2:00PM Water Cooler 7/2/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, stories keep popping up right before I’m going to post that I have to put together, in this case the arrest of Epstein’s madame, Ghislaine Maxwell (see below). I’ll fill in some blanks in a bit. –lambert UPDATE All done. Sorry for the delay.


At reader request, I’ve added this daily chart. The data is the Johns Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site. Our problem states, today adding Georgia, which seems to be tracking Arizona:

On the optimistic side, deaths with New York for comparison:

Now, deaths lag, but New York looks like it’s going to hold its big lead for some time to come. (And I’m not sure whether the death rate affects consumer — or worker — behavior that much. Regardless of whether it kills you, COVID is clearly a nasty disease that you don’t want to get, and quite possibly can’t afford to get.


“Don’t expect the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement to usher in a new era of North American trade peace. Ongoing tensions over tariffs and other issues that prolonged negotiations are complicating the rollout of the updated version of the North American Free Trade Agreement this week… and ramping up uncertainty for cross-border supply chains” [Wall Street Journal]. “Lingering sore points include rules still being finalized that require auto makers to keep more of their factories in the U.S. and Canada, and concern that the U.S. could impose new levies on metals as aluminum imports from Canada surge. The USMCA keeps much of the groundwork laid by NAFTA but adds provisions for digital trade and safeguards meant to bolster standards in Mexican factories. U.S. labor groups worry Mexico won’t follow through on those requirements, while lawmakers from farm states question how far Canada will go to open up its dairy market.”


“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune

“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

The electoral map. As of June 30: Still no change. So, regardless of polling, the consensus (aggregating ten organizations) remains the same. And a Biden 10 point lead means a swing of five flips the race. Of course, that can’t happen:

So, taking the consensus as a given, 270 (total) – 204 (Trump’s) = 66. Trump must win 66 from the states in play: AZ (11), FL (29), MI (16), NC (15), PA (20), and WI (10) plus 1 to win not tie = 102. 102 – 66 = 36. So if Trump wins FL, MI, NC, and PA (29 + 16 + 15 + 20 = 80), he wins. That’s a heavy lift. I think I’ve got the math right this time!


Biden (D)(1): “Joe Biden calls another reporter a ‘lying dog face’ and brushes off ‘cognitive decline’ question” [Independent]. “At his first press conference in weeks Joe Biden briefly lost his patience with a reporter and threw out a signature insult he first lobbed at a student back in February. Apparently irritated by the reporter’s questioning as he tried to leave the podium at a school in Wilmington, Delaware, Mr Biden snappily called him a ‘lying dog face’ before answering a question on his cognitive health.” • Branding, I suppose. UPDATE On the matter of what happened to “pony soldier” (hat tip, lyman alpha blob) I couldn’t find a transcript. The Federalist (gaaaaah) writes: “Biden first tried to interrupt the reporter, and began calling him ‘a lying dog-faced—’ before chuckling and letting him finish the question.” More from the Independent: The question: “‘Have you been tested for some degree of cognitive decline?’ Mr Biden grinned. ‘I’ve been tested, I’m constantly tested.’” • Now, if Biden means medically tested, as opposed to tested by the rigors of the trail, that’s interesting.

UPDATE Biden (D)(2): “What President Joe Biden would do to stop Covid-19” [Vox]. We’re having this discussion now (and remember Fallows says that all the needed plans are in a drawer somewhere:

I asked some experts how Biden’s proposed Covid-19 response differs from what the current federal government has done. They pointed to a few specific provisions in his plans:

  • Establishing a public-private[1] ‘pandemic testing board’ to scale up and allocate testing across the country. (‘This would deal with one of the problems we still seem to have, that supply and demand are out of sync,'[2] says Jennifer Kates with the Kaiser Family Foundation.)
  • Creating a state and local government emergency fund that would pay for medical supplies, hiring more health care workers, and providing overtime pay for certain essential workers.

  • Eliminating cost-sharing for Covid-19 testing and treatment — and changing the law so that provision would apply to future public health emergencies[3].
  • Setting minimum standards for the number of testing sites in each state, including 10 mobile or drive-through sites.
  • Establishing a national public health jobs corps, which would employ at least 100,000 people to do contact tracing[4].
  • Biden’s plan is detailed, but the real differences on coronavirus between him and Trump start at the more conceptual level. ‘The big differences are the emphasis on science and experts, versus politics and politicians, and more coordination and leadership at the federal level,’ Kates said.[5]

Note no universal masking requirement, and the issue of shutdowns is totally punted on. NOTES [1] Oh great, a public-private partnership. [2] Is this a market failure? Or, perhaps, the country lacks the operational capability? [3] So, #MedicareForAll, but for pandemics only. [3] Good idea, if contact tracing can in fact be done. [4] Not seeing a lot that’s apolitical here, and while “experts” speak to (indeed, are) the Democrat base, their track record isn’t supergood. (Now, after Fauci ramped Gilead, the Feds bought it all up. Nice liittle windfall!)

UPDATE Biden (D)(3): “About Us” [43 Alumni for Biden]. • With the Bush Alumni Association and the Obama Alumni Association, it’s a juggernaut of competence, I’m tellin’ ya. From the FAQ:

Clearly both sides are equally justified!

UPDATE Biden (D)(4): Framing Trump as a caudillo — like Putin! — for the Latin vote:

Note the pot-banging in the background.

UPDATE Biden (D)(5): Bush Republicans in the Lincoln Project call for war with Russia. They’re the experts!

Clinton would have. Biden will.

Trump (R)(1): “Trump Campaign Reshuffles Key Staff, Hiring Ex-NASA Official” [Bloomberg]. “President Donald Trump’s campaign has named Jeff DeWit as its chief operating officer, replacing Michael Glassner, less than five months before the election and as polls show him lagging his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden. The reshuffle, according to two people familiar with the matter, came as top donors were becoming more concerned over the management of the campaign and Trump’s falling poll numbers. The re-election operation has struggled to respond to crises, including the coronavirus pandemic, the economic damage it has wrought and the growing demands for racial justice. The changes were orchestrated by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a White House adviser, according to another person. Kushner has played an influential role in the campaign though he is not officially part of it. Kushner swapped COOs without telling key aides, including campaign manager Brad Parscale, beforehand about his decision, according to two people familiar with the situation.” • I think Trump needs Bannon again.

Trump (R)(2): “The 6 Trump Bombshells Still Waiting to Explode” [Politico]. • Makes you wonder what the press has been doing for the last four years.

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“2020 Voters’ Calendar—The General Election Starts in August” [Common Dreams (dk)]. “[A]ll voting requires advance planning from now on….. Here’s a Voters’ Calendar for what has become, in reality, ‘Voting Season.’ It starts in August. This Voters’ Calendar will stretch our civic attention span to make high-turnout elections a task that mere mortals can perform, not a superhuman feat that tests the endurance of even the most dedicated voters.” • So much for October surprises, I suppose.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The Think Tank Gap Really Hurt Our COVID-19 Response” [Mike the Mad Biologist]. “As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it’s becoming more apparent that using a paradigm generated by the American Enterprise Institute might not be the best way to proceed. Unfortunately, all of the think tanks, including the Democratic aligned ones, appear to be working from the same framework (i.e., kinder, gentler AEI plans)…. The problem is that the AEI plan is fundamentally affected by policy constraints. There are certain policies that a group like AEI can not and will not consider, and those policy constraints affect the range of policy responses…. [On the left] the overall goal was to use massive federal spending to place significant swathes of the U.S. economy into what multiple commentators, including Paul Krugman, referred to as a ‘medically induced coma.’ And not for a month either, but for as long as it took…. Since an AEI-backed plan that would result in massive federal intervention in the economy is an impossibility, we’re left with second-best options of relative improvements leading to partial reopenings. When massive federal intervention is off the table, then we’re left with these other metrics, such as decline for a couple of weeks followed by hoping for the best, because there’s no way to support the economy long enough to reach a meaningful low level of prevalence… That’s unfortunate because a low prevalence strategy is good public health policy and good economic policy. On the public health side, the best way to not get infected is to not come in contact with someone who is infected. While that sounds like something Yogi Berra would have said, it does have the virtue of being true.”

“By Denying Aid to States, the GOP Is Aiding the Coronavirus” [Eric Levitz, New York Magazine]. “By withholding aid to states, Republicans made it extremely painful for cities to implement responsible public-health policies in the middle of a pandemic…. America’s hasty reopening is doubtlessly attributable to a variety of cultural and political factors. But for many U.S. cities, erring on the side of public health — by keeping the economy restricted for a week longer than absolutely necessary — would have meant jeopardizing their capacity to maintain funding for schools and basic social services. Republicans could have empowered state and local officials to make decisions about reopening on the basis of what was best for public health. Instead, they engineered fiscal scarcity that forced states to choose between prudence and solvency. Which may have been the point. The president and his advisers pressured states to reopen quickly, so as to expedite the onset of economic recovery. Instead, our austerity-induced haste has bought us a new wave of outbreaks and a deeper recession.” • Yay, austerity.

Clearly my bias:

Stats Watch

At reader request, I added some business stats back in. Please give Econintersect click-throughs; they’re a good, old-school blog that covers more than stats. If anybody knows of other aggregators, please contact me at the email address below.

Employment Situation: “June 2020 BLS Jobs Situation – Employment Grew 4,800,000 But Still Down 12,558,000 Year-over-Year” [Econintersect]. The headline seasonally adjusted BLS job growth showed the best ever job gain ever with the unemployment rate improving from 13.3% to 11.1%… Employment recovery from the coronavirus continues. However, readers are advised that the basis of the BLS numbers are the middle of June (which are extrapolated to the end of the month). There are several indications that the economy slowed since the middle of the month. It is hard to judge if the slowdown is significant.” • Handy chart:

Employment Situation: “US unemployment falls to 11%, but new shutdowns are underway” [Associated Press]. “U.S. unemployment fell to 11.1% in June as the economy added a solid 4.8 million jobs, the government reported Thursday. But the job-market recovery may already be faltering because of a new round of closings and layoffs triggered by a resurgence of the coronavirus. While the jobless rate was down from 13.3% in May, it is still at a Depression-era level. And the data was gathered during the second week of June, just before a number of states began to reverse or suspend the reopenings of their economies to try to beat back the virus.”

Leading Indicators: “26 June 2020 ECRI’s WLI Improvement Continues But Continues In Contraction” [Econintersect]. “ECRI’s WLI Growth Index which forecasts economic growth six months forward improved, remains deep in contraction, and remains at a level at the values seen during the Great Recession.”

Manufacturing: “May 2020 Headline Manufacturing New Orders Improve” [Econintersect]. “US Census says manufacturing new orders improved month-over-month with unfilled orders increasing modestly. Our analysis shows the rolling averages significantly declined and remain in contraction…. According to the seasonally adjusted data, the increase was widespread. Of course, this year-over-year contraction was caused by the coronavirus shutdown of the economy.”

Trade: “May 2020 Trade Again Significantly Declined Due to Coronavirus” [Econintersect]. “Trade data headlines show the trade balance worsened with both imports and exports declining…. The data in this series wobbles and the 3-month rolling averages are the best way to look at this series. The 3-month average rate of growth declined for imports and exports – and is now deeper in contraction.”

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Shipping: “The federal government is swooping in to rescue YRC Worldwide Inc. The Treasury Department is lending the troubled trucker $700 million in coronavirus stimulus funding… and taking a 29.6% stake in the business under a Cares Act provision for companies deemed essential to national security” [Wall Street Journal]. “YRC is the fifth-largest U.S. trucking company, moving goods for big shippers like Walmart Inc. and Home Depot Inc. and handling 68% of less-than-truckload services for the Defense Department. One of the few big unionized carriers left, YRC has struggled under heavy debt and was trying to turn its business around when the coronavirus pandemic crashed freight volumes.” • Trump administration helping a union shop….

Transportation: “Networks of self-driving trucks are becoming a reality in the US” [Recode]. “TuSimple’s expansion plans seem more concrete than some of its competitors. The company is expanding existing shipments with UPS, which has also invested in TuSimple, and the foodservice delivery giant McLane. The major shipping company US Xpress, one of the nation’s largest freight companies, will also start shipping goods through TuSimple, which now has 22 contracted customers. Those companies will ultimately have influence over which routes are digitally mapped out next for self-driving trucks. ‘Imagine if you could influence, back in the day, where a railroad track was being built, and you could build that railroad track right to your front door,” TuSimple president Cheng Lu told Recode. “As a shipper, wouldn’t that give you a big advantage?”” • Truck routes, obviously, can constrain their routes in a way that robot cars cannot. I suppose there’s a real estate play along the routes somehow; but note for truckstops…

Punditry: “Credentials Don’t Count on the Internet. Just Ask Nathan Tankus” [Bloomberg]. “Tankus built an online following slowly since around 2015, but it’s only in the past year that he’s broadened his audience with deep dives into monetary mechanics. In September he diagnosed the dislocations in the secured lending market that forced the Fed to resume buying Treasury bonds on a massive scale. This year he wrote a series of detailed posts called Notes on the Crises, which explained the Fed’s emergency actions to combat the Covid-19 recession. He made extensive use of T-accounts, a tool of accountants that places assets on the left and liabilities on the right. ‘He has really good knowledge of the plumbing of the monetary system,’ says David Beckworth, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center of George Mason University.” • Good for Nathan! We knew him when — “around 2015.”

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 52 Neutral (previous close: 49 Neutral;) [CNN]. One week ago: 49 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jul 1 at 12:38pm. Grey, grey, grey, dull grey and not red or green.

Health Care

UPDATE “Fever checks are a flawed way to flag Covid-19 cases. Experts say smell tests might help” [STAT]. “Unfortunately, temperature checks could well join the long list of fumbled responses to the pandemic, from the testing debacle to federal officials’ about-face on masks. Because many contagious people have no symptoms, using temperature checks to catch them is like trying to catch tennis balls in a soccer net: way too many can get through. On Tuesday, the head of the Transportation Security Administration told reporters, “I know in talking to our medical professionals and talking to the Centers for Disease Control … that temperature checks are not a guarantee that passengers who don’t have an elevated temperature also don’t have Covid-19.” The reverse is also true: Feverish travelers might not have Covid-19. In this case, however, a growing body of science suggests a simple fix: make smell tests another part of routine screenings.” • Still waiting for results on the medical dog tests!

UPDATE “Now you can see the relationship between reopening policies and COVID-19 cases” [Los Angeles Times]. “[Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health] and her colleagues have created a new data visualization tool that combines the number of new COVID-19 cases and deaths reported every day in each state with the dates that reopening policies have been implemented there.” Here’s the tool, with California as an example:

I dunno. I’m not sure the policy options (color coder, top left) are granular enough. Readers?

UPDATE “SARS-CoV-2 in human sewage in Santa Catalina, Brazil, November 2019” (preprint) [medRxiv]. “We analysed human sewage located in Florianopolis (Santa Catalina, Brazil) from late October until the Brazil lockdown on early March. We detected SARS-CoV-2 in two samples collected independently on 27th November 2019… Our results show that SARS-CoV-2 has been circulating in Brazil since late November 2019, much earlier than the first reported case in the Americas (21st January 2020, USA).” • Hmm.

UPDATE “Oklahoma voters approve Medicaid expansion at the ballot box” [Oklahoman]. “State Question 802 passed by 6,488 votes, making Oklahoma the fifth state expand Medicaid through a ballot initiative. The question will enshrine Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma’s constitution — effectively preventing Oklahoma’s GOP-controlled Legislature or Republican governor from limiting or undoing the expansion.

” • Good, unless it ends up being a bulwark against #MedicareForAll. Here’s the wording: “SECTION 2. Medicaid Expansion: A. In addition to those otherwise eligible for medical assistance under Oklahoma’s Medicaid program, the State shall provide medical assistance under Oklahoma’s Medicaid program to Low Income Adults. B. No greater or additional burdens or restrictions on eligibility or enrollment shall be imposed on persons eligible for medical assistance pursuant to this Article than on any other population eligible for medical assistance under Oklahoma’s Medicaid program.”

Police State Watch

At last!

Department of Feline Felicity

“Furry from the sky: Meet the military’s elite airborne cat force” [Duffel Blog]. “Despite repeated requests, Company commander Captain Mittens was not made available for comment. However, he did leave a dead mouse outside this reporter’s hotel room door. According to obtained classified documents, the Central Intelligence Agency began to invest in the airborne cats upon recognizing the routine incompetence of the 82nd Airborne Division. ‘Airborne cats are the pinnacle of the 21st century warrior,’ a source familiar with the project says.” • No, no, no, no, no. There are miltary dogs. There are no military cats, because cats don’t take orders. That’s why we like them.

L’Affaire Joffrey Epstein

Not the Joffrey Ballet, Joffrey Lannister:

“Former companion of disgraced billionaire Jeffrey Epstein arrested in NH” [WMUR]. “Ghislaine Maxwell, 58, was arrested in Bradford, the FBI said. According to ABC News, she was taken into custody without incident about 8:30 a.m. According to the first count in the indictment, Maxwell is accused of assisting in Epstein’s sexual abuse of underage girls, in part by helping Epstein recruit them and then participating in multiple group sexual encounters with the girls. Investigators said in court paperwork that the victims were as young as 14 years old when they were groomed and abused by Maxwell and Epstein. Maxwell is also charged with enticing and transporting the girls to engage in illegal sex acts, including taking an underage girl from Florida to New York to have sex with Epstein. She is also charged with two counts of perjury for allegedly lying in a deposition about her knowledge of Epstein’s activities and denying interacting with the girls.” • Some reports are saying Bedford, but Bradford is the consensus of local reporting.

“‘Today is a long time coming’: Jeffrey Epstein victims cheer arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell” [Julie Brown, Miami Herald]. “Federal prosecutors asked that Maxwell be held without bail, saying she ‘poses an extreme flight risk.’ ‘Maxwell has three passports, large sums of money, extensive international connections, and absolutely no reason to stay in the United States and face the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence,’ prosecutors wrote in a filing Thursday.” • So Maxwell is in Bradford, NH why, exactly? More: “”We had been discretely keeping tabs on Maxwell’s whereabouts as we worked this investigation and more recently we learned that she had slithered away to a gorgeous property in New Hampshire, continuing to live a life of privilege while her victims live with the trauma inflicted upon them years ago,” [William Sweeney, the assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s New York field office] said.” • So the FBI knew where she was the whole time? So why now? Adding, the Miami Herald’s Brown has been all over this story.

TrueAnon comments on the indictment:

(Full indictment here.)

Stating the obvious (1):

Stating the obvious (2):

Or, given that New Hampshire is full of wooded areas, a wood-chipper….

Guillotine Watch

“A decades-long renovation returns a Midwestern palazzo to its original glory” [St.Louis]. The McCloskey’s mansion: “The McCloskeys have had fun seeking out objects original to the house as well as filling it with their own antiques, including a rare 1560 stipo a bambocci carved wooden cabinet made in Genoa and a Louis XIII homme-debout (“standing man”) armoire, so named because, during the Reign of Terror, a gentleman could hide inside one.” • Could come in handy!

“The Secret Economics of a VIP Party” [The Economist]. “A small cohort of oligarchs, New York hedge-fund managers and Silicon Valley investors now patronise a network of nightclubs that span the globe. Whether they’re in Miami or St Tropez these clubs tend to have similar decor and the same clientele. The coronavirus pandemic has temporarily paused the partying, but you can be sure that this sector of society, locked down in large homes and insulated from the economic recession, will soon be up for a good time again. The visual tropes of this world are familiar even to non-vips: angular cheekbones, Louboutin heels, sprays of champagne. What most people don’t realise is that the apparently spontaneous abandon of those extravagant nights is, in fact, painstakingly planned. It takes a carefully hidden, intricate economy, based on a complex brokering of beauty and status, to create an atmosphere in which people will spend $100,000 on alcohol in a single night. This economy’s currency is young women. The leggy blondes who surrounded the millionaire that night in Miami were not there by chance.” • “Whales,” “Big Beasts.” Too bad Ghislaine Maxwell couldn’t go straight and get into this business.

Class Warfare

In Omaha, a rocket docket for evictions:

“How the American Worker Got Fleeced” [Bloomberg]. “Fleeced” is pretty mild. This is a fine aggregation, worth reading in full. This caught my eye: “It could all still get worse. As states rushed to reopen, many unemployment agencies were urging employers to report staff who refuse invitations to come back to work. So more U.S. workers will soon find themselves involuntarily tractor-beamed back into a working environment that’s proved itself inhospitable even when there’s no pandemic…. strategy debates among union activists often take the form of people who say it’s hopeless to expect the legal regime to change without first having a resurgence of labor activism vs. people who say it’s hopeless to expect a resurgence of organizing without first ­overhauling the legal regime that crushes it. Each side has a pretty good point. That Catch-22 helps explain why labor is desperate for an opening. The corona­virus, which is remaking U.S. workplaces in real time, just might qualify. While immiserating workers and devastating many of their employers, it’s also forged an upsurge in workplace activism, as people who would otherwise be too afraid of retaliation to take ­collective action decide they’re too afraid of employer-­created hazards not to. Their strikes and protests, which have spread through warehouses, meatpacking plants, fast-food restaurants, and hospitals, are buoyed by the public recognition that often-forgotten workers are actually essential. They’re also elevated by partial or temporary ­pandemic-inspired precedents that raise some larger questions. Why should Congress guarantee Covid-specific paid days off for some months in 2020 at some medium-size companies and not for everyone else all the time? Why should workers get protection against being purged for alerting the public about safety issues in New York City and Philadelphia—as will happen if local bills proposed there become law—and not just shielded against capricious terminations across the board and across the nation?” • Sire, they’re asking questions… Oh, and how come material like this isn’t coming from the woke left? A question that answers itself, once asked.

“One Man Book Club: Dignity” [Tweaking for No Reason]. “My news feed has been filled the last four days with ‘Rest In Power’ wishes from former students to their classmates. By my count there were four deaths from the weekend through Tuesday…. One Facebook post in particular took my breath away. A former student eulogized her friend, then went on to call on her friends to recall all of their classmates/peers who have died too soon. There were 43 pictures attached to the post…. Almost everyone who will read Dignity is a front row kid. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not. Question is, now that we know, what are we gonna do about it? Call to mind our sins? Or mumble something about mercy on our way out the door to the beach?”

News of the Wired

I think this is creepier than Stålenhag’s original art:

Reminds me of Hummel figurines, which give me the williies

Then again, there are an awful lot of calm-inducing art bots out there:

You can use this handy OSS manual at your next Homeowner’s Association meeting:

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (SR):

SR writes: “Iris germanica, unknown variety, Common Flag, Bearded Iris or German Iris. Opelika, AL 4-25-2020. I believe this one qualifies as a Tall Bearded Iris at 36″ height. Dark iris usually fade into the background as the evening light wanes but this one is softly radiant for a brief spell on a clear evening. A wonderful, if brief, display. It makes for what seems a curious addition to a twilight garden, a happy accident in my case.”

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