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Links May 2020

May 13, 2020

For many people, especially in the Western world, the coronavirus pandemic has challenged familiar ways of life, has upended common assumptions, has made common routines and habits look foolish and inadequate, has forced refocusing on the truly important things in life. 

The truly important things may be:

Fresh, clean air
Clean water and healthy food
A safe, dry, and warm shelter
Love, happiness, peace of mind
Living harmoniously integrated into nature
Supporting fellow humans and other animals
Finding a mate, finding friends, finding a community
Being respected, liked, and loved by the community

This is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs slightly reformulated.

Shopping, hoarding more stuff, making more money, being wealthy and famous are not listed in this hierarchy. 

The Sars-CoV-2 pandemic will change the world, but it could go both ways. “Flattening the curve” or waiting for the infection and death rates to peak is a mirage. Reopening the economy will certainly increase the spread of Sars-CoV-2. And yet, the lockdowns cannot be prolonged indefinitely, because stocks of indispensable goods, especially food, are running low.

Some intelligent and brave people have to develop and carry out a plan to reshape our social and economic system because the old routines will not work anymore! The utopian ideal world has been described in detail thousand times:

Protecting the common good (land, air, water, natural habitats, mineral deposits), converting education, health care, utilities, all other vital services to public or community ownership, supporting co-ops, limiting wealth accumulation (to something around 800.000 US$), weakening or ending property rights, dismantling the financial system (stock exchanges, currency trade, big banks, hedge funds, equity firms) and all corporations.

This will not work without a paradigm change, this will only be possible with a fundamental change of the social climate, of ethics, morals, ideals, perceptions, practices, habits, down to our most basic daily routines.

Such a change seems impossible, unimaginable, hopeless, but the seeds of change are dormant in our hearts and the pandemic lockdowns may have incited the seeds to sprout, with growing, nagging doubt and uncertainty about our way of life and about the society we live in.

The many psychopaths among us have to be healed or at least isolated, quarantined, cordoned off, confined, neutralized in a humane way. It is unlikely that Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, Elon Musk, Donald Trump, and most of their fellow billionaires will change and accept the new rules of a cooperative, harmonious, caring society. They will fight any change and many will fight to the death.

How could such a conflict be solved peacefully?

The powerful psychopaths and sociopaths rely on help and services like everybody else. If their aids, servants, bodyguards join the new society, they can shout, have a tantrum, a fit, an outburst, it will not help, nobody will obey.

It seems to be a long way till we get to this point, but it is not impossible. Remember that there were only a few who anticipated the fundamental changes brought by the coronavirus pandemic.

Some politicians say all the right things, though they are still the exception. UK Green MP Caroline Lucas for example said, that the government should harness the lessons from the crisis to create a better society overall. Authorities should force firms to show how they will meet CO2 cuts and give people a right to locally-produced food, affordable clean energy, and access to green space.

Surely, this crisis presents also ample opportunities and tools for the ruling class to shape and perpetuate current social structures. The system in which they thrive is always “too big to fail” while oppressed people are neglected so that they can be safely cornered into hopelessness, cynicism, and complacency to the feudal order of money and violence.

There are people who prosper and flourish during an economic crisis. As smaller business owners struggle, large corporations and banks benefit from huge government subsidies, giving them more power to buy failing small businesses. Many of those big players have enormous political power to influence policies in a way that can benefit themselves. 

It is not a speculation that they appreciate having strict measures of control against the people by limiting their freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom to travel, or by installing means of surveillance, check points, and official certifications for activities that might give freedom to the people beyond the capitalist, neo-liberalist framework.

It is not a speculation that they would benefit from moving our social interactions to the digital realm, which can commodify our activities as marketable data for the advertising industry and any other social institutions including education, culture, the justice system, and politics.

Feline news:

http://hatchingcatnyc.com/2020/04/19/polio-covid-19-pets/
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/22/coronavirus-cats-pets-infected-new-york
http://hatchingcatnyc.com/2020/04/25/bull-cat-cotton-exchange/
https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2020/04/quarantine-cat-tricks.html
https://asiatimes.com/2020/04/is-pandemic-stress-affecting-your-pet/
http://hatchingcatnyc.com/2020/05/08/police-cat-jumped-off-brooklyn-bridge/

Against all odds:

Thailand authorities has found 11 nests of rare leatherback sea turtles on beaches that have been emptied of tourists by the coronavirus pandemic. This is the largest number of nests of leatherback sea turtles in two decades . No such nests had been found for the previous five years.

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/can-europe-make-it/no-alternative-sustainable-agriculture-how-community-supported-farms-show-way-food-security-uncertain-world/
https://edmontonjournal.com/life/food/community-supported-agriculture-gains-ground-as-local-products-secure-food-supply
https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/04/29/feed-sonoma-agricultural-cooperatives-will-help-save-the-world/
https://www.miamiherald.com/news/coronavirus/article242156436.html NO2 pollution drops across USA.
https://meta.eeb.org/2020/04/23/dutch-academics-viral-proposal-for-post-pandemic-prosperity/
https://news.trust.org/item/20200428190058-yx6u2/ Pakistan organizes tens of thousands unemployed workers to plant billions of trees to deal with climate change threats.
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200429-are-we-witnessing-the-death-of-the-car
https://www.localfutures.org/post-pandemic-development-a-ladakhi-perspective/
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/may/02/birdsong-has-risen-like-a-tide-of-hope-from-our-silenced-cities-is-it-here-to-stay-aoe
https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/transformation/can-mindfulness-help-us-midst-covid-19-and-beyond
https://meta.eeb.org/2020/05/05/future-farming-tree-lined-agriculture-in-portugal/ Agroforestry could be the future of agriculture, if government departments and regulatory bodies allow it.

Environmental news:

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2020/04/18/ukra-a18.html Wildfires around Chernobyl, and Kiev gets more radioactive.
https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/04/16/drought-worst-western-megadrought-here-study-says/5145929002/
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-yosemite/nature-welcomes-the-change-with-no-tourists-wildlife-roams-californias-yosemite-idUSKBN21Z2UA
http://www.defenddemocracy.press/abrupt-ecosystem-collapse
https://theintercept.com/2020/04/19/africa-plastic-waste-kenya-ethiopia
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/apr/20/plastic-products-recyclers-single-use Composite materials make recycling impossible.
https://meta.eeb.org/2020/04/23/air-pollution-returns-to-china/
https://www.ehn.org/chemical-exposure-coronavirus-2645785581.html
https://phys.org/news/2020-04-satellite-highest-emissions-oil-gas.html Trying hard to keep emission levels high (we are the unstoppable destroyers of the world).
https://www.ehn.org/epa-new-pesticide-regulations-2645813787.html
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2020/05/where-have-all-the-insects-gone-feature
https://www.ehn.org/chemical-exposure-worsening-covid-19-2645804428.html
https://meta.eeb.org/2020/04/29/airline-bailouts-are-bad-for-citizens-and-the-climate/
https://crosscut.com/2020/04/more-trouble-hanford-site-after-review-tunnel-collapse
https://e360.yale.edu/features/why-carbon-cycle-feedbacks-could-drive-temperatures-even-higher
https://dgrnewsservice.org/civilization/ecocide/planet-of-the-humans-why-technology-wont-save-us/ Must read.
https://www.businessinsider.com.au/how-climate-change-could-impact-the-future-of-infectious-diseases-2020-5
https://investigatemidwest.org/2020/05/01/epa-temporarily-suspends-monitoring-of-a-pesticide-in-water-over-covid-19-concerns/
https://insideclimatenews.org/news/04052020/hot-climate-niches-50-years-human-population
https://www.theverge.com/21252174/heat-humidity-human-survival-climate-change-science-advances
https://truthout.org/articles/deforestation-and-monoculture-farming-spread-covid-19-and-other-diseases
https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/05/12/the-war-against-the-wolves-of-alaska/

Economic news:

The World Trade Organization (WTO) estimates that global trade will shrink this year by between 13 and 32 percent. Companies and entire nations will go bankrupt as a result, and the disruptions could trigger revolts and revolutions.

For the first time since 1998, global poverty will increase. At least a half billion people could slip into destitution by the end of the year.

The ILO (International Labour Organization), a UN agency, has warned that around half of the world’s workforce, or 1.6 billion workers, are at imminent risk of losing their livelihood because of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Those hardest hit by the financial effects of the Sars-CoV-2 outbreak have been informal economy workers, including the self-employed and those on a short-term contract. “The first month of the crisis is estimated to have resulted in a drop of 60 percent in the income of informal workers globally,” the ILO said.

Wealthy countries are currently doling out trillions of dollars to cushion the consequences of the pandemic and help keep companies alive. But many of the stores and services that are now closed will never open again and many factories around the world that were producing at maximum capacity just a few weeks ago have shut down for good.

In the last years corporations all around the world were developing a dangerous addiction to debt. Interest rates were so low that borrowing money was essentially free and companies took advantage. Yet unrealistic expectations of permanent growth, the environmental crisis (climate change, ecosystem collapse, mass extinction), and now the coronavirus pandemic is leaving borrowers struggling to make their debt payments. Lenders are growing anxious, tightening credit for everyone. 

Central Banks of most industrial nations come to the rescue.

The US Federal Reserve for example has pledged to pump more than 4 trillion US$ into the financial system, slashing interest rates, relaxing banking rules, and dramatically expanding its lending. It works directly with big companies on loans and bond offerings mounting up to 750 billion US$. The US Treasury is backing the programs with 85 billion US$. 600 billion US$ from the Fed will fund low-cost four-year loans worth 1-25 million US$ for mid-sized firms, with the Treasury adding 75 billion. 500 billion US$ from the Fed and 35 billion from the Treasury are for buying new bonds issued by states, cities, and counties.

These cash injections are fiat money (also called helicopter money), not backed by any real assets. Economist have even created a new theory (Modern Money Theory or neo-chartalism), to make this policy appear logical, rational, and scientifically founded. But this policy is deceptive and unsustainable because eventually the real economy, which provides real goods or services will eventually decouple from the virtual economy of banking, stock markets, currency exchanges, and the global finance system.

The Sars-CoV-2 pandemic could be the healing shock, the trauma leading to a new design for the 21st century. But are we ready for the realization that our lives must change and that the way our economy functioned until now was beset by too many flaws? Are we prepared for the recognition that the insanity of consumerism and resource exploitation cannot continue?

Initial reactions in politics and commerce are sobering. The scapegoating, the blame game, the ugly international competition for masks and medical equipment, the lack of international coordination on aid packages — none of that has signaled the start of a new epoch. The fact that some hedge funds in London earned billions in profits from the corona-induced stock market crash is reminiscent of the worst excesses of casino capitalism.

Yet there are encouraging signals from unexpected corners:

Turkish President Erdogan: “After this Coronavirus pandemic which we are currently experiencing, it is clear that nothing will be the same in the world, and the era of those who have established a phony welfare order for themselves by exploiting other countries and their peoples is now coming to an end. It has been revealed once again that the economy is not only made up of money, stock markets, interest rates and speculative instruments; it has been revealed that the actually important thing is a self-sufficient production and a fair distribution of goods and services.”

Will these strong words be followed by equally strong action?

In the end, all measures to fix the old system or at least prolong it for a few more years will fail. A radical change is inevitable, even it will not come right now.

Will the new social, political, and economic order be more just, sustainable, peaceful? Will it improve ordinary peoples life? 

https://www.economist.com/business/2020/04/18/the-economic-crisis-will-expose-a-decades-worth-of-corporate-fraud
https://www.zerohedge.com/markets/we-are-moving-end-game-27-tankers-anchored-california-hundreds-singapore-oil-industry-shuts Oil industry collapse.
https://www.bbc.com/news/business-52390840
https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/greater-depression-covid19-headwinds-by-nouriel-roubini-2020-04 Whining about the old economy.

Media and technology news:

https://fair.org/home/cuba-under-media-attack-for-sending-doctors-not-bombs-to-help-covid-19-victims/ Anti-Cuba propaganda has to ignore proven facts or turn them on their heads. Only the most gullible and uninformed persons will take these efforts seriously.
https://fair.org/home/corporate-media-cover-for-us-mob-threats-against-venezuela/
https://consortiumnews.com/2020/04/22/new-york-times-revives-role-in-chinagate/
https://fair.org/home/economic-reporting-on-hardships-of-pandemic-should-explore-market-failures/ The pandemic has illuminated the failures of capitalist and market systems to provide for social welfare, but mainstream media doesn’t touch the subject.
http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2020/04/24/watch-ontario-doctors-warn-of-rising-health-care-costs-after-5g-roll-out-womens-college-hospital/ 5G should be declared a carcinogen.
http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2020/05/04/we-have-no-reason-to-believe-5g-is-safe/

Imperial news:

The federal government will this year to spend 4 trillion US$ more than it collects in revenue, analysts say. The reliance on so much debt will leave scars after the pandemic passes, making it difficult for policymakers to withdraw support and leaving the economy more vulnerable than before this crisis began. The government wants to borrow a record 3 trillion US$ in the second quarter. Total government debt is now 25 trillion US$.

The US borrows by selling government bonds. It has historically enjoyed relatively low interest rates since its debt is viewed as relatively low-risk by investors around the world. Foreign countries are historically significant holders of US debt, with Japan, China, and the UK at the top. Increased tensions between the USA and China in recent years have renewed scrutiny of US’s debt position. Trump administration officials had discussed cancelling debt obligations to China, but US President Donald Trump reportedly played down the idea, saying “you start playing those games and it’s tough“.

Millions of US residents were counted as employed in April despite having no job, suggesting April’s true unemployment rate was closer to 20 percent, much higher than the official 14.7 percent reported, the Labor Department said Friday. Standard Chartered has calculated that the true rate of unemployment could be as high as 27.5 percent.

26 million people have filed jobless claims over the past five weeks. Prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 7.1 million people were already unemployed in the US, meaning that roughly 33 million are now officially unemployed, or over 20 percent of the labor force. The social impact of the pandemic on the US has in some ways already dwarfed that of the 2008 financial crisis, and the unemployment rate is rapidly approaching that of the height of the Great Depression in 1933, roughly 25 percent.

The official unemployment figures, are known to be a significant underestimation of the true levels of unemployment. Approximately 11.3 million undocumented immigrants live in the US and are barred from applying for unemployment benefits.

In addition, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of workers have been unable to navigate the complicated online application process, which in some states such as Michigan is the only possible way to apply, as phone applications have halted and millions of workers whose claims have been approved have yet to receive any actual payments.

The millions of unemployed that have yet to receive benefits are facing financial ruin. A January survey by Bankrate found that only 41 percent of US-Americans had enough saved to cover a 1,000 US$ emergency.

The USA has 4.4 percent of the world’s population but it has 33 percent of all coronavirus infections and 27 percent of all deaths.

Nationally, 130 rural hospitals have shut down since 2010, and more than 450 are at risk of closing because of the pandemic. According to the Chartis Center for Rural Health, rural hospitals have lost between 50 and 80 percent of their income because outpatient services have largely been canceled in an effort to prevent hospitals from becoming transmission vectors for the disease.

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2020/04/18/detr-a18.html Instead of hiring to ease the strain caused by the pandemic, private hospitals fire hundreds of doctors, nurses, and other staff.
https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/04/21/air-pollution-report-nearly-half-all-americans-breath-unhealthy-air/2997587001/
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/10/trump-environmental-blitzkrieg-coronavirus
http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176691/ Here’s the simple truth of twenty-first-century America: all of us live in a time and in an economic system that values our lives relative to our ability to produce profits for the rich or in the context of the wealth we possess. Our wellness is measured by our efficiency and — a particular lesson in the age of the coronavirus — our sickness, when considered at all, is seen as an indication of individual limitations or moral failures, rather than as a symptom of a sick society.
https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/04/24/roaming-charges-killing-yourself-to-live/
https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2020/05/01/frie-m01.html 

Imperial conquest news:

https://popularresistance.org/18-years-after-us-coup-against-venezuela-pompeo-and-abrams-warn-another-is-coming/
https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/04/trump-yemen-coronavirus-covid-19-who-houthi.html Gut-wrenching.
https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/04/yemen-coronavirus-houthis-quarantine-war.html
https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/04/yemen-trump-coronavirus-covid-19-who-houthi-saudi.html
https://thegrayzone.com/2020/04/28/opcw-insiders-ltamenah-chemical-weapons-report/
http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176696/tomgram%3A_mandy_smithberger%2C_bailing_out_the_war_state/#more
https://www.globalresearch.ca/bay-pigs-2-0-armed-invasion-venezuela/5712009
https://www.globalresearch.ca/hybrid-war-venezuela-moves-new-stage-aggression/5712039
https://www.rt.com/op-ed/488064-us-policy-venezuela-maduro-coup
https://thegrayzone.com/2020/05/07/silvercorp-founder-grayzone-state-department-venezuela-invasion/
http://www.defenddemocracy.press/trump-linked-mercenaries-implicate-themselves-in-failed-venezuela-coup/
https://mronline.org/2020/05/09/civic-military-union-the-chavista-paradigm-that-defined-the-latest-events-in-the-war-against-venezuela
http://www.defenddemocracy.press/the-rising-danger-of-neo-ottoman-imperialism/ Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman dreams.

Uncategorized news:

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2020/04/21/why-the-west-hates-sandinista-nicaragua/
https://asiatimes.com/2020/04/lebanese-elites-flee-as-banks-come-under-attack
https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/04/lebanese-protest-economy-coronavirus-lockdown.html

News from cat land:

I would never abandon my seven feline friends, though they just slaughtered a poor toad who thought that she had found a nice place in one of the garden ponds. 

The cats fortunately avoid strangers, with one exception: Princess Min Ki, a 15 year old pretty, proud, and self assured tabby likes to greet and charm neighbors and passers by. So I told all neighbors not to touch Princess Min Ki, because she might have been infected with SARS-CoV-2.

Rosy, my 16 year old cat lady, has disappeared. She is missing since one week and I don’t have much hope to see her alive again. This is a serious blow, it hurts, and I can hardly put my feelings into words. I still remember the moment when I saw her first as a tiny kitten in a little straw basket together with her two siblings. Rosy, where are you?

This is life, it makes you lough, it makes you cry.