Thursday, April 30, 2020

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 30.4.20

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'*
Life in Spain in the Time of Something Like Cholera
  • The government's flexible, phased (but only possible) relaxation of the lockdown is usefully presented in this table:-

  • As to what will actually happen, no one really knows. 
  • Opines Nick Corbishley, of Wolf Street: If everything goes according to plan, which is far from likely given the complexity of the task and the volatility of the situation, the country will return to some semblance of normality by the end of June, says the government. 
  • Nick takes a - despairing - look at the overall situation here, stressing that the light at the end of the proverbial is hard to discern right now.
  • Here and here The Olive Press and The Local, respectively, take a first look at the development and its possible implications for our social life.
  • For me, the questions of immediate importance are: Come Saturday - will I be able to drive down to town and then walk more than 200m to pick up a take-away order or to sit on a terrace? And, if so, will my sister be able to come with me in my car? Or will I be fined by our zealous police, if I attempt any of this?
  • Other Brits resident here have much bigger problems, of course - such as those with a business in the South. And those in the tourism industry, one of whom has described the relaxation plan as a 'lifebuoy filled with concrete'.
  • As for the political backcloth, the situation is possibly as tribal/polarised as in the USA, with only  0.5% of 'far-right' Vox voters and 9.5% of 'centre-right' PP voters saying they trust the government to manage the situation effectively. More on this here.
  • If, despite everything, you're continuing with a pre-crisis plan to buy property off-plan in Spain, here's Mark Stücklin with advice on your legal position.
  • And here's María's Chronicle, Day 46, down at the coal face.
Real Life in Spain
  • Dolphins are having a whale of a time down near Valencia.
  • It's said that summer holidays this year - if taken at all - will be more local than usual. This won't bother most Pontevedrans, as they only travel c.15km to spend a month or two in Sanxenxo, 'The Marbella of Galicia'. 
The UK
  • Ignoring The Guardian  . . . The belated inclusion of care home deaths in the total has taken the UK above France to the 4th position, after Italy. For which the government doesn't yet seem to be paying the price.
  • An interesting portrayal of the UK, drawing parallels with Spain:-

  • Have they been lucky as well as efficient?  
  • Does this saga - complete with design fiascos and multiple opening postponements leading to 'national embarrassment' knock a bit of a hole in the country's enviable reputation for efficiency?
  • Dr Fauci and other experts are being 'disappeared', it seems. In favour of lackeys who'll trumpet Fart's (alleged) economic successes. As ever, not a huge surprise. Once you've accepted the reality of an utter shyster being the president.
  • Is  boosting its global propaganda, says Politico here. Calling on all that self-interested economic aid it's given around the world over the last decade or two.
  • Word of the Day: To disappear: A new transitive version of a previously only intransitive verb, brought to us from the USA, I guess.
Finally . .
  • An odd fact . . . The UK's oldest man and and the oldest woman were born, not just on the same date, but on the same day -  29 March, 1908.

 *A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 29.4.20

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'*
 Life in Spain in the Time of Something Like Cholera
  • There was an announcement yesterday on plans for relaxing the lockdown restrictions. The government seems to have plumped for complexity, with several 'phases' to be staggeringly introduced province by province (50), not region by region(17). As of now, I'm not sure I can leave my house on Saturday and, if so, at what time of day. Or what I can do when I can.
  • Think Spain's attempt at advice on this.
  • The Local also has a go here and there probably isn't a paywall for this.
  • María's Chronicle: Day 45.
Real Life in Spain
  • One of our local imbeciles was copped doing 129kph in a 50kph zone, on the way to see his girlfriend. And managing to commit at least 5 offences at once. Click here to practice your Gallego
The EU
  • Opposition to a eurobond remains strong. Europe is witnessing a tug-of-war between solidarity and those averse to risk-sharing. Click here.
  • Says The Times: Republican candidates for the Senate have been told by the party: “Don’t defend Trump” but instead “Attack China”. Bleedin'ly obvious advice. Which says it all. 
The Way of the world
  • The pandemic (with autocrats everywhere exploiting the “health trumps liberty” mantra), the geopolitical jostling between China and the US, the global economic slowdown, ballooning debt, meltdown in the oil markets, the crackling tension in the European Union between north and south, American unilateralism, the collapse of authority and enfeeblement of the once-great postwar institutions: no wonder we’re all hiding under our duvets. Now, to top it all, there is a succession struggle brewing in a nuclear power led by an erratic dictator with an itchy trigger finger. 
  • One cheering hope about this pandemic is that it has reminded us what irritating irrelevances so many “celebrities” blethering on in a rose-petal bath are. It would be nice to think we have recalibrated as a nation now we know who our true “stars” are. And they certainly aren’t “celebrities” whoring for freebies on Instagram.
Finally . . .  
  • I got this email yesterday. Not hard to conclude what its aim was:- Recovering the mail account password if it has been hacked or forgotten is easy. Still many users are getting confused over the Yahoo mail account recovery process. If you are having any sort of confusion while recovering the password, do not get worried upon, our Yahoo technical team would walk you through the simple and exact process with no hassle. It would make a little bit more sense if I actually had a Yahoo account.
  • A bit of soccer fun from Oz:-

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 28.4.20

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain*

Note: After an (ill-advised?) move last week to New Blogger and a few experimental changes in this blog's 'theme'(format), some readers had difficulty accessing it. I hope that a return to the status quo ante has solved this problem. Though I suspect/fear that, if it has, not all readers will know this!

Life in Spain in the Time of Something Like Cholera
  • Some details here on how one of our 17 regions - Andalucia - plans/hopes to relax restrictions.
  • Meanwhile, the Cabinet will today debate the relaxation of measures, including specific times for seniors and children to be allowed out.
  • María's Chronicle: Day 44.
  • It's an ill wind . . . The Galician village of Piñar is known as ‘coffin town’. In the past it's suffered from  competition from - of course - China. But now it can't supply enough to meet demand.
  • It's odd how some deaths bring things home more quickly than others. He won't be known to all, by any means, but it's reported today that an ex Liverpool player who became a regular match commentator on/in Spanish media has been taken at only 61. Though it was cancer, not the virus that did it. Leaving me wondering whether in Spain, as in the UK, cancer (and other) patients are being denied tests and treatment because the health service is nowtotally dedicated to virus patients.
Real Life in Spain
  • The city of Teruel in Aragón. seems to be our equivalent of Tucson, Arazona - the place where planes go to die. Or at least to go on retreat. The T and A coincidences are interesting. Maybe.
The Way of the world 
  • Threats to life can have profound effects on how people feel about their government. Many world leaders are enjoying an increase in popularity, though this could change as the crisis continues.  Boris Johnson’s popularity has soared . .  .  Angela Merkel has had one of the biggest spikes. . .  President Macron,  while still having a very low net approval rating of -21, is considerably more popular now than on February 1 when his rating was -44. . .  Data on the popularity of Italy’s prime minister Giuseppe Conte is scarce, but the polls do suggest it rose in March.  . . . In Spain the government has been criticised for its slow response to the pandemic and for not learning lessons from Italy and it hasn't experienced an increase in support. In the US, Donald Trump saw a small boost in the polls, which then plateaued. He started February with a net approval rating of -11 per cent and it is now at about -3.  
  • The lockdown has laid bare the lie that women are better at multi-tasking. Not my words . . .
Finally . . .
  • To move to the utterly mundane . .  . Can anyone explain why a stone path in my lawn that I've cleared of grass is 7-8cm below the level of the surrounding lawn? Did it sink, or did the lawn rise? Is this why medieval houses and roads are several metres above their Roman predecessors?
 *A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant

Monday, April 27, 2020

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 27.4.20

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain*

Life in Spain in the Time of Something Like Cholera
Real Life in Spain
  • The Post Office (Correos) is supposed to be operating relatively normally but I'm not just one but two months behind in the receipt of Prospect magazine. And the parcel of books from The Netherlands never did arrive. 
  • I found myself wondering yesterday if leaders of the far-right Vox party would admit that Guernica was bombed in 1937 and that the Nationalist claim that the Basques had set fire to their own city had never been remotely credible.  Nothing would surprise me.
The EU
  • A couple of quotes from this Politico article on the 'Problem of Germany', neither of them much of a surprise to some of us:-
o The odds were stacked in Germany’s favor from the outset.
o Instead of acting as the great equalizer, as the fathers of the euro promised, the euro has exacerbated Europe’s economic divisions and, arguably left some countries worse off.
  • What we all imagined what the poor woman was thinking:-
  • I've always (half)believed his own party would arrange an assassination - perhaps by injection of detergent - as it would avoid having to admit to supporting a corrupt madman. The chances of this actually happening have possibly recently increased.
The Way of the world
  • Can this be correct?: The pandemic exposes liberalism's free trade, open borders road to national suicide. Click here.
  • Likewise the contention that the global economic collapse reveals the complete failure of neo-liberal capitalism. Here.
    Social Media
    • Accurate comment: Social media have turbocharged the views of paranoid nutcases. 
    • Case in point.
    Finally . . .
    • An invention mothered by dubious necessity:-

  • In the last 4 days, the readership of this blog - according to the (markedly) lower of the 2 numbers provided by Blogger - has fallen to less than 25% of what it had long been. A new recording system? Or - hard to believe - widespread dislike of the new format? It would be good to be able to ask the (apparently) departed readers. But how???

    •  *A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant

      Sunday, April 26, 2020

      Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 26.4.20

      Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day
      Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.

      Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
      - Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain*

      • There isn't a perfect correlation - among the top 10 hardest-hit countries - as between the tests and the deaths per million. Though there is for France and the UK, in both of which the level of testing is low and deaths high. 
      Spain: The massive exodus of foreigners.

      The UK: So obsessed with pandemic influenza had the government been that they hadn't seen the coronavirus coming. And, for want of a specific plan, when it did arrive, they used the influenza plan anyway. It was the only one they had. The rest, as they say, is history.

      Ireland: Still rising up the table of deaths per million.

      The USA: Randolph County in Georgia is the county with the highest death rate, including New York. Limited access to health care, an elderly population and high levels of poverty could all be a factor. And it is not alone - the cases in the South are surging. Yet at the same time Republican governors are reopening businesses, including in Georgia, where tattoo parlours and spas were allowed to open on Friday, prompting national headlines.

      o As the death toll rises, a significant number of people believe Sweden may have made a fatal error of judgment.   
      o The BBC asks here whether they've got things wrong.

      Life in Spain in the Time of Something Like Cholera
      • As of May 2, we will join the rest of the world and be allowed out of prison to take a bit of exercise.
      • The lifting of other rules will depend on where you live. “It will be gradual and asymmetrical,” the PM says. “We will not advance at the same speed.”
      • Meanwhile, my impression is that police patrols have markedly decreased in the last week or so.
      • María's Chronicle, Day 42.
      • A nice tale from Valencia.
      Real Life in Spain
      • More sales tax reductions.
      • Another of those Spanish politicians . . . Mallorca's mayor fined €3,000 after attending an alcohol-fuelled party during the lockdown. 
      • I read somewhere that the feast day of St James/Iago - 25 July - is called the Dia del Matamoros (The Day of the Moors-slayer) on the Spanish calendar. I can't say I've ever heard this, and I doubt it'd be acceptable in today's - yesterday's? - politically correct climate. Eamon/María?
      The EU  
      The USA
      • We can but hope that having someone insane as the 'leader of the free world' doesn't end in a near-term global disaster. And wonder what on earth it signifies about the US that led its people to putting him in this position. Doubtless historians will tell us one day. Meanwhile, we can but mock a man who 'has relinquished any last semblance of mental balance.' So here goes:-
      1. Another ditty from the engaging Randy Rainbow. 'A Spoonful of Clorox'
      2. Another impersonation from J-L Couvin. 'I said Diet Fresca, not disinfectant.'
      3. Just a few of the funnies going round:-

      Way of the world
      • The Covidian Revolution: It was going to happen anyway, but Covid 19 and the need to live virtually is going to make it happen more quickly. More here.
      Finally . . . 
      • On this day in 1937, the German Condor legion - in Operation Rügen - bombed, strafed and machine-gunned defenceless Guernica - an appalling atrocity that was never admitted to during Franco's lifetime. See Wiki on it here and click here for the devastating eye-witness report of  the American Special Correspondent George Steer. And here for a reading of the report accompanied by newsreel footage.
       *A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.

      Saturday, April 25, 2020

      Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 25.4.20

      Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
      - Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain*

      Note: I'm indebted to Lenox Napier's comprehensive Business Over Tapas for some of today's items.


      • Doctors are reported here to be 're-thinking the role of mechanical ventilation.'
      • Discouraging news re the trial of the potential antivirus drug remdesivir.
      Spain: Sees more recoveries than new infections for the the first time, while the death toll sees a significant drop. See here.

      Sweden: Will its gamble pay off? See this video. Right now, its death/m number is 213.

      Ireland: Rising rapidly in terms of per capita deaths. Having been below the USA (now at 156/m), Ireland's number has soared to 205, not far behind Sweden's. Compare with Germany at 69 and Belgium at 576. Though no country beats New York, at 1,085, and New Jersey, at 632.

      The Netherlands: Fields of tulips go unpicked as the virus blitzes demand.

      Life in Spain in the Time of Something Like Cholera
      • María's Chronicle: Day 41.
      • British residents will be vital to the recovery of the tourism industry. See why here.
      Real Life in Spain
      • The coalition government is finalising plans for the introduction in May of a guaranteed minimum income scheme, to the benefit of low-income families. It's said this'll be permanent and so survive the end of the virus crisis, whenever that'll be.
      • The government is looking at significantly lowering the sales tax(IVA) on e-books and the digital press.
      • Spain remains at 29th (out of 180) as regards freedom of the national press. If you think that's bad, the UK comes in at 35th.
      •  In Spain, the phenomenal quantity of fake news and hoax information has been dubbed an ‘infodemic’ by El País.  The capacity of Vox to manage mass misinformation and fake news campaigns is not new; the European Commission sounded the alarm on the online behaviour of Vox and its network of fake accounts and bots last May. More on this here.
      • Centre ground politics in Spain is notable for its absence.
      • Spain has a complex, semi federal administration system with an additional layer of local government. In 'a country of low ethics', this is a breeding ground for corruption. Of which Spain has a very long  and notorious record.
      • A politically motivated trial and sentencing? Often a suspicion in Spain.
      The EU
      • The EU is slow and lacks solidarity in the face of the coronavirus crisis. Click here.
      • President Macron issues an ultimatum to Europe's German bloc:  Cough up Covid trillions or lose the single market': See there article below.
      The USA 
      • You really do have to admire the OFC's ability to lie outrageously with a straight face: I was being sarcastic to a group of hostile reporters of the fake news. Just as the video shows. Was there ever anyone better who didn't have the initials AH or JG?
      • Is it a good thing or a bad thing that a percentage of the people stupid enough to be influenced by him will die?
      • This is a report on the theme of his (total lack of) integrity and its fatal consequences
      • A scandal? The American healthcare system is the most expensive in the world, and delivers some of the rich world’s worst health outcomes. It is also a gigantic engine of Sheriff of Nottingham redistribution, taking money from everyone—poor, middle, and well-to-do—and distributing it upwards to well-heeled doctors and providers in hospitals, pharmaceutical and device manufacturers. A family health policy cost $20,000 on average in 2018, and because so much health insurance is paid as part of employment, this high cost reduces wages and replaces good positions in large firms with the sort of outsourced jobs in service supply firms that offer scant security and few prospects. The cost of healthcare is essentially a poll tax on all Americans. From this article on the wider theme of inequality and its measurement.
      The Way of the World 
      • The position of the US in the Middle East might now be described as one of impotence tempered by assassination. From this article.
      • Phrase of the Day: 'Bare-faced liar': Possibly mentiroso descarado or mentiroso sinverguenza. Better ideas very welcome.
      Finally . . .
      • If you have white-tiled and/or parquet floors and have double the usual number of people in your house and they can't leave 24/7 but occasionally go into your garden, you'll find that the amount of sweeping and mopping you have to do increases markedly. But at least it helps to pass the time. And, in truth, it's not even a pin-prick. Just not what I prefer to spend time doing. On whatever day it is.
      • Why does Sky News call the computers given to virus patients by their brand name and not just 'laptops'? If they aren't actually made by the company which owns the brand and the name (like Hoover years ago) is being used generically, it'll surely be worried about loss of trade-mark protection.

      Macron issues ultimatum to Europe's German bloc: Cough up Covid trillions or lose the single market: Ambrose Evans Pritchard, the Telegraph

      European leaders have dodged their "moment of truth". The Covid-19 emergency package averts an immediate crisis but fails to draw the political poison now threatening monetary union. 

      It has not cut Italy’s borrowing costs to bearable levels and is too little either to ensure the economic viability of southern Europe’s debt bloc or prevent the North-South divergence from spiraling out of control. It leaves the European Central Bank holding the fort, compelled to cover the exploding debt issuance of eurozone treasuries and to work overtime to stave off a run on Club Med bond markets. This places the institution in an invidious legal position. 

      The vague agreement on Thursday night was billed as a compromise. EU veterans say that it was in reality a "German" outcome, repeating the pattern of the eurozone debt crisis. The northern bloc rejected any serious move towards joint debt issuance or fiscal transfers.  Aid will come in the form of loans and must be repaid. Any extra debt will be subject to the surveillance and contractionary ideology of the EU Fiscal Compact once the pandemic is over. 

      Chancellor Angela Merkel said grants of money are "not in the category of what I can agree". She warned peers with icy precision that if Europe is going to spend vast sums then all states would have to submit to “coherent taxation policies”.  This is a polite way of telling Italy that the quid pro quo is wealth confiscation to restore debt solvency, akin to what happened in the early 1990s or with Argentina’s corralón. It sends shivers down Italian spines.   

      The new Recovery Fund – to be fleshed out next month by Commission technocrats – will be linked to the EU’s internal budget and mostly come in the form of lending. It will be subject to Treaty Article 122 to keep tight control. Two-thirds of the trillion-plus headline will be achieved by "crowding in" private money.  Eurointelligence says the intent is to "impress the gullible".

      French president Emmanuel Macron did not pretend that there was a summit breakthrough. In a remarkable outburst afterwards he issued what could be interpreted an ultimatum. He had a warning for those rich northern states that "profit" so handsomely from exporting to the South: they might wake up one day to find that the EU single market is "no longer there" unless they are careful. "If you let part of Europe fall, the whole of Europe will fall," he said. "The countries that are blocking are the same ones as ever, the frugals: Germany, the Netherlands... whose  deep psychology and political constraints justify very hard positions," he said.

      This accusatorial tone will surely grate in Berlin, the Hague, or Vienna. They know that Mr Macron is trying to bounce the North into fiscal union, exploiting the emotions of the pandemic to change Europe’s constitutional structure. Such a jump violates treaty law. It breaches the German Basic Law and alienates the Bundestag’s tax-and-spend prerogatives. It cannot legally be done with a flick of the political fingers.

      Nor is France an honest broker. Marchel Alexandrovich from Jefferies estimates that a U-shaped recession will push France’s public debt to 135% of GDP this year. It would hit 142% under a W-shaped slump caused by rolling lockdowns and delayed recovery. France and Germany had similar debt ratios before the Lehman crisis in 2008. They have since diverged dramatically.  The pandemic shock – symmetric in origin, asymmetric in its effects – is turning France into a full member of the vulnerable Latin bloc.

      But Mr Macron is also right. Loans pile more debt on countries already drowning in debt. "That won’t resolve the underlying issue," he said. Covid-19 requires a vast Marshall Plan financed by "joint debt" and "budgetary transfers" to the hardest hit regions. "Our Europe has no future if we don’t do this," he said.

      Markets have reacted calmly so far. Italian risk spreads remain stretched – and unsustainable – at 240 basis points but they have not widened. 

      The EU did agree on other measures with a nominal value of €540bn but this figure is financial legerdemain. One component is really just €25bn of actual money from the European Investment Bank, to be levered up by private funds to €200bn. "Previous experiences with similar structures such as the 2016 Juncker Plan have been mixed, to put it mildly," said Holger Schmieding from Berenberg Bank. 

      There is €100bn in loans for Kurzarbeit jobs support. The last €240bn is to come as lending from the EU bail-out fund (ESM) on "light conditionality". This is politically toxic in Italy – deemed a Trojan Horse for a Brussels take-over - and it is unclear whether any country will touch it. 

      Citigroup said each country is being left to meet the shock on its own and therefore that the package will fail to convince markets. "That leaves the ECB, yet again, as the first and last safety net for Europe," it said.

      The ECB’s Christine Lagarde told EU leaders that doing "too little, too late" risks repeating past errors and is courting fate. She warned that the eurozone could contract by 15% this year.

      Mrs Lagarde also pointed out the fundamental injustice and economic dangers of what is happening. The strong states are spending up to 14% of GDP directly to keep their economies whole and ensure a rapid rebound: the weak dare not match this. Some are spending as little as 1%, implying lasting damage and a blighted recovery. 

      Jefferies estimates that a W-shaped scenario would push debt ratios to 183% of GDP in Italy and 158% in Portugal. "Markets are also starting to see just how damaging this recession will be to public sector finances," it said.

      Worse yet, the weak may be left further behind in the early 2020s. Giada Giani from Citigroup says Italy will not fully recoup this year’s lost GDP in 2021, and will then flat-line in stagnation until the middle of the decade.

      This will destroy monetary union if allowed to occur. The ECB will avert an immediate crisis by mopping up Italian debt under its "pandemic QE" plan. But it cannot keep doing this forever. 

      Italian debt made up one third of the ECB’s total bond purchases in March, double the country’s "capital key", yet this has failed to hold down Italian yields. Private sellers are off-loading their bonds on the ECB and rotating the proceeds out of the country in what amounts to capital flight.   

      These flows will surface in the ECB’s Target2 payments data. The Bundesbank is in effect having to provide a forced "credit" to Club Med central banks that will soon blow through €1tn. At some point this will become politically and legally untenable.

      The German constitutional court will rule on May 5 on how far the Bundesbank can go in supporting the ECB’s emergency policies. The exact wording will be crucial. Markets may suddenly discover that the ECB cannot play the role of permanent saviour after all. Then what?

       *A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.

      Friday, April 24, 2020

      Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 24.4.20

      Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
      - Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain*


      Spain: HT to Lenox Napier of Business Over Tapas for this map of how the 17 regions have been affected.

      The UK: Click here if you want to know more about the initial 'core error' and continuing mistakes of the British government. As the author says: This pandemic was both predictable and predicted. But when it came to the crunch, the government was unprepared. And while it is all very well being wise after the event, there were an awful lot of people wise before it happened. This government, and many others, chose not to listen. Will heads roll? Almost certainly not.

      Life in Spain in the Time of Something Like Cholera
      • María's Chronicle Day 40, with an interesting dissertation.
      • Kids: What you can and can't do with them outside the home.
      • And this might lift some of the confusion about what you can do with your rug-rats as of now:.

      Normal Life in Spain
      • See the estimable Guy Hedgecoe here on the blame game that's being played out in the torrid atmosphere of Spanish tribal politics. No wonder they had a civil war, one's tempted to say.
      The EU 
      • Unhappy Italy.
      • Europe faces the most poisonous North-South showdown since the creation of monetary union. The raw emotions of Covid-19 have brought matters to a head.
      Nutters Corner/The USA
      • I haven't featured one of these for a while. Parts of the USA seem to be overrun with them. But possibly a false impression.
      • Mind you, one of the more prominent nutters is now suggesting that the virus be attacked not only by a strong internal light but also by the injection of a household disinfectant. Thank god he's confined to a lunatic asylum - La Casa Blanca - and can't do any harm.
      • An anonymous reader recently kindly corrected my contention that the words asistir and discutir didn't really mean To help and To discuss, respectively. I willingly accept that these meanings do appear in the dictionary of the Royal Academy but would add that Spanish friends say these verbs aren't often used in those senses. I was reminded of this by finding this morning that you won't find these topical words in the RA's dictionary:- Desescalonamiento and Desescalada, both of which I believe are being used for 'loosening' in the context of our ferocious lockdown.
      • P. S. As for discutir meaning both To discuss and To argue, observation of Spanish chatter suggests that this distinction (nuance/matiz) isn't universally appreciated here . . .
      Finally . . .
      • I contacted both the British and Irish embassies to check my sister was able to cross into Portugal to catch a flight home from Oporto, when they're up and running in May. The Irish embassy replied immediately and gave me helpful advice. The British embassy took days to send me a reply that merely pointed me to sites which hadn't answered the question. So you can guess what I replied to their statement: We hope you found this information useful. I suppose there are a lot more Brits with enquiries in Spain than Irish folk. But, even so, not impressive.

       *A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.

      Thursday, April 23, 2020

      Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 23.4.20

      Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
      - Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain*

      o There's an interestingly optimistic view of the future below as the first article.
      o Home-made facemasks slow coronavirus spread, say scientists
      o I'm guessing that everyone's heard the crazy conspiracy theory that Bill Gates is pushing for a vaccine so that a chip can be inserted in everyone. To revise a famous quote: When people stop believing in science, it's not that they believe in nothing: it's that they'll believe in anything.

      o  Kids: In response to widespread criticism, the government has relaxed rules on children aged 14 and under. The requirement for the trip to be for 'essential purchases or errands' has now been lifted.
      o For the rest of us, the ferocious lockdown has been extended until May 10. Though . . .
      o We will return(?) to a new normal in the 2nd half of May, our PM assures us.
      o Meanwhile:-
      1. The numbers continue to improve. Though not markedly so this week. A plateau?
      2. The July Pamplona bull-running has been cancelled.
      3. Ditto Valencia's August Tomatina, the world'd largest tomato fight.
      Germany:  See the 2nd article below for the reasons for its (relative) success.

      The USA: A top health official has warned of a second wave that could be worse than the first. Not that their President cares much about this. And won't until he realises it'll affect his re-election chances.

      Sweden: Deaths are occurring there at a higher rate than in Switzerland, which Sweden has now overtaken in the table of per capita deaths, to become 7th, after the Netherlands.

      Life in Spain in the Time of Something Like Cholera
      • María's Day 39. Faking it.
      • The maximum price for face-masks has been set at 96 centimos, if you can find somewhere with stocks of them. Run by folk prepared to take a loss on products they were charged far more for by the wholesalers. Who, in turn , . . . .
      • 15 survival tips for 'seniors' stuck at home. Don't expect anything groundbreaking.
      Real Life in Spain
      • I must have passed the exit to it on the A8 dozens - if not more than a hundred - times but always thought the 'Asturias' airport in those parts was to the south, near Oviedo. But it ain't; it's 9km WNW of Avilés. You survive and learn.
      • This sort of thing seems to happen far too often with people in positions of authority here in Spain.  But, of course, it pales beside the massive corruption of really senior politicians.
       The USA
      • Another great impression
      • And 2 marvellous songs, here and here.
      • Anyone surprised? President Trump's warning to Iran that he had ordered the US navy to destroy any gunboats that threaten American warships in the Gulf came in a tweet that appeared to take the Pentagon and US navy chiefs alike by surprise,
      The Way of the World/Social Media
      • We all know that, in these insane times, the internet has given a megaphone to the world's cretins. But that's only words. Far worse is that imbeciles in power are exhorting these same people to actions. Which are usually louder than mere words.
      Finally . . .
      • My elder daughter  and I laughed when her 15m old son, after looking at a picture of a chicken, went and got his chicken-sized model dinosaur to continue 'reading'. But then she discovered that one evolved from the other. Smarter than us, then.

      We’ll be free to enjoy the Roaring 2020s:  The decade of creative change that followed the Great War and Spanish flu can be repeated once the lockdown ends:     David Aaronovitch, The Times

      Here’s a dilemma. Refusing to think about the post-pandemic world can drive you mad, but any such thoughts are almost absurdly speculative. At the weekend my brain hopped on a logic-train and imagined society divided into people who’ve had Covid-19 and whose immunity makes them free and valuable, and a majority in semi-permanent lockdown.

      Crazy, right? There is, however, a consistent strand of thought among sensible people about how things will change. This can be summarised as “distance is here to stay”. Anthony Fauci, the chief US immunologist, says that handshaking should stop for ever. And if you’re not going to touch hands, why on earth would you hug or kiss anyone other than close relatives?

      According to this theory, we can bid farewell to the cinema, the theatre, the pub, the nightclub, the race meet, the economy flight, the open-plan office — in fact anywhere and anything that will bring you into close physical contact with strangers. We won’t be forbidden these things but many of us will no longer want to do them. Whatever we do, we’ll do online.

      I want to offer you a different, more hopeful vision of the future. And it’s based on how people behaved after the Spanish flu.

      The worst pandemic of the 20th century erupted at the end of the Great War and killed between two and three times as many as that appalling conflict. In Britain, it claimed nearly 230,000 lives in a year. These victims did not die in public, however, but in their homes, and not together but separately. A historian of the flu disaster, Laura Spinney, points out that for the pandemic dead “there is no cenotaph, no monument in London, Moscow, or Washington, DC. The Spanish flu is remembered personally, not collectively”.

      So the people of 1920 had just emerged from the acknowledged trauma of world war and the more subterranean one of the pandemic. And unlike the coronavirus, deaths from Spanish flu were highest in the 20 to 40 age group.

      You might expect then the 1920s to have been a decade of painful reconstruction, caution and cultural conservatism. Instead we got what became known as “The Roaring 20s”. In America and in Europe the postwar, post-pandemic reaction was an explosion of cultural and artistic innovation and a revolution in social attitudes.

      Among writers, the people who Gertrude Stein in 1921 called the “lost generation”, were young men like F Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway who had gone to war and come back as existentialists, believers that life had no higher purpose. This outlook enabled them to distance themselves from the intellectual and moral constraints of their parents, and create work that was often cynical but usually honest and vivid.

      And it wasn’t just writers. Fitzgerald himself invented the term “The Jazz Age” for this period. In the 1920s rural southern blacks migrated to the cities in their millions and helped intensify a new urban culture. In 1924 Duke Ellington opened the Cotton Club in Harlem in New York. Within weeks of jazz records being pressed in the States they were being played by young people all over the world.

      There were new architectural movements — Art Deco (anyone else think that the Chrysler Building is one of the most beautiful in the world?) and Bauhaus. In defeated Germany, in what they later called the Golden Age, Expressionism revolutionised visual art from paintings to cinema to cabaret. In France, home to Surrealism, it was known as Les Années folles.

      Here in Britain the “Bright Young Things” satirised by Evelyn Waugh in his 1930 novel Vile Bodies, included several leading writers, described by one historian as possessing “a restless rootlessness …” having “a feeling, because ultimately they survived the war, of being both chosen and undeserving”. One of Waugh’s main characters describes “Masked parties, Savage parties, Victorian parties, Greek parties … almost naked parties in St John’s Wood”. Condom sales grew exponentially. The diaphragm began to be mass produced.

      If the privileged partied, then at least the less well-off danced — the Charleston, the Lindy-hop and in dance marathons. And if women authors displayed a new candour, then ordinary women displayed a new independence. Or had it displayed to them. Suddenly adverts showed women driving cars, flying aeroplanes and even smoking. The historian Lucy Moore tells us that in the US in 1929 the ban on women smoking in railway dining cars was lifted. As were hems. During the 1920s the amount of fabric used to dress a woman fell from over 19 yards to seven. Coco Chanel launched herself into a business traditionally dominated by men — women’s clothing — and dressed women in fabrics usually reserved for the chaps, broadening what it meant to be feminine. In 1921 “the Fashion Queen” launched Chanel No 5. The glamour world of the film star became available for everyone.

      All these phenomena were contested. As young people rejected parental values, as the mores of the city clashed with those of the small towns, there was a “cultural civil war” to match anything we have going on now. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the emergence from the straitened, anxious, death-laden times of the Great War and the Great Pandemic created a cultural and social dynamism, as the life force reasserted itself.

      In 1918, American cinemas and theatres were closed in flu-hit cities and towns, and mass events were banned. Masks were worn. And, given that the transmission from person to person of the flu was well understood even then, there must have been a reluctance to press up too closely against other bodies. Yet not only did the closest form of mass entertainment — cinema — survive, it thrived. Within a matter of months huge picture palaces seating 1,200 people were being constructed. By 1930, in a US population of 123 million, weekly movie attendance was 90 million. In close social proximity the pandemic survivors watched Buster Keaton, the “It girl” Clara Bow and Rudolph Valentino.

      My reasoned hope is that the same will happen this time. That the lid put on our collective lives will come flying off as younger generations of play-goers, cinephiles, festival fans, art-lovers and their heroes, together, turn the world upside down again. Get ready for the Roaring 2020s.

      2. What Germany got right in the fight against coronavirus

      Many in the UK looked on in envy this week as Germany began to lift some of its coronavirus lockdown measures and shops reopened around the country. Car dealerships and furniture stores are back in business. Even Berlin’s two zoos are set to reopen by the end of this month.

      While it remains to be seen whether the German authorities have got it right or acted too soon in easing the pressure, it is clear the country has done better than most of its European neighbours in tackling the virus so far.

      Germany has one of the lowest case fatality rates in the world, with 4,869 deaths for 147,593 detected infections, according to Johns Hopkins University in the US. That’s a case fatality rate of just over 3 per cent, compared to around 13 per cent in the UK, France and Italy.

      What's more, German scientists announced last week they had succeeded in bringing the reproduction factor — the number of people each person with the virus passes the infection to — under 1 for the first time.

      Whatever happens next, right now Germany is as close to a coronavirus success story as Europe has. The story of that success comes down to three things: preparedness, a decentralised system that lets doctors make the calls, and a generous slice of luck.

      Intensive care beds

      Germany was better prepared for the coronavirus than anywhere else in Europe for one key reason: it had more intensive care beds.

      At the start of the outbreak Germany had 28,000 ICU beds, far more than any other European country. The UK had just 4,000.  Relative to the size of its population, Germany had 29.2 intensive care beds per 100,000 people, compared to 12.5 in Italy, 11.6 in France, and just 6.6 in the UK.
      And since the crisis began Germany has ramped its total number of ICU beds up even further, to 40,000 — meaning its health system has never been overloaded.

      “One thing Germany got right was increasing the intensive care beds,” Prof Alexander Kekulé, a leading German epidemiologist and virologist said. “As we saw in Italy, it’s when the intensive care units are full that the death rate really begins to rise.”

      Test, test, test

      German government scientists say the reason the country’s fatality rate is so much lower than in other countries is simply that they are detecting more of the cases that don't make it to hospital.
      “The reason e have so few deaths is because we do a lot of tests,” Prof Christian Drosten, the virologist in charge of the national response has said.

      “Test, test, test,” has been the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s mantra for tackling the virus, and if one country has taken that to heart it is Germany.

      So far, Germany has carried out over 1.73m coronavirus tests at a rate of 350,000 a week, according to Jens Spahn, the health minister.

      German scientists believe their figures are closer to the real death rate for the virus, because they're recording more of the cases where patients recover.

      Chasing the infection chains

      But thorough testing doesn't just give more reliable numbers. It has also allowed Germany to stem the spread of the virus by tracing infection chains and isolating people before they can pass it on to others.

      The classic example is the town of Gangelt in Heinsberg district, the epicentre of Germany’s first major outbreak.

      On February 25, a 47-year-old resident of the town tested positive for the coronavirus. He and his wife were immediately placed in isolation. But the German authorities didn’t stop there.
      Within days, they had traced everyone the couple could have been in contact with during the previous two weeks. That was a lot of people: the couple had spent ten days at packed carnival celebrations and could have passed the infection to hundreds.

      But health authorities were able to contact everyone who had been at the carnival and test them. The result was that the outbreak was confined. Heinsberg is over the worst, and the district's shops were allowed to reopen this week.


      Part of Germany’s preparedness lies in the fact it spends a higher proportion of its GDP on healthcare than most countries — 11.2 per cent, compared to 9.6 per cent in the UK.

      But the US spends even more, and has struggled to contain the virus. The answer lies in Germany’s decentralised public health system.

      It is the oldest publicly funded healthcare system in Europe, dating back to when Prince Otto von Bismarck was chancellor.

      But unlike in the UK, there is no central authority like the NHS. Hospitals and clinics are independent, and healthcare is funded by compulsory public insurance.

      The debate on which system is better is endless, but in this case the German set-up proved more suited to tackling the coronavirus.

      While Public Health England was still arguing over testing regimes and retaining control, in Germany individual GPs were able to order tests for their patients.

      And while the NHS tried to boost capacity at a handful of centralised superlabs, in Germany GPs could send samples to a network of 176 public and private laboratories across the country for analysis. The costs were fixed and the bill was picked up by the public insurance funds.

      “We have a culture here in Germany that is not supporting a centralised diagnostic system,” Prof Drosten told NPR radio. “So Germany does not have a public health laboratory that would restrict other labs from doing the tests.”

      Test kits

      All that testing depended on Germany having enough test kits to go around, and that’s where preparedness comes in again. It helped that Germany has a lot of biotech companies able to produce virus tests — but so does the UK.

      The difference, put simply, is that Germany just got its act together quicker. In January, before the WHO had even declared that the coronavirus was transmissible from one person to another, German scientists had developed a test.

      They were able to act so fast because doctors and academics worked together with the private sector without waiting for the government to act.

      Olfert Landt, a German biotech entrepreneur, set his company TIB Molbiol to work alongside Berlin’s Charite teaching hospital to develop a test, and the public insurance funds agreed to pay for testing in February.


      As the German authorities have been the first to acknowledge, all the preparedness in the world wouldn’t have got them to where they are were it not for a crucial slice of luck at the outset.
      The major outbreak of the virus was introduced to Germany by a very specific path — via skiers returning from winter breaks in the resorts of Austria and Italy. That meant initial infections were confined to the young and fit, who had the best chance of surviving the virus.

      And that gave Germany a vital window to start its programme of testing and tracking infection chains before it could spread to the most vulnerable groups, those over 70 or with pre-existing health conditions.

       *A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.

      Wednesday, April 22, 2020

      Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 22.4.20

      Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
      - Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain*

      o Home-made face masks slow coronavirus spread, say scientists
      Hopes of a swift exit from national lockdowns were dealt a blow in Europe, America and Asia yesterday as studies indicated that even in hard-hit regions vast numbers of people remained susceptible to the virus. Relatively few appeared to have developed the antibodies that would be expected to prevent infection and a second wave - far short of the 60-70% likely to be needed for a population to acquire herd immunity.

      o Spanish kids will be allowed to leave their homes from April 26 but only to accompany an adult engaged one of the very few permitted activities, not to run around, ride a bike, skate, or meet and play with friends. Words used by angry Spanish to describe the development:- Half-measures; a complete joke; incredibly disappointing; crazy; absolutely ridiculous; madness; and, completely unreasonable. Clearly, you can displease all the people all the time. Or the vast majority anyway.
      More than a thousand healthcare workers in Spain have been isolated and thousands more will have to be tested for coronavirus after using faulty face masks from China. See El País on this here.

      Singapore: A worrying development in one of the most successful countries . . . Singapore has gone from leading global Covid-19 efforts to having the most cases in South-East Asia. The surge has been attributed to silent clusters in overcrowded workers' dormitories.

      Is aiming to sample its entire population for antibodies in the coming months.
      o The Oktoberfest has been cancelled.

      Italy: The daily number of new cases fell yesterday to fewer than 4,000, down from around 6,000 in late March. For the first time in a month, new deaths dropped below 500 on Saturday.

      FranceThe police fear that lockdown frustrations may explode into violence. Especially in the banlieues, I guess.

      The UK: The first British human trials of a coronavirus vaccine will start tomorrow, with the country “throwing everything” at being the first to develop a successful inoculation.

      Denmark: Yesterday allowed children return to elementary school - the first country in the Western world to do so since the pandemic began. The move, a bold step toward normal life for the Danish government, is a test for how schools can function in the age of contagion. 

      The USA: Concern is rising re duff tests. The Food and Drug Administration has allowed about 90 companies, many based in China, to sell tests without government vetting. The tests are often inaccurate, mistakenly showing antibodies in blood when none exist, and some doctors are misusing them  

      ChileWill become the first country to issue “immunity cards” to those who have antibodies, starting next Monday. Critics say the research is still unclear on whether recovered patients are truly immune.

      Life in Spain in the Time of Something Like Cholera
      • María's Chronicle Day 38, and counting.
      • HT to Lenox of Business Over Tapas for his citation of this map of the different Spanish regions are affected. Murcia by far the least of all.
      • Driving to the supermarket yesterday, I had to pause behind a police car, while one of the occupants grilled this woman, who was pushing her garden produce somewhere on her bike. But I have no idea of the outcome of the 'discussion'.

      Real Life in Spain
      The USA
      • More from the world's insanity hot-spot.
      • And another impersonation of the sad, solicitous OFC. 'Trade mark pending' . . .
      • And here's the real McCoy on the same subject. Not quite beyond parody.
      The Way of the World 
      • See the article below on the acceleration by the virus on the 8 'mega-trends' of the moment. Probably more accurate than most crystal-ball gazing.
      • Words of the Day:-  
      Discutir: To argue. Not To discuss
      Asistir: To be present at. Not To help/assist

      Finally . . . 
      • This was a poster used during the World War 2 and allegedly brought out again now because of anti-German attitudes in Italy, born of Berlin's refusal to countenance the eurobonds which Italy and Spain want/need:-



      Coronavirus has accelerated 8 mega-trends the will transform everything. William Hague, The Telegraph.

      Our daily experience of the Covid-19 crisis is that it slows down our lives. Jobs are on hold, holidays not booked and travel unthinkable. We have more leisure time whether we like it or not. For people not on the frontline of the NHS or essential supplies, the lockdown is a slowdown.

      Yet what is really happening is that the forces that will shape all our futures – the global tensions, the economic policies, the political ideas, the new technologies – are being sped up. Huge decisions and great controversies that might only have come to a head over the next couple of decades are suddenly upon us. We are about to experience the next twenty years in twelve months, and we need to get ready for it.

      For an obvious example of this, take a look at the eurozone. Some of us have argued for years that it cannot work in its current form. To put it crudely, Italians will not work as productively as Germans, and Germans will not agree to pay off the debts of Italians. Without this crisis, such a fundamental chasm in the foundations of the euro would have continued to be a troubling but not imminent problem. Now it has yawned wide open. When Italy has looked north in its hour of need, it has found belated sympathy and precious little help. Suddenly, the EU faces an existential crisis.

      Or think about the drift to great power rivalry between America and China, already gathering pace in recent years. Covid-19 threatens to speed that up, with both countries trying to shift blame on to the other. In a US election year, candidates will vow to take a hard line on ensuring American technology is separated from that of China. Other Western capitals and company headquarters will conclude they cannot be dependent any longer on supplies from one country, in a world where borders close at the first hint of trouble. 

      And so the process of “deglobalisation” – more of what we consume being made closer to home, even if it is more expensive – will accelerate. Instead of happening slowly as developments like 3D printing change manufacturing techniques, it will happen quickly driven on by political and security imperatives.

      Even so, the Asia Pacific economies look likely to get through the coming months with considerably less damage than most in the West. They prepared for a pandemic that was like SARS, whereas we Westerners expected something more like Spanish flu, if we thought about it at all. So they have the ruthless quarantining and tracing systems to suppress the virus while we have the long agony of trying to live with it. As things stood, 2020 was already going to be the year in which Asia’s GDP overtook the rest of the world combined. It was already going to account for 90% of new middle-class people in the next decade. Perhaps we can revise that up to 95% now. The Pacific century is going to arrive faster than anyone thought.

      It is not only in the West that we experience a sudden fast-forwarding of what is to come. Countries dependent on oil production already faced forecasts that petroleum demand would peak and fall before 2030. Today they are receiving the sharpest possible demonstration of what that will mean, as oil prices plunge far below the point at which any of them balance their budgets. The need for Saudi Arabia to diversify away from energy production just got starker, and the funds for doing it smaller. For others like Russia, living rather complacently on huge oil and gas revenues, the warning signals are getting louder.

      These accelerating trends in world affairs might seem distant from us, but they will be accompanied by the rapid intensification of political arguments that will affect us all over inequality, debt and state power. Tens of millions of people across the developed world alone are losing their jobs or livelihoods, and they are predominantly those who are already less well off. It has been the natural tendency of the new technologies of recent decades to widen inequality, increasing the returns to capital rather than labour and leaving poorly educated people out of the booming global economy. Here comes the sharpest recession of our lives on top of that. It will push to the forefront of politics fundamental issues about the taxation of wealth, the case for basic incomes provided by governments, and the responsibility of companies for their employees.

      With young people the most severely affected socially and economically – the year they are losing can never be restored and the jobs they were hoping for will be in shorter supply – the issue of how to handle the vast debts now being accumulated will shoot to the top of election agendas. Political parties will campaign for debt forgiveness and write offs, and for the cancelling by central banks of money borrowed by governments, with inflationary consequences for the future.

      Most suddenly of all, the immense questions about who owns data about each of us, and what use the state can make of it, are coming in weeks instead of over many years. Once we are all carrying around an app on our phones to show where we have been and who we have met, pressure will grow to use that information for other purposes. Do we use it to stop a terrorist attack? To solve a murder? To detect a spy? If the answers are yes, what is the new boundary between the state and the individual?

      Most of these trends, speeding up as I write, are profoundly disturbing, but at least we can be better equipped for them if we can see them racing towards us. More optimistically, they have one positive companion – the massive incentive this crisis provides for innovation. New ideas about healthcare and communications have become dramatically more urgent, and some of them will change our lives more quickly and positively than would otherwise have happened. If any of the dire trends I have listed can be slowed down by this crisis being defused, that will happen because of new drugs now being trialled, new tests being invented and new healthcare devices being planned.

      But be in no doubt as the long days at home seem to pass ever so slowly. In its effect on societies, politics and the distribution of power in the world, Covid-19 is on track to be the Great Accelerator.

      Tuesday, April 21, 2020

      Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 21.4.20


      o This is my table of the 10 countries with the highest per capita deaths. Points to note:-
      - Belgium now has the worst number, displacing Spain and Italy.
      - The UK has moved up, past The Netherlands and Switzerland
      - Ireland vies with the USA for the final position but as of now is 9th.
      - Sweden remains at 8th, far behind Belgium, Spain and Italy but not far ahead of Ireland and the USA.
      - Germany is, like every other country, still rising but remains low at 58.
      - Our neighbour, Portugal, is at 72, way below us. (infra)

      Deaths per M@ 21.4
      By deaths per M @ 21.4

      o Says the Washington Post here: At least 6 factors are responsible for the differences. Understanding them is essential as our government and others struggle to deal with covid-19 and consider how to better prepare for future pandemics. No big surprises.
      o The need for effective contract tracing has been emphasised by a major report by the OECD. It says that testing and contact tracing in the community is the "most promising approach" in the short term to help lift the lockdown. 

      o We might soon be able to go outside - legally, I mean - to get some exercise.
      o The government says it will stop price gouging in respect of face masks. My local council of Poio last week kindly delivered 2 to each household, free of charge.

      France: President Macron has admitted to failings, acknowledging that his office had been insufficiently prepared and had been caught off guard by the outbreak, in particular by the lack of medical equipment. Something of a contrast with the US and UK governments.

      Portugal: Went into lockdown at earlier stage than fellow European states, and swift action kept Portugal's coronavirus crisis in check, reports the Guardian here.

      The USA: Viewing New York and its environs as a country, it's easily the world’s hottest hot spot, with per capita fatalities double those in Spain and more than double those in Italy, 

      Sweden:  Some 'experts' say the strategy of keeping schools, bars, restaurants, and gyms open strategy might be working.

      The UK
      o Good news re a plasma trial.
      o Whether it likes it or not, the government will certainly have to re-introduce the programme of contact tracing. This was abandoned early on.

      Russia: Late to be hit by the virus but cases are now rapidly increasing. Even, the death per million of population remains very low, at 3. Up from 2. 

      Life in Spain in the Time of Something Like Cholera
      • María's chronicle Day 37.
      • Drug dealer circumventory tactics.
      • A van-dweller's lament. I recall seeing a mass of campers in the carpark of a motorway service station not long after we'd left Jávea to drive back to Pontevedra on 21 March. I guess they were all later chucked off there.
      • Does it really make sense, entering the supermarket, to soap the tough blue gloves you're wearing and then put another pair of thin plastic gloves on top of these? I suppose it does in terms of protecting others.
      Real Life in Spain
      The USA
      • No one should be surprised that Fart's outrageous tweets about liberating certain states were illegal. But, then, no one will be surprised if he gets away with it. Mad president of a mad country.
      • Another fine impersonation of the Ventilator King.
      The Way of the World 
      • The May contract price for oil is negative at -$37.63 a barrel, though today's spot cash price is  $11.70 My guess is that few people can understand this. Do producers have to pay people to take oil off their hands, as it were?  
      Finally . . .
      • Watching the birds in my garden - well, you have to do something - I note that those with the keenest eyes are the magpies, the crows and the seagulls. All these arrive within minutes of me chucking bread on the lawn but fly off at the slightest movement in my salón. Perhaps they know I hate them. After them, in decreasing order of nervousness, come the sparrows (who flee if I merely stand up from my armchair), the blackbirds, the collared doves, the wood pigeons, and the greenfinches. The latter seem to have taken over the territory around my feeder from the previously resident sparrows. The collared doves, by the way, might well be nesting again in the bougainvillea below my bedroom window. If so, I'll try not to frighten them off like I did last spring.
      • My sister would like you to know she's found both of the lost metal objects. What's left of the short poker - the brass handle - was in the ashes of my last fire. Where I'd looked but failed to find anything. And the coaster had fallen from the side-table, rolled across the wooden floor, gone behind a cloth hanging from the TV table and settled itself - vertical - against one of its feet. In a manoeuvre which I doubt it could be replicated in a million years.