is that demand for electricity is what economists call inelastic: it doesn’t respond much to price, but it does respond to changes in the weather, and at such times, of heat or cold, the demand becomes even more inelastic.

Another detail was that in an ordinary market, there can be some play in the relationship between supply and demand. If even a fishmonger does not sell his catch, he can, at the end of the day, cut his price – or even freeze the haddock for the following day. Electricity isn’t like that. Supply has to exactly equal demand every single minute of every single day. If it doesn’t, the entire system can fail. This system, therefore, had three vulnerabilities. First, it created an incentive for cut-throat competition, to provide power in the cheapest possible way, which meant with machinery, wells, meters, pipes, and also windmills that were not insulated against extreme cold – a rarity but not unknown, even in Texas. Second, it left prices free to fluctuate. Third, it assured that when prices rose the most, that would be at exactly those moments when the demand for power was the greatest.

In 2002, under Governor Rick Perry, Texas deregulated its electricity system. After a few years, the electrical free market, managed by a non-profit called ERCOT, was fully-established. Some seventy or so providers eventually sprung up. While a few cities – including Austin – kept their public power, they were nevertheless tied to the state system. The market system could, and did, work out most of the time. Prices rose and fell, and customers who didn’t sign long-term contracts faced some risk. One provider, called Griddy, had a special model: for $9.99 a month you could get your power at whatever the wholesale price was on any given day. That was cheap! Most of the time.

The problem with “most of the time” is that people need electric power all of the time. And Texas’s leaders knew as of 2011, at least, when the state went through a short, severe freeze, that the system was radically unstable in extreme weather. But they did nothing. To do something, they would have had to regulate the system. And they didn’t want to regulate the system, because the providers, a rich source of campaign funding, didn’t want to be regulated and to have to spend on weatherization that was not needed – most of the time. In 2020, even voluntary inspections were suspended, due to Covid-19.

Enter the deep freeze of 2021. Demand went up. Supply went down. Natural gas froze up at the wells, in the pipes, and at the generating plants. Unweatherized windmills also went off-line, a small part of the story. Since Texas is disconnected from the rest of the country, no reserves could be imported, and given the cold everywhere, there would have been none available anyway. There came a point, on Sunday, February 14 or the next day, when demand so outstripped supply that the entire Texas grid came within minutes of a collapse that, we are told, would have taken months to repair.

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Feb 192021
 
 February 19, 2021  Posted by at 9:31 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  53 Responses »


Ito Shinsui Snowy night 1923

 

Mutations Made Coronavirus 8 Times More Infectious Than Original (RT)
Pfizer, Moderna Vaccines Make 3x Less Antibodies vs South African Strain (RT)
130 Countries Have Not Received A Single Covid Vaccine Dose (G.)
Florida Ranks 11th Lowest In Covid Deaths Per Capita Among Seniors (Blaze)
FBI, US Attorney In Brooklyn Probing Cuomo Admin On Nursing Homes (TU)
The Myth of Andrew Cuomo the Competent, Steady Statesman (Jac.)
De Blasio Says Threatening Phone Call To Lawmaker Is ‘Classic Andrew Cuomo’ (F.)
Texas Was “Seconds And Minutes” From Complete Disaster (ZH)
The Failure Of The Texas Power Grid Is Worse Than You Think (Fed.)
Beleaguered Texas Hospitals With No Water Evacuate Patients (Fox4)
The Slippery Slope from Censoring ‘Disinformation’ to Silencing Truth (RI)
Trump’s Former Fixer Cohen Interviewed By Manhattan DA’s Office (R.)
Biden Privately Tells Governors: Minimum Wage Hike Likely Isn’t Happening (Pol.)
Greece in Talks with the UK to Create Tourism Corridor (GR)
Why Vitamin D Probably Still Can’t Cure Covid-19 (Gideon)

 

 

 

 

Our daily good news segment.

Mutations Made Coronavirus 8 Times More Infectious Than Original (RT)

New research has found that a mutation in the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, present in variants from the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil, can make the virus up to eight times more infectious than the original. The new research into the D614G mutation on the spike protein in SARS-CoV-2, present in all the latest variants currently plaguing healthcare systems the world over, was led by researchers at New York University, the New York Genome Center, and Mount Sinai. “Confirming that the mutation leads to more transmissibility may help explain, in part, why the virus has spread so rapidly over the past year,” said Neville Sanjana, assistant professor of biology at NYU, who added that the mutation has reached “near universal prevalence” among the coronavirus variants spreading across the globe.

The Mount Sinai researchers injected a virus with the D614G mutation into human lung, liver, and colon cells and compared it against cells from the original strain detected in Wuhan at the start of the pandemic. They found a whopping eight-fold increase in transmissibility between the two strains, with the mutated spike protein making the virus more resilient to being split by other proteins in the human immune system, highlighting the importance of continued vaccine research and development to combat this hardier version. “…[O]ur experimental data was pretty unambiguous – the D614G variant infects human cells much more efficiently than the wild type,” said Zharko Daniloski, a postdoctoral fellow in Sanjana’s lab at NYU and the study’s co-first author.

Thankfully, however, the mutation has not yet been linked to more intense progression of Covid-19 leading to more severe forms of the disease or an increase in hospitalization. On the other hand, this does pose another issue: the current generation of vaccines were developed based on the original Wuhan-variant spike protein structure, highlighting the need for booster vaccines or even annual vaccination programs to halt the spread of the coronavirus for good.

Read more …

More good news.

Pfizer, Moderna Vaccines Make 3x Less Antibodies vs South African Strain (RT)

Vaccines developed by US companies Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are producing fewer antibodies against the coronavirus mutation that has emerged in South Africa, according to studies reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. A lab study jointly conducted by Pfizer/BioNTech and researchers at the University of Texas in Galveston showed that the neutralization of the South African strain “was weaker by approximately two thirds,” but concluded that it was “unclear what effect” that would have on protection the vaccine provided from the disease. This is according to the letter by the researchers published on Wednesday in NEJM, the oldest US medical journal.

Another study conducted by Moderna and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – whose head, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is the Biden administration’s “coronavirus czar” at the moment – showed “reductions by a factor of 2.7” in the titers of neutralizing antibodies against the variant known as the B.1.351 – and by a factor of 6.4 when pitted against the full range of South African mutations. “Protection against the B.1.351 variant conferred by the mRNA-1273 vaccine remains to be determined,” says the letter from the Moderna/NIAID researchers, also published by NEJM on Wednesday. Moderna said it is working on booster shots if needed. Pfizer and BioNTech are also preparing to develop an update or a booster shot if needed, according to a statement cited by Bloomberg.

In a statement released in January, ahead of the study’s review, they said the performance of their vaccine was “slightly lower” against the South African strain when compared to other mutations, but that “small differences in viral neutralization observed in these studies are unlikely to lead to a significant reduction in the effectiveness of the vaccine.” South Africa has halted the vaccination with Astra Zeneca’s formula after a study showed it didn’t work as well in preventing Covid-19 caused by the mutant strain. President Cyril Ramaphosa took the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Wednesday.

Read more …

We’re on a roll.

130 Countries Have Not Received A Single Covid Vaccine Dose (G.)

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has sharply criticised the “wildly uneven and unfair” distribution of Covid vaccines, saying 10 countries have administered 75% of all vaccinations and demanding a global effort to get all people in every country vaccinated as soon as possible. The UN chief told a high-level meeting of the UN security council on Wednesday that 130 countries had not yet received a single dose of vaccine. “At this critical moment, vaccine equity is the biggest moral test before the global community,” said. Guterres called for an urgent global vaccination plan to bring together those with the power to ensure equitable vaccine distribution – scientists, vaccine producers and those who can fund the effort.

He called on the world’s major economic powers in the Group of 20 to establish an emergency taskforce to establish a plan and coordinate its implementation and financing. He said the taskforce should have the capacity “to mobilise the pharmaceutical companies and key industry and logistics actors”. Guterres said Friday’s meeting of the Group of Seven major industrialised nations – the United States, Germany, Japan, Britain, France, Canada and Italy – “can create the momentum to mobilise the necessary financial resources”. Thirteen ministers addressed the virtual council meeting organised by Britain on improving access to Covid vaccinations, including in conflict areas.

[..] China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, criticised the growing “immunity divide” and called on the world to “come together to reject ‘vaccine nationalism,’ promote fair and equitable distribution of vaccines, and, in particular, make them accessible and affordable for developing countries, including those in conflict”. At the WHO’s request, he said, China will contribute 10m doses of vaccines to Covax “preliminarily”. China has donated vaccines to 53 developing countries including Somalia, Iraq, South Sudan and Palestine, which is a UN observer state. It has also exported vaccines to 22 countries, he said, adding that Beijing has launched research and development cooperation on Covid with more than 10 countries.

Read more …

Schools open. No mask mandate. Make of it what you will.

Florida Ranks 11th Lowest In Covid Deaths Per Capita Among Seniors (Blaze)

There’s a reason why the Biden regime is trying to attack Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and create an illusion of a disproportionate viral crisis in the state. With no declared emergency restrictions in place at the state level since last September, the fact that Florida is doing better than the national average completely exposes the lie of lockdown and masks having any effect whatsoever on the fixed natural progression of the virus. Dr. Fauci is suggesting a novel scientific principle – that schools can’t reopen until Congress passes yet another “stimulus” bill. Yet in Florida, schools have been open all year, and the state’s excess deaths for 2020 rank the 16th lowest in the nation, according to a new analysis. What’s more, the Sunshine State, which is regarded as God’s waiting room for seniors, experienced the 11th lowest per capita rate of COVID deaths for seniors in 2020.

A new analysis conducted by RationalGround.com and exclusively obtained by TheBlaze collated CDC excess death data for 49 states (excluding North Carolina, which has incomplete data) and ranked the states from smallest to largest increase in excess deaths from 2019 to 2020. As we have seen in study after study, there is absolutely zero correlation between non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as business and school closures or mask mandates, and a lower rate of excess deaths. According to the CDC’s excess death table, there was a 16.9% national average increase in all-cause mortality in 2020 over 2019.


Given the loose way we count COVID deaths, it will take quite some time to sort out how many of those deaths are due to COVID and how many are due to the panic, anxiety, lockdowns, and missed care, but what is clear is that there is no correlation between the political measures taken by a state and fewer all-cause deaths. Florida, which is the third largest state, has the 16th lowest increase in all-cause deaths, and all of the states that had fewer excess deaths than Florida are much smaller and are mostly states with lower population density. California, on the other hand, ranked No. 40.

Read more …

I have no high hopes.

Did CNN just ban one Cuomo from interviewing the other?

FBI, US Attorney In Brooklyn Probing Cuomo Admin On Nursing Homes (TU)

The FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn have launched an investigation that is examining, at least in part, the actions of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s coronavirus task force in its handling of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities during the pandemic, the Times Union has learned. The probe by the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York is apparently in its early stages and is focusing on the work of some of the senior members of the governor’s task force, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter who is not authorized to comment publicly. Last March, as the virus began spreading in New York, Cuomo issued a news release listing the 13 initial members of his coronavirus task force, which has been headed by Linda Lacewell, an attorney and former chief of staff for Cuomo.

Lacewell is the superintendent of the state Department of Financial Services. Other task force members include state health Commissioner Howard Zucker, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa and Beth Garvey, counsel to the governor. “As we publicly said, DOJ (Department of Justice) has been looking into this for months,” said Richard Azzopardi, a spokesman for the governor. “We have been cooperating with them and we will continue to.” Azzopardi did not disclose whether any members of the administration have been interviewed or if they have been served with any subpoenas. John Marzulli, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn, on Wednesday afternoon said he could not “confirm or deny” whether the office has initiated an investigation.

Nearly three weeks after the governor’s task force was announced last year, the state health department issued an order directing nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that they must accept residents who were being discharged from hospitals even if they were still testing positive for the infectious disease, as long as they were able to care for them properly. That directive, which was rescinded less than two months later, has been the focus of a firestorm of criticism directed at Cuomo’s administration, including allegations that the order — which the governor said was based on federal guidance — had contributed to the high number of fatalities of nursing home residents in New York. That assertion was largely dismissed in a report by the Department of Health that was released in July.

Read more …

“Even if Cuomo never sinks low enough to lose reelection next year — given his enormous war chest and New York’s horrific campaign finance laws, it’s still an unlikely scenario..”

The Myth of Andrew Cuomo the Competent, Steady Statesman (Jac.)

Even if Cuomo never sinks low enough to lose reelection next year — given his enormous war chest and New York’s horrific campaign finance laws, it’s still an unlikely scenario — he will never again be the governor feted by Ellen and celebrated by self-described “Cuomosexuals.” He’s not getting another Emmy. His moment is over. What happened? In some sense, this has been slow-building. For months, more and more people have been waking up to the fact that the popular, media-created conception of Cuomo was nonsensical. More than 45,000 people have died of COVID-19 in New York State, the second highest absolute death toll in America, just trailing California. (California is more than twice as large, so New York maintains a far higher rate of death.)

Cuomo, like Trump, downplayed the pandemic in its earliest days and issued a shutdown order for New York far too late, defying the opinions of experts and other elected officials. It was the nursing home issue, however, and the subsequently botched vaccine rollout that began to trigger a much-deserved reevaluation of his legacy, which is one of arrogance, secrecy, and failure. Last March, Cuomo ordered nursing homes to accept coronavirus patients who had been discharged from hospitals instead of directing them to large temporary facilities that had a surplus of beds. This decision likely contributed to outbreaks in nursing homes, which the state oversees.

Unlike most other states in America, if not all of them, Cuomo’s New York decided to keep a highly skewed count of nursing home deaths, only tallying those who died while physically in facilities. If you were a nursing home resident who got infected in a home, became sick there, and were transferred to a hospital dying, you were not a part of the official Department of Health tally. Confirming the suspicions of health care experts and many journalists, the state attorney general revealed in a January report that the Department of Health had undercounted nursing home deaths by as much as 50 percent. Shortly after, Cuomo was forced to revise the tally far higher, increasing it by more than 60 percent.

Last week, it was revealed that the Cuomo administration had purposefully withheld nursing home data from lawmakers for months out of fear the Department of Justice, under Donald Trump, would investigate. Several legislators have contemplated calling for Cuomo’s impeachment. In a rage, Cuomo called up a leftist assembly member from Queens, Ron Kim, and threatened to “destroy” his career. This is just the news that has grabbed the most headlines. Cuomo is a Clintonian Democrat with a lust for austerity, and he has been quietly slashing and burning New York’s social safety net since the pandemic arrived last year. The City University of New York, which educates a largely working-class and nonwhite student body, has faced severe budget cuts, as have local public schools and social services.

Read more …

The more I read about Cuomo, the more he resembles a character in a Scorsese movie.

De Blasio Says Threatening Phone Call To Lawmaker Is ‘Classic Andrew Cuomo’ (F.)

Compounding a month of bad press for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday morning that he believes the state lawmakers who claimed Cuomo threatened to “destroy” his career after he publicly criticized his administration’s handling of Covid-19 in nursing homes. De Blasio—who has had a publicly contentious relationship with the governor since the start of the coronavirus pandemic—painted Cuomo as a bully during a Thursday interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” The mayor said he believes New York State Assemblyman Ron Kim’s account of the phone call because “a lot of people in New York State have received those phone calls.”

“It’s a sad thing to say … but that’s classic Andrew Cuomo,” said de Blasio, explaining he’s heard complaints like Kim’s “many, many times.” Representatives for Cuomo did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes, though the governor’s Senior Advisor Richard Azzopardi released a statement accusing Kim of “lying about his conversation with Governor Cuomo.” “At no time did anyone threaten to ‘destroy’ anyone with their ‘wrath’ nor engage in a ‘coverup,’” said Azzopardi, describing a “long, hostile” relationship between the two men. The comments come a day after revelations that Cuomo’s handling of nursing home death data is now under federal investigation.

“The bullying is nothing new,” said de Blasio. “I believe Ron Kim and it’s very, very sad. No public servant, no person who is telling the truth should be treated that way. But, the threats, the belittling, the demand that someone change their statement right that moment … Many, many times I’ve heard that.” Kim said he received an angry phone call from the governor last week after he publicly accused Cuomo of obstructing justice by withholding data on nursing home deaths. According to Kim, Cuomo threatened that he could “destroy” him if he did not help “cover up” comments made by Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, who stirred controversy earlier this month by suggesting the state had purposefully delayed releasing the full Covid-19 death toll in long-term care facilities because of concerns about a potential federal investigation.

Read more …

Something tells me you should go talk to the old time engineers who’ve worked on the grid all their lives. That’s where the stories are, not in politics.

Texas Was “Seconds And Minutes” From Complete Disaster (ZH)

As natural gas fired plants, utility scale wind power and coal plants tripped offline due to the extreme cold brought by the winter storm, the amount of power supplied to the grid to be distributed across the state fell rapidly. At the same time, demand was increasing as consumers and businesses turned up the heat and stayed inside to avoid the weather. “It needed to be addressed immediately,” said Bill Magness, president of ERCOT. “It was seconds and minutes [from possible failure] given the amount of generation that was coming off the system.” With energy prices exploding to record highs, and with demand soaring, grid operators had to “act quickly” to cut the amount of power distributed, Magness said, because if they had waited, “then what happens in that next minute might be that three more [power generation] units come offline, and then you’re sunk.”

Magness said on Wednesday that if operators had not acted in that moment, the state could have suffered blackouts that “could have occurred for months,” and left Texas in an “indeterminately long” crisis. In other words, the millions of households left without power – in some cases for days – were sacrificing for the greater good. So by manually shutting down entire parts of the grid, ERCOT avoided the worst case scenario: one where demand for power overwhelms the supply of power generation available on the grid, causing equipment to catch fire, substations to blow and power lines to go down.

If the grid had gone totally offline, the physical damage to power infrastructure from overwhelming the grid would take months to repair, said Bernadette Johnson, senior vice president of power and renewables at Enverus, an oil and gas software and information company headquartered in Austin. “As chaotic as it was, the whole grid could’ve been in blackout,” she said. “ERCOT is getting a lot of heat, but the fact that it wasn’t worse is because of those grid operators.” If that had occurred, even as power generators recovered from the cold, ERCOT would have been unable to quickly reconnect them back to the grid, Johnson said.

And since nobody can disprove a negative, one just has to take them at their word that dozens of people died so that millions more could live… or something. Grid operators would have needed to slowly and carefully bring generators and customers back online, all the while taking care to not to cause more damage to the grid. It’s a delicate process, Johnson explained, because each part of the puzzle — the generators producing power, the transmission lines that move the power and the customers that use it — must be carefully managed. “It has to balance constantly,” she said. “Once a grid goes down, it’s hard to bring it back online. If you bring on too many customers, then you have another outage.”

Read more …

A disaster long in the making.

The Failure Of The Texas Power Grid Is Worse Than You Think (Fed.)

[..] Yes, some coal plants closed because of freezing temperatures and some natural gas pipelines froze. But as Jason Isaac of the Texas Public Policy Foundation explains in our pages today, the main problem with the Texas power grid isn’t that renewables failed or that fossil fuels failed. It’s that the grid itself has been made unstable by state and federal subsidies that distort the energy market and prevent the buildup of reliable power generation. Subsidies for renewables and fossil fuels have been around for a long time in Texas, supported by both Democrats and Republicans. For as much as Texas has a reputation as a deep-red oil and gas state, it was under Republican Gov. Rick Perry that billions were spent on wind turbines and transmission lines in West Texas, spurred on by massive tax credits for wind producers.

The same thing happened at the federal level when George W. Bush was governor of the state. In the months to come, there will be lengthy and bitter debates about who was responsible for this fiasco. The obvious partisan arguments are already out in the open. If any actual reforms come out of these debates, they will have to begin with an acknowledgment that the way things have been done for decades in Texas has not worked. That much, at least, is now painfully undeniable. For example, goosing the wind and solar industries with billions in tax credits in a state that produces almost a third of America’s fossil fuel energy was perhaps unwise and imprudent.

In hindsight, it looks like cronyism. So do the subsidies for fossil fuels, even if they are not as extravagant as subsidies for renewables. Maybe all of that was a bad idea from the beginning, and maybe it’s time to cut it out. Hardship like what Texas is going through right now can bring clarity. And in the teeth of this winter storm, the entire energy industry, with its high-powered lobbyists and its billions in taxpayer subsidies, is beginning to look like every other elite institution in America: a corrupt and parasitic enterprise whose failures come at the expense of ordinary Americans—in this case, people who are now trying to stay alive in their own homes.

Read more …

“Emergency rooms were crowded “due to patients being unable to meet their medical needs at home without electricity..”

Beleaguered Texas Hospitals With No Water Evacuate Patients (Fox4)

After a deadly blast of winter weather overwhelmed the electrical grid and left millions of Texans without power, hospitals in the state are also facing the additional stress of water shortages, crowded emergency rooms and even being forced to evacuate patients. Record-low temperatures damaged infrastructure and pipes, seriously jeopardizing drinking water systems in the Lone Star state. Authorities in Texas ordered 7 million people — a quarter of the population of the nation’s second-largest state — to boil tap water before drinking it. Some hospitals, already contending with COVID-19 patients and vaccine distribution, were also impacted by the winter storm’s havoc on state power grids and utilities. In Austin, hospitals dealt with a loss in water pressure and heat.

St. David’s South Austin Medical Center said Wednesday night that it had lost water pressure from the City of Austin. Since water feeds the facility’s boiler, the hospital was also losing heat. Hospital officials were working to evacuate some patients to other area facilities and said they were distributing bottles and jugs of water to patients and employees. Officials added that they were working with the city to secure portable toilets. “Because this is a statewide emergency situation that is also impacting other hospitals within the Austin area, no one hospital currently has the capacity to accept transport of a large number of patients,” said David Huffstutler, CEO of St. David’s South Austin Medical Center.

In southwest Austin, officials with Ascension Seton Southwest Hospital said they too were facing intermittent issues with water pressure, the Austin American-Statesman reported. The hospital was rescheduling elective surgeries to preserve bed capacity and personnel as a result. At Houston Methodist, two of its community hospitals did not have running water but still treated patients, with most non-emergency surgeries and procedures canceled for Thursday and possibly Friday, spokeswoman Gale Smith told the Associated Press. Emergency rooms were crowded “due to patients being unable to meet their medical needs at home without electricity,” Smith said. She added that pipes had burst in Methodist’s hospitals but were being repaired as they happened.

Read more …

“Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

The Slippery Slope from Censoring ‘Disinformation’ to Silencing Truth (RI)

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” – George Orwell. This is the slippery slope that leads to the end of free speech as we once knew it. In a world increasingly automated and filtered through the lens of artificial intelligence, we are finding ourselves at the mercy of inflexible algorithms that dictate the boundaries of our liberties. Once artificial intelligence becomes a fully integrated part of the government bureaucracy, there will be little recourse: we will be subject to the intransigent judgments of techno-rulers. This is how it starts. Martin Niemöller’s warning about the widening net that ensnares us all still applies.

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” In our case, however, it started with the censors who went after extremists spouting so-called “hate speech,” and few spoke out—because they were not extremists and didn’t want to be shamed for being perceived as politically incorrect.

Then the internet censors got involved and went after extremists spouting “disinformation” about stolen elections, the Holocaust, and Hunter Biden, and few spoke out—because they were not extremists and didn’t want to be shunned for appearing to disagree with the majority. By the time the techno-censors went after extremists spouting “misinformation” about the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines, the censors had developed a system and strategy for silencing the nonconformists. Still, few spoke out. Eventually, “we the people” will be the ones in the crosshairs.At some point or another, depending on how the government and its corporate allies define what constitutes “extremism, “we the people” might all be considered guilty of some thought crime or other. When that time comes, there may be no one left to speak out or speak up in our defense.

Read more …

The MSM will be pushing this for all they’re worth.

Trump’s Former Fixer Cohen Interviewed By Manhattan DA’s Office (R.)

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and a newly hired high-profile litigator interviewed Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, on Thursday, as part of a criminal probe of the former president’s business dealings, said two people familiar with the investigation. The interview came after Mark Pomerantz, who has extensive experience in white-collar and organized crime cases, joined District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s team investigating the Trump family business. Pomerantz started on Feb. 2 as special assistant district attorney, said Danny Frost, a spokesman for Vance. Pomerantz’s hiring is part of a flurry of recent activity in Vance’s investigation, including the issuance in recent days of roughly a dozen new subpoenas, according to the sources.

One of those went to Ladder Capital Finance LLC, a major creditor used by Trump and his company, the Trump Organization, to finance the former president’s commercial real estate holdings, the sources said. Vance’s office has also conducted interviews with Ladder’s staff, one source familiar with the matter said. The district attorney’s office has said little publicly about the probe, but noted in court filings that it was focused on “possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct” at the Trump Organization, including alleged falsification of records, and insurance and tax fraud. It is the only known criminal inquiry into Trump’s business practices.

Separately, New York state Attorney General Letitia James is leading a civil probe into whether Trump’s company falsely reported property values to secure loans and obtain economic and tax benefits. Ladder issued the loans on several of Trump’s big commercial holdings, including a $160 million mortgage on the Trump Building, a skyscraper in Manhattan’s financial district.

Read more …

He knew this a long time ago. But dangling the sausage gets votes.

Biden Privately Tells Governors: Minimum Wage Hike Likely Isn’t Happening (Pol.)

When Joe Biden met with a group of mayors and governors last week he bluntly told them to get ready for a legislative defeat: his proposed minimum wage hike was unlikely to happen, he said, at least in the near term. “I really want this in there but it just doesn’t look like we can do it because of reconciliation,” Biden told the group, according to a person in the room. “I’m not going to give up. But right now, we have to prepare for this not making it.” The comments, which were confirmed by two other people familiar with the conversation, were the furthest Biden has gone in conceding the coming axing of the $15-an-hour minimum wage provision from his first major legislative package.


And they suggest that the president is more inclined to manage the fallout of it not being included than to pursue long-shot, political-capital consuming efforts to fight for its insertion. Sitting in the Oval Office with Republican and Democratic elected officials last Friday to advocate for his $1.9 trillion Covid relief package, he didn’t hide his skepticism. “Doesn’t look like we can do it,” he said of the minimum wage hike. For weeks now, the White House has been trying to manage expectations on the feasibility of advancing a $15-an-hour minimum wage provision through a broader “rescue” package. Biden first suggested it might not make it into the final Covid relief bill in an interview with CBS prior to the Super Bowl, noting his belief that the Senate parliamentarian would determine it did not jibe with budgetary rules that allow a bill to pass with just 51 votes in the Senate.

Read more …

I still wonder what the legal status is of requiring people be vaccinated with a vaccine whose producer says it doesn’t prevent the spread of the virus. And then on the basis of that, allowing them into your country without testing etc., where they can spread the virus.

If you would let people fly in to an island, and they would stay there, that’s one thing. You could monitor them, trace them. But Greek tourism is based on people traveling a lot, island-hopping etc.

Greece in Talks with the UK to Create Tourism Corridor (GR)

Soon, vaccinated British citizens may be able to travel to Greece without any restrictions whatsoever, according to Greek Minister of Tourism Haris Theoharis. Greece has entered into preliminary discussions with the UK regarding tourism, Theoharis stated, and may allow vaccinated travelers from the UK into the country this summer without being tested for the coronavirus first. Inoculated tourists may also be able to avoid Greece’s mandatory seven-day quarantine once they arrive in the country. Those who have been vaccinated and hope to enter Greece may have to present a vaccine certificate, or vaccine passport, in order to skip the strict anti-virus measures currently in place in the country.

Currently, all those entering Greece must present a negative PCR test for the coronavirus, within 72 hours of their flight, before entry is allowed. In addition to the PCR test, visitors from the UK must also now take a rapid test upon arrival to Greece. Employing nearly one in five Greeks, tourism is one of the most important sectors of the country’s economy. Greece welcomes around 4 million visitors from the UK each year. The Mediterranean country hopes that opening up a tourist corridor with the UK for the summer will bring a much-needed boost to Greece’s economy, which has suffered a great deal due to travel restrictions and strict anti-virus measures. Greek tourism took a giant plunge in the third quarter of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT).

In total, in the first nine months of last year, the accommodation sector had revenues of only 1.89 billion euros, when last year in the corresponding period revenues were 6.15 billion euros — representing a staggering loss of 4.26 billion euros. When discussing the outlook for Greece’s tourism sector in the summer of 2021, Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated to Reuters: “I am a realist, but I am also cautiously optimistic that we will do much better than last year.” The potential deal with the UK may well add to Mitsotakis’ optimism for a successful tourist season this year. The country has already struck a deal with Israel, which will allow vaccinated travelers from the Mediterranean country to enter Greece without coronavirus restrictions.

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Saved this for last because I would like some comments. Did anyone ever state vit. D was a cure for Covid? We sure did not. This epidemiologist appears to take studies on giving people already in hospital large doses of vit. D, to claim it’s useless. This is exactly how HCQ was discredited. But do chime in.

Why Vitamin D Probably Still Can’t Cure Covid-19 (Gideon)

There are many scientific questions that have come up during the pandemic. We’ve investigated the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine, looked into school closures, and even checked to see whether spectacles could protect you from getting Covid-19 (the jury is still out on that one). But perhaps the most consistent question that has been asked, over and over again, is whether vitamin D supplements can treat coronavirus effectively. The allure is understandable — vitamin D is cheap, relatively safe, and there’s some evidence that it can help with the common cold, which is often caused by coronaviruses similar to SARS-CoV-2. If it worked, it could make an enormous difference in the lives of people with Covid-19 and at a very low cost.

Sadly, this has inspired endless shoddy studies that have meant that the question of whether vitamin D works for Covid-19 wasn’t answered very well (or at all) the last time I wrote about it in October 2020. This makes the recent headlines all the more understandable. A study was put up on SSRN — a preprint server run by The Lancet — a few weeks ago that purported to show a 60% decrease in mortality for people with Covid-19 who were given calcifediol (a metabolite of vitamin D) compared to a control group given treatment as usual. With such impressive-sounding results, the study soon went viral on Twitter and has been reported in news outlets around the world. If supplements really could prevent 60% of Covid-19 deaths, it would be a research finding that could literally change the course of the pandemic.

Unfortunately, as with most of the previous research, the evidence is much shakier than you might expect given the glowing headlines. Even more than a year into all of this, we still don’t really know if vitamin D does anything for Covid-19 at all.

Read more …

 

 

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#Perseverance has captured the first images of life on Mars.

 

 

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Feb 182021
 
 February 18, 2021  Posted by at 9:51 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  41 Responses »


Ansel Adams Church, Taos, Pueblo 1942

 

Masked Drivers Banned From Wearing Sunglasses & Hats in Saxony (RT)
Facebook Blocks News From Australia – Yes, The Entire Country (CTH)
The Deplatforming Of Australia (Mark Pesce)
Hong Kong Aiming For Legislation To Ban Insulting Public Officials (ZH)
Vaccine Rollout Will Trigger New Covid Variants, Oxford Scientist Warns (RT)
Many Top NBA Players Hesitant To Promote Coronavirus Vaccines (ESPN)
Waitress Fired From NYC Eatery For Not Getting Covid Vaccine (DM)
How Well You Fared With Covid19 Might Be Down To Neanderthal Genes (RT)
Cuomo-gate: A Nixonian Scandal Is Engulfing New York (DP)
Texas Governor Blames Power Outages on Wind, Solar (CD)
Subzero Rates Are Coming to the US and the UK (Lacalle)
Twenty Days Of Infamy: The January 2017 Red Flags The FBI Blew Past (JTN)
VP Harris Gets Two Pinocchios For ‘Starting From Scratch’ Comment (JTN)
‘A Love As Real As Climate Change’: Tucker Carlson About Joe & Jill Biden (RT)

 

 

Perfectly in line with today’s news. Insanity rules. Just find someone to hate.

 

 

Ha ha ha. Brilliant. What people think of. “… general facial features” of the driver must still be visible to the road safety cameras…

Masked Drivers Banned From Wearing Sunglasses & Hats in Saxony (RT)

Drivers must still be identifiable by traffic cameras, even when they follow existing health protocols and wear masks, a new rule in Germany’s eastern region says. According to the Bild newspaper, Saxony became the first region in Germany to ban hats and sunglasses on masked drivers. “Wearing a hat and sunglasses in addition to a mask that covers the face and mouth makes [the driver] unrecognizable. So that’s not allowed,” Saxony’s Interior Minister Roland Woller said. Woller explained that “general facial features” of the driver must still be visible to the road safety cameras.


He added that officials responsible for handing out fines to drivers were advised to handle the new rule on a case-by-case basis. Starting from Monday, people are required to wear masks in vehicles in Saxony if members of more than two households are traveling together. Last month, Germans were mandated to wear medical-grade respirator-type masks on public transport and when going to supermarkets. Simple cloth or homemade masks are not allowed in such cases.

Read more …

Will this wake up more politicians?

Facebook Blocks News From Australia – Yes, The Entire Country (CTH)

Australian officials are pushing back against the totalitarian grip of Big Tech. {Go Deep} As a result of investigations into Google and Facebook the Australian government is set to establish fines against tech companies for anti-trust violations. However, some officials are now discussing taking actions that are beyond civil lawsuits, and are now advocating for arrest of company officers for unlawful conduct. The battle lines are being drawn, and in response to the Australian government position on anti-trust Facebook (feeling they are elite and above the law) has now decided to block all news articles from the entire country from their social media platform.


FACEBOOK ANNOUNCEMENT – […] this means people and news organisations in Australia are now restricted from posting news links and sharing or viewing Australian and international news content on Facebook. Globally, posting and sharing news links from Australian publishers is also restricted. To do this, we are using a combination of technologies to restrict news content and we will have processes to review any content that was inadvertently removed.

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“Does Facebook truly believe that their actions will change the political outcome? Or are they sending a signal to other sovereign powers—such as the EU, India and the USA—that Facebook is itself a sovereign power..”

The Deplatforming Of Australia (Mark Pesce)

Can a whole country be deplatformed? That question confronts all of Australia today, as Facebook (for Facebook, read Mark Zuckerberg, who autocratically controls the social media giant) suddenly went nuclear, blocking all postings from news sites by its Australian users, and blocking those same users from seeing news postings from any source, anywhere in the world. All of this seemingly in response to a law that hasn’t even passed through Parliament. It feels like a dummy spit for the ages, the kind of moment that historians will simply chuckle over—and it is. But there’s much more here: never before in history has any technology firm gone head-to-head with the legitimate democratic apparatus of a highly advanced state. Australia is neither an economic backwater nor new to the Internet. That’s what makes this all a bit terrifying.

The cheek of it: a trillion-dollar social media firm twists a few dials, drops in some barely-functioning algorithms—that blocked NASA and The Betoota Advocate along with the ABC, News, Seven and Nine—and voila! the entire media landscape alters, bringing the nation’s focus to a foreign technology firm that appears to be acting to interrupt the legislative workings of a democratic sovereign power. If Facebook had acted after the bill had passed through Parliament, after the Governor General had given the law royal assent, then, perhaps, it would have seemed somewhat proportionate—just a protection of business interests. Happening now—in the middle of the political process, and seemingly designed to derail that process—it feels a bit more like the Capitol Insurrection: a bit of violent theatre designed to derail another political process.

Does Facebook truly believe that their actions will change the political outcome? Or are they sending a signal to other sovereign powers—such as the EU, India and the USA—that Facebook is itself a sovereign power, and will use that power to assert its own interests? Both of these alternatives feel like a scenario from dystopian science fiction. Yet this is the problem we now find ourselves in with Big Tech. We’ve nurtured these firms with our attention and our dollars, both of which they’ve converted to raw power. And now, when that power has been turned against us, we recognise the true cost of our addictions to our newsfeeds, our community groups—even those status updates from our families. All of it fed a monster, now unleashed, wreaking havoc with Australia’s democratic interests.

Read more …

Facebook, Hong Kong, the vaccine industry, what’s the difference?

Hong Kong Aiming For Legislation To Ban Insulting Public Officials (ZH)

Hong Kong’s government is currently in the process of introducing legislation that would prohibit insulting public officials. We can only imagine the insults that were muttered when local citizens read the news from local media. Hong Kong’s Security Bureau is in the midst of leading a study on how the legislation could work and how it would be overseen, according to Bloomberg. Local outlets said, citing Civil Service Secretary Patrick Nip, that the issue was under examination. The legislation would be part of a broader agenda by China to “erode basic freedoms” in Hong Kong. The move would be the biggest to censor free speech in Hong Kong since China’s institution of a law that has been used to combat mass protests in Hong Kong.


Beijing has also implemented a “patriotism test” to weed out pro-Democracy lawmakers. The test prompted mass resignations from opposition members in the Legislative Council last November, Bloomberg notes. Bloomberg also noted that Hong Kong judges and law enforcement are unlikely to challenge any new legislation from Beijing: Earlier this month, Hong Kong’s top court ordered that media tycoon and democracy activist Jimmy Lai remain in jail ahead of his trial on foreign collusion charges, a victory for Beijing that suggested Hong Kong judges were unlikely to challenge the security law. Hong Kong police also separately arrested Lai for assisting in an activist’s attempt to flee to Taiwan, the Oriental Daily reported on Wednesday, without citing anyone. Recall, back in June 2020, Hong Kong passed a law banning insults to China’s National Anthem.

Read more …

There are thousands already. If you boost your immune system, that is much less scary.

Vaccine Rollout Will Trigger New Covid Variants, Oxford Scientist Warns (RT)

A senior scientist at Oxford University has warned the global rollout of Covid-19 vaccines will prompt the virus to mutate, driven by “immunological selection” rather than the adaptations we have seen so far. Speaking to the UK Commons Science and Technology Committee on Wednesday, Professor Sir John Bell, Oxford’s regius professor of medicine, said that the Covid-19 mutations observed so far are a result of the virus adapting to be more effective in its new hosts, humans. “Most of the variants we have seen so far represent that kind of adaptation to a new species; it’s a bit like moving into a new apartment, you are shuffling the sofa around and making sure the TV is in the right place,” Bell told colleagues and lawmakers.


“What we will see between now and the end of the year is a number of variants which are driven by immunological selection, largely by the vaccines, and that will add another layer of complexity.” Bell added that a number of variants that currently exist have already demonstrated some “quite profound resistance” to existing immunity, either from previous Covid-19 infection or vaccines, citing people who have been reinfected by the Brazilian and South African strains. Despite this, Bell said there was good news in the fight against Covid-19, in that current vaccines do appear to have an impact on existing variants and are capable of stopping severe disease. “We need to be conscious of the new variants, we need to be ready to make new vaccines if we need them, but I am pretty clear our existing vaccines are going to work to some extent [against known variants],” the Oxford scientist stated.

Read more …

“Player apprehensions about receiving the vaccine are consistent with those that also exist in Black communities..”

Many Top NBA Players Hesitant To Promote Coronavirus Vaccines (ESPN)

Many of the NBA’s top players are expressing apprehension about accepting invitations to participate in league-sponsored public service announcements to bolster broader acceptance of the coronavirus vaccine, sources told ESPN. The NBA’s outreach to the agents of many of the league’s elite players — with hopes of getting stars to participate in PSAs to promote the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine — has been met with a tepid response, sources said. Player apprehensions about receiving the vaccine are consistent with those that also exist in Black communities throughout the country, agents and players told ESPN.

Sources describe a number of factors contributing to many players’ reluctance to participate, including uncertainty about taking the vaccine themselves, reluctance to advocate its use for others and resistance to extending favors to a league amid the largely unpopular plans for an All-Star Game. On a call with league general managers on Tuesday, commissioner Adam Silver continued to tell top team executives that the league wouldn’t “jump the line” of the general public to get vaccines, but he suggested an optimistic timeline that included the possibility of late March and early April for the start of player vaccinations, sources said. Nevertheless, that’s considered a fluid timeline, largely meant to reaffirm to teams the need to be prepared for whenever the opportunity to vaccinate players comes from public health officials, sources said.

The NBA shared with teams an expectation of 70 million to 100 million vaccine doses likely distributed by mid-March. In the hours after the call with the league’s GMs, Dr. Anthony Fauci — the nation’s leading infectious disease expert — told CNN that his original hope of April as a target for widespread vaccine availability for those outside of priority groups could be pushed back. “That timeline will probably be prolonged into mid- to late May and early June,” Fauci told CNN.

Read more …

“The way I see it, getting the vaccine is for me. It protects me. If I am not getting it, it’s my choice, and I’d only be hurting myself,” she said. The coronavirus vaccines available haven’t been tested on pregnant women, but also haven’t been shown to affect pregnancy and are viewed as generally safe. [..] The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that getting vaccinated is “a personal choice for people who are pregnant..”

Waitress Fired From NYC Eatery For Not Getting Covid Vaccine (DM)

A New York waitress was fired from her job on Monday after she told her bosses at a tavern that she wanted to wait to get the COVID-19 vaccine until she could learn more about its side effects on women who are pregnant. Bonnie Jacobson, 34, said she is not an ‘anti-vaxxer’ but wanted to wait for more research as she recently starting trying to get pregnant with her husband, she told DailyMail.com. Jacobson, who started working at the Red Hook Tavern in August, said the restaurant first sent out an email on February 8 which said: ‘If you choose to get vaccinated, here’s what you need to know.’ That email, reviewed by DailyMail.com, did not tell employees that vaccinations were required.

Jacobson said she told her manager during a staff meeting that she wanted more time to research the vaccine and said her manager initially understood her concerns, telling her she would not be required to get the shot. But the Brooklyn tavern changed its mind days later on February 12 and sent workers and email noting the vaccines were mandatory. Please be advised that we will require that all employees receive the vaccination,’ notes the email. This will be mandatory for all existing employees and any new hires. The exception to this policy will be if your own personal health or disability prohibits you from obtaining this vaccination. We encourage you to consult your healthcare professional to determine if getting a vaccine is right for you.’

Jacobson then emailed her employers on Saturday and said that she did not yet want to get the vaccine, which she said she ‘fully supports.’ ‘I am choosing not to get the vaccine because there just isn’t enough data or research at this point on its effects on fertility,’ she wrote to her boss.

Read more …

How do I find out?

How Well You Fared With Covid19 Might Be Down To Neanderthal Genes (RT)

Has Covid-19 floored you? Or did you only suffer mild symptoms? The answer to how your body responds to coronavirus could very well be influenced by the Neanderthal genes you carry, according to researchers in Germany. Svante Paabo and Hugo Zeberg of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have been looking to the genes inherited from our Neanderthal ancestors – and the pair’s studies suggest that our modern-day responses to Covid-19 are part of a genetic lottery played out over 40,000 years. Their latest study suggests that a genetic mutation in genes linked to our ancestral Neanderthal relatives might reduce the risk of severe infection by about 22 percent.

The mutation, which helps fight off RNA viruses, has been found in all Neanderthal DNA samples tested and is present in about 30 percent of samples from people with European and Asian backgrounds today. In September, the pair co-authored another study that looked at a different set of Neanderthal genes found in some 50 percent of Asians and 16 percent of Europeans. People that carried that particular gene sequence were found to be more susceptible to developing serious respiratory problems after contracting Covid-19. Neanderthals are known to have lived alongside – and interbred with – modern humans in Europe and Asia before becoming extinct some 40,000 years ago.

Paabo and Zeberg compared DNA samples from 2,200 people with samples taken from four ancient humans – a 70,000-year-old Neanderthal from Siberia, a 50,000-year-old Neanderthal from Croatia, and two separates samples from Denisova Cave in Siberia, to reach their findings for the most recent study. Previously, they had looked at samples from some 3,000 people for the study published in Nature.

Read more …

How is he still in office?

Cuomo-gate: A Nixonian Scandal Is Engulfing New York (DP)

The biggest political scandal in America right now is playing out in New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in a lot of trouble — and rightly so. The Democratic governor did not merely wildly mismanage his state’s response to the COVID emergency, while netting himself a lucrative book deal and an Emmy. He did something worse. In the middle of a public health emergency, he used his office to help one of his largest political donors shield itself from legal consequences as 15,000 nursing home residents died from COVID — and then he and his administration underreported that death toll, helping the same donor. The Daily Poster had been covering the story for months before it exploded this week. The scandal is a cautionary tale of hubris, megalomania, and corruption that left a literal mountain of preventable COVID deaths in its wake.

Now we are about to see whether a blue state’s democratic institutions can hold wrongdoers accountable, or whether America’s culture of impunity can once again protect the powerful from facing any consequences at all. Amid a cacophony of demands for Cuomo to resign, the governor and his aides are frantically trying to cover up the basic facts of what happened, and that includes launching a Nixonian campaign of intimidation and retribution against Democratic lawmakers who have for months been sounding the alarm. Two national news outlets today detailed Cuomo’s new campaign of retribution against one lawmaker in his own party who dared to ask questions about constituents and family members who died under Cuomo’s nursing home policies.

Cuomo held a press conference to publicly berate the same Democrat, while another New York news outlet reported that other lawmakers are now facing threats. For months, these legislators’ questions were ignored by a national media that has seemed far more interested in valorizing Cuomo than in reporting inconvenient facts. But those facts are worth reviewing, because they illustrate the direct link between the underreporting of nursing home deaths and the push for corporate immunity. They also spotlight the very real human carnage that can result when an imperious, out-of-control politician is unwilling to engage in any contrition, self-reflection, or reform.

Read more …

Whether it’s Cuomo or Abbott, it’s clear that crises expose incompetence.

Texas Governor Blames Power Outages on Wind, Solar (CD)

As millions of Texans struggled desperately to keep warm amid power outages stemming from the devastating winter storm sweeping the nation, the state’s Republican governor late Tuesday blamed solar and wind for the blackouts—despite the fact that Texas relies overwhelmingly on fossil fuels—and claimed the crisis shows that the Green New Deal would be a “deadly deal” for the United States. “Texas is blessed with multiple sources of energy, such natural gas and oil and nuclear, as well as solar and wind,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in an appearance on “Hannity” Tuesday night. “Our wind and our solar got shut down, and they were collectively more than 10% of our power grid. And that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power in a statewide basis.”

Abbott was far from the first Republican to deploy such blatantly false talking points in response to the ongoing crisis in Texas, which has left at least 10 people dead. But the governor’s decision to appear on Fox News and attack a policy that has not even been implemented as Texans resorted to burning their belongings to keep their children warm was viewed as yet another example of his failed leadership. “Five million Texans are without power tonight and temperatures are below freezing. People will most certainly die tonight because of it,” said Sawyer Hackett, senior adviser to Julián Castro. “But Gov. Abbott had time to go on Sean Hannity to blame the Green New Deal.” Citing an official with the state’s Electric Reliability Council (ERCOT), The Texas Tribune reported that as of Tuesday afternoon “16 gigawatts of renewable energy generation, mostly wind generation, was offline. Nearly double that, 30 gigawatts, had been lost from thermal sources, which includes gas, coal and nuclear energy.”

“Texas is a gas state,” Michael Webber, an energy resources professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told the Tribune. “Gas is failing in the most spectacular fashion right now.” But that hasn’t stopped Texas Republicans like Abbott and Rep. Dan Crenshaw from attempting to blame frozen wind turbines for outages that could continue for days, endangering lives and coronavirus vaccines. In response to Abbott’s “Hannity” interview, Texas voting rights advocate Charlie Bonner tweeted, “He is lying. People are dying, and he is on Fox News lying to you. We are living in fear and Greg Abbott is playing politics with our lives.” “Greg Abbott doesn’t care if you live or die tonight so take care of each other, my friends,” Bonner added. “We’re living in a failed state.”

Read more …

“The financial repression of central banks begins with a misdiagnosis assuming that low growth and below-target inflation is a problem of demand, not of the previous excess..”

Subzero Rates Are Coming to the US and the UK (Lacalle)

Negative rates are the destruction of money, an economic aberration based on the mistakes of many central banks and some of their economists, who all start from a wrong diagnosis: the idea that economic agents do not take more credit or invest more because they choose to save too much and therefore saving must be penalized to stimulate the economy. Excuse the bluntness, but it is a ludicrous idea. Inflation and growth are not low due to excess savings, but because of excess debt, which perpetuates overcapacity with low rates and high liquidity and zombifies the economy by subsidizing the low-productivity and highly indebted sectors and penalizing high productivity with rising and confiscatory taxation.

Historical evidence of negative rates shows that they do not help reduce debt, they incentivize it. They do not strengthen the credit capacity of families: the prices of nonreplicable assets (real estate, etc.) skyrocket because of monetary excess and because the lower cost of debt does not compensate for the greater risk. Investment and credit growth are not subdued because economic agents are ignorant or saving too much, but because they don’t have amnesia. Families and businesses are more cautious in their investment and spending decisions, because they perceive, correctly, that the reality of the economy they see each day does not correspond to the cost and the quantity of money.

It is completely incorrect to think that families and businesses are not investing or spending. They are only spending less than what central planners would want. However, that is not a mistake from the private sector side, but a typical case of central planners’ misguided estimates, which come from using 2001–07 as “base case” of investment and credit demand instead of what those years really were: a bubble. The argument of the central planners is based on an inconsistency: that rates are negative because markets demand them, not because they are imposed by the central bank. If that is the case and the result would be the same, why don’t they let rates float freely? Because it is false.

Think for a moment what type of investment, company, or financial decision is profitable with rates at –0.5 percent but unviable with rates at 1 percent. A time bomb. It is no surprise that investment in bubble-prone sectors is rising with negative rates and that nonreplicable and financial assets are skyrocketing. Instead of strengthening economies, negative rates make governments more dependent on cheap debt. Public debt trades at artificially low yields, and politicians abandon any reformist impulse, preferring to accumulate more debt. The financial repression of central banks begins with a misdiagnosis assuming that low growth and below-target inflation is a problem of demand, not of the previous excess, and ends up perpetuating the bubbles that it sought to solve.

Read more …

“Between Jan. 4, 2017 and Jan. 24, 2017, nearly every major assumption of the FBI’s Russia collusion theory was gutted..”

Twenty Days Of Infamy: The January 2017 Red Flags The FBI Blew Past (JTN)

From its earliest moments, the FBI’s Russia collusion probe was always fraught with warning signs. Agents were told Christopher Steele provided faulty information, had likely been compromised by Russian intel disinformation, wanted to defeat Donald Trump, had leaked to the media and was being paid by Hillary Clinton, who herself might be carrying out an epic dirty political trick to vilify Trump with false information to distract from her own scandals. Those intelligence reports alone should have given agents pause. The fact that Steele had been terminated by the FBI as an informant for leaking also should have weighed heavily.

But if ever there were red lights screaming for the FBI to end the counterintelligence probe, they were flashing during a harrowing 20-day window in January 2017 as Barack Obama was leaving office and Trump was coming in. Between Jan. 4, 2017 and Jan. 24, 2017, nearly every major assumption of the FBI’s Russia collusion theory was gutted, according to recently declassified evidence reviewed by Just the News. Months of investigating Trump adviser Mike Flynn had turned up “no derogatory information,” and agents recommended shutting down that part of the inquiry after concluding Flynn wasn’t aiding Moscow. Two separate informant recordings of Trump adviser Carter Page — the target of an ongoing FISA warrant — produced stunning evidence of innocence.

U.S. intelligence had concluded a key allegation in the Steele dossier was Russian disinformation. And Steele’s primary sub-source — whom the FBI assessed was likely tied to Russian intelligence — discounted much of the information attributed to him in the dossier. Even Director James Comey was telling colleagues there wasn’t much corroborated in the dossier. And yet somehow, some way, the FBI accelerated the investigation even though overwhelming evidence showed — as lead investigative agent Peter Strzok would later text his colleague — there was “no big there, there.”

Read more …

It doesn’t matter. She will be believed by her fans, and that’s all that counts.

VP Harris Gets Two Pinocchios For ‘Starting From Scratch’ Comment (JTN)

A Washington Post fact check has given a statement made recently by Vice President Kamala Harris a rating of two Pinocchios. “There was no national strategy or plan for vaccinations. We were leaving it to the states and local leaders to try and figure it out. And so in many ways, we’re starting from scratch on something that’s been raging for almost an entire year,” Harris said during an interview with Axios. In the Post fact checking piece Glenn Kessler writes that Harris “gets into trouble when she says ‘we’re starting from scratch.’ The Biden administration appears to have had to fill in the blanks of the Trump plan and certainly did speed up the tempo of what the Trump administration envisioned. It has added a federal component and pushed for funding for states,” Kessler wrote.


“Biden administration officials may be proud of what they have accomplished, but they shouldn’t suggest that nothing was in place when they walked in the door. They have built on an existing structure left behind by the Trump team. Harris modified her comment by saying ‘in many ways,’ but that’s not quite enough to avoid Pinocchios,” he wrote. Two Pinocchios is like a rating of “half-true,” according to the Post’s explanation of the Pinocchio Test ratings. “Significant omissions and/or exaggerations. Some factual error may be involved but not necessarily. A politician can create a false, misleading impression by playing with words and using legalistic language that means little to ordinary people,” the Post says about the two Pinocchio rating.

Read more …

Ha ha ha. “His latest comments quickly sparked a liberal uproar on social media, with critics calling the Fox News host “bitter,”“offensive,” and “deranged.”

‘A Love As Real As Climate Change’: Tucker Carlson About Joe & Jill Biden (RT)

Fox News host Tucker Carlson has outraged Democrats once again after he appeared to suggest President Joe Biden’s relationship with his wife is a carefully-devised PR campaign, mockingly saying it is “as real as climate change.” Reacting to the glowing coverage celebrating Biden’s public displays of affection with his wife, First Lady Jill Biden, and glee over a supposed return to ‘normalcy’ following chilly public interactions between former President Donald Trump and his wife Melania, Carlson put his own spin on the situation. “Not since Antony dined with Cleopatra at downtown Antioch, before they killed themselves obviously, has a country witnessed a love story as moving and poignant as Jill and Joe’s,” said Carlson sarcastically on his Tuesday show.


“No, ladies and gentlemen, Jill Biden is not Joe’s caretaker. She isn’t his nurse. She’s his fully-equal romantic partner. Together they are like besotted teens, yet at the same time they are the wise and knowing parents of a nation,” he continued. He then implied the public displays of affection were “part of a slick PR campaign devised by cynical consultants,” designed to “hide the president’s senility,” adding that in his view, their love is “as real as climate change.” Carlson has previously shot down concerns about climate change, calling it “systemic racism in the sky” – “You can’t see it, but rest assured it’s everywhere and it’s deadly.” His latest comments quickly sparked a liberal uproar on social media, with critics calling the Fox News host “bitter,”“offensive,” and “deranged.”

Read more …

 

 

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Dec 102020
 
 December 10, 2020  Posted by at 9:58 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  39 Responses »


August Strindberg Alpine Landscape I 1894

 

No Drinking Alcohol For Two Months After COVID19 Vaccine – Russia (NYP)
Uni Of Pittsburgh Medical Center Won’t Require Staff To Take Vaccine (ZH)
‘95% Effective’ May Not Mean What You Think It Means (Neuburger)
Trump Campaign, 16 Other States Join Texas Motion To Supreme Court (JTN)
Trump To Meet With Ten State Attorneys General Backing Case To Overturn Election (F.)
Sen. Ron Johnson Does Not Rule Out Challenging Electoral College Results (JTN)
Hunter Biden Under Federal Investigation For Possible Tax Fraud (NYP)
Hunter Biden Criminal Probe Bolsters Claim About Beijing’s Influence In US (GG)
House Intel GOP Not Told About Eric Swalwell Relationship With Chinese Spy (NYP)
Secret Deal Gave Chinese Spies Free Rein In Switzerland (G.)
Clinton Associate 2016 Anti-Trump Dossier Claimed Russian FSB Source (JTN)
ECB To Unveil Yet Another Stimulus Package (R.)
Federal Trade Commission Calls For Breakup Of Facebook (NBC)

 

 

 

 

People with (auto-)immune issues were already not getting a vaccine. Now they add everyone with severe allergies; must be 25% of people?! Re: peanuts, asthma, hay fever. And you can’t travel etc., without proof of being vaccinated. While the CEO for Pfizer says they have no idea if even with the vaccine, you will not infect other people. Where’s the logic? Also, 4 people got facial paralysis after taking the Pfizer vaccine.

No drinkie, no problem!

No Drinking Alcohol For Two Months After COVID19 Vaccine – Russia (NYP)

Russian officials are warning citizens to avoid alcohol for two months after receiving the country’s COVID-19 vaccine — tough-to-swallow news for one of the world’s heaviest-drinking countries. The warning came from Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova, who said in an interview that Russians will have to observe extra precautions during the 42 days it takes for the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine to become effective. “[Russians] will have to refrain from visiting crowded places, wear face masks, use sanitizers, minimize contacts and refrain from drinking alcohol or taking immunosuppressant drugs,” Golikova told TASS News Agency. Anna Popova, the head of Rospotrebnadzor, Russia’s consumer safety watchdog, echoed the sentiments in an interview with Radio Komsomolskaya Pravda, as reported in the Moscow Times.


“It’s a strain on the body. If we want to stay healthy and have a strong immune response, don’t drink alcohol,” she said. According to the World Health Organization, Russia is the fourth-largest consumer of alcohol per person in the world. The average Russian consumes 15.1 liters (almost 4 gallons) of alcohol a year, according to the agency. Russia’s efforts to vaccinate its population began in earnest over the weekend in Moscow. Health authorities in the country estimate that 100,000 people have already been inoculated. “By the end of the week, all regions of the country will join this campaign,” Golikova said. Russian health officials say the Sputnik V vaccine is over 90 percent effective, but reports say medical workers who have taken the shot have come down with COVID-19. Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly refused to take it.

Read more …

Common sense.

Uni Of Pittsburgh Medical Center Won’t Require Staff To Take Vaccine (ZH)

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) won’t require its health care employees to take the upcoming COVID-19 vaccine, which the medical provider expects to begin offering as soon as this month, according to PennLive. The reason are several-fold, according to UPMC medical director of infection prevention and epidemiology, Dr. Graham Snyder. For starters, general uncertainty over the vaccine. And while the $21 billion nonprofit organization (which employs 89,000 people) has a mandatory flu vaccination policy, it’s “based on decades of experience with the influenza vaccine,” according to Snyder. “But there’s no comparable data for a COVID-19 vaccine, or on whether a mandate is the best way to get large numbers of people to become vaccinated, Snyder said on Tuesday.

The first COVID-19 vaccine, from Pfizer, is expected to soon receive emergency approval. A second vaccine, from Moderna, is also expected to soon receive emergency approval. Distribution of at least one vaccine is expected to begin this month. Snyder said UPMC is “very excited about the preliminary information we have about how safe the vaccine is and how it will work.” Still, he said UPMC will conduct its own review of the vaccines before injecting any of its employees.” -PennLive. “Until we learn more and build our own experience with this vaccine, plus, until we see the uptake of vaccine in our communities, and have an understanding about the role that vaccination has in ending this pandemic, it’s not the right thing to make it mandatory,” said Snyder – who added that UPMC’s independent review won’t slow down their plans to distribute the vaxx.

On Tuesday, UPMC outlined their plans for receiving and distributing shots of the vaccine – while planning to launch an information campaign ‘to persuade the public to get vaccinated’ – despite their own hesitance over the jab. Perhaps it has something to do with several UPMC employees having participated in vaccine trials, only to report fever, fatigue or arm pain, with some needing to take a day or two off from work. According to Snyder, this is “a normal and healthy immune response.”

Read more …

See my article Sunday: 95% Vaccine Efficacy? Not So Fast.

‘95% Effective’ May Not Mean What You Think It Means (Neuburger)

To a lay person, a phrase like “95% effective” means one of two things: either that she or he, upon exposure to the virus, is protected 95% of the time, or that 95% of the people who take the vaccine are protected 100% of the time. And this is where the mutual eagerness of the two highly motivated groups — the public; the profiteers — intersect. The public wants to hear “95% effectiveness” and think it knows what those words means. The drug companies want the same thing as the public; it wants the public to think it knows what those words mean. But in the world of drug advertising, the word “effective” does not mean what you think it means. The other way to look at effectiveness is this: Based on the numbers released from phase 3 trials, the Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective, but 1% of the time. In the same way, the Moderna vaccine is 94% effective, but 2% of the time.

To sort this out, let’s look at real numbers, thanks to Twitter friend David Windt. For the Moderna product, the phase 3 trial contained 30,000 individuals divided between those given the vaccine and those given a placebo. Let’s assume that individuals in each group were allowed to roam freely “in the wild” — that is, told to live their regular lives among the general population, including going out infrequently, staying masked, and practicing social distance — as opposed being proactively and aggressively exposed to the virus by the researchers, which would be highly immoral, to say the least. In the Moderna vaccinated group, 11 people out of 15,000 got the virus (by Moderna’s definition of what “got the virus means”) for an overall infection rate of 0.07%. (There’s disagreement about whether the drug company’s “got the virus” measurements are well chosen [..] But we’ll ignore that point for now.)

In the Moderna placebo group, 185 people of 15,000 got the virus, for an overall infection rate of 1.23%. Do you see where this is headed? If you divide 0.07% by 1.23%, you get a 5.7% infection rate — or inversely, a 94% protection rate, which is what’s claimed. But that’s a percentage of a percentage, a ratio of a ratio, something called the “relative rate” in the medical profession. What this really means is that, of the 1.23% of people who would have gotten the virus in the vaccinated group, 94% of them didn’t. But Moderna isn’t testing 30,000 people who are infected with the virus, or even 15,000 people. Only 185 people “got the virus” (by their definition) in the placebo group. That population was reduced to 11 people with vaccination. These are very small numbers. As stated above, the Moderna vaccine is 94% effective — but only 1.23% of the time.

[..] For comparison, let’s look at the absolute numbers from the Moderna test. In the unprotected population, 1.23% of the people who could have been exposed to the virus, got it. In the vaccinated population exposed to the same conditions, a little less than 0.07% got the virus. Subtracting the two, the absolute gain in protection was 1.16% — that is, taking the vaccine bought you a little over 1% in absolute protection. The numbers for the Pfizer vaccine are similar. According to Windt, “the infection rate was reduced slightly, from 0.75% to 0.04% – that’s “95% efficacy” [but] these results do NOT mean that 95% of those vaccinated are protected.” In absolute terms, taking the Pfizer vaccine reduced the risk of getting the virus by just 0.71%.

Read more …

No matter how much people dump on this, it was always going to go this route.

Trump Campaign, 16 Other States Join Texas Motion To Supreme Court (JTN)

The Trump campaign and seventeen states have now joined a motion filed in Texas asking the Supreme Court to delay the conclusion of the election in four key states based on concerns of potentially unconstitutional voting systems and procedures. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton late Monday asked the country’s highest court to invalidate the Nov. 3 election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, arguing officials in those four battleground states violated the Constitution by making changes to how ballots were cast and counted without legislative approval. Paxton’s suit asks the justices to issue a temporary restraining order preventing the states “from taking action to certify presidential electors or to have such electors take any official action including without limitation participating in the Electoral College.”

The Supreme Court as of Wednesday afternoon had yet to publicly say whether it will hear the case. In the meantime, 17 other states have signed on as amici curiae, signaling their support of the suit’s efforts. Missouri, Arkansas, Nebraska and others announced that they mutually hold “several important interests in this case.” On Wednesday, the Trump campaign also announced that it was intervening in the suit on the side of Texas. The campaign said in an announcement that President Trump’s “rights as a candidate are affected by the Defendant States’ failure to follow and enforce state election laws during the 2020 election.” “After reviewing the motion filed by Texas in the U.S. Supreme Court, I have determined that I will support the motion in all legally appropriate manners,” Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, a Republican, tweeted late Tuesday.

“The integrity of our elections is a critical part of our nation and it must be upheld.” Also late Tuesday, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said on Twitter that his state is “in the fight” after Texas announced its election challenge. The court deciding to hear the case would be a huge victory for President Trump’s lawyers and others trying to get the courts to investigate voter fraud, states’ last-minute changes to voting laws and numerous other issues, all in hope of having the certification of the 2020 presidential race delayed and potentially overturned.

Read more …

17 now. That’s a sizeable chunk of America.

Trump To Meet With Ten State Attorneys General Backing Case To Overturn Election (F.)

President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with a group of Republican state attorneys general at the White House on Wednesday – most of whom are engaged in or supporting an effort to overturn the results of the presidential election – as he still refuses to concede just days before the electoral college is set to vote. Trump is scheduled to have lunch with the attorneys general in the cabinet room of the White House at 12:45pm EST, according to a public schedule released by the White House Wednesday evening. The list of attendees, provided to Forbes by White House spokesperson Judd Deere, includes Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is spearheading the lawsuit, which is aimed at overturning the results in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia. Also on the list are the attorneys general of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina and Utah, all of whom signed an amicus brief released Wednesday supporting the Texas case.


Also expected to attend is Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich – who represents a state Biden won and who filed a separate amicus brief “respecting” the Texas lawsuit – and Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who did not join either brief. The case – which Trump called “the big one” and said he would be “intervening” in – seeks to invalidate electors in the four key states based on allegations the states expansions of mail-in voting due to Covid-19 resulted in substantial fraud. The fraud claims pushed by the lawsuit have continuously been rejected by courts, with one election law expert deriding the case as, “utter garbage. Dangerous garbage, but garbage.”

Read more …

“The only way to resolve suspicions is with full transparency and public awareness. That will be the goal of the hearing.”

Sen. Ron Johnson Does Not Rule Out Challenging Electoral College Results (JTN)

Sen. Ron Johnson is not ruling out the possibility of challenging the Electoral College results in January when Congress is slated to certify the vote. “I would say it depends on what we found out,” the Wisconsin Republican said to reporters when he was asked about whether he plans on challenging election results, according to The Hill. “The American people need more information. I’m not ready to just close and slam the book on this thing and go ‘OK, let’s walk away from it.'” Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama has indicated that he intends to object to some states’ Electoral College votes. Johnson, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, announced Wednesday that the committee will hold a hearing next week about election irregularities.


“Today I gave notice for a hearing for next Wednesday titled ‘Examining Irregularities in the 2020 election,'” the senator said in a statement. “I am mindful that many of the issues that have been raised have been, and will continue to be, appropriately resolved in the courts. But the fact remains that a large percentage of the American public does not view the 2020 election result as legitimate because of apparent irregularities that have not been fully examined. That is not a sustainable state of affairs for our country. The only way to resolve suspicions is with full transparency and public awareness. That will be the goal of the hearing.”

Ron Johnson

Read more …

I wonder about the timing here. The probe started in 2018, and he says he only learned about it yesterday? He had zero idea for over 2 years?

Hunter Biden Under Federal Investigation For Possible Tax Fraud (NYP)

President-elect Joe Biden’s son revealed Wednesday that he’s under federal investigation for possible tax fraud, with a report saying the Justice Department is examining his overseas business dealings. The probe also reportedly involves a laptop that belonged to Hunter Biden, the existence of which was first reported by The Post, and which contains communciations and documents detailing some of his business dealings in China and Ukraine. Hunter Biden, 50, disclosed the probe in a statement released by his father’s presidential transition office. “I learned yesterday for the first time that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Delaware advised my legal counsel, also yesterday, that they are investigating my tax affairs,” Hunter Biden said in the statement.

“I take this matter very seriously but I am confident that a professional and objective review of these matters will demonstrate that I handled my affairs legally and appropriately, including with the benefit of professional tax advisors.” A statement attributed to “the Biden-Harris Transition” said, “President-elect Biden is deeply proud of his son, who has fought through difficult challenges, including the vicious personal attacks of recent months, only to emerge stronger.” The probe began in 2018, sources told Fox News and CNN. Investigators are looking into whether Hunter and his business associates violated various tax and money laundering laws, CNN said. The probe is focused on Hunter’s business dealings in China and other countries and invovles transactions with people who posed counterintelligence concerns, CNN said.

The investigation was put on hold during the run-up to the November election due to Justice Department guidelines that prohibit activity that could influence a political race, CNN said. But it’s since resumed and is entering a new phase, with the FBI and IRS issuing subpoenas and seeking interviews, CNN said. Fox News reported that the probe includes examining the Hunter Biden laptop exposed by The Post, citing two sources familiar with the investigation. The probe is before a grand jury, and involves so-called “Suspicious Activity Reports” from banks flagging transfers of funds from China and other nations, Fox News also said.

In September, Republican senators released a report on Hunter’s business affairs that said he “and his family were involved in a vast financial network that connected them to foreign nationals and foreign governments across the globe.” Some of those ties “raise criminal financial, counterintelligence and extortion concerns,” the report said. Wednesday’s surprise disclosure of the federal probe came exactly one year after FBI agents seized a laptop from a Delaware computer shop whose owner claims it was left there by Hunter and never retrieved.

Read more …

Greenwald. “We have our old friends who are at the top of America’s core inner circle of power and influence.”

Hunter Biden Criminal Probe Bolsters Claim About Beijing’s Influence In US (GG)

Hunter Biden acknowledged today that he has been notified of an active criminal investigation into his tax affairs by the U.S. Attorney for Delaware. Among the numerous prongs of the inquiry, CNN reports, investigators are examining “whether Hunter Biden and his associates violated tax and money laundering laws in business dealings in foreign countries, principally China.” Documents relating to Hunter Biden’s exploitation of his father’s name to enrich himself and other relatives through deals with China were among the cache published in the week before the election by The New York Post — revelations censored by Twitter and Facebook and steadfastly ignored by most mainstream news outlets. That concerted repression effort by media outlets and Silicon Valley left it to right-wing outlet such as Fox News and The Daily Caller to report, which in turn meant that millions of Americans were kept in the dark before voting.

But the just-revealed federal criminal investigation in Delaware is focused on exactly the questions which corporate media outlets refused to examine for fear that doing so would help Trump: namely, whether Hunter Biden engaged in illicit behavior in China and what impact that might have on his father’s presidency. The allegations at the heart of this investigation compel an examination of a fascinating and at-times disturbing speech at a major financial event held last week in Shanghai. In that speech, a Chinese scholar of political science and international finance, Di Donghseng, insisted that Beijing will have far more influence in Washington under a Biden administration than it did with the Trump administration.

The reason, Di said, is that China’s ability to get its way in Washington has long depended upon its numerous powerful Wall Street allies. But those allies, he said, had difficulty controlling Trump, but will exert virtually unfettered power over Biden. That China cultivated extensive financial ties to Hunter Biden, Di explained, will be crucial for bolstering Beijing’s influence even further. Di, who in addition to his teaching positions is also Vice Dean of Beijing’s Renmin University’s School of International Relations, delivered his remarks alongside three other Chinese banking and development experts. [..] The centerpiece of Di’s speech was the history he set forth of how Beijing has long successfully managed to protect its interests in the halls of American power: namely, by relying on “friends” in Wall Street and other U.S. ruling class sectors — which worked efficiently until the Trump presidency.

Referring to the Trump-era trade war between the two countries, Di posed this question: “Why did China and the U.S. use to be able to settle all kinds of issues between 1992 [when Clinton became President] and 2016 [when Obama’s left office]?” He then provided this answer: “No matter what kind of crises we encountered — be it the Yinhe incident [when the U.S. interdicted a Chinese ship in the mistaken belief it carried chemical weapons for Iran], the bombing of the embassy [the 1992 bombing by the U.S. of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade], or the crashing of the plane [the 2001 crashing of a U.S. military spy plane into a Chinese fighter jet] — things were all solved in no time, like a couple do with their quarrels starting at the bedhead but ending at the bed end. We fixed everything in two months. What is the reason? I’m going to throw out something maybe a little bit explosive here. It’s just because we have people at the top. We have our old friends who are at the top of America’s core inner circle of power and influence.”

Read more …

Swalwell needs to be investigated for real.

House Intel GOP Not Told About Eric Swalwell Relationship With Chinese Spy (NYP)

House Intelligence Committee Republicans were surprised to learn this week that a member of their panel, Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell, was targeted by a suspected Chinese spy who slept with US politicians as a tactic to elicit information. Swalwell, who represents a California district south of Oakland, received an FBI “defensive briefing” in 2015 on operative Fang Fang, but most if not all Republicans on the elite committee weren’t told that a colleague had been targeted by China. Fang, also known as Christine Fang, returned to China in mid-2015 as US officials heightened their scrutiny of her string of honey-trap seductions. She reportedly fundraised for Swalwell’s 2014 re-election campaign before he joined the Intelligence Committee in 2015.

A congressional Republican source told The Post that Intelligence Committee Republicans had not been informed of the relationship. The committee is supposed to have access to some of the nation’s most sensitive information to fulfill its oversight role of shadowy government programs. If the Chinese operation occurred as described in a bombshell Tuesday article in Axios, it’s unclear why lawmakers aside from Swalwell were kept in the dark, especially since Fang may have targeted Swalwell due to his proximity to sensitive information. The Post asked Swalwell’s 12 Democratic colleagues on the Intelligence Committee, including Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), about when they learned of Swalwell’s association with Fang, but they did not immediately reply.

Swalwell has not said if he had a romantic relationship with Fang, who allegedly seduced two Midwest mayors as part of her operation from 2011 to 2015. He claimed in a Wednesday CNN appearance that he “can’t talk too much about the details of the case” because the information should be kept secret. The issue is likely to dog Swalwell as Republicans demand more information. “Did Schiff and [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi know? Why did no one take any steps to keep sensitive intel, at least as it relates to China, far away from a member who is at best potentially compromised?” a Republican close to the White House told The Post.

Read more …

Lots of China stories all of a sudden.

Secret Deal Gave Chinese Spies Free Rein In Switzerland (G.)

The full text of a secret deal between Switzerland and China that allowed Chinese security officials access to the country at Swiss taxpayers’ expense has been revealed for the first time as the government pushes to renew it. The five-year “readmission agreement”, which was signed in 2015 and expired on Monday, lay out terms for Chinese agents to travel to Switzerland and interview suspected Chinese nationals that Swiss authorities wished to deport. Unlike more than 50 similar deals Switzerland has signed with other countries, it was never published by the government and was not even publicly acknowledged until August. The official English translation of the agreement has been obtained by Safeguard Defenders, an Asia-focused human rights campaign group.

It reveals an extraordinary commitment to secrecy within an agreement that had itself been concealed from the public, the group says. The “experts” from the ministry of public security (MPS) had to be invited on the two-week “missions”, but once the invitation had been issued China could choose its agents without Swiss approval. They could enter the country without official status, and Switzerland committed to keeping their identity confidential. The reports they produced for Swiss authorities were also kept secret. Readmission deals are a regular part of international law, but Safeguard Defenders said the 2015 arrangement with Beijing, which was not reciprocal, was of “an entirely different character” from others signed by Switzerland.

The secrecy surrounding both the agreement itself and the work of Chinese agents, the choice of partner – a security super-ministry with extensive remit including police and intelligence services – and even the presence of agents were unusual. “In only a minority of cases [do other readmission] deals allow for the other party to send representatives to accompany the individual to be returned, and in those cases [the representatives] are limited to that specific activity, and it is a public, official duty being carried out,” Safeguard Defenders said. The deal was extremely favourable to the Chinese and went above and beyond normal migration information-sharing arrangements, said Margaret Lewis, a law professor at Seton Hall University in the US.

Read more …

If Crossfire Hurricans is not thoroughly and indepenndently investigated, how will the FBI ever recover?

Clinton Associate 2016 Anti-Trump Dossier Claimed Russian FSB Source (JTN)

Evidence released by the Senate this month reveals that longtime Hillary Clinton associate Cody Shearer received anti-Trump dirt in 2016 from a Russian intelligence source and got it into the hands of the FBI through the ex-British spy Christopher Steele. Shearer’s claim that his information came from a Russian FSB source, experts say, should have alerted senior US officials that the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties Russia was compromised by its sources, Clinton surrogates and alleged Russian spies. The documents also indicate the State Department played a much larger role than previously reported in shaping the media narrative, and eventually the official Obama administration intelligence assessment that Vladimir Putin wanted Trump to win in 2016, lawmakers said.

“Clinton confidantes and campaign surrogates repeatedly sought information from individuals with links to known or suspected Russian intelligence officers and assets,” Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis, told Just the News. “This demonstrates the double standard and bias of the FBI’s investigation of only Trump campaign officials for their contacts with Russian agents. Americans deserve equal justice, and the FBI has a long way to go before its integrity and credibility is restored.” The new documents released jointly by Johnson’s committee and the Senate Finance Committee chaired by Chuck Grassley sheds significant new light on the extensive network of Clinton associates who participated and exerted influence on the 2016-17 effort to falsely portray Trump as the agent of a hostile power.

One of Shearer’s reports, alleging that Trump was compromised by Russian intelligence, made its way to the FBI shortly before the 2016 election through a series of Clinton allies. It included Steele, the British ex-spy who authored a now-debunked dossier tying the Trump campaign and associates to Kremlin officials. Steele submitted the Shearer memo, titled “FSB Interview,” to the FBI as a supplement to his own Trump-Russia reporting funded by the Clinton campaign. In a prefatory note to the Shearer memo, Steele wrote to his FBI handlers that “some of the reporting is remarkably similar” to his own, especially regarding “TRUMP’s compromise by the FSB,” and the “funding of the TRUMP campaign.” Steele dated Shearer’s memo Oct. 19, 2016. Two days later, the FBI obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant on Trump adviser Carter Page based on some of the information from Steele’s dossier.

Read more …

For the banks.

ECB To Unveil Yet Another Stimulus Package (R.)

The European Central Bank will unveil fresh stimulus measures on Thursday to prop up the recession-hit currency bloc long enough for a coronavirus vaccine to be deployed and its devastated economy to start to heal. With fresh support measures already promised, only the details of the package remain up in the air. But the bottom line is clear: borrowing costs will be kept close to zero for years so that governments and firms can spend their way out of the biggest recession in living memory. The ECB’s challenge will be to balance a growing range of short-term risks against improving long term prospects, indicating that its move will be big but lack the “shock and awe” impact of previous crisis-fighting measures.

“With the positive news in terms of vaccine development, Europe is now starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Oxford Economics said in a note. “However, the short-term outlook remains extremely challenging, with euro zone GDP likely to contract in the fourth quarter.” For now, the 19-country euro zone is facing a triple shock: a lingering second wave of the pandemic, the prospect of a hard Brexit and political stalemate over the European Union’s 750 billion euro ($908 billion) recovery fund. But all three are seen as temporary shocks, with the political strife likely to be resolved and the pandemic easing by the spring, leaving the ECB with the task of getting the bloc through a difficult winter.

The economy also recovered surprisingly quickly after the first wave of coronavirus lockdowns, suggesting more resilience than is built into economic models. Fresh projections could thus point to lower growth in 2021 but better prospects in 2022, leaving the overall growth path little changed.

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This is supposed to happen under Biden?

Federal Trade Commission Calls For Breakup Of Facebook (NBC)

The Federal Trade Commission sued to break up Facebook on Wednesday, asking a federal court to force the sell-off of assets such as Instagram and WhatsApp as independent businesses. “Facebook has maintained its monopoly position by buying up companies that present competitive threats and by imposing restrictive policies that unjustifiably hinder actual or potential rivals that Facebook does not or cannot acquire,” the commission said in the lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. The lawsuit asks the court to order the “divestiture of assets, divestiture or reconstruction of businesses (including, but not limited to, Instagram and/or WhatsApp),” as well as other possible relief the court might want to add.

The announcement is a major step that has been years in the making, with Facebook and several other major U.S. technology companies having grown quickly in the past 10 years with little government oversight. But the lack of scrutiny has changed recently, with a series of lawsuits that now threaten to rein in the dominance of big American tech firms that have grown to be among the world’s most valuable companies. Attorneys general from 48 states and territories said they were filing their own lawsuit against Facebook, reflecting the broad and bipartisan concern about how much power Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, have accumulated on the internet. Facebook’s share price fell by as much as 4 percent after the news, before paring its losses.

“Breakup Facebook” has become a rally cry for the company’s critics — from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., to one of Facebook’s wealthy founders, Chris Hughes, who last year wrote a 6,000-word case for a break-up. But the idea has never been truly attempted in court. Facebook said it was reviewing the two lawsuits, and pointed out that the FTC approved the Instagram and WhatsApp acquisitions at the time. “Years after the FTC cleared our acquisitions, the government now wants a do-over with no regard for the impact that precedent would have on the broader business community or the people who choose our products every day,” Facebook said in a statement, adding that it would have more to say soon.

Read more …

 

 

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Dec 092020
 


Paul Cézanne Curtains 1885

 

Many Aren’t Buying Public Officials’ ‘Stay-at-home’ Message (LAT)
Nine Out Of 10 In Poor Nations To Miss Out On Vaccines (G.)
Tenants, Landlords Face Imminent Crisis As Pandemic Lifelines Expire (ZH)
Texas Files Lawsuit To SCOTUS Challenging Election Results In 4 States (JTN)
Professor: Probability of Biden Winning ‘Less Than One In A Quadrillion’ (EW)
Swalwell Suggests Trump Is Behind Blockbuster Axios Report (Fox)
Biden Defense Secretary Nominee Under Fire For Industry Connections (IC)
Former Clinton Aide Confirms Ties to Epstein, MSM Silence Deafening (MPN)
Trump Exits Somalia (OffG)
Where’s the Hitler? (CJ Hopkins)
Melzer Calls For Immediate Release Of Assange After 10 Years Of Detention (UN)
American People Hire High-Powered Lobbyist To Push Interests In Congress (Onion)

 

 

Passionate science: Ivermectin is the miracle drug

 

 

I see a tsunami of violent lockdown protests in our immediate future. Maybe it’ll wait till 2021, but not much longer.

“..harm reduction aims to mitigate the risks of dangerous behaviors instead of trying to get people to cease altogether..”

Many Aren’t Buying Public Officials’ ‘Stay-at-home’ Message (LAT)

With the coronavirus running rampant in Los Angeles and hospitals projected to overflow by Christmas, officials have fallen back on a familiar refrain: Stay home. “My message couldn’t be simpler: It’s time to hunker down. It’s time to cancel everything,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said last week. “If you’re able to stay home, stay home.” Some 33 million Californians are now under a new regional stay-at-home order that began Sunday night, a last-ditch effort to turn the corner on an alarming rise in coronavirus cases statewide. The blunt messaging worked to bend the curve in the spring, when fear of the novel virus and the insidious ways it might spread kept many indoors. But nine months later, the words seem to have lost their meaning.

The percentage of Angelenos staying home except for essential activities has remained unchanged since mid-June — around 55% — despite pleas from health officials in recent weeks for people to cut down on their activities, according to a survey conducted by USC. A similar story has played out nationwide, as millions of Americans zigzagged across the country to visit family over the Thanksgiving holiday, flouting the advice of health officials. “It’s not because the public is irresponsible; it’s because they are losing trust in public health officials who put out arbitrary restrictions,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious-disease specialist at UC San Francisco. “We are failing in our public health messaging.” Health officials are up against a fatigued public, as well as a number of people who don’t believe in the danger of the virus, Gandhi said.

But she is also part of a growing number of experts who think there’s a better way to engage those who do want to take the pandemic seriously — by taking a lesson from the public health strategy known as harm reduction. Typically used to describe sex-education programs and needle exchanges for drug users, harm reduction aims to mitigate the risks of dangerous behaviors instead of trying to get people to cease altogether. When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, a harm-reduction approach would encourage masking and social distancing instead of demanding that people have no contact at all with friends or family they don’t live with. In other words, even during a pandemic, abstinence-only isn’t effective.

L.A., however, has adopted more of a “just say no” attitude. Last week the county became one of the only places in the nation to halt all outdoor gatherings among people who aren’t in the same household, prohibiting two friends from meeting up in a park or going on a hike with masks on. Gov. Gavin Newsom followed suit and included the ban in his regional stay-at-home order. California officials are desperate to reverse an unprecedented flood of new coronavirus cases up and down the state, and even their critics acknowledge the impossibility of the situation. But banning relatively safe outdoor activities risks alienating people who want to follow the rules but feel exhausted, disregarded and sometimes confused by them, Brown University health economist Emily Oster said. “Some of the things they’re telling you not to do are incredibly low-risk,” Oster said. “When you are so strict about what people can do, they stop listening.”

Read more …

Close the borders! But seriously, vaccines have become an entirely critiqueless issue. And thereby uninteresting. Once something is blown up to the status of a religion, it’s time to tune out.

Nine Out Of 10 In Poor Nations To Miss Out On Vaccines (G.)

Nine out of 10 people in 70 low-income countries are unlikely to be vaccinated against Covid-19 next year because the majority of the most promising vaccines coming on-stream have been bought up by the west, campaigners have said. As the first people get vaccinated in the UK, the People’s Vaccine Alliance is warning that the deals done by rich countries’ governments will leave the poor at the mercy of the rampaging virus. Rich countries with 14% of the world’s population have secured 53% of the most promising vaccines. Canada has bought more doses per head of population than any other – enough to vaccinate each Canadian five times, said the alliance, which includes Amnesty International, Frontline AIDS, Global Justice Now and Oxfam.

“No one should be blocked from getting a life-saving vaccine because of the country they live in or the amount of money in their pocket,” said Anna Marriott, Oxfam’s health policy manager. “But unless something changes dramatically, billions of people around the world will not receive a safe and effective vaccine for Covid-19 for years to come.” Supplies of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, approved in the UK last week, will almost all go to rich countries – 96% of doses have been bought by the west. The Moderna vaccine uses a similar technology, which also is claimed to have 95% efficacy, and is going exclusively to rich countries. The prices of both vaccines are high and access for low-income countries will be complicated by the ultra low temperatures at which they need to be stored.

By contrast, the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine, which has 70% efficacy, is stable at normal fridge temperatures and the price has been set deliberately low for global access. The manufacturers have said 64% of doses will go to people in the developing world. The campaigners applaud this commitment, but said one company alone cannot supply the whole world. At most Oxford/AstraZeneca can reach 18% of the world’s population next year. The alliance has used data from science information and analytics company Airfinity to analyse the global deals with the eight leading vaccine candidates. They found that 67 low and lower middle-income countries risk being left behind as rich countries move towards their escape route from the pandemic. Five of the 67 – Kenya, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan and Ukraine – have reported nearly 1.5 million cases between them.

Read more …

You can’t go out, except when you get evicted.

Tenants, Landlords Face Imminent Crisis As Pandemic Lifelines Expire (ZH)

January is going to be a mess. America’s small-time landlords, along with their tenants, are in trouble as safety nets are set to expire. Tenants haven’t paid rent in months, with a looming eviction moratorium expiring at the end of December. According to Reuters, the lack of rental income for landlords has also been troublesome, with many skipping mortgage payments, potentially resulting in a firesale of properties in the year ahead. For 12 million Americans and their families – this Christmas will be their worst – as the extended unemployment benefits that have kept many of them afloat are set to expire later this month. Then on New Year’s Day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium expires, which could result in a massive wave of evictions in the first half of 2021.

At the moment, $70 billion in unpaid back rent and utilities are set to come due, according to a new report via Moody’s Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi. Last month, Maryland utility companies began to terminate customers with overdue bills, many of which were unable to pay because of job loss due to the coronavirus downturn. New research from the Aspen Institute warns 40 million people could be threatened with eviction over the coming months as the real economic crisis is only beginning. According to Stacey Johnson-Cosby, president of the Kansas City Regional Housing Alliance, landlords are also in deep turmoil. She said more than 40% of the landlords surveyed in her coalition said they will have to sell their units because of the lack of rental income.

“They are sheltering our citizens free of charge, and there’s nothing we can do about it,” said Johnson-Cosby. “This is their retirement income.” She said small landlords are frightened to speak out about non-paying tenants because social justice warriors and their “Cancel Rent” groups have attacked landlords. “What they don’t realize is that if they run us out and we fail, it will be private equity and Wall Street firms that buy up all our properties, just like they did with houses after the last foreclosure crash.”

Read more …

Louisiana followed suit.

Texas Files Lawsuit To SCOTUS Challenging Election Results In 4 States (JTN)

In a novel legal strike, the state of Texas has asked the Supreme Court to invalidate the election results in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia, arguing officials in those four battleground states violated the Constitution by making changes to how ballots were cast and counted without legislative approval. The lawsuit filed late Monday night by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the justices to issue a temporary restraining order preventing the states “from taking action to certify presidential electors or to have such electors take any official action including without limitation participating in the electoral college.” The suit argues that changes made by the state’s governors, secretaries of states and election supervisors were “inconsistent with relevant state laws and were made by non-legislative entities, without any consent by the state legislatures. The acts of these officials thus directly violated the Constitution.”

“I’m worried about the credibility of elections, not just right now, but I’m worried about the credibility of elections going forward,” Paxton told Just the News on Tuesday afternoon in a phone interview. “I’m not making a fraud argument, I’m making an argument based on the Constitution. And what we know happened, which was that we know state law was changed by people other than the state legislature, which is the only constitutionally authorized changes that are allowed … My argument is that the law was violated, the constitution was violated. I’m not addressing whether there was 2 million fraudulent ballots cast in Pennsylvania. I don’t know, and there’s no way to know, the way the system got set up, the way the rules got changed.”

States are allowed in certain circumstances to appeal directly to the Supreme Court, bypassing lower federal courts, in disputes involving other states. Paxton argued the state of Texas was wrongly harmed by the unconstitutional acts of the other states. “These non-legislative changes … facilitated the casting and counting of ballots in violation of state law, which, in turn, violated the Electors Clause of Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution,” the suit stated. “By these unlawful acts, the Defendant States have not only tainted the integrity of their own citizens vote, but their actions have also debased the votes of citizens in Plaintiff State and other States that remained loyal to the Constitution.”

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Because Trump was so far ahead as of 3 a.m. on November 4, 2020.

Professor: Probability of Biden Winning ‘Less Than One In A Quadrillion’ (EW)

In a new lawsuit filed today, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block four battleground states – Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, from casting “unlawful and constitutionally tainted votes” in the Electoral College. In the brief submitted to the Supreme Court, Texas includes a declaration from Pacific Economics Group member and USC economics professor, Charles J. Cicchetti, Ph.D. Dr. Cicchetti is the former Deputy Director at the Energy and Environmental Policy Center at Harvard University’s John Kennedy School of Government and received his Ph.D. in economics from Rutgers University.


According to Dr. Cicchetti, his calculations show the probability of Joe Biden winning the popular vote in the four states independently given President Trump’s early lead in those States as of 3 a.m. on November 4, 2020, is less than one in a quadrillion. Dr. Cicchetti’s analysis calculates that for Joe Biden to win all four states collectively, the odds of that event happening decrease to less than one in a quadrillion to the fourth power (1 in 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,0004). Stop and think about that. Given President Trump’s massive early lead on election night, the odds — according to Dr. Cicchetti — that Biden came from behind and beat Trump in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are so unlikely that it’s next to impossible. Dr. Cicchett’s work raises serious suspicions. How did Biden pull off this extraordinarily improbable win?

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You mean the report was false?

“Yes, noted pro-Trump, right-wing media outlet *Axios* spent a full year investigating a Chinese spy that infiltrated California politics because of Swalwell’s criticisms of the president.”

Swalwell Suggests Trump Is Behind Blockbuster Axios Report (Fox)

Rep. Eric Swalwell suggested Tuesday that President Trump was behind Axios’ bombshell report revealing that he was one of several politicians who was entangled with someone suspected to be a Chinese spy. Axios reported on Monday that a Chinese national named Fang Fang or Christine Fang targeted up-and-coming local politicians, including Swalwell, D-Calif. Fang reportedly took part in fundraising for Swalwell’s 2014 reelection campaign although she did not make donations nor was there evidence of illegal contributions. According to Axios, investigators became so alarmed by Fang’s behavior and activities that they alerted Swalwell in 2015 to their concerns, and gave him a “defensive briefing.” Swalwell then cut off all ties with Fang and has not been accused of any wrongdoing, according to an official who spoke to the outlet.

Swalwell, who was one of the most outspoken lawmakers who pushed the Russia collusion narrative since Trump took office, is now hinting that the president was behind Axios’ explosive reporting during an interview with Politico. “I’ve been a critic of the president. I’ve spoken out against him. I was on both committees that worked to impeach him. The timing feels like that should be looked at,” Swalwell said on Tuesday. Swalwell revealed that Axios first approached him about his ties to Fang in July 2019, which was also when he ended his short-lived presidential campaign. But the Democratic lawmaker seemed to suggest that intelligence officials involved in Axios’ reporting were trying to “weaponize” his cooperation with authorities.

“What it appears though that this person — as the story reports — was unsuccessful in whatever they were trying to do. But if intelligence officials are trying to weaponize someone’s cooperation, they are essentially seeking to do what this person was not able to do, which is to try and discredit someone,” Swalwell told Politico. According to Politico, Swalwell “refused to discuss his relationship with Fang” after Axios reported that she had sexual relations with at least two other politicians. He did, however, express confidence that he will maintain his seat on the House Intelligence Commitee. “As the story referenced, this goes back to the beginning of the last decade, and it’s something that congressional leadership knew about it,” Swalwell told Politico.

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The swamp.

Biden Defense Secretary Nominee Under Fire For Industry Connections (IC)

Last month, two progressive members of Congress sent President-elect Joe Biden a letter requesting that he commit to nominating a secretary of defense with no previous ties to weapons manufacturers. The letter, from Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisc., and Rep. Barbara Lee D-Calif., cited President Donald Trump’s Defense Secretary Mark Esper — a former lobbyist for Raytheon, one the country’s largest defense contractors — and called on Biden to adopt a different standard and find a nominee with “no prior employment history with a defense contractor.” But on Tuesday, Biden announced that he will nominate retired four-star Gen. Lloyd Austin III, once the top commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, and now a member of the board of directors at Raytheon.

The company has been in the spotlight during the Trump administration in part because it supplies air-to-ground munitions for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, and Austin’s role with Raytheon could be central to his confirmation fight. Austin oversaw U.S. operations in the Middle East until March of 2016, a year after the Saudi-led intervention began. He retired from the military the next month and later joined the board of United Technologies, a defense contractor that merged with Raytheon earlier this year. In 2019, Raytheon proceeded with an $8 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which included air-to-ground munitions. After congressional Democrats blocked the sale on human rights grounds, the Trump administration helped force the sale through by declaring a state of emergency.

“Raytheon manufactures the bomb components that are used in Yemen. He bears a direct responsibility,” Phyllis Bennis, who directs the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, told The Intercept. “He was making money as a board member of this company that is directly responsible for the death and destruction there.” William Hartung, the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, told The Intercept that picking Austin was “tantamount to making the position of Secretary of Defense the Secretary of Defense Contractors.” “The potential for conflicts is huge,” Hartung said. “Raytheon is deeply involved in controversial programs from unworkable missile defense projects to nuclear weapons — the new nuclear-armed cruise missile — to precision-guided bombs that have killed untold numbers of civilians in Saudi Arabia’s brutal war in Yemen. If Gen. Austin were to recuse himself from decisions on programs and policies involving Raytheon he could not carry out large parts of his job as defense secretary.”

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Mysteriously vanishing topics. There’s a lot of them.

Former Clinton Aide Confirms Ties to Epstein, MSM Silence Deafening (MPN)

A top Clinton insider has revealed that the former president visited the Caribbean home of notorious sex predator Jeffrey Epstein. In a long interview last week with Vanity Fair, longtime aide to Bill Clinton, Doug Band, noted that, contrary to the official line, his boss did indeed spend time on Little Saint James, the private island that the billionaire pedophile used as a base to traffick and rape women and children. Neither Band nor his interviewer appeared to realize the gravity of what he was revealing, the subject being touched upon only briefly towards the end of a wide-ranging 7,000-word conversation in which he noted that in January 2003, Clinton flew on Epstein’s notorious “Lolita Express” private jet to the island.

Band appeared to bring the incident up only as a way of distancing himself from the disgraced pedophile, who died under mysterious circumstances in a Manhattan prison in July last year. Band insisted that he knew nothing of Epstein’s misdeeds, but “got enough bad vibes that he advised Clinton to end the relationship,” refusing to travel aboard Epstein’s jet with his employer. Flight logs show Clinton made around two dozen trips on the infamous airplane. Band is certainly a source in the know. For years he served as Clinton’s most trusted aide and confidant, traveling by his side and arranging his appointments for him. The former president famously did not carry even a cellphone, meaning that everyone from journalists to even Hillary and Chelsea Clinton would have had to go through Band to speak to him.

Band’s testimony adds weight to others who have already said they saw him on the island. Epstein victim Virginia Giuffre previously stated that Clinton “strolled into” Epstein’s private villa with “two lovely girls” in his arms. “There was no modesty between any of them,” she said. “I remember asking Jeffrey what’s Bill Clinton doing here,” Giuffre said in an interview earlier this year, “and he laughed it off and said ‘well he owes me a favor.’” Epstein’s former IT and maintenance contractor also said he saw the former president on the island, an assertion that Clinton has denied. The former president was also photographed receiving a massage from Epstein victim Chauntae Davies while at an airport, on route via the Lolita Express.

While the press might be forgiven for focussing more on the pandemic and the election, the virtual silence from corporate media has been deafening. The bombshell that Clinton’s closest confidant — whom friends describe as being like a “son” to him — has been totally ignored by the New York Times, Washington Post, NBC News, MSNBC, CBS News, and CNN, with no relevant results appearing in searches on their websites. ABC News, which for three years sat on information that could have resulted in an arrest, also did not cover the story.

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Well, he appears to be trying.

Trump Exits Somalia (OffG)

These are things that might have been done earlier. During the last, flickering days of the Trump administration, activity is being witnessed across countries which have a US troop presence. Numbers are being reduced. Security wonks are getting the jitters. Is the imperium shrinking? Will President elect Joe Biden wake up and reverse the trend? With the Beltway foreign policy Blob advising him, most likely. In November, acting defence secretary Christopher Miller announced that the number of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq would fall from 4,500 to 2,500 and 3,500 to 2,500 respectively. Somalia has been added to the list of countries which will see US withdrawals in some number. The current troop presence stands at 700, tasked with assisting an African Union-backed peacekeeping force combat the al-Shabaab insurgency.

A good number are also there to train and support Danab, the Somali special forces with eyes on capturing and killing leaders of the insurgent movement. The ultimate objective of US Africa Command in East Africa, then, “is one in which terrorist organizations are not able to threaten the US homeland, US persons, international allies or destabilize the region.” This is a conflict that has a relentless air of eternity to it. Al-Shabaab counts itself as yet another, albeit more formidable militant group, that has thrived in Somalia’s unruly environment. Its claim to radicalised fame came with Ethiopia’s December 2006 invasion of the country. It was encouraged by the Somalian transitional government, with the intention of ousting al-Shabaab and the Islamic Courts Union from Mogadishu, captured by the fundamentalist alliance that June.

According to Robert Wise, the Ethiopian occupation transformed al-Shabaab “from a small relatively unimportant part of a more moderate Islamic movement into the most powerful and radical armed faction in the country.” Yet another salient lesson in the perils of foreign intervention. US administrations might have feared the messiness of the Somali scene. The death of 18 US soldiers in October 1993 in a failed effort to capture the warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid in Mogadishu stung. Cruise-missile humanitarians and interventionists would have to wait for the republic to find its feet again. The attacks of September 11, 2001 on the United States furnished the moment, incarnating the global terrorist phenomenon and the pretext for an international deployment of US forces, officially and covertly. On March 19, 2003, the capture and interrogation of Suleiman Abdallah heralded the return of US troops to Somalia.

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Good question. But good luck trying to find people who’ve read all this stuff for four years and now acknowledge they’ve been had 100%.

Where’s the Hitler? (CJ Hopkins)

All right, that’s it. I’ve run out of patience. No more excuses. Where’s the Hitler? Yes, you heard me. I’m talking to you. You respectable journalists and political pundits. You Intelligence officials and politicians. You fanatical liberals. You pseudo anti-fascists. All you members of the GloboCap “Resistance” who have been hysterically shrieking that “Trump is Hitler!” since he won the nomination back in 2016. Well, OK, it’s November 2020. The show is almost over. When do we get Hitler No, do not tell me “any day now.” You’ve been telling us that for four straight years. Do we look like a bunch of gullible idiots that you can whip up into a four-year frenzy of mindless hatred and paranoia by screaming “Hitler!” over and over, and then not produce an actual Hitler?

Well, we’re not. We remember what you said. You promised us Hitler, and we want Hitler, or at least a decent facsimile of Hitler. And don’t even think of trying to pretend that you didn’t actually promise us Hitler. You did. You want me to prove it? OK. Remember back in 2016, when The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Guardian, the Washington Post, The Inquirer, and other such “leading respectable broadsheets,” and online magazines like Mother Jones, Forward, Slate, Salon, Vox, Alternet, and countless others, warned that Trump was sending secret anti-Semitic “dog whistle” signals to his underground army of Nazi terrorists by talking about “international banks,” “global elites,” the “political establishment,” and even “corporations” and “lobbyists” … all of which was supposedly code for “the Jews,” who he was going to exterminate if won the election?

I do. I remember that, distinctly. How about after he won the election, when The Guardian reported that “white supremacy ha[d] triumphed!,” and The New York Times, NPR, Keith Olberman, and other verified news sources warned that America had descended into “racial Orwellianism,” or Zionist Anti-Semitism, or the “bottomless pit of fascism,” or whatever? Or when Michael Kinsley in the Washington Post confirmed that “Donald Trump is actually a fascist”? Do you remember all that? Because I certainly do. Remember Aaron Sorkin’s letter to his daughter warning her that millions of “Muslim-Americans, Mexican-Americans and African-Americans [were] shaking in their shoes” as they waited for Trump to round them all up and send them to the camps, along with the “Jewish Coastal Elites”?

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He’s done this 1000 times.

Melzer Calls For Urgent Release Of Assange After 10 Years Of Detention (UN)

The UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, today appealed to British authorities to immediately release Julian Assange from prison or to place him under guarded house arrest during US extradition proceedings. He made the urgent call 10 years after Mr. Assange’s first arrest on 7 December 2010, amid an outbreak of COVID-19 at Belmarsh prison. Reports say 65 of approximately 160 inmates, including a number in the wing where Mr. Assange is being held, have tested positive. In an opinion rendered in December 2015, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that since his arrest on 7 December 2010, Mr. Assange had been subjected to various forms of arbitrary deprivation of liberty, including 10 days of detention in London’s Wandsworth prison; 550 days of house arrest, and the continuation of the deprivation of liberty in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London which lasted almost seven years.

Since 11 April 2019, Mr. Assange has been held in near total isolation at Belmarsh. “The British authorities initially detained Mr. Assange on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by Sweden in connection with allegations of sexual misconduct that have since been formally dropped due to lack of evidence. Today, he is detained for exclusively preventative purposes, to ensure his presence during the ongoing US extradition trial, a proceeding which may well last several years,” said Melzer. “Mr. Assange is not a criminal convict and poses no threat to anyone, so his prolonged solitary confinement in a high security prison is neither necessary nor proportionate and clearly lacks any legal basis.”

The progressively severe suffering inflicted on Mr. Assange, as a result of his prolonged solitary confinement, amounts not only to arbitrary detention, but also to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Melzer said. He expressed particular concern about Mr. Assange’s exposure to COVID-19 given his pre-existing medical condition. “Prison decongestion measures seen around the world in response to COVID-19 should be extended to all inmates whose imprisonment is not absolutely necessary,” the expert said. “First and foremost, alternative non-custodial measures should be extended to those with specific vulnerabilities such as Mr. Assange who suffers from a pre-existing respiratory health condition.”

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“Jack Weldon gives us that access.”

American People Hire High-Powered Lobbyist To Push Interests In Congress (Onion)

Citing a desire to gain influence in Washington, the American people confirmed Friday that they have hired high-powered D.C. lobbyist Jack Weldon of the firm Patton Boggs to help advance their agenda in Congress. Known among Beltway insiders for his ability to sway public policy on behalf of massive corporations such as Johnson & Johnson, Monsanto, and AT&T, Weldon, 53, is expected to use his vast network of political connections to give his new client a voice in the legislative process. Weldon is reportedly charging the American people $795 an hour. “Unlike R.J. Reynolds, Pfizer, or Bank of America, the U.S. populace lacks the access to public officials required to further its legislative goals,” a statement from the nation read in part. “Jack Weldon gives us that access.”


“His daily presence in the Capitol will ensure the American people finally get a seat at the table,” the statement continued. “And it will allow him to advance our message that everyone, including Americans, deserves to be represented in Washington.” The 310-million-member group said it will rely on Weldon’s considerable clout to ensure its concerns are taken into account when Congress addresses issues such as education, immigration, national security, health care, transportation, the economy, affordable college tuition, infrastructure, jobs, equal rights, taxes, Social Security, the environment, housing, the national debt, agriculture, energy, alternative energy, nutrition, imports, exports, foreign relations, the arts, and crime.

Read more …

 

 

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Click at the top of the sidebars for Paypal and Patreon donations. Thank you for your support.

 

 

In two weeks time, days will start getting longer again in the northern hemisphere.

 

 

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Jun 232020
 


G. G. Bain Katherine Stinson, “the flying schoolgirl,” Sheepshead Bay Speedway, Brooklyn 1918

 

Protesters Fail To Bring Down Andrew Jackson Statue Near White House (R.)
To Kill A Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn Banned From Minnesota Syllabuses (SOTT)
WHO Reports Largest Single-Day Increase In COVID19 Cases (SCMP)
Mexico Reports 5,343 New Coronavirus Infections And 1,044 Deaths (R.)
Surge In Coronavirus Cases Linked To More Texans In Their 20s (TT)
Complete Shutdown Could Be Only Way To Stop Coronavirus in Utah (SacBee)
Judge’s Ruling Opens Door For Bolton To Be Sued Or Prosecuted (JTN)
Jerry Nadler Preparing To Subpoena Bill Barr (NBC)
Fired NY Prosecutor Given Biden-Ukraine Info In 2018, Didn’t Follow Up (JTN)
Ghislaine Maxwell Hiding Behind French Extradition Laws (ZH)
Bayer Wins Court Ruling Restricting California’s Roundup Warning (R.)
BlackRock, the New Great Vampire Squid (Ellen Brown)

 

 

I have a hard time getting back to the daily grind. Also think maybe I should adapt the format somewhat. It’s clear that the virus will be with us for a long time. Deaths are increasing again:

 

 

 

Worldometer reports new cases for June 22 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 138,975 .

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

https://twitter.com/DrEricDing/status/1274940547824783360

 

 

 

 

I told you guys: you’re going to have to rename the capital AND the country.

Protesters Fail To Bring Down Andrew Jackson Statue Near White House (R.)

Protesters tried tearing down a statue of Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, in a park near the White House on Monday, scrawling “killer scum” on its pedestal and pulling on the monument with ropes before police intervened. The confrontation unfolded in Lafayette Square, where crowds peacefully protesting the death of George Floyd under the knee of a police officer were forcibly displaced three weeks ago to make way for staged photos of President Trump holding up a bible in front of a nearby church. The thwarted effort to topple the famed bronze likeness of Jackson astride a rearing horse was the latest bid, in protests fuelled by Floyd’s death, to destroy monuments of historical figures considered racist or divisive.

President Donald Trump took to Twitter here saying that many people were arrested for the “disgraceful vandalism” in Lafayette Park and also for defacing the exterior of St. John’s Church. “Ten years in prison under the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act. Beware!” he warned. Monday’s incident began around dusk with scores of protesters, most wearing masks against coronavirus infection, breaking through a 6-foot-tall fence erected in recent days around the statute at the center of the park.

Protesters then climbed onto the monument, fastening ropes and cords around the sculpted heads of both Jackson and his horse and dousing the marble pedestal with yellow paint before the crowd began trying to yank the statute from its base. Dozens of law enforcement officers, led by U.S. Park Police, stormed into the square, swinging batons and firing chemical agents to scatter protesters. By dark, police had taken control and outnumbered demonstrators in the immediate area. Jackson, a former U.S. Army general nicknamed “Old Hickory,” served two terms in the White House, from 1829 to 1837, espousing a populist political style that has sometimes been compared with that of Trump.

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This is a story that has no beginning and no end. There are some pretty offensive stories in the Bible. Go for it.

To Kill A Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn Banned From Minnesota Syllabuses (SOTT)

Two classic American novels have been banned from syllabuses at schools in Minnesota, USA. The reason being a concern that racial slurs used in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, could make pupils feel “humiliated or marginalised”. According to The Telegraph, The Duluth school district, which includes over 20 schools, is removing the books from the curriculum for ninth and 11th grade English classes. However, copies of Lee and Twain’s classics will remain in the school libraries. While Duluth district’s curriculum director Michael Cary has said To Kill A Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn will be replaced by books that “teach the same lessons” without using racial slurs.

The American Library Association have listed the two novels as among the most banned books from 2001-2009, mainly due to the offensive language used by some characters. To Kill a Mockingbird deals with racial injustice in segregated 1930s Alabama. While Huckleberry Finn is set in the 19th century before slavery was abolished. The American Library Association stated that most of the complaints were from black parents concerned about books on the curriculum containing racial slurs. Both books were temporarily removed from Virginia schools in 2016 after a parental complaint. While just this October Mississippi schools banned To Kill a Mockingbird from their syllabuses. However, students with parental permission can take part in a study of Lee’s novel.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author died in 2016 after publishing just two books. The second was Go Set a Watchman, her first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird, written decades ago and published in 2015. Amazon said it was their most pre-ordered book ever since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007. Last year, Harry Potter books were banned from a school in Nashville, Tennessee. According to The Tennessean, pupils at St Edward Catholic School will no longer be able to borrow JK Rowling’s fantasy books to read from its library. The magical adventures have been censored from the school library because of their content, after Reverend Dan Reehil, a pastor of the Roman Catholic school wrote an email voicing his concerns. The email said: “These books present magic as both good and evil, which is not true, but in fact a clever deception.”

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They did it only 3 days after I signaled this. Keep your eye on India, Mexico.

WHO Reports Largest Single-Day Increase In COVID19 Cases (SCMP)

The World Health Organisation on Sunday reported the largest single-day increase in coronavirus cases by its count, at more than 183,000 new cases in the latest 24 hours. The UN health agency said Brazil led the way with 54,771 cases tallied. The Brazilian government has since announced that the country’s death toll has passed 50,000. The US was next at 36,617 infections, while over 15,400 were in India. Experts said rising case counts can reflect multiple factors including more widespread testing as well as broader infection. Testing continues to be a contentious issue in the US, with a White House aide defending President Donald Trump’s latest remarks on the issue.

Trump had drawn criticism after saying at a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday that the US has tested 25 million people, but the “bad part” is that it found more cases. “When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases,” Trump said. “So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please’.” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on CNN that Trump was being “tongue-in-cheek” and made the comment in a “light mood.” Democratic rival Joe Biden’s campaign accused Trump of “putting politics ahead of the safety and economic well-being of the American people”.

The US has the world’s highest number of reported infections, over 2.2 million, and the highest death toll, at about 120,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Health officials say robust testing is vital for tracking outbreaks and keeping the virus in check. Overall in the pandemic, WHO reported 8,708,008 cases – 183,020 in the last 24 hours – with 461,715 deaths worldwide, with a daily increase of 4,743. More than two-thirds of those new deaths were reported in the Americas. Brazil’s Health Ministry said on Monday that the country had a total of 1,085,038 confirmed cases and 50,617 deaths.

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This was on Sunday. Yesterday they had “only” 758 deaths.

Mexico Reports 5,343 New Coronavirus Infections And 1,044 Deaths (R.)

Mexico on Sunday reported 5,343 new infections and 1,044 additional deaths from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the health ministry said, bringing the totals for the country to 180,545 cases and 21,825 deaths. The government has said the actual number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

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Party!

Surge In Coronavirus Cases Linked To More Texans In Their 20s (TT)

Texans under the age of 30 are testing positive for the new coronavirus at a higher rate than previously seen since the pandemic began, contributing to a recent surge in the number of cases in the state, Gov. Greg Abbott said during a press conference Tuesday. Data from several counties and health experts confirms the trend in younger people testing positive across Texas. “There are certain counties where a majority of the people who are tested positive in that county are under the age of 30, and this typically results from people going to bars,” Abbott said during the conference. “That is the case in Lubbock County, Bexar County, Cameron County.” mAbbott said that it’s unclear why more young people are contracting the virus, but he speculated that it could be from increased activity over Memorial Day weekend, visits to bars or other types of social gatherings.


This comes as Texas businesses have begun to reopen with relaxed restrictions under Abbott’s executive orders. As of last Friday, restaurants can operate at 75% capacity, while almost all other businesses can operate at 50%. Texas water parks and amusement parks have been allowed to reopen as well. In recent weeks, thousands of Texans have also flooded the streets of some of the largest cities to protest police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death. One of the areas of concern Abbott mentioned was Hays County, where 476 of the 938 confirmed cases are people ages 20 to 29. People in their 20s accounted for 50.7% of all the cases in Hays County as of Monday, an increase from Friday, when the age group made up 42% of total cases.

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Not just in Utah, I would venture.

Complete Shutdown Could Be Only Way To Stop Coronavirus in Utah (SacBee)

With coronavirus cases climbing fast in Utah, the state’s top health official is warning that if something doesn’t change soon, a full-scale shutdown will be the only way to control the virus’ spread, outlets report. “We are quickly getting to a point where the only viable option to manage spread and deaths will be a complete shutdown,” a memo state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn shared with state and local health officials, said, according to KUTV Dunn went on to say that Utah must achieve an average daily case count of 200, for seven consecutive days, by July 1, KUTV reported, or else raise the threat level to orange.


Doing so “will send the message to Utahns that this outbreak continues to be a serious problem, and state leadership is committed to saving lives and preventing a complete economic shutdown.” Gov. Gary Herbert downgraded the alert status to yellow on May 15, and 12 days later, coronavirus spread began to accelerate, Dunn said, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. The memo, released on Friday, came the same day Gov. Herbert downgraded most of rural Utah’s status to green, the lowest alert level, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

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“These guys shouldn’t be joining administrations to write books and enrich themselves..”

Judge’s Ruling Opens Door For Bolton To Be Sued Or Prosecuted (JTN)

John Bolton’s legal troubles may be far from over. The former National Security Advisor won a limited but notable victory in court Saturday when a federal judge ruled that he would not prevent his tell-all book, “The Room Where It Happened,” from being published. The Trump administration had sued to stop the book’s publication, claiming it contained classified information that would endanger national security if it were to be released to the general public. U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled in favor of Bolton, stating that since the book has already been circulated among numerous journalists and media outlets the question of injunction was mostly moot. Yet he acknowledged in his ruling that Bolton may still have “expose[d] himself to criminal liability” in publishing the exposé.

Alan Dershowitz agreed. Dershowitz, the storied Harvard law professor and noted proponent of civil liberties, told Just the News on Saturday that there “may be a basis for a lawsuit against Bolton by the government.” Dershowitz pointed to the 1980 Supreme Court case Snepp v. United States as the controlling precedent. In that case, Frank Snepp — a CIA intelligence analyst in Saigon during the Vietnam War —published the book “Decent Interval” following his departure from the agency. The government sued Snepp over the book, which was drawn from an after-action report he had written for the CIA following his service in Saigon. The government argued that Snepp had broken his contractual obligation to submit his book to the CIA prior to publication.

The Supreme Court eventually ruled against Snepp, forcing him to surrender his monetary earnings to the federal government and enjoining him from future publication without prepublication review from the government. Dershowitz represented Snepp in the controlling case. “We argued the rule was unconstitutional. We lost,” he told Just the News. “I don’t approve of that decision,” he said. “I think it’s wrong on the law, and I think it’s wrong on the Constitution. But it may be a basis for a lawsuit against Bolton by the government.”

Kevin Brock, meanwhile — the former FBI assistant director for intelligence — suggested that it appeared Bolton had worked for the Trump administration just to line his own pockets. “Everybody who’s at the SCS level in government has to sign documentation that they’re not going to disclose information that they collect while they’re performing their duties without first getting approval,” Brock said. “It seems like more and more executives are ignoring that, and the courts haven’t really tested it or enforced it that I’m aware of.” “These guys shouldn’t be joining administrations to write books and enrich themselves,” he said. “It’s like they’re accepting jobs with an eye to enriching themselves after serving.”

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Sure, subpoena people who are willing to come voluntarily, and then talk about it on the Rachel Maddow show. Prediction: Barr will come when he wants, not Nadler.

Jerry Nadler Preparing To Subpoena Bill Barr (NBC)

The Democrat who leads the House Judiciary Committee is set to subpoena Attorney General William Barr for testimony early next month, NBC News has confirmed. Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., is preparing to subpoena testimony on July 2, a committee spokesperson confirmed Monday night. “We have begun the process to issue that subpoena,” Nadler said Monday night on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.” News of the planned subpoena was reported earlier Monday by Axios. Barr has been criticized in recent days for the abrupt removal of the top prosecutor for the influential Southern District of New York, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, over the weekend.

Nadler said Sunday on CNN that Barr deserves to be impeached but that doing so would be a waste of time because the majority-Republican Senate would never convict him. Barr had been scheduled to testify before the Judiciary Committee in March, but his testimony was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. In a letter, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, acknowledged that Nadler intends to subpoena Barr, but he objected to it. “Attorney General Barr remains willing to testify voluntarily once the pandemic concludes,” wrote Jordan, a staunch ally of President Donald Trump’s. “Accordingly, there is no legitimate basis for you to compel his testimony at this time.”

Jordan also wrote that circumstances had not changed enough since March to warrant a subpoena. When Barr and House Democrats reached an agreement on testimony this spring, Democrats wrote that they planned to ask him about the Justice Department’s decision to overrule career prosecutors and propose a reduction in the prison sentence for Trump confidant Roger Stone.

Read more …

To be continued.

Fired NY Prosecutor Given Biden-Ukraine Info In 2018, Didn’t Follow Up (JTN)

Could the impeachment scandal have been prevented if the now-fired U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman had followed up on Ukrainian allegations about Joe Biden and his family in 2018? That’s the tantalizing question raised by emails from fall 2018 between an American lawyer and the chief federal prosecutor in Manhattan that were obtained by Just the News. The memos show that well before Ukrainian prosecutors reached out to Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s lawyer, in 2019 to talk about the Bidens and alleged 2016 election interference they first approached Berman’s office in New York in October 2018 via another American lawyer.

The memos show Little Rock, Ark., lawyer Bud Cummins, a former U.S. attorney himself, reached out at least five times in October 2018 to Berman seeking to arrange a meeting with then-Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko.Lutsenko, who emerged as a key figure in the impeachment scandal, wanted to confidentially share with federal prosecutors in New York evidence he claimed to possess that raised concerns about the Bidens’ behavior as well as alleged wrongdoing in the Paul Manafort corruption case. “Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko is offering to come to U.S. meet with high-level law enforcement to share the fruits of investigations within Ukraine which have produced evidence of two basic alleged crimes,” Cummins wrote Berman on Oct. 4, 2018, one day after the two had talked on the phone about the allegations.

The allegations included that Joe Biden had “exercised influence to protect Burisma Holdings” after his son Hunter and his son’s business partner Devon Archer had joined the Ukrainian gas company’s board of directors and “substantial sums of money were paid to them,” Cummins wrote. At the time Hunter Biden and Archer joined Burisma in 2014, the company was under criminal investigation in both England and Ukraine for alleged corruption. The British case was dropped in 2015, and the Ukraine cases were eventually settled in the final days of the Obama administration.

Joe Biden boasted during a 2018 public appearance that he forced the firing on Lutsenko’s predecessor, Viktor Shokin, back in 2016by threatening to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid to Ukraine. At the time, Shokin was leading the investigation into Burisma. Biden denies the investigation factored into his decision. Biden’s and Archer’s firm received more than $3 million in payments from Burisma between 2014 and 2016, bank records obtained by the FBI show.

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“Under French law anyone born on French soil is safe from extradition to another country, regardless of the alleged crime.”

Ghislaine Maxwell Hiding Behind French Extradition Laws (ZH)

Jeffrey Epstein’s accused ‘madam’ is reportedly holed up in a luxury apartment on Paris’s Avenue Matignon – just a five minute drive from the dead pedophile’s $8.6 million flat, according to the Daily Mail. Maxwell “is moving locations every month to keep private investigators off her tail and is staying at the residences of trusted colleagues and contacts,” according to a source. “She wants to remain in France for as long as she can to take advantage of extradition laws and has a huge network of contacts willing to keep her hidden,” they added. “Under French law anyone born on French soil is safe from extradition to another country, regardless of the alleged crime.”

It doesn’t mean she won’t be prosecuted for her links to Epstein but if she does end up facing charges it will be in France and not the US. The French apartment is linked to a Normandy-based business contact, according to the report. Epstein and Maxwell began dating in the early 1990s, after which she became his ‘madam’ and helicopter pilot – allegedly ferrying underage girls to his multiple properties around the world. In 2003, Epstein told a reporter with Vanity Fair that Maxwell was his “best friend.”

Maxwell comes from money. Her father was publisher Robert Maxwell – who himself faced accusations of being a Mossad double (and possibly triple) agent and a “bad character” who was “almost certainly financed by Russia,” according to the British Foreign Office. Robert Maxwell died in 1991 when he fell from his yacht, the Lady Ghislaine – however the circumstances surrounding his demise have been rife with speculation (including that it was a Mossad assassination – a theory which attorney and longtime Epstein associate Alan Dershowitz slammed in a 2003 op-ed). Ghislaine has been accused by three women of procuring and training young girls to perform massage and sexual acts on Epstein and his associates.

Read more …

Whenever Bayer wins, everyone else loses..

Bayer Wins Court Ruling Restricting California’s Roundup Warning (R.)

Bayer AG won a court ruling blocking California from requiring the German-based company to tell consumers that a chemical in its Roundup herbicide is known to cause cancer, Bloomberg News reported on Monday. A federal judge in Sacramento on Monday granted Bayer’s request to block the state from requiring the company or any businesses from providing a “clear and reasonable warning before exposing any individual to glyphosate,” the report said. Bayer, which acquired Roundup manufacturer Monsanto in a $63 billion deal in 2018, to date has faced three juries over claims that Roundup causes cancer. The company has denied the allegations made by more than 42,700 plaintiffs in the United States, saying decades of studies have shown Roundup and glyphosate are safe for human use.

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“It is the world’s largest asset manager and “shadow bank,” larger than the world’s largest bank (which is in China)..”

BlackRock, the New Great Vampire Squid (Ellen Brown)

To most people, if they are familiar with it at all, BlackRock is an asset manager that helps pension funds and retirees manage their savings through “passive” investments that track the stock market. But working behind the scenes, it is much more than that. BlackRock has been called “the most powerful institution in the financial system,” “the most powerful company in the world” and the “secret power.” It is the world’s largest asset manager and “shadow bank,” larger than the world’s largest bank (which is in China), with over $7 trillion in assets under direct management and another $20 trillion managed through its Aladdin risk-monitoring software. BlackRock has also been called “the fourth branch of government” and “almost a shadow government”, but no part of it actually belongs to the government.

Despite its size and global power, BlackRock is not even regulated as a “Systemically Important Financial Institution” under the Dodd-Frank Act, thanks to pressure from its CEO Larry Fink, who has long had “cozy” relationships with government officials. BlackRock’s strategic importance and political weight were evident when four BlackRock executives, led by former Swiss National Bank head Philipp Hildebrand, presented a proposal at the annual meeting of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in August 2019 for an economic reset that was actually put into effect in March 2020. Acknowledging that central bankers were running out of ammunition for controlling the money supply and the economy, the BlackRock group argued that it was time for the central bank to abandon its long-vaunted independence and join monetary policy (the usual province of the central bank) with fiscal policy (the usual province of the legislature).

They proposed that the central bank maintain a “Standing Emergency Fiscal Facility” that would be activated when interest rate manipulation was no longer working to avoid deflation. The Facility would be deployed by an “independent expert” appointed by the central bank. The COVID-19 crisis presented the perfect opportunity to execute this proposal in the US, with BlackRock itself appointed to administer it. In March 2020, it was awarded a no-bid contract under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to deploy a $454 billion slush fund established by the Treasury in partnership with the Federal Reserve. This fund in turn could be leveraged to provide over $4 trillion in Federal Reserve credit. While the public was distracted with protests, riots and lockdowns, BlackRock suddenly emerged from the shadows to become the “fourth branch of government,” managing the controls to the central bank’s print-on-demand fiat money.

Read more …

 

 

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Thank you.

 

 

Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?

– Charles Bukowski

 

 

https://twitter.com/i/status/1274974090466639877

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Jun 082020
 


Harris&Ewing Protest: “Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage” 1916

 

New Zealand Has Eradicated Virus (AP)
800-Day Plan: Air New Zealand Warns Of More Job Cuts, Less Flights (R.)
China Stats Accurate, Lockdown Makes Little Difference – Nobel Winner (RT)
Coronavirus in Texas: Cases, Deaths and Tests (TT)
Guatemala President To Work Remotely After 18 Staff Get Coronavirus (R.)
US Bankruptcies Soar 48% In May (ZH)
Major Corporations Scramble To Support Black Lives Matter (JTN)
Minneapolis City Council Votes To Disband Police Force (AP)
Buffalo Police ERT Members Say Resignation Was Not In Solidarity (WKBW)
NYPD, City Hall Deny Police Brass Shake-Up (Pix11)
33 Russia Collusion Probe Witnesses The Senate Could Subpoena (Solomon)
Hillary: How Can Anybody With Beating Heart, Working Mind Support Trump? (Ind.)
Rep. Jordan: Not Surprising McCabe, Rosenstein Disagree
Out With the Old Blood (Mitteldorf)

 

 

Worldometer has global new cases for June 7 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 113,090.

My count from about 6 am EDT to 6 am EDT is about + 108,198 cases. But it was Sunday yesterday, and Brazil ceased providing stats. Let’s see tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 18,905
• Brazil + 18,375 (first day gov’t stats are unavailable)
• Russia + 8,985
• India + 11,412
• Pakistan + 4,728
• Chile + 6,405

 

 

Cases 7,113,012 (+ 108,198 from yesterday’s 7,004,814)

Deaths 406,549 (+ 3,884 from yesterday’s 402,665)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live: Note: COVID19Info global cases and deaths are now higher than Worldometer’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course congrats are in order. But also for New Zealand things are far from solved, it’s an isolated place now.

New Zealand Has Eradicated Virus (AP)

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday she was confident New Zealand has halted the spread of the coronavirus after the last known infected person in the country recovered. It has been 17 days since the last new case was reported, while 40,000 have been tested in that time. And Monday also marked the first time since late February that there have been no active cases. Ardern also announced the Cabinet had agreed to another phase of the country’s reopening, to take place at midnight. “We are confident we have eliminated transmission of the virus in New Zealand for now, but elimination is not a point in time, it is a sustained effort,” she said at a news conference.


“We almost certainly will see cases here again, and I do want to say again, we will almost certainly see cases here again, and that is not a sign that we have failed, it is a reality of this virus. But if and when that occurs we have to make sure and we are, that we are prepared.” She said her government’s focus will be on the country’s borders, where isolation and quarantine will continue. Experts say a number of factors have helped the nation of 5 million wipe out the disease. Its isolated location in the South Pacific gave it vital time to see how outbreaks spread in other countries, and Ardern acted decisively by imposing a strict lockdown early in the outbreak. Just over 1,500 people contracted the virus in New Zealand, including 22 who died.

https://twitter.com/farmgeek/status/1269804429693169664

And congrats for Thailand too:

https://twitter.com/RichardBarrow/status/1269853178318577664

Read more …

Quite optimistic.

800-Day Plan: Air New Zealand Warns Of More Job Cuts, Less Flights (R.)

Air New Zealand will be nimbler, fly fewer passengers and routes, and may cut more jobs as it targets a return to “healthy profits” by 2022, its chief executive said as he navigates the airline through the coronavirus crisis. Greg Foran laid out an 800-day plan to customers and staff under which the national flag carrier will look at how to further cut labour costs, including leave without pay, reduced hours or possibly laying off more people. “We must first survive, then revive and finally thrive,” Foran said in an email to staff and customers, as he forecast revenue for the next financial year to more than halve from recent levels. Shares of the airline surged 11 per cent to NZ$1.82, its highest in almost three months.


Airlines have slashed thousands of jobs and set aside cash for impairments on aircraft as the coronavirus damaged demand amid global lockdowns. Even as countries re-open, profits may be threatened by people refraining from travel and lower fares due to discounts. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said last week that global airlines cut domestic fares by an average 23 per cent in May, and previously warned traffic would not return to pre-crisis levels until at least 2023. Foran envisions Air New Zealand will be 70 per cent of its pre-COVID-19 size by August 2022 and hinted at further layoffs as the second phase of a cost-cutting plan, to save around $NZ150 million began.

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Well, the richest ones, those that can afford to quarantine dozens of people.

Film-Makers Back To Work In New Zealand After Coronavirus (R.)

New Zealand’s capital has had an extra buzz of excitement over the past week since Hollywood director James Cameron and his crew flew in to film the much-anticipated sequel of the epic science-fiction film “Avatar”.The film is among a handful of productions kicking off in New Zealand as it begins to open up after containing the novel coronavirus, and looks to its film industry to give its battered economy a boost. New Zealand’s borders remain closed to foreigners but the government gave special permission for the 55 crew members working on the “Avatar” sequel to jet in on a chartered plane. “Certainly, the fact that we are able to start earlier than some countries is great, much as it’s distressing to see that the pandemic is still such a challenge around the world,” said Annabelle Sheehan, chief executive of the New Zealand Film Commission.

New Zealand’s mountains, meadows and forests, made famous by “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, have drawn several major film productions over recent years. About 47 productions were underway when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern imposed a tough lockdown on March 26 to stop the spread of the coronavirus. It was a great success and the virus has been almost eliminated in New Zealand, which could be among the first countries in the world to return to normal this week, apart from the closed border. Avatar producer Jon Landau posted a picture of himself and director Cameron after landing last week and said they would self-isolate for 14 days in line with government rules.

“Your country has become a leader in how to deal with something like this, and I think films will want to come,” Landau told Radio New Zealand in an interview, referring to the coronavirus campaign. With people around the world cooped up at home, pressure is on film-makers and other content creators to make new material and get it out. But what’s holding them back is the lack of safe places to work, industry experts say. Now New Zealand is an option. “We’ve had a few international enquiries and that’s on the back of our COVID-free status,” said Gary Watkins, chief executive of Wellington-based Avalon Studios, which was used for the filming of the 2017 Scarlett Johansson starrer “Ghost in the Shell” and will also help with the new “Avatar”.

Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford defended the decision saying the border was only open to a few foreigners who were important for projects with significant economic value. New Zealand’s film industry is worth more than NZ$3 billion a year. A six-month international film can create an estimated 3,000 jobs. “You only need a few international people coming to trigger thousands of jobs,” said Sheehan. And New Zealand needs the jobs. The government expects hundreds of thousands to be lost because of the coronavirus.

Read more …

Some people just don’t care about credibility, and neither does the Nobel committee. What utter nonsense.

China Stats Accurate, Lockdown Makes Little Difference – Nobel Winner (RT)

Challenging the widespread belief that the worldwide anti-coronavirus lockdown has helped in slowing down the disease spread, Stanford Professor Michael Levitt said that it’s actually made very little difference. Speaking to RT’s Going Underground, Nobel Prize-winning biophysicist Levitt said that there was no reason to doubt China’s official coronavirus figures, since its statistics are corresponding with the dynamics observed elsewhere. “What happened in China outside of Hubei is exactly the same dynamics of the curve as what happened in New Zealand,” Levitt stated. “If China is forging statistics, they must have a time machine. And if they have the time machine, they would’ve beaten us in any competition anyway.”

The lockdown measures that have been implemented across many countries worldwide were actually not that effective, the scientist believes. The vast majority of the disease transmissions actually occurred before the lockdowns went into force – and in many countries the people were not that eager to abide by the rules, making the restrictions even more useless. Levitt believes that the best strategy for the government would have been focusing on protecting the elderly population and let others move freely.


“This virus really does seem to be limiting. It gets to about 500 to 1,000 fatalities per million people and then it stops. And this we’ve seen at so many places. I don’t think that Northern Italy practiced wonderful social distancing, I don’t think that social distancing was practiced wonderfully in New York City,” he said. What happened is that the virus is most infectious and most dangerous before you actually know it’s there. Sweden, for instance, which has been harshly criticized for its laissez-faire approach to the pandemic, remains within the European averages – and even falls behind the worst-hit nations, such as Belgium and the UK. “Sweden has had a much milder lockdown than anybody. The predicted number for Sweden was around 60,000 [deaths]. Sweden looks like it’s going to stop at 6,000 at the most,” Levitt said.

Read more …

This one is for the Automatic Earth’s resident physician Dr. John Day in Texas.

“74,978 Texans tested positive for the coronavirus as of June 7 — 1,425 more than the day before and 10,691 more than a week ago.”

Coronavirus in Texas: Cases, Deaths and Tests (TT)

Gov. Greg Abbott is looking at two specific metrics to justify his decision to restart the Texas economy — the positive test rate and hospitalization levels. Here’s how the numbers changed in the first two weeks of May when Texas began reopening. On March 4, DSHS reported Texas’ first positive case of the coronavirus, in Fort Bend County. The patient had recently traveled abroad. A month later on April 4, there were 6,110 cases in 151 counties. As of June 7, there are 74,978 cases in 235 counties. The Tribune is measuring both the number of cases in each county and the rate of cases per 1,000 residents.

The rate of cases per 1,000 residents is especially high in the panhandle’s Moore County, where infections are tied to a meatpacking plant. The rate of cases is also high in counties with state prisons such as Walker and Jones. In other rural areas where the presence of the virus has yet to be confirmed, testing has been scarce.

On April 6, the state started reporting the number of patients with positive tests who are hospitalized. It was 1,153 that day and 1,878 on June 7. This data does not account for people who are hospitalized but have not gotten a positive test. As of mid-April, concerns that Texas hospitals would be unable to accommodate a surge of COVID-19 patients seem to have been assuaged. As he makes decisions about how quickly to restart the Texas economy, Abbott says he is watching the number of hospitalizations and the hospitalization rate — the proportion of infected Texans who require hospitalization. [..] The first death linked to the coronavirus in Texas occurred March 16 in Matagorda County. As of June 7, 1,830 people who tested positive for the virus have died.

Daily infection rateGov. Greg Abbott said he is watching the state’s infection rate — the percentage of positive cases to tests conducted. The average daily infection rate is calculated by dividing the 7-day average of positive cases by the 7-day average of tests conducted. This shows how the situation has changed over time by de-emphasizing daily swings. Public health experts want the daily infection rate to remain below 6%.

Read more …

Makes you wonder how many are on his staff.

Guatemala President To Work Remotely After 18 Staff Get Coronavirus (R.)

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said on Sunday that 18 employees at his office and on his security detail have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, so he will work remotely and the presidential offices will be disinfected. “I and the vice president will carry out our activities remotely. We’re healthy. We’ve been tested. We don’t have coronavirus,” Giammattei said in a televised address. The Central American country has registered 7,055 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 252 fatalities from the pandemic.

Read more …

“An estimated $7.4 billion in rent for April hasn’t been paid (May numbers have yet to be released), or about 45% of what’s owed..”

US Bankruptcies Soar 48% In May (ZH)

One month ago, when showing the uncanny correlation between defaults and the unemployment rates, we predicted that the number of Chapter 11 filings that is about to flood the US will be nothing short of biblical. All that was missing was a catalyst, one which according to Bloomberg arrived in late May as retail landlords started sending out thousands of default notices to tenants, who in turn experienced a collapse in foot traffic, sales and cash flow due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and were simply unable to pay their debt obligations. According to Bloomberg, restaurants, department stores, apparel merchants and specialty chains have been receiving notices from landlords – some of whom have gone as long as three months without receiving rent.

“The default letters from landlords are flying out the door,” said Andy Graiser, co-president of commercial real estate company, A&G Real Estate Partners. “It’s creating a real fear in the marketplace.” Pressure from default notices and follow-up actions like locking up stores or terminating leases was cited in the bankruptcies of Modell’s Sporting Goods and Stage Stores Inc. Many chains stopped paying rent after the pandemic shuttered most U.S. stores, gambling that they could hold on to some cash before landlords demanded payment. An estimated $7.4 billion in rent for April hasn’t been paid (May numbers have yet to be released), or about 45% of what’s owed, according to a recent analysis by CoStar Group, which also found that just a quarter of expected rent payments have been received by landlords.


“If the landlords don’t put a pause on their actions, you’re going to see more bankruptcies.” Last Thursday, these anecdotal reports were confirmed by the American Bankruptcy Institute which announced that as expected, corporate bankruptcies soared during May, pushing the number of filings to levels recorded in the wake of the 2007-09 recession. According to figures from legal-services firm Epiq Global, US bankruptcy courts recorded 722 businesses nationwide filing for chapter 11 protection last month, a yearly increase of 48% from 487 businesses in May of 2019. The surge was also seen on a month-over-month basis, which jumped by 28% from the 562 Chapter 11 filings in April.

Read more …

In the same way that they all paint themselves green.

Major Corporations Scramble To Support Black Lives Matter (JTN)

As protests and demonstrations against racism and police brutality drag on for another week across America, numerous corporations are scrambling to capitalize on the moment by donating to various Black Lives Matter organizations and allied causes, winning praise and sometimes sharp criticism for P.R. efforts that are by turns successfully deft and sometimes unfortunately clumsy. Corporations today appear to be keenly aware of the marketing benefits to striking that balance, which is likely why so many of them are hastily jumping on board with the current Black Lives Matter craze — some with success, others with more difficulty.

Uber Eats, the food delivery app of the rideshare company Uber, announced this week that black-owned businesses would have free delivery privileges on its system. Uber is suspending delivery fees for black-owned restaurants through the end of the year, the company said in a statement, and will also offer discounted rides to those who own and work at black-owned small businesses. Uber’s announcement was perfectly timed for both the political climate and the economic one: Most restaurants have been surviving on takeout alone over the last few months of coronavirus lockdowns, and owners are still depending heavily on takeaway business as reopenings progress slowly across the country.

Other companies have pledged substantial monetary donations for progressive and racially conscious causes. YouTube this week announced a $1 million donation “to address social injustice.” The company was not clear to what causes exactly it would be donating that money, the sum of which accounts for about 0.006% of the company’s yearly revenue of $15 billion. The clothing company Spanx, meanwhile — known for its undergarments that men and women wear to appear thinner — said in an Instagram post this week that it would be donating “$100,000 across national organizations focused on combating racial injustice: Black Lives Matter, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and The Minnesota Freedom Fund.”

[..] It is not immediately evident what it means exactly to donate to “Black Lives Matter,” a mostly loosely organized movement of disassociated activists and protesters across the country and the world. The campaign’s nominal central authority does accept donations, though it is not evident how those funds are dispensed. The companies Ganni, Anastasia Beverly Hills, Pretty Little Thing and others all pledged to donate to Black Lives Matter, among other causes.

Read more …

I sort of see why they would do it, I can even see a few ways that might make it work, but a lot more ways that won’t. And if the council president says: “Our efforts at incremental reform have failed, period.”, shouldn’t the council perhaps disband itself also?

Minneapolis City Council Votes To Disband Police Force (AP)

A majority of the members of the Minneapolis City Council said Sunday they support disbanding the city’s police department, an aggressive stance that comes just as the state has launched a civil rights investigation after George Floyd’s death. Nine of the council’s 12 members appeared with activists at a rally in a city park Sunday afternoon and vowed to end policing as the city currently knows it. Council member Jeremiah Ellison promised that the council would “dismantle” the department. “It is clear that our system of policing is not keeping our communities safe,” Lisa Bender, the council president, said. “Our efforts at incremental reform have failed, period.” Bender went on to say she and the eight other council members that joined the rally are committed to ending the city’s relationship with the police force and “to end policing as we know it and recreate systems that actually keep us safe.”


[..] Community activists have criticized the Minneapolis department for years for what they say is a racist and brutal culture that resists change. The state of Minnesota launched a civil rights investigation of the department last week, and the first concrete changes came Friday in a stipulated agreement in which the city agreed to ban chokeholds and neck restraints. A more complete remaking of the department is likely to unfold in coming months. Disbanding an entire department has happened before. In 2012, with crime rampant in Camden, New Jersey, the city disbanded its police department and replaced it with a new force that covered Camden County.

Read more …

“57 officers did *not* resign in solidarity with the officers who pushed over a 75-year-old causing brain injury. This turns out to be a lie from the police union.”

“We quit because our union said [they] aren’t legally backing us anymore. So why would we stand on a line for the City with no legal backing if something [were to] happen?”

Buffalo Police ERT Members Say Resignation Was Not In Solidarity (WKBW)

“It went bad. It went bad.” Two officers of the Buffalo Police Department’s Emergency Response Team spoke with 7 Eyewitness News under the condition their names not be used. The officers are part of the 57-person volunteer assignment team that resigned Friday, following an incident involving two of their members Thursday night in Niagara Square. They did not resign from the police department, only from their roles on the team. The officers we spoke with said the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association’s statement asserting all 57 officers resigned from ERT in a “show of support” with the two officers that were suspended without pay is not true.

“I don’t understand why the union said it’s a thing of solidarity. I think it sends the wrong message that ‘we’re backing our own’ and that’s not the case,” said one officer with whom we spoke. “We quit because our union said [they] aren’t legally backing us anymore. So why would we stand on a line for the City with no legal backing if something [were to] happen? Has nothing to do with us supporting,” said another. A representative from the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association told 7 Eyewitness News Reporter Hannah Buehler the officers resigned in “disgust” with how the two officers were treated. “Some of them probably resigned because they support the officer,” said another officer with whom we spoke. “But, for many of us, that’s not true.”


“The City, DA Flynn, they’re not representing those guys at all. They have to find their own lawyers, they have to come out of pocket.” 7 Eyewitness News was not able to reach PBA president John Evans to confirm this information or get a response to several officers shooting down his assertions, but we did obtain an email sent to PBA members by Evans. It states, in part: “In light of this, in order to maintain the sound financial structure of the PBA it will be my opinion the PBA NOT to pay for any ERT or SWAT members legal defense related to these protests going forward. This Admin in conjunction with DA John Flynn and or JP Kennedy could put a serious dent in the PBA’s funds.”

Read more …

Things are going to change one way or another.

NYPD, City Hall Deny Police Brass Shake-Up (Pix11)

Text messages and Facebook posts went into overdrive Sunday in New York’s law enforcement community, with claims top leaders in the NYPD were either resigning or being asked to leave, with replacements ready to step in. “This is not true,” tweeted Freddi Goldstein, press secretary to Mayor Bill de Blasio. NYPD Deputy Commissioner Richard Esposito, over the phone, also said it wasn’t true. But we’re learning there are tensions behind the scenes about the specific fate of two police officers involved in confrontations with protesters in the last twelve days. Both of the cops were suspended without pay on Friday. One of them allegedly knocked down a female protester, Dounya Zayer, outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in the early days of the George Floyd protests.

Zayer said she suffered seizures, as a result. Another cop was seen on video pulling down the mask of a male demonstrator and spraying the man’s face with pepper spray. Multiple sources said there’s anger among the rank and file—and among some of the NYPD brass—about the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office considering criminal charges against the two officers. When PIX11 called a spokesman for the Brooklyn DA’s office Sunday evening, we were told, “We’re investigating both of these cases. It’s not true both are going to be arrested imminently. It might happen in the future.” The NYPD has dealt with a lot of turmoil in the last two weeks. “This is all about pandering to anti-cop sentiment,” said a former NYPD Deputy Commissioner.


Multiple police officers have been under siege during the protests, trying to fend off looters, brick and bottle throwers and the burning of NYPD vehicles. Officer Yayon Jean Pierre was stabbed in the neck last week while working an anti-looting post, and two other cops were shot in the hand. Several other officers have been hit by cars, one of them hurt seriously. Sergeant’s Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins, said his phone was exploding with calls about behind-the-scenes clashes between the NYPD and City Hall. “The losers in this are not going to be the cops,” Mullins said. “It’s going to be the public.” Mullins said he didn’t believe the protests were continuing because of the NYPD. “I think it’s about overthrowing the presidency,” he said.

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Again: storm warning. The “left” will try and label it all political. But if that fails, where are they?

33 Russia Collusion Probe Witnesses The Senate Could Subpoena (Solomon)

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson, Wis., now has the authority to subpoena the agencies and individuals he wants to interrogate or to turn over documents. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham hopes to get his subpoena power this week. [..] The scope of the subpoenas suggests a far-reaching inquiry. For instance, the FBI will be asked to surrender “all records related to the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. This includes, but is not limited to, all records provided or made available to the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice for its review that resulted in the report ‘Review of Four FISA Applications and Other Aspects of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane Investigation’; and all records related to requests to the General Services Administration (GSA) or Office of the Inspector General of GSA for presidential transition records from November 2016 through December 2017.”

The State Department will be asked to produce records of its contacts with Christopher Steele, the former MI6 operative who penned the unverified dossier that was used by the bureau as essential evidence in pursuing the case. And the DNI will be asked for all records related to the Obama administration’s unmasking of Trump campaign and transition figures in intelligence intercepts. The list of individuals that Johnson’s committee is seeking to question or seek documents from includes some familiar figures in the controversy, like fired FBI Director James Comey, ex-FBI Counsel James Baker, fired FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok and his paramour, the former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, Obama Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan and former Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice, whose final email on the day she left office about President Obama’s dealings in the Russia probe has stoked great intrigue.


Senate investigators plan to delve into discrepancies in stories between Comey and Brennan over the intelligence community assessment that Russia tried to help Trump win the 2016 election and Comey and Clapper over who briefed President Obama in early January 2017 about a sensitive intercept of a conversation between incoming Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador to Washington. One of the most anticipated witnesses is Bill Priestap, the former FBI assistant director of counterintelligence, who supervised Strzok’s Russia investigation and interacted often with former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe.

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In other words: half the country are deplorables. Same issue, same question she asked in 2016. Never learned a single thing.

Hillary: How Can Anybody With Beating Heart, Working Mind Support Trump? (Ind.)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke out about her 2016 presidential rival Donald Trump, calling his time in office a “failure” and questioning how anyone could continue to support him. Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Ms Clinton lashed out at President Donald Trump, criticising his leadership and characterising him as uncaring and incompetent. “What has been so surprising to me is how he can barely make an effort to rise to the occasion. I truly don’t think he can get out of his own way. Everything always has to be about him,” Ms Clinton said. She said Mr Trump tried to ignore the coronavirus pandemic until he was forced to address it, after which she claims he tried to turn the pandemic response into a “daily rally.”

Regarding the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests against police brutality and systemic racism in the US, Ms Clinton suggested she had initially hoped that Mr Trump was going to respond with empathy, but that it quickly became clear that wasn’t going to be the case. “He doesn’t have even the minor amount of empathy to fake it, to look like he is concerned, and he reverts to the belligerence and the threat-making and the photo-opping, all the tried and true tactics that feed his need for control and dominance and attention,” Ms Clinton said. Of Mr Trump’s “photo-opping,” his appearance at St John’s Church near the White House – and the tear gassing of protesters to clear the path for the president – has become one of the many flashpoints in the George Floyd protests.


“It was beyond my comprehension. We have never seen anything like this,” she said. “He is without shame. It is a mystery why anybody with a beating heart and a working mind still supports him.” She said that despite the fact that Mr Trump’s character was apparent during the election, even she wasn’t prepared for the degree to which the president would shuck norms. “So much of what we’re seeing now, sadly, was known about Trump and the kind of people who were loyal to him. But it turned out to be even worse than what I thought it would be,” she said. “Despite having my own front-row seat and being concerned about his character and behaviour, he has gone further and broken more norms and undermined our institutions more deeply than I thought would have been possible in such a short period of time.”

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Jordan hasn’t had the best of times either.

Rep. Jordan: Not Surprising McCabe, Rosenstein Disagree

It’s not surprising that former FBI Director Andrew McCabe and ex-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein disagree about the events surrounding the Russia probe, Rep. Jim Jordan said Thursday. “Somebody is not telling the truth because former FBI counsel Jim Baker told us when we deposed him last Congress, in the Judiciary Committee, that Rod Rosenstein was serious about wearing a wire and using the 25th Amendment to try to remove President [Donald] Trump from office,” the Ohio Republican told Fox News’ “Fox and Friends.” “Somebody is not being square and I guess maybe when you are engaged in this kind of wrongdoing which happened at the upper levels of the FBI, maybe it’s tough to keep your story straight.”

McCabe on Wednesday accused Rosenstein of lying about ex-FBI Director James Comey’s memos about his meetings with Trump. Rosenstein testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that McCabe should have told him sooner about the Comey documents, reports Fox News. “Mr. Rosenstein’s claims to have been misled by me, or anyone from the FBI, regarding our concerns about President Trump and the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia are completely false,” McCabe said in a statement Wednesday. Rosenstein signed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act application to surveil former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, named Bob Mueller as special counsel, and broadened the scope of the Russia investigation, Jordan pointed out.


“The guy who did all of that now says there wasn’t anything there,” said Jordan. “That’s what we have been saying for three years … yet Rosenstein names Bob Mueller as a special counsel and puts our country three years of what we went through. That’s why people are upset about this and that’s why we have got to get to the bottom of it all.”

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Intriguing. Made me think of Einstein love of simplicity.

Diluting the blood of mice with saline/albumin rejuvenates them.


Original paper: Rejuvenation of three germ layers tissues by exchanging old blood plasma with saline-albumin

Out With the Old Blood (Mitteldorf)

There is great promise in 2020 that we might be able to make our bodies young without having to explicitly repair molecular damage, but just by changing the signaling environment. Do we need to add signals that say “young” or remove signals that say “old”? Does infusion of biochemical signals from young blood plasma rejuvenate tissues of an old animal? Or are there dissolved signal proteins in old animals that must be removed? For a decade, Irena and Mike Conboy have been telling us removal of bad actors is more important. But just last month, Harold Katcher reported spectacular success by infusing a plasma fraction while taking away nothing. Then, last week, the Conboys came back with a demonstration of the rejuvenating power of simple dilution.


They simply replaced half of the blood plasma in 2-year-old mice with a saline solution containing 5% albumin. What is albumin? Blood plasma is chock full of dissolved proteins, about 10% by weight. About half of these are termed albumin. Albumin is the generic portion. It doesn’t change through the lifetime. It doesn’t carry information by itself. But albumin transports nutrients and minerals through the body. The Conboys took care to show that albumin has no rejuvenation power on its own, and had nothing to do with their experimental results. Rather, they had to replenish albumin in diluting blood, because the animals would be sickened if half their albumin were removed. Replacing the albumin in a transfusion is akin to replacing the volume of water or maintaining the salinity.

In preparation for this experiment, the Conboys have invested years in miniaturizing the technology for blood transfusions, so that mice can be subjected to the same procedures that are commonplace in human hospitals. The Conboy lab replaced 50% of mouse blood plasma. They got spectacular results with a single treatment, based on a lucky guess. They have not yet experimented with 30% or 70%. They don’t know yet how long the treatment will last and how long it needs to be repeated. As with previous papers from the Conboy lab, the group focused on repair and stem cell activity as evidence of a more youthful state. Three separate tissue samples were taken from liver, muscle, and brain. “Muscle repair was improved, fibrosis was attenuated, and inhibition of myogenic proliferation was switched to enhancement; liver adiposity and fibrosis were reduced; and hippocampal neurogenesis was increased.”

Read more …

 

 

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Sep 042017
 
 September 4, 2017  Posted by at 7:38 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Edouard Manet Jeanne Duval, Baudelaire’s Mistress, Reclining (Lady with a Fan) 1862

 

How To Make The Financial System Radically Safer (AM)
Funding Battle Looms As Texas Sees Harvey Damage At Up To $180 Billion (R.)
Canadians Are Borrowing Against Real Estate At The Fastest Pace Ever (BD)
China Battles “Impossible Trinity” (Rickards)
Socialism For The Best Of Us, Capitalism For The Rest Of Us (CC)
Britain’s Addicted To Debt And Headed For A Crash (G.)
Global Negative Yielding Debt Hits One Year High Of $7.4 Trillion (ZH)
Greece Property Auctions Certain To Drive Market Prices Even Lower (K.)
Italy FinMin Says The Euro Zone Still Faces Problems – Even In Germany (CNBC)
Italy’s 5-Star Says Euro Referendum Is ‘Last Resort’ (R.)
Turkey Will Never Become EU Member, Says Angela Merkel (Ind.)
How Our Immune Systems Could Stop Humans Reaching Mars (Tel.)

 

 

Take away the political power of central banks.

How To Make The Financial System Radically Safer (AM)

At the same time, the new financial reforms haven’t minimized risk. Moreover, they’ve set taxpayers – that’s you – up for a future fleecing. Congressman Robert Pittenger elaborated this fact in a Forbes article last year: “Even Dodd-Frank’s biggest selling point, that it would end “too big to fail,” has proven false. Dodd-Frank actually created a new bailout fund for big banks–the Orderly Liquidation Authority–and the Systemically Important Financial Institution designation enshrines “too big to fail” by giving certain major financial institutions priority for future taxpayer-funded bailouts.” What gives? Regulations, in short, attempt to control something by edict. However, just because a law has been enacted doesn’t mean the world automatically bends to its will. In practice, regulations generally do a poor job at attaining their objectives. Yet, they often do a great job at making a mess of everything else.

Dictating how banks should allocate their loans, as Dodd-Frank does, results in preferential treatment of favored institutions and corporations. This, in itself, equates to stratified price controls on borrowers. And as elucidated by Senator Wallace Bennett over a half century ago, price controls are the equivalent of using adhesive tape to control diarrhea. The dangerous conceit of the clueless… the house of cards they have built is anything but “safe” and they most certainly can not “fix anything”. Listening to their speeches that seems to be what they genuinely believe. A rude awakening is an apodictic certainty, but we wonder what or who will be blamed this time. Not enough regulations? The largely absent free market? As they say, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” (this quote is often erroneously attributed to Mark Twain: we think it doesn’t matter whether he created it, it is often quite apposite and this is a situation that certainly qualifies).

The point is that planning for future taxpayer-funded bailouts as part of compliance with destructive regulations is asinine. In this respect, we offer an approach that goes counter to Fed Chair Janet Yellen and the modus operandi of all central planner control freaks. It’s really simple, and really effective. The best way to regulate banks, lending institutions, corporate finance and the like, is to turn over regulatory control to the very exacting, and unsympathetic, order of the market. That is to have little to no regulations and one very specific and uncompromising provision: There will be absolutely, unconditionally, categorically, no government funded bailouts. Without question, the financial system will be radically safer.

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Want to bet it’ll be a lot more?

Funding Battle Looms As Texas Sees Harvey Damage At Up To $180 Billion (R.)

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Sunday challenged Congress to raise the government’s debt limit in order to free up relief spending for Hurricane Harvey, a disaster that the governor of Texas said had caused up to $180 billion in damage. Harvey, which came ashore on Aug. 25 as the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in more than 50 years, has killed an estimated 50 people, displaced more than 1 million and damaged some 200,000 homes in a path of destruction stretching for more than 300 miles (480 km). As the city of Houston and the region’s critical energy infrastructure began to recover nine days after the storm hit, the debate over how to pay for the disaster played out in Washington. Texas Governor Greg Abbott estimated damage at $150 billion to $180 billion, calling it more costly than Hurricanes Katrina or Sandy, which devastated New Orleans in 2005 and New York in 2012.

The administration of President Donald Trump has asked Congress for an initial $7.85 billion for recovery efforts, a fraction of what will eventually be needed. Even that amount could be delayed unless Congress quickly increases the government’s debt ceiling, Mnuchin said, as the United States is on track to hit its mandated borrowing limit by the end of the month unless Congress increases it. “Without raising the debt limit, I am not comfortable that we will get money to Texas this month to rebuild,” Mnuchin told Fox News. Republican lawmakers, who control both houses of Congress, have traditionally resisted raising the debt ceiling, but linking the issue to Harvey aid could force their hand with people suffering and large areas of the fourth-largest U.S. city under water. Beyond the immediate funding, any massive aid package faces budget pressures at a time when Trump is advocating for tax reform or tax cuts, leading some on Capitol Hill to suggest aid may be released in a series of appropriations.

Katrina set the record by costing U.S. taxpayers more than $110 billion. In advocating for funds to help rebuild his state, Abbott said damage from Harvey would exceed that. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city expected most public services and businesses to be restored by Tuesday, the first day after Monday’s Labor Day holiday. “Over 95% of the city is now dry. And I‘m encouraging people to get up and let’s get going,” Turner told NBC News. Even so, Houston mandated the evacuation of thousands of people on the western side of town on Sunday to accommodate the release of water from two reservoirs that otherwise might sustain damage. The storm stalled over Houston, dumping more than 50 inches (1.3 m) on the region. Houston cut off power to homes on Sunday to encourage evacuations. The area was closed off on Sunday and military vehicles were stationed on the periphery to take people out.

Read more …

What Canada learned from history.

Canadians Are Borrowing Against Real Estate At The Fastest Pace Ever (BD)

Canadian real estate prices have soared, and so did borrowing against that value. Our analysis of domestic bank filings from the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) shows that loans secured against property has reached an all-time high. More surprising is the unprecedented rate of growth experienced this year.

Loans secured against residential real estate shattered a few records in June. Over $313.66 billion in real estate was used to secure loans, up 3.43% from the month before. The rise puts annual gains 11.16% higher than the same month last year, an increase of $31.51 billion. The monthly increase is the largest increase since March 2012. The annual gain is unprecedented according to an aggregate of domestic bank filings. Not all borrowing against residential property is all bad, sometimes it’s a calculated risk. For example, someone may need to secure a business loan, and use the loan for operating risks. It doesn’t mean the property is safe, but it’s a risk that could potentially boost the economy.

This is opposed to non-business loans, which is used as short-term financing. This type of financing is often used for things like renovations, and putting a fancy car in the driveway. Experts have observed that more homeowners are using these to prevent bankruptcy. Bottom line, it’s not typically healthy looking debt. So let’s remove loans obtained for business reasons, and take a peek at higher risk debt. The majority of these loans are non-business related according to bank filings. The current total is over $266 billion as of June 2017, a 1.01% increase from the month before. This is a 4.9% increase from the same month last year, which works out to $12.49 billion more. Fun fact, that’s around $23,763 per minute. The number is astronomical.

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“..no country can have an open capital account, a fixed exchange rate and an independent monetary policy at the same time..”

China Battles “Impossible Trinity” (Rickards)

The Impossible Trinity theory was advanced in the early 1960s by Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Mundell. It says that no country can have an open capital account, a fixed exchange rate and an independent monetary policy at the same time. You can have one or two out of three, but not all three. If you try, you will fail — markets will make sure of that. Those failures (which do happen) represent some of the best profit-making opportunities of all. Understanding the Impossible Trinity is how George Soros broke the Bank of England on Sept. 16, 1992 (still referred to as “Black Wednesday” in British banking circles. Soros also made over $1 billion that day). The reason is that if more attractive total returns are available abroad, money will flee a home country at a fixed exchange rate to seek the higher return.

This will cause a foreign exchange crisis and a policy response that abandons one of the three policies. But just because the trinity is impossible in the long run does not mean it cannot be pursued in the short run. China is trying to peg the yuan to the U.S. dollar while maintaining a partially open capital account and semi-independent monetary policy. It’s a nice finesse, but isn’t sustainable. China cannot keep the capital account even partly closed for long without drying up direct foreign investment. Similarly, China cannot raise interest rates much higher without bankrupting state-owned enterprises. China is buying time until the Communist Party Congress in October. It’s important to realize that for Beijing, the Chinese economy is more than about jobs, goods and services. It’s a means of ensuring its legitimacy.

The Chinese regime is deeply concerned that a faltering economy and mass unemployment could threaten its hold on power. Chinese markets are wildly distorted by the actions of its central bank. Given the problems inherent in trying to manage an economy without proper price signals, the challenge facing Beijing gets harder by the day. China has a long history of violent political fracturing, and the government is deeply worried about regime survival if it stumbles. Many in the West fail to appreciate Beijing’s fears and overestimate the support it has among the disparate Chinese people. What does China do next? Under the unforgiving logic of the Impossible Trinity, China will have to either devalue the yuan or see its reserves evaporate. In the end, China will have to break the yuan’s peg to the dollar in order to stop capital outflows without killing the economy with high rates. The Impossible Trinity really is impossible in the long run. China will find this out the hard way.

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How do we make government independent?

Socialism For The Best Of Us, Capitalism For The Rest Of Us (CC)

To the elected darlings of the free market: I hate to burst your bubble but – you have been living a lie. Your lifetime government pensions: socialism. Overly generous retirement packages, Superannuation and 401ks: socialism. Travel budgets, expense accounts, access to private drivers and town cars, government reimbursement for travel and living arrangements: socialism, socialism, socialism, socialism, socialism. Central banking: socialism. Not to mention fossil-fuel & mining subsidies and tax concessions: socialism, socialism, socialism. The bank bail-outs of 2008: One of the greatest acts of socialism of all time. Where were our free-market representatives then? When the financial system went into melt-down, the banks were not told to suck it up and stand on their own two feet. More than a trillion dollars were poured into the banks, most of which went towards profit margins and CEO bonuses.

These so-called champions of capitalism have the nerve to claim that it is social welfare recipients that are a drain on the system while government representatives take home all kinds of state-provided benefits the rest of us could only dream of: the best health insurance the country has to offer, lifetime pensions and generous retirement packages which drain many more billions from the economy than social welfare ever will. Moreover, corporate welfare pales in comparison to either. The private sector has its own dole system paid for by Federal Governments. Yet many Congressmen, Representatives and MPs still have the nerve to stand before the people who elected them and rail against social spending, claiming people ought to pull themselves up by their bootstraps when no such obligation has ever existed for the corporate sector. Most of the world’s most successful corporations don’t get out of bed without a subsidy.

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If it makes you feel better: Britain’s not alone.

Britain’s Addicted To Debt And Headed For A Crash (G.)

[..] if the debtors at the bottom aren’t at crisis point yet, the signs of a surfeit of debt are everywhere. Alex Brazier, executive director of financial stability at the Bank of England, warned last month that consumer loans had gone up by 10% in the past year, with average household debt having already eclipsed 2008 levels. He warned against the economy having to sit through “endless repeats of the ‘Debt Strikes Back’ movie”. There is something obscurely insulting about being warned about household debt by the Bank of England. It never warns employers about stagnant wages, or the government about the benefit freeze. It only ever mentions these in terms of the impact of inflation, as if any consideration of the human decisions behind them are too political for comment. But personal debt, miraculously, isn’t political at all.

But that doesn’t make Brazier wrong. Edward Smythe of the campaign group Positive Money, breaks it down: “If you look at total outstanding consumer loans, in July, they’re at £200bn, an £18.5bn net increase every year.” Households spent more than their income by £17.5bn in the first quarter of this year. Economists are interested in where that money comes from – whether it’s access to credit, selling assets or spending savings. The government is presumably, in some dusty corner, interested in why that money is needed, whether it is a result of pauperised wages– real wage growth is negative and looks set to decrease – benefit changes, or some rush of blood to the head where we all suddenly need Sky Sports and cigarettes but aren’t prepared to work for them.

The sources of all this debt are changing: about half the net increase was in personal contract purchase car loans. Four in five new cars are now bought by PCP – an inherently unstable system that leaves both consumers and car manufacturers exposed. It’s a bit like a mortgage system for cars, except you don’t own it at the end, ideally you wouldn’t be living in it, and while a housing crash has been seen before, nobody yet knows what a car crash would look like. Student loan debt is counted separately from consumer loans, and stands at £13bn a year. However much you think you’ve accommodated student fees into your picture of Britons’ finances, it is always astounding to consider how life-changing that decision has been for the younger generation.

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“What global recovery?!”

Global Negative Yielding Debt Hits One Year High Of $7.4 Trillion (ZH)

Two weeks ago, we were surprised to find that despite the recent “growth promise” of what has been called a coordinated global recovery, the market value of bonds yielding less than 0% had quietly jumped by a quarter in just one month to the highest since October 2016. Since then, the paradoxical divergence between the reported “strong” state of the “reflating” global economy and the amount of negative yielding debt, has only grown, and as JPM reports as of Friday, Sept. 1, the global market value of government bonds trading with negative yield within the JPM GBI Broad index rose to $7.4 trillion, up 60% from its low of $4.6 trillion at the beginning of the year. Some more details from JPM:

We calculate the market value by multiplying the dirty price with the amount outstanding for each bond within JPM GBI Broad Index and then convert it to US dollars at today’s exchange rate. The market value of bonds trading with negative yield,including central banks’ purchases, stands at 30% of the total JPM GBI Broad index. What makes the latest rise in negative yielding debt especially bizarre is that it was mainly driven by Japan, where 10-year government bond yields have fallen significantly over the past month and have turned negative this week for first time since the US presidential election, even as the Bank of Japan has twice in the past month reduced the amount of JGB debt it purchases in the open market in the 5-to-10 year bucket, following on Friday, by a 30BN yen reduction of buying in the 3-to-5 year debt range.

As a result, the total universe of Japanese bonds trading with negative yield within the JPM global government bond index (GBI Broad) now stands at $4.6tr, or 62% of the outstanding amount. The remaining government bonds trading with negative yields worth $2.8 trillion are from Europe, of which more than half are from France and Germany.

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Capital destruction 101 (thanks, Schaeuble!):

“..the stock of unsold properties of all types comes to 270,000-280,000, in a market with no more than 15,000 transactions per year..”

BTW, the only buyers left are those who want to profit from Airbnb. Mostly foreigners.

Greece Property Auctions Certain To Drive Market Prices Even Lower (K.)

Professionals in the property sector are warning that the auctioning of tens of thousands of buildings in the next few years could evolve into an unknown – probably negative – factor regarding the course of prices in the market. It is estimated that a wave of auctions expected to begin soon will see market rates drop at least 10%. Clearing firms are currently involved in an extensive program of property valuations to establish starting prices for the auctions. Ilias Ziogas, head of property consultancy company NAI Hellas and one of the founding members of the Chartered Surveyors Association, said that the property market is certain to suffer further as a result of the auctions: “The impact on prices will be clearly negative, not because the price of a property will be far lower at the auction than a nearby property, but because it will diminish demand for the neighboring property.”

He added that a market with already reduced demand that receives more supply at more attractive rates through auctions will definitely see buyers turn to the latter. He also said that they will only look at other buildings if they are not satisfied with what the auctions have to offer. This view is also shared by Giorgos Litsas, head of the GLP Values chartered surveyor company, which cooperates with PQH. He told Kathimerini that the only way is down for market rates. “I believe that unless there is an unlikely coordination among the parties involved – i.e. the state (tax authorities, social security funds etc.), the banks and the clearing firms – in order to prevent too many properties coming onto the market at the same time, rates will go down by at least 10%.”

He noted that “we estimate the stock of unsold properties of all types comes to 270,000-280,000, in a market with no more than 15,000 transactions per year. Therefore the rise in supply will send prices tumbling.” Yiannis Xylas, founder of Geoaxis surveyors, added, “I fear the auctions will create an oversupply of properties without the corresponding demand, which translates into an immediate drop in rates that may be rapid if one adds the portfolios of bad loans secured on properties that will be sold to foreign funds at a fraction of their price.”

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He sounds confused.

Italy FinMin Says The Euro Zone Still Faces Problems – Even In Germany (CNBC)

Italy’s finance minister delivered an upbeat tone on his country’s banking sector but highlighted that major hurdles still remain in the euro zone, including in Germany. Germany might be known as the powerhouse of the euro zone economy but it has its own banking problems to deal with, Pier Carlo Padoan told CNBC on the sidelines of the Ambrosetti Forum on Sunday. “I think that there are some German banking problems and I’m confident the German authorities will deal with them,” Padoan said when asked about remarks made by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi last year. “Germany has been the country that has by far poured much more public money into the banking sector in terms of the hundreds of billions of euros in the past when the rules where different of course.

This is a sign that maybe we all have to recognize that we have problems and we all have to recognize that we need to cooperate much more effectively to provide European solutions to those problems,” he said. Though Italy keeps making headlines due to its financial sector, analysts have also warned on banking problems in Germany. These include the reliance on the shipping industry, which used to be a stable investment before the euro zone debt crisis. Other issues include the sheer number of banks in Germany with very little consolidation. There are approximately 2,400 separate banks with more than 45,000 branches throughout the country and over 700,000 employees, according to Commercial Banks Guide, an industry website.

As such, Padoan told CNBC that it is crucial to conclude the banking union – a project created in 2012 in response to the sovereign debt crisis that aims to have one single set of rules for all banks across the European Union. He told CNBC that so far the banking union hasn’t been fully implemented, not because of resistance from certain countries, but because of different national perspectives. “We are however making progress in one thing: That we are building trust among ourselves and we are also recognizing that we have to reconcile historically-driven different traditions in banking sectors and they have to merge into a new European banking culture,” Padoan said.

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He sounds like Varoufakis.

Italy’s 5-Star Says Euro Referendum Is ‘Last Resort’ (R.)

A referendum on Italy’s membership of the euro currency would be held only as a “last resort” if Rome does not win any fiscal concessions from the European Union, a senior lawmaker from the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement said on Sunday. Luigi Di Maio’s comments reflect a striking change of tone by some senior officials in the party in recent months as they have retreated from 5-Star’s original pledge. Seeking to reassure an audience of bankers and business leaders, Di Maio – widely tipped to be 5-Star’s candidate for prime minister at a general election due by next year – played down the referendum proposal, calling it a negotiating tool with the EU. “Austerity policies have not worked, on monetary policy we deserve the credit for triggering a debate… this is why we raised the issue of a referendum on the euro, as a bargaining tool, as a last resort and a way out in case Mediterranean countries are not listened to,” he said.

Two years ago the party gathered the signatures from the public needed to pave the way for a referendum that it said was vital to restore Italy’s fiscal and monetary sovereignty. But now, running neck-and-neck with the ruling Democratic Party (PD) in opinion polls and with the election in sight – scheduled to be held by May 2018 – it is hitting the brakes on the idea. This underlines the crucial challenge facing the party as it seeks to please some core supporters, while trying to shed its populist image and convince foreign capitals and financial markets that it can be trusted in office. [..] The party wants several changes to the euro zone’s economic rules to help its more sluggish economies, like Italy. These include stripping public investment from budget deficits under the EU’s Stability Pact and creating a European “bad bank” to deal with euro zone lenders’ bad loans.

“We are not against the European Union, we want to remain in the EU and discuss some of the rules that are suffocating and damaging our economy,” said Di Maio, who serves as deputy speaker of the Chamber of Deputies. An opinion poll in La Stampa daily on Sunday had 24% of respondents saying Di Maio most deserved to run the country in the next five years, against 17% for former PD Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and 12% for center-right leader Silvio Berlusconi.

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Schulz and Merkel are the same person.

Turkey Will Never Become EU Member, Says Angela Merkel (Ind.)

Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has said Turkey should categorically not become a member of the European Union in comments that are expected to further inflame tensions between the Nato allies. Speaking at a televised election debate with her rival, Martin Schulz, she said she would seek a joint EU position with other leaders to ensure Turkey never became a member. “The fact is clear that Turkey should not become a member of the EU,” she said after Mr Schulz said he would stop Turkey’s bid to join the EU if he was elected chancellor. “Apart from this, I’ll speak to my colleagues to see if we can reach a joint position on this so that we can end these accession talks,” she added.

[..] Her comments are likely to worsen already strained ties between the countries after Ms Merkel said Berlin should react decisively to Turkey’s detention of two more German citizens on political charges. It comes just weeks after German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told Turkey it will never become a member of the EU as long as it is governed by the current president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “It is clear that in this state, Turkey will never become a member of the EU,” Mr Gabriel said. Mr Erdogan has urged German Turks to boycott Germany’s main parties in next month’s general election.

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Good to know. Still, if people really want to go, maybe we should just let them.

How Our Immune Systems Could Stop Humans Reaching Mars (Tel.)

The astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson commented that ‘dinosaurs are extinct today because they lacked the opposable thumbs and brainpower to build a space programme’ Yet although we now have the technological ability to leave Earth, scientists have found another stumbling block to colonising new worlds – our own immune system. Although it is said we are all made of ‘star stuff’ when it comes to travelling away from our home planet humans are far more vulnerable to the rigours of space than our interstellar origins might suggest. Billions of years of evolution has effectively backed mankind into a corner of the Solar System that it may be now be tricky to leave. A team of scientists from Russia and Canada analysed the effect of microgravity on the protein make-up in blood samples of 18 Russian cosmonauts who lived on the International Space Station for six months.

They found alarming changes to the immune system, suggesting that they would struggle to shake off even a minor virus, like the common cold. “The results showed that in weightlessness, the immune system acts like it does when the body is infected because the human body doesn’t know what to do and tries to turn on all possible defense systems,” said Professor Evgeny Nikolaev, of Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and theSkolkovo Institute of Science and Technology. The effects of spaceflight on the human body have been studied actively since the mid-20th century and it is widely known that microgravity influences metabolism, heat regulation, heart rhythm, muscle tone, bone density, the respiration system. Last year research from the US also found that astronauts who travelled into deep space on lunar missions were five times more likely to have died from cardiovascular disease than those who went into low orbit, or never left Earth.

Astronauts are fitter than the general population and have access to the best medical care, meaning that their health is usually better than the general population. Those of comparable age but who never flew, or only achieved low Earth orbit, had less than a one in 10 chance of death from cardiovascular disease. [..] To gain a deeper understanding of the changes in human physiology during space travel, the research team quantified concentrations of 125 proteins in the blood plasma of cosmonauts. Proteins change as the immune system alters and so can be used as a measure of how it is functioning. Blood was taken from the cosmonauts 30 days before they travelled to the ISS and then on their immediate return to Earth. They were also tested seven days after touchdown. Individual proteins were then counted using a mass spectrometer.

”When we examined the cosmonauts after their being in space for half a year, their immune system was weakened,” said Dr Irina Larina, the first author of the paper, a member of Laboratory of Ion and Molecular Physics of Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. “They were not protected from the simplest viruses. We need new measures of disorder prevention during a long flight.

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Jan 052015
 
 January 5, 2015  Posted by at 1:06 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Lewis Wickes Hine Child Labor in Magnolia Cotton Mills spinning room, Mississippi Mar 1911

Being Poor Is Getting Scarier in the US (Bloomberg)
The Euro In 2015: A Very Bad Start (CNBC)
Tsipras Says ECB Cannot Shut Greece Out Of Stimulus (Reuters)
Samaras Warns of Euro Exit Risk as Greek Campaign Starts (Bloomberg)
Worried About The UK In 2015? You’re Not Alone (CNBC)
The Credit Boom Is A Ticking Timebomb For UK Plc (Guardian)
Oil’s Future Hangs Between The Emirates And The Shales Of Eagle Ford (Observer)
Plunging Oil Prices Test Texas’ Economic Boom (WSJ)
From Boom To Bust In Australia’s Mining Towns (BBC)
The Bubble to End All Bubbles (Phoenix)
Russia’s ‘Startling’ Proposal To Europe: Dump The US, Join Us (Zero Hedge)
Knowing It Will End Badly And Turning A Blind Eye (Mark St.Cyr)
Czech President Condemns Kiev ‘Nazi Torchlight Parade’, EU’s Silence (RT)
France Seeks End To Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine (BBC)
‘More Russia Sanctions To Provoke ‘Dangerous Situation’ In Europe’ (RT)
North Korea/Sony Shows US Media Still Regurgitate Government Claims (Greenwald)
UK Ebola Patient Zero In Critical Condition (FT)
Scientists Target ‘Universal’ Protein To Treat Brain Cancer And Ebola (RT)
13 Species We Might Have To Say Goodbye To In 2015 (GlobalPost)
Earth’s Magnetic Field Now Flips More Often Than Ever (BBC)

“It’s hard to imagine how anyone can survive at 50% of the poverty level. As of 2013, that corresponded to $9,384 a year for a family of three. [..] more than 7 million people were living below it.

Being Poor Is Getting Scarier in the US (Bloomberg)

By any measure, the U.S. is among the wealthiest countries in the world. Judging from new research, though, it’s becoming an increasingly hazardous place to be poor. Every advanced nation has a mechanism to protect its most vulnerable members from economic shocks. In the U.S., government transfer programs such as unemployment insurance, food stamps and the earned income tax credit act to offset the impact of recessions, particularly for the poorest families. By putting much-needed money in the pockets of the people most likely to spend it, these “automatic stabilizers” also help the broader economy recover.

In a paper presented over the weekend at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association, economists Hilary Hoynes of the University of California at Berkeley and Marianne Bitler of UC Irvine explored how well automatic stabilizers in the U.S. are working. Using state-level data on unemployment rates and a measure of household income that accounts for taxes and transfers, they compared the effects of the most recent recession to those of the last deep recession in the 1980s. The result: The U.S. is doing a significantly worse job of protecting its most vulnerable households than it did a few decades ago.

Specifically, the economists estimate that during the 2008 recession, a one-percentage-point increase in the unemployment rate was associated with a nearly 10% increase in the share of 18- to 64-year-olds with household incomes of less than half the poverty level. That’s roughly double the effect of unemployment in the 1980s recession. It’s hard to imagine how anyone can survive at 50% of the poverty level. As of 2013, using the measure of income employed by Hoynes and Bitler, that corresponded to $9,384 a year for a family of three. Nonetheless, more than 7 million people were living below it. [..] Over the past three decades, economic output per person in the U.S. has increased more than 60%, to an estimated $54,678 in 2014. Surely such a rich country can afford to do better for the poor.

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Nothing left to prop it up.

The Euro In 2015: A Very Bad Start (CNBC)

The euro can’t seem to catch a break, starting 2015 with a drop to a nine-year low against the U.S. dollar as the timetable for central bank action appears to step up amid a storm of other negatives for the common currency. “The market was divided over when the ECB would undertake QE,” David Forrester, a foreign-exchange strategist at Macquarie, said. But comments from ECB President Mario Draghi changed that, he said, adding expectations are now for a policy adjustment possibly at the year’s first meeting on January 22. In an interview with German newspaper Handelsblatt, Draghi said he believes the risk that the central bank won’t be able to fulfill its mandate to preserve price stability had risen compared with six months ago. “It moves the timetable for QE potentially forward,” he said, but he noted that other factors are also weighing. “You also have U.S. dollar strength and the Fed potentially raising rates – that’s what’s feeding the euro weakness now.”

Weakness abounds, with the euro fetching $1.1936, after trading as low as $1.1860, its lowest since 2006. The ECB likely wants the euro to decline to help spur the economy and inflation, noted Jesper Bargmann, head of trading for Asia at Nordea. But he added, “I’m not sure they would like the euro to collapse in the short term.” Just how low could the euro fall? Willem Nabarro at Exane BNP Paribas, believes $1.1760 is the first target – the level where the common currency was first introduced, although he noted that consensus forecasts range from $1.10-$1.15. There are other ingredients likely spoiling the euro stew. For one, the euro’s attractiveness as a reserve currency appears to be slipping, with the IMF saying that the share of global central banks’ currency reserves held in the common currency was at 22.6% in the third quarter of last year, the lowest in a decade and off by more than a fullpercentage point from the previous quarter.

Another headwind: the price of oil has also started off the year with a run downward to fresh more than five year lows. U.S. crude futures extended declines to a third day on Monday, trading as low as $51.40 a barrel, while London Brent crude for February delivery fell as low as $55.36 a barrel, levels last seen in 2009. “In trying to anticipate the possible extent of further euro depreciation, it is worth remembering that inflation and inflation expectations lie at the crux of ECB policy initiatives,” Brian Martin, an economist at ANZ, said in a note Friday. “The trend in EUR/USD has been closely correlated with the trend in the oil price and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.”

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Let’s see Draghi address this issue. Or Merkel.

Tsipras Says ECB Cannot Shut Greece Out Of Stimulus (Reuters)

Greek leftwing opposition leader Alexis Tsipras said the European Central Bank (ECB) could not exclude Greece if it decides to move to a full «quantitative easing» programme to stimulate the euro zone’s faltering economy. Speaking at a party congress on Saturday, three weeks before a Jan. 25 general election, Tsipras also said his Syriza party would ensure much of Greece’s debt was written off as part of a renegotiation of its international bailout deal. The election takes place three days after a Jan. 22 policy meeting at which the ECB may decide to proceed with a quantitative easing (QE) programme to pump billions of euros into the euro zone economy by buying government bonds.

Tsipras said he hoped ECB President Mario Draghi would decide to go ahead with the programme and said Greece could not be shut out, as some economists and politicians from countries including Germany have suggested. “Quantitative easing by the ECB with direct purchases of government bonds must include Greece,» Tsipras said. The comments underline the pressures facing Draghi ahead of the decision, with many in Germany opposed to full-scale QE which they fear will create asset bubbles and remove incentives for reform-shy governments to act. Syriza, which holds a slim opinion poll lead over Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ centre-right New Democracy party, has moderated its tone in recent months, pledging to keep Greece in the euro and not to unilaterally repudiate the bailout deal.

But the prospect of a Syriza-led government has set financial markets on edge and caused alarm in Germany, where a succession of politicians and economists have argued the euro zone could cope with Greece’s exit. In a speech laced with barbs against German Chancellor Angela Merkel and finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, Tsipras said his party would roll back many of the austerity policies imposed by the bailout «troika». “Austerity is both irrational and destructive. To pay back debt, a bold restructuring is needed,» he said. Repeating many policy pledges first laid out last year, he promised to do away with a real estate tax, freeze house foreclosures, raise the minimum wage and reinstate a €12,000 ($14,400) tax-free threshold to help low earners. He said he would abandon the goal of achieving primary budget surpluses, aimed at cutting Greece’s debt burden equivalent to more than 175% of gross domestic product. But he pledged to protect bank deposits and ensure public finances remain on a sound footing.

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Greece needs to fight its corruption, and that won’t happen under Samaras.

Samaras Warns of Euro Exit Risk as Greek Campaign Starts (Bloomberg)

Greece’s political parties embarked on a flash campaign for elections in less than three weeks that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said it will determine the fate of the country’s membership in the euro currency area. Samaras used a Jan. 2 speech to warn that victory for the main opposition Syriza party would cause default and Greece’s exit from the 19-member euro region, while Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras said his party would end German-led austerity. Der Spiegel magazine reported Chancellor Angela Merkel is ready to accept a Greek exit, a development Berlin sees as inevitable and manageable if Syriza wins, as polls suggest. The high-stakes run-up to the Jan. 25 vote returns Greece to the center of European policy makers’ attention as they strive to fend off a return of the debt crisis that wracked the region from late 2009, forcing international financial support for five EU countries.

While Greek 10-year bond yields rose to about 9% last week from a post-crisis low of 5.57% in September, the relative improvement in yields from Italy to Ireland suggests that the contagion has been contained. “Many European officials believe a Greek exit would be manageable, and in contrast to 2010-2011, we wouldn’t see the same cascading effect on countries like Spain or Ireland,” Fredrik Erixon, director of the European Centre for International Political Economy in Brussels, said by telephone. Tsipras, in a speech on Jan. 3, vowed to restructure his nation’s debt and end what he called the “unreasonable and catastrophic” austerity policies. Greece will “write down on most of the nominal value of debt, so that it becomes sustainable,” Tsipras said, according to the e-mailed transcript of a speech in Athens. “That’s what was done for Germany in 1953, it should be done for Greece in 2015.”

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EU referendum pushed forward.

Worried About The UK In 2015? You’re Not Alone (CNBC)

The shadow of a general election and a possible exit from the European Union are already making investors nervous about the UK in 2015. On Monday, traditionally the first back-to-work day of the New Year, sterling fell slightly against the dollar and the FTSE was flat, as traders warily eyed the UK. The new year also saw all of the main parties launch their campaigns for May’s general election and for what many pundits predict will be the most unpredictable poll in living memory. “The traditional metrics in how the poll will turn out are being thrown out of the window,” Jeremy Stretch, head of currency strategy at CIBC, told CNBC. He argued that sterling is likely to come under continued pressure ahead of the elections. “All of a sudden, investors are saying they want to look back and see how the smoke clears before committing to the UK”

While the left-leaning Labour Party is leading most recent polls, it looks increasingly likely that either it or the Conservative Party may have to enter a coalition with one or more of the smaller parties to ensure a majority. Another option is that one of the parties governs in what is known as a “hung parliament”, where it doesn’t have a majority and is reliant on the support of other parties to pass laws. Either of these options may lead to the Liberal Democrats party, which got the third-biggest share of the vote in the last election, or minority parties like the Scottish National Party, the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) or Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) holding the key to running of the country.

The other cloud hanging over investors is whether the UK chooses to stay in the European Union or not. Back in 2013 Prime Minister David Cameron, under pressure from euro-skeptic members of his own party and the increasingly popular UKIP, promised to hold a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, which is seen as meddlesome, bureaucratic and expensive by a large number of voters. In an interview with the BBC, Cameron said Sunday that, if his party is in power after the next election, a referendum on the U.K.’s EU membership may come earlier than 2017, the year previously promised. Ministers who are against the U.K.’s continued membership of the trading bloc will have to step aside from their posts if they want to campaign for a “no” vote, he announced.

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A divide between rich and poor, as well as one between old and young.

The Credit Boom Is A Ticking Timebomb For UK Plc (Guardian)

There is a warning buried in the economic figures that appeared last week. While most of the focus was on the steady decline in house buying and numbers showing Britain’s national income grew more slowly last year than previously estimated; the latest borrowing figures set alarm bells ringing. Consumer credit figures from the Bank of England revealed Britons ended the year slapping their credit cards on shop counters as if the financial crisis was a distant memory. Borrowing on credit cards and unsecured loans grew in November at its strongest pace since 2008. We knew that retail sales had surged that month and now we knew why. Mortgage borrowing added to the credit boom, piling another £2.1bn on the debt mountain in November.

The increase was higher than expected and came despite a fall in the number of mortgage approvals. At the same time the central bank was publishing its credit figures, a survey of factory managers could only be described as depressing. Yet again, just as the sector appeared to be finally recovering from the great crash, the momentum has tailed off. The survey of manufacturers found expansion eased back in December after picking up in October and November. And that little period of early winter joy was shortlived, coming after a September that represented a 17-month low. Output and new orders growth moderated in December, and most importantly exports remained lacklustre.

Those economists who found reasons to be cheerful from the figures suggested that the UK’s strong domestic demand would keep the sector growing. The same economists look at the borrowing figures and discern a more benign outlook from the total UK household debt burden, which is continuing a trend since the crash and still coming down. What was once a household debt to income ratio of 175% is now nearer 130%. Yet the overall figure depends on the over-50s paying off their mortgages at an accelerated rate. By contrast, the under-40s take on bigger mortgages to buy a home with an inflated price and borrow on credit cards to fund a lifestyle ravaged by six years of below inflation pay rises.

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No, it really is a race to the bottom.

Oil’s Future Hangs Between The Emirates And The Shales Of Eagle Ford (Observer)

The decision by president Barack Obama to open the door to US oil exports seeped out of Washington in a low-key manner last week, but the impact could be as explosive as a New Year’s Eve firework display. The ban – imposed after the Middle East oil embargoes in the 1970s – has made it close to impossible to ship abroad the fruits of America’s shale bonanza. It also long looked wrong-headed in the home of free trade. The US department of commerce quietly overturned the four-decade-old policy by saying it had started to approve a backlog of requests to sell processed light oil to foreign buyers. The issue is tremendously sensitive, which is possibly why the announcement came out at a time of year when most policymakers were still at home enjoying the Christmas holidays with their families.

Many manufacturers and many domestic consumers are totally opposed to domestic oil or gas production being exported, on the grounds that it could bring an end to cheaper local energy supplies and competitive advantages. But prospectors from the shales in Eagle Ford, Texas and Marcellus, Pennsylvania have been campaigning in Washington for a change in the law for some time, their calls growing more urgent now that some face potential financial trouble as the price of oil plunges from $115 per barrel down to $56. Meanwhile American oil sometimes sells at $15 per barrel less on the local market as supply exceeds demand: not good for the frackers already burdened by their relatively high-cost operations.

But by opening the door to exports – of slightly refined products – Washington has struck a more serious blow to its export rivals in Saudi Arabia, Russia and elsewhere. Ed Morse, global head of commodities research at Citigroup bank, had no trouble predicting that the move would “open up the floodgates to substantial increases in [US] exports by end 2015”.

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Bubble.

Plunging Oil Prices Test Texas’ Economic Boom (WSJ)

Retired Southwest Airlines co-founder Herb Kelleher remembers a Texas bumper sticker from the late 1980s, when falling energy prices triggered an ugly regional downturn: “Dear Lord, give me another boom and I promise I won’t screw it up.” Texas got its wish with another energy-driven boom, and now plunging oil prices are testing whether the state has held up its end of the bargain. The Lone Star State’s economy has been a national growth engine since the recession ended, expanding at a rate of 4.4% annually between 2009 and 2013, twice the pace of the U.S. as a whole. The downturn in energy prices now has triggered a debate over whether Texas simply got lucky in recent years, thanks to a hydraulic-fracturing oil-and-gas boom, or whether it hit on an economic playbook that other states, and the country as a whole, could emulate.

One in seven jobs created nationally during the 50-month expansion has been created in Texas, where the unemployment rate, at 4.9%, is nearly a percentage point lower than the national average. But a big dose of the state’s good fortune comes from the oil-and-gas sector. Midland, which sits atop the oil-rich Permian Basin, had the fastest weekly wage growth in the country among large counties: 9% in the 12 months ending June 2014. Now that oil prices have plunged nearly 51% from their June peak to $52.69 a barrel, some Texans sobered by memories of past energy busts are bracing for a fall. The argument among economists and business leaders isn’t whether the state will be hurt, but how badly.

Mr. Kelleher is among the Texans predicting this won’t be a replay of the 1980s oil bust and banking crisis, which drove the state unemployment rate to 9.3%. As evidence, he and others cite a more cautious banking sector, a tax and regulatory environment favorable to business, and a state economy less dependent on energy and other resources. “Texas has become a well-rounded state,” Mr. Kelleher said. “People did remember not to overextend themselves.”

Michael Feroli, a New York-based economist at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., is one of the skeptics of the “this-time-is-different” camp. Although the oil-and-gas industry today makes up a smaller share of Texas’ workforce than it did in the mid-1980s, it accounts for roughly the same share of its economic output, he said. So a decline in oil prices similar to the plunge of more than 50% seen in the mid-1980s, he said, could have a similar result: recession. “Texas is, if oil prices stay where they are, going to face a more difficult economic reality,” Mr. Feroli said.

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Another bubble.

From Boom To Bust In Australia’s Mining Towns (BBC)

After 23 years of growth, including one of the biggest mining booms in the nation’s history, tumbling iron ore and coal prices have put a brake on Australia’s economy – and mining towns are paying the price. Peter Windle is a casualty of the mining slowdown. The New South Wales mining employee has lost a well-paid job, a company car and an annual bonus that in some years was as high as A$60,000 ($48,800; £31,300). A termination package from the mining company he used to work for has helped soften the blow. But Mr Windle still had to sell his investment property to keep his head above water. Once part of a vast army of workers in what was Australia’s booming resources sector, Mr Windle now gets up at 5.30 am five days a week to clean and drive school buses in the small town of Muswellbrook.

For decades, the town had ridden the waves of Australia’s coal boom. “It’s the worst I’ve seen it in 28 years in the mining industry,” says Mr Windle. “Everyone is getting out. Three hundred houses are for sale in my town, three in my street, and rental prices have collapsed on older weatherboard houses from A$1,000 a week to A$200,” he says. Mr Windle was the purchase and compliance manager at Glennies Creek Coal Mine. Earlier this year, however, Brazilian company Vale – which owns the underground mine and an open-cut mine at nearby Camberwell – suddenly announced it was sacking 500 workers and mothballing the mines. Mr Windle’s story is not unusual. Across Australia, coal and iron ore mines are laying off staff, shutting down operations or putting new investments on hold.

Resource analysts say it is the end of a long and lucrative mining boom that was mostly fuelled by demand from China. The number of people employed in coal mining alone rose from 15,000 to 60,000 between 2001 and 2014, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Mining companies offered high wages to entice workers from other industries, and to mines that were often in remote locations such as outback Western Australia. Preliminary estimates suggest that this year, Australia exported over A$40bn of coal, much of it to China. But as China’s economy has slowed, the price of coal used for power generation has fallen, from US$142 a tonne in January 2011 to US$67 a tonne in November 2014, according to the World Bank. In the case of iron ore, in mid-December it was trading at about US$70 a tonne, the lowest level since 2009.

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And The Bubble to End All Bubbles.

The Bubble to End All Bubbles (Phoenix)

If your job is to sit in front of a camera selling the notion of getting rich from investing, you’re not going to talk about bonds or currencies (maybe the latter is of interest but only with insane amounts of leverage which usually bankrupts a trader in his or her first trade). However, today stocks are in fact a very minor story. They are, in a sense, the investing equivalent of picking up pennies in front of a steamroller. That steamroller is the $100 trillion bond bubble. For 30+ years, Western countries have been papering over the decline in living standards by issuing debt. In its simplest rendering, sovereign nations spent more than they could collect in taxes, so they issued debt (borrowed money) to fund their various welfare schemes. This was usually sold as a “temporary” issue. But as politicians have shown us time and again, overspending is never a temporary issue. This is compounded by the fact that the political process largely consists of promising various social spending programs/ entitlements to incentivize voters.

This type of social spending is not temporary… this is endemic. The US is not alone… Most major Western nations are completely bankrupt due to excessive social spending. And ALL of this spending has been fueled by bonds. This is why Central Banks have done everything they can to stop any and all defaults from occurring in the sovereign bonds space. Indeed, when you consider the bond bubble everything Central Banks have done begins to make sense. 1) Central banks cut interest rates to make these gargantuan debts more serviceable. 2) Central banks want/target inflation because it makes the debts more serviceable and puts off the inevitable debt restructuring. 3) Central banks are terrified of debt deflation (Fed Chair Janet Yellen herself admitted that oil’s recent deflation was an economic positive) because it would burst the bond bubble and bankrupt sovereign nations.

The bond bubble, like all bubbles, will burst. When it does, everything about investing will change. Bonds have been in bull market since the early ‘80s. Thus, an entire generation of investors and money managers (anyone under the age of 55) has been investing in an era in which risk has generally gotten cheaper and cheaper. This, in turn, has driven the rise in leverage in the financial system. As the risk-free rate fell, so did all other rates of return. Thus investors turned to leverage or using borrowed money to try to gain greater rates of return on their capital. Today, that leverage has resulted in $100 trillion in bonds with over $555 trillion in derivatives based on bonds. This bubble, literally dwarfs all other bubbles. To put this into perspective, the Credit Default Swap (CDS) market that nearly took down the financial system in 2008 was only a tenth of this ($50-$60 trillion). When this bubble bursts, 2008 will look like a picnic.

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Makes sense.

Russia’s ‘Startling’ Proposal To Europe: Dump The US, Join Us (Zero Hedge)

Slowly but surely Europe is figuring out that as a result of the western economic and financial blockade of Russian, it is Europe itself that is suffering the most. And while Germany was first to acknowledge this late in 2014 when its economy swooned and is now on the verge of a recession, now others are catching on. Case in point: the former head of the European Commission, and Italy’s former Prime Minister, Romano Prodi who told Messaggero newspaper that the “weaker Russian economy is extremely unprofitable for Italy.” The other details from Prodi’s statement:

Lowered prices in the international energy markets have positive aspects for the Italian consumers, who pay less for the fuel, but the effect will be only short-term. In the long-term however the weaker economic situation in countries producing energy resources, caused by lower oil and gas prices, mostly in Russia, is extremely unprofitable for Italy, he said. “The lowering of the oil and gas prices in combination with the sanctions, pushed by the Ukrainian crisis, will drop the Russian GPD by five% per annum, and thus it will cause cutting of the Italian export by about 50%,” Prodi said. “Setting aside the uselessness or imminence of the sanctions, one should highlight a clear skew: regardless of the rouble rate against dollar, which is lower by almost a half, the American export to Russia is growing, while the export from Europe is shrinking.”

In other words, just as slowly, the world is starting to grasp the bottom line: it is not the financial exposure to Russia, or the threat of financial contagion should Russia suffer a major recession or worse: it is something far simpler that will lead to the biggest harm for Europe’s countries. The lack of trade. Because while central banks can monetize everything, leading to an unprecedented asset bubble which if only for the time being boosts investor and consumer confidence, they can’t print trade – that all important driver of growth in a globalized world long before central banks were set to monetize over $1 trillion in bonds each and every year to mask the fact that the world is deep in a global depression.

Which is why we read the following report written in yesterday’s Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten with great interest because it goes right to the bottom line. In it Russia has a not so modest proposal to Europe: dump trade with the US, whose call for Russian “costs” has cost you another year of declining economic growth, and instead join the Eurasian Economic Union! From the source:

Russia has presented a startling proposal to overcome the tensions with the EU: The EU should renounce the free trade agreement with the United States TTIP and enter into a partnership with the newly established Eurasian Economic Union instead. A free trade zone with the neighbors would make more sense than a deal with the US.

It surely would, but then how will Europe feign outrage when the NSA is found to have spied yet again on its “closest trading partners?”

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Funny. St. Cyr writes exactly what I did last November in Making Money While The World Burns and Hugh Hendry And The Deflationary Zeitgeist.

Knowing It Will End Badly And Turning A Blind Eye (Mark St.Cyr)

As 2014 came to an end I like many of you probably felt a brief sigh of relief that maybe, just maybe, we could move into 2015 with a little more sanity shoved back into the financial markets. Now with QE as a know certain (at least for this moment) that indeed the spigot to the fire-hose has been shut off albeit there is still the “reinvestment” sprinkler system still at play. We might possibly get back to a little bit of sanity within the capital markets. I watched a great many pundits take to both the financial air-wave cameras, as well as radio and print with fervent breath to make more or less a blanket statement that all the so-called “doom crew” (this is what you are now branded if you dare make a cogent case against fairy-tales and pixie-dust) were proven to be, without a doubt – totally wrong.

Added to this near foamed mouthed expression of glee was the added generalized diatribe, “when will these people just admit they were wrong and go away?!” Every time I heard or read a statement reminiscent of this I burst out into laughter. Until I read Hugh Hendry’s Eclectica Fund’s “Letter to Investors.” Here is where I went from laughter – to outright stupefaction. Before I go any further let me make this point clear: I am, and have been a fan of Mr. Hendry’s investing prowess, his willingness to point out in public whether an Emperor is clothed or not, and more. However, I have also made my opinion clear about my uneasiness when he originally turned his investing thesis onto its head and became by his own words “a Bull.”

Although I understood the thesis I believed (and still do) that there is an inherent danger when this view is accepted and codified based on this market. So strongly do I feel about this I suggest we turn the danger scale up more towards perilous. Or, in simple terms – the danger knob has just been turned to 11 in my view after reading his latest letter. The opening paragraph was nearly all one had to read as to know both the direction and the stance that seems now fully embraced by more than just Mr, Hendry – but everyone currently on this Keynesian fueled bandwagon. To wit:

“There are times when an investor has no choice but to behave as though he believes in things that don’t necessarily exist. For us, that means being willing to be long risk assets in the full knowledge of two things: that those assets may have no qualitative support; and second, that this is all going to end painfully. The good news is that mankind clearly has the ability to suspend rational judgment long and often.”

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“The Czech President said something is “wrong” not only with Ukraine, but also with the European Union, which did not protest or condemn this action.”

Czech President Condemns Kiev ‘Nazi Torchlight Parade’, EU’s Silence (RT)

The chilling slogans and a flagrant demonstration of nationalist symbols during the neo-Nazi march in Kiev reminded the Czech President Milos Zeman of Hitler’s Germany. He said something was “wrong” both with Ukraine and the EU which didn’t condemn it. Zeman was commenting on the appalling scenes, which showed thousands of Ukrainian nationalists holding a torchlight procession across the Ukrainian capital on Thursday to commemorate the 106th birthday of Stepan Bandera, a Nazi collaborator and the Ukraine nationalist movement’s leader during World War II. “There is something wrong with Ukraine,” the Czech Republic’s leadertold radio F1 on Sunday. “Yesterday evening I was browsing the Internet and discovered a video showing the demonstration on Kiev’s Maidan on January 1.”

“These demonstrators carried portraits of Stepan Bandera, which reminded me of Reinhard Heydrich,” Zeman said referring to one of the main architects of the Holocaust and at the time a Reich-Protector of Czech Republic’s territories. The parade itself was organized similar to Nazi torchlight parades, where participants shouted the slogan: ‘Death to the Poles, Jews and communists without mercy,”Zeman explained. Bandera was the head of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), which collaborated with Nazi Germany, and was involved in the ethnic cleansing of Poles, Jews and Russians. “Glory to the nation! Death to enemies!”, “Ukraine belongs to Ukrainians” and “Bandera will return and restore order”, were the repeated slogans during the neo-Nazi march. Some of the participants wore World War II Bandera’s insurgent army uniforms while others paraded with red and black nationalist flags.

The Czech President said something is “wrong” not only with Ukraine, but also with the European Union, which did not protest or condemn this action. “Don’t forget that Bandera is considered a national hero in Ukraine, his image is hanging in the Maidan, his statue is in Lvov. In reality, he was a mass murderer,” Zeman said last summer on Czech Television. Russia too has on numerous occasions condemned the resurgence of neo-Nazi traditions in Ukraine and considers such displays of militant nationalism as means to fabricate history. “Torch-lit marches in Ukraine demonstrate that it is continuing to move along the path of the Nazis!” Konstantin Dolgov, the foreign ministry’s human rights envoy, said last week. “And this is in the center of civilized Europe!”

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They need to throw out Yats and the other US agents.

France Seeks End To Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine (BBC)

French President Francois Hollande says he wants Western sanctions on Russia to be lifted if progress is made in talks on the Ukraine conflict this month. He did not specify which sanctions – imposed by the EU, US and Canada – could be lifted. The sanctions began after Russia annexed Crimea in March. Mr Hollande said Russian President Vladimir Putin “doesn’t want to annex eastern Ukraine – he told me that”. Germany’s vice-chancellor has warned against further sanctions on Russia. Sigmar Gabriel – a centre-left politician like Mr Hollande – said the sanctions were aimed at making Russia negotiate to resolve the Ukraine conflict. But some “forces” in Europe and the US wanted sanctions to cripple Russia, which would “risk a conflagration”. “We want to help get the Ukraine conflict resolved, but not to push Russia onto its knees,” he told Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

The OSCE security organisation has reported sporadic shelling between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine despite a ceasefire agreement. In late December several hundred prisoners were exchanged. There have been calls elsewhere in the EU for an easing or lifting of the sanctions on Russia, which have hit Russia’s banks, energy industry and arms manufacturers, as well as targeting powerful figures close to Mr Putin. Politicians in Italy, Hungary and Slovakia are among those who want the sanctions eased. “The sanctions must be lifted if there is progress. If there is no progress the sanctions will stay in place,” Mr Hollande told France Inter radio. He confirmed that a France-Germany-Russia-Ukraine summit would be held in Astana, Kazakhstan, on 15 January, focusing on the Ukraine conflict.

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“.. additional sanctions may exclude Moscow from partnership in the resolution of conflicts which “will have very dangerous consequences for the entire world.”

‘More Russia Sanctions To Provoke ‘Dangerous Situation’ In Europe’ (RT)

Tougher sanctions against Russia could destabilize the country and provoke an “even more dangerous” situation in Europe and have negative consequences for the entire world, German Vice-Chancellor Economic Affairs and Energy Minister has warned. “Those who want it, provoke an even more dangerous situation for all of us in Europe,” Sigmar Gabriel said in an interview with the Bild am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday. “Those who are seeking to even more destabilize Russia from the economic and political point of view are pursuing quite different goals.” The goal of sanctions against Russia was to return Moscow to the negotiating table to find ways for a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Ukraine, he said. He elaborated that additional sanctions may exclude Moscow from partnership in the resolution of conflicts which “will have very dangerous consequences for the entire world.”

Though there are some in the US and EU that “would like to floor their superpower rival,” but it is not in the interest of Germany or Europe, he stated. “We want to help solve the conflict in Ukraine, not to force Russia to its knees,” he stressed. The US and EU slapped Russia with several rounds of sanctions, starting in March after Crimea joined Russia. Western nations have accused Russia of annexing Crimea, though Moscow has denied the claims stressing that residents of the peninsula voted in favor of the notion in a referendum that was in line with the international law and the UN Charter. The first round of Western sanctions targeted Russian officials and companies and included visa bans and asset freezes. The second round of sanctions that put pressure on financial, energy, and defense sectors was announced in July with the US and EU blaming Moscow for involvement in the unrest in eastern Ukraine.

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Amen.

North Korea/Sony Shows US Media Still Regurgitate Government Claims (Greenwald)

This government-subservient reporting was not universal; there were some noble exceptions. On the day of Obama’s press conference, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow hosted Xeni Jardin in a segment which repeatedly questioned the evidence of North Korea’s involvement. The network’s Chris Hayes early on did the same. The Guardian published a video interview with a cyber expert casting doubt on the government’s case. The Daily Beast published an article by Rogers expressly arguing that “all the evidence leads me to believe that the great Sony Pictures hack of 2014 is far more likely to be the work of one disgruntled employee facing a pink slip.” He concluded: “I am no fan of the North Korean regime. However I believe that calling out a foreign nation over a cybercrime of this magnitude should never have been undertaken on such weak evidence.”

Earlier this week, the NYT‘s Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan, chided the paper’s original article on the Sony hack, noting – with understatement – that “there’s little skepticism in this article.” Sullivan added that the paper’s granting of anonymity to administration officials to make the accusation yet again violated the paper’s own supposed policy on anonymity, a policy touted by the paper as a redress for the debacle over its laundering of false claims about Iraqi WMDs from anonymous officials. But – especially after that first NYT article, and even more so after Obama’s press conference – the overwhelming narrative disseminated by the U.S. media was clear: North Korea was responsible for the hack, because the government said it was.That kind of reflexive embrace of government claims is journalistically inexcusable in all cases, for reasons that should be self-evident. But in this case, it’s truly dangerous.

It was predictable in the extreme that – even beyond the familiar neocon war-lovers – the accusation against North Korea would be exploited to justify yet more acts of U.S. aggression. In one typical example, the Boston Globe quoted George Mason University School of Law assistant dean Richard Kelsey calling the cyber-attack an “act of war,” one “requiring an aggressive response from the United States.” He added: “This is a new battlefield, and the North Koreans have just fired the first flare.” The paper’s own writer, Hiawatha Bray, explained that “hackers allegedly backed by the impoverished, backward nation of North Korea have terrorized one of the world’s richest corporation” and approvingly cited Newt Gingrich as saying: “With the Sony collapse America has lost its first cyberwar.”

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“.. the hospital was unable to obtain ZMapp, the drug used to treat fellow British volunteer nurse William Pooley, because “there is none in the world at the moment ..”

UK Ebola Patient Zero In Critical Condition (FT)

The condition of Pauline Cafferkey, a Scottish nurse who this week became the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola on UK soil, has deteriorated and is now critical, the Royal Free Hospital said on Saturday, as it emerged that another patient had tested negative for the deadly virus at a hospital in Swindon The 39-year-old’s sudden change in condition comes after her doctor described her as sitting up, eating, drinking and communicating with her family on New Year’s Day. Michael Jacobs, one of the medics treating her, warned that she faced a “critical” few days while she was treated with the blood from a survivor and an experimental antiviral drug which is “not proven to work.” Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said on Sunday that an individual with a history of travel to west Africa had tested negative for Ebola but remained under observation at the hospital.

“The test results have come back negative. The patient is continuing to stay within the hospital for treatment,” the trust said. Ms Cafferkey was initially admitted to a hospital in Glasgow, the city in which she works as part of a public health team, after she returned from west Africa having flown via Morocco to London’s Heathrow airport. As her condition worsened she was transferred to an isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, north London. However, the hospital was unable to obtain ZMapp, the drug used to treat fellow British volunteer nurse William Pooley, because “there is none in the world at the moment,” Dr Jacobs said. Mr Pooley, who was also treated at the Royal Free, made a full recovery and has since returned to Sierra Leone to continue treating those affected by the virus.

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Too good to be true?

Scientists Target ‘Universal’ Protein To Treat Brain Cancer And Ebola (RT)

US researchers have identified a protein, which they believe is a universal therapeutic target for treating a number of deadly human diseases. They used a drug combination which included Viagra to effectively target the protein. Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) have figured out a protein – GRP78 – that may be a possible target to rid humans of such viral and bacterial infections as Ebola, Influenza and Hepatitis, as well as be a way to cure brain cancer. The pre-clinical study which was led by the US University, and published in the Journal of Cellular Physiology, used a drug combination – with Viagra being one of its elements – to target GRP78 and related proteins. As a result, researchers managed to prevent replication of a variety of major viruses in infected cells, and made some antibiotic-resistant bacteria vulnerable to common antibiotics. Evidence that brain cancer stem cells were killed was also found.

“Basically, we’ve got a concept that by attacking GRP78 and related proteins: (a) we hurt cancer cells; (b) we inhibit the ability of viruses to infect and to reproduce; and (c) we are able to kill superbug antibiotic-resistant bacteria,” said the study’s lead investigator, Paul Dent. After studying the effect in cancer cells, the researchers applied the same drug combination to target the protein for infectious diseases. Viral receptor expression on the surface of target cells was reduced, which decreased infectivity, and replication of a virus in infected cells was also prevented. By proving GRP78 to be a “drugable” target, researchers say the findings open new possibilities in treating various viral infections – “that certainly most people would say we’ll never be able to treat.” According to Dent, scientists already know that in mice the same Viagra treatment can kill tumor cells without harming other tissues, and the next steps in further discovering the possibilities of the method have already been taken.

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How to make me sad on a Monday morning.

13 Species We Might Have To Say Goodbye To In 2015 (GlobalPost)

British broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough once asked: “Are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book?” This year marked the 100th anniversary of the death of the last passenger pigeon, Martha, who managed to survive only 14 years in captivity after her species became extinct in the wild. More recently, Angalifu, a 44-year-old northern white rhinoceros, died at the San Diego Zoo, leaving just five other white rhinos worldwide, all in captivity. Chances are our grandchildren will never get to see this remarkable creature. In fact, the world is losing dozens of species every day in what experts are calling the sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history.

As many as 30 to 50% of all species are moving toward extinction by mid-century – and the blame sits squarely on our shoulders. “Habitat destruction, pollution or overfishing either kills off wild creatures and plants or leaves them badly weakened,” said Derek Tittensor, a marine ecologist at the World Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge. “The trouble is that in coming decades, the additional threat of worsening climate change will become more and more pronounced and could then kill off these survivors.” About 190 nations met last month at the United Nations climate talks in Lima, Peru to discuss action needed to curb rising greenhouse gas emissions. It ended with a watered-down agreement that seems unlikely to help much in the battle against global warming.

Corruption and illegal online trafficking also threaten conservation efforts. The illegal wildlife trade is an estimated $10-billion-a-year industry. It’s the fifth largest contraband trade after narcotics, fueled by the rising demand for animals as pets, trophies, and ingredients in medicine, food and other products. There’s no doubt that we’re facing an uphill battle against mankind’s unsustainable greed and consumption, but it’s a battle we can’t afford to lose. “The thought of having to explain to my children that there were once tigers — real, wild tigers, out there, in the great forests of the world – but that we let them die out, because we were busy – well, it was bad enough explaining about the Tooth Fairy, and that wasn’t even my fault,” said English comedian Simon Evans.

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Yikes!

Earth’s Magnetic Field Now Flips More Often Than Ever (BBC)

The Earth’s magnetic field, which protects us from potentially dangerous solar radiation, is gradually losing its stability. No need to move underground or build space colonies just yet, though: the changes are taking place over millions of years. You might assume that compasses will always point north, but in fact the magnetic poles have swapped places many times in the Earth’s history. Earth scientists have long suspected that these flips are becoming more frequent, and that the magnetic field was less prone to pole reversals in the distant past. Now the most detailed analysis of the geological evidence to date suggests that the field really is slowly destabilising. Whereas in the distant past it reversed direction every 5 million years, it now does so every 200,000 years.

Earth’s magnetic field is powered by the heart of the planet. At its centre is a solid inner core surrounded by a fluid outer core, which is hotter at the bottom. Hot iron rises within the outer core, then cools and sinks. These convection currents, combined with the rotation of the Earth, are thought to generate a “geodynamo” that powers the magnetic field. Because of changing temperatures and fluid flows, the strength of the magnetic field varies, and the positions of the north and south magnetic poles shift. These shifts leave traces in rocks. When lava cools, metal oxide particles within the rock become frozen in the direction of the prevailing magnetic field. So scientists can work out the historic positions of the magnetic poles by examining and dating lava samples. As a result we know there have been about 170 magnetic pole reversals during the last 100 million years, and that the last major reversal was 781,000 years ago.

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