Archive for June, 2021

Part 2: “Unexpected things happen when you start fiddling with the innards of living cells.”

June 30, 2021

 What constitutes “fiddling with cells”?
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Yesterday, I posted that:

  • The above warning from the book Code Breaker resonated with me
  • My most trusted med-science sources told me that the warning was applicable to covid vaccines
  • Specifically, all of the current emergency- approved covid vaccines “fiddle with cells”

All of which begs the question: What constitutes “fiddling” and what might be the ”unexpected results” ?

Let’s drill down on that question…

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All of the current emergency-approved covid vaccines are fundamentally different than the traditional vaccines that have been used in the past.

The “classical” battle-tested vaccines typically inject a person with a minute amount of the suspect pathogen (or a very near variation of it) that activates a person’s immune system … putting it in a high state of readiness to fend off the disease if and when they were exposed to it.

The traditional vaccines didn’t “fiddle with the innards of cells” … or, in any way, mingle with a person’s cellular DNA.

No harm, no foul.

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Not so with the  current crop of emergency-approved vaccines.

Note: As of now, no covid vaccines have been fully approved by the FDA. Pfizer, Moderna and J&J are all currently being administered under an emergency use authorization.

Simply stated, they inject RNA or DNA that finds its way to cells and induces production of preventative antigens that fight off the coronavirus.

Pfizer & Modera are mRNA vaccines (the “m” stands for “messenger).

The vaccine particles “bmp into cells” and fuse to them, releasing the mRNA into the cells.

The cells “read” the mRNA genetic sequence and build spike proteins that combat the coronavirus.

Two key points: (1) Pfizer & Moderna contain RNA, not DNA, and (2) the RNA penetrates cells, but not the cells’ nuclei (where DNA is stored).

Though mRNA hasn’t been used as a vaccine modality in the past, it has been researched for decades and generally presumed to be safe — both short- and long-run since it “fiddles” with cells, but does not penetrate cells’ DNA-storing nuclei. And, the fragile mRNA from the vaccine is “eventually destroyed by the cell, leaving no permanent trace.”

For more detail (and some clever graphics) see the NY Times summary of How the Moderna vaccine works.

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OK, that covers the the two emergency-approved mRNA vaccines (Pfizer & Moderna).

Based on clinical trials and vaccinations to date, both have proven to be very effective and reasonably safe … especially for older adults.

Note:The general presumption of short-tern safety has recently been called into question because of the incidence of myocarditis (inflammation around the heart) among teens and young adults, especially young men,  See: The CDC’s All-or-Nothing Approach to Teen COVID Vaccination Is All Wrong

That’s why I readily took the Moderna shots as soon as I could (and would have taken Pfizer if it had been offered).

But, what about the J&J vaccine?

Well that’s where, in my opinion, things get a bit stickier.

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To be continued…
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DISCLAIMER: I’m not a medical professional or scientist — just a curious, self-interested guy.  So, don’t take anything that I say or write as medical advice. Get that from your doctor!

Vax: “Unexpected things happen when you start fiddling with the innards of living cells.”

June 29, 2021

Why aren’t more “experts” talking about this and advising us accordingly?
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Let’s set the context…

Close confidants know that there has been something on my mind for awhile re: the vaccines.

Since I’m not a med-scientist and since I didn’t want to get tech-cancelled, I shied away from the topic.

But now, the left-leaning Atlantic has broached the subject, so  I feel liberated to to touch what might be vaccines’ 3rd rail.

See Atlantic: “mRNA vaccines are extraordinary, NovaVax is better
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Let’s start my story here…

I have been vaccinated! It was a matter of deliberative choice, not mandate.

I concluded that the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer & Moderna) were effective and safe … at least in the short-term.

Note that I didn’t mention J&J … more on that later.

I’m age-vulnerable to covid, so I weighed the short-term benefits & risks more heavily than the potential long-term risks.

But, I had (and still have) nagging reservations about the long-term risks.

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My anxieties were prompted by one of my summer reading books … a bio-pic about Jennifer Douda — a bio-researcher who won a Nobel Prize for developing CRISPR — the foundational technology for mRNA vaccines.

The book: “The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race” by Walter Isaacson

Specifically, this clear, declarative  warning in the book resonated with me:

“Unexpected things happen when you start fiddling with the innards of living cells.”

Hmm.

I asked my most trusted bio-science sources whether that warning was relevant to the covid vaccines.

Their answer: You bet it is!

So, I did some digging to learn more about how the vaccines work.

Cutting to the chase: both the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer & Moderna) and the viral vector vaccines (J&J and AstraZenaca) “fiddle with the innards of living cells”.

See “Which vaccine to choose?” for a summary and links to source articles”

Which begs the question: What constitutes their “fiddling” and what might be the ”unexpected results” ?

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To be continued…
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DISCLAIMER: I’m not a medical professional or scientist — just a curious, self-interested guy.  So, don’t take anything that I say or write as medical advice. Get that from your doctor!

The info dam may be breaking re: “scientific integrity” and vaccine risks…

June 28, 2021

WSJ: “The battle to recover scientific honesty will be an uphill one in the U.S.”
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While we’ll probably never learn the true source of covid, the re-surfacing of the covid lab-leak theory has already started paying dividends.

Have you noticed that scientists and medical practitioners who have previously been muzzled — by censoring media and interest-conflicted scientists — are starting to speak out.

There was an op-ed in the WSJ last week that spoke to the issue — both generally and specifically.

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Scientific integrity has been scarred:

Unpopular scientific ideas, from the lab-leak theory to the efficacy of masks, were initially dismissed, even ridiculed, only to resurface later in mainstream thinking.

Differences of opinion have sometimes been rooted in disagreement over the underlying science.

But the more common motivation has been political.

That said, the authors conclude:“There are, however, signs of life for scientific honesty.”

Specifically, they point to emerging information and legitimized debates regarding the risks associated with the current crop of covid vaccines.

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Vaccine benefits touted, risks under-stated

The short-run prevention efficacy of the vaccines is broadly accepted, but often misunderstood.

For example, the vaccines provably prevent hospitalization and death, but prevention of minimally symptomatic infections is still uncertain.

But, the authors argue, the associated risks have been given short-shrift.

Bluntly stated: “Public-health authorities are making a mistake and risking the public’s trust by not being forthcoming about the possibility of harm from certain vaccine side effects.”

What are these side effects?

First, there’s death.

“it is rare for any vaccine to be linked to deaths” … but, there have been reported deaths fast-following covid vaccinations.

For example, see xxxxxxxxx

And, there is reportedly “a large clustering of certain adverse events immediately after vaccination.”

  • heart inflammation (myocarditis), especially for those under 30;
  • low platelets (thrombocytopenia), potentially causing internal bleeding;
  • deep-vein thrombosis, flow inhibiting blood clots

These side effects are likely rare and often transitory, but should be calibrated and considered in the vaccines’ risk-benefits analysis.

That said, the authors conclude:

The risks of a Covid-19 vaccine may outweigh the benefits for certain low-risk populations, such as children, young adults and people who have recovered from Covid-19.

This is especially true in regions with low levels of community spread, since the likelihood of illness depends on exposure risk.

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The full article is worth reading: Are Covid Vaccines Riskier Than Advertised?

So, how much have students fallen behind during the school’s shutdown?

June 25, 2021

No way to tell since schools appear to have ignored a Federal gov’t mandate to do standardized testing this year to measure students’ learning levels in math & reading.
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Let’s start back at the beginning…

In a long ago prior post, we reported results from a survey done in Fall 2020 that indicated, for example:

  • Students in 5th & 6th grades started the 2020-2021 school year 12 or more weeks behind their expected learning levels in math.
  • Students in grades 4 to 7 started the 2020-2021 school year 4 or more weeks behind their expected learning levels in reading.

Of course, we opined: It be useful to give students standardized tests this spring, as more of them  return to school?

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There was some hope that the testing would be done … and, we’d have some calibration of how much students had fallen behind during covid.

According to USA Today , there was some reason to be optimistic…

Under federal law, states must administer annual exams in key subjects including reading and math to students in third through eighth grade and once in high school.

The requirement to administer state exams was waived by in spring 2020, when most U.S. schools shut down as a result of COVID-19.

But, in early 2021, a letter from Biden’s Education Dept. advised states that they will need to administer  the annual standardized achievement exams to students this year (.

There is some “wiggle room” to shorten the annual exams, administer them remotely or delay giving them until summer )or fall … but, “the Biden administration will not consider blanket waivers of assessments this year.”

Of course, not all sides agreed with the Fed’s announcement.

(more…)

FDA: “Following the science & the data is over-rated.”

June 24, 2021

Approves Alzheimer drug despite objections from science advisory panel & statisticians.
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OK, the FDA didn’t explicitly say that following the science & the data is over-rated.

Nor did it explicitly say: “Do as we say, not as we do.”

But…

Last week, the FDA approved aducanumab — Biogen’s controversial new Alzheimer’s drug.

But, according to the WSJ, the FDA did so despite doubts about the therapy’s effectiveness.

Specifically. the FDA’s drug biostatistics office concluded that “substantial evidence of effectiveness had not been provided in the application.”

Accordingly, the FDA’s scientific advisory panel recommended against approval of the drug, “questioning whether  it provides any benefit at all.”

But, the FDA ignored the panel’s advice and approved the drug any way.

So, several of the panel members resigned, calling the decision  “probably the worst drug approval decision in recent U.S. history.”

Ouch.

More gently, critics say the FDA “ignored the scientific standards it typically holds drugmakers.”

So much for following the science and the data.

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For the record, given my family’s medical history, I’m rooting for Alzheimer-attacking drugs … and I’m a strong proponent of “right to try”.

So, I’m ok with the FDA’s decision.

But, I’m getting tired of elite pontificators telling me to follow elusive, unsettled  science … and, very tired of lying political-scientists

Don’t confuse being “liberal” with being “tolerant”…

June 23, 2021

A group called the Survey Center on American Life recently published the findings from its 2021 merican Perspectives Survey.

Among the findings:

A majority (53%) of Republicans say they have at least some friends who are Democrats.

In contrast, less than one-third (32%) of Democrats say they have at least some Republican friends.

And the number of cross-party friendships is dwindling…

About 1 in 7 American adults have ended a friendship or stopped talking to someone because of their views about government or politics.

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Ending friendships over political disagreements is mostly instigated by liberal and Democratic-leaning Americans.

  • Overall, Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans are to report having ended a friendship over a political disagreement
  • 29% of political liberals say they are no longer friends with someone due to political differences; that number soars to 45% of extreme liberal identifiers
  • 33% of liberal women say they stopped being friends with someone because of their politics.

So what?

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Regarding the findings, Prof. Samuel Abrams of left-leaning Sarah Lawrence College observes:

The behavior liberals is not only hypocritical given the language of love and tolerance that they preach, but it is also counterproductive.

Our civic vitality is threatened when people cannot find shared humanity and fail to empathize with others and recognize that politics is about tradeoffs and hearing the other side.  Source

Said differently,  don’t confuse being liberal with being tolerant …

Still more re: college vaccine mandates … liability?

June 22, 2021

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Last week, we posted re: a Northwestern University student who died of heart failure shortly after getting the 2nd dose of covid vaccine.

Since NU had mandated the vaccine, we wondered whether the university had any liability in the death.

Fast-forward a week and there’s another development.

According to local and legal news sources (i.e. under-reported on the MSM)…

A group of students has petitioned a federal judge to block Indiana University’s policy requiring all students, faculty and staff to get a Covid-19 vaccine.

More specifically, the suit alleges that Indiana University:

… is not seeking voluntary consent from its students to take the Covid vaccination.

The university is coercing its students under threat of virtual expulsion to take a vaccine even though:

(a) the risks associated with the vaccine, especially for college-age students, are serious and increasingly recognized, and

(b) students are at an extremely low risk of adverse effects if they get a Covid infection.

While the university allows for certain health-related reasons, natural immunity is not considered a valid reason … even though natural immunity may have the same preventive benefits as the vaccines … and, there is now at least one case of apparent fatal consequences linked to the vaccine.

Bluntly stated: The benefits are arguable minimal (or non-existent) … and the risks are potentially fatal.

The students are asking for a court order declaring the vaccine mandate unconstitutional and blocking the university from enforcing it.

The students’ attorneys are pushing for an expedite ruling to secure a “stay” on the mandate.

Did Fauci disclose his conflicts of interest to Trump?

June 21, 2021

Yesterday, we posted: A scientist shreds Fauci’s “attacking me is attacking science” canard.

Following up on that theme — that science and the scientific method are inherently good, but that science can be compromised by “bad actors”….

I haven’t heard or seen the headlined question raised by anybody on media.

Specifically, as it relates to the highly plausible (i.e. likely) lab-leak source of the virus:

> Did Fauci brief Trump on gain-of-function research, it’s ethical and safety issues, and Obama’s EO putting a moratorium on U.S. based research and research funding?

> Did Fauci indicate to Trump that he (Fauci) was on record as a strong advocate for gain-of function research?

> Did Fauci tell Trump that gain-of-function research was being done in the Wuhan lab … specifically on coronaviruses?

> Did Fauci admit to Trump that research grants approved by him (Fauci) may have been channeled to the Wuhan lab via an intermediary which was known to support gain-of-function research?

> Did Fauci warm Trump that if any of the above became public, the U.S. might be held partially culpable if the Wuhan lab was the source of the virus?

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It’s easy to conclude that the answers to all 5 questions are NO.

If the answers to any or all of the questions was YES, then…

> Trump would have been unlikely to have picked Fauci to lead the covid task force

> Trump would not have jumped on the lab-leak hypothesis so quickly and so forcefully.

Knowing what is now being discovered (in writing and on video) about Fauci’s conflicts of interest, wouldn’t you think that Fauci — the noble scientist — would have self-disqualified?

Hmmm

 

Tell me again why I should trust “the science”…

June 18, 2021

Prominent scientist admits that info was withheld because it lent credence to Trump’s claims
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Yesterday, we posted: A scientist shreds Fauci’s “attacking me is attacking science” canard.

Today, let’s throw another log on that fire…

NBC News published a nice recap of the lab-leak controversy.

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So, what changed since since early 2020 when a gold standard scientific journals published a letter from 28 scientists dismissing the lab-leak hypothesis as “unfounded” and “debunked”?

The article points out that the was scant data to prove (or disprove) the lab-leak hypothesis at the time … and, given China’s stonewalling, there isn’t much more data now.

According to NBC interviews with virologists:

While public discussion of a potential lab leak has shifted significantly in recent months, as more people pay attention to a theory that was originally promulgated by former President Donald Trump and his followers, the scientific evidence has remained unchanged, according to interviews with five virologists who have experience in microbiology, infectious disease ecology and viral evolution.

So, what changed?

The politics.

The shift reflects how some scientists who previously avoided the topic or were quick to dismiss it are grappling with enduring uncertainties about the virus’s origin, free from the politicization that clouded such discussions during the Trump administration.

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Alina Chan was one of 18 scientists who published a letter in the journal Science last month calling for a more in-depth investigation into the virus’s origin.

She bluntly told NBC:

Chan said there had been trepidation among some scientists about publicly discussing the lab leak hypothesis for fear that their words could be misconstrued or used to support Trump fueled accusations that the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a research lab in the city where the first Covid-19 cases were reported, was connected to the outbreak.

Said differently, if Trump said it, it’s probably wrong … and, even if it’s true, it’s “noble” to withhold evidence and public support.

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Bottom line: “Science” may be be pure and worthy of being followed … but some “scientists” not so much.

That raises a dilemma: How to “follow the science” if scientists are distorting — either through omission or commission?

That question may linger long after covid is a distant memory.

A scientist shreds Fauci’s “attacking me is attacking science” canard…

June 17, 2021

The weekend WSJ published an interview with Filippa Lentzos — a social scientist who studies biological threats.

A  Scientist Who Said No to Covid Groupthink

According to the WSJ, Ms. Lentzos was early-on questioning the source of the coronavirus, and frustrated by the “premature enforced consensus” that was dismissive of the lab-leak possibility.

Lentzos asserts that she and her compatriots were inquisitive “not because we are conspiracy theorists  but because, as scientists, this is our profession.”

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Now Ms. Lentzos observes that the lab-leak scenario has gained traction … and, is emerging as a front-runner.

“As time goes on, there has been more and more circumstantial evidence for the lab-leak theory that’s come out, and less and less from the natural-spillover theory.”

Why did the realization take so long?

Lentzos says that “the most significant problem came from the scientific community.”

Some of the scientists in this area very quickly closed ranks.

American liberals — including many scientists — conflated open-mindedness about the question with support for Mr. Trump.

But, partisanship wasn’t their only motive.

“Like most things in life, there are power plays.

There are agendas that are part of the scientific community. Just like any other community, there are strong vested interests.

A lab mistake that killed millions would be bad for reputations.

Some researchers have taken part in gain-of-function research, which can make viruses deadlier or easier to transmit.

Who would permit, much less fund, such research if it proved so catastrophic?

There were people that did not talk about this, because they feared for their careers. They feared for their grants.”

So, The lab-leak theory began to be treated “like an attack on science, the sciences.

The teaching point…

Lentzos counsels against idealizing scientists and warns that “a scientific consensus isn’t always true … and peer review is sometimes peer pressure.”

Accordingly, she advises a constructive skepticism:

Sees science and scientific activity, and how the community works, not as an inner sacred sanctum that’s devoid of any conflicts of interests, or agendas … but seeing science as a social activity, where there are good players and bad players.

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My take:

Science and the scientific method are inherently good … but they are sometimes compromised by “bad actors”, including even well-intentioned scientists who fall victim to personal biases and agendas; shoddy work and false prophets; and ego-driven self-promotion.

So, Dr. Fauci, criticizing your behavior and performance is not an attack on science.

Period.

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P.S. The WSJ’s entire interview with Ms. Lentos is worth reading …  “A  Scientist Who Said No to Covid Groupthink

More re: college vaccine mandates … liability?

June 16, 2021

Northwestern student reportedly dies of heart failure after getting vaccinated.
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Yesterday morning, we explored the ethics of college vaccine mandates.

Then, yesterday afternoon, I caught a chilling, related story:

  • Northwestern is one of roughly 450 colleges requiring that students get vaccinated.
  • In compliance, 19 year old Simone Scott got vaccinated.
  • On May 16, two weeks after getting her 2nd vaccine dose, she suffered a case of apparent myocarditis-induced heart failure … a known but rare side effect of the vaccine.
  • Despite heroic medical efforts — including a heart transplant — Simone died on June 11.
  • Her doctors have not specified the vaccination as causal, but have provided no alternative explanation.

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My questions:

  1. Why hasn’t this story been widely reported?
  2. To what extent is Northwestern (and other colleges)  liable if they coerce students to get vaccinated … and the  students suffer severe, potentially fatal side effects.

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Regarding, the lack of media coverage, the answer is fairly obvious.

First, the story would certainly throw  some cold water on the current push to get everybody vaccinated.

Second, yesterday’s reporting was by Alex Berenson — a former NY Times reporter — with a history of challenging Facebook-approved covid orthodoxy in books and on a web site bannered “Unreported Truths”.

Said differently, the MSM brands him a conspiracy theorist — despite his data-rich, fact-based analyses.

My take: reading and listening to Berenson, he strikes me as a fairly balanced reporter who tells it like it is … and doesn’t tow either party’s line.

That said, I encourage everybody to read Berenson’s detailed account of Simone’s story … and draw your own conclusions.

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My take on the liability question …

For sure, colleges and universities are going to be subject to ethical challenges and  headline-quality lawsuits over liability in the albeit rare cases when vaccination side effects take a toll.

It’s easy to foresee things getting pretty messy … very fast.

And, it’s only a matter of time until “the issue” spreads to corporate vaccine mandates.

Are college vaccine mandates ethical?

June 15, 2021

That’s a question posed in a WSJ opinion piece by a medical ethics prof and a lawyer…

The essence of their argument:

The central canon of medical ethics  is the free and informed consent of the research subject.

The current trio of vaccines are operating under emergency use authorizations, not full approval.

Courts have ruled that, in such situations, group members cannot be coerced into “serving as guinea pigs for experimental drugs”.

Never before have colleges insisted that students or employees receive an experimental vaccine as a condition of attendance or employment.

I think the authors make a compelling case … and, they deftly handle the usual counter-arguments.

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But, elementary schools require pediatric vaccinations.

True, but those vaccines are fully approved for use (i.e. not experimental) … and justified as directly protecting the recipient students from infection and significant health risks.

But, data consistently shows that “for those under 30, the risks of serious morbidity and mortality are close to zero … and. that the vaccines pose “an excess risk for heart inflammation”

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But, vaccinating college students protects against transmission to potentially vulnerable groups, both directly and by building herd immunity.

A person may freely choose to accept medical risks for the benefit of others, as when one donates a kidney for transplant.

Those who make such sacrifices for others must truly be volunteers, not conscripts drafted by college administrators.

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But, faculty and staff will resist resuming classes unless they feel safer.

Yeah, but they have the opportunity to protect themselves by  getting vaccinated.

The burden need not be shifted to students … especially those who are low risk, especially if they are covid survivors with natural immunity.

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The entire WSJ article is worth reading:
College students aren’t guinea pigs.

Joe says: “What inflation?”

June 14, 2021

The government reported CPI went up 5% in May.

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Source: WaPo

Though Biden and his team of free-spenders are sanguine, ordinary folks are starting to notice.

Let’s look at a couple of benchmarks…

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Gasoline

Key consumer benchmark: gasoline prices … they’re up a whopping 47% in the past year.

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Housing

Zillow says that the price of a typical mid-tier existing home is up 13.2% over the past year … and is projected to go up another 14% this year … for a combined impact of almost 30%.

The price of new homes is skyrocketing …  in part, because of the almost quadrupling of lumber prices.

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According to CNBC the surge in lumber prices in the past year has added $35,872 to the price of an average new single-family home … which translates to about $15 per square foot … just for lumber!

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Food

The measured CPI for food rose “only” 2.2% in the government calculation.

Many (most?) consumers scoff at the 2.2% number … and benchmark their high volume staples (e.g milk, diapers) or personal favorites.

For example, a Homa family benchmark is the price of an Arby roast beef sandwich.

Not that long ago, Arby would regularly promote the sandwiches at 5 for $5.

Earlier this year, Arby’s went to 5 for $10.

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Now, my price scouts report that an Arby’s roast beef sandwich regularly costs $4 …and the special is 2 for $6  … at $3 a sandwich, that’s up 50% from earlier this year, and triple the price from the good old days.

Ouch.

This inflation thing is getting personal….

“Pandemics naturally thrive most in big cities”

June 11, 2021

So, don’t paint suburban and rural locales with the same herd immunity paintbrush.
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In a post earlier this week post, we concluded:

Covid transmissibility is, in the final analysis, a local dynamic.

So, a national vaccination rate may be an interesting barometer, but it’s not determining.

Said differently, some communities will likely reach the herd immunity threshold, even if the entire United States does not. Source

Specifically, viral spread in dense urban areas has little relevance to sparsely populated rural areas.

To provide some added context to that last point, let’s flashback to one of our early-on covid posts …

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Originally posted April 6, 2020

Previously, we recapped the IHME Murray Model — the coronavirus forecasting model that was foundational to the Coronavirus Task Force’s thinking.

The model’s developers make clear that the model does not consider either population density, household size or the utilization of public mass transit.

In other words, it doesn’t consider the effect of urbanization.

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I expect that the model will be refined to consider the urbanization variable since Dr. Birx keeps saying “we’ll be drilling down to the county level” …  and since some pandemic historians note that pandemics naturally thrive most in big cities.

Here’s what they’re talking about…

(more…)

Cleveland Clinic: “Natural immunity” is for real…

June 10, 2021

A hopeful sign for herd immunity
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In yesterday’s post, we observed:

The political-scientists still refuse to acknowledge that the vast majority of covid survivors have developed protective antibodies.

The implication: The percentage of the population that has some degree of covid protection is higher than the current 64% of 1st-shot adults … probably way higher.

And, we cited Hopkins’ Dr. Marty Makary (who is right way more often than, say, Fauci):

More than 64% have received at least one vaccine dose and, of those who haven’t, roughly half have natural immunity from prior infection.

So, some 80% to 85% of American adults are immune to the virus.

Some in “the science community” may be skeptical.

But, right on cue, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic have reported out results from study that cuts to the chase.

Specifically, the researchers tracked 52,238  of Cleveland Clinic employees, recording their infection and vaccination status over a 5 month period.

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And, the data says…

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> 2,579 (5% of the 52,238 total sample) had been infected with covid

> 28,102 (54% of the 52,238 total sample) got vaccinated (2-shots of Moderna)

> Less than 1% of the employees who were vaccinated subsequently caught covid

Note: The report stated “There was a “steady increase in cumulative incidence among previously uninfected subjects who remained unvaccinated” … but didn’t provide a specific number.

The infection rate in the vaxed group was in line with prior effectiveness results … in fact. better than previously reported from clinical studies.

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Here’s the big news…

> 1,359 of the Cleveland Clinic employees had a previously confirmed COVID infection but did not get vaccinated .

> NONE of these unvaxed covid survivors got infected with covid during the study period

To say the least, that’s statistically significant!

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The implications:

> The effectiveness of the Moderna vaccine was confirmed (at a higher level)

> At least in this large scale study, covid survivors appear to be protected (at least over the short-term) whether or not they get vaccinated.

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In other words, the Cleveland Clinic study seems to lend credence to Dr. Markary’s conclusion:

More than 64% have received at least one vaccine dose and, of those who haven’t, roughly half have natural immunity from prior infection.

So, some 80% to 85% of American adults are immune to the virus.

If we’re not at herd immunity levels, we’re pretty darn close!

Don’t fret if Biden’s 70% goal isn’t reached…

June 9, 2021

Life is heading back to normal regardless.
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Biden-Fauci promised that we could have small family BBQs on July 4 if 70% of adults get at least their 1st shot of a vaccine.

It’s looking like we’ll fall short of Biden’s goal.

But, not to worry.

If you’ve been out recently, you’ve probably noticed that many (most?) folks don’t care what Biden & Fauci have to say any more.

Americans are responsibly easing back into life and guess what: case counts are dropping and covid deaths are dropping (albeit, slowly).

That’s an entirely rational approach since…

> There’s no magic number re: herd immunity or its close cousin: adult vaccinations.

There’s no specific herd immunity threshold.

Best evidence is Fauci’s constant rising of the herd immunity requirement from 60% to 70% to 80% to 85% to whatever he’s pitching on MSNBC today.

Said differently, there’s no covid  on-off switch set at 70% vaccinations.

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And, vaccination rates are only part of the story…

> The political-scientists still refuse to acknowledge that the vast majority of covid survivors have developed protective antibodies.

Some number of unvaccinated people fall into that category.

The implication: Some 80% to 85% of American adults are immune to the virus: More than 64% have received at least one vaccine dose and, of those who haven’t, roughly half have natural immunity from prior infection. Source

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> Transmissibility is not fixed: It can vary based on a population’s behavior, demographics and health.

We’ve seen this in action with Covid-19, which has spread far more quickly in some populations, as a result of differences in disease-mitigation efforts, housing density, age, occupations and both community and individual  health conditions.   Source

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> More specifically, transmissibility is, in the final analysis, a local dynamic.

A national vaccination rate may be an interesting barometer, but it’s not determining.

Said differently, some communities will likely reach the herd immunity threshold, even if the entire United States does not. Source

Conditions in New York and New Jersey have little impact on, say, Wyoming.

Viral spread in dense urban areas has little relevance to sparsely populated rural areas.

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The bottom line: Don’t fret over Biden & Fauci’s faux thresholds.

Pay attention to conditions in your local community.

If the number of hospitalizations and covid deaths keep declining … then get on with getting on.

DISCLAIMER: I’m neither a medical professional nor a scientist — just a curious, self-interested guy.  So, don’t take anything that I say or write as medical advice. Get that from your doctor!

Why are so many old people still dying of covid?

June 8, 2021

With an 86% vaccination rate, shouldn’t fatalities be closer to zero?
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I still think that the covid death rate, while itself a bit fuzzy, is still the cleanest covid severity metric.

So, I’m trying to understand why covid death rates — which have dropped  from pandemic highs  — are stubbornly hovering near 600 per day.

image

Who’s dying?

One might expect them to be relatively young and unvaccinated.

Certainly not vax-prioritized seniors, right?

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Let’s look at some data…

The CDC doesn’t report the demographics of daily new covid deaths … or, at least, I can’t find it.

So, I’ve tried to decompose the cumulative data that is reported…

Below is data for February 2021 (about 6 weeks into the vax rollout) and May 2021 (the most current) … and, calculated data for the period between those 2 dates.

image

Cumulatively since the start of the pandemic, the 65 & over cohort accounted for around 80% of covid-related fatalities.

OK, that’s not new news.

Most notably, the senior cohort has still been accounting for a 75% share of covid deaths over the past couple of months.

Said bluntly, the vast majority of covid deaths are still among those 65 & over.

What’s going on?

Are all of these deaths are coming from the 14% of seniors (roughly 8 million) who haven’t been vaccinated?

Or, are the vaccines’ effectiveness rates being overstated — and not preventing  90% of fatalities, as promised?

Hmm.

Something just doesn’t smell right…

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I wish the CDC, et. al,, would start reporting more meaningful data.

Case in point: I’d like to see daily covid deaths broken down by age (seniors young adults, teens, kids) … and by their vaccination status.

But, as usual, I won’t hold my breath.

If you can’t trust your barber, who can you trust?

June 7, 2021

So much for following the science …
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Welp, it looks like Biden’s goal of 70% adults getting 1st shots by July 4 isn’t the slam dunk that it initially seemed.

See Biden sets another low bar vaccination goal

With about a month to go, almost 12 million adults over 18 still have to get 1st shots to hit the target.

That works out to about 500,000 first shots per day … roughly the recent 7-day moving average of 1st shots … a number that has been declining and is being buoyed by teenagers (who don’t count against Biden’s target).

image

Recognizing that the goal is in jeopardy, Team Biden has thrown its weight behind a new program.

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Last week, Biden announced “Shots at the Shop” an initiative bringing together 1,000 Black-owned barbershops and beauty salons across the nation to serve as vaccination locations … leveraging the trust and significance they have in Black communities. Source

OK, I understand the need to deliver healthcare to underserved communities … and to use credible messengers.

But, this program raises some obvious questions…

(1) Do we really want barbers and hair stylists to be dishing out medical advice?

They’re probably as spot-on as, say, Dr. Fauci … but still, is that a precedent that Biden wants to establish?

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(2) Is it a good idea to have groups of unvaccinated people converging on barbershops to seek counsel … and maybe get vaccinated?

Program proponents say: “You don’t have to be tethered to a hospital”

Hmm.

I don’t know about your’s, but my barbershop is small-spaced, indoors and not-to-be confused with a sterile operating room.

Bluntly, I avoided my barbershop like the plague during covid until I got fully vaccinated.

If I knew that it was a hang-out for the unvaxed, I would have continued my avoidance.

==============

(3) When did the vaccines suddenly become easy to store, easy to prepare and easy to administer?

Up to now, we’ve been told that (a) the vaccines need to be kept frozen at sub-zero temperatures (b) need a couple of hours of medically precise preparation (c) must be administered within a few hours after being thawed.

I started to wonder how it was possible for small, low volume retail pharmacies to to handle the constraints.

A medically-attuned friend advised me that (a) shipment batch sizes were reduced from about 1,000 doses to about 100. (b) some pharmacies already have deep freezers … others can get them for about $2,500 each (probably with some gov’t subsidies offsetting that amount) (c) pharmacists are well-able to safely perform the thaw and shoot process.

That’s pharmacies (and pharmacists), but it still begs the question …

Barbershops and barbers?

Excuse my skepticism, but this program just doesn’t sound very scientific to me.

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P.S. Some of the above vaccine storage & prep constraints are less limiting with the up-to-now problematic J&J vaccine.

But, that opens a bigger can of worms that we’ll address in a future post.…

WaPo: Biden’s goal of 70% by July 4 looks out of reach …

June 7, 2021

…. as the pace of shots slows drastically.
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Not my words, straight from the Washington Post  … here’s the data … 11.5 million shots needed in 28 days … below current running rate.,

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COVID origins: Vanity Fair “smashes the scientific consensus to smithereens”…

June 4, 2021

… by following the money, outing bureaucratic infighting and connecting the dots.
=============

Yesterday, Vanity Fair — hardly a right-wing, conspiracy-minde rag — published a “must read “ article:

The Lab-Leak Theory: Inside the Fight to Uncover COVID-19’s Origins

The article is relatively balanced politically (including the obligatory swipes at Trump), thoroughly sourced (with names) and documented (with links), very logical and well argued.

Note: The article is long and very detailed.  If you want a quick read (or are pay-walled by Vanity Fair, here’s a PDF version (complete with my highlighting).

VF’s overall conclusion:

Throughout 2020, the notion that the novel coronavirus leaked from a lab was off-limits.

Those who dared to push for transparency say toxic politics and hidden agendas kept them in the dark.

Specifically, VF builds the case supporting the lab-leak theory of covid’s origin … and reports how China “doves” within the government and self-interested, grant-funded scientists tried to shut-down consideration of a possible lab-leak explanation.

Here are some highlights…

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Hostility to “open inquiry”

> National security and public health experts and officials across a range of departments in the executive branch were locked in high-stakes battles over what could and couldn’t be investigated and made public.

> Investigators inside the U.S. government  were operating in an environment that was politicized and hostile to open inquiry.

> Investigators were told “not to pursue an investigation into the origin of COVID-19” because it would “‘open a can of worms’ if it continued.”

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A “conflicted” scientific community

> Conflicts of interest, stemming in part from large government grants supporting controversial virology research, hampered the U.S. investigation into COVID-19’s origin at every step.

> Many leading scientists had either received or approved funding for gain-of-function research. Their conflicted status played a profound role in muddying the waters and contaminating the shot at having an impartial inquiry.”

> If the pandemic started as part of a lab leak, it had the potential to do to virology what Three Mile Island and Chernobyl did to nuclear science. It could mire the field indefinitely in moratoriums and funding restrictions.

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A gain-of-function bureaucracy

> Investigators were told not to say anything that would point to the U.S. government’s own role in gain-of-function research … because that would make clear that “there is a huge gain-of-function bureaucracy” inside the federal government.

> In one State Department meeting, officials were explicitly told by colleagues not to explore the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s gain-of-function research, because it would bring unwelcome attention to U.S. government funding of it.

> Inside the NIH, which funded such research, the P3CO approval  framework was largely met with shrugs and eye rolls.

If you ban gain-of-function research, you ban all of virology.

Ever since the moratorium , everyone’s gone wink-wink and just done gain-of-function research anyway.

===========

About the Chinese military…

> On January 15, five days before President Joe Biden’s swearing in, the State Department released a fact sheet about activity at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, disclosing that:

  • Researchers there had collaborated on secret projects with China’s military and “engaged in classified research, including laboratory animal experiments, on behalf of the Chinese military since at least 2017.”

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Oh my…

Again, the entire article is worth reading for details and context.

Original online article   Highlighted PDF

See also: Fauci: “Doing gain-of-function research was worth the risk of a pandemic.”

Fauci: “Doing gain-of-function research was worth the risk of a pandemic.”

June 3, 2021

Rhetorical question: Why isn’t this getting more media coverage?
============

According to The Weekend Australian (channeled thru Townhall)….

In October 2012, Dr. Anthony Fauci wrote   in the Journal of the  American Society for Microbiology  that “continuing gain-of-function research (on coronaviruses) is worth the risk of a pandemic”.

Say, what?

==============

To put the quote in context…

> Gain-of-function (GOF) research modifies viruses to make them more transmissible and more dangerous (i.e. lethal) to humans.

> Ostensibly, the research is (was) done to understand how the mutations can occur … and to fast-start development of preventive therapeutics and specific antidotes should they occur.

> Prior to 2014, GOF research was conducted in the U.S. in both military and private (e.g. university) laboratories.

> At the time, there were broadening ethical concerns that such research could be weaponized … and posed a public health risk (i.e. accidental release of the virus)

> In 2014, President Obama — nudged by  a handful of reported laboratory “accidents” — issued an executive order banning GOF research in the U.S. and the funding of such research.

> But, of course, Obama’s EO had no force to stop GOF research outside the U.S., say, in China.

=================

OK, that sets the stage…

Again, Fauci is on record as a proponent of GOF research:

In an unlikely but conceivable turn of events, what if that scientist becomes infected with the virus, which leads to an outbreak and ultimately triggers a pandemic?

Many ask reasonable questions: given the possibility of such a scenario – however remote – should the initial experiments have been performed and/or published in the first place, and what were the processes involved in this decision?

Scientists working in this field might say – as indeed I have said – that the benefits of such experiments and the resulting knowledge outweigh the risks.  Source

That was in 2012

In 2014, Obama issued his EO banning U.S. involvement in GOF research.

==============

Subsequent to the 2014 EO, the NIH (i.e. Fauci) continued to fund internationally-based scientific research.

No problem with that, except …

Despite Fauci’s initial denials and obfuscations, it is becoming increasing evidentially apparent that some of the Fauci-approved NIH grants made their way to the Wuhan labs and — given the fungibility of research grants — likely supported their GOF research.

To be fair: (1) The potentially problematic Wuhan grant amounts were small — reported to be under $1 million (2) the grants were funneled through an intermediary not-for-profit (the EcoHealth Alliance), and (3) arguably, there were implied restrictions on the grants’ usage and a presumption that grantees would operate in compliance.

Nonetheless, (1) the grants were made under Fauci’s signature, (2)  they were channeled to Wuhan and (3) Wuhan was doing GOF research.

Said differently, Fauci has deep self-interest in positioning the pandemic’s source as a “natural evolutionary species-jump (from bats)” … and pooh-poohing the possibility that the source was a predictable lab-leak (with his fingerprints on it).

Otherwise, Fauci and the NIH have complicity in triggering the coronavirus.

Hmm.

=============

So, the question that I’d like somebody to ask:

“Dr. Fauci, given a covid fatality rate of more than a million deaths globally — and over  600,000 deaths in the U.S. — do you stand by your 2012 position that gain-of-function research on coronaviruses was  worth the risk of a pandemic?”

My hunch: His views have “evolved”…

June 3: COVID Dashboard

June 3, 2021

Now that the Memorial Day holiday is in the books and data reporting seems to have caught up…

> Daily confirmed case counts below 20,000; deaths still hovering around 600 per day.

Implication: The CFR (case fatality rate) has soared to around 4% (chart below) … why?

> Vaccination rate still falling despite … and that number is buoyed by teenage vaccinations (now over 6 million)

Note: about 13 million adults over 18 need to get 1st shots to hit Biden’s target of 70% by July 4

image

image

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Fauci: “Doing gain-of-function research was worth the risk of a pandemic.”

June 1, 2021

Rhetorical question: Why isn’t this getting more media coverage?
============

According to The Weekend Australian (channeled thru Townhall)….

In October 2012, Dr. Anthony Fauci wrote   in the Journal of the  American Society for Microbiology  that “continuing gain-of-function research (on coronaviruses) is worth the risk of a pandemic”.

Say, what?

==============

To put the quote in context…

> Gain-of-function (GOF) research modifies viruses to make them more transmissible and more dangerous (i.e. lethal) to humans.

> Ostensibly, the research is (was) done to understand how the mutations can occur … and to fast-start development of preventive therapeutics and specific antidotes should they occur.

> Prior to 2014, GOF research was conducted in the U.S. in both military and private (e.g. university) laboratories.

> At the time, there were broadening ethical concerns that such research could be weaponized … and posed a public health risk (i.e. accidental release of the virus)

> In 2014, President Obama — nudged by  a handful of reported laboratory “accidents” — issued an executive order banning GOF research in the U.S. and the funding of such research.

> But, of course, Obama’s EO had no force to stop GOF research outside the U.S., say, in China.

=================

OK, that sets the stage…

Again, Fauci is on record as a proponent of GOF research:

In an unlikely but conceivable turn of events, what if that scientist becomes infected with the virus, which leads to an outbreak and ultimately triggers a pandemic?

Many ask reasonable questions: given the possibility of such a scenario – however remote – should the initial experiments have been performed and/or published in the first place, and what were the processes involved in this decision?

Scientists working in this field might say – as indeed I have said – that the benefits of such experiments and the resulting knowledge outweigh the risks.  Source

That was in 2012

In 2014, Obama issued his EO banning U.S. involvement in GOF research.

==============

Subsequent to the 2014 EO, the NIH (i.e. Fauci) continued to fund internationally-based scientific research.

No problem with that, except …

Despite Fauci’s initial denials and obfuscations, it is becoming increasing evidentially apparent that some of the Fauci-approved NIH grants made their way to the Wuhan labs and — given the fungibility of research grants — likely supported their GOF research.

To be fair: (1) The potentially problematic Wuhan grant amounts were small — reported to be under $1 million (2) the grants were funneled through an intermediary not-for-profit (the EcoHealth Alliance), and (3) arguably, there were implied restrictions on the grants’ usage and a presumption that grantees would operate in compliance.

Nonetheless, (1) the grants were made under Fauci’s signature, (2)  they were channeled to Wuhan and (3) Wuhan was doing GOF research.

Said differently, Fauci has deep self-interest in positioning the pandemic’s source as a “natural evolutionary species-jump (from bats)” … and pooh-poohing the possibility that the source was a predictable lab-leak (with his fingerprints on it).

Otherwise, Fauci and the NIH have complicity in triggering the coronavirus.

Hmm.

=============

So, the question that I’d like somebody to ask:

“Dr. Fauci, given a covid fatality rate of more than a million deaths globally — and over  600,000 deaths in the U.S. — do you stand by your 2012 position that gain-of-function research on coronaviruses was  worth the risk of a pandemic?”

My hunch: His views have “evolved”…