May 212020
 


Charles Camoin Village Street in Collioure 1912

 

Don’t Count On Vaccine, US Scientist Warns (G.)
42% Of Recent US Layoffs To Result In Permanent Job Loss – Study (Y!)
Sweden Had Highest Coronavirus Death Rate Per Capita In Last Week (Tel.)
YouTube Censors Video In Which Medical Doctors Said HCQ Might Help (JTN)
Media Matters and its Propaganda About Hydroxycholoroquine (Attkisson)
Apple-Google Contact Tracing Tech Draws Interest In 23 Countries (R.)
Andrew Cuomo’s No Hero. He’s To Blame For New York Coronavirus Catastrophe (G.)
Senate Passes Bill On Oversight Of Chinese Companies (CNBC)
First as Tragedy, Then as Farce: The Collapse of the Sanders Campaign (AA)
Another Bank Bailout Under Cover of a Virus (Ellen Brown)
Turn Out the Lights, Russiagate is Over (Ray McGovern)
US Supreme Court Blocks Disclosure Of Mueller Grand Jury Material (R.)
FBI Offered To Pay Steele ‘Significantly’ To Dig Up Dirt On Michael Flynn (DC)
Susan Rice Email Confirms Flynn Was Targeted In Oval Office Meeting (Fed.)
Judge Orders Attorney Steven Donziger Under House Arrest Until September (IC)

 

 

• US 21,173 new cases in past 24 hrs

• Brazil 21,472 new cases, will overtake Russia for no. 2 spot this week

• Globally, over 100,000 new cases, a new record.

The virus is spreading, and often to vulnerable areas. India, Peru, Pakistan, Chile. Rising deaths numbers to follow, if properly reported

 

 

https://twitter.com/i/status/1263196507169316864

 

 

 

Cases 5,108,869 (+ 102,194 from yesterday’s 5,006,675)

Deaths 330,082 (+ 4,762 from yesterday’s 325,320)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

“Do not listen to the politicians who say we’re going to have one by the time my re-election comes around..”

Don’t Count On Vaccine, US Scientist Warns (G.)

A top US scientist has said that people should not count on a Covid-19 vaccine being developed any time soon, as global infections passed 5 million after surges in Latin America, including Brazil, which has recorded nearly 20,000 new cases. William Haseltine, the groundbreaking cancer, HIV/AIDS and human genome projects researcher, has said the best approach to the pandemic is to manage the disease through careful tracing of infections and strict isolation measures whenever it starts spreading. He said that while a vaccine could be developed, “I wouldn’t count on it”, and urged people to wear masks, wash hands, clean surfaces and keep a distance. “Do not listen to the politicians who say we’re going to have one by the time my re election comes around,” he said.


“Maybe we will (but) I’m just saying it’s not a slam-dunk case by any means … because every time people have tried to make a vaccine – for Sars or Mers – it hasn’t actually protected.” Vaccines developed previously for other types of coronavirus had failed to protect mucous membranes in the nose where the virus typically enters the body, he said. The United States and other countries has not done enough to “forcibly isolate” people exposed to the virus, Haseltine said, but praised China, South Korea and Taiwan’s efforts to curb infections. Haseltine said the US, Russia and Brazil – which rank first, second and third for infections – have done the worst. As global infections passed 5 million, Brazil reported a record 19,951 cases on Wednesday, according to the ministry of health, taking total infections to 291,579.

Read more …

Why bailing out businesses is a bad idea.

42% Of Recent US Layoffs To Result In Permanent Job Loss – Study (Y!)

Permanent job losses are likely to be a feature of the eventual U.S. recovery, according to University of Chicago research, which estimates that 42% of recently unemployed workers will not return to their jobs amid the “profound” shock stemming from coronavirus lockdowns. The pandemic has taken a brutal toll on the world’s largest economy, with at least 36 million people thrown out of work over the last two months. With states gradually relaxing restrictions that have shut down businesses and locked workers at home, economists are forecasting at least some of those employers could rehire laid off workers. However, researchers at the U of C’s Becker Institute for Economics have painted a dour picture of the labor market reallocating those lost positions.

Calling the crisis a “major reallocation shock” across all major economic sectors, the authors found that for every 10 coronavirus-induced job losses, only 3 were created. Some employers — primarily Amazon and Walmart — have hired en masse to deal with temporary demand spikes, yet the Chicago study suggests positions created during the COVID-19 crisis are unlikely to offset the labor market’s extreme bloodletting. The lockdowns have cratered activity in an economy that consists of 70% consumer spending, while undoing all of the jobs created since the great recession ended. “Even if medical advances or natural forces bring an early resolution to the crisis, many pandemic-induced shifts in consumer demand and business practices will persist,” wrote [..] the study’s authors.

They cautioned that a litany of reasons — such as generous unemployment benefits that exceed their lost job earnings, policies to encourage companies to keep people on the payroll and other regulatory factors “will impede reallocation responses to the COVID-19 shock.” As a result, “much of the near-term reallocative impact of the pandemic will also persist, as indicated by our forward-looking reallocation measures,” they wrote, adding that “42 percent of recent layoffs will result in permanent job loss.” “If the pandemic and partial economic shutdown linger for many months, or if pandemics with serious health consequences and high mortality rates become a recurring phenomenon, there will be profound, long-term consequences for the reallocation of jobs, workers and capital across firms and locations,” the U of C’s researchers wrote.

Read more …

Nobody counts for just a week. But Sweden has major problems. Their numbers are going up, not down.

Sweden Had Highest Coronavirus Death Rate Per Capita In Last Week (Tel.)

Sweden has now overtaken the UK, Italy and Belgium to have the highest coronavirus per capita death rate in the world, throwing its decision to avoid a strict lockdown into further doubt. According to figures collated by the Our World in Data website, Sweden had 6.08 deaths per million inhabitants per day on a rolling seven-day average between May 13 and May 20. This is the highest in the world, above the UK, Belgium and the US, which have 5.57, 4.28 and 4.11 respectively. However, Sweden has only had the highest death rate over the past week, with Belgium, Spain, Italy, the UK and France, still ahead over the entire course of the pandemic. State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, the spokesman for Sweden’s outlier coronavirus strategy, dismissed the figures on Tuesday night, arguing that it was misleading to focus on the death toll over a single week….

Read more …

We were having a discussion in the Comments at the Automatic Earth the other day, specifically about “hemolytic anemia in people with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency”, a problem linked to Chloroquine (CQ), but not Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ). 400 million people worldwide, and 1 in 10 African-American males in the U.S have G6PD deficiency.

It was mentioned that the closely related primaquine (not chloroquine) appears to be the drug of choice to fight malaria worldwide, and that primaquine also is problematic for G6PD-deficient patients. Though the numbers don’t reflect that: “In six decades of primaquine use in approximately 200 million people, 14 deaths have been reported.” Not a big issue. If that is what is meant by the danger imposed by hydroxychloroquine, I’ll take it.

And there was this curious line: “G6PD deficiency provides great protection from malaria infection, especially for falciparum infections. On the other hand, G6PD deficiency has been recently demonstrated to cause serious problems in fighting against malaria.

YouTube Censors Video In Which Medical Doctors Said HCQ Might Help (JTN)

YouTube on Wednesday reinstated a video it has previously censored in which several medical doctors suggested that the drug hydroxychloroquine might be useful in treating coronavirus, with the company reportedly claiming at the time of censorship that the presentation was “dangerous.” The video report, presented by Sharyl Attkisson at Full Measure News, examined the possible benefits of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19 and the possible financial interest some parties have in downplaying the drug and promoting a separate treatment called remdesivir. One of the doctors interviewed in the video, William O’Neill, tells Attkisson, also a Just the News contributor, that there is “some value” to hydroxychloroquine and “it has to be tested.”

O’Neill, a cardiologist in Detroit, has prescribed the drug to multiple patients and “saw improvement in all of them,” Attkisson reported. At the Henry Ford Health System, where O’Neill works, officials are working with hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir. The doctor said the media campaign against the drug, which began around the time President Trump first started touting it, has left patients “scared to use the drug without any scientifically valid concern.” “We’ve talked with our colleagues at the University of Minnesota who are doing a similar study, and at the University of Washington,” he said. “We’ve treated 400 patients and haven’t seen a single adverse event. And what’s happening is because of this fake news and fake science, the true scientific efforts are being harmed because people now are so worried that they don’t want to enroll in the trials.”

Another physician, Dr. Jane Orient, the executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons as well as a clinical lecturer at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, urged viewers to “look at the money” when it comes to the two drugs. “There’s no big profits made in hydroxychloroquine,” said Orient. “It’s very cheap, easy to manufacture, been around for 70 years. It’s generic. Remdesivir is a new drug that could be very expensive and very lucrative if it’s ever approved. So I think we really do have to consider there’s some financial interest involved here.” Sharyl Attkisson on Wednesday afternoon told Just the News that it wasn’t immediately clear when the video was removed

It was originally uploaded to YouTube two days ago. Attkisson said YouTube had removed the presentation with a note claiming that it was “dangerous,” without offering any explanation as to why. She said Full Measure News appealed the removal, after which YouTube subsequently reinstated it. Attkisson cited a critical report by Media Matters, published the same day as her report, as the likely cause of the removal. “These are organized efforts,” she said, arguing that politically biased parties are behind efforts to remove or censor contrarian information on social media. “They know they can use these systems to limit information. It’s very frightening because I feel like if something’s not done, in five years, we’re going to be telling our kids, ‘There was once a time we could get any information we wanted on the Internet.’ That’s changing. We can’t anymore.”

She noted recent efforts by Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, to pressure social media companies to censor and downgrade “harmful” coronavirus-related material and push users instead toward information from the World Health Organization. “I don’t know why we’re allowing this,” Attkisson said. “Nobody appointed Adam Schiff to police our content on social media.”

Read more …

Sharyl Attkisson also has some personal pain.

Media Matters and its Propaganda About Hydroxycholoroquine (Attkisson)

For most thinking Americans, it is unnecessary to bother to fact check the propaganda group Media Matters. If they have heard of Media Matters at all, they typically understand it’s a smear group funded by donors with political and corporate interests whose names are kept secret. (The last big Media Matters donor whose name was publicly revealed years ago was that of liberal billionaire activist George Soros.) The problem is, too many news organizations and even journalism groups such as Poynter use Media Matters and their affiliates as if they are legitimate news sources. They are either unforgviably ignorant of Media Matters’ slants— or choose to keep readers in the dark because they agree with the slant. One major interest Media Matters and its affiliates have served over the years is that of the pharmaceutical industry. They often smear scientists and journalists who report on prescription drug and vaccine safety issues, falsely labelling them as “anti-vaccine.”


The segment mentioned both positive and negative scientific findings about hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir. It did not attempt to take a comprehensive look at all of the studies underway or completed (there are hundreds); or their methodology, limits and criticism. It was to show that some well regarded, peer-reviewed, independent, published scientists who are actually studying hydroxychloroquine, and have no financial connections to the makers of the drug, have a different opinion than what has been widely presented in the media. It was also to show that the government, academic institutions and hospitals are actively studying hydroxycholorquine as both a preventive agent and treatment for coronavirus. Further, the esteemed scientists consulted do not agree with Media Matters’ spin on the topic, and it is their prerogative to present their scientific opinion. It’s important to hear from scientists who hold differing views on matters of public health importance.

Read more …

It can be done safely, but will it?

Apple-Google Contact Tracing Tech Draws Interest In 23 Countries (R.)

Authorities in 23 countries across five continents have sought access to contact tracing technology from Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google, the companies announced on Wednesday as they released the initial version of their system. But authorities would have to stop requiring phone numbers from users under the companies’ rules, one of several restrictions that have left governments fighting the novel coronavirus frustrated that the world’s top two smartphone software makers undercut the technology’s usefulness by prioritizing user privacy. Apple and Google said several U.S. states and 22 countries have sought access to their technology, but it is unclear how many will end up publishing mobile apps that use it.

Using apps to accelerate contact tracing, in which authorities identify and test people who were recently near a virus carrier, has emerged as a tool to stem new outbreaks. It could help authorities test more potentially infected individuals than they would normally be able to based on patients recalling recent interactions from memory. But some governments contend their app-based efforts would be more effective if they could track users’ locations to identify hot spots for virus transmission and notify them about possible exposure through calls or texts, rather than a generic push notification. Apple and Google have barred authorities using their technology from collecting GPS location data or requiring users to enter personal data.

“We have a collision of tech, privacy and health professionals and the Venn diagram doesn’t really have a spot where they all overlap,” said Chester Wisniewski, a principal research scientist at cybersecurity company Sophos. Australia, the United Kingdom and other countries that have sought to develop their own technology are experiencing glitches, draining device batteries and seeing limited adoption. Apple and Google have said their system will more reliably use Bluetooth connections between devices to log users who are in physical proximity for at least five minutes.

Read more …

You can say this about almost every “leader”. Incompetence.

Andrew Cuomo’s No Hero. He’s To Blame For New York Coronavirus Catastrophe (G.)

Andrew Cuomo may be the most popular politician in the country. His approval ratings have hit all-time highs thanks to his Covid-19 response. Some Democrats have discussed him as a possible replacement for Joe Biden, due to Biden’s perceived weakness as a nominee. And there have even been some unfortunate tributes to Cuomo’s alleged sex appeal. All of which is bizarre, because Cuomo should be one of the most loathed officials in America right now. ProPublica recently released a report outlining catastrophic missteps by Cuomo and the New York City mayor, Bill de Blasio, which probably resulted in many thousands of needless coronavirus cases. ProPublica offers some appalling numbers contrasting what happened in New York with the outbreak in California.

By mid-May, New York City alone had almost 20,000 deaths, while in San Francisco there had been only 35, and New York state as a whole suffered 10 times as many deaths as California. Federal failures played a role, of course, but this tragedy was absolutely due, in part, to decisions by the governor. Cuomo initially “reacted to De Blasio’s idea for closing down New York City with derision”, saying it “was dangerous” and “served only to scare people”. He said the “seasonal flu was a graver worry”. A spokesperson for Cuomo “refused to say if the governor had ever read the state’s pandemic plan”. Later, Cuomo would blame the press, including the New York Times for failing to say “Be careful, there’s a virus in China that may be in the United States?” even though the Times wrote nearly 500 stories on the virus before the state acted.

Experts told ProPublica that “had New York imposed its extreme social distancing measures a week or two earlier, the death toll might have been cut by half or more”. But delay was not the only screw-up. Elderly prisoners have died of coronavirus because New York has failed to act on their medical parole requests. As Business Insider documented: “Testing was slow. Nonprofit social-service agencies that serve the most vulnerable couldn’t get answers either. And medical experts like the former CDC director Tom Frieden said ‘so many deaths could have been prevented’ had New York issued its stay-at-home order just ‘days earlier’ than it did. On March 19, when New York’s schools had already been closed, Cuomo said ‘in many ways, the fear is more dangerous than the virus.’”

Read more …

Keeping China out of the US.

Senate Passes Bill On Oversight Of Chinese Companies (CNBC)

The Senate passed legislation on Wednesday that could ban many Chinese companies from listing shares on U.S. exchanges or raising money from American investors without adhering to Washington’s regulatory and audit standards. The bill, sponsored by Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy, would require companies to certify that “they are not owned or controlled by a foreign government.” Alibaba, an e-commerce giant based in China, saw its U.S.-listed shares fall more than 2% on the news. Though the law could be applied to any foreign company that seeks access to U.S. capital, lawmakers say the move to strengthen disclosure requirements is aimed principally at Beijing.


“The Chinese Communist Party cheats, and the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act would stop them from cheating on U.S. stock exchanges,” Kennedy, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, wrote Tuesday afternoon on Twitter. “We can’t let foreign threats to Americans’ retirement funds take root in our exchanges.” Specifically, the statute would require a foreign company to certify it’s not owned or manipulated by a foreign government if the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board is unable to audit specified reports because the company uses a foreign accounting firm not subject to inspection by the board. If the board is unable to inspect the company’s accounting firm for three consecutive years, the issuer’s securities are banned from trade on a national exchange.

Read more …

Things are leaking from inside the campaign, in particular accusations that Bernie was taking money from rich people. I stopped being interested when he sold out his small donors a second time.

First as Tragedy, Then as Farce: The Collapse of the Sanders Campaign (AA)

The Warren rationalization also raises the question of why so many pro-Bernie commentators and publications were writing pro-Warren commentary until just a few months ago, with many of them even condemning her left-wing critics as toxic before moving in lockstep against her when it was too late. Notably, these same publications and personalities were ruthlessly hostile toward Tulsi Gabbard – a relatively minor candidate electorally speaking, but one who actually defended Sanders at critical junctures, including when he was under attack by Warren. After Liz ambushed Bernie with a far-fetched story purporting to cast him as a malevolent sexist, it was Tulsi who rose to his defense. (Sanders advisers eventually admitted that the sexism attack “inflicted permanent damage” on his candidacy.)


And when Warren mused that it might, after all, be just fine for superdelegates to thwart Sanders’s nomination even if he entered the convention with the most pledged delegates, Gabbard was the only other candidate to object. And when Sanders permitted himself to be “Russiagated” in the critical period before the South Carolina primary – appearing to accept the nonsensical premise of a Washington Post article alleging that the all-powerful Vladimir Putin was once again “interfering” in U.S. democracy, this time on Sanders’s behalf – it again fell to Gabbard to defend him more vigorously than even Sanders chose to defend himself

Read more …

Was there a problem for the banks already when the bailout was given? What will happen when people stop paying their mortgages and car loans? Endless bailouts?

Another Bank Bailout Under Cover of a Virus (Ellen Brown)

In March 2020, under cover of a national crisis, the Fed therefore flung the doors open to its discount window, where only banks could borrow. Previously, banks were reluctant to apply there because the interest was at a penalty rate and carried a stigma, signaling that the bank must be in distress. But that concern was eliminated when the Fed announced in a March 15 press release that the interest rate had been dropped to 0.25% (virtually zero). The reserve requirement was also eliminated, the capital requirement was relaxed, and all banks in good standing were offered loans of up to 90 days, “renewable on a daily basis.” The loans could be continually rolled over, and no strings were attached to this interest-free money – no obligation to lend to small businesses, reduce credit card rates, or write down underwater mortgages. Even J.P. Morgan Chase, the country’s largest bank, has acknowledged borrowing at the Fed’s discount window for super cheap loans.


The Fed’s scheme worked, and demand for repo loans plummeted. But unlike in Canada, where big banks slashed their credit card interest rates to help relieve borrowers during the COVID-19 crisis, US banks did not share this windfall with the public. Canadian interest rates were cut by half, from 21% to 11%; but US credit card rates dropped in April only by half a percentage point, to 20.15%. The giant Wall Street banks continued to favor their largest clients, doling out CARES Act benefits to them first, emptying the trough before many smaller businesses could drink there. In 1969, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi nationalized 14 of India’s largest banks, not because they were bankrupt (the usual justification today) but to ensure that credit would be allocated according to planned priorities, including getting banks into rural areas and making cheap financing available to Indian farmers. Congress could do the same today, but the odds are it won’t. As Sen. Dick Durbin said in 2009, “the banks … are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place.”

Read more …

Somehow I doubt it.

Turn Out the Lights, Russiagate is Over (Ray McGovern)

Given the diffident attitude the Security State plotters adopted regarding hiding their tracks, Durham’s challenge, with subpoena power, is not as formidable as were he, for example, investigating a Mafia family. Plus, former NSA Director Adm. Michael S. Rogers reportedly is cooperating. The handwriting is on the wall. It remains to be seen what kind of role in the scandal Barack Obama may have played. But former directors James Comey, James Clapper, and John Brennan, captains of Obama’s Security State, can take little solace from Barr’s remarks Monday to a reporter who asked about Trump’s recent claims that top officials of the Obama administration, including the former president had committed crimes. Barr replied:

“As to President Obama and Vice President Biden, whatever their level of involvement, based on the information I have today, I don’t expect Mr. Durham’s work will lead to a criminal investigation of either man. Our concerns over potential criminality is focused on others.” In a more ominous vein, Barr gratuitously added that law enforcement and intelligence officials were involved in “a false and utterly baseless Russian collusion narrative against the president. It was a grave injustice, and it was unprecedented in American history.” Meanwhile, the corporate media have all been singing from the same sheet since Trump had the audacity a week ago to coin yet another “-gate” — this time “Obamagate.” Leading the apoplectic reaction in corporate media, Saturday’s Washington Post offered a pot-calling-the-kettle-black pronouncement by its editorial board entitled “The absurd cynicism of ‘Obamagate”?

The outrage voiced by the Post called to mind disgraced FBI agent Peter Strzok’s indignant response to criticism of the FBI by candidate Trump, in a Oct. 20, 2016 text exchange with FBI attorney Lisa Page: Strzok: I am riled up. Trump is a f***ing idiot, is unable to provide a coherent answer. Strzok – I CAN’T PULL AWAY, WHAT THE F**K HAPPENED TO OUR COUNTRY … Page– I don’t know. But we’ll get it back. We’re America. We rock. Strzok– Donald just said “bad hombres” Strzok– Trump just said what the FBI did is disgraceful.

Read more …

Endless regurgitation.

US Supreme Court Blocks Disclosure Of Mueller Grand Jury Material (R.)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday blocked the disclosure to a Democratic-led House of Representatives committee of grand jury material redacted by President Donald Trump’s administration from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report documenting Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. In a brief order, the justices put on hold a March ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that the material must be disclosed to lawmakers. The order gave the administration until June 1 to formally appeal that ruling, meaning that if the justices decide to hear the case a final resolution may not be reached until after the Nov. 3 election in which the Republican president is seeking a second four-year term.


If the justices refuse to hear the appeal, the materials would need to be handed over. Mueller submitted his report to U.S. Attorney General William Barr in March 2019 after a 22-month investigation that detailed Russian hacking and propaganda efforts to boost Trump’s candidacy as well as multiple contacts between Trump’s campaign and Moscow. Barr, a Trump appointee who Democrats have accused of trying to protect the president politically, released the 448-page report in April 2019 with some parts redacted. Some Democrats have expressed concern that Barr used the redaction process to keep potentially damaging information about Trump secret.

Read more …

Time for Durham.

FBI Offered To Pay Steele ‘Significantly’ To Dig Up Dirt On Michael Flynn (DC)

An FBI offer to pay former British spy Christopher Steele to collect intelligence on Michael Flynn in the weeks before the 2016 election has been one of the more overlooked revelations in a Justice Department inspector general’s report released in December. The reference to the FBI proposal, which was made in an Oct. 3, 2016, meeting in an unidentified European city, has received virtually no press attention. But it might have new significance following the recent release of government documents that show that Steele peddled an unfounded rumor that Flynn had an extramarital affair with a Russian woman in the United Kingdom. It is not clear how and when Steele came across the rumor, or if it was the result of the FBI asking him to look into Flynn.

The inspector general’s report, released on Dec. 9, 2019, said that FBI agents offered to pay Steele “significantly” to collect intelligence from three separate “buckets” that the bureau was pursuing as part of Crossfire Hurricane, its counterintelligence probe of four Trump campaign associates. One bucket was “Additional intelligence/reporting on specific, named individuals (such as [Carter Page] or [Flynn]) involved in facilitating the Trump campaign-Russian relationship,” the IG report stated. FBI agents also sought contact with “any individuals or sub sources” who Steele could provide to “serve as cooperating witnesses to assist in identifying persons involved in the Trump campaign-Russian relationship.”

Steele at the time had provided the FBI with reports he compiled alleging that members of the Trump campaign had conspired with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election. An FBI agent provided Steele with a “general overview” of the ongoing Crossfire Hurricane probe, according to the IG report. The agent told Steele about the actions of George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign aide, and said the FBI had undertaken a “small analytical effort” that centered on Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Flynn. Some FBI agents who attended the meeting questioned whether the lead agent had disclosed too much to Steele about Crossfire Hurricane, according to the IG report.

[..] In the FBI memo, the Washington Field Office proposed closing a counterintelligence investigation of Flynn because investigators found no evidence that he was acting as an agent of Russia. Peter Strzok, the deputy chief of counterintelligence, intervened at the last minute to keep the investigation open after the FBI obtained a transcript of Flynn’s phone calls in late December 2016 with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Strzok helped set the “primary objectives” for the FBI meeting with Steele in October 2016, the IG report also stated.

Read more …

The story that will compete with corona this summer.

Susan Rice Email Confirms Flynn Was Targeted In Oval Office Meeting (Fed.)

Michael Flynn was personally targeted during a crucial Jan. 5, 2017 Oval Office meeting arranged by then-President Barack Obama, a newly declassified document shows. On Jan. 20, 2017, as President Donald Trump was being inaugurated, former White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice sent herself a bizarre email detailing the Jan. 5 meeting between her, Obama, then-Vice President Joe Biden, then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, and fired former Federal Bureau of Investigations Director James Comey. In the email, portions of which were not declassified until recently, Rice recorded that Flynn, who at the time was the incoming national security adviser for Trump, was personally discussed and targeted during the meeting with Obama.

“From a national security perspective, President Obama said he wants to be sure that, as we engage with the incoming team, we are mindful to ascertain if there is any reason we cannot share information fully as it relates to Russia.” At the time, the Obama administration was actively spying on members of the Trump team as part of its Crossfire Hurricane investigation against Trump. “Comey said he does have some concerns that incoming NSA Flynn is speaking frequently with Russian Ambassador Kislyak,” Rice wrote in a portion of the email that was only recently declassified. “Comey said that could be an issue as it relates to sharing sensitive information.”

“President Obama asked if Comey was saying the NSC should not pass sensitive information related to Russia to Flynn,” Rice continued. “Comey replied ‘potentially.’” “[Comey] added that he has no indication thus far that Flynn has passed classified information to Kislyak, but he noted that ‘the level of communication is unusual.’” The email did not explain how it would be “unusual” for an incoming national security adviser to converse with foreign leaders ahead of a new president’s inauguration.

Read more …

Almost as insane as the Assange tale. He got a $9.5 billion verdict against Chevron. Then they went after him.

Judge Orders Attorney Steven Donziger Under House Arrest Until September (IC)

A federal judge ruled this week that environmental attorney Steven Donziger must remain on house arrest until September. The decision means that by the time his trial begins, Donziger, who represented Indigenous people and farmers in a decadeslong legal battle against Chevron and has been confined to his Manhattan apartment and required to wear an electronic ankle monitor since August, will have spent 13 months in home detention awaiting trial on charges that carry a maximum sentence of six months. In a telephone conference on Monday, District Judge Loretta A. Preska said that the trial of Donziger on contempt of court charges stemming from his refusal to give his cellphone and computer to the court will be delayed until September 13 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

While Donziger’s attorneys requested that he be released from home confinement until then, Preska said that she believed the lawyer was a flight risk and must continue to remain confined to his home. In another significant setback for Donziger, who has been the target of an aggressive legal attack from Chevron after winning a $9.5 billion judgment against the company over environmental devastation in Ecuador, Preska also decided that the attorney was not entitled to a jury trial. While the judge had already denied Donziger’s motion requesting a jury trial in a May 7 hearing, in the phone conference this week, one of his attorneys, Andrew Frisch, said that he believed her earlier ruling had left open the possibility that Donziger could face a penalty of more than six months in prison, which would have entitled him to have his case heard by a jury. But during the phone conference, Preska made it clear that that was not the case.

It is not the first time that Donziger has tried — and failed — to get his case heard by his peers. In 2007, after Donziger and other attorneys sued Chevron over water and soil contamination resulting from oil drilling in the Lago Agrio region of Ecuador, the company successfully moved to have the case heard in the Ecuadorian courts, which don’t hold jury trials. And in 2011, after Donziger’s team won an $18 billion judgment from Chevron (an award that was later reduced to $9.5 billion), Chevron filed a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO, suit against Donziger. Although the company initially sought significant financial damages in that case, which would have entitled Donziger to a jury trial, the company dismissed the monetary claims weeks before the trial and Donziger again faced trial without a jury. Instead, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who decided the RICO case, found that the judgment against Chevron had been the result of fraud.

Read more …

We try to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. Since their revenue has collapsed, ads no longer pay for all you read, and your support is now an integral part of the interaction.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Apr 232020
 


Jack Delano Union Station, Chicago, Illinois 1943

 

Not a Black Swan but a Portent of a More Fragile Global System – Taleb (NYer)
Coronavirus Started Spreading In US Much Earlier Than Thought (CoD)
Coronavirus Study Points To Vast Number Of Cases Under Radar In China (SCMP)
How Does Coronavirus Kill? (ScienceMag)
Many Small Businesses Say Loans Won’t Get Them To Rehire (AP)
Congressional Democrats Do Little To Improve ‘Pathetic’ Coronavirus Deal (IC)
Trump Disagrees ‘Strongly’ With Georgia Reopening Shops (JTN)
HHS Secretary Alex Azar Waited For Weeks To Brief Trump (WSJ)
Azar Tapped Former Labradoodle Breeder To Lead US Pandemic Task Force (R.)
Cuomo Taps Bloomberg To Lead COVID-19 Contact “Tracing Army” (Gothamist)
Turkey PPE Supplier Doesn’t Have Enough Stock To Meet UK Order (Sky)
Coronavirus Upends Global Narcotics Trade (R.)
The Analogy Trap in Economic Policy (Eichengreen)
New York Times Revives its Role in Chinagate (Lauria)

 

 

• The US had +2,341 new deaths from coronavirus today, down from its record high yesterday, bringing the total US death toll to 47,659.

• New York had +661 new deaths, while New Jersey had +310, Massachusetts had +221, and three other states (CA, MI, CT) had over 100 new deaths. Only five states did not have a coronavirus death today.

• The US had nearly +30k new confirmed cases today, bringing the total to over 848k, with over 717k active cases.

 

• US total cases currently at 848,735, with death totals at 47,663.
• Globally, total cases have hit 2,637,414, with death totals at 184,204.

 

• US yesterday new 25,985, today now 27,948.
• IL, CT today exceed 2,000

 

• Spain yesterday 3,968, today 4,211. Fluctuating. No daily testing data

 

• 4/22/20 – Top 12 State Cases
New York: 257,216
New Jersey: 95,865
Massachusetts: 42,944
California: 35,396
Illinois: 35,108
Pennsylvania: 35,045
Michigan: 33,966
Florida: 28,309
Louisiana: 25,258
Connecticut: 22,469
Texas: 21,069
Georgia: 20,740

 

 

#Coronavirus: Global #Covid19 Deaths By Week
01/22: 17
01/29: 133
02/05: 564
02/12: 1,118
02/19: 2,122
02/26: 2,770
03/04: 3,254
03/11: 4,615
03/18: 8,733
03/25: 21,181
04/01: 46,809
04/08: 88,338
04/15: 134,177
04/22: 183,027

 

 

Cases 2,656,391 (+ 82,920 from yesterday’s 2,573,471)

Deaths 185,156 (+ 6,598 from yesterday’s 178,558)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer – NOTE: among Active Cases, Serious or Critical fell to 3%. Among Closed Cases, Deaths have fallen to 20%

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live: Note: Turkey, Russia, UK are the biggest risers

 

 

 

 

“The state,” he told me, “should not smooth out your life, like a Lebanese mother, but should be there for intervention in negative times, like a rich Lebanese uncle.”

Not a Black Swan but a Portent of a More Fragile Global System – Taleb (NYer)

COVID19 has initiated ordinary citizens into the esoteric “mayhem” that Taleb’s writings portend. Who knows what will change for countries when the pandemic ends? What we do know, Taleb says, is what cannot remain the same. He is “too much a cosmopolitan” to want global networks undone, even if they could be. But he does want the institutional equivalent of “circuit breakers, fail-safe protocols, and backup systems,” many of which he summarizes in his fourth, and favorite, book, “Antifragile,” published in 2012. For countries, he envisions political and economic principles that amount to an analogue of his investment strategy: government officials and corporate executives accepting what may seem like too-small gains from their investment dollars, while protecting themselves from catastrophic loss.

For Taleb, an antifragile country would encourage the distribution of power among smaller, more local, experimental, and self-sufficient entities—in short, build a system that could survive random stresses, rather than break under any particular one. (His word for this beneficial distribution is “fractal.”) We should discourage the concentration of power in big corporations, “including a severe restriction of lobbying,” Taleb told me. “When one per cent of the people have fifty per cent of the income, that is a fat tail.” Companies shouldn’t be able to make money from monopoly power, “from rent-seeking”—using that power not to build something but to extract an ever-larger part of the surplus.

There should be an expansion of the powers of state and even county governments, where there is “bottom-up” control and accountability. This could incubate new businesses and foster new education methods that emphasize “action learning and apprenticeship” over purely academic certification. He thinks that “we should have a national Entrepreneurship Day.” But Taleb doesn’t believe that the government should abandon citizens buffeted by events they can’t possibly anticipate or control. (He dedicated his book “Skin in the Game,” published in 2018, to Ron Paul and Ralph Nader.) “The state,” he told me, “should not smooth out your life, like a Lebanese mother, but should be there for intervention in negative times, like a rich Lebanese uncle.”

Right now, for example, the government should, indeed, be sending out checks to unemployed and gig workers. (“You don’t bail out companies, you bail out individuals.”) He would also consider a guaranteed basic income, much as Andrew Yang, whom he admires, has advocated. Crucially, the government should be an insurer of health care, though Taleb prefers not a centrally run Medicare-for-all system but one such as Canada’s, which is controlled by the provinces. And, like responsible supply-chain managers, the federal government should create buffers against public-health disasters: “If it can spend trillions stockpiling nuclear weapons, it ought to spend tens of billions stockpiling ventilators and testing kits.”

Read more …

This was a given.

Coronavirus Started Spreading In US Much Earlier Than Thought (CoD)

Experts have released new information about just how long the coronavirus (COVID-19) might have been silently spreading in the United States. Health officials in California said the first U.S. coronavirus deaths actually occurred weeks before they previously believed. This comes as no surprise to doctors. Many doctors had patients earlier on that they now believe were COVID-19 cases. But they didn’t qualify for testing at the time because they either didn’t have a history of travel to China or the didn’t have the initially reported symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. But now there’s concrete proof that the timeline of cases started much earlier.

The first confirmed case of the coronavirus in the U.S. came Jan. 21 in a man from Washington state who developed symptoms after returning from a trip to Wuhan, China. But the first confirmed death was thought to be more than a month later, on Feb. 29, in Kirkland, Washington. Health officials there later found two deaths on Feb. 26 were due to the virus, pushing the timeline back three days. But coroners across the country are now looking back at other deaths. The medial examiner in Santa Clara County, California, sent tissue samples collected during autopsies performed in February to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing.

Samples taken from patients who died at home on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17 both tested positive for the coronavirus. That pushes the fatality timeline back 20 days. Health officials believe the patients were infected in the community. Neither is known to have a travel history. Given that deaths tend to lag infections by about two weeks, the first patient could have been infected in mid-January. It’s likely the coronavirus was already spreading in the U.S. far earlier than initially reported — hidden in a bad flu season and undetected by rigid testing rules.

Read more …

So people will say: see, infection rate is much lower! Well, not if the death rate is also much higher. Which certainly in China is possible.

Coronavirus Study Points To Vast Number Of Cases Under Radar In China (SCMP)

China’s official tally of coronavirus cases could have quadrupled in mid-February if one broader system for classifying confirmed patients had been used from the outset of the pandemic, according to researchers at the University of Hong Kong. In a study published in the medical journal The Lancet on Tuesday, the researchers said China might have had 232,000 confirmed cases – rather than the official total of about 55,000 – by February 20 if a revised definition adopted earlier in the month had been applied throughout. “We estimated that there were at least 232,000 infections in the first epidemic wave of Covid-19 in mainland China,” they said, referring to the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“The true number of infections could still be higher than that currently estimated considering the possibility of under-detection of some infections, particularly those that were mild and asymptomatic, even under the broadest case definitions.” The researchers – led by Peng Wu from the University of Hong Kong’s school of public health – looked at the various classification systems used by the government after the epidemic erupted in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late December. China has published seven editions of diagnosis and treatment guidelines, changing the classification system as understanding of the disease developed. The Hong Kong team found that different definitions made a big difference to the number of cases.

“We estimated that when the case definitions were changed from version 1 to 2, version 2 to 4, and version 4 to 5, the proportion of infections being identified as Covid-19 cases was increased by 7.1 times from version 1 to 2, 2.8 times from version 2 to 4, and 4.2 times from version 4 to 5,” the paper, co-authored by Peng’s HKU colleagues epidemiologist Benjamin Cowling and medical faculty dean Gabriel Leung, said.

Read more …

Thorough report on how and why. But even then a lack of understanding of what the virus is, remains.

How Does Coronavirus Kill? (ScienceMag)

When an infected person expels virus-laden droplets and someone else inhales them, the novel coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2, enters the nose and throat. It finds a welcome home in the lining of the nose, according to a preprint from scientists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and elsewhere. They found that cells there are rich in a cell-surface receptor called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). Throughout the body, the presence of ACE2, which normally helps regulate blood pressure, marks tissues vulnerable to infection, because the virus requires that receptor to enter a cell. Once inside, the virus hijacks the cell’s machinery, making myriad copies of itself and invading new cells.

As the virus multiplies, an infected person may shed copious amounts of it, especially during the first week or so. Symptoms may be absent at this point. Or the virus’ new victim may develop a fever, dry cough, sore throat, loss of smell and taste, or head and body aches. If the immune system doesn’t beat back SARS-CoV-2 during this initial phase, the virus then marches down the windpipe to attack the lungs, where it can turn deadly. The thinner, distant branches of the lung’s respiratory tree end in tiny air sacs called alveoli, each lined by a single layer of cells that are also rich in ACE2 receptors.

Normally, oxygen crosses the alveoli into the capillaries, tiny blood vessels that lie beside the air sacs; the oxygen is then carried to the rest of the body. But as the immune system wars with the invader, the battle itself disrupts this healthy oxygen transfer. Front-line white blood cells release inflammatory molecules called chemokines, which in turn summon more immune cells that target and kill virus-infected cells, leaving a stew of fluid and dead cells—pus—behind. This is the underlying pathology of pneumonia, with its corresponding symptoms: coughing; fever; and rapid, shallow respiration. Some COVID-19 patients recover, sometimes with no more support than oxygen breathed in through nasal prongs.

But others deteriorate, often quite suddenly, developing a condition called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Oxygen levels in their blood plummet and they struggle ever harder to breathe. On x-rays and computed tomography scans, their lungs are riddled with white opacities where black space—air—should be. Commonly, these patients end up on ventilators. Many die. Autopsies show their alveoli became stuffed with fluid, white blood cells, mucus, and the detritus of destroyed lung cells.

Read more …

All the big money’s already been handed out.

Many Small Businesses Say Loans Won’t Get Them To Rehire (AP)

Some small businesses that obtained a highly-coveted government loan say they won’t be able to use it to bring all their laid-off workers back, even though that is what the program was designed to do. The Paycheck Protection Program promises a business owner loan forgiveness if they retain or rehire all the workers they had in late February. But owners say the equation isn’t so simple, in part because of current economic conditions and partly due to the terms of the loans. As a result, the lending may not reduce unemployment as much as the Trump administration and Congress hope. The government’s $2 trillion relief package included $349 billion for the small business loan program, which was besieged with applications and ran out of money Thursday.

Congress and the White House reached a deal Tuesday that would provide another $310 billion. To get the loans forgiven, companies need to spend 75% on payroll within eight weeks of receiving the money. The other 25% can be spent on rent, utilities, and mortgage payments. Otherwise, the loan has generous terms: Only a 1% interest rate and six months before any principal is due. Many of the small companies that were able to obtain a loan are having second thoughts about rehiring all their workers and a few plan to return the money. Others will use what they can on rent and utilities, and will use some to rehire a portion of their laid-off staff. But most are unsure they will be able to reopen eight weeks from now.

They see little point in rehiring all their workers, paying them to do little or nothing, and then potentially laying them off again if business remains weak two months from now. “You’re turning the business into a pass through for the federal government,” said Joe Walsh, who owns Clean Green Maine, a cleaning service in Portland, Maine with 35 employees. “You’re doing very little to actually help the business.” [..] Also, the generous unemployment aid that was also included in the government’s relief package has made it more difficult to rehire. Many workers are making more with unemployment checks, which now include a $600 weekly benefit from the federal government.

Walsh, who received a $280,000 loan from the SBA, said that he is reluctant to push his employees to return to work because, under unemployment benefit rules, they could lose their weekly checks if they turn down potential jobs. “That’s just putting me as the employer in a really difficult position,” Walsh said. He pays at least $17 an hour, with benefits, but his former employees are getting the equivalent of roughly $25 an hour from unemployment.

Read more …

They all have the same campaign contributors. And they’re not small businesses.

Congressional Democrats Do Little To Improve ‘Pathetic’ Coronavirus Deal (IC)

PROGRESSIVE GROUPS are outraged with the nearly $500 billion interim coronavirus rescue package the Senate passed on Tuesday, urging House Democrats to oppose the “pathetic” deal they say doesn’t come close to providing the relief vulnerable people need while giving away all Democratic leverage for future legislation. The “Phase 3.5” bill, which is expected to sail through the House this week, left out almost everything Democratic leaders were advocating for. There’s no additional funding for state and local governments, no expanded food stamp benefits, no hazard pay for front-line workers, nor money for the U.S. Postal Service, which had all been basic Democratic priorities.

The lack of progressive opposition in Congress has been especially noteworthy, after members of the progressive caucus promised to help make future legislation more comprehensive following the hastily passed Phase 3 bill. While some progressive advocates argue that Democrats didn’t have much leverage on the package to begin with, others note that Democrats control the House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could have led the party to pass its own bill. “Just as importantly as the inadequate policy provisions, this bill gives away all Democratic leverage,” Ezra Levin, co-executive director of Indivisible, said in an emailed statement.

“We fought so hard to win back the House in 2018 — to make sure that we had a voice in negotiations like this. So far we’ve heard silence from the House. This bill may be our last chance to get the things we need. [Republican Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell has already said he doesn’t want to push through another bill, and if he does, it won’t be for weeks.” [..] The interim package, which would replenish funds for an emergency small business lending program, also includes an additional $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for coronavirus testing — two necessities that have been framed as GOP concessions. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the legislation is everything they were expecting. “When you look at the package that is going to be passed, it’s almost exactly like the one we asked for two weeks ago, or 12 days ago,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

Read more …

It takes 2 weeks for new infections to occur. By then, most of the US will have reopened.

Trump Disagrees ‘Strongly’ With Georgia Reopening Shops (JTN)

President Trump said he disagreed with Georgia’s decision to allow some shops to re-open as early as Friday after shuttering due to the coronavirus pandemic. “I told the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, that I disagree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities which are in violation of the Phase 1 guidelines for the incredible people of Georgia,” Trump said Wednesday during a press conference of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. “But at the same time, he must do what he thinks is right. I want him to do what he thinks is right. But I disagree with him on what he’s doing.” Trump said he wanted to give governors discretion, although he would step in if he sees something “totally egregious, totally out of line.”

Trump’s administration last week released a 3-phase set of guidelines to re-open following the worst of the pandemic. Trump said that these Georgia shops shouldn’t be re-opening during the federal phase 1 guidelines and should instead wait for phase 2. “We’re going to have phase 2 very soon,” Trump said. “It’s just too soon. I think it’s too soon. And I love the people. I love those people that use all of those things, the spas, and the beauty parlors, barber shops, tattoo parlors. I love ’em. But they can wait a little bit longer, just a little bit. Not much. Because safety has to predominate. We have to have that. So I told the governor very simply that I disagree with his decision, but he has to do what he thinks is right.”

[..] 46% of registered U.S. voters want decisions about re-opening the country after the coronavirus to be made by state and local officials. Only 15% think it should be a federal decision, according to the Just the News Daily Poll with Scott Rasmussen. Trump praised Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) for his re-opening strategy. “Some of the governors have done a fantastic job working with us,” Trump said.

Read more …

Sidelined a little too late perhaps?

HHS Secretary Alex Azar Waited For Weeks To Brief Trump (WSJ)

On Jan. 29, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told President Trump the coronavirus epidemic was under control. The U.S. government had never mounted a better interagency response to a crisis, Mr. Azar told the president in a meeting held eight days after the U.S. announced its first case, according to administration officials. At the time, the administration’s focus was on containing the virus. When other officials asked about diagnostic testing, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, began to answer. Mr. Azar cut him off, telling the president it was “the fastest we’ve ever created a test,” the officials recalled, and that more than one million tests would be available within weeks.

That didn’t happen. The CDC began shipping tests the following week, only to discover a flaw that forced it to recall the test from state public-health laboratories. When White House advisers later in February criticized Mr. Azar for the delays caused by the recall, he lashed out at Dr. Redfield, accusing the CDC director of misleading him on the timing of a fix. “Did you lie to me?” one of the officials recalled him yelling. Six weeks after that Jan. 29 meeting, the federal government declared a national emergency and issued guidelines that effectively closed down the country. Mr. Azar, who had been at the center of the decision-making from the outset, was eventually sidelined.

Many factors muddled the administration’s early response to the coronavirus as officials debated the severity of the threat, including comments from Mr. Trump that minimized the risk. But interviews with more than two dozen administration officials and others involved in the government’s coronavirus effort show that Mr. Azar waited for weeks to brief the president on the threat, oversold his agency’s progress in the early days and didn’t coordinate effectively across the health-care divisions under his purview.

[..] White House officials say there is no plan to replace Mr. Azar during a pandemic. Still, the president last week installed a former campaign aide, Michael Caputo, to serve as assistant secretary for public affairs at HHS. The White House also appointed policy adviser Emily Newman as a liaison to HHS who will oversee the agency’s political hires. Mr. Azar has largely been sidelined over the past several weeks from discussions with the president and with the White House task force, administration officials said. He hasn’t attended the daily briefing since April 3.

Read more …

The headline is just too good.

Azar Tapped Former Labradoodle Breeder To Lead US Pandemic Task Force (R.)

On January 21, the day the first U.S. case of coronavirus was reported, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services appeared on Fox News to report the latest on the disease as it ravaged China. Alex Azar, a 52-year-old lawyer and former drug industry executive, assured Americans the U.S. government was prepared. “We developed a diagnostic test at the CDC, so we can confirm if somebody has this,” Azar said. “We will be spreading that diagnostic around the country so that we are able to do rapid testing on site.” While coronavirus in Wuhan, China, was “potentially serious,” Azar assured viewers in America, it “was one for which we have a playbook.”

Azar’s initial comments misfired on two fronts. Like many U.S. officials, from President Donald Trump on down, he underestimated the pandemic’s severity. He also overestimated his agency’s preparedness. As is now widely known, two agencies Azar oversaw as HHS secretary, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, wouldn’t come up with viable tests for five and half weeks, even as other countries and the World Health Organization had already prepared their own. Shortly after his televised comments, Azar tapped a trusted aide with minimal public health experience to lead the agency’s day-to-day response to COVID-19.

The aide, Brian Harrison, had joined the department after running a dog-breeding business for six years. Five sources say some officials in the White House derisively called him “the dog breeder.” Azar’s optimistic public pronouncement and choice of an inexperienced manager are emblematic of his agency’s oft-troubled response to the crisis. His HHS is a behemoth department, overseeing almost every federal public health agency in the country, with a $1.3 trillion budget that exceeds the GDP of most countries. [..[ Azar and his top deputies oversaw health agencies that were slow to alert the public to the magnitude of the crisis, to produce a test to tell patients if they were sick, and to provide protective masks to hospitals even as physicians pleaded for them.

The first test created by the CDC, meant to be used by other labs, was plagued by a glitch that rendered it useless and wasn’t fixed for weeks. It wasn’t until March that tests by other labs went into production. The lack of tests “limited hospitals’ ability to monitor the health of patients and staff,” the HHS Inspector General said in a report this month. The equipment shortage “put staff and patients at risk.” A promised virus surveillance program failed to take root, despite assurances Azar gave to Congress. Rather than share information, three current and three former government officials told Reuters, Azar and top staff sidelined key agencies that could have played a higher-profile role in addressing the pandemic. “It was a mess,” said a White House official who worked with HHS.

Read more …

Little Mike mighty actually pull it off. But he doesn’t care too much about privacy.

Cuomo Taps Bloomberg To Lead COVID-19 Contact “Tracing Army” (Gothamist)

Michael Bloomberg has been charged with amassing and leading a “tracing army” to track the spread of COVID-19 in the Tri-State area, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo. The goal will be to aggressively test and isolate contacts of all those who tested positive for the virus — a major undertaking that experts say is necessary before officials can consider relaxing social distancing measures. After previewing this push in recent weeks, Cuomo revealed during a press conference on Wednesday that Bloomberg will “coordinate the entire effort,” including developing the program and designing the training for thousands of newly-hired tracers.

The multibillionaire former mayor, who does not have a public health background, has also agreed to contribute $10 million to the initiative. By comparison, he spent $1 billion on his failed presidential bid. The announcement came hours after Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his own plans for a citywide contact tracing apparatus. The mayor was not informed by the Governor’s Office that Bloomberg, his predecessor and political rival, would be heading up the statewide effort until Wednesday morning, as de Blasio was announcing his own initiative, mayoral spokesperson Freddi Goldstein told Gothamist. While the city will still be responsible for hiring some of the field workers, Cuomo stressed that the initiative had to be regionally focused.

“You cannot trace someone within the boundaries of New York City,” he said. The state will also partner with Johns Hopkins University and the non-profit Vital Strategies to roll out the program. Some of the roughly 35,000 CUNY and SUNY students in medical fields will also be tapped for the effort, Cuomo said. The federal government has made available $1.3 billion for New York to begin contact tracing. Cuomo did not immediately have an estimate for how much it would cost. “You don’t have months to get this up and running,” he added. “You have weeks.”

Read more …

Turkey is one of the exploding countries. Is it a good ide to export their supplies?

Turkey PPE Supplier Doesn’t Have Enough Stock To Meet UK Order (Sky)

A commercial supplier in Turkey did not have enough stock to fulfil an order for 84 tonnes of protective equipment supposed to be bound for the UK, Turkish officials have said. British sources said the UK government was working with the company and the Turkish authorities to secure the shipment “as soon as possible” – though no time frame was given. It comes as a flight carrying PPE – urgently needed by front line health workers as they treat COVID-19 patients in the UK – arrived from Turkey, following days of delays. The Royal Air Force plane arrived at Brize Norton in Oxfordshire from Istanbul just after 3am.


The total consignment of 84 tonnes includes 400,000 clinical gowns, but it is not clear how much of this is on today’s flight. An initial batch of just 2,500 gowns was sent to the airport in Istanbul for quality control checks on Tuesday. Turkish officials said Britain’s attempt to buy the protective equipment from a Turkish firm ran into trouble because the supplier did not have enough stock. Turkey’s ambassador to the UK, Umit Yalcin, told Sky News: “As far as I understand there have been problems with the private supplier company. “Now Turkey is cooperating with the UK authorities to find a quick solution for the UK’s urgent needs.

Read more …

Support your local dealer.

Coronavirus Upends Global Narcotics Trade (R.)

Countries around the world have spent billions of dollars bailing out businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Peru’s coca farmers, who grow the bushy plant used to make cocaine, say they want help, too. Prices for coca leaves sold to drug gangs have slumped 70% since Peru went on lockdown last month, according to Julián Pérez Mallqui, the head of a local growers’ organization. He said his members cater to Peru’s tightly regulated legal coca market, but acknowledged some growers sell on the black market. Peruvian officials say more than 90% of the country’s coca crop goes to traffickers who are now struggling to move product. With the sector in turmoil, Pérez’s group is crafting a plan to ask the government to buy up excess coca inventory.

Peru “has to design clear intervention strategies for coca,” Pérez said. “We’re screwed, just like everyone else in the world.” A spokesman for Peru’s anti-drugs agency said it may funnel more development aid to hard-hit areas. The coronavirus outbreak has upended industries across the globe. The international narcotics trade has not been spared. From the cartel badlands along the U.S.-Mexico border and verdant coca fields of the Andes, to street dealers in London and Paris, traffickers are grappling with many of the same woes as legitimate businesses, Reuters has found. On three continents, Reuters spoke with more than two dozen law enforcement officials, narcotics experts, diplomats and people involved in the illicit trade.

They described a business experiencing busted supply chains, delivery delays, disgruntled workers and millions of customers on lockdown. They also gave a window into the innovation – and opportunism – that are hallmarks of the underworld. [..] coronavirus has managed to do what authorities worldwide have not: slow the global narcotics juggernaut almost overnight and inflict a measure of pain on all who participate. In Mexico, the Sinaloa Cartel has faced many threats over the years, including the jailing of former leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. But never one like the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more …

“The task for now is income maintenance — targeting public support at the unemployed so that parents can feed their children.”

The Analogy Trap in Economic Policy (Eichengreen)

Where comparisons with past crises have value is precisely in highlighting how this crisis is different, and therefore how the policy response should vary. First, this crisis did not originate in the financial system, in contrast to 1929 and 2008. Flooding financial markets with liquidity, as central banks have done, may prevent problems on the real side of the economy from destabilising financial institutions and markets. But doing so will not mend the economy or even halt its downward spiral. Achieving this requires first containing the pandemic. Second, in contrast to these earlier episodes, major fiscal stimulus packages are not the right policy focus. Unlike in the past, we have also experienced an unprecedented supply shock.

It makes no sense to try to sustain demand at earlier levels at a time when production can’t keep up, since it is not yet safe — and won’t be safe for some time — for people to return to work. The time for demand stimulus is later. The task for now is income maintenance — targeting public support at the unemployed so that parents can feed their children. Third, this crisis will be most acute in low-income countries. These countries have weak health systems. They are being hit by weak commodity prices, falling remittances, capital flight, a shortage of trade credit and collapsing currencies all at once. They were not the focus in 1929 or 2008 because those crises centred on the global financial system, and because low-income countries had only rudimentary financial systems and were not integrated financially.

This time, low-income countries are at risk of a crisis that will dwarf anything in the advanced-country world. Addressing their plight should be priority number one on humanitarian grounds, but also because what happens there will spill back onto the rest of the world through both economic and epidemiological channels. With the IMF and World Bank meetings coming up next week, one wonders whether advanced countries will look beyond their domestic concerns. One worries that their preoccupation with the questions ‘is this downturn more serious than the Global Financial Crisis?’ and ‘could unemployment rise as high as in the Great Depression?’ will cause them to lose sight of what is about to become the most serious crisis of all.

Read more …

Yeah, before you know it you’re trapped with the NYT in your corner.

New York Times Revives its Role in Chinagate (Lauria)

During the saga of Russiagate The New York Times was the main vehicle for unnamed U.S. intelligence officials to filter uncorroborated allegations about Russia, presenting them as proven fact. Just as the Democratic Party attempted to shift the blame from its disastrous 2016 loss to Donald Trump onto Russia, the Trump administration is now trying to shift the blame from Trump’s disastrous handling of the Coronavirus crisis onto China. And The New York Times is once again the vehicle. In a front-page story on Wednesday, the Times reports as flat fact that “Chinese agents helped spread messages to millions of Americans about a fake lockdown last month, sowing virus panic in the U.S., officials said.” One of the messages said Trump would lock down the entire nation. “They will announce this as soon as they have troops in place to help prevent looters and rioters.”

But as in the Times‘ sordid history of numerous Russiagate stories, you have to read deep into the piece, in this case to paragraph seven, before you are told: “The origin of the messages remains murky. American officials declined to reveal details of the intelligence linking Chinese agents to the dissemination of the disinformation, citing the need to protect their sources and methods for monitoring Beijing’s activities.” Any reputable journalism school will teach its students that you hold off publishing until you see the evidence underlying an assertion. This is especially true when quoting anonymous sources. And it is doubly true when these sources are intelligence agents, who have a long history of deception. It is part of their job description.

Reporters should by now be wary and demand proof after they had allowed intelligence officials to misuse them in misleading the public about the reasons to invade Iraq, and indeed about the later proven lies about collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. The Times story on Wednesday rather shamelessly revives and links China’s alleged misdeeds to Russiagate. “American officials said China, borrowing from Russia’s strategies, has been trying to widen political divisions in the United States. As public dissent simmers over lockdown policies in several states, officials worry it will be easy for China and Russia to amplify the partisan disagreements.”

Read more …

 

We would like to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. Since their revenue has collapsed, ads no longer pay for all you read, and your support is now an integral part of the process.

Thanks for your generousl donations to date.

 

 



 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth. It’s good for your mental health.