Wednesday Night #1982

Written by  //  March 11, 2020  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

An evocative WN number – some will remember that Wednesday Nights began in the winter of 1982.

For International Women’s Day 8 March, the Gazette editorial board recognized a sampling of women who “have been making their mark in Quebec.” As with all such lists, we were struck by the names that did not appear and should have. For fear of inadvertently leaving someone out, we will not publish our own list. So, to all the accomplished women  whose names should have been there, Bravo! You know who you are and so do we! BRAVA to Carolina Gallo whose generous gift to Concordia of a Scholarship for women in engineering and computer science was fittingly celebrated on International Women’s Day. Élections Québec chose to honour Senator Thérèse Casgrain and Marie-Claire Kirkland Casgrain (mother of Lynne) while reminding us that 2020 (25 April) is the 80th anniversary of women’s right to vote and run for office in Quebec. En cette Journée internationale des femmes, nous souhaitons rendre hommage à des pionnières québécoises de la démocratie. Meantime, Women filled the streets of world’s cities with call for justice

Quebec’s new budget
Quebec government tries to go green in new budget, pushing public transit and electric cars But environmentalists question level of commitment, with bulk of money not allotted until 2nd mandate
Flush with cash, the Quebec government will pour more money into health care and education this year, while trying to convince Quebecers it is serious about reducing greenhouse gases.
In the annual spending plan, tabled Tuesday in the National Assembly, Finance Minister Eric Girard reported a $1.9 billion surplus last year, thanks in part to a booming economy. … Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante … said she was disappointed that the government did not commit to build any new social housing in the city as its vacancy rate hits a 15-year low. Adam Daifallah’s pithy summary points out that “Some sources have noted that the budget was drafted and finalized before much of the panic spread to North America.” After detailing the major items, he adds “The CAQ is also throwing a bone to language hawks by earmarking $50 million for groups to more strictly enforce the province’s existing French language laws in the business community.” AND “With the budget’s spend spend spend philosophy, Minister Girard plans on stimulating Quebec’s economy and injecting funds at a time of global uncertainty and unrest. He is also trying to show that there is no tension between the development of regional industries, economic growth, and the fight against climate change.” For a much more opinionated review, see Konrad Yakabuski’s Quebec budget is already past its best-before date. La Presse canadienne’s Lia Lévesque focuses on d’autres mesures pour contribuer à résoudre les problèmes de recrutement et de rétention de la main-d’œuvre, alors que le chômage au Québec affiche un creux historique.

Covid19
On Wednesday at the media briefing of the WHO  Director-General , he announced that in view of “the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction” COVID-19 can be characterized as a [global] pandemic.
Media coverage is inexhaustible and exhausting. Rumour vs. reliable. Whom to believe? Other than the fact we should suspend belief in the case of most White House declarations.
However, we do believe this: Trump Wants Coronavirus Bailout for Oil and Hotel Industries. Jonathan Chait’s scathing commentary includes: “By the way, did you know that the Trump Organization is in the hotel field? Weird coincidence. In fact, it’s possible the people in the hotel industry the president is talking to about giving a federal bailout might even include members of his own family.”
News you can trust:
10 March Transcript of Briefing/Update from Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “These are the kind of recommendations that I have made to my parents and I’m taking the appropriate steps recommended for family members of vulnerable people. Other staff at CDC are doing the same.”
In the all-the-news-is-local category:
A Newfoundlander is leading the global fight against COVID-19
The St. John’s-raised, Memorial University-educated doctor was appointed the leader of the World Health Organization’s efforts to contain the virus in China in January.
Axios informs us that we should update our vocabulary:  Forget black swans. We’re getting run over by two gray rhinos: coronavirus and climate change. “A gray rhino is a metaphor coined by risk expert Michele Wucker to describe “highly obvious, highly probable, but still neglected” dangers, as opposed to unforeseeable or highly improbable risks — the kind in the black swan metaphor.”
To protect yourself from the coronavirus, wash your hands — and your phone

Oil price war
Jared Kushner’s good buddy MbS (Mohammed bin Salman) apparently unleashed the price war aimed at Russia but with potentially devastating repercussions for Russia’s ally Venezuela, Saudi Arabia’s enemy Iran and even American oil companies. The move was in retaliation for Russia’s refusal on Friday to join OPEC in a large production cut as the coronavirus continues to slow the global economy and, with it, demand for oil. The reaction was swift. With share prices in freefall, the number of shale companies announcing budget cuts multiplied at the start of the week. Diamondback Energy and Parsley Energy immediately announced plans to cut spending and reduce drilling activity. Canadian oil company Cenovus Energy slashed 2020 capex by 32 percent and its production guidance by 5 percent. [U.S. Shale Collapse Will Lead To Higher Oil Prices]
The NYT report by Clifford Krauss and Stanley Reed suggests “The break in a three-year alliance between the Saudi-led oil cartel and Russia to support prices may be temporary. The moves over the weekend may well have been part of a negotiating chess game, and the Saudis and Russians can still reach a compromise. But if the collapse is lasting, oil executives say there is nothing to stop oil prices from tumbling to the lowest levels in at least five years.” Don’t get your hopes up; on Wednesday, OPEC’s third biggest producer, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), ordered its national oil producer to boost supply to the market to over 4 million bpd.
And MbS has been busy on another front: There is a perfect storm brewing in Saudi Arabia – Saudi royals and officials have been arrested in what appears to be an effort by MBS to consolidate power. His latest actions appeared to have removed the final vestiges of opposition to his rule, paving the way for a seemingly smooth transition to becoming king. Does not augur well.

Markets
Ron Meisels, our favorite technical analyst, offered this advice on Tuesday:
And now for some good news.
• The decline found support near 2750, the level of the May/2019 low , and
• the SPX completed a 2/3rd decline of the December 2018 – February 2020 rally – a typical correction amount.
Was this a selling climax? YES!
Are we there yet? NO!
Don’t expect an instant turnaround. Following a decline of this proportion, it will take some time to get to the real bottom. The market is likely to rally and decline numerous times before we get there.
But if you want some help in finding the bottom, here is my suggestion.
As I reported many times before, watch the VIX for an answer. Look for a market collapse and a major rise in the VIX (such as yesterday); wait for the next rally (the VIX declines) and then watch the VIX number at the time of the next market decline. If it is lower than the previous reading, it’s time to buy.

The 10 March primary
Joseph R. Biden Jr. took command of the Democratic presidential race in decisive fashion on Tuesday, marshaling a powerful multiracial coalition in the South and the Midwest that swept aside Senator Bernie Sanders.
Replicating the combination of voters that delivered him broad victories a week ago on Super Tuesday, Mr. Biden won Michigan, Missouri and Mississippi with overwhelming support from African-Americans and with large margins among suburban and rural white voters.

NB: Mississippi — 36 delegates; Missouri — 68 delegates; Michigan —  125 delegates
The results set Mr. Biden up as the clear favorite for the Democratic nomination. While Mr. Sanders cannot be mathematically eliminated in the delegate race on Tuesday night, his path to success has narrowed to a sliver. Note: There are still votes to be counted and delegates to be allocated
Mr. Biden struck notes of unity in a speech in Philadelphia, thanking Mr. Sanders and his supporters “for their tireless energy and their passion.” He added, “We share a common goal, and together, we’ll defeat Donald Trump.”
See Frank Bruni: How Joe Biden Wins It All – He doesn’t let President Trump tug him into the mud.
This news will not please everyone around the WN table, or in the diaspora, however, in our opinion Joe Biden has the best chance of bringing the Democrats together. We have said it before (and will continue to say it) – Bernie Sanders’ rigidity, along with the shouting and finger-pointing, turns too many people off. But there is more than that.
I urge everyone to read Thomas Friedman’s critique:
Joe Biden, Not Bernie Sanders, Is the True Scandinavian

Governance Russian-style?
Putin Endorses Brazen Remedy to Extend His Rule, Possibly for Life
In a carefully scripted appearance, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia agreed he should be allowed to seek two more terms, if the Constitutional Court approves.

Finally, there is lots more to worry about, but we would like to conclude on a high(er) note.

Three feel-good stories about gifted young people
Concordia journalism student earns a 2020 Joan Donaldson CBC News Scholarship
Meriem Chiadmi is 1 of 10 successful applicants selected from across Canada for the 4-month internship with the national public broadcaster.
Concordia PhD candidate uses AI techniques for improved ultrasound imaging
Bahareh Behboodi aims to make tumor detection and segmentation faster and more accurate
Sherbrooke CEGEP student from Syria wins prestigious $100,000 scholarship
Farkouh beat out more than 5,000 applicants for the funding after rounds of regional and national interviews.
The CEGEP de Sherbrooke science major is a tutor and teaches Syrian children about life in Canada by organizing activities.
Now in his final semester, he is in the process of applying to medical school, which he plans on paying for with this scholarship.

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