1. says

    The CDC and White House have sent out a mailer trumpeting “President Trump’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America”.

    Talking Points Memo link

    […] The information on the back is standard social distancing recommendations the federal government has been pushing for the last week or so. But making these “President Trump’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America” has the obvious intent and effect of trumpeting the President’s heroic leadership and also needlessly politicizing the message for Americans who don’t like the President. This is something you expect out of any run of the mill authoritarian state with a cult of personality strong man. […]

  2. says

    From the G liveblog (linked @ #459):

    Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has exempted churches from coronavirus lockdowns by classifying religious activity as an essential service, heeding requests from evangelical leaders.

    Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist [[sic] elected with massive support from evangelical voters in 2018 because of his conservative social views, has said publicly that churches should remain open because they are “the last shelter” for many people.

    His executive decree, published in the official gazette on Thursday, contradicts measures taken by state governors and city mayors to ban religious assemblies.

    Confirmed coronavirus cases in Brazil have quadrupled in less than a week to 2,433, according to health ministry data released on Wednesday, with 57 deaths.

    Fashion brand Armani will start making single use medical overalls for hospital workers at all four of its Italian factories.

    The group – whose brands include Giorgio Armani and Emporio Armani – said they would be used for “the individual protection of healthcare workers engaged in the fight against the Coronavirus disease.”

    Founder Giorgio Armani has donated 2 million euros in recent weeks to hospitals around Italy, including Bergamo and Piacenza in the hard-hit north, the company said.

    China closes borders to foreign nationals from this weekend

    China has announced it will close its border to foreign nationals from this weekend.

    Other measures include restricting foreign airlines to a single route, with no more than one weekly flight. Each Chinese airline is permitted one route to any specific country with no more than one flight a week.

    Donald Trump said on Thursday his administration is preparing new coronavirus guidelines that would characterise US counties as high-risk, medium-risk or low-risk.

    In a letter to governors, the president said state and local leaders could use the guidelines to determine social distancing and other coronavirus mitigation measures. The guidelines will aim “to help classify counties with respect to continued risks posed by the virus,” the letter said.

    My most optimistic take on the idiotic letter is that the experts are going along with it because they know nowhere could be described as “low risk” without a full testing regimen, so it could light a fire under Trump and his sycophants to ramp up the testing, and then they can always point out that…there’s movement amongst counties. (IMO, all nonessential domestic air travel at least should be suspended. The airports are vectors.)

  3. says

    Thread by Carl T. Bergstrom:

    …And I guess this is the crux of the thread, though I didn’t know it until I got here.

    (Twitter is an odd medium, writing stream-of-consciousness, unable to edit let alone restructure.)

    For me, this is the heartbreaking part.

    It turns out we’re not all in this together.

    i. A brief postscript.

    For some kinds of scientific communication, it wouldn’t matter so much. I was an evolutionary biologist through the heyday of the Intelligent Design movement. Public education was at stake, but millions of lives were not on the line.

    ii. What is so terrible about the politicization of this pandemic is this: what people believe impacts how they behave, and it impacts the ability of our governments to muster the political will to enact the measures we need to slow and ultimately stop the spread of the virus.

    iii. And so the fight against misinformation is not merely a scientific communication issue. It’s a vital public health necessity.

    iv. In all the years of studying infectious disease and planning for this day, I never dreamed that when it came I’d be opposed by my own federal government, a non-trivial fraction of my fellow citizens, and as yet undetermined fraction of hostile foreign actors.

    v. Perhaps that was dreadfully naive of me, but the world has changed in profound ways since even 2010. Social media, hyper-partisanship, the broad populist distrust of experts, plummeting standards of factfulness in political discourse….

    vi. I’ll keep doing what I do. My colleagues doing the amazing work in hospitals and laboratories, with simulations and mathematical models, they’ll keep on too.

    We may not act like we’re all in this together, but in a pandemic, like it or not, we are.

  4. says

    ABC – “FBI learned of coronavirus-inspired bomb plotter through radicalized US Army soldier”:

    The suspected white supremacist who plotted to bomb a hospital facing the coronavirus crisis was in touch with a then-active U.S. Army soldier who wanted to launch his own attack on a major American news network and discussed targeting a Democratic presidential candidate, according to an FBI alert summarizing the case.

    On Tuesday, as 36-year-old Timothy Wilson was on the verge of trying to detonate a car bomb at a Kansas City-area medical center, agents from the FBI’s field office in Missouri attempted to arrest him. But shots were fired, fatally wounding Wilson, according to the FBI.

    Ahead of Tuesday’s incident, Wilson “espoused white supremacist ideology” and “made a threat that if any agent attempted to [search his property] they should ‘bring a lot of body bags,” said the FBI alert, distributed to state and local law enforcement agencies in the region on Wednesday.

    The FBI alert also said Wilson had “shared instructions on how to make an [improvised explosive device] with another … Domestic Terrorism (DT) subject” from near Kansas City.

    ABC News has identified that other domestic terrorism “subject” as Jarrett Smith, who was arrested in September 2019 while still stationed at Ft. Riley, Kansas, as an active member of the U.S. Army.

    According to charging documents filed at the time in Topeka, Kansas, Smith allegedly planned to travel to Ukraine to fight with the violent far-right group Azov Battalion; suggested targeting then-Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke; proposed bombing the headquarters of a still-unidentified news network; and distributed bomb-making tips online.

    Smith has since pleaded guilty to federal charges of distributing information that relates to weapons of mass destruction, and he is awaiting sentencing.

    On Wednesday, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News that Wilson had been on the FBI’s radar for more than a year, indicating that the FBI’s probe of Smith led authorities to Wilson months before he sought to take advantage of the unfolding coronavirus crisis.

    “With the current COVID-19 pandemic, Wilson decided to accelerate his plan to detonate a [car bomb] to cause severe harm and mass casualties,” the FBI said in its alert. “Wilson may have also believed the additional stress on society posed by the COVID-19 pandemic provided unique opportunities to exploit.”

    The FBI believes other extremists inside the U.S. homeland may similarly “aspire to capitalize on the current health crisis,” but it is “unlikely” any of their actions “will rise to the level of terroristic actions like Wilson,” the alert issued Wednesday said….

  5. KG says

    From the Grauniad’s live coronavirus blog:

    Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has exempted churches from coronavirus lockdowns by classifying religious activity as an essential service, heeding requests from evangelical leaders.

    Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist elected with massive support from evangelical voters in 2018 because of his conservative social views, has said publicly that churches should remain open because they are “the last shelter” for many people.

    His executive decree, published in the official gazette on Thursday, contradicts measures taken by state governors and city mayors to ban religious assemblies.

    Evangelical leaders welcomed the presidential decree as upholding the constitutional right of Brazilians to freedom of religion, which they said no governor or mayor could overrule.

    “In this pandemic of panic, no hospital can calm people down, but religion can,” said Silas Malafaia, the leader of one of Brazil’s largest pentecostal churches, the Assembly of God, and a staunch backer of Bolsonaro from his pulpit.

    Last week, Malafaia went to court over his plans to keep the church open, despite warnings that large gatherings will help spread the coronavirus.

    Confirmed coronavirus cases in Brazil have quadrupled in less than a week to 2,433, according to health ministry data released on Wednesday, with 57 deaths.

    Words fail me.

  6. blf says

    SC@4, “Are any cities in the US doing this?” (clapping for healthcare workers).

    Maybe, Americans urged to cheer from their windows Sunday night to show support for health care workers (dated Sunday 22nd March, so the ambiguous “Sunday” was probably that day):

    A campaign is taking off on Twitter to hold a show of appreciation Sunday night for health care workers on the frontlines of the battle against coronavirus.

    #Solidarityat8 asks people to go on their balconies or open their windows and doors at 8 pm and cheer, clap or just make some noise to honor the people who continue to work in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and other medical facilities.

    Doctors, nurses and other medical personnel are being called heroes for their dedication as they continue working in increasingly dangerous conditions — with masks and other protective gear in short supply.


    Many people are calling for the tribute to be repeated every night.

    However, a very simple search — perhaps rather poor Generalissimo Google-fu on my part — didn’t locate any specific examples, then or in the days since.

    It’s certainly happening here every night, with the LOUD airhorns from the yachts in the harbour adding to the appreciative noise. (So do the dogs barking, albeit I presume they’re barking for other reasons…)

  7. KG says


    Ms. KG and I took part – keeping our upper lips stiff, naturally! Most of our immediate neighbours were out too. She commented that “Clap for the NHS” was a rather unfortunate phrase. I don’t know if this is the same in the US, but in the UK “the clap” is slang for gonorrhea.

  8. blf says

    Eejits in Mexico, Mexican governor prompts outrage with claim poor are immune to coronavirus:

    Miguel Barbosa’s comments reflect almost conspiratorial response of many Mexican politicians to pandemic

    A Mexican state governor has prompted incredulity and outrage by claiming that poor people are immune to Covid-19, as the government attempts to promote physical distancing and cancels non-essential services.

    Miguel Barbosa, the governor of Puebla, was apparently commenting on reports that a significant proportion of Mexico’s coronavirus cases is made up of wealthy people who had travelled abroad.

    Officials say three-quarters of Mexico’s 475 confirmed cases are related to international travel, including several people who reportedly caught the virus on skiing trips to Italy or the US.

    “Most of them are wealthy people,” Barbosa said. If you are rich you are at risk. If you are poor you are not. The poor, we’re immune.

    His comments […] also reflected the almost conspiratorial response of many Mexican politicians toward Covid-19, which threatens to wreck the government’s agenda of mega-projects and expanding social programmes.

    The country’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, whose administration has promised to put the poor first[], has responded with breezy optimism to the crisis. He told reporters on Tuesday that Mexico would be past the worst of it within a month.


    “The economy is in a nosedive and his base, the poor, is getting the short end of the stick,” Esteban Illades, the editor of Nexos magazine, said of the president’s motives. “A weak economy means his legacy is compromised.”


    Analysts say the pandemic is the most recent in a string of crises, including outbreaks of drug violence and growing fury over gender-based violence, which López Obrador and his supporters see as personal attacks rather than issues requiring urgent attention and resources.

    Illades said: “They’re looking at how coronavirus will affect their so-called ‘fourth transformation’,” as the president refers to his administration, “and how their dreams of transforming the country are now on the backburner. It happens every presidential term. Reality always gets in the way of dreams.”

      † I presume he’s lying, hence the eejit quotes.

  9. says

    Charlotte Observer editorial – “Richard Burr’s troubles are not going away. So why isn’t he?”:

    Seven days have passed since news reports revealed how U.S. Sen Richard Burr profited off the coronavirus while failing to warn his constituents at the early, critical stages of the crisis. It has not been a good week.

    Burr has been abandoned by fellow Republicans, some of whom have called for his resignation. He’s been sued by a shareholder of Wyndham Hotels & Suites for selling off $150,000 of that company’s stock. The Securities and Exchange Commission has issued a statement that, while not using Burr’s name, warned members of Congress about doing what the senator is accused of doing — trading off privileged information and briefings.

    He is toxic to his party. He is embarrassing to North Carolina. Clearly, his problems are not going to go away.

    So why isn’t he?

    In an editorial last Thursday, we had questions for Burr about a Feb. 27 luncheon in Washington in which the senator issued dire warnings about COVID-19 to the Tar Heel Circle, a nonpartisan group of North Carolina businesses and organizations. How could Burr, who knew enough to sell up to $1.7 million of his stocks on Feb. 13 before the market tanked, only share his intel with a small group of big donors?

    Why didn’t Burr provide his assessment to all the constituents he is supposed to serve, as well as the national media? A Republican offering a different COVID-19 perspective than President Trump would have been, at the least, notable. Perhaps it might have jarred skeptical conservatives into safer behavior that slowed the spread of a virus now killing people across the U.S.

    The senator has not provided adequate answers to those questions, and he has said he “relied solely on public news reports to guide my decision regarding the sale of stocks on February 13.” Reports, however, say that Burr and other members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and House Intelligence Committee were receiving “ominous, classified warnings” about the virus as early as late January.

    But frankly, North Carolinians don’t need an agency or committee of Burr’s peers to tell us what he did was inexcusably wrong. In a crisis that will define his state and country for years, the senator failed in his most fundamental duty, to serve and protect the people who elected him.

    Now, everything he does will be colored by that failure. Republicans know Burr is an albatross, an example opponents will use throughout this election season to argue that too many in the GOP, especially the president, have seen COVID-19 through the lens of personal gains and losses. North Carolinians know that he will be a source of shame to our state, that until he honors his long-ago pledge to retire in 2022, he will be the N.C. senator who tried to steal a lifeboat all for himself.

    As the coronavirus crisis worsens here and across the country, so will the weight of what Richard Burr did and didn’t do. It’s difficult to see him as a visible or viable representative of our interests. His effectiveness as a leader has been profoundly hobbled.

    And yet, Burr seems to have no intention of doing everyone a favor and resigning. Sadly, that’s not a surprise. At the moment we needed him most, Richard Burr was thinking mostly about himself. One week later, that hasn’t changed.

  10. says

    Trump is currently using his coronavirus press briefing to present a campaign rally.

    So far, he has lied (again) about tariffs on Chinese goods being paid practically into his hands so that he can turn around and give it to U.S. farmers to get them through a rough time. He even claims that he paid the farmers and “had money left over.”

    He also attacked the media. (“Fake news” etc. etc.)

    He claimed that China and others are hoping he doesn’t get elected in November because then they can negotiate with Joe Biden. Trump implies that Biden is soft and Trump is tough.

    Trump repeated more than a dozen times that we have to open the country back up, open businesses again, get the economy open, “when we’re open, we’ll still go by the guideline” etc. etc. Trump seems to think that if we just don’t shake hands anymore, we can all go back to work.

    I’m sick of this.

  11. blf says

    Hair furor beserking again, Trump accuses media of wanting to keep economy shut to hurt his reelection:

    Despite warning from health experts, president denies Easter timeline is based on his political interests and attacks the press

    [… H]e sought to provide reassurance that he would heed the advice of public health officials. I’m not going to do anything rash or hastily, I don’t do that.


    Meanwhile Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that the coronavirus could be seasonal and cyclical. “I know we’ll be successful in putting this down now,” he said. “But we really need to be prepared for another cycle.”

    Trump also offered some bizarre digressions, boasting about his efforts to make Nato allies pay more, touting his big, beautiful wall and defending the package’s $25m funding for the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.

    This was a request from the Democrats because of the fact that they have a facility that’s essentially closed up, he said. If I wanted to go there tonight to look at Romeo and Juliet, I’d love to go see Romeo and Juliet …

    I rather doubt hair furor has any interest at all in Mr Shakespeare’s work. (A quick search finds numerous comparisons of him to various characters — Richard II, Julius Caesar, Coriolanus, King Lear, Macbeth, &tc — and apparently there was a staging of Julius Ceaser with hair furor in the title role, as well as a variant of Macbeth (MacTrump).

  12. blf says

    Chloroquine: Trump’s misleading claims spark hoarding and overdoses:

    Claims by Donald Trump regarding the effectiveness against coronavirus of an anti-malarial drug untested against the disease have led to it being hoarded, as well as to at least one death in the US and a number of overdoses around the world.

    Trump called the drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine potential gamechangers [a far more definite gamechanger would be keeping hair furor locked-up in his bedroom without his mobile phone –blf] during a press conference last week, spurring a rush by some individuals — and even countries, including Algeria and Indonesia — to stockpile the drugs. India, meanwhile, has announced it will ban export of the drug.

    While New York state has ordered 70,000 doses for an approved clinical trial in combination with another drug, Trump’s intervention has led to at least one death after a man in Arizona took a non-pharmaceutical version intended for use in killing parasites in home aquariums.

    New research published on Wednesday suggested that “off label” re-purposing of drugs such as hydroxychloroquine could lead to “drug-induced sudden cardiac death”. The paper by the Mayo Clinic […] found that chloroquine and Kaletra, a HIV drug also being used against coronavirus, can cause the heart muscle to take longer than normal to recharge between beats.

    Trump’s comments, for which Dr Anthony Fauci […] said there was only anecdotal evidence, prompted some experts to warn of the risk of individuals self-medicating with untested and inappropriate drugs.

    “The last thing that we want right now is to inundate our emergency departments with patients who believe they found a vague and risky solution that could potentially jeopardise their health,” said Daniel Brooks, the medical director of the Banner poison and drug information centre in Phoenix.

    Already some patients who rely on chloroquine for other conditions — including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis — have complained about not being able to find the drug.

    [… details about the drugs & various antics…]

  13. blf says

    This is a neat idea, High-speed ‘hospital’: Train transports France’s coronavirus patients:

    One of France’s high-speed TGV trains […] has been equipped to transport coronavirus patients from the country’s heavily effected east to hospitals in the west.

    Each carriage has a medical team including an intensive care doctor, an anaesthetist and three nurses.

    In total, around 50 people, including carers and support staff, are on board during the transportation.


    “The idea is to work with the shift of the regions to take patients from the regions that are in full epidemic peak, to transport them towards currently calmer regions, and afterwards these rotations can take place across the whole country or even Europe” [explains Lionel Lamhaut, the doctor in charge of transporting patients …]

    There’s a video at the link. Another closely-related France24 video is Coronavirus — Covid-19: France stages first train evacuation of virus patients. (Both videos are in English.) The TGV is fast, smooth, can carry a fair number of patients, and provides much more room for the medical staff. There’s apparently 20 or so patients on the first train (which may be more than French military specialist medical airlift, which are already in use).

  14. blf says

    And a very much not at all neat idea, As world struggles to stop deaths, far right celebrates COVID-19 (Al Jazeera edits in {curly braces}):

    Some hardliners want to use the virus as a weapon to kill minorities, as others spread further hate and conspiracy.

    The new coronavirus has already infected hundreds of thousands of people, taken more than 20,000 lives and caused a level of economic, social and political disruption not seen in decades.

    But for many far-right hardliners, it’s a crisis to be welcomed.

    The hardest-core “accelerationists”  — violent neo-Nazis who want civilisation to crumble, hope that COVID-19 will turn out to be their secret weapon.

    “The situation is ripe for exploitation by the far right,” Cynthia Miller-Idriss, American University sociologist and expert on the far-right, told Al Jazeera.

    Aside from feeding into “accelerationist and apocalytic ideas”, Miller-Idriss said “the uncertainty the pandemic creates creates fertile ground for claims about the need for change or the solutions the far right purports to offer.”

    A leader of the Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM), a neo-Nazi movement based in northern Europe, said that he welcomed the pandemic as a necessary step to help create the world that his group wants to see.

    {COVID-19} might be precisely what we need in order to bring about a real national uprising and a strengthening of revolutionary political forces, Simon Lindberg, the leader of NRM’s Swedish branch, wrote on the movement’s website.

    We cannot build a society lasting thousands of years into the future on the rotten foundations of today, Lindberg added, {but} instead we must build it upon the ruins of their creation.


    In Germany, members of the neo-Nazi group Die Rechte (The Right) claimed that German borders should have been sealed off weeks ago to all non-Europeans.

    Another German neo-Nazi group, Der Dritte Weg (The Third Way), said that the virus was being exploited by German leaders as a diversionary tactic to distract from an apparent oncoming flood of refugees and migrants from the Middle East.

    In Ukraine, a figure in the country’s far-right Azov movement took to messaging app Telegram to claim that the spread of COVID-19 generally isn’t the fault of white people and stated that ethnic minorities in Italy should alone be blamed for the spread of the virus there […].

    And it was on Telegram, the online messaging application that has been the target of much criticism for allowing openly violent content on its platform, where the most ardent far-right fans of COVID-19 can be found.

    “Neo-Nazi accelerationist Telegram channels have increased their calls for destabilisation and violence related to COVID-19,” Joshua Fisher-Birch, a researcher from the United States-based Counter Extremism Project, which monitors international “extremist” movements, told Al Jazeera.

    “These channels are treating the current situation … as an opportunity to try to increase tension and advocate for violence.”

    Much of this content is available to anyone online, even those without a Telegram user account.

    One popular neo-Nazi channel urged its members to cough on doorknobs at synagogues. Another urged followers infected with COVID-19 to spray their saliva on police officers.

    And a further channel praised a man arrested in New Jersey in the US for coughing on a grocery store employee and claiming he had COVID-19.

    Exalted to sainthood, the channel wrote in a now-deleted comment on a news story about the incident.

    The term saint or sainthood is common praise for perpetrators of violence on neo-Nazi Telegram channels.

    But the calls for spreading COVID-19 go beyond Telegram.

    In recently leaked chat logs on Discord, an online chat application, members of Feuerkrieg Division discussed deliberately infecting Jews and others if one of the members caught the virus.

    Feuerkrieg Division is a small neo-Nazi group with a presence in the US and Europe […]

    Some far-right fantasies about COVID-19 have already spilled over into the real world.

    Well-known far-right figure Timothy Wilson […] died on Tuesday after a shootout with FBI agents in Missouri […]. Wilson had been planning to attack a hospital caring for patients suffering from COVID-19.

    […] Wilson was an administrator of a neo-Nazi Telegram channel known for encouraging violence.

    Wilson promoted attacks and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 outbreak on the channel, claiming that the pandemic was an excuse to destroy our people.


    “A great deal of this content is shared [sic†] as an attempt at humour or trolling,” Fisher-Birch told Al Jazeera, “but it’s possible that a member of the target audience will decide to take action and commit an act of violence.”

      † I speculate the “[sharing] as an attempt at humour or trolling” is, in part, “disguised provocation” — that is, it may be called “humour” and/or be from (or look like it is from) a troll, but it actually is an attempt to rile up someone enough to go and do something.

  15. blf says

    More about that really neat idea @20, SNCF deploys hospital TGV:

    SNCF [Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français, the French national railway company] has started transporting Covid-19 patients using a TGV Duplex trainset that has been has adapted as a mobile hospital unit. It is being used to evacuate recuperating patients from hot spot areas where the hospitals are saturated to regions which have spare capacity in their intensive care facilities.

    Described by Minister of Health Olivier Véran as ‘a first for Europe’, the train was first deployed on March 26 to move 20 patients from the Grand Est region to Pays de Loire, the French region least affected by the pandemic. […]

    According to SNCF President Jean-Pierre Farandou, the double-deck trainset can carry up to 25 patients. There is provision for four people in each trailer car, where the stretchers are supported above the seats, which have not been removed. Each vehicle has a six-strong medical team, comprising an anesthetist, a junior doctor, a nurse anesthetist and three nurses. The buffet car has been adapted as a ‘medical space’ in case the condition of a patient deteriorates en route.


    Last year, SNCF and the Paris SAMU [Service d’Aide Médicale Urgente] undertook a joint exercise to test the concept of a mobile rail hospital in the event of a pandemic or terrorist attack. On May 21–22 2019, 400 people took part in Exercise Chardon, which simulated the transfer to Paris of seriously injured victims from a supposed terrorist attack in Metz. ‘We took the example of a terrorist attack but the same approach could be used for pandemics or technological disasters’, the head of SAMU Paris Professor Pierre Carli told local media at the time.

    A science-led response with an excellent and basically free healthcare system and (largely-)integrated transport that does advance planning and drills / tests. What a radical idea!

  16. blf says

    And now teh impeached orange eejit and his dalekocrazy has pissed off Canada, Canada slams US proposal to station troops on border:

    Canada on Thursday attacked a proposal by the United States to deploy troops along the undefended joint border to help fight the spread of coronavirus, saying the idea was unnecessary and would damage relations.


    Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, however, made clear the Liberal Party government had no time for a plan to send hundreds of troops to the border to help boost security.

    “Canada is strongly opposed to this US proposal and we have made that opposition very, very clear … this is an entirely unnecessary step which we would view as damaging to our relationship,” Freeland told a news conference.


    Tim Currier, the mayor of Massena, New York, a town of about 13,000 people that is located about 15 km (9 miles) from the border, said the deployment of troops could spark panic if it were not communicated properly.

    “I’m concerned about perception. I’m concerned about how citizens look at that,” he said in a telephone interview.


    Hey hair furor, Stephen Miller and the other pinheaded daleks, sending in the military to patrol the border has got, let me count this on my fingers, yep, NOTHING to due with the pandemic (or your own current talking point, the economykleptocracy). Same for that idiotic wall at the Southern border.

  17. microraptor says

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday abruptly waived enforcement on a range of legally mandated public health and environmental protections, saying industries could have trouble complying with them during the coronavirus pandemic.

    The oil and gas industry were among the industries that had sought an advance relaxation of environmental and public health enforcement during the outbreak, citing potential staffing problems. The EPA’s decision was sweeping, forgoing fines or other civil penalties for companies that failed to monitor, report or meet some other requirements for releasing hazardous pollutants.

  18. johnson catman says

    re blf @21:

    I speculate the “[sharing] as an attempt at humour or trolling” is, in part, “disguised provocation” — that is, it may be called “humour” and/or be from (or look like it is from) a troll, but it actually is an attempt to rile up someone enough to go and do something.

    This is no different from The Orange Toddler-Tyrant saying something very damaging and provocative and then claiming “I was just joking”. All the more proof that right-wingers and conservatives don’t really have a sense of humor.

  19. says

    “Trump says he’s having a big problem with ‘the young, a woman governor, you know who I’m talking about, from Michigan’.”

    Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: “Hi, my name is Gretchen Whitmer, and that governor is me [waving hand emoji]

    I’ve asked repeatedly and respectfully for help. We need it. No more political attacks, just PPEs, ventilators, N95 masks, test kits. You said you stand with Michigan — prove it.

    PS: I’m happy to work with the VP! We get along well.”

    It’s madness that governors have to deal with this.

  20. says

    Aaron Rupar’s thread with quotes and video clips from Trump’s interview with Hannity last night.

    Trump then talked to Xi, and after some threats, bribes, or sweet talk from Xi tweeted:

    “Just finished a very good conversation with President Xi of China. Discussed in great detail the CoronaVirus that is ravaging large parts of our Planet. China has been through much & has developed a strong understanding of the Virus. We are working closely together. Much respect!”

  21. johnson catman says

    re SC @30: One would almost say that the call with Xi was “perfect”, huh?

  22. johnson catman says

    re SC @33: Yeah, that $1B could buy a wheel for the landing gear of an F-35 or something.

  23. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    That is especially funny, as we got two new puppies the very week before the caca hit the fan. They’ve been endless entertainment. I’m wondering if you can overdose on “cute”.

  24. blf says

    And the eejits come swarming out, Rightwing thinktanks use fear of Covid-19 to fight bans on plastic bags (my added emboldening):

    Articles from conservative groups argue plastic bags are safer for coronavirus than reusable bags, misrepresenting recent studies


    Articles warning that reusable cloth bags are worse than plastic ones for spreading coronavirus have been linked to major rightwing nonprofits such as the Manhattan Institute, and contain misinformation aimed at defeating or repealing plastic bag bans, said Greenpeace USA.


    Recent studies have found that Covid-19 could be stable on plastic and steel for up to three days, compared with 24 hours for cardboard and four hours for copper. The studies have not examined how long the virus remained on cloth and there is little scientific evidence comparing reusable bags with plastic.

    Last week a number of US states and cities nevertheless took the decision to roll back plastic bag bans, citing the coronavirus. Maine repealed its ban. The governor of New Hampshire went further by issuing an order banning reusable bags, saying they risk spreading coronavirus. The governor of Massachusetts banned reusable bags and lifted plastic bag bans. And New York state, which implemented its plastic bag ban on 1 March, will delay enforcement until June.

    The moves come after a lobbying effort by groups including the Manhattan Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a libertarian nonprofit instrumental in persuading the Trump administration to abandon the Paris climate agreement.

    While nonprofits are not required to disclose their donors, both have reportedly received money from fossil fuel companies. Among the sponsors for a CEI gala last year were the Charles Koch Institute and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers association, the New York Times reported.


    John Hocevar, Greenpeace USA’s oceans campaigner, condemned what he described as industry groups that have “seen the crisis as an opportunity to exploit people’s fears around Covid-19 to push their pro-pollution agendas”.

    “Even in the short term, plastic does not inherently make something clean and safe, and we should not confuse corporate public relations with factual medical research,” Hocevar said.

    [… O]n 12 March, the Manhattan Institute authored an article in the City Journal claiming: The ‘sustainable’ bags that environmentalists and politicians have been so eager to impose on the public … can sustain the Covid-19 and flu viruses and spread the virus throughout the store.

    The piece, headlined Greening our way to infection and written by John Tierney, cites unnamed research that Tierney claims showed viruses and bacteria can survive on tote bags for nine days. It offers no evidence to back this claim — in fact, it links to a study showing viruses can remain on plastic for nine days.


    Ivy Schlegel, a researcher at Greenpeace USA, said: […] “What we do know is that there is no substitute for strict hygiene. Just because a material is made from single-use plastic does not make it less likely to transmit viral infections during use; in fact, plastic surfaces appear to allow coronaviruses to remain infectious for particularly long periods compared to other materials.”

    “The decisions we make for our families in this health crisis should be based on science and the advice of medical professionals, not lobbyists for the fossil fuel and plastics industries. Wherever reusables are an option, it is incumbent upon all of us to do our part to protect one another by washing them thoroughly after every use.”


  25. blf says

    Last year, as referenced in this series of poopyhead threads, the problem of women in Japan being required or otherwise coerced into wearing high-heel torture vises at work was noted. One government minister called them necessary and appropriate. An update, Japan Airlines ditches compulsory high heels and skirts in big win for #KuToo movement:

    Company becomes first major employer in the country to stop forcing dress code on women


    Japan Airlines (JAL) said that under its new dress code, which will take effect next month, almost 6,000 female crew members would be able to choose footwear that “best fits their needs” and swap their skirts for trousers, adding that the move was intended to create a “diverse working environment”.

    The airline’s decision was welcomed by Yumi Ishikawa, an actor and writer who is credited with starting the #KuToo movement — a play on #MeToo that combines the Japanese words for shoes (kutsu) and pain (kutsuu).

    “It’s a great step given that Japan Airlines is such a big company,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    “It’s not only airlines — there are also hotels, department stores, banks and a lot of other companies with this requirement. I hope they follow this example,” added Ishikawa, who triggered the campaign last year with a tweet about being forced to wear high heels for her part-time job at a funeral parlour.

    Other Japanese companies are unlikely to follow suit, however. Most firms whose business entails customer service, including banks and airlines, force women to wear high heels, according to a poll last year by the Kyodo news agency.

    Another survey found that more than 60% of women had been told to wear high heels or had witnessed female colleagues being forced to wear them. More than 80% said the footwear had caused them physical discomfort.


    The movement has since expanded to include demands for the right to wear glasses at work, after a TV report about companies that forced women to wear contact lenses sparked outrage on social media.


  26. blf says

    From one of the Grauniad’s resturant / food columnists, Grace Dent: ‘My mother, in her 80s, is being guarded like a rare Fabergé egg’:

    Each time I try to amend the grocery order, the website falls over, punch-drunk and exhausted. For a few terrifying minutes, it flounders. Then it stands up again and refreshes

    Workington Asda [Asda is a UK supermarket chain –blf] is stripped of tinned marrowfat peas and rich tea biscuits, the online store says. No ETA on stocks, either. Cumbria is prepping. I ponder the merits of tinned mushy peas instead — always a touch tasteless — then wonder if I can placate with fig rolls. My mother, in her 80s, is being guarded like a rare Fabergé egg, albeit a furious egg that finds this enforcement ridiculous. House arrest is a very strong term, but I am not above a rugby tackle. “No marrowfat peas in west Cumbria?” she gasps down the phone.

    Now this is a dire situation. This week’s column was meant to be about a jocund lunch at The Dorchester Grill in Mayfair. Oh, wasn’t the lobster thermidor tart delicious? Boy, life came at me fast.


    Millions will be in my position right now, choosing groceries for the isolated. It’s a delicate process. What we eat at home, behind closed doors, is personal. [… I]t takes days of gentle questioning to reveal the things the isolated actually want, once they’ve got over refusing help or being grateful. “A jar of beetroot, sliced, not whole,” she says eventually. “Some microwave meals for the freezer, but none with fish. Heinz chicken noodle soup, but not cream of chicken.” “No fish,” I write on my whiteboard, where, via columns of to-do lists, I aim to ride out this planetary blip.


    When the madness passes, which it will, because all things do, I hope we remember how the supermarket staff really served us. […]

    I hope we remember the selfless hard work of the till workers and midnight shelf-stackers, the people on self-service checkouts who sort our unexplained item in the baggage area problems without maintaining a safe distance. Forever touching the screens we’ve just touched, keeping the queues moving and, by default, breathing in our germs. As shoppers ransacked the pasta and fought over UHT [Ultra-High-Temperature processed foods (esp. milk†) –blf], they had no time to plan for their own families or to watch rolling news or to think too hard if their sweat was the mark of hard work or a fever. I would hug, if I could, the team at my Sainsbury’s Local [Sainsbury’s is another UK supermarket chain –blf], who open at dawn every day, always jolly, with the shelves restocked with small amounts of almost all vital items. I’m especially indebted to the drivers whom I’m trusting to get to my mother. They’re taking up the slack on what is now my biggest life problem. I’m trusting total strangers to feed her, not upset her, not frighten her, to keep their distance and to leave the boxes somewhere handy. And to explain to her why there are no rich teas. I wouldn’t call that job unskilled at all.

    The above-excerpted essay reminds me of a recent post here at FtB by Marissa Alexa McCool, Marissa Explains It All #9 — Hotel Life During the Quarantine.

      † UHT milk is atrocious. I’d forgotten all about until just now. Possibly worse than peas. (The mildly deranged penguin points out UHT milk is not as vicious as peas, but still lethal; broadly, pea:Dalek::UHT:Cyberman.)

  27. blf says

    Follow-up to @41, I joined Tesco for a stress-free life but now I’m on the coronavirus frontline (Tesco is yet another UK supermarket chain):

    As a checkout supervisor, one of the rewards of my job was the positive interaction with customers. All that has changed


    Now I find myself on one of the frontlines in the fight against coronavirus. While health professionals care for fast-growing numbers of very sick people, my team and I serve the huge numbers who are worried that they will not be able to buy the food and other products they need to keep their family fed and in good health.


    Usually, one of the joys of my job is that I have time to say hello to our regulars and help people who need assistance. The interaction is rewarding and I go home happy that I’ve added a smile or a laugh to someone’s day. Coronavirus has changed that. Now my interactions are mostly negative. I find myself explaining newly imposed item limits, and apologising that we have run out of hand sanitiser. Most customers are polite and understanding, but one or to try to onload their frustration on me. I apologise again, and move on to the next challenge. Food retail is used to peaks in demand, with Christmas being the obvious example. Christmas, however, is fixed and finite: 2 January always brings with it a return to calm.

    Supermarket work has never been particularly highly regarded. It’s a role that younger people take on to bring in spending money, or that attracts pensioners keen to keep busy — not one that you aspire to or that comes with much respect. As a result of this pandemic, attitudes are taking a welcome turn. Customers thank us for what we are doing; they now see the true value of the once-taken-for-granted shopping trip and its life-sustaining importance.


    Our team is starting to develop a real sense of gallows humour. A bottle of vodka was dropped and broken — “Save it for hand sanitiser!” came the cry. Measures to keep us distanced from customers are starting to kick in, but we are all conscious that the high footfall of potential virus carriers elevates our own risk of catching the disease. […]

    […] My job, which had predictable weekly and seasonal rhythms, now feels like a voyage through a stormy sea.

  28. says

    KXAN – “UT modeling shows COVID-19 demand could put Austin hospitals at capacity in several weeks”:

    Modeling data from a University of Texas at Austin researcher shows that without social distancing COVID-19 patients may overwhelm Austin hospitals to the point where these hospitals exceed their capacities by this summer.

    UT Austin infectious disease epidemiologist Lauren Ancel Meyers spoke with the media about modeling results from a pandemic tool she and her team developed….

    Ancel Meyers’ model projects if there’s no social distancing that 1.6 million people will be infected by August in the Austin area. Furthermore, the data showed that a reduction in person-to-person contacts by 50% to 75% may not be enough to mitigate spread of COVID-19 and stop a surge of hospitalizations in the five-county area (Travis, Williamson, Bastrop, Caldwell and Hays).

    Based on the modeling, Ancel Meyers said that when Austin reaches a “peak” of COVID-19 cases will depend on how well the community does at carrying out social distancing measures.

    In the projections from the UT model, the only scenario which does not result in overwhelming Austin’s current capacity is one in which in-person interactions by residents are reduced by 90%. In the scenario with “no social distancing” (that means that if no schools were closed and if no stay-at-home measures were implemented) the Austin area is projected to exceed current hospital capacity by April and peak in May, yielding a higher overall number of hospitalizations than the other scenarios.

    At a press conference on Tuesday, Austin leaders said they estimate that Austin residents had reduced their daily contacts in the community by only 50%.

    “The takeaway from this analysis is that the extent of social distancing measures and our willingness to adhere to them will directly impact not only the fate of the outbreak but also our capacity to provide life-saving health care for those in need,” said Ancel Meyers….

  29. blf says

    And speaking of food supply in the UK (follow-up of sorts to @43), Millions to need food aid in days as virus exposes UK supply:

    Millions of people in the UK will need food aid in the coming days, food charities are warning, as the coronavirus outbreak threatens to quickly spiral into a crisis of hunger unless the government acts immediately to reinvent the way we feed ourselves.

    In just a few weeks, experts say, the pandemic has exposed the extraordinary fragility of the food system. And they worry whether it will withstand the growing pressures expected in the coming weeks and months.

    Supermarket distribution systems, based on “just in time” supply chains, are struggling to cope with a sudden surge in demand since Covid-19 took hold. The most pressing concern is finding a way to feed the country’s most vulnerable and isolated people.


    Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University, London, and a former government adviser, said ministers have worked on the assumption that feeding Britain can be left to the market and big retailers. While ministers have been in discussion with supermarket chief executives during the pandemic, Lang argues they are failing to grasp the structural weaknesses in the food system and the scale of food poverty.

    “The official line has been that it’s all seamless and would be fine if only stupid consumers would stop panic buying. It is not,” he said. “The just in time system is breaking. Government were only talking to a narrow range of people in industry rather than local authorities and community groups, who know where vulnerable people are.”

    Lang added: “Borders are closing, lorries are being slowed down and checked. We only produce 53% of our own food in the UK. It’s a failure of government to plan.”

    In normal times, about 30% of calories are eaten outside the home each day, in restaurants, cafes and canteens. The lockdown has significantly increased the amount of food people are eating at home, most of which is sourced from supermarkets.


    “Some £1bn extra food and groceries were bought by households in the last two to three weeks. That’s like Christmas but worse because it’s gone on for three times as long,” said Andrew Opie, director of food at the British Retail Consortium, the supermarket trade association.

    The problem, Opie says, is “sheer logistics”. There is food, but not the capacity in terms of trucks, drivers, packers and pickers in warehouses to deliver it faster. Supermarkets are recruiting thousands more workers, running trucks through what used to be curfew hours […]


    The consequences of a disrupted supply chain will be most acute for the millions in households whose incomes are so low that they have depended on food banks or free meals at school or in daycare centres, which have now closed.

    Local authorities and other food poverty organisations who want to step in to deliver food directly to vulnerable people have expressed frustration at the lack of clear guidance or funding from central government. They are calling for ministers to keep alternative networks to the supermarkets open, and to use the army if necessary to make sure food reaches people.


    The government has also been working on a scheme for parents of the 1.6 million children who had been on free school meals, with vouchers which can be redeemed in supermarkets. Campaigners, however, argue the vouchers should be usable for nutritionally-balanced meals from school kitchens, which could be kept open.

    They point out that this would also make use of the tonnes of food that got stuck in the wholesale system when companies that supply pubs, bar, cafes and restaurants were forced to close and lost their business overnight.

    This stock cannot be diverted to retailers because it is packed in bulk and labelled in the wrong way. “The whole food service sector is working hard to find a way to get this food to market, but you are asking it to redesign a whole supply chain in real time. It’s not like throwing a switch,” said Andrew Kuyk, director general of the Provision Trade Federation.

    [… labour shortages and so on…]

  30. blf says

    (A slightly edited cross-post warning from poopyhead’s Let it be known thread.)

    Trolls exploit Zoom privacy settings as app gains popularity:

    Working and socialising from home has brought new risks to everyday life, as webcam meetings and chatroom cocktail hours contend with privacy invasions, phishing attacks and “zoombombings” — uninvited guests abusing the popular video service to broadcast shocking imagery to all.

    [… T]he default settings of the service are configured in the expectation of trust between participants, meaning trolls can wreak havoc. Some zoombombers have used the screensharing feature to broadcast pornography and violent imagery. Others have revelled in the opportunity for exhibitionism, while security experts have said the file transfer feature that is switched on by default could be used to spread malware.


    Other aspects of the service have also come under criticism. One Zoom feature allows hosts to tell if guests are looking at a window other than the Zoom chat — perfect for bosses who want to ensure their employees are paying attention, but an unexpected invasion of privacy for many. On Thursday, Vice News reported that the service’s iOS app was sending some analytics data to Facebook, even if users did not have a Facebook account.


    Technically, apparently the service is fairly secure, the problems tend to be in poor configuration (including the defaults) and the like, plus a rather dodgy notion of privacy.

    (I’ve installed zoom myself on my laptop, but have yet to sign up for the service as I developed some (non-specific) doubts of my own…)

  31. says

    Neil Ferguson:

    I think it would be helpful if I cleared up some confusion that has emerged in recent days. Some have interpreted my evidence to a UK parliamentary committee as indicating we have substantially revised our assessments of the potential mortality impact of COVID-19.

    This is not the case. Indeed, if anything, our latest estimates suggest that the virus is slightly more transmissible than we previously thought. Our lethality estimates remain unchanged.

    My evidence to Parliament referred to the deaths we assess might occur in the UK in the presence of the very intensive social distancing and other public health interventions now in place.

    Without those controls, our assessment remains that the UK would see the scale of deaths reported in our study (namely, up to approximately 500 thousand).

  32. says

    blf @ #46, my best friend and I are doing a little happy hour on Saturday and she asked whether I had Zoom or just wanted to be on the phone. I was like, “Nah, I’m good with the phone.”

  33. blf says

    In teh NKofE (from the Grauniad’s current UK live pandemic blog (video at the link)):

    The prime minister’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings [teh NKofE’s Stephen Miller –blf], was seen running from Downing Street around the same time that Boris Johnson announced to the nation he had contracted Covid-19 on Friday.

    In the footage, captured by BBC and Sky news cameras, Cummings flees from a back gate with a rucksack.


    Also, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has tested positive (and apparently announced so just after the video of Cummings running away was filmed).

  34. blf says

    Apparently (from the Grauniad’s current live pandemic blog), doctors in the Alsace region here in France (which is one of hardest-hit regions) have been forced into doing what was done in Italy: Patients over 80 years old are no longer being put on ventilators, but are instead getting “terminal care” with pain suppressants. Whilst triaging intensive care is acknowledged, other details are disputed.

    (Alsace is on the eastern border next to Germany & Switzerland, and something like 800km away from where I live on the Mediterranean coast.)

  35. says

    G liveblog (linked @ #38 above):

    As Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro calls on people to return to work – despite the advice of medical experts – his government is rolling out a propaganda video with the hashtag Brazil Can’t Stop (#OBrasilNãoPodePara).

    The clip, which shows beaming Brazilian workers and professionals, has been shared on Bolsonarista WhatsApp and the president’s son, senator Flávio Bolsonaro, posted it on his Facebook.

    Bolsonaro has been widely condemned for his response to the crisis, which he has dismissed as a fantasy and a “media trick”. In a Facebook Live broadcast on Thursday night, Bolsonaro pointed to rising unemployment in the United States – which has overtaken China as the country with most cases of coronavirus – as the reason Brazil needed to get back to work.

    “This problem has already started here,” he said, comparing lockdown measures to “that chemotherapy equipment” treatment for cancer.

    “They are killing the patient to combat the virus,” he said. “Without money I am dying of hunger, man, dying of hunger. Suicide. Violence comes next.” Bolsonaro also shared a video on Facebook of a parade of cars demonstrating for a return to work in Balneário Camboriú in Santa Catarina state, Southern Brazil.

    Santa Catarina state will allow restaurants, bars, gyms, shopping centres and shops to open from April 1, the Estado de S.Paulo newspaper said. Mato Grosso and Rondônia states – also run by right-wing governors – have announced similar measures.

    But Brazilian coronavirus cases continued to rise – to 2,991 cases and 77 deaths. And a researcher for government research institute Fiocruz said hospitalisations for respiratory problems have exploded since the first coronavirus case was confirmed, the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper reported. There were 2,250 cases from March 15-21, nearly ten times the norm….

    I don’t think his chemotherapy comparison quite works the way he thinks it does…

  36. says

    G liveblog:

    In Italy, the frontline of Europe’s battle against Covid-19, disease infections have not yet reached their peak, according to the head of the country’s national health institute, warning that lockdown measures will have to be extended.

    The country has reported 8,215 deaths of people who contracted the coronavirus, with the total confirmed cases topping 80,000. “We haven’t reached the peak and we haven’t passed it,” the chief of the Superior Health Institute, Silvio Brusaferro, said, adding that there were however “signs of a slowdown” in the numbers of people becoming infected.

    “When the descent begins, how steep it is will depend on our behaviour,” Brusaferro said, referring to how strictly Italians will continue to respect a government-imposed lockdown.

    Italy was the first Western country to introduce swingeing restrictions on movement after uncovering the outbreak five weeks ago. It has progressively tightened the curbs, banning all non-essential activities until at least next Friday, according to Reuters.

  37. says

    I’ve only googled for a few minutes, but I gather if Johnson were to become too sick to work the government would just keep functioning without him. Is that correct?

  38. says

    Guardian (support the Guardian if you can) – “Advice on protective gear for NHS staff was rejected owing to cost”:

    The Department of Health rejected high-level medical advice about providing NHS staff with certain protective equipment during an influenza pandemic because stockpiling it would be too expensive, the Guardian can reveal.

    Documents show that officials working under former health secretary Jeremy Hunt told medical advisers three years ago to “reconsider” a formal recommendation that eye protection should be provided to all healthcare professionals who have close contact with pandemic influenza patients.

    The expert advice was watered down after an “economic assessment” found a medical recommendation about providing visors or safety glasses to all hospital, ambulance and social care staff who have close contact with pandemic influenza patients would “substantially increase” the costs of stockpiling.

    The documents may help explain a devastating shortage of protective gear in the NHS that is hampering efforts by medical staff to manage the Covid-19 virus pandemic.

    Doctors are threatening to quit the profession unless they are properly equipped, and NHS trusts across England have been asking schools to donate science goggles due to the shortages, the Guardian revealed on Wednesday. The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has acknowledged “challenges” with the supply of protective material to NHS staff and has drafted in the army to get supplies to frontline workers.

    In recent days, his department says, more than 15m face masks have been delivered to the frontline, including 24.6m gloves and 1.9m sets of eye protection delivered on Wednesday.

    However documents seen by the Guardian suggest officials working under his predecessor resisted advice about stockpiling supplies of eye protection in case of a pandemic of this kind….

    Much more atl.

  39. says

    Now Chris Whitty:

    After experiencing symptoms compatible with COVID-19 last night, in line with the guidance, I will be self-isolating at home for the next seven days.

    I will be continuing to advise the Government on the medical response to Coronavirus, supported by my deputies.

  40. blf says

    SC@69, Massie’s current antics may have been mentioned previously, but for others who are also at a loss as to what is going on, this should help, Thomas Massie draws condemnation from Trump, fellow Republicans over forcing in-person vote on coronavirus rescue package. Details at the link, but basically he announced he would call for an in-person vote in the House on the $2tn package. It was going to be a voice-vote (by phone, I gather), but House rules say that just one request for an in-person vote forces the vote to be in-person. Hence, House members are now rushing back to DC just in case Massie carries through with his threat.

    And the “reason” for threat: If getting us into $6 trillion more debt doesn’t matter, then why are we not getting $350 trillion more in debt so that we can give a check of $1 million to every person in the country.

  41. says

    Follow-up to SC @33.

    The White House had been preparing to reveal on Wednesday a joint venture between General Motors and Ventec Life Systems that would allow for the production of as many as 80,000 desperately needed ventilators to respond to an escalating pandemic when word suddenly came down that the announcement was off.

    The decision to cancel the announcement, government officials say, came after the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it needed more time to assess whether the estimated cost was prohibitive. That price tag was more than $1 billion, with several hundred million dollars to be paid upfront to General Motors to retool a car parts plant in Kokomo, Ind., where the ventilators would be made with Ventec’s technology.

    Government officials said that the deal might still happen but that they are examining at least a dozen other proposals. And they contend that an initial promise that the joint venture could turn out 20,000 ventilators in short order had shrunk to 7,500, with even that number in doubt. Longtime emergency managers at FEMA are working with military officials to sort through the competing offers and federal procurement rules while under pressure to give President Trump something to announce.

    But in an interview Thursday night with Sean Hannity, the president played down the need for ventilators.

    “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” he said, a reference to New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo has appealed for federal help in obtaining them. “You go into major hospitals sometimes, and they’ll have two ventilators. And now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’”

    A General Motors spokesman said that “Project V,” as the ventilator program is known, was moving very fast, and a company official said “there’s no issue with retooling.”

    A Ventec representative agreed. “Ventec and G.M. have been working at breakneck speed to leverage our collective expertise in ventilation and manufacturing to meet the needs of the country as quickly as possible and arm medical professionals with the number of ventilators needed to save lives,” said Chris O. Brooks, Ventec’s chief strategy officer.

    The only thing missing was clarity from the government about how many ventilators they needed — and who would be paid to build them.

    The shortage of ventilators has emerged as one of the major criticisms of the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus. […] And even now, the effort to produce them has been confused and disorganized.

    At the center of the discussion about how to ramp up the production of ventilators is Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a senior White House aide, who has told people that he was called in two weeks ago by Vice President Mike Pence to produce more coronavirus test kits and who has now turned his attention to ventilators.

    He has been directing officials at FEMA in the effort. Two officials said the suggestion to wait on the General Motors offer came from Col. Patrick Work, who is working at FEMA. Some government officials expressed concern about the possibility of ordering too many ventilators, leaving them with an expensive surplus. […]

    NY Times link

    The Trump administration is a disgrace. They fail at administration. Their failures need to be highlighted by everyone.

    What about the surplus of dead bodies?

  42. says

    Trump tweeted: “General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!! FORD, GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!!!! @GeneralMotors @Ford”

    First, as Kaitlan Collins points out, that plant was sold by GM last year.

    Second, as people in the responses note, Trump tweeted and bragged about the sale at the time.


  43. says

    Hunter Walker, Yahoo:

    I have been the *most* careful about this because my wife has asthma. We quarantined early and have tried to distance. My only significant exposure came at the White House briefing on 3/16.

    I do not think the White House has been remotely careful enough to safeguard staff and press at these briefings. I have been adamant about this privately with the pool. Now I have suspected coronavirus.

    I knew what I was walking into when I went to the White House this month. I thought it was worth it to ask tough questions and inform people in this crisis. Shout out to my colleagues who are working hard to cover the president in difficult and dangerous conditions.

    They are putting us on Tamiflu and we are isolating for 7-10 days. I am praying this stays kild and I can come out of this with immunity to keep bringing you all news through this crisis.


  44. says

    More re #55 above – “BRAZIL – Some cities, like Curitiba, are seeing motorcade of well-off Bolsonarists demanding people to go back to work and business to re-open. Demonstrators are instructed not to leave cars.”

    Video of this absurd, shameful procession at the link.

  45. blf says

    Follow-up to @19, Vital drug for people with lupus running out after unproven Covid-19 link:

    A stampede for an unproven cure for Covid-19 is clearing the pharmacy shelves of a medicine that is vital for up to 5 million people around the world suffering from lupus, as countries bow to populist pressure and abandon the trials that would show whether hydroxychloroquine works against coronavirus infection.


    Popular pressure for access to the drug has been ramped up by pronouncements from presidents [sic] Donald Trump in the US and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, both of whom have claimed it is a cure. An Australian businessman, the former politician Clive Palmer, has pledged to fund 1m doses to ensure all Australians would have access to the drug as soon as possible.

    Palmer is a well-known moron with loonie far right leanings. As an example, he once sued Greenpeace, claiming it received funds from the CIA to disable Ozland’s mining industry (of which he and his companies are a major player). (A little bit more about Palmer’s stunt, Clive Palmer buys huge News Corp ad pushing malaria drug as possible coronavirus cure.)

    But the drug is already running out for people with lupus, a disorder of the immune system, who rely on it to stay well. Shortages are being reported from the UK to Thailand to France. India, which manufactures the raw ingredient, has banned all exports of the chemical to safeguard its own supplies […]


    For 90% of the more than 60,000 people in the UK with lupus, hydroxychloroquine is the mainstay of their treatment, preventing their immune system making too many antibodies, which can otherwise attack the body’s organs — mainly the kidneys and the skin, but also the heart, lungs and brain.

    “Their local pharmacies don’t have any stocks available on the shelves,” said [Paul Howard of Lupus UK]. “They have no date for when they can expect stocks to arrive.”

    There is no good alternative, he said. Other immunosuppressants have toxic side-effects and may put people at greater risk of Covid-19.


    In France, the government caved to pressure from a doctor who ran his own very small and rapid trial of the drug combined with an antibiotic in 26 people, using methodology that has been seriously criticised. Dr Didier Raoult, a professor of infectious diseases who works at La Timone hospital in Marseille, then declared in a video on YouTube that chloroquine was a cure for Covid-19 and should be used immediately.

    Raoult walked out of the scientific advisory committee advising the government. A social media frenzy began, with allegations that the government was being influenced by the big pharmaceutical companies which wanted to block hydroxychloroquine because it was cheap, being out of patent. People queued outside Raoult’s hospital to be tested and get the drug, defying the lockdown. Finally, the French government gave way and decreed that doctors could prescribe it for any Covid-19 patient. […]

    Good grief. I wasn’t aware of that; up to now, as far as I knew, the government’s actions have been fairly strictly science-led.

    Whether or not Dr Raoult is a quack I have no idea, but he apparently is a crank, or at least a global heating denier, Didier Raoult, le “pêcheur de microbes” à l’assaut du Covid-19 (Didier Raoult, the “microbe fisherman” assaulting the Covid-19, in translation):

    [… H]e expressed his doubts in the face of global warming and these mathematical models catastrophists who are only a modern form of divination.

    I don’t play Nostradamus, all the forecasts are wrong, you can never do anything but daily adjustment, he said in late February.

    Back to the Grauniad:

    The impact on the global trials to find out what really works is serious. Nick White, a professor of tropical medicine at Mahidol University in Thailand and at the University of Oxford, says the problem is enormous — not so much for malaria, where the drug is now less used, but for lupus patients and for hopes of finding out what works and sharing it globally.

    “From [US government infectious diseases adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci] to the head of the World Health Organization, everyone says trials. It may be worse than nothing. We don’t know,” he said.

    “The nationalistic shuttering down of export and import of drugs is serious. Drugs are manufactured in relatively small numbers of places and have to be moved to other places.

    “The indirect harm could be worse than the impact of Covid-19,” he said. “it is not just the drugs that might work. It is all drugs. Italy, for instance, is a major source of drugs for the NHS. This is a very big area. It is getting bigger by the minute. And the opportunity to answer the sensible question — do these things work, yes or no? — is narrowing as countries become more nationalistic in terms of hoarding drugs.”

  46. says


    One day, Dr. Birx will look back on clips like this and go take a shower. She’ll be (rightly) ashamed of what she had to do and say to keep her job in government in a time of crisis….

    Video atl.

  47. says

    Sorry – Mehdi Hasan:

    One day, Dr. Birx will look back on clips like this and go take a shower. She’ll be (rightly) ashamed of what she had to do and say to keep her job in government in a time of crisis….

    Video atl.

  48. blf says

    Not unexpectedly, here in France, French PM extends coronavirus lockdown by two weeks until April 15:

    “After these first 10 days of confinement, it is clear that we are just at the beginning of this epidemic wave. It has submerged eastern France and now it is arriving in the Paris region and northern France,” said [French Prime Minister Édouard] Philippe.

    For this reason, he said, the confinement period would be extended by two weeks from Tuesday next week, and added that the same rules would apply.

    Philippe said that this period would only be extended again if the health situation required it.


    Apropos of nothing much, I went out again this afternoon for more shopping, mostly for bread, meat, and some more fresh veggies, all at small specialist shops. Not all the shops I’d planned to visit were open, apparently many are now opening only during the morning.

    There was very good social distancing everywhere, and several of the shops had erected makeshift barriers of heavy plastic sheeting, esp.  at the till. All the staff I saw (many of whom own the shops) were wearing gloves and masks. We exchanged a few jokes about the measures.

    There was very little traffic; I don’t recall seeing any vehicles (except one idling car) other than a non-emergency ambulance (kidney dialysis or something similar, I suspect). I did not see any police whatsoever. There were several loitering “pedestrians” — whilst a bit cloudy, it was a nice day — albeit none were otherwise acting as eejits.

    I gave one of my baguettes to a local homeless person.

  49. blf says

    Vive la France! ‘What public service is about’: French schools open to children of health workers battling virus:

    Although French schools are officially shut, some continue to care for the children of key workers on the coronavirus frontline. […]

    Like many of her colleagues across France, Nathalie Carboni-Latour didn’t think twice about returning to school when the call for volunteers came through.

    Located in eastern Paris, her nursery school closed its gates on Friday, March 13, along with more than 61,000 other schools scattered across France. But, as the entire country went into lockdown just days later, the headmistress was soon back at work catering for a specific public: the children of health workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

    “That’s what public service is about, we’re not just salaried workers,” she says. The idea of offering some support to health professionals on the frontline of the pandemic only made the decision to volunteer more obvious.


    Being able to cycle to work made it easier for Caroline, a nursery school teacher, to volunteer at one of the 28 schools that are still open in the French capital. The fact that her partner can work from home, and thus look after their children, was another precondition.

    At her school in southern Paris, four teachers and two headmistresses take it in turns to look after some 15 children of various ages. Other schools, including Carboni-Latour’s, cater to slightly larger groups. The education ministry says more than 28,000 pupils benefited from the scheme nationwide during the first week of lockdown.

    “It seemed pretty obvious to me that I should try and help out,” says Caroline. “If it means health professionals are free to look after the sick, then it’s well worth it.”

    [… T]he Paris education authority has decided to keep some schools — those closest to key hospitals — open on weekends too. Other authorities have also adopted more flexible timetables […]


    “We thought it would be a frightening experience for the pupils, coming to a different school, with different classmates and new teachers who greet them with masks,” says the volunteer, who was surprised to find that most pupils were not the least bit troubled or scared.

    In fact the real challenge is quite the opposite: getting children to be a little more circumspect at a time when objects and people are potential virus-carriers. In that respect, there is only so much teachers can do, Caroline explains.

    “We’re talking about small children to whom the notion of ‘barrier gestures’ and ‘safe distancing’ are hard to comprehend,” she says. “It’s not like we can push them away when they reach out for us.”


    Teachers across France were naturally incensed this week when the government spokeswoman, Sibeth Ndiaye, quipped that they would not be asked to plug a shortage of manpower at French farms, despite the fact that teachers are not working at the moment since schools are shut.

    The gaffe, for which Ndiaye subsequently apologised on Twitter, reflects “the way all too many people view the profession”, sighs Caroline. […]

    With experts warning that the pandemic is yet to peak in France, Caroline and her colleagues are bracing for several more weeks of home-schooling and looking after health workers’ children. Already the scheme has been expanded to include the children of key social workers, and more may follow.


  50. blf says

    From the Grauniad’s current live pandemic blog (video at the Grauniad):

    A particularly troubling story has emerged in the US where a man who is believed to have been the first teenager in the country to die from complications from coronavirus was denied treatment at an urgent care clinic because he didn’t have health insurance.

    A snippet from the embedded link, Teen Who Died of Covid-19 Was Denied Treatment Because He Didn’t Have Health Insurance (Gizmodo edits in {curly braces}):

    The Lancaster [California] teen tested positive for covid-19, but the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reportedly evaluating the case to see if there’s another explanation for his death. The initial cause of death was explained on Tuesday as septic shock from complications with covid-19. The teen’s father has tested positive for covid-19 as well. The teen’s death has been removed from the official U.S. death toll, according to Public Health Director Dr Barbara Ferrer, who gave a press conference on March 25.

    Countries with authoritarian leaders like China, Iran, and Russia have adopted a strategy of denying that some people have actually died from covid-19, even after they test positive for the disease. In Russia, for example a 79-year-old woman in Moscow recently died of the new coronavirus, but the Russian government said that while she may have tested positive, she actually died of pneumonia. Moscow saw a 37 percent surge of “pneumonia” cases in January over the previous year, according to ABC News.

    There have also been allegations from health care workers in the US that some covid-19 deaths aren’t being properly counted, even as hospitals become overwhelmed with patients, sometimes waiting hours to get tested.

    “We just don’t know. The numbers are grossly underreported. I know for a fact that we’ve had three deaths in one county where only one is listed on the website,” one unnamed nurse in California told BuzzFeed News this week [Doctors And Nurses Say More People Are Dying Of COVID-19 In The US Than We Know].

    People are already dying in New York emergency rooms waiting for ICU beds, according to the New York Times. President [sic] Donald Trump has denied that there’s a ventilator shortage, a dangerous lie. Trump told Sean Hannity on Fox News last night that he doesn’t like hearing complaints from governors and that states don’t actually need more ventilators, contradicting overwhelming evidence that hospitals across the US will need thousands more ventilators in the coming weeks.

    I think that a lot of things are being said that are more {than needed}, Trump said of the medical equipment being asked for by governors. I don’t think certain things will materialize. A lot of equipment’s being asked for that I don’t think they’ll need.


  51. says

    Josh Marshall responding to Trump’s tweet @ #71 above:

    You put your failson son in law in charge of buying respirators and he just wasted days on negotiations and not wanting to buy too many respirators and now everyone knows it. Lots of people are now dying because you failed yet again. Apologize. Resign.

    You just spent a week saying you didn’t need to use the Defense Procurement Act to order companies to make ventilators because everything was going great. Now we see you again fucked up and were lying and people will need to bury their relatives needlessly.

    Trump wanted some big announcement later today of a “great deal” he’d reached, like that’s what he’s supposed to be doing.

  52. says

    More discussion of Trump’s actual on-and-off refusal to lead:

    […] yesterday listening to Donald Trump talk about his expectations that state and local governments would take the lead on addressing the coronavirus crisis. Referring to the allocation of resources and equipment, the president said at a White House briefing: “Again, the state has to be doing this kind of a thing also. We’re sort of a, we look from behind a little bit and we look at how are they doing, and if they need help, we do it. But it’s their first responsibility.”

    Soon after, Trump called into Sean Hannity’s Fox News program and argued that he sees the federal government as “the second line of attack” in the response to the crisis. The president then singled out Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) for “always complaining” — the governor “shouldn’t be relying on the federal government,” Trump added — before turning his attention to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), whose name he couldn’t remember. […]
    It’s among the bewildering postures the president has embraced as the crisis has intensified. On the one hand, Trump, pointing to the pandemic, has declared himself to be “a war-time president.” On the other hand, Trump apparently envisions a governing model in which 50 commanders in chief scramble on their own, while he and his team “look from behind.”

    It’s an abdication of presidential leadership — on a historic scale — that Trump is making no effort to hide. […]

    He added this week, in reference to governors, “They can’t say, ‘Oh gee, we should get this, we should get that.'”

    It’s all so terribly backwards. Americans are dealing with a national crisis, facing a public-health threat that’s indifferent to borders and state boundaries. It’s obvious that these conditions require a national response, with a competent and effective federal government, coordinating resources. The alternative is pitting states in a brutal race against each other — which is precisely what’s happening now, because it’s the model the president has explicitly endorsed.

    […] the federal government has the capacity and responsibility to step up and lead. Trump, however, doesn’t want to.

    […] there’s no great mystery as to why: the president, desperate to avoid blame, wants unsatisfied Americans to blame their state and local officials, and not him. He appears to see great value in passing the buck, as captured by Trump’s recent declaration, “I don’t take responsibility at all.”

    It’s not too late for him to change this posture. It might even save a lot of lives.


    Trump is his own kind of sociopath, with personality traits that make him worse.

  53. says

    Campaign tidbits:

    Maryland’s Board of Elections this week announced plans to eliminate all in-person voting in its upcoming primary.

    Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) conceded to NPR yesterday that his Democratic presidential campaign faces “a very steep road.” Echoing the phrasing his campaign used last week, the senator added, “We are assessing the situation we’re in.”

    Trump told Fox News last night that he has no intention of canceling the Republican National Convention, which is scheduled to begin on Aug. 24 in Charlotte. “We’re not going to cancel,” the president said. “I think we’re going to be in great shape long before then.”

  54. blf says

    In the UK (and nothing obvious to do with Covid-19), the Russian propaganda channel RT loses challenge against claims of bias in novichok reporting:

    Kremlin-backed channel fails to overturn Ofcom ruling that also related to Syria coverage

    The Kremlin-backed news channel RT has lost a high court challenge to overturn a ruling by the UK media regulator that it broadcast biased programmes relating to the novichok poisoning in Salisbury and the war in Syria.


    Ofcom also found that four news and current affairs broadcasts addressing the US’s involvement in the Syrian conflict, and a news programme concerning the Ukrainian government’s position on Nazism and the treatment of Roma people, breached impartiality rules.

    RT contended that Ofcom had not taken into account the fact that the “dominant media narrative” at the time of the poisonings — that Russia was to blame — meant it could leave that view out of its own programming. The broadcaster also said the requirement to be impartial interfered with its right to freedom of expression.

    Lord Justice Dingemans, who delivered the high court judgment remotely on Friday, said the requirement for media to be balanced was paramount in the era of fake news. […]

    For fecks sake, I hope the requirement for media to be balanced [is] paramount is not what he said / meant (assuming the eejit quoted words have their usually-presumed meaning): That would mean, e.g., giving both space and credence to anti-vaxxers’s nonsense, nazi loons, hair furor’s lies, etc, etc, etc.

  55. says

    Coronavirus crisis puts Trump’s fetal-tissue policy in a new light

    Trump’s fetal-tissue policy may be interfering with research related to the coronavirus crisis. So why not reverse course?

    In recent decades, fetal-tissue research wasn’t much of a political issue, at least not at the national level, because there are no medical or scientific reasons to curtail the area of study. After an abortion, fetal tissue can either be discarded or used in potentially life-saving medical research. Reproductive rights can be a contentious issue for a variety of reasons, but this facet of the debate seems uncomplicated.

    It’s precisely why support for fetal-tissue research has been broad and bipartisan for many years. When Congress passed a law authorizing the research in 1993, the vote in the Senate was 93 to 4.

    But as regular readers know, Donald Trump’s administration took the research in a regressive direction last year, ending fetal-tissue research within the National Institutes of Health and scrapping research contracts.

    […] The Washington Post reported last week:

    A senior scientist at a government biomedical research laboratory has been thwarted in his efforts to conduct experiments on possible treatments for the new coronavirus because of the Trump administration’s restrictions on research with human fetal tissue. The scientist, Kim Hasenkrug, an immunologist at the National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Montana, has been appealing for nearly a month to top NIH officials, arguing that the pandemic warrants an exemption to a ban imposed last year prohibiting government researchers from using tissue from abortions in their work.

    […] A day after the article ran, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) pushed the Department of Health and Human Services to set aside a “dangerous anti-science bias” and allow the research to advance immediately.

    As best as I can tell, there’s been no progress on this front, though I have to wonder what would happen if Donald Trump heard about this directly. […]

    A scientist familiar with the situation told the Post, “When I hear the vice president saying [they’re] doing everything they can to find vaccines [and treatments], I know that is not true,” referring to Vice President Mike Pence’s assurances. “Anything we do at this point could save hundreds of thousands of lives. If you wait, it’s too late.”try.”


  56. says

    Trump Yells For Companies To Produce Ventilators While Dithering On Specifics

    […] Trump seems to have finally caught on to the fact that hospitals need more ventilators to treat people with severe cases of coronavirus.

    In classic form, the President took to Twitter Friday to urge private companies to shell out the machines “FAST” while behind the scenes, his administration provides the companies with nothing but mixed messaging and a lack of specifics. […]

    The behind-the-curtain confusion is evident in a scrapped deal initially planned to be announced Wednesday where General Motors and Ventec Life Systems would produce 80,000 ventilators for over $1 billion. […]
    After months of rosy predictions that the virus would go away on its own, and that life would be back to normal soon, Trump has flipped to claiming that he understood the severity of the pandemic from the start.

    As pertains to the need for ventilators and country’s inability to quickly produce more of them, at least some people in his administration did know. But the White House’s external pomp and internal chaos seem to have kicked that crucial production down the road.

  57. blf says

    Also in the UK (and related, indirectly, to the Covid-19 pandemic), Abbey Road zebra crossing repainted in coronavirus lockdown:

    Council workers take advantage of the empty streets to spruce up the crossing featured on the cover of the 1969 Beatles album

    The iconic Abbey Road zebra crossing [pedestrian crossing –blf] made famous by the 1969 Beatles album of the same name has been repainted while the streets of London are empty because of the coronavirus pandemic.

    A highways maintenance crew quietly repainted the normally busy zebra crossing on 24 March, the day after the prime minister ordered Britain to go on lockdown in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus.


    The brightened markings can be seen in action on the Abbey Road webcam.

    The government designated the crossing a site of national importance in 2010 and it can be altered only with the approval of local authorities. “This London zebra crossing is no castle or cathedral but, thanks to the Beatles and a 10-minute photoshoot one August morning in 1969, it has just as strong a claim as any to be seen as part of our heritage,” John Penrose, minister for tourism and heritage said at the time.


    Back here in France, tonight’s local 8pm applause for the heath care workers was particularly loud and prolonged, with even more LOUD yacht airhorns joining in. (And more dogs as well?)

  58. says

    Trump orders GM to make ventilators, without contract, at someone else’s factory, by tweet

    After spending the evening telling Sean Hannity that those greedy governors—especially pushy female governors—didn’t really need the ventilators they were desperately requesting, Donald Trump appears to have realized that literally cutting off air to Americans is a bad look. So on Friday morning, Trump did an all too typical 180 and took to Twitter to do what he does best: Blame other people for his mistakes.

    On Thursday evening, The New York Times explained how Trump completely blew off an all-but-complete deal to have GM manufacture thousands of desperately needed ventilators while refusing to invoke the Defense Production Act. But on Friday, Trump demanded—demanded—that GM get right on with making ventilators, apparently for free. Only Trump addressed that demand to a Twitter account that wasn’t GM. And he ordered them to use a factory that they sold months ago.

    Effing incompetent dunderhead.

    For days, General Motors and Ventec Life Systems had been working on a deal that would use GM’s manufacturing capability to accelerate production of Ventec’s ventilators. Together, the two companies projected they could make as many as 80,000 ventilators over the next two months. The federal government’s contribution to this deal was simple enough: they would agree to buy most of these ventilators, providing GM with an up-front payment to help cover the cost of converting an existing auto plant in Indiana for the task. GM assured officials there was no issue with retooling, and Ventec and GM were reportedly moving at “breakneck speed” to meet the critical medical need.

    That was before Trump decided that giving people ventilators was too pricey. With an estimated price tag for the deal at around $1 billion, that would put the ventilators at roughly $13,000 each—which is actually on the low end of what ventilators usually cost.

    Trump was prepared to announce the deal on Wednesday, and hinted that he had big news coming during that day’s coronavirus-themed praise session. Instead, the deal—which reportedly included some ace negotiation from Jared Kushner—collapsed. Instead of providing thousands of generators, Trump simply went on Hannity to explain that breathing is overrated. “You go to hospitals who have don’t even have one [ventilator] in a hospital,” said Trump, “and all of a sudden everybody is asking for vast numbers.” How dare they.

    But by lunchtime on Friday, Trump was ready to move to the next phase of this problem: blaming everyone but himself. First Trump pointed the finger at GM CEO Mary Barra, saying “things are always a mess” when she is involved. […]

    Claiming that a woman creates a “mess” is one of Trump’s go-to insults.

    Minutes later, Trump declared that GM “MUST” reopen their “stupidly abandoned” plant in Lordstown, Ohio and “START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!!” That’s six exclamation points, which apparently means “without a contract.” Trump then made the same demand, with equal use of capital letters, of Ford, which had been working on its own to design a system for repurposing existing parts for ventilators.

    The problem with these demands—other than everything about them—was that Trump not only referenced a dead Twitter account that doesn’t belong to General Motors, but the factory he called on them to use isn’t theirs. GM sold the factory last year to a startup company working on an electric pickup.

    So Trump told the wrong Twitter account that GM has to start making ventilators using someone else’s factory, even though he pulled out of the deal to have GM make ventilators. And, after days of resisting all requests from governors and all officials, he appears to have invoked the Defense Production Act via a tweet so cryptically worded that he came back a half hour later to explain that “Invoke ‘P’ means Defense Production Act!”

    Though it seems as if Trump believes that its GM that has to invoke the act. This makes some sense: Who would trust him with that kind of responsibility? It’s the kind of thing that makes the statement “we’re all going to die” seem so redundant.


  59. says

    The effing cruise ship we discussed in the previous chapter of this thread, (Zaandam, from Holland America Line) now reports that four people have died on the ship, (some reports say five people have died).

    Four people have died on a cruise ship off the coast of Panama that is looking to make its way to Florida, the Holland America Line announced Friday without specifying the cause of deaths.

    Holland America noted that two people on the cruise ship Zaandam have tested positive for COVID-19, while 138 others, consisting of 53 guests and 85 crew, had reported “influenza-like illness symptoms.”

    “Holland America Line can confirm that four older guests have passed away on Zaandam. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and we are doing everything we can to support them during this difficult time,” the cruise line said in a statement.

    The company said it had received approval from Panama to transfer healthy guests to another ship “with strict protocols for this process developed in conjunction with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” while the Zaandam had received medical supplies and additional medical staff to treat those who remain aboard the ship.

    “Any guests who are currently ill, or in isolation as a close contact, and all crew will remain on Zaandam,” the company added.

    The company added it was working with Panamanian authorities to receive approval to sail through the Panama Canal to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

    The Zaandam departed Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 7 and was initially scheduled to end its trip in San Antonio, Chile, on March 21.


  60. says

    Follow-up to blf @85.

    From Wonkette: “This Is A Bad Way To Learn That Urgent Cares Don’t Have To See Uninsured Dying Teens”

    This week, a 17-year-old California boy died from COVID-19, making him the first teenager in the United States to die from the virus. According to a video from the mayor of Lancaster, California, R. Rex Parris, he might not have had to be.

    You see, this kid didn’t have health insurance. So when he went to an urgent care center, he was denied treatment and told to go to an emergency room. Unfortunately, on the way there, he went into cardiac arrest. While the hospital was able to revive him for six hours, it was just too late and he died. Had he been treated at the urgent care facility, he might be alive today.

    Urgent care centers, unlike most emergency rooms, are not bound by the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) and thus, unlike most emergency rooms, they do not have to treat everyone who comes in regardless of whether or not they can pay. They can send you away even if you are very clearly dying. They have absolutely no obligation to you unless you can pay up. Which this kid couldn’t.

    [snipped some details already presented in comment 85]

    It is likely that a 17-year-old boy is dead because our health care system is stupid. Because he had to go to a second location and went into cardiac arrest on the way there. I’m sorry to beat a dead horse, especially since it’s gonna be at least four years before Medicare For All is even a possibility again, but this is not a thing that would happen if we had a national health care system where sick people could just go and get treatment anywhere without having to worry about costs or health insurance or co-pays or anything else. It’s not just that our system is cruel, it’s that it is stupid. Especially in the middle of a pandemic featuring a virus that sure the hell does not care if you’ve been diligently paying your premium or not.

    I mean, was it not also a bad idea to just send a patient who obviously had COVID-19 back out into the world to potentially spread it to others? They’re gonna potentially let other people get infected because this kid didn’t have health insurance?

    […] The problem with EMTALA is that it leads to piles of what is called “uncompensated care” and it’s part of the reason why hospital costs are so high. In 2018, the total cost of uncompensated care was $41.3 billion. That cost then gets shifted onto consumers who can pay — a fun thing to bring up to conservative dispshits who like to run their mouths about how they don’t want to be obligated to pay for the care of other people. Of course, if there aren’t enough customers around who can pay extra, the hospitals are just shit out of luck. Many hospitals, especially in rural America, have cited uncompensated care costs as part of the reason for their closures.

    For a long while, things were balanced out a little bit on this front by the Hill-Burton Act. Grants were given out to build hospitals and add construction in order to add beds and otherwise physically improve them in exchange for providing a “reasonable volume” of free or low cost care to people who couldn’t afford it. Unfortunately, while there are still some Hill-Burton facilities required to provide this care, the government stopped giving out those grants in 1997.

    This is not to say that with our current healthcare situation EMTALA isn’t necessary. It is absolutely necessary, because people need care in emergency situations. The problem is that we have such an extremely stupid healthcare system that pretty much anything anyone does to try and “fix” it ends up causing other problems as well.

    The best solution, clearly, is to have a system where that kid could have walked up to the urgent care facility, been taken care of, and hopefully been able to survive — and then go home without worrying about the bill. That is the least stupid solution of all. Too bad we can’t do things that way.


  61. blf says

    France24 has started a new weekly-ish programme about lockdown here in France. The first installment, Confinement, week #2: An empty Paris, police patrols and homemade face masks (video): “In the first edition of our new show “Confinement”, FRANCE 24 reports on how France is coping with the coronavirus outbreak. The country has been under lockdown since March 17, but our team of reporters is continuing to inform you about this unprecedented situation. We bring you four reports showing how the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of us all. […]”

    Unsurprisingly and for understandable reasons, this first edition is largely Paris-centric (which is actually a gripe I have about much of the English-language media / sites in (or about) France). I found it so interesting I almost forget I was cooking some fresh pasta (bought today); fortunately, the length of the video was basically perfect to cook the pasta à point !

  62. blf says

    Another France24 video, this one about the use of drones during the pandemic. I had thought the practice started in Spain, but the video says Big China first did it. To-date, as far as I know, the drone usage has been mostly(? entirely?) benign, and presumably helpful; mostly to shame eejits and (when equipped with loudspeakers) to remind / reinforce social distancing and other protective measures. Rise of the drones: Unmanned vehicles become key tool in coronavirus battle (video): “Around the world, authorities are turning to drones in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic, using them to enforce lockdowns and disinfect urban areas. […]”

  63. blf says

    I’ve been there, and Wow!, Principality Stadium in Cardiff (Wales) is BIG! From the Grauniad’s current live pandemic blog:

    [… T]he Principality Stadium in Wales is to be converted into a temporary hospital providing around 2,000 additional beds to support the NHS […].

    The Welsh Rugby Union, which owns and operates the venue, has been working with the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board as part of contingency planning around the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

    The facility is now being assessed by specialists and contractors to complete the transformation. This follows the news that Birmingham’s NEC arena and Manchester’s G-Mex will also be converted into field hospitals.

  64. says

    Sen. Schatz: “I guess this is probably not a new insight but for a guy whose TV brand was ‘decisive leader’ he seems more weak and scared and confused and unwilling to lead than anyone I’ve ever seen in power. Seems like a guy who has gotten lucky a lot and is hoping his luck never runs out.”

    He’s dithering and waffling and weak. He thought he could con his way through this.

  65. blf says

    Caution: Put your coffee / tea / whisk(e)y / whatever down before following the link unless you like snorting coffee / tea / whisk(e)y / whatever up your nose…
    Mano Singham here at FtB, And now for something lighter… (image).

    (Ok, who didn’t take my warning and just sprayed what smells like herbal tea out my USB ports?)

  66. blf says

    The Grauniad’s current live US pandemic blog is, as I type this, doing a series of fact-checks of hair furor’s latest (mostly-)bullshite & lies. The linked-to check is, at the present time, the most recent; I presume there will be others (in addition to the ones already done).

  67. blf says

    SC@60, “if Johnson were to become too sick to work the government would just keep functioning without him. Is that correct?” I don’t know — this seems like a question KG could be knowledgeable on — but this recent Grauniad article gives a clew, ‘Nonchalant’: Boris Johnson accused of Covid-19 complacency:

    Government ‘too slow to act’ and ministers have failed to lead by example, health experts say


    The foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, is the designated stand-in for Johnson if the prime minister proves unable to continue with his duties, but that contingency plan has not yet been activated.


    There’s also an illustration of “Boris Johnson’s circles of contact” including their known Covid-19 status.

  68. says

    “You go to hospitals who have don’t even have one [ventilator] in a hospital,” said Trump, “and all of a sudden everybody is asking for vast numbers.” How dare they.

    Why, it’s almost as if there’s some kind of respiratory disease going around. Who knew?

  69. blf says

    This has already been mentioned somewhere in this poopyhead thread, but my search-fu isn’t fu-ing at the moment so apologies to whoever previously mentioned it… Trump is trying to stop people from seeing this ad on his response to coronavirus:

    Lawyers have sent cease and desist letters to stop stations from airing the video, which edits together Trump’s statements downplaying the crisis

    A Biden Super Pac has released an advert which Trump is fighting with cease and desist letters. And it’s about his response to the coronavirus.

    The video juxtaposes a number of Trump’s statements underplaying the seriousness of the pandemic next to a chart showing the rising number of US cases of Covid-19. At the end of the clip, Trump can be heard refusing to take responsibility for lack of testing in the US (comments he made at a 13 March press conference), before the texts appears: “America needs a leader we can trust.” [Biden? Well, Ok, he’s neither hair furor nor a card-carrying thug (i.e., republican), but, ah, trust? –blf]

    Trump’s lawyers have now sent a cease and desist letter to television broadcast stations across the country to stop airing the ad […]

    In particular, his lawyers take issue with one of the edits to a speech made by Trump at a rally in South Carolina. The edited video has Trump saying: “Coronavirus. This is their new hoax,” [which according to transcript is not quite what he actually said (transcript at link)]

    Because of this edit, Trump’s lawyers are calling the advert patently false, misleading, and deceptive.


    In another line, the letter states that failure to remove the advert could be classed as an abdication of licensee responsibility. The president [sic] controls the FCC and appoints its commissioners, so it is up to them to pull broadcast licenses for stations that do not comply with its requirements.

    The line reads: Your station has a responsibility to ‘protect the public from false, misleading or deceptive advertising’ … your failure to remove this deceptive ad … could put your station’s license in jeopardy.

    The transcript (presuming it is correct) makes clear hair furor rambles and cannot(? does not?) speak in coherent sentences. Despite that, it’s very clear the This is their new hoax is referring to the dummies (democrats) and Covid-19; the elucidated (edited out) gibberish in the middle is him rambling about other delusional dummie hoaxes (Russia, Ukraine, &tc, including the Iowa caucus fiasco).

  70. blf says

    In Brazil, Bolsonaro’s anti-science response to coronavirus appals Brazil’s governors (Grauniad edits in {curly braces}):

    The president [sic] has contradicted his own health ministry by urging people to return to work and schools — ‘I was gobsmacked,’ said one former Bolsonaro ally

    Top Brazilian politicians from across the political spectrum have warned that Jair Bolsonaro is putting thousands of lives at risk with what they called his reckless, paranoid, anti-scientific and belligerent response to the coronavirus.

    In a series of scathing interviews — conducted as 26 of Brazil’s 27 state governors convened an emergency meeting to discuss Bolsonaro’s behaviour — regional chiefs told the Guardian they feared the far-right leader was sowing confusion over the need for quarantine and social distancing measures, and wasting precious time setting political bonfires to energize his radical base.

    Bolsonaro sparked fury on Tuesday with an extraordinary address to the nation in which he rubbished the quarantine measures and travel restrictions being implemented by many state governors and urged Brazilians to return to work and schools — in contradiction of his own health ministry’s counsel.

    The comments stunned state governors — many of whom are now in open revolt against the president.

    “I was gobsmacked,” said Ronaldo Caiado, the rightwing governor of Goiás state and a former Bolsonaro ally.


    In an open letter to Bolsonaro published after their summit on Wednesday, the rebel governors signalled they would ignore his calls to scale back their lockdowns.

    “Coronavirus is an adversary that must be defeated with good sense, empathy, balance and unity,” they wrote.

    In a second letter, the governors of Brazil’s nine north-eastern states declared: “Attacks and quarrels will not save the country.”

    Flávio Dino, the leftwing governor of the north-eastern state of Maranhão, said he believed Bolsonaro’s downplaying of the pandemic stemmed from a conviction that coronavirus was a political plot not a public health emergency.


    Eduardo Leite, governor of the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, which has 162 confirmed cases, said lockdown was crucial so hospitals could prepare for a wave of Covid-19 patients.

    “{Bolsonaro} should be the one leading and coordinating this process. But not only is he not doing this, he’s actually sabotaging the plans state governments are putting in place,” added Leite […]


    Renato Casagrande, the governor of Espírito Santo, which has 40 cases, said Bolsonaro’s address had stunned him.

    “I felt afraid. I couldn’t believe the words the president was saying. The health ministry has been guiding our response. The World Health Organization has been guiding our response. We are trying to convince people of the need right now for a greater confinement to stop the virus. And then the president comes out with completely different advice and even accuses other leaders of exterminating jobs and the economy. It was unbelievable.”

    Even Carlos Moisés da Silva, the rightwing governor of the heavily pro-Bolsonaro southern state of Santa Catarina, told reporters Bolsonaro’s declarations had “flabbergasted” him.


    Caiado urged Bolsonaro to change tack and empower Brazil’s health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta.

    Speaking to reporters on Wednesday Caiado also suggested that, as he faced up to coronavirus Bolsonaro should look not to his political idol, Donald Trump, but to his predecessor.

    “Nobody put it better than Obama. In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue,” he said.

    Also, Jair Bolsonaro claims Brazilians never catch anything as Covid-19 cases rise:

    President [sic] suggests citizens may already have antibodies that help virus not to proliferate, as cases rise to nearly 3,000

    Brazil’s president [sic] Jair Bolsonaro has tried to reassure his citizens over the threat of coronavirus by claiming Brazilians can bathe in excrement and nothing happens.

    As Brazil’s Covid-19 death toll rose to 77, Bolsonaro scotched the idea Latin America’s biggest economy could soon face a situation as severe as the United States […].

    I don’t think it will reach that point, Bolsonaro told reporters outside the presidential palace in the capital, Brasília.

    Not least because Brazilians need to be studied, the right-wing populist added.

    They never catch anything. You see some bloke jumping into the sewage, he gets out, has a dive, right? And nothing happens to him.

    Without offering any scientific evidence, Bolsonaro continued: I think it’s even possible lots of people have already been infected in Brazil, a few weeks or months ago, and have already got the antibodies that help it not to proliferate.

    Facts do not support Bolsonaro’s insinuation that Brazilians are somehow immune to dangerous infections.


    I wonder if the Grauniad’s editors had to calm down the writer after they originally wrote (or so I’d like to think) something like “FACTS DO NOT SUPPORT THE LYING ARSEHOLE’S ABSURDITY THAT BRAZILIANS ARE IMMUNE TO INFECTIONS!

  71. says

    Barack Obama: “During this crisis, our grocery store clerks, delivery drivers, transit and utility workers—along with so many others—have been selflessly getting up every day to make sure we have the things we need. And for that, we say thank you.”

  72. blf says

    A few snipped snarks from First the corona prince, now Johnson. Who are their designated survivors?:

    [NKofE PM Boris] Johnson isn’t the only ultra-high-profile sufferer, of course, after Prince Charles’s diagnosis dominated Wednesday’s headlines. It’s thought experts considered contact tracing, but abandoned it when they realised the sheer multitudes of people involved in picking up after HRH even between reveille and the breakfast table. Happily, the presence of Covid-19 is not thought to make any material difference to Prince Charles’s preferred domestic procedures. The royal toothpaste will still be squeezed on to the royal toothbrush by a key-worker servant; only they’ll do it in one of the rubber-gloved laboratory boxes they use to handle Prince Andrew’s bedsheets.


    [… T]here continues to be a huge range of reactions to the suspension of life as we knew it. Americans are buying more guns, though mass school closures mean there are fewer favoured locations to use them.

    Followed by:

    In the UK on Thursday night, millions stood on doorsteps or leaned from their windows to applaud NHS and care workers, a vastly moving moment confused only by the participation of many Conservative MPs and ministers who in 2017 not only voted against a pay rise for nurses, but loudly clapped its defeat — and whose funding priorities have left some frontline NHS workers threatening to resign over lack of protective equipment. […]

  73. blf says

    In the UK, but the advice applies world-wide, Report coronavirus ‘quack cures’ immediately, says UK government (my added emboldening):

    People urged to inform social media firms if they see falsehoods shared online

    “Dangerous quack cures” for the coronavirus being shared online should be reported to social media companies immediately, the government has said.

    Lemon juice, liquid silver and hot water are among the remedies being suggested in anti-vaccination Facebook groups that have hundreds of thousands of followers.

    YouTube bloggers are also sharing theories [sic …] about the 5G network being able to control the oxygen supply of coronavirus patients.

    New social media guidance drawn up by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) and endorsed by the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, asks people not to reply to or share misinformation on social media, even if they want to point out it is wrong. This is to avoid spreading it further, as any engagement can place it in other people’s timelines.

    Instead people are being asked to report misinformation to social media platforms and group administrators, and to share official NHS [and CDC, &tc –blf] information as much as possible to push it into social media algorithms.

    Suggestions that have featured on the Stop Mandatory Vaccination website, which has 180,000 followers in the UK and US, on how to treat a child with suspected coronavirus include elderberry syrup, placing sliced onions on the bottom of their feet and rubbing their back with lemon and lavender oil to draw the virus away from the brain. Colloidal silver, which can lead to skin turning a light bluish-grey, is another treatment being pushed online.


    They are asking people to block anyone they do not know who is sharing misinformation, to send a private message to those they know who are sharing misinformation to ask them not to do so, and to report misinformation to social media platforms and group admins.


    A post by a Facebook user in Australia that said China had developed a vaccine and was withholding it from the world was shared 130,000 times in just over 24 hours.

    Phil Hammond, an NHS doctor and broadcaster, who is also backing the scheme, said: “Misinformation is as dangerous as contaminated water. It causes untold harm and is profoundly disempowering.”

  74. blf says

    Addendum to @124, Report hair furor to twitter and to the various networks / stations, especially those who broadcast his babbling in real-time without fact-checking.

    Related, Trump’s narcissism has taken a new twist. And now he has American blood on his hands:

    The US president [sic] has been exposed by the coronavirus crisis. The only small comfort for the rest of the world is that he’s not their leader

    Pity the people of America. They do battle now with one of the greatest challenges in their history, led by a man who is not only among the worst ever occupants of the White House but whose character makes him the last person on the face of the Earth you would nominate to be in charge at this moment. On Thursday the US reached the top of the global league table for coronavirus infections, edging ahead of its closest rival for that honour, China. No law of nature dictated that outcome. Much of it is directly attributable to one dreadful fact: that Donald Trump is president [sic] of the United States.

    It’s become a commonplace to note Trump’s lack of basic human empathy, his tendency to be unmoved by others’ loss. But that gap in his mindset matters now far beyond an inability to offer consolation to the bereaved: it is warping his approach to a lethal disease.

    WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF, he tweeted in caps lock at the start of the week, shortly after Steve Hilton, one-time adviser to David Cameron, had made that same argument on his Fox News show. […]

    [… I]f Trump were to get his way, ditching social distancing and having the US open for business by Easter, the disease would not politely confine its appetite to the groups Trump has deemed dispensable. Instead the virus would run rampant, infecting an estimated half the population. Not that Trump would know or recognise that, thanks to a second character trait that, like the void where his sense of compassion should be, is so fatefully, and fatally, determining the US response to this pandemic: namely, his disregard for science.

    This is just my hunch, he said as he dismissed a projection of the likely Covid-19 death rate by the World Health Organization as a false number. On Thursday, he said I have a feeling that New York would need far fewer ventilators than the tens of thousands the state has requested. […] An imbecile at the head of the US government would always be a problem. But an imbecile so narcissistic that he elevates his own stunted knowledge above the judgment of medicine and science is a calamity.

    The effect is to undermine whatever public health effort the professionals can mount, as they try to work around the man they serve. At its most visual, it’s the daily press briefing where Trump fails to observe the social distancing measures his administration is demanding of the American public, with himself standing at the centre of a cluster of speakers bunched together by the podium. […]

    Trump’s dishonesty matters here too. He was rightly derided in 2016 as a “snake-oil salesman”, and the cliche is so well-worn it’s easy to forget what it originally refers to: the 19th-century hawkers who sold bogus cures to the gullible. Recall that Trump rushed to tell people a pre-existing drug would cure Covid-19, leading to a shortage of a medication that was needed for other illnesses, and several deaths, as desperate people rushed to buy tablets that, for them, proved lethal.

    The US president [sic] always was capricious and vengeful, but now that character flaw is a matter of life and death. State governors are crying out for federal help, not for themselves but for the people they represent: the nurses and doctors who need protective equipment and testing kits, the patients who need ventilators. But instead of leaping to their aid, Trump tells the governors it’s their responsibility […]


    America is lucky it has a federal system that means not all power lies with the president, that at least some rests in the hands of responsible mayors and governors, the likes of New York’s Andrew Cuomo. The nation is lucky too that the House of Representatives is controlled by Democrats, who crafted a $2.2tn economic bill from what would otherwise have been a trough into which Trump’s corporate pals could sink their snouts.

    But these are small consolations for America and indeed for the world, which needed the leadership only a US president has the clout to provide. Instead, the world’s peoples now look at the US and comfort themselves with the small solace that they, at least, face only a lethal disease, and not the malignancy that is Donald Trump.

  75. says

    Josh Marshall re #101 above:

    this has become an issue at the White House. Trump won’t allow much social distancing because it disrupts the visuals he wants, especially in the press room.

    I mean, look at this picture. this picture is filled with people over 70 and any incapacitation would close to decapitate the US government.

    I feel I need to point out that hospitalizations in New Orleans are starting to spike now and Mardi Gras was a month ago.

    Also, protect Pelosi.

  76. blf says

    Follow-up to SC@126 and other comments about hair furor’s total lack of social distancing at his iie sessions / facist rallies, How Donald Trump practices physical distancing versus other world leaders (mostly pictures):

    These photos of world leaders reacting to the coronavirus pandemic show the stark difference between how they and Trump view the situation


    That Trump is not taking the situation seriously enough seems clear. When leading a country through a crisis, optics matter. These photos of other world leaders reacting to the Covid-19 pandemic show the stark difference between how they and the US president [sic] view the situation.


    If Trump can’t demonstrate that he takes social distancing seriously at a press conference about Covid-19, does he really expect anyone else in the US population to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance?

  77. says


    * Pelosi wasn’t invited to the signing ceremony: “[…] Trump on Friday signed the $2 trillion coronavirus economic stimulus bill in an Oval Office ceremony, putting in motion desperately needed financial relief for millions of Americans set back by the pandemic. Trump signed the bill just hours after the House passed it with a bipartisan vote.”

    * His position on this has been all over the place: “[…] Trump invoked the sparsely used Defense Production Act to order the Department of Health and Human Services on Friday to compel General Motors to manufacturer ventilators to combat the coronavirus outbreak hours after he sharply criticized the company for slow-walking production.”

    * The three-day rally didn’t last: “Stocks closed sharply lower on Friday despite the passage of the $2 trillion economic relief package as investors turned their focus to data that showed the U.S. has more coronavirus cases than any other nation.”

    * EPA: “The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday abruptly waived enforcement on a range of legally mandated public health and environmental protections, saying industries could have trouble complying with them during the coronavirus pandemic.”

    * A reverberating trade war: “Hospital workers on the front lines of the fight against coronavirus are reporting dangerous shortages of supplies such as masks and gloves. Trade experts accuse[…] Trump of politicizing the pandemic and risking the lives of first responders by continuing to wage his trade war against China.”

    * Hmm: “The Army earlier this week ordered a halt to most training, exercises and nonessential activities that require troops to be in close contact, military officials said, but abruptly reversed itself days later even as the infection rate within the American military shot up.”

    * The CDC “fumbled its communication with public health officials and underestimated the threat of the coronavirus even as it gained a foothold in the United States, according to hundreds of pages of documents ProPublica obtained.”

    * Senate Dems had no interest in helping the cruise lines: “Like hotels and airlines, cruise companies have seen their business decimated by the coronavirus pandemic and economic shutdowns. But unlike those industries, major cruise operators don’t locate their headquarters in the United States, so they will not have access to $500 billion in aid for large employers in the massive stimulus bill, the industry’s trade group said Thursday.” [Good decision!]

    * If 2020 would give us a break, I think we’d all appreciate it: “The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be another busy year after the already raucous 2019, according to a report by AccuWeather.”


  78. says

    Oh, good! Katie Porter asked Nancy Pelosi to assign her to the House group of people (Congressional Oversight Commission) that will be providing oversight, (with a Special Inspector General) on the $500 billion that Mnuchin and Trump intend to give to various corporations.

    Trump said that he intends to avoid or ignore all of the oversight provisions. Both Pelosi and Porter say that Trump can’t do that (his lawyers say he can). Pelosi says the House will conduct oversight. Katie Porter will be a great addition to that Commission. She is like insurance that it will be done right.

    […] Porter knows a thing or two about strong oversight of taxpayer money: In 2012, then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris appointed her to oversee banks’ implementation of $9.5 billion in mortgage settlement reforms.

    An attorney who studied under Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) at Harvard Law School, Porter has also drawn attention for her sharp questioning of bank executives in the House Financial Services Committee. In March 2019, she caught Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan contradicting what his corporate lawyers had argued in court, saying that statements he had previously made vowing transparency were “corporate puffery.” Porter made news again in April 2019 with her questioning of JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, pressing him on how a Chase bank teller should make up a $567 shortfall between her monthly budget and paycheck.

    HuffPost caught up with Porter to get her take on this $500 billion Treasury Department fund. There are some oversight measures written into the bill ― it creates a special inspector general and a congressional oversight panel and requires Treasury to post its transactions on its website. But Porter said she’s “very unhappy” with the way the fund has been structured and fears that, without immediate and robust oversight, America could see a repeat of what happened when the government spent $700 billion bailing out banks under the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program: massive amounts of taxpayer money suddenly gone and nobody really sure where it went.

    To connect a couple more dots, oversight of the Treasury fund is modeled after the TARP approach, and Warren led TARP’s congressional oversight panel. Porter said she and Warren have been talking this week about lessons learned ― good and bad ― from the way TARP was rolled out.

    Here’s our Q&A with Porter, whom we spoke with over the phone on Thursday night. It has been edited for brevity.

    HuffPost: Hi, Congresswoman. You’ve self-quarantined. How are you feeling?

    Porter: I’m feeling a little better today. So that’s good. I haven’t heard yet [on the test results] but we’re hoping to hear soon.

    HuffPost: Good to hear. What’s your take on the $2 trillion stimulus bill?

    Porter: There’s a number of really terrific things in this bill. The $100 billion to hospitals and health care providers who are on the front line of this crisis is incredibly important. This bill has important resources for small businesses, including grants. They’re not loans. They don’t need to be repaid. Grants that would simply help businesses stay afloat and keep as many people on payroll as possible during this period. Disaster relief funding for FEMA will be really important in California. The increase in unemployment insurance money. Last, the direct cash payments, though I am very concerned about those payments being too small, taking too long to reach people and being unavailable and phased out for folks in higher-cost-of-living areas.

    What really concerns me about the stimulus is the lack of robust oversight over the Treasury fund. As I understand it, we’re talking about roughly $500 billion. There’s no reason there can’t be stronger oversight here except that, frankly, clearly, we couldn’t get to an agreement with the Trump administration and with the Senate Republicans about it.

    With TARP, the money was dispensed overnight. By the time we understood how much had gone out the door, we didn’t know where and how it was being used. In this situation, it obviously needs to be abbreviated, expedited and controlled so that we get decisions made. But there can and should be a public debate about how this $500 billion is going to be used. So, should we be using it for the airline industry? How about versus other transportation sector needs like Amtrak or the cruise ship industry? How does the cruise ship industry compare to the gaming and casino industry?

    I understand a lot of it can be used to basically transmit to corporations. The corporations can then use that as a downpayment ― that is, they can leverage it to borrow even more. That’s why you’re hearing these numbers in the $4 to $6 trillion range.

    But the public needs to understand which industries are getting this. What, if any, conditions are being put on it? What is the time frame for paying this back? […]

    Porter: […] There are very few conditions on where this money can go. There are a few general specifics. But they are very broad. They pertain primarily to not allowing stock buybacks or increases ― increases! ― in executive compensation during the term of this help. It doesn’t talk about how we should think about these priorities like how we weigh the relative needs of manufacturers versus retail versus hospitality versus technology. All of these sectors, all of that is left to the secretary of the treasury. And this is a secretary of the treasury who frankly was tangled up in the last financial crisis in his role with OneWest in a way that does not give the American public the confidence that it should have and the confidence that it needs.

    My understanding is this bill will require the transactions to be posted to the Treasury Department website. I have a lot of questions about the level of detail we’re going to be getting and whether the public is going to be able to really understand what’s being done with their taxpayer money.

    There is this congressional oversight panel and this inspector general. That structure is clearly based off of TARP. Again, I would just say, this is not fully analogous. There is more time here. Not that there is time to waste, but there is time to act.

    As I understand it, right now the first report of this congressional oversight panel is not due until 30 days after the Treasury makes its first loan. I was thinking about this yesterday when I was lying in bed.

    HuffPost: As one does when one is lying in bed. […]


    Much more at the link, including this:

    Porter: Look, I think it’s really important that whoever goes on this panel has the ability to get started immediately. This is not a situation where you can take smart, well-intentioned people who have no experience in the financial sector or doing oversight work. We just don’t have that kind of ramp-up here. So if you think about the difference it made to have someone like Elizabeth Warren be the chair of the TARP panel, it was how quickly she was able to get them all going. It was because she had the knowledge.

    I think we have a few days if we’re going to get this panel assembled and active so it can be in partnership, in true oversight, with the treasury secretary from the get-go. Secretary Mnuchin could move this money out within hours of the president signing the law. It’s incredibly important that we move quickly.

  79. says

    Vice – “Instacart’s Gig Workers Are Planning a Massive, Nationwide Strike”:

    Instacart shoppers are planning a nationwide mass revolt over the grocery delivery app’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

    On Monday, workers say they will refuse to accept orders until Instacart provides hazard pay of an additional $5 an order, free safety gear (hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and soap) to workers, and expands its paid sick leave to include workers with pre-existing conditions who have been advised by their doctors not to work at this time. Workers say the strike will last until Instacart agrees to these terms.

    The March 30 walkout will build on a wave of wildcat strikes sweeping across the country. In recent days, Amazon warehouse workers in Queens, New York, sanitation workers in Pittsburgh, and poultry plant workers at Perdue Farms in Georgia have all walked off the job, demanding greater protections from coronavirus, and leading to calls for a “general strike,” or mass strike action across the country. Meanwhile, the upcoming Instacart strike will mark the first time gig workers in the United States—who face the double bind of working on the front lines of virus and lacking basic labor protections like healthcare and paid sick days—have walked off the job in response to coronavirus….

    Everyone should support these workers.

  80. blf says

    Somewhat related to SC@132 and supporting the delivery gig economy workers, ‘Customers tell us to keep the change’: Italy’s delivery drivers on lockdown (photo essay): “Since the outbreak of Covid-19, [Filippo Venturi] has been photographing delivery riders. Speaking down the phone from his home, where he, his partner and their son have been quarantined for two weeks, he tells me how he started to worry about the riders, coming into contact with stranger after stranger, while providing an essential service to those who can afford to self-isolate. As he started ordering more deliveries, he asked each rider — from a safe distance — about their lives under coronavirus.”

  81. blf says

    From the Grauniad’s (new) now-current live pandemic blog:

    A chilling video from New York records the wails of ambulance sirens on Friday night, as patients are rushed to buckling hospitals amid the coronavirus pandemic.


    The video was posted to Twitter minutes ago by Pulitzer prize-winning science journalist Laurie Garrett:

    Turn up the volume and listen to the sound of a city in the grips of #COVID19. Every siren wailing is carrying more lives to an already overcrowded hospital.
    And every siren signifies an EMT crew risking their lives to save others.

    That video made me realise the quiet I’ve been noticing and noting since the lockdown here in France began is a good sign for another reason: Not only does it suggest (as do my observations when I have gone out) the lockdown is restrictions are being respected (locally), it also suggests there aren’t too many cases locally (yet?).

  82. blf says

    Follow-up to @124 and other comments about misinformation, fraudsters & quacks, from the Grauniad’s current live pandemic blog:

    Iranian doctors say ‘hundreds’ have died after ingesting toxic methanol

    An Iranian doctor says hundreds have died and thousands have been sickened from ingesting toxic methanol across the Islamic Republic out of the false belief it kills the new coronavirus […].

    Iranian media report nearly 300 people have been killed and more than 1,000 sickened so far by ingesting methanol across the Islamic Republic, where drinking alcohol is banned and where those who do rely on bootleggers.

    An Iranian doctor helping the country’s Health Ministry told The Associated Press on Friday the problem was even greater, giving a death toll of around 480 with 2,850 people sickened.

    The poisonings come as fake remedies spread across social media in Iran, where people remain deeply suspicious of the government after it downplayed the crisis for days before it overwhelmed the country.


    I suspect the same-ish problem will, if it hasn’t already, arise in the States, due to a mixture of hair furor’s lies (and Yes, I know his lying about supposed “remedies” has already killed people (as per other comments)), and a general tendency to not trust teh gobberment. (Add to that attacks on the CDC by teh thugs & anti-vaxxers, quacks, &tc, and you seem to get quite a lethal stom of bullshite and scams.) And the people who were basically tricked into poisoning themselves presumably occupy hospital beds, which is never a good thing, especially during the pandemic.

    It also occurs to me that if the nazi genocidal loons notice (see @21), some of them might incorporate such misinformation into their genocide dreams & schemes.

  83. blf says

    The missing six weeks: how Trump failed the biggest test of his life:

    The president [sic] was aware of the danger from the coronavirus — but a lack of leadership has created an emergency of epic proportions

    [… 20 January 2020 is when the first confirmed Covid-19 case was reported in both S.Korea & the States…]

    In the two months since that fateful day, the responses to coronavirus displayed by the US and South Korea have been polar opposites.

    One country acted swiftly and aggressively to detect and isolate the virus, and by doing so has largely contained the crisis. The other country dithered and procrastinated, became mired in chaos and confusion, was distracted by the individual whims of its leader, and is now confronted by a health emergency of daunting proportions.

    Within a week of its first confirmed case, South Korea’s disease control agency had summoned 20 private companies to the medical equivalent of a war-planning summit and told them to develop a test for the virus at lightning speed. A week after that, the first diagnostic test was approved and went into battle, identifying infected individuals who could then be quarantined to halt the advance of the disease.

    Some 357,896 tests later, the country has more or less won the coronavirus war. On Friday only 91 new cases were reported in a country of more than 50 million.

    The US response tells a different story. Two days after the first diagnosis in Washington state, Donald Trump went on air on CNBC and bragged: We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming from China. It’s going to be just fine.

    A week after that, the Wall Street Journal published an opinion article by two former top health policy officials within the Trump administration under the headline Act Now to Prevent an American Epidemic. Luciana Borio and Scott Gottlieb laid out a menu of what had to be done instantly to avert a massive health disaster.

    Top of their to-do list: work with private industry to develop an “easy-to-use, rapid diagnostic test” — in other words, just what South Korea was doing.

    It was not until 29 February, more than a month after the Journal article and almost six weeks after the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in the country that the Trump administration put that advice into practice. Laboratories and hospitals would finally be allowed to conduct their own Covid-19 tests to speed up the process.

    [… In the States] the curve of cases continues to rise precipitously, with no sign of the plateau that has spared South Korea.

    “The US response will be studied for generations as a textbook example of a disastrous, failed effort,” Ron Klain, who spearheaded the fight against Ebola in 2014, told a Georgetown university panel recently. “What’s happened in Washington has been a fiasco of incredible proportions.”


    Though the decision to allow private and state labs to provide testing has increased the flow of test kits, the US remains starkly behind South Korea, which has conducted more than five times as many tests per capita. That makes predicting where the next hotspot will pop up after New York and New Orleans almost impossible.


    It was hardly a morale-boosting gesture when Trump proposed a 16% cut in CDC funding on 10 February — 11 days after the World Health Organization had declared a public health emergency over Covid-19.

    [Vanderbilt University infectious diseases specialist William] Schaffner […] said he has been saddened by how sidelined the CDC has become over the past two months. “Here we have the public health issue of our era and one doesn’t hear from the CDC, the premier public health organization in the world.” […]

    […] The [FDA] recently indicated that it was looking into the possibility of prescribing the malaria drug chloroquine for coronavirus sufferers, even though there is no evidence it would work and some indication it could have serious side-effects.

    The decision dismayed experts, given that Trump has personally pushed the unproven remedy on a whim. It smacked of the wave of anti-science sentiment sweeping federal agencies under this presidency.

    As the [unidentified?] former senior official put it: “We have the FDA bowing to political pressure and making decisions completely counter to modern science.”


    Trump has designated himself a wartime president. But if the title bears any validity, his military tactics have been highly unconventional. He has exacerbated the problems encountered by federal agencies by playing musical chairs at the top of the coronavirus force.

    The president [sic] began by creating on 29 January a special coronavirus taskforce, then gave Vice-President Mike Pence the job, who promptly appointed Deborah Birx “coronavirus response coordinator”, before the federal emergency agency Fema began taking charge of key areas, with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, creating a shadow team that increasingly appears to be calling the shots.

    “There’s no point of responsibility,” the former senior official told the Guardian. “It keeps shifting. Nobody owns the problem.”


    On 24 February, Trump claimed the coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. The next day, Nancy Messonnier, the CDC’s top official on respiratory diseases, took the radically different approach of telling the truth, warning the American people that “disruption to everyday life might be severe”.

    Trump was reportedly so angered by the comment and its impact on share prices that he shouted down the phone at Messonnier’s boss, the secretary of health and human services, Alex Azar.

    “Messonnier was 100% right. She gave a totally honest and accurate assessment,” [Jeremy] Konyndyk told the Guardian. And for that, Trump angrily rebuked her department. “That sent a very clear message about what is and isn’t permissible to say.”

    Konyndyk recalls attending a meeting in mid-February with top Trump administration officials present in which the only topic of conversation was the travel bans. That’s when he began to despair about the federal handling of the crisis.

    “I thought, ‘Holy Jesus!’ Where’s the discussion on protecting our hospitals? Where’s the discussion on high-risk populations, on surveillance so we can detect where the virus is. I knew then that the president had set the priority, the bureaucracy was following it, but it was the wrong priority.”


    Much much more at the link (it’s a long article). I doubt there is much of anything there hasn’t already been mentioned in this poopyhead thread, but the article does nicely put many of the fiascos together in one well-written package, focusing largely on hair furor and the 20 Jan – 29 Feb interval (“the missing six weeks”).

  84. blf says

    Warning: Craving for donuts may develop if you look at the image at the link…
    Fauci’s a jelly good fellow: New York donut shop honors coronavirus doctor (quoted in full):

    ● Rochester shop says treats selling like hot cakes
    ● ‘He’s on TV giving us the facts. You’ve got to respect that’

    Many have wondered if Donald Trump is jealous of media attention showered upon Dr Anthony Fauci, the medical expert leading the White House effort to contain the coronavirus.

    The 79-year-old director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has advised every president since Ronald Reagan. His straightforward communication style and calm demeanor while advising millions of Americans amid a terrifying pandemic — notably in contrast to the unpredictable president [sic] — have made him a national star.

    Trump is known to be wary of those within his circle who attract such attention, particularly when they might be seen to be stealing the spotlight.

    Dr Fauci’s occasional absences from White House briefings have therefore become the subject of intense media speculation. And his latest honor may strike close to home for a president [sic] known to love sweet treats.

    An upstate New York donut shop is featuring a likeness Dr Fauci on its goods — and they are selling “like crazy”.

    On Monday, Donuts Delite in Rochester began selling donuts featuring Dr Fauci’s face, surrounded by white frosting and topped off with patriotic sprinkles.

    “We’re watching the news like everyone else,” franchisee Nick Semeraro told the Democrat & Chronicle newspaper. “He’s on TV giving us the facts. You’ve got to respect that. We’re bipartisan, we stay neutral, but you’ve got to give credit where credit’s due.”

    The shop hopes this new addition to their menu brings “light to a humbling experience”, Semeraro said, and gives customers some cheer, “even if it’s just while you’re wolfing down that donut.”

  85. blf says

    The Grauniad’s current live pandemic blog is reporting:

    France’s supermarkets have pledged to engage in “food patriotism” to boost the country’s hard-hit farmers and producers during the coronavirus crisis […].

    Fruit and vegetable growers have been severely hit by a government decree banning open air markets. Now major stores have said they will shun foreign imports in favour of national produce.


    Local prefects and mayors have been given the power to allow local markets if they are essential to farmers and shoppers and on the condition that they ensure strict distancing and health safety measures are enforced.


    What makes this infuriating is it’s a form of “local sourcing”, which is (typically) less environmentally damaging and can be sustainable, and hence (broadly) should have been done all along. The reason not, I presume, is a mixture of “cost” and the complexities of the “just-in-time” supply system (can centralised warehousing / distribution).

  86. blf says

    A snippet from ‘Stranded at sea’: cruise ships around the world are adrift as ports turn them away:

    A Guardian analysis finds that at least 10 ships remain at sea — and four passengers have died while being stranded


    Ross Klein, a professor at St John’s College in Newfoundland who has written four books on the cruise industry, said companies should have acted weeks earlier [before “early March” –blf] to cancel trips and refund customers. He noted that cases of cruise ships being turned away from ports as a result of coronavirus fears began as early as January and escalated in February, with passengers being quarantined on the Emerald Princess in Japan on 3 February.

    “There is a level of greed on the part of these companies,” he said. “They want to make every penny — and they make money when people are on the ships.”

    Cruise ships are drawing increasing government scrutiny for not doing enough to protect their passengers during this pandemic. In Florida, the attorney general’s office is investigating potentially misleading sales practices, after the Miami New Times obtained leaked emails showing representatives for Norwegian Cruise Lines may have downplayed the coronavirus in sales pitches to passengers, even as the pandemic was disrupting trips. The Coronavirus can only survive in cold temperatures, so the Caribbean is a fantastic choice for your next cruise, said one sales script obtained by the paper.

    Fecking cruise ship companies.

  87. blf says

    In Portugal, from the Grauniad’s current live pandemic blog:

    All migrants in Portugal will be treated as permanent residents until 1 July to ensure they have access to public services during the coronavirus outbreak […].

    Claudia Veloso, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, told [Reuters]:

    People should not be deprived of their rights to health and public service just because their application has not yet been processed. In these exceptional times, the rights of migrants must be guaranteed.

    The policy also aims to reduce contagion risk by minimising contact between border control service staff and applicants, the statement said.


    It was not known how many people had ongoing residency applications, but government statistics show that a record 580,000 immigrants resided in Portugal in 2019 and 135,000 people were granted residency that year alone.

  88. blf says

    There’s a scathing column in the Grauniad, As a doctor I have to speak out: [NKofE’s PM Boris] Johnson has contributed to thousands of deaths:

    The prime minister’s neglect of the NHS has resulted in too many tragedies. If he were a doctor, he would be struck off


    In medicine — unlike politics, where anything seems to go these days — we have situations called “never events”. These are instances that occur when a patient is seriously harmed in spite of all the protocols and protective measures to prevent this happening. “Never events” are such serious, manmade disasters that most clinicians involved in them will bear the burden of such tragic events for the rest of their careers.

    Like many junior doctors who have worked in overwhelmed and understaffed A&E departments, I’ve seen things happen as a result of the overstretched conditions that I believe should be classed as “never events”. Since 2016, nearly 5,500 patients have died in England alone as a direct result of having waited too long to be admitted to hospital. To put that in perspective, that’s nearly twice the number of people killed in terror attacks in the UK since 1970. We should be outraged.

    Prime Minister, can you please try and imagine for one moment working as an NHS paramedic, doctor or nurse in conditions so overstretched that ambulances have to endure dangerous queues and we see patients die on corridor trolleys as a result? Just stop for a moment — please — and think of the human consequences of your NHS underfunding. The NHS everywhere is desperately underfunded and understaffed — and this is on you and your party of government. Your refusal to correct these systemic problems has created more than 5,000 of these “never events”. Prime Minister, you have failed these patients and your negligence has contributed to their deaths.

    [… lots more…]

    You are not fit to lecture us any more about what we need in our NHS hospitals. You have failed the British people, failed my beloved Worcestershire Royal hospital, and failed our brilliant and hardworking NHS staff nationwide who have been traumatised by your negligence. Because the safety of our patients has now been threatened to such a significant degree, I am exercising my right as a whistleblower in clause 29 of my contract to speak out — outside your sanctioned channels — because this has happened too many times in hospitals across the country, and the British public has a right to know exactly who is responsible.

    Prime Minister, the NHS is not safe in your hands. Your negligence and that of your party over the past decade has contributed to the deaths of nearly 5,500 patients, and if you were a junior doctor like me, your licence would now be revoked, and you would be sent to prison.

  89. says

    Of course he does. “Trump Wants His Signature On Direct Payment Checks From Coronavirus Package”

    If anybody’s signature should be on this checks, it’s Nancy Pelosi’s.

    Republicans didn’t even have such a direct payment in the original coronavirus package that Mitch McConnell offered.

    According to the Wall Street Journal, Trump is pushing for his signature on the $1,200 checks that many individual Americans will soon receive now that the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act has been signed into law.

    Don Hammond, a former official at the Treasury Department, told the Wall Street Journal that a disbursing officer’s signature would ordinarily be on the checks.

    No matter whose signature is on the check, I am reminded that I need to file my tax return, and that I need to set up direct deposit with the IRS.

    This whole situation is turning into just-barely-survive time. I am a self-employed writer, currently out of work because all of my client’s projects have been shut down.

  90. says

    Trish Regan has been fired. About damned time.

    […] Trish Regan, the host of the network’s “Trish Regan Primetime” program, has been let go in the aftermath of her infamous tirade claiming that the COVID-19 outbreak was part of some kind of anti-Trump scheme run by Democrats and the media.

    “FOX Business has parted ways with Trish Regan,” the network said in a press release. “We thank her for her contributions to the network over the years and wish her continued success in her future endeavors.” […]

    The development came several weeks after Regan ranted on air about how Democrats’ criticism of President Donald Trump’s blundering response to the coronavirus was “yet another attempt” to impeach Trump and that the “liberal media” was in on the scheme.

    “And like with the Mueller investigation, like with Ukraine-gate, they don’t care who they hurt,” the host said.


    From the readers comments:

    She should be expecting a White House job offer any day now.
    Firing a fourth rate host, and one, frankly, that I’d never heard of before this incident, while continuing to employ Hannity, Dobbs, the morning show morons, and so many others, is just window dressing. It’s pretending to be doing something while actually doing nothing.
    The obvious almost literal scapegoating of one expendable minor talent to symbolically expiate the network’s loons of their sins isn’t really effective when none of them stop doing the very thing she was fired for doing.
    I’ll lay 3-1 odds she ends up on OAN as their version of the Money-Honey.

  91. says

    From Mark Sumner: “Progressive ideas are the best during a pandemic … because they’re the best when everything’s fine”

    The problem with sending everyone a check is that it’s only happening once. The problem with, supposedly, providing government coverage for testing, is that it’s limited to testing. The problem with everything that’s being done in response to the COVID-19 crisis is that it’s still pinned to the economic ideas that helped create that crisis: That income and healthcare are best administered by people whose self-interest is in giving as little of either as possible.

    What people need right now is guaranteed healthcare. What they need right now is assurance that they will not lose their place to live. What people need is to know that food and essential supplies aren’t being hoarded or kept from reaching those who need them. What people need is a the surety of an unbroken income. Which is what they need on every day.

    The just passed legislation to protect the nation during the threat of coronavirus includes a promise of $1,200 checks soon to arrive for many Americans. It also includes a trillion dollars for corporations. And though Democrats forced Republicans to accept the creation of a new inspector general, accountability committee, and congressional review of how that money — in particular a $500 billion fund — is spent, Donald Trump had a response. In a signing statement, Trump simply announced that he would ignore any concerns from the inspector general, refuse to take decisions before the accountability committee, and not provide Congress with the information needed for reviews. […]

    If the Republicans still controlled both House and Senate at this point, there’s little doubt about what the just-passed legislation would look like. Because it was already being touted as a “tax cut, round 2” that would have increased the gifts to Wall Street and CEOs under the first Trump tax cut. Exactly how the results of that billionaire bail-out were supposed to trickle down to an unemployed nation huddling at home isn’t clear … but that’s okay. Trickle down economics is already imaginary.

    What’s needed […]

    Guaranteed healthcare for every American.
    Guaranteed education for every American.
    A guaranteed housing allowance for every American.
    A guaranteed income for every American.

    It shouldn’t take an emergency to make these things happen. It also shouldn’t take a period of massive growth. In fact, in the last decade, we’ve responded to a crisis by … giving corporations huge support, and making a token gesture to individuals. And responded to good times by … giving corporations huge support, and making a token gesture to individuals. And responded to an even bigger crisis by … giving corporation even more support, and making another token gesture toward individuals.

    It’s way past time to turn that around. […]


  92. says

    Senate Republicans knew the country was facing disaster yet still voted to keep Trump in office

    […] During the critical early handling of the virus here in the U.S., senators from both parties had a window into what was to come—well before the virus had even made the radar of most Americans.

    But instead of focusing on preparing for a potential pandemic in the making, Senate Republicans were busy staging a sham no-witness impeachment trial for Donald Trump so they could ultimately vote to acquit him, ensuring that Trump would be at the helm as the nation faced the greatest public health crisis in a century.

    That trial began on Jan. 16 and concluded on Feb. 5 with Trump’s acquittal. But that critical three-week period also included early warning signs that U.S. senators, in particular, were privy to. As one U.S. official told The Washington Post about the intelligence reporting shared with both Trump officials and members of Congress in January, “Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were — they just couldn’t get him to do anything about it. … The system was blinking red.” […]

    “The coronavirus doesn’t appear to pose any imminent threat to Americans who have not recently traveled to the Hubei province of China,” he [GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa] said in a statement, downplaying the threat. “For now, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control have the resources needed to prevent any significant contagion from spreading into the United States. If more resources are needed, Congress stands at the ready.”

    The following day, Feb. 5, Grassley and 51 of his Republican colleagues voted to clear Trump of wrongdoing and keep him in office—every GOP senator except Mitt Romney of Utah.

    They knew. They voted to keep Trump in charge. They own it. Never forget.


  93. says

    Governors are starting to close their borders. The implications are staggering.

    The coronavirus pandemic is testing the very notion that the United States are united.

    Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed an executive order on Thursday that would require travelers from some coronavirus hotspots to self-quarantine: It provides that “every person” who flies into Texas from “New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, or the City of New Orleans, or in any other state or city as may be proclaimed hereafter, shall be subject to mandatory self-quarantine for a period of 14 days from the time of entry into Texas or the duration of the person’s presence in Texas, whichever is shorter.”

    Other states have imposed similar orders. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) imposed an order on Tuesday that requires anyone flying from New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut to self-isolate for 14 days. Alaska and Hawaii also imposed self-quarantine orders on people traveling from other states.

    These orders implicate one of the fundamental premises of the union among the 50 states: the right of American citizens to travel among them freely.

    As the Supreme Court recognized more than 170 years ago, “we are one people with one common country. We are all citizens of the United States, and as members of the same community must have the right to pass and repass through every part of it without interruption, as freely as in our own states.” The right of all U.S. citizens to travel freely among the states, the Court later explained in United States v. Guest (1966), “was conceived from the beginning to be a necessary concomitant of the stronger union the Constitution created.”

    If states can decide that some US citizens are not welcome within their borders, it may cease to be a union at all. […]

    But should that principle hold during a pandemic? Does the Constitution forbid states from taking drastic actions to slow the spread of a potentially deadly disease within their own borders?

    Gov. Abbott’s order, at the very least, is probably carefully drafted enough to survive constitutional scrutiny. That order applies to “every person” who flies into Texas from the designated areas, regardless of whether that person is a resident of Texas or some other state. Read in that light, it does not discriminate against non-Texans. […]
    The modern notion that every US citizen has the same rights, no matter where they travel within the nation, is rooted in a notion of nationwide solidarity that depends on a strong and competent federal government. And the Trump administration is not holding up its end of that bargain. […]

    The Constitution “protects the right of a citizen of one State to enter and to leave another State, the right to be treated as a welcome visitor rather than an unfriendly alien when temporarily present in the second State, and, for those travelers who elect to become permanent residents, the right to be treated like other citizens of that State.”

    Abbott’s order largely implicates the second condition: “the right to be treated as a welcome visitor.” He does not actually attempt to bar residents of other states from entering Texas entirely. […]

    To be clear, that does not mean that Abbott’s decision to single out four parts of the country is ideal policy. It may be the case, for example, that New York is simply testing more infected people to determine if they have coronavirus — and the virus may be quietly spreading just as rapidly in other parts of the country. […]

    The union is still failing
    But even if such travel bans are legal, they are still indicative of a greater rot within our constitutional system. The premise of our Constitution is that the states gave up some of their sovereign authority to the federal government, in return for mutual benefits such as collective national defense and free trade among the states. The premise of the post-New Deal order is that the federal government must take on additional obligations, including providing a basic social safety net. […]


    Much more at the link.

  94. says

    From Wonkette:

    Michigan currently has the fourth highest number of active COVID-19 cases in the country. One would think that, given this, the federal government would be rushing to its aid to give it the supplies it needs to fight the pandemic. Well, you know, in an alternate universe where the United States hasn’t let that same state go without clean water for practically the last decade.

    And sure! While some of this lack of action may be attributed to good old-fashioned American not-giving-a-fuck, Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer believes that at least part of it is that Donald Trump is mad at her, in particular, for saying mean things about him. Because not only has the federal government told Michigan it is on its own, but vendors have said that they have been instructed to not send supplies to the state as well. Like, vendors were supposed to send them supplies, and then had to back out of it because they’d been told not to do that.

    Via Crain’s Detroit Business:

    “When the federal government told us that we needed to go it ourselves, we started procuring every item we could get our hands on,” Whitmer said Friday on WWJ 950AM. “What I’ve gotten back is that vendors with whom we had contracts are now being told not to send stuff here to Michigan. It’s really concerning.”

    Whitmer didn’t say who has told vendors to stop sending medical supplies to the state, but strongly implied the order came from […] Trump’s administration.

    In a Friday afternoon appearance on CNN, Whitmer did not back away from her earlier claim.

    “We’ve entered into a number of contracts and as we are getting closer to the date when shipments are supposed to come in, they’re getting canceled or they’re getting delayed,” Whitmer said. “We’ve been told they’re going first to the federal government.”

    Whitmer also noted that one hospital in the state got one shipment from the federal government. It consisted of one shift’s worth of medical supplies. Not a day’s worth. A shift’s worth.

    For Trump’s part, he’s not exactly denying it, and admitted in a press conference last night that he had instructed Vice President Pence to ignore Whitmer’s calls, because “if they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.”

    Sure! That’s good and normal and fine. Risking people’s lives because people aren’t “treating you right” — because that’s what’s important right now. And the thing is, he’s not just not calling, or not answering phone calls, he’s apparently, allegedly, telling vendors not to do business with states that have governors who criticize him, and that is legitimately insane.

    Trump has also said that he wants governors to handle this pandemic pretty much entirely on their own and does not quite understand why it is they are bothering him with any of this.

    Via Washington Post:

    On Hannity’s show, Trump ripped into Whitmer, while not even hiding the fact that his anger was stoked by her criticism of his failure to deliver urgently needed supplies.

    “She’s not stepping up,” Trump fumed. “All she does is sit there and blame the federal government. She doesn’t get it done. And we send her a lot.” [Bullshit]

    Trump added: “She is a new governor and it’s not been pleasant.” […]

    This is, of course, very much in line with the Republican ideal of federalism and the ethos of “rugged individualism” that got us into this giant mess to begin with, so glad he’s continuing on with that. Wouldn’t want to accidentally do anything in a normal, responsible way!


  95. blf says

    Lynna, It didn’t occur to me at the time, but perhaps I should have added a “Trigger Warning” or somesuch? Try @140…

  96. blf says

    me@153, I was referring to Lynna@146, “@135, what an apocalyptic sound track. That’s going to stick in my memory.”

  97. says

    I keep making HTML mistakes in my comments. I think I’d better take a break.

    blf @153, no I don’t think a trigger warning was required for that post that linked to the video of the memorable sound of sirens as emergency workers raced to respond to people who had called 911.