Mar 232020
 


Rembrandt van Rijn Man in Oriental Costume (The Noble Slav) 1632

 

It’s been two weeks since I last wrote an original article. That’s a long time. Then again, that article was The Virus is a Time Machine, which was – and still is, pardon the pun, deadly accurate. All my time between then and now has gone into the daily Debt Rattles, which have increasingly become almost exclusively Virus Rattles. A lot of it has been numbers, not because of the numbers themselves, but because they are what reveal the trends, the trajectory, the dynamics to us.

When I first saw in the numbers a few days ago that US cases and deaths were both up some 45% over 24 hours, that frightened me. Because it told me a story. Without the numbers, that story is not there. That is also why I think it’s absolutely no use to look at these numbers and compare them to other ones, like those of regular flu, or traffic deaths, or whatever people come up with.

The coronavirus is new, it’s very young, even in virus time. You can’t compare it to other viruses. I have this image in my mind of Arnold Schwarzenegger peering into Jesus’s manger and saying: “what’s the problem, I can take that guy”. Don Ciccio had a better idea when he chased down 9-year-old Vito Andolini at the start of Godfather II: “when he grows up, he’ll come after me”.

 

The people responsible for the corona crisis getting so out of hand where you live are your “leaders”, the same ones who are now telling you to stay home 24/7 in order to solve the crisis they caused, not you. I’m not saying that to start a revolt, because now they’re the only people standing between you and anarchy, but please stop praising them. I see so many instances of people saying their leaders looked so reassuring on TV last night etc. I get that, I get why, but they are all abject failures.

If you’re in charge of a country’s government, you have at your disposal a State Department or some equivalent, you have dozens of people following world news in depth, and you have direct access to whatever the WHO says. Put all that together and you have no excuse for sitting on your hands 2+ months only to see the situation having gone way out of hand. And it makes no difference if all your peers have been as negligent as you are, it’s your job.

Last week the Hong Kong Free Press ran an article saying that China could have cut 95% of cases if its measures to contain the outbreak had begun three weeks earlier. The same is true where you live. China screwed up royally, and so did and do your respective “leaders”.

 

 

In a way, it’s good to see that more people and more news outlets have now woken up to what’s going on, and then some lately, but it’s also weird to see so many “sources” act as if they own the topic, and invented it, who never knew what it was until like ten days ago, while the Automatic Earth have been on top of it for over 2 months. Which is why, inevitably, they, the overnight experts, get most of it wrong. Just like the governments and politicians who have all of a sudden awakened from their slumber, and are now ordering people to do whatever their “leaders” think of next.

The problem with that, with relying on coming up with things without having a solid background like the Automatic Earth could have provided them with, is the same problem that caused them, both media and political systems, to be so awfully late in the first place. I first covered that in The Party and the Virus a full 7 weeks ago.

That was back when it appeared to be all about China, but it’s just as applicable in the west. The way we select our politicians, and our media, doesn’t allow for them to risk crying wolf. They will always wait to see what their peers do, who therefore also wait. Safety first for them, but -well, obviously- not for you.

That’s what we’re looking at today. The age-old excuse of “nobody knew, and nobody could have known”, just look at my peers, look at all other PM’s and presidents and governments. There is no behavior more typical for modern day politicians, whether they’re Chinese party officials or western cabinet ministers. But it’s all BS; they could have known, and therefore should have, because it’s their job. But they were fast asleep.

Trump and Boris Johnson may be taking the denial phase to a whole new level, and Bolsonaro too, but they really only fit a pattern. And ironically even they see their popularity rise, because people are scared and seek security and solace and protection, no matter how poorly dressed up.

Saying that Donald and Boris are terrible, no matter how justified, only serves to hide the failures of all other politicians, no matter how inclined you are to believe their messages. The simple fact is they are all terrible, they were all 12 weeks or more late in their (re-)actions.

Not that they should have ordered a billion dollars in respirators at the end of December, but when the first victims died in China, and the WHO was notified, they should have taken inventory of the state of their countries’ health systems, their response systems, the whole set-up. In order to be at the helm IF disaster struck.

They never did, or not till much later. That’s why medical supplies of all applicable shapes and forms are woefully short today in Italy, and will be soon in dozens of other countries. Please stop praising these people. They all failed horribly at their jobs. Their collective failure has already caused thousands of deaths, and that may well become millions.

 

 

The WHO is praised too, but it is just as guilty of deadly neglect as all the politicians. The organization and its directors get paid large sums of money to protect the world from events exactly like this. And they did not; they are not only useless, they are harmful.

On December 30 2019, several people, among whom Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang, who died of the disease mere days later, talked on social media like WeChat about the outbreak. On December 31, Li Wenliang was called in for questioning, Wuhan health officials confirmed 27 cases of the new illness -a “pneumonia of unclear cause”-, and China, which now figured denial was no longer an option,”officially” told the WHO about the outbreak.

On January 14, the WHO said Chinese authorities had seen “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus.” On January 15, the first confirmed US case left Wuhan and arrived in the US with the virus. On January 20, 6 days after the WHO statement, top Chinese doctor Zhong Nanshan announced the virus CAN be passed between people. He would later state that the outbreak would be over by early February.

On January 21 the CDC confirmed the first coronavirus case in the United States. Then came Lunar New Year and 100s of millions of Chinese traveled to their families. By then the WHO should obviously long have sounded a big fat five alarm. They didn’t.

Instead, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus repeatedly heaped praise on China. He did this on January 28, then again on February 12, (when China still refused to let a WHO team enter the country):

On January 28, Tedros met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. Following the meeting, Tedros commended China for “setting a new standard for outbreak control” and praised the country’s top leadership for its “openness to sharing information” with the WHO and other countries.

… and many times after. On January 23, the WHO’s emergency committee couldn’t decide whether to declare a “public health emergency of international concern” (PHEIC). Tedros, who held the decisive vote, despite admitting that “this is an emergency in China.”, declined. A week later, he did declare a PHEIC. What’s much worse, along those same lines, the WHO declared a pandemic only on March 11.

 

 

Meanwhile, the US is well on its way to become the worst hit country of all. Someday we (if we survive) will look at those spring break kids on Florida’s beaches and wonder how crazy people can get. Two weeks ago when I wrote The Virus is a Time Machine, the US reported 409 cases. As we speak the tally stands at 40,841, and it will rise further before the day is done.

Please be good and safe. Follow the instructions about safe distance and stuff. In Britain, stay 2 meters away from people, in Holland, 1.5 meters. Must be the air density. But just do what they say for now. It’ll get more bizarre later, plenty time to resist and protest.

Follow those “directions” for now, but whatever you do, please never ever praise the very people who dropped the ball so humongously to cause so much suffering, only to take unprecedented control over your lives, and telling you it’s for your own good.

It’s not that they planned this all, there are too many conspiracy notions out there about that too. People have through history hugely underestimated the power of incompetence, and history rhymes so much it hurts.

Get through this thing, it won’t last forever, people will force an end to lockdowns before the summer’s over, simply because people are social animals; can’t keep us apart.

Next up: the same clowns in charge of “fixing” the economy broken by the negligence and the incompetence of, yes, the same clowns. Better start preparing right now. If you think this virus thing is bad, wait till you see what they have on offer next.

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

Mar 042020
 


DPC North approach, Pedro Miguel Lock, Panama Canal 1915

 

 

 

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

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

First cases in last 48 hours:

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

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

 

 

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

 

From SCMP:

 

 

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

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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


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

 

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

Much of that industry is set to go under.

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

Market Mayhem Exposes Fears About Oil Companies (CNN)

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

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

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

Read more …

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

China’s Funding Breakdown Emphasises Economic Imbalances (SCMP)

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

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

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

Read more …

Is this a veiled attack on WikiLeaks?

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

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


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

Read more …

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

Court: Clinton Must Testify On Email Scandal (Turley)

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

Very true. No authenticity left in the DNC.

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

Read more …

No link to Idlib. Just human pawns.

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

Hopeless?!

Planet Plastic (Rolling Stone)

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

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

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

Read more …

 

 

 

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Feb 292020
 


Harris&Ewing National Emergency War Garden Commission display, Wash. DC 1918

 

China Reports Catastrophic Data: PMIs Crash To Record Lows (ZH)
New York Scrambles To Replace US Government’s Faulty Coronavirus Test Kits (R.)
US Sanctions on Iran Helped Coronavirus Spread Undetected (NI)
Chinese Lab That First Shared Virus Genome Closed For ‘Rectification’ (SCMP)
Australia Defied WHO On Coronavirus (SMH)
Israeli Scientists Claim To Be Weeks Away From Coronavirus Vaccine (NYPost)
A Big Coronavirus Mystery: What About The Children? (Harvard)
China Will Meet US Trade Deal Ag Demands, But May Invoke Force Majeure (SCMP)
China’s Consumers Will Not Rescue Economy When Outbreak Is Over (SCMP)
Southeast Asian Supply Chains Feel The Squeeze From Covid-19 (SCMP)
No More Kid Gloves (K.)
Barr Is Wrong On FISA Reforms (Turley)
The Public Doesn’t Really Decide The Nominee (Turley)
The Only Questions That Should Matter In The Assange Extradition Battle (SMH)
Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day Four (Craig Murray)

 

Numbers are rising very fast in South Korea, Iran and Italy. Total cases were up 841, 621, 901, 1,190, 1,314 in the past few days. Today: 1,950.

Major batch of new cases expected today from South Korea due to intensified testing.

 

Cases 85,683 (+ 1,950 from yesterday’s 83,733)

Deaths 2,933 (+ 73 from yesterday’s 2,860)

 

• South Korea 813 new cases, total 3.150, 16 deaths, one case of reinfection
• Italy 896 (yesterday 653) cases, 21 deaths
• Iran 593 (yesterday 245) cases, 26 deaths
• Japan 241 (+705 Diamond Princess)
• China 427 new cases and 47 new deaths, total 2,835
• UK 20 cases, first death is Diamond Princess’s 6th death
• Germany 60 cases
• US 66 cases
• France cases 57 from 38 yesterday
• First case: Israel (3 cases), Mexico, Iceland, Azerbaijan, Wales, Belarus, Estonia

 

Trump names Pence, Kudlow, Mnuchin, aka an economic team, to face the crisis. China tries something similar by talking about what happens when the outbreak is over.

 

From SCMP:

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Xi’s biggest worry.

China Reports Catastrophic Data: PMIs Crash To Record Lows (ZH)

[..] it turns out that Nomura’s dire forecast was optimistic, because moments ago China’s National Statistics Bureau reported the latest, February PMIs and they were absolutely catastrophic: Manufacturing PMI crashed to 35.7 in Feb, far below the 45.0 consensus estimate, and sharply down from 50.0 in January. A record low. Non-Manufacturing PMI plummets to 28.9, also far below the 50.5 consensus, estimate, and down nearly 50% from the 54.1 in Jan. This too was a record low. Putting these numbers in context, they are far, far worse than the prints for both series reported during the financial crisis, when the mfg PMI dropped to “only” 38.8, while the non-manufacturing PMI never even contracted.

What is even more ominous is that while China’s non-mfg PMI has traditionally been stronger, in February not only did it collapse into deep contraction, but it plunged to 5 points below where the manufacturing sector currently finds itself, a catastrophic 20-handle. This means that China’s service industries, long seen as the guiding light to China’s successful transition away from a manufacturing-led economy, is now devastated. Commenting on the unprecedented number, Bloomberg’s China economist Tom Orlik said that “the first credible gauge of how China’s economy is fairing under virus lock down – the official PMI – is pointing to a brutal drop into contraction.” Well, no: anyone who read our recent series analyzing “high-frequency”, real-time Chinese data already was already aware of the catastrophic collapse in China’s economy.

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Because the testing issue was’t confusing enough yet.

New York Scrambles To Replace US Government’s Faulty Coronavirus Test Kits (R.)

New York health officials are trying to get their own coronavirus testing kits up and running after getting stuck with faulty tests from the federal government that they said left them unable to diagnose people quickly in the nation’s most populous city. New York state’s Department of Health filed an emergency application on Friday with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be allowed to use a testing kit for the new coronavirus it has developed in-state, according to an official involved in the process. “Upon FDA approval, which we believe is imminent, New York State’s public health laboratory, the Wadsworth Center, can immediately begin testing,” Jonah Bruno, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Health, wrote in an email.

Public health officials say the ability to test locally and get results within hours will be critical to a rapid response to the fast-spreading virus that originated in China, causing a sometimes fatal respiratory illness, and has spread to 46 countries. The weeks-long struggle to expand local testing has been criticized as an early misstep in the response by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to the outbreak. Three weeks ago, the FDA gave the green light for state and local labs to start using a testing kit developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But most labs that received the kits complained they had faulty components and produced inconclusive results, which the CDC later acknowledged.

[..] The CDC kits were meant to work by comparing a sample swabbed from a patient’s nose or mouth against three distinctive stretches of the virus’ genetic material, which are in small tubes labeled N1, N2 and N3. Most labs only had issues with the kit’s third component, N3. After reviewing their data, the FDA and CDC told labs this week that the tests would work fine if they only looked for the N1 and N2 bits of the virus, ignoring the faulty N3 component. But in New York, both the state lab and the New York City lab said that in their kits the N1 component was also flawed, and that the workaround proposed by the CDC and FDA was of no use.

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US sanctions kept Iran from buying the same faulty test kits that New York is using?!

US Sanctions on Iran Helped Coronavirus Spread Undetected (NI)

The Trump administration is partially reversing course on economic sanctions that have slowed down Iran from importing coronavirus test kits as the country faces down the most deadly COVID-19 outbreak outside of East Asia. Iranian authorities have confirmed 388 cases of the new coronavirus disease as of Friday afternoon. U.S. sanctions, the Iranian government’s record of dishonesty, and the elusive nature of the virus itself have made it difficult to understand the true extent of the epidemic. The U.S. Treasury announced on Thursday morning that it was lifting some terrorism-related sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, which re-opens a channel for humanitarian trade that had been closed since September 2019. The announcement does not lift the restrictions on humanitarian trade with other Iranian banks under terrorism-related sanctions.

Iran’s healthcare sector has blamed the banking sanctions for a lack of testing equipment to diagnose COVID-19. Thirty-four people have reportedly died from the virus in Iran, suggesting a large number of undiagnosed cases of COVID-19, which scientists believe has a two percent mortality rate. In fact, independent researchers estimate that eighteen thousand Iranians may have been infected already. “Several international companies are ready to ship the coronavirus diagnosis kit to Iran, but we cannot pay them,” said Ramin Fallah, vice president of the Iranian Union of Importers of Medical Equipment, in a Monday interview with Iranian media. “They also insist that the money should only be sent through banks. Although there are ways to get around [sanctions], it is time-consuming.”

[..] Iranian authorities have not inspired confidence in their current ability to deal with the outbreak transparently, either. [..] Officials have downplayed the extent of the outbreak even as the virus spreads within the government itself. Member of Parliament Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani claimed on Monday that fifty people had died in his home district of Qom alone, but Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi denied accusations of a coverup. On Tuesday, Harirchi announced that he had contracted COVID-19. Another lawmaker, Mahmoud Sadeghi, tested positive for the virus the same day. But President Hassan Rouhani continued to claim that the viral panic was worse than the virus itself, denouncing “foreign propaganda,” refusing to quarantine cities, and promising a return to normalcy.

By Wednesday, the tone in the Rouhani administration turned to panic as cabinet member Ma’soumeh Ebtekar was diagnosed with COVID-19 and retired Amb. Hadi Khosrowshahi suddenly died of the disease. The government proceeded to ban Chinese nationals from entering the country, canceled flights to India, halted religious pilgrimage groups, and canceled Friday prayers in major cities. Presidential advisor Hesameddin Ashena called for “taking the situation seriously” and “not politicizing the issue.”

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The Party was not amused.

Chinese Lab That First Shared Virus Genome Closed For ‘Rectification’ (SCMP)

The Shanghai laboratory where researchers published the world’s first genome sequence of the deadly coronavirus that causes Covid-19 has been shut down. The laboratory at the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre was ordered to close for “rectification” on January 12, a day after Professor Zhang Yongzhen’s team published the genome sequence on open platforms. It closed temporarily the following day. The release of the data helped researchers develop test kits for the virus. “The centre was not given any specific reasons why the laboratory was closed for rectification. [We have submitted] four reports [asking for permission] to reopen but we have not received any replies,” a source with the centre said, requesting anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

“The closure has greatly affected the scientists and their research when they should be racing against the clock to find the means to help put the novel coronavirus outbreak under control,” the source said. The laboratory is a Level 3 biosafety facility, the second-highest level, and passed an annual inspection by the China National Accreditation Service for Conformity Assessment on January 5. It also obtained the required credentials to conduct research on the coronavirus on January 24. It was not clear whether the closure was related to the publishing of the sequencing data before the authorities. China’s National Health Commission announced hours after the release by Zhang’s team that it would share the genome sequence with the World Health Organisation. It later emerged that the information had been sent through the officially designated Wuhan Institute of Virology.

[..] Zhang’s team isolated and finished the genome sequence of the then-unknown virus on January 5, two days before China’s official announcement that mysterious pneumonia cases in Wuhan were caused by a hitherto unknown coronavirus.
The Shanghai centre reported its discovery to the National Health Commission on the same day and recommended “relevant prevention and control measures” be taken in public places, because the patient from whom the sample was collected had suffered very severe symptoms and the virus resembled a group previously found in bats. The team made the finding public on January 11 after it saw that the authorities had taken no obvious action to warn the public about the coronavirus.

The findings by Zhang’s team were published in the scientific journal Nature on February 3. The research said the virus sample was collected from a patient who showed symptoms of fever, dizziness and coughing and was admitted to a Wuhan hospital on December 26. The Shanghai centre has a long-term cooperation relationship with Wuhan Central Hospital. The patient was identified as a 41-year-old male vendor who worked at the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market in Wuhan, which was believed to be a key link of infections at the early stage of the outbreak. The lab’s closure not only affected Zhang’s research but also studies by other scientists since it is an open facility, according to another researcher with knowledge of the matter.

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“Australia’s group of state and federal medical officers, convening daily, usually by phone hook-up, is the peak point of the pure medical advice, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC). No politicians sit in on their meetings.

Australia Defied WHO On Coronavirus (SMH)

Countries have shut down some of the institutions they hold dearest. Japan has closed all schools. Saudi Arabia has halted pilgrimages to Mecca. And the Chinese government has postponed indefinitely its two big annual political assemblies. Australia’s group of state and federal medical officers, convening daily, usually by phone hook-up, is the peak point of the pure medical advice, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC). No politicians sit in on their meetings.

[..] The medical officers’ “pandemic” call was a big moment. For a start, they were way ahead of the UN body that is supposedly the lead global agency on international health emergencies, the Geneva-based World Health Organisation. Why were the Australians ahead of the world? For a very simple reason. They don’t trust the WHO. The information from multiple international sources is that the WHO is under intense pressure from the Chinese government, and succumbing to it. The Australian Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy, told the NSC that it was medically inexplicable that the WHO hadn’t already declared a global pandemic. It’s politics, in other words.

That’s why Australia had earlier forged ahead of the WHO in declaring the China travel ban, on February 1. It was, again, on the unanimous advice of the AHPPC. The travel ban was decided immediately after the US made the same call. Beijing instantly lashed both the US and Australia on that occasion – the Chinese Communist Party’s official mouthpiece, People’s Daily, calling it “racist”. But, of course, that decision now looks very wise, more so with each passing day. The WHO followed suit 10 days later. When Morrison announced the China travel ban four weeks ago, there were about 7000 infections disclosed by Beijing. By Thursday this week that number had ballooned to 78,000. The number of countries announcing travel bans has grown proportionately, and mostly they have acted too late.

In any case, the political manipulation of the WHO is nothing novel. It was slow to declare HIV-AIDS to be a pandemic in the 1980s because of intense political pressure. Then it was pressure from the US. Now it’s from China. Either way, the politics trumps the medical advice. So this week the AHPPC didn’t hesitate to act ahead of the Geneva-based outfit. And when the medical officers’ advice went to federal health minister, Greg Hunt, and to Morrison, they didn’t hesitate, either. Morrison convened a three-hour meeting of the National Security Committee of cabinet on Thursday morning. They discussed the unfolding evidence, reviewed the state of medical preparations, and made three key decisions.

[..] The Australian system for dealing with communicable diseases is less prone to politics. Morrison hid from the bushfires; he had no such option on the coronavirus. The Chief Medical Officer, Murphy, does not need the government’s permission to invoke the Biosecurity Act. He informed Health Minister Greg Hunt on January 20 that he was triggering the act, automatically setting in train a pre-ordained process of monitoring and advice. Hunt encouraged Murphy and the AHPPC to give the government the full, frank and unvarnished medical advice without any view to politics. And so far, Morrison and his NSC have respected the medical advice.

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One of multiple “hopeful” vaccine stories yesterday.

I said yesterday: “Note: they’re ‘adapting’ a vaccine (against an avian virus), not developing a new one”, and “Note 3: I’m not sure it’s the antibodies that do the harm nor that it’s the virus that uses them. The problem I think is a “cytokine storm”, in which the immune system causes the overproduction of immune cells (and their activating compounds – called cytokines), which then attack the host body.”

Israeli Scientists Claim To Be Weeks Away From Coronavirus Vaccine (NYPost)

Israeli researchers scrambling to develop a coronavirus vaccine say it could be ready in just three weeks – and available for use within 90 days, according to reports. The scientists at the Galilee Research Institute, known as MIGAL, are adapting its vaccine against the avian coronavirus infectious bronchitis virus, or IBV, to work for the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19, the Jerusalem Post reported. “Congratulations to MIGAL on this exciting breakthrough. I am confident that there will be further rapid progress, enabling us to provide a needed response to the grave global COVID-19 threat,” said Ofir Akunis, Israel’s minister of science and technology.

The independent research institute, which specializes in the fields of biotechnology, environmental sciences and agriculture, says on its website that its team “includes 80 PhDs and a total of 260 researchers distributed into 53 labs that are managed by seasoned senior group leaders.” Its vaccine for IBV, a bronchial illness that affects poultry, has already been proven in preclinical trials conducted at Israel’s Veterinary Institute, according to the news outlet. “Our basic concept was to develop the technology and not specifically a vaccine for this kind or that kind of virus,” said Dr. Chen Katz, MIGAL’s biotech group chief.

“The scientific framework for the vaccine is based on a new protein expression vector, which forms and secretes a chimeric soluble protein that delivers the viral antigen into mucosal tissues by self-activated endocytosis, causing the body to form antibodies against the virus,” he added.

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Children and caretakers.

A Big Coronavirus Mystery: What About The Children? (Harvard)

GAZETTE: You’ve been quoted you as saying you expect between 40 percent and 70 percent of humanity to be infected with this virus within a year. Is that still the case?

LIPSITCH: It is, but an important qualifier is that I expect 40 to 70 percent of adults to be infected. We just don’t understand whether children are getting infected at low rates or just not showing very strong symptoms. So I don’t want to make assumptions about children until we know more. That number also assumes that we don’t put in place effective, long-term countermeasures, like social distancing for months at a time which, I think, is a fair assumption. It may be that a few places like China can sustain it, but even China is beginning to let up.

GAZETTE: You mentioned children having been hit only lightly by this. What about other parts of the population? What do we know about the impact of this from a demographic standpoint?

LIPSITCH: It’s definitely the case that the older you are, the more at risk of getting infected you are and, if you get symptomatic infection, the more at risk of dying you are. Men also seem to be overrepresented among those getting severe illness. The reasons why are a really important research question. One thing that also needs to be looked at is the impact on health-care workers because they are at high risk of getting infected, and I would like to know whether they’re at higher risk of getting severe infection. Some of the anecdotal cases of young physicians dying make me wonder whether they’re exposed to a higher dose and that’s making them sicker.

[..] GAZETTE: What’s the most important unanswered question to your mind?

LIPSITCH: One of the most important unanswered questions is what role do children play in transmission? The go-to intervention in flu pandemic planning is closing schools, and that may be very effective or it may be totally ineffective. It’s a costly and disruptive thing to do, especially in the United States, because many people rely on school breakfast and lunch for nutrition. So we really need evidence that closing schools would help. We need detailed studies in households of children who are exposed to an infected person. We need to find out if the children get infected, if they shed virus, and if that virus is infectious.

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Michael Pettis tweets: “I understand that Chinese agriculture will be badly affected by Covid-19, and so I am not surprised that China will go ahead with planned agricultural imports. In fact I suspect they’ll actually increase them.”

China Will Meet US Trade Deal Ag Demands, But May Invoke Force Majeure (SCMP)

China will “definitely” honour its agricultural purchase commitments as part of its phase one trade deal signed with the United States in January, despite the coronavirus epidemic, a former senior Chinese government official said on Friday. Wei Jianguo, a former deputy minister responsible for foreign trade at the Ministry of Commerce, told a press conference organised by the government in Beijing that China was fully committed to the deal. However, the coronavirus outbreak that followed the signing of the deal in Washington may mean China has to invoke a force majeure clause in the trade deal with regard other planned purchases, “if some parts fail to happen”, Wei said, adding that Beijing will redouble its efforts to implement the deal “once the coronavirus epidemic is over”.


“China is fully able to complete the agreed amount of agricultural product imports [from the US],” Wei said, without mentioning purchases of non-agricultural products, such as manufactured goods and energy. Wei’s comments mark the first on-the-record confirmation from Beijing insiders that China has no plan to walk away from the trade deal because of the coronavirus epidemic, which has caused huge damage to its economy. It is also the latest suggestion, however, that China may look to a clause in the deal which states that both parties will enter consultations if “a natural disaster or other unforeseeable event outside the control of the parties delays a party from timely complying with its obligations”.

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How to sneakily invoke the idea that it’ll all soon be over.

China’s Consumers Will Not Rescue Economy When Outbreak Is Over (SCMP)

Around a third of Chinese consumers will not increase spending once the outbreak of coronavirus has been brought under control, a private survey has shown, challenging Beijing’s hope that consumer expenditure will quickly rebound to cover losses suffered amid the epidemic. China has repeatedly said that the impact of the coronavirus, which has infected over 78,000 people and killed over 2,700 in China alone, will be short-lived and that it is still on track to achieve its economic development goals in 2020. However, according to the online survey conducted by Rong360.com, a Beijing-based firm providing financial and credit information and products, 31.4 per cent of respondents said they would not increase consumer spending.


More importantly, nearly two thirds, or 64.4 per cent, said they would be more “restrained” in spending in the long term, while another 12.6 per cent said they would cut spending, with only 11 per cent saying they would increase expenditure. The remaining 12 per cent said they would keep their lifestyle unchanged. Spending on travel, pets, gifts and accessories would be among the first items to be cut, with around 30 per cent of the 1,000 respondents to the survey, which was conducted between February 11-17, saying they would reduce travel and entertainment. For short-term spending, 68.6 per cent of respondents said they would increase expenditure after the epidemic, especially on entertainment, cosmetics, catering, movies, massages, fitness and sportswear.

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And soon, so will Europe and America.

Southeast Asian Supply Chains Feel The Squeeze From Covid-19 (SCMP)

As countries brace themselves for the full economic impact of the virus, one country has its eye on the future. Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said the country had a two-pronged line of attack for dealing with the virus: a US$4.7 billion war chest to help companies and individuals through the economic storm, and a plan to ensure the city state would be first out of the gate towards full recovery. The plan involved having Singapore businesses re-examine their labour and material supply chains to “make sure that we’re never held to ransom by a single source or a single market”, Chan said at a meeting with business leaders on Wednesday. Singapore learned a similar lesson in 2007, when the construction sector – then reliant on Indonesia for 90 per cent of its sand – nearly came to a standstill after Indonesia banned sand exports to the republic.

With a new train line and the two integrated resorts in the works, the government released its national stockpile of sand to the market and bore 75 per cent of the price hike of sand for public projects. Since then, the government has made it mandatory for the sector to diversify its sources of sand. Chan said at the business meeting that the Singapore government wanted to delve deeper and examine where the suppliers of Singapore businesses got their raw material from. “We’re not just talking about the first layer of the supply chain, we’re even going into the second, third layer to look at where the components form that supply chain in order for us to have a really resilient supply chain for our respective businesses,” said Chan.

“If the supply chain breaks, even if it’s the smallest part, it disrupts the entire supply chain.” What is unclear is how much countries really can diversify their sourcing, given that China is the top supplier of intermediate goods for many countries. China’s size, broad-based supply chain, and infrastructure provisions made it an “unmissable market for most”, said Wiranto. Half of Vietnam’s imports come from China, Korea and Japan; almost half of Korea’s come from China, Japan and the United States; while over 20 per cent of Malaysia’s imports are from China. Raw materials aside, there is also a fear that the rapid spread of the coronavirus outside China will affect other supply chains. “Businesses might be looking at alternatives from Vietnam, but as the virus becomes more global over recent days, even supply chains which they thought are safe from interruptions could be disrupted,” said Song, the CIMB economist.

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Turkey’s actions threaten Greece. For now, neither NATO or the EU have taken Ankara’s side, but…

No More Kid Gloves (K.)

Facts on the ground change rapidly. Turkey’s President has been trapped in a huge quagmire exclusively of his own making. His embroiling Turkey in adventures abroad has turned into a boomerang. For the first time, his handling of the situation is openly questioned in Ankara itself. He seems to have no exit strategy. With his barefaced move to send crowds of migrants and refugees to the border with Greece, Erdogan has handed us a great diplomatic gift. Europeans finally understand that they have to deal with an unpredictable unreasonableness. But they are still groping for a response. Like the United States, they are afraid to “lose” Turkey, which, in turn, plays the usual haggling game with Moscow, Washington and Brussels, only this time with a strong dose of desperation.

How about Greece? The government is doing the right thing. It reminds Europe where its responsibilities lie and also shows that it will no longer be “business as usual.” National, and not political, reasons necessitate a different approach in dealing with the problem. When you face open blackmail and the open, undisguised use of the migration/refugee issue as a means to an end, you can no longer handle it with kid gloves. Some will take exception to this and recommend patience. The drama of the refugees is unspeakable, but no country should bear the burden alone. Especially a country bruised by a great crisis and which bears no responsibility for what has happened in Syria. Northern Europeans should grasp the gravity of the situation and stop facing the issue from the coziness of their sofas.

One last thing: this crisis is at its very beginning and could transmute into something else. Erdogan under pressure, including pressure from nationalists, can become even more unpredictable. A national consensus is imperative! It makes no sense to debate who is responsible for which things. The situation is critical.

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And Trump is right.

Barr Is Wrong On FISA Reforms (Turley)

Attorney General Bill Barr appears on a collision course with President Donald Trump over reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court. Civil libertarians like Sen Rand Paul (R., Tenn.) are pushing for reforms in light of the abuses uncovered from the Russian investigation. Despite my respect and friendship for Barr, he is wrong in my view and the President should push forward with the reforms. When President Trump declared “Now is our chance to fix it,” he is absolutely correct. Sen. Paul has indicated that the President is onboard with reforms, tweeing “Good talk with @realdonaldTrump yesterday and I’m pleased he is urging FISA reform NOW – and not a reauthorization of the current Patriot Act.”

I have long respected Sen. Paul’s fight for such reforms and I have been a long critic of FISA since I first went into that “court” as a young intern with the National Security Agency in the Reagan Administration. Such legislative reforms are even more pressing given the FISA court’s baffling decision to appoint a defender of the abusive use of the court as its “reformer.” Paul is pushing for limits on how the court can be used against Americans. They include modest limitations that would still allow robust surveillance, including mandatory and random audits of FISA applications by the Inspector General, ending the Call Detail Records program, mandatory disclosure of exculpatory evidence in FISA applications, and appointing amici in all “sensitive investigative matters” with access to all FISA court documents.

This includes dealing directly and honestly with the status of the controversial records program under Section 215, that gathers metadata on domestic text messages and phone calls. I am leery of efforts to again kick this can down the road with temporary extensions of existing authority. The FISA court was designed to circumvent the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of probable cause of a crime — using the term but making it little more than probable cause to suspect someone is working for a foreign power. That is why applications for surveillance are uniformly approved. The court has little real basis to deny such applications.

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Superdelegates revisited.

The Public Doesn’t Really Decide The Nominee (Turley)

As we have been discussing, establishment figures in the Democratic party and the media have been preparing to block any nomination of Bernie Sanders, including using the “superdelegates” to hand the nomination to another candidate. The New York Times reported Thursday that the Democratic establishment was preparing for open warfare over blocking Sanders, even if it shatters the unity of the party. If Sanders does not receive the necessary votes, they intend to take away the nomination even if he has the most votes in the first round. The key again are the superdelegates who are not elected in the primaries but given votes as elected officials. On MSNBC, former Obama adviser Anton J. Gunn was particularly blunt. He declared “The party decides its nominee. The public doesn’t really decide the nominee.”

In 2016, many of us objected to the concerted effect of the Democratic establishment and the Democratic National Committee to rig the primary for Hillary Clinton. Later it was revealed that the Clintons have largely taken over the DNC by taking over its debt and the DNC openly harassed and hampered Sanders at every stage. Despite this effort, Sanders came close to beating Clinton, who has never forgiven him for contesting a primary that she literally bought and paid for with the DNC. The simmering rage was still evident in Clinton’s attack on Sanders and suggestion that she might not support him if he were the nominee (a suggestion that she later took back). Well the supers are back and Sanders may again find that it is the party elite, not the voters, who determine who will be the next nominee.

The irony is that the elite hardly has an inspiring record. In 2016, every poll showed that voters did not want an establishment figure so the establishment rigged the process for the ultimate establishment figure. Clinton lost to the most unpopular Republican candidate in history. I remain convinced that Sanders could have won that election, a position recently suggested by Michael Bloomberg. Yet, the same people that gave us the Clinton nomination will be working their magic again at the Democratic Convention. What is fascinating is that the establishment would prefer to risk the election by alienating the huge young following of Sanders rather than allow Sanders to be the nominee. If they give the nomination to another establishment figures like Biden or a billionaire like Bloomberg, the establishment would enrage millions of Sanders followers who could well stay home in 2020.

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Two claims: A) that Assange’s work is not political, and B) that nothing in the law applies even if it were.

The Only Questions That Should Matter In The Assange Extradition Battle (SMH)

Murray’s account contains some astonishing observations. On day one, he says, the US prosecutor, James Lewis QC, explicitly addressed his opening remarks “not to the court but to the media”. This is unprecedented. In this address, says Murray, Lewis explicitly denied that the espionage charges against Assange also threatened mainstream media like The Guardian and The New York Times. Later under questioning from the magistrate, Murray says, Lewis changed his mind and admitted that yes, they would be affected, but this part of his remarks was not offered to the media (who might well find such assertions alarming).


On day two, Assange’s defence, Edward Fitzgerald QC, said the prosecution must prove three things: that Assange had helped Manning decode a hash key necessary to hack classified material, that Assange had solicited the material from Manning and that he had knowingly put lives at risk. There is, said Fitzgerald, no evidence on any of these counts, some of which were disproved in Manning’s court-martial. And the prosecution has admitted it cannot prove harm. But even that is not the point. No one should be arguing the substantive case here. For now, the questions are; is this a political crime? Should Assange receive a fair trial? Does anyone believe he’ll get one in Trump’s America? And do we really think, given his poor health, he would survive prison there? The answers have to be yes, yes, no and, resoundingly, no.

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The hearing resumes only in March?!

“During Lewis’s presentation, he was interrupted by Judge Baraitser precisely once. During Fitzgerald’s reply, Baraitser interjected seventeen times.”

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

Yesterday the prosecution continued its argument that the provision in the 2007 UK/US Extradition Treaty that bars extradition for political offences is a dead letter, and that Julian Assange’s objectives are not political in any event. James Lewis QC for the prosecution spoke for about an hour, and Edward Fitzgerald QC replied for the defence for about the same time. During Lewis’s presentation, he was interrupted by Judge Baraitser precisely once. During Fitzgerald’s reply, Baraitser interjected seventeen times. In the transcript, those interruptions will not look unreasonable: “Could you clarify that for me Mr Fitzgerald…” “So how do you cope with Mr Lewis’s point that…” “But surely that’s a circular argument… “But it’s not incorporated, is it?…”


All these and the other dozen interruptions were designed to appear to show the judge attempting to clarify the defence’s argument in a spirit of intellectual testing. But if you heard the tone of Baraitser’s voice, saw her body language and facial expressions, it was anything but. The false picture a transcript might give is exacerbated by the courtly Fitzgerald’s continually replying to each obvious harassment with “Thank you Madam, that is very helpful”, which again if you were there, plainly meant the opposite. But what a transcript will helpfully nevertheless show was the bully pulpit of Baraitser’s tactic in interrupting Fitzgerald again and again and again, belittling his points and very deliberately indeed preventing him from getting into the flow of his argument. The contrast in every way with her treatment of Lewis could not be more pronounced.

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Feb 142020
 
 February 14, 2020  Posted by at 10:58 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  24 Responses »


Alfred Palmer Halftrack scout car brought up to Army standards of smartness. White Motor Company, Cleveland Dec 1941

 

Beijing Lowers Coronavirus Deaths By 108 Due To “Double Counting” (ZH)
Singapore’s Biggest Daily Jump In New Coronavirus Cases Takes Tally To 58 (R.)
Foxconn Denies Reuters Reports On Factory Restart In China (ZH)
WHO Advisor Says Coronavirus May Infect Over 5 Billion People (ZH)
Senate Passes Iran War Powers Resolution Despite Trump’s Opposition (CNN)
Barr Says Trump Tweets About DOJ Cases Make It ‘Impossible To Do My Job’ (CNN)
Foreperson On Roger Stone Jury Revealed As Anti-Trump Activist (DM)
Judge Napolitano: Roger Stone Should Get New Trial (Fox)
Senate Attacks Judy Shelton For Sin Of Being Outside The Mainstream (Mises)
Why Is Bloomberg’s Long History of Egregious Sexism Getting a Pass? (GQ)
Irish MEP Calls Venezuela’s Guaido ‘Unelected Gobshite’ In EU Parliament (RT)
UK Tells 100-Year-Old Man His Parents Must Sign For Settled Status (Ind.)

 

 

I noticed late last night my time that the COVID19 death tally went from an initial 1486 all the way back to 1380. Found that very curious, thought it was an error. But woke up this morning to find they really did it. As Tyler put it at the time: “Hubei province reports 116 new coronavirus deaths and 4,823 cases, bringing the overall official count to 1,486 deaths and 65,213 confirmed. China must feel its credibility is completely shot by now, or they’d be much more careful.

As I wrote this, the numbers are (from various sources, fluid):

• Cases: 64,443 (from yesterday’s 60,108)

• Deaths: 1,383 (from yesterday’s 1,363)

• Suspected cases 10,109

• In serious/critical condition 10,227

• Recovered 6,801

• Health workers infected 1716

• Hubei deducted 1,043 older cases and 108 deaths due to double counting

• 267 new cases and 5 new deaths outside Hubei province

• First death in Japan, 15th case in US

 

 

 

 

The “double-counted” deaths can’t have anything to do with the new accounting measures that lifted the numbers of cases yesterday. So what happened? No explanation. Something Beijing cannot afford.

Beijing Lowers Coronavirus Deaths By 108 Due To “Double Counting” (ZH)

..while China “can now claim it wants to be more transparent (which is odd for a nation that is still refusing to admit the US CDC on the ground) and wants a more comprehensive definition of “infection” because it is suddenly so concerned about all those people it ordered to go back to work on Monday, it somehow also changed the definition of “death”, because at the same time as the explosion in new cases, which clearly indicates that the pandemic is now clearly out of control, the number of reported deaths in Hubei alone spiked by 242 to 1,310.”

One day later China appears to have realized just how flagrant this “mistake” – which exposed the lie which Chinese officials had used until now to avoid a panic, and reset the infection count to a sharply higher number – was, because even as Hubei reported an additional 4,823 cases as of Thursday (and the Chinese National Health Commission said this number was up 5,090 for all of China), there was some major confusion about what the actual number of deaths was. Here’s why. In its official daily update on the coronavirus epidemic on Thursday, Feb 13 – the day of the great surge in infections and deaths – the NHC reported that across all of China, there was an increase of 242 death cases in China, of which 216 in Wuhan to 1,367..

… which is bizarre, because one day later, in its latest update from Friday, Feb 14, the NHC said that while the number of deaths – which as of Thursday recall were 1,367 (see above) – increased by 121, the total number of declared deaths across China was just 1,380. In other words, somehow the jump from 1,367 deaths to 1,380 was an increase of 121 deaths!? But don’t take our word for it: here is JPMorgan’s official count of all related data as of this morning, showing that indeed, as of Feb 13 (so for Feb 12), there was a total of 1,367 deaths reported by the National Health Commission.

Is this just pro-forma, adjusted death math with Chinese characteristics? As it turns out no, because recall that while China may have reset the number of new cases sharply higher, it certainly did not mean to also send the number of deaths surging, as it would means that this had nothing to do with a change in the definition of infection, and everything to do with undercounting the number of infected and dead. So what did Beijing do?


Well, as the NHC “explained” in its Friday statement, that 242 increase in deaths officially reported on Thursday somehow also included 108 deaths that were “double counted.” There was no explanation how or why it was possible to “double count” a death. Which of course, it isn’t and what really happened is that China, having realized its glaring mistake which prompted us to mock its “data” yesterday, had to quickly cut by roughly half the surge in Thursday deaths to make the progression in the number of new deaths “smooth.” And sure enough, this is what the revised death chart looks like after the “double counting” revision: compare the chart up top of the number in new deaths before today’s “revision”, with what the death number looks like now, after the latest “data.”

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The sign suggests wearing a mask only when you’re already sick. Someone tell 500 million Chinese.

Singapore’s Biggest Daily Jump In New Coronavirus Cases Takes Tally To 58 (R.)

Singapore on Thursday reported its biggest daily jump in coronavirus cases, with eight newly infected patients bringing its total to 58, the health ministry said. All of the new patients were linked to previous cases, the ministry said. Of the 58 confirmed cases reported, 15 have recovered and been discharged from hospital while seven are in critical condition in intensive care, it added.


REUTERS/Feline Lim

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This has been a He Said She Said all week. It gets serious if false reports make shares surge, though.

Foxconn Denies Reuters Reports On Factory Restart In China (ZH)

Foxconn denied a report that it plans to resume over half its production by the end of February, as the Covid-19 outbreak worsens. The report via Reuters noted that 50% of Foxconn’s production would come back online by the end of the month, and the aim for full production for next month. This sent Apple shares to near record highs this week; however, Foxconn ruined the party and said Reuters was incorrect about plant resumptions. The statement by the world’s largest contract electronics maker was published via the Taipei stock exchange on Thursday, and first cited by Reuters. Foxconn is Apple’s main iPhone assembler in China and offered no timetable of when its factories would reopen. Foxconn received the go-ahead to reopen some plants in China this week. However, only about 10% of its workforce had returned to several plants in southern Shenzhen and central Zhengzhou on Monday.


Apple has also extended the shutdown of its retail stores across the country. Stores were supposed to open earlier this week but have now delayed until February 15. TrendForce Corp. said Apple could see a 10% decline in iPhone sales in 1Q, from 45.5 million to about 41 million units, due mostly because of factory shutdowns tied to the virus outbreak. We’ve noted, in the last several weeks, that if Foxconn factories cannot resume production by early February and have full production by the end of the month, shortages would develop for Apple iPhones and AirPods. The one sector with the most exposure to Greater China and the Asia Pacific is also the sector that has outperformed the most in recent months: Tech. This means that supply chain disruptions are about to cause one of the most significant shocks since the financial crisis.

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Second expert to say this. The media should set the proper context: this is true if no measures to contain the disease are taken.

WHO Advisor Says Coronavirus May Infect Over 5 Billion People (ZH)

In yet another sign of the World Health Organization’s about-face on the coronavirus outbreak, a top epidemiologist and advisor to the organization said Thursday that if the virus isn’t contained soon, it could infect 60% of the global population – or more than 5 billion people – echoing projections made by a Hong Kong scientist who was once labeled an alarmist despite his pioneering work in the fight against SARS. According to Bloomberg, that’s what WHO advisor Ira Longini said after finishing a study of the virus’s transmissibility. His estimates suggest that the virus could one day infect billions of people, far more than the ~60,000 or so cases as of earlier on Thursday.

If the virus truly has a mortality rate of 2% (around the low end of current estimates), at this rate, it would kill more than 100 million. Of course, if the virus manages to spread so widely, it will unequivocally prove that China’s draconian quarantines weren’t effective enough, and that the government effectively set itself up for failure when it hesitated to try and contain the outbreak after it first emerged in Wuhan late last year. In recent days, growing attention has been paid to the lack of reliable virus tests, not just in China, but in virtually all countries where the virus has spread. The difficulties in diagnosing the virus could mean we see another sudden surge of cases – but this time, it could be even larger than last night’s dump from officials in Hubei.

Even if we could find a way to reduce the virus’s ability to spread by half, it would could still wind up infecting more than 2 billion people. “Unless the transmissibility changes, surveillance and containment can only work so well,” Longini, co-director of the Center for Statistics and Quantitative Infectious Diseases at the University of Florida, said in an interview at WHO headquarters in Geneva. “Isolating cases and quarantining contacts is not going to stop this virus.”

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Excuse me, but doesn’t this give Trump exactly what he would want, a bipartisan vote against the swamp, the War Party, without him having to do the heavy lifting?!

In taking the power away from him, you also absolve him of any responsibility. And that power, BTW, is only that involving Iran. Or course Trump puts up token resistance, but…

Senate Passes Iran War Powers Resolution Despite Trump’s Opposition (CNN)

The Senate passed an Iran War Powers resolution on Thursday, a rare measure that was approved with bipartisan support despite the fact that it has been opposed by President Donald Trump and aims to rein in his ability to use military action against Iran without congressional approval. The vote was 55-45. Eight Republicans voted in favor of it: Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Todd Young of Indiana, Mike Lee of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Jerry Moran of Kansas. The President warned the Senate not to green-light the measure on Wednesday, tweeting that “it is very important for our country’s security that the United States Senate not vote for the Iran War Powers Resolution,” and adding, “If my hands were tied, Iran would have a field day.”

The White House has also issued a veto threat against it. Despite that, the resolution, chiefly authored by Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, won bipartisan support. Several Republican senators, including Lee, Paul and Collins, signed on as co-sponsors. Earlier on Thursday, potential problems threatened to derail the resolution ahead of an the final vote, with Senate Democrats warning that an amendment filed late Wednesday by GOP Sen. Tom Cotton – that Democrats described as a poison pill – could draw enough support to pass and possibly make it difficult for the underlying bipartisan War Powers Resolution to maintain majority support.

Ultimately, however, the Senate defeated the controversial amendment, clearing the way for final passage. The Senate voted to table — or kill — the amendment. The resolution “directs the President to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces for hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran or any part of its government or military, unless explicitly authorized by a declaration of war or specific authorization for use of military force against Iran.” It includes a provision stating that no part of the resolution “shall be construed to prevent the United States from defending itself from imminent attack.”

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There were calls for an investigation into Barr and Trump interfering in the Roger Stone case. Barr just reduced Trump’s role to a bunch of tweets. They’re going to investigate a bunch of tweets? And what is there about Barr to investigate when he’s just publicly put a distance between him and Trump? Or do the want to investigate the Attorney General over a decision he hasn’t even made yet?

Barr Says Trump Tweets About DOJ Cases Make It ‘Impossible To Do My Job’ (CNN)

Attorney General William Barr on Thursday rebuked President Donald Trump for publicly commenting on sensitive investigations but insisted the Justice Department had acted appropriately after an extraordinary falling out with career prosecutors who had handled the case of Roger Stone earlier this week. In an interview with ABC News, Barr provided a robust defense of the department’s rank-and-file and said Trump’s online missives made it “impossible” to do his job. “I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me,” Barr said.

“To have public statements and tweets made about the department, about people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending in the department and about judges before whom we have cases, make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors in the department that we’re doing our work with integrity,” he said. The criticism was a notable zag for Barr after days of mounting scrutiny over his role in the fraught decision to publicly disavow prosecutors who had sought a stiff punishment for Stone, a longtime friend of Trump. The President had tweeted congratulations Barr for the move, provoking protest from Democrats who demanded an investigation.

The four career attorneys who had worked on the Stone case and signed off on the original sentencing memorandum each withdrew from the case on Tuesday in an apparent protest. On Thursday, Barr said he was “a little surprised” that the prosecutors had stepped down, and told ABC News that it was “preposterous” to characterize his role in the developments this week as an intervention. He argued he had merely acted to resolve an internal department dispute. He has not spoken with the prosecutors, he added. Barr told ABC that he hoped the President would react and respect the criticism of his tweets delivered in the interview. “I hope he will react,” Barr said.

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Jurors are supposed to be vetted to make sure they’re impartial. This woman may have been selected for being the opposite. She should never have been selected.

Foreperson On Roger Stone Jury Revealed As Anti-Trump Activist (DM)

The foreperson on the jury that convicted Roger Stone has come forward, and is revealed to be a failed Democrat candidate for Congress and activist vehemently opposed to President Donald Trump. Tomeka Hart, a former Memphis City Schools Board President, came forward as the Stone jury foreperson in a Facebook post on Wednesday, voicing support for prosecutors in the case. Hart confirmed to The Daily Memphian that she wrote the Facebook post, but she declined an interview with the newspaper. Stone supporters were shocked when a review of Hart’s social media posts showed that she posted on Twitter mocking Stone’s dramatic arrest prior to being seated on the jury, and frequently denounced Trump, including calling the president and his supporters racists.

It’s unclear whether Stone’s political views and social media history were disclosed during jury selection, potentially raising questions about fairness that could impact the verdict on appeal. [..] Hart unsuccessfully ran for Congress as a Democrat in 2012, and is an activist who has participated in anti-Trump rallies and protests. Immediately, journalists and Trump supporters began scouring Hart’s social media history, finding a trove of anti-Trump sentiment. Independent journalist Mike Cernovich was the first to report on Hart’s extensive history of anti-Trump social media posts. In January 2019, Hart also re-tweeted a post by pundit Bakari Sellers mocking Stone’s arrest, and suggesting that racism was the reason conservatives were upset about the use of force in the FBI’s armed pre-dawn raid on his home.

Months later, Hart was impaneled on Stone’s jury. On the day the jury convicted him, she posted emojis of hearts and fist pumps.

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She was tweeting about the case while it was going on, and she was the lead juror. How ridiculous can it get?

Judge Napolitano: Roger Stone Should Get New Trial (Fox)

Judge Andrew Napolitano said on Thursday that former Trump adviser Roger Stone deserves a new trial in light of resurfaced tweets that indicate partisanship and “inherent bias” from a jury member against Stone. Former Memphis City Schools Board President Tomeka Hart revealed Wednesday that she was the foreperson of the jury that convicted Stone on obstruction charges last year — and soon afterward, her history of Democratic activism and a string of her anti-Trump, left-wing social media posts came to light. “[Stone is] absolutely entitled to a new trial with a member of a jury making these types of revelations about the politics involved in the decisions to prosecute him,” Napolitano told “Fox & Friends.”

Hart even posted specifically about the Stone case before she voted to convict, as she retweeted an argument mocking those who considered Stone’s dramatic arrest in a predawn raid by a federal tactical team to be excessive force. She also suggested President Trump and his supporters are racist and praised the investigation conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which ultimately led to Stone’s prosecution. Some of Hart’s posts were written as Stone’s trial was in progress. Hart, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress as a Democrat in 2012, quoted someone in an August 2017 tweet referring to Trump as a member of the KKK. In January 2019, she retweeted a post by pundit Bakari Sellers, who noted that “Roger Stone has y’all talking about reviewing use of force guidelines,” before suggesting that racism was the reason for all the attention Stone’s arrest had received from conservatives.

Napolitano said that he presided over 150 jury trials and “most were criminal.” “It is the duty of the judge to ensure that both the government and defendant get a fair trial and if the judge discovers afterward that there was a built-in inherent bias on the part of a member of a jury against the defendant, that is an automatic trigger for a new trial,” he explained.

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Can the Fed deal with diversity of opinion?

Senate Attacks Judy Shelton For Sin Of Being Outside The Mainstream (Mises)

Today the Senate Banking Committee held a hearing for President Trump’s two most recent Federal Reserve nominees. In one chair sat Christopher Waller, vice president and director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, whose dreadfully dull answers could have been the product of a bot forced to watch 1,000 hours of central bank testimony. Luckily for those watching, most of the questions were directed towards the far more intriguing – and controversial – Judy Shelton. While by no means an Austrian, Judy Shelton’s record includes public support for a modern gold standard, criticism of the Fed’s response to the financial crisis, and even compared America’s central bank to Soviet central planners.

On the topic of competing currencies, Ms. Shelton once referred to Bernard von NotHaus, a man arrested by the US government for the production of silver “Liberty Dollars”, as the “Rosa Parks of monetary policy” for his willingness to challenge the Fed. Beyond monetary policy, she cited government deposit insurance as a program that risks creating moral hazard, suggested that the US could pay off its public debts by selling off assets like the US Postal Service and Federally-held public lands, and even publicly questioned the accuracy of government inflation measures. The recounting of the Greatest Hits of Judy Shelton offered a glimpse of what it would look like to actually drain the swamp of central bankers.

Of course, all of this was sharply – and at times uncivilly – criticized by duly-elected economic midwits that sought to lecture to Ms. Shelton while desperately relying upon the prepared questions of legislative aides. Senator Richard Shelby, at one point the Chairman of the Banking Committee, was particularly appalled at the notion of nominating a Federal Reserve candidate so outside the mainstream. His grilling of Ms. Shelton included sagely pointing out that the amount of gold in the world is worth less than the American GDP, and suggested that the gold standard was a product of the days when the US was a “barter economy.” Of course, it is a reflection of the dilapidated state of modern economics that Shelby’s ignorance would make him a safer choice for the Federal Reserve than either Shelton or her friend James Grant.

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All the racism and sexism he can buy for $1650 million and counting.

Why Is Bloomberg’s Long History of Egregious Sexism Getting a Pass? (GQ)

In December 2015, employees at Everytown for Gun Safety, the gun control organization funded by Mike Bloomberg, arrived at work to find a holiday gift on their desks from their employer: the former mayor’s 1997 autobiography, Bloomberg by Bloomberg. Flipping through the book, staffers found themselves uncomfortably reading their billionaire founder’s boasts about keeping “a girlfriend in every city” and other womanizing exploits as a Wall Street up-and-comer. “A few people started immediately going through it and sending the cringe-iest parts around on email chains,” one former Everytown employee told me. “Hardly the most controversial things he’s said, but it’s still a bad look.”

Indeed, Bloomberg’s casual boasts about his sex life in his own autobiography are now some of the least problematic parts of the his candidacy for president. In recent days, the former New York City mayor’s track record on race is undergoing renewed scrutiny: Bloomberg oversaw and expanded the racist and unconstitutional “stop and frisk” program, and a newly unearthed video shows him blaming the end of a racially discriminatory housing practice known as “redlining” for the 2008 economic recession.

But it takes a telling amount of gall and cluelessness to gift a book with anecdotes about your own womanizing to employees at your gun safety non-profit in the year 2015, especially for a politician with presidential ambitions who has been vigorously denying allegations of misogyny throughout his entire career—including some 40 sex discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuits brought against him and his organizations by 64 women over the past several decades. Bloomberg’s sexism, like that of fellow New York City billionaire Donald Trump, has been prolific and well-documented, but for some reason, the stories about him don’t seem to have taken hold. He is still being embraced by the Democratic establishment as a viable option for its presidential nominee. He surged to third place in several 2020 polls this week; the DNC changed its rules to allow him to participate in the next primary debate; Nancy Pelosi said his presence in the primary is a “positive one.”

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Priceless how the speaker first has to wait for the translation in his earphone. Wonder what the translation was.

Irish MEP Calls Venezuela’s Guaido ‘Unelected Gobshite’ In EU Parliament (RT)

Irish MEP Mick Wallace has been reprimanded for referring to Venezuela’s self-declared president Juan Guaido as an “unelected gobshite” during remarks at the European Parliament. Wallace, an Independents 4 Change MEP, was speaking Wednesday about Venezuela’s ongoing political crisis and the European Parliament’s recent decision to recognize Guaido as the country’s interim president, when he slipped the insult in. Dressed in a neon green t-shirt, the clearly irate MEP said the decision was “an absolute embarrassment to anyone who has to occupy this chamber” and a “disgrace on the part of the member states of Europe” that so many of them have recognized an “unelected gobshite.”


“Gobshite” is a favorite Irish term for a less-than-competent individual. The Ireland South MEP was quickly admonished by the parliament’s vice president Rainer Wieland. “Now, you did use the word ‘gobshite’ sir, and I would reprimand you over that,” he said. Wallace wasn’t in the mood for apologies, however. He later doubled down on the comment on Twitter, saying that Guaido “is” in fact a gobshite and the parliament’s recognition of him is “outrageous.” Fellow Independents 4 Change MEP Clare Daly also tweeted in support of Wallace, saying that his remark was “probably the best contribution EVER” on Guaido at the European Parliament.

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Just another chapter in the UK morality tale, (mal-)functioning at a 1780 AD level. Fits right in with more Jamaicans being sent back in Windrush fashion.

UK Tells 100-Year-Old Man His Parents Must Sign For Settled Status (Ind.)

A 100-year-old Italian man was told his parents must confirm his identity if he wants to stay in the UK after Brexit. Giovanni Palmiero, who has lived in London since 1966, went to an advice centre in Islington, north London, to apply for settled status. But when a volunteer scanned his passport using the Home Office EU settled status app, it misinterpreted his birth year to be 2019 instead of 1919. An apparent glitch means the system does not recognise triple digit ages and misinterpreted the “19” in 1919 to be 2019. Since the app believed the great-grandfather was only a baby, it asked him to enter his father’s residency details to complete the application.


Mr Palmiero, who will turn 101 on 28 February, moved to London in 1966, before the UK joined the European Economic Community in 1973. He worked at a restaurant in Piccadilly and in a fish and chip shop until the age of 94. He has been married to his wife Lucia, 92, for 75 years and they have four children, eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren together. Their son Assuntino Palmiero said it was “like a humiliation” because his father has lived in the UK for so long. He told The Guardian: “I am not worried about him because he has got us but it’s completely unfair on old people.”

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Feb 112020
 


Mathew Brady Grand Review of the Army. Units of XX Army Corps, Army of Georgia, Pennsylvania Ave. near the Treasury, Washington, DC. May 24 1865

 

3 Wuhan Officials Summoned To Explain Failings (SCMP)
China Gets Back To Work As Death Toll Reaches 1,018 (SCMP)
China Firms Cut Staff On Virus Outbreak As Xi Vows No Large-Scale Layoffs (R.)
Senior Chinese Officials ‘Removed’ As Death Toll Hits 1,000 (BBC)
Outspoken Academic Blames Xi Jinping For ‘Catastrophe’ Sweeping China (G.)
Expert Warns Infection Could Reach 60% Of World’s Population (G.)
China Delayed Reporting The Outbreak And The WHO Is Staying Mum (Vox)
Coronavirus Exposes Fundamental Flaws In China’s Economic Growth Model (SCMP)
Coronavirus Could Have Incubation Period Of 24 Days (Ind.)
Look How Low Oil Prices Have Fallen (F.)
Coronavirus Could Trim 1 Percentage Point From China GDP Growth – Gov’t. (R.)
China Q1 Smartphone Shipments To Fall More Than 30% (CNBC)
US Charges Four Chinese Military Officers Over Equifax Hack (BBC)
Aboriginal Australians Are Not ‘Aliens’, Cannot Be Deported – High Court (G.)
‘The World Is Looking At New Hampshire’ – Bernie Sanders (R.)

 

 

First, don’t forget to read my article earlier today, Corona Cartoon Numbers, because thay may teach you a thing or two about the “official” numbers.

Those numbers for Feb 11:

• Cases 43,112 vs 40,614 yesterday. That’s up 2498

• Deaths 1,108 vs 910 yesterday. Up 108.

• Hubei provincial health commission said the province had confirmed a total of 31,728 cases with 974 deaths by the end of Monday, a fatality rate of 3.07%. More than three-quarters of the deaths have been in the provincial capital Wuhan. The commission said there were still a total of 16,687 suspected but unconfirmed cases

Bizarre news item: In January, several individuals on a Paris takeoff flight bound for Shanghai were diagnosed with the #Coronavirus— in the opposite travel direction of the outbreak epicenter.

 

 

An update of a familiar BBC graph:

 

 

And this from the Yokohama cruise ship. 439 tested, 135 positive. 32.5%.

The Holland America cruise ship Westerdam, which had gotten permission to dock in Thailand after 9 days at sea and 3 countries refusing entry, has been denied entry by Thailand at the last minute as well. There are no known carriers aboard.

 

 

 

And this guy, bless his soul, has been disappeared.:

Lawyer and citizen journalist Chen Qiushi: “I’m not even afraid of death. You think I’m afraid of the Communist Party?”

 

 

Time flies when you’re having fun with viruses. It’s already been 9 days since I explained in The Party and the Virus: “Never a bad word should be uttered about the Party, and nothing said that could embarrass it.”

The Party blames individuals, so it can escape the blame. Problem with that is that is the Party is wrong, it won’t be corrected.

3 Wuhan Officials Summoned To Explain Failings (SCMP)

A special task force reviewing prevention efforts in Wuhan, Hubei’s capital, has summoned three local officials for emergency meetings and detailed their failings in containing the outbreak. Wuhan deputy mayor Chen Xiexing and two district chiefs in the city, Lin Wenshu and Yu Song, were called in for meetings, state news agency Xinhua reported on Tuesday. Officials found to have been negligent would be held accountable, the report said. Headed by Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan, the task force was set up by the Communist Party’s Central Committee. Mainland media reported on Friday that Chen Yixin, a protégé of President Xi Jinping, had been added to the team.


China has had nearly 1,000 cluster outbreaks of the coronavirus and found that 83 per cent occurred in families, with the rest arising in hospitals, schools and shopping malls, said Wu Zunyou, chief scientist of China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, at a media briefing on Tuesday. Among the cluster cases, 86 per cent were first or second-generation transmissions – people who lived or travelled in Hubei, contracted the virus and passed it to people who were in close contact with them, such as family members or people who shared meals with them. “Occurrences of these cluster cases showed our control and treatment measures have been effective and it did not spread from small units to bigger areas of society,” Wu said.

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Let’s see your priorities. For now, “gets back to work” looks a bit much.

Do note: when Xi comes out of hiding to announce it will be a hard fight, expect trouble.

China Gets Back To Work As Death Toll Reaches 1,018 (SCMP)

Health authorities in China reported on Tuesday 108 new fatalities attributable to the novel coronavirus, bringing the national death toll to 1,018. This is the first time more than 100 people have died from the disease in a single day on the mainland. The National Health Commission also reported 2,478 new confirmed cases of the illness, bringing that total to 42,638 as of Monday. Of the new deaths, 103 were in Hubei province – the epicentre of the novel coronavirus epidemic – and five in other provinces. As millions of people in China prepare to return to work, Beijing has made clear that the reopening of businesses must not be hampered by “crude and oversimplified” restrictions.

As many as 160 million people are expected to be returning to their cities of employment over the following week, according to Xu Yahua, director of the transport services department at the Chinese ministry of transport. The coronavirus outbreak coincided with the Lunar New Year travel season, when millions of migrant workers traditionally travel to their homes to spend the holiday with their families. As part of China’s response to the outbreak, the holiday season was extended to February 18. Many local authorities – from megacities like Beijing and Shanghai to remote villages – have curbed public transport provision and restricted people from moving outside their communities during the outbreak.

Many local governments have also adopted a registration system and prior approval requirements for companies planning to resume production. Some business owners have been detained for resuming work in advance. But Beijing has now made clear these practices were not in line with the requirements and policies of the central authorities. “Such a tendency must be stopped,” said Ou Xiaoli, director of social development at the National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s top economic planning agency. “We will strictly stop restricting the production resumption in an oversimplified and crude way,” he said, at the same press conference on Tuesday.

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Anything public has lost most of their income. Whaddaya mean no lay-offs?

China Firms Cut Staff On Virus Outbreak As Xi Vows No Large-Scale Layoffs (R.)

A Chinese media company said it will lay off 500 employees due to the coronavirus outbreak, the latest among a string of firms to do so in the past two weeks as the epidemic takes a toll on small-to-medium sized businesses. Xinchao Media, which places advertisements in elevators, will cut 10% of its workforce to “ensure survival”, the company said in a post on its official WeChat account on Monday, which carried the transcript of an internal speech by CEO Zhang Jixue. “To overcome the epidemic, you have to step on the brakes, jam the cash flow, reduce costs,” Zhang said, as he noted the company’s cash reserve of 1 billion yuan ($143 million) would likely be enough for only 6-7 months in the absence of income.

The job cuts come even as President Xi Jinping said the government would prevent large-scale layoffs caused by the virus outbreak – which has killed more than a 1,000 people in mainland China and infected over 40,000. Authorities said on Tuesday they will roll out measures to stabilize jobs. But many companies are hurting from disruptions felt since late-January after local governments extended Lunar New Year holidays and urged people to stay home. Beijing’s “Karaoke King” has said it wants to terminate contracts with all its 200 employees as it shut its outlets due to the outbreak, local media reports said. The karaoke chain did not immediately return calls made by Reuters on Tuesday.

Chinese restaurant chain Xibei, which has over 360 outlets, said it was worried about wages for its roughly 20,000 workers given how the epidemic had impacted its income. “We need 156 million yuan a month to pay our workers, and if the epidemic continues, and cash flow continues to be inadequate, we will not be able to hold up for much longer,” it said on its official Weibo account. In Beijing, only 11,500 restaurants were operational mid last week, or 13% of the total, the Beijing Municipal Market Supervision Bureau said.

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Cited this last week. Individuals get the blame, so the Party does not.

Senior Chinese Officials ‘Removed’ As Death Toll Hits 1,000 (BBC)

China has “removed” several senior officials over their handling of the coronavirus outbreak – as the death toll passed 1,000. The party secretary for the Hubei Health Commission, and the head of the commission, were among those who lost their jobs. They are the most senior officials to be demoted so far. The deputy director of the local Red Cross was also removed for “dereliction of duty” over “handling of donations”. The two Hubei party officials will be replaced by a national figure – the deputy director of China’s National Health Commission, Wang Hesheng. On Monday, some 103 died in Hubei province alone, a daily record, and the national death toll is now 1,016. But the number of new infections nationally was down almost 20% from the day before, from 3,062 to 2,478.

Hubei’s health commission confirmed 2,097 new cases in the province on Monday, down from 2,618 the previous day. According to state media, there have been hundreds of sackings, investigations and warnings across Hubei and other provinces during the outbreak. But removal from a certain role – while regarded as a censure – does not always mean the person will be sacked entirely, as it can also mean demotion. As well as being removed from their posts, officials can also be punished by the ruling Communist Party. For example, the deputy head of the Red Cross, Zhang Qin, was given “a serious intra-Party warning as well as a serious administrative demerit”, state media said. Earlier this month, the deputy head of the Wuhan bureau of statistics was removed, also with a “serious intra-party warning a well as a serious administrative demerit for violating relevant regulations to distribute face masks”.

The Hubei health commission said the province had a total of 31,728 cases with 974 deaths by the end of Monday – a fatality rate of 3%.

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“..a culture of suppression and “systemic impotence”..”

Outspoken Academic Blames Xi Jinping For ‘Catastrophe’ Sweeping China (G.)

A prominent Chinese intellectual has become the first high-profile public figure to lay the blame for the coronavirus crisis at the feet of the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, saying the spread of the deadly virus has “revealed the rotten core of Chinese governance”. As the crisis expands across the country, Xu Zhangrun, a law professor from one of the country’s top universities, lambasted the government under Xi in an essay titled: Viral Alarm, When Fury Overcomes Fear. In it, Xu laid the blame for the current national crisis at the feet of Xi and a culture of suppression and “systemic impotence” that he has created. The virus has now killed more than 1,000 people inside China.

“The cause of all of this lies with The Axelrod and the cabal that surrounds him,” Xu writes, referring to Xi, according to a translation of the article by historian Geremie Barmé published on Monday by the website ChinaFile. “It is a system that turns every natural disaster into an even greater man-made catastrophe. The coronavirus epidemic has revealed the rotten core of Chinese governance; the fragile and vacuous heart of the jittering edifice of state has thereby shown up as never before.” Xu describes the outbreak as a “national calamity” that involves politics, the economy and “nation’s ethical fabric” making it “more perilous than total war itself”.

After weeks of disappearing from public view, Xi on Monday visited a neighbourhood and hospital in Beijing where he held a video call with health workers in Wuhan. Coverage of his appearance filled the front page of the official People’s Daily on Tuesday. Xu’s essay captures growing public anger at the government, which has reached a new peak after the death of a doctor and whistleblower last week. Officials have tried to blame lower-level bureaucrats, but top bosses have not escaped. On Tuesday, the party secretary of health commission of Hubei province and the director of the Hubei provincial health commission were both fired.

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Professor Gabriel Leung, around whose January 31 report I based my Feb 5 article The Big Lockdown:

Expert Warns Infection Could Reach 60% Of World’s Population (G.)

The novel coronavirus epidemic could spread to around two-thirds of the world’s population if it cannot be controlled, according to Hong Kong’s leading public health epidemiologist. His warning came after the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said recent cases of coronavirus patients who have never visited China could be the “tip of the iceberg”. Professor Gabriel Leung, chair of Public Health Medicine at Hong Kong University, said the overriding question was to figure out the size and shape of the iceberg. Most experts thought that each person infected would go on to transmit the virus to around 2.5 other people. That gave an “attack rate” of 60-80%.

“Sixty per cent of the world’s population is an awfully big number,” Leung told the Guardian in London, en route to an expert meeting at the WHO in Geneva. Even if the general fatality rate is as low as 1%, which Leung thinks is possible once milder cases are taken into account, the death toll would be massive. He will tell the WHO expert meeting that the main issue is the scale of the growing worldwide epidemic and the second priority is to find out whether the drastic measures taken by China to prevent the spread have worked – because if so, other countries should think about adopting them. Leung – one of the world’s experts on coronavirus epidemics, who played a major role in the Sars outbreak in 2002-2003 – works closely with other leading scientists such as counterparts at Imperial College London and Oxford University.

At the end of January he warned in a paper in the Lancet that outbreaks were likely to be “growing exponentially” in cities in China, lagging just one to two weeks behind Wuhan. Elsewhere, “independent self-sustaining outbreaks in major cities globally could become inevitable” because of the substantial movement of people who were infected but had not yet developed symptoms, and the absence of public health measures to stop the spread. Epidemiologists and modellers were all trying to figure out what was likely to happen, said Leung. “Is 60 to 80% of the world’s population going to get infected? Maybe not. Maybe this will come in waves. Maybe the virus is going to attenuate its lethality because it certainly doesn’t help it if it kills everybody in its path, because it will get killed as well,” he said.

[..] In January Leung published two papers in the Lancet. The first examined the damage done by social unrest to the mental health of the Hong Kong population. The second was on the spread of coronavirus. “So the two have now come together. The first has made the second impossible to deal with – impossible. I mean, how do you bring your population along when there’s been this huge chasm in society?” he said.

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Western governments and media are as guilty here as China. No use singling out China. Everyone just wishes it would all go away. Everyone’s more afraid for the economy than of the virus. Until they can’t. Dumb piece. Find your own faults first, not those of the other. You really want people to believe western governments would react differently?

China Delayed Reporting The Outbreak And The WHO Is Staying Mum (Vox)

Nearly six weeks after China announced the coronavirus outbreak, there’s still a surprising amount we don’t know about this newly discovered disease. But one thing is becoming clear: China’s silence in the earliest days of the crisis may have made it worse. Chinese authorities delayed informing the world about the severity of a deadly disease spreading within the country’s borders — even trying to muzzle whistleblowers, like the late Dr. Li Wenliang. Now hailed as a national hero, Li was forced on January 3 by police to sign a letter saying he spread “untrue speech” for warning colleagues about the virus that eventually took his life. With more than 40,500 people infected and 910 deaths, China’s missteps early on seem increasingly fateful.

The fact that the international community has not acknowledged those missteps is also consequential. On Friday, President Trump applauded China. “They’re working really hard and I think they’re doing a very professional job,” Trump told ABC News. Meanwhile, the leading global health body, the World Health Organization, has stayed mum about China’s blunders — and is drawing criticism for failing to publicly criticize the country and creating “a false sense of security” about an emerging health crisis. But the reality is this: China’s mishandling and the ensuing silence from the international community is emblematic of how the global system governing the international response to pandemics fails to work, half a dozen global health experts told Vox.

Though we have global health laws — in particular, the International Health Regulations, or IHR — meant to guide countries dealing with outbreaks, they’re not actually enforceable. “You can’t penalize [countries that] don’t follow it,” said Devi Sridhar, the chair in global public health at the University of Edinburgh. Instead, the international community has to rely on “soft law and norms” — or “disease diplomacy.” This means that when a pandemic threat looms, the world has little recourse to punish those that fail to live up to the IHR for not detecting a public health problem, or hiding a crisis, even when that mishandling imperils the lives of billions. And with just about every outbreak, history repeats. “Our global outbreak response system depends on the full participation of all actors at all levels of government,” Steven Hoffman, director of the Global Strategy Lab and a professor of global health at York University, summed up. “But our system is only as strong as its weakest link.” Understanding the IHR, and how disease diplomacy is done today, helps explain why.

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Not just economic growth. Flaws in the Party system, which is incapable of adapting to being found out.

Coronavirus Exposes Fundamental Flaws In China’s Economic Growth Model (SCMP)

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus, which has killed over 1,000 people and infected over 40,000, has exposed fundamental flaws in China’s governance system and its growth model – the excessive concentration of power, information and resources in the hands of a powerful state. But given the path of China’s political and economic evolution, it is difficult for China to loosen its grip on power as a response to so-called black swan events such as the coronavirus. The most likely outcome is that Beijing will continue to strengthen centralised control, which in turn is a greater threat to China’s prospects than the virus itself.

When it is done right, a centralised political system means the government can deliver positives such as rapid economic growth, but it also make it possible for the government to place emphasis on the wrong things, which has the potential to lead to uncertainty and even disaster for society. There is precedent that China tends to enhance centralisation as the solution to a problem that has stemmed from over control. The “new normal” concept, which was adopted by the state in 2014, dissociated the political legitimacy of the Chinese government from economic growth, therefore reducing the pressure on local Chinese authorities to deliver. And while the concept had the good intention of seeking high quality growth, it has, in reality, made the local authorities less friendly to the private sector.

To achieve high economic growth, local governments have had to free up market forces and allow the private sector to thrive, but without the pressure, they do not have the incentive to conduct the necessary political and economic liberalisations to entertain private investors. As a result, the central government is increasingly reliant on state-owned enterprises and state money to maintain social stability and to deliver environmental improvement, while the private economy is gradually marginalised and local autonomy is weakened.

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Co-author Dr Zhong Nanshan was very very wrong when he said late January that the epidemic would be over in 7-10 days. Talked about that. Just saying.

Coronavirus Could Have Incubation Period Of 24 Days (Ind.)

Medical researchers in China have found the incubation period for coronavirus ranges up to 24 days — 10 days longer than experts previously thought. The research was co-authored by Dr Zhong Nanshan, who discovered the SARS coronavirus in 2003 and has been appointed as a leading advisor in managing the current coronavirus crisis. Current advice from health organisations and ministries say the virus’ incubation period is as long as 14 days, based on the incubation period of previous MERS viruses. Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care has urged anyone travelling from specific countries, including China, to quarantine themselves at home for 14 days.


The findings, which have not yet been peer reviewed, were published on Sunday and titled ‘Clinical characteristics of 2019 novel coronavirus infection in China’. They found only 1.18 per cent of patients “had a direct contact with wildlife”. The majority of the patients had contracted the virus from being in contact with people from Wuhan, where the centre of the outbreak is. More than 80 percent of patients developed lymphopenia, which is a state where a specific white blood cell that is part of the body’s first-line defence against diseases is reduced.

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Wait till we see car sales in China.

Look How Low Oil Prices Have Fallen (F.)

West Texas Intermediate oil is trading just below $50 midday Monday. This is a very low price for the US benchmark, otherwise known as WTI. The lesson: don’t underestimate the impact of the Coronavirus on the oil market and the greater American economy. The price of WTI last fell below this level for a couple of weeks at the end of 2018 and start of 2019. Other than that moment, the price has not been this low since September of 2017. The concern is that the current low price is not a blip like last year but rather a sustained drop or maybe only the beginning of a situation that could get significantly worse. If the Coronavirus continues to interfere with the Chinese economy and international trade, oil prices are likely to fall further. After all, China is the world’s largest importer of oil by a wide margin, accepting 10.78 million barrels per day in December, 2019.

Here’s who really needs to keep an eye on these low oil prices.

  1. First is, of course, oil producers—from international oil companies like Exxon and Chevron to wildcatters in shale fields—need to beware.
  2. Next, we have the oil industry employees and supplemental industries like truck drivers, welders and restaurant workers near oil fields who could all be affected.
  3. Financiers and investors—hedge funds, private equity and retail investors alike—who fund oil operations are worried about failed projects if revenue drops.
  4. Airlines need to watch oil volatility, because they have an opportunity to buy jet fuel at low prices if it drops, which allows them to hedge for when higher prices eventually return.
  5. Certain state governments, such as Alaska, Wyoming, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, North Dakota and others that fund their budgets in part with taxes on oil production and sales have to beware, as they may be facing unexpected lean times.
  6. Last, businesses that contract for products to be trucked around the country should be looking for discounted pricing.

Despite all the talk about electric vehicles and alternative energy, oil is still the vital liquid that keeps much of our economy moving. We are reminded of that at times like these, when the oil market is anticipating volatility and change.

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Well, if the virus gives up later this very day, he might be right. But not a minute later.

Coronavirus Could Trim 1 Percentage Point From China GDP Growth – Gov’t. (R.)

Zeng Gang, vice chair of the National Institute for Finance and Development, compared the current crisis with the SARS epidemic of 2003, when China’s growth declined by about 2 percentage points in a single quarter. “The impact of this epidemic on the economy in the first quarter is expected to be comparable,” Zeng said in a commentary published in the 21st Century Business Herald newspaper. “At present, according to different scenario assumptions, researchers expect the negative impact of the epidemic on full-year GDP growth to be in the range of 0.2% to 1%.” If the official response to the epidemic is timely and effective at limiting its spread, long-term growth trends would not be significantly affected, Zeng said.

“But in the short term, the epidemic’s impact on economic activity cannot be ignored, especially with tertiary industries and small enterprises with tight cash flows facing greater pressures,” Zeng said. Zeng said difficulties for small companies could prompt a rise in bankruptcies and put upward pressure on the unemployment rate in the first quarter. “The employment situation is not optimistic. This will also pose a serious challenge to the macro policy goal of ‘employment first’,” he said. Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Monday that the government would prevent large-scale layoffs, Chinese state television reported.

China’s central bank has taken steps to support the economy, including reducing interest rates and flushing the market with liquidity. It has also said it will provide special funds for banks to lend to businesses. Analysts at Citi said they expect growth to slow significantly despite expectations of more proactive fiscal policy and more accommodative monetary policy. “Assuming the virus is contained by the end of March, we revise down our 20Q1 GDP growth forecast considerably to 3.6% and the annual growth modestly to 5.3%”, Citi analysts said in a note. Citi previously forecast first-quarter growth of 4.8% and full-year growth of 5.5%.

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But GDP growth only 0.2% lower?

China Q1 Smartphone Shipments To Fall More Than 30% (CNBC)

China’s smartphone shipments for the three months ending in March could decline by more than 30% from the same period a year ago, International Data Corporation said on Tuesday. The world’s largest smartphone market could experience a so-called “Black Swan effect” in the first half of the calendar year due to the new coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 1,000 people on the mainland, according to the research firm. [..] “The coronavirus outbreak impacted the Lunar New Year’s shopping season in late January and is also expected to have adverse effects in the following months,” IDC said in a statement, adding that it expects “China’s smartphone shipments to drop more than 30% year-on-year in 2020Q1.”


The virus outbreak will also “create uncertainty in product launch plans, the supply chain, and distribution channels, in the mid and long term,” IDC said. Research firm Canalys earlier this month predicted China’s smartphone shipments could drop by as much as 50% between the last three months of 2019 and the first three months of 2020. “Technology vendors are likely to stall marketing activities as they are unlikely to divert attention to new product launches, such as 5G devices,” Canalys said in a Feb. 3 report. “It will take time for vendors to change their product launch roadmaps in China, which is likely to dampen 5G shipments in 2020.”

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Curious where this will go.

US Charges Four Chinese Military Officers Over Equifax Hack (BBC)

The US has charged four Chinese military officers over the huge cyber-attack on credit rating giant Equifax. More than 147 million Americans were affected in 2017 when hackers stole sensitive personal data including names and addresses. Some UK and Canadian customers were also affected. Announcing the indictments, Attorney General William Barr called the hack “one of the largest data breaches in history”. According to court documents, the four are allegedly members of the People’s Liberation Army’s 54th Research Institute, a component of the Chinese military.


They spent weeks in the company’s system, breaking into security networks and stealing personal data, the documents said. The nine-count indictment also accuses the group of stealing trade secrets including data compilation and database designs. The whereabouts of the suspects is unknown and it is highly unlikely that they will stand trial in the US. FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich said: “We can’t take them into custody, try them in a court of law, and lock them up – not today, anyway.”

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The country that never tires of embarrassing itself.

Aboriginal Australians Are Not ‘Aliens’, Cannot Be Deported – High Court (G.)

The Australian government has released an Aboriginal man from immigration detention after a landmark high court case decided Aboriginal Australians are not aliens for the purpose of the constitution and cannot be deported. On Tuesday afternoon the acting immigration minister, Alan Tudge, said the government is still reviewing the decision but “in the light of the court’s ruling, Mr [Brendan] Thoms was this morning released from immigration detention”. The case was a major defeat for the deportation powers of Peter Dutton’s home affairs department and a significant development in the rights of Indigenous Australians. In a four-to-three split decision the high court ruled that Aboriginal people with sufficient connection to traditional societies cannot be aliens, giving them a special status in Australian constitutional law likely to have ramifications far beyond existing native title law.


The majority of the high court ruled that New Zealand-born Brendan Thoms was not an alien and the commonwealth therefore did not have power to order his deportation. The court was not able to decide if the second plaintiff, Daniel Love, was an Aboriginal Australian, requiring a further hearing to establish whether he is accepted as a member of the Kamilaroi tribe. Speaking outside the court earlier, the men’s lawyer, Claire Gibbs, called on the government to immediately release Thoms, who had been in immigration detention for 500 days. Love had previously been released in September 2018. Gibbs said she was “confident” Love will also be found not to be an alien and told reporters the pair will seek “significant” damages.

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Nobody’s looking at New Hampshire. It’s an illusion. Trump is only watching out of Schadenfreude. The only people who care about Democrats today are Democrats. And they have themselves to blame for that. The only thing is that Biden and Warren, on the brink of annihilation, might come with heavy and utterly ridiculous allegations vs ButtGeek and Bernie.

‘The World Is Looking At New Hampshire’ – Bernie Sanders (R.)

In Plymouth, Buttigieg tried to reach out to undecided voters, referring to “future former Republicans” who he said were more than welcome to back his campaign. “It’s decision time,” Buttigieg said. He took a shot at Sanders, saying that the self-described democratic socialist would have a hard time pulling in moderate voters. “Knowing how much depends on bringing Americans together, we cannot risk alienating Americans at this critical moment,” he said. “And that’s where I part ways with my friend Senator Sanders.” In a separate event, Sanders aimed his attacks at Trump. “I know not everybody agrees with everything I say, but I think what we can agree about is that we cannot continue having a president who is a pathological liar,” Sanders told a crowd at a sports club in Manchester.

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Feb 092020
 


Dorothea Lange Play street for children. Sixth Street and Avenue C, NYC June 1936

 

Authorities Order Foxconn To Keep Chinese Facilities Closed (AI)
China To Stagger Back To Work As Coronavirus Deaths Surpass SARS (R.)
In-Hospital Infection Blamed In Wuhan Hospital (NHK)
Coronavirus Outbreak Has Affected 4 Different Cruise Ships (H.)
Still No Port For Cruise Ship Westerdam (NHK)
Five Britons Contract Coronavirus In French Ski Resort (R.)
Coronavirus Brings China’s Surveillance State Out Of The Shadows (R.)
Coronavirus Threatens The Chinese Communist Party’s Grip On Power (SCMP)
Yesterday’s Gone: Iowa Was Waterloo for Democrats (Taibbi)
The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President (Atl.)
A Stock Market Boom Is Not The Basis Of Shared Prosperity (Palley)
Argentina Won’t Repay IMF Debt Till Recession Over – VP Kirchner (R.)

 

 

Late last night in my present timezone, CET, initial new coronavirus numbers came out and everyone said they meant the virus has now killed more people (805-806) than SARS. Everyone except for SCMP which cited a WHO number of 813 SARS deaths (they still haven’t figured that out after 17 years). And then, wouldn’t you know, when I got up in the morning, SCMP had revised their new deaths number to … exactly 813. If I weren’t born so wonderfully gullible I would ask myself something.

Global death toll for new coronavirus hits 805, exceeding that of SARS

The global death toll from the new coronavirus is now at 805, higher than that of SARS. Hubei province reported Sunday morning that there were 81 additional deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities in the mainland to 803 so far. The global death toll for the new coronavirus currently stands at 805, including one death in the Philippines and another in Hong Kong. That compares to the SARS outbreak which killed at least 774 people and infected 8,096 people worldwide in 2002 and 2003, according to data from the World Health Organization.

NOTE: SARS deaths took 9 months. This epidemic is just 1-2 months old.

China’s Hubei reports 81 deaths, global total just short of WHO’s SARS figure

China’s Hubei province, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus epidemic, reported 81 new deaths from the disease on Saturday, bringing the province’s total fatalities from the outbreak to 780. Total deaths globally stood at 805, just short of the 813 total fatalities attributed to the deadly Sars epidemic of 2002-2003 by the World Health Organisation. The provincial health authorities also reported 2,147 newly confirmed cases of the disease in the past 24 hours. This brings the total cases in Hubei to 27,100. These figures compared to the reported deaths and newly confirmed cases of 81 and 2,841, respectively, on Friday.

 

 

• 813 deaths, up from 724 yesterday. 89 new deaths is a new record again.

• Confirmed new cases rose to 37,198, an increase of 2,652 overnight

• 3,916 suspected new cases, bringing the total to 28,942 suspected cases.

 

And this little map looks promising, but I do have questions about it:

 

 

Questions like: what are the effects of the ever wider and ever more stringent lockdowns on this? Do fewer people get infected if they’re all locked up in their homes? Or are infected people also harder to find when they’re behind closed doors? Would families volunteer to deliver potentially infected family members to authorities, or would they wait until they’re as good as dead?

I found this interesting as well: “Wuhan has 49 crematoriums, which can each burn 5 bodies every two hours. They’ve been working 24 hours a day for 17 days now. 49 x 17 x 24 x 5/2 = 49,980 bodies.”

 

Still, as I said yesterday, it’s really all about Monday morning, when the economy is supposed to start “working” again. On Friday, Tesla said its Shanghai plant would re-open tomorrow morning. But then today, the government ordered Foxconn’s Shenzhen factories to remain closed. Will Tesla really open?

As I also said somewhere yesterday, “restarting” the economy where 100s of millions are under some form of lockdown now, means shoving all those millions into planes, trains and subways to bring them to plants where they spend 8-10-12 hours in close proximity to potential virus carriers. Thousands more petri dishes.

I’ll believe it when I see it.

 

 

Well, that’s my question: “No-one wants to bear the responsibility for restarting work at this critical moment.”

Authorities Order Foxconn To Keep Chinese Facilities Closed (AI)

As authorities attempt to stem the spread of the coronavirus in China, Foxconn did its part to help on Friday by telling staff not to return to work on February 10, following the Lunar New Year. Rather than resuming operations on the originally anticipated return date, the assembly partner told its tens of thousands of employees to stay away from the Shenzhen plant. A report by Nikkei claims the calling off of production has been further halted by the Chinese authorities, who have told Foxconn not to reopen. People familiar with the matter advised the factory was subject to on-site inspections by public health officials, which found there were “high risks of coronavirus infection” if it did reopen.

One internal memo about the inspection and government-ordered closure mentioned “Violation of epidemic prevention and control could potentially face the death penalty.” Part of the problem is the production facilities use central air condition and have a high density of workers, conditions ripe for viral transference. “The local governments do not want to risk the potential virus spreading in such a labor-intensive working environment,” a source told the report. “No-one wants to bear the responsibility for restarting work at this critical moment.” On Friday, Foxconn took the extra step of canceling flight bookings for employees from Taiwan returning from their home country to China between February 7 and February 14.


The measure was allegedly announced by Chairman Young Liu in a video conference that morning, who also confirmed the company’s Zhengzhou complex would need to be evaluated by the local government before it could be reopened. Foxconn has previously confirmed the coronavirus will affect production, and it is allegedly affecting Apple’s AirPods along with other products it makes, such as iPhones.

Read more …

What will stocks do?

China To Stagger Back To Work As Coronavirus Deaths Surpass SARS (R.)

China raised the death toll from the coronavirus epidemic to 811 on Sunday, passing the number killed globally by the SARS epidemic in 2002/2003 and raising anxiety among people preparing to return to work after an extended Lunar New Year break. Struggling to contain the spread of the disease, authorities had told businesses to tack up to 10 extra days onto holidays that had been due to finish at the end of January as the rising numbers of dead and infected cast a pall over the country. Many of China’s usually teeming cities have almost become ghost towns during the past two weeks, as the Communist Party rulers ordered virtual lockdowns, cancelled flights, closed factories and kept schools shut.


The sight of an economy regarded as a workshop to the world laid so low has also taken a toll on international financial markets, as shares slumped and investors switched into safe-havens like gold, bonds and the Japanese yen. Even on Monday, a large number of workplaces will remain closed and many white-collar workers will continue to work from home. The new deaths on Saturday reached another daily record at 89, data from the National Health Commission showed, pushing the total well over the 774 who died from SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

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“..around 40 percent of the patients with the new coronavirus they have treated may have contracted the illness at their hospital.”

In-Hospital Infection Blamed In Wuhan Hospital (NHK)

A team of medical professionals at a hospital in Wuhan says that around 40 percent of the patients with the new coronavirus they have treated may have contracted the illness at their hospital. The team works at a Wuhan University hospital in the Chinese city at the heart of the outbreak. They published their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Friday. The study says 138 cases were confirmed at the hospital between January 1 and 28. Of those, 41 percent, or 57 people, were medical staff or patients who were initially hospitalized for other reasons.


The study found that one patient in the surgical department may have infected more than 10 members of hospital staff. It says that while patients had symptoms such as high fever and sense of fatigue, researchers revealed that 10 percent either had atypical symptoms such as diarrhea, or complained of nausea. It concludes that it was difficult to screen patients with symptoms not previously associated with the virus. The team says that an important feature of the new coronavirus is the rapid human-to-human transmission among people in close contact.

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I think the ship off Hong Kong was freed today. The Yokohama one with 61 infected won’t be so lucky.

Coronavirus Outbreak Has Affected 4 Different Cruise Ships (H.)

Cruises are, for the most part, meant to elicit feelings of relaxation—literally floating away from your landlocked responsibilities for a few days. But, for thousands of passengers aboard at least four different cruise ships, their vacations quickly turned into nightmare scenarios. As of Friday, four major vessels—the Diamond Princess, Westerdam, World Dream, and Royal Caribbean’s The Anthem of the Seas cruise ships—have been impacted by the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), aka the Wuhan coronavirus. Most affected by the outbreak is the Diamond Princess cruise ship, currently quarantined off the coast of Yokohama, near Tokyo.

The ship was docked Tuesday after a former passenger tested positive for the coronavirus. Since then, 61 passengers of the 3,700 people on board have tested positive for the virus, reports CNN. The ship’s quarantine is expected to last until at least February 19. The two other ships—the Westerdam, currently in search of a port in the East China Sea; and the World Dream, docked in Hong Kong—have also come to a halt due to fears of coronavirus, per CNN. No current or former passengers on the Westerdam have been reported as having the coronavirus, nor have any current passengers on the World Dream, though eight former passengers of the cruise ship have been confirmed as having the illness.


And most recently, on Friday, the Royal Caribbean’s The Anthem of the Seas was docked near New York City, at a port in Bayonne, New Jersey, where 27 passengers were screened for the coronavirus, according to CNN. Four of those passengers were sent to the hospital for further investigation, while the other 23 were cleared. In a statement, per CNN, Royal Caribbean confirmed that, like airlines, they too are working to help limit the spread of the coronavirus. “We continue to work in close consultation with the CDC, the WHO, and local health authorities to align with their guidance and ensure the health and wellbeing of our guests and crew.”

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Sailed on Feb 1. Now it’s like the original Flying Dutchman ship.

Still No Port For Cruise Ship Westerdam (NHK)

The operator of the cruise ship Westerdam is searching for a port to call at after being rejected by destinations including Japan amid fears of the spreading coronavirus. The US-based Holland America Line said in a statement on Friday that the ship is “currently sailing on a southwesterly course off the coast of Taiwan.” The firm says it is positioning the ship “for access to potential port locations.” The Westerdam departed Hong Kong on February 1 with more than 2,200 passengers and crew onboard. Taiwan denied it permission to call, citing a suspicion of coronavirus infection among the passengers. Japanese authorities followed suit, preventing it from entering a port in the southwestern prefecture of Okinawa. Holland America Line said in the statement that “The ship is not in quarantine” and there is “no reason to believe there are any cases of coronavirus on board.” It added the ship has sufficient fuel and food, and passengers are provided with free internet and phone access.

Read more …

Is this the first cluster than doesn’t involve Chinese people? Note that the original infection came from Singapore, not China.

Five Britons Contract Coronavirus In French Ski Resort (R.)

Five British nationals including a child have been diagnosed with the new coronavirus at a French mountain village, and health officials said they were checking who else might have been exposed, including at local schools. In total, 11 people, including the five who tested positive, have been hospitalized in southeastern France and were being examined, the French health ministry said on Saturday, adding that none were in serious condition. The group of Britons included holidaymakers and a family currently residing in the Alpine village and ski resort, Les Contamines-Montjoie. They shared neighboring apartments in a chalet and temporarily hosted a British man believed to have contracted the virus at a business congress in Singapore before his short visit to France in late January, the ministry added.


Two schools would be shut next week for checks, regional health official Jean-Yves Grall said, after it emerged that the nine-year-old who tested positive had attended lessons and French classes in different establishments. Two other children were also part of the group of 11 now in hospital in the cities of Lyon, Saint-Etienne and Grenoble, and they had been schooled in the area too, according to Etienne Jacquet, mayor of Les Contamines-Montjoie. Some parents in the village, nestled in the mountains close to the Mont Blanc peak and the Swiss city of Geneva, said on Saturday they had received little information so far and were being cautious.

Read more …

Thermal cameras, cameras that see through face-masks, a good crisis to step up state control.

Coronavirus Brings China’s Surveillance State Out Of The Shadows (R.)

When the man from Hangzhou returned home from a business trip, the local police got in touch. They had tracked his car by his license plate in nearby Wenzhou, which has had a spate of coronavirus cases despite being far from the epicenter of the outbreak. Stay indoors for two weeks, they requested. After around 12 days, he was bored and went out early. This time, not only did the police contact him, so did his boss. He had been spotted near Hangzhou’s West Lake by a camera with facial recognition technology, and the authorities had alerted his company as a warning.

“I was a bit shocked by the ability and efficiency of the mass surveillance network. They can basically trace our movements with the AI technology and big data at any time and any place,” said the man, who asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions. Chinese have long been aware that they are tracked by the world’s most sophisticated system of electronic surveillance. The coronavirus emergency has brought some of that technology out of the shadows, providing the authorities with a justification for sweeping methods of high tech social control. Artificial intelligence and security camera companies boast that their systems can scan the streets for people with even low-grade fevers, recognize their faces even if they are wearing masks and report them to the authorities.

If a coronavirus patient boards a train, the railway’s “real name” system can provide a list of people sitting nearby. Mobile phone apps can tell users if they have been on a flight or a train with a known coronavirus carrier, and maps can show them locations of buildings where infected patients live. Although there has been some anonymous grumbling on social media, for now Chinese citizens seem to be accepting the extra intrusion, or even embracing it, as a means to combat the health emergency. “In the circumstances, individuals are likely to consider this to be reasonable even if they are not specifically informed about it,” said Carolyn Bigg, partner at law firm DLA Piper in Hong Kong.

[..] Facial recognition firm Megvii said on Tuesday it had developed a new way to spot and identify people with fevers, with support from the industry and science ministries. Its new “AI temperature measurement system”, which detects temperature with thermal cameras and uses body and facial data to identify individuals, is already being tested in a Beijing district. SenseTime, another leading AI firm, said it has built a similar system to be used at building entrances, which can identify people wearing masks, overcoming a weakness of earlier technology. Surveillance camera firm Zhejiang Dahua says it can detect fevers with infrared cameras to an accuracy within 0.3ºC.

Read more …

Wishful thinking?

Coronavirus Threatens The Chinese Communist Party’s Grip On Power (SCMP)

China missed the best opportunity to contain the spread of the virus because officials at first delayed – or possibly covered up – the release of information and were slow in taking precautionary actions. The first patient who experienced symptoms was found on December 1, 2019, suggesting the origin of the disease was even earlier. And there has been some evidence of human-to-human transmissions since late December, with more emerging in early January when several medical workers were infected. These vital bits of information were not released to the public in time. Nor was any decisive action taken between early December and January 23, the day Beijing told the world about the severity of the epidemic and declared war on it just two days before the Lunar New Year on January 25.

Lives continued as normal in Wuhan in the week before then. On January 18, the Wuhan government hosted a banquet attended by more than 40,000 families in a bid to set a Guinness world record. On January 20, the municipal government said it was distributing 200,000 free tickets to residents for festive new year activities. Videos show few people wearing face masks in Wuhan before mid-January. Compare that to Hong Kong, where since early January the government has been updating people on the situation daily and holding frequent news briefings.


In terms of human-to-human transmissions, the alarm wasn’t raised until the prominent epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan spoke out on January 20 – nearly 50 days after the first patient was found and three weeks after it was established that human-to-human infections were taking place. Instead of acting against the virus, the government focused on controlling the information. In an effort to underscore the CCP’s determination to crack down on unsanctioned information, the broadcaster CCTV reported on January 2 that Wuhan police had interrogated and warned eight whistle-blowers, frontline doctors, for “rumourmongering” about the epidemic. It seemed all too familiar to 2003, when military doctor Jiang Yanyong defied government rules and risked his own life to break the news about the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) to the international media.

Read more …

“Perhaps all the Democrats need to win the presidency is a Rust Belt millennial who’s gay and speaks Norwegian.”

Yesterday’s Gone: Iowa Was Waterloo for Democrats (Taibbi)

Democratic campaign events have long been more pep rally than discussion, more about the terribleness of Republicans than substance. “They’re so used to events where everyone is rooting for them,” says Redd. “It’s like, ‘No, we’re actually here to challenge you on issues that matter.’” Biden performed surprisingly well all year in polls, but he headed into Iowa like a passenger jet trying to land with one burning engine, hitting trees, cows, cars, sides of mountains, everything. The poking incidents were bad, but then one of his chief surrogates, John Kerry, was overheard by NBC talking about the possibility of jumping in to keep Bernie from “taking down” the party.

“Maybe I’m fucking deluding myself here,” Kerry reportedly said — mainstream Democrats may not have changed their policies or strategies much since Trump, but they sure are swearing more — then noted he would have to raise a “couple of million” from people like venture capitalist Doug Hickey. Kerry later said he was enumerating the reasons he wouldn’t run, though those notably did not include humility about his own reputation as a comical national electoral failure, or because there’s already a candidate in the race (Biden) he’d been crisscrossing Iowa urging people to vote for, but instead because he’d have to step down from the board of Bank of America and give up paid speeches. French aristocrats who shouted “Vive le Roi!” on the way to the razor did a better job advertising themselves.

With days, hours left before the caucuses, there were signs everywhere that the party establishment was scrambling to find someone among the remaining cast members to stop what Kerry called the “reality of Bernie.” But who? Yang said smart things about inequality, so he was out. Tulsi Gabbard was Russian Bernie spawn. Tom Steyer was Dennis Kucinich with money. Voters had already rejected potential Trump WWE opponents like the “progressive prosecutor” (Kamala Harris), the “pragmatic progressive” (John Delaney), “the next Bobby Kennedy” (Beto O’Rourke), “Courageous Empathy” (Cory Booker), Medicare for All can bite me (John Hickenlooper), and over a dozen others.

Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg seemed perfect, a man who defended the principle of wine-based fundraisers with military effrontery. New York magazine made his case in a cover story the magazine’s Twitter account summarized as: “Perhaps all the Democrats need to win the presidency is a Rust Belt millennial who’s gay and speaks Norwegian.”

Read more …

The Trump people meddle in conspiracy theories. The “others” don’t. This is how and why you will lose the election.

The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President (Atl.)

One day last fall, I sat down to create a new Facebook account. I picked a forgettable name, snapped a profile pic with my face obscured, and clicked “Like” on the official pages of Donald Trump and his reelection campaign. Facebook’s algorithm prodded me to follow Ann Coulter, Fox Business, and a variety of fan pages with names like “In Trump We Trust.” I complied. I also gave my cellphone number to the Trump campaign, and joined a handful of private Facebook groups for MAGA diehards, one of which required an application that seemed designed to screen out interlopers. The president’s reelection campaign was then in the midst of a multimillion-dollar ad blitz aimed at shaping Americans’ understanding of the recently launched impeachment proceedings.

Thousands of micro-targeted ads had flooded the internet, portraying Trump as a heroic reformer cracking down on foreign corruption while Democrats plotted a coup. That this narrative bore little resemblance to reality seemed only to accelerate its spread. Right-wing websites amplified every claim. Pro-Trump forums teemed with conspiracy theories. An alternate information ecosystem was taking shape around the biggest news story in the country, and I wanted to see it from the inside. The story that unfurled in my Facebook feed over the next several weeks was, at times, disorienting. There were days when I would watch, live on TV, an impeachment hearing filled with damning testimony about the president’s conduct, only to look at my phone later and find a slickly edited video—served up by the Trump campaign—that used out-of-context clips to recast the same testimony as an exoneration. Wait, I caught myself wondering more than once, is that what happened today?

[..] Every presidential campaign sees its share of spin and misdirection, but this year’s contest promises to be different. In conversations with political strategists and other experts, a dystopian picture of the general election comes into view—one shaped by coordinated bot attacks, Potemkin local-news sites, micro-targeted fearmongering, and anonymous mass texting. Both parties will have these tools at their disposal. But in the hands of a president who lies constantly, who traffics in conspiracy theories, and who readily manipulates the levers of government for his own gain, their potential to wreak havoc is enormous.

The Trump campaign is planning to spend more than $1 billion, and it will be aided by a vast coalition of partisan media, outside political groups, and enterprising freelance operatives. These pro-Trump forces are poised to wage what could be the most extensive disinformation campaign in U.S. history. Whether or not it succeeds in reelecting the president, the wreckage it leaves behind could be irreparable.

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How you tie your impression of Trump as a con-man in with the topic is unclear. Today’s bubbles started with Greenspan and Bill Clinton, not Trump.

A Stock Market Boom Is Not The Basis Of Shared Prosperity (Palley)

The United States is currently enjoying another stock market boom. If history is any guide, it may well end in a bust. In the meantime, the boom is having a politically toxic effect. Donald Trump uses it to make the case for his reelection in the fall. But his argument, at a minimum, requires a big leap of faith. Trump’s assertion — that a stock market boom is the basis for shared prosperity — is just that, an assertion. It certainly hasn’t led to any broad-based prosperity. The beneficiaries are the happy few at the top of the U.S. economic pyramid. Anyone who ever read John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Great Crash 1929, his 1954 classic, has run across Galbraith’s idea of the “bezzle.” In addition to Ponzi schemes, Galbraith’s bezzle also captures the dynamic of speculative bubbles.

Those bubbles are a form of fraud we collectively inflict on ourselves. Investors buy in believing they will be able to sell at a higher price, and their purchases drive up prices and attract new investors who hope to jump on the price appreciation band wagon. The bubble continues until belief in ever higher prices is punctured, whereupon buyers evaporate and the bubble implodes. Once again, all feel richer along the way. Today’s stock market increasingly has the smell and feel of another bezzle. That smell is metaphorically rather perfectly reflected in President Trump who has all the integrity of a con man. Better yet, Trump’s business history, in addition to reliance on funding from suspect sources, is marked by serial bankruptcies.


Trump has also managed to use the presidential bully pulpit to cajole the U.S. Federal Reserve into further inflating asset prices by enjoining it to lower interest rates. In addition to directly impacting asset pricing, the Federal Reserve has given a green flag for speculative buying. In that process, it has strengthened beliefs that it stands ready to guarantee stock prices, via the so-called “Powell put.” That put is an amplification of the prior “Bernanke put,” which was in turn an amplification of the “Greenspan put” which launched the Federal Reserve’s commitment to stock prices. To be honest, it did not take much cajoling from Trump as the Federal Reserve has evidently learned little from the past 35 years of serial asset price bubbles.

Read more …

A lesson for Greece.

Argentina Won’t Repay IMF Debt Till Recession Over – VP Kirchner (R.)

Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said on Saturday that the government will not pay “even half a cent” of its debt back to the International Monetary Fund before the country has exited recession. “The first thing we have to do in order to be able to pay is to exit the recession,” Fernandez de Kirchner said at a presentation of her book “Sinceramente” (Sincerely) at Havana’s international book fair. “If there is a recession no-one will pay even half a cent and the way you exit recession is through a lot of state investment.” Argentina needs to restructure $100 billion in sovereign debt with creditors, including part of a $57 billion credit facility that the IMF extended the country in 2018.


Dealings with the IMF are key as Argentina hopes to avoid a default amid a currency crash, steep inflation and a contracting economy. An IMF technical mission is expected in Buenos Aires next week to discuss obligations owed to the fund. Fernandez de Kirchner said Argentina should get a “substantial haircut” on its IMF debt. A leftist and militant Peronist, she has traveled frequently to Communist-run Cuba over the past year to visit her daughter Florencia Kirchner who is undergoing medical treatment there.

Read more …

 

Just one of those timelines where Dean Koontz wrote a book about a Chinese super virus called Wuhan that escaped a secret lab.

 

 

 

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Feb 022020
 
 February 2, 2020  Posted by at 3:30 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »


Samuel Colman The Edge of Doom 1836-38

 

What the future will bring for the 2019nCoV novel Wuhan coronavirus is still unclear. An epidemic it already is, but is it also a pandemic? Some 20 countries have reported infections, but it still could all fizzle out; 305 deaths can be forgotten by next week. Nobody can tell you how this will play out, not even the most experienced and/or smartest virologists and other experts.

Because there’s no telling what viruses will do, not even for them, and because while they have some idea about the infinitesimal size and lifespan of viruses, “ordinary” people have no grasp of either, and that includes managers, planners and politicians. Whether in the rich west or in “up and coming” China.

 

The timeline is quite literally terribly obvious. In early December -and it could have been even earlier-, it was obvious to doctors and Communist Party (CCP) politicians in Wuhan that something was wrong. But their painfully predictable reaction was to hope this would pass. Never a bad word should be uttered about the Party, and nothing said that could embarrass it.

December passed, as news was getting worse and more obvious due to a large number of “pneumonia” patients. Chinese doctors published an article in the Lancet this week (this week, 6 weeks after the fact!) saying human-to-human transmission had been established by mid-December.

But the code of silence was not broken, even when a man died from the virus on January 9. It took until mid-January before word got out, a full week later. By then millions of people had left and/or entered Wuhan, a city of 11 million, potentially infecting millions of other Chinese and perhaps people abroad. 5 million later left the city for Lunar New Year.

On January 10, the virus was defined and the sequence was shared, but testing didn’t start for another week; patients were registered as pneumonia sufferers, including those that died (we have no idea how many there were).

 

 

Then, mid January, doctors starting testing for the virus. The first “exported” case was noted in Thailand on January 13, but it still took more time for the potential threat to be realized and reported. The Party boys were still hoping it would all pass. Can you blame them? They are civil servants, they don’t know anything about viruses, or their threat.

Ironically, over 300 civil servants (Party officials) and health care workers were sanctioned very recently for not doing enough. The Party makes sure the blame is put on individuals, not on itself. Even if all they’ve done is follow the party line. It’s very simply how the system works. And not just in China. If the virus might come to a town near you, check where the blame is placed. It won’t be the president or prime minister, health workers will be first in line, civil servants second.

It’s good to note how fast the novel virus has spread. If only to show what those who are determined to keep such a thing silent are up against. Can’t be easy. 291 cases on Jan 20, 14,562 cases 13 days later. Those are exponential numbers, even if the number of fatalities “only” rose by 46 overnight.

It’s also good to keep in mind that the main threat in viruses is their ability to mutate and become deadlier. This virus now has at least those 14,562 hosts which they can use to mutate in. Hong Kong University doctor and epidemiologist Gabriel Leung and his team said in a Jan 31 report: “In our baseline scenario, we estimated 75,185 infections as of Jan 25.” . And they were reporting on Wuhan alone. In other words, well over 5 times as many hosts and chances for the virus to mutate in just one city. In a city of 11 million people, numbers like that are perhaps not that extreme.

 

 

Back to politics. We have had two phases so far. 1 is first discovery followed by total silence. 2 is damage control, and deflecting all blame from the Party.

We are now in phase 3. The WHO, which was caught napping as much as the Party in phase 2, lavishes great praise on that same Party now for its “extraordinary safety measures”. Locking down entire cities (increasingly people are not even allowed to leave their homes), speed-building hospitals, you name it. And the WHO is not the only entity praising the Party.

The reason why there is so much emphasis on this is that the CCP is desperate to show everyone, at home and abroad, that it is in control. That there is no reason to worry, at least not due to actions by the Party. If other countries have problems, that is not the Party’s fault.

And also, the Party will take it from here, no need for foreign assistance. They’ll allow in some doctors, preferably WHO related, and they have asked both the US and EU for medical equipment and doctors’ uniforms, hazmat suits, that sort of thing, just so nobody asks any further questions: see, we do accept help! We’ll let you know if we need anything.

Other than that, the Party is in full control, thank you very much. And if Chinese people start protesting the failures of the Party so far, as they are, that is none of anyone else’s business. “We” have it under control”. Ask the WHO, they said so too.

 

If the Party is allowed to get away with this behavior aimed at self-preservation above anything else, including human lives of both Chinese and foreigners, something bad is sure to happen. Maybe not this time, maybe this one will fizzle out. But the next one, or the one after that, will not.

It is obvious how dangerous this is, putting the interests of the Party, or the economy, above the risk of spreading global pandemic. But is is also obvious why it happens. And it wouldn’t or couldn’t happen only in China. Though the country in its present state is a ideal breeding ground.

Flights are halted. Hundreds of millions will soon be in lockdown. Exports will plunge, because production will. Which will hit the west as much as China. Just so the Party can say it did what had to be done, and so it will stay in power. Xi Jinping knows his power depends on the economy, but he thinks he has what it takes to hold on to power even when the economy tanks.

He can simply declare force majeure, he can tell his people how much worse things would have been had he not decided to lock down everything.

We’ve been following the numbers of infections and fatalities now for 2 weeks or so, even as we know they don’t mean much, they’re just Party propaganda. The Party will release what it thinks it must, but no more. Perhaps we need other sources; these will come if and when things get out of hand. Not that we know they will.

Xi can claim today that he has control. He can say things are not too bad, but we don’t really know, he’s issuing the numbers. What we do know, and there’s the crux, is that he was 6 weeks late in starting to acknowledge the epidemic, in contacting the outside world, in acknowledging his mistakes, and in acknowledging that such mistakes are baked into the model that keeps him in power.

Phase 1 is complete denial, not a word. Phase 2 is damage control, massaging the numbers downward. Phase 3 is “close all the doors, not to worry, nothing to see here, we got this, no you can’t come in, too risky!”

But, yeah, praise him while you can. The only praise he cares about is from people just as clueless as he is anyway.

The Party is a highly effective vehicle for protecting its own interests and survival. For other things, perhaps not so much. Viruses can be quite deadly at times. Combine them with politics and the risk factor rises exponentially.

Tragedy assured. Just not every single time.

 

 

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Jan 312020
 
 January 31, 2020  Posted by at 10:50 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  37 Responses »


Walker Evans Waterfront in New Orleans. French market sidewalk scene 1935

 

WHO Declares International Health Emergency Over Coronavirus Outbreak (RT)
Spate Of Anti-Chinese Incidents In Italy As Two Cases Of Virus Confirmed (G.)
Hillary Clinton Refuses To Be Served Tulsi Gabbard’s Defamation Lawsuit (NYP)
Major Blow For Democrats At Trump Trial (BBC)
Warren Questions Roberts ‘Legitimacy’ Without Trial Witnesses (Fox)
Was The Bolton Leak Too Perfect? (Turley)
Simon & Schuster Won’t Back Down On John Bolton’s Memoir (NYP)
Steele Trump-Russia Dossier Was “Completely Fabricated” (SHTF)
UK Brings Down Curtain On EU Membership After 47 Years (Ind.)
Ambassador Warns That Trump Will Put US Firms First In UK Trade Talks (G.)
Welcome To The Trump Recession (Ind.)
Justice Department Drops Demand For Jail For Flynn (Turley)
Government and Media Are Prepping America for a Failed 2020 Election (Webb)
Greece Plans To Build Sea Barrier Off Lesbos To Deter Migrants (G.)

 

• 2019nCoV death toll rose from 170 to 213 today. (deaths over past seven days: 15, 15, 25, 25, 26, 38, 43)

• 9,821 confirmed cases worldwide, 98 abroad, the rest in China

• 25,060 probable cases

• 15,238 new suspected cases

• 102,427 Chinese under observation

• Recovered: 171

 

 

Jim Bianco posted these graphs tracking mortality and infections, respectively:

 

 

WHO is as late as China and the US. Maybe that’s why they’re complementing China: that way their own failure gets obscured.

WHO Declares International Health Emergency Over Coronavirus Outbreak (RT)

The World Health Organization has declared a “public health emergency of international concern” over the outbreak of the 2019nCoV, or the Wuhan coronavirus. The international body didn’t recommend travel and trade restrictions. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called the coronavirus “a previously unknown pathogen, which has escalated into an unprecedented outbreak” at a press conference on Thursday, but said the WHO was not recommending restrictions of trade or travel with China, where the virus originated. Tedros pointed out that the declaration was “not a vote of no confidence in China,” but made out of concern for other countries, with “weaker” healthcare systems.


China’s response to the outbreak has been “very impressive,” the WHO chief added. “So is China’s commitment to transparency and to supporting other countries.” China is actually setting a new standard for outbreak response. While the majority of coronavirus cases have been registered in China, the WHO confirmed there were 98 confirmed cases elsewhere in the world – including eight cases of direct transmission in Germany, Japan, Vietnam and the US. The “vast majority” of cases outside of China have either traveled to Wuhan or been in contact with someone who has, the WHO officials noted. “The only way we will defeat this outbreak is for all countries to work together in a spirit of solidarity and cooperation,” Tedros said. “We are all in this together, and we can only stop it together.”

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Inevitable. Wait till the first people start dying in countries such as Italy.

Spate Of Anti-Chinese Incidents In Italy As Two Cases Of Virus Confirmed (G.)

Chinese people in Italy have been the target of racist abuse as paranoia mounts over the spread of the deadly coronavirus, as the first two cases of the virus were reported in Rome. Two Chinese tourists tested positive for the virus and are being treated at Rome’s Lazzari Spallanzani national institute for infectious diseases. The couple are reported to be from Wuhan and arrived in Milan on 23 January. The prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, said on Thursday night that there was “no reason for panic or alarm”. He added that close checks were being carried out trace the tourists’ movements in Italy in order “to absolutely avoid any additional risk”.

Flights between China and Italy have been stopped, Conte said. There have been several incidents of xenophobia and calls to avoid Chinese restaurants and shops amid the coronavirus outbreak. Roberto Giuliani, the director of the Santa Cecilia Conservatory, one of the oldest music institutes in the world, was criticised by colleagues on Wednesday after telling students from China, Japan and South Korea not to come to class until after a doctor visits their homes to ensure they have not contracted the virus. Similarly, another music institute in Como told students returning from China after the lunar new year to stay at home for 14 days.


Fears over coronavirus have affected Chinese populations in other countries too. On Wednesday the mayor of Toronto condemned racism against Chinese Canadians. There have also been reports of anti-Asian racism in the UK. In France, Chinese residents have been sharing their experiences using the hashtag #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus (I am not a virus). Other episodes reported in Italian media include two Chinese tourists being spat at by a group of children in Venice, and three Chinese tourists being insulted in a restaurant in Turin.

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Not unexpected. If Hillary would sue Tulsi, would her Secret Service detail do the same?

Hillary Clinton Refuses To Be Served Tulsi Gabbard’s Defamation Lawsuit (NYP)

Hillary Clinton has now twice snubbed a process server attempting to deliver the defamation lawsuit filed against her by Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, according to Gabbard’s attorney. “I find it rather unbelievable that Hillary Clinton is so intimidated by Tulsi Gabbard that she won’t accept service of process,” the congresswoman’s attorney, Brian Dunne, told The Post. “But I guess here we are.” Dunne said their process server first attempted to effect service at Clinton’s house in Chappaqua on Tuesday afternoon — but was turned away by Secret Service agents.


The agents directed the server to Clinton’s lawyer, David Kendall, who on Wednesday claimed at his Washington, DC, firm, Williams & Connolly, that he was unable to accept service on Clinton’s behalf, said Dunne. Gabbard sued the former secretary of state for $50 million last week for calling her a “Russian asset.” Clinton has refused to retract the statement. Dunne said his team was weighing next steps.

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Schiff will carry this straight into the election. But they have to find a viable candidate. Schiff, Hillary, Bloomberg?

Major Blow For Democrats At Trump Trial (BBC)

US Democrats have been dealt a major blow in their efforts to call witnesses at President Trump’s impeachment trial. They needed four Republicans to vote with them to allow witness testimony, but one of the few wavering senators said he would not support the measure. Lamar Alexander said the Democrats had proved Mr Trump acted inappropriately but it was not an impeachable offence. The announcement paves the way for the possible acquittal of the president by the Senate as early as Friday. The Democrats had especially wanted to call former National Security Adviser John Bolton who reportedly said Mr Trump told him directly that he was withholding US military aid to Ukraine until it agreed to investigate his rival, Joe Biden.

In a statement late on Thursday after a long question-and-answer session at the Senate, Mr Alexander, who represents Tennessee, said the Democrats had proven that Mr Trump’s actions were “inappropriate”. But the 79-year-old said: “There is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven and that does not meet the United States Constitution’s high bar for an impeachable offence.” He added: “The question then is not whether the president did it, but whether the United States Senate or the American people should decide what to do about what he did. I believe that the Constitution provides that the people should make that decision in the presidential election that begins in Iowa on Monday.”


[..] Each side is expected to present closing arguments in Friday’s session, before the Senate votes on hearing witnesses. If the vote were to end in a tie, it would mean that the motion had failed unless US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, decided to break it, which is unlikely.

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A pivotal moment yesterday for me: Roberts reads question that says some claim Trump didn’t pay Giuliani, so who did? Schiff comes on, says he doesn’t know, but still takes the full 5(?) minutes to repeat for the 1000th time his schtick about Ukraine.

Warren Questions Roberts ‘Legitimacy’ Without Trial Witnesses (Fox)

Chief Justice John Roberts seemed visibly irritated when Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., formally asked a question during President Trump’s impeachment trial Thursday that referenced him and questioned the legitimacy of the Supreme Court and Constitution in relation to the proceedings. In accordance with Senate rules, the chief justice of the United States must read aloud the questions posed by senators to the impeachment managers and the president’s counsel. Roberts formally recognized Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate, who then submitted her written question to a clerk. Roberts read her question from the card — which referenced him.

“At a time when large majorities of Americans have lost faith in government, does the fact that the chief justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican senators have thus far refused to allow witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the chief justice, the Supreme Court, and the Constitution?” Roberts read from the card handed to him by the clerk. When he finished reading the question — explicitly posed to the House Impeachment managers — Roberts pursed his lips and shot a chagrined look.


After a moment, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the lead impeachment manager, appeared at the dais to answer the question — standing mere feet in front of Roberts. Schiff appeared to try to distance himself from Warren’s question, offering a short answer to the question before speaking at length about a tangential exchange. “I would not say that it leads to a loss of confidence in the chief justice,” Schiff said, adding that Roberts has thus far “presided admirably.”

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Nice take: ” It felt like the sudden discovery of a gun near the victim at the scene of a police shooting.”

Was The Bolton Leak Too Perfect? (Turley)

It was the seeming Perry Mason moment of President Trump’s impeachment trial. Just after the White House team presented its defense denying any quid pro quo over Ukrainian aid, former national security adviser John Bolton jumped up from the gallery to scream, “He did it!” Not really, but close. A few hours after the start of the president’s defense, details from Bolton’s forthcoming book leaked, including his account of Trump asserting that $391 million in military aid would be withheld until Ukraine announced investigations into the 2016 election and the Bidens. If that seems a tad contrived for either an episode or an impeachment, that is because it is.

In responding to a defense built around Trump’s insistence that his call was “perfect,” this leak was perfect to a fault. Perfect timing. Perfect content. It was so perfect that there is little doubt that the Senate is being played. The leak happened at the exact time that it would inflict the most damage on the defense and throw the trial into disarray. It occurred hours after the White House team gave opening statements that seriously undermined critical points made by the House managers, including the assertions that Trump never previously raised corruption in other countries or that this type of hold on aid was uncommon. It felt like the sudden discovery of a gun near the victim at the scene of a police shooting.

That does not mean the leak will not succeed. The disclosure about Bolton’s book could well make the difference in securing the four Republican votes needed to obtain witnesses. But it could also succeed too well if it leads senators to plunge into the unknown of calling witnesses such as former vice president Joe Biden or his son Hunter. There are already indications that the leak may have secured the four votes for witnesses, while even Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) has said the Senate may need to subpoena the book draft itself.

[..] Trump has never denied asking for the investigations, but insisted that they were meant to deal with his concerns over ongoing corruption in Ukraine. Moreover, the first of the two investigations could not be a basis for impeachment. Trump asked for assistance in investigating allegations into the 2016 election — matters that were currently being investigated by U.S. Attorney John Durham. It is the Biden investigation that raises legitimate questions, but it comes down again to a question of intent. Finally, the leak refers to the freeze on the funds but does not indicate that Trump was prepared to hold the aid past the deadline at the end of September. (It was released on September 11th.).

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It has lost all relevance though. Good luck.

Simon & Schuster Won’t Back Down On John Bolton’s Memoir (NYP)

Despite the uproar surrounding John Bolton’s new memoir, publisher Simon & Schuster is standing firm on its intended March 17 publication date. An S&S spokesman declined to make an official statement amid blowback from President Donald Trump, saying only that there is “no change” in the publication date for “The Room Where it Happened.” Trump has called for his former national security adviser’s memoir to be blocked, claiming that it contains classified material.


The yet-to-be-published manuscript played a central role in Senate impeachment discussions this week after the New York Times late Sunday reported that Bolton’s claims that Trump told him in August 2019 that he was withholding $391 million in aid to Ukraine until he had a promise that the powers that be there would launch investigations into Joe Biden, whose son had ties to Ukraine. Trump on Monday denied he said it. “If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book,” he said. Bolton lawyer Charles Cooper said he does not believe “The Room Where It Happened” contains classified material but is pushing for an expeditious decision from the National Security Council on its content — even as it remains possible for Bolton to be called to testify in the Senate impeachment trial.

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I forgot to include this in earlier Debt Rattles, but it should be read. We must wonder, and investigate, how the dossier became the pillar on which Russiagate rested when it was such obvious nonsense.

“Some of the most glaring mistakes were those such as treating one particular source as an expert in three entirely different fields or making up the existence of the Russian consulate in Miami, Florida. The source in question starts out as a middle-manager at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow, but is later described as an expert on cyber warfare, and later yet as an expert on money-laundering by Russian immigrants in the US, West explained.”

Steele Trump-Russia Dossier Was “Completely Fabricated” (SHTF)

In some not so surprising news, a spy expert has come out saying what most of us already knew: the Steele dossier was completely “fabricated.” Nigel West, one of Britain’s leading experts on espionage, was hired to examine the dossier written by his friend Christopher Steele. He concluded it was all manufactured falsehoods. West, hired to examine the dossier back in 2017, quickly concluded that “there is… a strong possibility that all Steele’s material has been fabricated,” according to the Sunday Times. “Steele’s scandalous document, which claimed extensive ties between the then-US President-elect Donald Trump and the Kremlin, was published by BuzzFeed in January 2017 and quickly became the cornerstone of “Russiagate.” Media talking heads insisted that much of it had been corroborated. In fact, nothing was.” –RT

It took West a long time to come out with the information that the dossier was an utter fabrication. It isn’t clear why he waited so long to reveal what most already knew anyway. Even the FBI director at the time, James Comey, described the dossier as“salacious and unverified” in testimony to Congress. But the fact that this dossier was “unverified” did not stop Comey from signing an application for a FISA warrant that the Bureau used to spy on the Trump campaign via one of its advisers, Carter Page. Steele himself was paid purely above-board, of course: by Fusion GPS, which was a client of the law firm Perkins Coie LLP, on behalf of the Democratic National Committee, at the direction of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.


West told RT that he was surprised Steele made such obvious errors in the dossier. Some of the most glaring mistakes were those such as treating one particular source as an expert in three entirely different fields or making up the existence of the Russian consulate in Miami, Florida. The source in question starts out as a middle-manager at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow, but is later described as an expert on cyber warfare, and later yet as an expert on money-laundering by Russian immigrants in the US, West explained. “On the face of it, it looked inherently improbable that this single source was as proclaimed.”

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Hardly any celebrations. What happened?

“A light display beamed onto the frontage of No 10 will be visible only to a few journalists and security staff inside the black gates of Downing Street. And a pre-recorded video message risked going unseen by TV viewers, due to a spat with broadcasters”

UK Brings Down Curtain On EU Membership After 47 Years (Ind.)

Britain brings down the curtain on 47 years of European Union membership on Friday with little in the way of official ceremony to mark the historic moment. Some 1,317 days after the 2016 referendum vote to Leave, the formal departure from the 28-nation bloc will take place at 11pm UK time – midnight in Brussels. Boris Johnson, who served as the figurehead of the Vote Leave campaign and last Friday signed the withdrawal treaty after its passage through parliament, said the day would signal “the dawn of a new era”. But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that the country stood at “a crossroads” with many of the most important decisions about its future relations with the EU and the wider world yet to be made.

And Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, is expected to say that Scotland is being taken out of the EU against the wishes of the “overwhelming majority” of its people, in a speech setting out the next steps in her battle for an independence referendum. Downing Street made clear the prime minister will not be making any public appearance to celebrate the moment of withdrawal. After chairing cabinet in Sunderland – the city whose vote for Brexit was the first sign of Leave’s victory on referendum night – the prime minister will return to London to attend an evening reception with staff behind closed doors. A light display beamed onto the frontage of No 10 will be visible only to a few journalists and security staff inside the black gates of Downing Street.


And a pre-recorded video message risked going unseen by TV viewers, due to a spat with broadcasters who objected to No 10’s insistence of filming the footage itself rather than following the normal practice of inviting in a pool camera from one of the television companies.

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Who could have predicted that?

Ambassador Warns That Trump Will Put US Firms First In UK Trade Talks (G.)

Donald Trump will put the interests of corporate America first and demand that the NHS pays higher prices for US drugs in a free-trade deal with the UK, the outgoing British ambassador to Washington has told the Guardian. Kim Darroch, in his first interview since his resignation from his post in July, from where he spearheaded attempts to grow trade with the US, insisted that Trump would reward his backers in drug firms and farming communities by opening up British markets, while questioning where the UK’s gains would be found. The former British envoy, who left Washington after a leak of his confidential cables to London, said it was doubtful whether the UK had the resources for parallel negotiations with the US and the EU, a strategy championed by Downing Street as a way to give British negotiators leverage in Brussels.


Darroch, who said that similar warnings on the US’s trade demands had been made to No 10 during his tenure in Washington DC, also said it was “impossible” for a deal to get through Congress by the end of 2020 and that it appeared to be “a narrow and rocky path to get to where they [the UK government] want to be”. He said: “I know what the US will be pitching for when they negotiate a free-trade deal with us. They will pitch for massively greater access for agricultural products. People talk about chlorinated chicken – it is a lot more than that. Farmers in America vote for Trump, pretty much all of them vote for Trump … “They also want us to pay the same for American pharmaceuticals as they pay in their own market. Do they want us to pay more for their pharmaceuticals? Do the pharmaceutical companies want to use this leverage? Of course they do.”

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Dems’ final weapon? For now the article feels contrived.

Welcome To The Trump Recession (Ind.)

Donald Trump won’t have to run his re-election campaign amid a 2020 recession — but numbers now emerging are bad enough, and their shape is bad enough, to show he won’t be running a Morning in America campaign either. New government data Thursday showed the economy’s GDP grew at a 2.1 per cent annual rate in the fourth quarter — the second straight quarter at that tepid number, closing out the weakest year of Trump’s presidency. Worse, the slowdown is aimed straight at Trump’s base, including a decent-sized manufacturing recession. It’s based directly on the failure of Trump’s policies. And the details belie the idea, popular in Washington, that consumer confidence is high and that such confidence begets confidence in the president.

Let’s walk through this fairly complicated argument one step at a time. First, the economy really didn’t do well in the last nine months of 2019, even if the stock market thinks it did. Thursday’s report marks the third straight quarter where the economy grew at 2.1 per cent or less, since the second quarter of the year saw only 2.0 per cent growth. Forecasts for the first half of 2020 are a little worse: Consulting firm IHS Markit expects first-quarter growth at a 2 per cent annual rate, and High Frequency Economics thinks it could go as low as 1.2 per cent as Boeing attempts to solve its 737 Max safety issues. “Welcome to 2016, when it was one quarter after another of roughly 2 per cent growth,” said Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors.


“We have had three consecutive quarters right about that level. And sifting through the data, there is no reason to think that will change significantly in one direction or the other.’’ The details, though, are nastier than headline numbers. Consumer spending grew only 1.8 per cent annualized, down from 3.2 per cent in the third quarter — which Naroff attributes to slowing income gains. Private investment — investment was supposed to surge because of a 2017 tax cut focused on corporations and small business owners — was down 6.1 per cent. Imports were way down — which propped up short-term growth, given the technical details of how economists measure growth. But exports of manufactured goods were also down.

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They got scared. Time for Sidney Powell to go into full attack mode. Go after Comey, McCabe, Strzok.

Justice Department Drops Demand For Jail For Flynn (Turley)

The Department of Justice has dropped its demand for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to serve time under his plea agreement. Flynn was attempting to withdraw his plea after the Justice Department set out in what was an overtly vindictive campaign against him in court. The Flynn case remains a troubling matter for those who have followed the Russian investigation. He pleaded guilty to a false statement that seems relatively minor in comparison to false statements made by Justice officials like Andrew McCabe or leaks by figures like James Comey. Only a few weeks ago, the Justice Department was demanding up to six weeks of jail time. Some of us have questioned the case for years. Prosecutors threatened to go after Flynn’s son and to bankrupt him if he continuing to assert his innocence. Flynn broke with his prior lawyers and accused them of giving him poor advice.


He now maintains that he did not lie to two FBI agents in 2017. His recent filings slam the process and the charges. He wrote “One of the ways a person becomes a 3-star general is by being a good soldier, taking orders, being part of a team, and trusting the people who provide information and support. Lori and I trusted Mr. Kelner and Mr. Anthony to guide us through the most stressful experience in our lives, in a completely incomprehensible situation. I have never felt more powerless.” The position of the Justice Department seemed wholly at odds with other cases, including the light sentences received by individuals sentenced as part of the Russian investigation. He was also the subject of a bizarre hearing with Judge Emmet Sullivan where he was accused of things outside of his charges or the record. He is due to be sentenced on Feb. 27.

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US intelligence has taken over, writes Whitney Webb.

Government and Media Are Prepping America for a Failed 2020 Election (Webb)

[..] what is particularly odd about this narrative surrounding imminent “chaos” and meddling in the upcoming 2020 election is the fact that, not only have the instruments of said meddling been named and described in detail, but their use in the election was recently simulated by a company with deep ties to both U.S. and Israeli intelligence. That simulation, organized and run by the Israeli-American company Cybereason, ended with scores of Americans dead, the cancellation of the 2020 election, the imposition of martial law and a spike in fear among the American populace.

Many of the technologies used to create that chaotic and horrific scenario in the Cybereason simulation are the very same technologies that U.S. federal officials and corporate media outlets have promoted as the core of the very toolkit that they claim will be used to undermine the coming election, such as deep fakes and hacks of critical infrastructure, consumer devices and even vehicles.


While the narrative in place has already laid the blame at the feet of U.S. rival states China, Russia and Iran, these very technologies are instead dominated by companies that are tied to the very same intelligence agencies as Cybereason, specifically Israeli military intelligence. With intelligence agencies in the U.S. and Israel not only crafting the narrative about 2020 foreign meddling, but also dominating these technologies and simulating their use to upend the coming election, it becomes crucial to consider the motivations behind this narrative and if these intelligence agencies have ulterior motives in promoting and simulating such outcomes that would effectively end American democracy and hand almost total power to the national security state.

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They’ll simply use another route, another island.

Greece Plans To Build Sea Barrier Off Lesbos To Deter Migrants (G.)

The Greek government has been criticised after announcing it will build a floating barrier to deter thousands of people from making often perilous sea journeys from Turkey to Aegean islands on Europe’s periphery. The centre-right administration unveiled the measure on Thursday, following its pledge to take a tougher stance on undocumented migrants accessing the country. The 2.7km-long netted barrier will be erected off Lesbos, the island that shot to prominence at the height of the Syrian civil war when close to a million Europe-bound refugees landed on its beaches. The bulwark will rise from pylons 50 metres above water and will be equipped with flashing lights to demarcate Greece’s sea borders.

Greece’s defence minister, Nikos Panagiotopoulos, told Skai radio: “In Evros, natural barriers had relative [good] results in containing flows,” referring to the barbed-wire topped fence that Greece built along its northern land border with Turkey in 2012 to deter asylum seekers. “We believe a similar result can be had with these floating barriers. We are trying to find solutions to reduce flows.” Amnesty International slammed the plan, warning it would enhance the dangers asylum-seekers and refugees encountered as they attempted to seek safety.


“This proposal marks an alarming escalation in the Greek government’s ongoing efforts to make it as difficult as possible for asylum-seekers and refugees to arrive on its shores,” said Massimo Moratti, the group’s Research Director for Europe.“The plan raises serious issues about rescuers’ ability to continue providing life-saving assistance to people attempting the dangerous sea crossing to Lesbos. The government must urgently clarify the operational details and necessary safeguards to ensure that this system does not cost further lives.”

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Include the Automatic Earth in your 2020 charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Jan 302020
 


Ben Shahn “Just one more bolt of cloth”, county fair, central Ohio 1938

 

Coronavirus Deaths Leap In China As Countries Struggle To Evacuate Citizens (G.)
New Coronavirus Spreads As Readily As 1918 Spanish Flu, Linked To Bats (LAT)
WHO: Coronavirus Spread Outside Of China Is Of ‘Grave Concern’ (CNBC)
Hubei Province Has Severe Shortage Of Medical Supplies – Governor (CGTN)
Joe Biden’s ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Memo To Media Doesn’t Match The Facts (Solomon)
Ukraine Ex-Prosecutor In Burisma Case Demands Criminal Probe Of Biden (RT)
The Choice is Now Between Witnesses and Dictatorship (Turley)
GOP Reportedly Has Votes To Block Witnesses In Early End To Impeachment (ZH)
White House Told Bolton His Book Contains ‘TOP SECRET’ Information (ZH)
‘GAME OVER,’ Trump Declares, As Old Bolton, Schiff Videos Surface (Fox)
Ukraine Investigates Ex-President Poroshenko Over Embezzlement (RT)
Flynn’s Defense Files Motion Saying His Former Legal Team “Betrayed Him” (SAC)
Deutsche Bank Posts Larger-Than-Expected Loss In Q4 And Full Year (R.)
US Announces 3 New Bases In Iraq After Govt Demands Full Withdrawal (MPN)
France To Send Warships To Support Greece In Turkish Standoff (G.)
Most Children Sleep With Mobile Phone Beside Bed (BBC)

 

 

It’s no time to put the 2019-nCoV coronavirus on the backburner. The numbers out today are shocking.

• Deaths +29% (from 132 to 170)
• Confirmed cases +29% (6062 to 7814)
• Suspected cases +32% (from: 9239 to 12167)
• Severe cases +10% (from 1239 to 1370)
• Discharged from hospitals in mainland China: 124

 

A new sequence popped up -not sure from where- to accompany our familiar Fibonacci sequence. This new one is less “extreme”, but still says 1 million deaths 3 weeks from now:

 

 


Fibonacci

 

And there is ever more talk of infection and fatalities numbers being hidden and/or lowered:

[..] as research published in the Lancet claims the true mortality rate is actually close to 11% (the official rate is 2%-3%). That is a big one!

 

I like this map:

 

 

 

Given that we have known forever and a day that the next pandemic would come, see my article yesterday, 2019-nCoV, all these reactions and measures should come out of a playbook. They do not, it’s improv theater.

Coronavirus Deaths Leap In China As Countries Struggle To Evacuate Citizens (G.)

China reported its biggest single-day jump in coronavirus deaths on Thursday, as countries struggled to evacuate citizens still trapped in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the outbreak began. The death toll rose to 170 on Thursday – up from 132 reported on Wednesday, a rise of 29%. The number of confirmed cases in China now stands at 7,711, up from 5,974 a day earlier. It is understood that 162 of the deaths – or 95% – are in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located. Of the new deaths, 37 were in Hubei province and one in the south-western province of Sichuan.

The World Health Organization (WHO), which initially downplayed the severity of the disease, has warned all governments to be “on alert”, with the UN agency’s emergency committee due to meet later on Thursday to decide whether to declare the outbreak a global health emergency. The WHO’s emergencies chief, Dr Michael Ryan, said the few cases of human-to-human spread of the virus outside China – in Japan, Germany, Canada and Vietnam – were of “great concern”. The US and Japan have started evacuating citizens, and other countries are poised to send chartered flights to the city, amid reports that some evacuations had been held up by delays in obtaining permission from the Chinese authorities.

A British flight to bring about 200 nationals back to the UK was unable to take off as planned on Thursday. The Foreign Office said it was “working urgently” to organise a flight to the UK “as soon as possible”. Australia is yet to gain permission from the Chinese government to evacuate hundreds of its citizens, and New Zealand has launched a separate rescue mission from its neighbour, though a timeline is still unclear. France, South Korea and other countries are also pulling out their citizens or making plans to do so. About 250 French citizens and 100 other Europeans will be flown out of Wuhan on board two French planes this week.

Businesses are beginning to feel the impact of the outbreak. Several airlines, including British Airways, have suspended services to China, while Toyota, Ikea, Foxconn, Starbucks, Tesla and McDonald’s were among major companies to temporarily freeze production or close large numbers of outlets in China. [..] Almost 200 Americans who were evacuated from Wuhan on Wednesday are undergoing three days of testing and monitoring at a Southern California military base to make sure they do not show signs of the virus.

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2019-nCoV moves slower than Spanish flu, giving it more time to infect more people.

New Coronavirus Spreads As Readily As 1918 Spanish Flu, Linked To Bats (LAT)

Chinese scientists racing to keep up with the spread of a novel coronavirus have declared the widespread outbreak an epidemic, revealing that in its early days at least, the disease’s reach doubled every week. By plotting the curve of that exponential growth and running it in reverse, researchers reckoned that the microbe sickening people across the globe has probably been passing from person to person since mid-December 2019. Scientists in China are also closing in on the source of the aggressive new germ — bats. The furry flying mammals may have been the original host of the coronavirus now crisscrossing the world, says one of three scientific studies released on Wednesday. But it may be another wild animal sold in Wuhan City’s Huanan Seafood Market that served up the virus to humans, who quickly began passing it to others through close contact.

[..] All three of the new studies — two published by the British journal Lancet and a third in the New England Journal of Medicine — were conducted by scientists working in China. And all focused on some of the first patients seen with a pneumonia caused by 2019-nCoV. One of the studies published in Lancet probed the genetic connections among viral samples drawn from nine infected patients, eight of whom had visited the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan. The second study in Lancet culled data on the disease progression and outcomes of 99 infected patients who were admitted to Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan with symptoms of pneumonia.

The New England Journal of Medicine study, performed by researchers at China’s leading public health agency, mapped the early spread of pneumonia cases caused by the virus and used the results to create a transmission timeline. That accounting offered the most authoritative gauge to date of the emerging epidemic’s rate of growth. The new findings underscore the fact that it may take stern domestic measures to bring the fast-moving virus under control in China. One of the research teams calculated that in its early stages, the epidemic doubled in size every 7.4 days. That measure, called the epidemic’s “serial interval,” reflects the average span of time that elapses from the appearance of symptoms in one infected person to the appearance of symptoms in the people he will go on to infect.

In the early stages of the outbreak, each infected person who became ill is estimated to have infected 2.2 others, according to the study in the New England Journal of Medicine. That makes the new coronavirus roughly as communicable as was the 1918 Spanish flu, which killed 50 million and became the deadliest pandemic in recorded history. The new epidemic, however, is moving more slowly than the Spanish flu. That’s because 2019-nCoV takes longer to induce coughing, fever and breathing difficulties in a newly infected victim. “It’s concerning that case reports are increasing, and increasing in a way that’s consistent with pretty efficient human-to-human transmission,” said Derek Cummings, a University of Florida expert in the spread of infectious diseases.

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WHO also too slow.

WHO: Coronavirus Spread Outside Of China Is Of ‘Grave Concern’ (CNBC)

The spread of a fast-moving virus outside of China is of “grave concern” and has prompted the World Health Organization to reconvene an emergency meeting this week to decide whether it’s become a global health emergency, WHO officials said Wednesday. The coronavirus has spread to a handful of people through human-to-human contact outside of China, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said at a news conference at the organization’s Geneva headquarters Wednesday. “These developments in terms of the evolution of the outbreak and further development of transmission, these are of grave concern and has spurred countries into action,” Ryan said, adding that he just returned from China on Wednesday.


“What we know at this stage, this is still obviously a very active outbreak and information is being updated and changing by the hour.” The coronavirus outbreak has killed 132 people in China and sickened more than 6,150 across more than a dozen countries across the globe. Ryan said there are currently 71 cases outside of China in 15 other countries. The WHO declined at two emergency meetings last week to declare the virus a global health emergency. Since the first patient was identified in Wuhan on Dec. 31, the number of coronavirus cases has mushroomed to 6,061 in mainland China as of Wednesday morning, exceeding the total number of SARS cases in that country during the 2003 epidemic.

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“Among the five million migrants who left Wuhan [..] during the Chinese Spring Festival, 60 to 70 percent of them went to other cities in the Hubei Province..”

People need a new mask every 4 hours. Most workers in mask -making factories are on holiday.

Hubei Province Has Severe Shortage Of Medical Supplies – Governor (CGTN)

There’s currently a severe shortage of medical supplies, not just in Wuhan but in surrounding cities as well, the governor of Hubei Province, Wang Xiaodong said at a press conference on Wednesday. “The first thing I want to do when I wake up every morning is to figure out how to get disposable protective clothing,” people in a hospital procurement department in Huanggang, a city lying 76 kilometers away from Wuhan and where over 1,000 suspected cases of the new coronavirus, told Yicai. “Medical supplies in our hospital can only support one day work, we cannot receive patients without masks and protective clothing,” he added, “It’s almost out of stock, and we have nowhere to buy.”

Some of our medical staff wear raincoats and disposable garbage bags as shoes covers to protect themselves. In the isolation ward of a county-level hospital in Huanggang City, doctors said they usually stay there for hours without coming out, because they have to save supplies. Wang stressed at the press conference the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in Huanggang City, and vowed to prevent it from becoming the second Wuhan. Among the five million migrants who left Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei Province, during the Chinese Spring Festival, 60 to 70 percent of them went to other cities in the Hubei Province, according to migration data released by Baidu Map. Huanggang city and Xiaogan city, both about two-hour drive from the Wuhan city, are the top two infected areas.

[..] On Wednesday, the country’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) responded to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection – the anti-graft body of the Communist Party of China – about the mask shortage, as well as the supply and production concerns. For now, the mask shortage has become a country-wide problem since the new coronavirus outbreak spread domestically. Everyone who goes outside is suggested to wear mask. But the problem is it’s hard to get one. Besides experts suggested the use of normal surgical masks, people have to replace it every four hours. Facing such a huge demand, the whole country is expected to have a supply shortage at least in the short term, especially in the period when the majority of workers are on holiday during the Spring Festival.

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Solomon is methodical as usual.

Joe Biden’s ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Memo To Media Doesn’t Match The Facts (Solomon)

Former vice president Joe Biden’s extraordinary campaign memo this week imploring U.S. news media to reject the allegations surrounding his son Hunter’s work for a Ukrainian natural gas company makes several bold declarations. The memo by Biden campaign aides Kate Bedingfield and Tony Blinken specifically warned reporters covering the impeachment trial they would be acting as “enablers of misinformation” if they repeated allegations that the former vice president forced the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor, who was investigating Burisma Holdings, where Hunter Biden worked as a highly compensated board member.


Biden’s memo argues there is no evidence that the former vice president’s or Hunter Biden’s conduct raised any concern, and that Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin’s investigation was “dormant” when the vice president forced the prosecutor to be fired in Ukraine. The memo calls the allegation a “conspiracy theory” (and, in full disclosure, blames my reporting for the allegations surfacing last year.) But the memo omits critical impeachment testimony and other evidence that paint a far different portrait than Biden’s there’s-nothing-to-talk-about-here rebuttal.

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One of the questions yesterday in the Senate (paraphrased): who decided, and when, that the Hunter and Joe Biden thing was a debunked ‘Conspiracy Theory’?

Ukraine Ex-Prosecutor In Burisma Case Demands Criminal Probe Of Biden (RT)

Former top prosecutor of Ukraine, Viktor Shokin, has filed a criminal complaint with the state authorities, claiming former US Vice President Joe Biden strong-armed Kiev into firing him in order to stop the Burisma investigation. In the complaint Shokin sent to the Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) on Tuesday, the former prosecutor requests that Biden be charged with “interference with the activities of a law enforcement officer.” The document was obtained by the Interfax-Ukraine news agency. Shokin urged the SBI to kick-start a pre-trial investigation into the alleged crime committed by Biden, who he claims was illegally pressuring Ukrainian officials into ousting him from office while using a $1 billion loan guarantee as a leverage.

Noting that Biden, in his official capacity as the second-in-command in the US political hierarchy, repeatedly visited Ukraine in late 2015 and early 2016 to persuade high-ranking officials to remove him, Shokin argued that “as a result, he curtailed an objective investigation criminal proceedings on the facts of unlawful activities of persons associated with the company Burisma Holdings Limited (Cyprus), including the son of the specified high-ranking official [Biden’s son Hunter, who sat on the company’s board from 2014 till 2019].” Shokin specifically refers to the recently released documentary series ‘UkraineGate: Inconvenient facts,’ by French investigative journalist Olivier Berruyer, which challenges the Western media claims that the corruption investigation into Burisma was “dormant” at the time Biden was lobbying for Shokin’s dismissal.

Berruyer, founder of the popular anti-corruption blog Les Crises, said that he collected documents that show that the investigation into the gas company was in full swing at the time. Shokin’s own words to that effect have receive only a passing mention, or no mention at all in the mainstream US media outlets, however. In a recent interview with ABC News, Shokin said that his office was handling six investigation into Burisma at the time of his resignation.

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“One senator who may not be inclined to listen is Mitch McConnell who Tribe has called “McTurtle” and a “flagrant d**khead.”

The Choice is Now Between Witnesses and Dictatorship (Turley)

While I disagreed with Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz on this theory of impeachment, I recently praised his presentation in the Senate as a cogent and well-constructed case for the defense. Clearly, his colleague Harvard Professor Laurence Tribe does not share my view. He denounced Dershowitz’s argument as “remarkably absurd and extreme and dangerous.” In this presentation, Dershowitz defended his own switch on the issue of the prerequisite of criminality for impeachment by noting that Tribe had also switched his view. Tribe went further to declare that the choice was now between witnesses and “dictatorship.” Even as someone who favors witnesses, I fail to see the imminent danger of dictatorship on the issue. Indeed, I understand the reluctance over witnesses aside from any desire to protect Trump.

I believe senators have a legitimate interest in not creating precedent allowing the House to impeachment on such a slipshod and incomplete record. That is why I proposed an alternative solution. On MSNBC’s “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” Tribe that, if the President succeeds in blocking witnesses, “You will harm not only the country today but you will leave a lesson for future presidents that will be terrible to the Republic. It will not be a constitutional democracy but it will be a dictatorship.” The use of O’Donnell’s show to warn of authoritarianism was curious since the host recently declared that his show would not invite Trump defenders because they are all “liars.”

Tribe however had particularly caustic remarks for Dershowitz as advancing an “absurd” argument that “it doesn’t matter if a president uses the vast powers of his office to shake down an ally and help an adversary in order to get dirt on an enemy and corrupt an election.” He spoke directly to Senators and added “So I implore you, if you are inclined to vote to acquit this president, don’t do it on the ridiculous basis that abuse of power, because it’s not a statutory crime and is rather open-ended, is not a basis to remove.” One senator who may not be inclined to listen is Mitch McConnell who Tribe has called “McTurtle” and a “flagrant d**khead.” I have previously discussed my disagreement with Dershowitz’s theory, including what I believe is a misreading of the trial of Andrew Johnson and defense of Justice Benjamin Curtis. This however is a good-faith academic dispute and I felt that Dershowitz raised some interesting point. While I was not persuaded, it is unfair to characterize them as “absurd.”

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However this turns, more ugliness is ensured.

GOP Reportedly Has Votes To Block Witnesses In Early End To Impeachment (ZH)

Hours after Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said Hunter Biden would be a “relevant witness” in President Trump’s impeachment trial, Senate Republicans seem to think there aren’t enough votes to call witnesses following a morning meeting between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) which lasted approximately 30 minutes. According to The Hill, the meeting “was seen as a sign by several senators that Democrats will fail to convince four Republicans to join them in calling for witnesses. Without a vote to hear from witnesses, the trial could end as soon as Friday.” Murkowski, one of a handful of Senate Republicans thought to be leaning towards witnesses, appears to have changed her mind.


“We’re going to get it done by Friday, hopefully,” said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) following a Senate GOP lunch meeting on Wednesday which was held after McConnell and Murkowski spoke. “I think I can say the mood is good,” said Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN), adding “If I had to guess, no witnesses.” “We’ll be in a place where I think everyone is going to have their mind made up and I believe that we’ll be able to move to a verdict and the witness question will be clear at that point,” Braun added. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) – who has forcefully advocated for testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton after a leaked manuscript from his upcoming book claims President Trump directly tied Ukraine aid to investigations into the Bidens – said nothing after the lunch, which Murkowski did not attend.

Read more …

Letter sent 3 days before NYT article. So when Bolton was told the info was secret, he decided to leak it?!

White House Told Bolton His Book Contains ‘TOP SECRET’ Information (ZH)

The White House told former national security adviser John Bolton that his tell-all book contains “significant amounts of classified information,” including some which is “TOP SECRET” and could harm national security. “Under federal law and the nondisclosure agreements your client signed, as a condition for gaining access to classified information, the manuscript may not be published or otherwise disclosed without the deletion of this classified information,” the letter continues. Notably, the letter, sent from the National Security Counsel to Bolton’s attorneys, was sent three days before the manuscript mysteriously leaked to the New York Times on the eve of the Senate impeachment proceedings – sparking a debate over calling Bolton as a witness in the trial.


As we noted on Tuesday, the identical twin brother of Democratic impeachment witness Alexander Vindman, Yevgeny Vindman, is reportedly in charge of reviewing all publications by current and former officials at the National Security Council (NSC), according to Breitbart News – which would ostensibly include Bolton’s manuscript. Meanwhile, House Impeachment Manager Adam Schiff insisted on Wednesday that Trump’s impeachment trial won’t be fair unless Bolton testifies. Where have we seen this before?

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Not looking good. “..but remember: you’re a despicable Trump-loving apologist if you said ahead of time that this entire thing would be a joke..”

‘GAME OVER,’ Trump Declares, As Old Bolton, Schiff Videos Surface (Fox)

A string of newly resurfaced video clips of former national security adviser John Bolton spurred President Trump and his supporters Wednesday to highlight what they described as serious credibility questions – raised by both Democrats and Republicans — amid the Senate impeachment trial, as the president tweeted, “GAME OVER!” In his tweet, Trump linked to an interview of Bolton in August 2019 where he discusses Ukraine policy. In the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty interview clip, Bolton made no mention of any illicit quid pro quo, and acknowledged, as Republicans have claimed, that combating “corruption” in Ukraine was a “high priority” for the Trump administration.

Bolton also called Trump’s communications with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “warm and cordial,” without mentioning any misconduct. It seemingly contradicted reported assertions in Bolton’s forthcoming book that Trump explicitly told him he wanted to tie military aid to Ukraine to an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden. (Zelensky has said his communications with Trump involved no pressure for any investigation.) Separately, Fox News has identified clips of Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., now the lead House impeachment manager, in which he says Bolton had a distinct “lack of credibility” and was prone to “conspiracy theories.” This week, Schiff said Bolton needed to testify in the impeachment trial as an important and believable witness.


“This is someone who’s likely to exaggerate the dangerous impulses of the president toward belligerence, his proclivity to act without thinking, and his love of conspiracy theories,” Schiff told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on March 22, 2018, when Trump named Bolton national security adviser. “And I’ll, you know, just add one data point to what you were talking about earlier, John Bolton once suggested on Fox News that the Russian hack of the DNC [Democratic National Committee] was a false flag operation that had been conducted by the Obama administration,” he said. “So, you add that kind of thinking to [former U.S. attorney] Joe diGenova and you have another big dose of unreality in the White House.”

[..] speaking to CNN on Monday, Schiff took a different approach – calling Bolton essential to the “search for truth.” “I think for the senators, and I’m just not talking about the four that have been so much the focus of attention, for every senator, Democrat and Republican, I don’t know how you can explain that you wanted a search for the truth in this trial and say you don’t want to hear from a witness who had a direct conversation about the central allegation in the articles of impeachment,” Schiff said on CNN’s “New Day.” Seemingly responding to charges of hypocrisy, Schiff remarked on the Senate floor late Wednesday: “I’m no fan of John Bolton, but I like him a little more now than I used to.”


[..] “Democrats are currently begging Mitt Romney to agree with them that John Bolton should swoop to the impeachment trial and save the day, but remember: you’re a despicable Trump-loving apologist if you said ahead of time that this entire thing would be a joke,” mused journalist Michael Tracey.

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The legacy of Obama, Hillary, John McCain and Victoria Nuland. Who’s in court for this?

Ukraine Investigates Ex-President Poroshenko Over Embezzlement (RT)

Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau has opened a probe against former president, Petro Poroshenko, who is suspected of abuse of power, embezzlement “on a grand scale” and allegedly stealing US aid funds. The case against the ex-president was opened following a complaint by a group of Ukrainian MPs and the nation’s High Anti-Corruption Court demanding the authorities investigate embezzlement and misappropriation of the foreign financial aid at the time of Poroshenko’s term in office, a Ukrainian MP Renat Kuzmin said in a Facebook post.

Kuzmin, a member of the Opposition Platform – For Live party, also published the anti-corruption bureau’s documents, confirming that the case against Poroshenko had been launched. The papers state that the former president and some “unknown people” from his administration are suspected of embezzling “on a grand scale,” subsequent legalization of criminally obtained funds, and abuse of power. The MP himself said that the investigation would look into the misappropriation of funds provided to Ukraine in the form of international aid, including by the administration of the former US President Barack Obama.

Poroshenko did not react directly to the accusations against him. Instead, his lawyer told the media that the ex-president plans to file as many as 14 lawsuits seeking moral compensation from Ukraine’s National Bureau of Investigations, the anti-corruption bureau and the police. His lawyer also denounced the investigation against his client as political persecution instigated by the administration of the current president, Volodymyr Zelensky. The news comes just months after Poroshenko’s ally, Kiev mayor and three-time world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko was also accused of embezzlement and even treason by the anti-corruption bureau.

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At what point will Sidney Powell subpoena Comey, McCabe, Strzok, Laufman et al?

Flynn’s Defense Files Motion Saying His Former Legal Team “Betrayed Him” (SAC)

Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn filed a supplemental motion to withdraw his guilty plea Wednesday citing failure by his previous counsel to advise him of the firm’s ‘conflict of interest in his case’ regarding the Foreign Agents Registration Act form it filed on his behalf, and by doing so “betrayed Mr. Flynn,” stated Sidney Powell, in a defense motion to the court. Flynn’s case is now in its final phase and his sentencing date, which was scheduled for Jan. 28, in a D.C. federal court before Judge Emmet Sullivan was changed to Feb. 27. The change came after Powell filed the motion to withdraw his plea just days after the prosecutors made a major reversal asking for up to six months jail time.

The best case scenario for Flynn, is that Judge Sullivan allows him to withdraw his guilty plea, the sentencing date is thrown-out and then his case would more than likely would head to trial. Powell alleged in a motion in December, 2019 that Flynn was strong-armed by the prosecution into pleading guilty to one count of lying to FBI investigators regarding his conversation with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Others, close to Flynn, have corroborated the accounts suggesting prosecutors threatened to drag Flynn’s son into the investigation, who also worked with his father at Flynn Intel Group, a security company established by Flynn.

In the recent motion Flynn denounced his admission of guilt in a declaration, “I am innocent of this crime, and I request to withdraw my guilty plea. After I signed the plea, the attorneys returned to the room and confirmed that the [special counsel’s office] would no longer be pursuing my son.” He denied that he lied to the FBI during the White House meeting with then FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok and FBI Special Agent Joe Pientka. The meeting was set up by now fired FBI Director James Comey and then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was also fired for lying to Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s investigators. Strzok was fired by the FBI for his actions during the Russia investigation.

[..] Powell noted in Wednesday’s motion that Flynn’s former defense team at Covington & Burling, a well known Washington D.C. law firm, failed to inform Flynn that their lawyers had made “some initial errors or statements that were misunderstood in the FARA registration process and filings.” She also reaffirmed her position in the motion that government prosecutors are continuing to withhold exculpatory information that would benefit Flynn.

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High time for someone to investigate what being in the European Banking Union will cost banks from other countries in order to save Deutsche.

Deutsche Bank Posts Larger-Than-Expected Loss In Q4 And Full Year (R.)

Deutsche Bank posted a 1.6 billion euro loss in the fourth quarter of 2019, bringing the total loss for the year to 5.7 billion euros as the bank undergoes a costly overhaul, the lender said on Thursday. It was the third consecutive quarterly loss and fifth annual loss in a row for Germany’s top bank. The results were worse than expected. Analysts on average forecast Deutsche would lose 1 billion euros in the quarter and 5 billion euros for the full year. The figures conclude a turbulent decade for Deutsche, which lost a cumulative 15 billion euros over the last five years, more than wiping out the 9 billion euros in profit during the previous five years. The share price fell 82% during the course of the decade.

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Call Putin.

US Announces 3 New Bases In Iraq After Govt Demands Full Withdrawal (MPN)

Less than a week after millions of Iraqis took to the streets demanding the U.S. military leave for good, the United States announced that is planning to build three new military bases in Iraq, according to military news service Breaking Defense. The three sites chosen – Erbin, Sulimania and Halabja – are all extremely close to Iran, with Halabja (the site of the 1988 chemical weapons attack) just eight miles from the border. The news will come as a shock to the Iraqi parliament, who earlier this month voted overwhelmingly (with some abstentions) to expel American forces from the country.

But the U.S. government has flatly refused to leave. “At this time, any delegation sent to Iraq would be dedicated to discussing how to best recommit to our strategic partnership — not to discuss troop withdrawal, but our right, appropriate force posture in the Middle East,” said State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, adding, “We strongly urge Iraqi leaders to reconsider the importance of the ongoing economic and security relationship between the two countries… We believe it is in the shared interests of the United States and Iraq to continue fighting ISIS together.” Earlier this month the U.S. decided to send an extra 3,000 troops to the region.

President Trump responded by threatening sweeping mass punishments against the Iraqi people. “We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it…If they do ask us to leave, if we don’t do it in a very friendly basis, we will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever,” he said. U.S.-led sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s are thought to have killed over one million people, including over half a million young children. Successive U.N. diplomats in charge of Iraq during the sanctions denounced them as genocide against its people. Trump said his sanctions would make the ones on Iran look tame by comparison.

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Time for Trump to nip this in the bud. There is no other choice.

France To Send Warships To Support Greece In Turkish Standoff (G.)

Greece’s prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has welcomed a decision by France to dispatch war frigates to the eastern Mediterranean as a standoff with Turkey over regional energy reserves intensifies. With tensions between Athens and Ankara causing growing international alarm, Mitsotakis described the vessels as “guarantors of peace”. “The only way to end differences in the eastern Mediterranean is through international justice,” he told reporters after holding talks in Paris with the French president, Emmanuel Macron. “Greece and France are pursuing a new framework of strategic defence.”

Mitsotakis was in the French capital on a visit aimed at rallying EU support at a time when hostile relations with Turkey have eclipsed all other issues on the agenda of his near seven-month-old government. Macron pledged France would step up its strategic bond with Greece, accusing Turkey of not only exacerbating regional tensions but failing to stick to its promised course of action in war-torn Libya. “I want to express my concerns with regard to the behaviour of Turkey at the moment … we have seen during these last days Turkish warships accompanied by Syrian mercenaries arrive on Libyan soil. This is an explicit and serious infringement of what was agreed [at last week’s peace conference] in Berlin. It’s a broken promise.”

[..] Greece’s defence minister, Nikos Panagiotopoulos, recently went as far as to warn that armed forces were “examining all scenarios, even that of military engagement” in the face of heightened aggression from Ankara. Rejecting Turkish demands that Greece demilitarise 16 Aegean islands, he accused Turkey of displaying unusually provocative behaviour. The demand, made by his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, follows a dramatic surge in recent months in the number of violations of Greek airspace by Turkish fighter jets. “Greece does not provoke, does not violate the sovereign rights of others, but it doesn’t like to see its own rights violated,” said Panagiotopoulos.

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When will we see the studies reporting on the effects of phones on people’s lives? If not now, it’ll likely be too late for many.

Most Children Sleep With Mobile Phone Beside Bed (BBC)

More than half of children say they sleep with their mobile phone beside their bed, according to an annual survey of young people’s use of media. The Childwise report found children getting mobiles at an earlier age, with most now having their own phone by the age of seven. The average time spent on mobiles by seven to 16-year-olds is three hours and 20 minutes per day. Researcher Simon Leggett says mobiles can “dominate children’s lives”. When phones are always so close at hand, as a “private and personal technology”, Mr Leggett says it can be tough for parents to put limits on how children use them.

The survey, based on interviews with 2,200 children in the UK aged five to 16, shows the pivotal place of the mobile phone in young lives. There are 57% who always have the phone beside their bed and 44% who feel “uncomfortable” if they are ever without a phone signal. There are 42% who say they keep their phone on them at all times and never turn it off. Even though the average age of owning a phone is becoming younger, the step up to secondary school at the age of 11 is still the point at which many children get a phone and ownership becomes “almost universal”.

[..] YouTube, a veteran by online standards, remains dominant, used by 61% of children every day, mostly on mobile phones. It is the favourite app and website of this age group, used as the most typical starting point for videos, particularly “funny” clips, listening to music, “how to” tutorials or watching programmes. This is followed by Snapchat, Instagram and this year’s fast-riser, Tik Tok, with WhatsApp also among the most regularly used. Showing the speed of change, Facebook is not even in the top 10 of favourites.

Read more …

 

2020 so far…

 

 

 

Include the Automatic Earth in your 2020 charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Jan 272020
 


Lewis Wickes Hine A heavy load for an old woman. Lafayette Street below Astor Place, NYC 1912

 

China Extends Holiday, Businesses Shut As Virus Toll Rises To 81 (R.)
Coronavirus Latest: Over 2,800 Global Cases Resulting in 80 Fatalities (ZH)
Coronavirus: 100,000 May Already Be Infected, Experts Warn (G.)
Chinese Nurse Says 90,000 Already Infected (ZH)
WHO To Hold Special Meeting In Beijing As Death Toll Jumps (G.)
Bolton’s Manuscript Leaks On Same Day Amazon Sales Begin (Fox)
Fed Trying to Stop Global Economic Contagion – Martin Armstrong (USAW)
ECB’s Knot: Don’t Expect Real Change In Rates In Coming Years (R.)
French NGOs, Local Authorities Take Court Action Against Oil Giant Total (G.)
Locust Swarms The Size Of Cities (AP)
Julian Assange: ‘Unofficial’ Solitary Confinement as Torture (Cross)

 

 

Going through the latest corona numbers today, mostly released at midnight local time by the Beijing government, we now have:

• 81 deaths (round numbers, up 25 from yesterday, previous 2 days were both up 15)

• 2,744 infected (bit less than the 3,390 predicted by the Fibonacci sequence, but there’s a new category):

5,794 suspected infections (if only half are confirmed, this would blow Fibonacci out of the water)

• 461 critical patients

• reports of 90,000-100,000 infected in Wuhan (see articles below) and virus is spreading fast beyond Wuhan

• reports of 5 million Wuhan residents having left the city for the holiday, prior to the lockdown

Moreover, as Tyler remarked on Twitter: “Coronavirus mortality rises above 5% with 76 dead on 1,423 confirmed Hubei cases. Was 2% three days ago.”

Numbers from Beijing:

And the Fibonacci numbers again:


Fibonacci

Another 3-4 days of holiday. What good can it do with that 2-week incubation time? One thing is sure: it’s going to hurt the economy: “On Saturday, overall transportation dropped by 28.8% from the same day last year. Railway transportation fell by 41.5%, roads 25% and passenger flights 41.6%.”

China Extends Holiday, Businesses Shut As Virus Toll Rises To 81 (R.)

The death toll from a coronavirus outbreak in China rose to 81 on Monday, as the government extended the Lunar New Year holiday and more big businesses shut down or told staff to work from home in an effort to curb the spread. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited the central city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, as the government sought to signal it was responding seriously. But Asian shares tumbled, with Japan’s Nikkei average sliding 2.0%, its biggest one-day fall in five months, as investors grew increasingly anxious. Demand spiked for safe-haven assets such as the Japanese yen and Treasury notes. The total number of confirmed cases in China rose about 30% to 2,744, with about half in Hubei province, whose capital is Wuhan.


As worries grew around the world, Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, which has had eight confirmed cases, banned entry to people who had visited Hubei in the past 14 days. The ban did not cover Hong Kong residents. The nearby gambling hub of Macau, which has had at least one case of the flu-like virus, imposed a similar ban on those arriving from Hubei, unless they can prove they are virus-free. The city of Haikou on Hainan island in southern China said tourists from Hubei would be quarantined for 14 days. “Hubei people are getting discriminated against,” a Wuhan resident complained on the Weibo social media platform. The number of deaths from the virus in Hubei climbed to 76 from 56, health officials said, with five deaths elsewhere in China.

Read more …

Slightly different numbers here and there, but the trend is clear:

Coronavirus Latest: Over 2,800 Global Cases Resulting in 80 Fatalities (ZH)

• In China there are now 2,744 confirmed cases as of 1200am on Jan 27, an increase of 39% resulting in 80 deaths, up 43%. This is triple the 916 mainland China cases reported late on Friday. Across the globe, there are now 2,807 confirmed cases and 80 Chinese fatalities, as so far nobody outside of China has died from the disease (that we know of).

• Some very unpleasant math: in China’s Hubei province where Wuhan is located, epicenter of the coronavirus breakout, there have been 1,423 cases and 76 deaths, resulting in a mortality rate of over 5%.

• 5th US Coronavirus infection confirmed by CDC in 4 states (AZ, CA, IL, WA)

• Incubation is asymptomatic, contagious, and can be as long as 14 days

• 5 million may have left Wuhan for Lunar New Year

• 1st case was Dec 1 NOT Dec 31 so infect pop may be much bigger

• 3 Beijing hospitals using AIDS drugs to treat virus

[..] the outbreak-related news out of China went from bad to worse on Sunday, as Wuhan’s Mayor not only informed the public that he suspects the number of cases in the city to increase by a considerable margin (as we mentioned below), but also that some 5 million residents of Wuhan – roughly half of the city’s population – had already left the city before the quarantine was fully implemented. Some left early last week for the lunar new year holiday, while others fled after learning about Beijing’s plans to cut off the city from the outside world (except for the flow of personnel and supplies needed to fight the outbreak). Anybody who tries to leave Wuhan on Sunday will find the roads blocked and guards ordering them to turn back.

The barricade, at one of the tolls for highways exiting the city, was blocked with red and yellow plastic barriers and cones. “Nobody can leave,” a policeman told AFP. But that’s far from the only disturbing news to emerge in the past few hours. To try and assuage citizens’ frustration about the virus overshadowing the LNY holiday, Beijng announced an extension of the holiday. That should take a bigger bite out of China’s GDP as factories, offices and government services will remain shuttered – but ideally China’s battered travel and tourism industry might be able to make up for some of the hit. As we noted earlier, Suzhou, a factory hub, was the first city to announce a holiday-like shutdown of industry until Feb. 8. China’s top transportation official confirmed on Sunday that travel has plummeted for the holiday. On Saturday, overall transportation dropped by 28.8% from the same day last year. Railway transportation fell by 41.5%, roads 25% and passenger flights 41.6%.

After the third case was confirmed in California on Sunday, health officials in Virginia have announced that three patients suspected to have contracted the virus are under observation, according to Fox. More alarmingly, a student at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University is being monitored for the virus after reporting a fever and a cough. Though it has yet to be confirmed, this underscores the difficulty in stopping the spread of the virus to the US, as Chinese students return to their American schools for the new semester, as the Hartford Courant reports. More suspected cases have been reported in California and Texas (though the Texas cases have mostly been cleared).

Read more …

Neil Ferguson. Note: no separate reports on infection rates among children.

Coronavirus: 100,000 May Already Be Infected, Experts Warn (G.)

About 100,000 people could be infected with the new coronavirus around the world, experts have warned, as the UK government faced calls to reassure people that the NHS is ready to deal with any British cases within days. Prof Neil Ferguson, a public health expert at Imperial College, said his “best guess” was that there were 100,000 affected by the virus even though there are only 2,000 confirmed cases so far, mostly in the city of Wuhan in China where the virus first appeared. “Sooner or later we will get a case,” he said. “There are very large numbers of Chinese tourists across Europe right now. Unless the Chinese manage to control this, and I’m sceptical about whether that is possible, we will get cases here.”

Ferguson, whose team have been modelling the disease for the World Health Organization, said they estimated the virus had a reproductive rate of 2.5-3, meaning that each person infected would potentially transmit it to up to three others. “My best guess now is perhaps 100,000 cases right now,” he said, although it could be between 30,000 and 200,000. “Almost certainly many tens of thousands of people are infected.” Most of the cases that have been exported to other countries from China have been mild, he said. That could mean mild cases of disease spread more easily than severe, life-threatening cases, which sounds like good news. But on the other hand, it means it is possible there will be a reservoir of mild disease in the country that goes unnoticed and can spread until it affects somebody vulnerable because of underlying poor health, who becomes seriously ill.

“People looking for people with a travel history to China are not necessarily looking in their local population,” he said. There is a lot still unknown, he explained. “We don’t have reports as yet as to the extent to which children are becoming infected, probably because of the bias towards severe cases.” Unlike Sars, which made everyone who contracted the virus severely ill, the new virus appears to be able to slip under the radar, he said. Firstly, there are the many mild carriers, who will infect other people without necessarily being recognised. Secondly, there are reports from China of people who have infected others before they have experienced any symptoms.

Ferguson said it was possible this is not quite as it appears. It may be that the authorities have not actually identified the index case – the person who infected a group of people – making it look as though they picked up the virus from someone who had no symptoms.

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This is from a few days before Ferguson gave his 100,000 infected estimate. The lack of medical supplies is also noteworthy. Stories about “amateur” equipment.

Chinese Nurse Says 90,000 Already Infected (ZH)

A viral video, reposted on Twitter 48 hours ago, has more than 800k views and reveals an urgent message from a Wuhan nurse, who claims more than 90,000 people in China have been infected with the fast-spreading coronavirus. An unverified translation of the nurse, posted by @purplelovehime, has been retweeted more than 13.7k times since Saturday, states: “I am Jin Wei. I am currently inside the Wuhan outbreak region, Han Hou area. I would like to describe the condition inside the Hubei province, as well as the outbreak situation in the entire China. Currently, there are already 90,000 cases of pneumonia contraction.”

“What is the rate of contraction? If one person contracted this disease and is not properly quarantined and treated, this I individual will infect 14 people that came in contact with him. That is a significant multiplier. During the spring festival, in our culture, families like to get together, dine together. But this is unlike any other years. I hope that people can stay home, do not gather, and do not visit families. There is a spring festival every year. If everyone can stay safe, you can always get together later,” the unverified translation of the nurse said. The translation went on to say that medical supplies from bio suits, medical masks, goggles, and gloves “are in great shortages.”

The nurse, in an emotional plea, said everyone in Wuhan and surrounding cities to “not go out! Stay home!” The translation ended with the nurse delivering some “very bad news:” “The coronavirus has mutated. It is now a second-generation virus. When it was still in its first generation, we were still able to treat this… However, after the last mutation, it became deadly… The rate of infection are now increasing exponentially. So please remember do not go out, do not visit people, do not gather in a group, do not have dinner party.”

Read more …

60 million under lockdown now? hard to keep track.

WHO To Hold Special Meeting In Beijing As Death Toll Jumps (G.)

The head of the World Health Organisation will hold a special meeting with officials in Beijing on Monday to discuss how to contain the coronavirus that has killed 80 people and left more than 400 in a critical condition. In an effort to reduce chances of infection during what is China’s busiest travel season, officials announced the end of this week’s lunar new year holiday would be postponed until at least 2 February. Authorities have also widened sweeping restrictions that have curbed the movement of tens of millions of people. A total of 17 cities are now under lockdown, with several areas banning long-distance bus services, including Beijing, Shanghai and the eastern province of Shandong, home to 200 million people.


On Monday, Chongqing municipality, which has a population of 30 million, adopted similar measures. The municipality borders Hubei province, where the vast majority of deaths, have been recorded. The suspension of long-distance bus services, the cheapest way to travel, is likely slow down the return of millions of migrant workers who have visited their families over the lunar new year. By postponing the end of the holiday to Sunday from Friday, officials hoped to “effectively reduce mass gatherings” and “block the spread of the epidemic,” a cabinet statement said. Many of China’s big retail chains have also said they will temporarily close their stores, while some online businesses and banks have advised employees returning from Hubei province to work from home.

Read more …

As the “trial” restarts today, Bolton will hover in the background. From the Dems’ worst enemy to their best hope.

Aaron Maté: “Bolton news is fuzzy. Bolton isn’t saying Trump tied Ukraine weapons $ to opening a Burisma/2016 probe. Bolton says Trump wanted Ukraine to “[turn] over all materials they had about the Russia investigation that related Mr. Biden & and supporters of Mrs. Clinton in Ukraine.” Huh?”

Bolton’s Manuscript Leaks On Same Day Amazon Sales Begin (Fox)

Former national security advisor John Bolton’s team was under fire from conservative commentators Sunday night, after a report in The New York Times revealed a bombshell excerpt from Bolton’s forthcoming book that could prove pivotal in President Trump’s impeachment trial — just as the Amazon product page for the book went live. The drama began earlier Sunday when the Times exclusively reported that Bolton’s manuscript included a claim that Trump explicitly linked a hold on Ukraine aid to an investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden. Trump told Bolton in August, according to a transcript of Bolton’s forthcoming book reviewed by the Times, “that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens.”

The Times further claimed Bolton had shared a manuscript of his forthcoming book with “close associates” — prompting Bolton’s team to deny the claim, and assert that the National Security Council’s [NSC’s] review process of pending manuscripts is “corrupted” and prone to leaks. A “pre-publication review” at the NSC is standard for any former government officials who held security clearances and publicly write or speak publicly about their official work. The review typically would focus on ferreting out any classified or sensitive material in advance of publication, and could take from days to months.

Conservatives, however, suggested Sunday evening that Bolton’s team may have leaked the information themselves while using the media as unwitting tools to juice their book sales. Online merchants began taking orders for Bolton’s book, entitled “The Room Where It Happened,” just as the Times’ story broke, with a March release date. Sarah Tinsley, a senior adviser to Bolton, told Fox News he had submitted a hard copy draft of his manuscript to the NSC several weeks ago for “pre-publication review,” but had not shared it with anyone else. The NSC is the White House’s internal national security and foreign policy arm.

[..] “Just like James Comey, John Bolton is trying to get rich off of a lie- and leak-fueled campaign to overturn the 2016 election results,” wrote The Federalist’s Sean Davis.”I suspect it will work out as well as all of Bolton’s other wars.” Davis added: “John Bolton is running the exact same revenge playbook against Trump that James Comey used. He’s even using the same agent and leaking to the same reporters. All because he’s mad Trump fired him for leaking and trying to start new wars. It’s so boring and predictable. … If you think anyone other than Bolton’s lawyer, publisher, or agent leaked this to 1) juice sales of his book, and 2) get revenge against Trump for firing Bolton and refusing to start a bunch of new wars, you’re an idiot.”

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You don’t think they’ve given up yet?

Fed Trying to Stop Global Economic Contagion – Martin Armstrong (USAW)

Legendary geopolitical and financial analyst Martin Armstrong says, “The Fed is trapped. If it stops (injecting money into the repo market by billions of dollars daily), interest rates will rise.” Armstrong goes on to explain, “The Bank of Japan came out and said we’re going to buy government bonds unlimited. They, too, are trying to prevent interest rates from rising. . . . The ECB cannot afford rates to go up. . . . This is a global contagion that’s developing, and it’s pretty serious. The rise in interest rates has tremendous implications all the way around the globe. . . . Interest rates are rising because there is increased risk – period.” The big risk, according to Armstrong, is global governments, including the U.S., Armstrong says.

“You have to understand, at some point in time, capital begins to figure out who is the greatest risk, and the risk is government. At that stage in the game, when that point is reached, then you have shifts. The capital will move from public types of investments, such as government bonds and things of that nature, and then will move into the private sector. That’s equities, and that can be gold and real estate in different places. You try to go to tangible assets.” So, what could go wrong with the Fed trapped in the repo market and cannot stop liquefying bad debt? Armstrong says, “What can go wrong is that they lose the game. They are doing this to try to prevent interest rates from rising. If they did not do this, the short term rate would be up dramatically.”

What could go wrong is the Fed can continue to fuel the repo market with cheap money and interest rates can rise anyway? Armstrong says, “Correct. They have already lost control, otherwise they wouldn’t be doing this. . . .They are trying to keep rates down. If the Fed loses, rates are going to go up, and you are going to see this in the Treasury auctions. Then it won’t matter what the Fed is trying to do in the repo market. You will see this stress in the Treasury auctions, and the government will have to start paying higher prices. This is what’s going to take place.”

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The ECB is using Bernanke’s “savings glut” boondoggle to destroy your savings and pensions. Lagarde said it very clearly: jobs are better than savings.

What actually IS happening is they protect bankers’ profits by annihilating (your) savings in a broad sense. Pitchforks!

ECB’s Knot: Don’t Expect Real Change In Rates In Coming Years (R.)

European Central Bank policymaker Klaas Knot on Sunday said he does not expect interest rates to fundamentally change in the coming years. “I don’t see any move towards fundamentally different rates in the coming years,” Knot said in an interview with Dutch television program Buitenhof. Rates could go up again in the future, the Dutch central bank governor said, but for now are being kept historically low by an abundance of savings and by a structurally low inflation rate in the euro zone. Knot also warned of the lingering threat of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit at the end of this year, which he said could lower economic growth in the Netherlands by 0.5%. “The imminent threat of a no-deal Brexit on Jan. 31 is negligible”, Knot said. “But the Brexit risk has only been postponed, as it seems impossible to have a comprehensive trade agreement that includes financial services in 11 months.”

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This might work in France. But how about the EU?

French NGOs, Local Authorities Take Court Action Against Oil Giant Total (G.)

An alliance of 14 French local authorities and several NGOs will take unprecedented court action this week against the French oil firm Total to try to force the firm to drastically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. It is the first climate change litigation against a private company in France. Campaigners want the court to ensure Total does more to curb its emissions. Total is on the list of top 20 global fossil fuel companies whose joint exploitation of the world’s oil, gas and coal reserves can be directly linked to more than a third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the modern era, according to analysis last year. The towns and local authorities that have brought the case range from Bayonne, in the south-west, to La Possession, on Réunion island in the Indian Ocean, and Sevran, north of Paris.

They argue that the climate emergency is already being felt by ordinary citizens and not enough is being done by large firms. Under a French law called the duty of vigilance, large companies must set out clear measures to any prevent human rights violations or environmental damage resulting from their activities. The non-governmental organisations bringing the case said Total had not included enough substantial detail in its vigilance plan to curb emissions, and the firm was out of step with the Paris climate agreement’s goals on limiting global heating. On Tuesday, a court summons will be made in Nanterre, outside Paris.

Sandra Cossart, the head of Sherpa, a French NGO working on economic transparency and corporate-related human rights, said: “It’s the first climate litigation in France against a private company, and it aims to change that company’s strategy in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.” Sandra said that under the duty of vigilance law, “Total is legally required to identify the risks resulting from its contribution to global warming and to take the necessary measures to reduce its emissions.” She said the case was an “important moment” to show that big companies have to step up on the climate emergency. “The more impact you have, the more responsibility you have.”

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Best line of the day: “Even cows are wondering what is happening..”

“One especially large swarm in northeastern Kenya measured 60 kilometers long by 40 kilometers wide (37 miles long by 25 miles wide).”

Locust Swarms The Size Of Cities (AP)

The worst outbreak of desert locusts in Kenya in 70 years has seen hundreds of millions of the bugs swarm into the East African nation from Somalia and Ethiopia. Those two countries have not had an infestation like this in a quarter-century, destroying farmland and threatening an already vulnerable region with devastating hunger. “Even cows are wondering what is happening,” said Ndunda Makanga, who spent hours Friday trying to chase the locusts from his farm. “Corn, sorghum, cowpeas, they have eaten everything.”

When rains arrive in March and bring new vegetation across much of the region, the numbers of the fast-breeding locusts could grow 500 times before drier weather in June curbs their spread, the United Nations says. “We must act immediately,” said David Phiri of the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization, as donors huddled in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, a three-hour drive away. About $70 million is needed to step up aerial pesticide spraying, the only effective way to combat them, the U.N. says. That won’t be easy, especially in Somalia, where parts of the country are in the grip of the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group.

Even a small swarm of the insects can consume enough food for 35,000 people in a single day, said Jens Laerke of the U.N. humanitarian office in Geneva. Farmers are afraid to let their cattle out for grazing, and their crops of millet, sorghum and maize are vulnerable, but there is little they can do. About 70,000 hectares (172,973 acres) of land in Kenya are already infested. [..] A single swarm can contain up to 150 million locusts per square kilometer of farmland, an area the size of almost 250 football fields, regional authorities say. One especially large swarm in northeastern Kenya measured 60 kilometers long by 40 kilometers wide (37 miles long by 25 miles wide).

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Quite afew comments on this, but I would be careful linking street protests to changes in Julian’s conditions. The imates may have helped.

Julian Assange: ‘Unofficial’ Solitary Confinement as Torture (Cross)

The sustained violation of the human rights of Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, has been carried out in full view of the world throughout his arbitrary detention in HMP Belmarsh. Until now, condemnation of his treatment and pleas to end his suffering have been met with denial and silence by the British authorities. But the announcement this week that Assange has been moved out of Belmarsh healthcare unit where he has been detained in solitary confinement since May, is a sign that the campaign to stop his persecution is gaining traction.

Also of significance is the involvement of his fellow inmates in helping to secure Assange’s release from solitary confinement, which suggests that within the walls of Belmarsh it is understood that the healthcare unit has been weaponized to arbitrarily isolate and punish a prisoner. Moving Assange from solitary confinement shows a shift from official government position that solitary confinement ‘does not exist’ Until now the British authorities have not only denied that Assange has been detained in solitary confinement, but that solitary confinement is not practised in British prisons.

In an attempt to mitigate growing public outrage, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) has been sending out letters in response to the influx of complaints it has been receiving regarding the abuse of Assange. In its response it refuses to address his case and produces a list of standards and laws written for the protection of prisoners as evidence he is in ‘safe hands.’ However, anyone who has followed the continued arbitrary detention of Assange in Belmarsh will know he has been placed effectively outside the reach of laws and standards; even access to his lawyers and legal documents, normally preserved by statutory prisoner rights – has been harshly restricted, all of which has had a crippling effect on preparation for his defence in a case of historical significance.

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https://twitter.com/i/status/1221454003491540992

 

 

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