Friday, September 18, 2020

Eli Lilly’s coronavirus antibody drug cut hospitalization rates by THREE-FOLD for mild or moderately ill patients, early study data reveals

Eli Lilly and Co says interim results from its study of an antibody drug shows it may prevent mild to moderately ill coronavirus patients from being hospitalized.

The antibody, LY-CoV555, was developed by Indianapolis-based Lilly and the Canadian company AbCellera.

It recognizes the virus once a person is infected and attaches to it, preventing the pathogen from spreading throughout the body.

Hospitalization or ER visits were about three times less likely in COVID-19 patients given the drug than those given a placebo.

The company announced the results on Wednesday in a press release, but they have not been published or reviewed by independent scientists.

‘I’m strongly encouraged’ by the results, said Dr Myron Cohen, a virologist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. He had no role in the Lilly study but helps direct antibody studies for a public-private research group the federal government formed to speed testing of these drugs. ‘This seems to demonstrate what we thought’ – that such drugs would give a benefit, he said.

A total of 450 people with COVID-19 symptoms not severe enough to warrant hospitalization were recruited for the mid-stage study.

The drug is given once through an IV and was tested at three doses. Neither the patients nor their doctors knew which patients received the drug or placebo infusions.

Hospitalization or ER visits occurred in 1.7 percent of 302 patients given the drug and six percent of those given the placebo, a 72 percent risk reduction.

No serious side effects or deaths were reported among patients.

The drug missed the study’s main goal of reducing the amount of virus patients had after 11 days, except the middle of three doses being tested at 2,800 milligrams.

However, most study participants, even those given a placebo treatment, had cleared the virus by then, so that time point now seems too late to judge that potential benefit, the company said.

The company felt that giving the actual numbers ‘told the story in the most balanced way,’ said Dr Daniel Skovronsky, Lilly’s chief scientific officer.

‘The results reinforce our conviction that neutralizing antibodies can help in the fight against COVID-19.’

The company said most hospitalizations occurred in patients who were among higher-risk groups, such as being elderly or underlying risk factors such as being elderly or obese, suggesting a more pronounced treatment effect for people in these higher-risk groups.

Lilly said it would talk with regulators about possible next steps but that it was too soon to speculate on whether these interim results might lead to any action to allow early use.

Antibodies are proteins the body makes when an infection occurs. They attach to a virus and help it be eliminated.

The blood of survivors – convalescent plasma – is being tested as a treatment for COVID-19 patients because it contains such antibodies.

However, the strength and types of antibodies varies depending on each donor, and doing this on a large scale is impractical.

The drugs that Lilly and other companies are testing are concentrated versions of specific antibodies that worked best against the coronavirus in lab and animal tests, and can be made in large, standardized doses.

They are being tested to treat newly diagnosed COVID-19 patients in hope of preventing serious disease or death, and to try to prevent infection in people at high risk of these outcomes such as nursing home residents and health workers.

The difference seems large enough to suggest a true benefit and the result is ‘promising’ even though the study missed its main goal, said Dr Peter Bach, a health policy expert at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York who was not involved in the study.

The trial, which has now enrolled 800 patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19, is being test in combination with another Lilly antibody, LY-CoV016, which binds a different park of the spike protein the virus uses to enter human cells.

Lilly has already started manufacturing its antibody drug, hoping to have hundreds of thousands of doses ready by fall if studies give positive results.

Another company that developed an antibody drug cocktail against Ebola – Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc – now is testing a two-antibody drug for coronavirus.



Do eyeglasses lower COVID-19 risks? Study finds spectacle-wearers are FIVE TIMES less likely to be diagnosed with coronavirus than the general public

Wearing eyeglasses daily may reduce the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus, a new study suggests.

Researchers from China found that COVID-19 patients were five times less likely to have frames than the general population.

The team, from The Second Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University, says they believe this is because ACE-2 receptors, which the virus latches onto to enter and infect human cells, can be found in the eyes.

The findings also provide more evidence for why healthcare workers should wear eye protection and why more attention needs to be focused on preventive measures such as frequently wash their hands and avoid touching their face.

For the study, published in JAMA Ophthalmology, the team looked at 276 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 between January 27 and March 13.

Thirty patients wore eyeglasses (10.9 percent), including 16 cases of nearsightedness and 14 cases of farsightedness.

None of those diagnosed with the virus wore contact lenses or had undergone refractive surgery to correct their vision.

A total 16 patients, all nearsighted, were long-term wearers, defined as wearing glasses for more than eight hours a day, accounting for 5.8 percent.

For the general population, the researchers looked at study decades ago from students between ages seven to 22 years in Hubei province, of which 31.5 percent wore glasses for nearsightedness.

At the time of publication, those students would be between ages 42 and 57, close to the median age of 31 for the COVID-19 patients.

This means that the general population is 5.4 times more likely to wear eyeglasses daily than those diagnosed with coronavirus.

‘Our main finding was that patients with COVID-19 who wear eyeglasses for an extended period every day were relatively uncommon, which could be preliminary evidence that daily wearers of eyeglasses are less susceptible to COVID-19,’ the authors wrote.

The researchers hypothesize that frames ‘prevent or discourage wearers from touching their eyes, thus avoiding transferring the virus from the hands to the eyes.’

Studies have recently found that the eyes produce ACE-2, making the organs a prime target for the virus.

Coronavirus has not only been found on the surface of the eyes, but also within tears, which would transfer the pathogen.

This may explain why up to 12 percent of patients with COVID-19 have so-called ‘ocular manifestations,’ such as redness and swelling.

‘Therefore, the eyes are considered an important channel for SARS-CoV-2 to enter the human body,’ the authors wrote.

‘For daily wearers of eyeglasses, who usually wear eyeglasses on social occasions, wearing eyeglasses may become a protective factor, reducing the risk of virus transfer to the eyes and leading to long-term daily wearers of eyeglasses being rarely infected with COVID- 19.’

In an invited commentary, Dr Lisa Maragakis, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said people should not wear glasses if they do not need them.

‘Although it is tempting to conclude from this study that everyone should wear eyeglasses, goggles, or a face shield in public to protect their eyes and themselves from COVID-19, from an epidemiological perspective, we must be careful to avoid inferring a causal relationship from a single observational study,’ she wrote.



Twitter suspends account of Chinese virologist who claims COVID-19 was developed in a Wuhan lab – as she releases report with ‘evidence’ that she says backs up her theory

Twitter has suspended the account of a Chinese virologist who has publicly claimed that COVID-19 was developed in a Wuhan laboratory.

Li-Meng Yan’s account was taken down on Tuesday after she accused China of intentionally manufacturing and releasing COVID-19.

The Twitter account remained down on Wednesday and a message on the page now reads: ‘Account suspended. Twitter suspends accounts which violate the Twitter Rules.’

Twitter has not commented on the suspension of Yan’s account.

The social media giant started putting warning messages on tweets in May that contained disputed coronavirus claims.

It is not clear if there was one specific tweet from Yan that violated Twitter’s policy.

In an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on Tuesday night, Yan claimed she was suspended because ‘they don’t want the people to know this truth’.

Yan, who is a former researcher at the Hong Kong School of Public Health, said COVID-19 was ‘man-made’ and ‘not from nature’.

‘I have evidence to show why they can do it, what they have done, how (they did it),’ she told Fox News.

‘The scientific world also keeps silent… works together with the Chinese Communist Party, they don’t want people to know his truth. That’s why I get suspended, I get suppressed, I am the target that Chinese Communist Party wants disappeared.’

After the segment aired, the Fox News show also accused Facebook of censorship after saying they had been blocked from sharing the interview segment on the social media platform.

A video of the interview segment posted on the Tucker Carlson Tonight show’s page now comes with a warning that reads: ‘False Information. This post repeats information about COVID-19 that independent fact-checkers say is false.’

It comes as Yan published a report this week that she claims backs up her theory that China created the virus in a lab.

Some scientists have since said her report is ‘unsubstantiated’ and said it ‘cannot be given any credibility’.

Yan’s report has not been published in a scientific journal and has not been peer-reviewed – meaning it has not been checked and approved by fellow scientists.

Her report was posted on the website Zenodo.

The study was produced by the Rule of Law Society and the Rule of Law Foundation, sister organizations that former Trump strategist Steve Bannon founded with 50-year-old Chinese fugitive Guo Wengui.

Yan, who claims she fled to the US in April, says she was working at the Hong Kong School of Public Health – a reference laboratory for the World Health Organisation – before she was cut off after trying to alert people to human-to-human transmission of the virus in December.

The lab has denied that Yan ever ‘conducted any research on human-to-human transmission’ and said her assertions have ‘no scientific basis’.

In her report released this week, Yan claims the virus was built by merging the genetic material of two bat coronaviruses.

She claims its spike protein – a structure on the surface of the virus which it uses to bind with cells – was edited to make it easier for the virus to latch on to human cells.

Other research papers have already determined the origin of the virus as bats, which has resulted in top experts dismissing suggestions the virus was created by humans.

Yan writes that her research discounts the theory that coronavirus evolved in the wild and was then transferred to humans, claiming it ‘lacks substantial support’.

‘SARS-CoV-2 shows biological characteristics that are inconsistent with a naturally occurring virus,’ she wrote.

President Donald Trump claims he has seen evidence the virus, which he solely blames China for, came from Wuhan Institute of Virology – but he is not allowed to reveal it.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL 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 here. Home page supplement


<b>The "improved" blogger</b> appear to be intent on forcing bloggers off their platform. The old form of their blogging engine is no longer available as from today.  And the new form will either insert paragraph breaks but interpret no html or it will interpret html but not create paragraphs.  The old engine that would do both is gone.  So to make my posts today intelligible I have to leave my html uninterpreted, which is messy.  I have an idea for a workaround but it will require preparation

Thursday, September 17, 2020

University of Pittsburgh scientists discover antibody that 'neutralizes' virus that causes COVID-19

Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have isolated “the smallest biological molecule” that “completely and specifically neutralizes” SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The antibody component is 10 times smaller than a full-sized antibody, and has been used to create the drug Ab8, shared in the report published by the researchers in the journal Cell on Monday. The drug is seen as a potential preventative against SARS-CoV-2.

According to the report, the drug has been “highly effective in preventing and treating” the SARS-CoV-2 infections in mice and hamsters during tests. The drug also reportedly does not bind to human cells, which suggests it will not have negative side effects in people.

“Ab8 not only has potential as therapy for COVID-19, but it also could be used to keep people from getting SARS-CoV-2 infections,” said co-author John Mellors, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Pitt and UPMC. “Antibodies of larger size have worked against other infectious diseases and have been well tolerated, giving us hope that it could be an effective treatment for patients with COVID-19 and for protection of those who have never had the infection and are not immune.”

Researchers are “thinking outside the box” for how the drug could be administered, stating it may be able to be inhaled or through a superficial injection, instead of an IV

According to the report, the team at University of Texas Medical Branch Center for Biodefense and Emerging Diseases and Galveston National Laboratory tested Ab8 and found it blocked the virus from entering cells. In mice trials, those treated with Ab8 had 10-fold less of the amount of infectious virus compared to those that were untreated.



It’s Far Too Late to Think Lockdowns Can Make Covid-19 Go Away

In the early days of the coronavirus crisis, the rationale given for lockdowns was that it was necessary to stay at home for "fifteen days to slow the spread." The idea was that social distancing was necessary so that hospitals and other healthcare resources would not be overwhelmed.

However, by the summer of 2020, whether by design or not, it became common to hear media pundits, politicians, and even some scientists either imply or outright claim that social distancing could permanently flatten the curve or otherwise somehow cause a drastic reduction in overall covid-19 deaths.

For example, The Hill's Reid Wilson claimed in July: "We know how to stop this virus, it requires social distancing, it requires wearing a mask, and constant hand sanitizers and staying home as much as possible."

Yet this displays a woeful lack of understanding about the purpose and effectiveness of lockdowns. Lockdowns of the sort seen in April and May in this country do nothing at all to "stop this virus." The lockdown strategy only works to completely stop a disease if certain conditions can be met. Specifically, the lockdown must be extremely strict,  and it must be maintained indefinitely—perhaps for years—until a safe and effective vaccine is widely available.

Clearly, the US is nowhere near enforcing a lockdown like this, nor does it appear that a vaccine—certainly not a well-tested one—is imminent. Thus, given that we know lockdowns themselves cause deaths through suicides, drug overdoses, and more, trying to impose a strict lockdown until that day comes would be a high-stakes gamble few will be willing or able to endure.

Lockdowns Only Provide "Temporary Suppression"
For some insightful observers, this has been clear from the very beginning. Writing back in April of this year, Joseph Ladapo, a professor of medicine at UCLA, wrote:

There is no guarantee of a vaccine within the next 18 months. We have taken measures to slow the virus, but these can’t stop it. The only thing that can stop the virus at this advanced stage of community transmission is a complete lockdown, which can happen in authoritarian countries like China, but not in the U.S.

Are shutdowns enough? No. Despite the efforts, there is still enough human contact to ensure the virus will spread. Take a look at the long list of “essential” services and exemptions on California’s Covid-19 website, for example. Shutdowns will cause the virus to spread more slowly, but it will spread nonetheless.

When shutdowns end, the virus will spread and Covid-19 deaths will increase. Without a vaccine and community immunity—often called “herd immunity”—this outcome is all but guaranteed. The only thing that will temporarily quell it in the near term, short of a miracle treatment, is another shutdown. But states will get only one pass at this. Once lifted, the appetite for a repeat shutdown will be tepid at best, even in left-leaning states. The reality of the shutdown’s costs—the upheaval caused by school closures, economic hurt, social isolation and lost lives and livelihoods—will be fresh. Some argue that stopping Covid-19 and protecting the economy are one and the same. Although this is true, it is too late to do either.

Not even the most enthusiastic supporters of draconian lockdowns, including Neil Ferguson, author of the infamous (and very wrong) Imperial College model, thought it possible to eradicate the disease through lockdowns. The Imperial report refers to lockdowns simply as a method of "temporary suppression."

As Ladapo notes, at this stage in the game, i too late to contain the disease without a total lockdown where so much as a trip to the grocery store is verboten. Moreover, international borders would have to be sealed shut to prevent infected populations from entering the country. Given the success with which governments have controlled the flow of migrants, we can guess about how successful that strategy would be.

When we add all this together, given current realities, social distancing and lockdowns cannot possibly serve any purpose other than to slow down the spread so as to lessen the burden on healthcare facilities. The only lives saved would be those who would otherwise have been denied medical care by an overwhelmed medical system. But this is a relatively small number, and in the developed world medical systems are now nowhere near running out of beds.

Thus, another round of stay-at-home orders or lockdowns certainly won't make the disease go away. They'll just delay the spread to a future date. Moreover, it’s debatable how effective lockdowns are at accomplishing even this. In a new working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), Andrew Atkeson, Karen Kopecky, and Tao Zha conclude that we may be even past the time when lockdowns make much of a difference to outcomes.

It appears countries and regions follow a similar pattern "everywhere." Transmission rates are high at first, the study notes, but growth in the spread of the disease quickly declines after twenty to thirty days. After this, “the growth rate of daily deaths in all regions has hovered around zero or slightly below.” This is regardless of whether or not there are social distancing laws or mask mandates. In other words, it doesn't look like lockdowns (which now vary widely in their extent and severity) are even changing the shape of the curve anymore.

Thus, a few months out from the initial surge, growth rates in all regions became more and more similar across jurisdictions. The authors therefore conclude:

given the observation that disease transmission rates have remained low with relatively low dispersion across locations worldwide for the past several months as NPIs [nonpharmaceutical interventions] have been lifted, we are concerned that estimates of the effectiveness of NPIs in reducing disease transmission from the earlier period may not be relevant for forecasting the impact of the relaxation of those NPIs in the current period, due to some unobserved switch in regime.

In other words, not only are we well past the time when lockdowns might have flattened the initial surge in transmissions, at this point in the pandemic it doesn’t look like lockdowns would even do much to flatten the curve to the point that we're better off.

Dogmatic advocates for lockdowns are likely to continue pushing for open-ended mandates until a vaccine is widely available. But they're gambling with people's lives. How many children must be impoverished and how many jobless men and women must die by suicide or drug overdoses in the meantime? Every day of a lockdown puts more lives in danger.



‘One size fits all’ approach dangerous when it comes to personal protective equipment

Protective masks do not fit healthcare workers properly, particularly women and those of Asian descent, a new Australian study has found.

The debate around mask wearing has been a hot topic since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Now researchers claim masks don’t always fit our frontline workers properly, particularly women or those of Asian descent, putting them at risk of catching the potentially deadly disease.

Now academics are calling for more formal fit-testing procedures.

Researchers at the University of Western Australia and Perth Children’s Hospital argue hospitals lack the time and financial resources to ensure every worker has a mask that fits properly.

Co-author Professor Britta von Ungern-Sternberg said an ill-fitting mask could allow unfiltered air to be drawn inside.

The “fit-pass” rate for women is just 85 per cent compared with 95 per cent for men, while masks fit 90 per cent of caucasian workers properly, but that figure drops to 84 per cent for people of Asian descent and even lower at 60 per cent for Asian females.

The shape and size of the respirator in relation to the wearer’s facial anthropomorphic dimensions were major factors in terms of quality of fit, researchers said.

However, the study has its limits. Females and Asians were under-represented, academics confessed.

But they said the most important takeaway was triggering discussion about the difference between fit checking (when a wearer checks their own mask) and fit testing (a standardised testing measure).

The authors said fit testing should form part of official hospital occupational health and safety programs.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, filtering facepiece respirators require a fit test to ensure proper protection.

But despite international guidelines, fit testing is not adopted in many countries including in Australia.

Some companies do offer fit testing at a hefty price which authors said is similar to in-person mandatory training.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted deficiencies of some healthcare facilities to protect their HCWs in line with national and international recommendations, and the requirement for formal fit-testing programs appears to be particularly important,” the study authors noted.




John Durham speculation reaching fever pitch after aide resignation, Lindsey Graham comments, and phone-wipe mystery (Fox News)

CDC is moving ahead with critical race theory trainings despite Trump order (National Review)

Justice Department internal watchdog is investigating Roger Stone's sentencing (NBC News)

Attacks on Chicago officers are up "five times" over previous years (The Daily Wire)

Two Los Angeles County deputies in stable condition after being shot; search for assailant continues (ABC 7)

Wounded female LA deputy, shot through jaw and both arms, gave partner emergency medical treatment after ambush (Disrn)

Rochester mayor fires police chief over handling of Daniel Prude case (Washington Examiner)

Federal ruling: Florida can require eligible felons to pay fines and fees to vote (Washington Examiner)

Riots and looting hit Pennsylvania after cop shoots a minority man who was charging at the officer with a knife (The Daily Wire)

If the child porn in Netflix's "Cuties" surprised you, you haven't been paying attention (The Federalist)

NBC's woke Sunday Night Football ratings plummet nearly 30% compared to 2019 (Disrn)

"They're there to cover the game": CBS tells announcers not to editorialize on NFL "social justice" (The Resurgent)

Maryland to add LGBTQ content to public schools' history curricula (The Daily Caller)

University of Chicago's English Department declares it will only accept applicants interested in working "in and with Black studies" for its next graduate admissions cycle (Daily Mail)

College Board reportedly became "key partner" with Chinese regime; the academic behemoth behind AP, SAT helped advance Chinese infiltration in K-12 schools (The Washington Free Beacon)

DHS cracks down on goods made with Chinese forced labor (The Washington Free Beacon)

DHS leaked email confirms antifa is an organized group (The Post Millennial)

Trump issues stark warning to Iran after reports country is considering plot to assassinate U.S. ambassador (Fox News)

U.S. halts ineffective symptom checks and screenings for high-risk countries (New York Post)

Policy: How urban governments have failed on housing, school outcomes, income segregation, and policing (American Enterprise Institute)

Policy: President Trump's ban on critical race theory, explained (Foundation for Economic Education)


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

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


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

9th Circus rules 400,000 immigrants can be forced to leave

Los Angeles: A federal appeals court has ruled the Trump administration acted within its authority in terminating legal protections that have allowed hundreds of thousands of immigrants to live and work legally in the United States, sometimes for decades, after fleeing conflict or natural disasters in their home countries.

The 2-1 ruling by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals effectively strips legal immigration status from some 400,000 people, rendering them deportable if they do not voluntarily leave. The decision affects the overwhelming majority of beneficiaries of a program offering what is known as "temporary protected status", which has permitted them to remain in the US after being uprooted from their unstable homelands.

The Trump administration has argued that the emergency conditions that existed when people were invited to come to the US — earthquakes, hurricanes, civil war — had occurred long ago. The program, it said, had inadvertently conferred permanent immigration status for people from places like El Salvador, Haiti and Sudan, most of whom it said no longer needed safe haven.

The long-awaited decision does not immediately end the protections. The Trump administration has agreed to maintain them until at least March 5, 2021, for people from five of the affected countries and until November 2021 for people from El Salvador.

If President Donald Trump is not reelected, a new administration could choose to maintain the program.

The plaintiffs are almost certain to request that the decision be reconsidered by an 11-judge panel hearing the case. They could also ask the Supreme Court to take up the matter.

"It's a really devastating day for hundreds of thousands of people who have lived and worked in the country lawfully for decades," said Tom Jawetz, vice-president for immigration policy at the Centre for American Progress.

"But it's not the end of the line for them," Jawetz said. "There will be additional litigation, and ultimately the fate of these people may be decided by the outcome of the November election."

Proponents of limits on immigration hailed the decision.

"The 9th Circuit affirmed two clear aspects of TPS," said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said in a statement. "The first is that the T in TPS stands for temporary and that it is not intended, nor should it be, a backdoor to permanent residency."

He said the decision also made it clear that the government had discretion to determine when it was safe for immigrants given temporary protections to return home. For countries such as El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan, he said, "the crises that triggered the TPS designation have long since passed."

The court's ruling could force many people who have been in the country for years, if not decades, to contemplate leaving their jobs, homes and communities to return to impoverished countries that are ill-prepared to absorb them. It also could result in the separation of families because beneficiaries have about 200,000 US-born children.

Ten countries are currently part of the temporary protected status program, signed into law by President George HW Bush in 1990. Only four were officially included in Monday's decision — El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan — but nationals from two other countries, Honduras and Nepal, sued separately and a legal agreement calls for those countries to be covered by Monday's decision.

Nationals of El Salvador, the first to be offered temporary protected status, as a result of the country's civil war in the 1980s, represent about half of all recipients. Haitians received protection after the 2010 earthquake. Syria and Yemen were designated after civil wars erupted there.

Under the program, the secretary of Homeland Security decides when a country merits the designation and the status can be extended indefinitely. Bosnia and Herzegovina lost its temporary protected status after the end of its 1990s-era civil war, as did Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia after the Ebola crisis.

Determined to reduce immigration, Trump in 2017 began trying to scrap protection under the program for several other countries, meeting with lawsuits that temporarily blocked any cancellations.

The government extended protections under the program for beneficiaries from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sudan, who account for more than 90 per cent of the total, as the courts considered the legal challenges.

The appeal that was before the 9th Circuit argued that the government's decision to eliminate the program was motivated by Trump's animosity towards immigrants from non-white, non-European countries. Lawyers had cited his statements that were disparaging of Mexicans, Haitians and others from developing countries.

The plaintiffs also argued that maintaining the program was in the national interest because more than 100,000 holders of temporary protected status work in industries deemed "essential" during the coronavirus pandemic, including more than 11,000 healthcare workers and more than 76,000 food-related workers, according to the Centre for American Progress.

The US Chamber of Commerce said that revoking the program would adversely affect several key industries where recipients make up a significant amount of the workforce. Roughly one-fifth of construction workers in Washington, DC, are immigrants with temporary protected status, most of them Salvadorans.

The judges said the argument that the Trump administration was motivated by animus toward certain races or countries was unlikely to succeed. "Plaintiffs fail in their burden of showing a likelihood of success, or even serious questions, on the merits of their claim that racial animus toward 'non-white, non-European' populations was a motivating factor in the TPS terminations," they said in their opinion.

The panel noted that the administration extended temporary protected status for immigrants from some countries, including Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, whose populations are also "non-European" and "non-white". Beneficiaries from those countries collectively represent less than 8000 people.

The majority opinion was written by Judge Consuelo Callahan, an appointee of President George W Bush, with Judge Ryan Nelson, appointed by Trump, concurring. Judge Morgan Christen, named to the court by Barack Obama, dissented.

Ahilan Arulanantham, senior counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, who led the legal challenge, said the plaintiffs would keep pressing their argument through the courts. "The president's vile statements about TPS holders made perfectly clear that his administration acted out of racial animus," he said. "The Constitution does not permit policy to be driven by racism."

The Justice Department applauded the court's decision, which it said recognised that the government had the authority to make such decisions without judicial review. "We applaud the 9th Circuit's recognition of the plain language of the Immigration and Nationality Act and its rejection of the baseless accusations of animus behind the actions taken by the Department of Homeland Security," the Justice Department said in a statement.

The court vacated a 2018 preliminary injunction issued by Judge Edward M. Chen of the US District Court in San Francisco that had blocked the administration from terminating the program for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Sudan.

As part of their finding that the plaintiffs were unlikely to succeed on the merits, the judges said federal courts generally lacked the authority to review such decisions by the secretary of Homeland Security.



No, Biden did not support Trump's early measures to reduce the China virus spread

For the record…

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are desperately endeavoring to distract voters from the polling backfire they are experiencing — the result of not condemning the urban riots plaguing Democrat-controlled cities. They have pivoted to a pre-election strategy of blaming Donald Trump for the CV19 pandemic death and economic destruction — as I predicted they would do last February.

That pivot hit another snag, meaning the disinformation and outright lies aren’t working.

Last week, our Douglas Andrews noted how Biden’s national press secretary, T.J. Ducklo, ducked a basic question: “Has Joe Biden ever used a teleprompter during local interviews or to answer Q&A with supporters?” He refused to answer — which was the answer.

But, given the Biden-Harris campaign shift to “the pandemic,” Ducklo had to answer the question of whether Biden supported President Trump’s early measures to contain the viral spread — specifically his restrictions on non-resident travel from China. Ducklo lied, claiming Biden did support the restrictions: “Joe Biden has been clear that he was not against that travel ban at the time.”

Actually, Biden was clear in his opposition to the restrictions. On 31 January, after the Trump administration declared the coronavirus a public health emergency and DHS announced the China travel restrictions, Biden declared Trump’s actions constituted “hysterical xenophobia.” According to Biden, “This is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria and xenophobia — hysterical xenophobia — and fearmongering to lead the way instead of science.” Of course, it was “science” and advice from his pandemic team that led to Trump’s actions.

A day later, Biden again condemned Trump for “adding more countries to his list of who’s not welcome in America.” Biden reiterated, “We need to lead the way with science — not Donald Trump’s record of hysteria, xenophobia, and fear-mongering.” Biden did not alter his opinion on the travel restrictions until 3 April.

Every time Ducklo goes on record, you may fairly assume it is disinformation and obfuscation.




Joe Biden pushes gun control less than 24 hours after attempted assassination on deputies (Fox News)

President Trump gets a second nomination for Nobel Peace Prize (

Trump signs executive order to lower drug prices in fight against Big Pharma (Fox News)

Federal prosecutor resigns from John Durham probe over alleged pressure to wrap up ahead of election — even though the probe should have ended some time ago (National Review)

The Democrat narrative about "buying elections" notwithstanding, Michael Bloomberg to prop up Biden with $100 million in Florida (Reuters)

U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad steps down amid rapidly deteriorating relations over trade war, Hong Kong, and coronavirus (Daily Mail)

Netflix should face DOJ action over pedophilic "Cuties," some members of Congress say (Fox News)

Netflix CEO was not asked single question about "Cuties" controversy during 10-minute CNN interview (Disrn)

Slate calls people being offended by pedophilia "creepy" (Not the Bee)

Man arrested for arson, throwing Molotov cocktails at California Republican women's organization building (The Federalist)

St. Louis BLM protesters from McCloskey confrontation finally cited for trespassing (Fox News)

Governor Gretchen Whitmer continues streak of terrible decisions and orders athletes to wear masks during games (Washington Examiner)

On a related note, Whitmer expressed fears over Trump's Michigan rally but excused Biden's event (The Federalist)

Portland mayor bans police use of tear gas even after 100 days of rioting (The Daily Caller)

More than 20% of evangelicals wrongly embrace the concept of "gender fluidity" (Disrn)

Chick-fil-A to be offered lease in San Antonio airport following Rainbow Mafia moratorium (Fox News)

Iran weighs plot to kill U.S. ambassador to South Africa to avenge Qassem Soleimani (Politico)

San Francisco to vote on whether 16-year-olds should vote (The Daily Wire)

Epic fumble: Eleven NFL players charged in alleged coronavirus money scheme (Sharyl Attkisson)

Chinese virologist claims she has proof coronavirus came from Chinese lab (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


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

1,000 Georgia Voters Face Prosecution for Casting Multiple Ballots

During the state’s primary in June, 1,000 Georgia voters successfully voted twice, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced Tuesday.

The 1,000 Georgia residents cast votes by absentee ballot and then went in person to polling places on June 9 and voted again, Raffensperger said, adding that they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Of the 1,000 voters who voted twice, 58 percent requested Democratic ballots, according to Raffensperger’s office. Georgia does not offer the option to affiliate with a political party during voter registration, meaning voters who wish to vote in primary elections must request either a Republican or Democratic ballot.

“While the investigation is still ongoing, initial results show that of the partisan ballots at issue, approximately 58% were Democratic ballots,” a spokesperson for the Georgia Secretary of State said in a statement to National Review.

The secretary of state said that Georgia’s attorney general and local prosecutors will weigh whether to bring charges against the voters on a case-by-case basis.

“A double voter knows exactly what they’re doing, diluting the votes of each and every voter that follows the law,” Raffensperger said at a news conference. “Those that make the choice to game the system are breaking the law. And as secretary of state, I will not tolerate it.”

Voting twice is a felony in Georgia that carries a one to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

About 150,000 Georgia residents who requested absentee ballots later appeared at polling places during the state’s primary to vote in person, many because they either never received their absentee ballot or changed their minds and opted to vote in person. However, 1,000 of those voters had already mailed in their absentee ballot and were allowed to vote again by poll workers, although the double votes did not alter the outcome of any primary election, Raffensperger said.

About 1.15 million Georgia voters voted by absentee ballot during the primary, and 900,000 residents have requested absentee ballots so far for the general election so far.

The announcement comes as lawmakers, pundits, and activists on both sides of the aisle warn the public about the potential for complications and lengthy delays in tallying the final results of November’s general election due to an expected massive increase in the use of mail-in ballots.

President Trump suggested earlier this month that voters should attempt to vote twice in order to test the mail-in voting system, which he has warned could be a breeding ground for election fraud if large numbers of people vote by mail.

“Let them send it in and let them go vote, and if their system’s as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote,” Trump said. “If it isn’t tabulated, they’ll be able to vote. And that’s what they should do.”



The boogaloo  phenomenon/b>

Following is the first part of an article by the NYT  concerning a Right-wing movement I have never heard of.  There seems to be at least some truth in it but I do not know how much. I suspect that it is greatly exaggerated

At first glance, the We Are Washington rally might have looked like an early Fourth of July celebration, all bright stars-and-stripes Americana. It was a cool May morning in the state capital, Olympia, and low clouds were threatening to ruin the red, white and blue archway of balloons above the rally stage, the crepe paper behind it and the cut-out letters propped up in front that spelled ‘‘FREEDOM.’’ Few people wore masks. A man with a pistol on his hip meandered through the several-hundred-person crowd selling tiny yellow Gadsden flags — the ‘‘Don’t Tread on Me’’ rattlesnake — for $5 each to anyone who wasn’t already carrying something. A canopy of marker-drawn signs held above heads blared complaints about Covid-19 and the stay-at-home order declared by Gov. Jay Inslee, at this point in its 69th day. ‘‘0.2% Death Rate. No Muzzle’’; ‘‘Inslee Is the Real Virus’’; ‘‘Kim Jong Inslee.’’ Some took a more conspiratorial tone: ‘‘You Are Being Lied To.’’

Near the back of the crowd was a socialmedia-ready selfie backdrop: a large Q made of squares of cardboard, lying on the grass in front of the Capitol building. Below it, a hashtag: #WWG1WGA, ‘‘Where we go one, we go all.’’ It’s the rallying cry for QAnon, the conspiracy theory that at its most basic centers on a Democrat-run child-sex-trafficking ring and at its most elaborate involves figures like the pope and Joe Biden having been executed in secret and replaced with holograms. It might seem, in other words, like an odd theory to float at a rally that was ostensibly about the reopening of the local economy. But around the country, events like this one had become a beacon to fringe thinkers: anti-vaxxers, internet trolls, gun nuts, Proud Boys, hate groups, antigovernment militias and any other Americans who interpreted social-distancing and face-covering regulations as an infringement of their constitutional freedoms.

These reopening rallies had become more than just rallies, allowing everyday Americans — suspecting a liberal ploy in the shutdown of the economy and misled by right-wing politicians, up to and including President Trump, about the dangers of the coronavirus — to be exposed to the ideologies of a wide variety of extremists.

As the crowd grew in Olympia, a woman in a hooded sweatshirt got up onstage to give a speech and encourage the crowd to join something called People’s Rights Washington. They could be a part of it by texting the word RIGHTS to a five-digit number, which would then enlist them in a phone tree, allowing any member to report anything they deem a violation of personal freedom. ‘‘If there is an emergency, if a contact tracer shows up at your door, if C.P.S. shows up at your door, if the Health Department comes to your work and threatens to shut you down,’’ she explained, ‘‘we can send a text out that says, ‘Get to this address right now.’ ’’

Standing at the rear edge of the crowd, I took a few steps closer when I realized the voice coming from the stage sounded familiar. It was Kelli Stewart. She has been a live-streamer at several federal-court trials I’ve covered in the West — particularly of the Bundy family in both Nevada and Oregon. After Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan and several other defendants were acquitted in 2016 of charges related to occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, Stewart cheered and cried at the verdict, then paced in front of the courthouse reading from the Constitution. In the past two months, she has live-streamed from rallies and from the ‘‘underground church’’ she opened. For several years, she has referred to law enforcement as ‘‘Blue ISIS.’’

Now she explained to the crowd in Olympia that just a few years ago, she was just like all of them. She was a mother, a Sunday-school teacher raising goats on a small farm when the news of the refuge occupation broke. But it wasn’t until Robert LaVoy Finicum, a 54-year-old Arizona rancher who served as a spokesman for the occupation, was shot and killed by the police that she became an activist. It was her wake-up call, she said: the moment when the world she had always known was forever changed.

Stewart is now a fixture at right-wing rallies like this one, and as she spoke, she got at something undeniably true about these gatherings: This is where everyday people like her can be reborn, leaving their world behind and subscribing to a new collective truth. This is where they find fellowship with other people who are upset enough about the same things, who hold the same fears and frustrations. This is where isolation ends, where communion begins.

At the back of this crowd, which was mostly mothers and grandmothers and church leaders and business owners and the like, stood a clutch of men with long guns who didn’t seem to be listening much to the speeches. They clustered together in small groups, their eyes scanning the crowd behind sunglasses. One man carried a flag bearing the logo of the Three Percenters militia: the Roman numeral III in the center of a ring of stars. There was a cardboard sign propped up with the letters ‘‘NWO’’ — New World Order — crossed out. And in this mix were a couple of men wearing body armor decorated with American-flag patches. One wore a blue-and-white floral Hawaiian shirt under a desert-sand-colored vest, packed with as many as 90 extra rounds of ammunition. The other man had a different patch on his vest. It read: ‘‘Boogaloo.’’

Just what the word ‘‘Boogaloo’’ means depends on whom you ask. In simple terms, it’s the newest and youngest subset of the antigovernment movement, born in the full light of the internet age — with all the peculiarities that entails. The name comes from 4chan, the lamentably prolific message board where many memes are born, and involves the 1984 breakdancing movie ‘‘Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.’’ Though the movie was panned, the second half of its name had a long afterlife, eventually wending its way onto forums and social media, where it became slang for a fabled coming civil war — a sequel to the first. To some white supremacists, it means a race war. To others, it was all just a joke. But many others take it seriously, and to them it means a less well-defined cataclysm touched off, or sped up by, any number of groups who share antigovernment ideas and a deep love of firearms.

The Boogaloo is not just an event; it’s a movement of people, too. They call themselves ‘‘Boogalooers’’ or ‘‘Boogaloo bois.’’ Most seem to have extreme libertarian politics, with a heavy emphasis on Second Amendment rights. The Boogaloo is leaderless, and its goals differ depending on which Facebook or Telegram group you’re hanging out in. Some of these men claim to be antiracist, while others hold white-supremacist beliefs and warn of an impending white genocide. While some Boogaloo pages on Facebook feature periodic talk of racial justice and urgent needs to address climate change, many others are filled with memes featuring neo-Nazi black suns. If there is one thing that binds the Boogaloo together besides guns and Hawaiian shirts, it is a firm anti-authority, anti-law-enforcement stance — and a willingness, if not an outright desire, to bring about the collapse of American society.

When I spoke to Kris Hunter, a 39-year-old Boogaloo boi from Waco, Texas, he painted the movement as just wanting to help. Hunter told me he and his compatriots feel their hands have been forced. ‘‘A lot of the violence perpetrated by the government, police brutality, foreign wars, civilian casualties, no-knock raids — I guess the way we viewed it was: ‘How in the world are we supposed to stand up against this?’ ’’

I reached Hunter through Tree of Liberty, a website that seems to be acting as a public face for a movement that, by and large, congregates on private social-media pages. He says his group — the United States Boogalier Corps, by his estimate 80 percent military veterans — doesn’t take this self-appointed duty lightly. He pointed to the Boston Massacre of 1770, when five colonists were shot by British soldiers. ‘‘That was this moment when both the British and colonists realized we have run out of all peaceful options, and now they’re literally killing us out in the open,’’ he said. ‘‘We want the American people to understand that they have the constitutional authority to defend themselves against unconstitutional oppression.’’ But he insisted the movement does not want any actual confrontation with government forces.

This is not at all an uncommon stance among right-wing militias, which the Boogaloo both resembles and diverges from. And to truly understand the Boogaloo, you must first understand the militia movement that took root in the United States in the 1990s. The standoff between the white-supremacist Weaver family and the A.T.F. and the F.B.I. at Ruby Ridge in Idaho and the siege of the Branch Davidians’ compound at Waco led to a rapid expansion in their ranks, but broader societal dislocations were in the background, too. The United Nations and NAFTA, for example, figure prominently in militia ideology, often claimed to be signs of a so-called New World Order. ‘‘People get sucked into these movements for a bunch of different reasons,’’ says Travis McAdam, former executive director of the Montana Human Rights Network, a progressive organization that does research on the state’s extremists. ‘‘For some people it’s guns or environmental regulations, or some people don’t like people of color. You have people brought into this wide opening of the funnel cloud for various reasons.’’

But Boogaloo bois ‘‘are making their way through the funnel cloud,’’ McAdam says. And like militias, they’re arming up for the future. But there’s a key difference. With militias, ‘‘there’s always that imminent war coming, there’s always that invasion by One World forces,’’ he says. ‘‘It never happened, but it was always going to happen. Whereas with the Boogaloo stuff, there is a piece of that that is like, ‘We want to make that happen.’ ’’

The Boogaloo has thrived in an environment rife with entry points to the militia funnel cloud — the nihilistic swamps of social media and 4chan. Each Boogaloo group takes a different form, but memes are their common language — some funny, others less so. ‘‘Victory or fire. I Will Not Burn Alone,’’ reads one. Posts routinely call for the shooting of pedophiles. ‘‘Save the Bees. Plant More Trees. Clean the Seas. Shoot Commies,’’ reads another. Fears of climate change figure into the groups’ apocalyptic worldview, but they often find themselves attaching to reactionary ideas. ‘‘It’s very simple,’’ one meme reads, ‘‘learn to hate or die silently.’’ Another: ‘‘Environmentalism and nationalism go hand in hand. It is pride in your people, pride in your nation and pride in the very soil of the land.’’ But one common theme undergirds all these messages, regardless of which Boogaloo subset they attract: Do something about it. And do it now.

Back in November 2019, Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, issued a warning about who was using the word ‘‘Boogaloo’’ and why, in the form of a blog post illustrated with bizarre memes pulled from their forums: Pepe the frog firing a bazooka, a laser-eyed storm trooper with a black-sun halo, a big igloo. Though some still use ‘‘Boogaloo’’ as a joke, Pitcavage wrote, ‘‘an increasing number of people employ it with serious intent.’’ Still, he finished with a note of caution: Some people use the word ‘‘Boogaloo’’ to ‘‘mock some of the more fanatical or gung-ho elements of their own movement.’’

‘‘By that time it had crystallized from more than just a concept or a term,’’ he told me in July. ‘‘The beginnings of a movement had already started.’’ He went on: ‘‘It also started manifesting in the real world, with people showing up at events, self-identifying as Boogaloo.’’ The spring of 2020 was like a coming-out party for the movement, as men in colorful floral shirts and body armor festooned with igloo-shaped patches, semiautomatic weapons in hand, showed up at reopening rallies against Covid19 restrictions across the country, from Lansing, Mich., to Denver, to Harrisburg, Pa. Some carried black-and-white American flags with a red stripe of floral print through the middle and an igloo in the place of stars.

In March, a Missouri white supremacist told an undercover F.B.I. agent he planned to detonate a car bomb outside a hospital treating Covid-19 patients. He called the plan ‘‘Operation Boogaloo.’’ When the F.B.I. tried to serve the man a probable-cause warrant, a firefight ensued, and he shot himself before he could be apprehended and succumbed to his wounds at the hospital. In April, a man in Texarkana, Texas, who identified with the movement streamed a live video on Facebook while dressed in body armor and a Hawaiian shirt, telling viewers he was ‘‘hunting the hunters’’: searching for police officers to ambush. He is accused of leading several officers on a high-speed chase, continuing even after his tires were deflated by a spike strip. He was later apprehended and pleaded not guilty to attempted-murder charges.

As the movement’s profile rose, catching the attention of the media, Boogaloo bois bent the word to shield it from the eyes of content moderators. ‘‘Boogaloo’’ became ‘‘big igloo,’’ then ‘‘big luau’’ — hence the Hawaiian shirts. Boogaloo bois became ‘‘boojahideen.’’ On the forums, they would joke about a ‘‘pig roast’’ — code for killing police officers. In June, Facebook claimed that it deleted hundreds of accounts and pages devoted to the movement; by mid-July, the Boogaloo bois were back on Facebook talking about a ‘‘spicy fiesta.’’

‘‘The problem with the Boogaloo bois is they’re not a cohesive movement,’’ J. J. MacNab, a fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, said during testimony to the House Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism in mid-July. ‘‘You could actually, in a really bizarre world, have two Boogaloo groups shooting at each other.’’ It is on the issue of law enforcement that the Boogaloo seems to greatly diverge from the militias that came before it, which in many cases collaborate with or even have members that are police officers. ‘‘They’re really anti-police,’’ Pitcavage says of the Boogaloo; they may say they want to find common cause with anyone protesting the police — but some want to act as agents provocateurs, accelerating street violence and furthering any conflict. For many of them, the protests following the killing of George Floyd on Memorial Day looked like the perfect opportunity to create mayhem.



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, September 14, 2020

Why China could be poised to win the race for a coronavirus vaccine

Experts wonder whether nation's strategy of focusing on 'old school' vaccine technologies may lead it to a breakthrough

There are many ways in which the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the weakness of the West, and this week China moved up a gear in the pivotal area of vaccine diplomacy.

A string of positive announcements from Beijing contrasted sharply with the mood in the West, which was dominated by the news the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine trial had been briefly paused following a suspected adverse reaction in a British volunteer.

Scientists are now, perhaps for the first time, seriously considering whether China might be first to develop an effective vaccine 

Diplomats, meanwhile, are turning their attention to what that might mean for geopolitics in the difficult winter months ahead. It could make the flare-ups over China's exports of face masks and ventilators during the early stages of the pandemic look like minor spats.

In truth, China has been at or near the front of the Covid-19 vaccine race from the off. Of the nine candidates in Phase Three trials, four are Chinese. 

And while the leading western candidates – Oxford-AstraZeneca, BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna – have all won plaudits for their use of state-of-the-art technology platforms, experts are starting to wonder whether China's strategy of focusing on "old school" vaccine technologies may eventually prove to be more prudent.

"Three of the four Chinese candidates use inactivated Sars-CoV-2 virus which ultimately may prove to be the best bet," said Dr Vipul Chowdhary, technical lead at leading biomedical think tank Policy Cures Research.

"All they have done is basically disable the virus at the same time as maintaining its antigen properties. It is the traditional method. So it should normally provide good defence and pose less potential for reactions compared to the others."

Dr Paul Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and the co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine, agreed.

"Instinctively I feel a little more comfortable with inactivated vaccines because we have a lot of experience with them," he said. "The other advantage is that you're making an immune response to all four of the coronavirus proteins, not just the spike protein."

A first claim of efficacy

This week, China National Biotec Group (CNBG), a state-run vaccine company, said early data from its Phase Three trials showed that its two leading immunisations were effective in preventing volunteers contracting Covid-19 – the first time a claim of efficacy has been made.

Zhou Song, the secretary for the commission for discipline inspection with CNBG, told China National Radio on Monday that "hundreds of thousands have taken the shot and no one has shown any obvious adverse effects or got infected". He added that the company's two vaccines were likely to protect people for up to three years.

Dr Chowdhary cautioned that such "unverified claims mean nothing – only an adequately designed Phase Three trial showing a clear and statistically significant benefit in the intervention arm compared to placebo can prove the effectiveness".

Nevertheless, China, like others, is getting into the vaccine diplomacy game. It is using its early success to amplify the country's political influence, restore frosty relationships and further promote an image of the nation as a global health leader.

Bangladesh, where vaccine manufacturer Sinovac Biotech is testing its jab, will receive roughly 110,000 free doses if the shot proves successful, while China is offering Latin American and Caribbean nations $1 billion in loans to buy its vaccines.

In south-east Asia, China has told countries including the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam that they will gain priority access to any future vaccine.

And in Africa – where China, Europe and the United States are wrestling for influence – President Xi Jinping said during a summer summit that the continent "will be among the first to benefit" once its Covid-19 vaccines are completed.

Critics point out that such largesse will undoubtedly come with strings, explicit or otherwise. Remaining silent about Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea and its treatment of its minority ethnic and religious groups are almost certainly a prerequisite.

Others say China's bid to become a powerhouse in global health is being aided by US President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the World Health Organisation (WHO) in particular and the world stage more generally.

Mr Trump has flatly refused to join Covax – a WHO initiative to share vaccines globally – leaving the way clear for China to play a leading role if it joins before the final participants are expected to be announced on Friday.

Some commentators fear his "vaccine nationalism" may also see countries use a Chinese vaccine even if good data on safety and efficacy is lacking.

Dr Paul Offit added that if China or Russia are first to license a jab, political pressure may mount on regulators elsewhere to push through early approval.

But not all the cards are stacked in China's favour.

Quite apart from political suspicion, China, like others, has been rocked by vaccine safety scandals in the past, and its regulatory system is opaque and may not inspire confidence.

"I think scientists and the public don't trust China, just like they don't trust Russia," said Dr Offit. "They don't trust the vaccine data, just like they still don't trust the [coronavirus] case and death numbers." 

The logistical problems that stand in the way

There are serious logistical issues, too. China's success in suppressing the epidemic early on means that, like others, it has had to look further afield to set up Phase Three trials, including in the United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh (where this is little transmission of the virus) and some 9,000 health workers in Brazil.

Manufacturing and distribution could prove to be another sticking point. While traditional inactivated vaccines are less complex, said Dr Chowdhary, the manufacturing process is slowed by the need for high security labs to grow live virus at the start of the process.

Also, China does not have a large scale and globally established vaccine export business like India, for example.

Even its domestic manufacturing capability is unclear. CNBG says it has constructed a new factory, doubling its capacity to more than 200 million doses a year, while Sinovac has a new plant in Beijing capable of producing roughly 300 million doses annually – but neither is enough to cover the country's entire population.

There is one great leveller in the vaccine race.

Vaccine makers of all nationalities face one particular significant hurdle, the spectre of which was raised when the Oxford vaccine was suspended last week: there is a risk that the antibodies created by a vaccine interact with those naturally acquired to spark a potentially dangerous adverse reaction. This is known as antibody dependent enhancement (ADE).

The problem for vaccine makers is testing for it. In most, perhaps all, the trials run to date, volunteers are screened ahead of time to check they have not got existing SARs-CoV-2 antibodies before being given a jab. They are then monitored for adverse reactions if and when they come into contact with the natural virus.

But Dr Chowdhary said there was a theoretical risk ADE could happen the other way round if someone previously exposed to the virus was then inoculated with new antibodies.

"It is only a theoretical risk. But in science, unless we can prove it's not there, we don't say it's not there. And as far as I know, we haven't done that yet," he said.



AG Barr Rips National Media as a ‘Collection of Liars’ Over Riot Coverage

Wrapping up a three-day tour in Chicago, Phoenix and Cleveland Friday, Attorney General Bill Barr took on the media during an exclusive interview with Townhall.

"They're basically a collection of liars. Most of the mainstream media. They're a collection of liars and they know exactly what they're doing. A perfect example of that were the riots. Right on the street it was clear as day what was going on, anyone observing it, reporters observing it, it could not have escaped their attention that this was orchestrated violence by a hardened group of street fighting radicals and they kept on excluding from their coverage all the video of this and reporting otherwise and they were doing that for partisan reasons, and they were lying to the American people. It wasn't until they were caught red-handed after essentially weeks of this lie that they even started feeling less timid," Barr said on the flight back to Washington Friday afternoon.

"The press has dropped, in my view - and I'm talking about the national mainstream media - has dropped any pretense of professional objectivity and are political actors, highly partisan who try to shape what they're reporting to achieve a political purpose and support a political narrative that has nothing to do with the truth. They're very mendacious about it," he continued. "It's very destructive to our Republic; it's very destructive to the Democratic system to have that, especially being so monolithic. It's contributing to a lot of the intensity and partisanship."

For months major news networks have portrayed riots across the country as "peaceful protests." CNN ran a chyron of a reporter standing in front of a burning Kenosha business that read, "Fiery but mostly peaceful protest."

"It's funny that you had record numbers of police being injured during 'peaceful' protests," he said. "You know usually in protests, you have large numbers of injured rioters and a modest number of injured law enforcement. I'm talking about back in the 90s and 60s, 60s to the 90s, nowadays very few rioters get injured, very few and hundreds, even thousands of officers have been injured."

But while most of what Barr classifies as "national media" has failed to report the facts on the ground about recent unrest, he credits a small number of journalists who have worked to find and publish the real story.

"I think there are a handful of reporters in the mainstream media that still have journalistic integrity, and there are some, but the overwhelming majority don't have it anymore," Barr said. "The people who do cover the Department do understand some of the issues. But, on the other hand, some of them have essentially adopted the same methods and ploys as what I refer to more generally as the national media and that is they're not because, probably somewhat because, of their own orientation and but also what their editors say, they're not really interested so much in what really happened but in pursuing a preformed narrative that suits some kind of ideological agenda. That's what it's all become."

One of those people is Associated Press reporter Mike Balsamo, who embedded with the U.S. Marshals protecting the federal courthouse in Portland during endless nights of rioting and unrest. Townhall's Julio Rosas has been on the scene of riots in Seattle, Portland and Kenosha.

According to Barr, the organizing behind the rioting in cities across the country is under investigation and federal law enforcement agencies are working to identify the individuals behind the chaos.

"People are pouring through all of the video trying to identify people to hold people accountable," Barr said, adding that the funding of the riots is also under investigation. "I think Antifa and Antifa like groups are at the center of it."



Nobel peace prize for Trump?

Bahrain joins the UAE in recognising Israel

An old Arab orthodoxy is swiftly falling apart, but it may not change Israel’s oldest conflict

IT TOOK 72 years for the first Gulf state to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. The second needed just four weeks. On September 11th President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that Bahrain would recognise Israel. Less than a month earlier, on August 13th, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) reached a similar agreement with the Jewish state. Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and Abdullah bin Zayed, the Emirati foreign minister, had been due at the White House on September 15th for an official ceremony. The foreign minister of Bahrain will now join them.

If the UAE’s decision came as a surprise, Bahrain’s was more predictable. Indeed, many observers had thought it would be the first Gulf state to recognise Israel. Their foreign ministers met publicly in Washington last year. Both countries regard Iran as a serious threat. Bahrain also sees ties with Israel as a way to boost its standing in Washington. The island kingdom relies on America for security (and hosts America’s Fifth Fleet).



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, September 13, 2020

How comeback kid Sweden got the last laugh on coronavirus: Infections and deaths fall to record lows and economy improves as Britain removes the country that shunned lock-down from the quarantine list

While coronavirus cases rebound across Europe, Sweden is enjoying record low numbers of infections and deaths despite months of scepticism about its lockdown-free strategy.

Sweden's infection rate - once the highest in Europe - is now lower than in Britain, Spain, France or Italy, as well as Norway and Denmark where leaders have long been alarmed by their neighbour's high death rate.

Sweden last week carried out a record number of tests but only 1.2 per cent of them came back positive, the lowest level since the start of the pandemic. 

The Swedish comeback has now led Britain to remove the country from its quarantine list, opening the door to tourism in an economy which has already suffered a milder downturn than much of Europe. 

Sweden has flattened the curve without ordering its people to stay inside - keeping shops, schools and restaurants open even at the height of the pandemic and trusting Swedes to combat the virus by washing their hands and abiding by social distancing rules.

The Nordic country's top epidemiologist has also played down the effectiveness of face masks and insisted that a full-scale lockdown would not have prevented care home deaths. 

Sweden once had the worst infection rate in Europe measured by cases per million people - but while cases have surged in Spain and France and risen in Britain, Germany and Italy, Sweden's infection rate has fallen to an all-time low

In the spring and summer, Sweden's infection rate was far higher than that of its Nordic neighbours - but the numbers are now similar with Norway and Denmark both having more cases per million over the last seven days

Sweden's infection rate was the highest in Europe as recently as mid-June, when increased screening led to more than 1,000 people testing positive per day.

On June 15, Sweden had a 7-day average of 101 cases per million people per day, while the next-highest in Europe was Belarus with 79.

In Western Europe, the next-highest was Portugal on 30 cases per million, while Sweden's neighbours were far lower: Denmark six, Finland three, Norway two.

In addition, Sweden has piled up more deaths than Norway, Denmark and Finland put together, with 5,843 fatalities in total, despite its population being only twice as large as those countries.

The Swedish figures prompted concern and its strategy led to criticism at home and abroad, with many countries leaving Sweden off their lists of approved travel destinations when they resumed tourism.

Sweden was indignant when its Scandinavian neighbour Finland excluded it from an easing of travel restrictions in Baltic and Nordic countries.

Britain also left Sweden out of its 'travel corridor' list because its infection rate was still too high, while the Swedish prime minister announced an inquiry into the country's handling of the disease.

However, the situation has totally reversed in three months since then, with infections surging in much of Europe but reaching record low levels in Sweden.

Sweden announced only 7,131 new cases in the month of August, down from 11,971 in July and a far higher figure of 30,909 in June.

By contrast, cases quadrupled from July to August in Spain and France, and more than doubled in Germany and Italy, while Britain this week tightened restrictions after a rise in cases.

The highest infection rates in Western Europe are now in Spain (200 cases per million) and France (118), while Britain is on 37 with Sweden well below them on 17.

Sweden's current figure is lower than in Norway (19) and Denmark (38), with Finland the lowest of the four mainland Nordic countries on seven cases per million.

Schools re-opened in Sweden mid-August and health officials say they do not expect a large resurgence of the virus in the coming weeks. 

On Tuesday, Sweden announced that it had carried out a record number of tests last week with only 1.2 per cent coming back positive - the lowest rate since the crisis began.

At the peak of the crisis in the spring, 19 per cent of of tests - nearly one in five - were coming back positive in some weeks. 

'The purpose of our approach is for people themselves to understand the need to follow the recommendations and guidelines that exist,' health agency chief Johan Carlson told a news conference.

'There are no other tricks before there are available medical measures, primarily vaccines. The Swedish population has taken this to heart,' he said. 

Deaths have also declined to their lowest levels since the earliest days of the pandemic, with only 11 new fatalities in the last week. 

There were 681 deaths in the worst week of the pandemic from April 19-25, when Swedes were still going to shops while most of Europe was in lockdown.

In recent weeks, some days have passed without a single new patient going into intensive care - compared to the dozens going into ICU every day in April.

There were only six virus patients in Stockholm hospitals as of August 31 compared to 225 at the end of April, the local health authority Region Stockholm said.

Per Follin, department head at Stockholm's Communicable Disease Control and Prevention, said figures in the capital were at the 'lowest level in a very long time.'

'The reason we have relatively low transmission now is largely due to the fact that so many Stockholmers are following the recommendations to stay home when you're sick, wash hands and keep your distance,' Follin said.

Anders Tegnell, the Swedish state epidemiologist who has been the face of the country's virus strategy, has previously admitted that too many Swedes have died from the virus.

However, he has insisted that a lockdown would not have stopped the large number of deaths in care homes where visits were banned in any case.

In another sign of Swedish success, Britain announced yesterday that Sweden had been added to the list of approved 'travel corridor' countries - while Portugal was removed after a rise in cases. 

The Swedish government has long cited a high level of trust in authorities as a reason why virus measures can be voluntary rather than enforced.

The strategy has been touted by the WHO as a sustainable model for tackling the virus, with Swedish officials saying that people will accept softer restrictions for longer.

Shops and restaurants remained open with social distancing rules, while most schools stayed open and the rate of infection among children was no higher than in Finland where classrooms closed, officials said. 

As Europe edged out of lockdown, Sweden continued to forge its own path by playing down the use of face masks as other countries made them mandatory.

Tegnel has said that masks have little proven effect and could lead to a false sense of security among wearers, and they are not required on public transport.

By contrast, Finland now recommends wearing masks in public places, Norway advises it on Oslo public transport, while Denmark has made it mandatory on all public transport and in taxis.

Tegnell's standard response is that public health officials are 'keeping an eye on' the issue and could introduce the measure if deemed necessary.

'Our strategy has been consistent and sustainable,' says Jonas Ludvigsson, a professor of epidemiology at Karolinska Institutet.

'We probably have a lower risk of spread here compared to other countries,' he said, adding that Sweden likely had a higher level of immunity than other countries. 

'I think we benefit a lot from that now,' he said.

Sweden has never adopted 'herd immunity' as a strategy in itself but officials have voiced hopes that it would gradually help to limit the spread of the disease.   

However, scientists are not yet fully certain of exactly how much immunity is provided by recovering from Covid-19, or for how long it lasts.

A study by the UK's Royal Society of Medicine last month found that only 15 per cent of people in Stockholm had acquired antibodies by May 2020. 

Meanwhile, Swedish economic activity has started to pick up and the effects of the downturn look less severe than previously feared.

'The economic situation is looking a little brighter compared to our assessment in June,' finance minister Magdalena Andersson said in late August. 

Sweden's economy will contract around 4.6 per cent this year, Andersson said, compared to a projected 8.0 per cent slump in the EU and 11.0 per cent in Britain. 

The predicted drop is lower than an earlier projection of 6.0 per cent and similar to that seen during the global financial crisis of 2008-09. 

The outcome for Sweden is also roughly in line with forecasts for its Nordic neighbours, despite the much tougher measures they took to fight the pandemic.

Andersson said the improvement would mean a deficit in public finances of around 5.6 per cent of GDP this year, compared with its June forecast of 7.8 per cent.

She said the economy would need further support next year and in 2022 and 2023, promising around $11.46 billion of spending in September's budget. 

The Social Democrat-Green coalition government introduced a raft of policies to fight the pandemic, promising to spend about $34billion this year



Election Prediction Model That Has Been Correct 25 of the Last 27 Elections Says Trump Will Win in a Landslide

Stony Brook Political Scientist Helmut Norpoth has created a Presidential Election prediction model which has correctly predicted the winning candidate in 25 of the last 27 Presidential elections, going back to 1912, the first year presidential primaries in the states were used in each party’s nominating process.  The only two years the model was wrong were 1960, with Kennedy beating Nixon — although there are strong historical accounts that election fraud in Texas and Illinois delivered both states to Kennedy when, in fact, the voters of Texas and Illinois selected Nixon.  If those two states had been declared for Nixon, they would have given him exactly 270 electoral votes, the number needed to win the election.

The other year the model was incorrect was 2000, when Bush prevailed over Gore after a court challenge which declared Bush to be the winner in Florida by just a handful of votes, with Florida’s electoral votes needed by each candidate to declare victory.

Prof. Norpoth’s model predicts a 91% chance that Pres. Trump wins re-election, and gives him 362 electoral votes in the process.

In playing around with an interactive electoral map, the way I get Pres. Trump to 362 electoral votes would put only the following states in Biden’s column:

Washington, California, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, and one vote from Maine.

That would mean that Trump would win the following states that are right now considered to be Democrat or toss-ups:

Oregon, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nebraska (all), Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Maine (3), Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida.

That would be a wipeout of a historical nature given all the predictions about the election up to this point.

BUT that is how “wave” elections tend to happen.  Undecideds do not generally break in relatively even numbers. Undecideds generally shift in large numbers to one candidate.  States that are small leans become solid.  States that are true tossups become comfortable, and states that were leaning towards the other candidate suddenly become battlegrounds and can be lost.  Only truly safe states remain safe — but the margin of victory in those states declines.

That is what happened in 1980 to Jimmy Carter.  He faced a challenge from within his own party in the primaries which split the Democrats.  Carter was unpopular with a portion of the party, and even the portion that backed him was unenthusiastic.

Polling in October and November went back and forth between the candidates, with both in the low-to-mid 40s.  Reagan was not the overwhelmingly popular President he became later during his two terms.  As late as the end of October, he led Carter by only 2-3%.  But he won the nationwide vote by nearly 10% on election day.  In the summer of 1980, third party candidate John Anderson was polling around 20%.   He ended up drawing 6%.

By huge numbers, the late deciding voters, and a substantial number of Anderson voters, ended up casting ballots for Reagan.

Carter won only 7 states.

Models such as the one created by Professor Norpoth used objective variables amassed during the entirety of the campaign season, going back to the primaries, to factor into the qualitative analysis.  It is not based on polling — the variables are what they are, and the model then uses historical results using those same variables to make a prediction about the outcome.

As noted, Prof. Norpoth’s model has only been wrong twice in the last 27 electoral contests – and it might have been correct in 1960 only to have been undone by vote fraud.

Imagine what the commentary will be in the media if early evening election calls are made for Trump in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida?




James Mattis told then-DNI Dan Coats they may be forced to take "collective action" against "unfit" Trump, according to Bob Woodward (National Review)

Democrats exploit riots and emotions to outraise Trump by over $150 million in August (Politico)

William Barr: "There could be" [correction: there should be] more criminal charges in Durham investigation (Washington Examiner)

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler viewed negatively by two-thirds of city's voters (Fox News)

Salon owner Erica Kious is closing her shop after maskless visit by Nancy "Special Rules" Pelosi (New York Post)

Voter fraud cases emerge in the battleground states of North Carolina and Georgia (The Daily Signal)

Faux black professor Jessica Krug resigns from teaching position at George Washington University (NBC News)

University of Michigan apologizes for apparent segregation of student events (The Washington Free Beacon)

Whistleblower claims DHS leaders altered intelligence; complaint was released by coup co-conspirator Adam Schiff (The Washington Times)

U.S. cancels over 1,000 visas for Chinese nationals deemed security risks (CNBC)

Chicago murder rate cut "roughly in half" since before Operation Legend (Fox News)

As DC mayor seeks to remove statues, Hillsdale College puts up more (The Federalist)

Policy: Eight school choice reforms for the coronavirus era (American Enterprise Institute)

Policy: Why Trump's Hispanic support is growing (The Federalist)


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

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