May 152021
 


Wassily Kandinsky Contrasting Sounds 1924

 

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Reprograms Innate Immune Responses
Long Covid-19 Linked To Early Aging Of Immune System (CGTN)
Pandemic To Be ‘Far More Deadly’ This Year – WHO (Y!)
Delay Child Vaccinations And Share Jabs With Covax – WHO (BBC)
India Variant Could Seriously Disrupt Lifting Of UK Lockdown (G.)
Failed Biden Nominee Neera Tanden Hired As White House Senior Adviser (F.)
The Age of Fear (Whitehead)
On the Hypocrites at Apple Who Fired Antonio Garcia-Martinez (Taibbi)
Remember It’s a Sin to Kill a Mockingbird (Turley)
Carbon Pricing Isn’t Effective at Reducing CO2 Emissions (INET)
Escalation In Palestine – Hizbullah Is Ready To Join The Fight (MoA)
Israel, the Big Lie (Chris Hedges)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burr

 

 

This is the scary part. This is why we should not use untested substances on hundreds of millions of poorly educated people.

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Reprograms Innate Immune Responses (MN)

Researchers in The Netherlands and Germany have warned that Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine induces complex reprogramming of innate immune responses that should be considered in the development and use of mRNA-based vaccines. Jorge Domínguez-Andrés and colleagues say that while the vaccine has been shown to be up to 95% effective in preventing infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and subsequent COVID-19, little is known about the broad effects the vaccine may have on the innate and adaptive immune responses.

In the current study (not peer-reviewed*), the research team from Radboud University Medical Center and Erasmus MC in the Netherlands, and the Helmholtz-Centre for Infection Research (HZI), Hannover Medical School (MHH), and the University of Bonn, in Germany, confirmed the efficacy of BNT162b2 vaccination at inducing effective humoral and cellular immunity against several SARS-CoV-2 variants. However, they also showed that the vaccine altered the production of inflammatory cytokines by innate immune cells following stimulation with both specific (SARS-CoV-2) and non-specific (viral, fungal and bacterial) stimuli.

Following vaccination, innate immune cells had a reduced response to toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4), TLR7 and TLR8 – all ligands that play an important role in the immune response to viral infection. Neta and colleagues also found that cytokine responses to fungi were increased following vaccination. The mRNA BNT162b2 vaccine induces complex functional reprogramming of innate immune responses, which should be considered in the development and use of this new class of vaccines,” writes the team.

Read more …

More immune system perils.

Long Covid-19 Linked To Early Aging Of Immune System (CGTN)

New studies show the effect of severe cases of the virus on the immune system and the premature aging of T-cells suggest a possible explanation for Long COVID-19. According to one publication, three months after patients have been discharged from hospital many showed signs of “premature immunosenescence” – the age-related decline in the body’s ability to form a defence against viruses and other illnesses. Researcher Niharika Duggal of the University of Birmingham said this included the loss of “naive” immune system cells (which have yet to be used in the body’s response), with an accumulation of “memory” B and T-cells, which circulate in the body holding the information to fight against a pathogen.


These symptoms are usually seen in people over 60 years old, but they were spotted in several COVID-19 survivors. It has been previously proved that traumatic injury and chronic disease can cause premature immune system aging, but this research is the first to argue a viral infection does the same. However, the research is still at an early stage and one researcher suggested it could be cause, rather than effect. Janet Lord of the University of Birmingham, explained: “Analysis of people in the UK … who developed COVID-19, showed they were biologically 10 to 14 years older.” She said it’s possible that patients who show prematurely aged immune systems may have caught the virus due to a weaker system – rather than the virus severely damaging the body’s immune response over a long period.

Read more …

Fear campaign?

Pandemic To Be ‘Far More Deadly’ This Year – WHO (Y!)

The World Health Organization issued a grim warning on Friday that the second year of Covid-19 was set to be “far more deadly”, as Japan extended a state of emergency amid growing calls for the Olympics to be scrapped. “We’re on track for the second year of this pandemic to be far more deadly than the first,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The mood also darkened in Japan where the coronavirus state of emergency took in another three regions just 10 weeks before the Olympics, while campaigners submitted a petition with more than 350,000 signatures calling for the Games to be cancelled. With Tokyo and other areas already under emergency orders until the end of May, Hiroshima, Okayama and northern Hokkaido, which will host the Olympic marathon, will now join them.

Japanese public opinion is firmly opposed to holding the Games this summer. Swiss tennis great Roger Federer said Friday that “what the athletes need is a decision: is it happening or isn’t it?” “I would love to play in the Olympics… But if that doesn’t happen due to the situation, I would be the first to understand,” he added. The pandemic has killed at least 3,346,813 people worldwide since the virus first emerged in late 2019, according to an AFP tally of official data. India meanwhile started deploying Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, the first foreign-made shot to be used in the country that has been reeling from an explosion in cases and deaths.

The first token batch of Sputnik vaccines — reportedly 150,000 doses — arrived on May 1 and a second delivery is expected in the next few days. A number of leading India-based drugmakers have agreements for local production of Sputnik V with the aim to produce over 850 million doses of the jab per year. India has been adding roughly as many new Covid cases daily as the rest of the world put together.

Read more …

Forget about herd immunity through vaccines. Not going to happen. Your immune system will have to do the job.

Delay Child Vaccinations And Share Jabs With Covax – WHO (BBC)

Wealthier nations should postpone plans to give children and teenagers Covid vaccines and instead donate supplies to low-income countries, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) says. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday urged countries to supply more vaccines to the global fair-access scheme Covax. The international distribution of Covid vaccines remains vastly uneven. Since the first vaccines were approved in December, wealthier countries have bought up most of the supply. Many are racing to vaccinate as much of their population as possible. Speaking at a virtual conference in Geneva on Friday, the WHO’s Dr Tedros said he understood why some countries wanted to vaccinate children and adolescents, but said “right now, I urge them to reconsider”.


“In low and lower-middle income countries, Covid-19 vaccine supply has not been enough to even immunise healthcare workers, and hospitals are being inundated with people that need lifesaving care urgently,” he said. Last week, US President Joe Biden laid out plans to begin coronavirus vaccine shots for 12- to 15-year-olds as soon as possible. He also said he hoped that 70% of US adults would receive at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by 4 July, when American families are expected to come together to mark Independence Day. Meanwhile, Canada has authorised the use of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for children aged between 12 and 15. The province of Alberta, which has the highest rate of the virus in the country, has already started offering the jabs to citizens over the age of 12. In Switzerland, some places began offering Covid vaccination appointments to 16-year-olds last week.

Read more …

Still makes me cringe: “..allowing people to meet in groups of six indoors ..”

India Variant Could Seriously Disrupt Lifting Of UK Lockdown (G.)

The final stage of the lifting of coronavirus lockdown restrictions across England could face “serious disruption” due to the India variant, the prime minister has warned, as he announced plans to accelerate the vaccine programme to curb its spread. Boris Johnson said the gap between the first and second Covid jab would be cut from 12 weeks to eight for all over-50s and the clinically vulnerable, admitting: “The race between our vaccine programme and the virus may be about to become a great deal tighter.” He announced that the army would be deployed to two variant hotspots – Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen – to help with vaccinations, and urged residents in those areas to “think twice” before taking advantages of the freedoms allowed again from Monday.


Johnson said plans to ease restrictions on 17 May – allowing people to meet in groups of six indoors – would go ahead, but that the variant “could make it more difficult” for the final stage of unlocking to proceed on 21 June. He said the India variant appeared to be “more transmissible” than the dominant strain in the UK, which originated in Kent, but that it was not yet clear by how much. If it is significantly more, then, he warned, “we’re likely to face some hard choices”. “I have to level with you that this new variant could pose a serious disruption to our progress and could make it more difficult to move to step four in June,” Johnson said. Asked whether the lockdown easing would have to be paused during a press conference, he added: “The truth is, we cannot say for certain … The situation is very different from last year, we are in the throes of an incredible vaccine rollout … We just have to wait and see … We rule nothing out.”

Read more …

“Tanden’s new post will not require Senate confirmation.”

Failed Biden Nominee Neera Tanden Hired As White House Senior Adviser (F.)

Neera Tanden will have a place in the White House after all following the withdrawal of her nomination to lead the White House Office of Management and Budget, with President Joe Biden on Friday hiring her as a senior adviser on Friday, according to a White House official. Tanden, the former president of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, will be charged with handling the White House’s response to Republican lawsuits before the Supreme Court seeking to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.


Tanden has also been tasked with reviewing the United States Digital Service, an Obama-era White House office that oversees federal websites and consults with federal agencies on technology. Tanden’s nomination was derailed when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a crucial vote for any Biden nominee in an evenly divided Senate, announced his opposition over her social media posts disparaging Republicans. Tanden failed to make up the votes on the Republican side, having previously slammed critical swing votes like Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in tweets. Tanden’s new post will not require Senate confirmation.

Read more …

“We allowed them to languish in schools which not only look like prisons but function like prisons..”

The Age of Fear (Whitehead)

Young people will find themselves overtaxed, burdened with excessive college debt, and struggling to find worthwhile employment in a debt-ridden economy on the brink of implosion. Their privacy will be eviscerated by the surveillance state. They will be threatened, intimidated and beaten by militarized police. They will be the subjects of a military empire constantly waging war against shadowy enemies and government agents armed to the teeth ready and able to lock down the country at a moment’s notice. As such, they will find themselves forced to march in lockstep with a government that no longer exists to serve the people but which demands that “we the people” be obedient slaves or suffer the consequences. It’s a dismal prospect, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, we failed to guard against such a future. Worse, we who should have known better neglected to maintain our freedoms or provide our young people with the tools necessary to resist oppression and survive, let alone succeed, in the impersonal jungle that is modern America. We brought them into homes fractured by divorce, distracted by mindless entertainment, and obsessed with the pursuit of materialism. We institutionalized them in daycares and afterschool programs, substituting time with teachers and childcare workers for parental involvement. We turned them into test-takers instead of thinkers and automatons instead of activists.

We allowed them to languish in schools which not only look like prisons but function like prisons, as well—where conformity is the rule and freedom is the exception. We made them easy prey for our corporate overlords, while instilling in them the values of a celebrity-obsessed, technology-driven culture devoid of any true spirituality. And we taught them to believe that the pursuit of their own personal happiness trumped all other virtues, including any empathy whatsoever for their fellow human beings. We have allowed them to be manipulated by a corporate culture that simply wants money and control. However, as Aldous Huxley warned: “The victim of mind-manipulation does not know he is a victim. To him, the walls of his prison are invisible and he believes himself to be free.”

Read more …

I know little about the situation, but I love Taibbi’s love of the man.

On the Hypocrites at Apple Who Fired Antonio Garcia-Martinez (Taibbi)

I’m biased, because I know Antonio Garcia-Martinez and something like the same thing once happened to me, but the decision by Apple to bend to a posse of internal complainers and fire him over a passage in a five-year-old book is ridiculous hypocrisy. Hypocrisy by the complainers, and defamatory cowardice by the bosses — about right for the Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style era of timorous conformity and duncecap monoculture the woke mobs at these places are trying to build as their new Jerusalem. Garcia-Martinez is a brilliant, funny, multi-talented Cuban-American whose confessional memoir Chaos Monkeys is to big tech what Michael Lewis’s Liar’s Poker was to finance.

A onetime high-level Facebook executive — he ran Facebook Ads — Antonio’s book shows the House of Zuckerberg to be a cult full of on-the-spectrum zealots who talked like justice activists while possessing the business ethics of Vlad the Impaler: Facebook is full of true believers who really, really, really are not doing it for the money, and really, really will not stop until every man, woman, and child on earth is staring into a blue-framed window with a Facebook logo. When I read Chaos Monkeys the first time I was annoyed, because this was Antonio’s third career at least — he’d also worked at Goldman, Sachs — and he tossed off a memorable bestseller like it was nothing. Nearly all autobiographies fail because the genre requires total honesty, and not only do few writers have the stomach for turning the razor on themselves, most still have one eye on future job offers or circles of friends, and so keep the bulk of their interesting thoughts sidelined — you’re usually reading a résumé, not a book.

Chaos Monkeys is not that. Garcia-Martinez is an immediately relatable narrator because in one breath he tells you exactly what he thinks of former colleagues (“A week before my last day, I had lunch with the only senior person at Goldman Sachs who was not an inveterate asshole”) and in the next explains, but does not excuse, the psychic quirks that have him chasing rings in some of the world’s most rapacious corporations. “Whenever membership in some exclusive club is up for grabs, I viciously fight to win it, even if only to reject membership when offered,” he wrote. “After all, echoing the eminent philosopher G. Marx: How good can a club be if it’s willing to have lowly me as a member?”

The irony is that if Garcia-Martinez has a failing as a writer, it’s that he’s too nice. Universally, the best writers are insane egomaniacs obsessed with staring at the great mirror that is the page. Garcia-Martinez, on the whole, would rather be sailing. I believe the reason he decided to go back to tech is that he preferred a quiet life of flying a desk to make mortgage payments to the never-ending regimen of self-salesmanship that the literary life requires (and which, again, is the easy part for most egocentric writers).

Read more …

And these people never happen to think of book burning?

Remember It’s a Sin to Kill a Mockingbird (Turley)

We have previously discussed efforts to ban classic books, including To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Lee’s book has been banned in states from Mississippi to California. The work, which exposed the deep-seated racism in our society, has been denounced as “violent and oppressive for black students.” I have opposed such efforts. Now, Loudoun County teacher Andrea Weiskopf has publicly called for the book to be banned in my neighboring county of Loudon. The reason? The character Attitus Finch is white and therefore the book is nothing but a “white savior” tale that traumatizes black students. The remarks reflects a harmful but growing movement to ban such books in public schools. The attack on this book in particular has left many of us dismayed. As Atticus himself said “remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”


Weiskopf told the board that not only is this classic work harming students but that, if any member does not accept that premise, they should not be making any decisions on book selections. ANDREA WEISKOPF: “It’s funny how they are so afraid of having their children seeing another view of sexuality, gender or religion…If you want to talk about books that are assigned, let’s read To Kill a Mockingbird together. If you aren’t able to consider the racial trauma this assigned book causes black children with its white saviorism, then you have no business discussing any books.” Her diatribe reminds me of the observation in the book that “It’s never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn’t hurt you.”

Read more …

Use less energy, only solution.

Carbon Pricing Isn’t Effective at Reducing CO2 Emissions (INET)

How does carbon pricing affect macroeconomic balance and ultimately CO2 emission? What about electric vehicles that are now being promoted by the Biden administration? Economists’ standard advice for controlling global warming is to impose a high price on emitting CO2, which is said to discourage carbon-intensive activities and induce carbon-saving technical change. In a recent review of the New Deal, William Janeway (2021) draws a distinction between efficient and effective policies. He comes close to economist-speak by describing efficiency as a low-cost means for moving toward a desired goal. Whether an efficient intervention will be effective in reaching the goal is another question altogether. In the short- to medium-run, raising carbon prices within a politically acceptable range may be efficient at inducing macroeconomically small changes in the structure of the economy and level of emission.

But the move will not be effective, because the changes will remain small for at least three reasons. Energy constitutes a relatively small proportion of economic activity. It is crucial for the functioning of the macro system, but usually is not the tail that wags the dog. Carbon pricing brings in the “little triangles” of economic welfare analysis applied by Arnold Harberger (1954, 1971), which are not significant in terms of GDP (James Tobin, 1977). The reason, as illustrated below, is that the percentage change in, say, gasoline demand in response to a higher tax is the product of a negative price elasticity of demand which is a fraction of the percentage change in price, typically less than 100%. The product of two fractions is smaller than both, meaning that the demand response is weak. Even if the magnitude of the long-run elasticity is bigger than the short-run value (say -0.4 < -0.2 or 0.4 > 0.2), the conclusion remains.

Finally, following Harberger and lurching into jargon, economists usually assume that the proceeds of a tax are passed in “lump sum” fashion back to consumers. This transfer produces an “income effect” stimulating demand for all goods including gasoline. The increase can partially offset the price-induced demand reduction due to “substitution” of other goods for lower purchases of gasoline. Substitution effects almost always dominate income effects, so that most of the transferred income gets spent on non-energy goods and services. Total gasoline consumption still declines.

Somewhat similar reasoning applies to electric vehicles (EVs). They have a great advantage in delivering around 70% of the energy they use for moving the vehicle as opposed to 25% for internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts. But the electricity has to come from some source. As of now 60% of the energy going toward electricity generation in the USA comes from fossil fuels. Unless that share is substantially reduced, EVs will not shift energy accounting by very much. They are efficient in reducing end-use of petroleum in the transport sector, but not effective in controlling CO2. Details appear below.

Read more …

Moon of Alabama with an original take.

Escalation In Palestine – Hizbullah Is Ready To Join The Fight (MoA)

The current war the occupiers of Palestine wage on the indigenous population has some unusual features. While the conflict was, without doubt, started by the colonial occupiers the course of the recent escalation seems to be managed by the resistance side. It may well be part of a larger plan. The Israeli army had for some time planned a large scale 30-days long maneuver to rehearse an attack on Hezbullah in Lebanon. Last week Hizbullah reacted to that: “The Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror organization has announced it is on high alert following the IDF’s launching of its largest-ever military exercise. The IDF launched on Sunday its “Chariots of Fire” month-long exercise simulating war on several fronts, and primarily against Hezbollah in the north, including the massive firing of missiles and rockets from all arenas on the home front. This is the largest and most comprehensive IDF maneuver in its history…”

[..] With unrest in Jerusalem, pogroms in Israeli cities, a potential third intifada in the occupied West Bank and a ground invasion of Gaza the Israeli army will be very busy. If it comes to that during the next few days the time could be right for Hizbullah, already on full alarm, to step in and to attack the occupation on the grounds that it is holding. Nasrallah’s speech last week can be understood as an announcement of such a step: “My last message will be for the Israelis themselves. I tell them this: you know well, in your heart of hearts, whether it is based on your religious texts or doctrines, on your books or your prophecies, and also based on what some of your leaders and experts say, and also some of your religious authorities, you know (very well) that this entity (Israel) has no future, that it is on the verge of extinction and that it has little time left to live, very little time. Therefore, in this battle you are wasting your energy, and your young people are wasting their youth and their blood, in vain and to no avail.”

We believe in this near future (where Israel won’t exist anymore), we believe in it very firmly, and this faith is not based only on religious and ideological bases, but is based (above all) on the data, on the events which occur, especially on those of the last decades, the last years and on what will happen (soon) in this region.”

It is possible that Netanyahoo had planned the original escalation in Jerusalem to stay in office: After four elections Israel still has no new government. Prime Minister Netanyahoo is on trial for corruption. A larger war that can be spun into a victory could help him to avoid a judgment and gain votes for the likely soon coming next election. It that was his plan he has achieved a first step towards it: “Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett has taken “off the table” the option of forming a government without Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, due to the ongoing military conflict with Gaza terrorists, a political source says. Bennett has renewed his negotiations with Likud due to the emergency situation, and teams from both parties met today, the source says on condition of anonymity.

But it is not Netanyahoo who can decide when the missiles from Gaza will stop flying. It is not Netanyahoo who can control the Palestinian youth. The escalation dominance is not in his hands but in the hands of the resistance. It is the resistance that decides when the conflict ends.

Read more …

Hedges has been there, done that.

Israel, the Big Lie (Chris Hedges)

I spent seven years in the Middle East as a correspondent, four of them as The New York Times Middle East Bureau Chief. I am an Arabic speaker. I lived for weeks at a time in Gaza, the world’s largest open-air prison where over two million Palestinians exist on the edge of starvation, struggle to find clean water and endure constant Israeli terror. I have been in Gaza when it was pounded with Israeli artillery and air strikes. I have watched mothers and fathers, wailing in grief, cradling the bloodied bodies of their sons and daughters. I know the crimes of the occupation—the food shortages caused by the Israeli blockade, the stifling overcrowding, the contaminated water, the lack of health services, the near constant electrical outages due to the Israeli targeting of power plants, the crippling poverty, the endemic unemployment, the fear and the despair. I have witnessed the carnage.

I also have listened from Gaza to the lies emanating from Jerusalem and Washington. Israel’s indiscriminate use of modern, industrial weapons to kill thousands of innocents, wound thousands more and make tens of thousands of families homeless is not a war: It is state-sponsored terror. And, while I oppose the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Palestinians into Israel, as I oppose suicide bombings, seeing them also as war crimes, I am acutely aware of a huge disparity between the industrial violence carried out by Israel against innocent Palestinians and the minimal acts of violence capable of being waged by groups such as Hamas. The false equivalency between Israeli and Palestinian violence was echoed during the war I covered in Bosnia.

Those of us in the besieged city of Sarajevo were pounded daily with hundreds of heavy shells and rockets from the surrounding Serbs. We were targeted by sniper fire. The city suffered a few dozen dead and wounded each day. The government forces inside the city fired back with light mortars and small arms fire. Supporters of the Serbs seized on any casualties caused by Bosnian government forces to play the same dirty game, although well over 90 percent of the killings in Bosnia were the fault of the Serbs, as is also true regarding Israel. The second and perhaps most important parallel is that the Serbs, like the Israelis, were the principal violators of international law. Israel is in breach of more than 30 U.N. Security Council resolutions. It is in breach of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that defines collective punishment of a civilian population as a war crime.

It is in violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention for settling over half a million Jewish Israelis on occupied Palestinian land and for the ethnic cleansing of at least 750,000 Palestinians when the Israeli state was founded and another 300,000 after Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank were occupied following the 1967 war. Its annexation of East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights violates international law, as does its building of a security barrier in the West Bank that annexes Palestinian land into Israel. It is in violation of U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 that states that Palestinian “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date.” This is the truth. Any other starting point for the discussion of what is taking place between Israel and the Palestinians is a lie.

Read more …

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, you are now not just a reader, but an integral part of the process that builds this site. Thank you for your support.

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime. Click at the top of the sidebars to donate with Paypal and Patreon.

 

May 132021
 


Daniel Garber The quarry 1917

 

Public Health and the Triumph of Irrationality (CP)
Your Immune System Evolves to Fight Coronavirus Variants (SciAm)
Covid Pandemic Was Preventable, Says WHO-commissioned Report (G.)
Covid Surges In 4 Of 5 Most Vaccinated Countries (F.)
Ivermectin Tablets To Be Distributed Among Uttarakhand Residents (OneIndia)
Could Indian Variant Jeopardise UK Unlocking Plan? (DM)
Merriam-Webster: ‘Anti-Vaxxer’ Now Includes Those Who Oppose Forced Jabs (RT)
124 Retired Generals And Admirals Question Biden’s Mental Health (Hill)
Tesla Will Stop Accepting Bitcoin As Payment Due To Fossil Fuel Use (JTN)
Man Who Alleges He Created Bitcoin Takes £4bn Claim To London High Court (R.)
France Aims To Shut British Firms Out Of EU Financial System (ZH)

 

 

I put this chart here to start a discussion on Covid and different blood types. Shoot.

 

 

 

Does anyone still realize how short we’ve become on science and rationality in the Covid response? And how we claim the exact opposite?

Public Health and the Triumph of Irrationality (CP)

It’s been inspiring to see how the nation has pulled together to stop the spread of COVID-19. It’s also been puzzling, however, in that it’s so out of character with the attitude Americans have otherwise taken to issues of public health. According to a recent article in the New York Times, cancer killed almost twice as many Americans in 2020 as COVID, and heart disease killed more than twice as many. That is, heart disease was the leading cause of death in the U.S. even during the most lethal period of the COVID epidemic, and cancer was second. Twenty-one percent of the deaths in the U.S. in 2020 were from heart disease and 18% from cancer, as opposed to only 10% from COVID. My point here is not that we should have been less concerned about COVID than we were. My point is that if we care so much about public health, why are we doing next to nothing to reduce the death toll of these two far more lethal threats?

Take heart disease. Not only do we know what causes it and how to prevent it, prevention is far easier than is the prevention of COVID. The causes of heart disease are things such as obesity, poor diet, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, stress, and lack of exercise. It would be relatively easy to tackle these problems. We could outlaw the sales of jumbo-sized sugary drinks, limit legal amounts of sugar and fats in processed foods, outlaw smoking, establish legal limits on the sales on alcohol, and mandate short supervised exercise periods in workplaces.

Americans are generally hesitant to impose what many have traditionally taken to be excessive legislative measures to protect public health. There was enormous support, however, for the legally-mandated extended lockdown measures and mask requirements to protect people from COVID, so why is there so little support for more moderate legislative measures to protect Americans from these greater threats to their health? The attempted ban on jumbo-sized sugary drinks was so short-lived that most people no longer even remember it. We’ve done a great deal to limit smoking in the U.S., but even with those measures it continues to be a huge threat to public health. If we can shut down businesses to protect people from COVID, why can’t we shut down the tobacco industry to protect people from the ravages of smoking (which affects not only smokers, but everyone in close proximity to them, not to mention imposing enormous costs on the healthcare system)? Bars and restaurants can, in theory, be held legally liable for serving alcohol to obviously inebriated customers, but in practice that law is seldom enforced and we have no legal limits whatever on the sales of alcohol in retail outlets.

Obesity makes people more vulnerable to death not merely from heart disease, but also from COVID, but while we are going to unprecedented links to protect people from dying of COVID, we’re doing nothing to protect them from becoming obese. In fact, we are arguably encouraging obesity by our quiescence relative to the amounts of sugar and fat typically found in processed foods and grotesquely exaggerated restaurant portion sizes.

Read more …

Most people can have faith in their immune systems. But less so when they’re “vaccinated”.

Your Immune System Evolves to Fight Coronavirus Variants (SciAm)

A lot of worry has been triggered by discoveries that variants of the pandemic-causing coronavirus can be more infectious than the original. But now scientists are starting to find some signs of hope on the human side of this microbe-host interaction. By studying the blood of COVID survivors and people who have been vaccinated, immunologists are learning that some of our immune system cells—which remember past infections and react to them—might have their own abilities to change, countering mutations in the virus. What this means, scientists think, is that the immune system might have evolved its own way of dealing with variants.

“Essentially, the immune system is trying to get ahead of the virus,” says Michel Nussenzweig, an immunologist at the Rockefeller University, who conducted some recent studies that tracked this phenomenon. The emerging idea is that the body maintains reserve armies of antibody-producing cells in addition to the original cells that responded to the initial invasion by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID. Over time some reserve cells mutate and produce antibodies that are better able to recognize new viral versions. “It’s really elegant mechanism that that we’ve evolved, basically, to be able to handle things like variants,” says Marion Pepper, an immunologist at the University of Washington, who was not involved in Nussenzweig’s research. Whether there are enough of these cells, and their antibodies, to confer protection against a shape-shifting SARS-CoV-2 is still being figured out.

Last April, when the pandemic was reaching its first peak in New York City, Nussenzweig and his colleagues sprang into action and began collecting the blood of COVID survivors. There were disturbing early reports of reinfection and waning antibodies, and the scientists wanted to understand how long the immune system could sustain its ability to respond to the novel threat. They took blood samples from people who had been hit by SARS-CoV-2 one month after the infection and then again six months later. What the scientists found was somewhat encouraging. Blood collected at the later date did have lower levels of circulating antibodies, but that made sense because the infection had cleared. And levels of the cells that make antibodies, called memory B cells, remained constant or even increased in some people over time. After an infection, these cells hang around in the body’s lymph nodes and maintain the ability to recognize the virus. If a person gets infected a second time, memory B cells activate, quickly produce antibodies and block the virus from creating a second serious infection.

Read more …

But then we put the WHO in charge…

Covid Pandemic Was Preventable, Says WHO-commissioned Report (G.)

The Covid pandemic was a preventable disaster that need not have cost millions of lives if the world had reacted more quickly, according to an independent high-level panel, which castigates global leaders and calls for major changes to bring it to an end and ensure it cannot happen again. The report of the panel, chaired by the former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a former president of Liberia, found “weak links at every point in the chain”. It said preparation was inconsistent and underfunded, the alert system too slow and too meek, while the World Health Organization was underpowered. It concluded the response had exacerbated inequalities. “Global political leadership was absent,” the report said. Clark described February 2020 as “a month of lost opportunity to avert a pandemic, as so many countries chose to wait and see”.

“For some, it wasn’t until hospital ICU beds began to fill that more action was taken,” she said. “And by then it was too late to avert the pandemic impact. What followed then was a winner takes all scramble for PPE and therapeutics. Globally, health workers were tested to their limits and the rates of infection, illness and death soared and continue to soar.” Sirleaf said: “The situation we find ourselves in today could have been prevented. An outbreak of a new pathogen, Sars CoV-2 became a catastrophic pandemic that has now killed more than 3.25 million people, and continues to threaten lives and livelihoods all over the world. It is due to a myriad of failures, gaps and delays in preparedness and response. This was partly due to failure to learn from the past.”

Urgent action must be taken, she said. “There are many reviews of previous health crises that include sensible recommendations. Yet, they sit gathering dust in UN basements and on government shelves … Our report shows that most countries of the world were simply not prepared for a pandemic.” The report was commissioned by the WHO director general at the instigation of member states, who called at the World Health Assembly in May last year for an impartial review of what happened and what could be learned from the pandemic. The panel calls for radical changes to bring heads of state together to oversee pandemic preparations, ensuring the finance and tools the world needs are in place. They want a faster-moving, better-resourced WHO. And they want a commitment now from leaders of affluent countries to supply vaccines for the rest of the world.

Read more …

If the Chinese vaccines don’t work, that leaves us with a lot of questions. Presumably, they wouldn’t work in China, either, for one thing.

Covid Surges In 4 Of 5 Most Vaccinated Countries (F.)

Countries with the world’s highest vaccination rates—including four of the top five most vaccinated—are fighting to contain coronavirus outbreaks that are, on a per-capita basis, higher than the surge devastating India, a trend that has experts questioning the efficacy of some vaccines (especially China’s Sinopharm) and the wisdom of easing restrictions even with most of the population vaccinated. Of the Seychelles, Israel, the UAE, Chile and Bahrain—respectively the world’s five most vaccinated countries—only Israel is not fighting to contain a dangerous surge in Covid-19 infections. Controlling for population, the Seychelles and Bahrain, alongside other highly vaccinated countries like the Maldives and Uruguay, recorded the highest number of daily coronavirus cases worldwide.

The Seychelles, a small island nation with almost double the U.S.’ vaccination rate, recorded 328 cases per 100,000 people, a far higher incidence than India (28) when population is accounted for. The outbreaks in vaccinated countries have sparked concern over how effective some of the Chinese vaccines are versus the western vaccines Israel used, including the Sinopharm vaccine the World Health Organization endorsed Friday that makes up a large part of the countries’ immunization programs. A relaxation of pandemic restrictions and mixed messaging from governments are also touted as potential explanations—tourism-reliant Seychelles and Maldives both (still) welcome tourists, Dubai exited lockdown rapidly and Chile loosened its restrictions and allowed domestic travel.

In many wealthy countries, vaccines have often been framed as the ultimate exit strategy from lockdown. Cases have declined in some countries executing successful and rapid campaigns, including the U.S., the U.K. and Israel, though experts point to places like Chile as a frightening example of what can happen if things are eased too quickly and warn a vaccine on its own is likely not enough. The efficacy of particular vaccines is likely to become a prominent concern as more countries begin to ramp up inoculation campaigns and there are concerns that some, like China’s Sinopharm vaccine, are far less effective at controlling the disease than those produced by the likes of Moderna and Pfizer. World leaders, including the head of the World Health Organization, issue frequent reminders that nobody is “safe until everyone is safe,” an issue underscored by the vast vaccine inequity between nations.

New, potentially more dangerous, variants are emerging across the globe, some of which could potentially evade existing vaccines. The WHO classified the B.1.617 variant tearing through India as a variant of concern Tuesday, noting it may be more infectious. 45%. All five of the world’s most vaccinated countries have at least this proportion of their population partially vaccinated. Data is available for Bahrain (47%), Chile (45%), Israel (60%) and the Seychelles (69%), with the UAE claiming third place thanks to its high number of doses given per capita (which is around 115,000 per 100,000 people; the UAE does not declare more granular data). The Seychelles (61%) and Israel (56%) also have the highest proportion of their population fully vaccinated, followed by Chile (38%) and Bahrain (35%). The U.S., where vaccination rates are declining in all but four states, sits just behind Chile and Bahrain, with 35% of its population now fully vaccinated and 46% partially.

Read more …

Pretty high doses recommended.

Ivermectin Tablets To Be Distributed Among Uttarakhand Residents (OneIndia)

The Uttarakhand government will be distributing Ivermectin, an antiparasitic drug, among the residents of the state as a preventive medicine against the spread of COVID-19, a senior official said. The Uttarakhand government’s announcement comes after Goa and Karnataka issued similar directions. The decision was taken on the recommendation of the state-level clinical technical committee, an order issued by Chief Secretary Om Prakash to all district magistrates said. The panel has recommended the Ivermectin tablet as “mass chemoprophylaxis” to effectively control the surge of COVID-19 infection apart from the vaccination drive, the order said. The 12 mg tablets of the drug will be distributed in a kit to all families through the health department and district magistrates, the order said.


Usually, Ivermectin tablets have to be taken by adults and those above 15 years twice daily for three days after breakfast and dinner. One person will thus need six tablets and a family of four will need 24 tablets. Hence, each kit will contain two dozen tablets, the order said. Children between 10-15 years will take only one tablet daily whereas those aged between 2 to 10 years can be administered the drug only after doctor’s advice. The tablet cannot be given to children below two years, pregnant women and those suffering from liver diseases, it said. The kit will come with directions on how to consume the medicine and dosage for different age groups. Information related to the daily distribution of the kits should be sent to the state nodal officer, the order said. Goa Health Minister Vishwajit Rane had on Monday said all people above 18 years will be given Ivermectin drug irrespective of their coronavirus status to bring down the number of deaths due to the viral disease.

Read more …

Sure.

Could Indian Variant Jeopardise UK Unlocking Plan? (DM)

India’s Covid variant is now dominant in four local authorities in England and its rapid spread could jeopardise plans to ease lockdown, experts fear. Analysis by one of the UK’s biggest variant trackers warns the strain is focused in hotspots Bolton and neighbour Blackburn with Darwen, where outbreaks have grown by 93 and 86 per cent in a week, respectively, with more than half of lab-checked cases proven to be the Indian strain. The mutant B.1.617.2 virus is also thought to be behind half of all Covid infections in London, Bedford and South Northamptonshire, although outbreaks in these areas are still small. Boris Johnson said in a statement to Parliament today that the variant was ‘of increasing concern’, warning that a strain that could slip past vaccines would have ‘potential to cause even greater suffering than we endured in January’.

No10’s top scientists fear it may be more transmissible than the currently dominant Kent variant (B.1.1.7) – with one Belgian scientist suggesting it could be 60 per cent faster-spreading – and that it could be behind a gradually rising infection rate in Britain. The UK today confirmed another 2,284 positive tests, up seven per cent on last Wednesday’s figure, along with 11 more deaths. Another 485,260 vaccines were given out yesterday, of which 350,000 were second doses. Early lab trials suggest the current vaccines will still protect against the Indian variants but there are concerns that a faster rate of spread could lead to a bigger outbreak, giving more opportunities for people to get reinfected. AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine appears to be protecting people from the Indian variant of the virus, reports suggest.

And Pfizer said in a report there was ‘no evidence’ its shot would need to be updated to fight off the current variants. Environment Secretary George Eustice has refused to rule out local lockdowns from next month when the national restrictions are expected to end, adding that officials were ‘closely monitoring’ several outbreaks that had cropped up in recent weeks. But the Prime Minister stayed optimistic about ending lockdown, saying he expects to scrap advice for people to work from home in June and adding that he anticipates town and city centres will be ‘full of bustle again’ soon.

Read more …

“Welcome to ‘1984.’ This is the Ministry of Truth..”

Merriam-Webster: ‘Anti-Vaxxer’ Now Includes Those Who Oppose Forced Jabs (RT)

Merriam-Webster is again redefining language to fit a narrative, this time framing its definition of “anti-vaxxer” to include not only people who oppose vaccination, but also those who are against inoculation mandates. The definition on Merriam-Webster’s website says “anti-vaxxer” means “a person who opposes vaccination or laws that mandate vaccination.” It’s not clear when it was written to include opposition to forced jabs, but many observers noticed for the first time on Wednesday. “Welcome to ‘1984.’ This is the Ministry of Truth,” rapper and podcaster Zuby said on Twitter, referring to George Orwell’s dystopian novel.


Other reactions were similar, with many commenters noting that they now fit the dictionary definition of “anti-vaxxer,” even though they believe in the benefits of vaccinations and choose to receive the shots themselves. Merriam-Webster’s definition appears to dismiss the concept of favoring a product personally but being opposed, on principle, to forcing others to use it. Today, I begin my new life as an anti-vaxxer,” podcast host Matt Walsh said. The conservative Young America’s Foundation added that “when the Left control the language, they control the narrative.”

Read more …

ha ha ha

124 Retired Generals And Admirals Question Biden’s Mental Health (Hill)

A group of retired U.S. military admirals and generals signed a letter released Tuesday questioning President Biden’s fitness for office and seemingly challenging the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. The letter, signed by 124 former military leaders and posted by Flag Officers 4 America, said the “Constitutional Republic is lost” without “fair and honest elections that accurately reflect the ‘will of the people.’” “The FBI and Supreme Court must act swiftly when election irregularities are surfaced and not ignore them as was done in 2020,” the letter added. Former Attorney General William Barr said in December the Justice Department uncovered no evidence of voter fraud that could have affected the outcome of the 2020 election, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

The signatories also questioned the “mental and physical condition of the Commander in Chief,” adding that national security issues require quick and “accurate” decisions “involving life and limb.” “Recent Democrat leadership’s inquiries about nuclear code procedures sends a dangerous national security signal to nuclear armed adversaries, raising the question about who is in charge,” the letter said. “We must always have an unquestionable chain of command.” While in office, former President Trump periodically questioned Biden’s mental capacity and age during the campaign season, at times referring to him as “sleepy Joe.”

Kevin O’Connor, the president’s doctor, released a report earlier this month maintaining that Biden is a “healthy, vigorous, 77-year-old male, who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency,” Business Insider reported. The signatories additionally compared potential challenges to ideological battles not seen since America’s founding. “We are in a fight for our survival as a Constitutional Republic like no other time since our founding in 1776,” they said. “The conflict is between supporters of Socialism and Marxism vs. supporters of Constitutional freedom and liberty.” A statement on the Flag Officers 4 America website, says that although its members are no longer engaged in active military service, they are “bound by that oath to do what we can, in our capacity today, to protect our nation from the threats to her freedom.”

Read more …

Weeks after Musk says they will be accepted. Some PR.

Is Tesla going to take this policy to China?

Tesla Will Stop Accepting Bitcoin As Payment Due To Fossil Fuel Use (JTN)

Tesla’s Elon Musk announced on Wednesday that the electric vehicle company will no longer accept Bitcoin cryptocurrency as a payment method for automobiles due to the environmental impact of Bitcoin mining. “Tesla has suspended vehicle purchases using Bitcoin. We are concerned about rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions, especially coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel,” Musk posted. “Cryptocurrency is a good idea on many levels and we believe it has a promising future, but this cannot come at great cost to the environment.”


However, the business magnate noted that Tesla will not sell off its substantial Bitcoin holdings and plans to resume accepting the cryptocurrency in the future when mining shifts to more sustainable energy. “Tesla will not be selling any Bitcoin and we intend to use it for transactions as soon as mining transitions to more sustainable energy. We are also looking at other cryptocurrencies that use <1% of Bitcoin’s energy/transaction.”

Read more …

Still a curious case.

Man Who Alleges He Created Bitcoin Takes £4bn Claim To London High Court (R.)

An Australian computer scientist who alleges he created bitcoin has launched a London high court lawsuit against 16 software developers in an effort to secure bitcoin worth around £4bn pounds (A$5.7bn) he says he owns. In a case that was promptly labelled “bogus” by one defendant, Craig Wright is demanding that developers allow him to retrieve about 111,000 bitcoins held at two digital addresses that he does not have private keys for. In his second London lawsuit in three weeks, Wright alleges he lost the encrypted keys when his home computer network was hacked in February 2020. Police are investigating.

Wright, who is bringing the case through his Seychelles-based Tulip Trading firm, concedes he is a controversial figure since alleging in 2016 that he wrote the bitcoin white paper – which first outlined the technology behind the digital assets – under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008. The claim is hotly disputed. The Australian, who is autistic and lives in Britain with his wife and two of his three children, alleges in his latest lawsuit that developers have breached their duties to act in the best interests of the rightful owner of globally-traded assets.

“Our client has always maintained that he created bitcoin to operate within existing laws and that in the event of loss or theft, where legitimate ownership can be proven, the developers have a duty to ensure recovery,” said Paul Ferguson, a partner at law firm Ontier, which is representing Wright. The case is being brought against the developers of four networks – Bitcoin Satoshi Vision (BSV), Bitcoin Core (BTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH) and Bitcoin Cash ABC (ABC) – at addresses in continental Europe, the US, New Zealand, Australia and Japan, a court filing seen by Reuters showed.

Read more …

It’s highly fashionable to try and ban countries from international financial systems.

France Aims To Shut British Firms Out Of EU Financial System (ZH)

As the spat between the UK and France over access to British fishing waters – a contentious issue that nearly scuppered the post-Brexit trade deal – worsens, France has apparently decided to go for the jugular. Last week, French officials threatened to cut off electricity to the UK-dominated island of Jersey while a “protest” staged by French fishermen nearly prompted a confrontation between British and French naval ships. Now, France is threatening to do everything in its power to scupper a EU deal that would broaden access to European markets for British financial firms.

In keeping with threats made by a French diplomat last week, Bloomberg reports that French diplomats are working to stall an agreement that would help restore some of the access British financial firms once enjoyed to European markets, which was lost when Brexit officially came into effect following the end of the transition and the start of 2021. Though it wouldn’t have much practical effect in the near term, reaching a Memorandum of Understanding between the UK and the EU about plans to re-integrate their financial systems is seen by the UK as a critical first step to restoring the level of access they once enjoyed. Negotiations in Brussels later this month will bring EU leaders together to further the discuss a potential deal on market access. To be sure, the EU has said that it’s in no rush to restore the reciprocity rules that would restore trading rights for British financial firms.

Here’s more from BBG: “At the end of March, Britain and the EU had agreed on a forum regarding cross-border financial market access. While granting so-called equivalences that would allow U.K. financial firms to do business in Europe remains a separate and unilateral process, the MoU would help speed up the process. Since Brexit took effect at the beginning of 2021, London-based financial firms have been largely unable to operate in the bloc, forcing banks like JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to move billions of dollars in assets and thousands of staff to the continent.”

Read more …

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, you are now not just a reader, but an integral part of the process that builds this site. Thank you for your support.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime. Click at the top of the sidebars to donate with Paypal and Patreon.

 

Apr 112021
 


Bartolomeo Schedoni The Deposition of Jesus’ body by St. Joseph of Arimathea 1613

 

South African Variant Can ‘Break Through’ Pfizer Vaccine (R.)
SARS-CoV-2 Variants B.1.351 and P.1 Escape From Neutralizing Antibodies (Cell)
Facemasks in the COVID-19 Era: A Health Hypothesis (NIH)
DMX Given Covid Vaccine Days Before Lethal Heart Attack (Noq)
Data Substantiating Wide Asymptomatic Spread Of Covid-19 Remains Elusive (JTN)
German Govt Plans New Harsh Covid-19 Restrictions In Draft Law (RT)
Republicans Deflated As Nation Shrugs At Hunter Biden Revelations (G.)
Daily Mail Exposes Hunter Biden Bombshells (ZH)
More Money Put Into Stocks In Last 5 Months Than Last 12 Years Combined (CNBC)
Frederick Forsyth Says UK Government Has Launched “Campaign of Mass Fear” (SN)
Bellingcat Launders National Security State Talking Points into the Press (MPN)
Ukraine Redux – War, Russophobia, & Pipelineistan (Escobar)
A History of the Espionage Act and How it Ensnared Julian Assange (Lauria)
Julian Assange: The Corpse In The Basement Of The West (derstandard.at )

 

 

 

 

 

 

St. Vincent
https://twitter.com/i/status/1380790808153047042

 

 

Truth is stranger than fiction,but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.
– Mark Twain

 

 

Viruses mutate, albeit in unpredictable ways. This virus could disappear, like so many have. But with, at any given moment, 1-10-100 million new potential hosts, that is not likely. It’s much likelier that variants will evolve that evade vaccines. Especially since, as has been argued, there is no plan to vaccinate some 3-4 billion people.

The present rollout, along with the vaccines themselves, are sold to us as the summit of human intelligence. They could well be the summit of the exact opposite.

South African Variant Can ‘Break Through’ Pfizer Vaccine (R.)

The coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa can “break through” Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to some extent, a real-world data study in Israel found, though its prevalence in the country is low and the research has not been peer reviewed. The study, released on Saturday, compared almost 400 people who had tested positive for COVID-19, 14 days or more after they received one or two doses of the vaccine, against the same number of unvaccinated patients with the disease. It matched age and gender, among other characteristics. The South African variant, B.1.351, was found to make up about 1% of all the COVID-19 cases across all the people studied, according to the study by Tel Aviv University and Israel’s largest healthcare provider, Clalit.

But among patients who had received two doses of the vaccine, the variant’s prevalence rate was eight times higher than those unvaccinated – 5.4% versus 0.7%. This suggests the vaccine is less effective against the South African variant, compared with the original coronavirus and a variant first identified in Britain that has come to comprise nearly all COVID-19 cases in Israel, the researchers said. “We found a disproportionately higher rate of the South African variant among people vaccinated with a second dose, compared to the unvaccinated group. This means that the South African variant is able, to some extent, to break through the vaccine’s protection,” said Tel Aviv University’s Adi Stern. The researchers cautioned, though, that the study only had a small sample size of people infected with the South African variant because of its rarity in Israel.

They also said the research was not intended to deduce overall vaccine effectiveness against any variant, since it only looked at people who had already tested positive for COVID-19, not at overall infection rates. [..] While the results of the study may cause concern, the low prevalence of the South African strain was encouraging, according to Stern. “Even if the South African variant does break through the vaccine’s protection, it has not spread widely through the population,” said Stern, adding that the British variant may be “blocking” the spread of the South African strain.

Read more …

This is just the beginning.

SARS-CoV-2 Variants B.1.351 and P.1 Escape From Neutralizing Antibodies (Cell)

The global spread of SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 is devastating health systems and economies worldwide. Recombinant or vaccine-induced neutralizing antibodies are used to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the recently emerged SARS-CoV-2 variants B.1.1.7 (UK), B.1.351 (South Africa), and P.1 (Brazil) harbor mutations in the viral spike (S) protein that may alter virus-host cell interactions and confer resistance to inhibitors and antibodies. Here, using pseudoparticles, we show that entry of all variants into human cells is susceptible to blockade by the entry inhibitors soluble ACE2, Camostat, EK-1, and EK-1-C4. In contrast, entry of the B.1.351 and P.1 variant was partially (Casirivimab) or fully (Bamlanivimab) resistant to antibodies used for COVID-19 treatment. Moreover, entry of these variants was less efficiently inhibited by plasma from convalescent COVID-19 patients and sera from BNT162b2-vaccinated individuals. These results suggest that SARS-CoV-2 may escape neutralizing antibody responses, which has important implications for efforts to contain the pandemic.

Read more …

NIH, January 2021. What struck me is the health effects listed in the graphic.

Facemasks in the COVID-19 Era: A Health Hypothesis (NIH)

The physical properties of medical and non-medical facemasks suggest that facemasks are ineffective to block viral particles due to their difference in scales [16], [17], [25]. According to the current knowledge, the virus SARS-CoV-2 has a diameter of 60 nm to 140 nm [nanometers (billionth of a meter)] [16], [17], while medical and non-medical facemasks’ thread diameter ranges from 55 µm to 440 µm [micrometers (one millionth of a meter), which is more than 1000 times larger [25]. Due to the difference in sizes between SARS-CoV-2 diameter and facemasks thread diameter (the virus is 1000 times smaller), SARS-CoV-2 can easily pass through any facemask [25]. In addition, the efficiency filtration rate of facemasks is poor, ranging from 0.7% in non-surgical, cotton-gauze woven mask to 26% in cotton sweeter material [2].

With respect to surgical and N95 medical facemasks, the efficiency filtration rate falls to 15% and 58%, respectively when even small gap between the mask and the face exists [25]. Clinical scientific evidence challenges further the efficacy of facemasks to block human-to-human transmission or infectivity. A randomized controlled trial (RCT) of 246 participants [123 (50%) symptomatic)] who were allocated to either wearing or not wearing surgical facemask, assessing viruses transmission including coronavirus [26]. The results of this study showed that among symptomatic individuals (those with fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose ect…) there was no difference between wearing and not wearing facemask for coronavirus droplets transmission of particles of >5 µm.

Among asymptomatic individuals, there was no droplets or aerosols coronavirus detected from any participant with or without the mask, suggesting that asymptomatic individuals do not transmit or infect other people [26]. This was further supported by a study on infectivity where 445 asymptomatic individuals were exposed to asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 carrier (been positive for SARS-CoV-2) using close contact (shared quarantine space) for a median of 4 to 5 days. The study found that none of the 445 individuals was infected with SARS-CoV-2 confirmed by real-time reverse transcription polymerase [27].

Read more …

The media story is a drug overdose.

DMX Given Covid Vaccine Days Before Lethal Heart Attack (Noq)

Rapper DMX, whose real name was Earl Simmons, died yesterday following complications from a heart attack. The 50-year-old music star was widely reported to have been hospitalized for a drug overdose that induced the heart attack, but a female member of his family told MTO News that he did not take drugs prior to the heart attack. He did, however, receive a Covid vaccination days before. Editor’s Note: We generally do not post single-source stories. The source for the information—MTO News—is a heavily trafficked site (over 10 million visitors per month) with contacts in the rap world. Though we have not been able to independently confirm the interview with a member of Simmons’ family, we are running the story based on the influence of the source publication.

We have reached out to a representative of his staff for confirmation. As of the writing of this story, only MTO News has been granted an interview and released the information. Some news outlets have picked the story up while a few fact-checkers have “debunked” it, though conspicuously none of the fact-checkers have provided information demonstrating the report is false. They’ve only said that they cannot confirm its validity. According to MTO News: “MTO News spoke with a member of the Simmons family who believes that it was NOT drugs that caused the heart attack. In an EXCLUSIVE interview, MTO News spoke with DMX’ family member who told us that the rapper received the COVID vaccine about a week before he suffered from the heart attack.

DMX’s family member told MTO News, “[DMX] got the vaccine when they opened it up to people over 50. He got it so that he could go travel and perform, stuff like that.” New York State opened up the COVID-19 vaccinations for people over the age of 50 in mid March. And the family member suspects that DMX heart attack could have been a reaction to the vaccine. The family member explained, “Everyone [in the news] keeps saying that [DMX] had a drug overdose. How do they know. I’m in the family and no doctor told me anything about an overdose.” The family member is FURIOUS about the speculation surrounding DMX drug use. She told MTO News, “Yes he had past issues with drugs. But nobody knows that he had an OD. It’s f**cked up that its being reported like that.”

She told MTO News that she – and the family – are considering taking legal action against news publications prematurely concluding that DMX suffered a drug overdose. But what is clear – according to the family member – is that DMX did take the Covid vaccine.” Chances are very high that we will not receive much more confirmation about this, especially from mainstream media. Only the family, hospital personnel, or others close to DMX could confirm or deny it, and other than the interview on MTO News, there has been no informed word one way or another. But we do know this. Unless the family makes a statement regarding the Covid vaccine, this story will be treated as “debunked” by those with an agenda to promote the Covid vaccine to everyone, especially African-Americans.

Read more …

“Lost in the chaos of the past year is any definitive indication that asymptomatic spread of the virus is widespread or common.”

Data Substantiating Wide Asymptomatic Spread Of Covid-19 Remains Elusive (JTN)

Hard data on the true prevalence of asymptomatic COVID-19 spread remains elusive, with scientists struggling to quantify just how often carriers of the SARS-Cov-2 virus transmit it without outward signs of illness. Fears that COVID-19 can spread very easily through asymptomatic transmission were a major factor behind the lockdowns and mitigation measures seen across the world over the past year. Health leaders claimed that the threat of symptom-free spread necessitated broad shutdowns of major portions of the economy, indefinite school closures, mandatory public mask-wearing, capacity limits and other social distancing measures, and various other tactics for containing the spread of COVID-19.

Lost in the chaos of the past year is any definitive indication that asymptomatic spread of the virus is widespread or common. Scientists and public health officials have struggled to come up with meaningful epidemiological evidence to that effect, though most have continued insisting that it’s a major contributor to the overall pandemic. In June of last year, WHO official Maria Van Kerkhove encountered significant backlash when she said that, based on current evidence, asymptomatic spread appeared to be “very rare.” Van Kerkhove subsequently qualified her comment, a qualification hyped as a “walkback” by some in the media. Health officials “don’t actually have that answer yet” as to the prevalence of asymptomatic spread, she said in narrowing her previous claim. “I was referring to a small subset of studies.”

Van Kerkhove has not responded to queries since then regarding the evolving study of asymptomatic COVID transmission. Several other scientists, meanwhile, have attempted to answer that question with mixed results. One study from December found that, within households, asymptomatic carriers of the virus passed it on to housemates at the rate of about 0.7%. That investigation made headlines for its apparent demonstration that asymptomatic spread is, in effect, vanishingly rare. Yet at least one coauthor of the study, University of Florida biostatistics Professor Natalie Dean, has been warning since the study’s publication that its findings on that front should be taken with a grain of salt.

Read more …

Berlin taking powers away from German states.

German Govt Plans New Harsh Covid-19 Restrictions In Draft Law (RT)

Night-time curfews, sweeping business closures and severe limits on public gatherings are all part of the German government’s new bill aimed at “standardizing” Covid-19 measures to stop the third wave, German media report. Berlin is currently working on amendments to the national Infection Protection Act that would significantly tighten the lockdown restrictions and greatly reduce the federal states’ ability to defy the government’s orders, German media that obtained the draft document report. The document that is expected to be discussed and potentially approved by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet on Tuesday includes binding requirements for all federal states where an average seven-day Covid-19 infection rate will rise over 100 per 100,000 people.

Such states will no longer be able to find any excuses to avoid imposing the so-called “emergency brake,” the supposed text of the bill, published by Die Welt on Saturday, reads. All states over this threshold infection rate will be bound to introduce a standard set of measures developed by the federal government, should the legislation come into force. Such measures involve a night-time curfew between 21:00 and 05:00, with exceptions for medical emergencies, professional activities and for looking after people or animals. Private and public gatherings would once again be limited to the members of one household and one person outside of it, with children under 14 excluded from this rule.

All non-essential stores and services, including cafes, clubs, museums and sports facilities, as well as shops other than grocery stores, pharmacies and petrol stations, would be closed. Employers would also have to let their employees work from home if there are no “compelling reasons” for them to stay in the workplace. Universities would switch to distance education, with in-person classes only being allowed if every person attending them presents a negative Covid-19 test result.

Ardern

Read more …

Silencing the Hunter story is not enough anymore, now the Guardian attempts to fully whitewash it. And calls him a brave man for writing about it all. “Hunter also uses the book to deny wrongdoing in joining the board of Burisma..”

Well, as Turley wrote: “Burisma and other companies not only gave massive payments to someone without any notable skills or experience, they hired someone who was a drug addict who was, by his own account, a total trainwreck.”

Burisma paid Hunter more than $50,000 a month from 2014 to 2019, aka the cash to buy his drugs. While he was by his own account a completely retarded junkie. And this had nothing to do with his father’s name.

Republicans Deflated As Nation Shrugs At Hunter Biden Revelations (G.)

In the memoir, Beautiful Things, Hunter, 51, details a lifelong struggle with drink and drugs. He writes that his “deep descent” into substance addiction followed the 2015 death of his older brother, Beau, who succumbed to brain cancer aged 46. Hunter admits that “in the last five years alone, my two-decades-long marriage has dissolved, guns have been put in my face, and at one point I dropped clean off the grid, living in $59-a-night Super 8 motels off I-95 while scaring my family even more than myself”. In an interview about the book on CBS, the president’s son recalled going 13 days without sleep as he smoked crack and drank vodka. “I spent more time on my hands and knees picking through rugs – smoking anything that even remotely resembled crack cocaine. I probably smoked more Parmesan cheese than anyone that you know.”

The Biden family staged an intervention at their home in Delaware in 2019, inviting two counselors from a rehab centre to dinner. Hunter swore and ran from the house but was chased down the driveway by his father, who “grabbed me, swung me around, and hugged me. He held me tight in the dark and cried for the longest time. Everybody was outside now.” Hunter also uses the book to deny wrongdoing in joining the board of Burisma, a gas company in Ukraine, where he earned more than $50,000 a month from 2014 to 2019. Republicans allege that he benefited from his family name when his father was vice-president. Hunter’s tax affairs are currently under investigation by the justice department. The memoir has earned positive reviews. Publishers Weekly found that Hunter’s “courageous self-assessment makes the despair of substance abuse devastatingly palpable”.

In a blurb on the book’s jacket, author Stephen King describes it as “harrowing and compulsively readable” with a bravery that is “both heartbreaking and quite gorgeous”. He comments: “Hunter Biden proves again that anybody – even the son of a United States president – can take a ride on the pink horse down nightmare alley.” And Dave Eggers, whose books include the memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, writes in another blurb: “Beautiful Things is so concise, so unflinching and propulsive, that outside of turning the pages and occasionally picking my jaw off the ground, I didn’t move between the first page and the last.”

None of this gives Republicans the ammunition they hoped for. Politically, the book has been a dog that didn’t bark (unlike Biden’s actual dogs, Champ and Major, which have made headlines over biting incidents and excrement in a White House hallway) and, instead of turning into a liability, only appears to reinforce Biden’s image as compassionate and humane. Sykes, founder and editor-at-large of the Bulwark website, said: “It’s also a story of a very loving and loyal father and it’s hard to turn that into a negative. There are a lot of parents out there that know how dealing with a child who has problems is one of the greatest challenges you can face and so I think people are as likely to be empathetic as they are to see it as a negative.

Read more …

These revelations will also be silenced.

Daily Mail Exposes Hunter Biden Bombshells (ZH)

With Hunter Biden on a serious image rehabilitation tour – a ‘tell all’ book combined with television interviews from friendly outlets designed to invoke pity over the First Son’s crack and hooker habits, the Daily Mail is now telling the rest of the story regarding the contents of his abandoned laptop after Hunter admitted it ‘certainly’ could be his in a Sunday interview with CBS. If you’ve seen the laptop photos which leaked last October, you can probably stop here. The Mail did spare us from blurred pictures of Hunter’s wang, along with several sex tapes released by exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui.

“After obtaining a copy of the hard drive, DailyMail.com commissioned top cyber forensics experts Maryman & Associates to analyze its data and determine whether the laptop’s contents were real. The firm’s founder, Brad Maryman, is a 29-year FBI veteran Supervisory Special Agent who served as an Information Security Officer and founded its first computer forensics lab.” -Daily Mail. The Mail obtained over 100,000 text messages, 154,000 emails and over 2,000 photos which were verified by top forensics experts, which reveal that Joe ‘became a punching bag for Hunter’s drug-fueled rants,’ and ‘paid his grandchildren’s bills when Hunter had drained his bank accounts with prostitutes and crack cocaine.’

“Hunter appeared to be obsessed with making and starring in porn films with prostitutes, videos and photos on his laptop show. The hard drive contains hundreds of pictures of naked women and naked selfies of Hunter, as well as dozens of videos. Hunter photographed and filmed himself, often with two prostitutes at a time, in explicit videos that he then posted on adult website Pornhub under the username ‘RHEast’. Hunter filmed himself with the women from his laptop webcam, sometimes shooting at different angles using an iPad and cell phone.”-Daily Mail

“Hunter’s laptop is a pandora’s box of shocking revelations, explicit photos and intimate communications.In the following days, DailyMail.com will publish more shocking stories from Hunter’s laptop, including: • How Hunter blew hundreds of thousands on prostitutes, drugs and luxury cars, leaving him scrambling to avoid jail for $320k in unpaid taxes • How five members of the Biden family have been to rehab for drug or alcohol abuse – and a stunning admission by Joe to his son • The OTHER Biden family member planning to buy and cook crack, after falling into the disastrous addiction with Hunter • Hunter’s unconventional and unlikely relationship with his well-known psychiatrist •The whispered bedroom conversation with a prostitute caught on Hunter’s webcam, in which he confesses he had a previous laptop stolen – by Russians for blackmail.

Read more …

“Market enthusiasm”.

More Money Put Into Stocks In Last 5 Months Than Last 12 Years Combined (CNBC)

The latest wave of market enthusiasm has brought with it a stunning rush of money, in which more of investors’ cash has gone to stock-based funds in the last five months than the previous 12 years combined. That statistic, from Bank of America, reflects a period in which the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen more than 26%. At the same time, the market has undergone some wild trends that included a massive influx to meme stocks such as GameStop and AMC Entertainment Holdings. Trading volume rose 40% in the first quarter from the previous three months, with investors snapping up sectors that performed poorly last year amid hopes for a pronounced economic rebound from the Covid-induced slide in 2020.

Amid the frenzy, some $569 billion has gone to global equity funds since November, compared with $452 billion in the previous 12 years that go back to the beginning of the longest bull market run in history, according to Bank of America’s chief investment strategist, Michael Hartnett. Those numbers easily could exacerbate ongoing worries about financial market bubbles as valuations are around the same levels as just before the dot-com bubble popped in 2000. But these are not ordinary times. “There’s a certain amount of logic to markets right now,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities. “It’s less about irrational exuberance in the overall market, less about the 1999-2000 levels, and more about what’s the driver. The driver is clearly an explosion in economic activity that likely will have some earnings growth in its wake.”


First-quarter earnings season kicks into gear next week, and sentiment is running high. Year-over-year profits are expected to expand by 23.8%, which by itself would be the best growth rate since the third quarter of 2018, according to FactSet. However, what’s even more remarkable is that analysts continue to ratchet up expectations as the profit reports near, which is the opposite of what usually happens. Wall Street generally trims its outlook the closer it gets to the report date.

Read more …

“..using fear and shame as a driver of behaviour change.”

Frederick Forsyth Says UK Government Has Launched “Campaign of Mass Fear” (SN)

Iconic author Frederick Forsyth has accused the UK government of waging a “campaign of mass fear” against the British public by using psychological methods to ensure compliance with lockdown that resemble those used against East Berliners in the 1960’s. Forsyth was responding to an article published in the Telegraph which exposed the “covert tactics” being used by the British government to frighten the public into complying with COVID regulations. The article quoted a retired NHS consultant clinical psychologist who warned that there was “growing concern within my field about using fear and shame as a driver of behaviour change.”

Gary Sidley and 46 of his colleagues wrote to the British Psychological Society to express “concerns about the activities of Government-employed psychologists … in their mission to gain the public’s mass compliance with the ongoing coronavirus restrictions.” The letter states that the UK government is deploying “covert psychological strategies – that operate below the level of people’s awareness – to ‘nudge’ citizens to conform to a contentious and unprecedented public health policy.” Commenting on the article, Frederick Forsyth, author of classic thrillers such as The Day of the Jackal and The Odessa File, wrote to the Telegraph to express his alarm about how the British public had been terrorized by lockdown propaganda.

“Congratulations to the Telegraph and Gordon Rayner for revealing that the campaign of mass fear that reduced a once brave nation to trembling terror was deliberately organised to secure obedience to the policy of lockdown,” wrote Forsyth. “I have only once before seen anything like it. This was when I was posted to East Germany in 1962. Such a brainwashing tactic was employed to frighten East Berliners into believing that the Berlin Wall was a defensive measure to protect them from tiny West Berlin, and that the Stasi was their guardian. The wall was of course an instrument of enslavement.”

Read more …

Bellingcat is bad news.

Bellingcat Launders National Security State Talking Points into the Press (MPN)

[..] the evidence compiled in this investigation suggests Bellingcat is far from independent and neutral, as it is funded by Western governments, staffed with former military and state intelligence officers, repeats official narratives against enemy states, and serves as a key part in what could be called a “spook to Bellingcat to corporate media propaganda pipeline,” presenting Western government narratives as independent research. An alarming number of Bellingcat’s staff and contributors come from highly suspect backgrounds. Senior Investigator Nick Waters, for example, spent three years as an officer in the British Army, including a tour in Afghanistan, where he furthered the British state’s objectives in the region. Shortly after leaving the service, he was hired by Bellingcat to provide supposedly bias-free investigations into the Middle East.

Former contributor Cameron Colquhoun’s past is even more suspect. Colquhoun spent a decade in a senior position in GCHQ (Britain’s version of the NSA), where he ran cyber and Middle Eastern terror operations. The Scot specializes in Middle Eastern security and also holds a qualification from the U.S. State Department. None of this, however, is disclosed by Bellingcat, which merely describes him as the managing director of a private intelligence company that “conduct[s] ethical investigations” for clients around the world — thus depriving readers of key information they need to make informed judgments on what they are reading. There are plenty of former American spooks on Bellingcat’s roster as well.

Former contributor Chris Biggers, who penned more than 60 articles for the site between 2014 and 2017, previously worked for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency — a combat support unit that works under the Department of Defense and the broader Intelligence Community. Biggers is now the director of an intelligence company headquartered in Virginia, on the outskirts of Washington (close to other semi-private contractor groups like Booz Allen Hamilton), that boasts of having retired Army and Air Force generals on its board. Again, none of this is disclosed by Bellingcat, where Biggers’s bio states only that he is a “public and private sector consultant based in Washington, D.C.”

For six years, Dan Kaszeta was a U.S. Secret Service agent specializing in chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and for six more he worked as program manager for the White House Military Office. At Bellingcat, he would provide some of the intellectual ammunition for Western accusations about chemical weapons use in Syria and Russia’s alleged poisoning of Sergei Skripal. Kaszeta is also a fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, a think tank funded by a host of Western governments as well as weapons contractors such as Airbus, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. Its president is a British field marshal (the highest attainable military rank) and its senior vice president is retired American General David Petraeus. Its chairman is Lord Hague, the U.K.’s secretary of state between 2010 and 2015.

Read more …

Very good overview of what may well lead to an imminent war.

“Merkel and Macron seem to have gotten the message in their videoconference with Putin – who must have subtly alluded to the effect generated by Kalibrs, Kinzhals and assorted hypersonic weapons if the going gets tough and the Europeans sanction a Kiev blitzkrieg.”

Ukraine Redux – War, Russophobia, & Pipelineistan (Escobar)

Ukraine and Russia may be on the brink of war – with dire consequences for the whole of Eurasia. Let’s cut to the chase, and plunge head-on into the fog of war. On March 24, Ukrainian President Zelensky, for all practical purposes, signed a declaration of war against Russia, via decree No. 117/2021. The decree establishes that retaking Crimea from Russia is now Kiev’s official policy. That’s exactly what prompted an array of Ukrainian battle tanks to be shipped east on flatbed rail cars, following the saturation of the Ukrainian army by the US with military equipment including unmanned aerial vehicles, electronic warfare systems, anti-tank systems and man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS). More crucially, the Zelensky decree is the proof any subsequent war will have been prompted by Kiev, debunking the proverbial claims of “Russian aggression.”

Crimea, since the referendum of March 2014, is part of the Russian Federation. It was this de facto declaration of war, which Moscow took very seriously, that prompted the deployment of extra Russian forces to Crimea and closer to the Russian border with Donbass. Significantly, these include the crack 76th Guards Air Assault Brigade, known as the Pskov paratroopers and, according to an intel report quoted to me, capable of taking Ukraine in only six hours. It certainly does not help that in early April US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, fresh from his former position as a board member of missile manufacturer Raytheon, called Zelensky to promise “unwavering US support for Ukraine’s sovereignty.” That ties in with Moscow’s interpretation that Zelensky would never have signed his decree without a green light from Washington.

Sevastopol, already when I visited in December 2018, is one of the most heavily defended places on the planet, impervious even to a NATO attack. In his decree, Zelensky specifically identifies Sevastopol as a prime target. Once again, we’re back to 2014 post-Maidan unfinished business. To contain Russia, the US deep state/NATO combo needs to control the Black Sea – which, for all practical purposes, is now a Russian lake. And to control the Black Sea, they need to “neutralize” Crimea. If any extra proof was necessary, it was provided by Zelensky himself on Tuesday this week in a phone call with NATO secretary-general and docile puppet Jens Stoltenberg. Zelensky uttered the key phrase: “NATO is the only way to end the war in Donbass” – which means, in practice, NATO expanding its “presence” in the Black Sea.

“Such a permanent presence should be a powerful deterrent to Russia, which continues the large-scale militarization of the region and hinders merchant shipping.” All of these crucial developments are and will continue to be invisible to global public opinion when it comes to the predominant, hegemon-controlled narrative. The deep state/NATO combo is imprinting 24/7 that whatever happens next is due to “Russian aggression.” Even if the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) launch a blitzkrieg against the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics. (To do so against Sevastopol in Crimea would be certified mass suicide). In the United States, Ron Paul has been one of the very few voices to state the obvious: “According to the media branch of the US military-industrial-congressional-media complex, Russian troop movements are not a response to clear threats from a neighbor, but instead are just more ‘Russian aggression.’”

A possibly hopeful sign is that on March 31, the chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, General Valery Gerasimov, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, talked on the phone about the proverbial “issues of mutual interest.” Days later, a Franco-German statement came out, calling on “all parties” to de-escalate. Merkel and Macron seem to have gotten the message in their videoconference with Putin – who must have subtly alluded to the effect generated by Kalibrs, Kinzhals and assorted hypersonic weapons if the going gets tough and the Europeans sanction a Kiev blitzkrieg. The problem is Merkel and Macron don’t control NATO. Yet Merkel and Macron at least are fully aware that if the US/NATO combo attacks Russian forces or Russian passport holders who live in Donbass, the devastating response will target the command centers that coordinated the attacks.

Read more …

The Espionage Act should non exist. It’s a giant stain on everything American.

A History of the Espionage Act and How it Ensnared Julian Assange (Lauria)

From its earliest years the United States has found ways to deny the rights of a free press when it was politically expedient to do so. One of the latest ways was to arrest WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange two years ago today and to indict him — the first time a publisher and journalist has ever been charged under the 1917 Espionage Act for possessing and publishing state secrets. Though several U.S. administrations had come close to punishing journalists for revealing defense information, they all pulled back, until Assange. They were restrained because of a conflict with the First Amendment, which prohibits Congress from passing any law, including the Espionage Act, that abridges press freedom. Until that legal conflict is resolved in court, resulting in parts of the Espionage Act being found unconstitutional, the language of the Act threatening press freedom remains.


Bolstered by 1950 amendments to the Act, the Donald Trump administration crossed a redline to arrest a journalist. A 1961 amendment made it possible to indict a non-U.S. citizen, acting outside U.S. territory. The Trump administration’s first indictment of a publisher opened an alarming precedent for the future of journalism. President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice has not reversed Trump’s move to continue to seek Assange’s extradition from Britain though it could have. Instead it decided on Feb. 13 to pursue the appeal of Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s decision not to extradite Assange to the U.S. on health grounds. If the U.S. should win on appeal, Assange will be brought to the Eastern District of Virginia to face 17 Espionage Act counts, amounting to 175 years in prison, as Baraitser challenged none of those counts in her judgement.

Read more …

2 years ago today, Julian was “arrested”.

Google translate

“The verdict, as it was passed, calmed the public discourse, took the wind out of the sails of critics, the big scandal did not materialize, and public attention has waned again.”

Julian Assange: The Corpse In The Basement Of The West (derstandard.at )

Immediately after a British court had rejected the US application for extradition of the Australian Julian Assange on January 4th, the user “Spezialfahrzeug” in the STANDARD forum couldn’t help but make a malicious comment after my last blog post to put on this topic: “Well, Mr. Rosner, your written scandal process is not taking place, as we know today – and actually always knew.” So the court ruling of January 4th would have made all criticism of the proceedings against Assange obsolete, the British judiciary would now be okay after all, and we could be reassured? Unfortunately, things are completely different.

If one were aiming to tinker with a conspiracy theory, one could literally believe in a very sophisticated conspiracy, the thing has now gone so favorably for the opponents of Assange due to the subtly formulated judgment of Judge Vanessa Baraitser. If the court had simply flatly approved the request for extradition, then this might have sparked a greater wave of outrage among the European public. The protests got food and multiplied. And then perhaps some of the top politicians in the EU who had been hesitant until then would have spoken out more clearly against it. The British judiciary would have been in a bad position and the matter would have been taken to the European Court of Justice. All embarrassing. There could have been headwinds in the USA too, because free journalism is a highly respected commodity there.

They have now saved themselves. The verdict, as it was passed, calmed the public discourse, took the wind out of the sails of critics, the big scandal did not materialize, and public attention has waned again. Assange can continue to rot in jail and almost everyone looks the other way. Everything seems to be fine again anyway. In fact, however, the scandal did not end with this judgment; on the contrary, it was prolonged. The situation of the Wikileaks founder, and this is deliberately overlooked by many, has so far not changed for the better. For a good two years now, Assange has been in solitary confinement – also known as “white torture” – in Belmarsh, a maximum security prison in London, which is intended for murderers and terrorists who are dangerous to the public and whose detention conditions are so notorious that it is the “British Guantanamo” ” is called. The judgment of January 4th has bizarrely changed nothing at all.

Read more …

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, you are now not just a reader, but an integral part of the process that builds this site. Thank you for your support.

 

 

 

 

 

 


“Sharks’ Skylight,” by Renee Capozzola. Photo taken near shore of Mo’orea, French Polynesia.

 

 

Sea angel

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime. Click at the top of the sidebars to donate with Paypal and Patreon.

 

Apr 012021
 


Pablo Picasso Jacqueline in Turkish costume 1955

 

Biden Unveils $2T Infrastructure Plan, Tax Increases (OAN)
Emergence Of Dominant Selective Immune Escape Variants (Vanden Bossche)
Therapeutics and COVID-19: Living Guideline (WHO)
Judge Demands That Belgium Scraps All Corona Measures Within Thirty Days (AD)
France Headed For New National Lockdown As COVID Cases Surge (ZH)
Outdoor Mask Decree Met With Dismay By Spain’s Tourism Industry (G.)
Washington State ‘Vaccine Breakthrough’: 100s Get Covid Weeks After Jab (JTN)
15 Million Doses Of J&J Vaccine Ruined By Ingredient Mix-up (DM)
Bipolar Corona-Politics Positive? (OffG)
Russiagate Prober Couldn’t Verify Anything in the Steele Dossier (RCI)
US Dollar’s Status as “Global Reserve Currency” Drops to 25-Year Low (WS)
Ron Paul: Gold and Bitcoin Are At Risk Of Government Crackdown (Kitco)
Journalists Are “Centering” Their “Trauma” To Acquire Power (Tracey)

 

 

We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.
— Elie Wiesel

 

 

Tucker Greenwald Vaccine passports
https://twitter.com/i/status/1377095450440785924

 

 

The problem with such schemes in the US can be summarized in one word: pork.

Biden Unveils $2T Infrastructure Plan, Tax Increases (OAN)

Joe Biden has unveiled his massive infrastructure plan, projected to cost roughly $2 trillion in taxpayer money. Dubbed the American Jobs Plan, the details of it were made public during an event in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Wednesday. “So today, I’m proposing a plan for the nation that rewards work, not just rewards wealth,” Biden said. “That builds a fair economy and gives everybody a chance to succeed, and it’s going to create the strongest, most resilient, innovative economy in the world.” The plan’s largest proposed investment is $621 billion devoted to transportation, with a heavy focus on transitioning to so-called “green energy,” followed by $400 billion to home care services, $300 billion to manufacturing and $213 billion to housing. It would also allocate funds to digital infrastructure, schools and workforce development.

Biden claimed the package would modernize the American economy and boost job creation. “It will create millions of jobs, good paying jobs, it will grow the economy, make us more competitive around the world, promote our national security interests, and put us in position to win the global competition with China in the upcoming years,” Biden stated. Yet despite Biden’s grandiose claims of an American revival brought about by government spending, conservatives have balked at the huge price tag attached to his plan, and how he intends to pay for it. The package proposed a reversal of the Trump administration’s 2017 cut to the corporate tax rate, raising it from 21 to 28 percent. It would introduce a minimum tax of 15 percent on book income, the income reported by companies to their investors rather than the IRS.

Additionally, it would increase the global minimum tax on international subsidiaries of U.S. corporations from 13 to 21 percent, regardless of where their profits were made. This last point is notable, as it creates a strong incentive for U.S. companies to reincorporate abroad and ultimately bypass the higher tax rates the Democrat administration wishes to levy from them. This has prompted leading Republicans to heavily criticize Biden’s plan for using infrastructure as a smokescreen to sneak in tax hikes favored by Democrat politicians. “I think the Trojan horse will be called infrastructure, but inside the Trojan horse will be all the tax increases that Senator Scott and others have talked about,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said. “They want to raise taxes across the board and the only way I think they could pull that off would be through a reconciliation process. They have one more of those available to them.”

Read more …

Vanden Bossche is not giving up.

Emergence Of Dominant Selective Immune Escape Variants (Vanden Bossche)

Mass vaccinaton of vulnerable groups does not abrupt viral transmission chains but increasingly redirects transmission events to asymptomatic carriers (i.e., vaccinated subjects as well as not yet vaccinated young and healthy people, several of whom experienced asymptomatc infecton without mounting long-lived Ab titers2 ). As ongoing mass vaccinaton campaigns are shifing the ‘reservoir’ of viral transmission to asymptomatcally infected subjects (whether vaccinated or not), the likelihood for unvaccinated, previously asymptomatcally infected subjects to experience re-infecton with Sars-CoV-2 while being endowed with suboptmal and short-lived ant-S Abs substantally increases.


This is to say that within the populaton that is now most actvely involved in viral transmission, new, spontaneously emerging S variants have plenty of opportunity to train under suboptmal immune pressure such as to ultmately adapt to the human host and become part of the dominant circulatng Sars-Cov-2 populaton. This is how – afer inital breeding of viral variants as a direct result of infecton preventon measures – subsequent mass vaccinaton campaigns will drive enhanced circulaton of additonal, more infectous viral S variants. ‘Training’ of such more infectous immune escape variants is thought to be refected by the plateau that follows the vaccine-mediated decline in cases and the height of which exceeds the one following the previous wave of cases.

Read more …

They test for those things that are most likely to fail.

Therapeutics and COVID-19: Living Guideline (WHO)

This fourth version of the WHO living guideline addresses the use of ivermectin in patients with COVID-19. It follows the increased international attention on ivermectin as a potential therapeutic option. While ivermectin is also being investigated for prophylaxis, this guideline only addresses its role in the treatment of COVID-19. Ivermectin is relatively inexpensive and accessible, and some countries have already witnessed its widespread use in the treatment of COVID-19; in other countries, there is increasing pressure to do so (14).

In response to this international attention, the WHO GDG now provides recommendations on ivermectin for treatment of COVID-19. Ivermectin is an antiparasitic agent that interferes with nerve and muscle function of helminths through binding glutamate-gated chloride channels (15). We currently lack persuasive evidence of a mechanism of action for ivermectin in COVID-19, and any observed clinical benefit would be unexplained (see Section 5).

[..] Benefits and harms: The effects of ivermectin on mortality, mechanical ventilation, hospital admission, duration of hospitalization and viral clearance remain uncertain because of very low certainty of evidence addressing each of these outcomes. Ivermectin may have little or no effect on time to clinical improvement (low certainty evidence). Ivermectin may increase the risk of SAEs leading to drug dicontinuation (low certainty evidence). Subgroup analyses indicated no effect modification based on dose. We were unable to examine subgroups based on patient age or severity of illness due to insufficent trial data (see Section 5). Therefore, we assumed similar effects in all subgroups. This recommendation applies to patients with any disease severity and any duration of symptoms.

Certainty of the evidence: For most key outcomes, including mortality, mechanical ventilation, hospital admission, duration of hospitalization and viral clearance, the panel considered the evidence of very low certainty. Evidence was rated as very low certainty primarily because of very serious imprecision for most outcomes: the aggregate data had wide confidence intervals and/or very few events. There were also serious concerns related to risk of bias for some outcomes, specifically lack of blinding, lack of trial pre-registration, and lack of outcome reporting for one trial that did not report mechanical ventilation despite pre-specifying it in their protocol (publication bias).

Read more …

Google translate

Judge Demands That Belgium Scraps All Corona Measures Within Thirty Days (AD)

The Brussels court of first instance orders the Belgian government to end the corona measures within thirty days, on pain of a penalty of 5000 euros per day. According to the judge, the current measures are based on laws that cannot serve as the basis for the ministerial decisions by which the corona measures are issued. The ruling follows a lawsuit brought by the League for Human Rights and has been confirmed to the Belgian media by the lawyers involved. The League is an independent Belgian foundation that fights “injustices and arbitrary attacks on the rights of the individual or the community”. The court finds that the measures taken by the governments to prevent the further spread of the corona virus are illegal. According to Lackner, the court actually says that the legal basis on which the ministerial decisions are based is not valid.

According to the court, the measures in Belgium to prevent the further spread of the corona virus are illegal. The measures are based on the 2007 Civil Security Act and two other laws, De Standaard writes about the case. That law came after a major train disaster in Ghislenglien to be able to act quickly and with urgency after such disasters. The court finds that this basis is not sufficient for the imposed corona measures. The judge gives the Belgian state thirty days to provide a solid legal basis on pain of a penalty of 5000 euros per day that that term is exceeded, up to a maximum of 200,000 euros. The Belgian Ministry of the Interior is said to be studying the verdict. An appeal is possible against the decision.

Belgium announced last week that it will continue to be locked, because the number of hospital admissions and infections with the corona virus continue to rise. The non-essential stores may only open by appointment and the very large stores for a maximum of fifty people at a time. The non-medical contact professions such as hairdressers also have to close again for the time being for four weeks. The number of people with whom Belgians are allowed to meet outside their families in the open air will be reduced from ten to four people. A number of corona measures remain, such as the curfew. Non-essential journeys from Belgium will also remain prohibited until April 19. According to Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, a “short period of pain, an Easter break” has been chosen in the hope of reducing the virus.

Read more …

It’s just sad.

France Headed For New National Lockdown As COVID Cases Surge (ZH)

Despite expanding lockdown measures to cover more than one-third of the country (including Paris and other major cities) earlier this month, and other areas French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to follow German Chancellor Angela Merkel by imposing strict new nation lockdown measures as Europe’s “third wave” of COVID cases intensifies. France has seen COVID cases (adjusted for population) surge to the highest level in Western Europe, while only hard-hit ex-eastern bloc countries like Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have it worse than France, as the chart below shows. This has inspired Germany and Spain to restrict travel from the country.

Bloomberg reports that President Macron is planning to announce during a national address on Wednesday evening that he will impose new nationwide measures to contain the spike, and that these measures could include school closures and a ban on inter-city travel. The new national edict would mark the end of the “regional” approach that France has relied on all year. Although he declined to elaborate, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said Wednesday after a defense council meeting that “decisions have been made” regarding new lockdown measures, but he declined to elabroate. Macron will address the nation at 2000 local time (1400ET). If Macron follows through with the school closures, that would also mark a major reversal for France, which had insisted on keeping schools open over the past year, unlike many of its European neighbors.

Macron has so far been “unapologetic” about his resistance to more restrictive measures, according to Bloomberg. As the EU vaccination push lags for a number of reasons (primarily a shortage of supplies, and widespread skepticism) more than 8MM people have received at least one jab of the vaccine, which represents more than 10% of the population. The target to vaccinate all French adults willing to get the jab by the end of the summer remains in place. Notably, Macron ignored the advice of his health minister who began advocating for more restrictive measures earlier this year. Instead, the government imposed a nationwide curfew, closed malls and expanded travel curbs – but didn’t go all in on a national lockdown. The hope was that the most pessimistic forecasts wouldn’t become a reality – but they have.

Read more …

On the beach.

Outdoor Mask Decree Met With Dismay By Spain’s Tourism Industry (G.)

The Spanish tourist industry has reacted with dismay to the government’s decree that face masks must be worn in all outdoor spaces, including beaches and swimming pools, even when it is possible to maintain social distancing. “We’re going through hell with thousands of jobs and businesses threatened and now they want to turn the beaches into open-air field hospitals,” José Luis Zoreda, vice-president of Exceltur, the umbrella organisation that represents Spain’s tourism industry, told El País newspaper. Industry representatives complain that they were not consulted over the decision, which was announced in an official state bulletin on Tuesday. “We’ve already given up on Easter as a lost cause,” said Zoreda. “Now we have to put our hopes on summer.”


He said the “improvised measures” did not inspire confidence on the part of the foreign visitors whom the struggling industry is desperate to bring back. Tourism accounts for about 12% of Spain’s GDP. Masks have been obligatory indoors and out in Catalonia since last July and in Valencia since early this year, despite claims by scientists that there is a very low risk of contagion in the open air. Earlier this month Fernando Simón, head of Spain’s coordination centre for health emergencies and alerts, said: “I don’t believe that masks are the key to reducing transmission. It’s not necessary for everyone to wear one. What’s important is that people who are infected wear one, although we don’t know who is infected and who isn’t.” Simón added that they should be obligatory in enclosed spaces.

Read more …

Building trust.

Washington State ‘Vaccine Breakthrough:’ 100s Get Covid Weeks After Jab (JTN)

The state of Washington is investigating what officials are calling a “vaccine breakthrough,” after roughly 100 cases of people testing positive for the virus about two weeks after being vaccinated. Epidemiologists report evidence of 102 breakthrough cases in 18 Washington counties, among millions of vaccinated residents. Two patients who received the vaccination died after becoming infected with the virus. “DOH is investigating two potential vaccine breakthrough cases where the patients died. Both patients were more than 80 years old and suffered underlying health issues,” officials said in a news release.


The health department also said the majority of those vaccinated who tested positive experienced mild symptoms, but at least eight have been hospitalized. “It is important to remember that every vaccine on the market right now prevents severe disease and death in most cases,” said Dr. Umair A. Shah, the states’s health secretary. “Finding evidence of vaccine breakthrough cases reminds us that, even if you have been vaccinated, you still need to wear a mask, practice socially distancing, and wash your hands to prevent spreading COVID-19 to others who have not been vaccinated.”

Read more …

“..poorly trained employees, cracked vials and mold around one of its facilities..”

15 Million Doses Of J&J Vaccine Ruined By Ingredient Mix-up (DM)

The Biden administration knew more than a week ago that 15million doses of Johnson & Johnson had been ruined by its contractor – potentially causing significant delays in the vaccine rollout, senior administration officials said. Two senior officials on the government’s Covid-19 response team told Politico that it was clear there were serious problems at the West Baltimore plant of Emergent BioSolutons, a little-known company at the center of the vaccine supply chain. A third official said the Department of Health then found out last week that Emergent had ruined 15 million doses of vaccine by adding the wrong ingredient. ‘It was no secret that Emergent did not have a deep bench of pharmaceutical manufacturing experts,’ that official told Politico.

The news finally became public on Wednesday when Johnson & Johnson said that a batch of vaccine made by Emergent at its Baltimore factory, known as Bayview, can’t be used because employees accidentally swapped in an ingredient meant for a different vaccine into the J&J shot, the New York Times reported Wednesday. The Emergent BioSolutions plant is also manufacturing doses for AstraZeneca, and apparently used an ingredient for the UK firm’s vaccine in a batch of J&J’s. The gaff occurred two weeks ago and will delay tens of millions doses of J&J’s shot slated to ship next month while the FDA investigates.

The company at the center of quality problems that led Johnson & Johnson to discard 15 million doses has a had string of citations from U.S. health officials for quality control problems. Emergent, which was key to Johnson & Johnson’s plan to deliver 100 million doses of its vaccine to the U.S. by the end of May, has been cited repeatedly by the Food and Drug Administration for problems such as poorly trained employees, cracked vials and mold around one of its facilities, according to The Associated Press.

Read more …

“He trusts the government would only deliver a safe, effective vaccine.”

Bipolar Corona-Politics Positive? (OffG)

I had a patient this morning. More precisely, I telephoned him. He suffered a myocardial infarction last year and is on anti-hypertensives. His last few BP measurements showed very good, stable control. He barricades himself in his home against the rogue cold virus each time the government locks-down. He expressed terror about the link between hypertension and an enhanced Covid-19 risk. I would say he is, like the government, somewhat delusional about it or at the very least harbours some fixed false beliefs towards it. Hence, he measures his blood pressure many times a day. It fibrillates up and down with the propaganda. Masks are not enough for him. He refuses to leave his home until Johnson and Hancock lift lockdown. He asks me to increase his medications without seeing him.

The easy cure might be to turn off his TV and smartphone. But, there is more bipolarity, more paradox, more human folly. He refuses to come out for a hypertension review until he receives his Covid-19 vaccinations. I ask him how he suggests doing that? Perhaps he could find it reasonable to specifically come for his vaccine and have an opportunistic BP? He pauses, and then refuses. Classic Joseph Heller, Catch-22. Nothing surprises me these days in medical practice, so without a pause I remind him that we are not currently offering a bespoke domiciliary vaccination service. He remains insistent. As his doctor, I try to reassure him he is not at any great risk. I remind him we pay great lip service to all the viral psychological interventions such as porous ill-fitting mask, alcohol gel and … polythene apron.

Rather selectively, he dismisses these sacred verses of the government propaganda. As if to out-fox me, he replies in denouement, ‘Okay, I won’t come in, then.’ I leave it open for him to come back to us. It is not only the rule of law, but also the practice of medicine which has succumbed to hysteria. He is the ideal citizen of the corporate pharmaceutical Gods. Open to suggestion, vulnerable to propaganda, crouched with bayoneted rifle in trench against an unavoidable, invisible particle. Always willing to go above and beyond the unreasonable demands of tyrants. He trusts the government would only deliver a safe, effective vaccine.

Read more …

“..without the dossier, the warrants could not have been obtained.”

Russiagate Prober Couldn’t Verify Anything in the Steele Dossier (RCI)

For the past four years, Democrats and the Washington media have suspended disbelief about the Steele dossier’s credibility by arguing that some Russia allegations against Donald Trump and his advisers have been corroborated and therefore the most explosive charges may also be true. But recently declassified secret testimony by the FBI official in charge of corroborating the dossier blows up that narrative. The top analyst assigned to the FBI’s Russia “collusion” case, codenamed Crossfire Hurricane, admitted under oath that neither he nor his team of half a dozen intelligence analysts could confirm any of the allegations in the dossier — including ones the FBI nonetheless included in several warrant applications as evidence to establish legal grounds to electronically monitor a former Trump adviser for almost a year.

FBI Supervisory Intelligence Analyst Brian Auten made the admission under questioning by staff investigators for the Senate Judiciary Committee during closed-door testimony in October. The committee only this year declassified the transcript, albeit with a number of redactions including the name of Auten, who was identified by congressional sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. “So with respect to the Steele reporting,” Auten told the committee, “the actual allegations and the actions described in those reports could not be corroborated.” After years of digging, Auten conceded that the only material in the dossier that he could verify was information that was already publicly available, such as names, entities, and positions held by persons mentioned in the document.

His testimony, kept secret for several months, is eye-opening because it’s the first time anybody from the FBI has acknowledged headquarters failed to verify any of the dossier evidence supporting the wiretaps as true and correct. As one of the FBI’s leading experts on Russia, Auten was highly familiar with the subject matter of the dossier and the Russian players it cited. He also had a team of intelligence analysts at his disposal to pore over the material and chase down leads. They even traveled overseas to interview the dossier’s author, former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, and other sources. Still, they could not corroborate any of the allegations of Trump-Russia “collusion” in the dossier, and actually debunked many of them — including the rumor, oft-repeated by the media, that Trump attorney Michael Cohen flew to Prague in the summer of 2016 to secretly huddle with Kremlin agents over an alleged Trump-Russia plot to hack the election.

They determined that Cohen had never even been to the Czech Republic. Yet Auten and his Crossfire teammates — who referred to the dossier as “Crown material,” as if it were valuable intelligence from America’s closest ally, Britain — never informed a secret surveillance court that the dossier was a bust. Instead, they used it as the basis for all four warrant applications to spy on Carter Page, a tangential 2016 Trump campaign adviser. Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who personally signed and approved the final application, has testified that without the dossier, the warrants could not have been obtained.

Read more …

But I see the remarkable strength of the USD. Yes, the euro has taken a few percent, and so has the yen. So what?

US Dollar’s Status as “Global Reserve Currency” Drops to 25-Year Low (WS)

Two decades ago, when the dollar had a share of about 70% of reserve currencies, a presumed competitor became day-to-day reality: The euro, which combined the currencies of the member states into one currency, thereby combining their weight as reserve currency. Since then, the dollar’s share has dropped by 11 percentage points. By contrast, between 1977 and 1991, the dollars share had dropped by 46 percentage points – with huge plunges in 1979 and 1980 possibly linked to US inflation which was threatening to spiral out of control, peaking at nearly 15% in 1980. The plunge bottomed out in 1991, with inflation more or less under control. And the dollar’s share then surged by 25 percentage points until 2000:


The euro’s share had since been in the range between 19.5% and 20.6%, but it Q4 it broke out of the range and rose to 21.4%, the highest in the data. The ECB’s holdings of euro-denominated assets that it acquired as part of its QE are not included in the euro-denominated foreign exchange reserves. The rest of the reserve currencies are also-rans – the spaghetti at the bottom in the chart below. This includes the Chinese renminbi, the bold red line at the bottom:

The renminbi’s share is still only 2.25%, despite the magnitude and global influence of China’s economy, and despite the hype when the IMF elevated the renminbi to an official global reserve currency in October 2016 by including it in the basket of currencies that back the Special Drawing Rights (SDRs). But the renminbi’s share has been creeping up ever so slowly. At the rate it has been gaining momentum over the past two years (+0.36 percentage points in two years), it would take the renminbi another 50 years or so to reach a share of 25%. Clearly, other central banks are still leery of the renminbi and its implications, and are not eager to dump their dollars all at once in exchange for renminbi; easy does it.


To see what’s going on with the spaghetti at the bottom of the above chart, I magnified the scale and limited it to the range of 0% to 6%. This takes the dollar and the euro out of the picture, and allows for a detailed look of the other reserve currencies. What sticks out is the surge of the yen, the third largest reserve currency. This includes a 2.0-percentage point gain since Q4 2016, which blew away the 1.15-percentage point gain over the same period by the renminbi. With regards to the yen, the renminbi is losing ground.Despite Brexit and all the scary hoopla around it, the pound sterling (GBP), the fourth largest reserve currency, has not given up any share.

Read more …

“I was banking committee for all those years, I couldn’t even go to the Open Market Committee meeting. There was no way that would be permissible..”

Ron Paul: Gold and Bitcoin Are At Risk Of Government Crackdown (Kitco)

The best way to protect against economic turbulence is with hard assets like precious metals and real estate, but even these are under threat from the government, said former Congressman and host of The Liberty Report, Ron Paul. “The government is a threat,” Paul said. “They will crackdown because they have the ability to do it. We had a taste of [a free society]. If you don’t know where to start, just start with the Constitution, that might give you an idea of what a free society is all about.” Paul noted that this “crackdown” could take the form of taxes. On President Biden’s proposed infrastructure bill, Paul said that its outcome would be “worse than average.”

“Most likely it will do what those kinds of programs always do, they spend a lot of money, they’re inefficient, they always cost more than they thought they should. Besides, it’s built on some mystical belief that you shouldn’t have any concern about the deficit…everybody’s just in a dream,” he said. During Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s testimony to Congress last week, Republican Senator John Neely Kennedy from Louisiana questioned whether or not the central banks around the world are still “independent” entities, or if they’ve already become intertwined with politics. Paul commented that “independence” was never the objective of central banks to begin with.

“This whole idea of independence…I just don’t believe they’re interested in secrecy because I don’t think of the Treasury or the Federal Reserve and the fiscal people in Congress as really representing a whole lot. I think about the people in the shadow government, in the Deep State, because there’s people pulling strings that have a lot of power and clout. I was banking committee for all those years, I couldn’t even go to the Open Market Committee meeting. There was no way that would be permissible,” he said.

Read more …

Virtue signalling in overdrive.

Journalists Are “Centering” Their “Trauma” To Acquire Power (Tracey)

On March 28, Washington Post journalist Felicia Somnez posted a Twitter thread describing the intense trauma she said she’d endured over the past year. An editorial policy imposed by the paper’s management had greatly exacerbated this trauma, she alleged, causing her to burst into tears during a recent therapy session and frequently lapse into spells of “vacant staring.” Somnez, a Harvard graduate in her 30s who holds one of the most prestigious journalism jobs in the country, spoke of being “silenced” by her editors, which in turn kicked her “trauma response” into overdrive and worsened her condition further. She declared that the new crop of young journalists now beginning at the Post “deserve better” than how she’d been treated, particularly on account of their being so “diverse, talented and relentless in their fight for equity.”

If any of these buzzwords and/or phrases sound familiar, it’s because their usage now dependably instigates a swift capitulatory reaction from the people who run legacy media institutions. The editorial policy adjustment that Somnez had demanded be effectuated did in fact get effectuated, within a matter of hours. Her elaborately confessional Twitter thread — a well-worn tactic by this point — worked fantastically. Whatever the merits of the proposed policy adjustment at issue (and she may well have been on sound footing in demanding it), no one can dispute that her chosen self-advocacy approach achieved what she set out to achieve. Because increasingly, as this episode once again demonstrated, the key to coaxing stodgy old editors into acquiescence is to publicly “call them out” using a now-familiar punchy, emotionally inflammatory rhetorical style.

We can just take Somnez at her word and grant that this professional adult journalist genuinely did undergo the debilitating trauma she described, vacant staring spells and all. It’s impossible to judge the precise veracity of these trauma-related claims anyway, given how inextricable they are with the interior mental state of the individual in question. So we’ll have to just accept that Somnez being “attacked online,” as she put it, really did result in the kind of extraordinary psychological turmoil she says she experienced. What can be judged, however — and what has to be judged given its rapidly increasing prominence in public life — is the wider impact of the rhetorical style used so adroitly by Somnez. Because it very clearly gets results. Call it therapeutic trauma jargon.

Read more …

 

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, you are now not just a reader, but an integral part of the process that builds this site. Thank you for your support.

 

 

Lagarde

 

 

Engineered food

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime. Click at the top of the sidebars to donate with Paypal and Patreon.

 

Mar 172021
 


Vincent van Gogh Peach trees in blossom 1888

 

Russia Stoked Ukraine Allegations To Undermine Biden – US Intel (Pol.)
Big Media Outlets “Independently Confirm” Each Other’s Falsehoods (Greenwald)
US Admits Waging InfoWar Against Russia’s Sputnik Vaccine (ZH)
Biden Gets Away With Exactly What Cuomo Is Accused Of (Emmons)
Pandemic Blunder (Hirschhorn)
New Covid-19 Variant Found In Brittany May Not Show Up In Regular Tests (RT)
Why We All MUST Reject Vaccine Passports (Krainer)
Wall Street Is Greenwashing The Financial World (Fancy)
US Joins India And China In Ramping Up Coal Usage (ZH)
Courts Close In On Gig Economy Firms Globally (G.)
Getting Hyperinflation Right (Dmitry Orlov)

 

 

 

 

This stuff must stop, but it won’t. These idiots are endangering the entire world. And that wanking rodent Schiff pops up again too.

Russia Stoked Ukraine Allegations To Undermine Biden – US Intel (Pol.)

Russia tried again last year to help then-President Donald Trump win the White House, the U.S. intelligence community said Tuesday in a long-awaited postmortem — adding that a “primary” tactic in that effort was the spreading of corruption allegations involving Democratic challenge Joe Biden and Ukraine. But the effort fell short of the Kremlin-backed efforts to assist Trump in his 2016 contest against Hillary Clinton, the spy community wrote in its unclassified assessment of foreign threats to the 2020 U.S. federal elections. And the agencies found no attempts by foreign countries to change vote tallies or final results.

“We assess that Russian President [Vladimir] Putin authorized, and a range of Russian government organizations conducted, influence operations aimed at denigrating President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process, and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the U.S.,” the assessment said. “The primary effort,” the document added, “revolved around a narrative-that Russian actors began spreading as early as 2014-alleging corrupt ties between President Biden, his family, and other US officials and Ukraine.” It said Russia’s intelligence services “relied on Ukraine-linked proxies and these proxies’ networks-including their US contacts-to spread this narrative.”


Unlike in 2016, however, “we did not see persistent Russian cyber efforts to gain access to election infrastructure,” added the document, issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Iran, meanwhile, waged a “covert influence campaign intended to undercut” Trump’s reelection bid without directly promoting his rivals in order to “undermine public confidence in the election process” and “sow division and exacerbate societal tensions” in the country. “We assess that Supreme Leader Khamenei authorized the campaign and Iran’s military and intelligence services implemented it using overt and covert messaging and cyber operations,” the examination states. The agencies found no efforts by China to interfere in the election, although one intelligence official maintained in a minority opinion that Beijing “took at least some steps to undermine” Trump’s chances, “primarily through social media and official public statements and media.”

Schiff

Read more …

Russia Russia Russia Russia Russia

Big Media Outlets “Independently Confirm” Each Other’s Falsehoods (Greenwald)

For a few weeks following the issuance of the Mueller report, Democrats and media figures gamely attempted to deny that it obliterated the conspiracy theories to which they had relentlessly subjected the country for the prior four years. How could they do otherwise? They staked their entire reputations and the trust of their audience on having this be true. To avoid their day of reckoning, they would hype ancillary events such as Paul Manafort’s conviction on unrelated financial crimes or Michael Flynn’s guilty plea for a minor and dubious charge (for which even Mueller recommended no prison time) or Roger Stone’s various process charges to insist that there was still a grain of truth to their multifaceted geopolitical fairy tale seemingly lifted straight from a Tom Clancy Cold War thriller about the world’s two largest nuclear powers.

But even they knew this was just a temporary survival strategy and that it was unsustainable for the long term. That the crux of the scandal all along was that key Trump allies if not the President himself would be indicted and imprisoned for having conspired with the Russians was too glaring to make people forget about it. That was why former CIA Director John Brennan assured the MSNBC audience in March — just weeks before Mueller closed his investigation with no conspiracy crimes alleged — that it was impossible that the investigation could close without first indicting Trump’s children and other key White House aides on what Brennan correctly said was the whole point of the scandal from the start: “criminal conspiracy involving the Russians . . . . whether or not U.S. persons were actively collaborating, colluding, cooperating, involved in a conspiracy with them or not.”


Brennan strongly insinuated that among those likely to be indicted for criminally conspiring with the Russians were those “from the Trump family.” As we all know, literally none of that happened. Not only were Trump family members not indicted by Mueller on charges of “criminal conspiracy involving the Russians,” no Americans were. Brennan believed there was no way that the Mueller investigation could end without that happening because that was the whole point of the scandal from the start. To explain why it had not happened up to that point after eighteen months of investigation by Mueller’s subpoena-armed and very zealous team of prosecutors, Brennan invented a theory that they were waiting to do that as the final act because they knew they would be fired by Trump once it happened. But it never happened because Mueller found no evidence to prove that it did.


The Advocate, Mar. 10, 2017

Read more …

“Combatting malignant influence in the Americas…”

Who’s the actual malignant influence?

US Admits Waging InfoWar Against Russia’s Sputnik Vaccine (ZH)

The Kremlin on Tuesday called out what’s it’s dubbed the “unprecedented” propaganda war against Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. The words were issued by spokesman Dmitry Peskov in response to widespread allegations that the Untied States is actively trying to dissuade its allies from purchasing the Russian-produced vaccine. This despite the emerging scientific consensus that’s found it to be at least 91% effective while further preventing inoculated persons from becoming severely ill. The Kremlin is responding to newly emerged proof that the US intervened with the largest country in South America, Brazil.


The Washington Post details that “Buried deep in the dry, 72-page annual report of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lay a startling admission: U.S. health officials under President Donald Trump worked to convince Brazil to reject Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine.” Brazil has long stood as the second highest COVID-19 infected country in the world behind the US, with over 11.5 confirmed infections so far (with the US now approaching the 30 million mark). Here’s the key controversial section from the 71-page document. The section is entitled “Combatting malignant influence in the Americas”…

“Examples include using OGA’s Health Attache office to persuade Brazil to reject the Russian COVID-19 vaccine,” the government report spelled out explicitly. Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has since claimed it never received directives or “consultations” such as are described in the report from the US, with a statement saying, “the Embassy of Brazil in Washington has not received consultations or actions from United States authorities or companies regarding the possible purchase, by Brazil, of the Russian vaccine against Covid-19.” Kremlin spokesman Peskov in his comments didn’t name the allegations specifically but only denounced generally that “In many countries the scale of pressure is quite unprecedented… such selfish attempts to force countries to abandon any vaccines have no prospects.

Read more …

“Cuomo is not liked and, now, not useful. If Biden becomes similarly expendable in the future, he may finally face the same kind of treatment.”

Biden Gets Away With Exactly What Cuomo Is Accused Of (Emmons)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been accused of unwanted touching and sexual harassment. President Joe Biden has been accused of everything from creepily sniffing women’s hair to sexual assault. Yet Biden is the one who gets the folksy treatment, perceived as merely touchy-feely, while Cuomo, despite his status as prince of the pandemic press conference, could be facing the end of his career. Prominent Democrats have called for the governor’s resignation over the scandal. Seven women now say they experienced unwanted touching at the governor’s hands. Cuomo claims he never did it, and apologized for making anyone feel bad. By his own admission, Cuomo may be a little handsy. He’s said that “You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people . . . it is my usual and customary way of greeting.”

The public is meant to believe that it’s simply part of his charm. Contrast this to Biden in 2019, who said “I’m not sorry for any of my intentions, I’m not sorry for anything that I have ever done. I have never been disrespectful intentionally or a man or a woman. So that’s not the reputation I’ve had since I was in high school for God’s sake.” Cuomo apologized and he’s going down. Biden refused to apologize, and he’s practically sanctified. “Social norms are changing. I understand that,” Biden said, “and I’ve heard what these women are saying. Politics to me has always been about making connections, but I will be more mindful about respecting personal space in the future. That’s my responsibility and I will meet it.”

But has he? He barely gave a glance at Tara Reade’s accusations, never mind the myriad other women who stepped forward to say that Biden made them uneasy either with touching or his penchant for sniffing. The charges against Biden are well-documented, but it’s Cuomo that’s in the hot seat, and Biden chilling in the Oval. A take down of Biden over sexual harassment charges is simply not politically expedient. But for Democrats, Cuomo has got to go. While they are loath to admit it, the outcry over the sexual harassment scandal is likely about something else. Cuomo is embarrassing for Democrats who praised him during the COVID-19 outbreak. An investigation by the attorney general’s office found that not only did the Cuomo administration undercount nursing home deaths by up to 50 percent, they did so on purpose in order to avoid political fallout.

The Democrats who are intent on hounding Cuomo out of office do not want the political fallout of the nursing home deaths. It’s easier to hold Cuomo’s hands to the fire over these allegations of unwanted touching than it is to deal with the intentional cover-up of elder deaths, in which they may find themselves to have been complicit. In short, Cuomo is not liked and, now, not useful. If Biden becomes similarly expendable in the future, he may finally face the same kind of treatment.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1371660114629849094

Read more …

Hirschhorn reached out to me after I published VandenBossche’s piece. I haven’t read his book -yet-. The video seems interesting.

Pandemic Blunder (Hirschhorn)

A huge amount of data and information not covered by mainstream media are in Pandemic Blunder that tells the story of how over 300,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 unnecessarily because the government has blocked early home treatment and prevention.  With 500,000 COVID deaths, learning about safe and effective early home treatment/prevention more important than ever. About the Book: Pandemic Blunder contains considerable medical information and data to support a number of proven safe, cheap generic medicines and protocols that knock out the coronavirus when given early. Read about the pioneering, courageous doctors who have been using innovative approaches to prevent their COVID patients from needing hospital care and facing death.

The book includes many expert opinions from doctors who support the view that 70 to 80 percent of COVID deaths could have been prevented—and still can be. Don’t be victimized by disinformation and propaganda from leftist media. Learn how corrupt forces are aiming to make billions of dollars from expensive medicines and vaccines, and how hundreds of thousands of deaths could have—and should have—been prevented! Pandemic blunder is defined as the failure of the United States public health system and federal agencies to support and promote early home/outpatient treatment for the COVID-19 pandemic disease. 

Considerable medical information and data convincingly show that when given early a number of proven safe, cheap generic medicines and protocols knock out the coronavirus. Early means within the first few days of getting symptoms or a positive test. Some pioneering and courageous doctors have been using innovative approaches to prevent their covid patients from needing hospital care and facing death. Many expert views of doctors support the view that 70 percent to 80 percent of covid deaths could have been prevented – and still can for future victims of the disease.  Learn how hundreds of thousands of deaths could have and should have been prevented.

This book does more than describe the pandemic blunder, particularly in terms of the influence of Dr. Anthony Fauci. It can help Americans protect their lives by not being victimized by disinformation and propaganda from leftist media.  Pandemic management has failed because of corrupt forces aiming to make billions of dollars from expensive medicines and vaccines. There has been a widespread dereliction of duty on the part of many local, state, and federal government officials.

Read more …

The virus is endemic. New variants will keep emerging.

New Covid-19 Variant Found In Brittany May Not Show Up In Regular Tests (RT)

France’s health ministry has warned that a new variant of Covid-19 found in the country’s north may evade conventional PCR testing, but initial analysis suggests it is not more contagious or deadly. On Monday, the Directorate General of Health (DGS) said in a press release that a new Covid-19 variant was being investigated after genomic sequencing confirmed the existence of 8 cases at a single hospital, where the new strain had been identified but had initially not shown up after PCR tests. The DGS said the new variant does not appear to be more contagious or deadly, although this is a very early assessment.


The statement adds that the virus appears to have evaded RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test results on nasopharyngeal samples. Instead, the diagnosis had to be made “by serology or by performing RT-PCR on deep respiratory samples.” The statement concludes by noting that the local authorities and prefectures are stepping up measures to curb the transmission of the virus, “as a precaution.” Measures include “speeding up vaccination, reminding people of the importance of social distancing and limiting gatherings.” In a message to healthcare professionals, the DGS said analysis carried out by the Pasteur Institute had revealed the new variant was “carrying nine mutations in the region encoding the S protein but also in other viral regions.”

Read more …

Freedom.

Why We All MUST Reject Vaccine Passports (Krainer)

The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but it is really fear.
– Mohandas Gandhi


To ‘normalize’ vaccine passports, the idea is increasingly being discussed in the media as we trudge on through the umpteenth version of lockdowns. On Saturday (13 March 2021) I got accosted by the police in Cap d’Ail (south of France) for the offense of taking my kids out in the sun without having a justificatif. I have long lost track of the ever changing rules and shifting logic, but I didn’t feel like arguing. The police were just doing their jobs, enforcing shitty rules that harass and antagonize people. For example, I would have been allowed to be where I was if it were a working day, but since it was Saturday, it was verboten. The objective of such rules is nothing to do with public health; they are intended to exasperate us all to the point where we yield to the indignity of vaccine passports when they are rolled out, just so we can live our lives and be left in peace.

Alexis de Tocqueville understood the nature of this dumb, slow march of bankers’ tyranny. In “Democracy in America” (1835) he predicted that the society would fall into a new kind of servitude which, “covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules,” which “does not tyrannise but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes and stupefies people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the sheppard.” De Tocqeville’s book was published mere two years after President Andrew Jackson ended the Second Bank of the United States, and the struggles between the bankers and the society was very pertinent to his observations.


The small complicated rules are a sinister trap and it is imperative that we not fall into it. Even if we are ready to yield on vaccines and vaccine passports to end our present predicament, our children and grandchildren will have to live with the consequences of our compromises. We therefore have no right to decline this struggle.

Read more …

Former chief investment officer of Sustainable Investing at BlackRock

Wall Street Is Greenwashing The Financial World (Fancy)

The financial services industry is duping the American public with its pro-environment, sustainable investing practices. This multitrillion dollar arena of socially conscious investing is being presented as something it’s not. In essence, Wall Street is greenwashing the economic system and, in the process, creating a deadly distraction. I should know; I was at the heart of it. As the former chief investment officer of Sustainable Investing at BlackRock, the largest asset manager in the world with $8.7 trillion in assets, I led the charge to incorporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) into our global investments. In fact, our messaging helped mainstream the concept that pursuing social good was also good for the bottom line. Sadly, that’s all it is, a hopeful idea. In truth, sustainable investing boils down to little more than marketing hype, PR spin and disingenuous promises from the investment community.

In many instances across the industry, existing mutual funds are cynically rebranded as “green” — with no discernible change to the fund itself or its underlying strategies — simply for the sake of appearances and marketing purposes. In other cases, ESG products contain irresponsible companies such as petroleum majors and other large polluters like “fast fashion” manufacturing to boost the fund’s performance. There are even portfolio managers who actively mine ESG data to bet against environmentally responsible companies in the name of profit, a short-selling strategy. Risk managers are focused on protecting their investment portfolios from potential damages done by a worsening climate rather than helping prevent that damage from occurring in the first place.


As disheartening as this reality is, claiming to be environmentally responsible is profitable. Last year alone, ESG mutual funds and exchange-traded funds nearly doubled. The investment community understandably reacted to this with cheers. But those cheers were only for fund managers and their bottom lines. No matter what they tout as green investing, portfolio managers are legally bound (as well as financially incentivized) to do nothing that compromises profits. To advance real change in the environment simply doesn’t yield the same return.

Read more …

Green New Deal.

US Joins India And China In Ramping Up Coal Usage (ZH)

Major users of coal across the world are set to ramp up their usage of the fossil fuel in coming months. Power plants in the U.S. are expected to consume 16% more coal this year than in 2020 and another 3% on top of that in 2022. China and India also have “no plans to cut back” their use of burning the fossil fueld. In fact, “it’ll almost be as if the pandemic-induced drop in emissions never happened,” Bloomberg reports. Inevitably, this will result in higher emissions, which stands at stark odds with the climate initiatives that President Joe Biden ran on. Amanda Levin, policy analyst at the New York-based National Resources Defense Council said: “We’re going to see a really marked increase in emissions with coal consumption at U.S. power plants returning almost to 2019 levels.”

She says that changes to mitigate usage could happen quickly if Biden implements his planned green-energy policies. In the U.S., the ramp comes as a result of both costlier natural gas, and a broad re-opening from the pandemic. For India and China, the steady use is indicative of growing demand, despite the fact that both countries are trying to use wind and solar, as well. China’s power consumption, for example, has grown, despite the country reducing coal’s share in the nation’s energy makeup. President Biden’s upcoming infrastructure bill is expected to include plans to “fulfill his campaign pledges on climate change, making the U.S. best poised to salvage progress in reducing global emissions,” Bloomberg reports. In China, President Xi Jinping has committed to net-zero emissions by 2060.

Read more …

It will be a long fight.

Courts Close In On Gig Economy Firms Globally (G.)

Gig economy companies, including Uber and Deliveroo, have faced at least 40 major legal challenges around the world as delivery drivers and riders try to improve their rights. The analysis of 39 employment cases, and seven linked cases on matters such as competition law, covers legal action in 20 countries including Australia, Chile, Brazil, South Korea, Canada and across Europe. The cases have been brought by gig economy workers seeking access to basic rights, such as minimum wages and sick pay. Put together by the International Lawyers Assisting Workers Network of more than 600 lawyers from at least 70 countries, the report highlights a string of court rulings in favour of drivers including in Italy, where authorities have fined Uber Eats, Glovo, Just Eat, and Deliveroo €733m (£628m) for misclassifying 60,000 couriers. That case is being appealed against.

A court in Spain ruled last year that drivers for food delivery firm Glovo were employees and the government in Madrid has since announced legislation confirming delivery riders’ status as salaried staff. In South Korea, a driver working via the Tada van hailing app was also ruled to be an employee. Last month, the UK supreme court dismissed Uber’s appeal against a landmark employment tribunal ruling that its drivers should be classed as workers with access to the minimum wage and paid holidays. On Tuesday night, Uber announced it will guarantee its 70,000 UK drivers a minimum hourly wage, holiday pay and pensions, in a dramatic u-turn which could put pressure on other gig economy firms to change tack.


Jeff Vogt, at the Washington DC based Solidarity Center workers rights group, said there was a clear trend towards recognising improved rights and employment status for those working for gig economy companies dealing with food delivery and taxi hire. “The courts are closing in on them,” he said. However, the report also warns that not all claims are successful and states must act to enforce the regulations as gig economy firms use their considerable resources to defend their practices. Tactics include contracts with mandatory arbitration clauses, which fend off legal action by forcing those with a grievance to pay costly administration and filing fees in the preliminary stages. This has proved a particular problem in the US.

Read more …

”..we have the technology to make hyperinflation safe, comfortable, convenient and fun for the whole family!”

Getting Hyperinflation Right (Dmitry Orlov)

The sheer mechanics of hyperinflation—of printing and issuing ever more notes, repeatedly exchanging older, increasingly worthless notes for newer ones, making payments using cartloads and wagonloads of cash—become increasingly burdensome. When it takes an entire suitcase of cash to pay for a pack of cigarettes or a bar of soap, soap and cigarettes themselves become a makeshift form of currency. Hyperinflation is most unpopular with people who insist on storing their savings in the form of cash. In response, they turn to buying up and hoarding other things, causing shortages and further driving up prices. But all of these problems can now be solved because we have the technology to make hyperinflation safe, comfortable, convenient and fun for the whole family!

However, this requires a change in mindset and a different approach to money. To start with, we need to recognize that money is not a physical quantity. It is dimensionless because it can only be measured relative to other currencies. Unlike any physical quantity, it is measured with infinite precision; any physical measurement, be it in kilograms, cubic meters or kilowatt-hours, has to have error bars on it to be meaningful, while monetary quantities, no matter how large, are precise down to the last penny. It is circularly defined: money derives its value from things that can be purchased with it, and these things in turn derive their price from the value of money.


Although money can be given a physical representation in the form of coins or paper currency, its essential nature is ephemeral, nonphysical and intangible. In essence, money only exists as pure thought in the minds of people who are involved in its exchange. Its physical embodiments are just theatrical props. Its reality is conceptual, similar to that of the irrational number π, which can also be given a physical representation—as, say, a one-meter-diameter circle carved in stone that has a circumference of π meters—but that would be pointless. Just as π is ubiquitous in mathematics, money is ubiquitous in economics.

Read more …

 

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, you are now not just a reader, but an integral part of the process that builds this site. Thank you for your support.

 

 

If you cannot explain something in simple terms, you don’t understand it.
– Richard Feynman

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime. Click at the top of the sidebars to donate with Paypal and Patreon.

 

Mar 162021
 
 March 16, 2021  Posted by at 9:08 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  46 Responses »


Paul Gauguin A Day of No Gods 1894

 

Biden To Propose First Major Federal Tax Hike Since 1993 (DM)
This Is What You Voted For (Kunstler)
White House Set To Unveil Sweeping Vaccine-Confidence Campaign (STAT)
Is Biden Holding America Hostage Until ‘Independence’ Day? (Ron Paul)
Germany, France And Italy Suspend Oxford Covid Vaccine (G.)
UK Coronavirus Variant Significantly More Deadly Says New Study (F.)
Regular ‘Booster’ Shots Will Become Commonplace As New Variants Emerge (RT)
Cuba Working on a ‘People’s Vaccine’ (CP)
Facebook Will Add Labels To All Posts About Covid-19 Vaccines (F.)
Immigrant Teens To Be Housed At Dallas Convention Center (AP)
Beijing Orders Alibaba To Dump Media Assets (ZH)
The Stockton Experiment: How a Guaranteed Income Can Actually Solve Inequality

 

 

 

 

How an anonymous source becomes part of a impeachment trial.

 

 

“..a conundrum on how much of the bill should be paid for with tax hikes and what parts should be financed with even more federal borrowing..”

Biden To Propose First Major Federal Tax Hike Since 1993 (DM)

Joe Biden is planning to propose the first substantial federal tax hike since 1993 for Americans to help pay for his long-term economic program after he signed the largest stimulus package in U.S. history with a price tag of $1.9 trillion. Four people familiar with discussion told Bloomberg that Biden is expected to propose a series of tax increases, including repealing parts of Donald Trump’s 2017 tax law that resulted in most Americans seeing more in their paychecks, to help fund the latest proposal. Trump’s tax cuts led to most Americans receiving more take home pay and resulted in an average increase of $90 in tax returns from 2017 to 2018. With the former president’s income tax cuts, Americans immediately saw somewhere between a 0.4 per cent and 2.9 per cent increase in their paychecks after taxes.

Now the White House is preparing to roll out another sweeping plan to tackle infrastructure and the economic crisis, which some say could fall somewhere between the $2-$4 trillion mark. Biden plans to kick off his cross-country tour this week promoting and seeking to bolster enthusiasm for the coronavirus relief package, where the White House will also ensure he receives credit for benefits included in the bill. First lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and first gentlemen Doug Emhoff will also hit the road this week to promote the sweeping legislation. Next on the president’s docket is getting another pricey funding bill through Congress that addresses infrastructure, climate and education.

Republicans are more than likely to pounce on the plan, painting Democrats as the Party of higher taxes. The tax hike could also blow any chances of lawmakers reaching a bipartisan deal on infrastructure – something Democratic Senator Joe Manchin says is unacceptable and that he will likely block. With a narrow majority in the House and a 50-50 split in the Senate, Democrats must craft the proposal in a way that gains support from nearly every lawmaker in their caucus. White House officials are now facing a conundrum on how much of the bill should be paid for with tax hikes and what parts should be financed with even more federal borrowing.

Read more …

“Mr. Biden’s “honeymoon” period is about over.”

This Is What You Voted For (Kunstler)

Meanwhile, up in Minneapolis, where jury selection is underway in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, the City Council approved 13-to-0 a $27-million wrongful death civil settlement to Mr. Floyd’s family. Say, what…? The way it’s supposed to work is that a civil case for wrongful death follows the criminal trial — for how would you know what’s rightful or wrongful in a matter before the facts in the case have been adjudicated? Sounds like Hennepin County, MN, may not be the right venue for these proceedings.

Should Mr. Chauvin face a jury that will likely have heard news reports that the city council already decided the verdict, and in the most imprecise terms possible? “Mr. Floyd died because the weight of the entire Minneapolis Police Department was on his neck,” Floyd family Attorney Ben Crump said when the suit was filed. Systemic racism, you see. Following the George Floyd riots last year, the Minneapolis City Council announced its plan to defund the police. In February 2021, the council announced the release of $6.4-million to hire more police, following a dramatic uptick in crime. Such are the strange inconsistencies of life under the crypto-Jacobin revolution in America today.

Speaking of Joe Biden, alleged to be president, he was oddly absent altogether on the front page of Monday’s New York Times, leading the curious to wonder if last Tuesday night’s Coronavirus Action speech drained his dwindling mojo for the rest of the month. The curious might also seek to know why Mr. Biden’s “team” is still so wound up about eradicating Coronavirus, yet eager to let tens of thousands cross the border illegally from Mexico, many of them live vectors of the virus, who are then bussed all over the USA under the revived “catch-and-release” policy. Mr. Biden’s “honeymoon” period is about over. The country had not quite discovered just how leaderless it is. Will it come as a shock to find out? After all, isn’t this what you voted for?

Read more …

Snake oil salesmen?

White House Set To Unveil Sweeping Vaccine-Confidence Campaign (STAT)

The White House will soon unveil a wide-reaching public relations campaign aimed at boosting vaccine confidence and uptake across the U.S., Biden administration aides told STAT. This television, radio, and digital advertising blitz, set to kick off within weeks, will focus on Americans outright skeptical of vaccines’ safety or effectiveness as well as those who are potentially more willing to seek a Covid-19 immunization but don’t yet know where, when, or how. Specifically, the campaign will target three groups in which access, apathy, or outright skepticism may pose a barrier to vaccinations: young people, people of color, and conservatives, according to a Biden aide. Congress and the administration have set aside over $1.5 billion for the effort.

The effort highlights a looming and underappreciated public health challenge: Though millions of Americans are currently clamoring to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, in a few short months, or even weeks, the opposite may be true. Instead of scrambling to manufacture doses, the government may soon be scrambling to find arms willing to receive them. While the administration Covid response advisers organizing the effort are broadly optimistic, they and many public health experts fear that without winning buy-in from a critical, final slice of the population, the effort could fall short of its goal: effectively ending the country’s coronavirus crisis. “I’m worried about the 15% of Americans who say they will not take the vaccine,” said Sten Vermund, the dean of the Yale School of Public Health.

“And about 8% or 9% of Americans say, ‘I will take it if they make me, if my job forces me to.’ So that’s about 23% or 24%, and that’s flirting with the level we need to get to herd immunity.” The rollout fulfills one of Biden’s first promises in office. He pledged on Jan. 21 to kick off an “unprecedented vaccination public health campaign” aimed at convincing every American adult to seek a Covid-19 immunization.= As for the specific content, administration officials said they were mindful that appeals directly from President Biden or Anthony Fauci are not likely to sway vaccine-hesitant people. As a result, they are expected to recruit both celebrities and trusted local officials to advance the pro-vaccine message.

Read more …

“..politicians cannot bear the possibility that they might have to give up some of that power over us they have grabbed for themselves..”

Is Biden Holding America Hostage Until ‘Independence’ Day? (Ron Paul)

Last week President Biden addressed the nation on the first anniversary of the coronavirus being declared a “pandemic.” It was a disturbing speech, warning us that the “hopeful spring” will only emerge “from a dark winter” if all Americans “stick with the rules.” Whose rules? His rules. The message from the president was clear: he will only allow us to have some of our freedoms back if we do exactly as he tells us. It was the language of extortion, of a bank robber who demands you do what he says or face the consequences. It was not the language of someone we are told is the leader of the free world. In the speech Biden laid out a list of what was taken from us over the past year, “weddings, birthdays, graduations…family reunions, the Sunday night rituals.”

It was as if somehow the virus, instead of authoritarian government officials, prevented us from enjoying these normal human activities. Though we continue to see Covid disappear across the country with the end of the winter season, Biden was not about to let go of his perceived power to control our lives. He said, “if we do all this, if we do our part, if we do this together, by July the 4, there’s a good chance you, your families and friends, will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout or a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day. That doesn’t mean large events with lots of people together, but it does mean small groups will be able to get together.” Imagine our Founders hearing this speech. The US president might – just might – allow small family gatherings at home in four months if we follow all of his rules.

King George looked benevolent by comparison! As Rep. Thomas Massie Tweeted shortly after the speech, “If you’re waiting for permission from the chief executive to celebrate Independence Day with your family, you clearly don’t grasp the concept of Independence.” It seems like yesterday – it almost was – that Biden “asked” us to just wear the mask for 100 days. “Just 100 days to mask, not forever. 100 days,” he said. So from “just 100 days” to maybe you can have a small gathering by July 4th? Perhaps he just forgot his earlier speech? As usual, the goalposts keep being moved because politicians cannot bear the possibility that they might have to give up some of that power over us they have grabbed for themselves.

Fauci made the usual mainstream media rounds over the weekend and was asked by the fawning host when Americans might have permission to hold weddings again! So now Americans need Fauci’s permission to get married? What is happening to this country? The propaganda is so relentless that it seems most Americans don’t see how not normal this is! In saner times, Fauci would be laughed off the stage. Now, he’s treated as some sort of divine source of truth. Biden promised he was “using every power…as the president of the United States to put us on a war footing.” Of that I have no doubt. But Biden’s war is not against the virus. It’s against the US Constitution and liberty itself.

Read more …

The very same people who advocated we “listen to the science”, have now abandoned the science and advocate untested substances.

Germany, France And Italy Suspend Oxford Covid Vaccine (G.)

Germany, France and Italy have suspended the Oxford/AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine as the World Health Organization said it had seen no evidence the shot had caused incidents of blood clots and a low platelet count in some people who received it. The German health ministry said the country’s vaccine authority, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, “considers further investigation necessary after new reports of cerebral brain thrombosis in connection with vaccination in Germany and Europe”. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) should decide “whether and how the new findings will affect the approval of the vaccine”, the ministry said. The health minister, Jens Spahn, said seven cases of cerebral vein thrombosis had been reported.

While this was a “very low risk” compared with the 1.6 million jabs already given in the country, Spahn said, it would be above average if a link to the vaccine was confirmed. “The decision today is a purely precautionary measure,” he said. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, said France would also stop administering the AstraZeneca shot pending an EMA assessment due on Tuesday, while the Italian medicines authority, Aifa, said it was temporarily halting inoculations as a “precautionary and temporary measure” before the EMA decision. The three countries join a growing number in Europe to have temporarily suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in recent days.

Denmark and Norway last week reported incidents of bleeding, blood clots and a low count of blood platelets in people who had received the AstraZeneca shot, prompting Ireland and the Netherlands to join them on Sunday in temporary suspensions. Karl Lauterbach, a professor of health economic and epidemiology at the University of Cologne and a German MP, criticised the decision. “Based on the data available, I consider this to be a mistake,” Lauterbach said. “Testing without suspension of vaccination would have been better because of the rarity of the complication. In the third wave, which is now picking up speed, the first vaccinations with the AstraZeneca vaccine would be lifesavers.”

Read more …

Scary, but why try to scare us?

UK Coronavirus Variant Significantly More Deadly Says New Study (F.)

The U.K. coronavirus variant known as B.1.1.7 is not only more transmissible, but also more deadly than other coronavirus variants, according to a new study. B.1.1.7 was first identified in the U.K. last fall and by December it was detected in several other countries including the U.S. The variant is known to be substantially more transmissible than other SARS-CoV2 coronavirus lineages and quickly took over as the dominant variant in the U.K., late last year, sparking off a damaging and deadly second wave. Scientists had suspected that B.1.1.7 might be more deadly, as well as more transmissible following a higher-than-expected number of deaths in the U.K. during the third wave this winter, which saw the U.K’s worst daily death total in January claim over 1,800 lives.

But, the new study published in the journal Nature, led by researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine all but confirms that this correlation is genuine. The study looked at viral genetics data from almost 5,000 people in the U.K. who died from Covid-19, with two-thirds of those being confirmed to have the B.1.1.7 variant. It found that people who were infected with B.1.1.7 had a 55% higher risk of dying within 28 days of being tested positive for Covid-19. “England has suffered an enormous toll from B.1.1.7 in the last few months, with 42,000 COVID-19 deaths in January and February 2021 alone,” said Nick Davies, PhD, lead author from LSHTM’s Centre for the Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases.

“In spite of substantial advances in COVID-19 treatment, we have already seen more deaths in 2021 than we did over the first eight months of the pandemic in 2020. Our work helps to explain why,” Davies added. The new work follows another study from the U.K. published last week, which showed that people who tested positive for B.1.1.7 in a community setting were also more likely to die within 28 days of a positive test than those with other variants.

Read more …

What a lovely prospect.

Regular ‘Booster’ Shots Will Become Commonplace As New Variants Emerge (RT)

The head of Britain’s Covid-19 genomics programme has warned that there will be a need for regular booster jabs to protect people against the virus as new potentially vaccine-busting variants emerge. “We have to appreciate that we were always going to have to have booster doses; immunity to coronavirus doesn’t last forever,” Sharon Peacock, UK Covid-19 Genomics (COG-UK) chief, told Reuters at the Wellcome Sanger Institute’s Cambridge campus on Monday. Peacock, whose COG-UK programme has sequenced half of the world’s mapped Covid-19 genomes, said she was confident new variants would emerge that would render the current vaccines ineffective.


“We already are tweaking the vaccines to deal with what the virus is doing in terms of evolution – so there are variants arising that have a combination of increased transmissibility and an ability to partially evade our immune response,” she said. The genomics chief said the “cat and mouse” battle with the virus will require international cooperation. COG-UK was set up a year ago by Peacock and the British government’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, and has sequenced 346,713 genomes out of a total of 709,000 genomes mapped worldwide. To date, more than 24 million people in the UK have received at least their first vaccine dose; all vaccines being used have demonstrated considerable efficacy against the virus variants prevalent in Britain.

Read more …

“The life of just one person is worth more than the private property of the richest man.”

Cuba Working on a ‘People’s Vaccine’ (CP)

“The life of just one person is worth more than the private property of the richest man.” This is what’s written on the Calixto Garcia public hospital in Havana Cuba as a testament to the country’s commitment to free public healthcare, and to putting people before profit. I know this about Cuba because in March, at the onset of the global Covid-19 pandemic, I spent a week in the ICU at Calixto Garcia. I had been hit by a speeding ambulance, and Cuban doctors saved my life, operated on me twice, and nursed me to stability before putting me on a private medical evacuation flight back to the U.S. All of this, including the flight, was free of cost to me- covered by Cuba’s government-run insurance for foreign visitors.

From my hospital bed, as the global emergency around me escalated, I witnessed how the Cuban government swiftly mobilized resources to protect its citizens from Covid-19: at-home testing for anyone with symptoms, door to door preventative education in the most vulnerable neighborhoods, and coordinated isolation when necessary. While deaths soared toward 100,000 in the U.S., Cuba was able to get the average daily Covid-19 related deaths close to zero for most of May-August. Cuba’s humanist approach when it comes to health was not new to me. In 2013, I co-directed a documentary on a free hospital in northern Honduras. The doctors there, all from afro-indigenous Garifuna communities, had been trained in Cuba at the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) for free.

Cuba created the ELAM in 1999 to train doctors from the poorest regions of countries around the world (including the U.S.), providing full scholarships of six years tuition, room, and board, with the hope that these doctors would return and provide accessible and preventative healthcare in their communities. The ELAM was born as a response to the devastation of Hurricane Mitch in 1998, and has trained tens of thousands of doctors from over 110 countries since then. Cuba is now poised to play an important role in global efforts to curb the pandemic. New variants in South Africa and Brazil, all with yet unknown implications for vaccine effectiveness, have shown us that any effort to achieve herd immunity is only as good as it is accessible equitably across the globe. Yet, as predicted, the global north is outpacing the global south dramatically in vaccination.

On February 3, Anthony Fauci said, in an event hosted by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) network, that developing COVID-19 vaccines “is not a race.” “We want everybody to get over the finish line,” he assured. Dr. Fauci mentioned the Russian and the Chinese vaccines and later suggested that the U.S. should help other countries strengthen their vaccine manufacturing capacity to promote more vaccinations globally. At no point did he mention Cuba. Thanks to an established publicly-funded biotechnology program, Cuba currently has four vaccine candidates. One of those vaccines, Soberana 02, started Phase 3 clinical trials in early March. Another candidate, Abdala, started Phase 2 trials in February. Both vaccines are being developed by public research institutions and are the most promising candidates in Latin America. The fact that Dr. Fauci failed to mention these candidates is disappointing.

Read more …

“No King in the History of the World has been the Ruler of Two Billion People, but Mark Zuckerberg is”

Facebook Will Add Labels To All Posts About Covid-19 Vaccines (F.)

Facebook will soon add labels to all posts about coronavirus vaccines that points people to its Covid-19 Information Center, the company said in a blog post on Monday as part of its plans to promote vaccination efforts on its platforms, amidst continued criticism from health experts and lawmakers for allowing misinformation about vaccines to spread on its platform. In a blog post, Facebook said it is already adding labels to posts that discuss the safety of the Covid vaccines, pointing people to credible information from the World Health Organization both on its main platform and Instagram. In the coming weeks, labels will be added to all posts generally about Covid-19 vaccines and the company also plans to add additional targeted labels about other specific Covid-19 vaccine subtopics..

Users who share a post about Covid-19 vaccines on Facebook or Instagram will see an additional popup with an informational label which the company says will offer people “context they need to make informed decisions about what to share.” Facebook has also rolled out its Covid-19 Information Center on Instagram for the first time on Monday, nearly a year after it appeared on the main platform. The company also disclosed that it has implemented several temporary measures to limit the spread of vaccine misinformation including reducing distribution of content from users who have violated the platform’s policies on COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation.

In addition to tackling misinformation Facebook has promised to share real-time aggregate trends on Covid-19 vaccinations, intent to get vaccinated and reasons for hesitancy with public officials. Facebook is also working with health authorities and governments to expand their chatbots on the messaging service WhatsApp to enable it to allow registration for vaccinations. Facebook also announced it is rolling out a tool in the U.S. that will help people identify nearby places where they can get a vaccine. The tool, which is part of Facebook’s Covid-19 Information Center will include details about hours of operation, contact info and links to make an appointment. Announcing some of the new measures in a Facebook post, the company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote: “The data shows the vaccines are safe and they work. They’re our best hope for getting past this virus and getting back to normal life. I’m looking forward to getting mine, and I hope you are too.”

‘No King in the History of the World has been the Ruler of Two Billion People, but Mark Zuckerberg is’

Read more …

Growing numbers.

Immigrant Teens To Be Housed At Dallas Convention Center (AP)

The U.S. government plans to house up to 3,000 immigrant teenagers at a convention center in downtown Dallas as it struggles to find space for a surge of migrant children at the border who have strained the immigration system just two months into the Biden administration. American authorities encountered people crossing the border without legal status more than 100,000 times in February — a level higher than all but four months of Donald Trump’s presidency. The spike in traffic poses a challenge to President Joe Biden at a fraught moment with Congress, which is about to take up immigration legislation, and has required the help of the American Red Cross.

The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center will be used for up to 90 days beginning as early as this week, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press that was sent Monday to members of the Dallas City Council. Federal agencies will use the facility to house boys ages 15 to 17, according to the memo, which describes the soon-to-open site as a “decompression center.” The Health and Human Services Department is rushing to open facilities across the country to house immigrant children who are otherwise being held by the Border Patrol, which is generally supposed to detain children for no more than three days. The Border Patrol is holding children longer because there is next to no space in the HHS system, similar to the last major increase in migration two years ago.

A tent facility operated by the Border Patrol in Donna, some 500 miles (804 kilometers) south of Dallas, is holding more than 1,000 children and teenagers, some as young as 4. Lawyers who inspect immigrant detention facilities under a court settlement say they interviewed children who reported being held in packed conditions in the tent, with some sleeping on the floor and others not able to shower for five days. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Saturday directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help manage and care for children crossing the border. “I am incredibly proud of the agents of the Border Patrol, who have been working around the clock in difficult circumstances to take care of children temporarily in our care,” Mayorkas said in a statement. “Yet, as I have said many times, a Border Patrol facility is no place for a child.”

Read more …

Where’s Jack Ma these days?

Beijing Orders Alibaba To Dump Media Assets (ZH)

Beijing is reviving its crackdown on the country’s biggest tech firms, reminding the world that the CCP is still focused on neutralizing any and all threats to its control of the Chinese economy and its people. Even after amending China’s official ideology to include entrepreneurs among the protected classes represented by the CCP (in addition to workers, farmers and soldiers), Beijing, with President Xi at its center, has apparently decided that Chinese tech firms won’t follow the American model after all. Instead, their growth and competitive capabilities will be curtailed for the sake of stability at home.

After Tencent was censured and strict new requirements weren officailly imposed on Alibaba-owned Ant Group that will prevent the company from growing, the Wall Street Journal reports that next up on Beijing’s to-do list is to force Alibaba to dump its array of media outlets. Presumably, Beijing sees these outlets as an unwelcome competitor to Beijing’s own propaganda machine. Alibaba’s media portfolio includes ownership of the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s most widely read English-language newspaper, which has an audience far outside of Hong Kong. The paper often struggled with its coverage of the unrest in Hong Kong, occasionally adopting the language of the CCP (like referring to the demonstrators as “rioters”) while still managing to rankle Beijing with its detailed coverage of the demonstrations.

According to WSJ, the CCP has been “discussing” whether to force the divestitures since early this year. Chinese regulators have been “reviewing” a list of media assets owned by Hangzhou-based Alibaba, which earns most of its money via an online retail business. Officials were appalled at how expensive Alibaba’s media interests have become. Now, Beijing is asking Alibaba to devise a plan to “curtail” its media holdings. Now, just imagine if President Trump tried to force Amazon to sell the Washington Post.

Read more …

Botched UBI?

The Stockton Experiment: How a Guaranteed Income Can Actually Solve Inequality

An ongoing study conducted in Stockton, California, examines how the lives of low-income Americans can improve if they are simply given money—a modest, but reliable source of income with no strings attached. The Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) randomly chose 125 participants from poverty-stricken residential areas and gave them $500 per month to simply use for whatever they wanted over the last two years. A majority of the participants were women (69 percent) and people of color (53 percent). Preliminary results from the first year are tantalizing for anyone interested in solutions to address rising inequality in the United States, especially as they manifest along racial and gender lines.

Within the first year, the study’s participants obtained jobs at twice the rate of the control group. At the beginning of the study, 28 percent of the participants had full-time employment, and after the first year, that number rose to 40 percent. Sukhi Samra, the director of SEED, explained to me in an interview that although Andrew Yang, the former presidential candidate now running for mayor of New York City, helped popularize the idea of a universal basic income (UBI), the Stockton study of a “guaranteed basic income” (GBI) is subtly different from Yang’s proposal. “Where guaranteed income differs,” said Samra, “is that it’s usually targeted along income lines,” rather than given to everyone.

“It’s more often touted as a tool for equity, especially racial and gender equity,” she added. Samra said it was important to frame the idea of GBI within the “racial justice and social justice movements of the 1960s when you had Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the National Welfare Rights Organization and the Black Panthers all advocating for a guaranteed income as the simplest and most effective way to abolish poverty.” Indeed, Dr. King wrote in his last book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, that he was “convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective—the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.”

Read more …

 

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, you are now not just a reader, but an integral part of the process that builds this site. Thank you for your support.

 

 

“You know, if baseball umpires were on the front page of the sports section every week, you’d know something was desperately wrong with the game.”
– Jim Grant, on Central Bankers

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime. Click at the top of the sidebars to donate with Paypal and Patreon.

 

Mar 102021
 
 March 10, 2021  Posted by at 10:04 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  38 Responses »


Vincent van Gogh Pink peach trees (Souvenir de mauve) 1888

 

Lockdowns the ‘Biggest Public Health Mistake We’ve Ever Made’ (NW)
Coronavirus Variants To Evolve, Escape Current Generation Of Vaccines (RT)
Growing Covid Inequality Virus To Fuel Popular Rebellions Across The World (RT)
In 2018, Diplomats Warned of Coronavirus Experiments in a Wuhan Lab (Pol.)
Incompetence and Corruption Allegations Blight Germany’s Handling Of Covid (RT)
Covid Has Exposed Dire Position Of England’s Local Councils (G.)
The Best Way to Rob a Bank (Ben Hunt)
European Parliament Lifts Immunity Of Catalonia MEPs (RT)
Cuomo Gave Bond Deals To His Wall Street Donors (IBT)
Twitter Sues Texas AG (ZH)
Massive Secret UK Propaganda Campaign in Former Soviet Republics (MPN)
White House Won’t Admit Biden’s Dealing With A Border Crisis (RT)
Secret Service Agent Saves Biden As Reporter Tries To Ask A Question (BBee)
OECD Believes Biden Stimulus Will Boost World GDP (ZH)
The Biden Blitz Is Coming (Pol.)

 

 

Giant iceberg.

 

 

 

 

 

I know I wrote a year ago that lockdowns work. But obviously, that was not about year-long ones. A few weeks when nothing is clear about a virus makes sense. What happens now does not.

“The lockdowns are trickle down epidemiology.”

Lockdowns the ‘Biggest Public Health Mistake We’ve Ever Made’ (NW)

Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor at Stanford University Medical School, recently said that COVID-19 lockdowns are the “biggest public health mistake we’ve ever made…The harm to people is catastrophic.” Several U.S. states have started to ease their COVID-19 restrictions over the past few weeks. Bhattacharya, who made the comments during an interview with the Daily Clout, co-authored the Great Barrington Declaration, a petition that calls for the end of COVID-19 lockdowns, claiming that they are “producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health.” As of Monday, the Great Barrington Declaration has received signatures from over 13,000 medical and public health scientists, more than 41,000 medical practitioners and at least 754,399 “concerned citizens.”

During the interview last month, Bhattacharya said that the declaration comes from “two basic facts.” “One is that people who are older have a much higher risk from dying from COVID than people who are younger…and that’s a really important fact because we know who his most vulnerable, it’s people that are older. So the first plank of the Great Barrington Declaration: let’s protect the vulnerable,” Bhattacharya said. “The other idea is that the lockdowns themselves impose great harm on people. Lockdowns are not a natural normal way to live.” He continued, “it’s also not very equal. People who are poor face much more hardship from the lockdowns than people who are rich.”

In an email sent to Newsweek, Bhattacharya wrote: “I stand behind my comment that the lockdowns are the single worst public health mistake in the last 100 years. We will be counting the catastrophic health and psychological harms, imposed on nearly every poor person on the face of the earth, for a generation. At the same time, they have not served to control the epidemic in the places where they have been most vigorously imposed. In the US, they have – at best – protected the “non-essential” class from COVID, while exposing the essential working class to the disease. The lockdowns are trickle down epidemiology.”

Read more …

Get healthy. Now.

Coronavirus Variants To Evolve, Escape Current Generation Of Vaccines (RT)

A new study examining the efficacy of current generation of vaccines against the UK and South Africa variants of SARS-CoV-2 makes for sobering reading, and raises the specter of widespread reinfection. The study, published in Nature on March 8, warns that the current generation of vaccines and monoclonal antibody treatments may lose the arms race against the coronavirus, raising the daunting, open-ended possibility of reinfection unless vaccine rollout is greatly expedited worldwide to prevent further mutations. The study’s findings are currently being borne out amid the latest results concerning the Novavax vaccine, which reported a 90 percent efficacy rate against the UK variant but only 49.4 percent efficacy in combating the South African variant.

“Our study and the new clinical trial data show that the virus is traveling in a direction that is causing it to escape from our current vaccines and therapies that are directed against the viral spike,” says the study’s lead author, David Ho. Ho warned that, with continuing “rampant spread” of the virus in certain areas of the globe, humanity “may be condemned to chasing after the evolving SARS-CoV-2 continually, as we have long done for influenza virus.” He called for redoubled mitigation efforts in concert with expedited vaccine rollouts, arguing that time is of the essence when it comes to eradicating the threat posed by the coronavirus permanently, rather than allowing it to mutate and linger indefinitely.

Ho and his team found that antibodies in recipients of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines were less effective at neutralizing the UK and South African variants, with a two-fold drop in efficacy in the case of the former, and up to an 8.5-fold drop in neutralizing activity with the latter. “The drop in neutralizing activity against the South Africa variant is appreciable, and we’re now seeing, based on the Novavax results, that this is causing a reduction in protective efficacy,” Ho says.

Read more …

“As we come out of our lockdowns blinking in the light of our empty and boarded up town centres, global civil unrest seems inevitable.”

Growing Covid Inequality Virus To Fuel Popular Rebellions Across The World (RT)

As the gap between rich and poor rapidly worsens during the pandemic, you can detect a surge in support for revolutions and remedies. But instead of truly tackling the underlying problems, governments will react with repression. There’s a sense of some relief in the UK that the Covid-19 year of lockdowns, illness and industrial-scale death tolls that have seen our health care services overwhelmed may finally be coming to an end. Even a Tory-hating cynic like me has to grudgingly admit that the country’s vaccination programme has been a success. The sheer numbers of people getting the jab – 20m-plus as of the start of this week – has been impressive. It has started to open debates about possible summer holidays, travelling to see family, even going to festivals and gigs – a welcome silver lining. But the rhetoric coming from the government that better times are on the way is just political BS. The hope of a brighter future is misplaced.

There are some dark storm clouds of reality moving in at a fast pace that may well be more deadly that the virus: the spectres of growing global inequality, of widespread poverty and mass unemployment, and of the vast majority of us being under the control of an emboldened elite that through the pandemic has increased its wealth, power and political influence. Research shows that those who were already rich have increased that wealth exponentially, while those who were at the bottom have sunk even lower. An Oxfam report earlier this year showed not only that wealth inequality was deepening and becoming more entrenched, but also that policies enacted by governments around the world have resulted in giving even more billions to the super-rich while denuding the poorest.

[..] As we come out of our lockdowns blinking in the light of our empty and boarded up town centres, global civil unrest seems inevitable. Studies have shown that when inequality worsens, revolutionary fervour grows and states become unstable and unsafe. We can see the first rumblings, from anger in Poland, riots in the Netherlands, to protests in Denmark, Belgium and France and sporadic demonstrations in other countries. How far will it go lies in the hands of governments. In past times of hardship, governments have used the welfare state as a prop to keep their populations from the edge of starvation and away from full-blown insurrection. But most are running out of road this time. They’ve hugely increased borrowing to keep a semblance of their economies going during the shutdowns, and have little room for maneuver.

After the banking crash of 2008, most governments slashed and burned their welfare states to bail out the bankers and now do not have that crutch. Governments all over the globe are going to have to make tough choices. Are they going to genuinely confront the growing wealth inequality, which they know destabilizes democracies as the social contract is compromised and broken?

Read more …

“..the name of the laboratory was familiar. Its research on bat viruses had already drawn the attention of U.S. diplomats and officials at the Beijing Embassy in late 2017..”

In 2018, Diplomats Warned of Coronavirus Experiments in a Wuhan Lab (Pol.)

On January 15, in its last days, President Donald Trump’s State Department put out a statement with serious claims about the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic. The statement said the U.S. intelligence community had evidence that several researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology laboratory were sick with Covid-like symptoms in autumn 2019—implying the Chinese government had hidden crucial information about the outbreak for months—and that the WIV lab, despite “presenting itself as a civilian institution,” was conducting secret research projects with the Chinese military. The State Department alleged a Chinese government cover-up and asserted that “Beijing continues today to withhold vital information that scientists need to protect the world from this deadly virus, and the next one.”

The exact origin of the new coronavirus remains a mystery to this day, but the search for answers is not just about assigning blame. Unless the source is located, the true path of the virus can’t be traced, and scientists can’t properly study the best ways to prevent future outbreaks. The original Chinese government story, that the pandemic spread from a seafood market in Wuhan, was the first and therefore most widely accepted theory. But cracks in that theory slowly emerged throughout the late winter and spring of 2020. The first known case of Covid-19 in Wuhan, it was revealed in February, had no connection to the market. The Chinese government closed the market in January and sanitized it before proper samples could be taken. It wouldn’t be until May that the Chinese Centers for Disease Control disavowed the market theory, admitting it had no idea how the outbreak began, but by then it had become the story of record, in China and internationally.

In the spring of 2020, inside the U.S. government, some officials began to see and collect evidence of a different, perhaps more troubling theory—that the outbreak had a connection to one of the laboratories in Wuhan, among them the WIV, a world leading center of research on bat coronaviruses. To some inside the government, the name of the laboratory was familiar. Its research on bat viruses had already drawn the attention of U.S. diplomats and officials at the Beijing Embassy in late 2017, prompting them to alert Washington that the lab’s own scientists had reported “a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory.” But their cables to Washington were ignored.

When I published the warnings from these cables in April 2020, they added fuel to a debate that had already gone from a scientific and forensic question to a hot-button political issue, as the previously internal U.S. government debate over the lab’s possible connection spilled into public view. The next day, Trump said he was “investigating,” and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Beijing to “come clean” about the origin of the outbreak. Two weeks later, Pompeo said there was “enormous evidence” pointing to the lab, but he didn’t provide any of said evidence. As Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s relationship unraveled and administration officials openly blamed the Wuhan lab, the U.S.-China relationship only went further downhill.

Read more …

“..he was paid €600,000 for lobbying a mask supplier..”

Incompetence and Corruption Allegations Blight Germany’s Handling Of Covid (RT)

Allegations of German politicians at the highest level of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government profiteering from the pandemic have rocked a nation sick of lockdown restrictions, struggling with a stubborn Covid-19 infection rate and a shambolic vaccine rollout. A leading figure in Germany’s largest opposition party, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), Euro MP Gunnar Beck, fears the corruption could go deeper, telling me, “While two of Mrs. Merkel’s allies have been found out and resigned from their parties so far, the odds are there are significantly more involved in this corrupt behaviour.”

German magazine Der Spiegel is reporting that up to a dozen MPs might be involved in the face-masks-for-kickbacks scandal where two key MPs were allegedly paid hundreds of thousands of euros in exchange for facilitating lucrative government contracts. Beck said the environment for corruption became apparent at the outset of the coronavirus outbreak. “There was an acute shortage of face masks and other relevant equipment in Germany and predominantly foreign companies were looking to shift production and take advantage of that situation,” he said. “They were looking for quick and smooth access to government deals and it appears that some MPs provided such access in return for significant financial gain that was straightforwardly unlawful.

“So not only do we have incompetence that led to a shortage of protective equipment in the first place, it seems we have incontrovertible evidence of widespread corruption. Incompetent and corrupt; those are the two adjectives that characterise the German government’s whole approach to the coronavirus crisis.” The two politicians embroiled in the scandal have quit not only their parliamentary posts but their political parties as well, with the Christian Democrats’ (CDU) Nikolas Loebel, 34, announcing that he was to quit politics altogether, leaving his parliamentary seat, a post on the Foreign Affairs Committee and his party with immediate effect.

Resigning, Loebel said: “I take responsibility for my actions and draw the necessary political consequences.” He had admitted that a firm he ran earned €250,000 commission from face mask sales. Georg Nuesslein, a 51-year-old MP with Christian Socialist Union (CSU) the sister party of Merkel’s CDU has denied charges stemming from an inquiry into alleged bribery after accusations were made that he was paid €600,000 for lobbying a mask supplier during the first wave of the pandemic.

Read more …

This we will see all over the world. Local governments have lost far too much revenue.

Covid Has Exposed Dire Position Of England’s Local Councils (G.)

The pandemic has a habit of bringing hidden social crises into the open. Now it reveals the precarious position of local government, the provider of vital services from care homes to public health and bin collection, which has helped keep the show on the road in the UK’s biggest national emergency since the second world war. The National Audit Office (NAO) account of the near implosion of England’s local councils during Covid is sobering: only by the government’s swift, if grudging, injection of billions of pounds of emergency cash into council coffers over recent months did ministers avert what the auditors call “system-wide financial failure”.

The watchdog rightly praises ministers for this: the consequences of scores of local authorities having to declare bankruptcy in the middle of lockdown are frightening. But it makes two other points: first, that 10 years of austerity made municipal finances structurally fragile; and second, that councils’ budget crisis isn’t over. It makes clear successive Tory governments not only dismantled the town hall roof but failed to fix it by the time hurricane Covid blew in. Council spending was cut by a third, rising demand for social care was ignored and council budgets made reliant on the whims of local income, whether council tax or car parking charges.

Grand, longstanding government plans to reform local government and social care funding failed to materialise. For years, councils patched up their threadbare budgets by using up financial reserves and cutting frontline services. The more ambitious borrowed billions to spend on risky office and retail investments. So when Covid arrived, council spending rocketed, income crashed and many found they had little in the way of rainy-day cash reserves. As the NAO puts it: “Funding reductions … means that authorities’ finances were potentially more vulnerable to the impact of the pandemic that they would have been otherwise.”

Read more …

… is to own a bank. Greensill is a pretty unbelievable story.

The Best Way to Rob a Bank (Ben Hunt)

Is this a Madoff Moment for the unicorn market? Honestly, if you had asked me a few weeks ago, I would have told you that a Madoff Moment was impossible in our narrative-consumed, speak-no-evil market world of 2021. Now I’m not sure. We’ll see, but I think this has legs. By all rights, Greensill – the eponymously named investment bank started by former Citigroup and Morgan Stanley banker Lex Greensill in 2011 – should have been shot between the eyes in 2019. That’s when their “supply-chain finance” loans, in this case to the steel and energy companies of the UK’s “Savior of Steel”, Sanjeev Gupta, blew up Swiss asset manager GAM’s $11 billion flagship fund, the Absolute Return Bond Fund (ARBF).

It’s a story as old as capital markets … Greensill lent Gupta a lot of money, Greensill wined and dined and private jetted ARBF portfolio manager Tim Haywood, and so naturally Haywood bought as much of the Greensill-originated loans as humanly possible, topping out at 12% of ARBF NAV. LOL. The loans, of course, were not as they seem, Gupta’s companies were nowhere near as solid as they were represented, and GAM ended up firing Haywood and seeing their stock price crater. The GAM CEO got fired, lots of people lost lots of money … end of the road for Greensill, right? Nope. Enter Masayoshi Son, CEO of Softbank, who ended up putting $1.5 billion into Greensill in 2019 through Softbank and then another $1.5 billion into Greensill through the Vision Fund, becoming Greensill’s largest investor and diluting the prior largest investor – General Atlantic – from a 15% to a 7% position. And then the fun begins.

Since that 2019 rescue, Greensill has lent billions of dollars to Softbank and General Atlantic affiliates (mostly Softbank, but GA looks plenty stinky here), loans that were then bought by Credit Suisse funds and laundered by Greensill’s German bank subsidiary. Now when I say ‘laundered’, I don’t mean that metaphorically. The German banking and markets regulator, BaFin, has suspended Greensill’s banking license and referred the case for criminal prosecution.

Here’s an example of how the scam worked. Again, it’s a story as old as capital markets. In early 2020, Greensill lent Softbank portfolio company Katerra $435 million. The company ran into … errr … operational difficulties, and Softbank ponied up $200 million in additional capital last December. For its part, Greensill wrote off the $435 million loan in exchange for … again, wait for it … 5% of common equity. LOL. The $9 billion valuation for Katerra (I am not making this up) was determined by Softbank, of course, and so the Greensill German bank subsidiary reported on its balance sheet that all was well. A $435 million senior loan, secured by trade receivables, was exchanged for a 5% equity position in a bankrupt company, with no loss reported. Seems fair! As always, the best way to rob a bank is to own a bank.

Read more …

This doesn’t smell right.

European Parliament Lifts Immunity Of Catalonia MEPs (RT)

The European Parliament has voted to strip MEPs Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comin and Clara Ponsati of immunity, paving the way for their extradition to Spain over their roles in the outlawed 2017 Catalonia independence referendum. The three politicians were elected to the European Parliament in 2019, after having fled Spain two years earlier to avoid arrest warrants for sedition, after they helped to organize and run the 2017 independence referendum in Catalonia, despite it being banned by Spain’s central government. Spain had asked the European Parliament to vote to strip the three politicians of immunity last year but that vote had been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.


Puigdemont lost his immunity in a 400-248 vote, while Comin and Ponsati lost their protection in a 404 to 247 ballot, confirming a recommendation that was made by a European parliament committee last month. The committee’s report had laid out how the three individuals should lose their protection against the charges filed by Spain, as the crimes they are accused of committing occurred before they took office and was unrelated to their work as MEPs. The three individuals will now be at risk of being extradited back to Spain to face charges, with the countries they are currently seeking refuge in left to decide whether to fulfil the judicial request from Spain. Puigdemont, the former president of Catalonia, and Comin, the region’s former education minister, both reside in Belgium, while Ponsati, the ex-health minister, is currently living in Scotland.

Read more …

Drip.

Cuomo Gave Bond Deals To His Wall Street Donors (IBT)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has since 2012 taken in more than $131,000 in campaign contributions from three major financial firms that were then tapped by his administration to manage state bond work, according to an International Business Times review of campaign finance documents and state bond prospectuses. The Democratic governor accepted the money — and his officials handed out the government business without competitive bids — despite federal rules that bar campaign contributors from receiving taxpayer-financed state bond work. Last week, Cuomo officials designated the three banks that contributed the campaign funds — JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America — as the dealers for a $33 million bond issue, enabling the firms to reap lucrative fees.

That came on top of the Cuomo administration assigning the firms to manage a $68 million bond issue last fall, even as federal law enforcement officials were investigating allegations that New York lawmakers were doing favors for political donors. Federal rules bar states from awarding bond work to parties who have donated to gubernatorial campaigns within the last two years (more than $86,000 of the campaign cash from the firms flowed to Cuomo in the last two years). The rules aim to prevent financial firms from gaining influence over officials who have the power to select which firms receive the lucrative bond business. The rules explicitly seek to stop financial companies from circumventing those strictures: They prohibit firms from channeling contributions to bond overseers through PACs, which are giant pools of money distributed to multiple campaign war chests.

“The pay-to-play rules are very clear,” said Craig Holman, an ethics expert at the watchdog group Public Citizen. “If Andrew Cuomo’s receiving any money from a PAC controlled by a municipal dealer, he’d be in violation of pay-to-play rules.”

Read more …

Split it up into baby Twiiters.

Twitter Sues Texas AG (ZH)

Twitter has filed a lawsuit against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, claiming that he used his office to retaliate against the social media giant for banning former President Donald Trump following the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol, according to the Associated Press. Following Trump’s banishment by several left-leaning companies, Paxton announced that his office was investigating Twitter, Apple, Google and Amazon for what he called “the seemingly coordinated de-platforming of the President.” He made several document requests related to their content moderation policies, as well as internal communications. Twitter demands that the court effectively halt Paxton’s investigation.

“Paxton made clear that he will use the full weight of his office, including his expansive investigatory powers, to retaliate against Twitter for having made editorial decisions with which he disagrees,” wrote Twitter’s lawyers in the suit filed in a Northern California court. Twitter’s counterpunch comes as states, in addition to federal lawmakers and governments outside the U.S., are cracking down on tech companies they see as having amassed too much power in the past decade. This includes antitrust and anti-monopoly regulation, internet privacy laws as well as attempts to regulate how platforms like Twitter, Facebook and others moderate their sites.

In December, Paxton led 10 Republican attorneys general in suing Google for allegedly running an illegal digital-advertising monopoly in cahoots with Facebook. GOP politicians in roughly two dozen states have also introduced bills that would allow for civil lawsuits against platforms for what they call the “censorship” of posts. Almost always, this means what they view as the censorship of conservative or Christian religious viewpoints. -Associated Press Paxton cited the First Amendment while launching his investigation, claiming that tech companies’ deplatforming of Trump “chills free speech” and “wholly silences” his detractors.

Read more …

Bellingcat.

Massive Secret UK Propaganda Campaign in Former Soviet Republics (MPN)

Standing against the scorching blue backdrop at the EU podium in late 2017, then British Prime Minister Theresa May mendaciously promised to “counter [Russian] disinformation” in all the former Soviet republics of Eastern Europe, Eurasia and the Baltics by pledging €110 Million ($130 Million) over five years to fight the Kremlin’s influence in the region. A massive data leak published by the Anonymous hacktivist group this past February has revealed how some of that money was used to create and disseminate disinformation, alternate narratives and effectuate the outright manipulation of media by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) through a number of partnerships with stalwart disinformation outfits like Bellingcat, established information warfare specialist firms like the Zinc Network among dozens more that were working in secret with the governmental entity responsible for promoting British interests around the world.

Several different operations dedicated to a specific region or country have been discovered so far, as reporters sift through the trove of documents. Highly sophisticated and disturbingly insidious propaganda campaigns to influence society, mold perceptions about Russia, and affect political outcomes were carried out by teams of Western media organizations, consultants, paid assets, and operatives from the Baltics to the shores of the Mediterranean. The Open Information Partnership (OIP), as one of these far-reaching operations is named, received funding from the FCDO, according to RT, of at least £10 Million and was comprised of 44 partners, among which the aforementioned Bellingcat and Zinc, were joined by the Atlantic Council’s DFRLab and London-based NGO Media Diversity Institute and others.

Billed as a “diverse network of organisations and individuals united in our determination to expose and counter disinformation,” OIP’s partners had their agents strewn across Central and Eastern Europe to deliver on the scope of work delineated in its contracts with the FCDO, which would determine what locations to target at any given moment. North Macedonia was selected early on and Zinc initiated the operation by identifying the largest media outlet in the country, MOST Network. The information warfare outfit and OIP partners approached DFRLab and Bellingcat to offer a two-week course on “cyber security training, mentoring on digital forensics, open source investigation and media ethics.”

Although the documents don’t provide specific dates, it is inferred that the 2019 election in North Macedonia was what moved the FCDO to prioritize it at that time, given the choice between pro-EU and pro-Russia candidates. A recent RT exposé revealed disinformation efforts by the UK that predate May’s speech by at least a year, targeting ethnic Russians in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. A 2016 request for proposal issued by the FCDO seeks contractors to “provide overt innovative soft power interventions that will foster better links between the United Kingdom and individuals in the Baltic States whose primary language is Russian.”

Read more …

“.. if illegal crossing attempts continue at the rate they’ve been going in the last four months, the final tally by the end of this fiscal year will surpass 2018, 2019, and 2020 combined.”

White House Won’t Admit Biden’s Dealing With A Border Crisis (RT)

The fruits of Joe Biden’s border policies are already apparent: a tripling of children detained at the border, and crossings set to hit record levels. Yet the administration refuses to acknowledge it has a crisis on its hands. The number of unaccompanied migrant children detained along the southern US border has tripled in the last two weeks to more than 3,250, the New York Times reported on Tuesday. These children are filling the same Customs and Border Patrol facilities that Biden himself called “inhumane” during his 2020 campaign, and the “overflow shelters” opened by the Biden administration are nearing capacity. On top of the surge in child arrivals, agents encountered 78,000 migrants attempting to cross the border in January, the highest number for that month in more than a decade.

John Modlin, the interim chief in charge of the Border Patrol’s Tucson, Arizona sector, told Sinclair reporter Sharyl Attkisson on Sunday that if illegal crossing attempts continue at the rate they’ve been going in the last four months, the final tally by the end of this fiscal year will surpass 2018, 2019, and 2020 combined. This uptick in illegal immigration has been directly linked to Biden’s near-total reversal of former president Donald Trump’s tougher border policies. Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy was eliminated by executive order, and migrants awaiting their asylum claims in Mexico have now begun heading north to the US. Biden has also modified Trump’s policy of turning back all border crossers during the Covid-19 pandemic, carving out an exception for under-18s, hence the surge in unaccompanied minors highlighted by the New York Times.

Among his flurry of executive orders overturning Trump’s border policies, Biden resurrected the so-called ‘Catch and Release’ program, an Obama-era policy suspended by Trump, under which migrants apprehended at the border would be released in the US, on the condition that they later show up for an immigration court hearing. Unsurprisingly, few ever do, and even those who play by the rules face a wait time of up to 689 days. Critics claim that ‘Catch and Release’ effectively invites migrants to make the journey to the US, and Biden has faced criticism even from within his own party for reinstating the policy. “I don’t think, quite frankly, the Biden administration was aware of what’s happening on the ground here,” Texas State Senator Juan Hinojosa told The Hill on Sunday. “The Border Patrol is overwhelmed, they’re throwing their hands up because they don’t know what to do.”

Psaki

Read more …

“My training kicked in and I leapt into action. I’m just happy I was able to make a difference.”

Secret Service Agent Saves Biden As Reporter Tries To Ask A Question (BBee)

In an extraordinary act of bravery and heroism, a Secret Service agent dove in front of Biden to block a question from a pesky reporter. As Biden slowly stepped out of his vehicle, a nosy reporter rudely attempted to ask him intrusive questions about things that were none of her business. “Nooooooooooo!” said agent James Carter as the CBS reporter raised her hand to ask a completely inappropriate question– possibly about the Middle East, or executive orders. Carter ran up to the president, arms outstretched, and dove through the air to shield the president from the incoming query.


“It’s like everything went into slow motion,” said Agent Carter. “My training kicked in and I leapt into action. I’m just happy I was able to make a difference.” Carter took the entire force of the blow from the incoming question before collapsing to the ground. “Hey– lookie there, they fly now!” said President Biden. “Hey there young man, would you mind not flying in front of me while I exit my vehicle? I have to get to the Oval Office in time for Matlock.” The Secret Service agent sustained minor injuries but is grateful to have saved the president from a reporter’s unwelcome question. “Just doing my job,” he said.

Read more …

Moar.

OECD Believes Biden Stimulus Will Boost World GDP (ZH)

A global economic recovery is coming in hotter and faster than previously anticipated by the OECD as President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus program will boost not just the domestic economy but the world. The Paris-based organization upgraded its outlook for global growth on Tuesday in a note titled “The need for speed: faster vaccine rollout critical to stronger recovery,” where it explains global output could surge above pre-pandemic levels by the second half of 2021 as vaccine rollouts and stimulus aid the recovery but warned of unevenness. In Europe, measures to boost output will result in slower growth, with the OECD lowering France and Italy’s outlook this year. It also warned accommodative policies should not be prematurely tightened.

OECD estimates global GDP growth will print around 5.6% this year, an upward revision of more than one percentage point since its December 2020 report. Laurence Boone, the OECD’s chief economist, told the Financial Times that the stimulus bill – known as the American Rescue Plan – will add one percentage point to global economic growth in 2021. There are consequences to governments and monetary authorities across the planet printing like there was no tomorrow – that is – a sharp rise in inflation expectations are putting pressure on central banks to adopt some form of the yield curve control to cap the long end of the curve. It has also added to a violent shift from growth to value, where the once favored tech stocks have lost their luster, such as TSLA, NFLX, and AMZN, as investors pivot to value companies like XOM.

Boone doesn’t believe the stimulus package will increase domestic inflation to dangerous levels because “there is a lot of slack in US labor markets,” she said. “The amazing fiscal support everywhere means that we have preserved the economic fabric across OECD countries. Even in emerging markets, we’ve seen amazing policy support,” Boone said.

Read more …

Babylon Bee outdone by Politico. “A sales job”. Indeed.

The Biden Blitz Is Coming (Pol.)

President Joe Biden spent the first months of his presidency hunkered down as he worked on getting more vaccines into people’s arms and a massive bill to deal with the pandemic to his desk. With that $1.9 trillion legislation set to clear Congress and the pace of vaccinations picking up, the White House is preparing to embark on a new, far more public-facing phase. Biden is scheduled to deliver his first prime-time address as president Thursday, which will focus on the Covid crisis. Later this month, he’ll hold the first press conference of his young presidency. He’s committed to making a still-unscheduled address to Congress. And officials are busy preparing for a sprawling sales campaign designed to draw attention to the benefits of the Covid-relief package. Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and others will hit the road to tout, among other things: the $1,400 checks, how billions of dollars in the bill will reopen schools, and the investments being made in increasing the numbers of vaccinations.

“There are a lot of people who use the term ‘victory lap’ in a derogatory way. I’ve already heard people saying that Biden is about to take a victory lap. Well, that’s a lot of crap,” said House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), a close Biden ally. “One of the—if not the biggest—mistakes that Obama made, in my opinion, was getting the Recovery Act done and not explaining to people what he had done.” Biden and top administration officials acknowledged they’ll have to do more to ensure the benefits of their package sink into the public’s consciousness. And they’ve spent weeks carefully planning how best to begin their efforts while much of the country remains consumed by the pandemic. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that once the American Rescue Plan is signed, “We will need to do some work and use our best voices.”

Part of the White House strategy before the Covid package passed was aimed at avoiding the kinds of storyline distractions that Biden can sometimes create in less guarded moments. That’s one reason the White House so far has avoided putting Biden in front of reporters for more in-depth questioning. The upcoming sales job will require Biden to assume a new posture: fewer scripted events and private dealings with lawmakers, more interactions with the press and appearances before the public. That will give the president opportunities to make more emotional appeals, such as highlighting older family members finally being able to get together with their grandchildren.

Read more …

 

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, you are now not just a reader, but an integral part of the process that builds this site. Thank you for your support.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime. Click at the top of the sidebars to donate with Paypal and Patreon.

 

Feb 202021
 
 February 20, 2021  Posted by at 10:05 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  23 Responses »


Edward Hopper Gloucester Beach, Bass Rocks 1924

 

Infection Down 75% After First Pfizer Shot (JPost)
We’ll Have Herd Immunity by April (Makary)
Democrats Don’t Believe In Returning To ‘Normal‘ (WE)
Two Variants Have Merged Into Heavily Mutated Coronavirus (New Scientist)
Ivermectin Reduces Length Of COVID-19 Infection (JPost)
German Study: Laboratory Accident Most Likely Cause of COVID Pandemic (SPR)
Johnson & Johnson Submits Its Single-Shot Covid Vaccine To WHO (RT)
Fauci: When I Publicly Disagreed With Trump He Let Terrible Things Happen (T.)
Pfizer-BioNTech Tried To Gouge The EU With $65 Vaccine Doses (RT)
Covid or No Covid (Kunstler)
Swiss To Vote In Referendum On Government’s Covid Restrictions (FT)
China Steps Up Online Controls With New Rule For Bloggers (AP)
The Sound and the Fury of Andrew Cuomo (New Yorker)
The Texas Freeze is a Catastrophe of the Free Market (Galbraith)

 

 

 

 

Mike Ryan

 

 

Saw something in a Dutch paper. Can’t find an English version, and it has no sources. So a Google translate.

This is the first time I see a claim that the Pfizer vaccine prevents the virus from spreading, something the company itself, until recently, said it had no proof for.

What I did find in an AFP article is this, which sort of seems to deny the claim: “Gili Regev-Yochay, co-author of the study [..] said that despite the vaccine being “amazingly effective”, scientists are still studying whether fully vaccinated people can transmit the virus to others. “That is the big, big, question. We are working on it. This is not on this paper and I hope we will have some good news soon..”

The Dutch bit: “People vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are much less likely to transmit the coronavirus. That means the vaccines may not only prevent people from getting sick, but also make them much less likely to infect others, two Israeli studies show. The virus would be 89.4 percent less transmissible in vaccinated people without symptoms. In patients who do have symptoms, that percentage is even higher, at 93.7.


This is stated in a data analysis by Pfizer and the Israeli Ministry of Health.” A separate study also yielded good news. Researchers from the Sheba Medical Center concluded that 7,214 vaccinated hospital workers were much less likely to transmit the virus after 15 to 28 days. This is an 85 percent reduction in infected people with symptoms.

 

Infection Down 75% After First Pfizer Shot (JPost)

Data released by Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer on Friday showed that coronavirus infections were reduced by 75% after the first dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. The data, published in the peer-reviewed Lancet medical journal, centered on a study of around 9,000 Sheba healthcare workers, around 7,000 of which received their first dose in January. Sheba’s team found a 75% decrease in all infections and an 85% reduction in symptomatic infections between 15-28 days after vaccination. According to Prof. Gili Regev-Yochay, director of the hospital’s Infectious Disease Epidemiology Unit, only 170 people became infected during the two week period. Of those who contracted the virus, 99 showed symptoms. Eighty-nine of the sick were unvaccinated.

“In real life, the data looks at least as good as in the clinical trials,” Regev-Yochay said. “The first dose is even more effective than we thought.” She said the hospital is now completing research on the impact of the second dose, which she said researchers still believe is essential. However, she noted that the research supports the British government’s decision to spread out the time between the first and second shots of the vaccine in order to inoculate more people. “This is the first study assessing effectiveness of a single vaccine dose in real life conditions and shows early effectiveness, even before the second dose was administered,” said Prof. Eyal Leshem, director of Sheba’s Travel & Tropical Medicine department.

Regev-Yochay noted that there was at least one limitation on the data – that hospital workers tend to be under the age of 65 and healthier than the rest of the population, so it is possible that less people got sick or showed symptoms for that reason.

Read more …

“Contingency planning for an open economy by April can deliver hope to those in despair and to those who have made large personal sacrifices.”

We’ll Have Herd Immunity by April (Makary)

Johns Hopkins surgeon, Dr. Marty Makary, penned an Op-ed in the WSJ this morning saying that we will have herd immunity by April. “Experts should level with the public about the good news…” exclaims Makary (who is likely on the verge of getting canceled), as he cites the “miracle” 77% drop in cases over the past 6 weeks and that testing likely only captured about 10% – 25% of infections; he extrapolates that to saying 55% of Americans have natural immunity (and add to that the 15% of Americans that have been vaccinated). Additionally, he cites Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner, who believes that 250mm doses of the vaccine will have be delivered to 150mm people by the end of March.

“There is reason to think the country is racing toward an extremely low level of infection. As more people have been infected, most of whom have mild or no symptoms, there are fewer Americans left to be infected. At the current trajectory, I expect Covid will be mostly gone by April, allowing Americans to resume normal life.”[..] “…the consistent and rapid decline in daily cases since Jan. 8 can be explained only by natural immunity. Behavior didn’t suddenly improve over the holidays; Americans traveled more over Christmas than they had since March. Vaccines also don’t explain the steep decline in January. Vaccination rates were low and they take weeks to kick in.”

[..] “Some medical experts privately agreed with my prediction that there may be very little Covid-19 by April but suggested that I not to talk publicly about herd immunity because people might become complacent and fail to take precautions or might decline the vaccine. But scientists shouldn’t try to manipulate the public by hiding the truth. As we encourage everyone to get a vaccine, we also need to reopen schools and society to limit the damage of closures and prolonged isolation. Contingency planning for an open economy by April can deliver hope to those in despair and to those who have made large personal sacrifices.”

Read more …

More on Dr. Makary.

Democrats Don’t Believe In Returning To ‘Normal‘ (WE)

Johns Hopkins University professor Dr. Marty Makary has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this week, asserting with confidence that the U.S. population will have achieved herd immunity against the coronavirus by April “allowing Americans to resume normal life.” That’s a nice thought, but not so fast, Makary. You’re not under the impression that even when we’re at an astonishingly low rate of infection that life will, on its own will, default to what it was pre-2020, are you? Don’t be so naive. The people calling the shots have made no such promises. They have, in fact, done the opposite. When is the last time anyone has heard the sainted Dr. Anthony Fauci or President Biden or anyone at all in the Democratic Party say anything about resuming “normal life.”? I’ll wait.

Just last month, Fauci said that even with as much as 85% of the population vaccinated by the end of the summer, we could still only expect a “degree of normality.” He said that, of course, in a tone that suggested we should be grateful, but it’s what he said. Biden, just this week, made clear that “normal” isn’t part of his vocabulary. During a town hall-style event, he said that the Christmas season might bring “a very different circumstance, God willing, than we are today.” Once we’re all vaccinated, aren’t you looking forward to our “very different circumstance”? Flat-lining new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19 is the immediate goal for everyone, but everyone needs to understand that Democrats have some other things in mind for the pandemic as well.

In Washington, D.C., where I live, we’ve been averaging something like three deaths per day between November and now. The typical person who succumbs to the virus is usually in his mid-70s to mid-80s. New cases are down close to 40% over the last two weeks. And for that, we remain in severe lockdown. Indoor capacity at restaurants, the owners of which have started constructing permanent outdoor seating structures, is limited to 25%. All of our museums are indefinitely closed. There are no clubs, movie theaters, or concert venues in operation. Anyone who believes it’s all going to come roaring back in April is kidding themselves. This is how Democrats believe we should live. They believe it’s better for the planet, but don’t worry, trust them to send you a monthly check to tide you over.

Herd immunity won’t get us back to normal. It will be people who decide they’ll no longer tolerate lockdowns.

Read more …

“it carries a mutation making it resistant to some antibodies..”

Two Variants Have Merged Into Heavily Mutated Coronavirus (New Scientist)

Two variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes covid-19 have combined their genomes to form a heavily mutated hybrid version of the virus. The “recombination” event was discovered in a virus sample in California, provoking warnings that we may be poised to enter a new phase of the pandemic. The hybrid virus is the result of recombination of the highly transmissible B.1.1.7 variant discovered in the UK and the B.1.429 variant that originated in California and which may be responsible for a recent wave of cases in Los Angeles because it carries a mutation making it resistant to some antibodies.

The recombinant was discovered by Bette Korber at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, who told a meeting organised by the New York Academy of Sciences on 2 February that she had seen “pretty clear” evidence of it in her database of US viral genomes. If confirmed, the recombinant would be the first to be detected in this pandemic. In December and January, two research groups independently reported that they hadn’t seen any evidence of recombination, even though it has long been expected as it is common in coronaviruses. Unlike regular mutation, where changes accumulate one at a time, which is how variants such as B.1.1.7 arose, recombination can bring together multiple mutations in one go.

Most of the time, these don’t confer any advantage to the virus, but occasionally they do. Recombination can be of major evolutionary importance, according to François Balloux at University College London. It is considered by many to be how SARS-CoV-2 originated. Recombination could lead to the emergence of new and even more dangerous variants, although it isn’t yet clear how much of a threat this first recombination event might pose. Korber has only seen a single recombinant genome among thousands of sequences and it isn’t clear whether the virus is being transmitted from person to person or is just a one-off.

Read more …

Baby steps, but something.

Ivermectin Reduces Length Of COVID-19 Infection (JPost)

An Israeli tropical-disease expert says he has new proof that a drug used to fight parasites in third-world countries could help reduce the length of infection for people who contract coronavirus. Prof. Eli Schwartz, founder of the Center for Travel Medicine and Tropical Disease at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, last week completed a clinical trial of the US Food and Drug Administration-approved drug ivermectin, a broad-spectrum antiparasitic agent that has also been shown to fight viruses. The double-blind, placebo-controlled study included 100 people with mild to moderate cases of the disease who were not hospitalized for the virus. It tested whether ivermectin could shorten the viral shedding period, allowing them to test negative for coronavirus and leave isolation in only a few days.


According to his still unpublished data, Schwartz said the drug was shown to help “cure” people of the virus within just six days. Moreover, the chances of testing negative for coronavirus were three times higher for the group who received ivermectin than the placebo, he told The Jerusalem Post. “From a public-health point of view, the majority of patients with corona are mild cases, and 90% of these people are isolated outside of the hospital,” Schwartz said. “If you have any kind of drug that can shorten the duration of the infectiousness of these patients, that would be dramatic, as then they will not infect others.” Moreover, instead of isolating for a minimum of 10 days and maybe more, this period could be shortened, benefiting the economy. Finally, although Schwartz’s study did not focus on this, he said the results indicate that it is likely if the drug were given at the beginning of one’s illness, it could prevent deterioration and hospitalization.

Read more …

Full study via the link.

German Study: Laboratory Accident Most Likely Cause of COVID Pandemic (SPR)

For more than a year, the coronavirus has been causing a worldwide crisis. In a study, nanoscientist Prof. Dr. Roland Wiesendanger has now shed light on the origin of the virus. He concludes that both the number and quality of the circumstantial evidence point to a laboratory accident at the virological institute in the city of Wuhan as the cause of the current pandemic. The study was conducted between January 2020 and December 2020. It is based on an interdisciplinary scientific approach and extensive research using a wide variety of information sources. These include scientific literature, articles in print and online media, and personal communication with international colleagues. It does not provide strictly scientific evidence, but it does provide ample and serious circumstantial evidence:

• Unlike previous coronavirus-related epidemics such as SARS and MERS, to date, well over a year after the outbreak of the current pandemic, no intermediate host animal has been identified that could have facilitated the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 pathogens from bats to humans. Therefore, the zoonotic theory as a possible explanation for the pandemic has no sound scientific basis.

• The SARS-CoV-2 viruses are surprisingly good at coupling to human cell receptors and penetrating human cells. This is made possible by special cell receptor binding domains combined with a special (furin) cleavage site of the coronavirus spike protein. Both properties together were previously unknown in coronaviruses and indicate a non-natural origin of the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen.

• Bats were not offered at the suspected fish market in the center of Wuhan city. However, the Wuhan City Virological Institute has one of the world’s largest collections of bat pathogens, which originated from distant caves in southern Chinese provinces. It is extremely unlikely that bats from this distance of nearly 2,000 km would have naturally made their way to Wuhan, only to cause a global pandemic in close proximity to this virological institute.

• A research group at the Wuhan City Virological Institute has been genetically manipulating coronaviruses for many years with the goal of making them more contagious, dangerous and deadly to humans. This has been documented in the scientific literature by numerous publications.

• Significant safety deficiencies existed at the Wuhan City Virological Institute even before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, which have been documented.

• There are numerous direct references to a laboratory origin of the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen. For example, a young female scientist at the virology institute in Wuhan is believed to have been the first to become infected. There are also numerous indications that as early as October 2019, the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen spread from the virological institute to the city of Wuhan and beyond. Furthermore, there are indications that the virological institute was investigated by the Chinese authorities in the first half of October 2019.

Read more …

Late to the game?

Johnson & Johnson Submits Its Single-Shot Covid Vaccine To WHO (RT)

Pharma giant Johnson & Johnson has submitted data on its coronavirus vaccine to the World Health Organization (WHO) as it seeks the agency’s greenlight for emergency use. Unlike other shots, this one comes in a single dose. The emergency-use approval is a prerequisite for the vaccine joining the WHO-led COVAX watchdog program, J&J said in a statement on Friday, revealing it had submitted its paperwork to the UN health body. Unlike vaccine competitors already in the Covid-fighting market, the J&J offering comes in a single-dose form, which would make its distribution considerably easier. Moreover, it can be stored under standard refrigerator temperatures, making it an attractive option for countries with less-developed infrastructure.


While Russia’s Sputnik V, British-Swedish AstraZeneca and China’s CoronaVac vaccines can be stored in regular fridges as well, both of the US jabs by Moderna and Pfizer require extremely low temperatures to prevent spoilage. Pfizer said on Friday, however, that it had sufficient data to show its jab can actually be safely stored in a refrigerator and not the extreme cold currently advised. Johnson and Johnson published data on the late-stage trials of its vaccine last month, with the solution showing a rather modest efficacy of 66 percent. The vaccine was tested across several countries and showed mixed results ranging from 72 percent in the US to merely 57 percent in South Africa. [..] Apart from seeking the WHO’s approval, the J&J vaccine is also expected to enter the US market shortly. The solution is currently under review by the US Food and Drug Administration, with its experts expected to discuss its emergency use authorization next week.

Read more …

I see Nobel Prize AND Oscar material:

“By the time Biden took office, the pandemic was raging out of control. ‘Oh my goodness, it was,’ Fauci says. ‘When President Biden walked into the White House we were having 300,000 to 400,000 cases per day, 4,000 deaths per day, and our hospitals were on the brink of being overrun.’”

On Jan 18, the US had 150,695 new cases.
On Jan 19, the US had 176,153 new cases.
On Jan 20, the US had 191.222 new cases.

Fauci: When I Publicly Disagreed With Trump He Let Terrible Things Happen (T.)

He appears surprisingly relaxed given his immense responsibilities at this time of crisis, but then it takes a lot to faze Dr Fauci. The evergreen director of Washington’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has been a medical adviser to seven consecutive US presidents, starting with Ronald Reagan, steering them and his country through outbreaks of Ebola, Sars, Zika, avian flu, swine flu and the threat of biological weapons after 9/11. He was one of the first scientists to spot the lethal new syndrome that was Aids in the early 1980s. He was initially reviled by a gay community outraged at the Reagan administration’s apparent indifference to its decimation, then hailed as a hero after championing its cause.

Most recently, during almost all of 2020, he watched in horror as President Trump actively undermined his own government’s battle against the Covid-19 pandemic by holding mass rallies, mocking mask wearers, promoting quack remedies and encouraging his supporters to breach lockdowns. Fauci does not consider this characterisation of Trump’s conduct unfair. ‘No, no, no,’ he says. ‘Unfortunately it’s the truth.’ Donald Trump was initially sceptical of the threat from Covid-19, but Fauci and his fellow scientists did manage to persuade him to back state-by-state lockdowns, and approve social-distancing measures. He also restricted Chinese visitors to the country. By the spring, however, Fauci’s relations with the president had soured as Trump began listening to outsiders with no scientific knowledge and fretting about the damage to the economy and – by extension – his re-election hopes.

Fauci’s challenge was to correct the president’s dangerous falsehoods as diplomatically as possible, often while sharing the stage with him at televised White House briefings, but he says that ‘when it became clear that in order to maintain my integrity and to get the right message [across] I had to publicly disagree with him, he did things – or allowed things to happen – that were terrible. ‘Like he allowed Peter Navarro [Trump’s trade adviser] to write an editorial in USA Today saying that almost everything I’ve ever said was wrong. He allowed the communications department of the White House to send out a list to all of the media, all of the networks, all of the cables, all of the print press, about all of the mistakes I’ve made, which was absolute nonsense because there were no mistakes.’

Trump also began to denigrate Fauci in tweets and press conferences, setting him up as a target for the extreme Right’s hatred. ‘Which I became, to the point that to this day I have to have armed federal agents guarding me all the time,’ Fauci says. And he was not the only target. To his dismay, his wife and three adult daughters were also harassed and threatened. Liberated under President Biden, Fauci can now speak frankly in a way he couldn’t last year. He tells me that in the final two months of his presidency Trump almost completely abandoned his duty to protect the nation from the pandemic. ‘We [the scientists] were trying, but we were acting almost alone, in the sense of without any direction.’

Read more …

“..500 million doses would have cost the EU €3 billion more than the annual GDP of Iceland.”

Pfizer-BioNTech Tried To Gouge The EU With $65 Vaccine Doses (RT)

Drugmakers Pfizer and BioNTech wanted to charge the EU Commission €54.08 per dose of their Coronavirus vaccine, according to German media reports. The jab would have cost more than 20 times that of a rival shot from AstraZeneca. The prospective price tag was revealed on Thursday by German broadcasters NDR and WDR, and the Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. The paper claims that Pfizer and BioNTech submitted a bid to the EU offering 500 million doses at €54.08 ($65.58) per dose, for a total cost of €27 billion ($32.74 billion). At €54.08, the BioNTech vaccine would have cost more than 20 times as much as the rival vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, and 500 million doses would have cost the EU €3 billion more than the annual GDP of Iceland.

In comparison, Russia’s ‘Sputnik V’ vaccine was expected to be priced at no more than $10 (€8.26), according to its backers. “I see it as a pursuit of profit that is in no way justified in the current situation of the pandemic,” Wolf Dieter Ludwig, drug chairman of the German Medical Association, told the newspaper. Pfizer-BioNTech has made no profit on the sale of vaccines, according to the Suddeutsche Zeitung, and during negotiations last year reportedly told EU officials that the €54.08 price tag already included “the highest percentage discount” offered to any developed country. The final cost per dose of the vaccine is still unknown, though a document leaked by Belgian MP Eva De Bleeker in December suggested that Pfizer-BioNTech had been bargained down to €12 ($14.55).

Reuters later stated that it had reviewed documents showing the price at €15.50 ($18.79) per dose, “slightly lower than the $19.50 per shot the United States agreed to pay for a first shipment of 100 million doses of the same vaccine.”

Read more …

“..$1.5 billion is chump change for the charismatic Elon Musk, whose share of the American GDP can be seen from outer space, like the Great Wall of China.”

Covid or No Covid (Kunstler)

Covid-19 cases are going down fast across the country. If it actually goes away, imagine the giant hole left in the national narrative. No more arguments over lockdowns, kids could go back to school to learn about the scourge of whiteness, and Americans could see each other’s faces again. The “progressives” in power would have to hunt up some new reasons to cancel the bill of rights. That shouldn’t be too difficult for a party adept at making shit up. Right wing extremism would be my bet, even if Antifa and BLM go back to partying in the streets like it’s 2020 when the weather warms up. What won’t go away is the nation’s fantastic economic mess.

In just a few months since Thanksgiving, the financial system has gone through an epic shift, barely noticed by citizens preoccupied with unpaid bills, skipped rents, and empty refrigerators: the stock markets are now based on Bitcoin, which is to say on less than nothing. A whole new dynamic has emerged with publicly-held companies buying the stuff hand-over-fist. An outfit like Tesla, rumored to manufacture electric cars, invested $1.5 billion in the crypto-currency, which has shot up to over $50,000-a-coin in recent weeks. The move was so splendidly shrewd that Tesla’s stock price also shot up, though they don’t make a profit on those cool cars. Of course, $1.5 billion is chump change for the charismatic Elon Musk, whose share of the American GDP can be seen from outer space, like the Great Wall of China.

Other companies are buying Bitcoin on margin, taking advantage of super-low interest rates to make a fast killing. What a great idea! Even better than borrowing to buy back your own company’s stock to jack-up the share value. Don’t be surprised if half of the S & P jumps into the Bitcoin frenzy, bidding it up to six figures. Won’t that do wonders for US productivity and working-class wages? None of that will escape the attention of a “progressive” Congress, which will see a great opportunity to try to compensate for its fiscal profligacy by passing new taxes on “excess wealth” or “windfall profits.” Then, watch the rush-to-the-exits by shareholders in those companies that loaded up on Bitcoin, aggravated by the margin calls on the dough they borrowed to buy the stuff… as well as Bitcoin itself plummeting back to its actual true value: around zero.

Read more …

Clincher: the vote is scheduled for “as early as” June.

Swiss To Vote In Referendum On Government’s Covid Restrictions (FT)

Swiss campaigners have triggered a referendum to strip the government of new legal powers to impose lockdowns and curtail public life as the country battles the pandemic. Campaign group Friends of the Constitution on Wednesday handed in a petition of 86,000 signatures collected over the past three months — well in excess of the 50,000 required — to formally initiate a nationwide vote to repeal the 2020 Covid-19 Act under Switzerland’s highly devolved democratic system. The outcome will be legally binding, with a vote scheduled for as early as June. While the pandemic has exposed social and political fractures across Europe over the rights of citizens, in Switzerland — where individuals’ rights are often treated as culturally sacrosanct and government powers are sharply proscribed by law — the strains have become particularly evident.

“In our opinion, the [government] is taking advantage of the pandemic to introduce more control and less democracy,” Christoph Pfluger, a board member of Friends of the Constitution, told the Financial Times. He added: “The long-term problems that will arise from this kind of approach will be grave. We are a movement that says crisis management cannot be done without the will of the sovereign — the people. You cannot govern without the people.” Mr Pfluger said Switzerland would be the first and perhaps the only country to give its citizens a direct vote on coronavirus restrictions. Until late December, Bern’s governing Federal Council had been reluctant to impose restrictions during the second wave of the pandemic.

Staunch opposition from many Swiss to further curbs and dire warnings from several of the country’s most powerful and influential lobbying groups about the economic consequences of another shutdown forestalled action in the run-up to Christmas, even as case numbers rocketed. A poll conducted by Switzerland’s Sotomo Research Institute for state broadcaster SRF in November found that 55 per cent of Swiss were concerned about their individual freedoms being restricted by government measures. The same survey found that even an 11pm curfew for bars and restaurants was considered too restrictive by a third of Swiss respondents.

Read more …

Just like Twitter, Facebook.

China Steps Up Online Controls With New Rule For Bloggers (AP)

Ma Xiaolin frequently wrote about current affairs on one of China’s leading microblogging sites, where he has 2 million followers. But recently, he said in a post, the Weibo site called and asked him not to post original content on topics ranging from politics to economic and military issues. “As an international affairs researcher and a columnist, it looks like I can only go the route of entertainment, food and beverage now,” the international relations professor wrote on Jan. 31. Ma, who often posted on developments in the Mideast, is one of many popular influencers working within the constraints of China’s heavily censored web who is finding that their space to speak is shrinking even further with the latest policy changes and a clean-up campaign run by the country’s powerful censors,


Beginning next week, the Cyberspace Administration of China will require bloggers and influencers to have a government-approved credential before they can publish on a wide range of subjects. Some fear that only state media and official propaganda accounts will get permission. While permits have been needed since at least 2017 to write about topics such as political and military affairs, enforcement has not been widespread. The new rules expand that requirement to health, economics, education and judicial matters. “The regulators want to control the entire procedure of information production,” said Titus Chen, an expert in Chinese social media policy at National Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan.

Read more …

Chilling. Scorsese.

The Sound and the Fury of Andrew Cuomo (New Yorker)

Last week, Ron Kim, a Democratic State Assembly member from Queens, was preparing a bath for his three daughters—ages six, four, and two—when he got a call from the governor around 8 p.m. An hour earlier, the New York Post had published leaked details of a Zoom meeting between state Democratic lawmakers and Melissa DeRosa, one of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s closest aides. During the two-hour meeting, DeRosa seemed to confirm a suspicion that a number of lawmakers had had for months: the governor had intentionally withheld from them data confirming that thousands more New York nursing-home residents died from covid-19 than official numbers publicly showed. The lawmakers demanded an explanation, and DeRosa offered them one: last year, the Cuomo administration had been worried that Donald Trump and his Justice Department would use the numbers “against us.” “Basically, we froze,” DeRosa told the Democrats.

Kim, who has been a persistent critic of Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic, was in the meeting with DeRosa. A month earlier, he had become the chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Aging, and once the recording of the call leaked, the Post had reached out for comment. Kim told the reporters that, to him, DeRosa’s comments were as bad as they looked—“They were trying to dodge having any incriminating evidence,” he said—a quote that the governor’s office had tried to get Kim to retract. But the quote had stayed in, the story was up, and now the governor was on the phone, fuming. “I will destroy you!” Cuomo screamed, according to notes Kim wrote down after the call—which he shared with me. The governor was so loud that Kim’s wife and daughters grew upset, and Kim stepped out of the bathroom. “You haven’t seen my wrath,” Cuomo told him. “I will go out tomorrow and start telling the world how bad of an Assembly member you are, and you will be finished.”

For Kim, the nursing-home issue was personal as well as political. In April, his uncle Son Kim died, of a suspected case of covid-19, in a nursing home in Queens. He was seventy-eight, and had shaped his nephew’s life. Son Kim had become a dentist at a time when it was almost impossible for a Korean immigrant to set up a dental practice in New York City. He enlisted in the Army, in which he could practice his profession, and eventually sponsored Ron and his family’s visas to the U.S.; in 1987, when Ron was seven, his uncle, a staunch Republican, chose a new American name for him, in honor of President Ronald Reagan. Despite the personal loss, Kim told Cuomo that he’d tried to keep his disagreements about the governor’s pandemic policies on the level of policy. I bit my tongue, Kim said. “I bit my tongue!” Cuomo shot back.

Neither Kim nor his wife slept that night. “I’m trying to calm her down,” Kim told me. Cuomo kept up the pressure through the weekend. That Saturday, Cuomo’s aides and other intermediaries called Kim, trying to get him to talk to the governor. “It’s Lunar New Year—I’m with my family,” Kim told me. “I felt extremely uncomfortable.” Kim believes that Cuomo was trying to silence him. “I realized if I changed course, I’m complicit,” Kim said. “And then, politically, he owns me.” Kim hired a lawyer, to whom he directed any further communications about the issue from the governor’s office. “Ultimately, what he was trying to do was asking me to lie about what I heard,” Kim said, of Cuomo. “It’s like I witnessed a crime, and they’re asking me to say I didn’t witness a crime.”

Read more …

“In the aftermath of this debacle, we will return to New Deal-style municipal socialism, or this disaster of power, water, and gas will happen again. Socialism is government, in technical matters, by engineers and others who know their stuff and not by ideologues who do not. Compared to Texas right now, it’s not such a bad prospect.”

The Texas Freeze is a Catastrophe of the Free Market (Galbraith)

Competition would assure bare-bones, lean-and-mean efficiency, and low, low prices most of the time, reflecting the cost of fuel plus the smallest possible profit margin. The role of the state would be minimal – just to manage the common grid, through which power flows from the producer to the consumer. In times of shortage, prices might rise, but then the market would decide; those who did not wish to pay could always flip their switches off. It was a perfect textbook setup, with supply on one side, demand on the other, and a neutral manager in between. True, there were a few loose ends. One is that demand for electricity is what economists call inelastic: it doesn’t respond much to price, but it does respond to changes in the weather, and at such times, of heat or cold, the demand becomes even more inelastic.

Another detail was that in an ordinary market, there can be some play in the relationship between supply and demand. If even a fishmonger does not sell his catch, he can, at the end of the day, cut his price – or even freeze the haddock for the following day. Electricity isn’t like that. Supply has to exactly equal demand every single minute of every single day. If it doesn’t, the entire system can fail. This system, therefore, had three vulnerabilities. First, it created an incentive for cut-throat competition, to provide power in the cheapest possible way, which meant with machinery, wells, meters, pipes, and also windmills that were not insulated against extreme cold – a rarity but not unknown, even in Texas. Second, it left prices free to fluctuate. Third, it assured that when prices rose the most, that would be at exactly those moments when the demand for power was the greatest.

In 2002, under Governor Rick Perry, Texas deregulated its electricity system. After a few years, the electrical free market, managed by a non-profit called ERCOT, was fully-established. Some seventy or so providers eventually sprung up. While a few cities – including Austin – kept their public power, they were nevertheless tied to the state system. The market system could, and did, work out most of the time. Prices rose and fell, and customers who didn’t sign long-term contracts faced some risk. One provider, called Griddy, had a special model: for $9.99 a month you could get your power at whatever the wholesale price was on any given day. That was cheap! Most of the time.

The problem with “most of the time” is that people need electric power all of the time. And Texas’s leaders knew as of 2011, at least, when the state went through a short, severe freeze, that the system was radically unstable in extreme weather. But they did nothing. To do something, they would have had to regulate the system. And they didn’t want to regulate the system, because the providers, a rich source of campaign funding, didn’t want to be regulated and to have to spend on weatherization that was not needed – most of the time. In 2020, even voluntary inspections were suspended, due to Covid-19.

Enter the deep freeze of 2021. Demand went up. Supply went down. Natural gas froze up at the wells, in the pipes, and at the generating plants. Unweatherized windmills also went off-line, a small part of the story. Since Texas is disconnected from the rest of the country, no reserves could be imported, and given the cold everywhere, there would have been none available anyway. There came a point, on Sunday, February 14 or the next day, when demand so outstripped supply that the entire Texas grid came within minutes of a collapse that, we are told, would have taken months to repair.

Read more …

 

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, you are now not just a reader, but an integral part of the process that builds this site. Thank you for your support.

 

 

“I prefer the company of people who make me smile to those who make me laugh.”
– Nassim Nicholas Taleb

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in 2021. Click at the top of the sidebars to donate with Paypal and Patreon.

 

Feb 192021
 
 February 19, 2021  Posted by at 9:31 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  53 Responses »


Ito Shinsui Snowy night 1923

 

Mutations Made Coronavirus 8 Times More Infectious Than Original (RT)
Pfizer, Moderna Vaccines Make 3x Less Antibodies vs South African Strain (RT)
130 Countries Have Not Received A Single Covid Vaccine Dose (G.)
Florida Ranks 11th Lowest In Covid Deaths Per Capita Among Seniors (Blaze)
FBI, US Attorney In Brooklyn Probing Cuomo Admin On Nursing Homes (TU)
The Myth of Andrew Cuomo the Competent, Steady Statesman (Jac.)
De Blasio Says Threatening Phone Call To Lawmaker Is ‘Classic Andrew Cuomo’ (F.)
Texas Was “Seconds And Minutes” From Complete Disaster (ZH)
The Failure Of The Texas Power Grid Is Worse Than You Think (Fed.)
Beleaguered Texas Hospitals With No Water Evacuate Patients (Fox4)
The Slippery Slope from Censoring ‘Disinformation’ to Silencing Truth (RI)
Trump’s Former Fixer Cohen Interviewed By Manhattan DA’s Office (R.)
Biden Privately Tells Governors: Minimum Wage Hike Likely Isn’t Happening (Pol.)
Greece in Talks with the UK to Create Tourism Corridor (GR)
Why Vitamin D Probably Still Can’t Cure Covid-19 (Gideon)

 

 

 

 

Our daily good news segment.

Mutations Made Coronavirus 8 Times More Infectious Than Original (RT)

New research has found that a mutation in the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, present in variants from the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil, can make the virus up to eight times more infectious than the original. The new research into the D614G mutation on the spike protein in SARS-CoV-2, present in all the latest variants currently plaguing healthcare systems the world over, was led by researchers at New York University, the New York Genome Center, and Mount Sinai. “Confirming that the mutation leads to more transmissibility may help explain, in part, why the virus has spread so rapidly over the past year,” said Neville Sanjana, assistant professor of biology at NYU, who added that the mutation has reached “near universal prevalence” among the coronavirus variants spreading across the globe.

The Mount Sinai researchers injected a virus with the D614G mutation into human lung, liver, and colon cells and compared it against cells from the original strain detected in Wuhan at the start of the pandemic. They found a whopping eight-fold increase in transmissibility between the two strains, with the mutated spike protein making the virus more resilient to being split by other proteins in the human immune system, highlighting the importance of continued vaccine research and development to combat this hardier version. “…[O]ur experimental data was pretty unambiguous – the D614G variant infects human cells much more efficiently than the wild type,” said Zharko Daniloski, a postdoctoral fellow in Sanjana’s lab at NYU and the study’s co-first author.

Thankfully, however, the mutation has not yet been linked to more intense progression of Covid-19 leading to more severe forms of the disease or an increase in hospitalization. On the other hand, this does pose another issue: the current generation of vaccines were developed based on the original Wuhan-variant spike protein structure, highlighting the need for booster vaccines or even annual vaccination programs to halt the spread of the coronavirus for good.

Read more …

More good news.

Pfizer, Moderna Vaccines Make 3x Less Antibodies vs South African Strain (RT)

Vaccines developed by US companies Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are producing fewer antibodies against the coronavirus mutation that has emerged in South Africa, according to studies reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. A lab study jointly conducted by Pfizer/BioNTech and researchers at the University of Texas in Galveston showed that the neutralization of the South African strain “was weaker by approximately two thirds,” but concluded that it was “unclear what effect” that would have on protection the vaccine provided from the disease. This is according to the letter by the researchers published on Wednesday in NEJM, the oldest US medical journal.

Another study conducted by Moderna and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – whose head, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is the Biden administration’s “coronavirus czar” at the moment – showed “reductions by a factor of 2.7” in the titers of neutralizing antibodies against the variant known as the B.1.351 – and by a factor of 6.4 when pitted against the full range of South African mutations. “Protection against the B.1.351 variant conferred by the mRNA-1273 vaccine remains to be determined,” says the letter from the Moderna/NIAID researchers, also published by NEJM on Wednesday. Moderna said it is working on booster shots if needed. Pfizer and BioNTech are also preparing to develop an update or a booster shot if needed, according to a statement cited by Bloomberg.

In a statement released in January, ahead of the study’s review, they said the performance of their vaccine was “slightly lower” against the South African strain when compared to other mutations, but that “small differences in viral neutralization observed in these studies are unlikely to lead to a significant reduction in the effectiveness of the vaccine.” South Africa has halted the vaccination with Astra Zeneca’s formula after a study showed it didn’t work as well in preventing Covid-19 caused by the mutant strain. President Cyril Ramaphosa took the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Wednesday.

Read more …

We’re on a roll.

130 Countries Have Not Received A Single Covid Vaccine Dose (G.)

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has sharply criticised the “wildly uneven and unfair” distribution of Covid vaccines, saying 10 countries have administered 75% of all vaccinations and demanding a global effort to get all people in every country vaccinated as soon as possible. The UN chief told a high-level meeting of the UN security council on Wednesday that 130 countries had not yet received a single dose of vaccine. “At this critical moment, vaccine equity is the biggest moral test before the global community,” said. Guterres called for an urgent global vaccination plan to bring together those with the power to ensure equitable vaccine distribution – scientists, vaccine producers and those who can fund the effort.

He called on the world’s major economic powers in the Group of 20 to establish an emergency taskforce to establish a plan and coordinate its implementation and financing. He said the taskforce should have the capacity “to mobilise the pharmaceutical companies and key industry and logistics actors”. Guterres said Friday’s meeting of the Group of Seven major industrialised nations – the United States, Germany, Japan, Britain, France, Canada and Italy – “can create the momentum to mobilise the necessary financial resources”. Thirteen ministers addressed the virtual council meeting organised by Britain on improving access to Covid vaccinations, including in conflict areas.

[..] China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, criticised the growing “immunity divide” and called on the world to “come together to reject ‘vaccine nationalism,’ promote fair and equitable distribution of vaccines, and, in particular, make them accessible and affordable for developing countries, including those in conflict”. At the WHO’s request, he said, China will contribute 10m doses of vaccines to Covax “preliminarily”. China has donated vaccines to 53 developing countries including Somalia, Iraq, South Sudan and Palestine, which is a UN observer state. It has also exported vaccines to 22 countries, he said, adding that Beijing has launched research and development cooperation on Covid with more than 10 countries.

Read more …

Schools open. No mask mandate. Make of it what you will.

Florida Ranks 11th Lowest In Covid Deaths Per Capita Among Seniors (Blaze)

There’s a reason why the Biden regime is trying to attack Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and create an illusion of a disproportionate viral crisis in the state. With no declared emergency restrictions in place at the state level since last September, the fact that Florida is doing better than the national average completely exposes the lie of lockdown and masks having any effect whatsoever on the fixed natural progression of the virus. Dr. Fauci is suggesting a novel scientific principle – that schools can’t reopen until Congress passes yet another “stimulus” bill. Yet in Florida, schools have been open all year, and the state’s excess deaths for 2020 rank the 16th lowest in the nation, according to a new analysis. What’s more, the Sunshine State, which is regarded as God’s waiting room for seniors, experienced the 11th lowest per capita rate of COVID deaths for seniors in 2020.

A new analysis conducted by RationalGround.com and exclusively obtained by TheBlaze collated CDC excess death data for 49 states (excluding North Carolina, which has incomplete data) and ranked the states from smallest to largest increase in excess deaths from 2019 to 2020. As we have seen in study after study, there is absolutely zero correlation between non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as business and school closures or mask mandates, and a lower rate of excess deaths. According to the CDC’s excess death table, there was a 16.9% national average increase in all-cause mortality in 2020 over 2019.


Given the loose way we count COVID deaths, it will take quite some time to sort out how many of those deaths are due to COVID and how many are due to the panic, anxiety, lockdowns, and missed care, but what is clear is that there is no correlation between the political measures taken by a state and fewer all-cause deaths. Florida, which is the third largest state, has the 16th lowest increase in all-cause deaths, and all of the states that had fewer excess deaths than Florida are much smaller and are mostly states with lower population density. California, on the other hand, ranked No. 40.

Read more …

I have no high hopes.

Did CNN just ban one Cuomo from interviewing the other?

FBI, US Attorney In Brooklyn Probing Cuomo Admin On Nursing Homes (TU)

The FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn have launched an investigation that is examining, at least in part, the actions of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s coronavirus task force in its handling of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities during the pandemic, the Times Union has learned. The probe by the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York is apparently in its early stages and is focusing on the work of some of the senior members of the governor’s task force, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter who is not authorized to comment publicly. Last March, as the virus began spreading in New York, Cuomo issued a news release listing the 13 initial members of his coronavirus task force, which has been headed by Linda Lacewell, an attorney and former chief of staff for Cuomo.

Lacewell is the superintendent of the state Department of Financial Services. Other task force members include state health Commissioner Howard Zucker, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa and Beth Garvey, counsel to the governor. “As we publicly said, DOJ (Department of Justice) has been looking into this for months,” said Richard Azzopardi, a spokesman for the governor. “We have been cooperating with them and we will continue to.” Azzopardi did not disclose whether any members of the administration have been interviewed or if they have been served with any subpoenas. John Marzulli, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn, on Wednesday afternoon said he could not “confirm or deny” whether the office has initiated an investigation.

Nearly three weeks after the governor’s task force was announced last year, the state health department issued an order directing nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that they must accept residents who were being discharged from hospitals even if they were still testing positive for the infectious disease, as long as they were able to care for them properly. That directive, which was rescinded less than two months later, has been the focus of a firestorm of criticism directed at Cuomo’s administration, including allegations that the order — which the governor said was based on federal guidance — had contributed to the high number of fatalities of nursing home residents in New York. That assertion was largely dismissed in a report by the Department of Health that was released in July.

Read more …

“Even if Cuomo never sinks low enough to lose reelection next year — given his enormous war chest and New York’s horrific campaign finance laws, it’s still an unlikely scenario..”

The Myth of Andrew Cuomo the Competent, Steady Statesman (Jac.)

Even if Cuomo never sinks low enough to lose reelection next year — given his enormous war chest and New York’s horrific campaign finance laws, it’s still an unlikely scenario — he will never again be the governor feted by Ellen and celebrated by self-described “Cuomosexuals.” He’s not getting another Emmy. His moment is over. What happened? In some sense, this has been slow-building. For months, more and more people have been waking up to the fact that the popular, media-created conception of Cuomo was nonsensical. More than 45,000 people have died of COVID-19 in New York State, the second highest absolute death toll in America, just trailing California. (California is more than twice as large, so New York maintains a far higher rate of death.)

Cuomo, like Trump, downplayed the pandemic in its earliest days and issued a shutdown order for New York far too late, defying the opinions of experts and other elected officials. It was the nursing home issue, however, and the subsequently botched vaccine rollout that began to trigger a much-deserved reevaluation of his legacy, which is one of arrogance, secrecy, and failure. Last March, Cuomo ordered nursing homes to accept coronavirus patients who had been discharged from hospitals instead of directing them to large temporary facilities that had a surplus of beds. This decision likely contributed to outbreaks in nursing homes, which the state oversees.

Unlike most other states in America, if not all of them, Cuomo’s New York decided to keep a highly skewed count of nursing home deaths, only tallying those who died while physically in facilities. If you were a nursing home resident who got infected in a home, became sick there, and were transferred to a hospital dying, you were not a part of the official Department of Health tally. Confirming the suspicions of health care experts and many journalists, the state attorney general revealed in a January report that the Department of Health had undercounted nursing home deaths by as much as 50 percent. Shortly after, Cuomo was forced to revise the tally far higher, increasing it by more than 60 percent.

Last week, it was revealed that the Cuomo administration had purposefully withheld nursing home data from lawmakers for months out of fear the Department of Justice, under Donald Trump, would investigate. Several legislators have contemplated calling for Cuomo’s impeachment. In a rage, Cuomo called up a leftist assembly member from Queens, Ron Kim, and threatened to “destroy” his career. This is just the news that has grabbed the most headlines. Cuomo is a Clintonian Democrat with a lust for austerity, and he has been quietly slashing and burning New York’s social safety net since the pandemic arrived last year. The City University of New York, which educates a largely working-class and nonwhite student body, has faced severe budget cuts, as have local public schools and social services.

Read more …

The more I read about Cuomo, the more he resembles a character in a Scorsese movie.

De Blasio Says Threatening Phone Call To Lawmaker Is ‘Classic Andrew Cuomo’ (F.)

Compounding a month of bad press for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday morning that he believes the state lawmakers who claimed Cuomo threatened to “destroy” his career after he publicly criticized his administration’s handling of Covid-19 in nursing homes. De Blasio—who has had a publicly contentious relationship with the governor since the start of the coronavirus pandemic—painted Cuomo as a bully during a Thursday interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” The mayor said he believes New York State Assemblyman Ron Kim’s account of the phone call because “a lot of people in New York State have received those phone calls.”

“It’s a sad thing to say … but that’s classic Andrew Cuomo,” said de Blasio, explaining he’s heard complaints like Kim’s “many, many times.” Representatives for Cuomo did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes, though the governor’s Senior Advisor Richard Azzopardi released a statement accusing Kim of “lying about his conversation with Governor Cuomo.” “At no time did anyone threaten to ‘destroy’ anyone with their ‘wrath’ nor engage in a ‘coverup,’” said Azzopardi, describing a “long, hostile” relationship between the two men. The comments come a day after revelations that Cuomo’s handling of nursing home death data is now under federal investigation.

“The bullying is nothing new,” said de Blasio. “I believe Ron Kim and it’s very, very sad. No public servant, no person who is telling the truth should be treated that way. But, the threats, the belittling, the demand that someone change their statement right that moment … Many, many times I’ve heard that.” Kim said he received an angry phone call from the governor last week after he publicly accused Cuomo of obstructing justice by withholding data on nursing home deaths. According to Kim, Cuomo threatened that he could “destroy” him if he did not help “cover up” comments made by Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, who stirred controversy earlier this month by suggesting the state had purposefully delayed releasing the full Covid-19 death toll in long-term care facilities because of concerns about a potential federal investigation.

Read more …

Something tells me you should go talk to the old time engineers who’ve worked on the grid all their lives. That’s where the stories are, not in politics.

Texas Was “Seconds And Minutes” From Complete Disaster (ZH)

As natural gas fired plants, utility scale wind power and coal plants tripped offline due to the extreme cold brought by the winter storm, the amount of power supplied to the grid to be distributed across the state fell rapidly. At the same time, demand was increasing as consumers and businesses turned up the heat and stayed inside to avoid the weather. “It needed to be addressed immediately,” said Bill Magness, president of ERCOT. “It was seconds and minutes [from possible failure] given the amount of generation that was coming off the system.” With energy prices exploding to record highs, and with demand soaring, grid operators had to “act quickly” to cut the amount of power distributed, Magness said, because if they had waited, “then what happens in that next minute might be that three more [power generation] units come offline, and then you’re sunk.”

Magness said on Wednesday that if operators had not acted in that moment, the state could have suffered blackouts that “could have occurred for months,” and left Texas in an “indeterminately long” crisis. In other words, the millions of households left without power – in some cases for days – were sacrificing for the greater good. So by manually shutting down entire parts of the grid, ERCOT avoided the worst case scenario: one where demand for power overwhelms the supply of power generation available on the grid, causing equipment to catch fire, substations to blow and power lines to go down.

If the grid had gone totally offline, the physical damage to power infrastructure from overwhelming the grid would take months to repair, said Bernadette Johnson, senior vice president of power and renewables at Enverus, an oil and gas software and information company headquartered in Austin. “As chaotic as it was, the whole grid could’ve been in blackout,” she said. “ERCOT is getting a lot of heat, but the fact that it wasn’t worse is because of those grid operators.” If that had occurred, even as power generators recovered from the cold, ERCOT would have been unable to quickly reconnect them back to the grid, Johnson said.

And since nobody can disprove a negative, one just has to take them at their word that dozens of people died so that millions more could live… or something. Grid operators would have needed to slowly and carefully bring generators and customers back online, all the while taking care to not to cause more damage to the grid. It’s a delicate process, Johnson explained, because each part of the puzzle — the generators producing power, the transmission lines that move the power and the customers that use it — must be carefully managed. “It has to balance constantly,” she said. “Once a grid goes down, it’s hard to bring it back online. If you bring on too many customers, then you have another outage.”

Read more …

A disaster long in the making.

The Failure Of The Texas Power Grid Is Worse Than You Think (Fed.)

[..] Yes, some coal plants closed because of freezing temperatures and some natural gas pipelines froze. But as Jason Isaac of the Texas Public Policy Foundation explains in our pages today, the main problem with the Texas power grid isn’t that renewables failed or that fossil fuels failed. It’s that the grid itself has been made unstable by state and federal subsidies that distort the energy market and prevent the buildup of reliable power generation. Subsidies for renewables and fossil fuels have been around for a long time in Texas, supported by both Democrats and Republicans. For as much as Texas has a reputation as a deep-red oil and gas state, it was under Republican Gov. Rick Perry that billions were spent on wind turbines and transmission lines in West Texas, spurred on by massive tax credits for wind producers.

The same thing happened at the federal level when George W. Bush was governor of the state. In the months to come, there will be lengthy and bitter debates about who was responsible for this fiasco. The obvious partisan arguments are already out in the open. If any actual reforms come out of these debates, they will have to begin with an acknowledgment that the way things have been done for decades in Texas has not worked. That much, at least, is now painfully undeniable. For example, goosing the wind and solar industries with billions in tax credits in a state that produces almost a third of America’s fossil fuel energy was perhaps unwise and imprudent.

In hindsight, it looks like cronyism. So do the subsidies for fossil fuels, even if they are not as extravagant as subsidies for renewables. Maybe all of that was a bad idea from the beginning, and maybe it’s time to cut it out. Hardship like what Texas is going through right now can bring clarity. And in the teeth of this winter storm, the entire energy industry, with its high-powered lobbyists and its billions in taxpayer subsidies, is beginning to look like every other elite institution in America: a corrupt and parasitic enterprise whose failures come at the expense of ordinary Americans—in this case, people who are now trying to stay alive in their own homes.

Read more …

“Emergency rooms were crowded “due to patients being unable to meet their medical needs at home without electricity..”

Beleaguered Texas Hospitals With No Water Evacuate Patients (Fox4)

After a deadly blast of winter weather overwhelmed the electrical grid and left millions of Texans without power, hospitals in the state are also facing the additional stress of water shortages, crowded emergency rooms and even being forced to evacuate patients. Record-low temperatures damaged infrastructure and pipes, seriously jeopardizing drinking water systems in the Lone Star state. Authorities in Texas ordered 7 million people — a quarter of the population of the nation’s second-largest state — to boil tap water before drinking it. Some hospitals, already contending with COVID-19 patients and vaccine distribution, were also impacted by the winter storm’s havoc on state power grids and utilities. In Austin, hospitals dealt with a loss in water pressure and heat.

St. David’s South Austin Medical Center said Wednesday night that it had lost water pressure from the City of Austin. Since water feeds the facility’s boiler, the hospital was also losing heat. Hospital officials were working to evacuate some patients to other area facilities and said they were distributing bottles and jugs of water to patients and employees. Officials added that they were working with the city to secure portable toilets. “Because this is a statewide emergency situation that is also impacting other hospitals within the Austin area, no one hospital currently has the capacity to accept transport of a large number of patients,” said David Huffstutler, CEO of St. David’s South Austin Medical Center.

In southwest Austin, officials with Ascension Seton Southwest Hospital said they too were facing intermittent issues with water pressure, the Austin American-Statesman reported. The hospital was rescheduling elective surgeries to preserve bed capacity and personnel as a result. At Houston Methodist, two of its community hospitals did not have running water but still treated patients, with most non-emergency surgeries and procedures canceled for Thursday and possibly Friday, spokeswoman Gale Smith told the Associated Press. Emergency rooms were crowded “due to patients being unable to meet their medical needs at home without electricity,” Smith said. She added that pipes had burst in Methodist’s hospitals but were being repaired as they happened.

Read more …

“Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

The Slippery Slope from Censoring ‘Disinformation’ to Silencing Truth (RI)

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” – George Orwell. This is the slippery slope that leads to the end of free speech as we once knew it. In a world increasingly automated and filtered through the lens of artificial intelligence, we are finding ourselves at the mercy of inflexible algorithms that dictate the boundaries of our liberties. Once artificial intelligence becomes a fully integrated part of the government bureaucracy, there will be little recourse: we will be subject to the intransigent judgments of techno-rulers. This is how it starts. Martin Niemöller’s warning about the widening net that ensnares us all still applies.

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” In our case, however, it started with the censors who went after extremists spouting so-called “hate speech,” and few spoke out—because they were not extremists and didn’t want to be shamed for being perceived as politically incorrect.

Then the internet censors got involved and went after extremists spouting “disinformation” about stolen elections, the Holocaust, and Hunter Biden, and few spoke out—because they were not extremists and didn’t want to be shunned for appearing to disagree with the majority. By the time the techno-censors went after extremists spouting “misinformation” about the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines, the censors had developed a system and strategy for silencing the nonconformists. Still, few spoke out. Eventually, “we the people” will be the ones in the crosshairs.At some point or another, depending on how the government and its corporate allies define what constitutes “extremism, “we the people” might all be considered guilty of some thought crime or other. When that time comes, there may be no one left to speak out or speak up in our defense.

Read more …

The MSM will be pushing this for all they’re worth.

Trump’s Former Fixer Cohen Interviewed By Manhattan DA’s Office (R.)

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and a newly hired high-profile litigator interviewed Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, on Thursday, as part of a criminal probe of the former president’s business dealings, said two people familiar with the investigation. The interview came after Mark Pomerantz, who has extensive experience in white-collar and organized crime cases, joined District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s team investigating the Trump family business. Pomerantz started on Feb. 2 as special assistant district attorney, said Danny Frost, a spokesman for Vance. Pomerantz’s hiring is part of a flurry of recent activity in Vance’s investigation, including the issuance in recent days of roughly a dozen new subpoenas, according to the sources.

One of those went to Ladder Capital Finance LLC, a major creditor used by Trump and his company, the Trump Organization, to finance the former president’s commercial real estate holdings, the sources said. Vance’s office has also conducted interviews with Ladder’s staff, one source familiar with the matter said. The district attorney’s office has said little publicly about the probe, but noted in court filings that it was focused on “possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct” at the Trump Organization, including alleged falsification of records, and insurance and tax fraud. It is the only known criminal inquiry into Trump’s business practices.

Separately, New York state Attorney General Letitia James is leading a civil probe into whether Trump’s company falsely reported property values to secure loans and obtain economic and tax benefits. Ladder issued the loans on several of Trump’s big commercial holdings, including a $160 million mortgage on the Trump Building, a skyscraper in Manhattan’s financial district.

Read more …

He knew this a long time ago. But dangling the sausage gets votes.

Biden Privately Tells Governors: Minimum Wage Hike Likely Isn’t Happening (Pol.)

When Joe Biden met with a group of mayors and governors last week he bluntly told them to get ready for a legislative defeat: his proposed minimum wage hike was unlikely to happen, he said, at least in the near term. “I really want this in there but it just doesn’t look like we can do it because of reconciliation,” Biden told the group, according to a person in the room. “I’m not going to give up. But right now, we have to prepare for this not making it.” The comments, which were confirmed by two other people familiar with the conversation, were the furthest Biden has gone in conceding the coming axing of the $15-an-hour minimum wage provision from his first major legislative package.


And they suggest that the president is more inclined to manage the fallout of it not being included than to pursue long-shot, political-capital consuming efforts to fight for its insertion. Sitting in the Oval Office with Republican and Democratic elected officials last Friday to advocate for his $1.9 trillion Covid relief package, he didn’t hide his skepticism. “Doesn’t look like we can do it,” he said of the minimum wage hike. For weeks now, the White House has been trying to manage expectations on the feasibility of advancing a $15-an-hour minimum wage provision through a broader “rescue” package. Biden first suggested it might not make it into the final Covid relief bill in an interview with CBS prior to the Super Bowl, noting his belief that the Senate parliamentarian would determine it did not jibe with budgetary rules that allow a bill to pass with just 51 votes in the Senate.

Read more …

I still wonder what the legal status is of requiring people be vaccinated with a vaccine whose producer says it doesn’t prevent the spread of the virus. And then on the basis of that, allowing them into your country without testing etc., where they can spread the virus.

If you would let people fly in to an island, and they would stay there, that’s one thing. You could monitor them, trace them. But Greek tourism is based on people traveling a lot, island-hopping etc.

Greece in Talks with the UK to Create Tourism Corridor (GR)

Soon, vaccinated British citizens may be able to travel to Greece without any restrictions whatsoever, according to Greek Minister of Tourism Haris Theoharis. Greece has entered into preliminary discussions with the UK regarding tourism, Theoharis stated, and may allow vaccinated travelers from the UK into the country this summer without being tested for the coronavirus first. Inoculated tourists may also be able to avoid Greece’s mandatory seven-day quarantine once they arrive in the country. Those who have been vaccinated and hope to enter Greece may have to present a vaccine certificate, or vaccine passport, in order to skip the strict anti-virus measures currently in place in the country.

Currently, all those entering Greece must present a negative PCR test for the coronavirus, within 72 hours of their flight, before entry is allowed. In addition to the PCR test, visitors from the UK must also now take a rapid test upon arrival to Greece. Employing nearly one in five Greeks, tourism is one of the most important sectors of the country’s economy. Greece welcomes around 4 million visitors from the UK each year. The Mediterranean country hopes that opening up a tourist corridor with the UK for the summer will bring a much-needed boost to Greece’s economy, which has suffered a great deal due to travel restrictions and strict anti-virus measures. Greek tourism took a giant plunge in the third quarter of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT).

In total, in the first nine months of last year, the accommodation sector had revenues of only 1.89 billion euros, when last year in the corresponding period revenues were 6.15 billion euros — representing a staggering loss of 4.26 billion euros. When discussing the outlook for Greece’s tourism sector in the summer of 2021, Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated to Reuters: “I am a realist, but I am also cautiously optimistic that we will do much better than last year.” The potential deal with the UK may well add to Mitsotakis’ optimism for a successful tourist season this year. The country has already struck a deal with Israel, which will allow vaccinated travelers from the Mediterranean country to enter Greece without coronavirus restrictions.

Read more …

Saved this for last because I would like some comments. Did anyone ever state vit. D was a cure for Covid? We sure did not. This epidemiologist appears to take studies on giving people already in hospital large doses of vit. D, to claim it’s useless. This is exactly how HCQ was discredited. But do chime in.

Why Vitamin D Probably Still Can’t Cure Covid-19 (Gideon)

There are many scientific questions that have come up during the pandemic. We’ve investigated the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine, looked into school closures, and even checked to see whether spectacles could protect you from getting Covid-19 (the jury is still out on that one). But perhaps the most consistent question that has been asked, over and over again, is whether vitamin D supplements can treat coronavirus effectively. The allure is understandable — vitamin D is cheap, relatively safe, and there’s some evidence that it can help with the common cold, which is often caused by coronaviruses similar to SARS-CoV-2. If it worked, it could make an enormous difference in the lives of people with Covid-19 and at a very low cost.

Sadly, this has inspired endless shoddy studies that have meant that the question of whether vitamin D works for Covid-19 wasn’t answered very well (or at all) the last time I wrote about it in October 2020. This makes the recent headlines all the more understandable. A study was put up on SSRN — a preprint server run by The Lancet — a few weeks ago that purported to show a 60% decrease in mortality for people with Covid-19 who were given calcifediol (a metabolite of vitamin D) compared to a control group given treatment as usual. With such impressive-sounding results, the study soon went viral on Twitter and has been reported in news outlets around the world. If supplements really could prevent 60% of Covid-19 deaths, it would be a research finding that could literally change the course of the pandemic.

Unfortunately, as with most of the previous research, the evidence is much shakier than you might expect given the glowing headlines. Even more than a year into all of this, we still don’t really know if vitamin D does anything for Covid-19 at all.

Read more …

 

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, you are now not just a reader, but an integral part of the process that builds this site. Thank you for your support.

 

 

#Perseverance has captured the first images of life on Mars.

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in 2021. Click at the top of the sidebars to donate with Paypal and Patreon.

 

Feb 022021
 
 February 2, 2021  Posted by at 10:36 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  27 Responses »


MC Escher Relativity 1953

 

Is Robinhood The Devil in Sheep’s Clothing? (Neville)
Physical Premium To Paper Hits Record As Silver Market Tears In Two (ZH)
Papering Over the Rot (Chris Hedges)
How To Redesign COVID Vaccines So They Protect Against Variants (Nature)
COVID19 Vaccine Developers Ask SEC to Help Keep Price Setting Secret (DP)
The Brazil Variant Is Exposing the World’s Vulnerability (Atl.)
Fauci 180º: Double Masking For Covid-19 Doesn’t ‘Make A Difference’ (JTN)
Oversight Board Reverses Facebook Removal Of HCQ Post (JTN)
The Game is On (Jim Kunstler)
Figures Tied To Past Controversies Increasingly Land Jobs On Team Biden (JTN)
Why You Haven’t Seen A Sit-Down Biden Interview Yet (Pol.)
Hundreds Deported Under Biden, Including Witness To Massacre (AP)
Biden Considers Revoking Trump’s Rights To Be Briefed On Secrets (DM)
Kerry Gifts Wall Street the Green New Deal (Pettifor)
Twitter Suspends Account of Group That Called For Regulating Big Tech (JTN)

 

 

 

 

“Back in Washington, they’ve found a company to crucify who turned out to be even bigger hypocrites than they are. Quite the bi-partisan cause!”

Is Robinhood The Devil in Sheep’s Clothing? (Neville)

Robinhood fancies themselves as commission free trading which is giving normal people free access to the stock market. They are the Facebook of the financial world. You think it’s free, but your data ends up being sold to another big business who profits off of it more than you do. For Zuckerberg, he sells all your data to businesses across the world. For Robinhood, they sell your data to Ken Griffin and other High Frequency Trading shops. You could write a book on the nuances of it, but let’s leave it there for now. As Facebook and (anti)social media grew too large, it has created mass hysterias. Neuroscientist and philosopher, Sam Harris, speaks on his podcast about humans losing sense of their rationality. Because of the constant propaganda being thrown on social media, humans are having a hard time deciphering truths and often create false realities.

Humans end up giving their attention to the most extreme personalities (watch the Tekashi69 Documentary on HBO) and the values of balance and a middle class lifestyle go out the door. In the same way that Facebook has distorted human perception, Robinhood is doing this to capital markets, which might be even scarier. If no one knows the value of things, then how do we attempt to live in a civilized society and trade value for value? Stan Druckenmiller has said that there should be some sort of hurdle rate for investment into the market. Perhaps this is what he saw coming? One of the words that I am shorting over the next five years is ‘scale’. One of the words that will likely replace it is ‘balance’. With balance, you get real growth and real innovation. You accept the fact you are human and fallible while constantly trying to learn from your failures. With scale, you just want to control things as fast as you can at the expense of the herd.

I worked as a trader for 12 years before tapping out and realizing my job was getting eaten alive by algorithms & high-frequency-trading. I tried to out-hustle it, but the incentive to make things cheaper for the end consumer to buy stocks inevitably won. As a free market capitalist, I have to give passive investment, HFT & Robinhood some major props. What they did was brilliant, but I can’t help but ask myself whether we’ve sacrificed social stability in that pursuit of scale. Behind closed doors, I know they are concerned and they can’t unwind what they’ve built. I get messages from Wall Street friends everyday now who can’t openly speak about it, but know how messed up the capital markets are.

With retail equity and call buying at all time records, liquidity could get funky if pay-for-order flow providers pull back at all. CEO’s at Schwab, TD and Virtu will likely try to distance themselves from that model. In the interim, Robinhood will likely do a nice round of mea-culpas with the best PR firms on the market and apologize to everyone about the GameStop situation. The big VC’s on Robinhood’s cap table who are obsessed with scale will make their calls into Washington. Back in Washington, they’ve found a company to crucify who turned out to be even bigger hypocrites than they are. Quite the bi-partisan cause!

Read more …

What will be the new normal? Can’t imagine it will be like the old one.

Physical Premium To Paper Hits Record As Silver Market Tears In Two (ZH)

APMEX Statement On Current Market Conditions:

In the last week, we have seen a dramatic shift in Silver demand from our customers. For example, the ratio of ounces sold per day was running about two times earlier in the week and closer to four times the average demand by the end of the week. Once markets closed on Friday, we saw demand hit as much as six times a typical business day and more than 12 times a normal weekend day. Combined with the extremely high demand levels, we are also seeing a surge in new customers. On Saturday alone, we added as many new customers as we usually add in a week.

Any Precious Metal dealer will take a long position in the futures market to protect against spot price exposure when the markets open. We do this because it is our goal not to take a speculative position on metal. The weekends are unique as we are not able to real-time hedge our position. We took an aggressive position this weekend, but clearly could not have predicted the volumes that were seen. We have partnerships around to world that allowed us to cover these long positions, but only to a point. Once we exceeded our comfort levels, we had little choice but to stop the sale of Silver on our website. This was a difficult decision to make and unprecedented in our history.

As we evaluate the markets, it is difficult to know where Silver’s price and demand will go in the coming day and weeks. APMEX is highly capitalized and has more than $150 million in inventory to support demand. We have made strategic decisions to procure additional metal, locking up any metal we can find in the market place. We suspect premiums will rise and rise quickly, as we are seeing significant increases in our costs, when we can even locate the metal. It is also highly likely that we will need an additional day or two to fill orders based on current order counts. The one guarantee we can make to our customers is that you will only be sold metal that is on-site, or we have procured the metal with a firm commitment date from our partners. In markets like this, we feel this is the best approach a retailer can take, as no one can predict product availability.

Read more …

“The new wealth comes from a cartel capitalism far more concentrated and far more criminal than any of the cartels built by the old robber barons of the 19th century.”

Papering Over the Rot (Chris Hedges)

The death spiral of the American Empire will not be halted with civility. It will not be halted with the 42 executive orders signed by President Joe Biden, however welcome many are, especially since they can, with a new chief executive, be immediately revoked. It will not be halted by removing Donald Trump, and the crackpot conspiracy theorists, Christian fascists and racists who support him, from social media. It will not be halted by locking up the Proud Boys and the clueless protestors who stormed the Congress on Jan. 6. and took selfies in Vice President Mike Pence’s Senate chair. It will not be halted by restoring the frayed alliances with our European allies or rejoining the World Health Organization or the Paris Climate Agreement.


Mr. Fish

All of these measures are window dressing, masking the root cause of the demise of America — unchecked oligarchic power and greed. The longer wealth is funneled upwards into the hands of a tiny, oligarchic cabal, who put Biden into office and whose interests he assiduously serves, we are doomed. Once an oligarchy seizes power, deforming governing institutions to exclusively serve their narrow interests and turning the citizenry into serfs, there are only two options, as Aristotle pointed out — tyranny or revolution. The staggering concentration of wealth and obscene avarice of the very rich now dwarfs the hedonism and excesses of the world’s most heinous despots and wealthiest capitalists of the past.

In 2015, shortly before he died, Forbes estimated David Rockefeller’s net worth was $3 billion. The Shah of Iran looted an estimated $1 billion from his country. Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos amassed between $5 and $10 billion. And the former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was worth about a billion. Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are each at $180 billion. The new wealth comes from a cartel capitalism far more concentrated and far more criminal than any of the cartels built by the old robber barons of the 19th century.

It was made possible by Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton who, in exchange for corporate money to fund their campaigns and later Clinton’s foundation and post-presidency opulent lifestyle, abolished the regulations that once protected the citizenry from the worst forms of monopoly exploitation. The demolishing of regulations made possible the largest upwards transference of wealth in American history. Whatever you say about Trump, he at least initiated moves to break up Facebook, Google, Amazon and the other Silicon Valley monopolists, none of which will happen under Biden, whose campaign these corporations bankrolled. And that has to be one of the reasons these digital platforms disappeared Trump from social media.

Read more …

We’re all hostages to these companies now. No-one talks about boosting your immune system, or getting fitter, natural defenses are not done.

How To Redesign COVID Vaccines So They Protect Against Variants (Nature)

Labs worldwide are racing to understand the threat that emerging coronavirus variants pose for vaccines. But early insights from these studies are mixed and incomplete. A variant identified in late 2020 in South Africa, called 501Y.V2 (also known as variant B.1.351), is among the most worrying. Lab assays have found that it carries mutations that sap the potency of virus-inactivating ‘neutralizing antibodies’ that were made by people who received either the Pfizer or Moderna RNA vaccines. Whether these changes are enough to lower the effectiveness of those vaccines is not clear, says Subbarao. “That is the million-dollar question, because we don’t know how much antibody you need.” Other immune responses that vaccines prompt might help to protect against the effects of variants.

But on 28 January, biotech firm Novavax released data from clinical trials showing that its experimental vaccine, designed to combat the original virus, was about 85% effective against a variant identified in the United Kingdom — but less than 50% effective against 501Y.V2. That drop is concerning, say researchers, because it indicates that 501Y.V2 and other variants like it can cause a significant drop in vaccines’ effectiveness. “I think it’s inevitable for the vaccines to maintain tip-top efficacy, they will need to be updated. The only question is how often and when,” says Paul Bieniasz, a virologist at the Rockefeller University in New York City who co-led one of the neutralizing-antibody studies. Scientists, health officials and vaccine makers are starting to hash this out. Researchers are only beginning to learn how different mutations alter vaccine responses and how evolutionary forces can cause mutations to spread. “I certainly wouldn’t update them now,” says Bieniasz.

One model that COVID vaccine updates could follow is that of seasonal flu vaccines, says Subbarao, who directs the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza in Melbourne. Centres including hers monitor emerging flu strains for genetic changes that might influence vaccines’ effectiveness. Researchers use studies with ferret and human antibodies to determine whether a new flu strain is likely to evade a previous season’s vaccine, and therefore necessitate an update. These reviews are conducted annually for each hemisphere’s flu season, and changes are made only when a vaccine-evading strain is widespread, says Subbarao. “If it’s localized to one region, one country, we wouldn’t change the vaccine for the whole hemisphere.”

Read more …

Drug pricing is not the scandal here.

COVID19 Vaccine Developers Ask SEC to Help Keep Price Setting Secret (DP)

When the U.S. government awarded over $10 billion in contracts and advance- purchase commitments to drug companies working on COVID-19 vaccine and treatments, it did not require the recipients of government money to agree to offer their products at fair prices or share intellectual property rights to enable faster production. Now, two of the companies awarded those contracts—Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson—are trying to prevent shareholders from voting on resolutions to require the companies to disclose information about the impact of government funding on vaccine access. The U.S. government has purchased 200 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines, for about $20 and $10 per dose, respectively.

The shareholder resolutions, filed by members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a shareholder activism organization, ask those two companies to inform their shareholders how “receipt of public financial support for development and manufacture of products for COVID-19 is being, or will be, taken into account when making decisions that affect access to such products, such as setting prices.” Similar resolutions were also filed at Eli Lilly, Gilead, Merck, and Regeneron. Both Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson filed “no action requests” with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in December, asking the agency to rule that the companies can withhold the proposals from shareholders.

In nearly identical filings prepared by the same lawyer, both Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson argued that the proposals attempt to “micromanage” the companies “by requesting an intricately detailed report.” Meg Jones-Monteiro, ICCR’s health equity director, called the micromanaging claim “ludicrous.” The claim that investors are trying to “micromanage” the companies comes from an SEC precedent finding that certain “ordinary business operations” should not be subject to shareholder oversight. But Jones-Monteiro argues that the issue of vaccine pricing during pandemics doesn’t fall into this category.

“Anything related to drug pricing has been established as a social policy issue,” Jones-Monteiro told The Daily Poster, meaning it isn’t just ordinary business that doesn’t need any shareholder oversight. She noted that the proposals don’t ask about ordinary pricing decisions or ask for intricate details about pricing algorithms. “We are asking very generally: did you take government funding into account? And how did you take it into account?” Oxfam, an ICCR member who filed the proposed resolution with Johnson & Johnson, wrote in a supporting statement that “JNJ stated publicly that it will distribute a COVID-19 vaccine on a “nonprofit” basis,” adding: “JNJ has not clarified what ‘nonprofit’ means when the government funds a significant portion of the research and development cost.”

Read more …

Pretty bad.

The Brazil Variant Is Exposing the World’s Vulnerability (Atl.)

Even in a year of horrendous suffering, what is unfolding in Brazil stands out. In the rainforest city of Manaus, home to 2 million people, bodies are reportedly being dropped into mass graves as quickly as they can be dug. Hospitals have run out of oxygen, and people with potentially treatable cases of COVID-19 are dying of asphyxia. This nature and scale of mortality have not been seen since the first months of the pandemic. This is happening in a very unlikely place. Manaus saw a devastating outbreak last April that similarly overwhelmed systems, infecting the majority of the city. Because the morbidity was so ubiquitous, many scientists believed the population had since developed a high level of immunity that would preclude another devastating wave of infection.

On the whole, Brazil has already reported the second-highest death toll in the world (though half that of the United States). As the country headed into summer, the worst was thought to be behind it. Data seemed to support the idea that herd immunity in Manaus was near. In Science this month, researchers mapped the virus’s takeover last year: In April, blood tests found that 4.8 percent of the city’s population had antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. By June, the number was up to 52.5 percent. Since people who get infected do not always test positive for antibodies, the researchers estimated that by June about two-thirds of the city had been infected. By November, the estimate was about 76 percent. In The Lancet this week, a team of Brazilian researchers noted that even if these estimates were off by a large margin, infection on this scale “should confer important population immunity to avoid a larger outbreak.”

Indeed, it seemed to. The city was able to largely reopen and remain open throughout its winter with low levels of COVID-19 cases. Yet now, the nightmare scenario is happening a second time. The situation defies expert expectations about how immunity would help protect the hardest-hit populations. By estimates of leading infectious-disease specialists, such as Anthony Fauci, when roughly 70 to 75 percent of the population is immune, there can still be clusters of cases, but sustaining a large-scale outbreak becomes mathematically impossible. Still somehow, according to The Washington Post, hospitals in Manaus that had thought they were well prepared are now overwhelmed.

Read more …

What a clown.

Fauci 180º: Double Masking For Covid-19 Doesn’t ‘Make A Difference’ (JTN)

First he said don’t wear a mask. Then he said wear a mask. Then he said wear two masks. Then he said just wear one mask. Keeping up with Dr. Anthony Fauci’s mask-wearing recommendations is getting tough. Back in March, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was emerging, Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, said, “There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask.” “When you’re in the middle of an outbreak, wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better and it might even block a droplet, but it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is,” the doctor said on CBS News. Of course, we didn’t know much back then, and how to slow the spread has since evolved.

Soon after Fauci made his comments, experts – including those in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention – said Americans should wear masks, citing estimates that 40% or more of those infected were asymptomatic but could still spread the virus. “We were not aware that 40% to 45% of people were asymptomatic, nor were we aware that a substantial proportion of people who get infected get infected from people who are without symptoms. That makes it overwhelmingly important for everyone to wear a mask,” Fauci said in September, noting that “the data now are very, very clear.”

Fauci, an immunologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who served on President Trump’s White House Coronavirus Task Force and is now President Biden’s chief medical adviser on COVID-19, said last month that wearing two masks is likely more effective than wearing one. “If you have a physical covering with one layer, you put another layer on it, just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective,” Fauci told NBC News. Then over the weekend, Fauci said: “There are many people who feel, you know, if you want to have an extra little bit of protection, maybe I should put two masks on. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s no data that indicates that that is going to make a difference and that’s the reason why the CDC has not changed the recommendation.”

Read more …

HCQ research has been dead since April, thanks to the Lancet. That’s also when the vaccine trials started.

Oversight Board Reverses Facebook Removal Of HCQ Post (JTN)

Facebook’s independent Oversight Board has reversed the social media platform’s decision to remove an October 2020 post pertaining to the drug hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of COVID-19. “In October 2020, a user posted a video and accompanying text in French in a public Facebook group related to COVID-19,” the board explained on its website. “The post alleged a scandal at the Agence Nationale de Sécurité du Médicament (the French agency responsible for regulating health products), which refused to authorize hydroxychloroquine combined with azithromycin for use against COVID-19, but authorized and promoted remdesivir. The user criticized the lack of a health strategy in France and stated that “[Didier] Raoult’s cure” is being used elsewhere to save lives.

“The user’s post also questioned what society had to lose by allowing doctors to prescribe in an emergency a “harmless drug” when the first symptoms of COVID-19 appear.” While the person’s post pushed back against a government policy, it did not urge people to obtain or take medicine without a prescription, the board noted. “[The] user was opposing a governmental policy and aimed to change that policy,” the board said in explaining its ruling. “The combination of medicines that the post claims constitute a cure are not available without a prescription in France and the content does not encourage people to buy or take drugs without a prescription. Considering these and other contextual factors, the Board noted that Facebook had not demonstrated the post would rise to the level of imminent harm, as required by its own rule in the Community Standards.”

Facebook also failed to show why it did not opt for a less severe remedy than removing the post from the platform, the panel found. “Given that Facebook has a range of tools to deal with misinformation, such as providing users with additional context, the company failed to demonstrate why it did not choose a less intrusive option than removing the content,” the board explained. The board also determined that the social media giant’s misinformation and imminent harm rule is too vague and recommended that the platform consolidate and clarify its standards on health misinformation in one place.

“The Board also found Facebook’s misinformation and imminent harm rule, which this post is said to have violated, to be inappropriately vague and inconsistent with international human rights standards,” the panel said. “A patchwork of policies found on different parts of Facebook’s website make it difficult for users to understand what content is prohibited. Changes to Facebook’s COVID-19 policies announced in the company’s Newsroom have not always been reflected in its Community Standards, while some of these changes even appear to contradict them.”

Read more …

“It looks like they mean bidness.”

The Game is On (Jim Kunstler)

It’s been fifty years since precious metals enjoyed any official peg with the US dollar, but for five thousand years previously gold and silver were money itself and paper currencies became mere representations of that money. That relationship ended in 1971 when President Nixon closed the “window” that allowed foreign countries to redeem gold in exchange for dollars they accumulated from the commercial trade of goods — and, our dollar being the world’s supreme reserve currency, the rest of the world’s currencies followed.

Despite all efforts since then by banking authorities to denigrate the value and the role of gold and silver in financial affairs, the “barbarous relics” retained a persistent influence in men’s minds because of their intrinsic qualities. These were: the vested energy they represented from mining and refining, their physical durability, portability, and divisibility, their freedom from counterparty obligations, and, especially in modern times, their vital usefulness in electronics and other industrial applications. The latter quality is greatly reinforced by the powerful wish to transition from a fossil fuel economy to an alt-energy economy of solar cells and wind turbines — a wish that probably won’t come true.

And so, as promised by the subreddit vigilantes, the silver price was up around $3 or ten percent in overnight trading going into the week’s Monday open. It looks like they mean bidness. And that could mean many things. The most obvious is a very conscious effort to punish the high hats of Wall Street for years of lawless game-playing that made them ultra-rich and left everybody else in the country impoverished. Some of the vigilantes frankly express the desire to wreck the degenerate banking system altogether, a great purge of evil to restore something like God-fearing accountability, moving toward a fresh and honest re-start of markets and banking. I’m not convinced that we would get any such orderly re-start in the sense that global banking could be reconstructed along pre-2020 lines.

Rather, wrecking the banks in a daisy-chain of shattered obligations would be an express ticket to the Palookaville of neo-medievalism I’ve been warning about, and probably in a sharp, disorderly, violent, and deadly episode of losing everything that has made us civilized. In any case, the country has already prepped itself for some kind of spectacular failure with all the social mind-fuckery of the past four years that eventuated with the empty shell of Joe Biden in the White House, and millions of his supporters swept into an epic hysteria of manufactured moral outrage over pseudo-realities initiated by academic racketeers and then weaponized by our politicians. But the game is on, whether you like it or not. This may be a last opportunity to get your minds right before you lose your country and your future.

Read more …

There are hundreds of them.

Figures Tied To Past Controversies Increasingly Land Jobs On Team Biden (JTN)

Jake Sullivan was one of the most prolific users of Hillary Clinton’s forbidden email server. Now he’s Joe Biden’s national security adviser. Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland previously had ties to Christopher Steele in the Russia scandal. White House domestic adviser Susan Rice once falsely declared the Benghazi terror attack was provoked by an anti-Muslim video and later wrote the famously curious did-it-by-the-books email in the Russia scandal during her last minutes in he Obama administration. And top Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement official Melissa Hodgman is married to Peter Strzok, the fired FBI agent who supervised the discredited Crossfire Hurricane probe into Russia-Trump collusion. As Biden fills out his team, the list of people tied to past scandals and controversy keeps getting bigger.


And the pattern has some prominent Republicans taking note. “If you look at the larger picture, the Russia hoaxers, the people that were pushing this out from the very beginning and lying about it after the fact, they’re all at the top echelons of the Biden administration,” former House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said Sunday. During an appearance on Fox News’ Sunday show hosted by Maria Bartiromo, Nunes took issue with Hodgman’s appointment as acting chief of the SEC enforcement division, saying while she “could be a great public servant,” it created the appearance of a Democratic payback to her husband for pursuing Trump. “Looks like Peter Strozk is actually going to get reimbursed for all of his troubles,” Nunes said. “The guy lost his job, but nothing’s happened to him at this point.”

Read more …

Incompetence as a strategic move.

Why You Haven’t Seen A Sit-Down Biden Interview Yet (Pol.)

Joe Biden waited nearly four decades to become the most powerful man in the free world. Now that he is, he’s making himself scarce. Biden is leaning on doctors and health experts to publicly detail his Covid policy. He’s relying on his Cabinet, economic advisers and other high-ranking administration officials to help sell his nearly $2 trillion rescue package. Biden’s press team, meanwhile, is standing in for their boss by blanketing TV programs with pledges to tell the truth even when it’s inconvenient. It’s one of the more arresting shifts after four years of a president who delighted in torturing the media with sudden pronouncements that often surprised and befuddled his own advisers.

“He trusts them, and Americans will trust experts,” John Anzalone, a top Biden adviser and campaign pollster, said of the president’s approach to his team. “Plus,” he added, “Biden is dealing with multiple crises and is a good delegator.” White House aides describe the strategy not so much as delegation but as an concerted effort to restore confidence with a public battered by the contradictory messaging and scorched-earth politics of the Trump years. In just over a week, the White House has booked 80 TV and radio interviews with 20 senior administration officials, members of the Covid-19 response team and Cabinet secretary designates. They’ve had officials on each major network, booking them on every Sunday show in the first week.

And they worked with CNN to have three of the doctors in charge of its Covid-19 response take questions from the public during a coronavirus town hall, said Mariel Sáez, the White House director of broadcast media. Who’s not been booked for any sit-down interviews: Biden. But the president hasn’t exactly been absent either. He appeared for brief ceremonies where he signed executive orders and delivered mostly scripted remarks. He’s taken a handful of questions from the news media. And he’s expected to give a major foreign policy address on Monday amid a planned trip to the State Department, his first visit to a Cabinet agency.

As main protagonists go, Biden’s role has been comparatively limited — a startling contrast to the omnipresent president who preceded him. Donald Trump didn’t so much love the spotlight as he sought to totally consume it. Whether he was sending Twitter screeds at all hours or shouting answers over the ear-splitting blades of his presidential aircraft, Trump craved media attention like no American leader before him.

Read more …

Who built the cages?

Hundreds Deported Under Biden, Including Witness To Massacre (AP)

President Joe Biden’s administration has deported hundreds of immigrants in its early days despite his campaign pledge to stop removing most people in the U.S. illegally at the beginning of his term. A federal judge last week ordered the Biden administration not to enforce a 100-day moratorium on deportations, but the ruling did not require the government to schedule them. In recent days, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has deported immigrants to at least three countries: 15 people to Jamaica on Thursday and 269 people to Guatemala and Honduras on Friday. More deportation flights were scheduled Monday.

It’s unclear how many of those people are considered national security or public safety threats or had recently crossed the border illegally, the priority under new guidance that the Department of Homeland Security issued to enforcement agencies and that took effect Monday. Some of the people put on the flights may have been expelled — which is a quicker process than deportation — under a public health order that former President Donald Trump invoked during the coronavirus pandemic and that Biden has kept in place. In the border city of El Paso, Texas, immigration authorities on Friday deported a woman who witnessed the 2019 massacre at a Walmart that left 22 people dead.

She had agreed to be a witness against the gunman and has met with the local district attorney’s office, according to her lawyers. Rosa was pulled over Wednesday for a broken brake light, detained based on previous traffic warrants, then transferred to ICE, which deported her before she could reach her attorney, said Melissa Lopez, executive director of the nonprofit Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, which represents her.

Read more …

They want him off the map.

Biden Considers Revoking Trump’s Rights To Be Briefed On Secrets (DM)

The Biden administration is reviewing whether to take away the ability of former President Donald Trump to receive classified security briefings as the former president in the wake of the Capitol riot.White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki punted on the question when asked about a topic that also came up during the transition – but also confirmed Monday the administration was reviewing the matter. ‘This is a good question,’ said Psaki. ‘It’s something that’s obviously under review.’ The review comes as Trump critics demand he be forced to relinquish some of the perks of power that follow a president even after he leaves office. Former presidents get classified briefings by tradition – although not at the very highest levels reserved for the current officeholder.

In Trump’s case, the briefings would go to a former president who failed to attend the inauguration and spent months claiming that he had ‘won.’ Trump’s statement on his impeachment legal team over the weekend referred to him as the ’45th president of the United States.’ Trump has a small staff that has been running out of Mar-a-Lago. Former presidents get a substantial office stipend, and Secret Service protection costing up to $1 million per year. Even Trump’s adult children are getting Secret Service protection for the next six months, ABC News reported this month. If the Senate were to convict Trump of ‘incitement of insurrection’ following his impeachment trial, it could also vote to strip him of his ability to hold future office. It is unclear what current perks, if any, would go away if he were convicted.

Trump caused an uproar during his 2017 meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and former ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak after it was reported he revealed highly classified information about ISIS in Syria to the U.S. adversary. He gave up highly sensitive information from a U.S. ally, reported to be Israel, that resulted in the U.S. having to extract a top-level source inside the Russian government. Trump also once tweeted out what appeared to be a classified photo of an Iranian nuclear installation. Trump said he had the power to declassify material. All that preceded the Capitol riots, which followed Trump telling his supporters to ‘fight’ on the day Congress was counting the Electoral College vote.

Read more …

“Green” has more than one meaning. It’s what the Paris accord is based on.

Kerry Gifts Wall Street the Green New Deal (Pettifor)

Last week the Biden team delivered their first press conference on the Democrat’s much-anticipated Climate Plan. The good news is that Climate Envoy, John Kerry and Advisor, Gina McCarthy are talking about the Climate Plan delivering “Good paying Union Jobs”. All hail to that ambition. The bad news is that this ain’t no Rooseveltian New Deal. Roosevelt confronted Wall St from the get go. His administration systematically drained the Street of power, and made it servant to the economy and ecosystem. Henry Morgenthau, Roosevelt’s Treasury Secretary could rightly boast: “We moved the financial capital from London and Wall Street right to my desk at the Treasury. (Rauchway, 2017, p. 227)”

John Kerry on behalf of President Biden did the reverse. With breath-taking haste he genuflected to Wall St. by paying homage to the CEO of Blackrock, and then implied the mighty United States government was dependent on Wall St titans to deliver those “Good paying Union Jobs”. Kerry began the press conference by welcoming CEO Larry Fink’s recent letter and “the new awareness among asset managers about the need to be putting resources into this endeavour.” Remember readers, that Larry Fink presides over assets valued at $8.6 trillion. Blackrock’s clients include pension funds, insurance companies, charities, endowment funds and central banks. Tucked into that basket are your pensions, your insurance, your charitable donations – and your taxpayer-backed central bank.

And just this weekend, Gillian Tett of the Financial Times reminded us, in an article titled – Wall St.’s New Mantra: Green is Good – that Blackrock “Exploded in size and power this century by amassing exchange traded funds and “passive’ strategies that automatically track mainstream indices, such as the S&P 500 – which include fossil fuels… to which Blackrock is heavily exposed…” In other words, this private company uses the world’s savings to make massive capital gains from ‘passive’ almost effortless investment strategies. Worse they use their power to accelerate the climate crisis by investing “heavily” in fossil fuels. All that is bad enough. But Blackrock is able to amass their vast, global power because economists and politicians (including ‘the Left’ of the political spectrum) have conceded that power to them.

John Kerry is our witness. After paying homage to CEO Fink, Kerry placed the United States government in the role of humble supplicant – and effectively begged Wall St. to come to the rescue of the Biden Climate Plan. He could not have addressed the Street more plainly: “What the financiers, the big banks, the asset managers, private investors, venture capital, are all discovering is that there is a lot of money to be made in the jobs to be created in these sectors…” Gina McCarthy, National Climate Advisor, drove home the point: “The question won’t be, will the private sector buy into it? The private sector is going to drive it…”

Read more …

“Twitter has silenced JCN and the 30 million small business owners it represents..”

Twitter Suspends Account of Group That Called For Regulating Big Tech (JTN)

Twitter has suspended the account of the Job Creators Network, a nonpartisan group that advocates for small businesses and policies that protect Main Street jobs. According to the group, the social media giant sent them a message late last week saying JCN had violated Twitter’s “rules against platform manipulation and spam.” Company President and CEO Alfredo Ortiz rejects that claim, saying the deplatforming effort is retaliation against JCN for implying that Twitter should be regulated as a utility. “Twitter has silenced JCN and the 30 million small business owners it represents after JCN implied that the tech giant should be regulated as a utility,” Ortiz said in a statement. “Given that JCN’s internal review demonstrates we did not violate Twitter’s terms and conditions, the tech giant’s bold move is likely pure retaliation against us for our position on tech regulations.”


Twitter on Monday did not respond immediately to several attempts to contact the company to learn why JCN, which advocates for lower taxes and progressive policies, had been removed from the site. Last month, Ortiz wrote an op-ed published by RealClearPolitics titled, “Big Tech’s Conservative Purge Changes the Free Speech Debate.” JCN Chief Communications Officer Elaine Parker on Monday told the “John Solomon Reports” podcast the op-ed argued for Washington to begin regulating social media platforms and other tech giants as utilities. “The reason behind that is because it would it would preclude them from excluding services based on political beliefs and ideology,” Parker told host John Solomon. “I mean, when when you’re getting your phone service through AT&T, they don’t care who you vote for, or who you support or what your political background is. They just want to sell you a service … right?”

Read more …

 

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, you are now not just a reader, but an integral part of the process that builds this site. Thank you for your support.

 

 

“It is my great hope someday, to see science and decision makers rediscover what the ancients have always known. Namely that our highest currency is respect.”
– Nassim Nicholas Taleb

 

 

“Strap yourself to a tree with roots.”
– Bob Dylan

 

 

This So Real

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in 2021. Click at the top of the sidebars to donate with Paypal and Patreon.