More supply chain disruption

Chris Martenson of Peak Prosperity talks about how the Indian government has banned the export of 26 active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) due to coronavirus (Reuters report here):

And more:

And here’s an excellent interview with Cornell professor David Collum on coronavirus, what we don’t know, and erring to the side of caution:

Korean death cult infects the world

I hope this isn’t real, but at this point, I wouldn’t be all that surprised:

The Coronavirus Chronicles keep getting weirder and weirder.

You’ve probably heard about the sudden outbreak of the virus in South Korea. Well, did you also know that this is, in large part, to thank to an actual death cult? It’s called #Shincheonji, and it’s super scary.
The 31st Coronavirus case in South Korea was a member of the Shincheonji cult. She’s considered a superspreader, and it’s unclear how she has contracted the virus, as she hasn’t traveled to Wuhan, China or even anywhere abroad. Scary.
Members of the Shincheonji cult are ordered not to fear diseases, not to wear face masks, not to miss meetings, and to pray together in close-knit circles. Makes you wonder why, eh?
The cult is almost 36 years old and is lead a by an 88-year old man named Lee Man-hee, who believes he is both Satan and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Much more dangerously, however, is the fact that his teachings are based on his unique interpretation of biblical texts.
I.e. Shincheonji believes that Lee Man-hee is the only one that can accurately interpret the Bible. That has lead to incredibly exclusionary teachings, similar to the ‘144.000 saints’ teaching of the Jehova’s Witnesses.
Most dangerously, Lee Man-hee is very eschatology-focused, in such a way that people within Schincheonji have claimed that they are not simply beholding the End Times, but are actively *bringing it about*.

This is also why some believe that they’ve purposefully spread the virus.
Schincheonji, like other cults, have very deceitful and aggressive ways of recruiting new members. E.g. they pose as a non-denominational christian church and gain your trust after months of ‘bible study’ before exposing their true teachings and loyalty to Lee Man-hee.
These tactics have resulted in the recruitment of atheists, agnostics and christians, which is why the cult has shown explosive growth in the last decade. ImageImage
They’ve grown so massively, in fact, that they’ve set up lots of cell branches in many countries over the last few years.

This especially is scary considering how much they love to ‘stay in touch’ with all of their cell branches now that we know how fond they are of pathogens. Image
We haven’t nearly reached peak scaremongering yet, however.

1) The cult has spread similar diseases twice before.
2) Infected members of the cult have been using travel extensively in the past few weeks, including to Israel.
3) They had a branch in Wuhan.
4) They scrubbed that branch off the internet immediately after the Wuhan outbreak.
5) Around half of all Korean Coronavirus cases are tied to the cult.
6) Lee Man-hee claims that his Messianic powers won’t be fully manifested until after the apocalypse. Which “is close”.
7) Shincheonji has gotten such an obvious bad reputation in South Korea that members have started lying about their affiliation in order to secretly continue their practices + recruitment.
8) As with any cult, it’s almost impossible to leave. Apostates are threatened and abused.
9) Oh, yeah, Lee Man-hee also claims he’s immortal, by the way. The guy’s fucking insane.

Make no mistake, people: Shincheonji has nothing to do with christianity (they’re just using the name of Jesus Christ to further Lee’s beliefs) and is the worst kind of cult.
Think I’m making shit up? One of the most popular apps in S. Korea right now is one that alerts you if you’re close to one of Shincheonji’s ‘churches’ or other affiliated establishments. Of which there are over 730 across S. Korea alone, btw.

Coronavirus class

Remember, folks, the authorities are looking out for you and the situation is totally under control:

There’s first class and there’s business class. But on this flight, everyone flew coronavirus class.

These exclusive photos show the surreal, polyethylene-wrapped aerial hell suffered by 329 American passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship as they were flown back to the US this week — after two weeks quarantined in their cabins off the coast of Yokohama, Japan. […]

And worst of all, 14 of their fellow passengers were actually infected with the deadly virus, though they showed no symptoms as yet.

Perhaps the State Department should be disbanded if it can’t fulfill its primary function as expressed in its mission statement:

The State Department’s decision to allow the infected, but asymptomatic, passengers to fly back to the US — rather than to stay in quarantine in Japan — was highly controversial.

The 14 were allowed on the two flights even though the CDC was reportedly adamant that they not come to the US.

And President Trump was “furious” to learn after the fact that the 14 were flown home, the Daily Mail reported.

Is this an example of “advancing the interests of the American people, their safety and economic prosperity”? You be the judge.

In other news:

A mistake in the lab led U.S. health officials to release an infected coronavirus patient from a San Diego hospital, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Tuesday.

The patient was evacuated from Wuhan, the epicenter of the new coronavirus outbreak, on a government-chartered flight last week. Two such evacuation flights carrying more than 200 Americans in total arrived last week at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego.

It’s easy to mock China, but the US is comically inept. We sat on our hands for a month while China locked down hundreds of millions of people to prevent the spread of a mysterious virus. What is our plan when the pandemic starts claiming victims here? There are probably thousands of undetected cases in major cities already. I hope I’m wrong, but the US will have no one to blame but itself if this thing explodes in our faces.

The economic impact

It looks increasingly plausible, even likely, that coronavirus will tank the global economy. Let’s take a gander at some recent headlines:

From the Fortune article:

Now, as coronavirus continues to spread, the region of China most heavily affected by the outbreak is a hub of global supply chains. A new Dun & Bradstreet study estimates that 163 of the Fortune 1000 have tier 1 suppliers—those they do direct business with—in the area. And 938 have tier 2 suppliers, which feed the first tier.

“That’s where it becomes troubling,” Nelson said. “It’s going to be that [item] where only one plant is qualified to make that and it’s going to interrupt a whole production line.”

Allow me to reference a blog post I wrote on the long-ago date of Feb 4. How many other people were writing about this at the time?

[Your humble author:] Mark Kern’s thinking about the global economic shocks being set in motion by the coronavirus outbreak is likely to prove prophetic, even if the virus itself doesn’t morph into a devastating pandemic:

On a related note, Asia’s gigantic work-from-home experiment continues in Japan:

From Sony to Takeda Pharmaceutical, top Japanese companies across industry lines are telling employees to work from home as the country continues to see a rise in coronavirus cases.

The outbreak has spread to nations across Asia in the weeks since it started in the Chinese city of Wuhan. With 66 cases [Ed: 132 now], Japan is among the countries with the most cases outside China, and the growing number of infections with no traceable links to the original epicenter have alarmed experts and government officials alike.

To keep employees out of large crowds, Sony urged staffers Tuesday to telework and avoid commuting during rush hour. It is suspending its usual 10-day monthly cap for working from home.

John Robb asks a pertinent question:

This thing is going to hit the US like a freight train and we won’t be ready for it.

Preparations have begun but they will almost certainly be inadequate.

CNBC: FBI has ordered $40,000 in hand sanitizer and face masks ‘in case the coronavirus becomes a pandemic in the United States’

Time’s up

A molecular biologist and contributing correspondent for Science Magazine reflects on the apparent failure of the global efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak to China:

For me and for everyone I know who has been following #covid19, the last few days have felt like a profound shift in the epidemic. We are clearly entering a new phase. And since I’ve had some time to digest recent news, here is a short thread about that „window of opportunity“

From the start, @WHO has been very clear about its strategy: Fight #SARSCoV2 hard at its source in China and keep it from establishing a foothold elsewhere. It was always a long shot, but it was the right thing to do and it has bought the world time.

The @WHO and @drtedros have emphasized again and again that there is a “window of opportunity” to contain #COVID19. On Friday, Tedros said he believed that window of opportunity was still there, but narrowing. Personally, I think the last days have shown that time is up.

Why do I believe that? First in general: there is the way the virus has spread on the #Princessdiamond, in hospitals, in prisons. #SARSCoV2 is very infectious, patients seem to spread it for a long time and cases are hard to detect. It is simply very hard to contain such a virus.

Iran: Until three days ago, Iran had not reported a single #COVID19 case. Now we are at 28 cases, incl. 5 deaths. The number of deaths and also the cases of travellers from Iran testing positive suggests this is the tip of an iceberg. We will soon see how large that iceberg is.

South Korea: The country has now confirmed 433 #COVID19 cases. Most of these are related to a hospital outbreak and to meetings of a religious group. The sheer number is going to make it hard to contain this. Are we looking at a second China? Hopefully not, but it’s possible.

Singapore with its gold-standard surveillance, has at least 7 #COVID19 cases that have not been traced to a known transmission chain. Japan has a similar problem. Italy has local transmission incl. 2 deaths, which suggests those numbers will go up significantly.

And these are just the things we know. We can only guess what we don’t know. This MRC analysis suggests that 2/3 of all #COVID19 cases exported from China have been missed–wuhan-coronavirus/

From the summary: “we estimated that about two thirds of COVID-19 cases exported from mainland China have remained undetected worldwide, potentially resulting in multiple chains of as yet undetected human-to-human transmission outside mainland China”

None of this is a shock. Most researchers always expected it would get to this point. The question is: What happens now? I’m not a public health expert, I’m not an epidemiologist. I’m a journalist. That means I think a lot about communication and that has to enter a new phase too

The massive efforts in China have bought us time. But we should be using that time to prepare and that includes preparing the world by communicating what is happening, what is likely to happen and what the response might look like. That is the “window of opportunity” we have now

I first posted about coronavirus almost exactly one month ago. I commented: “My modest proposal: shut down international travel until we get this thing firmly under control.”

At the time, according to an article I cited in the post, coronavirus had sickened more than 400 people and killed at least 17. China had just made the decision to shut down transportation out of Wuhan (Jan 23). The first US case had been reported on Jan 21.

Now? 77,923 total cases in 29 countries. 2,361 deaths.

634 cases from that cruise ship. 433 cases in South Korea. 132 cases in Japan. 86 cases in Singapore.

35 cases in the US. 7,600 people who recently traveled to China have been asked to self-quarantine in California, not including those returning from Hubei province, who are being quarantined on military bases.

In other words, read this blog today to find out what everyone’s going to be discussing tomorrow.

Coronavirus and the precautionary principle

From a paper on the novel coronavirus co-authored by Nassim Nicholas Taleb:

It will cost something to reduce mobility in the short term, but to fail do so will eventually cost everything—if not from this event, then one in the future. Outbreaks are inevitable, but an appropriately precautionary response can mitigate systemic risk to the globe at large. But policy- and decision-makers must act swiftly and avoid the fallacy that to have an appropriate respect for uncertainty in the face of possible irreversible catastrophe amounts to “paranoia,” or the converse a belief that nothing can be done.

From a study published Friday in The Lancet and co-authored by Professor Gabriel Leung, chair of public health medicine at the Hong Kong University:

“Large cities overseas with close transport links to China could also become outbreak epicentres, unless substantial public health interventions at both the population and personal levels are implemented immediately,” the study said.

Press conference given by Leung on Jan 27:


The number of people infected by the Wuhan coronavirus could potentially double every six days in the absence of a major intervention by public health authorities, according to Professor Gabriel Leung, chair of public health medicine at University of Hong Kong (HKU).

Leung, who is also the founding director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Infection Disease Epidemiology and Control in Hong Kong, gave his forecast on the likely extent of the outbreak during a press conference held at HKU on Monday afternoon.

He said he had submitted his report to Beijing and Hong Kong authorities as well as to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Leung said according to his team’s model, the number of cases of Wuhan coronavirus including patients that are incubating (not showing symptoms) could approach 44,000 cases as of January 25. […]

Leung said people need to be prepared for the outbreak to become a global epidemic, though it is “not a certainty by any stretch of the imagination…we must prepare better for it.”


More than 22 million are now cordoned off in central China. Seen around the web…


As of Thursday night, a total of seven cities in Hubei have imposed transport bans, including Wuhan, Ezhou, Huanggang, Xiantao, Zhijiang, Chibi and Qianjiang.


Wuhan’s public health authorities say they are in a “state of war” as they quarantine the Chinese city in an attempt to halt the spread of a never-before-seen strain of coronavirus.

“Strictly implement emergency response requirements, enter into a state of war and implement wartime measures to resolutely curb the spread of this epidemic,” urged a committee of Wuhan’s top officials. “Homes must be segregated, neighbors must be watched.” […]

The sudden decision to lock down the city of 11 million residents, who were given less than eight hours’ notice of the suspension of public transportation, suggests the severity of the outbreak has alarmed China’s leaders. Wuhan’s lockdown comes only two days before the official start of Lunar New Year, a major, weeklong holiday during which hundreds of millions normally travel within and outside China. […]

Isolated cases of the virus, known as 2019-nCoV, also have been found in Japan, Thailand, South Korea, the U.S., Macao and Hong Kong. On Thursday, Singapore announced its first confirmed case — a 66-year-old Chinese national from Wuhan, according to the Ministry of Health.

NY Post:

The first US patient to contract the deadly coronavirus is being treated by a robot doctor in a tiny secured room to reduce the risk of the disease spreading, according to a report.

Decked out with a stethoscope, camera and microphone, the cutting-edge automaton has been tending to the 30-something man in a 20-by-20-foot “isopod” at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Wash., a hospital chief told The Guardian.

The unnamed patient — who recently returned from a trip to central China — was picked up at his home, taken to the hospital by ambulance and placed in the closed isolation unit Monday, according to Dr. George Diaz, chief of infectious diseases.

Twitter has some wild stuff:

Wuhan people being smuggled outta Dodge:

And this… really makes you think. “Fortuitously,” said the Washington Post:

This is unfolding like the plot of The Stand.

I don’t why but this concerning story from last August feels relevant:

Bio-warfare experts question why Canada was sending lethal viruses to China

In a table-top pandemic exercise at Johns Hopkins University last year, a pathogen based on the emerging Nipah virus was released by fictional extremists, killing 150 million people.

A less apocalyptic scenario mapped out by a blue-ribbon U.S. panel envisioned Nipah being dispersed by terrorists and claiming over 6,000 American lives.

Scientists from Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) have also said the highly lethal bug is a potential bio-weapon.

But this March that same lab shipped samples of the henipavirus family and of Ebola to China, which has long been suspected of running a secretive biological warfare (BW) program.

China strongly denies it makes germ weapons, and Canadian officials say the shipment was part of its efforts to support public-health research worldwide. Sharing of such samples internationally is relatively standard practice.

But some experts are raising questions about the March transfer, which appears to be at the centre of a shadowy RCMP investigation and dismissal of a top scientist at the Winnipeg-based NML.

“I would say this Canadian ‘contribution’ might likely be counterproductive,” said Dany Shoham, a biological and chemical warfare expert at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University. “I think the Chinese activities … are highly suspicious, in terms of exploring (at least) those viruses as BW agents.“

Posted without further comment.