Thursday, April 23, 2020

LA County Replicates Stanford Santa Clara Serology: About As Lethal As Seasonal Flu

LATimes |  Hundreds of thousands of Los Angeles County residents may have been infected with the coronavirus by early April, far outpacing the number of officially confirmed cases, according to a report released Monday.

The initial results from the first large-scale study tracking the spread of the coronavirus in the county found that 4.1% of adults have antibodies to the virus in their blood, an indication of past exposure.

That translates to roughly 221,000 to 442,000 adults who have recovered from an infection, once margin of error is taken into account, according to the researchers conducting the study. The county had reported fewer than 8,000 cases at that time.

The findings suggest the fatality rate may be much lower than previously thought. But although the virus may be more widespread, the infection rate still falls far short of herd immunity that, absent a vaccine, would be key to return to normal life.

Antibody tests, also known as serology testing, have increasingly become a focal point in the response to coronavirus because they can potentially show the true extent of the virus’ reach and therefore can shed light on how close the population is to achieving herd immunity. That occurs when enough people have some degree of immunity to the virus that it becomes difficult for infections to spread.

“Any way you slice the data ... it’s clear that herd immunity in this situation does not apply. It’s still way below that level,” said Natalie Dean, a professor of biostatistics at the University of Florida.
Such tests can also provide a more accurate picture of how lethal the virus is.

The mortality rate is based on the number of confirmed infections; the higher the number of infections, the lower the fatality rate. Both studies estimated a mortality rate of 0.1% to 0.2%, which is closer to the death rate associated with the seasonal flu.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Controlavirus: Timelines And Narratives And Set-Ups - Oh My!!!

strategic-culture |  There may have been subtle hints of slightly increased activity at clinics in Wuhan in late November and early December. But at the time nobody – Chinese doctors, the government, not to mention U.S. intel – could have possibly known what was really happening.

China could not be “covering up” what was only identified as a new disease on December 30, duly communicated to the WHO. Then, on January 3, the head of the American CDC, Robert Redfield, called the top Chinese CDC official. Chinese doctors sequenced the virus. And only on January 8 it was determined this was Sars-Cov-2 – which provokes Covid-19.

This chain of events reopens, once again, a mighty Pandora’s box. We have the quite timely Event 201; the cozy relationship between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the WHO, as well as the Word Economic Forum and the Johns Hopkins galaxy in Baltimore, including the Bloomberg School of Public Health; the ID2020 digital ID/vaccine combo; Dark Winter – which simulated a smallpox bio-attack on the U.S., before the 2001 anthrax attack being blamed on Iraq; U.S. Senators dumping stocks after a CDC briefing; more than 1,300 CEOs abandoning their cushy perches in 2019, “forecasting” total market collapse; the Fed pouring helicopter money already in September 2019 – as part of QE4.

And then, validating the ABC News report, Israel steps in. Israeli intel confirms U.S. intel did in fact warn them in November about a potentially catastrophic pandemic in Wuhan (once again: how could they possibly know that on the second week of November, so early in the game?) And NATO allies were warned – in November – as well.

The bottom line is explosive: the Trump administration as well as the CDC had an advance warning of no less than four months – from November to March – to be properly prepared for Covid-19 hitting the U.S. And they did nothing. The whole “China is a witch!” case is debunked.

Moreover, the Israeli disclosure supports what’s nothing less than extraordinary: U.S. intel already knew about Sars-Cov-2 roughly one month before the first confirmed cases detected by doctors in a Wuhan hospital. Talk about divine intervention.

That could only have happened if U.S. intel knew, for sure, about a previous chain of events that would necessarily lead to the “mysterious outbreak” in Wuhan. And not only that: they knew exactly where to look. Not in Inner Mongolia, not in Beijing, not in Guangdong province.

It’s never enough to repeat the question in full: how could U.S. intel have known about a contagion one month before Chinese doctors detected an unknown virus?

Mike “We Lie, We Cheat, We Steal” Pompeo may have given away the game when he said, on the record, that Covid-19 was a “live exercise”. Adding to the ABC News and Israeli reports, the only possible, logical conclusion is that the Pentagon – and the CIA – knew ahead of time a pandemic would be inevitable.

That’s the smokin’ gun. And now the full weight of the United States government is covering all bases by proactively, and retroactively, blaming China.

Now The Show Me State Tryna Sue China For Reparations

npr  |  The state of Missouri is suing China for that country's handling of the coronavirus outbreak. It's the first such lawsuit brought by a state, and it relies on an unusual interpretation of federal law. 

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican, blames China for letting the coronavirus spread. So he's suing China, three government ministries, two local governments, two laboratories and the Chinese Communist Party in U.S. District Court. They all "engaged in misrepresentations, concealment, and retaliation to conceal the gravity and seriousness of the COVID-19 outbreak from the rest of the world," according to Schmitt

"There's been untold suffering across the globe, including here in Missouri, and we want to hold them accountable for that," Schmitt says.

China, however, is protected by sovereign immunity.

"A sovereign is not supposed to sue a sovereign, and that's what's going on here," says Lea Brilmayer, professor of international law at Yale Law School.

Brilmayer says that the case is highly unusual and that most judges would find that they don't have jurisdiction over a matter between a U.S. state and a sovereign nation.

"This is a last-ditch effort to do something to respond to the political situation," she says.

While Missouri might have a hard time moving forward with a lawsuit against China, Schmitt says there are workarounds. For instance, Schmitt says there's an exception for commercial activity and alleges that labs and hospitals are commercial ventures. He's also counting the Chinese Communist Party as a nonstate actor, which he says fortifies his legal argument.

Brilmayer says that if the case does move forward or if it works its way up the appeals process, the U.S. State Department would normally be expected to weigh in, perhaps with a letter to the judge explaining its position on the case.

In the meantime, other Republicans also are moving to try to hold China — not U.S. officials — accountable for American coronavirus deaths and economic damage. Last week, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley introduced legislation to strip China of its sovereign immunity.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Since THEY Are Just Making Shit Up - What'Choo Think - Was It Subways Or Was It Ubers?

MIT |  The Subways Seeded the Massive Coronavirus Epidemic in New York City

New York City’s multitentacled subway system was a major disseminator – if not the principal transmissionvehicle – of coronavirus infection during the initial takeoff of the massive epidemic that became evidentthroughout the city during March 2020. The near shutoff of subway ridership in Manhattan – downby over 90 percent at the end of March – correlates strongly with the substantial increase in the doublingtime of new cases in this borough. Maps of subway station turnstile entries, superimposed upon zipcode-level maps of reported coronavirus incidence, are strongly consistent with subway-facilitateddisease propagation. Local train lines appear to have a higher propensity to transmit infection thanexpress lines. Reciprocal seeding of infection appears to be the best explanation for the emergenceof a single hotspot in Midtown West in Manhattan. Bus hubs may have served as secondary transmissionroutes out to the periphery of the city.

MarketUrbanism |  Uber Seeded the Massive Coronavirus Epidemic in New York City 

New York City is an epicenter of the global novel coronavirus pandemic. Through April 16, there were 1,458 confirmed cases per 100,000 residents in New York City. Always in the media eye, and larger than any other American city, New York City has become the symbol of the crisis, even as suburban counties nearby suffer higher rates of infection.

In a paper dated April 13, 2020, Jeffrey E. Harris of M.I.T. claims that “New York City’s multitentacled subway system was a major disseminator – if not the principal transmission vehicle – of coronavirus infection during the initial takeoff of the massive epidemic.” Oddly, he does not go on to offer evidence in support of this claim in his paper.

Conversely, as I will show, data show that local infections were negatively correlated with subway use, even when controlling for demographic data. Although this correlation study does not establish causation, it more reliably characterizes the spread of the virus than the intuitions and visual inspections that Harris relies on.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Quarantines Seclude Sick People, Secluding The Healthy Is Something Else...,

statnews |  The current coronavirus disease, Covid-19, has been called a once-in-a-century pandemic. But it may also be a once-in-a-century evidence fiasco.

At a time when everyone needs better information, from disease modelers and governments to people quarantined or just social distancing, we lack reliable evidence on how many people have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 or who continue to become infected. Better information is needed to guide decisions and actions of monumental significance and to monitor their impact.

Draconian countermeasures have been adopted in many countries. If the pandemic dissipates — either on its own or because of these measures — short-term extreme social distancing and lockdowns may be bearable. How long, though, should measures like these be continued if the pandemic churns across the globe unabated? How can policymakers tell if they are doing more good than harm?

Vaccines or affordable treatments take many months (or even years) to develop and test properly. Given such timelines, the consequences of long-term lockdowns are entirely unknown.

The data collected so far on how many people are infected and how the epidemic is evolving are utterly unreliable. Given the limited testing to date, some deaths and probably the vast majority of infections due to SARS-CoV-2 are being missed. We don’t know if we are failing to capture infections by a factor of three or 300. Three months after the outbreak emerged, most countries, including the U.S., lack the ability to test a large number of people and no countries have reliable data on the prevalence of the virus in a representative random sample of the general population.

This evidence fiasco creates tremendous uncertainty about the risk of dying from Covid-19. Reported case fatality rates, like the official 3.4% rate from the World Health Organization, cause horror — and are meaningless. Patients who have been tested for SARS-CoV-2 are disproportionately those with severe symptoms and bad outcomes. As most health systems have limited testing capacity, selection bias may even worsen in the near future.

Controlavirus Exhibits Identical Proliferation Patterns No Matter What You Humans Attempt To Do About it

redstate |  Tel Aviv University Professor Isaac Ben-Israel is a prominent Israeli mathematician, analyst, and former general and is considered to be highly credible, but he is not a medical expert.
Tel Aviv University Professor Isaac Ben-Israel is the chair of the school’s Securities Studies program, the chairman of the National Council for Research and Development and also serves on the research and development advisory board for Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. He appeared on an Israeli television program (Hebrew) earlier this week to discuss his latest project. The Times of Israel reported on this story.

According to The Times, Ben-Israel plotted the rates of new infections in nearly a dozen countries including: U.S., U.K., Sweden, Italy, Israel, Switzerland, France, Germany, Spain, Singapore, and Taiwan. He concluded the following:
Simple statistical analysis demonstrates that the spread of COVID-19 peaks after about 40 days and declines to almost zero after 70 days — no matter where it strikes, and no matter what measures governments impose to try to thwart it.
Analyzing the growth and decline of new cases in countries around the world, showed repeatedly that “there’s a set pattern” and “the numbers speak for themselves.”
So, Ben-Israel claims that a country that has taken extraordinary measures to contain the virus vs. a nation like Sweden, which has been relatively lax, will follow a fixed pattern. The virus will peak and recede “in the exact same way. In the exact, same, way. His graphs show that all countries
experienced seemingly identical coronavirus infection patterns, with the number of infected peaking in the sixth week and rapidly subsiding by the eighth week.”

The following comes from a translation of an interview Ben-Israel gave to Israeli media outlet Mako which was obtained by Townhall’s Marina Medvin:
It is a fixed pattern that is not dependent on freedom or quarantine. There is a decline in the number of infections even [in countries] without closures, and it is similar to the countries with closures.
Expansion begins exponentially but fades quickly after about eight weeks. I have no explanation. There are is [sic] kinds of speculation: maybe it’s climate-related, maybe the virus has its own life cycle.
When asked about the high morbidity rate in Italy, Ben-Israel replied, “The health system in Italy has its own problems. It has nothing to do with coronavirus. In 2017 it also collapsed because of the flu.”

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Contagion and Ideology: Memes Are Like A Virus Hiding From "The Immune System"

NBCNews |  An anti-government movement that advocates for a violent uprising targeting liberal political opponents and law enforcement has moved from the fringes of the internet into the mainstream and surged on social media in recent months, according to a group of researchers that tracks hate groups.

The movement, which says it wants a second Civil War organized around the term "boogaloo," includes groups on mainstream internet platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Reddit, as well as fringe websites including 4chan, according to a report released Tuesday night by the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI), an independent nonprofit of scientists and engineers that tracks and reports on misinformation and hate speech across social media.

While calls for organized and targeted violence in the form of a new Civil War have previously circulated among some hate groups, the emergence of the term "boogaloo" appeared to be a new and discrete movement. NCRI researchers who analyzed more than 100 million social media posts and comments found that through the use of memes — inside jokes commonly in the form of images — extremists have pushed anti-government and anti-law enforcement messages across social media platforms. They have also organized online communities with tens of thousands of members, some of whom have assembled at real-world events.

The report "represents a breakthrough case study in the capacity to identify cyber swarms and viral insurgencies in nearly real time as they are developing in plain sight," John Farmer, a former New Jersey attorney general who is director of the Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience at Rutgers University, wrote in the report's foreword.

Controlavirus Politics And Media On The 25th Anniversary Of The Oklahoma City Bombing

NYTimes |  The bombing’s 25th anniversary arrives on Sunday, and both historians and those who experienced the attack directly worry that the memory is fading even as the violent ideology that inspired Mr. McVeigh grows ever more prevalent.

“In today’s political environment, I hear echoes of the kind of rhetoric that I think inspired the perpetrators of the bombing,” David F. Holt, 41, the mayor of Oklahoma City, said. “I think that we all have an obligation to look at Oklahoma City — to look at that scar we have in our downtown — and remember where this all leads when you call other people your enemy, when you try to foster division and difference.”

Most events marking the anniversary were canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak. The annual reading of the names was prerecorded, along with brief remarks by various political figures. Local television stations planned to broadcast the hourlong remembrance video, which is also available online, on Sunday morning.

Homegrown terrorism is the main factor setting Oklahoma City apart.

“Americans forgot it pretty fast,” said David Neiwert, whose book “Alt-America” chronicles the spread of far-right extremism. “It is a difficult story to tell. It runs up against the whole narrative of American exceptionalism because that was an American terrorist, and Americans like to think that they don’t do that sort of thing, only guys in turbans do that.”

 Convicted of murder and other crimes in federal court in 1997, Mr. McVeigh was executed three months before the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Mr. McVeigh, 26 at the time of the bombing, grew up a skinny, bullied kid in a typical middle-class home outside Buffalo. He joined the Army at 20, earning a Bronze Star as a gunnery sergeant in the Persian Gulf war.

While in the military, Mr. McVeigh grew increasingly obsessed with guns and hostile toward the U.S. government. Washing out of an audition for the Special Forces set him on the path toward the paramilitary wing of the white power movement.

Lacking a girlfriend or a promising job, he penned bitter letters. “Is a Civil War imminent?” he wrote to one newspaper. “Do we have to shed blood to reform the current system? I hope it doesn’t come to that. But it might.”

Basement Dwelling Gamma Ovaryman Birthed A Bellyfull Of Feminized Resentiment

riverfronttimes |  How fucking dare you, Wendy. Last I checked this is America, and my fellow Americans and I have the right to go wherever we want and do whatever we please. Your proposal to restrict my movement in and out of your dumb online group is nothing short of tyranny and will be met with revolution! The Tree of Facebook must, from time to time, be watered with the blood of patriots!

Listen, we could go all day here. The sad fact is these folks have already made up their minds, and their actions are going to get more people sick, and ironically enough are definitely, definitely going to mean that lockdowns will stay in place longer than if you just sat still and chilled the fuck out while the medical professionals get a handle on this thing. You are that group of kids that won't stop talking during a grade-school timeout and thereby keep getting the timeout extended. Fucking stop it!

I get that people are losing their livelihoods. Hell, the RFT itself was near-decimated in the last month as lockdowns cost us our advertisers and forced almost everyone on the editorial side to be laid off. (That whole "this is all a media conspiracy" trope is a pretty dumb one when you actually look at how it actually plays out for newsrooms, isn't it?) I genuinely feel your pain — so many people I know are out of work right now. It's scary as hell.

But your anger is misdirected. Instead of targeting the media organizations that are trying to keep you informed, or the politicians that are trying to keep the death tolls of their constituents down, maybe direct your ire toward the segments of our society that have eroded anything even remotely resembling a robust social safety net over the last 40 years, making us unimaginably vulnerable in a crisis like this while simultaneously funneling all the country's wealth upward to the nation's richest.

And I know this is going to fall on deaf ears, but please know I'm trying to look out for your safety here — not to mention the safety of my nurse fiancée, my 60-plus-year-old parents and my diabetic sister.

Please, just please reconsider this shit and stay home?

Speaking Of Mixing Processes: Nextdoor Got Inflamed Overnight About "Reopen Missouri"

fox4kc |  The stay-at-home orders set to expire next week have now been extended in both Kansas and Missouri until May 3.

And Kansas City, Jackson County and now Clay County have taken it a step further until May 15. 

But there’s a large group of people who say they won’t do it anymore. They want to get back to normal immediately, and they’re planning protests to let local leaders know. 

“I think it’s time to try to start working past the fear and get things reopened,” Jane Shull said. “If not, what are we going to do? Stay closed forever?” 

Shull owns a cleaning company, and her business is down 40-50% due to the coronavirus pandemic. 
She said she’s sick and tired of staying home and reading about businesses failing. 

“If people are afraid to go out or go to businesses, that’s their decision,” Shull said. “But let the people open up their businesses and have people social distance, whatever it takes, but you just cannot keep everything locked down.”

Groups on social media have been popping up, advocating for reopening the economy. 

A group called Reopen Missouri called the stay-at-home order an “inhumane and ineffective policy.” Another group called Reopen Kansas called the order a “severe overreaction to the COVID issue.” 

They’ve planned protests throughout both states next week. Locally, there’s a call to flood the now empty streets of downtown Kansas City on Monday and another protest planned at J.C. Nichols Fountain.

That Mixing Process Called REASSORTMENT Is One Of Two Ways Pandemic Viruses Are Created

ctvnews |  The company that released contaminated flu virus material from a plant in Austria confirmed Friday that the experimental product contained live H5N1 avian flu viruses.

And an official of the World Health Organization's European operation said the body is closely monitoring the investigation into the events that took place at Baxter International's research facility in Orth-Donau, Austria.

"At this juncture we are confident in saying that public health and occupational risk is minimal at present," medical officer Roberta Andraghetti said from Copenhagen, Denmark.

 "But what remains unanswered are the circumstances surrounding the incident in the Baxter facility in Orth-Donau."

The contaminated product, a mix of H3N2 seasonal flu viruses and unlabelled H5N1 viruses, was supplied to an Austrian research company. The Austrian firm, Avir Green Hills Biotechnology, then sent portions of it to sub-contractors in the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Germany.

The contamination incident, which is being investigated by the four European countries, came to light when the subcontractor in the Czech Republic inoculated ferrets with the product and they died. Ferrets shouldn't die from exposure to human H3N2 flu viruses.

Public health authorities concerned about what has been described as a "serious error" on Baxter's part have assumed the death of the ferrets meant the H5N1 virus in the product was live. But the company, Baxter International Inc., has been parsimonious about the amount of information it has released about the event.

On Friday, the company's director of global bioscience communications confirmed what scientists have suspected.

"It was live," Christopher Bona said in an email.

The contaminated product, which Baxter calls "experimental virus material," was made at the Orth-Donau research facility. Baxter makes its flu vaccine -- including a human H5N1 vaccine for which a licence is expected shortly -- at a facility in the Czech Republic.

People familiar with biosecurity rules are dismayed by evidence that human H3N2 and avian H5N1 viruses somehow co-mingled in the Orth-Donau facility. That is a dangerous practice that should not be allowed to happen, a number of experts insisted.

Accidental release of a mixture of live H5N1 and H3N2 viruses could have resulted in dire consequences.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Was Coronavirus A General Use Weapon Sellable To Any High Bidder - No Questions Asked?

nyu |  1.1.  What is a GPT?

So, what are these “fundamental” features of GPTs that would allow us to compare one to another? And more generally, what criteria can one use to distinguish a GPT from other technologies? 

Bresnahan and Trajtenberg (1996)argue that a GPT should havethe following three characteristics: 1.Pervasiveness– The GPT should spread to most sectors.
2.Improvement– The GPT should get better over time and, hence, should keep low-ering the costs of its users.
3.Innovation spawning– The GPT should make it easier to invent and produce new products or processes.

Most technologies possess each of these characteristics to some degree, and thus a GPT cannot differ qualitatively from these other technologies. Note, too, that the third property is, in a sense, a version of the first property if we phrase the latter to say that the GPT should also spread to the innovation sector. Moreover, this list can be expanded to include more subtle features of GPTs, a subject that we consider in Section3.Yet we find these three basic characteristics to be a useful starting point for evaluating and com-paring the impact of various technologies through history. Investigating how Electricity and IT measure up on these three dimensions is the focus of Section2.

Why Did Xi Jinping Deliberately Sicken The World?

thediplomat |  We often ascribe a basic level of humanity to even the cruelest leaders, but People’s Republic of China leader Xi Jinping’s actions have forced us to rethink this assumption. Although the emergence of the novel coronavirus now known as SARS-CoV-2 was probably not due to China’s actions, the emphasis that its authoritarian system places on hiding bad news likely gave the disease a sizable head start infecting the world. But most ominously, China’s obsession with image and Machtpolitik raises serious questions about its lack of moral limits.

At some point the Chinese Communist Party learned of the epidemic and made a decision to hide its existence, hoping it went away. Exposés in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post and the Chinese mainland’s Caixin show that the information that did flow out of China early in the crisis did so only because of the courage of individual Chinese people in the face of government repression. People in the Wuhan epicenter, however, began to get wise — and scared (here and here) — by the end of December 2019, forcing their government to say something. The authorities gave the impression of a nontransmissible disease already under containment. We know now this was entirely false, likely designed more to ease civil unrest than protect the people.

The mayor of Wuhan even suggested that the central government prevented him from revealing details about the epidemic until January 20. Considering the first public announcements came out of Wuhan on January 1, we can assume that Xi had a sense of the danger prior to that.

Clearly, downplaying the disease wasn’t working and it was time for the Party to get serious. But how serious? Would it provide full cooperation to the international community? Would being seen as the source of this virus hurt its international image? Beyond these, there was a darker dimension: the more Beijing cooperated, the less the disease stood to affect other countries. This includes countries China sees as a threat to its existence, like the United States. Why should China suffer the effects of a pandemic while others stayed safe — and increased their strength relative to China — based on China’s own costly experience?

Is It Racist And Right-Wing To Call Out China For The Wuhan Coronavirus?

strategic-culture |   John Birchers are consistent about one thing and that is their abject racism. Just as they condemned UNESCO and the FAO in the 1970s because they had African and Arab directors-general – Amadou-Mahtar M’Bow of Senegal and Edouard Saouma of Lebanon, respectively – they are now condemning the WHO because it has an Ethiopian director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a famed microbiologist from Ethiopia. Trump and his rabid far-right supporters have accused Dr. Tedros of being an agent=of-influence for China as part of the neo-John Birchers overall campaign to assign the cause of the coronavirus pandemic to China. The parents and grandparents of these John Birchers once blamed the “Communists” and the “Soviet Union” for being behind the fluoridation of America’s public water supply.

The Birchers even had a degree of success with the Bill Clinton administration, which withdrew the U.S. from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the U.N. World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Clinton’s reason for withdrawal was pure Bircher logic: they “lacked purpose” for the United States.

Today, acting under the auspices of front organizations like the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society – both bankrolled by the Charles Koch Foundation and the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation – the neo-John Birchers accuse China of being behind the coronavirus pandemic by intentionally or accidentally releasing the virus as a biological weapon. In lashing out at China, the far-right, including senior members of the Trump administration and Republican senators like Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have also placed Tedros and the “China-influenced” WHO in their gunsights.

The WHO is not the first UN agency to be singled out by the far-right as an instrument of China. The Heritage Foundation, whose white papers are often transformed into Trump administration policy, criticized the election of Qu Dongyu as director-general of FAO in 2019. Heritage blasted the UN for electing Qu as the fourth Chinese national to head a UN specialized agency. Chinese directors-general also lead the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), UNIDO, and the International  Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Four months before the first coronavirus case was reported in Wuhan, China, Heritage and its neo-John Bircher allies had convinced Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a Tea Party founder, to question Chinese influence at the UN. Heritage made several demands to its fellow-travelers in the Trump administration. They included: 1) tasking the U.S. intelligence community to report on Chinese objectives, tactics, and influence in international organizations; 2) Conduct an objective cost-benefit analysis of U.S. participation in each international organization;  3) the U.S. should focus its effort and resources on countering Chinese influence, advancing U.S. policy preferences, and increasing employment of U.S. nationals, particularly in senior positions, in those organizations whose remit affects key U.S. interests; 4) identify and carefully vet highly qualified candidates for leadership positions in international organizations well in advance of elections; 5) Counter Chinese financial and political pressure on foreign governments; 6) Press the UN, the specialized agencies, and UN funds and programs to increase employment of U.S. nationals; and 7) Elevate multilateral affairs and international organizations within the State Department by establishing an Under Secretary for Multilateral Affairs. 8) the U.S. should take all reasonable steps to ensure that an American or national of a like-minded country becomes the next International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director-general.

As can be seen with Heritage’s bulletized attack on the UN, the current Trump administration attack on UN agency directors like Dr. Tedros was already in the planning stages and was part of the old John Birch playbook of either bending the UN and its specialized agencies to U.S. will or withdraw from them or cut off dues payments. Trump carried out his John Bircher-initiated orders by threatening to put a hold on U.S. payments to the WHO, even as the organization has become cash-strapped over its campaign to curb the coronavirus around the world.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Han Elite Rule Epitomizes The Full Neoliberal And Surveillance Capitalist Agenda

strategic-culture |  For decades, we were led to believe that the world-system put in place after WWII provided the U.S. with unrivalled structural power. Now, all that’s left is structural fragility, grotesque inequalities, unpayable Himalayas of debt, and a rolling crisis.

No one is fooled anymore by the Fed’s magic quantitative easing powers, or the acronym salad – TALF, ESF, SPV – built into the Fed/U.S. Treasury exclusive obsession with big banks, corporations and the Goddess of the Market, to the detriment of the average American.

It was only a few months ago that a serious discussion evolved around the $2.5 quadrillion derivatives market imploding and collapsing the global economy, based on the price of oil skyrocketing, in case the Strait of Hormuz – for whatever reason – was shut down.

Now it’s about Great Depression 2.0: the whole system crashing as a result of the shutdown of the global economy. The questions are absolutely legitimate: is the political and social cataclysm of the global economic crisis arguably a larger catastrophe than Covid-19 itself?  And will it provide an opportunity to end neoliberalism and usher in a more equitable system, or something even worse?
Wall Street, of course, lives in an alternative universe. In a nutshell, Wall Street turned the Fed into a hedge fund. The Fed is going to own at least two thirds of all U.S. Treasury bills in the market before the end of 2020.

The U.S. Treasury will be buying every security and loan in sight while the Fed will be the banker – financing the whole scheme.

So essentially this is a Fed/Treasury merger. A behemoth dispensing loads of helicopter money.
And the winner is BlackRock—the biggest money manager on the planet, with tentacles everywhere, managing the assets of over 170 pension funds, banks, foundations, insurance companies, in fact a great deal of the money in private equity and hedge funds. BlackRock — promising to be fully  “transparent” — will buy these securities and manage those dodgy SPVs on behalf of the Treasury.

BlackRock, founded in 1988 by Larry Fink, may not be as big as Vanguard, but it’s the top investor in Goldman Sachs, along with Vanguard and State Street, and with $6.5 trillion in assets, bigger than Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank combined.

Now, BlackRock is the new operating system (OS) of the Fed and the Treasury. The world’s biggest shadow bank – and no, it’s not Chinese.

Compared to this high-stakes game, mini-scandals such as the one around Georgia Senator Kelly Loffler are peanuts. Loffler allegedly profited from inside information on Covid-19 by the CDC to make a stock market killing. Loffler is married to Jeffrey Sprecher – who happens to be the chairman of the NYSE, installed by Goldman Sachs.

While corporate media followed this story like headless chickens, post-Covid-19 plans, in Pentagon parlance, “move forward” by stealth.

The price? A meager $1,200 check per person for a month. Anyone knows that, based on median salary income, a typical American family would need $12,000 to survive for two months. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in an act of supreme effrontry, allows them a mere 10 percent of that. So American taxpayers will be left with a tsunami of debt while selected Wall Street players grab the whole loot, part of an unparalleled transfer of wealth upwards, complete with bankruptcies en masse of small and medium businesses.

Fink’s letter to his shareholders almost gives the game away: “I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance.”

And right on cue, he forecasted that, “in the near future – and sooner than most anticipate – there will be a significant reallocation of capital.”

White Negroes And The Global Negroe Replacement Program 2.0

economist |  Perhaps, though, China is less interested in running the world than in ensuring that other powers cannot or dare not attempt to thwart it. It aims to chip away at the dollar’s status as a reserve currency (see article). And it is working hard to place its diplomats in influential jobs in multilateral bodies, so that they will be in a position to shape the global rules, over human rights, say, or internet governance. One reason Mr Trump’s broadside against the WHO is bad for America is that it makes China appear more worthy of such positions.

China’s rulers combine vast ambitions with a caution born from the huge task they have in governing a country of 1.4bn people. They do not need to create a new rules-based international order from scratch. They might prefer to keep pushing on the wobbly pillars of the order built by America after the second world war, so that a rising China is not constrained.

That is not a comforting prospect. The best way to deal with the pandemic and its economic consequences is globally. So, too, problems like organised crime and climate change. The 1920s showed what happens when great powers turn selfish and rush to take advantage of the troubles of others. The covid-19 outbreak has so far sparked as much jostling for advantage as far-sighted magnanimity. Mr Trump bears a lot of blame for that. For China to reinforce such bleak visions of superpower behaviour would be not a triumph but a tragedy. 

Han Elites Influence American Elites Far More Than The Well Being Of American Citizens

npr |  Six years ago, Bloomberg News killed an investigation into the wealth of Communist Party elites in China, fearful of repercussions by the Chinese government. The company successfully silenced the reporters involved. And it sought to keep the spouse of one of the reporters quiet, too.

"They assumed that because I was the wife of their employee, I was the wife," the author and journalist Leta Hong Fincher tells NPR. "I was just an appendage of their employee. I was not a human being."

Fincher is married to the journalist Mike Forsythe, a former Beijing correspondent for Bloomberg News who now works at The New York Times. In 2012, Forsythe was part of a Bloomberg team behind an award-winning investigation into the accumulation of wealth by China's ruling classes.

The Chinese ambassador warned Bloomberg executives against publishing the investigation. But Bloomberg News published the story anyway. Afterward, Forsythe received what he and Fincher considered death threats relayed through other journalists. He and Fincher moved their family to Hong Kong, believing it to be safer.

Even so, the reporting team pursued the next chapter, focusing on Chinese leaders' ties to the country's richest man, Wang Jianlin. Among those in the reporters' sights: the family of new Chinese President Xi Jinping. The story gained steam throughout 2013.

In emails sent back to Bloomberg's journalists in China seen by Fincher, senior news editors in New York City expressed excitement.

And then: radio silence from headquarters. That story never ran.

"Mike and some of the other reporters and editors who had been working on this story just were asking for answers about ... why was this story killed?" Fincher says.

Wealthy Powerful Americans Catastrophically Wrong About China

NationalReview |  For the last thirty years, the vast majority of powerful institutions in the United States placed a gargantuan bet on the idea that the government in Beijing could be a reliable partner in prosperity and would be a responsible actor on the world stage. Many leading politicians in both parties chose to believe this, many foreign-policy wonks chose to believe this, many academics and university administrators chose to believe this, and obviously, corporate America loved the idea of both using Chinese labor for imported goods and receiving access to the Chinese market. This includes Comcast, Disney, Viacom, AT&T, and Fox Corporation — the parent companies of NBC News, ABC News, CBS News, CNN, and Fox News, among other large multinationals that own major U.S. news organizations.

The controversy over the NBA last year was a vivid demonstration that most of these entities were not going to let little things like the Chinese government forcing over one million ethnic minorities into concentration camps or a brutal crackdown in Hong Kong disrupt these extremely profitable relationships. These American companies had gone way too far down the road of partnership with China to turn back now and could do elaborate mental gymnastics to justify why Chinese oppression and brutality was qualitatively different from oppression and brutality anywhere else. This mentality took root at institutions like the World Health Organization, too.

The problem was, the Chinese government was never the stabilizing, reasonable force for order that these Americans wanted to believe it was. We saw the regime’s true nature over three decades of brutal human-rights abuses and censorship and shameless lies to cover that brutality.

When the Chinese government initially declared this new virus could not be spread from person to person, and that the situation in Wuhan was under control, very few people wanted to stand up and say they couldn’t be trusted. We had just seen the Chinese government try to blow up the business plans of the National Basketball Association over a single general manager’s tweet. If you cross the Chinese government, you take your livelihood in your hands, if not your life. On March 4, the state-run Xinhua News Agency declared, “If China retaliates against the United States at this time, in addition to announcing a travel ban on the United States, it also announces the strategic control of medical products and the ban on export to the United States, then the United States will be caught in the sea of new coronavirus.” Every day, the leaders of China tell us and show us exactly who they are and how they see the world. They are perfectly content to watch us die painful deaths if this means greater leverage and power for themselves.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Illinois Governor Slug Pritzker Pretends To Not Understand The Golden Rule

thehill |  Another sudden and unexpected factor will transform this year’s elections. Many states, cities and counties are about to, suddenly, run out of money. Wages won’t be paid. Services won’t be delivered. Institutions will shut down abruptly. Many state colleges may fold. And yet most state and local political and administrative leaders just sit and watch. Voters will not be pleased.

Millions of American workers filed for unemployment insurance during the past two weeks. That is a record and represents a collapse of our local economies. Across the country, in every state, county and city, businesses have been shut down, and many will not return after the coronavirus crisis is over. Tens of millions have lost jobs, homes, savings and retirement incomes that will never return. Owners of rental property will go under when their loan payments come due and renters can’t pay. Across the country, state and local economies are being badly damaged — many of them permanently.

The result is that state and local tax revenues will plummet. States and localities will burn through any reserves they’ve maintained like wildfire. Since most of our politicians and government managers have been raised during a decade of expanding economies, their first instinct will be to wait and then panic and then raise taxes to cover shortfalls — perhaps a special “coronavirus surtax.” Taxpayers across the country have tolerated various forms of high state and local taxes; the politicians would naturally ask, “Why should now be any different?” 

But it is different. The resulting increased tax burden would be a disaster. Businesses that were barely hanging on would go under. Workers and homeowners who were barely surviving would go under. State and local tax bases would collapse even faster. There would be social unrest, possibly requiring martial law. People would migrate from high-tax states toward new jobs, accelerating a downward spiral. These large migrations would make the 2020 census results nonsense.

The only answer for the states, counties and cities that want to survive is to slash budgets now — probably 30 to 50 percent — eliminate all nonessential spending and reduce taxes today. Business leaders know that, in these types of situations, the only way to save a company is to cut costs immediately. There is no other answer, and those who act first and most aggressively are the most successful in saving the company and the greatest number of its employees. In short, “fiscal distancing” — that is, separating politicians from taxpayers’ money by cutting budgets and taxes now — is literally the only useful thing that state and local governments can do to prevent further economic and social catastrophe.

Trump Gubmint Cheese Hit Pockets TO-DAYYUM-DAY! These Virtue-Signalling Governors....?

thehill |  The governors of six states in the northeast are working together to create joint recommendations on how they can reopen their economies in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The effort is being led by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and includes Democratic Govs. Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Ned Lamont of Connecticut, Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, John Carney of Delaware and Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island.

Later on Monday, Cuomo's office announced Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker will also join the coalition, making him the lone Republican.

During a conference call Monday, the governors said they will name a public health official, an economic official and their respective chiefs of staff to work on the plan.

The governors emphasized the importance of working together, so one state doesn't end up with policies that would put its neighbors at risk or cause the outbreak to start up again. 

"Study the data, study the research, study the experiences of other countries, and give us guidelines and parameters to go forward. Let's be smart and let's be cooperative and let's learn from one another," Cuomo said.

Echoing comments made by Cuomo earlier Monday, Murphy said the decision about easing restrictions will be a delicate balance.

"If you get that wrong ... if you jam it in too early, you could throw gasoline on the fire and reignite and that's the last thing any of us need right now," Murphy said.

Cuomo said the goal is to have recommendations in a matter of weeks.