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peppertree's Journal
peppertree's Journal
March 30, 2020

Philadelphia hospital to stay closed after owner requests nearly $1 million a month

A hospital with room for nearly 500 beds has been closed for months in the center of Philadelphia, a city bracing for the spread of the coronavirus and a crush of sick patients.

But the facility will remain empty, city officials said, because they cannot accept the owner’s offer: buy the hospital or lease it for almost $1 million a month, including utilities and other costs.

“We don’t have the need to own it nor the resources to buy it. So we are done and we are moving on,” Mayor Jim Kenney told reporters on Thursday during the city’s daily briefing.

The next day, he said that Temple University would let the city use a music and sports venue for free.

The city would no longer pursue the closed facility, Hahnemann University Hospital.

At: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/27/us/coronavirus-philadelphia-hahnemann-hospital.html

Hahnemann University Hospital.

The closed facility could hold 500 patients - but the owner's rent demands are unaffordable for the city.
March 30, 2020

Argentina's Fernandez freezes rents and mortgages, suspends evictions through September

Argentine President Alberto Fernández signed an executive order granting relief to the nation's tenants and borrowers amid the ongoing Coronavirus crisis.

The order freezes residential and commercial rents, as well as mortgage and secured loan payments, through September 30.

Tenants and borrowers are also protected from eviction for non-payment until October, when any rents owed from the moratorium may be repaid in three installments.

The relief package is part of a series of emergency measures stemming from the Covid-19 global pandemic, which in Argentina has reached 820 known cases since March 1st and claimed 20 lives.

The Covid crisis prompted Fernández to enact a nationwide shelter-in-place order for non-essential staff on March 20, which according to authorities has so far had an estimated 94% compliance rate.

Retail collapse

High compliance has resulted, in the case of Buenos Aires, in a 72% reduction in automobile traffic and 83% in public transport ridership - as well as 50% less air pollution and 89% less crime.

But excluding supermarkets and pharmacies, retail sales have collapsed by at least 70% according to Small and Medium Business Assembly head Manuel Gabás - a sharp blow, after a two-year recession in which nearly 25,000 employers closed shop.

Following a Central Bank rate cut from 63% when Fernández took office in December to 38%, economic relief enacted since March 17 includes a $5.5 billion small business credit line and a $150 monthly subsidy for the nation's 5 million low-income workers.

The OECD estimated that even with relief measures, GDP may fall by 2% for every month that shelter-in-place orders remain in effect; Argentina's GDP already fell 2.2% last year, and a total of 6.6% since early 2018.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&tab=wT&sl=es&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ambito.com%2Feconomia%2Falquileres%2Falquileres-congelan-precios-y-suspenden-desalojos-falta-pago-el-30-septiembre-n5091958

"Taking care of yourself is taking care of us all," a Health Ministry billboard along Buenos Aires' normally hectic 9th of July Avenue reminds Argentines to take precautions during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The current crisis is hitting Argentina particularly hard, following two years of a "Macrisis" and six years of sputtering growth.

"In a crisis such as this," President Alberto Fernández explained, "you can't leave people unprotected."
March 29, 2020

Leading South Korean doctor says Trump's 'pride' and 'ego' are putting the world's health at risk

President Donald Trump's refusal to implement mass testing for the coronavirus in the United States will have "global repercussions," a South Korean doctor said.

In an interview with Wired this week, Min Pok-kee, whose aggressive approach to tackling the COVID-19 virus in the city of Daegu became a model for South Korea's nationwide response, said Trump's failure meant that "it's inevitable that you become like Italy."

"The United States is very late to this," he said. "And the president and the officials working on it seem to think they aren't late. This has both national and global repercussions.

"It isn't enough for Korea alone to survive. In the US, Trump is talking about taking care of his own, but the entire world has to respond in sync."

At: https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-south-korea-doctor-donald-trump-ego-world-health-covid-2020-3

Trump holds forth as Drs. Debrorah Birx and Anthony Fauci look on.

"Trump has spoken dismissively about testing because of his ego," South Korea's Dr. Min noted. "As we scientists see it, he's motivated by pride."
March 29, 2020

'Huge Victory' for Standing Rock Sioux tribe as federal court rules DAPL permits violated law

A federal judge handed down a major victory for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe of North Dakota on Wednesday, ruling that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act by approving federal permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The USACE must complete a full environmental impact study of the pipeline, including full consideration of concerns presented by the Standing Rock Tribe, the judge ruled.

The tribe has asked the court to ultimately shut the pipeline down.

The court chastised the USACE for moving ahead with affirming the permits in 2016 and allowing the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) crossing the Missouri River after President Donald Trump took office in 2017, without considering the expert analysis put forward by the tribe.

At: https://commondreams.org/news/2020/03/25/huge-victory-standing-rock-sioux-tribe-federal-court-rules-dapl-permits-violated-law

Ray Kingfisher leads Standing Rock Sioux demonstrators at the site of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) Missouri River crossing, in North Dakota.

"This is what the tribe has been fighting for many months," Earthjustice noted. "Their fearless organizing continues to change the game."
March 27, 2020

Bonanza for rich real estate investors, tucked into stimulus package

The federal government’s planned $2 trillion economic rescue package includes financial aid for individuals and industries that are struggling to survive the coronavirus pandemic.

It also includes a potential bonanza for America’s richest real estate investors.

Senate Republicans inserted an easy-to-overlook provision on page 203 of the 880-page bill that would permit wealthy investors to use losses generated by real estate to minimize their taxes on profits from things like investments in the stock market.

The estimated cost of the change over 10 years is $170 billion.

Under the existing tax code, when real estate investors generate losses from gradually writing down the value of their properties, a process known as depreciation, they can use some of those losses to offset other taxes.

The result is that people can enjoy big tax breaks stemming from only-on-paper losses, even if they enjoy big cash profits in the real world.

At: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/26/business/coronavirus-real-estate-investors-stimulus.html

The Trump clause?
March 24, 2020

Bolivia suspends presidential election due to virus lockdown

Bolivia’s top electoral authority called for a new date for the country’s presidential election, saying the May 3 vote became unfeasible after the government mandated a two-week nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal said on Saturday it was suspending the electoral process for two weeks and called on political parties, the government and congress to select a new date for the vote.

The Andean country of 12 million went into lockdown on Sunday to stem the spread of the coronavirus as self-proclaimed President Jeanine Áñez ordered people to stay in their homes and only leave to buy essential goods or to see a doctor.

Áñez, who did not announce a new date for the election, took power two days after a violent coup forced President Evo Morales to resign on November 12.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemned the Áñez dictatorship for its role in at least 35 deaths while quashing protests in the month after the coup.

At: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-23/bolivia-suspends-presidential-election-due-to-virus-lockdown

Bolivian dictator Jeanine Áñez declares a national shelter-in-place order, while suspending presidential elections scheduled for May 3.

Her decree prolongs Bolivia's ongoing lack of constitutional democracy - which until the November 12 coup against President Evo Morales had been continuous since 1982.
March 21, 2020

Six dead after Indiana bridge collapses in floodwaters

Source: NBC News

Six people have died after floodwaters washed away a bridge in Indiana Friday morning.

High waters from overnight storms caused the bridge collapse in Franklin County, authorities said.

Deputies were able to recover five bodies by Friday afternoon, NBC affiliate WLWT in Cincinnati, Ohio, reported.

The sixth body was found Saturday morning after authorities resumed their search.

Read more: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/six-dead-after-indiana-bridge-collapses-floodwaters-n1165616

The collapsed bridge over the Sanes Creek - near Laurel, Indiana.

Time for another tax cut for the wealthy?
March 20, 2020

Argentina enacts nationwide lockdown, economic stimulus in response to Covid-19 crisis

Argentine President Alberto Fernández announced today that a nationwide lockdown is being enacted, effective midnight tonight.

Most commercial, financial, religious, and tourist establishments are ordered closed until March 31st, as well as a home isolation order for the nation's 45 million people.

Permits will be issued on a need basis, and essential staff and services such as grocery stores, media and health care are exempted.

"If we stay home, there will be less contagion and we will suffer much less," Fernández explained. "We still have many days in which to take care of ourselves, and a battle to fight."

The emergency measure is in response to the ongoing Covid-19 global pandemic, which in Argentina has already reached 128 known cases since March 1st and claimed three lives.

Today's announcement follows a March 15 executive order suspending all public events with audiences or spectators - as well as shutting schools, national parks, and international borders.

A 14-day quarantine had been ordered on March 12 for Argentine residents recently arrived from "high-risk" countries - the source for virtually all the 128 cases known thus far.

These emergency measures are expected to deepen the country's recession - already approaching its third year.

Accordingly, Production Minister Matías Kulfas on March 17 announced price controls and a $7.5 billion stimulus package - including a $5.5 billion credit line for employers, a 3,000-peso ($46) monthly bonus for all retirees and family assistance beneficiaries (some 9 million people between them), and a $1.5 billion public works program.

"Health is not a building"

The public works package includes the construction of 8 modular hospitals to deal with an expected increase of respiratory ailments due to Covid-19, as well as the completion of two general hospitals outside Buenos Aires.

The two hospitals had been built during former President Cristina Kirchner's second term (2011-15), and were to serve La Matanza County - a largely working-class county west of Buenos Aires whose 1.8 million people were among the most underserved in the nation.

But just months from their planned inaugural in 2016, Kirchner's right-wing successor, Mauricio Macri, suspended funding for these hospitals - leaving one empty, and the other functioning as a primary clinic.

When asked about the suspended works on these and five other such facilities in 2017, then-Governor María Vidal replied that "health is not a building."

Macri and Vidal were defeated for re-election last October.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&tab=wT&sl=es&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.telam.com.ar%2Fnotas%2F202003%2F442323-fernandez-olivo-reunion-gobernadores-coronavirus.html

Argentine President Alberto Fernández (right) and Public Works Minister Gabriel Katopodis fly over the Dr. René Favaloro Hospital, west of Buenos Aires.

The hospital, inaugurated in 2015, functioned only as a primary clinic due to recurrent budget cuts under Fernández's right-wing predecessor.

A March 17 executive order frees funds for this and another - but still-vacant - hospital nearby, and eight modular hospitals.

Today's nationwide lockdown - based on similar measures enacted in China, Italy, and Spain - will inevitably deepen the nation's two year-old recession.
March 18, 2020

Meet Dr. Chen Wei: A pioneer in COVID-19 vaccine research, development

China's Defense Ministry said in a statement yesterday that it had "successfully" developed a vaccine against the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus - which causes COVID-19 pneumonia - and has authorized human clinical trials.

Behind this discovery is Dr. Chen Wei, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Engineering and researcher at the Institute of Military Medical Sciences of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

She has led China's battle against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on the front line in Wuhan - the epicenter of the outbreak.

Chen, 54, headed a team of medical workers from the Institute of Military Medical Sciences to fly to Wuhan and to support the epidemic prevention and control efforts there on January 26.

Their mobile laboratory made of connected tents was put into operation on January 30. As of that day, they had successfully produced their own test kits for the novel coronavirus, which greatly reduced the time of nucleic acid tests for the confirmation of suspected cases.

Dr. Chen and her team spent over 10 years researching and producing recombinant vaccines, which have since been added to China's strategic reserve.

At: http://www.womenofchina.cn/womenofchina/html1/special/2003/9429-1.htm

China's Dr. Chen Wei at work during the 2003 SARS epidemic - during which she developed a aerosol spray credited with protecting over 14,000 medical staff from infection.

Her team yesterday announced the successful development of a vaccine against Covid-19.
March 16, 2020

Sen. Mitt Romney proposes immediate $1,000 payment to every adult American

Sen. Mitt Romney wants to give working Americans $1,000 to help those in need and stimulate the economy during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Utah Republican said Monday that urgent action is needed to aid workers and wants a direct payment included in congressional legislation now being debated. The payments might be evaluated on a month-to-month basis.

Romney also proposes “bridge grants” to small businesses in need, expanding student aid and deferring college loans for recent graduates affected by outbreak.

At: https://www.sltrib.com/news/politics/2020/03/16/sen-mitt-romney-proposes/

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney endures a recent meeting with Trump.

“The House coronavirus response package contains critical measures to help families in Utah and across the nation in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, and the Senate should act swiftly on this legislation,” Romney said.

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