Vincent van Gogh Snowy landscape with Arles in the background 1888
CNN is trying to compete with The Onion.
• How to Make COVID Vaccines More Effective: Vitamin and Mineral Supplements (NC)
If we’re going to rely on COVID-19 vaccines to bring an end to the pandemic, we need to maximise their effects. But one thing that risks undermining their protectiveness is nutritional deficiency, particularly in the elderly. Older people have weaker immune responses and are known to respond less well than younger adults to many vaccines, including the seasonal influenza vaccine. This is partly down to frailty, which cannot be easily remedied, but can also be due to deficiencies in vitamins and minerals – known as micronutrients. For the immune system to fight off infection or generate good protection against a disease following vaccination, it needs a variety of micronutrients. This is likely to be just as true for COVID-19 as for other diseases. Given that malnutrition is common among elderly people, raising their vitamin and mineral levels before they get vaccinated could be a way of boosting the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.
As the European Food Safety Authority notes, the vitamins A, B6, B9, B12, C and D and the minerals zinc, selenium, iron and copper are all needed for the immune system to function as it should. Each of these micronutrients – as well as vitamin E – has been shown to play multiple roles in supporting immune function and reducing the risk of infection. Research has found a link between having an impaired immune system and having low amounts of many vitamins and minerals. When the immune system isn’t properly fuelled and is impaired, this can then lead to poor vaccine responses. For example, a review of nine studies – together involving 2,367 people – found that individuals deficient in vitamin D were less well protected against two strains of flu after having been vaccinated compared to those who had adequate vitamin D levels.
By contrast, randomised controlled trials of micronutrient supplements (such as vitamin B6, vitamin E, zinc and selenium) in older people have been shown to increase the ability of the immune system to respond to challenges. Furthermore, it appears that to work at its best the immune system needs vitamins C, D and E together with zinc and selenium in excess of amounts that can usually be achieved through diet alone. For example, selenium levels above those typically regarded as optimal have been associated with a better cure rate for COVID-19. Trials in older people have also shown that responses to vaccination are better after actions are taken to improve nutrition.
Letter published in several European newspapers.
For me, personally, three pillars: “Vaccination, green zones, and test, trace and isolate strategies”, is not enough. Not without boosting people’s health.
• Aiming For Zero Covid-19: Europe Needs To Take Action (Rep.)
Vaccination is a critical element for our way out of the pandemic. But the hope to reach herd immunity in Europe by the end of the summer is fading, as the roll-out of vaccines proves to be a major challenge. In addition, the emergence of new variants from Brazil, the UK, and South Africa is a warning signal that we may be confronted with lower protection from vaccines. Furthermore, history demonstrates that vaccination cannot single-handedly control a virus: it needs concerted efforts and a combination of public health measures. A global exit from the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021 seems unlikely if not impossible. To avoid lockdown cycles as experienced over the past and present year, we need to curb the spread of the virus as soon as possible, and choose the path of sustainable recovery.
The European strategy needs to markedly shift its focus from long-term and nationwide lockdowns due to high numbers of non-traceable community transmission and high death tolls, to having the virus under control. We thus call on politicians and the public to jointly commit to a European elimination strategy that builds on three pillars: Vaccination, green zones, and test, trace and isolate strategies. Importantly, this needs to be accompanied by clear, coherent and transparent communication. We are part of a group of international scientists ranging from epidemiologists, virologists, and mathematicians, to political scientists, and economists who support the strategy, some of whom have recently signed a call in The Lancet. In addition, No Covid – an approach suggested by a group of German scientists – is actively developing tools to render elimination successful.
While controlling the virus across Europe seems to be a daunting task, it can be achieved by defining common public health measures and standards that aim at achieving and then protecting green zones. The smaller the zones and the less mobility between them, the faster the exit can be reached and worst-in-class measures avoided. However, as the zoning needs to be politically and socially acceptable, and locally enforceable, each country should make its own pragmatic choice. For example, Italy could opt for regions, Germany could opt for Landkreise or Länder, and a small country like Lithuania could opt to be considered as one zone. Even more granularly, single cities could be considered a zone if feasible.
A zone is labelled green once the origin of every transmission is known, such that test, trace and isolate strategies can prevent further uncontrolled spreading of the remaining few infections. Green zones can progressively return to normal life: schools, restaurants, tourism and other businesses can fully reopen, and travellers freely move within and between green zones. Once a green zone is established, the priority then shifts from contact-inhibiting measures to avoid the reintroduction of the virus via travel regulations and testing, and the preparedness to implement fast, decisive and targeted containment measures should infections flare up locally again.
“Midnight electricity price went up by more than 20000% in the past 4 days in Texas.”
• Millions of Texans Left Shivering In Arctic Cold Without Power (NBC)
As a record winter storm slammed across the country Monday, millions of people in Texas found themselves shivering in the dark. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the power grid for 26 million customers, called for rolling outages to conserve power as arctic weather froze wind turbines, pushed several power plants offline and drove up demand from home heating systems. Outages affecting more than 2 million people were initially expected to be brief, lasting 15 to 20 minutes, but many Texans reported losing power for hours.
“The blackout just kept on going, and as the night progressed, the temperatures just started getting lower,” said Esteban Ramirez, 19, a college student from Del Rio, west of San Antonio, on the Mexican border. He huddled with his mother and his grandparents on a sofa to stay warm after they lost power at 2:30 a.m. At one point, he said, the temperature outside was 6 degrees. “It was scary,” he said. Power was out except for a couple of brief spurts for most of the day. His pipes froze, cutting off running water to the house, and the dim light made it difficult for his grandfather to get his medication, he said. “It was my first time experiencing something like this,” he said. “I was afraid of not making it through the night.”
“Address me as Mr. President or President Biden,” Biden said. “I will not, and you can go fuck yourself,” DeSantis said before hanging up.
This played out dramatically last week in a telephone parley between Mr. Biden and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis over the governor’s refusal to lockdown his state. The world-famous Dr. Fauci was also on the call, in which Mr. Biden threatened to curtail American citizens travel to Florida by road and air — since an offshoot of Covid-19 policy has been to drive a huge demographic exodus from economically failing states of New York, Illinois, and California down there. He also threatened to withhold federal funding to Florida and deny the state access to Covid-19 vaccines. Dr. Fauci chimed in, “Governor, do you want to be responsible for reinfecting the nation? Truth is, we don’t even know how effective current vaccines are against the UK strain.”
DeSantis told Dr. Fauci he trusted his own state health authorities over financially incentivized federal officials. The conclusion of the conference call went like this: “How much do you stand to earn from these vaccines, Dr. Fauci? And, Joe, if you continue with this course of action, I will authorize the state National Guard to protect the movement of Floridians,” DeSantis said. “Address me as Mr. President or President Biden,” Biden said. “I will not, and you can go fuck yourself,” DeSantis said before hanging up. Hmmm. Now, that got right to the point, didn’t it? And consider this was not just Citizen Joe Blow mouthing off to alleged President Joe B, but the governor of a populous state. And what if it suggests a trend?
Another obvious and disconcerting irony in that affair was, of course, that Mr. Biden seeks to restrict the movement of people across Florida’s borders for fear of spreading new strains of Covid-19, while he insolently authorizes thousands of illegal aliens to cross our border with Mexico daily, with no testing for the virus. Could Mr. Biden’s intentions look any worse?
Let him go.
• Cuomo Blames ‘Politics,’ Fails To Address Nursing Home Cover-Up (NYP)
An unapologetic Gov. Cuomo doubled down on a litany of past excuses Monday as he blamed “politics” for the spiraling scandal that’s engulfed his administration since The Post revealed his top aide admitted they hid from elected officials and the public the true number of nursing-home residents killed by COVID-19. During a virtual news conference at which he declined to take a question from The Post, Cuomo claimed that “there’s nothing to investigate” regarding the cover-up to which Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa confessed during a video conference call with Democratic lawmakers last week. Cuomo never directly addressed DeRosa’s recorded remarks in which she admitted “we froze” over whether to come clean to the Legislature — or the public — about nursing home deaths in the face of a Justice Department inquiry.
“Because then we were in a position where we weren’t sure if what we were going to give to the Department of Justice, or what we give to you guys, what we start saying, was going to be used against us while we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation,” DeRosa said in the Wednesday evening conference call. Cuomo once again claimed that the state had always reported the number of nursing home residents killed by COVID-19 — even though it only began releasing figures on those who died in hospitals after a damning report last month by state Attorney General Letitia James, a fellow Democrat. As of Saturday, official figures show, 13,407 nursing home residents died of COVID-19, including 4,181 — more than 31 percent — in hospitals. “This past year, there is a toxic political environment and everything is political,” Cuomo said during the news conference in Albany.
[..] Left unsaid was that Cuomo had enough spare time to publish a self-serving memoir, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic,” which made the Times “Best Sellers” list with the help of the self-proclaimed “Cuomosexuals” who turned his daily briefings into must-see TV, also garnering him a special Emmy Award. But Cuomo pushed back against a bipartisan move to strip him of his COVID-19 emergency powers in the wake of DeRosa’s remarks. And Cuomo insisted state pols should have known about the DOJ probe, despite his not telling them, because The Post broke a story about it in October. “Emergency powers have nothing to do with nursing homes,” Cuomo said. Cuomo said legislators “can reverse any action I take.” “They have never reversed a single action,” Cuomo said. “These are public health decisions, not local political decisions.”
“She implicated all of us in the cover-up.”
• Democrats Slam ‘Lying’ Cuomo Over COVID-19 Nursing Home ‘Cover-Up’ (NYP)
Fellow Democratic legislators in New York weren’t buying Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s explanation Monday as to why he refused for months to release a true accounting of nursing home residents who died from the coronavirus. Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Queens), whose uncle died from COVID-19, bluntly said, “all of it is BS” and a cover-up. “They could have given us the information back in May and June of last year. They chose not to,” Kim said, when hearing Cuomo was blaming the DOJ probe for delays in releasing the accurate coronavirus death tally of nursing home residents. Cuomo cited an exclusive Aug.26, 2020 story in The Post that broke the news about the Department of Justice inquiry into his administration’s nursing home admission policy and the undercounting of deaths, claiming Albany legislators should have known about the probe based on that report.
Kim said lawmakers could have passed laws to tighten up accountability and liability in nursing homes to save lives if they had the information sooner. Kim also said Cuomo’s comments Monday don’t square with what top aide Melissa DeRosa told him and other legislators during a private meeting last week, when she said former President Donald Trump made the issue a “political football” and claimed that as an excuse for withholding the nursing home data. The Post first reported on her explosive remarks after obtaining an audio recording of the meeting. “And basically, we froze,” DeRosa said. “She talked about the potential that the information would be weaponized against them. DeRosa needs to be accountable for what she said,” Kim insisted. “She implicated all of us in the cover-up.”
It’s all still about Trump.
• Bipartisan Support For 9/11-Style Commission To Investigate Capitol Riot (PFW)
Bipartisan support for a 9/11-style commission to further investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot has grown bipartisan support with lawmakers urging such a body to get to the root cause of the events that day. “I’d like to know, did the Capitol Hill police inform the House sergeant at arms and the Senate sergeant at arms the day before the attack that they needed more troops?” Senator Lindsey Graham told Fox News on Sunday after mentioning he believed there was a preplanned element to the highly publicized actions that took place. “We need to look at did Nancy Pelosi know on January 5 that there was a threat to the Capitol… What did President Trump do after the attack… We need a 9/11 commission to find out what happened and make sure it never happens again, and I want to make sure that the Capitol footprint can be better defended next time,” he continued.
Graham would add that the preplanned element had no connection to former president Donald Trump’s speech during a rally earlier that day. Louisiana Republican Senator Bill Cassidy, who unlike Graham, voted to convict the former president during the impeachment trial, also called for a 9/11-style commission, telling ABC over the weekend that “there should be a complete investigation about what happened.” “I think there should be a complete investigation about what happened on Jan. 6. Why was there not more law enforcement, National Guard already mobilized, what was known, who knew it, and when they knew it, all that, because that builds the basis so this never happens again in the future,” Cassidy said.
On the other side of the aisle, Democrat Senator Dennis Coons also vocalized support for such a commission, telling ABC “there’s still more evidence that the American people need and deserve to hear.” “A 9/11 commission is a way that we make sure that we secure the Capitol going forward and that we lay bare the record of just how responsible and how abjectly violating of his constitutional oath president Trump really was,” Coons said on Sunday.
“We do not afford due process to people simply because we have to. It is like decency, civility and other values. They are not observed because they are mandatory but because they are right.”
• How Trump’s Trial Became A Tale Of Constitutional Noir (Turley)
In the 1946 movie “Gilda,” Rita Hayworth delivered perhaps the ultimate film noir line. Looking at her former lover, she declared, “I hate you so much that I would destroy myself to take you down with me.” Hayworth made self-destruction sound positively alluring. That line came to mind as I watched House impeachment managers and Democratic senators systematically discard basic values that once defined fair trials — and American values — under the Constitution. When Donald Trump’s defense counsel objected that he was not afforded due process in the House, the managers shrugged and said due process was not required. When the defense objected that Trump’s Jan. 6 speech was protected under the First Amendment, the House scoffed that free speech is not only inapplicable but “frivolous” in an impeachment.
Nothing, it seems, is so sacred that it cannot be discarded in pursuit of Trump. Over and over, it was made clear that his trial is about the verdict, not about our constitutional values. Even with acquittal all but ensured, there was no room for constitutional niceties like free speech or due process. There was only one issue — the same one that has driven our media and politics for four years: Trump. Through that time, some of us have objected that extreme legal interpretations and biased coverage destroy our legal and journalistic values. It was not done out of love for Trump: I voted against him in two elections and have regularly denounced his actions and rhetoric, including his Jan. 6 speech. However, I cherish our values more than I dislike him.
That is why the second Trump impeachment trial played out with a film noir flourish, featuring the same “lost innocence,” “hard-edged cynicism” and “desperate desire” of that movie genre — most obviously when House managers dismissed any due process in an impeachment proceeding. Indisputably, the House could have held at least a couple days of hearings and still impeached Trump before he left office. It knew the Senate would not hold a trial before the end of his term, so it had until Jan. 20 to impeach him. It did so on Jan. 13. A hearing would have given Trump a formal opportunity to respond to the allegation against him; no one has ever been impeached without such an opportunity. It would have allowed witnesses to be called (including many who already were speaking publicly), to create even a minimal record for the trial.
Yet the House refused, and then declined for more than four weeks to call a dozen witnesses with direct evidence to create a record even after its snap impeachment. So the House could have afforded basic due process but chose not to do so simply because it does not have to. When confronted about this in the Senate, one House manager scoffed at the notion that Trump should be afforded more due process. Representative Ted Lieu said, “Trump is receiving any and all process that he is due.” A chilling answer, since Trump received none in the House. There was a time when denying due process would have been shocking. Even if you believe that due process is not required in an impeachment, it is expected. We do not afford due process to people simply because we have to. It is like decency, civility and other values. They are not observed because they are mandatory but because they are right.
It’s Xi’s casino now.
• What Comes Next in HNA Group’s Bankruptcy in China (Barron’s)
Conglomerate HNA Group encapsulates at least three facets that have defined many overly-acquisitive Chinese firms in recent years. Those include origins in a defined sector with attempts to become a player in dozens of unrelated areas; an appetite for loose credit that backfired when Beijing decided too much was too much; and a meteoric rise and fall from a lack of discipline. Between 2015 and 2017 the then-airline firm’s $40 billion acquisition spree included stakes in the Hilton hotel chain and Deutsche Bank, bringing its total assets to more than $150 billion. It spent $6 billion to acquire California-based electronics firm Ingram Micro.
But debt piled up faster, and creditors and Beijing swooped in, demanding accountability, and forcing a massive asset selloff to pay down its arrears—which as of its last filing, in 2019, were roughly $109 billion. The saga seemed all but over after the Hainan provincial government last year essentially took control of the indebted behemoth, with plans for further asset sales and restructuring. But more bad news came crashing in. The Hainan government investigation concluded some 500 companies connected to HNA may be forced into bankruptcy restructuring, Chinese media outlet Caixin reported. Creditors then filed for HNA itself to be placed into bankruptcy and restructuring.
“HNA Group will comply with the court’s instructions of judicial review in accordance with law, promote the debts disposition actively, support the court to protect the legal rights and interests of creditors in accordance with law, and safeguard our normal business to be operated successfully,” the company said in a statement. HNA’s main creditor and head of the creditor committee is China Development Bank, one of the country’s three cabinet-led policy lenders. The head of the bank from 2013 to 2018, Hu Huaibang, led numerous underwritings for HNA acquisitions during its meteoric rise. Last year, Hu was arrested and charged with “suspected serious violations of discipline”—meaning corruption. How much of that, if any, is related to HNA deals is unclear.
Yeah, give him another million.
• Fauci Awarded $1m Israeli Prize For ‘Speaking Truth To Power’ (Ind.)
Dr Anthony Fauci was among recipients of the Dan David Prize, recognising his career in public health and “speaking truth to power” during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the awards organisation. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the US National Institutes of Health “is the consummate model of leadership and impact in public health,” the awards committee said in a statement. The prize, associated with Tel Aviv University, awards three $1 million prizes for “achievements having an outstanding scientific, technological, cultural or social impact on our world.” Ten per cent of the prize money is set aside for academic scholarships in each winner’s field. [..]
The nation’s leading infectious disease expert emerged as a face of the US response to the public health crisis amid a turbulent and insufficient federal effort under Donald Trump’s administration. After the former president sidelined or removed him from the foreground of the federal response in the final months of his administration, Dr Fauci has returned to the White House under President Joe Biden, who enlisted him as a chief medical adviser. Within hours of the president’s inauguration, Dr Fauci addressed the World Health Organisation to assure the agency that the US will honour its partnership and funding commitments, after Mr Trump antagonised the United Nations group and pledged to isolate the US from its global health efforts.
This son’t make the WHO happy.
• WHO Adviser: Wuhan Lab Probe Was Conducted By ‘Chinese Authorities’ (SAC)
World Health Organization adviser Jamie Metzl revealed that the WHO’s investigation into the Wuhan Institute of Virology was conducted “by Chinese autorities,” during an interview Wednesday night on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle.” The WHO announced earlier this week that the investigation had ended because investigators had found it a “very unlikely” source of the COVID-19 virus. It has been alleged that the virus may have leaked from the lab. Such accidents, however, were dismissed by the WHO as “extremely rare.” It is the global organization’s belief that the virus was first transmitted from animal to human. “Well, the investigation itself was very short. It was two weeks of quarantine and two weeks of meetings, but the actual investigation was done by Chinese authorities.
And so, the W.H.O. investigators were basically receiving reports from the Chinese officials,” Metzl told Ingraham. “And as I see it, the big failure is that they outlined four possible ways that COVID could have begun. One was direct bat to human. Second, bat through an animal intermediate host. Third, through shipping or some kind of frozen food from somewhere else. And four, the accidental lab leak. As you know, Laura, for more than a year, I’ve been one of the leading advocates saying we have to look very, very seriously at option four.”
“But rather than saying, alright, let’s look more deeply at all of those possibilities, the W.H.O. investigators said we should look at the first three, but not at the accidental lab leak,” Metzl said. “And I’m just miffed that this has happened and I think it’s really terrible.” The U.S. State Department in January detailed that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was conducting dangerous research on coronaviruses and couldn’t be ruled out completely as a possible source of the virus outbreak. In fact, the report mentioned that in the fall of 2019, researchers at the lab became sick and exhibited COVID-19-like symptoms. Further, the State Department said the lab was being operated by the Chinese military.
The Rev. Will Campbell was a wise man.
• Cancel Culture, Where Liberalism Goes to Die (Chris Hedges)
The Rev. Will Campbell was forced out of his position as director of religious life at the University of Mississippi in 1956 because of his calls for integration. He escorted Black children through a hostile mob in 1957 to integrate Little Rock’s Central High School. He was the only white person that was invited to be part of the group that founded Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He helped integrate Nashville’s lunch counters and organize the Freedom Rides. But Campbell was also, despite a slew of death threats he received from white segregationists, an unofficial chaplain to the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.
He denounced and publicly fought the Klan’s racism, acts of terror and violence and marched with Black civil rights protestors in his native Mississippi, but he steadfastly refused to “cancel” white racists out of his life. He refused to demonize them as less than human. He insisted that this form of racism, while evil, was not as insidious as a capitalist system that perpetuated the economic misery and instability that pushed whites into the ranks of violent, racist organizations. “During the civil rights movement, when we were developing strategies, someone usually said, ‘Call Will Campbell. Check with Will,’” Rep. John Lewis wrote in the introduction to the new edition of Campbell’s memoir Brother to a Dragonfly, one of the most important books I read as a seminarian.
“Will knew that the tragedy of Southern history had fallen on our opponents as well as our allies … on George Wallace and Bull Connor as well as Rosa Parks and Fred Shuttlesworth. He saw that it had created the Ku Klux Klan as well as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. That insight led Will to see racial healing and equity, pursued through courage, love, and faith as the path to spiritual liberation for all.” Jimmy Carter wrote of Campbell that he “tore down the walls that separated white and black Southerners.” And because the Black Panther organizer Fred Hampton was doing the same thing in Chicago, the FBI — which, along with the CIA, is the de facto ally of the liberal elites in their war against Trump and his supporters — assassinated him.
When the town Campbell lived in decided the Klan should not be permitted to have a float in the Fourth of July parade Campbell did not object, as long as the gas and electric company was also barred. It was not only white racists who inflicted suffering on the innocent and the vulnerable, but institutions that place the sanctity of profit before human life. “People can’t pay their gas and electric bills, the heat gets turned off and they freeze and sometimes die, especially if they are elderly,” he said. “This, too, is an act of terrorism.” “Theirs you could see and deal with, and if they broke the law, you could punish them,” he said of the Klan. “But the larger culture that was, and still is, racist to the core is much more difficult to deal with and has a more sinister influence.”
We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, you are now not just a reader, but an integral part of the process that builds this site. Thank you for your support.
Support the Automatic Earth in 2021. Click at the top of the sidebars to donate with Paypal and Patreon.