Saturday, February 29, 2020

Outbreak starts to look more like worldwide economic crisis

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Workers wearing protective gears spray disinfectant as a precaution against the new coronavirus at a subway station in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. Japan's schools prepared to close for almost a month and entertainers, topped by K-pop superstars BTS, canceled events as a virus epidemic extended its spread through Asia into Europe and on Friday, into sub-Saharan Africa. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

NEW YORK (AP) — The coronavirus outbreak began to look more like a worldwide economic crisis Friday as anxiety about the infection emptied shops and amusement parks, canceled events, cut trade and travel and dragged already slumping financial markets even lower.

More employers told their workers to stay home, and officials locked down neighborhoods and closed schools. The wide-ranging efforts to halt the spread of the illness threatened jobs, paychecks and profits.

“This is a case where in economic terms the cure is almost worse than the disease,″ said Jacob Kirkegaard, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “When you quarantine cities ... you lose economic activity that you’re not going to get back.′

The list of countries touched by the illness climbed to nearly 60 as Mexico, Belarus, Lithuania, New Zealand, Nigeria, Azerbaijan, Iceland and the Netherlands reported their first cases. More than 83,000 people worldwide have contracted the illness, with deaths topping 2,800.

China, where the outbreak began in December, has seen a slowdown in new infections and on Saturday morning reported 427 new cases over the past 24 hours along with 47 additional deaths. The city at the epicenter of the outbreak, Wuhan, accounted for the bulk of both.

New cases in mainland China have held steady at under 500 for past four days, with almost all of them in Wuhan and its surrounding Hubei province.

With the number of discharged patients now greatly exceeding those of new arrivals, Wuhan now has more than 5,000 spare beds in 16 temporary treatment centers, Ma Xiaowei, director of the National Health Commission, told a news conference in Wuhan on Friday.

South Korea, the second hardest hit country, on Saturday morning reported 594 new cases, the highest daily jump since confirming its first patient in late January. Emerging clusters in Italy and in Iran, which has had 34 deaths and 388 cases, have led to infections of people in other countries. France and Germany were also seeing increases, with dozens of infections.

The head of the World Health Organization on Friday announced that the risk of the virus spreading worldwide was “very high,” citing the “continued increase in the number of cases and the number of affected countries.”

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged all governments to “do everything possible to contain the disease.”

“We know containment is possible, but the window of opportunity is narrowing,” the U.N. chief told reporters in New York.

The economic ripples have already reached around the globe.

Stock markets around the world plunged again Friday. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones index took yet another hit, closing down nearly 360 points. The index has dropped more than 14% from a recent high, making this the market’s worst week since 2008, during the global financial crisis.

The effects were just as evident in the hush that settled in over places where throngs of people ordinarily work and play and buy and sell.

“There’s almost no one coming here,” said Kim Yun-ok, who sells doughnuts and seaweed rolls at Seoul’s Gwangjang Market, where crowds were thin. “I am just hoping that the outbreak will come under control soon.”

In Asia, Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan announced they would close, and events that were expected to attract tens of thousands of people were called off, including a concert series by the K-pop group BTS. The state-run Export-Import Bank of Korea shut down its headquarters in Seoul after a worker tested positive for the virus, telling 800 others to work from home. Japanese officials prepared to shutter all schools until early April.

In Italy — which has reported 888 cases, the most of any country outside of Asia — hotel bookings are falling, and Premier Giuseppe Conte raised the specter of recession. Shopkeepers like Flavio Gastaldi, who has sold souvenirs in Venice for three decades, wondered if they could survive the blow.

“We will return the keys to the landlords soon,” he said.

The Swiss government banned events with more than 1,000 people, while at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany, basins of holy water were emptied for fear of spreading germs.

In a report published Friday in the New England Journal of Medicine, Chinese health officials said the death rate from the illness known as COVID-19 was 1.4%, based on 1,099 patients at more than 500 hospitals throughout China.

Assuming there are many more cases with no or very mild symptoms, the rate “may be considerably less than 1%,” U.S. health officials wrote in an editorial in the journal. That would make the virus more like a severe seasonal flu than a disease similar to its genetic cousins SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or MERS, Middle East respiratory syndrome.

Given the ease of spread, however, the virus could gain footholds around the world and many could die.

“It’s not cholera or the black plague,” said Simone Venturini, the city councilor for economic development in Venice, Italy, where tourism already hurt by historic flooding last year has sunk with news of virus cases. “The damage that worries us even more is the damage to the economy.”

Europe’s economy is already teetering on the edge of recession. A measure of business sentiment in Germany fell sharply last week, suggesting that some companies could postpone investment and expansion plans. China is a huge export market for German manufacturers.

In the U.S., online retail giant Amazon said Friday that it has asked all of its 800,000 employees to postpone any non-essential travel, both within the country and internationally.

The chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, said that the U.S. economy remains strong and that policymakers would “use our tools” to support it if necessary.

Larry Kudlow, the top economic advisor to President Donald Trump, told reporters that the selloff in financial markets may be an overreaction to an epidemic with uncertain long-term effects.

“We don’t see any evidence of major supply chain disruptions. I’m not trying to say nothing’s happening. I think there will be impacts, but to be honest with you, at the moment, I don’t see much,” Kudlow said.

The pain was already taking hold in places like Bangkok, where merchants at the Platinum Fashion Mall staged a flash mob, shouting “Reduce the rent!” and holding signs that said “Tourists don’t come, shops suffer.”

Tourist arrivals in Thailand are down 50% compared with a year ago, according Capital Economics, a consulting firm.

Kanya Yontararak, a clothing store owner, said her sales have sunk as low as 1,000 baht ($32) some days, making it a struggle to pay back a loan for her lease. The situation is more severe than the floods and political crises her store has braved in the past.

“Coronavirus is the worst situation they have ever seen,” she said of her fellow merchants.

Economists have forecast global growth will slip to 2.4% this year, the slowest since the Great Recession in 2009, and down from earlier expectations closer to 3%. For the United States, estimates are falling to as low as 1.7% growth this year, down from 2.3% in 2019.

But if COVID-19 becomes a global pandemic, economists expect the impact could be much worse, with the U.S. and other global economies falling into recession.

“If we start to see more cases in the United States, if we start to see people not traveling domestically, if we start to see people stay home from work and from stores, then I think the hit is going to get substantially worse,” said Gus Faucher, an economist at PNC Financial.

After the WHO raised its alert level, the agency’s Emergencies Program Director Michael Ryan called the situation “a reality check for every government on the planet.”

“Wake up, get ready,” he said. “This virus may be on its way.”


Associated Press writers Deb Riechmann in Washington, Joseph Pisani and Edith M. Lederer in New York, Carla K. Johnson in Seattle, Matt Sedensky and Preeyapa Khunsong in Bangkok, Hyung-jin Kim and Tong-hyung Kim in Seoul, South Korea, Foster Klug and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, Renata Brito and Giada Zampano in Venice, Italy, Frances D’Emilio in Rome, Angela Charlton in Paris and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.

Sinn Fein would easily win repeat Irish election: poll

FILE PHOTO: Sinn Fein souvenirs on sale before a public meeting Liberty Hall in Dublin, Ireland February 25, 2020. REUTERS/Lorraine O'Sullivan

DUBLIN (Reuters) - The pro-Irish unity Sinn Fein party would easily win a repeat Irish election if ongoing government talks fail, with an opinion poll on Saturday showing it has almost twice as much support as its two nearest rivals.

The left wing party’s support jumped to 35%, ahead of Fianna Fail on 20% and acting Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael on 18% in a Sunday Times/Behaviour & Attitudes poll that may influence early talks between the two centre-right rivals.

Sinn Fein shocked the political establishment in an election earlier this month by securing more votes than any other party for the first time, almost doubling its vote to 24.5%, ahead of Fianna Fail on 22.2% and Fine Gael on 20.9%.

But it has been frozen out of government talks by its two rivals, who refuse to contemplate sharing power due to policy differences and Sinn Fein’s history as the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, the militant group that fought against British rule in Northern Ireland in a conflict in which some 3,600 people were killed before a 1998 peace deal.

Caught by surprise themselves, Sinn Fein ran too few candidates to emerge with the most seats - a mistake it will not make next time around. It has already begun a series of packed national rallies to sure up its support.

Both Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail have 37 seats in the fractured 160-seat parliament, with Fine Gael on 35, meaning some sort of combination of two of the three largest parties is required to form a government.

Bruised by its election defeat, Fine Gael will reluctantly hold a “one-day policy exchange” with Fianna Fail next week as well as similar talks with the Green Party, whose 12 seats would be needed for the two historic rivals to reach a majority.

If Ireland’s two dominant parties cannot agree to lead the next government while also maintaining their steadfast opposition to governing with Sinn Fein, a second election would be the only way to break the deadlock.

All sides predict talks will take a number of weeks before such a choice has to be made.
Countries where public transport is completely free, mapped

Image: indy100 via

Public transport can be very expensive, depending where you live in the world.

But at midnight on 28 February, 2020, one country became the first in the world to make all public transport free for everyone.

Yup, you’ve guessed it (or, in fact, you probably didn’t) the answer is: Luxembourg. But why?

Luxembourg City, the capital of the small Grand Duchy, suffers from some of the worst traffic congestion in the world. It is home to about 110,000 people, but a further 400,000 commute into the city to work. A study suggested that drivers in the capital spent an average of 33 hours in traffic jams in 2016.

So to fix this problem, the government has just made all public transport completely free.

While the country as a whole has 600,000 inhabitants, nearly 200,000 people living in France, Belgium and Germany cross the border every day to work in Luxembourg, so it’s a win-win for everyone.

Several cities have tried similar schemes. Estonia's capital, Tallinn, introduced free public transport in 2013 but only for residents. The northern French city of Dunkirk (population: 200,000) also introduced free travel in 2018.

But the tiny nation of Luxembourg currently stands alone in Europe, and in fact the world, as the only country to offer free public transport nationwide.

Here’s a couple of maps to put that in context. See the small green circle next to France?

Other countries will likely be keeping an eye on Luxembourg’s bold new policy to see if it works. Because if one thing’s for sure, we could all do to use more public transport and rely less on cars.

Luxembourg becomes first country with free public transport

AFP / JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGENPrivate cars are the most used means of transport in Luxembourg, but the government is hoping to change that with the new free ride policy
Luxembourg on Saturday became the first country in the world to offer free public transport, as the small and wealthy EU country tries to help less-well-off workers and reduce road traffic.
Some cities elsewhere have already taken similar, partial measures. But the transport ministry said it was the first time such a decision covered an entire country.
The free transport, flagged as "an important social measure", affects approximately 40 percent of households and is estimated to save each one around 100 euros ($110) per year.
Not all passengers were aware of the change, which was brought forward one day ahead of schedule.
"It's free? I didn't know," said a woman in her 50s who gave her first name as Dominique as she waited at Luxembourg's main train station.
Transport workers were concerned about what impact the measure would have on their job security.
"We don't yet know" what will happen to their positions, said one ticket seller at the station who declined to give his name.
"All the public transport workers are worried. It's not yet clear."
- Traffic woes -
The measure is part of a plan intended to reduce congestion.
Private cars are the most used means of transport in the Grand Duchy, accounting for 47 percent of business travel and 71 percent of leisure transport.
With more than 200,000 people living in neighbouring France, Germany and Belgium who work in Luxembourg and most of them driving in, that makes for major traffic jams at peak hours.
The population of the tiny country is just 610,000 and those cross-border workers account for half the total employees.
The capital city of Luxembourg has invested in its public transport network, notably by building a tram network, but commuters complain it is still patchy.
It will be some years before the network links to the northern airport, for instance.
"There's been an enormous delay to the development of public transport," said Blanche Weber, head of the Luxembourg Ecological Movement pressing for better links on environmental grounds.
AFP / JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGENLuxembourg has invested in its public transport network, but commuters complain it is still patchy
"Systematic and continuous investment is a sine qua non (essential) condition for promoting the attractiveness of public transport," admitted transport minister Francois Bausch.
Sales of tickets on the domestic network -- which cost two euros per journey -- previously covered just eight percent of the 500-million-euro cost of running the transport system. That shortfall will now be met from the treasury.
Ticket machines are to be gradually removed from stations, but offices selling tickets for international train trips and for first-class seating in Luxembourg -- which continues to be a paying service -- will remain.

Luxembourg becomes first country to make public transport free

LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - Luxembourg abolished fares for trains, trams and buses on Saturday in what the government said was a bid to tackle road congestion and pollution, as well as supporting low earners.

Passengers wait on a platform while a train arrives at Luxembourg railway station, as Luxembourg becomes the first country in the world to offer free public transport, February 29, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

All standard-class journeys on public transport in the tiny and wealthy European country are now free of charge, compared to an annual pass worth 440 euros ($485) before. Travelers can still pay for first class, at a cost of 660 euros a year.

“For people with low incomes or the minimum wage, for them it’s really substantial,” transport minister Francois Bausch told Reuters.

“The main reason is to have a better quality of mobility, and then the side reason is clearly also environmental issues.”

Luxembourg has just over 600,000 inhabitants, but 214,000 more travel in for work every day from neighboring Germany, Belgium and France, causing heavy traffic jams as the majority of workers commute by car. More than half of Luxembourg’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transport.

Alexandre Turquia, a sales manager at a hotel group, drives to work in the capital Luxembourg City from a neighboring village. The trip should take 30 minutes, but traffic means it can last an hour. Still, he says his car is the best option.

“If it’s a day where I need to visit customers that are far away, I will take my car for sure,” he said.

But Mia Mayer, an employee at Amazon, has already switched from driving to work to taking the bus to save time and money.

“I had the experience on an almost daily basis of trying to get through the city center, getting really stuck in traffic and sometimes taking 45-50 minutes. Luxembourg City is not a huge place so that really is a long driving time,” she said.

To cope with the many commuters, Luxembourg plans to invest 3.9 billion euros in railways from 2018-28, upgrade the bus network and add more park-and-ride sites on the border.

Despite these investments, the government expects 65% of commuters to still get to work by car in 2025, down from 73% in 2017. Luxembourg is the first country to roll out free transport, but some cities, including Estonian capital Tallinn, have also experimented with the idea.

Editing by Gabriela Baczynska and Alexander Smith
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Britain ready to reject EU demands on human rights laws - Sunday Telegraph

(Reuters) - Britain is preparing to reject EU demands to guarantee that the country will continue to be bound by European human rights laws once the UK becomes fully independent, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

British negotiators will refuse to accept proposed clauses in a post-Brexit trade agreement that would require Britain remain signed up to the European Convention of Human Rights, leaving the door open to break away from the treaty as soon as next year, the Sunday Telegraph said.


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson engaged, expecting baby 



British leader Boris Johnson, girlfriend expecting baby



ROUSes? I Don’t Think They Work With Mummies: Henry Kuttner’s “The Graveyard Rats”


Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.
This week, we’re reading Henry Kuttner’s “The Graveyard Rats,” first published in the March 1936 issue of Weird Tales. Spoilers ahead.
“Wagging their grey heads wisely, the elders declared that there were worse things than rats and maggots crawling in the unhallowed earth of the ancient Salem cemeteries.”
Old Masson is caretaker of one of Salem’s oldest—and most neglected—cemeteries. The previous caretaker disappeared, but Masson’s not likely to abandon his post—his side gigs of stealing burial jewelry and selling the occasional cadaver to unscrupulous anatomists are much too lucrative.
His biggest problem is the rats. The graveyard obviously agrees with them, for they’ve grown abnormally large and plump—Masson’s seen some the size of cats, and gravediggers uncover tunnels big enough for a man to crawl in.
The ships that sailed into Salem generations back brought strange cargoes. Masson’s heard whispered tales of “a moribund, inhuman life that was said to exist in forgotten burrows in the earth.” The days of Cotton Mather may be past, but oldsters declare that there are worse things than rats and maggots haunting the cemetery depths. Far underground, the “vague” rumors declare, dwell ghoulish beings that employ the rats as messengers, soldiers, even grave robbers to supply their nocturnal feasts.
Masson is incredulous of the legends. In public, he downplays the rat situation. It wouldn’t do for the authorities to start opening graves and discovering depredations that couldn’t be blamed on rodents. The size of their burrows does trouble him; so does the way they steal whole corpses by gnawing coffins open at the end, as if under the direction of an intelligent leader.
This night, protected from fond relatives by the rain, Masson’s digging for especially rich treasure—the cadaver in question was interred with fine cufflinks and a pearl stickpin. As he exposes the coffin, he hears stirring and scratching inside. Rage replaces his moment of superstitious fear—the rats are once more beating him to the prize!
He wrenches up the lid just in time to see a black-shod foot dragged through the breached end of the sarcophagus. He snatches at it, hears the squealing thieves who tug it from his grasp. How the hell big must these rats be? Never mind, he has a flashlight and revolver and sufficient greed to drive him into the burrow after them.
The narrow tunnel’s slimy wet and stinks of carrion. Side tunnels open out from the main one. Masson crawls on and almost catches up to the rat-drawn corpse before he notices how clods of earth are falling in his wake. What if the burrow should collapse? The idea’s terrifying enough to make Masson retrace his steps.
Wrong move. A dozen rats attack from behind, misshapen and big as cats. In the darkness beyond, something even bigger stirs. Masson manages to draw and fire his revolver, but the rats retreat only briefly. He fires again, shouts, crawls onward, pauses. At one elbow is a side tunnel. In the main tunnel before him is a shapeless huddle that he gradually recognizes as a human body, a brown and shriveled mummy. The mummy moves, crawling toward him!
In the pale glow of his flashlight, Masson watches a “gargoyle face” thrust toward his own, a “passionless, death’s-head skull of a long-dead corpse, instinct with hellish life; and the glazed eyes swollen and bulbous betrayed the thing’s blindness.” It groans. It stretches its “ragged and granulated lips in a grin of dreadful hunger.”
Masson flings himself into the side tunnel. Both the Horror and the rats pursue him. He empties his revolver, driving them back. He squirms under a rock that protrudes from the tunnel ceiling, and has the bright idea of tugging it down after himself to block his pursuers’ advance. The dislodged rock crushes something that shrieks in agony. Unfortunately its displacement also starts dislodging the rest of the roof.
Earth cascading down at his heels, Masson wriggles forward eel-fashion. His fingers suddenly claw satin, not dirt. His head strikes a hard surface, not dirt, and he can go no further. Nor can he raise himself more than a few inches from his stomach before hitting an immovable roof. Panic follows his realization that he’s crawled to the end of the side tunnel: a coffin previously emptied by the rats!
There is no turning around in the coffin’s confines, nor could he claw his way to the surface even if he could push open its lid. Behind, the tunnel continues to subside. Masson gasps in the fetid, hot airlessness. As the rats squeak exultantly, he screams and thrashes his way through the remaining oxygen.
And as he sinks “into the blackness of death,” he hears “the mad squealing of the rats dinning in his ears.”
What’s Cyclopean: Ravenous hordes. Malodorous tunnels. Blasphemous horror. Maggot-like fears. Also abyssmal fear.
The Degenerate Dutch: In the Mythos, nothing good ever comes from Salem. (Though if the black pits of Avernus really bring forth hell-spawned monstrosities, they’ll have a lot of digging ahead to get to Massachusetts for this story, since the underworld in question usually opens on either Italy or a particularly unpleasant D&D setting.)
Mythos Making: Cotton Mather hunted down evil cults that worshipped Hecate and the dark Magna Mater—as we know from last week, he missed the Magna Mater cultists at Exham Priory.
Libronomicon: Greed-motivated grave robbers aren’t much for reading.
Madness Takes Its Toll: Cotton Mather also missed Salem’s subterranean cellars (as opposed to the walkout kind, we guess), where forgotten rites are still celebrated in defiance of law and sanity.

Anne’s Commentary
Connoisseurs of the weird must universally acknowledge that it doesn’t matter how often certain folks warn against preternatural perils lurking in the dark corners of the earth and the far-flung voids of the cosmos. Such Cassandras come in many flavors, simple or compounded: the Oldster, the Youngster, the Lunatic, the Drunkard/Drug Addict, the Immigrant, the Indigenous Person, the Rustic, the Hysterical Female (or Male). Protagonists either ignore these characters or take their tales with enough grains of salt to gag a Deep One. This includes protagonists like Masson, who know from their own observations how unnaturally big the rats are, how unreasonably spacious their burrows, how downright uncanny their grave-robbing savvy. But as Lovecraft so memorably opines in “Call of Cthulhu,” the world’s greatest mercy is “the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents,” facts with fables and conjecture, personal experience with the experience of others.
Never mind. We readers know the Cassandras are always right, and what fun would it be if the Weird-Tale protagonist took gossip, legend, folk wisdom, musty-tome lore, and conspiracy theory at face value? Masson would have concluded it wasn’t worth the extra income to delve into an earth tenanted by monstrous rats and ravenous ghouls. His story might then have read: “Old Masson quit his job as Salem cemetery caretaker after seeing his first cat-sized rodent and correlating the experience with local superstitions. Selling lottery tickets at the neighborhood convenience store just made more sense as a long-term occupation.”
“The Graveyard Rats” recalls several Lovecraft stories, “The Rats in the Walls” perhaps the most superficially. Both have rats, very bothersome rats, rats with deplorable appetites. Both have underground climaxes. That’s about it. Kuttner doesn’t even gift his lead with a faithful feline companion. Not that any self-respecting cat would stay with Masson, and pretty much every cat is self-respecting, yes? That’s their glory and allure.
“Graveyard Rats,” in general structure and theme, has more in common with “In the Vault,” which also features an unsavory cemetery caretaker who in the end GETS WHAT HE DESERVES. Lovecraft’s George Birch cares little for mortuary ethics. If there’s costly laying-out apparel to be had, he’ll have it. If the corpse doesn’t quite fit its clumsily built coffin, he’ll, um, adapt the corpse, not the box. Birch has this advantage on Masson—also the sole mortician for his community, he doesn’t have to exhume corpses to rob them; he just has to wait until the mourners are done looking to relieve Dearly Departed of his or her valuables. I suspect that lazy, boozy Birch would have left the burial baubles alone if he had to do any digging. Nor does it seem he sold cadavers. It could be, however, that in his rural seclusion, the scarcity of medical students and researchers (not morality) was the preventative factor.
Old Masson is certainly the more vigorous malefactor, and even less squeamish than Birch. If we rank a coffin-trapped death higher than maimed ankles and shattered mind, then his greater punishment fits his greater crimes. Howard might have ranked the shattered mind higher than swift decease. For me, with its meticulously detailed build-up to horror, “In the Vault” is the superior squirm-inducer, but Kuttner did get me good with Masson’s “premature burial.” The twist makes for a clever take on the conte cruel. Lifestyle and mindset direct Masson’s fate. They contribute to Birch’s, but Lovecraft gives us the added chill of a malevolent corpse avenging a specific offense, two ankles for two ankles.
“Graveyard Rats” also recalls “The Lurking Fear,” in which our narrator opens a grave to discover a network of tunnels delved from the malodorous mould and home to unnameable creatures. Cemeteries serve as portals to subterranean realms of horror in “The Outsider” and “The Statement of Randolph Carter” as well. In “Pickman’s Model,” ghouls rather than rats are the busy tunnelers.
In Kuttner’s Salem, rumor has it that “moribund, inhuman life” and “ghoulish” rat-masters dwell deep under the ancient residences and boneyards. Masson’s hungry “Horror” resembles the thing the Outsider saw in the ballroom mirror, which could be one sort of ghoul. Are there also Pickmanesque ghouls down below, feasting on the provender their rat allies provide?
According to the Salem elders, there are “worse things than rats and maggots crawling in the unhallowed earth.” Maggots? Oh. What about Lovecraft’s “Festival,” then, in which the narrator follows “abnormally pulpy” throngs into the “catacombs of nameless menace” that underlie Kingsport? He’ll eventually review a passage in the Necronomicon that claims the “charnel clay” of wizards “fats and instructs the very worm that gnaws; till out of corruption horrid life springs, and the dull scavengers of earth wax crafty to vex it and swell monstrous to plague it.”
Well, if maggots eating cursed flesh are things that “have learnt to walk that ought to crawl,” what hideous enhancements might eating corpses bestow on rats? What mental or spiritual bonds might the diet have wrought between them and ghouls and maggot-mages?
Poor old Masson doesn’t live to contemplate the questions. Or would that be lucky old Masson?
Something to ponder while I go check out that pattering and squealing in the basement. I don’t mind, really. Just don’t expect me to crawl into any mouldy, malodorous tunnels.
I just washed my hair.

Ruthanna’s Commentary
Death is scary—but as various weird fiction authors have occasionally pointed out, also kind of mundane. After all, it’s ultimately as inescapable as the hounds of Tindalos. The only question is how it will get you. What happens after, on the other hand… there are all sorts of possibilities, terrible because they are optional, and yet impossible for you to do anything about. The desecratory horrors range from the spiritual to the simple idea that after you’re done with your body, someone else might have a use for it.
Grave-robbing comes in low on the horror scale relative to, say, getting eaten by baby ghouls or recombined with other corpses in new and disturbing forms. And yet, it’s a persistent fear, winding through all manner of others across Lovecraft’s original stories. The angsty goths of “The Hound” rob graves for the lulz and for the aesthetic, eventually robbing the grave of a grave robber—who turns out to be a monster who eats grave robbers who rob their grave, so presumably someone in that story will get a snack out of this week’s selection. Ghouls and Delapores treat graves as pantries. Herbert West and Joseph Curwen are more interested in gathering research material. And what the unnamed narrator of “The Loved Dead” does… doesn’t bear thinking about.
Somehow, this regular obsession of HPL’s has become only a minor thread for those he influenced. Stolen bodies are an old and familiar fear, both predating Lovecraft—not one of his areas of wild creativity—and tapering over the 20th century as other sources of cadavers for medical research (not to mention easier ways of snaffling jewelry) became more common. But Kuttner, following closely on Lovecraft’s heels, is the guy who managed to rewrite “Dreams in the Witch House” with all the cool bits taken out. Unlike his protagonist, he doesn’t exactly have a keen eye for the true treasures of the dead. So, Masson’s grave robbing is not for fiendish consumption, gothic thrills, or unholy imprisonment via essential saltes, but for simple greed.
Ah, but I’m being unfair: the grave robbing isn’t the real horror here. That’s merely motivation for Masson to be out in a graveyard, in the rain, competing with giant rats for bodies. The rats, in fact, do have more sinister plans for those bodies. Probably “turned into an undead mummy-thing” comes closest to the West/Curwen model, though it doesn’t seem like there’s so much research involved. Honestly, they just seem to be creating a giant rat/mummy warren beneath Salem. So maybe this is ultimately more like ghouls?
But, Kuttner being Kuttner, Masson’s ultimate demise is more poetically symmetrical than truly terrifying. He escapes the rats and mummies, and in doing so buries himself alive in a rat-emptied coffin. Cue blackened tongue, fading consciousness, and the faint sound of squealing rats. We never do get dreadful confirmation of the rats’ roles with respect to the mummy-things. We just know they’re down there, tunneling beneath Salem like marsupial moles beneath Australia, only less eldritch. (Warning: creepy image at link—an unidentifiable insect being eaten by something that just might be a Brown Jenkins.)
ROUSes? I don’t think they exist. Or at least, I’m kind of dubious that they hang around in subterranean Massachusetts.

Next week, we wrap up the parade of rats with Steven King’s “Graveyard Shift.”
Ruthanna Emrys is the author of the Innsmouth Legacy series, including Winter Tide and Deep Roots. Her short story collection, Imperfect Commentaries, is now available from Lethe Press. You can find some of her fiction, neo-Lovecraftian and otherwise, on, most recently “The Word of Flesh and Soul.” Ruthanna is online on Twitter and Patreon, and offline in a mysterious manor house with her large, chaotic household—mostly mammalian—outside Washington DC.
Anne M. Pillsworth’s short story “The Madonna of the Abattoir” appears on Her young adult Mythos novel, Summoned, is available from Tor Teen along with sequel Fathomless. She lives in Edgewood, a Victorian trolley car suburb of Providence, Rhode Island, uncomfortably near Joseph Curwen’s underground laboratory



The Night Girl by James Bo
Like so many before her, Perpetua Collins journeys to Toronto in search of a better life. Also like so many before her, she finds opportunity scarce and rent far too expensive. Welcome to the exciting world of homelessness in a town whose winter temps can hit -30C… Fortune in the form of an enigmatic want ad smiles on Perpetua. Perpetua is just the human face needed to staff the front desk of T.P. Earthenhouse: Bouncers, Rare Coins, and Art Installations.
Toronto is even more diverse than it knows. Earthenhouse provides employment to one of Toronto’s more unusual demographics: supernatural beings like goblins and trolls. Earthenhouse himself is a goblin. But the fair folk have carefully hidden from humans for millennia and Earthenhouse’s plans endanger that masquerade. There will be consequences, and Perpetua will soon find herself threatened by them.

Beneath the Rising by Premee Mohamed
Nick Prasad’s best friend Joanna “Johnny” Chambers is wealthy, white, and happens to be the world’s smartest teen. She’s this world’s answer to Reed Richards. The two teenagers have been friends since childhood. Nick is infatuated with Johnny and Johnny…values Nick as a chum.
Romantic frustration must be put to one side. Johnny’s latest invention is a miraculous power source, the key to solving climate change. All humanity will want it. So too will the unspeakable cosmic beings who covet our world. Turns out that the power source is also a dimensional gate.
Puny humans like Johnny and Nick can’t stand against such eldritch horrors. Nevertheless, they’re all that humanity has. Full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes!

The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson
Mixed-race Sojourner “Scotch” Smith is too white to be black in the eyes of  her black schoolmates, too black to be white to her white schoolmates. Still, school is tolerable; school and the time Scotch spends with the Raw Gyals dance troupe both provide refuge from her parents’ draconian discipline.
There are a few other problems, such as the fact that her BFF Gloria seems to be eyeing Scotch’s ex-boyfriend. Oh, and the fact that Scotch has developed a weird skin condition and has been seeing floating heads…
All of these troubles pale in comparison to an unexpected volcanic eruption and an invasion by entities out of myth and legend, of course. Life just got all too interesting, and possibly quite short.

Spells of Blood and Kin by Claire Humphrey
Lissa Nevsky’s grandmother left Lissa three legacies: haunting grief, a large, empty house, and a clientele that expects Lissa to step into her grandmother’s role as Toronto’s premier koldun’ia (Russian witch). The role is unwanted but necessary: Many of the old lady’s spells stopped working when she died and Lissa may be the only person who can restore them.
The spell Maksim Volkov purchased kept the supernaturally enhanced man’s violent urges under control. Without the magic, Maksim gives in to bloodlust and licks the open wound of mugging victim Nick. Maksim is cognizant enough to realise that he has probably passed his curse on to the young man. Maksim and Lissa will have to find Nick before he becomes a danger to Toronto. If only Maksim had any idea as to who Nick is or where he lives… If only the price that Lissa will pay was not so high…

Doubtless I haven’t mentioned your favorite Toronto-based SFF book, so tell me about it in the comments.
In the words of Wikipedia editor TexasAndroid, prolific book reviewer and perennial Darwin Award nominee James Davis Nicoll is of “questionable notability.” His work has appeared in Publishers Weekly and Romantic Times as well as on his own websites, James Nicoll Reviews and Young People Read Old SFF (where he is assisted by editor Karen Lofstrom and web person Adrienne L. Travis). He was a finalist for the 2019 Best Fan Writer Hugo Award, is one of four candidates for the 2020 Down Under Fan Fund, and is surprisingly flammable.


1: That’s a bit inaccurate. Only Canadians who live outside Toronto hate Toronto. Canadians within Toronto don’t hate non-Torontonians in return because they are unaware that there’s a world outside the city.
2: Or it could be more than one in twelve, depending on your definition of residing in Toronto.