Feb 052020
 


Max Ernst Inspired hill 1950

 

Hi, it’s me again, with more virus stories. I know you may think it’s enough now, but I do want to do this one. Actually, I haven’t written all that much about it, just two essays, 2019-nCoV and The Party and the Virus, but the topic has become a staple of my daily Debt Rattle news aggregators lately. So much that I find I need to remind myself all the time that it’s been a news item for only two weeks, going back to January 20 or so.

Through those two weeks, I’ve seen a number of studies, simulations, models, of where the virus can be expected to go going forward. And I want to take a look at some of them. I said early on that I didn’t like people talking about the economy as soon as the first people died, but 2 weeks later, given the growth of the epidemic, that doesn’t appear avoidable anymore.

People are starting to wonder what’s going to happen to society at large, and in “the markets” -or what’s left of them after central bank manipulation- if and when the virus remains an issue for an X amount of time. I think I can explain some of the parameters, though I want to make clear predicting what viruses do is, even for virologists, crystal ball material, and I ain’t got one of those.

 

China injected $242.74 billion into the markets via reverse repos on Monday and Tuesday, and stocks seem to have made up for their $445 billion losses on Monday. But what exactly is that optimism based on? Is it that “investors” think the PBOC will have their backs no matter what? Is it the reports of companies like Gilead testing possible solutions, vaccines?

I’m not an expert, but I do know it takes a sophisticated drug company about a year to develop a drug/vaccine for a novel disease, as “WuhanCorona” is. From what I can gather, the Gilead drug (co-)tested by the Chinese is basically an anti-viral developed with Ebola in mind, which may or may not work. Ebola is somewhere related to “WuhanCorona”, in a third cousin twice removed kind of way, but that’s it. HIV drugs could also perhaps work to some extent, but that’s a big question.

So what the optimism in the “markets” is based on, you tell me. Are people so afraid of what might be coming that their minds switch off, are they afraid to get informed, or do they genuinely think it’ll all soon be over? Me, I hope it’ll turn out fine, but I wouldn’t put any money on it. And that’s based on what I’ve been reading.

 

When reporting on the Wuhan situation started for real in the west, let’s say January 20 (that’s just 16 days ago!), there were 291 registered infection cases. There are 27,648 now, and 564 people have died. Those are “official” Chinese numbers, and there are plenty doubts about their accuracy (see today’s stories about Tencent posting 10x higher numbers), but let’s roll with the official ones for the moment. I’m going to hop through time a little, but please bear with me, there is a logic.

First, there’s this from January 28 in the SCMP (South China Morning Post), a major Hong Kong news outlet owned by -very Chinese- Alibaba. Zhong Nanshan is a scientist working for the government. My first reaction when I saw this was: it looks like he’s doing damage control for the CCP.

 

Chinese Experts Say Wuhan Coronavirus Outbreak Will Not Last

One of China’s top experts said the Wuhan coronavirus infection rate could peak in early February. “I estimate that it will reach its peak in around the next week or 10 days, after that there will be no more major increases,” said Zhong Nanshan, the respiratory disease scientist who played the pivotal role in China’s fight against the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) coronavirus epidemic in 2002-03.


[..] Gao Fu, the director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention [said] he was “optimistic” that the outbreak’s “turning point” could arrive by February 8 if current disease control protocol is maintained.

3 days earlier, January 25 (that’s just 11 days ago!), the SCMP ran this piece on the same Zhong Nanshan, which reinforces my image of him a bit more. One might argue that Beijing has become more transparent recently, but the facts remain that for instance the WuhanCorona virus can be traced back to early December if not earlier, and that after the first death on December 9 no testing at all was done in Wuhan for a week.

Just to name a few things. So for a scientist to claim that “Beijing has no secrets to hide” and “has not held back information in reporting the outbreak in Wuhan” is at the very least over the top.

 

China Has Been Transparent About Wuhan Outbreak, Virus Expert Zhong Nanshan Says

Chinese officials have been transparent in handling the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak and the participation of a Hong Kong professor through the process indicates that Beijing has no secrets to hide, said one of the country’s leading experts on communicable diseases. Dr Zhong Nanshan, whose team is advising the leadership on how to handle the crisis, told a news conference in Guangzhou on Tuesday that China had not held back information in reporting the outbreak in Wuhan, which has sickened more than 300 people across the country since early December.

But also on January 25, there was this Zero Hedge piece about British scientist Jonathan Read, who had completely different ideas about the outbreak. Note: both predictions focus on Feb 4.

 

UK Researcher Predicts Over 250,000 Chinese Will Have Coronavirus In Ten Days

[..] in 10 days time, or by February 4, 2020, Read’s model predicts the number of infected people in Wuhan to be greater than 250 thousand (with an prediction interval, 164,602 to 351,396); [..] Read estimates that only 5.1% of infections in Wuhan are identified (as of Jan 24)..


[..] Read’s model alleges that Beijing was woefully late in its response and that recently imposed “travel restrictions from and to Wuhan city are unlikely to be effective in halting transmission across China; with a 99% effective reduction in travel, the size of the epidemic outside of Wuhan may only be reduced by 24.9% on 4 February.”

Very different. Remember his “travel restrictions from and to Wuhan city are unlikely to be effective in halting transmission across China”, it’ll come in handy later. Now, I’ve been posting a few math sequences, Fibonacci and otherwise, and those are way too negative, or at least would seem to be.

Problem with that is, as with many facets of the whole thing, we don’t know. There are simply too many scientists who state that real infection- and fatality numbers are much higher than what Beijing reports. They do that based on models, simulations etc. Not because they want The Party (CCP) to look bad, but because the models tell them.

An example: SCMP reported early Tuesday that the mortality rate for the city of Wuhan has reached 4.9%, while the mortality rate for Hubei province as a whole is 3.1%. They added that the mortality rate is predicted by doctors to drop, because extra medical attention is available etc. But we know that extra attention threatens to be overwhelmed by too many patients, shortages of beds, equipment, test kits, protective clothing etc. Nice try, but…

 

All this just to get to why I started writing this, which is a report published at The Lancet on January 31, from Hong Kong University (HKU). I have cited previously that it estimated 75,815 people had been infected in Wuhan on January 25, a far cry from the 1,300 official number at that point. And yes, I do want to use the discrepancy to cast at least some doubt on the official numbers.

But there’s something else that I would like to focus on. The same report also says that the epidemic -or episode, pandemic- would end “around April” 2020, so between, say, mid-March and mid-May, 6 weeks and 14 weeks from now, if certain conditions are met. And that’s just Wuhan. Add another 2 weeks “across cities in mainland China”.

The full name of the paper by Prof Joseph T. Wu, PhD, Kathy Leung, PhD and Prof Gabriel M. Leung, MD is “Nowcasting and forecasting the potential domestic and international spread of the 2019-nCoV outbreak originating in Wuhan, China: a modelling study”

It says: “We estimated that if there was no reduction in transmissibility, the Wuhan epidemic would peak around April, 2020, and local epidemics across cities in mainland China would lag by 1–2 weeks.”

[..] In this modelling study, we first inferred the basic reproductive number of 2019-nCoV and the outbreak size in Wuhan from Dec 1, 2019, to Jan 25, 2020, on the basis of the number of cases exported from Wuhan to cities outside mainland China. We then estimated the number of cases that had been exported from Wuhan to other cities in mainland China. Finally, we forecasted the spread of 2019-nCoV within and outside mainland China, accounting for the Greater Wuhan region quarantine implemented since Jan 23–24, 2020, and other public health interventions.

Figure 2 summarises our estimates of the basic reproductive number R0 and the outbreak size of 2019-nCoV in Wuhan as of Jan 25, 2020. In our baseline scenario, we estimated that R0 was 2·68 (95% CrI 2·47–2·86) with an epidemic doubling time of 6·4 days (95% CrI 5·8–7·1;).

We estimated that 75 815 individuals (95% CrI 37 304- 130 330) had been infected in Greater Wuhan as of Jan 25, 2020. We also estimated that Chongqing, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen, had imported 461 (227–805), 113 (57–193), 98 (49–168), 111 (56–191), and 80 (40–139) infections from Wuhan, respectively.

Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen were the mainland Chinese cities that together accounted for 53% of all outbound international air travel from China and 69% of international air travel outside Asia, whereas Chongqing is a large metropolis that has a population of 32 million and very high ground traffic volumes with Wuhan. Substantial epidemic take-off in these cities would thus contribute to the spread of 2019-nCoV within and outside mainland China.

 


Figure 2 – Posterior distributions of estimated basic reproductive number and estimated outbreak size in greater Wuhan
NOTE: a zoonosis is an infectious disease that can spread between animals and humans. FOI = force of infection

 

Figure 4 shows the epidemic curves for Wuhan, Chongqing, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen with a R0 of 2·68, assuming 0%, 25%, or 50% decrease in transmissibility across all cities, together with 0% or 50% reduction in inter-city mobility after Wuhan was quarantined on Jan 23, 2020.

The epidemics would fade out if transmissibility was reduced by more than 1–1/R0=63%. Our estimates suggested that a 50% reduction in inter-city mobility would have a negligible effect on epidemic dynamics.

We estimated that if there was no reduction in transmissibility, the Wuhan epidemic would peak around April, 2020, and local epidemics across cities in mainland China would lag by 1–2 weeks.

If transmissibility was reduced by 25% in all cities domestically, then both the growth rate and magnitude of local epidemics would be substantially reduced; the epidemic peak would be delayed by about 1 month and its magnitude reduced by about 50%.

A 50% reduction in transmissibility would push the viral reproductive number to about 1·3, in which case the epidemic would grow slowly without peaking during the first half of 2020.

However, our simulation suggested that wholesale quarantine of population movement in Greater Wuhan would have had a negligible effect on the forward trajectories of the epidemic because multiple major Chinese cities had already been seeded with more than dozens of infections each.

The probability that the chain of transmission initiated by an infected case would fade out without causing exponential epidemic growth decreases sharply as R0 increases (eg, <0·2 when R0>2).

As such, given the substantial volume of case importation from Wuhan, local epidemics are probably already growing exponentially in multiple major Chinese cities.

Given that Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen together accounted for more than 50% of all outbound international air travel in mainland China, other countries would likely be at risk of experiencing 2019-nCoV epidemics during the first half of 2020.

 


Figure 4 – Epidemic forecasts for Wuhan and five other Chinese cities under different scenarios of reduction in transmissibility and inter-city mobility

 

Ergo: reducing mobility is ineffective because too much mobility had already happened prior to the lockdowns. That ship has sailed. Not that one shouldn’t try to limit mobility, but it can’t stop the disease from spreading. The HKU team doesn’t say much about how they would see transmissibility lowered, but that seems to come down to more, and intense, lockdowns.

There’s a cruise ship floating off Yokohama where everyone is ordered to stay in their cabin because of the virus. Think along those lines: ordering people to stay in their homes. Sort of like the Black Death plague in 14th century Europe.

Perhaps there are anti-virals that can lower transmissibility somewhat, but that is by no means sure. The discovery ofasymptomatic transmitters doesn’t help either. You can’t very well test everyone, you test those with symptoms.

Chinese health authorities have identified a number of patients who have become carriers and transmitters of the coronavirus despite showing no outward symptoms of the disease. Li Xingwang, chief infectious diseases expert at Beijing Ditan Hospital, said most of the “dormant” carriers were related to and had caught the virus from patients with symptoms.


“These [carriers] have the virus and can transmit it. The amount of virus correlates to the severity of the illness, which means these patients carry less of the virus and their ability to transmit disease is weaker,” Li said.

 

Lunar New Year holidays have been extended everywhere across China, except in a few rare places. Major cities are under full lockdown. Western companies are scrambling to find alternative suppliers. Just 2 weeks into the epidemic. What happens when the factories stay closed for 6 or 16 more weeks?

Where will Chinese and western stocks be then? Xi Jinping has declared the WuhanCorona virus the number 1 threat. How can he order the factories to re-open before mid-April at the earliest then, when the peak of the epidemic hasn’t even been reached? But at the same time, can he afford to order all production shut for 2-3-4 months?

Thing about such peaks is, you can only see them in the rearview mirror. But you can bet that in 2-3 weeks max, people will solemnly declare the peak is here. Because the existing but especially potential economic damage will be so great. Bur declaring a peak too soon, let alone the end of the epidemic, is too much of a risk.

The way things are going, pretty soon there won’t be any westerners left in China, other than those who wish to stay permanently. Many if not most factories will be closed. No Chinese will be allowed to visit the rest of the world, while Chinese products will not ship there.

The big lockdown has just begun. Because once you start it, you can’t go back until you can prove that everything is safe. And that will in all likelihood take a long time, months. When will absolutely everybody have faith that everything is safe? When nobody falls ill anymore, when nobody can infect other people anymore.

But that’s a long way away. April, May, or later? And that in an economic system built on just-in-time delivery? Chinese oil demand is allegedly down 20% already. How can oil prices not fall if that is true? Since those prices are linked to the US dollar, what will happen with the currency?

There are too many questions that nobody can answer, or even try to. That’s complex systems for you. And I really really hope I’m wrong, but the way out of the lockdown is not clear at all.

The world cannot afford the risk of consciously helping to spread a lethal pandemic. And the only way to prevent it may be the big lockdown. Unless there’s a vaccine. But there isn’t one right now.

Overly alarmist, you say? Let’s hope so.

 

 

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Feb 042020
 


DPC The heart of Chinatown, San Francisco, after the earthquake and fire 1906

 

China Death Toll Hits 427 As New Cases In Hubei Increase By Record High (SCMP)
Coronavirus: China Admits ‘Shortcomings And Deficiencies’ (BBC)
Chinese Military Takes Control Of Medical Supplies In Wuhan (SCMP)
Coronavirus Tally In Epicentre Wuhan May Be ‘Just The Tip Of The Iceberg’ (SCMP)
‘Striking’ Coronavirus Mutations Found Within One Family Cluster (SCMP)
Coronavirus Found On Doorknob Of Infected Patient (ZH)
Gordon Chang: Chinese Authorities Falsifying Coronavirus Death Toll (SAC)
Crisis-O-Rama (Jim Kunstler)
Press Freedom Is At Risk If We Allow Julian Assange’s Extradition (G.)
2019 Was Record-Breaking Year For Supertall Skyscrapers (DeZeen)
Unprecedented Cybersecurity Measures To Safeguard Iowa Caucus Results (DMR)

 

 

Lots of Wuhan corona again today, how can I not? For coverage of the Dems boondoggle, see the bottom of this aggregator.

Quite a few articles from SCMP (South China Morning Post), which appears to be “opening up” its news on the crisis. To suggest that what we know about Wuhan may just be the tip of the iceberg is some statement for a Chinese paper. Just last week they could have been arrested for spreading false rumors. SCMP may be based in Hong Kong, but it is owned by Alibaba.

Today’s numbers:

• 20,670 cases (was 17,480 yesterday)

• 427 deaths (was 362 yesterday)

• Mortality rate for city of Wuhan has reached 4.9%. Mortality rate for Hubei province is 3.1%.
– Mortality rate is predicted by doctors to drop because extra medical attention is available, but that extra threatens to be overwhelmed right away. Shortages of beds, equipment, test kits, protective clothing etc.

• New cases in Hubei province reach record high

• First death in Hong Kong, first case in Belgium

• 171,329 cases under observation, up 18,629 overnight, along with 23,214 suspected cases. (These are very fluid numbers)

 

 

 

 

“The latest figures come as the number of daily casualties – and levels of global fear – rise sharply.”

China Death Toll Hits 427 As New Cases In Hubei Increase By Record High (SCMP)

Health authorities in Hubei announced on Tuesday that coronavirus fatalities in the province had risen to 414 after 64 deaths were reported overnight – yet another daily record. In figures current as of midnight on Monday, the health commission of Hubei also reported 2,345 new cases of infection. Of those, 1,242 were reported in Wuhan, the province’s capital and epicentre of the deadly contagion, also known as 2019-nCoV. There have been 425 deaths caused by the virus in mainland China and one in the Philippines. The latest figures come as the number of daily casualties – and levels of global fear – rise sharply.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, America’s leading public health institute, on Monday defended what it called “aggressive actions” it is taking to control the US spread of the coronavirus. These include tough warnings against travelling to China and mandatory federal quarantines for those arriving from the Wuhan area where most of the cases come from. Beijing has criticised the US steps. Meanwhile, the economic fallout from the virus continued amid growing concern that global growth could suffer. CNBC reported Monday that Goldman Sachs was cancelling its annual partner meeting in New York this week over concern that Asia-based partners wouldn’t be able to travel.

The US Department of Health and Human Services notified Congress that it may need to tap some US$136 million to combat the outbreak. On other economic fronts, oil fell to its lowest level in over a year during the US trading day Monday on declining Chinese demand.

Read more …

Apparently, Xi has punished over 400 “servants” for failure. When’s his turn?

Coronavirus: China Admits ‘Shortcomings And Deficiencies’ (BBC)

China’s top leadership has admitted “shortcomings and deficiencies” in the country’s response to the deadly coronavirus outbreak. The Politburo Standing Committee said the national emergency management system had to improve. A crackdown on wildlife markets, where the virus emerged, has been ordered. [..] Chinese television early on Tuesday local time reported new figures from Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, adding another 64 fatalities and 2,345 more cases. The number of deaths in China, excluding Hong Kong, now exceeds the 349 killed on the mainland in the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2002-03.


Reports of the standing committee meeting, chaired by President Xi Jinping, were carried by the official Xinhua news agency. It said lessons had to be learned from what had been a “big test” of China’s governance system. “In response to the shortcomings and deficiencies that were exposed responding to this epidemic, we must improve our national emergency management system and improve our abilities in handling urgent and dangerous tasks,” the report said. One area to be tackled is the trade in illegal wildlife, which should be “resolutely banned”, while supervision of markets should be strengthened. It is thought a market in the city of Wuhan in Hubei province was the source of the viral outbreak. On Monday, a study by a Chinese virologist said bats were the likely source.

Read more …

Any way, Xi and the CCP have seen enough. I see everyone talk about that new hospital built in 5 minutes, but with 18,269 added to observation alone in one night, maybe that focus is misplaced.

Chinese Military Takes Control Of Medical Supplies In Wuhan (SCMP)

China has deployed hundreds of military officers to control the flow of medical and essential supplies in Wuhan, ground zero of the deadly coronavirus outbreak, state media and sources said. A People’s Liberation Army logistics team of 260 officers, with 130 military trucks, started delivering basic supplies on Sunday, according to state broadcaster CCTV. It said they delivered 200 tonnes of supplies to supermarkets in the Hubei province city of 11 million people on the first day. The team is made up of officers from the PLA’s airborne troops and air force stationed at the Wuhan garrison, and ground force troops from local military academies.


The logistics operation began the same day as 1,400 medical personnel from the PLA were sent to staff the first completed temporary hospital in Wuhan. The Huoshenshan hospital, which was built from scratch in eight days in response to the crisis and will be controlled by the military, was due to open on Monday. A defence ministry statement said the medical staff deployment had been personally approved by President Xi Jinping. A source close to the PLA, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the logistics team was there to make sure donations to charity organisations like the Red Cross Society reached their intended recipients. “The Beijing leadership realised that almost all the donation points in Hubei and Wuhan have had delivery problems, that there are some opportunists using this crisis to make money,” the military source said.

Read more …

“Testing kits are in short supply, meaning only the ‘fortunate’ who test positive are admitted to hospital for treatment…”

“A doctor at the Union Hospital in Wuhan, who declined to be identified, said staff could only test about 100 patients a day, and they had to wait 48 hours for the results.”

Coronavirus Tally In Epicentre Wuhan May Be ‘Just The Tip Of The Iceberg’ (SCMP)

The official number of coronavirus cases in Wuhan might not reflect the true scale of the crisis as there may be many patients who are undiagnosed and not reported, medical experts said. Wuhan – the city of 11 million people where the deadly virus outbreak began in December – has so far reported more than 5,000 confirmed cases of the pneumonia-like illness, or about one-third of the total number across mainland China. But some medical experts have expressed concern that the real number could be much higher because cases are only classified as confirmed once a patient has twice tested positive for the new strain of coronavirus. Given that there is also a shortage of coronavirus testing kits, the figure could be much lower than it actually is.

Professor David Hui Shu-cheong, a respiratory medicine expert from Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the official tally in Wuhan could be “just the tip of the iceberg” because it only reflected the acute cases where patients were admitted to hospital. “There are many community cases that remain undiagnosed – unlike in Hong Kong, where cases are more carefully handled, including the mild ones. Of the 15 confirmed cases [in Hong Kong], 10 of [the patients] didn’t even need to be put on oxygen,” Hui said. “So we’re talking about different denominators here. For an actual picture, one usually has to wait until after the outbreak settles for a general population, zero-prevalence study to be carried out – where blood tests would reflect the number of positive cases containing the antibody without presenting the symptoms,” Hui said.

[..] A doctor at the Union Hospital in Wuhan, who declined to be identified, said staff could only test about 100 patients a day, and they had to wait 48 hours for the results. “When the National Health Commission announces the numbers, they’re already two days old,” the doctor said. “We also have to turn away patients with mild symptoms, knowing that many of them will return later [when their condition worsens]. But we don’t have the space in the testing centre, or the hospital beds.” [..] “There have also been many patients who died of undifferentiated respiratory and undiagnosed pneumonia symptoms in Wuhan since December – before the virus testing kits were made available,” Tsang said.

Read more …

This is what worries the experts. Any mutation can mean a more infectious and deadly virus.

‘Striking’ Coronavirus Mutations Found Within One Family Cluster (SCMP)

Chinese scientists say they have detected “striking” mutations in a new coronavirus that may have occurred during transmission between family members. While the effects of the mutations on the virus are not known, they do have the potential to alter the way the virus behaves. Researchers studying a cluster of infections within a family in the southern province of Guangdong said the genes of the virus went through some significant changes as it spread within the family. Viruses mutate all the time, but most changes are synonymous or “silent”, having little effect on the way the virus behaves. Others, known as nonsynonymous substitutions, can alter biological traits, allowing them to adapt to different environments.

Two nonsynonymous changes took place in the viral strains isolated from the family, according to a new study by Professor Cui Jie and colleagues at the Institut Pasteur of Shanghai. This case indicated “viral evolution may have occurred during person-to-person transmission”, they wrote in the paper published in the journal National Science Review on January 29. “Close monitoring of the virus’s mutation, evolution and adaptation is needed,” they added. Cui’s team also detected a total of 17 nonsynonymous mutations from cases around the country between December 30 and late January, they wrote.

[..] theoretically, mutations can make recovered patients sick again and cheat existing detection methods because they target only a small segment of the viral genome. A study led by University of Minnesota researcher Li Fang predicted that a single mutation at a specific spot in the genome could significantly increase the virus’s ability to bind with cells on the surface of the human respiratory system, according to their paper published in the Journal of Virology on January 29.

Read more …

Lovely. Now we have a 2 week incubation time and 5 days on surfaces.

Coronavirus Found On Doorknob Of Infected Patient (ZH)

Until now, the prevailing conventional wisdom was that China’s coronavirus epidemic, which has spread to over 20,600 people around the globe as of February 3, did so by air or, according to some recent and unconfirmed speculation, human feces. That may be about to change. According to the Global Times, new ways of transmitting the coronavirus have been reported, and virus nucleic acid has been detected outside human bodies, sparking public fears that the virus could be transmitted in unknown and undetected ways. Concerns emerged after scientists found coronavirus nucleic acid on the doorknob of a confirmed Guangzhou-based patient’s house, the first case of novel coronavirus detected outside the human body, Guangzhou Daily reported Monday. The finding was confirmed by China’s Health Commission, which said on Monday that the coronavirus can survive for five days maximum on smooth surfaces under suitable circumstances.


That would mean that mobile phone screens, computer keyboards, faucets and other household objects may indirectly transmit the virus, experts said. A man from Northeast China’s Jilin Province, who was confirmed with coronavirus infection on Monday, shared his experience, saying he had used the same microphone with another confirmed patient during a meeting in January. In another case, a 40-year-old man from North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, who lives upstairs of a confirmed patient, was also diagnosed with coronavirus infection on Saturday. Aside from respiratory droplets and contact transmissions, the person has no clear contact histories with people from other cities, patients, or wild animals and has never been to a market, according to the local health authority on Sunday.

Read more …

”..what we are witnessing is essentially a breakdown in government and keeping accurate statistics is a very minor part of their priorities right now.”

“This is only going to get worse,” Chang concluded, adding the virus will likely not be contained until “April or May.”

Gordon Chang: Chinese Authorities Falsifying Coronavirus Death Toll (SAC)

Local Chinese authorities have just lost the ability to pick up corpses due to a breakdown in government,” said Gordon Chang, a well known expert on China on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” “So really what we are having right now is, they are completely overwhelmed,” Chang added. “They are not able to keep accurate statistics. So what we are witnessing is essentially a breakdown in government and keeping accurate statistics is a very minor part of their priorities right now.” Chang said that while he understands the preventative measure, he believes the quarantine has “made the problem worse.” “I can understand why they want to quarantine but remember, the Wuhan mayor said about 5 million people from his city left before the quarantine was imposed,” he said.


“Also right now the quarantine has aggravated a problem and that is [that] people can’t get to hospitals, so they are at home…they are dying.” “They are infecting other people in their households because they are not, in a sense, quarantined from wives, husbands, brothers, sisters,” he continued. “The quarantine has made the problem worse. It’s also created panic. That panic has had consequences on, for instance, social cohesion which is absolutely necessary if you want to beat an epidemic.” “It’s not just Wuhan,” he said. “Many Virologists think that [conditions in] Wuhan will be duplicated in cities like Shanghai, maybe even Beijing. Clearly there is fear everywhere throughout China right now.” “This is only going to get worse,” Chang concluded, adding the virus will likely not be contained until “April or May.”

Read more …

Releasing a virus to hide economic issues seems a bit far-fetched for now. Not impossible, but we’d like to see some proof.

Crisis-O-Rama (Jim Kunstler)

[..] there’s also a theory that the Coronavirus affords a cover for cascading failures in China’s corrupt and shifty banking system. The country had already stepped across some frontiers in demographics, energy consumption, and industrial growth that were shoving it toward contraction for the first time in two generations. Coronavirus has shut down a lot of production in big things like cars and big-little things like cell phones, and supply lines are shutting down to world markets. This amounts to the first big test of the integrated global economy, as well as the world’s debt-saturated business model. When a lot of parties and counterparties can’t pay each other because their revenue flows are cut off, the securities, currencies, equities, and other abstract representations of wealth go south.

The US and Europe are no better positioned for a crisis in their banking arrangements, and confidence is starting to crack. Both economic mega-regions have relied on central banking hocus-pocus to prop up stock markets and maintain the illusion that the logic of bonds still applies. The first thing to go moneywise in a contracting financial system is the magic of compound interest. The US Federal Reserve has been massively gaming the Repo markets — overnight lending that uses bonds as collateral — since September, raising suspicions that more than one of its “primary dealer” banks are insolvent. Juicing them with “liquidity” is like painting over sheetrock infested with black mold. Looks good for a week or so, and then you’re in intensive care.

Nobody knows yet what the effect of Britain’s escape from the EU will do to the Union’s remainers, but Europe’s bonded debt arrangements are even dodgier than America’s, since there is absolutely no EU central control of each member’s fiscal affairs.

Read more …

I kid you not, the Guardian of all outlets has the gall to run a story supporting Julian Assange by a guy named Roy Greenslade. He even quotes editor Kathy Viner, who all but tightened the noose around Julian’s neck along with writer Luke Harding, but now says:

“State power should never be used to suppress the actions of whistleblowers and investigative journalists pursuing stories that are clearly in the public interest. The US extradition case against Julian Assange is a troubling attack on press freedom and the public’s right to know.“

It was the Guardian’s stories on Assange through time that were a troubling attack on press freedom. If you still keep your subscription to them after this, you are lost.

Press Freedom Is At Risk If We Allow Julian Assange’s Extradition (G.)

Later this month, a journalist will appear at a London court hearing in which he faces being extradited to the United States to spend the rest of his life in prison. The 18 charges against him are the direct result of his having revealed a host of secrets, many of them related to the US prosecution of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They included the “collateral murder” video which showed a US helicopter crew shooting 18 people in Baghdad in 2007, including two Reuters war correspondents, Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Among the files were thousands of military dispatches and diplomatic cables that enabled people in scores of countries to perceive the relationships between their governments and the US.

They also showed the way in which American diplomats sought to gather personal information about two UN secretary generals. Unsurprisingly, the revelations were gratefully published and broadcast by newspapers and media outlets across the world. “Scoop” is far too mundane a term to describe the staggering range of disclosures. By any journalistic standard, it was a breathtaking piece of reporting, which earned the journalist more than a dozen awards.

So, you might think that this press freedom hero, now incarcerated in Belmarsh prison, would be enjoying supportive banner headlines in Britain’s newspapers ahead of his case. Thus far, however, coverage of his plight has been muted. Why? The answer is that our hero is none other than Julian Assange, the man who skipped bail to avoid an extradition order to Sweden over an allegation of rape, which he denies, and took shelter in the Ecuadorian embassy for seven years until police were allowed to enter and arrest him last April. Many falsehoods were told about Assange during his time inside the embassy, including bizarre stories about his smearing faeces on the walls, ruining the floors by skateboarding and torturing a cat.

Read more …

It’s really a shame that the term “tall-building syndromw” was already taken by another phenomenon.

2019 Was Record-Breaking Year For Supertall Skyscrapers (DeZeen)

A record 26 towers over 300 metres were completed in 2019 according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, while there was a drop in the number of 200-metre-tall buildings completed. Of the 26 new supertall towers the 530-metre-high Tianjin CTF Finance Centre by SOM is the tallest. It is the seventh tallest skyscraper in the world, along with its sister tower the Guangzhou CTF Finance Centre. The record-number of supertall skyscrapers in 2019 beat the previous year’s 18 supertall towers, which was also a record at the time. Following the Tianjin CTF Finance Centre, the second tallest building completed in 2019 was the RMJM-designed Lakhta Centre in Russia. At 462 metres high it is currently the tallest building in Europe.


Lakhta Centre, Russia, by RMJM and Gorproject

Algeria set the record for the tallest building on the African continent with the 265-metre-high Great Mosque of Algiers, or Djamaa el Djazaïr. Designed by China State Construction Engineering, the mosque also has the world’s tallest minaret. Another notable supertall was the Exchange 106 Tower in Kuala Lumpar. The £7.6 billion project stalled during the Malaysia Development Berhad embezzlement scandal. At just over 445 metres it was the fourth tallest to complete last year. Overall there was over a 13 per cent drop in the number of buildings completed that were over 200 metres. In 2019 there were 126 of these skyscrapers built compared to 146 in 2018. The CTBUH report suggested this was due to the lag from projects cancelled during the 2008 financial crash, and not a result of more recent global events.

Read more …

Hard to believe in many ways. Robby Mook? Why not, and next you’re bringing back Oliver North?!

Unprecedented Cybersecurity Measures To Safeguard Iowa Caucus Results (DMR)

Both parties in Iowa and their app and web development vendors partnered last fall with Harvard’s Defending Digital Democracy Project to develop strategies and systems to protect results and deal with any misinformation that’s reported on caucus night. They worked with campaign experts Robby Mook and Matt Rhodes — as well as experts in cybersecurity, national security, technology and election administration — and simulated the different ways that things could go wrong on caucus night. Mook, 2016 campaign manager for Hillary Clinton, and Rhodes, Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign manager, helped develop a public-service video to alert campaigns to the warning signs of hacking and misinformation.

It was released in 2018, days after a federal indictment detailed how Russian intelligence operatives hacked Clinton’s presidential campaign, the DNC and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2016. According to the indictment stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference, Russian officers targeted state and county offices in several states, including Iowa, to steal voter data and other information. They were successful in Illinois, but not in Iowa. Ever since, both parties in Iowa have been working to safeguard caucus results and held training sessions to assure caucus leaders know about heightened security measures. Party officials acknowledge the 2020 election cycle poses a heightened threat of disinformation. But “until Mitch McConnell decides to act on the bipartisan-passed House of Representatives election security bills sitting on his desk, cybersecurity prevention will continue to play a growing role in our elections,” Price said.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

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Jan 292020
 


M.C. Escher Fluorescent sea 1933

 

It’s a little amusing, though that word may not fit the topic, to see how people react to the 2019-nCoV (Wuhan coronavirus) “epidemic” that appears to have started in the city of that name. It’s understandable that people compare the warnings about it to those about for instance SARS (also a coronavirus, so either call this one 2019-nCoV or “Wuhan coronavirus”), and conclude that since that episode was not so bad, neither will this one be, but that’s certainly not the definitive story.

If only because stating that the world is due for a large-scale epidemic, a pandemic, is not some scare-mongering exercise, it’s basic statistics and broadly recognized. The last really big one is over 100 years ago. The Spanish flu of 1917-1918 killed an estimated 50 million people, more than WWI which took place from 1914-1918, and saw an estimated 40 million fatalities.

(Un)predictability is key: Adolfo Garcia-Sastre, director of Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York City says: “There is no good way to predict [when a flu pandemic will occur], but “this is something that happens every 10 to 40 years”. In essence, since a real flu pandemic hasn’t happened in 100 years, we’re overdue.

There are of course vast differences between today and 1918. But then again, these differences may balance each other out to an extent: on the one hand: 1) medical science has made enormous progress in the past 100 years. But on the other: 2) there are many more people, and they move around and come in contact with each other a lot more too.

 


Cross-sectional model of a coronavirus. Source:
Scientific Animations (CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

World population in 1918 was 1.8 billion; today it’s over 4 times that at 7.7 billion. Add increased mobility through planes, trains and automobiles -in the west and now China- and you will find the number of miles traveled and the number of people “met” per capita has probably gone up by a factor of 10 or more. Just what a virus wants: 10+ times more potential hosts.

The 2009 swine flu killed “only” 200,000 people. Not the “real thing”. SARS affected about 8,000 people and killed 774 in the early 2000s. Hardly even an epidemic, let alone a pandemic. MERS, another coronavirus, infected 186 people and with a death toll of 36. Small change in comparison.

But of course scientists are looking into the matter all the time. And, certainly compared to 1918, they have developed much more sophisticated models to do that, aided greatly by computing power. A simulation of a global pandemic that involves a coronavirus, developed late last year by scientist Eric Toner at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, showed that 65 million people might die within 18 months in such an event.

A more recent model was developed by a team led by Hong Kong University’s medicine dean Gabriel Leung:

The Coronavirus outbreak doubles every 6.2 days [..] That figure validates the forecast of top virologists who claim that Coronavirus is ten times worse than SARS. Hong Kong University is ranked a top 25 college globally and houses the world’s top 1% scientists according to Thomson Reuters. Based on the model used by HKU, up to 150,000 individuals could be affected by Coronavirus in the next three to four months on a daily basis.

Leung’s team said that it confirmed transmission from humans to humans is already occurring in virtually every major city in China. By April to May, Leung said Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chongqing are likely to see widespread infections of Coronavirus, [before the number of infections could begin to gradually decline in June or July, Leung said.


As many as 44,000 people could be infected in Wuhan alone, with only 25,000 likely to be showing symptoms at this time..] Specifically, Leung noted that due to the close ties between Chongqing and Wuhan, Chongqing could see nearly 150,000 people affected per day at its peak.

Chongqing is sometimes presumed to be the world’s most populous city, with 30 million inhabitants, though data are somewhat opaque.

SCMP adds:

Leung, who sits on Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s advisory committee on the coronavirus, called for drastic measures to curb the spread of the virus. “Substantial, draconian measures limiting population mobility should be taken immediately,” he said, calling for the cancellation of mass gatherings, along with school closures and work-from-home arrangements.

He would undoubtedly also cancel all flights to and from Wuhan, and perhaps even all of China, as British Airways has already done, and as other airlines will be forced to follow suit.

Yesterday was the first day that the 2019-nCoV virus had infected over 1,000 new patients. And that’s in official numbers, those are the confirmed ones for a disease with a 2-week incubation period and an R0 rate (how many people are infected by each positive person) of 2.5 to 4. It was also the first day that more new cases were reported outside of Hubei province than inside it.

Scores of new countries were added to the list of those with confirmed cases. There are now 19: China, United States, France, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, Nepal, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Canada, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Germany and UAE (Finland was just added; now there’s 20). Moreover, several of these countries have confirmed human-to-human transmission.

Still, while Hong Kong University’s Gabriel Leung estimates the 2019-nCoV peak at late April-early May 2020, Chinese respiratory diseases expert Zhong Nanshan, echoed by Gao Fu, the director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said the peak would be reached in 10 days.

 


Infection cycle of a coronavirus

 

The WHO is, as I speak, burying China in compliments for its efforts to control the disease. Which is fine, and likely more constructive than criticism, but we’ve all been able to see the footage of dead and dying people in the corridors of Wuhan hospitals. And we know China’s history on SARS reporting. Beijing is worried sick by now, but the CCP’s biggest worry will always remain power and control. The Hong Kong protests have only enforced that attitude.

But who are we to criticize China anyway? In our own countries, the main concern in the media is still about the economic effects of what may or may not become a pandemic. “It’s going to hurt global trade, it’s going to hurt our economy, woe, woe..” As if it’s such a disaster that for a few months fewer non-essential goods are schlepped halfway across the globe. That period is likely too short for us to realize than we would do good to produce at least essential goods closer to home. The main concern is money, not that 132 people have died and many more will soon. Those are our priorities.

For a bright light to hit home upside our heads that we would actually notice, that would make us take a look at ourselves, we would need a real bad pandemic. Or we will not learn that we should not need a pandemic to realize we should take care of ourselves, our own basic needs, and not let someone 10,000 miles away do that.

As for fewer airline bookings or Louis Vuitton or Apple sales, if that’s your priority, maybe you’re overdue a lesson no matter what. A lesson about what your society needs to survive, vs what are extras, luxuries, added benefits. We seem to have lost comprehension of that difference entirely.

Summary: no panic, but vigilance. Same as every other day. And not too much focus on money and profits. 2019-nCoV doesn’t care about those either. In 2020, with all the resources at our disposal, and with 1918 to guide us, we should be able to see these things coming from miles away, and not need any time to respond. It should be no more than flicking a switch.

Now it’s like: but where will our food come from, and our iPhones? We should have the answers to such questions ready at all times, or we have failed as societies. Maybe someone’s holding up a mirror to us.

A question I can’t resist is: Are we better prepared today than people were in 1918? And I can’t give you the answer. I know we should be with all the wealth and resources and available energy we’ve added, but I can’t.

 

 

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Jan 282020
 
 January 28, 2020  Posted by at 10:17 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  27 Responses »


Walker Evans Vicksburg, Mississippi. “Vicksburg Negroes and shop front.” 1936

 

Coronavirus Has Killed 106 And Infected 4,515 People In China (CNBC)
Coronavirus Death Toll Climbs To 106, Infections Rise To 4,515 (BBC)
US and Japan To Fly Out Citizens As Coronavirus Deaths Rise (G.)
China Coronavirus Cases Almost Double Overnight (ZH)
Hong Kong Scientist Insists 44,000 Already Infected In Wuhan (ZH)
How Testing Woes Slowed China’s Coronavirus Response (R.)
Coronavirus ‘Significant Threat’ To Chinese Economic Growth (G.)
Japan Warns About Risks To Economy From China Virus Outbreak (R.)
Coronavirus Prompts Automakers To Evacuate Workers From China (CNBC)
Boeing Secures Over $12 Billion In Financing To Fight 737 Max Crisis (CNBC)
Oil Chief Urges West To Call Out Foreign Meddling In Libya Conflict (G.)
Canary Trap (Kunstler)
Prince Andrew Told To ‘Stop Playing Games’ Over Epstein Inquiry (G.)
Aid Groups Seek Safe Ports For Nearly 500 Migrants Rescued In The Mediterranean (RT)

 

 

Watched a fair bit of the Trump team arguments in the Senate yesterday, quite a bit seemed to make sense, but it no longer appears to matter. Tricky, because in the end the law is the law. But what that is, is ultimately up to the Supreme Court. Until it gets involved, every word said is one too many. So I won’t say too much about this.

I do wonder why Democrats argue that the Biden corruption story has been debunked (please tell me when and by whom) but the Russia meddling tale stands tall (remember Mueller?). But them, that is just the character of the “conversation”. Everyone only talks to those who already agree with them. Boring as hell. Yesterday, I said:

“There doesn’t appear to be any underlying proof for Bolton’s claim that Trump tied aid to an investigation (or he wouldn’t/couldn’t have held on to it for so long). That in turn makes it another he said/she said topic, and we’ve seen enough of those in this “trial” process.


Moreover, if Trump would have asked for an investigation into a guy who was kicked out of the Navy for cocaine abuse only to land a very plush job just months later at a very corrupt company operating in a field and a country that he knew nothing about, while his dad was US VP, would that have been a high crime?”

 

 

Given developments in the past 24 hours, we can’t very well not focus on the coronavirus. Note: Some of the numbers appear more than once in the articles below, but they all have different numbers as well. China’s official data today say:

• Hubei infections 2,714 (up 1291 overnight – 91% surge).

• China total infections 4,515. (Almost as many cases outside Wuhan as inside. The virus spreads).

• 1,000 people in critical condition

• 30,453 under observation

..nearly 7,000 more cases suspected and awaiting confirmation .. From 5,800 Monday

• 2 days in a row of 15 deaths added, followed by 2 days with 25 added. Too much coincidence.

• A few days ago, the big news was a 1,000 bed hospital being built in 1 week. Today, the news is that 100,000 beds (!) are being reserved (opened up) in existing Hubei hospitals.

• China tells people not to travel abroad, US tells Americans not to travel to China. Businesses are getting hurt. So are stock “markets”, obviously.

• Hong Kong scientist says: at the peak of the pandemic [April/May], as many as 150,000 new cases could be confirmed every day in Chongqing alone

 

And we are still skirting close to the Fibonacci sequence:


Fibonacci

 

Medical supplies sent to Wuhan: 14,000 protective suits and 110,000 pairs of gloves. Emergency supplies of 3 million masks, 100,000 protective suits and 2,180 pairs of goggles.

Coronavirus Has Killed 106 And Infected 4,515 People In China (CNBC)

Chinese health authorities said Tuesday that the coronavirus outbreak has killed 106 people and infected 4,515. The officials also said 60 people had been discharged. The majority of the reported cases are in mainland China, where local authorities have quarantined several major cities and canceled Lunar New Year’s events in Beijing and elsewhere. The U.S. Department of State on Monday raised its travel advisory for China from Level 2 to Level 3 asking Americans to “reconsider travel to China due to the novel coronavirus.” They added that some areas have “added risk.” [..] Multiple cases of the virus have been confirmed in Hong Kong, Macao, Taipei, Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, France and the United States.


On Monday, local authorities in Germany confirmed the country’s first case. Nepal has confirmed one case. Cambodia confirmed its first case on Monday, according to Reuters, citing Health Minister Mam Bunheng. Sri Lanka also confirmed its first case on Monday, Reuters reports. [..] China stepped up efforts to increase medical supplies to Wuhan that includes transferring 14,000 protective suits and 110,000 pairs of gloves from the central medical reserves, according to the State Council. Emergency supplies of 3 million masks, 100,000 protective suits and 2,180 pairs of goggles were also made available. More than 1,600 medical staff are said to be sent to the Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, to assist in containing the virus.

Read more …

Beijing annd Shanghai may be about to be locked down. Hong Kong residents demand for the border to be closed.

Coronavirus Death Toll Climbs To 106, Infections Rise To 4,515 (BBC)

The death toll from the new coronavirus now stands at 106, as cases of new infections have almost doubled in a day, Chinese authorities have said. The number of total confirmed cases in China rose to 4,515 as of 27 January, up from 2,835 a day earlier. Travel restrictions have been tightened and wearing masks in public is now mandatory in some cities. The city of Wuhan is at the epicentre of the outbreak but it has spread across China and internationally. Wuhan, and the province it is located in Hubei, are already effectively in lockdown with transport restrictions in and out of the area.


On Tuesday, the country’s immigration administration encouraged citizens to reconsider the timing of overseas travel to reduce cross-border movement. Beijing and Shanghai have introduced a 14-day observation period for people arriving from Hubei. Of the 106 deaths in China, 100 were in Hubei province while the province’s number of reported infections is at 2,714. Authorities have postponed the new semester for schools and universities nationwide, without giving a resumption date.

Read more …

They will all have to spend 14 days in quarantine.

US and Japan To Fly Out Citizens As Coronavirus Deaths Rise (G.)

The death toll from the coronavirus has risen to 106, Chinese officials confirmed on Tuesday, as countries scrambled to fly their citizens out of the city at the centre of the outbreak. Japan said it would send a chartered flight to Wuhan on Tuesday night to evacuate its citizens, while the US government is also preparing an airlift. The state department had planned a flight for Tuesday evening, but it was unclear if it would land as scheduled. Both South Korea and France are also aiming to fly out citizens this week. Several countries have also stepped up their warnings over travel to China, including the US, which now advises citizens to avoid non-essential visits to any part of the country.

[..] Around 4,515 cases of the illness have now been recorded across China, with almost 1,000 people in critical condition, according to state media. On Tuesday, Beijing confirmed the city’s first death from the virus. Though the number of cases appears to have risen quickly, from 2,887 on Monday, this was likely to be due to better reporting, and the numbers remain small compared with the population. Japanese foreign minister Toshimitsu Motegi said around 650 Japanese citizens were hoping to return to Japan, and that the first flight could carry around 200 passengers. He added the government was making arrangements for additional flights that would leave for Wuhan as early as Wednesday.

It was not clear if a US flight scheduled to land in Wuhan at 10pm on Tuesday would arrive as scheduled, with some reports suggesting it had been delayed until Wednesday. American citizens have been told there is only limited space available on the plane. [..] China has encouraged citizens to reconsider the timing of overseas travel, and introduced sweeping measures to try to stop the spread of the disease across the country. On Monday, officials postponed the end of this week’s Lunar New Year holiday until at least 2 February in an effort to reduce the chances of infection during what is the country’s busiest travel season. In Shanghai, which has recorded 66 cases of the virus, the end of the holiday has been postponed until 9 February.

Travel restrictions have been announced in many cities, with long-distance bus services banned, while big chains have said they will temporarily close their stores in some areas. There were nearly 7,000 more cases suspected and awaiting confirmation, China’s national health commission said on Monday.

Read more …

Hubei has 2714 cases, but opens up 100,000 hospital beds. Nuff said.

China Coronavirus Cases Almost Double Overnight (ZH)


• 4,515 Cases confirmed worldwide
• 106 Dead worldwide
• 2714 Cases in Hubei (up 1291 overnight – a stunning 91% surge)
• 100 Dead in Hubei (up 24 overnight – a 24% surge)

While China currently has about 3,000 total cases as reported earlier, according to the latest report from China’s Center for Disease Control, the real number of infections may be substantially higher, because as of Jan 26 (the update for Jan 27 is due shortly) some 30,453 people are currently under observation for the coronavirus. Needless to say, it is very likely that a substantial number of these people will end up positive for the disease, even as the total of people under observation grows by thousands every single day.


Earlier in the day, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, China’s Hubei Province, is opening up 100,000 hospital beds in an effort to contain the disease, the province’s vice governor announced on Jan. 27. In a press conference on Jan. 27 evening, Hubei vice governor Yang Yunyan said authorities have designated 112 medical institutions to treat patients with the deadly novel coronavirus, according to Chinese state media. They have freed up around 100,000 hospital beds in the province, with 3,000 of them in Wuhan city alone, where the disease first broke out. As the Epoch Times observes, “The urgency and scale of the authorities’ orders have raised fears that the outbreak has spread far more widely than authorities admit.”

Read more …

“..peak between late April and early May, and at the peak of the pandemic, as many as 150,000 new cases could be confirmed every day in Chongqing alone..”

Hong Kong Scientist Insists 44,000 Already Infected In Wuhan (ZH)

University of Hong Kong academics are urging the city’s government to embrace “draconian” measures to stop history from repeating itself. Hong Kong was rocked by SARS 17 years ago, when the virus – one of seven coronavirus strains (a family that also includes nCoV and MERS) – tore through the city’s financial district, causing 300 deaths, according to the SCMP. As we mentioned earlier, the dean of HKU’s med school revealed research during a presser on Monday showing that the virus had already infected nearly 44,000 people in Wuhan. Meanwhile, Professor Neil Ferguson, at least the second UK academic to publicly share his projections, said over the weekend that 100,000 people could already be infected with the virus around the world, according to the Guardian. Lead researcher and dean of HKU’s faculty of medicine Gabriel Leung said their models indicated that the number of cases in China would double in 6.2 days.

Officials around the world have only confirmed 2901 cases so far, while 2839 of those are in Mainland China. Among other things, Leung said sustained human-to-human transmission has already been proven. “We have to be prepared, that this particular epidemic may be about to become a global epidemic,” he said. Though Leung warned that additional measures to contain the virus could improve projections, the team’s model predicted the number of infections in five mainland megacities – Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chongqing – would peak between late April and early May, and at the peak of the pandemic, as many as 150,000 new cases could be confirmed every day in Chongqing alone because of its large population and intense travel volume with Wuhan.


Since Leung sits on Carrie Lam’s advisory committee, he said he would encourage “draconian” steps to stop the virus, including a travel lockdown, cancellation of all public gatherings, and forcing all companies to come up with work-from-home arrangements. “Substantial, draconian measures limiting population mobility should be taken immediately,” he said, calling for the cancellation of mass gatherings, along with school closures and work-from-home arrangements. Possibly with an eye toward Beijing, Leung called on the government to take “one, two, three or more steps” to broaden the scope of the border closure.

Read more …

Fist death was Jan 10, but “testing kits for the disease were not distributed to some of Wuhan’s hospitals until about Jan. 20”..

How Testing Woes Slowed China’s Coronavirus Response (R.)

“My brother and I have been queuing at the hospital every day. We go at 6 and 7 in the morning, and queue for the whole day, but we don’t get any new answers,” Zhang told Reuters. “Every time the responses are the same: ‘There’s no bed, wait for the government to give a notice, and follow the news to see what’s going on.’ The doctors are all very frustrated too.” [..] Officially known as 2019-nCoV, the new form of coronavirus was first identified as the cause of death of a 61-year-old man in Wuhan on Jan. 10, when China shared gene information on the virus with other countries. Some, such as Japan and Thailand, started testing travelers from China for the virus within three days.


However, testing kits for the disease were not distributed to some of Wuhan’s hospitals until about Jan. 20, an official at the Hubei Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Hubei CDC) told Reuters. Before then, samples had to be sent to a laboratory in Beijing for testing, a process that took three to five days to get results, according to Wuhan health authorities. During that gap, hospitals in the city reduced the number of people under medical observation from 739 to just 82, according to data compiled by Reuters from Wuhan health authorities, and no new cases were reported inside China.


REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Despite the lack of reliable data and testing capacity in Wuhan, Chinese authorities assured citizens in the days after the virus had been identified that it was not widely transmissible. In previous weeks, it had censored negative online commentary about the situation, and arrested eight people it accused of being “rumor spreaders.” “The doctor didn’t wear a mask, we didn’t know how to protect ourselves… no one told us anything,” a 45-year-old woman surnamed Chen told Reuters. Her aunt was confirmed to have the virus on Jan. 20, five days after she was hospitalized. “I posted my aunt’s photos on (Chinese social media site) Weibo and the police called the hospital authorities. They told me to take it down.”


[..] Wuhan’s mayor, Zhou Xianwang, told Chinese state television on Monday he recognized that “all parties were not satisfied with the disclosure of our information.” But he pointed to strictures placed upon him by provincial and national leaders. “In local governance, after I receive information, I can only release it when I’m authorized,” he said. Zhou told a media briefing on Sunday that a further 1,000 people could be diagnosed with the virus in Wuhan, based on the number of patients yet to be tested.

Read more …

Apple has announced potential iPhone delivery issues.

Coronavirus ‘Significant Threat’ To Chinese Economic Growth (G.)

The coronavirus outbreak will have a “significant” impact on Chinese growth, economists have warned, with the “wildcard” of still unknown infections posing potentially serious risks for the global economy. Shares in Asia Pacific continued to fall on Tuesday in the wake of heavy losses at the start of the week which has seen the death toll from the outbreak in China almost double in two days to 105. The number of infections has risen to 4,500, – that’s up 45% from Monday, with China’s authorities confirming the virus can be transmitted by “respiratory droplet transmission” or by touch. Markets in mainland China are closed until 3 February at the earliest, providing a bulwark to losses, but the financial contagion has spread across Asia and the rest of the world.


South Korea, where a fourth case was confirmed on Tuesday, saw its Kospi index fall more than 3% and Australia’s ASX200 was off 1.3%. Shares in Europe and the US suffered similar heavy losses on Monday. The yuan, China’s currency, dropped to its lowest level for a month. Economists agreed that the outbreak will have a negative impact in China but the lack of understanding about how the virus spreads and how bad it might be was adding to uncertainty to the mix and compounding investor concerns. Citigroup said on Tuesday: “The wildcard is not the fatality rate, but how infectious the Wuhan virus is. The economic impact will depend on how successfully this outbreak is contained.” “The outbreak is developing too rapidly to predict with any confidence the final extent of the economic damage,” said Capital’s chief Asia economist Mark Williams. “But it is now certain that the outbreak will have a significant impact on China’s GDP this quarter.”

Read more …

” The Chinese make up 30% of all tourists visiting Japan and nearly 40% of the total sum foreign tourists spent last year..”

Japan Warns About Risks To Economy From China Virus Outbreak (R.)

Japanese Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura warned on Tuesday that corporate profits and factory production might take a hit from the coronavirus outbreak in China that has rattled global markets and chilled confidence. Asian stocks extended a global selloff as the outbreak in China, which has killed 106 people and spread to several countries, fueled concern over the damage to the world’s second largest economy – an engine of global growth. “There are concerns over the impact to the global economy from the spread of infection in China, transportation disruptions, cancellation of group tours from China and an extension in the Lunar Holiday,” Nishimura told a news conference after a regular cabinet meeting.


“If the situation takes longer to subside, we’re concerned it could hurt Japanese exports, output and corporate profits via the impact on Chinese consumption and production,” he said. China is Japan’s second largest export destination and a huge market for its retailers. The Chinese make up 30% of all tourists visiting Japan and nearly 40% of the total sum foreign tourists spent last year, an industry survey showed. The outbreak could hit Japanese department stores, retailers and hotels, which count on a boost to sales from an inflow of Chinese tourists visiting during the Lunar Holiday.

Read more …

And it’s early days still..

Coronavirus Prompts Automakers To Evacuate Workers From China (CNBC)

Automakers are withdrawing employees from China and weighing whether to suspend manufacturing in the country as the virus that emerged in the city of Wuhan less than a month ago ravages the mainland. Most major automakers have restricted or banned travel to the country due to the fast-spreading disease, which as of Monday had taken the lives of at least 82 people in China and sickened 2,900 worldwide. Manufacturing in China was temporarily halted in honor of the Lunar New Year, which kicked off this weekend, but normal operations were due to resume this week. Automakers across the globe with operations in China could keep those plants closed even longer, people familiar with the matter said. Automakers with notable operations in Wuhan include GM, Honda and Nissan, which currently has a facility under construction with Wuhan-based Dongfeng.

Honda Motor and PSA Group are withdrawing employees working around Wuhan, a city of 11 million people. A Honda spokesman on Monday confirmed 30 “associates and their families” who work at the plant near Wuhan were being sent home to Japan. PSA Group said in an email to CNBC that the decision to repatriate its employees working in Wuhan will be done “according the proposition of the French authorities in complete cooperation with Chinese authorities.” They are expected to start flying French citizens home from Wuhan by the middle of this week, company spokesman Pierre-Olivier Salmon said. Nissan also has plans to withdraw a majority of its employees and their family members from the Wuhan area back to Japan, a person familiar with the company’s plans told CNBC on Monday.


General Motors, which is by far the largest U.S. automaker in China, is “taking it one day at a time” regarding the outbreak, according to a spokesman. It hasn’t yet decided whether it will extend the work stoppage in China beyond Feb. 2, particularly at an assembly plant in Wuhan that employs about 6,000 workers, he said. The automaker operates 15 assembly plants with Chinese partners in the country. “Out of an abundance of caution, GM has placed a temporary restriction on travel to China,” the company said. “Employees are also reminded to take necessary protection measures suggested by medical authorities. GM will continue to closely monitor this situation.” Others, such as Ford Motor, Fiat Chrysler and Volkswagen of America, are said to be doing the same regarding business operations and travel to the country.

Read more …

Secret deal with the Fed?!

Boeing Secures Over $12 Billion In Financing To Fight 737 Max Crisis (CNBC)

Boeing has secured commitments of more than $12 billion in financing from more than a dozen banks, according to people familiar with the matter, as the industrial giant shores up its balance sheet amid the nearly yearlong grounding of the 737 Max. The manufacturer was trying to secure a loan of at least $10 billion, CNBC reported last week. [..] The size of the loan, at least $2 billion more than originally sought, is a vote of confidence in the manufacturer from lenders. Boeing is expected to detail its financing strategy when it reports earnings before the market opens on Wednesday.


The financing will be a two-year delayed-draw loan, the people said, meaning that Boeing doesn’t have to use it all immediately, and is set to cost 100 points over Libor. [..] The timing of the jets’ return to service is still uncertain. Boeing last week said it doesn’t expect regulators to recertify the 737 Max until midyear, but the head of the Federal Aviation Administration recently told airlines that the agency’s approval may come before that. New CEO Dave Calhoun told reporters last week that the company is planning to resume 737 Max production before the planes return to service.

Read more …

But it’s the west that’s doing the meddling…

Oil Chief Urges West To Call Out Foreign Meddling In Libya Conflict (G.)

World powers will be complicit in the collapse of the rule of law in Libya if they do not do more to call out the countries backing those responsible for disrupting the country’s oil exports, the head of the Libyan national oil corporation has said. Mustafa Sanalla said too many western powers were happy to let the countries meddling in Libya sign non-intervention agreements that they had no intention of honouring. He said his country was facing “a disaster and a nightmare” as a nine-day blockade of oil ports by forces loyal to the Libyan National Army (LNA), headed by Gen Khalifa Haftar, continued. Oil production has fallen from 1.2m barrels a day to 260,000 barrels.

Sanalla said production would soon drop to 70,000 barrels, and the cumulative impact would be a loss of $440m. He said it would soon be impossible to pay 1.3m public sector salaries in east and west Libya, requiring the country to look for loans on the international market. The production blockage could also be causing long-term damage to Libyan pipelines, as crude oil left in pipes will corrode them. Sanalla, seen as one of the few authoritative neutral voices in Libya, said: “The international community has to understand that if it tolerates or even rewards those who break the law in Libya, then it will be complicit in the end of the rule of law in our country. And that means more corruption, more crime, more injustice and more poverty.”


He said world powers “seem happy when they secure agreement from a wide range of countries to international statements calling for ceasefires and political settlements. But they know that many of those countries will sign anything and then continue to supply weapons to the war fighters, and to pour poison into social media with their sophisticated disinformation campaigns, undermining the very solutions they have officially supported. “We need not just words but action from UN security council members, particularly the UK, US and France, who all pride themselves on their support for the rule of law. We need them to call out the hypocrisy of those countries – or those within their governments – who prefer instead to pursue their own national interests at the expense of the Libyan people.”

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“..Adam Schiff has been hurling false accusations and retailing mendacious narratives for three years. He deserves the most public disgrace that can possibly be arranged..”

Canary Trap (Kunstler)

Surely Adam Schiff thinks that testimony from John Bolton was his ace-in-the-hole to corroborate the House’s impeachment case. Maybe his staff (of former NSC moles) had a hand in orchestrating the leaks from the NSC to The New York Times at exactly the right moment — hours before Mr. Trump’s lawyers would begin to argue the main body of his defense in the Senate, to produce an orgasmic gotcha. But what if Mr. Trump’s lawyers and confidants were ahead of the scheme and knew exactly when and how Mr. Schiff would call the play? It’s actually inconceivable that Mr. Trump’s team did not know this play was coming. Do you suppose they didn’t know that Mr. Bolton had written a book on contract for Simon & Schuster, and much more?

After all, a president has access to information that even a sedulous bottom-feeder like Mr. Schiff just doesn’t command. Maybe the canary trap is only the prelude to a booby trap — and remember, boobies are much larger birds than canaries. Maybe, despite prior protestations about not calling witnesses, the Bolton ploy will actually be an excuse for Mr. Trump’s defense team to run the switcheroo play and accede to the calling of witnesses. Perhaps they are not afraid of what Mr. Bolton might have to say in the ‘splainin’ seat. Perhaps what he has to say turns out to be, at least, the proverbial nothingburger with mayo and onion, or, at worst, a perfidious prevarication motivated by ill-will against the employer who sacked him ignominiously.

Perhaps Mr. Trump’s lawyers are longing for the chance to haul in some witnesses of their own, for instance the “whistleblower.” It is also inconceivable that the actual progenitor of this mighty hot mess would not be called to account in the very forum that his ploy was aimed to convoke. And from the unmasked “whistleblower,” the spectacle would proceed straightaway to Adam Schiff himself in the witness chair. That will be an elongated moment of personal self-disfigurement not seen in American history since William Jennings Bryan was left blubbering in the courtroom at Dayton, Tennessee, 1925, after he spearheaded the malicious prosecution of John Scopes for teaching evolution in a high school biology class…

…or the moment of national wonder and nausea in June 1954 when Army Chief Counsel Joseph Welch rose from his chair and asked witch-hunting Senator Joseph McCarthy, “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” In a deeply imperfect world, California’s 28th congressional district has produced a true marvel: the perfect scoundrel. Adam Schiff has been hurling false accusations and retailing mendacious narratives for three years. He deserves the most public disgrace that can possibly be arranged, on nationwide television, with all his many media enablers at CNN and MSNBC having to call the play-by-play. Then the nation needs to expel him from the House of Representatives. And then, maybe, the USA can get on with other business.

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They must shame him on a daily basis. And the Queen for letting him get away.

Prince Andrew Told To ‘Stop Playing Games’ Over Epstein Inquiry (G.)

A US lawyer has called on Prince Andrew to “stop playing games” and assist authorities with their investigation into the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking inquiry. Lisa Bloom, who represents five of Epstein’s alleged victims, said it was time for the Duke of York to “do the right thing” and speak with investigators in the US. The US attorney Geoffrey Berman said at a news conference on Monday that Andrew had provided “zero cooperation”, despite his lawyers being contacted by prosecutors and the FBI as part of the investigation. Bloom told BBC News on Tuesday: “It is time for anyone with information to come forward and answer questions. “Prince Andrew himself is accused of sexual misconduct and he also spent a great deal of time with Jeffrey Epstein. So it’s time to stop playing games and to come forward to do the right thing and answer questions.”


She said Berman had been left with “no choice” but to comment publicly about Andrew’s alleged lack of cooperation into the investigation. She said: “He [Berman] doesn’t have the power to subpoena Prince Andrew as part of the criminal investigation, so what else can he do except use the power of the press to come forward publicly and say: ‘You know what, Prince Andrew, you said you would fully cooperate with law enforcement and you have not done it.’”] Berman, who is overseeing the Epstein investigation, told reporters outside the disgraced financier’s New York mansion that “to date, Prince Andrew has provided zero cooperation”. Buckingham Palace was not commenting on the matter, but a source said: “This issue is being dealt with by the Duke of York’s legal team.”

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What year is this?

Aid Groups Seek Safe Ports For Nearly 500 Migrants Rescued In The Mediterranean (RT)

Nearly 500 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean by two boats run by aid agencies were looking for safe ports in Malta and Italy, the groups said on Monday. The ‘Ocean Viking’ vessel run by SOS Mediterranee in partnership with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) was carrying 407 people rescued in a total of five operations carried out over 72 hours. Another 78 people were taken on board the ‘Alan Kurdi’, run by the Sea-Eye organization based in Germany. They were rescued in two operations. Sea-Eye tweeted on Sunday that the ‘Alan Kurdi’ was headed for Italy, after Malta refused them a safe port.


Ocean Viking has rescued 184 men, women and children on two inflatable rafts, off the Libyan coast. Despite the winter, bad weather, and very few vessels dedicated to the rescue in the area, “boats are still leaving Libya in numbers,” Aloys Vimard, MSF’s coordinator on board the Ocean Viking, told AFP. “The survivors tell us about the deteriorating security situation in Libya where there is active conflict.” MSF had refused an offer to land them at Libya as “it is not a safe place.”

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Bernie leads in Iowa one week before the primary, and Trump is catching up on all Democrats.

 

 

 

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