Granny’s World… What will a post-Covid world look like?… Corona v. Us… Korruption Korner… Tailpipe.

People enjoy the hot weather by Three Shires Head on the River Dane, where Cheshire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire meet

“It’s nicer than I thought, being dead.” (PA)

24 June, the UK enjoys its closest day of the year so far, at a humid 33 C, 91 F. At the behest of the pub trade, the Government reduces the “safe” distancing limit to “1 metre – plus”, whatever that means. Big thunderstorms will bubble up on Thursday. (BBC)

QotW

“Many of us are frequent fliers, we drive long distances in big cars, buy a lot of equipment, have fridge-freezers the size of a small terrace house – every facet of our lives, although normalised by us, is central to our nation’s high emissions. But the models are unwilling to accept this – preferring to pass the buck onto our children in the form of future technical silver bullets.”

Professor Kevin Anderson, highly-paid academic and world-leading climate scientist beginning to despair, on why the UK’s Committee on Climate Change is going to miss its 2050 target for carbon reduction as it is too pally with politicians and not listening to scientists; while the overconsuming wealthy responsible for 1/3rd of emissions are blaming the rest of us.

Granny’s World

Caribbean: An enormous plume of dust 3 km deep now stretches 4,000 miles from the Sahara desert of North Africa across the Atlantic to Florida, blackening the skies over barely visible Caribbean island paradises where the pollution is posing a serious health risk and people with asthma and other conditions are being urged to remain indoors, possibly for many days.

Although such dust storms are not uncommon, whipped up by storms over the desert region, often moving northwards over Europe, this year’s Saharan Air Layer heading westwards has been dubbed the “Godzilla dust cloud”, described by one AccuWeather meteorologist as “possibly the most significant extreme weather event of the past 50 years”.

The bad news for Florida, apart from the enormous spike in Covid cases governor Ron de Santis has admitted was his mistake in opening up too soon, is that the reddish color of the dust indicates the amount of iron contained in it. When this iron is deposited over a large body of warm water, it promotes the growth of algal blooms, such as have been plaguing the sunshine state’s coast and decimating marine life in recent years.

The cloud is in two main parts, one affecting the Caribbean islands and Puerto Rico, the other moving further south across the Gulf of Mexico towards Yucatan. Sadly, it’s not just a matter of colorful sunsets: the cloud is so thick you can’t even see the sun. “The (northerly) system is forecast to lift out to the northeast between Thursday and Friday, opening the door for more concentrated dust to fill the skies over East Texas Friday or Friday night into Saturday. Like it has in the Caribbean, the dust is expected to bring reduced visibility and poor air quality from eastern Texas to Louisiana.”

Only, more of that persistent Gulf rain is expected to come to the aid of Texans for a time midweek. There, Accuweather comments, hospitals are already at breaking point with respiratory cases.

China: “The flood situation has worsened in Guijou, southwest China, with 74,000 people now affected in 12 counties or cities. 3 fatalities were previously reported. Heavy rain in the area has increased river levels: on 22 June, the Qijiang river in Jiangjin  jumped more than 5 meters above flood level. Between 40,000 and 100,000 people have been displaced across Chongqing.” (Floodlist)

Ukraine: Floodllst reports, 3 people have died in flooding. Overflowing rivers have caused severe damage in western areas after heavy rain over the last few days, destroying bridges and roads. Power lines have been damaged, as have hundreds of homes.

Turkey: At least 1 person was killed and 8 others injured after severe weather in Istanbul on 23 June. Torrential rain caused flash flooding in the city, inundating streets and causing traffic problems. Strong winds including a rare tornado also damaged roofs of buildings and brought down trees and power lines, interrupting power supply in some areas. (Floodlist)

Bolivia: “Hours of heavy rain from 21 June caused flooding in Santa Cruz City. 2 people have died, as at least 175mm of rain fell in 11 hours. Other reports suggested over 300 mm of rain fell in localized areas. Emergency teams were called in to evacuate residents. Some areas were under 2 meters of water. The local government has provided medical and food assistance to affected families.” (Floodlist)

Uruguay: “Heavy rain 22 to 24 June caused flash floods, cutting roads and prompting evacuations. Strong winds downed power lines leaving hundreds without electricity. The town of José Batlle y Ordóñez recorded 105 mm of rain in 24 hrs. Around 360 people were evacuated in the capital, Montevideo, where wind damage left 1,800 people without power.” (Floodlist)

Côte d’Ivoire: “At least 5 people have died and one is missing after flash flooding in Abidjan District, 25 June, after 240mm of rain fell in a few hours. More heavy rain is forecast over the next 2 days. (Floodlist)

UK: More temperature records are falling. 25 June, the area along the Welsh border could see temperatures of 34C “very locally” making it the hottest June day on record for Wales, at least. “The hot weather is expected to turn from 4pm on Thursday as thunderstorms form. The Met Office has issued a yellow weather alert warning of disruption due to flooding, lightning strikes, hail and wind. Between 30mm to 40mm of (“torrential”) rain could fall in less than two hours.” (BBC)

Tunnel…

12 thousand people called in to the USGS to report a M5.8 earthquake centered near Lone Pine in eastern California, Wednesday (24th), just a day after a M7.4 struck in the Mexican province of Oaxaca. No injuries or significant damage were reported but the shallow quake produced a public warning to duck and cover, 100 miles away in Los Angeles. “More than 35 aftershocks were recorded in the area ranging from M1.6 to M4.6”, reported AccuWeather. Veteran Yellowstone watcher, Mary Greeley places the quake on the same fault line that produced a M7.1 at Ridgecrest two years ago.

Bournemouth beach revisited, 25 June. (AP)

What will a post-Covid world look like?

Well, the answer to that may be that Covid will never go away, but will recede into the background. The herd immunity idea makes no sense in its first season, indeed the virus doesn’t appear to be seasonal at all, but by the time 70% or 80% have had it and survived it will remain with us like the common cold, picking off the weakest every winter – assuming it’s not like chickenpox and hits you a second time years later.

The question is, how long will people put up with social restrictions? The answer appears to be, not long.

The police and local authority in Dorsetshire declared a major incident on 25 June and were pleading with people to stay away; the local MP called for government help, as England’s southern beaches were once again rammed with thousands of suicidal lunatics who, in the sporting phrase, “think it’s all over”. It will be, sadly, for many of them.

There’s a school of thought operating in the ruins of the sensible media, that Covid-19 will have given us a chance to start anew, to reset the clock on consumer capitalism, homelessness, exploitation in the workplace, racism, driving and flying everywhere. We can all be nicer and kinder and leaner and greener and work from home and reopen the libraries and scrap tuition fees and bake artisanal bread and vote Lib-Dem while the CO2 drains gently down out of blue skies and fluffy bunnies play in the meadows.

No-one looking at the photo above could possibly give the liberal ideal of the post-Covid Utopia, with a Green New Deal at its heart, any credibility. This is anarchy, raw and simple. Mostly polite, mostly permissive, but anarchy, British-style. We can co-operate with authority in an emergency, but not when it becomes an imposition, we can’t really see the enemy and we suspect our leaders are taking the piss.

There are three months of summer to go and already we’ve had three spells this year of record temperatures in the UK and several instances of bad tempered confrontations with police in the streets. Stifling city nights are the perfect breeding ground for truculent resistance, especially when – not if – the government has to reimpose lockdowns as defiant contiguity produces huge rolling spikes in infections through the autumn and winter.

Some random act, perhaps of police violence against a person of color – as with the Mark Duggan riots of August, 2011 – could spark something we’re not equipped to understand or control without military intervention. While, the full effects of the depression: mass unemployment, bankruptcies, debt defaults and evictions have yet to kick in. Around 7 million people are reported to have gone without enough to eat in the first months of the lockdown.

Just one looming problem among many: you’ve probably wondered how your neighbors can manage to afford to buy and run that big, shiny new SUV? Nine out of 10 – 6.5m vehicles in the UK, a market worth £75 billion – are owned on domestic leasing deals with expensive back-end residuals and monthly payments that are “already proving unaffordable” for some laid-off as a result of the coronavirus. (Guardian).

The post-Covid landscape this summer could well come to resemble Los Angeles, 1992 – with added middle-class economic zombies.

 

Nominative determinism corner…

“Francine Prose is a novelist and the former president of PEN America…” (Guardian)

 

Corona v. Us

A couple of “What the ???s” from the Washingon Post today:

The US Treasury Department has sent more than 1 million stimulus payments to dead people, totaling nearly $1.4 billion.

Trump keeps saying Obama left him ‘no ventilators.’ The true number is 16,660. (You may recall he also complained that Obama had left the army with no bullets. Funny man.)

Fearing a second Covid wave in the autumn clashing with annual ‘flu, the CDC has ordered an extra 7 million ‘flu vaccine doses. “This is a big move,” said Redfield, the CDC director. It is, given they probably don’t yet know which strain of ‘flu to vaccinate against.

The Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) — a move that would wipe out health insurance cover for as many as 23 million Americans in the middle of a pandemic. (NYT)

A White House staffer has been awarded a $2.4 million contract to supply PPE to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The individal concerned has no experience of supplying PPE and has registered a new company to fulfil the contract. (NYT)

70-year-old Michael Flor, from Seattle, was a “miracle patient” who spent 62 days on a ventilator unexpectedly surviving Covid-19.  Apart from getting his life back, his reward was to receive a bill from the hospital for $1.1 million dollars.

A clever sequence of graphics in the New York Times (“How the virus won”) shows how the pandemic spread and re-spread throughout the USA, where it’s now out of control. It’s like a compilation buildup of scenes from a disaster movie. The most telling point is contained in the footnotes explaining how the data were arrived at: “There are no comprehensive, official counts of cases, deaths or tests throughout the United States.”

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-spread.html?campaign_id=57&emc=edit_ne_20200625&instance_id=19757&nl=evening-briefing&regi_id=93094685&segment_id=31874&te=1&user_id=57c84490f6448f9cceff76e9e5000e64

In a staged Fox News ‘Town Hall’ q&a with real people, under intensive grilling from his best friend Sean Hannity, Trump solemnly let it be known that if he didn’t do testing there would be no cases of coronavirus. It also appeared from what he was saying that he thinks the -19 in SARS-CoV-19 stands for the number of different names the virus goes by.

Australia: The Woolworths chain of supermarkets has reimposed rationing of toilet paper and other, less essential food items as panic buying has broken out again after a fresh surge of cases in Victoria state began running into double digits daily. (Guardian Australia) The Morrison government has decided to tough it out – no new lockdowns will be ordered.

 

Korruption Korner…

A federal appeals court has ordered a judge to dismiss the criminal charges against retired 3-star general, Michael T Flynn. “A three-judge panel of the DC circuit court of appeals issued a 2-1 decision overruling judge Emmet Sullivan and ordering him to dismiss the entire case against Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser. The ruling comes a month after the justice department filed a motion to dismiss the case, prompting allegations of political bias.” (Guardian)

The reversal of a court finding on the basis of a guilty plea by the defendant is probably unprecedented in the murky annals of American jurisprudence. But whatever Donny wants, Donny gets. Anyway, it seems the case isn’t over as it now goes to the full Appellate court and maybe thence to the Supreme Court, by which time Trump will have been thrown out on his waxy old ear – or he won’t.

Let’s remind ourselves, folks, Flynn pleaded guilty to two charges of lying to the FBI and to Vice President Pence about his Russian contacts, including famously having dinner with Putin, and holding talks about lifting sanctions with former Ambassador Kislyak, as part of a plea bargain to obtain reduced charges in exchange for helping the Mueller investigation, which it seems he didn’t, much. (Not squealing to the Feds earns you extra points in Trump’s book.)

He had previously been dismissed by the Obama administration in 2015 as a security risk, being paid both by the Russians and by Turkey; but Trump hired him anyway – on whose rekomendatsiya we can only guess – firing the acting Attorney-General, Sally Yates when she tried to warn White House counsel, Don McGahn about Flynn’s nixed security clearance – a turd now being polished by Trump as evidence of Obama’s “treason”.

He also failed to declare the earnings from his PR consultancy as a foreign agent, and should (if he wasn’t) have been indicted for breaching the Logan Acts, intended to prevent non-governmental actors from corruptly attempting to negotiate State policy with foreign governments.

The chair of the Appelate Court bench in DC who wrote the opinion that passed 2-1 is a Trump appointee, Neomi Rao. “Circuit Judge Karen L. Henderson (a Reagan-era veteran) who was appointed to the appeals court seat by George H. W. Bush,” notes website Law & Crime, “joined Rao on the majority.” The third judge, Robert L Wilkins penned a legally crystalline dissenting opinion but was outgunned, although a motion to dismiss Judge Sullivan was overruled.

On 7 May, CNBC quoted the president as saying: “He (Flynn) was targeted by the Obama administration and he was targeted in order to try and take down a president. And I hope a lot of people are going to pay a big price, because they’re dishonest crooked people, they’re scum, and I say it a lot, they’re scum, they’re human scum. This should never have happened in this country.”

Quite. It’s not normally the President’s job to attempt to influence the outcomes of trials of his criminal associates. Also, few presidents have publicly referred to their honorable predecessor as “human scum”.

As his polling nosedives, a febrile and increasingly sweaty-looking Trump has been trying to establish the theory he calls Obamagate, that his predecessor was somehow committing treason against the Republic by plotting against him personally. That is, before Trump was even elected as president, when he was still a superannuated playboy grifter, tax-dodging “billionaire”, serial bankrupt and tacky reality-show TV front. And long after Flynn was disgraced the first time for, er, what Judge Sullivan described as “selling-out” his country. That is, treason.

You did it! No, you did it!

Trump is absolutely blatant in his wild inventions. But the dumbfucks, struggling for one last breath on their ventilators, will buy it. After all, flawed as he is, he was sent by God to redeem America from normal people.

Tailpipe….

Republicans in Kentucky are so terrified of moderates winning the party’s primaries against pro-Trump candidates that they’ve closed 95 per cent of the polling stations, leaving only one open in the capital, Louisville, making it almost impossible for anyone to vote unless they have paid time off work and a car, preferably with SatNav. (Democracy Now!)

Faced with losing our GPS cover from the European Galileo satellite project in the wake of Brexit next year, the UK government has patriotically contracted a UK-registered company called OneWeb to supply the necessary network. OneWeb recently declared bankruptcy in the USA, where it was mainly trading, and, say space experts, has the wrong type of satellites to reliably provide the vital service. (Guardian)

Baris Johnson has proposed that former minister, Chris Grayling should chair the security committee responsible for publishing the long-delayed, almost completely redacted report on Russian influence in British politics. Grayling is famous for his lack of competence, having, it’s been calculated, cost the country £3.4 billion in failed project implementations – including contracting a pizza delivery firm with no ferries to operate an emergency ferry service in case of a No Deal Brexit interrupting cross-channel trade.

На здоровье!

Fascism Today… The ‘Blood of Jesus’ Insurance Co. … Practical considerations… The madness… Grim Reaper… Granny’s World: Major disaster looming in the Bay of Bengal..

Trump is angry at NBC News for using this photo of him, so please ...

“I’m taking it for about a week and a half now and I’m still here, I’m still here.”

– Trump, on his new Hydroxychloroquine habit.

Yes Donald. I’ve been drinking above a bottle and a half of wine a night since being locked down and look, I’m still here, I’m still here…

 

Fascism Today

In a front-page lead, beneath a splash headline, at a time of national crisis exacerbated by the incompetence and self-serving lies of a Conservative government, the Conservative-leaning Mail on Sunday ‘newspaper’ has lashed out at the Labour party leader, Sir Keir Starmer, a barrister, former human rights lawyer and former Director of Public Prosecutions, accusing him of hypocrisy in pretending to be a ‘man of the people’ (code for dirty Socialist) when in fact he owns a ‘£10 million’ property.

Which he doesn’t.

It happens that his mother was a nurse, and his father a toolmaker. From this less than gilded background, he was educated at a state-supported grammar school and, having joined the Young Socialists as a teenager, studied his law not at Oxford or Cambridge, but at the humbler University of Leeds. Unlike the Eton and bread-roll throwing, waitress-abusing, Bullingdon-club-educated Prime Minister, ‘Vanishing’ Johnson.

Twenty-four years ago, in 1996, Starmer, whose professional status was hardly likely to qualify him as a member of the underclass, bought a field behind his parents’ house to keep a couple of donkeys they’d adopted. Unlike the millionaire Farage, he has never pretended or claimed to be a ‘man of the people’. The field has no planning permission, is unlikely to obtain planning permission, none has ever been applied for; has only a notional value as a potential housing estate, and is perhaps worth 20 thousand pounds for the agricultural land value today.

There can be no possible connection between this fictitious non-story and the news over the past few days that Sir Keir’s national poll ratings have crept up above those of the incoherent, bumbling, posh, do-nothing oaf in Number 10, Johnson, whose election was paid for by foreign billionaire disruptors and on whose intermittent watch over 60 thousand Britons have died from coronavirus complications.

Nor are we asked to recall that the owner of the Mail group, Viscount Harmsworth is a multi-billionaire, and that the Editor-in-Chief, Sir Paul Dacre, owns a 17-thousand-acre grouse shooting estate near Ullapool in Scotland, while keeping his donkeys tethered in plush editorial suites in Kensington.

Thus, it begins.

 

The ‘Blood of Jesus’ Insurance Co.

I haven’t posted much this week apart from edits, corrections and additions to Granny Weatherwax’s weather bogl, because I just haven’t known where to begin, it’s all getting so crazy.

I thought however that I might start by mentioning that, of the 82% of Americans who reassured pollsters they believe in God, 55% believe He will protect them from the SARS-Covid-19 virus better than any vaccine.

The more deaths that are reported among different congregations, however, the more likely they are to say they have felt doubts about the existence of God. All the same, more than two-thirds of religious Americans believe the virus is a punishment from on high. (from Guardian)

Oh ye of little faith!

 

Practical considerations #1

A factory in Colombia is making hospital beds out of cardboard, that can be turned into a coffin when the patient dies. “The dual-purpose beds are designed for coronavirus patients” – as if we hadn’t guessed. The bed-base functions as a trapdoor to allow the fresh corpse to drop into a container beneath, avoiding handling and allowing the whole unit to be removed for sanitary disposal. (from Telegraph)

A professional football team in South Korea has apologized after “mannequins” it ordered to pose as substitute fans during a match at the weekend turned out to be inflatable sex dolls. (Guardian) The club was later heavily fined for bringing the game into disrepute.

Zoo animals in the USA are becoming bored and fractious at having no humans to entertain them. A small party of Humboldt penguins were taken by their keepers at Kansas City Zoo for a special trip to see the art at the Nelson-Atkins museum. (We’re all going a bit lockdown crazy!) The director observed, they reacted “rather better to Caravaggio” than to modern art. So, who doesn’t? It’s stunning. (Washington Post)

Cute. Watch at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6buz-qJsNQ

 

The madness…

The problem with trying to maintain a mordantly satirical bogl in something more like realtime than a weekly magazine is that we’re constantly being stunned by events.

Trump has just told the American people that he’s been regularly taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventative against coronavirus. An anti-malarial drug that is licensed only under very strict conditions for use by physicians, that has no proven effect on the specific symptoms of the Covid-19 virus, a drug that is not an anti-viral and comes with a warning that if you take it without proper supervision, you may die.

A dangerous drug whose efficacy he has been plugging for weeks, despite being told over and over by professionals to stop. Even Fox News last night was begging his dumbfucks not to go along with the madness.

Mr Trump has described the research findings that suggested that a group of Covid patients in a Veteran’s Administration hospital died during trials of the drug, as “very unscientific”. As if he would know, because his uncle John was an electrical engineer. In China, the editor of Communist Party mouthpiece the Global Times, said Trump was leading the US response to the pandemic with “witchcraft”. (Guardian)

A non-peer-reviewed paper published by the University of Virginia School of Medicine investigated experimental treatments at a VA hospital, and found little evidence of efficacy. Chloroquine had been shown in conjunction with an antibiotic to have some very minor effects in a very small trial in France, whose results were later retracted.. What was not scientific about the Virginia survey was that it was an incomplete study of a non-randomized experiment that was terminated once the effects became suspected. True, these were sick people who might have died anyway. But they died of the right symptoms to make HCQ the main suspect.

None as sick as the irresponsible lunatic in the White House.

Yes-men

Trump has fired yet another independent Inspector General for showing disloyalty to the regime – i.e., for simply doing the job they were hired to do. This time it’s the turn of the State Department, where Steve Linick was just beginning to look into a whistleblower complaint that Secretary Mike ‘two lunches in a suit’ Pompeo had been using members of his security detail at public expense to run trivial domestic errands for him and his wife.

That’s State, Health, Emergency Budget ($2.5 trillion package) and Intelligence, all inspectors recently replaced with Trump yes-men; just as he has packed the nation’s courts with unqualified judges who will throw out cases against him; and turned the entire apparatus of law enforcement to his advantage, including the appointment of a corrupt Attorney General who will reliably do his dirty work for him; whitewashing his crimes, springing his mates from jail and ‘investigating’ his enemies.

It’s beginning to resemble a Batman movie. But where is our caped crusader?

Linick was also apparently looking into another serious abuse of Presidential power. Robert Reich reports, under a ‘State of Emergency’ Trump declared, apparently on not even a flimsy pretext, he assumed the power to authorize Pompeo without Congressional approval, bypassing their legal authority, to negotiate further arms sales to his pals in war-criminal Saudi Barbaria that Congress had already on a bipartisan basis voted should not be allowed to go ahead.

The president, who openly claims to be above the law, is running amok through the constitution, removing wherever his powers allow him to, every vestige of oversight of his arbitrary, self-enriching abuses, while Congress has simply given up trying to rein him in. In this instance, in response to a letter sent from the White House claiming that Trump had lost confidence in Linick and expected more loyalty from “his” officials, they even waived the statutory 30-days’ notice period.

Welcome to your fascist state, America.

And the idiocy…

President Magafuli of Tanzania, which borders eight other African states, has gone full Trump on Covid-19, and is refusing to order any special measures or lockdown to contain the disease, saying he wants tourists to come to his country. His son caught the virus, he says, and was cured with sips of lemon juice and ginger. To prove that testing is a waste of resources, he has ordered that fruit should also be tested. Health professionals say he is lying about the numbers of infections and (only 21) deaths. (Guardian)

Are these dismal cretins totally bonkers before being elected by a plurality of gullible rustics, or does holding the top office drive them insane?

And the ecocide…

President Lopez Obrador of Mexico, a paid shill for the oil industry, has cited the coronavirus pandemic as a reason to increase subsidies to the fossil fuel barons and reduce the contribution of renewables to the aging grid – to the consternation of global investors. Japan Times reported: “The government defended the new rules, saying they “will allow the National Electrical System to ensure reliability in the face of a decrease in demand for electrical power.”

They say, less is more.

Aren’t we all getting a bit fed up with being lied to, as if we were the morons, and not these morons whom a plurality of morons keep electing?

 

Practical considerations #2

Trust the Japanese to think of everything. For 600 Yen – about £5 Stg, – residents in Tokyo are now able to buy reusable coronavirus facemasks from vending machines. Fearing that as 30C-plus summer temperatures have already arrived people will find the masks uncomfortable to wear, the vending company has ensured they are cooled inside the machines down to 4 deg. C. Meanwhile, “France is planning to make mask-wearing mandatory in public transportation from May 11.” The transit authority in Paris is currently trialling CCTV-based mask-recognition software to detect passengers travelling without masking-up. (Japan Times)

Michael O’Leary, the gnomish CEO of Ryanair, has claimed (without much scientific justification) that wearing facemasks reduces the chances of spreading the virus by 98.5 per cent; and that ordering a general masking-up and temperature-scanning of passengers will allow him to fill more seats on his aircraft when he resumes normal service – minus the 3,000 employees he’s laid off, after declaring €890 million profits for the first quarter – by the end of June. (BBC R4 interview, 18 May)

He has a point, though. Government policy seems fragmented, to put it politely. Air travellers (but not Irish or, it seems, French) will be expected to quarantine themselves for 14 days on arrival in the UK from abroad, on pain of arrest by a ludicrously overstretched and unhappy police force, while passengers arriving on the Eurostar train from Calais can go about their normal business, unquarantined and unmasked. Tourists, Hancock imagines, will be happy to spend their entire fortnight in the UK staring disconsolately out of the window of some disused hospital in Cheshire.

 

Grim Reaper

“Phil May, the frontman of The Pretty Things, has died aged 75 after suffering complications from emergency hip surgery. A representative of the band confirmed he died on Friday morning at a Kings Lynn hospital. May had fallen off his bicycle earlier in the week.” (BBC) A favorite of mine in my rebellious teens, I had no idea this seminal rock outfit was still going. They made the Stones sound pedestrian.

 

Granny’s World

SE Europe: Temperatures in southern Turkey and Cyprus soared to a peak 43C, 109F over the weekend, and touched 40C in southern Greece, the Balkans and Italy, as a May heatwave exploded out of North Africa. The hot weather will be replaced with a cold front moving south later in the week (Severe-weather.eu)

USA: A tropical storm warning was issued 18 May by the National Weather Service for parts of the North Carolina coast with forecast rainfall totals around 6-in., shortly after the Outer Banks beaches were reopened to visitors on Saturday. Tropical Storm Arthur is the first named storm of the Atlantic season and 2020 is the sixth straight year when a named storm has beaten the nominal 1 June opening of the season. (Accuweather)

Areas around New Orleans in Louisiana recorded 231.39mm of rain (10 in.) in 24 hours to 15 May. Roads were closed and about 40 people were rescued from flooded homes and vehicles. Rivers are continuing to rise. More rain is expected this weekend and the rivers and creeks are very high. In Illinois, “Flash flooding, some significant, was observed across numerous locations in the Chicago Metropolitan Area during the night of 17 May, especially near the Chicago River. Several people were rescued by fire crews. NWS said 3.11 inches / 79mm of rain fell in 24 hours.” (Floodlist)

Rain has temporarily slowed the spread of an enormous wildfire in southwest Florida that has consumed 12 square miles of country. Houses, trailers and cars have been burned out but evacuation orders were lifted Sunday. (Wunderground) 1 person was killed and 9 injured when an EF-3 tornado (150 mph) touched down at Church Point, Louisiana on Monday. (Accuweather)

Ecuador: “Heavy rain and floods have left at least 2 people dead and 15 homes damaged in Morona Santiago Province.” (Floodlist)

Philippines: Weakening Cat 3 Typhoon Vongfong made its way up the center of the two main islands, injuring 54 and rendering thousands homeless. “Over 71,000 people were pre-emptively evacuated. The storm caused damage to buildings, roads, bridges and agriculture. Power and communications lines were also damaged. Much of the damage was caused by strong winds gusting to 255 km/h. (158 mph). Vongfong also brought heavy rainfall. Infanta in Quezon Province, Calabarzon Region, recorded 287.7mm (11-in.) of rain in 24 hours to 16 May.” (Floodlist)

Sri Lanka: 3 people have died in floods and landslides and 1 is missing as heavy rain and strong winds continue to pound the country, damaging homes and infrastructure. Galigamuwa recorded 214 mm (8.5-in.) of rain in 24 hours to 16 May. Warnings are out for further severe weather after a deep depression over southeast Bay of Bengal intensified into a cyclonic storm on Saturday, 16 May. The cyclone, named Amphan, is forecast to track north, north-eastward towards India and Bangladesh. (Floodlist)

BBC Weather adds: “Indian officials are on alert after Cyclone Amphan – due to make landfall on the east coast – looks likely to intensify into a “very severe” storm. Concern is growing for thousands of workers who have fled cities under lockdown to return home to villages in Orissa and other provinces likely to be affected. Premier Modi has called an emergency Cobra meeting. In Bangladesh, tens of thousands of Burmese Rohyngia refugees packed into flimsy camps and already reporting cases of coronavirus could also be in the path of the storm, and cannot be evacuated. “This would be the first supercyclonic storm in the Bay of Bengal since the 1999 supercyclone that hit the Orissa coast and killed more than 9,000 people”.

The sun sets behind a patterned cloud formed over the city of Kolkata, West Bengal

Rare mammatus cloud formation over Kolkata, 18 May (Bikas Das/AP)

Stop Press, 18 May: Typhoon Amphan underwent “beyond exceptional” rapid intensification Monday and has attained the highest Cat 5 rating, with 160 mph sustained winds gusting above 195 mph, and a central pressure of just 910 mb. It could become the most powerful cyclone ever recorded in the northern Indian Ocean, according to meteorologists at Severe-weather.eu. Major storm surge, destructive winds and flooding are likely. The teeming city of Kolkata on the Indian/Bangladeshi border is directly in its path. Over a million people are being evacuated but millions more live in the low-lying delta of the Ganges river. (CNN)

North Africa: “Heavy rain from 16 to 17 May caused flooding in northwest Algeria damaging homes and leaving at least 1 person dead.” (Floodlist) 2 people may have died in floods in Ivory Coast after heavy rain.

Russia: Cars were mangled, garages blown away, roofs torn off, road signs and power lines knocked out when a violent storm suddenly blew up in the city of Chita, in the Trans-Baikal region of Siberia, on 13 May. Residents were warned against going outdoors as the forecast was for the 70 mph wind to grow even stronger. Several people have been injured and children were filmed being blown over in the street as huge steel roofs were tossed about. The storm was expected to last for two days. (Siberian Times)

Video: siberiantimes.com/other/others/news/roofs-ripped-off-dozens-of-buildings-including-maternity-hospital-by-stormy-wind-in-chita/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goings on in Clowning Street… A Wall Street-car Named Remdesevir… Put ye your faith in leaders… Who’s failed the drive-in test?… Slaughter – the worst medicine… Granny’s World…

The graph shows the value of testing, and the abysmal performance of the Trump and Johnson governments in stark relief. With only 270 cases and 0 deaths, and the world’s most intensive testing regime, Vietnam has recorded no new cases of domestic transmission of coronavirus in almost two weeks. (Washington Post)

“Will any government minister ever answer for the crime of homicide by gross negligence, a crime carrying a sentence of up to 20 years in prison?”

Goings on in Clowning Street

A BBC Panorama investigation has determined that the British government, or “10, Clowning Street” as we should perhaps re-name the seat of Earthly power, deliberately downgraded the emergency status of SARS-Covid-19 after it was discovered there were not enough stocks of appropriate personal protection equipment to meet demand for a higher-risk category of disease.

The status of Covid-19 was recognised as the highest category of infectious disease in January, but by March “the science” was telling Health Secretary Hancock that a short, flimsy plastic apron, a recycled paper mask, gloves that nurses could safely rinse out many times and a pair of safety glasses were the most protection required for tending highly infectious patients outside the actual ICUs.

Not only that, but it has now emerged that in March, Civil Servants turned their noses up at an offer to supply 10 thousand home testing kits a day from an award-winning young British scientific entrepreneur based in the USA; a test he had developed, that is more reliable and easier to administer than the one Public Health England has sanctioned, and is now instead being used by the Pentagon.

In other words, in a high old state of panic the government deliberately and cynically ordered health workers into the frontline of the pandemic knowing that their protection was totally inadequate, could not be improved because officials were too late and too stupid into the market,  and that many would get sick and die; death being the result of exposure to ever-greater viral load. Over 100 now have, and more may be responsible unwittingly for at least some of the spread of the disease that in various creative ways has horribly killed 27 thousand people in Britain – at the very least.

Mr Hancock has dismissed the BBC reporting as fake news.

Instead of personal protection, which as the pandemic swept the world in a matter of weeks soon became almost impossible to source, protection that was urgently recommended after a detailed and terrifying 2016 modeling exercise but discarded as a waste of money, a cynical campaign was adopted around the cabinet table, of encouraging the Great British Public to indulge in a sentimental weekly Princess Diana moment for our fallen heroes, while behind the scenes criminally altering the medical criteria to fit the availability of stocks.

In other words, the original “herd immunity” strategy was driven entirely by the knowledge that despite many early warnings, we did not have the resources to cope with a long-anticipated pandemic disease vaulting our recently reclaimed borders. It was as if they believed Holy Brexit would protect us, the daft cunts.

Instead of protection, led by “the science”, Hancock focused all the government’s efforts on converting conference halls into pop-up “Nightingale” hospitals, thousands of beds stretching photogenically away to infinity, of which barely a handful – a few tens – have been occupied, partly as a result of his and his predecessor, Mr Hunt’s failure to train and employ enough nurses who could afford their degrees to go round.

The vision of rank upon rank of beds being conjured up by newsreel footage from the 1918 ‘Spanish’ Flu pandemic may have impressed the clown-car Cocos around the cabinet table, as their jocose leader sickened and nearly died, but medicine has moved on apace in the past century. Those who can be cured are being turned round more rapidly and efficiently than before. The rest either get better at home, or – die there.

This catastrophe is what you get when you “follow the science” as opposed to following the advice of actual real doctors with experience of working on the frontline battling vicious epidemics around the world, who know what the fuck they’re talking about.

Will any government minister ever answer for the crime of homicide by gross negligence, a crime carrying a sentence of up to 20 years in prison? There’s a lengthening queue of the culpable.

Judging by the recent ennoblement of the glibly persuasive and murderously incompetent Iain Duncan Cunt, architect of the Universal dis-Credit debacle, a knighthood after a decent interval of a year or so will doubtless be a fitting punishment for little Matt’s heroism, the boy with his finger in the dyke.

They have a certain way of spinning things in Clowning Street.

 

Odd, frostbite-like patches are showing up on people’s toes — people who have also tested positive for Covid-19. “My inbox and my telemedicine clinic are full of just toes. I have never seen so many toes,” one dermatologist said. (Washington Post)

Trump's New Immigration 'Ban' Is an Evil Attempt at Distraction ...

Meh, what’s a million dead? I’m a billionaire!

A Wall Street-car Named Remdesevir

“The program was designed and conducted by the sponsor (Gilead Sciences), in accordance with the protocol. The sponsor collected the data, monitored conduct of the program, and performed the statistical analyses.”

A very small-scale in-house trial involving ‘compassionate use’ (a way of avoiding red tape) of an anti-retroviral drug called Remdesevir, that had some qualified success in battling the Ebola epidemic, has apparently confirmed the arrival of a new wonder cure for the coronavirus.

“36 of 53 patients (68%) showed an improvement in the category of oxygen support, whereas 8 of 53 patients (15%) showed worsening. … Seven of the 53 patients (13%) died after the completion of remdesivir treatment”

The fantastic news that a miracle cure may have been found just in time to save the world came from President Trump’s highly regarded point-man on the actual medicine involved with SARS-Cov-19, Dr Anthony Fauci. So it must be true! Seriously, Fauci described the outcome as a ‘clear-cut effect’. I’m not qualified to read medical papers, but it doesn’t look like it was more than quite helpful in some cases.

The paper in the New England Journal of Medicine Dr Fauci was quoting from*, co-signed by an impressive number of Gilead researchers, does point out that as yet, no appropriate large-scale randomized trials have been carried out against placebo, on the baffling range of Covid symptoms presented by different patient and non-infected groups, a process that will take many months; while marginal improvements in the condition of severely ill patients are open to all sorts of interpretations.

But no doubt as the safety trials were done some years ago, the federal Food and Drugs Administration will be hastening to rubber-stamp its use.

Nor was it mentioned that a similar smallscale trial of Remdesevir in China was abandoned in March as the results showed no improvement at all, indeed two extra patients died than were expected to. A failure Gilead’s PR machine has naturally been attempting to explain away in the intervening week since the result was “accidentally” leaked by the World Health Organization.

Talking-up the possibility of a new US-patented wonder drug at one of those tense WH briefings today, I doubt that Fauci would have realized the galvanic effect his words would have on the stockmarket, desperate for good news, any good news, on a day when it was announced that the US economy shrank by 4.8% in the first quarter, and investment managers were gloomily predicting a further 30% fall in the second – essentially, complete economic collapse – as 26 million Americans were starting to receive – or not – their April welfare checks.

I’m sure it’s just coincidence that the announcement of an efficacious cure for the disease Trump sneers at, that has killed over 60 thousand Americans and damaged his chances of re-election, should have come out on the same day as news that the US economy is tanking horribly.

I very much hope that the revered Dr Fauci has not been taking the Trump bleach.

Apologia:

Although it does not detract in general from the derisive theme of this piece, The Pumpkin has since learned of a larger-scale survey of 1000 patients that Dr Fauci was more probably citing, suggesting that remdesevir may reduce recovery time from 18 to 15 days, although 13% of patients will still not recover. The trial patients were divided into two blocks – one on placebo, the other on remdesevir only. No patients were treated with, say, ice-cream.

As cases in Russia race away, it’s been revealed there are disturbing clusters developing in three ‘closed’ cities where there are substantial Cold War legacy nuclear facilities requiring constant monitoring and maintenance.

 

Put ye your faith in leaders

The official number of coronavirus cases in the USA jumped over the million mark as of midnight GMT, 27/8 April. A fresh caseload of 21 thousand (in round numbers) is lower than in recent days, but 56,649 people are already enumerated as dead, the last 1,200 in a single night. The expectation is that those are hospital numbers, probably only from the big cities, and do not include at-home deaths or care home deaths or generous diagnoses where other conditions are involved.

And the president? Well, in an extraordinary report, the New York Times has collated over a quarter of a million words Trump has uttered in regard to the pandemic at his bizarre and self-exonerating press briefings, in which he has randomly and fulsomely praised his own (very limited) efforts at containment, gaslighting the viewers over his many obvious failings, while attacking and insulting everyone, from China to the States governors to President Obama, making it evident that he does not even now understand the basic principles of epidemiology (such as the difference between viruses and bacteria) and recommending snake-oil cures like Hannity’s favorite, Hydroxychloroquine, a name he liked to play with once he had mastered the pronunciation, purely because it sounded scientific and that was enough for his dumbfucks to agree, the president has it nailed down.

Last Thursday appeared to be the apogee of his rambling nonsense, when he speculated onstage about, and suggested researching, the possible efficacy of administering injections of disinfectant and UV light directly into the body to, as it were, clean the lungs. The entire planet heaved a sigh of Oh My God…. His lethal musings – later dismissed thinly by the White House as mere “sarcasm” – were directed toward his medical advisors, who did not know what to say and so continued to hum and haw and hoped to mask over his total inadequacy as a leader in a time of grave crisis – a failing amply predicted at the time of his election – while trying not to disagree with him too vehemently and incur the famous wrath he substitutes for knowing anything.

Thus, they can be added to the mounting pile of bodies of those who have sacrificed themselves, their professional ethics and their careers on the altar of Trump’s vainglorious and criminal instability.

It later transpired that the president was being lobbied on disinfectant by the pastor of a fake Christian church in Florida, a front for a business that manufactures and promotes household bleach as a cure-all for HIV, malaria, cancer and a host of other diseases. Nevertheless, referrals to poisons advice lines jumped substantially as his pathetically dim cult followers took him at his word and downed the Clorox.

While he continues to blame China for letting the cat out of the bag, although there is as yet no definitive answer to the question of when, where and how did this strange and complex virus originate, that appears to cause more than one syndrome depending on your demographic, with over a million cases and 60 thousand dead in his own country – by far the highest toll of any nation on earth, accumulated in little more than two months – the president who says he is a war leader whose power is absolute, his authority total, surely cannot go on abdicating all responsibility for the disaster unfolding on his watch.

Either he is the president, or he isn’t.

I think most sensible people made that determination long ago.

 

The madness continues…

Trump has announced that he will give the peroration at this year’s passing-out parade at the West Point military academy, which came as news to the administrators. 1000 young officer graduates furloughed on coronavirus leave will have to be recalled and quarantined for 14 days just to hear him boast about his 2016 election numbers and whine about being persecuted. “I prefer ceremonies to be nice and tight”, commented the Draft-Dodger-in-Chief, when asked about distancing requirements.

Trump has whined too, that the media is unfairly criticizing his ‘ugely successful program of testing in the US, which he only got going in April after intense pressure from all sides. With 5 million tests now done, he is correct: the USA has tested more than gold-standard South Korea. Until you frame it in terms of the more relevant tests per head of population, where the USA is 43rd in the world. One in 5 people so far is testing positive – either 66 million Americans could be carrying the virus, ready to start spreading it again; or the results are skewed by testing mostly people already displaying symptoms.

Online demand for the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine surged by more than 1,000% after Donald Trump endorsed it as a potential treatment for Covid-19 without providing evidence it worked, a new study has found. (Guardian US)

PS – It doesn’t.

 

Who’s failed their drive-in test?

And now we’re getting reports via, among others, the good old Guardian, that the UK government’s policy of turning remote car parks into testing centers for the Covid virus instead of using the existing health service infrastructure is looking like a complete clusterfuck too.

After the DoH opened the centers to all essential workers as well as NHS staff, thousands of people – many already showing symptoms of the virus – have been queuing for hours, forbidden by security heavies to open car windows, take photos or use toilet facilities; while tests are being incorrectly administered, mislabelled or lost, with no contacts being given for following-up results and insufficient swabs to meet demand. Several users after driving for one or two hours to their “nearest” center also reported having to take their own swabs as there were not enough trained personnel on hand.

Part of the problem is that the testing has mysteriously been outsourced to, among others with absolutely no experience in managing public health emergencies, a large firm of accountants, Deloitte; high-street chain, Boots the Chemist; the execrable private prisons contractor Serco, and the huge French catering-to-employee-incentives conglomerate, Sodexo (“Our ambition is to positively impact one billion consumers worldwide.”)

The Guardian reports, one center in north London is so poorly managed, local hospitals are warning staff not to use it.

Meanwhile, deaths in old folks’ and nursing homes have reached horrifying levels, higher than those of civilian casualties at the height of the WW2 Blitz. Last in the queue for PPE, among the lowest paid people in the country, social care workers have had no option but to spread the disease through the already cash-strapped industry, taking their own lives in their hands as well as those of their patients.

Mr Hancock has gained some public sympathy because he looks so woebegone at briefings, while blaming everyone else and refusing to apologize for anything, or accept any bad news or criticism. It’s said that he genuinely seems to care about the NHS, unlike his predecessor Jeremy Hunt, who is now sounding positively magisterial. on the subject. But on this showing he doesn’t deserve an ounce of our compassion.

Ambition is no substitute for ability.

 

Slaughter – the worst medicine

The BogPo’s philosophy correspondent, Prof. Aristotle Kant (@thesymposium.gr) writes: “Surely by now we should have learned enough from the coronavirus to know that it has a mind, intelligence, will, purpose –  and has arrived as if from outer space to teach Humanity important lessons about where we are headed if we don’t wake up from our nightmare of infinite abundance?”

No-one alive surely can miss the symbolism. Empty roads, empty skies, industry shut down, pollution gone. Wildlife returning. Faith in controlling, authoritarian leaders shattered as their incompetence and inability or reluctance to protect their citizens is revealed more clearly by the day. An understanding that ‘we’re all in it together’.

They’re all pointers to a better world that is still, just, within our grasp.

US meat packing plants unable to process any more carcases owing to the extent of infection among closely ranked slaughtermen, have been closing down. A partial halt, temporary obviously, to the obscene holocaust of Farmaggeddon, a key driver of climate change and abusive land use.

And there is the dolt, Trump, scrawling his illiterate signature on an Executive Order forcing the men of cruelty back to work, regardless of their safety and that of their innnocent families, in the name of producing more pink sludge made from living, sentient creatures to shape into little patties to stuff down his bloated orange craw, as the genocide of Amazonian peoples continues apace to create short-term grazing and land for soybean.

He doesn’t get it. He never will.

Let’s hope he chokes to death instead. I hear BSE/CJD is also a good way to go. His vacuous brain shows he’s already more than halfway there.

 

Granny’s World

USA: From Severe-weather.eu (Copernicus): “Miami’s scorching heat of 97 °F (36 °C) Apr 20th Monday was the new monthly record in the city which is also the earliest Miami’s 97 °F mark in any year — this is more than five weeks ahead of schedule. The Apr 20th daytime average temperature tied as the 4th warmest day recorded in the city’s history — roughly three months before the typical onset of such summer-like warmth. Miami has reached the peak temperature of 94 °F (34.4 °C) four times in 2020 already, which is beyond exceptional so early in the year.” Or – this April has been the 25th hottest June in 125 years!

Meanwhile, a dome of heat is building over the southwest. “The National Weather Service has issued excessive heat warnings and watches for parts of Arizona, southeastern California and southern Nevada.” Phoenix, Az. has already tipped the 100 °F (38 °C) mark. By contrast, in the northeast, 27 Apr., Vermont was turned into a ‘winter wonderland’ by a heavy snowfall. (Accuweather)

And when have we heard this before? “An intense line of severe thunderstorms, known as a squall line, sprawled across 500 miles and took aim at many major cities including Houston, New Orleans, Dallas, Oklahoma City and St. Louis. The squall line spewed large hail and dealt damaging (hurricane-force) winds from southeastern Kansas and southwestern Missouri, through central and eastern Oklahoma, Arkansas, northern Texas, and northern Louisiana.” (Accuweather) Thousands were left to clear up without power. “2020 is on pace to rank as one of the top years in terms of number of tornadoes.”

Canada: “Evacuations were ordered in Alberta after snow melt and ice jams caused rivers to rise from around 25 April. ‘The ice cover broke up around 5 am on 26 Apr., forming an ice jam downstream of town. The ice jam raised water levels along the Athabasca and Clearwater Rivers between 4.5 and 6 m at Fort McMurray.’ The jam could release at any time.” (Floodlist)

Update: 29 Apr., 15 thousand residents of Fort McMurray have been forced from their homes as the military has been called in to assist with severe flooding. (Accuweather)

Australia: Fire-and-flood ravaged New South Wales has reported a couple of inches of Autumn snow, much to the relief of its alpine resorts. (Accuweather)

Ethiopia: “At least 4 people have died in flash floods that struck in the city of Dire Dawa, 24 Apr. Several people have been injured. The flooding caused widespread damages to homes and infrastructure.” (Floodlist)

Somalia: Heavy rain for days has affected wide areas of the country, causing rivers to rise and flash flooding. Tens of thousands of people have been affected or displaced. At least 6 people died in the city of Gardo and others are thought to be missing. Hundreds of families have reportedly lost their homes. (Floodlist)

Chad: “Heavy rain and floods in Moyen-Chari Province damaged or destroyed shelters in displacement camps on 21 Apr.” Thousands of homes were damaged, forcing over 2000 individuals to seek shelter with other refugees on the site. (Floodlist)

Colombia: “A landslide caused by heavy rain struck in the municipality of Argelia in southern Cauca early on 25 Apr. At least 3 people were killed. One house was destroyed and others badly damaged. One person was injured.” (Floodlist)

Indonesia: “Heavy rain has continued to fall in parts of Indonesia, causing major flooding in Aceh and Central Kalimantan provinces over the last 2 days.” Over 2 thousand properties are affected, with floodwater up to 1.2 meters. (Floodlist)

Fiji: Flood warnings have been issued as rivers are rising after a slow-moving trough brought over 200 mm of rain to parts of the country still drying out after Cyclone Harold earlier in April. Some roads have been blocked by landslides. (Floodlist)

Tunnel approaching…

Corny excuse: “Of the roughly 200 U.S. ethanol plants, 73 have been completely shut down, 71 others have significantly reduced output rates, leaving just 60 plants near normal operating rates, according to Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). Cooper estimates the ethanol industry could suffer $10 billion in losses due to COVID-19.” (Accuweather)

Great, maybe now American farmers could go back to feeding the world’s hungry people rather than supercharging their gas-guzzling automobiles. Except that collapsing oil prices, Trump’s anti-immigrant hate campaign, his China tariff war, movement restrictions and apparently unending storms and floods across the midwest have combined to hit farmers hard. And now the snow pack is melting.

Megadrought: Southwestern North America is in the midst of “the driest 19-year span since the late 1500s and the second driest since [the year] 800”, according to a new study in Science magazine. The area includes large areas of the western United States, extending from California, Arizona and New Mexico north to Oregon and Idaho.” The megadrought in the late 800s, notes Accuweather, citing the Washington Post, is thought to have instigated the fall of the Mayan civilization.

Perhaps more human sacrifice is required, Mr Trump.

Yellowstone: It suddenly occurred to your old Gran this morning that we haven’t popped over to North Dakota in a while, to see what The Blessed Mary Greeley has been reporting recently on the troubled Montana supervolcano. The hottest spot in the west, it seems, is still grumbling ominously, with magma rising, trees dying, a foot of ground uplift and 150 earthquakes of up to M3.7 reported in the past week, one at a depth of only 1 km. Mrs Greeley speculates that caldera collapse might be on the cards. Independent analysis shows that the Steamboat, biggest geyser in the park, has erupted 12 times this year, slightly fewer than the 2019 record when it went off over 40 times – compared with its historic average of once or twice a year. (geysertimes.org)

It seems we also missed the M6.5 at 10 Km depth near Challis, ID. on 31 March. Commenters point out that while not in the Yellowstone park itslf, it is nevertheless near enough to be pretty central over the enormous magma chamber (11 Grand Canyons’ worth of molten rock) beneath.

Corona v. Us… Money business… Now, dive under the table… The madness of King Donald’s family…GW: We sure could use some of that old timey globey warmin’.

Nominative determinism corner….

“Will Welfare, the interim deputy director of health protection for Public Health England North West…”

 

Corona v. Us

Update: Monday 02 Mar., cases 89,779; deaths 3,069; recovereds 45k. (Figures as always from Worldometers.) With cases over 1,500, Iran has become the new focus of concern. A Tehran source pointed out, government figures are usually a week out of date; while holy sites like Qom and Mashad are packed with pilgrims.

Fresh update: Tuesday 03 Mar., cases 92,182; deaths 3,131; recovereds 48k. S Korea passes 5,000, Iran and Italy pass 2,000. In the US ,CDC appears to have stopped reporting the numbers. CONSPIRACY??? Cases 103, deaths 6.

Refreshed update: Wednesday 04 Mar., cases 93,574; deaths 3,304; recovereds 51k. S Korea has passed 5,600 cases. A clutch of Eurozone countries is hovering around the 200 mark, Germany rising on 240, with Italy still way out front on 2,502, x79, but Britain remains low on 51, x0 deaths.

While across the pond:

“Interviews with nearly two dozen administration officials … portray a White House scrambling to gain control of a rudderless response defined by bureaucratic infighting, confusion and misinformation. ‘It’s complete chaos’, a senior administration official said. ‘Everyone is just trying to get a handle on what the fuck is going on.'” – The Washington Post, 03 March.

Meanwhile at a special round-table meeting of the ‘Coronavirus Task Force’ with the press present, a visibly ill Trump, sweating, schlurring his words and seemingly half-asleep, announced that a vaccine is just a few months away – ‘maybe 3 to 4 months, I hear…’ and had to be sharply corrected by the country’s top epidemiologist, Dr Anthony Fauci. Trump’s body language didn’t look too good at that point….

Among 200 cases in France is a group of 11 people from a tour party recently returned from Egypt. They must be bloody unlucky, because the official number of cases in Egypt is only 2. Fancy bumping into them, in a country of 80 million people!

Cases are being reported among EU officials. A senior European Defense Agency official has gone down with it after returning from a trip to Italy. He attended a large committee meeting, from which a second official is now undergoing testing. The BogPo has asked below, if it’s likely the intergovernmental talks on a UK trade deal with the EU might have to be postponed.

In older news….

And here we go…. 12 new cases spiking today, 1 March brings the UK number to cases 36, deaths 1. (03 Mar., 41, x1) After tailing off a bit last week, the graphs are now rising again. 86 cases in the USA this morning (2 deaths) rather gives yet another lie to Trump’s claim that, thanks to his decisive leadership, there are only 15.

Your Uncle B. is certain he is doomed, after receiving a handshake and a hug during rehearsals yesterday from a couple of old friends who had travelled 275 miles up from Hampshire on motorways. He needs to develop a more socially resilient approach and learn to recoil from these kinds of contacts. We all do. But what does that do to one’s limited stock of friendships? Will the play indeed ever be performed?

Other weird things are happening: investigating the lack of an internet connection just now, I find that the Network icon is no longer available in the taskbar. Someone or something has switched off WiFi in the night and put the computer into Flight mode. Is it a sign? I get another warning, that Firefox is running slow, which it isn’t.

Our dear Guardian opines today that official responses to the virus, such as travel bans, could interrupt preparations for the COP-26 climate conference in Glasgow next November. Some environmentalists are quoted as saying the switch to teleconferencing via Facebook and WhatsApp groups would be no bad thing. After dumping its first lead on COP last month, for being too good at her job, Britain still does not have a formal negotiating position ready.

While COP may be threatened by travel bans, no such strictures appear to have crossed the minds of those involved with the Eurostar shuttle diplomacy that commenced today, 02 Mar., involving hundreds of trade negotiators hurtling back and forth for weeks from one invisible cloud of national virus to another, in the rush to finalize trading treaties between Britain and the 27 remaining members of the EU – and transatlantically (we may be grateful for chlorinated chicken) – before the December deadline – hopefully, not literally.

Brave chaps.

There’s 2/3rds of one born every minute

It’s almost incomprehensible that such a huge proportion of the Great British Public have been totally bamboozled by the bumbling nitwit in Number 10, Downing Street.

Yet they seem to have total faith and belief in this lazy and incompetent oaf, who lies almost as frequently as his friend, Donald Trump.

  • 64% of Britons polled in a YouGov survey are ‘confident’ the NHS will respond well to a major outbreak of the coronavirus.
  • 54% are not taking any extra precautions.
  • More than 99% of NHS medical personnel questioned do not believe that the service will cope if it is hit by a surge in the number of people falling ill.
  • Only eight of the 1,618 who replied agreed that the NHS was well prepared to deal with a major epidemic.

Good luck, guys.

 

Money business

Markets recovered sharply this morning, 02 Mar., but then resumed their downward trajectory on more bad news from everywhere. Central banks are in a frenzy of rate cutting and money printing: however, at present this is a supply-side crisis with limited options for intervention.

Trump is still unconvincingly embroiled in Sharpiegate #2, trying to worm his way out of a torrent of criticism over his ill-judged use of his favorite word “hoax” in relation to the virus threat. It’s hard to see where any leadership is going to come from.

The panic shrinkage of the world’s stockmarkets in just the past week alone has mounted to $5tn. By an odd coincidence, that’s how much it cost the world’s central banks to bail out the losses caused by the entire 2007/9 banking crisis.* Not that it’s real money.

Writing in the Observer, in-house economist Richard Partington comments that at least then we had Gordon Brown in Downing Street, who stood up at the G20 and took charge of driving the international response. Now, we have no-one of comparable intellect or stature on the world stage. Literally, no-one. Baris? Too busy registering yet another sprog for a place at Eton.

So, with uncertainty growing over the likely scale of the Covid-19 virus and its effects on world business and trade, a global recession is on the cards. It’s a strange time, we have no notion of what might befall. We had, most of us, assumed that climate change would destroy the global economy, but this has come out of left field. The situation may be reversed: economic downturn will automatically reduce carbon emissions and demand for oil.

“The collaboration to prevent the Great Recession from becoming a rerun of the Great Depression did not, however, last long. A slide into austerity, populism and protectionism began soon after in many nations, leaving the door open to Brexit, Donald Trump, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), Viktor Orbán in Hungary and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil.” – Richard Partington, the Observer.

Dark matter. Dark energy. Dark money. Dark times.

White people.

*Almost certainly, the filthiest Tory meme over the past ten years has been to accuse Brown of fiscal irresponsibility in bailing out the banks that were run by the incompetent scumbag pals of the Tory elite, none of whom has been brought to book for their crimes.

It was basically a cocaine depression.

Just last week, three former executives of Barclay’s bank were exonerated in court, in a case involving Qatari guarantees of cash to cover up their gambling losses. The seriously underfunded Serious Fraud Squad had failed yet again to persuade a City of London jury that these monstrous fuckers in charge of the banking system are just self-serving criminal scum with posh accents.

To date, no-one has faced any penalty for the disaster – other than ‘Sir’ Fred Goodwin, late of RBS, a cocky teenage chancer who lost his knighthood, but not his £750 thousand pension, over serial misjudgements many others also made, but who had better connections with press barons.

It’s not how much you steal, it’s who you don’t steal it from that counts.

Stamp of authority

The latest audit of the American government shows that the Social Security fund is 3 trillion dollars in surplus.

Nevertheless, Trump just defunded the food stamps program, leaving 770 thousand mainly rural and inner city poor without even that basic fallback. Not qualifying for food stamps automatically means your kids don’t get free school meals either.

44 million Americans can’t afford, or don’t have adequate, health insurance.

 

Now, dive under the table

Should I wash my hands more than five times an hour?

The BogPo’s medical correspondent, Dr Ivor Chestikoff, wonders about the practicalities of all this handwashing we are advised to do by experts, to save us from coronavirus infection.

He asks what happens after you have washed your hands, which you cannot be continuously doing all day, and you touch things even before you open the washroom door, and then there’s virus on the handle, or somewhere you go next, your desk perhaps, the sandwich bar, the train, so you pick it up and it’s there until the next time you wash your hands, by which time…

Should I wash my face?

He also asks mildly whether to avoid transferring the virus to your face, you need to wash your face more frequently too?

Where can I go to wash my hands and face?

Meanwhile, as Health Secretary and Permanent Child, Matt Hancock says, the best thing everyone can do to save the world is to keep washing those hands, as a medical professional I have to ask him, where? If you are lucky enough to work in a building where there are staff washing facilities, great. Now go and stand in Oxford Street for half an hour and count the number of people who don’t have immediate access to washing facilities.

Tell them to try the Department of Health and Social Care, at 39 Victoria Street, London. I’m sure they have washing facilities for everyone there.

Should I smear myself from head to foot in gel if I’m not having sex?

Many stores are barred from stocking hand-gel disinfectant of the right type. What you will find, should you be able to make out the small print, is that your supermarket gels are antibacterial, but not antiviral, the reason being that antiviral gels contain alcohol whose sale is restricted by the 2003 Licensing Act. Antibacterials will not help you, nor do antibiotics work against viruses. Or much else, these days.

For the same reason, hospital gel dispensers are usually kept empty as nurses noticed that alcoholics were drinking from them.

What about a mask? Can I at least wear a mask?

Although a useful counter to facial recognition cameras, the simple white paper facemasks of the passive type can rapidly become soggy reservoirs of virus as you breathe in and out. You need to change them frequently and there aren’t enough to go around as it is. Also, they don’t cover your eyes and ears, or your hands. Full bio-hazard masks with active charcoal filters are recommended for scaring children.

Do not under any circumstances place a plastic bag over your head unless you are contemplating suicide. Brown paper is more sustainable and less likely to smother you.

Where can I sneeze, please?

And this business of coughing and sneezing into your hand, or the crook of your elbow (mine won’t reach, I have long arms), may to some extent prevent a plume of virus shooting antisocially 30 feet across the room, but it only ensures you are walking around in your own gloomy cloud of virus and still just as infectious. Remember to wash your elbows frequently.

Dr Chestikoff, who is of a certain generation, tells us he recently watched quite a few minutes of a terrifying documentary about the years during which we were being prepared for nuclear war, and remarks that many of the precautions recommended by the Men from the Ministry seemed equally futile then.

 

Coronavirus: an important message from Herr Professor Doktor Ernst von-und-zu Bogl, Editor-in-Chief, The Boglington Post.

  • “Carry on and keep calm!”

Schloss Boglheim, 03 March 2020.

 

The madness of King Donald’s family

Eric Trump recently paid a visit to inspect a Trump hotel property being developed with the Trump Organization in Uruguay. Together with his security entourage – he has no official government position and is in essence a private citizen – the visit took up an entire hotel for two nights, for which he billed the US government $80 thousand. Not for the first time: in 2017, records show, a similar visit was charged to the taxpayer at over $90 thousand. (Reporting: TYT: The Damage Report)

Trump’s golf obsession has cost the country a cumulative $130 million, as of 15 Feb., 2020. No-one would mind if he wasn’t so bad at it. His visits to courses he personally owns, as opposed to public or military-owned courses, are still running at 100 per cent, ensuring that the maximum profit goes to his own businesses.

He owes millions to local authorities who have to close everything down and provide extra policing whenever this obnoxious panjandrum and his maleficent crew are around. In case you imagined he might be combining work with play, the majority of his golfing partners are showbiz ‘celebs’ and businessmen.

Having slated his predecessor for playing too much golf and not paying enough attention to the affairs of state, Trump’s total weeks wasted on the golf course are running at the same level after three years as Obama’s were after eight years.

But the dumbfucks go on voting for it.

For the full, awesome madness I urge you from time to time to visit the website: trumpgolfcount.com

ice-onhome-in-hamburg-new-york

Houses blast-frozen on the edge of Lake Erie, NY, 01 Mar. (BBC/Reuter)

GW: We sure could use some of that old timey globey warmin’

USA: “Some areas across the Tug Hill Plateau on the eastern shore of Lakes Erie and Ontario west of Watertown received more than 50 inches (4’2″ – 120 cm) of snow in around a 48 hours’ period”. On Lake Ontario, 80 mph windgusts froze spray as it blew onshore. On Hoover Beach, homes were coated with a layer of ice 3-ft thick. (Accuweather, 1 March)

19 people were killed and others injured amid tremendous damage done by two tornadoes that ripped through trendy Germantown and East Nashville, Tennessee at the height of a powerful storm, 02/3 Mar. ‘About’ 40 buildings were destroyed. Yet more heavy rain is due midweek from a stalled front across the saturated SE states, affecting the lower Mississippi and Ohio rivers. These and others could again creep back up to flood stage by the end of the week (Accuweather)

Brazil: “Heavy rain from 29 Feb. triggered flooding and landslides in the state of Rio de Janeiro, causing widespread damage and at least 3 deaths. A weather station in Mendanha recorded 61.4mm of rain in 1 hour. Dozens of roads were flooded, cars swept away and houses damaged.” (Floodlist)

Honduras: Disaster authorities have reported severe weather, including strong winds, big waves and heavy rain, affected northern departments and coastal regions of the country from 28 Feb. 2 dead, 1 missing, 800 displaced, communities cut off by floods. (Floodlist)

 

The enormous bullshit of Baris dePiffle… A quick weather heads-down… Corona v. Us… Fuck Google, again… Bunker mentality: a superforecaster special… GW: nothing much to report yet.

QotW

“For an open economy that is especially dependent on trade flows and finance, there is no vaccine to protect us from economic influenza. If the world catches that cold, Britain will be sneezing with it. Few members of this government know much about viruses.” – Andrew Rawnsley, The Observer.

Nor, it seems, do many journalists!

 

Boris Johnson holds his hand to his face

Oh God, do I really have to be Prime Minister?

The enormous bullshit of Baris dePiffle

“The prime minister has repeatedly projected a readiness to crash out at the end of the year, claiming that if talks collapse the UK would at least have an “Australia-style deal”.

“This has been rubbished by many who point out that Australia does not have a deal with the EU…” (Guardian)

And that of course is the point. Uninformed Tory voters will buy the bullshit and believe there is another trading option called the Australia deal we will have defaulted to. We like Australia, they’re nice and white and part of the Empire. Good old Baris, gettin’ it done!

The rest won’t buy it, but there’s nothing we can do, other than to argue against the dismantling of tariffs on kangaroo-related products. What ‘Australia’ is code for, is no deal – WTO rules.

A fascinating sidelight on Johnson emerged under the 30-year rule today, when papers were released showing that, just as Donald Trump acts decisively on any dastardly policy suggested to him by that lying fat shithead, Rush Limbaugh, or Trump’s Fox friend, the millionaire rack-rent landlord Sean Hannity, in 1989 Thatcher delivered a famously negative speech about the EU in Parliament – as we now know, on the basis of little more than a ‘fake news’ column in the Telegraph, scribbled by, yes, a juvenile Brussels correspondent called Baris Johnson.

Easily bored and too lazy to do any actual work, Johnson was notorious for making up stories about Brussels, a stuffy provincial city where he disliked being stuck. To his poison pen can be ascribed the legends of new regulations being imposed on the shape of British bananas, or the banning of Prawn Cocktail-flavored crisps under new fishing regulations. Now, here was another, in which he spun some personal remark by Jacques Delors about possibly one day moving to a federal European structure, into an active policy proposal.

“No, no, NO!” cried the Iron Lady, passionately swinging her mighty handbag at the vanishing ghost of British sovereignty. Even though her Spads had warned her, the story wasn’t exactly true.

Thatcher’s speech was too much for her Chancellor, Sir Geoffrey Howe. Following an excoriating resignation announcement in the Commons (Howe’s yawn-inducing debating style was, said Denis Healey, like being ‘savaged by a dead sheep’), the party moved against her, a leadership election was called, and after a couple of rounds of less than enthusiastic voting she was out.

One up for young Baris, on his way to the top of the wobbly pile.

 

A quick weather heads-down

Extra-tropical cyclone Jorge – first named by the Spanish weather service (you have to get your names in quick – it was supposed to be Ellen) – could bring winds gusting to over 90 mph when it scores a direct hit on the Irish coast overnight and ploughs on across SW England and Wales by the afternoon.

But according to Severe-weather.eu’s satellite maps, Jorge is a double-cored cyclone, both rapidly intensifying – the more northerly core will cut through the north of Ireland and up into Scotland later on.

The storm will bring excessive amounts of rainfall to river catchments above areas already affected by severe flooding.

Your Uncle is reminded of a BBC interview heard many years past with the widow of the late, great anglophile Argentinian author, Jorge Luis Borges. The interviewer mentioned that there was some controversy in the English-speaking world and asked politely, how precisely should one pronounce the name Jorge? “Oh”, she replied airily, “We all called him George…”

A US weather nerd is tracking the jetstream and predicts another ‘bomb cyclone’ emerging over the Atlantic coast Monday. So it looks like another wet and windy one in the British Isles next weekend, folks!

 

Corona v. Us

Update: help, we have our first case here in Wales – about 60 miles away in Swansea, where fortunately they have two big hospitals. (They took her to London…!) In everywhere else, the numbers this 28 Feb. lunchtime are: cases, 83,905; deaths, 2,868; recovereds, 37,000.

More update: 29 Feb. (no, it’s a Leap Year), cases 85,473; deaths 2,924; recovereds 39,600. South Korea added more than 800 cases overnight, most in Daegu city. The first positive case in Britain with no known travel or contact history with the virus has been found in Surrey; another in Oregon, and a second in California – although one is 15 minutes from an airbase where Americans were flown back from Wuhan. Can this thing just pop up anywhere?

Last update for this edition: 01 March, cases 87,670; deaths, 2,994; recovereds 42, 600. A small spike in China recorded nearly 600 cases overnight. S Korea had 586 new cases, bringing the total to 3,736 – but still only 20 deaths, a mortality rate of 0.54%. Is it because S Korea has a young population, or just good defensive medicine?

The Chinese cases graph continues to level off, thanks to alarmingly effective control measures, some victims in Wuhan apparently being nailed-in to their homes to stop them going out, and at the moment, bar any drastic peak in the figures, looks like not making it as far even as 100 thousand.

Your Uncle, 70 and counting, is crossing himself and gelling liberally after accepting a lift last night from his Italian friend, newly returned from Italy (655 cases, x17) via Malta – which seems so far to have escaped the Gray Plague. He wonders seriously what he would do with Hunzi and Cats if confined to home or hospitalized; how would he get food, go walkies?

Prime Minister Abe has ordered all schools in Japan closed until APRIL as health authorities start reporting anomalous ‘Community’ origin cases and fears grow that the virus is not being contained and is already out there in the wider population.

  • Roughly $5trn has been wiped off global stock markets this week, an average fall of 9%, the worst rout since the financial crisis of 2008. Economics correspondent, Sterling Pound writes: Good, It’s a necessary correction to a dangerous bubble.

Markets continued to plunge today on news that Mike Pence has been given the task of co-ordinating the US response. He has already slapped a censorship notice on all health professionals, who have to go through his office before making any statement to the media.

Not a health professional or a believer in science of any sort, except maybe Christian Science, Pence earned notoriety when previously Governor of Indiana he temporarily imposed his sanctimonious religious strictures on a clean needles campaign for intravenous drug users while he ‘prayed’ for moral guidance, thus accelerating an AIDS epidemic in the state by some 200 cases.

It’s another one of Trump’s nasty, vindictive little jokes. Trump has blamed Democrats and the media – his ‘enemies; for creating panic and sidelined the country’s top experts, and, yes, he used the word again, ‘hoax’ – but says that when he’s re-elected in November the markets will bounce back “like you’ve never seen them before”.

As if 99.99% of us give a fuck about his stupid markets, that he is continually trying to manipulate for his own benefit. The entire USA has so far managed to test only a few hundred people already showing symptoms: it doesn’t have enough test kits, and those it has are defective. The government has no idea how far this thing might have spread. The first attributable death was recorded today, 29 Feb.

“…what for many must have seemed an abstract concern – Donald Trump’s assault on facts, experts and science – is now a matter of life and death.” – Jonathan Freedland, Guardian Comment.

“Trump’s willfully obstructing what science requires to best protect the US population, in its potential for a devastating lethal impact, is akin to a war crime.” – Mark Karlin, Ed. Buzzflash.

“8 Jobs”

Former UK Chancellor, George “8 Jobs” Osborne has tweeted:

“The British Government now needs to go onto a ‘war footing’ with the coronavirus: daily NHS press briefings, regular COBRA meetings chaired by the PM, Ministers on all major media shows. The public is fearful, wants information and needs to know their leaders have got a grip.”

Poor 8 Jobs. If the British public took the slightest interest in being told anything, we would not have left the European Union and he might have been Prime Minister by now.

 

A rare Tottori Matsuba Itsuki-boshi (‘Five Shining Pine Leaves’) crab weighing just 1.24kg has been sold to a restaurant in Japan for a record 5 million Yen (USD $46,250)Japan Times

 

Age appropriate language alert: 18-plus

Fuck Google, again

Every day, I visit a particular website that provides coronavirus data, and borrow the data for this, muh bogl, to provide my Corona v. Us summary, with commentary.

I thought it might somehow help.

In the Search box I key co, cor, corona, coronav, and Google still goes, oh, we really don’t know what you want, how about these totally irrelevant options?

I have been there to the same site maybe thirty times. Dozens of ‘cor’ words come up as suggestions, except the one I always choose. The next time, Google cannot manage to guess the actual one I want until I key the full ‘coronavirus’ name. So much for the world’s most intuitive Search engine.

Day after day after day after day, it’s like having tea with a particularly tiresome deaf aunt.

Phones. Would it be okay if I personally took Google out in the yard and beat them to death with muh bare hands? Thanks.

Why, just because I bought a new phone and registered it with Google, have I ceased to exist as far as any other whatever that uses Google is concerned?

This is a fucking joke. They know perfectly well who I am, nothing has changed, although I was forced to change my password. Why am I expected to re-register, platform by platform, across the entire fucking network – only to find my new phone won’t open Google mail for two days?

It’s bollocks, Google. I don’t want you to have my data, down to the last strand of DNA, but as it’s the only way we can live together on this shit planet, the open internet that you have corrupted with your fucking money is all yours.

I surrender. Just let me access my Google emails on my phone, for fuck’s sake, you dismal retards. And if you’re going to tell me there’s a problem, could you possibly manage to say what it is, so I can at least try fixing it – given that my domestic teenagers have long ago flown?

 

Bunker mentality: a BogPo superforecaster special

After The Pumpkin’s multi-month speculations as to where Trump could have got the money to pay for his Scottish golf resorts, in the midst of the 2008 banking crash, according to the BBC 28 Feb., “Scottish Greens (no pun intended!) co-leader Patrick Harvie said the US Congress had heard concerns about possible money laundering involving some of the president’s business deals.

i love that “possible”, don’t you? He’s been at it for three decades, as is widely reported.

Harvie claimed there were ‘big questions’ over Mr Trump’s dealings in Scotland, and has asked First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon to investigate, using an Unexplained Wealth Order of the kind we created for Russian oligarchs’ wives shopping in Harrod’s.

Harvie’s instincts are right, based on questions raised in the US House of Representatives, which heard testimony that: “We saw patterns of buying and selling that we thought were suggestive of money laundering”. Because at the time of his $100 million investment in the Menies course north of Aberdeen and his $150 million development of Turnberry, both of which have steadily been losing money, Trump was pretty well bankrupt, blacklisted – and no-one, other than Deutsche Bank’s Private Banking division would lend to him.

Trump’s two cretinous sons and the Trump Organization have squealed in unison. How dare you treat important inward investors to your tiny, insignificant country in such a flagrantly flagrant manner? Runs the totally predictable outburst of self-justifying, snarling, bullying outrage – although it was Eric Trump who blurted out years ago to a US golf journalist who also couldn’t understand where the money had come from, that they got “all the money we need” from Russia.

Although Mr Harvie was basing his case on what he had heard produced in the US Congress and not making it up:

“Sarah Malone, executive vice president of Trump International, Scotland, described Mr Harvie’s comments as ‘utterly baseless and malicious’ and called on him to retract them. She added: ‘This attention seeking behaviour is not what is expected of a responsible elected member of Scottish Parliament.'”

In other words, Mr Harvie can look forward shortly to finding himself hauled up in court on sexual assault charges he knows nothing about yet; videoed doing the Highland Fling with witches at full-moon, or maybe even accused of blackmailing one or other of Donald’s CEO friends. If Trump had a Latin motto, it would be ‘Nemo me impune lacessit’ – cross me and I’ll destroy you.

The Pumpkin has over the past year joined a few dots, and asked a few unanswered questions, about an investment management company called Aberdeen Asset Management – now Aberdeen Standard Investments following an £11 bn merger last year with Standard Life Assurance, making Aberdeen with over £350 bn the second largest managed fund in Europe. Where did the money originate?

For a long time, apart from geographical contiguity and the probability that nowhere else locally had that much money to spare, the dots seemed only tenuously to connect Trump with Aberdeen because of Aberdeen’s 2005 acquisition of his lender of last resort, Deutsche Bank Private Banking, or a part of it. That’s the subdivision headquartered at 82 Sadovnicheskaya Street, Building 2, in Moscow.

Only three years earlier, in 2002, Aberdeen had gone AWOL, owing £650 million to small investors who never got most of their money back. Ordered in 2004 by the regulator to pay £78 million compensation, the business somehow rose again from the ashes, while founder and CEO, Martin Gilbert was being described in the Commons as “the unacceptable face of investment management’. Along with Deutsche, he bought a substantial slice of Murdoch property, Sky TV and set off on the acquisitions trail. But there was still no visible connection to Trump.

And then just a few months ago, The Pumpkin stumbled on an item in the Financial Times, recording that Sir Martin Gilbert had been a guest of the Trumps at the president’s inauguration ceremony in January, 2017. They had met, Gilbert gushed, “on the golf course”.

It’s good for a relationship when you have an interest in common.

Shortly before it was reported last 3 December that Deutsche Bank had agreed to hand over all its records relating to Trump’s loans in the Southern District Court of New York, on 19 November the executive who had signed off the loans, Thomas Bowers, was found hanged at his home in California. In October, SLM had announced that, with a new chairman taking over, Gilbert would be leaving the board in May, 2020 and joining online money transfer service, Revolut*, a secondary bank founded by london-based tech whizzkids Nikolay Storonsky and Vlad Yatsenko, as chairman. ‘I’m leaving to concentrate on my golf game!’, he joked, in jest. “I’m resigning before I’m pushed!”

I’m sure it’s all just coincidence.

Dots. People can join them, anyway they like.

And no doubt will.

*“The BBC understands that in the past three years, Revolut has seen the departure of two chief risk officers, two money laundering reporting officers, a chief compliance officer and a chief finance officer, amongst other roles.” Clearly a steady hand at the wheel is required. Still to obtain a full banking licence, Revolut attracted interest when it was found that it had disabled an automated blocking system preventing clients  named on sanctions lists from transacting international business.

 

GW: nothing much to report yet.

UK: Wettest ever, had an average rainfall of 202.1mm last month, beating the previous Feb. 1990 record of 193.4mm. In South Wales, the Southwest and other parts of the country there were over 200 flood warnings out for 29 Feb. and 1 March as more heavy rain from extra-tropical Cyclone Jorge, the third in three weeks, fell on already saturated hillsides and rivers that had peaked during the week began rising again. Police declared a ‘temporary critical incident’ in flooded Pontyprydd.

USA: Yet more rain across the south up into the Ohio valley is contributing to a three-months winter season in which more than twice the average rainfall – around 30 inches – has fallen since last December, prompting new flood warnings. Blizzard warnings were in effect on Feb. 28, AccuWeather predicting several ‘feet of snow’ in parts of upstate New York. Schools have been closed.

Italy: as if the northern regions being in virtual lockdown as coronavirus rapidly spreads were not agonizing enough, “a deep surface cyclone develops across the northern Mediterranean (Genoa low) through Sunday and Monday, resulting in excessive rainfall and locally amounts close to 300 mm”, affecting the north of Italy and the Balkans, warns Severe-weather.eu.

Your Granny Weatherwax has asked herself if comparison of the areas most affected by the virus might reveal any useful correlation with areas of extreme weather activity over, say, the past three years. Is Covid-19 possibly the first pandemic virus to be spontaneously engineered by the changing climate?

Australia: ex-Tropical Cyclone Esther has been drifting slowly along the northern coastline, firehosing rain onto the Northern Territories. Another five days’ worth is expected as it wanders inland, with possiby 300-500mm more rain to dump, warning of floods. (Severe-weather.eu) Despite the rain, the actual monsoon season in the north is two months late. While heavy rains in the south have probaby ended the early and dvastating fire season, some farmers have benefitted while others have remained in drought. (ABC Weather)

Peru: more floods in the south. People displaced. (Floodlist)

 

Tunnel approaching….

Yellowstone update: After an alltime record year with 48 eruptions in 2019, the Steamboat geyser, largest in the park, has started 2020 in a more introspective mood. There have been just 5 eruptions this year, and Yellowstone watcher, Ben Ferruiaio reports, the latest was the weakest he’s seen. January was, he writes, ‘boring’, but throughout February there have been new swarms of microquakes.

Russia: 17 Feb, air quality in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia qualified for Worst in the World, being many times worse than nearest rival, Mumbai, on the WHO scale. The ‘black sky’ event due to industrial pollution led to authorities warning people not to venture outdoors – or leave town if they could. Pollution in several Siberian cities is being blamed for a rising incidence of breathing problems and skin conditions in pets. (Siberian Times)

Corona v. Us… ‘Everything Trump touches, dies’… The madness descends in Airforce One… GW: lookin’ like the middle of the night out there. This week’s birthday BogPo is slowly unmasked.

Happy 8

Issue 850 of The Boglington Post Incorporating The Pumpkin coinciding more or less to the day and the issue with the 8th anniversary of the Glorious Foundation.

Eight years of this exceptionally lively and informative output and all for free! How much more dedication do you need before I erect my paywall, eh?

QotW:

“Mr. President, I think that our record on delivering the truth is a lot better than yours.” – CNN’s Jim Acosta, responding valiantly to a typical Trump claim at a presser on his Indian trip that the channel only reports lies. Much, much kudos, Jim. They’ll have you on their list.

Superforecasts corner….

“Now they have a new intake of younger congressmen and women with a more progressive, anti-corporate, anti-corruption, pro-environment agenda, the party may have trouble holding itself together at the polls. There is increasing concern that without an impeachment, whose success is far from guaranteed, Trump could be elected by default for a second, equally or more disastrous term.” – The Pumpkin – Issue 78. March 2019!

And, oh dear. The evidence still lurks further down this page, where your Uncle Bogler speculated idly yesterday that this could be a virus you would get mildly, appear to recover and then be set upon again with more serious consequences. Lo and behold, it’s being reported today that a Japanese woman has tested positive a second time, having been cleared, and similar cases in China have been reported.

“Professor Philip Tierno at New York University’s school of medicine … said much remained unknown about the virus: “I’m not certain that this is not bi-phasic, like anthrax,” he said, meaning the disease might appear to go away before recurring.”

 

Corona v. Us

Update: Tuesday 25 Feb., black binbag day in Boglington. Cases 80,348; deaths 2,707; recovereds, 28 thousand. Anyway, it’s about 50 thousand active cases.

Updatier: Wednesday 26 Feb., oh no, the ghastly Nick Robinson, smug BBC Today program presenter, has self-isolated after returning from holiday and is ostentatiously awaiting a test result! Cases 81,234; deaths 2,769, recovereds 30,300. S Korea – 1,261 cases – Diamond Princess 692, and European superspreader Italy at 357.

Lowest daily figures for new cases and deaths in China in over 3 weeks. Is it Peking?

Updatedest: 27 Feb., cases 82,419; deaths 2,808; recovereds 33,000. Two more cases confirmed in Britain (15 total). Italy 470 (x12); Diamond Princess passes 700. The rate of serious and fatal cases inside China continues to tail off. Mr Trump says there’s no reason to be alarmed, he has it under control. Prof Ferguson at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine however is fairly sure the numbers are being undercounted by many thousands.

 

Americans: San Francisco has declared a local emergency over the coronavirus, despite having no cases. (Guardian) The US, pop. 320 million, has just 36 cases, all imported, and 0 deaths. The internet is chock with Americans pleading with Jesus to save them.

  • Mr Trump returned from India, since when he has blamed the media for spreading coronavirus, lied about his state of preparedness and the number of cases in the USA – it’s around 60, not 15 – and claimed the fall in global markets is due to the poor showing of Democratic candidates.
  • Mr Trump’s reassuring press conference at the White House in which he said the virus was no biggie for America and he has put Mike Pence in charge, triggered another panic on the markets. The FTSE was down 2% again today, below 7,000 (27 Feb. pm)

Your BogPo viral team obtains these numbers from a site called Worldometers, purely to maintain consistency across many postings. cf The Grauniad, which in the space of a sub-headline and the body copy today gives both 88 thousand and 80 thousand… We mourn the death of the sub-editor, especially as we used to be one.

The WHO is still desperately avoiding the P-word, but with new cases in Austria and Croatia, Spain and Switzerland, Mallorca, Greece and Bali and a bunch of schoolkids in Britain back from a skiing holiday in Italy showing symptoms, it surely cannot be long now before a pandemic is declared. Italy has become the superspreader of Europe.

Oval balls: The BogPo still wonders about all those Scottish rugby fans returning from Rome at the weekend, it doesn’t seem to occur to anyone to ask about them. Italy’s match against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday has been called off.

  • The BogPo nearly went viral itself yesterday, with 23 Views!

While feeling guilty, nevertheless your elderly Uncle Bogler is grateful for the ingrained instincts of journalism that prompted him to order a potentially profitable facemask far back in January, when the world was still a healthier place. Prices are soaring, rationing is being imposed and huge queues are building up everywhere, even though they don’t really work, you need to go full hazmat. Probably the healthiest development is those streets free from choking traffic fumes.

For a cold virus that has claimed relatively few victims in a world of so many billions of humans, there’s an awful lot of panic, especially In America where they have about minus no cases. Half the population seems to be on its knees, gibbering to Jesus. No, Trump voters, why should you be spared? Survivalist websites and Comment threads are full of wise advice as to how to survive the coming apocalypse. None of it very practical, it basically seems to involve buying another AR-15 assault weapon and digging in.

Ironically, UB has only tried wearing his mask once, mainly in jest, when travelling in a car with a friend who had a heavy cold. Ironically, I say, because she was travelling to Italy a few days later, before the outbreak was reported there, and worried about being singled out on the airplane – it really was only a cold! Let’s hope she makes it back okay.

  • It has occurred that the virus might pack a double-whammy: first time round it’s just a cold, but then it comes back a second time, like chickenpox, and you become a zombie. Sorry.

Pity tourists in the Canary Islands. Hundreds are being held for testing after a case emerged in a hotel on Teneriffe – where flight departures were held up over the weekend by a massive dust storm blowing from the Sahara. Still, it’s something to tell the neighbors.

Meanwhile, an Italian woman from Bergamo who has been on holiday in Palermo, Sicily since before the first cases were confirmed in the north, has tested positive. How? Authorities are still trying to find the Index patient, as the first identified case appears to have caught the virus from a colleague who is still testing negative, although he had just returned from Wuhan. Cases 220 322, deaths 7 10.

  • Diminutive actor, Tom Cruise is reported to be holidaying in London after hurriedly evacuating a film set in Venice. Tom, if it’s your time, mate, it’ll getcha wherever.

Correction: Revised figures from Iran are: cases 61, deaths 15. That’s still an unusually high mortality rate. The worry is that the cases are widely separated in different provinces, while there has been one case reported over the border in Afghanistan. Healthcare facilities not being too great in either country.  One local news agency is reporting however that 320 people have been hospitalized in the holy city of Qom.

Update: a dozen schools on mainland Britain, in Northern Ireland and on Guernsey have ordered pupils to self-isolate at home following half-term trips to northern Italy. Two schools have closed for deep-cleaning. “Cransley school in Northwich, Cheshire is shut until 2 March after the headteacher said a number of pupils were showing ‘flu-like symptoms.” “Nearly £100bn was wiped off the value of Britain’s biggest companies in 48 hours” as markets continued to fall around the world. (Guardian)

South Korea: Authorities fear the virus may be ‘out’ among up to 200 THOUSAND members of the loony doomsday cult, Shincheonji Church of Jesus, all of whom will have to be tested for signs of Rapturing. 60% of the country’s 977 reported cases to date are members of the same congregation.

Money business: Investors are rushing to buy gold, as $80 billion was wiped off the notional value of shares on the London market on worsening news from Italy. As “analysts warned that the threat of tougher quarantine measures outside China to prevent the spread of the disease would hit company profits” – never mind a few dead old people – the Dow Jones plummeted 1,000 points. (Earlier report)

 

Everything Trump touches, dies (especially the criminal justice system)

Is the lurid title of a well-received 2017 book by, of all things, a disillusioned Republican party spin doctor, Rick Wilson. Its theme is the uncanny ability of the President to spread moral corruption and career-death among everyone who blunders into his orbit.

And it appears to be true. No sooner had the Orange Jumpsuit arrived for his triumphal celebration of Hindu nationalism, a-drivellin’ and a-snivellin’, a-schlurrin’ and a-stumblin’ over unpronounceable Hindi words to a cricket stadium full of 100 thousand rabid supporters of his dear friend, Dictator Modi, a man even less educated and more driven by sectarianism and a power complex than himself, than the world’s largest democraticy erupted in mob violence.

“…a violent Hindu mob of around 500 young men descended on to a mosque in Ashok Nagar, broke down the doors and climbed the minaret to fly the Saffron flag, the official flag of Hinduism. They then set the mosque alight.” (From Guardian report)

Rioting sparked by Hindu nationalists has continued for three days, with 21 people accounted dead (26 Feb. am – now 30) and hundreds injured. Victims were reported to have jumped from rooftops to escape shootings, beatings, stonings and being set on fire.

I suppose it would only be honest journalism to suggest that the rioting has erupted less as a result of Trump’s visit and more in reaction to peaceful protests against Modi’s Citizenship Act, excluding Muslims while Hindus and other religionists from anywhere in the world are fast-tracked to citizenship.

But Trump’s equally notorious support of white nativist causes and cultural exceptionalism, his signal indifference to violent acts by rightwing extremists, his own “Muslim ban”, are everywhere hardening the will of racialists and neofascists.

And now, he has “doxxed” the foreperson of the Roger Stone jury – a supposedly anonymous role, jurors are heavily protected against media intrusion and attempts at intimidation – over a supposedly anti-Stone tweet she retweeted with a sarcastic comment long before she was enrolled in the trial, and earlier comments critical of Trump, as well as her prior activism in the Democrat party, which he has whipped-up into an infantile scream of rage against her by name; exposing her to death threats from his more extreme dumbfucks.

Other jurors who voted unanimously on the seven guilty verdicts against Stone have stated that Tomeka Hart acted completely impartially during the trial. Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled at a special hearing that the jury had acted with integrity, despite “difficult circumstances” – this prompted a further lashing out by the president accusing the judge of prejudice and misconduct; especially since she has ruled in a case against him before.

But this was not Trump’s case to interfere with, it was a trial of his “friend” and fixer, Roger Stone. His attack on the jury is likely to have a chilling effect on future juries in Trump-related cases.

It seems nobody has ever heard of the concept of a balanced jury in America, or of the idea of people acting with honest impartiality, regardless of their private feelings, on the basis of the facts. Trump’s side seems outraged that the defense failed to ensure a partisan jury totally biased in favor of the defendant, ignoring that the “difficult circumstance”, witness intimidation was one of the charges against Stone, of which he was found guilty.

This is a filthy, criminal regime; one vicious, deranged old man entirely without respect for the law, enabled by a rats’ nest of power-hungry scumbags seeking total domination over the democratic institutions of the state, entirely for their own interests; in this case, the president interfering in a properly conducted criminal trial to try to spring his best mate, showing total contempt for the court.

I don’t know about “dies”, exactly.

Turns to shit, more like.

 

The madness descends in Airforce One….

“Just landed. India was great, trip very successful. Heading to the White House. Meetings and calls scheduled today. @CDCgov, @SecAzar and all doing a great job with respect to Coronavirus! Briefing this afternoon.”

In addition to setting off murderous anti-Muslim riots, Mr Trump has already slashed the US contribution to the WHO budget by 50%. A further 9% cut is proposed this year in the CDC budget, which has since his arrival more than halved the number of countries it was operating in. Business Insider lists other destructive actions he has taken against US health administrations, including:

  • Shutting down the entire global-health-security unit of the National Security Council.
  • Eliminating the US government’s $30 million Complex Crises Fund.
  • Reducing national health spending by $15 billion.
  • Consistently attacking Mark Green, the director of the US Agency for International Development.

The Great Dictator, Trump has appointed a new director of personnel, 29-yr-old Johnny McEntee, a thuggish former bodyguard fired by Chief of Staff, John Kelly, with a brief to end the careers of government employees who fail to express total fidelity to Trump personally.

Axios reports, McEntee has instructed departments to draw up lists in preparation for a purge of Deep State suspects and what the President has been calling “bad people”.

A number have already gone; and in the wake of his “acquittal” in the Senate, Trump has begun advocating for those of his former associates who have been convicted of election-related (and other) crimes and bringing people he considers loyal who were fired by his former Chiefs of Staff back into the administration.

Trump has lashed out at the two veteran liberal women judges on the Supreme Court for recording dissenting opinions in two cases which went in his favor. He is demanding that Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor recuse themselves from any future trials involving “Trump”.

Former White House physician and alleged Adderall pusher, Admiral Ronnie Jackson has owned up to mushing up cauliflower in his mashed potato to get Trump to eat more vegetables. This is the two-year-old, tantrum-throwing toddler 49% of Americans (his highest poll rating yet) say they want controlling the nuclear arsenal for another four years?

 

A woman lying on a sofa.

Oh dear, seem to be having pre-apocalyptic problems maintaining my faith in liberal-democratic institutions such as the rotten old BBC and, now, The Gaurdain.

The above photograph stolen with apologies by courtesy of Juergen Nowak/Alamy and used to illustrate a George Monbiot piece on something-or-other to do with unsustainable flame retardants appeared over the helpful caption:

“A woman lying on a sofa.”

I fear we are doomed.

 

GW: lookin’ like the middle of the night out there

Peru: “Massive mudslides and flooding in the Cusco Department have left at least 3 people dead, 20 missing and 300 homes destroyed. The tragedy follows weeks of severe weather; 3 people were killed in  mudslides last week.

Bolivia: “Heavy rain caused the Taquiña river to break its banks on 21 February, flooding Tiquipaya in Cochabamba department. Mud, rocks and flood debris swept through the town. 95 homes have been damaged, affecting over 300 people. Around 35 people took refuge on the roofs of houses and were later rescued by helicopter.”

South Africa: “Thunderstorms have caused widespread damage in KwaZulu-Natal, 1 person has died in flash floods. Disaster management teams were sent to several areas following severe thunderstorms, 23 Feb. The storms uprooted trees, damaged roofs and caused localised flooding in multiple locations across the province.”

Malawi: “Parts of central Malawi have seen heavy rain over the last few days, with flash flooding reported in the capital, Lilongwe, on 24 Feb. Streets were flooded up to 1.5m deep, causing traffic disruption. The severe weather also caused major damage to a newly built hospital in the city. 3 dead.” It’s the second bout of flooding in the capital this month – poor drainage is being blamed.

Indonesia: “Further flooding has hit parts of West Java, where officials report over 47,000 people have been affected in Karawang Regency. Worsening floods have continued to affect wide areas of Greater Jakarta, with over 35,000 people currently displaced from their homes. 9 people are known to have died.”

(All the above, from Floodlist)

Australia: drifting westwards into the Pacific, safely away from land, the second TC to form at the weekend, Ferdinand underwent explosive cyclogenesis over 31-degree waters and rapidly became a Cat 4 storm. Meanwhile over the Gulf of Carpentaria, Cat 1 Tropical Cyclone “Esther will continue southwest towards the Northern Territory, gradually weakening back to a tropical depression. It will deliver huge amounts of rain over the northern part of the state, but the main concern is now its potential significant increase once it ejects back to the sea over the weekend.” (Severe-weather.eu)

Britain: It’s been raining pretty much everywhere, except in the north and up into Scotland where there’s snow, with intermittently strong winds. That means more flooding misery for thousands, as the Agriculture Minister, George Eustice appears to blame them for living near water. BBC Weather reports: “Safety fears have forced rail lines to close as river levels continue to rise in Shropshire. Two severe “danger to life” flood warnings are in place for the River Severn at Shrewsbury and Ironbridge. And it’s getting colder. Met Office has issued warnings for ice in many places midweek, even in the southwest.

Wild is the weekend: Storm Jorge is set to batter the British Isles on Saturday – the third weekend in a row to be rocked by a North Atlantic cyclone. – although once again the centre with hurricane-force winds will be passing more to the north. More flooding misery is expected.

USA: Accuweather reports from California: “Record-challenging high temperatures are possible on Thursday. Los Angeles and surrounding communities in the coastal valleys will likely have temperatures surge well into the 80s F as an offshore breeze (Santa Ana wind) will continue to bring warm and dry air down to the coast.”

Meanwhile to the east, says Severe-weather.eu, a deep cyclonic cold-air mass has been developing along a snow front. “Intense blizzard conditions are expected to develop to the north of the cyclone’s center track, but very intense rainfall and gusty winds across the warm sector – the coastal areas of East Coast and the northeast US.” Up to 50 inches of snow could be deposited across the Great Lakes, 25-in elsewhere.

A weird weather phenomenon, a 150-mile long stripe of snow a foot deep and just ten miles wide has been photographed from space, stretching across the middle of the state of Kansas.

Tunnel approaching….

And the latest good news from our friends at the Arctic News website, going under the collective handle of Sam Carana, is that while the daily average CO2 level is running a shade over 416 ppm and likely to go still higher by April/May, methane levels measured at Point Barrow, Alaska are blipping off the scale at 2025 ppb. A 197 mph jetstream is helping push warmer air and water up into the Arctic, where the average temperature anomaly is +3.7C and sea ice, though greater in extent than the 2010-date average, is thinner than ever.

“From the way emissions are rising now, it looks like we could soon reach even higher CO₂e forcing than during the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) mass extinction event, some 55.5 million years ago.” Luckily, that extinction took at least a thousand years….

But… a note of caution. Economists’ forecasts of the likely slowdown in industrial output and reduced activity, both in the air and on the roads, due to coronavirus could lead, at least temporarily, to a reduction in global CO2 concentration.

 

 

An Apple a day…. Is the war in Afghanistan finally over?… Don’t mention the other war!… The madness of King Donald… GW: means Grotty Weather, of course.

Quote of the Week:

“At 6.25am, I catch the first bus back into town and begin a day of intensive shoplifting. Such is my life for as long as it lasts.” – Writer and broadcaster Wilfred De’Ath, who has died, aged 82. From his final column.

De’Ath spent the last many years of his life wandering the byways and alleyways of England and France as a persistent and always triumphantly annoying homeless man, a diabetic amputee, camping (though not always welcome) in often freezing churches and hospitals where sleep is discouraged, writing a wry monthly column for The Oldie magazine. Nurses especially were never safe from his clutches; his picaresque accounts of a life of boozy sexual conquests and his feeble defence of Jimmy Savile are unreliably awful.

A true English eccentric, he leaves one son, Charles.

 

“More than 80% of patients have mild disease and will recover, 14% have severe disease including pneumonia and shortness of breath, 5% have critical disease including respiratory failure, septic shock and multi-organ failure, and 2% of cases are fatal.

“The risk of death increases the older you are.” – WHO official.

Yes folks, it’s the Baby Boomer Plague!

Only avocado toast can save us.

 

British Home Secretary Priti Patel looks on as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson chairs a cabinet meeting. (Paul Ellis/Reuters)

“We’re only taking the brightest and the best. And you weren’t born here, BoZo, so you’re on the next charter flight to Patagonia.”

An Apple a day….

Poor Apple, thanks to Covid-19 unable to get any more iPhones and stuff made in and exported from China, their shares are down 4% today, 18 Feb. 4% of a trillion dollar market cap is a pretty big lot of money to you and me.

(Although, happy day, I’ve provisionally managed to sell one of my guitars over the weekend!)

No wonder so many Republican Senators and Steve Bannon are convinced it’s all a Chinese plot to destroy the US economy; claiming that a military-grade virus was deliberately let loose from a top secret government facility disguised as a fish market in Wuhan, or something.

Not going to win many wars with a 2% kill-rate and a 14-day incubation period, are they, these Chinese? Not going to defeat America with, what, 29 cases in three months, all of them caught abroad? When they’ve already killed off 2,000 of their own people?

What mysterious plague has infected these Republicans, I wonder?

They all seem to be utter cretins.

 

Corona v. Us

As 150 million Chinese remain in lockdown to try to contain what seems for most to be no worse than the usual seasonal ‘flu outbreaks everywhere gets this time of year – deaths from ‘flu in the USA are running well over 12 thousand and nobody seems in the slightest bit concerned – the Financial Times is speaking of the world economy in fretful terms: “Global outlook darkening.”

Except that reports of a tiny fall in the rate of infection in Wuhan pushed world markets up by 1% in overnight trading. They are nothing if not optimists, the men who bet on flies.

18 Feb., the number of cases on ‘death cruise’ ship, Diamond Princess, in Yokohama harbor has risen to 542, another 66 being confirmed overnight – including the Abels, a plucky British couple who have been bogling about it from their cabin and say they were frogmarched off to a hostel with no wi-fi or phone signal, protesting that they don’t have the disease and if they really do, why aren’t they in proper hospital? (Update: they are now. It pays to complain.)

The British government has finally made vague waffling noises about arranging an evacuation flight for the trapped Brits, and has booked-out the Holiday Inn at Heathrow as a provisional holding tank. I’m not sure which would be worse?

Dr Sylvie Briand, head of the WHO’s endemic diseases division put the plight of the passengers – many of whom have since been repatriated – into some kind of perspective: “We need to make sure that we focus on our objective, our public health objective, which is to contain the virus, not to contain the people,” she said, pointedly.

Lawyers are now getting involved as it has dawned on some people that trapping 3,700 passengers and crew together in the confined space of a ship was more likely to spread than to contain a highly infectious disease.

New cases are increasing in Japan, with the infection now being transmitted locally, according to Japan Times. Singapore has slashed its GDP growth forecast for 2020 by a percentage point as cases there pass 75.

Premier Xi reportedly learned of the outbreak two weeks before any official announcements were made, according to the FT. China’s Central Bank has lowered interest rates to prop up the stockmarket. Farmers are having to slaughter millions of chickens owing to a shortage of feed.

In Wuhan, Liu Zhiming, the senior medical physician fighting the outbreak, has died, age 51. Snatch squads are making door-to-door searches for possible hidden victims, police are reportedly barricading people in their homes.

Two citizen journalists who reported on the situation in Wuhan have disappeared under the guise of “quarantine”. The Chinese internet, too, is in virtual lockdown, with freedom of information protestors being threatened with severe punishments for spreading ‘rumors’; while ID checks have been brought in for anyone buying cough medicine.

Two men were arrested in Hong Kong, charged with stealing $100-worth of toilet rolls at knifepoint.

Update: 18 Feb., cases 73,438; deaths 1,875. Deffo slowing down, but early days, say boffins.

Update revised: 19 Feb., cases 75,227; deaths 2,012. Diamond Princess 621 – Brits told ‘you can’t leave’.

Revised update updated: 20 Feb., cases 75,761; deaths 2,130. Hubei has changed its reporting criteria again. A sudden spike in cases in S Korea is reportedly due to a ‘superspreader’ who has infected at least 37 members of her church congregation, having never even been abroad. The city of Daegu, pop. 2.5m, is on lockdown.

Japanese authorities have begun evacuating the healthy passengers from the Diamond Princess. Four Britons who tested positive have been removed. Other Brits have been told by the FO that if they leave the ship, they won’t be allowed on any evacuation flights.

Chinese epidemiologists have published figures showing that the vast majority of patients who have died are over 60. Odds on the likelihood of dying are highest at 14.8% among the Over 80s and about 3.4% for the Over 60s. Very few deaths have been reported in the Under-50s demographic, and none in children under 9.

So you could call this the Baby Boomer Killer or, as most deaths have been in elderly patients with pre-existing heart and respiratory conditions, probably from smoking and living in a heavily polluted industrial environment – Wuhan is the manufacturing capital of China – in our own case, you might say the Leave Voter Virus.

(Reporting/Stats: Worldometer, Guardian, Aljazeera, Japan Times, FT, BBC News)

 

Is the war in Afghanistan finally over?

Buried in the news today is a report in the Washington Post that an agreement has been reached in Doha between US negotiators and Taleban leaders for a 7-day ‘cooling-off’ of hostilities, followed by the official signing in Kabul of a peace accord.

Such an outcome, with the withdrawal of thousands of US troops, is calculated to be a vote-winner in the upcoming US elections, and Trump will take full credit for it; regardless of whatever actual terms the accord may be based on and its implications for the Afghan government and people.

Because we don’t yet know, if any side has, who has actually won.

America’s longest-running conflict began in 2001 after the 9/11 terror attack on New York, with the US blaming Afghanistan for hosting rebel al-Qaeda units and protecting the man they declared was responsible, Osama bin-Laden; although it was later confirmed that 15 of the 19 attackers had had Saudi nationality, as did bin-Laden, by then being protected by the Pakistan security services.

Since then, over two-and-a-half thousand US military personnel and 1,750 civilian contractors have died, along with 850 troops from allied nations. A figure from Wikipedia of 111,000 Afghan civilian and military casualties combined seems absurdly low. President Ashraf Ghani was recorded in 2019 as saying 45,000 service personnel, including police, had died since he came to power in 2014. Numbers of Taleban and other fighters killed are impossible to estimate.

The Pumpkin is betting that a deal will be easily spun into an American victory, but less easily justified as it will not result in any serious shift in the balance of power in the country. With no-one holding the ring, and Afghan government forces as weak and corrupt as ever, hostilities might very well resume between the Northern Alliance – a squabbling tentful of drug-dealing warlords – and the ascetic, extreme Muslim Talebani, who regard the regime in Kabul as nothing more than a corrupt US puppet.

Will the accord, if it does get signed, halt the relentless infiltration of Taleban insurgents, who already control much of the country? Are they likely to back off now, sensing victory, with the inviting prospect of having driven all the foreigners out – for the umpteenth time in 300 years?

And then there is the question of who, if anyone, will be able to resist the likely return of Russian influence as Putin continues to fill the vacuums created by Western withdrawals; and how will that play with Beijing, also vying for influence in the region?

 

Don’t mention the other war!

In case you were wondering why Messrs Parnas and Frumin are still being prosecuted for campaign finance irregularities involving laundered Ukrainian money, but the guy who hired them, the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, isn’t even under investigation, Rachel Maddow at MSNBC has a possible answer.

She reports, 19 Feb., that Barr’s Justice Department – should that be Trump’s Justice Department, we wonder? – issued a memorandum in January, only now released, ordering all federal courts under its jurisdiction to funnel any open cases involving matters pertinent to Ukraine through a single official.

No new cases involving anything to do with Ukraine may be opened without first consulting the department, says the memo.

The story follows on from the revelation that Trump is no longer being investigated by New York prosecutors for campaign finance violations involving payoffs to inconvenient women, in the case where he was named as an unindicted co-conspirator with his lieutenant, Michael Cohen – whom the President is gleefully leaving to rot in jail, obviously, as punishment for co-operating with the Mueller investigation, while trying to get his other cronies who aren’t considered ‘rats’ off the hook.

The 17 cases against Trump and his dodgy children appear to have been quietly dropped, it’s reported, following a visit to the Southern District court last year by Barr – on the day after Trump appointed him Attorney-General.

At the weekend, having controversially attempted to interfere in the sentencing of another of his soldiers, Roger Stone, Trump announced he had commuted the sentences handed down to two corrupt politicians, as well as to his fellow billionaire fraudster, the ‘Junk Bond King’ Michael Milken, referring to himself with breathtaking insouciance as “America’s chief law-enforcement officer”.

That’s actually supposed to be the Attorney-General, it’s not in the job description of the president. But when you have committed so many crimes it helps to be in charge of the investigations and to have the FBI broken and the Justice Department in your pocket.

Eleven-hundred current and former federal prosecutors have called for Barr’s resignation.

We keep reading Comments from apparently sensible political experts that, no, America is not Weimar Germany, don’t we.

Indeed, it’s looking more like 1920s Chicago.

 

The madness of King Donald

Remember when he threw paper towels at hurricane survivors in Puerto Rico? Well, now he’s gone one better, in a bid to peel off a few black votes.

At a recent, quite small rally of a hundred or so seriously deluded African Americans, organisers called the audience up on stage one by one and, praising all that Trump has done for the black community,  handed out $thousands of free money in the form of ‘cash prizes’.

The money came from a donation of a quarter of a million dollars from Trump SuperPAC, America First!, to the Urban Revitalization Coalition of America, a non-profit run by Trump ally, Darrell Scott.

Mr Scott was handpicked in 2016 to improve Trump’s image with black voters by Michael Cohen, who has since branded Trump a ‘racist’. (Reporting: New York Times)

People have been wondering why Trump has pardoned or commuted the sentences of several corrupt former officials. It seems his choices were crafted to send a message to his opponents, as each of them was convicted of criminal acts of which Mr Trump has himself been accused.

Flamboyant former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, for instance, the man who tried to sell President Obama’s vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder, was impeached before being found guilty of 17 charges, including wire fraud, attempted extortion and conspiracy to solicit bribes.

He left a Colorado jail today, claiming loudly that he had been held as a political prisoner.

 

seviri_nat_airmass_20200219_1845

Earth is beginnoing to look more like Jupiter… new storm to follow Dennis midweek. Image: Meteosat.

GW: means Grotty Weather, of course

North Atlantic: “… a new, potentially explosive development of an extra-tropical cyclone is expected tonight”(18 Feb.), following on the heels of Storm Dennis, that left extensive flooding across the British Isles at the weekend. (Severe-weather.eu) The storm is passing between Scotland and Iceland on the 20th. A remarkable central pressure drop of 44mb in 18 hours was recorded on the 19th, to bring hurricane-force winds over southern Iceland.

Another deepening cyclone is being monitored behind that, organizing out of Canada across the Labrador Sea, and inspires a BBC forecast of a third weekend deluge in 3 weeks for already saturated areas of the British Isles.

USA: states of emergency have been declared across Mississippi and Tennessee, reports Floodlist. “Days of heavy rain caused rivers and dams to rise, prompting evacuations and some flood rescues. Among the worst hit areas is Jackson, Mississippi, where the Pearl River reached 36.67 feet on 17 Feb., its third highest level on record.” Governor Tate Reeves described it as ‘historic; unprecedented’.

Australia: Another powerful storm front “pushed through Sydney, Australia, on Tuesday night, bringing with it an intense lightning show and powerful winds. Power was cut to many throughout the city as gusty winds brought down trees and power lines”, disrupting transport. (Accuweather) Local video showed big hailstones thumping down as the storms broke over NSW and Victoria states.

Indonesia: “authorities report that at least 2 people have died and hundreds of homes damaged after flooding and landslides in 4 provinces of the country.” in West Java’s Bandung regency, thousands of people have been affected by flooding for the second time in a month. There’s also been severe flooding in Borneo. (Floodlist)

Argentina: floods have followed days of heavy rain in the north of the country. In Chaco, 192mm of rain fell in a single day. In Tucuman a storm on 18 Feb. has left communities cut off and caused wind damage to properties. Hundreds of people have been evacuated and the army is delivering relief supplies. (From: Floodlist)

Peru: “Landslides and flooding in southern Peru have damaged homes leaving dozens of families displaced and at least 2 people dead. 1 person is missing and over 200 families displaced after heavy rain triggered a landslide in Ayacucho , south-central Peru.” (Floodlist)

United Kingdom Weather Radar

This is us today! Nobody wants Britain anymore – we’ve been painted out! (Accuweather rain map, 19 Feb.)

Tunnel approaching….

Some positive news from America, legislators in the state of Utah have approved plans for a funded program to move to renewable energy, electric vehicles and carbon reductions over the next decade, flying in the face of Trump’s rebarbative policies. What’s unusual about the Utah Roadmap, as it’s being called, is that Utah is a rock-solid Republican state. Ironically, voters will be going all-out in November to re-elect the environmental vandal and criminal ecocide, Trump. (Reporting: Guardian Green Light)

Methane: “A single blowout at a natural gas well in Ohio in 2018 discharged more methane over three weeks than the oil and gas industries of France, Norway and the Netherlands released in an entire year.” A new report examining the more-than doubling of atmospheric methane in the modern era claims that the volume of human-induced methane emissions from oil and gas operations – especially fracking – has been underestimated by 40 per cent; ‘experts’ concluding therefrom that industry measures to reduce or even capture and store emissions will be a major step forward in reversing climate change.

Where do they get these people from?

The Guardian report of the report fails to make the obvious point that global heating is the single greatest cause of methane emissions from thawing deposits under the sea and permafrost on land. It’s known as a feedback loop, Guardian people. I’d also defy you to distinguish between ‘natural’ and ‘man-made’ sources of methane when man-made CO2 is causing the heating that is releasing methane naturally from ‘sinks’ where it has remained frozen in vast quantities since the end of the last glacial period, 12 thousand years ago.

Arctic: “On February 18, 2020, the Arctic was as much as 3.6°C or 6.48°F warmer than 1979-2000.” The extent of sea ice is marginally greater currently than the 2010-20 average, however it is very thin and there is virtually no ice more than 2 years old to melt below the surface and thus provide a buffer to prevent heat reaching the lower depths where volatile hydratic methane clathrates are found in large numbers on the shallow sea bed. (From: Arctic News)

 

O Brave New World… An ill-wind… The madness of King Donald… Merci Jew coup… GW: A-tishoo, a-tishoo, we all fall down

QotW

“…no one is easier to hate than a contemptible version of oneself.” – John le Carré

No country, either. The most contemptible version of Britain emerged in notices stuck to the doors on every floor of a block of flats in Norwich today, declaring “Happy Brexit Day” and demanding that non-English residents should leave unless from now on they spoke only “the the Queens English” (sic). The notice referred to foreigners “infecting” Britain and suggested they had best “evolve” or leave.

The author, for such we must call her (probably it’s a her, it usually is a 400-pound woman in worn carpet slippers), signs off: “God save the Queen, her government and all true patriots.”

If this is what some British people have “evolved” into, then civil war cannot be far off. All comment is extraneous. In the event, the notices have been reported to the police, who are treating them as a hate crime.

Someone must have had a terrible meal once in Calais.

 

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/feb/01/brexit-pointless-masochistic-ambition-history-done

I’m sorry, on this most dreadful day in Our Island History, I can do no more than urge you to read Ian McEwan’s piece, if you haven’t already, which says everything The BogPo would want to say about the state of Britain now, only better.

Welcome to our Brave New World.

UB

Oh, PS, I’m experiencing a certain amount of secret schadenfreude at learning that the first cases of coronavirus in Britain are up in the Leave-voting northeast, knowing this is a virus which, early research shows, specializes in killing off mainly 60-year-old smokers, mostly men, in heavily polluted industrial areas; elderly people with chronic respiratory conditions, diabetes and hypertension… people waving little plastic Union flags and taking back our country while simultaneously destabilizing the Union and handing us over to Wall Street.

The first instance of a Divinely targeted demographic, possibly?

I know, it’s a bit graceless of me. But not all of them will die from it.

 

An ill-wind

China: Photos of deserted streets in the Chinese capital, Beijing, prompt me to remark, a) it looks rather agreeable now you can actually see it, and b) it’s probably healthier there, with no traffic on the usually jammed and honking highways, than in most cities around the world that are still open for business.

There will undoubtedly be many fewer deaths from some of the worst smog on the planet to compensate for the one coronavirus patient who has died in the capital thus far.

Given the size and virulence of the H1N1 ‘flu pandemic in the USA, and who knows how many American travellers are exporting that elsewhere, maybe Beijing could retaliate by closing its own airspace to US airlines?

Folks crouching in their little flats amid deserted streets with empty supermarket shelves and no work can be happy, I suppose, that the Lunar New Year holiday has been extended again by official decree, to 13 February. At this rate, it may never end.

Hong Kong: Photos of locals flocking in their hundreds to buy face masks to try to ward off other people’s coughs and sneezes surely advert to the beneficial advantages of ordering over the internet from the comparative safety of home. Epidemiologists are sanguine about the benefits of masks in any case, as they tend not to be all that effective.

I’m still feeling slightly guilty for having taken the immediate precaution the week before last, as soon as the story broke, of buying a face mask, prominently labeled Made in China. The Chinese government has issued a desperate appeal for more masks, as they’re being taken up at a rate greater than their own factories can produce. £100, maybe, anyone?

Australia, we read, has abandoned plans to charge its citizens returning from Hubei province AU$1,000 for the privilege of being held in quarantine for two weeks on barren Christmas Island, 1,600 miles off the coast – a destination formerly reserved for the discouragement of Asian refugees. I imagine the government in Canberra is so popular now, it feels it can make this magnanimous gesture.

USA: has just reported its eighth case of coronavirus. This compares with 30 cases of Campylobacter jejuni, a multi-drug-resistant bacterium transmitted to humans by pet-store-bought puppies. (Centers for Disease Control statistics)

Update: 01 Feb. am, 11,900 cases; 259 dead.

Update update: 02 Feb.,14,380 cases; 304 dead (including the first outside China, in the Philippines). (1:47 = still a little over 2%)

Update updated: 03 Feb.,17,205 cases; 361 dead. (1:47 = still only a little over 2%)

Updated update updated: 04 Feb., cases 20,638, deaths 426, including only the second outside mainland China – a 39-year-old man in Hong Kong with a pre-existing heart condition. The ratio is 1:48, a slight improvement in the survival rate. There are 151 reported cases in the world this morning outside of Hubei province, although most are still in Chinese-speaking areas. (WHO)

 

The madness of King Donald

“Congratulations to the Kansas City Chiefs on a great game, and a fantastic comeback, under immense pressure. You represented the Great State of Kansas and, in fact, the entire USA, so very well. Our Country is PROUD OF YOU!” Trump tweeted, in the wake of the Superbowl football final.

Only one problem, the Chiefs are based in Kansas City, Missouri, not in the Great State of Kansas.

It’s a mistake we can all make.

Having spent weeks attacking the Democrats’ lead on impeachment, Congressman Adam Schiff, who mocked him during an early closed-door hearing when he mildly took off the President by improvizing a bit of dialog during questioning, as a liar, because he had never spoken those words, Trump aired an interview at the start of the Superbowl with his pal, Hannity, of Fox News, in which he kept riffing on the idea, false as it happens, that Democrat rival, Mike Bloomberg, was so short (at 5’8″), he had ordered a special box to stand on at rallies.

Trump has frequently mocked critics and opponents, as well as members of his own staff, for being shorter than himself. One thing is certain: the former Mayor of New York, business media magnate Bloomberg is a damned sight richer.

Except that Trump imagines, just as he did with his own charity Foundation and his Inaugural fund, that the US Treasury is his own personal bank account. After presiding over the Superbowl game he threw a private party for donors and friends to celebrate whatever. The bill, including his travel and security, came to $3.4 million. All at the expense of the US taxpayer. (TYT Farron Cousins)

 

Merci Jew coup

“(Rick) Wiles claimed that a ‘Jewish cabal’ plotted Trump’s impeachment. ‘That’s the way Jews work,’ Wiles said. ‘They are deceivers. They plot. They lie. They do whatever they have to do to accomplish their political agenda. This ‘Impeach Trump’ movement is a Jew coup, and the American people better wake up to it really fast.'”

Wiles also claimed that ‘when Jews take over a country, they kill millions of Christians.’ (BuzzFlash)

Let’s hope he’s one of the first, then.

Mr Wiles’ website, TruNews has been given formal White House press accreditation. Meanwhile, far away at Number 10 Downing Street, attempts by Dominic Cummings’ thuggish SPADs to expel certain journalists on their secret blacklist from a press briefing backfired when the rest, led by the BBC’s chief political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, walked out.

What a shame American journalists have become such a bunch of parasitic, moneygrubbing, gutless wonders and floppy, impotent jellyfish, waving their crappy, meaningless Pulitzers that you get now for knowing how to spell ‘whatever’.

They could have stopped the Trump train in its tracks three years ago, perhaps a little later when CNN’s Jim Acosta got thrown out for asking questions. Now they’re happy to accept there are no more White House press briefings under Comms chief, Stephanie Gruesome and must put up with ‘gaggles’ for invited members only, being arrogantly drowned out by Trump’s permanently clattering helicopter on the lawn – the one that doesn’t fly in the rain – as the demented criminal mob boss spews incoherent lies and venom at them, and they lick it all up gratefully, like dog vomit.

Welcome to your fascist state, America.

 

GW: Atishoo, atishoo, we all fall down

Australia: a bushfire in the outskirts of the capital, Canberra, started when an army helicopter switched on its landing lights to see in the smoke from other fires, “had grown to more than 35,000 hectares on 1 Feb. Residents in some areas were warned that it was ‘too late to leave’ and they should try to seek shelter. 6 more fires in nearby parts of New South Wales were burning out of control, officials said.” (from BBC Weather) Hot, dry conditions are expected to persist into next week.

!’ve just learned a new word, after all this time! “Cinereous” means ash-gray. I guess it’d be useful in Australia.

New Zealand: nearly 400 tourists are safe but stranded after the Cleddau river near Milford Sound burst its banks owing to heavy rain upstream and a tidal surge down. Roads in the area are likely to remain closed for some time because of flood damage and landslips triggered by the rain. A state of emergency has been declared in Southland, after OVER 1 METER of rain fell on part of the county in 60 hours. (Floodlist)

Indonesia: “heavy rain in West Java from 25 January caused banks along the Cipicung river to collapse.” 3 people were killed working on repairing the embankment when part of the hillside above them fell away due to the heavy rain. 2 survived and were taken to hospital. There’s been flooding in other parts of Java and heavy rain is expected to continue for at least another week. (Floodlist)

Tanzania: “at least 13 people have died in flooding in Lindi region, that first began in late January. 5 people are missing, 1,746 houses have been completely destroyed; over 15,000 have been displaced. (Floodlist) Authorities have warned of a waterborne disease outbreak. In Rwanda, “heavy rainfall has caused severe material damage and loss of life. Stormy weather from 2 to 3 Feb. brought lightning strikes and heavy rain which triggered flooding and landslides in the capital, Kigali, along with other parts of the country. At least 13 people have died, 2 injured and 15 houses destroyed.”

South Africa: Heavy rain during a storm on 02 Feb. caused severe flash flooding in Alice Town, Eastern Cape. Homes were damaged and traffic brought to a standstill as flood waters over 1 meter deep swamped the town. (Floodlist)

Colombia: “around 130 families were evacuated from their homes when flooding struck Santander province in the early hours of 28 Jan., cars piled up along streets covered in mud and flood debris. Around 100 vehicles were damaged in the flooding, along with at least 30 houses. Heavy rain in the region also triggered flooding and landslides in surrounding forest areas.” (from Floodlist)

USA: just days after an intense North Pacific cyclone brought a powerful winter storm to Alaska, there’s already another one beginning a rapid cyclogenesis just south of Kamchatka peninsula. Central pressure has dropped 39 mb in 24 hours! The extra-tropical cyclone is now gradually moving north-northeast towards the Aleutian islands and the Bering Sea. A violent windstorm is expected over the isles until late Monday. (from Severe-weather.eu)

An astonishing temperature drop is expected over the Midwest in the next 48 hours, from the low 80sF, 30C – to the mid-20s F, minus 5C by Wednesday.

Canada: Widespread flooding, power outages and bridge washouts have shut down large portions of British Columbia, leaving tens of thousands of Canadians calling for help and hundreds of visitors at Sasquatch Mountain Ski Resort trapped after ‘immense’ flooding blocked the only road off the mountain. Rescuers have been demanding $150 a ride to helicopter people out. Heavy rain on top of melting snowpack is to blame. (Accuweather)

Europe: Turin and Cuneo in NW Italy reached almost +27 °C at the weekend – 80.6F, the hottest winter temperature ever recorded in Piedmont. Southern Switzerland stopped at +24 °C while Valencia in Spain reported +28.4 °C,  *exceptional* for this period. Another cold spell is on the way. (Severe-weather.eu) Yet another huge cyclone is deepening in the North Atlantic and is bringing hurricane-like conditions to southern Greenland. By the weekend, I count on the BBC weekly long-range weather map, there will be six deep low-pressure systems forming over the entire North Atlantic region and up into the high Arctic.

Pakistan: a story we missed, around 62 people were killed in a series of avalanches that buried whole villages in the Neelum valley, in Pakistan-administered Kashmir along the mountainous border with Afghanistan, mid-January. Exceptionally heavy snowstorms – said to have been the worst in a century – were to blame, and delayed rescuers.

Tunnel approaching….

USA: As the world panics over the relatively mild-seeming “deadly” coronavirus that’s almost entirely confined to one Chinese province and city, and Washington bans travellers from China, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta estimates that so far this season there’s been a second wave leading to at least 19 MILLION Type A, H1N1 ‘flu cases in the USA., 180,000 hospitalizations and 10 thousand related deaths, including many children. (Do you think I can get a fucking ‘flu jab? “Come back in September when the ‘flu season starts.” Oh, really?)

H1N1 is the same type that killed up to 80 million people in the 1918 global pandemic.

Update: As of 30 January, the CDCs are no longer reporting on the home-grown avian ‘flu epidemic among current outbreaks of infectious diseases. Information is restricted to specific searches within the body of their report and being evaluated as ‘normal’ for the time of year, and non-severe. How significant this is I’m not entirely sure.

Hospital admissions of patients in the USA over the age of 10 having self-harmed while harboring suicidal thoughts increased by 25 per cent in 2017/18. (CDC)

Iceland: authorities are keeping a close watch on Mt Thorbjorn, where 4-5 inches of ground uplift accompanied by a swarm of +- M3 earthquakes has been observed, consistent with magma movement. A delightful phrase unique possibly to volcanic Iceland, officials have declared a “state of uncertainty”. One that would certainly apply in Iowa today (4 Feb.)

Update: 02 Feb., uplift is continuing and earthquakes intensifying, with magnitudes over M4 occurring. Volcanologists expect an eruption but not a big one. GW comments, off the top of her head: “Most predicted eruptions don’t happen. Most actual eruptions occur unexpectedly.”

Russia: Siberian Times reports on a major rescue operation to pluck 600 ice fishermen from melting icefloes off Sakhalin island. The men had ignored warnings that the ice was thinning and breaking up as temperatures rose to barely freezing point.

Space: Astronaut “Anne McClain, a lieutenant-colonel in the U.S. Army, is facing allegations that she accessed her estranged wife’s bank account during her 203-day mission aboard the ISS earlier this year. If found guilty, McClain would be the first person ever sentenced to a crime committed from space.” (AOL)

That’s a very good point. In whose legal jurisdiction is the International Space Station?

 

 

Election Special…. Quote of the Week… Patience, the least useful virtue… That election – a pathologist considers…GW: rain, rain, go away

Election Special….

I’m sorry, I just can’t.

Postscriptum; except to add, 18 Dec., from a fascinating Guardian piece asking what caused the collapse of the hugely well supported “People’s Vote” second referendum movement, which the author blames squarely on Swinson for her hubris enabling Johnson to call a snap election on his own terms: “It’s over”.

“Pro-Brexit parties – the Conservatives, the Brexit party, the DUP and the rump of Ukip – secured 46.5% of the vote; those advocating a second referendum, like Labour, or those wanting to revoke the result of the first one, the Lib Dems, ended up with 52.2%.”

Thus History blunders into blind alleyways, goaded by rascals, into the clutches of muggers..

Gove said: ‘I’m confident that we will be able not just to leave the EU on January 31 but also to conclude all the details of a new relationship in short order.’

“All together now!”

QotW

“The British state is a world centre for money and reputation laundering, cripplingly centralised, an outpost of a fading imperial ruling class. It’s a barely democratic weevil-ridden mess used largely to protect wealth for oligarchs. People are right to hate it.” – Adam Ramsey, Open Democracy

Returning from an innocent week singing jazz in France last year, I lugged my bag through the labyrinth of passport checks, immigration and customs controls, down forbiddingly stark and overlit corridors, under the accusing glare of little knots of bored Border Force goons in their black uniforms, and observed to the guy behind me how much I hated coming back to what this country has become.

He looked at me with an expression of outrage and demanded to know why I stayed, then?

Good question. I was born here. I’m 70. I have a prostate the size of a football and I’m waiting for more eye surgery. Much as I admire other European countries’ health services, I wouldn’t qualify. I tried to leave years ago, but couldn’t sell my house. Otherwise I have no money.

Everyone I know, or like, occasionally work with and maybe even sort-of love is here. There would be no support network for me abroad – my only partners are Hunzi and Cats. The temptation to punch this little crypto-fascist britweasel in the face was strong. But you never know who is going to testify against you at the hearings.

How many other countries threaten their visitors and returning residents with “Force”?

(Photo Murdo McLeod/Guardian, with apologies)

Male panda Yang Guang in the panda’s enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo.

“What do you mean, I stole a reporter’s phone?”

“A disabled woman has been awarded £5,000 in an out-of-court settlement after being called a “lying bitch” by a welfare official in formal legal papers after challenging a decision to cut her disability benefits.”Guardian

Patience, the least useful virtue

What’s so mean about means-tested benefits is that the outcome is not dependent on how much or how little money you may be earning in the near future; or how much tax you might have paid – or what your immediate needs may be.

Assessing whether or not you deserve support is entirely a matter of what you earned in the recent past. That may be pretty irrelevant, given that you have just lost your eyesight – or enough of it to guarantee that you can’t earn anything for a while – maybe forever.

No, somebody paid you money six months ago, so you obviously don’t need any more now.

It may take the State weeks or months to make up its mind, once every last vestige of financial “evidence” of absolutely nothing has been squeezed out of you and your compost-drawer of unopened bank statements is turned over. By which time, your “nothing to see here” has become a great big black hole of debt.

It’s all gone; but the State is not interested in how much your life costs you to run, its only concern is to absolutely minimize, to the nearest penny or less, how much it needs grudgingly to grant you to ensure the most basic level of survival, provided you do nothing else but report in regularly.

To ensure the minimum of embarrassing headlines in the filthy scumbag tabloid press, braying that the State has gone soft on loafers.

Dare to work for one hour, and presto! You’re off the register. Go back to square one. Be unable to attend an interview and there are savage sanctions. The hell with your kids. Receive your final month’s salary in lieu of notice, and your unemployment benefit can’t start until the end of the following month, and will be paid a month in arrears, leaving you with nothing.

How does that get you back into work? It’s deliberate cruelty. (The “lying bitch” has a degenerative heart and lung condition.)

Which is why I was mildly excited to read about a town in America where the local administration is experimenting with a policy of paying every resident adult $500 a month, regardless of employment status, income or savings, as a basic, regular “floor” level support for all.

My Gard, but ain’t that…. Carmynism? Have the Rooskies taken over*?

The usual heehaw this idea gets from the donkey sanctuary, about lazy undeserving people sitting back and doing nothing, a burden on the State, enjoying the life of Reilly while capitalists slave, can hardly be said to apply to a grant of five C’s a month, no-one can retire on that. Plus, taxpayers get the money too, so they can’t complain either.

And it’s working. People trapped in basic income poverty have been able to use the money any way they need to – mostly it’s going to help them find better-paying jobs, to pay for a course or a medical bill, to get out of a shithole and rent a better place, to ensure themselves a square meal once a day, to buy the kids some school shoes or a little present at Christmas.

Every boat is lifted, along with folks’ self-esteem. Local shops benefit. Capitalists benefit. And they’re all incentivized to work more. (What selfrighteous middle-class salarymen forget is, it costs money to get and hold a job.)

Okay, so I live mostly on the State pension. I get paid not to work, although I might like to. It’s money I paid in for 33 years, so they tell me, but it hasn’t made me lazy. I do this and that, as much as I can, stay interested. But look, here’s my terrible kitchen cooker, the oven no longer working. Where’ll I find £700 to get a new one fitted before Christmas? Oh, right, the savings I’ve been using to top up the pension.

I doubt, for instance, that the State where I live has any interest in making my life more bearable by helping me to acquire an expensive new gas cooker – or to help keep The Boglington Post afloat. But it’s turning out to be one of those months.

The keyboard of this, muh li’l laptop, on which your Post is created, has over the past few days started playing up. Some letters are not co-operating and make no impression when struck, until struck two or three times more with increasing ferocity. The left-hand shift key no longer shifts several of the letters in normal typing mode into caps, requiring the thunderous downforce of a Paderewski assaulting Chopin.

This is new, and concerning. A £900 laptop should not be doing this, merely because it’s a few months out of warranty. It’s an Asus ZenBook, by the way, just in case you were thinking about getting one (it has several other annoying faults). I can’t get another one, I just walked into town and checked my balances with the bank. That’s a bit Zen too. Where’d it all go?

Odd it is, that I’m always amused by my own failings, sudden blindness for instance, which my old Headmaster warned me would happen, and yet so utterly infuriated by inanimate objects.

Take this printer (I wish you would.) A Canon MG5750, in case you plan to avoid buying one. It’s a few months old, but gets infrequent use. I’ve just brought my great clunking fist down on it in fury, after taking seven goes to get it even once to fulfil its basic function, of producing half a page of printed text.

For there is nothing else one can do, no jiggling or shoving things around, no slamming of lids with curses and imprecations, no switching it off and on again, to persuade it that that pile of white stuff in the tray IS actually paper, and no, it DOESN’T NEED any more.

Once a machine has gained a conviction that things are so, like a persistent Jehovah’s Witness on the doorstep, like Grandad who’s decided you’re his old pal Chalky, like a Republican arguing Trump did nothing wrong, there’s nothing on earth you can do to convince it otherwise.

In such circumstances violence may be futile, but patience is surely the least useful virtue.

A bit of extra cash helps.

Which is why I was so astonished to learn that there is one relatively generous benefit that isn’t means-tested, it’s not dependent on your circumstances or your condition, there’s no medical and no-one ever asks you what you’ve done with the money. It’s called Attendance Allowance, and you only need to have a disability requiring any kind of support to qualify for it.

There. Who knew? My application’s in the post! Lying bitch….

*Maddow reports, the Washington Post has a story that one of the phone calls White House lawyers have locked away in a top security server was from Trump to Putin, asking him what he thought the US policy should be on North Korea. So, yes, they have. And without a shot being fired. More maybe in the next issue of The Pumpkin.

Image result for Image Johnson and Corbyn

Eagle v. Octopus: Which would you save?

(Canadian conservation workers had to rescue a drowning eagle from the clutches of an angry octopus it was rashly trying to catch for supper. Both survived the encounter, just.)

Oh dear, I’ve gone and accidentally deleted a spam ad on my Google email, offering me “beautiful women in search of older men.”

It’s a sign of the times.

 

That election – a pathologist considers

The C19th century critic and polymath, John Ruskin scorned the tendency of the Romantic poets to attribute human emotions to natural phenomena, as the “Pathetic fallacy”. The meaning of pathetic has altered considerably since, to become a pejorative word for  useless or feeble, even pitiable, deriving from the Greek “pathos”. In Ruskin’s time it had more in common with sympathy, empathy, psychopathy and so on; implying spiritual connection.

Be that as it may, I think he may have been a little too hasty with the scorn bucket, given the obvious link between the recent election and the severe gales by which this part of the world has been buffeted over the past week. Last night was pretty gusty, and as we were swept along or temporarily blown backwards on our walk this morning all the dogs in the park had a wild glint in their eye, with much attendant mischief.

Whether to describe the gales pathetically as the “winds of Change” blowing through the political landscape, or as Nature’s attempt to push us closer to Europe – or just, frankly, to get rid of us – I can’t decide. I suppose it depends on your political point of view.

But if the Lib-Dems folding on the issue of university tuition fees came close to blowing them away after 2010, I sincerely hope this catastrophe they’ve selfishly inflicted on us all is a fucking tornado that whirls their ass away up into the sky, over the fucking rainbow, so that we never see or hear of them again.

And good riddance to Swinson, that product of Aardman Animations, who lost her seat. I wish it had been more.

They were just fucking… pathetic.

 

GW: rain, rain, go away

Peru: homes, bridges and other infrastructure have been lost during heavy rainstorms since 6 Dec. Hundreds of people have been evacuated as rivers burst their banks.

Trinidad and Tobago: schools have been closed and roads blocked due to flooding after days of heavy rain. Coastal flooding has been made worse by spring tides. Heavy rainfall in south east Ecuador has caused flooding and landslides, with 1 fatality reported.

Maldives: streets in the capital, Malé, have been flooded after 80 mm of rain fell in 24 hours. More severe weather is forecast.

Australia: a change from 40 deg. heat and raging bushfires, a severe storm has battered part of Queensland. The Bureau of Meteorology reported rainfall rates of 120mm per hour. Cars were left submerged after streets in Southport flooded. Large hail damaged buildings and over 8 thousand homes were without power (Accuweather). Queensland Fire and Emergency responded to dozens of requests for assistance.

(All the above: from Floodlist)

“Thousands of properties have been saved from a bushfire burning out-of-control north of Perth in Western Australia but lives and homes remain under threat. The fire has destroyed nearly 12,000 hectares, with about 400 firefighters battling to bring it under control ahead of another day of scorching temperatures. Heat records were expected to be broken in Perth on Sunday (15 Dec.) as the city braced for a third-consecutive 40C day.” (Australian AP, in Guardian)

USA: “A cross-country storm” is set to bring up to a foot of snow “along a stretch of about 2,000 miles “from the Colorado Rockies to Maine. The (early season) storm will follow on the heels of a drenching rainstorm in the East.” 10-ft waves have demolished a famous ancient rock-stack, a tourist attraction on the shore of Lake Superior. (Accuweather)

In a Post an hour ago (14 Dec.), climate vlogger and garrulous old billygoat, Sam Mitchell (The Collapse Chronicles) mentions, he’s in Texas where the mercury is approaching a wintry 80F, 27C.

Zimbabwe: in a recent Post we brought to your attention, the drying-up of the Victoria Falls, on the Zambezi river. An article on The Weather Channel explains, despite apparent increases elsewhere, October rainfall in the region has fallen to about half its 1980s average. The conclusion is that as rainfall amounts in the rainy season haven’t changed much, the dry season is getting longer, while average daily highs in October are 3.8 deg. C above what they were in the 1980s.

Balkans: and over the entire region of the north-central Mediterranean – northern Italy, Greece and up into the Alps, storms are bringing blizzard conditions with intense rates of snowfall up to 50 mm per hour, with “excessive” rainfall at lower altitudes. “Flash floods are locally possible”. (Severe-weather.eu)

UK (West coast): and here comes the wind again…. 00.24 am, Sun 15 Dec. It’s been blowing gales most of the past week.

Tunnel approaching….

6th Extinction: The success of a captive breeding program has brought the Guam Rail – a flightless bird about the size of a chicken – back from the brink of extinction. Good news, then. Ten more species in a similarly critical situation were downgraded during 2019 from severely threatened to merely threatened status. That leaves only 112 thousand endangered species listed in the Red Book, of which a mere 30 thousand are on the brink of extinction. (Guardian Environment at the COP25 conference in Madrid.)

And one you’d rather: Thousands of normally shy Fat Innkeeper worms – also known for one obvious reason as Penis Fish, I’ll spare you the salacious details in case of age-related issues – have surfaced on beaches in California after storms stripped away layers of sand. I record this, while on our grim Election day a deep low sits symbolically over the country bringing more strong winds and rain, only because it appears to be the number one story attracting readers on the Guardian news pages.

 

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 105 now taking form: Lock ’em up!… Starve ’em?… Or just string ’em up?… Janus… GW: slipslidin’ away

Quote of the Week

“So, if you’re poor, you’re dead?” – British passer-by vox-popped on US medical costs.

 

Too much information corner…

According to a new Washington Post report on the Orange President’s presumably indictable labor practices, the undocumented Latina maids at Trump’s Bedminster golf club complained of having to continually provide him with fresh shirts as his makeup would rub off on the collars.

“Imagine his sheets”, exclaims Stephen Colbert. “It’d be like the Shroud of Turin every morning. A miracle!”

 

Lock ’em up!

In 1832 the radical English parliamentarian, William Cobbett, made a lengthy progress on horseback around the country and declared it to have become “A land fit only for stockbrokers”. This was a reference to the growing wealth of land-grabbing rentiers and their financial advisors, at the expense of the landless poor.

Trump’s America – and by extension much of the rest of the world – is turning into a land fit only for gangster capitalists, hell-bent on cornering the global market for energy and any other saleable goods in the twilight of civilization. It’s a bit like Musk’s plans for terraforming Mars, only in reverse. It’s fast becoming an alien landscape modeled on the strange terrain inside the warped mind of one man.

Take one solipsistic sociopath, a malignant narcissist with paranoid fantasies, a Dunning-Kruger graduate summa-cum-quid-pro-quo, with added pre-dementia; an elderly, spoiled man-child with severe developmental issues and a complete lack of empathy or moral boundaries – whatever psychobabble you want to employ – make him the most powerful man in the world, and watch him go!

I’m going to have to insert a bit of backstory here, concerning Paul Manafort. This is the 70-year-old guy with the ostrich-skin jackets, Trump’s former campaign chairman (for only four months, so of course Trump hardly knew the guy) who is serving a 7-year stretch in a Federal penitentiary for a range of crimes, including tax fraud, failure to declare himself as a foreign agent and spectacularly trying to out-con the FBI.

Having worked for some of the most brutal and corrupt dictators in the world, Manafort had been operating in Ukraine for many years as a PR advisor to some of the local oligarchs, and with wealthy Russians working on Putin’s behalf to, essentially, terraform the political landscape there. One of the things he did was to help Viktor Yanukovych get elected as President.

Yanukovych’s main rival was a not-unattractive, youngish woman called Yulia Timoshenko who, thanks to her high-level family connections, had been the Prime Minister. Manafort and his sidekick Rick Gates, also facing stir time, manufactured a corruption case against her, the charges stuck and she was locked up. Yanukovych got in, and started doing what Putin wanted, which was to push Ukraine out of the orbital influences of NATO and the neighboring EU, where the younger majority of the population preferred the country to go, towards Russia.

He also started looting the coffers of the state, ultimately getting away with almost $30 billion. But in 2014 he was overthrown in a mostly peaceful revolution, escaping in a dawn convoy over the border into Russia; whereupon, claiming that fascists were taking over, Putin sent his little green men to “protect” the mainly Russian-speaking secessionist population of the eastern coalmining region of Donbass, and, of course, illegally annexed the formerly Russian province of Crimea, reversing a post-WW2 settlement.

A low-level war has been going on ever since, with, now, more than 13 thousand casualties – mainly civilians on both sides.

One of Manafort’s connections was an oligarch named Oleg Deripaska. This fabulously wealthy friend of Putin’s had cornered the entire post-Soviet market in Russia’s aluminum mining and smelting industry after a bitter struggle that ended with the unexplained murders of several of his business rivals (Wikipedia). Be that as it may, he set about cultivating well-placed global influencers. British and EU politicians alike have enjoyed the hospitality aboard his yacht in the Aegean.

In 2009, however, a Russian accountant called Sergei Magnitsky was found dead in his prison cell in Moscow, having been brutally beaten shortly before his trial. (Official cause: heart failure.)  An American financial intermediary, Bill Browder had employed Magnitsky, and was now accused of murdering him. He started campaigning for justice for the murdered man, pointing out that Magnitsky had uncovered a huge tax fraud involving people in high places, only to be arrested and held in custody on trumped-up charges. Outraged, the US Congress then passed a law, the Magnitsky Act, among whose provisions were the imposition of travel bans and freezing the finances of implicated oligarchs.

Among them was Deripaska.

Manafort also dabbled in low finance, and we gather that at some stage he must have offered to invest, or otherwise purify, about $17 million of Deripaska’s fortune via offshore tax-free vehicles he registered, that never received the money. He appears to have spent it on buying apartments in New York, and those ostrich-skin jackets. Ooops.

The “Aluminum King” then deputed one of his lieutenants, Konstantin Kilimnik, who’d been involved with Manafort in skulduggery in Ukraine, to ensure that Manafort would repay the money in kind, if not in blood. The two men set off for Michigan to begin the process of filching confidential voter data and sending it to a GRU troll farm in St Petersburg, to fuel the campaign of disruption and disinformation through which Mr Putin thought to get his useful idiot, a sort of global “bull in the china shop”, Trump, elected.

By an amazing coincidence, the three states in which they did this stuff were the very states that got Trump elected by a margin of just 77 thousand votes when the matter was decided in the Electoral College – an institution designed to level the representational playing-field between more and less populous states by, essentially, rigging elections. Without this thoroughly undemocratic jiggery-pokery, as we know, Trump would have lost on the popular scale by 2.8 million votes; nor would Dubya Bush ever have been elected.

For some reason, in July of 2016, Mr Trump – who of course did not know Mr Manafort – fired his campaign chairman, the vapid little Trumpsucker Corey Lewandowski*, and installed Manafort in his place.

No-one knows why, for sure. Does it look like he came clutching a reference hot from the Kremlin? Surely gnotte.

Yes, okay, he liked dictators because they were desperate to be liked, and he could make that happen in exchange for large sums of dirty money; yes, he had experience of rigging elections in Ukraine and elsewhere; yes he worked for and was profoundly obligated to a close associate of Putin’s who wanted a man on the inside to persuade Congress to lift the Magnitsky sanctions. (In December, 2018 sanctions on Deripaska were lifted, at the behest of Senate leader, “Moscow” Mitch McConnell. The grateful oligarch then offered to build an aluminum plant in McConnell’s home state of Kentucky. There is naturally no suggestion of a quid pro quo, a status quo ante, a canis canem edit, a casus belli nor indeed even collusio gravis.)

Yes, being on the inside of the campaign would prove useful to all sorts of people; yes, Manafort was in a position to provide high-level Ukraine contacts to Trump, Pompeo and Giuliani, who immediately began on Inauguration Day, 2017 to start work on removing the incorruptible US Ambassador in Kyiv, Marie Yovanovych, in preparation for another, probably Manafort inspired, campaign involving oligarchs, extortion, political favors – and gas. (Because, you see, it’s all about the Energy, stoopid!)

And, yes, he’d successfully nobbled Tymoshenko with a manufactured accusation of corruption, via a corrupt state prosecutor much in the latest news of the impeachment inquiry, which is exactly what Trump set out to do to his rival candidate, Hillary Clinton, to “Lock her up!” Where did he get that idea from? Because four separate investigations, even by his own terraformed Justice and State departments, over three-and-a-half years, have found no evidence of serious malfeasance on her part.

And that’s the synchronicity!

With the help of the corrupted Republicans in Congress, up to their necks in his filthy business and unable to escape, or to wash away the stain of their association, Trump is now frantically trying to forestall his impeachment by gaslighting America into believing that Ukraine, not Russia, was responsible for interfering with his election, to try to get Clinton elected instead; thereby justifying the attempt he denies having made, to force the Ukrainian president Zelinskiy to produce evidence of Putin’s innocence – and to help smear his own rivals for the next election.

To achieve his aims, it was also necessary to persuade Zelenskiy’s predecessor, Petro Poroshenko, to assist in doctoring the “little black book” evidence of large payments to Manafort for his services to Yanukovych, so that Ukraine could more convincingly be made the scapegoat for the 2016 election “interference” and thus justify Trump’s bullying. Unfortunately, Poroshenko lost the election last April, so the conspirators had to start again with his successor.

That there is absolutely no possibility that this Ukraine “stolen Clinton server” scenario was ever feasible, or even likely, without means, motive or opportunity and no smoking gun; that the mass of evidence and his own past inadvertencies point straight at the Kremlin, does not occur to Trump’s excusers and enablers, nor to his cult followers in the crazy community. In Trump’s terraforned world, anything he likes can be true; every shape can be shifted.

How like the former Soviet Union is that?

The way he has gone about doing Putin’s business and bidding emerges from such stories with devastating clarity. There is no doubt whatever in my mind, nor in most anybody else’s who is following the shenanigans in Washington, that he is a compromized Russian asset. He might not even realize it, not fully – perhaps he is just struggling to find in Putin another authoritarian father figure to replace his monstrous dad, Fred, who bankrolled Donald’s failures to make tax losses while findng nothing but tragic disappointment in his younger son. Or to find another successful homosexual mobster like his old mentor, the ruthless Mafia lawyer Roy Cohn, whose alarmingly direct methods of management he strives sometimes comically to emulate.

Increasingly, through his social and political terraforming, America and the world are coming to resemble the inner landscape of Trump: the original Lost Boy. A useful allegory is provided by the current BBC adaptation of Wells’ The War of the Worlds, where starving survivors stumble through a barren, dustblown, rusty-red Martian landscape the alien invaders have been creating for themselves on planet Earth.

Most Americans now realize that the man they thought was a bit of a joke, a buffoon with no manners, taste or education; a typically brash, upwardly mobile NooYawk real estate developer who would “get things done” in managerial style, is nothing of the kind. In addition to being an inept old fraud, a third-rate “mom and pop” businessman who succeeds by actualizing his mental confusion, he’s a monster, a mythical Balog dredged from the bowels of Hell by the wishful thinking of millions of disaffected voters dying for a savior to let loose their worst, most feral instincts on an unforgiving world they long to end.

Britain, beware. Under Trump mini-me Johnson, another devious, rotten and hubristic character winning on sheer media presence, entertainment value for the bored and fraxctious masses, we are going down the same path to perdition. Not for nothing did those Martians with their terrible machines first fall to earth in Woking, Surrey; home of The Spice Girls.

As Religion fades away, Politics is becoming the opium of the masses.

*I have since watched with growing admiration as Lewandowski, supposedly a former assistant DA, put on an utterly disingenuous performance under questioning by a Congressional committee, rolllng his eyes and wriggling in his chair, unable to remember anything, but no, he never suspected the president might have been ordering him to do anything illegal, whining that as he never went to Harvard law school the questions were too difficult…. You’ll recognize the scene where the detective finds the money under the bed and the punk goes, “Gee, officer, I wonder how that got there?” It’s true, Trump does pick only the best people. Especially for bungling criminal enterprises.

 

Starve ’em?

A vox pop on Britain’s streets went viral last week as passers-by gasped in horror when, asked to guess what everyday pharmaceuticals cost in the US, that are available free on the NHS, they learned of the vast numbers of ordinary Americans bankrupted and even made homeless by the cost of uninsured medical care.

One young woman in particular was asked how much an epipen, that can save a life when someone goes into anaphylactic shock owing to an allergic reaction, costs in America, to be told it was $600. In Britain, pharmacists hand them out on free prescription. “Man”, she exclaimed. “So, if you’re poor, you’re dead!”

The elimination of poverty through economic cleansing looks like becoming the central plank of the 2020 election for Republicans. The Trump administration has just tightened the rules so that another three-quarters of a million low-income Americans are to be removed from the food stamps program. If they don’t qualify for it, their ragged-assed kids will no longer be eligible for free school meals.

Deaths will inevitably result.

The money is instead to go toward padding out the already $16 billion compensation package Trump signed last summer for farmers affected by export shortfalls and rising domestic prices created by his pointless trade war against China, that he says the US is winning but has bankrupted thousands.

But don’t imagine farmers are immune from the Republicans’ extermination policy against the working class. The bulk of the money has gone to bolstering the profits of large-scale agribusiness, mainly in the recidivist South, home of the former Confederacy, where rumbling discontent over issues like Civil Rights and Northern prosperity requires placating.

 

Or just string ’em up?

Mainstream media have been a little reluctant to report that Mr Thomas Bowers, 55, a wealthy former senior vice-president in the Wealth Management division of Deutsche Bank, was found hanged at his Malibu, Ca. home on 19 November.

Well, at least he won’t have to testify at any impeachment harings.

Inquistr reports that Bowers was the direct supervisor of a staffer called Rosemary Vrablic, who had been introduced to Trump with a recommendation from the equally indigent Jared Kushner as his “favorite banker”. Now, why was that?

“The bank’s investigation of Trump’s finances found that he reported values of his real estate assets that were too high by 70 percent in many cases.” (Something confirmed in court by Trump’s former bag man, Michael Cohen.) “Nonetheless, Vrablic and Bowers approved a $100 million loan for the president to buy the Doral Golf Resort and Spa near Miami, according to a New York Times report.”

My Gosh, I wish I’d met them sooner!

Deutsche reportedly continued to lend more than $1 billion to Trump over a ten-year period, at a time when no US bank would touch him, and despite being aware that Trump was red-flagged as a possible money-launderer. He was certainly a serial loan-defaulter – according to Mother Jones, he still owes Deutsche Bank $345 million. This period may have overlapped with a similar decade in which Trump Organization allegedly declared $100 million annual LOSSES to obtain tax benefits.

Deutsche was recently hit with an injunction to hand over their records of dealings with Trump Org. to Congress, which they have apparently done. We understand that the New York Attorney’s Office also has the records. Let’s see who’s the faster speed-reader.

Another client of Bowers/Vrablic was, we understand, his fellow suicide-by-hanging, Jeffrey Epstein.

So now, for some unaccountable reason, Mr Cohen, who had been due to give further testimony against Mr Trump – “Individual 1” – in February, is reportedly getting cold feet in the relative comfort of his cell at the medium-security Otisville, NY prison, and it ain’t becuz the heating brunk down.

As they say, everything Trump touches, dies.

 

“In 2018, 58 people were killed in crashes during Uber trips; nine people were murdered, and 3,045 people were sexually assaulted. The numbers represented a fraction — just 0.0003 percent — of Uber’s 1.3 billion rides in the U.S. last year.” – New York Times

 

Drain the swamp!

Pumpkin followers may recall, we bogld ages ago about a certain Dr Joseph Ackermann, who is connected to the Trump saga in the following way:

Dr Ackermann is the former CEO of Deutsche Bank, a global organization that has in recent years been fined billions of dollars for money-laundering – essentially, failing to check where the money has come from, that has flowed endlessly through their coffers, mainly from Russian oligarchical sources.

Dr Ackermann then went on to found Bank of Cyprus, that has also been accused of money-laundering, to the extent that some wit described it as “the global laundromat”.

The quip is quite amusing, as in the 1970s the late President Nixon, in order to hide the secret campaign funding he was getting from the Los Angeles Mafia, literally “laundered” it through a fake cleaning business created for him in Florida. (The state where Messrs Giuliani, Parnas and Frumin allegedly created a phony “gas” company, to launder funds from Ukraine into Trump re-election accounts. It’s not only swamps and alligators there.)

The two vice-chairmen of Bank of Cyprus were a sanctioned Russian oligarch, “The Fertilizer King”, Dmitry Rybolovlev, who “overpaid” $95 million for a worthless Trump property in Florida, netting Trump a $50 million windfall; and Mr Wilbur Ross, a “family consiglieri” described by the not-exactly leftish business journal, Forbes, as possibly: “One of the biggest grifters in American history”, who after almost four years of the presidency somehow remains America’s Commerce Secretary.

The Cambridge dictionary describes a grifter as: “Someone who gets money dishonestly by tricking people.” Which Mr Ross certainly appeared to have done, when Forbes had to downgrade his public estimate of his fortune from $3.5 billion to just a few hundred million. Among which was, presumably, the $120 million he’s alleged to have swindled from his former business partners.

And, look, I keep telling you, “It’s the Energy, stoopid!”

Because here, yet again, that word pops up in a report, this time from The Guardian, back in November 2017:

“Leaked documents and public filings show Ross holds a stake in a shipping company, Navigator, through a chain of offshore investments. Navigator operates a lucrative partnership with Sibur, a Russian gas company part-owned by Kirill Shamalov, the husband of Putin’s daughter Katerina Tikhonova.”

See if you can “gas” which one!

Janus

In case anyone should think that Trump is really so thin-skinned as to have been genuinely upset by Justin Trudeau’s overheard comment at the NATO summit in leafy Watford, home of the football team whose faded fortunes were turned around in the 1980s thanks to the lucrative ownership of Sir Elton John, The Pumpkin can only say, BS.

Trump never fails to rush to grab the headlines with some outrageous tweet, crass comment or cackhanded military decision when there’s something more important going on, that concerns him and his criminal tendencies. If nothing else, he’s a master self-publicist who for decades has played the “fake news” media for all he’s worth, largely because he’s never been worth all that much.

I mean, who would want the world and its wife reading about a devastating, 300-page Congressional indictment of his attempts to cover-up the true story of his murky interventions in Ukraine, listing the entirely believable testimonies of 17 witnesses – supported by a sheaf of White House call logs – to his naked acts of unpresidential thuggery, when they could be reading instead about how funny he thinks was his riposte that Trudeau is “two-faced” – an obvious reference to the scandal of the Canadian Prime Minister having years ago unimaginatively attended three student parties in blackface?

After all, does Trump not lurk behind a curiously mottled orange mask? What race, I wonder, is he trying to insult with that?

 

“Ronnie played fantastic but it’s a really big win for me.” – Ding Jinhui

Gnyaah! Stuff the apostrophe, bring back the adverb, is all I can say.

 

Dry cliffs at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe last week.

(Photo by Mike Hutchings/Reuters/Guardian, with apologies)

GW: slipslidin’ away

Indian Ocean: Yesterday, Severe-weather.eu reported on a very rare occurrence, twin tropical storms intensifying to hurricane strength in the western Indian ocean, on either side of the equator – rotating as per theory in opposite directions. Today it seems the rarity of such an event is being eclipsed as three more tropical storms are forming in the same region. One is threatening the coast of Somalia, another aiming for Madagascar and Tanzania. Those of you who recall the film, The Day After Tomorrow, may not be so impressed.

Update: One of the cyclones, Invest 93, now named Ambali, has intensified in under 24 hours from a 30 mph tropical storm to a “monster” Cat. 3 typhoon with windspeeds up to 130 mph. Some forecasts were predicting it could reach a maximum 160 mph Cat. 5 within another 18 hours. (Update update: it did! Maybe fastest-ever!) No land areas are currently in its path.

Philippines: Typhoon Kammuri has killed at least 13 people, while 345 thousand are in evacuation centers, reports Aljazeera. “Kammuri, the 20th to hit the country this year, crossed the coast on Monday night, forcing hundreds of thousands of residents to evacuate and the cancellation of hundreds of flights.” Coastal communities south of the capital have been devastated.  Kammuri had intensified from a tropical storm to a Cat. 4 hurricane in just 18 hours.

Madagascar: “Yet another potentially monster cyclone is developing in the West Indian Ocean – Tropical cyclone Belna. The system is currently packing maximum sustained winds of 100 mph and strengthening. Rapid intensification is expected to begin soon. Belna will likely reach at least a strong Cat. 3 strength, possibly even Cat. 4 late tomorrow prior to landfall in NW Madagascar on Monday 9 Dec.” (Severe-weather.eu)

Uganda: Floodlist cites, a little confusingly, Red Cross reports that at least 10 people may have died in landslides and flooding in two separate provinces; 5 in each, with a fairly large number still missing. “The tragedy hit after hours of heavy rain on 03 Dec.”

Southern Africa: By contrast to the months of flooding and landslides in northern and eastern Africa, in the south the long drought is worsening. There are reports of the mighty Zambezi river drying up, causing power outages in Zimbabwe and Zambia, which are dependent on hydropower from the Kabila dam. The famous Victoria Falls, a major tourism revenue earner, has slowed to a “disappointing” trickle. (Guardian)

New Zealand: An estimated 1,000 foreign tourists are trapped after a weekend of severe storms dumping large hail and up to 40 mm of rain per hour triggered landslides and flooding that have cut off towns in South Island. Officials say it could take months to clear access roads. Most are stuck on the west coast in the towns of Fox Glacier and Franz Josef. Some have been forced to sleep in their cars, and are said to be scared and tired. Emergency supplies are being helicoptered in. There’s a warning out for tornadoes. (From Guardian, 8 Dec.)

USA: If you’re dreaming of a White Christmas, take cover! The polar vortex has split again owing to a heat anomaly in the stratosphere and a large part is drifting southwards. “Brutally cold Arctic air will flow down into the north-central US mid-next week. Current forecast indicates that air temperature could drop as low as -25°C, in some places even down to -40°C! Over the border in Canada, temperatures will be even lower. This is an unusually strong cold air outbreak for early December.” (Severe-weather.eu) The US’s Weather Company however is not predicting such low temperatures, meanwhile there’s a “heatwave” over many states melting early snowpack, while more storms are bringing flooding and landslides to California.

Australia: Golfers “at the Australian Open have complained of stinging eyes as toxic smoke from (more than 100) bushfires around Sydney affected the opening round on Thursday. Sydney’s air quality index registered on a par with Beijing. More than 2,000 firefighters are battling the massive blazes, which escalated in intensity on Thursday evening, 6 Dec. More than 1.6 million hectares of land in NSW have been burnt already. Fires have also raged across Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania..” (edited from BBC reports)

Update: Fri 7 Dec. 5 large fires raging outside Sydney have merged into one, covering 365 thousand ha. on a 37-mile front. Fire service says the whole NSW coast is burning, mostly out of control. Reinforcements are arriving from the USA. More than 10% of the area covered by national parks has been burned, including 20% of the Blue Mountains “Gondwana rainforest” world heritage area. Worse conditions are forecast for next week. (Guardian reports)

Spain: “A storm has caused flash flooding in parts of Murcia,  prompting high water rescues and some evacuations. Emergency services said they received 534 calls for assistance, including around 30 people rescued from vehicles trapped in flood water.” (Floodlist). Up to 390 mm (15-in) rain fell in 24 hours (on La Vita), coastal Valencia being battered by 4 meter waves and 80 mph winds. Storm conditions are expected across the South of France and into northern Italy.

Ireland: Storm Atiyah is bringing 80 mph winds across the west of the British Isles on 8 Dec. as the Atlantic cyclone season swings into action. Warnings of “risk to life” have gone out in SW Britain as travel disruption and heavy seas with up to 40 ft waves are expected in the Irish Sea. (BBC/Mirror)

Tunnel approaching….

Planet: “Oxygen in the oceans is being lost at an unprecedented rate, with “dead zones” proliferating and hundreds more areas showing oxygen dangerously depleted. Sharks, tuna, marlin and other large fish species were at particular risk, with many vital ecosystems in danger of collapse.” (Guardian, citing International Union for the Conservation of Nature presentation at COP25 in Madrid). Warming oceans, acidification, agricultural runoff and overfishing are blamed.

No shit: President Trump is considering rolling back water conservation measures, which he is blaming for an increase in the number of times people flush the toilet – thus actually increasing water usage. “We’re looking very strongly at sinks and showers,” said the president, opaquely. Currently embroiled in a major constitutional crisis, Mr Trump has already revoked 85 other environmental protections, claiming they are damaging his economy. (From Guardian)