Feb 202021
 
 February 20, 2021  Posted by at 10:05 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  23 Responses »


Edward Hopper Gloucester Beach, Bass Rocks 1924

 

Infection Down 75% After First Pfizer Shot (JPost)
We’ll Have Herd Immunity by April (Makary)
Democrats Don’t Believe In Returning To ‘Normal‘ (WE)
Two Variants Have Merged Into Heavily Mutated Coronavirus (New Scientist)
Ivermectin Reduces Length Of COVID-19 Infection (JPost)
German Study: Laboratory Accident Most Likely Cause of COVID Pandemic (SPR)
Johnson & Johnson Submits Its Single-Shot Covid Vaccine To WHO (RT)
Fauci: When I Publicly Disagreed With Trump He Let Terrible Things Happen (T.)
Pfizer-BioNTech Tried To Gouge The EU With $65 Vaccine Doses (RT)
Covid or No Covid (Kunstler)
Swiss To Vote In Referendum On Government’s Covid Restrictions (FT)
China Steps Up Online Controls With New Rule For Bloggers (AP)
The Sound and the Fury of Andrew Cuomo (New Yorker)
The Texas Freeze is a Catastrophe of the Free Market (Galbraith)

 

 

 

 

Mike Ryan

 

 

Saw something in a Dutch paper. Can’t find an English version, and it has no sources. So a Google translate.

This is the first time I see a claim that the Pfizer vaccine prevents the virus from spreading, something the company itself, until recently, said it had no proof for.

What I did find in an AFP article is this, which sort of seems to deny the claim: “Gili Regev-Yochay, co-author of the study [..] said that despite the vaccine being “amazingly effective”, scientists are still studying whether fully vaccinated people can transmit the virus to others. “That is the big, big, question. We are working on it. This is not on this paper and I hope we will have some good news soon..”

The Dutch bit: “People vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are much less likely to transmit the coronavirus. That means the vaccines may not only prevent people from getting sick, but also make them much less likely to infect others, two Israeli studies show. The virus would be 89.4 percent less transmissible in vaccinated people without symptoms. In patients who do have symptoms, that percentage is even higher, at 93.7.


This is stated in a data analysis by Pfizer and the Israeli Ministry of Health.” A separate study also yielded good news. Researchers from the Sheba Medical Center concluded that 7,214 vaccinated hospital workers were much less likely to transmit the virus after 15 to 28 days. This is an 85 percent reduction in infected people with symptoms.

 

Infection Down 75% After First Pfizer Shot (JPost)

Data released by Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer on Friday showed that coronavirus infections were reduced by 75% after the first dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. The data, published in the peer-reviewed Lancet medical journal, centered on a study of around 9,000 Sheba healthcare workers, around 7,000 of which received their first dose in January. Sheba’s team found a 75% decrease in all infections and an 85% reduction in symptomatic infections between 15-28 days after vaccination. According to Prof. Gili Regev-Yochay, director of the hospital’s Infectious Disease Epidemiology Unit, only 170 people became infected during the two week period. Of those who contracted the virus, 99 showed symptoms. Eighty-nine of the sick were unvaccinated.

“In real life, the data looks at least as good as in the clinical trials,” Regev-Yochay said. “The first dose is even more effective than we thought.” She said the hospital is now completing research on the impact of the second dose, which she said researchers still believe is essential. However, she noted that the research supports the British government’s decision to spread out the time between the first and second shots of the vaccine in order to inoculate more people. “This is the first study assessing effectiveness of a single vaccine dose in real life conditions and shows early effectiveness, even before the second dose was administered,” said Prof. Eyal Leshem, director of Sheba’s Travel & Tropical Medicine department.

Regev-Yochay noted that there was at least one limitation on the data – that hospital workers tend to be under the age of 65 and healthier than the rest of the population, so it is possible that less people got sick or showed symptoms for that reason.

Read more …

“Contingency planning for an open economy by April can deliver hope to those in despair and to those who have made large personal sacrifices.”

We’ll Have Herd Immunity by April (Makary)

Johns Hopkins surgeon, Dr. Marty Makary, penned an Op-ed in the WSJ this morning saying that we will have herd immunity by April. “Experts should level with the public about the good news…” exclaims Makary (who is likely on the verge of getting canceled), as he cites the “miracle” 77% drop in cases over the past 6 weeks and that testing likely only captured about 10% – 25% of infections; he extrapolates that to saying 55% of Americans have natural immunity (and add to that the 15% of Americans that have been vaccinated). Additionally, he cites Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner, who believes that 250mm doses of the vaccine will have be delivered to 150mm people by the end of March.

“There is reason to think the country is racing toward an extremely low level of infection. As more people have been infected, most of whom have mild or no symptoms, there are fewer Americans left to be infected. At the current trajectory, I expect Covid will be mostly gone by April, allowing Americans to resume normal life.”[..] “…the consistent and rapid decline in daily cases since Jan. 8 can be explained only by natural immunity. Behavior didn’t suddenly improve over the holidays; Americans traveled more over Christmas than they had since March. Vaccines also don’t explain the steep decline in January. Vaccination rates were low and they take weeks to kick in.”

[..] “Some medical experts privately agreed with my prediction that there may be very little Covid-19 by April but suggested that I not to talk publicly about herd immunity because people might become complacent and fail to take precautions or might decline the vaccine. But scientists shouldn’t try to manipulate the public by hiding the truth. As we encourage everyone to get a vaccine, we also need to reopen schools and society to limit the damage of closures and prolonged isolation. Contingency planning for an open economy by April can deliver hope to those in despair and to those who have made large personal sacrifices.”

Read more …

More on Dr. Makary.

Democrats Don’t Believe In Returning To ‘Normal‘ (WE)

Johns Hopkins University professor Dr. Marty Makary has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this week, asserting with confidence that the U.S. population will have achieved herd immunity against the coronavirus by April “allowing Americans to resume normal life.” That’s a nice thought, but not so fast, Makary. You’re not under the impression that even when we’re at an astonishingly low rate of infection that life will, on its own will, default to what it was pre-2020, are you? Don’t be so naive. The people calling the shots have made no such promises. They have, in fact, done the opposite. When is the last time anyone has heard the sainted Dr. Anthony Fauci or President Biden or anyone at all in the Democratic Party say anything about resuming “normal life.”? I’ll wait.

Just last month, Fauci said that even with as much as 85% of the population vaccinated by the end of the summer, we could still only expect a “degree of normality.” He said that, of course, in a tone that suggested we should be grateful, but it’s what he said. Biden, just this week, made clear that “normal” isn’t part of his vocabulary. During a town hall-style event, he said that the Christmas season might bring “a very different circumstance, God willing, than we are today.” Once we’re all vaccinated, aren’t you looking forward to our “very different circumstance”? Flat-lining new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19 is the immediate goal for everyone, but everyone needs to understand that Democrats have some other things in mind for the pandemic as well.

In Washington, D.C., where I live, we’ve been averaging something like three deaths per day between November and now. The typical person who succumbs to the virus is usually in his mid-70s to mid-80s. New cases are down close to 40% over the last two weeks. And for that, we remain in severe lockdown. Indoor capacity at restaurants, the owners of which have started constructing permanent outdoor seating structures, is limited to 25%. All of our museums are indefinitely closed. There are no clubs, movie theaters, or concert venues in operation. Anyone who believes it’s all going to come roaring back in April is kidding themselves. This is how Democrats believe we should live. They believe it’s better for the planet, but don’t worry, trust them to send you a monthly check to tide you over.

Herd immunity won’t get us back to normal. It will be people who decide they’ll no longer tolerate lockdowns.

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“it carries a mutation making it resistant to some antibodies..”

Two Variants Have Merged Into Heavily Mutated Coronavirus (New Scientist)

Two variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes covid-19 have combined their genomes to form a heavily mutated hybrid version of the virus. The “recombination” event was discovered in a virus sample in California, provoking warnings that we may be poised to enter a new phase of the pandemic. The hybrid virus is the result of recombination of the highly transmissible B.1.1.7 variant discovered in the UK and the B.1.429 variant that originated in California and which may be responsible for a recent wave of cases in Los Angeles because it carries a mutation making it resistant to some antibodies.

The recombinant was discovered by Bette Korber at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, who told a meeting organised by the New York Academy of Sciences on 2 February that she had seen “pretty clear” evidence of it in her database of US viral genomes. If confirmed, the recombinant would be the first to be detected in this pandemic. In December and January, two research groups independently reported that they hadn’t seen any evidence of recombination, even though it has long been expected as it is common in coronaviruses. Unlike regular mutation, where changes accumulate one at a time, which is how variants such as B.1.1.7 arose, recombination can bring together multiple mutations in one go.

Most of the time, these don’t confer any advantage to the virus, but occasionally they do. Recombination can be of major evolutionary importance, according to François Balloux at University College London. It is considered by many to be how SARS-CoV-2 originated. Recombination could lead to the emergence of new and even more dangerous variants, although it isn’t yet clear how much of a threat this first recombination event might pose. Korber has only seen a single recombinant genome among thousands of sequences and it isn’t clear whether the virus is being transmitted from person to person or is just a one-off.

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Baby steps, but something.

Ivermectin Reduces Length Of COVID-19 Infection (JPost)

An Israeli tropical-disease expert says he has new proof that a drug used to fight parasites in third-world countries could help reduce the length of infection for people who contract coronavirus. Prof. Eli Schwartz, founder of the Center for Travel Medicine and Tropical Disease at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, last week completed a clinical trial of the US Food and Drug Administration-approved drug ivermectin, a broad-spectrum antiparasitic agent that has also been shown to fight viruses. The double-blind, placebo-controlled study included 100 people with mild to moderate cases of the disease who were not hospitalized for the virus. It tested whether ivermectin could shorten the viral shedding period, allowing them to test negative for coronavirus and leave isolation in only a few days.


According to his still unpublished data, Schwartz said the drug was shown to help “cure” people of the virus within just six days. Moreover, the chances of testing negative for coronavirus were three times higher for the group who received ivermectin than the placebo, he told The Jerusalem Post. “From a public-health point of view, the majority of patients with corona are mild cases, and 90% of these people are isolated outside of the hospital,” Schwartz said. “If you have any kind of drug that can shorten the duration of the infectiousness of these patients, that would be dramatic, as then they will not infect others.” Moreover, instead of isolating for a minimum of 10 days and maybe more, this period could be shortened, benefiting the economy. Finally, although Schwartz’s study did not focus on this, he said the results indicate that it is likely if the drug were given at the beginning of one’s illness, it could prevent deterioration and hospitalization.

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Full study via the link.

German Study: Laboratory Accident Most Likely Cause of COVID Pandemic (SPR)

For more than a year, the coronavirus has been causing a worldwide crisis. In a study, nanoscientist Prof. Dr. Roland Wiesendanger has now shed light on the origin of the virus. He concludes that both the number and quality of the circumstantial evidence point to a laboratory accident at the virological institute in the city of Wuhan as the cause of the current pandemic. The study was conducted between January 2020 and December 2020. It is based on an interdisciplinary scientific approach and extensive research using a wide variety of information sources. These include scientific literature, articles in print and online media, and personal communication with international colleagues. It does not provide strictly scientific evidence, but it does provide ample and serious circumstantial evidence:

• Unlike previous coronavirus-related epidemics such as SARS and MERS, to date, well over a year after the outbreak of the current pandemic, no intermediate host animal has been identified that could have facilitated the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 pathogens from bats to humans. Therefore, the zoonotic theory as a possible explanation for the pandemic has no sound scientific basis.

• The SARS-CoV-2 viruses are surprisingly good at coupling to human cell receptors and penetrating human cells. This is made possible by special cell receptor binding domains combined with a special (furin) cleavage site of the coronavirus spike protein. Both properties together were previously unknown in coronaviruses and indicate a non-natural origin of the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen.

• Bats were not offered at the suspected fish market in the center of Wuhan city. However, the Wuhan City Virological Institute has one of the world’s largest collections of bat pathogens, which originated from distant caves in southern Chinese provinces. It is extremely unlikely that bats from this distance of nearly 2,000 km would have naturally made their way to Wuhan, only to cause a global pandemic in close proximity to this virological institute.

• A research group at the Wuhan City Virological Institute has been genetically manipulating coronaviruses for many years with the goal of making them more contagious, dangerous and deadly to humans. This has been documented in the scientific literature by numerous publications.

• Significant safety deficiencies existed at the Wuhan City Virological Institute even before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, which have been documented.

• There are numerous direct references to a laboratory origin of the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen. For example, a young female scientist at the virology institute in Wuhan is believed to have been the first to become infected. There are also numerous indications that as early as October 2019, the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen spread from the virological institute to the city of Wuhan and beyond. Furthermore, there are indications that the virological institute was investigated by the Chinese authorities in the first half of October 2019.

Read more …

Late to the game?

Johnson & Johnson Submits Its Single-Shot Covid Vaccine To WHO (RT)

Pharma giant Johnson & Johnson has submitted data on its coronavirus vaccine to the World Health Organization (WHO) as it seeks the agency’s greenlight for emergency use. Unlike other shots, this one comes in a single dose. The emergency-use approval is a prerequisite for the vaccine joining the WHO-led COVAX watchdog program, J&J said in a statement on Friday, revealing it had submitted its paperwork to the UN health body. Unlike vaccine competitors already in the Covid-fighting market, the J&J offering comes in a single-dose form, which would make its distribution considerably easier. Moreover, it can be stored under standard refrigerator temperatures, making it an attractive option for countries with less-developed infrastructure.


While Russia’s Sputnik V, British-Swedish AstraZeneca and China’s CoronaVac vaccines can be stored in regular fridges as well, both of the US jabs by Moderna and Pfizer require extremely low temperatures to prevent spoilage. Pfizer said on Friday, however, that it had sufficient data to show its jab can actually be safely stored in a refrigerator and not the extreme cold currently advised. Johnson and Johnson published data on the late-stage trials of its vaccine last month, with the solution showing a rather modest efficacy of 66 percent. The vaccine was tested across several countries and showed mixed results ranging from 72 percent in the US to merely 57 percent in South Africa. [..] Apart from seeking the WHO’s approval, the J&J vaccine is also expected to enter the US market shortly. The solution is currently under review by the US Food and Drug Administration, with its experts expected to discuss its emergency use authorization next week.

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I see Nobel Prize AND Oscar material:

“By the time Biden took office, the pandemic was raging out of control. ‘Oh my goodness, it was,’ Fauci says. ‘When President Biden walked into the White House we were having 300,000 to 400,000 cases per day, 4,000 deaths per day, and our hospitals were on the brink of being overrun.’”

On Jan 18, the US had 150,695 new cases.
On Jan 19, the US had 176,153 new cases.
On Jan 20, the US had 191.222 new cases.

Fauci: When I Publicly Disagreed With Trump He Let Terrible Things Happen (T.)

He appears surprisingly relaxed given his immense responsibilities at this time of crisis, but then it takes a lot to faze Dr Fauci. The evergreen director of Washington’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has been a medical adviser to seven consecutive US presidents, starting with Ronald Reagan, steering them and his country through outbreaks of Ebola, Sars, Zika, avian flu, swine flu and the threat of biological weapons after 9/11. He was one of the first scientists to spot the lethal new syndrome that was Aids in the early 1980s. He was initially reviled by a gay community outraged at the Reagan administration’s apparent indifference to its decimation, then hailed as a hero after championing its cause.

Most recently, during almost all of 2020, he watched in horror as President Trump actively undermined his own government’s battle against the Covid-19 pandemic by holding mass rallies, mocking mask wearers, promoting quack remedies and encouraging his supporters to breach lockdowns. Fauci does not consider this characterisation of Trump’s conduct unfair. ‘No, no, no,’ he says. ‘Unfortunately it’s the truth.’ Donald Trump was initially sceptical of the threat from Covid-19, but Fauci and his fellow scientists did manage to persuade him to back state-by-state lockdowns, and approve social-distancing measures. He also restricted Chinese visitors to the country. By the spring, however, Fauci’s relations with the president had soured as Trump began listening to outsiders with no scientific knowledge and fretting about the damage to the economy and – by extension – his re-election hopes.

Fauci’s challenge was to correct the president’s dangerous falsehoods as diplomatically as possible, often while sharing the stage with him at televised White House briefings, but he says that ‘when it became clear that in order to maintain my integrity and to get the right message [across] I had to publicly disagree with him, he did things – or allowed things to happen – that were terrible. ‘Like he allowed Peter Navarro [Trump’s trade adviser] to write an editorial in USA Today saying that almost everything I’ve ever said was wrong. He allowed the communications department of the White House to send out a list to all of the media, all of the networks, all of the cables, all of the print press, about all of the mistakes I’ve made, which was absolute nonsense because there were no mistakes.’

Trump also began to denigrate Fauci in tweets and press conferences, setting him up as a target for the extreme Right’s hatred. ‘Which I became, to the point that to this day I have to have armed federal agents guarding me all the time,’ Fauci says. And he was not the only target. To his dismay, his wife and three adult daughters were also harassed and threatened. Liberated under President Biden, Fauci can now speak frankly in a way he couldn’t last year. He tells me that in the final two months of his presidency Trump almost completely abandoned his duty to protect the nation from the pandemic. ‘We [the scientists] were trying, but we were acting almost alone, in the sense of without any direction.’

Read more …

“..500 million doses would have cost the EU €3 billion more than the annual GDP of Iceland.”

Pfizer-BioNTech Tried To Gouge The EU With $65 Vaccine Doses (RT)

Drugmakers Pfizer and BioNTech wanted to charge the EU Commission €54.08 per dose of their Coronavirus vaccine, according to German media reports. The jab would have cost more than 20 times that of a rival shot from AstraZeneca. The prospective price tag was revealed on Thursday by German broadcasters NDR and WDR, and the Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. The paper claims that Pfizer and BioNTech submitted a bid to the EU offering 500 million doses at €54.08 ($65.58) per dose, for a total cost of €27 billion ($32.74 billion). At €54.08, the BioNTech vaccine would have cost more than 20 times as much as the rival vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, and 500 million doses would have cost the EU €3 billion more than the annual GDP of Iceland.

In comparison, Russia’s ‘Sputnik V’ vaccine was expected to be priced at no more than $10 (€8.26), according to its backers. “I see it as a pursuit of profit that is in no way justified in the current situation of the pandemic,” Wolf Dieter Ludwig, drug chairman of the German Medical Association, told the newspaper. Pfizer-BioNTech has made no profit on the sale of vaccines, according to the Suddeutsche Zeitung, and during negotiations last year reportedly told EU officials that the €54.08 price tag already included “the highest percentage discount” offered to any developed country. The final cost per dose of the vaccine is still unknown, though a document leaked by Belgian MP Eva De Bleeker in December suggested that Pfizer-BioNTech had been bargained down to €12 ($14.55).

Reuters later stated that it had reviewed documents showing the price at €15.50 ($18.79) per dose, “slightly lower than the $19.50 per shot the United States agreed to pay for a first shipment of 100 million doses of the same vaccine.”

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“..$1.5 billion is chump change for the charismatic Elon Musk, whose share of the American GDP can be seen from outer space, like the Great Wall of China.”

Covid or No Covid (Kunstler)

Covid-19 cases are going down fast across the country. If it actually goes away, imagine the giant hole left in the national narrative. No more arguments over lockdowns, kids could go back to school to learn about the scourge of whiteness, and Americans could see each other’s faces again. The “progressives” in power would have to hunt up some new reasons to cancel the bill of rights. That shouldn’t be too difficult for a party adept at making shit up. Right wing extremism would be my bet, even if Antifa and BLM go back to partying in the streets like it’s 2020 when the weather warms up. What won’t go away is the nation’s fantastic economic mess.

In just a few months since Thanksgiving, the financial system has gone through an epic shift, barely noticed by citizens preoccupied with unpaid bills, skipped rents, and empty refrigerators: the stock markets are now based on Bitcoin, which is to say on less than nothing. A whole new dynamic has emerged with publicly-held companies buying the stuff hand-over-fist. An outfit like Tesla, rumored to manufacture electric cars, invested $1.5 billion in the crypto-currency, which has shot up to over $50,000-a-coin in recent weeks. The move was so splendidly shrewd that Tesla’s stock price also shot up, though they don’t make a profit on those cool cars. Of course, $1.5 billion is chump change for the charismatic Elon Musk, whose share of the American GDP can be seen from outer space, like the Great Wall of China.

Other companies are buying Bitcoin on margin, taking advantage of super-low interest rates to make a fast killing. What a great idea! Even better than borrowing to buy back your own company’s stock to jack-up the share value. Don’t be surprised if half of the S & P jumps into the Bitcoin frenzy, bidding it up to six figures. Won’t that do wonders for US productivity and working-class wages? None of that will escape the attention of a “progressive” Congress, which will see a great opportunity to try to compensate for its fiscal profligacy by passing new taxes on “excess wealth” or “windfall profits.” Then, watch the rush-to-the-exits by shareholders in those companies that loaded up on Bitcoin, aggravated by the margin calls on the dough they borrowed to buy the stuff… as well as Bitcoin itself plummeting back to its actual true value: around zero.

Read more …

Clincher: the vote is scheduled for “as early as” June.

Swiss To Vote In Referendum On Government’s Covid Restrictions (FT)

Swiss campaigners have triggered a referendum to strip the government of new legal powers to impose lockdowns and curtail public life as the country battles the pandemic. Campaign group Friends of the Constitution on Wednesday handed in a petition of 86,000 signatures collected over the past three months — well in excess of the 50,000 required — to formally initiate a nationwide vote to repeal the 2020 Covid-19 Act under Switzerland’s highly devolved democratic system. The outcome will be legally binding, with a vote scheduled for as early as June. While the pandemic has exposed social and political fractures across Europe over the rights of citizens, in Switzerland — where individuals’ rights are often treated as culturally sacrosanct and government powers are sharply proscribed by law — the strains have become particularly evident.

“In our opinion, the [government] is taking advantage of the pandemic to introduce more control and less democracy,” Christoph Pfluger, a board member of Friends of the Constitution, told the Financial Times. He added: “The long-term problems that will arise from this kind of approach will be grave. We are a movement that says crisis management cannot be done without the will of the sovereign — the people. You cannot govern without the people.” Mr Pfluger said Switzerland would be the first and perhaps the only country to give its citizens a direct vote on coronavirus restrictions. Until late December, Bern’s governing Federal Council had been reluctant to impose restrictions during the second wave of the pandemic.

Staunch opposition from many Swiss to further curbs and dire warnings from several of the country’s most powerful and influential lobbying groups about the economic consequences of another shutdown forestalled action in the run-up to Christmas, even as case numbers rocketed. A poll conducted by Switzerland’s Sotomo Research Institute for state broadcaster SRF in November found that 55 per cent of Swiss were concerned about their individual freedoms being restricted by government measures. The same survey found that even an 11pm curfew for bars and restaurants was considered too restrictive by a third of Swiss respondents.

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Just like Twitter, Facebook.

China Steps Up Online Controls With New Rule For Bloggers (AP)

Ma Xiaolin frequently wrote about current affairs on one of China’s leading microblogging sites, where he has 2 million followers. But recently, he said in a post, the Weibo site called and asked him not to post original content on topics ranging from politics to economic and military issues. “As an international affairs researcher and a columnist, it looks like I can only go the route of entertainment, food and beverage now,” the international relations professor wrote on Jan. 31. Ma, who often posted on developments in the Mideast, is one of many popular influencers working within the constraints of China’s heavily censored web who is finding that their space to speak is shrinking even further with the latest policy changes and a clean-up campaign run by the country’s powerful censors,


Beginning next week, the Cyberspace Administration of China will require bloggers and influencers to have a government-approved credential before they can publish on a wide range of subjects. Some fear that only state media and official propaganda accounts will get permission. While permits have been needed since at least 2017 to write about topics such as political and military affairs, enforcement has not been widespread. The new rules expand that requirement to health, economics, education and judicial matters. “The regulators want to control the entire procedure of information production,” said Titus Chen, an expert in Chinese social media policy at National Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan.

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Chilling. Scorsese.

The Sound and the Fury of Andrew Cuomo (New Yorker)

Last week, Ron Kim, a Democratic State Assembly member from Queens, was preparing a bath for his three daughters—ages six, four, and two—when he got a call from the governor around 8 p.m. An hour earlier, the New York Post had published leaked details of a Zoom meeting between state Democratic lawmakers and Melissa DeRosa, one of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s closest aides. During the two-hour meeting, DeRosa seemed to confirm a suspicion that a number of lawmakers had had for months: the governor had intentionally withheld from them data confirming that thousands more New York nursing-home residents died from covid-19 than official numbers publicly showed. The lawmakers demanded an explanation, and DeRosa offered them one: last year, the Cuomo administration had been worried that Donald Trump and his Justice Department would use the numbers “against us.” “Basically, we froze,” DeRosa told the Democrats.

Kim, who has been a persistent critic of Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic, was in the meeting with DeRosa. A month earlier, he had become the chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Aging, and once the recording of the call leaked, the Post had reached out for comment. Kim told the reporters that, to him, DeRosa’s comments were as bad as they looked—“They were trying to dodge having any incriminating evidence,” he said—a quote that the governor’s office had tried to get Kim to retract. But the quote had stayed in, the story was up, and now the governor was on the phone, fuming. “I will destroy you!” Cuomo screamed, according to notes Kim wrote down after the call—which he shared with me. The governor was so loud that Kim’s wife and daughters grew upset, and Kim stepped out of the bathroom. “You haven’t seen my wrath,” Cuomo told him. “I will go out tomorrow and start telling the world how bad of an Assembly member you are, and you will be finished.”

For Kim, the nursing-home issue was personal as well as political. In April, his uncle Son Kim died, of a suspected case of covid-19, in a nursing home in Queens. He was seventy-eight, and had shaped his nephew’s life. Son Kim had become a dentist at a time when it was almost impossible for a Korean immigrant to set up a dental practice in New York City. He enlisted in the Army, in which he could practice his profession, and eventually sponsored Ron and his family’s visas to the U.S.; in 1987, when Ron was seven, his uncle, a staunch Republican, chose a new American name for him, in honor of President Ronald Reagan. Despite the personal loss, Kim told Cuomo that he’d tried to keep his disagreements about the governor’s pandemic policies on the level of policy. I bit my tongue, Kim said. “I bit my tongue!” Cuomo shot back.

Neither Kim nor his wife slept that night. “I’m trying to calm her down,” Kim told me. Cuomo kept up the pressure through the weekend. That Saturday, Cuomo’s aides and other intermediaries called Kim, trying to get him to talk to the governor. “It’s Lunar New Year—I’m with my family,” Kim told me. “I felt extremely uncomfortable.” Kim believes that Cuomo was trying to silence him. “I realized if I changed course, I’m complicit,” Kim said. “And then, politically, he owns me.” Kim hired a lawyer, to whom he directed any further communications about the issue from the governor’s office. “Ultimately, what he was trying to do was asking me to lie about what I heard,” Kim said, of Cuomo. “It’s like I witnessed a crime, and they’re asking me to say I didn’t witness a crime.”

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“In the aftermath of this debacle, we will return to New Deal-style municipal socialism, or this disaster of power, water, and gas will happen again. Socialism is government, in technical matters, by engineers and others who know their stuff and not by ideologues who do not. Compared to Texas right now, it’s not such a bad prospect.”

The Texas Freeze is a Catastrophe of the Free Market (Galbraith)

Competition would assure bare-bones, lean-and-mean efficiency, and low, low prices most of the time, reflecting the cost of fuel plus the smallest possible profit margin. The role of the state would be minimal – just to manage the common grid, through which power flows from the producer to the consumer. In times of shortage, prices might rise, but then the market would decide; those who did not wish to pay could always flip their switches off. It was a perfect textbook setup, with supply on one side, demand on the other, and a neutral manager in between. True, there were a few loose ends. One is that demand for electricity is what economists call inelastic: it doesn’t respond much to price, but it does respond to changes in the weather, and at such times, of heat or cold, the demand becomes even more inelastic.

Another detail was that in an ordinary market, there can be some play in the relationship between supply and demand. If even a fishmonger does not sell his catch, he can, at the end of the day, cut his price – or even freeze the haddock for the following day. Electricity isn’t like that. Supply has to exactly equal demand every single minute of every single day. If it doesn’t, the entire system can fail. This system, therefore, had three vulnerabilities. First, it created an incentive for cut-throat competition, to provide power in the cheapest possible way, which meant with machinery, wells, meters, pipes, and also windmills that were not insulated against extreme cold – a rarity but not unknown, even in Texas. Second, it left prices free to fluctuate. Third, it assured that when prices rose the most, that would be at exactly those moments when the demand for power was the greatest.

In 2002, under Governor Rick Perry, Texas deregulated its electricity system. After a few years, the electrical free market, managed by a non-profit called ERCOT, was fully-established. Some seventy or so providers eventually sprung up. While a few cities – including Austin – kept their public power, they were nevertheless tied to the state system. The market system could, and did, work out most of the time. Prices rose and fell, and customers who didn’t sign long-term contracts faced some risk. One provider, called Griddy, had a special model: for $9.99 a month you could get your power at whatever the wholesale price was on any given day. That was cheap! Most of the time.

The problem with “most of the time” is that people need electric power all of the time. And Texas’s leaders knew as of 2011, at least, when the state went through a short, severe freeze, that the system was radically unstable in extreme weather. But they did nothing. To do something, they would have had to regulate the system. And they didn’t want to regulate the system, because the providers, a rich source of campaign funding, didn’t want to be regulated and to have to spend on weatherization that was not needed – most of the time. In 2020, even voluntary inspections were suspended, due to Covid-19.

Enter the deep freeze of 2021. Demand went up. Supply went down. Natural gas froze up at the wells, in the pipes, and at the generating plants. Unweatherized windmills also went off-line, a small part of the story. Since Texas is disconnected from the rest of the country, no reserves could be imported, and given the cold everywhere, there would have been none available anyway. There came a point, on Sunday, February 14 or the next day, when demand so outstripped supply that the entire Texas grid came within minutes of a collapse that, we are told, would have taken months to repair.

Read more …

 

 

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 February 19, 2021  Posted by at 9:31 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  53 Responses »


Ito Shinsui Snowy night 1923

 

Mutations Made Coronavirus 8 Times More Infectious Than Original (RT)
Pfizer, Moderna Vaccines Make 3x Less Antibodies vs South African Strain (RT)
130 Countries Have Not Received A Single Covid Vaccine Dose (G.)
Florida Ranks 11th Lowest In Covid Deaths Per Capita Among Seniors (Blaze)
FBI, US Attorney In Brooklyn Probing Cuomo Admin On Nursing Homes (TU)
The Myth of Andrew Cuomo the Competent, Steady Statesman (Jac.)
De Blasio Says Threatening Phone Call To Lawmaker Is ‘Classic Andrew Cuomo’ (F.)
Texas Was “Seconds And Minutes” From Complete Disaster (ZH)
The Failure Of The Texas Power Grid Is Worse Than You Think (Fed.)
Beleaguered Texas Hospitals With No Water Evacuate Patients (Fox4)
The Slippery Slope from Censoring ‘Disinformation’ to Silencing Truth (RI)
Trump’s Former Fixer Cohen Interviewed By Manhattan DA’s Office (R.)
Biden Privately Tells Governors: Minimum Wage Hike Likely Isn’t Happening (Pol.)
Greece in Talks with the UK to Create Tourism Corridor (GR)
Why Vitamin D Probably Still Can’t Cure Covid-19 (Gideon)

 

 

 

 

Our daily good news segment.

Mutations Made Coronavirus 8 Times More Infectious Than Original (RT)

New research has found that a mutation in the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, present in variants from the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil, can make the virus up to eight times more infectious than the original. The new research into the D614G mutation on the spike protein in SARS-CoV-2, present in all the latest variants currently plaguing healthcare systems the world over, was led by researchers at New York University, the New York Genome Center, and Mount Sinai. “Confirming that the mutation leads to more transmissibility may help explain, in part, why the virus has spread so rapidly over the past year,” said Neville Sanjana, assistant professor of biology at NYU, who added that the mutation has reached “near universal prevalence” among the coronavirus variants spreading across the globe.

The Mount Sinai researchers injected a virus with the D614G mutation into human lung, liver, and colon cells and compared it against cells from the original strain detected in Wuhan at the start of the pandemic. They found a whopping eight-fold increase in transmissibility between the two strains, with the mutated spike protein making the virus more resilient to being split by other proteins in the human immune system, highlighting the importance of continued vaccine research and development to combat this hardier version. “…[O]ur experimental data was pretty unambiguous – the D614G variant infects human cells much more efficiently than the wild type,” said Zharko Daniloski, a postdoctoral fellow in Sanjana’s lab at NYU and the study’s co-first author.

Thankfully, however, the mutation has not yet been linked to more intense progression of Covid-19 leading to more severe forms of the disease or an increase in hospitalization. On the other hand, this does pose another issue: the current generation of vaccines were developed based on the original Wuhan-variant spike protein structure, highlighting the need for booster vaccines or even annual vaccination programs to halt the spread of the coronavirus for good.

Read more …

More good news.

Pfizer, Moderna Vaccines Make 3x Less Antibodies vs South African Strain (RT)

Vaccines developed by US companies Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are producing fewer antibodies against the coronavirus mutation that has emerged in South Africa, according to studies reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. A lab study jointly conducted by Pfizer/BioNTech and researchers at the University of Texas in Galveston showed that the neutralization of the South African strain “was weaker by approximately two thirds,” but concluded that it was “unclear what effect” that would have on protection the vaccine provided from the disease. This is according to the letter by the researchers published on Wednesday in NEJM, the oldest US medical journal.

Another study conducted by Moderna and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – whose head, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is the Biden administration’s “coronavirus czar” at the moment – showed “reductions by a factor of 2.7” in the titers of neutralizing antibodies against the variant known as the B.1.351 – and by a factor of 6.4 when pitted against the full range of South African mutations. “Protection against the B.1.351 variant conferred by the mRNA-1273 vaccine remains to be determined,” says the letter from the Moderna/NIAID researchers, also published by NEJM on Wednesday. Moderna said it is working on booster shots if needed. Pfizer and BioNTech are also preparing to develop an update or a booster shot if needed, according to a statement cited by Bloomberg.

In a statement released in January, ahead of the study’s review, they said the performance of their vaccine was “slightly lower” against the South African strain when compared to other mutations, but that “small differences in viral neutralization observed in these studies are unlikely to lead to a significant reduction in the effectiveness of the vaccine.” South Africa has halted the vaccination with Astra Zeneca’s formula after a study showed it didn’t work as well in preventing Covid-19 caused by the mutant strain. President Cyril Ramaphosa took the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Wednesday.

Read more …

We’re on a roll.

130 Countries Have Not Received A Single Covid Vaccine Dose (G.)

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has sharply criticised the “wildly uneven and unfair” distribution of Covid vaccines, saying 10 countries have administered 75% of all vaccinations and demanding a global effort to get all people in every country vaccinated as soon as possible. The UN chief told a high-level meeting of the UN security council on Wednesday that 130 countries had not yet received a single dose of vaccine. “At this critical moment, vaccine equity is the biggest moral test before the global community,” said. Guterres called for an urgent global vaccination plan to bring together those with the power to ensure equitable vaccine distribution – scientists, vaccine producers and those who can fund the effort.

He called on the world’s major economic powers in the Group of 20 to establish an emergency taskforce to establish a plan and coordinate its implementation and financing. He said the taskforce should have the capacity “to mobilise the pharmaceutical companies and key industry and logistics actors”. Guterres said Friday’s meeting of the Group of Seven major industrialised nations – the United States, Germany, Japan, Britain, France, Canada and Italy – “can create the momentum to mobilise the necessary financial resources”. Thirteen ministers addressed the virtual council meeting organised by Britain on improving access to Covid vaccinations, including in conflict areas.

[..] China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, criticised the growing “immunity divide” and called on the world to “come together to reject ‘vaccine nationalism,’ promote fair and equitable distribution of vaccines, and, in particular, make them accessible and affordable for developing countries, including those in conflict”. At the WHO’s request, he said, China will contribute 10m doses of vaccines to Covax “preliminarily”. China has donated vaccines to 53 developing countries including Somalia, Iraq, South Sudan and Palestine, which is a UN observer state. It has also exported vaccines to 22 countries, he said, adding that Beijing has launched research and development cooperation on Covid with more than 10 countries.

Read more …

Schools open. No mask mandate. Make of it what you will.

Florida Ranks 11th Lowest In Covid Deaths Per Capita Among Seniors (Blaze)

There’s a reason why the Biden regime is trying to attack Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and create an illusion of a disproportionate viral crisis in the state. With no declared emergency restrictions in place at the state level since last September, the fact that Florida is doing better than the national average completely exposes the lie of lockdown and masks having any effect whatsoever on the fixed natural progression of the virus. Dr. Fauci is suggesting a novel scientific principle – that schools can’t reopen until Congress passes yet another “stimulus” bill. Yet in Florida, schools have been open all year, and the state’s excess deaths for 2020 rank the 16th lowest in the nation, according to a new analysis. What’s more, the Sunshine State, which is regarded as God’s waiting room for seniors, experienced the 11th lowest per capita rate of COVID deaths for seniors in 2020.

A new analysis conducted by RationalGround.com and exclusively obtained by TheBlaze collated CDC excess death data for 49 states (excluding North Carolina, which has incomplete data) and ranked the states from smallest to largest increase in excess deaths from 2019 to 2020. As we have seen in study after study, there is absolutely zero correlation between non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as business and school closures or mask mandates, and a lower rate of excess deaths. According to the CDC’s excess death table, there was a 16.9% national average increase in all-cause mortality in 2020 over 2019.


Given the loose way we count COVID deaths, it will take quite some time to sort out how many of those deaths are due to COVID and how many are due to the panic, anxiety, lockdowns, and missed care, but what is clear is that there is no correlation between the political measures taken by a state and fewer all-cause deaths. Florida, which is the third largest state, has the 16th lowest increase in all-cause deaths, and all of the states that had fewer excess deaths than Florida are much smaller and are mostly states with lower population density. California, on the other hand, ranked No. 40.

Read more …

I have no high hopes.

Did CNN just ban one Cuomo from interviewing the other?

FBI, US Attorney In Brooklyn Probing Cuomo Admin On Nursing Homes (TU)

The FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn have launched an investigation that is examining, at least in part, the actions of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s coronavirus task force in its handling of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities during the pandemic, the Times Union has learned. The probe by the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York is apparently in its early stages and is focusing on the work of some of the senior members of the governor’s task force, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter who is not authorized to comment publicly. Last March, as the virus began spreading in New York, Cuomo issued a news release listing the 13 initial members of his coronavirus task force, which has been headed by Linda Lacewell, an attorney and former chief of staff for Cuomo.

Lacewell is the superintendent of the state Department of Financial Services. Other task force members include state health Commissioner Howard Zucker, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa and Beth Garvey, counsel to the governor. “As we publicly said, DOJ (Department of Justice) has been looking into this for months,” said Richard Azzopardi, a spokesman for the governor. “We have been cooperating with them and we will continue to.” Azzopardi did not disclose whether any members of the administration have been interviewed or if they have been served with any subpoenas. John Marzulli, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn, on Wednesday afternoon said he could not “confirm or deny” whether the office has initiated an investigation.

Nearly three weeks after the governor’s task force was announced last year, the state health department issued an order directing nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that they must accept residents who were being discharged from hospitals even if they were still testing positive for the infectious disease, as long as they were able to care for them properly. That directive, which was rescinded less than two months later, has been the focus of a firestorm of criticism directed at Cuomo’s administration, including allegations that the order — which the governor said was based on federal guidance — had contributed to the high number of fatalities of nursing home residents in New York. That assertion was largely dismissed in a report by the Department of Health that was released in July.

Read more …

“Even if Cuomo never sinks low enough to lose reelection next year — given his enormous war chest and New York’s horrific campaign finance laws, it’s still an unlikely scenario..”

The Myth of Andrew Cuomo the Competent, Steady Statesman (Jac.)

Even if Cuomo never sinks low enough to lose reelection next year — given his enormous war chest and New York’s horrific campaign finance laws, it’s still an unlikely scenario — he will never again be the governor feted by Ellen and celebrated by self-described “Cuomosexuals.” He’s not getting another Emmy. His moment is over. What happened? In some sense, this has been slow-building. For months, more and more people have been waking up to the fact that the popular, media-created conception of Cuomo was nonsensical. More than 45,000 people have died of COVID-19 in New York State, the second highest absolute death toll in America, just trailing California. (California is more than twice as large, so New York maintains a far higher rate of death.)

Cuomo, like Trump, downplayed the pandemic in its earliest days and issued a shutdown order for New York far too late, defying the opinions of experts and other elected officials. It was the nursing home issue, however, and the subsequently botched vaccine rollout that began to trigger a much-deserved reevaluation of his legacy, which is one of arrogance, secrecy, and failure. Last March, Cuomo ordered nursing homes to accept coronavirus patients who had been discharged from hospitals instead of directing them to large temporary facilities that had a surplus of beds. This decision likely contributed to outbreaks in nursing homes, which the state oversees.

Unlike most other states in America, if not all of them, Cuomo’s New York decided to keep a highly skewed count of nursing home deaths, only tallying those who died while physically in facilities. If you were a nursing home resident who got infected in a home, became sick there, and were transferred to a hospital dying, you were not a part of the official Department of Health tally. Confirming the suspicions of health care experts and many journalists, the state attorney general revealed in a January report that the Department of Health had undercounted nursing home deaths by as much as 50 percent. Shortly after, Cuomo was forced to revise the tally far higher, increasing it by more than 60 percent.

Last week, it was revealed that the Cuomo administration had purposefully withheld nursing home data from lawmakers for months out of fear the Department of Justice, under Donald Trump, would investigate. Several legislators have contemplated calling for Cuomo’s impeachment. In a rage, Cuomo called up a leftist assembly member from Queens, Ron Kim, and threatened to “destroy” his career. This is just the news that has grabbed the most headlines. Cuomo is a Clintonian Democrat with a lust for austerity, and he has been quietly slashing and burning New York’s social safety net since the pandemic arrived last year. The City University of New York, which educates a largely working-class and nonwhite student body, has faced severe budget cuts, as have local public schools and social services.

Read more …

The more I read about Cuomo, the more he resembles a character in a Scorsese movie.

De Blasio Says Threatening Phone Call To Lawmaker Is ‘Classic Andrew Cuomo’ (F.)

Compounding a month of bad press for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday morning that he believes the state lawmakers who claimed Cuomo threatened to “destroy” his career after he publicly criticized his administration’s handling of Covid-19 in nursing homes. De Blasio—who has had a publicly contentious relationship with the governor since the start of the coronavirus pandemic—painted Cuomo as a bully during a Thursday interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” The mayor said he believes New York State Assemblyman Ron Kim’s account of the phone call because “a lot of people in New York State have received those phone calls.”

“It’s a sad thing to say … but that’s classic Andrew Cuomo,” said de Blasio, explaining he’s heard complaints like Kim’s “many, many times.” Representatives for Cuomo did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes, though the governor’s Senior Advisor Richard Azzopardi released a statement accusing Kim of “lying about his conversation with Governor Cuomo.” “At no time did anyone threaten to ‘destroy’ anyone with their ‘wrath’ nor engage in a ‘coverup,’” said Azzopardi, describing a “long, hostile” relationship between the two men. The comments come a day after revelations that Cuomo’s handling of nursing home death data is now under federal investigation.

“The bullying is nothing new,” said de Blasio. “I believe Ron Kim and it’s very, very sad. No public servant, no person who is telling the truth should be treated that way. But, the threats, the belittling, the demand that someone change their statement right that moment … Many, many times I’ve heard that.” Kim said he received an angry phone call from the governor last week after he publicly accused Cuomo of obstructing justice by withholding data on nursing home deaths. According to Kim, Cuomo threatened that he could “destroy” him if he did not help “cover up” comments made by Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, who stirred controversy earlier this month by suggesting the state had purposefully delayed releasing the full Covid-19 death toll in long-term care facilities because of concerns about a potential federal investigation.

Read more …

Something tells me you should go talk to the old time engineers who’ve worked on the grid all their lives. That’s where the stories are, not in politics.

Texas Was “Seconds And Minutes” From Complete Disaster (ZH)

As natural gas fired plants, utility scale wind power and coal plants tripped offline due to the extreme cold brought by the winter storm, the amount of power supplied to the grid to be distributed across the state fell rapidly. At the same time, demand was increasing as consumers and businesses turned up the heat and stayed inside to avoid the weather. “It needed to be addressed immediately,” said Bill Magness, president of ERCOT. “It was seconds and minutes [from possible failure] given the amount of generation that was coming off the system.” With energy prices exploding to record highs, and with demand soaring, grid operators had to “act quickly” to cut the amount of power distributed, Magness said, because if they had waited, “then what happens in that next minute might be that three more [power generation] units come offline, and then you’re sunk.”

Magness said on Wednesday that if operators had not acted in that moment, the state could have suffered blackouts that “could have occurred for months,” and left Texas in an “indeterminately long” crisis. In other words, the millions of households left without power – in some cases for days – were sacrificing for the greater good. So by manually shutting down entire parts of the grid, ERCOT avoided the worst case scenario: one where demand for power overwhelms the supply of power generation available on the grid, causing equipment to catch fire, substations to blow and power lines to go down.

If the grid had gone totally offline, the physical damage to power infrastructure from overwhelming the grid would take months to repair, said Bernadette Johnson, senior vice president of power and renewables at Enverus, an oil and gas software and information company headquartered in Austin. “As chaotic as it was, the whole grid could’ve been in blackout,” she said. “ERCOT is getting a lot of heat, but the fact that it wasn’t worse is because of those grid operators.” If that had occurred, even as power generators recovered from the cold, ERCOT would have been unable to quickly reconnect them back to the grid, Johnson said.

And since nobody can disprove a negative, one just has to take them at their word that dozens of people died so that millions more could live… or something. Grid operators would have needed to slowly and carefully bring generators and customers back online, all the while taking care to not to cause more damage to the grid. It’s a delicate process, Johnson explained, because each part of the puzzle — the generators producing power, the transmission lines that move the power and the customers that use it — must be carefully managed. “It has to balance constantly,” she said. “Once a grid goes down, it’s hard to bring it back online. If you bring on too many customers, then you have another outage.”

Read more …

A disaster long in the making.

The Failure Of The Texas Power Grid Is Worse Than You Think (Fed.)

[..] Yes, some coal plants closed because of freezing temperatures and some natural gas pipelines froze. But as Jason Isaac of the Texas Public Policy Foundation explains in our pages today, the main problem with the Texas power grid isn’t that renewables failed or that fossil fuels failed. It’s that the grid itself has been made unstable by state and federal subsidies that distort the energy market and prevent the buildup of reliable power generation. Subsidies for renewables and fossil fuels have been around for a long time in Texas, supported by both Democrats and Republicans. For as much as Texas has a reputation as a deep-red oil and gas state, it was under Republican Gov. Rick Perry that billions were spent on wind turbines and transmission lines in West Texas, spurred on by massive tax credits for wind producers.

The same thing happened at the federal level when George W. Bush was governor of the state. In the months to come, there will be lengthy and bitter debates about who was responsible for this fiasco. The obvious partisan arguments are already out in the open. If any actual reforms come out of these debates, they will have to begin with an acknowledgment that the way things have been done for decades in Texas has not worked. That much, at least, is now painfully undeniable. For example, goosing the wind and solar industries with billions in tax credits in a state that produces almost a third of America’s fossil fuel energy was perhaps unwise and imprudent.

In hindsight, it looks like cronyism. So do the subsidies for fossil fuels, even if they are not as extravagant as subsidies for renewables. Maybe all of that was a bad idea from the beginning, and maybe it’s time to cut it out. Hardship like what Texas is going through right now can bring clarity. And in the teeth of this winter storm, the entire energy industry, with its high-powered lobbyists and its billions in taxpayer subsidies, is beginning to look like every other elite institution in America: a corrupt and parasitic enterprise whose failures come at the expense of ordinary Americans—in this case, people who are now trying to stay alive in their own homes.

Read more …

“Emergency rooms were crowded “due to patients being unable to meet their medical needs at home without electricity..”

Beleaguered Texas Hospitals With No Water Evacuate Patients (Fox4)

After a deadly blast of winter weather overwhelmed the electrical grid and left millions of Texans without power, hospitals in the state are also facing the additional stress of water shortages, crowded emergency rooms and even being forced to evacuate patients. Record-low temperatures damaged infrastructure and pipes, seriously jeopardizing drinking water systems in the Lone Star state. Authorities in Texas ordered 7 million people — a quarter of the population of the nation’s second-largest state — to boil tap water before drinking it. Some hospitals, already contending with COVID-19 patients and vaccine distribution, were also impacted by the winter storm’s havoc on state power grids and utilities. In Austin, hospitals dealt with a loss in water pressure and heat.

St. David’s South Austin Medical Center said Wednesday night that it had lost water pressure from the City of Austin. Since water feeds the facility’s boiler, the hospital was also losing heat. Hospital officials were working to evacuate some patients to other area facilities and said they were distributing bottles and jugs of water to patients and employees. Officials added that they were working with the city to secure portable toilets. “Because this is a statewide emergency situation that is also impacting other hospitals within the Austin area, no one hospital currently has the capacity to accept transport of a large number of patients,” said David Huffstutler, CEO of St. David’s South Austin Medical Center.

In southwest Austin, officials with Ascension Seton Southwest Hospital said they too were facing intermittent issues with water pressure, the Austin American-Statesman reported. The hospital was rescheduling elective surgeries to preserve bed capacity and personnel as a result. At Houston Methodist, two of its community hospitals did not have running water but still treated patients, with most non-emergency surgeries and procedures canceled for Thursday and possibly Friday, spokeswoman Gale Smith told the Associated Press. Emergency rooms were crowded “due to patients being unable to meet their medical needs at home without electricity,” Smith said. She added that pipes had burst in Methodist’s hospitals but were being repaired as they happened.

Read more …

“Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

The Slippery Slope from Censoring ‘Disinformation’ to Silencing Truth (RI)

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” – George Orwell. This is the slippery slope that leads to the end of free speech as we once knew it. In a world increasingly automated and filtered through the lens of artificial intelligence, we are finding ourselves at the mercy of inflexible algorithms that dictate the boundaries of our liberties. Once artificial intelligence becomes a fully integrated part of the government bureaucracy, there will be little recourse: we will be subject to the intransigent judgments of techno-rulers. This is how it starts. Martin Niemöller’s warning about the widening net that ensnares us all still applies.

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” In our case, however, it started with the censors who went after extremists spouting so-called “hate speech,” and few spoke out—because they were not extremists and didn’t want to be shamed for being perceived as politically incorrect.

Then the internet censors got involved and went after extremists spouting “disinformation” about stolen elections, the Holocaust, and Hunter Biden, and few spoke out—because they were not extremists and didn’t want to be shunned for appearing to disagree with the majority. By the time the techno-censors went after extremists spouting “misinformation” about the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines, the censors had developed a system and strategy for silencing the nonconformists. Still, few spoke out. Eventually, “we the people” will be the ones in the crosshairs.At some point or another, depending on how the government and its corporate allies define what constitutes “extremism, “we the people” might all be considered guilty of some thought crime or other. When that time comes, there may be no one left to speak out or speak up in our defense.

Read more …

The MSM will be pushing this for all they’re worth.

Trump’s Former Fixer Cohen Interviewed By Manhattan DA’s Office (R.)

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and a newly hired high-profile litigator interviewed Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, on Thursday, as part of a criminal probe of the former president’s business dealings, said two people familiar with the investigation. The interview came after Mark Pomerantz, who has extensive experience in white-collar and organized crime cases, joined District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s team investigating the Trump family business. Pomerantz started on Feb. 2 as special assistant district attorney, said Danny Frost, a spokesman for Vance. Pomerantz’s hiring is part of a flurry of recent activity in Vance’s investigation, including the issuance in recent days of roughly a dozen new subpoenas, according to the sources.

One of those went to Ladder Capital Finance LLC, a major creditor used by Trump and his company, the Trump Organization, to finance the former president’s commercial real estate holdings, the sources said. Vance’s office has also conducted interviews with Ladder’s staff, one source familiar with the matter said. The district attorney’s office has said little publicly about the probe, but noted in court filings that it was focused on “possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct” at the Trump Organization, including alleged falsification of records, and insurance and tax fraud. It is the only known criminal inquiry into Trump’s business practices.

Separately, New York state Attorney General Letitia James is leading a civil probe into whether Trump’s company falsely reported property values to secure loans and obtain economic and tax benefits. Ladder issued the loans on several of Trump’s big commercial holdings, including a $160 million mortgage on the Trump Building, a skyscraper in Manhattan’s financial district.

Read more …

He knew this a long time ago. But dangling the sausage gets votes.

Biden Privately Tells Governors: Minimum Wage Hike Likely Isn’t Happening (Pol.)

When Joe Biden met with a group of mayors and governors last week he bluntly told them to get ready for a legislative defeat: his proposed minimum wage hike was unlikely to happen, he said, at least in the near term. “I really want this in there but it just doesn’t look like we can do it because of reconciliation,” Biden told the group, according to a person in the room. “I’m not going to give up. But right now, we have to prepare for this not making it.” The comments, which were confirmed by two other people familiar with the conversation, were the furthest Biden has gone in conceding the coming axing of the $15-an-hour minimum wage provision from his first major legislative package.


And they suggest that the president is more inclined to manage the fallout of it not being included than to pursue long-shot, political-capital consuming efforts to fight for its insertion. Sitting in the Oval Office with Republican and Democratic elected officials last Friday to advocate for his $1.9 trillion Covid relief package, he didn’t hide his skepticism. “Doesn’t look like we can do it,” he said of the minimum wage hike. For weeks now, the White House has been trying to manage expectations on the feasibility of advancing a $15-an-hour minimum wage provision through a broader “rescue” package. Biden first suggested it might not make it into the final Covid relief bill in an interview with CBS prior to the Super Bowl, noting his belief that the Senate parliamentarian would determine it did not jibe with budgetary rules that allow a bill to pass with just 51 votes in the Senate.

Read more …

I still wonder what the legal status is of requiring people be vaccinated with a vaccine whose producer says it doesn’t prevent the spread of the virus. And then on the basis of that, allowing them into your country without testing etc., where they can spread the virus.

If you would let people fly in to an island, and they would stay there, that’s one thing. You could monitor them, trace them. But Greek tourism is based on people traveling a lot, island-hopping etc.

Greece in Talks with the UK to Create Tourism Corridor (GR)

Soon, vaccinated British citizens may be able to travel to Greece without any restrictions whatsoever, according to Greek Minister of Tourism Haris Theoharis. Greece has entered into preliminary discussions with the UK regarding tourism, Theoharis stated, and may allow vaccinated travelers from the UK into the country this summer without being tested for the coronavirus first. Inoculated tourists may also be able to avoid Greece’s mandatory seven-day quarantine once they arrive in the country. Those who have been vaccinated and hope to enter Greece may have to present a vaccine certificate, or vaccine passport, in order to skip the strict anti-virus measures currently in place in the country.

Currently, all those entering Greece must present a negative PCR test for the coronavirus, within 72 hours of their flight, before entry is allowed. In addition to the PCR test, visitors from the UK must also now take a rapid test upon arrival to Greece. Employing nearly one in five Greeks, tourism is one of the most important sectors of the country’s economy. Greece welcomes around 4 million visitors from the UK each year. The Mediterranean country hopes that opening up a tourist corridor with the UK for the summer will bring a much-needed boost to Greece’s economy, which has suffered a great deal due to travel restrictions and strict anti-virus measures. Greek tourism took a giant plunge in the third quarter of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT).

In total, in the first nine months of last year, the accommodation sector had revenues of only 1.89 billion euros, when last year in the corresponding period revenues were 6.15 billion euros — representing a staggering loss of 4.26 billion euros. When discussing the outlook for Greece’s tourism sector in the summer of 2021, Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated to Reuters: “I am a realist, but I am also cautiously optimistic that we will do much better than last year.” The potential deal with the UK may well add to Mitsotakis’ optimism for a successful tourist season this year. The country has already struck a deal with Israel, which will allow vaccinated travelers from the Mediterranean country to enter Greece without coronavirus restrictions.

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Saved this for last because I would like some comments. Did anyone ever state vit. D was a cure for Covid? We sure did not. This epidemiologist appears to take studies on giving people already in hospital large doses of vit. D, to claim it’s useless. This is exactly how HCQ was discredited. But do chime in.

Why Vitamin D Probably Still Can’t Cure Covid-19 (Gideon)

There are many scientific questions that have come up during the pandemic. We’ve investigated the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine, looked into school closures, and even checked to see whether spectacles could protect you from getting Covid-19 (the jury is still out on that one). But perhaps the most consistent question that has been asked, over and over again, is whether vitamin D supplements can treat coronavirus effectively. The allure is understandable — vitamin D is cheap, relatively safe, and there’s some evidence that it can help with the common cold, which is often caused by coronaviruses similar to SARS-CoV-2. If it worked, it could make an enormous difference in the lives of people with Covid-19 and at a very low cost.

Sadly, this has inspired endless shoddy studies that have meant that the question of whether vitamin D works for Covid-19 wasn’t answered very well (or at all) the last time I wrote about it in October 2020. This makes the recent headlines all the more understandable. A study was put up on SSRN — a preprint server run by The Lancet — a few weeks ago that purported to show a 60% decrease in mortality for people with Covid-19 who were given calcifediol (a metabolite of vitamin D) compared to a control group given treatment as usual. With such impressive-sounding results, the study soon went viral on Twitter and has been reported in news outlets around the world. If supplements really could prevent 60% of Covid-19 deaths, it would be a research finding that could literally change the course of the pandemic.

Unfortunately, as with most of the previous research, the evidence is much shakier than you might expect given the glowing headlines. Even more than a year into all of this, we still don’t really know if vitamin D does anything for Covid-19 at all.

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#Perseverance has captured the first images of life on Mars.

 

 

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Feb 022021
 
 February 2, 2021  Posted by at 10:36 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  27 Responses »


MC Escher Relativity 1953

 

Is Robinhood The Devil in Sheep’s Clothing? (Neville)
Physical Premium To Paper Hits Record As Silver Market Tears In Two (ZH)
Papering Over the Rot (Chris Hedges)
How To Redesign COVID Vaccines So They Protect Against Variants (Nature)
COVID19 Vaccine Developers Ask SEC to Help Keep Price Setting Secret (DP)
The Brazil Variant Is Exposing the World’s Vulnerability (Atl.)
Fauci 180º: Double Masking For Covid-19 Doesn’t ‘Make A Difference’ (JTN)
Oversight Board Reverses Facebook Removal Of HCQ Post (JTN)
The Game is On (Jim Kunstler)
Figures Tied To Past Controversies Increasingly Land Jobs On Team Biden (JTN)
Why You Haven’t Seen A Sit-Down Biden Interview Yet (Pol.)
Hundreds Deported Under Biden, Including Witness To Massacre (AP)
Biden Considers Revoking Trump’s Rights To Be Briefed On Secrets (DM)
Kerry Gifts Wall Street the Green New Deal (Pettifor)
Twitter Suspends Account of Group That Called For Regulating Big Tech (JTN)

 

 

 

 

“Back in Washington, they’ve found a company to crucify who turned out to be even bigger hypocrites than they are. Quite the bi-partisan cause!”

Is Robinhood The Devil in Sheep’s Clothing? (Neville)

Robinhood fancies themselves as commission free trading which is giving normal people free access to the stock market. They are the Facebook of the financial world. You think it’s free, but your data ends up being sold to another big business who profits off of it more than you do. For Zuckerberg, he sells all your data to businesses across the world. For Robinhood, they sell your data to Ken Griffin and other High Frequency Trading shops. You could write a book on the nuances of it, but let’s leave it there for now. As Facebook and (anti)social media grew too large, it has created mass hysterias. Neuroscientist and philosopher, Sam Harris, speaks on his podcast about humans losing sense of their rationality. Because of the constant propaganda being thrown on social media, humans are having a hard time deciphering truths and often create false realities.

Humans end up giving their attention to the most extreme personalities (watch the Tekashi69 Documentary on HBO) and the values of balance and a middle class lifestyle go out the door. In the same way that Facebook has distorted human perception, Robinhood is doing this to capital markets, which might be even scarier. If no one knows the value of things, then how do we attempt to live in a civilized society and trade value for value? Stan Druckenmiller has said that there should be some sort of hurdle rate for investment into the market. Perhaps this is what he saw coming? One of the words that I am shorting over the next five years is ‘scale’. One of the words that will likely replace it is ‘balance’. With balance, you get real growth and real innovation. You accept the fact you are human and fallible while constantly trying to learn from your failures. With scale, you just want to control things as fast as you can at the expense of the herd.

I worked as a trader for 12 years before tapping out and realizing my job was getting eaten alive by algorithms & high-frequency-trading. I tried to out-hustle it, but the incentive to make things cheaper for the end consumer to buy stocks inevitably won. As a free market capitalist, I have to give passive investment, HFT & Robinhood some major props. What they did was brilliant, but I can’t help but ask myself whether we’ve sacrificed social stability in that pursuit of scale. Behind closed doors, I know they are concerned and they can’t unwind what they’ve built. I get messages from Wall Street friends everyday now who can’t openly speak about it, but know how messed up the capital markets are.

With retail equity and call buying at all time records, liquidity could get funky if pay-for-order flow providers pull back at all. CEO’s at Schwab, TD and Virtu will likely try to distance themselves from that model. In the interim, Robinhood will likely do a nice round of mea-culpas with the best PR firms on the market and apologize to everyone about the GameStop situation. The big VC’s on Robinhood’s cap table who are obsessed with scale will make their calls into Washington. Back in Washington, they’ve found a company to crucify who turned out to be even bigger hypocrites than they are. Quite the bi-partisan cause!

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What will be the new normal? Can’t imagine it will be like the old one.

Physical Premium To Paper Hits Record As Silver Market Tears In Two (ZH)

APMEX Statement On Current Market Conditions:

In the last week, we have seen a dramatic shift in Silver demand from our customers. For example, the ratio of ounces sold per day was running about two times earlier in the week and closer to four times the average demand by the end of the week. Once markets closed on Friday, we saw demand hit as much as six times a typical business day and more than 12 times a normal weekend day. Combined with the extremely high demand levels, we are also seeing a surge in new customers. On Saturday alone, we added as many new customers as we usually add in a week.

Any Precious Metal dealer will take a long position in the futures market to protect against spot price exposure when the markets open. We do this because it is our goal not to take a speculative position on metal. The weekends are unique as we are not able to real-time hedge our position. We took an aggressive position this weekend, but clearly could not have predicted the volumes that were seen. We have partnerships around to world that allowed us to cover these long positions, but only to a point. Once we exceeded our comfort levels, we had little choice but to stop the sale of Silver on our website. This was a difficult decision to make and unprecedented in our history.

As we evaluate the markets, it is difficult to know where Silver’s price and demand will go in the coming day and weeks. APMEX is highly capitalized and has more than $150 million in inventory to support demand. We have made strategic decisions to procure additional metal, locking up any metal we can find in the market place. We suspect premiums will rise and rise quickly, as we are seeing significant increases in our costs, when we can even locate the metal. It is also highly likely that we will need an additional day or two to fill orders based on current order counts. The one guarantee we can make to our customers is that you will only be sold metal that is on-site, or we have procured the metal with a firm commitment date from our partners. In markets like this, we feel this is the best approach a retailer can take, as no one can predict product availability.

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“The new wealth comes from a cartel capitalism far more concentrated and far more criminal than any of the cartels built by the old robber barons of the 19th century.”

Papering Over the Rot (Chris Hedges)

The death spiral of the American Empire will not be halted with civility. It will not be halted with the 42 executive orders signed by President Joe Biden, however welcome many are, especially since they can, with a new chief executive, be immediately revoked. It will not be halted by removing Donald Trump, and the crackpot conspiracy theorists, Christian fascists and racists who support him, from social media. It will not be halted by locking up the Proud Boys and the clueless protestors who stormed the Congress on Jan. 6. and took selfies in Vice President Mike Pence’s Senate chair. It will not be halted by restoring the frayed alliances with our European allies or rejoining the World Health Organization or the Paris Climate Agreement.


Mr. Fish

All of these measures are window dressing, masking the root cause of the demise of America — unchecked oligarchic power and greed. The longer wealth is funneled upwards into the hands of a tiny, oligarchic cabal, who put Biden into office and whose interests he assiduously serves, we are doomed. Once an oligarchy seizes power, deforming governing institutions to exclusively serve their narrow interests and turning the citizenry into serfs, there are only two options, as Aristotle pointed out — tyranny or revolution. The staggering concentration of wealth and obscene avarice of the very rich now dwarfs the hedonism and excesses of the world’s most heinous despots and wealthiest capitalists of the past.

In 2015, shortly before he died, Forbes estimated David Rockefeller’s net worth was $3 billion. The Shah of Iran looted an estimated $1 billion from his country. Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos amassed between $5 and $10 billion. And the former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was worth about a billion. Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are each at $180 billion. The new wealth comes from a cartel capitalism far more concentrated and far more criminal than any of the cartels built by the old robber barons of the 19th century.

It was made possible by Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton who, in exchange for corporate money to fund their campaigns and later Clinton’s foundation and post-presidency opulent lifestyle, abolished the regulations that once protected the citizenry from the worst forms of monopoly exploitation. The demolishing of regulations made possible the largest upwards transference of wealth in American history. Whatever you say about Trump, he at least initiated moves to break up Facebook, Google, Amazon and the other Silicon Valley monopolists, none of which will happen under Biden, whose campaign these corporations bankrolled. And that has to be one of the reasons these digital platforms disappeared Trump from social media.

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We’re all hostages to these companies now. No-one talks about boosting your immune system, or getting fitter, natural defenses are not done.

How To Redesign COVID Vaccines So They Protect Against Variants (Nature)

Labs worldwide are racing to understand the threat that emerging coronavirus variants pose for vaccines. But early insights from these studies are mixed and incomplete. A variant identified in late 2020 in South Africa, called 501Y.V2 (also known as variant B.1.351), is among the most worrying. Lab assays have found that it carries mutations that sap the potency of virus-inactivating ‘neutralizing antibodies’ that were made by people who received either the Pfizer or Moderna RNA vaccines. Whether these changes are enough to lower the effectiveness of those vaccines is not clear, says Subbarao. “That is the million-dollar question, because we don’t know how much antibody you need.” Other immune responses that vaccines prompt might help to protect against the effects of variants.

But on 28 January, biotech firm Novavax released data from clinical trials showing that its experimental vaccine, designed to combat the original virus, was about 85% effective against a variant identified in the United Kingdom — but less than 50% effective against 501Y.V2. That drop is concerning, say researchers, because it indicates that 501Y.V2 and other variants like it can cause a significant drop in vaccines’ effectiveness. “I think it’s inevitable for the vaccines to maintain tip-top efficacy, they will need to be updated. The only question is how often and when,” says Paul Bieniasz, a virologist at the Rockefeller University in New York City who co-led one of the neutralizing-antibody studies. Scientists, health officials and vaccine makers are starting to hash this out. Researchers are only beginning to learn how different mutations alter vaccine responses and how evolutionary forces can cause mutations to spread. “I certainly wouldn’t update them now,” says Bieniasz.

One model that COVID vaccine updates could follow is that of seasonal flu vaccines, says Subbarao, who directs the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza in Melbourne. Centres including hers monitor emerging flu strains for genetic changes that might influence vaccines’ effectiveness. Researchers use studies with ferret and human antibodies to determine whether a new flu strain is likely to evade a previous season’s vaccine, and therefore necessitate an update. These reviews are conducted annually for each hemisphere’s flu season, and changes are made only when a vaccine-evading strain is widespread, says Subbarao. “If it’s localized to one region, one country, we wouldn’t change the vaccine for the whole hemisphere.”

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Drug pricing is not the scandal here.

COVID19 Vaccine Developers Ask SEC to Help Keep Price Setting Secret (DP)

When the U.S. government awarded over $10 billion in contracts and advance- purchase commitments to drug companies working on COVID-19 vaccine and treatments, it did not require the recipients of government money to agree to offer their products at fair prices or share intellectual property rights to enable faster production. Now, two of the companies awarded those contracts—Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson—are trying to prevent shareholders from voting on resolutions to require the companies to disclose information about the impact of government funding on vaccine access. The U.S. government has purchased 200 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines, for about $20 and $10 per dose, respectively.

The shareholder resolutions, filed by members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a shareholder activism organization, ask those two companies to inform their shareholders how “receipt of public financial support for development and manufacture of products for COVID-19 is being, or will be, taken into account when making decisions that affect access to such products, such as setting prices.” Similar resolutions were also filed at Eli Lilly, Gilead, Merck, and Regeneron. Both Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson filed “no action requests” with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in December, asking the agency to rule that the companies can withhold the proposals from shareholders.

In nearly identical filings prepared by the same lawyer, both Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson argued that the proposals attempt to “micromanage” the companies “by requesting an intricately detailed report.” Meg Jones-Monteiro, ICCR’s health equity director, called the micromanaging claim “ludicrous.” The claim that investors are trying to “micromanage” the companies comes from an SEC precedent finding that certain “ordinary business operations” should not be subject to shareholder oversight. But Jones-Monteiro argues that the issue of vaccine pricing during pandemics doesn’t fall into this category.

“Anything related to drug pricing has been established as a social policy issue,” Jones-Monteiro told The Daily Poster, meaning it isn’t just ordinary business that doesn’t need any shareholder oversight. She noted that the proposals don’t ask about ordinary pricing decisions or ask for intricate details about pricing algorithms. “We are asking very generally: did you take government funding into account? And how did you take it into account?” Oxfam, an ICCR member who filed the proposed resolution with Johnson & Johnson, wrote in a supporting statement that “JNJ stated publicly that it will distribute a COVID-19 vaccine on a “nonprofit” basis,” adding: “JNJ has not clarified what ‘nonprofit’ means when the government funds a significant portion of the research and development cost.”

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Pretty bad.

The Brazil Variant Is Exposing the World’s Vulnerability (Atl.)

Even in a year of horrendous suffering, what is unfolding in Brazil stands out. In the rainforest city of Manaus, home to 2 million people, bodies are reportedly being dropped into mass graves as quickly as they can be dug. Hospitals have run out of oxygen, and people with potentially treatable cases of COVID-19 are dying of asphyxia. This nature and scale of mortality have not been seen since the first months of the pandemic. This is happening in a very unlikely place. Manaus saw a devastating outbreak last April that similarly overwhelmed systems, infecting the majority of the city. Because the morbidity was so ubiquitous, many scientists believed the population had since developed a high level of immunity that would preclude another devastating wave of infection.

On the whole, Brazil has already reported the second-highest death toll in the world (though half that of the United States). As the country headed into summer, the worst was thought to be behind it. Data seemed to support the idea that herd immunity in Manaus was near. In Science this month, researchers mapped the virus’s takeover last year: In April, blood tests found that 4.8 percent of the city’s population had antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. By June, the number was up to 52.5 percent. Since people who get infected do not always test positive for antibodies, the researchers estimated that by June about two-thirds of the city had been infected. By November, the estimate was about 76 percent. In The Lancet this week, a team of Brazilian researchers noted that even if these estimates were off by a large margin, infection on this scale “should confer important population immunity to avoid a larger outbreak.”

Indeed, it seemed to. The city was able to largely reopen and remain open throughout its winter with low levels of COVID-19 cases. Yet now, the nightmare scenario is happening a second time. The situation defies expert expectations about how immunity would help protect the hardest-hit populations. By estimates of leading infectious-disease specialists, such as Anthony Fauci, when roughly 70 to 75 percent of the population is immune, there can still be clusters of cases, but sustaining a large-scale outbreak becomes mathematically impossible. Still somehow, according to The Washington Post, hospitals in Manaus that had thought they were well prepared are now overwhelmed.

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What a clown.

Fauci 180º: Double Masking For Covid-19 Doesn’t ‘Make A Difference’ (JTN)

First he said don’t wear a mask. Then he said wear a mask. Then he said wear two masks. Then he said just wear one mask. Keeping up with Dr. Anthony Fauci’s mask-wearing recommendations is getting tough. Back in March, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was emerging, Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, said, “There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask.” “When you’re in the middle of an outbreak, wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better and it might even block a droplet, but it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is,” the doctor said on CBS News. Of course, we didn’t know much back then, and how to slow the spread has since evolved.

Soon after Fauci made his comments, experts – including those in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention – said Americans should wear masks, citing estimates that 40% or more of those infected were asymptomatic but could still spread the virus. “We were not aware that 40% to 45% of people were asymptomatic, nor were we aware that a substantial proportion of people who get infected get infected from people who are without symptoms. That makes it overwhelmingly important for everyone to wear a mask,” Fauci said in September, noting that “the data now are very, very clear.”

Fauci, an immunologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who served on President Trump’s White House Coronavirus Task Force and is now President Biden’s chief medical adviser on COVID-19, said last month that wearing two masks is likely more effective than wearing one. “If you have a physical covering with one layer, you put another layer on it, just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective,” Fauci told NBC News. Then over the weekend, Fauci said: “There are many people who feel, you know, if you want to have an extra little bit of protection, maybe I should put two masks on. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s no data that indicates that that is going to make a difference and that’s the reason why the CDC has not changed the recommendation.”

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HCQ research has been dead since April, thanks to the Lancet. That’s also when the vaccine trials started.

Oversight Board Reverses Facebook Removal Of HCQ Post (JTN)

Facebook’s independent Oversight Board has reversed the social media platform’s decision to remove an October 2020 post pertaining to the drug hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of COVID-19. “In October 2020, a user posted a video and accompanying text in French in a public Facebook group related to COVID-19,” the board explained on its website. “The post alleged a scandal at the Agence Nationale de Sécurité du Médicament (the French agency responsible for regulating health products), which refused to authorize hydroxychloroquine combined with azithromycin for use against COVID-19, but authorized and promoted remdesivir. The user criticized the lack of a health strategy in France and stated that “[Didier] Raoult’s cure” is being used elsewhere to save lives.

“The user’s post also questioned what society had to lose by allowing doctors to prescribe in an emergency a “harmless drug” when the first symptoms of COVID-19 appear.” While the person’s post pushed back against a government policy, it did not urge people to obtain or take medicine without a prescription, the board noted. “[The] user was opposing a governmental policy and aimed to change that policy,” the board said in explaining its ruling. “The combination of medicines that the post claims constitute a cure are not available without a prescription in France and the content does not encourage people to buy or take drugs without a prescription. Considering these and other contextual factors, the Board noted that Facebook had not demonstrated the post would rise to the level of imminent harm, as required by its own rule in the Community Standards.”

Facebook also failed to show why it did not opt for a less severe remedy than removing the post from the platform, the panel found. “Given that Facebook has a range of tools to deal with misinformation, such as providing users with additional context, the company failed to demonstrate why it did not choose a less intrusive option than removing the content,” the board explained. The board also determined that the social media giant’s misinformation and imminent harm rule is too vague and recommended that the platform consolidate and clarify its standards on health misinformation in one place.

“The Board also found Facebook’s misinformation and imminent harm rule, which this post is said to have violated, to be inappropriately vague and inconsistent with international human rights standards,” the panel said. “A patchwork of policies found on different parts of Facebook’s website make it difficult for users to understand what content is prohibited. Changes to Facebook’s COVID-19 policies announced in the company’s Newsroom have not always been reflected in its Community Standards, while some of these changes even appear to contradict them.”

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“It looks like they mean bidness.”

The Game is On (Jim Kunstler)

It’s been fifty years since precious metals enjoyed any official peg with the US dollar, but for five thousand years previously gold and silver were money itself and paper currencies became mere representations of that money. That relationship ended in 1971 when President Nixon closed the “window” that allowed foreign countries to redeem gold in exchange for dollars they accumulated from the commercial trade of goods — and, our dollar being the world’s supreme reserve currency, the rest of the world’s currencies followed.

Despite all efforts since then by banking authorities to denigrate the value and the role of gold and silver in financial affairs, the “barbarous relics” retained a persistent influence in men’s minds because of their intrinsic qualities. These were: the vested energy they represented from mining and refining, their physical durability, portability, and divisibility, their freedom from counterparty obligations, and, especially in modern times, their vital usefulness in electronics and other industrial applications. The latter quality is greatly reinforced by the powerful wish to transition from a fossil fuel economy to an alt-energy economy of solar cells and wind turbines — a wish that probably won’t come true.

And so, as promised by the subreddit vigilantes, the silver price was up around $3 or ten percent in overnight trading going into the week’s Monday open. It looks like they mean bidness. And that could mean many things. The most obvious is a very conscious effort to punish the high hats of Wall Street for years of lawless game-playing that made them ultra-rich and left everybody else in the country impoverished. Some of the vigilantes frankly express the desire to wreck the degenerate banking system altogether, a great purge of evil to restore something like God-fearing accountability, moving toward a fresh and honest re-start of markets and banking. I’m not convinced that we would get any such orderly re-start in the sense that global banking could be reconstructed along pre-2020 lines.

Rather, wrecking the banks in a daisy-chain of shattered obligations would be an express ticket to the Palookaville of neo-medievalism I’ve been warning about, and probably in a sharp, disorderly, violent, and deadly episode of losing everything that has made us civilized. In any case, the country has already prepped itself for some kind of spectacular failure with all the social mind-fuckery of the past four years that eventuated with the empty shell of Joe Biden in the White House, and millions of his supporters swept into an epic hysteria of manufactured moral outrage over pseudo-realities initiated by academic racketeers and then weaponized by our politicians. But the game is on, whether you like it or not. This may be a last opportunity to get your minds right before you lose your country and your future.

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There are hundreds of them.

Figures Tied To Past Controversies Increasingly Land Jobs On Team Biden (JTN)

Jake Sullivan was one of the most prolific users of Hillary Clinton’s forbidden email server. Now he’s Joe Biden’s national security adviser. Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland previously had ties to Christopher Steele in the Russia scandal. White House domestic adviser Susan Rice once falsely declared the Benghazi terror attack was provoked by an anti-Muslim video and later wrote the famously curious did-it-by-the-books email in the Russia scandal during her last minutes in he Obama administration. And top Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement official Melissa Hodgman is married to Peter Strzok, the fired FBI agent who supervised the discredited Crossfire Hurricane probe into Russia-Trump collusion. As Biden fills out his team, the list of people tied to past scandals and controversy keeps getting bigger.


And the pattern has some prominent Republicans taking note. “If you look at the larger picture, the Russia hoaxers, the people that were pushing this out from the very beginning and lying about it after the fact, they’re all at the top echelons of the Biden administration,” former House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said Sunday. During an appearance on Fox News’ Sunday show hosted by Maria Bartiromo, Nunes took issue with Hodgman’s appointment as acting chief of the SEC enforcement division, saying while she “could be a great public servant,” it created the appearance of a Democratic payback to her husband for pursuing Trump. “Looks like Peter Strozk is actually going to get reimbursed for all of his troubles,” Nunes said. “The guy lost his job, but nothing’s happened to him at this point.”

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Incompetence as a strategic move.

Why You Haven’t Seen A Sit-Down Biden Interview Yet (Pol.)

Joe Biden waited nearly four decades to become the most powerful man in the free world. Now that he is, he’s making himself scarce. Biden is leaning on doctors and health experts to publicly detail his Covid policy. He’s relying on his Cabinet, economic advisers and other high-ranking administration officials to help sell his nearly $2 trillion rescue package. Biden’s press team, meanwhile, is standing in for their boss by blanketing TV programs with pledges to tell the truth even when it’s inconvenient. It’s one of the more arresting shifts after four years of a president who delighted in torturing the media with sudden pronouncements that often surprised and befuddled his own advisers.

“He trusts them, and Americans will trust experts,” John Anzalone, a top Biden adviser and campaign pollster, said of the president’s approach to his team. “Plus,” he added, “Biden is dealing with multiple crises and is a good delegator.” White House aides describe the strategy not so much as delegation but as an concerted effort to restore confidence with a public battered by the contradictory messaging and scorched-earth politics of the Trump years. In just over a week, the White House has booked 80 TV and radio interviews with 20 senior administration officials, members of the Covid-19 response team and Cabinet secretary designates. They’ve had officials on each major network, booking them on every Sunday show in the first week.

And they worked with CNN to have three of the doctors in charge of its Covid-19 response take questions from the public during a coronavirus town hall, said Mariel Sáez, the White House director of broadcast media. Who’s not been booked for any sit-down interviews: Biden. But the president hasn’t exactly been absent either. He appeared for brief ceremonies where he signed executive orders and delivered mostly scripted remarks. He’s taken a handful of questions from the news media. And he’s expected to give a major foreign policy address on Monday amid a planned trip to the State Department, his first visit to a Cabinet agency.

As main protagonists go, Biden’s role has been comparatively limited — a startling contrast to the omnipresent president who preceded him. Donald Trump didn’t so much love the spotlight as he sought to totally consume it. Whether he was sending Twitter screeds at all hours or shouting answers over the ear-splitting blades of his presidential aircraft, Trump craved media attention like no American leader before him.

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Who built the cages?

Hundreds Deported Under Biden, Including Witness To Massacre (AP)

President Joe Biden’s administration has deported hundreds of immigrants in its early days despite his campaign pledge to stop removing most people in the U.S. illegally at the beginning of his term. A federal judge last week ordered the Biden administration not to enforce a 100-day moratorium on deportations, but the ruling did not require the government to schedule them. In recent days, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has deported immigrants to at least three countries: 15 people to Jamaica on Thursday and 269 people to Guatemala and Honduras on Friday. More deportation flights were scheduled Monday.

It’s unclear how many of those people are considered national security or public safety threats or had recently crossed the border illegally, the priority under new guidance that the Department of Homeland Security issued to enforcement agencies and that took effect Monday. Some of the people put on the flights may have been expelled — which is a quicker process than deportation — under a public health order that former President Donald Trump invoked during the coronavirus pandemic and that Biden has kept in place. In the border city of El Paso, Texas, immigration authorities on Friday deported a woman who witnessed the 2019 massacre at a Walmart that left 22 people dead.

She had agreed to be a witness against the gunman and has met with the local district attorney’s office, according to her lawyers. Rosa was pulled over Wednesday for a broken brake light, detained based on previous traffic warrants, then transferred to ICE, which deported her before she could reach her attorney, said Melissa Lopez, executive director of the nonprofit Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, which represents her.

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They want him off the map.

Biden Considers Revoking Trump’s Rights To Be Briefed On Secrets (DM)

The Biden administration is reviewing whether to take away the ability of former President Donald Trump to receive classified security briefings as the former president in the wake of the Capitol riot.White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki punted on the question when asked about a topic that also came up during the transition – but also confirmed Monday the administration was reviewing the matter. ‘This is a good question,’ said Psaki. ‘It’s something that’s obviously under review.’ The review comes as Trump critics demand he be forced to relinquish some of the perks of power that follow a president even after he leaves office. Former presidents get classified briefings by tradition – although not at the very highest levels reserved for the current officeholder.

In Trump’s case, the briefings would go to a former president who failed to attend the inauguration and spent months claiming that he had ‘won.’ Trump’s statement on his impeachment legal team over the weekend referred to him as the ’45th president of the United States.’ Trump has a small staff that has been running out of Mar-a-Lago. Former presidents get a substantial office stipend, and Secret Service protection costing up to $1 million per year. Even Trump’s adult children are getting Secret Service protection for the next six months, ABC News reported this month. If the Senate were to convict Trump of ‘incitement of insurrection’ following his impeachment trial, it could also vote to strip him of his ability to hold future office. It is unclear what current perks, if any, would go away if he were convicted.

Trump caused an uproar during his 2017 meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and former ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak after it was reported he revealed highly classified information about ISIS in Syria to the U.S. adversary. He gave up highly sensitive information from a U.S. ally, reported to be Israel, that resulted in the U.S. having to extract a top-level source inside the Russian government. Trump also once tweeted out what appeared to be a classified photo of an Iranian nuclear installation. Trump said he had the power to declassify material. All that preceded the Capitol riots, which followed Trump telling his supporters to ‘fight’ on the day Congress was counting the Electoral College vote.

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“Green” has more than one meaning. It’s what the Paris accord is based on.

Kerry Gifts Wall Street the Green New Deal (Pettifor)

Last week the Biden team delivered their first press conference on the Democrat’s much-anticipated Climate Plan. The good news is that Climate Envoy, John Kerry and Advisor, Gina McCarthy are talking about the Climate Plan delivering “Good paying Union Jobs”. All hail to that ambition. The bad news is that this ain’t no Rooseveltian New Deal. Roosevelt confronted Wall St from the get go. His administration systematically drained the Street of power, and made it servant to the economy and ecosystem. Henry Morgenthau, Roosevelt’s Treasury Secretary could rightly boast: “We moved the financial capital from London and Wall Street right to my desk at the Treasury. (Rauchway, 2017, p. 227)”

John Kerry on behalf of President Biden did the reverse. With breath-taking haste he genuflected to Wall St. by paying homage to the CEO of Blackrock, and then implied the mighty United States government was dependent on Wall St titans to deliver those “Good paying Union Jobs”. Kerry began the press conference by welcoming CEO Larry Fink’s recent letter and “the new awareness among asset managers about the need to be putting resources into this endeavour.” Remember readers, that Larry Fink presides over assets valued at $8.6 trillion. Blackrock’s clients include pension funds, insurance companies, charities, endowment funds and central banks. Tucked into that basket are your pensions, your insurance, your charitable donations – and your taxpayer-backed central bank.

And just this weekend, Gillian Tett of the Financial Times reminded us, in an article titled – Wall St.’s New Mantra: Green is Good – that Blackrock “Exploded in size and power this century by amassing exchange traded funds and “passive’ strategies that automatically track mainstream indices, such as the S&P 500 – which include fossil fuels… to which Blackrock is heavily exposed…” In other words, this private company uses the world’s savings to make massive capital gains from ‘passive’ almost effortless investment strategies. Worse they use their power to accelerate the climate crisis by investing “heavily” in fossil fuels. All that is bad enough. But Blackrock is able to amass their vast, global power because economists and politicians (including ‘the Left’ of the political spectrum) have conceded that power to them.

John Kerry is our witness. After paying homage to CEO Fink, Kerry placed the United States government in the role of humble supplicant – and effectively begged Wall St. to come to the rescue of the Biden Climate Plan. He could not have addressed the Street more plainly: “What the financiers, the big banks, the asset managers, private investors, venture capital, are all discovering is that there is a lot of money to be made in the jobs to be created in these sectors…” Gina McCarthy, National Climate Advisor, drove home the point: “The question won’t be, will the private sector buy into it? The private sector is going to drive it…”

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“Twitter has silenced JCN and the 30 million small business owners it represents..”

Twitter Suspends Account of Group That Called For Regulating Big Tech (JTN)

Twitter has suspended the account of the Job Creators Network, a nonpartisan group that advocates for small businesses and policies that protect Main Street jobs. According to the group, the social media giant sent them a message late last week saying JCN had violated Twitter’s “rules against platform manipulation and spam.” Company President and CEO Alfredo Ortiz rejects that claim, saying the deplatforming effort is retaliation against JCN for implying that Twitter should be regulated as a utility. “Twitter has silenced JCN and the 30 million small business owners it represents after JCN implied that the tech giant should be regulated as a utility,” Ortiz said in a statement. “Given that JCN’s internal review demonstrates we did not violate Twitter’s terms and conditions, the tech giant’s bold move is likely pure retaliation against us for our position on tech regulations.”


Twitter on Monday did not respond immediately to several attempts to contact the company to learn why JCN, which advocates for lower taxes and progressive policies, had been removed from the site. Last month, Ortiz wrote an op-ed published by RealClearPolitics titled, “Big Tech’s Conservative Purge Changes the Free Speech Debate.” JCN Chief Communications Officer Elaine Parker on Monday told the “John Solomon Reports” podcast the op-ed argued for Washington to begin regulating social media platforms and other tech giants as utilities. “The reason behind that is because it would it would preclude them from excluding services based on political beliefs and ideology,” Parker told host John Solomon. “I mean, when when you’re getting your phone service through AT&T, they don’t care who you vote for, or who you support or what your political background is. They just want to sell you a service … right?”

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