Mar 272020
 


Rembrandt van Rijn Portrait of his father 1628-29

 

I was following the numbers all afternoon, because I knew this was going to be the day that the US would become the no. 1. The no. 1 loser, that is. Here’s some of what I wrote in the Automatic Earth Comments section as we went along:

500,000 global cases was at noon EDT. 3.5 hours later there were another 20,000. [..] At 12.38 pm the US was 6,300 cases behind China. That is now 1,200.

God’s Own Country will take the definite no. 1 position sometime this afternoon, and then run away with it. The US has many fewer fatalities so far, but there, too, it will come out on top.

All this is why America pronounced Nicolas Maduro a drug trafficker and narco-terrorist today.

The US took the topspot at about 3pm. That done and achieved, I realize I’ve been so busy lately documenting the spread of the coronavirus and -some of- its consequences that the next steps in the demise, though clearly visible, risk going unnoticed.

But then I saw that the US is charging Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with drug trafficking (narco-terrorism?!), and I was wide awake again. Why does the US, on the verge of becoming the worst hit “corona country”, charge him now, of all possible times, when they could have done it any given day for the past 7 years? Well, exactly because of the corona threat.

And I don’t think this is Trump; he may take a political hit, but he only has to do better than Joe Biden, and anybody could do that. This smells much more like some deep state thing, Mike Pompeo and his crew.

 

In their phone alerts, CNN had a few real howlers as the day went by.

“Health officials say the peak is yet to come”

“Stocks see third day of gains”

Meanwhile, it took them hours to clue into the fact that the US had become the no. 1. But it’s that second point that warrants scrutiny. In the expectation and the “fulfillment” of the $6 trillion “stimulus” package, stocks managed to rise. Yay! But that no. 1 position won’t leave any of that standing. No sirree.

The US is no longer capable of formulating and negotiating adequate legislation even in times of real crisis. And it’s not that it’s GOP against Dems, and one would do everything so much better than the other. It’s one set of special interests against another, and in the end both win. And there is no escape left from that.

I said earlier about the stimulus that such a package in the US today is possible only provided that the rich get 1000 times what the poor get. That’s the only way to get those $1,500 checks to people who actually need them. For every such check a million bucks goes to the rich and powerful.

And if only they were also 1000 times more likely to catch the coronavirus, at least we would have a sense of justice. But no such luck.

 

What the stimulus will really end up doing is it will expose the Fed. You can talk about unlimited QE all you want, but talk enough and it will lose all meaning. I’ve long said that there are no markets left because there is no price discovery, and lately I’ve seen many people saying exactly that, just much later.

The stimulus really only serves to take even more price discovery away, if that was still possible. And that’s it. The rich will be handed hundreds of billions with nowhere to go. The losses in the stock “markets” lately have been staggering, trillions were lost. But then you look at a graph and you think holy sh*t, there’s so much more to go, so much more downside before we get to anything resembling normal. This was two weeks ago:

 

 

Markets as they -used to- exist under capitalism can be an awesome instrument, because there is such a multitude of participants. However, when you start trying to control the “markets” because sometimes they fall a little and you don’t like that, you unleash formidable forces that are also part of that instrument. Like so many natural phenomena, they will tend towards a balance, and you can’t stop that. Not for long.

The process that looks like it may end soon started under Alan Greenspan and the housing bubbles he blew, and the seeds of the demise were sown right then and there. Now that $6 trillion has been thrown at the wall that won’t stick, what is next?

The Fed policies (and I include most other central banks under that moniker) worked for a while because the QE’s and the ultra low rates supported banks and other enterprises that were essentially zombies. They also “zombified” many other companies that might have been able to survive without them. Look at Boeing.

Look at Apple. They look like a great company but what are their shares worth? Nobody knows, because they bought back too many of them to make price discovery viable. So at least part of Apple looks great only because of trickery, not because of great products. Steve Jobs is turning in his grave as we speak.

 

And now the zombies may be killed off by a virus. Just not if the Fed can help it. But if America runs away with that top spot hard enough, if tens of thousands of new cases become a daily occurrence (we’re at 17,000 so far today), and the first ten thousand fatalities are counted, the country will be locked down and the “markets” will fall off a cliff.

Unless, and that what I’m starting to fear may happen, the powers that be see no other choice than to close the “markets”. That will mean the entire financial system is on the brink of collapse. It would be announced as temporary, but the damage would be done. Everything would turn into one giant margin call, banks would be forced to close, the works, a real depression.

Let’s hope that none of this happens, but the signs are not favorable. America appears much less prepared for a pandemic than even Lombardy was, with too little or too late of everything, ventilators, masks, protective clothing, medicine, you name it. You can’t run an economy in a setting like that.

But at least you’ll be rid of the zombies. It’s a shame, really, that there is no virus that kills only zombies, that so much else must be destroyed with them. The thing is, we did have these instruments to kill zombies, they were called central banks. Should have used them when we had the chance.

 

Our readership is up a lot, but ad revenue only keeps dropping. I’ve said it before, it must be possible to run a joint like the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. These are no longer the times when ads pay for all you read, your donations have become an integral part of it. It has become a two-way street; and isn’t that liberating, when you think about it?

You heard it here first, like so many other things. And no, though it would be far more lucrative financially, the Automatic Earth will not adopt any paywalls, not here and not on Patreon. But you can still support us there, as well as right here. It’s easy. Thanks everyone for your donations overnight.

 

 

 

 

 

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Mar 242020
 


James Proudfoot Sun on a House, Dieppe 1937

 

 

Famous last words?!

“I would love to have it open by Easter,” Trump said in an interview Tuesday with Fox News. “I would love to have it opened up and just raring to go by Easter.” “A lot of people agree with me. Our country is not built to built to shut down. Our people are full of vim and vigor and energy. They don’t want to be locked into a house or an apartment, it’s not for our country”

Note that Trump covered himself by framing it as “I would love to…” Still, Easter is April 12, 19 days from now. I think the US is highly unlikely to even have reached its peak in infections by then, and the country will be awash in misery, sickness, death and heartbreaking stories, not uplifting ones of a roaring economy.

The US death toll is still very low compared to its active cases, but that is because the epidemic in the country is relatively new, and there are still hospital beds and ventilators available. Those days will soon be over, try the end of next week if not sooner, and the death toll will be going going gone out of there.

And remember, half of all US corona cases are still in New York State alone. There are 49 other states to go, that just about all still have open borders with each other. New York today, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut etc. tomorrow.

If Governor Andrew Cuomo was not exaggerating too much earlier today when he said he asked FEMA for 30,000 ventilators and got only 400, the ominous path forward is beginning to look like a very eery version of a Yellow Brick Road to nowhere, with the Wizard sipping banana daiquiries on his private yacht in the Caribbean.

Our friend Mike Mish Shedlock did a bit of math on Sunday with data from the Covid Tracking Project, and came up with this:

How Long to 1 Million US Cases?

Inquiring minds are investigating a relatively new data feed from the Covid Tracking Project. I plot four data series for the US: Negative tests, positive tests, hospitalized, and deaths. Arguably, hospitalizations are the most significant column but the project only has two days worth of data. Once I have another dfats point or two, I will plot a trendline manually.


Trendlines At the current pace, the number of positive coronavirus cases would hit 100,000 on March 26, and 1,000,000 on April 3. At the current pace, the number of coronavirus deaths would hit 1,000 on March 26, and 10,000 on April 5. Those are not my projections, those are observations of what would happen if the current trends last that long at the same pace.

At that point, the US had 32,000 cases. On Monday that had become 42,000. As I write this, it’s 52,000 and the day is far from over. And remember what I said yesterday, that on March 8, just 16 days ago, the US reported 409 cases.

When I posted Mish’s numbers, I questioned his prediction of 100,000 cases by Thursday, but that’s really just details. If not Thursday, it will be Friday. Yes, that’s a doubling in 2 or 3 days. Early next week, if not his weekend, it’ll be 200,000. And so on. Mish says 1 million in 10 days from now. I see no reason to doubt him.

Either tomorrow or Thursday, March 25 or 26, the US will overtake China for the no. 1 global position in total cases -which is some 81,000 now-. With very flawed to non-existent testing procedures, with ongoing endless political bickering, and with a looming huge shortage in hospital beds and ventilators; this is beginning to look like a very bad movie.

By Easter, much of US industrial production in many parts of the country will have to be shut down, the same way China’s was -and still is-, and Italy’s is. You can’t successfully run a factory -or an office for that matter-, if your employees get sick, stay home, end up in hospital or worse. Even in the US, one single case should be enough to close the entire facility down.

The victim will have to be quarantined, as must his/her entire family, everyone (s)he worked with must be tested, and so on. It works like that everywhere, and the US is no exception. It can’t be, the risk is too high.

Brace yourself. Don’t take my word for anything, look at the numbers and draw your own conclusions. My idea is Easter is going to be different from usual this year.

 

Much as I don’t want to, I must ask for your support. Readership is up a lot, but ad revenue only keeps dropping. I’ve said it before, it must be possible to run a joint like the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. These are no longer the times when ads pay for all you read, your donations have become an integral part of it. It has become a two-way street; and isn’t that liberating, when you think about it?

You heard it here first, like so many other things. And no, though it would be far more lucrative financially, the Automatic Earth will not adopt any paywalls, not here and not on Patreon. But you can still support us there, as well as right here. It’s easy. Thanks everyone for your donations overnight.

 

 

 

Support us in virustime. Help the Automatic Earth survive. It’s good for you.

 

Mar 212020
 


Dorothea Lange Ex-slave with long memory, Alabama 1937

 

Coronavirus – Getting Angry (John Bronte)
China Is Avoiding Blame by Trolling the World (Atlantic)
From ‘Chinese virus’ to ‘Trumpandemic’ (RT)
Cuomo Orders New York Lockdown, Shuts Down Non-Essential Businesses (NYP)
New Best Friends: Trump And Archfoes Cuomo And Newsom Bond (JTN) )
Trump’s Approval Rating Soars During Handling Of Coronavirus (JTN)
Biden Plans Shadow Coronavirus Briefings (Pol.)
Cuba’s Interferon Alpha 2B, Successful in Treating COVID-19 (TeleSur)
The Doctor Who Helped Defeat Smallpox Explains What’s Coming (Wired)
Pentagon Sends 2,600 Europe-based Personnel Into Quarantine (RT)
Boeing Suspends Dividend, Halts Buybacks, Stops Paying CEO And Chairman (Y!)
National Guard Chief Denies Rumors Of Martial Law Response To Virus (Solomon)
Schiff Claims ‘Immunity’ To Keep Impeachment Phone Subpoenas Secret (JTN)
Strength and Weakness (Kunstler)
CoronaBonds To Hold The Payments System Together (Steve Keen)
Personal Coronavirus Update 02 March 21st 2019 (Steve Keen)

 

 

Relentless. And unfortunately incresiangly political.

 

Cases 279,320 (+ 32,126 from yesterday’s 250,618)

Deaths 11,587 (+ 1,565 from yesterday’s 10,255)

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 11% !! –

 

 

I would like to have better graphs than the SCMP and COVID2019.app ones, and by that I mean things that I can use in this format. But I don’t see them. Johns Hopkins doesn’t provide these nor does COVID19info.live. The latter even has two different numbers for Confirmed and Infected. Do we need that?

Great admiration for what the Wordometer people are doing, but it would be nice(r) to have multiple sources.

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

 

 

From COVID2019.app: (New format lacks new cases and deaths)

 

 

 

 

“I regard the current course of English speaking democracies (other than New Zealand) as mass murder by the political elite. I think history will regard it that way too.”

Coronavirus – Getting Angry (John Bronte)

First – no matter what you say about the Chinese data – and the Chinese data was full of lies at first – China has controlled the outbreak. Shanghai, Beijing, Chongqing are all functional mega-cities with no obvious health catastrophes. The virus has been managed to very low infection rates in Singapore and Taiwan. The numbers (completely real) in Korea show a dramatic slowdown in infection. Korea has not shut restaurants and the like. The place is functioning. But it has had rigorous quarantine of the infected and very widespread testing. It has complete social buy-in. China tests your temperature when you get on a bus or a train. It tests you when you go into a classroom, it tests you when you enter a building. There is rigorous and enforced quarantine.

But life goes on – and only a few are dying. In Singapore nobody has died (yet) though I expect a handful to do so before this over. This is sad (especially for the affected families) but it is not a mega-catastrophe. There is a story in the Financial Times about a town in the middle of the hot-zone in Italy where they have enforced quarantine and tested everyone in the town twice. They have no cases. The second stylized fact – mortality differs by availability of hospital beds.
• A. Coronavirus provided you do not run out of hospital beds probably has a mortality of about 1 percent. In a population that is very old (such as some areas in Italy) the mortality will be higher. In a population that is very young base mortality should be lower. Also co-morbidities such as smoking matter.
• B. If you run out of ICU beds (ventilators/forced oxygen) every incremental person who needs a ventilator dies. This probably takes your mortality to two percent.
• C. Beyond that a lot of people get a pneumonia that would benefit from supplemental oxygen. If you run out of hospital beds many of these people also die. Your mortality edges higher – but the only working case we have is Iran and you can’t trust their data. That said a lot of young people require supplementary oxygen and will die. If you are 40 and you think this does not apply to you then you are wrong. Mass infection may kill you. Iran has said that 15 percent of their dead are below 40.

I will put this in an American perspective with a 70 percent strike rate by the end.
• Option A: 2 million dead
• Option B: 4 million dead
• Option C: maybe 6 million dead.
By contrast, Singapore: a handful of dead. China has demonstrated this virus can be controlled. The town in Italy has demonstrated it can be controlled even where it is rife. Life goes on in Singapore. Schools are open. Restaurants are open in Korea. The right policy is not “herd immunity” or even “flattening the curve”. The right policy is to try to eliminate as many cases as possible and to strictly control and test to keep cases to a bare minimum for maybe 18 months while a vaccine is produced.

Read more …

@Jake_Hanrahan: “Blown away by the amount of people talking about China’s response to Covid-19 as some kind of model to follow. Are you serious? They have disappeared at least two whistleblowers and hid news of the problem for weeks before it became impossible to do so.”

China Is Avoiding Blame by Trolling the World (Atlantic)

The evidence of China’s deliberate cover-up of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan is a matter of public record. In suppressing information about the virus, doing little to contain it, and allowing it to spread unchecked in the crucial early days and weeks, the regime imperiled not only its own country and its own citizens but also the more than 100 nations now facing their own potentially devastating outbreaks. More perniciously, the Chinese government censored and detained those brave doctors and whistleblowers who attempted to sound the alarm and warn their fellow citizens when they understood the gravity of what was to come. Some American commentators and Democratic politicians are aghast at Donald Trump and Republicans for referring to the pandemic as the “Wuhan virus” and repeatedly pointing to China as the source of the pandemic.

In naming the disease COVID-19, the World Health Organization specifically avoided mentioning Wuhan. Yet in de-emphasizing where the epidemic began (something China has been aggressively pushing for), we run the risk of obscuring Beijing’s role in letting the disease spread beyond its borders. China has a history of mishandling outbreaks, including SARS in 2002 and 2003. But Chinese leaders’ negligence in December and January—for well over a month after the first outbreak in Wuhan—far surpasses those bungled responses. The end of last year was the time for authorities to act, and, as Nicholas D. Kristof of The New York Times has noted, “act decisively they did—not against the virus, but against whistle-blowers who were trying to call attention to the public health threat.”

This is what allowed the virus to spread across the globe. Because the Chinese Communist Party was pretending that there was little to be concerned about, Wuhan was a porous purveyor of the virus. The government only instituted a lockdown in Wuhan on January 23—seven weeks after the virus first appeared. As events in Italy, the United States, Spain, and France have shown, quite a lot can happen in a week, much less seven. By then, mayor Zhou Xianwang admitted that more than 5 million people had already left Wuhan.

If that weren’t enough, we can plumb recent history for an even more damning account. In a 2019 article, Chinese experts warned it was “highly likely that future SARS- or MERS-like coronavirus outbreaks will originate from bats, and there is an increased probability that this will occur in China.” In a 2007 journal article, infectious-disease specialists published a study arguing that “the presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb. The possibility of the reemergence of SARS and other novel viruses from animals or laboratories and therefore the need for preparedness should not be ignored.” It was ignored.

Read more …

When is China going to admit they screwed up royally?

From ‘Chinese virus’ to ‘Trumpandemic’ (RT)

Washington has passed off blame to Beijing for its own failures in addressing the Covid-19 outbreak, China’s Foreign Ministry said, hitting back at the ‘Chinese virus’ rhetoric with the ironic term ‘Trumpandemic.’ “Some people in the United States attempt to stigmatize China’s fight against the epidemic and shirk its responsibility to China,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told reporters on Friday, referring to the finger-pointing adopted by President Trump and other top officials (after weeks of US media outlets calling it the ‘Chinese’ and ‘Wuhan’ virus). “This practice ignores the huge sacrifices made by the Chinese people to safeguard human health and safety, and denigrates China’s major public health security contributions.”

Over the last two months, Beijing has helped the US buy time in its efforts to combat the coronavirus by providing “timely information” and other aid, the spokesman said, noting that the US president himself acknowledged as much during a press briefing last week. But most of that assistance has gone to waste, he lamented. “It is a pity, as many US media and specialists have noted, that the US has wasted the precious time China has bought.” Despite being the only country that has managed to contain the outbreak, China has been accused of suppressing information in the early stages of the Covid-19 outbreak – which began in the city of Wuhan late last year. The spokesman insisted the country has taken “the most comprehensive, strictest and most thorough prevention and control measures,” and has been “open” and “transparent” about the virus.

Geng went on to list the numerous joint meetings between American and Chinese health officials in recent weeks, arguing Beijing was doing its part to assist the US response to the lethal illness, but implored Washington to take responsibility for its own shortcomings. “We hope that the United States will respect objective facts, respect international public opinion, do its own thing… stop slandering other countries, passing on responsibilities, and play a constructive role in fighting the epidemic,” he said. While President Trump argues that the phrase “Chinese virus” is “not racist at all,” stating that he uses the term simply because the pathogen “comes from China,” his insistence on the label has piqued the ire of Beijing. In a string of tweets earlier on Friday, Chinese state media outlet Xinhua slammed the moniker as bigoted, and fired back with its own Trumpian term of derision, renaming the outbreak the “Trumpandemic.”

Read more …

After cases exploded. It’s a pattern. New York has a very big problem.

Cuomo Orders New York Lockdown, Shuts Down Non-Essential Businesses (NYP)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday ordered the Empire State to shut down and asked local businesses and manufactures to step up as officials mounted a desperate struggle to slow the corona≠virus pandemic. “I want to be able to say to the people of New York – I did everything we could do,” Cuomo told reporters at the state Capitol. “And if everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.” The restrictions take effect Sunday night at 8 p.m. and will shut down all nonessential businesses across the state, leaving just grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential operations open. All non-solitary outside activities, like basketball and other team sports are also banned.

The lockdown also requires all nonessential government and private-sector employees to work from home. Cuomo said the MTA will continue to run city subways, buses and Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road trains. The agency announced Friday it will allow backdoor boarding on local buses beginning Monday to help protect bus drivers from exposure “We have to do it, we have to be serious,” Cuomo said. “Everyone has personal freedom, and everyone has personal liberty, and I’ll always protect that,” he added. “But everyone also has a responsibility to everyone else.”

Laundromats and gas stations will be allowed to remain open, as will liquor stores and restaurants for take-out and delivery service only. Doctors’ and veterinarians’ offices can remain open, too. The new emergency action came as the Empire State’s coronavirus case count ballooned. Officials had tallied more than 7,100 cases across the state by 12 a.m. Friday — more than 4,400 in New York City. Just 10 hours later, the city Health Department reported the Big Apple’s case load had surged to more than 5,100 cases.

Read more …

Not friends, but working together. These people all recognize their own faults. They’re all 2-3 months late.

New Best Friends: Trump And Archfoes Cuomo And Newsom Bond (JTN) )

It’s often said that crises bring out the worst or the best in people. Adrift in a lifeboat at sea, strangers will either figure out how to cooperate, or kill and eat each other. It may be that the nation’s capital is being enveloped in a cloud of nice — instead of choosing the kill and eat option. President Trump suggested as much yesterday when he looked over a slightly-less-packed-than-usual press room. “I like this social distancing,” he mused. “I think it’s making you guys nicer. All these empty spaces … “You guys over there should probably move further from each other,” he said, flapping his hand at a few reporters, “but it’s nice”

The niceness cloud has also enveloped Trump and a couple of his legendary enemies: California Governor Gavin Newsom, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and President Trump have very recently become the Three Caballeros. At every press conference — and all three leaders are doing daily COVID-19 press updates — praise is bestowed and compliments showered. There are gratuitous namechecks — as with the lover who feels compelled just to repeat the name of the beloved — and many allusions to late night phone calls when details of policy are apparently being hashed out. In his press conference yesterday, for instance, as Trump detailed the FDA’s expedited approval of a new virus treatment, he managed to work in the news that he’d spoken with Cuomo “at great, great length last night; he wants to be first in line.”

Considering that he and the governor are now besties, Cuomo will probably in fact be first in line to get the prescription drug to his state’s consumers — just as he’s recently gotten everything on his virus wish list, from a national guard deployment to Westchester County, site of an early hot spot, to a mobile testing drive-through, also for Westchester, to an Army Corps of Engineers deployment, to a Navy hospital ship which will soon be docked in New York Harbor in case New York City runs out of hospital beds.

Read more …

Red alert at the DNC: “30% of Democrats approve, which is about double the number from last week’s poll..”

Trump’s Approval Rating Soars During Handling Of Coronavirus (JTN)

New polling Friday showed President Trump’s approval ratings among Americans have soared during the coronavirus crisis, including his handling of the pandemic response and the economy A new Axios-Harris poll, released Friday, showed the president with an 53 percent overall approval among U.S. adults surveyed March 17 and 18, compared to 49 percent among those polled March 14 and 15. 56 percent of respondents in the latest poll said they approved of the president’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, an increase from 51 percent last week. And 60 percent of Americans this week said they approved of the president’s handling of the economy, a slight increase from 59 percent last week.

Despite stock market declines and rising unemployment figures released this week, the president’s approval rating for “Stimulating Jobs,” remained unchanged at 60 percent among both groups polled. When asked “Which of the following sources do you get your information from regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?” 44 percent of Americans named “The White House/President,” an increase of 11 points from the previous survey. Respondents naming “National media” fell to 53 percent from 55 percent, while those answering “Local media,” dropped to 51 percent from 57 percent. Additionally, a new ABC News/Ipsos poll released Friday found that 55 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, a double-digit increase in support from the week before.

“In the new poll, 55% of Americans approve of the president’s management of the crisis, compared to 43% who disapprove,” reported ABC’s Kendall Karson. “Trump’s approval on this issue is up from last week, when the numbers were nearly reversed.” The ABC/Ipsos poll also found “30% of Democrats approve, which is about double the number from last week’s poll, and 69% disapprove, down from 86%,” Karson wrote. “Meanwhile, an overwhelming 92% of Republicans approve, up from 86% last week. Only 8% disapprove, compared to 11% in last week’s poll.”

Read more …

The Dems of course can’t have Trump ratings rising, but pray tell, how are regular appearances of Biden going to counter that trend?

Biden Plans Shadow Coronavirus Briefings (Pol.)

Joe Biden is planning a regular shadow briefing on coronavirus to start as early as Monday to show how he would handle the crisis and address what he calls the lies and failures of President Trump. Biden gave a preview of what’s to come in a conference call with reporters Friday, where he listed a litany of false and misleading statements from Trump, who has been holding regular White House press conferences concerning coronavirus preparedness and response that have been broadcast live on all major networks. “President Trump stop saying false things, will ya?” Biden said. “People are worried they are really frightened, when these things don’t come through. He just exacerbates their concern. Stop saying false things you think make you sound like a hero and start putting the full weight of the federal government behind finding fast, safe and effective treatments.”

Biden made his comments from his home in Wilmington, Delaware, where he has been holed up for more than a week in adherence with Centers for Disease Control guidelines that urge people to practice social distancing. Immediately after the initial onset of the crisis, Biden also held his fire against the president out of concern it would look too political — an accusation leveled at him anyway by Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, who said that “Biden will take attention from real updates Americans should know just to score political points.” Ever since his commanding victories Tuesday against Bernie Sanders in Florida, Illinois and Arizona, Biden has made no public appearances or statements. Instead, he said, he has been spending time privately talking to health officials, businesses, governors and members of Congress.

Now, he said, his house is being outfitted with equipment that would enable him to livestream events, have interactive tele-press conferences and broadcast interviews with network television.

Read more …

I’m suspicious of any cure or treatment announced, but I’m also curious to see how much coverage the US MSM will give to Cuba potentially saving American lives.

Cuba’s Interferon Alpha 2B, Successful in Treating COVID-19 (TeleSur)

For 40 years, Cuba has been using a molecule named Interferon Alpha 2B , which has successfully been used to combat the new Coonavirus in China and elsewhere. “The world has an opportunity to understand that health is not a commercial asset but a basic right,” Cuban doctor Luis Herrera, the creator of the Interferon Alfa 2-B medication, one of the most successful medications in the fight against COVID-19 told teleSUR Tuesday. Interferon has been known for more than 40 years: first, it was produced from original sources in local sites, then nationally and later in the United States and even Finland. “At the beginning of the 80s, an important professor from Houston came to Cuba and advised our President Fidel Castro than the Interferon we had here was a very interesting molecule for a different purpose,” Herrera told teleSUR.

“Then a group of people went to Finland to get training in the production of interferon,” while people were also producing Interferon from recombined sources using genetic engineering. The first one was Beta Interferon in Japan, and the second one was the family of Alpha Interferon by Genetec in California, according to the Cuban doctor. “One year later in Cuba, we cloned different genes of Interferon from local sites, and we started to produce Interferon in 1981 and 1982, which we used in the outbreak of dengue fever, and we presented the results in the United States in California.” One of the ways the virus can multiply inside the cells is by decreasing the levels of Interferon naturally produced in human cells. The molecule thus, through a different metabolic way, can create conditions to limit the replication of the virus.

During the MERS-CoV epidemic three years ago – another type of coronavirus – people realized that Interferon was decreased during the replication of the virus, highlighted Herrera. In China, practically a few weeks after the beginning of the outbreak, people started to use Interferon in a way to avoid complications in people infected with the virus. According to Herrera, this molecule has “some side effects but not too critical.” “The main idea of Interferon is just to avoid complications,” he told teleSUR. “Young people and people with a good immuno-response perhaps don’t need the medicine or people who won’t have complications and respond to the virus-like any other flu, but old people or people susceptible to have a bad immuno-response will have better chances of avoiding complications by using Interferon.”

Read more …

The good doctor can’t keep himself from taking a jab at Trump. Pity. Nothing much else to say that we didn’t already know.

And as the graph shows, the mass testing that for instance South Korea is supposed to have done is not quite what it’s made out to be. 0.6% of the population is not that.

The Doctor Who Helped Defeat Smallpox Explains What’s Coming (Wired)

Larry Brilliant says he doesn’t have a crystal ball. But 14 years ago, Brilliant, the epidemiologist who helped eradicate smallpox, spoke to a TED audience and described what the next pandemic would look like. At the time, it sounded almost too horrible to take seriously. “A billion people would get sick,” he said. “As many as 165 million people would die. There would be a global recession and depression, and the cost to our economy of $1 to $3 trillion would be far worse for everyone than merely 100 million people dying, because so many more people would lose their jobs and their health care benefits, that the consequences are almost unthinkable.”

Now the unthinkable is here, and Brilliant, the Chairman of the board of Ending Pandemics, is sharing expertise with those on the front lines. We are a long way from 100 million deaths due to the novel coronavirus, but it has turned our world upside down. Brilliant is trying not to say “I told you so” too often. But he did tell us so, not only in talks and writings, but as the senior technical advisor for the pandemic horror film Contagion, now a top streaming selection for the homebound. Besides working with the World Health Organization in the effort to end smallpox, Brilliant, who is now 75, has fought flu, polio, and blindness; once led Google’s nonprofit wing, Google.org; co-founded the conferencing system the Well; and has traveled with the Grateful Dead.

[..] When will we be able to leave the house and go back to work? I have a very good retrospect-oscope, but what’s needed right now as a prospecto-scope. If this were a tennis match, I would say advantage virus right now. But there’s really good news from South Korea—they had less than 100 cases today. China had more cases imported than it had from continuous transmission from Wuhan today. The Chinese model will be very hard for us to follow. We’re not going to be locking people up in their apartments, boarding them up. But the South Korea model is one that we could follow. Unfortunately, it requires doing the proportionate number of tests that they did—they did well over a quarter of a million tests. In fact, by the time South Korea had done 200,000 tests, we had probably done less than 1,000.

Now that we’ve missed the opportunity for early testing, is it too late for testing to make a difference? Absolutely not. Tests would make a measurable difference. We should be doing a stochastic process random probability sample of the country to find out where the hell the virus really is. Because we don’t know. Maybe Mississippi is reporting no cases because it’s not looking. How would they know? Zimbabwe reports zero cases because they don’t have testing capability, not because they don’t have the virus. We need something that looks like a home pregnancy test, that you can do at home.

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The neocons are not amused.

Pentagon Sends 2,600 Europe-based Personnel Into Quarantine (RT)

Thousands of US troops and military staff based in Europe have been ordered into self-isolation after at least 35 of them tested positive for Covid-19, further complicating Washington’s power projection across the Atlantic.
Some 2,600 European Command (EUCOM) troops and personnel were isolated on Friday in an effort to stem the spread of the lethal virus, following nearly three dozen positive test results. The Defense Department noted that the troops quarantined were not ill, but were isolated as a precaution due to recent travel, among other reasons. “These individuals are not necessarily sick, but may have been exposed and are doing their due diligence following health preventative measures,” the Pentagon said in a statement.


EUCOM commander, US Air Force General Tod Wolters, told reporters earlier about the positive tests, adding that all 72,000 of his troops were taking measures to avoid further exposure to the illness. “We’re preparing for worst-case scenarios with respect to the potential spread,” Wolters said in a teleconference from EUCOM headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. “For months, we have embraced precautionary measures.” The Pentagon did not clarify how it planned to isolate the 2,600 personnel, however. The quarantine comes as several branches of the US armed services struggle to contain the coronavirus, especially on board the crowded Navy vessels. The USS ‘Boxer’ became the first ship to confirm more than one infected sailor earlier this week, prompting the crew to adopt what it called an “aggressive mitigation strategy.”

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The CEO delays receiving many millions so the company will receive many billions, which will then be used to pay the CEO additional many millions. File under Business Model.

Boeing Suspends Dividend, Halts Buybacks, Stops Paying CEO And Chairman (Y!)

Boeing says its CEO and its chairman will forgo all pay until the end of the year — and that’s just one of the steps the company is taking to ensure that it weathers the financial effects of the coronavirus epidemic. CEO David Calhoun and Board Chairman Larry Kellner were named to their current positions last December, as part of a corporate house-cleaning related to the past year’s 737 MAX crisis. Calhoun was due to receive a base annual salary of $1.4 million and was eligible for millions more in performance-based payments and stock options. Kellner was getting an annual cash retainer of $250,000 and was eligible for other compensation.


Boeing said it was also suspending its dividend and extending its current pause on stock buybacks until further notice. “Boeing is drawing on all of its resources to sustain operations, support its workforce and customers, and maintain supply chain continuity through the COVID-19 crisis and for the long term,” the company said in a statement. The move came after former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley said she was resigning from Boeing’s board of directors to protest the company’s request for at least $60 billion in federal support. The company’s shares have plunged from a 52-week high of $398.66 to today’s closing value of $95.01, primarily due to the virus outbreak. This week, President Donald Trump told reporters that “we have to protect Boeing” but also voiced his disdain of stock buybacks.

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What are words worth?

National Guard Chief Denies Rumors Of Martial Law Response To Virus (Solomon)

The National Guard has deployed a few thousand troops to help states hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, but it wants Americans to know that rumors of impending martial law are blatantly false. One of the Guard’s top generals tweeted out that assurance Friday as officials blamed misinformation and propaganda campaigns for the false rumor. “I hear unfounded rumors about #NationalGuard troops supporting a nationwide quarantine,” wrote Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau. “Let me be clear: There has been no such discussion.” From New York to Wisconsin, National Guard troops have been deployed to several states to provide assistance that ranges from sterilizing public areas to delivering needed supplies. Those missions are likely to continue for some time.

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“Sovereign immunity”, no less. Carte blanche for any and all surveillance, on peers, journalists, lawyers? Does that sound okay to anyone at all, other than Schiff?

Schiff Claims ‘Immunity’ To Keep Impeachment Phone Subpoenas Secret (JTN)

The House Intelligence Committee and its chairman Adam Schiff invoked “sovereign immunity” in a motion to dismiss a Judicial Watch lawsuit seeking to obtain controversial phone records subpoenas issued during the Trump impeachment inquiry. The committee’s subpoenas of phone records ultimately led to the publication of multiple Americans’ phone records, including those of reporter John Solomon, California Rep. Devin Nunes, the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others. In the motion, lawyers from the Office of General Counsel for the House of Representatives assert four reasons for dismissing the case, including protection under the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause.

“First, the doctrine of sovereign immunity deprives the Court of jurisdiction over the House Defendants, and no express and unequivocal waiver exists,” the argument says. “Second, given that the records sought by Plaintiff involve matters pursued and obtained by the House Defendants as part of the House-authorized impeachment inquiry, they are absolutely protected by the Speech or Debate Clause.”

“Third, Plaintiff fails to state a claim because Congress has created a comprehensive scheme for the review of government records—the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)—that preempts the common law right sought to be vindicated by this litigation,” the lawyers write. “Finally, under governing case law, the records Plaintiff seeks to review are not ‘public records’ and, therefore, are not subject to the common law right of public access. And even if the records are ‘public records,’ Plaintiff has not demonstrated that the public interest in disclosure outweighs the House Defendants’ interest in non-disclosure.”

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“His role was not the good father, it was the half-crazy old uncle in the attic..”

Strength and Weakness (Kunstler)

Yes, he is peculiar-looking: the strange blond helmet, the orange face. Note, back in one of America’s earlier hard times, a lot people thought Mr. Lincoln looked like a great ape, and had much sport with that image of him in the newspapers. It’s also a fact that the decisions he made led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of mostly young men in the bloodiest slaughters then imaginable. Yet those young men going to their deaths called him Father Abraham in their songs around the campfire. I’m not saying that Donald Trump is another Lincoln — certainly not in sheer rhetoric — but I am saying we don’t know yet what his mettle will show in this crisis, and where it might take us. One thing for sure: he’s been subjected to more political abuse than any character on-the-scene in my lifetime, and it’s amazing that he didn’t fold or quit or lose his shit as it went on and on and on.

And so, you now have the strange and ironic spectacle of his organized opposition, the Democrats, hoisting up onto their pinnacle of leadership absolutely the weakest candidate possible to oppose Mr. Trump in the election: Joe Biden. There was something certainly supernatural about his ascent in the recent cluster of primaries, as if some gang of someones worked strenuously behind the scenes to make it happen. If Mr. Biden ever had any charisma even in his prime as a young senator, there was no sign of that now, either in his own bumbling behavior or in the sparse crowds that were flushed out of the DNC’s voter registration thickets to show up at his rallies. In fact, he emanated the exact opposite of charisma, a faltering flop-sweat odor of weakness, and of every kind of weakness: physical, mental, and ethical.

His role was not the good father, it was the half-crazy old uncle in the attic — the kind who puts on his threadbare best suit every day to go down to a corner bar and sip beers until it’s time to stagger back home, where a dutiful niece-in-law might give him supper, if he could manage to ask for it politely. The kind who, until his forced retirement due to incompetence and blundering, had worked as an errand boy for the local mob, picking up receipts from the numbers racket, and was then cast off like a banana peel in a drainage ditch when his usefulness ended.

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CoronaBonds are one way, sure. But if you take the salary pressure away from companies by having the government pay 50-70% of them, would you still need to bailout companies, or would you be only subsidizing zombies?

CoronaBonds To Hold The Payments System Together (Steve Keen)

The coronavirus could cause the financial system to collapse unless something is done to enable basic payments to continue during the fight against it. While some businesses are doing very well out of it—toilet paper and hand sanitizer produces come to mind—many, if not most, could collapse as their sales collapse and/or their workers become unable to turn up to work. Workers—especially those in the jovially-named “gig economy”—will be unable to pay their rents and mortgages. If we insist on these payments being honoured, mass bankruptcy could result that could take viable companies down with it—even toilet roll producers. So what to do? The answer is fundamentally simple: the Treasury issues “Coronabonds” that raise a substantial sum—enough to cover say 3 months of standard mortgage, rent and food payments for an average family.


These Coronabonds could be priced at zero percent yield: interest rates are at that level anyway, and given the current stockmarket carnage, financial corporations would jump at the opportunity to park their money in an asset that won’t fall in value. Using the US Economy as our template, let’s say that $1 trillion of these bonds were issued. They would then be bought by the financial sector—raising $1 trillion to be spend by the government on tenants, mortgagees and firms. The cost to the Treasury would be zero because that would be the yield of the bonds. The public debt would rise, but it would be debt carrying no servicing costs.

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Good friend Steve Keen “escaped” to Thailand.

Personal Coronavirus Update 02 March 21st 2019 (Steve Keen)

As I noted in my first update, I had decided that for both medical and visa reasons, the best place to be during the Coronavirus crisis was Thailand. Outside of China (the epicentre of this crisis), the world’s governments have been dominated by the Neoliberal emphasis upon efficiency, with a total ignorance of the need for resilience as well in a complex system. I didn’t expect any of them to be able to respond effectively as this exponential crisis exploded, so the safest thing was to go for the highest level of social isolation possible—and southern Thailand, below the major tourist spots, made sense on that ground alone. There was also nascent research implying that heat and humidity slow the spread of the virus. This is from the abstract for the paper: “One degree Celsius increase in temperature and one percent increase in relative humidity lower R by 0.0383 and 0.0224, respectively.”

I had already started to make this inference from the statistics from the John Hopkins University site. Thailand began with the second highest number of cases to China, but the number of cases rose far more slowly than in the rest of the world. On January 31st, Thailand had 19 cases, while Australia had 9, the Netherlands zero, and the UK 2. The Netherlands recorded its first cases on February 27th, finishing the day with 2 cases; by this stage, Australia had 23 cases, the UK 15 and Thailand was still far higher at 40 cases. However, as of March 19th, Australia had about 700 cases, The Netherlands and the UK about 2500 each, and Thailand had under 250. This time series plot from my soon-to-be-released program Ravel illustrates the divergence of Thai data from the rest of the world—or rather the three other countries where I could have considered living

during this crisis.

[..] My partner and I arrived in Bangkok on Thursday March 19th, one day before Thailand started closing its border to non-nationals (my partner is a Thai citizen, though she hasn’t lived here for over 25 years). One day later, and I would have had to continue on my own to Australia, which is mishandling this crisis as impressively as any other Western government. Even Thai tourists are thin on the ground now, as Thailand has wisely cancelled its annual Thai New Year holiday and festival. We went to a popular beach yesterday looking for potential places to stay for a year, and it was almost empty. We’re now looking for a house to rent here, for the year that I think it will take before there’s any prospect of a post-Covid-19 “normal” developing.

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If you read us, please support us. Help the Automatic Earth survive.

 

Mar 162020
 


DPC Manhattan landmark Flatiron Building under construction 1902

 

UK Corona Crisis ‘To Last Until Spring 2021, 7.9m To Be Hospitalised’ (G.)
NYC & LA Mayors Order Bars, Nightlife, Gyms, & Restaurants To Shut (ZH)
Americans Urged To Scrap Gatherings Of 50 Or More People (G.)
Anger In Germany At Report Trump Seeking Exclusive Coronavirus Vaccine Deal (G.)
More Coronavirus Cases Outside Of Mainland China Than Inside (CNN)
Scientists Worry About Coronavirus Spread In Africa (ScienceMag)
The American Mask of Death (Lauria)
Goldman Sachs Predicts A 5% Contraction In The US Economy In Q2 (CNBC)
Fed Cuts Rates To Zero, Launches Massive $700 Billion QE (CNBC)
The End of the Central Bank [Put]? (Jim Bianco)
Fed Disaster: S&P Futures Crash, Halted Limit Down; Gold, Treasuries Soar (ZH)
America’s Biggest Banks Suspend Buybacks In Effort To Support Economy (F.)
China’s Industrial Output, Retail Sales Plummet (MW)
World’s Most Powerful Supercomputer Tasked With Finding COVID19 Cure (ZH)

 

 

We’re setting regrettable records, and there’s very little reason to think the upward trend in cases and deaths will halt any time soon. Most of Europe is under some form of quarantine, only supermarkets and pharmacies remain open, and the UK and US have no choice but to follow suit -preferably very- soon. A -very- different world.

The central banks are so off in their approaches it’s getting harder to see how they will survive in their present shapes. This is not a time to bail out banks, it’s a time to help people. But they refuse that.

 

Cases 170,852 (+ 13,375 from yesterday’s 157,477)

Deaths 6,526 (+ 681 from yesterday’s 5,845)

 

These numbers are fit to silence a body. Just look at all the new cases.

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

 

 

While everyone is discussing whether the case mortality rate is 0.1%, 1% or 2%, the rate for known cases just crept back up to 8%. That is much scarier than I see anyone admit.

From Worldometer (NOTE: mortality rate is back up to 8%!)

 

 

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

 

 

COVID2019.app graph is not avaliable, the site is closed. But this is even better:

 

 

Note: what this graph does not sufficiently reflect is that Switzerland has 10 million people, and China 1,400 million. The graph starts at the 10th death.

 

 

The UK cannot hospitalize 7.9 million people, not even spread over a year. Does that cover all of your questions?

UK Corona Crisis ‘To Last Until Spring 2021, 7.9m To Be Hospitalised’ (G.)

The coronavirus epidemic in the UK will last until next spring and could lead to 7.9 million people being hospitalised, a secret Public Health England (PHE) briefing for senior NHS officials reveals. The document, seen by the Guardian, is the first time health chiefs tackling the virus have admitted that they expect it to circulate for another 12 months and lead to huge extra strain on an already overstretched NHS. It also suggests that health chiefs are braced for as many as 80% of Britons becoming infected with the coronavirus over that time. Prof Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical adviser, has previously described that figure as the worst-case scenario and suggested that the real number would turn out to be less than that.

However, the briefing makes clear that four in five of the population “are expected” to contract the virus. The document says that: “As many as 80% of the population are expected to be infected with Covid-19 in the next 12 months, and up to 15% (7.9 million people) may require hospitalisation.” [..] “For the public to hear that it could last for 12 months, people are going to be really upset about that and pretty worried about that”, said Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia. “A year is entirely plausible. But that figure isn’t well appreciated or understood,” added Hunter, an expert in epidemiology. “I think it will dip in the summer, towards the end of June, and come back in November, in the way that usual seasonal flu does. I think it will be around forever, but become less severe over time, as immunity builds up,” he added.

[..] The document also discloses that an estimated 500,000 of the 5 million people deemed vital because they work “in essential services and critical infrastructure” will be off sick at any one time during a month-long peak of the epidemic. The 5 million include 1m NHS staff and 1.5 million in social care. However, the briefing raises questions about how Britain would continue to function normally, warning that: “It is estimated that at least 10% of people in the UK will have a cough at any one time during the months of peak Covid-19 activity.”

[..] A senior NHS figure involved in preparing for the growing “surge” in patients whose lives are being put at risk by Covid-19 said an 80% infection rate could lead to more than half a million people dying. If the mortality rate turns out to be the 1% many experts are using as their working assumption then that would mean 531,100 deaths. But if Whitty’s insistence that the rate will be closer to 0.6% proves accurate, then that would involve 318,660 people dying.

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Time to make it a national policy. And as I said yesterday, cut down on domestic flights, close down highways, the works. There’s no escaping anyway, and delaying it will kill lots of people.

NYC & LA Mayors Order Bars, Nightlife, Gyms, & Restaurants To Shut (ZH)

Update (1130ET): Shortly after New York’s mayor de Blasio pulled the plug, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti has ordered the closing of all bars, nightclubs, gyms and entertainment venues from midnight March 16 until March 31. Restaurants will be limited to take-out and delivery. Grocery stores will remain open. “There is no food shortage and grocery stores will remain open. We’re taking these steps to help protect Angelenos, limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, and avoid putting a dangerous strain on our health care system. This will be a tough time, but it is not forever. Angelenos have always risen to meet difficult moments, and we will get through this together.”


Update (1030ET): After announcing earlier that restaurants and venues would be enforced to ensure no more than 50% occupancy, Mayor Bill de Blasio just tweeted that he is ordering all “nightclubs, movie theaters, small theater houses, and concert venues to close”. That leaves restaurants still open, but with max 50% occupancy, as the city encourages residents to order our and stay in instead of venturing anywhere outdoors.

Update (1630ET): Germany joined the list of European nations reporting new coronavirus figures on Sunday, and like France and Italy, it reported its largest daily spike in new cases, confirming another 1,228 new cases for a new total of 5,813, a roughly 20% increase. It also reported 4 new deaths, bringing its national total to 12. Update (1555ET): France just reported 901 new cases diagnosed on Saturday, bringing the country’s total confirmed cases to ~5,400. The death toll climbed by 29 cases to 120.

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Yeah, yeah, let’s pretend Fauci contradicts Trump. Scores well with 50% of the people. Problem is, they have two very different tasks in this. And Trump’s is not to worry Americans. It’s to reassure them, while working to solve issues. If you want to blame Trump for saying things are not so bad, you need a crash course in politics. If you want to blame him for policy failures, you’re right, but you will have to do the same with just about every other world leader as well. They all make such mistakes. How about Italy PM Conte to begin with? A lot more of his people died so far.

Americans Urged To Scrap Gatherings Of 50 Or More People (G.)

The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended that gatherings of 50 people or more be cancelled or postponed for the next eight weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic, as officials across the country continued to curtail freedoms to fight the coronavirus outbreak. The CDC guidance was soon followed by an announcement on Sunday night that several Las Vegas hotels and casinos would suspend operations, and New York City would limit restaurants, bars and cafes to only offer take-out and delivery starting on Tuesday, and nightclubs, movie theaters and other entertainment venues would close.

“These places are part of the heart and soul of our city. They are part of what it means to be a New Yorker,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement on Sunday night. “But our city is facing an unprecedented threat, and we must respond with a wartime mentality.” Moments later, the Washington state governor, Jay Inslee, took a similar step, announcing restaurants and bars would be limited to take-out only until the end of March, and entertainment and recreational facilities such as gyms would also close. Illinois, Ohio, Massachusetts had already taken similar steps. MGM Resorts International, which operates several vast Las Vegas hotels and casinos including Bellagio and Luxor, said it would begin to suspend operations in the city from Monday.

[..] The new advice came as the nation sank deeper into chaos over the crisis. Hours earlier, Donald Trump urged Americans to refrain from panic buying basic supplies, as the administration announced plans to expand testing for the virus and health officials were preparing to release “advanced guidelines” on how to mitigate its spread. During a press briefing at the White House on Sunday evening, Trump again appeared to downplay the threat of the virus. “Relax, we’re doing great,” he said, during short, meandering comments that focused mostly on celebrating a decision by the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates. “It all will pass.”

But the president’s remarks stood in marked contrast to his lead infectious diseases expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, who used the same conference to warn: “The worst is ahead for us”, describing the crisis as reaching a “very, very critical point now”. Earlier in the day, Dr Fauci had declined to rule out a national lockdown of bars and restaurants as he urged more aggressive measures, similar to those in Europe and elsewhere, to contain the virus. “I think Americans should be prepared that they are going to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing,” said Fauci, a member of the White House task force on combating the spread of coronavirus. He heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

Read more …

Don’t worry, I know exactly what half the (US) population will say about what I say here. It doesn’t matter. If Trump wants to buy a German medical company that makes a vaccine (and that’s two really big ifs), how can that be portrayed negatively? Well, we’ll say he wants to keep it all to himself. But doesn’t he perhaps want it for the 330 million Americans, those his job description tells him to look after? Cue: this is an anonymous source quoted by a German yellow paper.

“The German government is trying to fight off what it sees as an aggressive takeover bid by the US, the broadsheet Die Welt reports, citing German government circles. The US president had offered the Tübingen-based biopharmaceutical company CureVac “large sums of money” to gain exclusive access to their work, wrote Die Welt. According to an anonymous source quoted in the newspaper, Trump was doing everything to secure a vaccine against the coronavirus for the US, “but for the US only”.”

Along the same line, I see a lot of people combining Trump’s “We have no shortages” with pictures of empty shelves, insinuating he is lying. But those can exist together, and in fact do in many European countries as well as the US. The cause is panic buying. Would these folk like to blame those empty EU shelves on Trump as well? Or are they caused by these countries’ own politicians, many of whom claim to despise Trump? Your call.

Look, Trump makes a lot of mistakes. But saying that things are not that bad is not one of them (literally: “Relax, we’re doing great; It all will pass”). Would you rather he said things are terrible, thereby inviting more panic buying and empty shelves, that you could then blame on him as well? That way you could blame him for two completely opposite things.

Anger In Germany At Report Trump Seeking Exclusive Coronavirus Vaccine Deal (G.)

German ministers have reacted angrily following reports US president Donald Trump offered a German medical company “large sums of money” for exclusive rights to a Covid-19 vaccine. “Germany is not for sale,” economy minister Peter Altmaier told broadcaster ARD, reacting to a front page report in Welt am Sonntag newspaper headlined “Trump vs Berlin”. The newspaper reported Trump offered $1bn to Tübingen-based biopharmaceutical company CureVac to secure the vaccine “only for the United States”. The German government was reportedly offering its own financial incentives for the vaccine to stay in the country.

The report prompted fury in Berlin. “International co-operation is important now, not national self-interest,” said Erwin Rueddel, a conservative lawmaker on the German parliament’s health committee. Christian Lindner, leader of the liberal FDP party, accused Trump of electioneering, saying: “Obviously Trump will use any means available in an election campaign.” The German health minister, Jens Spahn, said a takeover of CureVac by the Trump administration was “off the table”. CureVac would only develop vaccine “for the whole world”, Spahn said, “not for individual countries”.

[..] At a news conference on Sunday, interior minister Horst Seehofer was asked to confirm the attempts to court the German company. “I can only say that I have heard several times today from government officials today that this is the case, and we will be discussing it in the crisis committee tomorrow,” he said. A US official told AFP on Sunday that the report was “wildly overplayed”. “The US government has spoken with many [more than 25] companies that claim they can help with a vaccine. Most of these companies already received seed funding from US investors.” The official also denied the US was seeking to keep any potential vaccine for itself. “We will continue to talk to any company that claims to be able to help. And any solution found would be shared with the world,” the official said.

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That still took a long time.

More Coronavirus Cases Outside Of Mainland China Than Inside (CNN)

There have now been more cases of the novel coronavirus outside of mainland China than inside, according to numbers from the World Health Organization and from public health agencies tracked by CNN. While China, the early epicenter of the outbreak, has still had more confirmed cases than any other country – more than 80,000 – a number of other countries have surged in recent days, including Italy with more than 24,000 cases, Iran with almost 14,000 and Spain with more than 7,000. On February 26, the World Health Organization reported for the first time that the majority of new cases per day had come from outside of China. This trend has continued as newly confirmed cases in China have dwindled in recent days, while other countries have discovered thousands of new infections – including the United States, which has now reported more than 3,000 cases.

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It’s starting. 100 million frail forms at Europe’s door soon?

Scientists Worry About Coronavirus Spread In Africa (ScienceMag)

Late on Sunday evening, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, in a televised address to the nation, declared that COVID-19, the respiratory disease spreading globally, had become a “national disaster.” [..] “Never before in the history of our democracy have we been confronted by such a severe situation,” Ramaphosa said before announcing a raft of measures to curb the virus’ spread, including school closures, travel restrictions, and bans on large gatherings. So far, the official numbers seemed to suggest that sub-Saharan Africa, home to more than 1 billion people, had been lucky. The interactive map of reported COVID-19 cases run by Johns Hopkins University shows big red blobs almost everywhere—except sub-Saharan Africa.


But now the numbers are rising quickly. South Africa, which had its first case 10 days ago, now has 61. According to Ramaphosa, the virus has begun spreading inside the country. And just yesterday, Rwanda, Equatorial Guinea, and Namibia all reported their first cases, bringing the number of affected countries to 23. Some scientists believe COVID-19 is circulating silently in other countries as well. “My concern is that we have this ticking time bomb,” says Bruce Bassett, a data scientist at the University of Cape Town who has been tracking COVID-19 data since January. And while Africa’s handling of the pandemic has received scant global attention so far, experts worry the virus may ravage countries with weak health systems and a population disproportionately affected by HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and other infectious diseases. “Social distancing” will be hard to do in the continent’s overcrowded cities and slums.

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“And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all..”

The American Mask of Death (Lauria)

The U.S. is unlike the rest of the industrialized world, which, since the end of the Second World War, has had some kind of nationalized health insurance covering all citizens, regardless of their ability to pay. Many of the partisans who helped defeat the Nazis were socialists who demanded something in return from their governments after the war. Many British soldiers were Labour voters. They threw out war leader Winston Churchill in the 1945 election and the National Health Service was begun in 1948. Though Harry Truman around the same time floated the idea of socialized medicine in the U.S., and the 1965 Medicare Act was to eventually cover all Americans, the greed of medical business interests has always won. It leaves millions of potentially infected Americans unable to be tested or treated. And that endangers even those in their high towers who “might bid defiance to contagion.”


The Mask of the Red Death by FlamiatheDemon (Deviant Art- flamiathedemon.deviantart.com)

“And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.”


When the oligarchs’ economic system crashed in 2008 from over-speculation, the U.S. government did the unimaginable. It nationalized industries to save them. It used socialism to rescue capitalism. But it was temporary. Once the economy had sufficiently recovered, the U.S. returned to its market fundamentalism. If the coronavirus crisis approaches the numbers recent studies point to—as many as 240 million Americans infected and one million dead—expect serious consideration to a single-payer system sweeping through Congress and signed into law. But once the virus is contained expect your premiums to rise again. Just like the nationalizations in the 2008 financial crisis, a temporary national health insurance would only be enacted to save the oligarchs from the Red Death.

Read more …

Can the US fall 5% without breaking?

Goldman Sachs Predicts A 5% Contraction In The US Economy In Q2 (CNBC)

Goldman Sachs on Sunday downgraded its outlook for the economy in the first two quarters of 2020 as the coronavirus zaps all growth from the U.S. Jan Hatzius, Goldman’s chief economist, lowered his first-quarter GDP growth forecast to zero from 0.7%. The economist also sees a 5% contraction in the second quarter, followed by a sharp snapback for the remainder of the year. “We expect US economic activity to contract sharply in the remainder of March and throughout April as virus fears lead consumers and businesses to continue to cut back on spending such as travel, entertainment, and restaurant meals,” Hatzius said in a note to clients Sunday. [..] The rapid spread of the virus has sent stocks tumbling into a bear market, with both the Dow Jones and S&P 500 now trading more than 20% below their record highs set just last month.


“Even with monetary and fiscal policy turning sharply further toward stimulus … these shutdowns and rising public anxiety about the virus are likely to lead to a sharp deterioration in economic activity in the rest of March and throughout April,” Hatzius said. In addition to the consumer spending hit, Goldman also noted the growing likelihood of “significant supply chain disruptions” as the outbreak sends business activity to a standstill. Hatzius believes that U.S. economic growth should pick up in the second half of 2020. He expects GDP growth of 3% in the third quarter and a 4% expansion in the final three months of the year. Factoring in his new estimates, for 2020 he sees the economy growing 0.4%, compared with a prior growth estimate of 1.2%.

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Save people not banks. Didn’t we say that 10 years ago as well?

Fed Cuts Rates To Zero, Launches Massive $700 Billion QE (CNBC)

The Federal Reserve, saying “the coronavirus outbreak has harmed communities and disrupted economic activity in many countries, including the United States,” cut interest rates to essentially zero on Sunday and launched a massive $700 billion quantitative easing program to shelter the economy from the effects of the virus. The new fed funds rate, used as a benchmark both for short-term lending for financial institutions and as a peg to many consumer rates, will now be targeted at 0% to 0.25% down from a previous target range of 1% to 1.25%. Facing highly disrupted financial markets, the Fed also slashed the rate of emergency lending at the discount window for banks by 125 basis points to 0.25%, and lengthened the term of loans to 90 days.

Despite the aggressive move, the market’s initial response was negative. Dow futures pointed to a decline of some 1,000 points at the Wall Street open Monday morning. The discount window “plays an important role in supporting the liquidity and stability of the banking system and the effective implementation of monetary policy … [and] supports the smooth flow of credit to households and businesses,” a separate Fed note said. The discount window is part of the Fed’s function as the “lender of last resort” to the banking industry. Institutions can use the window for liquidity needs, though some are reluctant to do as it can indicate they are experiencing financial issues and thus sends a bad message.

The Fed also cut reserve requirements for thousands of banks to zero. In addition, in a global coordinated move by centrals banks, the Fed said the Bank of Canada, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan, the European Central Bank, the Federal Reserve, and the Swiss National Bank took action to enhance dollar liquidity around the world through existing dollar swap arrangements.

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The Fed is choking on its own policies.

The End of the Central Bank [Put]? (Jim Bianco)

The past week has seen unprecedented market movements and action taken by central banks. We have also seen unprecedented action by governments. Given the events that took place in 2008, this is saying a lot.

We’ll save detailing what happened for another time. Instead, we’ll focus on what it means and what to focus on next. Two titanic forces are at play. First, the economy is at a real risk of collapsing. This is not hyperbole. Goldman Sachs has already revised its Q2 GDP forecast to -5%.

We fear this might look optimistic in a few weeks. Yes, this virus-driven economic collapse is temporary, one or two quarters, but the risk is very real that long-lasting damage is being done that will hamper the economy for years. The other titanic force is world central banks and governments going “all in” to keep markets from falling further. They have effectively done everything they can. This better work. This better stimulate risk markets to hold last week’s low. If risk markets continue to fall, effectively there is nothing left that central banks can do. They can always invent more programs, but they already fired their most potent weapons.

Many will argue that the Fed should buy corporate bonds and/or equities, but this requires Congress amending the Federal Reserve Act. Considering Congress has still not passed virus relief, this will not happen fast enough and is not advisable as it could make things worse. Simply put, if this does not work, the central bank “put” no longer works. So stop devising new ways to exercise it and move on to other actions. So that leaves one tool left should risk markets continue to fall through last week’s low – close financial markets before they collapse.

The S&P 500 has already declined more than 25% in just 16 days. We have never seen this big a decline this fast. Should stock prices fall to new lows and corporate bond prices decline accordingly, it risks chaos in financial markets. Margin calls will force involuntary liquidation. The inability to properly price illiquid securities like high yield bonds and emerging market securities may prompt funds to halt redemptions. People’s money may be trapped. Covenants will be triggered, forcing unwanted restructurings or change of control. Pension fund minimum funding requirements are at risk of being violated.

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Not done yet.

Fed Disaster: S&P Futures Crash, Halted Limit Down; Gold, Treasuries Soar (ZH)

The Fed may have a very big problem on its hands. After firing the biggest emergency “shock and awe” bazooka in Fed history, one which was meant to restore not just partial but full normalcy to asset and funding markets, Emini futures are not only not higher, but tumbling by the -5% limit down at the start of futures trading on Sunday evening… … with Dow futures down over 1,000, and also limit down… … the VIX surging 14%…. … perhaps because the Fed has not only tipped its hand that something is very wrong by failing to wait just an additional three days until the March 18 FOMC, but that it can do nothing more to fix the underlying problem, while gold is surging over 3% following today’s dollar devastation (if only until risk parity funds resume their wholesale liquidation at some point this evening when we expect gold to tumble again)…


… as US Treasury futures soar (which will also likely be puked shortly once macro funds are hit again on their basis trades), as it now appears that the Fed’s emergency rate cut to 0% coupled with a $700BN QE is seen as not enough by a market which is now openly freaking out that the Fed is out of ammo and has not done enough. In short, with the ES plunging limit down, this has been an absolutely catastrophic response to the Fed’s bazooka; expect negative interest rates across the curve momentarily… oh and Trump demanding Powell’s resignation in the next 48 hours.

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Jamie Dimon loves you long time. Nationalize the suckers. Divvy up the spoils and start anew.

America’s Biggest Banks Suspend Buybacks In Effort To Support Economy (F.)

America’s largest and most important lenders are temporarily suspending their stock buybacks so they can help pump money into an economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic. The move means that Wall Street is prioritizing supporting the U.S. economy with its cash, instead of using it to engineer stock prices higher after a sharp market drop. Eight of the biggest banks in America said on Sunday evening they will be suspending their stock buybacks for the remainder of the first quarter, ending on March 30, and the second quarter, so as to use the spare cash to lend to individuals and businesses in need of credit. Banks suspending their buybacks are JPMorgan, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of New York Mellon and State Street.


The coordinated move, among firms who’ve recently bought back a collective tens of billions of dollars in stock annually, underscores Wall Street’s vital role in helping to pull the American economy though what economists increasingly forecast will be a deep recession. “The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented challenge for the world and the global economy and the largest U.S. banks have an unquestioned ability and commitment to supporting our customers, clients and the nation,” said the Financial Services Forum, an advocacy group for banks, on behalf of the eight lenders. “The decision on buybacks is consistent with our collective objective to use our significant capital and liquidity to provide maximum support to individuals, small businesses, and the broader economy through lending and other important services,” it added

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CHINA BREAKING NEWS:
• Jan-Feb Fixed Investment: -25.5% vs -2% estimate
• Jan-Feb Retail Sales: -20.5% vs -4%
• Jan-Feb Industrial Production: -13.5% vs -3% estimate

“#China is able to achieve 6% GDP growth in 2020 despite #COVID19, as the impact is temporary and China has uniquely high savings to help cushion shocks by black swan events”
Liang Hong, chief economist of China International Capital Corp

China’s Industrial Output, Retail Sales Plummet (MW)

China’s economic activity contracted sharply across the board in the first two months of the year amid Beijing’s aggressive measures to contain the coronavirus epidemic. Industrial output declined 13.5% in the January-February period from a year earlier, compared with December’s 6.9% increase, the National Bureau of Statistics said Monday. The result was worse than the 3.0% drop expected by economists polled by The Wall Street Journal. China typically combines economic data for the first two months to reduce distortions from the Lunar New Year holiday.

Fixed-asset investment, a gauge of construction activity, slid 24.5% during the period, reversing growth of 5.4% in 2019. Economists expected fixed-asset investment to fall 1.0%. Retail sales tumbled 20.5% in the first two months of the year–typically a boom season for consumption–compared with growth of 8.0% in December. Economists expected retail sales to fall 5%. Meanwhile, China’s urban unemployment rate rose to 5.7% in February from 5.2% in December, official data showed. To contain the spread of the coronavirus, Beijing in January locked down cities hit most by the epidemic, ordered an extended shutdown of factories and businesses and advised residents to stay home.

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Somehow I could see this succeed. In 2021.

World’s Most Powerful Supercomputer Tasked With Finding COVID19 Cure (ZH)

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have used the world’s most powerful supercomputer to identify 77 drug compounds that could lead to scientific breakthroughs to combat Covid-19. The supercomputer, dubbed Summit, has been tasked to run complex computation across existing databases of drug compounds to see which combinations could thwart Covid-19 from infecting cells. Summit has been able to “simulate 8,000 compounds in a matter of days to model which could impact that infection process by binding to the virus’s spike, and have identified 77 small-molecule compounds, such as medications and natural compounds, that have shown the potential to impair COVID-19’s ability to dock with and infect host cells,” read an IBM press release, whose technology is present in Summit.

“Summit was needed to rapidly get the simulation results we needed. It took us a day or two whereas it would have taken months on a normal computer,” said Jeremy Smith, Governor’s Chair at the University of Tennessee, director of the UT/ORNL Center for Molecular Biophysics, and principal researcher in the study. “Our results don’t mean that we have found a cure or treatment for COVID-19. We are very hopeful, though, that our computational findings will both inform future studies and provide a framework that experimentalists will use to further investigate these compounds. Only then will we know whether any of them exhibit the characteristics needed to mitigate this virus.” Smith’s team is expected to pass on the findings to others in the scientific community, who will then begin to experiment on Summit’s 77 compounds to see which one is the most effective against Covid-19.

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Things to do while staying home: feed a mini donkey, watch the remarkably enticing marble racing.

 

 

 

If you read us, please support us. Help the Automatic Earth survive.

 

Mar 142020
 

 

“Flattening the Curve” Is A Deadly Delusion (Bach)
Higher Temperatures Affect Survival Of New Coronavirus (Accu)
South Korea’s Drive-Through Testing For Coronavirus Is Fast – And Free (NPR)
Nancy Pelosi, Trump Administration Reach Deal On Coronavirus Aid Package (NYP)
EU Ready To Trigger Crisis Clause Allowing Fiscal Stimulus (BBG)
Big Pharma Prepares To Profit From The Coronavirus (IC)
Apple To Close All Stores Outside Of China (BI)
Bad Coronavirus News Starts To Hit US Auto Dealers (R.)
Next Week’s Primaries To Proceed Despite Coronavirus, Louisiana Delay (R.)
Major US Internet Firms Agree Not To Cancel Service Over Next 60 Days (R.)
FBI’s Russia Collusion Case Fell Apart In January 2017
‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ At DC Museum Of The Bible Are All Forgeries (NatGeo)
It Would Take 50 Million Years To Recover New Zealand’s Lost Bird Species (F.)

 

 

Yay! We’re setting records! Over 10,000 cases in one day, 2,547 of which in Italy, and 451 deaths, with 250 in Italy.

 

Cases 146,327 (+ 10,518 from yesterday’s 135,809)

Deaths 5,443 (+ 453 from yesterday’s 4,990)

 

Something went wrong with my usual snapshot from last night’s Worldometer numbers, so yesterday’s “gains” per country are lost. Apologies.

Trajectories are clear though. Spain is a country to watch, as are Denmark, Norway and Sweden. And Switzerland with 220 new cases today, and and and.

Other than that, economic policies are taking the spotlight, and especially the failures. The question arises: can the west do what it did in WWII, and confiscate production facilities?

Just as abhorrent to US “values”: Tulsi Gabbard and Bush economic adviser Greg Mankiw, separate from each other I think, want the US to give every citizen $1,000 a month to counter the corona fallout.

Can America as a nation unite, or is that ability forever lost? Because: if you give out that $1,000, will you allow your firms, say Big Pharma, to charge exorbitant prices for essentials?

In that same vein, Germany appears ready to abandon its long term fiscal prudence, and to drag Europe along for the ride.

I changed the order of the graphs around a bit, SCMP is getting further behind all the time.

 

From Worldometer (NOTE: mortality rate is back up to 7%!)

 

 

From COVID2019.app: (This site is playing with its formats while expanding, now over 200 global contributors)

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Joshua Bach is a scary dude.

“Flattening the Curve” Is A Deadly Delusion (Bach)

You have all seen a version of this curve of COVID-19 case loads by now:

Or this one:

There are many more. What all these diagrams have in common: They have no numbers on the axes. They don’t give you an idea how many cases it takes to overwhelm the medical system, and over how many days the epidemic will play out. They suggest that currently, the medical system can deal with a large fraction (like maybe 2/3, 1/2 or 1/3) of the cases, but if we implement some mitigation measures, we can get the infections per day down to a level we can deal with. They mean to tell you that we can get away without severe lockdowns as we are currently observing them in China and Italy. Instead, we let the infection burn through the entire population, until we have herd immunity (at 40% to 70%), and just space out the infections over a longer timespan.

These suggestions are dangerously wrong, and if implemented, will lead to incredible suffering and hardship. Let’s try to understand this by putting some numbers on the axes. What is the capacity of the healthcare system? This is a difficult question and cannot be answered in a short post like this. The US has about 924,100 hospital beds (2.8 per 1000 people). California has only 1.8. Countries like Germany have 8. South Korea has 12. (Their hospital system got overloaded nonetheless.) Most of these beds are in use, but we can create more, using improvisation (for instance using hotels and school gyms) and strategic resources of the military, national guard and other organizations.

Based on Chinese data, we can estimate that about 20% of COVID-19 cases are severe and require hospitalization. However, many severe cases will survive if they can be adequately provided for at home (which may include oxygen, IVs and isolation). More important is the number of ICU beds, which by some estimates can be stretched to about a 100,000, and of which about 30,000 may be available. About 5% of all COVID-19 cases need intensive care, and without it, all of them will die. We can also increase the number of ICU beds somewhat, but the equipment that we need to deal with sepsis, kidney, liver and heart failure, severe pneumonia etc. cannot be stretched arbitrarily between them.

An important part of the equation are ventilators. Most of the critically ill COVID-19 cases die of an infection of the lungs that makes it impossible to breathe and even destroys so much tissue that the blood can no longer be sufficiently oxygenated. These patients need intubation and mechanical ventilation to give them a chance of survival, or even an ECMO machine, which oxygenates the blood directly. About 6% of all cases need a ventilator, and if hospitals put all existing ventilators to use, we have 160,000 of them. In addition, the CDC has a strategic stockpile of 8900 ventilators that can be deployed in hospitals that need them. If we take the number of ventilators as a proximate limit on the medical resources, it means we can take care of up to 170,000 critically ill patients at the same time.

How many people will get infected? Without containment, the virus becomes endemic, and leading epidemiologists like Marc Lipsitch (Harvard) and Christian Drosten (Charité Berlin) estimate that between 40% and 70% of the population get infected until we develop some degree of herd immunity. (Unfortunately, we do not know how long this immunity lasts. We already observe multiple strain of COVID-19, and will see many more, due to the large number of carriers.) In a population like the US (327 million), that means between 130 million and 230 million. Let’s assume that 55% of the US population (the middle ground) get infected between March and December, and we are looking at 180 million people.

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Saw that picture with the narrow yellow band before. But of course they still don’t agree on anything.

Higher Temperatures Affect Survival Of New Coronavirus (Accu)

Research from a laboratory-grown copy of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes the COVID-19 illness shows that heat affects the virus and impacts its behavior, a top pathologist said new research has shown. But other infectious disease experts aren’t yet convinced. “In cold environments, there is longer virus survival than warm ones,” Hong Kong University pathology professor John Nicholls told AccuWeather exclusively. Nicholls and colleagues from a team at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, previously produced a study, which was published in February and has yet to be peer-reviewed, noting the effect of heat. Their research is based on one of the world’s first lab-grown copies of SARS-CoV-2.


“Temperature could significantly change COVID-19 transmission,” the authors note in the study. They also pointed out that the “virus is highly sensitive to high temperature.” On March 11, the World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic. This is the first pandemic in 11 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One recent research paper supported this assertion by pointing out the proximity of the major hotspots. The authors of the study, which was published last week, wrote that COVID-19 “has established significant community spread in cities and regions only along a narrow east-west distribution roughly along the 30-50 North latitude corridor at consistently similar weather patterns (5-11 degrees C [41 to 51 F] and 47-79 percent humidity).”

“Notably, during the same time, COVID-19 failed to spread significantly to countries immediately south of China,” the paper notes. “The number of patients and reported deaths in Southeast Asia is much less when compared to more temperate regions noted … The association between temperature in the cities affected with COVID-19 deserves special attention.” Some have suggested the possibility that weather factors might affect the virus – particularly the intensity and amount of hours of sunshine as well as heat and humidity. “Obviously, the virus is something we’ve never dealt with before, but if we look at other viruses … they all had their peak during the cold season,” said AccuWeather Founder and CEO Dr. Joel N. Myers.

“The statistics all show that they breed and survive longer when it’s cold and dry,” Myers said. “So, when it’s warmer and more humid and there’s a lot of sunshine, the statistics on all of the others show a virus is less lethal, it spreads less efficiently and less effectively among humans.” Dr. Joseph Fair, a virologist, epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist, suggested sunshine is a critical factor in subduing the virus. “It really doesn’t have anything to do with the warmth, but it has to do with the length of the day and the exposure to sunlight, which inactivates the virus through UV light,” Fair [said]. “We expect a dip in infections as we would see with the cold and flu in the spring and summer months.


But, he cautioned, “The science is still out. We can assume this will follow typical other coronavirus cases. We can expect a dip in the summer. But that doesn’t mean that we will be out of the woods … Everyone in the scientific and public health community expects it to be back in the fall and we expect to be in this for quite some time.”


Transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like. (NIAID-RML)

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What a nation is capable of when it starts working together.

South Korea’s Drive-Through Testing For Coronavirus Is Fast – And Free (NPR)

If you roll up to a drive-through COVID-19 testing center in South Korea, you might notice that safety procedures extend all the way to your car’s air conditioning. You will be advised to hit the recirculation button so that if you’re sick, you can keep your pathogens to yourself, in your car, and avoid infecting the medical personnel doing the testing. The test takes 10 minutes at most. Results are texted to you, usually the next day. And it’s free — paid for by the government. Drive-through centers have helped South Korea do some of the fastest, most-extensive testing of any country. And while nobody is claiming that South Korea has defeated the outbreak, experts credit the emphasis on testing with reducing case numbers and fatalities.

“I think our approach was right,” says professor Lee Hyukmin of the Yonsei University College of Medicine in Seoul. “We will continue to see sporadic infections,” he predicts. “But still, the situation in Daegu,” the epicenter of the outbreak, “is being stabilized.” South Korea has about 8,000 infections. Italy and Iran overtook it this week as the countries with the most cases outside of China. South Korea’s new cases have gradually declined since the end of last month. For the first time since Jan. 20, the number of patients released from treatment on Friday, March 13 — 510 — outnumbered the 110 new cases. A nation of 51 million, South Korea has tested about 250,000 people since its outbreak began on Jan. 20, with a daily capacity of 15,000. It has conducted 3,600 tests per million people compared to five per million in the U.S.


South Korea’s aggressive testing may make it unnecessary to impose the sort of lockdowns to which China and Italy have resorted, although health officials insist that all options remain on the table in dealing with the epidemic. “It’s much better to test and then quarantine a specific person than to do a citywide or provincewide lockdown, which in certain ways prevents the virus from leaving the province but actually doesn’t make the province any less likely to have high infection rates,” says Eric Feigl-Ding, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, D.C., and an epidemiologist at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health.

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Just like Tulsi: “Greg Mankiw, a former top economic adviser to President George W. Bush, advocated sending $1,000 checks to everyone as soon as possible.”

Nancy Pelosi, Trump Administration Reach Deal On Coronavirus Aid Package (NYP)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Trump administration reached a last-minute deal Friday on a sweeping coronavirus aid package that will provide free testing for all Americans. The “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” will guarantee free tests for all Americans, including the uninsured, and provide two weeks of paid sick leave for those affected by the health crisis, Pelosi said. It will also provide up to three months of paid family and medical leave and strengthened unemployment Insurance for those facing layoffs amid the health and economic crisis. The aid package will also strengthen food banks, seniors’ meals and the food stamps program, known as SNAP.

Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had been locked in feverish negotiations as the crisis rapidly escalated — speaking up to seven times a day — and by Friday morning, senior Democrats were confident the package would pass the House by the end of the day. But the deal appeared to hit a snag when Trump on Friday declared a State of Emergency at the White House Rose Garden and announced he didn’t support the aid package. “We don’t think the Democrats are giving enough,” Trump told reporters. “We are negotiating. We thought we had something, but all of a sudden they didn’t agree to certain things that they agreed to,” he added, without specifying the sticking point.


The president has repeatedly demanded a payroll tax cut be included in the bill, something that has been met with tepid support from within his own administration. “We could have something but we don’t think they are giving enough. They are not doing what is right for the country,” he concluded. Pelosi was bullish about passing the bill on Friday, even though it now languishes until Monday when the Senate returns from a break, calling the health outbreak a “grave and accelerating challenge.” The new bill comes after Trump last week signed into law a separate $8.3 billion in emergency aid for states and local authorities to combat the spread of the virus.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1238516118391791617

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Jim Bianco on Twitter:

“German Gov’t will offer unlimited loans to all companies that want them. Will buy stakes in German Governments. Guaranteed every job in Germany. Said “no on will lose their job over a virus.” They are essentially asking all EU countries to do the same as Germany. Couple this with the Fed trillions, the ECB yesterday , the BOE wed and the BoJ overnight … Everyone is “all-in” to stop the decline. If this does not work, closing mkts might be all that is left.”

EU Ready To Trigger Crisis Clause Allowing Fiscal Stimulus (BBG)

Denmark, Poland and Cyprus tightened their borders to limit the spread of the coronavirus even as European leaders called for more concerted action to contain the economic fallout. Germany, which borders two of those countries, pledged to spend whatever was necessary to protect its economy and the European Commission said it’s ready to green-light widespread spending after a market meltdown and a forecast that the euro zone was headed for recession. With Group of Seven policy makers struggling to forge a united front, the response from national capitals reflects the urgency to avoid the lockdown that hit Italy amid an epidemic that seemed to be spiraling out of control.

In Denmark, only Danes, Danish residents and green card holders will be let in. For everyone else, the country’s borders will be closed until April 14 and people arriving in Denmark will be sent back. “We’re painfully aware that this will have severe consequences,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said in Copenhagen on Friday, as she announced borders would close. “We can see how the situation in Italy developed in a catastrophic direction,” she said. “Everything we’re doing is to ensure that we get through this situation in a different way.” Likewise, Cyprus is closing its borders for 15 days to foreigners who don’t live or work on the Mediterranean island, President Nicos Anastasiades said in a televised address.

[..] The ability to travel without border checks has been a fact of life for more than two decades in most of Europe, with passport-free movement arguably the most successful feature of daily life for more than 400 million people in the EU. Officials in Brussels are accepting the new – if temporary – restrictions through gritted teeth. “General travel bans are not seen as being the most effective by the World Health Organization,” said Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm. “Moreover, they have a strong social and economic impact. They disrupt people’s lives and business across the borders.”

Just hours earlier, German officials announced KfW, the state bank, can lend as much as €550 billion to companies to ensure they survive the pandemic and shield their workers from its impact. Switzerland pledged 10 billion francs ($10.5 billion) of aid for its companies. European stocks surged. “This is the bazooka,” Finance Minister Olaf Scholz. “We’re using it to do what is necessary. We’ll check later to see if we need additional smaller weapons.”

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Suspect that unlike in WWII, US industry would be allowed to turn huge profits.

Big Pharma Prepares To Profit From The Coronavirus (IC)

As the new coronavirus spreads illness, death, and catastrophe around the world, virtually no economic sector has been spared from harm. Yet amid the mayhem from the global pandemic, one industry is not only surviving, it is profiting handsomely. “Pharmaceutical companies view Covid-19 as a once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity,” said Gerald Posner, author of “Pharma: Greed, Lies, and the Poisoning of America.” The world needs pharmaceutical products, of course. For the new coronavirus outbreak, in particular, we need treatments and vaccines and, in the U.S., tests. Dozens of companies are now vying to make them.

“They’re all in that race,” said Posner, who described the potential payoffs for winning the race as huge. The global crisis “will potentially be a blockbuster for the industry in terms of sales and profits,” he said, adding that “the worse the pandemic gets, the higher their eventual profit.” The ability to make money off of pharmaceuticals is already uniquely large in the U.S., which lacks the basic price controls other countries have, giving drug companies more freedom over setting prices for their products than anywhere else in the world. During the current crisis, pharmaceutical makers may have even more leeway than usual because of language industry lobbyists inserted into an $8.3 billion coronavirus spending package, passed last week, to maximize their profits from the pandemic.

[..] According to calculations by Axios, drug companies make 63 percent of total health care profits in the U.S. That’s in part because of the success of their lobbying efforts. In 2019, the pharmaceutical industry spent $295 million on lobbying, far more than any other sector in the U.S. That’s almost twice as much as the next biggest spender — the electronics, manufacturing, and equipment sector — and well more than double what oil and gas companies spent on lobbying. The industry also spends lavishly on campaign contributions to both Democratic and Republican lawmakers. Throughout the Democratic primary, Joe Biden has led the pack among recipients of contributions from the health care and pharmaceutical industries.

Big Pharma’s spending has positioned the industry well for the current pandemic. While stock markets have plummeted in reaction to the Trump administration’s bungling of the crisis, more than 20 companies working on a vaccine and other products related to the new SARS-CoV-2 virus have largely been spared. Stock prices for the biotech company Moderna, which began recruiting participants for a clinical trial of its new candidate for a coronavirus vaccine two weeks ago, have shot up during that time. On Thursday, a day of general carnage in the stock markets, Eli Lilly’s stock also enjoyed a boost after the company announced that it, too, is joining the effort to come up with a therapy for the new coronavirus. And Gilead Sciences, which is at work on a potential treatment as well, is also thriving.

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1 day (or is it 2?) after re-opening all Chinese stores.

Apple To Close All Stores Outside Of China (BI)

Apple will be temporarily shuttering all stores outside China until March 27, in response to mounting concern over the novel coronavirus, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced on Saturday. Cook also said in a tweet that the company will be committing $15 million to recovery efforts and matching employee donations two-to-one as the coronavirus, which causes the disease known as COVID-19, continues to grip the US. “What we’ve learned together has helped us all develop the best practices that are assisting enormously in our global response,” Cook wrote in a press release. “One of those lessons is that the most effective way to minimize risk of the virus’s transmission is to reduce density and maximize social distance.” “As rates of new infections continue to grow in other places, we’re taking additional steps to protect our team members and customers.” The retailer will continue to fulfill purchases made online or through the Apple phone apps.

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Can you self-isolate in a car?

Bad Coronavirus News Starts To Hit US Auto Dealers (R.)

A relentless barrage of bad news surrounding the coronavirus epidemic has begun to affect customer visits at some U.S. auto dealers and even those businesses that have thrived so far believe a big sales decline is imminent if China’s experience is any guide. Since the coronavirus outbreak began in China last year it has killed more than 5,000 people globally, including 41 so far in the United States, where President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency. The outbreak has caused automakers to shutter plants in Asia and Europe, and the mounting responses in the United States – school closures, pro sports leagues suspending play and other big events canceled – are now being felt by some U.S. dealers. For a sign of what may be in store, analysts said look no further than China, where auto sales plunged 79% last month.


“Sales are definitely falling,” said John Luciano, managing partner with Street Volkswagen in Amarillo, Texas, and chairman of Volkswagen’s national dealer council. “We’re waking up in a different world a little bit more every day.” At Russ Shelton’s Buick GMC dealership in Rochester Hills, Michigan, so far this month customer visits are down 30% while the service department has seen a 40% drop in business due to the outbreak. “When schools close, mothers get worried – and this stops economic activity,” industry consultant and former GM executive Warren Browne said. Cox Automotive now sees negative U.S. economic growth in the second quarter and has withdrawn its forecast for 16.6 million new-vehicle sales in the United States this year.

Read more …

“We’re definitely voting. They voted during the Civil War. We’re gonna vote..”

Next Week’s Primaries To Proceed Despite Coronavirus, Louisiana Delay (R.)

Louisiana on Friday became the first U.S. state to postpone its presidential nominating contest because of the coronavirus pandemic, while four states holding their primaries next week said those elections would go forward as planned. The Southern state said it would reschedule voting in the run-up to the Nov. 3 election because of the outbreak. Officials there said they would postpone their scheduled April 4 primary to June 20 “to best protect the health and safety of Louisiana voters and voting officials,” Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said at a news conference. The four states holding their primaries on Tuesday – Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio – said in a joint statement they would proceed with their contests while taking steps to ensure public safety.

“Americans have participated in elections during challenging times in the past, and, based on the best information we have from public health officials, we are confident that voters in our states can safely and securely cast their ballots in this election, and that otherwise healthy poll workers can and should carry out their patriotic duties on Tuesday,” election officials from the four states said. “We’re definitely voting. They voted during the Civil War. We’re gonna vote,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis told reporters on Friday. Louisiana’s move poses a problem for the Democratic Party, which mandates all nominating contests must be held by early June or states risk losing delegates to the party convention in July.


[..] Biden’s attempt to connect with voters via a virtual town hall on Friday was plagued by early technical glitches that delayed its start and made most of his early remarks impossible to understand. The event provided the first glimpse into the challenges of running a virtual campaign. He used his opening remarks to discuss his plan for tackling the coronavirus crisis and pleading for citizens to listen to public health officials and wash their hands. He then turned to virtual attendees for questions and comments. The first person said, “Mr. Biden’s speech was garbled the entire time.”

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Let Washington handle it, make it free.

Major US Internet Firms Agree Not To Cancel Service Over Next 60 Days (R.)

The Federal Communications Commission said Friday that major internet providers – including Comcast Corp, AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc – agreed not to terminate service for subscribers for the next 60 days if they are unable to pay their bills due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said after calls with more than 50 companies that they also agreed to waive any late fees residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic. They also agreed to open Wi-Fi hotspots to anyone who needs them, the FCC said.

Millions more Americans are expected to work from home as employers and states urge people to telework to reduce the potential to spread the coronavirus outbreak. Others agreeing to take part are Alphabet Inc’s Google Fiber, Charter Communications Inc, CenturyLink Inc, Cox Communications, Sprint Corp, T-Mobile US Inc. “As the coronavirus outbreak spreads and causes a series of disruptions to the economic, educational, medical and civic life of our country, it is imperative that Americans stay connected,” Pai said in a statement. “Broadband will enable them to communicate with their loved ones and doctors, telework, ensure their children can engage in remote learning.”


FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, praised the companies adopting the pledge, but said the FCC should do more. She called on the commission to “provide hotspots for loan for students whose school doors have closed” and should “work with health care providers to ensure connectivity for telehealth services are available for hospitals, doctors, and nurses treating coronavirus patients and those who are quarantined.” Pai also said he had asked providers that offer low-income consumers lower-speed cheaper service to increase speeds and expand eligibility. Comcast said Thursday it was raising its speeds for all its low-income users, while AT&T said it was waiving data caps for consumers that have plans with usage caps.

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John Solomon promises more. Will there be elections, though?

FBI’s Russia Collusion Case Fell Apart In January 2017 (Solomon)

Flynn’s motion is confirmed by a 2018 letter obtained by Just the News between Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office and defense lawyers. It shows the DOJ exoneration memo was written after Flynn had been interviewed by FBI agents in January 2017 and after the government learned the former Defense Intelligence Agency chief had kept his old agency briefed on his contacts with Russia, something that weighed heavily against the notion he was aiding Moscow.

“According to an internal DOJ memo dated January 30, 2017, after the Jan. 24 interview, the FBI advised that based on the interview the FBI did not believe Flynn was acting as an agent of Russia,” Mueller’s team wrote in the letter. U.S. District Judge Emmett Sullivan so far has concluded that the exoneration of Flynn on the Russia collusion charge wasn’t relevant to his conviction since he pled guilty to a different crime, making a false statement to the FBI. But for the American public, such a revelation is momentous. Less than two weeks into Trump’s presidency the FBI had concluded his national security adviser had not been working as an agent of Russia.

While that was the view of federal law enforcement, the false storyline of Flynn as a Russian stooge was broadcasted across the nation, with leaks of his conversations with a Russian ambassador and other tales, for many more months. In an interview with Just the News and its John Solomon Reports podcast, Powell confirmed she was provided by letter three sentences from the DOJ memo but has been unable to get the full document. “It’s just horrible,” Powell said. “They gave us a little three lines summary of it and the letter and told us it existed but have refused to give us the actual document, which I know means there’s a lot of other information in it that would be helpful to us.” Powell also confirmed that Mueller was fully aware of a letter sent in early January 2017 to Flynn from Britain’s national security adviser raising concerns about Steele’s credibility.

The British government “hand-delivered” a letter to Flynn’s team that “totally disavowed any credibility of Christopher Steele, and would have completely destroyed the Russia collusion narrative,” Powell said. Flynn himself has no memory of receiving the communique, but people around him at the time do and confirmed the existence of the document, Powell explained. Flynn was questioned about it during his debriefings by Mueller’s team, she added. “I was told that a copy of the document would have been given to [then-National Security Adviser] Susan Rice as well,” she added. “So the Obama administration knew full well that the entire Russia collusion mess was a farce.”

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Evangelical humor.

‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ At DC Museum Of The Bible Are All Forgeries (NatGeo)

On the fourth floor of the Museum of the Bible, a sweeping permanent exhibit tells the story of how the ancient scripture became the world’s most popular book. A warmly lit sanctum at the exhibit’s heart reveals some of the museum’s most prized possessions: fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient texts that include the oldest known surviving copies of the Hebrew Bible. But now, the Washington, D.C. museum has confirmed a bitter truth about the fragments’ authenticity. On Friday, independent researchers funded by the Museum of the Bible announced that all 16 of the museum’s Dead Sea Scroll fragments are modern forgeries that duped outside collectors, the museum’s founder, and some of the world’s leading biblical scholars. Officials unveiled the findings at an academic conference hosted by the museum. “The Museum of the Bible is trying to be as transparent as possible,” says CEO Harry Hargrave.


“We’re victims—we’re victims of misrepresentation, we’re victims of fraud.” In a report spanning more than 200 pages, a team of researchers led by art fraud investigator Colette Loll found that while the pieces are probably made of ancient leather, they were inked in modern times and modified to resemble real Dead Sea Scrolls. “These fragments were manipulated with the intent to deceive,” Loll says. The new findings don’t cast doubt on the 100,000 real Dead Sea Scroll fragments, most of which lie in the Shrine of the Book, part of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. However, the report’s findings raise grave questions about the “post-2002” Dead Sea Scroll fragments, a group of some 70 snippets of biblical text that entered the antiquities market in the 2000s. Even before the new report, some scholars believed that most to all of the post-2002 fragments were modern fakes.

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How long does it take to kill 50 million years?

It Would Take 50 Million Years To Recover New Zealand’s Lost Bird Species (F.)

Long before people arrived in New Zealand, it was dominated by multitudes of unique birds. They were absolutely everywhere: big birds, little birds, colorful birds, flightless birds. In the absence of reptilian and mammalian predators, birds evolved to fill every available niche, from giant moas that stood 11 feet tall and weighed as much as 230 kilograms (510 pounds) that were the ecological equivalent of deer and antelopes, to the largest eagle that ever lived, which was New Zealand’s apex predator, functioning similarly to lions and tigers and other big cats. But after humans arrived 700 years ago, it took us only a few hundred years to drive more than half of New Zealand’s bird species into extinction, and more than 30% of the birds that survived our original onslaughts are threatened with extinction today. Nearly two-thirds could be under threat in the future.

Considering these dire circumstances, an international team of scientists wondered how long it might take for New Zealand to recover its full diversity of bird species lost to human actions. According to their recently published study, the researchers estimated this process would take approximately 50 million years (50Ma). Further, they found that, if bird species that are currently threatened are allowed to go extinct, it would take an additional 10Ma for New Zealand to achieve today’s (severely compromised) level of species diversity. “The conservation decisions we make today will have repercussions for millions of years to come”, said the lead author of the study, Luis Valente, a Research Associate at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin.


“Some people believe that if you leave nature alone it will quickly recuperate, but the reality is that, at least in New Zealand, nature would need several million years to recover from human actions — and perhaps will never really recover.” New Zealand is home to a collection of odd birds, including the wrybill, a small shorebird whose bill curves sideways; the iconic kiwis, whose feathers resemble fur and which are the only bird species in the world to have nostrils at the tip of their beak; the flightless kakapo, which resembles a large moss-colored owl and is the heaviest parrot alive today; and of course, the kea, which is the world’s only alpine parrot and who is pushing the boundaries of our understanding of how astonishingly clever parrots can be. Despite this modern surfeit of avian biodiversity, it is just a mere whisper of what once lived on New Zealand, which was the result of many millions of years of evolutionary history.

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If you read us, please support us. Help the Automatic Earth survive.

 

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.”

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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”.

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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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.”

Read more …

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.”

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

 

 

 

If you read us, please support us. Help the Automatic Earth survive.

 

Mar 102020
 


James F. Gibson Tent of A. Foulke, sutler, 1st Brigade, Horse Artillery. Brandy Station, Virginia 1864

 

Thread: Intensivist/A&E Consultant Currently In Northern Italy (Twitter)
Italy Not Europe’s Coronavirus Hotbed, Just First Country That Snapped (RT)
Trump Has Not Been Tested For Coronavirus – White House (R.)
Seattle-Area Nursing Home Unable To Test 65 Workers With COVID-19 Symptoms (R.)
Coronavirus Symptoms Usually Take 5 Days To Appear – Study (CNN)
Bail Out The People First, Before Companies, In Coronavirus Crisis (Ghitis)
China’s Hubei Province May Allow Residents To Travel (R.)
Singapore Charges Visitors For Coronavirus Treatment (R.)
No Coronavirus Risk From Holy Communion, Says Greek Holy Synod (K.)
Smartphone Sales In China Were Halved In February (ZH)
Boeing Shares Plunge On Coronavirus, 737 MAX Wiring Bundle Setback (R.)
In Brussels, Erdogan Asks NATO For ‘Assistance’ On Syria And Migrants (RT)
Prince Andrew Won’t Voluntarily Cooperate In Epstein Inquiry – Prosecutor (G.)
Court Case Against Alleged CIA Vault 7 Whistleblower Ends In Mistrial (WSWS)
Democrats Were The FIrst To Discuss Biden’s Cognitive Fitness (Greenwald)
Russia ‘Hired Network Of Britons To Go After Enemies Of Putin’ (G.)

 

Cases 114,614 (+ 4,007 from yesterday’s 110,607)

Deaths 4030 (+ 199 from yesterday’s 3,831)

 

Italy’s the story. 100 deaths a day. Germany finally has (acknowledged) its first two deaths. Spain gets very ugly. Lots of clocks ticking.

Lombardy’s world-class health care system has basically collapsed. You’re looking at your future, unless you’re very very lucky.

It’s not about the number or percentage of deaths and cases, it’s about the capacity of the system, and the speed with which countries react. Both fall very short.

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

 

 

And the suspects for Wave 2 continue to rise.

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

Most poignant news today. A Twitter thread that describes an American emergency doctor working in Lombrady, Italy. The system’s collapsed.

Thread: Intensivist/A&E Consultant Currently In Northern Italy (Twitter)

1/ ‘I feel the pressure to give you a quick personal update about what is happening in Italy, and also give some quick direct advice about what you should do.

2/ Lumbardy is the most developed region in Italy and it has a extraordinary good healthcare, I have worked in Italy, UK and Aus and don’t make the mistake to think that what is happening is happening in a 3rd world country.

3/ The current situation is difficult to imagine and numbers do not explain things at all. Our hospitals are overwhelmed by Covid-19, they are running 200% capacity

4/ We’ve stopped all routine, all ORs have been converted to ITUs and they are now diverting or not treating all other emergencies like trauma or strokes. There are hundreds of pts with severe resp failure and many of them do not have access to anything above a reservoir mask.

5/ Patients above 65 or younger with comorbidities are not even assessed by ITU, I am not saying not tubed, I’m saying not assessed and no ITU staff attends when they arrest. Staff are working as much as they can but they are starting to get sick and are emotionally overwhelmed.

6/ My friends call me in tears because they see people dying in front of them and they can only offer some oxygen. Ortho and pathologists are being given a leaflet and sent to see patients on NIV. (Noninvasive ventilation)

Read more …

This may be true, but Italy did screw up badly multiple times. Thing is, at least other countries will, too.

Italy Not Europe’s Coronavirus Hotbed, Just First Country That Snapped (RT)

With the entirety of Italy put under quarantine, the Mediterranean nation has been seen as the hardest-hit by the coronavirus in Europe. Italian journalist Evgeny Utkin believes, however, that it’s just the most tested one.
Utkin, a journalist based in Italy and an expert on economics and politics, told RT that he believes the situation with the coronavirus as reported in the press – namely, that it is ravaging Italy and yet somehow affecting its neighbors, such as Switzerland and Germany, on a far smaller scale – does not represent the reality on the ground. The catch, he said, is that while in some countries the number of those infected might be underreported, in Italy – at least at the beginning of the outbreak – there was an overreaction instead.

“Italy was the first country whose nerves snapped,” Utkin said. “They started testing absolutely everyone.” Such rigorous testing sent the number of confirmed cases skyrocketing, Utkin believes, with the alarming statistics soon driving panic and scoring international headlines. Over that past weekend, northern Italy, where the outbreak erupted, was put on lockdown, which was further extended to the whole of the country on Monday. At least 463 died of COVID-19 – the disease caused by the coronavirus – across Italy as of Monday, and the total number of cases stands at over 9,000. While the spread of the outbreak is a legitimate reason for concern, Utkin said he does not believe that Italy will bear the brunt of the newest virus scourge in the Old World.

“I don’t’ believe that Italy is the European hotbed of coronavirus. It’s more or less the same everywhere. If you take the percentage [of tests], it’ll turn out, I think, that other countries have had it worse, even.” With Italy’s hospitals filled to the brim with coronavirus patients, suspected and confirmed, authorities have scaled back their zeal for testing, and are now screening only those who display particular symptoms or are considered to be at risk of complications. Italy will be reeling from the economic damage caused by the outbreak for the years to come, the expert told RT, predicting the country’s GDP might plummet as much as 10 percent in the first quarter of 2020.

“It would be a colossal slump, I don’t know how it will recover,” Utkin said, adding that the outbreak has completely “killed” the country’s burgeoning tourism and restaurant industries. Utkin is convinced that Italy will ask for financial assistance from the international community, but noted it will hardly be enough to offset the losses its economy has already suffered. “Italy has never fallen so deeply. I have not seen a crisis like this, in terms of economy as well as privacy.”

Read more …

Don’t think they thought this through. Trump and Pence are seen together all the time. If both fall gravely ill, Pelosi takes over. Is that what they want? No-go for the same reason they can’t travel together. President must be tested, VP too.

Trump Has Not Been Tested For Coronavirus – White House (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump has not been tested for the coronavirus, the White House said on Monday, though at least two lawmakers with whom he has recently come into contact have announced they were self-quarantining after attending a conference with a person who had tested positive for the virus. “The President has not received COVID-19 testing because he has neither had prolonged close contact with any known confirmed COVID-19 patients, nor does he have any symptoms. President Trump remains in excellent health, and his physician will continue to closely monitor him,” White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement, referring to the acronym describing the virus.

Read more …

US health care is already overwhelmed.

Seattle-Area Nursing Home Unable To Test 65 Workers With COVID-19 Symptoms (R.)

The Seattle-area nursing home at the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak said on Monday it had no kits to test 65 employees showing symptoms of the virus that has killed at least 13 patients at the long-term care center. The staffers, representing more than a third of the Life Care Center’s 180 employees, are out sick with symptoms resembling the coronavirus and a federal strike team of nurses and doctors is helping care for 53 patients remaining in the center. With the Kirkland, Washington, home accounting for over half of all coronavirus deaths in the United States, and all its patients tested, it was unclear why it had not been given kits for staff even as the University of Washington offered to process tests.

“We would like more kits to test employees,” Life Care Center spokesman Tim Killian told reporters, adding he did not know why they had not been forthcoming. “We’ve been asking the various government agencies that have been supplying us with test kits.” Twenty-six of the nursing home’s 120 patients have died since Feb. 19, with 13 of 15 autopsies carried out so far showing that the coronavirus was the cause. Twenty-one of the center’s residents, including those now in hospitals, have tested positive for the virus. The outbreak has shown how quickly the coronavirus spreads through elderly residents with weak immune systems and underlying health conditions living in close quarters.

“We’ve had patients who, within an hour’s time, show no symptoms to going to acute symptoms and being transferred to the hospital,” Killian told a news conference on Sunday. “And we’ve had patients die relatively quickly under those circumstances.”

Read more …

This will tempt people to party on day 6. Smart?

Coronavirus Symptoms Usually Take 5 Days To Appear – Study (CNN)

People infected by the novel coronavirus tend to develop symptoms about five days after exposure, and almost always within two weeks, according to a study released Monday. That incubation period is consistent with previous estimates from public health officials, and the findings suggest that 14 days of quarantine are appropriate for people potentially exposed to the coronavirus. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has used that standard during the current pandemic — recommending, for example, that people self-quarantine for two weeks after traveling to countries with widespread coronavirus transmission, such as Italy or South Korea.

When it comes to those quarantines, the incubation period “tells us how long it’s reasonable to do that,” said Justin Lessler, an author of the study and an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. His research, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, also suggests that symptomatic screening for the virus — such as temperature checks at an airport — may be missing recently infected people. “If somebody is in their incubation period, that is the window when somebody who’s already been infected can walk into the country and not be detected by symptom-based surveillance” said Lessler. That could explain why the CDC’s efforts to screen more than 46,000 fliers for “fever, cough, and shortness of breath” have resulted in just one positive coronavirus case, according to the CDC’s most recent screening data, which was released at the end of February.

[..] To estimate the incubation period, researchers scoured more than 180 reports of coronavirus in places without widespread transmission of the virus — areas, in other words, where infection was likely due to outside travel. Because the study was conducted early in the coronavirus epidemic, community transmission at the time was limited to Wuhan, China. That allowed researchers to estimate the “time of exposure” to the coronavirus by determining when a person was in Wuhan — the only plausible source of infection. By comparing travel to Wuhan with the emergence of symptoms, researchers could then estimate an incubation period for the virus: usually about 5 days, and rarely more than 12. “We have sort of a narrow window at the beginning of the epidemic to really tease out what’s going,” said Lessler. “If it’s everywhere, you don’t know where people got infected.”


Read more …

Smart comment. On CNN no less.

Bail Out The People First, Before Companies, In Coronavirus Crisis (Ghitis)

Unlike during the 2008 Great Recession, when the government leaped to assist financial institutions, the first priority this time should be helping individuals in need. Only then should we help businesses caught in this storm. By now, Trump should be wishing that the Federal Reserve Bank had ignored his pressure to lower interest rates. If rates were higher, the Fed would have much more powerful ammunition: it would be able to aggressively lower rates, which is the strongest weapon in its arsenal. But that arsenal is much depleted. In 2008, the government distributed hundreds of billions of dollars, mostly to bail out banks and large corporations. (GM was the main manufacturer rescued by the Obama administration.) While most banks survived, close to 10 million homeowners lost their houses to foreclosure; millions of people lost their jobs.


That overwhelming tilt in favor of helping struggling businesses instead of suffering individuals is, in my view, one of the reasons populism gained strength, as demonstrated by elections throughout western democracies in the 2010s. This time, the source of the problem is not a breakdown in the financial system. This is very different. We now face a major health assault. The pandemic is not only causing illnesses and straining health care resources, it is attacking the economy from a multitude of angles. Manufacturers are facing supply chain disruption, shortages are developing and demand is collapsing. [..] The obvious first order of business is clear: Everyone should have access to health care right now. It’s not only the humane thing to do, it’s the smartest way to slow the contagion. People who become infected should not fear bankruptcy if they go to the doctor. If they do, the epidemic will continue to spread.

Read more …

Chinese roulette?! Is this just so you can make a few extra iPhones?

China’s Hubei Province May Allow Residents To Travel (R.)

China’s Hubei province is studying plans to allow people in areas at a medium- or low-risk of contracting the coronavirus to start traveling, state media reported on Tuesday, citing a meeting chaired by the province’s party chief Ying Yong. The meeting, reported by the official Hubei Daily, said that they may allow people to start traveling by using a “health code”, a mobile-based monitoring system that has been rolled out by many local authorities in China in recent weeks. Hubei province and its capital Wuhan are at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China.

Read more …

Oh, get a life.

Singapore Charges Visitors For Coronavirus Treatment (R.)

Singapore has started charging visitors for coronavirus treatment, the city-state said as it reported three new imported infections, two of which involved Indonesians. Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most populous country, reported its first virus case earlier this month and officially has just 19 infections compared to 160 in Singapore. Disease experts have questioned how many cases go undiagnosed in Indonesia. Singapore’s new measures announced late Monday came into effect on March 7, when authorities said two symptomatic Indonesian travelers arrived in Singapore. Both had reported coronavirus symptoms in Indonesia before arriving in Singapore. One had previously sought treatment at a hospital in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta.


Another case involved a Singaporean who had visited her sister in Indonesia who had pneumonia. Declaring its new stance on payment for treatment, the health ministry did not mention these specific cases. “In view of the rising number of COVID-19 infections globally, and the expected rise in the number of confirmed cases in Singapore, we will need to prioritise the resources at our public hospitals,” the health ministry said in a statement. Foreigners who are short-term visit pass holders who seek treatment for COVID-19 in Singapore need to pay but testing for the virus remains free. Treatment of severe respiratory infections in Singapore public hospitals typically cost between S$6,000 – S$8,000 ($4,300-5,800), according to the Ministry of Health’s website.

Read more …

Sure, funny at first. But not very long.

No Coronavirus Risk From Holy Communion, Says Greek Holy Synod (K.)

Amid fears of a broader coronavirus contagion across the country, the Holy Synod, the ruling body of the Greek Orthodox Church, on Monday issued a statement saying that the disease does not transmit through the distribution of holy communion by the chalice. “For the members of the Church, attending the Holy Eucharist… certainly cannot be a cause of disease transmission,” the Holy Synod said. “Faithful of all ages know that coming to receive the holy communion, even in the midst of a pandemic, is both a practical affirmation of self-surrender to the Living God and a potent manifestation of love,” it said. The Geek federation of hospital doctors has stressed that no exception “for religious, sacramental or metaphysical reasons” should be made to state health warnings to please the Church. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Greece stands at 73.

Read more …

The worst effect of the virus, I’m sure.

Smartphone Sales In China Were Halved In February (ZH)

Update (2015ET): Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives called the decline of iPhone sales in China a “doomsday type” like decline. Ives said the fall was an “unprecedented” drop and was “not surprising given the essential lockdown that most of China saw” in February. Wedbush expects Chinese demand to come back online in the second half of the year. [..] Alternative data first showed us the incoming economic crash developing in early February, only to be confirmed weeks later. Twin shocks plague the Chinese economy, which is a supply shock with manufacturers operating at less than full capacity, along with a demand shock, where consumers have been confined to their homes in forced quarantine, unable to spend.


So, on Monday morning, when new data from the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT) reveals Apple smartphone sales in China were halved in February, this really shouldn’t surprise ZeroHedge readers, considering they’ve been well informed about what would happen next. And it wasn’t just Apple with plunging activity, all mobile phone brands operating in China saw shipments halved over the month. CAICT said 6.34 million devices were shipped last month, down 54.7% from 14 million in the same month the previous year. This was the lowest level of February shipments since 2012, when the CAICT data first became available. Android brands, including Huawei and Xiaomi, accounted for most of the drop, collectively saw shipments at 5.85 million units for the month, compared to 12.72 million units last year. Apple shipped 494,000 last month, down from 1.27 million in February 2019.

Read more …

Even if they got permission to fly the 737Max, there’d be no passengers on them.

Boeing Shares Plunge On Coronavirus, 737 MAX Wiring Bundle Setback (R.)

Shares of Boeing dropped more than 12% on Monday amid a broader market plunge as pressure mounted on global aviation from the spread of the coronavirus and U.S. regulators said they disagreed with Boeing’s argument about the safety of wiring bundles on the grounded 737 MAX jet. Underscoring the global risks for America’s largest exporter, Ethiopian investigators singled out faulty 737 MAX systems in a new interim report on last year’s crash, the second of two fatal accidents that plunged Boeing into its worst-ever crisis. Industry sources said airlines, facing a sharp drop in travel demand due to rising coronavirus outbreaks, were starting to request deferring aircraft deliveries and cash downpayments to Boeing and European rival Airbus.

Boeing shares were down at $229.12 in afternoon trading, a level not seen since 2017. Adding to a sense of mounting anxiety, Boeing’s new Chief Executive Officer Dave Calhoun was forced to apologize to senior staff after a rare attack on his predecessor and company leadership, which sources say provoked criticism from within the senior ranks of the company as well as the rank-and file. Calhoun, who took over as CEO in January after serving about a decade on Boeing’s board, told senior staff by email on Friday he was “both embarrassed and regretful” over his comments in a New York Times interview earlier in the week. “It suggests I broke my promise to former CEO Dennis Muilenburg, the executive team and our people that I would have their back when it counted most,” Calhoun said.

“I want to reassure you that my promise remains intact.” Calhoun’s email came as the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) told Boeing on Friday it did not agree with the planemaker’s argument that its 737 MAX wiring bundles meet safety standards. Nonetheless, the FAA said it was now up to Boeing to decide how to proceed. [..] Boeing in February said it did not believe it was required to separate or move wiring bundles on its grounded 737 MAX jetliner that regulators had warned could cause a short circuit on the 737 MAX, and lead to a crash if pilots did not react soon enough. There are more than a dozen different spots on the 737 MAX where wiring bundles may be too close together. Most of the locations are under the cockpit in an electrical bay.

Read more …

“Erdogan is in Brussels, demanding help from NATO with both the conflict on his southern border and the migrants he tried to unleash on the West, now that neither situation is going according to plan.”

In Brussels, Erdogan Asks NATO For ‘Assistance’ On Syria And Migrants (RT)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in Brussels, demanding help from NATO with both the conflict on his southern border and the migrants he tried to unleash on the West, now that neither situation is going according to plan. After meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday, the Turkish leader said he requested “additional assistance” from the alliance, for the “defense” of the Turkish border with Syria and “in connection with the migration challenge.” “We expect concrete support from all our allies to this struggle,” Erdogan added, urging the allies to support Turkey “without discrimination and with no political preconditions.” Stoltenberg praised Turkey as an “important” ally which has “contributed to our shared security in many ways,” and said the alliance is “prepared to continue to support Turkey and we are exploring what more we may be able to do.”


It is unclear what those platitudes may amount to in practice, however. Ankara did not bother coordinating with its NATO allies when it sent troops into Syria’s Idlib province last month – or back in October 2019, causing some strain within the bloc. Though it seemed for a moment that Turkish and Russian troops in Syria might come to blows, the crisis was averted when Erdogan went to Moscow and agreed to a ceasefire last week. The main focus of Erdogan’s trip to Brussels is Greece’s refusal to open its border to a wave of migrants that the Turkish president unleashed amid the recent fighting in Syria. Tens of thousands of migrants – only a few actual refugees from the Syrian conflict among them, apparently – heard the borders were open and surged towards Greece, only to be halted at the border fence.

Read more …

International arrest warrant?

Prince Andrew Won’t Voluntarily Cooperate In Epstein Inquiry – Prosecutor (G.)

Prince Andrew has “completely shut the door” on cooperating with US investigators in the Jeffrey Epstein case and they are now “considering” further options, a New York prosecutor said on Monday. Andrew was a friend of Epstein, the wealthy financier and convicted sex offender whose death in custody while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges in New York last year was ruled a suicide. Andrew denies all claims of sexual misconduct relating to the Epstein case but has stepped back from public duties as a result of his connection to it. Speaking to reporters on Monday, the Manhattan US attorney Geoffrey Berman said: “Contrary to Prince Andrew’s very public offer to cooperate with our investigation into Epstein’s co-conspirators, an offer that was conveyed via press release, Prince Andrew has now completely shut the door on voluntary cooperation and our office is considering its options.”


In November, Andrew said he was “willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations if required”. Berman made a similar claim in January, which former sex crimes prosecutors told the Guardian was most likely a move designed to win political support for the investigation. Buckingham Palace said then it would not comment and the matter was being dealt with by the prince’s legal team. Contacted on Monday, a Palace spokeswoman said: “The issue is being dealt with by the Duke of York’s legal team.” Buckingham Palace has consistently refused to reveal any details of Andrew’s legal team but the Duke has reportedly hired Clare Montgomery, a senior barrister at Matrix Chambers, whose clients have included Augusto Pinochet, Chile’s former dictator [..] She also prosecuted the Metropolitan police over the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, shot dead in a failed anti-terror operation.

Read more …

A new element: Assange could face death penalty after all. The UK cannot extradite if it’s in play.

Court Case Against Alleged CIA Vault 7 Whistleblower Ends In Mistrial (WSWS)

The federal proceedings against Joshua Schulte, a former employee of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) who was accused by the American government of providing WikiLeaks with a trove of documents exposing illegal spying operations, have ended in a mistrial. After a week of deliberations, the jury returned on Monday to state that it could not reach an agreement on the most serious charges facing Schulte. The divided opinion centred on eight counts under the Espionage Act, including illegally gathering and transmitting national defence information. The jury had only agreed to convict Schulte on the lesser counts of contempt of court and making false statements to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Schulte will remain imprisoned and likely faces a retrial.

The failure of the prosecution to convict Schulte of the charges relating to WikiLeaks’ 2017 Vault 7 publication, which consisted of leaked documents from within the CIA, is significant. It may mark a hurdle in the campaign of the US government against WikiLeaks and its publisher Julian Assange, who faces extradition from Britain to the US and prosecution under Espionage Act charges over separate 2010 and 2011 releases. It is clear that if he is extradited, Assange could face additional US charges, possibly related to Vault 7. Three days after closing arguments in the Schulte trial, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials confirmed that it was possible that Assange would face additional counts carrying the death penalty if he was dispatched to the US.

The timing of their statements, which contradict the previous claims of US allies, could indicate that there is much at stake for Assange in the attempted US prosecution of Schulte. [..] The publication of Vault 7 in early 2017 was the trigger for a major escalation in the US government vendetta against Assange, culminating in his illegal expulsion from Ecuador’s London embassy last year, his arrest by the British police and imprisonment in a maximum-security prison. Schulte’s trial, moreover, coincided with the first week of the British extradition hearing against Assange, which underscored the similarities in the lawless treatment of the WikiLeaks publisher and his alleged CIA source. Prosecutors have described the Vault 7 leak, which they accuse Schulte of being responsible for, as the largest in the entire history of the CIA.

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[..] establishment Democrats were the ones who first spread insinuations and even explicit accusations about Biden’s cognitive decline when they thought doing so could help them defeat him and/or because it genuinely concerned them regarding his ability to defeat Trump.

Democrats Were The FIrst To Discuss Biden’s Cognitive Fitness (Greenwald)

it is visible to the naked eye that the 77-year-old six-term Senator and two-term Vice President is in serious cognitive decline. That is a grave matter not just because the establishment wing of the Democratic Party wants to put him in charge of the world’s most dangerous nuclear arsenal, a large chunk of the planet’s health, and the welfare of hundreds of millions of people, but also because it directly pertains to whether he can sustain the rigors and spotlight of a General Election against the incumbent President. And multiple incidents over the past couple weeks — from Biden’s forgetting the words of the most iconic and memorized passage of the Declaration of Independence to confusing his wife for his sister to spouting sentences that make no sense — have only intensified those worries.

But, as the Democratic establishment has united with creepy speed and obedience behind Biden in order to stop the Sanders candidacy, those who now raise these concerns instantly come under a withering assault of insults and attacks from Democratic Party operatives along with their crucial media allies: thinly disguised pro-Biden reporters who continue to insist on wearing the unconvincing and fraudulent costume of neutrality. They are invoking the classic Orwellian formulation from the novel 1984: “The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”

CNN’s Democratic Party consultant Karen Finney condemned the discussion of Biden’s cognitive capabilities as “truly a disgusting low blow,” demanding that former Democratic presidential candidates Julian Castro and Cory Booker — both of whom themselves had commented upon Biden’s cognitive failures (on camera!) — announce (falsely) that their prior comments about Biden had been distorted. Castro’s Communication’s Director, Sawyer Hackett, dutifully accused those who were raising these concerns of “push[ing] Trump messaging about Biden”; he also denied that Castro (or Booker) had ever themselves questioned Biden’s cognitive competence, warning those who are raising the issue: “don’t try to throw Julián and Cory in front of you when you do.”

Meanwhile, Politico and CNN reporter Ryan Lizza, more devoted to defending Biden than even DNC functionaries, spent all weekend conspiratorially insinuating that journalists who were raising concerns over Biden’s cognitive fitness were part of a joint “coordinated” attack from the Sanders and Trump campaigns. Lizza and others like him promoted various outraged articles from Democratic Party-loyal sites expressing all kinds of indignation — after four years of open season of musing casually about Trump’s dementia — that anyone would even dare discuss Biden’s cognitive fitness to occupy the most powerful political position in the world. They all insisted that this was some sort of very recent invention on the part of the Sanders and Trump world to stop the Biden juggernaut: a last-minute act of desperation from the Far Right and the Far Left as Biden ascends to his rightful place in the Oval Office.

The problem with all of this? Aside from the fact that Biden’s cognitive decline is visible to the naked eye and it is incredibly reckless and repressive to demand that it be supressed, these concerns were first raised not by Trump operatives nor by Sanders supporters, nor were they first raised within the last several weeks. Quite the opposite is true: they were raised repeatedly over the last year principally by Democratic Party officials and their most loyal allies in the media.

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The day the stupid MH17 trial starts, which will take years, The Guardian runs this by Luke Harding. And if there’s anyone to rival Harding in the lying sack-of-shit department, it’s Bill Browder. So that’s who Harding writes about.

Russia ‘Hired Network Of Britons To Go After Enemies Of Putin’ (G.)

Russia has been accused of hiring a network of British politicians and consultants to help advance its criminal interests and to “go after” Vladimir Putin’s enemies in London, MPs who drew up the Russia report suppressed by Boris Johnson were told. In secret evidence submitted to parliament’s intelligence and security committee (ISC), the campaigner and financier Bill Browder claimed Moscow had been able to “infiltrate” UK society by using well-paid British intermediaries. Some had “reason to know exactly what they are doing and for whom”, Browder told the committee. Others “work unwittingly for Russian state interests”, he said.

The alleged intermediaries include politicians from both Labour and the Conservative parties, former intelligence officers and diplomats, and leading public relations firms. Collectively, they form what Browder calls a “western buffer network”. There is no suggestion in Browder’s testimony that British citizens broke the law. The regime in Moscow uses these professionals to mask its “entangled” state and criminal interests, he alleged. It deploys them to attack Putin critics, “enhance Russian propaganda and disinformation” and to “facilitate and conceal massive money-laundering operations”, he said. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov called Browder’s claims false and “totally groundless”. Questions about corruption at the heart of the Russian state were “a perfect example of a maniac-style Russophobia”, Peskov said.

[..] Browder was one of several expert witnesses invited to give evidence to MPs and peers. In September 2018 he submitted a 14-page statement, which included a number of recommendations. They include setting up a US-style register of individuals working for foreign state interests, as well as extra resources for regulators, investigators, police and prosecutors. He calls on Companies House in London to review filings made by firms linked to Russian money-laundering scandals. Speaking to the Guardian, Browder said: “Yes, there are members of the Russian security services working out of the Russian embassy under diplomatic cover. [..] “There are Russian oligarchs who have a much greater impact on the security of this country. What’s most shocking is that the Russian government is indirectly hiring British nationals to assist them in its intelligence operations.”

Read more …

 

Do it yourself face mask

 


 

 

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Mar 082020
 


Unknown Daniels-Wells Pontiac, 3055 Broadway, Oakland CA 1938

 

Strongest Evidence Yet That America Is Botching Coronavirus Testing (Atl.)
US Airport Screeners, Health Workers Plagued By Fear And Anger (R.)
One Tests Positive After Conference Also Attended By Trump, Pence, Pompeo (X.)
Nebraska Woman Rushed To Bio-Containment Unit In Specialized Isolation Pod (DM)
Italy To Quarantine Whole Of Lombardy Due To Coronavirus (O.)
Quarter Of Italy’s Population Put In Quarantine (O.)
Head Of Italy Players’ Union Calls For Soccer To Stop (R.)
Lebanon To Default On Foreign Debt Payments For First Time (BBC)
IMF Deal Would Spark ‘Popular Revolution’ In Lebanon – Hezbollah (R.)
US Blocks UN Statement Backing Syria Ceasefire (Ditz)
Top Saudi Royals ‘Arrested For Plotting With Americans Against King’ (RT)
Saudi Arabia Starts All-Out Oil War (ZH)

 

 

 

Cases 106,487 (+ 3,943 from yesterday’s 102,544)

Deaths 3,600 (+ 99 from yesterday’s 3,501)

 

Lovely. North America moves its clock 3 full weeks ahead of Europe. I lose an hour every morning.

Meanwhile, the virus continues its march unabated. In virus time.

 

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

South Korea has tested 200,000+ people, it says. The Atlantic could only confirm 1,895 tests in the US.

Strongest Evidence Yet That America Is Botching Coronavirus Testing (Atl.)

It’s one of the most urgent questions in the United States right now: How many people have actually been tested for the coronavirus? This number would give a sense of how widespread the disease is, and how forceful a response to it the United States is mustering. But for days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has refused to publish such a count, despite public anxiety and criticism from Congress. On Monday, Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, estimated that “by the end of this week, close to a million tests will be able to be performed” in the United States. On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence promised that “roughly 1.5 million tests” would be available this week.

But the number of tests performed across the country has fallen far short of those projections, despite extraordinarily high demand, The Atlantic has found. “The CDC got this right with H1N1 and Zika, and produced huge quantities of test kits that went around the country,” Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC from 2009 to 2017, told us. “I don’t know what went wrong this time.” Through interviews with dozens of public-health officials and a survey of local data from across the country, The Atlantic could only verify that 1,895 people have been tested for the coronavirus in the United States, about 10 percent of whom have tested positive. And while the American capacity to test for the coronavirus has ramped up significantly over the past few days, local officials can still test only several thousand people a day, not the tens or hundreds of thousands indicated by the White House’s promises.


To arrive at our estimate, we contacted the public-health departments of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. We gathered data on websites, and we corresponded with dozens of state officials. All 50 states and D.C. have made some information available, though the quality and timeliness of the data varied widely. Some states have only committed to releasing their numbers once or three times a week. Most are focused on the number of confirmed cases; only a few have publicized the number of people they are capable of testing. The Atlantic’s numbers reflect the best available portrait of the country’s testing capacity as of early this morning. These numbers provide an accurate baseline, but they are incomplete. Scattered on state websites, the data available are not useful to citizens or political leaders. State-based tallies lack the reliability of the CDC’s traditional—but now abandoned—method of reporting.

[..] Our reporting found that the capacity to test for the coronavirus varies dramatically—and sometimes dangerously—from state to state. California claims the highest testing capacity of any state, and has tested the most individuals so far. As of yesterday afternoon, it had tested 516 people, with 53 positive cases, a spokesperson for the Department of Health told us. The department now has the capacity to test 6,000 people every day, and it expects that capacity to expand to 7,400 people a day starting today, the spokesperson said. Washington State, the site of the country’s largest outbreak thus far, can test roughly 1,000 people a day. The state health department’s laboratory can test 100 people a day; the rest of the testing is being done at the University of Washington’s Virology Lab.


Officials have found 70 positive cases in Washington so far, though a genetic study has estimated that there may be hundreds of untested people who have COVID-19 in the greater Seattle area. Oregon, situated between the California and Washington hot spots, can test only about 40 people a day. Texas has 16 positive cases, according to media reports, but the health department’s website still lists only three cases. The Texas Tribune has reported that the state can test approximately 30 people a day.

Read more …

Everyone up and down the food chain of command should tell their superiors they’ll do it, but only if he/she will be standing there next to them doing the same job, with the same gear and the same protection.

US Airport Screeners, Health Workers Plagued By Fear And Anger (R.)

As coronavirus cases exploded across the world, federal medical workers tasked with screening incoming passengers at U.S. airports grew alarmed: Many were working without the most effective masks to protect them from getting sick themselves. Screeners with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked their supervisors this week to change official protocols and require stronger masks, according to an internal document reviewed by Reuters. On Friday evening, they learned their worst fears were realized: Two screeners, both working at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), had tested positive for the virus. “Sad news,” a senior quarantine official at the CDC wrote in an email Friday evening to colleagues about the two workers.

The email, reviewed by Reuters and not previously reported, said the two screeners will be quarantined until March 17. “Let us keep our colleagues at LAX in our thoughts.” The news was not surprising to some CDC screeners. “It was bound to happen,” said a veteran CDC medical official involved with screening who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They are assuring us we are safe. If we were safe, screeners would not be getting sick.” The struggles within the CDC, an agency that advises the country’s health systems about how to protect people against the virus, underscore the difficulties confronting health workers across the nation and illustrate a challenge for the Trump administration, which has faced criticism over its response to the outbreak.

[..] The CDC recommends that so-called “secondary” screeners, who meet with passengers who have traveled to certain countries, such as China, wear a surgical mask, gloves and eye protection, Nordlund said. Secondary screeners are advised to stand six feet away from passengers they observe and do not wear the sturdier N95 masks, also known as respirators, because they aren’t exposed to symptomatic travelers, she said. N95 masks are designed to protect screeners from the smaller pathogens such as coronavirus which can penetrate deeper into the lungs. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, surgical masks are not designed to block very small particles, such as those transmitted by coughs and sneezes, and do not provide complete protection because of the loose fit.


Nordlund said that CDC’s guidance calls for screeners who meet with people exhibiting obvious signs of illness to wear N95 respirators and other protective gear. But people infected with the coronavirus do not necessarily exhibit obvious signs of illness. “Surgical masks won’t protect us from getting the virus – they just protect us from infecting someone else,” the CDC medical official involved in screening said. “We want to know why we can’t wear N-95 masks. It’s crazy.” “You might as well have a tissue over your face for all the good it will do,” the official added.

Read more …

Getting close.

One Tests Positive After Conference Also Attended By Trump, Pence, Pompeo (X.)

An attendee at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which U.S. President Donald Trump also attended, has tested positive for COVID-19, the American Conservative Union (ACU) said on Saturday. The exposure occurred prior to the conference held in National Harbor, U.S. state of Maryland, just south of Washington D.C., said the ACU, a conservative grassroots organization, in a statement. A New Jersey hospital tested the person, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the positive result, said the statement. “The individual is under the care of medical professionals in the state of New Jersey, and has been quarantined,” it said. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the gathering, which took place from Feb. 26 to Feb. 29.


Also present at the event were a number of administration and cabinet officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and newly-appointed White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement Saturday that the White House is aware of the attendee testing positive for the virus. “At this time there is no indication that either President Trump or Vice President Pence met with or were in close proximity to the attendee,” Grisham said in a statement. “The president’s physician and United States Secret Service have been working closely with White House Staff and various agencies to ensure every precaution is taken to keep the First Family and the entire White House Complex safe and healthy.”

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Yeah, sure, going for the cheap effect. But this woman is just 36 years old, not 86. Maybe the photo can bring this home.

Nebraska Woman Rushed To Bio-Containment Unit In Specialized Isolation Pod (DM)

In Nebraska, there were dramatic scenes as a woman who tested positive for the virus was rushed from a community hospital to the nation’s leading biocontainment unit at he University of Nebraska Medical Center Omaha. The 36-year-old Nebraska resident was photographed being transported to the facility in a hi-tech isolation pod late Friday. The woman, who is the first person in Nebraska to test positive to coronavirus, is ‘very seriously ill’, according to doctors who spoke with Omaha.com Saturday. A chest CT scan conducted yesterday showed the coronavirus is evolving into acute respiratory distress syndrome (ADRS). The syndrome, which is characterized by a rapid onset of widespread inflammation in the lungs, is often fatal. People with ARDS suffer severe shortness of breath and often are unable to breathe on their own without support from a ventilator.


The woman reportedly traveled to England with her father February 18 to February 27. She began to feel ill on February 25, two days before she flew back to the United States. Doctors say they are still trying to piece together where she went and who she had contact with in the 10 days since she arrived back from overseas. According to doctors, her symptoms were quite mild until this Thursday, when she arrived at a local emergency room. As her condition took a turn for the worse Friday, a decision was made to move her from Omaha’s Methodist Hospital to the to the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit. [..] the woman was place in an isolation pod, made of heavy duty plastic and complete with a dozen ports for ventilators and other tubes. Medics donned plastic face shields, rubber gloves and rain boots as they moved her from the ambulance in a stretcher.


A woman who tested positive with the coronavirus is brought to the University of Nebraska Medical Center on Friday. She was transferred from Omaha’s Methodist Hospital in an isolation pod inside an ambulance ©AP

Read more …

Things move fast: mere hours after the closure of Lombardy is reported, a new report says a “Quarter Of Italy’s Population Put In Quarantine” in 11-14 provinces.

Italy To Quarantine Whole Of Lombardy Due To Coronavirus (O.)

The Italian government is to lockdown the northern region of Lombardy, as it battles to contain the spread of the coronavirus. A draft decree would extend the quarantined areas, so-called “red-zones”, ordering people not to enter or leave the region. The country is grappling to contain Europe’s worst outbreak of Covid-19, which has claimed 233 lives and infected a total of 5,883 people. Italian authorities announced that a new decree containing draconian measures would be approved later on Saturday. It will include the power to impose fines on anyone caught entering or leaving Lombardy, the worst-affected region, until 3 April. People may be allowed in and out for serious reasons. The decree provides for banning all public events, closing cinemas, theatres, gyms, discos and pubs. Religious ceremonies such as funerals and weddings will also be banned.


Rome is also considering prolonging the closure of schools across the country until 3 April, while major sporting events, such as Serie A football games, will be played behind closed doors. The number of coronavirus cases in Italy leapt by more than 1,200 in a 24-hour period, the civil protection agency said on Saturday. It is the biggest daily rise since the outbreak began two weeks ago. The number of cases in the country rose to 5,883 on Saturday from 4,636 announced on Friday, with the spread showing little sign of slowing. In total there are now 5,061 cases, not including those who have died or recovered. The northern regions of Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto are the hardest hit, representing 85% of cases and 92% of recorded deaths. “We will win this battle if our citizens adopt a responsible attitude and change their way of living,” the head of Italy’s civil protection agency, Angelo Borrelli, told a press conference.

Read more …

Ben Hunt: “Italy is a time machine that shows us our future.”

Quarter Of Italy’s Population Put In Quarantine (O.)

Italy has formally locked down more than a quarter of its population in a bid to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, as the outbreak reached Washington DC and a political convention attended by Donald Trump and Mike Pence. More than 5,800 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Italy, after an alarming increase of more than 1,200 in a single 24-hour period. Two hundred and thirty-three people have died. Almost 100 countries are now responding to outbreaks. In the early hours of Sunday, Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte signed a decree enacting forced quarantine for the region of Lombardy – home to more than 10 million people and the financial capital, Milan – and multiple other provinces, totalling around 16 million residents.

Affected provinces include Venice, Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia, Rimini, Pesaro and Urbino, Alessandria, Asti, Novara, Verbano Cusio Ossola, Vercelli, Padua, and Treviso. The lockdown decree includes the power to impose fines on anyone caught entering or leaving Lombardy, the worst-affected region, until 3 April. It provides for the banning of all public events, closing cinemas, theatres, gyms, discos and pubs. Religious ceremonies such as funerals and weddings will also be prohibited, and leave for healthcare workers has been cancelled. Rome is also prolonging the closure of schools across the country until at least 3 April, while major sporting events, such as Serie A football games, will be played behind closed doors.

Read more …

And forget about soccer Eurocup, Olympics etc.

Head Of Italy Players’ Union Calls For Soccer To Stop (R.)

The President of Italy’s players’ union (AIC) has called for soccer to be stopped in the country amid reports that the entire region of Lombardy will be locked down as part of efforts to tackle the coronavirus outbreak. The Italian government has ordered all sporting competitions to be played behind closed doors until April 3 in a bid to control the spread of the disease, which has killed around 200 people in the country. And tough new measures are expected to be approved on Saturday that will tell people not to enter or leave Lombardy, home to around 10 million people, as well as 11 provinces in four other regions.


Damiano Tommasi, head of the players’ union, responded to the news on Twitter by posting a link to the story and issuing a plea to stop games from going ahead. He wrote: “Let’s stop the league!! Do we need anything else? Stop football!!” Tommasi also issued a statement on the AIC website earlier in the day outlining his concerns for players’ welfare. “There is a risk for players and we must take all precautions for the security of those who play: on the pitch you certainly can’t stay at a distance of one meter away. “But every measure must be taken to guarantee the safety of everyone at the stadium, including staff and personnel, to reduce the risks.

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A long time coming.

Lebanon To Default On Foreign Debt Payments For First Time (BBC)

Lebanon is to default on a foreign debt payment for the first time in its history as the country struggles with a major financial crisis. Prime Minister Hassan Diab said Lebanon would not be making a bond payment of $1.2bn due on Monday. “The debt has become bigger than Lebanon can bear, and bigger than the ability of the Lebanese to meet interest payments,” Mr Diab said. Lebanon has been struggling since the value of its currency plummeted. The Lebanese pound has been losing value against the dollar for months, in part because the country’s banks have been reluctant to convert local pounds to dollars – leading to an increase in demand for the latter.


This issue with foreign exchange has led to importers having difficulty accessing goods, which have become more expensive. Those with savings have also been affected by the drop in value of the local currency. In a live televised address on Saturday, Mr Diab said that negotiations to restructure the country’s debt, which stands at more than $30bn, would continue “with all creditors… in a manner consistent with the national interest”. Mr Diab added that more than 40% of the population could soon be in poverty as Lebanon tackles its worst economic crisis in decades.

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From a few days ago, before the default was announced. France is heavily involved. And the IMF deal should be there any moment now.

IMF Deal Would Spark ‘Popular Revolution’ In Lebanon – Hezbollah (R.)

Hezbollah believes that terms required by any IMF bailout package for Lebanon would spark “a popular revolution”, a senior official said on Tuesday, rejecting such a step and calling instead for a “national solution” to a deep economic crisis. Lebanon is in the throes of an unprecedented economic crisis, the result of long-entrenched corruption and bad governance that have landed the state with one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens. Hezbollah, a heavily armed Shi’ite group which is backed by Iran and designated a terrorist organization by Washington, is one of the main backers of a new government that has sought technical but not financial aid from the International Monetary Fund.


Long-standing financial backer France said last week it was looking at options to support Lebanon, including through an IMF program if Beirut sought one. Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah told Reuters the group was against the type of terms typically imposed by the IMF as part of a bailout such as taxes, privatization, reducing the size of the public sector and halting subsidies. “The position is not toward the Fund as an international financial institution but on the terms offered to Lebanon, because they will lead to a popular revolution,” he said. “Our position is against this type of program and not against the Fund as an organization.”

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Most notable: Erdogan keeps the peace for now.

US Blocks UN Statement Backing Syria Ceasefire (Ditz)

The ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib Province took effect on Friday, and has been holding so far. With every other nation on board, the US blocked a joint UN statement backing the ceasefire, saying it was “premature” to do so. The ceasefire was brokered by Turkey and Russia, and that’s almost certainly the problem from the US perspective. The US broadly refuses to back any Syria agreements Russia is involved in. US officials had also been loudly backing Turkey’s military offensive in Idlib, and probably aren’t happy that Turkey has made a deal not to go to war. US officials weren’t super on board with directly participating in a Turkey-instigated war, but were only too happy to give lip-service to it. Having the UN back a ceasefire, even if it is one not expected to necessarily survive, is usually the norm, though the US may find, in seeking backing for its Afghan deal, they may face similar resistance.

Read more …

RT adds a “nice” twist. There are rumors that King Salman has either already died or is about to, and MbS is consolidating his power before his death leads to a revolt.

Top Saudi Royals ‘Arrested For Plotting With Americans Against King’ (RT)

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has had his relatives arrested for plotting a coup against him and King Salman with the help of “foreign powers, including the Americans,” Western media claim. RT asked Middle East analysts to weigh in. Three senior members of the Saudi Royal family were arrested on Friday, several Western media outlets have reported, citing sources. The list of detainees includes prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, the younger brother of King Salman, Mohammed bin Nayef, the king’s nephew and former crown prince, and Nawaf bin Nayef, the younger half-brother of Prince Nayef, as reported by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has allegedly accused them of treason, namely “conducting contacts with foreign powers, including the Americans and others, to carry out a coup d’etat” against King Salman and his son, Reuters, which has also picked up the news, added, citing own sources. While Western media is not above publishing unverified rumors about the ‘regimes’ they dislike, some of which have turned out to be utterly fake, there is no easy way to verify reports on the secretive world of Saudi court affairs. One has to bear in mind the possibility someone in Riyadh has purposefully fed the news to the media. While the reports of the high-profile arrests have yet to be confirmed by Saudi Arabia, they wouldn’t be unprecedented.


The allegations of foreign involvement may be meant for domestic consumption in Saudi Arabia and nothing to do with international politics, believes Sergey Balmasov from the Moscow-based Institute for the Near East. “What other foreign meddler could they have named? Accusing, for example Iran would have not been credible,” he explained. The US has great influence in the Saudi military and intelligence services, thanks to decades of training their members, Balmasov added. So if the US as a nation were actually determined to effect a regime change in Saudi Arabia, “a different person would have now been in the palace.” If the US really needed this, a bloodless coup would have happened already, and I’m sure many Americans wouldn’t have even noticed.

Read more …

Sorry, but no. Putin started this by refusing OPEC+ production cuts. Saudi merely reacted to that.

Saudi Arabia Starts All-Out Oil War (ZH)

With the commodity world still smarting from the Nov 2014 Saudi decision to (temporarily) break apart OPEC, and flood the market with oil in (failed) hopes of crushing US shale producers (who survived thanks to generous banks extending loan terms and even more generous buyers of junk bonds), which nonetheless resulted in a painful manufacturing recession as the price of Brent cratered as low as the mid-$20’s in late 2015/early 2016, on Saturday, Saudi Arabia launched its second scorched earth, or rather scorched oil campaign in 6 years. And this time there will be blood.

Following Friday’s shocking collapse of OPEC+, when Russia and Riyadh were unable to reach an agreement during the OPEC+ summit in Vienna which was seeking up to 1.5 million b/d in further oil production cuts, on Saturday Saudi Arabia kick started what Bloomberg called an all-out oil war, slashing official pricing for its crude and making the deepest cuts in at least 20 years on its main grades, in an effort to push as many barrels into the market as possible. In the first major marketing decision since the meeting, the Saudi state producer Aramco, which successfully IPOed just before the price of oil cratered launched unprecedented discounts and cut its April pricing for crude sales to Asia by $4-$6 a barrel and to the U.S. by a whopping $7 a barrel in attempts to steal market share from 3rd party sources, according to a copy of the announcement seen by Bloomberg.


In the most significant move, Aramco widened the discount for its flagship Arab Light crude to refiners in north-west Europe by a hefty $8 a barrel, offering it at $10.25 a barrel under the Brent benchmark. In contrast, Urals, the Russian flagship crude blend, trades at a discount of about $2 a barrel under Brent. Traders said the Saudi move was a direct attack at the ability of Russian companies to sell crude in Europe. Confirming the obvious, Iman Nasseri, managing director for the Middle East at oil consultant FGE said “Saudi Arabia is now really going into a full price war.”

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

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Mar 072020
 


John Vachon Trucks loaded with mattresses at San Angelo, Texas Nov 1939

 

How America Can Beat COVID-19 (Galbraith)
Don’t Test, Don’t Tell: The Bureaucratic Bungling of COVID-19 Tests (Ben Hunt)
Coronavirus Matters, The Stock Market Doesn’t (IC)
Not Enough Face Masks Are Made In America To Deal With Coronavirus (NPR)
US Excludes Chinese Face Masks, Medical Gear From Tariffs (R.)
Virus Concerns Drag Down Wall Street, But Indexes Eke Out Weekly Gains (R.)
Americans Divided On Party Lines Over Risk From Coronavirus (R.)
21 People On Grand Princess Cruise Ship Test Positive – Pence (NBC)
China January-February Exports Tumble, Imports Slow (R.)
Romney To Vote For Subpoena Seeking Hunter Biden Ukraine Records (Pol.)
Biden Racks Up Endorsements As Sanders Goes On The Attack (R.)
Ethiopian Draft Report Blames Boeing For 737 MAX Plane Crash (R.)
Starting A Nuclear Conflict Now ‘A Political Option’ For US – Moscow (RT)
Ceasefire In Syria’s Idlib Comes At A Cost For Turkey’s Erdogan (R.)

 

 

 

Cases 102,544 (+ 3,616 from Tuesday’s 98,928)

Deaths 3,501 (+ 111 from yesterday’s 3,390)

 

In my view, this from Worldometer last night contains the most relevant information. If China is phase one, South Korea, Iran (+25% cases) and Italy are phase 2. Their increases in cases and deaths continues unabated. Which countries will be phase 3? We’ll know next week.

Some countries look odd. We’ve seen before that South Korea has a relatively low death rate and a very low recovery rate. The US has a lot of deaths compared to its cases, which appears to point to many unreported cases. Germany has zero deaths with 692 cases. Not overly credible.

Overall death rate is 3.5%, that will go down further. If only countries would get serious about their testing. But if you don’t test, you don’t find cases. Tempting.

 

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

He makes it sound much easier than it is. America comes together only for war. Not for disease.

“After Pearl Harbor, the US banned the sale of rubber tires overnight in preparation for the war effort. With the #COVID19 crisis bearing down, James K. Galbraith calls for the same type of rapid response.”

How America Can Beat COVID-19 (Galbraith)

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the United States was surprised and unprepared, but it was quickly freed of its illusions. The same does not hold true for the COVID-19 epidemic. The attack is underway and our defenses are down – but so far our illusions remain intact. That will soon change as the infection rate and death toll rise, while the stock market sinks. Global supply chains have been disrupted by events in China, and India has just banned the export of certain generic drugs. Medical masks are already in short supply, and everyday items such as hand sanitizer have become difficult to find. The heavily globalized, consumer- and finance-driven US economy was not designed for a pandemic.

The country’s medical system has it even worse. America has vast health-care capacity, but millions of people are uninsured, underinsured, undocumented, or simply reluctant to go to the doctor or emergency room, owing to the cost of co-payments, deductibles, and uncovered fees. In a pandemic – where every infected person is a threat to the entire population – this is a formula for disaster. Everyone must be able to come forward, get tested, and receive free treatment without fear of consequences – including the very poor, the homeless, and the undocumented. US medical personnel are not equipped, and facilities are not designed to manage a potential explosion of people needing isolation and specialized care.

Hospital beds and quarantine units may be required where outbreaks overwhelm local capacity, and moving sick, infectious people over distances to available open beds is a risky policy. Effective training for those caring for the quarantined is critical; otherwise, the virus will spread among support staff. Medical supplies such as test kits and hazard suits must also be delivered where and when they are needed. [..] the government must empower the Centers for Disease Control and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to tell Americans precisely what is happening and to give clear, credible instructions. Direct, regular mass communication from competent scientific professionals, rather than from politicians and the media, can help to maintain calm, promote low-risk behavior, and avoid panics.

Furthermore, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services should be authorized to cover the full costs of testing and treating COVID-19 cases, with no exceptions and no legal risks. Making tests and treatment “affordable” is not enough; the disease cannot be isolated by economic class. In a pandemic there is no acceptable alternative to making care universal and free of cost.

Read more …

This is a global issue, not an American one.

Don’t Test, Don’t Tell: The Bureaucratic Bungling of COVID-19 Tests (Ben Hunt)

As I write this essay on March 5th, there are more confirmed coronavirus infections in Harris County, Texas (five) acquired by Americans who traveled to Egypt than there are confirmed cases within the entire country of Egypt (three). Why? Because Egypt has only tested a few hundred people in this country of 100 million. There are more confirmed coronavirus infections in the city-state of Singapore (three) acquired by Singaporeans who traveled to Indonesia than there are confirmed cases in the entire country of Indonesia (two). Why? Because Indonesia has only tested a few hundred people in this country of 265 million. With the exception of South Korea and Italy (and perhaps Australia and the UK), pretty much every nation in the world has adopted some form of Don’t Test, Don’t Tell.

The offenders include rich countries like the United States and Japan, vast countries like Indonesia and India, communist countries like China and Vietnam, theocracies like Iran and Saudi Arabia, oligarchies like Russia and Nigeria, social democracies like Germany and France. Don’t Test, Don’t Tell knows no geographic or ideological boundary. And so you might ask: is this a difficult or expensive test to make? Is there some fundamental reason of technology or economics why a country might find itself forced to pursue a policy of Don’t Test, Don’t Tell? Nope. It’s a relatively simple test to develop and administer in vast quantities. There are probably half a dozen university and industry labs in Jakarta or Nairobi, much less Moscow or Chicago, that could crank out a few thousand test kits per week if they wanted to. Or rather, if they were allowed to.

Now that doesn’t mean that you can’t screw up the coronavirus test if you really set your mind to it. And in fact, that’s exactly what the CDC did in January, when they rejected the World Health Organization’s proposed test panel for SARS-CoV-2 (the official name for this particular novel coronavirus which causes the disease COVID-19) in favor of a gold-plated test panel of the CDC’s own design. After all, why just test for SARS-CoV-2 when you could also test for other SARS and MERS viruses? Unfortunately, with complexity came error, and these initial CDC triple-test kits had a flaw in one of the multiple tests, ruining the entire test. Now the CDC is producing a solo test for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but this fiasco set us back weeks in test-kit supply.

So if it’s not a difficult or expensive test to make, why are so many countries pursuing a policy of Don’t Test, Don’t Tell? The answer, of course: to maintain a political narrative of calm and competence.

Read more …

Don’t tell Rick Santelli.

Coronavirus Matters, The Stock Market Doesn’t (IC)

Before a new strain of coronavirus began sprinting around the world, all these problems with the stock market may have seemed abstract. But they are now extremely concrete. Think about what we could have done to prepare for this moment, if we’d been less mesmerized by little numbers on screens and paid more attention to the reality right in front of us. One aspect of reality is that some diseases are extremely contagious and can kill you. That’s why everyone in America would be far better off right now if we had robust, universal health care, even the people who had to sell some of their shares in Apple to help pay for it. Likewise, scientists have been warning for decades about exactly this kind of infectious disease.

One of their suggestions was for the U.S. government to help pay to improve the public health infrastructure in poorer countries. We may all quite soon regret not doing this, even if it would have required making Amazon pay a tax rate greater than 1.2 percent and hence denting their stock price. And if we’d been less transfixed by what corporations were doing, we could have realized what they can’t do. In the imaginary world of economic textbooks, a huge pharmaceutical company would have poured tens of billions into developing the capacity to more quickly perfect and manufacture vaccines in huge volumes, so that the omniscient stock market would reward them for their prescience. Here on Earth, the stock market would have punished any company that took such a big risk with an uncertain payoff.

Yet we couldn’t see that the only way to better prepare for the new coronavirus would have been with much greater government action. And there are pernicious effects of our stock market love affair that are even more subtle. When deciding what to do with their lives, young people learn what to value from adults, and what adults have been telling them is that what’s valuable is corporate wealth. Imagine how much better we’d all feel now if 1,000 of America’s smartest financial engineers had heard instead that the most important, respected thing they could do was become an epidemiologist. But instead of investing in genuine wealth, the kind of wealth that keeps us alive, we preferred to chase the phantom wealth of the stock market. Now as the phantom wealth dissolves, we may come face to face with our decision to be poor in what truly matters.

Read more …

“The surgical mask supply went from being 90% U.S.-made to being 95% foreign-made in literally one year..”

Not Enough Face Masks Are Made In America To Deal With Coronavirus (NPR)

Mike Bowen’s been a very busy man. He’s executive vice president of Texas-based Prestige Ameritech, one of the few manufacturers of respirators and surgical face masks still making them in the United States. “I’ve got requests for maybe a billion and a half masks, if you add it up,” he says. That’s right — 1.5 billion. Since the coronavirus started spreading in January, Bowen says he’s gotten at least 100 calls and emails a day. “Normally, I don’t get any,” he says. [..] His company simply can’t keep up with demand. 3M — one of the biggest mask makers — is in the same predicament. It says it’s stepping up production at its factories around the world, but it can’t fulfill all the new orders.

The World Health Organization this week warned against hoarding and panic-buying of critical protective gear. “Without secure supply chains, the risk to health care workers around the world is real,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “Industry and governments must act quickly to boost supply, ease export restrictions and put measures in place to stop speculation and hoarding.” Concern about shortages of face masks used by doctors and nurses is prompting hospitals around the world to clamor for medical supplies as the coronavirus continues its infectious spread. In response, the Trump administration is looking at ways to rapidly expand domestic production, but the economics of the face-mask business makes that difficult.

This is a cycle familiar to Bowen. During what he calls “peacetime,” when there are no outbreaks, there are few buyers of masks. During an epidemic, there’s suddenly limitless demand. [..] Prestige Ameritech, for example, owns a limited number of machines that assemble, sew and shape the masks. A decade ago, it ramped up production in response to the swine flu outbreak by buying more machines and hiring 150 new workers. “We made a really big mistake,” Bowen says of that decision. It took about four months to build the new machines, which are as long as a school bus and cost as much as $1 million. By the time they were ready, the swine flu crisis had ended, demand vaporized, and Prestige Ameritech almost went bankrupt.

“One day — and it is literally almost like one day — it just quits. The demand is over, the phones stop ringing,” Bowen says. To make matters worse, the hospitals and medical supply companies suddenly had a glut of masks; they stopped buying for months. That was a business headache. But the recent shortages also show how a lack of steady orders can create a sudden national security risk. The seeds of that problem, says Bowen, can be traced back 15 years. That’s when many mask factories moved overseas, where masks could be made at a fraction of Bowen’s costs. Most notably, he says, Kimberly-Clark, which used to be one of the industry leaders, moved its operations. “The surgical mask supply went from being 90% U.S.-made to being 95% foreign-made in literally one year,” Bowen says.

Read more …

Makes sense if 95% comes from China.

US Excludes Chinese Face Masks, Medical Gear From Tariffs (R.)

The U.S. Trade Representative’s office in recent days granted exclusions from import tariffs for dozens of medical products imported from China, including face masks, hand sanitizing wipes and examination gloves, filings with the agency showed on Friday. Many of the exclusion requests for medical products appear to have been expedited amid the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak, with approvals granted just over one month past a Jan. 31 application deadline. Requests to exclude other products from President Donald Trump’s Section 301 tariffs on Chinese goods have taken months.


Apple’s requests for exclusions on products from AirPod headphones to the HomePod smart speaker filed on Oct. 31 are still pending. Medline International Inc has already received exclusions on 30 products ranging from surgical gowns to face masks and medicine cups, most of which the company applied for at the end of January. A number of the exclusions were granted on Thursday, USTR documents showed. The products were included in a fourth round of tariffs on Chinese goods imposed by Trump on Sept. 1, 2019, amid heated U.S.-China trade negotiations.

Read more …

The PPT looks old and tired.

Virus Concerns Drag Down Wall Street, But Indexes Eke Out Weekly Gains (R.)

U.S. stocks fell on Friday as fears of economic damage from the spread of the coronavirus intensified, though Wall Street’s major indexes ended well above their session lows. The S&P 500 posted its 10th decline in 12 sessions as moves to contain the virus crippled supply chains and prompted a sharp cut to global economic growth forecasts for 2020. Since its record closing high on Feb. 19, the benchmark index has lost more than 12%, wiping out $3.43 trillion from its market capitalization, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices. Even so, for the week the S&P 500, along with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq, posted a modest gain as stocks on Friday pared losses late in the session.

Comments from Federal Reserve officials about the possibility of using other tools in addition to interest rate cuts to blunt the economic impact of the coronavirus helped stocks ease declines, said Alicia Levine, chief strategist at BNY Mellon Investment Management in New York. Nonetheless, “it’s very unclear what the economic impact will be,” Levine said. Yields on long-dated U.S. Treasuries fell to record lows as investors fled to bonds, whose prices move inversely to their yields. The drop in Treasury yields weighed heavily on shares of financial companies, which tumbled 3.3%. The S&P 500 banks index dropped 4.7%, bringing its total decline for the week to more than 8%.

Shares of cruise operators Carnival Corp and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd slid after Reuters reported that the administration of President Donald Trump was considering ways to discourage U.S. travelers from taking cruises. Carnival shares fell 2.6%, and Royal Caribbean shares dropped 1.2%. “The decline today is all about the efforts to contain the spread of the virus,” said Emily Roland, co-chief investment strategist at John Hancock Investment Management in Boston. “The measures being taken could dampen commerce and consumer activity, and markets are responding to that.”

Read more …

These days, it’s as American as apple pie.

Americans Divided On Party Lines Over Risk From Coronavirus (R.)

Americans who now find themselves politically divided over seemingly everything are now forming two very different views of another major issue: the dangers of the new coronavirus. Democrats are about twice as likely as Republicans to say the coronavirus poses an imminent threat to the United States, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted this week. And more Democrats than Republicans say they are taking steps to be prepared, including washing their hands more often or limiting their travel plans. Poll respondents who described themselves as Republicans and did not see the coronavirus as a threat said it still felt remote because cases had not been detected close to home and their friends and neighbors did not seem to be worried, either.


“I haven’t changed a single thing,” Cindi Hogue, who lives outside Little Rock, Arkansas, told Reuters. “It’s not a reality to me yet. It hasn’t become a threat enough yet in my world.” Many of the U.S. cases that have been reported so far have been in Washington state and California, more than 1,000 miles away from Arkansas. Politics was not a factor in her view of the seriousness of the virus, Hogue said. Other Republican respondents interviewed echoed that sentiment. But the political divide is nonetheless significant: About four of every 10 Democrats said they thought the new coronavirus poses an imminent threat, compared to about two of every 10 Republicans.

Read more …

19 crew members, 2 passengers. There are over 1,000 crew aboard.

21 People On Grand Princess Cruise Ship Test Positive – Pence (NBC)

Vice President Mike Pence said Friday that 21 people aboard a cruise ship that’s being held off the coast of California have tested positive for the coronavirus. The California Air National Guard had delivered 46 tests to the Grand Princess, which has been offshore since Wednesday. Of the 46 passengers tested, Pence said 21 people, 19 employees and two passengers, had tested positive. Twenty-four tested negative, and one was inconclusive, Pence said. There are over 3,500 people on board the ship, which is anchored near San Francisco. All passengers will be brought into port in the U.S. over the weekend and tested, said Pence, who is leading the Trump administration’s response to the outbreak.


“Those who need to be quarantined will be quarantined. Those who require additional medical attention will receive it,” he said. Officials said crew members are likely to be quarantined aboard the ship, while passengers could be quarantined at military bases. Pence spoke shortly after President Donald Trump, touring Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta, told reporters that he’d rather people be kept on the ship because otherwise they’ll add to the country’s coronavirus statistics. “I like the numbers being where they are. I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault. And it wasn’t the fault of the people on the ship either, ok? It wasn’t their fault either and their mostly Americans,” Trump said. But, he added, he would abide by what Pence and his team of “great experts” decide.

Read more …

The word “tumble” makes it sound almost light. The incredible lightness of collapse.

China January-February Exports Tumble, Imports Slow (R.)

China’s exports contracted sharply in the first two months of the year, as the fast spreading coronavirus outbreak caused massive disruptions to business operations, global supply chains and economic activity. Imports also fell but were better than analyst expectations. The gloomy trade report is likely to reinforce fears that China’s economic growth halved in the first quarter to the weakest since 1990 as the epidemic and strict government containment measures crippled factory production and led to a sharp slump in demand. Overseas shipments fell 17.2% in January-February from the same period a year earlier, customs data showed on Saturday, marking the steepest fall since February 2019.


That compared with a 14% drop tipped by a Reuters poll of analysts and a 7.9% gain in December. Imports sank 4% from a year earlier, better than market expectations of a 15% drop. They had jumped 16.5% in December, buoyed in part by a preliminary Sino-U.S. trade deal. China ran a trade deficit of $7.09 billion for the period, reversing an expected $24.6 billion surplus in the poll. Factory activity contracted at the fastest pace ever in February, even worse than during the global financial crisis, an official manufacturing gauge showed last weekend, with a sharp slump in new orders. A private survey highlighted similarly dire conditions.

Read more …

What on earth is he up to now? Anyway, Hunter will be a major issue.

Romney To Vote For Subpoena Seeking Hunter Biden Ukraine Records (Pol.)

Sen. Mitt Romney will vote in favor of a subpoena seeking records about the work Joe Biden’s son Hunter did for the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma, a spokeswoman for the Utah Republican said on Friday. Romney’s decision comes after several days of expressing dismay over the Senate Homeland Security Committee’s investigation targeting the Bidens, even suggesting on Thursday that the panel shouldn’t even be looking into the issue. But after securing certain commitments from the committee’s chairman, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Romney has decided to support the subpoena when the panel votes on it next Wednesday — all but ensuring it will be issued. “Senator Romney has expressed his concerns to Chairman Johnson, who has confirmed that any interview of the witness would occur in a closed setting without a hearing or public spectacle,” Romney’s spokeswoman Liz Johnson said.


“He will therefore vote to let the chairman proceed to obtain the documents that have been offered.” Romney has said in recent days that the committee’s investigation into the Bidens has the “appearance” of being politically motivated, given Biden’s resurgence in the Democratic presidential primary. Romney was the only Republican who voted to convict President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial last month, saying he believed Trump violated his oath of office when he pressured the Ukrainian government to investigate the Bidens. “There’s no question the appearance is not good,” Romney told reporters on Thursday, later adding: “I would prefer that investigations are done by an independent, nonpolitical body.”

Read more …

The Trump campaign would be willing to spend bigly to make Biden the Dem candidate. But they get him for free. Then again, the Dems can’t be dumb enough to run with him, can they?!

Biden Racks Up Endorsements As Sanders Goes On The Attack (R.)

Two former presidential rivals endorsed Joe Biden on Friday in the latest sign that the Democratic establishment is coalescing around the former vice president to stop the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, who ratcheted up attacks on his rival ahead of crucial contests next week. Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and John Delaney, a former Maryland congressman – both onetime 2020 candidates – backed Biden, as did a slew of other Democratic officials in states soon to hold nominating contests. Sanders, who is desperate to regain some momentum after Biden’s strong ‘Super Tuesday’ showing this week, launched a full-throated attack on his rival, assailing Biden over his record on trade, abortion, gay rights and Social Security.

The pair contest six Democratic nominating contests on Tuesday, including the big prize of Michigan, with 125 of the 1,991 delegates needed to win the nomination at stake. Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont who was until recently the front-runner in the party’s race to face Republican President Donald Trump in November, now trails in delegates. A big win for Biden in Michigan would deliver another major blow to Sanders’ hopes of becoming the nominee. Ahead of Michigan’s primary, the state’s lieutenant governor, Garlin Gilchrist II, backed Biden, as did part of the state’s United Food and Commercial Workers Union, and former U.S. Senator Carl Levin. Four other states will hold primary elections on Tuesday: Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri and Washington state. North Dakota will hold caucuses.

At a news conference in Phoenix, Arizona, on Friday, Sanders dug deep into Biden’s 40-year record. He criticized Biden for having opposed the rights of gay people to serve in the U.S. military and for voting against federal funding for abortions, stances the former vice president has since rejected. “I was there on the right side of history, and my friend Joe Biden was not,” Sanders said. Sanders also lambasted Biden for supporting trade deals he said had been “a disaster for Michigan” and accused Biden of trying in the past to cut Social Security, the government-run pension and disability program. Biden, who denies ever advocating cuts to Social Security, snapped back in a tweet on Friday: “Get real, Bernie. The only person who’s going to cut Social Security if he’s elected is Donald Trump. Maybe you should spend your time attacking him.”

Warren’s exit meant that what had been hailed as the most diverse field of candidates in U.S. history narrowed to a race for the nomination between two white, septuagenarian men. Tulsi Gabbard, a congresswoman from Hawaii with virtually no chance of winning, is the only other remaining Democratic candidate. On Friday, the Democratic National Committee, which oversees the party’s presidential debates, released new qualifying thresholds for the next debate in Arizona on Mar. 15. Candidates will need at least 20% of delegates awarded so far, essentially excluding Gabbard, who has won less than 1 percent.

Read more …

No report will be accepted that doesn’t call the crew incompetent. If they had been American, they’d be labeled heroes.

Ethiopian Draft Report Blames Boeing For 737 MAX Plane Crash (R.)

A draft interim report from Ethiopian crash investigators circulated to U.S. government agencies concludes the March 2019 crash of a Boeing 737 MAX was caused by the plane’s design, two people briefed on the matter said Friday. Unlike most interim reports, this one includes a probable cause determination, conclusions and recommendations, which are typically not made until a final report is issued. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has been given a chance to lodge concerns or propose changes, the people said, declining to be identified because the report is not yet public.

[..] According to Bloomberg News, which first reported the contents of the interim draft, the conclusions say little or nothing about the performance of Ethiopian Airlines or its flight crew and that has raised concern with some participants in the investigation. The Ethiopian interim report contrasts with a final report into the Lion Air crash released last October by Indonesia which faulted Boeing’s design of cockpit software on the 737 MAX but also cited errors by the airline’s workers and crew. Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 crashed in an open field six minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, killing 157 passengers and crew. The Boeing 737 MAX has been grounded worldwide for nearly a year after the two fatal crashes.

Under rules overseen by the United Nations’ Montreal-based aviation agency, ICAO, Ethiopia should publish a final report by the first anniversary of the crash on March 10 but now looks set to release an interim report with elements that would normally be included in the final report.

Read more …

Russia prohibits itself from a first strike. The US does not.

Starting A Nuclear Conflict Now ‘A Political Option’ For US – Moscow (RT)

The US is expanding its nuclear capability with new types of low-yield weapons, and Moscow believes US strategists now consider launching a nuclear strike as a viable option in a conflict. The US has made adjustments to its nuclear posture and has been introducing low-yield nuclear warheads to its arsenal, including those that can be launched from submarines. Russia sees such developments with great concern, the spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova told journalists on Friday. The developments make Moscow believe that the American leadership “has made a decision to consider a nuclear conflict as a viable political option and are creating the potential necessary for it.”


She rejected US justification of the upgrade by pointing the finger at Russia, and called on Washington to adhere to nuclear non-proliferation and reduction goals, saying that the path of “unrestricted growth of military strength,” which it was pursuing, was “a road to a dead end”. Unlike Russia, the US never made a formal commitment not to be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict. Russia’s nuclear doctrine says it may use nuclear weapons in response to a conventional attack that threatens the existence of Russia as a sovereign state, but otherwise the nuclear option would only be used in response to an attack with weapons of mass destruction.

Read more …

Erdogan aims to use his Russian contacts against the US, and vide versa. He now lost Russia, Putin will never allow him his Idlib sanctuary for terrorists. So expect him to fly to Washington soon.

Ceasefire In Syria’s Idlib Comes At A Cost For Turkey’s Erdogan (R.)

After six hours of talks with Vladimir Putin, a somber Erdogan announced an accord which cements territorial gains by Russian-backed Syrian forces over Turkish-backed rebels. Returning from Russia, Erdogan said his deal with Putin will lay the ground for stability in Idlib and protect civilians who could otherwise become refugees in Turkey, after months of fighting that has displaced nearly a million people. “The ceasefire brings about important gains,” he said. The agreement, if it holds, does stem the advances of forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, easing Ankara’s greatest fear – an influx of Syrians fleeing bombardment in Idlib and clamoring to cross its border and join 3.6 million Syrian refugees already in Turkey.


But by freezing the front lines, and agreeing joint Russian-Turkish patrols on a major east-west highway running through Idlib, the deal consolidates Assad’s recent battlefield victories and allows Russia to deploy deeper into Idlib than before. “The Syrian army was stopped, but not repelled. That is perhaps Turkey’s biggest loss,” said Ozgur Unluhisarcikli of the German Marshall Fund. Assad’s progress in weeks of fierce combat includes taking full control of the other main highway running through Idlib, the north-south road linking the capital Damascus to Aleppo and other important Syrian cities. In Moscow, Thursday’s deal was widely seen as a triumph for Putin and Assad at Erdogan’s expense. “The agreement is unexpectedly more favorable to Russia and Damascus…,” said former pro-Putin lawmaker Sergei Markov. “Russia is winning on the battlefield and that’s why it’s winning on the diplomatic front.”

Read more …

 

An odd couple for many. But Tucker, other than RT, is the only one talking to Roger Waters.

 

 

 

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Mar 062020
 
 March 6, 2020  Posted by at 11:22 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  25 Responses »


Russell Lee Proprietor of small store in market square, Waco, Texas Nov 1939

 

China Pharma Exports Cut Would “Plunge US Into Mighty Sea Of Coronavirus” (ZH)
Coronavirus Could Erase $211 Billion From Asia-Pacific Economies – S&P (R.)
South Korea Protests Japan Travel Curbs As Corona Ignites Diplomatic Row (R.)
Vietnam Able To Make 10,000 Coronavirus Test Kits Per Day (VnE)
Boeing 737 MAX Certification Flight Could Come Within ‘A Few Weeks’ (R.)
Trump Attacks Biden’s Cognitive Health (G.)
Romney Says US Senate Republican Probe Of Biden Appears Political (R.)
Senator Schumer Expresses Regret For Supreme Court Comments (R.)
Elizabeth Warren’s Campaign Fell Apart In The Fall, And It Never Recovered (IC)
FBI Agents Linked To Carter Page Surveillance Barred From FISA Process (Turley)
Uneasy Calm In Syria’s Idlib As Russia-Turkey Ceasefire Takes Effect (R.)
Turkey Sends 1,000 Special Forces To EU Border To Prevent Migrant Return (ZH)
Erdogan’s Attempts to Blackmail Europe are Doomed to Fail (Coughlin)

 

 

The coronavirus focus shifts decidedly to the west. The increases in cases in the US and many European countries are scary. Greece from 9 to 31 cases, Germany doubles to 577, Netherlands have their first death. It’s been a while since we saw over 3,000 new cases in a day. The last time was when most were still in China.

We’ll pass 100,000 cases later today.

And judging from what US political figures and pundits say these days, you’d swear the virus may have reached their brains.

 

Cases 98,928 (+ 3,048 from Tuesday’s 95,880)

Deaths 3,390 (+ 102 from yesterday’s 3,288)

 

• Italy cases rise to 3,859 from 3,090 yesterday

• Netherlands cases rise from 38 to 82 (First death today)

• Germany cases from 283 to 577

• France cases from 285 to 423

• US cases from 158 to 233

• Canada cases from 37 to 48

• Sweden 52 to 101

• Belgium 23 to 50

• Greece 9 to 31

 

 

• Iran shuts 60,000 mosques.

Ben Hunt on Twitter:
• Just heard that Wells Fargo ordered employees to cancel all domestic travel plans, likely to require employees to work from home starting Monday. Wells Fargo has >270,000 employees.
• Walmart canceled a national meeting next week in Dallas of senior execs, store managers and distributors. Domestic travel eliminated.
• Dupont has grounded all domestic and int’l employee travel, banned all visitors from office meetings, and is exploring mandatory WFH.
• Procter & Gamble is doing the same with travel and visitors.

 

 

• Rudy Havenstein: “HEALTH NEWS: When you get the coronavirus, the official CDC recommendation to treat a runny nose, sore throat, cough, and fever is to lower the rate hedge funds can borrow at from 1.5% to 0%, and increase Treasury purchases to $200 billion per month.”

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer (Note: mortality rate at 6%):

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

The benefits of globalization keep on giving.

China Pharma Exports Cut Would “Plunge US Into Mighty Sea Of Coronavirus” (ZH)

China’s CCP media mouthpiece, Xinhua News, has published a new article titled “Be bold: the world owes China a thank you.” In it, the author suggests that the coronavirus outbreak is much worse in the United States than authorities are letting on – while noting that President Trump praised China’s measures to control the outbreak during a recent press conference. Xinhua also points out that the US stock market “has plummeted continuously, with a drop of more than 12% in just one week.” The article then suggests the travel ban imposed on China – including the restriction of people who have visited China – was ‘unkind,’ and has had a ‘great economic impact’ on the country. The punchline? If China retaliates against the United States at this time, including a travel ban or a strategic restriction over medical exports, America would be “plunged into the mighty sea of coronavirus.”

[..] 80% of present medicines consumed in the United States are produced in China. This includes Chinese companies and foreign drug companies that have outsourced their drug manufacture in joint ventures with Chinese partners. According to Rosemary Gibson of the Hastings Center bioethics research institute, who authored a book in 2018 on the theme, the dependency is more than alarming. Gibson cites medical newsletters giving the estimate that today some 80% of all pharmaceutical active ingredients in the USA are made in China. “It’s not just the ingredients. It’s also the chemical precursors, the chemical building blocks used to make the active ingredients. We are dependent on China for the chemical building blocks to make a whole category of antibiotics… known as cephalosporins. They are used in the United States thousands of times every day for people with very serious infections.”


The made in China drugs today include most antibiotics, birth control pills, blood pressure medicines such as valsartan, blood thinners such as heparin, and various cancer drugs. It includes such common medicines as penicillin, ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), and aspirin. The list also includes medications to treat HIV, Alzheimer’s disease, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, cancer, depression, epilepsy, among others. A recent Department of Commerce study found that 97 percent of all antibiotics in the United States came from China.

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Never a more hollow number was seen. Might as well be a rounding error.

Coronavirus Could Erase $211 Billion From Asia-Pacific Economies – S&P (R.)

A fast spreading coronavirus outbreak could knock $211 billion off the combined economies of the Asia-Pacific, with Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia among the most exposed, S&P Global Ratings said on Friday. S&P cut its 2020 growth forecast for China to 4.8% from previous estimate of 5.7%. It forecast Australian growth to slow sharply to 1.2% from an already below-trend 2.2% in 2019. Japan would take 0.5 percentage point hit and Korea a 1 percentage point knock. “The balance of risks remains to the downside due to local transmission, including in economies with low reported cases, secondary transmissions in China as people return to work and tighter financial conditions,” S&P said in a report.


In other forecasts, Hong Kong’s economy would likely contract by -0.8% in 2020, Singapore’s would flat line, and Thailand’s expansion likely slow to 1.6%. [..] S&P did not cut growth forecasts for emerging markets of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and India, citing the fact that reported infections in those countries were still low. However, it noted the outlook could quickly deteriorate if the low level of cases was due to minimal testing and if those countries were swept up in financial contagion.

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An ideal time to squabble. Well done.

South Korea Protests Japan Travel Curbs As Corona Ignites Diplomatic Row (R.)

South Korea issued a strongly worded protest on Friday against Japan’s decision to quarantine South Korean visitors for two weeks, as coronavirus containment measures ignited a fresh diplomatic row between the Asian nations. Japan joined the list of almost 100 countries that have imposed restrictions on South Korean travelers, barring arrivals from highly affected areas starting on Saturday and ordering a two-week quarantine for those from other regions. The South Korean foreign ministry said Japan’s ambassador would be summoned to explain Tokyo’s decision and receive a formal complaint. Seoul has previously summoned ambassadors from Vietnam and Singapore over similar travel restrictions.


“It is extremely regrettable Japan took this unreasonable and excessive step without sufficient prior consultation with us, and we strongly urge immediate reconsideration,” it said. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Seoul would respond with countermeasures, although he gave no details on what actions could be taken. The presidential Blue House discussed the issue at a meeting of its National Security Council, an official said. The row came as the number of new cases in South Korea, the country with the biggest outbreak of the flu-like virus outside China, fell to 196 from 760 the previous day, for a total of 6,284 infections. The death toll rose by seven to 42, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.

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Everyone’s better prepared than us.

Vietnam Able To Make 10,000 Coronavirus Test Kits Per Day (VnE)

The Ministry of Health has licensed commercial production of test kits that help diagnose the novel coronavirus infection in just one hour. It was developed jointly by the Vietnam Military Medical University and tech firm Viet A Corporation. It is based on reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), a technique that combines reverse transcription of RNA into DNA and amplification of specific DNA targets using a polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The kit can detect the new coronavirus in specimens of droplets obtained from the respiratory tract and blood samples.


Do Quyet, director of the university, said all tests done by the university and Viet A Corporation found the kit meeting World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards. Independent testing of the kit by the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology on various disease samples using five different devices turned up completely accurate results every time, he said. [..] Phan Quoc Viet, CEO of Viet A, said his company could make 10,000 kits a day, and triple the capacity if needed. Authorities said this capacity would enable Vietnam to not only meet domestic demand but also export. China, the U.S., Japan, Germany, and now Vietnam are the only countries to make test kits for the new coronavirus.

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An A+ for timing. The industry announced just yesterday they expected losses of $120 billion or so.

Boeing 737 MAX Certification Flight Could Come Within ‘A Few Weeks’ (R.)

U.S. Federal Aviation Administration chief Stephen Dickson said on Thursday he thinks a certification test flight for the Boeing 737 MAX – a key milestone for the return of the grounded plane – could come soon. “We’re working though the last few software review and documentation issues and then I think within a matter of a few weeks we should be seeing a certification flight,” Dickson said at a Washington aviation conference. Reuters has previously reported that a certification flight is not expected until April and officials said that is still the case. The 737 MAX has been grounded for almost a year after two fatal crashes killed 346 people in five months.

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If you kill this an attack, you’ll run out of words soon.

Trump Attacks Biden’s Cognitive Health (G.)

Donald Trump attacked Joe Biden’s cognitive abilities on Thursday night during an event in the former-vice president’s hometown that could set the tone for an ugly general election. Appearing at a Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Trump – who has faced repeated scrutiny over his own mental acuity – said there was “something going on” with Biden, in what may prove a rehearsal for Republican attacks during the presidential election. Thursday marked Trump’s first public event since Biden’s surprisingly strong performance on Super Tuesday, when he won 10 out of 14 states available to propel him into the lead in the Democratic primary.


Trump said he had been “all set” to face Biden’s rival Bernie Sanders, whom he called a “communist”, until the recent vote. “Then we have this crazy thing that happened on Tuesday, which [Biden] thought was Thursday, but he also said 150 million people were killed with guns and that he was running for the United States Senate. There’s something going on there,” Trump said. Biden – who did say those things – has a track record of gaffes and has turned in bumbling debate performances, but Trump’s line of attack raised the unedifying spectacle of an election focused on two men in their 70s attacking each other’s alleged cognitive decline.

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What sounds really political is Romney saying it.

Romney Says US Senate Republican Probe Of Biden Appears Political (R.)

U.S. Senator Mitt Romney, the lone Republican to vote to convict President Donald Trump of abuse of power following his impeachment, said on Thursday a Senate Republican investigation of Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden appeared politically motivated. Romney told reporters a probe of Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, by Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson would be better pursued by the FBI or another federal agency “if there’s something of significance that needs to be evaluated.” Johnson is poised to issue the first subpoena in an investigation of Hunter Biden’s seat on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma when his father was U.S. vice president. Hunter Biden’s role has been attacked as corrupt without evidence by Trump and congressional Republicans.


“There’s no question but that the appearance of looking into Burisma and Hunter Biden appears political. And I think people are tired of these kind of political investigations,” Romney, a member of the homeland security panel, said. Trump was impeached on abuse-of-power and obstruction charges in the Democratic-led House of Representatives after he asked Ukraine to investigate the Bidens in July. He was acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate. Democrats said Trump was trying to shore up his re-election prospects by targeting Biden. Trump continues to question Hunter Biden’s position at Burisma. “That will be a major issue in the campaign,” Trump told Fox News on Wednesday night. “I will bring that up all the time.”

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Brain virus.

Senator Schumer Expresses Regret For Supreme Court Comments (R.)

Chuck Schumer, the top U.S. Senate Democrat, expressed regret on Thursday for remarks he made a day earlier that two Supreme Court justices appointed by President Donald Trump would “pay the price” if they rule in favor of abortion restrictions. “I’m from Brooklyn. We speak in strong language. I shouldn’t have used the words I did. But in no way was I making a threat. I never, never would do such a thing,” Schumer said on the Senate floor amid Republican demands that he apologize for his comments about Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Schumer seemed to stop short of a full apology, saying instead that the words he used during an abortion rights rally outside the Supreme Court building directed at the two conservative justices “didn’t come out the way I intended to.”

“Of course I didn’t intend to suggest anything other than political and public-opinion consequences for the Supreme Court. And it’s a gross distortion to imply otherwise,” Schumer said. Fifteen Republican lawmakers introduced a Senate resolution on Thursday seeking to formally censure Schumer for what they called his “threatening statements” and to call on senators to “respect the independence” of the federal judiciary. At the Wednesday rally, Schumer said the two justices “won’t know what hit you” if they rule in favor of abortion restrictions in a case the Supreme Court was hearing that day involving a challenge to the legality of a Louisiana law that could make the procedure more difficult to obtain. “I want to tell you Gorsuch, I want to tell you Kavanaugh – you have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price,” Schumer said during the speech.


Chief Justice John Roberts hours later condemned Schumer’s comments as “inappropriate” and “dangerous.”

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She herself looks on the edge of falling apart too.

Elizabeth Warren’s Campaign Fell Apart In The Fall, And It Never Recovered (IC)

Throughout 2019, Uncle Joe was barely touched by his opponents, each of whom hoped that either somebody else would hit him first or that Biden would just self-combust. Nobody wanted to look like they were doing Trump’s bidding, as he went after Biden relentlessly for corruption in Ukraine. And the two candidates who hit Biden head-on — Kamala Harris and Julián Castro — soon enough became cautionary tales. But had Warren done to Biden in the fall what she did to Bloomberg just recently, she may not have been the one to pay the price.

If a genuine ideological debate had broke out between Biden and Warren over the social role of Wall Street and corporate America, while Sanders was still struggling to escape the low double digits, a large swath of progressives may have rallied to Warren, eager for the fight. Warren had come into public life battling Biden over bankruptcy, and some of her harshest rhetoric ever has been directed at him, particularly as she warned that “senators like Joe Biden should not be allowed to sell out women in the morning and be heralded as their friend in the evening.” Instead, campaign advisers argued that the race should be treated more as if it was a game of golf — each player hitting their own shots, aiming for the best round — rather than boxing, where a punch is blocked and met with a counterpunch.


Warren situated her campaign as the heir to several generations of persistent women — from the Bread and Roses strike, to the garment workers in New York, washerwomen in Atlanta, and janitors in Los Angeles — but stopped short of taking the fight directly to Biden until it was too late. (Though she did bury Buttigieg in a wine cave, which must have been satisfying, if not ultimately enough to win.) On Super Tuesday, it became clear that in a contest for the support of suburban voters, Sanders is at a major disadvantage. That’s not the case with Warren, but by the time that contest came, she was no longer in it.

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After obtaining numerous -fraudulent- FISA applications.

FBI Agents Linked To Carter Page Surveillance Barred From FISA Process (Turley)

In a further demonstration of the abuses that led to the surveillance of Trump officials, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court has barred FBI officials involved in the wiretapping of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page from appearing before the court. in rebuke that exceeded the remedial recommendations made by the independent monitor recently appointed by the court. Notably, this goes beyond the recommendations for David Kris, the highly controversial choice as an independent monitor of reforms. The order of Judge Boasberg further belies arguments that the surveillance of the Trump-relate figures was well-based and justified, as I discussed in any earlier column.


Boasberg declared “FBI personnel under disciplinary review in relation to their work on FISA applications accordingly should not participate in drafting, verifying, reviewing, or submitting such applications to the Court while the review is pending. The same prohibition applies to any DOJ attorney under disciplinary review, as well as any DOJ or FBI personnel who are the subject of a criminal referral related to their work on FISA applications.” We will have to wait to see if there are meaningful reforms of this court. Boasberg made a baffling mistake in the appointment of Kris. Moreover, this is not a permanent ban. Most importantly, Sen. Rand Paul is being opposed in his efforts to put serious protections in place, including opposition from the Justice Department.

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Rania Khalek has an excellent overview of the years of western involvement that led to the mess.

The ceasefire doesn’t solve a thing though. Assad and Putin will never accept a terrorist enclave in Syria. They want Al Qeada et al gone. But to achieve that, Turkey will have to withdraw first. That is what Erdogan and Putin discussed for 6 hours yesterday.

Uneasy Calm In Syria’s Idlib As Russia-Turkey Ceasefire Takes Effect (R.)

Syria’s war-battered Idlib region was quiet but tense on Friday as a ceasefire deal between Moscow and Ankara took effect, with residents and opposition forces describing a lull in air raids that have pounded the last rebel-held enclave in Syria. Russia and Turkey made the agreement on Thursday evening, after six hours of talks in Moscow, to contain a conflict that has displaced nearly a million people in three months in northwest Syria. Russia and NATO-member Turkey back opposing sides in Syria’s nine-year-old war. Moscow supports President Bashar al-Assad and Turkey backs some rebel groups, and the two sides had been edging closer to direct confrontation in recent weeks.


Several previous deals to end the fighting in Idlib have collapsed. Analysts and residents said they feared the latest ceasefire would also fizzle out as it did not address the humanitarian crisis or air protection in any detail. “This deal isn’t designed to last, rather it is designed to fail – and I am afraid in the not too distant future,” said Galip Dalay, IPC-Mercator fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “Any ceasefire arrangement in Idlib, unless it has a no-fly zone dimension, is bound to fail. Deals in the past never de-escalated. They merely froze the crisis until the next escalation.”

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Somebody needs to stop Erdogan in Europe, and Putin doesn’t see that as his job.

Turkey Sends 1,000 Special Forces To EU Border To Prevent Migrant Return (ZH)

Starting last week multiple journalists published proof that Turkish authorities were actively facilitating refugee and migrant movement toward EU borders after Erdogan began making good on his prior threat to ‘open the gates’ — angry over the unfolding Idlib crisis. This included footage of buses staged in Istanbul and other cities to take thousands to the land border with Greece. And now Ankara is now openly saying it’s implemented a policy of not only pushing migrants to the border, but ensuring they won’t come back — even after Greece shut its border and has been seen using harsh tactics to keep people from entering in a heightened militarized response.


Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu announced Thursday the deployment of 1,000 special operations police officers to ensure migrants can’t return. “Turkey will deploy 1,000 special operations police officers to prevent migrant pushback at the border,” the minister said, according to Turkey’s Daily Sabah. The newspaper reported further: “Soylu told reporters that the European Union’s border protection agency Frontex and Greece have pushed 4,900 migrants back to Turkey since March 1.” He also claimed 164 migrants had been injured by Greek border security and Frontex. The interior minister also estimated that almost 140,000 migrants are in the first wave headed toward Europe, which began departing Turkey last Friday.

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Erdogan sees Brussels as weak. Who’s going to prove him wrong? Or, put another way: what does Erdogan have to lose?

Erdogan’s Attempts to Blackmail Europe are Doomed to Fail (Coughlin)

If Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan believes he can bully European leaders by provoking a fresh migrant crisis in southern Europe, then he would be well-advised to think again. Ankara’s announcement that it is once again opening the floodgates to allow millions of refugees from Syria’s brutal civil war to travel to south-eastern Europe in search of refuge has been taken to persuade European leaders to back Turkey’s increasingly desperate situation in Syria. Having launched an ill-considered military offensive against the Assad regime in northern Syria, Mr Erdogan now finds himself facing the consequences of his action, with regime forces, backed by Russia and Iran, waging a highly effective campaign against the Turks, which has so far resulted in the deaths of scores of Turkish troops.

In addition, Turkey’s decision to deploy thousands of troops to Idlib province in northern Syria has resulted in a fresh wave of refugees fleeing across the border into southern Turkey, where Turkish officials are already struggling to cope with the estimated four million Syrian refugees that have already sought sanctuary in the sprawling refugee camps. One of the main reasons that Mr Erdogan now finds himself facing this difficult predicament is that he has badly underestimated the nature of his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.


When Turkey took the controversial decision last year to purchase Russia’s state-of-the-art S-400 anti-aircraft missile system, Mr Erdogan calculated that it would herald new era of friendly cooperation with Ankara’s long-standing rival in Moscow even if, by pressing ahead with the deal, the Turks risked jeopardising their relationship with NATO, which bitterly opposed the deal. There was certainly an expectation in Ankara that improved relations with Moscow would result in better cooperation between the two countries on the post-conflict settlement in Syria, especially regarding Turkey’s desire to establish a safe zone in northern Syria.

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