UK adjust deaths up, US passes 60,000

The UK has bumped up their Covid-19 death count, now including elderly care home deaths. Their Wednesday death total is 4,419, bringing their total up to 26.097, more than Spain and just 1,600 fewer than Italy.

And the US has now topped 60,000 deaths with no sign of the rate abating, currently running at about 15,000 per week. A previously suggested 100k death toll still looks possible.

BBC: UK deaths pass 26,000 as figures include care home cases

The number of people who have died with coronavirus in the UK has passed 26,000, as official figures include deaths in the community, such as in care homes, for the first time.

The foreign secretary said this did not represent “a sudden surge”, as the figure includes deaths since 2 March.

Dominic Raab also warned the UK was at a “dangerous moment”, saying that the peak of the virus had not passed.

The total only includes people who died after testing positive for coronavirus.

Boris Johnson had warned that the toll in the UK could be the worst in Europe, and it’s not far off that now.

The US now has more official Covid deaths than their Vietnam war death toll of 58,220: U.S. coronavirus deaths now surpass fatalities in the Vietnam War

The toll on the US economy also looks a bit grim: Coronavirus savages U.S. economy in first quarter; bigger hit still to come

The U.S. economy contracted in the first quarter at its sharpest pace since the Great Recession as stringent measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus almost shut down the country, ending the longest expansion in the nation’s history.

The drop in gross domestic product (GDP) reported by the Commerce Department on Wednesday reflected a plunge in economic activity in the last two weeks of March, which saw millions of Americans seeking unemployment benefits. The rapid decline in GDP reinforced analysts’ predictions that the economy was already in a deep recession and left economists bracing for a record slump in output in the second quarter.

Gross domestic product declined at a 4.8% annualized rate last quarter, weighed down by a collapse in spending on healthcare as dentists’ offices closed and hospitals delayed elective surgeries and non-emergency visits to focus on patients suffering from COVID-19, the potentially lethal respiratory illness caused by the virus.

That was the steepest pace of contraction in GDP since the fourth quarter of 2008. Households also drastically cut back on purchases of motor vehicles, furniture, clothing and footwear. Receipts for transportation, hotel accommodation and restaurant services also plunged.

Marketwatch: Trump White House vows to double coronavirus testing in May in push to reopen the economy

Looking ahead, Trump again predicted the U.S. would make a strong recovery in the second half of the year even as the economy verges on the biggest contraction in growth since the Great Depression almost 100 years ago.

Most economists think the U.S. in due for a deep recession from which it will take a few years to recover.

While Germany has a remarkably low death toll (currently 6,376) compared to Italy, UK, Spain and France their economy also faces major problems – Germany braces for ‘worst recession’ in post-war history

German gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to shrink by a record 6.3 percent as demand for exports plummets and lockdown restrictions weigh on domestic consumption, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said in Berlin.

“We will experience the worst recession in the history of the federal republic” founded in 1949, Altmaier said.

This year’s forecast drop in GDP is worse than during the global financial crisis in 2009, when Germany’s economy contracted by more than five percent.

If the government’s projection is confirmed, 2020 will mark the biggest contraction since federal statistics authority Destatis began keeping records in 1970.

The government offered a glimmer of hope however, predicting that the economy would bounce back in 2021 and grow by 5.2 percent as the virus impact wanes and businesses reopen.

I wouldn’t be too confident about next year predictions. It is likely to be a tough year or two for both health and economic reasons.

 

Clever Neanderthals

‘Neanderthal’ has been used as a derogatory term in the past, but we now know that our closest-co-species interbred with us and we all retain some of their genes – we are part Neanderthal, and share a common ancestor.

A piece of string found in France that could only have been used by Neanderthals is over twice as old as the oldest piece of twine connected to humans.

National Geographic: Why Am I Neanderthal?

When our ancestors first migrated out of Africa around 70,000 years ago, they were not alone. At that time, at least two other species of hominid cousins walked the Eurasian landmass—Neanderthals and Denisovans. As our modern human ancestors migrated through Eurasia, they encountered the Neanderthals and interbred. Because of this, a small amount of Neanderthal DNA was introduced into the modern human gene pool.

Everyone living outside of Africa today has a small amount of Neanderthal in them, carried as a living relic of these ancient encounters. A team of scientists comparing the full genomes of the two species concluded that most Europeans and Asians have approximately 2 percent Neanderthal DNA. Indigenous sub-Saharan Africans have none, or very little Neanderthal DNA because their ancestors did not migrate through Eurasia.

On one level, it’s not surprising that modern humans were able to interbreed with their close cousins. According to one theory, Neanderthals, Denisovans, and all modern humans are all descended from the ancient human Homo heidelbergensis. Between 500,000 to 600,000 years ago, an ancestral group of H. heidelbergensis left Africa and then split shortly after. One branch ventured northwestward into West Asia and Europe and became the Neanderthals. The other branch moved east, becoming Denisovans. By 250,000 years ago H. heidelbergensis in Africa had become Homo sapiens. Our modern human ancestors did not begin their own exodus from Africa until about 70,000 years ago, when they expanded into Eurasia and encountered their ancient cousins.

New Scientist: Oldest ever piece of string was made by Neanderthals 50,000 years ago

A piece of 50,000-year-old string found in a cave in France is the oldest ever discovered. It suggests that Neanderthals knew how to twist fibres together to make cords – and, if so, they might have been able to craft ropes, clothes, bags and nets.

Neanderthal string

String under a microscope
M-H Moncel

“None can be done without that initial step,” says Bruce Hardy at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. “Twisted fibres are a foundational technology.”

His team has been excavating the Abri du Maras caves in south-east France where Neanderthals lived for long periods. Three metres below today’s surface, in a layer that is between 52,000 and 41,000 years old, it found a stone flake, a sharp piece of rock used as an early stone tool.

“It is exactly what you would see if you picked up a piece of string today,” says Hardy. The string wasn’t necessarily used to attach the stone tool to a handle. It could have been part of a bag or net, the team speculates.

The string appears to be made of bast fibres from the bark of conifer trees, which helps establish that it isn’t a stray bit of modern string, because “nobody at the site was wearing their conifer pants at the time”, says Hardy.

Reuters:  Ancient string provides further evidence of Neanderthals talents

Neanderthals used plant fibers to create string more than 40,000 years ago at a site in France where they hunted reindeer, further evidence according to scientists of the ingenuity and cognitive capabilities of our closest extinct human relatives.

The string dates to an occupation by Neanderthals at the Abri du Maras archeological site in southeastern France, 30 miles (50 km) north of Avignon, between 42,000 and 52,000 years ago, where they apparently hunted reindeer during seasonal migrations.

Other studies have shown Neanderthals used complex group hunting methods, may have used spoken language, used pigments probably for body painting, used symbolic objects and may have buried their dead with flowers. They disappeared a few thousand years after Homo sapiens swept through their Eurasian homelands roughly 40,000 years ago.

Wikipedia:

It is unclear when Neanderthals split from modern humans; DNA studies have produced results ranging from 182 kya to more than 800 kya. The time of divergence of Neanderthals from their ancestor H. heidelbergensis is also unclear. The oldest potential Neanderthal bones are dated to 430 kya, but the classification is uncertain. Neanderthals are known from numerous fossils, especially from after 130 kya. The type specimenNeanderthal 1, was found in 1856 in the German Neander Valley.

Neanderthals were capable of articulate speech, though it is unclear how complex their language would have been.

Sites where Neanderthals have been found:

I see one site from an area some of my ancestors came from – The oldest people in Wales – Neanderthal teeth from Pontnewydd Cave

Excavations at the cave by Amgueddfa Cymru between 1978 and 1995 unearthed a total of 19 teeth, discovered found deep inside the cave. These have been identified by experts at the Natural History Museum, London as belonging to an early form of Neanderthal.

Study of the remains found at Pontnewydd found that these teeth represent the remains of at least five individuals.

That’s not where my lot came from, the dot can’t be accurate.

The teeth were not found on their own inside the cave. Alongside them were stone tools and animal bones, some of which show signs of butchery – evidence that these were the food remains of these early Neanderthals.

Reconstruction painting showing Early Neanderthal Man

Reconstruction of one of our ancestors (actually of a Croatian Neanderthal at the Zagros Palaeolithic Museum):
A Neanderthal man with olive skin, long black hair going down to his shoulders, long eyelashes, brown eyes, some chest hair, and a 5 o'clock shadow

 

USA now has highest number of Covid-19 deaths

The USA now has more deaths related to the Covid-19 virus than an other country (current total 20,455 but rising about two thousand a day), but their death rate per 1m population is still a lot lower than Spain, Italy, Belgium, France and the UK.

Countries with the most deaths (Worldometer 9pm 12 April 2020 GMT)):

  • USA 20,455 (61 per 1m)
  • Italy 19,468 (322 per 1m)
  • Spain 16,480 (352 per 1m)
  • France 13,832 (212 per 1m)
  • UK 9,875 (145 per 1m)
  • Iran 4,357 (52 per 1m)
  • Belgium 3,346 (289 per 1m)
  • China 3,339 (2 per 1m)
  • Germany 2,736 (33 per 1m)
  • Netherlands 2,643 (154 per 1m)

Total deaths currently 108,333

Total recorded cases 1,771,543

Covid-19 death toll now over 100,000

The official world-wide death toll is now over 100,000 – current numbers as at 8:00 pm Friday 10 April 2020 GMT (Worldometer):

  • Total cases 1.685,533
  • Recovered cases 375,221
  • Active cases 1,208,213
  • Attributed deaths 102,099

Cases rose yesterday (Thursday GMT) by 85,589 and deaths by 7,234, with similar increases looking likely today.

As at the end of 10 April GMT:

Over the past week about a third of new cases and a quarter of new deaths have been recorded in the US. Total US cases are now 493,426 and total deaths 18,331 (just 500 fewer than Italy).

Italy and Spain seem to have flattened off at around 6-700 deaths per day.

France (+987 deaths)  and the UK (+980) are increasing rapidly, as is Belgium (+496).

Largest death totals (9 pm Friday GMT):

  • Italy 18,849 (312 per 1m)
  • USA 18,430 (56 per 1m)
  • Spain 15,970 (342 per 1m)
  • France 13,197 (202 per 1m)
  • UK 8,958 (132 per 1m)
  • Iran 4,232 (50 per 1m)
  • China 3,336 (2 per 1m)
  • Germany 2,728 (33 per 1m)
  • Belgium 3,019 (260 per 1m)
  • Netherlands 2,511 (147 per 1m)

So Spain now has the most deaths per 1m population.

New Zealand currently has 1,283 cases and 2 deaths, and for now is ‘flattening the curve’ with daily new cases less than recovered cases.

New confirmed and probable cases over time

Australia has 6,203 confirmed cases and 53 deaths but also seems to be flattening:

This graph shows new cases of COVID-19 in Australia by date of notification. See the Description field on the publication page for a full description

Covid-19 projections may be high, but measures may have helped

Modeled projections of numbers of deaths from Covid-19, even modified and moderated projections after more stringent restrictions were increasingly put in place around the world, seem a bit high at this stage, but it’s hard to know what will happen months away or in a year as ongoing bounce backs are expected as restrictions are lifted.

It may be that ‘worst case’ and even more moderate projections spurred governments and health authorities to pull out all stops (or a lot of stops) to limit the spread of the virus and to substantially ramp up health care supplies and facilities. This will have had some impact, but it’s impossible to know how much.

New Zealand seems to have got off relatively lightly. In proportion to population we have a similar case rate as Australia, but we have just one death to date, and Australia now has 48. Australia has had fairly tight restrictions but not as comprehensive as New Zealand.

A week ago US projections were for 100,000-240,000 deaths, but there is a more optimistic but undefined view now, even as the death rate increases at over a thousand a day. The current total is 12.274 which is well short of projections, but the death toll has doubled in less than a week, with 1,255 yesterday and already 1,522 1,681 1,821 1,934 so far today.

The US continues to have about a third of the daily world increase in cases, and a quarter of the daily increase in deaths.

Nearly half of the deaths have been in New York, which may be simply because the virus took hold there in a big way sooner than many other parts of the US. Despite a record number of deaths in the last day things may be plateauing in New York: New York’s Cuomo sees coronavirus plateau approaching even as daily death toll hits high

New York state, the U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus, is nearing a plateau in number of patients hospitalized, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday, a hopeful sign even as deaths in his state and neighboring New Jersey hit single-day highs.

In addition, the U.S. surgeon general said the pandemic may kill fewer Americans than had been projected.

New York state’s death toll rose by 731 to 5,489 over the past day, Cuomo said, though he called that a “lagging indicator” illustrating past trends. He said the state was “projecting that we are reaching a plateau in the total number of hospitalizations” due to the coronavirus.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said his state recorded 232 coronavirus deaths in the past day – also a new high – bringing its total death toll to 1,232.

New York state overtook Italy on Tuesday, reporting overall coronavirus cases second in the world only to Spain, according to a Reuters tally.

The tally showed New York has 138,836 reported cases compared with Italy at 135,586. Spain has the most cases at 140,510. In total, the United States has recorded 380,000 cases and 11,800 deaths.

Deaths in Italy and Spain seem to have steadied for now but both are still around 600-700 a day.

The death rate in France is climbing fast, with 833 yesterday but a surge to 1,417 so far today with their current total now over 10,000. And France’s Covid pandemic has not yet peaked, says health minister

“We are still in a worsening phase of the pandemic,” Véran told broadcaster BFM TV. He also said that the country’s lockdown would last as long as necessary.

France’s coronavirus figures on Monday showed that the rate of increase in fatalities – at almost 9,000 – sped up again after several days of slowing.

Neighbouring Belgium has also surged with 403 deaths today.

While the news focus in the UK is Boris Johnson breathing without aid in intensive care the overall picture is worsening, with 439 deaths yesterday and 786 so far today.

And there’s another study: UK will have Europe’s worst coronavirus death toll, study predicts

World-leading disease data analysts have projected that the UK will become the country worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic in Europe, accounting for more than 40% of total deaths across the continent.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in Seattle predicts 66,000 UK deaths from Covid-19 by August, with a peak of nearly 3,000 a day, based on a steep climb in daily deaths early in the outbreak.

The analysts also claim discussions over “herd immunity” led to a delay in the UK introducing physical distancing measures, which were brought in from 23 March in England when the coronavirus death toll stood at 54. Portugal, by comparison, had just one confirmed death when distancing measures were imposed.

But:

The newly released data is disputed by scientists whose modelling of the likely shape of the UK epidemic is relied on by the government. Prof Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College, said the IHME figures on “healthcare demand” – including hospital bed use and deaths – were twice as high as they should be.

These studies are informed guesses in a rapidly changing environment, so they will need to keep being revised.

But most news is still of significant problems. Europe toll passes 50,000 as Japan declares emergency

Europe has passed the grim milestone of 50,000 Covid-19 deaths and Japan has declared a state of emergency to curb the virus’s spread, as China declared no new fatalities for the first time since January and lifted the 11-week lockdown of Wuhan.

While Denmark and Norway announced plans to lift some of their physical distancing measures on Tuesday, the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, declared a month-long state of emergency in major population centres, including Tokyo, where the number of cases has more than doubled this week to 1,116.

While studies and projections will continue to make predictions and be contested and debated, two things are not in doubt.

Numbers of cases and numbers of deaths will continue to grow around the world.

And Covid-19 will dominate news and government actions for months at least.

It’s just a matter of how bad and for how long.


Relevant to this: Adjusted coronavirus model predicts fewer people in US will need hospitals, but 82,000 will still die by August

An influential model tracking the coronavirus pandemic in the United States now predicts that fewer people will die and fewer hospital beds will be needed compared to its estimates from last week.

As of Monday, the model predicted the virus will kill 81,766 people in the United States over the next four months, with just under 141,000 hospital beds being needed. That’s about 12,000 fewer deaths — and 121,000 fewer hospital beds — than the model estimated on Thursday.

A “massive infusion of new data” led to the adjustments, according to the model’s maker, Dr. Christopher Murray, who serves as director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

But the newest version of the model underscores just how important social distancing continues to be: It assumes that those measures — such as closing schools and businesses — will continue until August, and it still predicts tens of thousands of deaths.

While the analysis has been repeatedly cited by Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, the administration’s current guidelines only recommend social distancing through April 30.

Trump considers quarantine as Covid-19 keeps climbing in US and world

|Earlier this week President Donald Trump said he wanted business and congregations back to normal by Easter Sunday, but with Covid-19 cases and deaths climbing in the US he is now considering imposing quarantines in some areas. However the horse may have already bolted, with a lot of people movement around the country over the last couple of weeks, and new cases and deaths surging.

Cases in the US currently are 105,573 (UPDATE half an hour later 112,468), with deaths now at 1,841 and climbing by hundreds each day.

NHS medical director: if the UK were to keep the number of deaths from coronavirus below 20,000, “we will have done very well”.

On Tuesday Trump’s Easter goal in war on virus a nod to faith, business

President Donald Trump’s “beautiful” idea to reopen the U.S. economy by Easter Sunday and pack church pews that day was dreamed up during a conference call among business leaders desperate to get the country back up and running.

But his target date for easing coronavirus restrictions is another outstretched hand to a group he has long courted: evangelical Christians.

Cooped up at the White House and watching the stock market tumble, Trump had already been eager to ease federal guidelines aimed at halting the spread of a virus that had infected more than 55,000 Americans when about a dozen business leaders convened a conference call on Sunday.

His rush to get back to business as usual was questioned – Trump’s plan to reopen the economy by Easter could cause more damage in the long run, according to LinkedIn’s top US economist

However, framing America’s response as a direct trade-off between the health of its people and the health of its economy could ultimately harm both, according to LinkedIn principal economist Guy Berger.

“There’s no economy without people, so getting them healthy is the way to get the economy off the ground,” Berger told Business Insider.

“That’s why the public health measures are so important and why they’re essential, even though they’re hard in the short run, that’s the only way to really end up rebooting the economy,” he said.

Easing lockdowns and social distancing measures too early, while the virus is still spreading rapidly, could ultimately cause more people to get sick, forcing them out of the workforce and causing an even more negative impact on the economy.

The message must have got through to Trump about the risk – to health, lives and to business – of rushing back to no restrictions.

Fox News: Trump mulls coronavirus quarantine on New York, New Jersey, Connecticut

“Some people would like to see New York quarantined because it’s a hotspot — New York, New Jersey, maybe one or two other places, certain parts of Connecticut quarantined,” he said outside the White House.

“I’m thinking about that right now. We might not have to do it but there’s a possibility that sometime today we’ll do a quarantine — short term, two weeks for New York, probably New Jersey and certain parts of Connecticut.”

He said that if such a move happened, it would be primarily a restriction on residents of those states traveling to other parts of the country.

“This will be an enforceable quarantine, but hopefully we won’t need it,” he said.

The move would be a dramatic escalation of the efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and comes on the back of those states essentially shuttering daily life — closing schools, businesses, leisure activities and urging residents to stay at home.

But this could be too late. Movement of people has been a problem elsewhere in the country for weeks.

Fox News: Frightening cellphone ‘heat map’ shows coronavirus’ potential spread as spring break revelers went home

Heat maps that show cellphone location data in the U.S. paint a disturbing picture of the potential spread of coronavirus as the country grapples with lockdown meaures and tries to stem the virus’ tide.

Tectonix, geospatial data visualization platform, working in partnership with location company X-Mode Social, created an alarming map that shows the impact of ignoring social distancing restrictions.

Focusing on just one group of spring break revelers on part of one beach in mid-March when they left Fort Lauderdale, Fla., it quickly becomes obvious that the thousands of people who were at the beach ended up all over the country — in the Midwest, the Northeast and other parts of the South.

That’s just one example. Contract tracing must be a nightmare.

Reuters: U.S. coronavirus cases surpass 100,000

The sum of known coronavirus U.S. cases soared well past 100,000, with more than 1,600 dead, as weary doctors and nurses coping with shortages resorted to extremes ranging from hiding scarce medical supplies to buying them on the black market.

Reuters: As virus threatens, U.S. embraces big government, for now

Whatever the motivation, in the scope of two frantic weeks, U.S. elected officials and central bankers have engineered an economic intervention unparalleled outside of wartime.

All in it would supplant perhaps 30% of gross domestic product with government spending and loans, drive the federal deficit as high as needed to make that happen, and broaden U.S. social spending in ways that just a few weeks ago Republicans and President Donald Trump were branding as “socialist.”

In the time taken to put this post together (so far) US cases jumped to 112,468 – that’s how rapidly Covid-19 is growing in the US.


BBC: Number of UK deaths rises above 1,000

The number of people to have died with the coronavirus in the UK has reached 1,019.

The latest government figures on Saturday showed there were another 260 deaths in the UK in a day, up from 759 on Friday.

There are now 17,089 confirmed cases in the UK.

The jump in deaths is the biggest day-on-day increase the UK since the outbreak began. The number of deaths is 34% higher than Friday’s figure.

NHS England Prof Stephen Powis said if the UK were to keep the number of deaths from coronavirus below 20,000, “we will have done very well”.


BBC: More than 900 deaths in a day in Italy

Italy has recorded 919 new coronavirus deaths, its highest daily figure in the outbreak so far.

It means 9,134 people have now died from the virus in the country.

Earlier World Health Organization chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said a “chronic global shortage” of protective equipment was one of the “most urgent threats” to the ability to save lives.

Italy is the worst-affected in Europe. Almost everything has been closed and people told to stay at home.

Earlier on Friday, authorities warned that restrictions were likely to be extended beyond 3 April.

That seems inevitable.

Deaths now recorded on JHU&M CRC are at 10,023, cases have jumped to 92,472 (they were 80,589 this time yesterday) so the problem is far from over in Italy.


Spain’s coronavirus death toll rose by 832 in 24 hours, bringing it to 5,690. However, the number of people recovering is also increasing, with a total of 12,285 out of over 72,000 cases

French PM: ‘Fight is just beginning’

The first 15 days in April will be “even more difficult than the 15 we have just left”, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has warned.

France has recorded 1,998 deaths and has been in lockdown for 10 days, a period which has now been extended until 15 April.

“I want to speak clearly to the French,” said Mr Phil

Total confirmed coronavirus cases in Africa: 3,926

South Africa has 1,170 but it is spreading across the continent.


There are improvements in places that first has major problems,

The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus first emerged, has partially reopened after more than two months in isolation

South Korea says it has more people who have recovered from the virus than infected.


Brazil’s Bolsonaro questions coronavirus deaths, says ‘sorry, some will die’

Following the advice of public health experts, the vast majority of the country’s 26 governors have banned non-essential commercial activities and public services to contain the outbreak in their states.

“I’m sorry, some people will die, they will die, that’s life,” Bolsonaro said in a television interview on Friday night. “You can’t stop a car factory because of traffic deaths.”

Bolsonaro said that in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s economic powerhouse, the death toll seemed “too large.” Sao Paulo has the most cases and deaths so far of coronavirus in Brazil, at 1,223 cases and 68 deaths.

“We need to look at what is happening there, this cannot be a numbers game to favor political interests,” Bolsonaro said.

Earlier on Friday, Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria, a former Bolsonaro ally who many expect to be a rival in the 2022 presidential election, accused Bolsonaro of promoting “disinformation” by launching a TV ad campaign criticizing the restrictions, featuring the slogan “#BrazilCannotStop.”

The slogan is similar to a campaign in Milan before deaths in Italy soared.

Currently 3,477 cases in Brazil with 93 deaths.

 

Yellow Vests and Black Raincoats

Repost:


First of all I should state that this is a personal account of the situation, it is my take on a very diverse and complex social movement. The Yellow Vests movement was sparked by a government increase of oil prices in October 2018 though it is far from being the only reason: a generalized speed reduction on the roads was also seen as a way for the government to disguise a new tax by increasing the number of speeding tickets. However these reasons are only the tip of the iceberg. The real origins of this explosion of anger can be found in the policies of president Emmanuel Macron and the French political and social situation. Emmanuel Macron was elected with only few people ever voting for him ; his opponent being the far right candidate Marine Le Pen. A number of voters refused to chose between a racist and a former banker. Unsurprisingly Macron is now conducting a right-wing style of governance; reducing taxes on the rich, continuing his predecessor’s attacks on workers’ rights, repression of social movements, harassment and deportation of migrants etc. In this context the Yellow Vests movement appears as a true popular revolt which has more to do with the fact that people are fed up with the whole situation. However this anger is taking many forms and has not always been directed at the origins of the problem. I will try and explain the movement’s evolution and shed a light on its class composition, then I’ll try to explain the anarchists and revolutionaries’ response to the situation and I will then conclude on the movement’s perspectives and current situation.

In the beginning the movement was launched by a mobilization on social media platforms, especially Facebook. In a few videos seen by millions of people and shared by thousands, individuals were calling on people to oppose the government’s fuel prices increase, new speed limits and taxes. At that time the symbol of the yellow vest appeared ; in France every car owner is bound by law to have one in their vehicle. The videos also called on people to rally in the roundabouts and to wear this vest or display it in their cars. These roundabouts soon became quite central in the mobilization. This gives us a hint on the class composition of the movement in its early stages. The roundabout is typical of France’s industrial and commercial centers, suburbs in-between the countryside and cities, rural areas and small towns. As opposed to the typical movements centered on big urban centers this one took hold in more rural parts of the country. At one point people started occupying these roundabouts, day and night in some places ; tents were erected, shacks constructed and campfires were lit. One has to remember that it was still winter time and the nights could be quite cold. From time to time the roundabouts were blocked and skirmishes with drivers happened here and there. A few people even died because they were hit by cars. However most of the occupations consisted in distributing leaflets to passing cars and debating with other Yellow Vests. The occupations are the place were people who had never participated in any mobilization were starting to learn, make friends and comrades etc. At that time only a few of them were union members or had been militants of any political party.

Politically speaking the movement always has been, and is, very diverse. The focus on taxes, and fuel prices were quite foreign to leftwing activists. On the roundabouts you could also find a number of petit-bourgeois, small business owners, racist and fascist figureheads etc. Depending on the place some racists attacks took place and on one occasion people arrested migrants and gave them up to the police. This is far from being the core of what was happening, but this explains why many leftists and anarchists did not know how to react. However as the movement grew and was met with police repression the situation started to evolve. People started to converge on weekly demonstrations called “Acts” and were faced with police brutality. Occupations on roundabouts were more and more violent because of police repression and not only because of other car owners. At one point the movement decided to regroup for demonstrations in Paris. One cannot stress enough how politically young the Yellow Vests are as a whole. For example, in France one has to declare intended demonstrations to the police. The problem is that although the movement had figureheads, there was no leader and no central decision making process. What happened is that people decided to show up in Paris just by announcing it and they chose a symbolic place that has always been off limit to social movements; the Arc de Triomphe and the upper class neighborhoods surrounding it. This led to heavy clashes with the police and a part of the movement started radicalizing. From people who wanted the police to join them and treat them as fellow workers they started to become more and more angry at what was perceived as unjust and unfair violence and repression. In the meantime, business owners and right-wing elements started to distance themselves from the violence, however the core of the movement did not. Demands started to include more and more things like minimum wage increase, taxes for the rich and democratic reforms. More anarchists and leftists started to join, sympathize and organize within the movement as it appeared for what it was – a working class movement, unaffiliated to political parties and unions. For some anarchists and revolutionaries the fact that these people were capable of rioting in the most upper class neighborhoods of Paris has also been a wake up call. These demonstrations did not always take place in Paris ; some cities emerged as political hubs although they did not have a tradition of participation in social movements and riots sparked by police repression started in a lot of them.

The shift between a mainly non-violent and peaceful movement to a more determined one was also accompanied by the media. In the beginning the bourgeois media found that the movement was quite positive. It seemed like a dream come true for right-wingers; a peaceful popular movement against taxes, government involvement in the market etc. However as the movement became more radical the media started to describe them as irresponsible persons, and called on people to distance themselves from rioters and vandals etc. In the meantime police repression kept on growing and the media did not say anything about it. At this day at least 30 people have lost an eye because of the LB-40 (flashball), 5 lost a hand because of grenades and one person was killed. The number of wounded are in the thousands and a lot of people are being condemned to jail time after each demonstrations. Most of them were not even directly involved in the riots. The role of the media in not reporting police brutality and the distortion of facts explains why a lot of Yellow Vests are now considering them as liars and enemies. A few journalists were even attacked during demonstrations even though most of the violence they face has been coming from the police. We also have something to say about the role of public figures within the movement. Most of them refuse to be considered as leaders and a lot of them do not hesitate to call on people to act outside the law. For now the ones who tried to recuperate the movement for their own political gain or tried to distance themselves from rioters were met with a loss of popularity, death threats and attacks, even during the demonstrations or at their homes. This is also the case for government ministers and political figures opposing the movement.

As always the revolutionary movement (anarchists and autonomists) did not agree on the situation and the response we should have. Especially in the beginning, a lot of people considered the movement to be a right-wing and even far-right movement. It is true that some of the early leaders in the Yellow Vests had a right-wing background. However for me a lot of the rejection from parts of the revolutionary movement came from the disconnect between the revolutionaries and the working class. This is of course a greater problem that should be adressed elsewhere. Because of the problems that I mentioned before, and especially racism and antisemitism, some comrades are convinced that this movement is nothing more than a fascist movement. However there has been a shift in the face of police repression and riots. To their credit most autonomists groups like the “appelistes” (Lundi Matin, the invisible committee, Julien Coupat) were very enthusiastic from the very beginning. But we also have to note that their enthusiasm is also based on the fact that they reject traditional class analysis.

As people were criticizing the movement for its racism, a lot of comrades took it upon themselves to try and expel the fascists from the movement. It mainly came in the form of street brawls during demonstration, doxxing and attacks against fascists’ headquarters. At one point and time the situation was tense for left wing organization and groups. Some attacks were really violent and a number of comrades were wounded. The fascists even attacked mainstream left-wing groups, not only revolutionaries and antifascists. They are still a threat but it seems that the tide has turned for them. They lost a number of brawls and recently they were beaten so badly that they ended up in the hospital. Some of them decided to go to the police which is unusual for those groups who pride themselves on their strength and who are culturally close to the ultras and hooligans. However for me these street groups are not the main threat ; the intellectual figureheads of the movement are sometime far more problematic. A number of them support conspiracy theories and/or low key antisemitic views. For the time being there seems to be no solutions for that other than pointing out the problem.

The riots in the streets are at level not seen in Paris since 1968. The upper class neighborhoods have been attacked and even a ministry was broken into with a forklift during a demonstration. The Yellow Vests are getting more and more radicalized because of the repression; as a result they are starting to view the tactics of what they see as “the black bloc” as more and more justified. Most of the people active in the riots are first timers. This alliance between Yellow Vests and the “black bloc” also called “Kway noir” in french or “Black raincoats” is an issue of great concern for the government. They have not succeeded in creating a rejection of the more radical elements by the movement. Even worse, a lot of people are starting to consider that black bloc tactics are justified in term of self defense and that they have sometimes defended them from police violence. On the other hand the increase in police violence means that a lot of people are now justifiably scared to go to demonstrations and that has provoked a drop in participation if not in popularity.

Concerning the mainstream unions their attitude toward the movement has often been quite hostile but an hostility towards them can also be felt within the Yellow Vests. The reason being that the section of the working class active in the movement is not the same as the one that is unionized. The unions in France are overwhelmingly members of the public sector, have a higher pay and/or work in companies with more than 500 employees. On the other hand a lot of the Yellow Vests come from the private sector, and more precarious situations – self employment, temp jobs etc. However on the ground the rank and file of the unions has been participating in the movement from the very beginning. What is new for France is that this kind of social movement has never been further from the unions and can be seen as an other sign of their loss of power. However unions are not opposing the movement ; for the 1st of may Yellow Vests and unions were demonstrating together.

The government has attempted other means of destroying the movement using methods other than sheer repression. The main attempt was “the great debate” a type of national consultation supposed to inform the president of the request and demands of the people. It took the form of local groups of randomly selected people tasked with debating and coming up with requests. However at the end of this the president declared basically that he understood the demands but was not going to do anything about it, therefore showing what the attempt was all about ; destroying the movement and gaining time hoping people would get tired. It was even more absurd to try and start the “great debate” because the movement already had more or less clear demands ; things like the “RIC” ; Popular Initiative Referendum. This would basically permit people to vote on policies and propose new ones. Raising minimum wage and taxing the rich are the two other big demands on the part of the Yellow Vests.

Recently the demonstration of the 1st of May has seen much violence coming from the police. The government had given orders not to let the more radical groups time to gather. This took the form of a lot of charges and attacks on the demonstration and even on mainstream unions, which is quite new. The representative of the main french union, The CGT, even had to leave the demonstration because of police violence. The government succeeded in limiting this demonstration but failed miserably in the eyes of the public. For example they were caught lying about demonstrators attacking a hospital-it turned out people were just trying to flee police violence. More and more videos show special police groups attacking people randomly, even in their own buildings. Police repression has had the effect of radicalizing and bringing revolutionaries and Yellow Vests closer together. More and more the common denominator of this diverse movement is a hatred for the police and calls for a revolution.

It is difficult to see what the future will bring. However this movement is like no other we have seen in the past years. Personally I think that even though this movement has a lot of problems and things that need to be addressed it is still the most encouraging thing to appear in a long time ; an autonomous, working class, social movement.

[This article was written for Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement (AWSM) by Morgan, a French Anarchist currently resident in Christchurch. The original can be found here: https://awsm.nz/?p=2815]

Ardern and Macron to attempt to “to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron will chair a meeting in Paris next month which will seek to “to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online”.


NZ and France seek to end use of social media for acts of terrorism

New Zealand and France announced today that the two nations will bring together countries and tech companies in an attempt to bring to an end the ability to use social media to organise and promote terrorism and violent extremism, in the wake of the March 15 terrorist attacks in Christchurch New Zealand.

The meeting will take place in Paris on May 15, and will be co-chaired by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron.

The meeting aims to see world leaders and CEOs of tech companies agree to a pledge called the ‘Christchurch Call’ to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.

The meeting will be held alongside the “Tech for Humanity” meeting of G7 Digital Ministers, of which France is the Chair, and France’s separate “Tech for Good” summit, both on 15 May. Jacinda Ardern will also meet with civil society leaders on 14 May to discuss the content of the Call.

“The March 15 terrorist attacks saw social media used in an unprecedented way as a tool to promote an act of terrorism and hate. We are asking for a show of leadership to ensure social media cannot be used again the way it was in the March 15 terrorist attack,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“We’re calling on the leaders of tech companies to join with us and help achieve our goal of eliminating violent extremism online at the Christchurch Summit in Paris.

“We all need to act, and that includes social media providers taking more responsibility for the content that is on their platforms, and taking action so that violent extremist content cannot be published and shared.

“It’s critical that technology platforms like Facebook are not perverted as a tool for terrorism, and instead become part of a global solution to countering extremism. This meeting presents an opportunity for an act of unity between governments and the tech companies.

“In the wake of the March 15 attacks New Zealanders united in common purpose to ensure such attacks never occur again. If we want to prevent violent extremist content online we need to take a global approach that involves other governments, tech companies and civil society leaders

“Social media platforms can connect people in many very positive ways, and we all want this to continue.

“But for too long, it has also been possible to use these platforms to incite extremist violence, and even to distribute images of that violence, as happened in Christchurch. This is what needs to change.”


RNZ: ‘This is about preventing violent extremism and terrorism online’

Ms Ardern told Morning Report that since the attacks, there had been a clear call for New Zealand to take on a leadership role in combating violent extremism online.

“There is a role for New Zealand to play now in ensuring we eradicate that kind of activity from social media, in particular to prevent it from ever happening again. We can’t do that alone,” she said.

“This isn’t about freedom of expression, this is about preventing violent extremism and terrorism online.

“I don’t think anyone would argue that the terrorist, on the 15th of March, had a right to livestream the murder of 50 people, and that is what this call is very specifically focussed on”.

Ms Ardern said she’s met with a number of tech CEOs, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and held meetings with executives from Microsoft, Twitter, and Google.

“When we actually distil this down, no tech company, no country, wants to see online platforms used to perpetuate violent extremism or terrorism. We all have a common starting point. It all then comes down to what it is we are each prepared to do about it.”

Technology correspondent Bill Bennett…

…said a voluntary approach was the only option for getting technology companies to sign up to a crackdown on terrorist behaviour through social media.

“They don’t see themselves as being responsible for content that’s published on their sites anyway. They see themselves as being some kind of neutral thing”.

National Leader Simon Bridges…

…questioned whether the global conversation would translate into anything meaningful.

He was cynical about why Ms Ardern was focusing on the issue.

“I think New Zealanders will say, hey, if you’re not also progressing policy, plans and actions around our housing, health, and education, why is this the big thing?

“Is it just a distraction tactic?”.

New Zealand needed to be cautious about going down a path that would see the casual erosion of freedoms, Mr Bridges said.

NZ Herald: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to lead global attempt to shutdown social media terrorism

Speaking to Newstalk ZB this morning, Ardern said she was confident all major social media companies would sign up to the Christchurch call.

“We have been working on something behind the scenes for some time now, since the 15th of March. I have also recently had calls with a handful of chief executives.”

The call, she said, would place the onus on Governments, in terms of their ability to regulate, as well as on the social media companies themselves.

“I think that’s where we need to move; this can’t just be about individual country’s [ability to] regulate because this is obviously global technology and we need to have those companies accept responsibility as well.”

She said that the principals of a free, open and secure internet would “absolutely be maintained”.

“If we want to prevent violent extremist content online we need to take a global approach that involves other governments, tech companies and civil society leaders”.

“Social media platforms can connect people in many very positive ways, and we all want this to continue.”

But she said for too long it has been possible to use social media platforms to incite extremist violence, and even to distribute images of that violence, as happened in Christchurch.

“This is what needs to change.”

A worthy aim, but it will be difficult to come up with an effective means of preventing the use of social media by terrorists but maintaining the freedom of use of social media generally.

And even if social media companies do put effective control mechanisms in place, it is likely that those seeking to promote and perpetuate violence online will find ways around the controls.

Fine for Ardern and Macron to be seen to be trying to do something about it, but being seen to be trying, and doing anything effective ongoing, will be a big challenge.

Notre-Dame Cathedral on fire

Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris is on fire. There has been major damage, and the spire has collapsed.

The cathedral was being renovated.

Reuters: Paris’ historic Notre-Dame Cathedral hit by fire

A major fire broke out at the medieval Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on Monday afternoon, leading firefighters to clear the area around one of the city’s most visited landmarks.

It was not immediately clear what had caused the fire. France 2 television reported that police were treating the incident as an accident.

A major operation was under way, the fire department said, while a city hall spokesman said on Twitter that the area was being cleared.

Notre-Dame was in the midst of renovations, with some sections under scaffolding, while bronze statues were removed last week for works.

Wikipedia:  Notre-Dame de Paris

Notre-Dame de Paris (meaning “Our Lady of Paris”)  is a medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité in the fourth arrondissement of Paris, France.

The cathedral is considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. The innovative use of the rib vault and flying buttress, the enormous and colorful rose windows, and the naturalism and abundance of its sculptural decoration all set it apart from earlier Romanesque architecture.

The cathedral was begun in 1160 and largely completed by 1260, though it was modified frequently in the following centuries. In the 1790s, Notre-Dame suffered desecration during the French Revolution when much of its religious imagery was damaged or destroyed.

A major restoration project supervised by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc began in 1845 and continued for twenty-five years. Beginning in 1963, the facade of the Cathedral was cleaned of centuries of soot and grime, returning it to its original color.

Another campaign of cleaning and restoration was carried out from 1991-2000.

And as reported Notre-Dame was undergoing further restoration, which is thought to be related to a possible cause of the fire.

Major protests in France, Belgium over green taxes

In what has been described as the worst unrest in decades in Paris protesters in France are revolting against carbon tax (fuel tax) rises, and growing dissatisfaction with the Government and President Emmanuel Macron. Protests appear to be rising from both the left and right of politics.

Reuters: France’s Macron learns the hard way: green taxes carry political risks

When Emmanuel Macron rose to power, he put the environment at the heart of his agenda. Eighteen months later, anger over those policies has stoked protests that are a huge challenge for the French president.

Rioters torched cars and buildings in central Paris on Saturday following two weeks of protests caused partly by higher fuel taxes which Macron says are needed to fight climate change. Some protesters called for him to resign.

Macron’s plight illustrates a conundrum: How do political leaders’ introduce policies that will do long-term good for the environment without inflicting extra costs on voters that may damage their chances of re-election?

It is a question facing leaders across the world as delegates hold talks in the Polish city of Katowice this week to try to produce a “rule book” to flesh out details of the 2015 Paris Agreement on fighting climate change.

“Clearly, countries where inequalities are the highest are the ones where these kinds of push-backs are mostly likely,” Francois Gemenne, a specialist in environmental geopolitics at SciencesPo university in Paris, said of the political risks.

Naming Italy, the United States and Britain as countries where environmental moves could risk a voter backlash, he said: “I guess it’s one of the reasons why populist leaders tend to be very skeptical about climate change and environmental measures.”

Could anything like this happen in New Zealand. There has been some dissatisfaction over regional and excise fuel tax rises, and fuel prices rose to record levels, but the pressure was relieved when fuel prices dropped due to a slump in international oil prices.

In France Macron tells PM to hold talks after worst unrest in Paris for decades

French President Emmanuel Macron ordered his prime minister on Sunday to hold talks with political leaders and demonstrators, as he sought a way out of nationwide protests after rioters turned central Paris into a battle zone.

After a meeting with members of his government on Sunday, the French presidency said in a statement that the president had asked his interior minister to prepare security forces for future protests and his prime minister to hold talks with political party leaders and representatives of the protesters.

A French presidential source said Macron would not speak to the nation on Sunday despite calls for him to offer immediate concessions to demonstrators, and said the idea of imposing a state of emergency had not been discussed.

Arriving back from the G20 summit in Argentina, Macron had earlier rushed to the Arc de Triomphe, a revered monument and epicenter of Saturday’s clashes, where protesters had scrawled “Macron resign” and “The yellow vests will triumph”.

The “yellow vest” rebellion erupted out of nowhere on Nov. 17, with protesters blocking roads across France and impeding access to some shopping malls, fuel depots and airports. Violent groups from the far right and far left as well as youths from the suburbs infiltrated Saturday’s protests, the authorities said.

The riots in France are spreading.

UK Sunday Express BRUSSELS IN FLAMES: French riots spread to Belgium – HUNDREDS go on rampage at home of EU

Hundreds of activists made Belgium’s political landmarks their target, marching between landmarks amid clouds of smoke from firecrackers and smoke bombs, as they were stalked by dozens of baton-wielding riot officers ready to pounce.

Protesters descended on the European Commission’s Berlaymont headquarters, the heart of EU decision-making, as they created Belgium’s own ‘yellow jacket’ campaign against rising fuel prices and the cost of living. The EU Commission was forced to temporarily shut its doors as the building’s security guards refused to let anyone in or out while protesters marched passed.

The rises in fuel taxes have aggravated general frustration that had already been growing.