Saturday, August 01, 2020

A revived blog

I ceased posting to my Food and Health Skeptic blog in 2014, after 8 years of punching holes in all sorts of claims about things that do you good or harm you.  I was usually able to show that almost all the claims were "not proven", to use the old Scottish verdict.

The holes that I pointed to in the evidence offered were however very repetitious -- so much so that I felt that just reading my past posts would armour people against accepting the latest folly.

It is clear however that the follies continue so I thought I might take a small step back and post again -- not daily this time but weekly.  I will write something to appear each Saturday.

I hope past fans of the blog will return and maybe I will get some new readers too.

John Ray

Friday, July 31, 2020

Sweden’s Actual COVID-19 Results Compared to What Modelers Predicted in April

At a press conference last week, Anders Tegnell said a massive decline in new COVID-19 cases shows Sweden’s “lighter touch” strategy is doing what it was designed to do.

“It really is yet another sign that the Swedish strategy is working,” Tegnell, Sweden’s top epidemiologist, said. “It is possible to slow contagion fast with the measures we are taking in Sweden.”

Unlike most nations in the world, Sweden avoided a hard lockdown. The nation of 10 million people instead opted for a strategy that sought to encourage social distancing through public information, cooperation, and individual responsibility. Restaurants, bars, public pools, libraries, and most schools remained open with certain capacity limits.

Sweden’s decision to forego lockdowns brought a barrage of scrutiny and criticism. Its approach was described as a “cautionary tale” by The New York Times.

But as I’ve pointed out, the criticism stemmed less from the results of Sweden’s experiment than the nature of the experiment. There are ample examples of nations (and US states) that have suffered far more from COVID-19 than Sweden even though these countries (and states) initiated hard lockdowns requiring citizens to shelter at home.

Perhaps the best way to measure the success of Sweden’s policies is to compare the outcome models predicted to the actual results.

On May 10, Dagens Nyheter—Sweden’s biggest daily newspaper—analyzed a pair of models inspired by the Imperial College of London study, which predicted as many as 40 million people could die if the coronavirus was left unchecked. The models predicted that Sweden's ICUs (intensive care units) would expire before May and nearly 100,000 people would die from COVID-19 by July.

“Our model predicts that, using median infection-fatality-rate estimates, at least 96,000 deaths would occur by 1 July without mitigation,” the authors wrote.

It’s a frightening prediction. And perhaps that was the point.

As Johan Norberg pointed out in The Spectator back in May, these models were used by critics of Sweden’s strategy to show its healthcare system would collapse if it did not “make a U-turn into lockdown” similar to the United Kingdom.

Well, we’re nearly through July. So how do the predictions stack up against the results?

Total COVID-19 deaths in Sweden stand at 5,700, nearly 90,000 less than modelers predicted. Hospitals were never overrun. Daily deaths in Sweden have slowed to a crawl. The health agency reports no new ICU admissions.

As the chart above shows, modelers weren’t just wrong. They weren’t even remotely close.

How did the experts get it so wrong? There are many reasons, of course, including the fact that COVID-19 isn’t as deadly as modelers originally feared. The simplest answer, however, is that modelers overlooked a basic reality: humans spontaneously alter their behavior during pandemics.

This should not be a surprise. Humans are intelligent, instinctive, and self-preserving creatures who will seek to avoid high-risk behavior. The natural law of spontaneous order shows that humans naturally adapt their behavior when circumstances warrant it. (In his 1988 book The Fatal Conceit, the economist F.A. Hayek described this process as “the least appreciated facet of human evolution.”)

Scientific evidence, as it relates to the current pandemic, bears out this economic idea. Research shows that in the US, workplaces and consumers changed their travel patterns before governments began issuing stay-at-home orders. In other words, without being ordered or even instructed, tens of millions of Americans were already adapting their behavior to the unknown threat of COVID-19.

A similar experience took place in Sweden, where foot traffic and train traffic were sharply reduced without draconian orders and penalties.

“We actually made a comparison to our Nordic neighbors, and the Swedish travel patterns have changed just as much as our Nordic neighbors, in spite of them having much more legal lockdowns than we have,” Tegnell said in a May interview.

The Swedish experience is important. As Phil Magness has noted at AIER, Sweden’s success suggests the presumed risks and benefits of lockdowns were largely a fiction.

“[T]he assumed benefits of a more severe lockdown policy appear to have been greatly exaggerated,” Magness wrote. “The assumed risks of the milder course adopted by the Swedish government appear to have been similarly inflated. And the overall death toll of the baseline ‘do nothing’ scenario appears to have little grounding in reality.”

One might argue that caution was warranted given the unknown threat of COVID-19. This argument is less persuasive when the costs of the lockdowns—a looming global recession, hundreds of millions of jobs lost, millions of businesses shuttered, historic social unrest, surging extreme poverty, and widespread health deterioration—are taken into account.

Fortunately, it’s not too late to learn from our mistakes. First, however, we must acknowledge them.



Yesteryear's Propagandist Is Today's 'Journalist'

The Left has long glorified and lionized journalists as the nation’s cultural truth-tellers. Starting with the muckrakers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, however, came the rise of the activist journalist. This type of person sees the role of journalist as not merely that of accurately informing the public of news, but also that of cultural reformer. To be fair, the journalists of yesteryear believed in the power of the truth to bring about reform and a more justice society, but they had nothing on today’s activists.

Somewhere along the way, these activist journalists lost faith in the power of truth to evoke the kind of progressive reforms to society they believed in. Therefore, they increasingly aim to direct and limit what information is reported.

Fast forward to today’s news media and it becomes patently clear that this activist journalism has produced anti-journalism.

As National Review’s Jim Geraghty observes, “Major institutions of American journalism have decided that certain viewpoints must not be expressed within their pages, and certain factions and narratives must not be questioned, challenged, or opposed. Certain arguments must not be heard, certain supporting evidence must not be examined; certain ideas are simply too dangerous or malevolent to be brought to a wider audience. We are instructed that the very expression of them in any form makes certain staffers ‘feel unsafe’ and thus must be treated as akin to a physical assault.”

Geraghty continues, “This is not the pursuit of knowledge; this is the avoidance of knowledge. This is not curiosity; this is an ironclad certainty that everything that is needed to be known about any given subject is already known. This is not informing the audience about what is going on in the world; this is making sure they don’t hear what is going on in the world, because it might run counter to a preferred narrative.”

So committed are today’s mainstream journalists to seeing society transformed into their idealized leftist utopia that they will ignore or downplay any news that fails to support their biased political and cultural views.

David Burge joked a few years back, “Journalism is about covering important stories. With a pillow, until they stop moving.” Today’s “journalism” also means weaving false narratives that advance the leftist agenda. Again, that’s not journalism; it’s anti-journalism.



Here's one fearless woman's story of government oppression and media malpractice

Every once in a while, we stumble onto a story that sticks with us — a story whose component parts seem so outrageous as to be fictional but whose description of raw Big Brotherly power being used against a single law-abiding citizen makes us fear for our republic.

You’ve likely never heard of Catherine Engelbrecht, and that’s understandable; she hasn’t been in the news in years. But as then-National Review’s Jillian Kay Melchior wrote back in 2013, “Catherine Engelbrecht’s tale has all the markings of a classic conspiracy theory: She says she thinks that because of her peaceful political activity, she and her family were targeted for scrutiny by hostile federal agencies. Yet as news emerges that the Internal Revenue Service wielded its power to obstruct conservative groups, Catherine’s story becomes credible — and chilling. It also raises questions about whether other federal agencies have used their executive powers to target those deemed political enemies.”

Melchior then chronicles this law-abiding Patriot’s ordeal from her founding of an election-integrity organization called True the Vote to her years-long harassment through a series of menacing and punitive visits from various agencies of the Obama administration.

Engelbrecht’s story is one of toughness, though — and ultimately of vindication. As the True the Vote website notes, the organization won a legal victory just last year against the IRS for its unconstitutional discrimination and unethical behavior. “This decision marks the end of a nearly decade long battle that first began in 2010, when federal government agencies including the IRS, DOJ, FBI, ATF, OSHA weaponized against True the Vote and its founder, Catherine Engelbrecht. Under Obama Administration leadership, the agencies leveled a barrage of attacks, including twenty-three audits, investigations, and inquiries, against the group in an attempt to stop their work in election integrity.”

From the beginning until her legal victory, Engelbrecht never wavered. “I testified before Congress and swore that I would never retreat or surrender,” she said. “Today I have fulfilled that oath. Thank you to all the citizens across the country who stood steadfastly beside us. We could not have done it without your support.”

Aside from serving as a cautionary tale of raw government power run amok, Engelbrecht’s story puts the lie to the laughable myth of the “scandal-free” Obama-Biden years. Not that she needed any help. As Kevin Williamson and Victor Davis Hanson (among others) have pointed out, that claim didn’t age well. We now know, beyond any doubt, that those eight years reeked of scandal.

Just imagine the media uproar, for example, if Donald Trump had snubbed and stonewalled the nation’s independent inspectors general the way his predecessor did.

“There is nothing left of the Obama creed of the ‘most scandal-free’ administrant in memory,” wrote VDH. “Before the collusion/obstruction hoax, the Horowitz report, the failed Mueller investigation, and the release of classified information, the public knew well of Fast and Furious, the data surveillance of the AP reporters, the GSA and VA messes, the weaponization of the IRS, the Benghazi mythologies, the Bowe Bergdahl swap, and the echo-chamber silence about the hidden details of the Iran deal. Each time Susan Rice was wheeled out to swear the truth, the public assumed it was a lie. The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Perhaps worse than all that documented malfeasance, though, was the media’s abdication of its traditional watchdog role. By continually and willfully looking the other way, by failing to hold the Obama-Biden administration to account, the vaunted Fourth Estate failed miserably to protect the Catherine Engelbrechts of the world.

And that’s the sorriest scandal of all.




Six big takeaways from the attorney general's Capitol Hill testimony (The Daily Signal)

Hidin' Biden hits Trump's "law and order" message: He's trying to "scare the devil" out of people (The Hill)

Declassified Senate report details "bitter argument" between CIA and FBI over bogus Steele dossier (The Daily Caller)

NFL to transform fields, player helmets into Black Lives Matter billboards (The Federalist)

Black leaders in Portland criticize violent protesters (The Washington Free Beacon)

Twenty-eight states issue warnings about residents receiving unsolicited seed packets from China (NBC News)

Scientists get closer to blood test for Alzheimer's disease (AP)

EU levels sanctions over Hong Kong security law, inching toward tough U.S. stance on China (The Wall Street Journal)

New Zealand suspends extradition treaty with Hong Kong (Reuters)

Vatican computers hacked in Chinese espionage effort (Washington Examiner)

Chicago deputy police chief dead in apparent suicide soon after promotion (Fox News)

Policy: Why Marxist organizations like BLM seek to dismantle the nuclear family (Mises Institute)

Policy: The Federal Reserve is both too politicized and too powerful (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


Thursday, July 30, 2020

Coronavirus: Hospital breakthrough removes the fear factor

A story of globally significant medical ingenuity has emerged from the rubble of Australia’s ­second coronavirus wave, as doctors and nurses use a local invention to better treat patients and protect staff.

Western Health and Melbourne University this year helped create a world-leading ventilation hood that is placed over victims, with the twin benefit of protecting staff and improving treatments.

Associate professor Forbes McGain has received the results of an initial study into the effectiveness of the hood, which is designed to contain the droplet spread of the coronavirus.

Dr McGain, who works for Western Health, said the study feedback from the first 20 patients had been “overwhelmingly positive”.

Many thousands of healthcare workers globally have been infected with COVID-19 while trying to save the lives of the sick and dying.

The ventilation hood separates medical staff from the patient without losing line of sight and contains the droplets.

For Dr McGain, an intensive care specialist at Melbourne’s Sunshine Hospital, the first obvious benefit is in the wellbeing of nurses and doctors. “The nurses in particular feel safe,” he said.

“That’s the most important thing for the hood. The nurses aren’t as worried nursing and caring for quite unwell patients.”

The hood, which effectively creates a bubble around the ­patient, also enables staff to provide less invasive therapies and improved interaction with those being treated.

Some 17 of the hoods are being used in Victoria as the medical world starts to struggle with the increasing load of the virus.

There is rising interest in the device from other hospitals and it has presented as a significant opportunity for local manufacturing and potential global exports.

The ventilation sucks air away from the patient but restricts the flow of droplets, with the hood acting as a barrier. It also enables other intensive care machines to function without compromising the safety of the staff.

The project was made possible with the support of Melbourne University’s School of Engineering, led by professor Jason Monty.

“We only have 17 of these hoods at the moment but more can be made,” Dr McGain said. “There is an opportunity for expansion with local manufacturing.”

There are 32 coronavirus inpatients at Sunshine Hospital with four in intensive care.

Western Health research nurse manager Sam Bates said the presence of the ventilation hoods was embraced by staff: “They are just so excited to see it.”



Short-Term Insurance Is Not The Problem. It’s The Solution

Republicans are in court trying to abolish Obamacare. Democrats in Congress are trying to abolish something called short-term, limited-benefit insurance.

Both types of insurance are meeting important family needs. With a huge number of people potentially losing employer coverage, an alternative in the individual market has never been more important. Yet neither party has a replacement in mind to meet those same needs in better ways.

Let’s take the Democrats first. Their target, the short-term plan, is less well-known and the market for it is growing while the Obamacare market is shrinking.

Congressional Democrats say short-term plans “are a bad deal for consumers.”

Yet last year alone, the market for them grew by 27 percent – providing 600,000 new customers a better deal than they could find anywhere else. And that occurred at the same time that the non-subsidized market in the Obamacare exchanges was in free fall.

So what is short-term insurance and why do so many people find it attractive?

The basic product has been around for many years. The reason for the phrase “short-term” is that it traditionally lasted for only 12 months and served as a bridge for people transitioning from a family policy to school, or from school to work, or from job to job.

There are three important things to know about it.

First, it is largely unregulated. Obamacare-mandated benefits, for example, don’t apply; and most state regulations don’t apply either. That means these plans don’t have to cover maternity care or substance abuse. Many of them don’t even cover prescription drugs. The Obamacare prohibition on discrimination based on health status also doesn’t apply. The plans can and do ask health questions. They exclude people with expensive chronic conditions.

Precisely because these plans avoid cost-increasing regulations and they only need to cover risks healthy people care about, they often sell for one-third the price of Obamacare insurance. They also typically have lower deductibles and broader provider networks.

This is ideal insurance for a healthy person with no chronic illness who wants transition coverage in case an auto accident or some other misfortune creates medical expenses during a transition period. It is not good insurance for a chronically ill patient who needs expensive drug therapy.

The second thing to know is that the Obama administration viewed these plans as a threat. Summarized in a single sentence, Obamacare is an elaborate system designed to force healthy people with no medical needs to pay high premiums in order to subsidize the coverage of relatively sick people with lots of needs.

That whole system falls apart, however, if the healthy can escape to some other market and buy insurance tailored just for them. So, President Obama used his regulatory authority (in a move never approved by Congress) to restrict short- term coverage to three months, with no renewal after that.

One of the most important things Donald Trump did was to reverse that restriction. Under a Trump administration ruling, short-term insurance can now last up to 12 months and it can be renewed for up to three years.

That has been a godsend for thousands of people who don’t get Obamacare subsidies. In the individual market, they have seen their premiums double, their deductibles triple and their access to the best doctors and hospitals denied. Trump has given them a better option.

That said, the typical plan in the short-term market today looks pretty much like short-term insurance has always looked. But that may change because of the third thing you need to know.

The Trump executive order went out of its way to sanction a separate type of insurance, what I call “change-of-health-status insurance,” to bridge the gap between the three-year periods. Say you are in a short-term plan and you get cancer. At the end of a three-year period you are likely to be rejected if you try to buy insurance for another three-year period. And if not rejected, you might be charged a much higher premium because of your health condition.

Health-status insurance protects you against these bad outcomes. It pays any extra cost that arises because of a change in your medical condition, leaving you free to pay the same premium a healthy person would pay.

By stringing together these two types of insurance, we now have the possibility of a market that healthy people can buy into and that is guaranteed to be renewable (regardless of health condition) indefinitely into the future. Going forward, expect to see insurance companies enter this market, which looks very much like traditional Blue Cross insurance before there was Obamacare – with reasonable premiums and a full menu of benefits. It will be the closest thing we have ever had to genuine free market health insurance.

Surprisingly, the very thing that will make this transition easy is the existence of Obamacare. Democrats complain that today’s short-term plans don’t cover services people might need.  “What if you get sick and need expensive drugs?” they might ask. The answer is: you drop your short-term plan and enroll in an Obamacare plan.

The Obamacare exchanges are serving as an ongoing safety net. They are similar in some respects to the risk pools that states maintained before there was Obamacare. They are available to those who buy their own insurance and can’t get their medical needs met in some other way.

And this is why the GOP might want to rethink its goal of abolishing Obamacare completely.

Obamacare has one design feature Republicans should like. It provides tax subsidies that enable people to buy private insurance. That was the core idea behind John McCain’s health plan in the 2008 election. It also is a core idea behind other Republican reform plans.

The reason why Obamacare looks like a Rube Goldberg contraption is that it is a market designed by Democrats who don’t believe in markets. It is funded by tax credits designed by Democrats who don’t believe in tax credits. It tries to force young, healthy families to buy the wrong kind of insurance and overcharges them in the process. It over-subsidizes lower-income families who are healthy and under-subsidizes middle-income families with real medical needs.

Here is the way out:

1.   Let the short-term market continue developing into a largely unregulated market for real health insurance.

2.   Provide the same tax credit to everyone, regardless of which market they buy insurance from.

3.   Let the Obamacare market serve as quasi-risk pool insurance and keep the premiums reasonable with subsidies paid for by taxpayers generally.

4.   To keep Obamacare costs under control, encourage ”focused factories” –health plans that focus on specific serious health conditions such as cancer and diabetes – and thus encourage competition in chronic care.

By following these suggestions, members of both political parties could be far more productive than continuing their efforts to abolish insurance they don’t like.



The Liberal Media Thinks You're Too Dumb to See the Riots For What They Are

Are we living in a quasi-Oceanic state? Are we living in the United States or a place more resembling Airstrip One? Okay, maybe not that far, but the liberal media’s refusal to utilize the English language to describe what is happening on the Left Coast is troubling. Is it shocking? Not really, but disconcerting all the same.

While most of the country has moved on from rioting in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis Police on May 25, there are small pockets where these clowns have simply not gone home. Most of it is occurring in the usual places, California, Portland, and Seattle. These leftists are still there because it’s not about George Floyd, which unleashed a new wave of Black Lives Matter activism and political correctness policing. Oh, and it also set forth a renewed push to…eliminate all law enforcement, but that’s a tale for another time.

It’s no longer about police brutality or racial justice. That’s over. That was never the message with the folks still rioting. It’s about the Marxist revolution. The Floyd protests were merely a means to mobilize—and now they’re trying to torch federal buildings. Black Lives Matter has, in some areas, been overtaken by insufferable white liberals, which I was told is problematic in nature. This assault on order is what prompted President Trump to initiate Operation Legend, the deployment of federal troops in these lawless Democrat-run regions with the intention of restoring law and order and protecting federal property.

Of course, this set off a frenzy with the liberal media morons, who thought this was either a prelude to martial law or a test run to Trump stealing the upcoming presidential election. Trump derangement has hit a new stage in evolution. We have an entire industry that is helmed by idiots. And they’ve created a new language, a new code for reporting on these riots that defies logic. Take this tweet from ABC News, for example.

“Protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified.”

Say what? They were aggregating an Associated Press piece, but dear Lord—what in the fresh hell is this? In this new era of journalism, when people set fires, it means the “peaceful” protest only got…more serene? No. It’s a riot, which means law enforcement should deploy all means available to crush these vermin. It means break out the rubber bullets, the tear gas canisters, the flashbangs, the water hoses, anything to put this mob down. Now, some locations, like Seattle, tried to ban the use of crowd control munitions, which was blessedly blocked by a judge.

These aren’t soccer moms. These aren’t good people. These are unhinged, violent left-wing revolutionaries. And for some reason, setting fires to buildings and attacking police is okay because “orange man…bad.” The media refuses to put pressure on left-wingers for their illegal behavior, plus their unshakeable list for revolution is a toxic combination. It didn’t have to be this way. If Democrats could govern, it wouldn’t be this way. These governors and local leaders might as well be sixth graders. Trump is literally dealing with children, and it only gets worse concerning the media.

Is their bias so great that they’re now incapable of calling what things are now? Maybe we saw glimpses of this during the Obama era, the inability from those on the Left to call something for what it was because it might make them look bad. When Putin rolled into Ukraine and annexed Crimea, it wasn’t called an “invasion.” It was called an “uncontested arrival.”

Now, it’s “protestors” attack police, shine lasers into federal agents’ eyes to blind them, set fires to federal buildings, and commit mass looting as “peaceful” demonstration intensified. And folks, it’s not just members of the media, as even some liberals appear to have succumbed to abject cognitive dissonance.

 Forget COVID—is this the new normal? What’s next, some long-form piece about how killing is not murder?



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 29, 2020

Why the Black Lives Matter protest is dangerous

By Australian immunologist John Dwyer.  His comments are about Australia but they are equally applicable to the USA

The vast majority of people infected with COVID-19 met the virus while in close physical proximity to an infectious individual for an extended period of time. Prolonged exposure not only results in a much greater chance of being infected; it makes it likely one will be infected by a lot of virus – "high viral load" – which will be a major factor in determining the clinical consequences.

This reality is not being given sufficient emphasis in our mitigation strategies.

As we attempt to tame this epidemic it is crucial that we not only practise social distancing but also focus on minimising occasions when we are close to fellow citizens for a prolonged period of time, a strategy we might call "social brevity".

Remember our local experience of one infected individual attending a wedding reception with 35 others, all of whom went home infected.

No matter how laudable the cause of yesterday’s planned Black Lives Matter protest in Sydney, it was ridiculous to even contemplate having a gathering which 1500 people had indicated on Facebook they would attend – even if wearing masks – to give voice (and potentially virus) to their shared concerns for a prolonged period.

While the organisers had pledged to divide into legal groups of no more than 20, how feasible might that have been? As it turned out, only 40 turned out for the rally, which was abandoned when its leader and others were arrested. But it shouldn't have come to that.

What irony that a protest about the need to save lives could be responsible for the loss of lives. It’s disturbing that after all these months of struggle to contain COVID infections, the organisers were defying a court order not to proceed.

As we have seen in Melbourne, a single carrier can set off a tidal wave of infections. Prolonged exposure to COVID carriers results in clusters of infection as we have seen in meat-packing plants, nursing homes, cramped housing estates and, increasingly notable, hospital settings.

More than 700 Australian health professionals caring for COVID patients have been infected. In the Italian crisis more than 100 previously healthy and often young doctors died as they were constantly exposed to huge numbers of infected individuals over many weeks.

Now, you might get infected making you way around a crowed supermarket. You might pick up COVID from a solid surface or meet it in air exhaled by a fellow shopper, but the risk is low. To avoid the greater risks, we have to extend our thinking to social brevity.

Religious services, choirs, funerals, parties, hotels where drinking while standing in groups is allowed, public transport and the normal daily routines in nursing homes all create dangerous opportunities for infection.

The data also highlight how important are opportunities to work at home. We need to pay special attention to the working conditions associated with "essential services". We have had clusters of infection on construction sites and in factories. Industry experts should be working with government health authorities to devise the best possible protective gear and arrangements for workers in such industries.

The recent outbreak of infections in Victoria clearly illustrates how quickly we can see a reassuringly low rate of new infections explode to produce so many new infections that our best efforts at contact tracing are unable to arrest the exponential increase in cases.

In NSW we are understandably nervous that our currently manageable numbers of new infections could suddenly accelerate.

While vaccine news features much optimism, the data is very preliminary and we are learning from numerous studies that natural infection may not be associated with any long-term immunity.

Too often we hear that COVID infections are only a problem for "oldies". Yet globally they are causing more and more serious clinical consequences for young people (very noticeable in Victoria at the moment), often resulting in chronic illness.

It was of some comfort that the Black Lives Matter protesters had pledged to wear masks, but that would have given them no guarantee. Numerous studies have been performed trying to quantify the value of mask wearing by the general population as a strategy for defeating COVID; the results are mixed. The controversies are well presented on the NSW Department of Health’s COVID website.

The wearing of masks by all citizens, as is currently required of Victorians, needs to be put into an evidence-based perspective. There is no doubt about the effectiveness of masks in reducing the likelihood that an infected individual will infect another.

Of course, individuals with respiratory symptoms should wear a mask as they seek testing and then self-isolate until the results are in. No-one with symptoms should be at large in the community and thinking that a mask will guarantee they are harmless.

The World Health Organisation and America’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the importance of mask wearing by all in situations such as Victoria’s. Certainly the same is true for the likes of Florida and Texas where 25 per cent of those tested are infected, but mask wearing will not provide the panacea that will terminate the COVID epidemic.

Stay-at-home orders will slow the infection rate but our need to "live" with this virus and restore our economy requires us to adapt our normal social interaction to the long-term epidemiological reality we face. That adaptation must address the need for "social brevity" for the foreseeable future.



HHS Acts to Preserve Religious Freedom at Hospitals During Pandemic

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services took two important steps Tuesday to protect religious freedom during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The agency’s Office for Civil Rights announced that patients at hospitals within the University of Maryland Medical System may receive visits by clergy amid the pandemic.

And, the office said, a medical student at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City may follow his religious belief by not shaving his beard despite having to wear a mask. 

“We can protect people’s physical safety and their spiritual and emotional well-being at the same time,” Roger Severino, director of the HHS Office for Civil Rights, said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon. “Those two things are not in tension and when we protect both, we actually protect the mental health as well as the physical health.”

“Religious liberty doesn’t cease to be a fundamental human right during a pandemic,” Ryan T. Anderson, a research fellow specializing in religious liberty at The Heritage Foundation, said in an email to The Daily Signal. “As these HHS resolutions demonstrate, we can combat COVID-19 and respect religious liberty.”

In the case prompting the first decision, Sidney and Susanna Marcus were airlifted to Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly, Maryland, after a motorcycle accident May 25.

Her husband’s injuries were more severe than hers, Susanna Marcus explained on Tuesday’s conference call, placing him in the hospital’s intensive care unit for an extended period.

Susanna Marcus requested that a priest visit her husband because she was “very fearful for his condition,” she said.

She and her husband are Catholic, she said, and “believe that in the sacraments our souls are united to God’s.”

“I needed to know that he had access to that,” she said. “And when I was told that no priests were allowed, I was able to contact HHS and was connected to the best people … and finally Sidney was able to have access to a priest and to the sacrament.” 

The Office for Civil Rights and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services worked with the University of Maryland Medical System to ensure that patients have access to clergy and chaplains during the pandemic, Severino said.

The University of Maryland Medical System updated visitation guidelines for all 13 of its hospitals to allow patients, including those in COVID-19 care units, to receive visits from pastors, priests, or other clergy—provided they wear the appropriate personal protective equipment.

In an email Tuesday night to The Daily Signal, Michael Schwartzberg, media relations director for the University of Maryland Medical System, said:

After we became aware of an issue regarding clergy visitation for a patient who was potentially nearing the end of [his] life, we engaged in extensive discussion with key stakeholders including legal counsel on how to best accommodate situations that require exceptions to our visitation policy while not compromising the safety of others.

We have since amended our policy, with all individuals visiting a COVID-19 positive patient provided a form acknowledging the risk, and will allow clergy visits with adherence to safety protocols.

HHS would like to see other states and hospital systems follow University of Maryland Medical System’s lead, Severino said.

“It’s a tragedy when people are deprived of the ability to have access to their faith practices,” he told reporters.

The Office for Civil Rights also acted to protect the faith practices of the New York City medical student in June, leading to the second announcement Tuesday.

The unnamed student was set to do rotations at Staten Island University Hospital during the summer. Hospital supervisors asked him to shave his beard before getting fitted for an N95 protective mask, but the student explained that he could not do so because of his religious beliefs. He was told he could not return to rotations until he shaved.

The Office for Civil Rights worked with the student and the hospital to find an alternative that “provides greater protection than an N95 mask and would allow for a facial beard,” HHS said in a press release.

Patients and health care providers “have [an] interest in religious freedoms, and both should be accommodated and protected to the extent possible,” Severino said.



Black Privilege in the Media

Several Leftmedia outlets have announced they'll capitalize the "B" in black.

This just in: The Leftmedia is biased. Clearly that’s not news, but what is news is the recent decision by the Associated Press, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other outlets to begin capitalizing the “B” in black when describing people. The “w” in white will remain lowercased, however, to make sure white folks remain properly chastised. “White privilege” indeed.

The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) says “white” should be capitalized as well, and Fox News, CNN, and others say they’ll do so. The white leftists at the AP, Times, and Journal, however, are too busy putting white people in their place to listen to fair-minded black people.

The AP made the change to “B” on Juneteenth but only yesterday announced that “W” would not follow. In reporting on its own decision, the AP noted, “The AP said white people in general have much less shared history and culture, and don’t have the experience of being discriminated against because of skin color.” So the AP is going to discriminate against white people in news coverage to teach them a lesson.

Indeed, John Daniszewski, the AP’s vice president for standards, was almost explicit in saying so: “We agree that white people’s skin color plays into systemic inequalities and injustices, and we want our journalism to robustly explore these problems. But capitalizing the term white, as is done by white supremacists, risks subtly conveying legitimacy to such beliefs.”

Evidently, Daniszewski and his fellow race-baiting cadres believe blacks are incapable of perpetrating inequality, injustice, or supremacy. To assign such sinful human behavior only to whites is, of course, racist. So is making skin pigmentation the defining characteristic these media outlets will highlight — as if all blacks have to think and behave in some uniform fashion, while whites are evidently free to think for themselves. Why can’t Americans be united in our national culture instead of being divided by skin color?

This is all part of the Marxist cultural revolution of identity politics that has swept the country in recent weeks. It includes rebranding food, renaming sports teams, and the redefinition of language itself.

On a final note, let me give you a taste of what this idiocy would look like in my own home. I have three white children and two black children, adopted from Africa. They are African Americans, if you really want to get technical, but that term is even falling out of favor as “Black” sweeps it away. Imagine if I followed these media outlets and not only showed my black kids favoritism but insisted that my white kids — especially that deplorable male one — were privileged, discriminating, and downright evil for being … white.

I’d be a horrible father, a deranged person, and a racist. Yet that sort of racism is exactly what passes for “enlightened” media coverage today. One might almost conclude that the Leftmedia truly is the enemy of the people.




U.S. Supreme Court denies Nevada church's appeal of discriminatory coronavirus restrictions (NBC News)

Hidin' Biden declines Chris Wallace interview (Fox News)

Democratic National Committee platform mentions "whites" 15 times, all of which are critical (Washington Examiner)

Big wins for Bernie Sanders wing in Democrat platform (Washington Examiner)

Economic adviser Larry Kudlow says next coronavirus stimulus bill will include more checks, extend moratorium on evictions (Fox News)

Parking tickets covered by Eighth Amendment's ban on excessive fines, federal court rules (Forbes)

Leftist George Soros pours record $50 million into 2020 election (The Washington Free Beacon)

Seattle police chief sends simple message to businesses during riots: You're on your own (The Daily Caller)

If you thought "defund the police" was insane, you'll love "abolish prisons" in Seattle (PJ Media)

Rifle ammunition, Molotov cocktails found by Portland police on 60th consecutive night of "protests" (Fox News)

Civil rights activists fire back at Portland protesters: It's no longer about black lives (The Daily Wire)

Chicago violence: Two dead, 47 injured in another bloody weekend (Fox News)

Ecstatic teen opens his first-ever paycheck, learns what taxes are, is absolutely crushed (Disrn)


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 27, 2020

28 July, 2020

Where the current craziness began

The arrogance of youth

It has long struck me how the Frankfurt School, a collection of Leftist émigrés from Nazi Germany, could have been so successful in dominating the curriculum of the American university and wielding so massive an influence over following generations of students. Its major figures, Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, and Herbert Marcuse, were the main authors of the political revolution of the 1960s which gradually filtered into the culture to produce the revisionist “narrative” and physical violence we observe all around us today.

The most publically significant spokesperson was Herbert Marcuse, whose One Dimensional Man, Eros and Civilization and his influential, totalitarian-inspired essay “Repressive Tolerance” planted the seeds of political and epistemic subversion in the fertile soil of American academia and, ultimately, in the marl of the cultural and institutional life. Marcuse argued in the essay that we must be “intolerant toward the protagonists of the repressive status quo.” By “status quo,” he meant classical liberal thought with its emphasis on tradition, individual autonomy, civic responsibility, and limited government, which he thought were responsible for deep-rooted social injustice. The narrative he developed was irresistible to his legion of acolytes.

The Frankfurters were the red brigades of the university Left, striving to fill their students’ minds with the doctrine of human and social perfectibility according to the egalitarian principles of their Marxist forbears, in particular the theories and ruminations of the Italian revolutionary thinker Antonio Gramsci and Hungarian Marxist Georg Lukács. The Woke generation now rioting in the streets of Portland, Seattle, and other cities are their unwitting progeny, the shock troops of Antifa and BLM who never read Marcuse, let alone Horkheimer, Adorno, Gramsci or Lukács—and surely would be incapable of doing so with any comprehension. They have succumbed to a political virus of which they are unaware, fallen prey to a toxic narrative developed by the luminaries of the intellectual Left. This is what I would dub trickle-down intellectonomics, how complex thought (however specious) gradually leaks away into howls, bellows, and yawps.

There is no doubt that the crucial figures of the “Western Marxist” movement were brilliant men and erudite scholars, eloquent to a fault. They were right about some things, in particular about the rise of anti-Semitism as a function of a world sinking into barbarism. But how could they have been so wrong about America, working to transform the American Dream into the American Nightmare? Could they not see how their analysis of America’s ills was based not on a thorough and intimate knowledge of American life in all its variety and complexity but on the hoary concept of “commodity fetishism” and a theoretical explication of a mystical force Adorno called “negative dialectics,” an understanding of which could show how American society might be perfected? 

Adorno believed that Western and American society could transcend its fundamental contradictions between labor and capital, between constraint and freedom, the compulsion to dominate both men and nature and the struggle for “unitary existence,” “in view of the concrete possibility of utopia,” as he wrote in Negative Dialectics. (Italics mine.) A “right condition,” he continued, could be freed from the inherent contradiction of “dialectic antagonisms.” Marcuse was much blunter. He was not interested in transcendence but repression—albeit in the name of that convenient Marxist evasion, a harmonious future. It must be said, however, that both men commanded a facility with language, combining complexity, expressiveness, and philosophic range, that few contemporary writers are capable of today. We should resist the temptation to dismiss their language as merely unintelligible or pretentious, yet their linguistic convolution is part of the problem.

Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan put the dilemma in a nutshell. “As men abound in copiousness of language,” he wrote, “so they become more wise, or more mad, than ordinary. Nor is it possible without letters for any man to become either excellently wise or . . . excellently foolish.”

The Frankfurters were excellently foolish, and the majority of our politicians, editors, public intellectuals, and corporate tycoons have imbibed their folly. With respect to the latter, as Rupert Darwall shows in Green Tyranny, “Capitalist wealth has been used to fund the Frankfurt School” to advance its own interests, primarily in the Green environmental industry; capitalists are subsidizing the very people dedicated to bringing them down. But this is true of the entire elitist cartel pushing the wages of intellectual abuse in our universities, media and political class. They have bought into the opiate narrative of the Left.

Social worker Judith Acosta puts the issue neatly when discussing the economic question with socialists young and old, who believe in “sharing the planet,” in doing away with free-market enterprise, in the free distribution of goods and services, and state ownership of the means of production: “They don’t concede that there is even such a thing as human nature, replete with base impulses. To them, humanity is perfectible (with a little government help and a lot of regulation).” She continues: “Human nature is bifurcated and fallen…there will be atrocities and power grabs no matter what economic system we have. The question more appropriately becomes…which economic and social system best deals with the reality of human nature, its innate indolence and selfishness, its ambition and creativity…So far, based on worldwide experience, a gently regulated capitalism seems to produce the most good for the broadest segment of humanity.”

But the Left will not concede to reality in attempting to advance its doctrine with mental sedatives like “social harmony,” “classless society,” “planetary village,” “unitary existence,” and so on. Its apostles and epigones have been thoroughly indoctrinated. And so their folly seems poised to prevail. We need to acknowledge that once in power the Left will enact policy predicated not on promoting the freedom and prosperity of the nation or recognizing the empirics of economic life but on a sweeping “narrative” of human perfectibility ushered in by an all-seeing aristocracy of political authoritarians. The Social Democratic “narrative” is an ideological tissue of unsustainable ideas, no matter how imposingly it may be formulated. Thanks to the Frankfurters and their infecting a generation of impressionable students with the illusion of human perfectibility and the dogmatic assurance of a self-regarding master class, excellent foolishness has become the air we breathe and the order of the day.



Biden Vows to Stamp Out 'Islamicphobia'

That means more Islamic proselytizing is coming to American public schools.

The presidential campaign of 2020 has so far unfolded in more of a crisis atmosphere than any campaign in decades. Portland, Oregon and other cities are still engulfed by Antifa violence (as the Democrats side with the violent rioters), coronavirus hysteria is still hamstringing the nation’s economic life and prosperity, social media giants are waging all-out war against the freedom of speech, and America’s history and heritage is under direct and unapologetic assault from Marxists vowing a revolution in America. In the midst of all this, on July 20, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden demonstrated anew the disturbing priorities of his increasingly anti-American party.

Instead of addressing the sharp rise in crime and lawlessness, the demonization of American history and culture, the Left’s assault on the Second Amendment and other basic rights, or any of the other burning issues of the day, Biden chose to address the “Million Muslim Votes Summit,” hosted by Emgage Action, which claims to be is the largest Muslim PAC in the United States. In the course of his rambling remarks, Biden declared: “One of the things I think is important, I wish we taught more in our schools about the Islamic faith.”[1]

In the midst of what could very well turn out to be a second American civil war, or even the end of the United States as a free republic, Joe Biden is preoccupied with getting our schools to proselytize for Islam more intensively than they already do. For make no mistake: that is what Biden means when he says he wishes that our schools taught more about Islam. Schools already teach about Islam as a major world religion. That teaching has already been widely criticized as whitewashing the crimes committed in the name of Islam and in accord with its teachings, and Biden wants even more of that: he thinks the cure for what he repeatedly called “Islamicphobia” (there’s that famous “stutter” again, but you can’t really fault him for getting a word wrong that’s artificial and made-up in the first place) is for American schoolchildren to be relentlessly indoctrinated with the idea that Islam is wonderful, and never mind about all those dead bodies of people killed to screams of “Allahu akbar.”

Biden was in effect adopting a familiar trope of post-9/11 Leftists and Islamic supremacists: that opposition to jihad violence and Sharia oppression of women is “hate,” a hatred that could be eradicated if we redneck yahoo Americans were just made to learn a bit about Islam. And so the public schools, which Democrats have worked for years to cleanse of every trace of Christianity, must be made an arena for teaching Islam. Imagine the uproar if Biden had said: “One of the things I think is important, I wish we taught more in our schools about the Christian faith.” He would have been denounced everywhere and probably would already have been replaced as the likely Democratic Party presidential candidate.

But his far-Left supporters will only applaud his recommendation that the public schools be increasingly devoted to teaching Islam. This is certain, as Biden went on to claim that America was a dark, dangerous place for Muslims, and it was all Donald Trump’s fault. The Islamic education was apparently needed because “under this administration, we’ve seen an unconscionable, an unconscionable rise in Islamicphobia and incidents including kids being bullied in schools and hate crimes in our communities.”[2] President Trump, Biden insisted, has “named people with a history of open Islamicphobia — open, straightforward, who have no business serving in high positions in our government — to key leadership roles in our Department of Defense and the US Agency of International Development.”[3]

“Islamophobia,” which is likely what Biden meant to say when he said “Islamicphobia,” is defined in a New York Post article about his address to Emgage as “prejudice against Muslims.”[4] Prejudice against any group is never justified. All too often, however, the term is used to refer to honest and accurate analysis of the ways in which jihadis use the texts and teachings of Islam to justify violence and make recruits among peaceful Muslims.

Biden is vowing to end all that, and effectively criminalize criticism of Islam, including all opposition to jihad terror, something that the Left has been working toward for a long time.

Even worse, the Washington Free Beacon reports that Emgage Action is “a George Soros-backed Muslim group, which cohosts a conference that in recent years drew speakers who called homosexuality a ‘disease’ and defended terrorist groups….Emgage has collaborated with a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated group on events that in recent years attracted speakers who openly opposed LGBT rights and supported terror groups. Last year, Emgage became an official cohost of Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) conferences. ISNA was previously revealed to be part of the Muslim Brotherhood network—though it claims it is no longer associated with the group.”[5]

Biden didn’t hesitate to throw this crowd plenty of red meat, promising: “If I have the honor of being president, I will end the Muslim ban on day one, day one.”[6] There is no “Muslim ban,” but the idea that such a ban does actually exist is not just a product of the candidate’s rapidly deteriorating mental capacity. Islamic supremacists and their Leftist allies insist on calling the Trump administration’s travel bans on nationals from 13 countries a “Muslim ban,” even though five of those countries, Burma, Eritrea, Tanzania, North Korea and Venezuela, are not Muslim countries, and there are 49 other Muslim countries upon which there is no ban at all.

The ban exists because these countries cannot or will not provide accurate information about prospective immigrants. The list of countries was devised during the Obama administration, while Biden was Vice President. But that didn’t stop Biden from casting it in racial terms, declaring: “Muslim communities were the first to feel Donald Trump’s assault on black and brown communities in this country with his vile Muslim ban.”[7] It’s a peculiar “assault on black and brown communities” that leaves untouched scores of countries inhabited by “black and brown communities,” but the Left is working on the gut level of rage and hatred, not rational consideration.

Digging even deeper, Biden declared: “A hadith from the Prophet Muhammad instructs, ‘Whomever among you sees a wrong, let him change it with his hand. If he is not able, then with his tongue. If he is not able, then with his heart.’”[8]

The hadith Biden is quoting is this one: “On the authority of Abu Sa`eed al-Khudree (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah say, ‘Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.'” (Nawawi 34)

What might Muhammad, or whoever put this saying into his mouth, have meant by changing a wrong with one’s hand? One of the hazards of analysis of statements of jihad terrorists is that in an Islamic context, words seldom, if ever, mean what they are taken for granted as meaning by Westerners. This fools mainstream counterterror analysts on a daily basis: when Muslim leaders speak about wanting to establish justice, they think they’re ready to set up free societies, when actually they mean they want to impose Sharia.

So it is with Biden’s favored saying. Fighting and killing infidels is repeatedly commanded in the Qur’an (cf. 2:191. 4:89, 9:5, 9:289, 47:4, etc.), not because Islam is committed to mayhem for its own sake, but because the society of the unbelievers must be swept aside in favor of the rule of Islamic law. The twentieth-century Pakistani political leader and Islamic scholar Syed Abul A’la Maududi taught that Muslims must fight until non-Muslims were not be entrusted with the responsibilities of governing a state – any state. He declared that non-Muslims have “absolutely no right to seize the reins of power in any part of God’s earth nor to direct the collective affairs of human beings according to their own misconceived doctrines. For if they are given such an opportunity, corruption and mischief will ensue. In such a situation the believers would be under an obligation to do their utmost to dislodge them from political power and to make them live in subservience to the Islamic way of life.”[9]

This is the highest activity in which a Muslim can engage: another hadith has a Muslim asking Muhammad: “Instruct me as to such a deed as equals Jihad (in reward).” Muhammad replied, “I do not find such a deed.” (Bukhari 4.52.44)

Biden’s hadith, therefore, was not some Islamic Hallmark card; it was a command to wage war against unbelievers.

Note also Biden’s reference to “the Prophet Muhammad.” It’s standard journalistic practice today to assume that everyone is a Muslim and believes Muhammad is a prophet, so Biden is just following along with the crowd and pandering to his constituency, but it’s still a manifestation of Islamic supremacism. Biden’s handlers would never, ever give him a statement that referred to “our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” But Islam is the Left’s preferred religion, and Islamopandering is the order of the day, so Biden refers without hesitation to “the prophet.”



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


Why does the coronavirus sometimes strike young people?

It's usually clearcut.  The virus only strikes people with impaired immune systems -- people who have other ailments.  Old people normally have other ailments so they are very often affected by the virus.

And when young people get it, they are usually ones who are ill already. They too have other ailments.  But how come there are a few cases of young people being infected who seem otherwise healthy? Why does the virus single them out?  Why in their case was being young and healthy not enough to protect them?

The article from a major medical journal below shows why in at least some cases.  It shows that they have a genetic defect that weakens their immune system in crucial ways. That may not be the answer in all cases but it is clearly now an in principle explanation.  The vast majority of young people are safe

Presence of Genetic Variants Among Young Men With Severe COVID-19

Caspar I.van der Made et al.


Objective:  To explore the presence of genetic variants associated with primary immunodeficiencies among young patients with COVID-19.

Design, Setting, and Participants Case series of pairs of brothers without medical history meeting the selection criteria of young (age <35 years) brother pairs admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) due to severe COVID-19. Four men from 2 unrelated families were admitted to the ICUs of 4 hospitals in the Netherlands between March 23 and April 12, 2020. The final date of follow-up was May 16, 2020. Available family members were included for genetic variant segregation analysis and as controls for functional experiments.

Main Outcome and Measures:  Results of rapid clinical whole-exome sequencing, performed to identify a potential monogenic cause. Subsequently, basic genetic and immunological tests were performed in primary immune cells isolated from the patients and family members to characterize any immune defects.

Results:  The 4 male patients had a mean age of 26 years (range, 21-32), with no history of major chronic disease. They were previously well before developing respiratory insufficiency due to severe COVID-19, requiring mechanical ventilation in the ICU. The mean duration of ventilatory support was 10 days (range, 9-11); the mean duration of ICU stay was 13 days (range, 10-16). One patient died. Rapid clinical whole-exome sequencing of the patients and segregation in available family members identified loss-of-function variants of the X-chromosomal TLR7. In members of family 1, a maternally inherited 4-nucleotide deletion was identified (c.2129_2132del; p.[Gln710Argfs*18]); the affected members of family 2 carried a missense variant (c.2383G>T; p.[Val795Phe]). In primary peripheral blood mononuclear cells from the patients, downstream type I interferon (IFN) signaling was transcriptionally downregulated, as measured by significantly decreased mRNA expression of IRF7, IFNB1, and ISG15 on stimulation with the TLR7 agonist imiquimod as compared with family members and controls. The production of IFN-γ, a type II IFN, was decreased in patients in response to stimulation with imiquimod.

Conclusions and Relevance:  In this case series of 4 young male patients with severe COVID-19, rare putative loss-of-function variants of X-chromosomal TLR7 were identified that were associated with impaired type I and II IFN responses. These preliminary findings provide insights into the pathogenesis of COVID-19



New pill that could prevent COVID-19 from entering body cells gets FDA OK for human trials

AI Therapeutics in Guilford received some exciting news from the FDA this week. Their drug, currently being used to treat some forms of cancers, will now go through 60-90 days of human trials at Yale and other locations across the country in an effort to prevent COVID-19.

Entrepreneur and genetics expert Jonathan Rothberg, Ph.D., shared details of the drug, Apilimod’s, promise, so far.

“A Gates Foundation study tested 13,000 compounds AI Therapeutics LAM 2 Apilimod, was the number one compound out of 13,000 tested and it stops the entry of the virus. You stop the virus from getting in the cell, you stop the virus,” says Rothberg.

He says the drug is already being used to treat some cancers.

“We know the drug is safe, it’s been safe in over 700 people but now we have to go from stopping the virus in a petri dish to stopping it in people we love, and that’s what is happening at Yale University.”

He says their goal is to demonstrate that in only a few days the pill is able to stop the effects of the virus and prevent a COVID-19 infection.

“The FDA has just given us approval to test it as a potential cure for COVID-19 and only after we show efficacy will we use it as a chemical vaccine,” says Rothberg.

He explained how COVID-19 enters our body: “The virus uses a mechanism similar to a garbage chute to get into your cell, and we shut it down and by shutting it down the virus has no access to the cell.”

Rothberg is also behind a company mass-producing $30 molecular home COVID tests that do not rely on antibodies. They are awaiting FDA approval. Rothberg came up with the idea in early March and his team went to work quickly.

Another one of his teams at Butterfly in New Haven created a hand-held ultrasound, revolutionizing patient testing around the world.

As for the drug, Rothberg says it has been tested in Wuhan, China and they have stocked enough compounds to make 5,000,000 pills if and when they receive the proper FDA approvals and clearances.



We need a Covid plan that is, dare I say it, sustainable

Comment from Australia, where the issues are similar:

When Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews blamed his own population for spreading the coronavirus, accusing them of flouting self-isolation rules (actually, his health authorities had given them the wrong advice), he threatened an extension of the current lockdown. Quite aside from the ugly blame-shifting by a leader who is yet to account for his government’s mistakes, few people seemed to consider the crucial sustainability question.

Can Victoria really keep going into lockdown? At what point does the balance between public health, economic wellbeing, community needs and individual livelihoods, deserve realistic evaluation? If you keep locking down, there won’t be much to lock down.

The whole country locked down in March and the federal government budgeted an unfathomable $130bn to sustain people through the following six months. They got the numbers wrong in a $60bn mistake that surely would have cost the Treasurer his job if the error had been to the other side of the ledger.

The wage replacement scheme has been extended by six months and $20bn but unemployment is still expected to top 9 per cent.

What if states are still locking down in a year? What if the virus is running rampant so that tourism and hospitality businesses cannot function 18 months from now? Would it be sustainable for wage replacement schemes, additional unemployment benefits and special industry stimulus packages to continue?

Scott Morrison, Treasurer Frydenberg and Health Minister Greg Hunt deserve enormous credit for putting Australia in this position; if an effective vaccine is readily available worldwide within a year, their response will rank as one of the world’s best.

But even if the current Victorian outbreak is suppressed and our national economy can operate relatively freely behind sealed international borders, how will we be placed in a year if the virus continues to run rampant across the world? How long can we continue to close ourselves off from overseas students, tourists and immigrants?

Would we simply be delaying the eventual spread of the virus across our nation? Would all our most drastic and costly measures have been in vain?

What we have done so far has our COVID-19 death rate per million people sitting at less than six, whereas the US is over 400, and in Britain and Spain it is more than 600. How long can we afford the policies that have delivered this staggering success?

We should thank our lucky stars that upwards of 98 per cent of infected people suffer minor symptoms only and the young are virtually impervious to the virus (compared to the Spanish flu which killed infants and healthy young people in their millions). We need ways of dealing with outbreaks that fall well short of closing businesses, crushing livelihoods and banning human interactions.

This is where widespread mask-wearing, social distancing and hygiene, coupled with protections for the vulnerable, offer vastly more sustainable options. We eventually might have to learn to live with the disease.

The economic sustainability of hard borders restricting interstate travel is highly questionable, especially for tourism and hospitality. And these measures hurt socially; communities like Albury-Wodonga and Coolangatta-Tweed Heads are being torn apart; families are being kept from each other.

Our politicians have been too eager to outsource decision-making to medical experts who have a singular focus on preventing infections, which we know can be stopped dead if we cease all human interaction.

This represents the “collapse of government legitimacy”, according to the Manhattan ­Institute’s Heather MacDonald, who has written about this phenomenon in the US.

“For three months, public officials abdicated their responsibility to balance the costs and benefits of any given policy,” she says. “They put the future of hundreds of millions of Americans in the hands of a narrow set of experts who lack all awareness of the workings of economic and social systems, and whose science was built on the ever-shifting sand of speculative models and on extreme risk aversion regarding only one kind of risk.”

MacDonald said the experts were “deaf to the pleas of law-abiding business owners who saw their life’s efforts snuffed out” as these decisions destroyed wealth through arbitrary decision making. This tragic summary sounds gut-wrenchingly familiar.

Secure in their permanent tenure, bureaucrats and publicly funded broadcasters have barracked for ever more draconian measures while the price has been paid by the unemployed and small business owners who have seen their hard-won assets eviscerated. As always, it is for politicians to carefully weigh-up costs and benefits.

Consider how the coronavirus measures have all but eradicated influenza infections this year and, according to the statistics, saved more lives than we have lost to COVID-19. Yet would we suggest imposing these lockdown measures every year, at these costs, to save 150 lives or so from flu? ­Obviously not, or else we would have done it ages ago.

Our leaders have changed their pandemic objectives on us without saying so explicitly. We were told initially that we were locking down to give authorities time to expand capacity within our health system so the pandemic would not overwhelm us.

Authorities tripled the availability of critical care beds nationally from just over 2000 to more than 7500 but, so far, the pandemic has not required more than 100 on any given day and fewer than 50 are being used now. We have ample surge capacity.

According to the original rationale, we ought to be more relaxed about higher levels of infection without shutting down society. So long as our hospitals are not overwhelmed, this might be more sustainable than lockdowns, especially if it is inevitable that we end up in this situation eventually anyway.

Instead, state politicians seem to be taking every infection case within their borders as a political blow. There is an absence of national policy as states ignore urgings from Canberra and shut borders and cities.

State governments seem able to shut down anything, except protests. And they are prepared to implement every pandemic ­response, so long as the federal government funds it.

This is the devolution of the federation; we are not all in this together, each state is in it for ­itself. It is not sustainable.




Trump ends Obama's socially engineered Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule (National Review)

"People don't make a distinction ... from a South Korean and someone from Beijing": Joe Biden makes racist comments while accusing Trump of being racist (The Federalist)

Biden says America has "never" had a more racist president than Donald Trump. Here are eight. (PJ Media)

Michigan, Minnesota, and Texas: Three races that will decide Senate control (Washington Examiner)

Wall Street Journal boldly vows not to "wilt under cancel culture pressure" or yield to "conformity and intolerance" (UK Daily Mail)

Nailed it: Washington Redskins to use "Washington Football Team" name for 2020 (NBC Sports)

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has Christopher Columbus statues clandestinely removed from Chicago parks (Chicago Tribune)

Reality is enlightening: Democrat Oakland mayor votes down further police budget cuts after vandals defaced her house (The Daily Caller)

In landmark speech, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says China is world's biggest threat (The Washington Free Beacon)

FBI interviewing Chinese visa holders suspected of hiding military ties (Reuters)

186,700 illegal immigrants from 130 nations stopped by coronavirus border closure (Washington Examiner)

Tesla will build its next Gigafactory in tax-friendly Texas (CNBC)

Do as I say, not as I do: DC mayor exempts many city and federal government workers from strict new mask order (

Cancel-culture fallout: Majority of Americans (62%) afraid of expressing political beliefs (The Washington Free Beacon)

Redwood City, California, removed "Black Lives Matter" street painting after request for "MAGA 2020" mural (The Hill)

Policy: Making the stimulus checks count: How Congress can better target a second round of economic impact payments (American Enterprise Institute)

Policy: Executive order on drug price controls would backfire (Forbes)


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, July 26, 2020

Major medical journal says Trump was right

The abstract below is from JAMA.  It acknowledges that both dexamethasone and remdesivir combat the coronavirus.  It also fails to mention lockdowns as helpful

Pathophysiology, Transmission, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

W. Joost Wiersinga et al.


Importance:  The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, due to the novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has caused a worldwide sudden and substantial increase in hospitalizations for pneumonia with multiorgan disease. This review discusses current evidence regarding the pathophysiology, transmission, diagnosis, and management of COVID-19.

Observations:  SARS-CoV-2 is spread primarily via respiratory droplets during close face-to-face contact. Infection can be spread by asymptomatic, presymptomatic, and symptomatic carriers. The average time from exposure to symptom onset is 5 days, and 97.5% of people who develop symptoms do so within 11.5 days. The most common symptoms are fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath. Radiographic and laboratory abnormalities, such as lymphopenia and elevated lactate dehydrogenase, are common, but nonspecific. Diagnosis is made by detection of SARS-CoV-2 via reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction testing, although false-negative test results may occur in up to 20% to 67% of patients; however, this is dependent on the quality and timing of testing.

Manifestations of COVID-19 include asymptomatic carriers and fulminant disease characterized by sepsis and acute respiratory failure. Approximately 5% of patients with COVID-19, and 20% of those hospitalized, experience severe symptoms necessitating intensive care. More than 75% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 require supplemental oxygen. Treatment for individuals with COVID-19 includes best practices for supportive management of acute hypoxic respiratory failure.

Emerging data indicate that dexamethasone therapy reduces 28-day mortality in patients requiring supplemental oxygen compared with usual care (21.6% vs 24.6%; age-adjusted rate ratio, 0.83 [95% CI, 0.74-0.92]) and that remdesivir improves time to recovery (hospital discharge or no supplemental oxygen requirement) from 15 to 11 days.

In a randomized trial of 103 patients with COVID-19, convalescent plasma did not shorten time to recovery. Ongoing trials are testing antiviral therapies, immune modulators, and anticoagulants. The case-fatality rate for COVID-19 varies markedly by age, ranging from 0.3 deaths per 1000 cases among patients aged 5 to 17 years to 304.9 deaths per 1000 cases among patients aged 85 years or older in the US. Among patients hospitalized in the intensive care unit, the case fatality is up to 40%. At least 120 SARS-CoV-2 vaccines are under development.

Until an effective vaccine is available, the primary methods to reduce spread are face masks, social distancing, and contact tracing. Monoclonal antibodies and hyperimmune globulin may provide additional preventive strategies.

Conclusions and Relevance:  As of July 1, 2020, more than 10 million people worldwide had been infected with SARS-CoV-2. Many aspects of transmission, infection, and treatment remain unclear. Advances in prevention and effective management of COVID-19 will require basic and clinical investigation and public health and clinical interventions.



Medical journal says rinsing your nose out with salt water may fight the coronovirus

Benefits and Safety of Nasal Saline Irrigations in a Pandemic—Washing COVID-19 Away

Nyssa F. Farrell et al.

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has ignited interest in viral transmission and prevention owing to the significant morbidity and mortality associated with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Investigations into SARS-CoV-2 pathophysiology suggest that, similar to other viral upper respiratory infections, infection occurs primarily in the nasal and nasopharyngeal mucosa with high viral loads early in disease.1 Within the otolaryngology–head and neck surgery community, recent reports of viral transmission through endoscopic endonasal surgical procedures have caused increased concern regarding how nasal biology affects viral transmission. Further questions have arisen on the possible therapeutic role of commonly used topical nasal therapies. Nasal irrigations may play a role in reducing viral severity and further transmission. However, it is not yet clear whether topical nasal saline irrigations provide viral mitigation effects or conversely have a potentiating effect on viral transmission. Additionally, there are concerns about the consequences of topical adjuncts, such as nasal corticosteroids, for viral nasal infections. In this Viewpoint, we have briefly reviewed the current evidence regarding the association of nasal saline irrigations and their adjuncts with viral upper respiratory illnesses.

The nasal lining serves an important role in the innate immune system, providing a primary defense against inhaled viruses, bacteria, and other particulates. This lining, consisting of a superficial mucus layer atop an aqueous base, traps inhaled particulates that are then propelled by underlying cilia into the nasopharynx. They are ultimately driven into the gastrointestinal system, where they are destroyed.2 Topical nasal rinses take advantage of this secretory lining in multiple ways. First, nasal rinses physically disrupt the viscous surface layer, removing the mucus and its associated particulate matter. Additionally, the presence of nasal saline helps to increase hydration of the deeper aqueous layer, simultaneously improving the underlying ciliary beat frequency and reducing local inflammatory mediators. This can be particularly helpful during a viral respiratory infection, in which there is resultant mucociliary dysfunction and mucostasis that occurs secondary to the inflammatory response.2

While the benefit of topical nasal saline has been well established, optimal saline tonicity has been debated within the literature. There is supportive evidence for both isotonic saline and hypertonic saline (HS) efficacy in vivo.2 Isotonic saline consists of a 0.9% wt/vol sodium chloride solution, which is close to the physiologic salt concentration of the body. Conversely, HS solutions are greater than 0.9% wt/vol. It has been theorized that HS, which has higher osmolarity, pulls water out of cells resulting in increased hydration of the aqueous portion of the mucus layer. This improves mucociliary clearance while also decreasing epithelial edema. Additionally, there is evidence that the presence of HS can result in calcium efflux from epithelial cells, stimulating ciliary function and improving mucociliary clearance. Although in vitro studies have demonstrated these effects, some in vivo studies raised the concern of local adverse symptoms, including nasal burning, paradoxical nasal blockage, and rhinorrhea, which would limit the use of HS. A recent meta-analysis evaluating both isotonic saline and HS rinses for all sinonasal diseases concluded that HS, with a concentration less than 5% sodium chloride, was more beneficial than isotonic saline for the management of sinonasal pathology.2 Additionally, a recent randomized clinical trial evaluating the utility of HS for mitigation of the common cold demonstrated HS reduced duration of illness, over-the-counter medication use, transmission to household members, and viral shedding.3

Steroid compounds, such as budesonide or mometasone, are commonly added to saline irrigations for control of inflammatory mediators in chronic rhinosinusitis. In acute viral upper respiratory illnesses (URIs), corticosteroid use is less well understood. A Cochrane systematic review of 3 double-blind, randomized clinical trials of intranasal steroids (fluticasone or beclomethasone) for management of URIs found no evidence that intranasal steroid sprays improved URI symptom severity or duration.4 Their review did not identify significantly different rates of adverse events regardless of intranasal steroid use. So, while nasal steroids did not significantly alter URI symptom control, no significant harm was detected in this review. Although these trials did not look specifically at steroid use in an irrigation delivery, the effect can be extrapolated to steroid irrigations given the similar mechanism of action.

Betadine and other iodine derivatives have also been proposed to reduce viral load in the nasal cavity. In a recent review by Parhar et al,5 the role in povidone-iodine, a common surgical preparation, was evaluated. While they did not find many clinical trials, there was significant evidence of povidone-iodine resulting in substantial coronavirus reduction in in vitro studies. They identified 3 different studies of prior coronavirus epidemics in which topical application of povidone-iodine resulted in significant viral titer reduction.5 Furthermore, a prospective trial of 0.08% diluted povidone-iodine rinses in 29 patients demonstrated safety and tolerance by patients.6 There is concern regarding ciliotoxicity of iodine-based rinses; however, in diluted form these effects may be negligible. While the use of povidone-iodine rinses certainly requires additional review in future randomized clinical trials, it may serve as a useful adjunct to decrease viral transmission.

While there is evidence to support topical therapies for viral transmission mitigation, the potential risks must also be considered. Like other respiratory infections, SARS-CoV-2 is likely transmitted via physical contact with the virus through direct or indirect transfer to the upper aerodigestive tract mucosa or exposure to infected respiratory droplets.1 Transmission of the virus is high, especially because infected persons have shown evidence of viral shedding during the incubation period, asymptomatic infection, and even after evidence of recovery.1 As such, there is concern that performing irrigations of the nasal cavities may increase viral shedding, and thus transmission. Additionally, there is concern about viral contamination of the nasal rinse bottle itself, leading to increased transmission through contact-induced infections. Rhinovirus is detectable in nasal lavage, suggesting that viral contamination of surfaces may occur via rinsing.4,7 This surface contamination is important to recognize, because evidence has suggested that SARS-CoV-2 is stable on plastic and can be detected more than 72 hours after exposure.1 However, it is also important to note that there are many ways to inactivate viral particles on those surfaces, such as through the use of diethyl ether, 75% ethanol, chlorine, UV light, or heat (56 °C for 30 minutes).1

SARS-CoV-2 is a highly virulent respiratory virus with significant presence in the nasal and nasopharyngeal mucosa. Hypertonic nasal saline, which facilitates mucociliary clearance, likely decreases viral burden through physical removal. Other additives, such as povidone-iodine, may aid in eliminating viral particles within the nasal cavity and nasopharynx prior to active infection. Given available evidence, saline irrigations with or without indicated additives may be safe to use in the presence of COVID-19. This is critical to communicate for patients who already use these therapies for rhinosinusitis management. Importantly, the lavage fluid, rinse bottle, and surrounding surfaces may become contaminated and serve as a source of infection in the future. Thus, patients should practice good hand hygiene and decontaminate the surrounding surfaces (eg, sink, counters) and plastic rinse bottle to prevent subsequent infection. Given the safety profile of these therapies, HS nasal irrigations should be encouraged for patients and health care workers especially. For our patients with chronic rhinosinusitis, continued use of steroid irrigations should be encouraged. Emerging research is expected to shed further light on saline irrigation’s protective and therapeutic effect on COVID-19.




More than 280 Wall Street Journal cancel-culture warriors sign a letter protesting "misinformation" in the paper's conservative opinion pieces (UK Daily Mail)

Senator Tom Cotton — whose New York Times op-ed absurdly culminated in firings and reassignments — rips the Times for running China scientist's op-ed slamming U.S. virus response (Fox News)

House Democrats futilely vote to repeal Trump travel ban, as Senate is unlikely to vote on it (The Hill)

Joe Biden either forgets or ignores history, says Trump is America's first "racist" president (National Review)

Joe Biden'sBernie Sanders's plans near $10 trillion price tag (Fox News)

Is Kamala Harris planting evidence on her VP rivals? (The Washington Free Beacon)

Houston, we have a problem: Chinese consulate closed by Trump administration was "a hot bed of spying" (UK Daily Mail)

Meanwhile, China is harboring military-linked biologist fugitive at San Francisco consulate (Fox News)

Taiwan fears growing threat of attack by China (Washington Examiner)

For the record: The big surge in coronavirus deaths is a media-fed myth (Issues & Insights)

One-third of U.S. museums — which average 850 million visitors annually — may not survive the year, survey finds (NPR)

Gun purchases are up an unprecedented 95%, ammo 139% (Washington Examiner)

Predictably, gender-confused woman sues Catholic hospital for refusing to remove her uterus (Washington Examiner)

Patricia Mccloskey's gun didn't work, so a prosecutor ordered it reassembled and then declared it lethal (Hot Air)

The Sierra Club is disowning its cofounder over racist comments he made over 100 years ago (The Daily Caller)


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