Aug 042020
 


Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud, Brussels 1873

 

Yale Doctor Battles CNN Anchor Over Effectiveness Of HCQ (Fox)
COVID19 Survivors Show Increased Rate Of Psychiatric Disorders (G.)
New Heart Problems Seen In Recovered COVID-19 Patients (R.)
Italy Survey Suggests Coronavirus 6x More Prevalent Than Official Data (R.)
Mutation May Have Made Virus More Vulnerable To Vaccines (R.)
Less Than Third Of Canadians Willing To Travel Without COVID19 Vaccine (CBC)
Manhattan DA Probing Trump Over More Than ‘Hush-Money’ Payments (R.)
Trump Considering Executive Action To Suspend Evictions, Payroll Tax (Hill)
Trump Calls To ‘Re-Run’ New York House Race Over Discarded Mail-In Ballots (F.)
How White Radicals Hijacked Portland’s Protests (Tracey)
Debunking The Coup d’Trump (Turley)
‘The Money Story’ Told By A Father Of MMT (Kohler)
Papers Leaked Before UK Election In Suspected Russian Operation Were Hacked (R.)
A Glimpse Towards November (Kunstler)
Biden Says He Can’t Wait To Find Out Who He Picked For VP (Babylon Bee)

 

 

Some encouraging looking numbers. Cases and deaths decrease both globally and in the US. Europe doesn’t look so good, though, and neither does Africa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taleb – How to Handle a Pandemic

Yaneer COVID growth rates Europe Africa

 

 

1) I’ve noted before that the first HCQ criticism was all about you could die from it. That’s gone, now it’s merely ineffective. Why? What happened?

2) Dr. Risch says the studies look at the wrong people (low risk). Do we know, however, how HCQ is administered? Is it given to early onset patients, and combined with zinq?

3) Zelenko explains in great detail how he works, and why. But he’s completely ignored and shunned by corporate media. Doesn’t look like truth finding to me.

Yale Doctor Battles CNN Anchor Over Effectiveness Of Hydroxychloroquine (Fox)

Yale epidemiology professor Dr. Harvey Risch and CNN host John Berman bickered over hydroxychloroquine on Monday during a heated discussion about the polarizing drug, which the president has hailed as a possible treatment for COVID-19. Risch recently wrote an op-ed in support of hydroxychloroquine, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Deborah Birx and other experts have dismissed the anti-malarial drug being used to combat coronavirus. Risch cited various studies that backed up his pro-hydroxychloroquine stance, but the host of CNN’s “New Day” disagreed. “None of those studies that you just cited are random placebo-controlled trials, what Dr. Fauci refers to as the gold standard,” Berman said, as the CNN on-screen chyron stated “Growing body of evidence shows hydroxychloroquine is ineffective.”

Risch responded: “That’s not actually correct. The problem with those randomized controlled trials, is they were trials done on the wrong people. They were trials done on low-risk people with low risks of hospitalization and mortality. You don’t do a study of prostate cancer with women… because nobody is gonna get the outcome.” Risch said the studies were conducted on “very low-risk people who are not going to get hospitalized or die” from coronavirus. “We don’t treat those people. We treat high-risk people,” Risch said. Berman then accused Risch of being inconsistent compared to the op-ed, but the Yale epidemiologist disagreed and the interview grew contentious.


“You’re misstating what I said, I said it had to be in high-risk people,” Risch said. “As I’ve said, you have to treat the right people. You have to study the right people. Those studies did not study the right people, period. That’s the bottom line.”

Read more …

55% of them.

COVID19 Survivors Show Increased Rate Of Psychiatric Disorders (G.)

More than half of people who received hospital treatment for Covid-19 were found to be suffering from a psychiatric disorder a month later, a study has found. Out of 402 patients monitored after being treated for the virus, 55% were found to have at least one psychiatric disorder, experts from San Raffaele hospital in Milan found. The results, based on clinical interviews and self-assessment questionnaires, showed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 28% of cases, depression in 31% and anxiety in 42%. Additionally, 40% of patients had insomnia and 20% had obsessive-compulsive (OC) symptoms. The findings will increase concerns about the psychological effects of the virus.

The paper, published on Monday in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, says: “PTSD, major depression, and anxiety are all high-burden non-communicable conditions associated with years of life lived with disability. “Considering the alarming impact of Covid-19 infection on mental health, the current insights on inflammation in psychiatry, and the present observation of worse inflammation leading to worse depression, we recommend to assess psychopathology of Covid-19 survivors and to deepen research on inflammatory biomarkers, in order to diagnose and treat emergent psychiatric conditions.” The study of 265 men and 137 women found that women – who are less likely to die from Covid than men – suffered more than men psychologically.

Patients with positive previous psychiatric diagnoses suffered more than those without a history of psychiatric disorder. The researchers, led by Dr Mario Gennaro Mazza, said these results were consistent with previous epidemiological studies. They said psychiatric effects could be caused “by the immune response to the virus itself, or by psychological stressors such as social isolation, psychological impact of a novel severe and potentially fatal illness, concerns about infecting others, and stigma.” Outpatients showed increased anxiety and sleep disturbances, while – perhaps surprisingly – the duration of hospitalisation inversely correlated with symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety and OC.

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“Among 100 patients ages 45 to 53, “a considerable majority” – 78 – had inflammation in the heart muscle and lining…”

New Heart Problems Seen In Recovered COVID-19 Patients (R.)

More than three-quarters of recently recovered COVID-19 patients had heart muscle problems show up during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests, German doctors reported on Monday in JAMA Cardiology. In some patients, the heart may be “in serious trouble as a part of COVID-19 disease,” Dr. Valentina Puntmann of University Hospital Frankfurt told Reuters. Among 100 patients ages 45 to 53, “a considerable majority” – 78 – had inflammation in the heart muscle and lining. Sixty-seven had recovered at home while 33 had required hospitalization. Half of the former patients were more than two months out since their diagnosis at the time of the MRI.


Thirty-six patients reported ongoing shortness of breath and general exhaustion, and 71 had blood markers of heart muscle damage. Compared with similar people who had not had COVID-19, the recently recovered patients’ hearts pumped more weakly and displayed other risk factors for heart failure. Puntmann suspects the abnormalities are signs of permanent problems. “While we do not have direct evidence for late consequences yet, such as the development of heart failure … it is quite possible that in a few years, this burden will be enormous based on what we have learned from other viral conditions that similarly affect the heart,” she said.

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It’s still just 2.5% that have antibodies. Not 60%. Even in Lombardy no more than 7.5%.

Italy Survey Suggests Coronavirus 6x More Prevalent Than Official Data (R.)

Almost 1.5 million people in Italy or 2.5% of the population have developed coronavirus antibodies, a figure six times more than official numbers reported, according to a survey from statistics agency Istat on Monday. The survey by Istat and the health ministry, was based on antibody tests conducted on 64,660 people. Official figures show 248,229 confirmed cases of COVID-19 patients in Italy, with 35,166 deaths. The survey found marked local differences with the northern region of Lombardy, where the epidemic first broke out in February, showing 7.5% of the population had tested positive for coronavirus antibodies compared to just 0.3% in the southern region of Sicily. The survey found almost 30% of people with antibodies were asymptomatic, pointing to the risk of the illness being spread by people unaware they were carriers.

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Easy to say when there is no vaccine.

Mutation May Have Made Virus More Vulnerable To Vaccines (R.)

A genetic mutation that made the new coronavirus more infectious may also make it more vulnerable to vaccines, researchers believe. The mutation, designated D614G, increases the number of “spikes” on the surface of the virus and makes them more stable, allowing the virus to more efficiently break into and infect cells. The mutation will not pose problems for vaccines now in clinical trials, however, because the extra spikes retain the targets for the “neutralizing antibodies” the vaccines are designed to induce.


Those targets, called receptor-binding domains, or RBDs, are the places where the spike attaches itself to the cells it infects. With more spikes, there are more RBDs for the antibodies to bind to in order to neutralize the virus. “The gain in infectivity provided by D614G came at the cost of making the virus more vulnerable to neutralizing antibodies,” the researchers wrote in a paper posted on medRxiv on Friday ahead of peer review.

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Tourism in Greece is at a very low level still. People stay home this year.

Less Than Third Of Canadians Willing To Travel Without COVID19 Vaccine (CBC)

Most Canadians and Americans aren’t rushing to travel anywhere, even within their own countries, before a COVID-19 vaccine is developed, according to a new online survey. Fewer than a third of Canadians are willing to take a flight anywhere right now whether it’s to another continent, to another province, or within their own province, according to the poll by Research Co., a Vancouver-based polling firm. Only 17 per cent of Canadian respondents were willing to take a plane to the United States. Thirty-five per cent of Americans say they are willing to take a flight within the U.S., but only 28 per cent would fly to Canada.


“The appetite for travel before a COVID-19 vaccine is readily available is low in Canada and the United States,” said Mario Canseco, president of Research Co., in a written release. “North American residents aged 55 and over, who are usually ready to explore and spend, are particularly reticent about all journeys unless inoculation is a reality.” The online poll, conducted July 1-5, surveyed representative samples of 1,000 Canadians and 1,200 Americans. It asked them their willingness to travel by five different modes of transportation: by train, by plane, by bus, by cruise ship and by ferry.

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We couldn’t have too long a period without some public investigation against Trump, could we? Got to cover the entire 4+ years. Election tampering?

Manhattan DA Probing Trump Over More Than ‘Hush-Money’ Payments (R.)

Manhattan’s district attorney on Monday suggested a grand jury subpoena for U.S. President Donald Trump’s tax returns was part of an investigation of “possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization,” including alleged insurance and bank fraud. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance raised the scope of the probe in court papers filed in federal court in Manhattan on Monday. He is seeking to dismiss Trump’s latest challenge to the subpoena for eight years of personal and corporate tax records. Asked about the investigation at a coronavirus press briefing on Monday, Trump repeated that he believed he is the victim of a political “witch hunt,” which he said was “Democrats’ stuff” and started “even before I got in” to office.

“There is nothing that I know even about it,” he added. Trump is scheduled to respond to Vance’s motion to dismiss by Aug. 10. In a court filing last week, Trump’s lawyers argued the subpoena was “wildly overbroad” and issued in “bad faith.” Vance noted in the court papers that when the subpoena was issued last August, there were “public allegations of possible criminal activity” at the Trump Organization dating back a decade. He said public reports show a basis for each category and timeframe of documents sought from Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA. Trump’s argument that the subpoena is overbroad “rests on the false premise that the grand jury’s investigation is limited to so-called ‘hush-money’ payments made by Michael Cohen” on Trump’s behalf in 2016, Vance said.

Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to campaign violations tied to the payments to pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels and former model Karen McDougal, who claimed they had affairs with Trump, which he denies. In a footnote to Monday’s filing, Vance cited media reports on Trump’s alleged role in the hush-money scheme and on the “unorthodox strategies” he used to expand his real estate empire.

Read more …

Do unemployment benefits too.

Trump Considering Executive Action To Suspend Evictions, Payroll Tax (Hill)

President Trump said Monday that he is considering taking executive action to halt evictions and suspend payroll tax collection as coronavirus relief talks see slow progress on Capitol Hill. “I could do that if I want, and I want to do that. I don’t want people to be evicted,” Trump told reporters at a press conference Monday evening when asked about his suggestion earlier in the day that he could act unilaterally to suspend evictions. Trump noted that individuals who are evicted often go to shelters, where the coronavirus can spread easily because of crowding. “They’re thrown out viciously. It’s not their fault. It’s not their fault. It’s China’s fault,” Trump said, continuing to blame China, where the virus originated, for the pain inflicted on Americans.

Trump also asserted that he had unilateral authority to suspend the payroll tax. “I can do that also through executive order, so we’ll be talking about that,” Trump said. Trump’s admission came after conservatives Stephen Moore and Phil Kerpen penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal urging Trump to declare a national economic emergency and to direct the IRS to suspend collection of payroll taxes. They argued that Trump could defer payroll tax payments using the same section of the tax code used by Treasury earlier this year to postpone the 2019 tax filing deadline until mid-July. The move would amount to a deferral, though the two argued that Trump could pledge to sign a bill in the future to forgive the repayments.

[..] Trump’s remarks make clear the White House is considering unilateral actions as the administration and Congress struggle to reach a consensus on the next coronavirus relief bill. Congress in March enacted a federal moratorium on evictions through the CARES Act, though that expired roughly a week ago. Expanded unemployment insurance benefits enacted under the same bill officially expired last week. The White House has pushed for both measures to be extended quickly in a short-term deal as negotiators hammer out the details of the relief package, but Democrats have resisted a short-term measure.

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Mail-in may run reasonably well in Colorado, but here’s your first mess.

Trump Calls To ‘Re-Run’ New York House Race Over Discarded Mail-In Ballots (F.)

At a White House press conference on Monday, President Trump called to “re-run” the Democratic primary in New York’s 12th Congressional District, a race in which one candidate has refused to concede citing a large number of discarded and unreceived mail-in ballots. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) led progressive challenger Suraj Patel by just 648 votes– or 1.6%–in the Manhattan and Queens district on election night, but expanded her lead to 4 points after mail-in ballots were finished being counted in late July. Patel has refused to concede, citing reports that 9,000 of the more than 47,000 mail-in ballots sent in were invalidated for a variety of reasons and that many voters didn’t receive their mail-in ballots in time for the election.


Trump has pointed to the district, which contains Trump Tower, as a prime example of the flaws of mail-in voting, against which he has waged a fierce campaign in recent months, telling reporters on Friday, “They’re never going to have the result of that election, never the correct result.” Trump doubled-down on his criticism of the 12th District’s primary on Monday, calling it a “total disaster” and saying “nobody knows what’s happening with the ballots and the lost ballots and the fraudulent ballots I guess.” “I think I can say right here and now you have to re-run that race, because it’s a mess,” Trump added. Ultimately it would be up to New York State, not the federal government, to decide whether to re-run a race–as was the case in North Carolina’s 9th district in 2019.

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Michael Tracey spent a lot of time on the ground.

How White Radicals Hijacked Portland’s Protests (Tracey)

The overwhelmingly white, anarchist activists who populate the ongoing protests in Portland, Oregon should not be underestimated for their strategic savvy. In seizing the mantle of “Black Lives Matter”, they’ve discovered a work-around to arrogate moral cover for whatever insurrectionary upheaval they would have been ideologically committed to fomenting anyway. The Left/liberal political and media class is deeply invested in preserving the untouchable sanctity of “BLM”. So by fusing themselves in the public mind with this ambiguously-defined protest movement, or even putting themselves at the vanguard, the anarchist whites insulate themselves from the type of scrutiny that might ordinarily be prompted by activists whose ultimate goal is the overthrow of the state — and who are happy to engage in what they call “a diversity of tactics” (up to and including violence) to achieve this.

It makes for a bizarre dynamic, as Democratic Party pundits and politicians routinely describe avowed insurrectionists as nothing more than benign “peaceful protesters”. And since the protests came to be arrayed against the federal forces dispatched to Portland by Donald Trump, more conventional elements of the Left/liberal “Resistance” have made common cause with these revolutionary anarchists who regard the very essence of the US political system — not just Trump — as innately fascist and “white supremacist”. On a recent evening, for instance, an older white couple in a pair of matching “Resistance”-branded T-shirts could be spotted in attendance among the radical activists, as well as a man sporting the slogan “Ridin’ with Biden”.

To characterise what’s gone on in Portland as a traditional “protest” is a misnomer, however. Pay a visit to the area around the Federal Courthouse in Downtown after midnight and you are greeted by brigades of black-clad “Antifa” foot soldiers — geared up in full body armour, complete with industrial-grade gas masks, shields and even customised radio systems. Being overwhelmingly white, they are strategic about public presentation: the speakers appointed to address the nightly “rallies” are almost exclusively black, as “amplifying black voices” to whom whites must dutifully “listen” is a central tenet of the Summer 2020 protest ethos.

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Turley often tries to be overly correct.

Debunking The Coup d’Trump (Turley)

This week, American democracy either died or it didn’t, but you couldn’t tell from the news coverage. Some commentators and members of Congress warned that we are looking at “nothing less than a coup.” Others called for organized protests, proclaiming it is now clear that President Trump’s “anti-democratic intent was blood-chillingly real.” One leading academic called for Trump’s immediate impeachment as a fascist out to destroy our constitutional system. We have not seen such rhetoric since Aaron Burr tried to peel off the entire southwestern territory of the United States. The cause this time was an 11-word Twitter question from President Trump. Returning to his favorite subject of denouncing mail-in voting as a disaster in the making, he ended his July 30 tweet by asking, “Delay the election until people can properly, securely and safely vote?”

As I said at the time, the tweet was reckless and repugnant. However, cries of some Twitter-based coup d’état were equally unconnected to reality. I have written repeatedly about this conspiracy theory that Trump will never allow an election to occur in 2020, which has raged on liberal websites and cable news since soon after his inauguration. Trump does not have the authority to delay the election. Even if he could persuade Congress to change the date, with the implausible assistance of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Constitution still stipulates that his term ends at noon on Jan. 20. In the interim, not only do citizens have to vote, but electors have to cast ballots in the Electoral College, and those votes must be certified and counted by Congress.

It is not much of a coup when you do not extend your time in office. It does not matter what Trump would like; it is what the Constitution will allow. A demand to delay the election has the same impact as Trump declaring he will change his name to “Joe Biden” if needed to claim victory, or that he will adopt Neptune’s calendar to extend his four-year term to 660 years. That is why this conspiracy theory has been so maddening. Indeed, in a column in April, I criticized former Vice President Joe Biden when he took up the theory, triggering another round of panic; Biden added a second theory to this baseless fear, suggesting that Trump’s opposition to funding the U.S. Postal Service was part of a plan to steal the election. (I later wrote an equally caustic criticism of Jared Kushner when he equivocated about Election Day.)

While I portrayed Biden back then as a virtual nut for raising this conspiracy theory, many now have proclaimed him a virtual Nostradamus following Trump’s tweet. Biden was not right — any more than Trump is today. It is no surprise — and no sign of a conspiracy — that Trump might suggest something outrageous, such as a delayed election, on Twitter. Such behavior is an established fact that occupies many of us on a daily basis. The “conspiracy theory” is to suggest that Trump could actually halt or delay the election. In fairness to Trump, he has not stated that he can unilaterally delay the election but rather has asked if we should do so.

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We have to discuss MMT, just like we have to talk about UBI. The bottom is falling out.

‘The Money Story’ Told By A Father Of MMT (Kohler)

Warren Mosler is one of but possibly the originator of modern monetary theory, but he did collaborate with Bill Mitchell of The University of Newcastle, who I interviewed in March, among other people. Warren is talking to us from The Virgin Islands where he lives on the Island of Saint Croix. But the difference with Warren Mosley is he’s not an academic, he is a fund manager, started off with a big bankers trust or a group of other banks, eventually had his own hedge fund trading bonds and essentially, put into practice his ideas that became known as modern monetary theory. I suppose the key insight is here, that what he’s talking about is actual operations of money, not theory. He’s an operational guy and the way he approaches it is in the way the monetary system actually works. He’s really clear, really worth listening to and it’s long but really worthwhile.

Warren, it occurred to me that maybe a good place to start would be the insights you started to have in the 70s, when you were a fairly young bond trader – I can’t remember who with but at some stage, BT, and I think you moved around a bit… I mean, those were the peak times of what we call monetarism and Friedmanism and so on, and I think you started then saying that the Emperor had no clothes. What exactly did you identify as the problem? “I can only remember bits and pieces from back then. I remember being a bankers trust and the Fed had raised reserve requirements and the trading managers, Allan Rogers – and he talked without moving his mouth like this, and he said, “Why I hope the Fed doesn’t just give them the money. The money supply is too high, they need to take the $10 billion or whatever it is out of the economy.”

And I remember saying – I was a fairly new trader there, I was 27 years’ old – I go, “Allan, you can’t do that, you can’t just – you know, it’s just a spreadsheet, you can’t take the money out, they have to add the money. They always add the money because otherwise it’s, in the first instance, the reserve requirements are debit and so then they either have an overdraft which is a reserve-add or you have to buy securities as a reserve-add. Since the overdraft would cause the Fed funds rate to go up 100 basis points, they don’t want that to happen, they have to just do repos or add to reserves.” He goes, “Well, they could bring back those Euro dollars, there’s 300 billion Euro dollars sloshing around.”

I go, “No there aren’t. There’s a spreadsheet over there with assets and liabilities, there’s nothing sloshing around, you can’t bring those back, that’s just empty rhetoric…” He didn’t really want to hear that. One of my clients was Cliff Viner at Phoenix Mutual, who later became my partner, and he directed my attention to an article in the Wall Street Journal by Eric Heineman, “The money supply is too high, I hope the Fed doesn’t just give them the money but takes it out.” I explain it to him and he was a client of Morgan Stanley so he called them with my answer and he calls me back with their double-talk answer and I straightened that up. He calls them back and then he calls me back and he says, “They’ve retracted their statement. They agree that you have to add the reserves.” So, I don’t know, maybe that was part of the pieces of the puzzle.

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Reuters started this. They say “suspected” Russians, which means it might have also been Martians. Their info is MI6- sourced. The UK press turns it into Russians for sure., with one report linking them to state based operations. Now suspected Russians have become Russian intelligence. Who, having gone through the trouble of hacking into a US-UK trade deal, don’t keep it for themselves to use later, but know nothing better to do with it than hand it to antisemite Jeremy Corbyn to wave around.

The British DO NOT like that Russia doesn’t find them interesting anymore. They DO like that they can sweep all their failures unnder the RussiaRussia carpet.

Papers Leaked Before UK Election In Suspected Russian Operation Were Hacked (R.)

Classified U.S.-UK trade documents leaked ahead of Britain’s 2019 election were stolen from the email account of former trade minister Liam Fox by suspected Russian hackers, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters. The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because a law enforcement investigation is underway, said the hackers accessed the account multiple times between July 12 and Oct. 21 last year. They declined to name which Russian group or organisation they believed was responsible, but said the attack bore the hallmarks of a state-backed operation. Among the stolen information were six tranches of documents detailing British trade negotiations with the United States, which Reuters first reported last year were leaked and disseminated online by a Russian disinformation campaign.


British foreign minister Dominic Raab confirmed that report last month, saying that “Russian actors” had sought to interfere in the election “through the online amplification of illicitly acquired and leaked Government documents”. Reuters was not able to determine which of Fox’s email accounts was hacked and when it was first compromised. It is not clear if Fox, who is still a member of parliament but stood down as trade minister on July 24 last year in a cabinet reshuffle, was a minister at the time. A British government spokeswoman said: “There is an ongoing criminal investigation into how the documents were acquired, and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this point.” She added that the government had “very robust systems in place to protect the IT systems of officials and staff.”

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“..if ever there was a Lady Macbeth moment for wickedness to prevail, this is it.”

A Glimpse Towards November (Kunstler)

The New York Times and its media co-seditionists insist that massive mail-in voting will do just fine despite plenty of evidence that it’s already a demonstrable fiasco — for instance in the recent New York primary where two congressional district contests remain undecided months later due to ballot irregularities. The boards of election “had operational issues,” as Governor Cuomo put it, “and we have to learn from them” — another teachable moment in the Democratic Party’s valiant struggle to morally improve America strictly on its own terms. Over in Nevada, the state legislature passed a mail-in vote scheme that will send ballots out to everybody and his-or-her uncle, with no ID required, and a feature that permits ballots to be filled-out by someone other than the addressed voter.

Nice! A “ballot-harvesting” model for other states. In California, where anybody with a driver’s license is automatically registered to vote via the 2015 “New Motor Voter Act,” ballots will go out to 600,000 un-documented non-citizens who were granted licenses under a separate act (AB-60) the same year. Do you suppose all of them will conscientiously toss their ballots in the trash while California’s mighty Democratic Party machine importunes them to vote early-and-often? There’s your set-up for a 2020 election that can’t possibly be resolved, and a recipe for a Hieronymus Bosch style orgy of Lawfare litigation that would deliberately seek to confound the Federal Election Commission’s best efforts to untangle the mess — just as Lawfare is doing in the mess of a case against General Flynn — and effectively end 232 years of continuous, orderly four-year election cycles. Is that what you want?

The other index of the Democratic Party’s desperation is the ongoing emperor’s-new-clothes charade posing the effigy of Joe Biden as a serious candidate for a rather important position in government. Everybody knows that they know — and we know that they know that we all know — that Mr. Biden is sailing into a fog-bank of senility, and more measurably each day! His every staged performance is an obvious embarrassment of fumbled phrases and things forgotten. They are going to have to find a replacement. It really comes down to two figures: Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. What a predicament!

[..] Hillary still owns the DNC — literally. Nobody knows how much of the Clinton Foundation’s ill-gotten moolah still underwrites the party’s national operations. The arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell, with new allegations about Bill Clinton’s capers on Epstein’s Pedo Island, is a strange twist with mystifying implications — especially the timing and the motives of those in the DOJ’s Southern District who stage-managed it. With the Clintons, intrigues always abound. But if ever there was a Lady Macbeth moment for wickedness to prevail, this is it. For now, the old warhorse is laying low on her yoga mat somewhere in the Chappaqua woods.

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“What Joe was trying to say is that he’s chosen a well-qualified candidate who will run the country ..”

Biden Says He Can’t Wait To Find Out Who He Picked For VP (Babylon Bee)

According to sources in the Biden campaign, the presidential candidate is on pins and needles waiting to see who it is he picked to run for vice president on his ticket. Campaign aides say it’s been Biden’s most anticipated event since he found out he was running for president a few weeks ago. A reporter asked Biden if he could hint about his VP pick during a brief interlude from his stay in the basement, where he was allowed to come upstairs to get some snacks. “Oh boy — I hope it’s a real classy broad,” he said as he drank straight from the milk jug. “I bet I picked somebody good and smart. A chick with class and style.


You know, in my day, dames were dames and guys were guys. None of this ‘guys becoming dolls’ and ‘dolls becoming guys’ stuff. We would go down to the hop and do the mashed potato. You know, there’s lots of good nnnn– nutrients and stuff in potatoes. Potato is a funny word.” “Po – ta – to.” “OK, Joe, let’s go,” said an aide, shoving him down into the basement. “What Joe was trying to say is that he’s chosen a well-qualified candidate who will run the country — err, I mean, help him run the country — with excellence.”

Read more …

 

 

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Jul 092020
 


Berenice Abbott Columbus Circle, Manhattan 1936

 

US COVID19 Cases Rise By Over 60,000, Setting Single-Day Record (R.)
The US Surrendered To The Pandemic. Protect Yourself (MoA)
53% Of Restaurants Closed Amid Coronavirus Have Shuttered Permanently (RD)
United Airlines Sends Furlough Warnings To 36,000 Workers (R.)
US Retail Apocalypse: Over 25,000 Stores Could Close By Year End (ZH)
US Coronavirus Stimulus Reignites China’s Criticism Of Dollar Hegemony (SCMP)
China’s Market Euphoria Trumps Political Risk In Hong Kong (R.)
Some US Government Officials Want To Depeg Hong Kong Dollar (IBT)
Surging Demand for Hong Kong Dollars Underscores Beijing Support (BBG)
UK Judge Orders Christopher Steele To Pay Damages To Russian Bankers (RT)
John Solomon: Indictments Coming In Russia Investigation (WND)
Top US Commander Unconvinced By ‘Russian Bounty To Taliban’ Intel (RT)
Most Americans Believe Russia Targeted US Soldiers (R.)

 

 

COVID, Hong Kong, Russiagate, they’re all familiar subjects. Now come ICU shortages and what can only be called a collapse in US -and international- retail, hospitality and travel industries.

We’re just getting started but everyone wants to think we’re almost done.

The US set a record for new cases, and the world missed it by a hair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tennessee, West Virginia and Utah?!

US COVID19 Cases Rise By Over 60,000, Setting Single-Day Record (R.)

The United States reported more than 60,000 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the biggest increase ever reported by a country in a single day, according to a Reuters tally. The United States faces a bleak summer with record-breaking infections and many states forced to close parts of the economy again, leaving some workers without a paycheck. In addition to nearly 10,000 new cases in Florida, Texas reported over 9,500 cases and California reported more than 8,500 new infections. California and Texas also each reported a record one-day increase in deaths. It was the second day in a row that U.S. deaths climbed by more than 900 in a day, the highest levels seen since early June, according to the tally.


Tennessee, West Virginia and Utah all had record daily increases in new cases, and infections are rising in 42 out of 50 states, according to a Reuters analysis of cases for the past two weeks compared with the prior two weeks. The U.S. tally stood at 60,020 late on Wednesday, with a few local governments not yet reporting. The previous U.S. record for new cases in a day was 56,818 last Friday. The United States has reported over 3 million cases and 132,000 deaths from the virus, putting President Donald Trump’s pandemic strategy under scrutiny.

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ICU shortages coming up in multiple locations.

The US Surrendered To The Pandemic. Protect Yourself (MoA)

Yesterday the United States registered more than 60,000 new Covid-19 cases. As the number of new cases continues to increase unabated about two weeks from now it is likely to reach hundred thousand new cases per day. The increase of testing is not the cause of higher new case numbers. The rate of people among those who were tested and were found positive has also increased. In Florida, which yesterday had nearly 10,000 new cases, the positive test rate has reached nearly 20%. That means that the epidemic is still accelerating. This did not need to happen. Yesterday Germany, at a quarter the size of the U.S., had 279 new cases. It does 1 million tests per week and the positive rate is decreasing.

China has defeated a new local outbreak in Beijing by testing more than 10 million people. The last two days it reported zero new cases. Many of those who test positive, especially the younger ones, will not fall ill with severe symptoms. But some 10-15% are estimated to need medical support. How many of them will die depends on the quality of care that can be given to them. Some thirty hospitals in Florida have already run out of space in their intensive care units. That is the point where the real emergency begins. Six months after the disease was discovered more is known of how to care for Covid-19 cases. The death rate per cases has therefore decreased. But this only holds when there are sufficient beds, doctors and staff available.


At the current U.S. rate that will soon no longer be the case. We do know that the hospitalization curve follows the testing/symptoms curve by some 10-14 days while ICU admittance follows the above curve with some 15 to 20 days delay. The eventual recovery in an ICU bed takes up to four weeks. A bed once occupied will not be available for quite some time.

Read more …

The changes will be gigantic. So will the misery. We just don’t want to know.

53% Of Restaurants Closed Amid Coronavirus Have Shuttered Permanently (RD)

New research from Yelp shows that as of June 15, there were nearly 140,000 total business closures on the website since March 1. When compared to similar research released in April, which showed more than 175,000 business closures, these latest numbers indicate that more than 20% of businesses closed in April have reopened. In March, restaurants had the highest numbers of business closures listed on the app compared to other industries, and the rate of closure has remained high. Of the businesses that closed, 17% are restaurants, and 53% of those restaurant closures are indicated as permanent on Yelp. Retail, however, is the hardest hit overall.

During the peak of the pandemic, the number of diners seated across Yelp Reservations and Waitlist dropped essentially to zero. In early June, numbers of diners seated are down 57% of pre-pandemic levels. Predictions about the restaurant industry’s fate in a post-pandemic world have been abundant throughout the crisis. The National Restaurant Association estimated that 15% of restaurants could close, while Barclay’s estimate is more optimistic, predicting approximately 10% of restaurants will shutter permanently. Though it’s hard to find a silver lining in Yelp’s data, some predictions have been more dire still.


In May, OpenTable said one in four restaurants were at risk for closure, for example, though those numbers focus on restaurants that use the reservations platform. Casual or fine dining sit-down restaurants and mom-and-pop concepts that are not well capitalized are expected to experience the brunt of this crisis. The Independent Restaurant Coalition, for example, forecast that as many as 85% of independent restaurants could permanently close by the end of the year. Yelp’s data does illustrate how some restaurants have been able to weather the storm, however, reporting a 10-fold increase in searches for takeout since March 10, for example. Takeout and delivery searches are up 148%, with Yelp predicting this off-premise trend could be here to stay.

Read more …

Retail, travel, hospitality. Much of it will never be back.

United Airlines Sends Furlough Warnings To 36,000 Workers (R.)

United Airlines said on Wednesday it was preparing to send notices of potential furloughs to 36,000 U.S.-based frontline employees, or about 45% of staff, as travel demand hit by the coronavirus pandemic struggles to recover. United shares lost 3.3% in midday trading. Not everyone who receives a notification will be furloughed, United said, with the final number depending on how demand evolves and how many employees accept early exit packages and temporary leaves. The furloughs would begin on Oct. 1, when a government-imposed ban on forced job cuts by airlines that accepted billions of dollars in federal payroll aid expires.


“The United Airlines projected furlough numbers are a gut punch, but they are also the most honest assessment we’ve seen on the state of the industry,” Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) President Sara Nelson said in a statement. The Chicago-based airline continues to burn through about $40 million of cash every day, with a number of efforts to cut costs and raise liquidity failing to compensate for the drastic drop-off in travel demand as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the United States. The furlough warnings vary by work group. Flight attendants are among the hardest hit, with about 15,000 of roughly 25,000 set to receive notifications. United is working with the different unions on options to mitigate the final furlough number.

Read more …

Said it a few days ago: A state holding company modeled after Roosevelt’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation.

US Retail Apocalypse: Over 25,000 Stores Could Close By Year End (ZH)

The unprecedented implosion of U.S. commercial real estate during the coronavirus pandemic is likely to get worse as newly delinquent CMBS loans are surging as the list of retail store closures continues to rise. Trepp’s June CMBS remittance report showed CMBS delinquencies hit a high of 10.32%, not seen since 2012. It was noted that that retail CRE loans were in rough shape. Many retail shops are heavily indebted, some have already declared bankruptcy, while others are quickly shrinking their operating size, by reducing store footprint to rein in cost as the virus-induced recession, blended with a plunge in consumption, along with a shift to online, is resulting in a rapid acceleration of the retail apocalypse. Coresight Research’s latest forecast has upwards of 25,000 retail stores could close by year end.


Forbes has released an updated list of confirmed store closures. So far, it looks like 8,708 store units have or will shutter operations this year, and could quickly surpass 2019 totals of 9,302, in a matter of months. With thousands of retail stores closing and the economy contracting, the next conversation Wall Street will have is about deep economic scarring and permanent job loss. Already, 3 million jobs have been eliminated from the economy, some of which have come from the closure of retail stores. The bad news about permanent job loss is that it’s a consumption killer, resulting in less spending at retailers, suggesting an even greater amount of store closures beyond anyone’s wild guess could be seen over the next 12-24 months.

Read more …

They can’t do a thing. They don’t even have the guts to let the yuan float.

US Coronavirus Stimulus Reignites China’s Criticism Of Dollar Hegemony (SCMP)

The US economic policy response to the coronavirus crisis and the threat of financial sanctions on China have reinvigorated criticism in Beijing over the US dollar hegemony, but few analysts see a viable alternative currency emerging any time soon. Chinese officials have recently taken aim at the unprecedented coronavirus stimulus in the United States, which has seen American debt levels balloon and stoked concern in Beijing about the devaluation of the US dollar assets held by Chinese financial institutions. Threats by the US to sanction China over its imposition of a national security law on Hong Kong have also ratcheted up anxiety about being cut off from the US dollar-dominated SWIFT international payments system.

[..] Though the attitude in Beijing may be increasingly wary, few Western economists believe Washington is abusing the power of the US dollar with its coronavirus response. Others point out the impact on exchange rates has so far been relatively mild. “The Federal Reserve, like every other central bank, makes its monetary policy decisions mostly on the basis of domestic considerations,” said Eswar Prasad, the former head of the International Monetary Fund’s China division and now a trade professor at Cornell University. The fact its actions “reverberate around the world” are simply a consequence of its policy mandates, which are purely domestic in nature, Prasad added. Continued expansion of US monetary policy amid a protracted global recession is also likely to be positive for the real world economy, and particularly for economies with current account deficits and significant amounts of US dollar-denominated debt, according to analysts.

“Given the US dollar shortage that emerged with Covid, a weaker dollar is still good for the world, relieving funding pressures in both developed markets and emerging markets,” said Steve Englander, global head of North America macro strategy at Standard Chartered Bank. Reform of international monetary policy is likely to take a back seat to efforts to stabilise the global economy from the coronavirus pandemic. But even in the long-term, it is not clear what shape that would take. “In fact, the Fed’s apparent magnanimity in allowing other countries to have access to dollar financing collateralised by their holdings of US Treasuries will pull countries even deeper into the clutches of the dollar,” Prasad said.


A major obstacle is still the absence of an alternative reserve currency, Prasad said. China’s own push to internationalise the yuan has faltered over the past decade, despite its growing economic clout. The most recent figures from the SWIFT system showed that the Chinese currency accounted for just 1.66 per cent of international payment transactions in April versus 43 per cent for the US dollar. Fang Xinghai, vice-chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, said last month that China’s ability to reduce its reliance on the US dollar would be greatly enhanced if it can boost the international usage of the yuan. A debate about the merits of the US dollar as the major reserve currency is likely to re-emerge after the coronavirus, according to Englander, especially when the liquidity was no longer needed. “[But] the question is which currency do you trust to replace it and what improvement would that make.”

Read more …

PBOC is still buying. A lot. Question: with what? Their dollar reserves? They don’t have a lot of those that they can use freely

China’s Market Euphoria Trumps Political Risk In Hong Kong (R.)

The country’s blue-chip CSI300 index hit five-year-highs in recent sessions on a state-endorsed rally and a retail trading frenzy. But Chinese investors and brokerages say they are increasingly drawn by Hong Kong shares, whose gains have been more modest. “Elephants are dancing (in mainland China), but in Hong Kong, many stocks are lying on the floor,” Shen Weizheng, senior advisor at brokerage Direct Access, said during an online pitch to mainland investors on Wednesday. “Buy more Hong Kong stocks. You don’t lose money buying bargains.” Mainland-listed A-shares are on average 35% more expensive than their Hong Kong-listed peers, also called “H-shares” widening from 23% just a month ago.


Share prices of the same company often differ vastly in the two markets. A growing number of U.S-listed Chinese internet companies, including NetEase and JD.com, have chosen to float in Hong Kong through secondary listings amid heightened Sino-U.S. tensions. New York-listed Alibaba, which completed its Hong Kong listing last year, could get the greenlight to enter the benchmark Hang Seng Index .HSI next month. “Capital is flowing into the city. The more intense the rivalry between the U.S. and China, the more unique Hong Kong will be as a centre to welcome back leading Chinese companies listed in the U.S.,” said Hao Hong, managing director at BOCOM International.

Read more …

With China seemingly hell-bent on conquering Hong Kong, why would they not?

Some US Government Officials Want To Depeg Hong Kong Dollar (IBT)

Some aides to U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo have suggested that Washington could punish China by compromising the Hong Kong dollar’s peg to the U.S. dollar. Tensions between the U.S. and China have been escalating for months, worsened by Beijing’s imposition of new security laws in Hong Kong that some think will eliminate the city-state’s autonomy. Bloomberg reported that one way to undermine the Hong Kong dollar peg would be by restricting the ability of Hong Kong banks to purchase U.S. dollars. The matter has been discussed with Pompeo but not yet with senior members of President Donald Trump’s White House staff.

Hong Kong has linked its currency to the U.S. dollar since 1983 and has generally performed well trading within a narrow band. The proposal would also face obstacles among other U.S. government officials who fear it would just hurt Hong Kong banks and not mainland China itself. Last month, Hong Kong’s financial secretary, Paul Chan said that if the US slapped sanctions on the city-state, then China’s central bank could supply it with American dollars. Eddie Yue, chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, Hong Kong’s de facto central bank, said that the 36-year old dollar peg predates the 1992 U.S-China Policy Act which features a provision permitting the U.S. dollar “to be freely exchanged” with the Hong Kong dollar.


Yue suggested that the unlikely event of Trump blocking Hong Kong’s access to U.S. dollars would amount to an “apocalyptic” scenario that could backfire on Washington. “With Hong Kong’s financial system closely integrated with the global economic and financial systems, any move that hits our financial system would also send shockwaves across the global financial markets, including the U.S.,” he said. “Confidence of international investors in using the [U.S. dollar] and holding U.S. financial assets could also be undermined.”

Read more …

Again, the PBOC is buying.

Surging Demand for Hong Kong Dollars Underscores Beijing Support (BBG)

Demand for Hong Kong dollars is intensifying in the face of an increasingly politicized environment, with mainland buying helping to buoy both the pegged currency and local stock market. The city’s de facto central bank sold a combined HK$15.8 billion ($2 billion) to purchase the greenback on Wednesday, the biggest intervention since it started defending the peg on the strong end of the trading band in late April. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority has now spent almost $12 billion this year to keep the currency from strengthening further. Wednesday’s intervention came shortly after news that some Trump aides are considering plans to undermine the peg mechanism in retribution for Beijing’s crackdown on civil liberties in the former British colony.


Mainland-based investors showed their support for the city through buying more than $1 billion worth of Hong Kong shares on the day. The events show how the city’s financial system is increasingly being caught up in the rivalry between Washington and Beijing. For now, Hong Kong’s markets seem immune to the tensions. Red-hot Chinese equities, a stronger yuan and low valuations have helped push Hong Kong stocks into a bull market. Mainland purchases of local equities since Beijing first announced plans for Hong Kong’s controversial security law are now nearing $9 billion. “Bullish sentiment is pushing short-term funds and liquidity into Hong Kong,” said Banny Lam, managing director at CEB International Capital Corp. “China’s stock market is very hot and you see a lot of people using the stock connect to buy these shares. All these factors are attracting liquidity.”

Read more …

Shouldn’t this be big on CNN?

UK Judge Orders Christopher Steele To Pay Damages To Russian Bankers (RT)

A London judge has ordered former British spy Christopher Steele to pay thousands of pounds in damages for not verifying the claims he included in his scandalous Russian dossier, which alleged Donald Trump’s ties with Moscow. Steele was taken to court by Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven, Russian bankers from Alfa Group, who contested one of the key allegations in the paper – that they were responsible for delivering “large amounts of illicit cash” to President Vladimir Putin in the 1990s. Justice Mark Warby of the High Court of England and Wales ruled on Wednesday that Steele’s claim against Fridman and Aven was “inaccurate and misleading.”


Steele’s firm, Orbis Business Intelligence, violated British data privacy law as it “failed to take reasonable steps to verify the allegation,” and will now pay £18,000 pounds (around $22,600) in damages to each of the bankers, Warby said. Fridman said in a statement that he was “delighted” with the outcome of the trial. He has insisted that the dossier’s claims that Alfa Group was somehow a link between the Russian government and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election were absolutely groundless. “Ever since these odious allegations were first made public in January 2017, my partners and I have been resolute and unwavering in our determination to prove that they are untrue, and through this case, we have finally succeeded in doing so,” Fridman said.

Read more …

The MSM will present it as a poltical ploy. All they think they need to do is lift it over the election, and then throw it out.

John Solomon: Indictments Coming In Russia Investigation (WND)

Investigative reporter John Solomon says there’s a “lot of activity” in U.S. Attorney John Durham’s criminal investigation of the Obama administration’s probe of now-debunked claims of Trump-Russia collusion during the 2016 election. “My sources tell me there’s a lot of activity. I’m seeing, personally, activity behind the scenes [showing] the Department of Justice is trying to bring those first indictments,” Solomon said [..] “And I would look for a time around Labor Day to see the first sort of action by the Justice Department.” Solomon said he’s seeing “action consistent with building prosecutions and preparing for criminal plea bargains.”

“Until they bring it before the grand jury you never know if it’s going to happen. I’m seeing activity consistent with that.” Top former officials, including former CIA Director John Brennan, are said to be targets of the Durham investigation. But Attorney General William Barr has said he doesn’t expect Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, to be subjects of a criminal investigation. “There is overwhelming evidence in the public record now that crimes were committed,” Solomon said. He cited “falsification of documents, false testimony, false representations before the FISA court.”


Solomon said he is hearing from defense lawyers and people “on the prosecution side” that complications with the coronavirus pandemic are “slowing down” the grand jury process. WND reported this week Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said Durham should launch any prosecutions before the November election. [..] A report from DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz found at least 17 “significant” errors or omissions related to the Obama administration’s efforts to use the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act provisions against Trump.

Read more …

How is this still a topic?

Top US Commander Unconvinced By ‘Russian Bounty To Taliban’ Intel (RT)

Intelligence claiming Russia paid Taliban fighters to target US troops in Afghanistan lacked evidence, the top US general in the region has said. His account crushes yet another sensational media report based on anonymous sources. General Kenneth McKenzie, who oversees military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia as the head of US Central Command, told reporters on Tuesday that unverified reports about Russia having placed “bounties” on American soldiers in Afghanistan have yet to be substantiated. “The intel case wasn’t proved to me – it wasn’t proved enough that I’d take it to a court of law – and you know, that’s often true in battlefield intelligence,” the senior commander said. According to McKenzie, “there wasn’t enough there” to consider the intelligence credible.


He described the reports as “worrisome,” but stressed that there was no “causative link” to support the notion that an alleged bounty program had led to US deaths in Afghanistan. McKenzie’s remarks come a week after an assessment by the National Intelligence Council (NIC) concluded that the intelligence community has reservations about the allegations leveled against Russia. The memo said that the CIA and the National Counterterrorism Center had “medium confidence” in the reports, while the National Security Agency (NSA) and other spy agencies expressed “lower confidence.” [..] Responding to the allegations, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov didn’t mince his words, blasting the unverified US media reports as “100 percent bulls**t.”

Read more …

It doesn’t matter what the top commander thinks, or even what US intelligence admits. The public has been indoctrinated. And that is the goal.

Most Americans Believe Russia Targeted US Soldiers (R.)

A majority of Americans believe that Russia paid the Taliban to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan last year amid negotiations to end the war, and more than half want to respond with new economic sanctions against Moscow, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday. The national opinion poll conducted on Monday and Tuesday shows that the American public remains deeply suspicious of Russia four years after it tried to tip the U.S. presidential election in Donald Trump’s favor, and most Americans are unhappy with how the president has handled relations with the country.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll follows a series of reports, including several by Reuters, that Russia had been rewarding Taliban-affiliated militants, possibly by offering them bounties, to attack and kill U.S. troops in the region. Moscow denies the allegations. The New York Times and Washington Post both reported that several American soldiers were believed to have died as a result of the bounties. Trump said last week he was not told about the reported Russian effort, because intelligence officials were uncertain about its veracity. The New York Times reported that the president received written briefings about the program earlier this year, and it was also included in a widely read CIA report in May.


Overall, 60% of Americans said they found reports of Russian bounties on American soldiers to be “very” or “somewhat” believable, while 21% said they were not credible and the rest were unsure. Thirty-nine percent said they thought Trump “did know” about Russia’s targeting of the U.S. military before reports surfaced in the news media last month, while 26% said the president “did not know.” Eighty-one percent of Americans said they viewed Russian President Vladimir Putin as a threat to the United States, including 24% who saw him as an “imminent threat.” Only 35% said they approved of Trump’s handling of Russia, compared with 52% who disapproved.

Read more …

 

 

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Jun 262020
 
 June 26, 2020  Posted by at 11:33 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  47 Responses »


Dorothea Lange Depression refugee family from Tulsa, Oklahoma 1936

 

US Coronavirus Cases ‘May Have Topped 20 Million’ (BBC)
Pompeo Says US, EU Working To Resume Trans-Atlantic Travel (R.)
House Defense Bill Targets Troop Drawdowns In Africa, South Korea (Hill)
No More Crossing Borders For Work (Salmon)
The Fed Said It Could Supply $2.3 Trillion. It Hasn’t Come Close So Far (CNBC)
Parents To Sue Trump, Meme Creator Carpe Donktum Over Manipulated Video Of Toddlers
Why Joe Biden Can Do No Wrong (Turley)
Bayer Wants To Resolve Future Roundup Liability In A Class Action (R.)
New Assange Indictment Only Adds ‘Window Dressing’ to ‘Continue Smear Campaign’ (Sp.)
Doctors for Assange: UK Officials May be Legally Culpable for His Torture (CN)

 

 

Say what you will, but that virus is not sitting still, got to give it that. And as for us, we’re either not sitting still enough, or we’re making the wrong moves.

And I still can’t decide what I find scarier, that or the fast deteriorating political and media climate stateside.

Worldometer reports new cases for June 25 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 179,718.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 41,317
• Brazil + 40,673
• India + 17,720

 

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is where you say all bets are off, I guess.

US Coronavirus Cases ‘May Have Topped 20 Million’ (BBC)

At least 20 million people in the US may already have been infected with Covid-19, according to the latest estimate by health officials. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says the true number of cases is likely to be 10 times higher than the reported figure. It comes as the state of Texas halted its reopening as infections and hospitalisations surged. The US has recorded 2.4m confirmed infections and 122,370 deaths. Some southern and western states have been reporting record numbers of cases in recent days. The University of Washington predicts 180,000 US deaths by October – or 146,000 if 95% of Americans wear masks.

“Our best estimate right now is that for every case that was reported, there actually were 10 other infections,” CDC Director Dr Robert Redfield told reporters. This was because testing was restricted to people with symptoms and asymptomatic carriers were not tested, he said. “We probably recognized about 10% of the outbreak by the methods that we use to diagnosis between the March, April and May,” he said. Dr Redfield said that between 5% and 8% of the population had been exposed to the virus and urged Americans to keep social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands. “As we go into the fall, in the winter, these are going to be really, really important defence mechanisms,” he said.

[Texas], which has been at the forefront of moves to end lockdown measures, has seen thousands of new cases, prompting Republican Governor Greg Abbott to call a temporary halt to its reopening. “This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business,” he said. Texas confirmed a record 5,996 new cases on Thursday. There were also 47 new deaths, the highest daily toll for a month. The state has also seen record number of people requiring hospital treatment for 13 days in a row. Elective surgery has been suspended in the Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio areas to free up beds. More than 10% of the tests carried out over the past week have come back positive. All but 12 of the state’s 254 counties have reported cases.

Read more …

Yeah, Europeans can’t wait to invite a bunch of infected Usaians to their homes.

Pompeo Says US, EU Working To Resume Trans-Atlantic Travel (R.)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo played down concerns Thursday that the European Union might refuse to allow Americans into the 27-nation bloc as it considers lifting restrictions on overseas travelers starting next week, due to the spread of the coronavirus in the United States. “It’s a challenge for all of us to decide how and when to open up our economies and our societies. Everybody’s trying to figure that out,” Pompeo said during a videoconference organized by the German Marshall Fund think tank. “We’re working with our European counterparts to get that right.” European nations appear on track to reopen their borders between each other by July 1. Their envoys to Brussels are debating what virus-related criteria should apply when lifting entry restrictions on travelers from outside the EU that were imposed in March.

As the criteria are narrowed down, a list of countries whose citizens might be allowed in is being drawn up. The list would be updated every 14 days based on how the coronavirus is spreading around the world. The EU’s executive commission recommends that “travel restrictions should not be lifted as regards third countries where the situation is worse” than the average in the 27 EU member countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. That is likely to rule out people living in the United States, where new coronavirus infections have surged to the highest level in two months, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Beyond epidemiological concerns, any country being considered would first be expected to lift its own travel restrictions on visitors from all 31 European nations. This would also rule out the US. In a March 11 decree, President Donald Trump suspended the entry of all people from Europe’s ID check-free travel area. More than 10 million Europeans usually visit the United States each year.

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The war party has two wings.

House Defense Bill Targets Troop Drawdowns In Africa, South Korea (Hill)

The House Armed Services Committee’s version of the annual defense policy bill seeks to put roadblocks on withdrawing U.S. troops from Africa and South Korea. The so-called chairman’s mark of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) – the version of the bill drafted by Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) – would require the Pentagon to report to Congress on the effects, implications and costs of a troop drawdown in Africa on military, diplomatic, development and humanitarian efforts. It would also require a report on the effects of a drawdown within 90 days if the number of troops dips below 80 percent of current force posture.

Reports first surfaced earlier this year that Defense Secretary Mark Esper was eying slashing the number of U.S. troops in Africa as part of a global review of U.S. force posture to redirect troops to counter Russia and China. He later confirmed he was considering a reduction but insisted it would not be a full withdrawal. The plan received bipartisan backlash from lawmakers who argued the troops are needed not only to fight terrorism, but also to serve as a buttress against Russian and Chinese efforts to increase their influence in Africa.

More recently, President Trump announced he plans to withdraw thousands of U.S. troops from Germany. Trump has framed the drawdown as a punitive measure in response to Germany not meeting NATO’s defense spending goal, while national security advisor Robert O’Brien argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed the forces are needed in the Indo-Pacific region.

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Picked this from Felix Salmon for this crazy stat:

“..pre-coronavirus Apple was buying 50 business class seats per day just from San Francisco to Shanghai…”

No More Crossing Borders For Work (Salmon)

Another area where there’s no sign of any recovery is in the movement of workers across borders, especially when it comes to movement in and out of the U.S. Why it matters: Multinational U.S. corporations are built on international travel. Apple spends $150 million a year on air travel, for instance, and pre-coronavirus was buying 50 business class seats per day just from San Francisco to Shanghai. That level of investment in cross-border ties helped to create a company that’s now worth $1.6 trillion. Driving the news: U.S. borders remain shut to travelers from China and Europe. There are only eight flights per week between the U.S. and China; the United Airlines SFO-SHA route where Apple used to spend $35 million a year currently has no flights at all. The EU is almost certain to ban U.S. travelers when it reopens on July 1. And Donald Trump has banned thousands of nonimmigrant workers from entering the country this year.

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Because it only supports member banks.

The program is too complicated on purpose: the banks all have legal departments that have no trouble deciphering it.

The Fed Said It Could Supply $2.3 Trillion. It Hasn’t Come Close So Far (CNBC)

When the coronavirus pandemic locked up capital markets and pulled the economy into recession, the Federal Reserve took aim with a $2.3 trillion bazooka to try to help. Thus far, though, the central bank has only fired off surprisingly few rounds. In the three months since a slew of programs were announced, the Fed has loaned out just $143 billion, or a mere 6.2% of its total firepower. The most ambitious initiative, the Main Street Lending Program, has yet to make a loan, according to the most recent Fed balance sheet data, though officials expect that to change in a matter of days.

As for the rest of the measures, from municipal lending to corporate credit to the Fed’s role in the Paycheck Protection Program, there are several likely explanations for why what was supposed to be an infusion of cash into the economy instead has been a comparative trickle. One is simply that the programs, particularly in the case of Main Street, are complicated and have proven difficult to launch as the Fed gathers feedback and works through logistics. Another is that there is simply less demand from entities that are finding other ways to make do. And on that same point, the notion that the U.S. economy is recovering more quickly than expected from a recession that began in February has negated the need for the arsenal that the Fed launched starting in March.

“The economy is getting better, so you’re not seeing as many firms short of cash as you’d seen in March and April,” said Yiming Ma, an assistant finance professor at Columbia University Business School. “Some of the terms are just not very attractive to firms who potentially do need the funds.”

Read more …

Newsflash: we don’t all have the same kind of humor. But this goes very far.

Parents To Sue Trump, Meme Creator Carpe Donktum Over Manipulated Video Of Toddlers

The parents of two toddlers featured in a manipulated video posted on social media by President Donald Trump plan to file a lawsuit against the president, his campaign and the creator of the video, pro-Trump meme creator Carpe Donktum, escalating the fallout from the doctored video, which was taken down by Facebook and Twitter. Lawyers representing the parents of the children featured in the video are drafting a lawsuit alleging the video was altered and shared as an “advertisement and political propaganda” without permission or parental consent. Logan Cook, who goes by the username Carpe Donktum, altered footage of the two children in which one, who is Black, is running away from the other, who is white, and added a fake CNN chyron reading “Terrified toddler runs away from racist baby.”

The original clip, which went viral last year, actually shows the two toddlers running up to each other and hugging. (The edited video appears to be a satirical attempt criticize how the media takes statements out of context and reports on race.) Both Facebook and Twitter took the video down after the parents of the children filed a copyright complaint, and before that Twitter labeled the video “manipulated media.” Twitter late Tuesday permanently banned Cook for repeated copyright violations.

“The fact that Twitter and Facebook disabled this fake video within 24 hours of President Trump and his campaign tweeting it, coupled with Twitter permanently banning Cook, is very strong evidence that a jury will likely find that all of these people broke the law by using this video as advertisement and political propaganda,” said Ven Johnson, one of the attorneys representing the parents. Cook’s work is frequently shared by Trump, and the president reportedly called him a “genius” when he visited the White House last year. Twitter previously suspended Cook for eight days after he posted an edited video showing Trump as a cowboy attacking CNN reporter Jim Acosta.

Facebook and Twitter usually leave controversial posts from world leaders online, though Twitter has taken to labeling tweets with misinformation or those that “glorify violence” in recent weeks. But there’s one rule even world leaders can’t break: copyright. In October last year, another video posted by Trump featuring a Nickelback song was taken down after a copyright notice was filed. And earlier that year Twitter took down another video that included music from the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises without permission.

Read more …

It’s going to be an absolutely crazy election.

Why Joe Biden Can Do No Wrong (Turley)

In the 11th century, Pope Urban II formalized the use of indulgences, which could be purchased to forgive sins. A papal bull of the Crusade accompanied those who fought in the Holy Land and committed atrocities in the name of a higher order. The practice was defended as essentially drawing from the “treasury of merit” created by Jesus Christ, the saints and the faithful. Now the 2020 election has become the ultimate crusade, and President Trump’s critics seem to be enjoying indulgences in tossing aside moral and ethical considerations. The freedom that is Biden is nowhere more evident than in a recent column by The Nation’s Katha Pollitt, who wrote about the allegations of sexual assault made by former Biden staffer Tara Reade.

Pollitt dispensed with any struggle over feminist or moral qualms, declaring, “I would vote for Joe Biden if he boiled babies and ate them.” As Pollitt explained, “We do not have the luxury of sitting out the election to feel morally pure or send a message about sexual assault and #BelieveWomen.” Otherwise, Pollitt would have to deal with her column during the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, in which she denounced “some of his defenders [who] seem to be saying that even if the allegations are true, it shouldn’t really matter.” For years, critics have expressed disgust at Trump’s statement that “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn’t lose any voters.”

Yet they now afford Biden the same immunity even if he turns into the ancient god Cronus and starts snacking on boiled babies. The same indulgence has been claimed by politicians and commentators in dealing with other Biden allegations of sexual assault. Many of them demanded during the Kavanaugh controversy that all women must simply be believed when alleging sexual harassment. Those who questioned the allegations of Christine Blasey Ford were denounced for insensitivity, if not complicity, in the abuse of women. Today, some of us have said that Biden has the stronger case thus far, but we still support an investigation.

Yet many Kavanaugh critics quickly declared Biden to be innocent and opposed any search of his records — including those under lock and key at the University of Delaware — for any allegations of sexual abuse. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) simply cut off questions by testily declaring, “I don’t need a lecture” when confronted with her prior statements. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) declared she sees no need for an investigation because she knows Biden and believes him, adding that she resented being asked about it as a victim of sexual assault. She cut off questions from CNN’s Jake Tapper by saying, “And you know what? That’s all I’m going to say about it.”

Read more …

They sponsor a legal panel that absolves them from most future claims. How sick is that?

Bayer Wants To Resolve Future Roundup Liability In A Class Action (R.)

The headlines Wednesday in the mass tort litigation over Bayer’s Roundup weedkiller were all about the company’s decision to pay as much as $9.6 billion – a lot of money! – to settle about 94,000 suits alleging that Roundup is associated with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. But the bigger news, at least for this case’s impact on mass tort litigation, may be in a novel proposal to address all future claims against Bayer. If the mechanism – a class action to determine threshold issues of causation while preserving plaintiffs’ individual rights to sue – ends up winning court approval, it’s going to change the way defendants buy global peace in these sprawling cases.

The Roundup future claims settlement is via a newly-filed prospective class action on behalf of everyone who was exposed to Roundup but has not hired a lawyer to bring a tort claim. (There are subclasses for people who already have cancer and those who don’t.) In a simultaneously-filed motion for preliminary approval of the settlement of the new class action, Bayer and plaintiffs lawyers from Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, Audet & Partners and The Dugan Law Firm agreed to establish a panel of five scientific experts to decide the threshold questions of whether Roundup can cause cancer and, if so, at what levels of exposure. (For the true class action nerds: The settlement calls for the certification of an issues class to resolve the predominant common question of causation.)

The panel, which Reuters described Wednesday as “a calculated gamble” for Bayer, has at least four years to reach a determination, which is binding on all class members. After the panel’s decision, class members will be free to bring individual tort claims, with the caveat that those threshold causation and exposure questions have already been decided.

In the meantime, Bayer will put up $1.1 billion for diagnostic services for the class and for assistance to class members who develop cancer during the years before the scientific panel’s decision. The proposed settlement features an incredibly elaborate notice program to get the word out to prospective class members, taking into account that the class includes agricultural workers who may not speak English or have permanent residences. Class members have 150 days from the launch of the notice program to opt out of the class. As part of the settlement, future claimants will give up the right to seek punitive damages and medical monitoring fees in individual suits following the scientific panel’s causation decision.

Read more …

The shame of our generation.

New Assange Indictment Only Adds ‘Window Dressing’ to ‘Continue Smear Campaign’ (Sp.)

A US federal grand jury has unveiled a new superseding indictment against WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange. However, the filing brings no new charges. A journalist told Sputnik that what Assange does is no different from other reporters and the indictment is an attempt to sour Assange’s name in the media again. “It’s a continuation of the smear campaign against this man, to turn public opinion against him,” Joe Lauria, the editor in chief of Consortium News and author of the book “How I Lost, By Hillary Clinton,” told Radio Sputnik’s Loud and Clear Thursday. “It’s started to turn for him in certain instances recently, so the timing of this is interesting.” Lauria characterized the new accusations as “window dressing,” noting much of the document is simply a recapitulation of the previous charges against Assange.

According to the US Department of Justice’s Wednesday news release announcing the indictment, the new accusations “broaden the scope of the conspiracy surrounding alleged computer intrusions with which Assange was previously charged,” alleging he worked with hacker groups like Anonymous and LulzSec to gain access to classified files that WikiLeaks then published. “This is new: they write negatively about him helping [former NSA analyst-turned-whistleblower Edward] Snowden to get out of Hong Kong and that Assange had booked various other flights for Snowden to provide a diversion, so that he could get out on the one he did,” Lauria noted. “But there’s no charge of ‘aiding a fugitive to get away’ or anything like that, so that’s just thrown in there. We don’t know why.”

“The real essence is, as you say, the details to broaden this first indictment against him, which was for computer intrusion. And, essentially, it says that Assange directed hackers to get material. For example, one example is the recordings of high-level NATO officials, telephone calls that he wanted; also members of parliament of a NATO nation that is apparently Iceland.” Lauria said that to understand if this is a crime or not, he turns to investigative journalist Robert Parry, who founded Consortium News. Lauria noted a piece Parry wrote in 2010, anticipating Washington’s line of attack against Assange, in which he said that what Assange had done was no different than what he did as an investigative reporter, including encouraging sources to give information, and even to commit a small crime in order to prevent a larger one.

“This is key, because here we have in this expanded, superseding indictment, that Assange somehow committed a conspiracy with these hackers to get this information,” Lauria said. “Now, first of all, he’s not being accused of doing the hacking himself; he is accused of encouraging or directing – but not for money, by the way – these hackers to get documents and other materials that he wanted. So maybe two crimes are being committed there: one being the hack, and two, the unauthorized release of information. But Assange is not directly involved, so he’s doing what Bob Parry said he did as a reporter, and that was to get your source to commit a small crime [in order] to prevent a larger one. An example of that is Assange getting from [former US Army analyst Chelsea] Manning the ‘Collateral Murder’ video … the idea being to try to end the illegal war in Iraq,” Lauria told Sputnik.

Read more …

But doctors are not lawyers.

Doctors for Assange: UK Officials May be Legally Culpable for His Torture (CN)

Doctors have warned that UK officials could be held accountable for the torture of Julian Assange in an open letter published in The Lancet on International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. The 216 undersigned physicians and psychologists from 33 countries have accused UK and U.S. government officials of intensifying Julian Assange’s psychological torture in spite of the world’s leading authorities on human rights and international law calling for his immediate release from prison. Clinical Psychologist and Australian co-author of the publication, ‘The ongoing torture and medical neglect of Julian Assange’, Dr Lissa Johnson said the failure to properly treat Mr Assange may amount to an act of torture in which state officials, from parliament to court to prison, risk being judged complicit.

“Our letter is published just two days after the US Department of Justice announced a new superseding indictment against Assange representing yet another escalation in psychological torture tactics,” said Dr Johnson. “Introducing extra charges at this late stage, right before the defence evidence deadline and over a year after the indictment deadline, when documents given to the prison generally take two weeks to be passed on, when he has not been supplied with a computer and when he is unable to meet with lawyers under Coronavirus lockdown, serves to ramp up his helplessness jn the face of threat and is a key psychological torture tactic,” she said.

The doctors note that torture is prohibited under UK law, warning that UK officials could be judged “complicit”, including for their “silent acquiescence and consent”. They write that Assange at medical risk due to escalating abuses of his “fundamental human and legal rights at the hands of judicial, prison, and contracted security authorities”. The letter follows Julian Assange’s failure to attend four court hearings in a row on medical grounds. The authors charge UK and US authorities with “collective persecution and judicial harassment” in which “Mr Assange has been unable to engage in his own defence or even participate in his own hearings.”

A copy of the Lancet letter has been sent to the UK Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland. It coincides with two open letters to Buckland from 36 members of the European Parliament and 11 current and former politicians from 9 nations, calling for Julian Assange’s immediate release on bail in light of Covid-19, which places him “at grave medical risk” given his medical history, including persistent respiratory issues, the doctors warn. In a 60 Minutes Australia interview on Sunday night, Julian Assange’s fiancé, Stella Moris, stressed that Julian Assange is “very unwell”, expressing her fears that he may not survive.

Read more …

 

 

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https://twitter.com/wgbh/status/1276116181167017985

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 312020
 


Monastiraki Square deserted due to lockdown, Athens, Greece 2020

 

Well, actually, there is no Automatic Earth in Athens right now. But we’re working on it. And I have had a hard time finishing articles recently for some reason. It may be because it’s virustime, and it’s certainly because of the lockdown. People are social animals, and I am no exception. Living alone and working alone makes it more extreme.

Not that I have changed my mind on lockdowns; they are the only option to tame the virus under the circumstances. Still, a lockdown must be executed properly, to make it “as close to impossible as possible” for the virus to jump to new hosts, and that has only been done in very few places, either because politicians and “experts” don’t understand how and why, or they find it too inconvenient. But enough about that for the moment, even as today’s new global cases top 130,000 in yet another new record.

 

In mid-December I went from Athens to Holland, where I still rent a small apartment though I’ve been spending most of my time in Athens. I thought I’d stay a few months in the Lowlands, do some of the everyday -or every year- stuff that needs doing, taxes, medical things etc., and return to Athens in spring.

I had a ticket back to Athens from Holland on April 1, which I had bought early February, when things still seemed somewhat normal. But as the date approached, of course, we moved ever further away from normal. If I had booked a few weeks earlier, things might have worked out, but Greece implemented a very strict lockdown, so it wouldn’t have been much fun.

I could change the ticket for free until two weeks before departure, after which the cost for changing it would be close to the original ticket price. So I changed it. By then, there was a two-week mandatory full quarantine in place for new arrivals in Greece. Not very tempting, but more importantly I was thinking I didn’t want to become a burden on the Greek healthcare system.

Which according to some has shrunk by 75% (imagine that) due to EU-mandated austerity. I was thinking the odds of Greece and the Greek system being overwhelmed were much higher than that it would happen in Holland. Boy, was I wrong. The irony is that it is exactly this that made Greece adopt the strict lockdown measures it did, as early as it did, and faring so much better because of it.

For 2 months, until 2 weeks ago, everyone who was out in the street had to carry a piece of paper detailing why they were out (try that in the US!). The only valid reasons to be out were shopping for food or medicine. All stores other than supermarkets and pharmacies were closed anyway. Greece was early and strict. They didn’t feel they had a choice.

And even if so much of the healthcare system has been bulldozed, the core is still very strong, that is a major factor. The professionals (experts) running the system and advising the government are of a very high caliber, which is more than one can say of many other countries.

 

 

 

 

In Holland, it’s been a very different story. It was late to the game, and when it did decide on a lockdown, it called it an “intelligent” lockdown. Like Dutch people are smarter than others. Which, of course, people like to hear. Most stores have remained open (though not public transport), there was no mass testing, only people with obvious symptoms were tested, and the Dutch version of the CDC still maintains today that face masks don’t actually work (i.e. we are more intelligent than 4.5 billion Asians).

Like in many other countries, the lack of testing and masks really only had one reason behind it, and it wasn’t that they would not work, or that anyone believed they didn’t, it was that they didn’t have any. And then when a government says they’re not needed, the pace at which they are purchased abroad or can be produced domestically slows down too, even with all the high tech industries in the country. That way you sort of boil in your own fat.

We’re 5 months into the pandemic, and only now can one get tested without already being on the verge of death [Update May 31: still no test available without symptoms, asymptomatic carriers be damned. Should I fake symptoms?]. And only now are masks obligatory in public transport. This means the virus has become pretty much embedded, though perhaps not yet endemic, in the population.

It’s a giant gamble with the lives of your citizens when you try to hide your failure to acquire the necessary tools and implement the needed procedures, behind stories about how well “we” are really doing. The kind of gamble that politicians should at the very least by forced to quit for, but that is not going to happen.

But, more irony, they’re real popular. People buy the narrative that “this is the best we could have done”, and hang on to their lips every day for a shred of good news. That happens in many countries, of course, and, yes, it has a function: if you want to do a lockdown, above all you need a sense of unity. That it is used to hide lies and failures is almost an afterthought.

I don’t try to point out to people here -the few I see- anymore that their government has done a terrible job; they all watch the same news, and they’ve all bought the same “we’re in this together” kool-aid. Which, again, does serve a purpose, but it’s also very false. Here are the latest numbers from Worldometer:


Holland:
17.3 million people,
46,257 cases of COVID19, and
5,951 deaths.


Greece:
10.7 million people,
2,915 cases and
175 deaths.

I don’t even have to do the percentages, do I? The “successful” and “intelligent” Holland not only, 5 months in, still has an “official” worse “deaths per million population” rate than the US(!), the Dutch numbers also invariably come with the official addition that “real” numbers of both cases and deaths are much higher due to the lack of testing.

Almost as if they’re proud of it. As if it’s a waste of time to try and keep track of how and where the virus is spreading in your society, something you won’t ever know if you only test and count people who are already in hospital or dead.

 

High time for a more uplifting story. In early March, as Greece lockdown measures took hold one by one, almost all of the social kitchens were quickly shut down. But not the people the Automatic Earth has been supporting for 5 years running with your kind help. “Our” crew changed strategy as cooking in the street was no longer an option, and started preparing meals in a central place, only to drive down and hand them out fully ready in the familiar places near Monastiraki square and the Piraeus port.

And because so many other social kitchens had closed and the homeless still needed to eat (always the first to bear the brunt, no exception this time), they made -and make- a lot more meals as well than they were used to doing, and worked 4 days instead of 2, preparing some 700 meals every week.

It’s not just many more meals, but every meal takes much more time and energy to prepare than usual; each has to be packaged separately, because of course fears were that the homeless would be most susceptible to the virus. In short, they’ve all been working their behinds off. Everyone talks about heroes, and these people are mine. Let me show you with a few pictures:

Here’s Monastiraki square, deserted (with the Acropolis on top of the mountain):

 

 

Some of the crew preparing meals in the central place:

 

 

And posing (that’s Tassos doing his finest Greek Zorro):

 

 

Then there’s of course -some of- Da Boyz:

 

 

The usual hot meal in the big pot:

 

 

But lots of other things too, all individually wrapped:

 

 

Which then end up in these crates before they’re loaded into cars to be distributed.

 

 

I love this picture, these are some of the things served on Greek Easter, April 19, because the homeless, too, should celebrate:

 

 

And then the packages are handed to the people in central Athens:

 

 

And at the port of Piraeus:

 

 

Greece, like other countries, is slowly easing its lockdown, first the stores opened, last week it was terraces at bars and restaurants, and next week it will be the inside of these places too.

“The Crew” is not yet back to cooking in the streets, that will take a bit more time. I’ve been keeping in close touch with them, and it’s high time to replenish the supermarket “checks” I last arranged for in December. First thing I’ll do when I get there. Been offering it all the time, a bank transfer might have worked, but so far they manage.

Air traffic is resuming as well, bit by bit. When I changed my ticket in mid-March, I had no idea what would be realistic, and picked June 16 “out of a hat”. Not a bad guess, it turns out. June 16 became 17, and 2 days ago the Greeks said Holland is a risk country, so no flights before July, but this morning they changed that again, to mandatory testing at the airport followed by a night in a designated hotel; it now looks as if this might actually happen. Then again, 17 days is an eternity in virustime of course.

And in the process I’ll get tested, something I can’t get done in Holland. I’ve been holed up in an area of Holland with very few infections, but I’ll still have to do the train-airport-plane routine to get to Athens, all places where the danger of being infected is -relatively- high. Holland is a country the size of a postage stamp, and it still today averages more new cases than Greece has had total deaths.

 

As always when I write about the Automatic Earth in Athens project, I ask you to support it. There are still a few hundred dollars left, but I want to buy at least €1000 worth of supermarket checks, so the crew can fill their by now empty pantries and cupboards and do something extra for the clients, who haven’t had an easy time.

The way it goes is simple and identical to how we’ve always done this: you can donate through our Paypal widget at the top left corner of the site. Any donations that end in $0.99 or $0.37 go straight to the crew, other amounts go to the Automatic Earth, which also badly needs support, and which you can of course also support via Patreon, see top right corner of the site.

I am honored and proud to be associated with these people, and proud of the bonds we have forged since 2015, and I think you should be too. Together, we support the most vulnerable people, homeless and refugees, in a city still overflowing with vulnerable people (with many more added because of the virus), and we do it through a crew that doesn’t cease to amaze with their selflessness.

I don’t remember if I ever mentioned this, but a few years ago I was talking to a guy who did a project on Lesbos, maybe still does, and we were saying: many years from now, when looking back on your life, what will you be most proud of? We both concluded that this would certainly among the top in the list: supporting the weakest members of society. But I can’t do it without your help, which has been amazing all this time, and which I hope will continue in the same way that I am determined to continue to support this wonderful little shimmer of light.

 

 

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.

 

Mar 122020
 


Ann Rosener Reconditioning used spark plugs for use in testing airplane motors, Melrose Park Buick plant, Chicago 1942

 

 

 

The Extraordinary Decisions Facing Italian Doctors (Mounk)
‘Healthcare On Brink Of Collapsing’: The Italy Coronavirus Quarantine (ITV)
Politicians, Community Leaders, Business Leaders: What To Do and When (M.)
Trump Suspends Travel From Europe To US (BBC)
Ban On European Travel To US Will Batter Airlines (R.)
Why Does The Coronavirus Spread So Easily Between People? (Nature)
6 Million Low-Income Australians To Get $750 Cash Coronavirus Stimulus (G.)
Boeing Halts Hiring, Limits Overtime To Preserve Cash (CNBC)
Washington State House Passes Bill To Drop Boeing Tax Break (R.)
Mnuchin: IMF, World Bank Funds Won’t Repay Belt and Road Debts To China (R.)
Ghislaine Maxwell ‘Persuaded’ Prince Andrew To Snub FBI’s Epstein Probe (NYP)
Erdogan Slams Greece’s ‘Nazi’ Treatment Of Refugees (RT)
Greece Warned By EU It Must Uphold The Right To Asylum (G.)
Greenland And Antarctica Ice Loss Accelerating (BBC)
New Rules Could Spell End Of ‘Throwaway Culture’ (BBC)
Chelsea Manning Hospitalized After Suicide Attempt (G.)
Internet ‘Is Not Working For Women And Girls’ – Tim Berners-Lee (G.)

 

 

Even though he’s a rich celebrity Tom Hanks is probably lucky to fall ill at the time and place he did (now and in Australia). In Italy they might not treat his 63-year-old ass anymore. Many other countries, including Australia won’t either, in 1-2-3 weeks’ time. NBA suspended, Olympics, Eurocup and all other mass events should follow. They will anyway, so might as well do it nnow.

Other than that, as you’re tempted to criticize your government’s actions with regards to coronavirus, remember that everybody does it, every government is too late and too little, just like all the mainstream media and investors. This doesn’t mean your particular locality’s ‘leaders’ don’t deserve scrutiny, but it does provide perspective. They all dropped the ball and play catch-up, including the WHO. And they all have their eye on the economy, not the virus. Which is an issue for them only insofar as it affects the economy.

In the same vein, governments everywhere, central banks, IMF, World Bank, are all geared towards supporting companies, not people. But if 70% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and self-isolation is inevitably the next thing coming to the US, how are people supposed to self-isolate when those paychecks stop coming?

Older people will not be treated, and poorer people will have no choice but to go out and find food and other items just to survive. Northern Italy is quite a rich part of the world, which is why they have such an excellent health care system. Many parts of the US are nowhere near that rich, and their health care matches that difference.

 

Cases 126,644 (+ 7,255 from yesterday’s 119,389)

Deaths 4,639 (+ 339 from yesterday’s 4,300)

 

As China states its peak is over, the rise in cases in European countries is relentless. As I was scribbling yesterday before the latest numbers came in:

“Denmark, Norway each have some 5 million inhabitants. Switzerland has 10 million. Holland has 17. Their cases to date are 340, 440, 652 and 503, respectively.

Germany has 82 million people and 1,622 cases. Ergo, per capita Denmark, Norway should have -to keep level with Germany- 16x more cases, Switzerland 8x, Holland 5x. That would mean 3,440, 7,040, 5,216 and 2,515 cases per capita (not the right term, but you get it).

Norway is by far the worst. After Italy, Iran and South Korea, it’s the worst in infections per million people (if we forget Bahrain). It’s 27x worse than the US. So how many dire reports have you read from or about Norway?”

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

 

 

This tells you a whole lot too.

 

 

From SCMP: (Note: the SCMP graph was useful when China was the focal point; they are falling behind now)

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

Another great read from Yascha Mounk at the Atlantic. Looks like I’ll have to pass for the next one, my freebies are up.

The Extraordinary Decisions Facing Italian Doctors (Mounk)

Two weeks ago, Italy had 322 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. At that point, doctors in the country’s hospitals could lavish significant attention on each stricken patient. One week ago, Italy had 2,502 cases of the virus, which causes the disease known as COVID-19. At that point, doctors in the country’s hospitals could still perform the most lifesaving functions by artificially ventilating patients who experienced acute breathing difficulties. Today, Italy has 10,149 cases of the coronavirus. There are now simply too many patients for each one of them to receive adequate care. Doctors and nurses are unable to tend to everybody. They lack machines to ventilate all those gasping for air.

Now the Italian College of Anesthesia, Analgesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care (SIAARTI) has published guidelines for the criteria that doctors and nurses should follow in these extraordinary circumstances. The document begins by likening the moral choices facing Italian doctors to the forms of wartime triage that are required in the field of “catastrophe medicine.” Instead of providing intensive care to all patients who need it, its authors suggest, it may become necessary to follow “the most widely shared criteria regarding distributive justice and the appropriate allocation of limited health resources. ”The principle they settle upon is utilitarian. “Informed by the principle of maximizing benefits for the largest number,”

[..] they suggest that “the allocation criteria need to guarantee that those patients with the highest chance of therapeutic success will retain access to intensive care.” The authors, who are medical doctors, then deduce a set of concrete recommendations for how to manage these impossible choices, including this: “It may become necessary to establish an age limit for access to intensive care.” Those who are too old to have a high likelihood of recovery, or who have too low a number of “life-years” left even if they should survive, will be left to die. This sounds cruel, but the alternative, the document argues, is no better. “In case of a total saturation of resources, maintaining the criterion of ‘first come, first served’ would amount to a decision to exclude late-arriving patients from access to intensive care.”

Read more …

Note: Italy is rated second in the world for healthcare provision by the WHO. The UK is 18th.

‘Healthcare On Brink Of Collapsing’: The Italy Coronavirus Quarantine (ITV)

I’m just back from Italy and “enjoying” my first day of self-isolation. Getting a real picture of how bad the situation is, especially in Lombardy and the north, has been really difficult for TV news because movement is so restricted, access to the overwhelmed hospitals impossible and the danger of infection so great. But it’s really important people understand just how bad things are, not least because it is where we may be headed. So I will continue to write here about conversations, emails or recordings with those who are still under quarantine in Italy. Some will be Britons who have stayed on, some Italians, some doctors. I start with a voice recording of two Milanese doctors speaking on WhatsApp about the situation at their hospitals.

The first identifies herself as Martina, but I believe she is Martina Crivellari, an intensive care cardiac anaesthesiologist at the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan. She said: “There are a lot of young people in our Intensive Care Units (ICUs) – our youngest is a 38-year-old who had had no comorbidities (underlying health problems). “A lot of patients need help with breathing but there are not enough ventilators. “They’ve told us that starting from now we’ll have to choose who to intubate – priority will go to the young or those without comorbidities. “At Niguarda, the other big hospital in Milan, they are not intubating anyone over 60, which is really, really young.” She added: “This virus is so infectious that the only way to avoid a ‘massacre’ is to have the least number possible getting infected over the longest possible timescale.

“Right now, if we get 10,000 people in Italy in need of ventilators – when we only have 3,000 in the country – 7,000 people will die. “Rome right now is like where Milan was 10 days ago. In 10 days there has been an incredible escalation. “Lombardy, which has the best healthcare in the country, is collapsing, so I don’t dare to think what would happen in less efficient regions. “We’ve had no critical cases among children but with children, viruses are much less aggressive – think chickenpox or measles. “But the very young are crazy carriers. “A child with no symptoms will go to visit its grandparents, and basically kill them. So it’s essential to avoid contact between them”.

Read more …

Comprehensize overview from Tomas Pueyo.

Politicians, Community Leaders, Business Leaders: What To Do and When (M.)

When you’re done reading the article, this is what you’ll take away:
• The coronavirus is coming to you.
• It’s coming at an exponential speed: gradually, and then suddenly.
• It’s a matter of days. Maybe a week or two.
• When it does, your healthcare system will be overwhelmed.
• Your fellow citizens will be treated in the hallways.
• Exhausted healthcare workers will break down. Some will die.
• They will have to decide which patient gets the oxygen and which one dies.
• The only way to prevent this is social distancing today. Not tomorrow. Today.
• That means keeping as many people home as possible, starting now.
• As a politician, community leader or business leader, you have the power and the responsibility to prevent this.

You might have fears today: What if I overreact? Will people laugh at me? Will they be angry at me? Will I look stupid? Won’t it be better to wait for others to take steps first? Will I hurt the economy too much? But in 2–4 weeks, when the entire world is in lockdown, when the few precious days of social distancing you will have enabled will have saved lives, people won’t criticize you anymore: They will thank you for making the right decision. [..] Countries that are prepared will see a fatality rate of ~0.5% (South Korea) to 0.9% (rest of China). Countries that are overwhelmed will have a fatality rate between ~3%-5% Put in another way: Countries that act fast can reduce the number of deaths by ten. And that’s just counting the fatality rate. Acting fast also drastically reduces the cases, making this even more of a no-brainer.

Read more …

Also weeks too late.

Trump Suspends Travel From Europe To US (BBC)

US President Donald Trump has announced sweeping new travel restrictions on Europe in a bid to combat the spread of the coronavirus. In a televised address, he said travel from 26 European countries would be suspended for the next 30 days. But he said the “strong but necessary” restrictions would not apply to the UK, where 460 cases of the virus have now been confirmed. There are 1,135 confirmed cases of the virus across the US, with 38 deaths. “To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe,” Mr Trump said from the Oval Office on Wednesday evening. “The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight,” he added. The travel order does not apply to US citizens. Mr Trump said the European Union had “failed to take the same precautions” as the US in fighting the virus.


A Presidential Proclamation, published shortly after Mr Trump’s speech, specified that the ban applies to anyone who has been in the EU’s Schengen border-free area within 14 days prior to their arrival in the US. This implies that Ireland is excluded from the ban as it is not one of the 26 Schengen countries. Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania are also EU members without being part of the Schengen area. Mr Trump spoke just hours after Italy – the worst affected country outside China – announced tough new restrictions on its citizens. It will close all shops except food stores and pharmacies as part of its nationwide lockdown. He said the travel suspension would also “apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo” coming from Europe into the US. But he later tweeted to say that “trade will in no way be affected” by the new measures.

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Clean up the planet one step at a time.

Ban On European Travel To US Will Batter Airlines (R.)

The new U.S. ban on foreign citizens entering the country if they have traveled to Europe in recent weeks will heap more pressure on airlines already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, hitting European carriers the hardest, analysts said. The 30-day restrictions from Friday, which exclude Britain, are similar to those that went into effect targeting China on Feb. 1, and come after the outbreak’s rapid spread across the European continent and in the United States. Industry watchers warned the move could also create chaos at dozens of airports across Europe as passengers attempt a last-minute rush to fly to the United States before the ban takes effect. Flights from Europe can still operate to a limited number of U.S. airports with enhanced screening under measures announced on Wednesday evening.


But only U.S. citizens, permanent residents and immediate family members will be allowed in, severely denting the passenger base and hurting the U.S. tourism industry. U.S. President Donald Trump said the ban was needed because the country was entering a “critical time” in the fight against the virus, which has spread across the United States and killed at least 37 people and infected 1,281. “We made a lifesaving move with early action on China. Now we must take the same action with Europe,” Trump said in an address to the nation. “We will not delay.” The ban stops movement of people, not goods, he later clarified on Twitter. U.S. airlines had already slashed flight schedules to Italy, facing the largest European outbreak, and will take another hit from lower demand for flights from major destinations like France and Germany.

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Not clear at all. Makes you wonder where a vaccine should come from, and tells you it’ll take long time yet.

Why Does The Coronavirus Spread So Easily Between People? (Nature)

As the number of coronavirus infections approaches 100,000 people worldwide, researchers are racing to understand what makes it spread so easily. A handful of genetic and structural analyses have identified a key feature of the virus — a protein on its surface — that might explain why it infects human cells so readily. Other groups are investigating the doorway through which the new coronavirus enters human tissues — a receptor on cell membranes. Both the cell receptor and the virus protein offer potential targets for drugs to block the pathogen, but researchers say it is too early to be sure. “Understanding transmission of the virus is key to its containment and future prevention,” says David Veesler, a structural virologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, who posted his team’s findings about the virus protein on the biomedical preprint server bioRxiv on 20 February.

The new virus spreads much more readily than the one that caused severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS (also a coronavirus), and has infected more than ten times the number of people who contracted SARS. To infect a cell, coronaviruses use a ‘spike’ protein that binds to the cell membrane, a process that’s activated by specific cell enzymes. Genomic analyses of the new coronavirus have revealed that its spike protein differs from those of close relatives, and suggest that the protein has a site on it which is activated by a host-cell enzyme called furin. This is significant because furin is found in lots of human tissues, including the lungs, liver and small intestines, which means that the virus has the potential to attack multiple organs, says Li Hua, a structural biologist at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began.

The finding could explain some of the symptoms observed in people with the coronavirus, such as liver failure, says Li, who co-authored a genetic analysis of the virus that was posted on the ChinaXiv preprint server on 23 February. SARS and other coronaviruses in the same genus as the new virus don’t have furin activation sites, he says. The furin activation site “sets the virus up very differently to SARS in terms of its entry into cells, and possibly affects virus stability and hence transmission”, says Gary Whittaker, a virologist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. His team published another structural analysis of the coronavirus’s spike protein on bioRxiv on 18 February.

Several other groups have also identified the activation site as possibly enabling the virus to spread efficiently between humans. They note that these sites are also found in other viruses that spread easily between people, including severe strains of the influenza virus. On these viruses, the activation site is found on a protein called haemagglutinin, not on the spike protein.

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Nice headline, but it’s only to boost the economy. It should be about the people.

6 Million Low-Income Australians To Get $750 Cash Coronavirus Stimulus (G.)

More than six million low-income earners will receive a $750 cash payment under a $17.6bn government stimulus package targeted at keeping Australians in work and avoiding the country’s first recession in almost 30 years. Announcing the package on Thursday, the prime minister, Scott Morrison, said he was confident the targeted measures would be enough to “do the job” of propping up the economy, as the Coalition abandons a much-touted surplus for the current financial year and shifts it focus to maintaining economic growth. The stimulus boost is equivalent to 0.9% of GDP in the March quarter, and follows initial estimates from Treasury that the effect of the coronavirus downturn in the March quarter would be 0.5%, on top of a 0.2% hit from the summer bushfire crisis.


Three-quarters of the $17.6bn package will be directed to businesses, with a $6.7bn cashflow payment pegged to employee wages, $4bn tied to new investment incentives, $1.2bn to support apprentices, and a $1bn fund for hard-hit sectors such as tourism. Businesses will also be allowed to defer tax obligations, with the Australian Taxation Office announcing that it will offer relief to those hit hard by the downturn on a case-by-case basis. The household stimulus will cost $4.76bn, with payments to begin flowing from 31 March. All welfare recipients and concession card holders will receive the $750 payment, including 2.4 million pensioners and those with a commonwealth seniors card. The government has targeted low-income earners as they are most likely to spend the stimulus payment, with Treasury understood to have estimated a 150% return to the economy for every dollar spent.

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How much longer can it last?

Boeing Halts Hiring, Limits Overtime To Preserve Cash (CNBC)

Boeing is immediately suspending most hiring and implementing other measures to preserve cash as the rapid spread of the coronavirus roils the air travel industry, sending the manufacturer’s stock to the lowest level since mid-2017. Shares of the manufacturer plunged more than 18% — their biggest one-day percentage drop in more than four decades — to $189.08. Boeing’s plunge shaved more than 284 points off the Dow Jones Industrial Average, helping send the blue-chip index into a bear market. The company also is drawing down earlier than expected the entirety of a $13.8 billion loan it secured in January to give it a cushion to weather the turmoil.


Boeing is already reeling from the damage of two fatal crashes of its 737 Max and the worldwide grounding of the planes, which hits the one-year mark on Friday. “On top of the work of safely returning the 737 MAX to service and the financial impact of the pause in MAX production, we’re now facing a global economic disruption generated by the COVID-19 coronavirus,” Boeing’s CEO, Dave Calhoun, and CFO Greg Smith wrote in a note to employees Wednesday. The company is not laying off workers at this time, a Boeing official told CNBC. Boeing also doesn’t currently have plans to make any changes to its dividend, the official said. The company is also limiting travel and discretionary spending. It will also limit overtime to work necessary for its efforts to bring the 737 Max back in service and “other key efforts in support of our customers,” the executives wrote to employees.

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Nail. Coffin.

Washington State House Passes Bill To Drop Boeing Tax Break (R.)

Washington state’s House of Representatives passed a measure on Wednesday night that removes a key tax break for Boeing and other aerospace firms, in a bid to head off possible European tariffs on U.S. goods and ease a transatlantic trade dispute over aircraft subsidies. “This measure is important to protect our state’s economy,” House Democratic Majority Leader Pat Sullivan said by phone. “We don’t want tariffs levied by the EU on the aerospace industry but also on other key industries in the state like wine and agricultural products.” The measure passed 73-24 after winning approval on Tuesday in the Senate, a spokeswoman for House Democrats said. However, late changes to the legislation means it must be put to another vote in the Senate before it can go to Washington state Governor Jay Inslee’s desk for signing.


The World Trade Organization has found that Boeing and Europe’s Airbus (AIR.PA), the world’s two largest planemakers, received billions of dollars of unfair subsidies in cases dating back to 2004. The global trade body has faulted both sides for failing to comply fully with previous rulings, opening the door to a tariff war. After years of debate, the focus of the European case against the United States involves a preferential state tax rate for aerospace introduced 16 years ago and renewed in 2013 to help attract production work for Boeing’s 777X. The planned law changes would remove the 40% saving on Business and Occupation tax, which saved Boeing some $118 million in 2018 based on published jetliner revenues.

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Isn’t he supposed to be on the corona team?

Mnuchin: IMF, World Bank Funds Won’t Repay Belt and Road Debts To China (R.)

The U.S. Treasury is working with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to gain full transparency of countries’ debts from China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative and ensure that funds from the institutions are not used to repay China, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday. “We think this is critically important,” Mnuchin told a hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee. “We’re not ever going to be using money from these international organizations to pay back China.” Some countries saddled by debt from Belt and Road Projects, such as Pakistan, have turned to the IMF for assistance. Pakistan entered a $6 billion loan program with the Fund in July 2019.

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That queenie of yours is morally bankrupt as well.

Ghislaine Maxwell ‘Persuaded’ Prince Andrew To Snub FBI’s Epstein Probe (NYP)

Prince Andrew has hired a crisis management specialist dubbed “the backroom fixer” — after snubbing the FBI on the advice of Jeffrey Epstein’s accused madam Ghislaine Maxwell, according to reports. The Duke of York was on Monday once again shamed by US authorities who say he “completely shut the door on voluntary cooperation” with the investigation into his late pedophile pal’s crimes. Now a family friend of Maxwell’s claims Andrew was “persuaded” to do so at her urging. “Ghislaine told me that yes, the lawyers and Ghislaine have finally convinced Andrew that it would do no good for him to talk to the FBI,” Maxwell friend Laura Goldman told the Sun.


“He wanted to talk to them because he has nothing to hide,” Goldman said of the “honorable” 60-year-old royal. “But it was Ghislaine who persuaded him that it didn’t matter. The FBI will never be satisfied.” Media heiress Maxwell — who has been in hiding since her ex Epstein was busted on serious sex charges before his suicide last summer — is “beside herself” over the damage the scandal has done to Andrew and the British royal family. “She said that the attempt to question Prince Andrew is a publicity ploy and reeks of desperation.”

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Calling those who suffered most from Nazis, Nazis, is a bad idea.

Erdogan Slams Greece’s ‘Nazi’ Treatment Of Refugees (RT)

Athens’ treatment of thousands of refugees who have massed on the Turkey-Greece border is comparable to atrocities carried out by Nazi Germany, Turkey’s president has claimed amid the latest migrant row with the EU. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Greece in an address on Wednesday, claiming that Ankara’s Mediterranean neighbor has mistreated a flood of refugees that are trying to enter the EU through Turkey. “There’s no difference between those images from Greece’s border and what the Nazis did,” Erdogan said, apparently referring to photographs of clashes between migrants and Greek border police. He also announced that Turkey will keep its border open for migrants trying to gain entry to Europe, until Brussels agrees to meet commitments under a 2016 deal which Ankara claims have not been fulfilled.


The tactic has been described by some as tantamount to blackmail. Both sides are hoping to negotiate a new deal by the end of March. The Turkish president has a penchant for accusing other nations of Nazi-like behavior. In 2017, he accused Germany and the Netherlands of employing “Nazi practices” against Turkish citizens and his own government. When local German governments ran afoul of Erdogan that same year, the Turkish leader warned that European leaders “would revive gas chambers.” More recently, Erdogan has used the Nazi label to go after Tel Aviv. In 2018, he stated that “Hitler’s spirit re-emerges in some of Israel’s rulers,” adding that the Jewish state is “the most fascist and racist country in the world.”

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Oh, shut up and do something.

Greece Warned By EU It Must Uphold The Right To Asylum (G.)

The Greek government has been warned by the EU executive that it must uphold the right to asylum, as leaders from Brussels travel to Athens for talks on the migrant crisis at the EU’s borders. Ylva Johansson, EU commissioner for home affairs, said she wanted to discuss a detention centre where asylum seekers were reported to have been captured and beaten, before being expelled from Greece without the chance to speak to a lawyer or claim asylum. The New York Times reported on Tuesday of “a black site” in north eastern Greece where migrants are held without legal recourse before being expelled to Turkey.

Johansson, a Swedish social democrat who took charge of EU migration policy a little more than 100 days ago, said she would raise the issue of the detention centre with Greek government ministers on Thursday. “These kind of temporary detentions that they have set up – is one of the things I would like to know more about … Of course you can have detention for some period of people that have come, but of course you can’t beat them,” she said. The commission has been accused of failing to uphold EU law since Greece announced earlier this month it was suspending asylum applications for one month, a move at odds with European law and the Geneva convention.

While the UN agency for refugees has said the Greek decision has no legal basis, the commission has said it needs time to assess the situation. Sidestepping whether Greece’s decision was illegal, Johansson said: “We are going to discuss actually what they are doing, but they have to let people apply for asylum.” She also said the commission did not plan to suspend the right to asylum by invoking a little-known clause of the EU treaty that allows Brussels to propose “provisional measures”, to help a member state facing an emergency because of large numbers of migrant arrivals.

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Oh well, we’ll all be dead…

Greenland And Antarctica Ice Loss Accelerating (BBC)

Earth’s great ice sheets, Greenland and Antarctica, are now losing mass six times faster than they were in the 1990s thanks to warming conditions. A comprehensive review of satellite data acquired at both poles is unequivocal in its assessment of accelerating trends, say scientists. Between them, Greenland and Antarctica lost 6.4 trillion tonnes of ice in the period from 1992 to 2017. This was sufficient to push up global sea-levels up by 17.8mm. “That’s not a good news story,” said Prof Andrew Shepherd from the University of Leeds in the UK. “Today, the ice sheets contribute about a third of all sea-level rise, whereas in the 1990s, their contribution was actually pretty small at about 5%.

This has important implications for the future, for coastal flooding and erosion,” he told BBC News. The researcher co-leads a project called the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Intercomparison Exercise, or Imbie. It’s a team of experts who have reviewed polar measurements acquired by observational spacecraft over nearly three decades. These are satellites that have tracked the changing volume, flow and gravity of the ice sheets.

[..] Greenland and Antarctica are responding to climate change in slightly different ways. The southern polar ice sheet’s losses come from the melting effects of warmer ocean water attacking its edges. The northern polar ice sheet feels a similar sort of assault but is also experiencing surface melt from warmer air temperatures. Of that combined 17.8mm contribution to sea-level rise, 10.6mm (60 %) was due to Greenland ice losses and 7.2mm (40%) was due to Antarctica. The combined rate of ice loss for the pair was running at about 81 billion tonnes per year in the 1990s. By the 2010s, it had climbed to 475 billion tonnes per year.

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Oh, sure, the European Commission will save the world.

New Rules Could Spell End Of ‘Throwaway Culture’ (BBC)

New rules could spell the death of a “throwaway” culture in which products are bought, used briefly, then binned. The regulations will apply to a range of everyday items such as mobile phones, textiles, electronics, batteries, construction and packaging. They will ensure products are designed and manufactured so they last – and so they’re repairable if they go wrong. It should mean that your phone lasts longer and proves easier to fix. That may be especially true if the display or the battery needs changing. It’s part of a worldwide movement called the Right to Repair, which has spawned citizens’ repair workshops in several UK cities. The plan is being presented by the European Commission. It’s likely to create standards for the UK, too – even after Brexit.


That’s because it probably won’t be worthwhile for manufacturers to make lower-grade models that can only be sold in Britain. It’s all part of what one green group is calling the most ambitious and comprehensive proposal ever put forward to reduce the environmental and climate impact of the things we use and wear. Proposals aim at making environmentally-friendly products the norm. It could mean manufacturers using screws to hold parts in place, rather than glue. The rules will also fight what is known as “premature obsolescence”, the syndrome in which manufacturers make goods with deliberately low lifespan to force consumers into buying a newer model.

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This hurts. Physically.

Chelsea Manning Hospitalized After Suicide Attempt (G.)

Chelsea Manning’s legal team said that the former intelligence analyst had tried to take her own life on Wednesday but was transported to a hospital where she was recovering. The Alexandria sheriff, Dana Lawhorne, said: “There was an incident at approximately 12.11pm today at the Alexandria adult detention center involving inmate Chelsea Manning. It was handled appropriately by our professional staff and Ms Manning is safe.” Manning has been in jail since May 2019 for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks. She was scheduled to appear in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, on Friday for a hearing on a motion to terminate the civil contempt sanctions stemming from that refusal.


Andy Stepanian, a spokesman for Manning’s legal team, said in a statement on Wednesday that Manning “remains unwavering” in her refusal to participate the hearing. “In spite of those sanctions – which have so far included over a year of so-called ‘coercive’ incarceration and nearly half a million dollars in threatened fines – she remains unwavering in her refusal to participate in a secret grand jury process that she sees as highly susceptible to abuse,” her attorneys said in a statement. “Ms Manning has previously indicated that she will not betray her principles, even at risk of grave harm to herself.” In the motion filed last month, Manning’s lawyers argued that Manning had shown during her incarceration that she could not be coerced into testifying before a grand jury. Manning served seven years in a military prison for leaking a trove of documents to WikiLeaks before Barack Obama commuted the remainder of her 35-year sentence in 2017.

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How many Nobel prizes has he received so far?

Internet ‘Is Not Working For Women And Girls’ – Tim Berners-Lee (G.)

Women and girls face a “growing crisis” of online harms, with sexual harassment, threatening messages and discrimination making the web an unsafe place to be, Sir Tim Berners-Lee has warned. The inventor of the world wide web said the “dangerous trend” in online abuse was forcing women out of jobs, causing girls to skip school, damaging relationships and silencing female opinions, prompting him to conclude that “the web is not working for women and girls”. “The world has made important progress on gender equality thanks to the unceasing drive of committed champions everywhere,” Berners-Lee wrote in an open letter to mark the web’s 31st birthday on Thursday. “But I am seriously concerned that online harms facing women and girls – especially those of colour, from LGBTQ+ communities and other marginalised groups – threaten that progress.”

The warning comes a year after Berners-Lee launched the Contract for the Web, a global action plan to save the web from forces that threaten to drag the world into a “digital dystopia”. Without tackling misogynistic online abuse, the aims of the contract cannot be achieved, he said. “It’s up to all of us to make the web work for everyone,” the letter states. “That requires the attention of all those who shape technology, from CEOs and engineers to academics and public officials.” Berners-Lee highlights three areas that need “urgent” attention. First is the digital divide that keeps more than half of the world’s women offline, largely because it is too expensive, or they do not have access to the equipment or skills to use it.

Second is online safety: according to a survey by Berners-Lee’s Web Foundation, more than half of young women have experienced violence online, including sexual harassment, threatening messages and having private images shared without consent. The vast majority believe the problem is getting worse. The third threat comes from badly designed artificial intelligence systems that repeat and exacerbate discrimination. “Many companies are working hard to tackle this discrimination. But unless they dedicate resources and diversify teams to mitigate bias, they risk expanding discrimination at a speed and scale never seen before,” he writes.

[..] Berners-Lee said the coronavirus outbreak showed how urgent it was to take action. As workplaces and schools are forced to close, the web should be a “lifeline” that allows people to keep working and children to be educated. He called on companies and governments to tackle online abuse as a top priority this year. More data needs to be collected and published on women’s experiences online, while products, polices and services should all be designed based on data and feedback from women of all backgrounds, he said.

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Feb 052020
 


Max Ernst Inspired hill 1950

 

Hi, it’s me again, with more virus stories. I know you may think it’s enough now, but I do want to do this one. Actually, I haven’t written all that much about it, just two essays, 2019-nCoV and The Party and the Virus, but the topic has become a staple of my daily Debt Rattle news aggregators lately. So much that I find I need to remind myself all the time that it’s been a news item for only two weeks, going back to January 20 or so.

Through those two weeks, I’ve seen a number of studies, simulations, models, of where the virus can be expected to go going forward. And I want to take a look at some of them. I said early on that I didn’t like people talking about the economy as soon as the first people died, but 2 weeks later, given the growth of the epidemic, that doesn’t appear avoidable anymore.

People are starting to wonder what’s going to happen to society at large, and in “the markets” -or what’s left of them after central bank manipulation- if and when the virus remains an issue for an X amount of time. I think I can explain some of the parameters, though I want to make clear predicting what viruses do is, even for virologists, crystal ball material, and I ain’t got one of those.

 

China injected $242.74 billion into the markets via reverse repos on Monday and Tuesday, and stocks seem to have made up for their $445 billion losses on Monday. But what exactly is that optimism based on? Is it that “investors” think the PBOC will have their backs no matter what? Is it the reports of companies like Gilead testing possible solutions, vaccines?

I’m not an expert, but I do know it takes a sophisticated drug company about a year to develop a drug/vaccine for a novel disease, as “WuhanCorona” is. From what I can gather, the Gilead drug (co-)tested by the Chinese is basically an anti-viral developed with Ebola in mind, which may or may not work. Ebola is somewhere related to “WuhanCorona”, in a third cousin twice removed kind of way, but that’s it. HIV drugs could also perhaps work to some extent, but that’s a big question.

So what the optimism in the “markets” is based on, you tell me. Are people so afraid of what might be coming that their minds switch off, are they afraid to get informed, or do they genuinely think it’ll all soon be over? Me, I hope it’ll turn out fine, but I wouldn’t put any money on it. And that’s based on what I’ve been reading.

 

When reporting on the Wuhan situation started for real in the west, let’s say January 20 (that’s just 16 days ago!), there were 291 registered infection cases. There are 27,648 now, and 564 people have died. Those are “official” Chinese numbers, and there are plenty doubts about their accuracy (see today’s stories about Tencent posting 10x higher numbers), but let’s roll with the official ones for the moment. I’m going to hop through time a little, but please bear with me, there is a logic.

First, there’s this from January 28 in the SCMP (South China Morning Post), a major Hong Kong news outlet owned by -very Chinese- Alibaba. Zhong Nanshan is a scientist working for the government. My first reaction when I saw this was: it looks like he’s doing damage control for the CCP.

 

Chinese Experts Say Wuhan Coronavirus Outbreak Will Not Last

One of China’s top experts said the Wuhan coronavirus infection rate could peak in early February. “I estimate that it will reach its peak in around the next week or 10 days, after that there will be no more major increases,” said Zhong Nanshan, the respiratory disease scientist who played the pivotal role in China’s fight against the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) coronavirus epidemic in 2002-03.


[..] Gao Fu, the director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention [said] he was “optimistic” that the outbreak’s “turning point” could arrive by February 8 if current disease control protocol is maintained.

3 days earlier, January 25 (that’s just 11 days ago!), the SCMP ran this piece on the same Zhong Nanshan, which reinforces my image of him a bit more. One might argue that Beijing has become more transparent recently, but the facts remain that for instance the WuhanCorona virus can be traced back to early December if not earlier, and that after the first death on December 9 no testing at all was done in Wuhan for a week.

Just to name a few things. So for a scientist to claim that “Beijing has no secrets to hide” and “has not held back information in reporting the outbreak in Wuhan” is at the very least over the top.

 

China Has Been Transparent About Wuhan Outbreak, Virus Expert Zhong Nanshan Says

Chinese officials have been transparent in handling the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak and the participation of a Hong Kong professor through the process indicates that Beijing has no secrets to hide, said one of the country’s leading experts on communicable diseases. Dr Zhong Nanshan, whose team is advising the leadership on how to handle the crisis, told a news conference in Guangzhou on Tuesday that China had not held back information in reporting the outbreak in Wuhan, which has sickened more than 300 people across the country since early December.

But also on January 25, there was this Zero Hedge piece about British scientist Jonathan Read, who had completely different ideas about the outbreak. Note: both predictions focus on Feb 4.

 

UK Researcher Predicts Over 250,000 Chinese Will Have Coronavirus In Ten Days

[..] in 10 days time, or by February 4, 2020, Read’s model predicts the number of infected people in Wuhan to be greater than 250 thousand (with an prediction interval, 164,602 to 351,396); [..] Read estimates that only 5.1% of infections in Wuhan are identified (as of Jan 24)..


[..] Read’s model alleges that Beijing was woefully late in its response and that recently imposed “travel restrictions from and to Wuhan city are unlikely to be effective in halting transmission across China; with a 99% effective reduction in travel, the size of the epidemic outside of Wuhan may only be reduced by 24.9% on 4 February.”

Very different. Remember his “travel restrictions from and to Wuhan city are unlikely to be effective in halting transmission across China”, it’ll come in handy later. Now, I’ve been posting a few math sequences, Fibonacci and otherwise, and those are way too negative, or at least would seem to be.

Problem with that is, as with many facets of the whole thing, we don’t know. There are simply too many scientists who state that real infection- and fatality numbers are much higher than what Beijing reports. They do that based on models, simulations etc. Not because they want The Party (CCP) to look bad, but because the models tell them.

An example: SCMP reported early Tuesday that the mortality rate for the city of Wuhan has reached 4.9%, while the mortality rate for Hubei province as a whole is 3.1%. They added that the mortality rate is predicted by doctors to drop, because extra medical attention is available etc. But we know that extra attention threatens to be overwhelmed by too many patients, shortages of beds, equipment, test kits, protective clothing etc. Nice try, but…

 

All this just to get to why I started writing this, which is a report published at The Lancet on January 31, from Hong Kong University (HKU). I have cited previously that it estimated 75,815 people had been infected in Wuhan on January 25, a far cry from the 1,300 official number at that point. And yes, I do want to use the discrepancy to cast at least some doubt on the official numbers.

But there’s something else that I would like to focus on. The same report also says that the epidemic -or episode, pandemic- would end “around April” 2020, so between, say, mid-March and mid-May, 6 weeks and 14 weeks from now, if certain conditions are met. And that’s just Wuhan. Add another 2 weeks “across cities in mainland China”.

The full name of the paper by Prof Joseph T. Wu, PhD, Kathy Leung, PhD and Prof Gabriel M. Leung, MD is “Nowcasting and forecasting the potential domestic and international spread of the 2019-nCoV outbreak originating in Wuhan, China: a modelling study”

It says: “We estimated that if there was no reduction in transmissibility, the Wuhan epidemic would peak around April, 2020, and local epidemics across cities in mainland China would lag by 1–2 weeks.”

[..] In this modelling study, we first inferred the basic reproductive number of 2019-nCoV and the outbreak size in Wuhan from Dec 1, 2019, to Jan 25, 2020, on the basis of the number of cases exported from Wuhan to cities outside mainland China. We then estimated the number of cases that had been exported from Wuhan to other cities in mainland China. Finally, we forecasted the spread of 2019-nCoV within and outside mainland China, accounting for the Greater Wuhan region quarantine implemented since Jan 23–24, 2020, and other public health interventions.

Figure 2 summarises our estimates of the basic reproductive number R0 and the outbreak size of 2019-nCoV in Wuhan as of Jan 25, 2020. In our baseline scenario, we estimated that R0 was 2·68 (95% CrI 2·47–2·86) with an epidemic doubling time of 6·4 days (95% CrI 5·8–7·1;).

We estimated that 75 815 individuals (95% CrI 37 304- 130 330) had been infected in Greater Wuhan as of Jan 25, 2020. We also estimated that Chongqing, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen, had imported 461 (227–805), 113 (57–193), 98 (49–168), 111 (56–191), and 80 (40–139) infections from Wuhan, respectively.

Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen were the mainland Chinese cities that together accounted for 53% of all outbound international air travel from China and 69% of international air travel outside Asia, whereas Chongqing is a large metropolis that has a population of 32 million and very high ground traffic volumes with Wuhan. Substantial epidemic take-off in these cities would thus contribute to the spread of 2019-nCoV within and outside mainland China.

 


Figure 2 – Posterior distributions of estimated basic reproductive number and estimated outbreak size in greater Wuhan
NOTE: a zoonosis is an infectious disease that can spread between animals and humans. FOI = force of infection

 

Figure 4 shows the epidemic curves for Wuhan, Chongqing, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen with a R0 of 2·68, assuming 0%, 25%, or 50% decrease in transmissibility across all cities, together with 0% or 50% reduction in inter-city mobility after Wuhan was quarantined on Jan 23, 2020.

The epidemics would fade out if transmissibility was reduced by more than 1–1/R0=63%. Our estimates suggested that a 50% reduction in inter-city mobility would have a negligible effect on epidemic dynamics.

We estimated that if there was no reduction in transmissibility, the Wuhan epidemic would peak around April, 2020, and local epidemics across cities in mainland China would lag by 1–2 weeks.

If transmissibility was reduced by 25% in all cities domestically, then both the growth rate and magnitude of local epidemics would be substantially reduced; the epidemic peak would be delayed by about 1 month and its magnitude reduced by about 50%.

A 50% reduction in transmissibility would push the viral reproductive number to about 1·3, in which case the epidemic would grow slowly without peaking during the first half of 2020.

However, our simulation suggested that wholesale quarantine of population movement in Greater Wuhan would have had a negligible effect on the forward trajectories of the epidemic because multiple major Chinese cities had already been seeded with more than dozens of infections each.

The probability that the chain of transmission initiated by an infected case would fade out without causing exponential epidemic growth decreases sharply as R0 increases (eg, <0·2 when R0>2).

As such, given the substantial volume of case importation from Wuhan, local epidemics are probably already growing exponentially in multiple major Chinese cities.

Given that Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen together accounted for more than 50% of all outbound international air travel in mainland China, other countries would likely be at risk of experiencing 2019-nCoV epidemics during the first half of 2020.

 


Figure 4 – Epidemic forecasts for Wuhan and five other Chinese cities under different scenarios of reduction in transmissibility and inter-city mobility

 

Ergo: reducing mobility is ineffective because too much mobility had already happened prior to the lockdowns. That ship has sailed. Not that one shouldn’t try to limit mobility, but it can’t stop the disease from spreading. The HKU team doesn’t say much about how they would see transmissibility lowered, but that seems to come down to more, and intense, lockdowns.

There’s a cruise ship floating off Yokohama where everyone is ordered to stay in their cabin because of the virus. Think along those lines: ordering people to stay in their homes. Sort of like the Black Death plague in 14th century Europe.

Perhaps there are anti-virals that can lower transmissibility somewhat, but that is by no means sure. The discovery ofasymptomatic transmitters doesn’t help either. You can’t very well test everyone, you test those with symptoms.

Chinese health authorities have identified a number of patients who have become carriers and transmitters of the coronavirus despite showing no outward symptoms of the disease. Li Xingwang, chief infectious diseases expert at Beijing Ditan Hospital, said most of the “dormant” carriers were related to and had caught the virus from patients with symptoms.


“These [carriers] have the virus and can transmit it. The amount of virus correlates to the severity of the illness, which means these patients carry less of the virus and their ability to transmit disease is weaker,” Li said.

 

Lunar New Year holidays have been extended everywhere across China, except in a few rare places. Major cities are under full lockdown. Western companies are scrambling to find alternative suppliers. Just 2 weeks into the epidemic. What happens when the factories stay closed for 6 or 16 more weeks?

Where will Chinese and western stocks be then? Xi Jinping has declared the WuhanCorona virus the number 1 threat. How can he order the factories to re-open before mid-April at the earliest then, when the peak of the epidemic hasn’t even been reached? But at the same time, can he afford to order all production shut for 2-3-4 months?

Thing about such peaks is, you can only see them in the rearview mirror. But you can bet that in 2-3 weeks max, people will solemnly declare the peak is here. Because the existing but especially potential economic damage will be so great. Bur declaring a peak too soon, let alone the end of the epidemic, is too much of a risk.

The way things are going, pretty soon there won’t be any westerners left in China, other than those who wish to stay permanently. Many if not most factories will be closed. No Chinese will be allowed to visit the rest of the world, while Chinese products will not ship there.

The big lockdown has just begun. Because once you start it, you can’t go back until you can prove that everything is safe. And that will in all likelihood take a long time, months. When will absolutely everybody have faith that everything is safe? When nobody falls ill anymore, when nobody can infect other people anymore.

But that’s a long way away. April, May, or later? And that in an economic system built on just-in-time delivery? Chinese oil demand is allegedly down 20% already. How can oil prices not fall if that is true? Since those prices are linked to the US dollar, what will happen with the currency?

There are too many questions that nobody can answer, or even try to. That’s complex systems for you. And I really really hope I’m wrong, but the way out of the lockdown is not clear at all.

The world cannot afford the risk of consciously helping to spread a lethal pandemic. And the only way to prevent it may be the big lockdown. Unless there’s a vaccine. But there isn’t one right now.

Overly alarmist, you say? Let’s hope so.

 

 

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Feb 172015
 
 February 17, 2015  Posted by at 2:57 pm Finance Tagged with: , ,  7 Responses »


DPC Engineer at his post, Michigan Central RR 1904

In Other News, I’m about to leave on a 30+ hour trip on planes, trains and automobiles that will, or so is the idea, take me to Melbourne where I will meet up with Nicole. That means in all likelihood there will be no Debt Rattle tomorrow, unless planes have upped their wi-fi systems when I wasn’t looking.

Nicole and I are still looking for openings to do talks and/or stay with readers, something we love to do, especially for the New Zealand part of our trip, starting March 10 or thereabouts.Do invite us, we’re fun!

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