Thursday, December 31, 2020

My pictorial home page

I put up a new one every year with notable pictures from the year. I have just finished the 2020 edition. Find it here


Oxford vaccine now approved

The Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, which has been described as a 'game changer', was given the green light by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency . The UK has ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine - enough to vaccinate 50 million people.

The United Kingdom was the first country to approve the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which has a lower cost and is easier to store than other vaccines that have already been approved.

The vaccine – called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 – uses a harmless, weakened version of a common virus which causes a cold in chimpanzees.

Researchers have already used this technology to produce vaccines against a number of pathogens including flu and Zika.

The virus is genetically modified so that it is impossible for it to reproduce in humans and cause infection.

Scientists have transferred the genetic instructions for coronavirus's specific 'spike protein' – which it needs to invade cells – to the vaccine.

When the vaccine enters cells inside the body, it uses this genetic code to force the body's own cells to produce the surface spike protein of the coronavirus.

This induces an immune response because it makes those cells look like the virus, which effectively works as a training aid for the immune system to learn how to fight the virus if the real thing gets into the body.

Health secretary Matt Hancock hailed the approval of the critical vaccine on Wednesday saying it means the UK will be 'out' of the coronavirus crisis by the Spring

AstraZeneca boss Pascal Soriot said deliveries would start tomorrow, adding: 'Vaccination will start next week and we will get to one million a week and beyond that very rapidly. We can go to two million.'

The Oxford vaccine is the second vaccine that has been given the green light for public roll-out after the Pfizer vaccine - which has also been approved in the US. The UK was the first country in the world to approve the vaccine for public use.

Studies have shown that the vaccine has an average efficacy rate of 70 percent, with this number rising to 90 percent when half a dose was followed by a full dose.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, which has been described as a 'game changer', was given the green light by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: 'The Government has today accepted the recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to authorise Oxford University/AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine for use.

'This follows rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA, which has concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.'

Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and chief investigator of the Oxford trial, said: 'The regulator's assessment that this is a safe and effective vaccine is a landmark moment, and an endorsement of the huge effort from a devoted international team of researchers and our dedicated trial participants.

'Though this is just the beginning, we will start to get ahead of the pandemic, protect health and economies when the vulnerable are vaccinated everywhere, as many as possible as soon possible.'

Data published in The Lancet medical journal in early December showed the vaccine was 62 percent effective in preventing Covid-19 among a group of 4,440 people given two standard doses of the vaccine when compared with 4,455 people given a placebo drug.

Of 1,367 people given a half first dose of the vaccine followed by a full second dose, there was 90 percent protection against Covid-19 when compared with a control group of 1,374 people.

The overall Lancet data, which was peer-reviewed, set out full results from clinical trials of more than 20,000 people.

Among the people given the placebo drug, 10 were admitted to hospital with coronavirus, including two with severe Covid which resulted in one death. But among those receiving the vaccine, there were no hospital admissions or severe cases.

The half dose followed by a full dose regime came about as a result of an accidental dosing error.

However, the MHRA was made aware of what happened and clinical trials for the vaccine were allowed to continue.

The overall Lancet data, which was peer-reviewed, set out full results from clinical trials of more than 20,000 people.

Among the people given the placebo drug, 10 were admitted to hospital with coronavirus, including two with severe Covid which resulted in one death. But among those receiving the vaccine, there were no hospital admissions or severe cases.

The half dose followed by a full dose regime came about as a result of an accidental dosing error.

However, the MHRA was made aware of what happened and clinical trials for the vaccine were allowed to continue.

Does it differ from Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine?

Yes. The jabs from Pfizer and Moderna use messenger RNA (mRNA) to trigger immunity to Covid-19.

Conventional vaccines are produced using weakened forms of the virus, but mRNAs use only the virus’s genetic code.

An mRNA vaccine is injected into the body where it enters cells and tells them to create antigens.

These antigens are recognised by the immune system and prepare it to fight coronavirus.

No actual virus is needed to create an mRNA vaccine. This means the rate at which the vaccine can be produced is accelerated.

What about antibodies and T-cells?

The Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines have been shown to provoke both an antibody and T-cell response.

Antibodies are proteins that bind to the body’s foreign invaders and tell the immune system it needs to take action.

T-cells are a type of white blood cell which hunt down infected cells in the body and destroy them.

Nearly all effective vaccines induce both an antibody and a T-cell response.

A study on the AstraZeneca vaccine found that levels of T-cells peaked 14 days after vaccination, while antibody levels peaked after 28 days.


Research Finds that UV LEDs Kill 99.9% of COVID-19 Virus

A new study from Tel Aviv University shows that the COVID-19 virus “can be killed efficiently, quickly and cheaply using ultraviolet (UV) light-emitting diodes (UV-LEDs) at specific frequencies,” according to a report from The Jerusalem Post.

“We discovered that it is quite simple to kill the coronavirus using LED bulbs that radiate ultraviolet light,” said Professor Hadas Mamane, head of the Environmental Engineering Program at Tel Aviv University’s School of Mechanical Engineering. Mamane led the study with Professor Yoram Gerchman and Dr. Michal Mandelboim.

UV-LED bulbs require less than half a minute to destroy more than 99.9% of the coronavirus on surfaces, Mamane explained. An article detailing their study and its finding was published earlier this month in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology.

Ultraviolet wavelengths, available in LEDs as UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C, are very effective at disinfecting surfaces using UV-LED bulbs.

“We know, for example, that medical staff do not have time to manually disinfect, say, computer keyboards and other surfaces in hospitals – and the result is infection and quarantine,” said Mamane. “The disinfection systems based on LED bulbs, however, can be installed in the ventilation system and air conditioner, for example, and sterilize the air sucked in and then emitted into the room.”

“We are also developing, together with a scientist in North Western University a transparent coating that can be dipped or sprayed on surfaces and can kill viruses using visible light LEDs that are not dangerous and are used everywhere, providing another application for regular LEDs,” Mamane added

“UV LEDs have a huge future,” she said. “Of course, as always, when it comes to ultraviolet radiation, it is important to make it clear to people that it is dangerous to try to use this method to disinfect surfaces inside homes. You need to know how to design these systems and how to work with them so that you are not directly exposed to the light.”


U.S. Businesses Walking Away From China

It looks like companies across the world are carrying out an economic and geopolitical #WalkAway movement from China. They have already looked at the vulnerabilities our dependence on China is causing and taking mitigating steps. Japan is shelling out $2 billion to encourage companies to leave China and head back.

That’s a smart investment, and one Japan will quickly recoup. If companies move to Japan and set up factories, the workers hired there will become taxpayers as opposed to receiving welfare checks. That is not just financial savings for Japan, it also is far less destructive over the long term to the people themselves. Larry Kudlow, director of the United States National Economic Council, makes a similar argument.

This is the type of thing that should be encouraged, especially when it comes to taking the cost of COVID-19 recovery out of the economic hide of the Butchers of Beijing. Again, this is one place where the money will be recouped, and for the same reasons as Japan. In addition, this could very well help bring back many of the smaller cities and towns devastated by the loss of manufacturing over recent decades.

One way to fuel a manufacturing boom would be a military buildup. One very likely consequence of companies walking away from China would be efforts by the ChiComs to retaliate. A strong military would help deter them from that path.


Amazon Fires Back at Bernie Sanders Acusations

In good Leftist form, Sanders has no regard for the truth

Right behind Walmart, Amazon is the second-largest private employer in the entire United States employing nearly 1 million people across the world.

Last week, Amazon was pushed to respond to Senator Bernie Sanders' stupid remarks.

Sanders said that the giant company is underpaying its employees and denying them benefits; that its workers are working in dangerous conditions; and that Amazon is reaping profits in the name of corporate greed.

Sanders had tweeted just before Christmas,

"Jeff Bezos, the wealthiest man alive, became $83 billion richer over the past 9 months while Amazon made record profits. Meanwhile, Amazon workers are risking their lives to fill holiday orders and are denied paid sick leave and hazard pay. This ugly corporate greed must end."

The guided missiles that Amazon fired back to Sanders are that:

Amazon pays its employees at least 15 dollars per hour, which is double the federal minimum wage

Amazon gives its full-time employees paid sick leave and comprehensive benefits at par with the benefits which their senior executives get.

Amazon created 275,000 new jobs since the pandemic began.

Amazon has applied enhanced cleaning and social distancing measures, distributed personal protective gear, and executed temperature checks throughout its worldwide operations.

While the world was put on lockdown and grappled with how they will get their needs, Amazon fulfilled these needs and people became even more reliant and in need of the services of Jeff Bezos' giant company.

Amazon stipulated that it is not corporate greed that accelerated its sales but the demand for online services and delivery made the existence of Amazon even more relevant than ever.



Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Trump Is now the Most Admired Man in America, Edging Out the Top Democrat

President Donald Trump finally defeated former President Barack Obama for the title of most admired man in America in Gallup’s 2020 survey. Trump had tied with Obama in 2019 while Obama beat him in 2017 and 2018. Meanwhile, incoming President Joe Biden came in third, while incoming Vice President Kamala Harris came in second to former first lady Michelle Obama for most admired woman.

In 2019, Trump and Obama tied, with 18 percent of Americans naming each of them as the most admired man in an open-ended survey. This year, 18 percent of Americans again named Trump while only 15 percent chose Obama, according to Gallup.

Trump took the top spot arguably because Republicans consolidated around him. While only 39 percent of Americans approve of his job performance (thanks, no doubt, to the legacy media’s attempts to suppress the news of the president’s major accomplishments such as peace in the Middle East), 48 percent of Republicans named Trump, with no other public figure receiving more than 2 percent of Republican votes. Only 45 percent of Republicans named Trump last year.

Democrats, by contrast, proved divided. Only 13 percent of them named Biden while more than twice that number (32 percent) named Obama, down from 41 percent who named the former president as their most admired man last year.

The remaining top 10 include Pope Francis, Elon Musk, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, basketball player LeBron James, and the Dalai Lama.

The year 2020 marks the 10th time Trump has finished among the top 10 men, including four times before he ran for president: 1988, 1989, 1990, and 2011. Gates has finished in the top 10 a total of 21 times, while Obama has done so 15 times and the Dalai Lama 11 times. Biden had only cracked the top 10 once before.


Survey: The Future GOP Voters Want Can Be Summed Up In Three Simple Words

The party has changed. We all saw this in 2016. Four years later, the transformation is complete. President Donald J. Trump is the Republican Party. Those on the Hill unwilling to fight could see themselves out of a job soon. Well, maybe not all, there are annoying folks, like Mitt Romney, who will probably represent their states for life given the demographics, but the Olympia Snowe’s of the GOP are either being primaried out or forced out. The party is more populist. It’s bluer collar. And to the liberal media’s chagrin—actually is more diverse. Trump gained among non-white voter blocs and nearly doubled his share of the LGBT vote. He did suffer marginal losses with white working-class voters in the Midwest, but those voters can and will probably come back once Joe Biden screws up the economy.

Yet, we’re not here to discuss the 2020 election. This is about the future of the GOP. Nearly 75 percent of Republican Party members are quite clear regarding what they want to see the GOP become in the future. Three words describe the trend: more like Trump (via Breitbart):

Three of four GOP supporters want their legislators to “be more like President [Donald] Trump” in 2021, according to a Rasmussen survey of likely voters.

The poll of 1,000 likely voters was taken December 21-22, as GOP legislators debate how to counter or cooperate with President-elect Joe Biden and how to regain the House majority in the 2022 midterm elections.

The poll asked: “As the Republican Party reorganizes itself next year, should it be more like President Trump or more like the average GOP member of Congress?”

Republicans picked the “more like President Trump” option by 72 percent to 24 percent, while conservatives split 67 percent to 28 percent.

Rasmussen’s survey shows that 72 percent of GOP voters wish to see the party continue on its Trumpian track. Why? Well, for starters, it showed results. The Trump agenda create the best job market for black Americans—ever. It created millions of jobs, incentivized companies to dole out bonuses to workers, and reinvest their capital here. Consumer and small business confidence reached their highest levels in years under Trump. Countless records closings with the Dow Jones. Oh, and unemployment reached its lowest levels under Trump in nearly 50 years. Also, the man delivered endless uppercuts to the liberal media establishment, knew their moves before they did, and executed expert trolling of liberal America that drove them insane.

For once, we have a Republican who didn’t show these people any respect since they didn’t deserve it. He exposed how terrible they were at their jobs and how they were no more than cheap sluts for the Democratic Party. We all knew it, but Trump made sure to shame them on national television and at rallies pervasively.

Tens of millions flock to his banner. The president commands masses that are loyal, passionate, and pissed off over the 2020 results. Trump has hinted that he could run again in 2024—pulling a Grover Cleveland. Should that happen and he declares, the primaries are over. The field is cleared. And anyone who dares to run against him is assured total destruction. There’s simply not enough Trump skeptic Republicans to pull off an upset.

Money is not an issue. We know there is a lot of anti-Trump GOP money out there. How did that fare in 2016? Jeb Bush had a $100 million war chest and failed miserably, amassing a whopping four delegates during his failed run.

The GOP right now is loaded with energized and battle-ready patriots. They’re a pugnacious bunch. There’s nothing wrong with that. we need to understand that the other side is dishonorable. They’re trash. They’re bad people who cannot be trusted. Why shouldn’t the default setting be to pick a fight with them? The new GOP adds new zest to the landscape right now. Some might be worried about the rise of the so-called far-right elements. Some might say it's extreme, but it’s also the counterbalance to the left-wing cancer engulfing the Democratic Party. It’s not a hard choice, folks. If job creation, loving our country, supporting free speech, and ensuring a strong and secure America at home and abroad is far-right extremism, then I’m a proud right-winger.


Trump's Legacy: Foreign Policy Achievement

Not just cleaning up after the previous president, but expanding American success.

When President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, he had a serious foreign policy mess on his hands from eight long years of Barack Obama’s blame-America malfeasance. Trump, the Art of the Deal businessman and foreign policy novice, reversed course with a novel approach: “America First.” And boy did it pay dividends.

As Obama left office, Mark Alexander aptly summed up the lowlights of his terrible legacy:

Under his tenure we witnessed the “Russian Spring” in Crimea; his hollow “Red Line” in the Syrian sand; the Middle East meltdown in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Jordan and Gaza; his political retreat from Iraq — discarding all the blood and treasure spent there to establish stability; the Benghazi cover-up ahead of the 2012 election; the dramatic resurgence of al-Qa'ida; Obama’s reference to ISIL as the “JV team”; and the rise of the Islamic State and an epic humanitarian crisis in the Middle East.

While Obama claims to have ended wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, American troops are on their way back into both theaters. …

Obama heralded his Iran nuke “deal” as one of his greatest foreign policy achievements: “I shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot.” The fact is, his acquiescence and coddling of Iran resulted in the re-emergence of the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, which is now metastasizing into Western Europe and North America.

Additionally, Obama and Kerry took a parting shot at Israel, undermining our historic relations with this essential Middle Eastern ally.

Moreover, Obama subjected our nation to the Paris Climate Agreement and flung the doors open wide for a wave of illegal immigration, both of which threatened our security and our economy.

Progress on just two or three of these problems would have been laudable, but the Trump administration — particularly Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — significantly moved the needle on every one of them.

Despite Obama literally scoffing at the idea that Russia was our biggest geopolitical foe, he then accused and investigated Trump for supposedly “colluding” with the Kremlin to win in 2016. Trump has always had an unfortunate penchant for saying flattering things about thug dictators like Vladimir Putin, which made the charge believable for some. But in practice, Trump thwarted much of Putin’s plans. He fueled energy exports that undercut Russian dominance in Europe. He also gave aid to the Ukrainian military against Russian aggression — as he humorously put it in one of his debates with Joe Biden, “While he was selling pillows and sheets, I sold tank busters to Ukraine.”

Donald Trump was impeached for talking to the Ukrainian president; Joe Biden actually offered the quid pro quo.

In the Middle East, Trump redoubled U.S. efforts to defeat ISIS, and though it is not gone, it is a shell of its former self. One might even finally be justified in calling it a “JV team.” He stabilized the U.S. response in Syria and Afghanistan. His record isn’t perfect, primarily because he very much values the “deal” even if it’s with the untrustworthy Taliban and, too much like his predecessor, he often seems more interested in “ending” wars than winning them. But the Middle East is a far quieter place today than it was in 2017.

That’s largely because Trump, Pompeo, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have driven several peace agreements between Arab nations and Israel. (You know, the same Netanyahu who Obama regularly insulted and tried to defeat electorally.) This Israeli-Arab coalition is a huge hindrance to Iran’s designs on regional hegemony, and is thus an engine of peace. As it turns out, keeping the quarter-century-old American promise to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem was a sign of alignment and backing for Israel that spoke volumes to its Arab neighbors.

It’s safe now to laugh at John Kerry’s 2016 declaration that “there will be no separate peace between Israel and the Arab world.” His successor, Mike Pompeo, almost certainly is.

Did we mention that, for all his Middle East work, Trump has been nominated multiple times for the Nobel Peace Prize? Obama won it; Trump deserves it.

Also, as promised, Trump pulled the U.S. out of Obama’s bogus Iran nuclear deal and his ill-advised Paris agreement.

Joe Biden promises to rejoin both, and to generally reverse Trump’s foreign policy.

A notable mention goes to Trump’s termination of Iran’s leading terrorist, Qasem Soleimani.

To the consternation of the establishment, Trump saw NATO as another festering problem — an alliance of European deadbeats who weren’t pulling their weight but were instead mooching off the might and wealth of the United States. No more, he said. Four years later, more NATO nations are pulling their weight in terms of defense spending. Trump’s transactional view of American defense spending and responsibilities is not the traditional conservative approach, but his out-of-the-box thinking changed this status quo for the better.

In fact, that goes to a larger point: American leftists routinely grouse that we’re “less respected” in the world than when “citizen of the world” Obama was “leading from behind.” Well, the globalists might like us less, but that’s because they know we’re no longer a pushover and a sucker. Like and respect aren’t always synonymous.

On top of all of that, Trump moved to secure America’s economic interests abroad, including reworking NAFTA into the USMCA. His boasting was typically hyperbolic, but the new agreement does modernize and improve trade with our North American neighbors.

Trump’s tariffs against China were not our preferred solution, and they had the unintended consequence of higher consumer prices for Americans and necessitating bailouts for farmers due to the inevitable retaliation. But this president rightly took on China in a way that none of his predecessors did, including challenging the blind loyalty to “free” trade with China at all costs — costs that sent American jobs and wealth to China.

Importantly, the designation of greatest geopolitical threat now goes indisputably to China, which much of the world views more negatively now thanks to both the China virus and Trump’s work to destroy the ChiCom facade. That includes pulling U.S. money and credibility from the World Health Organization, which everyone now knows is a Chinese puppet.

Just a reminder: Joe Biden is in Beijing’s pocket, too.

Speaking of Chinese puppets, Trump met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in order to block the Hermit Kingdom’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. The verdict is mixed: North Korea is still an unstable menace, but it’s also no longer regularly threatening U.S. ally Japan.

Trump’s failure with China is his silence in the face of its totalitarian actions to crush freedom in Hong Kong.

On immigration, Trump began building his wall (though it remains far from what he promised), and he generally made progress in a number of areas to tighten the border and the process so that the flood of illegals crossing our border slowed significantly. There is much work yet to be done, and, unfortunately, Biden will likely undo much of Trump’s progress. But that doesn’t take away from Trump’s earnest efforts to solve a problem the rest of Washington was content to treat as a campaign fundraiser.

Trump might only be a one-term president, but his achievements in foreign policy — again, due in no small measure to Pompeo — are matched by precious few. As Bruce Thornton put it, “Trump, like the ‘amiable dunce’ Ronald Reagan, understood that the establishment’s narratives were endangering our security and interests. He brought some practical wisdom, common sense about human nature, and real-world experience to foreign policy, and recalibrated it with a few simple, Reaganesque principles: We win, they lose; America’s interests are paramount; and we should always be ‘no better friend, no worse enemy,’ a foundational principle of foreign relations that Obama had turned on its head.”

Indeed, Trump challenged and changed a lot of Beltway groupthink, and the end result is that America is stronger on the world stage than it was four years ago.



Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Yes, It Was a Stolen Election: You’d have to be blind not to see it

As Americans continue to watch the 2020 election controversy unfold, the very same publications that spent years lying about President Trump’s “Russia collusion” are once again telling us what we are dutifully supposed to believe. The Los Angeles Times, for instance, assures us that Trump’s “baseless” and “dangerous” claim “that the election was rigged to benefit Joe Biden” has been thoroughly “debunked.”[1] The New York Times proclaims that “Trump’s false election fraud claims” are founded upon nothing more than a “torrent of falsehoods.”[2] Sneering at “how Trump drove the lie that the election was stolen,” The Washington Post mocks Republicans who “are still pretending that there was election fraud.”[3] And warns that “Trump's obsession with overturning the election” has now begun to spiral “out of control.”[4]

But so much for what the comic books have to say. What follows is a compilation of vital facts that will demonstrate, to anyone interested in following the truth wherever it may lead, that the 2020 presidential election was indeed rife with fraud, and that Joe Biden, if he should in fact be sworn into office next month, will be an illegitimate president from the very start.

Before the Election: How We Got Here

Fifteen years ago, a landmark report by the bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform, known informally as the Carter-Baker Commission, advised all U.S. states that in order to guarantee free and fair elections, they should: increase voter ID requirements; minimize the use of mail-in ballots, which “remain the largest source of potential voter fraud”; disallow ballot harvesting by third parties; purge voter rolls of all ineligible or fraudulent names; allow election observers to monitor ballot-counting processes without restraint or obstruction; ensure that voting machines are accurate in their tabulations; and encourage news organizations to “delay the release of any exit-poll data until the election has been decided.” All of these recommendations were widely ignored in the elections of November 2020.[5]

During the months leading up to this year’s presidential race, the Biden campaign assembled a team of some 600 lawyers and more than 10,000 volunteers to “[go] into every single state” in order to “call out local rules that don’t adequately ensure access to vote.”[6]

Beginning more than a year ago, Democrats filed nearly 300 lawsuits in dozens of states[7] – most notably all of the key battleground states – in an effort to change election laws and regulations in ways that would benefit Democrat candidates. For example, they sought to: (a) extend the statutory deadlines by which mail-in ballots could be submitted, postmarked, or received by election authorities; (b) permit people to vote earlier than ever before, in some cases as many as 50 days prior to Election Day; (c) eliminate signature, signature-verification, and witness requirements for mail-in ballots; (d) void state laws that disallowed ballot harvesting by third parties; (e) terminate photo-ID requirements for in-person voting; (f) introduce provisions that would allow for the “curing” of mail-in ballots that contained errors or omissions; and (g) require state election officials to send unsolicited mail-in ballots to every person listed as a registered voter, even though such lists have long been notoriously inaccurate.[8]

Though the Democrats did not get everything that they wanted, they got most of it. Broadcaster and bestselling author Mark Levin, citing the cases of Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Arizona -- and their combined 73 Electoral College votes – explains what happened:

“Every one of these states [and others as well] were targeted by Democrats. Every one of these states violated the United States Constitution, Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 [which empowers the state legislatures alone to make election law for each state]. Every one of them, because changes were made to their election systems not by the state legislature, but by other public officials.… That’s 73 Electoral College votes. This is why Donald Trump won the election…. [I]f the federal Constitution had not been violated, yes, Donald Trump would be … president of the United States today. Putting all fraud aside. All fraud aside. This is why you should be furious with the United States Supreme Court, that had as its duty, as its sworn responsibility … to insist that the states comply with the federal Constitution under Article II, Section 1, Clause 2, and that any changes made outside that clause, by governors, secretaries of states, by courts, federal or state, by election boards or other bureaucrats, will be deemed unconstitutional. [The Supreme Court] had a case [in Pennsylvania] … before a single vote was counted, they had a case [alleging unconstitutional changes to election laws] and they didn’t take it up…. [The Democrats] made these changes, they plotted, they planned, they litigated, they pressured, they lobbied, and now we have, if he’s sworn in, Joe Biden, who will be an illegitimate president of the United States in every meaning of that word, ‘illegitimate.’”[9]

The Implausibility of Trump’s Loss

While President Trump was granting interviews on a daily basis to friendly and hostile media outlets alike, and was holding campaign rallies that drew tens of thousands of passionate supporters, Joe Biden, for the most part, remained locked away inside his basement, rarely even agreeing to give brief video interviews. On the few occasions when Biden did take part in interviews, he was typically disoriented, incoherent, and seemingly exhausted. And when he held “rallies,” they were invariably awkward, uninspired events mired in pessimistic rhetoric and attended only by tiny handfuls of people.[10] Common sense tells us that no candidate so pathetically inept and so deeply unappealing, could possibly have inspired 15.4 million more people to vote for him, than had voted for Democrat icon Barack Obama in 2012.[11]

Late on Election Night – November 3, 2020 -- President Trump led Biden by approximately 100,000 votes in Wisconsin, 300,000 votes in Michigan, 300,000 votes in Georgia, and 700,000 votes in Pennsylvania. Then, suddenly, all four of these states suspended their vote counts, almost simultaneously. By the early-morning hours of the following day, Wisconsin had flipped in Biden’s favor, followed by Michigan soon thereafter. A few days later, Georgia and Pennsylvania followed suit as well.[12]

President Trump received more votes than any previous incumbent seeking re-election, and he increased his 2016 vote total by 11 million -- the third largest rise ever achieved by an incumbent. By contrast, President Obama had comfortably won re-election in 2012 with 3.5 million fewer votes than he had received in 2008.[13]

Biden in 2020 won only 17% of all counties nationwide, a record low.[14]

According to exit polls, 95% of Republicans voted for Trump. Moreover, black support for Trump grew by 50% above its 2016 level, while Biden’s black support fell well below 90%.[15]

Trump also increased his share of the national Hispanic vote from 29% in 2016, to 35% in 2020.[16]

Trump easily won Florida, Ohio and Iowa in 2020. Since 1852, the only presidential candidate to lose an election while winning these three states was Richard Nixon in 1960 – an outcome that was likely the result of election fraud by Democrats.[17]

Biden’s purported victory is due entirely to the fact that he seems to have overperformed specifically in the tiny handful of Democrat-run cities that provided him with narrow leads in each of the battleground states, and nowhere else. As The American Spectator puts it: “Biden [won] Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin because of an apparent avalanche of black votes in Detroit, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee. Biden’s ‘winning’ margin was derived almost entirely from such voters in these cities, as coincidentally his black vote spiked only in exactly the locations necessary to secure victory. He did not receive comparable levels of support among comparable demographic groups in comparable states.”[18]

The Washington Examiner notes how strange it is that Trump could have lost the election even though “Republicans won all 27 House races [that] the Cook Political Report rated as ‘toss-ups’ in its 2020 election analysis, in addition to picking up 7 of the 36 seats the outlet rated as ‘likely Democrat’ or ‘lean Democrat.’”[19] Moreover, Democrats were unable to overturn even a single Republican seat in the House.[20] And in New Hampshire, Republicans seized control of both the state House and the state Senate, which had been firmly in Democrat hands.[21]

In a December 6 interview with Mark Levin on Fox News, pollster and Democracy Institute founder Patrick Basham said that if Biden was indeed the winner of the presidential election, he had defied key “non-polling metrics” in a way that may be “not statistically impossible, but it's statistically implausible.” Basham explained that there are “a dozen or more of these metrics ... [that] have a 100% accuracy rate in terms of predicting the winner of the presidential election,” including “party registration trends, how the candidates did in their respective presidential primaries, the number of individual donations, [and] how much enthusiasm each candidate generated in the opinion poll.”[22] Other notable variables are the candidates’ social media followings, their broadcast and digital media ratings, the number of online searches that their names generate, the number of small donors they have, and the number of individuals who are betting on them to win.[23] “In 2016,” said Basham, “[these metrics] all indicated strongly that Donald Trump would win against most of the public polling. That was again the case in 2020. So if we are to accept that Biden won against the trend of all these non-polling metrics, it not only means that one of these metrics was inaccurate ... for the first time ever, it means that each one of these metrics was wrong for the first time and at the same time as all of the others.”[24]

Noting also that “Donald Trump improved his national performance over 2016 by almost 20%,” Basham stated: “No incumbent president has ever lost a reelection bid if he's increased his [total] votes.”[25]

Because so many ballots were cast in 2020 by people voting by mail for the first time, most experts, using historical patterns as a guide, predicted a higher-than-usual rate of ballots being rejected for flaws such as missing information, inaccurate information, or a failure to place ballots in secrecy envelopes.[26] But precisely the opposite occurred in the battleground states:

In Pennsylvania, a mere 0.03% of the state’s mail-in ballots were rejected in 2020 – a rate more than 30 times lower than the 2016 rejection rate of 1%.

In Georgia, the rejection rate in 2020 was 0.2%, more than 30 times lower than the 6.4% figure from 2016.

In Nevada, the 2020 rejection rate was approximately 0.75%, less than half the 1.6% rate from 2016.

In North Carolina, the 2020 rejection rate was 0.8%, less than one-third the 2.7% rate from 2016.

In Michigan, the 2020 rejection rate was 0.1%, about one-fifth the 0.5% rate from 2016.[27]

Citing what occurred in Pennsylvania, an Epoch Times report provides a partial explanation for these low 2020 rejection rates: “Election officials in [Pennsylvania’s] Democrat strongholds … exceeded their authority in order to give voters preferential treatment that wasn’t afforded to voters in Republican-leaning areas of the state. Specifically, election workers illegally ‘pre-canvassed’ mail-in ballots to determine whether they were missing a secrecy envelope or failed to include necessary information. When ballots were found to be flawed, voters were given an opportunity to correct, or ‘cure,’ their ballots to make sure they counted.”[28]

More here:


‘Blueprint for Positive Change’ Exposes the Left’s Plans for Conservatives

Until the electoral votes are certified by Congress on Jan. 6, our country will not officially select the next president. Nevertheless, liberal voices across America have already claimed victory in the presidential race and have begun laying the framework for a Biden administration.

It should come as no surprise that these plans are broad in scope and radical in intent. Look no further than the Human Rights Campaign’s “Blueprint for Positive Change”—a list of recommendations to a Biden administration—to see the left expose its desire to force conservatives across the country to conform to its vision for our nation.

Some of the most shocking and disturbing demands found in this blueprint concern our schools and academia, long seen as the most promising pathway for the left to push its agenda and indoctrinate American youth as disciples of progressivism.

One of the 85 egregious requests, woefully underreported in the media thus far, is to strip accreditation from religious colleges and universities that do not meet “non-discrimination policies and science-based curricula standards.”

Here, couched in language designed to suggest moral superiority and scientific legitimacy, is a blatant, full-frontal assault on our religious liberties.

The Human Rights Campaign is not simply suggesting that Christian institutions comply with the left’s view of “non-discrimination,” but rather it is forcing institutions to either abandon the tenants of their religious beliefs or face severe consequences. Haven’t we seen this play out in history before, such as the Soviet Revolution and Mao’s Cultural Revolution?

As we’ve already seen from his statements on the campaign trail and his inconsistent ideologies as a career politician, former Vice President Joe Biden is more than willing to cave under pressure from the most radical wings of his party, especially when it comes to the LGBT community.

How quickly they’ve preyed on Biden’s weaknesses—exploiting his malleability and willingness to kowtow to gay activist groups, so-called social justice warriors, opponents of law and order, and other moral revolutionaries.

Should Biden find himself in the White House come January, he will not resist this degradation of American ideals; instead, he will work to make us less free, more secular, and more like his own fanatical base under the guise of “progress.”

If the Human Rights Campaign is successful, Christian schools will cease to exist and religious institutions will be bullied to bow down to the LGBT orthodoxy.

Our right to religious liberty is about more than just the freedom to worship, it’s about the assurance that we cannot be forced to go against our core values and principles.

The hypocritical left’s bombardment on our beliefs started long before the “Blueprint for Positive Change.” Now more than ever, defenders of religious freedom must hold the line.



Monday, December 28, 2020

Nashville suicide bomber was a paranoid schizophrenic -- non political

Had there been love in his life he would probably not have done it. He clearly fancied Michelle Swing but had no good idea about how to interest her

The FBI has confirmed that Anthony Quinn Warner, 63, was the attacker who perished in the Nashville Christmas Day bombing, saying he died in an apparent suicide attack when an RV exploded outside of an AT&T building.

Local and federal officials said on Sunday that remains at the scene were a DNA match to Warner, an eccentric IT worker who lived outside of Nashville, and that he is believed to have acted alone in carrying out the attack.

'We're still following leads, but right now there is no indication that any other persons were involved,' said Douglas Korneski, special agent in charge of the FBI's Memphis field office. 'We've reviewed hours of security video surrounding the recreation vehicle. We saw no other people involved.'

Investigators refused to comment on a possible motive, following reports that Warner harbored deep paranoia about 5G cell phone technology.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper on Sunday said he suspects that the AT&T transmission center was targeted in the attack, which wreaked havoc on phone systems in multiple Southern states on Christmas Day.

FBI agents raided Warner's home on Bakertown Road in Antioch on Saturday morning. Several neighbors described Warner as an 'oddball' and said they'd seen an RV parked outside the home which matched the one used in the attack. revealed that the $160,000 home had been transferred for free to 29-year-old Michelle Swing on November 25 - but she claims she was unaware of the exchange.

Records show Warner also transferred another home on Bakertown Road to Swing via a quitclaim deed in January 2019.

The $249,000 house had previously belonged to a member of his family and Warner had only been in possession of it for five months before again giving it to Swing for free. She later also used a quitclaim to give the house to another person.


The Brexit agreement: A libertarian view

Sean Gabb

I know that many of my friends have looked at the massive block of text that is the final agreement of our withdrawal from the European Union, and decided that we have been tricked again. My own preference would have been for a complete break, followed by unilateral free trade abroad and a libertarian revolution at home. However, I have taken the trouble to read the text—not, I accept, with the fullest attention: it is, after all, 1,246 pages long. There may be hidden traps that my reading has overlooked. Certainly, the reality of any agreement is less its wording than the approach the various sides take to implementing it. Even so, what my reading suggests is that this is somewhere between passingly acceptable and a diplomatic triumph.

We formally left the European Union at the end of last January. Next Thursday evening, the transitional arrangements will end that kept us inside the Single Market. On Friday morning, we shall find ourselves in a new set of arrangements agreed between a sovereign United Kingdom and an equally sovereign European Union. These arrangements provide for continued trade without tariffs or quotas. They will not provide the same frictionless trade as we had inside the Single Market, where goods from Birmingham could be carried to Bratislava and sold there in exactly the same way as if carried to Manchester. They say little about trade in services. But they do give us better access to the European market than any other outside country has.

I suspect that, when they have finished their own reading, many of my friends will focus their criticism on the new oversight body that has been agreed between the two parties. This Partnership Council is set up under III.1 of the Agreement:

A Partnership Council is hereby established. It shall comprise representatives of the Union and of the United Kingdom. The Partnership Council may meet in different configurations depending on the matters under discussion.

The Partnership Council shall be co-chaired by a Member of the European Commission and a representative of the Government of the United Kingdom at ministerial level. It shall meet at the request of the Union or the United Kingdom, and, in any event, at least once a year, and shall set its meeting schedule and its agenda by mutual consent.

The Partnership Council shall oversee the attainment of the objectives of this Agreement and any supplementing agreement. It shall supervise and facilitate the implementation and application of this Agreement and of any supplementing agreement. Each Party may refer to the Partnership Council any issue relating to the implementation, application and interpretation of this Agreement or of any supplementing agreement.

I think the criticism will be that this Partnership Council is just another European Union, and that it will make recommendations that are just as binding on us in effect as the rules of the old European Union, and that it will soon become a massive bureaucracy in its own right. The criticism is partly valid. As said, I would have preferred no agreement at all. But this is not a continuation of European Union membership under another name. It is an agreement under international law made by two sovereign states. It is an agreement made for limited purposes—the facilitation of trade, not an “ever closer union.” It is an agreement in which the joint parties will have equal weighting. It is also an agreement from which each party can have a clear and simple escape if it should prove inconvenient—see VII.8:

Either Party may terminate this Agreement by written notification through diplomatic channels. This Agreement and any supplementing agreement shall cease to be in force on the first day of the twelfth month following the date of notification.

We shall no longer be one member state among 28 in the European Union. We shall instead be a joint party to an agreement to which the European Union will itself be as subject as we are. New laws and regulations will no longer pass down from Brussels to London, but will instead rise from London or Brussels to the Partnership Council, from where they may or not pass down to Brussels or London. Whatever does pass down to London must then be put into effect in ways that we can see and understand, and by people we can see on television and vote out if we dislike them.

And this is the most important change. Nearly twenty years ago, I think I was the first to see the real objection to our membership of the European Union. For smaller countries, membership amounted to something like foreign rule. For us, it was always more a fig leaf by which our own ruling class was able to exercise unaccountable power. I said:

…I have no doubt that membership of the European Union endangers our survival as a nation of free individuals—but it does so by raising up a wholly domestic enemy.

During the past 30 years of European membership, our Constitution has been subtly amended. Some branches of government have been exalted as never before, others set on their way to extinction. The most obvious beneficiaries have been the administrators, the special interest groups—which include much of big business—and those politicians who learn to play the rules of the new system. These have become a ruling class largely freed from democratic control. Such control has only so far ever existed in nation states with liberal institutions. In these places, the authorities are directly accountable to a public opinion that may be divided on all manner of issues, but that is also agreed on certain fundamentals, and that is able to be moved one way or another by the force of argument. Let jurisdiction be transferred to a multi-national authority, and it does not need to face this kind of united public opinion. It becomes rather like the old Hapsburg Empire, which was able to maintain itself for centuries by playing off one national group against another, never having to justify itself to all the people as the French and British Governments had to do.

That is the European Union. The old democratic institutions remain, but are of decreasing significance. They have little real control over the decisions that affect our lives. Either they merely ratify those decisions, or they are not even formally consulted. At every point, this transfer of power is justified by the need to comply with obligations accepted under the various European Treaties.

We shall now have torn aside this fig leaf. There will be no more unaccountable power. The enabling law that was the European Communities Act 1972, as amended, is dead. No doubt, our ruling class will continue to make bad laws of every kind. Many of these will no doubt have the support of a deluded public opinion. But these are laws that will need to be made once again in the open. The old constitutional lines of authority have been drawn again. Power will be seen to be exercised by an executive more or less accountable to a Parliament that is, in turn, more or less accountable to us. We shall not again wake up one morning to find that—say—the electrical wiring regulations have become incomprehensible, while the people who have done this to us smile sadly and point across the water to Brussels, where things happen in foreign languages and in ways we have never fully understood. This reaction will not in itself make us a free country again. But it does give up the option to become free again.

The Agreement has a further advantage. So far, we British could talk about withdrawal from the European Union. We could, by a set of electoral revolutions, bully our ruling class into taking us out. But we are a rich and powerful country. We could face a future as a completely independent trading power, even if we might prefer a continued but looser relationship with the European Union. This has never been an option for the Poles, the Hungarians and the other small countries that have had their own difficulties with Brussels. So far, they have had a stark choice—put up with everything sent down from Brussels or return to the chilly world they faced after the collapse of the Soviet Empire. We have now given them a template. If the Hungarians and the Poles want their authoritarian Christian democracy, if the Czechs want the liberal democracy they romantically believe we in Britain still have for ourselves—things that are not permitted by continued membership of the European Union—they have only to demand their own seats on the new Partnership Council. I can see, within the next decade, a new order in Europe. There will be a free trade association between France and Germany, plus their satellites, and the United Kingdom at the head of half a dozen smaller members in the Partnership Council.

I have not, I say again, read the Agreement will the fullest attention. Again as said, much of its impact will be a matter of how it is put into effect. But we appear to have got for ourselves, as home and in Europe, everything we could reasonably have wanted. If I had been shown the text in 2001, I would have dismissed it as an impossible dream. We are now five days from seeing it passed into effect.

On the whole, I still have little time for Boris Johnson. Since he caught the Coronavirus, stupidity appears to have been joined by insanity—see his endless wittering about a “green” recovery from the crash he engineered in March. But let us give credit where due. This Agreement is somewhere between passingly acceptable and a diplomatic triumph. Indeed, the more I skip at random through the text, the more inclined I am to think it a diplomatic triumph.

So the debate over Europe that has filled the whole of my adolescent and adult life is over, and the right side has won. We now turn to the real debate, which must be over the nature and scope of the British State. Let us hope we can have equal success there.


AstraZeneca says its vaccine will work against COVID-19 variant

The head of drugmaker AstraZeneca, which is developing a coronavirus vaccine widely expected to be approved by British authorities this week, says that researchers believe the shot will be effective against a new variant of the virus driving a rapid surge in infections in Britain.

AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot also told Britain's Sunday Times that researchers developing its vaccine have figured out a "winning formula" making the jab as effective as rival candidates.

Some have raised concern that the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is being developed with Oxford University, may not be as good as the one made by Pfizer already being distributed in the UK and other countries.

Partial results suggest that the AstraZeneca shot is about 70 per cent effective for preventing illness from coronavirus infection, compared to the 95 per cent efficacy reported by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

"We think we have figured out the winning formula and how to get efficacy that, after two doses, is up there with everybody else," Soriot said. "I can’t tell you more because we will publish at some point."

Britain’s government says its medicines regulator is reviewing the final data from AstraZeneca’s phase three clinical trials.

The Times and others have reported that the green light could come by Thursday, and the vaccines can start to be rolled out for the British public in the first week of January.

Asked about the vaccine’s efficacy against the new variant of coronavirus spreading in the UK, Soriot said: "So far, we think the vaccine should remain effective. But we can’t be sure, so we’re going to test that."

British authorities have blamed the new virus variant for soaring infection rates across the country. They said the variant is much more transmittable, but stress there is no evidence it makes people more ill.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sounded an urgent alarm about the variant days before Christmas, saying the new version of the virus was spreading rapidly and that plans to travel and gather must be cancelled for millions to curb the spread of the virus.



Sunday, December 27, 2020

It Is Long Past Time for the CDC and NCHS to Clean Up the COVID-19 Death Counts

Some of us have been questioning the COVID-19 death counts reported by the CDC through the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) for some time. Of course, CNN and the corporate media love the likely elevated counts to push their narrative. Lockdown Inc. loves them to justify their destruction of lives and livelihoods. A report from the Freedom Foundation, a Washington State think tank, explains why. The foundation’s original analysis of deaths in the state found the number may have been inflated by as much as 13%:

In May, a report released by the Freedom Foundation, an Olympia-based free-market think tank, revealed the DOH was attributing to COVID-19 every death in which the deceased previously tested positive for the virus. However, it’s clear that catching the disease and dying of it are two very different matters.

Washington’s data was riddled with cases — as much as 13 percent of the total — in which the death certificate made no reference to COVID-19 as a cause of death. In several cases, even gunshot deaths were chalked up to the virus.

While the Department of Health did remove 200 deaths from the count, the Freedom Foundation did another analysis. Combining data sources from the Department of Health for nearly 2,000 deaths as of early September, the new analysis found that 170 death certificates did not mention COVID-19. Another 171 deaths had no causal connection to the virus. According to the Post Millennial, the group estimates Washington’s death counts could be inflated by as much as 20%.

New data from the CDC regarding the conditions contributing to deaths where COVID-19 is also involved clearly demonstrates deaths from the virus are overestimated nationwide. This is not surprising given the loose guidelines for attributing a death to COVID-19 and the financial incentives through public and private insurance to put COVID-19 on a patient’s chart.

First, as I have written several times, many COVID-19-positive people who were terminally ill died a few months before they otherwise would have. These “pull-forward deaths” often happen with influenza and pneumonia when a person is elderly or severely compromised. For example, the data shows 3,622 people over the age of 75 died of hypertensive renal disease with kidney failure. Kidney failure is a progressive and terminal condition, even with kidney dialysis. An additional 939 in the same age group died with lung cancer as well as COVID-19.

Second, the report demonstrates most younger patients were also suffering from a different severe illness if they died from COVID-19. On the same line for kidney failure, a total of 18 people under the age of 35 passed away with this condition and COVID-19. Ten people under the age of 35 died with acute lymphoblastic lymphoma (ALL) in addition to the virus. The average five-year survival rate in this age group is between 68.1% and 85%, leaving the distinct possibility that these were the sickest ALL patients.

These are just a few examples of terminal conditions that could have been examples of a pull-forward death. Since there is nothing in the NCHS guidance to require symptoms or evidence of active COVID-19, it is impossible to tell whether or not these were pull-forward deaths. As Washington demonstrates, some of this error will come from state-level practices. New York, for example, backdated 3,700 “presumed COVID-19 deaths” early in the pandemic.

The above does not even include the broad class of ICD-9 Codes referred to as “Intentional and unintentional injury, poisoning, and other adverse events.” This report contains 9,343 deaths associated with everything from drug overdoses to traumatic accidents and suicide. These deaths alone equal 3% of the current number of total deaths.

It is long past time for the CDC and NCHS to require some evidence of a severe illness from COVID-19 rather than simply a positive test. There are significant numbers of lab values and imaging changes that, taken together, can reasonably be assumed to paint a clinical course that includes active illness from COVID-19. The best test would be a viral culture. If the virus or viral debris in a patient’s system cannot replicate in a culture, it can’t be a cause of death.

A positive PCR test within 28 days, the current standard Washington is now using, is also unacceptable, especially with the number of asymptomatic cases. A virus that never makes you sick or only makes you mildly ill will not kill you or likely contribute to your death. Rather, you are likely one of the 30-60% of people with reactive immunity from other coronavirus exposure. Likewise, if someone already suffers from a terminal illness, unless the end-stage events include symptoms of severe COVID-19, it should not be counted among the causes of death.

A scroll through the spreadsheet and a bit of clinical knowledge supports the estimate of the Freedom Foundation as a minimum number. Americans deserve transparency and accuracy at this point. It is a dereliction of duty for the CDC and NCHS not to tailor their guidelines to the disease progression of a COVID-19 infection capable of contributing to a person’s death.


The mutant virus has sealed Britain off from the world. But is it all it's cracked up to be?

Data presented by ministers may not be as frightening as it seems and some experts think the episode has been overegged. Only time will tell

There is nothing quite like news of a ‘mutation’ to get the juices flowing. We’ve had Italian, Spanish and minkish varieties to date – and those are just the ones we remember. There were more than 12,000 mutations detected in the first 50,000 Covid genomes studied and scientists have now diligently recorded more four times that number.

Mutations are, of course, important. It is not for nothing that they are the mainstay of a certain genre of horror film. They are what cause animal viruses to “spillover” to humans in the first place. And given the right conditions, or indeed just an unfortunate roll of the dice, they can make a nasty human disease a whole lot worse.

So what are we to make of VUI-202012/01, the simulationist sounding name given to the new variant of the coronavirus? How strong is the evidence for it being, in the Prime Minister’s words, “up to 70 per cent” more transmissible, and what does it really mean if it is?

One thing we can say with certainty is it has had a huge impact. It is the justification for the recent “cancelling” of Christmas and it has all but sealed off Britain from the rest of the world. At the time of writing, no fewer than 40 countries had closed their borders to us, severely limiting freedom of movement and severing supply chains.

The mutant variant was first detected in the UK in early October and (following in the tradition of the Chinese authorities in Wuhan) was first mentioned by the Health Secretary last Tuesday in the run-up to Christmas - a looming super-spreading event which government’s across Europe were already cancelling at pace.

An assessment of its significance fell to the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), a subcommittee of SAGE. At a meeting held last Friday morning, it considered four types of evidence regarding transmissibility the new bug:

* Genomic sampling data which suggests the “growth rate” of new variant is between 67%-75% higher than others

*Modelling which associates the new variant with an increase in the reproduction rate (R) of the virus of between 0.39 and 0.93

* PCR test data which suggest those infected carry a greater quantity of the virus in their upper airways

* Further genomic data which may also suggest an increase in viral load

After considering this evidence, Nervtag concluded it had “moderate confidence” that VUI-202012/01 was “substantially” more transmissible.

It added there was “no evidence” the new variant impacts the severity of the disease, for better or worse (although it should be noted that data on hospitalisation and deaths always lag behind by several weeks).

On Monday the chair of Nervtag said the group now had “high confidence” that the new variant spreads more efficiently from person to person.

Christian Drosten, director of virology at Berlin's Charite Hospital and one of Germany’s leading experts, remains unconvinced and was scathing about the use of the headline-grabbing 70 percent figure.

“Suddenly there's a figure out there, 70 per cent, and nobody even knows what it means,” he told Deutschlandfunk radio yesterday.

“If you want to know if a virus is more transmissible, you have to look at pairs of people who were infected. You'd have to see who infected whom and how long it took,” he added.

He has a point. The 70 percent figure is not a direct or even an indirect measure of transmissibility. It is a measure of how the new strain of the virus has grown relative to others, and there could be various explanations for that, most notably super-spreader events.

“The spread of this new virus variant could be due to many factors’, said Dr Julian Tang, a Clinical Virologist at the University of Leicester.

“A higher genomic growth rate in the samples sequenced, may not necessarily mean higher transmissibility. For example, if there was a rave of several thousand people where this variant was introduced and infected many people mostly in that rave, this may seem very high compared to a lower background of non-variant virus”.

A similar lack of proper context makes the estimated uplift in the R value of the new variant more frightening than it should - although this does talk directly to transmission.

The range given for the possible uplift in R at 0.39 to 0.93 is vast, highlighting the lack of certainty around it. It is also not an uplift in the virus’s basic reproduction rate but a possible uplift against the R rate in the UK at the time of the analysis which was around one.

This means the “get jabbed or get infected” meme that has taken off on Twitter in the wake of the announcement is dangerous gibberish. Whatever the increase in transmission, the R rate for the new variant is still far below what it was at the start of the epidemic when just 5 to 6 percent of the population became infected.

Professor Calum Semple, a member of Sage, says the UK's Covid variant is likely to become the “dominant global strain” in much the same way as the Italian variant took over in the early months of the pandemic and the Spanish variant took over in the summer.

Indeed, once countries across Europe and other parts of the world start to examine their data more closely, we may find that VUI-202012/01 is already much further dispersed than we think. In the last 24 hours alone six countries, including Denmark, Gibraltar, The Netherlands, Australia, Italy and Belgium, have reported cases.

But will it prove any more memorable than its Italian or Spanish counterparts in the long run? The answer to that is impossible to know today.



Friday, December 25, 2020

How accurate is our Hebrew Bible?

My Christmas essay

Most Christians are aware that the Bible was not originally written in English, though some have thought so.  The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament was written in ancient Greek.

But both were written over two thousand years ago.  So how do we know that we now have accurate copies of what was originally written so long ago?  That is what I want to address here.

The basic problem is that we do not have the originals of what was written.  All we have copies.  And the copies do differ in various ways.  So which -- if any -- is the correct version of the originals?

One way of looking at that is to find the oldest possible copy -- on the assumption that errors are less likely to have crept in the closer we get to the original.  But the oldest copies we have of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) go back only about a thousand years.  A lot could have happened in the thousand years before that.

Over 60 years ago, however, there was a great find.  Hidden away in some caves in Israel were some copies of the Hebrew scriptures that dated from about the time of Christ.  They are sometimes referred to as the "Dead Sea Scrolls", though the term Qumran scrolls would be more accurate.

So how do those scrolls compare with the Hebrew Bible we have today?  That has been the focus of a huge body of scholarly enquiry and analysis.  And the broad answer is that some of the scrolls are exactly as we have them today and some are not.  So how do we account for that?

The biggest wonder is that some parts of the Hebrew text  -- particularly the book of Isaiah -- have survived without change for so long.  What we have today is the result of copies of copies of copies of copies and it is well known how inaccuracies can creep into any text that is the result of much copying.  So how did at least one book of the Bible survive copying without error?

The answer is religious.  About a thousand years ago a group of religious Jews emerged -- the Masoretes -- who devoted huge efforts into copying accurately.  It is the copies that they made which are the basis for our English Bibles. And the Masoretes claim that the copies that they have so painstakingly produced are an accurate copy of what was originally written.

So how can we check up on that?  There is one major way.  Since before the time of Christ, the old Hebrew text had been translated into Greek -- the language of learning in the ancient world. Those translations are called by scholars the LXX.   When Jesus and the apostles quoted from the OT, the words they used as quoted in the NT came from the LXX.  And we have some very old copies of the LXX -- going back to around the 4th century AD.  And being much older than the copies we have of the Hebrew Bible itself, the LXX could be regarded as as closer to the Bible as originally written. So how does the LXX compare with the Hebrew Bible we have today?

There are many differences, most minor but some major. So how do we account for those differences?  Based on very detailed studies by many scholars, it looks like the copy of the Hebrew text that the translators used was different from the Hebrew text that we have today.  Some scholars have even done a careful back-translation from the LXX to produce a probable version of the Hebrew text underlying it.  That version is usually referred to by the German word "Vorlage".  But the Vorlage too differs clearly from the current Hebrew Bible.

So the fact that the Vorlage differs in many ways from our current Bible reinforces what the Qumran scolls tell us -- that there is much uncertainty about what the Bible authors originally wrote.  The broad outline is there but many details are different.

One of the most prolific and authoritative writers on the Qumran scrolls is Emanuel Tov, an Israeli. From 1990-2009 he served as the Editor-in-Chief of the international Dead Sea Scrolls Publication Project, so he knows his subject.  And a few years back he produced a summary of what the many years of research into the scrolls have taught us.  Find it here. I have just read it and find much interest in it.

His final deduction is the most interesting. He concludes that, before and during the time of Christ, the Pharisees maintained in the Jerusalem temple copies of the sacred Hebrew texts that they regarded as authoritative.  Christ himself admitted that the Pharisees were meticulous scholars with a great reverence for Jewish law so we can assume that they went to great lengths to ensure that their copies of the ancient texts were as accurate as possible.  What they produced was probably nearly as good as what modern scholars would have produced in their position.

But Jews have always had great reverence for their scriptures so there would have been many copies of them in whole or in part throughout the land.  The Temple scrolls would have been in part a reaction to that.  They were an attempt to sort out from the many scrolls available what could be relied on.  And access to the Temple scrolls for any purpose would have been closely guarded.  So only a minority of the scrolls in circulation would have been copies of the Temple scrolls.  

But here's the thing:  From the copies of them that we have, it seems that the Temple scrolls were almost identical to the version that the Masoretes gave us, identical to our Hebrew Bible of today.  One could proclaim that to be a blessed miracle but the more likely explanation is that the early Masoretes of a thousand years ago did have access to good copies of the Temple scrolls and relied on them.  So what we have today is the version of the Hebrew scriptures that originated from the ultra-careful work of the ancient Pharisees

So the explanation for variations in ancient versions of the scriptures becomes clear:  There WERE different versions of some of the scriptures circulating in ancient Israel but we have the Pharisees to thank for sorting out that confusion and arriving at a version of the scriptures that is as close as possible to what was originally written.


Thursday, December 24, 2020

Cloth masks are NOT enough to stop the spread of Covid-19 without social distancing

Wearing a cloth mask may not shield the user from coronavirus because too many infected droplets can slip through, a study has claimed.

Scientists at New Mexico State University, in the US, studied five types of face coverings including cloth masks and surgical grade N95 masks.

They found that while all masks blocked at least 95 per cent of droplets from coughs and sneezes - there was still a risk of the disease being passed on.

Although cloth masks stopped 96.4 per cent of sneeze droplets at a distance of six feet, they still let more than 1,000 through - which the scientists said could carry enough virus particles to trigger an infection.

'Wearing a mask will offer substantial, but not complete, protection to a susceptible person,' said Dr Krishna Kota, an associate professor at the university who led the research.

The science behind mask-wearing was hazy at the start of the pandemic and authorities in the UK and other countries hesitated to recommend wearing them.

The World Health Organization did recommend masks until June 8, and then only for people over 60 and those with underlying health conditions.

In Britain, face coverings were first brought in for public transport in June, and later for shops and other indoor spaces in July. In the US regulations vary across the country, with some states setting up rules as early as April but others resisting making masks mandatory.

The general consensus now is that masks may offer only limited protection to the people wearing them, but they are quite good at stopping people spreading the disease if they have it without knowing, because they catch their breath.

Scientists have also suggested that masks could reduce severity of disease by exposing people to the virus in small doses, but this hasn't been proven.

'A mask definitely helps, but if the people are very close to each other, there is still a chance of spreading or contracting the virus,' said Dr Kota. 'It's not just masks that will help. It's both the masks and distancing.'

For the study, published in the journal Physics of Fluid, the team built a machine that mimics coughs and sneezes from humans. It uses an air generator to blow tiny liquid droplets, like those that would escape from a nose or a mouth.

The machine was tested on five different types of masks: an N95 mask, a surgical mask, a cloth mask, a two-layer cloth mask and a wet two-layer cloth mask.

The researchers say wetting a mask could help because the material’s fibers will expand, reducing the pore size accessible for droplets to get through.

Two glass square tubes were joined with a mask tightly fit between them and a camera lens to capture the number of droplets.

Each of the masks were able to block most of the droplets with the best-performing being the N95, which blocked 100 percent of droplets.

Meanwhile, the worst was the regular cloth mask, which only blocked 96.4 percent of the droplets from getting through.

However, at distances of less than six feet, letting in around three percent of droplets could be enough to make someone ill.

Studies have shown that the average infection threshold for COVID-19 is 1,000 virus particles, inhaled either all at once or on separate occasions.

In addition, a single sneeze has the potential to carry up to 200 million virus particles.

The cloth mask let through more than 1,000 sneeze droplets, each of which could have millions of virus particles.

The two-layered cloth mask with a PM2.5 filter let through more than 600 sneeze droplets.

This means that if someone wearing one of these masks is close to an infected individual, enough droplets could escape to make them contract COVID-19.

'Without a face mask, it is almost certain that many foreign droplets will transfer to the susceptible person,' Kota said.

'Wearing a mask will offer substantial, but not complete, protection to a susceptible person by decreasing the number of foreign airborne sneeze and cough droplets that would otherwise enter the person without the mask.

'Consideration must be given to minimize or avoid close face-to-face or frontal human interactions, if possible.'


'Balancing act': The problem with COVID mandates

Julie Leask comments from Australia:

Recent developments in the pandemic such as vaccines and the outbreak of COVID-19 on Sydney's northern beaches have prompted calls for governments to mandate public health measures such as vaccination or mask wearing to control the virus.

Mandating certain behaviours to prevent the spread of infectious diseases can be an effective measure in public health. It can bring about behaviour change at-scale and remove the burden on individual decision making. But mandates come with downsides which are often overlooked.

Mandates will always carry a penalty for non-compliance: a fine for not wearing a mask or denial of childcare or family payments for the incompletely vaccinated child. These are serious consequences, particularly for people experiencing disadvantage, who themselves are already more likely to be economically or socially affected by pandemic measures. Yet it is those experiencing disadvantage who are more likely to be fined for COVID-19 rule compliance breaches. For example, in April, Sydney’s poorer Fairfield Local Government Area had just 0.98 per cent of cases but 3.7 per cent of infringements while richer Waverly had 6.7per cent of cases but just 0.79 per cent of infringements.

Mandates lead to interpersonal conflict at the point of enforcement. This is a particular problem if those with roles in implementing the requirement also provide the service because it can undermine the relationship between citizen and service. For example, the driver who turns away unmasked people boarding a bus taking them to an appointment or a doctor refusing to grant a medical exemption for an unvaccinated child will inevitably end up dealing with distressed and sometimes abusive people.

Mandates bring a tonal shift in pandemic control – from solidarity to enforcement. Rules can offer support – it’s sometime easier to just be told to do something. A few people only respond to rules. But they can also undermine intrinsic motivations towards the public co-operation more generally, making behaviour more about what I can and can’t do than what I should do for others. For long-haul behaviours like pandemic control ones, intrinsic motivation is better because it carries across a number of minute and everyday behaviours impossible to police.

Mandates should bring a meaningful additional level of compliance to controlling the spread of a disease. Right now in NSW, some commentators have called for mandatory masks for all of Sydney, at a time when the state is recording reductions in locally acquired new cases, decreasing from a high of 38 on December 19 to 8 cases on December 23. The most important control measures have been rapid identification and isolation of cases and contacts, helping bring this outbreak under control, like NSW did in July after a cluster began in south western Sydney. In Victoria, mandatory masks were hoped to be enough to bring a rising outbreak under control. But within a week it was clear that a prolonged lockdown was also needed.

Mandates require significant resourcing and attention from government departments. Legislation needs to be carefully drafted to account for the range of implications they will bring. There should be a threshold for determining what is, and is not, required and means for determining compliance. This is easier for policing the wearing of masks. For vaccination, Australia uses a national register to determine compliance. But recording error or failure to enter the data means some fully compliant families have wrongly lost family assistance payments under the No Jab No Pay. Mandates need good systems in place to be fair and feasible.

Most of these issues can be justified and managed if the benefits of mandating a behaviour are deemed to outweigh the risks. Right now in Sydney, mask wearing when one cannot distance is strongly recommended. But a mandate to do so would be disproportionate when considering the downsides along with their limited role right now in controlling COVID-19. If we are unlucky enough to see established transmission across Sydney or any other region, that might change.

For now, the measures announced on Wednesday are reasonable – limited numbers inside homes with restrictions around movement of people on the northern beaches where the cluster remains focused. We must remain focused on the most effective measures – testing and isolating if symptomatic, rapid contact tracing, quarantining of contacts, and limiting large gatherings, vigilant hand and respiratory hygiene and wearing masks when social distancing is not possible. Venues need to systematically ensure all customers accurately log their details when entering.

Mandating individual actions to prevent infectious disease spread should only be in place when the shift to mandating will be effective and carries little risk, the requirement is reasonable, feasible to enforce, and well justified. Taken together, this is about weighing the benefits of an action against its risks – something Australians have become adept at doing in 2020 when it comes to infectious diseases.


Having the media on your side makes a big difference



Biden names Bruce Reed, fiercely opposed by the "Squad," as deputy chief of staff (Fox News)

Team Biden gently walking back election-year immigration promises (Washington Examiner)

Newsmax, OAN, and Trump campaign sued by voting systems worker who says false claims led to death threats (AP)

Georgia Runoff: Raphael Warnock's wife told officer that her husband is "a great actor" after domestic dispute (Fox News)
Government & Politics

Sen. Rand Paul's "Festivus Report" reveals $54 billion in tax dollars was "totally wasted" (Fox News)

Tulsi Gabbard justifiably rips young Congress members for taking vaccine before elderly (NY Post)

D'oh! Biden calls reporter asking about Hunter Biden a "one-horse pony" (Washington Examiner)

Washington Post depicts Republicans as rats in editorial cartoon eerily similar to anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda (Not the Bee)

Acting defense secretary accepts Inclusion Board's 15 woke recommendations (

Walmart sued by the Justice Department for allegedly fueling opioid crisis (CBS News)

November existing home sales fall 2.5%, following record summer (AP)

In final reading, GDP increased at record 33.4% annual rate in third quarter (Washington Examiner)

Detroit suing Black Lives Matter activists for "civil conspiracy" (Fox News)

Face masks significantly reduce brain's ability to recognize people (StudyFinds)

Policy: How the Centers for Disease Control went woke (Free Beacon)

Policy: Maximizing equality of opportunity is the only way to avoid lowering standards (City Journal)