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Mon, 30 Mar 2020
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$1 billion in two weeks: Hedge funds capitalise on UK airlines gridlock over COVID-19 - Report

british airways
© AP Photo / Sang Tan
Late last week, the trade body Airlines UK warned that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic may do irreparable damage to the country's aviation industry if it does not get emergency support from the government.

In the past two weeks, hedge funds have made over £1 billion ($1.16 billion) as they bet on the meltdown of major UK airlines amid the COVID-19 outbreak, The Telegraph reports.

According to the newspaper, "billions of pounds have been wiped off the value of the likes of British Airways owner IAG, easyJet, and Ryanair - despite airlines recouping some lost ground on Friday".


Ron Paul: The Coronavirus Hoax

Governments love crises because when the people are fearful they are more willing to give up freedoms for promises that the government will take care of them. After 9/11, for example, Americans accepted the near-total destruction of their civil liberties in the PATRIOT Act's hollow promises of security.

It is ironic to see the same Democrats who tried to impeach President Trump last month for abuse of power demanding that the Administration grab more power and authority in the name of fighting a virus that thus far has killed less than 100 Americans.

Declaring a pandemic emergency on Friday, President Trump now claims the power to quarantine individuals suspected of being infected by the virus and, as Politico writes, "stop and seize any plane, train or automobile to stymie the spread of contagious disease." He can even call out the military to cordon off a US city or state.

Comment: Note that this article was written a week ago, so the statistics cited do not reflect current numbers.

Microscope 2

Japan was expecting a coronavirus explosion. Where is it?

Comment: Short answer: it's there alright, like everywhere else, but their govt has for some reason been exempted from 'playing the game', for now.

japan facemasks
People wear face masks amid concerns over COVID-19 in Tokyo's Yurakucho district on Wednesday. Health experts have been puzzled as to why Japan is still seeing a relatively low number of infections from the deadly virus outbreak so far.
Japan was one of the first countries outside of China hit by the coronavirus and now it's one of the least-affected among developed nations. That's puzzling health experts.

Unlike China's draconian isolation measures, the mass quarantine in much of Europe and big U.S. cities ordering people to shelter in place, Japan has imposed no lockdown. While there have been disruptions caused by school closures, life continues as normal for much of the population. Tokyo rush hour trains are still packed and restaurants remain open.

The looming question is whether Japan has dodged a bullet or is about to be hit. The government contends it has been aggressive in identifying clusters and containing the spread, which makes its overall and per capita number for infections among the lowest among developed economies. Critics argue Japan has been lax in testing, perhaps looking to keep the infection numbers low as it's set to host the Olympics in Tokyo in July.

Comment: There is a lesson here for the rest of the world. The hysteria about a pandemic is what is driving the pandemic (or the perception of one). The only reason there are so many cases in other countries is because they're overenthusiastic in their testing. If you look hard enough for a problem, chances are you'll find it, even if it isn't really a problem.

See also:


Washington in the Time of Domitian

Capitol hill
As you cross the Fourteenth Street Bridge from Arlington into Washington on a sunny spring day, the vista is magnificent, uplifting. Huge blue sky, brisk wind, the broad brown river flashing in the sunlight. As a portal to the capital of a world empire, it is suitable, even convincing. This new Tiber is at the confluence of the Rio Bravo, Orinoco, and Nile, which has its implications, but never mind. The streams of tourists debouching from the bridge into Georgetown think themselves in the new Rome, a beguiling conurbation of power and glory.

Not everywhere. Amid the blank buildings and empty night somewhere near P Street, a cop finds a blonde woman of maybe forty crawling on the sidewalk. In jeans and sweatshirt, she hugs the rest of a bottle of Jim Beam. She has profusely wet her pants. She sees the cop and says no, no in alarm and begins sprinting for a nearby alley-sprinting to the extent that one can on all fours while clutching a bottle. Blind drunk and nursing a cirrhosis aborning.


Israel, Corona and Abraham Wald

gilad bombers coronavirus
© gilad.online
The Jewish state has been taking drastic measures to try to suppress the Corona outbreak within its territory. Tens of thousands of Israelis are isolated in quarantine conditions. So far, hundreds of Israelis have been diagnosed as carriers of the virus. PM Netanyahu delivered an apocalyptic speech and had his trial postponed indefinitely.

There are a few aspects peculiar to Israel and its Corona hysteria. As of this writing, no one in Israel has died because of the virus. To date, only six Israelis are in critical condition. It is possible that the Israeli health system is more advanced than all the other nations, it is also possible that Israeli doctors are more gifted than all other doctors. It may even be possible that Jews are somewhat resistant to Corona. But it is more likely that Israel has been living with Corona much longer than they are willing to admit. It is likely that, like China, they have already survived the worst of the Corona virus.

On January 6th Haaretz's headline read "Dozens Hospitalized in Serious Condition Amid Swine Flu Outbreak in Israel." The Israeli paper reported that "The number of visits to clinics and hospitals due to flu symptoms and pneumonia, which is a common complication, is about 18 per 1,000 people, compared to 7 per 1,000 in the same period last year." The increase is mainly in those under age 2 and over age 65. Back in January, the Israeli health system struggled to cope.
Israel swine flu corona
© Haaretz

Comment: Here's an article The Guardian ran about Britain's flu epidemic and NHS hospital crisis in early December 2019... officially, BEFORE this COVID-19 outbreak:
Guardian NHS flu hospitals
© The Guardian
More than half of hospitals have opened extra beds to help them cope with the NHS winter crisis amid an influx of patients with potentially fatal breathing problems.

Many of the so-called escalation beds are already occupied by people suffering from flu, pneumonia or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbated by the arrival of very cold weather in many parts of the UK.

The British Thoracic Society (BTS), which represents specialist lung doctors and nurses, has found that 52% of UK hospitals have already created extra bed capacity to help them prepare for the imminent surge in winter demand.
On the one hand, this shows how 'normal' a bad flu season is, and the demands this puts on hospitals. On the other, it suggests COVID-19 was already driving a spike in NHS resources by late November 2019.

Then there was reportedly a mystery outbreak of about 10,000 flu cases in the US last August - mentioned in passing in this Chinese Global Times editorial. However, the internet has apparently been scrubbed of information about this because we can no longer find articles or studies on it.

Blue Planet

UK's calls for social distancing sees towns deserted and thousands head to the countryside

© Eddie Mitchell
Hove seafront in East Sussex attracted many visitors on Saturday morning
Thousands of people have been heading to seaside attractions in the sunshine despite government advice to avoid social gatherings due to coronavirus.

One beach in Sussex is to close, while Lincolnshire's police and crime commissioner called for caravan sites and arcades in Skegness to shut.

PCC Marc Jones said there were "hundreds of thousands of visitors".

West Wittering Beach was being shut at 18:00 GMT after "thousands" of people turned up, the estate office said.

There are also reports of large crowds along the East Yorkshire coast.

Comment: Wales Online reports that while crowds have left the city centres they have flocked to Welsh landmarks:
The streets of Cardiff and Swansea were deserted on Saturday as pubs and restaurants closed and people stayed at home as the stark reality of social distancing became clear.

But popular tourist sites like Pen y Fan, Snowdon, Barry Island, Porthcawl and Cardiff's Roath Park were busy, leaving some concerned that social distancing was not being effectively practised. And mountain rescuers warned they cannot guarantee help amid the coronavirus crisis.

Hundreds of cars lined the roads around Snowdon and Pen y Fan as people sought to get fresh air and exercises but stayed away from city centres.
© Mark Lewis
Visitors to Barry Island stayed apart on the beach
At Snowdon, hundreds of cars were parked in car parks and along roads, as numerous walkers hiked up Wales' biggest mountain. But they were warned they were putting themselves and mountain rescuers at risk as the covid-19 outbreak escalates.

Expressing his shock at the scene on Facebook, one man said: "I'm one for going round Snowdonia a lot. And I mean a lot... but I have never, ever seen cars parked along the Pass like this."

He added: "Absolutely shocked me, this has."

At Barry Island, people appeared to be well spaced out on the beach but were close together as they queued at a nearby fish and chips booth.

On Saturday afternoon, it emerged that a further 89 cases of coronavirus Covid-19 had been confirmed in Wales and two people with the virus had died. One area of Wales saw a significantly higher spike than others and now has more than half of all the country's cases.
© Gareth Everett/Huw Evans Agency
And a large number of walkers made their way up to the highest peak in south Wales
The city centres were a different story, however. In Cardiff, St David's Shopping Centre, usually bustling with shoppers and tourists at the weekend, was almost empty as more and more shops closed their doors in light of the coronavirus pandemic. John Lewis announced it was closing all its stores.

car park
© David Owens
The John Lewis car park in Cardiff was empty
The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced a package of measures on Friday, March 20, to ensure that employee would continue to be paid up to 80% of their wages if they could no longer work because of the impact of coronavirus.

Car parks, usually full to capacity at the weekend, were deserted of vehicles and silent as footfall was reduced to almost nothing within 24 hours of the latest government guidance.

Many people would normally take the opportunity to shop for essentials at the weekend, but larger stores that would usually be bustling were empty on Saturday.

High Street
© Adrian White
High Street was quiet as well
Not everywhere is closing though, supermarkets are still battling with increased demand and panic-buying as queues stretch into the car parks of stores this weekend.

Many supermarkets are reserving their first hour of trading for the elderly and key NHS workers, in an attempt to get food and essential supplies to those most in need and most at risk during the coronavirus pandemic.

On the WalesOnline Facebook page, people have been commenting on the large numbers of people, especially elderly people, out shopping or queuing to get in.
© Adrian White
This couple decided against social distancing for a quick embrace between Welcome Lane and Princess Street

2 + 2 = 4

Evidence over hysteria — COVID-19

Comment: Interestingly, Medium pulled this article down because it 'violated its policies'. It seems like their policy is to now play along with the hysteria game and censor anything that casts doubt on the official line. Here is the archived copy.

surgical mask
After watching the outbreak of COVID-19 for the past two months, I've followed the pace of the infection, its severity, and how our world is tackling the virus. While we should be concerned and diligent, the situation has dramatically elevated to a mob-like fear spreading faster than COVID-19 itself.

When 13% of Americans believe they are currently infected with COVID-19 (mathematically impossible), full-on panic is blocking our ability to think clearly and determine how to deploy our resources to stop this virus. Over three-fourths of Americans are scared of what we are doing to our society through law and hysteria, not of infection or spreading COVID-19 to those most vulnerable.

The following article is a systematic overview of COVID-19 driven by data from medical professionals and academic articles that will help you understand what is going on (sources include CDC, WHO, NIH, NHS, University of Oxford, Stanford, Harvard, NEJM, JAMA, and several others). I'm quite experienced at understanding virality, how things grow, and data. In my vocation, I'm most known for popularizing the "growth hacking movement" in Silicon Valley that specializes in driving rapid and viral adoption of technology products. Data is data. Our focus here isn't treatments but numbers. You don't need a special degree to understand what the data says and doesn't say. Numbers are universal.

I hope you walk away with a more informed perspective on how you can help and fight back against the hysteria that is driving our country into a dark place. You can help us focus our scarce resources on those who are most vulnerable, who need our help.

Note: The following graphs and numbers are as of mid-March 2020. Things are moving quickly, so I update this article twice a day. Most graphs are as of March 20th, 2020.

Comment: See also:


Tulsi Gabbard says insider traders should be 'investigated & prosecuted,' as Left and Right team up on profiteering senators

tulsi gabbard
© Reuters / Brendan McDermid
In a rare moment of bipartisanship, commenters from all sides have demanded swift punishment for US senators who dumped stock after classified Covid-19 briefings. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has called for criminal prosecution.

As chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) has received daily briefings on the threat posed by Covid-19 since January. Burr insisted to the public that America was ready to handle the virus, but sold up to $1.5 million in stocks on February 13, less than a week before the stock market nosedived, according to Senate filings. Immediately before the sale, Burr wrote an op-ed assuring Americans that their government is "better prepared than ever" to handle the virus.

After the sale, NPR reported that he told a closed-door meeting of North Carolina business leaders that the virus actually posed a threat "akin to the 1918 pandemic." Burr does not dispute the NPR report.


German public broadcaster ARD sends birthday greetings to Russian FM Lavrov - for tetchy tabloid Bild, this was too much to bear

© Sputnik / Alexander Shcherbak
Congratulating someone on their birthday is the polite thing to do, but apparently not when anti-Russian hysteria comes into play. The German public broadcaster ARD has just learned this the hard way.

Sergey Lavrov, who has been Russia's foreign minister since 2004 and one of the most recognizable figures on the international political scene, turned 70 on Saturday. From the landmark Iran Nuclear Deal to settling the conflict in Syria, he was directly involved in the most high-profile global events of the last 16 years.

A diplomat with such a scoresheet surely deserves a few words of appreciation on his big day - that's what ARD might've been thinking when they put up a tweet of congratulations to the Russian FM.


CDC suddenly shuts down US Army's Fort Detrick bioweapons lab due to 'lapses in safety'

Comment: Was this an emergency containment effort at the US govt's top bioweapons lab last August?

And did it fail?

lab maryland
Research on dangerous pathogens has been suspended at an Army lab at Fort Detrick in Maryland after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found biosafety lapses there, the Frederick News-Post reported August 2. A spokesperson for the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) tells the newspaper that no disease-causing materials have been found outside authorized areas at the site.

According to its website, USAMRIID has been the US Department of Defense's lead laboratory for medical biological defense research since 1969. The News-Post reports that the facility has both level 3 and level 4 biosafety labs and has worked on pathogens such as Ebola, Yersinia pestis (plague), and Francisella tularensis (tularemia). Those pathogens are among those considered "select agents and toxins" by the Department of Health and Human Services, which only allows authorized labs to work on them.

Comment: See also:

Why was a US military lab handling high-level disease shut down in July 2019?