Nel's New Day

April 3, 2020

Incompetence Kills

People said they voted for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) because he claimed to be an expert businessman. Now his incompetence is killing and sickening hundreds of thousands of people in the country. Republican legislators were told about DDT’s stupidity and cupidity, but they stuck with him. Pro-DDT people cling to every lie that he tells. Yesterday, the world passed the one million number mark of confirmed COVID-19 cases with almost 28 percent of these in the United States. Today, April 3 over 1,000 deaths in the U.S. brought the total up to 7,392 since the first death on February 26, 2020—only 37 days ago. The mortality rate thus far is 2.5 percent, and many confirmed and deaths aren’t reported in the United States. [Daily deaths until April 1.]

These are some reasons for many of the deaths from COVID-19 in the United States:

Photo by Alex Brandon/AP/Shutterstock 

DDT put his son-in-law Jared Kushner “in charge” of the health crisis. At today’s White House campaign rally, Kushner announced that the supplies and equipment purchased by the federal government is “our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be states’ stockpiles that they then use.” DDT blamed states for a lack of preparedness:

“Long before this pandemic arrived, they should have been on the open market just buying.”

The federal government now buys these supplies and sells them to the highest bidder, including foreign governments if they outbid states. Today, asked about the definition of “our stockpile,” DDT sneered at the reporter for what he considered her stupidity and finally said that the government was saving the supplies for a real crisis.

Kushner’s bidding system has produced enormous markups for vital supplies in New York: 20 cents for gloves usually costing less than a nickel; as much as $7.50 each for masks, a markup of 15 times; up to $2,795 for infusion pumps, over twice the regular rate, and $248,841 for a portable X-ray machine that typically sells for $30,000 to $80,000. And these are the prices if the state can buy them. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that sometimes the order doesn’t come because someone made a higher bid or the federal government takes it for “our stockpile.”

Over 2,000 federal ventilators in the federal stockpile won’t work because of no maintenance. When maintenance contract expired in August 2019, DDT gave the maintenance contract to another company. The ensuing dispute between the two companies wasn’t settled until January 2020 with no maintenance for six months.

DDT has said that states can get equipment they need if are “appreciative” of him. Florida gets 100 percent of its requests because of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ closeness to DDT, and Kentucky, with DDT’s protector Mitch McConnell, and Oklahoma, get things it doesn’t ask for. New York, with almost half the country’s deaths from the virus, badly suffers from DDT’s dislike of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose brother is a CNN news anchor. Oklahoma asked for 16,000 face shields and got 120,000 along with 84,000 N95 mask, over twice the state’s request. New York needs 30,000 ventilators and were sent 4,400. Wisconsin, with a new Democratic governor, asked for 190,000 nonsurgical masks from FEMA and got nothing.

DDT’s workers are also incompetent. Pennsylvania got shipments with no packing list, California got 170 broken ventilators, and Alabama got 28 cases of face masks with dry rot,

DDT isn’t ordering the vital ventilators.  Five years ago, the federal government paid a Pennsylvania $13.8 million to create a low-cost, portable, easy-to-use ventilator to stockpile for emergencies. The project was finished last summer, and the FDA gave the company permission to see two higher-priced commercial versions around the world. Not one of these ventilators is in the United States. Last week, DDT finally told GM to mass-produce another company’s ventilator, but no senior official has mentioned the cheaper ventilator that the U.S. permits sold overseas. Lack of ventilators will be largely responsible for deaths from COVID-19. Last month, HHS said that the low-cost ventilator can provide pandemic preparedness; this month it says that companies are “free to develop other products based on technology developed in collaboration with the government.” Hopefully, the company can start making 4,000 ventilators a week—by next October.

Even after DDT knew about the health crisis, he continued to send dozens of shipments of crucial medical supplies to foreign governments. Instead of stockpiling vital respirators, ventilators, and protective gear manufactured in the U.S., he shipped them to Germany, Belgium, and Japan as late as March 17. Yet Tuesday, he said that he knew over a month ago that the crisis was “going to be horrible.” At the end of March, the U.S. begged Thailand for a medical shipment, only to be told that the U.S. had just sent two large shipments of equipment to Bangkok. Yet at Friday’s press briefing, he continued to heap blame on President Obama. “The shelves were empty,” he repeated in complaints about President Obama after emptying themselves by sending vital supplies offshore.

DDT’s Agriculture Department stalls actions on requests from food banks to speed up distribution through relaxed regs. Millions of newly-unemployed people are inundating food banks that are required to collect information—name, address, household size, and income—to ensure the recipients are under a state-set threshold. At least four states have asked for a suspension of this process and use disaster protocols. USDA first refused and then approved the plans in three states for a month. The rules aren’t lifted in states not formally submitting requests although the department could do this under DDT’s national emergency order on March 13. Greater numbers and longer interactions mean greater danger of contracting COVID-19, and many distributors, for example in Ohio, don’t wear protective gear to save the PPE for healthcare workers. At the first food-bank drive-through distribution in Greater Pittsburgh, cars line up for over a mile as volunteers and staffers worked in the rain to get information, about five minutes per car.

DDT refuses to re-open Affordable Care Act despite millions of workers losing their jobs. People living in 38 states using may not be able to get insurance. DDT’s actions endanger not only the people without insurance but everyone else because people without insurance probably won’t seek care for illness. At the same time, DDT is backing the lawsuit to remove the Affordable Care Act.

VP Mike Pence ignored any problem about lack of health insurance at a press briefing this week. He repeatedly referred to two insurance companies as “inspiring” because they will forgo payment for COVID-19 testing and treatment but couldn’t answer how everyone else will pay for these needs. He said that “states all the country have Medicaid” but ignored states that refuse Medicaid to people who have lost their jobs. Different restrictions in other states also block people from Medicaid. About Pence’s answer, DDT laughed and said:

“I think it’s one of the greatest answers I’ve ever heard. Because Mike was able to speak for five minutes and not even touch your question. That’s what you call a great professional.”

DDT still doesn’t provide enough tests for people who need them. Yet today, for a lark, he tested all his wealthy oil friends who showed up at the White House to praise him. Actor Daniel Newman is a classic case of testing shortages. In mid-March, he was billed $9,116 for a test that wasn’t processed. He got the test before the law requiring free testing after experiencing symptoms, but his insurance company refused to cover the cost. After Newman was swabbed, the doctor told him that the hospital wasn’t allowed to process the sample because of the limitations on tests each day.

DDT largely ignores the plight of U.S. people when he talks at press briefings while fawning over wealthy business CEOS (aka DDT donors). MyPillow founder, TV pitchman, and DDT donor Mike Lindell went over the edge in his extravagant statements that “God gave us grace on November 8, 2016, to change the course we’re on.” Lindell continued by make several references to the name of his company. Missing among the parade of big business is the Trump Organization because DDT has offered nothing.

Health experts’ predictions don’t match the White House statements about 100,000 to 240,000 deaths, but White House officials won’t explain how they made their determinations or release their data. Inside the White House, officials argue about the accuracy of the new projections. Last week, Anthony S. Fauci said at a task force meeting that the models brought out at the daily press briefings aren’t “reliable. A leading epidemiologist said the estimate seemed to be rushed with answers required in 24 hours. The White House prediction also lacks a timeline, citing a few months or the year-plus required for a vaccine. The public has been given only one slide for information. Models are used for long-term strategy, something not found in the White House. 

DDT’s lack of leadership has left inadequate manufacturing, inability  and unwillingness to distribute supplies to place that need them, and complete confusion in who is in charge of the logistics.

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 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
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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 19, 2020

DDT Pretense at ‘Presidential’

Filed under: Health Care — trp2011 @ 9:51 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

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 17, 2020

DDT Changes Spin on Covid-19, Sort Of

Over three years ago on January 13, 2017, before Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) was inaugurated, his proposed Cabinet officials and other aides received a three-hour briefing about responding to a global epidemic. Detailed briefing books contained scenarios much like the world has experienced during the last few months, complete with warnings about shortages of ventilators, anti-viral drugs, and other medical essentials. Information stressed the “paramount” importance of a coordinated, unified national response. Materials included available legal authorities to pursue a response, and capabilities and responsibilities of different agencies, and detailed explanations of numerous laws and regulations that might affect their work, such as the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

New officials were dismissive of the briefing, and the books were later found in the trash. In talking about covid-19, DDT has made comments such as “you can never really think” that a pandemic like the coronavirus “is going to happen” despite the briefing. This video tracks DDT as he incessantly minimizes any problems from the virus in the U.S. Documents given DDT and his officials show a specific plan for dealing with a pandemic, a plan that DDT ignored.  

As of tonight, the U.S. has 6,456 confirmed cases, 1,793 from just today, and 109 deaths—21 percent of them occurring today. Confirmed cases are in all 50 states and D.C. In the world, 7,965 have died from covid-19 in 198,229 confirmed cases. China has had neither new cases nor deaths today, but some European countries are hard hit. 

Jared Kushner, DDT’s son-in-law, has been the source of advice for DDT as he ignored his infectious disease and immunology experts. Kushner repeatedly told DDT the media exaggerated the severity of the virus outbreak. Knowing nothing about covid-19, Kushner still advises DDT’s direction on the virus strategy. (In the past, Kushner claimed to be an authority on the Palestine-Israel conflict because he read 25 books.) DDT’s disastrous speech last Wednesday in which he banned travel from most of the EU was created by Kushner and DDT’s white nationalist Stephen Miller so he would look as if he had a strategy.

DDT has been so convincing to his supporters that they encourage risky behavior to both themselves and others. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) urged people to go to restaurants and bars, despite warnings from leading expert Dr. Anthony Fauci to stay away from other people. After DDT echoed Fauci on Monday, tell people to “avoid discretionary travel and avoid eating and drinking at bars, restaurants and public food courts,” Nunes lied and said he meant “take-out.”

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) bragged about going to a crowded restaurant and took a selfie with his family (right). “It’s packed tonight!” he tweeted.

In a Kendall (FL) megachurch, the pro-DDT pastor told his congregation to keep coming back to church because God’s house wouldn’t be contagious. He said, “If we die, we die for Christ.” In Tampa (FL), another pro-DDT pastor told people to shake hands with each other.

Former New York City police commissioner Bernard B. Kerik, pardoned by DDT last month, tweeted, “This hysteria is being created to destabilize the country and destroy [DDT].”  Other right-wing personalities falsely blame liberal billionaire George Soros for causing the virus.

Frequent Fox guest Mark Steyn, guest host on Rush Limbaugh’s show, falsely blamed San Francisco’s “shelter-in-place” guidelines keeping people at home on “compromised immune systems” in the “big gay town.” He added, “They don’t want all the gays dropping dead on the San Francisco mayor’s watch.” The guidelines cover seven million people with about 5 percent identifying as LGBTQ.

Even the private Facebook page for DDT-supporting first responders hasn’t changed its false message of covid-19 being a “hoax.” The leader said that DDT had to say that the virus is serious to fix the stock markets.

For better PR, DDT has decided to treat the virus more seriously, and Fox is struggling to keep up his 180-degree turn after their major hosts had downplayed its threat, calling it a conspiracy to undermine DDT.  Sean Hannity called it a “massive paradigm shift,” “a bold new precedent,” “America’s leadership.” Laura Ingraham moved from decrying the “panic pushers” to talking about “this dangerous health crisis.” Less favored host Trish Regan was simply taken off the air.

Since his speech almost a week ago, DDT has taken a covid-19 test, tried to stop talking about the importance of the stock market over people’s lives, called the virus a pandemic, and agreed with the House bill to give people food, testing, and paid sick leave. He now rates his response to the virus as ten out of ten although he told governors to get their own respirators and supplies, refused to let the Army Corps of Engineers build facilities for hospitals, and said that people shouldn’t try to get testing.

The government lost months in getting resources from the private sector, states, and academic institutions to test people which stopped efforts in tracking and controlling the virus while it could still be contained. In the beginning officials were afraid to tell DDT anything unpleasant, and when he learned about the virus, DDT was afraid bad news would adversely affect his reelection campaign. Now Republicans have jumped on the bandwagon to give money away for votes. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is an example of that approach. First, he didn’t want paid sick leave; now he says that the Democratic House bill doesn’t go far enough to help people. If the virus had to arrive, people are lucky it’s in an election year when candidates like Cotton needs votes.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has ignored over 400 House bills to push through young unqualified ultra-conservative judges, is now excited about the current covid-19 bill and another one, perhaps costing $1 trillion. At a press conference today, he said that the Senate won’t leave until the next bill passes and talked about 53 people putting the bill together. Evidently Democrats are included. McConnell also said that he needs to “get permission to vote” on the bill which might mean that DDT has to give him permission. If so, the former third branch of government, Congress, has been subsumed under the executive branch, like the judiciary.  How DDT wants to disperse the funds: airlines, $50 billion; workers $100 billion; corporations $850 billion.

DDT has an advantage from the epidemic. The Supreme Court has suspended oral arguments for the first time since the Spanish flu in 1918, and the case on March 31 concerned the subpoenas from House committees to get DDT’s financial and tax records. There may be no decision by the end of June, meaning that the issue will not be settled until after the November election. Across the nation, federal and state courts are postponing in-person court proceedings.

Even elections are questionable. Louisiana, Georgia, and Ohio have rescheduled them, assuming that the virus will be gone by later spring. In Ohio, the governor declared a health emergency to call off today’s voting after a court denied his request, a dangerous precedent for DDT. Arizona, Florida, and Illinois plowed forward and all put Biden in first place. In the United States, only three states—Colorado, Oregon, and Washington— are smart enough to vote by mail, and 17 states demand a good reason for getting an absentee ballot. Only one of those states permits covid-19 as a reason for a mail-in ballot. Republicans fight against mail-in elections because it provides a paper trail and lets everyone vote without standing in long lines, two ways that the GOP manages to win elections. 

A frequent DDT message is that Democrats are politicizing the virus. Yet ten days ago, he complained about Democrats to Mar-a-Lago guests: 

“They’re trying to scare everybody, from meetings, cancel the meetings, close the schools—you know, destroy the country. And that’s ok, as long as we can win the election.”

Asked when he was going to make the virus apolitical, he said that he would respond to any criticism, already telling two governors to move faster when they pointed out the delayed response to the health crisis. VP Mike Pence has secret meetings with conservative “influencers” about spinning DDT’s efforts regarding the health crisis and providing PR for DDT’s reelection campaign.

Xenophobic DDT insists on referring to covid-19 as “the Chinese virus.” Called out for the term, he attached the Chinese for their theory that the U.S. military started the virus. A U.S. theory, however, accuses the Chinese to developing covid-19 as a bioweapon.

The most amazing DDT story of the week is his attempt to persuade a German company to relocate to the U.S. for its covid-19 vaccine research efforts and share the information only with the U.S. DDT said he would do anything to get the vaccine and offered the company money. DDT would likely buy a lot of shares in the company, but it turned him down.

People have less and less faith in federal response to and DDT’s statements about covid-19. Only 46 percent believe the federal government is doing enough to stop the virus’ spread, down from 61 percent last month. And only 37 percent have any trust in DDT, compared to 60 percent who have not much or no trust in what he says.  

March 15, 2020

Covid-19: DDT Prays, Concentrates on Businesses While Cases Grow

Evangelical Christians are providing dangerous disinformation about the covid-19 epidemic. On Fox & Friends, Jerry Falwell Jr, head of Liberty University, accused DDT’s enemies, listing the media as among them, of wrongly giving information about the virus and its spread. He also blamed the disease on totalitarian regimes such as North Korea. (Falwell is also urging western Virginia counties to leave the state and join West Virginia, saving them from Democrats, in a movement called “Vaxit.” Even highly conservative Strom Thurmond used the word “traitorous” for telling a county to secede from a state.) When a parent questioned the wisdom of Falwell keeping the university open during the healthcare crisis, Falwell called him a “dummy.” Jonathan Shuttlesworth, the co-founder of Revival Today TV, called coronavirus prevention measures the work of the devil and said that only “sissies” and “pansies” use hand sanitizer or wash their hands to prevent the virus’ spread.

Having failed to block covid-19 in the U.S., Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has declared today as a day of prayer for all the people afflicted through his ignorance and his desire to minimize problems during his ploy for reelection this fall. Last week, he gave a tone-deaf speech that declared a travel ban from 26 European nations that didn’t have his businesses. By Saturday, he gave in to include the UK and Ireland where numbers of infections and deaths are growing faster than in the U.S.—at this time.

DDT, who has avoided press briefings like the plague, has had three of them in three days. Today’s comments bragged about the prime rate lowered to 0.0 percent, destroying people’s savings, in his attempt to save the stock market for his reelection campaign. He also commented about how his actions result in “more buying than at Christmas,” priding himself on the consumerism. He failed to point out that the buying is done for hoarding because of the extreme fear in the U.S. and that buying will shrink when people use the supplies that they are collecting. He left VP Mike Pence to make a few comments, such as the risk of contacting covid-19 is “extremely low,” and take questions.

DDT’s travel ban, which was corrected to exempt U.S. residents, created a panic among people in Europe with huge crowds by inadequate staffing to process them when they arrived in the U.S. before tonight’s deadline. One person tweeted:  

“Confirmed cases in Illinois more than doubled between Friday and Saturday. Inbound travelers are stuck at O’Hare for six-hour waits.”

Acting DHS director Chad Wolf tweeted that he’s working to “expedite the process” but “the health and safety of the American public is first & foremost.” People exposed to covid-19 in the airport will still be regarded as not infected until later.

Hospital leaders report that DDT’s rolling back some regulations in his “national emergency” declaration won’t help their serious shortage of supplies and risk to workers, especially with a prediction of 1.9 million ICU admissions within the next few months. The U.S. health system has approximately 100,000 ICU beds. This problem could be somewhat alleviated through rental of hotels or other arrangements, but that would require federal funding for hospitals to keep operating. DDT has refused, however, to meet with hospital leaders to discuss their issues while DDT meets with retail and financial CEOs.

Emergency medical providers also lacked guidance; CDC waited almost four weeks after the World Health Organization announced the outbreak in China and over two weeks after confirmation of the first known U.S. case to give the responders guidance. The 20,000 emergency medical service agencies in the U.S. vary greatly in oversight and assets; about one-third of them depend on volunteers. 

Public pressure finally pushed DDT into taking the covid-19 test after he wandered around shaking hands with many people and is known to spend hours with people who have tested positive. DDT said he took the test “because the press is going crazy.” After over two months, the White House has decided to take the temperature of people “in close contact” with DDT and VP Mike Pence.  

DDT attacks CDC, Fed Reserve, President Obama, Joe Biden, and others for the disaster that he created, but his obsession with personal ratings led him to brag that his handling of the health crisis has a “78% Approval Rating, the highest on record.” That number came from an RNC mailing to donors

On Saturday, he bragged about Friday’s stock market having the largest increase in history but didn’t mention that the day before had the biggest drop in 30 years. Friday also had the biggest one-day U.S. increase in new covid-19 cases—almost 500. Without widespread testing in the U.S., the figures show an increase of cases from 89 to 2,131 in only two weeks.

The CDC is woefully behind in tracking statistics about cases and deaths from covid-19 so many people turned to a website from Johns Hopkins University. Russia hackers now use the site to spread password-stealing malware by advertising a digital coronavirus infection kit, and Chinese hackers, known as Vicious Panda, trick people into sharing sensitive personal information with a fake document supposedly from the Mongolian Health Ministry.

Even my favorite website for statistics has indicated it suffered cyber attacks and has taken action to stop these malicious acts. As of early evening, it has indicated 3,752 cases and 68 deaths in the United States. Another, more specific, website was developed by 17-year-old Avi Schiffmann, a high school junior on Mercer Island. His site trails the one above by just a few numbers. He developed his site in late December when fewer than 1,000 cases of covid-19 existed. The website updates about every minute through “web scraping” from the websites that he has entered. To make the information more positive, he also includes the number of people who are recovering. The site has about 35 million viewers with only 60 percent from the U.S.   

Conservative voters claim that they want to elect someone who runs the government like a business. They got DDT. David Atkins wrote:

“At every step of the way, Trump and the conservative media have treated the coronavirus as a PR problem, a political problem, and a business problem. They have tried to downplay the severity of the disease, tell people to continue life like everything is normal, continue flying and going on cruise lines, and boost the markets however possible. Friday’s bizarre press conference was little more than an infomercial for some of the top health-related businesses in the Dow Jones average, with a parade of CEOs talking about their commitment to doing vague somethings about the pandemic right before the closing bell. It worked, at least for now: the Dow surged as a result of the upbeat corporate presentation. For weeks now the administration has slow-played testing under the theory that lower reported numbers would somehow look better and magically change the actual reality on the ground until the problem went away.

“Like so much of modern American business culture, the ethic here is short-sighted and self-serving at best, and cruel, callous, and malevolent at worst. Today’s fast-moving capital markets are explicitly designed to be reactive rather than proactive, and every incentive built into them is to push for growth at all costs. Problems are meant to be pushed to the side and out of sight so the good times can keep rolling at the top; inconvenient costs are externalized and socialized on the backs of workers, the impoverished, and the environment. In the best of times, this dynamic creates massive inequalities and injustices that the market doesn’t notice, because the victims most affected are insignificant to—and go unnoticed by—the invisible hand. In the worst of times, however, it utterly hobbles a society’s ability to respond to crises that require active management before they can be directly felt in the marketplace.”

For decades, Republicans have swept problems under the rug, including the trillions of dollars that George W. Bush’s war cost. At the same time, they push against solutions for the future such as a Green New Deal, universal healthcare or even a pandemic response office. The incompetence became worse with DDT’s insistence on hiring only ignorant loyalists, his refusal to learn, and his pathological lying.

An example of this lying is his false claim that Google has 1,700 engineers quickly working on a website to help people figure out if they need testing and give them information about where to get the test, the “stores” for testing “in virtually every location.” Part of his long spiel was an attack on the Affordable Care Act website. Google said it is NOT building a website, and another company of 400 people is in “early stages of development” of building a covid-19 website nothing like DDT’s description and only for the Bay Area.  

With good reason, 53 percent of U.S. voters worry that someone in their immediate family might catch covid-19, and 60 percent think the worst is yet to come in the U.S. Over 40 percent believe the virus will change their day-to-day lives. Only 30 percent of Republicans, however, plan to avoid gatherings.

March 13, 2020

Covid-19: ‘I don’t take responsibility at all.’–DDT

To help his reelection chances, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) desperately wanted to eliminate payroll taxes “until after the November election,” as he told Republican senators. He wrote nasty tweets about not giving businesses $350 billion, including his own, in the next eight months, adding to the $1 trillion deficit for the year. He lost the fight to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) who just announced that the White House has agreed to free testing of covid-19 for everyone and at least two weeks of paid emergency leave for workers who get sick or need to stay home to care for family members up to three months of paid family and medical leave. Republicans can’t vote for the bill without DDT’s permission. Pelosi added:

“We have also secured enhanced Unemployment Insurance, a step that will extend protections to furloughed workers.

“For families’ food security: we strengthened nutrition security initiatives, including SNAP, student meals, seniors’ nutrition, and food banks. 22 million children rely on free or reduced-price school meals for their food security; we must ensure that they have food to eat.

“For families’ health security: we increased federal funds for Medicaid to support our local, state, tribal and territorial governments and health systems, so that they have the resources necessary to combat this crisis.”

Gone from the bill are safety regulations to protect healthcare and workers from covid-19 exposure and a permanent Social Security emergency leave program for future public health emergencies. Republicans also refused the $1 billion reimbursement for diagnostic laboratory test service; they thought it would be used for abortions. A big problem for DDT is that he wants bailouts for the travel, tourism, and oil industries. Mnuchin said that a third bill may take care of this.

DDT may have caved in because of an ABC News/Ipsos poll about his responses and people’s concern about contracting the virus. Two-thirds of voters (66 percent) worry that they or someone they know will be infected, compared to a 78 percent approval for the government’s handling the virus when the U.S. had one case a month ago. As for DDT’s handling the situation, only 43 percent approved of his performance regarding the healthcare crisis. Much of the negativity comes from the CDC conducting only 11,000 tests when DDT said “the testing has been going very smooth.”

Scientists know that testing could have contained the movement of covid-19 across the U.S., but DDT thought the publicity from large numbers of infections would hurt his reelection. Politico reporter Dan Diamond said “infighting at the HHS and the need to flatter Trump impeded the response to the coronavirus.” Diamond said that HHS Secretary Alex Azar warned DDT in January, despite protests from DDT’s aides, but Azar didn’t tell DDT how bad the situation could get.

As of today, the world has 145,628 known cases of covid-19; fewer than half the people have recovered, and 5,421 have died. In the U.S., 2,285 people are infected, and 48 have died—seven of them today.

Thirty minutes before the stock market closed today, the entire White House covid-19 task force huddled with DDT in front of a gaggle of journalists to praise him for the fine work that he has done. DDT declared a national emergency to permit more flexibility to reduce healthcare mandates and to allow him to take $42.6 billion from FEMA. Deborah Birx took credit for state testing efforts such as drive-thru facilities created without federal support and highly praised CEOs of Walmart, Walgreen, Target, and CVS for their munificent help because drive-thru facilities can be put in their parking lots. DDT shook all their hands. Their stocks skyrocketed, and the Dow gained back yesterday losses.  

Memorable moments of DDT’s statements during the press conference:

Asked about the testing, DDT said, “I don’t take responsibility at all.” During DDT’s campaign, he said about the problems in the U.S., “I alone can fix it.”

Bitter about the Democrats’ refusal to eliminate the payroll tax, DDT said, “We just don’t think they’re giving enough. They’re not doing what’s right for the country.”

When Yamiche Alcindor asked about DDT’s disbanding the White House pandemic office,” DDT called it a “nasty question” and said, “You say me, I didn’t do it … I don’t know about that,” before he cut off the reporter’s microphone.

DDT accused President Obama of not acting on H1N1, the “swine flu.” Within a week after its discovery, DDT’s predecessor declared a national emergency, and one million people had been tested. The mortality rate in the U.S. was 0.002 percent. During DDT’s campaign, he said about the problems in the U.S., “I alone can fix it.”

The day before the press conference, Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health and a member of DDT’s coronavirus task force, said that current testing protocols are “not geared” to widespread access. He pointed out that the lack of testing doesn’t answer the question of the number of infected people in the U.S.

The Miami mayor, who has tested positive to covid-19, was exposed to the virus at the same Mar-a-Lago event where DDT was seated at dinner next to a top Brazilian aide (left) who also tested positive. To the right of DDT is Brazilian president’s communications secretary, also testing positive. When questioned about this exposure to the virus, DDT said he hadn’t seen the photo and didn’t remember it. Another person at the event has also tested positive. A senior Australian official tested positive just days after meeting with AG Bill Barr, Ivanka Trump, Kellyanne Conway, Kellyanne Conway, and acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf. Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, the wife of Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau, has tested positive. 

Asked about his proximity to people who have tested positive for covid-19, DDT claimed that all his doctors recommend that he not get tested because he had no symptoms. The Miami mayor said he had no symptoms for a few days. After being pressed about testing, DDT said he might get it but not because he had exposure to infected people. As part of his covid-19 emergency declaration, DDT told people not to run out and get a test.

Despite the shortage of tests, the FDA is requiring CDC to retest all positive coronavirus tests run by a public health lab for accuracy. Thousands of people in the U.S., some of them symptomatic, cannot get tests. The FDA also kept private labs from testing people for over three weeks.

In the editorial for the typically apolitical Science magazine, H. Holden Thorp writes about DDT demanding vaccines prepared quickly in “Do Us a Favor”:

“Asking for a vaccine and distorting the science at the same time are shockingly dissonant.

“A vaccine has to have a fundamental scientific basis. It has to be manufacturable. It has to be safe. This could take a year and a half—or much longer. Pharmaceutical executives have every incentive to get there quickly—they will be selling the vaccine after all—but thankfully, they also know that you can’t break the laws of nature to get there.

“Maybe we should be happy. Three years ago, the president declared his skepticism of vaccines and tried to launch an antivaccine task force. Now he suddenly loves vaccines.

“But do us a favor, Mr. President. If you want something, start treating science and its principles with respect.”

DDT’s speech Wednesday created chaos rather than calm: his ad libs were lies that Ken Cuccinelli and VP Mike Pence immediately had to correct. A few of them:

The health insurance industry is paying only for testing, not any treatment.

People were paying $20,000 to get flights out of Europe before they found out that citizens were exempted.

The bans to “Europe” are only for 26 countries in the EU, not the countries where DDT owns golf courses such as Ireland, Scotland, Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania. And it doesn’t apply to trade and cargo.

DDT’s refusal to notify the EU about the ban caused chaos in their stock markets; the plummet of 10 to 14 percent was their worst in history. That domino effect brought the 10 percent drop for U.S. markets. 

The next day, Biden gave a speech advising the administration about helping the U.S. during the current epidemic that went beyond testing. Hospitals need “surge capacity,” he said, proposing that FEMA work with local governments for “temporary hospitals,” if necessary, and that the DOD planning “for the potential deployment … medical facility capacity and logistical support.” Biden’s economic plan was meals for young people out of school, help for “people who have difficulty paying their rent or mortgage,” and interest-free loans for small-business owners. Already Biden looks far more presidential than DDT ever has.

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