Friday, June 05, 2020

Violent protests may help Trump at the ballot box

The death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis policeman is heartbreaking and traumatic to watch. If I hadn’t seen it, I would scarcely have believed it.

Apart from the sheer terror and inhumanity of this encounter, two other things are striking. Chauvin is aware people are filming him. That displays either un­believable arrogance or stupidity, or perhaps both.

And finally, for almost the whole time, Chauvin keeps his hand in his pocket — a kind of ­ostentatious, theatrical touch.

This theatricality helps explain why the killing has had an effect similar to an act of terrorism. The act itself was intensely evil, but it is also perfectly designed to transfix public attention in this media, and internet-dominated age.

Notwithstanding the riots and the demonstrations, at one level the death has united America. I have not heard a single voice in any part of the American debate that hasn’t condemned Chauvin’s actions. No one thinks this is justifiable­ or comes anywhere near a grey zone.

US President Donald Trump, for all the criticism his words and actions have provoked, has been as forthright as anyone in condemning the killing. Among many statements of this kind, Trump said that all Americans had been “rightly sickened and appalled by the brutal­ death of George Floyd”.

Where Trump has been critic­ised, however, is in his denunciations of the protesters who had broken various city curfews and the riots, looting, assaults and ­destructiveness of some of the subsequent demonstrations.

The US has seen more deadly race riots than the ones of the past week. In 1992 a jury acquitted four Los Angeles police officers of using excessive force after they had savagely beaten Rodney King, which was also caught on camera. In the riots after that, 63 people were killed.

But probably not since the 1960s has the US seen such widespread rioting connected with ­racial issues as it is seeing today.

At this point, civilised opinion diverges. Everyone is rightly horrified by the killing of Floyd. But there is a legitimate debate about how much it represents deep structural racism in the US, even in the nation’s police forces, and how much it was just a terrible action by a shocking individual.

In 2017, also in Minneapolis, Justine Damond Ruszczyk, an Australian, was shot and killed by policeman Mohamed Noor. She had rung the police about what she thought was a sexual assault happening behind her house. When she approached the police car, she was shot by Noor. As it happens, Diamond was white and Noor was black. I don’t think that had any relevance at all, and neither did anyone else. Although it was a tragic incident, it didn’t really reveal­ any wider cultural pattern. It wasn’t given wider significance. This is only relevant to suggest that not everything is racial.

The outrage at Floyd’s death is so overwhelming that surely ­anyone who is seen as crass and unsympathetic, as Trump has been, would suffer politically.

This is by no means certain. In fact, based on all the history, Trump is more likely to benefit in November’s election from the tough stance he has taken against the looters and rioters.

Trump declared: “I will fight to protect you. I am your President of law and order and an ally of all peaceful demonstrators.”

And, of course, he used a lot of tough language against rioters and looters. The longer civil disorder goes on, the more likely it is that Trump will gain some advantage from it at the election.

The comparison everyone makes is the 1968 election. Huge demonstrations and race riots in the months before the election, ­especially after the assassination of Martin Luther King in April that year, contributed, paradoxically, to Richard Nixon’s victory on a law-and-order platform. Not only that, there were demonstrations against Nixon all through his presidency, but he won re-election in a landslide in 1972.

Barack Obama was notable not only for being the first African-American president, but for being the first northern liberal to win the presidency for the Democrats since John F. Kennedy in 1960. From 1960 to 2008, 48 years, is a long time for liberals not to win.

The Democrats who won the presidency in that time — Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — were all southerners, and in the case of Carter and Clinton­ ran as religious and social conservatives. As governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton made a point of breaking off his early presidential campaign to return to Arkansas and oversee the execution­ of a convicted killer, incidenta­lly a black man, just to underline his support for the death penalty. Conversely, Michael Dukakis lost in 1988 to George HW Bush partly because Dukakis was portrayed as soft on crime as governor of Massachusetts.

In Australia, there is almost an iron law that the bigger the demonstration you get in the streets in support of your cause, the more heavily you will lose at the ballot box. John Howard’s decision to send troops to Iraq provoked some of the largest demonstrations in Australian history in protest. Howard increased his majority at the next election.

But the US electorate is more liberal than it was. That the Floyd killing came amid the roiling unemploymen­t and the setback to impoverished African-American communities brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, reinforces the feeling that the system is rigged against blacks.

But civil disorder, violence and street protests generally help parties­ of the centre-right. Nor can meaningful economic and social progress for blacks proceed on the basis that whites have collective guilt for shocking actions of partic­ular individuals.

Trump is often unseemly, but in focusing on law and order he may be saying things that Americans will increasingly want to hear.



Hormesis: The Word COVID-Warriors Don't Want Us to Learn

On November 30, 1847, Marcus and Narcissa Whitman were among thirteen whites massacred by Cayuse Indians at Waiilatpu Mission, near present-day Walla Walla, Washington. This came about because, as the expression goes, certain facts were somewhat misunderstood.

Various tensions had arisen between the Indians and settlers, only to be made much worse when a measles epidemic broke out. About two hundred natives died of a disease that was mostly a nuisance among settlers. The Whitmans died because they were thought to have poisoned the natives with the disease.

White settlers didn’t have the “foolproof vaccine” that Pennsylvania Governor Wolf demands before re-opening his state. What they did have was a very effective lifetime of casual exposure. Most people were exposed in their childhood. They got a minor illness, recovered and became immune.

Since most of the public believed illnesses were just part of life, little effort was made to avoid them. Many people got sick. Most recovered and became immune. But when an adult with a mild case passed through Waiilatpu, the result was “COVID-19.” White settlers had herd immunity that limited measles to a minor illness. Cochise Indians had none.

There’s another group with immunity. Some people get infected but don’t get sick. That’s right, there’s a big difference between getting infected and getting sick. Jeffrey Singer MD, describes how he chanced to be tested for SARS CoV-2. To his great surprise, he had antibodies, even though he hadn’t been sick for a single day since “COVID-19” entered the language. To make life more interesting, his wife was negative. He got infected, became immune, and probably didn’t pass the bug on to anyone.

Dr. Singer demonstrates how such immunity spreads. Most people don’t get enough exposure to get sick. But even at lower exposures, they develop immunity. And this brings us to the word of the day: Hormesis.

“In the fields of biology and medicine hormesis is defined as an adaptive response of cells and organisms to a moderate (usually intermittent) stress. Examples include ischemic preconditioning, exercise, dietary energy restriction and exposures to low doses of certain phytochemicals.”

On the street this might be expressed as, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Your body has a host of defense mechanisms. But if they aren’t exercised, they atrophy, just like your muscles. So at low levels of exposure, your defenses perk up. “There’s something bad here!” Defenses ramp up and repairs get going. Those low levels of carcinogens in your diet just improved your health. And that improvement continues until the biological insults become overwhelming. Then disease takes over.

As you might imagine, there are dozens of examples. Many people are afraid that diagnostic x-rays will increase their risk of cancer. But multiple studies show that the low level of radiation in diagnostic x-rays may actually reduce the risk of cancer. If radiation breaks a DNA strand, repair enzymes fix it, and the body makes more of the enzymes to get ready for a bigger challenge.

The same applies to infections. If you are exposed to low doses of virus, your body defends against it, making more antibodies to protect against a bigger threat. This is what happened to Dr. Singer. He was exposed and infected, but the infection simply wasn’t enough to make him sick. Instead, it made him stronger by turning his immune system on. As long as a person isn’t exposed to overwhelming numbers of virus particles, turning on their immune responses makes them healthier. They will make antibodies and increase their immunity. It’s only when the insult it massive that they head for the bottom side of the daisies.

Vaccination is alleged to be the way we will get herd immunity. But we haven’t been able to make vaccines for any coronaviruses. Not SARS, not MERS, and not the common cold. HIV has no vaccine, and neither does Ebola. Even our influenza vaccines are based on guesses. But we don’t die out because we develop herd immunity through casual exposure.

That’s right. It is essential to public health for large numbers of people to get exposed to low doses of SARS CoV-2. As immunity spreads, illness will stop spreading. It will become part of the background of disease risks we live with daily. But as long as we do paranoid social distancing, trying to “prevent the spread of the disease,” we can’t develop herd immunity. All those useless masks just make us look stupid and may even increase our risk. If you’re under 60 without bad diseases, you should be back in public. Your chance of becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID-19 is almost nil.

“Hormesis” needs to be understood as the answer to the pandemic. The incalculable financial and medical damage the lockdowns are causing have done us no good. They have kept us from taking advantage of the natural defense mechanisms our Creator built into us. The lockdown is making us worse. It’s time to stop committing mass suicide.




"Not stopping": Defiant New York City protesters march through curfew (AP)

Rioters lit house on fire that had child inside — then blocked firefighters (Law Enforcement Today)

South Philadelphia gun-shop owner shoots, kills looter (NBC Philadelphia)

Black retired police captain shot to death at St. Louis pawn shop in slaying caught on Facebook Live (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Sacramento Kings announcer Grant Napear out following "All Lives Matter" tweet (Fox News)

Elderly black woman slams looters for wrecking small business: "You needed money? Get a job!" (Fox News)

Minnesota Human Rights Department launches probe into Minneapolis police (StarTribune)

Minneapolis school board votes to end contract with police (Fox News)

George W. Bush — who was unfairly panned as a racist while president — calls out racial injustices and celebrates protesters who "march for a better future" (The Washington Post)

Political theater: Joe Biden to attend George Floyd funeral (The Hill)

Good riddance: Inflammatory Rep. Steve King ousted on historic primary night (Politico)

Coronavirus will cost the economy nearly $8 trillion, Congressional Budget Office says (CNBC)

Thanks, Caption Obvious: China delayed releasing coronavirus info, supposedly "frustrating" WHO (AP)

U.S. to send two million doses of hydroxychloroquine to Brazil (UPI)

Wuhan doctor at whistleblower's hospital dies from coronavirus (AFP)

SpaceX to follow historic astronaut mission with yet another launch (CNET)

Economic destruction from riots and looting will hit minorities hardest (Washington Examiner)

Policy: Why abusive cops so often keep their jobs (Mises Institute)

Policy: Yes, Trump can use military to quell spreading riots — and he should if states and cities fail to do the job (Issues & Insights)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Thursday, June 04, 2020

Apparent fraud in the study that discredited Hydroxychloroquine

NEJM and The Lancet issue expressions of concern as researchers question where the company got its data on thousands of coronavirus patients

Scientists are questioning the validity of two influential studies of COVID-19 patients as concerns grow about the provenance of the dataset underpinning them. Despite assurances from Surgisphere Corporation, an Illinois-based company that owns the data, hundreds of researchers have now signed open letters to The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), voicing their concerns. Today, NEJM and The Lancet issued expressions of concern about the reliability of the papers’ conclusions.

“Recently, substantive concerns have been raised about the quality of the information in that database,” writes NEJM editor-in-chief Eric Rubin in the expression of concern. “We have asked the authors to provide evidence that the data are reliable. In the interim and for the benefit of our readers, we are publishing this Expression of Concern about the reliability of their conclusions.”

    A number of hospitals in New York, New Jersey, and Illinois tell The Scientist they did not contribute to Surgisphere’s dataset.

A statement by The Lancet editors reads: “Although an independent audit of the provenance and validity of the data has been commissioned by the authors not affiliated with Surgisphere and is ongoing, with results expected very shortly, we are issuing an Expression of Concern to alert readers to the fact that serious scientific questions have been brought to our attention. We will update this notice as soon as we have further information.”

Both studies relied on Surgisphere Corporation’s database, which the papers state contains COVID-19 patient data from hundreds of hospitals around the world. A third paper from Surgisphere, which described the effects of the drug ivermectin in COVID-19 patients, was posted as a preprint in April.

The studies’ findings have influenced research and policy, with the World Health Organization recently suspending testing of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns reported in the Lancet study. Regulatory agencies in the UK and in France have also suspended recruitment into clinical trials of the drug in COVID-19 patients.
See “WHO Halts Hydroxychloroquine Study Over Safety Concerns”
The search for sources of Surgisphere’s COVID-19 data

Scientists are expressing doubts that Surgisphere Corporation could have collected so much detailed patient data in such a short period of time. The open letter to the NEJM requests that, “at the very minimum, [Surgisphere should share] the aggregated patient data at the hospital level (for all covariates and outcomes).”

The Lancet study reported that Surgisphere’s registry contained data from more than 63,000 COVID-19 patients admitted to 559 hospitals in North America by April 14. By that date, around 580,000 total cases had been reported in the United States, with New York and New Jersey accounting for nearly half of them.

Surgisphere CEO and founder Sapan Desai has so far declined to release the names of any hospitals involved in providing the data, citing pre-arranged privacy agreements.

The Scientist has reached out to some of the largest health systems in the states hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic to inquire whether they participated, but could not find any that did.

Instead, a number of hospitals confirmed that they did not contribute data, namely, New Jersey health systems RJWBarnabas Health and Cooper Health, NYC Health + Hospitals and NYU Langone in New York, and Illinois-based health systems Rush and Advocate Health Care.

Northwest Community Hospital, which employed Desai as a vascular surgeon until February 10 this year, did not contribute data, it confirms in an email to The Scientist. Nor did coauthor Mendeep Mehra’s institution, Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

In an interview last week, Desai told The Scientist that he would ask if any hospitals were willing to come forward voluntarily to confirm their participation, but has not provided any names yet.

Desai continues to stand by Surgisphere’s registry, saying in a statement to The Scientist that “it is essential that the scientific and lay community alike understand the value—and legitimacy—of databases such as Surgisphere’s.”
See “Disputed Hydroxychloroquine Study Brings Scrutiny to Surgisphere”

A growing list of discrepancies

The Lancet study’s full dataset included 96,032 patients admitted to 671 hospitals across six continents by April 14. Of those patients, 10,698 had died in hospital by April 21, the study reported.

Readers have argued that the data presented in these papers don’t jibe with reported numbers of COVID-19 patients. For example, researchers at Australian institutions told the The Guardian last week (May 28) that the number of Australian deaths in the Lancet paper, counted up until April 21, exceeded the number of COVID-19 deaths recorded by health authorities up until that date.

Desai told the Guardian that this was due to an error that caused one hospital in Asia to be included in the Australian dataset, but didn’t provide any further detail about country-level or hospital-level data. The Lancet subsequently published a correction from the authors with the amended Australian data, and with an added table that included continent-level raw data, instead of the adjusted data Desai said had been shown previously.

Researchers also expressed doubts about the African data in interviews with The Scientist and in the open letter to the Lancet, noting that the quality of electronic health records on the continent makes it unlikely that Surgisphere Corporation could have obtained the records of 4,402 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Africa by April 14, when only 15,738 cases had been reported.

Mehra, the medical director of Brigham and Women’s Hospital Heart and Vascular Center, told The Scientist in a statement yesterday that “the results, findings and overall interpretations reported in the study remain unchanged.” However, he adds that the coauthors “have initiated an independent academic review of the data” in the Lancet study.

Desai says in a statement sent via Liz DeForest of the public relations firm Bliss Integrated, that he and his coauthors have today initiated a “voluntary third-party audit of that paper in collaboration with The Lancet.”

In the meantime, concerns about a second study, also coauthored by Mehra, have come to the fore. An open letter to the NEJM co-organized by James Watson, a senior scientist at the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit in Thailand who also organized the open letter to the Lancet, today noted several discrepancies between Surgisphere’s database and national COVID-19 data.

For example, the NEJM study reports data from 346 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Turkey by March 15. However, the letter states, “countrywide, the first COVID-19 case was diagnosed at Istanbul Faculty of Medicine on the 9th of March. The second COVID-19 patient in that hospital was not seen until the 16th of March. The Turkish Ministry of Health reported a total of only 191 PCR positive cases by the 18th of March.”

In response to the NEJM expression of concern—issued just a few hours after the open letter was posted—Desai says he is “arranging a non-disclosure agreement that will provide the authors of the NEJM paper with the data access requested by NEJM. I am confident Surgisphere is able to address the concerns of NEJM, The Lancet and the broader scientific community.”



The Real Reason Why They Hate Him: Donald Trump is a Heretic from the Left’s Secular Religion

Donald Trump is a heretic. He is persecuted by the Church.

No, not any of the Christian Churches. For them, although few realize or will admit it, Donald Trump, the famous playboy womanizer, is the most pro-Christian President in recent memory. Trump is a heretic from the Leftist church, the secular religion of today’s political and media elites, and as such he must be treated as heretics were in the old days of the Spanish Inquisition: he must be burned at the stake. Actually, that’s inaccurate, as archaism is frowned upon by this religion’s clergy. He need not be burned at the stake, but by whatever means, he must be destroyed.

Although most people in the United States today still identify themselves as Christians, the dominant religion of those who have dominated the political arena, own the establishment media, and set the cultural tone for the nation is not Christianity, but Leftism.

Leftism is a religion without a being who is identified as god as such, except insofar as the atomized individual is exalted to deity status and its every whim canonized as tantamount to divine writ, but it is as rigidly dogmatic, as fervently held, and as fanatically divorced from rationality as the worst and most destructive religious manifestations in human history. It is also extremely influential and all-pervasive. Every President since Franklin D. Roosevelt, with two notable exceptions, has held to this religion to varying degrees, and in some way paid obeisance to its gods and made offerings at its altars.

The first exception was Ronald Reagan. Richard Nixon was virulently hated by the high priests of Leftism, almost as much as Trump is now, but as President, instead of fighting them, Nixon endeavored in numerous ways to show that he was as good a Leftist as those who were determined to drive him from office and destroy him. They were, obviously, not appeased. As is shown in the forthcoming Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster, it was Reagan who was the first post-FDR President to blaspheme the Leftist religion by refusing to adhere to the Leftist dogma that the best way to deal with the Soviet Union was through the admixture of naïve self-abnegation and suicidal concession known as détente.

But Reagan, too, lit incense at the Leftist altars, opening the floodgates to millions of migrants, including all too many with little understanding of, much less love for, the founding principles of the American Republic, when he signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, also known as the Simpson-Mazzoli Act, on November 6, 1986. This act made it unlawful to hire people who had come into the country illegally, but also granted amnesty to virtually all illegal immigrants who had entered before 1982—some three million people.

It was left to Donald Trump to challenge the very religion of Leftism itself. The Leftist religion is fervently internationalist, believing that any and all manifestations of nationalism or patriotism are evil in themselves and a recrudescence of Nazism. Trump, by contrast, has repeatedly declared that as President he puts America first, refusing to be intimidate by ongoing efforts to discredit the America-First slogan, and the imperative behind it, as neofascist or racist. Never-Trump commentator William Kristol enunciated the Leftist dogma when he tweeted: “I’ll be unembarrassedly old-fashioned here: It is profoundly depressing and vulgar to hear an American president proclaim ‘America First.’”

As far as Kristol was concerned, the President of the United States should put the interests of the entire world first. This would involve sending American troops on “humanitarian” missions all over the globe, even when no conceivable American interest was involved. Economically, it would require the United States to tie itself into the global economy, another sacred Leftist dogma that Trump has rejected.

It doesn’t matter to the adherents of the Leftist religion that the coronavirus pandemic has shown why it is unwise to depend on China to manufacture anything that America needs. Their beliefs are not rational. Religious faith can be rational, but it often is not, and the Leftist religion is not rational. It is a set of feelings, and emotions, and manifestations of wishful thinking about the world that can be frankly dangerous when it collides with reality – as the coronavirus showed yet again.

But religious faiths can survive all manner of disconfirming evidence. And so Trump is a heretic, and nothing but a heretic, and as such he is persecuted. As far as Leftists are concerned, he must be destroyed, because if he is not, he will destroy their religion. This will be for them a fight to the death.




Barack Obama obligatorily condemns riots: "Let's not excuse violence" (National Review)

BET founder Robert Johnson calls for $14 trillion in slavery reparations (Forbes)

Prosecutor is probing whether Russians fed disinformation to dossier author Christopher Steele (The Daily Caller)

Nineteen killed: Chicago has deadliest weekend of the year amid riots, looting (The Daily Wire)

California liquor store owner uses AR-15 to protect his property from looters (Fox News)

Nebraska bar owner who killed protester in self-defense will not be charged (New York Post)

Iron-fisted Governor Gretchen Whitmer at long last lifts Michigan's stay-at-home order (AP)

Sweden launches inquiry into handling of pandemic as deaths per million becomes highest in the world (Hot Air)

Hong Kong bans Tiananmen Square vigil for first time in 30 years (The Daily Caller)

Family medical examiner concludes George Floyd died of asphyxia, rules death a homicide (National Review)

Policy: Reforming occupational licensing in reopening plans would benefit everyone (The Federalist)

Policy: Over-policing is rooted in over-reliance on politics (Foundation for Economic Education)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Anakinra for severe forms of COVID-19: a cohort study

Thomas Huet et al.


Coronaviruses can induce the production of interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, tumour necrosis factor, and other cytokines implicated in autoinflammatory disorders. It has been postulated that anakinra, a recombinant IL-1 receptor antagonist, might help to neutralise the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)-related hyperinflammatory state, which is considered to be one cause of acute respiratory distress among patients with COVID-19. We aimed to assess the off-label use of anakinra in patients who were admitted to hospital for severe forms of COVID-19 with symptoms indicative of worsening respiratory function.

The Ana-COVID study included a prospective cohort from Groupe Hospitalier Paris Saint-Joseph (Paris, France) and a historical control cohort retrospectively selected from the Groupe Hospitalier Paris Saint-Joseph COVID cohort, which began on March 18, 2020. Patients were included in the prospective cohort if they were aged 18 years or older and admitted to Groupe Hospitalier Paris Saint-Joseph with severe COVID-19-related bilateral pneumonia on chest x-ray or lung CT scan. The other inclusion criteria were either laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 or typical lung infiltrates on a lung CT scan, and either an oxygen saturation of 93% or less under oxygen 6 L/min or more, or aggravation (saturation ≤93% under oxygen 3 L/min) with a loss of 3% of oxygen saturation in ambient air over the previous 24 h.

The historical control group of patients had the same inclusion criteria. Patients in the anakinra group were treated with subcutaneous anakinra (100 mg twice a day for 72 h, then 100 mg daily for 7 days) as well as the standard treatments at the institution at the time. Patients in the historical group received standard treatments and supportive care. The main outcome was a composite of either admission to the intensive care unit (ICU) for invasive mechanical ventilation or death. The main analysis was done on an intention-to-treat basis (including all patients in the anakinra group who received at least one injection of anakinra).

From March 24 to April 6, 2020, 52 consecutive patients were included in the anakinra group and 44 historical patients were identified in the Groupe Hospitalier Paris Saint-Joseph COVID cohort study. Admission to the ICU for invasive mechanical ventilation or death occurred in 13 (25%) patients in the anakinra group and 32 (73%) patients in the historical group (hazard ratio [HR] 0·22 [95% CI 0·11–0·41; p<0·0001). The treatment effect of anakinra remained significant in the multivariate analysis (HR 0·22 [95% CI 0·10–0·49]; p=0·0002). An increase in liver aminotransferases occurred in seven (13%) patients in the anakinra group and four (9%) patients in the historical group.

Anakinra reduced both need for invasive mechanical ventilation in the ICU and mortality among patients with severe forms of COVID-19, without serious side-effects. Confirmation of efficacy will require controlled trials.



Japan ignored playbook but still tamed virus

Japan’s state of emergency ended Monday with new cases of the coronavirus dwindling to mere dozens. It got there despite largely ignoring the default playbook.

No restrictions were placed on residents’ movements, and businesses from restaurants to hairdressers stayed open. No high-tech apps that tracked people’s movements were deployed. The country doesn’t have a center for disease control. And even as nations were exhorted to “test, test, test,” Japan has tested just 0.2% of its population — one of the lowest rates among developed countries.

Yet the curve has been flattened, with deaths well below 1,000 people, by far the fewest among the Group of 7 developed nations. In Tokyo, its dense center, cases have dropped to single digits on most days. Although the possibility of a more severe second wave of infection is ever-present, Japan has entered and is set to leave its emergency in just weeks, with the status lifted already for most of the country while Tokyo and the remaining four other regions exited on Monday.

Analyzing just how Japan defied the odds and contained the virus while disregarding the playbook used by other successful countries has become a national conversation. Only one thing is agreed upon: that there was no silver bullet, no one factor that made the difference.

“Just by looking at death numbers, you can say Japan was successful,” said Mikihito Tanaka, a professor at Waseda University specializing in science communication, and a member of a public advisory group of experts on the virus. “But even experts don’t know the reason.”

One widely shared list assembled 43 possible reasons cited in media reports, ranging from a culture of mask-wearing and a low obesity rate to the relatively early decision to close schools. Among the more fanciful suggestions include a claim that Japanese speakers emit fewer potentially virus-laden droplets when talking compared to other languages.

Experts consulted by Bloomberg News also suggested myriad factors that contributed to the outcome, and none could point to a singular policy package that could be replicated in other countries.

Nonetheless, these measures still offer long-term lessons for countries in the middle of a pandemic that may yet last for years.

An early grass-roots response to rising infections was crucial.

While the central government has been criticized for its slow policy steps, experts praise the role of Japan’s contact tracers, which swung into action after the first infections were found in January. The fast response was enabled by one of Japan’s inbuilt advantages — its public health centers, which in 2018 employed more than half of 50,000 public health nurses who are experienced in infection tracing. In normal times, these nurses would be tracking down more common infections such as influenza and tuberculosis.

“It’s very analog — it’s not an app-based system like Singapore,” said Kazuto Suzuki, a professor of public policy at Hokkaido University who has written about Japan’s response. “But nevertheless, it has been very useful.”

While countries such as the U.S. and Britain are just beginning to hire and train contact tracers as they attempt to reopen their economies, Japan has been tracking the movement of the disease since the first cases were found. These local experts focused on tackling so-called clusters, or groups of infections from a single location such as clubs or hospitals, to contain cases before they got out of control.

“Many people say we don’t have a Centers for Disease Control in Japan,” said Yoko Tsukamoto, a professor of infection control at the Health Sciences University of Hokkaido, citing a frequently held complaint about Japan’s infection management. “But the public health center is a kind of local CDC.”

The early response was also boosted by an unlikely happening. Japan’s battle with the virus first came to international attention with its much-criticized response to the Diamond Princess cruise ship in February that led to hundreds of infections. Still, the experience of the ship is credited with providing Japanese experts with invaluable data early in the crisis on how the virus spread, as well as catapulting it into the public consciousness.

Other countries still saw the virus as someone else’s problem, said Tanaka. But in Japan, the international scrutiny over the infections onboard and the pace at which the virus raced throughout the ship raised awareness and recognition that the same can happen across the country, he said. “For Japan, it was like having a burning car right outside your house.”

Although political leadership was criticized as lacking, that allowed doctors and medical experts to come to the fore — typically seen as a best practice in managing public-health emergencies. “You could say that Japan has had an expert-led approach, unlike other countries,” Tanaka said.

Experts are also credited with creating an easy-to-understand message of avoiding what are called the “Three Cs” — closed spaces, crowded spaces and close-contact settings — rather than keeping away from others entirely.

“Social distancing may work, but it doesn’t really help to continue normal social life,” said Hokkaido University’s Suzuki. “The ‘Three Cs’ are a much more pragmatic approach and very effective, while having a similar effect.”

Infectious disease experts also pointed to other determinants, with Shigeru Omi, the deputy head of the expert panel advising the Japanese government and a former chief of the World Health Organization’s Western Pacific office, citing Japanese people’s health consciousness as possibly the most important factor.

The possibility that the virus strain spreading in Japan may have been different, and less dangerous, than that faced by other nations, has also been raised.

Researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the U.S. studied coronavirus variants in a database and found one strain of the virus spreading through Europe that had several mutations distinguishing it from the Asian version, according to a paper in early May. Although the study has not been peer-reviewed and drawn some criticism, the findings point to a need to more thoroughly study how the virus changes.

Large questionsremain over the true extent of the pathogen’s spread. In April, a Tokyo hospital conducted tests on a handful of non-COVID19 patients and found that around 7% had the coronavirus, showing the danger of missing asymptomatic or mild carriers that can become the source of an outbreak.

An antibody test on 500 people in the capital suggested the true outbreak could be nearly 20 times larger than figures have shown. Analog contact tracing breaks down when infection numbers are high, and reports of people unable to get tested or even medical treatment for COVID19-like symptoms peppered social media during the height of the outbreak.

And the fact remains that Japan’s response was less than perfect. While the overall population is much smaller, neighbors such as Taiwan had just seven confirmed COVID-19 deaths, while Vietnam had none.

“You can’t say the Japan response was amazing,” said Norio Sugaya, a visiting professor at Keio University’s School of Medicine in Tokyo and a member of a World Health Organization panel advising on pandemic influenza. “If you look at the other Asian countries, they all had a death rate that was about 1/100th of Western countries.”

While Japan may have avoided the worst of the health outcomes, the loose lockdown hasn’t protected the country from the economic impact. Its economy, already dealing with the impact of a sales tax hike in October, officially slid into recession in the first three months of the year. Economists have warned the second quarter will be the worst on record, and the specter of deflation, which haunted the economy for decades, once again looms. Tourist numbers plummeted 99.9% in April after the country shut its borders, putting the brakes on a booming industry that had promised to be a growth driver for years. As in other countries, bankruptcies have risen sharply.

Even with the the state of emergency about to end, authorities are warning that life will not return to normal. When case numbers slowed in early March, there was public optimism that the worst was over — only for cases to spike again and trigger the emergency declaration.

If a deadlier second wave does follow, the risk factor in Japan, which has the world’s oldest population, remains high. The country has speedily approved Gilead Sciences Inc.’s remdesivir and is now scrambling to allow the use of still unproven Fujifilm Holdings Corp.’s antiviral Avigan. There are calls for the country to use the time it has bought itself to shore up its testing and learn in the way its neighbors did from SARS and MERS.

Officials have begun to speak of a phase in which people “live with the virus,” with a recognition that Japan’s approach has no possibility of wiping out the pathogen.

“We have to assume that the second wave could be much worse than the first wave and prepare for it,” said Yoshihito Niki, a professor of infectious diseases at Showa University’s School of Medicine. “If the next explosion of cases is worse, the medical system will break down.”




Minneapolis city councilman and son of Keith Ellison declares support for antifa (Washington Examiner)

The daughter of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said "the president of the United States helped to create this atmosphere," is arrested at Manhattan protest (New York Post)

CNN Center in Atlanta damaged during protests riots (CNN)

Historic St. John's Church near White House set on fire (The Christian Post)

Rioters breach Treasury Department (The Daily Wire)

Trump says U.S. to sanction China for handling of Hong Kong, terminate relationship with WHO (AP)

China, where people who dare protest disappear, trolls U.S. over protests after Trump criticized Hong Kong (Bloomberg)

Supreme Court absurdly rejects challenge to limits on church services; Justice John Roberts sides with leftists (Fox News)

Picking up where his predecessor left off: DNI John Ratcliffe declassifies transcripts of Michael Flynn-Sergey Kislyak conversations (National Review)

Minneapolis police rendered 44 people unconscious with neck restraints in five years (NBC News)

SUCCESS! U.S. launches men into space from American soil for the first time in nearly a decade (The Daily Wire)

Sweden's economy actually grew in the first quarter after it opted against a full virus lockdown (CNBC)

Policy: It's past time to examine how police unions protect bad cops (National Review)

Policy: The free market of space: What we once considered "the final frontier" is now a grand business opportunity (Issues & Insights)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Trump does his part

Riot control is the job of State and  Local authorities but some Federal action is possible

On Sunday, after days of rioting, looting, and arson in cities across America following protests over the horrific death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers, President Donald Trump announced that his administration would formally declare the loosely-organized radical leftist agitator group known as “antifa” a terrorist organization.

“The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization,” Trump tweeted.

As PJ Media contributor Victoria Taft noted two years back, the Department of Homeland Security already considers antifa a form of domestic terrorism. In 2017, Politico reported that “the Department of Homeland Security formally classified their activities as ‘domestic terrorist violence,’ according to interviews and confidential law enforcement documents obtained by POLITICO.”

Even so, a formal declaration is arguably warranted following the devastation in recent days. Lamenting the riots, looting, and arson should not be a partisan or racial issue, as black citizens and business owners have broken into tears after witnessing the devastation in their communities and the destruction of their livelihoods.

As of Sunday morning, police had arrested nearly 1,400 people in 17 U.S. cities since Thursday. Governors in at least nine states have activated their states’ National Guards to respond to riots: Minnesota, Ohio, Georgia, Colorado, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Texas, Utah, and Washington State. In another five more, governors have said they planned to activate the National Guard.

As the United States was leaving lockdowns imposed to fight the coronavirus, cities across the country have enforced a new limited kind of lockdown to prevent the destruction. Cities across the country set curfews to stem the violence, including: Minneapolis, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Denver, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Cleveland, Columbus, Portland, Miami, Milwaukee, Salt Lake City, and Rochester.



DeBlasio gets one thing right

On Saturday, two NYPD vehicles drove into a crowd of rioters who were violently attacking the vehicles.

When a reporter asked him about the video during a press conference, de Blasio said “it’s inappropriate for protesters to surround a police vehicle and threaten police officers. It’s wrong on its face.” He argued that “a different element has come into play here who are trying to hurt police officers and trying to damage their vehicles. And if a police officer’s in that situation, they have to get out of that situation.”

“The video was upsetting, and I wish the officers hadn’t done that. But I also understood that they didn’t start the situation,” he said. “In a situation like that … I’m not gonna blame officers who were trying to deal with an absolutely impossible situation.”

He later said on NY1, “If those protesters had just gotten out of the way, and not created an attempt to surround that vehicle we would not be talking about this situation.”



The Chauvin-Floyd Affair: What the media left out

Michael P. Tremoglie

“(Officer) Lane asked, “should we roll him on his side?” and the defendant (Officer Chauvin) said, “No, staying put where we got him.” ... Officer Lane said, “I am worried about excited delirium or whatever.” Officer Derek Chauvin replied, “That’s why we have him on his stomach.”

These quotes - exculpatory evidence - are taken directly from the criminal complaint filed against Officer Derek Chauvin, which was either all or in part, taken from the unedited body-cam videos of the officers during the arrest of George Floyd.

As stated, Officer Lane was “worried” meaning he was thinking about unpleasant things that might happen because of excited delirium. Officer Chauvin replied “That’s why” meaning this was the reason he was trying to keep George Floyd in the position he was. But this has not been publicized, at least as of this writing.

There are some interesting facts about Excited Delirium that are pertinent to this case. Indeed, they are an integral part of this incident.

According to a study of Excited Delirium ( EXD) conducted by Drs. Takeuchi and Henderson of the USC Keck School of Medicine and Terry Ahern of UCSD Medical School, which was published in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, EXD is

“ ...characterized by agitation, aggression, acute distress and sudden death, often in the pre-hospital care setting. It is typically associated with the use of drugs that alter dopamine processing, hyperthermia, and, most notably, sometimes with death of the affected person in the custody of law enforcement. Subjects *typically die* from cardiopulmonary arrest, although the cause is debated. Unfortunately, an adequate treatment plan has yet to be established, in part due to the fact that most patients die before hospital arrival.

This scientific research also notes, “As mentioned before, people experiencing EXD are highly agitated, violent, and show signs of unexpected strength so it is not surprising that most require physical restraint. The prone maximal restraint position... where the person’s ankles and wrists are bound together behind their back, has been used extensively by field personnel. In far fewer cases, persons have been tied to a hospital gurney or manually held prone with *knee pressure on the back or neck.”*

Therefore, Officer Chauvin was not committing an act of murder but implementing a restraining technique. Indeed, he may have been trying to prevent Floyd from hurting himself.

The criminal complaint reveals more facts about this incident than the strategically edited, very damning to the police, video touted by the media. That video played endlessly, shows George Floyd walking handcuffed one moment and then suddenly on the ground the next with Officer Chauvin placing his knee against Floyd’s neck. But there is a huge gap in the video indicating the events preceding the interaction between Chauvin in Floyd.

Given the recent history of mainstream media doctoring videos this is very disconcerting. One must wonder why a profession that claims to tell the truth would do this.

There are other very important facts contained in the body-cam videos that are omitted by the media reportage. For example, Floyd, a man with a prior arrest for a violent felony - a home invasion and armed robbery - resisted arrest and threw himself down on the ground to avoid being placed in the police car for transport.

Another fact omitted by the media; Floyd was complaining about *not being able to breathe while he was standing*. [suggesting that he was having a heart attack]  Does this not indicate that Chauvin’s actions did nothing to suffocate him?

Still another fact obscured by the media is the preliminary report by the Medical Examiner which stated, “The autopsy revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation. Mr. Floyd had underlying health conditions including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease. The combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death.”

Knowing these facts, not just supposition and half-truths, does it still seem that Officer Derek Chauvin, committed a cold-blooded racist murder as the elite media have implied?




My friend Mark Green, Republican representative for Tennessee, pointed me to a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine

The NEJM report in question is "Universal Masking in Hospitals in the Covid-19 Era, which regards the efficacy of requiring all medical staff in hospitals to wear protective masks. I will leave that debate to the medical professionals, though suffice it to say, every physician and nurse among our family and friends believes that masking in hospitals is an important safety measure.

But what in this report should be of interest to everyone regarding the use of masks outside of hospitals is the second paragraph, where the authors note: "We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection. Public health authorities define a significant exposure to Covid-19 as face-to-face contact within 6 feet with a patient with symptomatic Covid-19 that is sustained for at least a few minutes (and some say more than 10 minutes or even 30 minutes). The chance of catching Covid-19 from a passing interaction in a public space is therefore minimal. In many cases, the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic."

Feel free to read that again, and then forward it to Virginia Governor Ralph "Blackface" Northam, who has mandated, effective today, that every citizen of his state wear a mask when outside their home. And The Washington Post insists that those refusing to wear masks outside their homes are scoundrels. (Notably, in that WaPo article, there are seven advertisements for grossly overpriced and ineffective masks — one more reason The Patriot Post is certified "ad-free"!)

Task Force expert Dr. Anthony Fauci declared in March, "There is no reason to be walking around wearing a mask. When you are in the middle of an outbreak, wearing a mask might make people feel better and might even block a droplet, but it's not providing the perfect protection people think it is, and often there are unintended consequences."

In April, the CDC clarified its position on using cloth masks. Despite the fact the masks being worn by almost all people outside of hospitals are not surgical standard N-95 respirators, which the more recent NEJM report notes "offers little, if any, protection from infection," the CDC "recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain."

Bottom line: Feel free to wear a mask, especially if your governor is going to throw you in jail if you don't. But regardless, if you are symptomatic, have the common decency and courtesy to stay home — to stay away from other people in accordance with the basic CDC guidelines. I learned those guidelines from my first-grade elementary school teacher, Mrs. Howell. Apparently some of Ralph Northam's constituents did not get that far...




Twitter censors Trump's Minneapolis tweet for "glorifying violence"; the tweet simply stated, "Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts." (Fox News)

Twitter slaps misinformation label on Chinese spox's tweets claiming U.S. Army started COVID-19 (The Daily Caller)

"Tantamount to monopoly": Trump signs executive order to curb "unchecked power" of social-media giants (Washington Examiner)

In 417-1 vote, House passes bill to grant flexibility for small business aid program (The Hill)

House again cancels vote on FISA reauthorization due to a dearth of GOP support (The Hill)

Corporate profits drop by 13.9% in first quarter, the most since the 2008 Great Recession (MarketWatch)

U.S. economy shrank at a revised 5% annual rate in the first quarter (previous estimate was 4.8%) (CNBC)

Possible vendetta? George Floyd, fired officer overlapped security shifts at south Minneapolis club (

For the record: A supposed photo of Officer Derek Chauvin wearing a "Make Whites Great Again" hat is of another individual altogether (The Dispatch)

Armed civilians save local businesses during Minneapolis riots (The Washington Free Beacon)

The more asymptomatic coronavirus cases, the better (Washington Examiner)

Policy: Florida has proven that a measured, evidence-based response to reopening works (City Journal)

Policy: How to reform unemployment insurance for a reopened economy (E21)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Monday, June 01, 2020

Beijing now admits that coronavirus DIDN'T start in Wuhan's market... so where DID it come from?

China has become used to public confessions on television. But this time the words came from one of the nation’s top officials and had seismic global implications.

‘At first, we assumed the seafood market might have the virus, but now the market is more like a victim,’ said Gao Fu, director of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

This was a stunning admission. For the same scientist had unequivocally pointed the finger of blame at Wuhan’s market where wild animals were sold when his country eventually told the world about a deadly new virus in the city.

The market was shut and cleaned up like a crime scene, in the words of another expert, as global attention focused on the ghastly trade in wild animals.

Gao’s initial analysis had made sense after previous outbreaks of zoonotic viruses (diseases that jump from animals to humans). Yet suspicion grew over the Chinese government’s failure to share data from animals sampled in the market following its early cover-ups.

Now Gao has admitted no viruses were detected in animal samples. He said they were found only in environmental samples, including sewage – before adding an intriguing aside that ‘the novel coronavirus had existed long before’.

No-one should doubt the significance of the statement since Gao is not just China’s top epidemiologist but also a member of the country’s top political advisory body.

Curiously, his revelation followed a television interview with Wang Yanyi, director of Wuhan Institute of Virology, in which she insisted that claims about the disease having leaked from her top-security unit were ‘pure fabrication’.

Gao’s sudden reversal came after a series of studies cast doubt on his original claim.

A landmark Lancet paper found only 27 of the first 41 confirmed cases were ‘exposed’ to the market – and only one of the four initial cases in the first two weeks of December.

Two weeks ago, The Mail on Sunday revealed another key academic paper by three America-based biologists that said all available data suggested the disease was taken into the market by someone already infected. So what does this all mean?

Sadly, the amount of massive research findings seems to be deepening rather than dispersing confusion over coronavirus, which is much more unpredictable than a simple respiratory virus in the way it attacks the body.

As Gao said in another interview, this is the seventh coronavirus to infect humans, yet none of its predecessors acted like this strange one. ‘The behaviour of this virus isn’t like a coronavirus,’ he said.

With regard to those three American biologists, they were ‘surprised’ to find the virus ‘already pre-adapted to human transmission’, contrasting its previously known stability with a coronavirus that evolved quickly during the global Sars epidemic between 2002 and 2004. Last week, I revealed that Australian scientists had similarly found Sars-CoV-2 – the new strain of coronavirus that causes disease – is ‘uniquely adapted to infect humans’.

Genetic stability makes it easier to find vaccines. But Nikolai Petrovsky, the vaccine researcher who headed the Australian team, said the virus was ‘not typical of a normal zoonotic infection’ since it suddenly appeared with ‘exceptional’ ability to enter humans from day one. He also highlighted the ‘furin cleavage site’, ‘which allows the spike protein to bind efficiently to cells in several human tissues, increasing infectivity, and does not exist in the most similar coronaviruses.

Some experts say this might have evolved through mutation during ‘unrecognised transmission in humans’ after crossing from an animal. Certainly it would help to find any intermediate host such as civets that ‘amplified’ the Sars virus from bats.

A paper by Professor Yong-Zhen Zhang, a prominent Chinese expert, said this was ‘arguably the most important’ difference between the new virus and its closest known relative, a virus called RaTG13 derived from a bat by Wuhan scientists.

Prof Zhang also noted the viruses closest to the new one were sampled from bats in Yunnan, 1,000 miles from Wuhan. Although 96 per cent genetically similar, ‘in reality this likely represents more than 20 years of sequence evolution’.

Last week, virology institute director Wang said scientists at her laboratory had isolated and obtained coronaviruses from bats but insisted they had only ‘three strains of live viruses’.

Her claim was dismissed as ‘demonstrably false’ by biosecurity expert Richard Ebright, professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University, New Jersey, who said the institute had published analyses of many more than three strains of live bat coronavirus.

Few doubt this freak virus came in lethal guise from an animal.  ‘Nature created this virus and has proven once again to be the most effective bio-terrorist,’ said Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health.

Yet this widely respected geneticist, appointed by Barack Obama, added significantly: ‘Whether [the coronavirus] could have been in some way isolated and studied in this laboratory in Wuhan, we have no way of knowing.’

Here lies the key point. It is foolish at this stage to rule out the possibility, however remote, that this pandemic might be the consequence of a Chinese laboratory leak.

As Professor Petrovsky said, scientists anywhere working with microscopic viruses can make mistakes and there are many examples to prove this point.

Above all, it is crucial to find the origins. If this pandemic is a natural event, it can erupt again from a similar source – and next time with even more explosive impact.

An example is ebola, another zoonotic disease (from fruit bats) that first appeared in 1976. All data indicated outbreaks led to fewer than 300 fatalities – until a subsequent outbreak in West Africa in 2014 led to 11,310 deaths.

Matters are complicated by Donald Trump’s finger-pointing at Beijing and the fact that a proven lab leak would be catastrophic for China’s President Xi Jinping as he tries to exploit the pandemic to push his dictatorial creed and nation’s global leadership.

Perhaps the best argument against the idea of the virus being lab-made came from Susan Weiss, professor of microbiology at Perelman School of Medicine, Pennsylvania.

‘There is no way anyone could design a virus that is this diabolical,’ she said succinctly.



ABC: No "second wave" in States That Started Re-Opening in Early May

This is excellent news in nearly every way, given that ABC News' data-based conclusion is drawn from information gathered over nearly four full weeks.  There may still be serious outbreaks, secondary waves, or changing trajectories that could require fresh mitigation efforts -- but so far, these are very positive developments for everyone except for those clinging to doomsday predictions about the impact of gradual state-level reopening strategies:

@ABC looked at 21 states that eased restrictions May 4 or earlier & found no major increase in hospitalizations, deaths or % of people testing positive in any of them. [SC, MT, GA, MS, SD, AR, CO, ID, IA, ND, OK, TN, TX, UT, WY, KS, FL, IN, MO, NE, OH]

Most, but not all, of those states are governed by Republicans, which almost certainly contributed to the tone and tenor of the news coverage of their strategies.  As the above tweet indicates, ABC examined not just a single metric (for instance, the misleading category of total cases, given increased testing), but an array of measuring sticks: Percentage of positive tests, hospitalizations, and deaths, the last of which is a lagging indicator.  Their verdict?  "No major increase[s]" in any of those categories, in any of the states mentioned, all of which started easing stay-at-home (or similar) restrictions on or before May 4th.  It is now nearly June. 

The dire proclamations, coupled with intensely negative coverage of GOP governors (Democratic leaders who presided over early re-opening processes strangely seemed immune to similar condemnations) must now be revisited.  Again, it's still premature to declare any semblance of victory over the disease for full vindication but some very important trends continue pointed in the correct direction:

Texas' senior Senator notes that as his state approaches 1 million COVID tests administered, infection rates continue to decline, despite a potential minor uptick in hospitalizations.  Relatedly, this interview with Dr. Gottlieb is worth reading. Among his points: "I think there will and should be an attempt to open schools in the fall. I don't think schools are going to remain closed until we get a vaccine."  Speaking of schools and the question of children as Coronavirus vectors, there's this new data point:

Sending children back to schools and day care centres in Denmark, the first country in Europe to do so, did not lead to an increase in coronavirus infections, according to official data, confirming similar findings from Finland on Thursday. As countries across Europe make plans to exit months of lockdown aimed at curbing the virus outbreak, some parents worry that opening schools first might put the health of their children in danger. Following a one-month lockdown, Denmark allowed children between two to 12 years back in day cares and schools on April 15. Based on five weeks’ worth of data, health authorities are now for the first time saying the move did not make the virus proliferate.

More than 100,000 Americans have died from this virus, a staggering percentage of whom contracted the disease in nursing home and long-term care facilities.  This is a humanitarian disaster, and the results have been, and will continue to be, deeply tragic.  Positive news and hopeful trends cannot erase these losses, but they can help shape our policy decisions moving forward, given the enormous public health and economic stakes. 



Did the lockdown save lives?

An economist's view

Whether school closings and stay-at-home orders slow an outbreak is an important and really challenging research question. This question must be answered before we compare economic costs and health benefits.

In March, states undertook dramatic and unprecedented measures to stem the spread of the SARS2-COV virus.  And yet COVID-19 has claimed 100,000 lives in the U.S.   Was the lockdown effective?  Economists frequently address such questions in our research.

Seeing the unseen, or the path that we did not choose, is the key here.  It is the fundamental challenge of economics, as illustrated by Frederic Bastiat’s parable of the broken window.  A shopkeeper must replace a broken window.  A neighbor, perhaps offering solace, points out that if windows never got broken, the town glazier would starve.  To avoid believing that broken windows boost the economy, we must recognize what the shopkeeper did not buy due to replacing the window.

Economists visualize the alternative paths we could choose.  What would have happened if we didn’t pass NAFTA, or hadn’t bailed out banks during the financial crisis, or if we raised the minimum wage to $15 per hour?  The term counterfactual refers to the unchosen path.

Economists devise principles for constructing counterfactuals.  Scenarios must be logically coherent and consistent with the available evidence.  We must avoid overly optimistic or pessimistic alternatives.

I have never estimated potential deaths in an outbreak of a disease but have researched tornado warnings and “worst case” tornadoes.  Like most economists, I recognize the challenges in evaluating the lockdown.

Here’s a first challenge.  WalletHub has scored the strictness of states’ COVID protection measures.  The average COVID fatality rate for the ten states with the strictest lockdown policies is 686 per million residents, versus a fatality rate of 68 for the ten least strict states, or one tenth as much.  The three highest fatality rate states are among the ten strictest states.

Does this show that lockdowns cause COVID-19 deaths?  No.  The states suffering the worst outbreaks will impose the strictest measures.  This is the endogeneity of policy problem.  Ignoring this issue would lead us to conclude that hospitals cause death because many people die there.  Controlling for policy endogeneity is a major research focus.

Another problem arises because states imposed policies and Americans realized that COVID-19 was a serious health threat at about the same time.  The NBA suspended its season March 11, people sharply reduced travel around March 15, and the first state stay-at-home order took effect March 19.  We have very few data points to tease out the effect of various policies from behavioral changes.

The United States was slow in rolling out testing for COVID-19, creating another challenge.  If we compared the number of COVID-19 cases in the month before and after lockdowns to test effectiveness, the total would rise simply because many more people were tested.  Can we detect a decline in infections during a period of expanding testing?

Even if March’s lockdown was effective, the policies may not be effective in another time or place.  Policy effects may not transfer for several reasons.  For the COVID lockdown, an important factor is peoples’ willingness to comply.  If Americans do not favor shutting down the economy for a second wave of the virus, stay-at-home orders may prove ineffective when reimplemented.

Researchers at Columbia University have evaluated the lockdown, based on computer simulations with travel data between cities and reported cases and deaths.  The policies appear to have stemmed the illness; indeed implementation of the same policies two weeks earlier could have avoided 83 percent of U.S. deaths through May 3.

The sophisticated technical analysis here, I think, obscures a bigger point.  “Nonpharmaceutical interventions,” as epidemiologists call such policies, do not prevent COVID-19 deaths.  Americans who did not get COVID this spring can still get sick next fall.  Only a vaccine or effective treatment will truly prevent deaths.

Whether school closings and stay-at-home orders slow an outbreak is an important and really challenging research question.  This question must be answered before we compare economic costs and health benefits.  Ultimately a lockdown is merely a delaying action.  Delaying actions are only worth fighting as part of a larger strategy.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Sunday, May 31, 2020

Infectious Disease and Authoritarianism

I am a great admirer of Jordan Peterson and agree with him on most things.  I certainly sympathize with the panic that seized him when his wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer. They were a pair since childhood so the loss was maximal. I myself was pretty upset at the recent loss of a long relationship but I cannot imagine how I would have felt if my  relationship had stretched so far back.

I had support that meant I had no need to turn to anxiolytic drugs but I certainly understand that he did.  As is always the danger, use of such drugs can induce dependence and it is rather heroic that he fought so hard to defeat that dependence.  One hopes that he is back to full health soon.

I am not sure how recent is his article below but it does indicate a mind not at its best.  For a start, I can locate no article that is as he describes it. I think he is voicing a garbled memory of a well-known article about parasite load: "Pathogens and Politics: Further Evidence That Parasite Prevalence Predicts Authoritarianism".  Parasite load is high in Africa so a number of theories about it have been circulated -- e.g. here.

What it is NOT, however is a disease.  It is not of viral or bacterial origin.  It is caused by invertebrates. So Peterson's recollection that the study caused disease is incorrect.  It is also incorrect that the study was about psychological authoritarianism.  It was about political authoritarianism.

Finally, what can we make of the high correlation Peterson reports.  He is generally pretty good on statistics but it  would seem that he has not heard of ecological correlations. In statistics, “ecological” correlations have nothing to do with environmentalism.  They are "ecological" ones in Robinson's (1950) sense -- i.e. the units for analysis were not indivisible. As Robinson shows, such correlations can easily be beguilingly high, particularly where the units for analysis are few, and such correlations are not estimates of individual correlations.

As Menzel (1950) has pointed out, however, ecological correlations do not have to be estimates of individual correlations to be of interest. Ecological correlations tend to tell us more about broad processes than details within such processes.

The correlation between national IQ levels and national income levels reported by Lynn and Vanhanen are ecological correlations and H.C. Lindgren’s finding of a -.61 correlation between high income and voting for Richard Nixon in the the 1972 U.S. Presidential election is another example. It implied that richer and more highly educated people MUCH preferred the way-out Leftist McGovern

So Peterson is judging the correlation he reports by irrelevant criteria.  An ecological correlation of .7 is mundane, not striking


Lindgren, H.C. (1974) Political conservatism and its social environment: An analysis of the American Presidential election of 1972. Psychological Reports, 34, 55-62.

Menzel, H. (1950) Comment on Robinson's "Ecological correlations and the behavior of individuals" American Sociological Review 15, 674.

Robinson, W.S. (1950) Ecological correlations and the behavior of individuals. American Sociological Review 15, 351-357.

There was a paper published in PLOS ONE about a year ago. They were looking at [the following issue]. Let’s say I assessed your political attitudes—I could do that with, say, an authoritarian belief scale, because authoritarianism has been studied quite a bit since the end of World War II. Nobody really knew what to do with it in relation to personality, but it doesn’t matter; you can assess it with a reasonable degree of accuracy.

These people did two things: they did a cross-country survey and then within-country surveys. So if you were looking at a phenomenon, you could look at the country level—US vs. Canada—or you could go into the US and then you could look at a state level. And it’s nice to do the analysis of both levels, to see if it replicates itself across the two different conceptual strata.

And what they found was mind-boggling. It’s Nobel-prize-winning stuff, as far as I’m concerned.

The correlation between the prevalence of infectious disease in a locale and the degree to which authoritarian beliefs were held in that locale was about point 7. It’s like, you never see that in the social sciences. That’s higher than the correlation between IQ and grades, which is about as good as we ever get in terms of prediction.

So it’s like, really? It’s that high? And one of the things that implies is that one of the ways to get rid of authoritarian attitudes, assuming that you want to get rid of such things, is through public health.


Nordic Countries Accelerate Opening and Abandon COVID-19 Testing Plans

One has to wonder if parts of Europe are a harbinger of what is to come for the United States in the COVID-19 pandemic. If it is, what is coming out of the Nordic countries is all good news. Revised testing guidelines, slower rates of infection and expedited opening are all indicated in the experience in Sweden, Norway, and Switzerland might be better than expected. It won’t make the “lockdown until November, we need 5 million tests a day” crowd happy at all.

Sweden has chosen a different path to public health from the beginning of the pandemic. Seeking to protect their hospital system and increase immunity in the population, they put light recommendations in place and allowed shops and primary schools to stay open.

Despite the hands-off, high-trust approach, Sweden falls in about the middle of the pack for deaths per million in Europe. Yet their disease penetration in Stockholm, a metro area of about 2.6 million people, is only 7.3% as of the end of April according to antibody testing.

This is far below expectations given the original R0, or measure of how contagious a virus is. Original estimates said this rate could be as high as one infected person infecting 5-6 others on average. Sweden’s approach suggests this might be much lower, which would be good news.

In Norway, they have abandoned their plans for broad-based testing:

Norway’s health agency has abandoned plans to test broadly for coronavirus after judging that the spread of infection in the country is now so low that doing so would be pointless.

Instead, tests will be reserved for those who have symptoms of coronavirus, those who work in healthcare or elderly care homes, and those in risk groups.

If 12,000 random people were tested in Norway today, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health estimated in a press release issued on Monday, 15 would test positive, of which only one would have a real coronavirus infection.

Based on the low forecasted infection rates and an even lower symptomatic disease forecast, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health issued new testing guidelines that mirror the kind of sentinel surveillance Dr. Deborah Birx has been describing for months. It suggests testing asymptomatic individuals in specific circumstances, not broadly:

After an outbreak of infection in elderly care homes, all employees and residents of the affected units should be tested

When diagnosing infection in health institutions, it may be appropriate to test asymptomatic close contacts

When new residents move into nursing homes, testing may be appropriate.

Prior to certain hospital stays or procedures (although this is up to each hospital).

In some cases, foreign universities or employers might require testing. This can be done on a private basis.

Research: In some research studies, all participants will be tested regardless of symptoms.

They also set COVID-19 testing priorities that focus on symptomatic individuals, screening specific populations and contact tracing.

In addition, Switzerland is accelerating its reopening efforts:

"The Federal Council thereby indicates that it wants to end the extraordinary situation again after three months and get out of the situation thanks to which it ruled in many areas by emergency law."

The Health Minister proposed changes and as of June 6, 2020, the only significant restrictions that will remain in place are bans on gatherings of more than 300 people. All schools, indoor and outdoor entertainment including sporting events, will be allowed.

 Their phased reopening approach has been progressing quickly since beginning on April 27th.

Additional information on vaccine testing tells us the United Kingdom is also seeing declining infection rates. They have declined to the point researchers are concerned about successfully completing the trial.

All of this is good news as America contemplates how to proceed with reopening on a regional level even a few weeks behind.



Fauci changes tune, now says second COVID-19 wave may never happen — and mask-wearing is symbolic

He is clearly out of his depth

Talk about an abrupt about-face. Dr. Anthony Fauci now says that a second wave of COVID-19 may not even happen and that wearing a mask is largely symbolic at this point.

What about the second wave?  In a Wednesday interview with CNN's "Newsroom," Fauci — member of the White House's coronavirus task force — said that a second COVID-19 wave is not necessarily inevitable.

"We often talk about the the possibility of a second wave, or of an outbreak when you're reopening," Fauci explained. "We don't have to accept that as an inevitability."

"Particularly," he continued, "when people start thinking about the fall. I want people to really appreciate that, it could happen, but it is not inevitable."

Fauci admitted that he is beginning to feel more and more optimistic as days go by, and insists that the U.S.'s expanded capability for testing is bolstering the COVID-19 response.

He pointed out that a second wave is entirely preventable if the U.S. is able to have the "workforce, the system, and the will to do the kinds of things that are the clear and effective identification, isolation, and contact tracing."

In April, however, Fauci insisted that second wave of coronavirus was inevitable.

During an interview with MSNBC, he said, "It's inevitable that the coronavirus will return next season. ... When it does, how we handle it, will determine our fate."

And so what about the masks?
Fauci also said that Americans should wear face masks in public to protect themselves — but also to get into good practices.

"I want to protect myself and protect others [by mask-wearing], and also because I want to make it be a symbol for people to see that that's the kind of thing you should be doing," he added.

During the interview, the infections diseases expert also admitted that wearing a mask is not 100% effective, but says that it is a gesture that shows "respect" for other people.




DOJ makes George Floyd death investigation a "top priority" after protests, rioting, and looting grip Minneapolis (Fox News)

Attorney General William Barr appoints U.S. Attorney John Bash to investigate "unmasking" requests by Obama officials (Washington Examiner)

A solid bedfellow: William Barr has become Trump's religious-liberty enforcer (Washington Examiner)

House passes Uighur human rights bill — via proxy vote (Axios)

Vaccine development threatened because infections are declining (PJ Media)

Over 2.1 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, pushing total job losses to 40 million from coronavirus lockdown (Fox Business)

A whopping two-thirds of furloughed workers may temporarily be receiving more money in unemployment benefits than they did from their jobs (MarketWatch)

Opening businesses while keeping churches closed is constitutionally problematic (Washington Examiner)

Is a $1 million donation the reason Governor Andrew Cuomo gave immunity to nursing homes? (PJ Media)

For the record: The Central Park dog case is Covington 2.0 (National Review)

Trump administration to end Iran deal waivers in a blow to Obama-era pact (The Washington Post)

California district attorney launches investigation into whether Joe Biden's accuser, Tara Reade, lied while testifying as expert witness (The Daily Caller)

Two days after WHO abandons trial testing, France bans hydroxychloroquine as COVID-19 treatment (The Hill)

Policy: Hong Kong's worst-case scenario is happening before our very eyes (The Heritage Foundation)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement