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May 24, 2020

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2020-41

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

> In Brazil, 15 percent of deaths have been people under 50 — a rate more than 10 times greater than in Italy or Spain. In Mexico, the trend is even more stark: Nearly one-fourth of the dead have been between 25 and 49. In India, officials reported this month that nearly half of the dead were younger than 60. In Rio de Janeiro state, more than two-thirds of hospitalizations are for people younger than 49.
...
“It all points to social economic status and poverty,” Gray Molina said. <
> Let's see what the Washington-backed Hong Kong democracy really looks like. The man beaten in the video is a lawyer named Chan Tze-chin. He was attacked by the rioters because he did not support them on the street today. Hong Kong must rebuild the rule of law. < (video)

> The Hong Kong rioters vandalised a shop and steal a tee shirt from inside at causeway bay today < (video)

> Absolutely sickening. The West's beloved "freedom fighters" in Hong Kong stalk, surround and beat a defenceless young woman. While the West denounces China's new national security law, they are silent on the countless acts of such brutal violence. < (video)

Other issues:

Cont. reading: The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2020-41

Posted by b at 13:59 UTC | Comments (150)

May 23, 2020

U.S. Threatens New Nuclear Tests To Push China Into A Treaty It Does Not Want

The Trump administration is hostile to any agreement that restricts its abilities to build, test and deploy nuclear weapons.

It left the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) agreement which limited nuclear missile deployments in Europe. It did so after accusing Russia of deploying missiles that exceed the range the INF treaty allowed. It has never shown evidence that the assertion was true.

Recently the administration announced that it will leave the Treaty on Open Skies which allowed for mutual reconnaissance flights for its 34 country members. It accused Russia of having limited U.S. requests for such flights over certain Russian areas. The Russian government rejected those claims.

The Trump administration is intentionally running out of time to renew the New START Treaty which limits the strategic nuclear platforms deployed by the U.S. and Russia. The treaty will expire on February 5 2021. Russia has offered to renew it for five years without any conditions. The U.S. rejected that. It says that China must be integrated into the treaty even as that makes no sense at all.

On top of all that Trump is now thinking about breaking the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty which the U.S. has signed but not ratified:

The Trump administration has discussed whether to conduct the first U.S. nuclear test explosion since 1992 in a move that would have far-reaching consequences for relations with other nuclear powers and reverse a decades-long moratorium on such actions, said a senior administration official and two former officials familiar with the deliberations.

The matter came up at a meeting of senior officials representing the top national security agencies May 15, following accusations from administration officials that Russia and China are conducting low-yield nuclear tests — an assertion that has not been substantiated by publicly available evidence and that both countries have denied.

The claims that Russia and China conducted low yield testing is almost certainly false and only an excuse to avoid the ratification of the test ban treaty.

The big joke though is that the the administration claims that it may need to again test nuclear devices to help with the renewing of the New START Treaty:

Cont. reading: U.S. Threatens New Nuclear Tests To Push China Into A Treaty It Does Not Want

Posted by b at 18:00 UTC | Comments (72)

May 22, 2020

China's Move In Hong Kong Illustrates The End Of U.S. Superiority

Blaming China for the Covid-19 pandemic is false. But the U.S. will continue to do so as a part of its larger anti-China strategy.

As the U.S. is busy countering the epidemic at home China has already defeated it within its borders. It now uses the moment to remove an issue the U.S. has long used to harass it. Hong Kong will finally be liberated from its U.S. supported racists disguised as liberals.

In late 1984 Britain and China signed a formal agreement which approved the 1997 release of Britain's colony Hong Kong to China. Britain had to agree to the pact because it had lost the capability to defend the colony. The Sino British Joint Declaration stipulated that China would create a formal law that would allow Hong Kong to largely govern itself.

The 'Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China' is the de facto constitution of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. But it is a national law of China adopted by the Chinese National People's Congress in 1990 and introduced in Hong Kong in 1997 after the British rule ran out. If necessary the law can be changed.

Chapter II of the Basic Law regulates the relationship between the Central Authorities and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Article 23 of the Basic Law stipulated that Hong Kong will have to implement certain measures for internal security:

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People's Government, or theft of state secrets, to prohibit foreign political organizations or bodies from conducting political activities in the Region, and to prohibit political organizations or bodies of the Region from establishing ties with foreign political organizations or bodies.

Hong Kong has failed to create any of the laws demanded by Article 23. Each time its government tried to even partially implement such laws, in 2003, 2014 and 2019, protests and large scale riots in the streets of Hong Kong prevented it.

China was always concerned about the foreign directed unrest in Hong Kong but it did not press the issue while it was still depending on Hong Kong for access to money and markets.

Cont. reading: China's Move In Hong Kong Illustrates The End Of U.S. Superiority

Posted by b at 17:41 UTC | Comments (149)

May 21, 2020

Tapes Prove Biden's Intervention In Ukraine But Not His Motive

A few days ago Andrii Derkach, a longtime member of the Ukrainian parliament, held a press conference (vid) during which he published recordings of phone calls between then Vice President Joe Biden, then Secretary of State John Kerry and then President of the Ukraine Petro Poroshenko.

Unfortunately there is no big scoop in the published material:

They discussed, particularly, the resignation of Prosecutor-General Viktor Shokin. It was the issue of the recording of the talk of Poroshenko and Kerry dated December 3, 2015.

“Would like to urge to consider the possibility of solving the problem of replacing Prosecutor General Shokin because, to my opinion, he blocked the reform of clearance of Prosecutor General’s Office,” Kerry said.

Besides, he referred to the ‘concern’ of Vice President Joe Biden.

Then, the recording of the talk of Biden and Poroshenko on March 22, 2016, was played. It took place four days before Shokin’s dismissal in the parliament.

“In case that you have a new government and a new prosecutor general, I am prepared to do a public signing of the commitments on 1 billion dollars,” Biden said.

“Extremely strong motivation. One of the possible candidates for this position is the leader of my faction Lutsenko,” Poroshenko responded. “If you think that a politically motivated figure could be not very good, from your point of view, I recall this proposal. Cause nobody knows that I am going to propose Lutsenko,” the president explained.

The Ukrainian gas company Burisma, which paid Joe Biden's son Hunter absurd sums for little work, is not mentioned in the now published calls.

Biden did intervene in the Ukraine to get then Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin fired soon after the prosecutor office had confiscated the villas of Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevsky. Biden himself had admitted that he held back a $1 billion credit line for the Ukraine to remove Shokin but claimed that the move had nothing to do with his son's benefactor.

The timeline of Biden's intervention looks awfully suspicious and there is no evidence that Shokin was, as Biden claimed, corrupt.

But the now published calls only confirm Biden's version of the story. They will not harm him. For now it is only Poroshenko who will have additional trouble from them:

Cont. reading: Tapes Prove Biden's Intervention In Ukraine But Not His Motive

Posted by b at 15:55 UTC | Comments (47)

May 20, 2020

Open Thread 2020-40

Non-Coronavirus news & views ...

Posted by b at 13:21 UTC | Comments (160)

May 19, 2020

This Illusion Is Alive And Well

Forbes - May 15 2012 - Meghan Casserly

The American Dream Is Alive And Well... In New Jersey

American Express - November 6 2012 - Rieva Lesonsky

The American Dream is Alive and Well—and Transformed

The Telegraph - August 4 2014 - Jeremy Warner

The American Dream is alive and well, if you are trained for the jobs of the future

Forbes - September 30 2015 - John Tamny - FreedomWorks

Ignore The Left And Right, The American Dream Is Alive And Well

FOX Business - August 22 2016 - Steve Tobak

The American Dream Is Alive and Well

Forbes India - November 1 2016 - Monte Burke

The American dream is alive and well...

Washington Times - June 19 2017 - Ed Feulner - Heritage Foundation

The American Dream, alive and well

KEDM - July 4 2018 - Byron Moore, Argent Advisors, Inc.

The American Dream is Alive and Well

New York Times - February 2 2019 - Samuel J. Abrams - American Enterprise Institute

The American Dream Is Alive and Well

Cont. reading: This Illusion Is Alive And Well

Posted by b at 9:24 UTC | Comments (157)

May 18, 2020

Cross Immunity, Nicotine Patches And Other New Covid-19 Science

Good news!

There is some cross immunity between a viral common cold and Covid-19.

T cells found in COVID-19 patients ‘bode well’ for long-term immunity - Science

Immune warriors known as T cells help us fight some viruses, but their importance for battling SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has been unclear. Now, two studies reveal infected people harbor T cells that target the virus—and may help them recover. Both studies also found some people never infected with SARS-CoV-2 have these cellular defenses, most likely because they were previously infected with other coronaviruses.

The last half sentence is really, really good news. People who previously had an infection caused by one of the four known common cold coronaviruses have developed some capability to also fight the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. This must have already changed the way the pandemic developed. Had there not been this protection in parts of the population there would have been more Covid-19 cases and likely many more severe ones.

That some people already had some grade of immunity might also explain the two limited outbreaks on cruise ships that only hit a third to half of the passengers and crew. Without partial previous immunity more people on those ships would likely have fallen ill.

The two studies mentioned in the Science report are:

Targets of T cell responses to SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in humans with COVID-19 disease and unexposed individuals
- Cell

Importantly, we detected SARS-CoV-2−reactive CD4+ T cells in ∼40-60% of unexposed individuals, suggesting cross-reactive T cell recognition between circulating ‘common cold’ coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-2.

and

Presence of SARS-CoV-2 reactive T cells in COVID-19 patients and healthy donors - medRxiv

We demonstrate the presence of S-reactive CD4+ T cells in 83% of COVID-19 patients, as well as in 34% of SARS-CoV-2 seronegative healthy donors, albeit at lower frequencies.

The T-cells generated during a Covid-19 infection are more specific to the SARS-CoV-2 virus than the T-cells generated to fight off a normal virus common cold. But a human who has recently had a virus induced common cold will have an immediate but imperfect immune reaction to a SARS-CoV-2 attack while those without such protection will lose critical time as they must build up the immune reaction from scratch while the viruses continue to multiply.

Since the Science report appeared a third study was published that detected a similar result for antibodies:

Cont. reading: Cross Immunity, Nicotine Patches And Other New Covid-19 Science

Posted by b at 13:31 UTC | Comments (199)

May 17, 2020

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2020-39

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

Other issues:

Cont. reading: The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2020-39

Posted by b at 14:53 UTC | Comments (124)

Chinese Ambassador To Israel Found Dead In His Home - A Timeline

Jerusalem Post, May 9 2020
US: Israel should re-think China's participation in desalination plant

The US government sent a warning to Israel regarding a Chinese company bidding to construct the world’s largest desalination plant, which will be in Kibbutz Palmachim and cost more than NIS 5 b., Channel 13 reported, citing Israeli officials. The Trump administration has looked into the company and the Finance Ministry is expected to announce its findings on May 24.

"The Americans have been delivering messages gently and politely but obviously they want us to re-examine the participation of the Chinese company in the tender,” an Israeli official told Channel 13.
...
Top Israeli officials told Channel 13 that US officials, including US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, contacted the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office to ask questions regarding the participation of the Israeli Hutchinson Company, an affiliate of the Chinese Hutchinson Company based in Hong Kong.

---

State Department, May 13
Travels With the Secretary of State - Travel to Israel

Briefing with Senior State Department Officials On Secretary Pompeo’s Travel to Jerusalem, Israel

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: — and how we can cooperate on the things we can do regionally together and further areas of cooperation. That was a topic of conversation. But it also sort of led to a conversation about China’s role.
...
QUESTION: So, I mean, I guess the question to both of you and just the uniformity of this message of – I know that the Huawei and 5G has been a huge thing, but now this – would you say that since COVID it has become more a part of the Secretary’s portfolio of saying hey, have your trade relationship with China, but when you get into sensitive stuff, or was even – did that precede it?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I’ll speak from the perspective of having – until all this started, being lucky enough to travel over a year and around the world with him and being in not every but most of his meetings. He’s been talking about this almost – I can’t think of a specific meeting that I was in with him where he didn’t bring this up. It’s been something that he’s been building, saying, for a long time. I think that because of the – because the CCP made the decision during COVID to use their officials to be so overt with the disinformation, that we have – we have seen I think the world pay much more attention to the stuff that you guys were asking me about and the three of us were paying attention to – Huawei, 5G, Hikvision – remember, we were talking about that last year at the podium, and I think that all of that is – it’s just now the world is paying attention to what he’s been saying for almost two years as Secretary of State.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Special attention for high-tech.

QUESTION: Yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Et cetera. They don’t – in addition to unfair trade practices, other types of exploitations, predatory loaning. You have just total disregard for intellectual property, right. So all of these go together and – but I think we really have to think about that. I mean, you should take a look, I did a whole interview on this with Globes, an Israeli publication, when I was in Israel last in, like, January or February. So we’ve been talking about it, but yeah, it’s separate.

QUESTION: Do you think you’re having success? Are you being persuasive with this?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I think we have a – we are – we’ve been allies with Israel for a long time. Our strategic relationship is getting closer every day, whether this is economically, whether this is in terms of military, intelligence sharing, across the board. It’s getting – and we have a relationship that’s mature enough to talk about difficult subjects, so I think the message is getting through.

Cont. reading: Chinese Ambassador To Israel Found Dead In His Home - A Timeline

Posted by b at 9:09 UTC | Comments (89)

May 16, 2020

How Can Trump Still Win The Election?

Yesterday the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet lambasted Trump and called on Americans to not reelect him:

The Trump administration's further erosion of the CDC will harm global cooperation in science and public health, as it is trying to do by defunding WHO. A strong CDC is needed to respond to public health threats, both domestic and international, and to help prevent the next inevitable pandemic. Americans must put a president in the White House come January, 2021, who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics.

Today the Financial Times adds to the onslaught. Its not paywalled page 1 report on Trump's reaction to the pandemic is pretty devastating and adds some juicy details:

Again and again, the story that emerged is of a president who ignored increasingly urgent intelligence warnings from January, dismisses anyone who claims to know more than him and trusts no one outside a tiny coterie, led by his daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner – the property developer who Trump has empowered to sideline the best-funded disaster response bureaucracy in the world.
...
“Jared [Kushner] had been arguing that testing too many people, or ordering too many ventilators, would spook the markets and so we just shouldn’t do it,” says a Trump confidant who speaks to the president frequently. “That advice worked far more powerfully on him than what the scientists were saying. He thinks they always exaggerate.”
...
It was Trump who chose Robert Redfield to head the CDC in spite of widespread warnings about the former military officer’s controversial record. Redfield led the Pentagon’s response to HIV-Aids in the 1980s. It involved isolating suspected soldiers in so-called HIV Hotels. Many who tested positive were dishonourably discharged. Some committed suicide.

A devout catholic, Redfield saw Aids as the product of an immoral society. For many years, he championed a much-hyped remedy that was discredited in tests. That debacle led to his removal from the job in 1994.

“Redfield is about the worst person you could think of to be heading the CDC at this time,” says Laurie Garrett, a Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist who has reported on epidemics. “He lets his prejudices interfere with the science, which you cannot afford during a pandemic.”

One of the CDC’s constraints was to insist on developing its own test rather than import a foreign one. Dr Anthony Fauci – the infectious disease expert and now household name – is widely known to loathe Redfield, and vice versa. That meant the CDC and Fauci’s National Institutes of Health were not on the same page.

Besides the insider fighting there is the question if and how Trump might manage to win a reelection. It's all about the economy one might say but there will also be other factors. Trump will certainly follow Steve Bannon's advice and blame everything bad that has happened on China:

Cont. reading: How Can Trump Still Win The Election?

Posted by b at 18:04 UTC | Comments (131)

May 15, 2020

Cats, Aerosols And Life Years Lost - Some New Covid-19 Science

A few useful studies and reports related to the novel Coronavirus pandemic have recently appeared.

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)has a correspondence about cats:

Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in Domestic Cats

Cats can get infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and do replicate it strongly in their respiratory system. But the cats do not get sick and show no symptoms. During the study three infected cats were each put into the same cage as a not-infected cat. They transmitted the disease to the previously non-infected ones. The researchers tested if the viruses the cats produce are still able to grow on human tissues. Unfortunately they are.

This means that a cat which went out of the house and met a cat who's owner has Covid-19 might come back home and infect its own human servant. Household cats may also play a role in the infection chain between household members. Any cat owner who goes into lockdown or is quarantined at home must also quarantine the cat.

---

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) with a Brief Report about speaking and aerosols:

Cont. reading: Cats, Aerosols And Life Years Lost - Some New Covid-19 Science

Posted by b at 17:37 UTC | Comments (161)

May 14, 2020

NYT Falsely Blames Russia For Cyberattack Committed By British Hacker

The New York Times continues its anti-Russia campaign with a report about an old cyberattack on German parliament which also targeted the parliament office of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel Is ‘Outraged’ by Russian Hack but Struggling to Respond
Patience with President Vladimir Putin is running thin in Berlin. But Germany needs Russia’s help on several geopolitical fronts from Syria to Ukraine.

NYT Berlin correspondent Katrin Bennhold writes:

Chancellor Angela Merkel used strong words on Wednesday condemning an “outrageous” cyberattack by Russia’s foreign intelligence service on the German Parliament, her personal email account included. Russia, she said, was pursuing “a strategy of hybrid warfare.”

But asked how Berlin intended to deal with recent revelations implicating the Russians, Ms. Merkel was less forthcoming.

“We always reserve the right to take measures,” she said in Parliament, then immediately added, “Nevertheless, I will continue to strive for a good relationship with Russia, because I believe that there is every reason to always continue these diplomatic efforts.”

That alleged attack happened in 2015. The attribution to Russia is as shoddy as all attributions of cyberattacks are.

Intelligence officials had long suspected Russian operatives were behind the attack, but they took five years to collect the evidence, which was presented in a report given to Ms. Merkel’s office just last week.

Officials say the report traced the attack to the same Russian hacker group that targeted the Democratic Party during the U.S. presidential election campaign in 2016.

This is really funny because we recently learned that the company which investigated the alleged DNC intrusion, CrowdStrike, had found no evidence, as in zero, that a Russian hacker group had targeted the DNC or that DNC emails were exfiltrated over the Internet:

Cont. reading: NYT Falsely Blames Russia For Cyberattack Committed By British Hacker

Posted by b at 14:38 UTC | Comments (105)

May 13, 2020

How The Trump Administration Inserts 'Blame China' Propaganda Into Main Stream Media

Throughout the last month there have been a number of reports with headlines like:

All the above and many more hark back to a Washington Post opinion piece by Josh Rogin published on April 14 and headlined:

State Department cables warned of safety issues at Wuhan lab studying bat coronaviruses.

Josh Rogin is a neo-conservative hack who carries water for the Trump administration. That administration has launched a 'blame China' campaign to distract from its failure to contain the epidemic outbreak in the United States. To that purpose they handed Rogin an old diplomatic cable and told him how to 'interpret' it. Rogin dutifully does as he is told.

He begins:

Two years before the novel coronavirus pandemic upended the world, U.S. Embassy officials visited a Chinese research facility in the city of Wuhan several times and sent two official warnings back to Washington about inadequate safety at the lab, which was conducting risky studies on coronaviruses from bats. The cables have fueled discussions inside the U.S. government about whether this or another Wuhan lab was the source of the virus — even though conclusive proof has yet to emerge.

That sets the frame for describing the one cable that was given to Rogin. But when one extracts the facts from his reporting while eliminating the propaganda this picture arises:

Cont. reading: How The Trump Administration Inserts 'Blame China' Propaganda Into Main Stream Media

Posted by b at 17:21 UTC | Comments (133)

Open Thread 2020-38

@all

There have recently been some very loooooong comments that were 90-100% copies of stuff published elsewhere. I tend to delete those because of potential copyright issues. Such comments also destroy the readability of the comments.

Please refrain from posting whole articles, stories or complete studies that are published elsewhere.

This is the web. Link such pieces, say what the link is about and, if needed for your argument, quote excerpts.

Thanks!

News & views ...

 

Posted by b at 14:49 UTC | Comments (103)

May 11, 2020

The Novel Coronavirus Went Global In November - Or Maybe Even Much Earlier?

The first wide outbreak of the Covid-19 disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus was identified in late December 2019 in Wuhan, China. But recent reports suggest that the virus circulated much earlier, and not only in China, than was previously known.

It is known that the virus is genetically ~96% similar to a virus that currently occurs in bats in south China. The genome of the virus has a length of 30,000 nucleic acids. A 4% is difference suggest that 1.200 must have changed through mutations, recombination and natural selection for the differences to evolve.  Experts estimate that it took 20 to 70 years for the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its relative in bats to develop from a common ancestor. The development of SARS-CoV-2 likely did not take place within bats but in some animal which has an organism more similar to the human one. The German virologists Christian Drosten, who is an acknowledged expert in coronaviruses, has suggested raccoon dogs as a possible intermediate host.

The genome sequences of the viruses show slight mutations which can evolve with each imperfect replication. The mutations usually do not change the functioning of the virus but they can be used to build a genealogical tree of the virus. Researchers have shown that the first known case in Washington State probably came directly from Wuhan while the prevalent virus types in New York are similar to ones previously seen in Europe and likely came from there.

Such analyses point to Wuhan as the source of the current outbreak and to October as the time of the first jump from an animal to a human. But the data is naturally incomplete, only relatively few occurrences of the viruses get sequenced, and there may be previous mutations no one is yet aware of.

China is still trying to find the first person in China that carried the virus. Old blood samples and radiographic chest pictures of previous pneumonia cases are now being retested and reviewed to find earlier cases.

The South China Morning Post says that earliest known Chinese patient one fell ill on November 17:

Cont. reading: The Novel Coronavirus Went Global In November - Or Maybe Even Much Earlier?

Posted by b at 18:35 UTC | Comments (258)

May 10, 2020

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2020-37

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

> At least 26 people who contracted COVID-19 started showing symptoms in late December or January — and at least eight of them both had not traveled and did not have contact with another person infected by the virus. The trend continued into February.

“That’s community spread,” said Eric Toner of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “It’s invisible, it’s invisible, it’s invisible, until it’s suddenly obvious.” <

Unknown source:
"We won the war against Coronavirus the same way we won the war against Vietnam. It got to expensive so we pretended that it was over."

Other issues:

Cont. reading: The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2020-37

Posted by b at 13:35 UTC | Comments (144)

May 09, 2020

Helena Cobban - On The “Recovery” Of Nations From Covid-19

by Helena Cobban of Just World News


bigger

(This is Part 3 in my series “Covid chronicles.” Click here for the earlier parts. Also: The image above is from a video released Wednesday by the Chinese TV network CGTN. I’m displaying it not because I approve of its racist depiction of Americans as babies but because it’s an interesting– probably not very effective– example of Chinese public diplomacy in the English-speaking world right now.)

I have a neighbor and friend who was an early victim of Covid-19. She did not die, thank God, but (like many other survivors) she has continued to be pole-axed by the sickness for nearly two months. The recovery of nations from the effects of the disease will be considerably more long-drawn-out, and complex.


bigger

In March, the San Francisco Fed produced a report (PDF here) assessing the longterm economic impact of 15 large pandemic events since the Black Death of 1347-52. It found that the depressing effect these pandemics had on the economies that suffered them lasted for 40 years afterwards–the blue/lilac curve here. (For what it’s worth, wars left a generally positive economic effect from about Y+5 onwards– the pink/red curve.)

Clearly, though, the countries now afflicted with Covid-19 will “recover” at different rates, in different ways, and to differing extents.

On April 14, Gita Gopinath, the super-smart Director of the IMF’s Research Department, issued a sobering edition of the IMF’s World Economic Outlook series predicting that global GDP would shrink in 2020 to 3% below what it was in 2019. This was a dramatic revision to the WEO she released just in January, in which she forecast that world GDP would increase by 6.3% in 2020.

Cont. reading: Helena Cobban - On The “Recovery” Of Nations From Covid-19

Posted by b at 15:33 UTC | Comments (84)

May 08, 2020

Early Lockdown Lifting Will Prolong The Greater Depression

Despite the so called lockdown the number of new cases of Covid-19 in the U.S. is barely sinking. It is only because the heavy outbreak in New York is now in decline that the number sinks at all. In most other states the numbers are just stable or still rising. But the White House and many state governors are lifting the restrictions and want everybody to go back to a normal life. This won't work.


Source 91-DIVOC - bigger

Two weeks after the states declare that everything can be reopened the new cases number is likely to again increase.

But people need to believe that it is secure to go back to normal life before they do so. They will not consume more than necessary unless they feel that it is safe to do so. How can they develop that trust while the numbers and headlines continue to show bad news?

The fear is reasonable at least for everyone over the age of 50 and for the many obese U.S. citizens. Covid-19 spreads easily, there is no medication against it and the infection fatality rate in the U.S. is estimated to be 1.3%, much higher than for the flu, even without accounting for New York County.

A good thing is that fear is the only personality-based variable that predicts virus-mitigating behavior. People who fear to get sick will continue their social-distancing and hopefully wear their masks.

Cont. reading: Early Lockdown Lifting Will Prolong The Greater Depression

Posted by b at 18:08 UTC | Comments (201)

May 07, 2020

A Peek On The Situation In And Around Syria

The recent financial turbulence in the oil markets and the global depression will have a large impact on the conflicts in the Middle East.

Iraq:

Last night the Iraqi parliament elected a new prime minister. Mustafa al-Kadhimi is seen as a technocrat with a good track record and politically neutral to all sides. His cabinet includes a number of experienced people who are known for effective work.

Astonishingly both, the U.S. and Iran, have supported Kadhimi.

Secretary Pompeo @SecPompeo - 1:09 UTC · May 7, 2020

Great to speak today with new Iraqi PrimeMinister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. Now comes the urgent, hard work of implementing the reforms demanded by the Iraqi people. I pledged to help him deliver on his bold agenda for the sake of the Iraqi people.

 

Javad Zarif @JZarif - 9:56 AM · May 7, 2020

Congratulations to Prime Minister @MAKadhimi, his Cabinet, the Parliament and most importantly the people of Iraq for success in forming a new Government.

Iran always stands with the Iraqi people and their choice of administration.

Kadhimi has lots of work waiting for him. The low oil price means that Iraq's budget will have a huge deficit. It will have to borrow a lot of money most likely from the IMF. The money may come with U.S. conditions.

There has recently been a wave a small ISIS attacks. The Jihadis were equipped with night vision devises. There is strong suspicion that the U.S. is again using ISIS to pressure the government.

The U.S. wants Iraq to take a position against Iran and the Iraqi militia which Iran sponsors. But Kadhimi can not do that without losing support in the parliament. Iraq also depends on Iranian energy.

Syria:

Cont. reading: A Peek On The Situation In And Around Syria

Posted by b at 17:40 UTC | Comments (62)

May 06, 2020

"There Is No Glory In Prevention."

When the threat of a Covid-19 epidemic emerged the infectious disease epidemiologists began to build their mathematical models to predict how it would develop. They had to work with low quality data mostly from China and later from Italy. The main parameters where the replication rate R of the disease and the percentage of severe cases. Using the available numbers they predicted a high peak of serious cases that would overwhelm the health care system.

Their next step was to look at non-pharmaceutical measures that they hoped would lower the peak of cases. Some of these were less controversial than others. Closing cinemas and bars is a bit inconvenient but can be done without much protest. Closing down public traffic or schools is more controversial as the effects on the public and personal lives are way more serious.

We have little experience in taking such measures. The model builders do not know how much each of those restrictions will contribute to the lowering of the peak. They have to estimate those parameters. Until this month it was not even clear if children could get infected or were infectious. Arguing for closing schools without knowing that is quite difficult.

Clinical epidemiologists, who mostly work on randomized trials which produce hard data, are often critical of the model builders. They dislike the many assumptions that go into modeling and demand more hard data. Stanford's professor John Ioannidis, who ran the Santa Clara antibody study, is one of them. He is somewhat right. All models are wrong, but some are useful. A recent Boston Review piece looks at the differences between the two tribes of epidemiologists. It finds that we need both.

When the politicians take measures they are only in part based on the predictions the modelers made. They also have to look at economic outcomes, at other security issues and they have to take public opinion into account. Quite strict measures were taken in many western countries. They worked well in some of them. Germany has hardly any 'excess deaths' from Covid-19. Other countries, like Britain, acted too late or not to a sufficient degree and had to pay the price for that.

As the epidemic now starts to recede a bit there is quite a lot of criticism of the lockdown in Germany.  'The models were wrong,' some people claim. 'The lockdown measures were unnecessary.' This is followed by demands for the immediate lifting of most restrictions.

"There is no glory in prevention" is the frustrating aspect in the life of an epidemiologist. If they do their job too well everyone will bash them.

A month ago Max Abrams saw this development coming and commented:

Cont. reading: "There Is No Glory In Prevention."

Posted by b at 18:57 UTC | Comments (220)