Nel's New Day

March 30, 2020

People Dying in U.S. from Dunning-Helzer Effect

COVID-19 has made another celebrity, perhaps the person who Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) followed in his misguided foot-dragging that is killing thousands of people. Richard Epstein, a lawyer at the conservative Hoover Institution, predicted in a mid-March column that the world would see only about 50,000 death with about 500 in the U.S. He did correct his predicted U.S. number of deaths to his March 23 column, originally 500, to 5,000. He called governors’ numbers “hysterical and sloppy” because New York had only 122 deaths in the nine days following March 14. In the nine days, 1,220 more people died.

On March 23, the day that Epstein published his misguided column, DDT said that he would probably stop efforts to block the virus on Easter, “a beautiful day.” DDT’s close conservative associates and officials had been circulating the column called “Coronavirus Perspective” which played down the disease’s threat. Epstein is not a virologist, not an epidemiologist, and not a physician.

Epstein tried to make up for his error—500 deaths instead of 5,000 deaths—by granting an interview to Isaac Chotiner for the New Yorker. A defense for his major blunder, which sent up a red flag about his abilities, was to say, “The question to ask, Isaac, is not whether I chose the right number but whether I had the right model.” Chotiner’s article points out a series of errors in Epstein’s mistakes.

Epstein has no understanding of COVID-19. He claimed that “a strong version of the virus” will kill everybody who is “fragile and old. Daniel Kuritzkes, chief of the infectious-diseases division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said no evidence shows “that there are strong and weak variations of the coronavirus circulation.”

Epstein has no basic understanding of how the virus is transmitted. He assumed that people who died at the Washington nursing center “probably” received “large doses” of the virus through “hugging and kissing.” He used these deaths for his model. Albert Ko, professor of epidemiology and medicine and the department chair at the Yale School of Public Health, responded, “There is no evidence that you have a higher risk of dying from contact from someone in the facility than if you had contact from some other source.”

Epstein has no understanding that deaths almost immediately stop from “an evolutionary tendency.” He said that a “change in genetic viral behavior” along with changes in human behavior would lead to an “adaptation,” altering the course of the virus. Failure to consider the “adaptation” led to governors’ overreaction to the virus’s possible impact. Ko said, “There is absolutely no evidence for [an evolutionary tendency]…. To the extent we see that evolution taking place it is usually over a much vaster timescale.”

Epstein doesn’t know that some viruses don’t weaken over time. Ko said, “We did not see SARS or Ebola weaken over time. It is only appropriate public-health measures or vaccines that have helped to control those epidemics.”

Epstein’s methodology and conclusions lack any evidence or proof. The concluding dialog of the interview:

Chotiner: I know, but these are scientific issues here.

[Epstein]: You know nothing about the subject but are so confident that you’re going to say that I’m a crackpot.

No. Richard—

That’s what you’re saying, isn’t it? That’s what you’re saying?

I’m not saying anything of the sort.

Admit to it. You’re saying I’m a crackpot.

I’m not saying anything of the—

Well, what am I then? I’m an amateur? You’re the great scholar on this?

No, no. I’m not a great scholar on this.

Tell me what you think about the quality of the work!

O.K. I’m going to tell you. I think the fact that I am not a great scholar on this and I’m able to find these flaws or these holes in what you wrote is a sign that maybe you should’ve thought harder before writing it.

What it shows is that you are a complete intellectual amateur. Period.

O.K. Can I ask you one more question?

You just don’t know anything about anything. You’re a journalist. Would you like to compare your résumé to mine?

No, actually, I would not.

Then good. Then maybe what you want to do is to say, “Gee, I’m not quite sure that this is right. I’m going to check with somebody else.” But, you want to come at me hard, I am going to come back harder at you. And then if I can’t jam my fingers down your throat, then I am not worth it. But you have basically gone over the line. If you want to ask questions, ask questions. I put forward a model. But a little bit of respect.

O.K. Let me ask you this question. All my questions are asked with respect.

That’s not the way I hear it.

Caught in his mistakes, Epstein’s increasingly confrontational behavior led to his reversal of opinions, some of them written in his columns, and his insistence that his “skill of cross examination” as a lawyer qualified him to interrogate the evidence and substitute his own judgment for that of experts in the field.

Epstein wrote:

 “Our government fiats will probably save very few, if any, lives saved over what we can obtain through more focused voluntary precautions.”

According to data, including a map, enforced stay-at-home mandates and restaurant closures are contributing to rapid reductions in the number of people with fevers. Over half the U.S. population in 30 states, the most recent order today, are told to stay at home. After watching the trend, DDT extended this recommendation until April 30. One exception to the reductions was in New Mexico, where the state order was made only the day before the most recent data, and adjacent counties in Colorado. The other area were parishes surrounding New Orleans, infections possibly caused by the Mardi Gras infection spread.

Graphs following fevers and restrictions show that voluntary compliance doesn’t affect the number of people with fevers. The turning point for improvement in Manhattan came on March 16 when schools were closed. The next day bar and restaurants were closed, and the stay-at-home took effect four days later. Tracking also showed the soaring fever levels during Florida’s spring break. Although the state’s governor Ron DiSantis finally closed the beaches, he still has issued no stay-at-home orders and banned a reporter at his press briefings because she asked for social distancing. School closing did no good, but bars and restaurants closures caused the number of fevers to drop. By now, however, COVID-19 cases are rapidly increasing in the state. The dropping numbers of fevers won’t take effect in hospitalizations, however, for days.

Twenty GOP governors still refuse to enforce even social distancing, and Mississippi’s governor has prevented cities from taking any action against the virus increase. They, too, have probably been reading Richard Epstein. The conservative National Inquirer promotes fake cures, and The Federalist published a column by a retired dermatologist advocating coronavirus parties to intentionally contract the disease like people did with chicken pox. Ann Coulter shared this chart showing the virus to be deadlier than the flu but claimed that it proves the opposite. 

Epstein claimed he was applying “standard Darwinian economics … to this particular case.”

Epstein, DDT, and most of DDT’s appointments suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect, their illusion of superiority because they cannot assess their own lack of ability. According to social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger, people of low ability believe they are superior whereas those of high ability evaluate their abilities far lower than they are. In 2011, Dunning wrote: “In short, those who are incompetent, for lack of a better term, should have little insight into their incompetence—an assertion that has come to be known as the Dunning–Kruger effect.”

In 2014, Dunning and Helzer described how the Dunning–Kruger effect “suggests that poor performers are not in a position to recognize the shortcomings in their performance.” They call the effect a “dual burden.” People are not only incompetent, but their incompetence also takes their mental ability to realize how incompetent they are. They simply overestimate their own skill levels.

DDT is a textbook case.

Today, March 30, 2020, 37,815 people have died from 785,777 confirmed COVID-19 cases around the world. The number will probably double tomorrow from the 400,000+ on March 24. In the U.S. 3,165 people have died of COVID-19 in one month. The U.S. is still #1 in the world with 164,253 confirmed cases.

March 29, 2020

The Ugliness of COVID-19

So much news pours in about the novel coronavirus that I’m providing only short summaries of news articles with sources for more detailed information. Considering the approach of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to the health crisis, deciding between “the bad” and “the ugly” is difficult. One ugly today is that DDT’s has his 13th White House briefing today after a hiatus yesterday when he spoke on the hospital ship USS Comfort. Tomorrow is supposedly the end of his “15 days of quarantine”–and maybe his daily campaign rallies.

The Good:

The FDA approved emergency use of a new coronavirus test that delivers positive results in 5 minutes and negative results in 13 minutes. It should be ready next week. About the size of a toaster, the portable unit can supposedly be set up anywhere from a physician’s office to an urgent care clinic.

A council representing more than 800,000 doctors wrote DDT to reverse his demand that businesses reopen on Easter because it jeopardizes health and puts hospitals into worse chaos in the fight against coronavirus.

Twitter temporarily suspended the account of Rudy Giuliani after DDT’s personal lawyer tweeted misinformation about coronavirus.

The Bad:

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. expert on infectious disease, told the nation to be prepared because COVID-19 may come back in “cycles.” He warned that COVID-19 could infect millions of people in the U.S. with over 100,000 deaths. Doctors say the disease is much worse the second time around.

Where did the spring-breakers in Florida go after the beaches closed? This map shows their locations—and areas of new COVID-19 infections. 

The G-7 won’t sign a joint statement because DDT insists on referring to COVID-19 as the “Wuhan virus” in official documents

Weeks after downplaying the virus and saying he was still “shaking hands with everyone,” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tested positive for the virus.

Almost 300 people died and over 1,000 sickened from swallowing methanol in Iran as one of the fake remedies spread through social media in the country. 

The Kennedy Center received $25 million from the stimulus bill, but the Center’s president, Deborah Rutter, told 96 musicians that their last paycheck would be this week. They will no longer have healthcare after the end of May if the center is still closed, and performances are suspended until May 10. The organization also has an endowment of almost $100 million, which could operate the Center for ten months in the worst scenario. Rutter said she was suspending her $1.2 million salary until after the crisis.

Media sources such as Newsweek are using outdated statistics for COVID-19 cases and deaths. This source is up to date for world statistics.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis banned a reporter from his briefings because she asked for social distancing at the gatherings.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) changed the stimulus bill so that big restaurant and hotel chains will get over half the money originally designated for truly small restaurants.  

Deborah Birx, a supposed expert on DDT’s coronavirus task force, praised his abilities:

“He’s so attentive to the scientific literature and the details and the data. I think his ability to analyze and integrate data that comes out of his long history in business has really been a real benefit…. He understands the importance of the granularity.”

She also downplayed the importance of ventilators. After his annoyance with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the real expert, DDT largely replaced him with Birx.    

The Ugly:

DDT has been calling evangelical leaders and telling them to forget coronavirus and pray for his reelection instead.

DDT is blackmailing governors who badly need supplies to fight the virus. He wants “them to be appreciative.” If not, he insults them and refuses supplies to them. Medical supply vendors told Michigan Gov. Gretchen Witmer that they were told not to send her supplies after she had contracts with them. Asked it this is true, DDT said that Witmer “is a new governor who has not been pleasant. We don’t like to see the complaints.” He continued:

“Pence] calls all the governors…. I say Mike, don’t call the governor of Washington, you’re wasting your time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan. If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.”

At today’s press briefing, DDT told reporters that he didn’t tell Pence not to call some of the governors and accused hospitals of lying about how many masks they need for the pandemic. When NPR’s reporter Yamiche Alcindor asked DDT about telling Sean Hannity on the air that hospitals didn’t need the equipment that they needed, DDT told her to “be nice” and not be “threatening.” Pressed for an answer, DDT had a White House staffer take Alcindor’s microphone. [Left: Life-saving mask.]

In his tweets today, DDT bragged several times about his high TV ratings for the briefings.

DDT’s “America First” is gone. After blaming President Obama for the shortage of hospital supplies and equipment, DDT shortchanged U.S. medical facilities by sending 17.8 tons of badly needed medical assistance for people with COVID-19 to China in early February. The evidence of this “generous” action comes from a State Department press release.

Furious because CNN and MSNBC cut away for the last part of DDT’s ramblings at last Monday’s press briefing before going back to the Q&A session with reporters, DDT threw a tantrum. During that briefing, DDT again recommended the use of chloroquine that killed at least one person sickened four others. 

A study of 30 patients in China shows that hydroxychloroquine is no more effective than conventional care: 13 of 15 patients given the drug tested negative after a week while 14 of 15 patients without the drug tested negative. Standard treatment included bed rest, oxygen inhalation, anti-viral drugs such as lopinavir and ritonavir, and antibiotics when necessary. Of the patients given hydroxychloroquine, one progressed to severe disease and four developed diarrhea and possible liver damage compared to three with conventional treatment.

Conservative billionaire and co-founder of Home Depot Bernard Marcus is pushing hydroxchoroquine as a cure for the virus. A shortage of the drug nationwide has been caused by hoarding doctors. The FDA stated that fatal heart problems are the drug’s possible side effect. Marcus’ group has lobbied for deferral of taxes for both 2019 and 2020.

DHS added gun dealers, ranges, and manufacturers to its list of essential businesses after a gun group wrote DHS.

The mystery of missing ventilators has been solved. Jared Kushner has been in charge for over two weeks and kept canceling orders because ventilators are expensive. Hospitals are putting up to four people on a ventilator suitable for only one person. Kushner, who told DDT that the coronavirus isn’t serious, is in charge of the pandemic in the U.S. DDT failed to use the Defense Production Act to provide necessary supplies to healthcare workers because businesses objected. He keeps saying that states are lying about not having enough supplies. He even said that he’s already invoked the law, and FEMA director had to correct him.

Approving $4.5 trillion to bail out corporations, DDT fought paying $1 billion for 80,000 ventilators. At last Friday’s brief briefing, Jonathan Karl asked DDT about the availability of ventilators. DDT responded, “Don’t be a cutie pie!” and changed the subject, bragging about what a good job he’s doing with the health crisis.

The Catholic-based Peace Health St. Joseph Medical Center fired emergency physician Dr. Ming Lee because he said the hospital was too sluggish in fighting coronavirus. The hospital objected to Lin, who trained in New York and worked there during the 9/11 crisis, obtaining needed supplies for patients. As of Friday, Washington state had 3,723 reported cases of COVID-19 and 175 deaths. The first case in Lin’s county on March 10 grew to 92 cases and four deaths. 

DDT’s communications with billionaires were behind his hope to “have the country opened up” and “get people back to work” by Easter during a worsening pandemic. At today’s press conference, DDT said the peak, and explained that was the highest point of COVID-19 in the U.S., would be two weeks from today. That’s Easter. When Hong Kong tried DDT’s system of opening the country, the second wave of COVID-19 almost doubled the confirmed cases in a week, many of them from overseas.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said she would have called off the deadly Mardi Gras celebrations a month ago if the federal government had announced the dangers of coronavirus.

Hobby Lobby, the company that helped the Supreme Court turn back women’s reproductive care a century, will keep stores open because God told the owner’s wife three words: “Guide, Guard and Groom.” (God will “groom” people to be better.) She said that everyone should pray.

The Ugliest:

This analysis shows how DDT ignored the danger of COVID-19 from the first recognized death in late December until March 16, making the progress of the disease far more rapid in the U.S. And another one.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg in coronavirus news.

On March 29, the limited testing in the U.S. revealed 142,178 cases, an additional 16,799 from the day before, and 2,484 deaths. The world has 722,196 confirmed cases and 33,976 deaths.

March 28, 2020

DDT: Week 166 – Beyond Coronavirus Congress has passed the $2.2 trillion bill, despite last-minute attempts from Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) to block it, driving the U.S. into far more debt. Both chambers have left D.C.: the Senate won’t be back until after April 20, and the House return has not been announced.  

A few quirks in the bill:

Employers (but not employees) can defer paying their share of Social Security tax on wages for a couple of years, but employees have to pay it now.

It gives $16 billion to buy ventilators and other medical equipment so DDT told car companies to make ventilators although he doesn’t see any reasons for more.

Food stamps aren’t expanded in the bill.

Federal lenders must stop all payments for student loans through September 30 and cannot charge interest or nonpayment fees. Credit scores and loan forgiveness won’t be affected; also suspended are wage garnishment and tax refund reduction for people who defaulted on federal student loans. The bill has no affect on private student loans which comprise about 12 percent of all education loans in 2018-2019. 

Despite Democrats attempt to keep Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) from making a profit on the bill, he can find loopholes. He can use real estate losses to minimize taxes on profits from items such as investments in the stock market which had been limited by the 2017 tax-cut package. DDT has always kept his taxes secret.

DDT also said he would ignore the law’s provision requiring independent oversight of his desired $500 billion “slush fund.” That way he can give money to his favorite and biggest donors. He also wants his signature on the stimulus checks. After all, election is only 239 days away.

Cruise ships aren’t getting bailout although information changes day by day. DDT insisted that we “can’t let the cruise lines go out of business,” but not one major cruise line lies the U.S. flag because it avoids laws, regulations, and taxes. No environmental laws about ship “discharges,” no U.S. labor laws, minimized criminal and civil liability, and reduced taxes. And they aren’t an “essential” industry.

Surrounded by his wealthy white male loyalists, DDT signed the bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the person who managed to get it through the House, received no credit from DDT and was not invited for the signing. He has not spoken to her for five months. [Republicans below from left to right: Economic adviser Larry Kudlow, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), DDT, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA), and VP Mike Pence.]

Over 90 percent of people in the U.S. believe a recession is coming, with seven percent disagreeing.

DDT and Barr are attacking corruption and fraud—in Venezuela. Sweeping indictments against the country’s President Nicolás Maduro with a $15 million bounty on his head are DDT’s latest attempt at a coup in Venezuela. Charges were filed in New York and Florida, probably because of those states’ investigating the DOJ. The indictments cannot arrest Maduro in Venezuela because of a well-equipped military and strong Russian support for him. To make National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate president, indictments include the head of Venezuela’s legislature, defense minister, and Supreme Court chief justice. DDT’s oil embargo has made Russia a winner because of Moscow’s deals to produce, transport and sell Venezuelan oil to markets other than the U.S.

Information about DDT keep crawling out from underneath the rocks, including his late-2018 protection of Walmart’s criminality regarding opioid-dispensing after a four-year investigation. Investigators found that Walmart pharmacists in Texas, Maine, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Kansas, and Washington filled prescriptions not for legitimate medical purposes when company competitors had not. Walmart also failed to comply with an FDA deal to tell them about sending the federal agency any alerts about illegitimate practices. Prosecutors who tried to make a criminal case have left the DOJ, and new ones have no interest in forcing Walmart to meet the law. Details here.

During the health crisis, DDT continues his purge of “nonloyalists,” this time Heather Swift, deputy assistant secretary of public affairs in DHS, who has been moved to the National Endowment for the Arts. Heather Swift, the deputy assistant secretary of public affairs at DHS, was moved to a senior post at the National Endowment for the Arts. Earlier, Swift was press secretary for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke before he left in disgrace.

A victory for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe of North Dakota came from a federal ruling that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act by approving federal permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline. The USACE moved forward with building the pipeline across the Missouri River without considering the environmental impact study from the tribe in 2017. The Obama administration had denied building permits in 2016.

A federal judge ruled that DDT must go to court over allegations of violating the First Amendment by revoking press badges and security clearances. The decision came one day after the D.C. Circuit Court considered DDT’s removal of the press badge for Playboy’s White House correspondent Brian Karem.

Before the $2.2 trillion congressional bill, the Federal Reserve tried to salvage DDT’s stock market by purchasing unlimited amounts of U.S. Treasury’s and mortgage-backed securities. In the last recession, the Fed put almost $4 trillion into the financial system over several years; the current action could exceed that amount in a few weeks. Economists described the Fed’s response as “throwing the kitchen sink” at markets. DDT is delighted, but the markets aren’t. All afterhours trading in the U.S. is down, and only Japan and Hong Kong markets are up in the world.

The U.S. has cut $1 billion in aid to Afghanistan, and ISIS is taking responsibility for killing 25 people in a Sikh religious complex in Kabul.

DDT made hundreds of calls to evangelical Christians across the nation and promised:

“It’s a big day, Nov. 3; that’s going to be one of the biggest dates in the history of religion….”

Losing national monuments can also destroy jobs—700 of them when DDT stripped Bears Ears National Monument and the Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah of their federal designations. Businesses do better after monuments become official, especially in areas of hotel and lodging (16 percent job increase) and construction (17 percent increase). Health services, finance, insurance, and real estate also benefit. Mining and forestry don’t lose jobs by keeping the monuments.

During the health crisis, ICE is stopping most deportations except for people who have committed crimes or pose a threat to public safety. HUD is suspending foreclosures and evictions until the end of April.

The majority of people aren’t swallowing DDT’s lies about the health crisis:

  • 73 percent, including 75 percent of Republicans, said that it was not true that “anyone who wants to get tested [for the virus] can get tested.” Just 17 percent said it was true.
  • 20 percent of the public, and just 25 percent of Republicans, said that they believed a vaccine will be available soon. Forty-two percent said that was false and 38 percent said they did not know.
  • 51 percent, including a plurality or Republicans (46 percent), said it was false that the virus would go away on its own in warm weather, while just 13 percent said that was true.
  • 61 percent said they believed covid-19 was more deadly than the flu; 22 percent said it was about the same; and 11 percent said they believed it was less deadly.

Confusion about whether the FDA approved anti-malaria drugs, which killed at least one person and put others into the hospital who took it without medical advice, still existed: 45 percent agreed the state was false, 22 percent said it was true, and 33 percent didn’t know. 

Within a month from the first confirmed death from covid-19 in the U.S., the total reached 1,000 before doubling in just two days. And that’s without testing most of the people who might have covid-19 and not reporting many of the confirmed cases and deaths. Today, the world’s death rate is 2,227 from 123,750 confirmed cases; the world’s death rate is 30,879 in 663,740 confirmed cases.

March 26, 2020

Covid-19 Bill Passes the Senate, Goes to House Tomorrow; DDT Unhinged

People became frightened when they thought DDT would start a war with Iran—and most of the Middle East and Russia. But now he claims to be a “wartime” president but won’t declare a war on the healthcare crisis. Congress has already passed two bills to help people and companies with the stress of covid-19: an $8.3 billion emergency supplemental for the health-care system, and a $100-billion-plus bill to boost paid sick leave and unemployment insurance and provide free coronavirus testing. The last bill passed the Senate by 90-8, but one of the obstructionists, Rand Paul (R-KY), tested positive for coronavirus and cannot vote. Another no GOP vote, Mike Lee of Utah, is self-quarantining after proximity to Paul.  

Senate Bill:

After six days of sometimes explosive negotiations, the newest one for $2.2 trillion has unanimously passed the Senate with 96 members present. In addition to Paul, Mitt Romney (UT), who was self-quarantining because of Paul, and John Thune (SD), who wasn’t feeling well, were absent for the vote. The bill must now go to the House for a vote. With the House in recess, the vote must be unanimous—a difficult proposition for members from far right to far left, with beliefs from too much for corporations to too much for people. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced the House will convene at 9:00 am tomorrow to consider the bill. If a voice vote fails, the only alternative is for members to come back to Washington in the midst of the epidemic.

Key elements of the bill: 

  • $504 billion: large businesses including $25 billion in grants for the passenger airlines; $25 billion in loans for passenger airlines; $17 billion targeted for Boeing; and $425 billion for other businesses, cities and states with restrictions on CEO salary increases and stock buybacks for a limited time. [Boeing, which is seeking $60 billion in aid, declared it would refuse a bailout if the company has to give the government an equity stake.]
  • $260 billion: unemployment insurance for additional weekly $600 payments for four months.
  • $377 billion: help for small companies deal with payroll problems.
  • $280 billion: business tax cuts, deferrals including payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare).
  • $180 billion: hospitals, healthcare providers, community health clinics, and public health agencies.
  • $185 billion: emergency aid for in state and local governments.
  • $290 billion: $1,200 checks for adults making under $75,000 and $500 to most children in the U.S.
  • $45 billion: FEMA disaster relief fund.
  • $31 billion: local schools and colleges
  • $25 billion: transit systems.
  • $25 billion: additional food stamp funding
  • $450 million (not billion) for voting needs in this time of crisis.

A provision also prevents top government officials and congressional members, including DDT, from getting loans or investments from Treasury programs in the stimulus. When asked earlier if he would apply for some of the stimulus funds for his business losses, DDT said he didn’t know. In 2001, he collected $150,000 in federal funds designed to help small businesses recover after 9/11 although he didn’t fit the criteria for the grant.

Democrats accepted the $500 billion lending fund because DDT no longer has oversight for a “slush fund.” An independent inspector general and an oversight board will examine the lending decisions, and terms of the loans will be made public within seven days instead of six months as Republicans wanted. The $700 billion TARP created during the 2008 recession used these two pieces as well as a congressional oversight panel. Some of the provisions in the proposed House bill were lost in the bipartisan bill.

Not clear is more money for Native American tribes that have thus far received short shrift in covid-19 supplies and assistance. Some tribes have no testing kits or supplies. Another question about the bill is whether it permits large corporations to lower wages and fire people. 

Republicans lost DDT’s ability to treat $500 billion as a “slush fund and excluding assistance for all nonprofits.

Democrats lost most of its provision of $4 billion for election money for states to mail ballots to all registered voters in an emergency and other democracy needs. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tried to make all that money a non-starter because Republicans don’t want all eligible people to vote. Other missing Dem pieces are expanding the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid along with protections for healthcare workers or paid leave and family medical leave. Help with student loans also got left out.

Last week, 3.3 million people filed for unemployment benefits; the unemployment rate is up to 5.5 percent, two points above that in February. The unemployment rate could be much higher because it doesn’t include self-employed workers, gig workers, undocumented workers, students, and people who worked fewer than six months last year. The prior unemployment record was just 695,000 during a week in October 1982. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin believes that companies will immediately rehired people because of the stimulus bill.

DDT pushed for the stimulus bill because he’s become more and more desperate about the health crisis. Two days ago, tired of hard questions from reporters, DDT held a two-hour “town hall” on Fox to repeat his lies without being questioned about them. The session began with DDT urging people to go to church on Easter, 19 days from then, because he wants to see “packed churches all over our country. Fox anchor Bill Hemmer called DDT’s idea a “great American resurrection,” and DDT wouldn’t answer a question about what health experts thought about opening that afternoon up on Easter. It was his 75th interview with Fox since his inauguration in less than 41 months. DDT’s regular briefing was extremely short—only 41 minutes compared to earlier ones that lasted hours—with few questions allowed from the press. CNN’s Kaitlin Collins did manage to ask, “Who suggested Easter?” DDT’s answer:

“I just thought it was a beautiful time. A beautiful time. A beautiful timeline. It’s a great day.”

“The media would like to see me do poorly in an election,” DDT said at the daily White House coronavirus briefing on Wednesday and pointed at two different reporters when he said, “You do. She does.” Today, he tweeted that the media is “trying to get me to keep our Country closed as long as possible in the hope that it will be detrimental to my election success.” His open statements about the dangers of the virus impeding his reelection show he is becoming increasingly unhinged about a situation over which he has no control and that his only criterion is what benefits his reelection. Yet at yesterday’s briefing, he said, “I’m not going to do anything rash or hastily.” A comparison of the U.S. with Italy shows the direction that the U.S. is taking, especially with DDT’s plans to open the country. 

Once again a public outcry is saving money for the people of the United States. Gilead is pulling its request to have a seven-year monopoly on remdesivir, a promising drug to treat covid-19 although public health experts are still concerned about the company’s price gouging. A law also allows the government to override a patent if the company receives “reasonable compensation.” Gilead already has the rights to Sofobuvir, a lifesaving treatment for about 5 million people for hepatitis C costing $48,000 for a 24-week course—about $1,000 per pill. Gilead’s preventative HIV drug Truvada costs $6 to manufacture and sells for almost $2,000 a month in the U.S. Joseph Grogan, who served as head of federal affairs for Gilead from 2011 to 2017 while it set prices for the HIV and hep C drugs, has led DDT’s work on drug pricing and serves on DDT’s coronavirus task force.

According to medical professionals, far more people are dying in the U.S. of covid-19 than are reported, partly because people are not tested before or after they die. A doctor in California said that state and local data to be reported to the CDC aren’t being audited. New York City and Los Angeles County gave guidance to not test patients unless they think the results will significantly change treatment because of severe shortage of tests and protective equipment.  In Mississippi, where the governor ordered local governments not to shut down any businesses, medical experts have noted a serious lag in reporting cases. DDT is allocating supplies to the nation and wants to open the country on Easter without any awareness of where resources are most needed and that the true scope of the crisis is.

DDT loves to have the most of anything, and he’s accomplished his goal in the number of confirmed covid-19 cases in the worth. The U.S. has surpassed even China in this area, China with four times the population with 85,377 confirmed cases today, and surpassed Italy in the cases. That’s a 25 percent increase since yesterday. The total of 1,295 deaths in the U.S. is more than a 25-percent increase from yesterday. And those numbers are just those reported, not the ones kept quiet or people not tested. [The chart on the right is six days ago when U.S. confirmed cases were over 50,000 fewer.]

There are 531,799 confirmed cases in the world with 24,071 deaths.

March 24, 2020

Idiocy, Practicality for the Covid-19 Crisis

The FDA has granted Gilead pharmaceutical corporation “orphan drug status,” almost always reserved for drugs treating rare illnesses affecting fewer than 200,000 people, for remdesivir, a possible cure for covid-19. The company now has a seven-year monopoly for the drug and can block manufacturers from developing generic versions of the drug which could be cheaper and more accessible. In addition, Gilead can establish price controls and benefit from grants and tax credits on a drug which the federal government funded with at least $79 million. Joe Grogan, one of DDT’s “coronavirus task force,” worked as a lobbyist for Gilead from 2011 to 2017.

John Fea describes the U.S. as a dystopia: the so-called “pro-life” Republicans now want to kill off old people so that the stock market will go up. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R-TX), an evangelical Christian who said his faith influences his political decisions, told Tucker Carlson that grandparents should be willing to die to save the economy for their children and grandchildren. And his commentary, Patrick said that he talked to a number of the elderly who agree with him. Responses described in the media disagree. Patrick has this fantasy of the U.S. immediately returning to the nation of his dreams as soon as all those old people die, but he forgets that young people with covid-19 will also need lots of care and may also die.

Like other situations that he can’t handle, DDT said “nobody in their wildest dreams would have ever thought that we’d need tens of thousands of ventilators.” And like other situations, he lies. Almost every agency warns about shortages. In 2005, HHS published an explicit 400-page Pandemic Influenza Plan addressing the possibility of over 900,000 hospitalizations under a scenario presently confronting the United States. The plan suggested that 742,500 ventilators might be needed. The plan was updated in 2006, 2009, and as recently as 2017 after DDT was inaugurated. He ignored increasingly alarming reports from the U.S. intelligence community about the coming epidemic. Whenever DDT is asked about shortages, he falsely repeats the word “unprecedented.”

For the H1N1 pandemic of 2009, development of tests that were immediately mass produced and distributed throughout the U.S. took only 15 days from the first case. Federal emergency declarations and measures were quickly taken, hundreds of schools were closed, and measures for the federal emergency declarations were rapidly followed. The first confirmed case of covid-19 in the U.S. was on January 20, the same day as in South Korea. In the first 50 days, the U.S. tested 8,554 people while South Korea tested 210,144. As of today, the U.S. has six times the number of confirmed cases as South Korea and over seven times the number of deaths.

Another evidence of U.S. federal incompetence, the lack of supplies, is demonstrated by California’s need to charter planes to China to get equipment. The same problems happened with drug prices. Utah pays state employees to fly to Mexico to buy medications for themselves.

As of today, the state of Louisiana has 1,388 confirmed cases and 46 deaths from covid-19. Opposing a shutdown of businesses in the state to reduce the spread of the virus, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) claimed that the covid-19 crisis in his state came from one or two people at Mardi Gras who weakened their immune systems by drinking. He also followed the party line that China “sat on the news,” despite the U.S. knowing about the disease almost two months before he seemed to take the health crisis seriously.

Practical ideas to help the covid-19 crisis:

Include local media in the stimulus package – Suzanne Nossel and Viktorya Vilk

Local news outlets providing essential, up-to-the minute information to keep communities safe have lost revenue from social media advertising. One in five local newspapers has closed in the past 15 years, and even large city newspapers have been purchased by conservative conglomerates. This “essential service” deserves help to keep people informed and connected. [Nossel is chief executive of PEN America, and Vilk is the director of digital safety and free expression programs at PEN America.]

Lift tariffs on Chinese medical equipment – Susan Shirk and Yanzhong Huang

The epidemic in China seems to have peaked, and the nation has a surplus of protective medical gear—including masks, gloves and gowns—ready to export. Over 80 countries are benefiting from these supplies while, U.S. healthcare workers must resort to bandanas, underwear fabric, and substitutes made by nine-year-old for masks. DDT’s tariffs include these supplies as well as protective goggles and thermometers. The administration might lift the tariffs on June 25, three months from now. [Shirk is research professor and chair of the 21st Century China Center School of Global Policy and Strategy at University of California, San Diego, and Huang is a senior fellow of global health at the Council on Foreign Relations and a professor at Seton Hall University’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations.]

Let foreign-born health-care workers live in peace – Christopher Richardson

More than 1 in 6 of U.S. health-care workers are immigrants; 25 percent are physicians.  For U.S. doctors, the statistic is even more pronounced, at 1 in 4. In states hardest hit by coronavirus, California and New York, more than a third of all health-care workers are immigrants. They also face DDT’s unfair immigration provisions such as his travel ban, administrative processing roadblocks, arbitrary green card caps, and the new public charge rule. Almost 30,000 DACA recipients are health-care workers, including 200 who are slated to be doctors, but DDT’s Supreme Court will probably throw them out of the country, maybe before that because DHS could be planning raids and deportations against these healthcare workers. DDT should exempt healthcare workers from any immigration caps and set up task forces within DHS and the State Department to expedite their current cases, no matter what they are. [Richardson is a former U.S. diplomat and immigration attorney.]

Unleash fourth-year medical students – Donald W. Landry

About 20,000 fourth-year U.S. medical students have been assigned hospitals and are scheduled to being in July. Fourth-year students have completed all the clinical rotations required for the MD degree.  Immediately conferring MD degrees instead of waiting until the end of the semester would allow 20,000 doctors to free more experienced physicians who could care for covid-19 patients. [Landry is physician-in-chief, chair of the Department of Medicine and director of the Division of Experimental Therapeutics at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.]

House mild cases in hotels – Jeremy Samuel Faust and Cass Sunstein

The large majority of cases that are mild or symptom free need to be isolated to reduce spread, but the infected people don’t need a hospital bed. Sending them home to self-isolate has risks and may not be feasible. The federal government could temporarily convert large hotels, suffering from the current economic situation, into isolation facilities. [Faust is an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the Division of Health Policy and Public Health and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, and Sunstein is Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard and a former administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.]

Forget stimulus checks. Send prepaid cards instead. – Herbert Lin

To guarantee that the money sent from the stimulus moves into the U.S. economy, prepaid Mastercard or Visa cards that expire within a few months rather than a check would ensure an expenditure. They can be used immediately instead of waiting for deposits, and some people don’t have bank accounts. Going to the bank could also violate state rulings to reduce the virus. Unused cards can revert to the U.S. Treasury. [Lin is a senior research scholar and the Hank J. Holland Fellow at Stanford University.]

Provide health care at the neighborhood level – Stephen Grill

With organization and some medical supplies, doctors practicing telehealth from home offices could help with screenings for neighbors in their specialty, for example visiting someone concerned that facial that a facial weakness might be a stroke or Bell’s palsy. Social-networking services could indicate expertise, availability, and selected responsibilities. [Grill is a neurologist at the Parkinson’s & Movement Disorders Center of Maryland.]

Let patients test themselves at home – Shantanu Nundy and Marty Makary

People could test themselves at home through telemedicine under the direction of a doctor by being sent a testing kit. They would then self-swab according to an instructional video or a virtual healthcare professional and drop off the sample to a testing facility or mail it. [Nundy is a primary-care physician and chief medical officer at Accolade Inc., and Makary is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, editor-in-chief of MedPage Today and author of The Price We Pay.

As of today, the U.S. has 54,867 confirmed cases, 12,424 more than yesterday, and 782 deaths, 265 more than yesterday. The world has 422,943 confirmed cases and 18,907 deaths.

March 23, 2020

Real Information about Covid-19

Filed under: Health Care — trp2011 @ 2:46 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

People tired of hearing nothing about covid-19 except washing hands, keeping six feet from other people, and lying from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) might want to read the following information.

People at Risk and Why

From experts (aka not DDT): Rachel Graham, an assistant professor in the department of epidemiology at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Nathan Grubaugh, an assistant professor of epidemiology of microbial diseases at the Yale School of Public Health; and John Swartzberg, a clinical professor emeritus specializing in infectious diseases and vaccinology at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health.

Symptoms of covid-19 can be from a body’s response to the virus, not only the virus. Coughing gets pathogens out of airways. Inflammation in lung tissue fights off the virus but can cause tissue damage and make breathing difficult. Bodies heal after the tissue destroys the virus. Some healthy people are predisposed to getting sick, perhaps from genetic factors or lack of activity. Older people may have “immunosenescence,” a gradually declining immune system that over-responds to pathogens from a respiratory infection. [Photo: Viral particles, colored yellow, emerge from the cell surface, colored blue and pink.]

People with minor symptoms such as slight cough, headache, or low-grade fever may get better—or much worse. People in the first phase, called a “slow burn, may also get better before have rapid development of severe symptoms—serious fatigue, chest pains, and extreme shortness of breath. That’s the time to call a doctor. One doctor said most of his critically ill patients have a combination of obesity, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.

The elderly are not the only people at risk. Originally, covid-19 affected the elderly more than other ages, but younger people ages 20 to 54 comprise 38 percent of hospitalizations. Twenty percent of those aged 22 to 44. Hospital workers are at higher risk for severe disease than would be expected for their age. Newer studies show that babies are also affected, and males are dying at twice the rate as females. Although children have been known to die, most of them have milder reactions, which means that they can be passing on the disease. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that 53 percent of the 17,000 confirmed cases are under 50 years old

Increased or prolonged exposure to the virus may lead to more severe disease. Perhaps that’s the reason for the higher rate of illness among healthcare workers. Researchers find that an animal develops a worse disease based on the level of exposure.

A source giving differences among allergies, colds, flu, strep throat, and covid-19.

Vaccine Research

Researchers developing vaccines are looking for answers to the unknown, such as if people become immunity from having covid-19 and, if so, how long it will last. Their hope comes from two rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) did not seem to become re-infected after they recovered from SARS-CoV-2 infection. As for length of time, immunity to colds doesn’t seem to last long whereas SARS and MERS antibodies may stay in an infected body for up to 15 years. No one knows if these antibodies protect from infection. Nine companies are working on vaccines.

Trials are already beginning. This week saw the beginning of Phase 1 trial on the safety of Moderna, a vaccine developed by a Cambridge (MA) company, designed to train the immune system to make antibodies blocking the spike protein used by the virus to enter human cells. Instead of waiting for trials on animal testing for safety and effectiveness, Moderna is tested on humans at the same time. Another vaccine being developed by Inovio Pharmaceuticals in Plymouth Meeting (PA) is following the same practice with its first human trial planned in April. Inovio’s tests on mice and guinea pigs have produced both antibodies and T cells against the virus.

Vaccines usually have a higher bar for safety than drugs for sick people. Researchers’ main safety concern for SARS-CoV-2 vaccines was “disease enhancement,” giving a more severe form of the disease to vaccinated people who get infected than unvaccinated people.

Treatment Research

Remdesivir: Gilead Sciences, known for Hep-C and HIV therapies, is testing a treatment in Wuhan (China) for pneumonia in people with the virus. The company’s Phase 2 trial for 394 hospitalized patients will conclude April 1, 2023, and enrollment of patients for Phase 3 begins this month with results in May. Only patients experiencing severe symptoms are eligible for the trial. Remdesivir blocks the activity of new covid-19 in cells, and it’s effective against the other coronaviruses MERS and SARS.    The drug remdesivir was studied in 2014 for an Ebola treatment.

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine: DDT has hyped these two drugs for a solution, but chloroquine requires high dosages for any success which results in serious toxicities. Non-human primates with chikungunya did worse with chloroquine. The drugs work by decreasing the acidity in endosomes, compartments inside cells that they use to ingest outside material and that some viruses can co-opt to enter a cell. The main entryway for SARS-Cov-2 is different by using its spike protein to attach to a receptor on the surface of human cells. The French study treating 20 covid-19 patients with hydroxychloroquine reduced viral load in nasal swabs, but it wasn’t a random text and didn’t report clinical outcomes such as deaths. Side effects from hydroxychloroquine might do more harm than good because it can damage the heart and heart conditions make people at higher risk for the virus. [Photo: the spikes on the surface of the virus gives the coronavirus its name, meaning crown.]

Ritonavir/lopinavir: Sold under Kaletra, this combination drug was approved for lopinavir to inhibit the protease of HIV and ritonavir keeps its companion drug working longer. The first trial with covid-19 showed no difference between patients given the drug and the control group.

Ritonavir/lopinavir + interferon beta: Adding the molecule to regulate inflammation, interferon beta, to the combination drug, could be risk because of worse tissue damage late in the disease. Saudi Arabia is testing this group of drugs in MERS patients.

Favipiravir: This influenza drug, as well as others, may be added to trials.

Public health non-profit the Milken Institute has developed a covid-19 treatment and vaccine tracker, updated daily, that gives the type of treatment or vaccine studied or developed, source of the researcher, their stage, source of fund, timetable, and FDA approval status. (None has yet been yet approved for treating covid-19 yet.) The table, currently listing almost 60 treatments and 43 developing vaccines, also gives credible media sources, journals, and the World Health Organization.  

The government is ignoring an excellent chance to track the increase of illness across the United States by ignoring the possibilities of the Kinsa thermometer. By now, hundreds of thousands of “smart” thermometers across the nation connect to the internet and reflect clusters of illnesses with fever. A 2018 study by the University of Iowa found that the Kinsa Health company could anticipate flu outbreaks three weeks before they happen, and Clorox used Kinsa results to target ads. Now the company’s owner says the predictions are 12 weeks out. Except for California, the Kinsa map of fever below generally follows the track of covid-19 across the United States.

The most dangerous virus to the United States, however, may be the man who starts the White House covid-19 briefings. Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, who defended DDT even after “The Mooch” was fired, now calls his former boss “the virus” and described DDT as “very insane”:

“At the end of the day what he has done is, he’s effected and replicated through the executive branch and he’s destroyed the crisis management elements of the executive branch that we need right now, not only here in the United States, but globally.”

Scaramucci said that DDT needs to be put under “verbal communication quarantine to help out the nation.”

As of 3:00 pm (PST) on March 23, the world has 374,725 confirmed cases, 37,295 since 9:00 pm yesterday, and 16,350 deaths, 1,712 since 9:00 pm yesterday. These numbers include 195 countries and territories.

The United States has 42,443 confirmed cases—50 percent of those in China and 75 percent in Italy, with 8,897 since 9:00 pm yesterday. The total number of deaths, 517, includes 98 since 9:00 pm yesterday. These numbers include all 50 states and DC. U.S. territories: Guam, 29 cases and 1 death; Puerto Rico, 31 cases, and 1 death; and Virgin Islands, 29 cases.

March 22, 2020

Take Press Briefings off the Air

Bored while you “shelter-in-place”? Start a blog. That’s what Margaret and Helen did 13 years ago, and they’re still going strong.

The Elephant in the Room is Donald J Trump: Stop asking him the questions. He doesn’t know the answers! #COVID19

“Margaret, I get it. I really do. We are in the middle of a pandemic. Everyone is scared and things are a bit crazy. Of course, the President should address the American people. Of course, he should. But just not this one. It’s not helping. It really isn’t.

“There is nothing decent about this man. He has cheated on all three of his wives. His career is filled with lawsuits, bankruptcies, claims of racism, tax evasion, discrimination, even rape. Nothing. Nothing about this man is honorable much less tolerable. His only claim to fame is taking joy in firing people on national television.

“How he became President I’ll never understand, but he did. And since becoming President over three years ago, he’s proven time and time again that he is pretty horrible at his job. In fact, if I were his boss, I’d fire him. I mean when he fabricated stories about the size of his inauguration, I would have just rolled my eyes and wondered if I had hired the wrong person. When he threw paper towels at hurricane victims, I probably would have at least sat him down. Told him he was out of line. Maybe written him up and given him a warning. But when he suggested that Nazi’s running over a woman with a car should be given some slack because they might be very fine people… well then… then, I would have fired his ass.

“But I’m not his boss… well technically I guess I am, but you know… Representative government and all. So, he’s still there and now there’s this pandemic and for some reason he insists on crawling out of his drug induced coma each day at 11:30 to address the American people. And even though he is surrounded by a bunch of experts, the media keeps asking him the questions. The fact that he constantly makes shit up doesn’t seem to stop them. They keep asking questions and he’s keeps making shit up.

“I’ve got a suggestion. How about we stop asking the elephant in the room questions and instead direct them to the experts standing behind him? What do they say, fool me once? Well he’s fooled them about 15,000 times and they just keep asking. Stop asking the asshat questions! Ask the experts. After all, millions of lives depend on the answers being correct.

“And let’s be clear. When I say expert, I don’t mean Mike Pence. His version of social distancing is to quarantine in Trump’s ass. And somehow from inside Trump’s ass he still manages to pat Trump on the back while simultaneously giving him a standing ovation. No. Mike Pence is the expert in one thing and one thing only – brown nosing. I’m talking Dr. Anthony Fauci or Dr. Deborah Birx or even that Chad guy. Who is Chad again?

“We need answers. We need them desperately. Millions of lives are depending on those answers. I am begging the White House Press Corps to stop asking Trump the fucking questions.

“We need answers. Not lies. Really. I mean it.”

Rachel Maddow goes farther than Margaret by asking that the media broadcast only truthful comments from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). (It would be very brief.)  Even in past crises, Maddow provided a fact-based perspective on the news, but she expressed this opinion about the lethal covid-19 crisis:

“Even when [DDT is] talking about what he has done or what he will do, he’s consistently lying and giving you happy talk that is stuff that the federal government isn’t actually doing. And it’s making people around the country count on the fact the federal government is doing that stuff when they’re not. If it were up to me and it’s not, I would stop putting those briefings on live TV. Not out of spite but because it’s misinformation. If the president does end up saying anything true, you can run it as tape. But if he keeps lying like he has been every day on stuff this important, all of us should stop broadcasting it. Honestly, it’s going to cost lives. Honestly, it’s going to cost lives.”

DDT can no longer use rallies to attract followers so he uses the daily press briefings for this purpose. When he’s not spouting generalities with no statistics or other specifics, he’s lying and ranting against anyone who opposes him. The people he calls to speak also avoid any clear information such as number of people testing, amount of supplies, and any assistance for states.

In the WaPo, Margaret Sullivan echoed Maddow’s message.

“More and more each day, President Trump is using his daily briefings as a substitute for the campaign rallies that have been forced into extinction by the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“These White House sessions—ostensibly meant to give the public critical and truthful information about this frightening crisis—are in fact working against that end.

“Rather, they have become a daily stage for Trump to play his greatest hits to captive audience members. They come in search of life-or-death information, but here’s what they get from him instead:

“● Self-aggrandizement. When asked how he would grade his response to the crisis, the president said, “I’d rate it a 10.” Absurd on its face, of course, but effective enough as blatant propaganda

“● Media-bashing. When NBC News’s Peter Alexander lobbed him a softball question in Friday’s briefing — “What do you say to Americans who are scared?” — Trump went on a bizarre attack. “I say, you’re a terrible reporter,” the president said, launching into one of his trademark “fake news” rants bashing Alexander’s employer….

“● Exaggeration and outright lies. Trump has claimed that there are plenty of tests available (there aren’t); that Google is “very quickly” rolling out a nationwide website to help manage coronavirus treatment (the tech giant was blindsided by the premature claim); that the drug chloroquine, approved to treat malaria, is a promising cure for the virus and “we’re going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately.” (It hasn’t been approved for this use, and there is no evidence to demonstrate its effectiveness in fighting the virus.)

“Trump is doing harm and spreading misinformation while working for his own partisan political benefit—a naked attempt to portray himself as a wartime president bravely leading the nation through a tumultuous time, the FDR of the 21st century.

“The press—if it defines its purpose as getting truthful, useful, non-harmful information to the public, as opposed to merely juicing its own ratings and profits — must recognize what is happening and adjust accordingly. (And that, granted, is a very big “if.”)

“Business as usual simply doesn’t cut it. Minor accommodations, like fact-checking the president’s statements afterward, don’t go nearly far enough to counter the serious damage this man is doing to the public’s well-being.

“Radical change is necessary: The cable networks and other news organizations that are taking the president’s briefings as live feeds should stop doing so….

“’Rather than covering Trump live, [Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University] recommended, among other things, that the media should ‘attend carefully to what he says’ and subject it to verification before blasting it out to the public.

“It’s important to remember how much Trump’s tune has changed on the coronavirus, from blithely dismissive to self-importantly serious….

“This is what he was saying about the virus in public as recently as Feb. 27: ‘It’s going to disappear. One day—it’s like a miracle—it will disappear.’

“We know, without any doubt, that Trump was ignoring intelligence reports that warned about the likelihood of a pandemic at the same time he was cooing these baseless reassurances. But now he’s claiming that he knew the problem was a pandemic long before others did, and that he took every step possible….

“But Trump has proved, time after time, that he doesn’t care about truth, that he puts his financial and political self-interest above that of the public, and that he has no understanding of the role of the press in a democracy. And now lives are on the line.

“The news media, at this dangerous and unprecedented moment in world history, must put the highest priority on getting truthful information to the public. “Taking Trump’s press conferences as a live feed works against that core purpose.”

[Contrast Helen’s latest “elephant” with her post from ten years ago, “The Elephant in the Room Is a Kangaroo.”]

Today: United States (all 50 states and DC) confirmed covid-19 cases – 32,783 with 8,576 today; deaths – 416 with 114 today.

Country: 336,075 confirmed covid-19 cases; 14,613 deaths; the most deaths in China, Italy, and the U.S. 



March 20, 2020

DDT: Week 165 – Beyond the Covid-19 Pandemic

With daily press briefings about the state of the country after going without them for almost a year, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is trying to appear somber, knowledgeable, and presidential. Yet he loses his temper and rants against the reporters, and he can’t get out more than one or two sentences without telling a lie. Although almost everything that happens now is tainted by the growing number of cases of covid-19 and the resulting deaths, he still has time to lead the U.S. back into the last century.

In an update from earlier this week, Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) aren’t the only members of Congress who have enriched themselves through the threat of covid-19. Others are Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), James Inhofe (R-OK), and Ron Johnson (R-WI). Johnson, who compared deaths from the virus to those in vehicle accidents, sold all his stock in his family’s company for between $5 million and $25 million. Inhofe has done this before when he purchased shares in the defense contractor Raytheon in 2018 after lobbying Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to increase defense spending. Once that transaction became public, he canceled it. 

George Conway points out, “There is no new Trump.” DDT is still lying to the U.S. population with only one goal—get reelected. And DDT won’t stop lying.

On Wednesday, after Joe Biden beat Bernie Sanders in all three states that voted, DDT smeared Biden at a press briefing. Asked about his lack of credibility, DDT cut off a reporter and railed:

“Who are you asking that question—I see that [ratings are] very high. 95% of the Republican party. We just had a poll that was done by a very reputable group where I’m beating sleepy Joe Biden by a lot in Florida, in the state of Florida and in other states. I don’t really know who you’re talking about.”

By Thursday, DDT was delivering a long rant against the media, and on Friday, DDT attacked Peter Alexander who asked DDT for a message “to Americans who are scared.”  

DDT continued his purge of career professionals by firing Russell Travers, acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Travers took the position last August when Joseph Maguire was moved up to director of intelligence. Maguire was recently replaced by unqualified DDT-loyalist Richard Grenell. Travers was reluctant to fire people as Grenell wanted. Acting deputy of the Center, Peter Hall, is supposedly moving back to the National Security Agency. The theory behind fewer people at the Counterterrorism Center is that ISIS and al-Qaeda are much less of a threat.

Dale Cabaniss abruptly left her job as director of the U.S. Government’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM), in charge of human resources policy and security clearances, after five months on the job because of DDT’s new head of the Presidential Personnel Office. John McEntee, DDT’s 29-year-old former body man, was fired by former chief of staff John Kelly because McEntee’s gambling habit and allegations of financial crimes caused him to fail a security clearance. Kelly is gone, and DDT-loyalist McEntee has returned into a position of power. He’s hiring his friends, including at least college seniors, to surround him.

With McEntee in control of her staffing, Cabaniss couldn’t send clear, timely messages to agency managers about responses to the health crisis. Guidance about staff teleworking was delayed and vague although health officials wanted people to work from home. Respected for her experience, Cabaniss was seen as restoring moral to her agency with a mission of administering federal health insurance policies, retirement claims, benefits, and workforce policy.

Instead of passing a new surveillance law giving DDT unwarranted spying powers, the Senate unanimously approved a 75-day reauthorization of three provisions. On recess, the House has yet to pass the bill. DDT is considering a veto because he wants to look into “the illegal attempted ‘coup’ of the duly elected President of the United States, and others!” Two senators objected to the lack of privacy that the proposed bill sent them from the House. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has threatened the staff and their family members of the International Criminal Court that is investigating alleged war crimes by U.S. military forces in Afghanistan.

The increase of restrictions around the world is leaving grocery shelves more and more empty, but the growing number of infected people isn’t the only problem that people in the U.S. will have with food shortages. Farmers warn that DDT’s limits on seasonal workers from Mexico will exacerbate the surging problem. Agricultural Secretary Sonny Perdue’s new policy will lose 60 percent of the necessary laborers. Grain harvesting is largely automated, but farmers need fruit and vegetable pickers.

In another disaster, DDT is threatening dozens of endangered species in the Southeast by proposing genetically engineered crops on wild public lands. The increase of glyphosate and other pesticides harms bees, butterflies, and other pollinators necessary to humans’ food supply and other species in the wildlife refuges. DDT recommends pesticides on 131 refuges in ten states, the Virgin Island, and Puerto Rico—about four million acres.  

The EPA is moving farther away from science by restricting research to be used in public health protection decisions and scientific assessments. It removes thousands of scientific papers by public health scientists keeping data from being public for privacy reasons. Experts fighting covid-19 by treating patients, researching vaccines, and educating the public will have no involvement in stopping the pandemic in the U.S. Members of national health organizations will also need to stop their work with the virus to write comments of protest to the proposal because the EPA gives only 30 days for a response. The proposal covers decisions about vehicle emissions, clean air standards, and clean water protections as well as EPA’s own “state-of-science reports, technology assessments, weight-of-evidence analyses, meta-analyses, risk assessments, toxicological profiles of substances, integrated assessment models, hazard determinations, exposure assessments, or health, ecological, or safety assessments.” The idea for the proposal comes from tobacco lobbyists in the past that helped them control government decisions.

Amid all the virus noise, the media largely overlooked the rocket attack on an Iraqi base housing U.S. troops. Two of them were seriously injured. Last week, the U.S. retaliated against militia blamed for the deaths of one British and two U.S. service members, killing a number of Iraqis. Officials in Iraq have asked the U.S. to stop its unilateral military actions and work with Iraq. Under the shelter of coronavirus news, DDT is pulling troops out of three western Iraqi bases in a retreat from the Iraqi militia. Troops left one base this week with others planned soon.

The Pentagon blames Iran for killings by Iraqi militias, and the U.S. announced more sanctions against Iran.

Early sanctions have denied Iranians medication and supplies as thousands of people are dying from the virus. Iran lacks sufficient testing kits, ventilators, antiviral medicine, and other life-saving supplies.

A major requirement for keeping a job in DDT’s administration is open admiration. VP Mike Pence displays this every day at the press briefings. Another mandate is covering for all DDT’s lies and mistakes. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin gamely tried to explain away DDT’s disastrous Oval Office speech on a Sunday news show when Jonathan Karl asked him about why the market reacted negatively to DDT’s misleading and false statements.

About the market, Mnuchin said, “The stock market is going to go up, it’s going to go down.” In the last month, the Dow has gone down over 10,000 points—one-third of its value and about 650 points above its value on DDT’s inauguration day. As for all the information that DDT got wrong, Mnuchin said, “I don’t think in an Oval Office address you can address every single issue as you’re discussing it….” Asked why he got “things wrong about his own proposals,” Mnuchin replied, “I don’t think he got things wrong at all.” Mnuchin continued to spin.  

DDT is now trying to convince people that he doesn’t care about careening stock markets, but he wants to preserve his former low unemployment rate as a reelection talking point. With businesses rapidly being closed to protect people from the virus, the number of unemployment claims have skyrocketed. DDT asked state labor officials to delay letting anyone know the numbers, to only “provide information using generalities to describe claims levels” until next week. It’s a follow-up to DDT’s saying he wanted to leave all the people on the ship because “I like the numbers where they are.” With DDT, it’s all about numbers that make him look good. Politico calls it “scoreboard obsession”—always keeping score.

In one of the biggest monthly drops, economic confidence dropped from 41 to 22, down almost 20 points. Even the Republicans’ confidence went down 11 points.

United States covid-19 cases: 19,772 with 389 new ones today; deaths: 279 with 23 more today.

March 19, 2020

DDT Pretense at ‘Presidential’

Filed under: Health Care — trp2011 @ 9:51 PM
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On CNN, Dana Bash said that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) looked “presidential” at his press briefings. Here are a few of DDT’s “presidential” statements:

About the wealthy being tested for COVID-19 while thousands of other people are turned away? DDT said, “That’s been the story of life. That does happen on occasion.”

To the question “Does the buck stop with you Mr. President?” DDT said, “Normally yeah but this has never been done before.”

DDT said, “I only signed the Defense Production Act to combat the Chinese Virus should we need to invoke it in a worst case scenario in the future.” (The Act was signed in 1950 by Harry “the buck stops here” Truman.) And DDT isn’t using it.

Asked about getting supplies from the Defense Production Act, DDT said,  “[The federal government is] not a shipping clerk…. Governors are supposed to be doing it.” On Fox, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said that the government has “a strategic national stockpile” but those supplies [such as swabs and face masks] are for something else, not this situation. Running out of masks, some healthcare workers are using bandannas and scarves, as recommended by CDC. The federal government even has a pattern for healthcare workers to sew their own masks although none of these methods may protect the workers against the virus.

Asked about the time lag to get ventilators after people long knew they were needed, DDT said, “Well, we knew—it depends. It depends on how it goes. Worst case, absolutely. Best case, not at all. So we’re going to have to see where it goes…”

DDT said, “We were very prepared. The only thing we weren’t prepared for was the media. The media has not treated it fairly.”

About social distancing for reporters who were seated farther apart than DDT stood with officials, DDT said, “We should probably get rid of about another 75, 80 percent of you. Have just two or three that I like in this room. I think that’s a great way of doing it. We just figured a new way of doing it.”

Addressing Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Ben McAdams (D-UT)—the two U.S. representatives testing positive for covid-19—DDT said that they probably didn’t practice “social distancing.”

When asked about ten people from the U.S. stranded in Morocco, DDT referred to “300 people” caught in Peru and said, “We know about it.” (Actually, it’s 1,600 stranded U.S. citizens there who had only a 12-hour warning to get out of the country.) DDT said that it was the travelers’ fault for not obeying the ban.

Chanel Rion of the highly conservative cable network One America News told DDT, “Major left-wing news media, even in this room, have teamed up with Chinese Communist Party narratives and they’re claiming you’re a racist for making these claims about Chinese virus….” DDT answered, “It’s more than fake news, it’s corrupt news.” Rion responded, “More than dishonest, they’re siding with [foreign] state propaganda.” DDT agreed. “I think they do. They are siding with China.” (Rion has promoted the false conspiracy theory that a U.S. lab originated the coronavirus.

DDT is still fixated on keeping the covid-19 in Mexico from moving to the U.S. Mexico has 118 cases compared to 11,355 in the U.S.—over 4,000 in New York alone.

DDT’s determination to call covid-19 the “Chinese virus” is causing verbal and physical assaults against Chinese-American citizens. Looking for a scapegoat for his problems, DDT has started using his new term the virus as the situation grows more desperate in the U.S. Reporters have asked at several press briefings about whether he considers his label for the deadly disease to be racist, and he responds that he uses the term “it comes from China.” Hate incidents toward Asia-Americans are on the rise since he began using the term. DDT is angry that a Chinese official claimed that the virus came from U.S. military members, but he ignores U.S. officials, such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) promoting the conspiracy theory that China developed the virus as a bioweapon. As this photo shows, DDT changes the term in the briefing materials that are prepared for him.

Some of DDT’s disinformation:

DDT said the FDA approved the anti-Malaria drug Chloroquine as a possible coronavirus treatment and that “your numbers are going to come own very rapidly.” This drug is a possible treatment but must be approved because of insufficient data.

DDT said that the Chinese government hid information about the pandemic when it could e stopped although originally praising it for “transparency.” At the time DDT indicated the Chinese were hiding information, he knew about the events in China minimized the disease’s severity despite warnings from health officials.

And the administration is still telling people not to bother getting tests. Without tests, no one will know where the “hot zones” are and how to avoid them. Many, many people with covid-19 are asymptomatic, not even fever, but can still pass along the disease.

Percentages of symptoms: 

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) matches DDT in callousness. Criticizing concern about deaths from covid-19, he said it would be “no more than 3.4 percent.” In the U.S., that’s 4.5 million to 8 million dying in an unchecked epidemic.

Three weeks ago when the U.S. had 15 cases and DDT said covid-19 would soon disappear, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) told a private well-heeled audience to prepare for dire economic and societal effects. Yet he never warned the public. At the same time, the senator, head of the Intelligence Committee, sold up to $1.6 million worth of stocks in 29 different transactions. His biggest sales were for tourism and travel companies with stocks worth half as much as when Burr sold. The 30-percent drop in the stock market began a week after the sales. In 2012, Burr was one of only three senators opposing the STOCK Act barring lawmakers and staff from using nonpublic information for trades.

Kelly Loeffler, Georgia’s newly appointed GOP senator, also dumped seven figures of stock—up to $3.1 million—starting on January 24, the day that the Senate Health Committee received a private briefing from administration officials include the CDC director and Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institutes of Health of the United States. Since that time the companies’ stocks have fallen between one-third and one-half of its value. On February 28, Loeffler tweeted, “Democrats have dangerously and intentionally misled the American people on #Coronavirus readiness.” Eleven days later, she tweeted, “The consumer is strong, the economy is strong, & jobs are growing, which puts us in the best economic position to tackle #COVID19 & keep Americans safe.” Burr and Loeffler sat next to each other during the impeachment trial. Wife of the chairman and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, Loeffler is the wealthiest member of Congress, worth an estimated $500 million. As one of her committee responsibilities, she oversees futures markets. She plans to spend $20 million to keep her seat this coming November.

Rep. Don Young (R-AK) skipped the vote on the coronavirus bill to go home and tell senior citizens to blame the media.  

Adding more confusion to federal covid-19 strategy, DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, runs a shadow team of his own officials and private industry representatives. Those involved in the response don’t know who is in charge and must balance conflicting orders. They also say that communications don’t explain the role of outside advisers on Kushner’s task force, that they don’t know who they’re talking to or for what purpose. Kushner’s younger brother, co-founder of the health insurance company Oscar, has a digital portal directing people to virus testing centers and assessing their risk of infection which could add to the thousands of conflicts of interest for DDT and his family.

For three weeks, DDT claimed that covid-19 would soon drop to zero. Last Friday, he announced a national emergency and this week said he had always predicted a coronavirus epidemic. His statement is either a lie—common for DDT—or a horrible failure in taking care of the country.

The progression of confirmed covid-19 cases in the United States:  

Jan 15  —  0

Jan 22  —  1

Jan 29  —  5

Feb 5    —  12

Feb 12  —  14

Feb 19  —  25

Feb 26 —  60

Mar 4   —  160

Mar 11  —  1,262

Mar 18  —  8,264

Today, March 19 — 14,340 (over 4,000 new cases today)

Thus far, 217 people have died of covid-19 in the U.S., 68 just today. The world has over 10,000 deaths. 

March 18, 2020

Barr Fixit Guy for Authoritarian DDT

When Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) named Bill Barr the U.S. Attorney General, he found a kindred spirit in authoritarianism. Barr hid information in the Mueller report, appointed someone to investigate the FBI for investigating DDT’s campaign, intervened in Roger J. Stone Jr’s sentencing to lower it, and picked an outside prosecutor to view the case against Michael Flynn. Barr also created a back door for DDT’s private lawyer Rudy Giuliani to deliver him “dirt” on Joe Biden and tried to bury the whistleblower complaint that initiated the impeachment inquiry. DDT was disappointed in former AG Jeff Sessions because, although a lying racist, the AG had a small core of ethical behavior. Sessions’ recusing himself from all things Russian crushed DDT, but he kept Sessions until he found the perfect fixit, his own Ray Cohn, for the former Department of Justice. The situations below are only the tip of the iceberg: with Barr as AG, justice is gone.  

Gabe Ortiz wrote the DOJ “doles out mercy and second chances to the undeserving, the rich, and the powerful, but none for the most vulnerable and for whom a decision quite literally means life or death.” In early March, Barr changed the definition of torture for asylum seekers using it as a basis for staying in the U.S. Because immigration courts are under the rule of DOJ, Barr can override decisions by the Board of Immigration Appeals. He has used that right so many times immigration lawyers and judges call it abuse and a check on his judges if decisions don’t match DDT’s immigration agenda of destroying due process. Barr’s decision makes the definition of torture so narrow that every applicant is guaranteed failure. New immigration judges are hired to follow DDT’s anti-immigrant position. Their training is to follow DDT’s enforcement. Dana Leigh Marks, president emeritus of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said, “What’s happening now is that all the norms are breaking. All the wheels are coming off the car.” Barr could decide to use his personal definition of “justice” on far more people than immigrants.

Part of Barr’s job is to protect DDT, and he’s done it by dropping federal charges against two Russian shell companies as defendants in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian troll farm case. Two of the original 16 defendants accused of interfering with the 2016 presidential election are no longer involved in the trial. The case exposes a big part of Russian influence operation in the U.S., using social media to spread disinformation and exploit social divisions. Barr’s excuse to drop charges was that the companies were using the case to access information from prosecutors about the government’s sources and investigation methods.

DDT declared a commitment to “safeguarding the American consumer” days before a study shows that DOJ prosecutions of white-collar criminals fell to an all time low in January. The 359 white-collar criminals prosecuted in January represented a drop of 25 percent from five years ago. At this rate, the number of prosecutions will be half those during the Obama administration. The study was reported in early March when DDT promised to prosecute “bad actors seeking to harm and exploit honest and hardworking people through deception and other nefarious tactics.” Last month, DDT pardoned high-profile white-collar criminals such as “junk bond king” Michael Milken and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Last September, a court filing revealed that Barr is still covering up for the Saudi government part in the 9/11 terror attacks that killed almost 3,000 people. He said that the “state secrets” privilege allows him to block the release of an FBI report about the relationships between some of the 19 hijackers and Saudi government officials. Fifteen of the hijackers were Saudi citizens. Eight days after the attack, at least 13 relatives of Osama bin Laden, one of them a #1 on Washington’s “most wanted” list and linked to a terrorist organization, left the U.S. on a chartered flight with bodyguards and associates.  Saudi, the world’s biggest purchaser of U.S. weapons, is central to the wars for regime change in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen.

Like many people, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, first nominated by Ronald Reagan, ruled that Barr’s handling of Robert Mueller’s report indicates that the DOJ cannot be trusted to redact the document. In early March, Walton determined that his court will review the redactions to guarantee that the blacked-out portions don’t improperly hide information from the public. He criticized the Barr’s letter supposedly summarizing Mueller’s conclusions before Barr made portions of the report available to Congress. Walton suggested that Barr’s intent was to create a one-sided view of the report that differed from the report itself.

“[A] review of the redacted version of the Mueller Report by the Court results in the Court’s concurrence with Special Counsel Mueller’s assessment that Attorney General Barr distorted the findings in the Mueller Report.”

Walton declared two major representations of the report by Barr. He said Mueller did not establish DDT’s involvement in the 2016 Russian election interference although Mueller found several “links” between the campaign and Russia which he said were not a criminal conspiracy. And second, Barr omitted Mueller’s determination not to make a prosecutorial decision about whether DDT obstructed justice but listed extensive analysis and evidence about DDT’s commission of the crime of obstruction. Mueller had said that Congress or a prosecutor could perhaps try for his conduct.

Walton wrote that because of discrepancies between Barr’s public representation and Mueller’s findings, Barr may have “made a calculated attempt to influence public discourse about the Mueller Report in favor of President Trump despite certain findings in the redacted version of the Mueller Report to the contrary.”

Walton also wrote:

“The Court cannot reconcile certain public representations made by Attorney General Barr with the findings in the Mueller Report. These circumstances generally, and Attorney General Barr’s lack of candor specifically, call into question Attorney General Barr’s credibility. These circumstances generally, and Attorney General Barr’s lack of candor specifically, call into question Attorney General Barr’s credibility.”

Last October, Walton told U.S. prosecutors to either charge former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe or drop their long-running investigation into whether he lied to investigators about a media disclosure. Walton said that such a long wait undermined the DOJ’s credibility with impression that the DOJ was hounding one of DDT’s enemies. In a February hearing, Walton stated that DDT’s repeated attacks on McCabe raised concerns about the investigation’s motives:

“I just think it’s a banana republic when we go down that road and we have those type of statements being made that are conceivably, even if not, influencing the ultimate decision. I think there are a lot of people on the outside who perceive that there is undue inappropriate pressure being brought to bear….

“I think as a government and as a society we’re going to pay a price at some point for this.”

McCabe wasn’t charged.

In an Atlantic article, journalist/attorney Peter M. Shane claimed that DDT is trying to put federal administrative adjudicators under his personal control. These thousands of federal employees don’t direct courtrooms but preside over trial-like disputes. Shane wrote:

“[They] preside over trial-like disputes, hear evidence and testimony, and make decisions that can deeply shape people’s lives, such as the granting of asylum and veterans benefits. These executive branch employees are administrative adjudicators.”

If DDT succeeds in dictating their rules governing how disputes with agencies are resolved, all of them must follow DDT’s whims, removing the descriptor “independent” from these agencies.

Barr is finally the subject of an ethics complaint to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) because of his allegedly prejudicial “inflammatory and disparaging” comments about the DOJ’s active probe into the FBI investigation of Russian interference into the 2016 election. An earlier ethics complaint cites a pattern of bias by Barr to protect DDT at expense of carrying out DOJ mission to “ensure fair and impartial administration of justice.” Barr’s “failure to recuse resulted in” DOJ “mishandling” the whistleblower was the subject of another complaint last week.

DDT has support from another fixit guy—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). After ignoring the 400+ House bills to rapidly push through judges and other confirmations, McConnell is personally asking older judges to retire so that he can put in highly conservative and young unqualified judges, just like the others. He said they would have to retire by early fall, a couple of months before the election, to be replaced. This from the man who blocked President Obama’s nomination for a Supreme Court justice for almost ten months.

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