Saturday, September 04, 2021

My Sabbath today

Before my illness I was posting to 6 blogs every day except Saturday and I am now back to that


Friday, September 03, 2021

Much-touted Bangladesh study of masks is a snark

Multiple accounts have popped up (e.g. here) saying that the study vindicates mask-wearing. It does not. Just two quotes from the study abstract tell the tale:

"Neither participants nor field staff were blinded to intervention assignment"

"The proportion of individuals with COVID-like symptoms was 7.62% (N=13,273) in the intervention arm and 8.62% (N=13,893) in the control arm"

For a start, the study was of people with "COVID-like symptoms", not actual disease and there was NO data on deaths. So there is a lot of room for slippage there. How often were the "symptoms" actually indicative of COVID infection?

Secondly, the figures for mask-wearers and non-mask-wearers differed only slightly (7.62% vs 8.62%) -- to a degree readily explainable by the fact that the study was not blinded. The experimenters knew who the wearers and non-wearers were and it is routine that such a circumstance gives results favourable to the hypothesis.

Not blinding the study was a huge breach of scientific protocol and renders the results of zero authority.


1st Patient Begins Pfizer’s Oral COVID-19 Drug Trial

The first patient in a clinical trial analyzing Pfizer’s oral COVID-19 drug has received the first dose of the medication, the company announced on Sept. 1.

The study is analyzing a protease inhibitor known as PF-07321332. The drug is meant to combat COVID-19 in patients who experience symptoms from the disease, but don’t require hospital care.

The randomized, double-blind trial will enroll about 1,140 participants, approximately half of whom will receive a placebo. The participants will receive the drug or the placebo every 12 hours orally for five days.

People who are given the drug will also receive ritonavir.

“If successful, we believe this therapy could help reduce severity of illness among a broad population of patients,” Rod MacKenzie, Pfizer’s chief development officer, said in a statement.

The company has already begun a separate trial that’s testing a different protease inhibitor, this one administered via IV.

Inhibitors are a type of medication that stops viruses from replicating.

Antiviral pills against COVID-19 have yet to be developed. The IV-administered remdesivir, produced by Gilead Sciences, was approved by U.S. drug regulators in 2020.

Other companies are also attempting to produce the medicines, including Merck and Roche.

Merck has already begun a late-stage trial analyzing its pill candidate, dubbed molnupiravir. Interim results from a phase two trial for Roche’s pill, AT-527, have shown promising results, Roche and its partner Atea Pharmaceuticals stated in July.

Pfizer said that if its trial shows PF-07321332 is safe and effective, it could ask regulators for authorization in the fourth quarter of 2021.


The developer of ivermectin is performing late-stage trials on a drug that could actually prevent COVID-19

Merck & Co partnered with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics to develop molnupiravir.

Enrollment for late-stage trials for their drug have already started.

The companies hope the drug could prevent COVID-19 infection in patients, but have yet to share further detail of how exactly it will be used.

Merck is also the developer of ivermectin, an anti-parasite drug that has gained infamy due to false claims that it could combat the virus - which is the real use for molnupiravir.

Molnupiravir could fill the role that many are currently incorrectly using ivermectin for.

A study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that the drug could prevent replication of viral cells of COVID-19 and other similar viruses.

The drug, which can be taken via a pill, is now entering late stage trials in the United States as Merck plans to eventually seek FDA approval.

Over 1,300 volunteers aged 18 or older will be recruited for the study and live in a house with someone who has a symptomatic case of the COVID-19.

Merck also plans to use the drug in some lower income countries in the meanwhile, attempting to acquire emergency authorization.

The company has partnered with Indian generic drug manufacturers to produce and sell versions of molnupiravir in the country, pending approval from local regulators.

Merck hopes the drug could help alleviate these countries COVID-19 situations while they await a larger supply of the vaccine. '

Only around 36 percent of Indians have received at least one shot of the virus, and less than 11 percent are fully vaccinated.




Thursday, September 02, 2021

The Afghanistan Disaster — Trump or Biden?

In the wake of our nation’s disgraceful and disastrous retreat from Afghanistan (AFG), which I detailed yesterday in “The War Is NOT Over,” there is a lot of deliberate obfuscation about the difference in the Afghan exit plan negotiated by Donald Trump and that executed by Joe Biden. Of course, Biden’s Beltway cadres and their Leftmedia parrots are leading that disinformation campaign.

The line goes something like, The longest war is over, the exit happened under Biden, but it was Trump’s fault because he negotiated with the Taliban, thus he bears responsibility. But thanks to Biden, America’s longest war is over and it would have ended badly regardless.

That is a colossal dumper full of pig manure.

Typical of the leftists’ rhetoric is this from Juan Williams, Fox News’s perfunctory peddler of Biden’s party-line tripe: “I think this is a bold headline day for America that forever war is over. I think we accomplished the goals that we set when we went in there 20 years ago, that Afghanistan was not used as a terrorist launching site. The American people want this war over. And when you think about the 13 heroes whose bodies came home this weekend … you know what, those people died in a good cause. They are the last people who will have died in this, you know, America’s longest war…” (Killed by terrorists harbored by the Taliban.)

In fact, assuming the American citizens Biden abandoned behind enemy lines get out safe, this war is far from over for the Afghan allies we left behind, some 80,000 of whom were already approved “special immigration visa” holders, and who will now be targeted for extinction. And this war is far from over for those who will become targets of violence perpetrated the Taliban’s terrorist surrogates worldwide in the coming years.

Williams then invoked the blame-spreading: “I think that when you look at this, and you’re looking at four presidents, you look at President [George W.] Bush, who chose to go in there and didn’t know how to get out. You look at President [Barack] Obama… He really didn’t know how to get out. Trump negotiating with the Taliban. And now, President Biden underestimated the strength of the Afghan government. There are a lot of mistakes here.”

Let’s clear up who is responsible for the deadly exfil “mistakes.”

In recent days, Biden has repeatedly attempted to blame-shift his AFG failure to Trump.

Asked last week who was responsible for the Kabul bombing and AFG cluster, Biden correctly said, “I bear responsibility for, fundamentally, all that’s happened of late.”

Predictably, he qualified that response: “But here’s the deal: You know — I wish you’d one day say these things — you know as well as I do that the former president made a deal with the Taliban…”

That was a lie. Trump’s exit plan was with the Afghan government but included terms that the Taliban had to meet.

Ironically, moments later, Biden attempted to defend his own coordination with and dependence on the Taliban by insisting the bombing was ISIS-Khorasan (ISK), not the Taliban. He lied about this distinction.

For the record, this is the same Sunni Islamist Taliban who, according to the Department of Defense (DoD), just released “thousands” of Sunni Islamist ISK terrorists from Bagram Air Base just 30 miles north of Kabul a week earlier, and the same Taliban whose leader proclaimed last week that Sunni Islamist Osama bin Laden had no connection to the 9/11 Islamist attack on our country.

And recall that the Taliban “head of security” in Kabul, Khalil Haqqani, is a U.S. government-designated terrorist and has a $5 million bounty on his head. What could go wrong?

Political analyst Rich Lowry describes Biden’s remarks last week as “the arsonist bragging about how many fires he has put out,” and notes, “Honor has always had an enormous influence on human affairs and the conduct of governments — until, evidently, the advent of President Joe Biden in the year 2021.”

Biden and his cadre spent the last month speaking of the Taliban as if they were some trustworthy and legitimate government entity, rather than the amalgam of violent Sunni Islamist terrorists who invaded Afghanistan from Pakistan after the Soviet retreat — and have now rapidly reconstituted. There is virtually NO degree of ideological separation between the so-called “Taliban government” thugs and their surrogate terrorist groups, just doctrinal differences. And there is now no doubt that the more violent Sunni ISK Islamists (also from Pakistan) and Sunni al-Qa'ida Islamists have risen just as rapidly as surrogates under the Sunni Taliban protectorate. To insist that ISK and al-Qa'ida are not under the Taliban umbrella is a distinction without a difference.

Then yesterday, defending his decision to abandon Americans behind enemy lines, Biden again blamed Trump while taking credit for “the extraordinary success of this mission.” “Extraordinary success”? Perhaps from the Taliban’s perspective.

Biden insisted: “My predecessor, the former president, signed an agreement with the Taliban to remove U.S. troops by May 1, just months after I was inaugurated. … The previous administration’s agreement said that if we stuck to the May 1st deadline that they had signed on to leave by, the Taliban wouldn’t attack any American forces. … But if we stayed all bets were off, so we were left with a simple decision. Either follow-through on the commitment made by the last administration and leave Afghanistan or say we weren’t leaving and commit another tens of thousands more troops going back to war. That was the choice — the real choice. I was not going to extend the war.”

After making sure to mention the retreat plan “was based on the unanimous recommendation of my civilian and military advisors — the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and all the service chiefs, and the commanders in the field,” he then added, “I take responsibility for the decision.”

To be clear, as I noted in “Biden’s Afghan Blowup,” Trump’s drawdown plan had two primary and finite conditions: First, that the Taliban had demonstrably cut their ties with al-Qa'ida, ISK, and other terror groups, and second, that they successfully negotiate and maintain peace with the AFG government.

With Trump gone, the Taliban summarily discarded those conditions and ousted the AFG government. And why wouldn’t they? Obviously, they had no fear of Biden enforcing those terms. Former Director of National Intelligence Rick Grenell concurs: “The Taliban onslaught started coming once Joe Biden got into the White House. The Taliban knew they couldn’t make the move when Trump was in office.”

According to seasoned political analyst Brit Hume, “If you believe the Biden administration’s claim it was bound by the Trump-Taliban deal and thus had to get out fast,” you need to get your facts straight.

Referencing an investigative report published a week earlier, “Was Biden handcuffed by Trump’s Taliban deal in Doha?” the authors concluded: “U.S. officials made clear at the time that the agreement was conditions-based and the failure of intra-Afghan peace talks to reach a negotiated settlement would have nullified the requirement to withdraw. One day before the Doha deal, a top aide to chief U.S. negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad said the agreement was not irreversible, and ‘there is no obligation for the United States to withdraw troops if the Afghan parties are unable to reach agreement or if the Taliban show bad faith’ during negotiations.”

Hume noted: “The president is fond of saying, ‘Well, we were bound by the Trump administration’s deal with the Taliban.’ In fact, when that deal was struck in February 2020 [our negotiators] made it very clear that this was conditions-based and if the Taliban did not [meet those conditions] we were under no obligation to remove our troops. One of the key provisions of that deal was that the Taliban and the Afghan government would negotiate a [peace agreement]. They never did that.”

Hume concludes, “On that score alone, Biden was not obligated to pull our troops out.”

In one particularly devastating summation, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) made clear who failed: “The President made the decision to trust the Taliban. The President made the decision to set an arbitrary August 31st deadline. The President made the decision to abandon Bagram Air Base. The President made the decision not to expand the perimeter around Karzai International Airport. The President made the decision to undermine our NATO allies. The President made the decision to break our word to our Afghan partners. The President made the decision to tell one lie after another as the crisis unfolded. The President made the morally indefensible decision to leave Americans behind. Dishonor was the President’s choice. May history never forget this cowardice.” (At least Biden kept his promises to the Taliban…)

Worth including in that list is the fact that in June, Biden waved a federally-required mandate that the Department of Defense provide a detailed assessment of risks if the U.S. leaves Afghanistan. So DoD never produced that assessment for the chambers controlled by Pelosi and Schumer. Hmmm.

National Review’s senior political analyst Jim Geraghty outlined the disastrous sequence of events from Biden’s claim in July: “The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.” That comment sure didn’t age well.

Commentator Tammy Bruce observed: “Biden says Taliban was in its strongest position ever when he came into office. … Then how is it that he insisted just a few weeks ago that the Taliban we’re not going to take over the country?”

After issuing those false assurances, a month before the Taliban swept over Kabul, Biden instructed Afghan president Ashraf Ghani: “I am not a military man…but…the perception around the world…is that things aren’t going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban. There’s a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.”

Barack Obama’s former senior adviser, David Axelrod, concluded: “You cannot defend the execution here. This has been a disaster. … It is heartbreaking, it is depressing, and it’s a failure. And he needs to own that failure.” (Recall that during last year’s Demo primary, Obama said, “Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to f—k things up.”)

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich observed: “We have not seen a president this incompetent. We haven’t seen a president surrender to an enemy in the way that Joe Biden has. And he’s allowed a seventh-century tribal group to defeat the most powerful country in the 21st century. It’s an astonishing outcome.”

Fact is, Trump was this nation’s strongest domestic and foreign policy leader in decades.

Anyone — ANYONE — who believes that the resurgence of the Taliban and their ISK and al-Qa'ida thugs would have occurred under a second Trump term is so deeply deluded as to be in a state of complete denial.

When Trump left office, we had about 3,000 troops left in AFG. There had not been a military death in over a year until last week, when 13 Americans were murdered — the worst loss of American lives in a decade.

For context, the U.S. has about 750 military base sites in almost 80 countries. We have almost 54,000 personnel in Japan and 26,000 in South Korea. In Europe we have 35,000 Americans in Germany, 13,000 in Italy, and 9,000 in the UK. In the Middle East, we have 4,000 personnel in Bahrain, 1,800 in Turkey, 1,500 in Saudi Arabia, and 1,100 in Kuwait.

But only one country has sponsored a terrorist attack on U.S. soil, and that was AFG. Trump’s conditions for removing most of our remaining military personnel from that nation was a good plan. Then Joe Biden happened.

Given the resurgence of the Taliban, there is now a very real renewed threat of terrorist assaults on American soil and Americans abroad. Recall that Biden’s director of national intelligence warned him in April that the Taliban rise would result in an imminent and perilous threat to the continental U.S.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was clear about the looming national security threat. He noted, “This is one of the worst foreign policy decisions in American history, much worse than Saigon,” because the withdrawal from Vietnam did not signal a significant threat to Americans. To that point, he added: “Just because we decided to stop fighting doesn’t mean the terrorists go away. So they’re still out there. They’re invigorated. They’re emboldened. They’re excited about the success they see in bringing America to its knees in Afghanistan.”

Former Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton was very clear about that threat: “This was a known. By canceling the insurance policy of having American and NATO forces fighting the terrorist … in Afghanistan, made it less likely we would have to fight them in the streets and skies over America. What has happened here is seen as a Taliban victory over the United States … and has given terrorists all over the Middle East a huge psychological boost. … There are many reports of foreign terrorist fighters already coming into Afghanistan … and we are going back to the pre-9/11 environment.”

So we leave the AFG theater after two decades with the Taliban thugs in a much more powerful position than when we arrived in 2001. In great measure, they are far more dangerous and deadly because of billions of dollars in U.S. military equipment Biden left behind.

Secretary of State Tony Blinken put a smiley face on it: “A new chapter of America’s engagement with Afghanistan has begun. It’s one in which we will lead with our diplomacy. The military mission is over. A new diplomatic mission has begun.”

Laughably, Biden’s State Department spokesman issued this directive: “The Taliban needs to meet its commitments and obligations in Afghanistan on freedom of travel, respecting basic rights of the people, upholding its commitments on counterterrorism, not carrying out reprisal violence against those who stayed, and forming an inclusive government.”

Or what? And who is going to confirm the Taliban is meeting its “commitments and obligations”? Maybe the UN can send in its inspectors…they have a great track record.

Apparently now, Blinken believes his leverage is giving the Taliban direct financial aid, ostensibly to help clean up the humanitarian mess Biden left.

Biden’s ineptitude, and that of his feckless administration, is epic, reckless, and deadly.

As I outlined previously:

The intermediate concern of Biden’s failure is the consequences for tens of thousands of Afghan allies, civilians, and families whom Biden abandoned. As the Taliban firms up its organizational structure and returns to its extremist tyrannical control, the bloody purges will be underway.

The extended concerns are that Biden has reseeded the al-Qa'ida and [ISIL](] turf, putting the U.S. homeland at risk of another terrorist attack.

The consequences of Biden’s now-obvious failure as commander-in-chief have immediate and dire implications for our national security that extend far beyond the borders of Afghanistan. Biden’s AFG retreat will embolden far more powerful tyrants, notably our near-peer adversaries China and Russia, and of course Iran and North Korea are on the move.

Power does not tolerate a vacuum.

The catastrophic failure of our AFG mission and retreat was certainly not because of any deficit of courage and commitment from our warfighters, but abject dereliction of duty by Biden’s senior military leaders.

But the buck stops with Biden. The catastrophe in AFG was not, first and foremost, the plan; it was the man. The Taliban, ISK, ISIL, and al-Qa'ida all feared Trump — none fear Biden. But even most of Biden’s conservative media critics have yet to wake up to that reality as they keep focusing on his failed plan.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley just couldn’t figure this out: “There was nothing that I or anyone else saw that indicated a collapse of this army and this government in 11 days.”

However, what Milley, SecDef Lloyd Austin, and the rest of Biden’s Beltway high command failed to see was the red flag right in front of them the whole time: Joe Biden. And it is because the Taliban had no fear of Biden that this evil overran the Afghan government and its people in just days. Again, with Trump gone, the Taliban summarily discarded all the conditions he set for withdrawal and ousted the Afghan government.

Back in 2010, even Osama bin Laden declared that then-VP Biden should not be targeted, because if he became president, he would “lead the US into a crisis.”

For Biden’s boundless ineptitude, we will pay a price much higher than the disaster we left in Afghanistan.

Last week, before the Kabul bombing, our national security analyst, Gen. B.B. Bell (USA, Ret.), strongly condemned Biden’s disgraceful exit from AFG, noting his “shameful presidential dereliction of duty” and declaring emphatically that not only should Biden’s military leaders resign, but also: “He should be impeached and removed from office immediately, and criminal charges should be considered.” That clarion call is even louder now.

Finally, amid all the exit fanfare from feckless Joe Biden and his inept senior military and diplomatic cadres, I was deeply moved by a single sentence that sums up what was conceived as an orderly troop drawdown under Donald Trump, but devolved into a disgraceful and deadly retreat by Biden.

“In what f***ing world was it a good idea to just hand over a country to these people?” Those words were from Operation Enduring Freedom combat veteran and former Navy SEAL Dan Crenshaw (R-TX).

Crenshaw and many other AFG war veterans are deeply concerned about the fate of Afghan security force allies with whom they worked. The Taliban has been brutal in its slaughter of those allies, thousands of civilians. and journalists as they advanced to Kabul.

The purge has just begun.

Notably, two days ago when Crenshaw and other congressional veterans attempted to name, on the congressional floor, their 13 military brothers and sisters killed last week, they were blocked by Democrats.

Combat veteran Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), who was severely wounded in AFG, protested: “We took a moment of silence with pretty much all Republican veterans, then asked to be recognized to read names [of those killed]. [Democrat leaders] did not acknowledge us, and just closed the House down.” Combat veteran Greg Steube (R-FL) also protested: “House Democrats just refused to recognize Republican veterans on the House Floor to read the names of our fallen service members in Afghanistan. That’s how far our nation has fallen.”

Finally, let me emphasize that the objective of Biden’s compressed Afghan exit schedule has been, for months, to time the exit in order to provide him a political “I got the troops out” victory lap ahead of the 20th observance of the 9/11 Islamist attack on our nation.

There will be NO victory lap.

There WILL be more Islamist attacks against the U.S. and our people and installations abroad.

The Taliban will celebrate 9/11 in our abandoned Kabul embassy.

Brace yourself, America.




Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Blogging revival complete

I am now once again posting on TONGUE-TIED. So I am back to where I was before I got cancer. I am posting on 6 blogs daily. I was previously posting on 6 days a week only -- nohing on Saturday. And I think I will revert to that also


Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine creates TWICE as many antibodies as Pfizer's, study finds

Those who receive Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine produce twice the protective antibodies of those who receive the Pfizer vaccine, a new study suggests.

Researchers from East Limburg Hospital in Belgium compared antibody levels produced by both vaccines among about 1,600 hospital workers, finding that Moderna recipients produced 3,600 antibody units per milliliter while Pfizer recipients produced only 1,400.

While the findings may suggest that Moderna is more effective against Covid, scientists are still working to understand how antibodies contribute to protection - as Pfizer and Moderna have both proven very successful in preventing infections.

More research is needed to compare the vaccines and study how long immunity lasts, as the U.S. prepares to roll out booster shots in September.

The Covid vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have both proven to be very effective at protecting people against the virus. Both vaccines demonstrated over 90 percent efficacy in clinical trials.

Since the vaccines' roll out in the U.S., they've protected millions from severe Covid symptoms, hospitalization and death from the virus.

Out of over 170 million Americans fully vaccinated, just 11,000 have contracted a breakthrough infection leading to hospitalization or death. That's about 0.006 percent.

As the Indian 'Delta' variant drives case surges across the U.S., however, some scientists and leaders are concerned that these vaccines become less effective as time passes after vaccination. These concerns have led the federal government to announce a plan for booster shots starting in late September.

The study addresses vaccine efficacy concerns by examining the immune system's response to vaccination.

This study - published Monday in JAMA - is unique in that it's the first to directly compare antibody response resulting from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Antibodies are proteins in the body's immune system that recognize - and neutralize - foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria.

Scientists measure antibody levels by taking patients' blood samples, then introducing a specific foreign invader - such as the coronavirus spike protein - into the sample.

If a patient's immune system is prepared to respond to the invader, antibodies will multiply and trigger other immune system actions.

The Belgian researchers measured Covid antibody levels among about 1,600 healthcare workers at their healthcare facility.

All the healthcare workers had received two doses of an mRNA vaccine - about 700 received the Moderna vaccine and just under 1,000 received the Pfizer vaccine.

The researchers tested these workers' antibody levels before they were vaccinated and six to ten weeks after their second doses.

Those workers who received the Moderna vaccine had much higher antibody responses to the coronavirus spike protein than those who received Pfizer, the researchers found.

Moderna recipients had an average antibody titer of 3,800 units per milliliter, while Pfizer recipients had an average titer of 1,400 units per milliliter.

Antibody levels among the Moderna patients were 2.7 times higher.

The researchers suggested that this big difference may be a result of a longer wait time between doses for the Moderna vaccine (four weeks as opposed to three weeks for Pfizer), as well as a higher concentration of Covid mRNA in Moderna's vaccine.

While these results appear to suggest that Moderna recipients are better protected against Covid than those who got Pfizer's jabs, outside researchers have cautioned that antibody levels do not exactly correspond with protection.

'I would urge caution in making the conclusion that because Moderna demonstrated a slightly higher peak on average that its efficacy will be slower to wane,' David Benkeser, a biostatistician at Emory University, told Bloomberg. 'Such a conclusion requires a host of assumptions that have not yet been evaluated,' he said.

The researchers themselves acknowledge that more study is needed to determine the relationship between antibody levels and Covid protection - along with how long protection lasts.

Scientists also continue to evaluate the vaccines' ability to protect against Delta and other concerning variants.

'Still, it's possible that higher initial antibody levels might correlate with longer duration of protection against mild breakthrough infections,' Deborah Steensels, a microbiologist at East Limburg Hospital and lead author on the study, told Bloomberg.

'Also, if higher antibody levels are confirmed to be important, then the Moderna vaccine might be better for immunocompromised people who don't respond well to vaccines, she said.

This study follows other recent research that has suggested Moderna's vaccine may be more durable - and better at protecting recipients against breakthrough cases - than Pfizer's.

In addition to comparing the vaccines against each other, the researchers also compared antibody levels between those patients who did and did not have a prior COVID-19 infection.

A small number of healthcare workers in the study had previously faced Covid infection, including 22 percent of the Moderna group and 13 percent of the Pfizer group.

The researchers found that these previously infected workers had much higher antibody levels - about 9,500 units per milliliter, compared to 1,600 units per milliliter for those who weren't infected.

That's a six-fold difference. This finding suggests that, for people who both experience a Covid infection and get vaccinated, the infection may act as a natural booster shot - providing extra protection against future interactions with the coronavirus.


Corporate Social Justice Programs Don't Work

According to a new report from The Washington Post, America's corporations have committed "at least" $49.5 billion to the cause of "racial justice" since the George Floyd murder last year riveted our national attention on race.

This amounts to a little over $1,100 for every Black man, woman and child in America.

Or, from another perspective, about $16,500 for every Black household earning $25,000 or less.

But we're not talking about corporate America, despite their deep concern for racial justice, just simply giving black Americans cash. As much as they undoubtedly care about these Black citizens, they would never trust them to just take the money and spend properly.

These corporate executives nationwide have concluded that they can justify taking a huge chunk of their shareholders' funds -- an amount equal to the entire economy of the state of Alaska -- and spend it in a way that will produce more racial justice.

It is reasonable to ask why they believe they can achieve this.

It goes against all experience we have had with government.

The federal government has been spending trillions since the war on poverty began in the 1960s -- $20 trillion, by some estimates -- and the incidence of poverty over these years has hardly budged.

Apparently, these corporate executives feel they have some insight that has eluded politicians all these years.

A large percentage of these funds is earmarked for loans and investments in housing and business loans.

According to the report, $28 billion flows from a pledge by JPMorgan Chase to move 40,000 families into home ownership over the next five years.

But, again, special loans and grants to encourage minority home ownership are nothing new.

Government has been doing this for years, causing more damage than good.

Most should recall that we had a major financial crisis in our country in which we saw a collapse in financial markets in 2008 that was the worst since the Great Depression.

According to research at the American Enterprise Institute, this collapse was driven by the bursting of a highly inflated bubble in housing prices, the result of widespread deterioration in lending standards driven by government affordable housing goals and mandates.

Black citizens, who these government programs were designed to help, were disproportionately hurt when housing prices collapsed as a result of the plethora of bad loans.

The great mystery is why the principles that made and make our country great are nowhere to be found in the various ideas and programs being promoted with this vast sum of funds.

Why have so many in corporate America signed off on left-wing dogma that American principles -- principles of protection of life, of liberty, of property -- are the problem rather than the solution?

A healthy portion of American Blacks are doing very well because of these American principles.

Per the Census Bureau's recent annual report -- Income and Poverty in the United States, 2019 -- a larger percentage of Black households, 29.4%, were earning $75,000 or more than the percentage earning $25,000 or less, 28.7%.

Those left behind need liberation from government control of their lives. Less government-created ghettos from federal housing programs, more freedom from failing government schools and from broken government entitlement programs such as Social Security.

I started promoting the idea 25 years ago of releasing low-income earners from the Social Security payroll tax and allowing them to invest those funds in a personal retirement account. Back then, the Dow Jones Industrial Average stood at 10,000. Today, it stands at 35,000.

The very naysayers I heard back then are the ones bleating today about unfairness and the wealth gap.

Rather than betraying the tradition of free enterprise capitalism that built corporate America, America's corporations should be promoting these values. This is the path to more prosperity, more justice, for all Americans.




Monday, August 30, 2021

Israel’s grand vaccine experiment as the world and UK watches on

The only person who kept calm in the packed health clinic in northern Jerusalem on Monday morning was a 19-year-old military medic. As dozens jostled in the narrow corridor leading to the vaccination booths, arguing over whose turn it was next, he surveyed the scene wryly before sitting back in his booth and preparing a syringe with 0.3 millilitres of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine which he then plunged into my shoulder.

“This is actually a lull,” he said. “You should have been here an hour ago when the real chaos began.” Perhaps for the soldier — seconded the previous week from his combat engineering battalion on desert manoeuvres — sitting all day in an air-conditioned clinic was an improvement. But no one else there shared his equanimity.

Israel is the first country to embark on a second nationwide vaccination campaign for Covid-19. This time, the jabbing takes place on two fronts. For those over 30, who received their first two jabs at least five months ago, there’s a third “booster” dose. There’s also a push to vaccinate as many secondary pupils (over-12s) as possible before the new school year begins next Wednesday.

But although more than a million and a half Israelis have already had a third jab, the atmosphere is very different from the first roll-out, when huge vaccination centres were opened in sports stadiums and city squares, and many people, overjoyed at the prospect of lockdown lifting, broke into song and started dancing. Now, Covid cases are spiralling again — with the daily rate more than doubling in the past two weeks. Hospitalisations are also rising. “I believe we are at war,” coronavirus commissioner Professor Salman Zarka told a parliamentary committee this month. Israel is pinning its hopes on the booster programme.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Back in March, Israel’s vaccination programme was the envy of the world. And vaccines, which proved effective against a third wave of Covid-19 fuelled mainly by the Kent variant, allowed the country to reopen. Joyous Israelis, with the “green pass” vaccine passport on their smartphones, packed out restaurants and bars, and vaccination centres were dismantled. In March, face mask requirements were removed. Then came the Delta variant. Now, Israel finds itself serving as a test case for the longer-term efficacy of a vaccine programme.

Public health experts are not surprised. They had warned that it was impossible to predict whether the new vaccine would give adequate protection against new variants — that the protection would wane over time, perhaps in a matter of months. And that while it would probably continue to give significant protection against serious illness from Covid-19, that didn’t mean those vaccinated couldn’t still become infected and pass the virus on to others.

And that’s exactly what happened in the spring. The first Israelis to get vaccinated in December (unlike in Britain, Israel worked according to the Pfizer protocol, delivering the two doses three weeks apart) were relatively mobile and well-to-do citizens over the age of 60. As the country emerged from lockdown, many flew abroad for holidays. With the vaccine beginning to weaken, some came home infected with the Delta variant. Next, they infected their children and grandchildren, and the highly contagious strain swept through schools in the weeks before the summer holiday.

It didn’t help that around that time, the government changed and ministers took their eyes off the ball. In the spring, then prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was basking in the success of the first roll-out, which he ascribed to his decision-making and influence with big pharma, claiming this enabled him to secure early shipments of the vaccine. Then, in May, he was distracted by the war in Gaza. Three weeks later he was out, replaced by Naftali Bennett, who sees himself as an expert on coronavirus — he ran for office partly on the basis of his manifesto, “How to Beat a Pandemic”. Bennett blithely predicted that “we can beat Covid-19 in five weeks”. That was over two months ago and Israel now has the second-highest level of new cases per capita in the world and the coronavirus wards that were closed in April have all reopened.

It isn’t all bad news, though. For a start, the vaccines are still working. After six months they are only 42 per cent effective against infection, but against serious illness they are still 80 per cent effective. Death rates are only half as high as they were in the previous waves and while less than 20 per cent of all Israeli adults have not been vaccinated, they account for half the cases in hospital. And now that the government has made the third dose available, it is already having an effect in boosting the resistance to infection of recipients.

The government decided on the boosters despite the World Health Organisation’s recommendation to wait until countries that have barely begun giving out first doses can get their vaccination campaigns under way. Israeli public health officials argue that since theirs is a small country, the booster doses do not impact on global supply, and that they are serving as a test-case for countries such as Britain which will give boosters in coming months. As the first country to administer booster jabs nationwide, Israel is embarking on a grand experiment. Bennett is adamant that the country will not enter a fourth lockdown, despite the rise in infections.

Vaccinations are so far keeping hospitals from being overwhelmed and experts are cautiously optimistic that the high uptake of third vaccines will keep it that way. For now, the school year is on track to begin next week. Face-masks are now mandatory again in all closed spaces and the target is for all secondary schools to be at least 70 per cent vaccinated before pupils return. The rest will be vaccinated at school within days of the start of term.

In primary schools, where under-12s cannot yet be vaccinated, there will be weekly testing. It’s a gamble, reopening schools while Israel is still at peak infection — experts calculate that one in every 100 Israelis is infected. And Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, a time of large family gatherings and communal prayers, begins on September 7.

However, Professor Doron Gazit, head of the Hebrew University’s Covid monitoring team, says: “We may actually have overestimated the danger of infection over the High Holidays. The chances of infection at family gatherings is counteracted by the reduced mobility as people travel less to work.”

Ultimately, the success of “containing” the Delta variant with booster jabs, face-masks and increased testing, while avoiding lockdown, could influence other governments’ policies on reopening schools and celebrating Christmas. It’s all eyes on Israel.


Johnson & Johnson booster shot increases antibodies to coronavirus nine-fold, company says

A booster dose of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine prompted a big spike in antibodies among clinical trial participants, when taken six to eight months after the first dose, the company announced on Wednesday (Aug.25).

Health officials have recommended that people vaccinated with the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines receive a booster dose about eight months after their second dose, due to waning immunity, Live Science previously reported. But they have not yet recommended a booster for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, citing the lack of data.

"We also anticipate booster shots will likely be needed for people who received the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine," the U.S. Department of Health and Human services said in a statement on Aug.18. They added that they expect more data on the Johnson & Johnson booster shots in the next few weeks, and that they will "keep the public informed with a timely plan for J&J booster shots as well."

More than 14 million people in the U.S. received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Today's data, taken from clinical trial participants, suggests that a booster may be beneficial.

A booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine generated a nine-fold increase in antibodies compared to the level seen 28 days after the initial dose, the company reported in a statement. The data is based on two small clinical trials conducted in the U.S. and in Europe, and the company submitted the results, which haven't yet been peer-reviewed, to the preprint database medRxiv.

"We have established that a single shot of our COVID-19 vaccine generates strong and robust immune responses that are durable and persistent through eight months," Dr. Mathai Mammen, the Global Head of Janssen Research & Development at Johnson & Johnson, said in the statement. "With these new data, we also see that a booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine further increases antibody responses among study participants who had previously received our vaccine."

Mammen added that they will discuss potential strategies for booster doses with public health officials.

But the study looked at antibody levels and not at real-world efficacy, so it's not clear if people who get the booster shot will be less likely to be infected or to develop severe disease than those who don't, according to CNN. Still, experts are reaching a consensus that antibody levels may be indicative of the amount of immune protection, according to CNN.

Experts told NPR that while the studies were small, and didn't look at real-world protection, the findings would likely support the idea of giving booster shots to those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. "It is pointing toward the utility of a second dose. I think that's reasonable," Saad Omer, a vaccine researcher at Yale told NPR.



Tone-deaf House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweets about Women’s Equality Day after Americans killed in Kabul (PJ Media)

In hopeless speech, President Biden refuses liability for Afghanistan crisis he created (The Federalist)

Biden admits to being instructed which reporters to call on (Daily Wire)

Dumb… CENTCOM commander says U.S. sharing intel with Taliban (Fox Business)

“This is insanity”: Baffled reporters torch Biden for sharing list of U.S. citizens and allies with Taliban (Fox News)

Tropical Storm Ida is strengthening and forecast to hit the Gulf Coast as a major hurricane (TWC)

Portland explodes again in violent battles between antifa and Proud Boys (The Hill)

Feds to close troubled NYC jail where Jeffrey Epstein killed himself/didn’t kill himself (AP)

Democrat Terry McAuliffe, candidate for Virginia governor, forgot to sign form making him a valid candidate, complaint says (Daily Wire)

Getting it right on the second try: Supreme Court strikes down eviction moratorium (National Review)

Nearly 90% of rental assistance funds not yet distributed (Fox Business)

Delta Air Lines will impose $200 surcharge on unvaccinated employees (Fox Business)

Policy: How might China exploit the Afghanistan debacle? (Daily Signal)

Policy: How to regulate Critical Race Theory in schools (Manhattan Institute)




Sunday, August 29, 2021

AstraZeneca vaccine is the best at keeping people out of hospital with just 1.52 per cent admitted and 1 in 3,000 dying compared to 1.99 per cent for the Pfizer jab

Since I have just had an A-Z shot, I rather like this news

AstraZeneca's Covid vaccine is best at keeping people out of hospital and preventing deaths from the virus, a study has found.

Just 1.52 per cent of people who got two doses of the Oxford-made vaccine were admitted to wards after they caught the virus, researchers said. And only 0.03 per cent, or one in 3,000, died from the disease.

But among those who got the Pfizer vaccine 1.99 per cent were hospitalised and 0.15 per cent died after they were infected with the virus.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has formed the backbone of Britain's vaccine roll out, with 25million people having already received the jab. But it was recommended that under-40s should receive an alternative jab in May amid concern over vanishingly rare blood clots.

It comes after Health Secretary Sajid Javid ordered the NHS to prepare to vaccinate 12 to 15-year-olds yesterday, in the clearest sign yet that jabs could be offered to the age group.

The JCVI — which directs Britain's vaccine roll out — is yet to say whether the age group should get the vaccine, but a SAGE adviser said today that inoculating teenagers could slash their risk of getting long Covid.

There is mounting concern that the return of schools next week will spark a fresh wave of Covid infections, after Scotland saw its cases spiral to record highs when schools reopened last Monday.

Britain is currently recording more than 30,000 cases a day on average, compared to almost 2,000 a day at the end of August last year. Scotland yesterday registered almost 7,000 infections, the highest number since the pandemic began.

A separate study from Public Health England and Cambridge University has today suggested people infected with the Indian 'Delta' variant are twice as likely to be hospitalised as those who catch the Kent 'Alpha' variant.

Researchers in Bahrain and at the New York-based Columbia University carried out the study between December and July, which was published as a pre-print.

They monitored hospitalisations and deaths among people who caught the virus in Bahrain, an island nation in the Middle East, and divided them by vaccine type or those who did not get their jabs.

Scientists have always been honest and said that vaccines do not prevent every infection, but they drastically slash the risk of hospitalisation and death from the virus.

The study also included the Chinese Sinopharm and Russian Sputnik jabs, which were both worse at preventing hospitalisations than their European and American counterparts.

It was already known that the Covid strain first identified in India is up to 50 per cent more transmissible than the previous dominant Alpha variant, which emerged in Kent.

But the largest study to date comparing the two now shows those infected with the Delta strain are 2.26 times more likely to be admitted to hospital.

Delta is also 1.45 times more likely to see people entering A&E needing emergency treatment.

Scientists claimed this is more proof that the same traits which make the variant spread faster also increase levels of the virus in those it infects, which results in them becoming more severely ill.

The authors of the study, led by Public Health England and Cambridge University, said their results should be used by hospitals to plan – especially in areas where the Delta variant is on the rise.

Dr Anne Presanis, a senior statistician at the university, said: ‘Our analysis highlights that in the absence of vaccination, any Delta outbreaks will impose a greater burden on healthcare than an Alpha epidemic.

‘Getting fully vaccinated is crucial for reducing an individual’s risk of symptomatic infection with Delta in the first place and, importantly, of reducing a Delta patient’s risk of severe illness and hospital admission.’

For those who got the Sinopharm vaccine 6.94 per cent were hospitalised, and 0.46 per cent died — which was the worst performance out of the four vaccines.

Among Sputnik recipients 2.24 per cent were hospitalised, but only 0.09 per cent died from the virus.

The results showed those who did not get the vaccine were most likely to be hospitalised or die if they caught the virus.

Among the un-vaccinated, 13.22 per cent who caught the virus were hospitalised and 1.32 per cent died.

The Bahraini researchers said in their study: 'All four vaccines decreased the risk of coronavirus infections, hospitalisations, ICU admissions and deaths when compared to unvaccinated individuals.'

Dr Simon Clarke, a microbiologist at Reading University, told The Sun: 'This study shows people in the UK can be confident they’re getting the best vaccines available.

'AstraZeneca and Pfizer provide good protection.'

The Chinese Sinopharm vaccine has been the main jab used in Bahrain, which is home to almost 1.5million people.

More than 569,000 people have been inoculated with the jab.

For comparison, 245,000 residents got the Pfizer jab, 169,000 got AstraZeneca's vaccine and 73,000 received Sputnik.

Clinical trial results suggested the Pfizer vaccine was the most effective at preventing hospitalisations and deaths from Covid.

But experts have warned these figures may not be comparable when jabs are dished out in the real world, when other factors can influence their impact.

Out of 3,000 AstraZeneca recipients included in the study who caught Covid, only 45 were hospitalised (1.52 per cent) and just one died from the virus (0.03 per cent).

Out of 2,000 Pfizer recipients who caught the virus, 40 were hospitalised (1.99 per cent) and three died from the virus (0.15 per cent).

Out of 3,000 Sputnik recipients who caught the virus, 77 were hospitalised (2.24 per cent) and three died (0.09 per cent).

For the Sinopharm vaccine there were 24,000 cases, of whom 1,683 were hospitalised (6.94 per cent) and 112 died (0.46 per cent).

And among the un-vaccinated almost 65,000 caught the virus, of whom almost 9,000 were hospitalised (13.22 per cent) and 857 died (1.32 per cent).

More than 1.5million people have got the US-made Moderna vaccine in Britain, but this was not included in the study.


Key Inflation Gauge Posts Fastest Annual Price Gain in 30 Years

This must happen with runaway government spending

The Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge, the so-called core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, vaulted in the 12 months through July to levels not seen in 30 years.

The Commerce Department said in a release Friday that core PCE rose 3.6 percent over the year in July, matching last month’s level, which was an increase from 3.5 percent in May and 3.1 percent in April.

The last time the core PCE inflation gauge saw a similar year-over-year vault was in July 1991, while the highest level the measure has hit is 10.2 percent in February 1975, when the economy was gripped in a troubling upwards wage-price spiral fueled by rising inflation expectations on the part of consumers.

The Fed looks to core PCE as a key inflation measure that informs its monetary policy, which has an inflation target of a longer-run average of 2 percent.

On a monthly basis, the core PCE gauge rose 0.3 percent between June and July, after rising 0.5 percent the prior month, suggesting inflationary pressures may have peaked.

It comes as Fed officials are meeting virtually for an annual economic symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on Friday, with investors watching closely for signs of when and how the central bank may begin to roll back its extraordinary support measures for the economy. In response to the pandemic hit to the economy, the Fed last year dropped interest rates to near zero and set out on a massive asset purchasing program, buying around $80 billion in Treasury securities and $40 billion in mortgage securities per month.

In a speech Friday, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell addressed inflationary pressures, acknowledging a “sharp run-up in inflation” driven by the rapid reopening of the economy while reiterating his oft-repeated view that price pressures would moderate once supply-side shortages and bottlenecks further abate.

Powell acknowledged the relatively high level of Friday’s core PCE print, noting it’s “well above our 2 percent longer-run objective” and that both businesses and consumers “widely report upward pressure on prices and wages.”

“Inflation at these levels is, of course, a cause for concern. But that concern is tempered by a number of factors that suggest that these elevated readings are likely to prove temporary,” he said, arguing that the current spike in inflation is largely driven by a relatively narrow group of goods and services that have been directly impacted by the pandemic and the reopening of the economy.

“We are also directly monitoring the prices of particular goods and services most affected by the pandemic and the reopening, and are beginning to see a moderation in some cases as shortages ease. Used car prices, for example, appear to have stabilized; indeed, some price indicators are beginning to fall,” Powell said.

Powell added that officials have not, so far, noted broad-based inflationary pressures but acknowledged that evidence of such pressures spreading more broadly through the economy would be concerning and would prompt a swift policy response.

The Fed chief also addressed wage pressures. In the 1970s, upward pressure on wages combined with growing consumer expectations of further price increases to push prices higher, prompting the Fed to raise interest rates. Powell said there is little evidence of this phenomenon today.

“If wage increases were to move materially and persistently above the levels of productivity gains and inflation, businesses would likely pass those increases on to customers, a process that could become the sort of ‘wage-price spiral’ seen at times in the past,” Powell said.

“Today we see little evidence of wage increases that might threaten excessive inflation. Broad-based measures of wages that adjust for compositional changes in the labor force, such as the employment cost index and the Atlanta Wage Growth Tracker, show wages moving up at a pace that appears consistent with our longer-term inflation objective,” he said.

Powell also noted disinflationary forces like technology and globalization, arguing that there is little evidence these have suddenly reversed or abated, arguing that “it seems more likely that they will continue to weigh on inflation as the pandemic passes into history.”

He said the baseline economic outlook is for the economy to continue progressing towards maximum employment, with inflation returning closer to the Fed’s goal of averaging 2 percent over time.