Usher’s News & Analysis for May 28, 2020

“There may be good defenses, but with a class-action lawsuit, the goal is not to get all the way to trial with a jury and a judge. It’s to get past the early phases of the litigation and put the pressure on the defendant to settle,” said Harold Kim, president of the Institute for Legal Reform, an arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The immediate concern is the uncertainty. How do you remove this cloud of liability as businesses are trying to reopen?”

But the Working Kansas Alliance, a coalition of union groups, argued the bill could grant “total immunity” and labeled it “dangerous.”

Carmichael noted that some but not all businesses, including manufacturers of personal protective equipment and nursing homes, would be protected from lawsuits for negligence over coronavirus infections. Carmichael said a “negligent Chinese manufacturer” might have more protection than a Main Street business.

If the state of emergency ends, some 30 orders that Kelly issued would expire. They include orders for a phased reopening of the state’s economy, as well as others banning evictions for people who can’t pay their rent during the pandemic and prohibiting utilities from cutting off services for customers who fall behind on their bills.

Kansas Legislature Passes Bill Barring COVID-19 Lawsuits

… the storm damaged at least 50 businesses and at least that many homes in the town of more than 5,000 residents.

North Texas Region Pummeled by Large Hail, Tornadoes

Forensics Firm Says Disinfectant Foggers Can Damage Electronics

… the case targets McDonald’s as a public nuisance, a legal strategy previously used to shutter strip clubs and the famed Limelight nightclub in Manhattan.

Typically, workplace safety is a matter for the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which has the authority to inspect businesses and issue citations. By focusing on community health, the lawsuit attempts to move outside OSHA’s jurisdiction and into the courts.

Rather than prove someone was infected with the coronavirus at McDonald’s, the workers must instead show the company created an unsafe workplace that posed an imminent threat of contributing to its spread.

Richard Ausness, a professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law, downplayed the risk of a flood of cases, but said the mere filing of such a lawsuit could push a business to help its workers.

COVID-19 Lawsuit Takes on McDonald’s Like it Was a Rowdy Bar

The AG’s Office has created a new online complaint form specifically for employees to anonymously report unsafe working conditions related to COVID-19. This includes concerns about cleaning, failure to display compliance attestation posters, hygiene, personal protective equipment, requiring symptomatic employees to work, retaliation or social distancing.

Massachusetts Begins Phased Reopening, Implements Safety Standards for Workplaces

Oregon’s New Insurance Emergency Orders Released for COVID-19

According to the following, wearing a mask appropriately requires primarily knowing what to wear and when. It pushes a libertarian view. It doesn’t mean “conservative,” however.

The Risks vs. Benefits of Face Masks- Is There an Agenda?

I’m for firm, quick lockdowns of pockets. I disagree with the “herd-immunity-first” strategy. I am, however, for enhancing everyone’s natural immunity rather than employing vaccines as a starting place.

This article is an amazing story.

“Hong Kong and all other locales that adopted universal masking early in their outbreaks dramatically suppressed or drove down daily case growth rates, even though some of those locales did not have other strong interventions such as contact tracing or testing,” said Prof De Kai, a leading machine learning scientist based in Hong Kong.

Surveys found that 7 out of 10 Hong Kong residents were already wearing face masks in January. They continued to do so despite the city’s leader, chief executive Carrie Lam, instructing her own officials to stop wearing masks, to the criticism of local experts. By the beginning of April, almost everyone – 96.6 per cent of residents – was wearing face masks, according to another study.

The lessons learned from SARS proved to be lifesaving, time and time again. Although the city’s mask supplies quickly began running low, Prof Lum said most nursing homes kept one to three months’ supply of protective equipment. Along with the thousands of masks donated to them by various community charities, their stocks bought them time before the government began distributing 2 million masks to care homes a month from April onwards.

How Hong Kong avoided a single coronavirus death in care homes

Homebuilders, the pros in the housing market, are not hung up for too long on aspirational prices of houses in their core segment. Unlike homeowners, they have no illusions about the market. When they build speculative houses – houses for which they have no buyers lined up yet, and that’s what the 6.3 months’ supply represents – they have to meet the market in order to sell those houses. They constantly adjust what they build, from price levels and floorplans down to the finishes. And then, they cannot sit on their speculative houses for long. They have to do what it takes to sell them. And they’re working on it.

Despite Record-Low Mortgage Rates, New House Prices Drop to Lowest April since 2015, Sales to Lowest April since 2017

“As for the allegation that Trend Micro is somehow trying to work around Microsoft’s certification process, we want to again make clear that this is indeed not the case and we are working closely with our partners at Microsoft to ensure that our code is in compliance with their rigorous standards.”

That would suggest Trend Micro didn’t intend to deliberately swerve Microsoft’s certification checks. Demirkapi, and your humble vultures, remain puzzled, though, as to any reasonable explanation to why the Rootkit Buster would need this WHQL detection code in the first place, even for testing or debugging purposes.

Microsoft banishes Trend Micro code at center of driver ‘cheatware’ storm from Windows 10, rootkit detector product pulled from site

The Promise of Browser Isolation: A Panacea with a UX Problem?

… to an incurious media, a Russian catering company posting Facebook memes might sound like a good justification for a vast Russian election interference prosecution; however, when Concord & the accused Russians show up in court and request to see the evidence against them, well, the prosecutors might just have a problem.

It was that problem that dogged the Mueller prosecution since 2018. In March, of this year predictably and finally, the DOJ dropped the nonsense case (full pdf below):

The Russia election interference narrative was always a farce. The ridiculous Russian indictments were only created to give some sense of validity to a premise that did not exist; and to allow the Robert Mueller investigation to continue operating when there was never a valid justification for doing so.

AG Bill Barr Calls The Action of SCO Robert Mueller and DOJ Rod Rosenstein “Abhorrent” and “A Grave Injustice”…

Why is the US backwards by ancient Mesopotamian standards?

Mesopotamian palaces had to decide who would bear the loss when drought, flooding, infestation, disease or military attack disrupted economic activity and prevented the settlement of debts, rents and taxes. Recognizing that this was an unavoidable fact of life, rulers proclaimed amnesties for taxes and the various debts that were incurred during the crop year. These acts saved smallholders from having to work off their debts by personal bondage and ultimately to lose their land.

Classical antiquity, and indeed subsequent Western civilization, rejected such Clean Slates to restore social balance. Since Roman times it has become normal for creditors to use social misfortune as an opportunity to gain property and income at the expense of families falling into debt. …

… the West’s pro-creditor legal and financial philosophy has long blocked debt relief to renters, mortgagees and other debtors. Banks, landlords and insurance companies insist that writing down of debts and rents owed to them by wage-earners and small business is unthinkable. So something has to give: either the broad economic interest of most of the population, or the interest of the Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) sector. Banks claim that non-payment of rent would cause debt defaults and wipe out bank capital. Insurance companies claim that to make their policy holders whole would bankrupt them. So the insurance companies, banks, landlords and bondholders insist that labor, industry and the government bear the cost of arrears that have built up during the economic slowdown, not themselves.

To be fair to the insurance industry, many of us are desirous that the government backstop the industry so small business and regular consumers won’t suffer.

Michael Hudson: Debt, Liberty and “Acts of God”

Tricky bugger.

Coronavirus uses same strategy as HIV to dodge immune response, Chinese study finds