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Messages - SteveMDFP

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Policy and solutions / Re: Cannabis can help save this planet
« on: May 21, 2020, 02:27:55 PM »

So the problem was the alcohol I consumed?
Thanks for that!

I hate you!
Not... ;)

LOL.  The moral of this may be to stick to weed instead.  ;-)

The port at 8501 is unfortunately a must, and wont be going away any time soon

"Any port in a storm."

Arctic sea ice / Re: The 2020 melting season
« on: May 16, 2020, 12:37:52 AM »

I was nearly gobsmacked to read such a clear, accurate and nuanced article in the mainstream press--about *any* technical subject, let alone the arctic.

Then I looked at the article, by Andrew Freedman, of the "Capital Weather Gang."  The group produces excellent meteorological and climatological reporting.   As I'm in that capital area, I've benefited from their expertise before.

Surely you cannot mean that the 4 trillion USD  fed rollout means that the US deficit has decreased by 4 trillion ? 

But this discussion probably needs moved to another thread.


It's still relevant, because the Federal Reserve is again pursuing quantitative easing and related measures right now in dramatic fashion.  This is a potent tool to fight economic contraction/deflation/contraction of the money supply (these are three facets of a single economic phenomenon).

The Federal Reserve balance sheet is a collection of assets (treasury bonds and now some commercial bond assets).  And these are true assets, with a real rate of return--that goes to the Treasury, to help pay for the fiscal budget.  This is exactly like a sovereign wealth fund.

So, acquiring these assets doesn't reduce the deficit, it reduces the debt, in real macroeconomic terms.

The Federal Reserve doesn't give money to any entity other than remitting profits to the Treasury.  It lends, and it buys.  It lends to banks at a policy-derived interest rate, and it buys mostly Treasury bonds at the market rate.  In severely troubled times like this and the Great Recession, it can buy other assets.  They just announced they will be buying corporate bond ETFs.  This isn't some taxpayer giveaway, plenty of normal investors are buying corporate bond ETFs.  And the Fed will receive interest payments, which then will be remitted to the Treasury.

In effect, when the Treasury sells a trillion dollars of bonds to the market, and the Fed buy a trillion dollars of Treasury bonds from the open market, then the government has just printed a trillion dollars to pay for a trillion dollars in spending.

This sounds terribly reckless, a prescription for hyperinflation.  But it's not.  Most of the money in circulation in the economy never was created by the Fed, nor the Mint, nor the Treasury.  Most money gets created in the process of credit/debt, borrowing/lending.  This majority component of circulating money is inherently unstable in amount.  In a recession, borrowing and lending stops, and the money supply contracts, creating deeper recession, further suppression of borrowing and lending, causing further contraction of the money supply.  Positive feedback is present.  There's also positive feedback in the other direction with inflation.

The macroeconomic system is thus dominated by positive feedbacks.  Systems dominated by positive feedbacks display oscillations.  In macroeconomics, the inevitable oscillations from these positive feedbacks are called "the business cycle."

Deflation is deeply destructive, and high inflation is also bad.  The oscillations can really only be effectively tamped by actions of the Federal Reserve.  Essentially it's entire function is to be the economy's thermostat. 

These ideas are part of the foundation of Modern Monetary Theory.  We could do a lot of progressive good by gradually replacing much of the credit/debt-based circulating money with government-issued money.  Doing so could go far in eliminating the positive feedback cycles that produce the instability and oscillations that plague economies.  It can also fund massive amounts of federal spending without causing inflation.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: May 15, 2020, 04:33:12 AM »
Thanks for all the warm wishes and good advice!
Terry, are you okay?
Terry? I hope all is well. We would all appreciate a quick hand wave.

Terry's silence is concerning, since his last posts described Covid-like symptoms.
The forum software reports:
Last Active: May 09, 2020, 02:52:07 AM
Last post:  April 23, 2020, 12:19:38 AM

Anyone have a back-channel way to contact him?

Thanks for giving arguments against the points instead of just calling Zerohedge names, Steve.
The article projects we won’t get Unemployment beck down to 5% until 2026. Do you think that is overly pessimistic too?

I don't know, but I think it may be plausible.  The economy has instantly shed a large proportion of non-essential jobs (which is bad) and also a lot of non-essential economic activity and carbon emissions (which is good).

What I think needs to happen (and has suddenly become politically feasible) is institution of a universal basic income.  Rather than have vast numbers of people being forced to take bullshit jobs to earn a paycheck, provide everyone with a basic income and stop creating bullshit work.  In the short-term, paying for this with deficits/quantitative easing is not a problem.  Longer-term, money will need to come out of concentrated wealth and those with exorbitant incomes.  That will be a challenging political battle.

From zerohedge, and pushes gold, but makes some good points:

Zerohedge is an awful source, peddling conspiracy theories, doom and gloom predictions.  It's filled with click-bait garbage.

Whoever wrote this failed Econ 101.  A nation's national debt is a complex issue, but when that debt is in the nation's own currency, options for managing it are easier to manage than most realize.

Japan is considered a very strong (though slow-growth) economy.  It has a debt-to-gdp ratio of about 200%.  It's not an unmanageable problem, it's definitely not a crisis.

Yes, a deep recession is already present.  The recovery may well be slow.  It's true that deflation is a profoundly destructive process.  But the Federal Reserve has literally infinite ability to reverse deflation.  The Great Depression dragged on because economists then didn't understand the importance of the money supply.  Since the Great Recession, the Federal Reserve has learned to be aggressive in fighting deflation.  Quantitative easing was initially controversial, but 4 trillion of that easing during that recession did not create the feared  hyper-inflation, it barely avoided deflation.  QE now could increase that 4 trillion to several multiples of that amount.  This Federal Reserve balance sheet represents a *negative* debt, and in macro-economic terms, should be taken as effectively reducing the nominal national debt.

The zerohedge article is click-bait nonsense.  It's a terrible source for a discussion forum.

The politics / Re: Economic Inequality
« on: May 13, 2020, 03:47:18 PM »
Democrats More Worried About Poor People Double Dipping Than Corporations Getting Trillions

This is an excellent example of why YouTube clips are a terrible source for a discussion forum.

He says this information came from an Axios article  I can't find it.
He says Axios was quoting an anonymous aide to some congressional democrat.  We don't know who.  We don't know if there was any journalistic confirmation.  We don't know if any democratic legislator was offered a chance to comment, explain, or provide context.

The only legislator I know of who has raised a concern about "double-dipping" is Lindsay Graham. 

The Senate Republicans can derail any initiative to provide relief.  Was means-testing being contemplated in the interest of getting something of use beyond the roadblock?

Maybe the reality is as disturbing as this YouTuber claims.  Maybe the reality is more nuanced.  We really don't know, and meanwhile all we have is click-baity demogoguery without the least ability to fact-check anything.

The forum / Re: Forum Decorum
« on: May 13, 2020, 02:08:41 PM »
Correct language?

Greta Thunberg hasn't and wouldn't use those words. Most women wouldn't. What's the matter with you guys?

I was a bit surprised at the complete lack of support for my request for decency.
Now I understand the 'level' of this forum better.

Swear words are to language what potent spices are to food.  They should be used sparingly and in the right context when the situation calls for it. 

Arctic sea ice / Re: The 2020 melting season
« on: May 12, 2020, 10:42:54 AM »
There are also some areas around Greenland which certainly have more robust sea ice in far better condition compared to the same date last year. I'm not sure how much of a difference all of that will make going forward.

Most of the ice on the east side of Greenland has been exported from the CAB through the Fram Strait.  It's a contrary indicator for the health of the Arctic ice.  It will keep moving south and be melted in short order.  The ASCAT radar image animations that get periodically posted show this nicely.

The forum / Re: Forum Decorum
« on: May 11, 2020, 12:27:00 PM »
Thank you Phoenix for your posts.

To blumenkraft (moderator context), I am disappointed in your response.
Why was there a separate thread created just for people to be able to use bad language?

Frivolousz21, what would your mother say if she would read that post?

This strikes me as moralistic finger-wagging.  It's beyond tiresome.  Any poster who incessantly trumpets his own experiences and personal perspective degrades an otherwise excellent discussion forum.

Nouriel Roubini says global economy faces deadly recession
"Unfortunately, I fear there are some major trends…what I call the 10 deadly Ds that are going lead us to a deadly depression sometime later in this decade. Only a matter of when," he said in the interview.

Some of Roubini's "deadly Ds" include debt, deficits, deglobalization, currency devaluation, and environmental disruption.

Yes, I know I post pessimistic articles on this crisis. But I am an economic pessimist. If you are bothered by it, just don't read it, but that doesn't mean you will escape it if I turn out to be right.

The problem isn't that this sort of article is talking doom and gloom--there's an abundance of potential doom and plenty to be gloomy about.  The problem with these articles is that they take a very biased, self-interested, and superficial approach to the items discussed.

As an example of a better service to the community, note that this article was cribbed from an interview with Roubini (a respected economist worth listening to) on Bloomberg.  It would be much more valuable to dispense with the gold-bug filter and just seek out the actual interview.

Policy and solutions / Re: Lessons from COVID-19
« on: May 06, 2020, 04:33:59 PM »

They say that balls need to be disinfected before and after training, and even in between, as much as possible (they advise after every 100 dribbles).

I admit this seems excessive but the action of continually disinfecting the ball might lower the probability of infection by very few points, but the act may be a worthy reminder of the invisible threat and the importance of self-isolation and testing. I see the very little cost to disinfecting the ball as often as possible unless there is a shortage of alcohol and no side effects.

Disagree.  Contaminated surfaces are a major route of transmission, not only for Covid, but other respiratory viruses, GI viruses, MRSA and ringworm.  This is why gym etiquette demands exercise equipment be wiped down between uses.

It's trivial to just have two balls for the game, disinfect frequently when balls are swapped.  Zero impact on play.  When the virus that spreads can kill vulnerable people, a few Chlorox wipes per game is a trivial cost.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: May 06, 2020, 04:16:41 PM »
Trump is certainly downplaying the disease, together with the alt-right. I haven't seen obvious trumpets overplay the disease other than when they are trying to blame China for the US failures.

Blumenkraft, do you care to give us examples of known rightwingers overplaying the disease?

Other than exaggerating the scientific position to make them look ridiculous and mislead those who they can mislead, I have not seen right-wingers fear monger about this.

Not that they won't do it if they think it beneficial. They do not care about the truth.

The only right-leaning interests who are hyping the dangers are the corporate media.  They do this with all issues, to keep ad revenue coming in.  It's intrinsic to their business model to present everything in a click-bait way. 

Corporate interests are not monolithic.  The media wants attention so they can sell ads.  This corporate interest is in conflict with most other corporate interests.  The oil companies, casinos, hotels, tourism are crashing.  Billions in wealth are evaporating from these coffers weekly.  We ought to be cheering, rather than calling for an end to lockdowns.

What's really needed is to use public funds to support the out of work public.  That's the opportunity right now to enact progressive changes.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: May 06, 2020, 02:06:34 PM »
Although still rare


Must. Find. Something. That. Affects. The. Children. Fear. And. Guilt. Fear. And. Guilt.

The only over the top fear-mongering going on of note is from capitalism-based journalism, which simply seeks more ad dollars, requiring more clicks, requiring click-baity story lines.  This isn't specific to the pandemic, it's the required business model for covering all news and information. 

Governments are not trying to use fear of contagion to try to control populations.  Authoritarian governments are all trying to downplay the importance of responding to this public health crisis.  It's the Bolsanaros and Trumps of the world who are trying to deny the lethality of this crisis, in order to maximize GDP, maximize their money from corruption, and to maximize the profitability of money-making interests. 

It's denying the reality of a lethal crisis that serves the interests of concentrated wealth.  Drawing attention to the deaths is bankrupting many of the most ruthless corporations.  Consider what's happening to the wealth of Trump and the Adelsons and Kochs right now.   

Policy and solutions / Re: Lessons from COVID-19
« on: April 29, 2020, 07:13:08 PM »
Efficiency is also the opposite. Doing everything by hand. Living very close to the land, growing your own food with only farm sourced inputs( energy, feed, fertilizer, labor ) milk your own cow, kill your own meat provisions, preserve your own dry stores and seed.
Otherwise known as the hard way but very very efficient and all of those downsides to huge corporate agribusiness go away. Only problem is the cities starve. But nature, the birds, insects, and everything else benefits.
Each human has to take responsibility for their part in what has happened and it would take all of us to turn it around. I am cheating because I know what is required , I have the knowledge to live by human toil but I have solar, and powerwalls and ICE vehicles and they all make my life much much easier. They are less bad than other options . We all settle for less bad option even those of us trying. 

Priceless post, the whole thing.  You're living the lifestyle that many environmentalists advocate, but few people are willing to do. Hats off to you.

In a capitalist society (which virtually the entire world lives in), "efficiency" doesn't mean getting the essentials with the least environmental impact, it means maximizing the dollar return on time of labor.  Which is utterly inefficient at securing the essentials for a good life while minimizing the environmental cost.

Taming the capitalist (that is, corporate) beast is the ultimate struggle of humanity.  We're collectively not doing very well at this task.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: April 29, 2020, 01:09:23 AM »
Looks like the key datum in reading the axes labels is " annual death rate per 1000 living"

So it is the annualized death rate per week?

Confusing, a poor way to express it, but makes sense compared to the second graph.

Thank you!!!  And Sigma!!  This is a community of sharp minds, and we mutually benefit from each other's efforts.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: April 28, 2020, 05:45:51 PM »

As The Walrus suggested below, the Y axis is just wrong.  25/1000 is approximately the total mortality of the 1918 pandemic.  That is, that should be the total area under the curve, not the peak weekly mortality.  The image is on Wikipedia, but not with any source I could find./

Edit:  I think the total area under the curve might exceed 1,000/1,000.  I'm quite sure we didn't lose more than 100% of the country's population in that pandemic.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: April 25, 2020, 01:43:26 AM »
I'm watching the Austrian news tonight. For over 10 minutes they explained everything wrt how schools will re-open. It's absolutely insane what they are going to do to kids, to the point of abuse. All because of fear and control freaks who want to prevent being held accountable for anything. There is still so much irrational fear...

The children will, indeed, be subject to harm and abuse if schools reopen too soon.  They will lose parents and grandparents.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: April 23, 2020, 05:24:04 PM »
I think people are misrepresenting what Neven has to say.  No, he is not saying that this pandemic is like the flu.  Rather, the death toll is mimicking a rather severe flu season. 

The death toll is mimicking the flu precisely because of the social distancing rules put into effect.

Quite  right.  This does resemble the mother of all flu seasons.  Except that unlike influenza, there is no vaccine and no treatment.  Also, that all people are susceptible, instead of just some.  Also, that most jurisdictions are seeing a doubling time for more cases, something quite unlike influenza.

In other words, this is nothing like an influenza season.

The rest / Re: Archaeology/Paleontology news
« on: April 21, 2020, 11:20:24 PM »
Nothing in post #256 states it is the oldest DNA.

Who is this guy anyway?

So many ways to get a DNA sequence from a protein doesn't sound too believable,  on the other hand it is Nature, so maybe they've used only the conserved nucleid acids in their analysis, which is the minimum requirement for claiming something of translating the proteome back to DNA.

The issue is that a protein is not genetic material.  While a specific sequence of DNA does code for a specific sequence of amino acids, it's not possible to reverse this.  Multiple codons can determine a single amino acid.  See:

The Universal Genetic Code and Non-Canonical Variants

"Thus 61 codons are available for 20 amino acids, and hence the genetic code is degenerate. In the case of leucine, serine, and arginine, there are as many as six codons, whereas methionine and tryptophan have only one codon."

Permafrost / Re: Arctic Methane Release
« on: April 21, 2020, 09:07:22 PM »
Future iterations of Elliott's model will have to include a class of methane-digesting bacteria not included in its first version, says Rick Colwell, an Oregon State University marine microbiologist specializing in methanotrophs who attended a recent presentation by Elliott. These yet-to-be-modeled bacteria operate only in anaerobic conditions that are usually found only in ocean sediments. If conventional, oxygen-dependent methanotrophs deplete the water column of oxygen, it could create conditions favorable for anaerobic methane-digesting bacteria to carry on the work of digesting the methane—flopping these parts of the ocean back to conditions that last prevailed 250 million years ago, during the most devastating mass extinction ever to befall life on Earth.

University of Washington in Seattle paleontologist Peter Ward has hypothesized that this event, known as the Great Dying, was the result of runaway global warming that turned the majority of the world's oceans anoxic throughout their entire depths, leading to a large release of hydrogen sulfide gas, a by-product of the metabolism of anaerobic bacteria. Elliott would not speculate whether or not the phenomena he modeled could have been part of that event, which in Ward's hypothesis was most likely caused by a different source of carbon all together: CO2 vented from massive volcanic eruptions in a region that is now part of Siberia.

I think this is the real problem with increasing amounts of methane seep from the sea floor.  The trouble only starts with the methane dissolving in the water column.  Aerobic bacteria consume both the methane and oxygen to produce CO2.  This CO2 acidification is probably minor in comparison to the effects of elevated atmospheric CO2, but it doesn't help.

Consumption of oxygen by this route only adds to increasing ocean hypoxia from other causes.  In regions where the water is devoid of oxygen, anaerobic bacteria continue to oxidize methane, using sulfate as an oxygen donor.  The sulfate is thus transformed to hydrogen sulfide, highly toxic to fish.  Yes, this is a leading contender for the cause of the "Great Dying."  See "Canfield ocean."

If large amounts of hydrogen sulfide are released into the atmosphere, terrestrial animals and plants start dying.  I think this will be how humanity ends, along with most sea life and mammalian life globally.  We may already be degraded to a stone age existence by then, from other environmental destruction.

This could be a reasonable problem for geoengineering to solve.  Use wind turbine power to pump air into the ocean depths.  This has been done in hypoxic fresh water lakes, to some apparent benefit.    I can probably find again a research article or two.  Lake aeration, as I recall.

All this could easily happen without any methane seeps.  But increased methane seeps could greatly accelerate the mass extinction.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: April 21, 2020, 01:51:16 PM »
The lockdown has been in effect for over a month now in many places. What I don't understand, is how there can still be so many new cases. Are these all due to medical personnel getting infected, essential workers getting infected, etc? Or is the virus still spreading, albeit at a reduced rate, among the quarantined?

People are still going to grocery stores and other essentials.  Use of protective gear is novel to many.  Many others don't think isolation is necessary for them.  Plenty of younger people may not have much hesitation about getting infected, but bring the virus home to older adults.  Quarantine fatigue sets in and people want to meet with other people.

Then there's prisons, nursing homes, homeless shelters...

I'm more impressed by how well even these incomplete measures are reducing the exponential rate.

To bring this under control more fully, we'd need to literally lock people down as was done in Wuhan, and deliver food to people's doors. Put homeless into hotels, empty the prisons.   That's just not going to happen in neoliberal societies.  Too radical.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: April 20, 2020, 07:46:29 PM »
I couldn't access the interview from the BBC site but found it below:

Andrew Marr interview with vaccinologist Sarah Gilbert

Excellent, detailed, and succinct interview!!
I only wish US-based media could present material of this quality.  Sigh.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: April 20, 2020, 06:45:00 PM »

Trials with Covid can be difficult precisely because of the sudden overabundance of patients, making any rigorous study complicated.

One question about vaccines. If you have at least three strains identified (even up to 10 according to, how do vaccines cope with that?

Also, there's a record ozone hole in the NH this Winter/Spring. Can that multiply virus mutations?

I thought this was a good article about the whole immunity question:

Everything we know about coronavirus immunity and antibodies — and plenty we still don’t

Bottom line: little is certain, but reasonable guesses from experts like Fauci seem...reasonable.

As for enhanced mutation from ozone depletion...I doubt it's an issue.  The virus does its replication inside human beings.  Short of a gamma ray burst, it's hard to see how radiation-induced mutation would be a problem.  And if we were struck by a gamma ray burst, Covid would be the least of our worries.  See:

Did Gamma Rays Cause Ordovician Mass Extinction?

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: April 20, 2020, 02:31:20 PM »
I am not an expert either however this seems wrong given how a vaccine works
A vaccine is “an inactivated or attenuated pathogen or a component of a pathogen (nucleic acid, protein) that when administered to the host, stimulates a protective response of the cells in the immune system,” or it is “an immune-biological substance designed to produce specific protection against a given disease.
It seems to me it could not be more effective at best it would be as effective?

Measles are miserable but survivable for kids but are much more severe even deadly in adults. AFAIK If you get measles as a kid you have permanent immunity but if you get the vaccine you need regular boosters. I may be wrong about this.

Quite right.  It is quite a challenge to produce a vaccine that confers immunity anywhere near as robust as that from recovering from an infection with the pathogen.

Vox points out, correctly, that adding adjuvant (often alum, interestingly) will boost immune response.

But the most robust immunity from vaccination derives from live-attenuated vaccine.  The creates an actual infection by a closely-related, less virulent virus.  Measles, mumps, rubella, smallpox, and oral polio are live-attenuated vaccines.  Side effects tend to be somewhat greater than with killed virus vaccines--precisely because one is actually inducing a true infection.  Usually, this is a sub-clinical infection, but occasional real illness can result.

Live-attenuated vaccines are a much greater challenge to create.  Because, you know, it's best not to kill people with live viruses if you can avoid it.  With killed/subtotal vaccines, you don't have this worry, but you do have a weaker immune response.  So adjuvants are added.

In theory, a live-attenuated coronavirus vaccine could have great potential.  It might also be contagious (as oral polio strains are), thus conveying immunity to contacts of the vaccinated.  But risks are inherently greater, and alternatives are easier to create than they used to be, so I don't expect any live-attenuated vaccine to be produced for Covid.   I haven't heard of any group even trying to go down this avenue.

Whatever does get rolled out might only reduce the severity of subsequent infection by Covid.  But a mere reduction in severity would translate to a vast reduction in hospitalizations, intubations for ventilator use, and deaths.  This would be a near-resolution to the whole problem, but availability is probably a year away or more.

Between now and then, we need effective antiviral treatments.  These hold great promise.  Several options look to be likely effective.  I'm flabbergasted by how long it's taken to get *any* of the promising agents through decent clinical trials.  Meanwhile, people are dying.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: April 19, 2020, 11:48:43 PM »
This is just a false narrative.  There are well-established procedures for completing death certificates.  The physician specifies an immediate cause of death, an underlying condition causing this, and contributing factors.

For the vast majority of these deaths, the immediate cause would be respiratory failure, caused by Covid pneumonia, with contributing factors of e.g., diabetes, hypertension, etc.

There's no good reason to ask for a different standard for recording Covid-related deaths. There are very strong reasons for keeping to this standard.

There is just one standard, and it is applied uniformly everywhere in the world?


Medical certification of cause of death : instructions for physicians on use of international form of medical certificate of cause of death, 4th ed

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: April 19, 2020, 11:19:09 PM »
Unfortunately I did recall correctly. With such a huge estimated discrepancy between official cases and true cases, 50-85-fold, assuming true deaths are the same as official deaths is very unscientific IMHO.

As is the assumption that everyone who was infected with SARS-CoV-2 at the moment of death, was killed by SARS-CoV-2.

This is just a false narrative.  There are well-established procedures for completing death certificates.  The physician specifies an immediate cause of death, an underlying condition causing this, and contributing factors.

For the vast majority of these deaths, the immediate cause would be respiratory failure, caused by Covid pneumonia, with contributing factors of e.g., diabetes, hypertension, etc.

There's no good reason to ask for a different standard for recording Covid-related deaths. There are very strong reasons for keeping to this standard.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: April 19, 2020, 08:03:29 PM »

That seems like a fair assessment except for so easily describing the potential problems a mere nuisance with absolutely no evidence to do so.  I agree it could be exactly as you describe but I can think of situations where this becomes a terror for years until it adjusts the population to the appropriate size.

Fair enough, when it comes to a virus that has only existed for 6 months in humans, it's essentially impossible to predict the situation a year or two from now.

But by by extension of experience with other pathogens, the human immune response is quite robust.  Only a handful of pathogens have mastered the trick of reinfecting a person whose immune system successfully fought it off the first time.  And all these, as far as I'm aware, are pathogens that have had millennia or millions of years to evolve to take advantage of chinks in the immune armor.    I'm doubtful that Covid can master this trick anytime soon.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: April 19, 2020, 05:35:48 PM »
So perhaps the acutely diagnosed cases are only 1% of actual infections. 

That is impossible in places like NYC. 135,000 confirmed cases in NYC. If 200 cases were undetected for each confirmed case NYC would have a population of 27 million people. They only have 8.5 million. 13,000 deaths due to C19.

More than 1 in 1000 new yorkers have died to C19. This is not the flu.

Yes, quite right.  The ratio will depend strongly on how readily the milder cases are tested, and how positive results of PCR testing are recorded.  In Wuhan, they probably had inadequate testing in the early weeks, and some asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic cases may not have been reported as having Covid.  One can surmise that NYC has done a better job testing and recording cases.

eradicate: destroy completely; put an end to
Humans are experts at making species go extinct. We can do the same for this virus. It has been done already in many parts of the world. No magic required. Only good leadership and taking the threat seriously.

Not at all true for viral pathogens.  Despite sometimes herculean efforts, we've only made one pathogen extinct, smallpox.  We've gotten close with polio.  In these cases, there are no animal reservoirs and the vaccines used (live-attenuated virus) are quite potent.  Covid has neither of these characteristics that would make it amenable to eradication.

What we have is a pathogen pretty analogous to RSV, if Covid shows a similar ability to reinfect people every several years.  But reinfections by any of the viruses which have this ability are uniformly far less severe than the initial infection.  Once everyone has gotten this virus once (or received an effective vaccine), it will be no more than a comparative nuisance.

We just all need to survive until an effective treatment or vaccine are available.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: April 14, 2020, 01:08:33 AM »
Here's a quite surprising and rather concerning news story.  The South China Morning Post has been doing some of the best reporting about the Covid pandemic, including from the very earliest reports from the Wuhan 'fish market."

Coronavirus could attack immune system like HIV by targeting protective cells, warn scientists

The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 could kill the powerful immune cells that are supposed to kill the virus instead, scientists have warned.
The surprise discovery, made by a team of researchers from Shanghai and New York, coincided with frontline doctors’ observation that Covid-19 could attack the human immune system and cause damage similar to that found in HIV patients.
Lu Lu, from Fudan University in Shanghai, and Jang Shibo, from the New York Blood Centre, joined the living virus, which is officially known as Sars-CoV-2, to laboratory-grown T lymphocyte cell lines....
To the surprise of the scientists, the T cell became a prey to the coronavirus in their experiment. They found a unique structure in the virus’ spike protein that apparently triggered the fusion of a viral envelope and cell membrane when they came into contact.  The virus’s genes then entered the T cell and took it hostage, disabling its function of protecting humans.

The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 could kill the powerful immune cells that are supposed to kill the virus instead, scientists have warned.
The surprise discovery, made by a team of researchers from Shanghai and New York, coincided with frontline doctors’ observation that Covid-19 could attack the human immune system and cause damage similar to that found in HIV patients.
Lu Lu, from Fudan University in Shanghai, and Jang Shibo, from the New York Blood Centre, joined the living virus, which is officially known as Sars-CoV-2, to laboratory-grown T lymphocyte cell lines.
T lymphocytes, also known as T cells, play a central role in identifying and eliminating alien invaders in the body.
They do this by capturing a cell infected by a virus, boring a hole in its membrane and injecting toxic chemicals into the cell. These chemicals then kill both the virus and infected cell and tear them to pieces.
To the surprise of the scientists, the T cell became a prey to the coronavirus in their experiment. They found a unique structure in the virus’ spike protein that apparently triggered the fusion of a viral envelope and cell membrane when they came into contact.

The virus’s genes then entered the T cell and took it hostage, disabling its function of protecting humans.

The researchers did the same experiment with severe acute respiratory syndrome, or Sars, another coronavirus, and found that the Sars virus did not have the ability to infect T cells....

Further investigations into the coronavirus infection on primary T cells would evoke “new ideas about pathogenic mechanisms and therapeutic interventions”, the researchers said in a paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Cellular & Molecular Immunology   this week.

A doctor who works in a public hospital treating Covid-19 patients in Beijing said the discovery added another piece of evidence to a growing concern in medical circles that the coronavirus could sometimes behave like some of the most notorious viruses that directly attack the human immune system.
“More and more people compare it to HIV,” said the doctor who requested not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.
In February, Chen Yongwen and his colleagues at the PLA’s Institute of Immunology released a clinical report warning that the number of T cells could drop significantly in Covid-19 patients, especially when they were elderly or required treatment in intensive care units. The lower the T cell count, the higher the risk of death.

This observation was later confirmed by autopsy examinations on more than 20 patients, whose immune systems were almost completely destroyed, according to mainland media reports....

The source research article is:

SARS-CoV-2 infects T lymphocytes through its spike protein-mediated membrane fusion

This all could explain the peculiar accounts of late relapses among "recovered" patients.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: April 12, 2020, 11:21:40 PM »
Steve wrote:
This is part of a widespread problem with the pandemic data.  We have lots of data, the interpretation of which is fraught with pitfalls.

Well put.

If you have any links about what different groups using different definitions of obese, they would be appreciated.

The concern I'm raising isn't about definitions, it's about physician behavior around entering diagnoses into the record.  I'm confident this is a major potential issue in the US, it may not be applicable to the other advanced economies.

In rational health care systems, a primary care doctor notes height and weight, from which BMI can be automatically calculated, and the diagnosis can be automated--potentially.  In rational health care systems this diagnosis would follow the patient with his record to the hospital.

Good luck finding this kind of rationality in the US system.  Most people can't find a primary care physician to see, many use an urgent care center and maybe specific specialists.  At best, most of these will only *ask* the weight and height.  This certainly applies in an ER with a patient who can't breathe.  Maybe some of the electronic health record systems for an urgent care center would automatically calculate BMI, but I'd be doubtful.  Regardless, the US has a dozen different commercial medical record systems, and they very often can't talk to each other.

So if a person has been previously diagnosed as obese, this will typically be unknown to the hospital.  They're only going to ask height and weight.  Still the diagnosis of obesity is unlikely to appear on the patients chart unless the ER or ICU doctor thinks to himself, "gosh this guy is obese."  Then it gets put on the diagnosis list.

Even just determining whether my concern is valid in practice is an analytical nightmare.  I can only state that the potential is large here for chaotic data.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: April 12, 2020, 07:14:10 PM »
Not to further belabor the issue, but I would just like to point out that ... if there are rates of obesity in the general population in the 40 -50 % range, and the rates of people who are obese and die from covid are in the same range, that is actually evidence that obesity itself is not directly a contributing factor.

When I see studies where the local general population have rates of obesity much lower with the death rates for obesity the same or higher, then I will accept that there may be something to it. So far, I have not.

Completely logical.  But when an ICU doc notes a comorbidity of obesity, he's very likely using a much different criterion than a primary care physician.  The PCP is much more likely to look at BMI or other objective criteria, check tables that define obesity, and record appropriately.  Clinical obesity has a much lower threshold of "fat" than ordinary people might assume.  For an ICU doc, obesity is more likely to mean morbid obesity.  Thus population statistics of obesity may be much different in the epidemiological tables than the criteria of "obesity" in hospitalized Covid patients.  I suspect it's like comparing apples and oranges.  A straightforward, logical interpretation may be utterly wrong.

This is part of a widespread problem with the pandemic data.  We have lots of data, the interpretation of which is fraught with pitfalls.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: April 11, 2020, 08:18:00 PM »

Also, how unusual is it to have a virus with such a wide range of disease severity?  It seems like this thing can be everything from asymptomatic to utterly devastating w/o much rhyme or reason. I know about the comorbidities, but there are young people dying without any and anecdotally I keep hearing docs say they've never seen anything quite like it.

I think Covid is showing characteristics of some other viruses.  Chickenpox and I believe RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) are often more severe when an older adult gets an initial infection.  Severity of illness can be variable.  Other coronaviruses and RSV can also infect people multiple times.  In these cases, only the first infection is severe, subsequent ones are usually just colds (barring immune supression).

We basically all had RSV before we were two years old, it's ubiquitous.  An occasional child does end up on a ventilator, and a few die.  But those of us who've had it before don't get more than a cold.

In all, Covid is behaving the way I'd expect RSV to behave, if it were suddenly introduced to humanity and nobody had prior immunity.  Kids generally wouldn't get seriously ill, but older adults would probably get quite severe illness.

I'd expect Covid to eventually be like RSV is now.  A virus that everyone will get in early childhood, rarely get seriously ill, and any subsequent infections will be just minor annoyances.  But before we can reach that steady-state, everyone will need to acquire immunity, either through immunization or contracting the disease and recovering.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: April 09, 2020, 10:56:47 AM »

I really don't mean to be rude, but I don't think you understand this article.  The article is discussing "blood transfusions."  A plasma transfusion is *very* different.  No red blood cells, nor white blood cells, are transfused.  A plasma infusion is far, far safer.

Now, if you can find an article showing the hazards of fresh-frozen plasma, that would be relevant.

You didn't even read the article.

For the purposes of this study, a transfusion episode was defined as all blood products released to a single patient separated by an interval of six hours from other blood products released.

I worked at a blood bank before, so I'm not entirely unfamiliar with this topic.

I apologize for saying that you didn't understand the article.  However, you seem not to have grasped the implications of the article.  Grouping red blood cell transfusions along with plasma transfusions means grouping higher-risk procedures with lower-risk procedures.  Thus, the rest of my response stands.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: April 09, 2020, 12:02:33 AM »
I think governments should be implementing plasma transfusions programs really hard. This is not a revolutionary treatment but it is most likely a viable treatment.  Plasma transfusions is old medicine fraught with dangers, but antibodies are antibodies. C19 antibodies will lower the viral load in many patients.

 The problem is that the rest of the antibodies a person has will be included with the plasma, and they will also react with the recipient. A good crossmatch should avoid most adverse reactions but there are a lot of dangers inherent to blood transfusion.

Be careful what you wish for. That is how the Hep C pandemic came about - the largest single catastrophe of allopathic disease transmission known.

An explosion of Hep C, Hep B, and a dozen other diseases could result. Most of those can be detected via screening. And standard sterilization techniques should eliminate them. “Should” being the operative word. However, a lot of other infections cannot be easily detected. A lot aren’t even identified.  Neither are a whole host of immune factors. The explosion of autoimmune diseases a year or ten later will be startling, and devastating.

Caution is warranted.


All of this is seriously overblown.  Fresh-frozen plasma (FFP) is very commonly administered for a range of conditions, including the many causes of hemorrhage.  Serious reactions are rare, transmission of pathogens is very rare, and I've never heard of a late autoimmune reaction.  Risks from such therapy is minuscule compared to the risk of Covid infection in high-risk individuals.

Plasma is as carefully screened for pathogens as are whole blood transfusions.  Transmission of pathogens is very rare.

As for A/B/O blood type incompatibility, this concern is also overblown.  First, it's easy to test before infusion.  Second, reactions from such incompatibility are usually mild.

"Because plasma contains ABO antibodies, ideally, fresh-frozen plasma should be of the same ABO type as the recipient. If ABO type-specific plasma is not available, plasma of a different ABO group may be used as long as it does not have high titers of anti-A or anti-B."

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: April 08, 2020, 07:13:22 PM »

Convalescent serum is shaping up to be a highly effective treatment (unsurprisingly):

Effectiveness of convalescent plasma therapy in severe COVID-19 patients

This treatment (or any effective treatment) is a game-changer for the global trajectory of this pandemic.

Especially since rapid testing results are being rolled out, a treatment approach can be used to dramatically reduce severity and mortality of infections.  That is, when a person with serious symptoms or high risk for a bad outcome is found, that person can promptly be given an infusion.   We can anticipate a dramatically reduced severity and duration of illness, dramatically reduced deaths, and dramatically reduced demand for ICU beds and ventilators.

Supply of convalescent serum will be an initial constraint.  However, a unit of plasma can be divided among 4 recipients,  and donors can give plasma weekly.  (the red blood cells are returned to the donor, so time between donations can be much shorter than for whole blood donations, and volume donated is also larger).

The technology used is pretty low-tech.   This treatment approach has been used for a century.  Even extremely poor nations can do do donations, centrifugation, and infusions.

This treatment (or any effective treatment) can transform this pandemic from a disaster to something not much worse than a bad influenza season.

We just all need to stay alive for the next month or so for this to be widely available.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: April 07, 2020, 06:12:13 PM »

(deleted nonsense)

Sigh.  If you've been reading this thread, you'd know that virtually identical strains have been isolated from bats and pangolins in China.  What, some dastardly lab scientist purposely infected wildlife?

The coronavirus did not escape from a lab. Here's how we know.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: April 03, 2020, 09:56:00 PM »
Re: BCG studies
Hmmm ...
I've read that Ecuador is being hit quite hard by Covid-19, and they are on the map as having a history of BCG immunizations.

e.g.: Bodies on the sidewalk: Ecuador city becomes grim coronavirus warning for region

If equatorial countries are having this kind of trouble, I can't fathom why anyone thinks this virus will go quiet over the summer.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: March 31, 2020, 07:44:44 PM »
Stop denying this virus is "just the flu" - the 1918 Spanish Flu was CONSIDERABLY less dangerous to society, than the Wuhan Coronavirus.

That 1918 Spanish flu had an R0 value of only 4.0, and that was only in crowded spaces.  In crowded spaces, the Wuhan Coronavirus and Smallpox have an R0 of up to 7.0.

Yes, this is more contagious.  But very likely less lethal.  The 1918 virus is estimated to have ~2.5% to perhaps 5% mortality rate.  Specific populations saw 20% mortality or higher.  That's above the upper end of a plausible rate for Covid. 

I'm not minimizing or denying anything.  The 1918 pandemic was horrific.  A brief documentary and a longer one:

That makes the course of this predictable.  A lower mortality rate than 1918, but faster spread, sooner and higher peak, and faster resolution.  I personally expect this to be pretty well burned out by the time of the Arctic sea ice minimum.  Millions dead worldwide, though, between now and then.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: March 31, 2020, 12:31:08 PM »
Ok, 2 weeks it is then to die. I accept that.

No, almost certainly closer to 3 weeks.  The 17 days mean time from diagnosis to death derives from settings without such quick and easy access.  In such testing-constrained settings, the testing taking place is shifted to those with more severe symptoms, thus later in the disease.

Conversely, settings such as Iceland with quick and easy testing and much testing of people before *any* symptoms develop means the diagnoses are being made earlier in the course of infection.  It's hard to justify an estimate of less than 3 weeks mean time from diagnosis to death for the Iceland data.  I'd argue that an overall Infection Fatality Rate of less than ~1% is not defensible.  Likely somewhat higher, particularly  since the Iceland death rate is in a setting of unconstrained hospital care, ICU availability, and no shortage of ventilators.

At peak of the epidemic, few places will have nearly enough hospital beds, ventilators, or attention from medical personnel.  In overwhelmed cities or poor countries, most who need hospitalization won't have this available.  People get hospitalized because they need at least oxygen and/or IV fluids to survive.  Without availability of these hospital-level treatments, the mortality rate could approach perhaps 25% of the rate of hospitalization of cases.

We have a virus that's approximately as lethal as the 1918 pandemic and approximately as contagious.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: March 30, 2020, 11:36:43 PM »
Probably the most accurate representation of infection to test ratios  and death rates to resolved cases is the numbers from Korea ...

No. Iceland is where you go for data. They already tested more than 3% of the total population, far more than anywhere else.
Data here:

1086 cases
30 hospitalized (ie. 3% hospitalization ratio!)
10 intensive care (= 1% needing intensive care!)
2 dead ( = 0,2%)

This tells you that there are many more mild and asymptomatic cases than previously believed and both mortality and hopsitalization ratio is much lower than envisioned by most people...

Of course, with extensive testing to find early cases, there may be 2-3 weeks mean time from diagnosis to death.  Take current deaths divided by total cases of 2-3 weeks ago, and the case fatality rate is far higher than that.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: March 29, 2020, 01:42:00 PM »

Clinical Pearls Covid 19 for ER practitioners


I am an ER MD in New Orleans. Class of 98. Every one of my colleagues have now seen several hundred Covid 19 patients and this is what I think I know.

Clinical course is predictable.
2-11 days after exposure (day 5 on average) flu like symptoms start. Common are fever, headache, dry cough, myalgias(back pain), nausea without vomiting, abdominal discomfort with some diarrhea, loss of smell, anorexia, fatigue.

Thanks for posting this.  It's a great description of what it's like for doctors "in the trenches."  For those unfamiliar with the medical lingo, that link has a version in the comments where someone has inserted plain-english in parentheses to go with the lingo.

It's not at all surprising that they're using various agents off-label. But they seem to be doing this when cases have become severe, not early in the course for high-risk groups. Unfortunately, there's no national response to secure supplies to keep doing this.  Once ventilators are all in use, care in the US will likely degrade to being equivalent to Bangladesh.   Critical shortage of PPE is already making the comparison....comparable.

Policy and solutions / Re: Lessons from COVID-19
« on: March 26, 2020, 12:26:20 PM »

You know, if the CCP had put the lockdown in place the first day they knew of the virus, we would not have these threads on this forum. 

That isn't remotely true.  As soon as a handful of people were infected, possibly even before any of them were sick, the die was cast.  It's a contagious virus, with days of asymptomatic spread before illness is apparent.  This epidemic could not possibly have been contained. 

China made a few missteps, but most of their response has been laudable.  There were published reports of an odd pneumonia before the cause was identified.  They quickly identified the virus as a novel coronavirus, and publicized this finding.  They very quickly determined the genetic sequence and published the information.  The world watched as Wuhan was put under the strictest quarantine in human history.  China bought the world weeks of time to prepare.  Most of the world utterly squandered that precious time.

Consequences / Re: Global recession
« on: March 25, 2020, 06:13:57 PM »
Gold claims to be a safe haven when everything else crashes but it really isn't true. They are just trying to sell their gold for a better price.

Indeed.  A rational investor might invest some money in gold, specifically as a hedge against inflation.  Otherwise, it's a terrible investment, more of a gamble.

People obsessed with owning gold seem to be the source of most calls for "returning to the gold standard."  The idea is completely daft.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: March 25, 2020, 02:34:39 AM »
 I also saw this article on antibody tests that look very promising.

This is, indeed, crucial and heartening research work.  However, they're re-inventing the wheel.  This kind of test has already been developed and deployed in China, a month ago:

Development and Clinical Application of A Rapid IgM‐IgG Combined Antibody Test for SARS‐CoV‐2 Infection Diagnosis

"We have developed a rapid and simple point‐of‐care lateral flow immunoassay which can detect IgM and IgG antibodies simultaneously against SARS‐CoV‐2 virus in human blood within 15 minutes which can detect patients at different infection stages."

I've read from other sources that current testing for acutely ill persons now entails testing for RNA, IgM, and IgG.  If any of the three is positive, they are treated for Covid.  When RNA testing turns negative and IgG persists, the person is considered immunologically recovered, and immune.

The West seems to be repeatedly re-inventing the wheel.  The only truly experienced clinicians for this infection are in China.  We should be taking our cues from them.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: March 24, 2020, 07:21:53 PM »
Chris Martenson says make your own, &@#%, with a sewing machine.
I have no machine and don’t know how to sew.

Making high-quality masks doesn't require a sewing machine, nor even needle and thread.  This shows how to make a mask using fairly common materials;

How To Make A No Sew DIY N95 Type Protective Face Mask

I'm quite impressed by the makeshift engineering shown here.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: March 23, 2020, 12:38:46 PM »
Which brings us back to one of the things that were being discussed:

Re 2: You can find the links yourself, but covid-19 is hitting young people very hard. 

Re 3: Many deaths are now among people with no pre-existing conditions which were feared to exacerbate their illness.

The situation is serious, but to extrapolate the alleged impacts on younger people in the US - the most unhealthy country in the history of man - is either fearmongering or pandemic porn (which I'm seeing much more of now that COVID-19 has reached the US).

"Alleged" isn't fair to the data.  Risk of death <20 years of age is quite uncommon.  It's probably no greater than for regular influenza (which is low, but not trivial).

However, serious illness to the point of requiring hospitalization is rather common in the under-45 crowd.

That's from the CDC, MMWR, vol 69

It's perplexing that people assume that civilization is primarily to blame for increased mortality with this infection.  Certainly, diabetes is one major risk factor.  But obesity and diabetes are far from confined to the developed world.  Last I read, Mexico has a higher rate of obesity than the US.  Hypertension, diabetes, and smoking are quite common among the poor, worldwide.

In the example of the 1918 pandemic, there was rough correlation between poverty and mortality.  India, Western Samoa, Native Americans, Alaskan natives and other Pacific Islanders had exceptionally high mortality rates.   We don't know whether that mortality pattern will hold with this virus, but I'd personally be surprised if it didn't.  Maybe civilization kills, but poverty kills more.

In many societies, it is the more affluent who have the free time, education, and resources to focus on optimal weight and exercise.  It's the poor who suffer the worst deprivations, in health and economically.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: March 23, 2020, 01:44:28 AM »
Don't be daft.  "Printing money" is done by a process called "quantitative easing."  The process can be reversed just as easily and quickly as it's instituted. 

I don't want to hijack this thread with a diversion into macro-economics. And I'm no expert. But no, QE is not synonymous with "printing money." QE is a program of buying bonds by the fed.  It has "traditionally" been (since the fiscal crisis of 08/09) the purchase of government bonds. There is now talk of extending it to munis and even corporate bonds.  It cannot be unwound as easily as it starts because abruptly stopping QE causes instability in the bond markets.  There are many other ways the Fed and the Federal government can increase the money supply, inject liquidity and "stimulate" the economy.  For example, a Universal Basic Income (UBI) has nothing to do with QE.

I continue to think that the gang here that believes these tools can work in perpetuity and without limit are not correct.

No, as written, my statement is correct.  With quantitative easing, the Federal Reserve uses freshly-created currency.  The "money printing" is electronic.  You are exactly correct that abruptly stopping or reversing this action would create chaos.  So, while it is indeed as *easy*, it won't actually be done abruptly.

However, when a UBI is issued by the Treasury, that is funded by issuing Treasury bonds.  The bonds when purchased suck up as much of the money supply as the UBI distributes.  Overall, money is shifted now from buyers of bonds to the poor.  Bond-holders get their return over time.

When done prudently, Federal Reserve money supply expansion and contraction can (and should) be done indefinitely.  I have confidence in the Federal Reserve to do this task responsibly.  However, I have no confidence in the politicians who direct fiscal policy.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: March 22, 2020, 10:48:12 PM »

Is it not the truth ? Now your friends are going to print trillions of usd, what's that going to do with our climate or planet ? Your liberal left wings globalists friends are travelling across that planet to get everything a little bit cheaper. And what's the result, corruption and money printing. Turning the entire planet into a slaughterhouse.

Don't be daft.  "Printing money" is done by a process called "quantitative easing."  The process can be reversed just as easily and quickly as it's instituted.  We'll have severe deflation, followed by some inflation in rebound, followed by normalization.

Corporate globalism is indeed a pox on humanity.  However, some form of globalized governance is now absolutely essential.

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