Corona Crisis: a Viral Episode or a Half-Life Nightmare*

 BY GILAD ATZMON

radioctive CV19.jpg

By Gilad Atzmon

Herd Immunity Ratio

As an intellectual exercise let’s think of an imaginary state, “State A.” Our fictional State A is devastated that 100 of its citizens are infected with Covid-19. For this exercise, we accept that these 100 citizens are representative of State A‘s demography, classes, ethnicities and so on. Apparently, State A’s nightmare is just the beginning because out of its 100 Covid-19 carriers, not one survives the next three weeks.

Let’s now imagine another case, we will call “State B.” State B is similar to state A in terms of its size, population, geography, climate, culture, ethnicity, nutrition, etc. In State B 100 citizens also tested positive for Covid-19. Following the experience of State A, State B braces itself for the possibility that all its infected citizens may perish but then for reasons that are not yet clear to us, no one in state B dies. And if this is not different enough, hardly any of the 100 develop any symptoms.

The crude difference between State A and B may tell us something about the herd immunity in States A and B. It is easy to detect that the ratio created by the number of fatalities (F) divided by the number of those infected (I) is an indication of the level of immunity or ‘herd immunity’ in a given region or a state.

State A: F/I = 100/100=1
State B: F/I = 0/100=0

State A’s immunity ratio equals 1. This means that anyone who contracts the virus in State A will likely die. In state B, on the other hand, one is likely to survive the virus. In fact, they may, without knowing it, have already survived.

But let us now consider some more realistic cases. In “State C,” again, a state similar to A and B, out of 100 who tested Covid-19 positive, 10 people died within the next few weeks.

State C: F/I=10/100=0.1

The herd immunity ratio in State C is 0.1. In terms of herd immunity, State C is far better off than State A as a virally infected subject may benefit from a 0.9 chance to survive. But State C’s situation is not as good as in State B where no one is expected to die as the F/I ratio in State B is O. We can see that the smaller the F/I ratio is, the greater is the herd immunity in a given state or a region.

But let us look at another realistic case. In “State D” out of 100 patients only 1 died within a few weeks.

State D: F/I=1/100=0.01.

This means that in State D the herd immunity is close to perfect. Someone who contracts the Covid-19 virus has only a remote chance that he will lose his life. In other words, the survival rate is 0.99

State C and D are not completely imaginary cases. The F/I ratio in State C is a good representation of the numbers we saw in Northern Italy, NYC, Spain, UK and other vulnerable regions that have suffered heavily in the last few weeks. The ratio in State D is very similar to South Korea and Israel. Though many people are identified with Covid-19 in these two states alone, very few have died.

Such a methodical search for herd immunity ratio may help to identify the survival rate in different states, regions and cities. It may help us to determine policy; to decide who, what and how to lockdown or maybe not to lockdown at all. It can also help to locate the origin and the spreaders of the disease as we have a good reason to believe that the regions with the most immunity to a given viral infection have likely experienced the disease in the past and have developed some form of resistance.

In reality, this model is problematic for many reasons and can hardly be applied. As things stand (in reality), we are comparing data that was collected under different circumstances and using various procedures designed with completely different strategies and philosophies. Both Israel and South Korea, for instance, conducted testing on mass scale and hence, identified many more carriers. More crucially both Israel and S. Korea made a huge effort to identify super spreaders and applied strict isolation measures to those spreaders and those who were infected by them. Britain, USA and Italy on the other hand conducted limited testing and have generally tested those who developed symptoms or were suspected of being infected.

Dr. Erickson COVID-19 Briefing – “millions of cases, small amount of death, millions of cases, small amount of death..”

But there is a far greater problem with the above herd immunity ratio model. It assumes that we know what we are dealing with i.e., an infectious viral situation, while the evidence may point otherwise.


The Radioactive Clock

It has become clear that the health crisis we are facing isn’t consistent with anything we are familiar with. Those who predicted a colossally genocidal plague weren’t necessarily stupid or duplicitous. They assumed that they knew the root cause of the current crisis. They applied recognized models and algorithms associated with viral pandemics. They ended up eating their words, not because their models were wrong but because they applied their models to the wrong event. While no one can deny the alarming exponential growth of the disease, it is the unusual ‘premature’ curve-flattening point and then the rapid decline of infections which no one explained. In fact, some still prefer to deny it.

Many of us remember that our so-called ‘experts’ initially tended to accuse China of ‘hiding the real figures’ as no one could believe that the virus, all of a sudden, pretty much ran out of steam. Some also claimed that Iran was faking its figures to make its regime look better. Then came South Korea and the scientific community started to admit that despite its initial rapid exponential growth, for an unexplained reason, the ‘virus’ seems to run out of energy in an unpredictable fashion: the curve straightens out almost abruptly and starts to drop soon after, almost literally disappearing to the point where even a country as enormous as China passes days without diagnosing a single new Covid-19 carrier.

When Italy experienced its Corona carnage, every health ‘expert’ predicted that when the ‘virus’ slipped out of the rich Lombardy region and made it to the poor south, we would see real genocide. That didn’t happen.

Rarely we see scientists sticking their necks out telling the truth. This interview with Swedish Prof. Johan Giesecke is a must watch!

We have also started to notice that lockdowns have not necessarily saved the situation and that adopting relatively light ‘lockdown’ measures doesn’t translate into a total disaster as Sweden has managed to prove. The ‘virus,’ appears to stop spreading according to its own terms rather than the terms we impose upon it.

dailyincreaseGA.jpg

Thinking about the anomalies to do with the virus in analytical mathematical terms, as opposed to seeing the virus in biological or medical terms, has made me believe that a paradigm shift may be inevitable. We seem to have been applying the wrong kind of science to a phenomenon that is not really clear to us. This may explain what led a British ‘scientist’ to reach a ludicrous and farfetched estimate that Britain could be heading towards an astronomic death figure of 510.000. Following the same flawed algorithm, Anthony Fauci advised the American president that America could see two million dead. Both scientists were wrong by a factor of 25-40 times. Such a mistake in scientific prediction should be unforgivable considering the damage it inflicted on the world’s economy and its future. One might say that the good news is that our governments are finally listening to scientists, the tragedy, however, is that they are listening to the most idiotic scientists around.

Looking at the tsunami of raw data regarding worldwide spread of Covid 19 reveals a lot, perhaps more than we are willing to admit at this stage. The numbers, the shape of the Corona growth curve and the manner in which it flattens and declines suggests to me that something different may be at play. It seems as if the disease is shaped by an autonomous internal clock that determines its time frame and that it is not impeded by any form of organic resistance such as antibodies or herd immunity. The curve’s rise toward that flattening instant is indeed characterized by consistent and exponential growth. But then, in a seemingly arbitrary manner, the disaster stops its increase and the numbers of those infected by Covid-19 starts to drop.

Looking for such a pattern that produces an exponential growth that comes to a sudden end calls to attention the concepts of radioactivity in general and of the half-life in particular.

Each radioactive isotope has its own decay pattern. The rate at which a radioactive isotope decays is measured in ‘half-life.’ The term half-life is defined as the time it takes for one-half of the atoms of a radioactive material to disintegrate. Radioactive decay is the disintegration of an unstable atom with an accompanying emission of radiation. The change from an unstable atom to a completely stable atom may require several disintegration steps and radiation will be given off at each step.

Half-life is a measurement of time (set by the radioactive isotope) that involves a repeated release of radiation. Each time radiation is released the radioactive isotope is splitting in half, this repeats until it either reaches stability or maybe becomes ineffective. If you bear the half-life dynamic in mind you can see how one person can ‘infect’ or shall I say, radiate an entire stadium a few times over during a two hour football match. All it takes is a radioisotope with a half-life cycle of a few seconds.

Once the atom reaches a stable configuration, no more radiation is given off. For this reason, radioactive sources become weaker with time, as more and more unstable atoms become stable atoms, less radiation is produced and eventually the material will become non-radioactive. I wonder whether this could provide an explanation for the abrupt curve flattening that is associated with Covid-19

What may be possible is that Covid 19 is not the root cause of the current disease, it may instead be a by-product of a radioactive interaction. I am not in any position to substantiate this theory. Instead, I offer an alternative way of thinking about the problem that may shed light on the situation. If Covid-19 is a by-product of radiation, then the sudden decrease in radioactivity due to the nature of half-life reactions can explain why the virus loses its growth energy when it seems as if it has become unstoppable.
If this theory has any merit, then we are misdiagnosing the Corona crisis, misapplying the science and implementing the wrong strategies. It may also indicate that herd immunity won’t work, as we are not dealing with a viral infection but instead becoming ourselves, a source of radiation.

This theory may help explain why Israel and South Korea (State D) were so successful in combating the crisis. It wasn’t the lockdown that saved these countries. It was their aggressive search for and quarantine of super spreaders and those who were potentially radiated by them. Consciously or not, rather than stopping the virus they isolated the catalysts that were leading to the creation of the virus.

Our world is in a grave crisis and could benefit from thinkers who are slightly more creative, sophisticated and responsible than the characters who currently occupy the World Health Organisation, the CDC and London’s Imperial College. But more than anything else, I reiterate once again: we need to escalate our response to the Corona crisis into a criminal investigation so we can figure out every possible error or malevolent act that led humanity into the current grim situation .

Source: https://www.unz.com/gatzmon/corona-crisis-a-viral-episode-or-a-half-time-nightmare/

Why Trump Scapegoats China

U.S. President Donald Trump answers a question from CNN's chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta about hospitals and frontline health care workers reporting shortages of masks and coronavirus tests during the coronavirus response daily briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 10, 2020.

17.04.2020

by Finian Cunningham

President Trump this week said no-one believes China’s official figures on Covid-19 casualties. Along with his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Trump accused Beijing of a cover-up on the scale of the disease.

Almost in the same breath, the White House has also accused the World Health Organization of colluding with China in deceiving other nations about the pandemic danger. To supposedly prove his point, Trump cut off US funding to the WHO.

China has slammed claims of it conducting a cover-up, saying it provided early warning to the rest of the world about the deadly outbreak.

Part of Trump’s skepticism towards China’s data appears to stem from the country’s relatively low numbers of infection cases and deaths. This week, China’s infection cases were about 82,000 while its deaths numbered over 4,000. That was after an upward revision on earlier data concerning the city of Wuhan where the new coronavirus disease erupted in December. Beijing says such revision is normal practice by all countries as mortality information is gathered. In Britain, for example, it is reckoned that deaths have so far been greatly underestimated due to lack of counting deceased in elderly care homes. Is anyone accusing the British government of a cover-up?

In any case, what seems to be bothering The Donald and other Western leaders is just how low China’s pandemic figures are by comparison with their own.

In the US this week, the infection cases and death toll are upwards of 700,000 and 34,000, according to this global counter. That’s massively greater than figures in China. Likewise the casualty rates in Italy, Spain, France and Britain are way out ahead of what China has reported.

That huge disparity has led Western politicians to accuse China of a cover-up or at least not coming fully clean with evidence. Because to reflect on the enormously discrepant figures it otherwise makes the Western countries look extremely bad in their mishandling of the public health crisis. The exploding casualties indicate gross ineptitude and dereliction of public health services (which is correct). In which case, it is politically expedient, and indeed imperative, to find a scapegoat in order to cover-up for the monumental incompetence of Western leaders. Ironically, it’s not China which is doing the covering up. It is the West and their criminally incompetent governments and their slavish adherence to capitalist priorities. Private profit before people.

The US and President Trump are potentially most acutely exposed for their ineptitude in coping with the Covid-19 crisis. The pandemic ripping through American society is down to Trump’s callous complacency which was displayed for weeks after both China and the WHO explicitly warned of a public health crisis as far back as the end of January.

The American crisis is also down to the parlously insecure state of American workers living on the edge of financial ruin and an underfunded crumby health care system that puts corporate profit before human need.

Same goes for Britain and many other Western states. The fact is that the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed all their chronic failings to protect public health. That’s why it is imperative for the Western culprits to blame China for allegedly deceiving them into supposedly not being able to make adequate preparations.

The Western inference that China’s Covid-19 figures are unreliable are contradicted by data from South Korea. It was one of the first countries outside China to be put on alert over the epidemic. But it was early and rapid action by South Korea’s government that ensured the impact was kept relatively low. Out of a caseload of 106,000 infections, some 230 South Koreans have died from the disease. Compare that with Britain, where the caseload as of this week is similar, but the death toll stands at over 14,000, two orders of magnitude greater.

© REUTERS / KIM HONG-JIA couple takes a walk near a cherry blossom trees street, closed to avoid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Seoul, South Korea, April 1, 2020

South Korea’s effectiveness in containing the Covid-19 pandemic shows that the right government action of massive testing, tracking and quarantining can succeed. China’s record is apparently not as good as South Korea’s, but nevertheless is comparable in the scale of its success. Western governments and media are not accusing South Korea of a cover-up. And if South Korea can succeed in the way it did, then it is entirely feasible that China did also by the same proactive intervention of testing, tracking and lockdown. To claim China is lying about its figures is to willfully ignore the success of South Korea against Covid-19.

Trump and other Western leaders are scapegoating China over Covid-19 because they can’t allow the public to ponder on the shameful and awful truth: that their governments let them die unnecessarily.

The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

Total system failure will give rise to new economy

Total system failure will give rise to new economy

April 11, 2020

by Pepe Escobar – posted with permission

Covid-19 driven collapse of global supply chains, demand and mobility will painfully spawn next great tech-led economic models

Is the world on a collision course with the financial and economic equivalent of a meteor impact with shock wave? Fractal illustration: AFP

Nobody, anywhere, could have predicted what we are now witnessing: in a matter of only a few weeks the accumulated collapse of global supply chains, aggregate demand, consumption, investment, exports, mobility.

Nobody is betting on an L-shaped recovery anymore – not to mention a V-shaped one. Any projection of global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020 gets into falling-off-a-cliff territory.

In industrialized economies, where roughly 70% of the workforce is in services, countless businesses in myriad industries will fail in a rolling financial collapse that will eclipse the Great Depression.

That spans the whole spectrum of possibly 47 million US workers soon to be laid off – with the unemployment rate skyrocketing to 32% – all the way to Oxfam’s warning that by the time the pandemic is over half of the world’s population of 7.8 billion people could be living in poverty.According to the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) most optimistic 2020 scenario – certainly to become outdated before the end of Spring – global trade would shrink by 13%.  A more realistic and gloomier WTO scenario sees global trade plunging by 32%.

What we are witnessing is not only a massive globalization short circuit: it’s a cerebral shock extended to three billion hyperconnected, simultaneously confined people. Their bodies may be blocked, but they are electromagnetic beings and their brains keep working – with possible, unforeseen political and other consequences.

Soon we will be facing three major, interlocking debates: the management (in many cases appalling) of the crisis; the search for future models; and the reconfiguration of the world-system.

This is just a first approach in what should be seen as a do-or-die cognitive competition.

Particle accelerator

Sound analyses of what could be the next economic model are already popping up. As background, a really serious debunking of all (dying) neoliberalism development myths can be seen here.

Yes, a new economic model should be revolving around these axes: AI computing; automated manufacturing; solar and wind energy; high-speed 5G-driven data transfer; and nanotechnology.

China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are very well positioned for what’s ahead, as well as selected European latitudes.

Plamen Tonchev, head of the Asia unit at the Institute of International Economic Relations in Athens, Greece, points to the possible reorganization – short term – of Belt and Road Initiative projects, privileging investment in energy, export of solar panels, 5G networks and the Health Silk Road.

Covid-19 is like a particle accelerator, consolidating tendencies that were already developing. China had already demonstrated for the whole planet to see that economic development under a control system has nothing to do with Western liberal democracy.

On the pandemic, China demonstrated – also for the whole planet to see – that containment of Covid-19 can be accomplished by imposing controls the West derided as “draconian” and “authoritarian,” coupled with a strategic scientific approach characerized by a profusion of test kits, protection equipment, ventilators and experimental treatments.

This is already translating into incalculable soft power which will be exercised along the Health Silk Road. Trends seem to point to China as strategically reinforced all along the spectrum, especially in the Global South. China is playing go, weiqi. Stones will be taken from the geopolitical board.

System failure welcomed? 

In contrast, Western banking and finance scenarios could not be gloomier. As a Britain-centric analysis argues, “It is not just Europe. Banks may not be strong enough to fulfill their new role as saviors in any part of the world, including the US, China and Japan. None of the major lending systems were ever stress-tested for an economic deep freeze lasting months.”

So “the global financial system will crack under the strain,” with a by now quite possible “pandemic shutdown lasting more than three months” capable of causing  “economic and financial ‘system failure.’”

As system failures go, nothing remotely approaches the possibility of a quadrillion dollar derivative implosion, a real nuclear issue.

Capital One is number 11 on the list of the largest banks in the US by assets. They are already in deep trouble on their derivative exposures. New York sources say Capital One made a terrible trade, betting via derivatives that oil would not plunge to where it is now at 17-year lows.

Mega-pressure is on all those Wall Street outfits that gave oil companies the equivalent of puts on all their oil production at prices above $50 a barrel. These puts have now come due – and the strain on the Wall Street houses and US banks will become unbearable.

The anticipated Friday oil deal won’t alter anything: oil will stay around $20 per barrel, $25 max.

This is just the beginning and is bound to get much worse. Imagine most of US industry being shut down. Corporations – like Boeing, for instance – are going to go bankrupt. Bank loans to those corporations will be wiped out. As those loans are wiped out, the banks are going to get into major trouble.

Derivative to the max

Wall Street, totally linked to the derivative markets, will feel the pressure of the collapsing American economy. The Fed bailout of Wall Street will start coming apart. Talk about a nuclear chain reaction.

In a nutshell: The Fed has lost control of the money supply in the US. Banks can now create unlimited credit from their base and that sets up the US for potential hyperinflation if the money supply grows non-stop and production collapses, as it is collapsing right now because the economy is in shutdown mode.

If derivatives start to implode, the only solution for all major banks in the world will be immediate nationalization, much to the ire of the Goddess of the Market. Deutsche Bank, also in major trouble, has a 7 trillion euro derivatives exposure, twice the annual GDP of Germany.

No wonder New York business circles are absolutely terrified. They insist that if the US does not immediately go back to work, and if these possibly quadrillions of dollars of derivatives start to rapidly implode, the economic crises that will unfold will create a collapse of the magnitude of which has not been witnessed in history, with incalculable consequences.

Or perhaps this will be just the larger-than-life spark to start a new economy.

Public Health, COVID-19 and Recovery

By Tim Anderson

Source

1918 influenza pandemic db399

In all epidemics, there are some principles which determine how well communities and nations will respond, how long the crisis will last and how soon there will be recovery. We can already draw some lessons from the very big differences between particular countries in the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular why some wealthy nations like the UK and the USA are amongst the hardest hit. Although the numbers infected are still rising and the impact has not yet peaked, in most countries, we are entitled to ask: why have some countries controlled infections and minimized deaths better than others? This question, I suggest, leads us to consider principles of public health systems, of health planning and of broader social coherence. In particular, we should observe renewed evidence which affirms that public health systems are best able to develop the planning, prevention measures and coordination necessary to deal with epidemics.

The year 2020 saw the rise of a global epidemic (a pandemic) with a new variety of coronavirus which attacks human respiratory systems. This virus is highly infectious, if not highly fatal, compared to the recent epidemics of SARS-1 and MERS. COVID-19 seems deadly mainly to the elderly and the unwell (Doherty 2020). Extremely restrictive measures have been applied across much of the globe, while health systems try to contain the crisis and work out how best to prevent and treat it.

Nevertheless, extraordinary levels of skepticism about the state in western societies have aggravated reactions to severe quarantine measures, leading some to question whether the epidemic even merits emergency attention. This is while we see reports of more than a thousand deaths every day in the USA, China’s recovery after its extreme ‘lockdown’ measures, the scandal of dead bodies on the streets of Guayaquil in Ecuador (Gallón 2020), and while Cuban doctors help deal with the crisis in many countries (AP 2020). Skepticism has become cynicism in many western countries, due to a deep distrust of governments and their corporate partners. Undoubtedly powerful opportunists will exploit this crisis. Large corporations will automate and shed labor, some local authorities will extend arbitrary powers and Washington will persist with its economic and ‘regime change’ wars, using COVID-19 rationales where possible.

But this is a real public health crisis and it would be a mistake to ignore the fact that public health is, in itself, a central battleground. The same financial oligarchies that drive war and corporate privilege also block or colonize public health systems, which they see as multi-billion dollar milk cows. If individual liberties remain the central focus of critique, without recognition of the role of health systems, neoliberal ideologies will simply respond, as usual, on the ‘individual right’ to choose health insurance and to avoid ‘authoritarian’ public health systems. In the current crisis the principal alternatives we see to rapid response, protective public health measures is a neoliberal state which prevaricates, then resorts to heavy-handed policing and its armed forces for social control (Haynes 2020; Browne 2020), when the crisis is undeniable and there is no adequate health workforce.

This is a comparative study of the COVID19 phenomenon, drawing on established principles of public health and epidemic control and making use of the best available epidemiological evidence. It aims to identify and articulate lessons about health systems. Key examples used are the USA and the UK, contrasted with China and South Korea. The Anglo-American duo have stressed more privatized health systems in recent decades, while both China and South Korea have moved from private insurance-based systems to near-universal coverage systems with national planning bodies and increased public investment in their health systems (Dai 2009, Qingyue, Hongwei, Wen, Qiang and Xiaoyun 2015; Kwon, Lee and Kim 2015). The comparison is not, therefore, between capitalist and ‘socialist’ or non-capitalist systems, but rather between systems which have weakened or reinforced their universal health guarantees and health planning commitments.

After some comments on the origins of COVID-19, and on general principles of epidemic control, I examine the interim evidence of differential impact in several countries. The conclusions are over which systems are best prepared, which will minimize casualties and which will recover sooner. These understandings deserve consideration in their own right.

1. The Origins of COVID-19

Much is still unknown about the origin of the new coronavirus, and many of the early claims seem unfounded. A necessary agnosticism should accompany any honest study of this question of origin. COVID-19 (also called SARS-CoV-2) is the latest in the family of RNA coronaviruses, and at least 58 haplotypes (genetic varieties) have been identified, half from inside China and half from outside (Yu, Tang and Corlett 2020). China sequenced and published the virus genome in mid-January (Cohen 2020a) and since then Italian studies isolated and have been sequencing the genome of the Italian virus, showing a particular strain, slightly distinct from the Chinese varieties (Bergna 2020). Many new flu viruses come from animals, and COVID-19 has a possible link to coronavirus haplotypes found in bats (Yu, Tang and Corlett 2020). The first recorded mass outbreak of infections came from the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan city, China.

However, notice the difference between ‘first recorded outbreak’ and ‘the origin’. There are several now which suggest that COVID-19 did not have its origins in Wuhan. This parallels the terrible ‘Spanish Flu’ epidemic of 1918-19, which is now generally thought to have not come from Spain. In that pandemic, where millions died, the flu was traced back to migrant workers from France, making it “unlikely” that the 1918 A(H1N1) influenza virus originated in Spain (Trilla, Trilla and Daer 2008). John M. Barry, in the Journal of Transnational Medicine, reviewed the literature on the origins of the 1918 pandemic and, drawing on US, British and Australian studies, concluded that “the most likely site of origin was Haskell County, Kansas”. This county, an isolated area with many farm animals, had an outbreak of a virulent flu in January 1918, a flu which killed healthy young men. That flu spread to an army camp at Funston, and from there was carried to the war fields in France (Barry 2004). Australian Nobel laureate MacFarlane Burnet wrote that the evidence was “strongly suggestive” that the disease started in the United States and spread with “the arrival of American troops in France” (Burnet and Clark 1942). Barry concludes by saying “the fact that the 1918 pandemic likely began in the United States matters because it tells investigators where to look for a new virus. They must look everywhere” (Barry 2004).

An early Chinese genetic study suspected that COVID-19 came to Wuhan from elsewhere. This analysis suggested that the virus “was potentially imported from elsewhere; the crowded market then boosted SARS-CoV-2 circulation” (Yu, Tang and Corlett 2020). Another Chinese study of the first 41 patients admitted to hospital and diagnosed with COVID-19, observed that 27 (66%) “had been exposed to Huanan seafood market” (Huang et al 2020), but 13 (33%) had not. “That’s a big number, 13 , with no link” said infectious disease specialist Daniel Lucey of Georgetown University (Cohen 2020). Professor Robert Garry, from the University of Tulane in New Orleans, also pointed out “our analyses, and others too, point to an earlier origin than [Wuhan]. There were definitely cases there, but that wasn’t the origin of the virus” (Holland 2020). Then a British study, looking at 160 varieties and combining them in three groups, with A as the ancestral strain, found that most of the COVID19 varieties from Wuhan and from east Asia were Type B and non-ancestral (Forster, Forster, Renfrew and Forster 2020).

The transmission path was not well anticipated. Later genomic studies showed that most cases of the outbreak in New York came from Europe; these cases were detected late, due to a lack of testing. Presidents Trump’s 31 January entry ban on people from China had no impact on this source of infection (Zimmer 2020). Later links were found to US warships and US military bases (Arkin 2020).

Many new viruses come from animals, and COVID-19 may have an ancestral link with coronavirus strains found in bats; however no definite link of this sort has been established with the Wuhan outbreak. Nevertheless, western media showed video of a Chinese woman eating a cooked bat, suggesting a Chinese origin. The BBC has pointed out this was from a 2016 travel show, shot on the Pacific island of Palau (BBC 2020).

Importantly, there are reports of earlier cases in both Italy and the USA. In northern Italy local doctors remember “a very strange pneumonia, very severe, particularly in old people” in November and December of 2019. That may mean that “the virus was circulating [there] … before we were aware of this outbreak occurring in China” (Poggioli 2020). The first cases in the USA have also been linked to the many flu deaths throughout 2019. When Centre for Disease Control (CDC) Director Robert Redfield was asked whether some of the US ‘flu deaths’ might have been COVID19, and wrongly diagnosed, he replied “some cases actually have been diagnosed [that way] in the US to date” (New China TV 2020). This raised the possibility of 2019 cases in the USA, perhaps before Wuhan’s December 2019 outbreak. That admission led Chinese official Lijian Zhao to demand ‘transparency’ from the US: “When did patient zero begin in the US? How many people are infected … be transparent! Make public your data! US owes us an explanation” (Zhao 2020). The CDC’s acknowledgement of early and perhaps widespread infections in the USA was reinforced by estimates from the Director of the Department of Health in the state of Ohio, Amy Acton. She was reported as saying that “the fact of community spread says that at least 1 percent … is carrying this virus in Ohio today … over 100,000” (Sullivan 2020). However the matter of 2019 infections and deaths in Italy and the USA is as yet unresolved.

There have also been suggestions that the virus may have come the biological warfare laboratories of the US military. Suspicions were aroused by the sudden closure of the US army’s bioweapons research centre at Fort Detrick in Maryland, in August 2019. This closure was due to fears that “contaminated waste” or agents such as Ebola, smallpox and anthrax could leak from the facility (Wyatt 2020). There was also the presence of US soldiers at the Military World Games in Wuhan in October 2019, just before the Wuhan outbreak. Both issues create grounds for suspicion, yet no direct link has as yet been established. One group of mostly US-based scientists, looking at the characteristics of the virus, have asserted that SARS CoV-2 was “not a laboratory construct” but had natural origins (Anderson, Rambaut, Lipkin, Holmes and Garry). However the better view of their report – hedged with “likely”, “probably”, “not been described” (i.e. no evidence) and “we do not believe” qualifiers – is that they could find ‘no evidence’ of a laboratory origin. So evidence on this matter also remains unresolved.

Overall, there are several sources of evidence that suggest COVID-19 did not originate in Wuhan, nor its seafood market, although that was the first recorded largescale outbreak. Politicised talk of a ‘Chinese virus’ parallels the misnaming of the 1918 pandemic as ‘Spanish Flu’. Most other claims are not well founded. In these circumstances an agnostic approach, open to new evidence, is necessary if we want to really understand the origin of COVID19.

2. Principles of epidemic control

In 2018 the WHO, writing of ‘challenges and risk factors’ for epidemics, spelt out some contemporary risk factors and emphasised key features of an effective response. Current risk factors are aggravated by greater international travel, growing peri-urban areas which have contact with animals, the massive displacement of people by wars and disasters, the overuse of antibiotics which has created microbial resistance, new hazardous agricultural practices and “poor health care systems that have inadequate infection prevention and control practices” (WHO 2018: 25-26). Effective responses to an epidemic require early detection, then containment measures followed by control and mitigation then, if possible, elimination or eradication (WHO 2018: 28-30)

Health researchers have repeatedly argued that “to accurately predict, plan, and respond to current and future influenza pandemics, we must first better understand the events and experiences of 1918 … we must remain vigilant and use the knowledge we have gained from 1918 and other influenza pandemics to direct targeted research and pandemic influenza preparedness planning, emphasizing prevention, containment, and treatment.” (Morens, Taubenberger, Harvey and Memoli 2010). Of course, planning and prevention are notable features of public health systems, but quite scarce in systems that rely on private health care (Anderson 2007).

Nevertheless, even in the USA which have never had a well-developed public health system, components of a pandemic plan were utilized during the 1918–1919 flu crisis. There was “coordination between different levels and branches of government, improved communications … mass dispensing of vaccines, guidelines for infection control, containment measures including case isolation and closures of public places, and disease surveillance”, which were employed “with varying degrees of success” (Ott, Shaw, Danila and Lynfield 2007). Today the US maintains a Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but it lacks a universal health guarantee and carries the burden of corporatized ‘managed care’ (Sekhri 2000).

There are some important lessons from the US experience in 1918-1919. Strochlic and Champine (2020) stress the danger of relaxing restrictive quarantine measures too soon – those US cities that kept social closures for some weeks after the peak of casualties avoided a second ‘spike’ and had the lowest overall death rates. Unlike New York today under COVID-19, a city with the highest rates of infection, New York City in 1918 began its quarantine measures early and kept them for four weeks after the spike in deaths. It then had “the lowest death rate of the eastern seaboard”. San Francisco, St Louis and some other cities, which ended their quarantine measures earlier, had a second round of deaths and a second round of quarantine restrictions (Strochlic and Champine 2020). See Graphic 1 below. So the lesson here is to implement quarantine measures (1) early and (2) keep them going for some weeks after the peak in deaths.

Graphic 1: 1918 restrictions in US cities (Strochlic and Champine 2020)
1918 restrictions in US cities c2b91

 

In Spain, the epidemic was first widely reported in late May 1918. Rates of death from influenza shot up, but the first epidemic seemed to have ended in 2 months. However, a second epidemic began slowly in September, peaking in October. No antibiotics were then available for pneumonia, which was usually the final killer. A third and final period of the epidemic was from January to June 1919. Deaths were more common amongst babies and young people and more than 260,000 (1% of the Spanish population) died (Trilla, Trilla and Daer 2008).

So the current pandemic restrictive measures are not new: quarantine regimes including distancing and the wearing of masks, while treatments are developed and a vaccine to accelerate social immunity is found. Isolation measures, closures of social facilities and social distancing must be developed according to local circumstances, preferably with popular education and broad social consent. Such measures are particularly important to slow the epidemic, especially when there is limited knowledge of how to treat and contain it.

There is a consensus on this across many different countries. George Gao, head of the Chinese CDC says “social distancing is the essential strategy for the control of any infectious diseases, especially if they are respiratory infections”. “Non-drug measures” are particularly important, especially without clear knowledge of the appropriate drugs. This social distancing generally includes isolating those with the infection, quarantining their close contacts, suspending social gatherings and restricting movement, if not complete lockdowns (Cohen 2020). It has been suggested that, with general quarantine measures “compliance of below 70% is unlikely to succeed for any duration of social distancing, while a compliance at the 90% level is likely to control the disease within 13–14 weeks, when coupled with effective case isolation and international travel restrictions” (Chang, Harding, Zachreson, Cliff and Prokopenko 2020). More targeted quarantine measures would require large scale testing.

The phenomenon of ‘herd immunity’ can occur in two ways, (1) by ‘natural selection’, where largescale death will claim many and only those able to develop auto-immunity survive; or (2) by an accelerated method where a vaccine is given to rapidly increase the numbers of those with antibodies for the particular virus. This both slows down transmission and protects those with transmitted immunity (Regalado 2020). The wide use of mass vaccines across the 20th century saved millions of lives, from diseases such as smallpox, polio, cholera and measles. At least 16 vaccines for COVID-19 are under testing at the time of writing (Akst 2020), and estimates of availability range from two to eighteen months.

3. Differential impact

Even as COVID19 infection rates remain high in much of Europe and the USA, we can see important differences across countries in the impact, management, and recovery from the virus. Interpreting interim data is difficult but necessary, if we are to learn contemporary lessons. The first obstacles to reading the data are that there is under-reporting and low levels of testing. Problems for learning also come from the commitment, in many countries, to highly privatized health systems. These are notoriously weak in preventive health and crisis management, There is also a great resistance in western societies to learning from other cultures. For example, it has been pointed out that when China was in the midst of its crisis, with hundreds dying, this was cited in western circles as “proof their government was incompetent”; yet when China’s infection rates fell this was said to be “proof they were lying about numbers” (Mastracci 2020). Not so many were ready to learn from China.

We have to recognize some caveats about the use of contemporary, interim data. Although the WorldOmeter site collates COVID19 data from governments and seems to do this fairly reliably, the state reports do vary considerably. Yet it is easy to check, for example, the published government data from (e.g.) the UK, South Korea and the USA (GOV.UK 2020, KCDC 2020 and CDC 2020) against that collated at WorldOmeter. Nevertheless, this raw data has to be treated with caution. Some useful caveats on using this epidemic data were spelled out in an article on the BBC. Henriques (2020) pointed out that the varied scale of testing will have a great impact on cited infections, suggesting that the “lack of widespread, systematic in most countries is probably the main source of discrepancies in death rates internationally” (Henriques 2020). As it happens, information on the level of testing in many countries has since become available. Henriques also points out the difference between ‘dying with’ and ‘dying from’ the disease, including the fact that the reasons for medical registration of death vary between countries. The H1N1 epidemic of 2009 also showed wide cross-country variation in death rates, and some of the higher rates were later revised downwards when better information was available (Vaillant, La Ruche, Tarantola and Barboza 2009). Conversely, deaths may also be underestimated, as many are never tested. Most likely, infection rates are more unreliable than the death rates, due to under-reporting and lack of testing. Finally, levels of bacterial resistance (important in the case of pneumonia, a major cause of COVID19 related death) may vary between countries. Differing demographics are also important. For example, there are said to be proportionally twice as many Italians over 65 years of age as there are Chinese (Henriques 2020). These are important factors to bear in mind, but should not deter us from making use of the best available evidence. Commentary without evidence is guesswork.

It is important to discuss, in particular, why the UK and US reactions and disease control seem to have been so poor. The Anglo-American duo has been presented, by UK and US agencies, as at the peak of “international preparedness for epidemics and pandemics” in measures of ‘Global Health Security’ (IPT 2020). Yet virtually none of the impact data supports that claim. Daily deaths from COVID19 in China began to fall in late February, to just a handful each day in the first week of April. In that same first week of April, the USA was suffering more than one thousand deaths every day and the UK around 500 or more deaths every day (WorldOmeter 2020). Why did these two wealthy countries fare so badly?

The UK and USA reacted very slowly to the pandemic and, by early April when cases and deaths had fallen in China and South Korea, and were peaking in much of Europe (by late March in Italy and Spain), US and UK rates were still rising (Burn-Murdoch 2020). On 10 April COVID19 linked deaths were 4 times (in the USA) and 9 times (in the UK) the global average (WorldOmeter 2020). By that time the rate of testing in both countries was comparable and relatively high. Table 1 below shows testing in the UK rising strongly only in early April. This table has no data for China, but we have other sources which show that Chinese testing was intense, at least in the affected provinces.

Table 1: COVID19 tests per million population
5 April 10 April
USA 5,306 7,167
UK 2,880 4,392
Netherlands 4,401 5,926
South Korea 8,996 9,310
France 3,436 5,114
Italy 11,436 14,114
Spain 7,593 7,593
China na na
Source: WorldOmeter 2020

Guangdong province “did more than 320 000 RT-PCR tests on those who had attended fever clinics and hospitals over 30 days between January and February 2020”. This was “about ten times the baseline testing capacity for routine influenza-like illness surveillance during the influenza season of 2018” (Forster, Forster, Renfrew and Forster 2020). Indeed, the Chinese were the first to sequence and publish the genome of the virus, in mid-January, and to develop tests (Cohen 2020a). At the time of writing, “of 202 companies around the world producing commercialized Covid-19 test kits, 92 are from China” (Cookson and Hodgson 2020). WHO official Bruce Aylward pointed out that China had to innovate to stop the first largescale outbreak of the virus, and to isolate and quarantine those found to be infected. That meant testing. Yet as late as mid-March the UK government announced that it would only test for COVID-19 among people admitted to hospital and that people with mild symptoms wouldn’t be tested but should simply stay at home for seven days” (Hamzelou 2020).

By way of contrast, according to the WHO, South Korea was “pretty rigorous about testing all the suspect cases and finding all the contacts … [and so] they seem to have turned a corner” (Hamzelou 2020). The much lower death rate in South Korea tends to bear that out. The contrast with an indecisive UK approach was noted.

“In contrast with the early stages in the UK – where Boris Johnson said coronavirus was likely to “spread a bit more”, South Korean health officials quickly learned the lessons from Wuhan … [they] prioritized identifying and isolating people testing positive for the disease, and developed capacity to run about 15,000 diagnostic tests a day” (Beaumont 2020).

Other sources noted the early high levels of testing in China and South Korea, including many who had no symptoms of illness. “Widespread testing” in China, Iceland and South Korea “identified a high proportion of infections in people without discernible symptoms” (Gale 2020). The Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention developed the earliest tests and “details of it were posted on the World Health Organization website on 24 January, just after the Wuhan lockdown was announced”. By late March China had conducted “well over 320,000 tests” (Beaumont 2020). Cookson and Hodgson (2020) wrote that “Germany and South Korea have led the way in rolling out tests on a large scale, but the UK and US have been laggards”.

It has emerged that US military bases and some warships have become strong sources of infection and likely also international transmission (Arkin 2020), as indeed they were a century ago, with the so-called ‘Spanish flu’. That remains an as-yet unaddressed threat to the US population and the international community,  given that the US has nearly 800 military bases around the world (Vine 2015). Crowded prisons have become an additional hotbed of COVID19 infection, and the US has the biggest prison system and the highest imprisonment rate on earth (Wagner and Sawyer 2018). This threatens the lives of prisoners and staff (Yan 2020) and creates a hotline of community transmission because, contrary to popular belief, there is constant high-level traffic between prisons and wider communities. There is little sign that either the US military or prison authorities have a plan to deal with these threats.

In the absence of a vaccine, drug treatments varied considerably, although similar drugs were potentially available. One large survey of more than 6,000 physicians from 30 countries sheds some light on the disparity. Substantial differences can be seen between the US and Chinese doctors. The survey question was “of the medications you have personally prescribed or have seen used, please indicate which ones are most effective”. The results are shown in Table 2 below.

Table 2: Medications used for COVID19 and thought to be “most effective”
Hydroxychlor. or Chloroquine Nothing Anti-viral/ immunotherapy Antibiotics Analgesics Plasma
USA 23% 51% 1% – 10% 18% 21% 48%
China 44% 4% 35% – 42% 33% 20% 3%
Source: Sermo 2020. (1) Plasma used was from recovered patients, a sort of pre-vaccine. (2) The antiviral-immunotherapy drugs included Lopinavir, Ritonavir, Remdisivir, Oseltamivir and Interferon-beta.

The most striking differences are that very many US doctors often regarded no medication as the best option, while Chinese doctors made far greater use of anti-viral or immunotherapy drugs, and a type of pre-vaccine treatment of plasma from recovered patients. In early February the Cuban interferon variant (Interferon Alpha-2B Recombinant: IFNrec) was also being used in China, in combination with the anti-virals (Telesur 2020; O’Connor 2020). The top “more information topic” all doctors requested was more on “the efficacy of existing medicines” (Sermo 2020: 19). Clearly there was uncertainty, but Chinese doctors were using more sophisticated medication. Why were US doctors more reluctant to use anti-virals? First, they could not use the Cuban version of interferon because of the economic blockade imposed by their government against Cuban products (O’Connor 2020). Second, it seems likely that the medical consensus in the USA – dominated as it is by large private health corporations, managed care and expensive patented medicines – would not easily countenance the provisional use of unproven and expensive antivirals. In China, on the other hand, the antivirals were likely much more affordable.

Western scientists have acknowledged that the speed in vaccine development “is thanks in large part to early Chinese efforts to sequence the genetic material of Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. China shared that sequence in mid-January (Spinney 2020; Cohen 2020a). By early April, vaccines in development were said to include two “frontrunners” in the US, one in China and one in the UK, all of which had clinical trials underway. Another 11 were in development (Akst 2020). In addition, the Hong Kong listed CanSino Biologics has a vaccine project with the Chinese military (Bloomberg 2020) and the UK giant GlaxoSmithKline has a collaborative vaccine project with China’s Xiamen Innovax Biotech (Taylor 2020). There is clearly a race to produce first and to be recognized as safe and effective. Billions of dollars are at stake, as well as many thousands of lives. No doubt there will be a war of words when the first vaccines emerge. Estimates of vaccine readiness vary from two months to 18 months. However, it seems likely that the Chinese companies, in particular, will fast track their process.

With the uncertainty about treatment and in the absence of a vaccine, ‘non-pharmaceutical’ means of containing the spread of the virus became important. That meant quarantine measures and limits on movement and association, to prevent an escalation of contagion. These measures must necessarily be tailored to particular circumstances and, to justify any curtailment of civil liberties, should be ‘proportionate’ to the particular threat posed. The UN Human Rights Committee’s General Comment on Article 12 (‘Freedom of Movement’) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, explains proportionality in this way:

“Restrictive measures must conform to the principle of proportionality; they must be appropriate to achieve their protective function; they must be the least intrusive instrument amongst those which might achieve the desired result; and they must be proportionate to the interest to be protected.” (HRC 1999: 14)

In this sense, restrictive measures during the pandemic must relate to the threat and should be relaxed when the threat has diminished. Since a wide variety of restrictive measures have been imposed across a large range of countries, it necessarily falls to citizens of those places to demand accountability, full explanations and the best targeted and “least intrusive” measures. Nevertheless, as mentioned above, during the 1918 epidemic in the USA, the cities that relaxed too soon were hit by a second wave (Strochlic and Champine 2020). That potential threat is a relevant consideration. So the public health and civil rights logic are for gradual relaxation which allows for control of transmission, until proper treatment is found. A Chinese study on preventing a second wave of infections was widely misreported as saying that “lockdowns shouldn’t be fully lifted until coronavirus vaccine found” (Reynolds 2020). In fact that study calls for a gradual response, with vigilance to “allow policymakers to tune relaxation decisions to maintain [low] transmissibility” (Leung, Wu, Liu and Leung 2020).

On quarantine, once again, we see big differences between China and the USA. In Wuhan, once the new virus was detected, there was an early and severe lockdown of the city and to some extent Hubei province, to prevent it from spreading to the rest of the country. That was only relaxed after 76 days, several weeks after new infections had peaked and fallen (CGTN 2020). In the US the restrictions were at first aimed at the supposed source in China, then others were imposed quite late. The US national health system, such as it is, was poorly equipped to manage the process. Washington moved slowly and indecisively, with a series of complacent and repeated assurances throughout February from President Trump, that “we have it very well under control” (Brewster 2020; Guerra 2020). Similarly, British leader Boris Johnson was accused of complacency, being “slow to act” and even suggesting that some natural “herd immunity” might be necessary. This sounded like the UK government “was deliberately aiming for 60 percent of the populace to fall ill” (Stewart, Weaver and Proctor 2020; Yong 2020). Without vaccine assisted “herd immunity”, such an approach would mean tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands could die. As it turned out, Johnson himself contracted the virus and was hospitalized.

The rapid and strict Chinese measures seemed to contain the spread of the virus in Wuhan and some contiguous central provinces, while other provinces were less unaffected (Fan et al 2020). Another study showed a similar pattern, with western, northern and some of the eastern provinces relatively unaffected (Guan et al 2020). China’s prompt and comprehensive measures (early detection, massive localized testing including temperature monitoring, treating, contact tracing and quarantine) allowed the hardest hit area, Wuhan, to gradually emerge from severe quarantine restrictions after 76 days. That city now has a color-coded, graduated system to allow progressively greater freedom to move around (Galindo 2020). In the USA the ‘hot spots’ have been New York and New Jersey, but very quickly high levels of infection, including community transmission, were reported on the west coast (California, Washington), in the great lakes area (Illinois, Michigan) and in the southeast (Louisiana, Florida) (CDC 2020). By 9 April twelve US states had death rates of 35 per million, more three times the reported global average (WorldOmeter 2020).

Amongst the many institutional failures has been the failure to predict better ‘preparedness’ for such an epidemic. The crisis poses a great challenge to US ideology, based as it has been on corporate privilege and a belief in US technological superiority. In the past this neo-colonial approach was linked to the rationale of ‘market solutions’. For example, in late 2019 an Anglo-American group created a ‘Global Health Security Index’ which ranked the USA at the top of countries able to deal with “infectious disease outbreaks that can lead to international epidemics and pandemics”; the UK was number two (IPT 2020). Yet after three months of the COVID-19 pandemic many of the GHS rankings seem absurd, with the top three (USA, UK and The Netherlands) showing significantly worse than world average fatality rates from COVID-19. Of the highly ranked GHS countries, only South Korea showed some consistency between GHS ranking and superior performance. See Table 3 below.

Table 3: GHS rankings vs. COVID-19 death rates
GHS rank / 195 COVID-19 deaths / million **
USA 1 50
UK 2 118
Netherlands 3 140
WORLD 12.3
South Korea 9 4
China 51 2
Column 1: IPT 2020 (Top GHS rankings means those countries “most prepared” for an epidemic); Columns 2 & 3: WorldOmeter 2020, data at 10 April 2020;

Since all the above states, by early April, had fairly high and comparable levels of testing (4,400 to 9,300 per million), and as death rates are more reliable than infection rates, we are entitled to use death rates as a rough inverse measure of epidemic preparedness. That is, unless we assume that the full extent of the virus has not yet been measured, or that the virus may be about to recur in China or Korea. There is not much reason, at this stage, to imagine that under-reporting of death is better or worse in any of those states.

Indeed South Korea, with an early and strong testing regime (KCDC 2020), was able to carry out more selective quarantine measures, “to make tactical decisions regarding schools … movements … to move forward without some of the draconian measures”, and this allowed it to keep many factories, shopping malls and restaurants open (Beaubien 2020).

This brings us to the ‘anti-authoritarian’ argument, used by the Anglo-American duo. Both the US and the UK have either rejected a full, well-coordinated public health system (the US) or undermined it (in the UK) on the grounds of ‘liberty’ and the ‘authoritarian’ nature of large, well-resourced public health systems. Yet both, once they realized the scale of the epidemic, resorted to their police and armed forces to control civilian populations, recognizing that such measures were beyond the capacity of their health workforce (Haynes 2020; Browne 2020). Where restrictive measures are imposed early by local health authorities, there is more likely to be understanding and compliance.

4. Lessons

There is also the question of culture and broader social cohesion. It has been suggested that eastern countries like South Korea and China have done better because of the “deep divisions and poor leadership in the west”, and that “the trust that citizens must have in governments is low in the west and that has hurt its ability to mobilize people in a time of grave peril” (Chaulia 2020). The cynical reactions to the erratic behavior of the UK and US leaders lend some support to this claim. The western stereotype is often that “authoritarian” systems fail from suppressing information and communications (Gebrekidan 2020). But the suggested authoritarian-liberal dichotomy is a false one, because the late entry of the US and UK to quarantine restrictions was accompanied by severe policing, severe penalties, the use of police drone surveillance and the domestic deployment of armed forces (Castle 2020; Haynes 2020; Browne 2020). All public health systems are paternalistic, or maternalistic, but the use of armed forces due to incapacity in the public health system is a serious failing.

There are important lessons from China, as from principles drawn from past epidemic management, and the crisis has exposed weaknesses in the US and UK systems. The social mobilization in Wuhan, organized by local authorities and backed by the central government, certainly helped early recovery from what could have been an even more devastating epidemic (Leung, Wu, Liu and Leung 2020). Other countries cannot copy that experience, but they can observe and draw lessons (CGTN 2020).

Early restrictive and quarantine measures were in principle justified, but by international law they should be ‘proportionate’ to the particular threat posed and employing the ‘least restrictive’ measures possible. Public health logic accepts that restrictions on movement and association should be relaxed as the infection rates abate, in coordination with an epidemiological vigilance to ensure that a second wave of infections does not arise (Leung, Wu, Liu and Leung 2020; EurekAlert 2020). Time frames should reassure populations that there is some end in sight to restrictive measures, and that relaxation can begin even before vaccines are available, when the disease is controlled.

It seems likely that greater experimentation with the use of anti-viral and immunotherapy drugs helped treatment in China, but this was impeded in the USA, where strong patent laws and corporate management make the newer forms of such drugs expensive. There is now strong competition to produce the first vaccine, and for that reason level some availability seems likely within two months. However, we can expect to see a war of words between the companies involved, over questions of safety and efficacy.

Overall, countries such as the US and the UK, which had weak or run down public health systems, failed their own peoples by predictable deficits in preparedness, health workforces, protective equipment, preventive capacity, early detection and swift responses. When they did respond they tended to draw on security forces in lieu of an effective health workforce. Death rates were far higher than average and recovery may take longer. In the case of the US, the deficit is compounded by serious infection in the 150 military bases at home and the 800 US military bases abroad. Those pose a risk to the US population and to the many host countries. China and South Korea did better through their universal health cover, greater investment in health systems and greater commitment to health crisis planning.

الأميركيّون يخسرون البحار ويتخوّفون من پيرل هاربر صيني

محمد صادق الحسيني

بعد أن اجتاح وباء كورونا حاملات الطائرات الأميركية، ومن بعدها المستشفى العسكري العائم العملاق، سفينة المستشفى كومفورت (Comfort)، الرئاسية قبالة شواطئ نيويورك، ها هو فيروس كورونا يجتاح القوات الأميركيّة، المرابطة في كوريا الجنوبية منذ عام 1957، والبالغ عديدها 30 ألف عسكري، يتبعون من ناحية قيادة العمليات لقيادة المحيط الهادئ، التي تسمّى بالانجليزية (PACOM) انتصاراً لكلمة US – PACIFIC COMMAND.

وعلى الرغم من أنّ مصادر عسكرية خاصة أكدت أنّ قيادة القوات الأميركية في كوريا، وكذلك البنتاغون، على علم بانتشار هذا الوباء بين القوات الأميركيّة في كوريا الجنوبية منذ 20/2/2020، إلا أنّ البنتاغون لم يتخذ الإجراءات الصحية الضرورية لمواجهة انتشار الوباء بين جنودها، المرابطين في القاعدة العسكرية الأميركية دايجو، ولا زالت تواصل فحصهم بواسطة شمّ خلّ التفاح، كما نشرت صحيفة «ستارت آند ستريبس» الكورية الجنوبية يوم 6/4/2020، التي نقلت تطوّرات انتشار الوباء عن قائد القاعدة الأميركية، الجنرال ادوارد بالانكو، الذي ظهر على وسائل الإعلام وهو يحمل علبة فيها قطعة إسفنجية، مبللة بخلّ التفاح، ليشرح للصحافيّين طريقة فحص جنوده، التي قال إنها تتبع أيضاً في مستشفيات كوريا الجنوبية.

علماً انّ وباء الكورونا يواصل انتشاره بين القوات الأميركيّة في اليابان ايضاً، مما أجبر القيادة العسكرية الأميركية، وعبر إعلان قائد هذه القوات في اليابان شخصياً للصحافة، اللفتنانت جنرال كيفين شنايدر، يوم أول أمس الاثنين 6/4/2020، عن حالة الطوارئ بين صفوف القوات الأميركية هناك، بسبب انتشار وباء الكورونا بين أفرادها، البالغ تعدادهم 38 الف جندي أميركي، الى جانب خمسة آلاف متعاقد مدني أميركي و25 ألف متعاقد مدني ياباني.

وعليه فقد أصبحت هذه القوات ومعها القوات الأميركية في كوريا الجنوبية وحاملة الطائرات ثيودور روزفلت ورونالد ريغان خارج الخدمة. أيّ أنّ 80 % من القدرات العسكرية الأميركية في غرب المحيط الهادئ وبحر اليابان وبحار الصين اصبحت خارج الخدمة. وهو أمر كانت محطة «سي أن أن» الأميركية قد اشارت إلى خطورته قبل أيّام قليلة.

من جهة أخرى فمنذ أيّام عدة، وتحديداً منذ 4/4/2020، أعلنت وزارة الدفاع الأميركية عن إصدارها أمراً لحاملة الطائرات الأميركية هاري ترومان بالتحرّك، مع المجموعة القتالية البحرية المرافقة لها، من منطقة عملياتها في بحر عمان، من دون أن يحدّد أمر العمليات هذا وجهة انطلاق الحاملة. الأمر الذي دعا المتابعين للاعتقاد بأنها ستحلّ محلّ حاملة الطائرات، ثيودور روزفلت، التي خرجت من الخدمة في منطقة عملياتها، غرب المحيط الهادئ/ قرب جزيرة غوام، وذلك بسبب انتشار وباء كورونا بين بحارتها وإخلاء اربعة آلاف منهم الى اليابسة، وبقاء ألف جندي فقط على متنها، لمتابعة تشغيل المفاعل النووي الذي يولِّد الطاقة اللازمة لعمليات الحاملة وحركتها.

ما توجّب طرح السؤالين الرئيسيين التاليين حول:

الجهة التي اتجهت اليها حاملة الطائرات هذه، التي تحمل على متنها ما مجموعه 90 مقاتلة ومروحية قتالية أميركية، ولماذا صدر هذا الأمر لها ولمجموعتها القتالية الكاملة بالانتقال الى منطقة عمليات أخرى؟
ولماذا لم يصدر أمر التحرك للحاملة فقط، مع الإبقاء على القوة المرافقة، /مجموعة قوامها عشر قطع بحرية بين مدمّرة وبارجة وفرقاطة وزورق حراسة وسفينة إنزال وسفن إمداد/ في منطقة عملياتها، بحر عمان، حتى إصدار الأمر، أيّ حتى يوم 4/4/2020؟
وللإجابة عن هذين السؤالين يجب على المرء أن يعود قليلاًً الى الوراء، ودمج الإجابة عن السؤالين في إجابة واحدة، ويتذكّر عنجهية الرئيس الأميركي، وتهديداته لجمهورية الصين الشعبية، واتهاماته لها بخرق القانون الدولي البحري، في بحار الصين المختلفة.

آنذاك، وتحديداً في النصف الثاني من شهر أيلول 2019، قرّر الرئيس الأميركي، بعنجهية لا حدود لها، إرسال فخر سلاح البحرية الأميركية، حاملة الطائرات رونالد ريغان، التي وصلت تكلفة صناعتها الى ثلاثة عشر مليار دولار، دون سفن مرافقة، أيّ دون مجموعتها القتالية، الى بحر الصين الجنوبيّ.

وقد وصلت هذه الحاملة العملاقة فعلاًً إلى بحر الصين الجنوبي، يوم 28/9/2019، وعند اقترابها من جزر سبراتلي (Spratly Islands) الصينية، الواقعة في أقصى جنوب بحر الصين، قبالة السواحل الفيتنامية غرباً والفلبينية شرقاً، أطبقت عليها خمس قطع بحرية أجنبية وقامت بتثبيتها في نقطة تمركزها، حسب الأصول القانونية المتعلقة بالقانون البحري، وأجبرتها لاحقاً على تغيير وجهتها واستخدام ممر بحري حدّدته لها القطع البحرية الصينية، التي أوقعت هذه الحاملة في كمين بحري محكم، لم تتمكن رونالد ريغان لا من اكتشافه ولا من تفادي الوقوع فيه، لمتابعة إبحارها شرقاً، بعيداً عن المياه الإقليمية الصينية، حسب المعلومات ووصول الأقمار الصناعية التي نشرتها صحيفة «سوهو» (Sohu) الصينية يوم 28/9/2019.

هذا هو الدرس الذي تعلّمه سلاح البحرية الأميركي، من الحضور الدائم والاستعداد الكامل للقوات البحرية الصينية، في مختلف بحار الصين وتلك المحيطة بها شرقاً وغرباً.

وهو الأمر الذي أرغم قيادة سلاح البحرية الأميركية على عدم الإفصاح عن وجهة حاملة الطائرات، هاري ترومان، واضطرها أيضاً الى تحريك المجموعة القتالية البحرية المرافقة لهذه الحاملة الى بحر اليابان، ومن ثم الى منطقة جزيرة غوام، وذلك خوفاً من الكمائن البحرية الصينية التي لا تراها الأقمار الصناعية الأميركية.

أما الأهمية الاستراتيجية لهذا التطور اللافت فتكمن في انّ الصين الشعبية قد ثبتَت سيادتها على كلّ تلك الجزر، التي يعتبرها الأميركيون متنازعاً عليها، وأنها (الصين) لن تسمح لأيّ سفن او طائرات عسكرية أجنبية بالاقتراب من هذه الجزر، سواء كانت طبيعية او صناعية، لانّ اختراق أجوائها او مياهها الإقليمية يعتبر خرقاً للسيادة الصينية. وعليه فانّ الصين، وفي حال إصرار الولايات المتحدة على تحرشاتها بالصين فانّ جمهورية الصين الشعبية ستجد نفسها مضطرة لوضع حدّ أبدي لتلك التحرشات وذلك من خلال إنهاء خط الدفاع الأميركي الممتدّ من تايوان، الصينية المنشقة، في بحر الصين الجنوبي، الى كوريا الجنوبية، في البحر الأصفر شمالاً، وصولاً الى اليابان وكلّ بحر اليابان وحتى غرب المحيط الهادئ، على سواحل اليابان الشمالية الشرقية.

وباختصار: إنهاء الوجود العسكري الأميركي في تلك المنطقة من العالم والى الأبد.

من هنا فقد ذهبت مصادر عسكرية أميركية الى الاعتقاد بانّ الصينيين ربما يفكّرون جدياً في تكرار هجوم على أحد الموانئ الأميركية الغربية لتكرار سيناريو پيرل هاربر، ولكن صيني هذه المرة كما تتحدّث عن خطر قيام الصين بهجوم مفاجئ على تايوان لاستعادتها للسيادة الوطنية الصينية، أيّ الاستيلاء على الجزيرة في ظلّ شلل أميركي تام بسبب كورونا، ‏وأن يمتدّ الهجوم ليشمل كلّ البحار المحيطة، ‏وصولاً الى غرب الولايات المتحدة من هونولولو الى كاليفورنا وفلوريدا، ‏وهو ما تشبّهه تلك المصادر بهجوم اليابان على ميناء پيرل هاربر الشهير في الحرب العالمية.

فهل من مدّكر!؟

بعدنا طيبين قولوا الله…

Why France is hiding a cheap and tested virus cure

March 26, 2020

By Pepe Escobar – Posted with permission

The French government is arguably helping Big Pharma profit from the Covid-19 pandemic

A mask-wearing French citizen in Paris. Photo: Facebook

What’s going on in the fifth largest economy in the world arguably points to a major collusion scandal in which the French government is helping Big Pharma to profit from the expansion of Covid-19. Informed French citizens are absolutely furious about it.

My initial question to a serious, unimpeachable Paris source, jurist Valerie Bugault, was about the liaisons dangereuses between Macronism and Big Pharma and especially about the mysterious “disappearance” – more likely outright theft – of all the stocks of chloroquine in possession of the French government.

Respected Professor Christian Perronne talked about the theft live in one of France’s 24/7 info channels: “The central pharmacy for the hospitals announced today that they were facing a total rupture of stocks, that they were pillaged.”

With input from another, anonymous source, it’s now possible to establish a timeline that puts in much-needed perspective the recent actions of the French government.

Let’s start with Yves Levy, who was the head of INSERM – the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research – from 2014 to 2018, when he was appointed as extraordinary state councilor for the Macron administration. Only 12 people in France have reached this status.

Levy is married to Agnes Buzy, who until recently was minister of health under Macron. Buzy was essentially presented with an “offer you can’t refuse” by Macron’s party to leave the ministry – in the middle of the coronavirus crisis – and run for Mayor of Paris, where she was mercilessly trounced in the first round on March 16.

Levy has a vicious running feud with Professor Didier Raoult – prolific and often-cited Marseille-based specialist in communicable diseases. Levy withheld the INSERM label from the world-renowned IHU (Hospital-University Institute) research center directed by Raoult.

In practice, in October 2019, Levy revoked the status of “foundation” of the different IHUs so he could take over their research.

French professor Didier Raoult, biologist and professor of microbiology, specializes in infectious diseases and director of IHU Mediterranee Infection Institute, poses in his office in Marseille, France. Photo: AFP/Gerard Julien

Raoult was part of a clinical trial that in which hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin healed 90% of Covid-19 cases if they were tested very early. (Early, massive testing is at the heart of the successful South Korean strategy.)

Raoult is opposed to the total lockdown of sane individuals and possible carriers – which he considers “medieval,” in an anachronistic sense. He’s in favor of massive testing (which, besides South Korea, was successful in Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam) and a fast treatment with hydroxychloroquine. Only contaminated individuals should be confined.

Chloroquine costs one euro for ten pills. And there’s the rub: Big Pharma – which, crucially, finances INSERM, and includes “national champion” Sanofi – would rather go for a way more profitable solution. Sanofi for the moment says it is “actively preparing” to produce chloroquine, but that may take “weeks,” and there’s no mention about pricing.

A minister fleeing a tsunami

Here’s the timeline:

On January 13, Agnes Buzyn, still France’s Health Minister, classifies chloroquine as a “poisonous substance,” from now on only available by prescription. An astonishing move, considering that it has been sold off the shelf in France for half a century.

On March 16, the Macron government orders a partial lockdown. There’s not a peep about chloroquine. Police initially are not required to wear masks; most have been stolen anyway, and there are not enough masks even for health workers. In 2011 France had nearly 1.5 billion masks: 800 million surgical masks and 600 million masks for health professionals generally.

But then, over the years, the strategic stocks were not renewed, to please the EU and to apply the Maastricht criteria, which limited membership in the Growth and Stability Pact to countries whose budget deficits did not exceed 3% of GDP. One of those in charge at the time was Jerome Salomon, now a scientific counselor to the Macron government.

On March 17, Agnes Buzyn says she has learned the spread of Covid-19 will be a major tsunami, for which the French health system has no solution. She also says it had been her understanding that the Paris mayoral election “would not take place” and that it was, ultimately, “a masquerade.”

What she does not say is that she didn’t go public at the time she was running because the whole political focus by the Macron political machine was on winning the “masquerade.” The first round of the election meant nothing, as Covid-19 was advancing. The second round was postponed indefinitely. She had to know about the impending healthcare disaster. But as a candidate of the Macron machine she did not go public in timely fashion.

In quick succession:

The Macron government refuses to apply mass testing, as practiced with success in South Korea and Germany.

Le Monde and the French state health agency characterize Raoult’s research as fake news, before issuing a retraction.

Professor Perrone reveals on the 24/7 LCI news channel that the stock of chloroquine at the French central pharmacy has been stolen.

Thanks to a tweet by Elon Musk, President Trump says chloroquine should be available to all Americans. Sufferers of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, who already have supply problems with the only drug that offers them relief, set social media afire with their panic.

US doctors and other medical professionals take to hoarding the medicine for the use of themselves and those close to them, faking prescriptions to indicate they are for patients with lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

Morocco buys the stock of chloroquine from Sanofi in Casablanca.

Pakistan decides to increase its production of chloroquine to be sent to China.

Switzerland discards the total lockdown of its population; goes for mass testing and fast treatment; and accuses France of practicing  “spectacle politics.”

Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice, having had himself treated with chloroquine, without any government input, directly calls Sanofi so they may deliver chloroquine to Nice hospitals.

Because of Raoult’s research, a large-scale chloroquine test finally starts in France, under the – predictable – direction of INSERM, which wants to “remake the experiments in other independent medical centers.” This will take at least an extra six weeks – as the Elysee Palace’s scientific council now mulls the extension of France’s total lockdown to … six weeks.

If joint use of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin proves definitely effective among the most gravely ill, quarantines may be reduced in select clusters.

The only French company that still manufactures chloroquine is under judicial intervention. That puts the chloroquine hoarding and theft into full perspective. It will take time for these stocks to be replenished, thus allowing Big Pharma the leeway to have what it wants: a costly solution.

It appears the perpetrators of the chloroquine theft were very well informed.

Bagged nurses

This chain of events, astonishing for a highly developed G-7 nation proud of its health service, is part of a long, painful process embedded in neoliberal dogma. EU-driven austerity mixed with the profit motive resulted in a very lax attitude towards the health system.

As Bugault told me, “test kits – very few in number – were always available but mostly for a small group connected to the French government [ former officials of the Ministry of Finance, CEOs of large corporations, oligarchs, media and entertainment moguls].  Same for chloroquine, which this government did everything to make inaccessible for the population.

They did not make life easy for Professor Raoult – he received death threats and was intimidated by ‘journalists.’

And they did not protect vital stocks. Still under the Hollande government, there was a conscious liquidation of the stock of masks – which had existed in large quantities in all hospitals. Not to mention that the suppression of hospital beds and hospital means accelerated under Sarkozy.”

This ties in with anguished reports by French citizens of nurses now having to use trash bags due to the lack of proper medical gear.

At the same time, in another astonishing development, the French state refuses to requisition private hospitals and clinics – which are practically empty at this stage – even as the president of their own association, Lamine Garbi, has pleaded for such a public service initiative: “I solemnly demand that we are requisitioned to help public hospitals. Our facilities are prepared. The wave that surprised the east of France must teach us a lesson.”

Bugault reconfirms the health situation in France “is very serious and will become even worse due to these political decisions – absence of masks, political refusal to massively test people, refusal of free access to chloroquine – in a context of supreme distress at the hospitals. This will last and destitution will be the norm.”

Professor vs president

In an explosive development on Tuesday, Raoult said he’s not participating in Macron’s scientific council anymore, even though he’s not quitting it altogether. Raoult once again insists on massive testing on a national scale to detect suspected cases, and then isolate and treat patients who tested positive. In a nutshell: the South Korean model.

That’s exactly what is expected from the IHU in Marseille, where hundreds of residents continue to queue up for testing. And that ties in with the conclusions by a top Chinese expert on Covid-19, Zhang Nanshan, who says that treatment with chloroquine phospate had a “positive impact,” with patients testing negative after around four days.

The key point has been stressed by Raoult: Use chloroquine in very special circumstances, for people tested very early, when the disease is not advanced yet, and only in these cases. He’s not advocating chloroquine for everyone. It’s exactly what the Chinese did, along with their use of Interferon.

For years, Raoult has been pleading for a drastic revision of health economic models, so the treatments, cure and therapies created mostly during the 20th century, are considered a patrimony in the service of all humanity.“That’s not the case”, he says, “because we abandon medicine that is not profitable, even if it’s effective. That’s why almost no antibiotics are manufactured in the West.”

On Tuesday, the French Health Ministry officially prohibited the utilization of treatment based on chloroquine recommended by Raoult.  In fact the treatment is only allowed for terminal Covid-19 patients, with no other possibility of healing. This cannot but expose the Macron government to more accusations of at least inefficiency – added to the absence of masks, tests, contact tracing and ventilators.

On Wednesday, commenting on the new government guidelines, Raoult said, “When damage to the lungs is too important, and patients arrive for reanimation, they practically do not harbor viruses in their bodies any more. It’s too late to treat them with chloroquine. Are these the only cases – the very serious cases – that will be treated with chloroquine under the new directive by [French Health Minister] Veran?” If so, he added ironically, “then they will be able to say with scientific certainty that chloroquine does not work.”

Raoult was unavailable for comment on Western news media articles citing Chinese test results that would suggest he is wrong about the efficacy of chloroquine in dealing with mild cases of Covid-19.

Staffers pointed instead to his comments in the IHU bulletin. There Raoult says it’s “insulting” to ask if we can trust the Chinese on the use of chloroquine. “If this was an American disease, and the president of the United States said, ‘We need to treat patients with that,’ nobody would discuss it.”

In China, he adds, there were “enough elements so the Chinese government and all Chinese experts who know coronaviruses took an official position that ‘we must treat with chloroquine.’ Between the moment when we have the first results and an accepted international publication, there is no credible alternative among people who are the most knowledgeable in the world. They took this measure in the interest of public health.”

Crucially: if he had coronavirus, Raoult says he would take chloroquine. Since Raoult is rated by his peers as the number one world expert  in communicable diseases, way above Dr. Anthony Fauci in the US, I would say the new reports represent Big Pharma talking.

Raoult has been mercilessly savaged and demonized by French corporate media that are controlled by a few oligarchs closely linked to Macronism. Not by accident the demonization has reached gilets jaunes (yellow vest) levels, especially because of the extremely popular hashtag  #IlsSavaient (“They knew”), with which the yellow vests stress that French elites have “managed” the Covid-19 crisis by protecting themselves while leaving the population defenseless against the virus.

That ties in with the controversial analysis by crack philosopher Giorgio Agamben in a column published a month ago, where he was already arguing that Covid-19 clearly shows that the state of exception – similar to a state of emergency but with differences important to philosophers – has become fully normalized in the West.

Agamben was speaking not as a doctor or a virologist but as a master thinker, following in the steps of Foucault, Walter Benjamin and Hannah Arendt. Noting how a latent state of fear has metastasized into a state of collective panic, for which Covid-19 “offers once again the ideal pretext,” he described how, “in a perverse vicious circle, the limitation of freedom imposed by governments is accepted in the name of a desire for security that was induced by the same governments that now intervene to satisfy it.”

There was no state of collective panic in South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam – to mention four Asian examples outside of China. A dogged combination of mass testing and contact tracing was applied with immense professionalism. It worked. In the Chinese case, with the help of chloroquine. And in all Asian cases, without a murky profit motive to the benefit of Big Pharma.

There hasn’t yet appeared the smoking gun that proves the Macron system not only is incompetent to deal with Covid-19 but also is dragging the process so Big Pharma can come up with a miracle vaccine, fast. But the pattern to discourage chloroquine is more than laid out above – in parallel to the demonization of Raoult.

Corona meds in every pot & a People’s QE: the Trumpian populism they hoped for?

March 23, 2020

by Ramin Mazaheri exclusive for the Saker Blog

In any sane, modern nation a financial crisis combined with a (due to sub-standard) health care crisis would almost certainly produce election victories for progressive, big-government candidates.

Few call the US sane, and many say it’s not even modern. Iranian relatives of mine visit they US and say: that place is a falling-down dump – and it’s not like the TV show “Friends”, neither. The problem is that they had already seen places like South Korea, China and other modern nations.

Of course South Korea has the technological ability to smart-test and smart-track, and probably smart-cure, the Corona virus into remission: when I was there in 2013, covering the Korean nuclear war hysteria/diversion (version 14.0), I realised Korea had passed a major human threshold when I found that they had done away with physical keys – doors locks are digitised. That is like building a better mousetrap; the door key must be one of the oldest, least-improved upon inventions in human history, but young Seoulians only see them in history books.

I don’t think I’m exaggerating: millions are going to be unemployed in the US as a result of a hugely, hugely drastic shutdown of the West’s two native continents. It defies all Marxist logic that neo-imperial Rome would do this, so I’m quite at a loss. Either it’s mass hysteria, or the 1%ers believe all must be sacrificed to protect the health of the Hamptons, or the West’s leaders don’t know what they hell are doing (as I recently discussed here). The Corona conspiracy thing – sure, nothing is impossible… just give me proof I can print, first.

The reality is that my focus on the economic impact of Corona is just not shared by my many of my journalistic colleagues – they just don’t care about economics, period. Trying to talk economics with them is how they must feel trying to talk Kardashian with me – my thoughts are entirely superficial (as well as unprintable).

So none of them can likely concentrate enough to comprehend this brief paragraph: the West has decided to add an “Everything-Is-Tanking Bubble” on top of the “Everything Bubble”. For those who have followed economic trends since way back in 2008, “Everything Bubble” is really “Everything Bubble 2”, of course. Quantitative Easing and Zero Interest Rate Policies – a.k.a. “helicopter money” and “no-strings attached central bank loans, because the loans will surely trickle-down” – have only re-inflated the 1%er dominated asset classes like stocks and real estate to new record-dangerous levels.

The markets are tanking – and by that I mean every market (although crypto has held on – S. Koreans are big fans). Safe havens like gold are also tanking, so even The New York Times knows that this phenomenon is “weird”. “Weird” is a word that adolescents love to use because it is so vague and can cover anything – it is thus nearly useless,, and one would think that the world’s greatest journalistic enterprise could find better writers than that… but no. It’s a “weird” time precisely because the rich, investor class knows that central banks have since 2008 foolishly wasted all their ammo and can now only print paper.

And what’s wrong with massive money printing? Nothing, sometimes.

It has taken 12 years but we are finally seeing a “People’s QE” possibly being passed in the US. (No MSM is using that phrase, of course – that would be “weird”.) Surely it’s going to be well-written: it is being cobbled together and slammed through Congress as fast as possible in order to prevent more “rich people” markets from tanking. Anyway, giving some $1,000 per American might actually see QE invested into the “real” economy, and thus improve it far more than using it for stock buybacks ever did.

This is good news. I’m all for the downfall of neo-imperial Rome… but I do hate to see the lower classes suffer, and suffer they already are. The stay-at-home orders in the helicopter Mom-dominated Northeast, Chicago and West Coast are being met with a universal cry: “So how do I pay my rent?”

A People’s QE… finally. If, and that’s a big “if”, it is actually passed. Newspaper editorial boards across the country are already screaming that it will be wasted by 99%-er peons, or that it will be uselessly saved, or that we will anger the vengeful one true god – the markets – with such an intervention. How dare we blaspheme? WWHD – What Would (Alexander) Hamilton Do?

Well, does Trump want to get re-elected?

If so, he better jump all over this Huey Long moment.

Huey Long was the Depression Era governor of Louisiana who famously promised “a chicken in every pot”, and was assassinated for it of course.

He was rather character assassinated in the tremendously fine classic novel, All The King’s Men by poet Robert Penn Warren, whose main flaw was that he likely was – like most poets – totally disinterested by economics, that most un-metaphorical of disciplines. The 2006 movie version was an artistic assassination of the novel, but who in 2006 Hollywood was pushing economic populism? Who in Hollywood ever pushed economic populism?

Despite rejecting race-baiting Long is synonymous with the evils of populism in the US. Go watch some of his speeches on youtube: it is incredible to see the type of body language he used, as well as other politicians did back then. If he’s not pounding the lectern he is theatrically twirling an upraised fist over and over before smashing it into his palm. Nobody can do stuff like that in 21st century America – soccer Moms would cower, and hipsters too.

But the Depression Era was not about niceties. And neither is Trump, of course. The screen shot of him crossing out “Corona” virus on a speech and replacing it with “Chinese” virus exemplifies this. Trump is terrible – a neo-fascist – and we all knew this going in. Another Long slogan was “Every man a king”, but Trump always viewed only himself as the one true king.

Well, I can report that in France many fellow Muslims have told me that they have seen the light: many will vote for Marine Le Pen in the 2nd round of the 2022 presidential election IF Macron is the other option (ugh!). Why? Because economics is more important that racism; identity politics is for fake-leftists – class warfare for real ones. Nobody, Muslim or not, wants to vote for Le Pen in 2022, but more Macronism? Nobody in the 99% should vote for that twice.

Maybe Trumpism can be different? He’s certainly running out of time, but maybe Corona is when Trump becomes the not-neo-fascist populist which many had initially hoped for?

Maybe Trump becomes the 21st century Huey Long, which is what the overwhelming majority of America wanted in 2016, given that: no, you stupid MSM journalist, the average Trump voter is not a rabid White supremacist, merely “White Trash” (To use seemingly the only ethnic slur which has not been “reclaimed” in the PC era – it is, of course, a class slur more than an ethnic slur).

“Ramin, why are you writing books about socialism but pushing Trump, then Le Pen, now Trump again and then probably Le Pen again! You are too complicated – no wonder you are unmarried!”

Well that’s not holding back on me, LOL! I can take the tough criticisms, though – can’t dish ‘em out, otherwise. And, fool that I am, I chose to be a journalist so….

I am “pushing” Trump because it seems certain that the Democratic candidate this November will be the senator from America’s tax haven state; the right-hand man of guy who said to Latino media (here),“The truth of the matter is that my policies are so mainstream that if I had said the same policies back in the 1980s I’d be considered a moderate republican,” Barry Obama; and a guy whom in me evokes no sense of warm, sentimental, safe, elderly, youth-fearing nostalgia – Joe Biden.

Biden is terrible. Biden has been a corporate tool his whole career, and that’s why he was placed on the dais next to Obama in 2008, as we all know. Hell, Biden is now senile – that doesn’t get better, you know?

Biden in office means People’s QE remains the same-old Corporate QE. Biden in office means nothing changes – status quo-ism reigns. How can we advance socialism if – out of fear of big, bad, racist Trump – we keep cowering in status-quoism?

So I reject that I am “playing devil’s advocate” – I am not an adolescent (nor French), and I know the devil doesn’t need any more help than he already has. (Or “she” already has – I don’t want to micro-trigger someone here.)

Can Trump become Baby Huey? Well, for those who really want to know: Listen to me – hear what I say: No, I don’t think Trump can.

Trump has never been a neo-populist but a neo-fascist. He is a race-baiter and totally in bed with corporate domination of the lower classes. The MSM can’t talk about neo-fascism and the reality of it in America – because they support it of course – thus they have focused exclusively on the race-baiting part; that allows the soccer moms, hipsters and snowflakes a chance to virtue-signal about how terrible racism is while doing nothing about it structurally other than posting a yard sign about how “Hate doesn’t live here”.

But one can’t blame my imagination for getting fired up when – after a decade of covering QE from Paris – I read about a QE which may not totally go directly into the pockets of private bankers, stockholders, landlords and luxury goods owners. Full disclosure: I, too, am currently rather desperate for $1,000.

Trump is going to have to be some sort of a leftist populist to get re-elected because millions are going to be unemployed in the US. The lower classes will demand it, even in America.

Hell, the custodial class – whom nobody in the US writes about it – is seemingly going to be decimated by corona, right? Why are there no political cartoons lauding them as heroes – only for doctors? Nobody cares about the custodial worker class in the West – not only are they poor, they are also non-White. Such an unheard of view can only be thought of by someone who has embraced socialism in their heart, and one who views no worker as disposable Trash.

But Western capitalism-imperialism certainly does view workers of all colors as disposable. Something drastic has to be done about it – I doubt Trump cares, but he does seem to prefer being president to going back to starring in a reality show.

The Deep State undoubtedly and immediately attacked Trump for his effort to rejigger US foreign policy and free trade policy, but he does appear so very, very ethically malleable; he certainly can connect with the average American. Could he be a new Huey?

Watch some Huey Long, railing here against “the 4%” and you’ll see that the answer is no, of course. Why? because Trump’s huge ego would be tremendously insulted if anyone said he was part of “the 4%” and not the 1%; not part of the .1%; not the .01%!

Unlike Huey Long: “How many men ever been to a barbecue and would let one man take off the table what they intended for nine tenths of the people to eat? The only way you’d ever be able to feed the balance of the people is to make that man come back and bring back some of dat grub he ain’t got no ‘bidness with!”

Huge applause indeed! That’s hilarious and awesome American politics! No wonder they shot him.

The US cannot do better than that, they have proven – America is not even close to socialist revolution. Yes, there are socialists in the US of course, but a Baby Huey is surely the best they can do this November. Hell, they ran to Biden even before the Corona crisis and they probably will stone the “rabble rouser” “socialist” Sanders now.

And it’s not like race-baiting isn’t still ruining the American psyche. But we have the MSM to thank for that, along with doing everything they could have done to inflame – rather than calm – the Corona crisis.

And $1,000 isn’t going to cut it. Not by a long shot.

So no matter how you look at it 2020 is looking tough for America – somebody might even have to pound a lectern?

PS – I am not complicated, LOL! It is Western politics which are unnecessarily complicated! And contradictory! Don’t blame me for trying to bring some sense to it all.

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of the books ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the upcoming ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’.

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