Monday, April 06, 2020

Controlavirus Theme Song For The Real Ones

forbes |  Gun sales have soared in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, with background checks by Americans attempting to purchase firearms jumping 41% to 3.7 million last month, according to recent FBI data. While Bass Pro is privately held and doesn’t disclose how much of its $8 billion in revenue is from firearm sales, its website lists 880 guns for sale, starting at $129.99 for a semi-automatic rifle.

Ultimately, it is up to states and cities whether gun stores can remain open. The federal government emphasized that its list is advisory in nature and is not intended to be a directive or standard that must be complied with. State and local governments have the freedom to “add or subtract essential workforce categories based on their own requirements and discretion,” according to the guidance.
After the updated federal guidance was issued, Massachusetts revised its list of essential businesses in lockstep to include firearm retailers. However, several hours later, the governor changed his mind and took them off the list once again, underscoring the fluidity of the situation. Bass Pro swiftly moved to close a store outside of Boston on Thursday, which had remained open in apparent defiance of the original ban. The company declined to comment on individual store closures.

In states like Missouri, Alabama and Florida, which resisted issuing statewide shelter-in-place orders until recent days, chaos has reigned for weeks as decisions remained in the hands of dozens of local government officials.
For instance, Bass Pro closed a store Gainesville, Florida last weekend after a shelter-in-place order from Alachua County excluded firearm retailers from a list of essential businesses. When Gov. Ron DeSantis finally stepped in with a statewide shelter-in-place order this week, he permitted gun stores to be open. For many counties, it marked a reversal in policy. Bass Pro’s store in Gainesville remained closed on Saturday, although it was legally permitted to reopen.

In some cases, Bass Pro has been classified as an essential business in one town but not another. Take the company’s home state of Missouri, where John Morris started out in 1972 by selling fish tackle from the back of his father’s liquor store. Bass Pro has been allowed to remain open in the St. Louis area but forced to curtail its operations elsewhere in the state. After residents in Kansas City and the college town of Columbia complained to local government officials that stores were open despite local shelter-in-place orders, the counties notified Bass Pro that it must close because it was considered a non-essential business, according to government spokespeople.

Bass Pro Shops appealed the decision and cited a state statute that prohibits the state, county or any municipality from restricting gun sales during an “emergency,” according to Kayla Parker, an official with the Jackson County Health Department. It received permission from both counties to continue selling firearms and ammunition, but was required to cease the sale of all other items. At its store in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri, it was instructed to sell via appointment only, which must be at least 15 minutes apart.

It’s a different picture across state lines in Kansas City, Kansas, where its store remains open. The state issued guidelines last weekend that declare any companies that manufacture or sell firearms, firearm accessories or ammunition to be essential businesses because they protect a constitutional or legal right. “While I left these decisions to local health departments as long as possible, the reality is that the patchwork approach that has developed is inconsistent and is a recipe for chaos,” said Gov. Laura Kelly in a statement.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

We Fail Because Our Elites Are Decadent, Parasitic, Ignoble Frauds

ianwelsh |  Let’s chalk this up to aristocratic elites. Aristocrats, unlike nobles, are decadent, but don’t stop with that word; understand what it means.

Elites who are not aligned with the actual productive activities of society and are engaged primarily in activities which are contrary to production, are decadent. This was true in Ancien Regime France (and deliberately fostered by Louis XIV as a way of emasculating the nobility). It is true today of most Western elites; they concentrate on financial numbers, and not on actual production. Even those who are somewhat competent tend not to be truly productive: see the Waltons, who made their money as distributers–merchants.

The techies have mostly outsourced production; they don’t make things, they design them. That didn’t work out for England in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and it hasn’t worked well for the US, though thanks to Covid-19 and US fears surrounding China, the US may re-shore their production capacity before it is too late.

We also have a situation where Western elites are far removed from the actual creation of the systems they run. This is most true in in the US, and to a lesser extent in the UK, which did not suffer the massive bombing and destruction of most of the rest of Europe (the Blitz was minor compared to the bombs dropped on Germany, for example). Of course, reconstructing bombed societies is not the same as pulling oneself out of poverty.

The best handling of the coronavirus crisis in the world was possibly Vietnam, who are run by a generation that just pulled themselves out of poverty. Other excellent handling has happened in societies which still remember times of poverty or which were conquered and set free (Japan/Germany). China’s Xi, probably the most incompetent, also managed the crisis badly, but still better than the US/UK: Once he got serious, he got really serious. Xi, while a princeling, had a hard early life and was forced to work on the communes and so on.

This is all standard three-generation stuff: The first generation builds, the second generation manages, and the third generation wastes and takes it for granted because they’ve never known anything else. Sometimes that extends to four generations or more, but that requires a system which properly inculcates its elites, plus something to force the elites into at least some of the same experiences as the peons. We do not have that kind of a system.

Nobles, as Stirling Newberry explained to me years ago, are elites who make a point of being better than the people below them: better fighters, better farmers, and so on. Aristocrats are people who play court games, which is what financialized economies supported by central banks and bought politicians are. These people aren’t even good at finance. They were actually wiped out in 2008, but used politics to restore their losses and they were/are wiped out by this crisis, but are using politics (the Fed/Congress/the presidency) to restore their losses. The Fed is doing one trillion of operations a day.

The Rich Expect Isht To Go Sideways In The Big Cities

dailymail |  High-end stores throughout New York such as Louis Vuitton and Dolce & Gabbana are boarding up their windows in anticipation of civil unrest as the death toll in the city reached 1,867 on Friday with 305 new deaths.

The wealthy businesses had already been ordered closed along with bars and restaurants as part of the shelter in place protections but they are now taking further steps to secure their property and products as the city's police department suffers high numbers of officers calling in sick with the coronavirus raging through its ranks.  

New York City cases spiked to 57,159 on Friday night with 5,350 new cases, as the national total rose to 277,999 confirmed cases and 7,164 deaths.  

Boarded up windows and empty streets have transformed the city that never sleeps into a war zone with city officials sending out on an emergency alert to New Yorkers' cellphones on Friday calling on health workers to present themselves for battle against the coronavirus outbreak on the front lines in the city's overstretched, overwhelmed and under resourced hospitals.   

The alert came amid warnings that New York City will run out of crucial supplies by the end of next week and that Sunday will be 'D-Day' in terms of assessing what is needed for the weeks going forward. 

Dolce & Gabbana, Jimmy Choo and Louis Vuitton were among the Manhattan stores to cover up their windows with plywood in the past week as the crisis in the city worsened despite streets being empty of customers or even passersby. 

The rows of boarded up buildings create a stark reminder of the newly unemployed workers who lost their jobs after the scale of the outbreak caused stores, bars and restaurants to shut their doors for the foreseeable future.  

Some businesses attempted to light the mood on the closures, despite the rows of plywood covering their entrance, painting messages of support and encouragement that the coronavirus will be beaten. 
Throughout Manhattan, the unsightly coverings are offset with the words of motivation.  

'We are all in this together,' one reads. 'Stay save. Save lives.' 

Louis Vuitton in Soho was among the storefronts to leave its customers a messages on the wooden boards guarding its property reading: 'The journey that was paused will eventually start again, Louis Vuitton wishes you & your loved ones health & safety.’ 

And Not A Single American Physician In This Bailed-Out Beezie....?

Prospect |  On March 22, the Steward hospital chain sent a letter to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, saying it would close Easton Hospital, in the state’s Lehigh Valley, on March 27 unless it received a government bailout to keep it operating.

Steward’s letter read: “If the Commonwealth has no interest in assuming all operating expenses and liabilities of Easton Hospital, Steward Health Care will proceed immediately on planning to close the facility.” The threat paid off: On the 27th, the state guaranteed Easton $8 million for April and a likely $24 million through the month of June. The bulk of the funds, Wolf said, would be covered by the federal bailout package that President Trump had signed into law that very day.

How Easton had descended to such dire straits is a good question, inasmuch as its owner—the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management—is hardly a candidate for taxpayer-funded assistance, and is responsible for loading down the hospital with an unpayable level of debt.

The Easton story is likely to be just the first of many. After compelling hospitals to take on huge piles of debt through leveraged buyouts, private equity firms—currently sitting on $1.5 trillion in uninvested cash from investors—are poised to line up for taxpayer bailouts.

Steward has claimed that Easton Hospital has been financially distressed for months, that competition from other larger hospitals is fierce, and that the postponement of all elective surgeries has further cut into revenues. It had worked out a deal to sell the hospital to St. Luke’s University Network, but the deal has slowed down due to the COVID-19 crisis.
But why is Easton Hospital struggling so much more than other hospitals?
After compelling hospitals to take on huge piles of debt through leveraged buyouts, private equity firms are poised to line up for taxpayer bailouts.
Size matters, but its private equity buyout history matters more. In March 2017, Cerberus acquired Easton, along with seven other hospitals, in a leveraged buyout for an undisclosed amount from Community Health Systems (CHS). While we don’t know how much debt Steward took on in order to buy out Easton, the typical private equity buyout includes debt financing in the range of 50 percent to 70 percent of the purchase price, which the acquisition, in this case Easton Hospital, is expected to repay. We do know that at the time of the sale, Steward sold the property of all eight hospitals to a real-estate investment trust, Medical Properties Trust (MPT), and pocketed $304 million in return.

Since then, Easton Hospital has had to pay rent on property it had owned for the 127 years of its existence. How much of Easton’s revenues have been used to pay down debt Steward incurred to acquire it and to pay rent on its facilities—revenues that could have been used to financially stabilize the hospital?

How Private Equity Drives Surprise Billing

Prospect |  Surprise medical billing has quickly become a small but critical flashpoint in health care reform. Because doctors and hospitals negotiate separately with insurance companies over reimbursement rates, it's possible for a patient's insurance to cover hospital charges while failing to cover the fees of some doctors in the hospital who are “out of network.” Patients who visit an emergency room (ER) or are admitted to an in-network hospital by an in-network doctor may find that some of the professionals who treat them are not covered by their insurance. That is because hospitals have outsourced ER, anesthesiology, radiology, or other specialized services to outside physician practices or staffing firms. Patients often find themselves on the hook for thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars in surprise medical bills.

Twenty-five states have passed laws with limited protection for patients from out-of-network bills, usually for emergency room or urgent-care services; 20 more states are considering legislation. But these laws do not cover self-insured employer plans, which can only be regulated by the federal government. These plans cover an estimated 61 percent of workers who have private insurance, up from 44 percent 20 years ago. That means Congress must step in to protect insured patients from unfair and unexpected medical charges.

And that puts lawmakers up against the powerful and influential private equity industry, which plays a major role in supplying hospitals with physicians. They have aggressively bought up large national staffing firms or “physician practice management” (PPM) companies, as well as emergency providers that hospitals and other health organizations have outsourced, such as ground and air ambulance companies. And they are using the typical tools to protect their investments from a legislative onslaught: lobbying cash, dark-money front groups, and allies in Congress pushing loopholes and half measures.

The Role of Private Equity: Driving Market Concentration
Private equity funds use substantial debt to acquire doctors' practices through leveraged buyouts, and to finance mergers of practices into large staffing firms. Emergency medical and specialist practices are a prime buyout target, because patients who need emergency care cannot haggle over price, and third-party payers guarantee payment. This satisfies the private equity business model of promising “outsized returns” to investors.

Private equity firms buy up small specialty physician practices that have begun to consolidate and “roll them up” into umbrella organizations to gain local, regional, and ultimately national market power. Researchers at the Kellogg School of Management found that most individual acquisitions were below the dollar threshold that would have required the transaction to be reported to antitrust regulators.

Do Healthcare Professional Staffing Firms Specialize In Pimping H1-B Replacement Negroe Physicians?

laprogressive |  About a third of hospital emergency rooms are staffed by doctors on the payrolls of two physician staffing companies—TeamHealth and Envision Health—owned by Wall Street investment firms. Envision Healthcare employs 69,000 healthcare workers nationwide while TeamHealth employs 20,000. Private equity firm Blackstone Group owns TeamHealth, Kravis Kohlberg Roberts (KKR) owns Envision.

Care of the sick is not the mission of these companies; their mission is to make outsized profits for the private equity firms and its investors. Overcharging patients and insurance companies for providing urgent and desperately needed emergency medical care is bad enough. But it is unconscionable to muzzle doctors who speak out to advocate for the health of their patients and co-workers during the global pandemic that is rapidly spreading across the US.

Yet, that is what Blackstone-owned TeamHealth just did. Why would an experienced ER doctor be fired in the middle of a pandemic? One clue may be that Blackstone’s CEO, Stephen A. Schwarzman, is part of President Trump’s inner circle. He may not want to risk that relationship by allowing TeamHealth’s doctors to inform the public about Washington’s mishandling of the allocation of supplies and protective gear. The President might conclude that TeamHealth doctors didn’t appreciate him enough, and where would that leave Schwartzman?

PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center may have the distinction of being the first hospital to have a doctor outsourced from a physician staffing firm unceremoniously fired for telling the public the truth. But it won’t be the last. Hospitals are now telling doctors treating coronavirus patients they will be fired if they speak to the press.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Shi Zhengli's Student Huang Yan Ling Mysteriously Disappeared

WaPo | The story of how the novel coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China, has produced a nasty propaganda battle between the United States and China. The two sides have traded some of the sharpest charges made between two nations since the Soviet Union in 1985 falsely accused the CIA of manufacturing AIDS.

U.S. intelligence officials don’t think the pandemic was caused by deliberate wrongdoing. The outbreak that has now swept the world instead began with a simpler story, albeit one with tragic consequences: The prime suspect is “natural” transmission from bats to humans, perhaps through unsanitary markets. But scientists don’t rule out that an accident at a research laboratory in Wuhan might have spread a deadly bat virus that had been collected for scientific study.

“Good science, bad safety” is how Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) put this theory in a Feb. 16 tweet. He ranked such a breach (or natural transmission) as more likely than two extreme possibilities: an accidental leak of an “engineered bioweapon” or a “deliberate release.” Cotton’s earlier loose talk about bioweapons set off a furor, back when he first raised it in late January and called the outbreak “worse than Chernobyl.”

President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added to the bile last month by describing the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” and the “Wuhan virus,” respectively.

China dished wild, irresponsible allegations of its own. On March 12, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lijian Zhao charged in a tweet: “It might be [the] US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan.” He retweeted an article that claimed, without evidence, that U.S. troops might have spread the virus when they attended the World Military Games in Wuhan in October 2019.

China retreated on March 22, when Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai told “Axios on HBO” that such rumors were “crazy” on both sides. A State Department spokesman said Cui’s comment was “welcome,” and Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged in a March 27 phone call to “focus on cooperative behavior,” a senior administration official told me.

Weinstein's Revenge: The New Geometric Quantum

edge |  The modern theory of the quantum has only recently come to be understood to be even more exquisitely geometric than Einstein's General Relativity. How this realization unfolded over the last 40 years is a fascinating story that has, to the best of my knowledge, never been fully told as it is not particularly popular with some of the very people responsible for this stunning achievement.
To set the stage, recall that fundamental physics can be divided into two sectors with separate but maddeningly incompatible advantages. The gravitational force has, since Einstein's theory of general relativity, been admired for its four dimensional geometric elegance. The quantum, on the other hand encompasses the remaining phenomena, and is lauded instead for its unparalleled precision, and infinite dimensional analytic depth.

The story of the geometric quantum begins at some point around 1973-1974, when our consensus picture of fundamental particle theory stopped advancing. This stasis, known as the 'Standard Model', seemed initially like little more than a temporary resting spot on the relentless path towards progress in fundamental physics, and theorists of the era wasted little time proposing new theories in the expectation that they would be quickly confirmed by experimentalists looking for novel phenomena. But that expected entry into the promised land of new physics turned into a 40-year period of half-mad tribal wandering in an arid desert, all but devoid of new phenomena.

Yet just as particle theory was failing to advance in the mid 1970s, something amazing was quietly happening over lunch at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. There, Nobel physics laureate CN Yang and geometer (and soon to billionaire) Jim Simons had started an informal seminar to understand what, if anything, modern geometry had to do with quantum field theory. The shocking discovery that emerged from these talks was that both geometers and quantum theorists had independently gotten hold of different collections of insights into a common structure that each group had independently discovered for themselves. A Rosetta stone of sorts called the Wu-Yang dictionary was quickly assembled by the physicists, and Isadore Singer of MIT took these results from Stony Brook to his collaborator Michael Atiyah in Oxford where their research with Nigel Hitchin began a geometric renaissance in physics inspired geometry that continues to this day.

While the Stony Brook history may be less discussed by some of today's younger mathematicians and physicists, it is not a point of contention between the various members of the community. The more controversial part of this story, however, is that a hoped for golden era of theoretical physics did not emerge in the aftermath to produce a new consensus theory of elementary particles. Instead the interaction highlighted the strange idea that, just possibly, Quantum theory was actually a natural and elegant self-assembling body of pure geometry that had fallen into an abysmal state of pedagogy putting it beyond mathematical recognition. By this reasoning, the mathematical basket case of quantum field theory was able to cling to life and survive numerous near death experiences in its confrontations with mathematical rigor only because it was being underpinned by a natural infinite dimensional geometry, which is to this day still only partially understood.

In short, most physicists were trying and failing to quantize Einstein's geometric theory of gravity because they were first meant to go in the opposite and less glamorous direction of geometrizing the quantum instead. Unfortunately for Physics, mathematicians had somewhat dropped the ball by not sufficiently developing the geometry of infinite dimensional systems (such as the Standard Model), which would have been analogous to the 4-dimensional Riemannian geometry appropriated from mathematics by Einstein.

This reversal could well be thought of as Einstein's revenge upon the excesses of quantum triumphalism, served ice cold decades after his death: the more researchers dreamed of becoming the Nobel winning physicists to quantize gravity, the more they were rewarded only as mathematicians for what some saw as the relatively remedial task of geometrizing the quantum. The more they claimed that the 'power and glory' of string theory (a failed piece of 1970s sub-atomic physics which has mysteriously lingered into the 21st century) was the 'only game in town', the more it suggested that it was the string theory-based unification claims that, in the absence of testable predictions, were themselves sinking with a glug to the bottom of the sea.

What we learned from this episode was profound. Increasingly, the structure of Quantum Field Theory appears to be a purely mathematical input-output machine where our physical world is but one of many natural inputs that the machine is able to unpack from initial data. In much the way that a simple one-celled human embryo self-assembles into a trillion celled infant of inconceivable elegance, the humble act of putting a function (called an 'action' by physicists) on a space of geometric waves appears to trigger a self-assembling mathematical Rube-Goldberg process which recovers the seemingly intricate features of the formidable quantum as it inexorably unfolds. It also appears that the more geometric the input given to the machine, the more the unpacking process conspires to steer clear of the pathologies which famously afflict less grounded quantum theories. It is even conceivable that sufficiently natural geometric input could ultimately reveal the recent emphasis on 'quantizing gravity' as an extravagant mathematical misadventure distracting from Einstein's dream of a unified physical field. Like genius itself, with the right natural physical input, the new geometric quantum now appears to many mathematicians and physicists to be the proverbial fire that lights itself.

Yet, if the physicists of this era failed to advance the standard model, it was only in their own terms that they went down to defeat. Just as in an earlier era in which physicists retooled to become the first generation of molecular biologists, their viewpoints came to dominate much of modern geometry in the last four decades, scoring numerous mathematical successes that will stand the tests of time.

Likewise their quest to quantize gravity may well have backfired, but only in the most romantic and elegant way possible by instead geometrizing the venerable quantum as a positive externality.
But the most important lesson is that, at a minimum, Einstein's minor dream of a world of pure geometry has largely been realized as the result of a large group effort. All known physical phenomena can now be recognized as fashioned from the pure, if still heterogeneous, marble of geometry through the efforts of a new pantheon of giants. Their achievements, while still incomplete, explain in advance of unification that the source code of the universe is overwhelmingly likely to determine a purely geometric operating system written in a uniform programming language. While that leaves Einstein's greater quest for the unifying physics unfinished, and the marble something of a disappointing patchwork of motley colors, it suggests that the leaders during the years of the Standard Model stasis have put this period to good use for the benefit of those who hope to follow.

Weinstein Discussion Resources

reddit | Discord Server for discussion of The Portal

I've created a Discord server for anyone who would like to discuss The Portal in real time.  And with Eric's recent discussions of community building, I thought this may also have the possibility of becoming a useful place.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Reverses Her Politically Motivated Hydroxychloroquine Ban

Last week, I told you about some political butter biscuit chasing in Michigan - what a difference a week makes...,

washingtontimes |  Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has asked the federal government for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, days after her administration came under criticism for a statewide crackdown on the drugs touted by President Trump for the novel coronavirus.

The request from the Michigan Health and Human Services Department was made after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency-use authorization Monday for the drugs, which have long been approved for treating malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

“Based on the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization to allow the use of hydroxychloroquine sulfate and chloroquine phosphate products donated to the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) for certain patients with COVID-19, we are pursuing a request for hydroxychloroquine/chloroquine from SNS,” said Lynn Sutphin, Michigan HHS spokesperson, in an email.

The request, first reported by the nonprofit Bridge Michigan, came after the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs warned doctors against prescribing the drugs, citing lack of evidence about their efficacy against COVID-19 and reports of stockpiling, adding that reports of such conduct “may be further investigated for administrative action.”

Pharmacists were also instructed not to fill prescriptions if they believed they could be used for reasons “other than legitimate medical purposes” or “cause harm to a patient,” adding that medical providers had an obligation to report “inappropriate prescribing practices.”

washingtontimes |  Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has come under criticism for a statewide order cracking down on prescriptions of hydroxychloroquine, a drug touted by President Trump to treat the novel coronavirus.

The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs issued an order Wednesday warning physicians against writing prescriptions “without a legitimate medical purpose” and instructing pharmacists to evaluate the “legitimacy” of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine prescriptions.

The department cited concerns about stockpiling amid “multiple allegations” of doctors writing prescriptions for family and friends, adding that reports of such conduct “may be further investigated for administrative action” and that other health professionals are required to report “inappropriate prescribing practices.”

Michigan isn’t the first state to restrict the use of the drug — Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak issued an emergency order last week over concerns about “bad actors” creating a shortage — but the moves have fueled allegations on the right that Democrats and media outlets are seeking to play politics with the drug.

Kathy Hoekstra, who previously worked for Republican businessman Herman Cain, accused Ms. Whitmer of putting patients at risk with her administration’s “knee-jerk scare tactics.”

Big Papi Weinstein Fitna Buss Some GUT...,

Elite Establishment Joins MSM Villifying China For Controlavirus

foreignpolicy |  While the novel coronavirus is changing the world, China is trying to do the same. Already a serious strategic rival of the United States with considerable international clout, it’s now moving into a new field—health.

After initial denials and cover-ups, China successfully contained the COVID-19 outbreak—but not before it had exported many cases to the rest of the world. Today, despite the falsehoods it initially passed on, which played a critical role in delaying global response, it’s trying to leverage its reputed success story into a stronger position on international health bodies.

Most critically, Beijing succeeded from the start in steering the World Health Organization (WHO), which both receives funding from China and is dependent on the regime of the Communist Party on many levels. Its international experts didn’t get access to the country until Director-General Tedros Adhanom visited President Xi Jinping at the end of January. Before then, WHO was uncritically repeating information from the Chinese authorities, ignoring warnings from Taiwanese doctors—unrepresented in WHO, which is a United Nations body—and reluctant to declare a “public health emergency of international concern,” denying after a meeting Jan. 22 that there was any need to do so.

After the Beijing visit, though, WHO said in a statement that it appreciated “especially the commitment from top leadership, and the transparency they have demonstrated.” Only after the meeting did it declared, on Jan. 30, a public health emergency of international concern. And after China reported only a few new cases each day, WHO declared the coronavirus a pandemic March 11—even though it had spread globally weeks before.

WHO was keen to broadcast Beijing’s message. “In the face of a previously unknown virus, China has rolled out perhaps the most ambitious, agile and aggressive disease containment effort in history,” WHO experts said in their February report on the mission to China. The country had gained “invaluable time for the response” in an “all-of-government and all-of society approach” that has averted or delayed hundreds of thousands of cases, protecting the global community and “creating a stronger first line of defense against international spread.”

China’s “uncompromising and rigorous use of non-pharmaceutical measures” provides vital lessons for the global response, the WHO report said. Beijing’s strategy “demonstrated that containment can be adapted and successfully operationalized in a wide range of settings.” However, while recommending China’s epidemic control policy to the world, WHO neglected the negative externalities—from economic damage to the failure to treat many non-coronavirus patients, psychological woes, and human rights costs.

It’s not surprising that China’s containment strategy was effective, said Richard Neher, virologist at the University of Basel. “The big lockdown, centralized quarantine, and contact tracing for sure accelerated the decline,” Neher said. Lawrence O. Gostin, director of the WHO Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, points to “major human rights” concerns with the lockdown techniques pioneered in China and now—to a different degree—adopted in many nations. Gostin recommends standard public health measures like testing, treatment, contact tracing, and isolation or quarantine “as scientifically justified.”

While the rising number of cases elsewhere shows that China isn’t alone in failing in the initial stages of an outbreak, the full story of the Chinese loss will probably never be known—and certainly not recognized by WHO or other bodies.

One reason is that official data from China is often highly dubious—which can lead to ill-advised health policies in other countries, since studies based on information from China are the first used to understand COVID-19. Countless cases of people dying at home in Wuhan—some being described in social media posts—will probably never go into the statistics. And while a report by Caixin on the Chinese province of Heilongjiang said that a considerable percentage of asymptomatic cases has not been reported—which amounts to about 50 percent more known infections in China, according to a South China Morning Post report on classified government data—WHO takes numbers reported by Beijing at face value.

Senator Rick Scott Calls For China-WHO Coronavirus Cover-Up Investigation

americanmilitairynews |  Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott on Tuesday called on Congress to investigate the World Health Organization (WHO) for its early handling of the coronavirus outbreak that began in China, and allegations the WHO helped China conceal the severity of the virus.

Scott described his concerns about the WHO’s handling of the virus in a statement shared on his Senate website.
“The mission of the WHO is to get public health information to the world so every country can make the best decisions to keep their citizens safe. When it comes to Coronavirus, the WHO failed. They need to be held accountable for their role in promoting misinformation and helping Communist China cover up a global pandemic,” Scott said.”We know Communist China is lying about how many cases and deaths they have, what they knew and when they knew it – and the WHO never bothered to investigate further. Their inaction cost lives.”

Scott called on Congress to open an investigation of the WHO, once it comes back in session, “To review whether American taxpayers should continue to spend millions of dollars every year to fund an organization that willfully parroted propaganda from the Chinese Communist Party.”

The Chinese government reportedly took several efforts in late December and early January to conceal knowledge about the novel strain of coronavirus, now commonly referred to as COVID-19. Chinese medical professionals who encountered the disease early on were reportedly detained and reprimanded for “spreading rumors” and in some reports were told to destroy data establishing the existence of the novel coronavirus strain.

Might I Owe Wuhan Virological Institute Director Shi Zhengli An Apology?

WashingtonTimes |  Chinese government researchers isolated more than 2,000 new viruses, including deadly bat coronaviruses, and carried out scientific work on them just three miles from a wild animal market identified as the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several Chinese state media outlets in recent months touted the virus research and lionized in particular a key researcher in Wuhan, Tian Junhua, as a leader in bat virus work.

The coronavirus strain now infecting hundreds of thousands of people globally mutated from bats believed to have infected animals and people at a wild animal market in Wuhan. The exact origin of the virus, however, remains a mystery.

Reports of the extensive Chinese research on bat viruses likely will fuel more calls for Beijing to make public what it knows about such work.

“This is one of the worst cover-ups in human history, and now the world is facing a global pandemic,” Rep. Michael T. McCaul, Texas Republican and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said last week. Mr. McCaul has said China should be held accountable for the pandemic.

A video posted online in December and funded by the Chinese government shows Mr. Tian inside caves in Hubei province taking samples from captured bats and storing them in vials.

“I am not a doctor, but I work to cure and save people,” Mr. Tian says in the video. “I am not a soldier, but I work to safeguard an invisible national defense line.”

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo - ANYTHING For Rich Superspreaders NOTHING For NY Rural And Poor

theroot |  Even as the governor is pushing the state to ramp up its hospital capacity, away from the cameras, he’s been trying to take an axe to Medicaid funding in New York, a move that could cost the Empire State $6.7 billion in desperately-needed federal relief funding. Medicaid money is essential for public hospitals that primarily serve low-income residents in New York City, and for the state’s rural communities.

“It’s obscene,” State Senator Gustavo Rivera, a Bronx Democrat who chairs the Senate Health Committee, told the Nation. “These are immoral actions that the governor is taking.”
But the governor’s maliciousness doesn’t stop there. He’s proposed a massive bail reform reversal that would take a powder keg—the vulnerability of New York’s jails and prisons to coronavirus outbreaks—and throw a Molotov cocktail on it.

The current state law forbids cash bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felony offenses—as Slate explains, judges may still incarcerate thousands of people pre-trial, but they’re typically accused of felonies.

Cuomo’s proposal would “dramatically expand judges’ ability to ‘remand’ defendants or to detain them indefinitely before their trial without due process protections,” Slate writes. Pretrial detention would also apply to a wider range of offenses: it would permit judges to evaluate the future “dangerousness” of defendants (basically, guess how likely they will be to commit another violent crime—something the state has never allowed judges to do while setting bail); and allow the courts to remand people who commit misdemeanor offenses while awaiting trial, meaning someone who shoplifts from a pharmacy could face indefinite pretrial detention.

The plan would make closing jails on Riker’s Island nearly impossible. But more immediately, it increases the state’s carceral capacity at a time when overcrowded jails pose a major public health risk because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Slate breaks it down this way:
New York City jails may actually be the most dangerous place in America as far as the coronavirus is concerned. On Wednesday, the Guardian reported that almost 180 people incarcerated at Rikers and 141 corrections staff were infected with the coronavirus. The infection rate in New York City jails is more than seven times higher than the rate for all New York City residents and at least 75 times higher than the rate for all Americans. Rikers does have an infectious disease unit with 88 beds, but the unit has no ventilators for incarcerated patients, and the jail’s chief physician estimates that about 20 percent of incarcerated people with the virus will need hospitalization, and 5 percent will need ventilators. Incarcerated people are also fundamentally unable to practice social distancing; one incarcerated woman told NY1 that dormitory beds weren’t even 6 feet apart.
This is a danger both to the people behind bars, and those who are far removed from them.

They Don't Work, Pay Taxes or Do Military Service - So Let The Virus Do "God's Work"...,

jerusalempost |  Israel Police arrested six suspects belonging to the Peleg HaYerushalmi after they were found gathering in a synagogue in the Haredi city of Modi'in Illit, violating Health Ministry instructions issued to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

The suspects refused to listen to police instructions to leave and refused to identify themselves and began clashing with police.
"We call on the public to listen to directives and instructions by the Health Ministry and to follow them completely," said Israel Police in a statement. Most of the public in the city is listening to directives and Israel Police is acting and will continue to act with increased forces to enforce [the rules] on those who break them and endanger public health."

timesofisrael |  Ramat Gan Mayor Carmel Shama-Hacohen has written a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other government officials demanding a general closure on the neighboring city of Bnei Brak, which has become one of the main coronavirus hotspots in the country.

Shama-Hacohen says the situation in Bnei Brak is placing his own residents in mortal danger.

The mayor says if action is not taken immediately he will petition the High Court of Justice on the matter tomorrow.

Johnson County Stayed Winning With Bass Pro, Feminized Jackson County Took An "L"

KSHB |  Two days after mailing a letter of non-compliance to Bass Pro Shops in Independence for violating the county’s stay-at-home order, Jackson County has reversed course — in part.

Bass Pro Shops will be allowed to remain open but only for the “sale of firearms, ammunition and other goods directly related to responsible firearm storage and maintenance,” Jackson County said Wednesday in a statement.

The county issued a stay-at-home order amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic March 24 and received complaints March 27 about Bass Pro Shops remaining open.

“On March 30, the Jackson County Health Department, in consultation with County officials, notified Bass Pro Shops that it was not considered an essential business,” the county said Wednesday.

But Bass Pro Shops appealed the decision, citing state law that prevents restrictions on firearms sales during an emergency.

“Based upon this information, legal counsel advised county staff that Bass Pro Shops should be allowed to stay open for the sale of firearms and ammunition,” Jackson County said Wednesday.

According to a Missouri law that went into effect in August 2007,“ the state, any political subdivision, or any person shall not prohibit or restrict the lawful possession, transfer, sale, transportation, storage, display, or use of firearms or ammunition during an emergency.”

Bass Pro Shops remains classified as a non-essential business except for firearms sales.
“All other in-person sales must cease,” Jackson County said Wednesday. “The County will allow two business days for Bass Pro Shops to rectify this issue.”

Did The "Six Ways From Sunday" Impeachment (((Coup))) Distract Trump From Controlavirus?

nationalreview |  To the extent that impeachment was consuming the finite attention of senior policymakers in the White House and on Capitol Hill, we can only be thankful that Senate Republicans wrapped up the trial by voting down additional witnesses on January 31. Had the Democrats gotten their wish, Washington would have been consumed for additional critical weeks into February looking backward at Ukraine instead of forward at the threat of the virus.

Key health agencies within the federal government — the CDC and National Institutes of Health — were not inactive during January, but aside from a ban on foreign travel from China, there was little public leadership from the president. There were early, obvious-in-retrospect missteps such as the CDC’s botching the early coronavirus-testing kits and the FDA’s dragging its feet on approval of private testing development and inspection of equipment. While FDA red tape is a problem inherent to the agency’s design and culture, it is precisely the kind of problem that can be mitigated by the hands-on leadership of a bull-in-a-china-shop figure such as Trump. If you read the timeline on the Trump campaign’s website, which is designed to cast the federal response in the most favorable possible light, you will notice that the items before February 5 are almost all agency-level actions rather than White House actions. The White House Coronavirus Task Force wasn’t formed until January 29.

On February 4, Trump included a brief mention of the outbreak in the State of the Union address: “Protecting Americans’ health also means fighting infectious diseases. We are coordinating with the Chinese government and working closely together on the coronavirus outbreak in China. My administration will take all necessary steps to safeguard our citizens from this threat.” Little of the media commentary on the speech focused on that line. As late as February 19, Lester Holt and Chuck Todd of NBC moderated a Democratic debate without asking a single question about the virus.

Some voices in politics and the media (including, as Ross Douthat notes, an odd assortment of people on the right) were beginning to sound alarms about the virus in late January and early February, but they were a distinct minority. As Zeynep Tufekci details at The Atlantic, “From the end of January through most of February, a soothing message got widespread traction, not just with Donald Trump and his audience, but among traditional media in the United States, which exhorted us to worry about the flu instead, and warned us against overreaction.” Many politicians focused more on fear of anti-Asian racism than on the risk of a real health crisis. Mayor Bill de Blasio spent much of that period giving New Yorkers disastrous health advice.

Cuomo Threatened To Sue ANYONE Trying To Quarantine Nasty NYC Superspreaders

CNN |  The struggle to contain the coronavirus pandemic is opening a new front in the long-running conflict between blue cities and red states. 

Across a wide array of states with Republican governors, many of the largest cities and counties -- most of them led by Democrats -- are moving aggressively to limit economic and social activity. State officials, meanwhile, are refusing to impose the strictest statewide standards to fight the virus.
A growing chorus of big-city officials in red states like Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Missouri are now urging their governors to establish uniform statewide rules, arguing that refusing to do so undercuts their local initiatives by increasing the risk the disease will cluster in neighboring areas -- from which it can easily reinfect their populations.
On Tuesday afternoon, after weeks of complaints from local officials and medical officials, Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statewide order restricting social interactions to essential activities (albeit with some conspicuous exceptions). 
Robyn Tannehill, the mayor of Oxford, Mississippi (home of the University of Mississippi), told me in an interview that the absence of a statewide rule was undercutting their local efforts to control social interaction.
"As we are a regional health care and shopping destination, we have people coming through from surrounding counties that are not [imposing] a stay at home order," she said. "When they come here, you don't know who you are passing in the Kroger or the Walmart. ... I think a statewide stay-at-home order is very necessary."
The Republican governors most resisting statewide action have almost all argued that smaller counties should not face the same restrictions as larger ones. "What may be right for places like the large urban areas may not be right at this particular point in time for the" smaller counties with fewer cases, Abbott said last week before relenting on Tuesday.
While echoing that logic, other GOP governors resisting calls for action from large cities have also cited more ideological arguments. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves last week painted extensive shut-down orders as an expression of overly intrusive government. "In times such as these, you always have experts who believe they know best for everybody," he said. "You have some folks who think that government ought to take over everything in times of crisis — that they, as government officials, know better than individual citizens." 
Similarly, Missouri's GOP governor, Mike Parson, argued that rather than government action "it is going to be personal responsibility" that wins the struggle against the virus.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Valodya Will Tax The Rich To Pay For Russia's Controlavirus Response

unz  |  Vladimir Putin has decided how Russia is going to pay for the corona-virus.

He’s going to tax the rich.

It’s a remedy that most Americans would support if they were given the choice, but they weren’t asked. Instead, Congress passed a $2 trillion stimulus package for which the American taxpayer will be held entirely responsible. Even worse, the new legislation contains a $500 billion allocation (another corporate giveaway) that the Federal Reserve will use as a capital base for borrowing $4.5 trillion. That massive sum of money will be used to buy toxic bonds in the corporate bond market. 

Just as Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBS) were used to fleece millions of investors out of their hard-earned savings in the run-up to the 2008 Financial Crisis, so too, “toxic” corporate bonds were the weapon of choice that was used to pilfer trillions of dollars from investors in the run-up to today’s crisis. (Same scam, different instrument) The virus was merely the proximate cause that tipped the sector into meltdown. The problem had been festering for years and everyone in the financial community (Including the Fed, the BIS and the IMF) knew that it was only a matter of time before the market would blow sky-high. Which it did.

What every American needs to know is that our crooked bought-and-paid-for Congress just passed a bill that transfers the credit risk for $4.5 trillion of corporate sludge onto the National Debt. A bailout of this magnitude could impact the nation’s credit rating (Fitch has already issued a warning), send interest rates to the moon, dampen economic activity for years to come, and pave the way for a long and painful slump. The much ballyhooed $1,200 checks for unemployed workers are merely a tactical diversion that’s being used to conceal the giant ripoff that is taking place right under our noses.
In contrast, Putin has settled on a more rational and compassionate plan. He’s going to launch a relief program that actually focuses on the people who need it the most. Then, he’s going to cover the costs by taxing the people who are most capable of shouldering the burden. His intention is not to “soak the rich” or to redistribute wealth. He simply wants to find the most equitable way to share the costs for this completely unexpected crisis.

Dual-Citizen Anti-Russian Parasites Squeal Like Pigs Under A Gate

RT | Russophobic pundits and red-baiting blue-checkmarks are gasping in horror and floating bizarre theories as Moscow sends a planeload of much-needed medical supplies to the US amid its worsening coronavirus epidemic.

News that a Russian cargo plane laden with medical supplies and personal protection equipment would soon depart for the US, a gift from the Kremlin to its coronavirus-stricken rival, has the usual suspects running around in circles screeching about ulterior motives.

While President Donald Trump’s announcement on Monday that “Russia sent us a very, very large planeload of things, medical equipment, which was nice” took many by surprise, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the shipment on Tuesday, explaining that President Vladimir Putin had asked Trump if the US needed help and he had accepted. Peskov added that he hoped the US would be able to return the favor if it became necessary.

In the minds of the reds-under-beds crowd, this was an unacceptable “propaganda ploy.” How dare Trump allow Russia to supply Americans with lifesaving medical equipment?!

The Wall Street Journal accused Russia of Viruspolitik,” changing the headline of an earlier story about the “political shift” caused by Moscow’s delivery of medical aid to hard-hit Italy.

No scenario was too outlandish for Russiagaters. Newsweek contributor Olga Lautman hinted that Putin might have slipped in something nasty among the face masks and testing kits, which she assured everyone were defective.

Valodya And Russia: A Friend In Need Is A Friend Indeed

Reuters |  A Russian military transport plane was headed to the United States on Wednesday carrying tons of medical equipment and masks to help Washington fight coronavirus, Russian state TV reported and a U.S. official said. 

President Vladimir Putin offered Russian help in a phone conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday, when the two leaders discussed how best to respond to the virus. 

The flight, which was organized by the Russian Defence Ministry, took off early Wednesday from an airfield outside of Moscow. 

The shipment was likely to be unpopular with some critics of Trump who have urged him to keep his distance from Putin and who argue that Moscow uses such aid as a geopolitical and propaganda tool to advance its influence, something the Kremlin denies. 

“Trump gratefully accepted this humanitarian aid,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was cited as saying by the Interfax news agency on Tuesday night. Trump himself spoke enthusiastically about the Russian help after his call with Putin. 

A U.S. official in Washington confirmed the shipment was a direct result of the phone conversation between Trump and Putin on Monday. The official said it carried 60 tons of ventilators, masks, respirators and other items.

Stones Like Bowling Balls To Even Pretend Russian Interference In American Politics...,

unz |  A particularly egregious and also unique example of a state’s economic policies being manipulated by a dedicated Israeli fifth column in government is the Virginia Israel Advisory Board. Grant Smith, long a critic of the VIAB, heads the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy (IRMEP). He has written a new book entitled The Israel Lobby Enters State Government: Rise of the Virginia Israel Advisory Board, which documents in considerable detail how the conspiracy by powerful Jews in Virginia to benefit Israel has actually operated, much of it secretly through special arrangements and deals. He has also had a long interview with Scott Horton of regarding the book which is well worth listening to.

The VIAB is unique because it is actually part of the Virginia state government. It is funded by the Commonwealth of Virginia and is able to access funds from other government agencies to support Israeli businesses. It is staffed by Israelis and American Jews drawn from what has been described as the “Israel advocacy ecosystem” and is self-administered, appointing its own members and officers. While there are many Israel business promotion entities active in the United States, only Virginia has such a group actually sitting within the government itself, ready to make secret preferential agreements, to arrange special concessions on taxes and to establish start-up subsidies for Israeli businesses. Israeli business projects have been, as a result, regularly funded using Virginia state resources with little accountability. Bear in mind that this agency exists not to promote Virginia businesses but rather to give an advantage to Israeli businesses, some of which might even be competing with existing Virginia companies and putting local people out of work.

Virginia already runs an estimated $500 million trade deficit with Israel due to the federal Free Trade Agreement and the promotion of Israeli businesses in the state, which repatriate their profits to Israel, adds considerably to that sum. Smith reports how VIAB is not just an economic mechanism. Its charter states that it was “created to foster closer economic integration between the United States and Israel while supporting the Israeli government’s policy agenda.” Smith also has observed that “VIAB is a pilot for how Israel can quietly obtain taxpayer funding and official status for networked entities that advance Israel from within key state governments.”

Stop Delaying, Navel-Gazing, and Excuse-Making and Refund 50% of the Room and Board I Paid For!!!

insidehighered |  Wood doesn’t believe colleges are making any decisions about closures and remote learning with finances at front of mind.

“While financial considerations are always important, I do think … their decisions are first and foremost being made around their communities', students', staff and faculties' safety,” she said.
Two-year colleges are somewhat shielded from this particular revenue hit. According to the College Board’s 2019 trends in college pricing report, in 2015-16, 96 percent of full-time undergraduate students at public two-year colleges lived off campus or with their parents.

Still, today most colleges are scrambling to scale up their online learning resources and put precautionary plans in place. Few have disclosed whether they will offer room and board refunds to students who leave campus.​

Room and board is a sizable chunk of what students pay each semester, and the fees are often excluded from scholarship calculations. The College Board report states that students at a public four-year universities paying in-state tuition spend on average 43 percent of their budgets on room and board fees. For out-of-state students, room and board makes up 27 percent of budgets, and for students at private four-year colleges, 24 percent of budgets are room and board fees.

Requests for room and board rebates aren't the only way colleges could lose money as a result of the coronavirus. Many have canceled admitted student days and student tours, and closing campus could affect enrollments in the fall. Institutions that rely heavily on endowment payouts could see them dip in a falling market.

The virus will "certainly roil the admission market" just as student deposits and commitments are due, said Brian Mitchell, King's co-author on How to Run a College and the founder of Brian Mitchell & Associates, a higher education consulting firm, in an email.

"Effectively, the crisis has the potential to create a double whammy -- unexpected [costs] and highly unpredictable future revenue at tuition-driven institutions," he said.​