Friday, July 10, 2020

The retreat of Covid-19

Provided we learn the lessons of the first wave we will have little to fear as we reopen our economy

Matt Ridley

It is now three weeks since thousands of protesters first gathered in Trafalgar Square, and two weeks since London filled with even larger crowds, few of whom wore masks or kept two metres apart, and some of whom got involved in fights, resulting in arrests and injuries: a perfect recipe for spreading the coronavirus. Yet there has been a continuing decline in new cases of the disease and no uptick in calls to 111 or 999 about suspected Covid-19. By now, some effect should have shown up if it was going to. In June, London has seen fewer deaths from all causes than in a normal year. Why is this?

While respiratory viruses nearly always evolve towards lower virulence, essentially because the least sick people go to the most meetings and parties, this one was never very dangerous for most people in the first place. Its ability to kill 80-year-olds in care homes stands in sharp contrast with its inability to kill younger people. Fewer than 40 people under the age of 40 with no underlying conditions have died in Britain. On board the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, 1,100 sailors tested positive, many had no symptoms and only one died.

The summer weather is helping. Viruses are not easily caught outside, where ventilation, high temperatures and strong sunlight kill the virus. In addition, sunlight boosts vitamin D, which is protective against respiratory viruses; average vitamin D levels are especially low in Britons in winter because our public-health service does less than, for example, Germany’s to redress this deficiency.

The assumption expressed in the very term R0 was that everybody would initially be susceptible to catching this virus. But it soon became clear that this could not be the case. Frequent cases of family members not passing it on to each other baffled scientists. It turns out that there is lots of pre-existing immunity to the virus. Some seems to be generic protection conferred by so called innate immunity.

There is growing evidence that live attenuated vaccines such as polio and BCG have protective effects against other viruses by stimulating the production of interferons. More specific T-cell immunity resulting from previous infection with other common-cold coronaviruses is also widespread. Around 70 per cent of children under four show evidence of resistance to such coronaviruses.

This was a big part of the explanation for the vast over-estimates of death rates based on mathematical models. The virus was spreading like wildfire in hospitals and care homes where elderly people were far less resistant than the population at large. The modellers assumed these cases were coming into hospitals from the community when actually many were already in the care system. This wildly distorted their estimates. Outside such settings and large indoor gatherings, as the commentator Hugh Osmond has put it, the tinder was damp.

The influential Imperial College modellers have recently published a justification claiming that compulsory lockdowns are mainly responsible for the death rates being so much lower than they forecast, with other measures including school closure, public event bans, social distancing and self isolation only contributing 5 per cent of the infections averted.

However, they assumed, unrealistically, that all the reduction in coronavirus transmission was due to interventions. In reality people would have changed their behaviour anyway, and variability in people’s susceptibility to infection and number of contacts with others would have slowed its spread, as the pool of uninfected people most likely to become infected diminished.

Moreover, an expert scourge of dubious models, Nic Lewis, has shown that with arguably more realistic assumptions about the time between infection and death and how quickly interventions worked, their own model implies lockdowns did not make the largest contribution towards ending this wave of the pandemic. That is consistent with lockdown-free Sweden having also experienced a big reduction in transmission. Japan has one of the softest lockdowns and lowest death tolls.

Will there be another wave in the autumn? Most medics think so. But if we learn the lessons of the first wave – mainly that shielding the old and vulnerable is key – and we manage at least some effective contact tracing, then the winter wave should be more like a series of small, local outbreaks. A second national lockdown would be a huge mistake, given the harm the first one has done to everything from cancer diagnosis to mental health, let alone employment.



Is Donald Trump a Fascist and a Dictator?

If you listen to the liberal media, it’s Berlin 1933 all over again, or perhaps Moscow 1937, or maybe Madrid 1939. The liberals are literally wetting their pants, with hysterical cries that American democracy is under the imminent threat of a fascist dictatorship. And of course, that fascist dictator would be none other than President Donald Trump.

Reacting to Trump’s speech about mobilizing the military to protect our cities from lawless rioting and looting, California Senator Kamala Harris had this to say: “These are not the words of a president. They are the words of a dictator.”

And Oregon Senator Ron Wyden is heading to the barricades to protect American democracy from mean ole’ Fascists: “The fascist speech Donald Trump just delivered verged on a declaration of war against American citizens. I fear for our country tonight and will not stop defending America against Trump’s assault.”

So, this is it, The End Of America’s Democratic Experiment, the moment the lights went out in the City Upon a Hill.

Well, let me assure you that American democracy is alive and well. And understanding this essential fact is easier if you look at some real, actual dictatorships. (And note, modern dictatorships are liberal playgrounds compared to the dictatorships of the first half of the 20th century, such as Nazi Germany, a subject I will address next week).

I like to think I have some idea of what dictatorship actually looks like as I have spent quite a bit of time in countries that are ruled by undeniably dictatorial regimes, such as Uzbekistan, Belarus, Turkmenistan, Syria, Burma, and China. I’ve also spent time in countries that are run by authoritarian quasi-dictatorships like Russia, Kazakhstan, and Venezuela. In fact, I spent four years working in Russian state media and saw from the inside how such a regime operates. 

Uzbekistan is one of my favorite countries in the world. Samarkand and Bukhara were once important outposts on the famed Silk Road from Europe to China, and their architectural heritage is nothing short of stunning. Uzbek cuisine is equally stunningly delicious. And Uzbeks themselves are some of the friendliest and most hospitable people you’ll ever meet.

After the break-up of the Evil Empire, Uzbekistan gained independence. But its people have been anything but free. Former Communist Party boss Islam Karimov won the first ever presidential election in 1991, and was re-elected in 2000, 2007 and 2015 in blatantly rigged elections, each time with more than 90% of the purported vote. All real opposition parties have been outlawed, their leaders in prison, in exile, or dead. Until his death in 2015, Karimov ruled Uzbekistan for more than 23 years as an absolute tyrant.

A United Nations report described torture by the authorities as “institutionalized, systematic, and rampant.” The police and security services routinely kidnapped and murdered opposition figures; rape of prisoners was common. It is widely rumored that some prisoners were boiled to death. In 2005, there were widespread protests in the city of Andijan. Police closed all exits from Bobur Square in the city center and deliberately drove the protesters into a trap. An estimated 800 people were killed by snipers and machine-gun fire. When I was there in 2007, I knew it was a dangerous topic to discuss. But when I simply asked people, 'Excuse me, how do it get to Bobur Square?' I could see raw fear in their eyes.

There is no free media. In fact, when I was there, I could find only one newspaper distributed in the whole country, four pages daily, and mostly devoted to stories extravagantly praising Karimov, one I remember was headlined “President Karimov Receives Phone Call From Ambassador of Qatar.” There are several TV channels, all under government control, and all were dedicated to proclaiming Karimov the best president ever in world history. The internet is strictly regulated, and all websites critical of the regime are blocked. Even private conversations may be monitored for any signs of dissent. 

Belarus is much less interesting, except that its capital Minsk is the most perfect example of a city built almost entirely in the Stalinist style of architecture.  Alexander Lukashenko was elected president in that country’s first and only free elections in 1994. Since then he has been re-elected in 2001, 2006, 2010, and 2015, always with 80% to 84% of the vote.

I was in Minsk on the eve of the 2010 election. Protests were expected against his one-man rule, mostly peaceful. As I walked around the city’s “Independence Square” around dusk, I noticed dozens of buses carrying the fearsome and widely feared OMON (Special Purpose Mobile Police).  These riot police are Lukashenko’s Praetorian Guard, loyal only to him and completely beyond any civilian control. And these guys were clearly amped up, already fidgeting with their riot shields and heavy batons, obviously eager to get out and start bashing heads in. Knowing what they were capable of, and not feeling especially heroic, I decided to wait out the rest of the night in the relative safety of my hotel room.

The next day the Central Election Commission dutifully proclaimed Lukashenko the winner with the predictable 80% of the vote (most post-Soviet leaders are elected with around 80%, to seem like an overwhelming victory, but not so overwhelming as to be farcical). The OMON had arrested hundreds of protestors the night before, many severely beaten. Seven of the main opposition leaders were arrested by the KGB (yes, they still call it that) the day after the election, and an eighth was found dead, officially deemed a “suicide.”

So, what does a real dictatorship look like? Presidents-for-life, elected over and over again in sham elections. Opposition parties outlawed, and dissidents harassed, imprisoned, tortured, and murdered, or merely exiled if they’re lucky. All media under state control, and all access to opposition views blocked. Ordinary citizens cowed into submission by police and security services who stand above and beyond any laws. Plus, rubber-stamp legislatures who allow the dictator to rule by personal fiat, and judicial systems unable and unwilling to defy their employers, who are not the people but their rulers.

Now, as far as I know, Senators Harris and Wyden, as well as former Vice President Biden and the Clintons are not rotting in jail cells in secret prisons. Stephen Colbert, Chris Hayes, and Don Lemon are still on the air. Democrats still get elected to office, and Congress does not do Trump’s bidding merely at his command. The New York Times and Washington Post’s websites were still functioning last time I checked this morning, and neither paper was devoted to lavishly praising President Trump.

In short, Donald Trump is not a dictator, or a fascist. But liberals are desperate to tar him with these brazenly false labels. “Dictator” and “fascist” are boogie-man words designed to scare people into believing that Trump is a threat to their liberty and freedom, and the only way to save American democracy is to vote for Democrats. It’s downright shameful, and it shows their pathetic ignorance of basic reality. We need to fight their lies with the truth. 



Majority of New Yorkers oppose cutting funding to police

“A strong majority of New Yorkers oppose defunding the police, despite calls from activists to gut the NYPD’s vast $6 billion budget in the wake of protests over George Floyd’s death that triggered a wave of police reforms, a new statewide poll shows. Sixty percent of voters rejected compared to 30 percent who supported a radical entrenchment [sic], according to results from a Siena College poll released Tuesday. Even in New York City, more voters said they opposed defunding the police — 47 percent — than the 41 percent of respondents who said they supported shrinking the police department.”

More HERE 


These Aren’t Protests, They’re Religious Ceremonies

“At a park in New York City, I witnessed something odd. A group of women silently formed a circle in the middle of a large lawn. Their all-black outfits contrasted with the surrounding summer pastels, and they ignored the adjacent sun bathers as they began to kneel and slowly chant. They repeated a three word matin. The most striking feature of this scene was its familiarity. Any half-decent anthropologist would label this a religious ritual. Yet, few are willing to explicitly describe these events as part of a religion. The women may have been kneeling in a circle while chanting, but they repeated the words ‘black lives matter.’ Politics obscures the obvious. Wokeness is a religion, and conservatives must act as if large parts of our institutions are run by this cult.”

More HERE 


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, July 09, 2020

The long-term effects of Covid-19

By economic historian Martin Hutchinson

Four months after the Chinese-origin coronavirus impinged in a big way on our lives, it is finally becoming clear that it is not going away, and that the world will have to take account of it and its future cousins for many years to come. Accordingly, the world economy and life in general will suffer some major changes. The future will be very different from what we had imagined, obviously for the worse but in just a few respects for the better. The quicker we adapt, the better.

We have learned a considerable amount about Covid-19, which makes it easier than when it burst on the scene four months ago to analyze its implications. It is extremely infectious, and not very seasonal; thus, it is not going away in summer, but conversely should not become hugely worse next winter. It has a relatively low mortality rate, about 0.4-0.5%, but that mortality is heavily concentrated among those over 70, especially if they have diabetes or are overweight. It is beginning to appear possible that the immunity that we had hoped for against repeat infections may not be very powerful, perhaps lasting only a few months in many cases.

It is also clear that, although we may have a vaccine against Covid-19 by the end of the year, or shortly thereafter, that vaccine may not be very effective, perhaps only reducing the risk of infection by 50% or so, especially for the vulnerable old/fat/diabetic group. If that were the case, the vaccine would be essentially useless for that group, although it could sharply reduce the number of infections among the young and healthy, and thereby limit the disease’s spread.

Finally, as a geopolitical matter, China has persistently lied about the virus and its effects. First it denied its existence, then it claimed it rarely moved between humans, then it claimed an entirely spurious success in quelling it in mid-February, thus deceiving the health authorities worldwide into thinking the virus could be contained in the West. Even now, China is claiming 90 million tests for Covid-19 and only 83,000 cases, an infection rate of 0.09% of those tested, less than 5% of any Western jurisdiction, and less than 10% of the infection rate in Japan and South Korea, otherwise the lowest locations worldwide where statistics are extensive and reliable. That is well beyond the bounds of the statistically plausible; hence the Chinese authorities are lying.

The World Health Organization has acted as the accessory to China’s lies and possibly crimes; it should be closed down as should most other international organizations, for reasons I have discussed previously.

Finally, as well as repeated outbreaks of Covid-19, we may very well be subjected to various outbreaks of coronavirus “cousins” of that disease. We can hope those cousins will have only moderate mortality rates (it is difficult for a disease with high mortality rates to spread worldwide in modern conditions – thus our success against the Ebola virus in 2014.) However, we have clearly been very lucky in past decades in not suffering repeated such epidemics. We should not expect to be so lucky going forward, even if we can tentatively hope that modern advances in genetic engineering are not being used by state or private bad actors to create new such diseases. One way or another, we seem likely to live in a disease-ridden world; this has important economic implications.

To begin with a cheerful implication: the U.S. Social Security Trust Fund may not go bankrupt, and occupational pension schemes may be better funded than we believe. As far as fatalities are concerned, Covid-19 affects primarily those over 70, not those of working age. Hence if the disease and its cousins are around long-term, the actuarial assumptions under which Social Security is calculated are too unfavorable. While almost all working-age people will continue to exist, paying contributions into the system, the number of beneficiaries will be sharply reduced. Essentially the increase in life expectancies, that has caused the social security system to be unstable in the long-term, will go into reverse.

The effect may not be enough to avert a bankruptcy that is projected for the mid-2030s, but it should at least postpone it, and make the corrective actions (cutting benefits and raising contributions) needed when that bankruptcy arrives less severe. Currently, the present value of Social Security’s future revenues at the beginning of 2020 was $69 trillion, that of its future liabilities $84 trillion, for an actuarial deficit of $15 trillion. Covid-19 can at its present mortality be expected to remove about 5% from the liabilities and nothing from the assets, reducing the actuarial deficit to $11 trillion and pushing the default date out to 2040. That is not everything, but it is at least something!

That benefit does however depend on the authorities not being so foolish as to shut the economy down again (which reduces revenues) and not paying out any more large random amounts to those currently affected economically. Unfortunately, both of those assumptions may be too optimistic.

The shorter and more uncertain lifespans produced by Covid-19 and its cousins will also have major social effects. Since retirement can no longer be projected as a guaranteed 25-30 year vacation, fewer people will retire. Instead they will carry on working for as long as they are fit, thus removing the need to scrimp and save in their 50s and 60s. There will also be political effects. Since the young will no longer assume they are going to live to 120 or even 150, the salience of global warming will undergo a sharp decline (also the human brain is incapable of dealing with two life-threatening crises simultaneously and for most people, Covid-19 will be more life-threatening and immediate).

Since Social Security bankruptcy will no longer appear inevitable, there will be a greater willingness to make the sacrifices necessary to save it – raising interest rates and eliminating crazy budget deficits. Those higher interest rates, in turn will both improve the solvency of Social Security and restore productivity growth to its historic level, as the economic distortions of ultra-low interest rates will disappear. Naturally, higher interest rates and lower life expectancies will cause a mighty stock market crash and asset liquidation, but in the long run this will do only good. The next few years, with massive bankruptcies of obsolete services, urban real estate and asset prices in general will however be truly painful.

A further social change caused by Covid-19 will be to remove anti-natalism in the West. With lifespans shorter and more uncertain, productivity growth improved and the long-term “threat” of global warming less salient, people will once again want more children. This will not affect long-term global population trends much – getting fertility down in the world’s poor countries is necessary for that, and Covid-19 will affect those countries least, since they have relatively few old folk. It will however greatly improve the social health of Western societies and eliminate the desire by politicians in “demographic decline” countries like Japan and Italy to import more Third World immigrants for spurious demographic reasons.

Covid-19 and its cousins will also affect the world’s consumption habits. Cruises, crowded and filled with older people, will almost disappear. “Fine dining” restaurants, which also appeal to the older crowd, will also suffer, except those in spacious acreage outside the big cities, who can provide their diners with a Covid-free alfresco experience. Opera and serious theater will be badly affected, though probably not fatally. Cities in general will lose population, as I have already written, but growth will come in distant suburbs, with people adapting to working say 2 days per week at the office and 3 at home.

Dwellers in the outer suburbs will not take public transportation to commute on their working days, but will use Uber/Lyft, or more likely those services’ much cheaper self-driving replacements. Indeed, Covid-19 is likely to be very good for the embryonic self-driving automobile business; with the world spacing out, distances driven will increase, and there will be a strong desire to work, read or socialize while travelling, rather than concentrating on the road for hours. Self-driving cars will be cheaper on a day-to-day basis than Uber while allowing their owners both privacy and freedom from road rage.

On the other hand, crowded facilities that appeal to the young will suffer less. People who are prepared to riot and thereby risk Covid-19 will also go to bars and clubs. The number of urban singles will however decline since most people, however, not being anti-natalist, will marry early and have families. They will then patronize chain restaurants and fast food, ideally those with alfresco facilities. They will also home school to a much greater extent than at present, since schools and colleges will be correctly seen as vectors of disease both physical and mental, with their leftist indoctrination.

Overall, the pleasant changes that Covid-19 may bring in the long term, while substantial and gratifying, may seem less certain than the unpleasant ones. Humanity has however shown time and again an infinite ability to adapt, provided that politicians don’t get in the way.



An outbreak of common sense in Britain

Passengers arriving at Heathrow airport from “red list” countries like the US will be able to pay for Covid-19 tests to beat quarantine, under a pilot scheme expected to be backed by the Department for Transport.

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, has signalled his support for Covid-19 testing as a way to revive flying after it was decimated by the pandemic and is seeking to agree international standards that could allow quarantine-free air travel.

The Daily Telegraph has established that 21 countries including Austria, Iceland, Jersey, Madeira, Thailand, Singapore, Barbados, Jamaica and Japan have already introduced airport tests that can allow some passengers to avoid quarantine if they are negative for Covid-19....




Supreme Court unanimously rules states can sanction or remove "faithless" presidential electors, hampering the Democrats' efforts to undermine the Electoral College (Fox News)

Mitch McConnell opens door to direct payments in next coronavirus bill (The Hill)

George Soros set to double 2016 spending, pouring $40 million into super PAC (The Washington Free Beacon)

Unhinged: Anti-Trump Republicans endorse an increasingly leftist Joe Biden (Issues & Insights)

Three-quarters of people who live with a coronavirus sufferer may develop "silent" immunity without needing antibodies (UK Daily Mail)

Immunity can be "short-lived," expert warns (Fox News)

Herd immunity may not be achievable in fight against coronavirus (Fox News)

EPA approves use of Lysol surface disinfectant products against COVID-19 (Fox News)

Protests and riots may have spread coronavirus, some cities admit (National Review)

Is the pandemic coming to an end at last? (Issues & Insights)

Judicial activism: Dakota Access pipeline must shut down by August 5, court rules, adding pressure to an already fragile industry (New York Post)

Harvard — with its $41 billion endowment — goes online, but $50K tuition cost is unchanged (Fox Business)

U.S. travel ban is costing Europe billions (Forbes)

States mandate masks and begin to shut down again — to the Left's glee (The Washington Post)

Georgia governor authorizes National Guard troops after eight-year-old killed (AP)

New bill would require New York cops to have personal insurance for liability suits (New York Post)

Massachusetts expands mail-in voting to all voters in state (Washington Examiner)

Florida orders public schools to reopen in August (Miami Herald)

"Cancel Hamilton" trends as social-justice warriors demand Disney pull musical that "glorifies slave trader" (The Daily Wire)

Country music legend and American patriot Charlie Daniels dies at 83 (Fox News)

DHS rule change will allow ICE to remove foreign students taking online course load in the fall (The Daily Caller)

Corrupt UN slams Donald Trump for killing Iranian General Soleimani because there was "insufficient evidence he was behind an ongoing or imminent attack" (UK Daily Mail)

Communist China detains Xu Zhangrun, leading critic of President Xi Jinping (The Washington Post)

Policy: Supreme Court's "faithless electors" decision safeguards Electoral College (The Daily Signal)

Policy: Protecting undersea cables must be made a national-security priority (Hudson Institute)


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, July 08, 2020

Coronavirus: Why everyone was wrong

The immune response to the virus is stronger than everyone thought

The original article below was published in the Swiss magazine Weltwoche (World Week) on June 10th. The author, Beda M Stadler is the former director of the Institute for Immunology at the University of Bern, a biologist and professor emeritus.  He asks some very troubling questions

The coronavirus is slowly retreating. What actually happened in the past few weeks? The experts have missed basic connections. The immune response against the virus is much stronger than we thought.

This is not an accusation, but a ruthless taking stock [of the current situation]. I could slap myself, because I looked at Sars-CoV2- way too long with panic. I am also somewhat annoyed with many of my immunology colleagues who so far have left the discussion about Covid-19 to virologist and epidemiologist. I feel it is time to criticise some of the main and completely wrong public statements about this virus.

Firstly, it was wrong to claim that this virus was novel. Secondly, It was even more wrong to claim that the population would not already have some immunity against this virus. Thirdly, it was the crowning of stupidity to claim that someone could have Covid-19 without any symptoms at all or even to pass the disease along without showing any symptoms whatsoever.

But let’s look at this one by one.

1. A new virus?

At the end of 2019 a coronavirus, which was considered novel, was detected in China. When the gene sequence, i.e. the blueprint of this virus, was identified and was given a similar name to the 2002 identified Sars, i.e. Sars-CoV-2, we should have already asked ourselves then how far [this virus] is related to other coronaviri, which can make human beings sick. But no, instead we discussed from which animal as part of a Chinese menu the virus might have sprung. In the meantime, however, many more people believe the Chinese were so stupid as to release this virus upon themselves in their own country. Now that we’re talking about developing a vaccine against the virus, we suddenly see studies which show that this so-called novel virus is very strongly related to Sars-1 as well as other beta-coronaviri which make us suffer every year in the form of a colds. Apart from the pure homologies in the sequence between the various coronaviri which can make people sick, [scientists] currently work on identifying a number of areas on the virus in the same way as human immune cells identify them. This is no longer about the genetic relationship, but about how our immune system sees this virus, i.e. which parts of other coronaviri could potentially be used in a vaccine.

So: Sars-Cov-2 isn’t all that new, but merely a seasonal cold virus that mutated and disappears in summer, as all cold viri do — which is what we’re observing globally right now. Flu viri mutate significantly more, by the way, and nobody would ever claim that a new flu virus strain was completely novel. Many veterinary doctors where therefore annoyed by this claim of novelty, as they have been vaccinating cats, dogs, pigs, and cows for years against coronaviri.

2. The fairy tale of no immunity

From the World Health Organisation (WHO) to every Facebook-virologist, everyone claimed this virus was particularly dangerous, because there was no immunity against it, because it was a novel virus. Even Anthony Fauci, the most important advisor to the Trump administration noted at the beginning at every public appearance that the danger of the virus lay in the fact that there was no immunity against it. Tony and I often sat next to each other at immunology seminars at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda in the US, because we worked in related fields back then. So for a while I was pretty uncritical of his statements, since he was a respectable colleague of mine. The penny dropped only when I realised that the first commercially available antibody test [for Sars-CoV-2] was put together from an old antibody test that was meant to detect Sars-1. This kind of test evaluates if there are antibodies in someone’s blood and if they came about through an early fight against the virus. [Scientists] even extracted antibodies from a Lama that would detect Sars-1, Sars-CoV-2, and even the Mers virus. It also became known that Sars-CoV-2 had a less significant impact in areas in China where Sars-1 had previously raged. This is clear evidence urgently suggesting that our immune system considers Sars-1 and Sars-Cov-2 at least partially identical and that one virus could probably protect us from the other.

That’s when I realised that the entire world simply claimed that there was no immunity, but in reality, nobody had a test ready to prove such a statement. That wasn’t science, but pure speculation based on a gut feeling that was then parroted by everyone. To this day there isn’t a single antibody test that can describe all possible immunological situations, such as: if someone is immune, since when, what the neutralising antibodies are targeting and how many structures exist on other coronaviri that can equally lead to immunity.

In mid-April work was published by the group of Andreas Thiel at the Charité Berlin. A paper with 30 authors, amongst them the virologist Christian Drosten. It showed that in 34 % of people in Berlin who had never been in contact with the Sars-CoV-2 virus showed nonetheless T-cell immunity against it (T-cell immunity is a different kind of immune reaction, see below). This means that our T-cells, i.e. white blood cells, detect common structures appearing on Sars-CoV-2 and regular cold viri and therefore combat both of them.

A study by John P A Ioannidis of Stanford University — according to the Einstein Foundation in Berlin one of the world’s ten most cited scientists — showed that immunity against Sars-Cov-2, measured in the form of antibodies, is much higher than previously thought. Ioannidis is certainly not a conspiracy theorist who just wants to swim against the stream; nontheless he is now being criticised, because the antibody tests used were not extremely precise. With that, his critics admit that they do not have such tests yet. And aside, John P A Ioannidis is such a scientific heavy-weight that all German virologists combined area a light-weight in comparison.
3. The failure of modellers

Epidemiologist also fell for the myth that there was no immunity in the population. They also didn’t want to believe that coronaviri were seasonal cold viri that would disappear in summer. Otherwise their curve models would have looked differently. When the initial worst case scenarios didn’t come true anywhere, some now still cling to models predicting a second wave. Let’s leave them their hopes — I’ve never seen a scientific branch that manoeuvred itself so much into the offside. I have also not yet understood why epidemiologists were so much more interested in the number of deaths, rather than in the numbers that could be saved.

4. Immunology of common sense

As an immunologist I trust a biological model, namely that of the human organism, which has built a tried and tested, adaptive immune system. At the end of February, driving home from the recording of [a Swiss political TV debate show], I mentioned to Daniel Koch [former head of the Swiss federal section “Communicable Diseases” of the Federal Office of Public Health] that I suspected there was a general immunity in the population against Sars-Cov-2. He argued against my view. I later defended him anyway, when he said that children were not a driving factor in the spread of the pandemic. He suspected that children didn’t have a receptor for the virus, which is of course nonsense. Still, we had to admit that his observations were correct. But the fact that every scientist attacked him afterwards and asked for studies to prove his point, was somewhat ironic. Nobody asked for studies to prove that people in certain at-risk groups were dying. When the first statistics from China and later worldwide data showed the same trend, that is to say that almost no children under ten years old got sick, everyone should have made the argument that children clearly have to be immune. For every other disease that doesn’t afflict a certain group of people, we would come to the conclusion that that group is immune. When people are sadly dying in a retirement home, but in the same place other pensioners with the same risk factors are left entirely unharmed, we should also conclude that they were presumably immune.

But this common sense seems to have eluded many, let’s call them “immunity deniers” just for fun. This new breed of deniers had to observe that the majority of people who tested positive for this virus, i.e. the virus was present in their throats, did not get sick. The term “silent carriers” was conjured out of a hat and it was claimed that one could be sick without having symptoms. Wouldn’t that be something! If this principle from now on gets naturalised into the realm of medicine, health insurers would really have a problem, but also teachers whose students could now claim to have whatever disease to skip school, if at the end of the day one didn’t need symptoms anymore to be sick.

The next joke that some virologists shared was the claim that those who were sick without symptoms could still spread the virus to other people. The “healthy” sick would have so much of the virus in their throats that a normal conversation between two people would be enough for the “healthy one” to infect the other healthy one. At this point we have to dissect what is happening here: If a virus is growing anywhere in the body, also in the throat, it means that human cells decease. When [human] cells decease, the immune system is alerted immediately and an infection is caused. One of five cardinal symptoms of an infection is pain. It is understandable that those afflicted by Covid-19 might not remember that initial scratchy throat and then go on to claim that they didn’t have any symptoms just a few days ago. But for doctors and virologists to twist this into a story of “healthy” sick people, which stokes panic and was often given as a reason for stricter lockdown measures, just shows how bad the joke really is. At least the WHO didn’t accept the claim of asymptomatic infections and even challenges this claim on its website.

Here a succinct and brief summary, especially for the immunity deniers, of how humans are attacked by germs and how we react to them: If there are pathogenic viri in our environment, then all humans — whether immune or not — are attacked by this virus. If someone is immune, the battle with the virus begins. First we try to prevent the virus from binding to our own cells with the help of antibodies. This normally works only partially, not all are blocked and some viri will attach to the appropriate cells. That doesn’t need to lead to symptoms, but it’s also not a disease. Because the second guard of the immune system is now called into action. That’s the above mentioned T-cells, white blood cells, which can determine from the outside in which other cells the virus is now hiding to multiply. These cells, which are now incubating the virus, are searched throughout the entire body and killed by the T-cells until the last virus is dead.

So if we do a PCR corona test on an immune person, it is not a virus that is detected, but a small shattered part of the viral genome. The test comes back positive for as long as there are tiny shattered parts of the virus left. Correct: Even if the infectious viri are long dead, a corona test can come back positive, because the PCR method multiplies even a tiny fraction of the viral genetic material enough [to be detected]. That’s exactly what happened, when there was the global news, even shared by the WHO, that 200 Koreans who already went through Covid-19 were infected a second time and that there was therefore probably no immunity against this virus. The explanation of what really happened and an apology came only later, when it was clear that the immune Koreans were perfectly healthy and only had a short battle with the virus. The crux was that the virus debris registered with the overly sensitive test and therefore came back as “positive”. It is likely that a large number of the daily reported infection numbers are purely due to viral debris.

The PCR test with its extreme sensitivity was initially perfect to find out where the virus could be. But this test can not identify whether the virus is still alive, i.e. still infectous. Unfortunately, this also led some virologists to equate the strength of a test result with viral load, i.e. the amount of virus someone can breathe out. Luckily, our day care centres stayed open nontheless. Since German virologist missed that part, because, out of principle, they do not look at what other countries are doing, even if other countries’ case numbers are falling more rapidly.

5. The problem with corona immunity

What does this all mean in real life? The extremely long incubation time of two to 14 days — and reports of 22 to 27 days — should wake up any immunologist. As well as the claim that most patients would no longer secrete the virus after five days. Both [claims] in turn actually lead to the conclusion that there is — sort of in the background — a base immunity that contorts the events, compared to an expected cycle [of a viral infection] — i.e. leads to a long incubation period and quick immunity. This immunity also seems to be the problem for patients with a sever course of the disease. Our antibody titre, i.e. the accuracy of our defence system, is reduced the older we get. But also people with a bad diet or who are malnourished may have a weakened immune system, which is why this virus does not only reveal the medical problems of a country, but also social issues.

If an infected person does not have enough antibodies, i.e. a weak immune response, the virus slowly spreads out across the entire body. Now that there are not enough antibodies, there is only the second, supporting leg of our immune response left: The T-cells beginn to attack the virus-infested cells all over the body. This can lead to an exaggerated immune response, basically to a massive slaughter; this is called a Cytokine Storm. Very rarely this can also happen in small children, in that case called Kawasaki Syndrome. This very rare occurrence in children was also used in our country to stoke panic. It’s interesting, however, that this syndrome is very easily cured. The [affected] children get antibodies from healthy blood donors, i.e. people who went through coronavirus colds. This means that the hushed-up [supposedly non-existent] immunity in the population is in fact used therapeutically.
What now?

The virus is gone for now. It will probably come back in winter, but it won’t be a second wave, but just a cold. Those young and healthy people who currently walk around with a mask on their faces would be better off wearing a helmet instead, because the risk of something falling on their head is greater than that of getting a serious case of Covid-19.

If we observe a significant rise in infections in 14 days [after the Swiss relaxed the lockdown], we’d at least know that one of the measures was useful. Other than that I recommend reading John P A Ioannidis’ latest work in which he describes the global situation based on data on May 1st 2020: People below 65 years old make up only 0.6 to 2.6 % of all fatal Covid cases. To get on top of the pandemic, we need a strategy merely concentrating on the protection of at-risk people over 65. If that’s the opinion of a top expert, a second lockdown is simply a no-go.

On our way back to normal, it would be good for us citizens if a few scaremongers apologised. Such as doctors who wanted a triage of over 80 year old Covid patients in order to stop ventilating them. Also media that kept showing alarmist videos of Italian hospitals to illustrate a situation that as such didn’t exist. All politicians calling for “testing, testing, testing” without even knowing what the test actually measures. And the federal government for an app they’ll never get to work and will warn me if someone near me is positive, even if they’re not infectious.

In winter, when the flu and other colds make the rounds again, we can then go back to kissing each other a little less, and we should wash our hands even without a virus present. And people who’ll get sick nonetheless can then don their masks to show others what they have learned from this pandemic. And if we still haven’t learned to protect our at-risk groups, we’ll have to wait for a vaccine that will hopefully also be effective in at-risk people.




A direct threat to the Democrat Party's stronghold on black voters: Kanye West says he's running for president (Politico)

Trump to hold outdoor New Hampshire rally on July 11 while Biden remains perpetually sequestered (Fox News)

Joe Biden tops Donald Trump in fundraising for second straight month: $141 million to $131 million (USA Today)

Supreme Court agrees to hear legal showdown over Mueller grand jury materials (CBS News)

Los Angeles Times publishes Beijing-funded propaganda (The Daily Caller)

Baltimore mayor defends vandals who toppled Christopher Columbus statue on July 4th (The Daily Caller)

Maryland governor urges Baltimore leaders to "regain control of their own streets" after Columbus statue toppled (Washington Examiner)

Atlanta mayor unloads after eight-year-old child is killed near BLM protest site: "You can't blame this on police" (Fox News)

Racists baiting racists: Armed protesters demonstrate in front of Confederate carving on Stone Mountain (Washington Examiner)

Black Lives Matter "protesters" filmed dancing on American flag in Washington, DC (The Daily Caller)

Frederick Douglass statue in New York removed from base and damaged (Washington Examiner)

Senate approves sanctions against Chinese officials over Hong Kong law (Washington Examiner)

With Beijing's military nearby, U.S. sends two aircraft carriers to South China Sea (The New York Times)

Niagara Falls region becomes ground zero in the coronavirus-era war on drugs (Washington Examiner)

Putting the coronavirus surge in Florida in context (The Daily Signal)

Texas governor mandates masks in most counties (Washington Examiner)

Extended lockdowns pose a serious threat to mental health (The Daily Signal)

Colin Kaepernick condemns July 4th as "celebration of white supremacy" (The Daily Caller)

NFL's Washington Redskins and MLB's Cleveland Indians are rethinking their names (NPR)

Report: NFL to play "black national anthem" prior to Week 1 games (Sports Illustrated)

Minnesota governor asks Trump for disaster declaration after George Floyd riots trigger over $500 million in damages (Fox News)

"Statuary sanctuary city": Ohio town offers to house any statues other cities remove (Washington Examiner)

U.S. population growth is driven only by minorities with the white population declining for the first time in the nation's history, according to new census data (UK Daily Mail)

New jobs report suggests Americans are eager to return to work after lockdown (The Daily Signal)

Policy: A deeper look at Black Lives Matter and its impact (The Daily Signal)


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, July 07, 2020

Coronavirus: why aren’t we talking more about vitamin D?

BAME people suffer more from Covid-19, but the problem probably isn't racism.

One area of anger in recent protests against racism has been the differential impact of Covid-19 on black, Asian and minority-ethnic (BAME) people. But assuming that viruses don’t discriminate, can those deaths really be put down to racism or is there something else going on?

One idea is that there may be something simpler going: vitamin D deficiency. Normally, when people talk about vitamin or mineral deficiencies, I tend to switch off. There is a mildly hypochondriac tendency in modern society to think that we should all be obsessing about supplements of all sorts of trace elements and odd herbal remedies. I tend to give Holland & Barrett a wide berth.

But the case for vitamin D seems stronger. Usually simply thought of as being a factor in osteoporosis and other bone conditions, vitamin D actually has a much wider impact in our bodies than that. In particular, it seems to play a role in regulating aspects of our immune system.

As the science writer Matt Ridley noted in May: ‘There has long been evidence that a sufficiency of vitamin D protects against viruses, especially respiratory ones, including the common cold. Vitamin D increases the production of antiviral proteins and decreases cytokines, the immune molecules that can cause a “storm” of dangerous inflammation. It has long been suspected that most people’s low vitamin D levels in late winter partly explain the seasonal peaking of flu epidemics, and rising vitamin D levels in spring partly explain their sudden ending.’

All sorts of effects of vitamin D have been suggested in recent years. For example, it seems to help with autoimmune diseases, where our immune systems become harmful to us. Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and psoriasis have been characterised in this way. Type 2 diabetes, usually thought of as a metabolic disease, may in part be an autoimmune disease, too. (Notably, BAME people have much higher rates of type 2 diabetes than white people.)

What does all this have to do with the colour of our skin?

Vitamin D is, arguably, not a vitamin at all, which is usually defined as something we need to get from our diet. The majority of our vitamin D comes from the effect of sunlight – ultraviolet light specifically – on our skin, where a derivative of cholesterol is converted into vitamin D. In northerly latitudes like the UK, we don’t get enough sunlight to produce vitamin D for six months of the year. This is even more pronounced for people with darker skin – it takes more sun exposure to produce sufficient vitamin D than it would for pale-skinned people.

A survey of evidence by Karl Pfleger shows several different lines of evidence pointing to vitamin D as an important factor in Covid-19. For example, comparing the vitamin D status of Covid-19 hospital patients has shown that the ones with low vitamin D are much more likely to end up in intensive care. Areas in northerly latitudes are more likely to be hard hit, but this is offset in countries where supplementation – through fortifying foods – is more common.

Perhaps another pointer is the fact that the first drug to show real promise in treating patients is dexamethasone – a steroid. Steroids work by decreasing inflammation and reducing the activity of the immune system. Vitamin D is a steroid, too. (To be more precise, vitamin D is a collective name for a group of steroids.)

So there is plenty of circumstantial evidence that vitamin D deficiency is important in Covid-19 and there are plausible biological mechanisms for why that might be the case. Giving vitamin D to patients who already have plenty seems to have little effect.

Yet a review of evidence by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), published on Tuesday, advised: ‘There is no evidence to support taking vitamin D supplements to specifically prevent or treat Covid‑19. However, all people should continue to follow UK government advice on daily vitamin D supplementation to maintain bone and muscle health during the Covid‑19 pandemic.’

This is a rather odd conclusion. The review examined five peer-reviewed papers. (It ignored the mass of pre-print research that has not had time to go through peer review in the short time the pandemic has been going.) ‘Four of the studies found an association or correlation between a lower vitamin D status and subsequent development of Covid‑19. However, confounders such as body mass index (BMI) or underlying health conditions, which may have independent correlations with vitamin D status or Covid‑19, were not adjusted for.’

The fifth paper, by Hastie et al, found the effect disappeared when these potential confounders were taken into account. NICE seems to lean very heavily on this one paper. But there are two problems. First, vitamin D status was gleaned from UK Biobank data – which was collected at least 10 years ago. Patients’ vitamin D status wasn’t measured at the time they got ill. Second, ethnicity and body mass index (BMI) are not independent variables from vitamin D. Rather, vitamin D deficiency is an attempt to explain why ethnicity and BMI matter. (People with high BMI are also more likely to have low vitamin D.)

Moreover, the cut-off date for the NICE paper meant it didn’t have a chance to consider two pre-prints of particular interest. A study from Singapore found ‘the active form of vitamin D, calcitriol, exhibits significant potent activity against SARS-CoV-2’ (the virus that causes Covid-19). A study on patients in Newcastle in the UK found that ‘patients requiring ITU admission were more frequently vitamin D deficient than those managed on medical wards, despite being significantly younger’.

In short, there is plenty of evidence to point to vitamin D deficiency as a risk factor for Covid-19. Yet officials and politicians seem wary of talking about it. If we were talking about a drug with significant side effects, like hydroxychloroquine (Donald Trump’s Covid drug of choice), we might have cause to be nervous about recommending it. But this is a vitamin and it is well known that many people across the world are deficient.

Indeed, the NHS already suggests that pretty much everyone takes vitamin D supplements, at least over the winter. In Scotland, for example, the NHS Scotland website is clear: ‘Everyone (including children) should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D.’ That’s probably far too little. There is little or no risk of overdosing for adults up to 100 micrograms per day, so taking significantly more would address insufficiency more effectively.

The advice is particularly emphasised for certain groups, including: ‘People who have low or no exposure to the sun, for example those who cover their skin for cultural reasons, are housebound, confined indoors for long periods or live in an institution such as a care home; and people from minority-ethnic groups with dark skin, such as those of African, African-Caribbean and South Asian origin, who require more sun exposure to make as much vitamin D.’

There is, of course, the possibility that Covid-19 deaths could be due to poverty, deprivation and ‘systemic racism’. And any research around the disease is obviously new and should be treated as provisional. Vitamin D is unlikely to be a panacea.

But serious cases seem disproportionately related to vitamin D deficiency. Among doctors – who are unlikely to be economically deprived – 94 per cent of deaths have been BAME medics. Moreover, testing for vitamin D deficiency is cheap. Supplements are cheap, widely available and safe. So wouldn’t it be better to focus more of our attention – both medical and research – on the ‘sunshine vitamin’?



Appease the Mob, Destroy the Nation

Perhaps the most distressing aspect of the current effort to “fundamentally transform the United States of America” into the Republic of Wokeistan is the seemingly invincible ignorance of history that attends it. The American Left is seeking to impose a totalitarian, Communist Chinese Red Guard worldview on this nation, whereby those who are insufficiently attuned to progressive ideology will be relegated to the margins — at best — and completely destroyed at worst.

Moreover, the smug self-assurance among elitists in media, academia, politics, Hollywood, sports, and business that a sufficient amount of ideological alignment and/or a craven level of guilt-signaling obsequiousness will render them immune from the depredations of the mob is, quite simply, a pipe dream.

As history reveals, the Red Guard movement collapsed from within, when even the most dedicated followers of Maoism were unable to keep up with the ever-increasing demands for absolute purity of thought. And despite leading the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, during which more than 17,000 “enemies of the people” were guillotined, Maximilien Robespierre was also executed by the same mob he himself created.

Thus, when a number of progressive politicians in Democrat-controlled cities who imposed draconian lockdowns let “protesters” flout social-distancing edicts, while telling cops to stand down; when political hacks like Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey grovel before black protesters about “coming to grips with my own brokenness”; or when white police officers wash the feet of BLM protesters while apologizing for the “sins” of the white race, the results of such fecklessness are eminently predictable: Cities are looted and burned, a humiliated Frey is sent packing by an angry mob, and calls to defund police departments reach crescendo pitch throughout the nation.

The mob expects nothing less. In fact, it demands much more, and rigid conformity goes right to the top of the list. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who runs a charity helping sick and needy kids, has learned that no amount of apologizing by him and his wife for daring to suggest the American flag and national anthem are worthy of respect is sufficient. Even worse, he has managed to alienate almost everyone, first for expressing his opinion and then for being guilted into submission by members of a league run by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has also decided that alienating half of his potential audience is a reasonable tradeoff for being “down with the cause.”

He is far from alone. Amazon mogul Jeff Bezos is “happy to lose” customers who take offense at his decision to virtue signal his support for Black Lives Matter at the top of his website. A&E and Paramount are more than willing to postpone or cancel new episodes of police shows on their respective TV schedules, and HBO Max has temporarily removed 1939’s “Gone With the Wind” until it can attach statements to it denouncing its “racist” content. The New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer are content to bow to the progressive mob — both outside and inside the newsroom — and allow it to determine what headlines and editorial content is acceptable. Kentucky’s Democrat Governor Andy Beshear has no problem announcing he intends to provide healthcare coverage for “100% of our individuals in our black and African-American communities.”

That such puerile pandering reveals the hypocrisy of a multibillionaire elitist who recently rescinded a two-dollar-an-hour, coronavirus-engendered pay increase for Amazon warehouse workers, even as his net worth increased $32 billion since January? That entertainment networks are attempting to solidify the mindset that there is something inherently wrong with police work and Oscar-winning film classics? That both newspapers have reduced their credibility to zero? That there are Kentuckians of other ethnicities who doubtlessly need healthcare coverage?

That the mob itself is wholly unconcerned with the most lethal, enduring, and primary source of black murders, epitomized by Chicago’s most violent day in 60 years?

An utterly bankrupt ideology must be served.

Let’s be clear: George Floyd and the legitimate protests surrounding his death have been completely co-opted by rank, America-hating opportunists whose motives are crystal clear as soon as reasonable Americans ask themselves a simple question: Who supported the killing of George Floyd? No one in their right minds on any part of the political spectrum, that’s who. Even an overwhelming majority of police have decried the actions of the four individuals involved, all of whom have been arrested and charged.

Thus another telling question inevitably arises: Who, exactly, is the “enemy” that must be vanquished so that “justice” can prevail?

The answer is as simple as it is damning: Anyone and everyone who fails to unquestioningly embrace each and every demand of a nihilist progressive mob. A mob every bit as virulent as any other mob that has sought absolute power throughout the history of mankind. A mob wholly disinterested in compromise, good will, or reconciliation. A mob decades in the making, courtesy of America-contemptuous, progressive indoctrinators presenting themselves as educators, entertainment industry titans who cater to the lowest common denominator, duplicitous multinational CEOs with no allegiance to this nation, progressive prosecutors who disdain the Rule of Law, craven politicians in both parties whose self-interest completely transcends statesmanship, and the useful-idiot talkingheads in the media who shill for all of it, 24/7/365.

“Americans want to stand with those peacefully protesting injustice,” writes columnist Joshua Lawson. “But the radical Left offers either the choice of self-condemnation for evils Americans had no hand in, or to be silent and stay that way. If the second option is chosen, that very silence is viewed as an indictment of ‘complicity’ often seen by the Left as akin to violence itself.”

Thankfully, there are those who refuse to be intimidated. “I took off today, this weekend, but I’m out here just to make sure y'all are safe. Don’t go there with respect, okay? I have much respect, but I only kneel for one person, and that’s God,” stated black Georgia State Trooper O'Neal Saddler.

Next November, the American electorate will face a choice between the mob and people like Mr. Saddler. If Americans embrace the collective guilt demanded by the mob, they will deeply regret it when those same demands for ideological purity that destroyed the Red Guard are imposed on them — and their children — with unrelenting ferocity.

As for the cadre of elitists who mistakenly believe they have bought themselves absolution, columnist Kurt Schlichter gets it exactly right: “Mansions and BMWs burn just like churches and police cars do.”

Indeed they do, Mssrs. Frey, Goodell, Bezos, Beshear, et al. Indeed they do.



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, July 06, 2020

New Study Shows Hydroxychloroquine can cut deaths in half  .. and Exposes Why The Media Attacked Trump Over It

The media has been running a full-blown offensive against the drug ever since President Trump mentioned it as a possible therapeutic against coronavirus. Hydroxychloroquine has been treated as something akin to heroin when it comes to these media folks who desperately find any which way to attack this administration.

They’re enemies of the people. What mental malfunction do you need to have to attack a possible drug that could help save lives? Well, liberalism is a mental disorder. We’re seeing that with every passing day, along with data that shows the coronavirus was overblown.

No, it’s not a hoax. It’s a real pathogen that’s contagious, but the lockdowns did more harm than good and the people who appear to be the greatest at risk for death were folks who were already in that category pre-COVID. The elderly, those with immune issues, diabetes, those who were fighting cancer, and those who had organ transplants. The list is obviously longer, but you get the point.

Still, for those who were infected and hospitalized, this anti-malarial drug appears to have prevented the death toll from increasing. That’s good news, but CNN found a new study on this “surprising” (via CNN):

"A surprising new study found that the controversial antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine helped patients better survive in the hospital.

A team at Henry Ford Health System in Southeast Michigan said Thursday its study of 2,541 hospitalized patients found that those given hydroxychloroquine were much less likely to die.

Dr. Marcus Zervos, division head of infectious disease for Henry Ford Health System, said 26% of those not given hydroxychloroquine died, compared to 13% of those who got the drug. The team looked back at everyone treated in the hospital system since the first patient in March.

"Overall crude mortality rates were 18.1% in the entire cohort, 13.5% in the hydroxychloroquine alone group, 20.1% among those receiving hydroxychloroquine?plus?azithromycin, 22.4% among the azithromycin alone group, and 26.4% for neither drug," the team wrote in a report published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases.

The Henry Ford team also monitored patients carefully for heart problems, he said.

"The combination of hydroxychloroquine?plus?azithromycin was reserved for selected patients with severe COVID-19 and with minimal cardiac risk factors," the team wrote.

The Henry Ford team said they believe their findings show hydroxychloroquine could be potentially useful as a treatment for coronavirus.

"It's important to note that in the right settings, this potentially could be a lifesaver for patients," Dr. Steven Kalkanis, CEO of the Henry Ford Medical Group, said at the news conference."

Oh, eat it, you liberal media clowns. Just eat it and shut up. It's not like you didn't know. Katie wrote about how thousands of doctors had already noted this drug as an effective April.

For weeks you attacked this drug, even peddling fake news about it, insinuating that this treatment might have caused a heart attack that killed a New York woman. Buried in the story was the fact that this woman’s family didn’t know how she died; they did not get a death certificate at the time of publication. Oh, and you remember that Arizona couple, right? They blamed Trump for that fiasco.

It must suck to be wrong this much the liberal media, either because they’re too stupid or arrogant as hell, seem to like being whipped like this. Hey, no judgment here, everyone has their…proclivities. But the media has been gluttons for punishment regarding anything relating to this White House and eating crow and being wrong about everything



Democrats Are Fine With Watching America Burn

As Americans around the country and the world celebrate the founding of the United States this weekend, Democrats have made it clear whose side they’re on when it comes to attacking the values and traditions that matter most.

For weeks, cities across the country have been overrun by leftist anarchists seeking to destroy the United States from the inside out. Leftist mayors have not only stood by to watch but have openly endorsed criminal behavior. After all, it’s “for a good cause.”

In Seattle, Mayor Jenny Durkan allowed leftist anarchists to take over a number of city blocks and called it the beginning of a “summer of love.” After multiple murders of black teenagers, Durkan still did nothing to shut the zone down and tied the hands of the police chief. When 19-year-old Horace Lorenzo Anderson was killed, she didn’t bother to call his father with the news. She finally took action when rowdy protestors, led by socialist City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant, marched to her personal home.

In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot had the nerve to lecture President Trump on leadership as murders and shootings in the city skyrocket. In Minneapolis, the city council voted to defund the police while using thousands of dollars of taxpayer money for their own private security. In New York, Mayor Bill DeBlasio is slashing the NYPD’s budget and allowing the mob to vandalize statues of George Washington and other important historical figures.

But it’s one thing for Democrat “leadership” to watch their own cities burn, it’s another for leaders in Washington to allow for the desecration of monuments and property that belongs to all of us.

The Department of Homeland Security has deployed special teams to protect the nation’s monuments and to ensure they are available for enjoyment by American families during the long holiday weekend.

“If you’re thinking about defacing federal property this weekend, take note,” Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf tweeted, citing a story about criminal charges for Antifa anarchists who tried to tear down a statue of President Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Park.

The move was immediately criticized as instituting a police state in the name of federally sanctioned racism, conveniently ignoring weeks of chaos and destruction. Democrats on Capitol Hill condemned the move and groups like the ACLU released statements opposing it.

So the question is, what are Democrats and the left doing to prevent anarchists from destroying American tradition, property and ruining lives as a result? The answer is nothing.

And finally, Democrats have again exposed their agenda by condemning Independence Day celebrations while openly supporting mass Black Lives Matter demonstrations. They claim going to a local fireworks celebration will lead to Wuhan coronavirus super-spreader events, while failing to hysterically claim the same as thousands attend riots and protests without following scientific guidelines from the “experts.”



Trump blasts 'far-left fascism' at Mount Rushmore

Keystone, South Dakota: US President Donald Trump has delivered a speech against a "new far-left fascism" seeking to wipe out the nation's values and history.

Speaking underneath a famed landmark that depicts four US presidents, Trump railed against "angry mobs" that tried to tear down statues of Confederate leaders and other historical figures, warning thousands of supporters at Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota, that protesters were trying to erase history.

He warned the demonstrations over racial inequality in American society threatened the foundations of the US political system.  "Make no mistake, this left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American revolution," Trump said.

"Our children are taught in school to hate their own country," he claimed.

"There is a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance. If you do not speak its language, perform its rituals, recite its mantras, and follow its commandments then you will be censored, banished, blacklisted, persecuted, and punished. Not gonna happen to us," he said.

The event at the start of the Fourth of July weekend, drew an estimated 7500 people packed tightly into an amphitheatre beneath the iconic landmark that depicts the images of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Masks were offered to attendees but many did not wear them.

Trump barely mentioned the pandemic, even as the country surpassed 53,000 new cases of the coronavirus in 24 hours and health officials urged Americans to scale back their Fourth of July plans. Seven states posted a record number of new cases on Friday. Almost a quarter of the known global deaths have now occurred in the United States – nearly 129,000.

Instead, according to The New York Times, the President "leaned into the culture wars that invigorate his base of supporters". Railing against what he described as a dangerous "cancel culture", Trump said the left wanted to "unleash a wave of violent crime" in cities across the country. He said they "think the American people are weak and soft and submissive." In contrast, "he framed himself as the leader who would protect the Second Amendment, law enforcement, and the country's heritage", The Times wrote.

Mount Rushmore has not hosted a fireworks spectacle since 2009 because of environmental concerns. Trump advocated for a resumption of the display, and the state says the surrounding Black Hills National Forest has "gained strength" since then and that fireworks technology has advanced.

South Dakota, a solidly Republican state, has not been hit as hard as other states by COVID-19, but cases in Pennington County, where Mount Rushmore is located, have more than doubled over the past month.



Liberalism Is Dangerous to Your Wallet and Your Health
The most recent jobs report found that nine of the 10 states with unemployment rates above 14% are in liberal blue states. Ranked from highest to lowest, they are Nevada (25.3%), Hawaii (22.6%), Michigan (21.2%), California (16.3%), Rhode Island (16.3%), Massachusetts (16.3%), Delaware (15.8%), Illinois (15.2%), New Jersey (15.2%) and Washington state (15.1%). I call this the “blue-state jobs depression.” The states with the lowest unemployment rates are all conservative red states: Nebraska (5.2%), Utah (8.5 %), Wyoming 8.8%, Arizona (8.9%) and Idaho (8.9%).

It is hardly shocking news. Liberals are anti-business, and their policies are especially hostile to small businesses. As my old boss, former Rep. Dick Armey of Texas, used to say, liberals love jobs but hate employers. Democratic governors had the strictest economic lockdowns, and they let their businesses burn and get looted during the riots. They raise taxes and protect the unions over the general welfare of the citizens.

The meltdown of blue-state America isn’t new. It has been going on for at least three decades. Over the last five, 10, 20 or 30 years, red states with low taxes have created double the percentage of jobs than blue states with high taxes.

So, liberalism is bad for your wallets and the overall economy. Voters get this. Polling shows that even people who don’t like President Donald Trump agree that he would be better for jobs and the economy than Joe Biden.

But the standard reply from the media and the liberal academics is that blue-state policies keep us safer and healthier. Those greedy free marketeers put greed and corporate profits over saving lives.

It is a false narrative: Nearly everyone agrees that saving lives during a pandemic must be a top policy priority. The question is, how do you keep people safe? Well, we now know that lockdowns didn’t keep us safer. The states that never locked down, such as Wyoming, had the lowest death rates as a share of the population. The states with the strictest lockdown policies, including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Michigan, had death rates three to eight times the national average. All of those states, except for Massachusetts, have Democratic governors.

To put it simply: People who live in blue states were more than twice as likely to die from the coronavirus as those who reside in blue states. Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York recently declared that he wants to keep New Yorkers safe by preventing Floridians from entering the Empire State. Is he joking? New York’s death rate from COVID-19 is 10 times higher than Florida’s. It would be like Mexico telling Americans at the border, “We aren’t going to let you in.”

New cases are rising in red states that have opened up for business faster than in blue states that have remained mostly closed. And we will have to see how this pans out. But the deaths, especially in nursing homes, remain much higher in the blue states. Moreover, studies are now finding that the adverse health effects from the lockdown (suicide, delayed treatments for cancer and heart problems, depression, spousal and child abuse, alcoholism, and drug overdoses, to name a few) could easily match the saved lives from lockdowns. These “lockdown deaths” are far more prevalent in blue states that shut down.

Also, if you want a safe and crime-free environment for your family, consider the Heritage Foundation analysis that reported that 18 of the 20 most dangerous cities are run by mayors who are Democrats.

So, congratulations to Govs. Andrew Cuomo of New York, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and J.B. Pritzker of Illinois. You rank last on jobs and health. And to think that the media herald them as the superstar leaders in America.



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.

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Sunday, July 05, 2020

Big Pharma is RICH

Drug companies are a huge hate-object for the Left. Because they appear to be big and rich and successful, that alone  provokes hatred in the enviers of the Left.  Add to that the high prices of some drugs and it is clear to the Left that the drug companies are "ripping off" the rest of us.

But are they?  Conservatives point to the huge costs of drug development and the consequent huge losses when the drug is not a success.  So the profitability of drug companies generally is not at all clear.  Big profits are accompanied by big losses.

Fortunately, we now have an attempt at real information on the subject.  An article has recently appeared in JAMA that sets out to answer the question objectively. It is "Profitability of Large Pharmaceutical Companies Compared With Other Large Public Companies" by Ledley et al.  An excerpt:

Question:  How do the profits of large pharmaceutical companies compare with those of other companies from the S&P 500 Index?

Findings:  In this cross-sectional study that compared the profits of 35 large pharmaceutical companies with those of 357 large, nonpharmaceutical companies from 2000 to 2018, the median net income (earnings) expressed as a fraction of revenue was significantly greater for pharmaceutical companies compared with nonpharmaceutical companies (13.8% vs 7.7%).

Meaning:  Large pharmaceutical companies were more profitable than other large companies, although the difference was smaller when controlling for differences in company size, research and development expense, and time trends.

So that's it.  Open and shut.  The left have some justification for their views.  But only superficially. The methodology of the study is very poor.  Why compare 35 companies with 357?  Many of that 357 would have been much smaller than the pharma companies.  So you are not comparing like with like. Large companies would normally have some degree of monopoly in their markets, which makes them more profitable than smaller companies.  A more defensible method would have been to pick 35 companies in each sector with comparable market capitalization and compare them in profitability.

But the problems do not end there. Drugs are a very risky business.  You can spend a billion dollars getting a drug approved only to find that a few deaths have been attributed to the drug.  The deaths will most likely to have been coincidences but publc pressure will cause the drug to be taken off the market -- leaving the company in a ditch.

And there is normally a return to risk.  People normally do risky things only if the reward is great.  So a valid comparison to a drug company would need to be with other risky businesses.  But that was not done in this case.  So it seems likely that the higher profits made by drug companies are simply payment for risk taking.  There is nothing unfair about their profits.  Their profits are what is needed to encourage innovation.  Remove that profit and you will see few if any new drugs.  Such profits are needed to get people into drug research and development.


Scotland could eliminate the coronavirus – if it weren't for England

SCOTLAND is only weeks away from suppressing the coronavirus altogether, a situation that highlights the different approaches taken by the nation and England in recent months. While Scotland initially made many of the same mistakes as England, since late March, its government has acted on its own scientific advice.

The two nations responded to the coronavirus similarly from January and up until March, says Devi Sridhar at the University of Edinburgh. “There are a couple of things where Scotland’s gone slightly earlier, but not radically.”

One early Scottish success came in community testing for the disease. When Kate Mark at the National Health Service Lothian in Edinburgh realised that suspected cases were increasing, her team began testing people in their homes and set up one of the world’s first drive-through testing centres. But on 12 March, the UK government abandoned all community testing efforts to focus on testing in hospitals and other healthcare settings, due to a lack of resources. From then on, the disease spread fast until, on 23 March, prime minister Boris Johnson announced a lockdown across the UK.

This wasn’t soon enough to prevent waves of deaths in care homes in Scotland and England. In both nations, protecting social care had been deprioritised in favour of healthcare. When Scotland began collecting data on covid-19 in care homes on 11 April, 37 per cent of homes were already infected, according to a report co-authored by David Henderson at Edinburgh Napier University. “In certain weeks, there was a 300 per cent increase in care home deaths in England, and 200 per cent in Scotland,” he says. “We could say we were slightly better, but I wouldn’t say a 200 per cent increase in deaths is something to shout about.”

Then the paths taken by Scotland and England began to diverge. Two days after the national lockdown began, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon created a scientific advisory group for Scotland to supplement the advice from the UK-wide Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies. “That’s probably when you started seeing more divergence,” says Sridhar.

Scotland has been slower to relax lockdown than England and has done so in a step-by-step way, so that each change’s effects can be measured. This differs from England’s rapid relaxation, says Sridhar.

Scotland has also been more successful at building up testing and contact tracing, without banking on the UK government’s much-delayed app. “We’ve stuck to our principles of old-fashioned, traditional, evidence-based contact tracing,” says Mark.

Two other factors have contributed to Scotland’s relative success, says Sridhar. The first is clear messaging. On 10 May, the UK government changed its “stay at home” slogan to “stay alert”, but Scotland stuck to the original line. It has since switched to “stay safe”.

What’s more, “there is a very high level of trust in the Scottish government and in Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership”, says Sridhar. According to YouGov, as of 1 May, 74 per cent of Scottish people approved of their government’s handling of the pandemic and 71 per cent were confident in Nicola Sturgeon’s decisions. In contrast, a June poll found that 50 per cent of British people disapproved of Johnson and only 43 per cent approved of him.

On 29 June, Scotland reported just 5 new cases, out of 815 for the UK as a whole, and announced no new covid-19-related deaths for the fourth day in a row. The nation could soon have days with no new confirmed cases. “Scotland’s weeks away from that,” says Sridhar. “England’s months away.”

Yet in practice, Scotland is unlikely to achieve full elimination in the near future, because it has a 154-kilometre border with England. “Many people cross that border every day,” says Sridhar. “I think we will probably never get, without England’s cooperation, to full elimination.”

On 29 June, Sturgeon said that there are “no plans” to quarantine people who enter Scotland from other parts of the UK, but that the nation would need to “be able to consider all options” to stop the virus bouncing back if infection rates are different elsewhere in the country.

However, it should be possible for Scotland to keep the number of new cases very low – and perhaps encourage England to follow suit.



The first drug shown to save lives from coronavirus: Dexamethasone

Trump was right

Dexamethasone is the first medicine shown to reduce deaths from covid-19. It belongs to a class of drugs called steroids, which damp down the immune system. Our immune response is normally what saves us from attack by viruses and bacteria, but in people with severe covid-19, it seems to overreact. Immune cells congregate in the lungs, releasing high levels of immune signalling chemicals called cytokines, which attract yet more immune cells, in a vicious circle known as a cytokine storm. This leads to excessive inflammation in the lungs, with fluid leaking into the air spaces, hindering intake of oxygen.

Steroid drugs like dexamethasone are often used to treat other diseases caused by an overreactive immune system, like allergies, and have also been used previously to treat people in intensive care with lung inflammation. But steroids reduce the immune system’s ability to fight bacteria, so it was unclear if they would be beneficial overall in covid-19, where there is a risk that patients develop secondary bacterial infections.

The answer came from a large randomised trial of giving dexamethasone or placebo to people with severe covid-19 in the UK. In people who were on ventilators, 41 per cent of those who got the placebo died, while 29 per cent of those who got the steroid died. This is a relatively large effect, compared with drug treatments for other diseases. There was also a smaller survival advantage in people who were less severely ill and needed supplementary oxygen but weren’t on a ventilator.

People outside of hospital should not start taking dexamethasone or other steroids on their own initiative, though, because the negative effects on the immune system might outweigh any benefits. In fact, the UK trial found dexamethasone gave no survival benefit for hospital patients with covid-19 who were not sick enough to need extra oxygen.

Dexamethasone is not the first medicine shown to help against covid-19. That title goes to remdesivir, a drug that blocks viral replication. However remdesivir has only been shown to hasten recovery, not lower the death rate, so the dexamethasone trial results are seen as a significant milestone on the road to treating coronavirus.



4.8 Million Jobs, the USMCA, and the 2020 Election

Democrats and their Leftmedia publicists really do not want the American economy to improve — at least not until Joe Biden (or his running mate in his stead) is ensconced in the Oval Office on January 20, 2021. Thus even with another record-breaking jobs report, the Associated Press is still playing Eeyore, running this headline earlier this morning: “A predicted surge in US job growth for June might not last.” Gotta keep that skyrocketing consumer confidence tamped down.

Once the incredibly great news exceeded expectations, that headline became a rather pedestrian treatment of it: “US adds 4.8 million jobs as unemployment falls to 11.1%.” Then the AP edited the good news out entirely, leaving only the utterly dour: “US unemployment falls to 11%, but new shutdowns are underway.”

In a sense, the pessimism is understandable. “The nation has now recovered roughly one-third of the 22 million jobs it lost to the pandemic recession,” the AP reports, while noting that spiking coronavirus cases and moves to reshutter some businesses will indeed stall a recovery. The economy is certainly not out of the proverbial woods yet, and if governors insist on closing businesses again rather than taking other mitigating efforts, we may collectively take one step forward and two steps back.

Enter President Donald Trump and the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which took effect yesterday. As we have noted before, the USMCA serves to keep one of Trump’s campaign promises by improving trade relations with Canada and Mexico. The USMCA is not quite the wholesale replacement of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), as the president often claims. Nor was NAFTA a “disaster” or the “worst trade deal ever made,” as he decries. But the USMCA is a general improvement and modernization of the 1994 deal that should help create more American jobs.

“The USMCA is a big deal,” says Reason’s Eric Boehm. “Canada and Mexico are the top recipients of U.S. exports. The United States imports more goods from those two countries than anywhere else except China. The deal will affect more than $1 trillion in annual trade between the U.S. and its two neighbors.”

And as Trump declared, “Manufacturing looks like it’s ready to take off to a level that it’s never been. A lot of that has to do with our trade policy, because we’re bringing manufacturing back to our country.” He has made that a priority like few recent presidents, and, broadly speaking, his economic and regulatory policies deserve credit for why our economy was able to sustain the body blow of the coronavirus pandemic.

In any case, the economic choice this November is clear. One party wants to prolong and deepen a recession and then tax, spend, and regulate our way out of it. The president and his party, by contrast, want to keep America great by preserving lower taxes, less regulation, and Liberty itself.



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