Tuesday 26th of May 2020

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by Gus Leonisky on Tue, 2020-05-26 20:56







All this from about 15 years ago...

by Gus Leonisky on Tue, 2020-05-26 18:37

Victoria’s Creative Industries minister Martin Foley was in a bullish mood last week, announcing Melbourne’s new Rising festival would come with a bespoke $2m commissioning fund for local artists. “Rising is set to play an important role as we emerge from this crisis, reigniting the exciting creative offering Victoria is known for and rebooting our visitor economy,” Foley said. It was welcome news for one of the worst-hit sectors of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As the nation begins to reopen shops and schools, the cultural sector remains mostly shut, and haemorrhaging revenue. Early numbers from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that more than half of arts and recreation businesses have closed. Grattan Institute number crunching models a 50% fall in unemployment in arts and recreation.

In the face of this crisis, state and territory governments have responded with a series of emergency grants and cultural stimulus measures. The various provincial support policies add up to a small but meaningful national stimulus for the cultural sector. All up, close to $130m has been committed by the states and territories since the Covid-19 crisis hit in March.


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by Gus Leonisky on Tue, 2020-05-26 18:24
A Chinese state media outlet has mocked Mike Pompeo, who is tasked with ‘certifying’ Hong Kong’s autonomy, depicting him dressed as a sheep, seducing protesters with cash into falling off a cliff into the fires of hell.

The unflattering portrayal of the US Secretary of State comes from the CGTN, Beijing’s international broadcaster, which lampooned Pompeo’s involvement in Hong Kong protests in a cartoon on Monday.

It shows a line of zombie-like protesters, some armed with Molotov cocktails, standing in line to receive apple-shaped dollar grants from the hands of the top US diplomat. They then walk through an archway labeled as“heaven” but plunge lemming-style into hell.


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pompeo's heaven



by Gus Leonisky on Tue, 2020-05-26 16:43

The Dutch government on Monday said that it was "highly likely" that a person had been infected with the coronavirus by a mink, following a similar case last week.

Mink are bred for their fur at some 155 farms across the country. The authorities detected infected animals at four such locations, Agriculture Minister Carola Schouten said in a letter to parliament. At three out of four farms, a sick human was thought to be the source of the infection among the animals, while officials were still investigating the cause at the fourth one, the minister said.

The mink farms are set to close in 2023 due to a law passed before the coronavirus outbreak. Amid the latest developments, some veterinarians accused Schouten of trying to downplay the risk of the animal-to-human infection and pressured the government to clear out heavy-hit farms. However, Schouten has so far rejected the push. Addressing Dutch lawmakers on Monday, Schouten said the risk of humans getting infected outside farms was "negligible."

Dutch pets confirmed infected

Reports of humans infecting their animals, particularly cats and dogs, have appeared in various countries across the world since the beginning of the current pandemic. At least four house pets tested positive in the Netherlands last month. Minister Schouten has urged COVID-19 patients to "avoid contact with their animals."


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by Gus Leonisky on Tue, 2020-05-26 16:25


Trump then approached the wreath, paused in reflection and touched it before rejoining Pence and Esper, again saluting during a playing of “Taps.”

Cabinet members including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao joined Trump at the event.

Later on Monday, Trump is scheduled to visit Fort McHenry, a retired island fortress outside Baltimore whose defiance of a British attack in 1814 inspired Francis Scott Key to write the “Star Spangled Banner.”

Trump’s trip to Baltimore faces opposition from some local officials, and comes as Trump encourages states to reopen their economies after more than two months of coronavirus-triggered shutdowns. Baltimore remains under a stay-at-home order.

The Fort McHenry trip is one of the first Trump has taken as he resumes domestic travel. This month he twice visited Camp David in Maryland and toured a mask factory in Arizona, a protective gear distribution center in Pennsylvania, and a ventilator production facility in Michigan.

This weekend, Trump returned to his northern Virginia golf course for the first time since the crisis began — golfing both days. This week, he’s scheduled to watch a SpaceX rocket launch in Florida. On July 3, he will attend a fireworks display at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.


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by Gus Leonisky on Tue, 2020-05-26 12:28

"The behavior ... is to be deemed unethical." This is what you call a real smack. And it didn't come from just anyone, it came from Germany's highest civil court in Karlsruhe. In addition, in the case of Volkswagen the court saw a "strategic company decision through fraudulent deception of the authorities."

Thanks to the judges, we now have an answer to the question the company never really wanted to answer: Yes, they cheated and deceived. They went against "good morals" and the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) certified the carmaker's "deliberate unethical damage" to its customers. Anyone doing this violates one of the most important principles of every business, namely that of good faith.

As an example of just how far from reality Volkswagen was, at the beginning of May when the court first heard the complaint of VW customer Herbert Gilbert, company lawyers thought that the whole thing could be completely dismissed. Their argument was that the plaintiff suffered no damage because he was able to drive the car without restrictions. They simply ignored that thing about the fraudulent emissions-cheating software.


The long wait for German customers

Volkswagen's reaction is now sheepish. All of a sudden, the manufacturer wants to compensate the remaining VW diesel customers suing the company (currently around 60,000) with a one-off payment. Did this change of heart really require the lengthy legal process that ended at the highest German court? 


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by Gus Leonisky on Tue, 2020-05-26 11:17

The Chinese Embassy [in France] has deleted a cartoon on Twitter, claiming to be the victim of "forgery". We saw Death dressed in the colors of the American flag and wearing a scythe imitating the flag of Israel, knocking on the door of Hong Kong. The Chinese embassy in France said on May 25 that its Twitter account had been "falsified", after the publication in its name of this cartoon implicating the United States and Israel, which sparked an outcry on social networks, before being removed.


Find out more about RT France: https://francais.rt.com/international/75378-dessin-polemique-ambassade-chine-france-affirme-compte-twitter-a-ete-falsifie




by Gus Leonisky on Tue, 2020-05-26 11:02

US-based independent outlet The Grayzone has revealed deep links between a US casino billionaire, the CIA and the Spanish security firm which spied on the WikiLeaks publisher, his friends, family and lawyers while he was under the protection of the Ecuadorian Embassy.

Max Blumenthal is an award-winning investigative journalist, author and founder of The Grayzone, an independent news outlet. He has obtained High Court documents regarding the ongoing Spanish criminal investigation into David Morales, the Ecuadorian ex-special forces member and CEO of the Spanish security firm UC Global, which was revealed to have been spying on Julian Assange, despite originally being hired to provide protection for the Ecuadorian Embassy.

The documents obtained by Blumenthal and The Grayzone have revealed previously unknown details regarding the connection between David Morales, UC Global and Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire campaign contributor to US President Donald Trump.

Sputnik: What’s new and significant about what you’ve discovered and revealed in relation to UC Global and its targeting of Julian Assange?

Max Blumenthal: What I have that's new in this investigation for The Grayzone are details of the relationship between Las Vegas Sands, the company owned by ultra-Zionist Republican mega-donor casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, the Trump administration, the CIA and UC Global.

And I show the central role of figures who are directors of Sheldon Adelson's executive security team at Las Vegas Sands in serving as middlemen, apparently between American intelligence and UC Global, including someone who worked formerly as assistant director of the secret service who was commended by the CIA for his work, Brian Nagel. And also, Zohar Lahav who is the vice president of Sheldon Adelson's executive protection team in managing David Morales on a day-to-day basis.


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by Gus Leonisky on Tue, 2020-05-26 09:01

It seems a good time to look back on the extraordinary past few weeks and try and draw conclusions.

First: who has the disease killed?  Covid-19 targets the old and the sick; this is not to be callous, but to understand the enemy and to provide context.  The average age of those dying of covid-19 in the UK is over 80, and fully a third are residents of care homes where average “stay” (a euphemism I’m afraid) was only 30 months from admission before the virus anyway.

Our statistics agencies are only now following Italy’s lead and publishing the comorbidities of those dying from covid-19, and it is now clear just how extreme is the amplification of risk.  95% of victims dying with covid-19 have serious pre-existing conditions: not just background illnesses, but severe enough to be mentioned as causes of death on death certificates. The most prevalent are dementia and diabetes (a quarter of cases, each), hypertension (a fifth) and serious lung, kidney or heart disease (around a sixth each).  In both the UK and Italy, the average victim had three comorbidities severe enough to be causes of death on a certificate.

Second: who hasn’t it killed?  Parents, unions and nervy adults fret about the risk, but there is little need.  With no serious pre-existing conditions, the young-ish and healthy are far more likely to be hit by lightning (49 occurrences per annum in UK) than to die of covid-19 (33 in England under age 40, of which only 3 under the age of 19).  Panning out, among healthy under 60s (i.e. children and the vast majority of our working population), 253 people have died of covid-19 in English hospitals; this compares to 400 (non-suicide) drownings per year in the UK.  And taking allage-groups where there are no pre-existing conditions serious enough to be mentioned as contributary causes of death, covid-19 has taken about 2/3rds the lives that British roads do every year, and we wouldn’t think of outlawing driving, swimming or going outside in a storm.

Even taking all deaths where covid-19 is mentioned on the death certificate regardless of age or comorbidities, looking at the total toll: 43,000 lives is less than 2018’s excess winter deaths and would count as a bad, but by no means remarkable, influenza year.

Scientific Context

Imperial College haven’t had a good war, and after their performance in other recent epidemics perhaps they will now pass their mantle onto another team.  Preferably one that can code to levels fit for publication, never mind policy: it is increasingly awkward to hear the Prime Minister quoting their forecast that, were it not for lockdown, the UK could have been looking at half a million deaths when, at the tail-end of the epidemic, there are only 320,000 deaths worldwide.

But there is more to science than models, and the most accurate analysts were those who relied on other pillars of science than complicated models when input parameters were close to unknown (“garbage in, garbage out”).  Science does not only proceed from models after all: it also has, inter alia, experiments, defaults (“null hypotheses”), controls and historical context.

In mid-March, Stanford’s Nobel laureate Michael Levitt (biophysicist and professor of structural biology) discussed the “natural experiment” of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, a virtually perfect sealed petri-dish disproportionately filled with the most susceptible age and health groups.  Even here, despite the virus spreading uncontrolled onboard for at least two weeks, infection only reached 20% of passengers and crew (an “upper bound” to infection levels?); Levitt concluded that we must have high levels of innate immunity that can clear the virus.  And using very simple mathematics (not “15,000 lines of uncommented code” like Neil Ferguson) he demonstrated that the virus’s spread had never been exponential but rather has been running out of steam from day one. Who listened?

The eccentric biostatistician Knut Wittkowski came at things from a different angle, the “null hypothesis” angle – a default, in layman terms.  In the absence of evidence to the contrary, he assumed that covid-19 was a normal viral respiratory disease, and at the end of March wrote a compelling but neglected paper showing how the emerging data backed up his view that “respiratory diseases [including covid-19]… remain only about two months in any given population”.

This can be seen in the first graph at the top of this article showing the UK’s epidemic, but is illustrated more clearly by a simple “what-if” thought-experiment: respiratory viral diseases generally peak in mid-winter, and covid-19 is very unusual to be killing people with a peak at Easter.  If we simply move covid-19 deaths from spring to winter, the death-toll and the extent of the epidemic is put in the context of recent bad (but not dramatic) influenza years.


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The 1918 Spanish flu record added to the Hollywoodian movie "Contagion" became our theme song — inspired by a few profit makers... Fear is the driver of controls...


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