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“… and when we look back on this in two years time, from the ruins of our economy and the ruins of our liberty, we will want to see some kind of justice, that the people who made this decision should pay a penalty for what they’ve done.” Peter Hitchens

Economic activity across the country has collapsed, GDP is shrinking at the fastest pace on record, and the economic data is worse than anytime in history. Every sector of the economy is contracting and every economic indicator is pointing down. According to economist Nouriel Roubini, the country is headed towards a decade of “depression and debt”, and that is probably an understatement.

What prompted our leaders to follow the path of China? Were they bullied into it by Dr. Fauci and the Vaccine Gestapo or were they simply reacting to the sudden rise in Covid cases that skyrocketed overnight? Whatever the reason might be, the country is now headed for either a short-but-severe “U” shaped recession or an excruciating-and-protracted 1930s-type slump. Small and mid-sized businesses are folding by the thousands, the states are drowning in red ink, and more people are currently unemployed than anytime in the country’s 244 year history. The lockdown has effectively obliterated the economy and left the country in ruins. Here’s some background from an article at Yahoo Finance:

“Permanent job losses are likely to be a feature of the eventual U.S. recovery, according to University of Chicago research, which estimates that 42% of recently unemployed workers will not return to their jobs amid the “profound” shock stemming from coronavirus lockdowns.

The pandemic has taken a brutal toll on the world’s largest economy, with at least 36 million people thrown out of work over the last two months….The lockdowns have cratered activity in an economy that consists of 70% consumer spending, while undoing all of the jobs created since the great recession ended….

“It will likely take a number of years for the labor market to recover from its pandemic-induced meltdown.”…researchers extrapolated their findings that over 100,000 restaurants are expected to be permanently shuttered in the near-term…”

Some employers will shift resources to other roles, while many laid off workers may have to find new positions or careers.”
(“‘Major reallocation shock’ from coronavirus will see 42% of lost jobs evaporate: Study” Yahoo Finance)

The American people have yet to grasp the magnitude of the devastation caused by the lockdown but, soon, it will be the only topic of conversation. Most people left their jobs thinking they would return to them in a matter of weeks. They never imagined that a policy blunder would put the economy into a vicious death spiral that would terminate their livelihoods, dampen their prospects for the future, and reduce them to hopelessness and destitution. They never thought that such a nightmare was possible, especially since they were just following the orders of their governors and the affable Dr Fauci. They trusted these people. They put their lives in their hands and they were misled, duped into believing that these “experts” knew what they were doing when, all-along, they were making it up on the fly. Now we’re all going to pay for the mistakes for which they alone are responsible. This is from abc7news:

“Doctors at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek say they have seen more deaths by suicide during this quarantine period than deaths from the COVID-19 virus.…The head of the trauma in the department believes mental health is suffering so much, it is time to end the shelter-in-place order.

“We’ve never seen numbers like this, in such a short period of time,” he said. “I mean we’ve seen a year’s worth of suicide attempts in the last four weeks.”

Kacey Hansen has worked as a trauma nurse at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek for almost 33 years. She is worried because not only are they seeing more suicide attempts, she says they are not able to save as many patients as usual.

“What I have seen recently, I have never seen before,” Hansen said. “I have never seen so much intentional injury.” The trauma team is speaking out because they want the community to be aware, for people to reach out and support each other and for those who are suffering to know they can get help.” (“Suicides on the rise amid stay-at-home order, Bay Area medical professionals say”, ABC News 7)

Here’s more from an article at the Washington Examiner:

“A study published in early May suggested that the coronavirus could lead to at least 75,000 deaths directly brought on by anxiety from the virus, job losses, and addiction to alcohol and drugs. Another study conducted by Just Facts around the same time computed a broad array of scientific data showing that stress is one of the deadliest health hazards in the world and estimated that the coronavirus lockdowns will destroy 7 times as many years of human life than strict lockdowns can save….

Earlier this week, more than 600 doctors signed their names on a letter to President Trump, referring to the continued lockdowns as a “mass casualty incident” and urging him to do what he can to ensure they come to an end….By late March, more people had died in just one Tennessee county from suicide than had died in the entire state directly from the virus.” (“California doctors say they’ve seen more deaths from suicide than coronavirus since lockdowns”, Washington Examiner)

So the lockdown is a “mass casualty incident”?

Of course it is. What else would you call it? People are locked in their homes indefinitely while the predatory media does everything in its power to terrorize them with one appalling horror story after the other. Did anyone consider this grim scenario before the lockdowns were imposed? Did anyone think that, perhaps, fragile people — that are cut off from the world, their friends and their families– might become so depressed that they’d take their own lives? Of course none of this matters to the media that measures its success in terms of its ratings not the number of people they’ve killed with their relentless fearmongering. For that, they accept no responsibility at all. Here’s more:

“Researchers warn that socially isolated people are over 40% more likely to suffer a heart attack, stroke, or other major cardiovascular event. Moreover, the socially isolated are nearly 50% more likely to die from any cause….The study was conducted by Dr. Janine Gronewold and Professor Dirk M. Hermann from the University Hospital in Essen, Germany. They analyzed data on 4,316 people (average age: 59 years old) who had been recruited for research between 2000 and 2003…

“We have known for some time that feeling lonely or lacking contact with close friends and family can have an impact on your physical health”, Dr. Gronewold explains in a release. “What this study tells us is that having strong social relationships is of high importance for your heart health and similar to the role of classical protective factors such as having a healthy blood pressure, acceptable cholesterol levels, and a normal weight.”…

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Coronavirus, Poverty, Unemployment 
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“Lockdowns are meant to condition people to obey without question. A nation of people who just do what they are told by the “experts” without question is a nation ripe for a descent into total tyranny.”

—Ron Paul

Donald Trump calls the media “the enemy of the people”, but it’s much worse than that. The media is a national security threat. Just look at the way they’ve handled the coronavirus. The hysterical 24-7 coverage has people so terrified they’ve locked themselves in their homes inflicting catastrophic damage on the economy. That disaster never would’ve taken place if the media hadn’t focused all their energy on scaring people to death. Now the damage is done, millions of people have lost their jobs, tens of thousands of small and mid-sized businesses are facing bankruptcy, and the world’s biggest economy has been reduced to a smoldering wastelands. And what was gained? Nothing. Check out this excerpt from an article by economist Jack Ramsay:

The magnitude and rapidity of the shutdown of the real economy in the US is unprecedented. Even during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the contraction of the real economy occurred over a period of several years—not months….

…once the contraction in the real economy accelerates and deepens, it inevitably leads to defaults and bankruptcies…. The defaults and bankruptcies then provoke a financial crisis that feeds back on the real economy, causing it to deteriorate still further. Income losses by businesses, households and local government thereafter in turn cause a further decline. Once negative feedback effects within the economy begin, it matters little if the health crisis is soon abated. The economic dynamic has been set in motion. ….The Fed.. can make a mass of free money and cheap loans available, but businesses and households may be reluctant to borrow, preferring to hoard their cash—and the loans as well. In other words, the deeper and faster the contraction, the more difficult and slower the recovery” (“The Myth of V-Shape Economic Recovery“, Jack Rasmus)

Every sector of the economy is shrinking and shrinking fast. Oil prices have plunged, activity in all 50 states is slumping badly, business confidence is at record lows, personal spending continues to shrivel, consumer confidence is dropping sharply, the service sector is tanking, restaurant traffic, industrial production, manufacturing, corporate earnings, business investment, personal consumption, bank lending, imports-exports; are all down, down, down and down. There’s not a glimmer of light to be seen anywhere. The economy is in freefall while people remain hunkered down inside their homes thinking they are stopping the spread of a deadly virus. But lockdowns don’t stop infections, at best they postpone them to a later date, and even that is doubtful.

The whole idea of isolating the healthy members of the population to counter the spread of a highly-contagious virus is delusional. There’s no historical precedent to the policy at all. There was no lockdown during the Spanish Flu in 1918 (when 50 million died), no lockdown during the Asian Flu in 1957, no lockdown during the Hong Kong Flu in 1969, no lockdown during SARS in 2002, no lockdown during the Swine Flu in 2009, no lockdown during MERS outbreak in 2012, and no lockdown during Ebola epidemic in 2014.

Get the picture? There was no lockdown, no time, NEVER.

But just ask someone about the lockdown today and they’ll announce with absolute certainty, “It’s the only way to beat this thing”. Right, by locking yourself indoors and waiting for the economy to crash, is that it?

Three bulletpoints you won’t see in the MSM:

1–There is no historical precedent for lockdowns

2–There is no scientific basis for lockdowns

3–A number of infectious disease experts, like Swedish Professor John Giesecke, believe that lockdowns are the wrong policy to contain the spread of the virus, they’re politically dangerous and they’ll be difficult to end. Here’s what he said:

“When you start looking around now at the measures that are being taken by different countries you find that very few of them have a shred of evidence-based [support] … border closures, school closures, social distancing – there’s almost no science behind most of these.”

Lockdowns are not science-based policy. They’re a faith-based catch-as-catch-can concoction that’s accepted as Holy Writ by the vast majority of Americans who are so terrified by the virus that they have allowed themselves to be duped by a manipulative, agenda-driven media that has convinced them that hibernating while the economy disintegrates is somehow performing their civic duty. But they’re wrong. One’s real civic duty is to engage their own critical thinking skills, skeptically analyze the idiocy that government passes off as social policy, and resist those directives that are clearly destructive to the interests of the American people and the country. Lockdowns certainly meet that criteria. Here’s a clip from Pepe Escobar’s latest article that helps to put things in perspective:

“The notion of a generalized obligatory confinement is not warranted by any medical justification, or leading epidemiological research, when it comes to fighting a pandemic. Still, that was enshrined as the hegemonic policy – with the inevitable corollary of countless masses plunged into unemployment. All that based on failed, delirious mathematical models of the Imperial College kind, imposed by powerful pressure groups ranging from the World Economic Forum (WEF) to the Munich Security Conference.

Enter Dr. Richard Hatchett, a former member of the National Security Council during the first Bush Jr. administration, who was already recommending obligatory confinement of the whole population way back in 2001. Hatchett now directs the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a very powerful entity coordinating global vaccine investment, and very cozy with Big Pharma. CEPI happens to be a brainchild of the WEF in conjunction with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation….

Rumsfeld, crucially, had been the chairman of biotech giant Gilead. After 9/11…That’s when “generalized obligatory confinement” was conceptualized, with Hatchett among the key players.

As much as this was a militarized Big Pharma spin-off concept, it had nothing to do with public health. What mattered was the militarization of American society to be adopted in response to bioterror – at the time automatically attributed to a squalid, tech-deprived al-Qaeda.

The current version of this project – we are at “war” and every civilian must stay at home – takes the form of what Alexander Dugin has defined as a medical-military dictatorship.” (“How Biosecurity Is Enabling Digital Neo-Feudalism” Unz Review)

So, there is no “medical justification, or leading epidemiological research” to support lockdowns. It’s all made-up out of whole cloth. Lockdowns are the result of political manipulation (of a public health crisis) intended to simulate martial law. “Go home and stay home,” that’s the message not “Go home and be healthy” . That doesn’t factor into the government’s calculus at all.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: American Media, Coronavirus, Disease, Unemployment 
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In a pandemic, there is no substitute for immunity, because immunity provides the best protection against reinfection. That’s why Sweden set its sights on immunity from the very beginning. They crafted a policy that was designed to protect the old and vulnerable, prevent the public health system from being overwhelmed, and, most important, allow younger, low-risk people to interact freely so they’d contract the virus and develop the antibodies they’d need to fight future infections. That was the plan and it worked like a charm. Now Sweden is just weeks away from achieving herd immunity (which means that future outbreaks will not be nearly as severe) while the lockdown nations– that are just now easing restrictions– face an excruciating uphill slog that may or may not succeed. Bottom line: Sweden analyzed the problem, figured out what to do, and did it. That’s why they are closing in on the finish line while most of the lockdown states are still stuck at Square 1.

As of this writing, none of the other nations have identified immunity as their primary objective which is why their orientation has been wrong from the get-go. You cannot achieve a goal that you have not identified. The current US strategy focuses on stringent containment procedures (shelter-in-place, self-isolation) most of which have little historical or scientific basis. The truth is, the Trump administration responded precipitously when the number of Covid-positive cases began to increase exponentially in the US. That paved the way for a lockdown policy that’s more the result of groupthink and flawed computer models than data-based analysis and nimble strategic planning. And the results speak for themselves. The 8-week lockdown is probably the biggest policy disaster in US history. Millions of jobs have been lost, thousands of small and mid-sized businesses will now face bankruptcy, and the future prospects for an entire generation of young people have been obliterated. The administration could have detonated multiple nuclear bombs in the country and done less damage than they have with their lunatic lockdown policy.

At present, 24 states have begun the process of reopening their economies. There is no uniform criteria for lifting restrictions, no standardized approach to opening one sector over the other, and no plan for dealing with the inevitable surge of new cases and deaths. It all looks like another disaster in the making but we’ll reserve judgement until the results are in. What we know for certain is that no one in the Trump administration gave the slightest thought to the problems that might arise from eventually lifting the restrictions. We know that because we know that there was no “exit strategy”, just make-it-up-on-the-fly and hope for the best.

In contrast, Sweden won’t need an exit strategy because it never shut down its economy or quarantined its people to begin with. So the transition to normal life and stepped-up economic activity is not going to be as difficult. That’s the benefit of strategic planning, it anticipates the problems one might encounter on the path one’s goal. Here’s a clip from an interview with Swedish an infectious disease clinician, Johan Giesecke, , who served as state epidemiologist of Sweden as well as Chief Scientist at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Giesecke helps explain why the Swedish approach is different. It’s a matter of perception as well as analysis:

“What we are seeing is a rather mild infection spreading around the globe. I think there is relatively little chance of stopping this whatever measures we take. Most people will become infected by this and most people won’t even notice. We have data now from Sweden that between 98 and 99% of the cases have had a very mild infection or didn’t even realize they were infected. So we have the spread of this mild disease around the globe and most of it is happening where we don’t see it because it happens among people who don’t get very sick and , spread it to someone else who doesn’t get very sick… What we looking at (with the official number of cases and deaths) is a thin layer at the top of people who do develop the disease and an even thinner layer of people who go into intensive care and an even thinner layer of people who die. But the real outbreak is happening where we don’t see it.” (“Swedish scientist Johan Giesecke asks Australia how it plans to lift its lockdown without deaths”, you tube…52 second mark to 1:48)

Giesecke’s analysis veers from the conventional view of the virus which explains why the Swedish response has been so different. For example, he says: “I think there is relatively little chance of stopping this whatever measures we take.”

This gets to the root of the Swedish approach. Sweden is not trying to suppress the infection which they see as a force of nature (like a tsunami) that cannot be contained but only mitigated. From the beginning, the Swedish approach has been to “control the spread of the virus”, not to suppress it through containment strategies. There’s a fundamental difference here, and that difference is expressed in the policy.

Second, “We have data now from Sweden that between 98 and 99% of the cases have had a very mild infection or didn’t even realize they were infected.” In other words, this is highly-contagious infection that poses little or no threat to most people. That suggests the economy can be kept open without endangering the lives of low-risk groups. The added benefit of allowing certain businesses to remain open, is that it creates a controlled environment in which the infection can spread rapidly through the healthy population who, in turn, develop the antibodies they need for future outbreaks. This all fits within Sweden’s plan for managing, rather than avoiding, the virus.

Finally, “What we looking at is a thin layer at the top of people who do develop the disease and an even thinner layer of people who go into intensive care and an even thinner layer of people who die.” The vast majority of people who die from Covid are over 65 with multiple underlying conditions. It’s a terrible tragedy that they should die, but destroying the lives and livelihoods of millions of working people in a futile attempt to stop an unstoppable force like Covid, is foolish and unforgivable. The appropriate response is to protect the old and infirm as much as possible, carefully monitor the rise in cases to prevent the public health system from cratering, and keep the economy operating at a lower level. And that’s exactly what Sweden has done.

FAUCI vs. PAUL: Operation “Obfuscate Immunity”

Not surprisingly, the issue of immunity came up during Dr Anthony Fauci’s testimony on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. There was a heated exchange between Fauci and Senator Rand Paul who challenged the infectious disease expert on the misleading information that the WHO has been spreading in the media. Here’s an excerpt from the transcript:

Senator Rand Paul: “Dr. Fauci, Studies show that the recovering COVID-19 patients from the asymptomatic to the very sick are showing significant antibody response. Studies show that SARS and MERS, also coronaviruses, induce immunity for at least 2 to 3 years, and yet the media continues to report that we have no evidence that patients who survive coronavirus have immunity. I think actually the truth is the opposite. We have no evidence that survivors of coronavirus don’t have immunity and a great deal of evidence to suggest that they do….

 
• Category: Ideology, Science • Tags: Coronavirus, Sweden 
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At present, there is no vaccine for the coronavirus. That means that one of the two paths to immunity is blocked. The other path is “herd immunity,” in which a critical mass of infection occurs in lower-risk populations that ultimately thwarts transmission.

Herd immunity is the only path that is currently available. Let that sink in for a minute. The only way our species can effectively resist the infection is through the development of specific antibodies or sensitized white blood cells. In other words, the only way we can lick this thing is by the majority of the population getting the infection and thereby developing immunity to future outbreaks.

That being the case, one would assume that the government’s policy would try to achieve herd immunity in the least painful way possible. (Young, low-risk people should go back to work if they so choose.) But that is not the government’s policy, in fact, the government’s policy is the exact opposite. US policy encourages people to remain at home and self quarantine until the government decides to lift the lockdown and allow some people to return to work. This policy assumes that the infection will have vanished by then, which of course, is extremely unlikely. The more probable outcome is that– when people return to work– there will be another surge in cases and another spike in deaths. We will have shifted the curve to a future date without having flattened it. We will have inflicted catastrophic damage on the economy and gained nothing. This is an idiotic policy that goes nowhere.

After 6 weeks of this nonsense, many people are getting fed-up and demanding that the lockdowns be ended. In response to the public outcry, many governors are planning to restart their economies and lift the restrictions. What this means, is that, after wasting a month and half on a failed strategy, many states are ready to follow in Sweden’s footsteps with one critical difference, they’re not going to have a team of crack epidemiologists carefully monitoring their social interactions to see if a wave of new Covid cases is going to overwhelm the health care system. That means that things could get out of hand fast, and I expect they will. As we said in last week’s column, the lockdowns must be lifted gradually, that is crucial.

“You have to step down the ladder one rung at a time”, says Senior Swedish epidemiologist and former Chief Scientist of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, Johan Giesecke. In other words, slowly ease up on the restrictions and gradually allow people to get back to work. That is the best way forward.

There is also the question of whether herd immunity will be sufficient to fight off reinfection. This question was posed to Giesecke in a recent interview in which he was asked: “Why are you gambling that herd immunity will protect your people from re-infection?”

Giesecke answered, “There has not been a single proven case of anyone getting a second infection from the virus….so far there have been no reinfections….If you have it once you don’t get it again….There will be herd immunity, that’s clear, and it will last over the period of this outbreak.”

The interviewer then asked Giesecke why he was so certain that surviving the infection would produce herd immunity?

Because it’s a coronavirus,” Giesecke said, “and we know about 6 other coronaviruses, so why would this one be special? ….At present, 30% of the population of Stockholm is immune or has already had the infection. We do not have herd immunity today, but to go from 30% to 50% will only take weeks.“

Giesecke candidly admits that he cannot be absolutely certain that infection survivors are immune, but he strongly believes that they are. (Please, excuse my choppy transcription o f the taped interview.)

Giesecke again: “When you (in the US and elsewhere) ease the lockdowns you will have more deaths…We will not have as many deaths because we will have herd immunity by the time the other countries start to lift their lockdown which means the virus won’t spread much more in Sweden, whereas you will have a higher number of cases and deaths.”

If Giesecke is right, then Sweden is on the path to “normal” while the US is still chasing its tail, still following a policy that is clearly counterproductive, and still listening to self-appointed pontiffs like Bill Gates who obviously want to drag this thing out forever so he can implement his vaccination-surveillance panopticon. This needs to change. The safety and well-being of the American people should take precedence over the Hodge-podge of competing interests and conflicting agendas that have shaped the current policy. Now take a look at excerpt from an article at the National Review:

“Spring is in the air, and it is increasingly found in the confident step of the people of Sweden. With a death rate significantly lower than that of France, Spain, the U.K., Belgium, Italy, and other European Union countries, Swedes can enjoy the spring without panic or fears of reigniting a new epidemic as they go about their day in a largely normal fashion.

Dr. Mike Ryan, the executive director of the World Health Organization’s Emergencies Program, says: “I think if we are to reach a new normal, I think in many ways Sweden represents a future model — if we wish to get back to a society in which we don’t have lockdowns.”

The Swedish ambassador to the U.S., Karin Ulrika Olofsdotter, says: “We could reach herd immunity in the capital” of Stockholm as early as sometime in May. That would dramatically limit spread of the virus.

…Dr. Anders Tegnell, the chief epidemiologist of Sweden… heroically bucked the conventional wisdom of every other nation and carefully examined the insubstantial evidence that social-isolation controls would help reduce COVID-19 deaths over the full course of the virus.

As Tegnell told NPR in early April: “I’m not sure that there is a scientific consensus on, really, about anything when it comes to this new coronavirus, basically because we don’t have much evidence for any kind of measures we are taking.”….”To me it looks like a lot of the exit strategies that are being discussed look very much like what Sweden is already doing,” he told Canada’s Globe & Mail….

Sweden has about 2,200 reported COVID-19 cases per million population. This is lower than the number in the U.S. (3,053 per million), the U.K., France, Spain, Italy, and also lower than in many other EU countries. It’s slightly above the number in Germany, which has been hailed for its approach to the virus….

Sweden has 265 reported COVID-19 deaths per million population. That is somewhat higher than in the U.S. (204 per million) but lower than the number in many other EU countries….on an age-adjusted basis, Sweden has done significantly better than the U.S. in terms of both cases per million and deaths per million — and with no lockdowns….

Unlike its Nordic neighbors and everywhere else…Sweden doesn’t have to worry about when and how to end social isolation. They don’t have to decide who to keep locked down and who to let out. They don’t have to get into civil-liberty arguments over involuntary restrictions or whether to fine people for not wearing masks and gloves….

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Coronavirus, Culture, Health care, Sweden 
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Most of the United States is still under lockdown, but why? What is the purpose of the policy?

We’ve had the “flatten the curve” meme pounded into our brains for so long, that most people think it’s the objective of the policy, but is it?

Flattening the curve is a worthy goal, but preventing the health care system from being overwhelmed should not be our highest priority. True, it is critical, I don’t dispute that, I just think there are other goals that are more important.

But what would those be?

Saving lives, for one. Naturally, we want to save as many lives as possible, so any responsible policy should aim to do just that. But should saving lives be our top priority?

Many people will say “Yes”, but I disagree. Saving lives should not be our top priority, preserving our American way of life, our culture, our traditions our personal freedom, and, yes, our economy –which sustains us all, provides us with meaningful work, puts food on the table and a roof over our heads– these should be our top priority. Just ask a veteran who served his country whether he places his life above the values and ideals he fought for. He’ll tell you “No”. He’ll tell you those things are worth fighting for and worth dying for. I agree.

So the ultimate goal of our policy should be to get back to normal, to restore the life we had before the masks, the gloves, the daily briefings, the self isolation, the social distancing, the daily death toll, the shutting down of the economy, the deluge of unemployment claims, the destruction of small and mid-sized businesses, the trillions dollars of additional red ink, and the abrupt termination of all normal interaction with our friends, our neighbors and our families. That’s what the aim of our policy should be, to get back to normal.

But that’s the problem, our current (lockdown) policy doesn’t do that. It doesn’t put us on a path for achieving our objectives. Take a look at this article at The Hill and you’ll see what I mean:

“The coronavirus pandemic could continue into 2022 and won’t be under control until a majority of the world’s population becomes immune, a report released by experts Thursday says. The report from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota says based on the most recent flu pandemics, the highly transmissible coronavirus that causes COVID-19 will likely keep spreading for as long as two years, and will likely not stop spreading until 60 to 70 percent of the population is immune.

“The length of the pandemic will likely be 18 to 24 months, as herd immunity gradually develops in the human population,” the researchers wrote. …..Researchers recommended that the U.S. prepare for a worst-case scenario, including no vaccine availability or herd immunity.

“Risk communication messaging from government officials should incorporate the concept that this pandemic will not be over soon,” they say, “and that people need to be prepared for possible periodic resurgences of disease over the next 2 years.” (“New report says coronavirus pandemic could last up to two years”, The Hill)

“2 years”???

2 years is not an acceptable time-frame. We need a policy that accelerates the process and avoids the depressing scenario the experts now anticipate? So what do we do?

We start to follow Sweden’s lead, because Sweden settled on a policy that actually gets them out of the virus-rut in a timely manner. And that’s exactly what we’re looking for, a path back to normal that doesn’t drag on for two years.

So what do we do?

We start by allowing the younger, low-risk people to go back to work. (Older and infirm people should take the recommended precautions of self isolating as much as possible.) That allows the economy to restart while the virus spreads among a segment of the population that is least likely to die. If you’re under 40, your chances of dying are near zero, so it shouldn’t be a huge concern.

Also, you open up restaurants, primary schools, parks and some retail shops while–at the same time–monitoring the rate of new Covid-positive cases. If it looks like the health care system is going to be overwhelmed, you pull back by implementing new guidelines and restrictions on public activities and get-togethers. You don’t just send everyone back to work on Day 1 announcing “The coast is clear”. The coast is not clear and it’s not going be clear for quite a while, but at least the new policy will get us to where we want to go eventually. And that’s the point, because if we don’t chart a new course, we’re definitely not going to reach our destination.

What we need is immunity, which comes through human interaction. An infected person passes the infection along to a healthy person who develops the antibodies to fight the virus now and in the future. When the majority of the population develop these antibodies, they achieve “herd immunity” which is “a form of protection from infectious disease that occurs when a large percentage of a population has become immune through previous infections.”

Sweden’s ‘controlled spread of the virus’ has put them just weeks away from herd immunity, at which point they won’t have to worry as much about future outbreaks. They won’t have to shut down their economy, lay off millions of workers, or run up trillions of dollars of debts. Their people will have the antibodies they need to fight off future infections. They can safely return to normal.

The US needs a similar policy that takes into consideration our demographics, geography and culture. It’ll be a challenge, but can be done, and it MUST be done. The lockdown policy is idiotic, it does not move us in a positive direction. Young people are not going to develop immunity by lying on the sofa watching daytime TV. Nor will they build up antibodies by bolting the door and waiting for Uncle Sam to give them a thumbs-up. It doesn’t work that way. There needs to be a controlled spread of the virus. That’s the only way to achieve herd immunity, and that’s the only way to get out of this mess.

The only alternative is to hang-around for two years waiting for Bill Gates and the vaccine posse to save us after we’ve crashed the economy, devoured the seed corn, and turned the entire country into a gigantic-sprawling homeless camp.

The choice is ours.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Coronavirus 
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How do you measure success in dealing with an illness for which there is no cure?

This is the question we need to ask ourselves before judging which country’s approach has been most successful in dealing with the coronavirus. The fact that there is no silver bullet, no vaccine, does not change the fact that leaders must seek the best possible way forward by crafting a social policy that helps to achieve their goals. In my opinion, most of the European countries and the United States have imposed a social policy that is the least likely to help them achieve the objectives that they should be pursuing. In other words, while the “containment” strategy of self isolation and social distancing might temporarily prevent the spreading of the virus (and prevent the health care system from collapsing), the infection will undoubtedly reemerge when the lockdown is lifted causing a sharp uptick in the cases and deaths. This is the problem that many countries, including the US, now face. They want loosen the current restrictions, but additional easing unavoidably triggers a surge in new cases. So, what is to be done?

The problem is that the approach was never sufficiently thought-through from the very beginning. This scenario should have been gamed-out before the policy was ever adopted. Now it’s too late. Now the people are anxious to get back to work, but the threat of infection still remains. That means that we’re going to see workers return to their jobs followed by sporadic outbreaks that ignite more social reaction and unrest leading to more “walk-offs”. These disruptions will prolong the recession and intensify the fractious political climate that is already as acrimonious as any time in recent history.

All of these problems can be traced back to the early days of the pandemic when the government first concocted its containment strategy. The aim of containment was to prevent a collapse of the public health system. That’s fine, but containment is just one wheel on a two-wheel axle. The other wheel, which is equally important, is immunity. The question is: How does one achieve immunity while imposing a containment policy that forces isolation? It can’t be done or can it?

Swedish experts figured out how pursue two seemingly-conflicting objectives at the same time: Contain the virus sufficiently so it doesn’t collapse the health care system while exposing enough people to the infection to eventually achieve herd immunity. They encouraged the public to comply with their distancing directives while –at the same time–they allowed the controlled spread of the virus. This is how they managed to achieve their core objectives: Containment and immunity. At the same time, Sweden eschewed the lockdowns, kept their economy running, and preserved an atmosphere of normalcy unlike any other country in Europe. It’s really an astonishing achievement.

The Swedish strategy rests on three main pillars: Immunity, sustainability, and protection of the old and vulnerable. On the immunity count, they score an A+, far superior to any of the other countries that opted for a containment plan that ends as soon as the lockdowns are terminated resulting in a surge of cases and fatalities. What good is that? What good is a strategy that forces people to bolt the door and hide under the bed until the pain of economic retrenchment becomes too excruciating to bear? It’s lunacy. In contrast, the Swedish strategy employs some social distancing and crowd control measures while–at the same time– allowing low-risk people to engage in normal social interactions that expose them to the virus. The vast majority of these healthy people remain either completely asymptomatic or get a minor cough or fever. They don’t wind up in the hospitals or ICU or on ventilators. Instead, they get the infection, they recover from the infection and, in the process, they develop the antibodies they need to staunch (or mitigate) any future outbreak. This is crucial, because without immunity, nations are condemned to an endless cycle of recurrent outbreaks that decimate the economy, stress the health care system and wipe out the old and weak.

Even so, some critics now question whether exposure to the virus will produce sufficient antibodies to create immunity. It is an interesting question, but irrelevant. Swedish epidemiologists must proceed on the basis of their prior experience that infections do in fact produce antibodies that will help to fight future forms of the viruses. In any event, the matter should be settled soon enough, perhaps within the year, when a second or third wave of the infection spreads across the world. That is when the “herd immunity” theory will be put to the test. We will suspend judgement until then.

A great deal of attention has been focused on Sweden’s fatality rate which is noticeably higher than any of its neighbors. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. More than 50 percent of the deaths have taken place in Sweden’s large nursing homes. This is tragedy and Sweden’s leaders have admitted their failure. They’ve accepted responsibility for the deaths and taken steps to tighten protective restrictions, like banning visitation.

Some of the other deaths can be attributed to the strategy itself which allows for greater circulation in the community leading to more infections. But there’s the tradeoff here: While more public interaction may increase the death toll on the front end, the lockdowns merely postpone those fatalities until the restrictions are lifted. When the dust settles and we look back a year from today, we will probably see that the percentage of deaths are only slightly different between the various countries. That, at least, is the assumption of some well-respected epidemiologists.

As we noted earlier, the Swedish plan does not impose lockdowns, does not decimate the economy, and does not overtax the public health system. In this way, it achieves its second goal of sustainability. Swedish leaders say they can continue in this same vein indefinitely without causing serious damage to the economy. Can the same be said for the US? Will the United States be able to shut down the economy, lay off millions of workers, destroy thousands of small and mid-sized businesses and spend trillions of dollars if a second wave of the virus hits in the Autumn?

No, the US strategy is not sustainable, repeatable or even desirable. It is a poorly conceived, catch-as-catch-can Trump clunker that fails to address the critical issue of immunity. If the US population does not achieve some degree of collective immunity, than how can we prevent similar catastrophe from taking place in the future? That’s the question Trump and his crystal-gazing advisors should be asking themselves, but we doubt they will. Here’s more from the New York Times:

Anders Tegnell said, “We think that up to 25 percent people in Stockholm have been exposed to coronavirus and are possibly immune. …We could reach herd immunity in Stockholm within a matter of weeks.”…(Note: Herd immunity is a form of indirect protection from infectious disease that occurs when a large percentage of a population has become immune through previous infections thereby providing a measure of protection for individuals who are not immune.)

“What’s happening now is that many countries are starting to come around to the Swedish way. They are opening schools, trying to find an exit strategy. It comes back to sustainability. We need to have measures in place that we can keep on doing over the longer term, not just for a few months or several weeks” (“Is Sweden Doing It Right?, New York Times)

 
• Category: Ideology, Science • Tags: Coronavirus, Disease, Politics, Sweden 
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Can we admit that we were wrong? Can we admit that the coronavirus is not going to kill “hundreds of thousands or even millions” of Americans? Can we admit that the public health system is not going to buckle and collapse? Can we admit that we fashioned our public policy on flawed computer models that proved utterly worthless? Can we admit that the number of people infected is significantly larger than the official numbers? Can we admit that the percentage of fatalities is going to be significantly lower? Can we admit that the majority of people who have died are over 60 with serious underlying conditions like high-blood pressure, diabetes, obesity etc? Can we admit that there is no “historical scientific basis” for using “lockdowns” to fight a pandemic? Can we admit that “social distancing”, “shelter in place”, “self isolation” and “self quarantine” are arbitrary directives aimed at social control and not science-based remedies derived from serious research? Can we admit that the new data and the hard science do not support the existing policy but suggest that savaging civil liberties, decimating the economy and keeping the entire population in a perennial state of hysteria, is a gross overreaction that has done incalculable damage to the country, to our economic well-being, and to our tattered credibility as a responsible nation?

The bottom line is this: The data and the science do not support the current policy. That alone should give us pause.

The lockdown was conjured up by made-for-TV infectious disease experts who based their recommendations on the results of discredited computer models that don’t square with reality. In short, their calculations were wrong, thus, the policy they cobbled together, is also wrong. This is not a liberal vs conservative issue. This is not a Democrat vs Republican issue. The issue is whether policy should be shaped by data and science or by fake computer models and the relentless fearmongering of the media. That is the heart of the matter. Check out this clip from an article by Dr. Scott W. Atlas:

“Tens of thousands of Americans have died, and Americans are now desperate for sensible policymakers who have the courage to ignore the panic and rely on facts. Leaders must examine accumulated data to see what has actually happened, rather than keep emphasizing hypothetical projections; combine that empirical evidence with fundamental principles of biology established for decades; and then thoughtfully restore the country to function….

Vital population immunity is prevented by total isolation policies, prolonging the problem….We know from decades of medical science that infection itself allows people to generate an immune response — antibodies — so that the infection is controlled throughout the population by “herd immunity.” Indeed, that is the main purpose of widespread immunization in other viral diseases — to assist with population immunity. In this virus, we know that medical care is not even necessary for the vast majority of people who are infected. It is so mild that half of infected people are asymptomatic,… By transmitting the virus to others in the low-risk group who then generate antibodies, they block the network of pathways toward the most vulnerable people, ultimately ending the threat. Extending whole-population isolation would directly prevent that widespread immunity from developing.”(“The data is in — stop the panic and end the total isolation”, The Hill)

Think about that. He’s not just saying that the lockdown is preventing low-risk people from developing the antibodies they need to fend-off the infection, he’s also saying that the policy is actually putting vulnerable people more at risk. Isn’t that worth mulling over?

The virus isn’t something we choose or don’t choose, and it’s certainly not something that can be avoided by bolting the door and hiding under the bed. There are only two paths to immunity: Vaccine or the natural immune response of antibodies. That’s it! There is no third path. Self quarantine is not a solution, at best it’s a temporary fix. Eventually, everyone will have to emerge from their respective spider-holes and reenter the real world. What other choice is there?

Have you wondered how the government will respond to a second or third wave of the virus if there’s another outbreak next fall or spring? Do you think they’ll shut down the economy, send millions of workers home, and burn through another $8 trillion or so a second time around?

Hell no. That was a “one shot deal” and they blew it. They could have settled on a less expensive, less radical policy that kept parts of the economy open while younger, low-risk workers continued at their jobs gradually building up their immunity they’d for future outbreaks. Instead, they bet the farm on their goofy shelter-in-place theory and came up snake-eyes. That means the next time the virus hits, most people will have to suck it up and go to work or stay at home until the money runs out.

It makes you wonder why the media has been so critical of Sweden’s approach, when they clearly settled on a strategy that not only saves lives without shutting everything down, but their plan also doesn’t break the bank. The fact is, they got it right and we got it wrong. At the same time, according to CNBC, “Sweden’s chief epidemiologist said….that “herd immunity” could be reached in the capital Stockholm in a matter of weeks,” which means the majority of the people will have developed at least some immunity to the virus by mid-May. In contrast, the Trump administration’s projections were way off, the economy has been put on ice, and self isolation has prevented healthy people from developing the antibodies they need to achieve some partial immunity to the infection. If we were keeping score, the US would be deep in the red, but this isn’t a competition. It’s a struggle to find a smart and sustainable policy that saves lives while avoiding a second Great Depression.

The economy isn’t a lite switch that can be turned on and off. It is a complex ecosystem that creates a myriad of tiny niches where people can eke out a living by providing services and products that the public wants. The lockdown has dealt a deathblow to that fragile system. Along with the millions of people who are now headed for the unemployment lines, the lockdown has taken a sledgehammer to the thousands of small and mid-sized businesses that are the very heart and soul of the country. Many of these businesses will be unable to muddle through the protracted freeze, and will be forced to draw the blinds and call it quits. That’s going to be devastating for the country and for the thousands of small towns that owe their survival to the revenues produced by these small businesses. It’s going to change everything; where people work, where people shop, and where people call home.

Aside from the pain that will be inflicted on businesses and workers, you can bet that elites will use the crisis to impose another version of the “Shock Doctrine” just like they did following the 2008 meltdown. That means more consolidation, more privatization, more austerity, more cuts to social programs, fewer public services, much higher unemployment and an explosion of homelessness, hunger, alcoholism, drug abuse, crime and social unrest. You know the drill.

 
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Sometimes, the best thing to do, is to do nothing at all. Take Sweden, for example, where the government decided not to shut down the economy, but to take a more thoughtful and balanced approach. Sweden has kept its primary schools, restaurants, shops and gyms open for business even though fewer people are out in public or carrying on as they normally would. At the same time, the government has kept the Swedish people well-informed so they understand the risks the virus poses to their health and the health of others. This is how the Swedes have minimized their chances of getting the infection while avoiding more extreme measures like shelter-in-place which is de facto house arrest.

What the Swedish experiment demonstrates, is that there’s a way to navigate these unprecedented public health challenges without recklessly imposing police state policies and without doing irreparable harm to the economy. And, yes, the results of this experiment are not yet known, but what we do know is that most nations cannot simply print-up trillions of dollars to counter the knock-on effects of bringing the economy to a screeching halt. These countries must dip into their reserves or take out loans from the IMF in order to recover from the lack of production and activity. That means they’re going to face years of slow growth and high unemployment to dig out from the mess their leaders created for them.

And that rule applies to the US too, even though the government has been recklessly printing money to pay the bills. The unforeseen cost to the US will come in the form of long-term unemployment triggered by millions of failed small and mid-sized businesses. That grim scenario is all but certain now. And just as the USG “disappeared” millions of workers from the unemployment rolls following the 2008 Financial Crisis– forcing them to find low-paying, part-time, no-benefits work in the “gig” economy– so too, millions of more working people will fall through the cracks and wind up homeless, jobless and destitute following this crisis. One $1,200 check from Uncle Sam and a few weeks of unemployment compensation is not going to not be enough to prevent the fundamental restructuring of the US labor force that will be impossible to avoid if the economy isn’t restarted pronto.

That’s why we should look to countries like Sweden that have taken a more measured approach that allow parts of the economy to continue to function during the epidemic, so other parts can gear-up quickly and return to full capacity with minimal disruption. This should not be a “liberal vs conservative” issue as it’s become in the United States. One should not oppose restarting the economy just because Trump is ‘for it’, but because millions of working people are facing an uncertain future in an economy which– most economists believe– is headed for a severe and protracted recession. Liberals should be looking for ways to avoid that dismal outcome instead of wasting all their time criticizing Trump. (Of course, now that the idiot Trump has appointed Ivanka, Jared, Kudlow and Wilbur Ross to lead his Council to Re-Open America” it will be impossible to extricate the issue from partisan politics.) This is a clip from an article by Donald Jeffries at Lew Rockwell:

“The shutdown of businesses now has been going on for more than a month. How many of the dwindling small businesses left in our casino economy have already closed down forever? How many mid-sized ones will ever be able to reopen? How many millions will be furloughed, laid off, fired- however they word it- because of this draconian reaction? How can an economy based on commerce exist without commerce?” (“The Locked Down World”, Donald Jeffries, Lew Rockwell)

Indeed. This isn’t a question of putting profits before people. The economy IS our life. Try to make a living without an economy. Try to feed your family or pay the rent or buy a car or do anything without an economy. We need the economy. Working people need the economy, and we need to find a way to do two things at the same time: Keep the economy running and save as many lives as possible. The idea that we can just do one of these things and not the other, is not only blatantly false, it is destructive to our own best interests. We have to do both, there is no other way. Here’s more background on Sweden from an article at Haaretz:

“The truth is that we have a policy similar to that of other countries,” says Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s state epidemiologist, “Like everyone, we are trying to slow down the rate of infection … The differences derive from a different tradition and from a different culture that prevail in Sweden. We prefer voluntary measures, and there is a high level of trust here between the population and the authorities, so we are able to avoid coercive restrictions”…

It’s still too early to say whether Stockholm’s policy will turn out to be a success story or a blueprint for disaster. But, when the microbes settle, following the global crisis, Sweden may be able to constitute a kind of control group: Did other countries go too far in the restrictions they have been imposing on their populations? Was the economic catastrophe spawned globally by the crisis really unavoidable? Or will the Swedish case turn out to be an example of governmental complacency that cost human lives unnecessarily?” (“Why Sweden Isn’t Forcing Its Citizens to Stay Home Due to the Coronaviru”, Haaretz)

Tegnell, is no long-haired, fist-waving radical, he’s Sweden’s chief epidemiologist and has worked for mainstream organizations like the WHO and the European Commission. Where he differs from so many of his peers is simply in his approach, which empowers ordinary people to use their own common sense regarding their health, their safety and the safety of others. It’s simple, if you develop symptoms, stay home. Tegnell believes that its easier to get people to do the right thing by trusting their judgement then by ordering them to do so.

That said, Sweden’s objectives are the same as every other country impacted by the pandemic. The emphasis is on “flattening the curve”, slowing the rate of infection, testing as many people as possible, and protecting the vulnerable and older populations. It’s just their methods are different. They’ve taken a more nuanced approach that relies on level-headed people conforming to the guidelines that help to minimize contagion until some better remedy is found. “Social distancing” is practiced in Sweden, but the population has not had their civil liberties suspended nor have they been put under house arrest until the threat has passed. Sweden has not compromised its core values in a frenzied attempt to stave off sickness or death. Can the U.S. say the same? Here’s more from an article at the Washington Times:

“As government leaders in the UK and the United States are grappling with how to revive dormant economies, Dr. Tegnell said the Swedish approach will allow the country to maintain social distancing measures in the long term without putting the economic system at risk. Dr. Tegnell said he believes certain regions in Sweden are already very close to … a state where so many in the population have built up resistance to the virus that it is no longer a pandemic threat…

“We do believe the main difference between our policies and many other countries’ policies is that we could easily keep these kinds of policies in place for months, maybe even years, without any real damage to society or our economy,” Dr. Tegnell said. Although the government has not issued a stay-at-home order, many Swedes have decided to quarantine and practice social distancing on their own volition, Dr. Tegnell said.” (“Top Swedish official: Virus rates easing up despite loose rules”, The Washington Times)

 
• Category: Economics, Science • Tags: Coronavirus, Health care, Politics, Sweden 
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JAPAN-G20-SUMMIT : News Photo

The Russia-Saudi oil-price war is a fabrication concocted by the media. There’s not a word of truth to any of it. Yes, there was a dust up at an OPEC meeting in early March that led to production increases and plunging prices. That part is true. But Saudi Arabia’s oil-dumping strategy wasn’t aimed at Russia, it was aimed at US shale oil producers. But not for the reasons you’ve read about in the media.

The Saudis aren’t trying to destroy the US shale oil business. That’s another fiction. They just want US producers to play by the rules and pitch in when prices need support. That might seem like a stretch, but it’s true.

You see, US oil producers are not what-you’d-call “team players”. They don’t cooperate with foreign producers, they’re not willing to share the costs of flagging demand, and they never lift a finger to support prices. US oil producers are the next-door-neighbor that parks his beat-up Plymouth on the front lawn and then surrounds it with rusty appliances. They don’t care about anyone but themselves.

What Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman want is for US producers to share the pain of oil production cuts in order to stabilize prices. It’s an entirely reasonable request. Here’s a clip from an article at oilprice.com that helps to explain what’s really going on:

“… there was a sliver of hope that oil prices may rebound after Reuters reported that Saudi Arabia, Russia and allied oil producers will agree to deep cuts to their crude output at talks this week but only if the United States and several others join in with curbs to help prop up prices that have been hammered by the coronavirus crisis. However, in an attempt to have its cake and eat it too, the U.S. DOE said on Tuesday that U.S. output is already falling without government action, in line with the White House’s insistence that it would not intervene in the private markets….

… OPEC+ will require the United States to make cuts in order to come to an agreement: The EIA report today demonstrates that there are already projected cuts of 2 (million bpd), without any intervention from the federal government,” the U.S. Energy Department said.

That is not enough for OPEC+ however, and certainly not Russia, which on Wednesday made clear that market-driven declines in oil production shouldn’t be considered as cuts intended to stabilize the market, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tells reporters on conference call.

“These are completely different cuts. You are comparing the overall demand drop with cuts to stabilize global markets. It’s like comparing length and width,” Peskov said…..Moscow’s participation is highly contingent on the US, and is unlikely to agree to output cuts if the US does not join the effort.” (“Historic Oil Deal On The Verge Of Collapse As Russia Balks At U.S. ‘Cuts'”, oilprice.com)

Putin is being reasonable and fair. If everyone else is forced to cut supply, then US oil producers should have to cut supply too. But they don’t want to share the pain, so they’ve settled on a strategy for weaseling out of it. They want their reductions in output (from weak demand during the pandemic) to count as “production cuts”. They even have a name for this swindle, they call it “organic production cuts”, which means no cuts at all. This is the way hucksters do business not responsible adults.

What does Putin want from this deal?

Price stability. Yes, he’d like to see prices settle somewhere north of $45 per barrel but that’s not going to happen for a while. The combination of a weaker demand (due to the coronavirus) and oversupply (from the Saudis flooding the market) have ensured that prices will remain low for the foreseeable future. Even so, Putin understood what the Saudis were doing by flooding the market, and he knew it wasn’t directed at Russia. The Saudis were trying to persuade US oil producers to stop freeloading and cut production like everyone else. That’s the long and short of it. Check out this excerpt from an article by oil expert, Simon Watkins at oilprice.com:

“Saudi Arabia was continually peeved …(because) its efforts to keep oil prices up through various OPEC and OPEC+ agreements were allowing these very shale producers to make a lot more money than the Saudis, relatively speaking. The reason for this was that U.S. shale producers…. were not bound in to the OPEC/OPEC+ production quotas so could fill the output gaps created by OPEC producers.” (“The Sad Truth About The OPEC+ Production Cut”, Simon Watkins, oilprice.com)

This is what the media fails to tell their readers, that US oil producers– who don’t participate in any collective effort to stabilize prices– have been exploiting OPEC production quotas in order to fatten the bottom line at the expense of others. US producers figured out how to game the system and make a bundle in the process. Is it any wonder why the Saudis were pissed?? Here’s more from the same article:

“This allowed the U.S. a rolling 3-4 million bpd advantage over Saudi in the oil exports game, meaning that it quickly became the world’s number one oil producer…. Hence, Saudi Arabia decided initially to unilaterally announce its intention for the last OPEC+ deal to be much bigger than that which it had pre-agreed with Russia, hoping to ambush the Russians into agreeing. Russia, however, turned around and told Saudi Arabia to figuratively go and reproduce with itself. MbS,… then decided to launch an all-out price war.” (oilprice.com)

So you can see that this really had nothing to do with Russian at all. The Crown Prince was simply frustrated at the way US oil producers were gaming the system, which is why he felt like he had to respond by flooding the market. The obvious target was the US shale oil industry that was taking advantage of the quotas, refusing to cooperate with fellow oil producers and generally freeloading off the existing quota system.

And what’s funny, is that as soon as the Saudis started putting the screws to the US fracking gang, they all scampered off to Washington en masse to beg for help from Papa Trump. Which is why Trump decided to make emergency calls to Moscow and Riyadh to see if he could hash out a deal.

It’s worth noting that domestic oil producers have been involved in other dodgy activities in the past. Check out this excerpt from an article in the Guardian in 2014, the last time oil prices crashed:

“After standing at well over $110 a barrel in the summer, the cost of crude has collapsed. Prices are down by a quarter in the past three months….

Think about how the Obama administration sees the state of the world. It wants Tehran to come to heel over its nuclear programme. It wants Vladimir Putin to back off in eastern Ukraine. But after recent experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, the White House has no desire to put American boots on the ground. Instead, with the help of its Saudi ally, Washington is trying to drive down the oil price by flooding an already weak market with crude. As the Russians and the Iranians are heavily dependent on oil exports, the assumption is that they will become easier to deal with

The Saudis did something similar in the mid-1980s. Then, the geopolitical motivation for a move that sent the oil price to below $10 a barrel was to destabilize Saddam Hussein’s regime….

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Oil Industry, Russia, Saudi Arabia 
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“Researchers in Wuhan…reported that, of 37 critically ill Covid-19 patients who were put on mechanical ventilators, 30 died within a month. In a U.S. study of patients in Seattle, only one of the seven patients older than 70 who were put on a ventilator survived; just 36% of those younger than 70 did.” (“With ventilators running out, doctors say the machines are overused for Covid-19”, STAT News)

Think about that for a minute. What these figures mean is that, if you’re over 70 and you’re put on a ventilator because you have coronavirus, you’re probably going to die. More importantly, it means that it was probably the ventilator that killed you. Isn’t that something the public ought to know?

I think it is.

“One in seven” is very poor odds. They aren’t the odds a rational person would bet his life on unless he had a death wish or a very serious gambling problem. So what’s going on here, and why is there so much misleading blabber about ventilators?

The root problem seems to be that coronavirus is a relatively new phenomenon and the methods for treating it are still in their early phases. Nothing is set in stone, not yet at least. Even so, you might have noticed that, when British Prime Minister Boris Johnson contracted the infection and was bundled off to ICU, the medical team did NOT put him on a ventilator, but put him on oxygen instead. And the difference couldn’t be more striking, because today, after 3 days in ICU, Johnson is alive, whereas he probably would be dead if he was intubated. Yes, I am making a judgment about something of which I cannot be entirely certain, but I think I’m probably right. If Johnson had been put on a ventilator, he probably would have died.

But, why, that’s what we want to know?

The answer to that question can be found in the article cited above. Take a look:

“Many (coronavirus) patients have blood oxygen levels so low they should be dead. But they’re not gasping for air, their hearts aren’t racing, and their brains show no signs of blinking off from lack of oxygen.

That is making critical care physicians suspect that blood levels of oxygen, which for decades have driven decisions about breathing support for patients with pneumonia and acute respiratory distress, might be misleading them about how to care for those with Covid-19. In particular, more and more are concerned about the use of intubation and mechanical ventilators. They argue that more patients could receive simpler, noninvasive respiratory support, such as the breathing masks used in sleep apnea, at least to start with and maybe for the duration of the illness.

The question is whether ICU physicians are moving patients to mechanical ventilators too quickly. “Almost the entire decision tree is driven by oxygen saturation levels,” said the emergency medicine physician, who asked not to be named so as not to appear to be criticizing colleagues.” (“With ventilators running out, doctors say the machines are overused for Covid-19”, STAT News)

Okay, so doctors are making their decisions based on “blood oxygen levels”, right? But blood oxygen levels might signal the need for a different treatment for coronavirus patients than they do for pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) patients. In other words, one size does not fit all. The problem is that too many people are ending up on ventilators when ventilators are undermining their chances for survival. Here’s more:

“….one of the most severe consequences of Covid-19 suggests another reason the ventilators aren’t more beneficial. In acute respiratory distress syndrome, which results from immune cells ravaging the lungs and kills many Covid-19 patients, the air sacs of the lungs become filled with a gummy yellow fluid. “That limits oxygen transfer from the lungs to the blood even when a machine pumps in oxygen,” Gillick said.

As patients go downhill, protocols developed for other respiratory conditions call for increasing the force with which a ventilator delivers oxygen, the amount of oxygen, or the rate of delivery, she explained. But if oxygen can’t cross into the blood from the lungs in the first place, those measures, especially greater force, may prove harmful. High levels of oxygen impair the lung’s air sacs, while high pressure to force in more oxygen damages the lungs.

“We need to ask, are we using ventilators in a way that makes sense for other diseases but not for this one?” Gillick said. “Instead of asking how do we ration a scarce resource, we should be asking how do we best treat this disease?” (STAT News)

Can you see the problem? Virus victims develop a mucousy-yellow gunk in their lungs that prevents oxygen from transferring to the blood. Forcing more air into their lungs with a ventilator, doesn’t help that process, it just damages the lungs. In short, it is the wrong treatment for this particular illness. This explains why Johnson was not put on a ventilator, because the risks far outweighed the potential benefits. Here’s more from the same article:

“In a small study last week in Annals of Intensive Care, physicians who treated Covid-19 patients at two hospitals in China found that the majority of patients needed no more than a nasal cannula. Among the 41% who needed more intense breathing support, none was put on a ventilator right away. Instead, they were given noninvasive devices such as BiPAP; their blood oxygen levels “significantly improved” after an hour or two. (Eventually two of seven needed to be intubated.) The researchers concluded that the more comfortable nasal cannula is just as good as BiPAP and that a middle ground is as safe for Covid-19 patients as quicker use of a ventilator…..“Anecdotal experience from Italy [also suggests] that they were able to support a number of folks using these [non-invasive] methods,” Japa said.” (STAT News)

So the treatment for patients with coronavirus is rapidly evolving, but serious mistakes are undoubtedly still being made. One can only wonder how many people might have survived their trip to ICU had their physicians been more aware of the non-invasive alternatives? But don’t think for a minute that I’m blaming anyone for using methods or devices that may be discarded in the near future. I’m not, but from my vantage point, it looks like the over-dependence on ventilators might have been a very costly mistake. Check out this last clip from the article:

“Because U.S. data on treating Covid-19 patients are nearly nonexistent, health care workers are flying blind when it comes to caring for such confounding patients. But anecdotally, Weingart said, “we’ve had a number of people who improved and got off CPAP or high flow [nasal cannulas] who would have been tubed 100 out of 100 times in the past.” What he calls “this knee-jerk response” of putting people on ventilators if their blood oxygen levels remain low with noninvasive devices “is really bad. … I think these patients do much, much worse on the ventilator.

That could be because the ones who get intubated are the sickest, he said, “but that has not been my experience: It makes things worse as a direct result of the intubation.” High levels of force and oxygen levels, both in quest of restoring oxygen saturation levels to normal, can injure the lungs. “I would do everything in my power to avoid intubating patients,” Weingart said.” (STAT News)

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Coronavirus