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Messages - SteveMDFP

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1
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: April 13, 2021, 08:49:38 PM »
Not to beat a dead horse, but:

Mortality Rates of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Caused by the Novel Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2)
https://www.cureus.com/articles/54924-mortality-rates-of-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-caused-by-the-novel-severe-acute-respiratory-syndrome-coronavirus-2-sars-cov-2

 We obtain that the IFR varies from 1.25% (0.39–2.16%, 90% CI) in Florida, the most aged population, to 0.69% in Utah (0.21–1.30%, 90% CI), the youngest population. By September 8, 2020, we estimate that at least five states have already a fraction of people ever infected between 10% and 20% (New Jersey, New York, Massachussets, Connecticut, and District of Columbia). The state with the highest estimated fraction of people ever infected is New Jersey with 17.3% (10.0, 55.8, 90% CI). Moreover, our results indicate that with a probability of 90 percent the fraction of detected people among the ever infected since the beginning of the epidemic has been less than 50% in 15 out of the 20 states analyzed in this paper.
____________________________________________________________

These values are similar to what our group quasi-consensus has been on ASIF.

It's absurd to point to a single author or article (with an outlier estimate) as the ultimate authority.

It's equally absurd to dogmatically state that infections are always everywhere 10x the cases diagnosed.

In due time, there will be meta-analyses and review articles to bring more light on divergent measurements and estimates.


2
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: April 13, 2021, 01:21:50 PM »

Besides that this, often touted 0.1% fatality rate for the flu is CFR not IFR.

The  Case Fatality Rate of the flu is better compared to the 3.7% Case Fatality Rate of C19.

The actual Infection Fatality Rate of the flu is well below 0.1%, but mostly unknowable.

Excellent point, easily overlooked.  The cited fatality rate for influenza is indeed the CFR.  The o.1% CFR for influenza should be compared to the 4 or 5% for Covid. 

Of course, with Covid, it no longer makes much sense to talk about "the CFR" (or IFR), because mounting evidence points to increasing virulence and contagiousness of the variants that are rapidly becoming dominant around the world.  So you have to qualify the Estimates by which variants is being measured.

There's also significant reduction in case fatality rate with newer treatments.  The monoclonal antibody cocktails reduce hospitalizations (and likely deaths) by roughly 80%, if administered early in the course of disease.  Steroids can reduce mortality by about 30%.  But these are not available everywhere.  The monoclonal cocktails in particular seem readily available in the US but less so in other countries.  To reasonably discuss a measured IFR or CFR, we now have to add:  for which variant?  With which available treatments?  Without such specificity, arguing about a specific value is now meaningless.

Then, of course, we will now inevitably see more variants, simply because the pandemic has been allowed to run rampant, thanks to lack of implementation of straightforward public health measures.  The whole world is in a race against the virus's ability to mutate.

3
Policy and solutions / Re: Batteries: Today's Energy Solution
« on: April 13, 2021, 04:31:53 AM »
I rarely disagree with your excellent analyses interstitial, but I think the above needs a caveat. Even 16 hour storage cannot completely replace fossil fuels year round, as a prolonged period of "bad luck" in wind, cloudiness, rainfall and other parameters over a large enough region can lead to widespread unmet energy needs. So an X amount of storage can replace year round except in rare cases, which would still require fossil fuel backup until some different kind of backup comes along.

I agree.  Bad things start happening quickly when the grid goes down.  The grid needs to function even when renewable sources have a very bad week.  I suspect systems will conclude that peaker plants held in reserve, unused for 90+% of the time, will be needed to assure grid stability.

If utilities have peaker plants sitting mostly idle, this affects the economics of how big a battery it's economical to build.

Down the road, when renewables have been amply overbuilt, excess power can go into, say, hydrogen production, which can be used to operate the peakers. 

4
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: April 12, 2021, 01:10:55 AM »
Not to mention that the W.H.O., in 2019, advised against wholesale travel restrictions & border closures in a flu/coronavirus pandemic, using the phrase "Not recommended in any circumstances" (https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/329438/9789241516839-eng.pdf?ua=1&fbclid=IwAR21_SgVug3xTjJ600lNrLQSGZCLvxnLKFrGuTEOmI95_Iipt4Ia8dFbbOg). And now we see variants of the virus growing in the perfect incubator of a locked-down region, where it can propagate, survive, & strengthen, more easily than being watered down in the world's very powerful collective immune-system (strength of which is shown in these studies here: https://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php/topic,2996.msg302301.html#msg302301).

False.  First, the document you cite from WHO is specifically for influenza pandemics.  This isn't an influenza pandemic.  This is a different, more virulent, far more contagious virus.

It is the W.H.O. who advised against restricting travel in 2019 for pandemics, not me. Flus have never remotely been pursued & recorded the way covid-19 has, so you have no idea wether it is more contagious. Flus pass around just as much, but no-one counts it and pursues it the way covid was.

Laughably false.  Although Covid has been intensively studied for one year, we have a century of epidemiologic and virulogic study of influenza.  We do know, indeed, that Covid is far more contagious than influenza.  We see this even in data from the past year, where respiratory virus precautions inadequate to control Covid has nevertheless dropped influenza rates to near zero.

The point has been quantified by others, many times.  One that popped up immediately for me is from Lancet:

Comparing SARS-CoV-2 with SARS-CoV and influenza pandemics
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1473309920304849

"The basic reproductive rate (R0) for SARS-CoV-2 is estimated to be 2·5 (range 1·8–3·6) compared with 2·0–3·0 for SARS-CoV and the 1918 influenza pandemic, 0·9 for MERS-CoV, and 1·5 for the 2009 influenza pandemic."

Note that R0 for seasonal influenza is lower than that for a pandemic influenza year.  In comparison, Covid is a highly transmissible disease.

Note that small changes in R0 translate into enormous differences in the number infected.  See, from https://www.preprints.org/manuscript/202004.0021/v2

5
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: April 11, 2021, 07:15:06 PM »
Not to mention that the W.H.O., in 2019, advised against wholesale travel restrictions & border closures in a flu/coronavirus pandemic, using the phrase "Not recommended in any circumstances" (https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/329438/9789241516839-eng.pdf?ua=1&fbclid=IwAR21_SgVug3xTjJ600lNrLQSGZCLvxnLKFrGuTEOmI95_Iipt4Ia8dFbbOg). And now we see variants of the virus growing in the perfect incubator of a locked-down region, where it can propagate, survive, & strengthen, more easily than being watered down in the world's very powerful collective immune-system (strength of which is shown in these studies here: https://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php/topic,2996.msg302301.html#msg302301).

False.  First, the document you cite from WHO is specifically for influenza pandemics.  This isn't an influenza pandemic.  This is a different, more virulent, far more contagious virus.  If you actually look into the detailed recommendations for influenza pandemics, you'll find more precise recommendations (p. 28):  "Border closure:  Border closure is generally not recommended unless required by national law in extraordinary circumstances during a severe pandemic, and countries implementing this measure should notify WHO as required by the IHR (2005)."

Travel restrictions only slow the spread for a time, giving nations a chance to make preparations, such as stockpiling PPE and manufacturing tests.  If only the US and EU had used this time more wisely, much harm could have been avoided.

Next, your suggestion that allowing free travel will cause it to be "watered down" is ludicrous.  Infectious diseases don't get diluted by spreading widely, they expand and become far more damaging.

6
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: April 10, 2021, 08:38:51 PM »
This method of containing the spread by very targeted testing and isolation has worked well.
In total South Korea has carried out 8,106,630 COVID-19 tests, including 47,517 yesterday.
Much less than many comparable countries.

Quite amazing really. The gold standard as to how to control a deadly virus.

Screw anybody in the U.S. who says nothing more could have been done.

Little more could have been done with our western culture. In some places, maybe a lot more (Fla), in many others, not much more (Skandinavian countries).

We are no equipped with the mindset to shut down several schools due to *a single case*, get everyone directly involved tested in 24h, quarantine children *and* parents then reopen schools free of cases in 48h.

Discipline, teamwork, submission to society, obedience,... oh and they used masks *before* the pandemic, many had them at home just in case.

Not saying I envy Korean mindset though... just admitting we follow other principles.

I quite agree.  Those claiming that bad policies or worse, intentional spread, seem to believe that we could just shut everything down, lock people in their homes, and wait this out.  That might work in places like China, but not most places in the rest of the globe.  The ideals that lead to freedom and independence have prevented most of the Western world from incorporating these draconian measures.  It was not the fault of the leaders.  Whoever was in power would have encountered similar roadblocks.

I disagree.  On 9/11, the US shut down all air travel for days, just because two NYC buildings collapsed.  Schools and workplaces shut down.

So why is it that in this same United States, that individual schools couldn't be shut down for 48 hours in the confirmed presence of a lethal microbe?

Shoot, we *already* do this for heavy snowfalls.  Of course the S. Korea model is workable here.

7
Policy and solutions / Re: Batteries: Today's Energy Solution
« on: April 10, 2021, 01:56:14 AM »
I'm not sure that this is necessarily either/or. 

A main battery augmented by a structural battery appears to offer the best of both worlds.  Lower weight and greater storage, particularly in more sensitive applications.

Yes.  I try to imagine how structural batteries could be incorporated into an auto, and I can only think of several specific elements.  Not nothing, but a not a whole power regime for a vehicle.

On the other hand, bicycle frames have mostly straight, cylindrical elements.  This approach seems ideal for an electric bicycle that might replace most bikes, and even motorcycles.

8
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: March 31, 2021, 04:59:49 PM »
From the same worldometer data, the 7-day rolling average for cases in the U.S. has fallen 1.2% over the past 4 weeks, 51% over the past 8 weeks, and 67% over the past 12 weeks.  The 7-day rolling average for deaths has fallen 30% over the past 2 weeks (not flat at all!), 60% over the past 4 weeks, and 76% over both the past 8 and 12 weeks.  I think that the strategy is working just fine.

Color me only somewhat reassured.  "Past returns are no guarantee of future performance."

1.  The core phenomenon, epidemic, is exponential in nature.  In a susceptible population, doubling every 2 weeks can happen, and has.

2.  Having much of the country's population immunized, with about 20% never to be immunized, means that there is intense selective pressure for circulating strains to evolve resistance to vaccine-induced immunity.

3.  What's happening in any particular well-immunized country is almost irrelevant here.  If such a "super-virus" evolves anywhere on the planet, it has a very good chance of reaching everyplace on the planet within a few months.  Then we're back to square one, as we were a year ago.

Hopefulness is warranted.  Complacency is not.  Intense vigilance globally is still essential.

9
The rest / Re: SpaceX
« on: March 30, 2021, 02:57:37 PM »
Quote
Since Musk's SpaceX is really all about Life on Mars, here is a question.

Will humans survive a round trip to Mars in nil gravity, and will a human survive a normal life span on Mars in 38% earth gravity?

Most astronauts do not experience grave physical effects from the typical 6-month stay aboard the ISS. (Kelly’s endurance test was almost a year.). Transit time to Mars should be six months or less — Musk has spoken of three- to four-month trips, eventually.

Though many have crippling symptoms for weeks upon return.  Leg swelling, severe weakness.  Hardly the physical condition for exploring Mars.

In low-earth orbit, the Earth's magnetic field protects from charged particle radiation.  Trips to Mars won't have that protection.  Months of that radiation is a huge barrier to safety.  Coronary arteries seem to be peculiarly sensitive to radiation effects. 

10
Arctic sea ice / Re: "Smart" and "Stupid" Questions - Feel Free To Ask
« on: March 18, 2021, 02:55:59 AM »
So weird to see a river in Russia that's not frozen over. Are they dumping warm water from a power plant in it or something? How can it not be frozen right now?

Dunno.  But weren't one or more rivers contaminated by ungodly amounts of diesel fuel?  Maybe we're looking at dirty oil on top of ice?

11
Consequences / Re: Origins of SARS-CoV-2
« on: March 16, 2021, 01:04:01 AM »
Steve:
Do they still tolerate them?

I don't know.  But a news report I heard today indicated that a year ago, the Chinese government cracked down on the raising and sale of bamboo rats.  Apparently a regular dinner item in China.  So, the government is likely more sensitive to the matter now.


P.S,:  Here's the news item I referenced above:

WHO Points To Wildlife Farms In Southern China As Likely Source Of Pandemic
https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2021/03/15/977527808/who-points-to-wildlife-farms-in-southwest-china-as-likely-source-of-pandemic

12
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: March 16, 2021, 12:56:04 AM »
Analogy: If someone dies in a car crash while driving an old, small car with no air-bags, it will be assumed that the vehicle probably had something to do with the fatality. That's why there are car safety regulations, despite vehement industry resistance. Apparently, the same doesn't hold for society and population health. In fact, one is not even allowed to talk about it (until mainstream media gives the green light, of course, which it won't).

Nonsense.  A healthy population is one that lives to advanced age.  A healthy population thus has a comparatively large proportion of elderly citizens.

Increasing age is a dramatically stronger risk factor for death from Covid than any lifestyle factor you can name, by far.

Thus, the rate of deaths from Covid is magnified in heathy societies.  Unhealthy societies mask the potential magnitude of death and suffering in the pandemic.

13
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: March 15, 2021, 01:49:33 PM »

IFR is calculated from confirmed infections. Confirmed infections are based normally on those experiencing symptoms going for a test. This means both IFR and confirmed infections don't really account for asymptomatic infections. Its possible that using IFR to extrapolate into population immunity may underestimate total infection level.

The only accurate way to really calculate any of this is to perform random testing of Ab levels in the population, but this would have had to have been done for the last year as Ab levels in the blood are transient, normally less than 3 months post infection (depends on which immunoglobulin it is).

I guess my point is, its actually very difficult to know this even marginally accurately.

IFR doesn't depend on a confirmed current infection.  When an ill person is diagnosed, they become a patient, a "case."  Mortality in this group is thus the "Case Fatality Rate," CFR.

IFR  is generally calculated from the universe of people with positive antibody tests, as you've indicated.  Different labs seem to have reported differing rates of decline of anti-Covid antibody levels, but I don't think duration of test positivity is "normally less than 3 months."

We've already hashed out a lot of this issue of CFR vs. IFR a few months ago (far upthread).  A reasonable consensus from the group seems to be an IFR a bit under 1%.  CFR has been multiples of this, but as increasingly effective treatments are brought to bear, this has surely been dropping.

14
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: March 15, 2021, 09:00:50 AM »
This Week in Virology is a YouTube channel worth keeping an eye on with the Covid pandemic.
The latest one includes some concerning information about apparently increasing effects seen in kids. 

TWiV 731: The kids aren't alright


chronology of topics courtesy of a commentator on the channel:

0:00 The weather
6:20 Ebola in Africa intro
8:40 DRC  Guinee  approx. 30 outbreaks
9:50 filovirus  peters out  stays zoonotic
10:45 bats
12:00 bushmeat  primates   immunocompromised as reservoir? 
15:00 Ebola  persisting in humans ?
16:00 Separate origin of outbreaks Guinee and DRC
17:00 2 vaccines available  1: spike   2: prime boost vaccine J&J
19:00 small pharma vs global pharma   manufacturing capability
21:20 Merck cancelled vaccine, prioritises antivirals. Produces J&J vaccine
23:30 Covid: Kids Zoe Hyde attack rate bias  less tested  short infectious period  ifr 0.002%
25:30 long covid underappreciated in young population
27:00 children twice as likely to be asymptomatic   only 9% of pediatric cases diagnosed at symptom onset, others by contact tracing
28:00 heterogeneity in secondary attack rate   only 2 day window for detection by PCR
29:10 seropositivity prevalence 23- 26 % same as adults (Italy)
31:00 School closure creates bias in susceptibility of children
34:00 conclusion: you can’t say kids get infected less. They play an important role in community transmission
39:30 opening schools   appropriate precautions    low spread      Testing is key
41:40 Texas state Uni : weekly testing + when needed:  no community spread
43:50 Despite scientific uncertainty there is already a lot of knowledge. Textbook knowledge is not used properly. Few vaccines prevent infection. Unrealistic to expect this from Covid vaccines.
48:30 MMWR march 5 2021    Estimated SARS-CoV-2 Seroprevalence Among Persons Aged <18 Years — Mississippi, May–September 2020    covenience samples   mid sept   113000 <18  infected in missippi. 9000 diagnosed  so factor 12 underestimated  conclusion: young and old infected at the same rate
54:00 speculation about approaching herd immunity
55:50  long covid   22% had >1 symptom 5 weeks after infection    10%  at 12 weeks. Fatigue cough headache loss of taste and smell   35 49 y age group   curve peaks  25 -69  age range  : economic damage   limitation only covers some symptoms, maybe underestimate   
1:00:00 not just a virus  not comparable with common cold   
1:04:00 maybe a third of the population already infected    Herd immunity is not black and white
1:05:00 e-mail

15
Consequences / Re: Origins of SARS-CoV-2
« on: March 14, 2021, 05:21:06 PM »


https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/03/210312155448.htm

So this is evidence of the ´natural´ origin.

Viruses do what viruses do.

If I was to put money on what happened.... it would be on the virus being found and collected then transported to the Wuhan facility.

From there it infected someone who took it outside and then it spread from there.

To me, that is the most plausible series of events.

For me, the most persuasive detail is that the initial cluster in Wuhan consisted mostly of workers at the "fish market."   This isn't at all what you'd expect from a lab release.  But it's exactly what you'd expect if the origin of SARS-2 was the same as for SARS-1. 

It wasn't just a fish market.  Many wild animals of many species were kept in close proximity to each other, and to humans.  You couldn't engineer a more efficient system for generating new zoonoses (animal disease becoming a human disease).

This is an indictment of the Chinese Government, not an exoneration.  The biological risk of such markets was crystal-clear since the days of SARS--1, and yet the government tolerated them.


16
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: March 14, 2021, 04:59:48 PM »

You forgot to take into account the studies on pre-existing T-Cell immunity I posted here:
https://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php/topic,2996.msg303046.html#msg303046, which you ignored. Peer-reviewed studies...ignored by one and all...for a year.
Ignored for a very good reason:  it's irrelevant.  Exposure to minor coronaviruses is universal.  These T-cell studies are in vitro, and carry a questionable relationship to whole organisms (humans).  If everyone has had repeated exposure to minor coronaviruses, what practical significance is that?  Covid has wrecked havoc across the globe, whatever the level of prior immune response in the population.

The older one is, the more prior infections with minor coronaviruses.  One would expect older individuals to have built up an increasing resistance to Covid.  The opposite is the case.  For all we know, prior exposure to minor coronaviruses *increases* susceptibility to Covid, as with Dengue.

The insistence that Covid is "weak" is bizarre.  It's a phenomenally contagious virus.  Which means even a virus of low-to-moderate virulence can have devastating impacts on society.

Also peculiar is the insistence that a healthy lifestyle will protect a person from bad outcomes.  Diabetes increases risk of bad outcome by a factor of about 2.  That's approximately the increased risk from being 7 - 10 years older.  I've seen not a shred of evidence that lifestyle differences (including obesity, smoking, lack of exercise, etc) has even as much impact on risk as does blood type (Type O vs Type A).

Arguing such non-facts smacks of irrational defense mechanisms ("Covid won't hurt me, because I'm virtuous").  Sorry, but reality is full of chaos and risk.  All the virtuous choices in the world will have only small impact.

Repetitive insistence on non-facts and idiosyncratic reasoning does not advance discussions.  It's just trolling.

17
The rest / Re: Masks
« on: March 09, 2021, 01:06:14 PM »
Microbial Contamination on Used Surgical Masks among Hospital Personnel and Microbial Air Quality in their Working Wards: A Hospital in Bangkok

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4202234/

Oxygen is so precious.

If the oxygen composition in the atmosphere reduces from current 21% to 19.5%, we will become extinct. That is only 7.5% reduction.

Masks are causing bad breath because the body is not able to exhale its excretions, leading to a build up of unwanted bacteria that is leading to bacterial pneumonia.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2599911/

This is exasperated by the use of anti-bacterial sanitizer, that is totally useless against viruses, as they are not living things, and harms our symbiotic ecosystem that consists of trillions of microbes.

What a massive load of nonsense.  Idiocy, actually.
The two references are only tangentially relevant to any of the crap here. 
We live in an environment loaded with microorganisms.  Wear a mask, and these common organisms end up on the mask.  Shock, horror.  It still filters virus, so wear it.

"If the oxygen composition in the atmosphere reduces from current 21% to 19.5%, we will become extinct. That is only 7.5% reduction."  Well, that's a lie.  You'll get a much further reduction in O2 per cubic meter of air from a moderate elevation from sea level.   But according to this, all of Denver must be extinct.  Snort.

"Masks are causing bad breath because the body is not able to exhale its excretions, leading to a build up of unwanted bacteria that is leading to bacterial pneumonia."  More unsupported lies.  Where is there any evidence that wearing a mask causes either bad breath or pneumonia?  Certainly not in that PubMed article.  Do people who perform surgery all day or wear masks on construction sites fill our hospital wards?  No, the masks protect themselves and others.  So wear them.

"exasperated by the use of anti-bacterial sanitizer"?   No, what is exasperating is having to knock down stupid lies on a science-based forum.  They're not even plausible lies.  The sanitizers are a strong solution of ethanol.  This is highly effective against fungi, bacteria and viruses.  Some spores might survive, but viruses don't produce spores.

Coronaviruses have an envelope, derived from cell membranes.  These envelopes are quite fragile.  Ethanol will absolutely destroy these viruses.  So use it.

Where did this load of crap come from, exactly?  Why would you post it here?

18
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: March 02, 2021, 11:32:31 PM »
...
It's the scientific law called "Farr's Law", still valid today. All pandemics fade away naturally.
Note that Farr's Law was an observation of the natural history of epidemics.   That is, epidemics in which there are no public health measures,  treatments, or vaccines available.  Farr's initial observations were in relation to smallpox, I believe.

Farr's law is inapplicable for diseases where public health measures, therapeutics, or vaccines are available. It has zero applicability to the Covid pandemic.

Similarly, body counts as a percent of susceptible people are also meaningless.  These are deaths happening as public health measures and incrementally improving treatments are being implemented.  One could just as validly state that the ratio reflects the importance and efficacy of strong public health measures.

BBR used to go on about Farr's Law also.  Any relation?

19
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: March 02, 2021, 03:50:16 PM »

The big picture is all the background in our societies. Shifting demographics, bad food, stripped healthcare , the ever depleted world etc.
....
But what about the fact that so many people eat little fruit and often quite bad mixes of ready made highly palatable foods? What about the existence of food deserts?
So many people hardly getting exercise not even some leisurely strolling.
Lung damage from before any disease by pollution.

If we make the whole population better we will all be better off but the system is not geared towards that.

This seems to be wishful thinking.  People here keep asserting that a healthy lifestyle is key to reducing risk of a bad outcome with this virus, with little or no evidence. 

We've already covered some of this.  Presence of diabetes in a person approximately doubles risk of a bad outcome.  Not trivial, but that's roughly the level of risk for being 7 - 10  years older.  The available evidence suggests you're better off being a 50 year-old diabetic than a fit, vigorous 60 year old.

It may well be that the risk of death for a person is mostly correlated with density of ACE2 receptors in vital tissues.  That's something none of us can control, or even measure.  It's uncomfortable to think we have limited control over our own risk of death in a pandemic, so many just refuse to believe it.   

Its much more comfortable to believe that our own virtuous decisions protect us.  I've seen zero evidence that a balanced diet, regular exercise, or breathing less-polluted air is of any particular importance.  The belief seems to have as much validity as carrying a lucky rabbit's foot.

Weakness or strength of a virus is a terribly dumb assertion.  Sure, the virus is less virulent than  smallpox or ebola.   But more virulent than influenza or zika. 

Just as important as virulence (the propensity to cause serious illness in the infected) is contagiousness.  On this metric, Covid is very severe indeed.  Thus, it spreads quickly around the world, to a significant percentage of the world's population in just a year.

This is a particularly absurd moment to be decrying shut-downs and restrictions.  We have several highly effective vaccines in mass production and mass administration.  For the immunized, the virus can be seen as less fearsome than influenza. 

What the world should be doing is what most of the world is currently doing -- continue public health measures to limit further spread of Covid and its varieants while vaccinating as many as possible as quickly as possible.

In six months, the "strength" or "weakness" of the virus will be utterly moot.  Much sooner in many nations, a bit later in some poor nations.  We just all need to stay alive and healthy until then,

Anybody heard from Terry lately?

20
Consequences / Re: Origins of SARS-CoV-2
« on: February 20, 2021, 12:29:23 AM »
The question is, is there going to be review by peers on the recent WHO field study conclusion or should we accept it as is?

why are we so zealous in gatekeeping studies supporting lab origin but we seem to give an easy pass when experts support natural origin, even when it is not through peer-reviewed papers but simple press notes like the recent WHO conclusion (swift conclusion aired only after a week of having a few nice walks in the streets of Wuhan)

This attitude seems reactionary to me, like the classic reaction in favor of the establishment.

To be clear, that's not my attitude.  I'm a bit skeptical of the WHO team's objectivity and thoroughness.  But on the basis of available facts (and the anti-China bias of many), i'm very doubtful of the claim of artificial origin of Covid.

We have a model for the origin and spread of such viruses.  The original SARS seems pretty clearly to have started from a "wet market."  Originating in bats, with civet cats as an intermediate host.  There was no need for bats to have been in that wet market.

And, of course, MERS appears to have originated in bats, then passed to camels as an intermediate host, before passing to humans.

I see no compelling reason to posit a totally different mechanism for the spread of Covid to humans.  Highly similar coronaviruses were obtained from pangolins and bats before this epidemic started.  There seems to be no doubt that the bulk of the early human cases were people who worked at the wet market.

This doesn't exonerate China's leadership, it indicts China's leadership.  Tolerating wet markets, where wild animals are in close proximity with other wild animals and humans, was inexcusable.  Having suffered from the SARS epidemic, there was no rational reason to tolerate the operation of other, similar, wet markets.  Such arrangements are essentially the best possible way to create catastrophic pandemics.  This was apparent before the Covid virus arose.

Absent fairly compelling evidence of an artificial origin, we can have confidence that failure to close wet markets is the underlying cause of this global disaster.

Conversely, the Wuhan Institute of Virology's research was more than appropriate.  Having suffered through the SARS catastrophe, the Institute would have been derelict in its duties if it weren't focusing squarely on coronaviruses in bats that might potentially spread to humans.  Engaging in gain-of-function research was certainly somewhat hazardous, but I don't see that it was clearly unwarranted.  Assessing the potential for coronavirus spread to humans is of obvious importance to preventing the next pandemic.


21
Consequences / Re: Origins of SARS-CoV-2
« on: February 19, 2021, 09:42:36 PM »
It's not peer-review, it's a study that is pre-print.  It's 100 pages, and this man has an illustrious career and the University of Hamburg has permitted their name to be included on the study.

We should read it because the reputation of university of Hamburg is on the line here.

Last I checked, University of Hamburg has a lot to lose by allowing their name to be used.  So let's try to read through the 100 page study, and see why the University of Hamburg would risk their reputation on "nonsense"?

https://www.uni-hamburg.de/en.html

Incase you missed it, here's the direct link to the pre-print, PDF:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/349302406_Studie_zum_Ursprung_der_Coronavirus-Pandemie

I presume the author is on faculty at U Hamburg.  If so, standards of academic freedom mean that he needed zero authorization from anyone at U Hamburg prior to submitting this to ResearchGate.

Generally, "preprint" means that a paper has been at least submitted to a peer-reviewed journal, and often accepted for publication.  There's no evidence of any journal being involved here.

Yes, it's lengthy, but the bulk of the pages are copies of various letters and articles.

Alas, I can't read German, or I'd give a more detailed critique.  Judging from the English language materials included, I'd say he's quite concerned about gain-of-function research in virology.  Many are; it's quite controversial.  I can't see that he's presented anything new on the matter.

Since you presented this for discussion, perhaps you might see if you can run it through Google translate and present the quasi-translation?

22
Consequences / Re: Origins of SARS-CoV-2
« on: February 19, 2021, 09:24:19 PM »
University of Hamburg: Laboratory Accident Most Likely Cause of Coronavirus Pandemic

https://swprs.org/german-study-laboratory-accident-most-likely-cause-of-coronavirus-pandemic/

...
Below is a link to the study:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/349302406_Studie_zum_Ursprung_der_Coronavirus-Pandemie

Peer-reviewed?  What peer-reviewed journal published this "study"?  Citation?

Why should anyone pay  attention to the musings of a nanotechnology expert?  He's not a virologist.  The two fields are unrelated, apart from dealing with small things.

The initial article is from the anonymous Swiss Policy Research web site, which has been more or less debunked here.

Let's not present turds as being nuggets of gold.

23
The politics / Re: The Collapse Of America
« on: February 17, 2021, 11:41:30 AM »
I remember when your political beliefs  weren’t a reason to tell someone you wouldn’t do business with them, or hire them or let them play with your children.Everyone agreed to disagree and asked what was for dinner. 
And when was this idyllic time?  Must have been before the Red Scare and blacklisting of suspected Communists.  Must also have been before Jim Crow, before the Nativist/anti-immigrant Know-Nothing Party.  For that matter, must have been before Reconstruction.  Before the abolitionist movement.  Before the Revolutionary War, even.

Even in the post WW-II era when the white middle class was relatively politically complacent, awful racism excluded minorities from equal rights to, e.g., housing.  It was only ever a relatively politically quiescent time for white, middle-class, Christian, church-going people, without disabilities or ethnic impurity. 

Quote
To me, that was a healthier climate , what the cancel culture is about is imposing their will on people through fear and terror when they can’t win the argument, can’t win the debate.
I thought that America was a better one when nobody asked you who you voted for and where the media took only a slightly Leftist position but actually reported both sides of every event and let the reader or viewer decide for themselves.
Of course, that’s not in the Leftist playbook , there are so many of their positions that they can’t justify with common sense or win a debate with that demand to set the topic and don’t allow anyone’s else’s opinion to be heard and when it’s heard, the speaker MUST be punished.
It’s sort of how the Brown Shirts started against the Jews in Germany.
First make up half truths, Content without context as I call it, then demonize, ban and bar and then eventually dehumanize.
yes, I guess when you control thought through fear and manipulation , you can win  but I wonder if it’s Something  to be really proud about, especially, when in the end, the left has always eaten its own.

It is dumbfounding that anyone could characterize this as "the Leftist playbook."  Banning and barring comes at least as much from the Right.  Colin Kaepernick takes a visible stand against police brutality, and he loses his career.  Every year, the Right bemoans a "war on Christmas" and announces boycotts of businesses that dare to try to be inclusive of non-Christians.  Prominent  Republicans take a stand against insurrection, and state parties denounce them and demand their resignation.

Boycotts and the like are an inevitable manifestation of a politically engaged populace.  When thoughtfully done, this is an instrument for positive social change.  Thoughtlessness and narrow-mindedness in such actions is predominantly a phenomenon of the Right.

24
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: February 17, 2021, 10:51:46 AM »
Here is some information from a relevant case study in Israel.
In one of the top hospitals, in the pathology dept some employees tested positive, and as a result it was decided to screen all employees by PCR, and consequently 12 more were found to be unknowingly positive, of which 7 were already fully vaccinated (i.e. at least 7 days after 2nd Pfizer dose) at the time of acquiring the virus. All 7 had the UK variant and were either totally asymptomatic or very lightly symptomatic. ...

Source?  This is important information, worth digging into.

25
Policy and solutions / Re: Electric cars
« on: February 06, 2021, 05:41:44 PM »
Quote
not electric, but a cool hydrogen concept. Room temp and unpressurized storage as a paste, made w magnesium

Came to post the article below before I saw yours....  Agree yours is a cool concept — but the energy wasted in manufacturing the paste, added to the inefficiency of fuel cells... makes it little more than a cool concept.

I'm not sure I'd agree.  This permits hydrogen energy to be stored and utilized at an energy density comparable to gasoline.  Though this likely has no role for stationary energy storage, it could work well for mobile uses.  Long-haul trucking, and anywhere diesel is hard to avoid, including agricultural machinery and mining, and ocean shipping.  It could well be the fuel of choice for electric airplanes. 

Energy inefficiencies could be partially outweighed by running the hydrolytic production of hydrogen at times of excess renewable energy production to the grid.  That energy is often free or cheaper than free.

PS:
Or, potentially a solution to how Australia could apply its solar energy abundance to provide power to Singapore.  Fill up tankers with PowerPaste.

The utility of this kind of technology goes far beyond electric vehicles.  I'd recommend starting a new thread entirely, maybe "The Hydrogen Economy"

26
Policy and solutions / Re: Coal
« on: January 31, 2021, 01:09:52 PM »

The new deep coking coal mine was agreed by Cumbria County Council and the government previously said it did not want to intervene.

I don't disagree with the gist of this post, but I might point out a bit of nuance.  The "coking" implies the intended use is for metallurgical purposes (steel making, mostly) rather than the production of heat/electricity.

With current technology, coke is absolutely essential for steel-making.  We can only reduce the use of coke by reducing steel production.  Unless our climate goals include reduced steel production, then somebody will need to produce the coke.  I don't see that it's better for the coke to come from inside the UK than outside the UK.

Theoretically, it's possible to use hydrogen gas as a reducing agent, rather than carbon from coke.  The whole process would likely need to be carried out in the complete absence of oxygen.  Hydrogen gas heated up to 1000 degrees C (or whatever the temp is) is going to be exceedingly hazardous.

27
The politics / Re: Biden’s Presidency
« on: January 22, 2021, 04:49:06 PM »
Biden is perfectly free to advocate his views. But since they contradicy Catholic doctrine he should not call himself Catholic. If you don't believe what the Church teaches, just be honest and leave the Church! That's perfectly legal.
Not at all.  There is no contradiction with any religion to expect government to be secular.  No need to deprive, e.g., transgender people of their rights, or deny women their reproductive rights, just because some religions would see their conduct as "sinful."  A secular government is the best way to protect religious freedom of individuals.

28
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 22, 2021, 02:43:29 PM »
SARS-CoV-2 Escape In Vitro from a Highly Neutralizing COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma
https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.12.28.424451v1

Three mutations allowed SARS-CoV-2 to evade the polyclonal antibody response of a highly neutralizing COVID-19 convalescent plasma.

ABSTRACT

To investigate the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 in the immune population, we co-incubated authentic virus with a highly neutralizing plasma from a COVID-19 convalescent patient. The plasma fully neutralized the virus for 7 passages, but after 45 days, the deletion of F140 in the spike N-terminal domain (NTD) N3 loop led to partial breakthrough. At day 73, an E484K substitution in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) occurred, followed at day 80 by an insertion in the NTD N5 loop containing a new glycan sequon, which generated a variant completely resistant to plasma neutralization. Computational modeling predicts that the deletion and insertion in loops N3 and N5 prevent binding of neutralizing antibodies.

The recent emergence in the United Kingdom and South Africa of natural variants with similar changes suggests that SARS-CoV-2 has the potential to escape an effective immune response and that vaccines and antibodies able to control emerging variants should be developed.

Thanks for posting this, Vox.  The findings are important and disturbing, but not surprising.  After repeated passage in cell culture, with incubation with highly-potent immune serum, the virus acquires resistance to the antibodies present.   The acquired mutations confer resistance to some but not all sera from other recovered individuals.

Study of the acquired mutations might give us an early look at mutations that may develop in the wild.  This could give a heard start on developing the next generation of mRNA vaccines, which would probably be multi-valent, to cover more mutant strains as well as the original.

We should note that this is very much "gain of function" research.  Dangerous?  Quite possibly, if the mutant strain escapes the lab.  Worth taking the risk?  I'm inclined to think so, assuming solid lab containment protocols.

29
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 19, 2021, 03:20:10 PM »
Another New Covid-19 Variant Discovered In L.A. May Be Vaccine Resistant
https://deadline.com/2021/01/another-new-covid-19-variant-in-l-a-vaccine-resistant-denmark-1234675834/amp/
 
https://www.cell.com/cell/pdf/S0092-8674%2820%2930877-1.pdf

An article on Cell.com says L452R has “decreased sensitivity to neutralizing mAbs (monoclonal antibodies),” which are used in the currently-approved vaccines to inhibit connections between the spike proteins of the virus and infected cells.

Chiu said very early studies of the L452R spike protein mutation indicate it’s less susceptible to those neutralizing antibodies in the vaccines.

The article in Cell looks good to me.  The synopsis in deadline.com is dreadful.  The study in Cell did not examine vaccines, nor antibodies produced in response to vaccines.  Vaccines do not contain antibodies.  Nothing in the article directly addresses whether any variant of the virus is more or less likely to be inhibited by any vaccine.

The study did use convalescent serum from 10 recovering individuals.  Various strains showed modest increased or decreased inhibition by the various serum specimens.  There's not much here of particular note for us.

The journalistic drive to produce clickbait strikes again.

30
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 18, 2021, 05:41:18 PM »
TWiV 708  (the week in virology)

https://www.microbe.tv/twiv/twiv-708/
Thank you very much for providing this synopsis.  This is a smart group of virologists, but they are lousy YouTbue hosts.  One has to sit through an hour to get a few nuggets of important information.

Cheers.

31
Policy and solutions / Re: Tesla glory/failure
« on: January 17, 2021, 06:07:10 PM »
Why has Tesla lowered the price of their cars numerous times if the market is supply constrained? Neil et al.? Can you please answer this simple question.......

There are a few reasons why a producer might sell at a price below that which maximizes profit.

The most common reason is probably to maintain market share.

If you can get a given Tesla for $40,000 but have to wait 3 months, or get a comparable non-Tesla for $80k, most people will wait the 3 months.

Such pricing can also be used to drive competitors out of business, if one has deep pockets.  That's supposed to be illegal, of course.

Such less-profitable pricing is, in effect, an investment in future profits.

32
Hedges on Dore:

"We should have walked out on the Democratic party in 1994 after NAFTA and stood by the working class. And we didn't. And they know it."

"the bank is boarded up ... church caught on fire and burned ... just charred embers ... methamphetamine labs ... that's what we've done, that's what the democratic party has done, and the self identified liberal class has done and that's why they hate us and frankly we deserve to be hated"

NAFTA is a convenient whipping boy for America's ills, but I don't think economic analyses really support the blame. 

NAFTA’s Impact on the U.S. Economy: What Are the Facts?

"Two decades ago, when NAFTA was born, China had only a faint presence in the global economy, and was not yet even a member of the World Trade Organization. However, the share of U.S. spending on Chinese goods rose nearly eight-fold between 1991 and 2007. By 2015, U.S. trade in goods and services with China totaled $659 billion— with the U.S. importing $336 billion more than it exported. China has become the U.S.’s top trading partner for goods — a development never anticipated at the signing of NAFTA. And yet, NAFTA continues to attract the lion’s share of the blame among U.S. critics of globalization, despite the fact that the U.S. and China have yet to sign any bilateral free-trade treaty.

"The long-run increase in manufacturing employment in Mexico (about 400,000 jobs) was small and disappointing, while U.S. manufacturing plummeted by 5 million — but more because of Chinese imports than imports from Mexico. In both Mexico and the United States, real wages have stagnated while productivity has continued to increase, leading to higher profit shares and a tendency toward greater inequality.”

"The long-run increase in manufacturing employment in Mexico (about 400,000 jobs) was small and disappointing, while U.S. manufacturing plummeted by 5 million — but more because of Chinese imports than imports from Mexico."
________________________________________________

I think NAFTA had little influence on the problems of the rust belt.  Far more blame belongs with changes in tax policy.  Lowering taxes on the wealthy has starved the nation of public investments, while directly exacerbating wealth and income inequality.

33
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 13, 2021, 09:58:44 PM »
Of course there's absolutely no way to know if these "vaccines" help against the mutations.

They'll have to do all new studies on each of these mutations to actually be able to make that statement.

That doesn't stop them from lying, however.  The truth is they have absolutely no idea if the "vaccine" would have any effectiveness against anything beyond what it was tested on and analyzed on.
None of this is true.  Nobody would run a big clinical trial to measure effectiveness of a vaccine against a specific mutation.
Instead, virus inactivation assays are run.  These involve incubating live virus (original and mutant) with serum from fully vaccinated (and non-vaccinated) people.  If the vaccinated serum inactivates mutant virus as effectively as it inactivates the original strain, then this is quite strong evidence that the vaccine remains effective.

No, it's not absolute proof, it's just a persuasive indicator.  We'll know more definitively as vaccine failures accumulate.  The particular strains/variants responsible for these vaccine failures will be studied carefully.

We should not be surprised if some variant arises that is resistant to antibodies produced by the vaccines.  This will indicate the need for multi-valent vaccines, as we use for other infections.

34
The politics / Re: The Alt Right
« on: January 13, 2021, 04:15:14 PM »
Canadian here, we're not going to send troops into your nation.    This is something you guys need to fix.  Preferably without too much bloodshed.    If the violence escalates it'll grow into a civil war, no sane nation gets involved in another nation's civil war.    Sorry.

As far as the Alt-Right is concerned, I think the laws need to be enforced strictly.    They're far more dangerous, at this time, than any leftist group on this f'n planet.   Hell, they just attempted a coup d'etat in the USA, how much more of a threat do they have to prove themselves to be?

+1

35
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 13, 2021, 03:03:26 PM »
This is pretty stable between 1,5-1,8. And I am sure the R could not have been much lower in previous centuries (as that would have made the R too low for it to meaningfully spread). So influenza likely has a very low R for a very long time.

Everyone said upthread that covid will select for higher R because that is what always happens with contagious diseases (less deadly, spreads quicker). This does not seem to be the case for the flu despite being around for centuries!

An R value of 1.5 - 1.8 is not "very low."  It's quite high, when you consider exponential growth.  Probably about 5 days from time of infection to time of spread to another.

From the virus' perspective, a higher R value could mean that a given village all comes down with the flu, everyone goes to bed and recovers, and the virus never gets to spread to the next village.  It wants to circulate in a community for a longer time, for more opportunities to spread to the next community.

Covid is contagious for longer for an individual, so a higher R does not have this disadvantage.  As long as people can be contagious for more than a week, then the higher the better.  All the better if some people are asymptomatic.  Those people will travel rather than take to their beds.  This virus functions extremely well for producing the problems it has.  A tough nut to crack.

36
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 13, 2021, 12:27:39 AM »

The virus is under selective pressure to become more contagious

I've been thinking about this for a while. How come the R of the flu has not changed in hundreds of years (= did not become more contagious) despite being more prone to mutations???

I strongly doubt that influenza has a constant R value.  We have severe and less severe seasonal epidemics.  Because of the potential for large genetic shifts in some years, some strains can be more contagious than those in other years.   Something like 20% of the world's population gets infected with influenza in a given year.  Over a few years, substantial herd immunity develops to a dominant strain.  Then a strain with genetic shift picks up the baton.

37
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 12, 2021, 02:28:19 PM »
  and now the virus had had long enough in circulation to pick up a dozen mutations, combinations which increase infectivity start to appear all over the place.

Yet another indicator that vaccines need to be used to wipe it out, not to palliate recurring epidemics like is done with flu.

The virus is under selective pressure to become more contagious, and to become resistant to monoclonal antibodies.  The current vaccines generate antibodies to a small part of the virus--the spike protein. So there's now emerging evolutionary pressure to alter these proteins.

None of this should be surprising, though certainly worrisome.  The current vaccines will likely prove helpful, but insufficient in the long run.  We'll need frequently-updated, multivalent vaccines, and combination anti-viral treatments, both.  Surveillance for arising mutations is going to be a long-term challenge.

When a virus becomes widespread, probability of acquiring adaptive mutations increases as the number of infected persons increases.  Had the world acted more aggressively from the beginning, we would likely not be seeing a proliferation of problematic mutations.  That cat is out of the bag, however.

38
The politics / Re: Biden’s Presidency
« on: January 06, 2021, 09:09:51 PM »
we need a democracy for Biden to become president .. there may not be one readily available .

If Congress is unable to certify the electors' votes, Trump still ends his term at noon on Jan 20.  In this scenario, the Speaker of the House is the Constitutional President. 

Of course, the current President might declare a suspension of the Constitution, which he does not have the authority to do.

39
The politics / Re: Biden’s Presidency
« on: January 06, 2021, 04:51:27 PM »
Progressive representatives (Squad, Justice Dems,...) now have the golden opportunity to exert a positive influence toward the Left reaching up to the President, at least for the next two years.
 
With much less obstacle in the Senate, and a small margin in favor of Dems in Congress, their votes have never been so important. Will they use them for the People as they claim? Will they make the Dems as uncomfortable as AOC claims?

I think this is not plausible.  The Democratic party has a number of "blue dogs," who are much more conservative than most Democrats.  These handful, voting alongside Republicans, wield a functional veto against notably progressive legislation.  There is no way around this obstacle to legislation for the next 2 (and likely 4) years. 

Reinstating the practice of earmarks may alleviate this obstacle to a modest degree.  That strategy comes with its own downsides.

40
Consequences / Re: Origins of COVID-19
« on: January 06, 2021, 03:51:29 PM »

That video is just another example of how easy it is to produce total rubbish that requires an awful lot of explaining to refute each and every thing being said. It is a common tactic that politicians do to distract from that main point..... just ask the person telling the truth 1001 questions that need a heap of explaining to refute until they give up.

Indeed.  A term for this, which I learned on this forum, is a "gish gallop."  A rapid sequence of lies, mininformation, and out-of-context facts which individually take a prohibitive amount of time to rebut.  It's a common tactic by professional climate deniers.  it can also be used by conspiracy theorists and professional pundits. 

41
The rest / Re: Archaeology/Paleontology news
« on: January 06, 2021, 02:19:32 AM »
British Bird-Watcher Discovers Trove of 2,000-Year-Old Celtic Coins
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/amateur-treasure-hunter-discovered-2000-year-old-coins-180976658/
Quote
The cache dates to the time of warrior queen Boudica’s revolt against the Romans

A brief history of Boudica;

Boudica: The Truth Behind the Legend



42
Consequences / Re: Origins of COVID-19
« on: January 06, 2021, 02:05:47 AM »
Gain of function:

None of this describes gain of function research.  Try again.

43


Not sure where you are getting your information on hunger, but the U.S. ranks up with most other first world countries.

https://docs.wfp.org/api/documents/WFP-0000118395/download/?_ga=2.97289055.1566051421.1609781784-2129997529.1609781784

Regarding food insecurity, the U.S. fares even better, ranked 3rd in the world, behind only Singapore and Ireland (Australia is ranked 21th.

https://foodsecurityindex.eiu.com/

Unemployment in the U.S. is comparable to other first world countries.  Lower than either Australia or the EU (even if you exclude the high unemployment countries of Greece, Spain,  Italy, Scandinavia, and the Baltic states).

https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.UEM.TOTL.ZS

Healthcare coverage has risen, not fallen over the past decades

https://www.kff.org/uninsured/slide/uninsured-rate-among-the-nonelderly-population-1972-2018/

This thread is for Covid consequences.  Your references appear to be pre-pandemic.  E.g., for WFP, "Prevalence of undernourishment in the total population (percent) in 2017-19"

We don't have good statistics for current food insecurity yet.  But at some point, you have to give some credence to the current tsunami of anecdotes about, e.g., food lines stretching for miles.

Regardless of how much credence you give to such reports, pre-pandemic statistics are irrelevant to this thread.

44
Sorry, my origin response was in error.  I meant to say low density, which was an obvious mistake.  I think you will agree that Australia has a low population density compared to Europe. 

Australia's population is concentrated on the coast, and further concentrated in its coastal cities.  it has rather high population density in terms of how people live.
 
Quote
I read all the links, the problem is the lockdown and the hardships that it has enacted on the people.  This seems rather consistent in the first world countries around the globe, but a bigger hardship on the poorer nations.  Still, the U.S. and Australia appear to be on similar tracks and far ahead of Europe in the rebound.  Whether this continues this year, I cannot say.

In terms of GDP, this may be accurate.  GDP is supported in the US by massive fiscal deficits combined with large asset purchases by the Federal Reserve.  However, GDP is a poor measure of the performance of an economy from the perspective of the people. The US has appalling rates of food insecurity, outright hunger, a looming eviction tsunami, high unemployment, falling employment participation, and falling health care coverage.  Suffering is massive, and not at all like Australia.

45
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 03, 2021, 07:52:58 PM »
SARS-CoV-2 Escape in Vitro from a Highly Neutralizing COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma
https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.12.28.424451v1.full.pdf
Quote
Summary: Three mutations allowed SARS-CoV-2 to evade the polyclonal antibody response of a highly neutralizing COVID-19 convalescent plasma.


This is quite concerning, though not surprising.  Covid may have an intrinsically low rate of mutation, but when there are a million people infected, each a prodigious virus factory, the opportunities for mutations are multiplied a million-fold.

I think we'll shortly be in need of multi-valent vaccines.  And monoclonal antibodies or immune plasma or antiviral medications may need to be tested against the unknown strain that a given patient presents with.

If so, we may collectively be in for a very long haul with this pathogen.

46
The rest / Re: R's sudden, 100% insincere 'concern' about US debt
« on: January 01, 2021, 03:36:36 PM »
I have this feeling that what can't go on won't go on. But when will the US hit the wall? How can we have $25,000,000,000,000.00 plus debt and 100,000,000,000,000.00 plus unfunded liabilities and still go on? Will we hit a quadrillion? A quintillion? A decillion? A centillion? Will the Fall be in 2021 or 2525?

A consideration of Modern Monetary Theory may illuminate such questions.

1.)  One person's debt is always another person's asset.  That 25 trillion debt by the government matches 25 trillion in assets (i.e. wealth) held by individuals.  We consider the government debt to be "bad" but the wealth held by people to be "good."  So is the situation a net bad thing or a net good thing?  It depends on the details.

2.) As a corollary to #1, when the government (public sector) runs a deficit, the private sector runs a surplus.  That's math.  One is good, the other bad, but they're inextricably tied to each other.

3.) The "unfunded liability" assertions about Social Security is mathematical sophistry and scaremongering.  It's not at all unfunded, as long as you consider it a safe assumption that we will continue to have a functioning economy where social security taxes will continue to be collected.  The projected costs are just as much assumptions as the projected revenue.  It's entirely possible, we've learned, for a substantial fraction of retirees to meet an early demise.

The sophistry goes beyond this.  A century ago, a working person might support a household with numerous non-working people.  I.e., a spouse, several children, a grandparent or two.  The ratio of working people to people being supported was far smaller in the past.  It's only the current structure of the Social Security system that needs to be tweaked.  The "crisis" of the "trust fund" can be resolved in an instant, by considering payments to be obligations of the general Treasury fund, and revenue to be deposits to the general fund.  Others would prefer a different tweak.  It is overall, a non-issue.

Overall, consider that Japan's debt to GDP ratio is far higher than the US.  Yet, it's still regarded as a solid economy, with it's currency also considered by investors to be a high-quality asset.

47
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: December 28, 2020, 01:20:05 PM »

BUT>
....
The cynic in me says they could push vaccines through that are less than ideal.
....
But I wont deny that there is a lingering doubt in the back of my mind.
I can understand this.  Certainly, the FDA was under intense pressure to approve the vaccines.  It's not crazy to think that a seriously flawed vaccine could have been approved.

But I have some knowledge of the pretty exacting standards of independent review and procedures for clinical research.  Though it would be vastly preferable for all the proprietary research data to be made public immediately.  Still, when smart, reliable people like Fauci roll up their sleeves, I think that's an additional factor in judging the balance of risk/benefit.

If I were 20 years old and very low risk, I might rationally decline the vaccine.  As my personal risk is easily 100 times greater than that of a 20 year-old, I will have zero hesitation.

In the case of this peculiarly-acting virus, I think it's plausible that the mRNA vaccines could provide immunity superior to natural infection.  We won't know that for probably a couple of years.

48
Walking the walk / Re: Meat Consumption and Global Warming
« on: December 28, 2020, 01:02:15 PM »
Carbon (and other pollution) tax and dividend to all, best solution. Why are there no "good populists" touting thus? It could easily have popular support.

Totally agree.  And it should (eventually) include the embedded emissions in food, especially beef.  But for public acceptance, only the direct emitters from fossil fuels perhaps should be included, perhaps.

I think people generally mistrust that the taxes/fees collected will actually be rebated to the people.  I think it's worth the investment to distribute the first year's expected revenue to be rebated *before* the fees are collected.  When people see the checks, that will likely convince most that it's legitimate.

49
Government, Not Coronavirus, Is Killing Small Businesses
[link deleted in the public interest]
Quote
By slowing down the development of herd immunity among the population, the lockdowns could put those truly at risk in greater danger. Lockdowns have also had negative effects such as increases in drug and alcohol abuse and increases in domestic violence. Meanwhile, many schoolchildren are deprived of the opportunity to interact with their teachers and their peers. Instead, these children are subjected to the fraud of “virtual learning.”

Tom, please don't disseminate such disinformation.  Promoting "herd immunity" by allowing infections to spread has been thoroughly de-bunked.  It's clearly a prescription for death, disability, overwhelmed medical systems, *and* economic disaster.

This is especially true now, when several vaccines are rapidly being distributed and administered.   We're a few months away from this pandemic coming under control with a herd immunity derived from vaccination.  There is no justification for promoting "herd immunity" by letting the infection run wild.

I find it rather bizarre that people who have previously championed home-schooling are now such vocal critics of virtual schooling.

50
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: December 22, 2020, 04:25:21 PM »
Status quo believers as usual busy downplaying news about the new Covid variant. Such hubris should be shamed out of existence by society.

[...]

Update: Dr. Anthony Fauci says Americans should assume a new, more contagious strain of Coronavirus is already in the US

I am quite surprised by the dismissive attitude of Vincent Racaniello of TWiV (the podcast This Week in Virology). He has a series of tweets about the "uninformed" New York Times at https://twitter.com/profvrr

And now there is this video where he blasts the NERVTAG minutes:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=909&v=wC8ObD2W4Rk

What I know is that the ECDC is worried too. One or two virology professors that shout about "completely baseless hype" etc won't take such worries away.

The TWIV episode in which this is discussed by the group is at 55 minutes in at:
TWiV 696: Tear down that SARS-CoV-2 manuscript
https://www.microbe.tv/twiv/twiv-696/

In this section, these scientists and clinicians are thinking and speaking as scientists and clinicians.  Assertions that are not strongly supported by good science are garbage to them.  This isn't surprising or disturbing.

But they're not thinking or speaking as public health professionals.  I'm confident that they  may be correct in asserting that the increasing prevalence may most likely be explained by a handful of superspreader events that happened (randomly) with the recently-identified variant.

However, they do acknowledge that the increasing prevalence of this variant is also consistent with increased transmissibility being the cause.  It's going to take some time for researchers to determine whether there's evidence of biologically enhanced transmissibility of this variant.

To a public health professional, scientifically proving assertions is not the point.  As long as there's a reasonable probability that the increased prevalence is due to increased transmissibility, then stronger public health measures are appropriate, while scientists duke it out over interpretation of data.

Personally, I'm a bit more concerned about the South Africa new variant.  There's suspicion of both increased transmissibility and increased virulence in younger people.  These seem to be rough impressions from doctors on the ground, so need to be taken with a grain of salt.

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