Friday, August 21, 2020

Sweden's coronavirus expert warns that wearing masks is 'very dangerous' because it gives people the idea it is safe to be in crowded rooms or public transport

A psychologically sophisticated comment.  The psychology does matter

Sweden's top coronavirus expert is refusing to force people to wear face masks in public, arguing that donning them is 'very dangerous' because it gives the impression it is safe to be in crowded rooms or on public transport.

Anders Tegnell, chief epidemiologist at Sweden's Public Health Agency, has expressed scepticism that face masks will control Covid-19 outbreaks.

The infectious diseases expert, who refused to follow European governments in locking down in March, also noted that countries with widespread mask compliance, such as Belgium and Spain, were still experiencing rising cases of Covid.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Dr Tegnell said: 'It is very dangerous to believe face masks would change the game when it comes to Covid-19.

'Face masks can be a complement to other things when other things are safely in place. But to start with having face masks and then think you can crowd your buses or your shopping malls - that's definitely a mistake.' 

Dr Tegnell previously brushed off the prospect of compelling Swedes to wear face masks, and called evidence of their effectiveness 'astonishingly weak'.

Sweden, which has stood out among European countries for its low-key approach to fighting the coronavirus pandemic, recorded its highest tally of deaths in the first half of 2020 for 150 years, the Statistics Office said on Wednesday.

Covid-19 claimed about 4,500 lives in the period to the end of June - a number which has now risen to 5,800 - a much higher percentage of the population than in other Nordic nations, though lower than in some others including Britain and Spain.

Email exchanges obtained by journalists in Sweden under freedom of information laws appear to show the country's coronavirus strategist discussing the option of keeping schools open to encourage herd immunity in mid-March.

One conversation was with Tegnell's Finnish counterpart, Mika Salminen, in what Swedish journalists say appears to be a brainstorming of methods to tackle the pandemic.

The newly-released emails which date back five months have caused a stir in Sweden and have fuelled criticism of the country's no-lockdown approach to the pandemic. 

In total, 51,405 Swedes died in the January to June period, a higher number than any year since 1869 when 55,431 died, partly as a result of a famine. The population of Sweden was around 4.1 million then, compared to 10.3 million now.

Covid-19 meant that deaths were 10 percent higher than the average for the period over the last five years, the Statistics Office said. In April the number of deaths was almost 40% higher than average due to a surge in Covid-related fatalities.

Finland's economy outperformed its larger neighbour in the second quarter, despite a tougher lockdown. Finland's gross domestic product shrank around 5 per cent against an 8.6 per cent contraction in Sweden from the last three-month period.

Last month Dr Tegnell's public health agency shrugged off claims that people should wear face masks in crowded public spaces during the pandemic.



Democrats Sure Hate America

In watching the Democratic National Convention one thing strikes me over and over again – Democrats really don’t like this country and the people in it. No, this wasn’t news to me, but it was surprising to see them be so open about it; proud of it, really.

The opening night was a list of grievances, an endless stream of whiny leftists declaring how racist everything and everyone is. Honestly, if I lived in a place where I truly believed its very existence was based on oppressing me, you couldn’t keep me there. I wouldn’t stick around, and I surely wouldn’t try to take it over. I’d get the hell out of there and go someplace else.

Yet, Democrats claim to love the country while calling for “fundamental transformation” of it. Try saying that to your significant other tonight – “Honey, I love you, but I want to fundamentally transform you” – and see how well that goes over.

Bernie Sanders has always hated this country, which is why he wants to destroy everything great about it. He doesn’t care that it has made him, a man with no skills or accomplishments aside from winning elections in Vermont, a filthy rich man. Like a wealthy kid who hates their parents while taking comfort in their trust fund, Bernie refuses to acknowledge his story wouldn’t be possible anywhere else on the planet.

Michelle Obama is the same – no skills, no accomplishments, she just married the right guy – and is now one of the wealthiest, most powerful people in the country. And she spent her time trying to convince the public to vote for Joe Biden because Republicans are oppressors. She didn’t explain how the lowest unemployment rate ever recorded for minority groups is oppression and racist, but she also didn’t have to. She knew her claims wouldn’t be challenged or her hypocrisy pointed out.

There really wasn’t a speaker who didn’t, at some point, declare the country awful for any number of reasons, fixable only by Democrats. Yet Democrats, when they’ve had power nationally and everywhere they have it locally, have failed to “fix” any of these problems they insist plague the country.

If the United States is oppressive and racist, we’re really horrible at it.

Looking at income by ethnicity paints a different picture than Democrats want people to believe. Evil white people have a median income of $59,900, Hispanics are at $43,000, and blacks come in at $35,000.

Just looking at those numbers, you can see how some people are convinced to believe there is systemic discrimination in the USA. But what if I told you evil white people, the oppressors of all and creators of the systemic racism that keeps minorities down while protecting “white privilege,” were ranked 9th in ethnic group median income? Would that confuse you?

You probably haven’t heard it, it serves no political purpose for Democrats to point it out, so the media never reports it. Indian-Americans have a median income of $100,500, Filipinos are second with $83,300. You can see the list for yourself here.

It is just a coincidence that two ethnic groups Democrats have the most voter loyalty from, and spend the most time trying to convince they’re oppressed, have the lowest median income, I’m sure.

It’s also a coincidence that Michelle Obama, on tape from her mansion on Martha’s Vineyard, told the public this horrible country is a place where “a never-ending list of innocent people of color continue to be murdered” and she was not talking about Democrat-controlled cities.

It’s really no wonder Democrats think the country is an oppressive hell-hole, they live where Democrats have all the power.

What Michelle said – that police are killing unarmed black people in “a never-ending” stream – is a complete lie, but that lie is useful to Democrats, so they keep repeating it. Journalists are tools of the Democrats, so they say nothing.

Not one person on any of the broadcast networks or CNN and MSNBC bothered to correct it or any of the other lies. These people are all rich, and they derive their money and power from convincing people that what isn’t actually is. They aren’t about to rock that boat.

No speaker at the DNC contradicted this or any of the other lies told this week, nor did they condemn any of the brutal attacks by Antifa or Black Lives Matter happening simultaneously to innocent Americans across the country. The “silence equals violence” crowd is not only complicit in that violence, they are encouraging it because they benefit from it.

The virtual Democratic Convention is a literal rally in support of hate and fear. It’s an attempt to keep people angry and/or afraid, because people overwhelmed by their emotions don’t think or act rationally. And people being rational are kryptonite to the modern Democratic Party. I don’t like to use the word “evil,” though I do use it from time to time. But until a better one is invented, evil really is the perfect word.



Immunity Conferred By Infection Is Lasting,Several Studies Suggest

To the immune system, not all germs are equally memorable. But our body’s cells seem to be seriously studying up on the coronavirus.

Scientists who have been monitoring immune responses to the virus are now starting to see encouraging signs of strong, lasting immunity, even in people who developed only mild symptoms of Covid-19, a flurry of new studies suggests. Disease-fighting antibodies, as well as immune cells called B cells and T cells that are capable of recognizing the virus, appear to persist months after infections have resolved - an encouraging echo of the body’s enduring response to other viruses.

“Things are really working as they’re supposed to,” said Deepta Bhattacharya, an immunologist at the University of Arizona and an author on one of the new studies, which has not yet been peer-reviewed.

Although researchers cannot forecast how long these immune responses will last, many experts consider the data a welcome indication that the body’s most studious cells are doing their job - and will have a good chance of fending off the coronavirus, faster and more fervently than before, if exposed to it again.

“This is exactly what you would hope for,” said Marion Pepper, an immunologist at the University of Washington and an author on another of the new studies, which is currently under review at the journal Nature. “All the pieces are there to have a totally protective immune response.”




Not just Russia: Iran paid bounties for targeting U.S. troops in Afghanistan, intelligence suggests (The Hill)

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy agrees to testify amid politicized fury from election-scheming Democrats (Politico)

Trump: Susan B. Anthony to get posthumous pardon (Fox News)

"That's a negative advertising campaign in action": Evening newscasts 150 times more negative toward Trump than Biden (Fox News)

Biden would need Democrat-controlled Senate, unified party to advance sweeping economic plans (The Washington Post)

A Democratic candidate for the Minnesota House of Representatives leads vulgar protest at police union president's home (The Daily Wire)

Elderly man sweeping a Chicago sidewalk is sucker punched by a thug in unprovoked attack (UK Daily Mail)

Chicago police are retiring at twice the normal rate; at least 110 police officers are retiring in August and September (Fox News)

Now Twitter is going after The Babylon Bee (PJ Media)

Former CIA officer arrested and charged with Chinese espionage (Department of Justice)

"China poses a greater national security threat to the U.S. than any other nation," Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe says (Fox News)

California heat wave leaves threat of rolling blackouts for millions thanks to boneheaded Democrat policies (Fox Business)

Minnesota governor quietly reverses course on banning hydroxychloroquine (RealClearPolitics)

Policy: It was Obama, not Trump, who failed the Constitution (Issues & Insights)


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

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


Thursday, August 20, 2020

Is herd immunity closer than scientists first thought?

Herd immunity against Covid-19 could be closer than scientists first thought and as little as 10 per cent of people may need to be infected for the virus to fizzle out, experts say.

It means pockets of London and New York and countries like India may already be immune to the life-threatening disease, should a second wave hit.

Cases may not rise so drastically as they did during the first peak of the pandemic earlier this year because the disease has run out of room to spread, or the disease may be less severe if immunity is short-lived, scientists believe.

Previously it's been speculated 60 to 70 per cent of the population would need to suffer Covid-19 or be vaccinated to gain 'herd immunity' status. But that would be devastating and cause millions of deaths, which is why Britain quickly dropped the controversial strategy in March.

And scientists still do not have any firm proof as to how long immunity actually lasts once a person has fought off Covid-19, mainly because it is still shrouded in secrecy and has only been known to exist since the start of the year.

Modelling studies have started to suggest that a far lower threshold is needed to achieve herd immunity — with researchers believing it could be between 10 and 43 per cent.

The calculations account for swathes of people who are less likely to get infected. Immunity among the most socially active people could protect those who come into contact with fewer people, scientists say.

The true size of the pandemic is a mystery because millions of infected people were not tested during the height of the crisis, either because of a lack of Covid-19 swabs or because they never had any of the tell-tale symptoms.

Counting how many people who have coronavirus antibodies through blood tests is, therefore, considered the most accurate way of calculating how much of the population has already been infected.

But antibody testing suggests just 5.7 per cent of England had antibodies at the start of August, but the figure was as high as 8 per cent in London. Other estimates have been slightly higher, saying around a fifth of people living in the capital have been infected — similar to levels in New York City.

But research has suggested that antibodies decline three months after infection — meaning only a fraction of true cases during the peak of the crisis may have been spotted and exactly how much immunity the world has developed is unknown.

And scientists say immunity in the UK is likely to be far higher than what Government antibody testing shows because it doesn't account for T-cells. Top immunologists have said the infection-fighting cells are typically more durable and long lasting than antibodies.

There is no indication that any country in the world has developed herd immunity yet, based on antibody studies. But in places severely battered by the disease, infectious disease specialists have speculated that there is some level of protection.

A strain of the coronavirus thriving in Europe, the US and parts of Asia has a specific mutation which makes the virus more infectious but less deadly, an expert believes.

The variation in the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the agent which causes Covid-19, is called D614G.

Paul Tambyah, senior consultant at the National University of Singapore and president-elect of the International Society of Infectious Diseases, said evidence suggests the proliferation of the D614G mutation in some parts of the world has coincided with a drop in death rates, suggesting it is less lethal.

'Maybe that's a good thing to have a virus that is more infectious but less deadly,' Dr Tambyah told Reuters.

Tambyah said most viruses tend to become less virulent as they mutate. 'It is in the virus' interest to infect more people but not to kill them because a virus depends on the host for food and for shelter,' he said.

Scientists discovered the mutation as early as February and it has circulated in Europe and the Americas, the World Health Organization said.

The WHO has also said there is no evidence the mutation has led to more severe disease.

Professor Paul Hunter, at the University of East Anglia, said India - with the third most infections globally - didn't look far off herd immunity.

Studies have shown up to a quarter of people living in Delhi, which is home to almost 19 million people, have antibodies.

He told MailOnline: 'They do look like they are running up until the point they are achieving herd immunity.

'Given they are running somewhere in the order of two and five times the incidence in the UK, it means we are way behind that [in terms of herd immunity].'

Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told the New York Times: 'I'm quite prepared to believe that there are pockets in New York City and London which have substantial immunity.

'The reason people think it might be lower is that it's not the case that everyone is equally likely to be infected by a transmissible disease,' he told

'If you go through the naturally infectious process, you are going to generate immunity in the people most likely to be exposed, by definition.'

In other words, groups like essential workers and people living in multi-generational homes are most likely to have been outside of their homes early in the pandemic, making them most likely to have already been infected and to have developed immunity.

What remains to be seen is how much those groups - which represent a larger proportion of metropolitan areas - will provide a shield for their larger communities. 

Dr Hanage said: 'What happens this winter will reflect that. The question of what it means for the population as a whole, however, is much more fraught.'

His comments follow the research of Professor Sunetra Gupta, a theoretical epidemiologist at Oxford University, who also believes London and New York may already have reached herd immunity.

A controversial study at Oxford University led by Professor Gupta claimed that up to half of the UK population may already have had Covid-19, and therefore herd immunity.

Modelling by the group indicated that Covid-19 reached the UK by mid-January - weeks before the first case was diagnosed. 

Professor Gupta said in an interview with Reaction: 'I think very few people would agree that exposure rates in London are less than 20 per cent.'

She believes herd immunity may have been reached partially because previous infection with other human coronaviruses, such as the common cold, may offer protection against the new one - SARS-CoV-2.


Herd immunity is a situation in which a population of people is protected from a disease because so many of them are unaffected by it - because they've already had it or have been vaccinated - that it cannot spread.

To cause an outbreak a disease-causing bacteria or virus must have a continuous supply of potential victims who are not immune to it.

Immunity is when your body knows exactly how to fight off a certain type of infection because it has encountered it before, either by having the illness in the past or through a vaccine.

When a virus or bacteria enters the body the immune system creates substances called antibodies, which are designed to destroy one specific type of bug.

When these have been created once, some of them remain in the body and the body also remembers how to make them again. Antibodies - alongside T cells - provide long-term protection, or immunity, against an illness.

If nobody is immune to an illness – as was the case at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak – it can spread like wildfire.

However, if, for example, half of people have developed immunity – from a past infection or a vaccine – there are only half as many people the illness can spread to.

As more and more people become immune the bug finds it harder and harder to spread until its pool of victims becomes so small it can no longer spread at all.

The threshold for herd immunity is different for various illnesses, depending on how contagious they are – for measles, around 95 per cent of people must be vaccinated to it spreading.

For polio, which is less contagious, the threshold is about 80-85 per cent, according to the Oxford Vaccine Group.

Herd immunity is considered a controversial route for getting out of the pandemic because it gives a message of encouraging the spread of the virus, rather than containing it.

When UK Government scientists discussed it in the early days of the pandemic, it was met with criticism and therein swept under the carpet.

The Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said at a press conference on March 12, designed to inform the public on the impending Covid-19 crisis: 'Our aim is not to stop everyone getting it, you can't do that. And it's not desirable, because you want to get some immunity in the population. We need to have immunity to protect ourselves from this in the future.'

Sir Patrick has since apologised for the comments and said he didn't mean that was the government's plan.

In a Channel 4 documentary aired in June, Italy's deputy health minister claimed Boris Johnson had told Italy that he wanted to pursue it.

The Cabinet Office denied the claims made in the documentary and said: 'The Government has been very clear that herd immunity has never been our policy or goal.'

But the theory of cross-protection has only been explored by a few studies and are unable to give conclusive answers.

Other scientists say immunity levels may be far higher than estimated because antibodies aren't the only type of immunity against Covid-19.

T cells are also play an important role, but currently cannot be measured in surveillance programmes.

It's hoped T cells, which target and destroy cells already infected, would offer long-term protection — possibly up to many years later.

The Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital, in Sweden, believe if there was a rapid commercial test to spot T cells circulating in the body, it may reveal that far more people have some form of immunity against the disease than antibody testing suggests — possibly double. 

Professor Hunter noted 'a big caveat' with herd immunity - no one knows how long immunity to the coronavirus lasts.

He said: 'If you look at other human coronaviruses, they can infect people in subsequent years, so probably Covid-19 immunity doesn't last even year. 'And so they will achieve some degree of herd immunity but it won't last.

'It's quite plausible that most of those antibodies will fade in the Indian population but hopefully T cell immunity will be present.

'They are closer to having some sort of herd immunity that would lessen further waves. They aren't likely to be as bad as the first because the immune system of people who have had it will kick in a bit quicker.'

Previous estimates have suggested around two thirds (60 per cent) of a population would have to catch Covid-19 for herd immunity to develop.

Under this rule, it could have seen 40million people in Britain infected and hundreds of thousands more deaths than there already are. 

However, research since has suggested lower variations for herd immunity thresholds which offer promise.

Just 43 per cent need to be exposed to the virus, according to scientists from Nottingham and Stockholm, or 24 million people in Britain.

Professor Frank Ball, Professor Tom Britton and Professor Pieter Trapman — three authors of the new study — said herd immunity from the disease spreading could be 'substantially lower' than it would be from a vaccine.

They wrote in the journal Science: 'Our application to Covid-19 indicates a reduction of herd immunity from 60 per cent... immunization down to 43 per cent in a structured population, but this should be interpreted as an illustration, rather than an exact value or even a best estimate.'

Antibody testing in New York City suggest that as many as one in five (or about 20 per cent) of people there have some level of immunity to coronavirus.

And the new mathematical modeling study from the University of Sussex suggests that as much as 40 per cent of the state has immunity.

But Dr Hanage cautions that the virus may be spreading much more slowly in New York, and especially in New York City, but it is still spreading.

He also says that the resulting herd immunity would not be enough to prevent the deaths of large swathes of the population there.

'It's quite sobering if you imagine that what had actually happened in New York City was not the result of social distancing, but the natural epidemic curve,' he said.

'That came at the cost of nearly 300 deaths per 100,000 in the population. 'Imagine that per capita mortality rate over the entirety of the US getting [around] 900,000 deaths.'

But he added: 'The more immunity there is in the population, the more benefit you're going to get from non-pharmacological interventions (like social distancing) - it's better bang for your buck.'

Other researchers say just 10 per cent of the population need to catch the disease to gain herd immunity. 

The study by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the University of Strathclyd, found that Belgium, England, Portugal and Spain have herd immunity thresholds in the range of 10 to 20 per cent.

The study lead Dr Gabriela Gomes told the New York Times: 'At least in countries we applied it to, we could never get any signal that herd immunity thresholds are higher.

'I think it's good to have this horizon that it may be just a few more months of pandemic.' 

Carl Bergstrom, an infectious disease expert at the University of Washington in Seattle, said: 'Mathematically, it's certainly possible to have herd immunity at these very, very low levels.

'Those are just our best guesses for what the numbers should look like. But they're just exactly that, guesses.'

The variation in estimates exist because modelling studies all take different approaches. But they are producing lower herd immunity thresholds because they take into account that not everyone is susceptible to catching the disease.

An initial calculation for herd immunity assumes that everyone is at the same risk of Covid-19, which scientists know in real life is not the case.

Catching Covid-19 has shown to be more likely when people live in crowded conditions, live in poorer areas or work in essential roles, from nurses to bus drivers.



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, August 19, 2020

The myth of America's unique COVID-19 failure

If you follow the news these days, you are likely inundated with stories about how the United States, under Donald Trump, has uniquely mishandled the COVID-19 outbreak. Much of the rest of the world, we are assured, has managed the pandemic surprisingly well. But the United States? An unparalleled “catastrophe,” says the Atlantic. “A unique failure,” intones the New York Times.

But what if these judgments are wrong? What if they are so focused on absolute numbers of cases and deaths, that they miss the most important apples-to-apples nuances necessary to make a proper assessment?

It appears this is exactly what has happened with the reporting on America’s COVID-19 response. In fact, when you compare the United States with other countries with similar political and economic systems (the fairest comparison), the United States is more middle-of-the-pack than unrivaled outlier.

Surprised? So were we.

Like many Americans, we found the Trump administration’s initial response to the novel coronavirus to be lackluster, dismissive, and (typical of Trump) politically overwrought. And while there were significant successes, like enacting massive economic stimulus packages with Congress, and an impressive ramp-up in ventilator production, the dire numbers were hard to miss: COVID-19 deaths in the United States have consistently accounted for more than 20 percent of all COVID-related deaths worldwide. Unique disaster, right?

Actually, no.

If you dig a little deeper into the top-line numbers, you’ll find two important mitigating factors at play. First, the United States, with a population of 330 million, was always going to have a higher absolute death count compared with nearly every other country in the world. Hearing that the United States had 1,000 deaths on a given day while Costa Rica had only 15 might make for good copy at CNN — but those numbers are about equal, in relative terms, because Costa Rica has a population of only 5 million.

Second, and more important, the list of countries most negatively impacted by the pandemic, as measured by per-capita deaths per 100,000, is dominated by Western capitalist democracies: seven of the top 10 (and nine of the top 14 — not counting the microstates of San Marino and Andorra) are liberal democracies ranging from Belgium to the Netherlands. The United States, at number 8, is roughly equal to France, and significantly below Belgium, Britain, Italy, Spain, and Sweden.

Yes, some of these countries had terrible early outbreaks that have skewed their overall mortality numbers. But so did the United States — the hard-hit Northeast still accounts for roughly half of all U.S. COVID-19 deaths. And while several countries like Spain, Britain, and the United States (and Australia) are suffering second wave infections, mortality rates have dropped significantly, none more so than in the United States.

In other words, the media-driven narrative that Trump’s America is suffering through a unique COVID-19 failure is wildly misleading. It would be far more accurate to say that American-style liberal democracy has, on balance, faced a much tougher time containing and controlling the worst effects of the virus on its societies.

This should actually not come as much of a surprise when considering that liberal democracies embody greater openness and exposure to international trade and travel than most other countries. They also contain private-sector-based free market economies that are not genetically suited to government-directed “shutdowns” or “lockdowns”; indeed, their natural instinct — none more so than the United States — is to be open and flowing.

So, while media talking heads like to point out that the United States is faring worse than “nearly all other countries” in its handling of the Coronavirus, this is actually an irrelevant point. Does anyone believe that Rwanda, Uganda, and Sri Lanka — the countries least impacted by the virus — should be models for running advanced industrial economies? Of course not. And while some democracies — like Germany and Denmark — have done a better job than others with their response, even they can’t escape being in the top 40 hardest hit countries.

Instead of being caught up with irrelevant global numbers, the United States and other liberal democracies must navigate recovery on their own terms. Indeed, we believe the same capitalist democracies that are having a relatively tougher time managing the Coronavirus will have relatively greater success moving past it. That’s because the same social and economic openness that creates Coronavirus vulnerabilities will also provide the ingenuity and resourcefulness to effectively balance public health and economic vitality, and a return to full strength.



UK: Tony Blair warns another national lockdown is 'impossible' and blasts 14 day quarantine rules as too long - as he claims ministers have been over relying on experts during coronavirus crisis

Tony Blair today warned it will not be possible to impose another UK-wide coronavirus lockdown as he claimed ministers had got the Government's travel quarantine policy 'wrong'.

The former prime minister said it was 'not credible' for the Government to repeat the sweeping draconian measures put in place back in March because of the economic damage another shut down would cause.

He said Britons must learn to 'live with' the deadly disease until there is a vaccine and that a mass testing programme is the only way to keep the country moving.

He took aim at the Government's 14 day quarantine rules for people returning to the UK from countries where coronavirus is on the rise as he said the self-isolation period could be cut 'substantially'.

He called for ministers to take a more 'sensible' approach to calculating risk amid rising speculation that Croatia and Greece could soon join Spain and France on the UK's 'red list'.

Meanwhile, Mr Blair also suggested ministers had been over reliant on officials during the crisis and that they needed to recognise 'where the science ends and judgements begin'.

Boris Johnson has not ruled out imposing a second national lockdown should there be a major spike in coronavirus cases.

But Mr Blair told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that another lockdown was 'not possible'.

He said: ‘I just don’t think you are going to be able to do that and I think it was hard enough to do the first lockdown.

‘The economic consequences of that are obviously devastating but if you think about doing that in the winter months I just think it is not credible, it is not possible to do.

‘If you track what is happening around the world today I think countries are moving in the direction of this mass testing.'

Mr Blair has long advocated the introduction of a mass routine testing programme in order to stop the spread of coronavirus in the community.

He said that such a programme is necessary because as many as 70 per cent of cases are asymptomatic.

He said the Government 'has got to change the way it calculates risk' as he called for quarantine rules to be relaxed.

Ministers announced last week that travellers returning from France must now self-isolate for two weeks.

The Government has faced sustained pressure from the travel sector and Tory MPs to ease the rules.

Mr Blair said: 'In every single aspect of this, once you realise you are not going to eradicate the disease, you are going to have to contain it and live with it at least until a vaccine comes, then you have just got to have a sensible risk calculus in every area.

‘So for example now we are telling people to go back into pubs, we are incentivising them, quite rightly for the purposes of getting the economy moving, to go and eat out.

‘All of those things are risk. I think the way we are doing the quarantine rules is wrong actually, I think you could cut that 14 day quarantine substantially.

‘If you recognise that whatever you do there is going to be a risk, you just have to minimise it.’

Mr Blair also called for more political leadership during the crisis as he suggested ministers had tried to shift responsibility for key decisions to the Government's science and health experts.

Ministers have said throughout the pandemic that all of their decisions have been based on the latest official advice.

Mr Blair said: ‘In the end the important thing when you are in government and officials are giving you advice, is the hard thing is sometimes not finding the answers but finding the right questions.

‘You have just got to interrogate the officials properly and I think what has happened is that too much of this has just been, as it were, accepted without really trying to get underneath and into the detail of what people are suggesting so you understand where the science ends and judgements begin.’



Johannes Leak cartoon shows that the left just can’t handle the truth

Jacinta Nampijinpa Price

Cue the pigeons of confected outrage and send in the cat. What has the left flock all fluttering and squawking is Johannes Leak’s cartoon lampooning Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s words about “brown and black girls”. But there was not a single feather ruffled about the terms when Biden originally used them.

It’s another example of the imputation that everybody on the right is racist and nobody on the left could possibly be.

Those on the left are so blinkered ideologically that they cannot see, or cannot admit, that their condescending identity politics and tokenism are rooted in racism.

In their stampede to push Biden’s campaign, they are prepared to ignore his racist remarks about “brown and black girls” and (disturbingly) his repeated assertion to the African-American community: “If you have a problem figuring out if you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”

But instead of being offended by this blatant playing of the identity politics card, which stereotypes people with racial tropes, the left takes to the barricades over a cartoon that uses Biden’s own words against him. The cartoon incisively skewers Biden — a former vice-president — for choosing a running mate not on the weight of her career and achievements but because of the identity politics appeal of her skin colour and her gender.

Imagine the left’s reaction had US President Donald Trump announced the appointments of Small Business Administrator Jovina Carranza as “bringing hope to Mexican girls” or Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao as “bringing hope to Asian girls” — let alone referring to them as perhaps “brown” or “yellow”.

It is assumed by those on the left that they know better than we do, that they know how we think and feel — or how we should think and feel.

It is assumed by the left that to overcome racism we must follow the principles of identity politics and appoint individuals to positions of power because of the colour of their skin and/or their gender.

We are then reduced to the colour of our skin and our gender, not recognised as human and not recognised on the basis of merit.

Those on the left also obviously believe that we brown and black girls can’t cope with subtlety and complexity when it comes to discussing race and gender issues in the way that Leak so obviously can.

He has used Biden’s words to highlight the divisive, insidious and offensive use of identity politics as a means of self-promotion.

But the left, while giving Biden a pass on using the terms, then presumes to speak on behalf of “black and brown girls” and attacks Leak for doing what every good cartoonist should. Why do those on the outraged left feel they have every right to speak on behalf of “brown and black women and girls” around the world, such as me? We little brown and black girls can speak for ourselves.




NYPD union endorses Trump: "We need your strong voice across the country" (New York Post)

Nevada sent more than 200,000 mail-in primary ballots to wrong addresses (The Washington Free Beacon)

Twenty-eight million mail-in ballots went missing in last four elections (RealClearPolitics)

For the record: Six myths about the USPS and the election debunked (The Federalist)

Biden-Harris ticket aims to spark enthusiasm at convention after low-key campaign (Fox News)

Trump "failure" on COVID-19 will be central message of Biden convention (The Hill)

Black Lives Matter movement to play elevated role at convention (The Hill)

Kamala Harris brings gun confiscation support to presidential ticket (The Washington Free Beacon)

Federal appeals court rules law-evading Hillary Clinton does not have to testify in lawsuit over her emails (National Review)

GAO rules DHS secretary and deputy are not valid officeholders (The Resurgent)

More than sixty 911 calls go unanswered during Portland riot (PJ Media)

Trump threatens to intervene in the Big Apple after another violent weekend saw 50 people shot and seven killed (UK Daily Mail)

Costs from weeks of "protests" take financial toll on cash-strapped cities (Fox News)

The 2020 San Francisco exodus is real, and historic (SFGate)

Iowa requests nearly $4 billion in disaster aid after derecho; the storm damaged or destroyed 13 million acres of corn (Fox Business)

Japan was hit by its biggest economic slump on record in the second quarter (Reuters)

Head-turner: Notorious Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals strikes down California's ban on high-capacity magazines, says restrictions violate Second Amendment (Fox News)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo inks deal to support more U.S. troops in Poland (AP)


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, August 18, 2020

Chinese vaccine looking good

Effect of an Inactivated Vaccine Against SARS-CoV-2 on Safety and Immunogenicity Outcomes: Interim Analysis of 2 Randomized Clinical Trials

Shengli Xia et al.


Importance:  A vaccine against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is urgently needed.

Objective:  To evaluate the safety and immunogenicity of an investigational inactivated whole-virus COVID-19 vaccine in China.

Interventions:  In the phase 1 trial, 96 participants were assigned to 1 of the 3 dose groups (2.5, 5, and 10 μg/dose) and an aluminum hydroxide (alum) adjuvant–only group (n = 24 in each group), and received 3 intramuscular injections at days 0, 28, and 56. In the phase 2 trial, 224 adults were randomized to 5 μg/dose in 2 schedule groups (injections on days 0 and 14 [n = 84] vs alum only [n = 28], and days 0 and 21 [n = 84] vs alum only [n = 28]).

Design, Setting, and Participants:  Interim analysis of ongoing randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 1 and 2 clinical trials to assess an inactivated COVID-19 vaccine. The trials were conducted in Henan Province, China, among 96 (phase 1) and 224 (phase 2) healthy adults aged between 18 and 59 years. Study enrollment began on April 12, 2020. The interim analysis was conducted on June 16, 2020, and updated on July 27, 2020.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  The primary safety outcome was the combined adverse reactions 7 days after each injection, and the primary immunogenicity outcome was neutralizing antibody response 14 days after the whole-course vaccination, which was measured by a 50% plaque reduction neutralization test against live severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Results"  Among 320 patients who were randomized (mean age, 42.8 years; 200 women [62.5%]), all completed the trial up to 28 days after the whole-course vaccination. The 7-day adverse reactions occurred in 3 (12.5%), 5 (20.8%), 4 (16.7%), and 6 (25.0%) patients in the alum only, low-dose, medium-dose, and high-dose groups, respectively, in the phase 1 trial; and in 5 (6.0%) and 4 (14.3%) patients who received injections on days 0 and 14 for vaccine and alum only, and 16 (19.0%) and 5 (17.9%) patients who received injections on days 0 and 21 for vaccine and alum only, respectively, in the phase 2 trial. The most common adverse reaction was injection site pain, followed by fever, which were mild and self-limiting; no serious adverse reactions were noted. The geometric mean titers of neutralizing antibodies in the low-, medium-, and high-dose groups at day 14 after 3 injections were 316 (95% CI, 218-457), 206 (95% CI, 123-343), and 297 (95% CI, 208-424), respectively, in the phase 1 trial, and were 121 (95% CI, 95-154) and 247 (95% CI, 176-345) at day 14 after 2 injections in participants receiving vaccine on days 0 and 14 and on days 0 and 21, respectively, in the phase 2 trial. There were no detectable antibody responses in all alum-only groups.

Conclusions and Relevance:  In this interim report of the phase 1 and phase 2 trials of an inactivated COVID-19 vaccine, patients had a low rate of adverse reactions and demonstrated immunogenicity; the study is ongoing. Efficacy and longer-term adverse event assessment will require phase 3 trials.



She's 'Unbeatable?': WSJ Columnist Shreds the Liberal Media's New Kamala Harris Narrative With One Tweet

This is a case of identity poliics redounding in favour of conservatives. Because of identity politics, Biden had to choose a female, even if it was a real one.  Had he been free to choose the most helpful Veep he would have chosen Bernie Sanders and romped in.  Sanders has a huge personal following among the clueless so adding that to the effect of being on the Donk ticket would have probably wiped out Trump

Actually, it’s a series of tweets, but one particular observation from The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel sticks out— and it’s a brutal one. I mean, do these liberal media types don’t know that we can harness the power of Google. These publications have archives like the rest of us. And there is a trove of articles about the collapse of Kamala Harris’ 2020 run.

It wasn’t a little car crash either. It was a thermonuclear explosion. She was wiped out before the California primary. She had no message, no plan, and an organization that was rudderless. It was a s**t show. Yet, now that Joe Biden has decided to pick her, though she was not his first choice, Harris has undergone this rebirth as some master tactician and campaign ace who will inject steroids into the Democrats’ 2020 hopes. Really?

Here’s the observation Strassel noted that’s both true and damning:

Everyone from Julian Castro to Cory Booker to Deval Patrick to Tulsi Gabbard to Elizabeth Warren to Pete Buttigieg, to Amy Klobuchar to Andrew Yang to Tom Steyer to Michael Bennet had more appeal and staying power than Harris. But now we are told she is unbeatable?


Yet, while Strassel notes how Harris is an unremarkable VP pick, could that be also to her advantage. Just playing devil’s advocate here, when you can’t pin down your opponent and define her in an election—isn’t that a problem? Maybe. Though I would say her opening speech when she was first introduced shows a person who cannot go off-script. The speech was terrible to start, loaded with inaccuracies and lies about the Trump White House, and was entirely predictable. It was as if the entire production staff of MSNBC jotted down the annotations.

Strassel added that now more than ever, Harris will be put under the microscope due to Biden’s apparent mental degradation and her “do no harm” checkbox that she supposedly filled when the Biden camp was forced to pick her could open up the Democratic ticket to what engulfed her first campaign: total disaster (via WSJ):

If commentators are now struggling to define Ms. Harris, it’s because she offers little that is truly defining. The party establishment quickly closed ranks around her 2016 Senate race, allowing her to run a standard liberal campaign that the Los Angeles Times described as “carefully orchestrated” and “overly cautious and scripted.” In her 3½ Senate years, she’s done little by way of legislation, preferring to showboat at hearings. The lack of an animating agenda helps a explain a presidential campaign in which she bounced from left to far-left position, whatever she thought most helpful at the moment. She twice called to eliminate private health insurance—and twice reversed herself the next day after backlash. As Vox noted, the “combination of policy reversals and botched rollout . . . undermined faith in her ability to govern on the issue Democrats rate as most important.”

The campaign was a mess, rocked by infighting, leaks, restarts and financial problems. After the campaign announced layoffs in early November, its veteran Iowa operations manager wrote a scathing resignation letter in which she said she’d “never seen an organization treat its staff so poorly” and expressed dismay at its ability to make “the same unforced errors over and over.” Ms. Harris didn’t even make it to the first contest, dropping out—broke and with embarrassing poll numbers—two months before the Iowa caucuses. The only other “top tier” candidate to implode as quickly or spectacularly was Beto O’Rourke. The Washington Post campaign obituary bluntly called Ms. Harris an “uneven campaigner” who was “engulfed by low polling numbers, internal turmoil and a sense that she was unable to provide a clear message.” The Post this week lauded Ms. Harris as “vibrant and energetic” and a “vessel for Democratic hopes.”

Biden watchers insist the nominee fulfilled the cardinal rule of veep picks: First, do no harm. Possibly, but it’s pretty clear it did no good either. Mr. Biden’s biggest concern remains his lagging enthusiasm numbers. Polls consistently show the majority of Democratic voters notably unexcited about his candidacy. One fix would have been a running mate hailed as a fresh and rising Democratic star. Ms. Harris has alienated key elements of her party, in particular progressives who despise her as a “top cop” from her six years as California’s attorney general. In a poll this week by the Economist/YouGov, Ms. Harris was viewed favorably by only half of African-Americans and very favorably by only 26% of liberals. Will that keep people from pulling a Biden-Harris lever? Maybe not, but she won’t likely be a poll driver.

And there’s still a possibility she’ll do harm. Mr. Biden’s age and questions about his mental acuity guarantee an outsize focus on his running mate, who could end up president. Ms. Harris’s own presidential run proves she has a propensity to make mistakes—potentially big ones. The Trump campaign is eager to define her as a Bernie Sanders liberal, and she’s got a track record that helps—having endorsed Medicare for All, the Green New Deal and gun bans. Many Americans will also remember her leading role in the character assassination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, matched only in political theater by Cory “Spartacus” Booker. This has the potential to turn off some suburban and independent voters. Even if they don’t rush into Mr. Trump’s arms; they may simply not vote.

There’s a lot of hype here—no doubt. But I don’t think “top cop” Kamala brings much to the ticket. She’s being buoyed by a lot of media-manufactured hot air, flanked by her friends in the Senate. Let’s see how things go in a few weeks. Maybe she’ll hide in the bunker with Joe to avoid making errors because they’re both two peas in a pod when it comes to that.



Depression and anxiety are skyrocketing in young adults amid pandemic

Anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts are skyrocketing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study suggests. The study, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that young adults were particularly prone to these increases.

The study researchers analyzed information from more than 5,400 U.S. adults ages 18 and older who completed an online survey in late June.

The percentage of Americans reporting symptoms of anxiety disorder increased about threefold and the percentage reporting symptoms of depressive disorder increased about fourfold, compared with levels seen in a survey conducted around the same period in 2019, the study found.

Overall, in the 2020 survey, about 41% of participants reported symptoms of at least one mental health condition; with 31% experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, 13% initiating or increasing use of substances (including alcohol or marijuana) to cope wtih stress tied to the pandemic, and nearly 11% reporting that they had seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days.

The toll was particularly striking among adults ages 18 to 24. In this group, about 63% reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, 25% reported starting or increasing use of substances, and 25% reported seriously considering suicide in the past 30 days. For comaprision, in a national survey conducted in 2018, about 14% of young adults reported an episode of major depression and 11% reported serious thoughts of suicide in the past year.

The new findings "highlight the broad impact of the pandemic and the need to prevent and treat these conditions," the authors wrote in their study, published Thursday (Aug. 13) in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The study could not determine the reason for the rise in mental health conditions, but factors relating to the pandemic, such as social isolation, school and university closures, unemployment and other financial worries, as well as the threat of the disease itself, may play a role, the authors said. Future studies will be needed to determine the specific drivers poor mental health in the pandemic.

Why young adults seem particularly affected by the pandemic is not known. After all, studies have found that young people are less likely to experience serious illness from COVID-19 compared with old adults. But older adults in the study had the lowest prevalence of mental health symptoms: Among those ages 65 and older, 8% reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, 3% reported starting or increasing use of substances and 2% reported seriously considering suicide in the past 30 days.

One idea is that people's ability to accept uncertainty may be tied to their mental health response, according to The New York Times. "Now there are so many questions, especially for young people, about relative risk, duration of the pandemic and what their futures will look like," study lead author Mark Czeisler, a psychology researcher at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, told the Times. A longer life experienced may help older adults better tolerate these uncertain times.

There is an urgent need to address the mental health consequences of the pandmeic, such as through increased access to resources for diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions and expanded use of telehealth, the authors said.



Rapid economic recovery Trump predicted continues as unemployment claims drop

Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning today issued the following statement on the latest unemployment insurance claims published by the Department of Labor:

“President Donald Trump predicted a fast recovery from the COVID-19, and now it is continuing at a rapid clip with fewer than 1 million new jobless claims for the first time since March, and another 624,000 came off continued claims the week of Aug. 1.

“As a reminder, in Feb. 2020, unemployment was at a 50-year low with fewer than 6 million Americans unemployed and it was the unleashing of the Chinese coronavirus that drove those numbers through the roof. Now, the President’s balanced approach to reopening America while continuing to battle the virus has led to an unprecedented recovery, with 9 million to 10 million jobs recovered in the past three months.

“No President has been as focused on private sector job creation in generations, and it stands in stark contrast to the Obama-Biden so-called shovel-ready jobs promise that paid off public employee unions but did little for Americans who were actually out of work.”



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, August 17, 2020

Paying for an epidemic of stupidity

Some wisdom from Australia: Steve Waterson points out that  daily No. of "cases" tells us little and creates a false sense of urgency

Back in the good old days, the average person used to take pride in having a robust grasp of basic maths: enough mental arithmetic not to be overcharged at the shops, enough skill with pen and paper to make more complex calculations.

Not any more, it seems. Many of our finest minds are infected with a new innumeracy that, in today’s fevered environment, distorts our understanding of, and response to, the coronavirus threat.

In early April, as the disease was just beginning to bite, the team manning the ABC’s coronavirus news website promised to answer questions about the pandemic.

When a reader asked for help in interpreting some infection-rate statistics, it provoked a cheerful response, broadcast to the world: “This just sparked a heated newsroom discussion in which we all outed ourselves as being terrible at maths.” You don’t say.

They’re only — some might say barely — journalists, however. They don’t need the mastery of figures that our leaders display so magnificently. So for a moment of light relief, let’s examine the numbers that currently unnerve them. If we cancelled Victoria’s lockdown immediately, and its cases were permitted to grow at 1000 a day, the whole state would be infected in no time. By “no time”, of course, I mean 18 years.

No wonder they’re frightened: at that rate it could sweep through the entire country in little more than 70 years. Luckily, in recent times we have been adding 1000 people to our population every day. Phew. Dodged a bullet there.

Worldwide, excess deaths from COVID-19 (generously assuming every victim died from, rather than just with, the virus) are around 700,000. Given the roughly 60 million deaths the world records each year, it’s as though 2020 had 369 days in it, rather than 366.

If that thought chills you, congratulations! A lavishly pensioned, undemanding and unaccountable career in politics beckons.

The ultimate showcase of political innumeracy is the quasi-religious ritual of The Reading of the Cases. Witnessed and recorded by the faithful in the media (who love to have their work handed to them on a plate), it has become a farce within this bigger farce.

The sombre, priestly arch-buffoon blesses reporters with fodder for their blog updates, sprinkling them with numbers that look like information but withstand no scrutiny.

Cases, as a moment’s reflection reveals, do not equal sickness, much less hospitalisations. Until we are entrusted with the knowledge of how many are the results of tests on people who show no symptoms, they serve only to strike terror into the innumerate.

Indeed, why do we need to hear these figures at all? We don’t get daily updates for any other diseases. They serve no useful purpose, as we are not given sufficient detail to make our own assessment of their significance, decide on the level of risk they represent and tailor our activities accordingly.

Their primary purpose seems to be to post-rationalise our leaders’ devastating, simple-minded lockdowns and border closures, and to panic people into sporting their masks of obedience should they be sufficiently reckless as to leave their homes.

Perhaps the announcements, if they must continue, could give us real information: “There have been 637 new cases today, but happily 480 were young people who had no symptoms and didn’t know they’d been infected. Oh, and only two of today’s cases were serious enough to need to go to hospital.”

Maybe for context they could dilute their irresponsible scaremongering by including details of the other 450 people who die in Australia each day, including the victims of lockdown: the suicides and those who, too frightened to visit a doctor or hospital, are dying avoidable deaths through lack of screening and treatment (Britain anticipates as many as 35,000 extra deaths in the next year from cancer sufferers presenting late with correspondingly advanced tumours); and the people tumbling into despair, depression and other mental and physical illnesses.

Perhaps the premier could hand over to the state’s treasurer, who would read out the number added daily to the jobless lists, the businesses forced into bankruptcy, the mortgages foreclosed.

Then someone from social services could talk about the growth in homelessness, the “huge increase” in domestic violence reported by victim support groups, the marriage breakdowns.

But they won’t because of a mathematical and behavioural curiosity we’re all familiar with, if not by name: the sunk costs fallacy.

Imagine that last month you bought a ticket for a concert tonight. You’re tired, it’s pouring with rain, and you dread dragging yourself into town. The money’s gone whatever you decide, so logic says you should cut your losses and stay in, but instead you pull on your raincoat and call a taxi. The urge is irrational, but almost irresistible. The whole vile pokies industry is built on it.

Now imagine how much harder to alter course if your investment was enormous and everyone was watching, poised to ridicule you for changing your mind.

Here’s where our politicians find themselves, unable to admit their response to the virus — the ultimate blunt instrument of lockdown, brutally enforced — hasn’t worked, and will never work.

They can’t do so because it would mean all they have done up to this point has been in vain. How could anyone who had wreaked damage on this cataclysmic scale ever admit to themselves, let alone to the nation, that it was all for nothing? Instead, like the pokie addict, they have doubled down to unleash a runaway epidemic of stupidity. They’ve destroyed our economy and put thousands out of work; they’ve refashioned many of our famously easygoing population into masked informers; and we’ve handed control of our lives to a clown car packed with idiots.

If there is a clearer demonstration of the insidious overreach of the nanny state, infantilising and sinister, and the shameful acquiescence of its legions of time-serving bureaucrats, I’m not aware of it.

What’s more insulting, each day we are chastised for “disappointing” our leaders, as though they are our superiors and it is the citizens’ duty to please them. The infected are singled out, vilified and shamed as sinners, their scandalous movements — three pubs on a Saturday night! — tracked and condemned. It recalls the attitude towards AIDS victims in the 1980s, a divine judgment visited on wicked libertines.

But attempt to argue that the cost of our response has in any way outweighed the impact of the virus and expect to be labelled a virus denier. Then expect to be asked, accusingly, how many deaths you would find acceptable. No matter how often or how emphatically you declare “We should protect the vulnerable”, some will hear those words as “Let’s throw the old people to the wolves”.

On April 4 in these pages I wondered when life moved from being precious to priceless. An exaggeration, but more than four months on we’ve set the opening bid pretty high. Turn the question around and ask what we are prepared to pay to protect the elderly with comorbidities. Let’s assume we’d let the disease run its course, as Sweden did, and had suffered the same death rate. We might have lost 10,000 of the old and sick earlier than in a normal year. We’ve kept that figure down, but at what cost?

On this week’s numbers our governments have spent more than $220bn and put 750,000 people out of work; some of that burden would have been incurred whatever path we had followed, but most of it is self-imposed.

Is it callous to suggest that’s too high a price to prolong what in some cases were lives of no great joy? What good might we have done with just a fraction of that $220bn, artfully applied? Would it not have been far better to spend a smaller, but still significant, sum on protecting and caring for the vulnerable and elderly to the very best of our abilities, and then, crucially, offering them the choice whether to accept that care?

We could allow them, like sentient adults, to make a simple calculation: do I live a little longer in safe but miserable isolation, or do I spend my remaining days at some risk but embraced by the warmth of family and friends?

That’s not a decision for any politician, even a wise one, to make. It’s a matter of choice for the individual, or, if incapacitated, for those responsible for them.

Governments don’t exist to tell us how or when we can die; but if life is measured only by length, not quality, this is where we end up: imprisoned, supposedly for our own good, on the basis of flawed statistical modelling and even worse interpretations of that modelling.

Undismayed by the models’ failure to predict the future when the virus first appeared, self-styled experts have now contorted their fears into absurd, illogical predictions of a parallel present: if we hadn’t acted as we did, they say, then tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands more would have died. How can anyone possibly know?

As the statistics, and yes, bodies, pile up around the world, we are getting a clearer picture of the virus’s course and virulence, and the more data we have, the more similar the curves appear. If we accept Australians are not exceptional in their resistance to disease, then it appears we have some heartbreak ahead of us, no matter how hard we try to avoid it.

New Zealand is lauded as the perfect example of how to crush the virus, but would anyone be surprised if it too has to pay the price somewhere down the line? Four new cases locked down the 1.6 million inhabitants of Auckland this week in a monstrously excessive overreaction that would be comical were it not so destructive.

Meanwhile, the rest of New Zealand has shut down so completely it has effectively removed itself as a nation from the international community. It’s as though the country had never existed. Soon it will be reduced to a fading Cheshire Cat image of its Prime Minister’s saintly sad face.

Let’s hope for the Kiwis’, and everyone else’s, sake a vaccine is found soon, although the World Health Organisation now warns we may never have one. It’s a tired line to repeat, but even after 40-odd years of searching we don’t have one for HIV-AIDS.

Which, if anyone needs reminding, still kills 2600 people a day.



That COVID-19 vaccine Russia approved? It's only cleared for use in a small group of people

This week, Russian president Vladimir Putin announced that the country had approved a coronavirus vaccine, seemingly for widespread use. But the vaccine has actually been approved only for use in "a small number of citizens from vulnerable groups," according to Science Magazine.

Although Putin announced that the vaccine had been approved, presumably for widespread use, the registration certificate issued by Russia's Ministry of Health actually covers only a small group including health care workers, according to Science Magazine. The certificate also states that the vaccine cannot be approved for widespread use until Jan. 1, 2021.

Russian minister of health Mikhail Murashko said that the country will soon begin a mass campaign to distribute the vaccine, and that medical workers and teachers will be prioritized to receive it first, according to The New York Times.

A phase 3 clinical trial of the vaccine, which will assess safety and efficacy more thoroughly, is scheduled to begin this week, Dmitriev told reporters, according to The Associated Press.




"Things are moving along at the proper pace": Attorney General William Barr says John Durham "development" coming Friday (Washington Examiner)

Major breakthrough: Israel and United Arab Emirates agree to full normalization of relations (NBC News)

Nancy Pelosi says no coronavirus relief talks until Republicans agree to a massive $2 trillion price tag (Fox News)

Mitch McConnell announces Senate will adjourn until September 8 unless a stimulus deal is struck (Axios)

Trump plans to deliver Republican National Convention speech on White House lawn (New York Post)

Joe Biden calls for a spurious nationwide mask mandate: "Every single American should be wearing a mask when they are outside" (The Daily Wire)

Dr. Anthony Fauci: No reason why we shouldn't be able to vote in person (The Washington Times)

Oregon State Police pull out of protecting Portland courthouse after city refuses to "prosecute this criminal behavior" (The Daily Wire)

UC-Berkeley study: At least 15,800 essential workers would not have contracted COVID if California had stockpiled enough masks and PPE (UK Daily Mail)

Thirteen states make contact tracing data public. Here's what they're learning. (NPR)

More than a quarter aged 18-24 have "seriously considered suicide" in past 30 days, according to the CDC (The Daily Wire)

Temporary layoffs becoming permanent job losses, as 62% of employers don't plan to hire (Washington Examiner)

American Airlines prepares to drop some service to smaller cities as expiration of federal aid nears (CNBC)

"Only the Supreme Court may revise its precedent": 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds male-only military draft (American Military News)

NSA and FBI expose Russian intelligence hacking tool (Reuters)

Non compos mentis: 9/11 "Tribute in Light" memorial in NYC canceled supposedly over COVID-19 concerns (New York Post)

Georgia governor to drop lawsuit over Atlanta mask mandate (AP)

Policy: Why the war on nuclear threatens us all: America's energy policies are pushing its allies into the embrace of undemocratic rivals (City Journal)


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, August 16, 2020

UK: Sweden’s success shows the true cost of Britain's arrogant, failed establishment

So now we know: Sweden got it largely right, and the British establishment catastrophically wrong. Anders Tegnell, Stockholm’s epidemiologist-king, has pulled off a remarkable triple whammy: far fewer deaths per capita than Britain, a maintenance of basic freedoms and opportunities, including schooling, and, most strikingly, a recession less than half as severe as our own.

Our arrogant quangocrats and state “experts” should hang their heads in shame: their reaction to coronavirus was one of the greatest public policy blunders in modern history, more severe even than Iraq, Afghanistan, the financial crisis, Suez or the ERM fiasco.

Millions will lose their jobs when furlough ends; tens of thousands of small businesses are failing; schooling is in chaos, with A-level grades all over the place; vast numbers are likely to die from untreated or undetected illnesses; and we have seen the first exodus of foreigners in years, with the labour market survey suggesting a decline in non-UK born adults.



Sweden: Still some doubters

It’s the country that was heavily criticised for deciding to do things differently when it came to coronavirus – to ignore lockdown and keep bars and schools open.

And it paid a price with at least 5700 deaths putting it in the top 10 of nations in terms of coronavirus deaths per million.

But, as time goes on, Sweden’s controversial approach to tackling COVID-19 is winning over some sceptics.

The Swedish economy has shrunk less than other nations and cases have fallen dramatically, deaths have essentially dried up and no significant second wave has occurred. In fact, right now, Sweden looks better than Australia.

However, some virus watchers have warned that Sweden’s success could be a mirage. That a Scandinavian trait could be behind the low current numbers and the real test could come in as little as one month’s time.

When the world was locking down, Sweden, conspicuously, did not. Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, Dr Anders Tegnell, created and drove a unique national COVID-19 strategy.

Pubs, most schools and other workplaces remained open. When people in Sydney were banned from supping a beer in a bar, residents of Stockholm were enjoying sundowners with their mates.

That’s not to say there were no restrictions on the nation’s 10 million citizens. People were barred from going to aged care homes, joining large gatherings and Swedes were encouraged to social distance – which it seems they did almost as much as everyone else.

“As a society, we are more into nudging: continuously reminding people to use measures, improving measures where we see day by day the that they need to be adjusted,” Dr Tegnell told the journal Nature in May.

Initially, the plan seemed to backfire. At one point Sweden had more deaths per population than any other country.

So far, Sweden has suffered around 5800 deaths – far smaller than the US’ 167,000 deaths or the UK’s almost 50,000 fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus resource centre

But compared to its Scandinavian neighbours, Sweden’s experience is grim. It has recorded 10 times the deaths of Denmark and 20 times that of Norway, both of which locked down harder.

Yet, since a peak of 115 deaths a day in early April, Sweden’s numbers have tracked consistently downwards.

It’s now seeing a seven day average of 226 cases, lower than Victoria in Australia. Deaths are around one per day. There has been no detectable second wave, unlike in many other countries including in Scandinavia

The BBC reported that while Sweden’s economy shrank a dire 8.6 per cent between April and June, that’s lower than the European Union average of 11.9 per cent. However, its economy is only a touch better off then Denmark.

Dr Tegnell has consistently said Sweden’s pre-vaccine approach to dealing with COVID-19 is more sustainable and preferable to rolling lockdowns and re-openings which he has labelled “disastrous in many ways”.

Sweden’s consistency in its restrictions has led it to be in the now bizarre position of having more in place than many other countries which dropped lockdowns as soon as cases started falling.

Last month, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven threw his weight behind Dr Tegnell’s strategy. “We can see (coronavirus) is clearly going down. The number of seriously ill people in need of intensive care is declining, the number of fatalities is declining,” he told newspaper Aftonbladet. “But of course, over 5000 people have died. I wish it had never happened.”

Mr Lofven said the strategy was about protecting health but also mitigating consequence for employees and companies. “That strategy is right; I am completely convinced of that.”

Misha Gajewski, a contributor to Forbes magazine, said Mr Lofven’s faith in Sweden’s plan “could be right”. But, she warned, it was still too early to tell pointing to a recent report by the Royal Society of Medicine. “The authors note it likely won’t be until as many as two years after the pandemic that we will be objectively able to say which method was the most effective.”

The potential by-product of Sweden’s lack of lockdown – herd immunity – is also taking longer to achieve. It had been thought that by now as many as 60 per cent of Stockholm’s residents might have virus antibodies. In all likelihood, perhaps only one-in-five residents actually do. And even that may not lead to total resistance.

One of the main factors in the current Swedish success however could be simply because it’s August. That’s the month when much of the country comes to a halt. It’s a time when Swedes desert the cities and head to their secluded summer homes to spend the day diving in lakes, sweating in saunas and drinking copious amounts of schnapps. That’s a worry because the second wave could be an unwanted welcome back to work gift.

It could be some way into September before Sweden knows if lower numbers of new cases and deaths is a long-term trend. Prof Collignon said the nervous wait could be even longer.

“A big factor in how this transmits is how much you are indoors. In northern Europe, it’s likely this was being spread in crowded indoor spaces and no one knew it,” said Prof Collignon. “The big test will be the next winter in northern Europe when it may tick up.”

Dr Tegnell is positive on Sweden’s strategy, but cautious.  “It will be very difficult to achieve any kind of really clear-cut answer as to what was right and what was wrong,” he told UK newspaper The Observer.

“I think we’re talking years into the future before we can get any kind of consensus on how to deal with this in the best possible way.”



Janice Fiamengo calls out Kamala Harris for sexual exploitation

Canadian men’s rights activist Janice Fiamengo has just released a brilliant video exposing Joe Biden’s newly announced Vice-President running mate, Kamala Harris, as an identity politics ideologue, the perfect match for Biden.

Fiamengo points out Biden was architect of the Violence Against Women Act, and is a man who has done more than any other politician to destroy due process protections for accused men.

But Kamala Harris has also been in the thick of all the recent identity politics issues, a proud feminist who proclaimed she’s never met a #MeToo survivor she didn’t believe, including those women who claimed to have been inappropriately touched by Jo Biden!

Fiamengo also reveals an intriguing aspect of Harris’ personal history. At age 29 the newly graduated litigator had an affair with the then 60-year-old Democrat House Speaker for the Californian State Assembly, Willie Brown. During the two years the two were in a relationship, Brown appointed Harris to two high-profile, well-paid government positions – jobs she was unlikely to have achieved on her own merits.

That's Harris with Brown above.  She is clearly as white as can be there. You can't just spray that on.  It looks like her present brown skin is some sort of spray tan.  See here.  What a crook she is!

Fiamengo calls this out as “sexual exploitation,” describing as the “female side of sexual harassment” this process of a woman using her sexual power to extort political or other favours from a man.

“The question is if men are to be condemned for exploiting their power for sexual access supposedly because it hurts all women and warps workplace cultures, then why are women held guiltless when they exploit their sexual power for political and other access? Do their actions not also corrupt workplace cultures breeding favouritism, resentment, mistrust, apathy and rancour?”

It’s an excellent point but don’t expect it to get much play in a culture where any deviation from the feminist narrative is firmly suppressed by our captured mainstream media. 

Email from Bettina Arndt --



Budget deficit hits $2.81 trillion in just 10 months and is on track to be far more than double the $1.4 trillion all-time record set in 2009 (UK Daily Mail)

"I'm the boss," eh? Far Left melts down after Democrats severely limit AOC's speaking role at convention (The Daily Wire)

"Not a great fit out here": Republicans say Harris harms Biden in crucial Rust Belt (Washington Examiner)

Facebook's CCP-linked "fact-checker" is censoring articles about CCP influence in the U.S. elections (The National Pulse)

Murder rate spikes in 20 major American cities (The Daily Caller)

More homicides than COVID deaths in Kansas City (KCTV)

Chicago looters smash the doors to Ronald McDonald House while 30 frightened families huddled inside the children's charity

Georgia clothing store called racist for waiving fee for non-white customers (Fox News)

"We're going to have huge problems": U.S. general warns of long-term ISIS resurgence (The Washington Times)

Wrong kind of war: Federally funded nuclear weapons lab made white male employees participate in racial reeducation training (The Washington Free Beacon)

NBC, ABC, CBS, and CNN show zero results for reports on the five-year-old white child allegedly executed by black 25-year-old neighbor (Washington Examiner)

DC mayor orders "defund the police" mural removed, the timing of which coincides with the veep selection of former top cop Kamala Harris (The Post Millennial)

Nevada governor fines banned church for holding service in opened casino (The Federalist)

Paul Howard ousted after serving more than two decades as Fulton County DA (Fox 5 Atlanta)

Workers file under a million jobless claims for first time since March (New York Post)

After losing both her in-laws to COVID-19, Janice Dean is calling for an investigation of New York (The Daily Signal)

Policy: In a second term, Trump could build on his foreign policy successes (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