Episode 256 – American Riots and Covid-19 Shutdowns

Intro

What’s Wrong with America by The Relatives live at The Bell House

George Floyd.

A summary

America is still lynching black men. Except now they use their knees and the people doing are police in broad daylight. Imagine what goes on behind closed doors.

Suspected of passing a forged $20 note,

was lynched, in broad daylight, in the open street of a major US city,

The murderer used his knee instead of a rope,

The killer was a white policeman Derek Chauvin

who was watched by 3 other policemen,

when all the policemen knew they were being filmed by civilian bystanders,

George told the police I can’t breathe and you are killing me and cried out for his mama,

was held down for 8 minutes 46 seconds,

was unresponsive for the last 2 minutes 43 seconds,

video shows that Chauvin did not remove his knee for a full minute after paramedics arrived at the scene.

Chauvin was not charged for 4 days while investigators waited for evidence

the criminal complaint said the autopsy revealed “no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation”

But, the cause of death, according to the private autopsy, was mechanical asphyxia and the manner of death was homicide.

Shortly after the family’s autopsy findings were announced, the Hennepin County medical examiner released its own findings, also concluding that the manner of death was homicide. The county attributed the cause of death to “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”

This was on the back of the Ahmaud Arbery case whose killers were not arrested for 74 days and only arrested after the video went viral

Riots have ensued

Images of unnecessary violence from police and the national guard. Tear gas, rubber bullets, beatings of people who were non-violently protesting.

Cop cars driving over protesters. At least in China with Tianenmen square the tank driver stopped for the man with the plastic bag.

After being forced to hide in a bunker in the White House, today he got police to use tear gas and rubber bullets to clear peaceful protestors outside the White House so he could go outside the White House and hold a bible for a photo op at the nearby St. John Episcopal Church.

TV footage showed people running, falling and scrambling for safety as officers removed them by force. … Military vehicles rolled out on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The unprovoked action cleared the way for Trump to cross the street and visit St John’s church, … He held aloft a Bible and posed for cameras,

 

Last week you asked where I’d rather be arrested. China or the USA? I said it depends if I’m black. At least in China I would survive the arrest process and make it to the watchhouse alive!

 

Play clip, Waz referring to the China  (democracy, free speech, human rights and justice) and all those things the United States actually stands for …

 

American Riots

Why and How

Wide spread gun civilian ownership creates a shoot first mentality (Cops fear for their lives more than Aussie or British cops)

Police have been militarised with Ex-Military equipment.

Police are often poorly paid and poorly trained.

District Attorneys (in charge of prosecutions) are elected and need to show high conviction rates to get re-elected.

White people are scared of the police so they can imagine how black people feel.

From American Journal of Public Health

Results. Police kill, on average, 2.8 men per day. Police were responsible for about 8% of all homicides with adult male victims between 2012 and 2018. Black men’s mortality risk is between 1.9 and 2.4 deaths per 100 000 per year, Latino risk is between 0.8 and 1.2, and White risk is between 0.6 and 0.7.

Conclusions. Police homicide risk is higher than suggested by official data. Black and Latino men are at higher risk for death than are White men, and these disparities vary markedly across place.

But, this is morphing beyond police brutality. Part of this must be rage and frustration with a system that has left people poor and powerless.

Hunger will drive the revolution

But, things won’t get serious till more Americans go hungry or homeless.

From the New York Times

Julia Nix pulled her silver Ford Escape into Traders Village, an 80-acre flea market on the outskirts of San Antonio’s southside, around 8:30 p.m. on Monday, May 4. The place was closed; beyond the parking lot’s empty expanse, she could see trees, fields of scrubby grass and, farther out, the lights of a nearby industrial building. She turned off the ignition, unbuckled her great-granddaughter, Elizabeth, from her car seat and made a bed for her across the back seat, where the 4-year-old nuzzled into her baby blanket and fell asleep.

Nix, 69, is a bus driver’s assistant, but she hadn’t watched over angsty high school riders or squirmy pre-kindergarteners since school was closed, some two months earlier. She was raising Elizabeth on her own, and, until the virus came along, felt as if she was on relatively stable financial ground. But her contract with the school district, which pays her $10.96 an hour for 32 hours a week, would run out in early June. There would be no bus work this summer; the children she usually babysits for were at home with their recently unemployed parents. And who could say whether school bus rides would actually resume in the fall?

Sitting uneasily in an unfamiliar part of town, Nix tried to reassure herself: She had, at least, secured the first spot in line at the San Antonio Food Bank — which would start giving out groceries at 9 o’clock the next morning.

Within hours, other cars started arriving. A few drivers got out and made small talk from a distance. They were out of work, furloughed, anxious. Like Nix, they were lining up early because they knew the last time food was distributed at the same flea market, a month earlier, on April 9, some 10,000 cars showed up.

At one point a man even drove up in a brand-new BMW. People in nearby cars started chiding him: How can you come here in that car? Billeck heard the man explain how he was the sole breadwinner, how he’d been out of work for four weeks, how he and his wife and three children had run through their savings, how he would have driven a different car, but the household’s other car had already been repossessed.

Trump and Twitter and Free Speech

You have to appreciate the irony of being enraged over a fact check for “stifling free speech”, then threatening to shut down platforms people use for…ahem… free speech.–

President Trump fired off two tweets Wednesday to his 80 million followers suggesting that he would shut down social media platforms after Twitter fact-checked his claims about voting by mail.

While the company has for years been embroiled in debates over free speech and false or threatening posts, for the first time on Tuesday, it fact-checked the president’s tweets.

Twitter flagged two of Trump’s tweets that falsely connected mail-in ballots to voter fraud by displaying a link for people on the platform to click that read: “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.” Upon clicking the prompt, people were taken to a page with a bullet-point list of information, plus a collection of tweets from news outlets and reporters, that refuted the president’s claims.

Soon after, he and his supporters criticized Big Tech’s so-called suppression of conservative ideas.

“Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen. We saw what they attempted to do, and failed, in 2016 We can’t let a more sophisticated version of that….” Trump tweeted Wednesday. He then repeated similar sentiments from his earlier tweets: “we can’t let large scale Mail-In Ballots take root in our Country.”

 

Covid Shut Downs – For and against

There are lies, damned lies and statistics

The phrase derives from the full sentence, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”; it was popularized in the United States by Mark Twain and others, who mistakenly attributed it to the British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli.[1] The phrase is not found in any of Disraeli’s works and the earliest known appearances were years after his death.[1] The phrase was attributed to an anonymous writer in mid-1891 and later that year to Sir Charles Dilke,[1] but several others have been listed as originators of the quote,[1] including frequent erroneous attribution to Twain himself.

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From Liam

This might be the first voyage into quantitative analysis for a lot of people and I think it might be good to talk about some of the pitfalls of data analysis.

  • Over Simplification – Data is like looking at the shadow of the real thing.  You’re capturing some aspects of a thing and using it for analysis.  This can be extremely useful but it can also be misleading.  If we’re not recording all the factors that create a full story then we can easily draw the wrong conclusions.  For COVID, we’re dealing with so many different factors: population, culture, geography, government interventions, societal reactions etc.
  • Correlations and Causation – Related to the point above, it’s easy to point to two curves and see the same trend and think that one causes the other.  This is not necessarily true.  With COVID there’s been so many things happening and such different data it’s hard to isolate and attribute one affect causing another.
  • Small numbers – This was raised in the podcast.  Numbers are much more susceptible to statistical variance when they are small compared to when they’re large.  The example I read in a book was to do with schools where you have 1 OP1 in a school of 10 kids.  Statistically this looks amazing as simple math gives you 10% OP1.  In reality they probably had one child who was really smart that year and maybe they won’t have another for 3-4 years so their stats go 10%, 0%,0%,0%.  Compare this to a school that has 500 kids, they’re much less susceptible to outliers and will have a more consistent performance.  We can liken this to statistics in Aus and NZ.  Comparisons between 103 and 22 are so small compared to the population size.  Most of those cases are comorbidities, elderly population etc and we aren’t comparing apples to apples with the number that got exposed and the % of at-risk patients exposed.
  • Numbers can lie – A good quote from one of the consulting pages I follow was “People who think the number don’t lie have never massaged the numbers on a model.”  It’s very easy to cherry pick information for stats that support your point of view or play with assumptions in models to give you the answer that people want to see.  The protection from this is usually to make all your best assumptions and then consult the output but often, people won’t like outputs.  They then review the assumptions in light of the model output and rejig for the answer they want.  I think there’s a lot of this going on at the moment where you find numbers in articles etc to justify your point of view.  With lots of poor and overly-simplistic analysis, it’s easy to build up an argument for either side.

 

Initial thoughts

What data do we trust?

Is “Death Rates per Million” a valid statistic? Well it is better than “deaths per cases” which is useless because the number of cases is unknown esp because many countries like Australia do not conduct random testing.

How do we count deaths? See below. There is huge variation between countries. Probably the best way is to look at deaths above expectation. Aka the all cause death rate

The problem with small numbers and super spreaders (South Korean and French Christian groups).

Does a delayed start make a difference to the effectiveness of a shutdown? Of course, but how much? See Reaction Time and Severity.

There are shutdowns and there are shutdowns. Some stricter than others. Some forced shut downs may result in less restrictions than some voluntary shutdowns. See Reaction Time and Severity.

A voluntary shutdown Vs an imposed shutdown.

A culturally obedient country Vs a bunch of individualists.

It is important to compare apples with apples. How statistics are counted, Culture, population health and age, Geography, shut down quality and shutdown timing (prompt or delayed) and temporarily overwhelmed health systems and … luck (Ruby Princess, Evangelical churches in France and South Korea)

But Corona Virus is infectious and is transmitted by human contact

We know the science of transmission. Shut downs must have an effect. The question is how much.

The Financial Times deaths by all causes analysis

The link

The All cause Death rate in England and Wales

From The ABC on 30 April 2020

Professor Alan Lopez from the University of Melbourne, a leading international expert on the burden of disease, said official statistics were vastly underestimating the true death toll across the entire world.

“The all-cause death rate is the very best way to assess the overall net impact of COVID-19 on mortality,” he said.

“Typically we’re seeing between 50 and 80 per cent excess when we try and count all the deaths using the excess mortality, over and above what’s reported.

“That’s pretty standard, whether it’s China, the UK, the Netherlands, Spain, they’re all pretty much the same.”

In England and Wales the excess death curve dwarfs the official statistics.

If 2020 were anything like other years in the past decade, you would expect about 176,000 people would have died by now in England and Wales.

The countries have recorded more than 31,000 deaths in excess of that, far exceeding the coronavirus death toll for the entire UK, currently just over 26,000.

Counting Corona Virus Deaths in New York

New York City had four times the number of deaths as expected during its Covid-19 outbreak, according to a new study, including thousands of excess deaths that may not be attributed directly to the virus but to its effect on the health-care system, city services and other factors.

From March 11 to May 2, there were a total of 32,107 deaths, 24,172 more that the city would have expected in that time based on past trends, according to a report from New York’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene that was published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While Covid-19 was explicitly tied to 18,879 of the excess deaths through confirmed or probable cases, there were 5,293 excess deaths that may have come from other causes.

Excess deaths are a way of counting mortality that tries to capture not only victims of the virus, but also negative and positive side effects like people who died of a heart attack because they didn’t get to a hospital in time, or fewer people who died in auto accidents because of diminished road traffic.

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“Monitoring of all-cause deaths and estimating excess mortality during the pandemic provides a more sensitive measure of the total number of deaths than would be recorded by counting laboratory-confirmed or probable Covid-19-associated deaths,” the researchers said. “Tracking excess mortality is important to understanding the contribution to the death rate from both Covid-19 disease and the lack of availability of care for non-Covid conditions.”

Reaction Time and Severity

From a Bloomberg article

The chart below shows the relative severity of Europe’s restrictions based on work done by the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government, which tracks a range of measures and scores how stringent they’ve been each step of the way.

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While not a gauge of whether the decisions taken were the right ones, nor of how strictly they were followed, the analysis gives a clear sense of each government’s strategy for containing the virus. Some — above all Italy and Spain — enforced prolonged and strict lockdowns after infections took off. Others — especially Sweden — preferred a much more relaxed approach. Portugal and Greece chose to close down while cases were relatively low. France and the U.K. took longer before deciding to impose the most restrictive measures.

But, as our next chart shows, there’s little correlation between the severity of a nation’s restrictions and whether it managed to curb excess fatalities — a measure that looks at the overall number of deaths compared with normal trends.

 

In Europe, roughly three groups of countries emerge in terms of fatalities. One group, including the U.K., the Netherlands and Spain, experienced extremely high excess mortality. Another, encompassing Sweden and Switzerland, suffered many more deaths than usual, but significantly less than the first group. Finally, there were countries where deaths remained within a normal range such as Greece and Germany.

Yet the data show that the relative strictness of a country’s containment measures had little bearing on its membership in any of the three groups above. While Germany had milder restrictions than Italy, it has been much more successful in containing the virus.

The overall impression is that while restrictions on movement were seen as a necessary tool to halt the spread of the virus, when and how they were wielded was more important than their severity. Early preparation, and plentiful health-care resources, were enough for several countries to avoid draconian lockdowns. Germany, with better testing and contact tracing and more intensive care units than its neighbours, could afford to keep the economy a bit more open. Greece, by acting quickly and surely, appears to have avoided the worst, so far.

The UK and Ireland

Evidence from this article contradicts the reaction and severity graph.

  1. Dr William Hanage, an associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard University. (super spreaders)
  2. Prof Sheila Bird, a former programme leader at the MRC Biostatistics Unit, (how deaths are reported and urbanisation)
  3. Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia,(The UK has more blacks and Asians)
  4. Keith Neal, an emeritus professor in epidemiology of infectious diseases at the University of Nottingham (London is an international hub)
  5. Professor Samuel McConkey, an infectious disease expert at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences in Dublin )Irelands quick reaction and population density)
  6. Seán L’Estrange, a University College Dublin sociologist (the responses were not that different)

They each put forward different theories about the data

Comparing how the Covid-19 outbreak is playing out in Ireland and the UK is a complex task, researchers have said after a Twitter thread by a former historian on the issue went viral.

Writer and researcher Dr Elaine Doyle penned a series of tweets comparing the situations in the UK and Ireland, noting that both countries had similar numbers of intensive care beds per 100,000 people before the crisis began.

But, she wrote, “as of Saturday 11 April, there have been 6.5 deaths per 100,000 people in Ireland. There have been 14.81 deaths per 100,000 people in the UK.” Doyle went on to suggest that the difference in the way the pandemic is progressing in the two countries is that Ireland took stronger action sooner.

“While Boris [Johnson] was telling the British people to wash their hands, our taoiseach was closing the schools. While Cheltenham was going ahead, and over 250,000 people were gathering in what would have been a massive super-spreader event, Ireland had cancelled St Patrick’s Day,” she wrote, adding that watching British media was “like living in bizarro-world” compared with the messages on Irish TV news.

In the UK, the government urged against socialising, mass gathering and non-essential travel from 16 March and went into full lockdown on 23 March.

“Technically, the UK went into lockdown *before* Ireland; but that’s not a fair comparison, as we were already operating our ‘delay phase’ from 12-27 March,” Doyle wrote.

 

Sweden ‘wrong’ not to shut down, says former state epidemiologist.

By Richard Orange in the Guardian

The predecessor of Sweden’s state epidemiologist has broken her silence on the country’s controversial coronavirus strategy, saying she now believes the authorities should have put in place tougher restrictions in the early stages of the pandemic to bring the virus under control.

Annika Linde, who oversaw Sweden’s response to swine flu and Sars as state epidemiologist from 2005 to 2013, had until now expressed support for her country’s approach under her successor, Anders Tegnell.

But she has now become the first member of the public health establishment to break ranks, saying she has changed her mind as a result of Sweden’s relatively high death toll compared with that of its neighbours, Denmark, Norway, and Finland.

“I think that we needed more time for preparedness. If we had shut down very early … we would have been able, during that time, to make sure that we had what was necessary to protect the vulnerable,” Linde told the Observer.

For two days last week Sweden had the highest per capita death rate in the world on a seven-day rolling average, and the overall death toll is expected to pass 4,000 this weekend.

Per capita death rates in Denmark, Finland and Norway, which all put in place far-reaching lockdowns, are now, respectively, four, seven and nine times lower than that of Sweden.

Sweden has run the least restrictive strategy of any developed country, leaving lower secondary schools, bars, restaurants, shopping malls and gyms open, and allowing gatherings of up to 50 people. It has placed heavy reliance on the social responsibility and common sense of the public.

Linde said that she had initially shared the thinking underpinning Sweden’s approach. “The basic perception was, I think, that sooner or later, irrespective of what you do, you will have the whole population infected,” she said.

“So when Anders Tegnell said ‘we will flatten the curve, and we will protect the vulnerable’, I thought ‘we will reach herd immunity after a while. It could be a good strategy’. I wasn’t that critical.”

Since then many countries have demonstrated that it is possible to dramatically lower the incidence of coronavirus infection and bring the pandemic, at least temporarily, under control.

At the same time, the second part of Sweden’s strategy – to protect the elderly and other risk groups – has failed.

“This was like a dream that we could protect the elderly, with very little basis in reality,” argued Linde, who as a 72-year-old has now spent more than two months in semi-isolation.

Politicians, the media and the public in Sweden continue largely to support the public health agency’s handling the pandemic, with the exception of a small group of academics and researchers. Linde’s criticisms, first aired in an interview in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper, mark the first critical intervention from a member of the public health establishment.

Tegnell, in an interview to be broadcast today on Swedish national radio, conceded that the country was in a “terrible situation” but dismissed the idea that a lockdown would have helped.

“It very common to come up with that criticism, and say ‘if we had locked down, we could have done so much more before. But when I ask the question, ‘what, exactly, could we have done which would have changed so much?’, then I don’t get so many answers.”

Linde said Tegnell was wrong to place the blame for the high rate of infection in Swedish elderly care homes on the local authorities and the private companies who run them.

This “sounds logical”, she said. “But it should be informed upwards that the preparedness is there, so that those that decide on the strategy know that the strategy is possible to realise. This was missing.”

She attributed the failure of Sweden’s approach partly to the public health agency’s unwillingness to adapt a pre-prepared strategy built on the experience of influenza pandemics, such as Spanish flu and swine flu, to coronavirus.

“The fact that it was compared too much to influenza epidemics could have made us make the wrong assumptions in the beginning,” she said. “We could have maybe had another development had we been, for example, more aware of the risk of spread from asymptomatic individuals.”

Swedish Stats and Geography

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Sweden’s Covid-19 policy is a model for the right. It’s also a deadly folly

by Nick Cohen in The Guardian

“Covid-19 deaths in Sweden were the highest in Europe per capita in a rolling seven-day average between 12 and 19 May.” It confirmed that Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell’s “mitigation” strategy of allowing shops, restaurants, gyms, schools and workplaces to remain open was a deadly folly. It does not even seem to have produced herd immunity. Just 7.3% of Stockholm’s inhabitants had developed Covid-19 antibodies by the end of April.

All those deaths for so little point. In Sweden of all places. A country where the need to protect society from harm is knitted into the national consensus, and whose supposed moderation produced the spectacularly inoffensive music of Abba and the furniture of Ikea. Sweden’s position may be graver than the weekly figure implies, Lena Einhorn, a Swedish virologist and author, told me. Recorded cases of Covid-19 follow a bell curve. All severely infected countries, including the UK, are seeing infections fall as they move down the far side of the curve, apart from Trump’s America and Sweden. In both instances, they have declined slightly then hit a plateau.

Spiked – Why they hate Sweden

By Fraser Myers

Of course, as everyone knows by now, the reason Sweden has been blacklisted is that it has steadfastly refused to implement a full lockdown. Life is by no means normal in Sweden. Gatherings of over 50 people are banned, as are visits to elderly care homes. Those who can are encouraged to work from home. Public-transport use has fallen dramatically. But in contrast to the rest of Europe, bars, cafes, restaurants and businesses have remained open. Schools have stayed open for all pupils under 16. There are guidelines on social distancing and hygiene but these are not enforced by the law. Sweden’s critics accuse it of pursuing a herd-immunity strategy – though this is denied by the authorities.

So how has Sweden done? Originally, the aim of lockdown was to ‘flatten the curve’ — that is, slow the spread of the virus sufficiently to avoid overwhelming hospital capacity. This horror scenario was the key justification for the suspension of civil liberties and the decimation of our economies. But in Sweden, this has not happened.

However, since the lockdowns began, the goalposts have been moved. Now lockdowns are promoted as a means for reducing cases and deaths outright. And even on these dishonest new terms, Sweden’s results are pretty average: whether in terms of raw numbers or taken per capita, it currently falls below the UK, France, Italy and Spain, all of which had lockdowns. At the time of writing, just over 4,000 people have died.

An Oxford University study which tracks the stringency of government responses across the world shows that it has little bearing on deaths. It finds that in terms of overall excess mortality (which includes all non-Covid deaths), Sweden has suffered more deaths than it otherwise would have – there is a pandemic on, after all – but in a similar proportion to locked-down Switzerland. In contrast, the UK, Spain and the Netherlands, which had lockdowns, have had extremely high excess mortality rates compared to usual.

Sweden has certainly had failures. People in care homes or receiving at-home care account for three-quarters of Sweden’s Covid death toll. ‘We failed to protect our elderly’, admitted Sweden’s health minister health minister Lena Hallengren. There is also a worryingly disproportionate number of ethnic minorities among Sweden’s Covid cases, which is partly down to the state’s failure to communicate the dangers to migrant communities.

For instance, last week, Telegraph article claimed in its headline that Sweden had the ‘highest death per capita’. It was gleefully shared and retweeted. The article itself included the important qualifier ‘over the past seven days’ rather than the course of the pandemic. The headline was later changed to reflect this. Quite why it is useful to compare deaths-per-capita in a week in late May when weekly deaths across Europe are approaching pre-pandemic levels is anybody’s guess. The dubious honour of highest deaths per capita overall goes to Belgium, which had a strict lockdown which it introduced around the same time as France. To attack Belgium for its handling of the virus would invite uncomfortable questions about the effectiveness of the lockdown policy, so Sweden is attacked instead.

Nevertheless, this factoid was enough for Nick Cohen in the Guardian to declare Sweden’s policy ‘a deadly folly’. Perhaps the likes of Cohen will soon be calling for humanitarian intervention to topple the barbarous social-democratic regime. His diatribe includes another favoured bad-news story of the Sweden-haters. A study from the end of April found that just 7.3 per cent of Stockholmers had developed antibodies for Covid-19. This was taken to mean that Swedes were dropping like flies but were not developing the herd immunity which might protect them in future. The Public Health Agency’s modelling for more recent weeks has put it at just over 20 per cent. You can guess which figure made all the headlines.

Commentators also delight in the fact that Sweden’s economy has taken a large hit, even without as many restrictive measures. This is supposed to show that concerns for the economy, poverty and unemployment are misplaced and that whatever pain the lockdown causes is a necessary evil. An article in the Critic, which slurs Sweden’s policy as ‘live free and die’, points to the European Commission’s forecast of a 6.1 per cent collapse in GDP. But again, Sweden’s results are middling. It forecasts a 7.4 per cent drop for the EU as a whole. Some lockdown countries are anticipating staggering levels of economic pain: Italy’s GDP is expected to contract by 9.5 per cent and Spain by 9.4 per cent. This too will cost lives.

One sleight of hand which disguises Sweden’s fundamental averageness is that its critics tend to compare it to other Scandinavian countries, and never to Europe or the world as a whole. Norway, Denmark and Finland have indeed fared much better in handling their outbreaks than Sweden at this stage. But comparing ‘similar’ countries is an exercise which is rarely repeated in other circumstances – witness, for instance, the absurd attempts to compare New Zealand to the UK (New Zealand, for one thing, has more sheep than people).

Besides, the news coming out of Norway and Denmark is not good for lockdown hardliners, either. Health chiefs in Norway recently discovered that the so-called R-number (the rate at which the virus spreads) was below one and transmission was in decline before its lockdown was put in place. This led the head of Norway’s public-health agency to conclude that ‘we could possibly have achieved the same effects and avoided some of the unfortunate impacts by not locking down, but by instead keeping open but with infection-control measures’.

Time will tell if the Swedes develop herd immunity to Covid-19 before the rest of us do, or before a miracle cure arrives. But Sweden deserves credit for its immunity to Covid hysteria, and for maintaining its open and civilised approach in the face of international outrage.

Spiked – ‘Nothing can justify this destruction of people’s lives’

Yoram Lass, former director of Israel’s Health Ministry, on the hysteria around Covid-19.

The Fist: I don’t trust this article at all. More Spiked propaganda.

… If you look at the numbers, in 2017, 25,000 Italians died from flu complications. Now you have around 30,000 dying from coronavirus. So it is a comparable number. You should not ruin a country for comparable numbers …

But

Bloomberg quotes an Italian report as saying “The total number of older Italians spared death directly from the flu this season may have been in the hundreds, based on an annual average of 8,000 nationwide flu deaths cited in the paper.”

Compare the Flu with Corona virus

From Livescience

Editor’s note: This article was updated on May 14 with the latest information on COVID-19. 

Since the new coronavirus was first discovered in January, many people have compared it with a more well-known disease: The flu.

Many of these comparisons pointed to the perhaps underappreciated toll of the flu, which causes millions of illnesses and tens of thousands of deaths every year in the U.S. alone. (During the current flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there have been 39 million to 56 million flu illnesses and 24,000 to 62,000 flu deaths in the U.S., although that number is an estimate based on hospitalizations with flu symptoms, not based on actually counting up every person who has died of flu.)

The new coronavirus disease, COVID-19, has caused more than 1.4 million illnesses and 85,000 deaths in the U.S. as of May 14, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Spiked cannot be trusted

In the past I have said “It is funded by the Koch brothers”. That has been pointed to me to mean it is currently receiving ongoing funding.

We don’t know if that is the case so the better way to say it would be “It has been funded by the Koch brothers”.

So, I concede that point to Paul, however, the crucial issue still remains. The Koch brothers are notorious donors to groups that follow their agenda. We know Spiked received at least $300,000 which seems enough to be influential. Spiked would be motivated to appease the Koch brothers in the hope of receiving more donations. Donations don’t stop being effective the day after they are made.

It would be easy enough for Spiked to declare donations. Declaring conflicts of interest is standard practice for news outlets. If Spiked won’t declare them then they cannot be trusted.

 

For the brothers, promoting the ideal of economic freedom is essential to society’s well-being.

By George Monbiot

The Kochs’ chief political lieutenant, Richard Fink, developed what he called a three-stage model of social change. Universities would produce “the intellectual raw materials”. Thinktanks would transform them into “a more practical or usable form”. Then “citizen activist” groups would “press for the implementation of policy change”. To these ends the Kochs set up bodies in all three categories themselves, such as the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, the Cato Institute and the “citizens’ group” Americans for Prosperity. But for the most part they funded existing organisations that met their criteria. They have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into a network of academic departments, thinktanks, journals and movements. And they appear to have been remarkably successful.

As researchers at Harvard and Columbia universities have found, Americans for Prosperity alone now rivals the Republican party in terms of size, staffing and organisational capacity. It has pulled “the Republican party to the far right on economic, tax and regulatory issues”. It was crucial to the success of the Tea Party movement, the ousting of Democrats from Congress, and the staffing of Trump’s transition team. The Koch network has helped secure massive tax cuts, the smashing of trade unions and the dismantling of environmental legislation.

But their hands, for the most part, remain invisible. A Republican consultant who has worked for Charles and David Koch told Mayer that “to call them under the radar is an understatement. They are underground.”

When I asked Spiked what the money was for and whether there had been any other payments, its managing editor, Viv Regan, told me that the Charles Koch Foundation has now given Spiked US Inc a total of $300,000

But I have been unable to find any public acknowledgement of this funding. Neither on the videos of the debates, in the posters advertising them nor in reports of the events in Spiked magazine is there any mention of the Charles Koch Foundation. From what I could see of the title slides in the videos, they acknowledged an organisation called the Institute For Humane Studies, but not the foundation. Spiked has yet to reply to my questions on this matter.

The Koch brothers are famously careful with their money. According to Mayer, they exert “unusually tight personal control over their philanthropic endeavours”. David Koch told a sympathetic journalist: “If we’re going to give a lot of money, we’ll make darn sure they spend it in a way that goes along with our intent. And if they make a wrong turn and start doing things we don’t agree with, we withdraw funding.” So what might have attracted them to this obscure organisation?

Spiked magazine, edited by O’Neill, appears to hate leftwing politics. It inveighs against the welfare state, against regulation, the Occupy movement, anti-capitalists, Jeremy Corbyn, George Soros, #MeToo, “black privilege” and Black Lives Matter. It does so in the name of the “ordinary people”, whom, it claims, are oppressed by the “anti-Trump and anti-Brexit cultural elites”, “feministic elites”, “green elites” and “cosmopolitan politicians”.

When I sent my questions to Spiked, I was denounced on the front page of the magazine as a “McCarthyite”

Its articles repeatedly defend figures on the hard right or far right: Katie Hopkins, Nigel Farage, Alex Jones, the Democratic Football Lads’ Alliance, Tommy Robinson, Toby Young, Arron Banks, Viktor Orbán. They are portrayed as victims of “McCarthyites” trying to suppress free speech. It demands the hardest of possible Brexits, insisting that “No deal is nothing to fear”, as it would allow the UK to scrap EU regulations. But what it appears to hate most is environmentalism. It rails against “climate scaremongering”, and has called for fracking and coal production to be ramped up. It blamed the Grenfell Tower disaster on “the moral fervour of the climate change campaign”. It mocks the idea that air pollution is dangerous and has proposed abolishing the planning system“We need to conquer nature, not bow to it,” it contends. “Let’s make the ‘human footprint’ even bigger.”

The Kochs are mentioned in several Spiked articles, but no corresponding interests are declared. An article in 2016, when Spiked US received $170,000 from the Charles Koch Foundation, attacked the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access pipeline, in which the Koch brothers have a major interest.

Coronavirus data prove Australia is in Asia

By Ramesh Thakur

Ramesh Thakur, a former United Nations assistant secretary-general, is Emeritus Professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University. He is the author of The United Nations, Peace and Security: From Collective Security to the Responsibility to Protect.

Hmmm

A disappointing article from the John Menadue blog.

Cross-jurisdiction comparisons are notoriously difficult and it’s almost impossible to prove lockdowns have saved lives, except by falling back tautologically on the epidemiological model’s own projections of mortality figures with no lockdown.

Then he uses this image

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And says

Figure 1 depicts the lack of correlation between lockdown measures and coronavirus deaths in selected countries. The visually striking worst, despite having had a lockdown for two months, is Belgium with a Covid-19 death rate of 804 per million people. Over 56,000 Belgians have been infected and over 9,000 have died.

Meanwhile the statistics point to an interesting geographical counterpoint to a long-standing geopolitical discourse about Australia’s national identity. Based on our low number of infections and deaths, we quite clearly belong to Asia rather than the North Atlantic community. Or deaths stand at 4.0 per million people. But when put into the Asian context, this is not quite so impressive as the politicians would have us believe, which is also the narrative that journalists seem mostly to have bought hook, line and sinker. Against Asian benchmarks, with lockdowns Australia and New Zealand are at the higher end of the spectrum despite the reality that very few of our Asian neighbours locked down their countries (Table 1).

… It becomes clearer by the week that the world’s governments went into meltdown in an orgy of pandemic panic porn not justified by the science or the data but provoked by grossly flawed modelling.

 

The rise and fall of coronavirus modelling

By Ramesh Thakur

The average seasonal flu has a fatality rate of 0.1%. On 5 March, based on the early data from Wuhan in China which had the first cluster of infections and deaths, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published a fatality rate of 3.4% for the novel coronavirus. Not surprisingly, this alarmed public health authorities everywhere but it also badly misled epidemiologists in their modelling of the likely infectiousness and lethality of the virus under different response scenarios.

By now we have better and more reliable data. A report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on 20 May estimated the most likely case fatality rate (CFR or the percentage of known infected cases who die from the disease) of 0.4%. Its estimate of asymptomatic cases is 35%, giving an overall infection fatality rate (IFR) of 0.26%. The president of the Yamaneko Research Institute writes that the fatality rate in Tokyo is also 0.26%.

The FIST: but … New York

It’s also important to note that estimates of flu illnesses and deaths from the CDC are just that — estimates (which make certain assumptions) rather than raw numbers. (The CDC does not know the exact number of people who become sick with or die from the flu each year in the U.S. Rather, this number is estimated based on data collected on flu hospitalizations through surveillance in 13 states.) A recent paper published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine emphasized this point when it found that, in the U.S., there were 20 times more deaths per week from COVID-19 than from the flu in the deadliest week of an average influenza season

He also said

Belarus has been ruled by a dictator since 1994. President Alexander Lukashenko has dismissed Covid-19 panic as a ‘psychosis‘, rejected lockdown and social distancing measures, and refused to close schools and cancel football matches. On 1 April, a WHO official warned it was entering a ‘concerning’ new phase and urged the imposition of new measures to control the infection but was rebuffed. By 22 May, Belarus had just 190 Covid-19 deaths.

But

On 25 March 2020 a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine requirement was instituted for persons entering Belarus …

As of 30 March 2020 Belarus had not initiated a nation-wide quarantine effort…

On 4 April the Ministry of Education of Belarus announced a one-week extension of spring vacation for schools.[106] On 10 April another one-week extension followed.[107]

On 9 April a mandatory 14-day self-isolation requirement was issued by the government for foreign and Belarusian citizens with either confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis, or the status of first- or second-level contact. The penalties for breaking the requirement include administrative detentionfine and imprisonment

Suspected statistics falsification[edit]

According to Stepan Putilo, an independent Belarusian journalist and owner of the NEXTA Telegram channel, the government has falsified the official data on the COVID-19 pandemic progression in Belarus and published significantly lowered numbers. On 11 May 2020, with reference to “documents from the Presidential Administration of Belarus“, NEXTA concluded that a daily gain of more than a thousand COVID-19 cases had been reached “a couple of days ago”, while the number of total COVID-19 cases in Belarus was as high as 26,348, with 166 COVID-19 patients requiring assisted ventilation.

On 13 May, NEXTA reported a total of 27,717 COVID-19 cases and a daily gain of 1,369.[126][127]

According to the statistics presented during the 22 May webinar of the Belarusian Society of Anesthesiologists and Reanimatologists, in April 2020, mortality rate among intensive therapy COVID-19 patients in Minsk alone accounted to 27%, or 117 patients in absolute numbers, contradictory to the 1 May official Ministry of Health report pointing to a total (i.e. in Belarus as a whole) of 93 deaths of COVID-19 patients. In a further official clarification by the Ministry of Health, it was noted that the death rate presented during the webinar reflected the data on all the patients of “pulmonological profile” and included both confirmed COVID-19 patients and patients with “other pneumonia etiologies“, contradictory to the slides of the webinar presentation mentioning the COVID-19 patients exclusively. The recording of the webinar was later removed from YouTube.[128][129]

The USA and Covid 19

  • A massive underclass have to work or starve.
  • Dysfunctional healthcare system meant may Americans were already unhealthy
  • Lose job, lose healthcare therefore don’t go to hospital.
  • Thoughtless individualism so unwilling to sacrifice for greater good
  • Political leadership downplayed seriousness
  • Track and trace would never be accepted

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