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.

 

Jumping the Whale, piling on Godwin and hypocrisy

While the main victims were those killed and injured in the Christchurch mosque attacks, and their families  and friends and the Muslim community, but it also impacted on wider New Zealand.

But some are taking Government reactions to the attacks as gross over-reactions, and are claiming themselves to be victims as the country as we know it is coming to an end. Some have jumped the shark, likening the aftermath to Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

From one day at Whale Oil (yesterday):

Guest Post (Mike Loder): What reasonable person would accept this?

Media next hailed the ‘Responsible shooter’ for handing in his gun. For the public good. They left out the part where he is a Green Party candidate and hates guns. Details. Goebbels would blush at the propaganda forced on a caring population this past week.

Hart was a Green candidate in 2017 but isn’t now. He handed in a rifle not a gun (a technicality, but something most people into firearms would know) . I have seen nothing in any of the reports about John Hart handing in his semi-automatic rifle that he ‘hates guns’. He had owned the rifle for about ten years and just handed it in on principle of removing the most dangerous firearms from circulation.  CNN reported:

He said he had purchased the semi-automatic firearm to help with killing goats and wild pigs to aid in pest control on the farm. Hart said he still has other guns on the farm for “chores and euthanizing animals.”

He still owns ‘other guns’, not a sign of hate.

There is unlikely to be any blushing at Whale Oil over the propaganda they have published, but there should be.

Christie We should all walk away from social media

The overreaction to the Christchurch massacre continues.

Notably at Whale Oil.

Duncan Garner thinks that, because he allowed social media to run his life, we all do that, but he is wrong. Not everyone who drinks wine is an alcoholic. Some people can manage these things in moderation. Because Duncan Garner cannot do that, he wants social media to be banned for the rest of us.

We really do seem to be living in Germany in the 1930s, don’t we?

There is nothing quoted in the post that supports the claim that Garner wants social media banned.

SB:  I’m scared of our government

The post is headed with a photo captioned “Georges Blind, a member of the French resistance, smiling at a German firing squad, October 1944.”

In only a couple of weeks, the most unimaginable things have started happening. I feel like I am living in an Orwellian novel and I keep waiting and hoping for a political hero like President Trump to stand up and protect New Zealand.

Censorship has come out of left field, and media are leading the charge to control what can and can’t be discussed. Stasi-like vigilante groups are being formed to spy on New Zealanders and to add them to lists.

Censorship has been a round for a long time – and has been used extensively at Whale Oil since 2014 to to control what can and can’t be discussed there.

Organisations, as well as individuals, are going to be accused of hate speech or of being hate groups and people are going to be metaphorically lined up against a wall and shot (deplatformed) by the thought-police.

Will my future grandchildren be able to read my articles or will they and I disappear down the memory hole? How long will it be before I am labelled a dissident and a non-person? It is not only bullets that can destroy a person.

The most likely reason SB’s articles will disappear will be as a result of legal and financial holes dug and dug deeper by her husband Cameron Slater, who is finding that abusing social media power and stupidity, and failing accept responsibility and instead claiming to be a victim, can contribute to self destruction.

A comment by Opal:

It’s the same feeling of unreality that must have been in Nazi Germany of 1930s. It fooled many Jewish citizens – this couldn’t happen in cultured civilized Germany.

“Nazi Germany of 1930s” seems to be a theme, if not a meme.

 

 

France, Germany look to strengthen Euro zone (without Britain)

French President Emmanuel Macron called on Sunday for Germany and France to dig deeper as allies in their bid to spearhead a more united Europe, including by overcoming lingering scepticism on issues such as a euro zone budget.

In a speech to the German lower house of parliament on Sunday at an event honoring war victims, Macron said the onus was on France and Germany to pursue those efforts.

“This new phase can be scary as we will have to share, pool together our decision-making, our policies on foreign affairs, migration and development, an increasing part of our budgets and even fiscal resources, build a common defense strategy,” Macron said at the Bundestag.

“We have to overcome our taboos and overcome our habits.”

Macron, who later met German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin for talks, evoked a world “at a crossroad” in his speech, pitting nationalist movements “with no memory” against more modern, progressive ones.

“Europe, and within it, the Franco-German alliance, has the obligation not to let the world slip into chaos,” he said.

Meanwhile: Theresa May to visit Brussels this week as she defends Brexit deal

 

Merkel’s last term as German and European leader

Angela  Merkel has announced that she won’t stand again for leadership of the CDU party later this year, nor as chancellor of Germany, but she intends seeing out the current term (to 2021).

Merkel:

It is now time for me to share with you the following decision.

First, at the next CDU party conference in December in Hamburg I will not run for the office of party chairman.

Second, this, my fourth term, will be my last as chancellor of Germany. In the 2021 election I will not run for that office, or for a seat in the Bundestag.

And just for the record, I will not seek any political offices either.

That is still three years to go as chancellor – if she stays that long. The coalition government she currently leads was difficult to form, taking months after last year’s election, and may or may not last the distance.

Merkel has been a dominant European leader and a major world leader, but support for her and her party have  been slipping.

 

Reducing supermarket plastic

Eliminating plastic supermarket bags is getting a lot of attention, but that addresses only a part of plastic overload at supermarkets. A lot of foods are individually wrapped in plastic, which at best end up in our landfill.

Here is an interesting idea from Germany, where you take your own plastic containers to the supermarket. For hygiene reasons you place your container on a tray so the staff don’t touch yours (for hygiene reasons), they place the food – meat, cheese, whatever – into the container and hand you back the tray, and then you put the lid on and take your container.

This supermarket is fighting against unnecessary plastic

As you often put foods like this in containers at home anyway this saves the plastic packaging for transit from the supermarket to home.

It means you have to plan ahead, as you do taking your own bags to pack your groceries into, and all you have to do is take the storage containers as well. We should be able to manage that most of the time.

Trump versus NATO

The NATA summit in Brussels has started with Donald Trump on the offensive.

RealClearPolitics:  In Testy Exchange, Trump Hits Germany for Being ‘Captive’ to Russia

In a combative start to his NATO visit, President Donald Trump asserted Wednesday that a pipeline project has made Germany “totally controlled” by and “captive to Russia” and blasted allies’ defense spending, opening what was expected to be a fraught summit with a list of grievances involving American allies.

Trump, in a testy exchange with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, took issue with the U.S. protecting Germany as it strikes deals with Russia.

“I have to say, I think it’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia where we’re supposed to be guarding against Russia,” Trump said at breakfast with Stoltenberg. “We’re supposed to protect you against Russia but they’re paying billions of dollars to Russia and I think that’s very inappropriate.”

The president appeared to be referring to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would bring gas from Russia to Germany’s northeastern Baltic coast, bypassing Eastern European nations like Poland and Ukraine and doubling the amount of gas Russia can send directly to Germany. The vast undersea pipeline is opposed by the U.S. and some other EU members, who warn it could give Moscow greater leverage over Western Europe.

Trump said “Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia” and urged NATO to look into the issue.

Will Trump install a gas pipeline from the US to Germany to keep them captive to him?

Stoltenberg pushed back, stressing that NATO members have been able to work together despite their differences. “I think that two world wars and the Cold War taught us that we are stronger together than apart,” he told the president, trying to calm tensions.

Guardian: Angela Merkel hits back at Donald Trump at Nato summit

Angela Merkel has pushed back against Donald Trump’s extraordinary tirade against Germany on the first day of the Nato summit in Brussels, denying her country was “totally controlled” by Russia and saying it made its own independent decisions and policies.

In less blunt language than the US president’s, the German chancellor made the point that she needed no lessons in dealing with authoritarian regimes, recalling she had been brought up in East Germany when it had been part of the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence.

Arriving at Nato headquarters only hours after Trump singled out Germany for criticism, Merkel said: “I have experienced myself how a part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union. I am very happy that today we are united in freedom, the Federal Republic of Germany. Because of that we can say that we can make our independent policies and make independent decisions. That is very good, especially for people in eastern Germany.”

She also hit back at Trump’s criticism that Germany contributed too little to European defence. “Germany does a lot for Nato,” she said.

“Germany is the second largest provider of troops, the largest part of our military capacity is offered to Nato and until today we have a strong engagement towards Afghanistan. In that we also defend the interests of the United States.”

Merkel has much more experience dealing with other countries than Trump, something that is essential in a part of the world where there are a lot of countries in close proximity.

Europe comprises 50 countries, has a population of about 740 million,and has an area of 10,180,000 km2.

The United States is a single country with 50 states and has a population of about 345 million, and has an area of 9,833,520 km2.

So about the only thing similar is the land area.

Russian influence in Latvia and Estonia is far more real. The Baltic countries  have been directly controlled by Russia twice (and by Germany once). They border Russia and have many ethnic Russian citizens.

NY Times: Trump Derides NATO as ‘Obsolete.’ Baltic Nations See It Much Differently

As President Trump joins his second NATO summit meeting — having called the alliance “obsolete,” derided its members as deadbeats and suggested that American military protection is negotiable — there is deep unease on the alliance’s eastern flank. And that sense has only been heightened by Mr. Trump’s scheduled one-on-one meeting next week with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

The United States ambassador to Estonia, James D. Melville Jr., became so exasperated with the constant statements from Mr. Trump disparaging the alliance and the European Union that late last month he quit in disgust.

And as the Trump-Putin meeting approached, a popular Russian-language Latvian newspaper ran a picture of the two men, cheek by jowl, with the ominous headline: “What Will Trump and Putin Agree On: The End of the E.U.?”

For the nations of Latvia and Estonia, nestled between Russia and the Baltic Sea and with large ethnic Russian populations, NATO is no abstraction.

Long before the debate over the Kremlin’s interference in the American election, there was alarm in the Baltic nations over Russian attempts to influence public opinion and exploit the complicated issues of ethnic identity in a region reshaped by war and occupation. In both the annexation of Crimea and its actions in Ukraine, the Russian government has used protecting the rights of ethnic Russians as a pretext for intervention. About one-third of the populations of Latvia and Estonia are ethnic Russians.

Most of the ethnic Russians arrived after the war, when the country was under Soviet domination. They have long been educated in separate schools and formed different social bonds as the nation has struggled to integrate them into society.

But the assimilation process has been made harder by increasingly aggressive propaganda campaigns in the Russian-language news media, narratives widely believed to be directed from Moscow with the intent of heightening divisions.

The inter-relationships between European countries are complex, with long histories.

I don’t know if Trump understands any of this. His bully and bluster approach to achieving what he wants may work in some ways for the US, but it is unlikely to reduce Russian influence (or Chinese influence) – and it is at real risk of doing the opposite.

He continues to drive wedges between different countries and the US. His selfish isolationist is likely to reduce  influence over time, as the rest of the world learns to rely less on the United States – especially if the tempestuous Trump stays in charge for any length of time.

 

Weakened Merkel forced to backtrack on illegal immigration

Angela Merkel was always going to have a challenge managing a coalition government that took months to form, and relies on the agreement of several diverse parties.

The contentious issue of illegal immigration put the three month old coalition at threat of collapse, but that was averted with an agreement that will toughen up significantly on cross-border migration, if the agreement holds together. It meanbs setting up transit camps on the Austrian border.

Reuters: Merkel to fight another day after settling migration row

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives settled a row over migration that threatened to topple her fragile governing coalition late on Monday evening after talks with her rebellious interior minister led him to drop his threat to resign.

Emerging after five hours of talks, Horst Seehofer, leader of Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU), told reporters he would remain in his post after a deal with Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) that he said would stem illegal immigration.

“After intensive discussions between the CDU and CSU we have reached an agreement on how we can in future prevent illegal immigration on the border between Germany and Austria,” Seehofer said as he left the CDU’s Berlin headquarters.

The deal, which brought Merkel’s government to the brink of collapse just three months after it was formed, keeps her in office. But the woman who has dominated European politics for 12-1/2 years appears greatly diminished, raising questions over whether she will serve out her term.

NY Yimes: Merkel, to Survive, Agrees to Border Camps for Migrants

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who staked her legacy on welcoming hundreds of thousands of migrants into Germany, agreed on Monday to build border camps for asylum seekers and to tighten the border with Austria in a political deal to save her government.

It was a spectacular turnabout for a leader who has been seen as the standard-bearer of the liberal European order but who has come under intense pressure at home from the far right and from conservatives in her governing coalition over her migration policy.

Although the move to appease the conservatives exposed her growing political weakness, Ms. Merkel will limp on as chancellor. For how long is unclear. The nationalism and anti-migrant sentiment that has challenged multilateralism elsewhere in Europe is taking root — fast — in mainstream German politics.

Ms. Merkel agreed to the latest policy after an insurrection over migration policy led by her interior minister, Horst Seehofer, threatened to bring down her coalition.

It’s tough when in a tenuous coalition one of your own ministers threatens to bring it down if they don’t get their way.

The new policy still needs to be approved by the third part in the coalition, the Social Democrats, and also needs to be accepted by Austria, so it isn’t a done deal yet.

It would establish camps, called “transit centers,” at points along the border. Newly arriving migrants would be screened in the centers, and any determined to have already applied for asylum elsewhere in the European Union would be turned back.

Administration aside this this may reduce Germany’s immigration problems but it won’t make them go away – the flood is still in Europe, Germany is just blocking a few holes in the dyke.

Under Ms. Merkel, Germany has been a bulwark against the rise of the far right in Europe and the increasing turn against migrants. Even as neighboring countries turned away those fleeing war and strife in the Middle East, she has welcomed more than a million since 2015, and lobbied for a collective European solution.

Since then the number of new migrants has dropped to a fraction of what it was three years ago. But the good will has been eroding as Germany has struggled to absorb those already in the country.

While migration has reduced significantly concerns over what has already happened and is still happening has grown.

This is a huge ongoing problem for Germany and for Europe.

A new government in Italy is also trying to deal with illegal immigration – Migration crisis: Italy’s threats a plea for help

As migration to Europe surges, Italy has issued threats against aid organizations assisting refugees in the Mediterranean.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), an agency that cooperates with the UN, 85,000 migrants fled to Italy from North Africa by boat in the first half of 2017. That figure is 19 percent higher than the one for the first half of last year. And according to IOM, the high point of the “season” hasn’t even been reached yet.

All of the EU’s attempts to reduce the number of migrants have failed so far. The official aim of the EU is to close off the Mediterranean route, as well as the route between Turkey and Greece, as much as possible.

Almost half of those refugees who have been rescued were saved not by EU ships but by private boats being operated by one of the 10 private aid organizations patrolling the area.

Italy now wants to control the work of aid organizations more closely and is preparing new procedures and new rules of conduct. Missions by Frontex and the NGOs have so far been coordinated by the Italian navy. They have accused individual employees of switching off their ships’ transponders.

Without the transponders automatically indicating the position of their vessels, these individuals then allegedly travel to Libyan waters, where they pick up migrants from inflatable boats and rotten wooden cages.

Now, Italy is threatening to close its ports to NGO ships with migrants on board.

Interior ministers from France and Germany have promised Italy more support.

The deeper problem, namely the failed redistribution of refugees to other EU countries, has still not been solved despite two years of dialog.

Illegal migration has become a huge problem for Europe, with no easy solutions.

Immigration issues in New Zealand are tiny in comparison. Being isolated in a remote part of the southern Pacific Ocean makes us hard to get to and relatively easy to police.

 

Germany crash out of world cup

 

Germany were, as usual, one of the favourites for the football world cup currently running in Russia, but they started badly with a loss to Mexico. This put pressure on them.

They were able to scratch out a win against Sweden with a last minute goal.

But they have just lost to South Korea 0-2, so have finished bottom of their pool.

Bittere Tränen der deutschen Fans auf den englischen Titelseiten

„Der Weltmeister hinterlässt eine gedemütigte Nation“

This is a major upset – but sports can be like that.

German crime rate lowest since 1992

Scare claims of escalating crime in Germany after recent influxes of refugees are contrary to what has been happening there. But the good news comes with a warning.

Deutsche Welle: Crime rate in Germany lowest since 1992, but Seehofer still issues stern warning

“Germany has become safer,” Interior Minister Horst Seehofer proclaimed on Tuesday morning in Berlin, as he presented the latest crime statistics for the first time since taking over the post in the new German government.

The latest figures show that some 5.76 million crimes were reported in 2017, 5 percent fewer than in the previous year and the lowest number since 1992. Taken as a percentage of the population, the crime rate is actually at its lowest in 30 years, Seehofer said.

However, Seehofer’s press briefing still had a somber tone to it. The interior minister acknowledged that the latest trends come at a time of public wariness, fueled largely by an increase in terror attacks in recent years, coupled with the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees.

The latest figures show that 44 percent of the German population feels less secure today than they did a few years ago.

“There is no reason to sound the all-clear and much remains to be done” Seehofer said, adding that rule of law must protect itself against all forms of extremism and terrorism.

However, Andre Schulz, the head of Germany’s Federation of German Police Officers, described the differentiation between German public sentiment and actual safety as “a paradox,” adding that the two had no bearing on one another.

These numbers support that:

The statistics separately list the number of offences perpetrated by non-German nationals. Here the number of incidents perpetrated by migrants also dropped significantly — by 23 percent from around 950,000 to just over 700,000. However, Seehofer pointed out that this sharp drop was mostly due to fewer instances of illegal migrants arriving and settling in Germany.

Politically motivated crimes fell for the first time in four years and made up just 0.7 percent of all reported criminal incidents.

Attacks on asylum and refugee shelters dropped significantly by 69 percent to just over 300 reported incidents. The number of attacks on immigrants returned to the level recorded before the 2015 migrant crisis and the influx of some 1 million refugees into Germany.

Anti-Semitic attacks are increasing, mainly due to right wing extremists.

Worryingly, however, there was a notable 2.5 percent increase in the number of anti-Semitic attacks, taking the total number in 2017 to 1,504 cases. Seehofer acknowledged a rise in so-called “imported anti-Semitic crimes,” referring to attacks on Jews perpetrated by Muslim migrants.

However, the minister stressed that the vast majority of such incidents, some 94 percent, were perpetrated by right-wing extremists.

More: Germany: Crime rate drops, but fear rises

German reaction to Ardern visit

The visit if a prime Minister from a small remote country is not a big deal in Germany, but Jacinda Ardern has had some (relatively limited) coverage there. Collated by Geoffrey Miller in Twitter.