Jun 152020
 


Gustave Dore Dante before the wall of flames which burn the lustful 1868

 

The Masks Masquerade (Nassim Taleb)
Millions of US Job Losses Are at Risk of Becoming Permanent (BBG)
Powell Is Now Helpless (Eric Peters)
US Labor Department Throws 401k Investors To The Wolves (F.)
UK Lawmakers Urge FM Sunak To Add 1 Million Workers To Income Schemes (R.)
Beijing Lockdown Spreads In Race To Control Outbreak (SCMP)
Sudden Jump In China Virus Cases Causes Futures To Tumble (ZH)
Second Wave Has Begun in US, Medical System May Be Stressed – Doctor (CNBC)
Greeks Against Second Lockdown – Survey (K.)
Macron Says France Must Seek Greater Economic Independence After Virus (R.)
Putin: Russia Soon Able To Counter “Indefensible” Hypersonic Weapons (ZH)
To Celebrate Obama Day, Here Are Barack’s Greatest Hits (Ben Norton)
Julian Assange Indictment Fails To Mention ‘Collateral Murder’ Video (G.)

 

 

Good thing I’m not into astrology:

• Trump’s birthday: June 14 (a.k.a Obama Day)

• Xi Jinping’s birthday: June 15

 

 

Worldometer reports new cases (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 123,645.

My count from about 6 am EDT to 6 am EDT is + 121,464 cases.

But the graph says cases always come down in the weekend, and I’m early today.

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 20,004
• Brazil + 17,086
• Russia + 8,246
• India + 13,722
• Pakistan + 5,248
• Chile + 6,938

 

 

Cases 8,017,241 (+ 121,464 from yesterday’s 7,895,777)

Deaths 436,124(+ 3,242 from yesterday’s 432,882)

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 


 

 

Taleb goes into much more detail in the article, please read. The inane “doubts” about mask efficacy cost lives. Wear a Mask in Public!

The Masks Masquerade (Nassim Taleb)

Incompetence and Errors in Reasoning Around Face Covering

SIX ERRORS:

1) missing the compounding effects of masks,

2) missing the nonlinearity of the probability of infection to viral exposures,

3) missing absence of evidence (of benefits of mask wearing) for evidence of absence (of benefits of mask wearing),

4) missing the point that people do not need governments to produce facial covering: they can make their own,

5) missing the compounding effects of statistical signals,

6) ignoring the Non-Aggression Principle by pseudolibertarians (masks are also to protect others from you; it’s a multiplicative process: every person you infect will infect others).

In fact masks (and faceshields) supplemented with constraints of superspreader events can save us trillions of dollars in future lockdowns (and lawsuits) and be potentially sufficient (under adequate compliance) to stem the pandemic. Bureaucrats do not like simple solutions. [..] Note that by infecting another person you are not infecting just another person. You are infecting many many more and causing systemic risk.
Wear a mask. For the Sake of Others.

Read more …

This won’t sink in for a long time yet.

Millions of US Job Losses Are at Risk of Becoming Permanent (BBG)

Twenty-year-old William Lovely used to work at Jason’s Deli in Virginia Beach, delivering catering orders to surrounding businesses. Now, thanks to the coronavirus, he’s struggling to pay his bills. Laid off in March, he’s gone from regular hours and pay to gigging for UberEats or Instacart, earning up to $100 on some days but often coming home with almost nothing. While the restaurant is trying to slowly reopen, Lovely reckons the best he can hope for is a part-time position, requiring him to keep his second job if he’s going to meet his expenses. “My job stopped, but the bills don’t,” he said. Lovely’s experience goes to the heart of the dilemma facing the world economy as it gradually emerges from the virus-enforced lockdown and unprecedented recession: How many of the millions of lost jobs are gone for good?

The hope is the waves of stimulus doled out by governments and central banks should eventually buoy economies and spark a revival in hiring. Furloughed or redundant workers would then return to their employers. The risk though is that the pandemic is inflicting a “reallocation shock” in which firms and even entire sectors suffer lasting damage. Lost jobs don’t come back and unemployment stays elevated. That would force workers to retrain or relocate, both of which are hard, and governments to do more than just try to spend their way out of trouble. It was a theme hit upon last week by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell as U.S. central bankers forecast leaving interest rates near zero until 2022 in part because of a surge in unemployment to the highest level since the Great Depression.


There will be “well into the millions of people who don’t get to go back to their old job,” said Powell, who will testify to Congress on the economic outlook this week. “In fact, there may not be a job in that industry for them for some time.” Unfortunately, new research by Bloomberg Economics reckons 30% of U.S. job losses from February to May are the result of a reallocation shock. The analysis — based on the relationship between hiring, firing, openings and unemployment — suggests the labor market will initially recover swiftly, but then level off with millions still unemployed.

Read more …

The louder you say that the bigger the next bank bailout is going to be.

Powell Is Now Helpless (Eric Peters)

“We’re not even thinking about thinking of raising rates,” declared America’s Fed Chairman, all but eliminating uncertainty about the Fed policy path through 2022. The S&P 500 had completed a historic recovery from the pandemic lows to trade higher on the year, its price utterly disconnected from today’s economic devastation. But markets never discount today, they discount tomorrow. And no sooner had they taken a little peek at what prices looked like back on January 1st then they began to plunge. Some blamed signs of a viral resurgence, though that had swirled for days. Others blamed Millennials whose day-trading resembles the dot.com mania. And a few blamed General Milley, America’s top-ranking general, who apologized for joining the President on his ill-fated march to St. John’s Church.

You see, the generals have turned their backs on Trump over his response to demonstrators. The NFL has too; its commissioner apologized for having opposed taking a knee. Even NASCAR banned the Confederate Flag. And as Trump’s re-election prospects tanked, expectations for a dramatic restructuring of America’s economy soared. Efforts to rebalance the division of profits between capital and labor is demanded by a riotous Main Street. But this terrifies Wall Street, which has worked for years with Republicans, Democrats, CEOs and the Fed to extract an ever-increasing share of national prosperity for those who control capital.

This imbalance is central to today’s tumult. “If we held back because we think asset prices are too high – what would happen to those people who we are legally supposed to be serving?” asked Powell rhetorically, unsuccessfully defending himself from a rising chorus of critics who see the Federal Reserve as amplifying inequality. For decades, the central bank accommodated the financialization of the world’s largest economy. Now that the process is largely complete, even a modest market wobble threatens to devastate the real economy. And Powell is now helpless, caught in a trap of the Fed’s making.

Read more …

The Forbes headline says: “Trump DOL Throws…”, but the watering down of asset quality started a long time ago (Greenspan?!). We can pretend that stocks represent real value, but if that were true the Fed would get out of the way in a split second. As I always say: Remember AAA?

US Labor Department Throws 401k Investors To The Wolves (F.)

Trump U. S. Department of Labor watchdogs just opened the door for private equity wolves to sell the highest cost, highest risk, most secretive investments ever devised by Wall Street to 401k plan sponsors. 401k investors will be devoured like lambs to the slaughter. Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor opened the door for plan sponsors to add private equity funds to their 401(k) plans. That’s a huge win for the private equity industry since 401ks hold nearly $9 trillion in assets and a monstrous setback to American workers who invest in 401ks for retirement security.

After over three decades of egregious retail price gouging by mutual fund companies—as to which the DOL turned a blind eye—401k costs have in recent years been trending downward thanks primarily to widespread excessive-fee private class action litigation. Now, if private equity is embraced, 401k costs will skyrocket, risk will dramatically increase and transparency will plummet. Bad enough that DOL—the federal agency which is supposed to protect employer-sponsored retirement benefit plans—welcomed the wolves of Wall Street to feast on workers’ hard-earned savings, but the explanation the agency provided for its reckless action is perverse.

Ramping up the fees and risks to 401k savers will “overcome the effects the coronavirus had had on our economy” and “level the playing field for ordinary investors” by allowing workers to gamble their limited retirement savings like millionaires who can afford to lose lots. [..] Warren Buffett, arguably the world’s most respected investor, recently escalated his criticism of private equity firms. At last year’s Berkshire Hathaway BRK.B annual meeting Buffett stated, “We have seen a number of proposals from private equity firms where the returns are not calculated in a manner that I would regard as honest… If I were running a pension fund, I would be very careful about what was being offered to me.”

Read more …

Until he has a substantial part of the population on these schemes, and a UBI would likely be both cheaper and more efficient. But UBI is a blasphemy.

UK Lawmakers Urge FM Sunak To Add 1 Million Workers To Income Schemes (R.)

British finance minister Rishi Sunak must extend the government’s already huge coronavirus income support measures to include over 1 million more workers who have missed out, lawmakers said on Monday. People who started jobs after a cut-off date in March for the state’s wage subsidy scheme or who set up a company in the last year should not be excluded, the lawmakers from parliament’s influential Treasury Committee said.Self-employed people who earn more than a threshold set by the government, freelancers in industries such as theatre and television and directors of companies who pay themselves in dividends should also be covered, they said. Mel Stride, who chairs the committee, said Sunak had acted quickly to slow an expected surge in unemployment as the crisis escalated in March.


“If it is to be fair and completely fulfil its promise of doing whatever it takes, the government should urgently enact our recommendations to help those who have fallen through the gaps,” he said. Sunak has recognised that some people are not protected by his support plans but has shown no sign of expanding them again. Nearly 9 million jobs are covered by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which pays temporarily laid-off workers 80% of their salary, capped at 2,500 pounds a month. A separate scheme for self-employed people has received 2.6 million claims. Britain’s budget forecasters have estimated that the two programmes will cost nearly 70 billion pounds ($88 billion) this year, more than the entire government borrowing in the last financial year.

Read more …

This has birthday boy Xi really scared. 11 neigborhoods in Beijing have been shut down.

Beijing Lockdown Spreads In Race To Control Outbreak (SCMP)

Chinese vice-premier Sun Chunlan has prescribed “firm and decisive measures” to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in Beijing, which reported another 36 new cases in a single day following an outbreak at a food market in the capital. Sun, who has been overseeing China’s Covid-19 control measures since January, told a meeting of the State Council late on Sunday that the risk of the latest outbreak spreading was “very high” because of the market’s large, densely packed and highly mobile population, according to state news agency Xinhua. The new cases bring the number of people affected in the capital by the latest outbreak to 79 – all of them linked to the Xinfadi wholesale market, a food distribution centre in southern Beijing which occupies 107 hectares and supplies food to northern provinces like Shandong, Shanxi, Hebei and Liaoning.


[..] Residential areas near Xinfadi market are once again under strict lockdown, with controlled access pending centralised testing for Covid-19. Beijing Health Commission spokesman Xia Xiaojun said 76,499 samples had been tested on Sunday, with 59 positive. Xia said some of those cases had already been included in the count of confirmed infections, while others were still waiting for diagnosis.

Read more …

Close to 100 new cases.

Sudden Jump In China Virus Cases Causes Futures To Tumble (ZH)

On a day when more than 20 US states are seeing a pick-up in cases, Tokyo reported a jump over the weekend and a fresh outbreak in Beijing prompted officials to close a market there, futures are tumbling, with Eminis down more than 40 points to 2,980 the lowest level since the start of June.The drop follows renewed fears of a second coronavirus wave which massacred shares on Thursday before a modest rebound Friday. But the trigger for tonight’s drop appears to have come out of China, which reported 49 new cases of COVID19 in China on June 14, including 10 imported cases and 39 local cases.

36 local cases were diagnosed in Beijing and 3 in Hebei province, according to the National Health Commission, with China’s Vice Premier Sun Chunlan spooking traders saying that the risks are high for Beijing’s coronavirus resurgence to spread as all cases are related to Xinfadi wholesale market where a large population has visited, according to Xinhua. As reported yesterday, Beijing shut a major food market and imposed lockdown restrictions on residential areas nearby after dozens of people associated with the wholesale market were tested positive for coronavirus.

Additionally, the Global Times reported that 17 out of 19 new imported coronavirus cases registered on Saturday came from South Asia, Chinese health authorities said Sunday, a sharp spike which analysts said indicates that loosening restrictions and worsening contagion in the region poses a danger to the country’s domestic situation. The 17 patients were reported in South China’s Guangdong Province, with 14 flying from Bangladesh and three from India. The 14 patients and the three asymptomatic carriers arrived in Guangzhou on China Southern Airlines flight CZ392 from Dhaka to Guangzhou on Thursday, which prompted the Chinese aviation regulator to suspend the route for four weeks from June 22 in accordance with the latest policy.

Read more …

Here’s a doctor who claims a second wave has started in the US. But I don’t see it. What did happen was that peaks were not simultaneous all over the country, and the first ones were in some of the most populous areas (Northeast).

It’s really just been a shift from Northeast to South and West, though, and I see no overall second wave appearing yet. If and when it does, it will likely also be different in different regions of the country. Note: there is kind of a second wave in Houston.

 

 

 

 

Second Wave Has Begun in US, Medical System May Be Stressed – Doctor (CNBC)

A second wave of coronavirus has started in the U.S. — and people need to remain careful or risk stressing out the health-care system again, said William Schaffner, a professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “The second wave has begun,” said the professor of medicine told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Monday. “We’re opening up across the country, but many, many people are not social distancing, many are not wearing their masks.” Even so, he said he “cannot imagine” a second shutdown due to the impact of the first one. Several states in America have reported recent spikes in Covid-19 cases as measures are eased throughout the country. The U.S. has the highest number of cases in the world. Nearly 2.1 million people have been infected by the disease and more than 115,000 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Schaffner added that mass gatherings and religious services are also being held. “Many people are simply not being careful, they’re being carefree,” he said. “That, of course, will lead to more spread of the Covid virus.” Despite signs of a second wave, Schaffner said the option of another lockdown is “off the table.” Instead, governments, businesses and religious leaders have to work together to promote mask wearing and social distancing in order to flatten the curve. He said wearing masks is “very, very important” and authorities should “persuade and educate” their residents to make this a “social norm.” “If we all do that in respect of each other, then I think we can make some progress,” said Schaffner.

“If we do all the opposite — if we open up, do not have social distancing, don’t wear masks and congregate in large numbers again, we are going to be very stressed in the medical care system,” he warned. “The complete shutdown was such a financial disaster, and had so many social and cultural implications that I cannot imagine we’ll have a shutdown again,” he said. Other countries, however, have not shied away from reimposing measures when new clusters are detected in the community. In May, South Korea shut all night clubs and bars in Seoul after a new cluster surfaced there. Last week, Beijing reportedly banned tourism and locked down 11 neighborhoods in response to infections related to a wholesale market.

Read more …

If things go well, I should be back in Athens soon. The sentiment here is probably more or less the same as in many other countries.

Greeks Against Second Lockdown – Survey (K.)

Greeks are concerned about the impact of the coronavirus on public health and the economy, while also skeptical about the causes and repercussions of the pandemic, according to a survey conducted by Pulse for Kathimerini. Eighty-four percent say that Covid-19 is “definitely” or “perhaps” a serious risk to public health. The risk appears greater among older age groups and educated individuals. Meanwhile, 76 percent say that the health measures, which damaged the economy, were “definitely” or “maybe” necessary. More specifically, the measures were deemed as necessary by 90 percent of New Democracy voters and 62 percent of SYRIZA voters. Concern is widespread. Thirty-two percent are more worried about their financial situation and 23 percent about their health, while 42 percent said that both issues have them “equally concerned.”

Most people say they are against a fresh lockdown in the case of a second wave in the autumn. The restrictions on public movement appear to have taken an economic and psychological toll. As a result, only 21 percent favor a repeat of the “horizontal restrictions.” Meanwhile, 65 percent favor restrictions only in places where a spike in cases is recorded while 10 percent say that the state “must only give recommendations” to citizens. The survey shows that people with lower education and income levels are more likely to question official theories about the origin of the virus. It appears that lower income individuals (usually people with limited educational opportunities) tend to associate Covid-19 with formal structures which they hold responsible for their condition.


More specifically, 33 percent believe that the virus is being used to “intimidate” the public, an equal share say it is being used to enforce compulsory vaccination, while 35 percent say that the virus is used as an excuse to compromise citizens’ personal data. However, Greeks appear relatively immune to the 5G coronavirus conspiracy, as only 10 percent believe there is any connection between the spread of Covid-19 and mobile phone technology. A key reason perhaps is that 5G technology is still not available in Greece. [..] More than half (52 percent) said Covid-19 was created by humans. Of these, 30 percent claim that the virus was created by humans with a specific purpose in mind (like an experiment on population control), while 22 percent say that the virus was created by mistake (like an accident in a lab). Eleven percent said they did not know where the virus might have come from.

Read more …

1) Does Macron -also- mean independence from the EU?
2) The French are not averse to a bit of nationalism, and Macron like many other leaders can and does use the idea that the virus came from abroad to play into it
3) Of course countries should cut their dependence on others when it comes to essential goods, but the EU wants the opposite
4) If there’s one police force that needs reform, it’s the French

Macron Says France Must Seek Greater Economic Independence After Virus (R.)

President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday he was accelerating France’s exit from its coronavirus lockdown and that the crisis had laid bare the country’s need for greater economic independence. In a televised address to the nation, Macron promised that the 500 billion euro cost of keeping companies afloat and people in jobs during the worst downturn since World War Two would not be passed to households through higher taxes. Restaurants and cafes in Paris will be allowed to reopen fully from Monday, he said, the same day France lifts restrictions at its borders for European Union travellers, bringing sorely needed relief for the hospitality industry.

He said the coronavirus pandemic had exposed the “flaws and fragility” of France’s, and more broadly Europe’s, over-reliance on global supply chains, from the car industry to smart phones and pharmaceuticals. “The only answer is to build a new, stronger economic model, to work and produce more, so as not to rely on others,” Macron said. The coronavirus has killed more than 29,300 people in France and forced Macron, a former investment banker, to suspend his economic and social reform drive aimed at spurring growth, creating jobs and deregulating the economy. The government expects the economy to shrink by 11% in 2020. Macron said he would lay out a detailed blueprint for the final two years of his mandate in July.

[..] The global outpouring of anger has forced France to confront allegations from ethnic minorities and rights groups of racism and brutality within France’s own law enforcement agencies. Macron said skin colour too often reduced a person’s opportunities in France, promising to be unflinching against all discrimination. But he expressed support for French police and said fighting racism should not lead to a “hateful” re-writing of the history of France, whose empire once stretched from the Caribbean to the South Pacific and included much of north and west Africa. “I will be very clear tonight, compatriots: the Republic won’t erase any name from its history. It will forget none of its artworks, it won’t take down statues,” Macron said.

Read more …

The US can only play catch-up, and even that it’s not good at.

Putin: Russia Soon Able To Counter “Indefensible” Hypersonic Weapons (ZH)

The thing about hypersonic missiles is they are supposed to be impossible to defend against. Since Russia began touting its experimental arsenal two years ago, the prospect of devastating weapons capable of traveling at Mach 5, or at least a mile per second, has kept Pentagon generals up at night. “The hypersonic threat is real, it is not imagination,” Air Force Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves told a D.C. defense conference in 2018. “Greaves comments come amid reports that assess Russia will be capable of fielding a hypersonic glide vehicle, a weapon that no country can defend against, by 2020,” a report at the time underscored alarmingly.

The “indefensible” super weapon… but Russian President Vladimir Putin now says the Kremlin will soon have the technology to defend against it — this as more and more information has been slowly revealed concerning the US Department of Defense’s own multi-billion dollar hypersonics program. Putin made the new comments Sunday: “It’s very likely that we will have means to combat hypersonic weapons by the time the world’s leading countries have such weapons,” he said according to the RIA news agency. Russian state media further said Putin referenced an emerging hypersonins ‘arms race’. The Russian president said that Russia’s rivals will soon be “surprised” when they learn the Russian armed forces will be able to “combat them”.

Putin’s words, as conveyed by RT, were paraphrased as follows: Other nations are hastily designing their own hypersonic weapons – but by the time they are acquired, the Russian military will have learned how to shield the country from them, President Vladimir Putin said. The world’s leading military powers will eventually succeed in developing the ultra-fast weapons, President Vladimir Putin told Russia-1 TV. Russia, meanwhile, which seems to be leading the race for hypersonic dominance, won’t be caught off-guard once that happens, he pledged. I think that we can pleasantly surprise our partners with the fact that when they get these weapons, we will have the means of combating them, with a high degree of probability.

Read more …

Balance.

To Celebrate Obama Day, Here Are Barack’s Greatest Hits (Ben Norton)

To celebrate Obama Day, here are Barack’s greatest hits (wars, coups, slavery, sanctions, al-Qaeda, colonialism) In parts of the United States and the bottomless pit of the internet, today, June 14, is considered “Barack Obama Day.” On social media, the hashtag #ObamaDayJune14th is going viral. So I thought I would commemorate this day by listing some of the former Democratic president’s many accomplishments.

As his supporters are so keen to point out, Obama had no major scandals, you see, except for:
• wearing that tan suit one time
• deporting more people than any other president, 2.7 million, earning the ignominious title “deporter in chief”
• dropping 26,171 bombs on seven Muslim-majority countries in his last year in office alone
• overseeing a genocidal war in Yemen that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and unleashed the largest humanitarian catastrophe on Earth
• supporting al-Qaeda in Syria, funneling billions of dollars of weapons to hardened Salafi-jihadist fanatics to try to destroy the country, and fueling the rise of ISIS
• arming al-Qaeda in Yemen as well
• destroying Libya, once the most prosperous country in Africa, leaving behind a failed state with open-air slave markets
• giving the Israeli apartheid regime $38 billion in unconditional military aid and arming it as it bombed civilians in Gaza (in three separate, barbaric wars: 2008-2009, 2012, and 2014)
• creating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a neoliberal “free trade” monstrosity that would have ensured even more dystopian corporate tyranny over the global political and economic system

Oh yeah, and here are some more unforgettable classics from Obama:
• sponsoring the military coup in Honduras, overthrowing its democratically elected left-leaning government and installing a far-right narco-dictatorship led by a neoliberal autocrat whose drug lord brother smuggled thousands of tons of cocaine and machine guns
• managing Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious, in which the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sent thousands of guns to murderous drug cartels in Mexico
• backing the parliamentary coup in Brazil, removing the democratically elected Workers’ Party government and paving the way for the fascist Bolsonaro regime
• supporting a soft coup against the democratically elected government in Paraguay
• overseeing a violent coup against Ukraine’s Russia-leaning elected government with the “Euromaidan” movement, in which neo-Nazis and other fascists played a significant role
• subsequently arming the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion in Ukraine
• prolonging the military occupation of Afghanistan, after promising dozens of times he would end the war by 2014
• maintaining a daily “kill list” (known euphemistically as the “disposition matrix”) in which the US president personally approved extrajudicial assassinations of thousands of people, via a covert drone warfare program spanning multiple continents, regularly bombing countries including, but not limited to, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq

Read more …

The US totally ignores the video that’s central to the entire story, and the Guardian ignores teh fact that it’s published 1,000 Assange smear pieces. What a wonderful world.

Julian Assange Indictment Fails To Mention ‘Collateral Murder’ Video (G.)

US prosecutors have failed to include one of WikiLeaks’ most shocking video revelations in the indictment against Julian Assange, a move that has brought accusations the US doesn’t want its “war crimes” exposed in public. Assange, an Australian citizen, is remanded and in ill health in London’s Belmarsh prison while the US tries to extradite him to face 18 charges – 17 under its Espionage Act – for conspiracy to receive, obtain and disclose classified information. The charges relate largely to the US conduct of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including Assange’s publication of the US rules of engagement in Iraq. The prosecution case alleges Assange risked American lives by releasing hundreds of thousands of US intelligence documents.

One of the most famous of the WikiLeaks releases was a video – filmed from a US Apache helicopter, Crazy Horse 1-8, as it mowed down 11 people on 12 July 2007 in Iraq. The video starkly highlights the lax rules of engagement that allowed the killing of men who were neither engaged with nor threatening US forces. Two of those Crazy Horse 1-8 killed in east Baghdad that day were the Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and a driver/fixer, Saeed Chmagh, 40. Their Baghdad bureau chief at the time, Dean Yates, said the US military had repeatedly lied to him – and the world – about what happened, and it was only when Assange released the video (which WikiLeaks posted with the title Collateral Murder) in April 2010 that the full brutal truth of the killings was exposed.

“What he did was 100% an act of truth-telling, exposing to the world what the war in Iraq looks like and how the US military lied … The US knows how embarrassing Collateral Murder is, how shameful it is to the military – they know that there’s potential war crimes on that tape,” Yates said.

Read more …

 

 

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

Thank you.

 

 

A reminder:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 222020
 


Cave of swimmers, Gilf Kebir plateau, Sahara c6000 BCE

 

Just 7.3% Of Stockholm Had COVID19 Antibodies By End Of April (G.)
Brazil Suffers Record Daily Coronavirus Death Toll, Soon To Be World No. 2 (R.)
Which US States Meet WHO Recommended Testing Criteria? (Johns Hopkins)
US Layoffs Spread Despite Businesses Reopening (R.)
New Zealand Discussing ‘Helicopter Money’ Handouts To Stimulate Economy (R.)
Washington State Loses 100s Of Millions Of Dollars In Unemployment Fraud (ST)
America’s 600+ Billionaires So Far Made $434 Billion During The Pandemic (F.)
US Prepared To Spend Russia, China Into Oblivion To Win Nuclear Arms Race (R.)
Biden Asks Amy Klobuchar To Undergo Vetting As Possible Running Mate (CBS)
Warren Pivots On ‘Medicare For All’ In Bid To Become Biden’s VP (Pol.)
Appeals Court Orders Judge In Flynn Case To Explain Actions (JTN)
The Railroading of Michael Flynn (Lake)
Russiagate Began With Obama’s Iran Deal Domestic Spying Campaign (Tablet)

 

 

Another record in global new cases over past 24 hrs at 109,627:

• US + 28,215
• Brazil + 17,564
• Russia + 8,894
• India + 7,784
• Peru + 4,749
• Chile + 3,964
• Mexico + 2,973
• Pakistan + 2,603
• Saudi Arabia + 2,532

New deaths
• US + 1,503
• Brazil + 1,188
• Mexico +357
• UK +338

 

 

 

Cases 5,218,496 (+ 109,627 from yesterday’s 5,108,869)

Deaths 335,069 (+ 4,987 from yesterday’s 330,082)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Herd immunity is a failed figment of the imagination, and not one to experiment on the entire population of a country with.

Just 7.3% Of Stockholm Had COVID19 Antibodies By End Of April (G.)

Just 7.3% of Stockholm’s inhabitants had developed Covid-19 antibodies by the end of April, according to a study, raising concerns that the country’s light-touch approach to the coronavirus may not be building up broad immunity. The research by Sweden’s public health agency comes as neighbouring Finland warned that it would be risky to welcome tourists from Sweden after figures suggested the country’s death rate per capita was the highest in Europe over the seven days to 19 May. Sweden’s state epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, said the Stockholm antibodies figure was “a bit lower than we’d thought”, but added that it reflected the situation some weeks ago and he believed that by now “a little more than 20%” of the capital’s population had probably contracted the virus.


However, the public health agency had previously said it expected about 25% to have been infected by 1 May and Tom Britton, a maths professor who helped develop its forecasting model, said the figure from the study was surprising. “It means either the calculations made by the agency and myself are quite wrong, which is possible, but if that’s the case it’s surprising they are so wrong,” he told the newspaper Dagens Nyheter. “Or more people have been infected than developed antibodies.” Björn Olsen, a professor of infectious medicine at Uppsala University, said herd immunity was a “dangerous and unrealistic” approach. “I think herd immunity is a long way off, if we ever reach it,” he said after the release of the antibody findings.

Read more …

They’re only just starting.

Brazil Suffers Record Daily Coronavirus Death Toll, Soon To Be World No. 2 (R.)

Brazil suffered a record of 1,188 daily coronavirus deaths on Thursday and is fast approaching Russia to become the world’s No. 2 COVID-19 hot spot behind the United States. Brazil also passed 20,000 deaths on Thursday and has 310,087 confirmed cases, up over 18,500 in a single day, according to Health Ministry data. The true numbers are likely higher but Brazil has not carried out widespread testing, the ministry said. President Jair Bolsonaro is under growing pressure for his handling of the outbreak, which looks set to destroy the Brazilian economy and threatens his re-election hopes.


He strongly opposes social distancing measures and has repeatedly pushed for greater usage of chloroquine as a remedy for the virus, despite health experts’ warnings about risks. Bolsonaro’s relationship with governors and mayors has also grown increasingly bitter. The president is angry over local shutdowns to slow the spread of the virus and argues that keeping the economy running is more important. Bolsonaro said he will approve on Thursday or Friday a 60 billion-real ($10.72 billion) federal aid program for states and cities hit by coronavirus but asked governors for support freezing public sector pay increases.

Read more …

An unfortunate format for the graph. Click the link to the original for a somewhat better version.

Which US States Meet WHO Recommended Testing Criteria? (Johns Hopkins)

On May 12, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) advised governments that before reopening, rates of positivity in testing (ie, out of all tests conducted, how many came back positive for COVID-19) of should remain at 5% or lower for at least 14 days. If a positivity rate is too high, that may indicate that the state is only testing the sickest patients who seek medical attention, and is not casting a wide enough net to know how much of the virus is spreading within its communities. A low rate of positivity in testing data can be seen as a sign that a state has sufficient testing capacity for the size of their outbreak and is testing enough of its population to make informed decisions about reopening.

Which U.S. states are testing enough to meet the WHO’s goal? The graph below compares states’ rate of positivity to the recommended positivity rate of 5% or below. States that meet the WHO’s recommended criteria appear in green, while the states that are not testing enough to meet the positivity benchmark are in orange.

Read more …

Time to assess what jobs will never return. There will be millions.

US Layoffs Spread Despite Businesses Reopening (R.)

Millions more Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, more than two months after a shutdown of the country to deal with the coronavirus crisis, pointing to a second wave of layoffs in industries not initially impacted by closures caused by the pandemic. The Labor Department’s weekly jobless claims report on Thursday, the most timely data on the economy’s health, also showed the number of people on unemployment rolls surging to a record high in early May, suggesting that businesses were probably not rushing to rehire workers as they reopen.

This also raises questions about the efficacy of the government’s Paycheck Protection Program. A broad lockdown of the country in mid-March to contain the spread of COVID-19 initially led to layoffs in mostly low-wage consumer-facing businesses such as restaurants and retailers. But economists say weak demand was causing layoffs in other industries like utilities, information, finance and insurance, and education. “This raises the possibility that new private and public sector cutbacks may be creating a major barrier to stopping the labor market bleeding,” said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economics in Holland, Pennsylvania.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits totaled a seasonally adjusted 2.438 million in the week ended May 16, down from 2.687 million in the prior week, the government said. Last week’s claims reading [..] marked the seventh straight weekly decline. First-time claims have been gradually decreasing since hitting a record 6.867 million in the week ended March 28. Still they remained more than triple their peak during the 2007/09 Great Recession. The elevated claims have also been blamed on backlogs after the unprecedented amount of applications overwhelmed state unemployment offices.

[..] Attention is shifting from new claimants for jobless benefits to the number of people still on aid. These so-called continuing claims numbers are reported with a one-week lag, but are considered a better gauge of the labor market. They offer a glimpse into how soon the economy ramps up and companies’ ability to get people off unemployment or keep workers on payrolls as they access their share of a historic fiscal package worth nearly $3 trillion, which offered loans that could be partially forgiven if they were used for employee salaries. Continuing claims surged 2.525 million to a record 25.073 million in the week ending May 9.

Read more …

Nice size economy to try something like it. But they dare not call it UBI.

New Zealand Discussing ‘Helicopter Money’ Handouts To Stimulate Economy (R.)

New Zealand is considering distributing free cash directly to individuals as a way of policy stimulus to help boost the economy reeling from a COVID-19 pandemic driven contraction, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said on Friday. At a regular news conference Robertson was asked to share details about the government’s plans for launching ‘helicopter money’ – whether it would be the central bank printing money and distributing it or the government increasing its borrowing and then handing it out. Robertson said the concept was being discussed but “it’s not something that has got to that level of discussion at all.” “I am pretty keen on making sure that fiscal policy remains the role of the government,” he added.


The idea of helicopter money, or dumping cash unexpectedly onto a struggling economy, is slowly gaining currency among economists and policymakers as the pandemic looks to inflict the worst blow to global growth since the Great Depression in the 1930s. None of the wealthy countries have embarked on it, though, citing risks such as central bank independence and the risk of flaring long-term inflation. In a helicopter money drop, a central bank would directly increase the money supply and, via the government, distribute the new cash to the population with the aim of boosting demand and inflation.

Read more …

An entire state run by gullible grandmas.

Washington State Loses 100s Of Millions Of Dollars In Unemployment Fraud (ST)

Washington state officials have acknowledged the loss of “hundreds of millions of dollars” to an international fraud scheme that hammered the state’s unemployment insurance system and could mean even longer delays for thousands of jobless workers still waiting for legitimate benefits. Suzi LeVine, commissioner of the state Employment Security Department (ESD), disclosed the staggering losses during a news conference Thursday afternoon. LeVine declined to specify how much money was stolen during the scam, which is believed to be orchestrated from Nigeria. But she conceded that the amount was “orders of magnitude above” the $1.6 million that the ESD reported losing to fraudsters in April.

LeVine said state and law enforcement officials were working to recover as much of the money as possible, though she declined to say how much had been returned so far. She also said the ESD had taken “a number of steps” to prevent new fraudulent claims from being filed or paid but would not specify the steps, to avoid alerting criminals. “We do have definitive proof that the countermeasures we have put in place are working,” LeVine said. “We have successfully prevented hundreds of millions of additional dollars from going out to these criminals and prevented thousands of fraudulent claims from being filed.”

Thursday’s disclosure, which came after state officials had largely refused to discuss the scale of the fraud, helped explain the unusual surge in the number of new jobless claims filed last week in Washington. For the week ending May 16, the ESD received 138,733 initial claims for unemployment insurance, a 26.8% increase over the prior week and one of the biggest weekly surges since the coronavirus crisis began. That sharp increase came as the number of initial jobless claims nationwide fell 9.2%, to 2.4 million, according to data released earlier in the day by the Labor Department.

Read more …

Since they won’t stop it, and it can’t last either, it’s up to you.

America’s 600+ Billionaires So Far Made $434 Billion During The Pandemic (F.)

America’s billionaires saw their wealth increase by $434 billion during the course of the global pandemic, according to a new report, a staggering figure that coincided with upheaval to the global economy and more than 38 million Americans filing for unemployment. Per the report by Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies’ Program for Inequality, between March 18 and May 19, the total net worth of the 600-plus U.S. billionaires jumped by $434 billion or 15%, based on the group’s analysis of Forbes data. The top five U.S. billionaires (Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett and Larry Ellison) saw their wealth grow by a total of $75.5 billion.


Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has seen his net worth grow 30.6% in the past two months, boosting it to $147.6 billion; the fortunes of Bezos and Zuckerberg combined grew by nearly $60 billion, or 14% of the $434 billion total. Tech stocks have continued to rise, with both Facebook and Amazon hitting new all-time highs on Wednesday. While the technology sector has remained strong, many Americans in other markets haven’t been nearly as fortunate, as evidenced by an additional 2.4 million workers filing for temporary unemployment benefits last week, and with 47% of adults reporting that they or another person in their household has lost income since mid-March. Low-income earners have been hit hardest over the last two months, as almost 40% of people working in February and earning less than $40,000 annually have lost their jobs over the last month.

Read more …

They know the US has already lost the arms race, but A) you can’t explain that to the people, and B) the industry must be kept well-fed.

US Prepared To Spend Russia, China Into Oblivion To Win Nuclear Arms Race (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump’s arms control negotiator on Thursday said the United States is prepared to spend Russia and China “into oblivion” in order to win a new nuclear arms race. “The president has made clear that we have a tried and true practice here. We know how to win these races and we know how to spend the adversary into oblivion. If we have to, we will, but we sure would like to avoid it,” Special Presidential Envoy Marshall Billingslea said in an online presentation to a Washington think tank.

Read more …

Just in case he still doubted he does NOT intend to win.

Biden Asks Amy Klobuchar To Undergo Vetting As Possible Running Mate (CBS)

Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, has been asked by Joe Biden to undergo a formal vetting to be considered as his vice presidential running mate, one of several potential contenders now being scrutinized by his aides ahead of a final decision, according to people familiar with the moves. In an interview with Stephen Colbert on Thursday night, Biden said “no one’s been vetted yet by the team” but confirmed the initial preliminary outreach to gauge interest is “coming to an end now.” Biden said the “invasive” vetting process will soon begin. When pressed on Klobuchar’s chances of making his running mate “short list,” Biden responded positively: “Amy’s first rate, don’t get me wrong.”


The request for information from potential running mates like Klobuchar “is underway,” a senior Biden campaign aide tells CBS News. If a potential contender consents, she should be poised to undergo a rigorous multi-week review of her public and private life and work by a hand-picked group of Biden confidantes, who will review tax returns, public speeches, voting records, past personal relationships and potentially scandalous details from her past. While several are expected to consent to a vetting, at least one potential contender has bowed out. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, who is running for reelection this year, declined Biden’s invitation to be considered, according to a person familiar with her decision. But Senator Maggie Hassan, the other New Hampshire senator, has agreed to be vetted, according to local news reports.

Read more …

https://twitter.com/megslay27/status/1263591562476285954

Warren Pivots On ‘Medicare For All’ In Bid To Become Biden’s VP (Pol.)

In the thick of primary season, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden brawled over “Medicare for All”: He called her approach “angry,” “elitist,” “condescending”; she shot back, anyone who defends the health care status quo with industry talking points is “running in the wrong presidential primary.” Six months later, with Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee and Warren in the running for VP, she is striking a more harmonious chord. “I think right now people want to see improvements in our health care system, and that means strengthening the Affordable Care Act,” she told students at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics this week, while adding that she still wants to get to single payer eventually.


The shift is the latest public signal Warren has sent Biden’s way in recent weeks that she wants the job of vice president — and wants Biden to see her as a loyal governing partner despite their past clashes, which go back decades. Warren’s policy-centered, team-player pitch is counting on Biden caring more about Jan. 20 than Nov. 3, when he makes his vice presidential pick. In other words, that the current crisis has elevated governing concerns above political ones — and that the times call for someone with her policy chops and, yes, plans.

Read more …

The power of Sidney Powell.

Appeals Court Orders Judge In Flynn Case To Explain Actions (JTN)

A federal appeals court Thursday has agreed to hear a request from Michael Flynn’s legal team to remove the district judge overseeing his case, and has also ordered the judge to explain his controversial and unorthodox conduct in handling it. Judge Emmett Sullivan has been given a June 1 deadline to respond. The government has also been invited to “respond in its discretion” during that window. Flynn’s legal team had filed a request on Tuesday asking the appeals court to remove Judge Emmett Sullivan from the case, claiming the judge was biased against the defendant. Following the Justice Department’s request earlier this month to dismiss the case against Flynn, Sullivan had appointed retired federal Judge John Gleeson to file an amicus curiae brief arguing in favor of not dropping the case against the general.


Flynn’s lawyers sharply criticized Sullivan’s handling of the case. “The district judge’s latest actions – failing to grant the Government’s Motion to Dismiss, appointing a biased and highly-political amicus who has expressed hostility and disdain towards the Justice Department’s decision to dismiss the prosecution, and the promise to set a briefing schedule for widespread amicus participation in further proceedings – bespeaks a judge who is not only biased against Petitioner, but also revels in the notoriety he has created by failing to take the simple step of granting a motion he has no authority to deny,” the Tuesday petition read.

Read more …

Good long overview.

The Railroading of Michael Flynn (Lake)

As it happens, the FBI case manager for the Flynn investigation, Joe Pientka, had indeed drafted a memo closing the Flynn investigation—but he hadn’t filed it formally. Because of Pientka’s “incompetence” (the word was Peter Strzok’s, in a delighted text exchange on January 4, 2017, with his paramour Page), the probe was not shut down and a new predicate wasn’t required. In his motion to dismiss the prosecution of Flynn, U.S. Attorney Timothy Shea said this “sidestepped a modest but critical protection that constrains the investigative reach of law enforcement: the predication threshold for investigating American citizens.”

Until the end of April 2020, Pientka’s memo was kept from Flynn’s counsel and the public. It has been released only now because career U.S. attorney Jeffrey Jensen completed his review of Flynn’s case and declassified documents relevant to it. The Pientka memo provides far more detail on the status of the Flynn investigation than was previously known—and what it shows isn’t pretty. We learn from the memo that after the FBI ran down a lead provided by a confidential human source about Flynn’s contact with a person with links to the Russian state, the bureau could not confirm that any such relationship ever existed. That source was likely Stefan Halper, a fellow at Cambridge University and an intelligence community insider. Halper was being paid by the U.S. government to inform on Flynn as well as another Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos.

Flynn’s suspected contact, whose name is redacted in the memo, is likely Svetlana Lokhova. She is a Russian-born academic who, the Guardian and other news outlets reported in 2017, had traveled in the same car with Flynn as they left a Cambridge University seminar in 2016. These stories made it seem as if Lokhova was luring Flynn into a honey trap, during which sex is offered for blackmail leverage later on. “The CIA and FBI were discussing this episode, along with many others, as they assessed Flynn’s suitability to serve as national security adviser,” the Guardian reported.

The Lokhova story was a smear. Two months after it was published, the Guardian was forced to append an embarrassing correction. The correction read in part, “Her lawyers have also subsequently informed us that she does not have privileged access to any Russian intelligence archive. We also wish to make clear, for the avoidance of doubt, that there is no suggestion that Lokhova has ever worked with or for any of the Russian intelligence agencies.” Last year, Lokhova sued Halper and several news organizations for the smear against her.

https://twitter.com/SidneyPowell1/status/1263557289950228481

Read more …

Flynn was opposed to it. He had to go.

Russiagate Began With Obama’s Iran Deal Domestic Spying Campaign (Tablet)

Obama and his foreign policy team were hardly the only people in Washington who had their knives out for Michael Flynn. Nearly everyone did, especially the FBI. As former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s spy service, and a career intelligence officer, Flynn knew how and where to find the documentary evidence of the FBI’s illegal spying operation buried in the agency’s classified files—and the FBI had reason to be terrified of the new president’s anger. The United States Intelligence Community (USIC) as a whole was against the former spy chief, who was promising to conduct a Beltway-wide audit that would force each of the agencies to justify their missions.

Flynn told friends and colleagues he was going to make the entire senior intelligence service hand in their resignations and then detail why their work was vital to national security. Flynn knew the USIC well enough to know that thousands of higher-level bureaucrats wouldn’t make the cut. Flynn had enemies at the very top of the intelligence bureaucracy. In 2014, he’d been fired as DIA head. Under oath in February of that year, he told the truth to a Senate committee—ISIS was not, as the president had said, a “JV team.” They were a serious threat to American citizens and interests and were getting stronger. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers then summoned Flynn to the Pentagon and told him he was done.

“Flynn’s warnings that extremists were regrouping and on the rise were inconvenient to an administration that didn’t want to hear any bad news,” says former DIA analyst Oubai Shahbandar. “Flynn’s prophetic warnings would play out exactly as he’d warned shortly after he was fired.” Flynn’s firing appeared to be an end to one of the most remarkable careers in recent American intelligence history. He made his name during the Bush administration’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where soldiers in the field desperately needed intelligence, often collected by other combat units. But there was a clog in the pipeline—the Beltway’s intelligence bureaucracy, which had a stranglehold over the distribution of intelligence.

Flynn described the problem in a 2010 article titled “Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan,” co-written with current Deputy National Security Adviser Matt Pottinger. “Moving up through levels of hierarchy,” they wrote, “is normally a journey into greater degrees of cluelessness.” Their solution was to cut Washington out of the process: Americans in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan needed that information to accomplish their mission.

Read more …

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

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 132020
 


Harris&Ewing Treasury Building, Fifteenth Street, Washington, DC 1918

 

Don’t Let Governors Fool You About Reopening (Yaneer Bar-yam)
GOP Rejects Pelosi’s $3 Trillion HEROES Act Package (WE)
House Bill Would Provide Some As Young As 16 With $2,000 Monthly Payments (JTN)
HEROES Act Delivers A Win To The Health Insurance Industry (IC)
US Fossil Fuel Giants Set For A Coronavirus Bailout Bonanza (G.)
US COVID19 Death Forecast Revised Upward Again (R.)
Gilead Ties Up With Generic Drugmakers For COVID19 Drug Supply (R.)
Mexico Sees 353 Deaths In Most Lethal Coronavirus Day (R.)
Cuba Begins Mass Testing For COVID19 With Fewer Than 20 New Cases Per Day (G.)
How Hong Kong Did It (Atl.)
EU Faces ‘Existential Threat’ If Coronavirus Recovery Is Uneven (G.)
China’s April Air Passenger Numbers Down 68.5% Year-on-Year (R.)
US Airlines Tell Crews Not To Force Passengers To Wear Masks (R.)
Contacts Exposed Between US Kyiv Embassy, Yovanovitch, Burisma (Solomon)
Judge Delays Flynn Dismissal Decision, Invites Outside Opinions (JTN)

 

 

• US adds 1,894 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours. Monday: 830, Sunday: 776.

 

 

Russia had its 10th consecutive day of more than 10,000 cases

 

 


 

 

 

Cases 4,358,220 (+ 85,116 from yesterday’s 4,273,104)

Deaths 293,236 (+ 5,615 from yesterday’s 287,621)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do the states that are doing well risk seeing their progress wiped out?

Don’t Let Governors Fool You About Reopening (Yaneer Bar-yam)

In March, I called on the US to impose a strict five-week national lockdown with internal and external travel restrictions to bring us to near zero infections. While measures were taken in many parts of the country, it was too little, too late. Now, I and many others are issuing another warning: the decisions of some US governors to prematurely ease social distancing is a disastrous mistake and citizens need to ignore them. Our research — and common sense — show that lifting social restrictions will lead to an explosion of Covid-19 cases and cause countless more deaths. The correct way to relax restrictions is to start with parts of a state that are Covid-free for 14 days and allow only essential travel to those parts of the state with 14-day quarantines for inbound travelers. Why will going along with reopening lead to catastrophe?

First, we must understand that coronavirus is very deadly. Those who claim the death rate is exaggerated are plain wrong and downplaying the emergency. While death rate estimates have varied, recent data from China, the United Kingdom and France, reflecting deaths outside hospitals, including in nursing homes, puts the Covid-19 global fatality rate at around 6.8%, based upon analysis we did at endcoronavirus.org, using data from Johns Hopkins University. Second, almost all reopening states, from California to Pennsylvania, currently have a critical mass of new cases of existing infections that could see new outbreaks in the coming days and weeks. Third, without extreme preventive measures, we’ve seen how coronavirus infections doubled every two to three days at one point in different areas — which equated to about a tenfold increase per week.

That means that a state with 1,000 new cases could have well over 100,000 more in two weeks, if social distancing is loosened. States like Texas have announced precautions to mitigate harm from reopening with measures like limiting restaurants and shopping malls to operating at a 25% or 50% capacity depending on the amount of cases in their areas. But we know from months of studying this disease that communities need more aggressive measures to stop the exponential spread of Covid-19. We prevented the contagion from being much worse by putting in place protective measures throughout the US. We expanded testing capacity. We ramped up our hospitals’ capacity to care for critically ill patients. But this “flattening the curve” isn’t enough. If we lighten up on our protective measures now, all the progress we’ve made will vanish, and we’ll suffer an enormous setback. We need to push even harder to win.

Read more …

View from the right wing.

GOP Rejects Pelosi’s $3 Trillion HEROES Act Package (WE)

Senate Republicans flatly rejected a $3 trillion coronavirus aid package House Democrats introduced Tuesday and said they’ll wait to decide whether more legislation is necessary. “If we reach a decision, along with the administration to move to another phase, that’ll be the time to interact with the Democrats,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday. “But what you’ve seen in the House is not something designed to deal with reality but designed to deal with aspirations. This is not a time for aspirational legislation. This is a time for practical response to the coronavirus pandemic.” Democrats blasted McConnell’s reaction to the massive bill.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, accused McConnell of ignoring the desperate needs of people out of work and left without paychecks. “We need big, bold action, and yet, Leader McConnell seems totally divorced from that reality,” Schumer said. “We need to act in a big and bold way. The House has started the ball rolling. Republicans and the president ought to understand that and help us move in a big, bold way, not stand in the way.” The House measures are massive in both cost and scope. It provides new $1,200 cash payments to individuals and more than $1 trillion to state, local, and municipal governments. It includes a bailout for troubled state pensions and the U.S. Postal Service and “hazard pay” for healthcare workers and other workers who are unable to stay at home during the coronavirus.

Republicans have no appetite for the wide-ranging measure, they said. Congress has already enacted $2.8 trillion in federal coronavirus relief aid, and both the GOP and President Trump say they plan to wait for that funding to roll out and for economies to begin reopening before assessing the need for new federal spending legislation. Sen. John Thune, the majority whip, said the House bill “is nothing more than a messaging exercise by the House Democrats.” The South Dakota Republican said the bill “is not going anywhere” and said the Senate “will be working in a bipartisan way with the White House” when considering new coronavirus funding.

Read more …

I think we can safely label this UBI. If people making up to $250,000 are eligible, the few percent that remain are negligible.

House Bill Would Provide Some As Young As 16 With $2,000 Monthly Payments (JTN)

House Democrats are proposing a $2,000-a-month stimulus payment for individuals 16 and older to help them during the coronavirus. Reps. Ro Khanna of California and Tim Ryan of Ohio have introduced the proposal as stand-alone legislation titled the Emergency Money for the People Act. A spokesperson for Ryan’s office told Just The News on Tuesday that he is working with House leadership to include his bill in future coronavirus stimulus legislation. The Khanna-Ryan proposal would provide the monthly payments to qualified recipients for one year. To qualify, individual recipients must make less than $130,000 annually and couples filing joint tax returns would have to make less than $260,000.


The proposal has 37 co-sponsors including Reps. Rashida Tlaib, of Michigan, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, and Ted Lieu, of California. Khanna’s office said 16-year-olds would not have to file tax returns to qualify for the $2,000 per month. “They would have to fill out an online form that must be accessible via mobile phone to fill out” with their Venmo, Paypal, “other mobile money or direct deposit” information, a Khanna spokesperson said. Khanna’s office also told Just The News that illegal immigrants and non-citizens who file tax returns with tax ID numbers would qualify for the monthly direct payments in the bill.

Read more …

Here’s what you get for rejecting Medicare For All.

HEROES Act Delivers A Win To The Health Insurance Industry (IC)

The Heroes Act, the new coronavirus relief bill introduced by House Democrats on Tuesday, includes protections for employer-sponsored insurance plans, which the health care industry has been lobbying Congress on for weeks. The proposed legislation includes subsidies for continued coverage for furloughed workers and people using COBRA, a continuing health coverage plan for those who have lost work, even if they don’t pay their premiums. The bill also creates avenues for premium assistance for certain categories of people who want to pay those premiums anyway and would open a special insurance enrollment period a week from the date it’s enacted into law. It also provides nine months of premium payments to health insurance plan administrators who don’t receive them during the ongoing pandemic.

The push to protect insurance premiums comes as some health care companies, like UnitedHealth, Humana, and Cigna, have reported profits during the pandemic amid record-high unemployment levels and have boasted that they don’t expect to take a financial hit. In late April, dozens of industry groups — including the influential, conservative Chamber of Commerce — sent a letter to congressional leadership asking for direct subsidies for COBRA, expanding uses for health savings accounts, and increasing eligibility to access health insurance marketplaces.

A couple of weeks earlier, the nations’ second-largest health insurance lobby, America’s Health Insurance Plans, joined a congressional call with members of the conservative Democratic Blue Dog Caucus to ask for protections for employer coverage. According to two sources familiar with the April 13 call, AHIP’s CEO discussed the importance of protecting employer-sponsored plans. One person on the call, who works for an insurer and was not authorized to speak publicly about the conversation, said AHIP’s push for targeted relief to employers who pay premiums to insurance companies was puzzling, given that insurance companies have seen recent profits.

Read more …

The US is no longer capable of passing any law without both parties appropriating huge sums of money to their corporate sponsors. Every single bill that is passed increases inequality.

US Fossil Fuel Giants Set For A Coronavirus Bailout Bonanza (G.)

Fossil fuel companies and coal-powered utilities in the US are set for a potential bonanza under federal government plans for a bond bailout, part of the rescue package for the coronavirus crisis. At least 90 fossil fuel companies, many of them established giants such as ExxonMobil, Chevron and Koch Industries, stand to gain from the Federal Reserve’s coronavirus bond buyback programme, alongside more than 150 utilities including coal-heavy firms such as American Electric Power and Duke Energy, according to a new analysis. The bond buyback scheme is expected to be worth at least $750bn altogether and to benefit thousands of companies by the end of September, and the size of the payout that could go to fossil fuels and utilities is as yet unknown.


The scheme is to be discussed in the US Senate on Tuesday. Jason Disterhoft, a senior campaigner at Rainforest Action Network, which conducted the study, said public money should be used to bail out companies only with strict conditions attached. “Our concern is that these recovery funds should be prioritising people and communities and they are going instead to big companies to pay down their debts,” he said. Ten out of the top 40 fracking companies would be eligible to apply, according to the analysis, which examined all US fossil fuel companies and energy utilities to check whether they would qualify under the published scheme rules. It is not known whether any of these companies will apply for the support, though many are expected to do so.

Read more …

The modeling gets more useless with each update. Just say you don’t know.

US COVID19 Death Forecast Revised Upward Again (R.)

The latest forecast here from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) reflects “key drivers of viral transmission like changes in testing and mobility, as well as easing of distancing policies,” the report said. The revision reinforced public health warnings, including U.S. Senate testimony on Tuesday from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, that prematurely lifting lockdowns could lead to more outbreaks of the respiratory virus. Fauci and other medical experts have urged caution in relaxing restraints on commerce before diagnostic testing and the ability to trace close contacts of infected individuals can be vastly expanded, along with other safeguards.

IHME researchers acknowledged that precise consequences of moves to reopen shuttered businesses and loosen stay-at-home orders are difficult to gauge. “The full potential effects of recent actions to ease social distancing policies, especially if robust containment measures have yet to be fully scaled up, may not be fully known for a few weeks due to the time periods between viral exposure, possible infection and full disease progression,” the report said. COVID-19 has already claimed nearly 81,000 lives in the United States, out of more than 1.36 million known infections, according to a Reuters tally.

[..] The projections are presented as a range, with the latest forecast – 147,00-plus deaths – representing the average between a best-case scenario of 102,783 lives lost and a worst-case scenario of 223,489 fatalities. The forecasts have fluctuated over the past couple of months, with a projected death toll as low as 60,000 on April 18.

Read more …

It’s become normal to label remdesivir an “experimental COVID-19 treatment”.

Gilead Ties Up With Generic Drugmakers For COVID19 Drug Supply (R.)

Gilead Sciences Inc said on Tuesday it has signed non-exclusive licensing pacts with five generic drugmakers based in India and Pakistan to expand the supply of its experimental COVID-19 treatment remdesivir. The pacts allow the companies – Jubilant Life Sciences Ltd, Cipla Ltd , Hetero Labs Ltd, Mylan NV and Ferozsons Laboratories Ltd – to make and sell the drug in 127 countries. The countries consist of nearly all low-income and lower-middle income ones, as well as several that are upper-middle- and high-income, the drugmaker said. Afghanistan, India, North Korea, Pakistan and South Africa are among the countries.


The licensees will also set their own prices for the generic product they produce, Gilead said. The licenses are royalty-free until the World Health Organization declares the end of the public health emergency regarding COVID-19, or until a product other than remdesivir or a vaccine is approved to treat or prevent COVID-19, the company said. Gilead’s antiviral drug remdesivir earlier this month received the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization to treat COVID-19 patients.

Read more …

Rising in the charts. Close the borders.

Mexico Sees 353 Deaths In Most Lethal Coronavirus Day (R.)

Mexico’s health ministry confirmed 1,997 new cases of coronavirus infections on Tuesday, along with 353 additional deaths, the most deadly day since the pandemic began. The new infections brought confirmed coronavirus cases to 38,324 and 3,926 deaths in total, according to the official tally. Mexico’s previous highest daily death toll was on Thursday, when Mexico reported 257 fatalities.

Read more …

It’s easier for islands. And Cuba has a much better health care system than just about any country, that helps too.

Cuba Begins Mass Testing For COVID19 With Fewer Than 20 New Cases Per Day (G.)

Cuba has begun mass testing for coronavirus as it appeared to have contained infections, amid a partial shutdown that has exacerbated a shortage of basic goods. New cases have fallen to fewer than 20 per day from a peak of around 50 in April. Since the first Covid-19 illness was reported two months ago, there have been 1,804 confirmed cases, of which 70.7% have recovered and 78 people have died. Cuba has closed its borders and the tourism industry, schools and public transportation. Masks are mandatory and eating at restaurants, bars and social gatherings prohibited. Cubans have been urged to stay at home and practice social distancing.

But the public has not been confined to quarters and has taken to trudging about in search of basic supplies, waiting in long lines and even dusting off bicycles from the dark days following the fall of the Soviet Union. [..] While Communist-run Cuba’s universal and free healthcare system has proved key in containing Covid-19, the pandemic has exacerbated shortages of basic goods and a chaotic retail system caused largely by US sanctions and the centralized, state-dominated economy. Cuba’s top epidemiologist, Francisco Durán, said on Monday that mass testing would help better define the prevalence of the coronavirus as many people found to be infected showed no symptoms.

“The objective is to find new cases and then intervene, isolate, seek contacts, and take all possible measures to ensure that Cuba continues as it is now,” he said during his daily virus update broadcast to the nation. Many experts believe Cuba has managed to control the outbreak better than many countries in the region due to its well-staffed preventive healthcare system, mobilization of activists to track cases, a centralized system that allows a better focus, and willingness to quarantine large numbers of people. Cuban scientists announced last week they had adapted a computerized system developed locally to quickly detect antibodies of the new virus, allowing for mass testing in hospitals and clinics at little cost. Until now, the Caribbean island nation has used expensive tests – often donated – that take days to process, old-fashioned door knocking by health personnel and medical students to trace contacts, and isolation.

Read more …

Organizing at a small-scale level works.

How Hong Kong Did It (Atl.)

[..] there is no unchecked, devastating COVID-19 epidemic in Hong Kong. The city beat back the original wave, and also beat back a second resurgence due to imported cases. But unlike in Taiwan or South Korea, this success can’t be attributed to an executive that acted early and with good governance backed by the people. The secret sauce of Hong Kong’s response was its people and, crucially, the movement that engulfed the city in 2019. Seared with the memory of SARS, and already mobilized for the past year against their unpopular government, the city’s citizens acted swiftly, collectively, and efficiently, in effect saving themselves. [..]

On the very day the first known coronavirus case in Hong Kong was announced, the same protest team behind the candidate information sites immediately created a new website—this time to track cases of COVID-19, monitor hot spots, warn people of places selling fake PPE, and report hospital wait times and other relevant information. Many of the key information sources for Hong Kong protesters had been anonymous channels in the popular app Telegram and their own online forums. These anonymous formats protected the protesters from government repression but created a constant threat of misinformation, as someone could always pretend to be a protester or just be wrong or trolling.

Consequently, the protesters learned to become incessant fact-checkers, used to looking up multiple sources and critically analyzing information. Now they turned their powers to critical analysis to the coronavirus: criticizing their own officials, as well as the World Health Organization, which did not advise wearing masks or travel restrictions, and China, which they saw as covering up the initial epidemic (they were right on all counts). In response to the crisis, Hong Kongers spontaneously adopted near-universal masking on their own, defying the government’s ban on masks. When Lam oscillated between not wearing a mask in public and wearing one but incorrectly, they blasted her online and mocked her incorrect mask wearing.

In response to the mask shortage, the foot soldiers of the protest movement set up mask brigades—acquiring and distributing masks, especially to the poor and elderly, who may not be able to spend hours in lines. An “army of volunteers” also spread among the intensely crowded and often decrepit tenement buildings to install and keep filled hand-sanitizer dispensers. When the government refused at first to close the border with mainland China, more than 7,000 medical workers went on an unprecedented strike, demanding border closures and PPE for hospital workers. This strike was only possible because labor unions were formed during the protests. Now they came in handy for collective action.

Read more …

Since the recovery is 100% sure to be uneven, the ‘Existential Threat’ is inevitable.

EU Faces ‘Existential Threat’ If Coronavirus Recovery Is Uneven (G.)

The risk of an uneven economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis poses an “existential threat” to the European Union, one of its most senior economic policymakers has said. Paolo Gentiloni, a former Italian prime minister and now the EU’s economy commissioner, said the bloc also had a “historic opportunity” as it charts a plan to rescue Europe’s economy. In an interview a few days after the commission said Europe had entered “the deepest economic recession in its history”, Gentiloni said the EU needed a “sound recovery plan” to avoid the risks of economic division. Shuttered shops and factories, grounded planes and stay-at-home consumers as a result of lockdown restrictions mean the EU economy is expected to shrink by 7.5% in 2020, a deeper fall than the 2009 financial crisis.

Gentiloni is concerned that countries do not have the same resources to recover from this economic shock. The hardest hit countries – Greece, Italy, Spain and Croatia – face falls in economic output (GDP) in excess of 9% in 2020, while Germany’s economy is set to contract by 6.5% and Austria’s by 5.5%. Meanwhile countries have varying levels of state resources to rescue ailing companies and pay workers’ wages – emergency measures that have become easier since Brussels relaxed state aid rules to deal with the crisis. Gentiloni said state aid requests from EU member states were very imbalanced.

“What is clear is the uneven level of the recovery and the risks this creates to our single market and the necessary convergence, especially within the euro area. This is something that I could even define as an existential threat to the building of the Union,” he told a group of European newspapers, including the Guardian. “If we want to look from a more optimistic way it is not only an existential threat but also in some sense a historic opportunity to fill the void we have in common tools of economic and fiscal policies.”

Read more …

Good.

China’s April Air Passenger Numbers Down 68.5% Year-on-Year (R.)

China’s passenger numbers fell 68.5% in April from a year ago, for a drop smaller than in March, the aviation regulator said on Wednesday, pointing to a fragile industry recovery from the coronavirus pandemic as other nations reopen economies. The global tourism industry is closely watching trends in China for clues to travel patterns in other major markets as countries race to lift travel curbs. Air passengers numbered 16.72 million in April, Xiong Jie, a spokesman of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, told an online news conference. That compared with a decline of 71.7% on the year in March, when passengers numbered 15.13 million.


China’s tourism sector showed encouraging signs of recovery over the May Day holiday with 115 million trips made, many by car and by younger people emerging from weeks of virus lockdown measures. More than 30% of capacity has returned in the Chinese domestic market in the last two months, aviation data provider Cirium said on Tuesday. But the number of passenger flights in China has not yet recovered to 60% of the levels seen in past years, Jin Junhao, another CAAC official, sadi during Wednesday’s conference.

Read more …

There are few places where you’re more likely to get infected than inside a plane (or a train, subway).

US Airlines Tell Crews Not To Force Passengers To Wear Masks (R.)

The top three U.S. airlines have told their flight attendants not to force passengers to comply with their new policy requiring face coverings, just encourage them to do so, according to employee policies reviewed by Reuters. American Airlines , Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have told employees that they may deny boarding at the gate to anyone not wearing a face covering, and are providing masks to passengers who do not have them, the three carriers told Reuters. Inside the plane, enforcement becomes more difficult.

“Once on board and off the gate, the face covering policy becomes more lenient. The flight attendant’s role is informational, not enforcement, with respect to the face covering policy,” American told its pilots in a message seen by Reuters explaining its policy, which went into effect on Monday. “Bottom line to the pilots: a passenger on board your aircraft who is being compliant with the exception of wearing a face covering is NOT considered disruptive enough to trigger a Threat Level 1 response,” referring to some kind of intentional disruption by a passenger that could cause the captain to divert the flight. American spokesman Joshua Freed said: “American, like other U.S. airlines, requires customers to wear a face covering while on board, and this requirement is enforced at the gate while boarding. We also remind customers with announcements both during boarding and at departure.”

[..] U.S. travel demand has fallen by about 94% in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, prompting carriers to slash their flying schedules to roughly 30% of normal this month. With fewer planes in the skies, some are flying near capacity. Global airlines body IATA came out last week in favor of passengers wearing masks onboard, as debate intensifies in the United States on the role that government agencies should play in mandating new safety measures for flying before a vaccine is developed.

Read more …

Certainly in 2016, there was no way to become US ambassador to Ukraine without the approval of Victoria Nuland et al. So another “hero” falls.

Contacts Exposed Between US Kyiv Embassy, Yovanovitch, Burisma (Solomon)

During President Trump’s impeachment, former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch testified to Congress that she knew little beyond an initial briefing and “press reports” about Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian natural gas firm that had hired Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter and was dogged by a corruption investigation. “It just wasn’t a big deal,” she declared under oath on Oct. 11, 2019. But newly unearthed State Department memos obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show Yovanovitch’s embassy in Kiev, including the ambassador herself, was engaged in several discussions and meetings about Burisma as the gas firm scrambled during the 2016 election and transition to settle a long-running corruption investigation and polish its image before President Trump took office.

Yovanovitch, for instance, was specifically warned in an email by her top deputy in September 2016 — three years before her testimony — that Burisma had hired an American firm with deep Democratic connections called Blue Star Strategies to “rehabilitate the reputation” of the Ukrainian gas firm and that it had placed “Hunter Biden on its board,” the memos show. She also met directly with a representative for Burisma in her embassy office, less than 45 days before Trump took office, a contact she did not mention during her impeachment deposition. The discussions about Burisma inside Yovanovitch’s embassy were so extensive, in fact, that they filled more than 160 pages of emails, memos and correspondence in fall 2016 alone, according to the State Department records obtained under FOIA by the conservative group Citizens United.

[..] The impeachment hearings last fall, which focused on efforts by Trump and his lawyer Rudy Guiliani to find evidence inside Ukraine on the Bidens and Burisma and to remove Yovanovitch from her job as U.S. ambassador, included testimony from Yovanovitch herself. During that deposition in October 2016, she made no mention of direct contact with Burisma representatives and instead suggested her knowledge about the company and its legal travails was limited mostly to a briefing she received in preparation for Senate confirmation as ambassador in summer 2016 and subsequent news media reports.

Read more …

Curious decision.

Judge Delays Flynn Dismissal Decision, Invites Outside Opinions (JTN)

US District Judge Emmet Sullivan on Tuesday delayed a decision on whether to dismiss Michael Flynn’s conviction for lying, indicating he plans to allow for the submission of outside opinions in the form of amicus curiae briefs. Last week, the Justice Department moved to drop the charges against Trump’s former national security advisor, but the judge’s plan to allow for the submission of friend of the court briefs means that the case will not be closed immediately. Sullivan has not issued a decision on the DOJ’s request to drop the charges. Flynn’s legal team blasted the idea of allowing for the submission of amicus briefs, which allow for parties interested in but not involved in a case to present their views.


“It is no accident that amicus briefs are excluded in criminal cases,” Flynn’s lawyers wrote in a filing according to The Hill. “A criminal case is a dispute between the United States and a criminal defendant. There is no place for third parties to meddle in the dispute, and certainly not to usurp the role of the government’s counsel. For the Court to allow another to stand in the place of the government would be a violation of the separation of powers.” Flynn in 2017 pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, but later sought to withdraw his guilty plea. Evidence that has since emerged suggested the FBI had no case against Flynn but set up an interview in hopes it would catch him lying, his lawyers and Justice officials have said.

Read more …

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

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 052020
 


G.G. Bain ‘Casino Theater playing musical ‘The Little Whopper’, NY 1920

 

30,000 New Cases, 3,000 New Deaths Daily Expected in US (CNN)
New Projection Puts US COVID19 Deaths At Nearly 135,000 By August (R.)
New Zealand PM: No Open Borders For ‘A Long Time’ (BBC)
Just 273 Of 18.1 Million People Arriving In UK Prior To Lockdown Quarantined (G.)
France’s First Known COVID19 Case ‘Was In December’ (BBC)
US Treasury Seeks To Borrow A Record $3 Trillion This Quarter (CNBC)
New York AG Asks Major Banks To Clarify Handling Of Small Business Loans (R.)
When the Birdies Sing Like the Fat Lady (Kunstler)
Apple, Google Ban Use Of Location Tracking In Contact Tracing Apps (R.)
Immunity Passports And Vaccination Certificates (Lancet)
‘Time Has Come’ For Universal Basic Income – Scottish PM Sturgeon (Ind.)
US Mortgage Firms Push For Support As Borrowers Halt Payments (R.)
Safe Climate Niche Closing Fast, With Billions At Risk (SMH)
Assange Extradition Hearing Delayed Until September (PR)

 

 

• The tally by Johns Hopkins University recorded 1,015 deaths in the past 24 hours, the lowest one-day figure in a month, with more than 1.17 million cases in the country as of 8:30 pm Monday (0030 GMT Tuesday), and a total 68,689 deaths

• US is improving only in NY,NY,CT and MA. Exclude those states and numbers are rising:

 

 

And while we’re at it, another success story: Sweden.

 

 

 

Cases 3,662,271 (+ 79,382 from yesterday’s 3,582,889)

Deaths 252,747 (+ 4,180 from yesterday’s 248,567)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

I don’t want to quote CNN anymore than NYT or WaPo, but I was looking for these numbers, and CNN has them here. Note: they are from different sources, and the CDC one is only a draft “report”, of which the White House said it’s “not reflective of any of the modeling” done by the White House Coronavirus Task Force or “data that the task force has analyzed.”

Indicative of the level at which CNN “functions” are sentences like these: “Trump, who has consistently appeared to care most about his political prospects during three miserable months..”

30,000 New Cases, 3,000 New Deaths Daily Expected in US (CNN)

President Donald Trump now knows the price of the haunting bargain required to reopen the country — tens of thousands more lives in a pandemic that is getting worse not better. It’s one he now appears ready to pay, if not explain to the American people, at a moment of national trial that his administration has constantly underplayed. Depressing new death toll projections and infection data on Monday dashed the optimism stirred by more than half the country taking various steps to reopen an economy that is vital to Trump’s reelection hopes and has shed more than 30 million jobs. Stay-at-home orders slowed the virus and flattened the curve in hotspots like New York and California, but they have so far failed to halt its broader advance, leaving the nation stuck on a grim plateau of about 30,000 new cases a day for nearly a month.

New evidence of the likely terrible future toll of Covid-19 came on a day when Trump stayed out of sight — his wild briefings that hurt his political prospects now paused — meaning he could not be questioned on his enthusiasm for state openings in the light of new evidence. The White House also took new steps to limit testimony to the House from members of the President’s coronavirus task force, prompting Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi to warn on CNN that it was “afraid of the truth.” Trump, who has consistently appeared to care most about his political prospects during three miserable months, mounted another victory lap on Monday — boasting on Twitter that he was finally getting “great reviews” for his virus management.

A new model from the University of Washington, previously used by the White House suggested that 134,000 Americans could now die by August — in a revised toll prompted by the likely impact of state openings. The total was more than double the same organization’s estimate last month. A draft internal report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention obtained by The New York Times buckled the White House narrative that the worst of the pandemic is passed and it’s time to get going again. It found that the daily death toll will reach about 3,000 by June 1, nearly double the current number.

Read more …

More from the IHME.

New Projection Puts US COVID19 Deaths At Nearly 135,000 By August (R.)

A new forecast projects nearly 135,000 deaths due to COVID-19 in the United States through the beginning of August mainly due to reopening measures under way, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington said on Monday. The forecast U.S. death toll through early August totaled 134,475, a midrange between 95,092 and 242,890, the IHME said. The revised projection almost doubles the number of deaths foreseen in the United States since the last estimate in mid-April. The new projections reflect rising mobility and the easing of social distancing measures expected in 31 states by May 11, said the IHME, whose models are used by the White House.


The increasing contacts among people will promote transmission of the coronavirus, it said. “This new model is the basis for the sobering new estimate of U.S. deaths,” said IHME director Christopher Murray, referring to the reopening measures. The IHME said its new model assumes that public health orders that are currently in place will stay in place until infections are minimized. The IHME’s forecast increases the projected number of deaths in the U.S. by more than 62,000, with a rise of more than 8,700 deaths in New Jersey and more than 7,800 in New York state for the same period, up from estimates released last month.

Read more …

Good thing the Lord of the Rings is finished.

New Zealand PM: No Open Borders For ‘A Long Time’ (BBC)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the country will not have open borders with the rest of the world for “a long time to come”. Ms Ardern was speaking after attending part of Australia’s cabinet meeting via video link. The meeting discussed a possible “trans-Tasman bubble”, where people could go between Australia and New Zealand freely, and without quarantine. But she said visitors from further afield were not possible any time soon. Both Australia and New Zealand have closed their borders to almost all foreigners as part of their Covid-19 response. Ms Ardern said New Zealand and Australia were discussing a “bubble of sorts between us, a safe zone of travel”.


She stressed there was “a lot of work to be done before we can progress…but it’s obviously been floated because of the benefits it would bring”. But, in response to a question about the country’s tourism sector, Ms Ardern said: “We will not have open borders for the rest of the world for a long time to come.” Tourism is one of New Zealand’s biggest industries, directly employing almost 10% of the country’s workforce, and contributing almost 6% of GDP. Most visitors are from Australia, followed by China, the US, and the UK. Ms Ardern said any “trans-Tasman bubble” was only possible because of “the world leading actions” of both countries.

Read more …

And few and far between after, from what I’ve seen.

Just 273 Of 18.1 Million People Arriving In UK Prior To Lockdown Quarantined (G.)

Fewer than 300 people out of the 18.1 million who entered the UK in the three months prior to the coronavirus lockdown were formally quarantined, figures reveal. Passengers on three flights from Wuhan, in China, the source of the Covid-19 outbreak, and one flight from Tokyo, Japan, that was carrying passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, were taken to government-supported isolation facilities between 1 January to 22 March. The figures, provided by the government to the Labour MP and member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Stephen Doughty, show this totalled 273 people. Additional data provided to the committee shows that there were 18.1m arrivals at the UK border by air, land and sea in the same period.

Although that includes arrivals from all destinations, it is understood that Home Office estimates would still put the number of potentially infected individuals entering the UK from coronavirus-affected countries in that period in the tens of thousands. Doughty said: “The admission that just four flights from two locations, barely a few hundred individuals – out of literally millions of arrivals – were formally quarantined while the pandemic was already raging in a series of locations beggars belief. “On what scientific basis were a handful of flights from Wuhan and one from a Tokyo singled out for extreme attention? But not a single flight from Northern Italy, Spain or the US?

“The fact that many of these people then likely arrived and travelled onwards across the UK with little or no adherence to social distancing, and with no checks or protections at the border – barely a whiff of hand sanitiser – is deeply disturbing. Let alone the arrival of 3,000 fans from Madrid as the pandemic picked up speed.

Read more …

But I thought the French strand didn’t come from China?!

France’s First Known COVID19 Case ‘Was In December’ (BBC)

A patient diagnosed with pneumonia near Paris on 27 December actually had the coronavirus, his doctor has said. Dr Yves Cohen told French media a swab taken at the time was recently tested, and came back positive for Covid-19. The patient, who has since fully recovered, said he had no idea where he caught the virus as he had not been to any infected areas. This news means the virus may have arrived in France almost a month earlier than previously thought. Dr Cohen, head of emergency medicine at Avicenne and Jean-Verdier hospitals near Paris, said the patient was a 43-year-old man from Bobigny, north-east of Paris. He was exhibiting what later became to be known as the main symptoms of coronavirus, including a dry cough, a fever and trouble breathing.


He was admitted to hospital on 27 December, four days before the World Health Organization’s China country office was informed of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause being detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The French patient told French broadcaster BFMTV that he had not travelled before falling sick. Dr Cohen said two of the patient’s children had fallen ill but that the wife had not shown any symptoms. But Dr Cohen pointed out that the patient’s wife worked at a supermarket near Charles de Gaulle airport and could have come into contact with people who had recently arrived from China. The patient’s wife said that “often customers would come directly from the airport, still carrying their suitcases”.

Read more …

The banks need more help, I’m sure.

US Treasury Seeks To Borrow A Record $3 Trillion This Quarter (CNBC)

Massive stimulus to support the U.S. economy through the coronavirus crisis will cause the Treasury to borrow a record $3 trillion this quarter. The department on Monday announced the total, which is actually $2.999 trillion. “The increase in privately-held net marketable borrowing is primarily driven by the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, including expenditures from new legislation to assist individuals and businesses, changes to tax receipts including the deferral of individual and business taxes from April – June until July, and an increase in the assumed end-of-June Treasury cash balance,” the department said in a statement. On top of that borrowing, the Treasury also said it anticipates another $677 billion in the third quarter. First-quarter borrowing totaled $477 billion.


The red ink comes thanks to multiple stimulus efforts Congress has passed to resuscitate an economy brought to a standstill amid social distancing efforts to halt the virus spread. Allocations thus far have totaled more than $2 trillion, and at last one more package is expected to help the more than 30 million Americans who have hit the unemployment line as well as thousands of other businesses that have seen their revenue streams evaporate. The Treasury Department also is backstopping several lending programs for the Federal Reserve, which is leveraging Treasury guarantees in programs aimed at providing another $2.2 trillion in funding to businesses and households.

Read more …

They’ll laugh in her face.

New York AG Asks Major Banks To Clarify Handling Of Small Business Loans (R.)

New York’s Attorney General said on Monday she has asked 11 major U.S. banks to clarify how they had issued loans tied to the U.S government’s $660 billion program to rescue small businesses from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Known as the Paycheck Protection Program, the plan was intended to help small firms weather the worst global economic crisis in decades but has been hobbled by missing paperwork, technology failure and a misdirection of funds to big corporations. Attorney General Letitia James said she is seeking information on the practices, marketing and procedures that banks undertook when they issued those loans.


Also of interest is whether some companies had used their lobbying power to influence the way banks had dispensed the loans, she said. “We are concerned that women and minority groups did not have equal access to loans,” James said in an interview, adding that she worried a disproportionate amount of money had flowed to big companies. A spokesman for James declined to name the 11 banks that had received a letter from the office, sent on April 29, but said they are “large” U.S. banks. The United States has been hardest hit by the coronavirus, which causes a respiratory disease, having seen 67,821 deaths in the country, higher than any other nation in the world.

Read more …

“The beauty of springtime is sublime and, as Edmund Burke noted, that very beauty provokes our thoughts of pain and terror.”

When the Birdies Sing Like the Fat Lady (Kunstler)

And so here we are at a fraught moment in the convergent crises of corona virus and the foundering economic system that it infected, with all its frightful pre-existing conditions. Of course, it isn’t capitalism, so-called, that is failing, but the perversions of capitalism, starting with the appendage of the troublesome term: ism. It isn’t a religion, or even a pseudo-religion like Zoroastrianism or communism. It’s simply the management system for surplus wealth. In a hyper-complex society, the management of wealth naturally grows hyper-complex, too, with lavish opportunities and temptations for chicanery, cheating, fraud, and swindling (the perversions of capital). It’s in the interest of the managers to cloak all that hyper-complex perversity in opaque language, to make it seem okay.

How many ordinary Americans have a clue what all the Municipal Liquidity Facilities, Primary Dealer Credit Facilities, Primary and Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facilities, Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facilities, Main Street New Loan Facilities and Expanded Loan Facilities, Commercial Paper Funding Facilities, currency swap lines, the TALFs TARPs, PPPs, SPVs represent – besides the movement, by keystrokes, of “money” from one netherworld to another (both conveniently located on Wall Street), usually to the loss of non-elite citizens generally and to their offspring’s offspring’s offspring?

Real capital is grounded in the production of real things of real value, of course, and when it’s detached from all that, it’s no longer real capital. Money represents capital, and when the capital isn’t real, the money represents…nothing! And ceases to be real money. Just now, America is producing almost nothing except money, money in quantities that stupefy the imagination – trillions here, there, and everywhere. The trouble is that money is vanishing as fast as it’s being created. That’s because it’s based on promises to be paid back into existence that will never be kept, on top of prior promises to pay back money that were broken or are in the process of breaking. The net result is that money is actually disappearing faster than it can be created, even in vast quantities.

All this sounds like metaphysical bullshit, I suppose, but we are obviously watching money disappear. Your paycheck is gone. That activity you started – a brew-pub, a gym, an ad agency – no longer produces revenue. The HR department at the giant company you work for told you: don’t bother coming into the office tomorrow, or possibly ever again. Your bills are piling up. The numbers in your bank account run to zero. That sure smells like money disappearing. Wait until the pension checks and the SNAP cards mysteriously stop landing in the mailbox. There’s going to be a lot of trouble. Ordinary Americans are going to get super-pissed if money doesn’t disappear from the stock markets, too.

Read more …

Every country develops its own app. And they’re all the best one, I’m sure.

Apple, Google Ban Use Of Location Tracking In Contact Tracing Apps (R.)

Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google on Monday said they would ban the use of location tracking in apps that use a new contact tracing system the two are building to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Apple and Google, whose operating systems power 99% of smart phones, said last month they would work together to create a system for notifying people who have been near others who have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The companies plan to allow only public health authorities to use the technology. Both companies said privacy and preventing governments from using the system to compile data on citizens was a primary goal. The system uses Bluetooth signals from phones to detect encounters and does not use or store GPS location data.

But the developers of official coronavirus-related apps in several U.S. states told Reuters last month it was vital they be allowed to use GPS location data in conjunction with the new contact tracing system to track how outbreaks move and identify hotspots. The Apple-Google decision to not allow GPS data collection with their contact tracing system will require public health authorities that want to access GPS location to rely on what Apple and Google have described as unstable, battery-draining workarounds. Alternatives likely would miss some encounters because iPhones and Android devices turn off Bluetooth connections after some time for battery-saving and other reasons unless users remember to re-activate them. But some apps said they planned to stick to their own approaches.

Software company Twenty, which developed the state of Utah’s Healthy Together contact tracing app with both GPS and Bluetooth, said on Monday the app “operates effectively” without the new Apple-Google tool. “If their approach can be more effective than our current solution, we’ll eagerly incorporate their features into our existing application, provided it meets the specifications of current and prospective public health partners,” Twenty said. Canada’s Alberta province, which does not collect GPS data, said it has no plans to adopt the Apple-Google system for its ABTraceTogether app. Privacy experts have warned that any cache of location data related to health issues could make businesses and individuals vulnerable to being ostracized if the data is exposed. Apple and Google also said Monday they will allow only one app per country to use the contact system, to avoid fragmentation and encourage wider adoption. The companies said they would, however, support countries that opt for a state or regional approach, and that U.S. states will be allowed to use the system.

Read more …

The Lancet should stand for quality. So sure, talk about why immunity passports won’t work. But what’s the use of discussing vaccination certificates when there’s no vaccine?

Immunity Passports And Vaccination Certificates (Lancet)

Many governments are looking for paths out of restrictive physical distancing measures imposed to control the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). With a potential vaccine against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) many months away,1 one proposal that some governments have suggested, including Chile, Germany, Italy, the UK, and the USA,2 is the use of immunity passports—ie, digital or physical documents that certify an individual has been infected and is purportedly immune to SARS-CoV-2. Individuals in possession of an immunity passport could be exempt from physical restrictions and could return to work, school, and daily life. However, immunity passports pose considerable scientific, practical, equitable, and legal challenges.

On April 24, 2020, WHO highlighted current knowledge and technical limitations, advising “[t]here is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection…[a]t this point in the pandemic, there is not enough evidence about the effectiveness of antibody-mediated immunity to guarantee the accuracy of an ‘immunity passport’”.3 In a follow-up tweet, WHO clarified that it is expected that infection with SARS-CoV-2 will result in some form of immunity.4 Caution is warranted about how population level serology studies and individual tests are used. It is not yet established whether the presence of detectable antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 confers immunity to further infection in humans and, if so, what amount of antibody is needed for protection or how long any such immunity lasts.3

Data from sufficiently representative serological studies will be important for understanding the proportion of a population that has been infected with SARS-CoV-2. These data might inform decisions to ease physical distancing restrictions at the community level, provided that they are used in combination with other public health approaches.5 The use of seroprevalence data to inform policy making will depend on the accuracy and reliability of tests, particularly the number of false-positive and false-negative results, and requires further validation.6

Read more …

Not her decision, so easy talk. And the Tories will never go there.

‘Time Has Come’ For Universal Basic Income – Scottish PM Sturgeon (Ind.)

The “time has come” for universal basic income (UBI) in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has said. Speaking at the daily coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh, the first minister said there will be “constructive discussions” with the UK government on the matter. Under the scheme, residents would be given a universal payment from the government, with some benefits scrapped. The Scottish government has brought forward four pilots of a similar scheme in different council areas, but it is the UK government that has the ultimate power over creating a national scheme. When asked about the move at the briefing, the first minister said: “The experience of the virus and the economic consequences of that have actually made me much, much more strongly of the view that it is an idea that’s time has come.


The Scottish government would need more control over taxation and social security to make such a scheme a reality but the first minister said she hopes to “get into a constructive discussion” with the UK government about the scheme. She added she would like conversations to take place “hopefully reasonably quickly” after the coronavirus pandemic is over. The first minister added: “Watch this space.” Think tank Reform Scotland devised a detailed proposal for a UBI scheme. It would consist of an annual payment of £5,200 a year for adults and £2,600 for those under 16. Annually, the scheme would cost the Scottish government £20 billion, with measures found to raise £18.34 billion in revenue to support the scheme. When the think tank published its report in April, the first minister described it as “interesting and timely”, adding the coronavirus outbreak strengthened the case “immeasurably”.

Read more …

Support the most bloated zombies! Or: look, if you want to support these guys, forget about supporting anyone else.

US Mortgage Firms Push For Support As Borrowers Halt Payments (R.)

U.S. mortgage firms facing billions of dollars of missed home loan repayments are continuing to push for emergency government support as data published Monday showed a further rise in borrowers asking to halt payments. The number of people seeking to have mortgage payments paused or reduced rose to 7.5% as of April 26 from 7.0% a week earlier as the economic effects of the novel coronavirus outbreak stretched household finances, figures from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) showed. The MBA estimates that 3.8 million homeowners are now in forbearance. The surge in delayed payments could leave mortgage service companies, which pool home loans and sell them to investors, with a liquidity shortfall of as much as $100 billion over the next nine months, according to the MBA.


That is because mortgage servicers still have to advance scheduled payments to investors even if borrowers fail to make their payments. Mortgage servicers want the Federal Reserve and Treasury to introduce an emergency liquidity facility to cover those payments but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last week there were no current plans to offer such a lifeline. In an interview, the MBA’s Chief Executive Officer Bob Broeksmit said it was still discussing the issues with the Fed, Treasury and Federal Housing Finance Agency. “We don’t see it as the end of the matter,” he said. “We understand that the Fed and Treasury will continue to monitor the situation. We continue to advocate for the facility so we can prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

Read more …

“..3.5 billion people will be exposed to “near-unliveable” temperatures averaging 29 degrees through the year by 2070 [..] That heat compares with the narrow 11- to 15-degree range that has supported civilisation over the past six millennia

Safe Climate Niche Closing Fast, With Billions At Risk (SMH)

As much as one-third of the world’s population will be exposed to Sahara Desert-like heat within half a century if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at the pace of recent years. Scientists from China, the US and Europe found that the narrow climate niche that has supported human society would shift more over the next 50 years than it had in the preceding 6000 years. As many as 3.5 billion people will be exposed to “near-unliveable” temperatures averaging 29 degrees through the year by 2070. Less than 1 per cent of the Earth’s surface now endures such heat. That heat compares with the narrow 11- to 15-degree range that has supported civilisation over the past six millennia, according to research published Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Absent climate mitigation or migration, a substantial part of humanity will be exposed to mean annual temperatures warmer than nearly anywhere today,” the paper said. Xu Chi, a researcher at China’s Nanjing University and one of the paper’s authors, said: “We were frankly blown away by our own initial results. As our findings were so striking, we took an extra year to carefully check all assumptions and computations.” “Clearly we will need a global approach to safeguard our children against the potentially enormous social tensions the projected change could invoke.” Among the most exposed nations will be India – where many people live in “already-hot places” – with as many as 1.2 billion people likely to be forced to move if population and warming trends continue. For Nigeria, the number exposed could be 485 million, according to a media release distributed along with the paper.

The scenario used projected the total populations in India and Nigeria to reach 2.2 billion and 600 million, respectively, by 2070, Dr Xu told the Herald and The Age. In Australia, areas of Western Australia and the Northern Territory home to about 200,000 people will be at risk. The research extended current population and greenhouse gas emissions trends into the future, and excluded impacts from the coronavirus pandemic on both. The researchers also considered possible rainfall changed. “The global pattern of population distribution seems less constrained by precipitation – while there is also an optimum around 1000 mm [of rainfall a year ] – so we focused on temperature,” Dr Xu said. “Changes of precipitation regime would definitely have impacts, but such impacts together those of temperature change would be more complex to foresee.”

Read more …

“The UK is proud to be part of the Media Freedom Coalition championing press freedom around the world today.”

Assange Extradition Hearing Delayed Until September (PR)

Hearings in the extradition of WikiLeaks founder, publisher, and editor Julian Assange will resume in September after being postponed from May 18 because of the coronavirus outbreak, which would have prevented lawyers from attending the hearing. Judge Vanessa Baraitser said it would not be possible for it to recommence this month because of strict restrictions on gatherings to curb the spread of COVID-19. Assange’s lawyers have said they have been unable to discuss the case with their client since the coronavirus outbreak. “There have always been great difficulties in getting access to Mr. Assange. But with the coronavirus outbreak, the preparation of this case cannot be possible,” his attorney Edward Fitzgerald told the court. Today, Judge Baraitser said the case would be moved to another Crown Court in September, once one with availability is secured.

The parties were unable to schedule the three week hearing for July or August. In addition, time was needed so that US prosecutors could attend the hearing. The Daily Mail reported the government lawyer, James Lewis, saying, ‘We think it is doubtful flights will have resumed earlier than then so we would rather have a September date because it gives more opportunity to have the American prosecutors actually in court.’ The parties agreed September 7 as the earliest date for the hearings to resume, although an exact date and an appropriate venue were yet to be decided. “It’s going to take some negotiation to find a Crown Court that is open in September, in the current climate, and willing and available to take this hearing,” Judge Baraitser said in Westminster Magistrates’ Court today. The judge will announce the new location, which might be outside London, and the start date for the remaining three weeks of the hearing in writing to the lawyers on Friday.

Assange was not able to attend Monday’s hearing via videolink because his lawyers said he was not well enough to appear. Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief, said in a video posted on social media on Monday that it was “completely unacceptable” that Assange has to spend another four months — and potentially longer — in prison. He described the hearing as a disgrace and denounced the tiny courtroom where only a few journalists could attend. He said this was not open justice and it needs to end. [..] Assange’s father John Shipton was delighted about the delay, saying it will allow family and supporters from Australia to attend. He’s also optimistic Assange might not be behind bars for the whole four months. He said, ‘I’m hoping there will be a very strong and firm bail application. It appears his lawyers held the power in today’s hearing and got the hearing dates they wanted, so it’s a good sign.’

Read more …

 

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

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CNN in Greece

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth for your own good.

 

Apr 122020
 


Helen Levitt New York 1939

 

DOJ Threatens Action Against Pandemic Crackdowns On Religious Ceremonies (JTN)
Can Trump Reopen The Economy On May 1? Not Really (LATimes)
California Gov. Newsom Praises Trump Admin’s COVID19 Relief Efforts (JTN)
Hundreds Of US Meat Workers Have Tested Positive For Coronavirus (LATimes)
New York Hospital Approved To Use COVID-19 Experimental Treatment (JTN)
EU Borders May Close Till September Due To US COVID-19 Threat (F.)
China Chasing Coronavirus Praise From Germany (UrduP)
USA Keen to Learn from Greece’s World-Leading Response to COVID-19 (GR)
UN Seeks To Lease Hotels, Ships To House Refugees On Greek Islands (Amna)
Coronavirus Isn’t Really Dangerously Lingering On Surfaces For Weeks (F.)
Is The Next Great Depression Here? (VT)
Economist Destroys China – Calls Coronavirus An Act of War (VT)
Turkish Court Accepts Indictment For Khashoggi Murder Suspects (DS)
Use and Abuse of MMT (Michael Hudson, Dirk Bezemer, Steve Keen, T.Sabri Öncü)
East Africa Locust Plague Up To 20 Times Larger Than Last Wave (Ind.)
Julian Assange Fathered Two Sons While Inside Ecuadorian Embassy In London (DM)

 

 

US records 1,920 deaths related to the #coronavirus over the past 24 hours, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University as of 8:30 pm Saturday (0030 GMT Sunday)

 

 

Cases (+ 1,790,573 from yesterday’s 1,710,152)

Deaths 109,654 (+ 6,148 from yesterday’s 103,506)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer – NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 21% !

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Info.live:

 

 

 

 

A number of graphs from FT for your viewing ‘pleasure’:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And one extra, which focuses on Belgium.

 

 

 

 

The Pope may close the Vatican, but not my little church. Two week quarantines for all.

DOJ Threatens Action Against Pandemic Crackdowns On Religious Ceremonies (JTN)

The Justice Department signaled Saturday night it may intervene against local governments that are cracking down on religious ceremonies during the pandemic, warning that action could come as early as next week. Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec used her Twitter account on the eve of Easter to announce that Attorney General William Barr was monitoring efforts to stop Easter religious ceremonies. “During this sacred week for many Americans, AG Barr is monitoring govt regulation of religious services,” Kupec tweeted. “While social distancing policies are appropriate during this emergency, they must be applied evenhandedly & not single out religious orgs. Expect action from DOJ next week!”


The statement comes as numerous municipalities across the country have been reportedly taking actions to stop churchgoers from celebrating Easter together, including in Louisville where the mayor threatened to track license plates and fine anyone who attends a public ceremony. A federal judge Saturday actually blocked Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer from enforcing his ban on drive-in church services on Easter, calling it unconstitutional. “An American mayor criminalized the communal celebration of Easter,” U.S. District Judge Justin Walker wrote while issuing a temporary restraining order. “That sentence is one that this Court never expected to see outside the pages of a dystopian novel, or perhaps the pages of The Onion. ”The Mayor’s decision is stunning. And it is, ‘beyond all reason,’ unconstitutional,” the judge added.

Read more …

Odd friends: Trump and Gavin Newsom.

Can Trump Reopen The Economy On May 1? Not Really (LATimes)

President Trump says he hopes to be able to begin reopening the nation’s shuttered economy on May 1. But ultimately, nervous governors, mayors, school boards and families across the country will determine when to resume normal life. With more Americans out of work than at any time since the Depression in the 1930s, Trump is eager to ease the stay-at-home guidance he issued on March 16 and later extended through April 30 in an effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. The president and his top economic advisors have floated plans to restart economic activity in phases, with some regions given greater leeway than others. Privately, White House officials concede the approach will have little effect on the larger economy, but hope to at least let some small businesses begin bringing back employees.

Speaking at the White House, Trump said he would consider the advice of his public health advisors, who have urged caution in lifting restrictions too quickly. Outside public health experts say another month or more may be necessary to keep the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus under 100,000. “I’m going to have to make a decision, and I hope to God it’s the right decision,” Trump said Friday. “I would say without question it’s the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make.” Asked what metrics he would use in deciding, Trump pointed to his head. Trump also said he would probably include governors from both parties in a council to advise him on the issue and hinted that California Gov. Gavin Newsom may be among them.

The president wields tremendous influence over the national response to the pandemic, and many local and state leaders, especially fellow Republicans, would weigh his advisories heavily in deciding their own policy. Although Trump asserted Friday that he has “absolute authority” to order the country open, the guidelines are not mandatory but recommendations. Governors, mayors and business owners have the ultimate power. Many issued their own guidance before Trump did, and some already have announced plans to restrict commerce and public gatherings beyond May 1 no matter what Trump recommends.

Read more …

Newsom is starting to shine a bit in his own right. Not exactly Trump’s best friend before this started.

California Gov. Newsom Praises Trump Admin’s COVID19 Relief Efforts (JTN)

California Governor Gavin Newsom is offering strong words of praise for President Trump, stating that the president, through his administration’s effort to help fight the coronavirus in that state, has met “every single direct request that he was capable of meeting.” Newsom made the laudatory remarks in an interview Friday with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “I have to be complimentary, otherwise I would be simply lying to you,” he said of the Trump administration’s relief measures. California has had one of the more significant coronavirus outbreaks in the United States, logging over 22,000 infections and 630 deaths as of Saturday night. Newsom put his state under an extended, near-total lockdown last month.


The Trump administration dispatched the Naval hospital ship USNS Mercy to Los Angeles last month in order to provide overflow hospital beds to assist with the state’s expected surge of coronavirus patients. Newsom said the ship was sent to the city “because of [the president’s] direct intervention.” The governor also noted the administration’s deployment of 2,000 federal medical stations to the state. Remarking on his praise of Trump, Newsom told Cooper that it is “a wonderful thing to be able to say, and I hope that continues.”

Read more …

Including 300 at just one plant.

Hundreds Of US Meat Workers Have Tested Positive For Coronavirus (LATimes)

There’s been a spike in coronavirus cases at meat plants in the U.S., with hundreds of reported infections in just the last week. That’s adding to questions over the fragility of the food-supply chain and raising concerns about worker safety. As many as 50 people at a JBS SA beef facility in Colorado’s Weld County tested positive, adding to more than 160 cases at a Cargill Inc. meat-packaging plant in Pennsylvania, union officials said Friday. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Friday reported 190 cases at a Smithfield Foods Inc. pork facility, the Associated Press said. The Cargill and Smithfield plants are being closed, while JBS said it will continue operations. Workers are also starting to die. Two more deaths were reported by union officials on Friday, one at the Greeley, Colo., meat plant and one in Pennsylvania.

Both those facilities are owned by JBS SA, the world’s top meat producer, which didn’t confirm the deaths. “As our communities and our country collectively face the coronavirus challenge, JBS USA has had team members impacted by COVID-19,” the American unit of the Brazilian meatpacker said in an emailed statement. “We are offering support to those team members and their families. Out of respect for the families, we are not releasing further information.” WH Group Ltd. acquired Virginia-based Smithfield, the world’s largest pork producer, in 2013 for $6.95 billion. As Smithfield can’t export sausage, ham and bacon from its U.S. factories because China prohibits imports of processed meat, WH Group opened a $116-million factory in Zhengzhou that will produce 30,000 metric tons of those meats when it reaches full capacity next year.

While it’s unclear whether the deaths and other cases have anything to do with the workplaces, the news exposes the vulnerability of global supply chains that are needed to keep grocery stores stocked after panic buying left shelves empty. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both addressed the sudden jump in cases at meat plants when speaking to reporters on Friday. Pence said as many as 300 people have been “impacted” by the coronavirus at the Colorado meat plant. It’s unclear what that figure was referring to, whether it was people who have been quarantined, or possible cases. Trump also referred to the outbreak at Colorado meat plants on Friday. Neither Pence nor Trump specified which plant they were talking about. Greeley is about 65 miles northeast of Denver.

“We’re looking at this graph where everything’s looking beautiful and is coming down and then you’ve got this one spike. I said, ‘What happened to Denver?’” Trump said. “And many people, very quickly.” [..] The deaths reported Friday bring the total reported for JBS employees to three. On Tuesday, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which represents thousands of poultry workers, said two of its members working at a Tyson Foods Inc. plant in Camilla, Ga., died from the virus.

Read more …

So in your headline you say “Experimental Treatment”, and then in your article you say it was already used when George Washington’s troops were fighting small pox. That’s one way of doing it, I guess.

New York Hospital Approved To Use COVID-19 Experimental Treatment (JTN)

The Albany Medical Center in New York has become one of the first hospitals in America to gain Federal Drug Administration approval to conduct a new method of treating COVID-19, using antibodies from surviving patients. If a recovered patient has been diagnosed with the coronavirus then the hope is that that patient may be able to donate their blood plasma to help create immunity for others who are more critically ill, officials said. “As the region’s only academic medical center, Albany Med participates in many cutting-edge clinical research trials.

We are honored to have the ability to administer this experimental therapy as we fight this global pandemic and hope that it can provide the life-saving treatment these patients inflicted with COVID-19 so desperately need,” Dennis P. McKenna, the hospital’s president and CEO, said. The so-called convalescent blood plasma therapy is not a novel idea. It was not only used during the 1918 flu pandemic but as far back as when George Washington’s troops were fighting small pox during the Revolutionary War. It also was used as recently as 2014’s ebola outbreak.

Convalescent plasma therapy is simple. Patients become inflicted with COVID-19 and then recover completely and that immunity enables them to donate their plasma to another critically infected patient. Albany Medical Center is serving as a center for other COVID-19 patients who will donate their plasmas. A donor must be fully recovered and have no symptoms for at least 14 days. Convalescent plasma has been used effectively during earlier recent virus outbreaks: the 2002 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) under George W. Bush’s administration and during the H1N1 and Middle East respiratory syndrome under the Obama administration.

Read more …

Irony: US cases primarily came from Europe.

EU Borders May Close Till September Due To US COVID-19 Threat (F.)

Europe’s Schengen zone may keep its borders shut until September, to defend itself against the threat of COVID-19 from U.S. and other travelers. French President Emmanuel Macron has reportedly raised the possibility of the usually border-free countries staying shut to most foreigners for six more months. During a videoconference last Friday with trade unions, Macron said the idea is being considered by Schengen members, according to French media reports. The reason he gave was the fact that the pandemic is evolving at a different pace around the world, and “did not affect all countries at the same time” BFMTV reported. So the implication is that Europe needs to protect itself from the threat posed by travelers coming from high-risk countries.


According to the TV station, “Emmanuel Macron notably cited the example of the United States, where the coronavirus crisis is delayed by several weeks and which will therefore reach its peak later. But also that of Africa, where the situation is developing differently. In Asia, a second peak may occur.” Macron’s comments came two days after the Élysée Palace confirmed the French lockdown, in place since March 17, will continue beyond April 15. They also came on the heels of a call by European Union officials for member states to extend the border closure for another month at least, until mid-May. The EU says it needs more time to battle the health crisis, of which Europe is the global epicentre. Despite seeing “encouraging first results”, it wants to extend the closure of its external borders until May 15.

Read more …

Merkel won’t like the press getting involved in this.

China Chasing Coronavirus Praise From Germany (UrduP)

Chinese representatives tried to influence German government officials to give positive comments about Beijing’s management of the coronavirus outbreak, Germany’s Die Welt newspaper reported Sunday. The virus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December and Beijing has been criticised by some — most notably US President Donald Trump — over its initial handling of the crisis. Senior officials and staff at German government ministries were invited “to speak in positive terms about China’s management of the coronavirus,” Die Welt said, citing a confidential foreign ministry document.


The foreign ministry recommended that all German governmental departments reject such approaches, the newspaper added. The ministry has declined to confirm or deny the report. However a German intelligence source told Die Welt that “Chinese officials are pursuing an intensified information and propaganda policy with regard to the coronavirus”. Beijing has sought to counter the narrative that the outbreak began in China and highlighted its assistance to Western countries “in order to present the People’s Republic as a trustworthy partner,” Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution said.

Read more …

From Greece with love.

USA Keen to Learn from Greece’s World-Leading Response to COVID-19 (GR)

Over 200 policymakers in the US Congress, the White House, State Department and other thought leaders and officials in Washington, DC were briefed about Greece’s impressive, world-leading response to the COVID-19 pandemic., announced Manatos & Manatos, a lobbying firm in DC. “Once again, in times of tremendous difficulty and challenge, little Greece has become a role model for the rest of the world. This speaks to the legacy Greece has shaped over centuries – a legacy of courage, creativity and perseverance,” said Andy Manatos and Mike Manatos, the two Greek American executives of the lobbying firm who spoke to the officials.

Furthermore, US Ambassador to Greece Geoffey Pyatt in a message to the American Hellenic Chamber of Commerce also praised the Greek Government and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis for realising the gravity of the situation and his realistic approach in containing the virus. He also highlighted the compliance of the Greek people to the strict measures imposed. Indeed, major newspapers and news websites have praised Greece for the way it is dealing with the deadly virus and the low figures of cases and deaths recorded. Much more so because the country is now only shyly emerging from a crippling 10-year-long economic crisis that caused cutting of healthcare resources by 75 percent.

Characteristically, on April 10 Bloomberg ran an op-ed with the title “Greece Shows How to Handle the Crisis”. The article notes the immediate and bold response of the Greek government to the coronavirus threat: “Athens closed down all non-essential shops only four days after reporting its first Covid-19 death. In contrast, Italy and Spain did so after 18 and 30 days, respectively. A ban on non-essential movement in Greece came only a week afterwards — faster than in either of the other two countries.” Compared to the two Mediterranean countries, Greece’s difference in the horrifying figures is staggering: Greece currently counts 2,011 cases and 91 deaths, while Italy reports 147,577 cases and 18,849 deaths and Spain counts 158,273 cases and 16,081 deaths.

One would argue that Greece’s population is 10.74 million while Spain’s is 46.75 million and Italy’s population is 60.3 million, but proportionately Greece’s figures are hugely lower. Compared to countries with populations similar to Greece, still, the difference remains large. Netherlands with 17.1 million population reports 23,249 cases and 2,511 deaths; Belgium with 11.4 million population counts 26,667 cases and 3,019 deaths; Portugal with 10.2 population reports 15,472 cases and 435 deaths; Switzerland with 8.57 million population counts 24,551 cases and 1,002 deaths. On April 5, a New York Times story titled “The Rising Heroes of the Coronavirus Era – Nations’ Top Scientists” also praised Greece’s Chief Scientific Coordinator of Medical Response, Professor Sotirios Tsiodras:

“In Greece, which has so far been spared a major outbreak, everyone tunes in when Prof. Sotirios Tsiodras, a slender-framed, gray-haired man, addresses the nation every day at 6 p.m. His delivery is flat, and he relies heavily on his notes as he updates the country on the latest figures of those confirmed sick, hospitalized or deceased….The head of the Greek government’s medical response to the coronavirus and a churchgoing father of seven with a long career studying infectious diseases at Harvard, M.I.T. and elsewhere, Professor Tsiodras is not one for embellishment.”

Read more …

Note: the UN, not the EU.

UN Seeks To Lease Hotels, Ships To House Refugees On Greek Islands (Amna)

The UN High Commission for Refugees has issued a call for hotels and ships that can be leased to house vulnerable groups of asylum-seekers on the Greek islands, who might be affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The move was approved by the Migration & Asylum Ministry, it said, and would be funded by the European Union. Hotels are being sought for asylum applicants and refugees on the islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos, Leros and those of Rhodes and Crete. Availability must be immediate and the lease a three-month one. Ships must be able to accomodate 300 passengers and tie at the docks of Lesvos, Chios and Samos or 100 people and tie at Kos and Leros. They must include cleaning services, supply cabins with electricity and provide a meal three times a day. Leases must go into effect on Monday, April 13 and cover 15 days, with the option of extending it to two months.

Read more …

Primarily about different testing methods, thereby explaining their deficiencies.

Coronavirus Isn’t Really Dangerously Lingering On Surfaces For Weeks (F.)

RNA viruses, like the one that causes COVID-19, make a lot of mistakes when replicating their genomes, and sometimes these mistakes result in viral genomes containing fatal mistakes, or mutations, that render a critical viral gene non-functional – meaning they won’t infect people who come into contact with them. (In fact, these kinds of mistakes are why plants, animals, bugs, people – basically anything more complicated than these viruses – store genetic information in DNA instead, because far fewer mistakes are made when DNA replicates.) But when you run a qRT-PCR test, those viral genes with mistakes are indistinguishable from the ones that aren’t. And either way, the cellular machinery that makes more viruses will package up both functional and non-functional RNA. The RNA inside these packages, called virions, is what the qRT-PCR test is looking for.

For reasons that are not fully understood, patients that have recovered from a viral infection have cells that can continue to produce viral RNA without actually making infectious virus particles. That means it is not only possible but common to detect viral RNA without there being any infectious virus present. Virologists use other tests to detect infectious viruses – the ones we need to worry about actually making people sick. The most classical of these, plaque assays and 50% tissue culture infectious dose (TCID50) assays, are based on the ability of viruses to kill infected cells in culture. These methods are much better for assessing how much potentially transmissible virus would be “shed” from recovered patients or in the environment. (“Shed” is a bit of a jargon term virologists use – but it’s a good metaphor for thinking of viruses moving out of you and into the environment when you cough or sneeze.)

So why don’t we use these tests all the time? The problem with them is that they are also more time-consuming to perform and require specialized biocontainment. So they’re not practical for performing clinical diagnostic testing or broad surveillance. qRT-PCR can be performed in hours in standard laboratory conditions (biosafety level 2, or BSL-2), while plaque and TCID50 assays for SARS-CoV-2 take several days and must be performed in BSL-3 containment. Working in BSL-3 containment labs requires specialized training, and many clinical sites are not near a BSL-3 lab. So, most of the studies you read in the news about viral shedding and environmental contamination is just measuring the amount of viral RNA – but they’re not necessarily saying much about whether the virus is still contagious.

Fortunately, two studies have investigated the ability of virus to remain infectious on different materials in the environment. Although the length of time that virus on a surface remains infectious is dependent on environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity, no virus remained infectious on surfaces for anywhere near 17 days. Furthermore, in both studies, the amount of infectious virus was greatly reduced after several days. This suggests that risk of infection from virus on objects or surfaces in the environment can be minimized by diligent cleaning and disinfection practices.

Read more …

Two versions, short and long.

Is The Next Great Depression Here? (VT)

Economist Danielle DiMartino Booth talks about the correlation to the great depression and today in a sit-down with Patrick Bet-David.

Read more …

The full version of the interview above.

Economist Destroys China – Calls Coronavirus An Act of War (VT)

Economist Danielle DiMartino Booth Destroys China – Calls Coronavirus An Act of War in a sit-down with Patrick Bet-David.

Read more …

But not MbS.

Turkish Court Accepts Indictment For Khashoggi Murder Suspects (DS)


A Turkish court on Saturday accepted an indictment on the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. The 117-page indictment prepared by Istanbul prosecutors accusing 20 Saudi nationals of involvement in the gruesome premeditated murder was accepted by Istanbul’s Heavy Penal Court No. 11. Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, was killed and dismembered by a group of Saudi operatives shortly after he entered the country’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018. His body was never recovered. Khashoggi, according to reports by the U.N. and other independent organizations, was very likely killed on orders of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MBS).

The indictment states that suspect Mansour Othman M. Abbahussain, working as a major general and intelligence officer in Saudi Arabia, was tasked in the office of MBS and was instructed by Ahmed Bin Mohammed al-Asiri to bring Khashoggi back to the country and to kill him if he resisted. It added that Abbahussain assembled a 15-man hit squad, including himself, for the murder.

He also distributed tasks among the squad, separating them into three groups: intelligence, logistics, and negotiation. Abbahussain also determined the place to meet Khashoggi as the working office at the Istanbul consulate and made plans for all contingencies before, during, and after the deed. The indictment accuses al-Asiri and Saud al-Qahtani of incitement to deliberate killing through torture and seeks aggravated life sentences for both. It also accuses 18 other Saudi nationals and recommends aggravated life sentences for each. These accused individuals were in consensus over killing Khashoggi if he refused to return to Saudi Arabia and acted mutually to commit the crime, according to the indictment.

Read more …

Too long for me to properly summarize here. But it should be obvious that MMT and UBI get attention in today’s world, if only because the Fed’s rapacious “stimulus” policies.

America is fast on its way to new breadlines, and there is no excuse for that.

Use and Abuse of MMT (Michael Hudson, Dirk Bezemer, Steve Keen, T.Sabri Öncü)

Money is debt. Government money creation for public purposes – to pay for employment and output – spurs prosperity. But in its present form, private-sector debt creation has become largely extractive, and thus leads to the opposite effect: debt deflation. Governments can pay public debt without defaulting, as long as this debt is denominated in their own domestic currency, because the governments can always print the money to pay. To the extent that public debt results from spending that supports output, employment and growth, this process is not inflationary. The government gives value to money by accepting it in payment of taxes. So the monetary system is inherently bound up with fiscal policy. The classical premise of such policy has been to minimize the economy’s cost structure by taxing mainly unearned income (economic rents), not wages and profits in the production-and-consumption sector.


The problem nowadays is private debt. Most such debt is created by banks. This bank credit – debts owed by bank customers – tends to increase faster than the ability of debtors to earn enough income to pay it. The reason is that most of private debt is not used for productive, income-generating purposes, but to finance the transfer property ownership (affecting asset prices in proportion to the rate of credit growth for such purposes). That use of credit – not associated with the production-and-consumption economy – leads to debt deflation. Instead of providing the economy with purchasing power (as in running government budget deficits), private debt works over time to extract interest and amortization from the economy, along with servicing fees.

Read more …

The bigger threat.

East Africa Locust Plague Up To 20 Times Larger Than Last Wave (Ind.)

A locust plague up to 20 times larger than a wave two months earlier is threatening to devastate parts of East Africa. January and February saw the worst locust outbreak some countries had seen in 70 years, with crops and farmland ravaged across much of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia. But now, amid a global coronavirus pandemic, a second, much bigger round of the voracious insects is arriving. Billions of the young desert locusts are winging in from breeding grounds in Somalia in search of fresh vegetation springing up with seasonal rains. Millions of already vulnerable people are at risk. And as they gather to try to combat the locusts, often in vain, they risk spreading Covid-19 – a topic that comes a distant second for many in rural areas.

It is the locusts that “everyone is talking about”, said Yoweri Aboket, a farmer in Uganda. “Once they land in your garden they do total destruction. Some people will even tell you that the locusts are more destructive than the coronavirus. There are even some who don’t believe that the virus will reach here.” Some farmers in Mr Abokat’s village near the Kenyan border bang metal pans, whistle or throw stones to try to drive the locusts away. But mostly they watch in frustration, largely barred by a coronavirus lockdown from gathering outside their homes.

A failed garden of cassava, a local staple, means hunger. Such worries in the village of some 600 people are reflected across a large part of East Africa, including Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan. The locust swarms also have been sighted in Djibouti, Eritrea, Tanzania and Congo. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has called the locust outbreak, caused in part by climate change, “an unprecedented threat” to food security and livelihoods. Its officials have called this new wave some 20 times the size of the first.

Read more …

How does she explain to her kids later why their father was murdered by the government?

Julian Assange Fathered Two Sons While Inside Ecuadorian Embassy In London (DM)

Julian Assange secretly fathered two sons while holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. Gabriel, aged two, and his one-year-old brother Max were conceived while their father was hiding out to avoid extradition to America, where he faces espionage charges over the leaking of thousands of classified US intelligence documents. At the time, Assange, 48, was also wanted in Sweden where he was accused of rape. He has always denied the sex allegations, which have now been dropped. The boys’ mother is 37-year-old South African-born lawyer Stella Morris, who fell in love with the controversial WikiLeaks founder five years ago while visiting him to work on a legal bid to halt the extraditions. The couple have been engaged since 2017. [..] It is understood the couple also managed to keep their relationship and the birth of their children secret from Ecuadorian diplomats and officials who had given Assange refuge.

[..] At the time that Gabriel was conceived in 2016, Assange had been inside the embassy, close to Harrods, for four years and was believed to be under constant surveillance by American security services. [..] It is understood the couple also managed to keep their relationship and the birth of their children secret from Ecuadorian diplomats and officials who had given Assange refuge. [..] She is pleading for her fiance to be released under Government plans to free thousands of prisoners to quell the spread of the deadly virus between bars. Miss Morris says Assange is doubly vulnerable because he suffers from a chronic lung condition exacerbated by his years inside the embassy and has mental health issues which become more severe as a result of isolation. She said last night: ‘I love Julian deeply and I am looking forward to marrying him.


‘Over the past five years I have discovered that love makes the most intolerable circumstances seem bearable but this is different – I am now terrified I will not see him alive again. ‘Julian has been fiercely protective of me and has done his best to shield me from the nightmares of his life. ‘I have lived quietly and privately, raising Gabriel and Max on my own and longing for the day we could be together as a family. ‘Now I have to speak out because I can see that his life is on the brink. ‘Julian’s poor physical health puts him at serious risk, like many other vulnerable people, and I don’t believe he will survive infection with coronavirus. ‘Mentally, I do not think he will survive further enforced isolation either. ‘He is effectively in solitary confinement, in a cell for up for 23 and a half hours a day with no access to us, his family, or the psychiatric help he needs.’

[..] Miss Morris had an international upbringing with her theatre director mother and urban planner father. The family spent time in Sweden meaning she was a fluent Swedish speaker, able to help defend Assange against the allegations, which were rescinded last year. She is also a fluent Spanish speaker, a skill which would become equally critical when Assange sought asylum in a South American embassy the following year. She has a degree in law and politics from London’s prestigious School of Oriental and African Studies and took her MSc at Oxford where she was a noted scholar. She became a member of Assange’s inner circle in the embassy, officially changing her name from Sara Gonzalez Devant to Stella Morris so she could maintain a lower profile while researching and drafting legal documents for WikiLeaks.

Read more …

It must be possible to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. These are no longer the times when ads pay for all you read, your donations have become an integral part of the process.

Thanks everyone for your generous donations.

 

 

 

 

https://twitter.com/DrEricDing/status/1248738266851016704

 

 

 

 

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

 

Mar 172020
 


Edwin Rosskam Shoeshine, 47th Street, Chicago’s main Negro business street 1941

 

A View From Italy’s Coronavirus Frontline (G.)
The UK Only Woke Up “In The Last Few Days” (BF)
Julian Assange’s Mother Calls For His Immediate Release Over COVID19 Fears (ES)
Americans Get a Taste of Life Under Sanctions (MPN)
De Blasio Urges ‘Nationalization’ Of Key Industries (Fox)
Spain Takes Over Private Healthcare Amid More Lockdowns (G.)
Mitt Romney’s Coronavirus Economic Plan: $1,000 To Each American Adult (Vox)
Chinese Scientists Find Infected Monkeys Developed Immunity (SCMP)
New Zealand Launches Massive Spending Package To Combat COVID-19 (G.)
What The ECB Must Do To Save The Euro Zone Economy (SCMP)
EU Calls For 30-Day Ban On Foreigners Entering Bloc (G.)
Things Have Changed (Kunstler)
DOJ Drops Charges Against Russian Troll Farm for 2016 Election Meddling (L&C)

 

 

As the potential and existing economic and political disruption sinks in, everyone comes with their own re-inventions of the wheel. Predictable behavior. The US and UK can still stumble their way towards a worse outcome than necessary, but Italy no longer has such freedom. They made their big mistakes a few weeks ago.

And as politicans get measures, supplies and treatments wrong, they still have room left for gigantic mistakes is responding to economic consequences. Stuck as they may be bewteen the 2-3 weeks they tell you this will last and the many months they say it will.

Unless someoe stops them real soon, they will spend, trillions this time, bailing out banks and large companies that only exist to a large extent because they were bailed 12 years ago as well, and let the people rot away. But then, who are the main campaign contributors?

 

Cases 184,133 (+ 13,281 from yesterday’s 170,852)

Deaths 7,182 (+ 656 from yesterday’s 6,526)

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Steve Keen

 

 

What it will look like.

A View From Italy’s Coronavirus Frontline (G.)

There are the elderly couples who died hours apart and without their families around them. There is the 47-year-old woman who died at home, and who remained there for almost two days because funeral companies refused to collect her body. There are the doctors who lost their lives after assisting their infected patients. Among the 2,158 people to have been killed by the coronavirus pandemic in Italy as of Monday, the oldest was 95 and the two youngest were 39. “The reality is this virus is spreading like wildfire. Death is not certain, but the contagion is real,” said Luca Franzese, whose sister, Teresa, 47, died at home in Naples on 7 March. “My parents are heartbroken, they are destroyed..”

Teresa, who lived with her elderly parents, sister, brother-in-law and their two children, suffered from epilepsy but was otherwise in good health. A week before she died, she came down with the flu. “My parents called her doctor but they refused to come to the house despite knowing she had a disability,” said Franzese. “She went into a coma on 7 March, we tried to call the emergency hotline, they arrived after 40 minutes. In the meantime, I tried to give her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.” Teresa tested positive for the virus postmortem. Franzese spoke of his family’s frustration at being “abandoned” by the authorities after his sister was left to die at home.

It was only after he made an appeal for help via Facebook that a local funeral company eventually came to collect her body. But as with other coronavirus victims, she was buried quickly and without ceremony to mitigate the risk of infection posed by her corpse. Her parents, who have underlying health issues, tested negative for the virus, as did Luca and a nephew. The rest of Teresa’s immediate family of seven have tested positive. [..] not all of the dead had other health issues, at least as far as is known. Luca Carrara lost his father, Luigi Carrara, 86, and mother, Severa Belotti, 82, within a few hours of each other. He told the Italian press they were in good health. “I was unable to see my parents, they died alone, that’s what this virus is,” he added. “The truth is this is not a banal flu and if you end up in hospital, you leave either alive or dead.”

https://twitter.com/i/status/1239741543654834179

Read more …

Actual headline (way too long): The UK Only Realised “In The Last Few Days” That Its Coronavirus Strategy Would “Likely Result In Hundreds of Thousands of Deaths””

Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, tweets: “It said it took a study from Imperial to understand the likely burden of COVID-19 on the NHS. But read the first paper we published on COVID-19 on Jan 24. 32% admitted to ITU with 15% mortality. We have wasted 7 weeks. This crisis was entirely preventable.”

The UK Only Woke Up “In The Last Few Days” (BF)

The UK only realised “in the last few days” that attempts to “mitigate” the impact of the coronavirus pandemic would not work, and that it needed to shift to a strategy to “suppress” the outbreak, according to a report by a team of experts who have been advising the government. The report, published by the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team on Monday night, found that the strategy previously being pursued by the government — dubbed “mitigation” and involving home isolation of suspect cases and their family members but not including restrictions on wider society — would “likely result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and health systems (most notably intensive care units) being overwhelmed many times over”.

The mitigation strategy “focuses on slowing but not necessarily stopping epidemic spread — reducing peak healthcare demand while protecting those most at risk of severe disease from infection”, the report said, reflecting the UK strategy that was outlined last week by Boris Johnson and the chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance. But the approach was found to be unworkable. “Our most significant conclusion is that mitigation is unlikely to be feasible without emergency surge capacity limits of the UK and US healthcare systems being exceeded many times over,” perhaps by as much as eight times, the report said. In this scenario, the Imperial College team predicted as many as 250,000 deaths in Britain.

“In the UK, this conclusion has only been reached in the last few days,” the report explained, due to new data on likely intensive care unit demand based on the experience of Italy and Britain so far. “We were expecting herd immunity to build. We now realise it’s not possible to cope with that,” professor Azra Ghani, chair of infectious diseases epidemiology at Imperial, told journalists at a briefing on Monday night. As a result, the report — which its authors said had “informed policymaking in the UK and other countries in the last weeks” — said: “We therefore conclude that epidemic suppression is the only viable strategy at the current time.”

A suppression strategy, along the lines of the approach adopted by the Chinese authorities, “aims to reverse epidemic growth, reducing case numbers to low levels and maintaining that situation indefinitely”. It requires “a combination of social distancing of the entire population, home isolation of cases and household quarantine of their family members”, and “may need to be supplemented by school and university closures”. An “intensive intervention package” will have to be “maintained until a vaccine becomes available (potentially 18 months or more)“, the report said, painting an extraordinary picture of what life could be like in the UK for the next year and a half.

Read more …

And in a country as screwed up as Britain, jail is the last place to be.

“An Iranian judiciary spokesman says the country has temporarily freed about 85,000 prisoners, including political prisoners, in an attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus.”

Julian Assange’s Mother Calls For His Immediate Release Over COVID19 Fears (ES)

The mother of imprisoned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has appealed for his immediate release from Belmarsh Prison over fears he could catch coronavirus while behind bars. Christine Assange’s plea came after a leading prison boss warned last week that the worsening Covid-19 epidemic will kill inmates throughout the UK, describing the conditions inside jails as a fertile breeding ground for the virus. Coronavirus cases have surged throughout the UK in recent days, with 14 more deaths confirmed on Sunday.


More than 1,500 people nationwide have tested positive for the virus since the outbreak began, but officials say the true figure of people with the disease is likely to be far higher. In a series of posts on social media, Ms Assange described her son as being “weak from chronic illness” and implored Britons and Americans to push politicians into action over his case. Those with underlying health conditions are more at risk of contracting the virus.

Read more …

Be kind.

Americans Get a Taste of Life Under Sanctions (MPN)

Across fifty states, Americans are collectively bracing for the incoming COVID-19 pandemic to hit. In the face of the virus, people are resorting to panic buying, stocking up on vital foods and goods, leading to pressing shortages of key products like hand sanitizer and toilet paper. Perhaps more concerning, however, is that health experts all agree that the country is ill-equipped for the coming medical emergency. “We are not prepared, nor is any place prepared for a Wuhan-like outbreak,” said Dr. Eric Toner of Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “And we would see the same sort of bad outcomes that they saw in Wuhan – with a very high case fatality rate, due largely to people not being able to access the needed intensive care.”

Chief among the problems is a lack of ventilators, a crucial machine to help critically ill patients breathe properly. New York City, for example, has barely one sixth of the ventilators it would need for a critical outbreak. If things get truly bad, the city has drafted laws to compel prisoners at Rikers Island jail to dig mass graves. One of the principal reasons why the U.S. is so unprepared is that it spends so little on public health in comparison with what it spends on war. The U.S. military’s projected budget is $934 billion per year, the Pentagon’s is $712 billion. In contrast, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) costs the taxpayer only $6.6 billion. At a time of crisis, many Americans are reassessing which organization they feel is truly protecting them from danger. While increasing the military budget, President Trump has consistently argued for cuts to the CDC. Amazingly, the Trump administration confirmed last week that it intends to slash funding from the body, even as the country begins reeling from the impact of COVID-19.

The crippling shortages, inability to move and the likely overwhelming of medical services will give Americans a taste of what it is like to live under sanctions that it imposes on a number of countries worldwide. U.S. sanctions on Venezuela, declared illegal and a “crime against humanity” by the United Nations, are conservatively estimated to have killed more than 40,000 people between 2017 and 2018 alone. Diabetics, for example, have been unable to get insulin because of the embargo, leading to mass deaths. The Cuban government estimates that the American embargo has cost it over $750 billion. Meanwhile, Iran, wracked by the virus that has caused more than 850 confirmed deaths, has been decimated by Trump’s increased sanctions.

The Iranian rial lost 80 percent of its value, food prices doubled, and rents and unemployment soared. Because of the sanctions, patients with conditions like leukemia and epilepsy have been unable to get treatment. After the coronavirus hit it, no country would sell the Islamic Republic basic medical supplies like masks, fearful of reprisals from the world’s only superpower. The shortages are so bad that doctors are being forced to share facemasks with other hospital staff. Eventually the World Health Organization stepped in and began supplying Iran directly. The Iranian government also invented an app to deal with COVID-19, hoping to share information with its citizens to help fight its spread but Google removed it from its app store citing the sanctions that prevent it from promoting anything Iranian-made. The effect of the sanctions in helping spread COVID-19 across Iran and beyond is immeasurable.

Read more …

Why is it taking so long? Could it be because these industries pay for campaigns?

De Blasio Urges ‘Nationalization’ Of Key Industries (Fox)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is arguing that the best way to tackle the coronavirus outbreak is for the federal government to take over critical private companies in the medical field and have them running 24 hours a day. The mayor, who made multiple media appearances over the weekend, said that the current situation calls for drastic measures which include nationalizing certain industries. “This is a case for a nationalization, literally a nationalization, of crucial factories and industries that could produce the medical supplies to prepare this country for what we need,” de Blasio told MSNBC’s Joy Reid on Saturday, calling for “24/7 shifts” during what he called a “war-like situation.”


The following day, de Blasio reiterated this message, telling CNN that “the federal government needs to take over the supply chain right now.” He specified the need for companies that make ventilators, surgical masks, and hand sanitizers to be taken over and made to work around the clock. New York state already has started producing hand sanitizer in response to shortages and price gouging. The city itself has also taken drastic steps to deal with the crisis, forcing restaurants to limit themselves to takeout and delivery service, and closing many establishments to prevent the spread of the virus through crowds. The mayor predicted that coronavirus will continue to be a problem “for at least six months.” Sunday evening, it was announced that New York City schools will be shutting down until at least April 20, a measure de Blasio previously had resisted, despite facing pressure to do so.

Read more …

Temporarily, but better than nothing.

Spain Takes Over Private Healthcare Amid More Lockdowns (G.)

In Spain, where the coronavirus toll climbed to 309 on Monday with 9,191 confirmed cases, the government announced sweeping measures allowing it to take over private healthcare providers and requisition materials such as face masks and Covid-19 tests. The health minister, Salvador Illa, said private healthcare facilities would be requisitioned for coronavirus patients, and manufacturers and suppliers of healthcare equipment must notify the government within 48 hours. The Spanish government declared a state of emergency on Saturday, placing the country in lockdown and ordering people to leave their homes only if they needed to buy food or medicine or go to work or hospital. The transport minister, José Luis Ábalos, said it was “obvious” the measures would be extended beyond the planned 15-day period.

Read more …

Romney is but a follower. Tulsi Gabbard started this. House Resolution HRes 897.

Mitt Romney’s Coronavirus Economic Plan: $1,000 To Each American Adult (Vox)

On Monday, Sen. Mitt Romney, the Utah Republican and former GOP presidential nominee, called for $1,000 cash payments to every American adult as coronavirus measures to keep people in their homes threaten to put millions out of work. “While expansions of paid leave, unemployment insurance, and SNAP benefits are crucial, the check will help fill the gaps for Americans that may not quickly navigate different government options,” Romney argued in a press release. This, to be clear, is not the same as Yang’s proposal. Yang wanted monthly checks as a regular government policy, while Romney is supporting a one-off $1,000 check as an emergency measure. In that context, $1,000 might not be enough:


Former Obama chief economist Jason Furman has proposed payments of as much as $3,000 per adult and $1,500 per child. But the fact that a conservative Republican is proposing unrestricted cash payments during a GOP administration – in which even heavily regulated government programs like food stamps are under attack – is notable. And Romney is not alone in this. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), one of the most conservative members of the Senate GOP and a likely future presidential contender, went on Fox & Friends on Monday morning to call on Congress to dispense with complicated mechanisms like tax credits and instead put “cash in the hands of affected families”:

Some Democrats not in leadership have also been pushing their own versions of this idea. There is already a cash bill in the House from Democratic Reps. Tim Ryan and Ro Khanna that would give at least $1,000 to every American making under $65,000, and as much as $6,000 to some families with children. Harvard economist Greg Mankiw, who served as chief economist to President George W. Bush, has argued that cash payments are needed not so much to stimulate the economy as to help people whose jobs are impossible to perform due to social distancing. It’s a humanitarian measure, not a stimulus measure.


“Financial planners tell people to have six months of living expenses in an emergency fund. Sadly, many people do not,” Mankiw writes on his blog. “Considering the difficulty of identifying the truly needy and the problems inherent in trying to do so, sending every American a $1000 check asap would be a good start. A payroll tax cut makes little sense in this circumstance, because it does nothing for those who can’t work.”

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

Read more …

Interesting for 2021, perhaps. Not now.

Chinese Scientists Find Infected Monkeys Developed Immunity (SCMP)

Scientists who infected monkeys with the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 have found that those that recovered developed effective immunity from the disease – a potentially important discovery in the race to develop a vaccine. But the researchers also found that the animals could become infected through their eyes, which means wearing a face mask may not be enough to protect people from the disease. Scientists around the world have been racing to develop a vaccine and the first clinical trials could be held in China and the US within a month. But a number of cases, where people who had tested negative for the disease and were discharged from hospital only to give a positive result a few days later, have cast doubt on the process.

The rate of reoccurrence ranged from 0.1 to 1 per cent nationwide, according to China’s state media reports. However, in some provinces such as Guangdong up to 14 per cent of the discharged patients had reportedly returned to hospital because of the test results. If it turns out that these patients had been reinfected by the same virus, then vaccines will not prove effective. But the monkey experiment carried out by a team from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences may help dispel that fear. [..] after tests returned negative results and X-rays showed their internal organs had fully recovered, two monkeys were dosed with the virus through the mouth. The scientists recorded a temporary temperature rise, but other than that everything appeared to stay normal. Autopsies were performed on these two monkeys about two weeks later, and the researchers could not find a trace of the virus in their body.

[..] Professor Zhong Nanshan, a leading government scientist, said in Guangzhou last week that they had found a strong presence of antibodies in recovered patients, which meant the virus could no longer use them as a carrier again. “Now the question everyone cares about is whether the close contacts and family members may be infected because [the patient] tested positive again. So far I have not seen any evidence,” Zhong said.

Read more …

People first, not businesses. Wage subsidies for companies is not the way to go. Give people the money, so companies don’t have to pay them, move the salary burden from their books.

New Zealand Launches Massive Spending Package To Combat COVID-19 (G.)

New Zealand’s government has announced a spending package equivalent to 4% of GDP in an attempt to fight the effects of Covid-19 on the economy, in what ministers called the most significant peace-time economic plan in the country’s modern history. It includes covering wages for people who are required to self-isolate but cannot work from home, or those caring for relatives who are sick with the virus, even if they are not sick or do not test positive for Covid-19. “This package is one of the largest in the world on a per capita basis,” Grant Robertson, the finance minister, told reporters at New Zealand’s parliament on Tuesday. On Tuesday, authorities began spot checks on travellers, with two people arriving from south-east Asia already facing deportation for failing to self-isolate.


Stephen Vaughan at Immigration NZ said: “This kind of behaviour is completely irresponsible and will not be tolerated which is why these individuals have been made liable for deportation.” The NZ$12.1bn stimulus includes wage subsidies, bolstering the healthcare sector’s response to the virus, more money for low-income families and those on social welfare, and changes to business tax. New Zealand has only eight confirmed and two probable cases of Covid-19. But a decision to impose strict travel restrictions on the weekend – requiring almost all travellers arriving from anywhere to self-isolate for 14 days – is expected to wreak havoc on business, especially in the country’s tourism sector, New Zealand’s biggest export earner. Businesses hard-hit by the virus – experiencing more than a 30% decline in revenue compared to last year – will be eligible to receive wage subsidies to keep paying staff.

Read more …

Disband itself.

What The ECB Must Do To Save The Euro Zone Economy (SCMP)

It doesn’t take much to expose the flaws in the euro zone economy but the coronavirus epidemic has already ripped asunder any hope of getting back to sounder growth for a long time. Europe is clearly heading into recession as the pandemic takes a heavy toll on consumer demand, business activity and financial market confidence. We are heading into uncharted territory with the national lockdowns in Italy and Spain foreshadowing bigger trouble ahead for Europe’s largest economies, Germany and France, with plenty of negative spillover likely for the rest of the region. Just how deep the recession descends depends upon how effectively Europe’s policymakers respond. Judging by the official response so far, it’s no surprise markets are panicking.


Europe’s bond and credit markets are definitely showing the strain. It’s not so much that Germany’s yield curve has turned negative on safe-haven and flight-to-quality flows, but that bond spreads for riskier markets have started to surge. The bellwether 10-year spread of Italian government bonds over equivalent German yields has exploded out to 2.34 per cent in recent days as investors have fled for cover. Talk about Italy’s “doom loop” has resurfaced again, with deepening recession risk, the fragility of the Italian banking sector and the potential threat of future credit default combining to put the wind up the markets. It hasn’t helped that the European Central Bank seems to be turning its back on the bond market’s plight.

Read more …

27 countries, 27 different policy sets. What EU?

EU Calls For 30-Day Ban On Foreigners Entering Bloc (G.)

The European commission has proposed a 30-day ban on foreigners entering the bloc as EU governments imposed closures and lockdowns rarely seen outside wartime in a continuing effort to curb the rapid spread of the coronavirus outbreak. As the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, urged countries to “test, test, test” for the virus, saying it “cannot be fought blindfolded”, the commission president called for an end to all non-essential travel to Europe. “The less travel, the more we can contain the virus,” Ursula von der Leyen said. “We think non-essential travel should be reduced right now in order to not spread the virus further, be it within the EU or by leaving the EU.”

Von der Leyen said the restrictions – which would not apply to UK nationals – should last for 30 days initially but may be extended if necessary. Permanent EU residents, family members of EU nationals, diplomats, doctors and coronavirus researchers would also be exempted, she said. Officials said the move, which could be approved by leaders in a video conference on Tuesday, was aimed mainly at removing the need for national controls at borders between the 26 members of the passport-free Schengen zone. Germany, which has recorded 5,813 cases and 13 deaths from Covid-19, introduced border controls with Austria, Denmark, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland on Monday, allowing through only those with a valid reason for travel such as residents, cross-border commuters and delivery drivers.

In line with a growing number of EU countries, the federal government and state leaders also agreed to close almost all shops except food stores, banks, pharmacies and petrol stations, ban religious gatherings, shutter hotels and restrict visits to hospitals and care homes. Schools in most German states were closed and Bavaria declared a disaster situation to allow the state’s authorities to push through new restrictions faster. The German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, urged citizens to limit their social contacts. “Restrictions on our lives today can save lives tomorrow,” he said.

Read more …

“Something old and played-out is limping offstage, and something new is stepping on. Aren’t you glad you watched all those debates?”

Things Have Changed (Kunstler)

Where does this all lead? Eventually, to a land and a people who operate their society in a very different way at a much more modest scale. The task of reorganizing our national life is immense. (There will be plenty to do, so don’t worry about that.) You can forget about the grandiose techno-narcissistic visions of electrified motoring and a robotic nirvana of perpetual sex-crazed leisure. Everything we do has to be downscaled, from whatever manufacturing we can cobble back together to rebuilding commercial ecosystems at a finer grain from region to region — in other words, what we now call small business, geared locally.

Expect giant AgriBiz to founder on a shortage of capital, especially, and expect smaller farms to organize emergently, worked by more humans working together. That is, if we want to keep eating. Expect the small towns in the well-watered parts of the country to revive while the groaning metroplexes spiral down into entropic sclerosis. Consider the value of our vast inland waterway system and the opportunities to move goods on them, when the trucking industry unravels. Consider lending a hand at rebuilding the railroad system in this country.

There will be economic roles and social roles for all those willing to step up to some responsibility. Young people may see tremendous opportunity replacing the wounded economic dinosaurs wobbling across the landscape. It’ll be all about going local and regional and making yourself useful in exchange for a livelihood and the esteem of others around you — aka, your community. Government has been working tirelessly to make itself superfluous, if not completely ineffectual, impotent, and rather loathsome in the face of this crisis that has been slowly-but-visibly building for half a century. Something old and played-out is limping offstage, and something new is stepping on. Aren’t you glad you watched all those debates?

Read more …

But don’t worry, the New York Times already runs an article entitled: “Can Russia Use the Coronavirus to Sow Discord Among Americans?”

How can anyone continue to read that rag?

DOJ Drops Charges Against Russian Troll Farm for 2016 Election Meddling (L&C)

And after all of that, the Russian troll farm’s American lawyers have the last laugh? The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia led by former William Barr aide Timothy Shea has filed a motion to dismiss the case against Concord Management and Consulting LLC, which has often been referred to as the Russian troll farm defendant. Concord Management was one of many people or entities charged in a Feb. 2018 indictment by then-special counsel Robert Mueller during his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Thirteen Russians and three companies were charged in the indictment. Federal prosecutors now want to dismiss their case against Concord Management.


“The United States will continue its efforts to apprehend the individual defendants and bring them before this Court to face the pending charges, but because substantial federal interests are no longer served by continuing with the proceedings against the Concord Defendants, the government moves, respectfully, to dismiss with prejudice Count One of the indictment as to them,” the filing said. The Department of Justice alleged that Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch nicknamed “Putin’s chef,” and Concord bankrolled the troll farm as part of a massive conspiracy to interfere in the 2016 election.

Read more …

 

 

 

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

 

Mar 152020
 


Dorothea Lange One nation indivisible. San Francisco 1942

 

New York Will Be The Next Italy (M.)
America Has No Real Public Health System – Coronavirus Has A Clear Run (Reich)
Hoboken Mayor Imposes Mandatory Nightly Curfew (NBC)
Coronavirus: Why It’s So Deadly In Italy (M.)
France, Spain Implement Massive and Dramatic Quarantine Restrictions (Slate)
UK Doctor: ‘We Don’t Have The Masks, Goggles – Or The Staff’ (G.)
China Could Have Cut 95% Of Cases If It Acted On Whistleblower Warning (HKFP)
Japanese Man Tests Positive For Coronavirus, Again (NHK)
Anti-Inflammatories May Aggravate COVID-19, France Advises (G.)
Google Says It Is Developing A Nationwide Coronavirus Website (R.)
Fed May Announce Commercial Paper Facilities Sunday – BofA (R.)
American Airlines To Cut Nearly All Long-Haul International Flights (R.)
Virgin Atlantic Boss Seeks £7.5 Billion UK Airline Bailout (R.)
‘Euroleaks’: Varoufakis Leaks Recordings Of Secretive Eurogroup Talks (RT)

 

 

France, Spain increase their lockdown measures, but France and Germany still exist on holding their municipal elections. Must be more important than virus response. More important than the survival of small firms too.

In France, over half of COVID19 patients in intensive care are under 60. Holland has 40-50 patients in intensive care, over half of whom are under 50. Some are children. The family of a 16-year old boy on life support in IC pleads with people to take the disease seriously.

Politicians of all colors invent the wheel as they go along, mostly as ignorant as the media whose ignorant news stories they base their decisions on. The model is simple: do the same as others do, so you can blame them when things go awry.

Belgium shut all its stores and bars, Holland did not yet, so Belgians go drinking in cramped Dutch bars en masse. The EU says it has few powers in this, thus ensuring it can’t be blamed.

The US is set for the worst disaster of all, it has to enforce travel restrictions very rapidly or else, ground domestic flights, close down highways, the works. And get hospitals working for ten times as many patients as they’re designed for. Good luck.

The calls for a UBI will grow louder at both sides of the Atlantic, and the power bastions will reject them with equal vehemence and bail out zombie companies instead. Our political systems work only in good times.

 

Cases 157,477 (+ 11,150 from yesterday’s 146,327)

Deaths 5,845 (+ 402 from yesterday’s 5,443)

 

The numbers in this graph are terrifying. 3,500 new cases in Italy in 24 hours.

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

 

 

This set of graphs from Worldometer has turned almost straight north:

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

“Close everything but grocery stores, banks, and pharmacies. Convert schools into food distribution centers. Bring in the National Guard to provide essential services like food and augment police and emergency services. Issue checks to all New Yorkers for the length of the quarantine for at least $500 per person per month.”

New York Will Be The Next Italy (M.)

Analysis strongly suggests that the NYC metro area has 5–10 days to quarantine the city or face dramatically overwhelmed hospitals, extremely high death rates, and a ruined economy. The outlook for NYC and COVID-19 is bleak. The policy response is far too slow and too weak to meet the needs of the moment.

The Analysis – The NYC region has approximately 400 cases reported as of Friday Mar 13. That number is obviously an underestimate. After accounting for undercounting of asymptomatic cases and failing to detect cases due to under testing, we estimate that between 1,281 and 2,280 people are infected as of yesterday.

Using an SIR Epidemiology Model (described in greater detail in my previous Medium post), we can use the Low and High estimates for infections on 3/13 to project #COVID19 growth through March. Then using those projections for infections, we can use a conservative 10% severity rate to get the number of people who are infected on that day that will require hospitalization (severe & critical cases).

The NYC region has between 1,200 and 3,000 open hospital beds. This analysis suggests that enough people will become infected by March 23 and March 25 that NYC’s hospitals will be fully at capacity approximately 7 days later. (Infected people who will become severely ill do not immediately need medical care upon being infected. There is approximately a 5–7 day incubation period. After which, most severe cases present to the hospital within 2–3 days.)

The Obvious Choice – NYC must implement more severe social distancing measures and potentially fully shut down no later than a week from now in order to avoid overwhelming its hospital system. Think about the choices here: The Status Quo: The governor and the mayor continue to allow the virus to spread at schools, subways, restaurants, cafes, and workplaces. This is the exact same approach Italy took at the beginning of its outbreak. Seriously take a look at this article from two and a half weeks ago when Italy only had 160 cases (vs NYC’s 500+).

“Strict emergency measures were put in place over the weekend, including a ban on public events in at least 10 municipalities, after a spike in confirmed cases in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto. Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza announced severe restrictions in the affected regions, which included the closure of public buildings, limited transport, and the surveillance and quarantine of individuals who may have been exposed to the virus. “We are asking basically that everyone who has come from areas stricken by the epidemic to remain under a mandatory house stay,” Speranza said at a Saturday press conference.” — CNN, Feb 24 2020

Sound familiar? It’s the exact same thing New York is trying now. It won’t work here either. After that fails here too, we will wind up with the Italian situation. Overflowing hospitals. Demand at two, three, five times the capacity of the hospitals’ ability to deliver care. What’s worse is that their capacity will decline as cases overflow. Their doctors and nurses will be exposed and have to be quarantined, reducing an already strained workforce. Soon after, chaos in the hospitals will lead to fear in the whole city. You will see reports of people dying in their apartments because there isn’t capacity for them in hospitals. This fear alone will shut down the city. The economy will be ruined and tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of New Yorkers will die this year. This could all start at the beginning of April, if we don’t act within the next 5–10 days.

The Better Alternative: Shut down the city this week. Close everything but grocery stores, banks, and pharmacies. Convert schools into food distribution centers. Bring in the National Guard to provide essential services like food and augment police and emergency services. Issue checks to all New Yorkers for the length of the quarantine for at least $500 per person per month. Limit travel outside of the region. Slow the growth of the virus to a crawl immediately.

Read more …

“In America, the word ‘public’ means a sum total of individual needs, not the common good..”

Robert Reich has drowned himself for 3 years in repetitious and utterly boring Orange Man Bad rhetoric, but this is worth a read.

America Has No Real Public Health System – Coronavirus Has A Clear Run (Reich)

As the coronavirus outbreak in the US follows the same grim exponential growth path first displayed in Wuhan, China, before herculean measures were put in place to slow its spread there, America is waking up to the fact that it has almost no public capacity to deal with it. Instead of a public health system, we have a private for-profit system for individuals lucky enough to afford it and a rickety social insurance system for people fortunate enough to have a full-time job. At their best, both systems respond to the needs of individuals rather than the needs of the public as a whole. In America, the word “public” – as in public health, public education or public welfare – means a sum total of individual needs, not the common good.

Contrast this with America’s financial system. The Federal Reserve concerns itself with the health of financial markets as a whole. Late last week the Fed made $1.5tn available to banks, at the slightest hint of difficulties making trades. No one batted an eye. When it comes to the health of the nation as a whole, money like this isn’t available. And there are no institutions analogous to the Fed with responsibility for overseeing and managing the public’s health – able to whip out a giant checkbook at a moment’s notice to prevent human, rather than financial, devastation. Even if a test for the Covid-19 virus had been developed and approved in time, no institutions are in place to administer it to tens of millions of Americans free of charge. Local and state health departments are already bare bones, having lost nearly a quarter of their workforce since 2008, according to the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

Healthcare in America is delivered mainly by private for-profit corporations which, unlike financial institutions, are not required to maintain reserve capacity. As a result, the nation’s supply of ventilators isn’t nearly large enough to care for projected numbers of critically ill coronavirus victims unable to breathe for themselves. Its 45,000 intensive care unit beds fall woefully short of the 2.9 million likely to be needed. The Fed can close banks to quarantine financial crises but the US can’t close workplaces because the nation’s social insurance system depends on people going to work. Almost 30% of American workers have no paid sick leave from their employers, including 70% of low-income workers earning less than $10.49 an hour.

Vast numbers of self-employed workers cannot afford sick leave. Friday’s deal between House Democrats and the White House won’t have much effect because it exempts large employers and offers waivers to smaller ones. Most jobless Americans don’t qualify for unemployment insurance because they haven’t worked long enough in a steady job and the ad-hoc deal doesn’t alter this. Meanwhile, more than 30 million Americans have no health insurance.

Read more …

Each on and for his own.

Hoboken Mayor Imposes Mandatory Nightly Curfew (NBC)

Days after Hoboken officials announced the city’s first positive case of COVID-19, the mayor declared a mandatory nightly curfew in the latest attempt to stop the spread of the virus. Mayor Bhalla detailed the curfew in a city blogpost late Saturday night, outlining the details of a nightly curfew that will run from 10 p.m. and end at 5 a.m. each night. The curfew is scheduled to begin Monday evening. All Hoboken residents will be required to remain indoors during the curfew hours except for emergencies and required work, the mayor said.


“As I am writing this message on a Saturday evening, I received a call from our Police Chief Kenneth Ferrante notifying me of a bar fight in downtown Hoboken, with at least one person falling in and out of consciousness, and our police having to wait for over 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive, because our EMS is inundated with service calls,” the mayor said in an online statement. “This is unfortunately a contributing factor why we cannot continue bar operations which can trigger calls for service that are delayed in part because of this public health crisis.” In addition to nightly curfews, restaurants and bars within city limits will only be allowed to offer takeout and delivery options, the mayor said. Food and drink establishments will not be allowed to seat diners during the mandated curfew.

Read more …

Sort of nice, but not satisfying for me. The tweet below says why: testing “methods” are very different. South Korea tests everyone, Italy only tests suspected cases.

Coronavirus: Why It’s So Deadly In Italy (M.)

Many people have already pointed out that Italy has an older population than South Korea. The higher Italian CFR might therefore reflect a higher likelihood that an old person becomes infected with the coronavirus simply because there are more old people among the Italian population. We can easily check the plausibility of this argument by comparing the age structure of the coronavirus cases with the age structure of the total population for both countries. The population data are from the United Nations’ World Population Prospect 2019.


In South Korea, the age structure of the coronavirus cases is remarkably similar to the age structure of the population, in particular for the older age groups. The 20–29-year-olds are still hugely overrepresented among the confirmed cases relative to their population share, but their surplus is balanced by the underrepresentation of cases among the 0–9- and 10–19-year-olds. These three youngest age groups face a very low risk of dying from COVID-19. The South Korean CFR is hence not depressed or exaggerated by an under- or overrepresentation of older Koreans among the confirmed cases.

The same is not true for Italy: The share of confirmed cases at age 70–79 exceeds the population share of this age group by more than a factor of two. Among those aged 80 and more, the case share is almost three times as high as the population share. By contrast, young people and hence low-fatality-risk people are visibly underrepresented among the confirmed cases.

Hence, the question remains why the age distribution of cases is shaped so differently in Italy compared to South Korea. It has also been pointed out that the testing procedures for coronavirus in the countries are very different — Italy has predominantly been testing people with symptoms of a coronavirus infection, while South Korea has been testing basically everyone since the outbreak had become apparent. Consequently, South Korea has detected more asymptomatic, but positive cases of coronavirus than Italy, in particular among young people.

Read more …

The continent locks down. People expect this to last 2 weeks or so. What happens if that becomes 4 months?

France, Spain Implement Massive and Dramatic Quarantine Restrictions (Slate)

More European nations have joined Italy in enacting dramatic measures meant to keep their citizens in their homes for all but the most necessary of circumstances in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. On Saturday, Spain ordered all of its citizens to stay in their homes unless they absolutely have to leave to go to work, buy food, seek medical care, or help out elderly or otherwise vulnerable people in need of assistance. All bars, restaurants, and schools were ordered to close. France also ordered all restaurants, bars, cafes, movie theaters, and other “non-indispensable businesses” to close starting at midnight. Grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, and gas stations are some of the only exceptions.

Both countries had seen an uptick in cases in recent days. Spain saw 2,000 new cases on Saturday alone, bringing its total up to more than 5,700. The number of cases in France has recently doubled and the country now has around 4,500 confirmed cases. Italy, the country with the most cases after China, has been operating under these restrictions in a full quarantine since Monday. More than 21,000 people have contracted the virus there, and more than 1,440 people have died from it.

Some non-European countries have taken similar measures. Starting Sunday, all restaurants, cafes, calls, hotels, movie theaters, gyms, and schools in Israel will be closed. Israel, which has less than 200 cases, also banned any foreign visitors from entering the country and gatherings of more than 10 people. Iran, which follows Italy as the third hardest-hit, has closed all schools, universities, sporting events, cafes, restaurants, museums, and movie theaters. And like Italy, it cracked down on travel within the country.

Read more …

Health care for profit doesn’t appear to be the best idea out there. In a nutshell: Systems need redundancy.

UK Doctor: ‘We Don’t Have The Masks, Goggles – Or The Staff’ (G.)

NHS staff are asking the same questions as everyone else about coronavirus. How deadly is it? How do we protect ourselves? Are the government’s tactics right? And how will the health service cope when – and it is when – it leaves large numbers of people seriously ill, many fighting for their lives? These questions are even more pressing for us because within two weeks we will be part of the frontline against a threat that we’ve never seen the like of before. I’m worried that our hospital’s beds are already 98% full. We are full of “social patients” – people medically fit to go but who can’t be discharged because there isn’t a place in a care home for them, or the care package to allow them to go home hasn’t been sorted.

So where are all the people needing life-or-death care from Covid-19 going to go? We’re barely two weeks from being in the same situation as Italy, with huge numbers of people needing to be in hospital. Yet we don’t have enough protective equipment like masks and goggles. And the NHS is under-staffed. We have to haggle with management about a minuscule pay rise for doctors willing to work extra shifts and expose themselves to danger. We don’t have enough isolation rooms or ventilators, which will be vital. Intensive care units will be the NHS’s most precious resource, but ours are close to full most of the time. We’re told of plans to increase ICU capacity. Yet you need a specially trained nurse for each ICU bed. Where will the extra staff come from?

Too few beds, staff and equipment; I’m worried that the NHS is completely ill-equipped to handle Covid-19. When Boris Johnson talks about our wonderful NHS and how well-prepared it is, that’s bullshit. He either doesn’t have a clue or is trying to falsely reassure people. The NHS has been hit hard before, by underfunding, terrorist attacks and tough winters. But usually crises are stretched over a period of time. With coronavirus it will all come at once.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1238924372867461123

Read more …

Just as Xi starts boasting about the approach, these guys try to spoil the party. Do a study like this for Italy too. And the US.

China Could Have Cut 95% Of Cases If It Acted On Whistleblower Warning (HKFP)

China could have prevented 95 per cent of coronavirus infections if its measures to contain the outbreak had begun three weeks earlier, research from the University of Southampton suggests. However, China only took vigorous action in late January – weeks after police silenced a doctor for trying to raise the alarm. First detected in Hubei, more than 146,000 people globally have now been infected with Covid-19, whilst over 5,500 have died from the SARS-like disease. The study published this week by population mapping group WorldPop measured the effectiveness of nonpharmaceutical interventions. The researchers examined how China isolated ill persons, quarantined exposed individuals, conducted contract tracing, restricted travel, closed schools and workplaces, and cancelled mass gatherings.

The analysis – which has yet to be peer-reviewed – found that early case detection and contact reduction were effective in controlling the virus and combined measures can reduce transmission. They can also delay the timing and reduce the size of the epidemic’s peak, and thus buy time for healthcare preparations and drugs research. The simulations drew on human movement and illness data to model how combined interventions might affect the spread of Covid-19. Coronavirus cases could have been reduced by 66 per cent if the measures were taken a week earlier, the study suggested, or by 86 per cent if action began two weeks earlier. If action was taken three weeks later, then the situation could have worsened 18-fold.

Most efforts to tackle the outbreak took place in late January, weeks after Wuhan ophthalmologist Dr Li Wenliang tried to warn about the mystery disease on December 30. He was among eight people who were punished by police on January 1 for spreading “rumours” about the virus. The Public Security Bureau made Li sign a letter stating that he had made “false comments” and had “severely disturbed the social order.” He died last month of the disease, aged 34, prompting widespread outrage in China.

Read more …

Reinfection, false negative?

Japanese Man Tests Positive For Coronavirus, Again (NHK)

Officials in western Japan’s Mie Prefecture say a man who was a passenger on a cruise ship that was hit by the coronavirus has again tested positive after recovering from infection. The man, who is in his 70s, first tested positive for the virus on February 14 while he was onboard the Diamond Princess, which was under quarantine off Yokohama. He left a medical facility in Tokyo on March 2 after he was confirmed negative. He returned to his home in Mie by public transportation. But he started to feel sick and developed a fever of 39 degrees Celsius on Thursday. He went to hospital on Friday, and on Saturday was confirmed to be infected again. He is now receiving treatment at a hospital in the prefecture. Prefectural officials plan to trace his recent activities and carry out checks of people who have had close contact with him.

Read more …

Something for our medical commentariat.

Anti-Inflammatories May Aggravate Covid-19, France Advises (G.)

French authorities have warned that widely used over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs may worsen the coronavirus. The country’s health minister, Olivier Véran, who is a qualified doctor and neurologist, tweeted on Saturday: “The taking of anti-inflammatories [ibuprofen, cortisone … ] could be a factor in aggravating the infection. In case of fever, take paracetamol. If you are already taking anti-inflammatory drugs, ask your doctor’s advice.” Health officials point out that anti-inflammatory drugs are known to be a risk for those with infectious illnesses because they tend to diminish the response of the body’s immune system.


The health ministry added that patients should choose paracetamol because “it will reduce the fever without counterattacking the inflammation”. French patients have been forced to consult pharmacies since mid-January if they want to buy popular painkillers, including ibuprofen, paracetamol and aspirin, to be reminded of the risks. Jean-Louis Montastruc, the head of pharmacology at Toulouse hospital, told RTL radio: “Anti-inflammatory drugs increase the risk of complications when there is a fever or infection.”

Read more …

We really need their greedy fingers in that too.

Google Says It Is Developing A Nationwide Coronavirus Website (R.)

Alphabet’s Google said on Saturday that it was working with the U.S. government to develop a nationwide website that would help Americans with questions about coronavirus symptoms, risk factors and testing. “We are fully aligned and continue to work with the U.S. government to contain the spread of COVID-19, inform citizens, and protect the health of our communities,” Google said in a statement on Twitter. President Donald Trump had thanked Google on Friday for developing a website that he said would help people determine whether they needed a coronavirus test, saying that 1,700 engineers were working on it.


That prompted the search and advertising giant to respond that, in fact, a life sciences division, Verily, was in the early stages of developing a tool to help triage Americans who may need testing for the coronavirus and that it would be tested in the Bay Area and expanded over time. Alphabet’s shares closed up more than 9% after the Friday announcement by the president. Pressure has been rising on U.S. officials to increase and improve testing for the fast-spreading virus, which has reached almost every U.S. state, closed schools and forced the cancellation of thousands of sporting events, conferences and concerts amid efforts to stop its spread by keeping Americans out of big crowds.

Read more …

But bloated corpses contain toxic and smelly gases.

Fed May Announce Commercial Paper Facilities Sunday – BofA (R.)

The Federal Reserve may announce measures on Sunday night aimed at bolstering liquidity in the commercial paper market, used by companies for short-term loans, analysts at Bank of America wrote. The bank’s analysts said they believe the Fed will announce a Commercial Paper Funding Facility, an operation previously used in 2008 in which the Fed buys commercial paper from issuers directly, and a Commercial Paper Dealer Purchase Facility in which the Fed would buy commercial paper from dealers directly. The measures, if taken, would be aimed at buffering the market ahead of potentially large outflows from money market funds in coming days, analysts at the bank wrote.


“We believe it imperative the Fed roll out these facilities on Sunday night given the looming expected prime (money market fund) outflows and necessity of their ability to sell (commercial paper) in order to raise cash,” the report said. “If the Fed waits too long the (money market fund) outflow pressure could mount and the risk of a large scale (money market fund) run could increase.” Liquidity – or the ability for buyers and sellers to easily transact – has dried up in the commercial paper market in recent weeks as the coronavirus has roiled credit markets and hit the price of commercial paper. Expectations of a rush of new issuance has also driven prices lower.

Read more …

“..the changes will result in the airline parking nearly its entire widebody fleet..”

American Airlines To Cut Nearly All Long-Haul International Flights (R.)

American Airlines on Saturday said it will implement a phased suspension of nearly all long-haul international flights starting March 16, amid reduced demand and travel restrictions due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. Between March 16 and May 6, American will reduce its international capacity by 75% on a year-over-year basis, it said in a statement, adding the changes will result in the airline parking nearly its entire widebody fleet. The airline also anticipates its domestic capacity in April will be reduced by 20% on a year-over-year basis. Domestic capacity for the month of May will be reduced by 30%, the company added.

Read more …

First you bloat your company beyond proportions, then you demand your recently bloated shape is saved from normalizing.

Save people, not companies.

Virgin Atlantic Boss Seeks £7.5 Billion UK Airline Bailout (R.)

Virgin Atlantic’s chairman Peter Norris will write to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday saying the country’s airline industry needs emergency government support worth 7.5 billion pounds ($9.20 billion) or risks the loss of tens of thousands of jobs, Sky News reported on Saturday. The letter would ask the British government to provide airlines with a credit facility to help them through a potentially prolonged period of slumping revenue amid the coronavirus pandemic, Sky News said, citing sources.

Read more …

Snowing under in the virus.

‘Euroleaks’: Varoufakis Leaks Recordings Of Secretive Eurogroup Talks (RT)

The former finance minister of Greece, Yanis Varoufakis, has released a cache of audio files, secretly recorded in 2015 during the bailout talks with the Eurogroup – a powerful group of eurozone’s finance chiefs.
The recordings and their transcripts were released by Varoufakis on the website of his ‘pan-European’ DiEM25 party on Saturday. The files –dubbed ‘Euroleaks’– were recorded between February and July 2015, when cash-strapped Athens was entangled in painful talks with its creditors. In 2015, Varoufakis was the chief negotiator for then-ruling Syriza party, dealing with the Eurogroup and those behind it – the so-called ‘troika.’ It comprises the three main lenders of the eurozone nations – the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF.

While the Eurogroup is de-jure an informal group, it is actually a powerful decision-making institute that lacks accountability and transparency – and does not keep any records. The main goal in releasing the recordings is to shed light on its secretive activities, Varoufakis said in a video announcing the Euroleaks. The lenders took a tough, ‘take it or leave it’ stance on Greece, effectively presenting it with an ultimatum. At the same time, they blamed Greek negotiators for stalled talks – and no records were available to prove them wrong.

“You will hear the [then-]president of the Eurogroup [Jeroen Dijsselbloem] and other ministers warn me that if I dare table written proposals within the Eurogroup meetings, that would be the end of the negotiations,” Varoufakis said. “At the very same time they were leaking to the press that I was arriving at Eurogroup meetings without any proposals.” Apart from bringing into the limelight the “intransparent action by an unelected group of politicians who influence all our lives,” the leaks also serve another purpose. The putting in the public domain of the secret recordings is aimed at fighting attempts by the incumbent Greek government to “weaponize fake news,” produced by the Eurogroup back in 2015 to justify new austerity measures for the country, Varoufakis said.

Read more …

 

 

 

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

 

May 122019
 
 May 12, 2019  Posted by at 9:36 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  16 Responses »


Robert Campin Portrait of a woman 1430-35

 

Brexit Party May Get More EU Election Votes Than Tories, Labour Combined (G.)
Fight To Replace PM May Complicating Brexit Talks – Labour’s McDonnell (R.)
Labour Would Trial Universal Basic Income If Elected – McDonnell (G.)
QE Party Over, Bank of Japan Stealth-Tapers Further (WS)
The World’s Dictatress (Hornberger)
Is America Ready for John Bolton’s War With Iran? (Ritter)
Iran’s Rouhani Warns Of Greater Hardship Than War Years Of 1980s (R.)
Guaido Seeks Pentagon Cooperation In Attempt To Take Power (AP)
Boeing Altered Key Switches In 737 MAX Cockpit (ST)
Assange’s Prison Conditions (Press Project)
American Mom Today 50% More Likely To Die In Childbirth Than Her Own Mother (AP)

 

 

“Poll surge for Farage sparks panic among Tories and Labour..”

Brexit Party May Get More EU Election Votes Than Tories, Labour Combined (G.)

Nigel Farage’s Brexit party is on course to secure more support at the European elections than the Tories and Labour combined, according to the latest Opinium poll for the Observer. In the most striking sign to date of surging support for Farage, the poll suggests more than a third of voters will back him on 23 May. It puts his party on 34% of the vote, with less than a fortnight before the election takes place. The poll suggests support for the Conservatives has collapsed amid the Brexit uncertainty, with Theresa May’s party on just 11%. Labour is a distant second, on 21%. The Lib Dems perform the best of any of the openly anti-Brexit parties, one point ahead of the Tories on 12% of the vote.

With the Brexit party securing more than three times the level of support for the Tories, the poll confirms the concerns of senior Conservatives that it is haemorrhaging support as Brexit remains unresolved. Just a fortnight ago, the Brexit party was neck-and-neck with Labour on 28%. Now it has a 13-point lead over Jeremy Corbyn’s party. The Conservatives are now only narrowly ahead of the Brexit party when voters are asked who they would vote for at a general election. The Tories are on 22% support, down 4% on a fortnight ago, with the Brexit party on 21% backing. Labour leads on 28%, but is down five points on the last poll.

Read more …

“The problem they have is that literally in front of us they will fall out,” he told the Sunday Mirror. “So the exercise here is holding themselves together. And that is proving impossible. The administration is falling apart.”

Fight To Replace PM May Complicating Brexit Talks – Labour’s McDonnell (R.)

The battle among leading Conservatives to replace Theresa May as prime minister threatens to derail talks with the Labour Party and the bid to find a Brexit compromise, Labour’s John McDonnell said. May, who has offered to quit if MPs accept her Brexit deal, opened cross-party talks with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party more than a month ago after parliament rejected her European Union withdrawal deal three times. The talks with Labour are a last resort for May, whose party’s deep divisions over Brexit have so far stopped her getting approval for an exit agreement and left the world’s fifth largest economy in prolonged political limbo.


McDonnell, Labour’s financial spokesman and a member of the party’s negotiating team, said the situation was precarious. “The problem they have is that literally in front of us they will fall out,” he told the Sunday Mirror. “So the exercise here is holding themselves together. And that is proving impossible. The administration is falling apart.” In terms of progress, the second most powerful man in the Labour Party said nothing new had been put on the table, and in some cases the talks had gone backwards. “It’s so precarious. We’re dealing with an institution that might not be there in three weeks.” He said the talks had been made more difficult by May’s offer to resign because a new leader could rip up anything agreed by the current administration.

Read more …

Universal in Sheffield?

Labour Would Trial Universal Basic Income If Elected – McDonnell (G.)

Labour would trial universal basic income if it wins power, shadow chancellor John McDonnell has revealed. Pilot schemes would be held in Liverpool, Sheffield and the Midlands, McDonnell told the Mirror. The plan would do away with the need for welfare as every citizen would be given a fixed sum to cover the basics whether they are rich or poor, in work or unemployed. McDonnell said people can spend the money how they like, but it is intended for study, to set up a business or leave work to care for a loved one. “I’d like to see a northern and Midlands town in the pilot so we have a spread,” he said.

“I would like Liverpool – of course I would, I’m a Scouser – but Sheffield have really worked hard. I’ve been involved in their anti-poverty campaign and they’ve done a lot round the real living wage. I think those two cities would be ideal and somewhere in the Midlands.” Trials have been held elsewhere in the world, including Kenya, Finland and the US, as well as potentially being explored in four Scottish cities. The shadow chancellor was this week handed a feasibility report for different universal basic income (UBI) models for low-income areas, including one in which a whole community gets basic incomes.

All the means-tested benefits – apart from housing benefit – would be taken away and every adult would get a fixed amount per week, plus an additional amount for each child they have. “Of course it’s a radical idea,” McDonnell said. “But I can remember, when I was at the trade unions – campaigning for child benefit and that’s almost like UBI – you get a universal amount of money just based on having a child. “UBI shares that concept. It’s about winning the argument and getting the design right.” The concept has been around since at least the 1960s and was raised in the 1972 US presidential election, followed by the introduction of a UBI scheme called the Manitoba Basic Income Experiment in Canada in 1975.

[..] McDonnell is convinced of the benefits. “The reason we’re doing it is because the social security system has collapsed. We need a radical alternative and we’re going to examine that. “We’ll look at options, run the pilots and see if we can roll it out. If you look at the Finland pilot it says it didn’t do much in terms of employment but did in terms of wellbeing – things like health. It was quite remarkable. “The other thing it did was increase trust in politicians, which can’t be a bad thing.”

Read more …

But the central banks has become the whole economy..

QE Party Over, Bank of Japan Stealth-Tapers Further (WS)

Total assets on the balance sheet of the Bank of Japan at the end of April ticked up from March but were flat with the record in February: ¥562 trillion ($5.1 trillion). This amounts to a gigantic 102.2% of nominal GDP. But the BOJ has been tapering its asset purchases since peak QE at the end of 2016, and the growth has slowed to a snail’s pace, by Abenomics QE standards. Despite the BOJs repeated promises of adding ¥85 trillion to its balance sheet every year, the BOJ hasn’t done that since peak QE in 2016 when it added ¥93 trillion. The additions have consistently decreased since then. Over the 12 months through April, it has added merely €27 trillion, the lowest 12-month increase since early days of ramping up Abenomics in March 2013. This amounts to a stealth taper:

Meanwhile, the government of Japan has been borrowing and issuing new debt with reckless abandon, and the gross national debt outstanding has ballooned to ¥1.12 quadrillion, or 203% of nominal GDP (measured in yen). But no problem: the BOJ started buying every Japanese government security that wasn’t nailed down, with the government selling new securities to the banks, and the banks selling them to the BOJ for a small profit. In addition the BOJ mopped up what was coming on the market. The BOJ now holds 43% of all outstanding Japanese government securities, up from 25% in January 2015. These massive purchases of Japanese government securities, and to a lesser extent, the purchases of corporate bonds, equity ETFs, and Japan REITS, have created this enormous balance sheet, but note the flattening spot at the top, a result of the stealth taper:

The stealth taper has reached a level to where the assets added to the balance sheet are small enough that every third month, as long-term securities mature and roll off the balance sheet, the balance sheet shrinks. Then the next two months, the balance sheet gains:

To smoothen out this volatility of the balance sheet and delineate the trend of the stealth taper more clearly, I converted that above data of month-to-month change into a rolling three-month average. The addition in assets over the past six months was ¥1.7 trillion a month on average:

Read more …

John Quincy Adams. A bit wiser than Mike Pompeo.

The World’s Dictatress (Hornberger)

In his Fourth of July address to Congress in 1821, U.S. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams stated that if America were ever to abandon its founding foreign policy of non-interventionism, she would inevitably become the world’s “dictatress” and begin behaving accordingly. No can can deny that Adams’ prediction has come true. America has truly become the world’s dictatress — an arrogant, ruthless, brutal dictatress that brooks no dissent from anyone in the world. Now, I use the term “America” because that’s the term Adams used. In actuality, however, it’s not America that has become the world’s dictatress. It is the U.S. government that has become the world’s dictatress.

A good example of this phenomenon involves Meng Wanzhou, a Chinese citizen who serves as chief financial officer of the giant Chinese technology firm Huawei. Having been arrested by Canadian authorities and placed under house arrest, Meng is suffering the wrath of the world’s dictatress. What is her purported crime? That she violated U.S. sanctions against Iran. What do U.S. sanctions on Iran have to do with her? Exactly! She’s a Chinese citizen, not an American citizen. So, why is she being prosecuted by the U.S. government? Sanctions have become a standard tool of U.S. foreign policy. With the exception of libertarians, hardly anyone raises an eyebrow over their imposition and enforcement.

Their objective is to target foreign citizens with death, suffering, and economic privation as a way to bend their regime to the will of the U.S. dictratress and her brutal and ruthless agents. After all, what could be more brutal and ruthless than to target innocent people with death and impoverishment as a way to get to their government? Most foreign citizens have as little control over the actions of their government as individual American citizens have over the actions of their government. Where is the morality in targeting innocent people, especially as a way to achieve a political goal? Isn’t that why people condemn terrorism?

Read more …

“.. it is John Bolton, not Iran, who poses the greatest threat to American national security today.”

Is America Ready for John Bolton’s War With Iran? (Ritter)

The threat being promulgated by Bolton, CENTCOM, Pompeo, and the media ignores the reality that Iran has been preparing to strike American military forces in the Middle East for years as part of its efforts towards self-defense. Iran’s short-range ballistic missile capability is part of a larger missile threat that could, at a moment’s notice, blanket U.S. bases in the region with high explosives. Dispatching the Abraham Lincoln battle group and a B-52 task force to the Middle East is an act of theatrical bravado that will do nothing to change that. Iran’s missile force is, for the most part, mobile. The American experience in the Gulf War, and Saudi Arabia’s experience in Yemen, should underscore the reality that mobile relocatable targets such as Iran’s missile arsenal are virtually impossible to interdict through airpower.


By purposefully escalating tensions with Iran using manufactured intelligence about an all too real threat, Bolton is setting the country up for a war it is not prepared to fight and most likely cannot win. This point is driven home by the fact that Mike Pompeo has been recalled from his trip to participate in a National Security Council meeting where the Pentagon will lay out in stark detail the realities of a military conflict with Iran, including the high costs. (Hopefully, they’ll emphasize that Iran would win such a war simply by not losing—all they’d have to do is ride out any American attack.) That Israel is behind the scenes supplying the intelligence and motivation makes Bolton’s actions even more questionable. It shows that it is John Bolton, not Iran, who poses the greatest threat to American national security today.

Read more …

The US must still be smart enough to understand it can only lose.

Iran’s Rouhani Warns Of Greater Hardship Than War Years Of 1980s (R.)

Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, has called for unity among political factions to overcome conditions that he said may be harder than those during the 1980s war with Iraq, state media reported, as the country faces tightening US sanctions. Donald Trump on Thursday urged Iran’s leaders to talk with him about giving up their nuclear programme and said he could not rule out a military confrontation. The president increased economic and military pressure on Iran, moving to cut off all Iranian oil exports while beefing up the US navy and air force presence in the Gulf. Washington also approved a new deployment of Patriot missiles to the Middle East, a US official said on Friday.


“Today, it cannot be said whether conditions are better or worse than the (1980-88) war period,” Rouhani said, according to the state news agency IRNA. “But during the war we did not have a problem with our banks, oil sales or imports and exports, and there were only sanctions on arms purchases. “The pressures by enemies is a war unprecedented in the history of our Islamic revolution … but I do not despair and have great hope for the future and believe that we can move past these difficult conditions provided that we are united,” Rouhani told activists from various factions.

Read more …

“.. he reserves the right to invite foreign military actions in the way independence hero Simon Bolivar hired 5,000 British mercenaries to liberate South America from Spain. “:

Guaido Seeks Pentagon Cooperation In Attempt To Take Power (AP)

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido on Saturday said he has instructed his political envoy in Washington to immediately open relations with the US military, in an attempt to put more pressure on President Nicolás Maduro to resign. Guiado said he had asked Carlos Vecchio, who the US recognizes as ambassador, to open “direct communications” toward possible military “coordination”. The remarks, at the end of a rally, were Guaido’s strongest public plea yet for greater US involvement in the country’s fast-escalating crisis. While Guaido has repeatedly echoed comments from the Trump administration that “all options” for removing Maduro are on the table, few in the US or Venezuelan opposition view military action as likely. Nor has the White House indicated it is seriously considering such a move.


[Guaido] announced on Saturday a forthcoming meeting with US military officials and said new actions will seek to “achieve the necessary pressure” to put an end to the Bolivarian revolution launched 20 years ago by the late socialist president Hugo Chávez. Guaido has said that as Venezuela’s rightful leader he reserves the right to invite foreign military actions in the way independence hero Simon Bolivar hired 5,000 British mercenaries to liberate South America from Spain. He says any such help should be considered “cooperation” instead of intervention, something he has accused Maduro of allowing in the form of military and intelligence support from Cuba and Russia. [..] Noticeably diminished crowds at opposition protests reflect demoralization that has permeated Guaido’s supporters after he led a failed military uprising on 30 April. In previous months, thousands heeded his calls to protest. On Saturday, a modest crowd of several hundred gathered in Caracas.

Read more …

Lock ’em up.

Boeing Altered Key Switches In 737 MAX Cockpit (ST)

In the middle of Boeing 737 cockpits, sitting between the pilot seats, are two toggle switches that can immediately shut off power to the systems that control the angle of the plane’s horizontal tail. Those switches are critical in the event a malfunction causes movements that the pilots don’t want. And Boeing sees the toggles as a vital backstop to a new safety system on the 737 MAX – the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) – which is suspected of repeatedly moving the horizontal tails on the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines flights that crashed and killed a total of 346 people. But as Boeing was transitioning from its 737 NG model to the 737 MAX, the company altered the labeling and the purpose of those two switches.

The functionality of the switches became more restrictive on the MAX than on previous models, closing out an option that could conceivably have helped the pilots in the Ethiopian Airlines flight regain control. Boeing declined to detail the specific functionality of the two switches. But after obtaining and reviewing flight manual documents, The Seattle Times found that the left switch on the 737 NG model is capable of deactivating the buttons on the yoke that pilots regularly press with their thumb to control the horizontal stabilizer. The right switch on the 737 NG was labeled “AUTO PILOT” and is capable of deactivating just the automated controls of the stabilizer. On the newer 737 MAX, according to documents reviewed by The Times, those two switches were changed to perform the same function – flipping either one of them would turn off all electric controls of the stabilizer.

That means there is no longer an option to turn off automated functions – such as MCAS – without also turning off the thumb buttons the pilots would normally use to control the stabilizer. Peter Lemme, a former Boeing flight-controls engineer who has been closely scrutinizing the MAX design and first raised questions about the switches on his blog, said he doesn’t understand why Boeing abandoned the old setup. He said if the company had maintained the switch design from the 737 NG, Boeing could have instructed pilots after the Lion Air crash last year to simply flip the “AUTO PILOT” switch to deactivate MCAS and continue flying with the normal trim buttons on the control wheel.

He said that would have saved the Ethiopian Airlines plane and the 157 people on board. “There’s no doubt in my mind that they would have been fine,” Lemme said.

Read more …

“..authorities have made clear to his visitors that, if they speak with the media about the conditions of Assange’s imprisonment, those conditions will only worsen.”

Assange’s Prison Conditions (Press Project)

ThePressProject has obtained exclusive information about Julian Assange’s prison conditions. According to that information, Assange appeared in court without having been granted prior counsel from an attorney. He has access to one book, the Bible, and is not permitted access to writing materials. He is being held in solitary confinement 23 hours a day and his visitors have been made aware that conditions will worsen if they are publicized. Assange has been held at Belmarsh Prison, a Category A (i.e. high security) facility since April 11.

Both Assange’s imprisonment at Belmarsh and his 50-week sentence have been condemned in a statement issued by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which denounced the “disproportionate treatment imposed on Mr. Assange” and claimed that his “treatment appears to contravene the principles of necessity and proportionality envisaged by the human rights standards.” Following a visit to Assange in Belmarsh earlier this week, UN Special Rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer also expressed concerns that his rights were being violated. Assange is permitted one hour a day outside of solitary confinement, during which he is allowed to bathe, walk, and use a telephone. At this moment the attention of the international community is upon him, with calls being issued by the United Nations and expressions of support coming from all over the world.

Nevertheless, Assange was permitted to appear in court without prior counsel from an attorney; currently, his meetings with a lawyer are limited to three hours per week. Not only is he cut off from communication with the outside world, he is also not allowed access to books other than the Bible. Because he is not granted access to writing materials, he keeps notes in the margins of that Bible. Again, authorities have made clear to his visitors that, if they speak with the media about the conditions of Assange’s imprisonment, those conditions will only worsen. It is clear that, in this case of such an intense struggle against so unequal an opponent and with extradition to the United States a real possibility, the provision of a fair trial and access to adequate legal defense are a matter of life and death for the imprisoned Assange.

Read more …

I see a headline like this, I immediately think: obesity. But there’s more tragedy behind this.

American Mom Today 50% More Likely To Die In Childbirth Than Her Own Mother (AP)

Pregnancy-related deaths are rising in the United States and the main risk factor is being black, according to new reports that highlight racial disparities in care during and after childbirth. Black women, along with Native Americans and Alaska natives, are three times more likely to die before, during or after having a baby, and more than half of these deaths are preventable, Tuesday’s report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concludes. Although these deaths are rare — about 700 a year — they have been rising for decades. “An American mom today is 50% more likely to die in childbirth than her own mother was,” said Dr. Neel Shah, a Harvard Medical School obstetrician.


Separately, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released new guidelines saying being black is the greatest risk factor for these deaths. The guidelines say women should have a comprehensive heart-risk evaluation 12 weeks after delivery, but up to 40% of women don’t return for that visit and payment issues may be one reason. Bleeding and infections used to cause most pregnancy-related deaths, but heart-related problems do now. The CDC report found that about one third of maternal deaths happened during pregnancy, a third were during or within a week of birth, and the rest were up to a year later. Globally, maternal mortality fell about 44% between 1990 and 2015, according to the World Health Organization. But the U.S. is out of step: Moms die in about 17 out of every 100,000 U.S. births each year, up from 12 per 100,000 a quarter century ago.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

Dec 292018
 


Sandro Botticelli Portrait of a Young Woman 1480 – 1485

 

Can an Inverted Yield Curve CAUSE a Recession? (St. Louis Fed)
The Malaysia Scandal Is Starting to Look Dire for Goldman Sachs (Taibbi)
How Crazy This Week Was For The Stock Market, In One Big Chart (MW)
Record-Bad Year-End For $1.3-Trillion “Leveraged Loan” Market (WS)
US Debt Soars $1.4 Trillion From Last Christmas, $44,000 Per Second (RT)
US Home Sales Decline To Steepen, No Respite In Sight. (WS)
Which Side Are You On? (Jim Kunstler)
Universal Basic Income Is Easier Than It Looks (Ellen Brown)
Guilty By Innuendo: The Guardian Campaign Against Julian Assange (Canary)

 

 

The St. Louis Fed says yes.

Can an Inverted Yield Curve CAUSE a Recession? (St. Louis Fed)

An inverted yield curve—or a situation in which market yields on shorter-term U.S. Treasury securities exceed those on longer-term securities—has been a remarkably consistent predictor of economic recessions. However, simply because inversions forecast recessions does not necessarily mean that inversions cause recessions. Why might a yield curve inversion cause economic activity to slow?

Recently, the Federal Reserve asked banks how their lending policies might change in response to a hypothetical moderate inversion of the yield curve.1 Many of those surveyed indicated that they would tighten lending standards or price terms on every major loan category. When asked why they would do so, several potential reasons were given: • An inversion could cause loans to be less profitable relative to the bank’s cost of funds. • An inversion would cause their banks to be less risk tolerant. • An inversion may signal a less favorable or more uncertain economic outlook. The figure below illustrates the tendency of banks to tighten lending terms when the yield curve inverts. It plots the yield on 10-year Treasury securities minus the yield on two-year securities.

Normally, the yield on 10-year securities exceeds the yield on two-year securities, reflecting the fact that the yield curve is usually upward sloping. The yield curve is downward sloping (or inverted) when the yields on shorter-term securities are higher than those on longer-term securities, as in 2000 and 2006. Both of those inversions were followed by the start of a recession within a few months. The Fed has surveyed banks on their lending terms continuously since 1990. The chart shows that the net percentage of banks tightening their lending standards on commercial and industrial loans began to rise around the time that the yield curve inverted in 2000 and 2006.

Why is this important? Researchers have found that the economy tends to slow after banks tighten their lending standards, suggesting that an inversion of the yield curve could cause economic activity to slow by leading banks to reduce the supply of loans. Thus, an inverted yield curve might do more than predict a recession: It might actually cause one.

Read more …

“..like a massage price that suggests you’re probably getting more than a massage.”

The Malaysia Scandal Is Starting to Look Dire for Goldman Sachs (Taibbi)

Goldman Sachs, which has survived and thrived despite countless scandals over the years, may have finally stepped in a pile of trouble too deep to escape. There’s even a Donald Trump angle to this latest great financial mess, but the outlines of that subplot – in a case that has countless – remains vague. The bank itself is in the most immediate danger. The company’s stock rallied Thursday to close at 165, stopping a five-day slide in which the firm lost almost 12 percent of its market value. The company is down 35 percent for the year, most of that coming in the past three months as Goldman has been battered by headlines about the infamous 1MDB scandal.

Just before Christmas, Malaysian authorities filed criminal charges against Goldman, seeking a stunning $7.5 billion in reparations for the bank’s role in the scandal. Singapore authorities also announced they were expanding their own 1MDB probe to include Goldman. In the 1MDB scheme, actors tied to former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak allegedly siphoned mountains of cash out of a state investment fund. The misrouted money went to lavish parties with celebrity guests like Alicia Keys, a $35 million jet, works by Monet and Van Gogh, property in New York, Los Angeles and London, and (ironically) the funding of the movie The Wolf of Wall Street.

The cash for this mother of all bacchanals originally came from bonds issued by Goldman, which earned a whopping $600 million from the Malaysians. The bank charged prices for its bond issuance that analysts believe were suspiciously high – like a massage price that suggests you’re probably getting more than a massage.

Read more …

Not crazy, but the new normal. Because no market.

How Crazy This Week Was For The Stock Market, In One Big Chart (MW)

This Christmas week really was one for the history books. Whiplash, anyone? On Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq all booked their ugliest-ever plunges in the shortened Christmas Eve trading session. All three indexes rebounded Wednesday, only to sink early Thursday and then turn around in dramatic fashion to finish the session higher. The week finished Friday with an indecisive whimper, as stocks flipped back and forth between gains and losses all day long. The week’s sharp moves were attributed mostly to light holiday trading volume and computer-driven trading. But the ups and downs during a usually calm period are no doubt stoking investor anxiety about what’s to come.

Read more …

“..loan funds [must] hold considerable amounts of cash so that they can meet redemptions.”

Leveraged loans and considerable amounts of cash. That don’t rhyme.

Record-Bad Year-End For $1.3-Trillion “Leveraged Loan” Market (WS)

Part of the $1.3 trillion in “leveraged loans” — loans issued by junk-rated overleveraged companies — end up in loan mutual funds and loan ETFs. These funds saw another record outflow in the week ended December 26: $3.53 billion, according to Lipper. It was the sixth outflow in a row, another record. Over the past nine weeks, $14.8 billion had been yanked out, another record. These outflows are, as LCD, a unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence, put it, “punctuating a staggering turnaround for the asset class” that until October was red-hot. Despite $10 billion of net inflows during 2018 through early October, the record outflows at the end of the year caused a net outflow for the entire year of $3.1 billion. What a sudden turnaround!

It can take a long time to sell a leveraged loan. Each is a unique contract, and finding a buyer and agreeing on a price and completing the sale takes time. So loan funds hold considerable amounts of cash so that they can meet redemptions. But now, loan funds faced with this onslaught of redemptions have to dump loans in order to stay ahead of the redemptions and maintain a cash cushion. This forced selling by loan funds has caused prices to drop – which is further motivating investors to yank even more out of those loan funds. Since October 22, the S&P/LSTA US Leveraged Loan 100 Index, which tracks the prices of the largest leveraged loans, has dropped 4.8%. This price decline put the index back where it had been on October 5, 2017. But note, while there have been some defaults recently, the big wave of defaults that many expect in an environment where credit is tightening for risky corporate borrowers, hasn’t even started yet. These are still the good times:

Read more …

“..Christmas-to-Christmas growth in the federal debt equals approximately $4,178.10 per average US citizen..”

US Debt Soars $1.4 Trillion From Last Christmas, $44,000 Per Second (RT)

The year-on-year surge in US sovereign debt has totaled $1.37 trillion, the latest data released by the US Treasury Department shows. The national debt reportedly rose to $21,863,635,176,724.12 as of December 20 of the current year compared to $20,492,874,492,282.58 on December 25, 2017. The current US population stands at 328,082,386 according to the December statistics produced by the Census Bureau, a unit of the US Department of Commerce. Rough calculations show that Christmas-to-Christmas growth in the federal debt equals approximately $4,178.10 per average US citizen.

According to Census Bureau estimates, there were 127,586,000 households in the country in 2018, which means that an average American family owes some $10,743.82. Moreover, since the end of the last fiscal year through December 20, the federal government added some $340 billion to the country’s sovereign debt. That means the debt had been skyrocketing at around $3.8 billion per day, or nearly $44,000 per second. US debt is expected to hit $22 trillion in the near future and the ongoing government spending will drive the debt to $33 trillion within a decade.

Read more …

Remeber: this is what the economy runs on. This is how money enters that economy.

US Home Sales Decline To Steepen, No Respite In Sight. (WS)

Pending home sales is a forward-looking measure. It counts how many contracts were signed, rather than how many sales actually closed that month. There can be a lag of about a month or two between signing the contract and closing the sale. This morning, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) released its Pending Home Sales Index for November, an indication of the direction of actual sales to be reported for December and January. This index for November fell to the lowest level since May 2014:

“There is no reason to be concerned,” the report said, reassuringly. And it predicted “solid growth potential for the long-term.” And the index plunged 7.7% compared to November last year, the biggest year-over-year percentage drop since June 2014. The drops in October and November are indicated in red:

All four regions got whacked by year-over-year declines: • Northeast : -3.5% • Midwest: -7.0% • South: -7.4% • West: -12.2%. The plunge in pending home sales in the West, a vast and diverse region, will prolong the plunge in closed sales for the region. Particularly on the West Coast, the largest and very expensive markets — Seattle metro, Portland metro, Bay Area, and Los Angeles area — have been experiencing sharp sales declines, a surge in inventory for sale, and starting this summer, declining prices. Today’s pending home sales data confirms that these trends are intact and will likely continue.

The NAR report blames the sales decline in the expensive markets in the West on “affordability challenges” – because prices “have risen too much, too fast,” it said. And this is a true and huge problem: Home prices have shot up for years, even while wages ticked up at much slower rates. At some point, the market is going to run out of people with median incomes who are willing to stretch to the limit to buy a starter shack; and the market is going to run out of people with high incomes who are willing to stretch to the limit to buy a median house.

Read more …

“..economies don’t de-grow, at least not in an orderly way.”

Which Side Are You On? (Jim Kunstler)

The true rebalancing of pension funds, and everything else in American life, will come with the recognition that we are tapped out and bumping up against actual limits. Alas, economies don’t de-grow, at least not in an orderly way. They reach a certain complete efflorescence and then they wilt, or collapse. Survival becomes a matter of how human beings adapt to new conditions. Attempts at mitigation — propping up the status quo — add up to a mug’s game, whether it’s stock markets, agri-biz, political parties, weather systems, or influence over people in distant lands.

The argument will come down to the Mitigationists versus the Adapters. The problem for the Mitigators is that most of what they can do is based on pretending: e.g. that some energy miracle is at hand… that we’ll soon be mining asteroids… that we’ll build dikes around Miami Beach… that Modern Monetary Theory (the “science” of getting something for nothing) can negate the physical laws of the universe. The Mitigationists will be disappointed as they “consume” their last images of iPhone porn, waiting for Elon Musk to save the world.

The Adapters will be out there working with the changes that reality serves up, probably with hand tools. There may be a lot fewer of them, living in a more austere everyday economy, but they will remain onstage when the Mitigationists depart this earth in tears for a mysterious realm that turns out not to be a golf course subdivision on Mars with a Tesla in every driveway. Something’s coming and the wild algo instability in the markets is yet another sign that anybody can read. Even if it quiets down for a few weeks in early 2019, as I think it may, the fireworks are only beginning. Which side are you on?

Read more …

Maybe not in practice, though.

Universal Basic Income Is Easier Than It Looks (Ellen Brown)

Calls for a Universal Basic Income have been increasing, most recently as part of the Green New Deal introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and supported in the last month by at least 40 members of Congress. A Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a monthly payment to all adults with no strings attached, similar to Social Security. Critics say the Green New Deal asks too much of the rich and upper-middle-class taxpayers who will have to pay for it, but taxing the rich is not what the resolution proposes. It says funding would primarily come from the federal government, “using a combination of the Federal Reserve, a new public bank or system of regional and specialized public banks,” and other vehicles.

The Federal Reserve alone could do the job. It could buy “Green” federal bonds with money created on its balance sheet, just as the Fed funded the purchase of $3.7 trillion in bonds in its “quantitative easing” program to save the banks. The Treasury could also do it. The Treasury has the constitutional power to issue coins in any denomination, even trillion dollar coins. What prevents legislators from pursuing those options is the fear of hyperinflation from excess “demand” (spendable income) driving prices up. But in fact the consumer economy is chronically short of spendable income, due to the way money enters the consumer economy. We actually need regular injections of money to avoid a “balance sheet recession” and allow for growth, and a UBI is one way to do it.

The pros and cons of a UBI are hotly debated and have been discussed elsewhere. The point here is to show that it could actually be funded year after year without driving up taxes or prices. New money is continually being added to the money supply, but it is added as debt created privately by banks. (How banks rather than the government create most of the money supply today is explained on the Bank of England website) A UBI would replace money-created-as-debt with debt-free money – a “debt jubilee” for consumers – while leaving the money supply for the most part unchanged; and to the extent that new money was added, it could help create the demand needed to fill the gap between actual and potential productivity.

Read more …

This is a nice effort from Tom Coburg for the Canary, and very much in line with some of the things I’ve said. But he misses an enormous elephant, and it’s hard to see how. See, he cites a May 18 2018 article by Luke Harding, Dan Collyns and Stephanie Kirchgaessner as the instant when the Guardian campaign against Assange started. But just three days prior to that, on May 15, the same authors posted 3 articles about Assange and his relations with Ecuador that are pure smear and very much part of the campaign against Assange. I linked to these things in my May 16 article, “I Am Julian Assange”

Guilty By Innuendo: The Guardian Campaign Against Julian Assange (Canary)

An analysis of articles published by the Guardian over several months reveals what appears to be a campaign to link WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with Russia and the Kremlin. But the paper has provided little or no evidence to back up the assertions. And amid recent revelations that Guardian journalists have associated with the psychological operations experts at the Integrity Initiative, we should perhaps be more sceptical than ever before. This particular campaign by the Guardian appears to have begun with an article on 18 May 2018 from Luke Harding, Dan Collyns and Stephanie Kirchgaessner.

It stated that “Assange has a longstanding relationship with RT”, the Russian TV broadcaster; and the headline was Assange’s guest list: the RT reporters, hackers and film-makers who visited embassy. Assange has had hundreds of people visit him at the embassy, but the article was keen to focus on the “senior staff members from RT, the Moscow TV network described by US intelligence agencies as the Kremlin’s ‘principal international propaganda outlet’”. On the same day, the Guardian published another article, claiming that Assange had visits from “individuals linked to the Kremlin”, but which offered no evidence for this.

Read more …

Oct 032018
 
 October 3, 2018  Posted by at 9:30 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


Paul Gauguin The ford 1901

 

Fed’s Powell Says US Outlook ‘Remarkably Positive’ (R.)
Another Market Volatility Surge Is Likely Ahead (Colombo)
White House Responds To “Misleading” NYTimes’ Trump Tax Fraud Story (ZH)
Italy Folds To Europe On Budget Deficit; Euro Surges (ZH)
Merkel’s End Could Spark EU Breakdown (Luongo)
Vancouver Home Sales Crash 44% As “For Sale” Inventory Soars (ZH)
Australia Banking Royal Commission Could Trigger House Price Collapse (ABC.au)
DMZ Demining Operations Lay Groundwork For Korean Peninsula Peace (YH)
Russia May Veto Greece-FYROM Name Deal at the UN (GR)
The Case For Paying Every American A Dividend On The Nation’s Wealth (MW)
Restaurants In Austin Banned From Throwing Away Food (Hill)
‘We Have Found Hell’: Trauma Runs Deep For Children At Dire Lesbos Camp (G.)

 

 

First, here’s Ted Koppel agreeing with me that Trump Sells Better Than Sex, and Stelter really doesn’t understand:

 

 

And then he closed the spigots…

Fed’s Powell Says US Outlook ‘Remarkably Positive’ (R.)

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Tuesday hailed a “remarkably positive outlook” for the U.S. economy that he feels is on the verge of a “historically rare” era of ultra-low unemployment and tame prices for the foreseeable future. It is a view, he said, based on how a changed economy is operating today, with businesses and households immunized by strong central bank policy from the inflationary psychology that caused unemployment, inflation and interest rates to swing wildly in the 1960s and 1970s. It is an outlook that includes an economic performance “unique in modern U.S. data,” with unemployment of below 4 percent expected for at least two more years and inflation remaining modest even as wages rise.

And it is an outlook he feels will even survive the Trump administration’s efforts to rewrite the global trading system, a policy shift Powell said may lead to one-time price hikes, but not to persistent changes in the annual rate of inflation going forward. “This forecast is not too good to be true,” Powell told the National Associate for Business Economics, but instead “is testament to the fact that we remain in extraordinary times.” “These developments amount to a better world for households and businesses which no longer experience or even fear the scourge of high and volatile inflation.”

Read more …

There can be no doubt.

Another Market Volatility Surge Is Likely Ahead (Colombo)

The U.S. stock market is climbing to record highs once again and volatility has calmed down dramatically from its panic-induced levels reached earlier this year. Traders have become complacent as they passively ride the stock market higher and bet on lower volatility again. While it may seem like all is well, several reliable indicators are warning that another powerful volatility surge is likely ahead.

The first indicator is the 10-year/2-year Treasury spread that is calculated by subtracting the 2-year Treasury note yield from the 10-year Treasury note yield. The 10-year/2-year Treasury spread is helpful for estimating when the next recession is likely to occur, as I explained in a recent Forbes piece. The chart below (which I recreated from a chart made by BofA’s Savita Subramanian) shows that the inverted 10-year/2-year Treasury spread leads the CBOE Volatility Index or VIX by approximately three years. If this historic relationship holds true, we are about to experience a whole lot more volatility over the next few years.

The next chart shows the positioning of the “smart money” and “dumb money” in the Volatility Index or VIX futures. The “smart money”, or commercial futures hedgers (who tend to be right at major market turning points), are building up another bullish position in VIX futures, just like they did one year ago ahead of the stock market correction and volatility spike. In addition, the “dumb money”, or large traders (who tend to be wrong at major turning points), have built up a large short position, like they did before the early-2018 volatility spike. The positioning of these groups of traders indicates that another volatility spike is likely ahead in the not-too-distant future.

Read more …

Decades old, started when Trump was a toddler, good luck. Of course they pay as little as they can, but once the IRS signs off on it…

White House Responds To “Misleading” NYTimes’ Trump Tax Fraud Story (ZH)

Update 2: The White House has finally responded to the NYTimes story…(via Sarah Sanders) “Fred Trump has been gone for nearly twenty years and it’s sad to witness this misleading attack against the Trump family by the failing New York Times. Many decades ago the IRS reviewed and signed off on these transactions. The New York Times’ and other media outlets’ credibility with the American people is at an all time low because they are consumed with attacking the president and his family 24/7 instead of reporting the news.

The truth is the market is at an all-time high, unemployment is at a fifty year low, taxes for families and businesses have been cut, wages are up, farmers and workers are empowered from better trade deals, and America’s military is stronger than ever, yet the New York Times can rarely find anything positive about the President and has tremendous record of success to report. Perhaps another apology from the New York Times, like the one they had to issue after they got the 2016 election so embarrassingly wrong, is in order.”

The NYT reported that Trump and his siblings set up a “sham” corporation to help disguise otherwise taxable income that came from gifts from their parents. The president also allegedly helped his father take improper tax deductions that amounted to millions of dollars and helped formulate strategy to undervalue his parents’ real estate holdings, with the Internal Revenue Service reportedly providing little pushback against the Trumps’ reported tactics. According to the leaked confidential filings, Trump’s parents left more than $1 billion to their children, which would have resulted in a roughly $550 million tax bill at the time.

However, the Trumps paid a total of $52.2 million on that source of income, according to the NYT report. To achieve this, the newspaper cited records that showed Trump helped undervalue his father’s real estate holdings, which led to a lower tax bill when he and his siblings inherited the properties. In total, Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire, based on questionable tax dealings starting when he was a toddler and continuing to this day. And, in what will attract the most attention, the newspaper wrote that Trump’s behavior amounted to fraud in some cases.

Read more …

I don’t think this one’s over yet.

Italy Folds To Europe On Budget Deficit; Euro Surges (ZH)

After two days of brutal punishment by the markets which sent Italian bond yields to 4 years highs and slammed the euro, the Italian government appears to have folded to pressure from Brussels (and the one place in the world where the bond vigilantes still operate, just ask Sylvio Berlusconi), and according to Corriere della Sera, Italy’s draft budget plan will pledge to cut the deficit to 2% in 2021, after Rome reversed a proposal to maintain a 2.4% shortfall in the face of pressure from the EU. As a result, while the 2019 deficit will still rise to 2.4% of GDP in 2019, it will decline by 0.2% to 2.2% in 2020, and another 0.2% the year after. In kneejerk reaction, futures lept to fresh session highs, Treasury yields jumped by 2bps to 3.07% and the EURUSD spiked 50 pips higher to 1.1590.

Italy is not out of the woods yet though: according to Mizuho, the sustainability of the euro’s rebound will depend on whether the EU sees Italy’s latest budget plan as appropriate. It could be that Italy has already made compromise with the EU, but hard to predict whether the euro’s rebound has more legs until we see a reaction from the EU: “It all boils down to the EU’s response”, and if the ongoing war of words is any indication, merely promising to trim the deficit in the next three years will hardly be smiled upon. Others were even more skeptical. According to bond fund manager Daintree Capital, “The euro’s definitely reacting to the headlines on Italian budget plans, and it will continue to do so for future headlines.” However, “anyone who believes a populist government is all of a sudden going to be particularly responsible in a fiscal sense, has a misguided view.”

Read more …

Merkel’s losing it.

Merkel’s End Could Spark EU Breakdown (Luongo)

I saw a recent poll from Die Welt which has Alternative for Germany (AfD) creep past Merkel’s Grand Coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD), and challenge the CDU itself. Because when you back out the Christian Social Union’s (CSU) total which runs between 8% and 9% AfD is now in a position to become the party with the highest backing in Germany. And this is happening on the eve of Bavarian State elections this month. [..] I’ve talked about AfD’s chances to achieve this result in the past in terms of them crossing the 16% Chasm. And it appears, that slowly, they are doing so. German politics, from what I understand, is not used to this kind of upheaval and certainly not these kinds of leadership challenges. Earlier this year Merkel barely survived a challenge by former CSU Leader Horst Seehofer over immigration.

So, where to things go from here? As Mercouris points out, Merkel has very skillfully gutted the landscape of the CDU to keep potential leaders from emerging within the party. The SPD is falling off a cliff having lost more than half of its support since the 2014 elections. And the CSU is primarily a Bavarian party so they don’t have the support of the entirety of Germany. This landscape is why we’ve seen the Greens rise to 15% as well as AfD’s rise. And that cannot be ignored. The hard left of German politics is now split and ineffectual. But, no party has emerged in this chaos to take the reins of power.

This is reminding me of Italy’s situation at the end of 2017 with no less than five parties polling in double digits. It’s a messy situation and it makes more sense in Germany that big shifts in voter preference would occur at a slower rate given the stability of German coalition governments since the modern state was founded after World War II. In other words Germans are loathe to make these kinds of changes. So, you know the situation must be bad if these numbers are changing this quickly. So, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise really to see this type of breakdown and the slow rise of AfD past the 16% chasm. It may be the riots in Chemnitz that finally begin pushing their poll numbers into the 20’s nationally.

Read more …

Glass half full: “”There’s more selection for home buyers to choose from today.”

Vancouver Home Sales Crash 44% As “For Sale” Inventory Soars (ZH)

What happens when prices rise so high that a chasm forms between bids and asks? The market grinds to a halt. That’s what happened in Vancouver housing in September, when according to the Real Estate Board of Vancouver (REBGV), residential property sales tumbled by 17.3% from August 2018, and a whopping 43.5% from one year ago. In fact, a total of only 1,595 transactions took place as both buyers and sellers continue to sit on their hands amid confusion whether the recent torrid price gains will continue or whether the housing bubble has burst. Sales of detached properties in July was just 508, a decrease of 40.4% from the 852 recorded in September 2017, and the 812 apartments sold was a 44% drop compared to the 1,451 sales in September 2017.

And no, it’s not seasonal: last month’s sales were a whopping 36.1% below the 10-year September sales average. The reason for the collapse in transactions: the formerly all too willing buyers, mostly Chinese oligarchs who would use Vancouver real estate as their offshore Swiss bank account, have disappeared. Meanwhile sellers are dumping properties in the market in hopes of a quick flip. “Fewer home sales are allowing listings to accumulate and prices to ease across the Metro Vancouver housing market,” Ashley Smith, REBGV president-elect said. “There’s more selection for home buyers to choose from today. Since spring, home listing totals have risen to levels we haven’t seen in our market in four years.”

Read more …

What would we do without our housing bubble?

Australia Banking Royal Commission Could Trigger House Price Collapse (ABC.au)

There is a lot riding on the policy recommendations from the banking royal commission, not least of which is the stability of the Australian property market, according to some respected analysts. Independent economist Saul Eslake said there was potential for the royal commission’s recommendations to have what economists refer to as “unintended consequences”. The unintended consequences Mr Eslake is referring to include a steep fall in house prices spurred on by a royal commission-inspired clampdown on bank lending. Capital Economics chief economist Paul Dales said while house price falls to date have been small, Australia could be in for a record housing decline, at least in its recent history.

“At the moment the trajectory is a bit worrying cause the house prices seem to be declining at a faster rate and, in our view at Capital Economics, this will eventually prove to be the largest downturn in Australia’s modern history,” he said. Mr Dales is forecasting a protracted slowdown in the housing market as a result of a crackdown in bank lending standards, the banking royal commission itself and rising interest rates. “There’s significant time delays with these things,” he said. “I would have thought over the next six to 12 months is where we would, if there was going to be a big pullback in lending, that’s when we would see it and then, thereafter as and when the royal commission makes any recommendations and the Government implements them, the next six to 12 months after that.

Read more …

Korea’s move on.

DMZ Demining Operations Lay Groundwork For Korean Peninsula Peace (YH)

After a 15-minute bumpy ride along a dusty, hilly path inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), dozens of South Korean troops in full gear disembarked near a grisly site of intense battles during the 1950-53 Korean War. Accompanying them in the buffer zone separating the two Koreas was a phalanx of security guards, medical specialists and other personnel specializing in disposing of unidentified explosives and excavating war remains. They are part of the 120-member team tasked with removing landmines in the Arrowhead Ridge, or Hill 281 in Cheorwon, some 90 kilometers northeast of Seoul — a site that the two Koreas have designated for a joint project to retrieve war remains from April to October next year.

There were three key battles against communist forces on the notorious ridge from 1952-53. The remains of more than 200 South Korean soldiers and dozens of U.N. Command (UNC) forces, such as U.S. and French troops, are thought to be buried in it. “We have made preparations (for the landmine removal) for a long period and are well prepared now,” the commander in charge of the frontline areas told reporters on condition of anonymity on Tuesday, the second day of the demining work set to continue until Nov. 30. “We will not rush and will carry out our mission with the first and foremost priority placed on the safety of our troops,” he added.

Read more …

EU and NATO want to keep pushing, but how about democracy?

Russia May Veto Greece-FYROM Name Deal at the UN (GR)

Russia is implicitly threatening that it may block the Prespa agreement at the UN Security Council. In a statement on Monday, following the referendum in FYROM, the Russian foreign ministry says that the low turnout “means that the referendum cannot be recognised as valid.” It clearly indicates that the voters “chose to boycott the solutions imposed on Skopje and Athens.” The statement also blasts leading politicians from NATO and EU member states who participated in “large-scale propaganda campaign directly, freely interfering in the internal affairs of this Balkan state.” Despite the low turnout, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev vowed to push ahead with the name change on Monday.

The Russian foreign ministry condemned the move: “There is a clear drive to ensure Skopje’s entanglement in NATO despite the will of the Macedonian people.” Russia is traditionally wary of NATO’s enlargement in eastern Europe. The alliance’s 1999 bombings of its ally Serbia caused a major rift in Russia’s relations with the West at the time. Moscow says that a long-term solution can only be agreed upon by the two parties on their own, without any external interference, and only within the framework of the law and with broad public support.

Read more …

Inequality in Europe rises fast, too. Where are the breaking points?

The Case For Paying Every American A Dividend On The Nation’s Wealth (MW)

The newest research shows that unconditional cash transfers boost work productivity and quality of life, including better mental and physical health, and reduce crime. A study by the Roosevelt Institute in New York, a left-leaning think tank, concludes that giving $500 a month to every adult American could meaningfully grow the U.S. economy and address its widening wealth gap. (The top 1% of Americans now receive 20% of the national income, while those in the bottom 50% receive 13%; in 1980, the numbers were essentially reversed, at 11% and 20%, respectively, according to the 2018 World Inequality Report.)

Yet basic income in the U.S., characterized as a utopian solution by its true believers but as welfare, socialism or worse by its detractors, has gone nowhere. Basic income did enjoy a bit of a heyday in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s and was even embraced in conservative circles; free-market economist Milton Friedman went so far in 1962 as to propose a negative federal income tax that would guarantee a basic income to the poorest Americans while also incentivizing work. Other ideals of the era — the four-day workweek, the 30-hour workweek, the all but limitless vacation allotment — have fallen by the wayside, even as U.S. labor conditions have worsened.

Read more …

In France, this is a nation-wide law.

Restaurants In Austin Banned From Throwing Away Food (Hill)

Restaurants in Austin, Texas, will no longer be allowed to throw out food waste, the city announced this week. Under a new policy that began Monday, all food-permitted businesses in the city are required to keep organic material, such as food scraps and soiled paper products, from landfills. Businesses can dispose of their food waste by donating extra food, giving scraps to local farms for animals, or composting, the city government said in a press release announcing the policy.

The city’s Universal Recycling Ordinance also requires businesses to provide employees with training on organic waste diversion, and to post information about the plan. Official city data shows that 37 percent of material sent to landfills is organic and could have otherwise been donated or composted, the city said. Austin’s ordinance is the latest move by a major city to introduce eco-friendly policies. Dozens of cities and businesses nationwide have banned plastic straws and other single-use plastic items in an effort to cut down on waste.

Read more …

Welcome to Europe.

‘We Have Found Hell’: Trauma Runs Deep For Children At Dire Lesbos Camp (G.)

The drawings tell of trauma. Stormy seas dotted with terrified faces. Lifeless bodies of children floating among the waves. And planes dropping bombs, down on to homes and on to people. Eyes that weep blood. The pencil scrawls were made by children who are part of a growing phenomenon in the Moria refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece. All have attempted suicide or serious self-harm since they came to this place. Approximately 3,000 minors live in the Moria camp, which Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) calls a giant open-air “mental asylum” owing to the overcrowding and dire sanitary conditions. Last Tuesday an adolescent attempted to hang himself from a pole. In August, a 10-year-old boy only just failed to take his own life.

The camp, among hills dotted with olive trees a few kilometres from the island’s capital town of Mytilene, is home to 9,000 asylum seekers living in a centre designed to hold one third of that number. Migrants live in groups of up to 30 people, crammed into tents or metal containers situated just centimetres apart. Rubbish, scattered everywhere, makes the air almost unbreathable. Most come from war-torn countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. They arrive in dinghies from the Turkish towns of Ayvalik or Canakkale. According to aid agencies, the controversial deal brokered between Brussels and Ankara aimed at stopping the flow of migrants to Europe via Turkey, combined with the refusal on the part of European countries to take in asylum seekers arriving in Greece, have transformed Lesbos into an Alcatraz, leaving people imprisoned on the island with no way out.

“Although the vast majority of migrants who arrive in Moria are traumatised, after having fled from violent conflicts in their home countries, conditions in the camp have exacerbated their trauma,” says Luca Fontana, field coordinator of MSF on the island. “After two years, some are still awaiting transferral, even if they know they could be deported to Turkey at a moment’s notice. I’ve worked in camps infested with Ebola in Sierra Leone and Guinea, but I guarantee you that this is the worst situation I’ve ever seen.”

Read more …