Life under Quarantine in Citta Della Pieve, Italy

Friday, March 20, 2020

Day 11, Quarantine in Città Della Pieve, Italy

I am positioned on my newly tiled soon to be stuccare (mortared) terrace, looking across the beautifully blemished, hand-made Umbrian outdoor tiles at the hilltop village beyond Santa Lucia in the distance, Santa Lucia, a cylindrical church is my favorite building in Città Della Pieve, the centerpiece of a now defunct monastery. Behind it in the distance, is a lovely hilltop town that I am unable to identify. Chianti is lying next to me, plastered against the cool recently stucco’ ed wall. It is warm out and the birds have returned. There is an audible difference in spring today and spring just days ago when I was last out before my cold. I felt good today until I read Dave Leonhardt’s commentary that comes to me separately from my on-line subscription of The New York Times. Now, I’ve got a case of the sniffles, 627 dead today. I’m fighting back tears of indignation. I’ve just read two articles that have me raging mad. One of which brought tears to my eyes and it’s not the one you’d think. Last night already, I’d read about the trucks lined up outside Bergamo, a city north of Milan that is a gateway to the Italian Alps. When I drive to Paris, I bypass it on the autostrada. Just recently, in February, Alain, my godson, and I did a pitstop at an Autogrill there. The number of dead from the Coronavirus there has so overwhelmed health services that they have had to place bodies in refrigerated trucks outside the city. The trucks are lined up, drivers awaiting instructions as to which town they are to deliver their cargo to, corpses, to be precise. Relatives bemoan not being able to bid farewell to their loved ones because they have no idea what funeral home or crematorium their relative is destined for. If one puts one in their place for one second it is simply heartbreaking. The Italian health systems are stretched to the breaking point. The health workers are exhausted, nerves are raw, emotions are peaking, yet the people, most of them, express themselves consistently in demonstrations of solidarity, warmth, love, and support for one another, not selfish acts defined by violence and ugliness.

I read the English-language account of the Bergamo trucks this morning in Newsweek after reading several versions of it in the Italian and French press yesterday. And then I received the New York Times Commentary from Dave Leonhardt. As I read the piece, my eyes welled up. I felt my chest tighten and I became so angry that I wanted to scream. The subject wasn’t about the homeless corpses, it was about insider trading. Because it came on the heels of the tragic story of the homeless dead, it hit a nerve so raw in me that I snapped. Once again in history, I thought to myself, unscrupulous scalawags have profiteered on the heels of a cataclysmic market shift when massive number of people are dying from a pandemic. How can they be so callous? I am enraged. Senators Richard Burr of North Carolina and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia used information obtained at a closed-door information session for weeks, selling off stocks that would later tank and buying others that later peaked. This, while more and more people contracted the Coronavirus and they both downplayed the epidemic as overblown hyperbolic malarkey – another fabrication of the liberal media – fakes news! Burr even wrote a disingenuous op-ed piece for Fox news misleading the public. Even Tucker Carlson is enraged.

Please read below articles and check back with me tomorrow when I have gathered my emotions.

Herewith the articles and two blurbs from Wikipedia regarding the senators who allegedly engaged in Insider Trading:

March 20, 2020  
  By David Leonhardt Opinion Columnist
On Jan. 24, Richard Burr, a Republican senator from North Carolina, attended a private Senate briefing from senior government scientists about the seriousness of the coronavirus. Kelly Loeffler, a Republican senator from Georgia, received the same briefing.
At the time, many Americans did not yet understand the danger that the virus posed. The same day as the briefing, President Trump — in one of his many attempts over the past two months to make the virus seem like a frivolous matter — tweeted, “It will all work out well.”
Given the disconnect between what they knew and the public’s understanding, Burr and Loeffler had an opportunity to sound the alarm. They could have broken ranks with other congressional Republicans and told the country to take the situation more seriously. They could have criticized Trump for not doing more. Such criticism, coming from Trump’s own party, would have received major attention. It would have had the potential to alter Trump administration policy and, by extension, the course the disease took.
But Burr and Loeffler did virtually nothing to protect the health and safety of their constituents or of Americans in other states. (Burr went so far as to co-write an article for bragging about the country’s readiness.) Here’s what the two senators did instead: They sold large amounts of their personal stock holdings, cashing in before the market sharply declined, as the severity of the virus became apparent to everyone.
Continue reading the main story
The Daily Beast broke the story of Loeffler’s trades, which added up to between $1.2 million and $3.1 million. She started selling the shares the same day as the briefing. She also bought “between $100,000 and $250,000 in Citrix, a technology company that offers teleworking software” and whose share price has risen since the crisis began, The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay, William Bredderman and Sam Brodey write.
The Center for Responsive Politics and ProPublica broke the news of Burr’s trades, which amounted to between $600,000 and $1.8 million. Among the shares that he and his wife sold were those in three hotel companies, all of which have since seen their stock prices hammered, Karl Evers-Hillstrom wrote.
Loeffler was appointed to her senate seat last year by Georgia’s governor, and is running for election this November. Burr is currently in his third term and has said he would not run again.
Their sales are “an immense and outrageous abuse of the public trust,” writes Lawfare’s Susan Hennessey. “It’s an inexcusably terrible thing to have done.”
Continue reading the main story
Tucker Carlson, Fox News:
“[Burr] had inside information about what could happen to our country, which is now happening, but he didn’t warn the public. He didn’t give a prime-time address. He didn’t go on television to sound the alarm. He didn’t even disavow an op-ed he’d written just 10 days before claiming America was ‘better prepared than ever’ for coronavirus. He didn’t do any of those things. Instead, what did he do? He dumped his shares in hotel stocks so he wouldn’t lose money, and then he stayed silent. Now maybe there’s an honest explanation for what he did. If there is, he should share it with the rest of us immediately. Otherwise, he must resign from the Senate … ”
Molly Knight: “Richard Burr should not hold government office by Monday. He needs to resign today.” David French, The Dispatch: “The potential insider trading is dreadful and possibly criminal, but what could elevate this to a historic scandal is the idea that senators may have known enough to be alarmed for themselves yet still projected rosy scenarios to the public AND failed to make sure we were ready.” David Frum of The Atlantic wants to know who else may have sold stock: “What did the Trump family sell, and when did they sell it?” The Times editorial board argued in December that “members of Congress should not be allowed to buy and sell stocks, or to serve on corporate boards.” In 2012, Robert Reich notes, Burr was one of only a small number of members to vote against a law that barred them from trading on inside information.




The army has been brought in to transport dead bodies out of Bergamo, a city in northern Italy severely hit by the coronavirus, as its crematorium struggles to cope with the outbreak.

Around 30 miles northeast of Milan, the city is one of the areas hardest hit by the virus in Italy, a country which could soon overtake China in fatalities from COVID-19. The city’s crematorium has resorted to operating 24 hours a day in order to deal with the number of deaths amid the outbreak.

As reported by L’Eco di Bergamo, army vehicles have now been used to take the coffins away to neighboring areas.

SARS-COV-2 Appears to Be a Combination of Two Viruses

The local paper said that as many as 31 bodies are expected to arrive in the city of Modena, around 110 miles away, after being removed from Bergamo.

The bodies will also be taken to other cities such as Parma, Brescia, and Domodossola for cremation in order to help Bergamo cope.

The mayor of Bergamo, Giorgio Gori, wrote a letter to the leaders of the other cities to thank them for their assistance.

“In a tragic moment, your collaboration and closeness is commendable” Gori wrote.

Images of the army vehicles in Bergamo taking the bodies were also posted by La Repubblica.

“The crematorium of Bergamo, working at full capacity, 24 hours a day, can cremate 25 dead”, a spokesperson for the local authority said, reported the ANSA News Agency.

“It is clear that it could not stand up to the numbers of the past few days.”

The Washington Post previously reported the dead in Bergamo are being buried with no ceremonies as family members remain under quarantine or too sick to attend themselves.

The obituary pages in the local newspaper can also stretch up to 10 pages and feature around 150 names as it lists all of the COVID-19 victims.

“I think it’s worse than a war,” said Marta Testa, whose father died of the virus at age 85, told The Post. “Dad is waiting to be buried. And we are here waiting to tell him goodbye.”

bergamoUndertakers wearing a face mask carry a coffin out of a hearse on March 16, 2020 at the Monumental cemetery of Bergamo, Lombardy, as burials of people who died of the new coronavirus are being conducted at the rythm of one every half hour.PIERO CRUCIATTI/AFP/GETTY

Claudia Scotti, a funeral home co-owner, added: “Morgues and health institutions are collapsing. We were absolutely unprepared for an emergency of this kind.”

Earlier this month Dr, Daniele Macchini, an intensive care unit physician working in Bergamo, also described how the country’s hospitals are struggling to cope in a Facebook post which later went viral.

“Every ventilator becomes like gold: those in operating theaters that have now suspended their non-urgent activity become intensive care places that did not exist before,” he wrote.

“The staff is exhausted. I saw the tiredness on faces that didn’t know what it was despite the already exhausting workloads they had. I saw a solidarity of all of us, who never failed to go to our internist colleagues to ask, ‘What can I do for you now?'”

There are more than 35,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Italy, with 2,978 deaths. A total of 4,025 people have managed to recover from the virus. (at the time of the article being published)

Insider trading allegations


COVID-19 response

On February 13, 2020, Burr sold between $628,000 and $1.72 million of stocks in 33 transactions during a period when, as head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he was being briefed daily regarding potential health threats from COVID-19. This apparent attempt to avoid losing money in an anticipated economic downturn has resulted in accusations of insider trading, a possible violation of the STOCK Act, which Burr was one of only three senators to oppose.[23]

On February 27, Burr warned a private organization in North Carolina about the dangers of the virus, likely containment steps and their extreme economic impacts on stocks and businesses; the story contradicted his comments in a Fox News op-ed with Lamar Alexander on February 7, and he remained silent while conservative media and the White House were downplaying the virus’s potential for societal disruption in the U.S.[24][25] The organization he spoke to was Tar Heel Circle, a nonpartisan club of businesses and organizations in North Carolina, that costs between $500 and $10,000 to join and assures members “enjoy interaction with top leaders and staff from Congress, the administration, and the private sector.”[26]

When asked in March for a comment about Senator Burr’s stock sale, a spokesperson first responded “lol” and then clarified that “As the situation continues to evolve daily, he has been deeply concerned by the steep and sudden toll this pandemic is taking on our economy.”[26] Burr was chastised by the editorial board of the Raleigh News & Observer: “Burr had a clear grasp of the danger ahead. Why did he only share it with a group whose member companies… contributed more than $100,000… to Burr’s last re-election campaign? Why didn’t Burr provide his assessment to all the constituents he is supposed to serve, as well as the national media?”[27]

As a representative, Burr co-sponsored, with Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) an amendment to the Energy Policy Act of 2003 relaxing restrictions on the exports of specific types of enriched uranium, first enacted in the Schumer Amendment to the Energy Policy Act of 1992. The original Schumer amendment placed increased controls on U.S. civilian exports of weapons grade highly enriched uranium (HEU) to encourage foreign users to switch to reactor grade low-enriched uranium (LEU) for isotope production. HEU is attractive to terrorists because it can be used to create a simple nuclear weapon, while LEU cannot be used directly to make nuclear weapons. The amendment allowed exports to five countries for creating medical isotopes.[10][11]

Loeffler has been accused of insider trading as a result of selling stocks during the coronavirus pandemic. The United States STOCK ACT prohibits the use of non-public information for private profit, including insider trading by members of Congress and other government employees. On January 24, 2020, after receiving a briefing on the coronavirus from the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, she began offloading various stocks. By February 14 she and her husband had sold between $1.2 million and $3.1 million worth of joint holdings.[24][25] She also reportedly purchased stock in Citrix, a teleworking software company, that was worth between $100,000 and $250,000.[26]

Loeffler denied wrongdoing on March 19, tweeting that she does not “make investment decisions for [her] portfolio. Investment decisions are made by multiple third-party advisors without [her] or [her] husband’s knowledge or involvement. As confirmed in the periodic transaction report to Senate Ethics, [Loeffler] was informed of these purchases and sales on February 16, 2020 — three weeks after they were made.”[27]

As of 03/20/2020:


Coronavirus Cases: