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April 03, 2020

The Science Says #MaskUp - A Look At Two New Virus Studies

There are a few new studies about the novel coronavirus epidemic that are of interest for everyone.

From Science comes a study with new epidemic data that evaluates a smartphone based system that could alarm those who have come near a person which later developed Covid-19 symptoms. Such a system is used in South Korea.

Quantifying SARS-CoV-2 transmission suggests epidemic control with digital contact tracing

The new epidemic data in the study is of interest.

It says that the basic reproduction number R0 or R naught for the novel coronavirus is 2.0. Under normal circumstance a new carrier of the virus is likely to infect two other people. This is a higher value than for the seasonal flu but a bit lower than previously thought.

But what the makes the novel coronavirus really different is that it starts to spread before the spreading person has developed symptoms.

The virus starts to replicate in significant numbers (billions per mililiter) on day 2 after the infection. The virus first replicates in the upper throat and the infected person starts to spread it to others simply by breathing, talking or coughing. Only on day 5 the infected person starts to develop first symptoms. The virus migrates into the lower lung and replicates there. The virus load in the upper throat will then start to decline. The immune system intervenes and defeats the virus but also causes additional lung damage which can kill people who have already other preexisting conditions. (Interestingly smokers seem not to develop a cytokine storms during a Covid infection and are thereby less prone to end up in the ICU.) On day 10 only few viruses will be found in the upper throat and the person will generally no longer be infectious.

The typical hospitalization point in China was only on day 9 to 12 after the onset of symptoms. At that point a test by swabs is nearly useless as the infected person will normally no longer have significant numbers of the virus in the upper throat. Reports of "defective tests from China" were likely caused by a lack of knowledge about this phenomenon. The diagnose in these later cases should be done by a CT scan which will show the lung damage.

We do know since late January that people can transmit the virus even when they have not yet developed symptoms. An open question was how many of new infections happen during this phase.

The new Science study investigated how many infections were created by each of four infection phases or types:

Cont. reading: The Science Says #MaskUp - A Look At Two New Virus Studies

Posted by b at 18:24 UTC | Comments (158)

April 02, 2020

Why The U.S. Will Drown In Covid-19 Cases

Here are examples for some of the reasons why the U.S. will now experience a gigantic epidemic wave.

The reasons include ill discipline, ignorance and incompetence, nutty religiousness and racism.

March 20 2020 - BBC

US students party on spring break despite coronavirus

Crowds of US university students flocked to Florida for their spring break, defying recommendations from the federal government and Center for Disease Control (CDC) over the coronavirus outbreak.

National health officials are advising against gatherings of 10 or more people.

April 1 2020 - NYT 

44 Texas Students Have Coronavirus After Spring Break Trip

Two weeks ago, amid the coronavirus pandemic, about 70 students from the University of Texas at Austin partied in Mexico on spring break. The students, all in their 20s, flew on a chartered plane to Cabo San Lucas, and some returned on separate commercial flights to Texas.

Now, 44 of them have tested positive for the virus and are self-isolating. More students were monitored and tested on Wednesday, university officials said, after 28 initial positive tests.
...
Students at the University of Tampa, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and other colleges have tested positive after returning from spring break trips to Florida, Alabama, Tennessee and elsewhere.

---

January 30 2020 - New England Journal of Medicine

Transmission of 2019-nCoV Infection from an Asymptomatic Contact in Germany

We are reporting a case of 2019-nCoV infection acquired outside Asia in which transmission appears to have occurred during the incubation period in the index patient.
...
[I]t is notable that the infection appears to have been transmitted during the incubation period of the index patient, in whom the illness was brief and nonspecific.

The fact that asymptomatic persons are potential sources of 2019-nCoV infection may warrant a reassessment of transmission dynamics of the current outbreak.

April 2 2020

Andisheh Nouraee @andishehnouraee - 0:49 UTC · Apr 2, 2020

A stunning admission of deadly ignorance from Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who says he only just learned that asymptomatic people can transmit #Covid19. “[I]ndividuals could have been infecting people before they ever felt bad, but we didn’t know that until the last 24 hours.” - vid

---

Cont. reading: Why The U.S. Will Drown In Covid-19 Cases

Posted by b at 15:49 UTC | Comments (376)

Open Thread 2020-26

News & views ...

Posted by b at 15:45 UTC | Comments (88)

April 01, 2020

China Did Not Deceive Us - Counting Death During An Epidemic Is Really Difficult

The anti-China campaign, which the Deputy National Security Advisor Matthew Pottinger is running, presented its April fools joke. It leaked to Bloomberg that a secret U.S. Intelligence Report claims that China concealed the real numbers of its Covid-19 cases:

China has concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in its country, under-reporting both total cases and deaths it’s suffered from the disease, the U.S. intelligence community concluded in a classified report to the White House, according to three U.S. officials.
...
While China eventually imposed a strict lockdown beyond those of less autocratic nations, there has been considerable skepticism of China’s reported numbers, both outside and within the country. The Chinese government has repeatedly revised its methodology for counting cases, for weeks excluding people without symptoms entirely, and only on Tuesday added more than 1,500 asymptomatic cases to its total.

Stacks of thousands of urns outside funeral homes in Hubei province have driven public doubt in Beijing’s reporting.

China did not conceal its number of Covid-19 cases. Nor did it hold back any information.

Reporting numbers during an outbreak of a new disease is actually very difficult.

Cont. reading: China Did Not Deceive Us - Counting Death During An Epidemic Is Really Difficult

Posted by b at 18:45 UTC | Comments (304)

March 31, 2020

U.S. Virus Cases Are Off The Scale - But Its People Can Build A Movement From This

The latest Financial Times graphic for covid-19 cases per country shows that the U.S. case numbers are now literally off the scale.


Source - bigger

When John Burn-Murdoch created that daily updated chart he did not anticipate that any country would have more than a 100,000 total cases. That was a reasonable assumption as China, with 1.4 billion inhabitants, stopped the epidemic with less than 85.000 total cases even when it was surprised by the outbreak.

As of now the U.S. has 164.435 known cases. It will reach a total number of several dozens of millions and will have several hundreds of thousands of dead caused by the covid-19 disease.

Most but not all of those who will die from it will have one or more co-morbid diseases. The number of death in the U.S. will likely be higher than elsewhere because obesity, diabetes and heart problems are more prevalent in the U.S. than in most other countries.

Another reason why the U.S. will have a larger than necessary outbreak is wide mistrust in the authority of the state. A significant number of people will reject stay at home orders or other measures the authorities will have to take.

Then there is this:

Cont. reading: U.S. Virus Cases Are Off The Scale - But Its People Can Build A Movement From This

Posted by b at 17:48 UTC | Comments (324)

March 30, 2020

Trump, Putin Will Discuss The End Of U.S. Shale Oil

Three weeks ago, when the Russian and Saudi war on U.S. shale oil started, we wrote:

In the first week of January crude oil reached $69/bl but it has since dropped to $45/bl as the coronavirus crisis destroyed the global demand. The Saudis tried to make a deal with Russia, the second largest exporter after Saudi Arabia, to together cut oil production to keep the price up. But Russia rejected a new OPEC cut. It wants to keep its production up and it will use the crisis to further undermine U.S. oil fracking production. As the whole fracking boom in the U.S. is build on fraud the move might well be successful.

Russia does not have a budget deficit and is well positioned to survive lower crude oil prices without much damage. Saudi Arabia is not.

Only a week later oil was already at $30/barrel and we predicted that it would go down to $20/bl.

On Monday the U.S. WTI oil price index reached that mark. Oil prices in other places are falling even further:

Canadian heavy crude has become so cheap that the cost of shipping it to refineries exceeds the value of the oil itself, a situation that may result in even more oil-sands producers shutting operations.

Western Canadian Select crude in Alberta dropped to a record-low close of $5.06 a barrel on Friday, according to Bloomberg data going back to 2008 ...

The corona virus crisis has led to drop in global demand by some 20%. The world production and consumption in normal times was at about 100 million barrel per day. Consumption is now below 80 million bl/d. But after the OPEC+ agreement failed Saudi and Russia both started to pump as much as they could to regain market shares. Together they are increasing their production by some 3-4 million barrels per day. All that oil has to go somewhere.

Trump announced that he would use the cheap prices to fill the U.S. strategic oil reserve. But the spare room in the reserve storage at that time was only some 150 million barrels. As it can only be filled at a rate of 2 million barrels per day the topping off of the reserve is insignificant in the current market.

The oil producers at first pumped their oil into storage tanks to be sold later. When those filled up they rented supertankers to store the oil at sea. But empty supertankers are now also getting rare and the price for them is increasing:

The CEO of the world’s largest tanker owner, Frontline Ltd., said on Friday that he’d never known such demand to hire ships for long-term storage. Traders could book ships to put 100 million barrels at sea this week alone, he estimated, but even that could accounts for less than a week’s oversupply.

The only solution will be a shut down of the more expensive oil fields. Canada and Brazil are already doing it. U.S. shale producers who are bleeding cash will now have to follow.

That is clearly what Russia wants:

As soon as U.S. shale leaves the market, prices will rebound and could reach $60 a barrel, Rosneft’s Igor Sechin said recently. As fate would have it, in what many would have until recently considered an impossible scenario, a lot of U.S. shale might do just that.

Breakeven prices for U.S. shale basins range between $39 and $48 a barrel, according to data compiled by Reuters. Meanwhile, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) is trading below $25 a barrel and has been for over a week now.

The Trump administration has asked the Saudis to produce less oil but as the Saudi tourist industry is currently also dead the Saudi clown prince needs every dollar he can get. The Saudis will continue to pump and they will sell their oil at any price.

The White House is now concerned that it will completely lose its beloved shale oil industry and all the jobs connected to it.

Russia of cause knows this and a few days ago it made an interesting offer:

A new OPEC+ deal to balance oil markets might be possible if other countries join in, Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund said, adding that countries should also cooperate to cushion the economic fallout from coronavirus.
...
“Joint actions by countries are needed to restore the(global) economy... They (joint actions) are also possible in OPEC+ deal’s framework,” Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), told Reuters in a phone interview.
...
“We are in contact with Saudi Arabia and a number of other countries. Based on these contacts we see that if the number of OPEC+ members will increase and other countries will join there is a possibility of a joint agreement to balance oil markets.”

Dmitriev declined to say who the new deal’s members should or could be. U.S. President Donald Trump said last week he would get involved in the oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia at the appropriate time.

A logical new member of an expanded crude oil cartel would be one of the biggest global producer that so far was not a member of that club - the U.S. of A.

We now learn that Trump is ready to talk about that or other concepts:

As Ria reports (in Russian) the topics of upcoming phone call [between Putin and Trump] will be Covid-19, trade (???) and, you guessed it, oil prices.

Trump, who sanctioned the Russian-German Nord-Stream II pipeline while telling Germany to buy U.S. shale gas, is now in a quite bad negotiation position. Russia does not need a new OPEC deal right now. It has many financial reserves and can live with low oil prices for much longer than the Saudis and other oil producing countries. Trump would have to make a strategic offer that Russia could not resist to get some cooperation on oil prices.

But what strategic offer could Trump make that would move Putin to agree to some new deal?

Ukraine? Russia is not interested in that unrulable, bankrupt and fascist infested entity.

Syria? The Zionist billionaires would stop their donations to Trump if he were to give up on destroying it.

Joining an OPEC++ deal and limit U.S. oil production? That would be an anti-American intervention in free markets and Congress would never agree to it.

And what reason has Russia to believe that Trump or his successor would stick to any deal? As the U.S. is non-agreement-capable it has none.

The outcome of the phone call will therefore likely be nothing.

The carnage in the oil markets will continue and will ravage those producer countries that need every penny while the corona virus is ravaging their people. Meanwhile the U.S. shale market will go bust.

Posted by b at 17:25 UTC | Comments (176)

March 29, 2020

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2020-25

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

  • Mar 25 - Netanyahoo's Corona Coup
    Related:
    Opposition leader Gantz sold out to Netanyahoo presumably in exchange for a promise that Netanyahoo would leave in 18 month. No one believes that he will keep that promise. Gantz' move has blown up his Blue and White coalition. His excuse is the corona crisis which, he says, requires unity. Israel will have quite a problem with the disease. The ultra-orthodox Haredi do not follow the stay at home orders. The Zionist do not care about Palestinians and forget that the disease will not differentiate. The Health Ministry is held by a corrupt Haredi who lacks the relevant qualifications.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 14:37 UTC | Comments (379)

March 28, 2020

It Is A Time Of Crisis And U.S. Foreign Policy Is Becoming Unhinged

The Trump administration is reacting to the pandemic stress by lashing out at perceived internal and external enemies. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is leading the external onslaught.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for an "immediate global ceasefire" to focus on fighting Covid-19. He has appealed for the "waiving of sanctions that can undermine countries' capacity to respond to the pandemic."

But Washington is not listening.

Requests from Venezuela and Iran for emergency IMF loans to buy medical supplies were blocked by U.S. interventions.

Just a month ago Pompeo announced an increase of sanctions against Iran. The sanctions block money transfers. They make it impossible for Iran to import the medical equipment it urgently needs to counter the epidemic.

While the U.S. renewed the sanction waiver which allows Iraq to import electricity and gas from Iran the waiver is now limited to only 30 days. One third of Iraq's electricity depends on those imports from Iran and, if the waiver is not renewed, its hospitals will go dark just when the epidemic will reach its zenith.

Parts of the Trump administration are even pressing for a wider war against alleged Iranian proxy forces in Iraq:

Cont. reading: It Is A Time Of Crisis And U.S. Foreign Policy Is Becoming Unhinged

Posted by b at 15:13 UTC | Comments (212)

March 27, 2020

Open Thread 2020-24

The post I worked on today didn't pan out.

Please use yesterday's thread for further discussion of the pandemic.

Other stuff can go here ...

Posted by b at 18:16 UTC | Comments (214)

March 26, 2020

More Bits On The Corona Crisis

Donald Trump's MAGA is successful.

The U.S. is providing the world with another example of its great exceptionalism. In a few days it will have the greatest number of Covid-19 cases and the greatest number of casualties of the disease. It will also have spent the greatest amount of money on the crisis with the smallest part of it going to the people who need it.

It is not a nice picture and it makes me sad.

The more than two trillion dollar the lobbyists told Congress to put into their 800+ pages relief bill will mostly go to very rich people. It is  corporate socialism - a bail out for investors and managers.

Contrast that with the Russian president Vladimir Putin who, in an address to the Russian people, allocated most of the money for the unemployed, the retired and for families:

Then, with special flourish, Mr. Putin used the impending crisis to fix several unpopular tax loopholes favoring the very rich, so that the proceeds of the new taxes may be used to offset some of the costs of the social protection measures now being introduced for the great majority of the working population, for families, etc.

To name one such abuse, he is calling for all remittances of dividends and the like by physical persons to offshore ‘tax havens’ where they go untaxed, now to be subjected to a 15% income tax in Russia. The double taxation treaties with those tax haven countries allowing this abuse will be amended accordingly.

The U.S. as well as other countries is still not doing enough to slow down or even stop the outbreak.

The Wall Street Journal today reports (paywalled but quoted here) what we emphasized in our earlier pieces. The lockdown in Wuhan on January 23 was not enough to end the growth of the number of cases.

It was only after February 2, when Wuhan introduced the isolation of suspected cases and of people who had close contact with confirmed cases, that it gained a grip on the crisis:

Cont. reading: More Bits On The Corona Crisis

Posted by b at 18:20 UTC | Comments (478)