Update: COVID Dashboard

July 29, 2021

Since Team Biden seems to have its collective hair on fire, I thought it would be good to put things in context by looking at the data …

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From the jump, we’ve argued that the most reliable Covid metric is the death rate.

The COVID death rate is now below the average number of flu-related deaths during the flu season… and far down from past peaks.

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Vaccination rates stalled at 500,000 per day, down from 4 million per day at the peak.

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Over 90% of vulnerable seniors have been vaccinated; over 70% of people 18 and over have gotten at least one shot.

Over 10 million teens (42%) have been vaccinated.

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Draw your own conclusions re: whether it’s time to hit the panic button.

 

Covid: Finally, a Biden mandate that I like…

July 29, 2021

All Federal employees to be vaccinated or regularly tested … or else … or else, what?
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That’s what being widely reported that Biden will prompter-read to us today,

But, I’ll believe it when I see it.

There’s already pre-announcement waffling that “the plan” is still under review.

English translation: the federal employee unions haven’t all weighed in yet … and the White House PR dept. hasn’t figured out how to erase all the videos of Biden saying that he’d never do it.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Biden implements the mandate.

Here’s why I’m on board …

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First, it’s consistent with the position that Biden is reading off the teleprompter these days.

It sends a clear message that he believes (and remembers) what he’s reading.

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Second, such a move is under Biden’s direct control.

Rather than forcing private businesses and organizations to do his dirty work while he ducks for cover, Biden will own this one.

Gotta be for clear ownership and accountability, right?

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Third, I like the “target market”: government employees.

If Biden wants to move the needle towards near total vaccinations, getting all Federal employees jabbed is a statistically significant step forward.

Note: It’s estimated that there are over 2 million civilian employees on the Federal payroll … and, that only a slim majority of them have been vaccinated.

And, the bulk of Federal employees are blue-blood members of Biden’s core constituencies.

So, the mandate would demonstrate Biden’s commitment to the cause.

Bravo.

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Fourth, the mandate might “cull the herd” a bit.

That is, if the “or else” part of the mandate has teeth.

Terminating the vaccine-resisters might be an easy way to trim the bloated bureaucracy.

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Going big…

Here are a couple of  embellishing ideas that would make me even more supportive of the mandate:

> Start with NIH and CDC employees.

In Congressional testimony, leaders of these organizations said that only about half of their employees have been vaccinated.

That’s always bothered me … what do they know that they’re not telling us?

Make it “put up or shut up time” for the assertive scientific community.

If they believe what they’re saying, let’s see them all roll up their sleeves.

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> Add Federal government employees’ dependents (over 12 years old) to the target market.

Tax payers are paying for their healthcare, right?

And, the CDC says that they can transmit the virus to vaccinated people.

So, let’s minimize the the healthcare costs of them getting infected and transmitting Covid to their government employed family member(s).

Makes complete sense, doesn’t it?

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> Require all employees of all Federal government contractor to get vaccinated.

They come in contact with government employees — some of whom will be signing up for tests instead of shots.

So, to create a virus-minimized environment, they need to be vaccinated, right?

And, there’s a forcing mechanism: If they want to keep feeding at the taxpayer trough, they have to roll up their sleeves.

Should be an easy sell given how quickly many of these companies were “fast out of the gate” to implement woke behavioral training programs for their employees.

They’ve shown that they can do it if they want to.

Just tack vaccinations onto those programs.

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> Extend the mandate to all  public school teachers.

The teachers’ unions are already firing warning shots that they aren’t sure about in-person schooling in the fall.

Let’s cut teachers’ health risks by getting them all vaccinated.

There’s obvious mandate legitimacy since their schools are getting beaucoup de l’argent (translation: lots of money) from the Federal coffers.

Worse case, teachers formally quit (instead of de facto quitting in place)… and get replaced by teachers who want to teach

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Geez, the more I think about a vaccination mandate for civilian government employees, the more that I like the idea.

I can’t wait to see what Biden’s handlers load on the teleprompter for him today.

But, for the record, I’m betting the under … more “please do” than “must do”.

We’ll see…

Psaki: “Why do you need to have that information?”

July 28, 2021

Ordinary people are confused … and docs say that they are flying blind.
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It’s hard to follow the data when there’s no data presented … just assertions from oft-wrong political-scientists who command “just trust me”.

Case in point, as reported by USA Today

Last Friday, Jen Psaki — Biden’s press secretary — was asked for data about Covid “break-through infections” — cases of people getting re-infected with Covid even though they have been fully vaccinated.

When Psaki tried to duck the question, the reporter pressed her for a specific answer.

“Why not just provide the number? Are you trying to hide something?”

Psaki shot back, “Why do you need to have that information?

Say, what?

The reported countered: “For transparency, in the interest of the public, and for a better understanding of how breakthrough cases work”.

Frustrated, Psaki simply moved on to another topic.

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This was a stark example of what Biden-Harris might call a ”root cause” … a root cause of public distrust and, maybe even, of vaccine hesitancy.

Loosely quoting Jerry Maguire “Show me the data!”

Uh-oh:: Pessimism has hit a majority of Americans …

July 27, 2021

Buyer’s remorse is gaining steam.
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More specifically, the ABC-Ipsos poll reports:

  • Currently, 55% are pessimistic about where the country is headed over the next year, while 45% are optimistic.
  • This marks a nearly 20-point decline in optimism from late April, the last time this question was asked. At that time, 64% were optimistic about the year ahead.
  • This growing pessimism is happening across all age groups, income levels, educational attainment, and partisan affiliation.
  • Optimism among Democrats has declined 18 percentage points since late April (89% to 71%).
  • Optimism among independents has declined by 26 percentage points (now 38%, from 64%).
  • The optimism-pessimism flip comes as Americans give Biden his lowest approval rating for his handling of the pandemic yet in ABC News/Ipsos polling.
  • Overall, slightly more than a third of Americans approve of the way the president is handling crime (39%), immigration and the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border (37%), and gun violence (37%).
  • On these three issues, just over one in three independents approve of the job Biden is doing.

Looks like Old Joe’s honeymoon may be over.

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P.S. For the record: ABC News isn’t affiliated with Fox News …

Beach Week Report: “Unprecedented demand, help wanted”…

July 26, 2021

Just back from our family’s annual summer week on the Delaware beaches.

Here’s what I observed this year:

> “Unprecedented demand”: That’s what the condo-rental agency headlined … and, it wasn’t just rate-jacking hype … full occupancy was evident … open parking spots were few and far between (and far away from destinations).

> Families galore: The beaches were crowded with frolicking families … always a pleasant sight to see … seemed remarkably normal.

> What COVID? There were very, very few masks  … and only a few tattered “keep your distance” signs that just hadn’t been taken down yet.

> “Help Wanted”: Every store, restaurant and service counter had a sign that warned customers that “due to a severe labor shortage, our service isn’t up to our standards so please be patient”

One pizza restauranteur lamented: “Kids just don’t want to work” .. young adults are just enjoying their government-funded summer vacations … the Eastern European teens & twenty-somethings  who usually staff the shops and beaches can’t get visas.

>”Demand management”: Marketing is alive and well.  To cope with the “unprecedented demand and labor shortage”, establishments are trying desperately to smooth demand across day-parts (think: early bird specials).

For example, to spread the workload for cleaning crews, our condo agency offered a partial refund if we’d accept a later than usual check-in (late Saturday evening or Sunday morning, instead of Saturday afternoon)) or a very early checkout (Friday afternoon or evening, instead of Saturday morning)

> Patience reigned: Admittedly, we stayed mostly cocooned in our condo and on its beach, but … when we got out, people seemed to be going with the flow … patiently waiting in line for service without whining or line-cutting … servers had great attitudes while hustling their butts off.

> “Thanks for working”: To the prior point, even cheapskates like me were tipping more than usual … and thanking workers for working.

I wonder if that will become a new normal…

Study: Half of soccer games determined by luck…

July 23, 2021

Researchers at the German Sport University  analyzed 7,263 goals scored in the English Premier League in seven years, starting with the 2012/13 seasons.

Here’s what they found…

> Premier League soccer games games typically have only 2 or 3 combined goals scored goals

> More than 60% of all matches ended either in a draw or with a goal difference of one goal

Accordingly, each goal scored is a very big deal

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Further, almost half (46%) of all scored goals had some form of random influence to them.

The researchers defined “random” as unintentionally deflected shots, defensive mistakes (e.g. “own goals”), rebound shots, etc.

They observed that many of the random scores came off of corner kicks or long-range kicks, especially long distance free-kicks.

In other words, “chance” (i.e. “luck”) plays a significant role in deciding the outcome of a near-majority of matches.

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By implication, the research results suggests that teams have a tendency to play very conservatively … trying to avoid mistakes … rather than relentlessly attacking.

And, the analysis validates some common soccer sense: free-kicks (awarded based on referees’ judgement) often determine the difference between winning and losing.

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Yeah, luck is a factor.

But, keep in mind the famous sports quote attributed to golf-great Arnold Palmer:

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Which party is responsible for America’s partisan divide?

July 22, 2021

Interesting analysis of Pew data by hard left-leaning blogger Kevin Drum
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Below is a display of political leanings by party affiliation from 1994 to 2017… roughly 25 years.

  • Dems are the blue hump; GOP is the reddish brown.
  • Scale runs from 1 (“consistently liberal”) on the left to 10 (“consistently conservative”) on the right.

A couple of takeaways…

> Back in 1994 there was a substantial overlap of the humps (the dark brown hump in the middle) … meaning that there were a lot of “moderates” (from both parties) who clustered near the non-partisan median.

> There wasn’t much change from 1994 to 2004. But, from 2004 to 2017, that overlapping hump was substantially diminished … and the overall median was pulled left.

> More specifically, blogger Drum observes that:

Back in 1994, Dems median political leaning was a 5 on the scale; GOP scored a 6 … a very narrow gap in average views.

But in 2017, Dems median political leaning was a 2 on the scale; the GOP’s median score was a 6.5 … and the partisan gap widened to 4.5 points.

What changed?

Between 1994 and 2017, the GOP’s political leaning was relatively static … the GOP median barely budged and the shape hump was similar.

Said differently, the GOP didn’t become significantly more conservative.

But, between 1994 and 2017, the Dems’ political leaning shifted left by 3 points … and the hump became became more clustered … with a noticeably more peaked shape.

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In Drum’s words: “Democrats have moved significantly to the left on most hot button social issues while Republicans have moved only slightly right.”

And, his summary conclusion:

It is not conservatives who have turned American politics into a partisan culture war battle. It is liberals.”

Depending on your personal political views, that may be a good thing or a bad thing…

Bidenomics: Pay people to sit on the couch and…

July 21, 2021

Shocker: They sit on the couch!
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Team Biden denies it, but its lavish supplemental unemployment benefits are keeping many unemployeds on the sidelines.

Some analysts estimate that the stay-at-home benefits offered to many unemployed households is equivalent of $25/hour … which translates to about $50,000 annually for a full-time worker ($25 x 8 hours per day x 5 days per week x 50 weeks per year).

If that number strikes you as too high, cut it in half and the conclusions don’t change.

If that’s too high for your tastes, haircut it again and…

According to a poll reported by left-leaning Morning Consult, at least 13% of the folks still unemployed admit that they’re currently receiving enough money from unemployment benefits that they don’t need to work … and, 12% say that they’re not being offered enough money to return to work (compared to the unemployment benefits that they’re receiving).

Stats Note: There’s probably a substantial overlap in those 2 groups…. but the combining “net” number is likely higher than 13% … maybe much higher.

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The bottom line according to Morning Consult is that an estimated 1.84 million unemployeds will return to the labor force when the federal unemployment benefits expire over the summer.

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Think that’ll change Biden’s position?

I’m betting the under…

Inflation: More about the lumber price shock…

July 20, 2021

Yesterday, we pointed out that In June, year-over-year inflation reached a 13-year high.

Today, let’s drill down on my personal inflation benchmark: lumber prices:

Loyal readers might remember that a couple of weeks ago, I whined about sky-rocketed lumber prices.

See Ouch: I just paid $3,700 for $1,200 of lumber …

Since then, lumber prices have “corrected” somewhat … down about 60% from the peak … but still 50% higher than a year ago.

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That doesn’t lessen the pocketbook sting from my completed project, but it gives me some hope for my next lumber-intensive project: re-planking my retirement home’s dock.

For that project, I’ll be buying lots of #2 prime pressure-treated boards measuring 2 in. x 8 in. x 8 ft.

That’s my personal inflation pain point these days.

Not that long ago, I used to pay about $5 per board.

A couple of weeks ago, Home Depot was charging a whopping $17.98.

Last week the price dropped to $12.99 … a 27% price drop.

This week, the price is down to $10.99 … another 15% price-shaving.

That’s still double what I used to pay … but the price is heading in the right direction!

That is, unless Bidenomics strikes again…

And, as many news sources are reporting, that’s not a far-fetched worry:

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Yipes.

“In June, year-over-year inflation reached a 13-year high.”

July 19, 2021

That’s the mega-takeaway from the most recent gov’t report.
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June’s 5.4% follows May’s 5% and April’s 4% 

Press Secretary Psaki says, based on the administration’s arithmetic, we shouldn’t worry. She noted that  she and Biden — the ever sharp shoppers — paid 16 cents less for their July 4th BBQs.

For the rest of us, in real terms, the inflation shock means that our paychecks are in only buying about 95% of what they did a year ago … and, excluding our new contributions and  stock market gains, the “real” value of our IRA is shrinking at a 5.4% annual rate.

Ouch…

COVID: So, where do we stand now?

July 16, 2021

We haven’t  checked the numbers in awhile, so…
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Vaccinations

Close to Biden’s original goal of 70% of adults … almost 90% of seniors (over 65) … almost 40% of teenagers (just under 10 million).

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Central question: What’s the upward limit in vaccine compliance?

WSJ: “With each day, as more Americans are vaccinated, an unvaccinated person’s likelihood of encountering the disease or spreading it goes down, as does his incentive to accept the risk of vaccination. ”

Especially given recent trends in Covid death rates…

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Covid-related deaths

The covid death rate continues to hover around 250 … roughly the in-season death rate associated with the flu … and down 66% from a month ago; down 66% from 3 months ago; and down 92% from the mid-January peak.

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Covid cases

The confirmed case count has turned up from its trough … roughly double what it was a month ago … worth closely watching, but not hair-on-fire time.

Keep in mind that the current rate is still down 66% from 3 months ago … and down 89% from the mid-January peak.

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Bottom line: Farther along than most people imagined possible, but not out of the woods yet…

WSJ: “There are no dispensable persons”

July 15, 2021

Sometimes, mostly in my wildest dreams, I think that the WSJ is reading the HomaFIles for inspiration

For example, yesterday we posted about The unintended consequences of “non-essentiality”

This morning, the WSJ ran an opinion piece observing that no one is dispensable.

See: God’s Jigsaw Puzzle Needs Every Piece

The author claims to have had an epiphany when watching his daughter put together large jigsaw puzzles.

His prior disposition was that a jigsaw puzzle was:

A picture that consists of far more nonessential than essential pieces.

More parts of Mona Lisa’s background, for instance, than her enigmatic smile.

He admits that in his life, he saw many people (and things) the same way that he saw jigsaw puzzles … lots of uninteresting background pieces.

But, stirred by his daughter’s puzzle-making, a light bulb went off…

Life is a jigsaw puzzle, but I’ve been looking at its pieces entirely wrong.

There are no dispensable persons.

A background piece is no less essential than one completing Mona Lisa’s painted smile,.

A gap anywhere destroys integrity everywhere.

His derived principle for life:

That I cannot see everyone’s essential nature makes it no less so.

This is my challenge: to look for unique beauty in others, to trust it’s there when hardest to discern

Amen, brother.

The unintended consequences of “non-essentiality”…

July 14, 2021

Has gov’t “branding” of workers slowed the vaccination rate and the return to work?
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In the past, I’ve taken aim at “non-essential” government workers.

See: It’s snowing in DC … “non-essentials” need not report.

A couple of times each winter, the Federal gov’t in DC shuts down because of snow … or the mere threat of snow.

When there is a gov’t shutdown, my favorite public service message is blasted on radio, TV and social media:

Due the inclement weather, non-essential Federal government workers do not have to report for work today.

The closure announcement always raises a fundamental question: Why do non-essential Federal government workers ever have to report for work?

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What has that got to do with a couple of our current challenges: vaccination rates and “labor force participation”?

In a prior post, we asked: Did rationing priorities induce vaccine hesitancy?

Initially, when vaccine supply was very limited, the Feds established priority recipients, mostly frontline medical personnel, first-responders and vulnerable seniors.

No problem there.

Then came a growing list of workers deemed “essential” (including, say, unionized teachers who were sitting on the sidelines)

What about the folks who were, by default, officially declared to be non-essential? Folks like grocery store clerks.

The message to them: you’re not essential … so, there’s no pressing need to get you vaccinated … just wait your turn.

Now, that vaccine supplies are plentiful, these people aren’t rushing the gates to get their shots.

After all, they either caught covid during the virus’ peak and have “natural immunity” … or they’re non-essential, so why bother?

That’s what’s known as an “unintended consequence”.

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Might the same effect be slowing the return of some prior workers to the labor force?

It’s well publicized that the Feds are paying unemployed people at the supplemental annual rate of about $15,000 … more than many were making when they were working.

Of course, most behaviorists argue that work provides psychological benefits and bolsters self-worth.

But, the government had previously branded these people non-essential.

That’s gotta push some self-worth to rock bottom.

Ask yourself, why work for less money (than sitting home collecting unemployment benefits) … at a job that has been officially declared to be non-essential?

It’s called behavioral economics…

It’s snowing in DC … “non-essentials” need not report.

July 14, 2021

From the HomaFiles archives…
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Imagine that it’s snowing in DC today … err, kinda.

Not much on the ground … temp is 34 degrees … roads are clear … but those AccuWeather folks are saying more snow is coming.

Good enough for the Feds … to shut the government down.

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Archive photo … not from today!

* * * * *
Invariably, my absolute favorite public service message gets blasted on TV, radio and social media:

Due the inclement weather, non-essential Federal government workers do not have to report for work today.

The snow closure announcement always raises a fundamental question: Why do non-essential Federal government workers ever have to report for work?

My predictable advice: On the next snow day, why not change the locks and pass out new badges to people who self-selected as “essential” and trudged through the threatened-snow to come  to work.

Which raises another question: How many “non-essential” employees does the Federal government carry on its rolls?

Read the rest of this entry »

Why aren’t urban gangs treated as domestic terrorists?

July 13, 2021

At least 150 people killed over July 4th weekend.
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According to Forbes reporting of data collated by the Gun Violence Archive :

At least 150 people across the U.S. were killed by gun violence in more than 400 shootings over the Fourth of July weekend

That puts 2021 on track to continue, and exceed, the violent surge that made 2020 the deadliest year of gun violence in decades.

The killings were spread across the country, but concentrated in major metro areas: Chicago and New York.

imageSource

I find it predictably curious that Forbes — and practically all other mass media outlets — tag the killings as “gun violence” … and not “gang violence”.

While there were certainly some domestic disputes and road rage incidents in the mix, it’s pretty reasonable to conclude that most of murders were gang-related … either direct gang retaliatory strikes or innocents killed by stray gang bullets.

So, why is the gang problem being back-burnered?

I’m going to go out on a limb and assert that gangs are the root cause.  Period.

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How prevalent are gangs?

Well, according to the FBI:

Some 33,000 violent street gangs, motorcycle gangs, and prison gangs are criminally active in the U.S. today.

Many are sophisticated and well organized.

All use violence to control neighborhoods and boost their illegal money-making activities, which include robbery, drug and gun trafficking, prostitution and human trafficking, and fraud.

Drilling down, according to an Attorney General’s Report to Congress on the Growth of Violent Street Gangs:

More than 20,000 gangs consisting of approximately 1 million members exist in the United States.

Gangs are present in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and all U.S. territories.

An estimated 70 to 75 gangs with more than 100,000 members reportedly operate within Chicago

Let’s call it like it is: gang violence.. declare these gangs to be   “domestic terrorists” … and target them  with aggressive law enforcement.

Strikes me as a more likely way to combat the rampage of killings.

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P.S. What credibility does the U.S. have lecturing other countries to contain their gangs and cartels if we can’t do it in Chicago?

Is “buyer’s remorse” setting in?

July 12, 2021

Forbes: Biden’s approval eroding nationally
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Shortly after inauguration, Biden — basking in Trump-haters’ euphoria — was cruising with a 19 percentage point job approval rating — 55% favorable, 36% unfavorable.

That gap has narrowed to 8 points … still formidable but, as Forbes observes: “Recent polling shows cracks forming in President Joe Biden’s job approval numbers.”

Left-leaning The Hill puts it this way: “Biden’s mediocre polling could spell trouble.”

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Let’s look at the numbers…

Here’s the most recent RCP “Poll of Polls”.

The black line is approval; the red line is disapproval.

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Note that the 6-month “erosion” is largely driven by the disapproval numbers (up 8 percentage points) … approval numbers have slid slowly (down 3 p.p.).

Also note that 6 of the 8 disapproval points change happened between January and April.

Pundits assert that’s because Biden campaigned as a moderate unifier, but quickly started governing as a wide left partisan.

People at the margins quickly started to notice.

In April and May, the numbers flattened as vaccination rates were surging, but as COVID came increasingly under some semblance of control, peoples’ priorities started to shift:

“During the past few months, a growing number of adults have expressed disapproval of Biden’s leadership on the economy, gun violence, taxation and corruption.” Forbes

Other pundits add the border mayhem and urban crime to the list.

Biden scores poorly on those issues.

And, there’s the orange-man factor,

The Hill observes:

Just as Biden’s positive polling and election win were based mostly on dislike of former President Trump, his current polling advantages may be just as shallow

Said differently, it may not be enough to not-be-Trump … and now people are forgetting about Trump and increasingly alert to how Biden-Harris are doing their jobs.

Hmmm.

Study: Children’s risk of serious covid consequences VERY low…

July 9, 2021

UK death rate: 2 per million children
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According to a recap in the WSJ

Children are at extremely slim risk of dying from Covid-19, according to some of the most comprehensive studies to date, which indicate the threat might be even lower than previously thought.

The conclusion is drawn from 3 studies  by researchers who analyzed the U.K.’s national health system’s medical records.

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Here are the numbers….

> There are approximately 12 million children under 18 in the U.K. Source

> None of the 12 million were vaccinated (since no vaccine was approved in the U.K. for children under 18)

> Of the 12 million, 469,982 got infected with covid … that’s about 4% of the children under 18 and under

> Of the 469,982 who got infected, only 25 deaths were determined to be caused by the illness.

> The 25 deaths works out to a survivability rate of 99.995% among children who get infected …. which translates to 1 death per every 19,000 children who get infected … and, 2 deaths per every million children under 18.

> Of the 25 deaths, only 6 of the children who died didn’t have an apparent underlying health condition.

> Conversely, 15 of the 25 children who died had underlying serious illnesses … and 4 had chronic underlying conditions.

> And, there appeared to be a higher risk of admission to intensive care among children with health conditions such as diabetes, asthma and cardiovascular disease

> Children with a combination of neurological and respiratory-linked conditions were at the greatest risk of death… but “no child with a stand-alone diagnosis of asthma, diabetes, epilepsy or Down syndrome died from Covid-19”.

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The bottom line according to the WSJ:

One thorny area for policy makers is whether to recommend the shots for children of younger ages.

The decision should involve balancing the risks and benefits of vaccination.

The CDC has urged child vaccination, saying the benefits outweigh the risks.

But, there is mounting evidence of a  low risk of serious illness and death from Covid-19 among children.

And, the CDC concedes that there is a “likely association” between  Covid-19 vaccines and an inflammatory heart condition in some younger individuals.

That should give some parents pause…

Update: COVID Dashboard

July 7, 2021

COVID death rate is now below the average number of flu-related deaths during the flu season.

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Vaccination rates stalled at 1 million per day, down from 4 million per day at the peak, but…

Almost 90% of vulnerable seniors have been vaccinated; over 2/3’s of people 18 and over.

9 million teens (37%) have been vaccinated.

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On balance, it looks like we’re in pretty good shape…

Atlantic: “mRNA vaccines are extraordinary, NovaVax is better”

July 6, 2021

Let’s close a loop today.

Last week, drilled down on a warning that caught my eye in the scientific bio-pic “The Code Breaker”:

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

Specifically, we followed “the science” to a conclusion — contrary to CDC claims —  that the current emergency-approved covid vaccines might have some significant long-term risks.

The pivotal question: How to dodge the risks of the current batch of vaccines?

One possible answer was touted in the left-leaning Atlantic : “mRNA vaccines are extraordinary, NovaVax is better”.

The author, Hilda Bastian is a scientist  and,  was formerly an editor at the National Library of Medicine.

Bastion appropriately acknowledges that:

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been extraordinary lifesavers in this pandemic, and may well be heading us into a new golden age of vaccine development.

But after reviewing a vaccine being tested by Novavax, she observes that:

The latest Novavax data confirm that it’s possible to achieve the same efficacy against COVID-19 with a more familiar technology that more people may be inclined to trust.

More specifically…

> The Novavax vaccine is based on road-tested “old school” med-technology (i.e. not mRNA or DNA based)

The protein-subunit approach used by Novavax was first implemented for the hepatitis B vaccine, which has been used in the U.S. since 1986.

The pertussis vaccine, which is required for almost all children in U.S. public schools, is also made this way.

> According to recent test data, the Novavax vaccine’s 96% efficacy rate is in line with that of the current emergency-approved mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna)

> The Novavax vaccine also has a substantially lower rate of side effects than the emergency-authorized mRNA vaccines.

 Test data shows that about 40 percent of people who receive Novavax report fatigue after the second dose, as compared with 65 percent for Moderna and more than 55 percent for Pfizer.

Based on the results of Novavax’s U.K. clinical trials, side effects (including but not limited to fatigue) aren’t just less frequent; they’re milder too.

> Novavax’s simpler technology is  easier to produce than the mRNA and DNA vaccines … and can be stored with “normal” refrigeration for a year.

So, Bastian concludes:

Among several wonderful options, the more old-school vaccine from Novavax combines ease of manufacture with high efficacy and lower side effects.

For the moment, it’s the best COVID-19 vaccine we have.

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P.S. Bastian notes that:

The CDC has also made a point of debunking the circulating falsehood that COVID-19 vaccines can change your DNA.

As I laid out in prior posts, following the science leads me to a different conclusion.

But, if Novavax succeeds, that’s a moot issue.

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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!

FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE: I own some NVAX stock.

Happy 4th of July

July 4, 2021

Kick back … enjoy your friends & families … be thankful for our freedoms.

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Part 4: “Unexpected things happen when you start fiddling with the innards of living cells.”

July 2, 2021

So, what are the “unexpected things” that might happen?
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In prior posts, I opined that:

  • The above headlined  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.
  • Unlike most traditional vaccines, all of the current emergency-approved covid vaccines “fiddle with cells” in one way or another.
  • The mRNA vaccines (Pfizer & Moderna) are generally presumed to be safe — both short- and long-run since their fragile RNA strands “fiddle” with cells, but do not penetrate cells’ DNA-storing nuclei … and, are “eventually destroyed by the cell, leaving no permanent trace.”
  • The CDC assures that — for the J&J viral vector DNA vaccine — “genetic material in the vaccines cannot affect or interact with our DNA in any way” … because “the (vaccine’s) material never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept.”
  • But, a senior NY Times science reporter investigated and concluded that when injected, “the vaccine’s adenovirus component … pushes its DNA into the nucleus, the chamber where the cell’s DNA is stored.
  • That’s not a trivial difference in opinion.

We left off in Part 3 with a question: If the NYT is right, what are the possible implications?

This is where my anxieties kick in.

Here’s some science that I dutifully followed …

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

A trusted med-science source linked me to a technical article on Adenoviruses & Pathogenesis.

The article had a statement re: pathogenesis (i.e. the development of diseases) that caught my eye:

Some adenovirus types are oncogenic in newborn rodents and can transform cells.

Human oncogenesis has not been found but may nevertheless occur (e.g., by a “hit-and-run” mechanism).

Translation: A possible link between adenoviruses and cancer.

More specifically…

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

Drilling down on “human oncogenesis(i.e., cancer-causing)  I found this information re: DNA Oncoviruses:

Three DNA oncoviruses have been studied extensively: Adenoviruses, Simian virus 40 (SV40), Human papillomavirus-16 (HPV-16).


All three of these DNA oncoviruses are able to integrate their DNA into the host cell, and use this to transcribe it and transform cells by bypassing the G1/S checkpoint of the cell cycle.

Which led me to Integration of Viral DNA

DNA oncoviruses transform infected cells by integrating their DNA into the host cell’s genome.


The DNA is believed to be inserted during transcription or replication, when the two annealed strands are separated.


This event is relatively rare and generally unpredictable; there seems to be no deterministic predictor of the site of integration.


After integration, the host’s cell cycle loses regulation from Rb and p53, and the cell begins cloning to form a tumor.

Which led me to a  “red flag” article: Engineering DNA vaccines against infectious diseases

6.2. Insertional mutagenesis of viral delivery methods


DNA vaccines may cause indel mutations, the risks of which depend on the mechanism of delivery.


The administration of a DNA vaccine exposes the patient to foreign DNA or its fragments that could be inserted into the host’s chromosomal DNA.


In the case of incorporation into an exon, an insertional mutation or a frameshift mutation occurs.


Such mutations can cause a gene to malfunction or inactivate (i.e., a tumor suppressor gene).

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

Bottom line: There appears to be “science” that — when followed — suggests a possible “rare and unpredictable” link between viral vector adenoviruses and cancer.

That said, the CDC (and the sometimes right Dr. Fauci) categorically claim that the “genetic material in the vaccines cannot affect or interact with our DNA in any way.”

That assertion, while untested over time, may be true.

But, as they say in Code Breaker:

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

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

My advice: caveat emptor, keeping in mind my usual disclaimer that:…

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!

Part 3: “Unexpected things happen when you start fiddling with the innards of living cells.”

July 1, 2021

So, what about the “viral vector adenovirus vaccines”?
=============

In Part 1 and Part 2, I opined that:

  • The above headlined  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.
  • Unlike most traditional vaccines, all of the current emergency-approved covid vaccines “fiddle with cells” in one way or another.
  • The mRNA vaccines (Pfizer & Moderna) are generally presumed to be safe — both short- and long-run since their fragile RNA strands “fiddle” with cells, but do not penetrate cells’ DNA-storing nuclei … and, are “eventually destroyed by the cell, leaving no permanent trace.”

We left off in Part 2 with a question: What about the J&J vaccine?

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

Let me explain….

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

The J&J vaccine is a so-called “viral vector adenovirus vaccine.”

According to a well-researched NY Times’ recap of How the J&J Vaccine Works

  • Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which store the instructions in single-stranded RNA, the J&J vaccine uses more durable double-stranded DNA.
  • When injected, the vaccine’s adenovirus component … travels to a cell’s nucleus, the chamber where the cell’s DNA is stored.
  • The adenovirus pushes its DNA into the nucleus

Two key points from the NYT explanation: (1) The J&J vaccine contains DNA, not the more fragile RNA in the Pfizer & Moderna vaccines, and (2) the DNA penetrates cells’ nuclei (where DNA is stored).

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

What’s the rub?

The CDC’s published statement regarding the J&J vaccine reads:

“The material never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept.

This means the genetic material in the vaccines cannot affect or interact with our DNA in any way.”

Working backwards…

The CDC concludes that:  “The genetic material in the vaccines cannot affect or interact with our DNA in any way.”

That conclusion is logically derived and dependent on the premise that: The material never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept.

So, the CDC’s conclusion re: the vaccine’s long-run safety hinges on whether the vaccine’s DNA penetrates cells’ nuclei … or not.

Uh oh…

The CDC says that the DNA doesn’t penetrate nuclei … the NY Times well-credentialed science reporter says that it does.

This is not a trivial difference.

Begs still another question:

What are the implications if the NY Times conclusion is correct?

After all, it might be since the NYT hasn’t been charged by the mass media or censored by social media tech gatekeepers for conveying misinformation, right?

=============
To be continued…
=============

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!

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

June 30, 2021

 What constitutes “fiddling with cells”?
=============

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…

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

=============
To be continued…
=============

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?
=============

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
==============…

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.

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

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” ?

=============
To be continued…
=============

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.
==============

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?

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

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

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

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?

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

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

image

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?

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

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

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.

image

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.

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

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.

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

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.”

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

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.

===========

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.

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

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.
=============

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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”

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

image
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…

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

Gasoline

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

image

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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.

image

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.
=============

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…

Read the rest of this entry »

Cleveland Clinic: “Natural immunity” is for real…

June 10, 2021

A hopeful sign for herd immunity
============

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.

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

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.

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

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!

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

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.

===========

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.
=============

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.

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

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

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

> 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

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

> 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.

===========

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?
=============

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.

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Who’s dying?

One might expect them to be relatively young and unvaccinated.

Certainly not vax-prioritized seniors, right?

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

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…

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

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 …
=============

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).

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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?

===========

(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.

=============
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.
=============

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…

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

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.”

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

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.

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

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.”

===========

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

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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”…

On this Memorial Day …

May 30, 2021

 Remember all who gave their lives on our behalf
   … and thank those who are serving us now. 

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May 29: COVID Dashboard

May 29, 2021

> Slight uptick in covid deaths

> Almost 1 in 4 teens 1st shot vaccinated

> Over 18 vaccinations still slowing

image

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So, why are covid death rates higher in some states?

May 28, 2021

A common hypothesis is that there’s a strong correlation between death rates and the percentage of a state’s population that that is vaccinated.

The hypothesis seems reasonable, so I decided to to test it…

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

Below is a scatter chart of the 50 states … on the horizontal axis is the current vaccination rate (% of residents 18 and over who have received at least 1 shot) on the vertical axis is the past month’s covid death rate (deaths per million residents).

image

To the naked eye, the chart is more buckshot than correlation.

Arguably, there’s a slight positive relationship … with emphasis on “slight” since the R-squared is a mere .0325 … which is, for all practical purposes, not statistically different from zero.

Let’s dig a little deeper…

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

Below is a matrix that puts names names on the above dots.

The rows are vaccination rates — over 60% at the top (good), under 40% at the bottom (bad).

The columns are the  past month’s covid death rates — left is under 40 deaths per million (good), right is over 0 deaths per million (bad).

So, for example, the states in the blue quadrant have high vaccination rates and low death rates.

The states in the red quadrant have low vaccination rates and high death rates.

Those are to be expected.

But, there are a lot of states in the orange (high death rates despite high vax rates) and yellow quadrants (low death rates despite low vax rates)

image
click for a full-size, printable PDF

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Let’s look at the top rows … the states that have vaccinated the highest percentages of their residents.

image

A couple of observations:

> Nearly all of the states in the top 2 rows (high vaccination rates) are Northern Blue  states … most with dense metro population centers.

> A majority of these high vaccination rate states still have high death rates … and, in aggregate, these states account for a disproportionate share of current covid deaths.

See Nums: 10 states account for 2/3′;s of covid deaths

> Most of the current high death rate states have had high death rates from the get-go … vaccinations  may have cut the death rate from previously high levels, but the states are still challenged.

> Two states — Massachusetts & California — have currently low death rates substantially below their pre-vax levels … likely attributable to vaccinations, but there may be other factors in play.

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

What about the bottom rows – the low vaccination rate states?

image

> Generally, states with low vax rates are Red states with dispersed populations … more rural … with many in sunnier Southern climates.

> Michigan and Wisconsin are outliers to the general rule … Michigan is particularly interesting since it has been one of the most locked down, masked states … yet, the state has a relatively low vax rate (which their wacky gov has laid off against supply constraints) … and still has a sky high death rate.

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

Bottom line: Covid death rates are a lot more complicated than simply tying them to vaccination rates.

Are the most vulnerable being vaccinated? What other factors are in play?

We’ll keep thinking about it … your thoughts?

Currently, which states have the highest (and lowest) covid death rates?

May 27, 2021

Cumulative death rates — since the beginning of the pandemic — are largely irrelevant.

What matters now is recent covid activity!

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

Yesterday, we pointed out that, in total, there were just under 22,000 covid deaths in the US over the past month.

Disaggregating that number…

10 states — which house about 1/2 of the US population — accounted for about 2/3’s of the total covid deaths in the past month.

image

The high death counts are not just a matter of states’ big populations.

The death rate in Top 10 states is running about 20% higher than the national average … and is about 50% higher  than in the other 40 states (79.7 deaths per million  versus 51.4).

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

Today, let’s dig a little deeper on the state death rates over the past month….

Michigan — which tops the above Top 10 list — had more than triple the national average rate of covid deaths over the past month (215 deaths per million versus  to 67).

Pennsylvania and New Jersey follow with more than 100 deaths per million in the past month.

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

Re-sorting the data, below are the 10 states with the highest death rates over the past month.

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3 states that are in the Top 10 for number of deaths aren’t in the Top 10 for death rates: California, Texas and Ohio … suggesting that their high death counts are largely population driven

7 states (highlighted in light red above) are in the Top 10 for number of deaths and the Top 10 for death rates… suggesting that high death rates are a major contributor to their high fatality counts.

3 states that didn’t make the Top 10 for death counts, do make the Top 10 in death rates: Hawaii, Kentucky and Maryland … raising obvious concern.

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

Flipping the data, here are the states that have had the lowest death rate over the past month:

image

Note that these low death states are relatively small,  geographically diverse and politically skewed (8 Red, 4 Blue).

Note: West Virginia made a significant downward adjustment to its reported  fatalities and is excluded in this ranking.

Click here for a list of all stats’ data

=============
OK, enough for the descriptive data…

What’s going on with the recent death rates?

A popular hypothesis is that states with high vaccination rates have have low death rates  … and vice versa.

Spoiler alert: It’s not vaccination rates.

Stay tuned … we’ll dig into the Vaccination – death rate relationship tomorrow.

May 27: COVID Dashboard

May 27, 2021

> 1st vax shots drop to 700,000 / day

> Deaths hovering between 500 and 600 per day

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