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[Markets] Coronavirus Stock Market Rally: Dow Jones Surges 1,000 Points On Slowing U.S. Virus Cases; Zoom Video Plunges 15% The major stock indexes surged higher Monday morning on slowing U.S. coronavirus cases. Amazon and Netflix approach new buy points. Published:4/6/2020 9:33:57 AM
[Markets] 'Ugly Choices' Will Have To Be Made... Very Soon 'Ugly Choices' Will Have To Be Made... Very Soon

Authored by Sven Henrich via NorthmanTrader.com,

I had a lot of time away from screens this weekend which is probably a good thing. Always good to get to step away and get a different perspective away from the constant bombardment of news, opinions, and, dare I say, conspiracy theories.

People never lose their collective shit more than during times of crisis and uncertainty.

But I’m not here to talk about conspiracy theories, rather I just wanted to offer some perspectives. And feel free to disagree with them. We’re all working with an evolving set of data points (health, macro, interventions, etc.) and lots of global emotions ranging from ignorance to hysteria during a time of great uncertainty.

But here’s a few thoughts to consider as we collectively navigate through this mess.

First off, this is not a drill, and everybody’s lives are affected in one or the other, many severely, many are losing their lives and it’s a horrid tragedy.

Yesterday I actually ventured on the roads here in England in earnest for the first time in a couple of weeks. It was not by choice, but as I had mentioned on twitter we had an unexpected house-guest. Not somebody we ever met before, but it was someone’s elderly mom who got stranded in Heathrow as the South African government shut down all flights. With hotels on lockdown she literally had nowhere to go and after a frantic phone call from her daughter in the US we agreed to take her in.

Her job and life is in South Africa, now she was in a foreign country with no place to go. Her job likely gone at this point. There are many horror stories like this. So we took her in and she stayed with us for 10 days with still no visibility as to when she can return home. A family friend agreed to take here in, but they live in Northern England and there was no practical way to get her there other than by car and I’m not going to drop a grandma off at the train with all the health concerns that come with it.
So we drove. And a trip it was.

I posted some impressions yesterday, just amazing to see the motorways so desolated for long stretches:

So while I hear and see news reports that people are not taking lockdowns seriously, my experience on the road was quite a different one. That bridge in the video is Dartfort Crossing, it’s usually packed all the time. Hardly a car on it. So it was eerie.

Which brings me to a larger point: Most people we know here are seeing their livelihood in jeopardy. I see business owners seeing their operations blow up. Workers get furloughed and believe me: They are all saying government assistance is not enough.

You all know that to be true all over the place. For years we’ve been posting news items about how a larger portion of the population either live paycheck to paycheck or don’t even have enough savings to cover an emergency.

I even highlighted this again last year:

And now we are finding out the hard way that the consumer is indeed in terrible shape despite a long running bull market driven by cheap money. Why? For many reasons, one of which of course was that wages did not keep up, poor paying jobs in many cases, yet housing prices skyrocketing by the very cheap money that again made housing unaffordable for many and of course the same sins as in every cycle, but perhaps worsened by this last cycle: The illusion that things will always be good and that with cheap money and low rates all kinds of debt can be sustained.

Take your pick or desired combination: Many people were incredibly vulnerable and are now paying the price.

Which brings me to the difficult decision part. How long can shutdowns be kept up, hence my tweet a few days ago:

Twitter being twitter my tweet prompted me being accused of calling for “racial cleansing”:

You can’t make this up. I despair sometimes at the utter stupidity thrown around sometime.

But that’s neither here nor there.

What is here are parents out of jobs or furloughed, dependent on government assistance with their kids out of school for months to come. This creates all of sort of stresses that go beyond just the financial component, but also to the mental health of children. Sure you can keep this up for a few weeks but not months on end. Zoom only goes so far as a social replacement. I suppose we are lucky to have these tools today, but it’s not a substitute in the long term.

Which brings me to the virus. We are now finally beginning to get some encouraging news of slowing of death rates and infections out of hard hit areas such as Italy and Spain.

A few comments on this: First generally my impression is that countries that have invested more in their medical infrastructure and are more quick to test appear to be able to manage this virus much better. Germany and South Korea come to mind. I’m not saying they are handling it perfectly, but it suggests that the virus can be managed better then it currently is or has been in other places.

The world is waiting for a vaccine which by all accounts (including Bill Gates) may still be 18 months away, a dreadful long time in a current period of need, but also super fast considering the historicity of developing vaccines to new viral agents. But there are no guarantees either.

But while we may be now getting good news on slowing infections and death rates in some cases how much of this is really the virus dying down versus just our social isolation efforts contributing to the slowing in growth? If it is really just the latter then we may be faced with a much more difficult task.

While there is still hope about seasonality such as the flu, the fact that this virus is global in many different climate zones raises the question whether it really is seasonal. We simply don’t know.

What I do know is that the pain and burdens on families are real. And on companies. The longer these shutdowns go on the more severe the long term damage and the long term consequences:

Workers currently furloughed may find out that for some, or many of them, the jobs will no longer be there when the lockdowns end.

The hope for a full and quick recovery may well be displaced. I can’t say of course, but we are facing this crisis with a financially vulnerable population, a globe already massively indebted and now adding more debt at a faster clip than ever before.

None of this is sustainable in the long term. The debate about the consequences will come once the immediate crisis is managed, but the solutions employed today may set the stage for the next crisis already.

But the really tough decisions for this crisis will come much sooner than that. When and how to get back to normal without a vaccine. Is it possible without seeing the virus flare up again and risking more lives?

Frankly one concern I have: I see more and more reports of younger people succumbing to the virus. Even people without underlying health conditions. And there are no clear explanations that I have seen. Why does the virus hardly affect some people but is so devastating in others? Science hasn’t been able to provide a definite answer which suggests many aspects of Covid-19 remain unknown.

This raises the concern that a return to normal anytime soon may be prohibitive from a medical perspective, but not to return to normal is economically and emotionally not viable either. Yes, we can all talk about adapting, but that’s easier said than done for millions without jobs or income other than government assistance which doesn’t make them whole.

Entire businesses can’t sustain themselves with crushed revenues and ongoing fixed costs. It’s impossible.

So tough decisions will have to be made and all of them will come with a heavy price tag. On a human, financial, economic, emotional and psychological level.

The longer this drags on the higher the probability that many jobs will not come back making this eventual recovery, while sharp at the beginning, also destined for a lower trajectory recovery as then the full consequences of the damage will come apparent.

Underneath it all there are again lessons crystalizing that were once again ignored: Those that saved during this cycle are able to withstand the shock, those that didn’t or couldn’t can’t. While this business cycle was the longest it didn’t magically extend. It was paid for with cheap money and constant central bank intervention. These very central bankers that once again are intervening at a new record pace created the illusion that they are all powerful. In 2019 there was even fantasy talk by people who should know better that recessions could no longer occur, that the boom and bust cycle had been eliminated. It hasn’t. The bust is here in a big and unexpected way. And it’s here to say.

So yes, hope for the best, take comfort in a slowing of a infections and deaths, take an optimistic view of human ingenuity finding ways to combat the virus, find relief once market rally again, but don’t lose sight of the long term damage inflicted and the short term damage that will be felt in consumer and business pocketbooks for years to come.

Spending plans once made will be reduced, hiring plans once made will be scaled back, budgets once in order are no longer. This shock will reverberate for years to come.

And also don’t lose sight of the fact that none of the tough decisions that will have to be made are clear, easy or consequence free. All have negative side effects.

*  *  *

For the latest public analysis please visit NorthmanTrader. To subscribe to our market products please visit Services.

Tyler Durden Mon, 04/06/2020 - 10:20
Published:4/6/2020 9:33:57 AM
[Markets] Dow up more than 800 points in Monday's opening minutes Dow up more than 800 points in Monday's opening minutes Published:4/6/2020 9:06:11 AM
[Markets] United Airlines slashes threshold for Premier status, extends time to book cancelled flights United Airlines Holdings Inc. said Monday it was reducing thresholds to qualify for Mileage Plus Premier status for 2021 by 50% for each status level. Current 2020 Premier status members will have Premier status extended to Jan. 31, 2022. The air carrier said as part of a promotion from May 1 to Dec. 31, 2020, it is doubling Premier qualifying points (PQP) for United Explorer cards and quadrupling PQP for the United Club cards. And those with travel certificates, as a result of having travel plans disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, will now have two years drom the date issued to book a new flight, and an additional 11 months to travel. The stock fell 0.6% in morning trading, while the Dow Jones Transportation Average rose 4.5% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied 994 points, or 4.7%. Published:4/6/2020 9:06:11 AM
[Markets] Germany Announces "Limitless" Aid Program For Small Business: SBA Are You Listening? Germany Announces "Limitless" Aid Program For Small Business: SBA Are You Listening?

To anyone who fell asleep some time in early February and woke up today, it will come as a shock that Germany - which until very recently was perceived as the fiscally stingiest nation in Europe, if not the world - is fast emerging as the most generous provider of government stimulus, and this morning we got confirmation of that when Angela Merkel’s government announced a new "limitless" aid program for small- and medium-sized companies (note: not a bailout of Germany's mega corporations) as part of an effort to support Europe’s largest economy in the coronavirus pandemic.

Merkel's government will provide guarantees of as much as 100%, German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz announced at a joint press conference with Economy Minister Peter Altmaier Monday, Bloomberg reports, adding that loans of up to 800,000 euros ($862,000) that will pay out very quickly will be available.

The existing program only provides for an 80% to 90% loan guarantee and banks have been reluctant to take on new risk as the economy falters. Private lenders have thus pressed the government to expand the existing program by guaranteeing 100% of the loans, which it now appears to be doing.

So... SBA are you listening? In light of the very strict limits on a similar program in the US where funding is limited to 2.5x the average monthly payroll of small and medium businesses, assuming it is disbursed which as we just reported it isn't with BofA reporting just 100 loans have been actually funded, it is certainly time for the Trump administration, which unlike Germany has the benefit of the world's reserve currency, to consider a similar "unlimited" program especially with the US economy rapidly sliding into depression.

The program for loan guarantees is the latest in a range of measures introduced by the German government, which said the economy might contract even more this year than the 5% drop caused by the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.

Of course, the question is whether companies will use the money to actually pay down debt/fund employment, or simply use it for stock buybacks. Indeed, so habituated is the market to stock repurchases that the news sent the DAX to session highs, some 5% higher.

Tyler Durden Mon, 04/06/2020 - 09:55
Published:4/6/2020 9:06:11 AM
[Markets] Key Words: Trump again touts unproven drug to treat coronavirus: ‘What do you have to lose?’ President Donald Trump on Sunday again strongly backed hydroxychloroquine to treat patients with COVID-19, despite scant scientific evidence that it’s an effective treatment.
Published:4/6/2020 9:06:11 AM
[Markets] Tesla Stock Is Rising After an Upgrade. Postcrisis Sales ‘Could Fare Better Than Luxury Peers.’ Tesla caught an upgrade Monday morning, sending shares up about 4.5% in premarket trading. Still, questions remain about how Covid-19 will impact electric-vehicle demand. Published:4/6/2020 8:34:08 AM
[Markets] The Tell: After $18 trillion global stock market wipeout, emerging markets have never been cheaper relative to U.S. The global financial rout triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic wiped $18 trillion off global equity markets in the year to date — and emerging markets, in particular, have been beaten down relative to the rest of the world.
Published:4/6/2020 8:34:08 AM
[Markets] "This Is The End Of Western Capitalism As We Knew It..." "This Is The End Of Western Capitalism As We Knew It..."

Authored by Garfield Reynolds via Bloomberg,

The sheer speed of the coronavirus crisis means investors are way behind the curve in assessing its long-term impact on economies, companies and stock market valuations.

The global business environment is being transformed - we are all socialists now.

This is about more than just the failure of earnings estimates to keep up with the virus impact - investors need to disregard projections that an end to the crisis will restore the pre-outbreak status quo.

Decades of pushing government out of business are being reversed in mere weeks, with policy makers telling companies where, how and if they should operate - whether they can pay dividends, buy back stock or fire employees.

In other words, governments are almost fully taking over free markets, with the profit principle dethroned as the key business driver.

This changes the rules of the game for investors.

Look at crude oil for example, where U.S. companies that were on the way to going bust amid last year’s supply and demand shocks could end up surviving as Washington intervenes to prop up all businesses.

Once governments start deciding wholesale which firms live or die, how do you roll that back?

The same goes for the massive ramp up in what has been derided at times as the “nanny state.” Welfare and increased spending on health care will likely become a larger part of most economies.

The massive public borrowing to fund this - and the surge in stimulus programs - will take years to go away. The world is going to be awash with debt that will limit governments’ room for maneuver on things like infrastructure spending and tax cuts.

Companies are also busy taking on more debt, and that will constrain them going forward - funneling profits to paying it back or rebuilding cash reserves rather than dividends, buybacks or, heaven forbid, expansion.

The recognition of the role lower-paid workers are playing in keeping supply chains, supermarkets, delivery systems etc. running will likely fuel a renewed call for increases to minimum wages, further pressuring margins.

And calls to keep production closer to “home” will lead to an overhaul of supply chains that won’t come without cost.

Companies will likely emerge from this downturn with a permanent hit to their long-term potential margins - one that is not yet reflected in analyst valuations.

Any investor who assumes that the business models of December 2019 will work just fine in December 2020 faces a very rude awakening.

Tyler Durden Mon, 04/06/2020 - 09:30
Published:4/6/2020 8:34:08 AM
[Markets] Wall Street star money manager says S&P 500 could plunge to 1,500 in worst case, with coronavirus fallout lingering for years Scott Minerd is looking for opportunities to dip his toes into the coronavirus-stricken market. However, you may not find him wading into equities soon if current market trends hold. Published:4/6/2020 8:05:51 AM
[Markets] Japan's Abe to declare state of emergency in Tokyo and other prefectures Japan's Abe to declare state of emergency in Tokyo and other prefectures Published:4/6/2020 8:05:51 AM
[Markets] NewsWatch: ‘The worst is behind us’ — with the most attractive risk-reward in years, it is time to buy stocks, Morgan Stanley says It’s a Monday but there is optimism in the air. Tentative signs that the coronavirus spread may be slowing have encouraged investors.
Published:4/6/2020 8:05:51 AM
[Markets] Here Comes Round Two: China Just Report The Most New Covid Cases In A Month Here Comes Round Two: China Just Report The Most New Covid Cases In A Month

Last week we reported that even as the world's attention had shifted to the new global coronavirus outbreak epicenters of New York, Italy, Spain and other western nations, China - which rushed to restart its economy at any cost as the alternative was too dire to even consider - had put a major county on lockdown after a new cluster of coronavirus infection had emerged. To wit, last Wednesday we learned that in post on its social media account, Jia county - which has a population of about 600,000 - said that no one can travel out of Jia county without proper authorization after one person tested positive.

This new cluster emerged just days after China once again revised its virus reporting methodology to also include asymptomatic carriers of the disease, which naturally begged the question why China wasn't reported his subset of infections previously.

We got the answer overnight when Mainland China reported 39 new coronavirus cases as of Sunday, up from 30 a day earlier, and the number of asymptomatic cases also surged, as Beijing continued to struggle to extinguish the outbreak despite drastic containment efforts.

China's National Health Commission said in a statement on Monday that 78 new asymptomatic cases had been identified as of the end of the day on Sunday, compared with 47 the day before.

Of the new cases showing symptoms, 38 were people who had entered China from abroad, compared with 25 a day earlier, although how China keeps track of this on an instantaneous basis is unclear. Also it's odd to blame "imports" as China also closed off its borders to foreigners, though according to Beijing most imported cases involve Chinese nationals returning from overseas.

Separately, one new locally transmitted infection was reported, in the southern province of Guangdong, down from five a day earlier in the same province. The new locally transmitted case, in the city of Shenzhen, was a person who had travelled from Hubei province, Guangdong provincial authorities said.

As Reuters reports overnight, imported cases and asymptomatic patients, who have the virus and can give it to others but show no symptoms, have become China's chief concern in recent weeks after draconian containment measures succeeded in slashing the infection rate.

This means that whether asymptomatic or not, imported or domestic, Hubei-based or not, on April 5, China reported the most new Coronavirus cases in a month as slowly the disease appears to be reestablishing itself in the world's most populous nation.

As a result, the Guangdong health commission raised the risk level for a total of four districts in the cities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Jieyang from low to medium late on Sunday.

In its panicked scramble to reboot the economy, China has been reporting that daily infections have fallen dramatically from the peak of the epidemic in February, when hundreds were reported daily, but new infections continue to appear daily. Despite a miraculous rebound in China's latest PMIs, the truth is that China's economy has been very slow to recover and by some metrics - as shown below - appears to already be double dipping.

Mainland China has now reported a total of 81,708 cases, with 3,331 deaths. The real number is likely orders of magnitude higher, and what's worse, a rebound in cases likely means that round two of the pandemic may just be starting.

Tyler Durden Mon, 04/06/2020 - 09:00
Published:4/6/2020 8:05:51 AM
[Markets] Nearly a Third of Americans With Covid-19 Are Hospitalized. Here Are the Latest Numbers. U.S. hospitalizations continue to grow. But slowing new case numbers in America has buoyed investor confidence Monday. Published:4/6/2020 7:33:00 AM
[Markets] U.K.-listed companies rush to raise equity to help steer them through the coronavirus crisis Coronavirus-hit British companies raise cash to shore up their balance sheets and navigate through the pandemic.
Published:4/6/2020 7:33:00 AM
[Markets] ?COVID-19 "Changes Everything" - Mark Cuban Welcomes "America 2.0" ?COVID-19 "Changes Everything" - Mark Cuban Welcomes "America 2.0"

Mark Cuban appeared on Fox News' "Watters' World" on Saturday night to discuss how he would approach the bailout of America a little more different than the current administration. Cuban said after the virus clears, "everything" will fundamentally change about this country. 

Cuban calls President Trump's bailout of America "a good program," but says he would have done things a little bit differently: 

"I would have set up overdraft protections for every single business," Cuban told host Jesse Watters. "The way we're doing it now, and trying to have everybody apply for a loan, that just adds friction to the process."

"And the same with the $1,200 stimulus checks," Cuban continued. "It's not that it's a bad program. It's a good program at this time. But if I would have done a little bit different. So effectively, if you have a small- or medium-sized business, we would just cover all your checks and then the Fed would reimburse your local bank for anything that you bounce."

"That way, you could keep all your employees employed, pay all your bills, pay your mortgage, pay your rent and utilities, and things can continue, somewhat at least, as normal," Cuban said.

Mark Cuban appearing on Fox News' "Watters' World" 

Cuban said once the virus is eradicated, "everything" about this country will change. He referred to the transformation process as "America 2.0." However, he doesn't elaborate on the duration of this transformative period – but adds that there's no better place in the world to be than America when it comes to being an entrepreneur.   

"When we get to the other side, you know, I've been calling it America 2.0. We're going to see what's in front of us," Cuban said. "We really don't know what to expect, what's on the other side. But what I do know is that in this country, all the entrepreneurs that you referred to, all the capitalists that exist here ... there is no better country."

"There's no other country I'd rather be in. Because I know whatever we find out there, companies are going to be invented. Entrepreneurs are going to adapt. United States of America, our people are going to adapt."

As for socio-economic changes, the transformation of America is going to start with consumer choices. At least 67% of the economy is services-based, and much of that will be reconstructed as people opt to stay home more and avoid large crowds.

In a post-corona world, the days of going to large social gatherings, such as sports games, casinos, and or even restaurants, are over for the time being. Cuban makes this point in the interview. 

As we've also noted, the exodus from cities has already started. Many will want the comfort of home and land where they can protect their families, instead of riding out months-long lockdowns in a 550 square foot studio apartment in a dirty city filled with viruses. Another big trend that will continue to push people out of cities is that many employers have just found out that much of their workforce can work remotely. And as long as there's an internet connection, employees can work just about anywhere, even in rural communities. 

And while Cuban did not put a timing on when this public health crisis would end. Harvard's top scientist at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health published a recent paper that describes how the US could see "intermittent" lockdowns through 2022. 

We noted over the weekend that Goldman Sachs does not see an earnings recovery until 2023, which could mean the economy is crashing into a depression for the second quarter has done enough damage that will lead to lower and slower growth for the next several years. 

And if you really want to know the most significant change that Cuban did not mention in "America 2.0," that is the virus crisis has been the perfect cover for governments and corporations to usher in a surveillance state that will rival China's.

Tyler Durden Mon, 04/06/2020 - 08:30
Published:4/6/2020 7:32:59 AM
[Markets] U.S. was not adequately prepared for pandemic: Jamie Dimon of J.P. Morgan U.S. was not adequately prepared for pandemic: Jamie Dimon of J.P. Morgan Published:4/6/2020 7:08:41 AM
[Markets] Outside the Box: 3 ways to ensure SBA aid for small businesses helps those who need it most The reality: There’s not enough money in the Paycheck Protection Program to even cover what could qualify for loan forgiveness.
Published:4/6/2020 7:08:41 AM
[Markets] Dow Futures Are Soaring on Optimism About Covid-19. Travel Stocks Are Rising. Stocks are set to open a holiday-shortened week in the green as investors focus on the rate of growth of new cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus. Published:4/6/2020 7:08:41 AM
[Markets] JPM CEO Dimon Warns US Faces "Bad Recession" In Annual Letter To Shareholders JPM CEO Dimon Warns US Faces "Bad Recession" In Annual Letter To Shareholders

Sounding a markedly more somber note about the global economy than he has in the past few years, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon released his annual 'investor letter' Monday morning, warning the world that, from Dimon's vantage point, at least, the US appears to be on the verge of a "bad recession" that could be exacerbated by "financial; stress similar to the global financial crisis of 2008."

Though, leaving off on an optimistic note, he warned that while the challenge ahead might be great, he believes the US economy can emerge from it "stronger" than in the past.

"We have the resources to emerge from this crisis as a stronger country," Dimon said in the letter. "America is still the most prosperous nation the world has ever seen."

This, after sell-side banking analysts have spent the last two weeks telling CNBC's audience that the banks are much better capitalized this time around (though excessive corporate debt is keeping some up at night).

"At a minimum, we assume that it will include a bad recession combined with some kind of financial stress similar to the global financial crisis of 2008," Dimon wrote in the letter to shareholders. "Our bank cannot be immune to the effects of this kind of stress."

The fact that the CEO's 23-page letter is his shortest in more than a decade (since March 2008, just months before the global economy nearly collapsed) is hardly a surprise: Dimon suffered a sudden 'heart tear' requiring him to have sudden, emergency surgery earlier this month. The letter is roughly one-third the length of last year's screed, where Dimon laid out his vision of a more 'responsible' and 'equitable' iteration of American capitalism, while also warning that 'democratic socialism' was not the way to go.

As far as JPM is concerned, Dimon reminds us that the bank's 2020 submission to the annual Fed stress tests indicate that even in an "extremely adverse scenario," JPMorgan can lend out an additional $150 billion for clients. The New York-based bank had $500 billion in total liquid assets and another $300 billion in borrowing ability from Fed sources, he added.

Notably, while JPM "will participate in government programs to address the severe economic challenges, we will not request any regulatory relief for ourselves," Dimon added, echoing language he used during the financial crisis.

Because of his illness, Dimon hasn't weighed in publicly about the virus since late February, during the bank's annual investor day.

Read the full letter below:

Ceo Letter to Shareholders 2019 by Zerohedge on Scribd

Tyler Durden Mon, 04/06/2020 - 08:03
Published:4/6/2020 7:08:41 AM
[Markets] JPMorgan's Dimon: Earnings will fall 'meaningfully' JPMorgan's Dimon: Earnings will fall 'meaningfully' Published:4/6/2020 6:33:14 AM
[Markets] These Dow charts suggest there could still be many bears waiting to sell When the stock market’s trend is clearly down, the question investors should try to answer isn’t where buying might emerge, because it isn’t likely to last, but where the next wave of selling will come from. Published:4/6/2020 6:33:14 AM
[Markets] Cops Break-Up Crowd Of Lockdown-Ignoring Mourners At Brooklyn Rabbi's Funeral Cops Break-Up Crowd Of Lockdown-Ignoring Mourners At Brooklyn Rabbi's Funeral

After a week of an exponential rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths across five boroughs of New York City, Sunday figures showed growth rates in cases and deaths are slowing. However, that doesn't mean social distancing rules are to be relaxed, as the New York City Police Department (NYPD) busted a large group of Hasidic Jews on Sunday in violation of the state's social distancing rules. 

The incident unfolded on 55th Street and 12th Avenue Borough Park, Brooklyn, where mourners gathered for at least one funeral, several other reports indicate there were multiple. 

New York Daily News said a funeral was held for Rav Yosef Kalish, 63, who was hospitalized with the virus and died over the weekend. 

A video posted on Twitter shows the NYPD arriving to break up the large crowd, in violation of the state's and city's social distancing rules. For fear of contracting the virus, police officers stayed inside the vehicle and played a prerecorded message that said:

"This is the NYPD. Due to the current health emergency, members of the public are reminded to keep a safe distance of six feet from others while in public places to reduce the spread of the coronavirus."

New York Daily News said the crowd eventually dispersed. 

According to the New York Post, funeral attendees asked the NYPD for more time to grieve for their recent loss. Officers on the scene gave the mourners five additional minutes.

It was evident in the video that many Hasidic Jews were violating the government enforced social distancing rules. Some attendees were wearing surgical masks, but many were not. Not one person was wearing a 3M N95 mask nor goggles or a face shield. 

Last month, Hasidic Jews violated social distancing orders by hosting Brooklyn weddings, as the fast-spreading virus was silently ravaging the city, mostly because test kits were lacking. As test kits have become available in recent weeks, confirmed tests have exploded. As of Sunday night (April 5), there are 123,160 confirmed cases and 4,159 deaths.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month banned crowds of 50 or more, and President Trump advised Americans to avoid groups of more than 10 to mitigate the spread of the virus. 

Cuomo recently said any resident who breaks social distancing rules would be subjected up to $500 fine. 

Tyler Durden Mon, 04/06/2020 - 07:25
Published:4/6/2020 6:33:14 AM
[Markets] COVID-19 case tally reaches 1.28 million COVID-19 case tally reaches 1.28 million Published:4/6/2020 6:02:57 AM
[Markets] Dow Jones Futures Jump As Virus Cases Slow; Why This Stock Market Rally Is More Dangerous Than The Coronavirus Market Crash Futures rose Sunday. The choppy market rally is riskier for active investors than the coroanavirus stock market crash. AMD, Nvidia, Amazon and Microsoft are stocks to watch. Published:4/6/2020 6:02:57 AM
[Markets] COVID-19 Is Being Used To Scare You Away From Using Cash COVID-19 Is Being Used To Scare You Away From Using Cash

Authored by Nick Hankoff via The Libertarian Institute,

Cash has been the target of the banking and financial elites for years. Now, the coronavirus pandemic is being used to frighten the masses into accepting a cashless society. That would mean the death of what’s left of our free society.

CBS NewsCNN, and other mainstream outlets are fearmongering again. Alarmism is nothing new in the media world, but this time, it’s not about triggering panic buying or even pushing a political agenda.

The war on cash is about imposing a new meta-narrative. As economist Joseph Salerno explains, the cashless society forces all payments to be made through the financial system. It doesn’t end with monopoly control over transactions, though.

Being bound to computers for transactions kicks the door wide open to hardcore surveillance of personal activity and location data. Being eternally on the grid means relentless taxation and negative interest rates, which the Federal Reserve is already gearing up for.

None of this bothers the well-heeled boosters of a cashless society or their lackeys in the media. They want Americans reading about the threat of coronavirus cooties on their cash, which is absurd.

Germs, of course, can loiter all over credit and debit cards, smartphones, ATMs, and every other cash alternative device. Too bad implanted microchip technology isn’t further along, the banksters must be thinking.

In another CNN article, readers are practically shamed for withdrawing cash to save during a crisis. Every sentence, every word, every letter of the article is nuts.

It begins by reassuring the reader that their bank account is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). There’s no mention of moral hazard from CNN. The fact that the federal government guarantees every bank account up to $250,000 encourages reckless financial and banking behavior. Not worth mentioning, CNN?

Prior to the end of World War II, there were $500, $1,000, and $10,000 bills in wide circulation. This cash was dissolved by the Federal Reserve in the name of fighting organized crime. This same argument is now being made against $50 and $100 bills by Harvard economics professor Kenneth Rogoff.

In the Wall Street Journal, Rogoff also wrote that a cashless society would offer such benefits as “greater flexibility for the Federal Reserve to stimulate the economy when necessary.”

He wrote those words in 2017. And these too:

“The Federal Reserve should be able to implement negative nominal interest rates vastly more effectively in the absence of large bills, which could prove quite important as a stimulative tool in the next financial crisis.”

Prophetic. And indeed, negative interest rates would require the assistance of outlawing cash, so that banking customers don’t cheat by simply drawing out on their accounts.

Pardon the pun, but it’s absolutely sick how COVID-19 is being used now as a launching pad for this cashless agenda. There’s nothing to fear about using cash during this time of social distancing.

Wash your hands after handling cash, but don’t give up your moolah. Preserve your health, your privacy, and your liberty.

And just in case you wondered what all this fearmongering has done for that dirty cash in circulation - Americans are grabbing it at at the fastest pace since the Y2K liquidity scare...

Another unintended consequence of government intervention.

Tyler Durden Mon, 04/06/2020 - 07:00
Published:4/6/2020 6:02:57 AM
[Markets] Dow futures rise 800 points as Trump administration signals that coronavirus outbreak may be stabilizing Stock-index futures rise sharply Monday morning as investors appear eager to focus on a glimmer of optimism coming out of the White House about the potential for stabilization of the rapid spread of the worst viral outbreak in generations. Published:4/6/2020 5:32:33 AM
[Markets] "Immunity Certificates" Are Coming - COVID-Survivors To Get 'Special Passports' Enabling Return To 'Normalcy' "Immunity Certificates" Are Coming - COVID-Survivors To Get 'Special Passports' Enabling Return To 'Normalcy'

Update: Even more prophetically, billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman tweeted about his "optimism" and the need for

"...Hydroxychloriquine and antibiotics appear to help. There is increasing evidence that the asymptomatic infection rate could be as much as 50X higher than expected.

If this is true, the severity and death rate could be much lower than anticipated, and we could be closer to herd immunity than projected. Highly accurate antibody tests are scaling production and distribution which will definitively answer this question hopefully soon.

One could imagine a world in the next few months where everyone is tested and all but the immune-compromised go back to a socially distanced but more normal life. 

We wear bracelets or carry a phone certificate which indicate our status, and track infections where they emerge..."

Yay, let's all cheer for antibody-based freedom.

*  *  *

The rollout of immunity certificates across the world will likely be government-issued to first responders and citizens who have developed resistance to COVID-19.

People who have contracted the virus and have recovered, normally develop antibodies to fight the virus, could be their golden ticket to escape regions that have strict social distancing measures and or lockdowns. 

Just imagine, immunity certificates granted by governments to people who have recovered or have developed resistance to the virus could be considered special passports that will allow them to freely travel across states, countries, and or the world — while everyone else remains hunkered down in their homes or doomsday bunkers

Some of the first talks of this has originated in the UK. The government could roll out immunity passports to Britons who have already contracted and recovered from the virus so they can reenter the economy, reported The New York Times.

"(An immunity certificate) is an important thing that we will be doing and are looking at but it's too early in the science of the immunity that comes from having had the disease," health minister Matt Hancock said at a Downing Street press conference.

"It's too early in that science to be able to put clarity around that. I wish that we could but the reason that we can't is because the science isn't yet advanced enough," Hancock said. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman said Britain was completing due diligence in how feasible immunity passports would be.

Hancock said a blood test was in development that could test whether people already had the virus or had the antibodies that would make them resistant to the infection.

In Germany, researchers are preparing a study that would see if people already immune to the virus could reenter the workforce and be granted immunity passports. 

In Italy, the conservative president of the northeastern Veneto region has proposed an immunity passport for people who possess antibodies that show they are resistant to the virus. 

The former prime minister, Matteo Renzi, has called it a "Covid Pass" for the uninfected who can return to their normal lives. 

Immunity passports and "intermittent lockdowns" could become a reality in the months, quarters, or at least in the next several years – as the virus could be sticking around a lot longer than many have anticipated. 

Talk of these special passports surfaced in American politics last week when House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart called on Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee to implement an "Immunity Certificate" for first responders and healthcare professionals. 

Stewart said first-responders who have the antibodies and are immune to the virus should be shifted onto the frontlines.

"We need to get the resources in place to test all of our healthcare workers so we know which ones can work without fear of COVID-19 and which ones need maximum protection against the VIRUS," Stewart said.

And for more confirmation that immunity passports are going to be the next big thing in the Western world, or maybe across the globe. Here is Bill Gates on March 24, giving a 50-minute interview to Chris Anderson, the Curator of TED, the non-profit that runs the TED Talks.

Right at 34:14, Gates discussed how the future in a post-corona world would be. He said:

Eventually what we'll have to have is certificates of who's a recovered person, who's a vaccinated person...

...Because you don't want people moving around the world where you'll have some countries that won't have it under control, sadly.

You don't want to completely block off the ability for people to go there and come back and move around.

So eventually there will be this digital immunity proof that will help facilitate the global reopening up.

Tyler Durden Mon, 04/06/2020 - 06:30
Published:4/6/2020 5:32:33 AM
[Markets] "We Borrowed From The Future & Now It's Over..." "We Borrowed From The Future & Now It's Over..."

Via Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com,

Investment advisor and former Assistant Secretary of Housing Catherine Austin Fitts says, “We’ve been printing massive amounts of dollars, and if you look at all the things we did to stop high speed debasement and unprecedented inflation, we’ve kind of run out of tricks..."

"...Inflation is really sneaking up...

My question:

Is basically shutting down the small businesses and the small farm economy at high speed the way they have done, is that protecting us from going up a frightening inflation? Are we at Weimar Republic kind of inflation rates?

I have been telling my subscribers to plant, plant and plant because the price of food is going to go through the roof. Another one of my questions: What’s pressing for war?   Is the debt spiral up and the inflation spiral up, is that more than they can handle?”

Fitts also says the covert war going on now is about the U.S. dollar and countries who want to stop using it for trade.

If the dollar is used less, it will be worth less and maybe much less. Fitts says,

“We have tried to keep all the oil sales in the world going through the dollar. Of course, that’s put everybody back into our jurisdiction. The world doesn’t want to do that anymore. They want to be free to trade.

You are seeing more and more central banks around the world doing swap lines and direct relationships between central bank to central bank to try to do what is called de-dollarization.

So, you have the world wanting to move outside our channel, and you have the Anglo American alliance trying to protect the dollar syndicate. That is part of the economic war that is going on.

Fitts says, “Whatever happens on the global stage, it means the days of the subsidy that kept the game inside America is over..."

"...So, how do you radically reduce the size of the financial footprint that stops inflation from going wild?  

How do you take the subsidy away from the American middle class without a major civil war?...

What we did was we did the China trade, and now it’s over, and everybody in America said fine, we will go along. Well, this is the price. You have borrowed from the future and now it’s over.

Why the sudden record gun buying in America? Fitts says,

They understand that the rule of law is steadily being diminished. They see all sorts of behavior... that is lawless...

They see people in poverty say if anything goes for the big guys, then anything goes for us...

Part of what is happening is we are dealing with a spiritual war, and there are serious demonic and occult forces at work. There is nothing they would love more than to stop the churches and stop people from getting together and praying and inviting in the divine and angelic hope every Sunday. I am with the President. I think stopping the churches from gathering is a very, very terrible idea.”

Fitts also still thinks gold is a good investment that will “outperform most other investments in 2020.”

Join Greg Hunter of USAWatchdog.com as he goes One-on-One with Catherine Austin Fitts, publisher of “The Solari Report.”

To Donate to USAWatchdog.com Click Here

Tyler Durden Mon, 04/06/2020 - 06:00
Published:4/6/2020 5:04:41 AM
[Markets] Peter Morici: Congress should send everyone a $1,200 check every month Massive fiscal stimulus is needed to save the real economy.
Published:4/6/2020 5:04:41 AM
[Markets] Next Avenue: Anxiety, depression, OCD—how to cope with mental health issues, and symptoms to watch for There’s a good chance even if you’ve never experienced serious mental health issues, you could now.
Published:4/6/2020 4:04:53 AM
[Markets] China Prepares To Close "Oil Deal Of A Lifetime" In Iraq China Prepares To Close "Oil Deal Of A Lifetime" In Iraq

Authored by Simon Watkins via OilPrice.com,

Over the past week or so, China has eased quarantine measures in Wuhan – the city in which the global coronavirus pandemic began – with the entire lockdown scheduled to end on 8 April. With China’s President Xi Jinpiang having visited the city just a few days ago, the industrial economy across China as a whole is back working and operating at levels even above the pre-coronavirus rates, although the service sector remains more cautious.

For the oil industry, this means that China is back and busy taking up where it left off in terms of exploring and developing new field opportunities.

This is at a time when the U.S. is just beginning to see the full onset of coronavirus mayhem.

There has been no clearer sign of this move by China than last week’s awarding of a US$203.5 million engineering contract for Iraq’s supergiant oil field, Majnoon, to the little known China Petroleum Engineering & Construction Corp (CPECC). 

With the U.S.’ focus increasingly on fire-fighting the coronavirus outbreak at home, Beijing has good reason to believe that it has largely a clear run at target country Iraq, provided that it does not stick it too much in the U.S.’ craw. This specifically means continuing to develop oil and gas field opportunities in geopolitically ultra-sensitive areas, such as Iraq, on the basis of rolling contracts for specific work undertaken by companies that are not top of the U.S.’ radar, like CPECC.

This method is also being used by Russia, and the focus of it right now is Iraq and Iran, two countries that are right in the centre of the Middle East and vital to both China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ multi-generational dominance strategy and to Russia’s ongoing attempt to sequestrate the entire Middle East.

Majnoon is a key focus in Iraq because it has so much oil that its very name in Arabic means ‘insane’, to signify the insane amount of oil that has always been present there. Before the U.S. noticed that China was stealthily acting hand in glove with Russia to provide the money where the muscle had been put in place, the ever-fractious senior Iraqi politicians had offered China a stunningly lucrative deal for the development of the Majnoon field. Specifically, the terms of the deal were that China would obtain a 25-year contract but one that would officially start two years after the signing date. This would allow China to recoup more profits on average per year and less upfront investment.

Also enormously beneficial for Beijing was that the methodology for working out per barrel payments to it would be the higher – the Chinese would choose - of either the mean average of the 18 month spot price for crude oil produced, or the past six months. Additionally, China would receive a discount of at least 10 per cent for at least five years on the value of the oil it recovered.

And oil there is aplenty. Located around 60 kilometres to the north east of the main southern export terminal of Basra, the Majnoon supergiant oil field is one of the largest oil fields in the world, with an estimated 38 billion barrels of oil in place. Due to the legacy of both the Iran-Iraq War and the U.S. incursions, from when the licence on the field was awarded on 11 December 2009 by the Iraq government to Shell Iraq Petroleum Development (SIPD) – in conjunction with its Malaysian partner, Petronas, and Iraq’s Missan Oil Company – it took nearly 18 months simply to clear 28 square kilometres of land of explosives, prior to constructing and opening the first well. Production was then formally restarted on 20 September 2013 and, within a very short timeframe, the consortium had already managed to boost output to the 175,000 barrels per day (bpd) first commercial production target (also the threshold for cost-recovery payments for Shell). 

By the end of the first quarter of 2014, the field was churning out an average of 210,000 bpd, according to figures from Shell and Baghdad. Indeed, the first shipment of crude oil to Shell Trading occurred on 8 April that year and, despite the floods that hit the fields in early 2019, the longer-term original production target figures designed for the Shell-led consortium still stand: the first production target of 175,000 bpd (already reached and surpassed), and the plateau production for the site of 1.8 mbpd. 

The International Energy Agency projected output of 550,000-950,000 bpd production by 2020, and 700,000-1 million bpd at some point in the 2030s, although due to the flooding and recent political upheavals – plus the effects of the coronavirus – the timing has slipped. Even with these caveats, though, China’s part of the deal – which also remains in place – is to shore up the site from future potential flooding and to increase output to at least 500,000 bpd by the end of May 2021. 

The details of the early 2019 flooding damage might make worrying reading for some developers. The rain that caused the initial flooding had only fallen on both sides of the Iraq/Iran border for just 35 minutes in total, which then caused the Hiwiza marshes to overflow into farmland in the nearby Al-Qurna district, cutting through the safety berms and the rising level of water caused the Jahaf dam to collapse. By 15 March, the water level rose sufficiently to force itself through a second safety berm to the edges of the Majnoon oil field. 

The details do not worry the Chinese, though, for two key reasons.

  • One is that China has extensive knowledge of dealing with floods across its own country, both natural and man-created (via the damming that has occurred for decades), so it has the expertise and engineering capabilities to effectively deal with such eventualities.

  • The other is that, in line with its aforementioned encroachment into Iran, China can work on both sides of the border, as the Majnoon reservoir in the Iraqi side extends across the Iran border into the massive field known as Azadegan. This, in turn, is split into the North Azadegan and South Azadegan oil field developments.

For years, structural damage has been done to the area by the erosion of subsoil across over one million hectares of forest and brush land by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a result of building programmes. This has been worsened by the redirection of many of the natural water flows through the building of dams and again by Iran’s irrigation systems that have been sending clean and waste water into Iraq for decades.

A 2011 study by the University of Basra warned that the infrastructure was not able to handle Iranian inflows, with the danger zone concentrated in an area where the Majnoon oil pipelines feed the gas-oil separation station. However, as a senior source who works closely with Iran’s Petroleum Ministry told OilPrice.com last week: “The IRGC invited China into Iran and Iraq and the IRGC is entirely at China’s service.”  

This strategy of gradual encroachment is a Chinese classic, of course, currently being employed very notably where possible across the Asia-Pacific region as well as the Middle East. The modus operandi is:

offer lots of money to cash-strapped countries (which most emerging economies are) that are tied in to future project developments, then leverage this into the building out of on-the-ground infrastructural projects (that have employment and revenue benefits for the host countries as well), and then turn the screw by inveigling the host countries to give China extremely preferential terms on something it wants (in the Middle East it is oil and gas and land transit routes, and in Asia Pacific it is other natural resources and international port usage).

Although in the Middle East, China is still partly trying to cover its intentions by using non-headline companies on ‘contractor-only’ specific work projects – just like CPECC – it does not take much digging to find the real interest. 

Not only is CPECC a subsidiary of Chinese oil behemoth, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), but also it was the very same company that was recently awarded exactly the same type of contract (US$121 million for ‘engineering work’ that time) for Iraq’s supergiant West Qurna-1 oilfield, also located very close to Iraq’s principal oil hub of Basra.

“At some point the U.S. is going to wake up and find out that it has lost the entire Middle East, including Iraq and Saudi,” concluded the Iran source. 

Tyler Durden Mon, 04/06/2020 - 05:00
Published:4/6/2020 4:04:53 AM
[Markets] Tesla Has A "Bulging Demand Problem" That Has Nothing To Do With COVID-19: Gordon Johnson Tesla Has A "Bulging Demand Problem" That Has Nothing To Do With COVID-19: Gordon Johnson

As most people following the Tesla saga already know, the company reported 88,000 deliveries for Q1 on Thursday night, leading many people to think that the company had "beat" estimates. Tesla stock soared after hours on Thursday, at one point rising almost $90 from the prior close, before returning to some semblance of reality on Friday and closing the week out around $480, up 5% on the day.

But as analyst Gordon Johnson reminds us in his latest report, these delivery estimate numbers had already been significantly walked back. He also reminded anyone willing to listen of the drastic measures Tesla has taken to increase supply:

After walking analysts ests. down (our opinion) from ~93K on Fri. to ~80K this past Monday and ~105K for the Cons. est. just two weeks ago, TSLA reported 1Q20 deliveries yesterday (i.e., Thurs) of 88.4K, leading many to claim victory, with some even saying TSLA "crushed" the 1Q20 delivery est. (link). While the stock is up in pre-market trading, at risk of stating the obvious, we disagree with the optimism being lauded on the car company today by many media outlets, & sell-side analysts alike.

More importantly, however, over the course of 3Q18-to-1Q20, we note that TSLA: (1) Launched a New Factory in China, which is said to be producing 3K cars/week, or ~36K cars/quarter (link), (2) Completed rollout of Model 3 AWD/AWD-P in N. America, (3) Launched Model 3 MR (Since Discounted), (4) Launched Model 3 SR+, (5) Launched Model 3 in Europe/UK (All Variants), (6) Launched Model 3 in China/SEA (All Variants), and (7) Launched Model Y AWD/AWD-P in the United States. 

Despite supply side improvements, TSLA sales were "essentially flat".

He made the argument that even though the China factory was up and running for most of Q1 and even though the Model Y was available for purchase, the company still posted a lackluster number for deliveries, up just 5.5%. He notes that it is the "second lowest level of TSLA cars sold over the past 6 quarters" and says compared to VW, Tesla's valuation remains unjustified: 

Yet, as detailed in Ex. 1 below, over this same timeframe, despite its China factory being fully functional for the lion's share of 1Q20 & its Model Y all-wheel-drive ("AWD") and Model Y all-wheel-drive-performance ("AWD-P") cars being available for purchase, as well as the introduction of >6 other new car variants 3Q18-to-1Q20, TSLA's total cars sold grew from 83.7K to just 88.4K 3Q18-to-1Q20, or up 5.5%.

In fact, 1Q20 marks the second lowest level of TSLA cars sold over the past 6 quarters.

Consequently, with TSLA currently valued at ~$98bn vs. $59.5bn for VW, despite the fact that VW sold ~10.5mn cars last year vs. 367.5K for TSLA, TSLA needs to see exponential growth to justify its valuation.

"Competition is killing TSLA in Europe..." Gordon Johnson says.??

Johnson also reminded people that Tesla's battery range is "not what it seems", even sourcing pro-Tesla website InsideEVs for his data.

Finally, Johnson explained that consensus estimates for 2021 have already started to come down and that the revisions have "nothing to do with COVID-19". 

Based on the lion's share of TSLA pundits saying demand will surge in 4Q20/2021, we think it's fair to say any impact from COVID-19 is expected to be fully behind TSLA by 1Q21. Despite this, however, as detailed in Ex. 2 below, since 2/13/20 the Cons. 2021 adjusted EPS est. for TSLA has fallen from $15.23/shr to $12.18/shr, or -20%. When considering this is the est. professional investors use to value TSLA shares, as this figure moves lower thru 2020, we would expect TSLA's share[s] to come under more intense selling pressure.

"Numbers don't lie, and, as we've stressed, TSLA has a bulging demand problem," Johnson concluded.

Tyler Durden Mon, 04/06/2020 - 04:30
Published:4/6/2020 3:32:58 AM
[Markets] Europe Markets: European stocks rally on data showing slowing growth in coronavirus spread European stocks climbed in early action Monday on tentative signs the spread of coronavirus is slowing.
Published:4/6/2020 3:04:49 AM
[Markets] A New World Order & "The End Of Capital Markets As We Have Known Them" A New World Order & "The End Of Capital Markets As We Have Known Them"

Via AdvisorPerspectives.com,

The following letter was sent by Bob Rodriguez to his friends and colleagues yesterday, as well as to Bob Huebscher. Bob Rodriguez has graciously allowed us to publish it.

Robert L. Rodriguez was the former portfolio manager of the small/mid-cap absolute-value strategy (including FPA Capital Fund, Inc.) and the absolute-fixed-income strategy (including FPA New Income, Inc.) and a former managing partner at FPA, a Los Angeles-based asset manager. He retired at the end of 2016, following more than 33 years of service.

He won many awards during his tenure. He was the only fund manager in the United States to win the Morningstar Manager of the Year award for both an equity and a fixed income fund and is tied with one other portfolio manager as having won the most awards. In 1994 Bob won for both FPA Capital and FPA New Income, and in 2001 and 2008 for FPA New Income.

The opinions expressed reflect Mr. Rodriguez’ personal views only and not those of FPA.

Dear friends and colleagues,

Though the virus pandemic has been tumultuous, challenging and with little precedence, from a capital market perspective, this market collapse was quite predictable.

Capital market excesses became pervasive in ways that were also unprecedented. Zombie companies, corporate operating strategies that elevated financial risk to extreme levels and consumers who also became highly leveraged were the accepted actions of the day. Prudence was an extremely rare virtue. Many times I expressed the opinion that I thought the various equity markets were at least 40-60% over valued. Recent events would tend to confirm my assessment.

Back in 2009, in my Morningstar speech, and then after I returned from my 2010 sabbatical, I argued that, if we did not get our economic house in order, we would experience a crisis of equal or greater magnitude than the 2008-2009 period and that this would take place after 2017.

With the passage of the 2017 omnibus bill and the 2017 tax cut, along with a continuation of unsound and insane monetary policies, this speculative excess period was able to be extended. We knew there would be a pin that would prick this unbelievably speculative bubble but we just didn’t know what it would be. Now we do.

Our economic and financial market systems were not prepared with appropriate “rainy day reserves” to withstand an exogenous shock. Balance sheets were stretched in all economic sectors. The shock to the US economy by the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the beginning of WW2 was more traumatic and of greater magnitude than what we are experiencing now and it would also last longer. However, after 12 years of Depression, the financial system was cleansed of speculative excesses that allowed for a financial re-leveraging of the economy to fight the war. After the carnage was over, the economy was able to grow out of an extreme leverage position. In contrast to then, this is not the case today, given that the economy is already extremely leveraged prior to the onset of the crisis. My worst fears have materialized.

Since 2013, I have been preparing for an economy of monumental excess, where debt and deficits do not appear to matter, along with Fed and other central bank monetary policies that totally distort the fundamental elements of the Capital Asset Pricing Model. With the events of the past three weeks, the perversion and conversion to a dystopian capital market and economic system is virtually complete.

As for me, with the Fed's announcement of unlimited QE and its “will buy or support almost anything,” along with the pending passage of a $2-2.5 trillion stimulus package, this is the end of the capital markets as we have known them.

We have now entered unlimited QE and MMT where there is no escape.

It is the Roach Motel all over again.

In Chairman Bernanke‘s 2010 Washington Post op-ed, he argued that QE would lead to a virtuous economic cycle; therefore, the Fed would eventually be able to exit from its QE operations. I argued that once initiated, a reversal would be impossible. It would be like the Roach Motel, “You can check in, but you cannot check out.”

With the initiation of the Fed’s complete takeover and control of the US financial economy, there is now absolutely no accurate pricing discovery in the capital markets and we have entered a period of total manipulation. In light of this, the only markets I have an interest in are those where the heavy hand of government is not involved or only minimally involved. This leads me to rare commodities and collectibles. The public equity and debt markets are now nothing more than greater fool markets that are led by the greatest fools of all, the Fed and the Congress. US capital markets, RIP!

Despite my having avoided 100% of the market carnage and also being profitable, I have to shed a tear for the passing of a capital market that has benefitted the real and financial economy so well for decades. In 2008, when I wrote, “Crossing the Rubicon,” I argued we had crossed over into a new economic order and system. Little did I know that within twelve short years this transformation would be virtually complete. We have entered into a far more dangerous environment where normal rules of analytics will likely not apply.

When everything is essentially socialized as to risk, a return vs risk evaluation is essentially meaningless since the risk side of the equation has been truncated.

Over a period of time which I cannot estimate yet, I will continue my preparation for a far different economic and financial environment.

Capital deployment strategies will likely have to change from what has been the norm in the post WW2 environment. We are in a New World Order.

I hope I am wrong in my assessment, but I doubt it.

Good luck,

Bob

Tyler Durden Mon, 04/06/2020 - 04:00
Published:4/6/2020 3:04:49 AM
[Markets] European stocks jump at start on slowing rate of new virus cases and deaths European stocks jump at start on slowing rate of new virus cases and deaths Published:4/6/2020 2:32:03 AM
[Markets] Sweden Beset By New Crime-Wave Of "Humiliation Robberies" Sweden Beset By New Crime-Wave Of "Humiliation Robberies"

Authored by Judith Bergman via The Gatestone Institute,

A new kind of crime is making the headlines in Sweden, in Swedish known as förnedringsrånFörnedring means "humiliation" and rån means "robbery." The victims of these "humiliation robberies" are almost always children or teenagers. As previously reported by Gatestone Institute:

"The number of children who rob other children has increased by 100% in only four years, according to a new study by Swedish police... In 2016, there were 1,178 robberies against children under 18 years of age. In 2019, the number had increased to 2,484. The number of violent crimes where the suspect is a child under 15 years of age has also gone up dramatically: In 2015, there were 6,359 reported violent crimes where the suspect was a child under 15. In 2019, that number had increased to 8,719 reported violent crimes".

The "humiliation robberies" have recently caused much consternation in Sweden. In Gothenburg, a criminal gang of youths forced their victim to kiss the gang leader's feet, while they filmed him. After that, they stomped on his face until he passed out.

In Stockholm, two 16-year-olds robbed, punched and kicked their 18-year old victim for hours. At the end of the ordeal, they took him behind a church where one of the perpetrators urinated on him while they called him names such as "fucking Swede". They then forced him to take his clothes of while laughing mockingly at him, the victim, only known as Liam, told Swedish TV. The two 16-year-olds filmed the incident and spread it on social media.

The parents of one of the perpetrators came to Sweden six years ago from an unspecified African country, according to Swedish TV, who interviewed them in February. The parents both work and said that their son lacks for nothing. The mother wore a hijab during the interview.

Although Swedish media rarely publish details of the ethnic origins of gang members, some media research has shown that gang members overwhelmingly are either foreign-born or children of immigrants. In 2017, the Swedish mainstream media outlet Expressen did a report about the 49 criminal networks in Stockholm. The report showed the networks consisted of between 500 and 700 gang members: 40.6% of the gang members that Expressen surveyed were foreign-born; 82.2% had two parents who were foreign-born. Their main country of origin was Iraq, followed by Bosnia, Lebanon, Somalia, Syria and Turkey.

"It is a way to show your power. They want to dominate places. They do that by putting fear in other youths," said Thomas Petterson, an analyst for the Gothenburg police, in August.

"When it comes to these kinds of young people, they get a kick out of the deed, rather than going after possessions," said criminal prosecutor Linda Wiking.

However, little is apparently new about this form of crime. The only truly novel aspect of it is that the crime has become extreme to the extent that even Swedish mainstream media can no longer ignore it.

As early as 2007, four academics (Ingrid Björkman, Jan Elfverson, Jonathan Friedman and Åke Wedin) wrote a book, Exit Folkhemssverige ("Exit the Swedish Welfare State"), which received little to no attention in mainstream media at the time. The book contains much information about gang robberies, including the humiliation of the victims that they often entail:

"Since the early 1990s, gang robberies, where young people rob other young people, have been a marked feature of juvenile delinquency. From being a metropolitan phenomenon, the robberies have now spread across the country. Several reports, including an extensive BRÅ survey in 1999 of Malmö and Gothenburg, as well as interviews with police officers, give a coherent picture of the youth robberies. The increase is dramatic. In the Stockholm and Malmö regions, police reported robberies doubled in 1999, and the police are talking about a 'youth epidemic'. 80 - 90% of robbers have an immigrant background. The majority are 15 - 17 years...The victims are Swedish children and young people, primarily 'Swedish guys from rich men's schools', as one robber put it. The robberies are mostly carried out in the daytime and despite the fact that there are adults nearby. The surroundings rarely intervene... The robberies usually follow a certain pattern: A group of immigrant boys approach a selected victim and convey a clear threat with their actions. A common scenario is that one of the robbers holds a knife pressed against the victim, while the others rob him of mobile phone, bank card, money. The victim... is frightened and dare not [do anything] but give up the requested items... If he doesn't give up, he'll be beaten, often very brutally. Humiliation of the victim is not infrequently included in the picture. If it is a boy, it is about breaking his self-esteem. He is forced to cry, give up his shoes, even undress naked, kneel and plead for his life, etc. For the girl victims, sexual humiliation applies. They get their clothes ripped off, the robbers grab them and call them "whores". However, the robberies are rarely combined with rape. When the girls manage to get away, the robbers laugh out loud and let them run. Even little girls aren't safe... The gangs have gained respect, as it is called. This means that they have taken over certain neighborhoods, with the result that Swedish young people are restricting their freedom of movement...The teenage perpetrators behave like Mafiosi, police say. The robberies are a demonstration of power. If the robbers are caught, they laugh at the police, because the penalties for the crimes are so insignificant due to the young age of the perpetrators." (From chapter 5.)

The authors continued:

"The fact that it is a question of showing their power is confirmed by the immigrant youths themselves... 'The Swedes must become like us foreigners. Otherwise, they won't make it,' says one immigrant... 'You don't rob your own. And then it becomes immigrants against Swedes'. 'If you get to know them and pretend to look up to them, then you don't get robbed,' explains a Swedish 14-year-old. The defense mechanism is called conscious identity change. A sociological study at the University of Gothenburg by John Järvenpää has dealt in detail with the phenomenon of immigrant youth and robberies...The crucial motive for the choice of victims was ethnic. No one could imagine robbing someone of their own nationality. First, 'it's about respect.' Second, they would be severely punished by their compatriots. 'I'd get killed,' says one. 'The family would have killed us,' says another. That the robbers focus on Swedes is mainly because Swedes are afraid and therefore easy prey..."

Exit Folkhemssverige also has a section about gang rape, which the authors present as a different kind of humiliation crime:

"Previously, gang rapes were virtually unknown in Sweden. But since the 1980s, they have steadily increased. Since 1995, they have quadrupled. In 1999, 35 gang rapes were recorded in Stockholm alone. Today, the media reports every week or every two weeks on such violent crimes. The usual pattern is the same as in the gang robberies. First, the ethnic relationship is the same: the victims are Swedish and among the perpetrators, the immigrants are greatly over-represented. For example, a study on sentencing practices shows that out of 24 perpetrators convicted of gang rape in 1989–91, 21 were foreign nationals. Whether the three Swedish citizens were ethnic Swedes or immigrants is not accounted for. Second, both perpetrators and victims are getting younger. In August 2001, for example, two 13-year-old girls in Malmö were raped by six immigrant boys aged 11 to 14. The case received widespread media attention, resulting in 17 rape reports against the same gang being filed with the police in the following days... The term 'whore' for Swedish women was launched by Muslim immigrant men from the Middle East. The concept has since been adopted by male immigrants from other cultures and now seems established..."

Exit Folkhemssverige was based, among many other sources, on the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention's (Brå) report "Youth who rob youth in Malmö and Stockholm" which was published in the year 2000 -- evidently at a time, when Swedish authorities still published details about the ethnic backgrounds of perpetrators. According to the report, 70-75 % of the victims of youth robbers were Swedes born of two Swedish-born parents, whereas:

"Between 1995 and 1999, the proportion of suspected perpetrators born in Sweden to Swedish-born parents fell in both Malmö and Stockholm, from 21% and 36% respectively, to 10% and 15% respectively... In Malmö, foreign-born young people made up more than half of all suspected perpetrators in 1995. By 1999, this proportion had increased to 69%. In Stockholm, young people born abroad accounted for about 40 % of the suspected perpetrators in both 1995 and 1999. Foreign-born young people were severely over-represented among the suspected perpetrators..." (page 27)

Twenty years after Brå's report about youths who rob other youths, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, blamed the most recent and widely publicized "humiliation robberies" on the former liberal-conservative government, which Löfven took over from in 2014:

"For a long time there was a policy, during eight years of the former conservative government, of tax reductions and welfare cuts. That will not do. Now we have changed that policy, we will invest more in welfare".

Löfven might benefit from learning the history of gang violence in Sweden. He might start by reading Brå's 20-year old report.

Tyler Durden Mon, 04/06/2020 - 03:00
Published:4/6/2020 2:04:15 AM
[Markets] India Bans Exports Of Trump's "Game Changer" Anti-COVID-19 Drug India Bans Exports Of Trump's "Game Changer" Anti-COVID-19 Drug

After initially declaring that he wouldn't use the DPA because American companies were doing the right thing and accelerating production of ventilators and other critical supplies on their own - Trump said that with a straight face while Elon Musk turned in a batch of Tesla-made "ventilators" that turned out to be CPAP machines - President Trump became embroiled in what has become by all accounts a nasty feud with 3M, a Dow constituent and pillar of American industry.

After Trump accused the company for being "unpatriotic" and risking American lives by choosing to honor contracts promising deliveries of critical medical supplies to customers abroad instead of turning them over to hospitals in the US, its CEO appeared on CNBC Friday to try and explain why its decision would save more lives in the long run because it would surely prompt other countries to respond in-kind. And given 3M's complex, international supply chain, this could jeopardize the company's ability to continue providing its products to the US.

Many of Trump's critics blasted the president for appearing to scapegoat a vital American corporation for the administration's flat-footed response to the outbreak, and repeated some version of the argument outlined above. And while their arguments are certainly based on a reasonable foundation, they've neglected to mention one critical fact: Other countries are already doing the same thing to the US. Many Chinese factories have stopped delivering products from masks and gloves all the way to widely used drugs. And now, after earlier restricting its export to purely "humanitarian" grounds (as if there was any other reason for the use of medicine), New Delhi is banning export of hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug that Trump once touted as a “game changer”, and which has recently proved effective at combating some of the virus's deadliest symptoms.

According to Bloomberg, exports of the drug and its formulations are now being prohibited "without any exceptions" and with immediate effect, according to India’s Directorate General of Foreign Trade. The statement is dated April 4.

Trump raised the issue of India's decision to restrict export of the drug up during Saturday's press conference. He claimed that he had appealed directly to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for already-ordered shipments of the drug to be released to the US

India is giving his request “serious consideration,” the president said.

Trump says the federal government is stockpiling millions of doses of the drug to make it available for coronavirus patients. And fortunately, it's not the only drug that has shown to be effective in treating COVID-19. Japanese PM Shinzo Abe recently ordered apanese drugmakers to ramp up production of Avigan, a drug Abe believes to be quite effective. Antivirals like Gilead's Remdesivir have also shown effectiveness and are also being studied.

Tyler Durden Mon, 04/06/2020 - 02:30
Published:4/6/2020 1:32:06 AM
[Markets] How Generals Fueled 1918 Flu Pandemic To Win Their World War How Generals Fueled 1918 Flu Pandemic To Win Their World War

Authored by Gareth Porter via TheAmericanConservative.com,

Just like today, brass and bureaucrats ignored warnings, and sent troops overseas despite the consequences.

The U.S. military has been forced by the coronavirus pandemic to make some serious changes in their operations. But the Pentagon, and especially the Navy, have also displayed a revealing resistance to moves to stand down that were clearly needed to protect troops from the raging virus from the start.

The Army and Marine Corps have shifted from in-person to virtual recruitment meetings. But the Pentagon has reversed an initial Army decision to postpone further training and exercises for at least 30 days, and it has decided to continue sending new recruits from all the services to basic training camps, where they would no doubt be unable to sustain social distancing.

On Thursday, the captain of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, on which the virus was reportedly spreading, was relieved of command. He was blamed by his superiors for the leak of a letter he wrote warning the Navy that failure to act rapidly threatened the health of his 5,000 sailors.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper justified his decision to continue many military activities as usual by declaring these activities are “critical to national security.” But does anyone truly believe there is a military threat on the horizon that the Pentagon must prepare for right now? It is widely understood outside the Pentagon that the only real threat to that security is the coronavirus itself.

Esper’s decisions reflect a deeply ingrained Pentagon habit of protecting its parochial military interests at the expense of the health of American troops.

This pattern of behavior recalls the far worse case of the U.S. service chiefs once managing the war in Europe. They acted with even greater callousness toward the troops being called off to war in Europe during the devastating “Spanish flu” pandemic of 1918, which killed 50 million people worldwide.

It was called the “Spanish flu” only because, while the United States, Britain and France were all censoring news about the spread of the pandemic in their countries to maintain domestic morale, the press in neutralist Spain was reporting freely on influenza cases there. In fact, the first major wave of infections in the United States came in U.S. training camps set up to serve the war.

Abundant documentary evidence shows that the 1918 pandemic actually began in Haskell County, Kansas, in early 1918, when many residents came down with an unusually severe type of influenza. Some county residents were then sent to the Army’s Camp Funston at Ft. Riley, Kansas, the military’s largest training facility, training 50,000 recruits at a time for the war. Within two weeks, thousands of soldiers at the camp became sick with the new influenza virus, and 38 died.

Recruits at 14 of 32 large military training camps set up across the country to feed the U.S. war in Europe soon reported similar influenza outbreaks, apparently because some troops from Camp Funston had been sent there. By May 1918, hundreds of thousands of troops, many of whom were already infected, began boarding troopships bound for Europe, and the crowding onboard the ships created ideal conditions for the virus to explode further.

In the trenches in France, still more U.S. troops continued to be sickened by the virus, at first with milder illness and relatively few deaths But the war managers simply evacuated the sick and brought in fresh replacements, allowing the virus to adapt and mutate into more virulent and more lethal strains.

The consequences of that approach to the war became evident after the August 27 arrival in Boston harbor, when visitors brought a much more virulent and lethal strain of the virus; it quickly entered Boston itself and by September 8, had appeared at Camp Devens outside the city. Within ten days, the camp had thousands of soldiers sick with the new strain, and some of those infected at the camp boarded troops ships for Europe.

Meanwhile the lethal new strain spread from Camp Devens across the United States through September and October, ravaging one city after another. From September onward, the U.S. command in France, led by Gen. John Pershing, and the war managers in the War Department in Washington, were well aware that both U.S. troops already in Europe and the American public were suffering vast numbers of severe illnesses and death from the pandemic.

Nevertheless, Pershing continued to call for large numbers of the replacements for those stricken at the front lines, as well as for new divisions to launch a major offensive late in the year. In a message to the War Department on September 3, Pershing demanded an additional 179,000 troops.

The internal debate that followed that request, recounted by historian Carol R. Byerly, documents the chilling indifference of Pershing and the military bureaucracy in Washington to the fate of American troops they planned to send to war. After watching the horror of lethally-infected soldiers dying of pneumonia in the infected camps, acting Army Surgeon General Charles Richard strongly advised Army Chief of Staff Peyton March in late September against sending troops from the infected camps to France until the epidemic had been brought under control in the surrounding region, and March agreed.

Richard then asked for stopping the draft calls for young men heading for any camp known to be already infected. March wouldn’t go that far, and although the October draft was called off, it was to resume in November. The War Department acknowledged the heavy toll the pandemic was taking on U.S. troops in October 10, informing Pershing that he would get his troops by November 30, “if we are not stopped on account of Influenza, which has now passed the 200,000 mark.”

Richard then called for troops to be quarantined for a week before being shipped to Europe, and that the troopships carry only half the standard number of troops to reduce crowding. When March rejected those moves, which would have made it impossible for him to meet Pershing’s targets, Richard then recommended that all troop shipments be suspended until the influenza pandemic was brought under control, “except such as are demanded by urgent military necessity.”

But the chief of staff rejected such a radical shift in policy, and went to the White House to get President Woodrow Wilson’s approval for the decision. Wilson, obviously recognizing the implications of going ahead under the circumstances, asked why he refused to stop troop transport during the epidemic. March argued that Germany would be encouraged to fight on if it knew “the American divisions and replacements were no longer arriving.”Wilson then approved his decision, refusing to disturb Pershing’s war plans.

But the decision was not carried out fully. The German Supreme Command had already demanded that the Kaiser accept Wilson’s 14 points, and the armistice was signed on November 11.

The disastrous character of the U.S. elite running the First World War is clearly revealed with the astonishing fact that more American soldiers were killed and hospitalized by influenza (63,114) than in combat (53,402). And an estimated 340,000 American troops were hospitalized with influenza/pneumonia, compared with 227,000 hospitalized by Germans attacks.

The lack of concern of Washington bureaucrats for the well-being of the troops, as they pursue their own war interests, appears to be a common pattern—seen too, in the U.S. wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. Now it has been revealed once again in the stunningly callous response of the Pentagon to the coronavirus pandemic crisis.

In the 1918 war, there was no protest against that cold indifference, but there are now indications that the families of soldiers put being at risk are expressing their anger about it openly to representatives of the military. In a time of socio-political upheaval, and vanishing tolerance for the continuation of endless war, it could be a harbinger of accelerated unraveling of political tolerance for the war state’s overweening power.

*  *  *

Gareth Porter is an independent journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of numerous books, including Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare (2014), and The CIA Insiders Guide to Iran (2020),  co-written  with John Kiriakou.

Tyler Durden Mon, 04/06/2020 - 02:00
Published:4/6/2020 1:07:06 AM
[Markets] "Meet The Global Robot Army That's Been Deployed To Fight COVID-19 "Meet The Global Robot Army That's Been Deployed To Fight COVID-19

In addition to the selfless human heroes who continue to fight the unprecedented global pandemic on its front-lines, there has also been a lesser covered group of virus-fighters, dutifully going about their daily tasks to help battle the virus.

We're referring to the global robot army that has been deployed to fight the virus.

Robots worldwide are doing everything from bathing surfaces with radiation, sanitizing floors, scanning for fevers, spewing anti-microbial gas and enforcing mask wearing, according to the WSJ. Many of the robots are being put to work in areas where humans haven't tread yet, especially in areas like hospital cleaning.

For example, at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, there's a robot that disinfects and dispensing germ-killing fluid from its tanks. The robot weighs 1,050 pounds and is equipped with AI and a bank of cameras and sensors. Similar robots are already being used en masse at Changi in Singapore.

When the outbreak happened in China, UBTech Robotics, based in Shenzhen, China, developed a program to modify its robots to battle the virus. They attached a disinfectant sprayer to their Atris outdoor robot, which allows it to spray in public places. 

They have also modified two other models, the Cruzr and Aimbot, to be able to take people's temperature using thermal cameras. The robot's object-recognition algorithms allow them to also determine whether or not a person is wearing a mask.

Other robots are using UV light in indoor spaces to disinfect. UVC lights have long been used in hospitals to disinfect and sanitize rooms. Since the lights are harmful to humans (but also lethal to microbes), no humans can be in the room while disinfecting is taking place.

UVC lights can clean an entire room in anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, depending on the strength of the bulb being used. They can also reach surfaces often missed by human cleaners and kill airborne microbes - a feature that could come in hand if the coronavirus is spreading by people breathing in particles in indoor spaces.

Companies like UVD Robots, launched in Denmark in 2014, are working to try and implement these lights in a safe way for humans, on top of robots that can wander public spaces. Demand for UVC disinfecting robots has "exploded" by 2x to 3x since December of last year, CEO Juul Nielsen says. They are being considered for places like warehouses, prisons and offices and are operating in a manner similar to the way robots are used in areas like melted down nuclear power plants.

Some of the outlook for the industry remains unclear and it is possible that the idea of autonomous robots that clean may lose some of its glimmer after the coronavirus fades. They may also turn out to not be cost effective, compared to traditional manual labor which can easily clean tough to reach surfaces, like door handles.

But Jenny Lee, a 15-year veteran of venture-capital firm GGV Capital, thinks that the focus on robots now will translate to a broader focus on automation going forward. She hopes companies will continue to work on robots with smaller form factors and more autonomy. 

Benjamin Tanner, chief executive of Austin, Texas-based Microchem Laboratory said: “There are manufacturers who have done no testing of their own, and it’s a little bit of buyer beware on the UV market.”

John Rhee, general manager of UBTech Robotics North America concluded: “We talk about flattening the curve, but the need to be vigilant and have increased monitoring and have measures in place to decrease transmission are things that organizations both public and private will have to take seriously for a very long time.”

Tyler Durden Mon, 04/06/2020 - 01:00
Published:4/6/2020 12:01:54 AM
[Markets] Asian markets gain on glimmers of progress in battling coronavirus Asian shares and U.S. futures rebounded on Monday as investors grasped at threads of hope that the battle against the coronavirus pandemic may be making some progress in some hard-hit areas. Published:4/5/2020 11:31:47 PM
[Markets] UK Rejects Assange Release Request Amid COVID-19 Crisis, But Frees Thousands Of Others UK Rejects Assange Release Request Amid COVID-19 Crisis, But Frees Thousands Of Others

Via ConsortiumNews.com,

Imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange is not eligible for an early Covid-19 release from prison with other inmates because he is not serving a criminal sentence, the Australian Associated Press has reported.

British Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said Saturday that some low-risk inmates, weeks from release will be let go with monitoring devices to help avoid a further outbreak of Covid-19 in the nations’ prisons.

Belmarsh Prison in London, file image.

So far 88 prisoners and 15 staff have tested positive for the virus in British prisons. More than 25 percent of the nations’ prison staff are quarantining themselves. 

“This government is committed to ensuring that justice is served to those who break the law,” Buckland said in a statement. “But this is an unprecedented situation because if coronavirus takes hold in our prisons, the NHS could be overwhelmed and more lives put at risk.”

The Ministry of Justice told the AAP that Assange won’t be among those released because he isn’t serving a custodial sentence

WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange leaves Westminster Magistrates Court in London.

Britain will release about 4,000 nonviolent inmates from their prisons to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, the country’s Ministry of Justice announced Saturday.

The ministry described prisoners eligible for release as “low-risk offenders,” noting those convicted of violent or sexual offenses will not be considered.

Inmates will be tracked electronically and required to stay home, officials said. — The Hill

In other words, because he has not been convicted of a crime, and is instead only being held on remand pending the outcome of the U.S. extradition request, he must remain in Belmarsh prison with high-risk inmates–the most serious and hardened criminals

WikiLeaks Ambassador Joseph Farrell released this video:

The Daily Maverick reported this week that there is one other prisoner on remand in Belmarsh, who would presumably also be left to rot in the jail as the virus spreads throughout the British prison system. 

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 23:50
Published:4/5/2020 11:01:36 PM
[Markets] Peter Navarro Explodes At Faucci In Heated Showdown Over Hydroxychloroquine Peter Navarro Explodes At Faucci In Heated Showdown Over Hydroxychloroquine

White House economic adviser got into a massive argument with the coronavirus task force's Anthony Fauci over the doctor's ongoing resistance to the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, despite reports of the drug's widespread efficacy.

Via Axios:

  • Numerous government officials were at the table, including Fauci, coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx, Jared Kushner, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, and Commissioner of Food and Drugs Stephen Hahn.
  • Behind them sat staff, including Peter Navarro, tapped by Trump to compel private companies to meet the government's coronavirus needs under the Defense Production Act.

According to the report, towards the end of the meeting Hahn began a discussion of the commonly used malaria drug hydroxychloroquine - which was recently rated the 'most effective therapy' for coronavirus according to a global survey of more than 6,000 doctors.

After Hahn gave an update on various trials and real-world use of the drug, Navarro got up and dropped a stack of folders on the table to pass around.

According to Axios's source, "the first words out of his [Navarro's] mouth are that the studies that he's seen, I believe they're mostly overseas, show 'clear therapeutic efficacy,'" adding "Those are the exact words out of his mouth.

Fauci - who's not got his own Twitter hashtag, #FireFauci - began pushing back against Navarro, repeating his oft-repeated contention that 'there's only anecdotal evidence' that the drug works against COVID-19.

Navarro exploded - after Fauci's mention of anecdotal evidence "just set Peter off." The economic adviser shot back "That's the science, not anecdote," while pointing to the stack of folders on the desk, which included the results of studies from around the world showing its efficacy.

Here's what unfolded next, via Axios:

Navarro started raising his voice, and at one point accused Fauci of objecting to Trump's travel restrictions, saying, "You were the one who early on objected to the travel restrictions with China," saying that travel restrictions don't work. (Navarro was one of the earliest to push the China travel ban.)

  • Fauci looked confused, according to a source in the room. After Trump imposed the travel restrictions, Fauci has publicly praised the president's restriction on travel from China.
  • Pence was trying to moderate the heated discussion. "It was pretty clear that everyone was just trying to get Peter to sit down and stop being so confrontational," said one of the sources.
  • Eventually, Kushner turned to Navarro and said, "Peter, take yes for an answer," because most everyone agreed, by that time, it was important to surge the supply of the drug to hot zones.
  • The principals agreed that the administration's public stance should be that the decision to use the drug is between doctors and patients.
  • Trump ended up announcing at his press conference that he had 29 million doses of hydroxychloroquine in the Strategic National Stockpile.

According to a source familiar with the coronavirus task force, "There has never been a confrontation in the task force meetings like the one yesterday," adding "People speak up and there's robust debate, but there's never been a confrontation. Yesterday was the first confrontation." 

Meanwhile, 37% of 6,227 doctors across 30 countries felt the drug was the "most effective therapy" out of 15 options in treating coronavirus, according to a poll reported by the Washington Times.

The drug has been prescribed in 72% of cases in Spain, 49% in Italy, 41% in Brazil, 39% in Mexico, 28% in France, and 23% in the USA. Overall, 19% of physicians have prescribed the drug for high-risk patients, and 8% for low-risk patients.

More from the Sermo poll (via the Washington Times)

***

Sermo CEO Peter Kirk called the polling results a “treasure trove of global insights for policy makers.”

“Physicians should have more of a voice in how we deal with this pandemic and be able to quickly share information with one another and the world,” he said. “With censorship of the media and the medical community in some countries, along with biased and poorly designed studies, solutions to the pandemic are being delayed.”

The survey also found that 63% of U.S. physicians believe restrictions should be lifted in six weeks or more, and that the epidemic’s peak is at least 3-4 weeks away.

The survey also found that 83% of global physicians anticipate a second global outbreak, including 90% of U.S. doctors but only 50% of physicians in China.

On average, U.S. coronavirus testing takes 4-5 days, while 10% of cases take longer than seven days. In China, 73% of doctors reported getting rest results back in 24 hours.

In cases of ventilator shortages, all countries but China said the top criteria should be patients with the best chance of recovery (47%), followed by patients with the highest risk of death (21%), and then first responders (15%).

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 23:25
Published:4/5/2020 10:31:41 PM
[Markets] Key Words: Wall Street star money manager says S&P 500 could plunge to 1,500 in worst case, with coronavirus fallout lingering for years Scott Minerd is looking for opportunities to dip his toes into the coronavirus-stricken market. However, you may not find him wading into equities soon if current market trends hold.
Published:4/5/2020 10:01:42 PM
[Markets] COVID-19 & China's Colossal Cover-Up COVID-19 & China's Colossal Cover-Up

Authored by Giulio Meotti via The Gatestone Institute,

We have been paying dearly for China's lies.

"This is one of the worst cover-ups in human history, and now the world is facing a global pandemic," said Rep. Michael T. McCaul, the ranking Republican member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, before the US intelligence community concluded, in a classified report to the White House, that China has concealed the origin and extent of the catastrophic global coronavirus outbreak.

The Chinese Communist Party's "failure has unleashed a global contagion killing thousands", wrote Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences, on April 1. "As we survey the damage done to lives around the world, we must ask who is responsible?"

"... there is one government that has primary responsibility for what it has done and what it has failed to do, and that is the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] regime in Beijing. Let me be clear — it is the CCP that has been responsible, not the people of China... Lies and propaganda have put millions of lives around the world in danger... In recent years, we have seen an intense crackdown on freedom of expression in China. Lawyers, bloggers, dissidents and civil society activists have been rounded up and have disappeared."

One more person has just disappeared: Ai Fen, a Chinese physician who was head of the emergency department at Wuhan Central Hospital, had worked with the late Dr. Li Wenliang. Ai, who claimed that her bosses silenced her early warnings about coronavirus, appears to have vanished. Her whereabouts, according to 60 Minutes Australia, are unknown. The journalists who saw what happened inside Wuhan have also disappearedCaixin Global reported that the laboratories which sequenced the coronavirus in December were ordered by Chinese officials to hand over or destroy the samples and not release their findings.

"If I had known what was to happen, I would not have cared about the reprimand, I would have fucking talked about it to whoever, where ever I could", Ai Fen said in an interview in March. Those were her last recorded words.

There is no record at all, however, about how this pandemic began. Wet market? A cave full of batsPangolins? Or a bio-weapons laboratory? No foreign doctors, journalists, analysts or international observers are present in Wuhan. Why, if the virus came out of a wet market or a cave, did China suppress inquiries to such an extent? Why, in December, did Beijing order Chinese scientists to destroy proof about the virus? Why did Chinese officials claim that US soldiers brought the virus to Wuhan? Why should it be scandalous that a US President calls a virus that began in China a "Chinese virus"?

Who announced on January 11 that Wuhan's wet market was the origin of this epidemic? The Chinese regime. It was later discovered that the first known case of coronavirus traced back to November 17, 2019.

The same Chinese regime later claimed that this coronavirus "may not have originated in China". What respected scientist or institution can now trust anything that comes out of China?

Many leading scientists have dismissed the claim that the Covid-19 virus was an engineered pathogen. This conclusion was seemingly based on the fact that Wuhan has two major virus research labs: the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which is apparently less than a mile from the market, and the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) laboratory, handling the world's most deadly pathogens, located just seven miles from the market. The story was immediately and emphatically trashed as a "conspiracy theory".

Those scientists claim that the virus likely originated among wildlife before spreading to humans, possibly through a food market in Wuhan. They say that, through genetic sequencing, they have identified the culprit for Covid-19 as a bat coronavirus. End of story? Science, thankfully, begins by asking questions and then seeking answers.

Bats were not, it seems, sold at Wuhan's wet market. The Lancet noted in a January study that the first Covid-19 case in Wuhan had no connection to the market. The Lancet's paper, written by Chinese researchers from several institutions, detailed that 13 of the 41 first cases had no link to the market. "That's a big number, 13, with no link," commented Daniel Lucey, an infectious disease specialist at Georgetown University. So how did the epidemic start?

"Now it seems clear that [the] seafood market is not the only origin of the virus, but to be honest we still do not know where the virus came from now", notes Bin Cao, pulmonary specialist at Capital Medical University, and the corresponding author of the Lancet article.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that China's Communist Party is withholding information about the coronavirus.

If we do not know, it is necessary be open to all possibilities.

"Less than 300 yards from the seafood market is the Wuhan branch of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention" wrote David Ignatius of the Washington Post.

"Researchers from that facility and the nearby Wuhan Institute of Virology have posted articles about collecting bat coronaviruses from around China, for study to prevent future illness. Did one of those samples leak, or was hazardous waste deposited in a place where it could spread?".

"Collecting viruses" presumably does not exclude the possibility of a "leaked virus". Worse, if China is not able to protect its laboratories, it needs to be held accountable and made to pay for the devastating global damage.

"Experts know the new coronavirus is not a bioweapon. They disagree on whether it could have leaked from a research lab", stated The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Professor Richard Ebright of Rutgers University's Waksman Institute of Microbiology, and a major biosecurity expert, agreed with the Nature Medicine authors' argument that the coronavirus was not manipulated by humans. But Ebright does think it possible that the Covid-19 started as an accidental leak from a laboratory, such as one of the two in Wuhan, which are known to have been studying bat viruses:

"Virus collection or animal infection with a virus having the transmission characteristics of the outbreak virus would pose substantial risk of infection of a lab worker, and from the lab worker, the public."

Ebright has also claimed that bat coronaviruses are studied in Wuhan at Biosafety Level 2, "which provides only minimal protection" compared with the top BSL-4.

"We don't know what happened, but there are a lot of reasons to believe that this indeed was a release of some sort", China expert Gordon Chang said to Die Weltwoche.

"No one has been able to study it. How can you say it's not a release from a lab if you can't go to the lab? Indeed, we have seen Beijing do its best to prevent virologists and epidemiologists from actually going to Wuhan. The World Health Organization team went to Wuhan for like half a day with only part of the team."

That is another major problem. The potential major investigator of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic's origin, the World Health Organization (WHO), is now accused of being "China's coronavirus' accomplice". As late as January 14, the WHO quoted Chinese health officials claiming there had been no human transmissions of the coronavirus within the country yet.

China poses a biosecurity risks for the entire planet. One year before the first coronavirus case was identified in Wuhan, US Customs and Border Protection agents at Detroit Metro Airport stopped a Chinese biologist with three vials labeled "Antibodies" in his luggage. According to an unclassified FBI tactical intelligence report obtained by Yahoo News:

"Inspection of the writing on the vials and the stated recipient led inspection personnel to believe the materials contained within the vials may be viable Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) materials."

Why is China trafficking in dangerous viruses in the first place?

According to Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations:

"A safety breach at a Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention lab is believed to have caused four suspected SARS cases, including one death, in Beijing in 2004. A similar accident caused 65 lab workers of Lanzhou Veterinary Research Institute to be infected with brucellosis in December 2019. In January 2020, a renowned Chinese scientist, Li Ning, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for selling experimental animals to local markets".

In February, Botao Xiao and Lei Xiao, from Guangzhou's South China University of Technology, wrote in a research paper:

"In addition to origins of natural recombination and intermediate host the killer coronavirus probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan. Safety level [sic] may need to be reinforced in high risk biohazardous laboratories".

Xiao later told the Wall Street Journal that he had withdrawn the paper because it "was not supported by direct proofs".

Chinese laboratory mistakes have happened before. By 2010, researchers published as fact: "The most famous case of a released laboratory strain is the re-emergent H1N1 influenza-A virus which was first observed in China in May of 1977 and in Russia shortly thereafter". The virus may have escaped from a lab attempting to prepare a vaccine in response to the U.S. swine flu pandemic alert.

In 1999 the most senior defector in the US from the Soviet biological warfare program, Ken Alibek, revealed that Soviet officials concluded that China had suffered a serious accident at one of its secret biological plants, causing two major epidemics of fever that had swept China in the late 1980s. "Our analysts", Alibek stated in his book, Biohazard, "concluded that they were caused by an accident in a lab where Chinese scientists were weaponizing viral diseases".

In 2004, the World Health Organization disclosed that the latest outbreak of "severe acute respiratory syndrome" (SARS) in China involved two researchers who were working with the virus in a Beijing research lab. The WHO denounced Chinese breaches of safety procedures, and director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Li Liming, resignedScience magazine also stated that "for the third time in less than a year, an outbreak of SARS seems to have originated from a failure in laboratory containment".

Moreover, three years ago, when China opened the laboratory in Wuhan, Tim Trevan, a Maryland biosafety specialist, told Nature that he worried about the safety of the building because "structures where everyone feels free to speak up and openness of information are important." Free speech and open information: exactly what Chinese regime fought against in December and January.

A Chinese video about a key researcher in Wuhan, Tian Junhua, which was released a few weeks before the outbreak in Wuhan, shows Chinese researchers handling bats that contained viruses. In the video (produced by China Science Communication, run by the China Association for Science and Technology), Tian says:

"I am not a doctor, but I work to cure and save people... I am not a soldier, but I work to safeguard an invisible national defense line".

Tian is also reported as having said:

"I can feel the fear: the fear of infections and the fear of getting lost. Because of the fear, I take every step extremely cautiously. The more scared I feel, the more care I take in executing every detail. Because the process of you finding the viruses is also when you can be exposed to them the easiest. I do hope these virus samples will only be preserved for scientific research and will never be used in real life".

For a month, the Chinese Communist Party, instead of fighting the contagion, did everything possible to censor all information about the Covid-19 outbreak. After President Xi Jinping declared "a people's war" on the epidemic on January 20, Chinese security services pursued 5,111 cases of "fabricating and deliberately disseminating false and harmful information". The Chinese Human Rights Defenders documented several types of punishment, including detention, disappearance, fines, interrogations, forced confessions and "educational reprimand".

After that, China lied about the real number of deaths. There are photographs of long lines of stacked urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in 2,500 urns. According to Chinese official figures, 2,548 people in Wuhan have died of the Covid-19. According to an analysis by Radio Free Asia, seven funeral homes in Wuhan were each handing out 500 funeral urns containing remains for 12 days, from March 23 to the traditional tomb-sweeping festival of April 5, a time that would indicate up to 42,000 urns, or ten times higher than the official figure.

In February, it was reported that Wuhan crematoriums were working around the clock to cope with the massive influx of infected bodies. Wuhan's officials are apparently pushing relatives of the victims to bury the dead "quickly and quietly".

"Natural virus" does not exclude its fallout from a laboratory where pathogens are collected and studied. The Nature Medicine authors "leave us where we were before: with a basis to rule out [a coronavirus from] a lab construct, but no basis to rule out a lab accident", Professor Ebright commented.

"Debate may rage over which center it is, but at this point it seems undeniable that a center has been directly involved with research on viruses, although not necessarily on the creation of a virus" wrote Father Renzo Milanese, a longtime Catholic missionary in Hong Kong.

"In other words, the virus passed from a research center in Wuhan early on. More importantly there is also no question that the authorities were aware of the dangerousness of the virus, that they did not inform anyone and that they tried to keep the facts hidden".

US Senator Josh Hawley has introduced a resolution calling for an international investigation into China's handling of the spread of the virus. According to Hawley:

"The Chinese Communist Party was aware of the reality of the virus as early as December but ordered laboratories to destroy samples and forced doctors to keep silent. It is time for an international investigation into the role their cover-up played in the spread of this devastating pandemic".

Admitting a fault, as the Japanese did after the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011, might be one way for a country to be accepted again by the international community. Censoring, denying and covering up, as China is doing, will not.

"China claims that the deadly virus did not escape from its biolab," said a China specialist with the Population Research Institute, Steven W. Mosher.

"Fine. Prove it by releasing the research records of the Wuhan lab".

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 23:00
Published:4/5/2020 10:01:42 PM
[Markets] Japan To Declare State Of Emergency On April 7 Japan To Declare State Of Emergency On April 7

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to declare a coronavirus emergency, according to the Nikkei, as new cases in the capital surged at a record pace. And while the Japanese publication notes that the government will hold an unofficial meeting of a panel of experts and start preparing for the declaration, Kyodo reported moments ago that Japan will declare a state of emergency on April 7, which would take effect on April 8.

An emergency declaration gives governors in the areas covered formal powers, such as issuing requests that people stay home; Tokyo and surrounding areas, as well as Osaka, are expected to be affected by the declaration.

Abe has been criticized for not having already declared an emergency - a hesitance thought by many to stem from a strong desire to hold the Olympics this summer in Tokyo as originally planned. The International Olympic Committee decided in late March to postpone the games to 2021 after consulting with the prime minister and others.

And yet, a conflict is set to emerge almost instantly because Japan's constitution does not permit the government to demand that individuals stay home, owing to civil liberties concerns. Is Japan - which already buys billions in stocks just to avoid a market crash and preserve social order - about to also have a constituational crisis?

In any case, we find it strange that there were almost "no cases" in the weeks leading up to Japan's reluctant decision to postpone this year's Olympics, only to see a sudden record surge afterwards as Japan's cases "mysteriously" soared, demonstrating once again that the coronavirus - or rather the tracking of its case and death toll - is first and foremost a political priority.

Abe met with parties including Health Minister Katsunobu Kato and Yasutoshi Nishimura, the economic and fiscal policy minister, on Sunday to discuss the spread of infections.
"If necessary, we will decide [to declare an emergency] without hesitation," said Nishimura, who heads the government's coronavirus response, on a show of public broadcaster NHK on Sunday. "We are looking for signs of an overshoot," he said, referring to an explosion in cases, and noted that the atmosphere has grown extremely tense. On the same program, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike called on the central government to issue an emergency declaration promptly.

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 22:13
Published:4/5/2020 9:31:09 PM
[Markets] Market Extra: These Dow charts suggest there could still be many bears waiting to sell When the stock market’s trend is clearly down, the question investors should try to answer isn’t where buying might emerge, because it isn’t likely to last, but where the next wave of selling will come from.
Published:4/5/2020 9:31:09 PM
[Markets] Food Banks Overwhelmed As America's "Working Poor" Starve During Lockdown Food Banks Overwhelmed As America's "Working Poor" Starve During Lockdown

America is crashing into a depression. In just two weeks, 10 million people have claimed unemployment benefits. This has put unprecedented stress on food bank networks across the country, a new investigation via The Guardian shows

The US labor market is in free fall – the increasing lockdowns across major US metropolitan areas have forced millions of people out of work and into a hunger crisis. 

The Guardian shows demand for food aid in some regions of the country has surged eightfold in recent weeks as RealInvestmentAdvice.com's Lance Roberts warns the unemployment rates in the US could spike to levels not seen since the "Great Depression," or about 15-20% in the second quarter. 

The National Guard has been deployed for a variety of reasons: One is to support local area hospital systems, another is to maintain social order, and now soldiers in Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Phoenix have supported food banks to ensure shortages do not materialize, mostly because that would trigger social unrest among the working poor. 

"I've been in this business over 30 years, and nothing compares to what we're seeing now. Not even when the steel mills closed down did we see increased demand like this," said Sheila Christopher, director of Hunger-Free Pennsylvania, which represents 18 food banks across 67 counties.

The Guardian provides a snapshot of the unprecedented demand hitting food banks: 

  • In Amherst, home to the University of Massachusetts' largest campus, the pantry distributed 849% more food in March compared with the previous year. The second-largest increase in western Massachusetts was 748% at the Pittsfield Salvation Army pantry.
  • The Grace Klein community food pantry in Jefferson county, which has the largest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Alabama, provided 5,076 individuals with food boxes last week – a 90% increase on the previous week.
  • In southern Arizona, demand has doubled, with pantries supplying groceries to 4,000 households every day – double the number supplied in March 2019. "We saw an increase during the federal government shutdown but nothing as rapid, massive or overwhelming as this," said Michael McDonald, CEO of the Community Food Bank of South Arizona.
  • A helpline set up by the Greater Pittsburgh community food bank has received more than a thousand calls in the past two weeks, 90% of which came from newly unemployed people. Here, pantries ordered 50% to 60% more food for March and April than usual.
  • The Lakeview pantry in Chicago is on track to provide food for as many as 2,000 individuals this week – compared with 1,100 before the coronavirus crisis.
  • The north Florida food bank, which relied heavily on contributions from retailers, has seen donations drop by 85% to 90% as shoppers bulk-buy, leaving shelves empty. But donations from restaurants, golf tournaments and even Disney World have increased, so the food bank is switching to ready meals, paying furloughed chefs to cook for thousands of senior citizens in housing facilities.
  • In Las Vegas, the Three Square food bank has increased weekly food distribution by 30%, from 1m to 1.3m lbs of food. New drive-thru distribution centres have been set up across the valley as 170 of its 180 distribution outlets have been forced to temporarily close due to CDC social distancing guidelines. "Every line at every distribution centre exceeds the amount of food in our trucks," said chief operating officer Larry Scott.
  • The Kansas City-based Harvesters food bank, which serves 16 counties in north-east Kansas and 10 in north-west Missouri, sent out 12,000 boxes to pantries on Monday 23 March – a 140% rise on the 5,000 boxes typically ordered. "It was the largest distribution day in our 40-year history," said its communications manager, Gene Hallinan.

Feeding America spokesperson Zuani Villarreal said the surge in job losses "is a perfect storm impacting food banks." 

The evolution of the virus crisis could be social destabilization across low-income areas of inner cities. As we've been warning for a while, many adults have no emergency savings and insurmountable debts. Most people don't have enough funds to bridge their finances for three months, which brings us to our piece from last week that shows cars lined up to receive food from a food bank in Duquesne, Pennsylvania.

"First, we saw people who lived paycheck to paycheck, got laid off and didn't know where the next meal was coming from, followed by those who had a couple of weeks of savings. Now, people who knew about us because they donated or volunteered are coming in for food," said Jerry Brown, media spokesman for St Mary's Food Bank in Phoenix, Arizona. "The 2008 recession doesn't touch this. It's a different ballgame."

So, what happens when tens of millions of jobless Americans become hangry? Is social unrest next? 

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 21:45
Published:4/5/2020 9:01:53 PM
[Markets] Market Snapshot: Dow futures rise as Trump administration signals that coronavirus outbreak may be stabilizing Stock-index futures rise sharply Sunday night as investors appear eager to focus on a glimmer of optimism coming out of the White House about the potential for stabilization of the rapid spread of the worst viral outbreak in generations.
Published:4/5/2020 8:31:29 PM
[Markets] Futures Surge As Trump Touts "Glimmers Of Hope" In Italy & New York Futures Surge As Trump Touts "Glimmers Of Hope" In Italy & New York

Officials in New York and Italy reported notable declines in new cases and deaths on Sunday, helping to inspire the most positive reaction in futures to kick off a new trading week since the 'rona rout.

Futures surged out the gate as President Trump struck an upbeat tone during Sunday evening's press conference (even as his critics continued to urge the mainstream press to drop coverage of the president's briefings). Riffing off the data reported out of New York and Italy, Trump and Pence noted what appears to be the first "glimmers of progress."

“We are beginning to see the glimmers of progress,” Pence said at a White House news conference on Sunday. “The experts will tell me not to jump to any conclusions, and I’m not, but like your president I’m an optimistic person and I’m hopeful.”

After three straight days of "pain", "hell" and more gloom and doom from Trump, his decision to rapidly embrace some of the first encouraging signs of progress in months was apparently exactly what traders needed to hear, considering that they completely ignored another record jump in new cases reported out of Tokyo (Japan's nationwide death toll just broke above 100) and an NYT report claiming 1000s of deaths in the US may have gone uncounted.

Trump bundled this with the typical rundown of various federal government plans, partnerships and deployments, as expressing that "we hope we're seeing a leveling off" in the coming days.

"We'll see what happens," he added.

ES was up more than 3% at one point, and Japan’s benchmarks climbed more than 2%, snapping a five-day losing streak even as PM Shinzo Abe reportedly prepares for an emergency declaration.  The yen dropped along with Treasuries as haven demand receded. Crude oil prices slumped as uncertainty remains over a proposed meeting of supplier nations that is planned for April 9.

And an old favorite gif made a resurgence on twitter to mark the occasion.

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 21:21
Published:4/5/2020 8:31:29 PM
[Markets] Dow Jones Futures Jump; Why This Stock Market Rally Is More Dangerous Than The Coronavirus Market Crash Futures rose Sunday. The choppy market rally is riskier for active investors than the coroanavirus stock market crash. AMD, Nvidia, Amazon and Microsoft are stocks to watch. Published:4/5/2020 8:31:29 PM
[Markets] Despite Soaring Body-Count Across The Nation, Americans Continue To 'Resist' Lockdown Orders Despite Soaring Body-Count Across The Nation, Americans Continue To 'Resist' Lockdown Orders

President Trump reiterated warnings from the last several press briefings on Saturday, indicating that the country should brace for the "toughest week" yet, as confirmed cases and deaths continue to rise on an exponential curve.

And despite the more than 308,000 cases and 8,407 deaths, Americans continue to defy the stay-at-home government enforced orders that cover 90% of the country. 

Traffic analytics firm INRIX transportation told The Washington Post that daily traffic nationwide remains around 60% of normal levels. The highways are still filled with vehicles as many resist public health lockdown orders:

"In California, where a stay-at-home order took effect March 19, daily trips statewide remain at 58% of normal levels, according to Wejo, a British company that collects data from sensors in some passenger vehicles.

On Wednesday - two days after the District of Columbia, Virginia and Maryland enacted stay-at-home orders - daily car trips in the region remained at 51% of normal in D.C., 53% in Maryland and 59% in Virginia, according to Wejo, which does not include trucks or other commercial vehicles.

Washington state officials announced a stay-at-home order March 23. More than a week later, distances traveled on Seattle roads remained at about 55% of normal, according to INRIX, a Kirkland, Washington-based traffic analytics firm that crunches data from vehicle navigation systems, cellphones and other devices," reported The Post. 

With traffic halved across major metros and along many highways is unprecedented – it's becoming evident that plenty of Americans are still on the roads despite strict stay-at-home public health orders across the country. 

"Some of the remaining traffic, experts say, stems from motorists heading to and from the many worksites that have been deemed "essential": health-care facilities, supermarkets and liquor stores, construction sites, banks, dry cleaners, hardware stores, pet stores, government facilities, and auto and bicycle repair shops, among others. The Washington region's orders also exempt plumbers, electricians and others needed for home repairs," said The Post.

The resistance to shutdown states and or even certain geographical regions has been evident by lawmakers in the Southern US and Rust Belt.

Kay Ivey, the Republican Gov. of Alabama, said now is "not the time to order people to shelter in place." 

"Y'all, we are not Louisiana, we are not New York state, we are not California," Ivey said, suggesting that Alabama would not be a hard-hit area of the country. 

In Missouri, Republican Gov. Mike Parson has been late to the game in issuing a stay-at-home order, that will go into effect on Monday. Parson was recently heard stating that he will not "make a blanket policy," adding, "It's going to come down to individual responsibilities."

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has also been late in issuing a stay-at-home order, which was finally put forth last week amid rising deaths and cases across the state. 

Tampa-area megachurch Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne defied a local order on banning of mass gatherings last weekend by holding a church service – was arrested by authorities on Monday. 

Over the last month, President Trump has shifted his rhetoric on the virus from calling it "hysteria" and a Democratic hoax, to now announcing the outbreak as a national emergency and urging all Americans to work from home and avoid public spaces. However, a large swath of Americans still believes the virus is "fake news," and are not letting the virus affect their daily lives, which suggests containing the virus might be even more difficult than expected for government agencies, and why stricter lockdowns could be next. 

As for more stringent lockdowns that could be ahead, take note of what happened in Panama last week, as the government issued a gender-based lockdown limiting male and female from traveling to the supermarket on certain days. There's even rumor in Mid-Atlantic/ Northeast states, that tighter lockdowns could be ahead as National Guard troops position around major metros. 

And with many Americans resisting lockdowns, we noted last week that "intermittent" lockdowns and "widespread surveillance" to mitigate the virus spread could be the norm through 2022. 

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 20:55
Published:4/5/2020 8:01:54 PM
[Markets] What Comes After COVID-19, Freedom Or Despotism? What Comes After COVID-19, Freedom Or Despotism?

Authored by Richard Ebeling via The American Institute for Economic Education,

The coronavirus crisis that has enveloped the world has brought about calls for society and economy-wide action on the part of governments that has been matched by the imposing of radical shutdowns and compulsory mass quarantining as tens of millions of people are told to not to go to work and to stay at home instead.

Governments have also been redirecting essential medical and related supplies in some places. In the United States, direct governmental commands for companies and industries to change what and how they produce has been declared to be in the executive hands of the president of the United States, when it is deemed necessary to meet the needs of the health crisis.

President Donald Trump’s recent order for the automobile manufacturer, General Motors, to shift its production potentials to the manufacturing of ventilators for those stricken severely by the virus, under the authority of a Korean-war era piece of legislation, is merely an especially high-profile example of the central planning powers that governments have been asserting the right to implement.

Fundamental to everything that governments have been doing is the presumption that the crisis can only be handled and solved through a comprehensive system of political command and control. The chorus of voices making this case, along with their own proposals as to what should be the ingredients of “the plan,” has been deafening.

The Deafening Chorus of Voices for Central Planning

John Cassidy, writing for The New Yorker (March 28, 2020), insists that “the most effective stimulus policy is doing whatever it takes to get some control over the virus’s trajectory.” He praised the bipartisanship of the Democrats and Republicans in successfully passing the $2 trillion spending package to “stabilize” the economy in the face of various levels of government ordering people to stop working and, therefore, to slow down or stop the flow of various goods and services from which come the streams of income dependent upon supplies being produced to meet market demands.

Over at “Project Syndicate,” Harvard University professor Carmen M. Reinhart says “the lockdown and distancing policies that are saving lives also carry an enormous economic cost,” and insists, “Clearly, this is a ‘whatever-it-takes’ moment for large-scale outside-the-box fiscal and monetary policies.”

Also writing for “Project Syndicate,” economists Roman Frydman (New York University) and Edmund S. Phelps (Columbia University and Nobel Prize winner) declare that, “the possibility of millions dying as the economy is crippled justifies substantially scaling up the extent and the scope of government action . . . citizens and governments should be prepared to pay what might appear an extravagantly high premium.”

Among the government actions that Frydman and Phelps propose are the government redirecting the existing productive capacity to meet health care equipment shortages; financially supporting business firms to supply “essential” goods and services; supplying the needed quantities of money so people have the financial means to continue buying the goods and services they need; and a program to cover home and other mortgages of those no longer able to meet their regular financial obligations.

They want government “helicopter money” to be ongoing rather than a one or two-shot affair to meet the financial requirements of virtually everyone’s buying needs. To meet the needed production requirements to manage health demands from the virus, they say that the private sector cannot be trusted to do the job on its own; thus, the government must determine and direct what firms produce, for which purposes, in what quantities, and with government funding to make sure the job gets done.

To prevent price gouging for such products and failure to pay reasonable salaries to the workers doing these jobs, they also basically calling for price and wage controls to assure “reasonable wages” and prices for the products at “pre-crisis levels.” If we can get it all just right, the coronavirus will be defeated, they are saying, and the world will be saved from disaster. We just need the right central plan designed in its details just the right way.

Planning Political Paternalism in the Post-Coronavirus Era

Of course, others are already looking beyond the coronavirus crisis to what lessons will have been learned for enlightened and “rational” intervention to guide human conduct away from its just-too-human follies and foibles. James Kirkup, the director of the London-based Social Market Foundation, therefore, asks, “Will the Pandemic Kill Off Libertarianism?” (March 25, 2020).

He criticizes rational choice theory in economics because it assumes that human beings are “rational” calculating machines who dispassionately weigh the implied costs and benefits from their actions, including the knowable and objective probabilities of the risks from following one course of action instead of another. Then each of the social and market agents makes the more or less “correct” decision concerning what to do and in what directions.

But when James Kirkup looks around, he finds that real human beings operate very far from such a benchmark of rational conduct and decision-making. Every reasonable person, fairly early on once the implications of the coronavirus were publicly known, should have stopped going to pubs or their local gym; they should have no longer socialized in common areas like public parks or in the shoulder-to-shoulder everyday marketplace.

People just would not do the reasonable and rational things to assure their own health and safety as well as all those around them, including friends and family members. The critics of traditional economic theory were, once more, shown to be right – people are not rational calculators of the reasonable courses of action to follow. They are shortsighted in their thinking, they are illogical estimators of dangers and risks to themselves and others, and, therefore, they follow misguided notions of their self-interest that not only harms themselves but the rest of society as well.

Or as Kirkup suggests, “If people aren’t rational about a situation that risks tens of thousands of lives and deep damage to our society and economy, how much weight should we put on the idea of rational actors in future? . . . Put it another way: once you’ve closed pubs and banned people from going outside, imposing, say, a tax to deter people from consuming sugary drinks is going to seem like a very small thing indeed.”

Critics of Personal Choice, Old and New

So here we have a very interesting intellectual and ideological twist of fate. For more than 150 years, critics of the market disdained the economist’s emphasis on individual choice and pursuit of personal gain, especially reflected in the businessman’s quest for profit.

These critics insisted that there was more to life than self-interest and material betterment; that man was a social animal connected with others outside of just himself that transcended personal profit and loss. There were the deeper attachments and senses of shared belonging of “blood and soil” and the transcendent community into which one was born. In addition, the “rational economic man” model in economics was also condemned by these earlier critics for assuming such rationality when, “clearly,” man is guided in reality by illogical and irrational views, values, and visions of what is good or bad, and reasonable or reckless.

Now we find among the latest generation of critics of the free market the argument turned around, with it being said that precisely because humans are not these rational economic calculators of costs and benefits, and of personal and social gains and harms, the government must radically intervene in various and sundry ways to make people’s actions consistent with conduct that would reflect such rational economic calculations, if only human beings could be trusted with the freedom to act in such ways!

The post-coronavirus world, according to Kirkup, will have to be one of extended and extensive political paternalism to reduce the impact of human imperfection in people’s thinking processes and actions, in both great and small ways, that do not represent the “right choices” for themselves or others in society.

In other words:

“I’m with the government, and I am here to make you live your life and act in ways you should and would want to, if only you were as reasonable, rational, and logical as those in government who have been assigned the task of designing policies that will ‘nudge’ you in the directions that you will or should be thankful for, regardless if you realize it right now or in the future.”

The Hubris of the Political Paternalism

Herein lies both arrogance and hubris. There is the presumption of having found and distilled the correct and objective standards of judging and weighing alternatives on the basis of which the most rational choice would be made, when properly and accurately considering the relevant costs and benefits and degree and forms of risk facing each and every individual.

Who knows the logically correct and factually accurate data in the context of which a person should be making his decisions and choices? Clearly, the implied social engineer, the political paternalist, the economic “nudger” who will either directly command by requiring or prohibiting forms of conduct, or who will influence the terms of trade-offs “indirectly” through taxation, subsidy or regulation to move people into the proper courses of action.

This implies two ideas:

first, that the planner and nudger knows the optimal or more desirable social outcome as a whole to which all the actions of the particular individuals should be moving the society; and,

second, that the actions commanded or influenced by such government interventions are really “right” for the individual.

Behind this type of thinking, whether admitted to or not, is the belief that the social nudger assumes himself to be so far above and superior to others in his theoretical understanding, factual information, and valuational understanding of what is good for mankind and for all the individuals who make up humanity that he freely takes upon himself the authority and power to mold the shape of society and the destinies of all in it into the form that he considers the best.

Unintended Consequences of Human Action and History

Over 250 years after the Scottish moral philosopher Adam Ferguson (1723-1816) published his Essay on the History of Civil Society (1767), is it necessary to remind people of the reality of the limits to our knowledge and understanding of ourselves, others, and all the unanticipated and unknowable outcomes from the multitudes of mankind’s members interacting? Or that attempts to direct people in ways that they find undesirable only sets the stage for various forms of social conflict? Said Ferguson:

Mankind, in following the present sense of their minds, in striving to remove inconveniences, or to gain apparent and contiguous advantages, arrives at ends to which their imagination could not anticipate . . . He who first said, ‘I will appropriate this field: I will leave it to my heirs’; did not perceive, that he was laying the foundation of civil law and political establishments . . .

Men, in general, are sufficiently disposed to occupy themselves in forming projects and schemes; but he who would scheme and project for others, will find an opponent in every person who is disposed to scheme for himself . . .The crowd of mankind, are directed in their establishments and measures, by the circumstances in which they are placed; and seldom turned from their way, to follow the plan of any single projector.

Every step and every movement of the multitudes, even in what are termed enlightened ages, are made with equal blindness to the future; and nations stumble upon establishments [institutions], which are indeed the result of human action, but not the execution of any human design . . .It may with more reason be affirmed of communities, that they admit of the greatest revolutions where no change is intended, and that the most refined politicians do not always know whither they are leading the state by their projects. (p. 122)

Or as Austrian economist, Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) concisely expressed it in Theory and History (1957):

The historical process is not designed by individuals. It is the composite outcome of the intentional actions of all the individuals. No man can plan history. All he can plan and try to put into effect is his own actions which, jointly with the actions of other men, constitute the historical process. The Pilgrim Fathers did not plan to found the United States. (p. 196)

These presumptuous political paternalists, claiming to know what is best for every individual and optimally good for the society as a whole, show an indefensible hubris in asserting that they can step out of the very society and historical processes of which they are a single participant and know with necessary and sufficient certainty how the destiny of humankind should be directed, to be nudged into the best of all worlds?

This was emphasized by another Austrian economist, Friedrich von Wieser (1851-1926) in Social Economics (1914):

The economy is full of social institutions which serve the entire economy and are so harmonious in structure as to suggest that they are the creation of an organized social will . . . Such a social institution is illustrated by money, by the economic market, by the division of labor . . . finally by the economy [as a whole] itself, which is the greatest of these institutions, and includes all the others . . .

How could any general contractual agreement be reached as to institutions whose being is still hidden in the mists of the future, and is only conceived in an incomplete manner by a few far-seeing persons, while the great mass can never clearly appreciate the nature of such an institution until it has actually attained it full form and is generally operative? (p. 162)

Imperfect Would-be Paternalists are Closet Despots

Do these would-be nudging paternalists not get up each morning and put on their pants one leg at a time like the rest of us? Do they not sometimes give into everyday temptations and desires that their social scientific objectivity tells them is not always in their best interest? Are they not subject to the same imperfections and limits of knowledge like you and I are in often having retrospective thoughts on the errors and mistakes we have made? In other words, are they demigods to be trusted with the future of each and every one of us and the general society in which we all live? I will go out on a limb and suggest, probably not!

If they are correct that human foibles are too serious to be left up to the free choices of the individuals who make them, then how can those same imperfect and irrational individuals be trusted with the democratic right to vote for those who will be elected to government office? Not always knowing where their true interests lie, might they not elect wrong-thinking politicians who fail to appoint these very political paternalists to the policy making positions, without whose help society and the individuals in it could be doomed to disastrous consequences?

Is there, here, the faint scent of ideological and political despotism? Do these paternalists not have an inkling that as would-be government policy nudgers they are really societal noodges, political pests, irritatingly telling people how they should live, when those poor, irrational people – yes, you and me – would rather decide this for themselves?

And this gets us around to the earlier writers who we mentioned, above, those who consider a free, competitive, decentralized marketplace of supply and demand the wrong place to place trust in to solve the problems of a societal plague such as the coronavirus.

Comparing the Market to How Government Really Works

A good number of years ago, UCLA economist Harold Demsetz (1930-2019) pointed out the not infrequent tendency of critics of the market economy to compare markets as they work in the real world with a hypothetical ideal of a perfectly informed and only public interest-minded government, the latter being what he called the “the nirvana viewpoint.” It is then deduced that there are “market failures” all around us in contrast to a world in which that ideal government, manned by all-knowing, and perfectly “rational” politicians and bureaucrats, were put in charge instead.

Demsetz said that the working of real markets should be compared to how real governments operate. It would soon be seen that the society suffers from an abundant quantity of “government failures” in contrast to a vibrant and highly successful market economy.

When these critics who doubt the effectiveness of the market economy in a crisis such as the coronavirus suggest turning to the government to manage the problem, they suffer from the nirvana viewpoint that Demsetz challenged. The media has been full of stories about the failures of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in both thoughtfully preparing for such a dangerous health risk before it arrived, and then their bureaucratic rigidity and attempts at protecting their monopoly turf in failing to allow developments of private testing techniques for the virus, or the operation of independent labs performing the tests to speed up results, or in not permitting the manufacturing and supplying of essential medical equipment by private producers not completely under their regulatory thumbs.

What could be better examples of government failure, failures that are inherent in the way bureaucracies operate in top-down central planning structures of regulatory control and command. Information has to be collected and digested at various local points, then passed on up through the bureaucratic control chain to different levels of evaluation and summary until it reaches a high enough level of policy decision-making that an actual plan concerning a course of action may be designed and ordered to be implemented.

At each level is the “human element,” not just in the sense that people may make mistakes and poor judgments. But, also, in that the people at each level have their own implicit motives and agendas relating to their department’s authority and budget that influences how those responsible for evaluating and passing on information to the next higher level consider what is or is not “important” and relevant and consistent with the procedures and rationales for what each in the bureaucratic hierarchy is doing. This is the real world of government, not some hypothetical utopia of magical, wand-waving government that is ready, willing and able to solve all the problems of the world.

Allowing People to Use Localized Knowledge of Time and Place

In the meantime, people “on the ground” often are limited or restricted in their ability to use their own knowledge and judgments, based on their own skills, experiences, and abilities, to solve part of the problem, if they only had the liberty to try.

To give just one instance, Wales Online recently told the story of a Welshmen who devised a way to design and quickly construct a ventilator that can serve as a highly workable device in place of the more scarce and more costly traditional ventilators used in hospital ICUs. Dr. Rys Thomas designed it in three days drawing upon his military and civilian experience with the use of anesthetics and resuscitation; he began manufacturing in partnership with a small private enterprise. It was allowed to be produced with little red tape, fortunately, by the Welsh government. But if Dr. Thomas had had to submit documentation, proof of testing and trials, and a lengthy approval process according to the usual FDA procedures here in the United States, people might have died that are being helped to breathe right now in Wales.

This is the type of discovery and adaptation to changing circumstances that Austrian economist Friedrich A. Hayek (1899-1992), had in mind, I would suggest, when in his famous article on “The Use of Knowledge in Society” (1945), he referred to the special and local knowledge of time and place possessed by individuals “on the spot.” By people having the latitude and liberty to not only see an opportunity but the discretion and freedom to try to use it in advantageous ways, we all benefit from what other individuals, whom we know nothing about, may do that will end up benefiting us in ways we could not have originally imagined.

This all highlights, in my view, why the emphasis upon and calls for the concentration of centralized decision-making and planning by government in meeting the challenge of the coronavirus is completely wrong-headed. It should be exactly the reverse. We should not want to restrict what people are able and could do to one overarching and imposed leadership team meant to guide and coordinate all that is going on in society to overcome the health crisis through which we are all passing.

The whole purpose of competitive markets and the price system is to have an institutional setting in which each individual in his own corner of society and the social system of division of labor may freely utilize what he comes up with and sees as possible answers to various aspects of the problems constantly popping up in different places, in different ways, with different features and requirements, given the way the virus is spreading and impacting different areas and communities.

The continuous changeability and adaptability of a competitive price system serves to indicate to any and all interested or potentially relevant fellow members of society where demand is greatest for various items and services, and what supplies are available in which quantities to meet those shifting needs in different parts of the country, and, indeed, around the world. Prices and wages are the best rationing guide for people to economize “here” as best they can, until some supplies relatively more abundant and less urgently needed “there” can be transported and transferred from one part of the country to another.

Don’t Short-Circuit the Price System with Controls

That very much ridiculed and condemned profit motive acts as a wonderful incentive mechanism for people to more accurately anticipate the patterns of future market demands for these health-related products and to adjust to changes when they have not had perfect forethought in a world in which the future can never be perfectly known.

The last thing that should be imposed are price and wage controls, like Roman Frydman and Edmund Phelps and others have been calling for. This short-circuits the institutional mechanism that enables the coordination of more people who know far more than any one or handful of minds can ever know to best utilize what everyone can contribute to solving any one problem and those other problems that are in competition for the scarce resources and labor services of the society.

Through the price system, we all contribute through our demands and our abilities to supply to compositely determine what should be produced, where and how it should be produced, and for whom at any moment of time and over periods of time in changing circumstances. No other economic and social system of human association and cooperation has ever been found to better improve the condition of humankind, both in sickness and in health, and in “normal times” as well as in serious emergencies and crises, as the competitive, price-guiding market economy. (See my article, “Price Controls Attack the Freedom of Speech”.)

Finally, this also brings us back to James Kirkup’s presumption on the claimed irrationality of real human beings and the need to paternalistically nudge us all into the direction of choice-making based upon a postulated model of “rational economic man.” It is not a secret that we all, in hindsight, make numerous mistakes and misjudgments in our choices. I know this certainly applies to me; just ask my wife, who never tires of reminding me of my follies and foibles!

But I would suggest that often what the political paternalist, with his model of supposedly objective, rational behavior, is missing is the fact that much of what is criticized and condemned as illogical or irrational conduct needing “nudged” correction are often reasonable and rational choices, if only looked at in the context of the local knowledge and circumstances that only that individual may possess and fully appreciate concerning the situation, opportunities, and costs as he sees them during and over any given period of time.

What we need, in general, concerning our fellow human beings is a humility that we do not and cannot really know enough to tell others how they should live and for what purposes. Furthermore, none of us, even the self-appointed social engineers, know enough to plan the direction and destiny of human society.

As Ferguson and Mises and Wieser reminded us, social and historical processes are far too complex, multifaceted and unknowable to plan the destination of mankind. This all is no less true when needing to call upon and coordinate the knowledge and abilities of millions to confront a health crisis like the coronavirus. Liberty remains the best means of saving and bettering mankind.

What is the underlying premise behind all of these arguments, whether focused on the immediate coronavirus crisis or looking beyond to the world after the crisis is behind us?

It is that freedom does not work or does not work as effectively as the critic thinks it should if this health crisis is to be successfully grappled with. It is once again considered to represent a “failure of the market” that can only be compensated and corrected for by turning command and control over to the government and to the guiding judgments and decisions of those holding high political office and the presumed “experts” manning the bureaus, agencies and departments that make up the government.

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 20:30
Published:4/5/2020 7:31:35 PM
[Markets] On The Precipice Of Martial Law On The Precipice Of Martial Law

Authored by Matthew Ehret via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

In my recent paper Why Assume There Will Be a 2020 Election?, I took the opportunity of today’s multifaceted crisis in order to revisit an important Wall Street funded coup d’état effort of 1933-34.

As I explained in that location, this bankers’ coup was luckily exposed by a patriotic general named Smedley Darlington Butler during one of the darkest moments of America and profoundly changed the course of history.

The Deep State Plot Against JFK

The danger of World War and a military coup arose again during the short lived administration of John F. Kennedy who found himself locked in a life or death struggle not with Russia, but with the Military Industrial Complex that had become dominated by the many Dr. Strangeloves of the Joint Chief of Staff and CIA who fanatically believed that America could win a nuclear war with Russia.

Kennedy’s valiant efforts to achieve dialogue with his Soviet counterparts, move towards peace in Vietnam, support of colonial liberation, promotion of space exploration and advocacy of a Nuclear Test Ban treaty made him a target of the Deep State of his time. During this period, this effort was led from the top by JFK’s two most powerful American opponents: Allan Dulles (director of the CIA) and General Lyman Lemnitzer (head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), both of whom were proponents of pre-emptive nuclear war, architects of the Bay of Pigs regime change trap and advocates of Operation Northwoods (an ultimate “inside job” precursor to 9/11 which JFK subverted).

As historian Anton Chaitkin recently reported:

“Lemnitzer had displayed what his faction viewed as his qualifications for this role back in August 1960, when, as Army chief of staff, he announced that the Army was all ready to “restore order” in the United States after a nuclear war with the Soviet Union—to bring back normalcy just as the military does after a flood or a riot”

This plot was detailed in a quasi-fictional book written by investigative journalists Fletcher Knebel and Charles Bailey published in 1962 entitled Seven Days in May and swiftly made into a famous film with unprecedented support by JFK himself who gave the film crew and director John Frankenheimer full access to the White House, advisors and materials for the film which he believed every American should see.

In the story, a patriotic lieutenant discovers the plans for the coup which is scheduled to take place during a vast military drill whereby a President who is close to finalizing a de-armament treaty with Russia will be incapacitated in a bunker while a military regime takes over America.

Tragically, where the lieutenant is able to expose the plot and save the nation in the story, by the time of the film’s 1964 release, JFK had been deposed by other means.

Now 56 years later, history has begun to repeat itself with distinctly 21st century characteristics… and a viral twist.

 

The Stage is Again Set for Martial Law

Another President resistant to regime change and nuclear confrontation with Russia and China finds himself today in the White House in the form of Donald Trump.

As in 1933, today’s financial collapse threatens to rip the social and economic fabric of America to shreds, and just as in 1963 a powerful military industrial complex and private banking system manages a web of power which is devoted to overturning the 2016 election (and 1776 revolution) by any means.

The biggest difference today is that a global coronavirus pandemic threatens to be the catalyzer used to justify military dictatorship in America and broader nuclear confrontation with Russia and China.

Instead of names like “Dulles”, or “Lemnitzer”, today’s coup directors feature such names as “Pompeo” and “O’Shawnessy”… both Deep State assets highly positioned in 3rd and 4th place to take over the Presidency at the drop of a hat.

Terrence O’Shawnessy: The Man Who Could Be President

Having slipped silently under the radar four weeks ago, the American Government passed a new emergency protocol into law which vastly expands powers and procedures of Martial Law under “Continuity of Government” which must be taken very seriously.

These new protocols deal at length with the triggering of Martial Law should the nation become ungovernable through a variety of foreseeable scenarios that COVID-19 has unleashed, such as “unwanted violence” caused by “food shortage, financial chaos” or also if the President, Vice President and Secretary of State all become incapacitated for any reason.

Even though this act was classified “Above Top Secret” a surprisingly in depth March 18 Newsweek report by William Arkin documented how the “Combat Commander” of U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) will immediately take power as a part of the “Continuity of Government” procedures which took on monstrous dimensions under the control of Dick Cheney in the wake of 9/11. According to Newsweek, the new regulation drafted by the Joint Chiefs states that the military may take control where “duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation” even when “authorization by the President is impossible”. Arkin describes the new protocols for “devolving” leadership to second-tier officials in remote and quarantined locations.

General O’Shawnessy, (former Deputy of UN Command in Korea) currently doubles as the head of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and has devoted his past 14 months to the promotion of a military confrontation over the Arctic which he has described as “the new frontline of our homeland defense” against Russia and China who are “determined to exploit the region’s economic and strategic potential”.

NORTHCOM went operational on October 1, 2002 as part of the Neocon takeover of America. This neocon coup which came to full fruition with 9/11 was governed by a manifesto entitled the Project for a New American Century  which laid out a Pax Americana of police state measures at home, regime change abroad and containment of a rising China and Russia under a religious belief in a unipolar world order.

This continental organization interfaces closely with both FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security, and was given a wide jurisdiction embracing not only the USA but also Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, acting as “primary defender of an invasion of America”. NORTHCOM interfaces closely with the deep state by hosting personnel from the FBI, CIA, NSA and Defense Intelligence Agency in its headquarters and is responsible for the protection of the President, Vice President and Secretary of State.

Most recently, RT has reported on March 28 that O’Shawnessy has ordered teams of “essential staff” deep into vast bunkers 650 meters below the surface in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado to “wait out the COVID-19 crisis”. Announcing this secretive mission, the General tweeted “Our dedicated professionals of the NORAD and NORTHCOM Command and control watch have left their homes, said goodbye to their families and are isolated from everyone to ensure they can stand watch each and every day to defend our homeland.”

Other military personnel have been banned from travelling and commanded to stay near their bases ready for action and as of March 30, over 14 600 National Guard forces have been deployed to all 50 states. Although they cannot currently engage in policing due to the 1878 US Posse Comitatus Act, Martial Law would render that provision null and void.

It is also noteworthy that only one day after the Coronavirus was labelled an “international public health emergency” by the World Health Organization on January 30, Defense Secretary Mark Esper approved nationwide pandemic plans and warned NORTHCOM to “prepare to deploy”.

This author doesn’t believe it to be a coincidence that patriotic voices who would typically be opposed to such a Martial Law agenda have been taken out of public life due to chaos emerging from the Coronavirus with Senator Ron Paul’s March 22 COVID-19 diagnosis forcing him into quarantine and the politically naive Tulsi Gabbard’s dropping out of the presidential race in order “to be prepared for the national guard duties”. It isn’t very hard to imagine a COVID-19 diagnosis, real or fabricated to take the President and other members of the government out of office at a moment’s notice.

Time is running out for America and only bold, decisive action taken courageously and swiftly can change the course of self-annihilation upon which the republic now finds itself.

Presidents Xi Jinping and Putin have opened their arms to welcome America and other western nations into their new multipolar system which is built not upon a worship of money or militarism, but rather cooperation and creative mutual growth. Project Airbridge collaboration between China and the USA has begun as a part of the Health Silk Road bringing millions of medical supplies to America.

Meanwhile a brilliant coalition of former Latin American heads of State called for the creation of a new just economic order and debt jubilee as a response to the failure of the neoliberal system which shines a principled light out of the current threefold danger of economic collapse, war and Martial Law.

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 19:40
Published:4/5/2020 7:02:23 PM
[Markets] Surgeon General: Next Week Will Be Our 'Pearl Harbor And 9/11 Moments' Surgeon General: Next Week Will Be Our 'Pearl Harbor And 9/11 Moments'

Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams told NBC's "Meet the Press" that next week's national coronavirus situation would be "our Pearl Harbor moment," adding "It's going to be our 9/11 moment."

Responding to a question on state-specific stay-at-home orders, Adams said "I talked to many of these governors, and here’s what I say to them. Here’s what I would say to them right now. The next week is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment. It’s going to be our 9/11 moment. It’s going to be the hardest moment for many Americans in their entire lives, and we really need to understand that if we want to flatten that curve and get through to the other side, everyone needs to do their part."

Adams says that "Ninety percent of Americans are doing their part - even on those states where they haven't had a shelter-in-place." He then asked governors to give the Trump administration at least a week - if they can't give them 30-days, "so we don't overwhelm our health care systems over this next week," adding that they would reassess at that point.

"We want everyone to understand; you have to be Rosie the Riveter. You have to do your part."

Mask-gate...

Adams has also been backpedaling bigly on his February 29th recommendation to "STOP BUYING MASKS" - as he claimed they "are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus."

Wrong.

To cover his tracks, Adams told MSNBC "Here's what's changed. We now know that, uh, about 25% and some studies even more, of COVID-19 is transmitted when you are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic."

Except we've known about asymptomatic transmission since at least January; as we wrote on January 27th: "Incubation is asymptomatic, contagious, and can be as long as 14 days."

Meanwhile, several counties around the country are now mandating face coverings in public - and the CDC has considered recommending that people wear face masks all the time.

More Adams clips:

Meanwhile, the latest as of this writing:

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 19:15
Published:4/5/2020 6:32:05 PM
[Markets] Futures Movers: U.S. oil heads 7% lower as Monday meeting of major producers gets delayed Oil futures head lower Sunday evening in electronic trade after a key meeting between oil giants Saudi Arabia and Russia was tentatively moved to Thursday instead of Monday.
Published:4/5/2020 6:32:04 PM
[Markets] Dow futures head 250 points higher as U.S. braces for tough coronavirus week Dow futures head 250 points higher as U.S. braces for tough coronavirus week Published:4/5/2020 6:01:34 PM
[Markets] Apple has donated 20 million masks, is working to make 1 million face shields a week, Tim Cook says Amid a nationwide shortage of protective equipment for health-care workers treating coronavirus patients, Apple Inc. has donated more than 20 million face masks worldwide and has started manufacturing 1 million face shields a week, Chief Executive Tim Cook said Sunday.
Published:4/5/2020 6:01:34 PM
[Markets] Another Terrible Idea In San Francisco... Another Terrible Idea In San Francisco...

Authored by Erica Sandberg via City-Journal.org,

As the United States continues its “pause,” shuttering businesses and public spaces in order to prevent transmission of the coronavirus, residents are compelled to shelter inside their homes. Meantime, those who live on the streets remain outside. San Francisco is well known for its persistent homeless population, made up heavily of drug addicts, the mentally ill, or both. For now, individuals congregate in tents and encampments and drug suppliers continue to deal.

Before Covid-19 struck, San Francisco officials took no meaningful action to address the squalid conditions under which so many homeless people live. They threw money at the problem, but the problem grew. Homeless activists and some city leaders have argued that living on the street is a right, but today it presents a serious public-health dilemma: how will officials get homeless people to comply with social-distancing requirements, and what should they do with those who’ve contracted the virus?

The city is working to set up the Moscone Center as a shelter, a sensible idea. An even better one would be to revive the recently closed California Pacific Medical Center hospital campus and erect MASH-style medical units. These would allow for closely monitored and efficient care. In fact, the city could use this as an opportunity to provide intensive integrated treatment, including substance-abuse services.

Instead, Mayor London Breed and the Human Services Agency came up with the plan to route over 3,000 people currently living in shelters and navigation centers into hotels.

The city is planning to put thousands of physically and psychologically sick people into private hotel rooms, in some of the most luxurious hotels in San Francisco—the InterContinental, Mark Hopkins, and The Palace. Occupants would receive three meals per day, hygiene products, and access to nurses.

At first glance, the plan appears sensible.

The shutdown has devastated the hospitality industry, and hotels stand empty. Filling rooms with guests of any kind is attractive for hotel owners, especially since tax dollars will foot nearly all of the bill.

On closer examination, however, serious problems emerge.

According to Matt Haney, a city supervisor actively promoting the proposal, occupants would be quarantined to their assigned rooms and be required to follow strict rules. But many of these future luxury hotel guests are hardcore drug addicts. How will the city manage their drug needs in the midst of a pandemic?

Haney concedes that intravenous drug use presents a major challenge to the city’s plan. It’s likely, for instance, that many guests will overdose in their rooms.

Others may detox, alone and in agony. Providing addicts with access to maintenance medication such as Suboxone or methadone is a good idea, Haney says, yet these treatments require precise administration. No one has figured out the logistics of providing drug treatment to thousands of addicted residents who may not be interested in receiving it.

Additionally, if the hotels are quarantined, and drug dealers aren’t allowed in, what will prevent the contagious residents from leaving to score the substances they seek? As cravings intensify, violence may erupt that can put hotel staff and other occupants at risk. Armed security guards patrolling the halls and buildings might be required to keep the right people in and the wrong people out. Could the police be expected to maintain order and prevent antisocial drug addicts from leaving their rooms? Apparently the city will offer some type of case management, but there’s already a dearth of needed homeless services, including high-quality psychiatric care. Treating this service-resistant population is challenging under the best circumstances. “It’s not going to be a perfect system,” says Haney.

There’s also no exit plan. A four-month contract for the room occupants is being considered, but where all these people will go afterward is undetermined. California law stipulates that a person lodging in a hotel room for longer than 30 days is considered a tenant. Therefore, thousands of homeless people who have stayed in the posh hotels would become legal permanent residents, with protections against eviction.

Even Haney acknowledges the problem.

“The city should make it clear that they would not be considered tenants,” he says.

“It needs to be temporary. Once the emergency is over, they should leave.”

Yet sending people back onto the streets will surely be met with resistance from homeless-rights activists, some government officials, and the homeless themselves. Who would want to pack up and move from The Palace, after all?

Few of the city’s decision-makers are looking at the long-term effects of placing sick, drug-addicted homeless people into hotel rooms.

Once again, San Francisco is ignoring the law of unintended consequences.

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 18:50
Published:4/5/2020 6:01:34 PM
[Markets] "They Want Their Monies Out" – Baltimore Residents 'Storm Bank' Amid Fears Of Social Unrest "They Want Their Monies Out" – Baltimore Residents 'Storm Bank' Amid Fears Of Social Unrest

The evolution of panic hoarding started with 3M N95 masks, then hand sanitizers, non-perishable foods, guns and ammo, and now cash?

A video surfaced on Instagram on Saturday, showing a possible bank run in Baltimore City at the MECU Credit Union, located at 2337 E Northern Pkwy.  

Baltimore MECU Bank on April 4 h/t Teresa Davis 

The area is considered low/middle class working families (predominantly African American community). The video shows a large line of cars on Saturday afternoon and a line at the ATM. People weren't cashing in their paychecks because many people were laid off, as we noted, more than 14 million people in the last several weeks have lost their jobs across the county, and what we could be looking at is the beginnings of a bank run.

Baltimore MECU Bank ATM line on April 4 h/t Teresa Davis 

"As soon as the National Guard rolled into Baltimore City – many folks asked themselves – is this a revisit of the Freddy Gray unrest back in 2015," said Teresa Davis, owner and operator of Teresa Davis Productions.

National Guard Tent City in Baltimore Metro Area

Davis said for weeks the National Guard had staged military tent cities across the Baltimore–Washington metropolitan area. She said military Humvees had been spotted in East Baltimore (down the street from MECU bank), more specifically on East Monument Street, near the Johns Hopkins Hospital, which she adds is a low-income/high-crime area.

She said the last time Humvees were spotted on East Monument Street was back during the 2015 riots.

Davis said residents had concerns that military vehicles on the streets could suggest that social unrest is nearing. She said, "you know it is kind of weird, everyone just lost their jobs, people are freaking out, and now people are storming the bank."

"How are they going to pay their bills that are still mounting? How are they going to feed their families," she said. 

Davis said residents are going to the local banks because they fear banks are going to fail, and unrest could be nearing.

"They want their monies out," Davis said, adding that some people in the community have been watching their 401ks crash, and others have been watching the news that a recession could be imminent.

Last month, the smart money in Mid-Town Manhattan and Hamptons were withdrawing as much cash as they could, with at least one bank running out of $100 bills.

Several weeks ago, we noted that the FDIC made an unusual request to all Americans to keep their monies in the bank because it is safe…

"Your money is safe at the banks. The last thing you should be doing is pulling your money out of the banks thinking it's going to be safer somewhere else."

The chart below shows the surge in demand for cash by Americans at the moment has surpassed all of 2008, and about to rival the panic ahead of Y2K that ATMs would not function...

"Here we go again," Davis said, referring to the possibility that social unrest like the 2015 riots could be nearing. She said there's certainly a different dynamic at play today, back then, thousands of people didn't lose their jobs all at once – it was years of wealth, health, and education inequality, on top of the trigger: Freddy Gray's death, that brought people into the streets. Now today, "social unrest could be more explosive."

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 18:25
Published:4/5/2020 5:33:37 PM
[Markets] The Jackpot Chronicles Scenario 1: Force Majeure The Jackpot Chronicles Scenario 1: Force Majeure

Authored by Mark Jeftovic via Guerilla-Capitalism.com,

This is the second instalment of The Jackpot Chronicles: Four Possible Post-Coronavirus Scenarios.

Force Majeure means:

a chance occurrence or superior force that renders a contract unenforceable and frees all parties from their obligations under it.

We are frequently told that there exists some manner of “Social Contract” to which we are implicitly bound by virtue of being alive. This implied Social Contract confers legitimacy upon the institutions that order our world, the national governments, the central banks, the miltary and police. And by extension certain communication outlets and media are endowed with a status of official curators over the narratives around institutional power.

Under the Force Majeure Scenario, the first of four possible Coronavirus aftermaths posited in “Welcome to the Jackpot”, the overwhelming or superior force is not the pandemic itself, but rather the collapse of the debt supercycle, the monetary system that derives from it, and the structure of nation states that are burgeoned by it.

The last time we were here, when a systemic crisis has shaken the foundation of the social order, the policy response was favourable to one party of the social contract at the expense of the others.

The GFC, which I now call GFC 1.0 or GFC ‘08, saw the financialized class, those closest to the monetary spigots of the Central Banks enjoy accelerating prosperity as their asset values rose, whilst the rest of the population endured stagnation and a steadily increasing cost-of-living (which mainstream commentators refused to acknowledge as inflation).

The policy response from the last crisis has led us directly, in a straight line to this one. The only surprise being the exact nature of the catalyst which would pop the Everything Bubble, and perhaps the ferocity with which the air began to let out once it did.

The signs were certainly there that we were nearing some kind of archetypical “shoeshine boy”moment or phenomenon. Complacency in passive investing, extreme overabundance in the unicorn population, the fact that there exists (existed) an entire industry around arbitraging long term leases with short term rentals via AirBnB, there was a sense of Roaring 20’s around it all and all those vile contrarians were wondering “just how long can this go on?”

Stacking additional layers of arbitrage, using leverage, atop a unicorn, could only occur at or near the peak of an Everything Bubble

Under Force Majeure the public begins to understand that the people who populate institutions are just that, people. Despite specialized training perhaps, they are not endowed with any superhuman intellect or wisdom. Success within the matrix of the institutional elite comes from proxemics and adroitly navigating the system itself, not much more.

“An era can be considered over when its basic illusions have been exhausted”

- Arthur Miller

An era like this comes to an end when the public realizes that their betters aren’t intellectually superior but rather institutionally privileged. Now facing an existential crisis of their own making, they are completely out of touch with the public mind and out of their depth to deal with it.

Then The System Finally Comes Unglued. Now what?

The central banks and national governments have fired their bazookas in unison yet despite a typical relief rally in the form of a standard issue dead cat bounce, reality continues to insist on asserting itself. On a recent Jelly Donuts podcast, Grant Williams talks about forthcoming GDP numbers coming off 30% “truly apocalyptic”.

Yet, the incumbent institutional custodians will continue to deny reality and to discredit themselves, what will it look like then the populace comes to realize that the old social order, and the institutions that curate it are being deprecated?

Ontario Premier Doug Ford recently advised citizens who couldn’t pay their looming rent bills at the first of the month to simply “not pay”. He later tried walking that back, but when this sentiment gets writ large, with governments printing money and sending out cheques, what happens when people and businesses simply decide not to pay their taxes either?

Can political leaders say, with a straight face, that citizens should stiff their landlords or mortgage lenders but not the State?

And if the State can simply print up money and send out cheques, why do we need taxes anyway? Have we arrived at full MMT?

All of the central bank and fiscal stimulus portends a secular shift from deflation to inflation and I don’t think very many people understand what that means.
It means a whole lot of broken clocks are gonna be right for once, but at a time it counts the most.

Twitter financial commentator and humorist @RudyHavenstein nails it…

Now, every company that levered up on debt to buy back their own shares over the last 10 years wants a bailout. Grant Williams points out in Things That Make You Go Hymm that the airline industry spent 47B on buybacks since 2010, they want a 50B bailout.

Source: Grant Williams, Things That Make You Go Hymm March 22/2020

What the chart, right, doesn’t show is the total dollar amount spent by the airlines on buying back their own shares between 2010 and 2019.

That number is $47.3 billion (of which American Airlines – whose negative cumulative free cash flow between those dates was $7.9 bln – contributed $13 bln).

Even the private jet industry wants a bailout.

And what will public citizens get? Those whose businesses have been ordered to close, whose jobs have already been lost? They’ll get a check for $1,200, or a tax deferral until August. Bfd.

Charles Hugh Smith’s books speak a lot about this type of secular wane in institutional relevancy, which we discussed on our podcast once and it bears repeating here:

MJ: when I look at  Pathfinding [Our Destiny] like part seven where where we’re talking about what the way forward looks like, that it’s outside of the control of the of the establishment, that it’s outside of the system I get this sense that for society to flourish and adapt around this and evolve. I guess that’s the key word, we’re going do this around the institutionalized hierarchies.

They’re not going to get religion one day, we’re not going to elect the right candidate, we’re not going to have the right party gain power that’s suddenly going to say “I read this great book by Charles Hugh Smith and this is how we’re going to do it”.

It’s going to be something like institutionalized hierarchies will just lose more and more relevance as these new social and business and financial configurations start gaining more and more relevance.

CHS: That’s an excellent point and I think if anything I didn’t emphasize that enough. That really what we’re talking about is kind of like hacking the system in in the old time sense that a hack was a workaround. It wasn’t like you were breaking into the system to steal something, you’d created a workaround for a kludgy system that just didn’t work anymore.

And so I think you’re absolutely right, it’s going to be working around us and and Bitcoin is one example of how workarounds are manifesting and of course the status quo is going try to suppress those and/or co-opt them but what we’re really talking about is when systems fail at a systemic level you can’t reform them. You’re not going to make a policy tweak that’s going to fix higher education or the health care system. It just isn’t going work.

People are going to start working around that and they’re going be starting to pay cash for for medical care from pop up providers or remote physicians. Or there’s lots of different solutions to that in education. What I see the model that’s going to emerge whether people like it or not and is that students are going to start taking control of their own education and they’re going start organizing their own education.

They don’t need this bloated structure that charges them $70,000 a year and so that’s where technology, the internet and networking has really enabled a whole suite of solutions that basically bypass all the institutions that now hold the wealth and power, that have all this as you say institutionalized lethargy as as their their model.

It’s actually quite an exciting time but for those who are dependent on the system within these institutions it’s a very disturbing time

Under Force Majeure as the institutions become understood to be out of touch with both the causes and remedies to the immediate crisis, they begin to signal their own hypocrisy and irrelevancy more intensely.

It will not be long before citizens will face the dilemma of continuing to observe the edicts of their governments, whose policies inexorably stripped them of their ability to weather any kind of economic speed bump. They will come to realize that despite what the government decrees, especially if that means keeping their businesses closed or their jobs on hold for much longer, they may be better off working around that.

That’s when myriad alternative economies and ecosystems will explode, black markets, grey markets, Local Exchange Currencies, private blockchains, invisible agoras.

As governments at all levels teeter on insolvency and their ability to control their own populace everywhere or to be in a position to guarantee security and order, I could envision neighbourhood watch groups morphing into localized militias. I would anticipate an explosion in private security and ex-military contractors.

Don’t be surprised to see Facebook resurrect their Libra, either under that monicker or some rebranded version as the large corporations, the ones that have revenues larger than most national GDPs begin to reassert some of their plans which may have been impeded earlier.

However it plays out, the key points to bear in mind are that:

  • It would be a mistake to think of the next 20 years as a linear, albeit accelerated version of the previous 20 years (a la Chris Martenson)

  • We are about to undergo a change in secularity from deflation to inflation (a la Grant Williams, Peter Schiff and many others)

  • The incumbent institutions of the fiat currency era are about to be swept away, akin to the way the royal houses of Europe were after World War 1 (the last major “Force Majeure” transition period that comes to mind for me).

It will all be very reminiscent of Neal Stephenson’s “Snow Crash”

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 18:00
Published:4/5/2020 5:07:36 PM
[Markets] Boeing extends Seattle-area production shutdown due to coronavirus Boeing extends Seattle-area production shutdown due to coronavirus Published:4/5/2020 4:42:15 PM
[Markets] Bronx Zoo Tiger Tests Positive For COVID-19 Bronx Zoo Tiger Tests Positive For COVID-19

Last month, Dr. Fauci insisted at a White House task force press briefing that there was no evidence that pets were vulnerable to the novel coronavirus. Then scientists in Belgium and Hong Kong confirmed that they had found pet cats owned by people infected with the virus that had somehow caught it, as evidence was detected in their urine. At least pet dog has also been infected.

As CNN so aptly points out, the "weak positives" produced in tests of these animals haven't offered any reason for scientists to suspect that these animals could infect humans - only that these pets could be infected by humans, as humans were once, in turn, infected by animals.

No article that we've seen in the mainstream US press has offered a detailed explanation for the scientific community's reasoning in thinking that these tests suggest that pets can't infect humans. But while CNN and others have reveled in mocking alarmists who believed in this Internet 'conspiracy theory', they neglected to explain that there are two critical reasons for this: the first being that dogs and cats infected in past coronavirus outbreaks (namely, the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003) have shown that the strains they typically pick up don't cause respiratory problems. Have we confirmed the same is true for the novel coronavirus? No.

The second is that they haven't found enough examples, and investigators tracing cases haven't found a case yet where it's obvious that a pet infected a human.

Still, the World Organization For Animal Health warns that pets who test positive should be quarantined, and any humans who interact with them should wash and sanitize.

But we digress.

We bring up all of this because a few hours ago, the management at the Bronx Zoo learned that Nadia, a 4-year-old Malayan tiger, has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to statements from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages the New York City zoo.

The tiger is believed to have contracted the virus from an asymptomatic zookeeper. The Bronx Zoo closed to the public in mid-March, and the tiger that tested positive began showing symptoms on March 27.

Here's a statement from the Wildlife Conservation Society:

Nadia, a 4-year-old female Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo, has tested positive for COVID-19. She, her sister Azul, two Amur tigers, and three African lions had developed a dry cough and all are expected to recover.

This positive COVID-19 test for the tiger was confirmed by USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory, based in Ames, Iowa.

We tested the cat out of an abundance of caution and will ensure any knowledge we gain about COVID-19 will contribute to the world’s continuing understanding of this novel coronavirus.

Right now, millions of New Yorkers are probably wondering how this tiger managed to get a test before their friend/brother/sister/mother/father/grandfather/aunt/etc.

Of course, the USDA stressed to the public that this is the "first case of its kind" and that "further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19." Meanwhile, they urged any pet owners who test positive to also quarantine their pets.

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 17:32
Published:4/5/2020 4:42:15 PM
[Markets] British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hospitalized with coronavirus British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hospitalized with coronavirus Published:4/5/2020 4:04:33 PM
[Markets] Fired Navy Carrier Captain Who Penned Leaked Letter Tests Positive For COVID-19 Fired Navy Carrier Captain Who Penned Leaked Letter Tests Positive For COVID-19

The Navy captain who has been at the center of controversy for penning a scathing letter to the Navy's top command over a lagging response to coronavirus ravaging his crew aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt nuclear aircraft carrier in the West Pacific — now docked at Guam amid the emergency — has tested positive for COVID-19.

The New York Times reports that two Naval Academy classmates of Capt. Brett E. Crozier's who are close to him and his family confirmed the diagnoses even as the US Navy remains mum. There are currently at least 155 confirmed cases of Covid-19 among sailors aboard the aircraft carrier, according to the Pentagon.

"The commander began exhibiting symptoms before he was removed from the warship on Thursday, two of his classmates said," NYT reports.

Capt. Brett E. Crozier, via US Navy

He had been relieved of command but kept his military rank after the letter was leaked to The San Francisco Chronicle. He expressed in writing that the Navy's prioritizing military readiness at a moment the virus threatened to spread across his close quarters crew of some 5,000 total sailors was putting lives at risk. 

“We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors,” Crozier had writtenIf the Navy focuses on being battle ready, it will lead to “losses to the virus,” Crozier had said.

The firing has unleashed a torrent of criticism against Trump, while others argued that in the military, following your conscience often means losing your stripes.

The Pentagon, however, framed it in terms of irresponsible utilization of "chain of command" and unclassified communications systems, putting national security at risk.

The Times reports further:

Thomas B. Modly, the acting secretary of the Navy, said he had lost confidence in Crozier’s ability to command the ship effectively as it dealt with the evolving crisis after Crozier sent the letter on an unclassified email system to 20 to 30 people.

Sending such a letter, Modly said, caused unnecessary alarm about the operational readiness of the ship and undermined the chain of command. “In sending it out pretty broadly, he did not take care to ensure that it couldn’t be leaked,” Modly said. “And that’s part of his responsibility.”

The controversial firing was capped Friday with a dramatic sendoff given by hundreds of sailors as Crozier disembarked from the ship for the last time.

Video showed a crowded deck as the carrier was at Guam - where infected and quarantined individuals have been removed to the naval base - chanting Crozier's name in an emotional show of support as the now former carrier commander waved goodbye.

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 16:45
Published:4/5/2020 4:04:33 PM
[Markets] NewsWatch: Fed’s Bullard says there is ‘good news’ for those worried about the economy’s future: that universal COVID-19 testing will help restore economic health St. Louis Fed President James Bullard on Sunday said universal testing for the coronavirus is a good way to help the economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Published:4/5/2020 4:04:33 PM
[Markets] Goldman: After The Crash Of 2020, Corporate Earnings Won't Recover Until 2023 Goldman: After The Crash Of 2020, Corporate Earnings Won't Recover Until 2023

On Friday morning, around the time of the dismal payrolls report which was not only the first negative print in a decade ending the longest streak of positive jobs reports in history, but was 7x worse than consensus, as sellside desks scrambled to update their daily apocalyptic GDP forecasts, Morgan Stanley did two things: it released a Q2 GDP forecast of -38%, the most depressionary of all investment banks...

... but more importantly, it killed the still lingering idea of a V-shaped recovery for good, warning that the level of real activity in its forecasts remains below its 4Q19 level until the end of 2021: a sharper loss of real GDP compared with the 2008 recession.

So if the economy will take at least 18 months - in a best case - to get back to normal, what does that leave for that 1st derivative of the broader economy, namely corporate profits.

The answer, according to a new report from Goldman's Peter Oppenheimer, is that it would take roughly 4 years for earnings to get back to where they were at the start of the year.

First, the Goldman strategist lays out the bank's forecast for SXXP EPS for 2020 through 2022, which shows a cataclysmic plunge this year, when nearly half of corporate profits are wiped out, which however is followed by a sharp rebound of 50% and 11% in 2021 and 2022 respectively.

Incidentally, the 2020 contraction will be nearly twice as bad as the global financial crisis, which means that a few years in the future, we will no longer be saying "since Lehman" because "since covid" will be the new catchphrase.

And speaking of "Lehman", back then EPS plunged 48%, so Goldman's 45% forecast for the current year may end up being overly optimistic.

So going back to the bank's near-term forecasts, which a 50% rebound may sound impressive, consider that after a 50% drop one needs a 100% surge to get back to breakeven. And sure enough, even with Goldman's aggressive optimistic outer year predictions, the collapse in 2020 means that EPS unlikely to return to previous peaks until 2023. Ironically the 2023 "recovery" EPS will be the same level that was reached all the way back in 2007. In other words, between the global financial crisis and the coronacrisis, some 15 years of earnings growth has been wiped out!

To justify it's dismal outlook, Goldman looks at history and finds that after a crisis, it normally takes 3 years to get back to previous EPS levels.

Finally here is a breakdown of which sectors will be impacted the most from the bearish coronavirus scenario.

It's worth recalling that in 2019 earnings were essentially flat as a result of the whole trade war spat with China (remember that?), in other words, between 2018 and 2023 there will be no earnings growth.

Finally, considering that Goldman now anticipates a 50% plunge in stock buybacks...

... which as Goldman's David Kostin said "will have a significant impact on the equity market", and suddenly any bull case forecasts for the next few years look incredibly shaky.

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 16:03
Published:4/5/2020 3:29:40 PM
[Markets] Key Words: ‘We are so lucky to have you!’ Queen Elizabeth cheered for her call to remain ‘united’ amid coronavirus pandemic In only the fifth televised address of her 68-year reign, the queen offered some reassurance and urged resolve as the coronavirus continues to spread in the United Kingdom and around the world.
Published:4/5/2020 3:29:40 PM
[Markets] Has The US Cold War Shifted From Russia To China? Has The US Cold War Shifted From Russia To China?

Authored by Tom Luongo via Gold, Goats, 'n Guns blog,

Starting in the Obama administration the U.S. increased its full spectrum dominance campaign against Russia as an extension of its goals to destabilize the entire Middle East.

Russia’s intervention into the war in Syria after the so-called Arab Spring across North Africa emerged over an eighteen month period as the demarcation line between the unipolar moment of U.S. hegemony and the beginning of the multi-polar world now well underway.

From the moment President Putin brokered an agreement to halt the U.S. invasion of Syria over the chemical weapons attack blamed on Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad Putin has been the main focus of U.S. foreign policy.

That focus has shifted now.

The thwarted invasion, helped by the betrayal of the U.K. parliament of Prime Minister David Cameron, set the stage for turning the Maidan uprising in Kiev into the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and the bloody war to prevent Donbass secession that has raged since then.

That led to Russia’s reunification of Crimea and the worst strategic defeat for the U.S. since Vietnam.

Now, I bring up this history not to pedantically repeat myself but to remind you of how deep the roots of U.S. policy are and how hard it is and how long it takes to turn the ship of statecraft and point it somewhere else.

Because we’re nearly seven years since Putin stepped in to help President Obama save face over his ‘red lines’ in Syria. We’re six years and a month since the Crimea vote which the U.S. still refuses to acknowledge even though Crimea is healthier, happier and more prosperous despite sanctions than it ever was as part of Ukraine.

Events of the past few weeks have shifted the narrative significantly thanks to COVID-19 and the Coronapocalypse it has engendered. The escalating back and forth between the U.S. and China over this pandemic I would normally dismiss as typical statecraft and bloviating between rivals looking to create a small gain here or there.

But this time I don’t think that’s the case. There’s something much more serious happening here. Donald Trump has been making his pivot to China as the real threat to the U.S.’s future world standing a priority since the day he was elected.

And he has been hampered and dogged in this the entire time by the Democratic Party and its Clintonista and Obamaite holdovers in the CIA, State Dept. and both sides of the legislature who clearly work for the globalist oligarchy I love to call The Davos Crowd.

One could easily make the argument that RussiaGate itself was an extension of Chinese influence over the Democrats, which has been China Occupied Territory going back to the Clinton Adminstration.

And that has had the disastrous effect of putting the U.S. at odds with everyone who Trump thinks looks at him cross-eyed. The die-hard neoconservatives want him to finish their encirclement of Russia and secure Israel’s future as an energy exporter to Europe and destroying Iran.

The globalists of both Clintonian and Obaman persuasion want him to continue cozying up to China, outsourcing America’s productive capacity and propping up the failing European Union.

And he’s been focused on realigning our foreign policy towards China to reverse the globalism and decouple the U.S. economy from China. He’s used the crudest of tools, trade wars and tariffs, but there’s little denying what the goal has been.

And with the Coronapocaplyse coming on the heels of bitter confrontations in Hong Kong, Iraq, the Philippines, Kashmir, and Iran Chinese/U.S. relations have hit a new low as both sides openly accuse the other of a bio-weapon attack via COVID-19.

It doesn’t matter if the accusations are true or not. Likely neither claim is true. What is relevant is that both are using it to justify fundamental shifts in rhetoric to justify shifts in policy.

So, in contrast to the bitter words between the U.S. and China over COVID-19 and the growing propaganda operations by both governments, we have a pivotal phone call between Trump and Putin which seems very well timed.

Beginning with helping Trump save American lives with a plane-load of aid and expertise and potentially ending with a tacit agreement to keep oil prices from cratering further to assist Trump stabilizing the finances of his domestic oil and gas industry on which both his re-election campaign and the future of the U.S. rests.

So Putin now emerges as someone Trump can do business with when the chips are down. He found out Putin’s character when presented with a real crisis while MbS reacted with belligerence and, worse from Trump’s perspective, incompetence.

MbS has been incapable of wrangling OPEC into any kind of regional force. He’s started a price war while Trump is paying for defense of his oil fields from Yemeni attacks.

So, right now it seems to me the perfect opportunity for Putin and Trump to put MbS and the rest of OPEC in its place and dictate terms as to how the oil markets of the future will look. 

I’m not suggesting that Putin and Trump will bury the hatchet or anything, but they need each other in many ways. And they will need to tone things down on a number of fronts, especially the Middle East and Ukraine, if Trump is going to successfully pull the U.S. out of China’s economic orbit.

Putin’s partnership with China, his friendship with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping is an asset which Trump can use to broker deals between all three nations during his second term if he survives this Coronapocalypse.

But he has to get through this summer and the concerted effort on the part of The Davos Crowd to destroy the U.S. economy through mismanagement of this pandemic and the insane power grab that is on the table.

It’s more pronounced and obvious in Europe, which I’ve talked about at length in previous posts (here and here), but it’s a real concern in the U.S. Riders on all of these stimulus bills will see the Democrats getting some of their worst ideas made manifest at the national level even after we see broad usurpation of power by officials at the state level.

And I have to wonder, now, just what these people were thinking in trying to stop the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat the disease, especially in light of real hinckey circumstances in France and the overwhelmingly positive results doctors are getting with the treatment.

This, by all accounts, is a cheap and effective solution to the virus, which can be treated for around $20. And when people truly realize just how thoroughly ideological hacks like Bill DeBlasio, Andrew Cuomo, Emmanuel Macron of France and the media tried to kill their loved ones for their political gain, their anger will be explosive.

The attacks on Trump from all the usual suspects in the media after he let it ‘slip’ at that infamous press conference that the drug could be promising are a dead giveaway that he broke containment on the severity of the crisis.

If Trump did that against everyone’s advice it may turn out to be the most influential act of his presidency.

Becuase, there’s something not adding up about this Coronapocaplypse. I’m becoming more and more convinced this is a naked power grab during a crisis by The Davos Crowd to retain control while the financial and political systems fail.

The sheer speed we’ve gone from it’s just China’s problem to cries of the need for global government, gun control, nationalization of industry and financial repression has given even the most paranoid of us whiplash.

And if Trump suspects that China was assisting his political enemies in withholding treatment for COVID-19 to do damage to him politically, true or otherwise, this will forever change the nature of the U.S’s relationship with China.

He already believes they purposefully downplayed the disease to let it infect the world.

This will accelerate the decoupling of their economies and set them on a path indistinguishable from open warfare.

Putin then becomes a very interesting middle man standing between these two behemoths struggling with maintaining their standing in the world while their economic and political fortunes metastacize in the new world built on a whole lot less credit and public trust.

Regardless of where things go from here, it should be obvious by now that Trump is ready to pursue a different path if he’s given the chance. It’s clear he’s still battling the remnants of the Clintonista and Obamaite globalists within the U.S. bureaucracy of dubious loyalty.

But after guiding the U.S. through this pandemic and the financial crisis it has catalyzed, he may be in a position in his second term to beat The Davos Crowd one more time.

*  *  *

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Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 15:30
Published:4/5/2020 3:02:22 PM
[Markets] Shocking Expose Proves Thousands Of COVID-19 Deaths Have Gone Uncounted In The US: Live Updates Shocking Expose Proves Thousands Of COVID-19 Deaths Have Gone Uncounted In The US: Live Updates

Summary:

  • NY reports first drop in daily deaths since outbreak began
  • FT shows how US has become COVID-19s "epicenter"
  • NY hospitalizations drop
  • Italy follows New York with another promising drop in deaths
  • France also reports a drop in deaths
  • UK reports biggest jump in new cases as Queen speech about to air
  • 2 Walmart workers die in store near Chicago
  • Louisiana warns it will run out of ventilators in five days
  • India bans export of Trump's 'miracle' coronavirus drug
  • NYT exposes massive undercounting of COVID-19 deaths in the US
  • Tokyo reports yet another jump in new COVID-19 cases
  • Queen Elizabeth plans special televised address to Britain, only the 4th during her reign
  • Australia launches criminal probe into Carnival Cruises
  • COVID-19 deaths in Japan pass 100

*    *    *

Update (1445ET): Two reporters from the New York Times purport to have found evidence that health officials, often at the local or county level, are dramatically undercounting coronavirus deaths in the US. Citing information and documents provided by "doctors, hospital officials, public health experts and medical examiners," among others, the reporters claim that potentially thousands of deaths have gone uncounted, meaning the total is probably closer to 20k - or beyond - than the roughly 10k (9,180, per JHU) reported so far.

Unfortunately, since the patients have died, there will be few - if any - opportunities for these discrepancies to be rectified, if coronavirus isn't listed as a cause of death, something that requires a positive test.

Given the shortage of tests around the US, living patients have typically been prioritized over the deceased, even as counting posthumous deaths is important in helping officials get the accurate data they need to fight the virus.

A lot of the most compelling anecdotes in the report came from coroners, and from families like this one, per the NYT:

As the coronavirus outbreak began sweeping across the country last month, Julio Ramirez, a 43-year-old salesman in San Gabriel, Calif., came home from a business trip and began feeling unwell, suffering from a fever, cough and body aches. By the next day, he had lost his sense of taste and smell.

His wife, Julie Murillo, took him to an urgent care clinic several days later, where he was so weak he had to be pushed in a wheelchair. Doctors prescribed antibiotics, a cough syrup and gave him a chest X-ray, but they did not test for the coronavirus, she said. Just over a week after he returned from his trip and not long after President Trump declared a national emergency over the outbreak, Ms. Murillo found him dead in his bed.

"I kept trying to get him tested from the beginning," Ms. Murillo said in an interview. "They told me no."
Frustrated, Ms. Murillo enlisted friends to call the C.D.C. on her behalf, asking for her husband to be tested for the coronavirus post-mortem. Then she hired a private company to conduct an autopsy; the owner pleaded for a coronavirus test from local and federal authorities.

On Saturday afternoon, Ms. Murillo received a call from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, she said. The health department had gone to the funeral home where her husband’s body was resting and taken a sample for a coronavirus test. He tested positive.

A spokesman for the health department did not respond to questions about Mr. Ramirez, and it was not clear whether any systematic post-mortem testing was being conducted beyond his case.

Even Johns Hopkins University agreed that deaths are almost certainly being undercounted: "We definitely think there are deaths that we have not accounted for," said Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security. JHU has been tracking the virus from the beginning, maintaining an online database that has become one of the most trusted and widely-cited sources of data on deaths and cases by the press around the world.

*    *    *

Update (1400ET): Some more encouraging news out of Europe: Like Italy before it, France reported an encouraging drop in deaths, with 357, lower than the count from the last two days. It raised the death toll to 8,078, but still qualified as a "significant" drop, according to the French Ministry of Health. France also reported 1,873 new cases of COVID-19, raising its total to 68,605 cases.

As the Queen prepared to deliver a historic speech, the UK reported a 5,903 new cases of the virus, a record increase for one day, bringing its total to 47,806, while another 621 deaths brought its death toll to 4,934. Daily testing rose to record 12,334.

In Ireland, 21 more people infected with the coronavirus have died, bringing the total number of deaths in Ireland to 158 . There have been 390 new cases reported Sunday, bringing its total to 4,994.

In a story that once again exposes the dangerous risks being taken by "essential" workers, many of whom are low-paid hourly employees who work retail, CNN reported Sunday that two workers at a Chicago-area Walmart store have died from the novel coronavirus, the company confirmed Sunday, the first deaths among Wal-Mart workers since the pandemic began. It once again highlights these risks, which have been exacerbated by the shortages in PPE that have made these products virtually inaccessible for store workers.

"We are heartbroken to learn of the passing of two associates at our Evergreen Park store, and we are mourning along with their families," an emailed statement from the company reads. Walmart in its statement did not provide the workers' names, ages or how long they had been with the company. It is also unclear exactly when the two workers passed away.

The two associates had not been in the Evergreen Park store "for more than a week," the company said, but of course, there's no way to guarantee that others weren't exposed.

Finally, in Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards Louisiana's governor says state will probably run out of ventilators in 5 days.

*    *    *

Update (1245ET): Another promising headline has just hit the tape: Italy just reported the lowest number of daily deaths in more than 2 weeks: 525 new deaths were reported over the past 24 hours, along with 4,316 new cases. That bring's Italy's death toll to 15,887, still the largest in Europe.

Italy remains on a strict lockdown, with the hard-hit Lombardy region over the weekend requiring citizens leaving their homes to shield their mouths and noses with masks or other coverings and insisting residents remain inside for all but essential activities, after seeing an increase in people venturing outside in defiance of the quarantine. Tuscany soon followed suit with similar rules.

 

Police have fined over 175,000 people since March 11 for violations of the lockdown, according to the Interior Ministry. As the country prepares for a fifth week of lockdown measures, opposition leader Matteo Salvini of the right-wing League called on the government of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to open churches for the coming Easter holiday. Measures to keep the country shut down have been extended through at least April 13, and Conte is expected to announce revised rules and time lines by the end of next week, according to reports in the Italian press.

Most importantly, this news will likely be met with cries of relief from struggling Italians, weary of their more than month long struggle with the virus, who are hoping this is evidence that they're finally riding down the 'back side' of the curve.

*     *     *

Before we delve into our daily breakdown of some of the biggest coronavirus-related news from around the world, we'd like to highlight yet another grim milestone in COVID-19's "conquest" (are we still allowed to use war metaphors or has that been declared un-PC?) of the US. While the outbreaks in Mexico and Canada have only produced about 16k cases between them, the total number of cases confirmed in the US has ballooned past 300k in the US (to 312,249 as of 11amET Sunday morning).

Now, here's the FT, which detailed the shift in momentum from Asia, to Europe, to the US. It's a little more complicated than look at only the overall totals and the current daily figures.

In a little over one month the daily number of Covid-19 cases globally has grown exponentially from 2,359 on March 1 to 101,503 on Saturday. At the beginning of March, Asia accounted for more than half of the total cases reported each day. This quickly shifted as outbreaks began in continental Europe, with Italy, Spain, Germany and France all reporting cases in the thousands. By mid-March, Europe was responsible for four in every five new confirmed cases each day. While Europe is still responsible for nearly 40 per cent of daily cases, the US has become the new centre of the Covid-19 pandemic. The country accounts for nearly one-third of all daily cases, with New York state particularly affected.

Here's most of that, broken down into a chart:

All that said, with the US gearing up for what President Trump and NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo expect to be the week where the outbreak peaks (in New York, at least), the Empire State has at least started off on the right foot.

New York reported 8,327 new cases of coronavirus and 594 new deaths on Sunday (compared with 630 a day ago), marking the state’s first drop in daily deaths since the outbreak began. In total, 122,031 cases have been confirmed in the state (roughly equivalent to the national totals of both Italy and Spain )and 4,159 deaths. While we’re certainly no epidemiologists, we suspect others might point to this as a small, but hopefully promising, hint that the ‘peak’ is near, or here.

And as we noted last night, hospitalizations in the state have shown another encouraging decline, even as many ICUs in NYC remain very close to, or at, capacity.

Cuomo is beginning his daily press briefing below:

The governor kicked off Sunday's presser by thanking New York's health-care workers, before adding that recent trends suggest that the state might have already arrived at its hoped-for plateau.

"You could argue that you are seeing a plateauing," he told reporters in Albany. "Next week they will tell you whether we are on a plateau or is it just a blip," he said, referring to statisticians. He noted that deaths had leveled off for three days following the dramatic increases seen for most of last week, which saw the state reporting close to 1k deaths a day for a few days there.

New hospitalizations dropped to 574 on Sunday from 1,095, Cuomo said, adding that 74% of those hospitalized have been discharged.

Being a pandemic with almost no precedent in modern times (other than the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918), traditions of culture and governance are being disrupted left and right (hell, we just cancelled the Olympics). In keeping with that trend, Queen Elizabeth will deliver a special televised address to Britain; it will be only the fourth time she has done so during her nearly 70-year reign. Excerpts from the address have already been released, and in them, the Queen acknowledges the suffering of hundreds of thousands of families around the country, while seeking to "lift their spirits" and "offer hope," according to ABC News.

The 93-year-old monarch is expected to acknowledge the suffering that many families have experienced because of the COVID-19 crisis, which has infected more than 42,000 people in the U.K. and killed at least 4,313 of them. She will seek to lift spirits and offer hope to the country in its hour of need.

“I am speaking to you at what I know is an increasingly challenging time,’’ she said, according to excerpts released ahead of remarks that were being broadcast Sunday night. “A time of disruption in the life of our country; a disruption that has brought grief to some, financial difficulties to many and enormous changes to the daily lives of us all.”

Elsewhere, Tokyo reported yet another record jump in daily cases, with 143 new coronavirus infections announced on Sunday, metropolitan government officials said. Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19-related deaths finally surpassed 100 in Japan, Nikkei reports. In India, the government of Narendra Modi has banned the export of hydroxychloroquine, a drug widely touted by Trump for treating COVID-19. In Australia, prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into Carnival Cruises as hundreds were sickened, dozens died on their ships.

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 15:05
Published:4/5/2020 2:28:54 PM
[Markets] As COVID-19 Forces Classes Online, Colleges Face New Challenge: "Zoombombing" As COVID-19 Forces Classes Online, Colleges Face New Challenge: "Zoombombing"

Authored by Blair Nelson via CampusReform.org,

A new disturbing trend has emerged among Zoom conference calls called “zoombombing.” 

Due to the coronavirus, colleges and businesses have had to relocate their classes and meetings onto online video conferencing platforms, such as Zoom. According to the FBI, many Zoom video conference calls have been subjected to some form of hijack.

“The FBI has received multiple reports of conferences being disrupted by pornographic and/or hate images and threatening language.”

There have been several incidents of this happening in various college courses and meetings. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for example, a mandatory diversity workshop called I-connect was hijacked recently. An individual appeared in the Zoom call showing a swastika on their forehead. This led to a series of mass emails that were sent to students who attended these sessions.

“During these workshops, online participants engaged in patterns of disruptive behavior, which culminated in hateful interruptions by a number of individuals using racist and derogatory slurs, showing images of swastikas, and making threats of violence,” said one of the mass emails.

The school said that it would report the incident to the Office of Student Conflict, as well as the Bias Assessment Response Team. 

"Any behavior deemed to be a legal violation will also be reported to the University of Illinois Police Department" UIUC added.

Incidents like this have occurred at other schools across the country. One notable instance happened during a Student Government meeting at the University of Florida. “BREAKING: the Senate livestream was just 'zoom bombed,' or crashed,” said University of Florida Student Government Reporter Chasity Maynard. “Multiple unknown people joined the meeting and wrote offensive comments, drew swastikas. The meeting ended abruptly after one person 'mooned' the camera.”

Maynard later issued a "correction," saying that "the Zoom meeting ended after images of genitalia and sex acts were displayed on the screen, but the meeting was not officially called to a close." 

"Genitalia, naked butts and swastikas flashed across the screens of Student Government senators and guests tonight as they attempted to attend their weekly meeting over Zoom," Maynard added.

Some UCLA lectures hosted via Zoom were subject to similar hijacks. According to the Daily Bruin, many classes at UCLA were interrupted by individuals yelling vulgar words or typing vulgar messages.

One student, Jessica Jackson, recorded the incident and posted it on her Twitter. Speaking to the Daily Bruin, Jackson said, “About five minutes into the lecture, someone was presenting as if they had a question, … and then finally, when the professor acknowledged the person, he just immediately jumped out with the N-word and was calling him that repeatedly.”

“Over time, I got my phone and started recording what was happening,” Jackson said.

“It just then spiraled out of control – chaos,” said Jackson.

The FBI has issued some tips to avoid these kinds of incidents:

  • Do not make meetings or classrooms public. In Zoom, there are two options to make a meeting private: require a meeting password or use the waiting room feature and control the admittance of guests.

  • Do not share a link to a teleconference or classroom on an unrestricted publicly available social media post. Provide the link directly to specific people.

  • Manage screensharing options. In Zoom, change screensharing to “Host Only.”

  • Ensure users are using the updated version of remote access/meeting applications. In January 2020, Zoom updated their software. In their security update, the teleconference software provider added passwords by default for meetings and disabled the ability to randomly scan for meetings to join.

  • Lastly, ensure that your organization’s telework policy or guide addresses requirements for physical and information security.

The FBI also encourages those who were victims of these incidents to report them to the FBI. 

”If you were a victim of a teleconference hijacking, or any cyber-crime for that matter, report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov," the FBI encourages online users. 

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 14:40
Published:4/5/2020 2:00:25 PM
[Markets] ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ Robert Kiyosaki: Don’t save your money! Spend it on the ‘best buy for future security’ What should you do with your stimulus check? Robert Kiyosaki, the best-selling author of “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” offered a bit of advice to his 1.3 million followers on Twitter for when that cash finally arrives. Published:4/5/2020 2:00:25 PM
[Markets] Next Wave Of Shortages Strikes: NYC Pharmacies Run Out Of Tylenol, Hand Sanitizer, Common Drugs Next Wave Of Shortages Strikes: NYC Pharmacies Run Out Of Tylenol, Hand Sanitizer, Common Drugs

In the weeks since California became the first state to order residents to shelter in place, millions of Americans have grappled with an alarming fact: That shortages of products from Tylenol to toilet paper have continued. If anything, they've gotten worse, even as governors like Andrew Cuomo have pleaded with the public not to hoard and buy up supplies like gloves and masks that are needed by health-care professionals.

While health officials have tried to dismiss this simply as a consequence of panicked hoarding, there are more complex dynamics at play, as CNBC explains in a recent piece exploring the shortages of basic products and common medications at pharmacies across NYC - the epicenter of the national outbreak.

In Broadway Chemists, an independent pharmacy on the Upper West Side, Tylenol, the classic over-the-counter painkiller made by JNJ, has been unavailable for weeks. Sophia Liristis, the pharmacist in charge, told CNBC that it's  on back-order until April 30.

So unless something changes, the people of the Upper West Side won’t be able to buy Tylenol until the end of April at the earliest. That’s four weeks away.

But Tylenol isn’t the only common medical item that’s in short supply. When Liristis checked her system on Tuesday while speaking to CNBC,  she found that thermometers, gloves and masks were not available until May. Pulse oximeters, used to monitor blood-oxygen levels, were unavailable until May 31. Ventolin inhalers, which can ease shortness of breath, were only available two units at a time.  Hydroxychloroquine, the drug used to treat malaria and lupus, and the Zithromax Z-Pak, were so limited as to be practically unavailable.

S Bros Pharmacy in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood filled its inventory with hydroxychloroquine and Z-paks when word started to spread that the drugs could be used to treat COVID-19. But the pharmacy is now dispensing hydroxychloroquine only to patients who suffer from chronic autoimmune diseases and those enrolled in a New York study of the drugs' efficacy, in accordance with state laws and guidelines.

However, S Bros’ shelves are also scarce, with no Tylenol, no hand sanitizer,  and no cleaning supplies like alcohol and peroxide. By now, these products have been long gone. The store struggles to get a few cans of sanitizing spray to decontaminate the pharmacy.

"There’s a shortage of everything - it’s never enough," said Evangeline Frezoulis, 37, the pharmacy manager at S Bros. "The wholesalers are not able to supply as many pharmacies as needed."

When these small independent shops run out of items, some independent pharmacists tell customers to check with the chain pharmacies, even though it hurts their business.

"You’re just trying to help the patient get what they need," Liristis said. "It doesn’t matter if it’s here or somewhere else - we’re just trying to work together."

While pharmacies in NYC are probably feeling these problems most acutely, it's occurring across the country to varying degrees. Furthermore, what's causing these widespread shortages isn't all that complicated: Over the past few decades, production for medical equipment from masks to plastic gloves has mostly been moved abroad, to places like China and India. With China now battling the second wave of the pandemic, and Indian factories struggling under the weight of an unprecedented lockdown, production is being constrained at a time when demand is soaring all over the world at the same time.

In other words, a "supply shock", is meeting a different kind of "demand shock."

If that isn't clear enough, supply chain managers from Amerisource Bergen and CardinalHealth, two of the biggest suppliers of drugs and medical equipment in the US, explained the problems they are facing.

AmerisourceBergen, a pharmaceutical wholesaler, said the pandemic is pinching supply chains worldwide. As the company places large orders to meet surging U.S. demand, manufacturers in countries like India, which is under nationwide lockdown, are balancing those orders with obligations in regions like the European Union, which is also severely impacted.

"What we’re seeing in the supply chain today particularly from the pharmacy side is an insatiable demand for a limited amount of product,” said Heather Zenk, senior vice president of secure supply chain at AmerisourceBergen. “We are seeing manufacturers talk about things like historical inventory demands and historical product movement,” she said.

In response, AmerisourceBergen is limiting how much pharmacies receive of certain drugs to ensure they get at least some product, a policy the company calls “fair allocation."

Cardinal Health, another major wholesaler, said it’s managing the distribution of more than 100,000 products considered critical inventory which are in unprecedented demand since the pandemic started to spread. “We are experiencing backorders and declining inventory levels at rates never experienced before,” the company said, in a website statement, warning that customers may only receive partial deliveries while other products are out of stock altogether.

It's impossible to say when inventories for thousands of products like Tylenol and hand sanitizer will stabilize. And as Americans in certain hot spots around the country continue to struggle to find toilet paper, we suspect widespread hoarding will continue.

Some pharmacies are even home-brewing their own hand sanitizer, just like the inmates in New York's state prisons. City Drug & Surgical in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood has been making hand sanitizer since the brand names sold out about three weeks ago. The pharmacy's owner told CNBC that a batch of the stuff typically takes about 40 minutes to make a batch of 24 bottles. They sell out almost immediately.

How long before pharmacies start making their own reusable face masks - like the kind that the CDC are recommending - out of old T-shirts and rags?

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 14:15
Published:4/5/2020 1:28:41 PM
[Markets] The Tell: ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ Robert Kiyosaki: Don’t save your money! Spend it on the ‘best buy for future security’ What should you do with your stimulus check? Robert Kiyosaki, the best-selling author of “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” offered a bit of advice to his 1.3 million followers on Twitter for when that cash finally arrives.
Published:4/5/2020 1:28:41 PM
[Markets] The Fight Against COVID-19: "Bending The Curve" & Then What? The Fight Against COVID-19: "Bending The Curve" & Then What?

Eradicate the virus - without a vaccine? Manage infection rates to let the population “build immunity through suffering” until a vaccine is available? How can we revive the economy without risking thousands of deaths in fresh outbreaks?

Authored by Wisdom Seeker, a WOLF STREET Commenter with a physical sciences Ph.D., San Francisco Bay Area:

I think we’re now at the turning point in the fight against COVID-19. Everyone’s now acting to stop the spread, and the early hot spots in Europe, North America, and Australia are seeing signs of progress, just as the Asian nations did earlier. There is a long road ahead, and we have to decide which route to take, but Western societies are showing they can handle this too. In this post I’m going to show updated versions of my three favorite graphs, which tell the story and lead to the single biggest public policy-making challenge many nations may face this decade.

Bending the Curve in California: Just-in-Time Deliverance?

The graph below shows confirmed cases in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, and California as a whole, with South Korea and Italy as contrasting examples. The vertical axis is a log scale, so exponential growth shows up as a straight line. Data sourced from the Johns Hopkins database and the California state and individual county reports.

Los Angeles lost to the Bay Area on April 2 and became California’s new COVID-19 hot spot. Shelter in place has begun working for the Bay Area, but confirmed cases have still doubled in the past week. So on March 31, our local public health officials released what I call “Shelter-in-Place 2.0,” a tighter set of rules, to try to avoid the hospital-overload scenario which hit Wuhan, Milan, Madrid, and now New York. Face masks are also becoming trendy outside the home! Will the Bay Area get a “just-in-time deliverance”, or is the worst still yet to come?

Locally, Santa Clara County – the heart of Silicon Valley – reports 30% of ICU space in use by COVID patients, 38% used by other patients, and 32% available. So they can take a doubling in COVID ICU cases without overloading, and other Bay Area hospitals have headroom too.

I used this info to estimate a Bay Area ICU limit on the graph, but I must caution that there’s not a direct relationship between “confirmed cases” and “ICU cases,” so it’s only an estimate. An outbreak in a major nursing home, or a worsening of cases-in-progress without improvement in current ICU cases, could lead to a surge in ICU demand.

Best in the US – Minnesota Holds the Line: 

The next graph takes a fresh look at the US data (again from Johns Hopkins), using the 91-DIVOC.com graphing tool. Instead of confirmed cases, this graph shows daily new cases per million population, but still with a log scale.

Last week I noted “Minnesota Bends it Best,” and here we see the result — when an outbreak stalls out, it looks like the flat curve for Minnesota. And not only is it flat, but it’s the lowest sustained level in the US. There’s other good news — Washington has stabilized (albeit at a higher case rate), and even New York (top right) might be flattening out. But Connecticut, New Jersey, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Michigan have more work to do (click on the chart to enlarge).

Worldwide: What Kind of Ending Can We Write?

The third graph this week shows the global situation for the 50 most populous nations, with focus on the US. Using the same tool and data as the state-by-state graph above, this one also shows daily new cases per million people on a log scale. The US is third behind Spain and now Belgium, and in the same cluster with Italy, France, Germany, the UK and the Netherlands. Growth in the US has started to slow, but it looks like we might still catch the same pain as Spain.

This graph makes it clear that most nations are at “the end of the beginning” — the daily new cases have stopped growing and are stabilizing. But other than China, no one is claiming to have driven case growth back to zero. And dissident reports from China suggest it’s in a bureaucratically-induced state of denial, not entirely in control.

So what’s the endgame here?

Do we try to eradicate the virus — without a vaccine? Do we try to manage infection rates, to let the population “build immunity through suffering” until a vaccine is available? How can we revive the economy without risking thousands of deaths in fresh outbreaks?

Some things are clear: The recovered cases can get back to normal. The infirm elderly need to be protected as much as possible. Everyone else is in between, and without a treatment or vaccine, every economic or social activity comes with some level of infection and mortality risk.

I can see two limiting-case scenarios. Both require that right now, everyone work together to suppress the virus, in every way we can. But we need to start the discussion of “what’s next” since it’s a tough policy choice, perhaps the biggest of the decade.

The first scenario, “put out the fire,” is modeled on Korea. Use shelter-in-place and face masks to suppress the growth of the virus, then use rapidly-growing testing capacity to trace and isolate the infected. With a return to “containment,” everyone else can get back to work. South Korea is doing well, and only has 100 new cases per day nationwide. But even South Korea hasn’t been able to put out the fire completely. And “get back to work” involves major changes in how work is done, to reduce infection risks every minute, every day.

The second scenario, “controlled burn,” envisions an “infection risk budget,” with a goal to keep caseloads at a level that hospitals can sustainably support, while allowing as much economic output as possible. If we risk too many infections, hospitals overflow and thousands die – reruns of New York, Milan and Wuhan. But if we can minimize the risk throughout daily life, and keep our homes safe, then that frees up room in the budget.

With that extra room, more people could get back to work and get the economy going. Even if those activities might cause a bit of spreading, it might be worth the risk (for arena sports, cruise ships and other mass social gatherings, it might not). A “controlled burn” would take a long time, but eventually everyone who needs to work will have immunity or received a vaccine, and we’ll have normal life again (provided the virus doesn’t mutate too fast). But in the absence of an effective treatment or vaccine, it will cost thousands of lives to build herd immunity this way. Is there a better way?

No matter which path is taken, policymakers will have to decide how to balance lives vs. livelihoods. And the rest of us need to learn how to prevent spread at every level, both to preserve lives and to revive jobs.

*  *  *

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Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 13:50
Published:4/5/2020 12:58:29 PM
[Markets] Trump, Republicans resist calls for widespread use of mail-in ballots Trump, Republicans resist calls for widespread use of mail-in ballots Published:4/5/2020 12:58:29 PM
[Markets] Anthony Fauci says the coming week ‘is going to be shocking to some’ Anthony Fauci says the coming week ‘is going to be shocking to some’ Published:4/5/2020 12:28:42 PM
[Markets] Biden Says Democrats May Need To Hold Virtual Convention Biden Says Democrats May Need To Hold Virtual Convention

Joe Biden says that the Democratic National Convention may need to be held virtually.

In a Friday interview with ABC's "This Week," the 2020 Democratic frontrunner said that the convention is "necessary," but may not be feasible as it would require bringing thousands of people together in one location during a pandemic, according to The Hill.

"Well, we’re gonna have to do a convention," said Biden. "We may have to do a virtual convention. I know I think we should be thinking about that right now."

"What we do between now and then is gonna dictate a lot of that as well," he added.

Biden, dispensing well-worn advice, has encouraged DNC decision makers to "follow the science" and "listen to the experts."

The Democratic National Committee announced Thursday that its national convention would be delayed by a month until August because of the coronavirus crisis.

The convention was originally scheduled to start July 13 but will now commence on Aug. 17.

A source close to the Biden campaign told The Hill last week that the former vice president had advocated for the convention to be delayed with the same format. The convention committee said on Thursday that it was trying to figure out the “most appropriate structure for this historic event.”

Meanwhile, the Republican National Convention is scheduled to occur Aug. 24 to 27 in Charlotte, N.C. -The Hill

Biden also repeated advice from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top expert in infectious diseases, when he said that what the country needs "most of all" is a vaccine - but that in the meantime "we have to take all the efforts we can to make sure we prevent the spread."

He also suggested that we would need "at least two more iterations" of coronavirus stimulus.

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 13:25
Published:4/5/2020 12:28:42 PM
[Markets] Barron's on MarketWatch: 5 best mutual funds to own now Barron's on MarketWatch: 5 best mutual funds to own now Published:4/5/2020 11:58:35 AM
[Markets] "No One Has Ever Seen This Before": With Companies And Analysts Flying Blind, Q1 Earnings Massacres Loom "No One Has Ever Seen This Before": With Companies And Analysts Flying Blind, Q1 Earnings Massacres Loom

It's appearing as though Wall Street hasn't quite prepared for what is coming down the pipeline, as companies across the board prepare to blindside analysts with upcoming earnings reports. 

Walgreens, this morning, was a perfect example. Everyone believed they were a company that was coronavirus-proof, yet the stock fell after the company admitted it was still seeing decreasing foot traffic - even after the company beat its earnings estimates.

In the age of the coronavirus, almost all analysts are "flying blind". And this is likely to lead to some shocks from earnings reports that will be felt across the street. Many companies have already admitted publicly that they have no clue where the pandemic is going to take their business.

Which raises the question of how there's going to be any price discovery; not just from analysts trying to set estimates, but from the market trying to price companies as a result of their Q1 numbers. 

Yousef Abbasi, global market strategist at INTL FCStone told Bloomberg on Thursday: “Things are changing drastically day by day because no one has ever seen this before. It’s almost like calling out an arbitrary number because the fundamentals are broken.”

It's not a question of whether or not there will be a drubbing across the board for all corporations. The question is how bad it is going to be. Only about 17% of all earnings estimates across the S&P 500 were revised last week. This compares to an economy where almost 100% of businesses are shut down - and where those that aren't shut down will definitely be feeling an impact. 

Jonathan Golub, chief U.S. equity strategist at Credit Suisse said:

 “While analysts are updating their numbers much more frequently than normal, their estimates remain stale. This pattern will likely continue until the start of earnings season, and beyond."

In addition to having no clarity on individual companies' earnings, analysts have little clarity on how the S&P is priced as a whole right now, namely because the "E" in the index's P/E ratio is up in the air. 54 names in the S&P 500 have withdrawn guidance since February. 

Keith Gangl, a portfolio manager for Gradient Investments said:

 “Any name’s got five to 30 analysts setting the consensus - we can know whether companies are underperforming relative to estimates. But now, everybody is taking a stab in the dark.”

Gangl said that he is instead going to be listening to the tone of executives on each company's respective conference call. Again, to look back at our Walgreen's example this morning, it was this commentary that moved the stock - not the numbers.

Bryce Doty, senior portfolio manager at Sit Investment Associates Inc. said: “The earnings coming up are probably going to be the most unpredictable or worst estimates we’ve ever seen in the history of this country. It’s a completely different world. Anyone who lived through the financial crisis can’t think the way they did then. It’s a whole new ballgame now.”

And despite the appearance of a haircut in the S&P 500's P/E multiple, the broad range of outcomes going forward almost assures significantly more volatility in months ahead.

Aaron Clark, portfolio manager at GW&K Investment Management, has looked deeply at the worst affected industries, including travel & leisure. 

“It’s more balance sheet analysis than income statement analysis. Have they tapped their credit line, how much liquidity do they have, what’s their interest coverage, when is their debt coming due?” he said.

Paul Markham, global equity portfolio manager at Newton Investment Management agreed: “What you really do in this environment is disregard the first quarter of 2020 and then normalize the earnings.”

He concluded:

“What would be more appropriate is to take the final three quarters and annualize those for the year or to replace the first quarter with something which is very significantly haircut, but not a negative or low earnings number because it’s not necessarily going to be repeated.”

To which we reply "Sure, Paul, but what kind of alchemy do you employ when Q2 and Q3 turn out to be worse than Q1?"

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 12:35
Published:4/5/2020 11:58:35 AM
[Markets] Key Words: Joe Rogan on why he’s set to vote for Donald Trump: Democrats have ‘made us all morons’ by running Joe Biden Joe Rogan, the comedian who earns a reported $30 million a year for his wildly popular podcast, isn’t a huge fan of Donald Trump, but it looks like he’ll vote for him in November because he doesn’t think Biden’s fit for office.
Published:4/5/2020 11:58:35 AM
[Markets] "We Have No Money": Coronavirus Slams State Taxes "We Have No Money": Coronavirus Slams State Taxes

Authored by Sophie Quinton of the Pew Trust,

Economists who advise the Colorado legislature told lawmakers in mid-March to expect a roughly $800 million revenue decline for the next fiscal year as people travel and dine out less during the coronavirus pandemic. That estimate already looks far too optimistic.

“The forecast that we released in March — we weren’t imagining the world that we’re living in right now,” said Kate Watkins, chief economist for the Legislative Council Staff, the nonpartisan research arm of the Colorado General Assembly.

Governors nationwide have ordered businesses to close and people to stay home in order to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. But the public health measures have created an economic crisis that will, in turn, hit state and city budgets.

Now policymakers are scrambling to figure out how much spending power they’re losing at a moment when they need money to fight the pandemic and help laid-off workers and struggling businesses.

Few state economists and budget analysts have calculated the fiscal impact of the pandemic so far, and it’s hard at this early stage to say how big the drop off in tax collections will be, said Brian Sigritz, director of state fiscal studies for the National Association of State Budget Officers, a Washington, D.C.-based membership organization.

But the early estimates don’t look good, he said. “It looks like the drop-off that states could be facing this time could be more severe than the Great Recession.”

State officials all over the country are planning for revenue declines. Hawaii officials have estimated a $225 million decline; in New York, it’s a whopping $15 billion. West Virginia is losing $9 million a week from its closed casinos alone.

The governors of New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania already have announced limited spending and hiring freezes. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, have warned state agencies to expect budget cuts. 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said in a radio interview last week that lawmakers may need to cut education funding in order to address the state’s budget hole. 

“I said kiddingly to a legislator before, I said, ‘This is the easiest budget we've done. There's no option. The number is zero,’” Cuomo said.

“We have no money.”

The members of Colorado’s Joint Budget Committee haven’t been able to meet in person to discuss the changing revenue picture yet, said Rep. Daneya Esgar, a Democrat who chairs the committee.

But Esgar said she’s already asking lawmakers to review what their measures will cost. “I think it’s optimistic to think that any new program be funded at this point,” she said. 

The $150 billion the federal government has approved in coronavirus relief for states and cities could help stabilize their budgets, Sigritz said, although its impact remains to be seen. “It’s less than some governors had hoped for, but it will help states address some of the increased spending demands.”

The budget outlook has worsened for states as it’s become clear that social distancing restrictions will need to be in place for months, not weeks, to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with coronavirus patients. 

After initially saying he’d like to lift social distancing guidelines by Easter, President Donald Trump has extended them to April 30. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, this week issued a stay-at-home order that will be in effect until June 10. 

Twenty-three states have passed budgets for fiscal 2021, which for most states starts July 1, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a Denver-based organization that represents legislatures. Twenty-seven states are still debating their budgets for next year.

Lawmakers in states with a budget in place may have to make changes, given the sputtering global economy.

“We are going to have to review our budget, there’s no question about it,” said Washington state Sen. Christine Rolfes, a Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. 

Rolfes said lawmakers adjourned on March 12 thinking they’d crafted a prudent budget, with a huge ending balance and a $1.8 billion rainy-day fund. But they didn’t anticipate the scale of the economic slowdown.

Cities also are bracing for a drop in tax collections.

“We’re looking at at least a $100 million deficit,” said Las Vegas City Manager Scott Adams. The total budget is about $650 million, he said. “And that’s a midpoint, that’s not the worst-case scenario. And I’m worried that we might be leaning closer to the worst-case scenario.”

Major sources of sales tax revenue, such as restaurants, are closed or doing a fraction of their normal business through curbside pickup and delivery, Adams said. 

He said the city has furloughed about 200 employees so far due to the pandemic. If the city doesn’t get federal funding to help it absorb the costs of fighting the coronavirus, he said, those furloughs will become unpaid. 

Comparisons to the Great Recession underscore how damaging the pandemic could be for states. Sharp declines in tax collections during the 2007-2009 recession and subsequent slow recovery led lawmakers nationwide to lay off state workers and cut spending on education, health care and social services.

Ten years later, spending on some programs still hadn’t recovered, according to research from the Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew also funds Stateline).

Unlike the federal government, almost all states are required to balance their budgets.

It’s not clear that comparisons to the Great Recession can help states and cities weather the current crisis, fiscal experts say, as the nature of the pandemic is so different — it’s not a slowdown caused by a financial crisis, or a housing bust — and its duration is so uncertain.

“We’ve never had a recession before where businesses are under order to close their doors,” said Jared Walczak, director of state tax policy for the right-leaning Tax Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based tax policy nonprofit.

In a typical recession, sales tax collections fare better than income tax collections because laid-off workers still make basic purchases, Walczak said. But if businesses stay closed for months and consumption patterns change, sales taxes could emerge as a bigger pain point.

“The one class of purchases that’s doing extremely well right now is groceries, and everything else is falling off the cliff,” he said. Most states don’t tax grocery sales, he noted.

Some states have built up substantial rainy-day funds and budget reserves over the past decade which can help them absorb a short-term drop in revenues and address the pandemic. Governors such as Newsom and Washington’s Jay Inslee, a Democrat, already have drawn upon their state budget reserves.

But even large reserves may not be big enough as lawmakers scramble to fight the pandemic. California budget analysts, for instance, began the year projecting a $21 billion cash reserve by this summer. They’re now warning the money could be spent in months.

“I think to some extent states did learn from the last crisis — they built up their rainy-day funds to the highest nominal level on record,” said Tracy Gordon, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based research organization. “It’s just that nothing could prepare them for this.”

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 12:10
Published:4/5/2020 11:28:35 AM
[Markets] The Fed: Fed’s Bullard says there is ‘good news’ for those worried about the economy’s future: that universal COVID-19 testing will help restore economic health St. Louis Fed President James Bullard on Sunday said universal testing for the coronavirus is a good way to help the economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Published:4/5/2020 11:28:35 AM
[Markets] Bill Gates has an optimistic take on U.S. coronavirus mortality forecast Bill Gates has an optimistic take on U.S. coronavirus mortality forecast Published:4/5/2020 10:58:17 AM
[Markets] Key Words: Bill Gates shares his optimistic take on the coronavirus on Fox News Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates on Sunday talked about the projections that the U.S. could ultimately see between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths during the coronavirus pandemic.
Published:4/5/2020 10:28:07 AM
[Markets] A Plan To End This Madness A Plan To End This Madness

Authored by Robert Wright via The American Institute for Economic Research,

The world has 99 problems but coronavirus is only one of them – and arguably not the most important...

The world’s biggest problem right now seems to be a type of irrationality called groupthink. It occurs when there is a lot of information of dubious quality about and a lot of uncertainty on a topic widely recognized as important. The Harvard Business Review says it infected JFK’s inner circle, but Jack nipped it in the bud before it caused a nuclear holocaust in October 1962.

We are not there yet, but the COVID-19 Crisis is rapidly becoming an existential one because apparently nobody can think rationally about what steps to take to a) keep people as safe from the novel coronavirus as they want to be and b) to prevent the economy from sinking into Depression.

The crisis has been presented time and again as a tradeoff between lives and money but, in fact, this is an instance where we can have some of our cake and eat some of it too, all by remembering what once made this country great: individual liberty.

The key insight is this: 

That an individual or family leaves their place of “shelter” does NOT expose another individual or family to SARS-COV-2. The only way that another can be exposed is by leaving their place of “shelter” and coming into contact with someone or something that carries the virus. Therefore one individual or family has no business telling another individual or family to stay indoors, or vice versa. 

That basic point seemed widely understood early in the crisis.

Some governments, though, said that all people leaving their respective places of shelter caused negative externalities for others, namely in the form of getting infected, spreading it to others, and potentially needing hospitalization and, eventually, funerary services.

They therefore suggested, cajoled, and eventually ordered socioeconomic practices designed to “flatten the curve,” to avoid as much as possible the negative externalities caused by lots of people getting sick and needing medical care at once.

At that point, many policy analysts crunched numbers and found that the most pessimistic models were not adding up but could not offer anything more certain in their stead. 

Others launched into ideological debates about Left and Right, right and wrong, socialism and capitalism, i.e., the usual drivel about nothing.

In the meantime, we all forgot that first crucial point: that one person doesn’t control what happens to another person, only that other person does. How does that insight help us? Well, add it to the notion that adult human beings are the best judges of their own actions, particularly when reputed authorities admit they have insufficient information and understanding to know what will happen, and the following protocol recommends itself:

  1. Let businesses do as they see fit: open, close, change hours, change policies, or maintain the status quo ante pandemic

  2. Anyone or any family who wants to can remain in his/her/their respective shelters for as long as a state of emergency exists without fear of any sort of loss of services, permanent job loss, foreclosure, eviction, and so forth.

  3. Anyone or any family who wants to go about their lives can do so if they agree to self-isolate if they show symptoms of COVID-19, decline to seek hospitalization for COVID-19 and instead ride it out, and allow the proper parties to dispose of their bodies on an expedited basis, at the expense of their estate, should they perish.

This is what would occur in a state of natural liberty, i.e., if governments were not forcing everyone into option 2 on the supposition that everyone will want medical treatment. But some of us are willing to “flatten the curve” by opting out of hospitalization instead of opting out of our lives and liberty, a point I made a full month ago incidentally

Some of you might think, “who in their right mind would choose 3?” but others are thinking the same of 2. There is no need to debate the matter as selection into each group should be entirely voluntary, with the caveat that 3 cannot be revoked once made so that they can credibly commit not to burden a healthcare system rendered unscalable due to regulatory sclerosis. But people who choose 3 can, of course, stay home if they think the risk of being infected has grown too high, especially given that they will not receive medical attention beyond what you can buy at the pharmacy.  

I cannot say for certain what will happen but I imagine group 3 will be composed of people who already recovered from COVID-19 or think that they have developed immunity, young adults with no risk factors, and those skeptical of the severity of the outbreak or the risk of death or serious complication. And who knows, maybe, like the old Belgian woman who gave up her ventilator, brave grandparents will join 3, either as a noble sacrifice for their grandchildren or as a way of committing suicide due to the sadness over the whole situation that might infect their hearts.

Many proprietors and entrepreneurs will join 3 as well because there will be ample money to be made in the weeks and months ahead, if only figuring out how to best serve people who remain in group 2.

Some, many, most, or all of group 3 will eventually get COVID-19, depending on how much physical distancing and such they voluntarily undertake as they go about their daily lives. They will provide much-needed revenue to 1, especially those businesses, like haircutters, who can’t sell electronically or by delivery. And they will move us toward the herd immunity that will allow more and more members of group 2 to emerge until the curve has been flattened and the emergency ended.

This proposal is more tourniquet than economic panacea. Unless 3 grows very large, very quickly, the economy is going to suck for quite a while. No need to get fancy about this: supply is all that matters in the end. Bailouts and stimulus packages and such do not make toilet paper, or milk, or anything else for that matter; people do. Until people return to work and production ramps back up, many things will be in short supply, which means higher prices, shortages, and/or nonprice rationing (“limit one per customer”). 

This proposal, however, does solve many looming political problems, like the specter of paramilitary police or National Guard troops shooting some Americans (those who would have volunteered for 3) with a probability of death near 1, to save some other Americans with a probability of death near 0. The only thing troops and police should be thinking about now is keeping us safe from foreign powers and terrorist attacks while our rear end remains so dangerously exposed. 

There is no reason to turn on ourselves, just to get the groupthink out of our heads by realizing that unless our neighbors break into our houses and cough in our faces, what they do is their business, not ours. Our business is to do what we think best for ourselves and our families, whether that means cowering in the basement binging Tiger King or pledging not to seek medical care and rejoining the economy, you know that thing that keeps most of us alive and well.

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 11:20
Published:4/5/2020 10:28:07 AM
[Markets] Coronavirus update: 1.22 million diagnosed cases worldwide, 65,884 deaths; glimmer of hope for Spain as death rate slows There was a glimmer of hope in Spain’s battle with the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday, when the country recorded the lowest death rate overnight since March 26.
Published:4/5/2020 9:58:27 AM
[Markets] Coronavirus update: 1.22 million cases, 65,884 deaths; glimmer of hope in Spain Coronavirus update: 1.22 million cases, 65,884 deaths; glimmer of hope in Spain Published:4/5/2020 9:58:27 AM
[Markets] Ankle-Monitors Ordered For Kentucky Residents As Crackdown On 'Covidiots' Begins Ankle-Monitors Ordered For Kentucky Residents As Crackdown On 'Covidiots' Begins

As we've noted in recent months, COVID-19 is the perfect cover for the government to usher in a massive surveillance state. 

Residents in Kentucky are figuring this out firsthand, have already seen an increase in digital surveillance of smartphone tracking by the government to make sure everyone is practicing social distancing. And now, there's a new report that shows anyone refusing to quarantine after virus exposure could be subjected to wearing a GPS/cellular ankle bracelet issued by the courts. 

As a response to the virus outbreak in the state, Jefferson Circuit Court judge Angela Bisig ordered anyone who has been infected by COVID-19 and fails to isolate will wear an ankle monitoring device. 

CNN affiliate WDRB reported last week that Bisig ordered an individual identified as "D.L." to wear a GPS monitoring device for 14 days after refusing to self-quarantine. 

In the court order, D.L. is living with "someone who has tested positive for the illness and another person who is a presumptive case," according to an affidavit from Dr. Sarah Moyer, director of the health department.

D.L. was ordered to self-isolate at home after being exposed to the highly contagious disease, but according to court documents, family members said the person "leaves the house often."

After D.L. failed to respond to Bisig's request, she ordered the Department of Corrections to fit D.L. with a monitoring device. Bisig told the person if they leave the house again, criminal charges would be next. 

WDRB said D.L. is not the only Kentuckian wearing an ankle monitor device to mitigate the spread of the virus from non-compliant and suspected carriers. There are three other cases. 

This report comes after a group of millennials threw a "coronavirus party" that resulted in one person contracting the deadly virus. So far, 917 people in the state have tested positive, and 40 have died (as of Sunday morning, April 5)

And before you know it, "pandemic drones" could be circling above, identifying if a person is a suspected COVID-19 carrier. In essence, America's dystopian future is arriving a lot faster than anyone has anticipated.

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 10:55
Published:4/5/2020 9:58:27 AM
[Markets] COVID-19 Patients Mistakenly Delivered To Navy Hospital Ship In New York COVID-19 Patients Mistakenly Delivered To Navy Hospital Ship In New York

Multiple coronavirus patients were mistakenly transferred from New York's Javits Center to the Navy hospital ship Comfort on Friday, according to Fox News, citing three US officials.

Until Friday, Javits was only treating non-coronavirus cases until President Trump - at NY Governor Andrew Cuomo's request - authorized the facility to bring on COVID-19 patients. This meant that the existing patients at Javits - a few dozen - had to be transferred to Comfort some 10 blocks away. The ship is only supposed to treat trauma patients, not those infected with coronavirus. 

The number of patients on board Comfort is "less than five," according to one official. Of note, the patients had initially screened as negative for the virus, while up to half of those infected with coronavirus show no symptoms, according to new data.

The top general leading the coronavirus response for the U.S. military told Fox News there was another COVID-19 patient who showed up to the hospital ship Comfort in New York earlier Saturday after being delivered by ambulance. The patient later tested positive on board while in isolation.

We are treating the emergency situation that needs to be treated,” Air Force Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy said in a phone interview with Fox News Saturday afternoon and disclosed the new case aboard Comfort. -Fox News

Current protocol is to test patients before they come onboard Comfort, isolate them, and then wait for the results.

Navy officials reasoned that since only a handful of patients had tested positive, their existing protocols are working. They also noted that this illustrates the complexity of the situation.

Comfort, which arrived in New York on Monday, is currently docked on Pier 90 located on Manhattan's west side. It is said to have a "couple dozen" patients on board according to the Pentagon's top spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman.

The positive patients were transferred off of Comfort and back to Javits on Saturday morning to continue treatment according to one official.

The Javits Center has been transformed into a 3,000 bed makeshift hospital by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The officials called the risk to the hospital ship’s crew “low,” because of the protocols were already in place.

“We were prepared with a contingency plan in case we received patients that later tested positive. Immediately upon arrival the patients were isolated while awaiting the test results,” the official added.

Another official pointed out this was why the hospital ship did not want to fill all 1,000 beds on board too quickly because the risk of the virus coming on board is so great. -Fox News

The crew of Comfort is now in the process of sanitizing areas in which the patients were housed, while all US Navy medical personnel were wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).

"We have infectious disease specialists on board as well," an official told Fox.

"The Comfort has infection control procedures that are followed just like hospitals ashore. Our medical experts on board are well prepared for cases like this, and have taken the appropriate precautionary measures. The patients were isolated and received care aboard the ship while working to transfer the patients as soon as practical to the Javits Federal Medical Station, which is treating COVID-19 patients. The Comfort is capable of continuing its mission," said Cmdr. Ashley Hockycko - a spokeswoman for the US Second Fleet.

Coronavirus has claimed just over 65,000 lives worldwide as of this writing, of which more than 3,000 were in New York.

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 10:05
Published:4/5/2020 9:27:40 AM
[Markets] NATO Meeting On COVID-19 Erupts In Greece & Turkey War Of Words Over Migrants NATO Meeting On COVID-19 Erupts In Greece & Turkey War Of Words Over Migrants

Via Al-Masdar News,

On Friday the foreign ministers of the NATO nations held a teleconference to discuss the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak and their contingencies; however, the meeting would apparently turn sour when Greece and Turkey traded accusations over Ankara’s decision to open their European border to migrants, the Russian newspaper Gazeta.RU reported.

According to the publication, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu left the virtual meeting earlier than all the other participants after disputes with Greece over migrants.

The Greek and Turkish foreign ministers, file image.

The diplomat recalled that an agreement was concluded between Ankara and the European Union in 2016, which obliged Turkey to accept about four million refugees from Syria and other countries of the Middle East, and not allow them to go to Europe.

In exchange for this, the EU promised to provide Turkey with assistance in the amount of €6 billion and provide other incentives, such as a visa-free regime for Turkish citizens. Cavusoglu stressed that the EU has not fulfilled its part of the deal.

“We advise them to think about the long term, because it is not just a matter of migration,” he said, demanding from Europe liberalization of the visa regime, updating the agreement on the customs union and strengthening the fight against terrorism.

Not long after this, Cavusoglu accused Greece of killing migrants trying to cross the common border of countries.

In response, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said that Ankara’s claims are specially organized propaganda for political purposes and are fake news.

“Greece faced an organized and unprecedented attack on its border and a disinformation campaign from Turkey. The methods used by Turkey violated the values ??of NATO. All allies have the right to call for NATO solidarity, but only if they fulfill their obligations,” the Greek diplomat emphasized, as quoted by Gazeta.RU.

Cavusoglu demanded to give him the opportunity to answer, but NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stopped this attempt, so as not to contribute to inciting scandal online.

The Turkish Foreign Minister, in response, disconnected from the conference.

Turkish and Greek relations are at a decade-long low, as disagreements over the movement of migrants and Ankara’s oil exploration off the coast of Cyprus has put the two countries at odds.

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 09:40
Published:4/5/2020 8:57:56 AM
[Markets] Franklin Resources’ Purchase of Legg Mason Was Approved by the FTC. There’s More Work to Be Done. There are still more hurdles Franklin Resources needs to overcome before its acquisition of Legg Mason is complete, but the Federal Trade Commission has granted its approval. Published:4/5/2020 8:57:56 AM
[Markets] NewsWatch: Market bottom or ‘very tough times ahead’? Here’s what one chart watcher is keeping his eye on Investors say there’s no one chart that will signal when the stock-market bottom is in. But technical analyst Chris Kimble is keeping his eye on a commodity index that is testing a very important level of support.
Published:4/5/2020 8:27:55 AM
[Markets] "No Hope": Canada's Nursing Homes Prepare For Mass Death "No Hope": Canada's Nursing Homes Prepare For Mass Death

Nursing homes in Canada have been instructed by health officials to 'keep seniors comfortable' if they contract COVID-19 and not take them to the hospital due to their high mortality rate, according to Canada's Global News.

"They’re treating it like a hospice, like there’s no hope like they have stage four brain cancer and they just have to keep them comfortable because there’s nothing they can do," said Tanya Bartley, whose grandmother died last month at Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ontario - where 22 residents have died and 1/3 of the staff are in isolation due to coronavirus.

"They don’t play god. Everybody is the same. I don’t care if it’s a two-year-old, a 10-year-old, a 20-year-old, middle-aged, elderly. I don’t care," Bartley added.

One dementia-stricken resident, Edna Bowers, was one such coronavirus victim who was treated at the home and not transferred to the hospital.

In a March 23 letter seen by Global News, Dr. Allan Bell - medical director and chief of emergency medicine at Quinte Health Care (QHC) in Belleville, Ontario, outlines suggestions on how long-term care administrators should prepare for potential COVID-19 outbreaks in their facilities.

"Having this conversation pre-emptively is very important. It gives families time to digest the information when they are not in a crisis situation and, should an outbreak happen, it is difficult to manage all of the conversations at once," reads the letter in part, while also recommending against hospital visits - citing a shortage of medical options for frail patients.

"Our critical care colleagues are of the strong opinion that ventilator treatment will not make a survival difference to patients who are frail and ventilator support is very unlikely to be offered," the letter continues "for those residents who go on to develop respiratory failure, care needs to focus on the provision of comfort to ease suffering at the end of life."

When reached by Global News for comment, Ontario's Health Minister Christine Elliott said she was unaware of the guidelines - adding that nobody would be denied care in an ER.

"If people are ill enough that they have to go to hospital of course they will be transported to hospital. If they’re showing symptoms of COVID-19, they’ve been diagnosed with it but they can be maintained in self-isolation within the home; we’ll do that too but no one is going to be denied health care if they need it," she said.

Elliott says no patient has been “blocked” from hospitals, adding: “If they need to be taken there they will be taken there.

It’s unclear where the directive came from, as several complainants came forward to Global News with similar experiences.

One family in southwestern Ontario says their loved one was asked to sign a waiver agreeing to remain at the long-term care home she resides at in the event of an outbreak. -Global News

According to health officials, residents of long-term care homes are being screened twice daily and are subject to more intense screening in order to try and limit the spread of the virus.

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 09:15
Published:4/5/2020 8:27:55 AM
[Markets] Dow Jones Futures: Why This Stock Market Rally Is More Dangerous Than The Coronavirus Market Crash Dow Jones futures: The choppy stock market rally is riskier for active investors than the coroanavirus stock market crash. AMD, Nvidia, Amazon and Microsoft are stocks to watch. Published:4/5/2020 8:00:18 AM
[Markets] "I'd Rather Vote For Trump" - Bernie-Backing Joe Rogan Disses Dems For "Making Us All Look Dumb Over Biden" "I'd Rather Vote For Trump" - Bernie-Backing Joe Rogan Disses Dems For "Making Us All Look Dumb Over Biden"

Comdeian and host of one of the world's most popular podcasts, Joe Rogan, has said he would rather vote for Donald Trump than Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, should the former vice-president become the Democratic nominee.

Speaking on April 3 with guest Eric Weinstein, a mathematician, economist, and managing director of Thiel Capital, Rogan said he “could not” vote for Biden, adding that the Democratic Party has “essentially made us all morons.”

Breitbart's Josh Caplan was the first to transcribe the conversation:

ERIC WEINSTEIN: I think that in general people, when they are given no choice at all, express themselves moronically.

JOE ROGAN: When they are given no choice at all — How so?

WEINSTEIN: I want a choice of an actual president that’s viable. I don’t have one. Now you’re going to ask me which of the none-viable people do you like best?

ROGAN: This is the real issue with the Democratic Party. They’ve essentially made us all morons with this Joe Biden thing.

WEINSTEIN: Can you imagine?

ROGAN: I can’t vote for that guy.

WEINSTEIN: I can’t vote for him, I can’t vote for Trump.

ROGAN: I’d rather vote for Trump than [Biden]. I don’t think he can handle anything. You’re relying entirely on his cabinet. If you want to talk about an individual leader who can communicate, he can’t do that. And we don’t know what the fuck he’ll be like after a year in office.

As The Epoch Times' Katabella Roberts reports, Rogan, who previously endorsed Biden’s primary rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), went on to speak about Trump’s ability to handle the pressure that comes with being president of the United States, noting that the role appeared to take a visible toll on previous Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

“The pressure of being the president of the United States is something that no one has ever prepared for. The only one who seems to be fine with it is Trump, oddly enough. He doesn’t seem to be aging at all, or in any sort of decline. Obama, almost immediately, started looking older. George W, almost immediately, started looking older,” Rogan added.

Speaking of Biden, Rogan also noted that the former vice president can “barely talk,” and “forgets what he is saying halfway in the conversation.”

Describing the former vice president’s speech as “not a normal way to communicate unless he’s high as f**k,” Rogan alos pointed out that Biden is “showing actual real deterioration, he is not bouncing back.”

Watch the full podcast here:

Rogan had previously said that he would “probably vote” for Sanders back in January, noting that the Vermont Senator has been “insanely consistent his entire life.”

“I think I’ll probably vote for Bernie. Him, as a human being, when I was hanging out with him, I believe in him, I like him, I like him a lot,” he told New York Times columnist Bari Weiss in a podcast, which was later retweeted by Sanders.

“He’s basically been saying the same thing, been for the same thing his whole life. And that in and of itself is a very powerful structure to operate from,” Rogan added.

As of April 5, Biden is on track to win the nomination, securing 1,217 of the 1,991 delegates needed in the primaries held up to this point. His socialist rival, Sanders, has 914 delegates. According to the Washington Post, aides and allies of Sanders have advised him to step down from the presidential race after losing hope in his campaign.

The next primary is Wisconsin on Tuesday, which polls predict Biden will win.

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 08:50
Published:4/5/2020 8:00:18 AM
[Markets] The Moneyist: ‘Coronavirus has ruined everything.’ My husband refuses to work. Is it too much to ask him to find a job when millions of people are now out of work? ‘I see him every day relaxing and taking it easy while I’m working. I’ve suggested jobs with car services and food-delivery services, but to no avail.’
Published:4/5/2020 7:27:34 AM
[Markets] 'Modern Piracy': Germany Joins France & Canada In Accusing Trump Of Stealing Masks 'Modern Piracy': Germany Joins France & Canada In Accusing Trump Of Stealing Masks

On Friday Germany lashed at the United States for what one top lawmaker in Berlin called "an act of modern piracy" after US authorities "confiscated" a Chinese-manufactured shipment of 200,000 protective masks after they arrived at a port in Thailand while en route to Germany.

In an amazing irony, the masks had actually been purchased by the German government from an American company — though manufactured in China — and yet the US still intercepted them at a moment Trump has warned US companies with factories in China they'll “have a big price to pay” if they don't increase supply to the US.

By the end of the week in total three US allies accused Washington of theft over intercepts and seizures of supplies being shipped out of China, namely Canada, France and Germany.

Image via BBC

Berlin Interior Minister Andreas Geisel stated bluntly of Washington's brazen move: "Even in times of global crisis, we should not be ruled by Wild West methods," according to Deutsche Welle. The German newspaper explained further:

The state of Berlin had ordered FFP2-class respirators for Berlin police officers, who continue to operate during the crisis.

The chairman of the SPD parliamentary group, Rolf Mützenich, said the confiscation was "illegal" and called for the incident to be clarified.

Interestingly, this whole episode underscores just how desperately strained the US health system is becoming under the COVID-19 panemic, considering the unprecedented lengths the US administration is willing to go, essentially resorting to "piracy" - as Germany put it.

Canada on Thursday also lashed out after US authorities apparently muscled their way into redirecting a protective gear shipment intended for America's northern neighbor. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was "concerned" over reports that a crucial major shipment was depleted after "a higher bidder" took advantage of the situation. "We understand that the needs in the US are very extensive, but it's the same in Canada, so we have to work together," Trudeau said.

The same allegation was made by French officials. "The leader of the Ile-de-France region, which includes Paris, accused unidentified Americans of swooping in with cash at the last minute to secure shipments already promised to French buyers," AFP reported.

Valerie Pecresse, government minister over France's most populous region, said that Washington is "just looking to do business on the back of the whole world's distress," in a television interview. Other French ministers reported similar experiences when trying to procure emergency protective gear.

International reports described one egregious last minute 'intervention' as follows:

As a planeload of masks was loaded up and prepared for departure from Shanghai to France this week, American buyers turned up on the tarmac at the last minute to purchase the shipment for three times its value. “A French order was bought out with cash by Americans on the tarmac, and the plane that was to fly to France took off for the US instead,” Rénaud Muselier, the head of the southeastern Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region told RT France on Wednesday. 

The US side, meanwhile, has vehemently denied the allegations. "The United States government has not purchased any masks intended for delivery from China to France," a senior Trump administration official told AFP. "Reports to the contrary are completely false."

However, it's highly unusual if not unheard of that three close US allies at the same time would come forward to accuse the US of 'theft' and even "piracy" — and further of bullying tactics at a moment global crisis. It will be interesting to see if the reports continue and grow into next week as Trump ramps up his rhetoric both against China and domestic companies over-reliant on their foreign-based factories. 

Regardless, the damage is done, and US officials should be wary that inevitably in international relations what goes around comes around — meaning the Europeans are no doubt already planning their revenge, and could 'return the favor' sometime in the near or distant future, at some crucial moment Washington will be desperate to swing things its way.

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 08:25
Published:4/5/2020 7:27:34 AM
[Markets] Tunisia Unleashes 'Robocop' To Enforce Virus Lockdown Tunisia Unleashes 'Robocop' To Enforce Virus Lockdown

Like almost every country in the world, the virus crisis has been a cover to usher in a massive surveillance state

The latest example of this dystopic future coming to realty much quicker than anyone has anticipated is in Tunisia, reported AFP

Tunisia's interior ministry has deployed a four-wheeled robot that harasses people if they're violating the strict public health orders to shelter-at-home.

The robot is known as PGuard, uses infrared and thermal imaging cameras to hunt for people who are violating the public health order. If someone is spotted, the robot will chase them down and ask: 

 "What are you doing? Show me your ID. You don't know there's a lockdown?"

Last week, one unsuspecting man was busted by a PGuard robot. Here's the video of how it all went down:

As of Saturday morning, Tunisia has confirmed 495 COVID-19 cases and 18 virus-related deaths. The North African country has been under night-time curfew since March 17, and stricter lockdowns were implemented on March 22, with expected lockdowns that could extend through April.

Enova Robotics, the PGuard manufacturer, headquartered in Sousse, Tunisia, told AFP the robot is capable of security patrols via a remote operator or autonomously through artificial intelligence.

Tunisia's interior ministry is expected to deploy a fleet of PGuard robots in the near term. Some robots will patrol around hospitals, while others will monitor streets for those who violate curfew.

Social media users have referred to PGuard as 'robocop' as it patrols streets in the country's capital.

We've noted how ground-based robots and unmanned aircraft have been used across the world to combat the fast-spreading virus. We showed readers last week how "pandemic drones," used to detect if people have a fever or are sneezing and coughing, are soon going to be deploying in cities to detect virus carriers.

The outbreak is proving to be the Trojan horse that justifies the ushering in of the surveillance state. Governments and corporations are quickly deploying big data and spy tools to monitor people during the pandemic.

The war on terror, the war on drugs, the war on illegal immigration, and now the war on COVID-19: All start as legitimate responses but then are used by politicians to increase the surveillance state and erode any freedoms citizens have left. 

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 07:30
Published:4/5/2020 6:57:32 AM
[Markets] Russia's Counter-COVID-19 Aid To America Advances Case For A New Detente Russia's Counter-COVID-19 Aid To America Advances Case For A New Detente

Authored by Andrew Korybko via One World Press,

Russia’s urgent dispatch of counter-COVID aid to America was both symbolic and substantial in the sense that it improved the country’s reputation among average Americans which in turn advances Trump’s years-long case for a “New Detente” between these two Great Powers.

From Russia With Love

Observers could be forgiven for not believing it when they first heard the news, but Russia just urgently dispatched counter-COVID aid to America in a real-life scene that seems ripped from the pages of political fiction. Had anyone speculated about this scenario just a few short months ago, practically nobody would have believed them, but World War C is truly turning the world upside down faster than anyone could have expected. This humanitarian assistance was sent after Trump agreed to his Russian counterpart’s proposal during a phone call earlier this week, with President Putin likely offering his country’s aid in order to help the American people caught in the new global epicenter of this crisis and also to show his unwavering solidarity with the US during this time of need just like how he reacted immediately after he found out about the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Looking beyond his noble intentions, it’s clear that this move was both symbolic and substantial in the sense that it improved the country’s reputation among average Americans which in turn advances Trump’s years-long case for a “New Detente” between these two Great Powers.

Soft Power...

Regarding the soft power angle, Russia killed several birds with a single stone, though it should always be remembered that it wouldn’t have been able to do this had Trump not approved. The fake news that up to 80% of its earlier aid to Italy was “useless” has now been debunked and all but forgotten after a country much more powerful than the Southern European one (and which arguably exerts a strong degree of hegemonic control over its affairs) accepted President Putin’s similar proposal for humanitarian assistance.

Seeing as how the planet is now fighting World War C, this could serve to remind the average American of their country’s wartime alliance with the USSR during World War II against the shared scourge of fascism. Not only could that improve Russia’s overall standing in their eyes following four years of interconnected fake news scandals, but it could also have the effect of getting them to passively agree to any forthcoming moves that Trump might eventually propose related to easing the sanctions regime against that country.

While their geopolitical rivalry still undoubtedly exists and probably won’t go away anytime soon (if at all), now is the perfect time for these two to consider the wisdom of more closely cooperating with one another on all fronts.

...And Substance

Their joint struggle against COVID-19 has captivated the world’s attention precisely because of how unexpected it was that Russia of all countries would end up sending humanitarian assistance to America. Trump willingly gave Russia an historically unprecedented soft power victory, but he did so with keen strategic calculations in mind. He’s been facing intense opposition from some of his permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) over the past few years over his desire to enter into a “New Detente” with Russia, which the author explained more in detail in his August 2019 analysis about how “The ‘New Detente’ Is Proceeding Apace, And China Should Be Very Concerned“.

In a nutshell, the US believes that reaching a series of “pragmatic compromises” with Russia over Syria, Ukraine, and other issues could facilitate that country’s rapprochement with the West and thus comparatively lessen its growing strategic dependence on China by default, which Moscow turned to more out of necessity than choice following the sudden commencement of the New Cold War in 2013-2014.

The problem, however, is that so-called “Cold Warriors” and other anti-Russian hawks believe that this strategy is fated to fail because they simply don’t trust Moscow.

Defying The “Deep State” (With Saudi Help?)

Therein lays one of the geneses of the Russiagate conspiracy (the other being to discredit Trump’s populist policies at home), but Trump brilliantly realized the mutual benefits of letting President Putin score a soft power victory in order to advance their countries’ shared strategic interests related to the “New Detente”.

With Americans now more aware than ever before that Russia isn’t the “dastardly villain” that many of them have been brainwashed by the “deep state” and its surrogates (both in Congress and the Mainstream Media) into believing, they might naturally be more in support of Trump’s original promise to enter into a meaningful rapprochement with the country after Moscow sent them aid that literally saved people’s lives.

Before getting to that point, however, Trump and President Putin appear to be on the verge of a “goodwill experiment” to test one another’s true intentions given what the American leader said about his country potentially joining rumored Russian-Saudi oil talks to reverse the recent price crash that devastated the global economy at its most vulnerable moment. Should this initiative succeed and all three countries establish a mechanism (whether formal or informal) to restore the oil price, then the next phase of the “New Detente” might begin shortly after.

Concluding Thoughts

The US and Russia are already in talks on a wide array of issues including energy geopolitics in Europe, NATO, Ukraine, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, and North Korea, et al., so it’s only natural for them to finally make some progress on reaching the long-awaited series of “pragmatic compromises” that Trump originally wanted to clinch during the first year of his presidency but was prevented from doing so by his “deep state’s” fake news Russiagate scandals. Now is the perfect time for defying the “deep state” with the support of the American people after they’ve come to suddenly have a much more favorable view of their country’s rival after it urgently dispatched humanitarian assistance to them with Trump’s support in order to help everyone improve their odds of surviving World War C.

This soft power “coup” was made possible by Presidents Trump and Putin cooperating in pursuit of their shared interests, but it might (inadvertently in terms of Russian motivations) have the potential to become a strategic “coup” with time if Russia’s eventual rapprochement with the West lessens its growing dependence on China and thus places the People’s Republic in a comparatively more disadvantageous position than before.

That’s certainly not Russia’s intent, but few doubt that it’s the US’.

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/05/2020 - 07:00
Published:4/5/2020 6:28:26 AM
[Markets] Did Bill Gates Just Reveal The Real Reason Behind The Lock-Downs? Did Bill Gates Just Reveal The Real Reason Behind The Lock-Downs?

Authored by Rosemary Frei via Off-Guardian.org,

On March 24 Bill Gates gave a highly revelatory 50-minute interview to Chris Anderson. Anderson is the Curator of TED, the non-profit that runs the TED Talks.

The Gates interview is the second in a new series of daily ‘Ted Connects’ interviews focused on COVID-19. The series’s website says that:

TED Connects: Community and Hope is a free, live, daily conversation series featuring experts whose ideas can help us reflect and work through this uncertain time with a sense of responsibility, compassion and wisdom.”

Anderson asked Gates at 3:49 in the video of the interview – which well over three million views now – about a ‘Perspective’ article by Gates that was published February 28 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“You wrote that this could be the once-in-a-century pandemic that people have been fearing. Is that how you think of it, still?” queried Anderson.

“Well, it’s awful to say this but, we could have a respiratory virus whose case fatality rate was even higher. If this was something like smallpox, that kills 30 percent of people. So this is horrific,” responded Gates.

“But, in fact, most people even who get the COVID disease are able to survive. So in that, it’s quite infectious – way more infectious than MERS [Middle East Respiratory Syndrome] or SARS [Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome] were. [But] it’s not as fatal as they were. And yet the disruption we’re seeing in order to knock it down is really completely unprecedented.”

Gates reiterates the dire consequences for the global economy later in the interview.

“We need a clear message about that,” Gates said starting at 26:52.

It is really tragic that the economic effects of this are very dramatic. I mean, nothing like this has ever happened to the economy in our lifetimes. But … bringing the economy back and doing [sic] money, that’s more of a reversible thing than bringing people back to life. So we’re going to take the pain in the economic dimension, huge pain, in order to minimize the pain in disease and death dimension.”

However, this goes directly against the imperative to balance the benefits and costs of the screening, testing and treatment measures for each ailment – as successfully promulgated for years by, for example, the Choosing Wisely campaign – to provide the maximum benefit to individual patients and society as a whole

As noted in an April 1 article in OffGuardian, there may be dramatically more deaths from the economic breakdown than from COVID-19 itself.

“By all accounts, the impact of the response will be great, far-reaching, and long-lasting,”

Kevin Ryan wrote in the article. Ryan estimated that well over two million people will likely die from the sequelae of the lock-downs and other drastic measures to enforce ‘social distancing.’

Millions could potentially die from suicide, drug abuse, lack of medical coverage or treatment, poverty and lack of food access, on top of other predictable social, medical and public-health problems stemming from the response to COVID-19.

Gates and Anderson did not touch on any of those sequelae. Instead, they focused on rapidly ramping up testing and medical interventions for COVID-19.

Gates said at 30:29 in the interview that he and a large team are moving fast to test anti-virals, vaccines and other therapeutics and to bring them to market as quickly as possible.

The Gates Foundation and Wellcome Trust with support from Mastercard and now others, created this therapeutic accelerator to really triage out [candidate therapeutics]...

You have hundreds of people showing up and saying, ‘Try this, try that.’ So we look at lab assays, animal models, and so we understand which things should be prioritized for these very quick human trials that need to be done all over the world.”

The accelerator was launched March 10 with approximately $125 million in seed funding. Three days later Gates left Microsoft.

Not long before that, on January 23, Gates’s organization the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) announced it will fund three programs to develop COVID-19 vaccines. These are the advancing of DNA-vaccine candidates against MERS and Lassa fever, the development of a “‘molecular clamp’ platform” that “enables targeted and rapid vaccine production against multiple viral pathogens,” and the manufacture and Phase 1 clinical study of an mRNA vaccine against COVID.

“The programmes will leverage rapid response platforms already supported by CEPI as well as a new partnership. The aim is to advance nCoV-2019 vaccine candidates into clinical testing as quickly as possible,” according to a news release.

Then at 32:50 in the video, Anderson asked whether the blood serum from people who have recovered from a COVID infection can be used to treat others.

“I heard you mention that one possibility might be treatments from the serum, the blood serum of people who had had the disease and then recovered. So I guess they’re carrying antibodies,” said Anderson.

“Talk a bit about that and how that could work and what it would take to accelerate that.”

[Note that Anderson did not ask Gates about, instead, just letting most of the population – aside from people most vulnerable to serious illness from the infection, who should be quarantined — be exposed to COVID-19 and as a result very likely recover and develop life-long immunity. As at least one expert has observed, “as much as ninety-nine percent of active cases [of COVID-19] in the general population are ‘mild’ and do not require specific medical treatment” to recover.]

“This has always been discussed as, ‘How could you pull that off?’” replied Gates. 

“So people who are recovered, it appears, have very effective antibodies in their blood. So you could go, transfuse them and only take out white cells, the immune cells.”

However, Gates continued, he and his colleagues have dismissed that possibility because it’s “fairly complicated – compared to a drug we can make in high volume, you know, the cost of taking it out and putting it back in probably doesn’t scale as well.”

Then a few seconds later, at 33:45, Gates drops another bomb:

We don’t want to have a lot of recovered people...

To be clear, we’re trying – through the shut-down in the United States – to not get to one percent of the population infected. We’re well below that today, but with exponentiation, you could get past that three million [people or approximately one percent of the U.S. population being infected with COVID-19 and the vast majority recovering]. I believe we will be able to avoid that with having this economic pain.”

It appears that rather than let the population be exposed to the virus and most develop antibodies that give them natural, long-lasting immunity to COVID-19, Gates and his colleagues far prefer to create a vast, hugely expensive, new system of manufacturing and selling billions of test kits, and in parallel very quickly developing and selling billions of antivirals and vaccines.

And then, when the virus comes back again a few months later and most of the population is unexposed and therefore vulnerable, again selling billions of test kits and medical interventions.

Right after that, at 34:14, Gates talked about how he sees things rolling out from there.

Eventually what we’ll have to have is certificates of who’s a recovered person, who’s a vaccinated person...

...Because you don’t want people moving around the world where you’ll have some countries that won’t have it under control, sadly.

You don’t want to completely block off the ability for people to go there and come back and move around.

So eventually there will be this digital immunity proof that will help facilitate the global reopening up.”

[Some time on the afternoon of March 31 the last sentence of this quote was edited out of the official TED video of the interview. Fortunately, recordings of the complete interview are archived elsewhere.]

In the October 2019 Event 201 novel-corona virus-pandemic simulation co-sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Economic Forum and a division of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, a poll that was part of the simulation said that 65% of people in the U.S. would be eager to take a vaccine for COVID-19, “even if it’s experimental.”

This will be tremendously lucrative.

Vaccines are very big business: this Feb. 23 CNBC article, for example, describes the vaccine market as six times bigger than it was 20 years ago, at more than $35 billion annually today, and providing a $44 return for every $1 invested in the world’s 94 lowest-income countries.

Notably, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – which has an endowment of $52 billion – has given more than $2.4 billion to the World Health Organization (WHO) since 2000, according to a 2017 Politico article. (While over the same time frame countries have reduced their contributions to the world body, particularly after the 2008-2009 depression, and now account for less than one-quarter of the WHO’s budget.) The WHO is now coordinating approximately 50 groups around the world that are working on candidate vaccines against COVID-19.

The Politico article quotes a Geneva-based NGO representative as saying Gates is “treated liked a head of state, not only at the WHO, but also at the G20,” and that Gates is one of the most influential people in global health.

Meanwhile, officials around the world are doing their part to make sure everyone social distances, self-isolates and/or stay locked down.

For example, here’s Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen DE Villa, at her and Toronto Mayor John Tory’s March 30 press briefing:

We find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic. We should expect some more people will get sick – and for some, sadly, will die.

This is why it is so important to stay at home to reduce virus spread. And to protect front-line workers, healthcare workers and our essential workers, so they can continue to protect us. People shouldn’t have to die, people shouldn’t have to risk death taking care of us because others won’t practice social distancing or physical distancing.”

Yet look how close Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, is sitting to Haley Chazan, Senior Manager, Media Relations, for Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health of Ontario.

This was on Friday, March 27, just before the start of that day’s daily press conference by Dr. Williams and Ontario’s Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe:

They were sitting two seats, or just a couple of feet, apart. A short time later Chazan got up and stood even closer to Dr. Williams for a little while:

Dr. Williams and Chazan do not live together. Rather, Dr. Williams very likely knows – just as Gates knows – that there is little any reason to worry about being in close contact with other people unless you or they are vulnerable to developing a severe illness from COVID-19. He surely knows, also, that if you contract COVID-19 and you’re otherwise healthy you’ll very likely have few symptoms, if any, and recover quickly. And that this exposure in fact is beneficial because in the process you will develop antibodies to the virus and have natural, long-lasting immunity to it.

Yet in the March 27 press conference, just like all the others he has participated in during the COVID-19 crisis, Dr. Williams lectured the public about maintaining social distancing. He told people not to go outside on the coming weekend to enjoy the nice weather because, otherwise, they might walk past someone and not be two metres apart.

Dr. Williams is among the large cadre of powerful officials who’ve crashed the global economy by forcing tens of millions of small- and medium-sized businesses to close in the name of the need for forced, severe, social distancing and lock-downs.

They’ve shattered society, suspended most civil liberties and prohibited most activities and connections that kept people mentally and physically healthy. At the same time the officials have prioritized COVID-19 care over everything else and, as a result, severely limited billions of people’s access to life-saving healthcare services ranging from acquiring medication and blood transfusions to having organ transplants and cancer surgeries.

*  *  *

Rosemary Frei has an MSc in molecular biology from a faculty of medicine and was a freelance medical journalist for 22 years. She is now an independent investigative journalist in Canada. You can find her recent detailed investigative analysis of COVID here and follow her on Twitter.

Tyler Durden Sat, 04/04/2020 - 23:40
Published:4/4/2020 10:59:08 PM
[Markets] Mysterious Colorado Doomsday Shelter For When "Law & Order Breaks Down" Sees Spike In Interest Mysterious Colorado Doomsday Shelter For When "Law & Order Breaks Down" Sees Spike In Interest

As the pandemic unfolds across the US, city dwellers are getting the hell out of dodge and escaping to rural areas. We noted this last week, with many leaving large metro areas in California, fleeing for the mountains and rural communities to limit their probabilities of contracting COVID-19. Now it appears the virus crisis is evolving, as fears of social unrest across large US metro areas are spiking interest in doomsday shelters.  

The Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies warned last week that a "social bomb" is getting ready to explode across Western cities amid the collapse of economies and high unemployment. This has forced many people to request information about a mysterious doomsday ranch in Colorado, called Fortitude Ranch, stockpiled with food, weapons, ammo, and designated bunkers, reported CBS4 Denver.

The ranch describes itself as "a survival community equipped to survive any disaster and long-term loss of law and order," and its actual location is unknown to non-members.

"Fortitude Ranch is a survival community equipped to survive any type of disaster and long-term loss of law and order, managed by full time staff. Fortitude Ranch is affordable (about $1,000/person annually) because of large numbers of members and economies of scale. Fortitude Ranch is especially attractive to join because it doubles as a recreation and vacation facility as well as a survival retreat. Members can vacation, hunt, fish and recreate at our forest and mountain locations in good times, and shelter at Fortitude Ranch to survive a collapse," the company's website said.

Drew Miller, a retired Air Force Colonel, operates several ranches in Colorado and West Virginia, with ten more locations expected in the near term. 

"If law and order breaks down, then by all means, we will open and ask our members to come, but thus far our members pretty well understand that they really don't need to be at Fortitude Ranch now," Miller said.

The beginning innings of social unrest could be unfolding in the US. President Trump signed an executive order last Friday that could call up as many as one million reserves, not to fight the virus solely, but to maintain social order.

If an economic crisis collapses the US government, the doomsday ranch states that it will operate a "fleet of aircraft" that can travel to and from other sites, as it says, "overland travel may be unsafe for a long time."

And for years, mainstream media laughed at the prepper community – calling anyone who preps a "tin foil hat conspiracy theorist," but, in a few short months, it's those who bashed preppers are the crazy ones as they frantically storm big-box retailers without 3M N95 masks for food.

The virus storm has triggered the next big shift: a mass exodus of cities as lockdowns Martial law has confined people to their studio apartments, with no security of land, no weapons for protection, and limited food. And where are the people that manage to escape the city going? Well, besides a doomsday ranch, there is also a huge demand for "prepper properties..."

The next chapter of the virus crisis could be here in a matter of weeks, as lockdowns are being extended across the Western world, now till the end of April, people are now starting to get frustrated with governments. 

Tyler Durden Sat, 04/04/2020 - 23:15
Published:4/4/2020 10:26:20 PM
[Markets] How China's Fake-News-Machine Is Rewriting The History Of COVID-19, Even As The Pandemic Unfolds How China's Fake-News-Machine Is Rewriting The History Of COVID-19, Even As The Pandemic Unfolds

Authored by Robert Boxwell via The South China Morning Post,

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson’s retweet of an article blaming the US for infecting Wuhan with coronavirus went viral, viewed 160 million times within hours. But where did the story come from?

By now, the early history of Covid-19 is well known, if not clear in its details. The virus was first detected somewhere around Wuhan, in Hubei province, then appears to have entered the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, from where it infected many others. Doctors in Wuhan first noticed the novel coronavirus in December and began exchanging urgent warnings.

Local government authorities set out to silence them; some were detained and made to sign documents admitting wrongdoing.Meanwhile, Wuhan officials went about business as usual, which included a disastrous Lunar New Year banquet attended by about 40,000 families. Soon, many more thousands around Wuhan were infected, with hundreds dead or dying, including ophthalmologist Li Wenliang, who had been punished for trying to raise the alarm.Realising it was in the firing line not just for running the nation that had unleashed the deadly virus on the world but also for ignoring, covering up and denying its spread, China’s Communist Party moved into damage-control mode. This included suggesting it was the United Statesthat was responsible for the virus.

Chinese state media regularly tweet propaganda and what many describe as “fake news”. Global Times has 1.7 million followers on Twitter; China Xinhua News, 12.6 million; People’s Daily, 7.1 million; China Daily, 4.3 million; and China Global Television Network (CGTN), 14 million.

Zhao Lijian, spokesman and deputy director general of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Photo: Kyodo

Zhao Lijian, spokesman and deputy director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ information department, had 287,000 followers when he tweeted a link to a conspi­racy website alleging the US was responsible for the virus. (Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying had 146,700 followers; the ministry’s “spokesperson” account, used by Geng Shuang, had 61,000; and Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of Global Times, had 175,000.)

With the outbreak of an epidemic, one of the first jobs of scientists and doctors, even while they fight to save lives, is to identify its source. This is critical in the search for medicines to combat a virus and a vaccine to prevent its spread.

On January 24, an article written jointly by 29 Chinese medical doctors and scientists was published in The Lancet, one of the world’s leading medical journals. The authors shared their findings from a study of patients who were suspected of having been infected with 2019-nCoV and had been admitted to a Wuhan hospital. The report said that by January 2, 41 of them had been “laboratory-confirmed” as infected with the virus – which causes Covid-19 – and two-thirds of those infected “had been exposed to the Huanan market”.

The findings appeared to support anecdotal evidence that the source of the virus was the market, which had been closed by city officials on January 1. This had been often repeated by Chinese authorities and reported widely in the global media. The Lancet article gave scientific currency to this narrative.

Then, on February 19, another study – this time published on ChinaXiv.org, an open repository and distribution website used by scientific researchers – suggested the market was likely not ground zero for the virus, but rather that it had been “imported”from outside.

The study was by a team of scientists from several institutions: Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden of Chinese Academy of Sciences; South China Agricultural University; and the Chinese Institute for Brain Research. It was revised on February 21. Neither version of the study suggested Covid-19 had originated outside China.

But the fake news machine was about to go to work.

On February 23, the People’s Daily’s English-language site reprinted a February 22 Global Times article titled, “Japanese TV report sparks speculations in China that Covid-19 may have originated in US”. The original Global Times article, which is no longer available online, began: “A report from a Japanese TV station that suspected some of the 14,000 Americans died of influenza may have unknowningly [sic] contracted the coronavirus has gone viral on Chinese social media, stoking fears and speculations in China that the novel coronavirus may have originated in the US.

“The report, by TV Asahi Corporation of Japan, suggested that the US government may have failed to grasp how rampant the virus have gone [sic] on the US soil.”

The article continued: “The story sparked various conspiracy theories on [sic] Chinese cyberspace.

“The Military World Games were held in Wuhan in October. ‘Perhaps the US delegates brought the coronavirus to Wuhan, and some mutation occurred to the virus, making it more deadly and contagious, and causing a wide­spread outbreak this year,’ a user posted on China’s Twitter-like Weibo.

“[An] international relations professor at the Shanghai-based Fudan University, noted that global virologists are working to track the origin of the virus, including the intel­ligence agencies. Netizens are encouraged to actively par­take in discussions, but preferrably [sic] in a rational fashion.”

The original Global Times article appears to have been replaced with one about the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s denial of the TV Asahi report.

On March 4, the People’s Daily reprint of this article was used as the basis for a piece published on conspiracy website GlobalResearch.ca, titled “China’s Coronavirus: A Shocking Update. Did The Virus Originate in the US?” It was the first of two articles on the website that would lead to Zhao’s tweet nine days later suggesting the US Army had brought the virus to Wuhan.

The March 4 article begins: “The Western media quickly took the stage and laid out the official narrative for the outbreak of the new coronavirus which appeared to have begun in China, claiming it to have originated with animals at a wet market in Wuhan.”

This omits a few salient facts: that China’s state-controlled media had also “laid out the official narrative”; that reporters had received that narrative from the Chinese government; and that in the early days of the outbreak, the majority of evidence, including the Lancet article by 29 Chinese doctors, pointed to the Wuhan market.

The Global Research article continues: “In fact the origin was for a long time unknown but it appears likely now, according to Chinese and Japanese reports, that the virus originated elsewhere, from multiple locations, but began to spread widely only after being introduced to the market.

“More to the point, it appears that the virus did not originate in China and, according to reports in Japanese and other media, may have originated in the US.”

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times. Photo: SCMP / Simon Song

The article then presents a subheading that inflates “may have originated in the US” to “Chinese Researchers Conclude the Virus Originated Outside of China”. Under­neath, it quotes two reports – a February 22 article in Global Times and a February 23 article in CGTN – both about the ChinaXiv study, which did not suggest the virus originated outside China.

But Global Research wanted readers to draw the conclusion that it did, and so it created some dots to be connected: “Chinese medical authorities – and ‘intelligence agencies’ – then conducted a rapid and wide-ranging search for the origin of the virus, collecting nearly 100 samples of the genome from 12 different countries on 4 continents, identifying all the varieties and mutations. During this research, they determined the virus outbreak had begun much earlier, probably in November, shortly after the Wuhan Military Games.

“They then came to the same independent conclusions as the Japanese researchers – that the virus did not begin in China but was introduced there from the outside.”

That was not the “conclusion” of the scientists who posted their research on ChinaXiv.

Next, citing a February 27 story on Xinhuanet, Global Research invokes a Chinese national hero, Zhong Nanshan, who led the fight to contain severe acute respiratory syn­drome in 2003. “China’s  top respiratory specialist Zhong Nanshan said on January 27 … ‘Though the Covid-19 was first discovered in China, it does not mean that it originated from China’.”

Global Research translates this for its readers: “But that is Chinese for ‘it originated someplace else, in another country’.”

Zhong did not say that. Neither did Xinhuanet. And the “Japanese researchers” Global Research refers to are never identified. The only reference to a Japanese source is: “In February of 2020, the Japanese Asahi news report (print and TV) claimed the coronavirus originated in the US, not in China …”

Global Research offers no link to Asahi, only a link to the February 23 People’s Daily article, which also has no Asahi link but was a reprint of the Global Times story, which appears to have been revised on February 22, and – you guessed it – provides no Asahi link.

An online search for “Asahi news coronavirus originated in the US” from February 1 to 29 reveals no link to any such Asahi article. Neither does a search of the Asahi news website, which returns 688 articles containing the word “coronavirus” through March 4. But not this one.

Global Research also cites the Fudan University quote in Global Times: “[The professor] stated that global virologists ‘including the intelligence agencies’ were tracking the origin of the virus. Also of interest, the Chinese government did not shut the door on this. The news report stated: ‘Netizens are encouraged to actively partake in discussions, but prefer­ably in a rational fashion.’

“In China, that is meaningful. If the reports were rubbish, the government would clearly state that, and tell people to not spread false rumours.”

Ophthalmologist Li Wenliang, who was reprimanded by the police after alerting colleagues to a Sars-like virus and who later died of Covid-19. Photo: Weibo

The final piece of “evidence” in Global Research’s March 4 article is headed “Taiwan Virologist Suggests the Coronavirus Originated in the US”, and includes an embedded video of a Taiwan television show, identified as This! Is Not News, and a screenshot of a man with a pointer giving a colourful lecture about the origins of the virus. “The man in the video is a top virologist and pharmacologist who performed a long and detailed search for the source of the virus,” claims the article.

Except the man in the video – whom the report does not name – is not a virologist at all. He is a politician from the pro-Beijing New Party and a member of the Taipei City Council, who, before entering politics full time in 2002, was a pharmacology professor.

The clip opens with an introduction from a man in a crew cut, who talks about China and Russia and Georgian defectors carrying American biowarfare secrets, and mosquitoes and bats developed by the US for diabolical purposes. As he talks, tabloid-sized purple characters scroll along the bottom of the screen, punctuated with question marks and exclamation marks, and the one English acronym every conspiracy theorist worldwide knows: “CIA!”

Capping his performance is a 1981 analysis purported to have been carried out by the US Army that showed the attraction of “entomological warfare” to the US military and American taxpayers: 50 per cent of a city of 1.2 million people could be wiped out at a per-corpse cost of 29 cents.

Military Personnel stand guard outside the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick. Photo: AFP

Up next, “the man in the video”notes that, while the man with the crew cut had been talking in terms of Cold War-style geopolitics where everybody fears and loathes everybody else, he is there solely to discuss science. Then he waves a pointer with a plastic yellow index finger at its tip, indicating diagrams of multicoloured circles. As the most complex diagram arrives on screen, he reassures the show’s hostess, “The next slide will make it very clear.”

Such was Global Research’s Taiwan “expert evidence”. Undaunted, the article continues: “The Taiwanese doctor then stated the virus outbreak began earlier than assumed, saying, ‘We must look to September of 2019’.

“He stated the case in September of 2019 where some Japanese travelled to Hawaii and returned home infected, people who had never been to China. This was two months prior to the infections in China and just after the CDC suddenly and totally shut down the Fort Detrick bio-weapons lab claiming the facilities were insufficient to prevent loss of pathogens.”

The introduction of the US Army’s Fort Detrick bio-weapons lab is a solid piece of conspiracy theory crafts­manship. The “man in the video” had not mentioned Fort Detrick – Global Research did, in an apparent attempt to tie the Taiwanese “virologist’s” Japanese travellers who visited Hawaii in September to a US Army bioweapons lab.

The Fort Detrick facility had not been “suddenly and totally shut down” – it ceased research in mid-July (and not in September). And how one of the most contagious viruses in history travelled from Maryland to Hawaii over a six- to eight-week period, leaving no trail of illness and death, goes unexamined by Global Research.

Renowned Chinese respiratory specialist Zhong Nanshan. Photo: Xinhua

For good measure, the article closes by listing six outbreaks in 2018, 2019 and 2020 of “pandemics” that “sickened” and “killed” people, chickens and pigs in China. Each includes notes such as, “China needs to purchase US agricultural products,” suggesting that as part of the trade war, the US has been unleashing pathogens in the mainland for more than two years in order to make China buy American.

In summary, the March 4 article invokes mainland hero Zhong, the “Japanese” and the “Taiwanese” – two American allies with no reason to lie – and adds the “CIA” and a leaky US bioweapons research lab for spice. All independent and none really confirming the others while appearing to come close. Perhaps most impressive of all, the author produced almost 2,000 America-bashing words, and not one of them was “Trump”.

On March 5, without citing the Global Research March 4 piece or any of the underlying Chinese media articles, Zhao tweeted: “Confirmed cases of #COVID19 were first found in China, but its origin is not necessarily in China. We are still tracing the origin.”

On March 11, Global Research published a follow-up: “COVID-19: Further Evidence that the Virus Originated in the US”.

The story begins by recapping the March 4 article, upgrading the never-found Japanese Asahi broadcasters and the “man in the video” to “Japanese and Taiwanese epidemiologists and pharmacologists [who] have deter­mined that the new coronavirus could have originated in the US”. The “man in the video” was now also a “physician” and a “scientist”.

Personnel working inside Fort Detrick. Photo: AFP

Recalling his attempt to place the first Covid-19 case in the US, Global Research again points out, “immediately prior to that, the CDC totally shut down the US Military’s main bio-lab at Fort Detrick, Maryland, due to an absence of safeguards against pathogen leakages, issuing a complete ‘cease and desist’ order to the military”.

As evidence, Global Research had posted a screenshot of an August 5 New York Times headline, “Deadly Germ Research Is Shut Down at Army Lab Over Safety Concerns; Problems with disposal of dangerous materials led the government to suspend research at the military’s leading biodefence centre”.

In fact, the New York Times article had not stated the centre had been “totally shut down”. It had reported that 900 people worked at the facility and, “Although many projects are on hold, [a facility spokeswoman] said scien­tists and other employees are continuing to work, just not on select agents”. Both The New York Times and a local newspaper that first reported the cessation of the research noted that no pathogens had escaped the facility.

Global Research’s March 11 story continues: “We also had the Japanese citizens infected in September of 2019, in Hawaii, people who had never been to China, these infec­tions occurring on US soil long before the outbreak in Wuhan but only shortly after the locking down of Fort Detrick.

“Then, on Chinese social media, another article appeared, aware of the above but presenting further details. It stated in part that five ‘foreign’ athletes or other personnel visiting Wuhan for the World Military Games (October 18-27, 2019) were hospitalised in Wuhan for an undetermined infection.”

The opening ceremony of the CISM Military World Games, in Wuhan. Photo: Reuters

That other article is a blog on Chinese social media, identified only by a QR code, that began: “Because there have been so many American dogs recently, in consider­ation for my account’s safety, [I must write] ‘some country’ or ‘M Country’ [when referring to America].”

The blog entry, which appeared to be a work in progress and is no longer online, recycled much of Global Research’s March 4 article, adding screenshots of local news stories about US military personnel in Wuhan for the October military gameswho were hospitalised.

According to Global Research: “The article explains more clearly that the Wuhan version of the virus could have come only from the US because it is what they call a ‘branch’ which could not have been created first because it would have no ‘seed’. It would have to have been a new variety spun off the original ‘trunk’, and that trunk exists only in the US.”

So there it was. A post on “Chinese social media” about “‘foreign’ athletes or other personnel visiting Wuhan for the World Military Games” in October completed the conspiracy’s journey. The fake news world had rewritten the origin of Covid-19: it was not due to a catastrophic natural occurrence somewhere in or around Wuhan, as the world’s scientists believed, but to a bio­weapon brought to Wuhan by the US Army.

At the end of its March 11 article, Global Research returned to January, citing two articles in Science magazine for further “evidence” of its conspiracy – neither of which states the origin of the virus was, as Global Research puts it, “Not in Wuhan” – tying a bow around the package Zhao would soon forward to hundreds of thousands, who would forward it to hundreds of millions.

On the morning of March 13, Zhao tweeted links to the Global Research articles: “This article is very much important to each and every one of us. Please read and retweet it. COVID-19: Further Evidence that the Virus Originated in the US. It would be useful to read this prior article for background: China’s Coronavirus: A Shocking Update. Did The Virus …”

Followed by:

“Just take a few minutes to read one more article. This is so astonishing that it changed many things I used to believe in. Please retweet to let more people know about it. China’s Coronavirus: A Shocking Update. Did The Virus Originate in the US? – Global Research: The Western media quickly laid out the official narrative for the outbreak of COVID-19 which appeared to have begun in China …”

By late afternoon, the South China Morning Post reported that the hashtag topic "Zhao Lijian sent out five consecutive tweets questioning the US” had been viewed more than 4.7 million times on Weibo. Twelve hours later, The New York Times reported it had been viewed more than 160 million times.

Zhao’s Twitter followers have increased from 287,000 to more than 500,000. Media worldwide carried stories about his tweets, putting them in front of millions more readers, most of whom would never have seen them on Twitter or Weibo. Fake virus news had gone viral.

In October, the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence noted in the first line of its report on Russia’s use of social media to meddle in the 2016 US presidential election, that “information warfare [is] designed to spread disinformation and societal division”. Zhao’s tweets accom­plished both. The disinformation was obvious. Critical thinking in abeyance, plenty of people will believe a claim that the US Army planted Covid-19 in Wuhan; even more will want it to be true.

When US President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others began fighting back by loudly and repeatedly calling Covid-19 “the Chinese virus”, social division in the US grew, if that is possible. The media accused Trump of being racist and xenophobic, and inciting more of the same towards Chinese-Americans. This only caused Trump to say it louder and more often.

One wonders how much longer Washington will conti­nue fighting the information war against Beijing with one arm tied behind its back. Chinese media enjoy free run of the US, including on Twitter. The US has no such freedom in China.

Not a few pundits in these past few weeks have predicted Covid-19 will end globalisation, or even “life as we know it”. That seems unlikely, given the short-term nature of people’s memories and how profitable “life as we know it” has been for so many. But given the mischief Zhao’s tweets caused, Beijing’s days on Twitter might be numbered.

Tyler Durden Sat, 04/04/2020 - 22:50
Published:4/4/2020 9:59:43 PM
[Markets] Putin: Oil Glut Is Really About Saudi Desire To Crush US Shale Putin: Oil Glut Is Really About Saudi Desire To Crush US Shale

While it appears an expected emergency virtual OPEC+ meeting planned for Monday has been postponed, pushed back to later in the week to allow more time for negotiations, it's likely that we'll actually see the heated blame-game for the collapse in oil prices ratchet up  and oh, in the meantime oil is set to crater come Monday as the feud is only expected to get uglier. 

Indeed the aggressive war of words has started, with Putin offering a biting Russian narrative aimed at the Saudis in remarks Friday: “It was the pullout by our partners from Saudi Arabia from the OPEC+ deal, their increase in production and their announcement that they were even ready to give discounts on oil” that drove the crash alongside the double-whammy of the coronavirus-driven drop in demand, Putin said according to Bloomberg.

“This was apparently linked to efforts by our partners from Saudi Arabia to eliminate competitors who produce so-called shale oil,” Putin continued. “To do that, the price needs to be below $40 a barrel. And they succeeded in that. But we don’t need that, we never set such a goal.”

Via Daily Mail

Thus in one fell swoop Putin, ironically enough, framed the new 'war on US shale' as in reality a Saudi dirty little secret and motive despite all spin to the contrary, perhaps also seeking to inject division and tension in the close Washington-Riyadh alliance.

Both Russia and the Saudis opened the taps and prices soared following Russia's early March declaration that it would be quitting the OPEC plan to slash output by 1 million bpd, conditioned also on Russia-led non-OPEC countries cutting 500,000 bpd. Moscow reasoned that ultimately US shale-oil producers would be the ones benefiting as they had previously, filling the gaps in earlier curtailments. 

Putin's attack has for the time being had the immediate effect of forcing Riyadh into the awkward position of having to deny it could have been a willing participant in deeper machinations to crush US shale producers in a price war. This as already the steep drop-off in prices have left some US shale producers saying they're ready to initiate voluntary production cuts amid the ballooning oil glut, as the WSJ reported Friday.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan responded to Putin in early Saturday comments, blasting the allegations as “fully devoid of truth.”

“Russia was the one that refused the agreement” the Saudi foreign ministry statement said. “The kingdom and 22 other countries were trying to to persuade Russia to make further cuts and extend the agreement.”

Energy minister and half-brother of Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman said something similar, noticeably without taking the shale angle to the Russian accusations head-on.

“The Russian Minister of Energy was first to declare to the media that all the participating countries are absolved of their commitments,” he said. “This led to the decision by countries to raise their production in order to offset lower prices and compensate for their loss of returns.”

Interestingly, Bloomberg's own summary of the OPEC+ unraveling tacitly admits what few pundits are ready to do, namely that the Saudis for all practical purposes have appeared 'equal partners' in squeezing US shale: "The Saudis, who have ramped up production to a record 12 million barrels a day in the past month and massively discounted the price of their oil, have insisted a new agreement must involve significant contributions from all OPEC+ nations and major producers outside the coalition, including the U.S. and Canada," as the report puts it.

Tyler Durden Sat, 04/04/2020 - 22:25
Published:4/4/2020 9:27:21 PM
[Markets] From 'Nightmare' To 'Surprisingly Seamless' - Small Business Owners Describe COVID-19 Bailout Experiences From 'Nightmare' To 'Surprisingly Seamless' - Small Business Owners Describe COVID-19 Bailout Experiences

The Trump administration's $350 billion SBA Paycheck Protection Program was launched on Friday as part of the $2 trillion bailout package, letting small businesses gain access to capital for payroll and other overhead costs.

As we reported on Friday, the rollout went horribly awry for some - with banks such as BofA requiring an existing credit line to qualify, surprising many. JPM delayed the rollout until 1pm, while Wells Fargo and others completely dropped the ball.

That said, it wasn't all bad on Friday - with some business owners such as small business owner Kyle Stewart, who told Bloomberg that the process was "surprisingly seamless" when he applied for a loan to keep his batting-cage and baseball training business afloat.

After spending two hours gathering the payroll and business information required and completing the Paycheck Protection Program application Thursday night, Kyle found uploading the form to the bank’s portal Friday morning was “surprisingly seamless” and automated.

After San Francisco announced a shelter-in-place order on March 16, Stewart told his five hourly workers he wouldn’t be able to pay them going forward. The timing couldn’t have been worse, as his company makes 60% of its profit in the month of March ahead of the baseball season. He’s hoping the loan will help keep them on until the business is able to reopen. -Bloomberg

"We are still stuck on second base with 2 outs in the ninth inning," said Stewart. "Here is to hoping for a clutch hit from the Feds."

Cute.

Others, such as Ohio hair salon owner Clara Osterhage found the process to be a "nightmare." After gathering documents in preparation to be one of the first in line with her application on Friday, she was told by her small regional bank at 11 a.m. that they weren't going to be able to submit applications that day, and that 'even big banks weren't able to do it.'

"This is a nightmare," she said, adding that she doesn't have a clue when she'll gain access to the funds she needs.

"How do I feel? Uncertain with a capital ‘U.'"

Goat's milk soap maker Theresa Richard of Arnaudville, Louisiana was "at a loss" after trying to obtain a loan for her Youngsville store, Bain Amour Bath & Body Co., which has been shut since the state's March 22 stay-at-home order, which has left her lone employee without work.

Richard's local bank, Farmers and Merchants Bank & Trust Co. of Beaux Bridge told her they're still waiting on more information about the program. Her other bank, Chase, sent her an email notifying her that they wouldn't be ready for the program's Friday morning launch.

"Nobody has a real clear idea of what they need in place to start doing the loans," she said.

Community bankers are “rightfully frustrated and, in many cases, livid” after promised online portals never went live on Friday, said Rebeca Romero Rainey, chief executive officer of Independent Community Bankers of America.

It was “a nightmare situation,” Rainey said. “Media reports continue to indicate successful launches through the country by community banks, few of which we have been able to confirm.” -Bloomberg

Robin Schultz, who operates Birmingham, Alabama commercial lighting company Quality Electric, says that despite using the same lender for over two decades that she was surprised to receive an email from them Thursday night notifying her that it hadn't received guidelines from the feds.

After trying to apply at 4 a.m. Friday morning, she received an email around noon to let her know that the site was operational. Moments later, it was down, and she still wasn't able to file paperwork for the loan.

More tales of woe and optimism (via Bloomberg):

‘Eight Weeks Is Ten Years’

Erik Bruun owns SoCo Creamery, an ice cream shop and wholesale supplier in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Foot traffic into his store is slower this time of the year, but is down 60% from where it typically is.

Wholesale ice cream sales, which make up the majority of revenue during the off-season, have completely stopped.

Bruun applied for an emergency loan last week but has yet to hear back. He tried to apply to the paycheck protection program as well, but his local bank told him the application changed and he’d have to wait until they receive instructions to proceed.

The application made it sound like the money would be dispersed in 72 hours. Time is critical right now, and even if his paycheck protection application is approved he’s not sure if the duration will be enough.

“Eight weeks? Eight weeks is ten years right now,” he said. “Eight weeks ago we lived in the allegedly good times. Now we live in the Great Depression.”

One small perk with the lockdown: as people hunker down, pint sales in local grocery stores are up.

‘So Much Confusion’

Wahid Nassar, who runs a restaurant in Highlands, New Jersey, tried going online Friday morning to apply for the loan through his lender, Bank of America, but repeatedly got error messages.

“There’s so much confusion and hard to get a straight answer from anyone right now,” he said.

‘Bringing Hope’

At 9:30 a.m. Friday, the paperwork, so utterly confusing at times, was finally in order for Jason Maxwell. The CEO of MassPay, a payroll and human resources firm that employs 59 people in Beverly, Massachusetts, faxed his application for an SBA loan to his banker in nearby Salem.

Late Thursday, Maxwell was told the federal loan program had tweaked its application. Luckily, Maxwell has a good relationship with his banker, Ed Lomasney, a senior vice president at Salem Five Bank. Lomasney contacted Maxwell, who immediately filled out the new form.

Maxwell has worked with Lomasney for seven years, even switching lenders when the banker relocated to a new financial-services institution three years ago.

“He’s the kind of guy who would knock down doors for us,” Maxwell said of his financial guru, who was too busy Friday with applications to comment.

Maxwell has also been helping other business owners navigate the programs and loans available. He called the owner of his favorite coffee shop, who is not a client, when he heard the man was feeling utterly hopeless, and offered information and advice on how to get some relief.

The programs “are bringing hope to a pretty grim situation,” Maxwell said.

‘Somewhat Optimistic’

Steve Vernetti, owner of Vernetti, an Italian restaurant in Los Angeles that’s a favorite of Mayor Eric Garcetti, said he had to fill out multiple applications because they kept changing, including as recently as Friday morning.

“It seems like the program is being fleshed out in real-time,” Vernetti said.

Vernetti said his business manager has a close relationship with his bank that’s keeping them in the loop, and that “I can only imagine what the confusion is like for those who don’t have the advantages we have.”

The restaurant owner said he’s been paying his 20 employees for two weeks out of his own pocket but won’t be able to continue. If he gets some confirmation of the SBA funding, he’ll consider opening for pickup and delivery services in two weeks.

“I am starting to see a way through this, and I am feeling somewhat optimistic,” Vernetti said.

Let's see what next week brings in the land of struggling business loans...

Tyler Durden Sat, 04/04/2020 - 21:35
Published:4/4/2020 8:58:08 PM
[Markets] Nobody Knows How To Politicize A Pandemic Like Nancy Pelosi Nobody Knows How To Politicize A Pandemic Like Nancy Pelosi

Authored by David Krayden via HumanEvents.com,

The Speaker is using the coronavirus to push through legislation for her very wealthy, very loyal base...

On Wednesday, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden (who, one must remember, holds no elected office at the moment) promised that any further coronavirus legislation might just contain something of “my green deal.” It’s not clear if he was referring to some sort of environmental plan—or how he expects to craft legislation from his basement in Delaware—but even Sleepy Joe seems to think that a global pandemic signals a time for pork-barrel politics.

None among the Democrats has embraced this ethos more than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, however. As the coronavirus crisis rages on around us, Pelosi is still looking for creative ways to spend your tax dollars.

After failing to stuff the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package with a bevy of her social justice pet projects, Pelosi had the gall to announce that Democrats had made the bill about “workers first.”

“It went from a corporate first proposal that the Republicans put forth in the Senate to a workers first—Democratic workers first—legislation,” said Pelosi, at one of her increasingly bizarre news conferences where the grand dame of Congress appears to be crumbling under the weight of her own rhetoric.

“The bill that was passed in the Senate last night [Wednesday] and that we will take up tomorrow [Friday] is about mitigation: mitigation for all the loss that we have in our economy while still addressing the emergency health needs that we have in our country.”

What the Speaker neglected to mention, however, was how her bill would have forced any airline receiving government bailout money to cut their carbon footprint in half and any business to implement a “diversity plan.” Oh, and she made sure the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts received a handsome handout (note: after they grabbed the $25 million in cash, the management promptly started laying-off musicians).

Now, Pelosi is moving on to “phase four” of the Democrats’ coronavirus rescue package: save the (Democratic) millionaires.

PELOSI WAGES CLASS WARFARE—BUT NOT ON BEHALF OF THE CLASS YOU’D EXPECT

The Pelosi plan would remove a cap on the state and local tax deduction (SALT) that could quickly put cash in people’s pockets—but the beneficiary won’t be average American workers. The beneficiaries will be the real base of the Democratic Party: millionaire liberals from coastal states.

The tax rebates would affect approximately 13 million families—very wealthy families, all of which are earning at least $100,000 and many over a million per annum. “More than half of the proceeds from fully repealing the SALT cap would go to the top 1 percent, households making more than about three-quarters of a million dollars a year,” reports Politico.

To hear Nancy explain the cash infusion, it’s just some extra beer money at the end of the month: “We could reverse that for 2018 and 2019 so that people could refile their taxes” and receive more substantial rebates, Pelosi told The New York Times. “They’d have more disposable income, which is the lifeblood of our economy, a consumer economy that we are.”

The cruel irony of this latest Democratic ploy is that the SALT cap was put in place as part of President Donald Trump’s tax cuts in 2017. Those are the same tax cuts that Pelosi wanted to repeal because, supposedly, only the wealthy would benefit from them.

Democrats have wanted the cap removed for quite some time. Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was so angry about it in 2017 that he accused the president of waging “economic civil war” on blue states with the measure. It was a huge issue during the 2018 midterm elections, especially among bleeding heart Democrats fighting for their millionaire friends.

“In the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats wielded the SALT limits in House campaigns against Republicans in wealthy blue-state suburbs of cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago,” writes the Times. According to Politico, House Democrats “who made large gains in upscale suburbs as they took the majority in the 2018 elections” voted last year to repeal the cap, but the effort died in the Republican-controlled Senate—“where few states represented by Republicans are all that troubled by the $10,000 limit.”

Removing the SALT cap benefits the people who really embody what Pelosi’s party has become: a coffee clatch of free-thinking progressives who have nothing better to do with their time but think of ways to socially re-engineer the rest of society by obsessing over the LGBT-GQ agenda, inventing genders that don’t exist, and worrying about hate speech lurking under every bed. The kind of people who have the inclination to attend a Seattle yoga class in “undoing whiteness.” The only blue-collar workers they know are the ones who fix the plumbing and pick up the garbage.

“These are people who won’t spend the extra money and don’t really need it,” Michael Linden, executive director of the progressive Groundwork Collaborative, told Politico.

“That’s why they were left out of the cash assistance in the first place.”

But, as Pelosi demonstrated during the last COVID-19 stimulus bill, a health crisis provides a serendipitous opportunity to pass a plethora of unrelated legislation—and Madame Speaker is apparently up to her antics again.

Tyler Durden Sat, 04/04/2020 - 21:10
Published:4/4/2020 8:26:56 PM
[Markets] Looting Wave Strikes New York City Amid Coronavirus Lockdown Looting Wave Strikes New York City Amid Coronavirus Lockdown

We've been laying out the possible case for the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic could be social unrest. 

Millions of Americans have just lost their jobs, have no saving, and insurmountable debts, are flooding food banks across the nation to survive. With the economy crashed and now entering a depression, last week was a significant milestone in the progression of the crisis, as looting of businesses in California and South Carolina began.

Now the looting is spreading across the nation. We noted how stores in New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Chicago, were boarding up their windows, preparing for civil unrest. 

After all, when 10 million people lose their jobs in two weeks, and an estimated unemployment rate that could reach 15-20% in the second quarter, as per RealInvestmentAdvice.com's Lance Roberts latest report, the ripple effect on society is so sudden that there could very well be an outbreak of unrest when the weather shifts too much warmer trends, and geographically be situated in low-income areas of inner cities. Hence why the National Guard was called up and now being positioned around and or in major metros

The beginning innings of social unrest could now be unfolding across New York City. Households are cracking as hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs over several weeks. The city has become the epicenter of the virus crisis, recording 103,060 confirmed cases and 2,935 deaths (as of Saturday afternoon, April 4).  

The Wall Street Journal reports an increase in burglaries of commercial establishments across all five boroughs from March 12-31, coinciding when mass shutdowns went into effect. 

The New York City Police Department (NYPD) recorded a 75% jump in burglaries of businesses during the period, or about 254 burglaries, compared with 145 over the same period last year.

"The increase in burglaries coincided with steps to stop the spread of the coronavirus. On March 15, the city ordered restaurants and bars to cease on-site service, prompting many establishments to close altogether or limit operations. A March 20 decree by Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for the closure of all nonessential businesses, leading many retail stores to shutter," the Journal noted. 

"We knew with the closing of many stores that we could see an increase and, unfortunately, we are," said NYPD Chief of Crime Control Strategies Michael LiPetri.

LiPetri said the most targeted establishments by criminals had been restaurants, supermarkets, and retail stores. Between March 12-31, there were over 30 reports of burglaries of supermarkets, a 400% increase over the same period last year. 

He said thieves were specifically after food, alcohol, and retail goods. Many gained entry from rooftops and or forcing doors open or breaking windows. 

The Journal notes that some retail chains have boarded up shops across the city, citing fears that social unrest could soon follow. Here are some shops that have already boarded up windows: 

As looting surges in New York City, the next fear is that the NYPD could become overwhelmed by virus-related incidents and or a shortage of officers. 

On Friday, one out of every six NYPD officers was sick or in quarantine. Over 1,500 have tested positive for the virus, which could lead to decreased patrols while crime is surging across the city. 

"It's a worst-case scenario across the board," a sergeant told The New York Times. 

And now it should make sense why President Trump recently signed an executive order to activate up to one million troops – that is because the evolution of the virus crisis and economic collapse, is social unrest and looting and whatever else that may bring

Tyler Durden Sat, 04/04/2020 - 20:45
Published:4/4/2020 7:55:33 PM
[Markets] All Trails Lead Back To The Wuhan Bio-Lab All Trails Lead Back To The Wuhan Bio-Lab

Authored by Jim Geraghty via NationalReview.com,

There’s no proof the coronavirus accidentally escaped from a laboratory, but we can’t take the Chinese government’s denials at face value.

It is understandable that many would be wary of the notion that the origin of the coronavirus could be discovered by some documentary filmmaker who used to live in China. Matthew Tye, who creates YouTube videos, contends he has identified the source of the coronavirus — and a great deal of the information that he presents, obtained from public records posted on the Internet, checks out.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology in China indeed posted a job opening on November 18, 2019, “asking for scientists to come research the relationship between the coronavirus and bats.”

The Google translation of the job posting is: “Taking bats as the research object, I will answer the molecular mechanism that can coexist with Ebola and SARS- associated coronavirus for a long time without disease, and its relationship with flight and longevity. Virology, immunology, cell biology, and multiple omics are used to compare the differences between humans and other mammals.” (“Omics” is a term for a subfield within biology, such as genomics or glycomics.)

On December 24, 2019, the Wuhan Institute of Virology posted a second job posting. The translation of that posting includes the declaration, “long-term research on the pathogenic biology of bats carrying important viruses has confirmed the origin of bats of major new human and livestock infectious diseases such as SARS and SADS, and a large number of new bat and rodent new viruses have been discovered and identified.”

Tye contends that that posting meant, “we’ve discovered a new and terrible virus, and would like to recruit people to come deal with it.” He also contends that “news didn’t come out about coronavirus until ages after that.” Doctors in Wuhan knew that they were dealing with a cluster of pneumonia cases as December progressed, but it is accurate to say that a very limited number of people knew about this particular strain of coronavirus and its severity at the time of that job posting. By December 31, about three weeks after doctors first noticed the cases, the Chinese government notified the World Health Organization and the first media reports about a “mystery pneumonia” appeared outside China.

Scientific American verifies much of the information Tye mentions about Shi Zhengli, the Chinese virologist nicknamed “Bat Woman” for her work with that species.

Shi — a virologist who is often called China’s “bat woman” by her colleagues because of her virus-hunting expeditions in bat caves over the past 16 years — walked out of the conference she was attending in Shanghai and hopped on the next train back to Wuhan. “I wondered if [the municipal health authority] got it wrong,” she says. “I had never expected this kind of thing to happen in Wuhan, in central China.” Her studies had shown that the southern, subtropical areas of Guangdong, Guangxi and Yunnan have the greatest risk of coronaviruses jumping to humans from animals — particularly bats, a known reservoir for many viruses. If coronaviruses were the culprit, she remembers thinking, “could they have come from our lab?”

. . . By January 7 the Wuhan team determined that the new virus had indeed caused the disease those patients suffered — a conclusion based on results from polymerase chain reaction analysis, full genome sequencing, antibody tests of blood samples and the virus’s ability to infect human lung cells in a petri dish. The genomic sequence of the virus — now officially called SARS-CoV-2 because it is related to the SARS pathogen — was 96 percent identical to that of a coronavirus the researchers had identified in horseshoe bats in Yunnan, they reported in a paper published last month in Nature. “It’s crystal clear that bats, once again, are the natural reservoir,” says Daszak, who was not involved in the study.

Some scientists aren’t convinced that the virus jumped straight from bats to human beings, but there are a few problems with the theory that some other animal was an intermediate transmitter of COVID-19 from bats to humans:

Analyses of the SARS-CoV-2 genome indicate a single spillover event, meaning the virus jumped only once from an animal to a person, which makes it likely that the virus was circulating among people before December. Unless more information about the animals at the Wuhan market is released, the transmission chain may never be clear. There are, however, numerous possibilities. A bat hunter or a wildlife trafficker might have brought the virus to the market. Pangolins happen to carry a coronavirus, which they might have picked up from bats years ago, and which is, in one crucial part of its genome, virtually identical to SARS-CoV-2. But no one has yet found evidence that pangolins were at the Wuhan market, or even that venders there trafficked pangolins.

On February 4 — one week before the World Health Organization decided to officially name this virus “COVID-19” — the journal Cell Research posted a notice written by scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology about the virus, concluding, “our findings reveal that remdesivir and chloroquine are highly effective in the control of 2019-nCoV infection in vitro. Since these compounds have been used in human patients with a safety track record and shown to be effective against various ailments, we suggest that they should be assessed in human patients suffering from the novel coronavirus disease.” One of the authors of that notice was the “bat woman,” Shi Zhengli.

In his YouTube video, Tye focuses his attention on a researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology named Huang Yanling: “Most people believe her to be patient zero, and most people believe she is dead.”

There was enough discussion of rumors about Huang Yanling online in China to spur an official denial. On February 16, the Wuhan Institute of Virology denied that patient zero was one of their employees, and interestingly named her specifically: “Recently there has been fake information about Huang Yanling, a graduate from our institute, claiming that she was patient zero in the novel coronavirus.” Press accounts quote the institute as saying, “Huang was a graduate student at the institute until 2015, when she left the province and had not returned since. Huang was in good health and had not been diagnosed with disease, it added.” None of her publicly available research papers are dated after 2015.

The web page for the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s Lab of Diagnostic Microbiology does indeed still have “Huang Yanling” listed as a 2012 graduate student, and her picture and biography appear to have been recently removed — as have those of two other graduate students from 2013, Wang Mengyue and Wei Cuihua.

Her name still has a hyperlink, but the linked page is blank. The pages for Wang Mengyue and Wei Cuihua are blank as well.

(For what it is worth, the South China Morning Post — a newspaper seen as being generally pro-Beijing — reported on March 13 that “according to the government data seen by the Post, a 55 year-old from Hubei province could have been the first person to have contracted Covid-19 on November 17.”)

On February 17, Zhen Shuji, a Hong Kong correspondent from the French public-radio service Radio France Internationale, reported: “when a reporter from the Beijing News of the Mainland asked the institute for rumors about patient zero, the institute first denied that there was a researcher Huang Yanling, but after learning that the name of the person on the Internet did exist, acknowledged that the person had worked at the firm but has now left the office and is unaccounted for.”

Tye says, “everyone on the Chinese internet is searching for [Huang Yanling] but most believe that her body was quickly cremated and the people working at the crematorium were perhaps infected as they were not given any information about the virus.” (The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that handling the body of someone who has died of coronavirus is safe — including embalming and cremation — as long as the standard safety protocols for handing a decedent are used. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether those safety protocols were sufficiently used in China before the outbreak’s scope was known.)

As Tye observes, a public appearance by Huang Yanling would dispel a lot of the public rumors, and is the sort of thing the Chinese government would quickly arrange in normal circumstances — presuming that Huang Yanling was still alive. Several officials at the Wuhan Institute of Virology issued public statements that Huang was in good health and that no one at the institute has been infected with COVID-19. In any case, the mystery around Huang Yanling may be moot, but it does point to the lab covering up something about her.

China Global Television Network, a state-owned television broadcaster, illuminated another rumor while attempting to dispel it in a February 23 report entitled “Rumors Stop With the Wise”:

On February 17, a Weibo user who claimed herself to be Chen Quanjiao, a researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, reported to the public that the Director of the Institute was responsible for leaking the novel coronavirus. The Weibo post threw a bomb in the cyberspace and the public was shocked. Soon Chen herself stepped out and declared that she had never released any report information and expressed great indignation at such identity fraud on Weibo. It has been confirmed that that particular Weibo account had been shut down several times due to the spread of misinformation about COVID-19.

That Radio France Internationale report on February 17 also mentioned the next key part of the Tye’s YouTube video. “Xiaobo Tao, a scholar from South China University of Technology, recently published a report that researchers at Wuhan Virus Laboratory were splashed with bat blood and urine, and then quarantined for 14 days.” HK01, another Hong Kong-based news site, reported the same claim.

This doctor’s name is spelled in English as both “Xiaobo Tao” and “Botao Xiao.” From 2011 to 2013, Botao Xiao was a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, and his biography is still on the web site of the South China University of Technology.

At some point in February, Botao Xiao posted a research paper onto ResearchGate.net, “The Possible Origins of 2019-nCoV coronavirus.” He is listed as one author, along with Lei Xiao from Tian You Hospital, which is affiliated with the Wuhan University of Science and Technology. The paper was removed a short time after it was posted, but archived images of its pages can be found here and here.

The first conclusion of Botao Xiao’s paper is that the bats suspected of carrying the virus are extremely unlikely to be found naturally in the city, and despite the stories of “bat soup,” they conclude that bats were not sold at the market and were unlikely to be deliberately ingested.

The bats carrying CoV ZC45 were originally found in Yunnan or Zhejiang province, both of which were more than 900 kilometers away from the seafood market. Bats were normally found to live in caves and trees. But the seafood market is in a densely-populated district of Wuhan, a metropolitan [area] of ~15 million people. The probability was very low for the bats to fly to the market. According to municipal reports and the testimonies of 31 residents and 28 visitors, the bat was never a food source in the city, and no bat was traded in the market.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization could not confirm if bats were present at the market. Botao Xiao’s paper theorizes that the coronavirus originated from bats being used for research at either one of two research laboratories in Wuhan.

We screened the area around the seafood market and identified two laboratories conducting research on bat coronavirus. Within ~ 280 meters from the market, there was the Wuhan Center for Disease Control & Prevention. WHCDC hosted animals in laboratories for research purpose, one of which was specialized in pathogens collection and identification. In one of their studies, 155 bats including Rhinolophus affinis were captured in Hubei province, and other 450 bats were captured in Zhejiang province. The expert in Collection was noted in the Author Contributions (JHT). Moreover, he was broadcasted for collecting viruses on nation-wide newspapers and websites in 2017 and 2019. He described that he was once by attacked by bats and the blood of a bat shot on his skin. He knew the extreme danger of the infection so he quarantined himself for 14 days. In another accident, he quarantined himself again because bats peed on him.

Surgery was performed on the caged animals and the tissue samples were collected for DNA and RNA extraction and sequencing. The tissue samples and contaminated trashes were source of pathogens. They were only ~280 meters from the seafood market. The WHCDC was also adjacent to the Union Hospital (Figure 1, bottom) where the first group of doctors were infected during this epidemic. It is plausible that the virus leaked around and some of them contaminated the initial patients in this epidemic, though solid proofs are needed in future study.

The second laboratory was ~12 kilometers from the seafood market and belonged to Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences . . .

In summary, somebody was entangled with the evolution of 2019-nCoV coronavirus. In addition to origins of natural recombination and intermediate host, the killer coronavirus probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan. Safety level may need to be reinforced in high risk biohazardous laboratories. Regulations may be taken to relocate these laboratories far away from city center and other densely populated places.

However, Xiao has told the Wall Street Journal that he has withdrawn his paper. “The speculation about the possible origins in the post was based on published papers and media, and was not supported by direct proofs,” he said in a brief email on February 26.

The bat researcher that Xiao’s report refers to is virologist Tian Junhua, who works at the Wuhan Centre for Disease Control. In 2004, the World Health Organization determined that an outbreak of the SARS virus had been caused by two separate leaks at the Chinese Institute of Virology in Beijing. The Chinese government said that the leaks were a result of “negligence” and the responsible officials had been punished.

In 2017, the Chinese state-owned Shanghai Media Group made a seven-minute documentary about Tian Junhua, entitled “Youth in the Wild: Invisible Defender.” Videographers followed Tian Junhua as he traveled deep into caves to collect bats.

“Among all known creatures, the bats are rich with various viruses inside,” he says in Chinese.

“You can find most viruses responsible for human diseases, like rabies virus, SARS, and Ebola. Accordingly, the caves frequented by bats became our main battlefields.” He emphasizes, “bats usually live in caves humans can hardly reach. Only in these places can we find the most ideal virus vector samples.”

One of his last statements on the video is:

“In the past ten-plus years, we have visited every corner of Hubei Province. We explored dozens of undeveloped caves and studied more than 300 types of virus vectors. But I do hope these virus samples will only be preserved for scientific research and will never be used in real life. Because humans need not only the vaccines, but also the protection from the nature.”

The description of Tian Junhua’s self-isolation came from a May 2017 report by Xinhua News Agency, repeated by the Chinese news site JQKNews.com:

The environment for collecting bat samples is extremely bad. There is a stench in the bat cave. Bats carry a large number of viruses in their bodies. If they are not careful, they are at risk of infection. But Tian Junhua is not afraid to go to the mountain with his wife to catch Batman.

Tian Junhua summed up the experience that the most bats can be caught by using the sky cannon and pulling the net. But in the process of operation, Tian Junhua forgot to take protective measures. Bat urine dripped on him like raindrops from the top. If he was infected, he could not find any medicine. It was written in the report.

The wings of bats carry sharp claws. When the big bats are caught by bat tools, they can easily spray blood. Several times bat blood was sprayed directly on Tians skin, but he didn’t flinch at all. After returning home, Tian Junhua took the initiative to isolate for half a month. As long as the incubation period of 14 days does not occur, he will be lucky to escape, the report said.

Bat urine and blood can carry viruses. How likely is it that bat urine or blood got onto a researcher at either Wuhan Center for Disease Control & Prevention or the Wuhan Institute of Virology? Alternatively, what are the odds that some sort of medical waste or other material from the bats was not properly disposed of, and that was the initial transmission vector to a human being?

Virologists have been vehemently skeptical of the theory that COVID-19 was engineered or deliberately constructed in a laboratory; the director of the National Institutes of Health has written that recent genomic research “debunks such claims by providing scientific evidence that this novel coronavirus arose naturally.” And none of the above is definitive proof that COVID-19 originated from a bat at either the Wuhan Center for Disease Control & Prevention or the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Definitive proof would require much broader access to information about what happened in those facilities in the time period before the epidemic in the city.

But it is a remarkable coincidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was researching Ebola and SARS-associated coronaviruses in bats before the pandemic outbreak, and that in the month when Wuhan doctors were treating the first patients of COVID-19, the institute announced in a hiring notice that “a large number of new bat and rodent new viruses have been discovered and identified.” And the fact that the Chinese government spent six weeks insisting that COVID-19 could not be spread from person to person means that its denials about Wuhan laboratories cannot be accepted without independent verification.

Tyler Durden Sat, 04/04/2020 - 20:20
Published:4/4/2020 7:30:44 PM
[Markets] ‘We have to open our country again,’ says Trump, showing impatience with stay-home orders President Donald Trump on Saturday showed impatience with stay home orders, and said ‘we have to open our country again’
Published:4/4/2020 7:30:44 PM
[Markets] Stock market is headed for choppy waters amid worries that a return to normal will elude the U.S. economy In some corners of Wall Street, investors are casting doubt on the notion that the economy will switch back to high gear after the coronavirus pandemic passes. Published:4/4/2020 6:57:01 PM
[Markets] Nary a sign of discord even as China rebuts accusations of a tepid stimulus response Top central bank advisers are even debating whether China should set a GDP target at all as analysts lower 2020 growth estimates.
Published:4/4/2020 6:57:01 PM
[Markets] "Medical Supply Arbitrage": How Hordes Of Middle Men, Profiteers & Scammers Massively Inflated Prices Of N95s "Medical Supply Arbitrage": How Hordes Of Middle Men, Profiteers & Scammers Massively Inflated Prices Of N95s

Americans hear it every day now during Gov. Andrew Cuomo's press briefings. In the middle of a crushing pandemic, New York and other states are being grossly gouged as they shop around for medical supplies. With most of their regular relationships exhausted, states are competing against each other, a nonsensical and costly "bidding war" that Cuomo has blamed on President Trump.

N95 masks, which are now among the most prized commodities on the planet, are in such short supply, that some hospitals in NYC simply don't have them to provide to workers, forcing them to improvise. Cuomo says masks that recently cost just 40 or 50 cents are now being sold for $7 a pop, a roughly 13x markup.

While the administration's failure to better prepare for the epidemic certainly hasn't helped, the New York Times on Friday pointed out another, bigger factor that's greatly contributed to this problem. Complex globalized supply chains have been disrupted by the outbreak, and with production largely centered in China, producers are effectively using the masks as political chits: Beijing has given them to Italy, and the UK - and even a few to the US.

But beyond that, the chaos caused by the outbreak caused such a mad scramble to buy up these supplies, that brokers are selling them at crazy markups, many because they bought them at already-crazy markups, and are now either trying to make a sliver of profit, or just break even. Even wannabe 'Good Samaritans' have fallen prey to this cycle, as the dogooders ask simply to be reimbursed for their costs, or just accept that they will lose money, which is hard to do during a time of looming economic catastrophe. At a certain point, it almost becomes difficult to differentiate the scammers from the do-gooders.

Others are exploiting relationships to act as 'brokers', middle-manning N95 masks and other supplies - the masks especially will become even more scarce and costly once the White House and CDC inevitably advise people to wear them in public - for modest profits.

Rampant crisis profiteering has already been well-documented by the press, as have the efforts by states and the federal government to police it. Earlier this week, AG Barr got up at the White House's daily press conference and warned that federal prosecutors would be cracking down. And many have been publicly shamed.

But even as Amazon bans the sale of masks to the general public, next-level 'brokers' are using the power of the internet to deal with hospital systems and other health-care providers who have essentially been forced to participate in the shadowy grey market to acquire essential supplies at a time when people's lives - even the lives of young, healthy people - are very much on the line.

One of the details that most stood out to us in Friday's New York Times story was the description of the practice as "medical supply arbitrage." Here's how it works, according to NYT:

Not every new entrant to the market is a good Samaritan. Groups on Facebook, WhatsApp and Telegram are teeming with posts hawking thousands of masks at inflated prices.

Some are wholesalers who bought pallets of masks from China or in liquidation sales and then marked them up. Many more are simply middlemen who call themselves brokers. They scour the groups for masks advertised for a relatively low price, and then repost the offer for a few thousand dollars more. They don’t handle the masks or put up their own money.

Yaear Weintroub is one of those brokers. A 22-year-old community college student from Brooklyn, he typically sells wholesale electronics to Amazon sellers. But the online forums he searches for deals became flooded with listings for masks last month, so he now spends his days trying to connect buyers and sellers for a bit of medical-supply arbitrage.

In a recent interview, he said he was working with a partner to close a deal for 280,000 surgical masks that would increase their price 20 percent and net the pair a roughly $40,000 profit. He said many of the brokers sold to other brokers, each one marking up the price, until the masks presumably make it to a nursing home or a hospital. He said he would prefer to sell directly to hospitals.

"They’re just more serious," he said. "So if I have the goods, I want a serious buyer for them. And besides, it’s a morally good reason."

To these sellers, medical supplies are simply another hot product to flip for a profit. Avraham Eisenberg, a New York wholesaler who is trying to ship masks from China, compared the rush for masks to the fad several years ago for fidget spinners.

As prosecutors crack down on re-sellers of medical supplies, the line between what constitutes 'gouging' and simple sales of products that aren't illegal to sell to the general public is becoming more difficult to discern. Barr's press conference appearance aside, last month, the DoJ said it would investigate people manipulating the medical-supply market. Then, five days later, federal authorities charged a Brooklyn man with lying about price gouging after he tried to sell 1,000 masks and other supplies to a doctor for $12,000 (he was also charged with assault for coughing on one of the agents).

It might still be legal, but anybody who's still doing this should watch their backs.

Tyler Durden Sat, 04/04/2020 - 19:55
Published:4/4/2020 6:57:01 PM
[Markets] What Will The Future Bring? Here's How To Survive The Uncertainty What Will The Future Bring? Here's How To Survive The Uncertainty

Authored by Daisy Luther via The Organic Prepper blog,

We live in a very different world than we did back in January when the calendar turned to 2020 and everyone was anticipating the great things they’d accomplish in the brand new decade.

Only 3 months ago, we all had futures we imagined…

  • Kids graduating from high school or college

  • A vacation we were planning

  • A new job we were striving toward

  • Retirement so close you could practically smell the beach where you’d spend your golden years

  • The health and fitness goal you were finally going to achieve

  • A positive lifestyle change you were planning to make

  • A relocation to a new destination

  • The advancement of your relationship, whether it was a new one or one you’d been in for a while

  • A summer road trip

  • Getting a new pet

  • An empty nest and what you were going to do with that newly vacant bedroom

  • A new family member

Three months ago, we all had dreams, goals for the future, or at least some idea of what the upcoming year would hold for us.

I’ll bet none of us even considered on New Year’s Eve that we’d spend the first half (at least) of the year dealing with a deadly pandemic. Heck, I sat on a balcony in a little seaside village in Montenegro, toasting the new decade with a friend and some Jack Daniels, watching fireworks over the Adriatic Sea, and planning what European destination I’d be heading to next.

It probably never crossed anyone’s mind that there’d be some crazy new virus that nobody had ever heard of which would leave us under the equivalent of house arrest for months. Few of us imagined that suddenly, over the course of just a few weeks, more than ten million Americans would suddenly become unemployed.

Dreams have been shattered.

Goals have been put aside.

Lives have been lost.

Everything has changed.

And nobody knows what the future will hold.

A lot of the things we do know are horrible.

How utterly terrifying to know that we’re all likely to lose somebody we love to this virus or to a medical condition that would have been survivable if the local hospital hadn’t been overflowing with COVID patients.

We know there’s nary a roll of toilet paper to be found in a huge swath of the United States. We know that our supply chain, if not broken, is at the least, badly bruised. We know that if a person we love goes into the hospital with COVID-19, there’s a frighteningly large chance they may never come out again unless it’s in a body bag. We know that medical professionals in New York City don’t even have personal protective equipment to keep themselves healthy while they try to keep people alive. We know that yesterday in the state of New York, 23 people died every hour of the day from the coronavirus that has destroyed the world as we know it.

We nearly all know people who have been laid off. Maybe it’s someone in your family. Maybe it’s you. And if you haven’t yet lost your job, are you waiting for that hammer to drop? We all know of businesses that aren’t going to make it through months of this shutdown.

We know people who couldn’t pay their rent this month. We know people who pulled it together this month but won’t be able to pay May’s rent if this lockdown should continue. We know it’s so bad that the government has said landlords can’t evict tenants in many states – which means the landlords may not be able to pay their mortgages.

We may not know much right now, but we know that the economy is a f*cking disaster.

And we have no idea when this current purgatory will end.

The uncertainty is one of the hardest parts.

The advent of COVID-19 has changed our lives so much that none of us has any idea what the future will bring. Whereas before we’d be thinking about our summer plans, perhaps a holiday at the beach or a camp for the kids, now we don’t know if we’ll even be able to leave our homes by the time summer rolls around.

How absolutely bizarre to have no idea what our worlds will look like in 3 months.

My family, so far, is blessedly healthy, a fact for which I give thanks every day. But it’s become difficult to think of much beyond that. We don’t know if my one daughter’s plan to relocate to another state for an opportunity will still be available. We don’t know if my other daughter’s workplace will reopen. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to head back to Europe and continue my long-awaited trip around the world.

When the lease is up at my daughter’s apartment, we don’t know where we’ll go because we don’t know what the world will look like then. Will we need to tap into those homesteading skills we learned back in California? If so, we sure can’t do it from where we live right now. Where will we go?

Will running a business online still even be a possibility at the end of this? Everything…every single thing…is in question.

All of us have some variation of these same questions running through our heads right now. It’s pretty hard to plan when you don’t know if the post-COVID world is going to look more like Mad Max, The Walking Dead, or Little House on the Prairie. Or maybe it’ll be a lot like the pre-COVID world, only with more money problems.

It’s hard to figure out your plan when you have no idea what post-apocalyptic world you’re going to end up in. So how do you keep from going nuts? How do you find some peace in a world with so much uncertainty?

How to survive in a world of uncertainty

The word “survive” may sound melodramatic, but for a lot of people who are finding themselves living with broken dreams, for those who have vulnerable loved ones, for those living with sudden financial uncertainty, and for those who are sacrificing time and contact with loved ones due to their own exposure to the virus, it fits the bill right now. No, we may not die from this but when your peace of mind suffers, it can be a real struggle.

Below are some ideas that may help you to get through this if you’re struggling.

Make plans every day. While you can’t really make plans for 6 months down the road, you can make plans for the day or even the week. Create a schedule for yourself. Don’t just lay there on the sofa watching Netflix and Amazon Prime all day long. It’s not good for you. Get up and get dressed (not necessarily office-dressed but don’t wear the same thing to live in and sleep in for three days in a row.) Figure out what nutrient-rich meals you’re going to make that day. Think about how you’ll exercise – will it be a walk with the dogs around the neighborhood or will you go to a nearby hiking trail? What work do you need to get accomplished? What room are you going to deep clean? Write it all down on a whiteboard or a piece of paper on the fridge so everybody knows what’s on the day’s agenda.

Don’t lay around watching television all day. Set yourself a time at which you’ll watch a movie or show online. I’ve worked from home for years, and one rule I’ve held for myself throughout it is that we don’t turn on Netflix until it’s getting dark.  That means in the summer, it’s later because we can spend time doing things outdoors during the nice weather. With us being home all the time now, I’ve relaxed that rule slightly to 6 pm. But if you start watching while you have lunch it’s way to easy to get sucked into a series and the next thing you know, it’s bedtime and you never accomplished anything. This isn’t healthy mentally or physically so I strongly advise that if you are a television viewer or a person who likes to stream shows you limit this to evenings.

Prepare for what you can. We all know that we need to prep with the basics of food, water, seeds, tools, and the like. This doesn’t really change, regardless of what the future holds. So keep doing what you can to build up supplies and skills. A lot of things are out of our hands but you can control what is within your power.

Don’t consume a constant diet of bad news. I spend a lot of time researching this virus, the effects on our economy, how it has decimated other parts of the world, reading the heartbreaking stories of loss. I’ve been doing this since January 20th, when it first really appeared on my radar. I do not advise it to anyone. It can be hard to see the light when you spend your time delving into the darkness. I’ve been doing this for years and can compartmentalize to some degree, but this has been a long haul. Limit the amount of time you spend reading about this outbreak and the difficulties surrounding it. Unless your job depends on you knowing every detail about COVID-19 and it’s effect on the world, you can stay informed reading about it for 30 minutes a day instead of 6 hours a day. Trust me when I say this: your outlook will become much brighter when your day is not filled by press conferences, the follies of incompetent government officials, and stories of suffering.

Enjoy making healthful, home-cooked meals. Remember all those times you said you didn’t have time to cook? Now, if you’re currently out of work, you finally have time to cook. Don’t just heat up frozen pizza after frozen pizza! Get in that kitchen and whip up all those tasty delights you’ve wanted to make for years. Learn to bake bread if you don’t know how to do so. Cook things that take half a day to prepare. Make every tiny detail from scratch. Set the table with the nice china and give your food the showcase it deserves.

Work on some projects you never had time to do before. What projects have you always put off because you didn’t have the time? We’re currently converting a storage room in my daughter’s small apartment into a second bedroom since it looks like I’m going to be here for a while. We’ve been going through the boxes of our past and enjoying the walk down memory lane. I’m finally getting all this stuff into scrapbooks. We’re devising clever storage methods and purging things we don’t need. Soon we’ll have an adorable tiny room off the laundry room for some much needed extra space. After that, we’re building some shelves with curtains in front of them for the kitchen to put away our canned and boxed goods, hidden from prying eyes. We also each have some craft projects on the go for entertainment because productive hobbies are always a great idea.

Spend time outdoors. If your municipality allows it, spend some time outdoors. You can still be socially distant while getting fresh air. Avoid the clusters of humans and walk the challenging trails at your local hiking place. Or go early in the day while everybody else is still sleeping in. Getting some fresh air, exercise, and sunshine is healthy for both your body and your mind. If you can’t go out for a walk, at the very least, sit on your balcony or patio and read for a while.

Find something to be thankful for as often as possible. An attitude of gratitude makes tough times easier to stomach. Even now, there are things for which we can be grateful. I am spending time with my daughter and talking regularly on the phone to my other daughter. I am enjoying the blossoming of the spring flowers – always a favorite time of year for me. I am grateful that for now, I still have work online. I’m grateful my daughter is no longer working in retail during this outbreak and that she’s safely home. I’m grateful I have the time to cook delicious meals, experience my daughter’s cooking (she’s really good at it), and spend some bonus time with her. We have two dogs to walk and two cats to cuddle. Life could be much, much worse so take a moment to appreciate what you have right now.

Find something to anticipate. As we talked about before, we live in a period of extreme uncertainty. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find anything to anticipate. I’m looking forward to the new room we’re setting up this week. I’m looking forward to a movie we plan to watch this weekend when all our tasks are done. I’m even looking forward to organizing the kitchen because that will be such a satisfying task. I also have a book on Kindle I plan to read on my birthday that is coming up. I noticed that daffodils are poking their heads through in the front yard and I can’t wait to see how the place looks when there are sunny yellow flowers everywhere. My homesteader friends back in California are filling my social media feeds with baby goats and baby chicks and I’m counting down the days until a friend’s baby is born.

Sure, these things are short term, and some of them aren’t even my things, but right now, the short term is all we have. Take the joy that’s there. Find things that will occur within the week and don’t look too far in advance.

Stop focusing on things going back to “normal.”

We’d all like to think that one day this will suddenly be over. The kids will return to school. We’ll go back to our offices and our commutes. We won’t be struggling over money anymore. Life will return to the pre-COVID days.

But is this the healthiest way to look at the situation?

Spending all your time looking forward to the day when this is over is an exercise in frustration because nobody knows when that will be. And more than that, nobody knows what “normal” is going to look like when all the lockdowns are over. A lot of things will never be the same.

You can help yourself by learning to adapt now to changed circumstances. This will help you learn to live with the new normal, whatever that turns out to be. Major events are bound to cause major and long-lasting changes. This has happened throughout history.

In reality, the things we’re experiencing right now, while not necessarily easy, aren’t so bad. Things will probably get worse before they get better, but eventually, some form of “better” will come.

Your ability to adapt is indicative of your ability to survive. So let’s get through this lockdown and keep our mindsets positive.  Let’s get through the part that comes next.

Then, eventually, we’ll come out on the other side, ready to tackle the new normal, whatever that ends up being like.

Tyler Durden Sat, 04/04/2020 - 18:45
Published:4/4/2020 5:55:23 PM
[Markets] Police App Encourages People To Report Neighbors Who Violate Stay-At-Home Orders Police App Encourages People To Report Neighbors Who Violate Stay-At-Home Orders

Via MassPrivateI blog,

How do you encourage people to turn against each other during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The answer is not that complicated, especially if you live in the City of Bellevue, Washington.

Four years ago, when the city created the MyBellvue app, it was touted as being a quick and easy way to report things like downed street signs, potholes, street light issues and noise complaints.

Fast forward to 2020 and public fears of COVID-19 have encouraged law enforcement to turn neighbors into government snitches.

Geekwire revealed how the Bellevue Police Department has turned a public service app into a report on your neighbors app.  You can report these incidents through the MyBellevue app on your electronic device or the MyBellevue portal.

"Police in Bellevue, Wash., are asking residents to report violations of the state’s “stay home” order online in an effort to clear up 911 lines for emergencies."

A recent Associated Press article revealed that people are all to happy to report on their neighbors.

"Snitches are emerging as enthusiastic allies as cities, states and countries work to enforce directives meant to limit person-to-person contact amid the virus pandemic that has claimed tens of thousands of lives worldwide. They’re phoning police and municipal hotlines, complaining to elected officials and shaming perceived scofflaws on social media."

LA Mayor Offers Snitches Rewards For Reporting On Neighbors

According to a CBS LA4 article Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that the city would reward snitches.

Four businesses have been referred to the city attorney’s office for misdemeanor filings.

“You know the old expression about snitches, well in this case snitches get rewards,” Garcetti said. “We want to thank you for turning folks in and making sure we are all safe.”

When law enforcement encourages Americans to turn against each other we all lose. We become a nation controlled by fear.

"Suspected violations are tracked in the MyBellevue app and generate a heat map that shows where gatherings have been reported. The map shows hot spots of activity throughout the City of Bellevue, which is about 10 miles from Seattle.

The Bellevue Police Departments' MyBellevue page claims police need the public's help monitoring their neighbors.

“The vast majority of people in our community are following the "Stay Home" order and are being safe,” said Chief Steve Mylett. “But we need your help in reporting violations where there may be a large amount of people at risk.” 

The MyBellevue customer assistance portal spells out exactly what this is app is really meant for now.

  • Report Gatherings: You may report gatherings here in violation of the State mandate to "Stay Home"

  • Contact Your Police Sector Captain: Got an issue affecting your neighborhood? Contact the sector captain for your area! A captain is assigned to each of three geographical sectors -- North, South and West -- and is ultimately responsible for issues taking place in their sector. 

When city services apps get turned into a glorified version of DHS's "If See Something, Say Something" we all lose. As Geekwire notes,

“Sometimes there is a need to implement extreme measures but often these crises are used as justification to implement surveillance and data collection measures for purposes beyond that crisis,” the ACLU of Washington’s Jennifer Lee said.

Reporting on your neighbor apps fly in the face of the freedoms Americans have enjoyed for centuries.

The MyBellevue mobile app can be found at the Apple store and Google Play store. Two recent reviews spell out how everyone should view apps that encourage Americans to report on each other.

Leo Rosas said, 

start sarcasm "Yes daddy, step on me harder, oh yes take my constitutionally protected rights away!* end. YOU SOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELVES! tell on your neighbors for leaving their house is BS you have no clue where they are going or for what. Since no crime has been committed in traveling, the police have no right to know where you go or why. There is no right to Abridge constitutionally protected free travel! Y'all were sworn to protect and uphold the constitution, covid doesn't change that."

Matthew Harphan said,

"I bet Hitler is rolling in his grave, super Jealous of your app used to violate civil rights through unconstitutional enforcement during Corona virus. You swore an Oath to Uphold and Defend the Constitution.. this is pathetic. I expect better from police. Despicable"

Now is the time to fight for our freedoms before a panicked nation willingly gives them away.

Tyler Durden Sat, 04/04/2020 - 18:05
Published:4/4/2020 5:23:42 PM
[Markets] UN Blasted As "Absurd & Immoral" For Appointing China To Key UN Human Rights Panel UN Blasted As "Absurd & Immoral" For Appointing China To Key UN Human Rights Panel

In what will no doubt be taken as a direct shot across the Trump administration's bow, China has been appointed to a key United Nations human rights post. 

Fox reports on Saturday: "China has been appointed to a panel on the controversial U.N. Human Rights Council, where it will help vet candidates for important posts — despite its decades-long record of systematic human rights abuse that the U.S. has said fueled the coronavirus pandemic."

UN file image

The timing couldn't be worse, given the soaring tensions and weeks-long war of words between US and Chinese officials, both floating bombastic charges against the other of intentionally spreading COVID-19. 

President Trump has even taken to calling the deadly virus the "Chinese virus" - given as he said last month: "It could have been contained to that one area in China where it started." He followed at the time by saying of China "certainly the world is paying a big price for what they did."

Jiang Duan, minister at the Chinese Mission in Geneva, will represent Beijing on the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Consultative Group, alongside four other international representatives. 

A Geneva-based human rights watchdog called UN Watch, meanwhile, slammed the development as “absurd and immoral” for the UN to allow China to have a hand in selecting human rights officials for the top body.

“Allowing China’s oppressive and inhumane regime to choose the world investigators on freedom of speech, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances is like making a pyromaniac into the town fire chief,” UN Watch said in a statement, according to FOX.

The Human Rights Council, itself long subject of controversy - especially after the Saudis recently occupied a top spot on the bloc - examines freedom of speech, war crimes, and disappeared persons issues around the world.

The central irony is that China - itself long documented to have an extensive 'political prison' system and with more recent charges of "disappearing" doctors and scientists who have tried to blow the whistle over its COVID-19 response - will now have a key role in selecting the top human rights body's make-up.

Tyler Durden Sat, 04/04/2020 - 17:45
Published:4/4/2020 4:54:16 PM
[Markets] Where Should I Retire?: ‘I’m 73 and fed up with California and want a gun-friendly, affordable city with good weather — so where should I retire?’ Some hidden gems to consider in Georgia, New Mexico and Arkansas.
Published:4/4/2020 4:23:24 PM
[Markets] Tucker Carlson On Fauci's Quarantine Call: Pushing "National Suicide" While He Has Job Security Tucker Carlson On Fauci's Quarantine Call: Pushing "National Suicide" While He Has Job Security

Tucker Carlson on Friday night blasted Dr. Anthony Fauci for his lately publicly urging the Trump administration to declare a federally-imposed 'stay at home' order across all 50 states, while also underscoring the FOX host still considers the White House coronavirus task force member and nation's top infectious disease expert to be an “impressive person”.

“We’ve interviewed Dr. Fauci respectfully on this program, and we’d gladly do that again if he came back, and he will come back. He’s an impressive person. But that does not mean that he’s never wrong,” Carlson said. “On the question of this pandemic, Fauci has been wrong repeatedly.”

Carlson expressed he's particularly bothered by Fauci’s recommendation of a national quarantine given that economic devastation would be pretty much assured. The night prior Dr. Fauci told CNN's Anderson Cooper during a coronavirus town hall: "I don't understand why that's not happening." He said further, "You know, the tension between federally mandated versus states' rights to do what they want is something I don't want to get into," and added, "But if you look at what's going on in this country, I just don't understand why we're not doing that."

Carson slammed Fauci's “extreme measures” as tantamount to "national suicide":

“More than 10 million Americans have already lost their jobs. Imagine another year of this. That would be national suicide, and yet, that is what Anthony Fauci is suggesting, at least. Now, we’re not suggesting that Fauci wants to hurt America. We don’t think he does, he seems like a very decent man. But Fauci is not an economist or for that matter someone who fears being unemployed himself. Like most of the people around him. This is not an attack, this is just an observation. Fauci has bulletproof job security. He’s not thinking that way. He has the luxury of looking at the world through the narrow lens of his profession. He doesn’t seem to think much outside that lens.”

Carlson aired the clip of Fauci saying, “I know it’s difficult, but we’re having a lot of suffering, a lot of death. This is inconvenient from an economic and a personal standpoint, but we just have to do it.”

To this Carlson responded:

Inconvenient? 10 million Americans out of work and staring at poverty. That is not inconvenient, as you just heard Dr. Fauci put it. It’s horrifying. In fact, it’s a far bigger disaster than the virus itself by any measure. Tony Fauci, decent as he may be, can’t see that because he doesn’t think it’s his job to see it. But even a doctor should be able to think beyond the models. Our response to coronavirus could turn this into a far poorer nation. Poor countries are unhealthy countries, always and everywhere. In poor countries, people die of treatable diseases. In poor countries people are far more vulnerable to obscure viruses, like the one we are fighting now. You want to keep Americans from dying before their time? Then don’t impoverish them. For all his credentials, his experience, his apparent personal decency, Dr. Anthony Fauci does not seem to understand any of this and we should never let someone like that run this country.

Meanwhile much of the mainstream media has directed its ire at the last nine "hold-out" states which have "dragged their feet" on the issue.

Many governors have expressed that they don't see the need to take such a drastic step that could decimate their local economies, leaving social distancing to the 'good judgments' of counties, towns, and individuals.

The nine states that have resisted state-wide 'stay-at-home' or 'shelter in place' orders are Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming though it should be noted that Oklahoma has passed measures that come very close yet without giving a final formal directive.

Tyler Durden Sat, 04/04/2020 - 16:45
Published:4/4/2020 3:55:47 PM
[Markets] This Is Where The World Is On The "Corona Curve" At This Moment This Is Where The World Is On The "Corona Curve" At This Moment

Two weeks ago, we wrote that with 1.7 billion people in the world under quarantine (a number which has since ballooned to over 3 trillion) and "desperate to find out where on the coronavirus "curve" they are to calculate how much more pain there is, JPM made an attempt at a (very nonscientific) visual representation of where on the curve the main covid outbreaks in the world currently stand." Additionally, this is how we laid out the good/not so good/bad news as of March 24:

  • The good news, China has is now well into the recovery phase, although since any and every number out of China is a lie, we would ignore any reports that the covid pandemic in China is easing especially after a spate of recent indications that China is openly manipulating its infection numbers. Also good news: Korea is almost "over the hump", and absent new clusters emerging in the next few days, should be in recovery.

  • The not so good news: both Italy and Iran are in the "late accumulation" phase. If they fail to halt the breakout at this point as the recovery phase approaches, it will get very ugly as much of the local population could then be infected. Behind Italy and Iran is the rest of Europe, with Spain, Germany, France, the UK all in the acceleration phase. The onus in on them to execute successful lockdowns.

  • Finally, the bad news: both the US and India are at the very start of the curve and things will get much uglier in the coming weeks before they get better.

Long story, short, this is what the global "corona curve" looked as of March 24.

Fast forward to today when we we again have some good and bad news, oh and a graphic update of where on the curve the world is.

First, the bad news: putting the past two weeks in context, back on March 24 there were roughly 350,000 global cases, with 15,000 deaths. As of today, there are now 1.2 million cases and rising by 80,000 every day, with roughly 67,000 deaths and rising by about 8,000 per day.

Now the good news: with every passing day, the world - most of which is currently on lock down - gets closer to the infection inflection point, and as the updated "corona curve" chart shows, all the nations that were in the exponential rise phase (acceleration), are now moving into the stage of infection growth rate slowdown (accumulation), suggesting that a pea for most countries is now just a matter of time, at which point the number of new cases will start slowing down aggressively.

This means that while US cases continue to soar, the light at the end of the tunnel is now visible. One caveat: the giant populations off Brazil, Indonesia and Philippines are only now entering the acceleration phase, meaning that the number of global cases could soar in the coming weeks.

Finally, here is how the virologists over at JPM summarize where the world currently stands:

From an epidemiology modelling perspective, an assumption that 0.1-0.2% of the global population (or 8-16 million people) is subject to initial exposure to infection and that ~10% of the susceptible are subject to being infected could be a highly conservative pandemic scenario, in our view. In the case of COVID-19, reported infections are now above 1 million, which suggests that over 0.1% of the global population (under the assumption of a 10% conversion from test to infection) could be in the infection group.

Three key things we have learned so far are that COVID-19 can be asymptomatic and have up to two weeks of latency, and that there are limited test-kit supplies. Thus, if we assume that reported infections represent only about one-third to one-quarter of total infections, 0.4-0.5% of the global population might be initially exposed to COVID-19. Considering a four- to five-week virus cycle and global efforts to reduce new contacts via strong social distancing and city lockdown, the global infection cycle, which currently looks to be in the middle of the exponential rise (acceleration), could be gradually moving into the stage of infection growth rate slowdown (accumulation).

Translation: finally some good news as the bank concludes it might be reasonable to "gradually map out the potential global curve peak within two months." The risk is that any indication of a slowdown in new cases will also lead to an early relaxation of stricter social distancing practices, as this could drive an infection curve rebound, something which is already happening in Japan, where today there were a record 118 new cases . And since China has been rushing to reopen its economy to avoid an all out economic depression and did away with "social distancing" long ago, one can be certain that China's real numbers are exponentially higher than the political propaganda that Beijing is reporting to the outside world

Tyler Durden Sat, 04/04/2020 - 16:05
Published:4/4/2020 3:23:05 PM
[Markets] Watch Live: White House Coronavirus Task Force Delivers Saturday Briefing Watch Live: White House Coronavirus Task Force Delivers Saturday Briefing

As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases confirmed in the US races toward the 300k mark, President Trump and the rest of the White House coronavirus task force will deliver their latest daily briefing on Saturday.

Watch live below. Trump tweeted that it's set to start at 330pmET...

...but the daily briefing typically kicks off at least 15 minutes late.

Tyler Durden Sat, 04/04/2020 - 15:25
Published:4/4/2020 2:54:36 PM
[Markets] "Failure Could Set The World On Fire" - Kissinger Warns World Leaders Of Epochal Period Post-COVID "Failure Could Set The World On Fire" - Kissinger Warns World Leaders Of Epochal Period Post-COVID

The last time we heard from former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, he was warning that a permanent conflict between Washington And Beijing would be unwinnable and lead to “catastrophic outcome"...

“It’s no longer possible to think that one side can dominate the other… it will be worse than the world wars that ruined European civilisation,” said Kissinger.

And now the former US Secretary of State has an even more ominous warning, the U.S. must protect its citizens from disease while starting the urgent work of planning for a new epoch.

The surreal atmosphere of the Covid-19 pandemic calls to mind how I felt as a young man in the 84th Infantry Division during the Battle of the Bulge. Now, as in late 1944, there is a sense of inchoate danger, aimed not at any particular person, but striking randomly and with devastation.

But the 96-year-old notes, there is an important difference between that faraway time and ours.

American endurance then was fortified by an ultimate national purpose. Now, in a divided country, efficient and farsighted government is necessary to overcome obstacles unprecedented in magnitude and global scope. Sustaining the public trust is crucial to social solidarity, to the relation of societies with each other, and to international peace and stability.

Nations cohere and flourish on the belief that their institutions can foresee calamity, arrest its impact and restore stability. When the Covid-19 pandemic is over, many countries’ institutions will be perceived as having failed. Whether this judgment is objectively fair is irrelevant. The reality is the world will never be the same after the coronavirus. To argue now about the past only makes it harder to do what has to be done.

The coronavirus has struck with unprecedented scale and ferocity. Its spread is exponential: U.S. cases are doubling every fifth day. At this writing, there is no cure. Medical supplies are insufficient to cope with the widening waves of cases. Intensive-care units are on the verge, and beyond, of being overwhelmed. Testing is inadequate to the task of identifying the extent of infection, much less reversing its spread. A successful vaccine could be 12 to 18 months away.

The U.S. administration has done a solid job in avoiding immediate catastrophe. The ultimate test will be whether the virus’s spread can be arrested and then reversed in a manner and at a scale that maintains public confidence in Americans’ ability to govern themselves. The crisis effort, however vast and necessary, must not crowd out the urgent task of launching a parallel enterprise for the transition to the post-coronavirus order.

Leaders are dealing with the crisis on a largely national basis, but the virus’s society-dissolving effects do not recognize borders. While the assault on human health will - hopefully - be temporary, the political and economic upheaval it has unleashed could last for generations. No country, not even the U.S., can in a purely national effort overcome the virus. Addressing the necessities of the moment must ultimately be coupled with a global collaborative vision and program. If we cannot do both in tandem, we will face the worst of each.

Drawing upon his lessons from the development of the Marshall Plan and the Manhattan Project, Kissinger believes that the U.S. is obliged to undertake a major effort in three domains.

  • First, shore up global resilience to infectious disease. Triumphs of medical science like the polio vaccine and the eradication of smallpox, or the emerging statistical-technical marvel of medical diagnosis through artificial intelligence, have lulled us into a dangerous complacency. We need to develop new techniques and technologies for infection control and commensurate vaccines across large populations. Cities, states and regions must consistently prepare to protect their people from pandemics through stockpiling, cooperative planning and exploration at the frontiers of science.

  • Second, strive to heal the wounds to the world economy. Global leaders have learned important lessons from the 2008 financial crisis. The current economic crisis is more complex: The contraction unleashed by the coronavirus is, in its speed and global scale, unlike anything ever known in history. And necessary public-health measures such as social distancing and closing schools and businesses are contributing to the economic pain. Programs should also seek to ameliorate the effects of impending chaos on the world’s most vulnerable populations.

  • Third, safeguard the principles of the liberal world order. The founding legend of modern government is a walled city protected by powerful rulers, sometimes despotic, other times benevolent, yet always strong enough to protect the people from an external enemy. Enlightenment thinkers reframed this concept, arguing that the purpose of the legitimate state is to provide for the fundamental needs of the people: security, order, economic well-being, and justice. Individuals cannot secure these things on their own. The pandemic has prompted an anachronism, a revival of the walled city in an age when prosperity depends on global trade and movement of people.

The world’s democracies need to defend and sustain their Enlightenment values. A global retreat from balancing power with legitimacy will cause the social contract to disintegrate both domestically and internationally. Yet this millennial issue of legitimacy and power cannot be settled simultaneously with the effort to overcome the Covid-19 plague. Restraint is necessary on all sides—in both domestic politics and international diplomacy. Priorities must be established.

We went on from the Battle of the Bulge into a world of growing prosperity and enhanced human dignity. Now, we live an epochal period. The historic challenge for leaders is to manage the crisis while building the future. Failure could set the world on fire.

Tyler Durden Sat, 04/04/2020 - 15:05
Published:4/4/2020 2:22:58 PM
[Markets] In One Chart: Two. Trillion. Dollars? Here’s where all that coronavirus stimulus is going It’s hard to wrap your brain around $2 trillion. That’s where this visual from cost-estimating website HowMuch.net comes in.
Published:4/4/2020 2:22:57 PM
[Markets] This part of the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package will save you money in your 401(k) and IRA You can keep your RMD in your account — at least for a year
Published:4/4/2020 1:54:20 PM
[Markets] Exclusive: Honeywell Pressures Suppliers To Cut Prices 30% Honeywell, the big industrial and aerospace firm, is asking its suppliers for deep cuts in the price of goods it buys from them—along with extended payment terms and other concessions—in a sign of how the swift economic downturn caused by Covid-19 is cutting across American industry. Published:4/4/2020 1:54:20 PM
[Markets] They Fought The Fed And Lost: How Powell Triggered A "Spectacular" Short Squeeze In LQD They Fought The Fed And Lost: How Powell Triggered A "Spectacular" Short Squeeze In LQD

Over two years ago, in Jan 2018, we first showed that when it comes to betting on trouble in the investment grade bond market, investors had a preferred instrument for pessimism: shorting the LQD, the largest US investment grace corporate ETF.

In retrospect, and loosely paraphrasing Crocodile Dundee, what happened to the LQD in Jan 2018 wasn't trouble. This - as shown in the chart below - was "trouble": between its all time high on March 6, and the ten year low hit just two weeks later on March 19, the LQD went bidless as the corporate bond bubble burst, and both investment grade and high yield debt ETFs and single names cratered.

As LQD plunged, the shorts soared, rising to never before seen levels, send the index even lower and sparking even more shorting. By this point, only one thing could save capital markets - both bonds and stocks (why stocks? Because as a reminder the only buyer of stocks in the past decade have been buybacks; kill the bond market and suddenly companies can't issue debt to fund buybacks and it's bye bye, not buy buy, stocks): the Fed had to step in and buy bonds, something we explained on Thursday, March 19 in ""The Bond Market Is Broken" And Only Fed Buying Bonds Can Fix It"

However, on quad-witching Friday, March 20, the Fed did not do what so many traders were now expecting, and the liquidation continued with stocks in freefall, sending the Dow below 19,000, and to levels not seen since the Trump election.

By the following Monday, the Fed was trapped - either it unleashes not a bazooka but a "nuclear bomb" (as Paul Tudor Jones called it) and stabilizes the unprecedented panic gripping traders, or the market was about to close. It picked the former, and before the open on Monday, March 23, the Fed announced not only unlimited QE, but in an unprecedented move, Powell said he would also start buying loans and bonds in the secondary market, as well as the LQD.

What happened next was also unprecedented: as JPM puts it, "looking at credit ETFs, the short base collapsed in spectacular fashion from LQD, the biggest HG ETF after the Fed’s credit backstop programs." As shown in the chart below, all those traders who naively expected that the Fed would not nationalize virtually every market and - at least implicitly fought the Fed - were carted out following the biggest, most "spectacular" short squeeze in history: that of LQD on March 23.  The chart below shows that between March 23 and April 2, the % of LQD shares loaned out - a proxy for shorting - had dropped from an all time high to a record low...

... as the Fed triggered a historic short squeeze, crushing all those who did not even know they were fighting the Fed when they shorted the LQD, which had become a systemically important instrument, explaining why everything in the cap structure above IG debt is no longer subject to any market forces but merely to the whims of the NY Fed's trading desk - will it buy LQD, and how much. That's all that maters now.

What happens next?

Well, with shorts no longer allowed to speculate in IG debt or anything less risky as it is all backstopped by the Fed now, only a few things remain subject to the whims of markets: junk bonds and stocks.

Which is why, as JPM observes, after the epic squeeze in LQD, the short base on both HY ETFs and the most popular ETF od all, the SPY, remains elevated...

... as does the short base on the EEM ETF.

We point this out because the pain for markets is hardly over, and with shorts now having an even more limited arsenal of instruments, they will inevitably focus on HYG and SPY during the next crash. Which also means that now that the Fed has effectively gone all in, the only question is how low will it allow first junk bonds and then stocks to drop, before Powell goes full Haruhiko "Peter Pan" Kuroda and announces that the Fed will buy both junk bonds and stocks going forward, in the process nationalizing the entire market.

Tyler Durden Sat, 04/04/2020 - 14:40
Published:4/4/2020 1:54:20 PM
[Markets] Exclusive: Honeywell Pressures Suppliers To Cut Prices 30% Exclusive: Honeywell Pressures Suppliers To Cut Prices 30% Published:4/4/2020 1:54:20 PM
[Markets] Dispatches from a Pandemic: ‘I’m not going to lie, it was a nightmare’: A recovered New Jersey coronavirus patient urges caution — and hope ‘I’m just not taking any chances, and I don’t think anybody else should be either,’ says John Mormando, who remains in self-quarantine.
Published:4/4/2020 1:23:08 PM
[Markets] Confirmed COVID-19 Cases In New York Near Nationwide Totals From Italy, Spain As Cuomo Reports Promising Slowdown In Hospitalizations: Live Updates Confirmed COVID-19 Cases In New York Near Nationwide Totals From Italy, Spain As Cuomo Reports Promising Slowdown In Hospitalizations: Live Updates

Summary:

  • UK reports more than 700 deaths, mortality rate climbs to record 10.35
  • Germany reports smallest batch of deaths in 2 weeks
  • Spain case numbers pass Italy, after reported lowest deaths in a week yesterday deaths
  • Journalist says more than 800 health-care workers infected in Massachusetts
  • NY reports 10k+ new cases as statewide total nears those of Italy, Spain
  • Italian government agrees on emergency business loan program
  • US cases of COVID-19 near 280k
  • US death toll tops 7k
  • Portugal reported 638 new cases
  • Belgium reported 1,661 new cases and 140 new deaths
  • A looting wave has struck NYC businesses
  • France says 600 soldiers infected
  • UK Health Secretary reminds Britons to stay inside this weekend
  • Pop star Pink test positive
  • India quarantines 20k people connected to Islamic missionary movement
  • Trump uses DPA act to block export of medical equipment
  • Tokyo reports more than 100 cases in a day, largest jump yet, as Japan's 2nd wave worsens

*   *   *

Update (1355ET): With the pace of new COVID-19 infections finally slowing in Europe, officials in the US, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the peak still remains weeks away. At least that's what New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday after providing the latest update on the outbreak in New York.

As National Guard troops set up a temporary morgue across from the medical examiner's office in Manhattan, Cuomo warned that while nobody knows the number "at the top of the mountain", experts expect that the number of new cases could peak "in the seven-day range," he said. Unfortunately, Cuomo added, his state - the hardest hit in the US - remains short of vital equipment, most importantly ventilators, needed to fight it.

"Nobody can tell you the number at the top of the mountain," Mr. Cuomo said, but estimated that it would be "in the seven-day range." He said the state was not yet prepared for that point.

"It feels like an entire lifetime," he said. "I think we all feel the same, these stresses, this country, this state - like nothing I’ve experienced in my lifetime."

On Saturday, New York State reported 10,841 new coronavirus cases and 630 new deaths for Friday, bringing the number of total cases to 113,704, just shy of the countrywide figures for Italy and Spain, with 3,565 dead.

At the same time, Cuomo urged residents not to lose hope: "This is a painful, disorienting experience," he said. "But we find our best self, our strongest self - this day will end. We will get through it, we will get to the other side of the mountain. But we have to do what we have to do between now and then."

He also offered some more optimistic figures: The rate of hospitalizations in the state has slowed, as the number of patients currently hospitalized increased by just 7% since Friday to 15,905 at the latest count, the smallest jump in at least two weeks. Of those, 4,126 were in intensive care. On average, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations rose by just 27 a day during the week ended on March 28. So far, two-thirds of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 have been discharged, Cuomo said.

The governor has warned that the state will need 30K ventilators before the peak arrives. It's unclear how many they have on hand right now: Cuomo is storing a stockpile in a state warehouse and has promised to dole them out to hospitals as they are needed, while he continues to beg Trump for more from the federal stockpile (if there are any available, which he said yesterday he believes there aren't).

The decision of Ford to team up with GE to produce ventilators will help, but those machines will almost certainly arrive too late to help New York State.

In NYC meanwhile, businesses are being hit by a wave of looting after the mayor let out hundreds of "nonviolent" criminals from Rikers.

*   *   *

As the scramble for ventilators & PPE continues across the country, President Trump last night finally invoked the DPA to ban "unscrupulous actors and profiteers" (an apparent reference to 3M, the pillar of American manufacturing that has become embroiled in a feud with the administration in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic) from exporting critical medical gear used to protect wearers from the coronavirus. Unfortunately, that won't do anything to increase the availability of badly needed ventilators as hospitals in NYC discover that an alarming number of ICU patients require ventilators. If the number of critical patients starts to overwhelm ICUs, without enough ventilators on hand, nurses and doctors will effectively be deciding who lives and who effectively suffocates to death on their own fluids.

The issue of health-care workers becoming infected has become a major problem in the UK, and was infamously a huge problem in Wuhan during the early days of the epidemic (who can forget the martyrdom of Dr. Li Wenliang?). But now, it looks like it's becoming a growing problem in the US: More than 850 hospital employees in Massachusetts have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a tally being kept by one journalist.

All of this comes as the number of cases confirmed in the US nears 280k, more than the next two countries (Spain + Italy) combined.

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed deaths in the US topped 7k (it was 7,134 at last count, to be exact)...

On Friday evening, England's chief nursing officer Ruth May paid tribute to two nurses, Areema Nasreen and Aimee O'Rourke, who succumbed to COVID-19 after catching it on the job. They were "part of our NHS family," May said.

"They were one of us, they were one of my profession, of the NHS family," said Ms May. "I worry that there's going to be more and I want to honour them today and recognise their service."

May urged Britons to resist the temptation to go out and party during the expected beautiful weather this weekend. "But please, I ask to remember Aimee and Areema. Please stay at home for them," she according to the BBC.

Last night, the chair of the surgery department at New York Presbyterian’s Columbia University Irving Medical Center said 98% of ICU patients required ventilators.

During a Friday morning interview on CNBC, 3M CEO Mike Roman said it was "absurd" to suggest his company wasn’t doing all it could to help the U.S. fight the pandemic, and that by banning export of critical gear, it could make it more difficult to acquire these products in the US as more companies start hoarding and banning export in response.

But perhaps the biggest news overnight came out of the UK, where the Department of Health reported the biggest jump in deaths yet. The DoH said early Saturday that 708 patients had died across the UK on Friday, bringing the nationwide death toll to 4,313. Meanwhile, the 3,735 new cases of COVID-19 reported brought the UK's total above 40k to 41,903 . The drop in new cases combined with the jump in new deaths brought the UK's mortality rate to an all-time high of 10.3%.

Put another way:

Meanwhile, with London looking eerily empty as citizens finally obey the lockdown, Health Secretary Matt Hancock reminded the country on Saturday that the order for Britons to stay indoors this weekend was "not a request."

As deaths in the UK climbed, Germany reported its smallest batch of deaths in two weeks. Health officials recorded 6,082 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours in Germany, bringing its total to 85,778, while the number of deaths rose by just 141 to 1,158, only a 14% jump, according to the Robert Koch Institute.

Outside Europe, perhaps the most startling numbers reported overnight was another jump in confirmed cases in Tokyo: More than 110 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed, the largest daily jump since the outbreak began, a record that has been broken over and over these last two weeks.

In India, more than 20,000 people linked to Islamic missionary movement Tablighi Jamaat or having had recent 'contacts' with its members have been quarantined as authorities struggle to stay well "ahead of the curve" to prevent uncontrollable outbreaks across the world's second-largest country, and one that's pockmarked with pockets of densely populated slums, per the FT.

We suspect the decision will be cited as yet another example of the Modi government's unkind treatment of the country's Muslim minority.

In Italy and Spain, officials reported another promising decline in new cases, suggesting that the lockdowns imposed by both countries are finally working. However, as the number of confirmed cases in Spain surpassed the number of total cases in Italy, the government of PM Pedro Sanchez ordered a two-week extension of Spain's mandatory lockdown.

More than 20,000 people linked to Islamic missionary movement Tablighi Jamaat and their contacts have been quarantined in India as authorities work to contain COVID-19.

"I understand it’s difficult to extend the effort and sacrifice two more weeks," Sanchez said in a televised speech on Saturday. "These are very difficult days for everyone." At this point, a longer lockdown would need the approval of Spain's cabinet and congress.

The number of confirmed cases climbed by 7,026 over the last day to 124,736, according to the Health Ministry. Deaths rose by 809 to 11,744. That 809 number was the actually the lowest number of deaths in a week.

Despite Spain officially moving into the No. 2 spot in terms of total confirmed cases (right behind the US at No. 1, though China likely saw the largest number of cases, as possibly hundreds of thousands went uncounted). Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa said on Friday that the goal of slowing the epidemic was “within reach," as Spain's government has imposed some of the most restrictive lockdown measures in Europe.

In Italy, Parliament and the ruling government approved an additional €200 billion ($216 billion) of emergency loans for businesses, according to the local press. It said the moves, part of a new aid decree, will be approved by Monday and will let companies seek state-backed bank loans for as much as 25% of their revenue (with, we suspect, a generous handout to Italy's struggling banks).

Meanwhile, the number of cases, at 119,827, with the number of deaths at 14,681.

Meanwhile, Portugal reported 638 new cases of coronavirus and 20 new deaths, bringing it to a total of 10,524 cases and 266 deaths. Belgium reported 1,661 new cases and 140 new deaths, bringing it to a total of 18,431 cases and 1,283 deaths.

As Joe Biden and dozens of Democrats bash the administration for the abrupt firing of Capt. Brett Crozier, who circumvented the chain of command to insist that his sailors be saved from an inevitable outbreak onboard his ship, the American military is learning that it isn't alone. After bringing several infected soldiers from abroad, the French Army Minister said that around 600 French soldiers have now tested positive for the virus.

The problem of active military troops being infected is vexing the US military, as it bases around the world cut off exercises with local military forces and limit training and exercises for US troops as well. Navy officials fear the virus might already have found its way aboard other Navy vessels. Widespread infection could quickly become a massive headache for the US military, since once the virus enters a ship, it's bound to spread, given that social distancing in that environment is virtually impossible.

In the US, pop singer Pink announced late Friday that she had tested positive for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, with markets closed, investors will still be keeping a close eye out for any progress in the US's $2.2 trillion stimulus, as well as any news about the 'Part 4' deal that's purportedly being worked out.

Tyler Durden Sat, 04/04/2020 - 14:12
Published:4/4/2020 1:23:08 PM
[Markets] This is how big bear-market rallies have been in the past nine decades From top to bottom, the S&P 500 Index has fallen 35% in this bear market. Here are the two most common questions I receive in my inbox: Is the bear market over? If it is not, can there be a bear market rally? Published:4/4/2020 12:53:29 PM
[Markets] The Five Things You Absolutely Cannot Say About COVID-19 The Five Things You Absolutely Cannot Say About COVID-19

Authored by James Corbett via Off-Guardian.org,

Pssst. You.

Yeah, you.

Are you interested in talking about…things? You know, the kind of things that we’re not allowed to talk about anymore? You know, since the…uhhh…“The Event“?

You are? Great. I mean, you might have noticed things are getting a bit hairy out there. As in, you’re likely to get your head bitten off for daring to suggest that things may not be totally ok with the “new normal.”

It seems all these new social norms and cultural taboos that have arisen in the past few weeks have also created a raft of new thoughtcrimes: Things that must not be spoken for fear of being expelled from polite society... or worse.

That’s why it’s so vitally important for us to speak out about our concerns before these socially-policed thoughtcrimes become literal crimes. As I’m sure you know, if these new social norms are not confronted, voicing dissent will soon become impossible.

So, allow me to voice some thoughtcrimes of my own. But be forewarned: I assure you that you will find at least some of my ideas to be offensive. You will disagree with them strongly. You will become irate.

The real question is: What are you going to do to those voicing opinions you disagree with? Engage in dialogue with them? Or demand that agents of the state scrub their speech from the internet and lock them in a cage for their thoughtcrime?

Well, either way, I’ve already committed thoughtcrime numerous times in recent weeks, I might as well share them with you. Are you ready? Let’s go.

1. WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY . . . AND IT IS OUR NEIGHBORS

People imagine that when the boots-on-the-ground tyranny arrives, it will be enforced by the police or the military. Newsflash: the boots-on-the-ground tyranny is here, and it is being enforced by your neighbors, Joe Sixpack and Jane Soccermom.

Need proof? How about all the new “snitch lines” that are opening up in city after city and state after state all around the globe to help good citizens tattle on neighbors who aren’t practicing proper social distancing?

That’s right. It’s not just guys yelling out their windows in Brooklyn anymore. Now whenever you see someone within two meters of someone else it is your duty as a loyal citizen of the Brave New World Order to actively report them to the authorities so that they can be dealt with by Big Brother. Rest assured, a score card is being compiled for each jurisdiction, and the powers-that-shouldn’t-be are keeping a list of who’s being naughty or nice (Good job, Minnesota!).

Still, while we can all unequivocally and universally agree 100% with the idea that anyone who physically approaches another human being in this Year of our Virus 2020 deserves to be charged with manslaughter for their heinous act, maybe, just mayyyyyybe—and I’m just spitballing, so forgive me if this seems brash—we’re heading into dangerous territory here. You know, what with the social distancing Stasi becoming the enforcers of our new police state nightmare and all. Call me crazy.

2. DOCTORS ARE THE NEW SOLDIERS

When 9/11 happened, there was a marked and notable intensification in the propaganda glorifying the American military. Not that such propaganda didn’t exist before, but it was nothing like what we’ve seen since “the day that changed everything.” Yes, the hero worship of veterans is one of the hallmarks of the Age of Terror that 9/11 ushered in .

So if this plandemic is the new 9/11, what’s the new hero worship? Well, it should be obvious by now: Doctors are the new soldiers. Now we must dutifully show our appreciation for the brave medical workers on the front lines of this new war…or face yet more social castigation.

You may have noticed the interesting phenomenon making its way around the world. I call it “The Totally Spontaneous Balcony Applause Phenomenon.” Yes, completely out of the blue, all the people under lockdown have decided to show their appreciation for the valiant doctors and nurses in this heroic struggle by going to their balcony at a pre-appointed time and applauding. And no, this totally spontaneous phenomenon is not just occurring in one or two countries. Or three or four countries. But in seemingly every country around the globe.

Just like that. Just out of the blue. Must be something in the zeitgeist, I guess.

Now you’ll forgive me for being out of the loop, but as you know the corona madness has not quite made its way to Japan yet. (But, precisely as I predicted, the very same day that the Tokyo 2020 Games were postponed the Tokyo Governor suddenly became gravely concerned about her city, and they are now going to “have to” lockdown Tokyo unless the poor plebs behave.) So I don’t know exactly how people decide on the right time to go to their balcony to applaud. Is it done by vote? What if I’m a few minutes late? Will people think I’m clapping for something else? What exactly is the etiquette here?

Here’s my thoughtcrime: I find these displays creepy and off-putting. I find the glorification of doctors and nurses unsettling. Not because I think they are all quacks. Not because I think they are all evil. Not because I am not grateful for the work that (some) doctors do (some of the time). Not because I don’t recognize the enormous stress that these doctors and nurses are under right now. But because this socially engineered adoration is going to be used to push an agenda exactly like the glorification of veterans was used to push the militarism agenda of the post-9/11 years.

This time, we are being asked to glorify doctors and nurses because these are the same trusted experts whose authority cannot be questioned who are going to be giving you the vaccine. You know, The Vaccine. The one that will bring an end to the then 18-month long psychological siege that we are being placed under.

What?? You still question the vaccines? You still dare to defy the authority of these brave doctors and nurses who risked their lives for us? You can’t say that, you disgusting conspiracy mongering throughtcriminal, you!

Be honest, you know that this push is coming. And they are getting the public to sign on with all these “spontaneous” balcony applause sessions. So perhaps you’ll forgive me for not joining in.

3. I DO NOT TRUST A SINGLE ONE OF THE NUMBERS BEING REPORTED ABOUT THIS OUTBREAK

I am still baffled by the attention that otherwise sane human beings are given to the latest reported numbers from this or that health agency about the scourge of Covid-19. People are throwing around CFRs and R0s like they’ve been studying epidemiology their whole lives. In truth, they’re just regurgitating whatever they saw on CNN or were told in the latest Governor Cuomo press conference.

So what do we make of the baffling discrepancy in death rates from Covid-19 between different countries? Why is Italy’s death rate from the disease a staggering 10% while China’s is more like 4%? And what does that mean for the 70% of humanity that “experts” warn will be infected by this virus?

And while we’re at it, why don’t we ask some equally meaningful questions, like: What color is the Easter Bunny? How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? And just how tasty is the cheese that the moon is made of, anyway?

As I demonstrated weeks ago, methods for diagnosing this disease vary so widely from country to country that making comparisons between countries isn’t even like comparing apples and oranges. It’s like comparing apples and aardvarks. And diagnosing a particular type of viral infection via CT scan? How can we possibly trust the infection numbers that are being generated by such methods?

All of that would make the calculation of mortality rates for this disease problematic enough. But, to make matters worse, we don’t even have an accurate tally of the number of people who have died from Covid-19. Take the infamous Italian example, for instance. We’re told that the staggering death rates in Italy (roughly 10% if we go by the official numbers at press time) are a sign of just how deadly this new virus can be.

…But there’s some problems with those numbers. As Prof Walter Ricciardi—scientific adviser to Italy’s minister of health—recently revealed, “The way in which we code deaths in our country is very generous in the sense that all the people who die in hospitals with the coronavirus are deemed to be dying of the coronavirus.”

So how many of the people who are reported as “Covid-19 deaths” in Italy actually had coronavirus listed as their cause of death? Just 12 per cent. What’s more, according to the Italian government’s own report, half of those who died had three or more other diseases at the time of the death. Nearly 80 per cent had at least two other diseases that they were fighting when they died. Only 1.7 per cent of those who died had no other disease.

But why listen to James Corbett, conspiracy theorist, or those silly Italian government health advisors on this matter? Well, I’m not alone in this suspicion of the official numbers. It turns out the “Our World in Data” research group that has been attempting to keep track of the coronavirus numbers has stopped using the World Health Organization’s data because “we found many errors in the data published by the WHO when we went through all the daily Situation Reports.”

And John Ioannidis — who Corbett Report listeners will remember launched the replication crisis in science with his landmark 2005 paper on “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False” — has recently come out questioning whether the current Covid-19 response is “A fiasco in the making.” As Ioannidis observes:

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.

After this current madness passes, people will view the public’s blind acceptance of these practices in the same way that we look at the public’s blind acceptance of bloodletting and other methods of medical chicanery from times past.

4. THE DEATH OF A 91 YEAR-OLD IS A FAMILY TRAGEDY, NOT AN EVENT OF INTERNATIONAL CONCERN

OK, so you still insist on taking these phony baloney numbers seriously? Then let’s take another looks at that Italian report on those dying with (not of) Covid-19.

The report tells us that the median age of those who have been pronounced dead with (not of) Covid-19 is 78. To put that number in perspective, the average life expectancy in Italy is 82.8.

That means those who are dying with (not of) the disease are within years of reaching the average life expectancy (and, let’s not forget, they are also suffering in the vast majority of cases from at least two other diseases). I venture to say that a similar panic could be raised about just about any viral disease in circulation if it was being reported in the same way as this coronavirus is being reported.

Since we’re committing thoughtcrimes here, let’s be blunt: “Elderly Patient With Multiple Complications Dies After Contracting Respiratory Illness” is NOT a news story. It’s a daily fact of life.

But in fact, it is a news story. I have been keeping tabs on how the Canadian MSM have been covering the pandemic panic and saw a segment on one of the national news broadcasts about a woman whose 91-year old mother died in a nursing home. It was implied that this 91-year old woman’s life was tragically cut short by the coronavirus and, to make matters worse, her daughter was unable to hold a funeral or service for her mother because Canada is currently under lockdown. I don’t know if I have lost touch with reality or everyone else has, but let me reiterate: This is NOT a news story.

Don’t get me wrong: Any such death is doubtless a tragedy for the family involved. My heart genuinely goes out to all those who lose their relatives in such circumstances. But this is not something that we upend our entire civilization over. We do not stop all productive human activity on the planet, collapse the economy, send millions upon millions of people to the unemployment line, institute lockdowns, and begin talking about mandatory vaccinations, internal passports and other abrogations of essential human freedoms on such a basis.

In fact, if I were to be dying at the age of 78 due to some viral respiratory illness along with my other 78-year old cohorts, I can guarantee that I would be outraged that the powers-that-shouldn’t-be were using my death to upend the liberties that I had spent my life attempting to defend. It is disgusting.

“But what about the young people who die of the disease?” you ask. Fair enough. Again, according to the official reports (which, let me remind you, should not be trusted), there are people under the age of 78 who are dying from the disease as well, albeit in much smaller numbers. And, according to the “models” from the “experts” (who, let’s remember, are right about everything), there could be hundreds of thousands more deaths before this pandemic runs its course.

Well, that brings me to my ultimate thoughtcrime:

5. THE IDEA THAT DISEASE AND DEATH ARE UNNATURAL OR AVOIDABLE IS ANTI-HUMAN

People die.

Sometimes they die of car accidents. Sometimes they die of work-related mishaps. Sometimes they die of old age. Sometimes they die under extremely questionable circumstances while trying to shed light on information that is uncomfortable for the deep state. And, yes, sometimes they die of respiratory illnesses during viral pandemics.

I’ll go one step further: Our mortality makes us who we are. Humans are blessed and cursed with a knowledge of our own fate. No one makes it out of this life alive. And so the question of what we do with our lives becomes paramount.

But more and more, death is being removed from life. Our elderly are shipped off to nursing homes to whither away so that we don’t have to face aging. The funerary industry is neat and anti-septic. Death has become an abstraction. Something that happens somewhere out there, to other people. Not to us, though, surely.

But this entire pandemic madness seems to be predicated on the notion that disease and death are somehow avoidable. That we have conquered such things. Or, at least, that no new disease could ever possibly arise (bioengineered or not) to upset our perfect balance with nature. I mean, yes, many people die of the flu every year, but that doesn’t count. That’s not new.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t work to cure diseases and improve our health. Quite the contrary. It’s just that this current bout of hysteria seems almost anti-human; as if we should be able to transcend our mortal humanity.

CJ Hopkins, in his characteristically humorous way, points out the absurdity of this “War on Death” in his latest article:

We can’t let these Russian dissension sowers, neo-Nazi accelerationists, and coronavirus-sympathizers confuse us. They want to convince us that Death is, yes, scary, and sad, but inevitable, and natural. How utterly heartless and insane is that?!

No, we need to close our minds to that nonsense. People are dying! This is not normal! Death is our enemy! We have to defeat it! We need to hunt down and neutralize Death! Root it out if its hidey hole and hang it like we did with Saddam!”

I don’t know why the idea that death is a part of life should be controversial. But, given that even a respected blogger like Craig Murray can be largely lambasted by his own audience for daring to post similar musings, I suppose that it is. I don’t know anymore. Perhaps I’m off my rocker.

All I know is that the room to express dissent on these topics is fast disappearing. It’s time for those of us who can tolerate thoughtcrime to circle the wagons. The Thought Police are closing in.

So maybe you disagree with me. Maybe you’re offended by what I say. Maybe you have your own thoughtcrimes that you’re afraid to express. But if we don’t engage in dialogue about these ideas now, what are the chances that this information will be easier to share in the future?

So what’s your thoughtcrime? 

Tyler Durden Sat, 04/04/2020 - 13:40
Published:4/4/2020 12:53:29 PM
[Markets] DHS Ditches Additional Guestworker Visas After Spike In Unemployment DHS Ditches Additional Guestworker Visas After Spike In Unemployment

The Department of Homeland Security has put "on hold" a plan to authorize an additional 35,000 H-2B guestworker visas, meaning businesses can no longer bring on new migrant workers under the program.

The move comes after the initial unemployment claims spiked by 10 million in two weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic - with 6.6 million in one week alone as businesses across the country conducted mass layoffs.

"DHS’s rule on the H-2B cap is on hold pending review due to present economic circumstances. No additional H-2B visas will be released until further notice," reads a tweet from DHS.

Notably, the pause came one day after Fox News's Tucker Carlson blasted Homeland Security over the increase.

"We’re facing a global calamity that could wreck our economy, fracture our society," said Carlson, arguing that DHS shouldn't be offering 35,000 slots for jobs that could go to unemployed Americans.

In early March, the agency announced that it would be boosting H-2B slots after nearly 100,000 workers were requested for just 33,000 remaining slots, according to Law360.

Of those extra visas, 10,000 were reserved for citizens of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the three countries comprising the Northern Triangle region that have struck deals with the Trump administration to accept U.S. asylum seekers.

Before the virus struck the U.S., national unemployment was low, hovering below 4% in both January and February of this year, when employers submitted requests to the Labor Department for seasonal workers starting in April.

With H-2B visas capped at 66,000 per fiscal year, demand for these temporary visas, which are granted to employers who can show there are no Americans willing or available to fill the jobs, has consistently outstripped supply. -Law360

With the program paused, however, employers who came up short in the Labor Department's January lottery are out of luck - and might just have to hire Americans.

Tyler Durden Sat, 04/04/2020 - 13:15
Published:4/4/2020 12:22:57 PM
[Markets] Sudanese Migrant Kills 2 During Knife Attack In Southeastern France Sudanese Migrant Kills 2 During Knife Attack In Southeastern France

As if a national lockdown to prevent a deadly pandemic from killing hundreds of thousands of people wasn't terrifying enough, there are now armed asylum seekers marauding around southeastern France, murdering shoppers as they venture out to buy groceries.

To wit, a man killed two people and wounded several others, one critically, during a knife attack in the town of Romans-sur-Isère in the Drôme, about 20 kilometers north of Valence.

According to Haaretz, witnesses said the man first attacked the owner of a tobacco shop in the town center, then attacked two customers inside the shop. After that, he twalked out and began stabbing people in the street. One of the dead was inside the tobacconist. A second man, a butcher from a nearby shop, was killed outside.

Local police told French media that the suspect was a 33-year-old asylum seeker from Sudan. Anti-terrorism investigators are reportedly investigating the incident to try and determine if it was an act of terrorism.

As COVID-19 has spread across Europe, the issue of how to handle the asylum-seekers and migrants who continue to spill over the continents' borders, even as the Syrian Civil War appears to finally be winding down, has become increasingly fraught as Turkey has reportedly tried to send migrants infected with the virus to Greece.

Macron tweeted his condolences, and promised to investigate to incident and determine whether it was an act of terrorism.

The suspect was living in the center of town where he carried out the attack. A statement from the local municipal government read: "This Saturday 4 April morning an individual carried out a knife attack at several places in the centre of Romans-sur-Isère. The individual in question was arrested around 11am. According to initial information, two people have died, five others are injured and in a critical condition. At this moment, we do not know the motive for this act."

Tyler Durden Sat, 04/04/2020 - 12:35
Published:4/4/2020 11:53:14 AM
[Markets] Capitol Report: Small-business owners express confusion, fear over federal bailout fund Small-business owners and nonprofit executives told MarketWatch their banks aren’t yet accepting applications, while expressing confusion and concern about the terms of the loan and whether it makes sense for their businesses to accept the money at all.
Published:4/4/2020 11:53:14 AM
[Markets] Grieving Chinese Families Can't Bury Dead, Perform 2,000 Year-Old Tradition Grieving Chinese Families Can't Bury Dead, Perform 2,000 Year-Old Tradition

While the Chinese Communist Party claims they've suffered just 3,300 coronavirus deaths out of more than 60,000 who have died around the world as of this writing, evidence exists that the actual death toll across China is far higher - and could be more than 40,000.

And as long lines form at Wuhan funeral homes over the last two weeks, family members - some waiting up to six hours, have been collecting their loved ones in the hopes of giving them a proper funeral. In particular, mourning families want to be able to perform a 'grave sweeping' ritual that has been around for over two millennia - where families gather on the 15th day after the spring equinox to remove weeds and dirt from their ancestors' graves.