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Tue, 07 Apr 2020
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Cell Phone

Privacy-minded Germans wary as Berlin develops nationwide Covid-19 tracking app & calls for EU-wide system

smart phone scanning
© AFP / Ina Fassbender
An employee scans the smart ticket at a drive-in cinema in Essen, western Germany, on March 29, 2020
Germany is pushing for the creation of a smartphone app that will monitor Covid-19 cases across the European Union. Its own plan to create a nationwide system has already raised eyebrows.

The government is working with developers and testers to get the high-tech tool "to the point that we can bring it into widespread use among the population in the coming days or weeks," Head of the Chancellery Helge Braun told local media on Monday. The app has been billed as one way in which a nationwide shutdown to contain the virus could be eased and eventually lifted. The government has said obligatory face masks in public, as well as a limit on public gatherings, would also help accelerate a return to normalcy. The lockdown is scheduled to end on April 19.

Stressing that it would only be a short-term solution to tracking coronavirus cases, Braun said that the EU "definitely" needs a bloc-wide system. "The worst thing that can happen is that there are many different tracking apps," he argued.

It's still unclear how such an app would work in Germany, and especially Europe as a whole. Attracting wide-scale voluntary participation in such a program might hinge on whether users feel comfortable handing over personal information, as well as data about their current location, to their governments. Germany has emphasized that any data collected by the app — which will inform users if they are in an area where there is a coronavirus-positive individual — will not be stored.

Comment: Anyone that volunteers to participate in this program has a phone smarter than they are.

Red Flag

COVID-19 is likely to lead to an increase in suicides

© David Wall Getty Images
Of all the literary masterpieces describing humanity's experience of disease pandemics, none describes suicide more vividly than Ovid's Metamorphoses, when in response to the psychosocial distress of the plague the citizens "hanged themselves, to kill the fears of death by death's own hand." Just like a pandemic became a reality for the first time in more than a century, in a destructive "life imitating art imitating life" way, news of suicides linked to the COVID-19 crisis have swept the globe and sadly show no signs of abating.

K. Balakrishna, a 50-year-old Indian father-of-three, may be the first suicide victim linked to the coronavirus epidemic. Panic is suspected of precipitating his death. Historically, disease pandemics have been associated with grave psychological consequences. This should not come as a surprise. In its simple definition "pandemic" describes the spread of a disease across a large region, but words such as "pandemic," "plague" and now "coronavirus" are not experienced in a simple way; they come riddled with fear, anxiety, grief and chaos. Balakrishna kept watching coronavirus-related videos and became convinced he had the virus and would infect his family: he was a victim of panic contagion. Panic can demoralize us, it can paralyze us with paranoia and fear, and these emotions in turn lead to hopelessness and desperation.

Bad Guys

Media manipulation: CBS News posts fraudulent video of ICU nurse crying over poor working conditions

© Instagram/Nurse.IV
CBS News posted a video of a nurse who claimed she quit her job after being asked to work in a coronavirus ICU without a face mask.

"America is not prepared, and nurses are not being protected," said the ICU nurse in the video. "I quit my job today. I went into work and I was assigned to a COVID patient on an ICU unit that has been converted to a designated COVID unit. None of the nurses are wearing masks."

The video now appears to be inaccurate. Instead of verifying the legitimacy of the video, CBS added background music and captions to highlight a woman who lied about her workplace situation. The woman, who goes by Imaris on social media, has a prominent following on Instagram.

Arrow Down

Oil could dive below $10 if OPEC & allies fail to agree production cut deal, warns Fitch

oil drilling
© AFP / Justin Tallis
The oil market could be put under "extreme physical pressure" if major global oil producers fail to reach a deal to cut output, Fitch Solutions has said.

According to the agency's report, a fall in demand and an increase in supply could result in more than 20 million barrels per day of excess oil.

"While it is unlikely that nominal storage capacity will be breached, it is possible that the sheer scale of the oversupply will overwhelm global logistics chains, plunging Brent into single-digit lows," Fitch analysts said.


'Servile' or helping the NHS? Peter Hitchens stirs debate about UK coronavirus lockdown measures

© REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
A police officer confronts people at Greenwich Park in London, Britain, March 31, 2020
Journalist Peter Hitchens has lambasted the unprecedented restrictions put in place to stop the spread of coronavirus, provoking fierce debate about preserving liberties versus safeguarding public health among Britons.

The outspoken British author exchanged barbs with TalkRadio's Mike Graham on Monday, with the pair taking nearly polar opposite views on how to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Graham insisted that limiting non-essential commerce and movement was a small price to pay if it stops the spread of the virus. "I don't consider it to be an infringement of my personal liberty to be asked to only go out only if you absolutely have to... I really don't think that's much of a massive problem," he argued.


Covid-19 fatalities reportedly slow in Europe and New York, stocks surge back

wall street
© Reuters / Mike Segar
US stock markets are surging higher on Monday following news that the death rate from Covid-19 in New York State and the worst-hit European countries is declining.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained over five percent after the opening bell. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite are trading over four percent higher.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 and Japan's Nikkei 225 gained more than four percent to start the week, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index grew 2.2 percent. Markets in mainland China were closed for a public holiday.

Stocks have also rallied in Europe, with Germany's DAX leading the region, rising more than four percent.

The White House acknowledged that this week could be among the toughest for coronavirus hotspots like New York. However, President Donald Trump said on Sunday he was hopeful the country could be seeing a "leveling-off" of the coronavirus crisis in some of worst-affected regions.

"We see light at the end of the tunnel. Things are happening," Trump said, warning that still, the US would reach "a horrific point" in terms of deaths.

Comment: Scott Adams sums up the two narratives which will compete in the coming months:

Austria could re-open small businesses in mid-April, with a gradual "resurrection" of the local economy - if things "go well", that is. Spain plans to extend testing to people without symptoms (something South Korea was doing from the beginning). But Russia is reporting new cases, including it's biggest one-day spike. Turkey has forbidden people under 20 years old from leaving their homes. Iran is developing its own AI software to detect the virus.

As for the masks destined for Germany that were bought up by the U.S., apparently the story is not so simple:
A Berlin senator who accused the US of "piracy" by diverting a shipment of protective masks bound for the German capital has backtracked, and now says that no American firm was involved in the mix-up. But the masks remain missing.

...cracks in Geisel's story soon emerged. 3M denied diverting any shipment, and stated that it had never received an order from the German city. The White House too denied any involvement.
However, the masks are still unaccounted for. While 3M may not have sent them stateside at Trump's behest, it remains possible that someone else may have acquired them during the stopover in Bangkok. Similar disappearances have been reported around the world, with fingers pointed at the US.
See also:

Star of David

UN reports illegal settler violence against Palestinians has increased during COVID-19

illegal settlers West Bank
© Reuters
Two Israelis look over a portion of the West Bank.
Israeli security forces carried out 72 search-and-arrest operations in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, arresting 64 Palestinians including 10 minors.Settler and Jewish extremist violence against West Bank Palestinians has spiked by 78% during the last two weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic when compared to the rest of this year, the United Nations has reported.

Between March 17 and 30, "at least 16 attacks by Israeli settlers resulted in five Palestinian injuries and extensive property damage," the UN reported.

"This represents a 78% increase compared to the bi-weekly average of incidents since the start of 2020," it said. Its data is based on information from its field reporters.


Sweden: 'Russian trolls' fanning 5G fears turn out to be anti-radiation activists led by local granny

Climate activists Stockholm
© AFP/Jonathan Nackstrand
Climate activists in Stockholm, Sweden
Sweden's digitization minister blamed a flurry of anti-5G comments on the usual suspect - "Russian trolls" - but a closer look revealed that a local granny opposed to wireless radiation was behind the campaign.

The controversy dates back to late-December 2019, when Anders Ygeman, the Swedish energy and digital development minister, lamented that he had fallen victim to some "Russian trolls." Who else could flood his Facebook page with hundreds of comments demanding that he backpedal on the introduction of 5G networks in Sweden?

"There is a Russian political interest in disrupting and hindering other countries' development of 5G," Ygeman told the Swedish press at the time. He also insisted that one of his Facebook posts had garnered almost 2,000 comments, many of which came from "fake accounts."

Some media outlets took him at face value, but some decided to think outside the box. Last Sunday, local daily SVT ran a piece that appears to debunk Ygeman's claims. Most of the comments in question can be traced back to a local grassroots group called 'WiFi Radiation Health Risks Stop 5G,' the paper claims.

Comment: Granny and her group may have a point!
See also: The 5G Trojan Horse and what you're not being told!


Next Crisis: Upwards of 30% of all mortgages will default in 'biggest wave of delinquencies in history'

foreclosure sign
© The Duran
"This is an unprecedented event. The great financial crisis happened over a number of years. This is happening in a matter of months - a matter of weeks."

Unlike in the 2008 financial crisis when a glut of subprime debt, layered with trillions in CDOs and CDO squareds, sent home prices to stratospheric levels before everything crashed scarring an entire generation of homebuyers, this time the housing sector is facing a far more conventional problem: the sudden and unpredictable inability of mortgage borrowers to make their scheduled monthly payments as the entire economy grinds to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic.

And unfortunately this time the crisis will be far worse, because as Bloomberg reports mortgage lenders are preparing for the biggest wave of delinquencies in history. And unless the plan to buy time works - and as we reported earlier there is a distinct possibility the Treasury's plan to provide much needed liquidity to America's small businesses may be on the verge of collapse - an even worse crisis may be coming: mass foreclosures and mortgage market mayhem.


Rockets strike near site of foreign oil firms, state-run companies in Iraq's

US attack oil Iraq
© Reuters/ Essam Al-
In late March, the US military deployed its Patriot missile defence system to the Ayn al-Asad base in Iraq in a move to "protect against another potential Iranian attack".

Reuters on Monday reported, citing its sources, that missiles hit near sites of foreign and state-run oil companies in Basra, Iraq. No casualties have been reported so far.

According to police, the missiles were Katyushas launched at around 3 a.m. local time and hit the Burjesia residential and operations headquarters west of Basra.