May 072020
 


Banksy – Sounthampton General Hospital – 2020

 

 

Coronavirus May Have Jumped To Humans As Early As October (SCMP)
Italian Scientists Claim To Have Developed World’s First Coronavirus Vaccine (Ind.)
Trump Calls Americans ‘Warriors’ In Fight To Open The Economy (LAT)
Are Americans Ready For A -Costly- Breakup With China? (CSM)
Coronavirus Survivors ‘Permanently Disqualified’ From Joining US Military (NW)
California Expected To Experience ‘Jaw-Dropping’ Unemployment – Newsom (JTN)
UK GPs In The Dark Over COVID19 Tests (G.)
All 400,000 Gowns Flown From Turkey For NHS Fail UK Standards (G.)
COVID19 Deaths: How Does Britain Compare With Other Countries? (Spiegelhalter)
New Zealand ‘Halfway Down Everest’, Plans Big Easing Of COVID Lockdown (G.)
Baltic States To Create ‘Travel Bubble’ As Pandemic Curbs Eased
China’s Services Sector Contracts For Third Month As Job Losses Hit Record (R.)
Republicans Want Review Of Aid To WHO (R.)
OPCW Chief Made False Claims To Denigrate Douma Whistleblower (Maté)
Cuomo Taps Bill Gates To Help Him ‘Reimagine’ New York’s Public Schools (JTN)

 

 

The US had +2,528 new coronavirus deaths yesterday, the highest number since April 21, bringing the national total to 74,799.

 

 

 

 

Cases 3,836,826 (+ 92,061 from yesterday’s 3,744,765)

Deaths 265,366 (+ 6,482 from yesterday’s 258,884)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer Deaths among Closed cases is down to 17%. That still needs to come down much more.

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

The FT has a section, Coronavirus: free to read, with a few good graphs.

They look at excess deaths as the best way to gauge COVID19.

And some more graphs:

https://twitter.com/RemiGMI/status/1258021339362885634

 

 

Makes sense.

Coronavirus May Have Jumped To Humans As Early As October (SCMP)

The Covid-19 pandemic might have started as early as October, according to the latest research into the genetic make-up of the coronavirus. The pathogen, formally known as SARS-CoV-2, is thought to have made the jump from initial host to humans some time between October 6 and December 11 last year, according to an article released on Tuesday and set to be published in an upcoming edition of the scientific journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution. The findings are based on analysis of more than 7,000 genome sequence assemblies collected from around the world since January. By examining the evolution of the mutations, researchers from University College London and the University of Reunion Island were able to rewind their molecular clocks to a common starting point.

They were also able to identify the major mutations to the coronavirus, which has continued to evolve since making the jump to humans. While retrospective studies have suggested various dates for the first Covid-19 patient, government data seen by the South China Morning Post put the first confirmed infection at November 17. Based on information from the first whole genome sequence of the coronavirus – published by a laboratory in Shanghai in January – and other genome analyses, scientists had earlier concluded that SARS-CoV-2 most likely came from a bat and made the jump to humans via an intermediate animal some time in November.

But by the time the latest study was conducted, late last month, the researchers had access to much more information via data-sharing platforms. They selected 7,710 assemblies, curated a data set of 7,666 and then analysed the emergence of genomic diversity over time. While there were variations in the mutations and evolutionary stages of the viruses they studied, the team was able to determine their most recent common ancestor (MRCA), which in turn gave them their new estimate for the start of the global health crisis. “These dates for the start of the epidemic are in broad agreement with previous estimates performed on smaller subsets of the Covid-19 genomic data using various computational methods, though they should still be taken with some caution,” the study said.

In most countries, including Britain, the United States and Ireland, the genetic diversity of the samples essentially reflects the global diversity, suggesting the local epidemics came from independent introductions of the virus. However, China, where the outbreak was first reported, is a main exception to this pattern, where only a fraction of the global diversity can be found. “The genomic diversity of the global SARS-CoV-2 population being recapitulated in multiple countries points to extensive worldwide transmission of Covid-19, likely from extremely early on in the pandemic,” the study said.

Read more …

2022 and onwards. Crushing the curve is much easier. And faster.

Italian Scientists Claim To Have Developed World’s First Coronavirus Vaccine (Ind.)

Italian researchers claim to have developed a vaccine that can neutralise the coronavirus in human cells. Tests carried out at Rome’s Lazzaro Spallanzani Hospital, which specialises in infectious diseases, generated antibodies in mice that work in human cells. “This is the most advanced stage of testing of a candidate vaccine created in Italy,” said Luigi Aurisicchio, chief executive of Takis, the company working on the treatment. “According to Spallanzani Hospital, as far as we know we are the first in the world so far to have demonstrated a neutralisation of the coronavirus by a vaccine,” he told the Italian news agency Ansa. “We expect this to happen in humans too.”

“Human tests are expected after this summer,” Mr Aurisicchio said. He added: “We are working hard for a vaccine coming from Italian research, with an all-Italian and innovative technology, tested in Italy and made available to everyone. “In order to reach this goal, we need the support of national and international institutions and partners who may help us speed up the process.” After a single vaccination, the mice developed antibodies capable of blocking the virus from infecting human cells, Mr Aurisicchio claimed. He said researchers observed that five candidate vaccines generated a large number of antibodies and they then selected the two with the best results.

Last week, experts at the University of Oxford said the first results of their coronavirus vaccine trials could be ready by as early as mid-June. The institution also announced a new partnership with British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca. Human trials of the vaccine developed at the university’s Jenner Institute began last month, with hundreds volunteering to be part of the study.

Read more …

Some non-thinkers here: “Good generals do not send their soldiers into battle without knowing that there will be a net gain..”. Right, US generals only go into battle if and when they already know they will win. Must be a lesson learned in Vietnam.

Trump Calls Americans ‘Warriors’ In Fight To Open The Economy (LAT)

Donald Trump has described himself as a “wartime president” during the coronavirus crisis, and now he seems to have found his army as he pushes the country to reopen despite the risks. In recent days, he’s begun describing citizens as “warriors” in the battle against the pandemic and suggested some of those fighters might have to die if that will help boost the economy.“Will some people be affected? Yes,” he said on a trip to Arizona this week, his first outside of the Washington area in nearly two months. “Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open, and we have to get it open soon.” Trump previously described healthcare workers as “warriors” for risking their safety to treat coronavirus patients, wording he used again on Wednesday when signing a proclamation honoring nurses.

But his decision to expand the characterization to everyday Americans is a noticeable shift from his previous declarations that “one is too many” deaths. The toll from the illness surpassed 70,000 this week and seems on track to top 100,000 by the end of the month, numbers far larger than Trump recently predicted. Asked Wednesday if the nation needs to accept greater loss of life, Trump said “hopefully it won’t be the case, but it may very well be the case.” “We have to be warriors,” he said from his seat behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office. “We can’t keep our country closed down for years.” The new language shows Trump appears to view people as “collateral damage to salvage the economy,” said Jeffrey Levi, a public health expert at George Washington University.

“Good generals do not send their soldiers into battle without knowing that there will be a net gain,” Levi said. “And here we know reopening too soon will be a net loss, both in lives and the long-term stability of the economy.” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany denied that Trump was suggesting that citizens must put themselves in harm’s way to fight the coronavirus — “not in the slightest,” she said. Although the president has repeatedly said that Americans must be “warriors” to reopen the economy, McEnany offered an alternative explanation for the description. “They’re warriors because they’ve stayed home,” she said at a White House briefing Wednesday. “They’re warriors because they’ve social distanced. They’re warriors because this mitigation effort is something that could only be done by the American people coming together and making really hard sacrifices.”

[..] Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said there’s no valor in sacrificing people’s lives to fight the pandemic. “People who are dying of this virus are not dying to protect the American way of life,” he said. “They’re dying because their government has had a completely ineffective response to this infectious disease.” If Americans are being considered warriors, Jha said, Trump is sending them onto the battlefield without the testing and contact tracing required for protection. “He has left Americans disarmed,” he said. “He’s not given the American people the tools they need to fight this virus.”

Read more …

See yesterday. Lots of people quoting the SCMP article today, but it’s just hot air.

Are Americans Ready For A -Costly- Breakup With China? (CSM)

[..] some longtime advocates of a “decoupling” from China say the pandemic offers the best opportunity since the 1970s for a robust national debate on the merits of a significant and policy-driven separation. Such a debate would span issues from technology transfer and U.S. economic sectors’ dependence on China trade to sharpening criticism of China’s violations of human rights. “Three months ago I would have said there was no chance of a serious decoupling from China, but the political environment has changed,” says Derek Scissors, an expert in U.S.-China economic relations at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. “We’re still not near the serious – and what would be costly – steps necessary to separate [from them] and reduce our participation in the success of China’s economic model,” he adds.

“But all the outrage over the tremendous suffering and economic impact of [the pandemic] has opened a door to a reassessment of our relationship.” More likely than a new China strategy that sets out to reduce ties, say others, is an acceleration and intensification of actions that were already being pursued or promoted by some in Congress and some China analysts. “What this [rise in tensions] is really doing is exacerbating the geopolitical trends we’ve already been seeing in recent years,” says Michael Auslin, a distinguished research fellow in contemporary Asia at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution in Stanford, California. “The tensions were already growing.” Thus there is likely to be rising pressure for action on topics that have raged for years, from stemming the theft of intellectual property and repatriating supply chains critical to U.S. national security, to confronting China’s expansionist activities in the South China Sea.

A change that the U.S. and other Western countries should capitalize on in the post-pandemic period, some experts say, is that China is now going to be marked by many countries as an untrustworthy partner. That is not just because of how China handled the initial outbreak of the coronavirus, they say, but because its heavy-handed actions in its pandemic-related foreign assistance has left a bad taste from Europe to Africa. “The world has put an asterisk next to China,” says Mr. Auslin, who notes for example that the White House now puts an asterisk next to coronavirus statistics out of China. And the theme running through much of the European press last week, he says, was “The Week China Lost Europe.”

Read more …

No, not just survivors, but anyone who’s ever tested positive.

If that herd immunity idea ever goes anywhere, that would mean 60%+ can’t join anymore. Who said Americans have no sense of humor?

Coronavirus Survivors ‘Permanently Disqualified’ From Joining US Military (NW)

The military will stop recruiting applicants who have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a proposal in a memo from the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command (MEPCOM). The contents of the memo, which has been circulating on the internet, were confirmed to Newsweek by the Pentagon, which described them as “interim guidance.” The story was first reported by the Military Times. “During the medical history interview or examination, a history of COVID-19, confirmed by either a laboratory test or a clinician diagnosis, is permanently disqualifying,” the memo reads. Additionally, the memo lays out guidelines for handling possible and confirmed coronavirus cases in applicants.


It says any applicants at any of the 65 nationwide Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) should be evaluated for possible coronavirus infection, most likely through a temperature check and questions about their symptoms and possible contact with infected individuals. If an applicant seems likely positive for the coronavirus, they can return to the MEPS if they’re symptom-free after 14 days. Anyone who tests positive through a lab test or clinical diagnosis can return to MEPS 28 days after their diagnosis. However, their application will be marked as “permanently disqualifying,” and while applicants can request a waiver the memo offers no further guidance for possible COVID-19 exceptions, meaning that “a review authority would have no justification to grant a waiver,” says the Military Times.

Read more …

A lot of support for opening up also involves halting financial support plans. Worst idea ever, because:

California Expected To Experience ‘Jaw-Dropping’ Unemployment – Newsom (JTN)

California Governor Gavin Newsom forewarned of “jaw-dropping” unemployment at his daily press conference on Wednesday. After stating the state is experiencing an unprecedented spike in unemployment claims, he said, “You’ll see these numbers translating into unemployment rates that will be rather jaw-dropping.” Newsom called the rise in unemployment claims “Without precedent in our state’s history,” noting that 4.2 million people have now applied for Public Unemployment Assistance and $10.6 billion in aid has already been distributed.


He also announced his signing an executive order extending worker’s compensation to essential workers who test positive for COVID-19, adding that benefits could only be rebutted by an employer “under strict criteria.” Newsom is facing mounting criticism over a plan he announced on April 16 that would create a $125 million fund for undocumented immigrants affected by the coronavirus. Non-profits will distribute the money, but it’s still unclear when people will see a check.

Read more …

Link on the page to another Giurdian article: Q&A – Coronavirus tests in the UK – who qualifies for one?

That would have been a reasonable question in January, perhaps into February. It’s idiotic in May.

UK GPs In The Dark Over COVID19 Tests (G.)

The results of hundreds of thousands of coronavirus tests carried out at privately run drive-through centres in England have not yet been shared with GPs or local authorities, who complain they have “no idea” where local disease clusters are. GPs told the Guardian they had been “totally left out of the conversation” after the government said it was still “working on a technical solution” to get Covid-19 test results into individual GP records in England, having promised to do so weeks ago. Meanwhile, the chief medical officer for England, Prof Chris Whitty, apologised to local health leaders who have not yet received any detailed data from “pillar two” tests conducted by the private firm Deloitte over the past month.


These now form the majority of tests being carried out each day, either at drive-through testing centres or via the post. During a conference call on Wednesday with directors of public health at local authorities across England, the government’s national coordinator of the UK coronavirus testing programme, Prof John Newton, also apologised for not yet sharing the detailed data. He said there had been “data quality issues”. Newton admitted that the Deloitte tests did not yet ask people for their ethnicity or whether they worked in health or social care – an oversight described by one director of public health on the call as “really disappointing”. People of colour and healthcare workers and those working in care homes are known to have much higher incidences of the disease.

Read more …

• UK unemployment to double and economy to shrink by 25%, warns Bank of England

• British economic output is set to crash 14% this year owing to the coronavirus, the Bank of England said as it left its interest rate at 0.1%.

• UK gross domestic product would rebound by 15% in 2021 however, the BoE said

• Buy some more gowns, unseen preferably

All 400,000 Gowns Flown From Turkey For NHS Fail UK Standards (G.)

Last month, amid dire warnings of shortages of personal protective equipment for health workers, ministers publicised the imminent arrival from Turkey of a fleet of RAF cargo planes bringing in a “very significant” shipment of PPE for the NHS. More than a fortnight later, it has emerged that every one of the 400,000 protective gowns that eventually arrived has been impounded after being found not to conform to UK standards. The Department for Health and Social Care confirmed on Wednesday evening that the items were being held in a facility near Heathrow airport. It is understood that they are due to be sent back and that the DHSC intends to seek a refund, as it has done in similar situations in the past.

The announcement of the shipment by the communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, on 18 April came as unions and professional bodies warned that NHS staff may refuse to work without PPE. Jenrick told the daily Downing Street press briefing that healthcare workers should be “assured that we are doing everything we can to correct this issue”, saying they would have the equipment they “need and deserve”. Sources later told the Guardian that the DHSC had advised No 10 not to allow Jenrick to publicise the shipment in case it backfired, but was overruled. The necessary clearances, it turned out, had not been sought. When the consignment did not arrive on time as promised, the delay prompted hospital leaders to directly attack the government for the first time during the pandemic.

Ministers responded by saying they thought it may only a one-day delay. Two days later, with the shipment only then beginning to clear Turkish customs checks, they were only able to give an estimate of arrival “in the next few days”. The first planeload of gowns eventually arrived on 22 April, but the next day it was reported that “less than a 10th” of the order had arrived. Now all are expected to be returned. The saga, first reported by the Telegraph, is one of a series of highly publicised government coronavirus initiatives that have failed to deliver the promised results. Its much-trumpeted “ventilator challenge” asked companies such as Rolls-Royce and Dyson to begin producing the machines, but none have reached the final stages of testing and the majority have proved surplus to requirements.

Read more …

David Spiegelhalter was quoted by the PM yesterday to prove Britain can’t be compared to opther countries, and didn’t like that. He tweeted: “Polite request to PM and others: please stop using my Guardian article to claim we cannot make any international comparisons yet. I refer only to detailed league tables-of course we should now use other countries to try and learn why our numbers are high..”

BTW, Spiegelhalter translate as “someone who holds (up) a mirror”. Fitting.

COVID19 Deaths: How Does Britain Compare With Other Countries? (Spiegelhalter)

You would think it would be easy for a bean-counting statistician to count deaths – the one certain thing (apart from taxes). But it is remarkably difficult. I have stopped taking much notice of the number given out at the daily press conferences, as it is only based on reports from hospitals, oscillates wildly around weekends, and recently included deaths that occurred a month ago. And this week the number of UK deaths jumped up by nearly 5,000 to 26,097 in one day – rather close to Starmer’s count – by retrospectively including non-hospital deaths that had tested positive for the virus. But even this is too low, as it does not include the many deaths of people who were not tested.

The Office for National Statistics data on death registrations is the last word, although inevitably delayed by around 10 days, and these figures would be expected to take the current total to significantly more than 30,000. But we should be very cautious in comparing even this uncertain total with those of other countries. Every country has different ways of recording Covid-19 deaths: the large number of deaths in care homes have not featured in Spain’s statistics – which, like the UK’s require a positive test result. The numbers may be useful for looking at trends, but they are not reliable indicators for comparing the absolute levels. If we were naive enough to take the counts at face value, the new figures propelled the UK past France and Spain into second place in Europe behind Italy, which is not encouraging because we are behind Italy in terms of what stage of the epidemic we are at.

A more equitable metric might be Covid-19 deaths per million. Ignoring tiny countries, our current score of 388 puts us fourth, behind Belgium (632), Spain (509) and Italy (452). But these are still deeply unreliable numbers, as it is not clear if we should just be looking at Covid-19-labelled deaths anyway. The effects of seasonal flu are not based on tests or death certificates, but at looking at the total number of deaths over the winter, seeing how many extra there are than a baseline, allowing for climate, and assuming these excess deaths were linked to flu. On average, over the last 10 years this has come to about 8,000 flu-related deaths, rising to 26,400 in 2017-2018 and 28,300 in 2014-15.

Read more …

Being an island helps. And so does a real lockdown.

New Zealand ‘Halfway Down Everest’, Plans Big Easing Of COVID Lockdown (G.)

Hairdressers, bars and competitive sport could be back on the agenda for New Zealanders from next week as the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said the country was “halfway down Everest” in its fight against Covid-19. New Zealand has been under strict lockdown restrictions for more than five weeks, but the low number of cases this week – zero for two consecutive days – means restrictions will soon be lifted. Ardern and her cabinet will make a decision on downgrading the country’s alert level from three to two on Monday, and by Wednesday, life could begin to look much more normal – and fun – for millions of cooped-up Kiwis. The relaxation of restrictions, which would allow gatherings of up to 100 people, both indoors and outdoors, was greeted with jubilation across the country.

Public spaces such as playgrounds and libraries would be reopened, bars and restaurants would be able to accept patrons, and domestic travel and competitive sport allowed to resume, including the professional leagues, but there will be no stadium crowds for now. Most workers would be allowed to head back to the office, though Ardern urged any who could stay home – or found it more productive – to do so. Widespread social-distancing rules would continue to apply, including patrons being seated two metres apart in public spaces, strangers keeping their distance from one another, and hairdressers, barbers and beauticians being required to wear PPE.

New Zealanders have been living in tight “bubbles” for more than a month, only allowed to socialise with those in their own home. Under the plans outlined by Ardern on Thursday, they would be permitted to see friends, family and even online dates – so long as they keep a log of their movements, and did not participate in indoor or outdoor gatherings of any more than 100. Weddings, funerals and anniversary celebrations would also be permitted. [..] the measures appear to have been effective, with just 21 deaths – all older people with pre-existing health conditions – and global praise has been heaped on the small island nation of 5 million by the World Health Organization, among others.

Read more …

Eastern Europe is a success story.

Baltic States To Create ‘Travel Bubble’ As Pandemic Curbs Eased

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will open their borders to each others’ citizens from May 15, creating a Baltic “travel bubble” within the European Union amid an easing of pandemic restrictions, their prime ministers said on Wednesday. “It’s a big step towards life as normal”, Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas wrote on Twitter. The Baltic travel area would be first of its kind in the bloc, where most countries restricted entry to non-nationals and imposed quarantine on incoming travellers as the coronavirus spread across the continent. Citizens of the three countries will be free to travel within the region, but anyone entering from outside will need to self-isolate for 14 days, Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said.


“We showed a good example by stating, very clearly, that only countries which successfully dealt with the situation can open themselves up,” he added. “I think we will keep to this principle when dealing with countries where the situation is very bad, which did not take measures to control the virus spread.” Poland and Finland could be the next countries to join the free travel bloc, said Skvernelis. The European Commission has recommended that internal border controls between all member states should be lifted in a coordinated manner, once their virus situation converges sufficiently, the commission’s office in Lithuania said.

Read more …

No buyers left.

China’s Services Sector Contracts For Third Month As Job Losses Hit Record (R.)

China’s services firms wallowed in contraction in April as layoffs hit a record and export orders plunged after signs of improvement in March, a private survey showed, dashing hopes of a quick recovery from the coronavirus blow. The Caixin/Markit services Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) did manage to pull up to 44.4 in April from 43 in March, but remained in a deep slump and far below historic averages. The 50-mark separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis. The third straight month of contraction for China’s services sector, an important generator of jobs and which accounts for about 60% of the economy, suggests a still turbulent period ahead after the collapse in economic activity in the first quarter, when GDP shrank 6.8%.


It also raised worries about the outlook even though the pandemic has been largely brought under control domestically, as a sharp global downturn dampens demand for Chinese goods and services. “The second shockwave for China’s economy brought about by shrinking overseas demand should not be underestimated in the second quarter,” said Zhengsheng Zhong, director of macroeconomic analysis at CEBM Group. Major economies, including the United States and Europe, remain in the grip of the pandemic amid rapidly rising infections and deaths. The sweeping impact of the coronavirus, with the global death toll at well over 250,000, has many worried that a worldwide recession could be far more damaging than first thought. In April, new export orders shrank further after their pace of contraction slowed in March, declining at the second-fastest rate on record, just marginally better than February’s collapse.

Read more …

You mean, you don’t do such reviews normally? High time then. Still, “..a task force to assess how well multilateral institutions carry out their missions and serve American interests.” sounds nuts. They’re supposed to serve global interests. If not, they would start serving US interests at the cost of other countries. Oh wait…

Republicans Want Review Of Aid To WHO (R.)

Five U.S. Senate Republicans introduced a bill on Wednesday seeking a review of U.S. participation in the World Health Organization and other international institutions, after President Donald Trump’s administration suspended U.S. contributions to the U.N. health agency and accused it of mishandling the coronavirus pandemic. Introduced by Chairman Jim Risch and four other Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the “Multilateral Aid Review Act of 2020” would establish a task force to assess how well multilateral institutions carry out their missions and serve American interests.

The bill requires a report on 38 institutions. Besides the WHO, they include the World Bank; Asian, African, Inter-American and North American Development Banks, and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, as well as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, several U.N. organizations and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Trump suspended U.S. contributions to the WHO on April 14, accusing it of promoting China’s “disinformation” about the coronavirus outbreak and saying his administration would launch a review of the organization. WHO officials have denied the claims and China insists it has been transparent and open. The United States is the WHO’s biggest donor.

“As we have seen most recently with questionable actions taken by the World Health Organization in response to the spread of COVID-19, it is critically important to have accountability and oversight of our assistance,” Risch said in a statement announcing the bill. [..] Critics of the aid review bill said they were concerned the task force would be too partisan because Pompeo would be its chairman and members would be appointed by Trump.

Read more …

Why are we still discussing the OPCW? Why does it still exist? They’re a bunch of liars who were found out.

OPCW Chief Made False Claims To Denigrate Douma Whistleblower (Maté)

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has made false and misleading statements about two veteran inspectors who challenged a cover-up of their investigation in Syria, leaked documents show. The inspectors probed an alleged chemical weapons attack in the Syrian city of Douma in April 2018, and later objected when their evidence was suppressed. Documents obtained by The Grayzone reveal that OPCW leaders have engaged in a pattern of deception that minimized the inspectors’ senior roles in the Douma mission and diminished the prestige they enjoyed within the world’s top chemical weapons watchdog.

OPCW Director General Fernando Arias has claimed that the first inspector, South African chemical engineering and ballistics expert Ian Henderson, “was not a member” of the Douma investigative team and only played a “minor supporting role.” However, contemporaneous communications from the OPCW’s Douma Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) directly contradict Arias. They show that Henderson was indeed a Douma team member, and that OPCW leadership directed him to lead its most critical inspections. They also show that Arias, rather than acknowledge that Henderson was an FFM member, offered up a false explanation for why Henderson was in Syria at the time of the probe.

Arias has also disingenuously minimized the role of the second inspector, known only to the public as “Inspector B.” This will be examined in part two of this article. The OPCW’s investigation was triggered when extremist anti-Syrian government militants and Western states accused the Syrian army of dropping gas cylinders on two buildings in Douma, killing dozens of civilians. The U.S., France, and Britain bombed Syrian government targets days later, asserting their right to enforce the chemical weapons “red line.” After a nearly year-long investigation, the OPCW issued a final report in March 2019 that claimed “reasonable grounds” existed to believe that a chlorine attack occurred.

However, a trove of leaked documents has shown that the OPCW leadership suppressed and manipulated evidence that undermined the allegation against the Syrian military. The first of such leaks was an engineering assessment authored by Henderson that concluded that the gas cylinders in Douma were likely “manually placed.” That conclusion suggested the incident was staged on the ground by the armed militants who controlled Douma at the time. Additional leaks later revealed that Inspector B protested the censorship of critical evidence and toxicology reports, as well as the manipulation of chemical samples and witness statements. Henderson and B also complained that OPCW leaders excluded all of the Douma investigators except for one paramedic from a so-called “core” team that wrote the organization’s final report.

Read more …

In case you needed any confirmation that Andrew Cuomo is not exactly your hero.

As for Bill Gates, he’s just a fool with too much money, and should be kept far from schools. We don’t need another generation using his crappy software.

I had a text talk with a friend in Greece Tuesday, who tried to convince me that Bill Gates wanted to force-vaccinate everyone and force implant them with nano-chips to prove vaccination. I think maybe because of the language barrier he may not have grasped the nuances whenn I said: “You have nothing to worry about then, because there is no vaccine”.

Someone else sent me a video from the Alex Jones studios that claimed Bill Gates is the mastermind behind a grand secret global conspiracy to depopulate the planet -hence COVID19-. I’m sorry, but I cannot post that here.

Cuomo Taps Bill Gates To Help Him ‘Reimagine’ New York’s Public Schools (JTN)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to “reimagine” schools when they reopen after the coronavirus pandemic. “Bill Gates is a visionary in many ways, and his ideas and thoughts on technology and education he’s spoken about for years,” Cuomo said Tuesday. “But I think we now have a moment in history where we can actually incorporate and advance those ideas. Cuomo said the state is exploring the possibility that K-12 schools will utilize distancing learning in the future and wondered aloud if the “old model” of in-person learning was obsolete.

He said Gates would help evaluate possible changes to the education system, including providing more opportunities to students, using technology to reduce educational inequality, and recreating larger class or lecture hall environments with virtual classrooms. The Gates Foundation has experimented with education before with some mixed results. Business Insider reports that Gates spent $1 billion and seven years working on an initiative to improve test performance for students in low-income schools by closely monitoring teacher effectiveness. The program reportedly didn’t improve test scores or drop-out rates in the long-term, and even “did more harm than good.”

The Gothamist reports at least five organizations have already spoken out against the partnership, citing concerns about the Microsoft founder’s support of standardized testing and Common Core curriculum. Allies for Public Education, Class Size Matters, and the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy — have already written to Cuomo and state education officials to voice their objections. “We were appalled to hear that you will be working with the Gates Foundation on ‘reimagining’ our schools following the Covid crisis,” the coalition wrote. “Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation have promoted one failed educational initiative after another, causing huge disaffection in districts throughout the state.

Read more …

 

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May 012020
 


René Magritte L’avenir (the future) 1936

 

Wall St. Caps Best Month In 33 Years With Broad Sell-Off (R.)
Dr. Fauci Says Developing A COVID Vaccine By January Is ‘Doable’ (SAC)
Hydroxychloroquine Has About 90% Chance of Helping COVID-19 Patients (AAPS)
Turkey Claims Success Treating COVID-19 With Hydroxychloroquine (CBS)
WHO ‘Not Invited’ To Join China’s COVID-19 Investigations (Sky)
Sweden Forced To Admit Significant Under-Counting Of Coronavirus Deaths (Wsws)
Russian PM Mishustin Tests Positive For Virus (BBC)
American Airlines, Delta, United To Require Facial Coverings On US Flights
Ten Reasons Why A ‘Greater Depression’ For The 2020s Is Inevitable (Roubini)
Deflation Fears Creep Back In Japan (R.)
UK Factory Output At Risk Of More Than Halving (R.)
ECB Prepares For More Stimulus, Hints At Junk Bond Buys (R.)
Trump Says He Could Bring Back Fired Ex-National Security Adviser Flynn (R.)
Sidney Powell: More Evidence Shows FBI Set Up Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (SAC)

 

 

• According to Johns Hopkins University there are at least 1,069,534 cases of coronavirus in the U.S.; at least 63,001 people have died in the U.S. from coronavirus.

• On Thursday, JHU reported 29,625 new cases and 2,035 deaths.

 

 

 

Cases 3,323,935 (+ 90,943 from yesterday’s 3,232,992)

Deaths 234,471 (+ 5,951 from yesterday’s 228,520)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer – Among Active cases, Serious/Critical fell to 2%

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

50 million Americans unemployed and Wall Street has a record month. What is wrong with this picture? Why would we want to re-open this system?

Wall St. Caps Best Month In 33 Years With Broad Sell-Off (R.)

U.S. stocks lost ground on Thursday as grim economic data and mixed earnings prompted investors to take profits at the close of the S&P 500’s best month in 33 years, a remarkable run driven by expectations the economy will soon start recovering from crushing restrictions enacted to curb the coronavirus pandemic. While risk-off selling pulled all three major U.S. stock averages into the red, the S&P 500 and the Dow posted their largest monthly percentage gains since January 1987, with the Nasdaq having its best month since June 2000. The three indexes remain well within 20% of record highs reached in February, having quickly rebounded since shutdown efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic brought the economy to a grinding halt.


The five-week tally of unemployment claims topped 30 million and consumer spending has plummeted, according to the latest round of dismal indicators providing another snapshot of the crushing economic effects of the widespread shutdown. “We’ve had a tremendous run but we’ve had the worst economic data since the Great Depression,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago. “Business and earnings might not be snapping back as quickly as the v-shaped recovery on Wall Street would imply.” The Federal Reserved announced that it would broaden its “Main Street Lending Program” by lowering the minimum loan size and expanding eligibility. “Wall Street is liking all the programs that the government and the Fed are putting together,” Nolte added. “So Wall Street is doing fine but Main Street is going to be a longer process.”

Read more …

Does he have info we don’t? If not, this is a crazy statement.

Dr. Fauci Says Developing A COVID Vaccine By January Is ‘Doable’ (SAC)

The Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force Dr. Anthony Fauci told the Today Show’s Savannah Guthrie Thursday that developing a vaccine to combat the coronavirus outbreak by January is “doable.” “What the plan is right now is, as I mentioned to you a couple of times on this show, we’re in the early phases of a trial, Phase 1. When you go into the next phase, we’re gonna safely and carefully, but as quickly as we possibly can, try and get an answer as to whether it works and is safe,” Fauci said.


He added, “And, if so, we’re gonna start ramping up production with the companies involved. And you do that at risk. In other words, you don’t wait until you get an answer before you start manufacturing. You at risk proactively start making it assuming it’s gonna work, and, if it does, then you could scale up and hopefully get to that timeline. So we want to go quickly, but we want to make sure it’s safe and it’s effective.” The Trump Administration announced “Operation Warp Speed” to accelerate the development of a vaccine, Bloomberg News first reported Wednesday. The report states. “The project’s goal is to have 300 million doses of vaccine available by January, according to one administration official. There is no precedent for such rapid development of a vaccine.”

Read more …

Perhaps when the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons speaks, we should pay attention?

Hydroxychloroquine Has About 90% Chance of Helping COVID-19 Patients (AAPS)

In a letter to Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) presents a frequently updated table of studies that report results of treating COVID-19 with the anti-malaria drugs chloroquine (CQ) and hydroxychloroquine (HCQ, Plaquenil®). To date, the total number of reported patients treated with HCQ, with or without zinc and the widely used antibiotic azithromycin, is 2,333, writes AAPS, in observational data from China, France, South Korea, Algeria, and the U.S. Of these, 2,137 or 91.6 percent improved clinically. There were 63 deaths, all but 11 in a single retrospective report from the Veterans Administration where the patients were severely ill.

The antiviral properties of these drugs have been studied since 2003. Particularly when combined with zinc, they hinder viral entry into cells and inhibit replication. They may also prevent overreaction by the immune system, which causes the cytokine storm responsible for much of the damage in severe cases, explains AAPS. HCQ is often very helpful in treating autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Additional benefits shown in some studies, AAPS states, is to decrease the number of days when a patient is contagious, reduce the need for ventilators, and shorten the time to clinical recovery.

Peer-reviewed studies published from January through April 20, 2020, provide clear and convincing evidence that HCQ may be beneficial in COVID-19, especially when used early, states AAPS. Unfortunately, although it is perfectly legal to prescribe drugs for new indications not on the label, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended that CQ and HCQ should be used for COVID-19 only in hospitalized patients in the setting of a clinical study if available. Most states are making it difficult for physicians to prescribe or pharmacists to dispense these medications. As the letter to Gov. Ducey notes, “Many nations, including Turkey and India, are protecting medical workers and contacts of infected persons prophylactically.

According to worldometers.info, deaths per million persons from COVID-19 as of Apr 27 are 167 in the U.S., 33 in Turkey, and 0.6 in India.” After Morocco and Algeria began using HCQ, a trend break and sharp reduction in their COVID-19 case fatality rate occurred. Vaccines and results of randomized double-blind controlled trials of new drugs are at best months away. But patients are dying now, while affordable, long-used drugs would be available except for government restrictions, AAPS states. The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) has represented physicians of all specialties in all states since 1943. The AAPS motto is omnia pro aegroto, meaning everything for the patient.

Read more …

The FDA “cites an observed risk of heart complications”. Okay, okay, but let’s see the reports on heart complications among 70 years of malaria-, lupus-, and RA sufferers.

By the by, HCQ was never a controversial drug until Trump mentioned it.

Turkey Claims Success Treating COVID-19 With Hydroxychloroquine (CBS)

Turkey has the biggest coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East, with more than 117,000 confirmed infections. More than 3,000 people have died. But the government claims to have a lower fatality rate than the global average estimated by the World Health Organization at over 3%. The Turkish government imposed weekend-only lockdowns and banned only those under the age of 20 and over 65 from leaving their homes during the week, in an effort to limit the economic impact of the pandemic. Turkey’s Ministry of Health says the relatively low death toll is thanks to treatment protocols in the country, which involve two existing drugs — the controversial anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine touted by President Trump, and Japanese antiviral favipiravir.

“Doctors prescribe hydroxychloroquine to everyone who is tested positive for coronavirus” Dr. Sema Turan, a member of the Turkish government’s coronavirus advisory board, told CBS News. Hospitalized patients may be given favipiravir as well if they encounter breathing problems, she said. Turan said the combination of drugs appeared to “delay or eliminate the need for intensive care for patients.” But it’s important to note that Turkey’s use of the drug is not a clinically controlled trial; there’s no control group of patients not given the medication to compare the results against. Clinical trials have been underway in the U.S. and elsewhere, but the results aren’t yet clear. Preliminary studies on hydroxychloroquine have yielded uninspiring results thus far.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved emergency use of hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus patients, but has warned it should only be used in clinical trials or under the close observation of doctors, citing an observed risk of heart complications.

Read more …

They refused entry to the WHO team for many weeks in January-February. Anyone remember how long, and what dates?

WHO ‘Not Invited’ To Join China’s COVID-19 Investigations (Sky)

China has refused repeated requests by the World Health Organisation to take part in investigations into the origins of COVID-19, the WHO representative in China has told Sky News. “We know that some national investigation is happening but at this stage we have not been invited to join,” Dr Gauden Galea said. “WHO is making requests of the health commission and of the authorities,” he said. “The origins of virus are very important, the animal-human interface is extremely important and needs to be studied. “The priority is we need to know as much as possible to prevent the reoccurrence.” Asked by Sky News whether there was a good reason not to include the WHO, Dr Galea replied: “From our point of view, no.”

The Australian government has said that an independent public enquiry should be held into the origins of COVID-19, a measure EU countries are reportedly considering publicly endorsing. China has reacted angrily, saying that the investigation into the virus should be a matter for scientists. Dr Galea also told Sky News that the WHO had not been able to investigate logs from the two laboratories working with viruses in Wuhan, the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Wuhan CDC. “From all available evidence, WHO colleagues in our three-level system are convinced that the origins are in Wuhan and that it is a naturally occurring, not a manufactured, virus,” he said.

Nevertheless, according to Dr Galea, the laboratory logs “would need to be part of any full report, any full look at the story of the origins”. Dr Galea defended the WHO’s role in the early days of the novel coronavirus outbreak. “We only know what China is reporting to us at that period in time.” From 3 January to 16 January, Wuhan officials reported no new coronavirus cases beyond the 41 already published. “Is it likely that there were only 41 cases for that period of time? I would think not,” Dr Galea told Sky News. [..] The WHO has been criticised for a tweet it posted on 14 January, saying “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission”. The same day, in Geneva, a WHO official said there had been “limited” human-to-human transmission.

Dr Galea told Sky News that, at the time, the “WHO was increasingly worried and convinced, suspecting strongly there would be human-to-human transmission. But as yet the cases that had been presented to us and the investigations had not yet confirmed that 100%.”

Read more …

The difference between underestimated and undercounted.

Sweden Forced To Admit Significant Under-Counting Of Coronavirus Deaths (Wsws)

Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare released figures Tuesday revealing that the death toll from the coronavirus has been underestimated in public figures. This came as total infections in the country of 10 million passed 20,000 yesterday, with almost 2,500 deaths. The discrepancy is due to the Public Health Agency’s policy of only counting deaths following a positive COVID-19 test confirmed by a laboratory. However, the National Board of Health and Welfare noted that as of 21 April, only 82 percent of the deaths it linked to coronavirus had a positive lab test. Assuming that this difference has persisted over the last week, there would have been approximately 400 more deaths from the virus than the 2,462 officially recorded yesterday by the Public Health Agency.

This significant under-counting of deaths is not to be explained by an error, but is the direct product of the Swedish government’s “herd immunity” strategy. Unlike its Nordic neighbours and other European countries, Sweden avoided imposing a general lock-down and even delayed for some time the issuing of limited social distancing guidelines. Gatherings of up to 50 people are still permitted, and shops, restaurants, schools, and non-essential businesses of all types remain open. As a result, the population has been subjected to a reckless experiment that some scientists have likened to playing “Russian roulette.” Even taking the lower official death toll as a point of comparison, the death rate in Sweden dramatically exceeds neighbouring countries.


In Norway, for example, which has a population approximately half the size of Sweden’s, 7,660 cases and 206 deaths have been recorded. Sweden therefore has a death rate more than five times higher than its neighbour per head of population. The refusal to impose strict social distancing measures is stretching the health care system to its limits. At Tuesday’s daily briefing, Johanna Sandwall, crisis manager at the National Board of Health and Welfare, stated that across the country, intensive care units have 30 percent spare capacity. However, she acknowledged that in some areas, there was zero spare capacity. Asked where these were, she refused to answer.

Read more …

Putin doesn’t meet anyone outside his closed quarters anymore.

Russian PM Mishustin Tests Positive For Virus (BBC)

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has gone to hospital after he was diagnosed with coronavirus. His positive test came on the same day that Russia recorded a record 7,099 cases, taking the total number of infections above 100,000. Mr Mishustin was given the role of prime minister in January and has been actively involved in Russia’s handling of the epidemic. Russian TV showed him telling President Vladimir Putin of his diagnosis. “I have just learned that the test on the coronavirus I took was positive,” the prime minister said during the video call.


Mr Mishustin suggested that First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov should take his place and Mr Putin agreed. Mr Mishustin will now go into self-isolation. “What’s happening to you can happen to anyone, and I’ve always been saying this,” Mr Putin told him. “You are a very active person. I would like to thank you for the work that has been done so far.”Despite the sharp rise in cases, the Moscow-based coronavirus headquarters says 1,073 people in Russia have now died of coronavirus, a relatively low number for Russia’s size. Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov says Russia’s reaction to the pandemic has enabled it to avoid an “Italian scenario”.

Read more …

American Airlines, Delta, United To Require Facial Coverings On US Flights

Three of the largest four U.S. airlines said Thursday they will require passengers to wear facial coverings on U.S. flights, joining JetBlue Airways in taking the step to address the spread of the coronavirus and convince reluctant passengers to resume flying. United Airlines, Delta Air and American Airlines, along with the smaller Frontier Airlines, which is owned by private equity firm Indigo Partners LLC, announced they will require facial coverings next month. Delta and United’s new rules start May 4, while Frontier’s start May 8 and American’s requirements begin May 11. The policies exempt young children from wearing masks or other facial coverings.


Many U.S. airlines are also requiring pilots and flight attendants to use facial coverings while on board aircraft. Airlines in the United States have seen a nearly 95% drop in U.S. passengers and have slashed flight schedules. They are now working to reassure customers about the safety of air travel by instituting new cleaning and social distancing procedures. Some airline unions and U.S. lawmakers have urged the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to require facial coverings for all passengers and crew. United said it will provide complimentary masks to passengers. Southwest Airlines), one of the largest U.S. airlines, has not required facial coverings.

Read more …

Dr. Doom should feel right at home in today’s world.

Ten Reasons Why A ‘Greater Depression’ For The 2020s Is Inevitable (Roubini)

After the 2007-09 financial crisis, the imbalances and risks pervading the global economy were exacerbated by policy mistakes. So, rather than address the structural problems that the financial collapse and ensuing recession revealed, governments mostly kicked the can down the road, creating major downside risks that made another crisis inevitable. And now that it has arrived, the risks are growing even more acute. Unfortunately, even if the Greater Recession leads to a lacklustre U-shaped recovery this year, an L-shaped “Greater Depression” will follow later in this decade, owing to 10 ominous and risky trends.

The first trend concerns deficits and their corollary risks: debts and defaults. The policy response to the Covid-19 crisis entails a massive increase in fiscal deficits – on the order of 10% of GDP or more – at a time when public debt levels in many countries were already high, if not unsustainable. Worse, the loss of income for many households and firms means that private-sector debt levels will become unsustainable, too, potentially leading to mass defaults and bankruptcies. Together with soaring levels of public debt, this all but ensures a more anaemic recovery than the one that followed the Great Recession a decade ago.

A second factor is the demographic timebomb in advanced economies. The Covid-19 crisis shows that much more public spending must be allocated to health systems, and that universal healthcare and other relevant public goods are necessities, not luxuries. Yet, because most developed countries have ageing societies, funding such outlays in the future will make the implicit debts from today’s unfunded healthcare and social security systems even larger. A third issue is the growing risk of deflation. In addition to causing a deep recession, the crisis is also creating a massive slack in goods (unused machines and capacity) and labour markets (mass unemployment), as well as driving a price collapse in commodities such as oil and industrial metals. That makes debt deflation likely, increasing the risk of insolvency.

Read more …

Those fears should be global.

Deflation Fears Creep Back In Japan (R.)

Consumer prices in Japan’s capital city fell for the first time in three years in April and national factory activity slumped, data showed on Friday, increasing worries the coronavirus pandemic could tip the country back into deflation. The darkening outlook in the world’s third-largest economy is already heightening calls for bigger spending, even after parliament approved an extra budget to fund a $1.1 trillion stimulus package to cushion the blow from the pandemic. “The government will work with the central bank to ensure Japan absolutely does not slip back into deflation,” Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told a news conference on Friday.


Core consumer prices in Tokyo, a leading indicator of nationwide inflation trends, slipped 0.1% in April from a year earlier, government data showed, dashing expectations for a 0.1% rise and following a 0.4% increase in March. It was the first year-on-year decline since April 2017. While the drop was largely due to slumping energy costs following the collapse in the crude oil price, it has consolidated expectations that Japan will see consumer prices fall in coming months as the economy feels a sharper hit from the pandemic. A separate business survey on Friday confirmed Japan’s factory activity shrank at its fastest pace in more than a decade in April, as the coronavirus hurt output and new orders.

Read more …

As the government keeps bumbling its actions.

UK Factory Output At Risk Of More Than Halving (R.)

British factory output risks falling by more than half during the current quarter after 80% of manufacturers reported a collapse in orders due to the coronavirus, trade body Make UK said on Friday. Make UK said a survey of 297 members, conducted from April 20-27, showed that more than three quarters had already suffered a drop in sales. Britain’s Office for Budget Responsibility said on April 14 that factory output could fall by 55% in the second quarter, as part of a scenario for the broader economy that showed a 35% plunge in total output if lockdown restrictions stay in place. “The extent of the collapse in demand is such it means that the recent OBR forecast could be an underestimate unless there is a quite remarkable turnaround which, to be frank, just isn’t going to happen,” Make UK chief executive Stephen Phipson said.


A separate survey from the Confederation of British Industry showed that private-sector activity fell by the most since July 2009 during the three months to April, and that output expectations were the weakest on record. Britain’s government ordered non-essential businesses to close to the public on March 23 and urged staff to work from home if possible. It is due to review the measures on May 7 but officials have said it is too soon for a major easing. Some 87% of manufacturers are still carrying out some operations, but more than a third had put staff members on leave under a government wage guarantee scheme which was likely to be needed beyond its planned end-June closing date, Make UK said.

Read more …

ECB Prepares For More Stimulus, Hints At Junk Bond Buys (R.)

The European Central Bank tweaked policy around the edges on Thursday but kept the door wide open to further stimulus — including potentially controversial purchases of junk debt — to help an economy ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic. Facing an unprecedented recession, the ECB said it would make loans to banks even cheaper but kept the terms of its hallmark asset purchase scheme unchanged, disappointing investors who had bet on even more money-printing. Lockdowns in place across Europe to curb the spread of the virus have already cost millions their jobs and governments are borrowing record amounts just to keep their economies going until restrictions on businesses and households can be eased.


ECB President Christine Lagarde made clear the central bank for the 19 countries that use the euro currency would do its part but said political leaders must agree on more ambitious and coordinated action, a goal that has so far eluded them. “The euro area is facing an economic contraction of a magnitude and speed that are unprecedented in peacetime,” Lagarde told a news conference held via webcast. Speaking to an empty press room, Lagarde said the euro zone economy could shrink by 5 percent to 12 percent this year and may contract by 15 percent in the second quarter alone, a rate that would far outpace any decline during the global financial crisis a decade ago.

[..] As part of Thursday’s moves, the ECB said it would allow banks to borrow long-term funds for rates as low as minus 1 percent and it would set up a new shorter-term liquidity operation. Even if markets were disappointed with the measures, Lagarde made clear the ECB would do its job, a signal that more action is coming, perhaps as soon as June. She said the ECB could increase the size of its Emergency Pandemic Purchase Scheme (PEPP) and even extend it beyond 2020. When asked if the ECB could buy bonds below investment grade, she hinted at flexibility. “We have been very clear … we will not accept fragmentation of monetary transmission in the euro area or any pro-cyclical tightening of financing conditions,” Lagarde said. “With these two principles in mind, we will adjust as and when needed.”


The hint at future junk bond purchases is significant as Italy, the euro zone’s third-largest economy, is rated in the lowest investment-grade bracket and seen at risk of downgrades that could lose it access to ECB help just as it needs it most. Letting go of Italy would be politically unacceptable, however and the ECB’s recent decisions to temporarily buy Greek debt and accept bonds recently downgraded to junk as collateral from banks were seen as a way of preparing the ground.

Read more …

Obviously.

Trump Says He Could Bring Back Fired Ex-National Security Adviser Flynn (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he would consider bringing his fired former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a key figure in the probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, back into his administration. The president’s comments, the latest in a string of remarks about Flynn, go beyond prior suggestions by Trump that the retired general could be in line for a presidential pardon. “I would certainly consider it, yeah. I think he’s a fine man,” Trump told reporters, without specifying which role he might give to Flynn. Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements in a charge brought by then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He is now insisting he did not lie and wants to back out of the plea.


Internal FBI documents turned over by the Justice Department on Wednesday showed FBI officials debated whether and when to warn Flynn that he could face criminal charges as they prepared for a January 2017 interview with him in the Russia probe. Trump blamed Flynn’s predicament on “dirty cops” and said the documents show Flynn was a victim. “He’s in the process of being exonerated. If you look at those notes from yesterday, that was total exoneration,” Trump said.

Read more …

To be continued. People will go to jail.

Sidney Powell: More Evidence Shows FBI Set Up Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (SAC)

In another dramatic twist of events 15 documents unsealed Thursday show that the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane team and senior FBI officials had worked diligently behind the scenes to target former National Security Advisor for President Trump Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who has withdrawn his guilty plea and is fighting for his case to be dismissed by the courts. Further, the text messages reveal that there was an original 302 interview with Flynn that was never turned over to the defense. In those text messages between former FBI lovebirds Attorney Lisa Page and FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok, they discuss the interview that was conducted with Flynn at the White House and allude to the alteration of the document.

Those explosive documents suggest that the FBI was planning on closing the case on Flynn because there was no proof that he committed any crimes. In fact, the case against Flynn was closed on January 4, 2017 but reopened, according to text messages unsealed and obtained by Powell. The documents, which reveal his FBI code name ‘Crossfire Razor,’ expose that the Department of Justice withheld large amounts of exculpatory evidence from his defense team and, according to his attorney Sidney Powell, reveal egregious government misconduct. “To be clear, we now know by the production of new text messages between Lisa Page and Peter Strzok that there in fact exists an original 302 document created by SSA 1 from his own notes of the January 24, 2017 ambush interview of Gen Flynn,” said Powell.

“Further, we know in fact that SSA 1’s original 302 document went to Stzrok who rewrote it substantially, but tried not to “completely re-write it so as to save [redacted] voice” and then was shared by Stzrok with a “pissed off” Page who revised it substantively yet again, crafting the narrative to charge Gen Flynn with a crime he did not commit.” She noted that as repugnant as this conduct is on its face, “the travel of this vital document establishes continuously – and until this day – the original FBI agents, the prosecutors, and FBI management’s determination to withhold exculpatory evidence required under Brady, among other violations of Gen Flynn’s civil rights. They withheld it not only to try to convict an innocent man, but to hide their own crimes.”

Read more …

 

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Apr 232020
 


Jack Delano Union Station, Chicago, Illinois 1943

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

This was a given.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Does Coronavirus Kill? (ScienceMag)

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

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

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

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

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All the big money’s already been handed out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sidelined a little too late perhaps?

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

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

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

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

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

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The headline is just too good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Support your local dealer.

Coronavirus Upends Global Narcotics Trade (R.)

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

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

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

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

The Analogy Trap in Economic Policy (Eichengreen)

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

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

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

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

New York Times Revives its Role in Chinagate (Lauria)

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

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

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

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Mar 252020
 


Harris&Ewing Washington DC in April April 1924

 

Coronavirus Stimulus Package To Exceed $6 Trillion – Kudlow (NYP)
US Senate Leaders Reach Deal With White House On $2tn Coronavirus Package (G.)
Share Buybacks, $4.6 Trillion Driver of Stock Market Bubble, Are Toast (WS)
White House Tells New Yorkers Who Leave State To Self Quarantine (USAT)
LA To Shut Off Water, Power For Non-Essential Businesses That Stay Open (GP)
United States Could Become Coronavirus Epicenter – WHO (R.)
South Korea Says Trump Asked For Equipment To Fight Coronavirus (R.)
EU Left Italy Alone To Fight Coronavirus, Russia, China Didn’t – Ex-FM (RT)
EU Shrugs Off US Sanctions, Gives Millions In Coronavirus Aid To Iran (ZH)
EU Urged To Evacuate Asylum Seekers From Cramped Greek Camps (G.)
Czech Borders May Remain Closed For Two Years, Says Top Official (ExpCZ)
Turkey’s Coronavirus Situation Is Out Of Control – Health Experts (Ahval)
Bolsonaro Says He ‘Wouldn’t Feel Anything’ If Infected With COVID-19 (G.)
Australian Doctors Warned Off After Prescribing Hydroxychloroquine (G.)
Assange Lawyer Baltasar Garzon Hospitalized With Coronavirus (RT)
Pablo Escobar’s ‘Cocaine Hippos’: Invasive Species Restore A Lost World (G.)

 

 

Only yesterday, I quoted a tweet and said: “As for these numbers: It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach the first 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000 cases and just four days for the third 100,000 cases. 300,000 cases were reached sometime early March 22″.

It took two days to reach 400,000. Not even.

And Prince Charles has it.

 

 

Cases 434,568 (+ 42,621 from yesterday’s 391,947)

Deaths 19,062 (+ 2,464 from yesterday’s 17,138)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 15% !! up 1% every day-

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Live.info:

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

“We’re heading for a rough period but it’s only going to weeks, we think. Weeks and months. It’s not going to be years, that’s for sure..”

Coronavirus Stimulus Package To Exceed $6 Trillion – Kudlow (NYP)

An emergency stimulus package to bailout the U.S. economy amid the coronavirus pandemic will total $6 trillion — a quarter of the entire country’s GDP, the White House said Tuesday. Trump administration economist Larry Kudlow said the package would include $4 trillion in lending power for the Federal Reserve as well as a $2 trillion aid package currently being hammered out by Congress. “This package will be the single largest main street assistance program in the history of the United States,” Kudlow said at the White House coronavirus task force briefing on Tuesday evening.

Included in the package is Congress’ almost $2 trillion emergency bill which, when passed, will issue direct checks for American families, bailouts for the airline industry and a $350 billion loan program for struggling small businesses. The other $4 trillion will allow the Federal Reserve to make huge emergency bailouts to whatever entity it chooses — a measure that was used to prop-up Wall Street firms from collapse during the 2008 financial crisis. “This legislation is urgently needed to bolster the economy,” Kudlow added, warning the economy had tough times ahead. “We’re heading for a rough period but it’s only going to weeks, we think. Weeks and months. It’s not going to be years, that’s for sure,” he said, echoing comments from President Trump that the economy will bounce back to its pre-pandemic high.

Kudlow, a former Reagan administration adviser and media personality, said the huge bailout would “position us for what I think can be an economic rebound later this year.” A tidal wave of U.S. workers are facing unemployment in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak — with White House officials warning of a 20 percent unemployment rate.

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Forget about re-arranging deckchairs, these people are fighting while the Titanic sinks.

US Senate Leaders Reach Deal With White House On $2tn Coronavirus Package (G.)

US Senate leaders have reached a deal with the Trump administration on a nearly $2tn stimulus package to help rescue the American economy ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic as Donald Trump considers easing restrictions aimed at combating the contagion. After days of around-the-clock negotiations amongst senators and administration officials, a bipartisan compromise was struck over what is expected to be the largest US economic stimulus measure ever passed. “We have a deal,” said Eric Ueland, the White House legislative affairs director, just before 1am, adding that the text of the bill still needed to be completed.

“We have either, clear, explicit legislative text reflecting all parties or we know exactly where we’re going to land on legislative text as we continue to finish.” Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell confirmed a deal had been reached. The bill will then go to the House, and then to Donald Trump, who is expected to ratify it. Tempers flared on Monday on Capitol Hill as senators grappled with the need to pass the critical aid. Democrats twice blocked efforts to move forward with a vote on the legislation, arguing the proposal did not provide strong enough protections for workers, families and healthcare providers nor did it impose strict enough restrictions on businesses that receive federal bailout money.

Republicans, in turn, fumed that Democrats were playing politics in a time of crisis. Late into the night, Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and Ueland ironed out details with the Republican and Democratic Senate leaders. “This is not a juicy political opportunity,” McConnell, said in a remarks from the floor on Monday. “This is a national emergency.” The deal would provide direct payments of up to $1,200 to most adults and expand unemployment insurance. It also includes a $367bn program for small businesses, to allow them to pay employees who have to stay home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Waffle House Index is an informal measure of disaster severity, because all its restaurants stay open every hour of every day. After floods, tornados and hurricanes, Waffle Houses are quick to reopen, even with a limited menu.

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Why those bailouts must fail.

Share Buybacks, $4.6 Trillion Driver of Stock Market Bubble, Are Toast (WS)

Share buybacks by companies in the S&P 500 Index in the fourth quarter 2019, before the Coronavirus was even a factor, fell 18% from a year earlier, to $181.6 billion, after falling 13% and 14% year-over-year in the prior two quarters, from the blistering tax-cut records set in 2018, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices today. For the full year, buybacks fell 9.6% from the tax-cut record in 2018, to $729 billion in 2019, the second highest annual total ever. Since the beginning of 2012, these companies have bought back $4.6 trillion with a T of their own shares. To provide a comparison of how big this T-number really is: It blows past the magnitude of Germany’s annual GDP.

Share buybacks were considered illegal market manipulation until 1982, when the SEC issued Rule 10b-18 which provided corporations a “safe harbor” to buy back their own shares. The only thing that share buybacks are supposed to accomplish is to manipulate up share prices. The four biggest US banks were among the 10 biggest share buyback queens in terms of the amount of capital they wasted on share buybacks in Q4 2019. Combined they incinerated $95 billion in capital last year, and $275 billion over the past five years (if your smartphone clips the 6-column table, slide the table to the left):

But now, Financial Crisis 2 has kicked in, and the share buybacks of these four banks along with the share buybacks of other banks have dropped to zero, along with many other companies that are now facing a liquidity crisis. The banks could have used those funds to shore up their capital, which would have been useful now as the bubbles in corporate debt and commercial real estate, that the Fed was so worried about, are coming unglued. But aside from generating fees for Wall Street, share buybacks do zero for the economy. What would have happened in the US economy if that $4.6 trillion in capital that companies incinerated by buying back their own shares since 2012 would have been invested in equipment, structures, expansion projects, and people, or would have been used to reduce debt so that companies, such as Boeing and the airlines, wouldn’t be in such a precarious situation today?

That capital that was incinerated by companies buying back their own shares would come in handy for companies that are now begging for and getting mega-bailouts from taxpayers and to an even larger extent from the Federal Reserve. “COVID-19 has significantly changed the 2020 landscape, as dividends are under pressure and buybacks appear to be gasping for air,” said the report by S&P Dow Jones Indices, adding that “buybacks must now compete with other corporate priorities as uncertainty over liquidity is at its highest since the 2008 financial crisis.” For Q2 2020, buybacks are “expected to be dismal,” and for the rest of the year, “buybacks may see a complete reversal of the 2018 buyback bonanza.” And the report by S&P Dow Jones Indices adds, even after the bottom is perceived to be in, “buybacks may be slow to come back” as companies, struggling for cash, limit spending amid potential government restrictions on buybacks and their dismal public image.

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New York City: “..56% of all the coronavirus cases in the United States, as well as 60% of all new cases..”

White House Tells New Yorkers Who Leave State To Self Quarantine (USAT)

Travelers leaving the New York metro area should self-quarantine for 14 days to make sure they aren’t passing on the coronavirus, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force said Tuesday. In making the recommendation, task force coordinator Deborah Birx said that the quarantine should apply even to those who aren’t showing symptoms. She said many travelers are headed to locations outside New York City, from Long Island to North Carolina or other states. Brix said 56% of all the coronavirus cases in the United States, as well as 60% of all new cases, are coming from the New York metro area. Greater New York City also accounts for 31% of deaths in the country.


The recommendation follows an order that took effect Tuesday by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis requiring anyone flying to Florida from New York, New Jersey or Connecticut to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. Alaska and Hawaii are also requiring anyone arriving from other states to self-quarantine. Already, New Yorkers have been ordered to stay in their homes and the city has virtually shut down in an effort to quell spread of the virus.

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“..Our city will rise again..”

LA To Shut Off Water, Power For Non-Essential Businesses That Stay Open (GP)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has announced that the city will be shutting off water and power to any non-essential businesses that defied orders and stayed open during the coronavirus crisis. During his Tuesday press briefing Garcetti announced that the Department of Water and Power will be shutting off services for the businesses that don’t comply with the “safer at home” ordinance. “This behavior is irresponsible and selfish,” Garcetti said of businesses that remained open. KTLA reports that neighborhood prosecutors will implement safety measures and will contact the businesses before issuing further action, according to Garcetti.


“The easiest way to avoid a visit is to follow the rules,” he said. The mayor also noted that Los Angeles is “six to 12 days behind New York” for being hit with a wave of coronavirus cases. He said that he does not believe his city will be running as normal by Easter. “The peak is not here yet,” he said. “It will be bad.” The grimness of his press conference did not end there. He also warned residents to be “prepared for some of the darkness that is ahead.” “Each one of us can be a light. We can light a match of hope. We can navigate that tunnel with each other and not alone. And more importantly, what we do can ensure that more people exit that tunnel together… and that our city will rise again,” he added.

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Could become? It already is.

United States Could Become Coronavirus Epicenter – WHO (R.)

The United States has the potential to become the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic due to a “very large acceleration” in infections there, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday. The highly contagious respiratory virus has infected more than 42,000 people in the United States, prompting more governors to join states ordering Americans to stay at home. Over the past 24 hours, 85 percent of new cases worldwide were from Europe and the United States, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters. Of those, 40 percent were from the United States. Asked whether the United States could become the new epicenter, she said: “We are now seeing a very large acceleration in cases in the U.S. So it does have that potential. We cannot say that is the case yet but it does have that potential.”


“…They (the United States) have a very large outbreak and an outbreak that is increasing in intensity,” Harris added. However, she identified some positive signs such as more comprehensive testing, and further efforts to isolate the sick and trace their immediate contacts exposed to the virus. She also referred to “extremely heartwarming” stories of how Americans were helping each other during the crisis. [..] Harris said that new records were to be expected each day until new confinement measures begin to take effect. Up until now, Europe has been the center of transmission with Italy the most badly-hit country with the world’s highest number of deaths, although fatalities have begun slowing there. Asked about a potential tipping point in Italy, she said: “There is a glimmer of hope there. We’ve seen in the last two days fewer new cases and deaths in Italy but it’s very, very early days yet.”

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Every government asks every other government for help.

South Korea Says Trump Asked For Equipment To Fight Coronavirus (R.)

President Donald Trump asked South Korea to send medical equipment to the United States to fight the coronavirus, promising to help Korean companies gain U.S. government approval, South Korea’s presidential office said. South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in offered to send the equipment if his country has any spare, his Blue House office said in a statement late on Tuesday, after the 23 minute phone call, which it said was arranged at Trump’s urgent request. The request for help highlights the diverging paths the two countries took since both discovered their first coronavirus cases on the same day.


South Korea rolled out widespread testing within days, swiftly launching an aggressive program to isolate confirmed cases and trace their contacts. After a big early outbreak, it won praise for slowing the spread of the disease with comparatively little disruption and just 125 deaths, and has brought the number of new infections per day to below 100 for the past 13 straight days. The United States did little testing initially, and has now been shutting parts of the country en masse, with fast-growing outbreaks in a number of states and thousands of new cases per day. Moon told Trump that South Korea “will provide as much support as possible, if there is spare medical equipment in Korea”.

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The EU fails even where you think it wouldn’t be possible.

EU Left Italy Alone To Fight Coronavirus, Russia, China Didn’t – Ex-FM (RT)

The EU’s initial response to the massive outbreak of coronavirus in Italy was largely “inadequate,” and a lack of European solidarity opened the doors for Russia and China, former Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told RT. The new epicenter of the dreaded pandemic, Italy, has been struggling to stop the spread of Covid-19 for weeks now. The disease has already killed more than six thousand people in the country, with over 60 thousand people infected. The EU clearly underestimated the virus, blaming the outbreak in Italy on its national healthcare system flaws, according to the two-time foreign minister and OSCE representative. As a result, Brussels, which preaches pan-European solidarity, failed to act when this solidarity was needed in the face of a crisis that eventually affected the entire bloc.

Frankly speaking, Brussels is not doing enough. At the very first moment, Italy was practically alone against the virus. Many said it was all because of the Italian habits, because Italians do not respect the rules. Suddenly, they realized all the other countries were equally affected. The situation in other major EU states like Germany and France deteriorated rapidly, forcing them to deal with thousands of infected on their own soil. “Everyone just focused on the situation at home before even thinking about helping others,” Andrea Giannotti, the executive director of the Italian Institute of Eurasian Studies, told RT. The lack of solidarity was recently noted from outside of the bloc – Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic decried European solidarity as a myth, while praising Beijing for its assistance. His remarks came after Serbia received five million masks from China, which it could not get in Europe.

The EU is now trying “to do more” and somehow “make up” for its initial poor execution of a coordinated response, former Italian MP Dario Rivolta said.

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Proper thing to do, but what about the refugees in Greece?

EU Shrugs Off US Sanctions, Gives Millions In Coronavirus Aid To Iran (ZH)

The White House has not backed off it’s ‘maximum pressure’ campaign on Iran even as the Islamic Republic’s Covid-19 cases and deaths continue to soar, approaching 25,000 confirmed cases Tuesday. Despite even close US ally Britain quietly signalling it’s had enough of Washington’s ill-timed pressures, Secretary of State Pompeo has upped the ante further, on Monday accusing the Iranian regime of everything from hoarding masks and equipment to intentionally spreading the deadly disease to at least five countries. But it appears Europe has finally begun to shirk US demands. On Monday EU foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell announced 20 million euros in new aid to Iran, and more crucially said the body will support Tehran’s request for IMF assistance.

“We’ve not been able to provide a lot of humanitarian help but there is some 20 million euros in the pipeline … that we expect to be delivered over the next weeks,” Borrell said in a video news conference Monday. “We also agree in supporting the request by Iran and also by Venezuela to the International Monetary Fund to have financial support,” he said further but without disclosing details. European officials consider the situation as urgent and see the US pressure campaign as greatly exacerbating the death toll given Iran lacks much of the basic medicines and equipment to treat at-risk patients and mitigate the outbreak. Recently Iranian health officials said shockingly that one person is dying from the virus every 10 minutes.

The pressure for some kind of dramatic blanket easing of US sanctions is only set to grow, given that last week Iran’s leaders for the first time in a half-century turned to the IMF. Bloomberg reported of the urgent IMF appeal: “Iranians say that their economy is weak and unable to cope with the humanitarian toll because of the U.S. sanctions. Last week, Iran turned to the International Monetary Fund for the first time since the 1960s for aid, though Ali Vaez, the Crisis Group’s Iran project director, said the U.S. may try to block the IMF loan in order to keep up the pressure on the regime.”

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They don’t care. They haven’t in 5 years.

EU Urged To Evacuate Asylum Seekers From Cramped Greek Camps (G.)

The European Union has been urged to evacuate asylum seekers from overcrowded camps on the Greek islands in order to save lives. The European parliament’s civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee has called for the evacuation of 42,000 people on the Greek islands as “an urgent preventive” measure to avoid “many deaths” from coronavirus. Holding facilities on all five Aegean isles opposite the Turkish coast are currently six times over capacity. The first case of Covid-19 on the islands was confirmed earlier this month when a Greek woman on Lesbos, the island long on the frontline of the refugee crisis, tested positive. A Greek man, recently returned from Thailand, was diagnosed with the virus on Monday, reinforcing fears of an outbreak in camps seen as especially high-risk environments .

MEPs fear that if the virus spreads it could become a public health emergency in the squalid camps, where thousands live in unsanitary conditions, often without electricity, heating or running water. “Many of those in the camps are already in precarious health situations due to the bad conditions in which they have lived for a long time,” states the letter from Juan Fernando López Aguilar, a Spanish socialist MEP, who chairs the committee. “There is no chance of isolation or social distancing, nor is it possible to ensure appropriate hygienic conditions,” he wrote. The letter adds that only six intensive care beds are available on Lesbos for residents and asylum seekers. The notorious Moria camp on Lesbos houses nearly 20,000 people in a space designed for 2,200.

[..] The MEPs want people over 60 with existing health conditions evacuated first, but do not spell out whether they should go to other EU member states or the Greek mainland. The European commission said it was working with Greece on an emergency response plan to deal with a potential outbreak of coronavirus on the islands. A commission spokesperson said Greek authorities were taking action to prevent the spread of the disease, with compulsory temperature testing of new arrivals to the camps, suspension of visits, regular cleaning of communal areas, and the setting up of quarantine and recovery areas. The spokesperson also referred to an ongoing push to encourage EU member states to give a home to unaccompanied children on the Greek islands. Seven countries pledged earlier this month to take in 1,600 children from the islands.

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“There is no time for pessimistic scenarios now..”?! Pray tell, when is that time?

Czech Borders May Remain Closed For Two Years, Says Top Official (ExpCZ)

Czech Crisis Staff head Roman Prymula told Czech Television today that border restrictions in the Czech Republic over the coronavirus situation may last up to two years, and largely depend on the management of the epidemic in other countries in Europe and across the globe, reports the Czech News Agency and Novinky.cz. While the situation in the Czech Republic is thought to improve from mid-April, estimates aren’t as optimistic for other countries in Europe. “The situation in other European countries will not be good,” Prymula told Czech Television. “There it will take months and long months.” According to Prymula, international travel will most likely be limited for the next year or two, and Czech residents should count on taking their summer holidays within the Czech Republic this year.

Prymula’s statements were supported by Czech Minister of Health Adam Vojtech. “The point is to avoid having a second or third wave of the epidemic, so that people from other countries such as Italy, France, Spain, Germany, do not begin to flow [into the Czech Republic],” he told Czech Television. “I do not want to provide false optimism, but I hope that it will be possible to keep the number to 10,000 [infected with coronavirus],” Prymula added. “We are able to operate effectively with up to 15,000 [cases].” [..] He further stated that if the number of infections does not exceed 8,500 by the end of March, it would be possible to ease the current restrictions on movement within the country during the following 10 days. This could theoretically take place place by the Easter holiday (April 12-13).

Prymula’s statement was “shocking”, said TOP 09 chairman Miroslav Kalousek. The statement has presented the urgent question of whether it was right that the emergency staff is headed by a person without political responsibility, Kalousek said. What was said is quite quite unfortunate, TOP 09 leader Marketa Adamova Pekarova said. There is no time for pessimistic scenarios now, she added.

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Turkey reported its first case only on March 11. It kept its soccer league going for much longer than others.

Turkey’s Coronavirus Situation Is Out Of Control – Health Experts (Ahval)

Health experts have warned that Turkey’s coronavirus situation is out of control and that deaths from the disease could soon be on a par with Italy or Spain, reported the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network on Tuesday. “The recent data on cases and death tolls shows that the situation is out of control in Turkey. If the necessary measures are not taken, Turkey will be like Italy or Spain, where the daily death toll is in the hundreds,” Emrah Altındis, a Turkish professor from Harvard University’s Medical Faculty, told BIRN. Turkey only reported its first coronavirus patient on March 11, but cases and deaths have rapidly risen since then.


The Turkish health minister confirmed on Tuesday seven more deaths due to the coronavirus and announced 343 new cases, raising the total number of cases in the country to 1,872. Turkey has halted incoming flights from dozens of countries and closed a wide range of non-essential businesses and venues, and announced a curfew on elderly and vulnerable citizens over the weekend, though it has refrained from enforcing a full lockdown. However, some medical experts have said that the measures are insufficient.

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“The first political suicide broadcast live on national radio and television..”

Bolsonaro Says He ‘Wouldn’t Feel Anything’ If Infected With COVID-19 (G.)

Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has claimed he “wouldn’t feel anything” if infected with coronavirus and rubbished efforts to contain the illness with large-scale quarantines as his country’s two biggest cities went into shutdown in a desperate bid to save lives. In a televised address to the nation on Tuesday night, Bolsonaro slammed what he branded the economically damaging “scorched earth” tactics being used to slow the advance of an illness that has now claimed about 15,000 lives around the world. “The virus has arrived and we are fighting it and soon it will pass,” claimed Bolsonaro, who is facing a growing backlash in Brazil for repeatedly dismissing coronavirus as a media “fantasy” and “trick”.

Bolsonaro’s incendiary remarks came as both Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo were placed under partial lockdown by municipal and state authorities who fear an explosion of cases in the coming days. João Doria, the governor of São Paulo, Brazil’s most economically important and populous state, has declared a 15-day quarantine period affecting about 46 million of Brazil’s 210 million citizens. Meanwhile Rio’s mayor, Marcello Crivella, has ordered an indefinite shutdown of that city’s commerce and schools with Rio’s state governor, Wilson Witzel, also introducing drastic measures to counter coronavirus.

But in his five-minute address – which sparked loud protests in both Rio and São Paulo – Bolsonaro railed against such steps and attacked the media for spreading a “feeling of dread” among the population by reporting on the death toll in Italy. “Our lives have to go on. Jobs must be kept … we must, yes, get back to normal,” Bolsonaro said as his government’s health officials announced that the number of deaths in Brazil had risen to 46 with more than 2,200 cases. “A small number of state and municipal authorities must abandon their scorched-earth ideas: the banning of public transport, the closing of commerce and mass confinement,” Bolsonaro said. “What is happening around the world has shown that the at-risk group are those over 60 years old. So why close schools? … Ninety per cent of us will show no sign [of infection] if we are infected.”

[..] “The first political suicide broadcast live on national radio and television,” tweeted Ricardo Noblat, a prominent Brazilian journalist. Brian Winter, the editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly, tweeted: “Pray for Brazil.”

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But there are a lot of positive reports too.

Australian Doctors Warned Off After Prescribing Hydroxychloroquine (G.)

Australia’s drugs regulator has been forced to restrict powers to prescribe a drug undergoing clinical trials to treat Covid-19, because doctors have been inappropriately prescribing it to themselves and their family members despite its potentially deadly side-effects. The anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and the similar compound chloroquine are currently used mostly for patients with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, but stocks in Australia have been diminished thanks to global publicity – including from Donald Trump – about the potential of the drug to treat Covid-19.


Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have potentially severe and even deadly side effects if used inappropriately, including heart failure and toxicity. Some Australian media outlets have wrongly reported the drug as a “cure” for the virus even though trials have been either inconclusive or too small to be useful, have only been conducted in test tubes, are not yet complete, or have not even received ethics approval. Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration said it was concerned about shortages of the drug for people who need it following increased off-label prescribing as a result of the Covid-19 reports. As well as heart attacks the drug can lead to irreversible eye damage and severe depletion of blood sugar potentially leading to coma, the TGA warned.

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I think today’s the day for the request to free Assange.

Assange Lawyer Baltasar Garzon Hospitalized With Coronavirus (RT)

Famous Spanish jurist Baltasar Garzon has been admitted to a hospital in Madrid after testing positive for Covid-19. He has provided legal counsel to WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, among other things. Garzon, 64, was admitted to the Ruber clinic in Madrid on Tuesday, after five days of high fever at home. He tested positive for the coronavirus and was given the prognosis of respiratory failure, Spanish media reported. The former judge of the National Court had self-isolated at his home after complaining about a fever and chest pains, before the symptoms worsened.


Garzon became famous as a judge who cracked down on the Basque separatist organization ETA, and pursued human rights abuse charges against Spain’s Franco government, the Pinochet junta in Chile, and the Argentine military dictatorship. He has provided legal counsel to Assange since 2012, finding himself under considerable pressure at times – such as when masked raiders broke into his office in 2017. The second hardest-hit country in Europe by the Covid-19 outbreak, Spain is struggling with almost 40,000 reported cases, of which 2,700 have been fatal so far.

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Your good news for today.

Pablo Escobar’s ‘Cocaine Hippos’: Invasive Species Restore A Lost World (G.)

When the drug lord Pablo Escobar was shot dead in 1993, he left behind a zoo stocked with wild animals alongside his multibillion dollar cocaine empire. The lions, giraffes and other exotic species were moved from the luxurious Hacienda Nápoles estate east of Medellín to new homes, but nearly three decades later, dozens of hippos, descendants of animals left behind, are thriving in small lakes in northern Colombia, making them the world’s largest invasive animal. Now scientists say that contrary to the conventional wisdom that large invasive herbivore mammals have strictly negative effects on their new environments, Escobar’s “cocaine” hippos show how introduced species can restore a lost world.

A team of conservation biologists has compared the traits and impacts on the ecosystems from large invasive herbivore species like the Colombian hippo with their extinct counterparts from the Late Pleistocene (around 116,000-12,000 years ago) period like mammoths, giants sloths and giant wombats. They found some modern day invasive species restore parts of ecosystems not seen since before humans began driving the widespread extinctions of megafauna. Their new study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that some introduced herbivore species are an almost perfect ecological match for extinct species from the Late Pleistocene, such as modern day wild horses known as mustangs and the extinct pre-domestic horses in North America, while others bring back a mixture of traits.

“The feral hippos in South America are similar in diet and body size to extinct giant llamas, while a bizarre type of extinct mammal – a notoungulata – shares with hippos large size and semiaquatic habitats,” explained study co-author John Rowan, Darwin fellow in organismic and evolutionary biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “So, while hippos don’t perfectly replace any one extinct species, they restore parts of important ecologies across several species.”


Toxodon-Notoungulata

By comparing ecological traits of herbivore species from before the Late Pleistocene extinctions to the present day, such as body size, diet and habitat, researchers were able to quantify the extent to which introduced species were more or less similar to extinct predecessors. The analysis found that by introducing large herbivore species across the world, humans had restored lost ecological traits to many ecosystems, thereby counteracting a legacy of extinctions and making the world more like the pre-extinction late Pleistocene.

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Someone asked if this was performance art, fair enough. I was wondering what would happen if Trump did this.

 

 

 

 

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

 

Mar 042020
 


DPC North approach, Pedro Miguel Lock, Panama Canal 1915

 

 

 

WHO Raises Global Mortality Rate For COVID-19 Up To 3.4% (CNBC)
Maybe Jay Powell’s Not Cut Out For This Fed Chair Thing (Shazar)
Airlines Rush To Boost Demand As Coronavirus Shreds Crisis Playbooks (R.)
Market Mayhem Exposes Fears About Oil Companies (CNN)
China’s Funding Breakdown Emphasises Economic Imbalances (SCMP)
CIA Has Been Attacking Multiple Chinese Bodies For 11 Years (PDaily)
Court: Clinton Must Testify On Email Scandal (Turley)
Napolitano: Hillary Clinton Faces A Catch-22 Over Private Email Server (Fox)
The Establishment Struggles With The “Nightmare” Of Authenticity (Turley)
Russia Says Turkey Does Not Meet Terms Of Pact In Syria’s Idlib (R.)
Russia Says Turkey Trying To Push 130,000 Refugees From Syria Into Greece (R.)
EU Pledges €700 Million To Help Greece Fight Migrant Influx From Turkey (F24)
Planet Plastic (Rolling Stone)

The virus has been reported in 81 countries and counting (+ Diamond Princess).

First cases in last 48 hours:

– Chile
– Argentina
– Liechtenstein
– Ukraine
– Gibraltar
– Morocco
– Senegal
– Tunisia
– Latvia
– Jordan
– Andorra
– Portugal
– Indonesia
– Saudi Arabia

This is from Worldometer (I include them daily, see below), yesterday afternoon. They change to a “new day” at a for me odd time, which would make the numbers unclear. Check the huge increases in cases in Iran, Italy and South Korea -which added aother 435 cases today-. Also, WA state is a cluster. 9 deaths in no time. US cases up to 128 now. Virus may indeed, as has been suggested, have been around for 6 weeks.

 

 

• Germany reports 46 new cases
• Iran: 300,000 “volunteers” and soldiers, 54,000 prisoners out on bail
• Oregon officials warn up to 500 cases may be in state already
• Italy mulls cancelling all sporting events for a month

https://twitter.com/i/status/1235068772387418112

 

From SCMP:

 

 

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

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

And of course there’s Joe Biden’s huge win. CNN and the Dems act as if they own the world and he’s about to beat Trump. Last night, CNN switched to one of their people in one of the Super Tuesday states, and he started off saying: “The Republicans are getting vey nervous…”

Why on earth would they, though? I’ve always maintained the Hunter affair makes him unfit, but there’s more. He’s a desperate choice by those who’ve held the reins in the party for decades. We’ll see stuff like this repeated 1000 times:

 

 

As we already saw yesterday, the mortality rate is very diffrent from one location to another. Much higher in the US and Italy than in South Korea?! Same virus?

WHO Raises Global Mortality Rate For COVID-19 Up To 3.4% (CNBC)

World health officials said Tuesday the mortality rate for COVID-19 is 3.4% globally, higher than previous estimates of about 2%. “Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press briefing at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva. In comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected, he said. The World Health Organization had said last week that the mortality rate of COVID-19 can differ, ranging from 0.7% to up to 4%, depending on the quality of the health-care system where it’s treated. Early in the outbreak, scientists had concluded the death rate was around 2.3%.

During a press briefing Monday, WHO officials said they don’t know how COVID-19 behaves, saying it’s not like influenza. They added that while much is known about the seasonal flu, such as how it’s transmitted and what treatments work to suppress the disease, that same information is still in question when it comes to the coronavirus. “This is a unique virus, with unique features. This virus is not influenza,” Tedros said Monday. “We are in uncharted territory.” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program, said Monday that the coronavirus isn’t transmitting the same exact way as the flu and health officials have been given a “glimmer, a chink of light” that the virus could be contained.


“Here we have a disease for which we have no vaccine, no treatment, we don’t fully understand transmission, we don’t fully understand case mortality, but what we have been genuinely heartened by is that unlike influenza, where countries have fought back, where they’ve put in place strong measures, we’ve remarkably seen that the virus is suppressed,” Ryan said.

 

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Unless you think his job is to transfer money to Fed member bannks.

Maybe Jay Powell’s Not Cut Out For This Fed Chair Thing (Shazar)

For 10 days, while the markets were cratering as if they themselves had contracted a very serious case of coronavirus, Fed officials made all of their Fed-y reassuring mouth sounds: We’re keeping an eye on things, we’ll do something if it’s warranted, but it’s not yet, so just calm down. And then the markets did, soaring yesterday and continuing that rise today. At least until, after watching everyone else—including the White House, which although it wants to make clear thinks this whole China-virus or whatever things is totally overblown and invented like climate change to hurt the Dear Leader, did think that Jay Powell & co. were doing their typically horrible job containing a thing that Larry Kudlow said was already contained and oh yea doesn’t exist anyway—overreact for a week and a half, the Fed decided it would like to go a little nuts itself.

“The Federal Reserve cut its benchmark rate by a half percentage point on Tuesday morning, delivering a booster shot to stem potential economic disruptions from the spreading coronavirus epidemic with its first between-meeting move since the financial crisis…. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell at a press conference following the rate cut said the central bank “judged that the risks to the U.S. outlook have changed materially” and that the Fed “can and will do our part, however, to keep the U.S. economy strong as we meet this challenge.” Well, if Powell’s goal was to get the panic-selling on Wall Street to resume, he did his usual heckuva job.

“Stocks initially shot higher, propelling the Dow Jones Industrial Average up more than 300 points. But within 15 minutes, stocks’ initial gains gave way to jerky up-and-down trading action—with the blue-chip average and Treasury yields falling to session lows after Fed Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged the limits of the central bank’s actions in a press conference…. The Dow fell 510 points, or 1.9%, to 26194, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite were down 1.7% and 1.6%, respectively. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note, a benchmark for everything from mortgage rates to student loans, slipped to 1.036%.”

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Much of that industry is set to go under.

Airlines Rush To Boost Demand As Coronavirus Shreds Crisis Playbooks (R.)

The rapid spread of coronavirus cases worldwide is complicating a standard strategy used by airlines when disease, disaster or conflict hit travel destinations: lower fares and redirect flights to trouble-free areas. For now, some airlines have resorted to suspending change fees for new ticket reservations in the hope of winning over hesitant travelers until it becomes clearer where coronavirus outbreaks are localized and which routes could benefit from price drops. While lower fares have proven effective in the past in reviving demand, aviation consultant Samuel Engel said, “The pocketbook only works so far against emotion.” The coronavirus, which emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, has spread around the world, with more new cases now appearing outside China than inside.

JetBlue Airways Corp, which does not fly to Asia, was the first airline to launch free rebooking options last week, as it became clear that cases were not isolated to China. JetBlue pulled together and announced its plan in a matter of hours, President Joanna Geraghty told Reuters. “We tried to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers and think about what we would want if we were, for example, booking a spring-break trip right now,” Geraghty said. U.S. majors have since followed suit with varying waivers on change fees for new reservations to many destinations, a switch from a previous policy that covered only pre-booked flights to areas hardest-hit by the coronavirus.

[..] with none of the offers so far guaranteeing money-back refunds, travelers say the policies are not enough. “I understand that there are a lot of question marks right now for the industry on how this will unfold, but I don’t feel like there’s a truly customer-friendly policy out here,” said Amanda Elman-Kolb of Chicago, who has put on hold plans for a family trip to Europe in August. Declining demand to fly abroad is not limited to U.S. travelers. International travel to the United States will fall 6% over the next three months amid coronavirus concerns, the largest decline since the 2007-2008 financial crisis, the U.S. Travel Association forecast on Tuesday.

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And then came cratering demand due to the virus… Putin’s said he’s fine with $40 oil. Few others are.

Market Mayhem Exposes Fears About Oil Companies (CNN)

Oil prices have plunged into yet another bear market in response to demand destruction caused by flight cancellations, factory shutdowns and slowdowns in passenger traffic. Natural gas is sitting near a four-year low. The commodities crash will intensify the financial stress facing oil and gas companies that have piled on debt to capitalize on the shale boom. Energy stocks, already the biggest losers of last decade, are getting crushed. ExxonMobil and Chevron, two giants built to withstand weak oil, have plunged more than 20% apiece this year. “It’s making an already bad situation worse,” said Spencer Cutter, credit analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. The pain is more acute among independent exploration and production companies, some of which are highly leveraged.

Marathon Oil, Devon Energy and Noble Energy have all seen a third of their market values vanish this year. The turmoil has formed deep cracks in the junk bond market. Alarmingly, the gap between high-yield energy debt and ultra-safe government bonds has blown out to levels unseen since 2016, when oil prices crashed to $26 a barrel. The junk ratings for these energy companies aren’t new — only concerns about their financial health are. Cutter found that about one-third of the junk bonds in the Bloomberg/Barclays high-yield energy index are trading at distressed levels (roughly 10 percentage points above benchmark Treasuries, compared with just one percentage point for companies with strong credit ratings). That includes the bonds of companies including Chesapeake Energy, Whiting Petroleum, California Resources and Range Resources.

At those levels, highly leveraged oil and gas producers have effectively been locked out of the junk bond market. To raise cash, they will have to slash costs, sell assets, accept harsh borrowing terms from a hedge fund or seek a financial lifeline through a merger. Some debt-riddled oil companies won’t survive at all. “You could see a wave of bankruptcies,” said Cutter, the Bloomberg Intelligence analyst. The bill is coming due on a mountain of debt in the coming years. North American exploration and production companies have roughly $86 billion of debt maturing by 2024, according Moody’s Investors Services. More than half of those maturities, 62%, are in junk bonds.

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“After decades of pursuing balanced development nationwide, China now aims to concentrate resources on the best-performing provincial and municipal economies rather than pumping money into poor areas to help them catch up..”

China’s Funding Breakdown Emphasises Economic Imbalances (SCMP)

Cash from China’s financial system flowed mainly to the affluent Pearl River and Yangtze River Deltas in 2019, while funding for hard hit rust-belt provinces dried up, according to new figures published by its central bank. The figures offered fresh evidence of an increasing unequal financial landscape in the world’s second biggest economy. Rich areas continue to absorb more funds and talent to become richer, while poor areas lag behind. This imbalance presents a significant challenge for Beijing, as it attempts to navigate the wider issues that come with slowing economic growth.

Guangdong, the economic powerhouse adjoining Hong Kong, topped the list of provincial funding compiled by the People’s Bank of China, receiving 2.92 trillion yuan (US$417 billion) in the form of bank loans, bond issuance, and trust investments. This was 11.4 per cent of the national total. Guangdong accounts for 8.1 per cent of China’s population and 10.9 per cent of economic output. In second place was Jiangsu, China’s second largest provincial economy, which received 2.41 trillion yuan, followed by Zhejiang, another economic heavyweight, on 2.22 trillion. China’s capital of Beijing was the only northern region to feature high up in the rankings, absorbing 1.46 trillion yuan in financial flows. Hubei, meanwhile, the epicentre of the coronavirus, was in 10th position, with funding of 873.4 billion yuan (US$125 billion) last year.

Funding from China’s banking system, the bond market and even the shadow banking network is often key to regional economic growth. China’s southwesterly Yunnan province, for example, registered a nationwide high 8.1 per cent in gross domestic product growth. Over the same period, its fundraising rose by 43.5 per cent year-on-year to 492.6 billion yuan. [..] The disparity is also a product of a shift in policy by the Politburo, the 25-member decision-making body headed by President Xi Jinping, taken last summer. After decades of pursuing balanced development nationwide, China now aims to concentrate resources on the best-performing provincial and municipal economies rather than pumping money into poor areas to help them catch up.

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Is this a veiled attack on WikiLeaks?

CIA Has Been Attacking Multiple Chinese Bodies For 11 Years (PDaily)

A hacking group affiliated with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been attacking multiple Chinese bodies for 11 years, a new report found. According to the report by Chinese tech giant 360 Security Technology released on Tuesday, the attack by the group, coded by 360 Security as APT-C-39, has conducted a series of attacks against China’s aviation industry, scientific research institutions, petroleum industry, large-scale internet companies, and government bodies for more than a decade. The report analyzed “Vault7,” a trove of documents on cyber weapons disclosed by WikiLeaks in 2017. The report said that the group started launching advanced persistent threat (APT) attacks against China as early as September 2008 and they mainly targeted provincial regions like Beijing, Guangdong, and Zhejiang.


The Chinese tech giant was able to make the link thanks to Joshua Adam Schulte, a former CIA employee who played a core role in developing many of the CIA’s hacking tools and cyberspace weapons and participated in the development of Vault 7. Schulte provided evidence to 360 Security Technology and the trove of documents, the authenticity of which was confirmed by US prosecutors, became key to confirming that APT-C-39 was affiliated with the CIA, the Global Times reported, It has been proven repeatedly that the United States has been conducting large-scale, organized, and indiscriminate cyber theft and surveillance activities against foreign governments, businesses, and individuals, China’s defense ministry spokesperson said at a press conference on Friday.

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“..she will not be able claim the privilege against self-incrimination on the original alleged offenses since the statute of limitations has passed.”

Court: Clinton Must Testify On Email Scandal (Turley)

In a remarkable turnaround, Hillary Clinton will have to testify after all on the email scandal. Clinton has never been subject to true examination on the issue under oath. Instead, she was allowed to meet with investigators shortly before being cleared during the Obama Administration. D.C. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth ruled that her prior answers were insufficient and cursory. One interesting twist is that she will not be able claim the privilege against self-incrimination on the original alleged offenses since the statute of limitations has passed. While she would have been unlikely to do so, she would have evoked on a crime that could be prosecuted.

Ironically, it will be the Trump Administration that will have to defend her in opposing such demands since they are handling the litigation as it relates to her prior public service as Secretary of State. This surprising order follows the disclosure by watchdog group Judicial Watch last December that the FBI released “approximately thirty previously undisclosed Clinton emails.” Judicial Watch has argued that the State Department “failed to fully explain” where they came from. Lamberth decided that Clinton has not answered the troubling questions related to her email system:

“As extensive as the existing record is, it does not sufficiently explain Secretary Clinton’s state of mind when she decided it would be an acceptable practice to set up and use a private server to conduct State Department business. The court believes those responses were either incomplete, unhelpful, or cursory at best. Simply put, her responses left many more questions than answers.” While I expect that Clinton will have a lot of “I do not recall” answers given the passage of time, such examinations come at a risk of false statements under oath. Moreover, Judicial Watch can refresh her money with documents.

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“..Hillary Clinton could potentially fight a ruling that she must sit for a sworn deposition before a federal judge, but she would have to ask Attorney General William Barr for help..”

Napolitano: Hillary Clinton Faces A Catch-22 Over Private Email Server (Fox)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could potentially fight a ruling that she must sit for a sworn deposition before a federal judge, but she would have to ask Attorney General William Barr for help, Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano explained Tuesday. In an interview on “Fox & Friends,” Napolitano said that the former presidential candidate would have to ask Barr to file an appeal on her behalf because the Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyers would be representing her in the matter. [..] “Judicial Watch has been trying to get copies of these documents [under The Freedom of Information Act]. When they looked at the documents, some of which have been prepared by Mrs. Clinton, you heard what the judge said: the answers were deceptive, misleading, and generated more questions than they answered.


Therefore, he ordered her to be deposed.” “She has never been deposed under oath on this,” he continued. “She was interrogated, but not under oath, in a secret interrogation by the FBI three days before they exonerated her.” Additionally, he noted, this deposition will also be videotaped. “She can’t plead the fifth, right?” asked host Ainsley Earhardt. “She can’t plead the fifth because the statute of limitations to prosecute her for failure to safeguard state secrets has come and gone. She can’t be prosecuted for that,” he replied. “She could be prosecuted if she lies under oath in this deposition. She is represented in the deposition by lawyers form the Justice Department.” “The same Justice Department that would prosecute her if she lies under oath,” he added.

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Very true. No authenticity left in the DNC.

The Establishment Struggles With The “Nightmare” Of Authenticity (Turley)

Heading into Super Tuesday, the media appears at its collective wit’s end. After the victory of Joe Biden in South Carolina, many attempted to portray a new day until the they faced polls in the morning showing Bernie Sanders again surging in states from California to Texas to even Massachusetts (where Elizabeth Warren is struggling to win her own state). Described as the “nightmare scenario,” the media and political establishment in Washington is back to clutching its pearls and speaking of a convention strategy to block Sanders, including Warren whose campaign calls such a move the “final play.”

The continuing support win for Bernie Sanders has sent the D.C. political and media establishment into vapors. On the eve of Super Tuesday, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke all lined up to endorse Joe Biden to try to stop the momentum for Sanders. Others are growing more and more shrill. Democratic strategist James Carville proclaimed the winner to be Valdimir Putin. His point was that both Sanders and Trump continue surging despite unrelenting attacks in the media. The fact is that many in Washington still cannot compute why so many voters will not listen to them about Sanders and Trump. The reason is that they are valued for the one thing that the establishment cannot offer: authenticity.

[..] Authenticity is a word rarely applied to Trump, but it remains his greatest selling point outside Washington. While rarely acknowledged, Trump has fulfilled many of his campaign promises with his push on immigration, the wall, taxes, Jerusalem, renegotiating NAFTA, dropping the Iran deal, rolling back regulations, opening areas like the artic to drilling, finishing the Keystone pipeline, gutting Obamacare and other promises. More importantly, he does not try to pretend what he is not: honest or moral. He openly talks about delivering wealth and having people vote their pocketbooks. He is the ultimate car salesman who you don’t trust but still want to get a good deal from.

Bernie Sanders is genuinely authentic. Indeed, Sanders seems immune from changes from clothing or political styles. There was never a popular time to be socialist but Sanders never budged. To the contrary, he praised Castro and spent his birthday in the Soviet Union during the cold war. He changes his positions at the speed of tectonic plate shifts. That is why you can hate socialism but love Sanders because you know (like Trump) exactly what you are getting. Elizabeth Warren in comparison was known as a pro-corporate, anti-consumer academic for much of her career before being a champion of the downtrodden.

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Russia comments from the sidelines for now. Why would it help Europe when the MH17 “trial” is to start next week?

Russia Says Turkey Does Not Meet Terms Of Pact In Syria’s Idlib (R.)

Russia accused Turkey on Wednesday of failing to meet its obligations under a pact to create a demilitarised zone in Syria’s Idlib province and of helping militants instead. The RIA news agency quoted a Russian defense ministry spokesman as saying “terrorist” fortifications had merged with Turkish outposts in Idlib, resulting in daily attacks on Russia’s Hmeimim air base in Syria. Turkey had amassed troop numbers in Idlib equal to a mechanised division, violating international law, the Russian spokesman said. The Russian accusation came on the eve of a Thursday meeting in Moscow between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. They are expected to try to de-escalate tensions that have brought Turkey and Russia dangerously close to direct military confrontation.

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No link to Idlib. Just human pawns.

Russia Says Turkey Trying To Push 130,000 Refugees From Syria Into Greece (R.)

Russia on Tuesday said that Turkey was trying to push 130,000 refugees from Syria into Greece, the Interfax news agency cited the Defense Ministry as saying. The two thirds of these refugees – that Turkey is pushing from temporary camps in Syria – are Afghans, Iraqis and Africans, not Syrians, it added.

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In case you didn’t get yet that in Brussels it’s all exclusively about money.

EU Pledges €700 Million To Help Greece Fight Migrant Influx From Turkey (F24)

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU would provide Greece with “all the support needed” as it struggles with an influx of migrants allowed to cross from neighbouring Turkey after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that “millions” of migrants would soon head for Europe. EU chiefs on Tuesday pledged millions of euros of financial assistance to Greece to help tackle the migration surge from neighbouring Turkey, warning against those wishing to “test Europe’s unity”. Flying by helicopter over the Greek-Turkish border, where thousands of desperate asylum-seekers have tried to break through for days, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc would provide Greece “all the support needed”.

“Those who seek to test Europe’s unity will be disappointed,” von der Leyen said, standing alongside Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the chiefs of the European Council and European Parliament. “We will hold the line and our unity will prevail.” The European Commission president said the bloc would provide 700 million euros ($777 million), half of it immediately, to help manage the migrant situation. In addition, the EU border agency Frontex will deploy a rapid intervention team including an additional 100 guards backed by coastal patrol vessels, helicopters and vehicles, she said. “Our first priority is making sure that order is maintained at the Greek external border, which is also the European border,” von der Leyen told journalists.

“I am fully committed to mobilising all the necessary operational support to the Greek authorities,” she said, adding that Greece was acting as a “shield” for Europe.

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Hopeless?!

Planet Plastic (Rolling Stone)

More than half the plastic now on Earth has been created since 2002, and plastic pollution is on pace to double by 2030. At its root, the global plastics crisis is a product of our addiction to fossil fuels. The private profit and public harm of the oil industry is well understood: Oil is refined and distributed to consumers, who benefit from gasoline’s short, useful lifespan in a combustion engine, leaving behind atmospheric pollution for generations. But this same pattern — and this same tragedy of the commons — is playing out with another gift of the oil-and-gas giants, whose drilling draws up the petroleum precursors for plastics. These are refined in industrial complexes and manufactured into bottles, bags, containers, textiles, and toys for consumers who benefit from their transient use — before throwing them away.

“Plastics are just a way of making things out of fossil fuels,” says Jim Puckett, executive director of the Basel Action Network. BAN is devoted to enforcement of the Basel Convention, an international treaty that blocks the developed world from dumping hazardous wastes on the developing world, and was recently expanded, effective next year, to include plastics. For Americans who religiously sort their recycling, it’s upsetting to hear about plastic being lumped in with toxic waste. But the poisonous parallel is apt. When it comes to plastic, recycling is a misnomer. “They really sold people on the idea that plastics can be recycled because there’s a fraction of them that are,” says Puckett. “It’s fraudulent. When you drill down into plastics recycling, you realize it’s a myth.”

Since 1950, the world has created 6.3 trillion kilograms of plastic waste — and 91 percent has never been recycled even once, according to a landmark 2017 study published in the journal Science Advances. Unlike aluminum, which can be recycled again and again, plastic degrades in reprocessing, and is almost never recycled more than once. A plastic soda bottle, for example, might get downcycled into a carpet. Modern technology has hardly improved things: Of the 78 billion kilograms of plastic packaging materials produced in 2013, only 14 percent were even collected for recycling, and just two percent were effectively recycled to compete with virgin plastic. “Recycling delays, rather than avoids, final disposal,” the Science authors write. And most plastics persist for centuries.

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Feb 282020
 


Lewis Wickes Hine Gus Hodges, 11, instructs brother Julius 5. I found Gus selling as late as 9 pm, Norfolk VA 1911

 

England Only Has 15 Beds For Worst Respiratory Cases (G.)
Diagnosis Of Coronavirus Patient In California Was Delayed For Days (NPR)
The Last Time This Happened Was Days Before The Great Depression (ZH)
Whistleblower Claims ‘Corrupt Cover-Up’ Of Dangerous Coronavirus Quarantines (ZH)
Greece Reports 4 Coronavirus Cases, Cancels Carnival (K.)
Abe Urges Japan March School Shutdown To Stem Coronavirus (R.)
EU Experts: Closing Borders ‘Ineffective’ For Coronavirus (EUO)
Turkey Says Can’t Contain Europe-Bound Syrian Refugees Amid Idlib Battle (RT)
Idlib Attack That Killed 33 Turkish Soldiers Was ‘Also Against NATO’ (RT)
East Africa Faces New Locust Threat (R.)
Not Quack-Checked! MSM Dives For ‘Chinese Duck Army’ Story (RT)
How Gold Is Manipulated (Rickards)
Biden Treated Ukraine ‘As His Private Property’ – Ex-Prosecutor Shokin (RT)
Ethics Complaint Questions How Devin Nunes Pays For Lawsuits (Hill)
UK Mainstream Media Participate In Assange Crucifixion (Galloway)
Julian Assange Leaked US Files For Political Ends – Lawyers (G.)
Your Man in the Public Gallery – The Assange Hearing Day 3 (Craig Murray)

 

Cases 83,733 (+ 1,314 from yesterday’s 82,419).

Deaths 2,860 (+ 52 from yesterday’s 2,808)

 

• Holland (2), N-Ireland, New Zealand, Nigeria(!!), Lithuania first case
• Italy 653 cases, 17 deaths
• France 38 cases from 18 yesterday
• Germany 14 new cases, total 48
• Iran 245 confirmed cases, 26 deaths
• South Korea 256 new cases, total 2,337, over 1,000 new cases in 48 hours.
• China 327 new cases and 44 new deaths
– 180 million students homeschooled
• California 28 cases, monitoring 8400
• Greece 4 cases
• Starbucks says 85% of Chinese restaurants reopened
• Countries (Japan, UK) prepare to close down schools for months on end

From SCMP:

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I said yesterday: Coming to a town near you soon.

England Only Has 15 Beds For Worst Respiratory Cases (G.)

England only has 15 available beds for adults to treat the most severe respiratory failure and will struggle to cope if there are more than 28 patients who need them if the number of coronavirus cases rises, according to the government and NHS documents. Ministers have revealed in parliamentary answers that there are 15 available beds for adult extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) treatment at five centres across England. The government said this could be increased in an emergency. There were 30 such beds in total available during the 2018-19 winter flu season. But an NHS England document prepared in November 2017 reveals the system will struggle to cope if more than 28 patients need the treatment, describing that situation as black/critical.

It suggests that if no beds are available “within the designated and surge capacity” in the UK, they might have to be sourced from other countries, for example, from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. ECMO treatment is used in only the most severe cases of respiratory failure when other treatments are not working. It uses an artificial lung located outside the body to put oxygen into a patient’s blood and continuously pump this blood into and around their body. It has been used to treat Covid-19 cases in China, which is ordering more machines from Germany, according to state media.

In answer to a Labour MP’s question on Thursday about coronavirus preparedness, Jo Churchill, a health minister, said: “Since April 2013, NHS England has commissioned a total of 15 adult respiratory extra corporeal membrane oxygenation beds from five providers in England, with further provision in Scotland. In periods of high demand, capacity can be increased.” Jon Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, questioned the readiness of the NHS to deal with a sharp escalation of coronavirus cases after years of cutbacks. “After years of Tory austerity, we know we’ve lost well over 15,000 beds since 2010,” he said. “We know that last week critical care bed occupancy was running at over 80%…”

https://twitter.com/TVRav/status/1232985651831812096

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Curious: “..in some labs, the third step of that, they were having trouble with getting a quality control validation on that, so it led to inconclusive results,” Azar said. “We now, as of yesterday afternoon, the FDA authorized the use of those tests by using just the first and second step.”

Diagnosis Of Coronavirus Patient In California Was Delayed For Days (NPR)

The first suspected U.S. case of a patient getting the new coronavirus through “community spread” — with no history of travel to affected areas or exposure to someone known to have the COVID-19 illness — was left undiagnosed for days because a request for testing wasn’t initially granted, according to officials at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, Calif. The patient in Northern California is now the 60th confirmed case of the coronavirus in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disclosed the latest case Wednesday evening, as President Trump assigned Vice President Pence to lead the administration’s response to the disease.

“This case was detected through the U.S. public health system — picked up by astute clinicians,” the CDC said in a brief statement about the new patient. UC Davis included more details about the case in its own statement, drawing on an email sent to staff at its medical center. It said the CDC initially ruled out a test for the coronavirus because the patient’s case didn’t match its criteria. “UC Davis Health does not control the testing process,” the hospital noted. The new patient, who lives in Solano County and has not been identified, was transferred to UC Davis Medical in Sacramento County from another hospital this month.

Staff at UC Davis then suspected the patient might be infected with the coronavirus that has caused more than 2,800 deaths. “Upon admission, our team asked public health officials if this case could be COVID-19,” the hospital said. “We requested COVID-19 testing by the CDC, since neither Sacramento County nor CDPH [California Department of Public Health] is doing testing for coronavirus at this time. Since the patient did not fit the existing CDC criteria for COVID-19, a test was not immediately administered. UC Davis Health does not control the testing process.”

[..] The CDC has completed more than 3,600 coronavirus tests, Azar said during a congressional budget hearing on Thursday. While he said it hasn’t had a testing “backlog,” he added that the agency’s test has three steps — and that the last step has posed some problems. “What we found was that in some labs, the third step of that, they were having trouble with getting a quality control validation on that, so it led to inconclusive results,” Azar said. “We now, as of yesterday afternoon, the FDA authorized the use of those tests by using just the first and second step.”

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The “markets” woke up 5-6 weeks late, but now they’re clued in

The Last Time This Happened Was Days Before The Great Depression (ZH)

The US equity market is suffering its worst start to a year since 2009…

In the space of just six days, we went from record high to a ‘correction’ (over 3,000 Dow points and down over 10.5%)…

What is most ominous is the fact that, as NatAlliance Securities reports, “This would be only the second time in history that this has happened. The other? 1928.”

In other words, the only other time the Dow Jones entered a correction this fast from an all time high was months before the start of the Great Depression.

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“..the coronavirus response [is] officially an election issue now…”

Whistleblower Claims ‘Corrupt Cover-Up’ Of Dangerous Coronavirus Quarantines (ZH)

A complaint filed with Health and Human Services (HHS) and promptly leaked to the New York Times alleges that federal health employees interacted with Americans quarantined for possible coronavirus exposure without proper medical training or protective gear, and that health agency leaders engaged in a ‘corrupt cover-up’ when staff members complained, according to the Times. Filed with the Office of the Special Counsel, a whistleblower described as a ‘senior leader’ at HHS said the team was “improperly deployed” to two California military bases to assist with processing American evacuees from coronavirus hot zones in China and elsewhere.

The staff members were sent to Travis Air Force Base and March Air Reserve Base and were ordered to enter quarantined areas, including a hangar where coronavirus evacuees were being received. They were not provided training in safety protocols until five days later, the person said. Without proper training or equipment, some of the exposed staff members moved freely around and off the bases, with at least one person staying in a nearby hotel and leaving California on a commercial flight. Many were unaware of the need to test their temperature three times a day. -New York Times

[..] The Times notes that the complaint comes right after President Trump began to downplay the risks of coronavirus on US soil “amid bipartisan concern about a sluggish and disjointed response by the administration to an illness that public health officials have said is likely to spread through the United States.” In other words, the coronavirus response officially an election issue now.

“The whistle-blower’s account raised questions about whether the Trump administration has taken adequate precautions in its handling of the virus to date, and whether Mr. Trump’s minimization of the risks has been mirrored by other top officials when confronted with potentially disturbing developments.” -New York Times

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Update just in from Reuters:

“Greek woman who recently returned home from northern Italy became Greece’s fourth coronavirus case and is being closely monitored, health authorities said on Friday. The 36-year-old woman has been admitted to a coronavirus isolation unit of the capital’s Attikon Hospital.”

Greece Reports 4 Coronavirus Cases, Cancels Carnival (K.)

Greece reported two new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to three, and said it would suspend all carnival celebrations in the country. The health ministry said one of the cases involved a relative of a 38-year-old woman in the northern town of Thessaloniki who became the first confirmed case in Greece. The woman had recently returned from Milan in northern Italy, epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe. The third reported case, in Athens, was a female who had also visited northern Italy. Among events to be canceled is a carnival parade in the coastal city of Patra slated for March 1, authorities said.

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But the Olympics are on. When you close schools, hospitals close too, because that’s where the mothers work.

Abe Urges Japan March School Shutdown To Stem Coronavirus (R.)

Angry Japanese parents joined bewildered teachers and businesses on Friday in a rush to find new ways to live and work for a month after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s shock call for all schools to close in a bid to stop coronavirus spreading. Abe’s unprecedented move late on Thursday to ask local authorities to shut down their schools means students will be out of school from Monday at least until the new academic year starts in early April. Earlier this week the government urged that big gatherings and sports events be scrapped or curtailed for two weeks to contain the virus while pledging that the 2020 Summer Olympics will go ahead in Tokyo.

As of Friday, confirmed cases in Japan topped 200, with four deaths, excluding more than 700 cases and four more deaths from the quarantined cruise liner Diamond Princess. While the virus has hit China hardest so far, causing nearly 80,000 infections and almost 2,800 deaths, according to official Chinese figures, its rapid spread to a number of other countries around in the world in the past week has stoked fresh alarm. Abe’s move – issued as a formal request rather than an order – drew scathing criticism, with health officials left scratching their heads and analysts said the plan was politically motivated and made little sense.

“We’ll just have to get our revenge at the next elections,” @Ayu49Sweetfish tweeted, as working parents with young children were left wondering what to do for the duration. In the northern Hokkaido prefecture, which has seen the largest number of coronavirus cases in Japan, the governor had already announced a closure of all schools until March 4. That left one hospital closing doors to patients without reservations on Friday because about a fifth of its nurses were unable to work while their children were out of school.

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They’ll close their borders to refugees and migrants but not virus carriers. Wonder what happens when Turkey is forced to report corona cases.

EU Experts: Closing Borders ‘Ineffective’ For Coronavirus (EUO)

EU experts said on Thursday (27 February) that refusing entry to an EU country of people with coronavirus symptoms would be counter-productive and “ineffective” to prevent the spread of the virus. “Refusal of entry is not considered an appropriate preventive measure as the virus would spread further” since those potential patients would keep moving in the region without being treated, EU sources said. Instead, the experts advised having “systematic” checks for all those arriving, ensuring a coordinated approach between border guards and national authorities, as well as a real-time exchange of information. The principle of free movement of people in the EU was already in danger in 2015 when some member states introduced border check due to the migration crisis.


Today, six EU countries – Germany, France, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Norway – still have temporary border controls to prevent irregular migrant flows. However, any member state can notify the EU authorities of the intention of closing borders temporary due to the coronavirus outbreak – a decision that can only be made by member states and that cannot be vetoed by the European Commission. None have yet done so. If national authorities decide to introduce this exceptional measure, it must be justified passing a “test of proportionality”. Additionally, the commission is working on a joint procurement to ensure there is enough protective and medical equipment for health-care workers – and other authorities like the army – over fears that the outbreak of the coronavirus could lead to a supply shortage in some member states. However, this joint initiative has not been launched yet but there is an “increasing interest” among member states to be part of it, EU sources told reporters in Brussels.

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Twitter: “Turkish coastguard not patrolling as before. They just approached a boat heading to Northern #Lesbos and then they left without intercepting” a local from Skala village just told me. It seems that #Turkey‘s government meant what they said.”

Turkey Says Can’t Contain Europe-Bound Syrian Refugees Amid Idlib Battle (RT)

Turkey is no longer able to contain millions of displaced Syrians and has reached “full capacity,” Ankara’s ruling AK party said in a fresh threat to open the floodgates into Europe as tensions over Idlib reach boiling point. With Ankara vowing to go “all in” to halt a Syrian Army offensive to retake Idlib province from rebel militias, AKP spokesman Omer Celik suggested Turkey would soon allow hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees to pour into Europe, a threat repeatedly made by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the past. “Turkey can not bear the pressure of the new refugees, we now say that Turkey is at full capacity,” Celik told CNNTurk early on Friday.

While the spokesman noted Turkey’s refugee policy remains “the same,” he said “We are no longer in a position to hold refugees” amid an expected influx of newly displaced Syrians. An earlier report at Reuters cited an unnamed Turkish official who said much the same, although the official went further in stating that police, coast guard and border security officers had been ordered to “stand down” and allow the refugees to cross into Europe. Turkey and the European Union (EU) struck an agreement in 2016 in hopes of stemming the flow of refugees passing into Europe, with the EU providing some €6 billion ($6.6 billion) to help resettle the displaced people.

Erdogan, however, has slammed the multinational body time and again, insisting it has yet to hand over all of the promised aid. With at least 33 Turkish troops killed in the effort to stop Damascus’ offensive on Idlib – the last remaining militant stronghold, some of which are backed by Ankara – tensions between the two countries have reached new heights. Still engaged in intense skirmishes with militants in Idlib, the Syrian Army has signaled no intention of halting its advance, putting Damascus and Ankara on a collision course as the former fights to reclaim its territory.

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Western media are reluctant to mention Russia, they want the blame to be on Assad. Russia has said that Turkey is supporting terrorists in Syria.

Idlib Attack That Killed 33 Turkish Soldiers Was ‘Also Against NATO’ (RT)

The spokesman for Turkey’s ruling AK party has labelled the Syrian airstrike that allegedly claimed the lives of dozens of Turkish soldiers in rebel-held Idlib an attack on NATO, calling for the US-led alliance to intervene. “We call on NATO to [start] consultations. This is not [an attack] on Turkey only, it is an attack on the international community. A common reaction is needed. The attack was also against NATO,” AKP spokesman Omer Celik told Turkish media on Thursday. At least 33 Turkish soldiers are said to have been killed in Idlib, the last militant stronghold in Syria, in an airstrike Ankara blamed on Damascus. In the wake of initial reports that dozens of Turkish servicemen perished in the raid, Turkish President Receep Erdogan held a 6-hour marathon meeting that concluded early Friday.


The military bloc itself, while pledging support to its “ally Turkey,” has been wary of making any promises. Apparently shocked by reports of the Turkish casualties, US envoy to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchinson reportedly exclaimed “Oh my gosh” in response to the news when speaking to media late Thursday, but dodged the question of whether the US-led alliance would consider invoking Article 5 – which would pave the way for a collective military response to an armed attack on one of its members. However, she did not miss out on a chance to call on Turkey to tear up its deal to buy the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system, while also taking a jab at Moscow: “They see what Russia is, they see what they are doing now” – despite the fact that Ankara has not blamed Moscow for the attack.

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And Pakistan. Now add a coronavirus outbreak.

East Africa Faces New Locust Threat (R.)

Countries in East Africa are racing against time to prevent new swarms of locusts wreaking havoc with crops and livelihoods after the worst infestation in generations. A lack of expertise in controlling the pests is not their only problem: Kenya temporarily ran out of pesticides, Ethiopia needs more planes and Somalia and Yemen, torn by civil war, can’t guarantee exterminators’ safety. Locust swarms have been recorded in the region since biblical times, but unusual weather patterns exacerbated by climate change have created ideal conditions for insect numbers to surge, scientists say. Warmer seas are creating more rain, wakening dormant eggs, and cyclones that disperse the swarms are getting stronger and more frequent.


In Ethiopia the locusts have reached the fertile Rift Valley farmland and stripped grazing grounds in Kenya and Somalia. Swarms can travel up to 150 km (93 miles) a day and contain between 40-80 million locusts per square kilometer. If left unchecked, the number of locusts in East Africa could explode 400-fold by June. That would devastate harvests in a region with more than 19 million hungry people, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned. Uganda has deployed the military. Kenya has trained hundreds of youth cadets to spray. Lacking pesticides, some security forces in Somalia have shot anti-aircraft guns at swarms darkening the skies. Everyone is racing the rains expected in March: the next generation of larvae is already wriggling from the ground, just as farmers plant their seeds.

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Popular story though.

Not Quack-Checked! MSM Dives For ‘Chinese Duck Army’ Story (RT)

Western media have fallen hard for an apparently fake if adorable story about a 100,000-strong “duck army” China has supposedly marched to fight the billions of locusts currently laying waste to Pakistan’s food supply. Initially published by local Chinese outlet Ningbo Evening News, the clickbait-tastic story, complete with a video showing a herd of ducks supposedly marching in formation, proved impossible to resist – or to factcheck – and spread around the world by the time people started asking questions. Supposedly reputable outlets including the BBC, Bloomberg, and Time unquestioningly parroted the story about “special Chinese ducks” that would be “more effective than pesticide” – not to mention better for the environment – in taking on the ravenous swarms.

Citing Lu Lizhi, said to be a senior researcher with the Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, the stories called the ducks a “biological weapon” and predicted they’d be unleashed against the hungry insects “as early as the second half of this year” following a test-run in China’s Xinjiang province. Alas, the story of locust-eating ducks fighting the devastating biblical plague has proved to be largely quackery, media that had covered it began realizing on Thursday. Unfortunately for Pakistan, which declared a national emergency earlier this month over the devastating infestation, an avian army is not waddling to their rescue, and even if they were, they wouldn’t do much good.

The Food and Agriculture Organization did the math and found an army of 100,000 ducks could only eat 20 million locusts in a day, while just one square kilometer of swarming locusts contains anywhere from 40 to 80 million of the insects. Also, swarms may stretch over hundreds of square kilometers, as they have in some locust-stricken areas of Africa.

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Markets are falling off a cliff, and gold hardly moves. That’s what manipulation looks like.

How Gold Is Manipulated (Rickards)

Currently the price of gold is set in two places. One is the London spot market, controlled by six big banks including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan. The other is the New York gold futures market controlled by COMEX, which is governed by its big clearing members, also including major western banks. In effect, the big western banks have a monopoly on gold prices even if they do not have a monopoly on physical gold. The easiest way to perform paper manipulation is through COMEX futures. Rigging futures markets is child’s play. You just wait until a little bit before the close and put in a massive sell order. By doing this you scare the other side of the market into lowering their bid price; they back away.

That lower price then gets trumpeted around the world as the “price” of gold, discouraging investors and hurting sentiment. The price decline spooks hedge funds into dumping more gold as they hit “stop-loss” limits on their positions. A self-fulfilling momentum is established where selling begets more selling and the price spirals down for no particular reason except that someone wanted it that way. Eventually a bottom is established and buyers step in, but by then the damage is done. Futures have a huge amount of leverage that can easily reach 20 to 1. For $10 million of cash margin, I can sell $200 million of paper gold.

[..] Another way to manipulate the price is through gold leasing and “unallocated forwards.” “Unallocated” is one of those buzzwords in the gold market. When most large gold buyers want to buy physical gold, they’ll call JPMorgan Chase, HSBC, Citibank, or one of the large gold dealers. They’ll put in an order for, say, $5 million worth of gold. The bank will say fine, send us your money for the gold and we’ll offer you a written contract in a standard form. Yet if you read the contract, it says you own gold on an “unallocated” basis. That means you don’t have designated bars.

There’s no group of gold bars that have your name on them or specific gold bar serial numbers that are registered to you. In practice, unallocated gold allows the bank to sell the same physical gold ten times over to ten different buyers. It’s no different from any other kind of fractional reserve banking. Banks never have as much cash on hand as they do deposits. Every depositor in a bank thinks he can walk in and get cash whenever he wants, but every banker knows the bank doesn’t have that much cash. The bank puts the money out on loan or buys securities; banks are highly leveraged institutions.

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How long can Biden keep this documentary under wraps?

Biden Treated Ukraine ‘As His Private Property’ – Ex-Prosecutor Shokin (RT)

Former top Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin says he was pushed out under pressure from US Vice President Joe Biden, after he seized the assets of the oligarch behind Burisma, the gas company that employed Biden’s son. President Donald Trump’s efforts to investigate Biden’s role in getting Shokin fired served as a pretext for his impeachment in the House of Representatives back in December. However, after Trump was acquitted by the Senate, the US media forgot about Burisma — and Ukraine. French investigative journalist Olivier Berruyer, founder of popular anti-corruption and economics blog Les Crises, did not.

In the fourth installment of his documentary series ‘UkraineGate: Inconvenient facts,’ Shokin reveals why and how he was ousted and what role the US has played in Ukraine. Shokin tells Berruyer that Biden and the US government had approved his appointment as prosecutor-general — as, indeed, they did all major appointments in Ukraine since the 2014 Maidan upheaval? — and worked with him well until he started getting too close to Burisma. He rejected reports that described his probe as “dormant.” “Biden was acting on behalf of his own interests, and those of his family, and not in the interest of the American people,” Shokin said, adding that Barack Obama’s VP “believed that Ukraine was his private property, his fiefdom and that he could do whatever he wanted here.”

Within a few days of Shokin seizing the assets of Mykola Zlochevsky, the oligarch owner of Burisma, President Petro Poroshenko summoned him and told him to back off. “Don’t you understand what Biden wants from you? Why are you getting into this Burisma stuff again?” Shokin quoted Poroshenko as saying. Within a few weeks, he was replaced by someone Biden called “more solid” – Yuriy Lutsenko, who had no training in law, and whom Shokin describes as a traitor to Ukraine.

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Absolutely non-partisan.

Ethics Complaint Questions How Devin Nunes Pays For Lawsuits (Hill)

A nonpartisan watchdog group in an ethics complaint Wednesday asked Congress to investigate how Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is paying for several ongoing lawsuits against critics. In its complaint to the Office of Congressional Ethics, the Campaign Legal Center notes Nunes’s annual congressional salary of $174,000 would likely not cover the costs of the various suits, indicating that he is either receiving free or discounted legal services or working on contingency with an attorney, all of which would require him to disclose the assistance. Nunes has yet to file a legal expense fund with the Office of Congressional Ethics. “Representative Nunes’s overt involvement with the highly-publicized lawsuits threatens to establish a precedent that the Legal Expense Fund regulations no longer apply to Members,” the complaint states. “Although Representative Nunes is entitled to legal representation and he may pursue any legal action to protect and defend his interests, he must comply with House rules,” it continued.


“An [Office of Congressional Ethics] investigation will preserve Representative Nunes’s legal right to counsel while upholding well-established House rules and precedent.” Defendants in Nunes’s lawsuits include Twitter, CNN, McClatchy and two anonymous Twitter accounts that have mocked him. The complaint also claims that even if Nunes was paying Virginia attorney Steven Biss based on contingency — meaning that should Nunes win his cases, Biss would get paid by taking a percentage the resulting award — Biss has also sent two letters demanding apologies for criticisms from Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Nunes’s 2017 opponent Andrew Janz. “Mr. Biss sent a letter to Representative Lieu threatening to bring an ethics complaint against him,” the complaint reads. “An ethics complaint will not result in a monetary award that could support payment under a contingency fee agreement.”

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“..the arrow that flies in the night..”

UK Mainstream Media Participate In Assange Crucifixion (Galloway)

The vast majority of the Fourth Estate in Britain either care nothing for the plight of Julian Assange, or are actively participating in his crucifixion. On the face of it, that makes no sense. If it were the intention of these journalists to actually be worthy of that name, then the proceedings in Belmarsh would be the biggest story in their world. The law being tested in the Woolwich Crown Fort would be a mortal danger to them, a dagger at their throat, a sword of Damocles hanging over their head. The prosecution made perfectly clear that the mere possession by a newspaper or a broadcaster of the foreign state secrets published by Assange would itself be a crime under the US Espionage Act, and thus they themselves open to an extradition request from a foreign state.


Though this statement was made in “open court,” virtually no msm journalist even reported it, never mind condemned it. How has this situation come about? Whatever happened to Woodward and Bernstein, to the Sunday Times devastating campaign against the Thalidomide scandal, the New York Times revelations of the Pentagon Papers? Where is the reporting about My Lai? The answer lies in the words of Francis Bacon four centuries ago, when he foretold of the impact of self-censorship: “the arrow that flies in the night” he called it. You don’t see it but it kills its quarry just the same. If Julian Assange is sent into the dungeons of America, free journalism, free speech and even democracy itself will have been murdered in plain sight. On the British mainstream media watch.

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“Fitzgerald responded that Assange didn’t only seek to change US government policy, but that he succeeded.”

Julian Assange Leaked US Files For Political Ends – Lawyers (G.)

Julian Assange’s legal team has rejected a suggestion by lawyers for US authorities that his actions were not “political offences”, arguing that the WikiLeaks founder had published classified documents to highlight human rights abuses. On the fourth day of Assange’s extradition hearing in London, before proceedings were adjourned until May, his barrister, Edward Fitzgerald QC, said the motives for publishing confidential information about Guantánamo Bay and the actions of the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan were political. Assange faces 18 charges in the US of attempted hacking and breaches of the Espionage Act over the publication of classified US cables a decade ago.

His defence argues that he should be protected from extradition because the US-UK treaty rules it out for political offences. James Lewis QC, a barrister for the US authorities, argued earlier on Thursday that Assange’s actions were not inherently political as they did not have the direct purpose of overthrowing the US government or changing US government policy. “Any bare assertion that WikiLeaks was engaged in a struggle with the US government … needs to be examined far more,” he told Woolwich crown court. Fitzgerald responded that Assange didn’t only seek to change US government policy, but that he succeeded. “WikiLeaks didn’t just seek to induce change, it did induce change,” he said, referring to the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

“What other purpose can there be publishing the Apache helicopter strike [video, showing the killing of 12 people] and [US] rules of engagement than to show that the war was being waged in a way that conflicted with fundamental human rights? “What other point can there be to releasing the Guantánamo Bay files than to induce a government change of policy? And the same for revealing civilian deaths in the Iraq war – [it] was to induce a change in government policy.’’

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Murray in court.

Your Man in the Public Gallery – The Assange Hearing Day 3 (Craig Murray)

Edward Fitzgerald made a formal application for Julian to be allowed to sit beside his lawyers in the court. Julian was “a gentle, intellectual man” and not a terrorist. Baraitser replied that releasing Assange from the dock into the body of the court would mean he was released from custody. To achieve that would require an application for bail. Again, the prosecution counsel James Lewis intervened on the side of the defence to try to make Julian’s treatment less extreme. He was not, he suggested diffidently, quite sure that it was correct that it required bail for Julian to be in the body of the court, or that being in the body of the court accompanied by security officers meant that a prisoner was no longer in custody.

Prisoners, even the most dangerous of terrorists, gave evidence from the witness box in the body of the court nest to the lawyers and magistrate. In the High Court prisoners frequently sat with their lawyers in extradition hearings, in extreme cases of violent criminals handcuffed to a security officer. Baraitser replied that Assange might pose a danger to the public. It was a question of health and safety. How did Fitzgerald and Lewis think that she had the ability to carry out the necessary risk assessment? It would have to be up to Group 4 to decide if this was possible. Yes, she really did say that. Group 4 would have to decide.

Baraitser started to throw out jargon like a Dalek when it spins out of control. “Risk assessment” and “health and safety” featured a lot. She started to resemble something worse than a Dalek, a particularly stupid local government officer of a very low grade. “No jurisdiction” – “Up to Group 4”. Recovering slightly, she stated firmly that delivery to custody can only mean delivery to the dock of the court, nowhere else in the room. If the defence wanted him in the courtroom where he could hear proceedings better, they could only apply for bail and his release from custody in general. She then peered at both barristers in the hope this would have sat them down, but both were still on their feet.

In his diffident manner (which I confess is growing on me) Lewis said “the prosecution is neutral on this request, of course but, err, I really don’t think that’s right”. He looked at her like a kindly uncle whose favourite niece has just started drinking tequila from the bottle at a family party. Baraitser concluded the matter by stating that the Defence should submit written arguments by 10am tomorrow on this point, and she would then hold a separate hearing into the question of Julian’s position in the court.

Read more …

 

From Greece.

 

 

 

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Dec 062019
 
 December 6, 2019  Posted by at 10:16 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Arthur Rothstein President Roosevelt tours drought area, near Bismarck, North Dakota Aug 1936

 

Mueller Report’s Resurgence Gives Democrats New Dilemma On Impeachment (CNN)
Democrats Offering Passion Over Proof In Trump Impeachment (Turley)
Pelosi Pursues Articles Of Impeachment Against Trump (R.)
Ukraine Fires Prosecutor Investigating Burisma And Hunter Biden (CDMedia)
Fed Goes Hog-Wild with T-Bills, But Repos Drop and MBS Shrink by $22 Bn (WS)
Filmmakers Sue To Shield Visitors To US From Social Media Vetting (IC)
French Strike Against Macron Reforms Enters Day Two (R.)
UK’s Labour Accuses BBC Of Bias In Election Coverage (R.)
Andrew Neil Tells Johnson “It’s Not Too Late” For Election Interview (BBC)
Leak Confirms Turkey’s “Gold-For-Gas” Scheme To Evade US Sanctions On Iran (ZH)
BPA Chemical Levels In Humans Drastically Underestimated (G.)

 

 

There’s a concerted effort to bring back Mueller into the impeachment narrative. I’m not entirely sure why the Dems would want that. A little video with the article suggests Trump would have lied to Mueller -in writing- about contacts with WikiLeaks. You know, Julian Assange, the man who can’t defend himself. The same reason why Mueller could leave him in the report. Along with the 13 Russians. Pelosi can swing from Ukraine back to RussiaRussia. She already did, actually.

So will they bring back Mueller’s bumbling testimony as well? Be careful what you wish for.

Mueller Report’s Resurgence Gives Democrats New Dilemma On Impeachment (CNN)

Democrats are debating a risky step that may immeasurably bolster their impeachment case but could multiply the political price for ramming it home. Including elements of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report suggesting President Donald Trump was guilty of obstruction would help arguments he did exactly the same in the Ukraine investigation. But reviving the controversy over the special counsel’s probe could blur the much clearer current abuse of power case and play into Trump’s claims that both Washington intrigues are all part of the same “hoax.” Such an accusation would not be based in fact, but it would surely increase the exposure of swing state Democratic House members already facing an existential vote over impeachment. [..]

Democrats provoked fresh speculation that they were moving towards admitting some Mueller evidence by scheduling a Judiciary Committee hearing for Monday with staffers from two committees: Intelligence, which investigated the Ukraine scandal, and Judiciary, which dealt with allegations of obstruction in the Mueller report. This followed comments by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, that could be taken as a hint that Democrats were examining the Mueller option. “President Trump welcomed foreign interference in the 2016 election. He demanded it for the 2020 election,” Nadler said in his committee’s opening impeachment hearing on Wednesday. “In both cases, he got caught. And in both cases, he did everything in his power to prevent the American people from learning the truth about his conduct.”

But in a situation as emotionally and politically fraught as an impeachment, confronting each action can provoke a politically damaging counter-reaction. Democrats who wanted to initiate impeachment proceedings against Trump after the release of the Mueller report failed to convince a critical mass of their own leadership that the case was sufficiently clear to the American people. That was one reason why Pelosi held out so long against rising pressure in her own caucus for an effort to oust the President, amid fears of a political backlash. In the CNN town hall, the speaker suggested that the Ukraine case was far more black and white. “It wasn’t so clear to the public,” Pelosi said, referring to Mueller’s findings.

“The Ukraine (situation) has removed all doubt, it was self-evident that the President undermined our national security, jeopardized the integrity of our election as he violated the oath of office.” The President and his supporters, perpetrating a massive disinformation campaign to create uncertainty and ambiguity about the Ukraine case, has been trying to brand it as an extension of the Mueller saga. Folding in the special counsel’s evidence could help do his work for him. For instance, in the first televised House Intelligence Committee hearing last month, the panel’s top Republican, Rep. Devin Nunes, told witnesses: “the main performance — the Russia hoax — has ended, and you’ve been cast in the low-rent Ukrainian sequel.”

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Turley of course is the one expert who disagreed with the three others.

Democrats Offering Passion Over Proof In Trump Impeachment (Turley)

The most dangerous place for an academic is often between the House and the impeachment of an American president. I knew that going into the first hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on the impeachment of Donald Trump. After all, Alexander Hamilton that impeachment would often occur in an environment of “agitated passions.” Yet I remained a tad naive in hoping that an academic discussion on the history and standards of it might offer a brief hiatus from hateful rhetoric on both sides. In my testimony Wednesday, I lamented that, as in the impeachment of President Clinton from 1998 to 1999, there is an intense “rancor and rage” and “stifling intolerance” that blinds people to opposing views.

My call for greater civility and dialogue may have been the least successful argument I made to the committee. Before I finished my testimony, my home and office were inundated with threatening messages and demands that I be fired from George Washington University for arguing that, while a case for impeachment can be made, it has not been made on this record. Some of the most heated attacks came from Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee. [..] As I stated Wednesday, I believe the Clinton case is relevant today and my position remains the same. I do not believe a crime has been proven over the Ukraine controversy, though I said such crimes might be proven with a more thorough investigation. Instead, Democrats have argued that they do not actually have to prove the elements of crimes such as bribery and extortion to use those in drafting articles of impeachment.

In the Clinton impeachment, the crime was clearly established and widely recognized. As I said 21 years ago, a president can still be impeached for abuse of power without a crime, and that includes Trump. But that makes it more important to complete and strengthen the record of such an offense, as well as other possible offenses. I remain concerned that we are lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger. Trump will not be our last president. What we leave in the wake of this scandal will shape our democracy for generations to come. These “agitated passions” will not be a substitute for proof in an impeachment. We currently have too much of the former and too little of the latter.

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More Mueller.

Pelosi Pursues Articles Of Impeachment Against Trump (R.)

Warning that U.S. democracy is at stake, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi directed a congressional committee on Thursday to draft articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, a historic step setting up a fight over whether to oust him from office. In a dramatic televised statement, Pelosi accused the Republican president of abusing his power and alluded to Britain’s King George III, the monarch against whom the American colonies rebelled in forming the United States in 1776, saying that in the United States, “the people are the king.” “Our democracy is what is at stake. The president leaves us no choice but to act because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit. The president has engaged in abuse of power, undermining our national security and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections,” said Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress.

At the heart of the Democratic-led House’s impeachment inquiry is Trump’s request that Ukraine launch an investigation targeting Joe Biden. The former vice president is a top contender for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in the 2020 presidential election. “Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders and our heart full of love for America, today I am asking our chairman to proceed with articles of impeachment,” Pelosi said. She had opened the investigation in September. She was referring to Jerrold Nadler, whose House Judiciary Committee has the responsibility of drawing up the formal charges that would later be voted on by the full House. Two people knowledgeable about the process said the panel could draft and recommend the articles of impeachment to the House as early as Dec. 12.

[..] Judiciary Democrats said the report by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller documenting Russian interference in the 2016 election could be part of testimony they hear on Monday from a committee lawyer, who is presenting evidence along with a Democratic lawyer from the House Intelligence Committee. Republican committee lawyers are also expected to testify. Including material from Mueller’s report in an article of impeachment would demonstrate a pattern of behavior involving foreign interference in U.S. elections, House Judiciary Democrat Pramila Jayapal said.

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Talk about a swamp. Giuliani is talking to Ukraine people. Not sure where that fits in.

Ukraine Fires Prosecutor Investigating Burisma And Hunter Biden (CDMedia)

Ukraine has fired the prosecutor investigating cases involving Hunter Biden and Burisma and has transferred responsibility to the Soros-controlled ‘National Anti-Corruption Bureau’ (NABU) for disposal. This is the same NABU led by Artem Sytnyk who was caught on tape bragging about helping the Clinton campaign in its effort to discredit Donald Trump during the 2016 election. Konstantin Kulik was fired from the General Prosecutor’s Office on November 22 due to corruption charges against him. Sources for CD Media describe the firing as being political in nature, as a way to ‘tidy up’ any loose ends regarding Biden and Burisma, to keep the information from the public eye during the ‘impeachment’ campaign in the United States.

They describe Victor Trepak (New Deputy General Prosecutor), Deputy Prosecutor General Vitaly Kasko, and Sytnyk as being under the control of the George Soros/Deep State infrastructure in-country. Trepak was involved in the infamous ‘black ledger’ in the Manafort affair, which is now considered to be fake. The State Bureau of Investigation may be headed by Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Trepak it was reported by “Ukrainian Truth” with reference to sources, reported Ukrainian news outlet GordonUA.com. “Soros and the Democrats appointed their agents of influence to the General Prosecutor’s Office (Kasko and Trepak). They put Sytnyk in NABU and Kholodnitsky in SAP (Special Prosecutor) in order to destroy the evidence of corruption of the Democrats in Ukraine and to continue the process of the country’s rape with impunity. They are corruption. If they put Trepak, the author of the ‘black ledger’, as the head of the State Bureau of Investigation, then the process of covering up their crimes will be completed,” declared a confidential intelligence source in Ukraine.

In an interview with the Ukrainian news outlet Babel, Kasko discusses the development of Kulik’s firing. According to him, the National Bureau of Investigation will deal with almost all of the cases that Kulik conducted: “All the cases that Kulik was involved in are currently being inventory. In 99 percent of cases, NABU will deal with them. This is a good body to put an end to and clarify what actually happened in these matters. “

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End the Fed.

Fed Goes Hog-Wild with T-Bills, But Repos Drop and MBS Shrink by $22 Bn (WS)

The total amount of repurchase agreements (“repos”) on the Fed’s balance sheet as of December 4, released today, declined to $209 billion, from $215 billion a month ago. These repos included: • $70 billion in overnight repos, issued on Wednesday morning that unwound today; all prior overnight repos had already unwound. • $88 billion in multi-day repos with maturities of up to two weeks; • $50 billion in 42-day repos; of which $25 billion were issued on November 25 and $25 billion on December 2. They will unwind early next year. Before the repo market blew out in mid-September, the repos on the Fed’s balance sheet were zero. This chart shows the weekly balances of repos on the Fed’s balance sheet as of each Wednesday:

In these “repo operations,” the Fed buys Treasury securities, mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and government “Agency” securities, under an agreement whereby the counter parties have to repurchase those securities on a set date at a set (higher) price. The interest rate is determined by the difference between the price the Fed buys the securities at, and the pre-set higher price it sells the securities back to the original counter party. [..] The Fed has stated many times that it wants to get rid of its holdings of MBS. And it’s progressing with the plan. In November, the Fed shed $22 billion in MBS, exceeding the self-imposed cap of $20 billion per month for the seventh month in a row. Over the past seven months, it has shed $160 billion in MBS, or about $22.8 billion a month on average. Its holdings are now down to $1.42 trillion, below where they had first been in November 2013:

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Big Brother appears inevitable.

Filmmakers Sue To Shield Visitors To US From Social Media Vetting (IC)

A filmmaker working on a documentary that’s critical of U.S. policies. A writer who operates a pseudonymous Twitter account to evade an authoritarian regime in their home country. An activist who uses Facebook to organize protests at the U.S.-Mexico border. These are the kinds of people who might not want U.S. immigration agents poring over their social media profiles before deciding whether they should be allowed into the country. Yet that’s exactly what the State Department now requires as part of the Trump administration’s “extreme vetting” of millions of visa applicants. As of May, people who need a visa to enter the U.S. have to disclose any social media handles they’ve used over the past five years on 20 platforms, from Instagram and Twitter to YouTube and Weibo (the Chinese microblogging service).


If they don’t, their visas could be denied. Two U.S.-based documentary film organizations filed suit on Thursday in federal court in Washington, D.C. to challenge the policy, arguing that it will have a chilling effect on the filmmakers they work with. Along with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, the International Documentary Association and Doc Society are suing the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security because their international members are “concerned that their political views will be used against them during the visa process.” “They self-censor to avoid being associated with controversial ideas or sensitive topics,” the complaint states. The nonprofit groups surveyed over 100 international filmmakers and found that “a significant majority said it would chill their speech online.”

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“We’re going to protest for a week at least, and at the end of that week it’s the government that’s going to back down…”

French Strike Against Macron Reforms Enters Day Two (R.)

France faced a second day of travel chaos, shuttered schools and understaffed hospitals on Friday as unions said they would be no let-up in a strike against Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms until the president backed down. Much of France ground to a halt on Thursday as transport workers went on strike – joined by teachers, doctors, police, firemen and civil servants – while smoke and tear gas swirled through the streets of Paris as some protests turned violent, leading to dozens of arrests. On Friday there were heavy cancellations of rush-hour trains into Paris and 10 out of 16 metro lines were closed while others ran limited services.


Traffic jams totaling more than 350 kilometers clogged the main roads in and around the capital, according to traffic app Styadin, as many commuters took to their cars. Rail workers extended their strike through Friday, while unions at the Paris bus and metro operator RATP said their walkout would continue until Monday. “We’re going to protest for a week at least, and at the end of that week it’s the government that’s going to back down,” said 50-year-old Paris transport employee Patrick Dos Santos. The strike pits Macron, a 41-year-old former investment banker who took office in 2017 on a promise to open up France’s highly regulated economy, against powerful unions who say he is set on dismantling worker protections.

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With 6 days left, what’s the use?

UK’s Labour Accuses BBC Of Bias In Election Coverage (R.)

Labour’s co-campaign coordinator Andrew Gwynne said they had recorded numerous examples where his party’s leadership had received “more negative treatment, harsher scrutiny and slanted editorial comment” than Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives. “That bias has been reflected in the framing, content and balance of BBC reporting during the campaign,” Gwynne wrote in a letter to the BBC’s Director General Tony Hall. “If the Conservatives are allowed to ‘play’ or manipulate the BBC, and this behavior goes unchecked, then the corporation will have effectively been complicit in giving the Conservative Party an unfair electoral advantage.”

The broadcaster, which is funded by a tax on all television-watching households and regularly faces accusations of bias from across the political spectrum, is bound by strict rules to ensure impartiality. “The BBC will continue to make its own independent editorial decisions, and is committed to reporting the election campaign fairly, impartially and without fear or favor,” a BBC spokesman said. Labour, trailing the Conservatives by about 10 points in opinion polls before the Dec. 12 vote, are particularly unhappy that Johnson has not agreed to be interviewed by veteran journalist Andrew Neil, who has already subjected the other major party leaders to tough questioning.

Labour said they had agreed to the Neil interview on the understanding that Johnson had also signed up. “Instead, the BBC allowed the Conservative leader to pick and choose a platform through which he believed he could present himself more favorably and without the same degree of accountability,” Gwynne said. On Thursday, having just interviewed the head of the Brexit Party Nigel Farage on BBC TV at prime-time, Neil issued an on-air challenge to Johnson to appear before him. He also detailed a series of questions he would ask, focusing on whether Johnson could be trusted over campaign promises.

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Ready for prime time TV. If Boris is MIA, just broadcast this.

Andrew Neil Tells Johnson “It’s Not Too Late” For Election Interview (BBC)

The BBC’s Andrew Neil says he wants to quiz Boris Johnson about whether he can be trusted. The Conservative leader is – so far – the only main party leader not to submit to an election grilling on BBC One.

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Great story. Who has the movie rights?

Leak Confirms Turkey’s “Gold-For-Gas” Scheme To Evade US Sanctions On Iran (ZH)

We first started noticing major ‘odd’ exports of gold from Turkey to Iran in May 2012. Turkey’s trade balance fluctuated wildly as gold stocks flowed out of the country in bursts. “Turkey’s going to continue it,” the Turkish economy minister said. “If those casting aspersions on the gold trade are searching for immorality, they should take a look in the mirror.” Then, in 2014, we discussed Turkey’s “200 tons of secret gold” trade with Iran detailing how a complex network that spanned Turkey, China, Dubai and Iran was used to skirt US sanctions on energy exports from Iran. The operation featured an Iranian-born businessman who liked fast horses, faster cars and the fastest planes.

His unique skill: Getting gold into sanctions-encircled Iran. Enough gold that for a time he became the government’s key instrument in improving Turkey’s irksome economic imbalance. At the time, the plot revealed what one observer called, “one of the most complex illicit finance schemes [prosecutors] have seen.” In 2017, the man at the center of the scheme, Reza Zarrab, was arrested (and briefly disappeared) and was tied to Turkey’s president. “Zarrab is thought to have been close to the Erdogan family and, indeed, he was given Turkish citizenship, alongside Iranian. This is a real stress point.”

Zarrab pleaded guilty in October 2017 and turned against Mehmet Hakan Atila – a director at Turkey’s Halkbank – who was convicted on Jan. 3, 2018, and after serving a total 32 months behind bars was returned to Turkey and has since become the head of the Istanbul stock exchange. And since then “one of the biggest money-laundering schemes ever” has disappeared from the headlines… until now. Thanks to a massive leak of more than a million documents from a British offshore shell company provider, think Panama Papers 2.0, we now learn exactly how Iran’s national oil company and its subsidiaries hopscotch the globe, with the help of intermediaries, in search of tax havens that help it try to wriggle free from the grip of crippling U.S.-led sanctions.

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We’ll end humanity yet.

BPA Chemical Levels In Humans Drastically Underestimated (G.)

Humans are probably being exposed to far more of a widely used dangerous chemical – found in plastics, canned goods and receipt paper – than previously understood, according to a new study. The analysis, in the peer-reviewed scientific journal the Lancet, uses a new method for evaluating exposure to BPA, or bisphenol-A. BPA disrupts hormones critical to many body functions and is linked with obesity and other diseases. Pregnant women who are exposed to it are more likely to have children who have problems with growth, behavior and fertility, as well as a higher cancer risk. Many companies have phased out using BPAs, marketing new products with similar replacement bisphenols as safer without sufficient evidence for their claims, experts say.


The new research examined levels of BPA in urine but also counted the metabolites of BPA. Metabolites are formed when the body breaks down and eliminates a chemical. Using the new method, the scientists analyzed the urine of 29 pregnant women in their second trimester and found their BPA exposure levels to be an average of 44 times higher than what was measured with the traditional method. Patricia Hunt, a co-author of the study who is a molecular biosciences professor at Washington State University, said she was “horrified” by the high levels her group found in the pregnant women.

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Oct 222019
 
 October 22, 2019  Posted by at 9:38 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  10 Responses »


Eugène Delacroix Liberty Leading the People 1830

 

Julian Assange Struggled To Remember His Name At Extradition Hearing (ND)
‘I’m In An Unfair Fight Against A Superpower,’ Assange Tells UK Court (SMH)
Assange in Court (Craig Murray)
Assange in Court – 2 (Craig Murray)
Information On Poroshenko Money Laundering/Biden Cover Up (CDM)
Trump ‘Fully Prepared’ For Military Action vs Turkey If Needed – Pompeo (CNBC)
Enter, the Dragon – Hillary 2020 (Kunstler)
The Putin-Nazis Are Coming -Again-! (CJ Hopkins)
The Empire Steps Back (Jim Kavanagh)
44% Of Americans Don’t Make Enough Money To Cover Their Expenses (ZH)
China Doubles Value Of Infrastructure Project Approvals (SCMP)
Australia Is The Only Country Using Carryover Climate Credits (G.)

 

 

Had a hard time getting going today. What happened with Julian Assange was too much to deal with. And on reflection, it only gets worse.

If Jeremy Corbyn or any else gets up in Parliament today or tomorrow and speaks about anything else than Julian Assange, you know he’s a useless piece of crap. Well, yes, you know that already. As Julian Assange has been reduced to a vague shadow of himself, Britain has been reduced to a lawless medieval banana republic, where someone can be tortured to death in full view, while agents of a foreign country run proceedings in the courts.

And the million or so who came out in London for extinction rebellion or a Final Say, you are all completely useless drips too. You’re incapable of discerning what is truly important. Which is that your government flouts all laws, British and international, with impunity. And then it makes no difference if those laws are defined by your own country or as part of a European Union. Torturing a man to death in 2019, with nary a protest being heard, is truly taking all of you back to the Middle Ages. At some point the question becomes: If you allow for the best, brightest and bravest amongst you to be treated this way, then what right or reason do you have to stick around?

Here’s what Craig Murray said:

I had been even more sceptical of those who claimed, as a senior member of his legal team did to me on Sunday night, that they were worried that Julian might not live to the end of the extradition process. I now find myself not only believing it, but haunted by the thought.

 

 

Then who does? “..the judge told Assange that the court had no jurisdiction over the conditions of his imprisonment..”

Julian Assange Struggled To Remember His Name At Extradition Hearing (ND)

Assange’s barrister Mark Summers QC said Assange cannot be extradited for political offences. “Our case will be that this is a political attempt to signal to journalists the consequences of publishing information. It is legally unprecedented,” he told the court. Assange’s solicitors Birnberg Peirce later issued a statement further clarifying that extradition for political offences is “prohibited and unlawful” under the UK-US extradition treaty of 2003. Mr Summers said he was deeply concerned about Assange’s ability to prepare for his case, given he has had no computer access since his incarceration began. He also explained that the case was growing increasingly complicated as new evidence came to light.

Earlier this month Spain’s National Court announced it was investigating whether a Spanish security firm spied on Assange in the embassy with hidden microphones and other devices. The information was allegedly passed to Ecuadorean and US authorities. “The American state had been actively engaged in intruding into privileged discussions between Mr Assange and his lawyers in the embassy, also unlawful copying of their telephones and computers (and) hooded men breaking into offices,” Mr Summers said. He told the court there had been “plans to kidnap and harm” Assange. Mr Summers asked Judge Baraitser to delay the extradition trial and to extend the length of the five-day hearing so his client could adequately prepare evidence. But the judge told Assange that the court had no jurisdiction over the conditions of his imprisonment and said he would not be granted any more time.

Read more …

“..unlawful “copying” of Assange’s telephones and computers, and “hooded men breaking into lawyers’ offices”..”

‘I’m In An Unfair Fight Against A Superpower,’ Assange Tells UK Court (SMH)

A gaunt, hesitant and apparently confused Julian Assange has told a London judge he is in an inequitable fight against a superpower that has been spying on his “interior life” and on confidential meetings with his legal team. The WikiLeaks founder is trying to avoid extradition to the US to face 17 espionage charges and one computer hacking charge. His legal team revealed on Monday they want to deal a knockout blow to the case against him, by establishing that the charges are a “political offence” for which extradition cannot be granted. Assange appeared in person before District Judge Vanessa Baraitser in Westminster Magistrates Court, appearing tired and unwell and speaking hesitantly.


“I can’t think properly,” he complained at the end of the brief administrative hearing, saying the US had “unlimited resources” and an “unfair advantage”. “I can’t research anything [in prison], I can’t access any of my writing, it’s very difficult where I am [in Belmarsh Prison in South London] to do anything,” he said. “This is not equitable what’s happening here.” His lawyer Mark Summers, QC, told the court the US administration was prosecuting Assange in a “concerted and avowed drive to escalate its existing war on whistleblowers, to encompass investigative journalists”. “Our case is that it is a political attack to signal to journalists the consequences of publishing [classified] information.”

Summers appealed for extra time to gather evidence in support of Assange’s case, after allegations emerged this year that a Spanish security firm had been passing on to US intelligence agencies video, audio and documents secretly gathered during Assange’s time in the Ecuador embassy in London. Last week a judge of the Spanish National Court issued an order to investigate the Cadiz company Undercover Global, for “crimes against privacy and the secrecy of lawyer-client communications, bribery and money laundering”, in response to a complaint from Assange’s lawyers that Undercover Global had installed hidden microphones at the embassy and delivered information to Ecuador authorities and “agents of the United States”.

“The American state has been actively engaged in intruding on privileged discussions between Assange and his lawyers,” Summers told the Westminster court on Monday. He said there was evidence of unlawful “copying” of Assange’s telephones and computers, and “hooded men breaking into lawyers’ offices”. Assange complained to the judge the US had obtained details of his “interior life” through psychologist reports, and suggested they had tried to get hold of his children’s DNA. Kristinn Hrafnsson, the official WikiLeaks representative, said outside court that this was a reference to claims US agents had even collected DNA samples from nappies discarded at the embassy.

Assange’s legal team, in a note distributed outside the court, said there was evidence before Spanish courts of “a sustained series of actions by a Spanish security company in conjunction with US intelligence services to obtain information by unlawful acts, theft and clandestine surveillance within the Ecuadorian embassy whilst Julian Assange was present there”. “They included … the deliberate targeting and theft of information from the phones and electronic devices of lawyers advising and doctors treating Julian Assange, and the recording of their meetings. “Further, the private telephones of distinguished journalists visiting the embassy were photographed with data taken sufficient to hack their telephones thereafter.”

Read more …

I’ll do this Craig Murray piece in two parts. He was at the court yesterday. Murray is a close adviser and friend to Julian. First, his personal thoughts…

Assange in Court (Craig Murray)

I was deeply shaken while witnessing yesterday’s events in Westminster Magistrates Court. Every decision was railroaded through over the scarcely heard arguments and objections of Assange’s legal team, by a magistrate who barely pretended to be listening. Before I get on to the blatant lack of fair process, the first thing I must note was Julian’s condition. I was badly shocked by just how much weight my friend has lost, by the speed his hair has receded and by the appearance of premature and vastly accelerated ageing. He has a pronounced limp I have never seen before. Since his arrest he has lost over 15 kg in weight. But his physical appearance was not as shocking as his mental deterioration. When asked to give his name and date of birth, he struggled visibly over several seconds to recall both.

I will come to the important content of his statement at the end of proceedings in due course, but his difficulty in making it was very evident; it was a real struggle for him to articulate the words and focus his train of thought. Until yesterday I had always been quietly sceptical of those who claimed that Julian’s treatment amounted to torture – even of Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture – and sceptical of those who suggested he may be subject to debilitating drug treatments. But having attended the trials in Uzbekistan of several victims of extreme torture, and having worked with survivors from Sierra Leone and elsewhere, I can tell you that yesterday changed my mind entirely and Julian exhibited exactly the symptoms of a torture victim brought blinking into the light, particularly in terms of disorientation, confusion, and the real struggle to assert free will through the fog of learned helplessness.

I had been even more sceptical of those who claimed, as a senior member of his legal team did to me on Sunday night, that they were worried that Julian might not live to the end of the extradition process. I now find myself not only believing it, but haunted by the thought. Everybody in that court yesterday saw that one of the greatest journalists and most important dissidents of our times is being tortured to death by the state, before our eyes. To see my friend, the most articulate man, the fastest thinker, I have ever known, reduced to that shambling and incoherent wreck, was unbearable. Yet the agents of the state, particularly the callous magistrate Vanessa Baraitser, were not just prepared but eager to be a part of this bloodsport.

She actually told him that if he were incapable of following proceedings, then his lawyers could explain what had happened to him later. The question of why a man who, by the very charges against him, was acknowledged to be highly intelligent and competent, had been reduced by the state to somebody incapable of following court proceedings, gave her not a millisecond of concern.

Read more …

… and then his description of how it’s Americans who openly call the shots in a British courtroom.

Assange in Court – 2 (Craig Murray)

For the prosecution, James Lewis QC stated that the government strongly opposed any delay being given for the defence to prepare, and strongly opposed any separate consideration of the question of whether the charge was a political offence excluded by the extradition treaty. Baraitser took her cue from Lewis and stated categorically that the date for the extradition hearing, 25 February, could not be changed. She was open to changes in dates for submission of evidence and responses before this, and called a ten minute recess for the prosecution and defence to agree these steps.

What happened next was very instructive. There were five representatives of the US government present (initially three, and two more arrived in the course of the hearing), seated at desks behind the lawyers in court. The prosecution lawyers immediately went into huddle with the US representatives, then went outside the courtroom with them, to decide how to respond on the dates. After the recess the defence team stated they could not, in their professional opinion, adequately prepare if the hearing date were kept to February, but within Baraitser’s instruction to do so they nevertheless outlined a proposed timetable on delivery of evidence.

In responding to this, Lewis’ junior counsel scurried to the back of the court to consult the Americans again while Lewis actually told the judge he was “taking instructions from those behind”. It is important to note that as he said this, it was not the UK Attorney-General’s office who were being consulted but the US Embassy. Lewis received his American instructions and agreed that the defence might have two months to prepare their evidence (they had said they needed an absolute minimum of three) but the February hearing date may not be moved. Baraitser gave a ruling agreeing everything Lewis had said.

At this stage it was unclear why we were sitting through this farce. The US government was dictating its instructions to Lewis, who was relaying those instructions to Baraitser, who was ruling them as her legal decision. The charade might as well have been cut and the US government simply sat on the bench to control the whole process. Nobody could sit there and believe they were in any part of a genuine legal process or that Baraitser was giving a moment’s consideration to the arguments of the defence. Her facial expressions on the few occasions she looked at the defence ranged from contempt through boredom to sarcasm. When she looked at Lewis she was attentive, open and warm.

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“..the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) was an organization set up (extra-judicially) by the Obama Administration within Ukraine to help the Democrats cover up the vast corruption that had been going on..”

Information On Poroshenko Money Laundering/Biden Cover Up (CDM)

The first thing readers must realize is that the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) was an organization set up (extra-judicially) by the Obama Administration within Ukraine to help the Democrats cover up the vast corruption that had been going on, and as a tool to go after then-candidate Donald J. Trump. In fact, the initial head of the bureau engineered by the U.S. State Department in Ukraine, Artem Sytnyk, has been tried and convicted of conspiring to help presidential candidate Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Sytnyk’s group was the office that released the so-called ‘black ledger’ against Paul Manafort, who was then Trump’s campaign manager and now sits in jail, convicted by the Mueller investigation.

CD Media’s editor-in-chief reported on the shakiness of the black ledger evidence at the time when writing for The Washington Times. Before we go into details of the complicated money laundering scheme in the next article later today, another intelligence source inside Ukraine would like the Biden campaign to answer the following questions:

• What are the names of two CIA undercover officers who visited the General Prosecutor office and talked to Lutsenko Yuriy demanding that he close the cases on any of Burisma related matters? • Why Burisma related cases were closed at General Prosecutors’ office after that visit and were transferred to NABU and SAP (special prosecutor’s office)? What is the role of NABU and SAP in keeping the cases closed? How did George Kent influence NABU? • Why Burisma cases were stopped for investigation at NABU and SAP in Ukraine? • Why General Prosecutor office in Ukraine (led by Lutsenko Yuriy) denied to send investigative information on Zlochevskiy (beneficiary at Burisma Holdings) and Burisma to the UK Financial Fraud Office? The UK Large Financial Fraud Office released Zlochevskiy and closed the investigation. • What was the name of the Latvian “shell” transaction company used by Burisma holdings to transfer the money to Rosemont Seneca Partners (owned and operated by Biden’s family, Archer, Heinz)?

Read more …

What hollow sounds like.

Trump ‘Fully Prepared’ For Military Action vs Turkey If Needed – Pompeo (CNBC)

President Donald Trump is prepared to use military force against Turkey over its actions in Syria in the event that such is “needed,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday as U.S. troops withdraw from the region. “We prefer peace to war,” Pompeo told CNBC’s Wilfred Frost in a taped interview that aired on “Closing Bell” on Monday. “But in the event that kinetic action or military action is needed, you should know that President Trump is fully prepared to undertake that action.” The president is under heavy criticism for his decision to withdraw American forces from northern Syria, abandoning the Kurds, who led the ground war against ISIS.


The withdrawal precipitated Turkey’s incursion into the border zone earlier this month, which has left more than 120 civilians dead, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Pompeo declined to lay out a red line for what action would prompt a U.S. military response, saying he did not want to “get out in front of the president’s decision about whether to take the awesome undertaking of using America’s military might.” “You suggested the economic powers that we’ve used. We’ll certainly use them. We’ll use our diplomatic powers as well. Those are our preference,” Pompeo said. Trump told reporters at a Cabinet meeting on Monday that the U.S. “never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives.”

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“..Mr. Biden will soon announce his retirement from the field — to spend more time with his family..”

Enter, the Dragon – Hillary 2020 (Kunstler)

You’d think Hillary Clinton might come up with a better zinger than “Russian asset” when she flew out of her volcano on leathery wings Friday and tried to jam her blunted beak through Tulsi Gabbard’s heart. Much speculation has been brewing in the Webiverse that the Flying Reptile of Chappaqua might seek an opening to join the Democratic Party 2020 free-for-all. Wasn’t “Russian asset” the big McGuffin in the Mueller Report — the tantalizing and elusive triggering device that added up to nothing — and aren’t most people over twelve years old onto that con by now?

It’s not like Tulsi G was leading the pack, with two cable news networks and the nation’s leading newspapers ignoring her existence. Tulsi must have been wearing her Kevlar flak vest because she easily fended off the aerial attack and fired back at the squawking beast with a blast of napalm: “Great! Thank you @HillaryClinton. You, the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long, have finally come out from behind the curtain. From the day I announced my candidacy, there has been a concerted campaign to destroy my reputation. We wondered who was behind it and why. Now we know — it was always you, through your proxies….”

Ouch! The skirmish does raise the question, though: is the Democratic Party so sick and rotted that it would resort to entertaining Hillary Clinton as the 2020 nominee? Fer sure, I’d say. The party has been on suicide watch since the Mueller Report blew up in its face. At this point, it’s choking to death on its current leaders in the race. Apart from his incessant hapless blundering on the campaign trail, Joe Biden will never survive assisting his son Hunter’s grifting adventures in foreign lands. It’s just too cut-and-dried and in-your-face. The kid scammed millions out of Ukraine and China and it’s all documented. Mr. Biden will soon announce his retirement from the field — to spend more time with his family, or for vague health reasons.

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“..it’s four more years of the Trumpian Reich, Russian soldiers patrolling the streets, martial law, concentration camps, gigantic banners with the faces of Trump and Putin hanging in the football stadiums..”

The Putin-Nazis Are Coming -Again-! (CJ Hopkins)

So, it looks like that’s it for America, folks. Putin has gone and done it again. He and his conspiracy of Putin-Nazis have “hacked,” or “influenced,” or “meddled in” our democracy. Unless Admiral Bill McRaven and his special ops cronies can ginny up a last-minute military coup, it’s four more years of the Trumpian Reich, Russian soldiers patrolling the streets, martial law, concentration camps, gigantic banners with the faces of Trump and Putin hanging in the football stadiums, mandatory Sieg-heiling in the public schools, National Vodka-for-Breakfast Day, death’s heads, babushkas, the whole nine yards. We probably should have seen this coming.

[..] Clinton’s comments came on the heels of a preparatory smear-piece in The New York Times, What, Exactly, Is Tulsi Gabbard Up To?, which reported at length on how Gabbard has been “injecting chaos” into the Democratic primaries. Professional “disinformation experts” supplied The Times with convincing evidence (i.e., unfounded hearsay and innuendo) of “suspicious activity” surrounding Gabbard’s campaign. Former Clinton-aide Laura Rosenberger (who also just happens to be the Director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, “a bipartisan transatlantic national security advocacy group” comprised of former Intelligence Community and U.S. State Department officials, and publisher of the Hamilton 68 dashboard) “sees Gabbard as a potentially useful vector for Russian efforts to sow division.”

The Times piece goes on to list an assortment of unsavory, extremist, white supremacist, horrible, neo-Nazi-type persons that Tulsi Gabbard has nothing to do with, but which Hillary Clinton, the Intelligence Community, The Times, and the rest of the corporate media would like you to mentally associate her with. Richard Spencer, David Duke, Steve Bannon, Mike Cernovich, Tucker Carlson, and so on. Neo-Nazi sites like the Daily Stormer. 4chan, where, according to The New York Times, neo-Nazis like to “call her Mommy.”

In keeping with professional journalistic ethics, The Times also reached out to experts on fascism, fascist terrorism, terrorist fascism, fascist-adjacent Assad-apologism, Hitlerism, horrorism, Russia, and so on, to confirm Gabbard’s guilt-by-association with the people The Times had just associated her with. Brian Levin, Director of the CSU Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, confirmed that Gabbard has “the seal of approval” within goose-stepping, Hitler-loving, neo-Nazi circles.

Read more …

“The dangerous fuse of Republican discontent with Trump..”

The Empire Steps Back (Jim Kavanagh)

“What everyone is most upset about with regard to Syria isn’t the bloodshed or anything having [to] do with human rights. It’s the decline in American control of the Middle East. This is 100% about US imperialism taking a hit.” – Rania Khalek, (@RaniaKhalek) October 14, 2019

In the last few months, Trump has made decisions either to reduce US military presence or explicitly not to take military action that was expected and planned. These were rhetorically and substantively anti-interventionist positions that are anathema to imperialist Republicans. The most consequent of these in the impeachment context are those regarding Iran, and, relatedly, Syria. The dangerous fuse of Republican discontent with Trump was lit with Trump’s decision in June to call off the military strike on Iran, after Iran’s downing of a US drone. That event followed attacks on Norwegian and Japanese tankers in the Persian Gulf that the US government blamed on Iran. A narrative had been established for US politicians and media: Every nasty thing that happens in the Middle East is to be blamed on Iran.

It’s a narrative with a specific target and a specific goal: to manufacture consent for a military attack on that target—Iran—when a good opportunity was either concocted or presented itself. Iran’s acknowledged destruction of a valuable US military asset provided that opportunity. Trump’s decision—on the profound advice of Bolton, Pompeo, et. al.—to launch an attack on Iran was the inevitable next scene in the script. His decision, made a few hours later, to cancel the attack was something else again. It was a decision made “without consulting his vice president, secretary of state or national security adviser,” with “forces… already in motion… more than 10,000 sailors and airmen….on the move,” and with “only 10 minutes to go.”

Per the NYT, that decision “stunned,” ”flabbergasted,” and outraged his closest advisers and key Republican allies. It was an unprecedented deus ex machina, an impermissible interruption that, especially for Republicans, just doesn’t fit in the epic story of American “presidentialness.” Leftish Trump opponents have not, I think, recognized what an extraordinary important, and praiseworthy decision this was by Trump. Has there been a more positive decision of such consequence made by any president in the last thirty years? Yes, it was the reversal of a prior, terrible decision of his. And, yes, it’s subject to reversal again because of his inconsistency and his many other terrible decisions regarding Iran and the region. But on its own, it stopped an onslaught of immense destruction.

Read more …

Cats in a sack.

44% Of Americans Don’t Make Enough Money To Cover Their Expenses (ZH)

Low-income consumers are struggling to make ends meet despite the “greatest economy ever,” and if a recession strikes or the employment cycle continues to decelerate – this could mean the average American with insurmountable debts will likely fall behind on their debt servicing payments, according to a UBS report, first reported by Bloomberg. UBS analyst Matthew Mish wrote in a recent report that 44% of consumers don’t make enough money to cover their expenses. The new survey asked 2,100 respondents in the US about their current financial situation, at least 40% of the respondents said they experienced a credit problem, if that was a rejection of a credit card or a missing payment, or perhaps defaulting on a balance that was due, this was a 3 percentage-point increase from last year, the survey found.

Mish has written before that lower-income consumers have seen very little net worth improvement in the last decade. They’ve increased their debt burdens significantly through credit cards, auto loans, and student debt. As the federal funds rate drops, consumers are being squeezed by record-high credit card rates. Given the high leverage of lower-income consumers, the next cyclical downshift in the consumer credit cycle could be much worse than the Dot Com bust, Mish noted in July. Mish writes in the current report that there are no signs, as of yet, of an imminent downturn in the consumer credit cycle. [..] Mish said in the last six months, only 17% of consumers reported an improvement in their financial well-being.

Read more …

Bridges to nowhere.

China Doubles Value Of Infrastructure Project Approvals (SCMP)

The Chinese government has doubled the value of large-scale infrastructure projects it has approved so far this year compared with last year, as it steps up efforts to steady the flagging economy amid a bruising trade war with the United States. The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has approved 21 projects, worth at least 764.3 billion yuan (US$107.8 billion), according to South China Morning Post calculations based on the state planner’s approval statements released between January and October this year. The amount is more than double the size of last year’s 374.3 billion yuan (US$52.8 billion) in approvals recorded over the same period, which included 11 projects such as railways, roads and airports.


Three of the infrastructure projects approved by the NDRC have price tags over 100 billion yuan (US$14 billion), including the most expensive on the list – a new high-speed railway network linking Chongqing and Kunming in southwest China, worth a total of 141.6 billion yuan (US$19.9 billion). Sichuan province has been given the green light to spend 131.8 billion yuan (US$18.4 billion) to build a new airport, while Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, will be allowed to spend 113.9 billion yuan (US$16 billion) to continue with the third phase of its urban rail transit network. Actual spending on these projects will play out over a number of years, but the acceleration in approvals makes clear that infrastructure investment will rise, perhaps dramatically, in the next several years, helping to boost growth.

Read more …

A country of Cheaters.

Australia Is The Only Country Using Carryover Climate Credits (G.)

The federal environment department says it is not aware of any countries other than Australia planning to use controversial “carryover credits” to meet international climate commitments. The comment, at a Senate estimates hearing on Monday, comes as the Morrison government rebuffs calls from international leaders, analysts and activists for it to abandon the use the credits to meet its 2030 Paris emissions goal. The government says it has earned the right to use the credits, which represent the amount of carbon dioxide by which Australia has “beaten” the targets set under the previous international climate agreement, the Kyoto protocol.

Critics say the credits do not represent the emissions reductions needed to help meet the Paris goal of limiting global heating to as close to 1.5C as possible. Instead, they say, the credits are a fudge that cuts what Australia needs to do to meet its 2030 emissions target roughly in half and that Australia can claim access to them only because it set itself unchallenging targets under the Kyoto deal. At the hearing, the Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young asked if the department knew of any other country planning to use carryover credits to help them meet their Paris climate targets.

Kushla Munro, a first assistant secretary with the Department of the Environment and Energy, said: “At this stage, we are not aware of other countries intending to use carryover.” “So just Australia?” Hanson-Young asked. “At this stage, yes,” Munro said. Officials confirmed that to meet its 2030 Paris target, a 26% to 28% cut compared with 2005 levels, Australia would need to cut emissions by 695m tonnes cumulatively across next decade. They said 367m tonnes would come from the credits carried over from the previous Kyoto agreement.

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Places with mass protests in yesterday’s list: Chile, Ecuador, Lebanon, Barcelona, France, London, Puerto Rico, Hong Kong, Iraq, Guinea, Bolivia, Algeria, Haiti, Egypt, Pakistan, Brazil.

New addition today: Sudan

People send me lists of countries, but they often include places with small scale protests and/or peaceful ones. That’s not what I’m looking for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 182019
 
 October 18, 2019  Posted by at 9:10 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Salvador Dali The three pines 1919

 

McConnell: Senate Impeachment Trial ‘As Soon As Thanksgiving’ (ZH)
Trump Florida Golf Course To Host G7 Summit (BBC)
Turkey To Suspend Syria Offensive, Mike Pence Announces (BBC)
Washington is Wrong Once Again – Kurds Join Assad to Defend Syria (Ron Paul)
Media And Pundits Misread The ‘Everyone Wins’ Plan For Syria (MoA)
UK Agrees To Best Of Worst Possible Brexit Deals (MW)
EU Leaves Door Open To Brexit Extension, In Blow To Boris Johnson (G.)
UK MPs Win Bid To Vote On 2nd Brexit Referendum In Saturday Showdown (Ind.)
How Slashing Pentagon Budget Could Pay for Medicare for All (Conley)
Going Dutch? Low Interest Rates Rattle ‘World’s Best’ Pension System (R.)

 

 

And you thought you had seen absurd theater so far… Biden and Comey and Strzok testifying. Hillary?! Wasserman-Schultz?

“..you’d have basically Thanksgiving to Christmas — which would be wonderful because there’s no deadline in the world like the next break to motivate senators..”

McConnell: Senate Impeachment Trial ‘As Soon As Thanksgiving’ (ZH)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told Republican Senators on Wednesday to prepare for an impeachment trial of President Trump as soon as Thanksgiving, according to the Boston Globe. The announcement comes as House Democrats roll the dice on a second-hand claim from a CIA ‘whistleblower’ that President Trump pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate former VP Joe Biden – who the whistleblower worked for – and Biden’s son Hunter [..] .. while Trump will almost certainly be impeached by the Democrat-controlled House, the GOP-controlled Senate will be able to pick apart the entire affair.

“In their closed-door weekly luncheon, McConnell gave a presentation about the impeachment process and fielded questions alongside his staff and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who was a manager for the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton. “Impeachment is the first step to remove a president, with the House voting on formal charges and the Senate holding a trial in which it either convicts or acquits him. -Boston Globe “There’s sort of a planned expectation that it would be sometime around Thanksgiving, so you’d have basically Thanksgiving to Christmas — which would be wonderful because there’s no deadline in the world like the next break to motivate senators,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) following the meeting.


McConnell has previously said that if the House impeaches Trump, Senate rules would force him to begin a trial – one which could force the Bidens to testify. “Not only could Mr. Biden be forced to be in D.C. at a critical moment in the presidential campaign, but so could many of his chief rivals — the half-dozen senators also vying for Democrats’ presidential nomination, impeachment experts said. For that matter, if the House chooses to impeach Mr. Trump on charges stemming from the special counsel’s Russia investigation, aides said it could open the door to witnesses such as fired FBI Agent Peter Strzok or even major figures from the Obama administration. Mr. Trump could even be present for the entire spectacle. Experts said the Senate would have a hard time refusing him if he demanded to confront the witnesses against him.” -Washington Times

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Uber trolling.

Trump Florida Golf Course To Host G7 Summit (BBC)

One of President Donald Trump’s golf resorts in Florida will host the G7 summit next June, the White House says. White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney denied President Trump would profit from the event. The aide said “Donald Trump’s brand is probably strong enough as it is”, so he did not need a branding boost. Mr Trump has previously said he is not involved with the daily operations of the Trump Organization and that his sons run the business. Mr Mulvaney told reporters on Thursday that an advance team of scouts had started with a list of possible locations for the summit in about a dozen states. The team, he said, went to visit the venues in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, Tennessee and Utah.

“And it became apparent at the end of that process that Doral was by far and away, far and away, the best physical facility for this meeting. “In fact I was talking to one of the advance teams when they came back and I said, ‘What was it like?’ And they said, ‘You’re not going to believe this but it’s almost like they built this facility to host this type of event.'” The chief of staff said the event would be made available “at cost” and that using the Doral would save millions of dollars and was cheaper than the other potential sites. Earlier this year the US president floated the idea of his Doral property hosting the G7. But Mr Mulvaney denied on Thursday that his boss was profiting from the presidency, pointing out that he donates his salary to charity.


“It’s the most recognisable name in the English language [Trump] and probably around the world right now, so no, that has nothing to do with that,” he said. Mr Mulvaney said he had initially been sceptical about the idea and “aware of the political sort of criticism that we’d come under for doing it at Doral”. He added: “I get the criticisms, so does he. Basically, he’d be criticised regardless of what he’d chose to do, but no there’s no issue here on him profiting from this any way, shape or form.”

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120 hours. Followed by a ceasefire.

Turkey To Suspend Syria Offensive, Mike Pence Announces (BBC)

Turkey has agreed to a ceasefire in northern Syria to let Kurdish-led forces withdraw, US Vice-President Mike Pence has announced. All military operations will be paused for five days, and the US will help facilitate an “orderly withdrawal” of Kurdish-led troops from what Turkey has termed a “safe zone” on the border. Turkey launched its assault last week. It aimed to repel a Kurdish militia that it views as a terrorist group, and resettle Syrian refugees in the area. Critics fear this could lead to ethnic cleansing of the local Kurdish population.


The cross-border offensive came after US President Donald Trump pulled US forces out of the border region. His decision prompted a raft of criticism at home and abroad, with some accusing him of giving Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a “green light” for the operation. Mr Trump tweeted about the ceasefire before Mr Pence announced it, writing that “millions of lives will be saved!” Mr Pence thanked Donald Trump’s “strong leadership” during the announcement. “He wanted a ceasefire. He wanted to stop the violence,” the vice-president said.

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It’s obvious where Ron Paul stands, he always has: The best way to help the Kurds and everyone else in the region is to just come home.

Washington is Wrong Once Again – Kurds Join Assad to Defend Syria (Ron Paul)

When President Trump Tweeted last week that “it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous endless wars,” adding that the US would be withdrawing from Syria, Washington went into a panic. Suddenly Republicans, Democrats, the media, the think tanks, and the war industry all discovered and quickly became experts on “the Kurds,” who we were told were an “ally” being sent to their slaughter by an ignorant President Trump. But it was all just another bipartisan ploy to keep the “forever war” gravy train rolling through the Beltway. Interventionists will do anything to prevent US troops from ever coming home, and their favorite tactic is promoting “mission creep.”

As President Trump Tweeted, we were told in 2014 by President Obama that the US military would go into Syria for just 30 days to save the Yazidi minority that they claimed were threatened. Then that mission crept into “we must fight ISIS” and so the US military continued to illegally occupy and bomb Syria for five more years. Even though it was the Syrian army with its Russian and Iranian allies that did the bulk of the fighting against al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria, President Trump took credit and called for the troops to come home. But when the military comes home, the military-industrial-Congressional-media complex loses its cash cow, so a new rationale had to be invented.


The latest “mission creep” was that we had to stay in Syria to save our “allies” the Kurds. All of a sudden our military presence in Syria was not about fighting terrorism but rather about putting US troops between our NATO ally Turkey and our proxy fighting force, the Kurds. Do they really want us to believe that it is “pro-American” for our troops to fight and die refereeing a long-standing dispute between the Turks and Kurds?

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Moon of Alabama is the first I’ve seen mention that the YPG “will be disbanded and integrated into the Syrian army.”

As I wrote a few days ago in Trump Talks To Putin. But How?, this whole thing has been planned and co-ordinated, much more than western media report.

Media And Pundits Misread The ‘Everyone Wins’ Plan For Syria (MoA)

The U.S. media get yesterday’s talks between U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan all wrong. Those talks were just a show to soothe the criticism against President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeast Syria. The fake negotiations did not change the larger win-win-win-win plan or the facts on the ground. The Syrian Arab Army is replacing the Kurdish PKK/YPG troops at the border with Turkey. The armed PKK/YPG forces, which had deceivingly renamed themselves (vid) “Syrian Democratic Forces” to win U.S. support, will be disbanded and integrated into the Syrian army. Those moves are sufficient to give Turkey the security guarantees it needs. They will prevent any further Turkish invasion.

[..] The U.S. can not “allow Turkey to annex a portion of Syria”. The U.S. does not own Syria. It is completely bollocks to think that it has the power to allow Turkey to annex parts of it. Turkey will not “gain territory”. There will be no Turkish “security corridor”. The Kurdish civilians in Kobani, Ras al Ain and Qamishli areas will not go anywhere. The Turks will not touch those Kurdish majority areas because they are, or soon will be, under control of the Syrian government and its army. [..] The Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu confirmed that Turkey agrees with the Syrian government moves: “Russia “promised that the PKK or YPG will not be on the other side of the border,” Cavusoglu said in an interview with the BBC. “If Russia, accompanied by the Syrian army, removes YPG elements from the region, we will not oppose this.”


These moves have been planned all along. The Turkish invasion in northeast Syria was designed to give Trump a reason to withdraw U.S. troops. It was designed to push the Kurdish forces to finally submit to the Syrian government. Behind the scene Russia had already organized the replacement of the Kurdish forces with Syrian government troops. It has coordinated the Syrian army moves with the U.S. military. Turkey had agreed that Syrian government control would be sufficient to alleviate its concern about a Kurdish guerilla and a Kurdish proto-state at its border. Any further Turkish invasion of Syria is thereby unnecessary. The plan has everyone winning. Turkey will be free of a Kurdish threat. Syria regains its territory. The U.S. can leave without further trouble. Russia and Iran gain standing. The Kurds get taken care of.

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“Boris Johnson has signed a deal he said he didn’t need, creating a border he didn’t want, under the authority of a Court he didn’t accept, to be submitted to a Parliament he doesn’t control. ”

UK Agrees To Best Of Worst Possible Brexit Deals (MW)

Boris Johnson has signed a deal he said he didn’t need, creating a border he didn’t want, under the authority of a Court he didn’t accept, to be submitted to a Parliament he doesn’t control. The one “great” thing about the agreement with the European Union that the U.K. prime minister hailed Thursday is that it reduces – if slightly – the possibility of a hard Brexit, and the associated foreseeable economic crisis. But beyond the forex market’s obvious relief at the possible end of three years of uncertainty — the pound jumped almost 1% on the news, before reversing — this is still a deal that will hurt the British economy. On a scale of 1 to 10 — from no-pain, remain in the EU to maximum damage, no-deal Brexit — the agreement concluded just a few hours before an EU leaders summit in Brussels registers as an 8 or 9.


Its economic impact will be worse than the deal negotiated by Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May and rejected three times by the U.K. Parliament earlier this year. That is true both in the short term and in the long term. In the short term, it leaves the U.K. outside the customs union where it would have stayed under the infamous “backstop” negotiated by the previous government. But more uncertainty is also hanging over the near term economic future. The dearth of investment in the last three years has been the main drag on the U.K. economy, which explains why the country’s GDP is now 1-to-3% lower than it would have been if voters had opted for remain in 2016.

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People are pressed to vote for a deal they don’t want. Is that really such a good idea?

EU Leaves Door Open To Brexit Extension, In Blow To Boris Johnson (G.)

EU leaders have left open the option of extending Brexit beyond 31 October if the new deal is voted down by the Commons, in a blow to Boris Johnson’s strategy. The prime minister had been seeking to pitch Saturday’s vote in the Commons as a choice between deal or no deal after coming to an agreement with the EU. Johnson was helped by comments from Jean-Claude Juncker casting doubt on the possibility of a further Brexit delay, but the heads of state and government did not follow the European commission president’s lead. A summit communique issued after two hours of discussion tasked the commission and European parliament with taking “the necessary steps to ensure that the agreement can enter into force on November 1”.


But a senior EU official said that the leaders would follow events on Saturday, and reflect on the next steps if they were in a “different situation”. A second diplomatic source said they had chosen not to interfere in a “sensitive domestic debate … but they leave the door open to the possibility of an extension, to be discussed at a later stage – if required”. Johnson is facing an uphill battle to build a majority after the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist party rejected the revised deal, describing it as driving “a coach and horses through the professed sanctity of the Belfast agreement”. Juncker had tried to help sell the deal by pouring doubt on a further Brexit extension in the event of it being rejected.

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So even if the deal is accepted, it may still not be?

UK MPs Win Bid To Vote On 2nd Brexit Referendum In Saturday Showdown (Ind.)

MPs have won a key parliamentary vote paving the way for a Commons bid to secure a second referendum on Saturday. Ex-Tory backbencher Sir Oliver Letwin led a successful attempt to allow backbench MPs to amend Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans, in a knife-edge vote that passed by 287 votes to 275. MPs also approved a rare Saturday sitting to scrutinise Mr Johnson’s new plan – but the government’s proposal for a short debate on a motion to either “approve the deal or approve a no-deal Brexit” were derailed by the backbench victory. The move now clears the way for pro-EU MPs to force a vote on a second referendum, by tacking on an amendment calling for another public vote on the prime minister’s Brexit blueprint.


Sir Oliver said the plan would allow MPs to move any amendment to the government’s proposal and for them to be voted upon, if selected by Speaker John Bercow. He suggested that it could close a loophole in the so-called Benn Act – which requires the PM to seek a Brexit delay if he does not have a deal by 19 October. The law only compels the PM to seek an extension if MPs fail to pass a motion. Sir Oliver told MPs: “That will enable those of us, like me, who wish to support and carry through and eventually see the ratification of this deal, not to put us in the position of allowing the government off the Benn Act hook on Saturday, but only at a time when the bill has been taken through both Houses of Parliament and legislated on.”

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A discussion you won’t be able to escape. It might be good to get the terminology straight. I think Tucker Carlson called Medicare for All pure socialism, but that would mean Canada, the UK, most of Europe and Asian countries like Thailand all pure socialist countries. Hard to maintain.

How Slashing Pentagon Budget Could Pay for Medicare for All (Conley)

The Institute for Policy Studies on Thursday shared the results of extensive research into how the $750 billion U.S. military budget could be significantly slashed, freeing up annual funding to cover the cost of Medicare for All—calling into question the notion that the program needs to create any tax burden whatsoever for working families. Lindsay Koshgarian, director of the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), took aim in a New York Timesop-ed at a “chorus of scolds” from both sides of the aisle who say that raising middle class taxes is the only way to pay for Medicare for All. The pervasive claim was a primary focus of Tuesday night’s debate, while Medicare for All proponents Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) attempted to focus on the dire need for a universal healthcare program.

At the Democratic presidential primary debate on CNN Tuesday night, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was criticized by some opponents for saying that “costs will go down for hardworking, middle-class families” under Medicare for All, without using the word “taxes.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), on the other hand, clearly stated that taxes may go up for some middle class families but pointed out that the increase would be more than offset by the fact that they’ll no longer have to pay monthly premiums, deductibles, and other medical costs. “All these ambitious policies of course will come with a hefty price tag,” wrote Koshgarian. “Proposals to fund Medicare for All have focused on raising taxes. But what if we could imagine another way entirely?”


“Over 18 years, the United States has spent $4.9 trillion on wars, with only more intractable violence in the Middle East and beyond to show for it,” she added. “That’s nearly the $300 billion per year over the current system that is estimated to cover Medicare for All (though estimates vary).” “While we can’t un-spend that $4.9 trillion,” Koshgarian continued, “imagine if we could make different choices for the next 20 years.”

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The state of denial. Pensions funds have all moved into risk assets, so if stocks start falling, it’s over and out. Moreover, there will be far more elderly people soon vs the young, which will reduce contributions enormously while increasing payouts. At least try some realism. Zero interest rates klill pensions. Period.

Going Dutch? Low Interest Rates Rattle ‘World’s Best’ Pension System (R.)

The planned reductions, due to take effect from January 2020, have shaken a country renowned for having one of the world’s strongest pension systems, and are an early warning to others about the impact of record low interest rates. [..] The European Central Bank’s (ECB) stimulus policies, which have helped drive interest rates into negative territory, are blamed in part for the impending cuts in the Netherlands and have triggered a fierce debate over how the funding of pensions should be calculated. ECB President Mario Draghi said last month that the central bank was “very concerned” about the side effects of negative rates, but maintained they were required for economic growth.

At the heart of the Dutch debate is a technical question over how to calculate the cost of future pension payouts while the ECB helps keep rates low. Actuaries make assumptions about how long pensioners will live, count up the future payments that have been promised to them and then use an assumed interest rate to “discount” how much must be put away to pay them. The lower this interest rate, “rekenrente” in Dutch, the more conservative the accounting, and the more it costs to meet future liabilities. The rekenrente is derived from government bond yields — which have turned negative across Europe as interest rates steadily fell this summer.


Each 1% fall in interest rates has led to roughly a 12% fall in the coverage ratio between assets and liabilities in pension pots, the Dutch central bank says. As a January deadline approaches, cuts appear inevitable. That has led several funds and some experts to argue that the rekenrente, which is around 0.3%, should be raised instead. Many blame ECB policy and see its effects as temporary. Increasing the rekenrente to 2% or 3% would restore the funds to full solvency. Corien Wortmann-Kool, the chairwoman of the 456 billion euro ABP civil servants fund, told Reuters she opposes pension cuts as “unnecessary” for now.

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Oct 152019
 
 October 15, 2019  Posted by at 7:29 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


Rembrandt van Rijn Self portrait with tousled hair 1629

 

If you ask me, this is brilliant, but I know you’re not asking me. Still, what I’m reading today is genius. That is, Donald Trump and his people have found a way to communicate with Vladimir Putin and his people while the entire crew that’s listening in to his talks with foreign leaders were doing something else, whatever that may be.

The overall impression of Trump’s order to redeploy an entire 50 US soldiers within Syria is that he opened the floodgates to mayhem and genocide, but perhaps that picture is not entirely accurate. Perhaps Trump did not act on some whiff of the moment instinct. Perhaps he’s not as shallow and stupid as the press makes him out to be. I know, big challenge and all, but let’s look at what actually happened.

Me, I’m sure Trump talked to Putin before he withdrew the 49 or 50 troops , just to make sure all-out disaster wouldn’t ensue. This is from Newsweek, not exactly a pro-Trump outlet:

US Cedes Syrian City To Russia In Battlefield ‘Handover’ As Turkey Tries To Take It

The U.S. was scheduled as of Monday to officially withdraw from Manbij within 24-hours, leaving the mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces behind as two rival factions—the Syrian government, backed by Russia and Iran, and the Turkey-backed Syrian insurgents opposed to it—sought to seize control of the strategic location. A senior Pentagon official told Newsweek that U.S. personnel, “having been in the area for longer, has been assisting the Russian forces to navigate through previously unsafe areas quickly.”


“It is essentially a handover,” the official said. “However, it’s a quick out, not something that will include walk-throughs, etc., everything is about making out with as much as possible of our things while destroying any sensitive equipment that cannot be moved.” Contacted by Newsweek on Monday, no reply was returned from the Pentagon before publication. Faced with a potentially imminent clash with Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies, the Syrian Democratic Forces have chosen to realign themselves with the central government and its Russian backer, a partnership that would soon be put to the test.

I don’t claim to know how the two presidents manage to communicate in the face of all the scrutiny (re: Trump’s call with Ukraine president Zelensky), but communicate they did. Or we would never have arrived at the outcome we have. Trump, I’m convinced, did not leave the Kurds to die at the hand of Erdogan. He got Putin involved. And yes, that means Russia strengthening its position in Syria.

But it also means Trump being able to fulfill his campaign promise to withdraw US troops from “endless wars”. And Russia may well be the best bet to prevent further mayhem and bloodshed in the region. See, Syria, as I’ve said a million times by now, is Russia’s only stronghold in the Middle East, and they will therefore never let go of it. Not a chance.

That is the reason why the insane US policy of regime change in Iraq, Libya, etc., was never going to work in Syria. Syria = Russia. Not because Putin is a big admirer of Assad, but because without Syria Russia is gone from the Middle East. So, zero chance. A bit more from the BBC:

Russia Vows To Prevent Turkey-Syria Clashes

Russia has said it will not allow clashes between Turkish and Syrian forces, as Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria continues. “This would simply be unacceptable… and therefore we will not allow it, of course,” said Moscow’s special envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentyev. The withdrawal of US troops from the region, announced last week, gave Turkey a “green light”, critics say. Russia is a key military ally of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Russia’s defence ministry said its forces, which have been deployed in Syria since 2015, were patrolling along the “line of contact” between Syrian and Turkish forces.


During a visit to the United Arab Emirates, Mr Lavrentyev described Turkey’s offensive as “unacceptable”. He said that under previous agreements Turkey can only go 5-10km (3-6 miles) into Syria – far less than the 30km “safe zone” Ankara is proposing – and that Turkey has no right to permanently deploy its troops in the country. Syria is in contact with Turkey to avoid a conflict, he said. Mr Lavrentyev also confirmed that Russia had helped to broker a deal between Kurds and Damascus that saw Kurdish-led forces cede territory to Syrian government troops in return for military support.

All the talk about Erdogan genociding the Kurds is, well, greatly exaggerated. His hands are tied. By Trump, who has warned him with a threat of obliterating his economy, and far more by Putin who simply states some things are not acceptable.

The outcome of all this is going to be that Turkey will have its safe zone on the Syrian border, just smaller than Erdogan wants. The Kurds will have their territory just behind that safe zone. Millions of Syrian refugees will be able to resettle in these two territories. It is a pretty genius solution to the whole issue. US troops, gone, Russia and Assad keeping the peace, no 3.6 million refugees coming to Europe.

And you were saying Trump is an idiot who leaves the Kurds to be slaughtered? You see, I’m never sure about anything, but I’m having to doubt that judgment. That’s not what I’m seeing.

But, you know, I am big time wondering what channels Trump and Putin have found to talk to each other. It’s not phone calls, given how the Zelensky call led to an alleged impeachment inquiry, but how have they managed to do it? Shouldn’t be all that hard, perhaps, just a friend talking to a friend under the radar. But still.