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For the week 7/6-7/10
[Posted 10:00 PM ET, Friday]
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Special thanks this week to Rick L. Rick and I met in 2004 at a bar in Manchester, New Hampshire, when I was doing my thing ahead of the NH Primary that year. We were waiting for Joe Lieberman to give a little campaign speech. Four years later I went back to see the Republicans and we met again and have stayed in touch on and off ever since.
When you think about where this country is today, amid the pandemic and gut-wrenching pain among large sectors of our economy like retail, restaurants, hotels and airlines, it is truly depressing.
It is depressing when you think that virtually all of us, I’m guessing, back at the end of May had the same thought. The coronavirus numbers will go down in the summer and then we’ll all wait to see what happens in the fall…to see if we get that dreaded second wave. Yet here we are, smack dab in a surge of our own making, still in the first wave, with immense pain in parts of the country that thought back in April they had escaped the worst.
It is depressing to think that there is no way you can issue a blanket statement like President Trump has on opening up the schools, when we all know it just isn’t that easy. America’s classrooms, particularly from K-12, just weren’t built for social distancing, let alone the inherent health hazards for our teachers and support staff. And at the same time it is clear so many of our school systems weren’t ready for extensive online learning and who can really blame them?
It is depressing to think of one of the great aspects of America, the college town, terrific places to live and raise a family, life centered around the school, the very idea now in serious danger as it’s clear many colleges and universities are sticking with online learning for the fall…the businesses in the town shutting down for good…vast numbers of school employees laid off.
It is depressing to think that we are staring at the likely reality of no college sports this fall, final decisions to be made in most cases very soon, the Ivy League having already made theirs. Without the revenue from football, the immediate future of college sports is very much in doubt. Especially at schools outside the power-5 conferences, say, the likes of Western Michigan and Toledo, just to throw two examples out there, it will be difficult for them to keep any kind of sports programs. In many cases their very survival will be at risk.
But what’s really depressing is that it didn’t have to be this way. We needed leadership at the top in those early months and instead we’ve been led by a shallow, pathetic, hateful man who bashes his medical experts, bashes minorities, our allies…virtually everyone who is not kissing his ring.
We are being led by a man who for all we know might actually believe that 99% of the positive cases are “totally harmless,” as President Trump said in his Fourth of July remarks to the nation. A man who doesn’t seem to understand the dangerous long-term side effects from contracting this hideous disease.
An ABC News/Ipsos poll released today revealed that one in three Americans approve of the way President Trump is handling the response to Covid-19, down from 41% in mid-June. Approval among Republicans has fallen from 90% to 78% over the same period, and to just 26% among independents, down from 40% three weeks ago.
59% of Americans also believe the U.S. is reopening the economy too quickly, more than double the number that believe it is happening at the right pace (26%).
Last Saturday night, after listening to the president’s remarks from the White House, I watched the movie “Midway” on HBO. The contrasts with today were telling. After a combination of massive failures led to the disaster at Pearl Harbor, Admiral Chester Nimitz trusted his intelligence and it led to a devastating defeat for the Japanese from which they never recovered.
Well, you can fill in the rest as to the comparison to today, the president, and his inability to listen to experts of any kind.
This weekend, Trump is supposed to pay a visit to Walter Reed Medical Center and wear a mask. It would be a small step. But maybe those in his base who still refuse to wear one themselves would follow the lead.
Our reopening story is crumbling. A presidential election that is guaranteed to be a total sh—show is just around the corner. Lord help us.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Monday that the United States’ handle on the coronavirus outbreak is “really not good”.
In an interview via Facebook Live, the nation’s top infectious disease expert said, “We are still knee-deep in the first wave of this. And I would say, this would not be considered a wave. It was a surge, or a resurgence of infections superimposed upon a baseline.”
Speaking online with the National Institutes of Health, Fauci said, “A series of circumstances associated with various states and cities trying to open up in the sense of getting back to some form of normality has led to a situation where we now have record-breaking cases….
“The European Union as an entity, it went up and then came down to baseline. Now they’re having little blips, as you might expect, as they try to reopen. We went up, never came down to baseline, and now it’s surging back up. So it’s a serious situation that we have to address immediately.”
Last week Fauci warned Congress that new coronavirus infections could increase to 100,000 a day.
President Trump attacked his own health experts’ guidance for safely reopening schools, blasting the guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday as “very tough & expensive” while “asking schools to do very impractical things.”
But CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said on Thursday the guidance would stand, and his staff would provide some new documents to clarify the recommendations.
Today, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said, “Just go back to school…it’s not that hard.”
Finally, a few Trump lies….
“Why does the Lamestream Fake News Media REFUSE to say that China Virus deaths are down 39%, and that we now have the lowest Fatality (Mortality) Rate in the World. They just can’t stand that we are doing so well for our Country!”
“BREAKING NEWS: The Mortality Rate for the China Virus in the U.S. is just about the LOWEST IN THE WORLD! Also, Deaths in the U.S. are way down, a tenfold decrease since the Pandemic height (and, our Economy is coming back strong!).”
Covid-19 Death Tolls (as of tonight)
Last WIR I wrote of how the Trump administration likes to talk about the lower mortality rate, picking out a number from over the weekend, but they ignore “Catch-up Tuesday,” which I coined weeks ago.
“As in last Sunday 285 (deaths), Monday, 346, Tuesday 764…then 676, 687, 616…Wed. thru Friday.”
Well, this week Vice President Mike Pence touted Sunday’s death toll of 251, and on Wednesday, Trace Gallagher, subbing on Fox News for Martha MacCallum, said, “373 died yesterday…that is significantly lower (than what it had been).” But he lied. Tuesday’s death toll in the U.S. was 994!
So again, this time figures Saturday through Monday…254, 251, 379…Tuesday through Friday…994, 890, 960, 849.
Today, the U.S. set a record for new cases…over 71,700.
--Sweden’s grand Covid experiment has been a failure. The nation captured international attention by conducting an unorthodox, open-air experiment with the government allowing life to carry on largely unhindered.
But not only have thousands more people died than in neighboring countries that imposed lockdowns, but Sweden’s economy has fared little better. “They literally gained nothing,” said Jacob F. Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.
“It’s a self-inflicted wound, and they have no economic gains.” The results in Sweden are relevant well beyond Scandinavia. In Britain, for example, Prime Minister Boris Johnson reopened pubs and restaurants last weekend in a bid to restore normal economic life. Implicit in the approach (and that of individual states in the U.S.) is the assumption that governments must balance saving lives against the imperative to spare jobs, with the extra health risks of rolling back social distancing potentially justified by a resulting boost to prosperity.
Sweden allowed restaurants, gyms, shops, playgrounds and most schools to remain open from day one, while Norway and Denmark locked down.
And through Thursday, Sweden had 5,500 deaths, or 545 per million people, vs. Denmark’s 609 (105/1M pop), Norway’s 251 (46/1M) and Finland’s 329 (59/1M).
In terms of the economy, Sweden’s central bank expects GDP to contract 4.5 percent this year, a sharp revision downward, with the unemployment rate jumping to 9 percent in May from 7.1 percent in March.
Yet Denmark’s economy is expected to shrink 4.1 percent in 2020, while Norway’s may contract 3.9 percent (ex-the turbulent oil and gas sector).
--Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said he is confident of swiftly recovering from Covid-19 after testing positive on Tuesday after months of playing down its severity while deaths mounted rapidly inside his country. Bolsonaro continues to tout hydroxychloroquine as a treatment.
--Israel reinstated a partial lockdown and the country’s top health adviser quit in frustration as hopes that Israel had successfully contained the spread of Covid-19 have been dashed. New infections topped 1,000 four consecutive days, ten times the figure that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had earlier maintained was manageable for the country’s underinvested health system.
Israel’s top health adviser quit, warning that government inaction and delay was leading the country to “a dangerous place.”
Early on, Israel had tamed the pandemic. Then schools, bars and restaurants reopened, tens of thousands of Israelis flocked to the beaches, and you see the result.
--There have been large protests in Serbia after the country’s president announced the return of coronavirus lockdown measures. President Aleksandar Vucic declared a curfew will be imposed for the entire weekend in Belgrade after Serbia reported the highest single-day death total of 13 amid 299 new Covid-19 cases.
Many in Serbia blame the populist strongman for lifting the previous lockdown measures just so he could cement his grip on power after parliamentary elections.
--Australia locked down its second-largest city, Melbourne, for six weeks from Wednesday night because the rate of coronavirus spread is unsustainable. Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised continuing financial support for businesses which fear they will not survive a second lockdown. You can imagine that the five million residents then stripped supermarket shelves.
Australia’s seven other states and territories will continue to relax pandemic restrictions.
--Eric Toner, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said face coverings are a vital defense to stop the spread of the virus.
“There’s going to be no summertime lull with a big wave in the fall. It’s clear that we are having a significant resurgence of cases in the summer, and they’ll get bigger. And it’ll keep going until we lock things down again.”
For those who refuse to wear a mask in the interim, Toner said they’ll eventually wise up.
“They will get over it,” he says. “It’s just a question of how many people get sick and die before they get over it.”
--Dr. Anthony Fauci said Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine will very likely be going into advanced phase three clinical trials by the end of July. Fauci continues to believe that by the end of this calendar year or the beginning of 2021 we will have a vaccine.
--Gilead Sciences Inc. said today that additional data from a late-stage study showed its antiviral remdesivir reduced the risk of death and significantly improved the conditions of severely ill Covid-19 patients. The company did add the finding requires confirmation in clinical trials.
Initial findings from the analysis of its late-stage study showed that 74.4% of remdesivir-treated patients recovered by Day 14 versus 59.0% of patients receiving standards of care, the company said. The mortality rate for patients treated with remdesivir in the analysis was 7.6% at Day 14, compared with 12.5% among patients not on remdesivir.
--A Spanish study has cast doubt on the feasibility of herd immunity as a way of tackling the pandemic.
The study of more than 60,000 people estimates that around just 5% of the Spanish population has developed antibodies, the medical journal the Lancet reported.
Herd immunity is achieved when enough people become infected with a virus to stop its spread. Around 70% to 90% of a population needs to be immune to protect the uninfected.
--The U.S. formally notified the World Health Organization it will withdraw from the UN agency over President Trump’s criticism of its ties to China, a move critics say will hamper the international fight against the pandemic and sap the U.S. of global influence.
But the exit doesn’t take effect until next July, leaving it contingent on Trump’s re-election. Joe Biden said Tuesday the U.S. would remain a member if he wins.
--The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that a New York prosecutor is entitled to potentially gain access to Donald Trump’s financial records, including tax returns, but then blocked Congress from receiving many similar documents, both decisions 7-2 rulings.
The bottom line is the documents will likely remain a secret from the public until after the election so a win for the president, even if he doesn’t think so by his post-ruling tweetstorm.
The congressional case was the one with the most political exposure, but in ruling Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance could seek a grand jury subpoena for the records, the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s arguments about him having a special status as a sitting president.
“No citizen, not even the president, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.
The court didn’t directly order the documents to be handed over, so Trump and his attorneys will fight the subpoenas at lower levels, which could take years.
Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said, “We are pleased that in the decisions issued today, the Supreme Court has temporarily blocked both Congress and New York prosecutors from obtaining the President’s financial records.
“We will now proceed to raise additional Constitutional and legal issues in the lower courts,” he wrote on Twitter.
--As coronavirus cases surge in Florida, skepticism is growing that the Republican National Convention organizers will be able to pull off the grand party President Trump promised for his renomination. It’s not like wealthy donors want to bankroll an event with so much uncertainty, and potential bad optics if large crowds result in a slew of new infections.
Organizers are considering moving the convention from the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, to one of two nearby outdoor stadiums to address concerns about the rapid spread of the virus indoors. We’re talking just six weeks away, Aug. 24-27, with Jacksonville currently requiring face coverings and a limit on indoor gatherings to 50% of capacity.
--Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley told members of the House Armed Services Committee Thursday that Confederate leaders were traitors and that he is taking a “hard look” at renaming 10 Army installations that honor them, despite President Trump’s opposition to any changes.
“The Confederacy, the American Civil War was fought, and it was an act of rebellion. It was an act of treason at the time against the Union, against the Stars and Stripes, against the U.S. Constitution, and those officers turned their back on their oath.”
The Army is now about 20 percent black, he said.
“For those young soldiers that go onto a base – a Fort Hood, a Fort Bragg or a fort wherever named after a Confederate general – they can be reminded that that general fought for the institution of slavery that may have enslaved one of their ancestors,” he said.
Milley stopped short of offering a policy prescription for how to handle the installation names. The decision was political, he said, and renaming the bases would be a political move.
--The Supreme Court on Wednesday sided with the Trump administration in its effort to allow employers who cite religious or moral objections to opt-out of providing no-cost birth control to women as required by the Affordable Care Act.
The high court said 7-2 the administration acted properly when it made the change, which lower courts had blocked.
Birth control has been a topic of contention since the law was passed. Initially, churches, synagogues and mosques were exempt from the contraceptive coverage requirement.
--Editorial / Washington Post
“It should be no surprise that President Trump has chosen to center his reelection campaign on appeals to racism and the demonization of his opponents. After all, that is what he did from the opening of his 2016 run with his invocation of Mexican immigrant ‘rapists,’ and before the 2018 congressional midterms, when he decried a supposed ‘invasion’ by ‘caravans’ packed with ‘bad hombres.’ Still, Mr. Trump plumbed new depths of depravity in two speeches he delivered over the weekend, nominally in celebration of the July 4 holiday.
“On a day when presidents typically extol the values that bring Americans together, Mr. Trump launched an unhinged attack on the movement for racial and social justice that has surged in the past month. ‘Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our Founders, deface our most sacred memorials and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities,’ he claimed – an obscene misrepresentation of the mostly peaceful marches by millions of citizens in hundreds of cities and towns. ‘Their goal is not a better America, their goal is the end of America.’….
“Even many Republicans believe that Mr. Trump is wrong in calculating that he can eke out a victory in the electoral college simply by remobilizing the white voters who carried him to victory four years ago. But whether or not it is politically wise, the president’s renewed attempt to polarize the country along racial and cultural lines is despicable….
“Mr. Trump claimed his opponents would ‘tear down the beliefs, culture and identity that have made America the most vibrant and tolerant society in the history of the Earth.’ In fact, in describing his political adversaries as traitors and in bluntly appealing to racial animus, it is this president who poses the greatest threat to American democratic values.”
--Mary Trump, a clinical psychologist and the daughter of the president’s late brother, Fred Trump Jr., paints a scathing portrait of her famous uncle in “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man,” a copy of which found its way into the hands of media members this week ahead of its July 14 publication.
Citing her doctorate in psychology and years of observing Trump, the 55-year-old writes that the president meets “all nine criteria” to be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder.
Trump also displays signs of antisocial personality disorder, a diagnosis most commonly known as “sociopathy,” according to the book.
“Donald’s pathologies are so complex and his behaviors so often inexplicable that coming up with an accurate and comprehensive diagnosis would require a full battery of psychological and neuropsychological tests that he’ll never sit for,” she writes.
The president’s disregard for others and win-at-all-costs attitude was shaped from an early age by his father, according to the book. Mary Trump describes Fred Trump Sr. as an abusive patriarch who taught his “favorite” son to behave like a “killer” and see everything through a “prism of money.”
Abiding by ethics and the law was never something the president’s father instilled in him, according to Mary Trump.
While a student at Fordham University in the Bronx, Donald Trump paid a ‘smart’ friend to take an SAT test for him because he wanted to transfer to the Wharton School of Economics at the University of Pennsylvania, but feared his standardized test scores were too low, according to the book.
“Donald, who never lacked for funds, paid his buddy well,” Mary Trump writes.
She says Trump “got what he wanted,” transferring to the Wharton School in the fall of 1966 after the brainy buddy juiced up his SAT score. Trump has called his prestigious alma matter “the best school in the world” where he learned “super genius stuff.”
The White House accused Mary Trump of making up the explosive allegations to sell books.
--Former national security adviser John Bolton, out promoting his tell-all White House memoir, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that “it would be an interesting statistic” to compare the amount of Time Trump spends working at his desk as opposed to watching “the cable news networks.”
“You could clock the amount of time he spent actually in the Oval Office, versus the amount of time he spends in the little dining room off the Oval Office with the cable news networks of one form or another.”
Bolton said even when Trump makes his way to the office, it’s not exactly a nose-to-the-grindstone scenario.
Instead he heads to the comfort of the small room where he watches his favored Fox News and talks to friends who give him advice.
“It’s a combination of television and listening to people outside the government that he trusts for one reason or another,” Bolton said.
--A week before the June 20 Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, there were 76 positive Covid cases on Monday and 96 on Tuesday in Tulsa County.
This past Monday, there were 261 on Monday, a one-day record high, and another 206 cases on Tuesday.
You can draw your own conclusions. A Trump campaign spokesman, Tim Murtaugh, said the campaign went to great lengths to ensure that those who attended the rally were protected.
“There were literally no health precautions to speak of as thousands looted, rioted and protests in the streets and the media reported that it did not lead to a rise in coronavirus cases,” Murtaugh said in a statement. “Meanwhile, the President’s rally was 18 days ago, all attendees had their temperature checked, everyone was provided a mask, and there was plenty of hand sanitizer available for all.”
Well, we all saw it. Few wore a mask.
“Corrupt Joe Biden and the Democrats don’t want to open schools in the Fall for political reasons, not for health reasons! They think it will help them in November. Wrong, the people get it!”
“The Democrats would not have BANNED travel from heavily infected China, especially so early, therefore, far more people would have died. Corrupt Joe Biden now admits this!!!”
“We have a totally corrupt previous Administration, including a President and Vice President who spied on my campaign, AND GOT CAUGHT…and nothing happens to them. This crime was taking place even before my election, everyone knows it, and yet all are frozen stiff with fear….
“….Won all against the Federal Government and the Democrats send everything to politically corrupt New York, which is falling apart with everyone leaving, to give it a second, third and fourth try. Now the Supreme Court gives a delay ruling that they would never have given…
“…for another President. This is about PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT. We catch the other side SPYING on my campaign, the biggest political crime and scandal in U.S. history, and NOTHING HAPPENS. But despite this, I have done more than any President in history in first 3 ½ years!”
“The Supreme Court sends case back to Lower Court, arguments to continue. This is all a political prosecution. I won the Mueller Witch Hunt, and others, and now I have to keep fighting in a politically corrupt New York. Not fair to this Presidency or Administration!”
“SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!”
“In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS. The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families. May cut off funding if not open!”
[Ed. The president tweeted the above Wednesday. Tuesday, Germany had 298 new Covid cases, Denmark 10, Norway 11 and Sweden 57, while the U.S. had 55,442. If you compared apples to apples based on population, the four Euro nations would have had 1,182 cases vs. 55,442. The situations aren’t in the least bit comparable.]
“Economy and Jobs are growing MUCH faster than anyone (except me) expected. Job growth is biggest in history. China Virus Mortality Rate is among the LOWEST of any country. Shaping up for a good third quarter, and a great next year! NASDAQ at new record high, 401k’s way up!!!!”
“Too many Universities and School Systems are about Radical Left Indoctrination, not Education. Therefore, I am telling the Treasury Department to re-examine their Tax-Exempt Status…
“…and/or Funding, which will be taken away if this Propaganda or Act Against Public Policy continues. Our children must be Educated, not Indoctrinated!”
“Deaths from the China Virus are down 39%, while our great testing program continues to lead the World, by FAR! Why isn’t the Fake News reporting that Deaths are way down? It is only because they are, indeed, FAKE NEWS!”
“They name teams out of STRENGTH, not weakness, but now the Washington Redskins & Cleveland Indians, two fabled sports franchises, look like they are going to be changing their names in order to be politically correct. Indians, like Elizabeth Warren, must be very angry right now!”
“THE SILENT MAJORITY IS STRONGER THAN EVER, JUST WATCH!!!”
And then there was the Bubba Wallace tweetstorm…out of nowhere and incredibly stupid.
“Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!”
Wallace wrote in reply:
“You will always have people testing you. Seeing if they can knock you off your pedestal. I encourage you to keep your head held high and walk proudly on the path you have chosen. …
“Always deal with the hate being thrown at you with LOVE! Love over hate every day. Love should come naturally as people are TAUGHT to hate. Even when it’s HATE from the POTUS.”
Earlier Monday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany cited the Jussie Smollett case during an appearance on Fox News and said Trump, in his tweet about Wallace, was trying to make a point about the importance of letting “facts come out.”
“What the president is making is a broader point that this rush to judgment on the facts before the facts are out is not acceptable,” she said.
During a White House briefing Monday, McEnany insisted Trump was not weighing in on the wisdom of NASCAR’s decision to ban the Confederate flag.
“I spoke to him this morning about this, and he said he was not making a judgment one way or the other. The intent of the tweet was to stand up for the men and women of NASCAR and the fans,” McEnany said.
Pressed on why Wallace should apologize, McEnany said: “Well, look the FBI, as I noted, concluded that this was not a hate crime, and [Trump] believes it goes a long way if Bubba came out and acknowledged that as well.”
Reporters pointed out that Wallace has done that, writing in a June 24 tweet that he was relieved “that the investigation revealed that this wasn’t what we feared it was.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, usually one of Trump’s biggest supporters, also took issue with Trump’s claim that Wallace should apologize.
“I don’t think Bubba Wallace has anything to apologize for,” Graham said on Fox News Radio. “You saw the best in NASCAR. They all rallied to Bubba’s side. I would be looking to celebrate that kind of attitude rather than being worried it’s a hoax.”
Ed Hardin / Greensboro Record:
“NASCAR has a troubled past, but it has truly begun to come to terms with it and do the right thing.
“Some people simply have no understanding of what’s right and wrong.
“The president is wrong. He’s the one who should apologize.”
One final point. On the issue of NASCAR and the “Flag decision” that Trump tweeted of, Sen. Graham, in the same Fox News interview, said, NASCAR “is trying to grow the sport. And I’ve lived in South Carolina all my life, and if you’re in business, the Confederate flag is not a good way to grow your business.”
Gen. Robert E. Lee famously did not want symbols of the Confederacy to endure. In 1869, he declined an invitation to the unveiling of granite memorials to both armies at Gettysburg.
“I think it wiser, moreover,” Lee wrote, “not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.”
Wall Street and the Economy
Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Raphael Bostic said economic activity in parts of the U.S. is showing signs of leveling off amid a resurgence in coronavirus cases.
“There are a couple of things that we are seeing and some of them are troubling and might suggest that the trajectory of this recovery is going to be a bit bumpier than it might otherwise,” Bostic said in an interview with the Financial Times published Tuesday. “We’re watching this very closely, trying to understand exactly what’s happening.”
With some states forced to reimpose restrictions, recovery is threatened. Bostic suggested that more economic support for small businesses may be needed, saying that “the longer this goes without them getting relief, the more likely that they’re not going to be able to survive, and so all the jobs associated with that will move from the temporary column into permanent column and that will be extremely painful.”
Bostic wouldn’t comment on further monetary stimulus from the Fed, saying it’s unclear how the economy is being transformed.
“I do worry that circumstances are going to be very different in the future than they are now,” he said in the interview. “I want to be careful about being too presumptuous about where we’re going to be. All this uncertainty is definitely in my mind.”
A Federal Reserve survey in low- to moderate-income communities said the pandemic has “significantly” disrupted the economy and that recovery will be difficult.
The survey showed of 1,869 respondents, 46% expect it will take longer than a year for the communities to get back to pre-Covid-19 conditions. The impact of unemployment and loss of income was cited by 42% as the top issue in the community and 32% said that concern had gotten “significantly worse” over the past eight weeks.
Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan said today that the key to ensuring a faster economic recovery is wearing a mask to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“How the virus proceeds, and what the incidence is, is going to be directly related to how fast we grow,” Kaplan told Fox Business Network in an interview. “While monetary and fiscal policy have a key role to play, the primary economic policy from here is broad mask wearing and good execution of these health care protocols; if we do that well, we’ll grow faster.”
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. economists have argued that a national mask mandate would boost chances of a faster recovery as well.
Kaplan reiterated his view that the U.S. economy will likely shrink by 4.5% to 5% in 2020.
In economic data this week, the June ISM non-manufacturing figure for June came in at a very strong 57.1 (50 the dividing line between growth and contraction), way up from May’s 45.4 and April’s 41.8. But we’ll see how this fares with some of the pauses in reopening we are witnessing in large swaths of the country this month.
June producer prices were down a surprising -0.2%, -0.3% ex-food and energy. Year-over-year the PPI is down 0.8%, and +0.1% on core.
And we had a 16th straight weekly initial jobless claims figure over one million, though at least it was down a 14th week from its peak of 6.867 million to 1.314 million, which is still godawful.
The Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow forecast for the second quarter is at -35.5%.
Lastly, the U.S. budget deficit totaled $863 billion in June, and for the first nine months of the fiscal year, the budget gap totaled $2.7 trillion, the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday.
Outlays soared to $1.1 trillion last month, nearly half of which went to emergency small-business loans under the Paycheck Protection Program, CBO estimated. Revenues sank 28% to $242 billion.
For the first nine months, total receipts fell 13% from October through June vs. a year ago, though all of the shortfall has occurred since April. Some of this will be collected later in the fiscal year after individuals and corporations file their tax returns by July 15.
Europe and Asia
The European Commission said the European Union will slump 8.3 percent this year, a deeper downturn than previously expected, as the coronavirus shuttered businesses and kept people in their homes for a longer period than initially thought.
All EU economies are forecast to return to growth next year, but the Commission warned that the outlook could darken and the current outlook was based on an assumption there would be no second wave of the virus.
Separately, Eurostat released retail trade data for May, up 17.8% over April, which was down 12.1% amidst the lockdown. Year-over-year in May it was down 5.1%.
In key Germany, industrial production in May rose 7.8% after plunging 17.5% in April, according to the Statistics Office.
Brexit: Germany will continue to push to seal a new partnership agreement with Britain by the end of the year but the European Union should prepare for an abrupt split of ties from 2021, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday.
“Progress in negotiations thus far has been slim, to put it diplomatically,” Merkel told the European Parliament as Germany assume the EU’s rotating presidency for the rest of the year.
“We have agreed with the UK to accelerate the pace of the talks… I will continue to push for a good solution but we should also prepare for a possibility of a no-deal scenario.”
Merkel reminded Britain it cannot just cherrypick access to the EU’s markets as if they had not left.
And the U.S. has told the UK a trade deal cannot be concluded by our November election.
This is a freakin’ mess and Johnson is in way over his head, even as he’s the reason his country is on the verge of crashing out of a union that only needed tweaking! I told you as the original Brexit vote was taking place it was one massive lie…which is why, again, you must watch HBO’s outstanding film “Brexit.”
Lastly, Ireland is going to be the key to talks (and fishing rights). Stay tuned.
EU Population: Eurostat released a report today on the population of the European Union, with 27 Member States…an estimated 447.7 million in 2020. The withdrawal of the UK on Feb. 1 meant the population of the EU dropped from 513.5 million including the UK.
Germany is the largest at 83.2 million, followed by France (67.1m), Italy (60.2m), Spain (47.3m) and Poland (38m).
The UK is at 67 million.
The United States is at an estimated 331 million. As in from an economic standpoint, it’s kind of important, boys and girls, to get along with the EU.
Turning to Asia…China’s National Bureau of Statistics released its producer price (factory gate) data for June, down 3% year-over-year, falling a fifth straight month, but prices were up 0.4% over May. Nonetheless, the coronavirus continues to weigh heavily on industrial demand.
As for China’s stock market, as represented by the benchmark Shanghai Composite, it rose 7.3% on the week despite a 2% decline Friday, on the heels of the Chinese Communist Party pumping the market and the message of a rapid recovery from the depths of the first quarter when GDP plunged 6.8%.
The state-owned China Securities Journal said fostering a “healthy bull market” was important, given China’s increasingly complicated international relations, intense financial and technological competition, and the challenge of controlling internal financial risks.
So the article was a clear indication that China’s government is determined to support the rally in local stocks.
Through Thursday, the Shanghai Comp. had risen 17% over eight straight sessions of gains, the biggest eight-day percentage gain since March 2008, according to Dow Jones Market Data.
But today, a state-run newspaper stressed the importance of long-term investing after authorities signaled concern about the market overshooting.
Next week is a big one, with figures on June industrial production and retail sales, as well as a look at second-quarter GDP.
Japan reported May household spending fell 16.2% year-on-year, -0.1% over April. June producer prices declined 1.6% vs. a year ago.
Meanwhile, with just over a year to go until the Tokyo Olympics, medical experts are warning the event could pose a grave health risk to the Japanese public, predicting that few people will have coronavirus antibodies and that vaccines will not be widely available.
While Tokyo reported a record daily high of 224 new infections on Thursday, Japan has largely avoided the disastrous effects seen in other countries. But that is what has scientists and medical experts concerned. Said one doctor from Osaka University Hospital’s infection control team: “The virus is barely under control as we are putting a halt on the inflow of people from overseas. With events like the Olympics, the virus will come in for sure and the number of infections will shoot up inevitably.”
A recent government survey showed only 0.1% of Tokyo residents have coronavirus antibodies, which compares to 14% in New York state back in April.
Remember…if Japan has to postpone the Olympics again, it’s an economic disaster.
--The major market indexes posted solid gains a second consecutive week, though the action was volatile, with way too much hope placed in potential vaccines and therapeutics vs. the reality that there will be no V-shaped recovery.
The Dow Jones rose 1% to 26075, the S&P 500 was up 1.8%, and Nasdaq up 4%, closing at another all-time record high of 10617.
The divergence in performance, though, is telling with Nasdaq now up 18.3% year to date, while the Dow and S&P are still down. And the Russell 2000 small-cap index is off 14.7% for 2020.
The Nasdaq 100, up 24.1%, has a P/E of 34, with the S&P at 28. This is beginning to border on absurd.
--U.S. Treasury Yields
6-mo. 0.14% 2-yr. 0.15% 10-yr. 0.63% 30-yr. 1.33%
Yields fell on the long end of the curve, but the 10-year remains basically in a narrow range of about 0.60% to 0.70%.
--U.S. output of crude oil has fallen to 10.5 million barrels a day, down from a near-record 13 million barrels a day in late March, according to government data. The slide in production marks the steepest 11-week drop on record in figures going back to 1983, while in percentage terms the decline is the biggest since the 2008 financial crisis.
Energy expert Andy Lipow told the Journal, “I don’t think that $40 oil is enough to turn around the shale industry. This price is still not enough to cover all the debt and costs that have been incurred during the boom.”
The shale industry burned through tens of billions of dollars annually in recent years to increase production, while taking on hefty amounts of debt.
But after dropping below $39 on Thursday, crude finished the week at $40.59 (West Texas Intermediate) after the International Energy Agency (IEA) bumped up its 2020 demand forecast, though surging coronavirus cases in the U.S. tempered expectations for a fast recovery in fuel consumption.
The IEA raised its demand forecast for the year to 92.1 million barrels per day (bpd), up 400,000 bpd from its outlook last month, citing a smaller-than-expected second-quarter decline.
“While the oil market has undoubtedly made progress…the large, and in some countries, accelerating number of Covid-19 cases is a disturbing reminder that the pandemic is not under control.”
The number of oil rigs operating in the U.S. fell another four this week to 181, the lowest since the week ended June 5, 2009, according to Baker Hughes. A year earlier, the U.S. had 784 rigs in operation.
--A U.S. District Court ordered the shutdown of the Dakota Access oil pipeline on Monday over concerns about its potential environmental impact, a big win for the Native American tribes and green groups who fought the major pipeline’s route across a crucial water supply for years.
The decision followed the cancellation of another high-profile U.S. pipeline project on Sunday and came as a blow to the Trump administration’s efforts to lift the domestic fossil fuels industry by rolling back environmental red tape.
Dominion Energy Inc. and Duke Energy Corp. decided to abandon the $8 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline, meant to move West Virginia natural gas to East Coast markets, after a long delay to clear legal roadblocks almost doubled its estimated cost.
Duke Energy said legal challenges, permitting delays, and the announcement that pipeline partner Dominion Energy’s natural gas transmission and storage assets will be bought by Berkshire Hathaway prompted the decision.
--Turmoil in the airline industry continues. We actually had two days end of last week with TSA checkpoint figures of 37% and 33% of 2019 levels, but since have settled back into a 25% to 27% range.
--The big story this week was that United Airlines warned of booking declines and furloughs in the “tens of thousands” amid new travel restrictions due to the spike in coronavirus cases across much of the U.S., and having states like New York, New Jersey and Connecticut demanding that travelers from the likes of California, Texas and Florida quarantine for two weeks on arrival in the New York metro area.
United said the drop-off in bookings was most acute at its Newark hub, where near-term bookings were about 16% of a year earlier, vs. 27% elsewhere in the airline’s network.
Then Wednesday, United issued a staff memo wherein 36,000 employees, or 45% of its front-line workers in the U.S. and more than a third of its overall workforce of 95,000, face layoffs on or around Oct. 1, as I’ve been saying for months; the cutoff date for the end of payroll protection provisions.
According to the Chicago Tribune, 15,000 are flight attendants, 11,000 customer service and gate agents, 5,500 maintenance workers, and 2,250 pilots.
The airline called the move involuntary furloughs because most of the affected employees will be eligible to be recalled when travel demand returns. Not everyone receiving the notice will be furloughed.
“The United Airlines projected furlough numbers are a gut punch, but they are also the most honest assessment we’ve seen on the state of the industry,” Association of Flight Attendants-CWA President Sara Nelson said in a statement.
[UAL and its pilots union did reach a tentative deal at week’s end for voluntary furloughs and early retirement packages in an effort to reduce costs, though details weren’t disclosed.]
United continues to burn through about $40 million of cash every day.
The airline saw domestic load factors around 50% of normal July levels, with international at just 30%. 80% is normal. The airline said June capacity was down about 88% from a year earlier. It expects July capacity to be down about 75% in July and 65% in August.
United said it plans to evaluate and cancel flights on a rolling 60-day basis until it sees signs of a recovery in demand while expecting demand to remain suppressed until a widely accepted treatment and/or vaccine for Covid-19 is available.
--Delta Air Lines said Thursday it is cautious about adding more flights to its schedule due to spikes in coronavirus cases in some parts of the U.S., CEO Ed Bastian said in an employee memo.
“The continued growth of the virus through the Sun Belt, coupled with quarantine restrictions being implemented in large markets in the northern part of the country, give us renewed caution about further schedule additions at this time.”
Delta added about 1,000 flights across its network for July after some modest signs of demand improvement in May and June, but it is still only operating about 30% of what its schedule would normally be.
--American Airlines has threatened to cancel some of its orders for Boeing’s 737 MAX jets unless the planemaker helps secure funding for them. According to the Wall Street Journal, American has struggled to secure financing for 17 jets it had expected Boeing to deliver this year.
--American Airlines and United are among the first international carriers to suspend flights to Hong Kong over new mandatory-testing rules for aircrew.
Starting Wednesday, crew members of aircraft entering Hong Kong via the Hong Kong International Airport were to be subject to mandatory Covid-19 testing…in addition to a 14-day medical surveillance.
So airlines are concerned that all crews could be quarantined for 14 days if even one person tested positive, which would throw flight operations into chaos.
--El Al Airlines reached an agreement with two groups of its workers that will save the battered airline $88 million a year, after a previous agreement with its flight attendants to save $30 million annually. As a result El Al will cut 1,700 employees in its workforce of 6,500.
--Ford Motor Co. might have to shut down factories in the U.S. next week if they don’t receive engines produced for their cars in Mexico’s Chihuahua state, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Christopher Landau said on Thursday. Landau said a senior Ford executive told him Wednesday night about his company’s concerns about the engines produced by Ford in Chihuahua state, where the governor has “limited industrial capacity to 50%” due to worries about the coronavirus.
--Next week, Britain is going to announce a deadline of 2025 for removing equipment made by China’s Huawei from the country’s 5G telecom network, the Telegraph newspaper is reporting, further straining ties between London and Beijing.
Back in January, Britain had capped Huawei’s role in its 5G networks at 35% and barred it from the most sensitive parts of the system.
--Shake Shack reported that quarterly sales dropped by 40%, or $60 million, and reopened restaurants are getting much less traffic, the stock falling 5% in response.
Tuesday, it reported same-store sales fell 49% in the second quarter, and in New York, where the company generates one-fifth of its revenue, sales for the week ending July 1 were down 58%. Reopened restaurants are experiencing “significantly reduced sales volumes.”
The company is burning through $200,000 in cash per week vs. generating $1.3 million per at this time last year.
But at least Shake Shack has the resources to survive this horrible stretch. The Manhattan-based chain with 280 locations has ample cash and a substantial line of credit, for now.
The company, which returned a $10 million Paycheck Protection Program loan in April, continues to pay its 7,300 hourly staff, including a 10% raise, through at least July 22, and it continues to pay 100% of furloughed workers’ health insurance.
--But I want to give you a sense of what is generally thought to be a less than successful reopening of restaurants in New York City. From Crain’s New York Business’ Brian Pascus.
“An ambitious outdoor dining plan to save the struggling restaurant industry has butted up against an intractable public policy issue that has dogged the de Blasio administration for years.
“Multiple restaurant owners in Hell’s Kitchen [Ed. an area west of Madison Square Garden, for those of you not too familiar with New York] have expressed concern that the mayor’s Open Restaurants initiative – alfresco dining during the pandemic as a lifeline to eateries – is being undermined by an expanding and aggressive homeless population in their neighborhoods.
“Antonio Russo, owner of Il Punto Ristorante on 9th Avenue and 37th Street, worries he will not be able to serve diners in his outdoor café because of the problem. He said it doesn’t feel safe for his customers or staff because of the influx of homeless into the neighborhood after Mayor de Blasio agreed to shelter the homeless in the Midtown tourist hotels.
“ ‘I came 10 years from Sicily to New York, and I’ve never seen 9th Avenue being so bad,’ he said. ‘It got so much worse than it used to be before the pandemic. It’s unbelievable. It’s like hundreds and hundreds of people asking for money, and they react badly like never before. They get very violent.’
“ ‘We’re not waiters or restaurants anymore,’ he added. ‘We are now security guards for people who choose to sit down at our table.’”
Another restaurant owner told Crain’s, “Who is going to want to come out and drop $120 when you have a homeless person covered in urine and no mask getting in their face, screaming ‘Give me money’?” he asked. “They are beyond aggressive.”
--Dunkin’ Donuts (oops, now just Dunkin’) announced it will close approximately 450 locations in Speedway gas station convenience stores.
But the company is going to focus on areas near Speedway stations on the East Coast in order to take advantage of its newest Next Generation restaurant design that offers a broader menu and modern experience, according to a Dunkin’ spokeswoman.
The company also plans to expand its presence in airports, universities and travel plazas.
--Uber Technologies Inc. is acquiring Postmates Inc. for $2.65 billion, which Uber says will help it better compete in restaurant delivery and the market for delivering groceries and other staples.
With the purchase, Uber would become the second-largest restaurant delivery service in the U.S. by market share, following DoorDash Inc. Grubhub Inc. ranks third.
Uber said the deal presents an opportunity to bring more customers to its ride-share business, which has been rocked as the coronavirus pandemic hurt demand for months.
Uber sought to buy Grubhub earlier this year but the deal fell apart under regulatory concerns and disagreements over price. Grubhub then agreed to a deal with Dutch giant Just Eat Takeaway.com.
But during the pandemic, Uber saw an opportunity as Grubhub’s orders grew 28% in April and May compared to a year earlier. Postmates said its gross orders grew 50% in its second quarter.
Postmates, based in San Francisco, is the smallest among the major U.S. players, accounting for 8 percent of the U.S. meal delivery market in May, according to analytics firm Second Measure. It does have a big presence in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix and other cities in the South and West.
--Samsung Electronics Co. said its operating profit for the last quarter likely rose 23% from the same period last year, helped by robust demand for memory chips used in personal computers and servers as the pandemic has more people working from home.
The South Korean tech giant will release more detailed information end of the month, but it’s known for early guidance and is an important bellwether, Samsung the world’s largest provider of semiconductors.
--TikTok said Tuesday it would stop operations in Hong Kong, joining other social media companies in warily eyeing ramifications of the sweeping national security law that took effect last week.
The short-form video app’s departure comes as various social media platforms and messaging apps including Facebook, WhatsApp, Google and Twitter are not willing to provide user data to Hong Kong authorities.
The security law prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in the city’s internal affairs.
On China’s mainland, the foreign social media platforms are blocked by China’s “Great Firewall.”
Facebook, WhatsApp and its Instagram service, along with Twitter and Google unit YouTube, have long operated freely in Hong Kong without restrictions from China’s firewall.
Citizens in the city have long been accustomed to using them to express political opinions and show support for protests against China’s increasing influence, but in recent days some users and activists have scrubbed or deleted their social-media accounts for fear of falling afoul of the new law.
--Amazon shares topped the $3,000 level for the first time Monday, closing the week at $3,201, giving it a market cap of nearly $1.6 trillion, joining tech giants like Apple and Microsoft above that level.
--The Wall Street Journal had a story on all the cruise ships that are idled and how costly that is. Carnival Corp., in a recent SEC filing, indicated that its ongoing ship and administration expenses would amount to $250 million a month once all its ships are on pause.
There isn’t enough port space for every ship to dock at once, so many vessels are just dropping anchor at sea, on in places like Manila Bay.
15 ships from Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises were hanging out near the Bahamas, according to Cruisemapper.com, a ship-tracking site.
But then these ships can fall victim to hurricanes, regulatory hurdles, mold….
Today, though, Carnival said it is looking to restart some operations with vastly reduced numbers of passengers, and no ports of call, originating in Hamburg, Germany, initially.
It is also looking to sell 13 of its 53 ships.
--Brooks Brothers, the storied Manhattan clothier, is filing for bankruptcy protection.
The company said it had dressed 40 presidents, survived two world wars and navigated the “casual Friday” phenomenon and a loosening of dress standards even on Wall Street, but it could not survive the pandemic.
Last year, Barneys of New York sought bankruptcy protection, and then it was followed by the likes of Neiman Marcus, J. Crew and J.C. Penney.
--Harley-Davidson said it is cutting 700 jobs as part of an overhaul of its global operating model and expects 500 employees to leave the company through 2020, adding that it expects to book about $42 million restructuring costs in the second quarter.
--Levi Strauss & Co. saw its revenue plunge 62% in the quarter ended May 24 compared with a year earlier. It didn’t help that the timing of the quarter encompassed the peak pandemic months of March, April and May. But it did see positive cash flow in June as almost 40% of reopened stores saw sales numbers exceed year-ago levels.
But the company is laying off 700 workers, or about 15% of its corporate staff.
--Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. said it would permanently close roughly 200 stores as it attempts to ride out the coronavirus crisis by shrinking its bricks-and-mortar footprint. Currently the company operates about 1,500 stores and had to shut virtually all of them starting March 23. Despite a jump in online sales, overall revenue for the second quarter ended May 30 plunged 49% to $1.31 billion.
--Canada’s economy gained a record 952,000 jobs in June, Statistics Canada said today. The jobless rate fell to 12.3%.
--The volume of commercial property sales in New York City cratered in the second quarter due to the pandemic, with investors purchasing only 170 properties valued at $3.6 billion between April 1 and the end of June, the lowest number of transactions for a three-month period since the second quarter of 2009, according to B6 Real Estate Advisors and the Wall Street Journal. By contrast, there were 523 deals valued at $7.6 billion in the second quarter of 2019.
The steep drop in sales means far less in tax collections for Gotham, nearly $400 million less, year-over-year.
--More than 3,000 actors, light technicians, makeup artists and other stagehands on Broadway lost work when theaters went dark during the spring, according to state layoff notices. And with Broadway not reopening until Jan. 3 at the earliest, one union official told Crain’s New York Business that “It’s probably 98% unemployment.”
Another said, “To say that this is an existential crisis is probably an understatement. The arts are at a critical juncture where they could be left behind. Because we cannot go back to work until it’s deemed safe to have crowds of people.”
Think about the musicians. The local union has 1,300 members who work on Broadway. It’s just very sad.
And as Crain’s points out, even when Broadway returns, it’s by no means clear how it will be able to afford putting on a production.
--CNBC signed former Fox News journalist Shepard Smith to anchor a new one-hour evening news program, the network said Wednesday.
“The News with Shepard Smith” will debut this fall in the 7-8 p.m. time slot, Monday through Friday. The newscast marks a significant shift in the evening programming strategy for CNBC, which currently relies on light fare such as “Jay Leno’s Garage,” “The Profit,” and “Shark Tank” repeats.
Smith will have a much smaller audience at CNBC, at least initially, than he had at Fox News, where Smith’s afternoon newscast averaged 1.3 million viewers during his last quarter, while the 7 p.m. time slot at CNBC has been averaging fewer than 250,000 viewers so far this year, according to Nielsen.
Smith left Fox last October amid increasing tensions between him and the network’s opinion side, specifically Tucker Carlson. He was also frequently criticized by the president.
--Longtime political analyst Joy Reid will anchor an evening news and opinion show on MSNBC, taking over the 7 p.m. weeknight slot that once featured Chris Matthews.
China / Hong Kong: Australian Prime Minister Morrison said his country was suspending its extradition treaty with Hong Kong in response to fears over a new national security law imposed by China. Australia planned to extend visas for Hong Kong residents and encourage businesses there to relocate, he said.
China criticized the move as “gross interference” in its domestic affairs.
“We urge the Australian side to immediately stop meddling…otherwise it will lead to nothing but lifting a rock only to hit its own feet,” said a statement by its embassy in Australia.
So the Aussies join Canada which also suspended its extradition treaty, while the UK has offered citizenship options to Hong Kong residents.
Australia previously issued travel advice warning its citizens they risk arbitrary detention on national security grounds.
In Hong Kong today, authorities arrived with a search warrant at the office of an independent pollster, Robert Chung, with Chung telling Reuters he was trying to understand the basis of the situation. The new national security legislation makes crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces punishable with up to life in prison.
Meanwhile, the United States on Tuesday said it was ‘deeply concerned’ about China’s detention of law professor Xu Zhangrun, an outspoken critic of China’s ruling communist party, and urged Beijing to release him.
“The PRC must release Xu and uphold its international commitments to respect freedom of expression,” the State Department said in a tweet.
Xu had been particularly critical of Xi Jinping’s handling of the coronavirus in essays published in February and May. Xu said officials “stood by blithely as the crucial window of opportunity that was available to deal with the outbreak snapped shut in their faces.”
Separately, the State Department on Thursday said the U.S. welcomed China’s commitment to engage in arms control negotiations and said that “prudent next steps” should include face-to-face meetings between U.S. and Chinese officials. “The United States also recommends that China meet with Russia at an early date to consider next steps for trilateral arms control negotiations,” a State Department spokeswoman said.
China said earlier, however, that it would participate in trilateral arms control negotiations if the U.S. was willing to reduce its nuclear arsenal to China’s level. Of course as I’ve noted for years, we have no clue as to China’s arsenal.
Meanwhile, at the same time the U.S. imposed sanctions on Chinese officials, including a member of the country’s powerful Politburo (Chen Quanguo), accusing them of serious human rights abuses against the Uighur Muslim minority, which will further ratchet up tensions between Washington and Beijing.
“The United States calls upon the world to stand against the CCP’s acts against its own minority communities in Xinjiang, including mass arbitrary detention, forced labor, religious persecution, and forced birth control and sterilization,” a White House officials said.
China denies mistreatment of the minority group and says the camps provide vocational training and are needed to fight extremism.
The U.S. said that Chen, the highest-ranking Chinese official to be hit with sanctions, implemented “a comprehensive surveillance, detention, and indoctrination program in Xinjiang, targeting Uighurs and other ethnic minorities” through the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau.
FBI Director Christopher Wray, in a speech to the Hudson Institute in Washington, said that acts of espionage and theft by China’s government pose the “greatest long-term threat” to the future of the United States.
He said China had begun targeting Chinese nationals living abroad, coercing their return, and was working to compromise U.S. coronavirus research.
“The stakes could not be higher,” Wray said. “China is engaged in a whole-of-state effort to become the world’s only superpower by any means necessary,” he added.
“We’ve now reached a point where the FBI is now opening a new China-related counterintelligence case every 10 hours,” Wray said. “Of the nearly 5,000 active counterintelligence cases currently under way across the country, almost half are related to China.”
The FBI director said that Chinese President Xi Jinping had spearheaded a program called “Fox Hunt,” geared at Chinese nationals living abroad who are seen as threats to the Chinese government.
“We’re talking about political rivals, dissidents, and critics seeking to expose China’s extensive human rights violations,” he said. “The Chinese government wants to force them to return to China, and China’s tactics to accomplish that are shocking.”
Wray continued: “When it couldn’t locate one Fox Hunt target, the Chinese government sent an emissary to visit the target’s family here in the United States. The message they said to pass on? The target had two options: return to China promptly, or commit suicide.”
Editorial / Washington Post
“What has been known until now about China’s persecution of the Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang province has focused on cultural genocide: concentration camps intended to eradicate their language, traditions and ways of life. This was cruel enough. But new evidence has surfaced that China has also imposed on the Uighurs a form of demographic genocide with forced sterilizations and other measures aimed at reducing the population.
“The disclosure comes in an investigative report from the Associated Press and a new research report by scholar Adrian Zenz for the Jamestown Foundation. The new evidence shows that China is systematically using pregnancy checks, forced intrauterine devices, sterilization and even abortion to reduce the population of Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang. Moreover, having too many children is being punished by incarceration in the camps. According to a set of leaked data, obtained and corroborated by the AP, of 484 camp detainees listed in Karakax county in Xinjiang, 149 were there for having too many children, the most common reason for holding them. Detention in camps – which the government claims is vocational education – is written policy in at least three counties for parents with too many children.
“The AP reported that authorities have gone hunting for such parents, ripping them away from their families unless they can pay huge fines.
“Mr. Zenz found that the Xinjiang authorities planned in 2019 to subject at least 80 percent of women of childbearing age in four rural southern prefectures to intrusive birth prevention surgeries, intrauterine devices or sterilizations. Moreover, in 2018, 80 percent of all new IUD placements in China were performed in Xinjiang – despite the fact that the region makes up only 1.8 percent of the nation’s population.
“The campaign to depress the Uighur population appears to be working. Birthrates in the mostly Uighur regions of Hotan and Kashgar plunged by more than 60 percent from 2015 to 2018, the latest year available in government statistics. Across the Xinjiang region, birthrates continue to plummet, falling nearly 24 percent last year alone, compared with just 4.2 percent nationwide.
“China long employed coercion in family life with its one-child policy, now abandoned. In Xinjiang, it has sought to whitewash the horrors it is inflicting on people. The new disclosures make it even more urgent that China’s leaders be pressed to account for these atrocities. The measures fall within the definition of genocide in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which includes ‘imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.’ China is a signatory but rejects the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.
“President Trump has just signed a new sanctions law against individuals who are found responsible for abuses in Xinjiang. But China’s treatment of the Uighurs is so reprehensible that it calls into serious question whether China should be permitted to proceed as host of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Why should the world sports community honor a country that has committed genocide?”
North Korea: Secretary of State Pompeo said on Thursday that Washington is continuing to work to establish dialogue with North Korea and is very hopeful the conversation can continue, though he declined to comment on timing or specifics.
Then, Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s sister, said on Friday that another summit with the United States would only be useful for Washington at this point, adding her country had no intention of “threatening the U.S.,” according to state media.
Kim said in her personal opinion, there is unlikely to be another summit between the two leaders but “a surprise thing may still happen,” KCNA reported.
Kim Yo Jong said, “We would like to make it clear that it does not necessarily mean the denuclearization is not possible. But what we mean is that it is not possible at this point of time.”
“We do not have the slightest intention to pose a threat to the U.S. …Everything will go smoothly if they leave us alone and make no provocation on us,” she said.
This is all part of Pyongyang’s longstanding playbook. Two weeks ago they were threatening war with South Korea.
South Korea: Seoul City Mayor Park Won-soon (also spelled Won-son) was found dead on Friday, a probable suicide, after police mounted a large search when his daughter reported him missing. His body was discovered after seven hours, near where his phone signal was last detected. His daughter said he had left a message “like a will.”
As longtime mayor of the city of nearly 10 million people, first taking office in 2011, Park was one of the country’s most influential politicians and played a high-profile role in its response to the coronavirus pandemic.
But the mayor’s disappearance had come a day after one of his secretaries filed a police report against him describing a series of sexual harassment incidents that allegedly began in 2017, according to multiple reports. The woman apparently told police that Park has also targeted other female employees over the years.
He was considered a top contender for the 2022 presidential election.
Iran: An explosion rocked western Tehran early Friday, state media reported, causing widespread power failures in two residential areas and unnerving Iranians awakened for the third consecutive week by an early-morning blast.
Analysts said there were several military and training facilities in the area that could be targets of sabotage, at least two of which are underground, according to reports.
A local mayor said the explosion was at a factory making gas cylinders.
This was at least the fifth suspicious explosion at a military or nuclear facility in Iran overall.
Tuesday, two people were killed in an explosion at a factory south of Tehran, state news agency IRNA reported.
Last week, 19 were killed in an explosion at a medical clinic in the north of Tehran, which an official said was caused by a gas leak.
The same week a fire broke out at a ground level building at Iran’s underground Natanz facility, the centerpiece of Iran’s uranium enrichment program, which authorities said caused significant damage. Officials did confirm the building was the site of a new centrifuge assembly center. Initially, Iran tried to downplay the fire.
On June 26, an explosion occurred east of Tehran near the Parchin military and weapons development base that authorities also said was caused by a leak at a gas storage facility.
Israel is not denying it may have been involved in sabotaging one or more of Iran’s plants in an effort to impede Tehran’s ability to more quickly enrich greater amounts of uranium. After all, Israel has pledged never to allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.
Iran says it is under wide ranging, near-daily, cyber assault and that it will weigh what to do next.
Iran is itself proficient at cyber warfare, having carried out attacks in the past.
Turkey: In a highly controversial move, President Tayyip Erdogan declared Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia open to Muslim prayer as a mosque on Friday after a top court ruled that the ancient building’s conversion to a museum by modern Turkey’s founding statesman, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, was illegal.
Erdogan made his announcement just an hour after the court ruling was published, brushing aside international warnings not to change the status of the nearly 1,500-year-old monument that is revered by Christians and Muslims alike.
The United States, Russia and church leaders were among those to express concern about changing the status of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, a focal point of both the Christian Byzantine and Muslim Ottoman empires and now one of the most visited monuments in Turkey. Greece’s culture ministry described the court decision as an “open provocation” to the civilized world.
By reversing one of Ataturk’s most symbolic steps, which underlined the former leader’s’ commitment to a secular republic, Erdogan has capped his own project to restore Islam in public life.
Libya: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the Security Council on Wednesday that the conflict in Libya has entered a new phase “with foreign interference reaching unprecedented levels.”
The oil-producing country descended into chaos after the NATO-backed overthrow of leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Since 2014, Libya has been split, with an internationally recognized government controlling the capital, Tripoli, and the northwest, while military leader Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi rules the east. Haftar is supported by the UAE, Egypt and Russia, while the government is backed by Turkey.
--Presidential tracking polls….
Gallup: New #s for June 8-30. 38% approve of President Trump’s job performance, 57% disapprove; 91% of Republicans approve, 33% of independents. The split for the last survey, May 28-June 4, was 39/57, 85, 39. The 33% for independents is the lowest since May 2019.
In early May, Trump’s approval rating in the Gallup survey was 49%. His approval among blacks which was 16% Jan. to early May, is now just 10%. Among whites it was 57% and is now 48%. Approval among women is down to 32% from 42%, Jan. to early May.
Rasmussen: 45% approve, 53% disapprove (June 10).
--Thomas Friedman / New York Times…on Trump’s taxes…written prior to Supreme Court rulings.
“There must be something in those tax returns that Trump really does not want the American public to see. It may be just silly – that he’s actually not all that rich. It may have to do with the fact that foreign delegations and domestic lobbyists, who want to curry favor with him, stay in his hotel in Washington or use it for corporate entertaining.
“Or, more ominously, it may be related to Trump’s incomprehensible willingness to give Russian President Vladimir Putin the benefit of every doubt for the last three-plus years. Virtually every time there has been a major public dispute between Putin and U.S. intelligence agencies alleging Russian misdeeds – including, of late, that the Kremlin offered bounties for the killing of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan – Trump has sided with Putin.
“The notion that Putin may have leverage over him is not crazy, given little previous hints by his sons.
“As Michael Hirsch recalled in a 2018 article in Foreign Policy about how Russian money helped to save the Trump empire from bankruptcy: ‘In September 2008, at the ‘Bridging U.S. and Emerging Markets Real Estate’ conference in New York, the president’s eldest son, Donald Jr., said: ‘In terms of high-end product influx into the United States, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. Say, in Dubai, and certainly with our projects in SoHo, and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.’’
“The American people need to know if Trump is in debt in any way to Russian banks and financiers who might be close to Putin. Because if Trump is re-elected, and unconstrained from needing to run again, he will most likely act even more slavishly toward Putin, and that is a national security threat.”
--Daniel Henninger / Wall Street Journal
“Meanwhile, the Trump alternative, Joe Biden, increasingly looks like a man trapped inside a party that has gone from what are now the obviously irrelevant primary votes for moderation to the defining vision of the party’s protesters in the streets. On Wednesday the Biden campaign released the ‘Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force’ recommendations for the Democratic platform. The document is 110 pages long. Every voter should read it.
“Coalitions may be shifting beneath the weight of these events. The people moving out of unsettled cities to the suburbs may not be new Trumpians, but they don’t sound like enthusiastic Biden voters. Since the surge of shootings, some black leaders and pastors have pushed back against police defunding.
“We may have an October surprise every month until November. The Durham report looms. There will be debates. Mr. Trump could decide it’s more important for him to pick fights with more Bubba Wallaces than elaborate the Mount Rushmore argument for his re-election. But we don’t need a political reset. The pandemic and the protests have been enough reset for a generation.”
--The Supreme Court on Monday refused to free “electors” in the Electoral College from state laws that use penalties to force them to support the candidate who prevails in the state’s popular vote. The justices unanimously declined to endorse the discretionary power of electors just months before the Nov. 3 election.
The justices ruled in favor of Washington state and Colorado, which had imposed penalties on several so-called faithless electors who defied pledges in 2016 to vote for the winner of their states’ popular vote, Hillary Clinton. State officials said faithless electors threaten the integrity of American democracy by subverting the will of the electorate and opening the door to corruption.
In 2016, 10 of the 538 electors cast ballots for someone other then their state’s popular vote winner, an unusually high number that could have changed the outcome of five of the 58 previous U.S. presidential elections.
--The Supreme Court also upheld and strengthened a law banning the broadly unpopular but ubiquitous telemarketing practice known as robocalls, striking down an exemption to the measure that had allowed automated calls for collection of certain money owed to the government. The court’s 7-2 ruling was a defeat for political and polling organizations seeking to use autodial technology to contact the cellphones of potential voters.
--And the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that about half of the land in Oklahoma is within an Indian reservation, a decision that will have major consequences for both past and future criminal and civil cases.
The court’s decision hinged on the question of whether the Creek reservation continued to exist after Oklahoma became a state.
“Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of federal criminal law. Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion.
The decision was 5-4, Gorsuch joining the four liberals.
Much of Tulsa is located on Muscogee Creek land.
--Kanye West, in an interview with Forbes, said he no longer supports President Trump. West announced he is running for president under the banner of “the Birthday Party.”
“I would run as a Republican if Trump wasn’t there. I will run as an independent if Trump is there,” West told Forbes.
West denied that his announcement was a publicity stunt for his upcoming album. He said he was selecting Michelle Tidball, a preacher from Wyoming, to be his running mate, according to the report.
But West has taken almost no concrete steps toward a presidential bid, including filing papers officially declaring a candidacy, qualifying for ballot access or building out a campaign infrastructure.
However, he has near-universal name recognition with younger voters and could pose a threat to Biden as a write-in candidate, because, as Rachel Bitecofer, assistant director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, tweeted, “young people are stupid as hell. Not a lot will do it – but it wouldn’t take much.”
--International students will be forced to leave the U.S. or transfer to another college if their schools offer classes entirely online this fall, under new guidelines issued Monday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The guidelines put additional pressure for universities to reopen even amid growing concerns over the spread of Covid-19 among young adults. Colleges received the guidance the same day some like Harvard University were announcing that all instruction will be offered remotely.
Soon after the guidance was released, Trump repeated on Twitter that schools must reopen this fall, adding that Democrats want to keep schools closed “for political reasons, not for health reasons.”
“They think it will help them in November. Wrong, the people get it!” Trump wrote.
Under the updated rules, international students must take at least some of their classes in person. New visas will not be issued to students at schools or programs that are entirely online. And even at colleges offering a mix of in-person and online courses this fall, international students will be barred from taking all their classes online.
So it’s chaos…total chaos…thousands of international students being stranded already in the U.S. last spring after the coronavirus forced their schools to move online. Those attending schools that are staying online must “depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction,” according to the guidance.
This is flat-out cruel. These kids have about a month to find an alternative. The American Council on Education, which represents university presidents, said the guidelines are “horrifying” and will result in confusion as schools look for ways to reopen safely.
Of particular concern is a stipulation saying students won’t be exempt from the rules even if an outbreak forces their schools online during the fall term. It’s unclear what would happen if a student ended up in that scenario but faced travel restrictions from their home country, said Terry Hartle, the council’s senior vice president.
Nearly 400,000 foreigners received student visas in the 12-month period that ended Sept. 30, down more than 40% from four years earlier.
Harvard and MIT then sued to block Trump’s move.
“If allowed to stand, ICE’s policy would bar hundreds of thousands of international students at American universities from the United States in the midst of their undergraduate or graduate studies,” the schools wrote in the court papers. “The effect – perhaps even the goal – is to create chaos for schools and international students alike.”
International students, as you are all now aware, also make up about 25% of the revenue, on average, for most schools in America…in some cases 50%. California, which is also suing the government, has the most foreign students at 185,000.
Sen. Bernie Sanders said the “cruelty of this White House knows no bounds.”
“Foreign students are being threatened with a choice: risk your life going to class in-person or get deported,” Sanders said in a tweet. “We must stand up to Trump’s bigotry. We must keep all our students safe.”
Dozens of schools have been reversing course from plans to bring students back to campus this fall. The University of Southern California was one, saying classes will now be hosted primarily or exclusively online. Harvard on Monday said it will invite first-year students to live on campus, but classes will stay online.
--NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan, on the crime wave hitting the Big Apple: “It’s a combination of things, bail reform, Covid releases from prison, court shutdown, which has had Rikers (a prison) half of where they were last year of the population. I’ve said this before, the animosity towards police out there is tremendous.”
As Monahan put it, “Just about everybody we deal with is looking to fight a police officer when we go to make an arrest,” adding, “It’s vital we have our communities coming together to support our cops.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is flailing away, helplessly.
--Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency and authorized the activation of up to 1,000 National Guard troops after a weekend of violence in Atlanta left five people dead, including an 8-year-old girl.
“Peaceful protests were hijacked by criminals with a dangerous, destructive agenda. Now, innocent Georgians are being targeted, shot, and left for dead,” the Republican governor said. “This lawlessness must be stopped and order restored in our capital city.”
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms called for justice in the case of Secoriea Turner, 8.
“You can’t blame this on a police officer,” the mayor said. “You can’t say this about criminal justice reform. This is about some people carrying some weapons who shot up a car with an 8-year-old baby in the car for what?”
“Enough is enough,” Bottoms, who is black, continued. “If you want people to take us seriously and you don’t want us to lose this movement, we can’t lose each other.”
--Pretty funny how dirtball Michael Cohen, who had been released from a federal prison in May due to concerns over possible exposure to the novel coronavirus, was then taken into custody Thursday for failing to agree to the terms of his home confinement for the remaining two years of his prison term.
Recently, Cohen was spotted at a sidewalk table at a French restaurant near his Park Avenue apartment. Cohen’s attorney said the dinner did not violate the terms of Cohen’s release.
But it seems the real reason was because he refused to sign a home confinement agreement requiring him not to publish a tell-all book about President Trump for the duration of the sentence, nor talk to the media.
--President Trump issued an executive order for the creation of a “National Garden of American Heroes” to defend what he calls “our great national story” against those who vandalize statues.
His order gives a new task force 60 days to present plans, including a location, for the garden. He insists the new statues must be lifelike, “not abstract or modernist.”
When the final plan is selected, I imagine the president will pick out his own prime spot first for a Trump statue.
Pray for the men and women of our armed forces…and all the fallen.
God bless America.
Gold: $1801…9-yr. weekly high
Returns for the week 7/6-7/10
Dow Jones +1.0% 
S&P 500 +1.8% 
S&P MidCap -0.3%
Russell 2000 -0.6%
Nasdaq +4.0% 
Returns for the period 1/1/20-7/10/20
Dow Jones -8.6%
S&P 500 -1.4%
S&P MidCap -14.0%
Russell 2000 -14.7%
Nasdaq +18.3% [Nasdaq 100 +24.1%]
Bears 18.3 …prior week…54.5 / 19.8
Hang in there…mask up, wash your hands.