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The US food system is killing Americans
« Reply #16785 on: August 03, 2020, 10:09:55 AM »
Akash Goel is an assistant professor of medicine at Weill Cornell/NewYork Presbyterian Hospital and a
human rights advocate. Michel Nischan is a James Beard Foundation Award winning chef and sustainable food advocate. He is founder, president and CEO of Wholesome Wave and co-founder of the Chefs Action Network.
Bill Frist is a heart transplant surgeon, former US Senate majority leader and a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center. Tom Colicchio is a James Beard Foundation Award winning chef and owner of Crafted Hospitality. He is the head judge and executive producer on Bravo's "Top Chef." The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the authors; view more opinion on CNN.

This global pandemic has given a new meaning to the idea of American exceptionalism. The United States is faring far worse than other countries and shoulders a disproportionate share of global disease burden -- with 4% of the global population, yet, at the time of writing, nearly a quarter of global Covid-19 fatalities.

While much of the rationale has focused on our government's flat-footed response and poor public health infrastructure, this ignores a significant and underrecognized risk factor -- the exceedingly poor baseline health of our country's population.
Among the most significant risk factors for hospitalization and death in Covid-19 are the presence of diet-related chronic diseases such as hypertension, heart disease and obesity. America's starting point? Nearly three out of four American adults are overweight or obese.
And half of US adults have diabetes or pre-diabetes. A 2018 study found that only 12% of Americans are metabolically healthy, which is defined as having optimal levels of blood markers and pressures as well as waist circumference. Diet-related diseases are no longer the things you have to worry about down the road. In a pandemic environment, they could hasten death next week.
Poor metabolic health stems, in part, from poor-quality diets and poor nutrition. Just as baseline chronic disease portends a worse outcome for individuals with Covid-19, our food system is our country's pre-existing condition that leaves us all at greater risk. As doctors and chefs, we feel that now, more than ever, it is critical to address nutrition insecurity in America head on.
While food insecurity is about providing more food, nutrition insecurity is about providing the right food, so we and our children can build the metabolic heath we need to better survive this and future pandemics.
Most of our legacy food policies were born of national security concerns in the 1940s. They were conceptualized during a time of absolute caloric deprivation, when as many as 40% of military recruits were ineligible for service because of malnutrition and being underweight. Soon initiatives such as the National School Lunch Program, the modern food stamp program and other nutrition assistance programs followed.
In the private sector, subsidies enabled mass production and stockpiling of food in preparation for food scarcity during the next global conflict. The postwar industrialization of food led to a domestic food market rife with highly processed, carbohydrate-laden, shelf-stable and convenient foods.
Consumption of these cheap products increased, while consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables decreased. The American diet flipped from largely whole foods to highly processed foods requiring little time and cooking. The diet-related disease debacle we face today is one unintended outcome.

Programs born of good intent for reasons of national security and convenience no longer fit the bill. Instead of keeping our children and most vulnerable healthy and productive, we are now sicker than we were post-Depression. A 2018 report filed by Mission: Readiness, a council of retired admirals and generals who advocate for policies that help kids stay healthy, in school and out of trouble, stated that, "In the United States, 71 percent of young people between the ages of 17 and 24 do not qualify for military service," noting exceptionally high rates of obesity starting as early as age 2.
The numbers have flipped, and so have the health conditions. Fewer Americans are physically ready for work and war than in 1945, yet, instead of being underweight and malnourished, they are overweight and malnourished.
Now during this pandemic, our industrialized food system, optimized for efficiency over resilience, seems to be failing. One only has to witness farmers dumping milk and fresh produce and see the Depression-era-style lines wrapped around food banks to realize the depths of our food crisis. Now is the time to both address nutrition insecurity and support regional and specialty farmers.
While there are significant financial and distribution challenges that our food system is facing during the pandemic, there are still important things we can do right away to help improve nutrition security.

We see an opportunity to leverage the greatest impact in public health through changes to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which serves about 40 million Americans.
We can promote better health by valuing quality of calorie over quantity. Ten percent of SNAP dollars go toward the purchase of sugary sweetened beverages, which amounts to a roughly $7 billion subsidy toward sugar. This can easily be fixed by doubling down on the USDA's fresh produce incentive, which combines federal, state and philanthropic dollars to support the purchase of fruits and vegetables.
Modeling studies suggest that combined incentive and disincentive programs are cost neutral, yet lead to significant gains in health outcomes and cost savings equaling roughly $10 billion over five years. SNAP has had early success with incentive-based pilot programs, which if expanded offer significant gains for public health.
Our response to food insecurity during the pandemic has focused largely on supporting food banks, but this is not working. In April, for example, 10,000 cars lined up in San Antonio in just one day, with thousands having waited overnight for their place in line.
In New York, people are waiting up to six hours in line at distribution sites. Executive leadership at the top emergency feeding organizations have called on Washington to expand SNAP, rather than drive people to already overtaxed and underresourced facilities.
Expanding SNAP offers the added benefit of stimulating local and regional economies. The USDA economic impact model suggests that every dollar spent on SNAP is an economic multiplier, yielding up to $1.50 in economic activity. As a large share of SNAP recipients live in rural regions, the subsidy often supports small business such as farmers, local food retailers and grocers. A 2016 study showed that this multiplier effect is even greater when SNAP dollars are redeemed at farmer's markets.
With food insecurity rampant in the midst of an economic down cycle, bolstering investments in SNAP benefits are a win-win. It would have been a boon to the San Antonio retail grocery economy if those 10,000 cars instead went to any of the many grocery stores and supermarkets with SNAP benefits to buy the food of their choice.

Now is the opportunity to connect the dots between our food system and health. We have too long operated in silos to the detriment of both food and public health. Roughly 65% of adults receiving SNAP are on Medicaid, according to a report from the Bipartisan Policy Center.
We have the ability to track how food and nutrition incentives may support better health outcomes and drive cost savings, while supporting retail grocers and farmers. Once this link is drawn, we can rebuild a better system focused on health promotion and prevention rather than treating the long-term and unsustainable consequences of chronic disease.
The American food system is not broken -- it is functioning as designed, a system optimized for efficiency, not one optimized for resilience and nutrition. But our food system is killing us, and that happened long before Covid-19. It is bound to continue unless we take steps now to leverage food as medicine.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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How the U.S. Economy Just Lost 33% of its Value
« Reply #16786 on: August 03, 2020, 10:17:36 AM »
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NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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This Bill And Ted Fan Has An Excellent Solution To The COVID-19 Era
« Reply #16787 on: August 04, 2020, 09:39:00 AM »
These are troubling times we live in, particularly because the COVID-19 pandemic is still looming large. It’s easy to get discouraged and lose hope, making those moments were positivity manages to shine through the proverbial cracks all the more welcome. Case in point, with Bill and Ted Face the Music coming up, one fan of Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves’ beloved characters came up with a unique way to spread an upbeat message on how to get through this era of coronavirus.

Alex Winter 😷

Sometimes you have to make the mask you need, because what is a better example of #beexcellenttoeachother than when you #WearAMask? #BillAndTed3  #wyldstallyns @Winter

11:29 AM · Aug 2, 2020
See the latest COVID-19 information on Twitter

On one side, we have Wyld Stallyns, the name of Bill and Ted’s band, and on the other, we have one of the duo’s main catchphrases: “Be excellent to one another.” Those are definitely to words to live by, both in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and in regular, less stressful times. There’s only so much room to stitch words onto a face mask, but it would have been amazing if Bill and Ted’s other iconic catchphrase could have been included on there: “Party on, dudes.” Cue air guitar.

Of course, nowadays, with face masks being an integral part of going outside, one certainly has no shortage of cool, pop culture-themed masks to choose from. From masks modeled off of The Dark Knight Rises’ Bane’s breathing apparatus to Baby Yoda-themed masks, there are plenty of ways to show off your love for your favorite franchise, property, etc during the times when you’re not isolating.

The Bill and Ted film series launched in 1989 with Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, which saw Alex Winter’s Bill Preston and Keanu Reeves’ Ted Logan traveling through time to learn about historical events, as if they fail their history test, that’ll initiate a chain of events that results in the utopian future Bill and Ted’s music is modeled off of never coming into existence. Two years later, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey saw the eponymous duo being killed by a rogue time traveler, requiring them to team up with the Grim Reaper and make it back to the land of the living to stop the menace.

A little under three decades later, Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves are reprising their characters for Bill and Ted Face the Music. While the threequel entered development at the beginning of last decade, it wasn’t until early 2018 that it finally started to take significant steps forward, with the movie officially getting the green light by May of that year and filming taking place from mid-June to late-August of 2019.

With Bill and Ted now middle-aged and no closer to reaching their destiny, Bill and Ted Face the Music revolves around the men being warned by a visitor from the future that they have less than two hours to write their universe-saving song, leading to go on yet another time travel adventure, as well as team up with family and old allies, to complete their task. The film’s cast also includes Samara Waving, Brigette Lundy-Paine, William Sadler, Kristen Schaal, Anthony Carrigan, Jayma Mays, Erinn Hayes, Holland Taylor and Kid Cudi.

Bill and Ted Face the Music will both play in theaters and be available on VOD starting September 1. You can learn what other movies are supposed to come out later this year in our 2020 release schedule.

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"Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" movie in 2013 : grossed $40.5 million against a $6.5 million budget.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2020, 09:47:54 AM by knarf »
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Swabs, masks, action! Film-making through a pandemic
« Reply #16788 on: August 04, 2020, 09:43:33 AM »
British film-makers are back at work – and going to extraordinary lengths to protect cast and crew from Covid-19. Is it possible to make great movies behind face masks and Plexiglass?

‘Because everyone is in masks, things are quieter than usual …’ A film crew shooting in Paris last month.

“You get used to sticking a six-inch cotton-wool bud up your nose and down your tonsils every morning,” says Richard Clark. He is describing his typical working day. “The masks are quite suffocating. They’re quite sweaty. You don’t drink as much water, and so people dehydrate. You get headaches. Certainly on the first week, by five o’clock, a certain kind of fugginess comes over everybody. Concentrating during those last two hours … you can feel it being a little bit harder.”

It sounds like the experience of a frontline care worker, but this is film-making in the age of Covid-19. Clark is directing the second season of Fox’s apocalyptic sci-fi series War of the Worlds in south Wales, with a crew of about 70 people. Having shut down in late March because of the pandemic, the UK’s film and high-end television industry is back in business, which can only be good news. But it is by no means business as usual. As the director of one of the first productions to resume, three weeks ago, Clark has been negotiating a whole new way of working – not quite as dystopian as the programme he’s making, but strange and slightly sci-fi all the same

“To be honest, you get used to the patterns and the rituals pretty quickly,” he says. “Testing is the key thing: temperature checks for everybody every morning, and 30 members of the crew and the lead actors are tested every morning.” There is a full-time Covid-19 consultant on set to keep an eye on social distancing and cross-contacts. Sets are fogged every night, as are all the costumes. Props are kept sealed in bags, then only handled by the cast member using them. Even dining is different, with no more catering truck and lunchtime socialising. Meals are individually packaged and served, and eaten in a huge marquee. Each table is two metres long, so one person can sit at either end.

“The main philosophy behind how we operate is essentially: ‘You’ve got to protect the cast,’” Clark explains. In War of the Worlds’ case, that includes Gabriel Byrne, Elizabeth McGovern and Normal People’s Daisy Edgar-Jones. “Ultimately, the crew are replaceable, including – to an extent – the director. But the lead cast are not, so you’ve got to prioritise safeguarding those personnel who, if they went down ill, would cause the whole thing to collapse.” There is a complex system of coloured armbands denoting the degree of proximity to which crew members are allowed to the actors. Everyone must wear masks, even when shooting outdoors. Some, such as hair and makeup, must wear visors, too.

It is a similar setup over at Pinewood studios, says Sarah-Jane Wright, the head of production at Working Title. She has just returned from the set of Last Night in Soho, Edgar Wright’s new movie, a psychological horror set in 1960s London. Shooting was just about finished when lockdown started, but a week of additional photography was still needed. With a larger crew, their system is even more complicated than Clark’s. Personnel are divided into discrete pods. Pod A is the cast (which includes Anya Taylor-Joy, Diana Rigg and Thomasin McKenzie) along with crew who have to be close to them, such as the director and camera operators. They have their own separate entrance and check-in area (again, temperature checks and Covid-19 swab tests are routine), separate bathrooms and their own dining facilities. Pod A can only interact with their “pod unit base”, which consists of hair and makeup, second assistant directors and others.

Pod B contains other technicians and crew who have to be on set. They are separated from pod A by Plexiglass and barriers. Pod C is standbys, electricians, grips, riggers and props, who have their own marquee outside the set. “If a light needs changing or props need adjusting, they can only go on to the set when pod A and pod B have cleared it.” Then there’s Pod O (office and props, who are nearby but never come on set), and Pod H (people working remotely). Plus 24-hour cleaners and a team of between six and 10 Covid-19 coordinators, swabbing nurses and medics. “We have a very good Covid adviser who does actually have a metal measuring tape to make sure everyone is two metres socially distanced.” Because everyone is in masks, things are quieter than usual, says Wright. “It can feel as if you’re going to work in an operating theatre. But it has so quickly become our new normal.”

Before coronavirus, film and high-end television production in the UK was booming. Inward investment, mostly from the US, was at a record-breaking £3.65bn in 2019. This year was on track to exceed that. The major film studios were fully booked, new ones were being built across the country to cope with the demand and Hollywood productions were queueing up to take advantage of the UK’s expertise and tax breaks. Then, with the imposition of lockdown in March, everything changed practically overnight. “We went from pretty much full employment to zero employment and everything stopping,” says Adrian Wootton, the CEO of the British Film Commission (BFC), which is responsible for persuading foreign companies to come and film in the UK. “We had something like a billion pounds’ worth of production mothballed or suspended in the UK.”

The BFC, British Film Institute and others have been working ever since to figure out how to get film-making back up and running, talking to industry, studios, unions, government, public health bodies, right up to No 10. It was the biggest consultation they have ever done, according to Wootton. The end result was a 53-page document of guidelines for working safely during Covid-19, published in June but continually updated since. It has served to kickstart the recovery process. “Pretty much from the minute the guidance was published, people started rehiring their teams, and started going back into active preproduction,” Wootton says.

That recovery is proceeding apace. At the beginning of July, Tom Cruise arrived in the UK to resume filming on Mission: Impossible 7 and 8 at Hertfordshire’s Leavesden studios (filming in Italy was halted in February). Cruise was one of a number of actors to be granted exemption after standard quarantine rules were relaxed to allow Hollywood crews to work in the UK under socially distanced conditions. Across the Pinewood lot from Last Night in Soho, Jurassic World: Dominion is back on set, having shut down in March. Other titles such as The Batman, Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 3 are preparing to start up again. Netflix expects its UK series such as The Witcher and Sex Education to be filming by the end of September. Bollywood is also returning to the UK: Akshay Kumar’s Bell Bottom is due to shoot in Scotland in August.

Film-making under Covid-19 will be more expensive. Working to the guidelines is adding between 15% and 25% to gross budgets, estimates Sarah-Jane Wright, on top of money lost by shutting down. At the time of lockdown, Working Title had four films scheduled to begin shooting this summer. Universal has spent a reported £5m on safety protocols for Jurassic World at Pinewood. The US studios have deeper financial resources and resilience, but for smaller domestic TV and independent film productions the costs have been prohibitive. Insurance has been a particular barrier to restarting, although that problem was finally resolved this week with a new £500m government-backed support scheme.

Film-making is also expected to be slower under the guidelines, although Wright and Clark report no major schedule delays. “At the moment, we are shooting about 18 setups a day, which is what I aim for in a high-end drama,” says Clark, “so we are not dropping anything.” Much of that is down to the military-level planning required in the preproduction phase. Another factor could be the reduced number of interruptions, now that nonessential personnel cannot casually drop by to “see what’s going on” or surreptitiously gawp at Tom Cruise.

Long-term lessons could yet come out of this situation. As with many sectors, the film industry seems to have realised how much more people could be working remotely. There are also, suggests Wootton, lessons about sustainability – never one of the industry’s strong points. “Big productions such as James Bond move around the world, and you can’t see that changing, but there might be more: ‘Do we really need to go to that country? Do we really need to send hundreds people on a jet there for several weeks?’”

As for the creative impact, the new working conditions make certain scenarios more difficult. Crowd scenes, for example, or street scenes requiring lots of extras, all of whom must be tested, monitored and socially distanced. But there are always workarounds. This week’s shooting on Last Night in Soho was originally supposed to have taken place in the real Soho in central London; instead they have had to recreate the streetscape on a soundstage with visual effects filling in the gaps. Clark has not had to make changes to War of the Worlds’ scripts, he says, but he, too, has had difficulties finding locations, since so many places are shut down or high-risk, which has necessitated building more indoor sets.

One small but significant difference, Clark observes, is how protective equipment and social distancing affect human interaction: “It puts a slight wall between you that wasn’t there before. It’s surmountable, but you feel it. There’s a kind of intimacy in terms of directing, and particularly with the cast. We shot a very emotional scene this morning and it was quite upsetting for the actor, and it was hard maintaining a distance from them. Usually, there would probably be a touch on the arm, a physical reassurance. Actors make themselves very vulnerable, and they need the support and reassurance of directors to help them go there, and know that it’s safe. That reassurance is slightly harder to provide if you’re a metre-plus away from them with a mask on.”

Nobody wants this “new normal” to last, but film crews are well accustomed to coping with adverse and unpredictable conditions, points out Sarah-Jane Wright. “If any industry was going to adapt to this, the film and TV industry is built to just take this on board and run with it. If this is our normal for the next year, I feel we can achieve it. When I visited the set, there was a real sense that everyone was really, really happy to be back at work … although it’s hard, because you can’t see people smiling through a mask.” Clark agrees: “Being in a mask 10 hours a day is not fun, but these are not exactly terrible problems. We’re all bloody grateful to be working, to be honest.”
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Socio-economic impact by the COVID-19 pandemic (films) + 40 other industries
« Reply #16789 on: August 04, 2020, 10:01:56 AM »
This article lists films which have had their theatrical releases cancelled, resulting in an alternative method of release, as well as films with delayed releases due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The article also lists productions which have been directly affected by the pandemic, resulting in their suspension or delay.

1   Theatrical releases
1.1   Simultaneous theatrical and VOD releases
1.2   Delayed
1.3   Cancelled
2   Productions
2.1   Suspended
2.2   Delayed
3   Notes
4   See also
5   External links
6   References

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Coronavirus: New 90-minute tests for Covid-19 and flu 'hugely beneficial'
« Reply #16790 on: August 04, 2020, 10:08:47 AM »

Thousands of DNA test machines will be rolled out in hospitals from September

New 90-minute tests that can detect coronavirus and flu will be rolled out in hospitals and care homes from next week.

The "on-the-spot" swab and DNA tests will help distinguish between Covid-19 and other seasonal illnesses, the government said.

The health secretary said this would be "hugely beneficial" over the winter.

Currently, a third of tests take longer than 24 hours to process.

The announcement comes as the government pushed back a July target to regularly test all care home staff and residents - a key move to identify so-called silent spreaders, those who are infected but do not show symptoms.

This is unlikely to be achieved until September because the number of testing kits has become more limited.

The government said almost half a million of the new rapid swab tests, called LamPORE, will be available from next week in adult care settings and laboratories, with millions more due to be rolled out later in the year.

Additionally, thousands of DNA test machines, which have already been used in eight London hospitals and can analyse nose swabs, will be available across NHS hospitals from September.

Around 5,000 machines, supplied by DnaNudge, will provide 5.8 million tests in the coming months, the Department for Health said.

There is currently no publicly available data on the accuracy of the new tests.

But Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, who has been advising the government on tests, said they produced the same "sensitivity" as the current lab-based tests.

The breakthrough on testing is important for a number of reasons - not just because one has the ability to test for flu and other viruses too.

Firstly, speed. The fact the tests do not have to be sent off to a lab means the processing times are much quicker.

In hospital, most tests - 9 in 10 - are currently turned around in 24 hours.

But those done in the community via regional drive-through centres, using postal kits and mobile units, tend to take longer because they have to be sent away to labs for processing.

Results are only returned in 24 hours in half of cases.

The two tests will also help to increase capacity.

Currently around 300,000 tests a day can be processed, but the aim is to get to 500,000.

But this is all dependent on delivery. The DNA test will not be rolled out until September, while the LamPORE test is ready to go now but is still waiting for approval from regulators - which the government is expecting by the end of the week.

The government has also not published full details on the accuracy of the tests.

The testing system is complex and is reliant on many different factors, including multiple supply chains and having the workforce to carry them out.

If just one thing goes wrong - as the roll-out of the whole care home testing system shows - delivery can fall short of ambition.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock described these latest innovations as a "big step forward" and said the government was on target to reach 500,000 tests a day by the end of October.

He said the new technologies could be used in settings such as schools and across the community where "we want to test people who don't have symptoms so we can find out where the virus is".

Mr Hancock added: "The fact these tests can detect flu as well as Covid-19 will be hugely beneficial as we head into winter, so patients can follow the right advice to protect themselves and others."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland would receive a share of the new tests - but its own clinical advisers would look carefully at their accuracy and efficacy before they are made available.

Dame Anne Johnson, professor of infectious disease and epidemiology at University College London, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the new tests were "great news" but part of a wider system which needed to act rapidly overall. Rapid diagnosis was useful, but the most important thing was for people to self isolate if they felt ill, she said.

Sir Paul Nurse, director of the Francis Crick Institute and a member of Scientists for Labour, said the government needed to "treat the public as adults" in Covid-19 communications.

"We need openness, transparency, scrutiny, and a leadership of people taking responsibility for the decision-making," he said.

The testing news comes as:

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she won't hesitate to reintroduce lockdown restrictions if Covid-19 starts to get "out of control"
Owners of restaurants, pubs and hairdressers in Leicester - the first UK city to have a localised lockdown - have spoken of their "relief" at being able to open for the first time since March
A government scheme to encourage people to visit restaurants, cafes and pubs, across the UK has now launched - giving customers of 72,000 establishments 50% off meals bought from Monday to Wednesday in August
Groups of up to 30 people can now meet in Wales and pubs, cafes and restaurants can serve people inside as the lockdown rules were further eased on Monday
There might never be a silver bullet treatment for coronavirus, according to the director general of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Coronavirus tests are currently carried out at drive-through or walk-in sites as well as at hospitals for patients and some NHS workers.

Home testing kits can also be delivered to someone's door so that people can test themselves. Swab samples are analysed at a laboratory before the result is passed on to the individual.

Unlike other seasonal illnesses, those infected with Covid-19 are required to self-isolate for 10 days.

Regular testing of care home residents and staff was meant to have started on 6 July but officials said this might not be in place until the end of the first week of September.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "A combination of factors have meant that a more limited number of testing kits, predominantly used in care homes, are currently available for asymptomatic re-testing and we are working round the clock with providers to restore capacity."

Last month, the government withdrew one brand of home-testing kits used in care homes over safety concerns.

A further nine coronavirus deaths were reported on Monday, taking the total number of people who have died with the virus in the UK to 46,210. The latest government figures also showed there were 938 new confirmed cases.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Massive Explosion Rocks Beirut, Damaging Buildings And Shattering Windows
« Reply #16791 on: August 04, 2020, 10:21:31 AM »

Firefighters extinguish flames at nearby damaged buildings following a large explosion at the Port of Beirut in Lebanon Tuesday. The massive explosion rocked the capital and its suburbs, sending a huge mushroom cloud into the skyline.

A huge explosion rocked Beirut Tuesday, shattering windows and damaging buildings across a wide swath of the city. The blast sent a huge mushroom cloud into the sky, seemingly emanating from a spot where a fire had been burning.

The dramatic explosion was caught on numerous eyewitness videos, as people had been filming the fire that was burning at an industrial port in Lebanon's capital.

The extent of the casualties caused by the blast wasn't immediately clear. The Lebanese Red Cross says it is receiving "thousands of calls" on its emergency line, and implored people to use the line "only for critical and severe cases."

Early reports suggest the explosion came from a large fireworks warehouse. Some of the video recordings show what looked to be flashes of smaller explosions before the large blast.

"Residents in the city's upmarket Christian majority neighborhood, Gemmayzeh told NPR almost every building looked damaged by the explosion," NPR's Ruth Sherlock reports.

Photos from the aftermath show emergency crews tending to people with a range of injuries, including many who were cut by flying glass.

Lebanon's state news agency NNA say the explosion followed a fire at the Beirut Port. It adds that the explosions "reverberated in the capital and the suburbs, and left behind great damages to the surrounding buildings and a considerable number of wounded."

Evacuations are underway in the area, the agency added.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Audi drops 'insensitive' girl with banana ad
« Reply #16792 on: August 04, 2020, 10:30:03 AM »

German carmaker Audi has apologised for an advert showing a little girl eating a banana in front of a high-performance car, after it drew a torrent of criticism on social media.

"We hear you and let's get this straight: We care for children," Audi tweeted in its apology.

"We sincerely apologize for this insensitive image and ensure that it will not be used in future."

Critics said the child's pose was "provocative" and life-threatening.

Some pointed out that the driver would not be able to see the child in that pose, leaning on the grille.

Others said the image was sexually suggestive, as bananas and sports cars have often been seen as symbols of male lust.

Audi's slogan in English above the image reads: "Lets your heart beat faster - in every aspect."

The firm says it is now investigating how the ad came to be published.

In May the German car giant Volkswagen, owner of Audi, became embroiled in a similar social media row. Its ad showed a dark-skinned man being manoeuvred around by a pair of white women's hands, before being flicked away from a yellow VW Golf to a jaunty soundtrack.

The full ad for the Audi RS 4 on the firm's website shows it being marketed as a family car - and that was apparently the context for the controversial Twitter ad featuring the little girl eating a banana.

Jane Bradford tweeted under the Audi apology: "So, let your heart beat faster in every aspect? Picture of - child with banana in mouth and flash car- so wrong in EVERY aspect".

Shiri@home tweeted: "Little girl with phallic symbol in her hand. Clear, super..."

And DjBeeTee tweeted: "Let's add it up: Red=eroticism, sports car=substitute for potency, animal print mini-skirt=sex appeal, banana=phallic symbol. But sure this is all just accidental..."

However, Mark Kreuzer, an engineer and blogger, tweeted: "Hmm, well for me the message is: Audi RS4 = family car. Just as your own daughter makes your heart beat faster, so does the RS4. And both are of course cool."


We hear you and let’s get this straight: We care for children. The Audi RS 4 is a family car with more than thirty driver assistance systems including an emergency break system. That’s why we showcased it with various family members for the campaign. (1/3)
6:04 AM · Aug 3, 2020·Twitter Web App
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US Doing "Very Well" Against Covid, India Has "Tremendous Problem": Donald Trump
« Reply #16793 on: August 04, 2020, 10:32:33 AM »
"I think we're doing very well. I think that we have done as well as any nation. If you really look, if you take a look at what's going on, especially now with all these flare ups and nations that they were talking about," President Trump told reporters at a news conference on Monday.

Washington: US President Donald Trump has said that as compared to big countries, America is doing "very well" in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, while India is having a "tremendous problem" battling the disease and China is witnessing a "massive flare up" in infections.
India's COVID-19 tally increased to 18,55,745 on Tuesday with 52,050 people testing positive for coronavirus infection in a day.

China today reported 36 new cases across the country, down from 43 the previous day. The country's COVID-19 cases crossed the 100-mark on July 29, for the first time in over three months, sparking the fear of a rebound.

"I think we're doing very well. I think that we have done as well as any nation. If you really look, if you take a look at what's going on, especially now with all these flare ups and nations that they were talking about," President Trump told reporters at a news conference on Monday.

As such, compared to larger countries, the US is doing much better in the fight against the coronavirus, he said.

"Don't forget, we're much bigger than - other than India and China. China is having a massive flare up right now. India has a tremendous problem. Other countries have problems," he said in response to a question.

"And I noticed that in the news, in the evening news, I never read about that. In any news, I don't read about the other countries. You're starting to see that other countries are having very big flare ups, countries that thought they were over it, like we thought we might be over in Florida, and then all of a sudden it comes back. They do come back," he said.

The US is the worst-hit country from the pandemic with over 4.7 million cases and more than 155,000 deaths.

The US, Donald Trump said, has tested over 60 million people for coronavirus.

"No other country is even close to that. We've tested 60 million people - in many cases about 50 percent, now rapid fire, meaning five to 15 to 20-minute tests where you get the results almost immediately. Nobody has anything like that. Nobody. And I think we're just doing very well," he said.

Donald Trump said that the US is beginning to see evidence of significant progress. Nationwide, the number of positive cases has declined by nearly six percent from the week before, and the positive test rate has also dropped from 8.7 per cent to 8 per cent over that same period of time.

"Hotspots across the South and West; we have seen slow improvements from their recent weekly peaks," he said, adding that Arizona's weekly case counts have dropped 37 per cent that is a tremendous drop and the governor and the state have done a fantastic job down 37 per cent, Texas down 18.7 per cent, and Florida 21.2 per cent drop.

"As we begin to contain the virus in these states, we must focus on new flare ups in the states where the case numbers have risen, including Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Missouri, and I think you will find that they are soon going to be very much under control," he said.

Meanwhile, 18 states continue to have very low case numbers and low test positivity rates under five per cent, including New Jersey, New York, Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland and Massachusetts.

Even in these states, however, where the virus is under control and at a very low number, Americans should continue to be vigilant, be careful in order to prevent the new hotspots from opening up, he said.

"To that end, I urge all Americans to continue to socially distance, wash your hands, wear a mask when you cannot avoid crowded places and to protect the elderly very, very important, protect the elderly. It is much different....," Donald Trump said.

It is important for all Americans to recognise that a permanent lockdown is not a viable path towards producing the results that one wants or certainly not a viable path forward and would ultimately inflict more harm than it would prevent, he said.

"As we are seeing in foreign countries around the world where cases are once again surging, you have many places where we thought they were under control doing a great job, and they are doing a great job, but this is a very tough invisible enemy. Lockdowns do not prevent infection in the future. They just don''t. It comes back many times...," he said.

The purpose of a lockdown is to buy time to build capacity in hospitals, learn more about the disease and develop effective treatments, he asserted.

"We are doing very well with the vaccines and the therapeutic. Countries, where there have been very significant flare ups over the last short period of time, are Spain, Germany, France, Australia, Japan, and also, as you probably heard in Hong Kong, they have had some very serious flare ups. Japan has gone a lot of--six-fold, six-fold flareup, that''s a lot, but they will get it under control," he said.

"In our current phase, we must focus on protecting those at highest risk while allowing younger and healthier Americans to resume work and school with careful precautions. Ideally, we want to open those schools. We want to open them."

"At the same time, we are placing an emphasis on continuing to drive down the mortality rate with improved care, treatment, and medical interventions building a bridge to the introduction of a vaccine. The vaccines are coming along incredibly well," Donald Trump said.
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Donald Trump dumped $400 million into his clubs in Aberdeen and Turnberry. Now, lawmakers in Edinburgh want to investigate him for money laundering.

In 2006, Donald Trump purchased a 1,400-acre swath of the old Menie Estate in Aberdeenshire, a rambling property situated on Scotland’s rugged and remote northeastern coast. Trump pledged to develop a world-class golf resort replete with luxury villas there, and he vowed to revitalize the region with more than a billion dollars of investment. Though not an obvious location for a glitzy development—the area is mostly known for its offshore oil industry, and it rains more than a third of the year—Aberdeenshire was to be the beachhead of the mogul’s ambitious plan to insert his family name among the storied golf courses of Scotland, the birthplace of the sport, and attain for his brand the kind of old-world prestige that had eluded Trump in the United States.

The development seemed particularly important to Trump, whose mother hailed from the Isle of Lewis, a far-flung island in the Outer Hebrides. And it was unlike anything he had undertaken before. He often licenses his name to projects financed by others. And the self-proclaimed “king of debt” typically takes out large loans to finance the ventures he does bankroll. In this case, Trump’s company proceeded with the development on its own. And it says it paid for everything in cash.

Such was also the case for Turnberry, the historic golf resort, an hour south of Glasgow, that Trump purchased in 2014 for $60 million. His large expenditures in Scotland were notable because they came during a rocky financial stretch for Trump. The year before purchasing the Aberdeenshire estate, he was ousted as CEO of his thrice-bankrupted casino business; in 2008, he defaulted on a large Deutsche Bank loan tied to a development in Chicago.

Like other Trump wagers, his Scottish gamble has so far not worked out. Both resorts are bleeding millions annually. Meanwhile, he and his company have spent years viciously skirmishing with various locals and government agencies that resisted Trump’s plans to build luxury housing on the fringes of the resorts, which the Trump Organization seems to view as vital to profitability.

If business was lackluster before, it’s dismal now that the coronavirus pandemic has all but halted the Scottish golf season, at least as far as international travelers are concerned. To make matters worse, as Trump’s hospitality empire grapples with the fallout of COVID-19, it also faces a series of maturing debts, loans amounting to nearly a half-billion dollars, which need to be paid down or refinanced over the next four years.

Recently, a new—and perhaps bigger—threat to Trump has emerged in Scotland. Scottish lawmakers are pushing to peer into Trump’s finances using an anti-money-­laundering statute typically employed against kleptocrats, oligarchs, and crime kingpins. Their question: Where did the hundreds of millions Trump poured into his Scottish courses actually come from?

Early promotional materials for Aberdeenshire carried what purported to be the Trump clan’s baronial crest—three lions under an armored fist brandishing a spear and surrounded by a flourish of red and white feathers.

It was, no surprise, a fake. Trump had cribbed the coat of arms from Joseph Edward Davies, whose wife had built Mar-a-Lago and who had legitimately been granted the crest in the 1930s. He had made only one minor change, erasing the Davies family motto of “integritas” (integrity) and replacing it with “Trump.” He had used the doctored crest for years to peddle all sorts of products—from ties to beach towels—and it was plastered across his US properties.

But that didn’t fly in Scotland.

For centuries the country has had an office devoted to making sure people do not claim someone else’s family name. And after it determined Trump was indeed displaying a stolen coat of arms, he was barred from using it. The episode foretold Trump’s subsequent misadventures in Scotland, a country particularly resistant to his brand of flimflam.

In Aberdeenshire, Trump initially won over locals with his plans for a sprawling upscale golf community containing multiple courses ringed by tastefully designed homes. He vowed to bring 6,000 jobs to the area. But fierce opposition formed when Trump revealed his plans to build the first course atop environmentally sensitive sand dunes. In late 2007, local planners rejected Trump’s proposal, but after Scotland’s then–First Minister Alex Salmond met with Trump, the Scottish government stepped in to overrule the local authorities. Construction proceeded. But when Salmond refused to block a planned offshore wind farm in view of Trump’s course, Trump went ballistic. He wrote Salmond a series of bizarre letters in which he insisted that if Salmond allowed the wind farm, he would destroy any chance of Scottish independence, and “your economy will become a third world wasteland that global investors will avoid.”

At a hearing in 2012, a member of the Scottish Parliament asked Trump, who appeared in person, for evidence that the turbines would damage Scottish tourism.

“Well, first of all, I am the evidence. I’m more of an expert than the people you’d like me to hire…I am considered a world-class expert in tourism,” Trump declared without missing a beat, as the room broke out in laughter and audience members rolled their eyes.

Trump eventually sued the Scottish government but lost so resoundingly that in 2019 he was ordered to pay its legal fees. The wind farm had been completed the previous year.

Meanwhile, Trump became embroiled in petty disputes with his neighbors in Aberdeenshire. At first, these were the type of NIMBY contretemps that are to be expected when a large development is proposed in a small community. But with Trump, whose business credo is “get even with people,” things quickly escalated.

The Menie Estate had been sold off in parcels over the years, requiring him to purchase it piece by piece. But a group of homeowners whose properties formed small enclaves amid the larger estate defied Trump’s entreaties to sell.

David Milne was one of them. In 1992, he purchased a decommissioned coast guard watch station on the property. It was government-owned, Milne says, and “dead cheap.”

“It was an empty, cold industrial building,” Milne recalls, describing how he wandered through the structure, eventu­ally making his way to a tower with a panoramic view of the North Sea. “I came upstairs and got into what is now my office and looked out at the view and it was just a case of, ‘Wow! Yes, I’m having this!’ And the deal was done. I put down my roots and never moved. There’s literally my blood, sweat, and tears in this building in various walls. Heartaches, heartbreaks, success, pain, and triumph. I’m proud of this building, proud of this house.”

Perched on a hillock overlooking what would become the 18th hole, Milne’s home stood dead in the center of Trump’s vision of a pristine golf course for elite jet-setters. “I want to get rid of that house,” Trump declared during a visit to his course in 2010, adding, “We’re trying to build the greatest course in the world. This house is ugly.”

Milne and his wife rejected Trump’s purchase offer, which Milne describes as laughably low. Trump raised his price slightly and attempted to sweeten the deal by offering Milne, who rarely golfs, a lifetime membership at the club and access to its spa. After the Milnes rebuffed that offer, Trump’s lawyer asked local authorities to take their home—and those of others who refused to sell—by compulsory purchase (the UK version of eminent domain). Milne and several other neighbors fought off the attempt. He contends Trump then tried to harass them out of their properties.

“You don’t have to sniff the air very long to see there’s something that smells,” says Scottish Parliament member Patrick Harvie.
Construction work severed Milne’s water and phone lines. Milne says the Trump Organization also encircled his property with trees to block his view, attempted to construct a giant berm hemming him in, and threatened to knock down his garage for allegedly being built over the property line (it wasn’t). Ultimately, Trump’s company erected a fence around the Milnes’ property—then billed the couple for the work.

Milne tossed the bill and has delighted in telling the story ever since—especially since Trump made his famous campaign pledge in 2016 to “build a great, great wall on our southern border” and make Mexico pay for it. The Milnes now fly a Mexican flag (next to the Saltire, the Scottish flag) outside their home, within view of the Trump clubhouse.

Trump’s heated squabbles with Milne and other neighbors had a sideshow quality—bizarre, ham-handed, and often self-defeating—but there was something stranger still about the amounts of cash he has dumped into Aberdeenshire and Turnberry.

He spent nearly $13 million purchasing the land for the Aberdeenshire course, and as much as $50 million developing the property. All, apparently, in cash. According to Trump, after purchasing Turnberry in 2014 for $60 million from a holding company owned by the government of Dubai, he dished out as much as $200 million rehabbing the venerable property.

Neither has ever turned a profit. Turnberry, considered one of the top Scottish courses, has seen its golf business decline. When it opened in 2012, Aberdeenshire was touted as a technically interesting and highly challenging course, but it has struggled to attract crowds. Milne says that over the last few years he’s found it so sleepy it rarely bothers him.

“To be quite honest, it’s not a major issue to me,” he says. “The car park is very rarely more than half full.”

The size of Trump’s wealth is a source of great debate, but two things are fairly well known—the period between 2006 and 2014 included some of his lowest points, financially speaking, and even in the best of times, the amount he splurged in Scotland would be a ton of cash for him to have on hand, let alone spend so freely. And Trump made these Scottish investments amid a $400 million cash spending spree, documented by the Washington Post, in which he also purchased a golf club in Ireland, five courses in the United States, and several pricy homes.

The New Yorker estimated that Trump would have spent half his available cash on the purchase of Turnberry alone, concluding there wasn’t “enough money coming into Trump’s known business to cover the massive outlay he spent” renovating the property.

And the mystery deepens. Martyn McLaughlin, a Glasgow-based reporter for the Scotsman newspaper, discovered that in 2008 Trump approached a Scottish bank asking for a $63 million loan to buy and renovate a historic hotel in Edinburgh overlooking the final hole of St. Andrews, the most famous golf course in the world. The terms he proposed were so ludicrously favorable to him that bank executives concluded Trump was asking for a “free loan,” and doing business with the developer was “too risky.” Meanwhile, Trump was touting his “very strong” cash position and his representatives were telling the Scottish public that he had more than $1 billion available to spend in their country. (The Trump Organization did not respond to questions from Mother Jones.)

This February, a group of Scottish Parliament members began making the case that Scotland should use an investigative tool under UK law called an Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) to scrutinize Trump’s transactions. It can’t be wielded against just anyone; it’s designed to make inquiries into the finances of “politically exposed persons” suspected of money laundering. It has been invoked several times in London; for example, examining how the wife of a jailed ex–Azerbaijani government official had managed to afford a 16 million-pound shopping spree at Harrods.

Patrick Harvie, a Scottish Parliament member and co-leader of Scotland’s Green Party, has led the campaign for a UWO against Trump. “This is not someone who inspires confidence in sound finances and sound business,” he says. “The fact that there are many allegations floating around that the US authorities have investigated, whether it’s in relation to Russia or his political dealings domestically—you don’t have to sniff the air very long to see there’s something that smells.”

Harvie cited a report by Avaaz, a global nonprofit activist group, that has been key to the campaign. It highlights Trump’s assoc­iation with people scrutinized by US law enforcement for illicit financial transactions, including Paul Manafort, his campaign chair who was convicted of tax and bank fraud, and Michael Cohen, who was sent to prison for campaign finance crimes committed on Trump’s behalf.

“Without more information from Mr. Trump, there is reasonable doubt that his income during the time of Turnberry’s purchase and renovation would have been sufficient to cover all of these expenditures,” the report concludes.

McLaughlin puts it in simpler terms. “The abiding mystery is why Mr. Trump and his companies seem to relish in spending exorbitant amounts of money and losing exorbitant amounts of money here,” he says. “Given all the difficulties the Trump Organization has had, why is it so determined to throw more money at it?”

One theory is that Trump hoped to own a course that hosts a “major”—one of the top-tier professional golf tournaments each year. Turnberry used to regularly host the British Open, but it hasn’t since Trump took over. “He desperately wants a major. That was the big idea,” says sports writer Rick Reilly, who has golfed with Trump and in 2019 published the book Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump.

Indeed, the New York Times reported this summer that in 2018 Woody Johnson, a Trump donor who was appointed as US ambassador to the United Kingdom, told several colleagues that the president had asked him to make inquiries with the British government about steering the British Open to Turnberry. According to the Times, Johnson did raise the question with the Scottish secretary of state, against the advice of career diplomats; nothing came of it.

Reilly says Trump ruined any chance of getting the British Open with his racist and sexist conduct. “Of all the people in the world that aren’t going to put up with a fool, it’s the Scots,” he says. “They’re just such a no-nonsense people and they see him for what he is: He’s a big blowhard con man who is trying to tell them what they know isn’t true.”

Trump’s alleged entreaty to his UK ambassador is not the first time his administration has been accused of taking action to boost Turnberry’s lackluster business. Last year, Politico reported that Air Force flight crews stopping for overnight layovers in Scotland were being sent to Turnberry’s hotel—a luxury establishment close to an hour away from the airport—even though cheaper lodging was available nearby. The Air Force, which spent nearly $184,000 at Turnberry, denied any wrongdoing.

“Buying a place there would be like flying to Italy to go to an Olive Garden. Who would do that?”
If Trump’s Scottish ventures seemed ill-fated before, things are about to get much worse. In 2018, the most recent year for which numbers are available, both courses lost more than $15 million combined. And that was a good year. A golf industry expert familiar with Trump’s operations says he expects that 2020 revenues at Turnberry and Aberdeenshire will be down 80 to 90 percent from 2018.

Gordon Dalgleish, president of PerryGolf, which organizes golf tours for well-heeled clients in the British Isles, says the pandemic has brought Irish and Scottish golf tourism to a standstill. At many of the iconic Scottish courses, including Trump’s, “well north of 50 percent” of the patrons are wealthy Americans. “If you sat in the lobby at Turnberry, you’d hear a lot of American accents,” he says.

Not this year. In May, Scottish authorities allowed golf clubs to reopen, but under strict guidelines: Clubhouses were shuttered, caddies can work for golfers from just two households a day, and players are barred from congregating on the course before, during, or after play. But the far bigger impediment is that, as of July, the United Kingdom required international travelers to quarantine for two weeks. “It’s pretty hard to sell a one-week trip until there’s no quarantine,” Dalgleish notes.

Last fall, local authorities rejected Trump’s initial proposal to build a golf community at Turnberry, but in July, McLaughlin revealed that the Trump Organization had quietly drawn up plans for an even more ambitious expansion—one that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Meanwhile, Aberdeenshire officials have finally approved Trump’s plan to begin building a second course along with luxury homes and “five-star hotel cottages.” The cost, according to Trump, is almost $200 million.

Dubbed the Trump Estate, promotional materials show rows of quaint dwellings crowded along elaborately landscaped lanes. Homes range in price from about $370,000 for a two-bedroom cottage to $1.6 million for a five-bedroom mansion.

But with revenues so low, the money needed to complete the project—let alone a major development at Turnberry—may be hard for the Trumps to come by. McLaughlin also says he doesn’t understand how luxury homes in an out-of-the-way region of Scotland, known for blustery North Sea winds and offshore oil, make sense.

“Quite how they’ll have a viable business scheme out of that, I’m not sure,” he says. “Who pays hundreds of thousands of pounds for a family villa in the northeast of Scotland that’s got the corrosive brand of Trump attached to it?”

Reilly agrees. “Buying a place there would be like flying to Italy to go to an Olive Garden,” he says. “It’s insane. Who would do that?”

McLaughlin says that at an open house for prospective buyers last winter, the interested parties seemed mostly foreign. “Which raises the question, Who is investing? Who is giving money to the president’s company? It’s the most explicit opportunity to put money into the Trump Organization in return for property.”

Of course, if Trump’s finances continue to suffer, he may have to offload the courses before he builds a single villa. “He’ll have to. It’s a matter of when,” says the golf industry expert. “He doesn’t have the cash flow.”

David Milne says he hasn’t heard from the Trumps in years. But one early evening 11 years ago, at the height of the planning battle over Aberdeenshire, Milne says he heard a knock at his door. He opened it to find Donald Trump Jr. and then–Trump Organization executive George Sorial. They had visited before, Milne says. “They quite often showed up and tried to discuss something. Usually they were told to go away. None of them have ever been over the doorstep.”

That evening, they weren’t there for a discussion; just to deliver a message—or, as Milne understood it, a threat. “Remember, whatever you say and whatever you do, we usually get what we want,” Milne recalled being told.

“Not this time,” he responded.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Stimulus Bill Expected Next Week—Here’s When Benefits Would Likely Go Out
« Reply #16795 on: August 05, 2020, 08:47:42 AM »
As negotiations over the next round of Covid-19 relief plodded along, hope emerged that a stimulus deal will be reached by the end of the week. Speaking to reporters, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that negotiators will try to reach an overall agreement by week's end so that legislation could be passed next week:

“We are pleased to report that although we still have a lot of open issues — I just want to be very clear, we’re not at the point of being close to a deal — but we did try to agree to set a timeline that we’re going to try to reach an overall agreement, if we can get one, by the end of this week, so that the legislation could be then passed next week.”

While the message was encouraging, significant issues still remain. “We’re going to work around the clock the next few days to see if we can bridge the issues. Some issues we’ve been able to agree on, some significant issues are still open,” Mnuchin said. Negotiations will resume today.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also sounded a positive note: “We agree that we want to have an agreement. And in that case, we then say, that’s our goal — lets engineer back from there as to what we have to do to get that done.”

Senator Chuck Schumer expressed a similar view. “They made some concessions, which we appreciated; we made some concessions, which they appreciated,” he said.

What will the Stimulus Package Likely Include
Signs emerged that there may be agreement on continuing the $600 unemployment benefit. Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled his willingness to agree to a $600 federal unemployment benefit. “Wherever this thing settles between the President of the United States and his team that have to sign it into law and the Democrats, a not-insignificant minority in the Senate and majority in the House, is something I'm prepared to support, even if I have some problems with certain parts of it,” McConnell said.

Mr. Mnuchin said that he and Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, proposed reviving the eviction moratorium through the end of the year. The HEALS Act, legislation introduced by Senate Republicans, doesn't include an eviction moratorium. The HEROES Act, enacted by House Democrats does include a moratorium. President Trump has signaled his support for reviving the eviction moratorium.

As for stimulus checks, there seems to be less disagreement between the parties, although the details have not been disclosed. Based on the provisions in both the HEROES Act and HEALS Act, a $1,200 ($2,400 for married couples who file a joint return) stimulus payment for eligible individuals seems likely. Mr. Mnuchin has said that the President supports this amount.

It also seems likely that the age restrictions on rebates for dependents found in the CARES Act will be removed for the second stimulus payment. This would make college student dependents, among others, eligible for the rebate.

Of course, the next round of stimulus relief requires passage in both the Senate and the House, and approval by Mr. Trump. As Mr. McConnell has noted, there are some Republicans in the Senate who balk at the idea of adding trillions of dollars to the national debt: “If you’re looking for a total consensus among Republican senators, you're not going to find it. So we do have divisions about what to do.”

When will Benefits Go Out
The big question on the minds of many is when will the government issue stimulus checks and resume federal unemployment benefits. As for the stimulus checks, the government should release them faster than the first payment sent out under the CARES Act. The first payments took about three weeks to start going out, with many recipients waiting much longer.

Mr. Mnuchin said earlier this week, however, that the second stimulus check could go out "the following week" after the stimulus relief package is signed into law: "I could have them out immediately. If I could get [the bill] passed tomorrow, I could start printing them the following week. . . . I could get out 50 million payments really quickly."

Resuming the $600 unemployment benefit, or whatever amount is ultimately agreed upon, is more complicated. Unlike the stimulus check, these benefits don't involve the Treasury simply issuing checks or direct deposits. Instead, the payments are made through state unemployment insurance systems.

According to a CNBC report, states made changes to their computer system when the $600 benefit expired. To reverse those changes and resume an enhanced unemployment benefit could still "take weeks," even for those states with modernized systems.

Here are additional resources to follow this developing story:

Second Stimulus Check: Weekend Update
Second Stimulus Check Calculator
Why You Won't See A Payroll Tax Cut In Second Stimulus Round
Second Stimulus: The Latest On Government Relief
Second Stimulus Check Proposals: How Much Could You Get With Each?
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Looming evictions may soon make 28 million homeless in U.S., expert says
« Reply #16796 on: August 05, 2020, 08:50:00 AM »
Emily Benfer began her career representing homeless families in Washington, D.C.

Her first case involved a family that had been evicted after complaining to their landlord about the holes in their roof. One of the times she met with the family, one of the children, a 4-year-old girl, asked her: “Are you really going to help us?” Benfer struggled with how to answer.

“I’d met them too late,” she said. “I couldn’t stop the eviction. They had already been sleeping on the subway, and in other people’s homes. And you could see the effects it was taking on them.”

Today, Benfer is a leading expert on evictions. She is the chair of the American Bar Association’s Task Force Committee on Eviction and co-creator of the COVID-19 Housing Policy Scorecard with the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. Throughout the public health crisis, Benfer has been investigating how states are dealing with evictions and sharing what she finds in a public database.

CNBC spoke with Benfer about the coming eviction crisis and what can be done to turn it around. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

CNBC: How does the eviction crisis brought on by the pandemic compare with the 2008 housing crisis?

EB: We have never seen this extent of eviction in such a truncated amount of time in our history. We can expect this to increase dramatically in the coming weeks and months, especially as the limited support and intervention measures that are in place start to expire. About 10 million people, over a period of years, were displaced from their homes following the foreclosure crisis in 2008. We’re looking at 20 million to 28 million people in this moment, between now and September, facing eviction.

CNBC: You study the intersection of housing and health. What will all these evictions mean for people’s health during the pandemic?

EB: Eviction negatively impacts the trajectory of an individual’s life, and it can do that in a permanent way. Studies have demonstrated that eviction causes increased mortality and causes respiratory distress, which in the Covid-19 pandemic can put people in even greater peril. It results in depression, suicides and other poor health outcomes. And the primary response to Covid-19 has been to shelter in place. If there’s an increase in homelessness [one economist estimates homelessness could rise by more than 40% this year], that could spread the virus.

CNBC: You’ve been keeping track of what states are doing to protect tenants, mostly through eviction moratoriums. How do you feel the efforts have fallen short?

EB: Some of the moratoriums are limited to different segments of the population, and in their duration. They were also not coupled with financial assistance to ensure that renters don’t accrue this backed-up debt and are stabilized enough to stay in their unit. Another issue is that in some states, landlords were allowed to go forward with a hearing on eviction, and even receive an order of eviction, and it was only forestalled at the execution stage. That means that there are a number of evictions that are just waiting for the sheriffs to execute. The moment the moratoriums lift, all of those families will be immediately put out. And right now, 29 states lack any state level moratorium against evictions.

CNBC: Because of the pandemic, a lot of these evictions are unfolding over video or phone instead of in a courtroom. What are the issues that come up here?

EB: Even prior to the pandemic, the system was very challenging for tenants to navigate and to raise their rights — 90% of tenants across the country are unrepresented. When you consider that people are now choosing between rent and food for their families, they’re also unlikely to be able to pay for minutes on their phone, or Wi-Fi, to log into a remote hearing. So appearance itself may be very challenging. And if they fail to appear, if they weren’t able to dial in or if they don’t have the right link to the Zoom, that’s considered a failure to appear, which results in a default judgment for the property owner.

CNBC: What can be done to make this eviction crisis less devastating?

EB: As an immediate measure, we need a nationwide uniform moratorium on eviction, and it has to be coupled with financial assistance to ensure that the renter can stay housed without shifting the debt burden onto the property owner. The owners that are the most likely to be affected by the eviction crisis right now are those who have small properties and don’t have the financial cushion to make ends meet over a period of months when they’re not receiving that rent. Once that’s in place, we really need to start addressing the root causes of the eviction crisis and the lack of affordable housing.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

Offline knarf

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A woman delivering food in a favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. People there are struggling even more due to the coronavirus pandemic, which is prompting a possible global food crisis.

The coronavirus pandemic has already claimed over half a million lives across the world, with case numbers continuing to rise. A new report by Oxfam now warns that the hunger crisis worsened by the pandemic could potentially kill more people each day than the infection itself.

An estimated 12,000 people per day could die from hunger linked to Covid-19 by the end of the year, Oxfam said. By comparison, data by Johns Hopkins University shows that the pandemic's deadliest day so far was April 17, when 8,890 deaths were recorded.
"The pandemic is the final straw for millions of people already struggling with the impacts of conflict, climate change, inequality and a broken food system that has impoverished millions of food producers and workers," Oxfam's Interim Executive Director Chema Vera said in a release.
Among the issues that have left many unable to put food on the table are lost income caused by unemployment or a reduction in remittance payments, the lack of social support for those who work in the informal economy, and disruptions to the supply chain and hurdles faced by producers.
Also contributing to the crisis are the travel restrictions related to lockdowns, which impact not just workers and farmers, but also the delivery of humanitarian aid.
These new challenges add themselves to long-standing issues worsening global hunger, including wars, climate change and rising inequality.
RELATED: The pandemic could cause long-term damage to how we get our food
In its briefing, Oxfam calls out food and beverage industry titans like Coca-Cola, Unilever, General Mills among others.
"Meanwhile, those at the top are continuing to make a profit: eight of the biggest food and drink companies paid out over $18 billion to shareholders since January even as the pandemic was spreading across the globe ― ten times more than the UN says is needed to stop people going hungry," the release reads.
Covid-19 exacerbating food shortages
According to Oxfam, the coronavirus pandemic "has added fuel to the fire of an already growing hunger crisis."
World Food Programme data cited by Oxfam estimates that in 2019, 821 million people were food insecure and 149 million of them suffered "crisis-level hunger or worse." Current projections say the number of people experiencing crisis-level hunger might reach 270 million in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, an increase of over 80% from the previous year.
Oxfam's briefing singles out 10 extreme hunger hotspots around the world where the pandemic is worsening already critical situations. They are: Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, the West African Sahel, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Haiti.
But the negative effects of the pandemic on food security are also felt in middle-income countries such as Brazil, India and South Africa, where "people that were just about managing have been tipped over the edge by the pandemic," according to Oxfam.
Brazil and India are now dealing with the second-largest and third-largest coronavirus outbreaks in the world, dwarfed only by that of the United States. Cases in Brazil have surpassed 1.7 million, and India has over 767,000. The United States broke the threshold of 3 million cases on Wednesday.
Food insecurity in the US and the pandemic
Hunger is rising globally, and the United States is no exception.
Over the last week, 1.3 million people filed initial claims for unemployment benefits, and according to Feeding America, an additional 17 million people in the United States could be food insecure in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. That would bring the total number of Americans struggling to put food on the table to around 54 million people, or one in six, the organization estimates.
RELATED: Grocery prices are soaring. Here's what's getting more expensive
"This is a 46% increase over the 37 million people who were food insecure prior to the COVID-19 crisis," based on data from 2018, said Emily Engelhard, a managing director at Feeding America.
Many more Americans are taking advantage of food banks across the country to get by, the organization says.
Based on preliminary data from Feeding America's latest food bank survey, 83% of the organization's food banks reported seeing an increase in the number of people served compared to this time last year, with an average increase of 50%, Engelhard explained.
The pandemic also exposed vulnerabilities in the US food supply chains. For example, Covid-19 outbreaks severely affected meat processing plants around the country, causing shortages.
"We need a more diversified supply chain system in which you have many more actors" to avoid these types of issues, Miguel Gómez, an associate professor at Cornell's School of Applied Economics, told CNN.
"There has to be a balance between having regional players and more global players. You don't want to depend on only one supply chain to feed a population, because that is risky," Gómez, an expert in supply chain sustainability, explained.
Avoiding the worst case scenario
Gómez said he was not surprised by Oxfam's grim predictions, although he is optimistic that the worst case scenario they are anticipating can be avoided.
"It is clear that our food distribution system has huge inequalities," Gómez said. "A long term concern is how can we shift emphasis from just focusing on efficiencies and maximizing profits to a more resilient, fair food production and distribution system," he added.
Gómez believes that the solutions lie in global policy actions, like investing in food assistance programs, building or strengthening food safety networks, and supporting farmers as they see their revenues reduced.
RELATED: The pandemic has America's farmers on the brink. This could help us survive
More forceful government intervention to purchase and redistribute food, and measures to keep retail prices for basic needs from rising "at least in the short term" would also be impactful, Gómez argued.
"We should not forget about the importance of public policy or government in ensuring the availability of products at fair prices," said Gómez.
Oxfam's recommendations on how to solve the crisis at hand also point to the importance of governance and leadership at the global level.
"Governments can save lives now by fully funding the UN's COVID-19 appeal, making sure aid gets to those who need it most, and cancelling the debts of developing countries to free up funding for social protection and healthcare," Oxfam's Interim Executive Director Chema Vera is quoted as saying.
"To end this hunger crisis, governments must also build fairer, more robust, and more sustainable food systems, that put the interests of food producers and workers before the profits of big food and agribusiness," Vera added.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

Offline knarf

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How the coronavirus is widening the gap between homeowners and renters
« Reply #16798 on: August 05, 2020, 08:55:32 AM »
For Realtor James Dietsche, there is only one way to describe the real estate market right now: “It’s insane.”

A 1950s style three-bedroom home he listed in late June for $200,000 in a small town outside Harrisburg, Pa., received 26 offers the initial weekend it was for sale. Many buyers were young couples seeking a starter home and retirees looking to downsize. But bids also came from Philadelphia, New York City and the Washington, D.C., area. One person was willing to pay up to $50,000 above asking. Several were offering to buy it without inspections.

While Dietsche's cellphone has been ringing with eager buyers, Tammy Steen's phone has been buzzing for a different reason. Her landlord keeps calling demanding the $700 rent she does not have. Steen, 52, was a hotel housekeeper at a Hampton Inn in Pensacola, Fla. Her temporary layoff now looks permanent. She has yet to receive unemployment aid despite applying in late March. She has applied to countless fast food, retail and maid jobs but has not been hired. She has started selling hot dogs on the side of the road to beachgoers, praying she does not become homeless.

The coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating inequities across America, especially in housing. This summer is one of the best times for home buyers and worst for many renters. Americans with money in the bank are buying bigger homes, while renters increasingly worry about eviction.

Homes sold nationwide in April, May and June at annualized rate of 15 million, according to seasonally-adjusted data released last week by the Commerce Department and National Association of Realtors. Meanwhile, 12.6 million renters say they were unable to pay rent last month, according to the latest Household Pulse survey from the U.S. Census.

Homes sales are booming, because Americans who have savings, stable jobs and good credit scores are taking advantage of the cheapest mortgage rates on record to bargain shop for larger homes. New mortgage applications just hit a level not seen since 2008. Sales of previously owned homes, like the one Dietsche listed in central Pennsylvania, surged a record-setting 20.7 percent in June. Sales of new homes jumped 13.8 percent last month, well above experts' forecasts.

"People are literally trying to get back to a house in the suburbs with a yard and a fence. Those are the houses that are blown off the market in two seconds," said Dietsche, a Realtor at House 4 U Real Estate in Dillsburg, Pa.

On the flip side, the worst downturn since the Great Depression has hit low-income workers - who are typically renters - the hardest. Sixty percent of renter households have had at least one person in the home suffer a job or pay cut versus 45 percent of homeowner households, Census survey data from July 9-14 show. Evictions are widely expected to spike soon. Stout Risius Ross, a consulting and investment banking firm, predicts nearly 12 million eviction filings by October.

"Whatever savings I had built up, it all went on rent or else I'd be living outside. My light and water are about to be cut off. I'm trying to work on keeping them on," said Steen, as she helped sell hot dogs on a road heading to the beach. "I'm just afraid to go back to Pensacola Beach, but I have to make some kind of money."

Renters are rapidly losing the few lifelines they had during the pandemic. A federal government moratorium that protected millions of renters from being evicted expired on Friday. The extra $600 a week in unemployment aid many laid off workers had been getting ended over the weekend. Congress has yet to agree on an extension, a worry as Aug. 1 rent payments loom.

"This crisis really does have the potential to exacerbate housing inequality. Really low mortgage rates are providing an extra $100 to $300 of saved monthly housing costs for people who are able to buy a home right now or millions of homeowners who have been refinancing," said Jeff Tucker, an economist at housing site Zillow. "But it's no help to renters or people who were laid off and are now locked out of the mortgage market."

The median listing price for a home for sale in the United States is now $340,000, according to Zillow data, up about 5 percent from a year ago and an indication of strong demand and few homes on the market.

Realtors, economists and home buyers say the surge in home purchases is driven by three factors: the cheapest mortgages ever, Millennials hitting their 30s and wanting to settle down and city-dwellers suddenly wanting more - and less expensive - space as the pandemic forces families to spend more time at home.

In the Harrisburg area, prices are up 10 percent, Zillow found. Dietsche, who is also a mail carrier, says he has been delivering a lot of forwarded mail for people relocating from major cities. Some are deciding to stay, figuring they can travel a day or two a week to a big city, if needed. In the Hamptons, a wealthy beach community outside New York City, prices are up 25 percent as the rich do their own version of distancing, according to a report from Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman.

"It's all about interest rates. It's really giving home buyers a lot of buying power right now," said Tendayi Kapfidze, an economist at Lending Tree.

In March, the Federal Reserve slashed interest rates to zero and started buying tons of bonds, including mortgage-backed securities. These actions helped trigger two of the biggest comebacks so far in the economy: a surge in stock prices and a surge in home-buying.

The popular 30-year fixed mortgage recently fell below 3 percent for the first time since Freddie Mac began tracking mortgage rates in 1971. That makes homes more affordable. A $340,000 home would have cost about $1,260 a month a year ago when the typical mortgage rate was 3.75 percent. Today it costs $1,140.

"America's houses - if you can find one - are on sale, literally, from unprecedentedly low mortgage rates," said Susan Wachter, a Wharton real estate professor and co-director of the Penn Institute for Urban Research at the University of Pennsylvania.

The result is mortgage applications for home purchases are up nearly 20 percent from a year ago to the highest level in over a decade, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Refinancing is even hotter, up more than 120 percent from a year ago. Homeowners have been able to refinance to save money or take equity out of their home if they need a cash lifeline, something renters cannot do.

Realtors and housing experts say they are also seeing another factor at play driving home sales: demographics. The median age of a first-time home buyer is 33 or 34 years old. Right now a bulge of Millennials are turning 30 and starting to think about home-buying seriously - if they have the savings to do it.

There is some concern that such a hot housing market echoes the 2008-09 financial crises where millions bought homes they really could not afford and lost them in a painful wave of foreclosures. But many say it is much harder to get a mortgage now, and people are having to put a lot more money down when they buy. Home builders also have not been building nearly as many homes in recent years at they did heading into 2008.

"If you do have a job right now, it's not sufficient. You need to have sufficient savings and pristine credit to get a mortgage," said Wachter

When the pandemic hit, JPMorgan Chase tightened its lending standards even further, saying it would not issue a mortgage to anyone unless they could put 20 percent down and had a credit score of at least 700. Many Americans who could have obtained a mortgage in the 1990s are now locked out, Wachter says, another blow to anyone but those already well off right now.

"People who own homes are in the best financial shape in the country. They are not the people we should worry about. Renters are the ones who need help and forbearance," said Logan Mohtashami, lead housing analyst at Housing Wire, who predicted a rapid "V-shaped" recovery for home sales.

Renters like Steen are literally worried about becoming homeless in the coming months. While she tries to remain hopeful that she will land a job soon with a maid service to clean wealthy people's homes, she knows it will be difficult to find another $700-a-month apartment if she loses her current one. Rents have not fallen nationwide, data show, and only about 2 percent of renters have received any deferment on payment, the Census found. In contrast. 4.5 percent of mortgage holders have been able to defer.

Despite applying for Florida's unemployment aid online - and sending in a paper application - she has yet to receive any money. The $1,200 check the U.S. government sent in the spring provided a lifeline, but that money is now gone. Church food banks have helped her get by.

“I don’t know which way to turn. I really don’t,” Steen said. “I’m praying, and I’m mostly just stressed. I don’t want to be out on the streets.”,worried%20about%20becoming%20homeless%20in%20the%20coming%20months.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Portland starts clearing out homeless camps again
« Reply #16799 on: August 05, 2020, 09:02:34 AM »

City contractors clear a campsite along the Peninsula Crossing Trail in North Portland.

PORTLAND, Ore. — For the first time since the coronavirus pandemic hit, the city of Portland is again clearing out homeless camps.

The number of camps has exploded over the past few months, and even though the city is now getting rid of some, many others will stay in place.

City contractors recently started clearing a campsite along the Peninsula Crossing Trail in North Portland.

Timothy Delaney said he’s been camping in spots along the trail for nine years.

“They’re making us move now due to -- they said COVID-19 restrictions,” he said.

The city confirmed that was the reason.

RELATED: Portland homeless camps cleaned up despite pandemic
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But just across Lombard, a stretch of the same trail is still dotted with tents. They will likely remain, even through the city has posted an eviction notice.

They city will allow campsites to remain as long as the campers are following the state health rules when it comes to the coronavirus. The key part of that is keeping tents at least six feet apart.

“It doesn’t make sense to me, because they could use Wapato to put them in,” said Tammie Campbell, whose father built the family home in the 1960s. It is just a block from the trail.

Campbell said it is way past time to clear all the homeless out.

“It is horrifying, especially with all the drug addicts and things,” she said. “And I’ve seen people walking down the street carrying crowbars, going after this one woman.”

Dozens of needles were collected just a block from Campbell’s home during the camp sweep.

Homeless officials said, so far, there has not been a significant number of COVID-19 cases among the homeless.

Portland said it continues to assess homeless camps in the city, encouraging people to comply with the coronavirus rules. If they don’t, the city said they will be cleared out.

And the city continues to clean up the camps to help make them safer and more sanitary.

There are more than 100 problem sites to clean up but not necessarily clear out.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)