Wednesday, November 11, 2020

A new Putin worse than the old Putin?

In a word, the transfer of “the Putin system” to a successor should be a piece of cake. Immunity is another matter. Putin, as an “ex-KGB” surrounded by ex-KGB, seems bound to trust his immunity to security officials. Thus, Russia may end up with a “new Putin” from the already powerful security apparatus. The outlines of any transition will be defined by the Yeltsin precedent. We can anticipate an internecine battle royale among various interest groups of Putin’s inner circle; who comes out on top is anyone’s guess.

F.A. Hayek, in his 1944 “Road to Serfdom,” wrote that in political systems like Putin’s Russia, the worst rise to the top — namely, those most ruthless in using power. Thus, we might have to get used to a new Russian president who is worse than Putin.

go to The Hill 

Monday, October 19, 2020

Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict adds to Putin's headaches, West's worries

The last thing Vladimir Putin needed is another hotspot in Russia’s “near abroad” — Russia’s term for the 14 republics that once were part of the old Soviet Union, along with the Russian Republic. 

In 1994, Putin boasted of an ambitious imperial restoration project; his plans included a “New Russia” encompassing parts of Ukraine and Belarus, along with a Eurasian Union (including, among others, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan) that eventually would grow to rival the European Union.

That was then. Now, Putin sees his vision fading as popular unrest and armed conflicts take hold in the former-USSR territories he had scheduled for restoration.

go to The Hill 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Navalny Poisoning Just A Bump In The Road For Nord Stream 2

The smart money would be on NS2’s eventual completion and Russia’s continued domination of the European gas market. Navalny has survived, NS2’s defenders and lobbyists are in full swing. The Trump administration may have run out of sanctions options. The European Union has bigger problems to deal with. With the feeble demand for gas associated with COVID-19, Germany and Europe can take their time as Russia pulls out all stops in its defense of NS2.

NS2 will be completed. The only question is the duration of the delay.

go to 

Monday, September 7, 2020

Don't expect Europe to hold Putin accountable in Navalny poisoning

The Kremlin has already made clear there will be no “transparent” investigation of the attempted murder of Aleksei Navalny. How can there be when the chief suspect is the head of state?

The West is not able to deal with a rogue state located in its heartland. Russian forces still occupy Crimea, Eastern Ukraine and Georgian territory; Russia still denies being involved in shooting down Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 over Eastern Ukraine in 2014. Russia ranks among the most dangerous countries for journalists, and any number of political assassinations remain unresolved.

When Putin is caught red handed, he keeps on playing for time and throws preposterous theories against the wall to see if any stick. 

It seems that only the Russian people – somehow, some day – can find a solution.

go to The Hill 

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Is Putin getting away with poisoning another political opponent?

Irrespective of Navalny’s health outcome, we can pretty well predict what will happen next: The Kremlin will cook up all kinds of alternative explanations for Navalny’s presumed poisoning. Almost certain will be charges that Navalny poisoned himself to get back at Putin, that the CIA slipped him the poison, or that it was those dastardly Ukrainians who did so. If necessary, Putin can raise the volume to blast the entire Russian Federation with the good news that their president (for life) is not to blame.

Perhaps the tried-and-true Putin playbook will not work this time; Russia already is sufficiently riled up — and Navalny is a sympathetic figure with a beautiful wife and daughters. Maybe Putin can no longer go to this well. But does he have other tricks up his sleeve? The smart money would bet that he does. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Steele's dossier: 'Clown show' or the greatest Russian coup?

In retrospect, the “clown show” dossier was put together ingeniously. First, the identity of the ultimate client (DNC/Clinton) was kept secret long enough for it not to ruin the show. Second, in Steele the Russians had someone with a modicum of respectability to gain access to American government and media; and, in the media and professional bureaucracy, they had an army of Trump-haters ready to believe anything.

For the Kremlin, it all meant the Holy Grail of a sorely wounded United States.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

What Antifa Won’t Tell You

“At a certain point destroying fascism is really about promoting a revolutionary socialist alternative [My italics]…The question is not about establishing a neutral line beyond which right-wing politics cannot cross, but about entirely transforming society by tearing down oppression in all its forms.”

go to the American Mind

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Why Putin Fears the Shaman's Exorcism

Could it be that a lowly Shaman’s vision of Putin’s demise will prove prophetic? There are hundreds of sparks that can burst into the flame that will dissolve the shaky union of the Russian Federation. If you add a sympathetic figure, who claims supernatural powers and deep religious beliefs, and is unafraid to confront Putin, the Kremlin’s disaster scenario seems less preposterous. 
Stranger things have happened throughout Russian history. Just think of Rasputin.

go to Defining Ideas

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Antifa scorns college diversity

Universities should understand that they can never satisfy Antifa and related organizations. The Antifa Handbook clearly states its goal as the overthrow of existing institutions, including universities, as we know them. Universities should also realize that revolutionaries (Lenin) eliminate first those who had been closest to them (Mensheviks and SRs) in the struggle for power.

go to Washigton Times

Friday, June 26, 2020

Putin's best-laid plans for lifetime rule

No matter what, the referendum will be declared a success. If the people rise up, Putin will use force to put them down — but there are limits to public patience.
The poor Russian people cannot get a break. It would be interesting to put demonstrators against the established order in the United States and in Europe in Russian shoes, to see what real political repression is about. 

go to

Monday, June 22, 2020

Russia Claims It Will Have a Covid-19 Vaccine in Production by September

According to TASS, a  spokesperson for a Russian state medical institute (Gamalei Institute) claims that they will have a coronavirus vaccine ready for production in September. The Institute is working together with a medical lab of the defense department. Clinical trials have been underway starting in June and will be completed by August at which time the vaccine will be registered with the appropriate authorities. The vaccine will be ready for use before the end of 2020.

This seems like a highly expedited schedule, and there are few details concerning the clinical trials. (I wonder if it will be tested on the military). Could it be that the Russian government wanted to release some “good news” before the July 1 referendum that allows President Vladimir Putin two more terms of office?

We can all hope for a surprise Russian success.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Police Unions Sue Leftist Newspaper for Hate Speech --In Germany

TAZ is a leftist German newspaper born in radical leftist cells in the 1960s. TAZ is published in German and in English; its paywall is virtually impenetrable. Its articles are “in your face,” designed to provoke and anger the reader. TAZ stirred up a hornets’ nest with its June 15 article: “Getting rid of the police – All Cops are Berufsunfaehig (unsuited to any job).” After considering alternative employment opportunities for former cops, TAZ concludes they should be deposited in the nearest garbage dump.

TAZ’s solution to “defund the police” is milder than “kill all cops” chants heard in US cities, but it riled Germany’s police unions, DPolG and GdP. They filed charges against the TAZ article as Volksverhetzung (Public incitement). The Union characterized the article as a “punch in the face.” Declared a police-union leader: “How hate-filled and degenerate and ready for violence must someone be in order to write such disgusting ideas.”

The charges of Germany’s police unions have some prospects of punishing TAZ. Germany has laws against Hassrede (hate speech) and Beamtenbeleidigung (insult of a civil servant). Showing the middle finger to a traffic cop can mean a four thousand Euro fine. It remains to be seen how much a figurative “punch in the face” to the police should cost.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Switzerland's Top Newspaper Asks: End of Free Thought and Beginning of Culture of Denunciation at the NYT?

The Neue Zurcher Zeitung (NZZ) is as a fiercely independent as the Swiss people themselves. The Zurich newspaper is no fan of Donald Trump. It is, therefore, noteworthy that the NZZ views with alarm for the journalism profession recent events at the New York Times associated with the firing (resignation?) of its opinion editor..

go to The Hill

Friday, June 12, 2020

Coronavirus Slowdown In Europe Complicates Clinical Trials

The decline in daily new COVID-19 infections to single and double digits in Europe is leading to new complications. Switzerland’s NZZ (Neue Zurcher Zeiting) reports that the slowdown in COVID-19 infections in Germany, Switzerland and neighboring countries is complicating the testing for effective drugs and therapeutic approaches. Declining new infections mean too few affected patients from which to recruit volunteers for clinical trials. The lack of infections is also complicating clinical trials of vaccines. Vaccination studies face the dilemma that vaccinated subjects have a lesser opportunity to come in touch with the virus in their daily lives. These complications suggest that the clinical trials of therapies and vaccines will have to move off shore to poor countries that are in earlier phases of the coronavirus

Monday, June 8, 2020

China Praises Itself and Xi for Its Handling of Coronavirus

The CCP under Xi Jinping legitimizes its dictatorship with claims of flawless “scientific” management. China has no elections, only meticulously orchestrated party and state extravaganzas. Beijing cannot allow reports of mistakes, mismanagement, or deceptions to stand.

The June 6 report of the CCP’s Central Committee on the coronavirus pandemic must be understood in this light.

Xu Lin, Deputy Secretary, presented a 66-page white paper entitled Fighting Covid-19: China in Action. It is full of self-praise for the CCP’s flawless handling of the Corona virus in China. The report is the first official assessment of the Chinese party and state’s handling of the COVID pandemic. The White paper is being distributed throughout China’s massive state media. It represents the official CCP party line to be repeated and defended with one voice both at home and worldwide.

The White Paper claims that China did everything right. Chairman Xi is mentioned favorably 44 times in the report.

Xu Lin summarized the White Paper as follows:

"The Chinese leadership has released information about the outbreak of the disease promptly, openly, and precisely, at all times. The White Paper shows that China responded directly to the concerns of the population and acted responsibly for human life, for the people, for history and for the international community."

There were no mistakes. After all, the battle against coronavirus was led according to the “centralized and efficient” command of none other than the Great Leader, Xi Jinping.

Moreover, China has been a good international citizen. The White Paper assures that “China Conducts Active International Exchanges and Cooperation” and has shown “International Solidarity and Cooperation in Fighting the Pandemic.”

These assurances ring hollow when compared with the accounts of international reporters, local health officials, bloggers, and a vast array of social media. These entities provide extensive evidence that, especially at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, China's leadership ignored and covered up information that could have been used to confine the spread to Wuhan. Whistleblowers were silenced and reporters disappeared, local newspapers were censored, and cooperation with international specialists was turned down.

China’s state-controlled media are distributing the White Paper’s narrative worldwide through their foreign channels and their production companies, in English, in German and in other languages. China’s massive propaganda onslaught will not rest until the world is convinced that China was not the goat of the worldwide coronavirus epidemic but its hero.

Journalists who want to research the contents of the White Paper beware: Chinese journalists who have reported from Wuhan have disappeared without a trace in the past few months. Several foreign reporters were expelled. Writing about China’s role in the virus spread is dangerous business.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Distinguished Yale Professor of Medicine Calls for Widespread Use of HCL in Early Stages of COVID-19 (And is Ignored)

The Yale School of Public Health published an interview with Yale Professor Harvey Risch, MD, PhD concerning his study, accepted (passed peer review) in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Risch concluded that hydroxychloroquine (used in conjunction with two other drugs) should be “widely available” in the fight against the current pandemic, which he characterizes as the greatest health challenge of our time.

With widespread media claims (including statements by Dr. Anthony Fauci),  that hydroxychloroquine (HCL) is both ineffective and dangerous, it is worth examining why such a highly-credentialed scientist as Risch is going against the crowd and is receiving remarkably little attention in the process.

I therefore quote from his interview with the Yale School of public health:

First, Covid is really two diseases

Risch: “In the first few days, it is like a very bad cold. In some people, it then morphs into pneumonia which can be life-threatening. What I found is that treatments for the cold don’t work well for the pneumonia, and vice versa. Most of the published studies have looked at treatments for the cold but used for the pneumonia. I just looked at how well the treatments for the cold worked for the cold.” (Risch cites four of five extant studies that find HCL effective in treating the cold part of COVID-19.)

Second, HCL is effective only in treating the “cold” phase

Risch: “I think that there has been confusion about treating the cold versus treating the pneumonia. These medications don’t seem to work so well for treating the pneumonia. As early as possible is crucial, within the first five to six days of symptoms.”

Third, Early treatment is a possible game changer

Risch: “The game changer is to aggressively treat people as soon as possible, before they are hospitalized, to keep them from becoming hospitalized in the first place. Hydroxychloroquine plus the other medications is what we know about now. In a few months we may have data on other medications that also work. We just have to start with something now.

Fourth, HCL is already in wide use for treating the early phases of the disease

Risch: “An international survey of doctors who treat COVID-19 patients recently showed 72 percent of doctors in Spain say that they have been using them. I think that doctors need to be able to use their own clinical judgement about their patients and have objective information about drugs that can work for the early part of the infection, the cold part.”

Fifth: Risks from heart pacing are extremely low

Risch: “There is a concern that these medications do change the heart pacing a little and could cause cardiac arrhythmias. However, these arrhythmias are still very rare in people using these medications.” (In his American Journal of Epidemiology paper, Risch calculates the risk of death due to heart arrhythmias at 9 per 100,000).

My Takeaway

The most important takeaway is the proposition that HCL can be effective only if taken early in the course of the disease. Studies of hospitalized patients, according to this proposition, will inevitably show HCL is ineffective during the more advanced stages of the disease; thus the important of early treatment. If Risch is correct, the health risks are low and fears of fatal side effects are not justified for patients properly tested for heart disease.

Caution: I am not an MD, but I can read and understand the gist of well written medical articles.  

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

NPR is providing health advice on how to demonstrate in the age of Covid.

NPR  is providing health advice on how to demonstrate in the age of Covid. I quote these health tips without comment:
Some health experts, even as they urge caution, said they support the demonstrations — because racism also poses a dire health threat.
Health experts urged protesters not to sing and shout to reduce the threat of person-to-person transmission. And they cautioned that police tactics such as tear gas and pepper spray could exacerbate the situation by prompting people to cough and gasp for air.
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issued a list of tips for demonstrators to lower their risk of contracting COVID-19, such as covering their faces and staying in small groups. "Don't yell; use signs & noise makers instead.. . Some of these tips can be difficult to follow. For example, if you are angry or frustrated about an issue, you want to express that feeling, and speaking is one way of doing that."

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Germany’s Dr. Fauci in a Duel Over How Covid Affects Children: That’s the Way Science Ought to Be

The public does not understand that there is no “settled science.” Science is always on the move. Previously accepted notions are challenged. What were consensuses are replaced by new “paradigms,” enjoying their time in the sun and waiting for their turn to be challenged.

Most scientific disputes are fought behind closed doors, “peer review” refereeing for scholarly journals, and in opaque scientific conferences.
Occasionally, especially when the stakes are high, scientific battles are fought in the open. In Germany, two dueling scientists are battling over the effect of covid on children, especially whether children can be carriers of the coronavirus.

As Germany opens its schools and its Kitas (Kindergartens), its politicians very much need “science” to tell them whether Kindergarteners  can infect their parents and grandparents. Science’s answer is: Yes, I know the answer, and those who think otherwise are wrong.

The chief virologist of the famed Charite Hospital in Berlin, Christian Drosten, is the closest equivalent in Germany to the US’s Dr. Fauci. For weeks he has featured on the regular Coronavirus update on the nightly news. As he answers questions from worried viewers, he gives the impression of authority and assurance.

In the past few days, his disagreement with Alexander Kekule, virologist and Director of the of Medical Microbiology of the University Clinic of Halle, has burst the boundaries of scientific discourse. Their duel is featured in nightly news, TV reports, and newspaper interviews.

What is the disagreement about? In a preliminary (preprint) publication not intended for media publication, Drosten reported that his study found that children can transmit coronavirus as readily as adults. Dr. Kekula begs to differ. Dr. Drosten’s study, he claims, is deeply flawed.

The Drosten-Kekule debate has turned into twitter exchanges and personal insults, but the outcome of the debate could not be more important. Kekule attacks Drosten for faulty statistical analysis and demands that the paper be withdrawn. Drosten counters that Kekula’s weak scholarly credentials should destroy his credibility.

Families with young children anxious to return to their schools are verunsichert (unsettled). All they know is that two credentialed specialists in virology are coming to opposite conclusions.

In an attempt to come to the rescue, the Berlin Tagesspiegel consulted a series of scientist-virologists in the hope of deciding who is right and who is wrong. What the Tagesspiegel got was a lot of hemming-and-hawing. Yes, there may be some problems with the Drosten study, but it should be  understood as a “part of the scientific process;” e.g., there is no right and no wrong.

I do not see the German debate as politically motivated. It is instead an insider’s glimpse into the world of  science and scholarship that has spilled over into social discourse.

In an interview with network TV, Germany’s Parliament President Wolfgang Schauble addressed the problem of the interactions between elected officials, responsible for policy, and scientists. Schuable admitted what American politicians do not want to say – science is unsettled, scientists disagree among themselves but policy must be made, decisions must be taken. All politicians can do is do their best with inadequate scientific information and disagreement.

In Germany, there appears to be room for scientists to disagree and for policy makers to be informed of their disagreements and do the best they can. This may no longer be possible in the US where questions, such as school openings, business shutdowns, protective masks, and tests of  hydroxychloroquine become so politicized that few are willing to hear both sides of scientific arguments. Actions are agenda driven, and the agenda need not be informed by science anyway.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Germany Begins to Calculate the Indirect Medical Costs of Corona (Including Brothels)

The daily dose of Corona statistics has created a pervasive climate of fear of infection in the United States.  As an unanticipated consequence, people are cancelling necessary medical appointments and avoiding going to emergency rooms. Scott Atlas and colleagues have calculated the indirect medical costs of corona-fear for the United States, including mental health costs ,to be on par (or worse) with the direct costs of Coronavirus.

Germany,  rated as having Europe’s best anti-Coronavirus  recovery program, is beginning to report similar indirect medical costs: A study by NDR finds that up to 30 % of oncological appointments, 50% of cardiology, and 80% of dental appointments are being cancelled. Mental health hotlines are being flooded with calls associated with Coronavirus, including many from youths. Germany is fortunate in that its suicide rate has not risen during Corona.

The sex trade is also a victim of Corona. Legal in Germany, prostitution has been temporarily  banned as a consequence of the virus. The labor union that represents sex workers is lobbying for a resumption, arguing that brothels have always been strictly regulated for hygiene. Sex workers, they claim, can wear masks and rooms can be aired after each encounter.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Three Wuhan Citizen Journalists Disappear as China Falls to 177th Place in Press Freedom

The Chinese CCP does not tolerate critical reporting by its own citizens, especially that of “citizen journalists.”  Video blogger Fang Bin posted dramatic scenes of body bags and crying relatives from Wuhan hospitals with his cell phone. That same evening, Fang was taken to the police station and questioned as an “enemy of the state.”  A few days later, he disappeared without any trace - until today.
Chen Qiushi worked as a human rights lawyer and reported intensively as a citizen journalist on the pro-democratic protests and on the Wuhan virus. He has not been seen in public since early February.
Li Zehua, who also reported on the Wuhan virus, has disappeared. He  briefly reappeared in a video uploaded to YouTube two months after his disappearance. Since then, Li has also not reappeared.
The British Daily Mail reports that  during the first few weeks of the Corona outbreak, more than 5,000 people who spread information about the virus disappeared. While Beijing is stepping up its international propaganda to praise its alleged success in containing Covid-19, the government is taking action against anyone who wants to report the pandemic independently.
Based on, Die Verschwundene Blogger von Wuhan

Friday, May 22, 2020

German Speaking Europe Reports Huge GDP losses but Is the Crisis Letting Up?

Austria’s Weekly GDP Figures Point to Declining Losses as the Economy Adjusts, but the Losses Throughout German Speaking Europe Are Huge.

The Austrian National Bank has developed weekly measures of GDP, based on flash measures such as credit card transactions, truck border crossings, and electricity usage. These figures show a 25 percent decline in real GDP compared to the pre-crisis figures, with the low point reached end of March. The Swiss Economics Secretariat calculates a similar drop. German statistical authorities report a slightly smaller (15-20%) decline in economic activity. Notably, the Austrian weekly GDP figures show declining economic losses. By May 11, weekly GDP was some 11 percent below the previous year’s figure.
For charts, see

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Germany's 'return to normal' could well be America's future

go to Washington Times

The greatest challenge presented by coronavirus is its end game. Experts tell us that COVID-19 will be with us for the foreseeable future. There are no silver bullets that will make it go away. Instead, we have to worry about second and third waves. We wonder whether we are emotionally equipped to handle what appears to be a permanent crisis. Germany has decided on its solution: Declare victory and “Leben mit Corona” or “Live with Corona.”
Let’s pay attention to the German case. It may be our own future.

Friday, May 8, 2020

The World Health Organization is Worse Than We Think

The WHO's delegation report of its February inspection of China reveals the WHO to be a blatant mouthpiece of the CPC and a strong admirer of "agile" authoritarian regimes. The report reminds me of Walter Duranty's NYT coverage denying the Ukraine famine.
go to The Hill

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Measuring the Spanish Flu’s Economic Impact Using Historical Statistics

go to Real Clear Markets

 The most direct measure of the economic cost of a pandemic is lost economic activity. The most common aggregate measure of such costs would be the decline in real GDP or industrial production (relative to trend) that is attributable to the pandemic. Researchers have used municipal and regional data as an alternative to try to tease out the loss of economic activity due to the Spanish Flu but with  contradictory results.

The 1918-1919 Spanish Flu preceded modern statistical measures; so we have to work with imperfect and limited data. This study uses historical statistics to assess the impact of the Spanish Flu on economic activity in its day. We examine separately the US, Europe,  and the UK. The data are drawn largely from Historical Statistics of the United States, Millennial edition, from the  Maddison Historical Statistics Data Base (2010 and 2018) and specialized studies. For details, go to my website.

My results are summarized in Figures 1-3.  

Figure 1 shows  that none of the four series suggests a detectable effect of the Spanish Flu on economic activity-- not that there weren’t significant downturns during this period of history, such as in 1914 and 1921.

In their classic study of the US business cycle, Arthur Burns and W.C. Mitchell make no mention of the Spanish Flu (that I could find). They characterize 1918-19 as a mild downturn that was speedily reversed.

America’s entry into World War 1 could confound the above finding of an insignificant economic effect of the Spanish  Flu. In 1917, 719,000 men were in the armed forces. Within a year, that figure rose to almost three million. During the call up, the unemployment rate fell from an average of five percent to  1.4 percent in 1918 and 1919. Another complicating factor is that the US economy was gearing up military production during this period – a form of stimulus of the economy.

To sum up, the best available historical data suggest that, despite its horrendous human capital costs, the Spanish Flu did not affect US economic activity in a significant way.

The European data for the period of the Spanish Flu offer something of  a natural experiment that allows us to  abstract from the effects of World War I: By focusing on non-combatant nations, we can get a somewhat cleaner look at the Spanish flu’s  impact. This does not mean that the war did not affect economic activity in the non-combatant countries, just that its effects were less distortive than in the combatant countries.

Figure 2 shows a clear decline in GDP for European non-combatant countries in 1918, averaging some seven percent. However, the losses of output in non-Spanish-Flu years of 1917 and 1921 were equally large.

For the first quarter of the 20th century, the Spanish Flu appears to be just one of many economic setbacks for Europe. Much longer time series from Maddison cement the conclusion that 1918-19 does not especially stand out as a significant economic event.

(Figure 2 here)

The United Kingdom was a combatant in World War 1  but did not serve as a battlefield. The Spanish Flu peaked in the UK after the November 1918 armistice, as troops returned home in cramped rail cars and transport ships.

Figure 3 shows 1918 to be a year  of modest or zero GDP growth. As the Spanish Flu made its way into the UK in 1919, the economy went into decline, falling 12 percent according to Maddison and 7 percent according to the Bank of England figures.

The years following the Spanish Flu were difficult ones, with substantial declines in 1920 and 1921. UK growth did not resume until 1922. There is a massive literature on the multiple causes of the UK’s “interwar slump.” Major surveys of this literature do not mention the Spanish Flu as a cause.

(Figure 3 here)

The broad conclusion to be drawn from Figures 1-3 is that, despite its immense demographic damage, the Spanish Flu did not depress economic activity in the US and Europe in a significant fashion. The UK was a possible exception but experts on the UK’s interwar slump blame a number of factors other than the Spanish Flu.

The results of Figures 1-3 should not come as a surprise. For an explanation, go to

Thursday, April 2, 2020

COVID-19 Around the Globe: Observations April 2, 2020 GERMANY

Immunity Certificates

Germany’s Der Spiegel has reported that Germany will issue “immunity certificates” to those testing positive for Coronavirus antibodies.  Certificate holders, presumably free of the virus, can return to the work force and are not subject to social distancing. It turns out that this proposed program would apply to 100,000 subjects and the first results would not be available until the end of April. It is unclear whether the program has been approved.

On Trump’s handling of the crisis

DeutscheWelle, the government funded German international broadcaster, posted the following virulent anti-Trump opinion piece on its international news site:
In the United States, the administration first attempted to portray COVID-19 as a hoax (See Fact Check for rebuttal), and then tried to present it as something far less deadly than health officials had warned. Ultimately left with no other choice, US President Donald Trump was forced into action as the coronavirus began to quickly spread across the country. In doing so, he never missed the opportunity to make crystal clear that his top priority was the health of the US's economy and not its citizens. The country now has more infections than any other.

Masks Don’t Help?

In its news broadcast  of April 1, a German government spokesman advised against the use of surgical masks by the population. He claimed they do not help against Coronavirus. The German government’s unambiguous stance is in contrast to the controversy on the subject of masks in the United States.
Why Germany has the lowest mortality rate
One school of thought is that Coronavirus was introduced into Germany and spread by predominantly young people returning from skiing in Italy and France or from reveling in Fasching in Cologne. We would need the age distributions of Coronavirus victims to test this proposition.

Merkel Seems to approve Tracing Aps for Smartphones

Germany has a long history of fear of government surveillance. Apparently eight European countries are cooperating on  developing a tracing app, which will automatically notify those who have had contact with an infected/exposed? person. From her shelter-in-place, Merkel spoke favorably of the concept.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Some Encouraging News from 1918

go to Defining Ideas

In a 2007 National Academy of Sciences study of the Spanish Flu, researchers used  data on the timing  of 19 classes of NPIs in 17 U.S. cities during the 1918 pandemic to test whether early implementation of multiple NPI interventions was associated with reduced disease transmission. Indeed, the researchers found that “cities in which multiple interventions were implemented at an early phase of the epidemic had peak death rates 50% lower than those that did not and had less-steep epidemic curves.” In other words, the timely introduction of NPI measures reduced peak mortality in the surveyed cities.

The finding of reduced peak mortality seems to confirm that the timely introduction of multiple interventions does indeed buy time to prepare for the peak of the pandemic and in this sense plays a positive role. The finding does not rule out that NPIs simply transfer illness and death to later dates and hence does not lower cumulative mortality.

On this point, researchers find that “cities in which multiple interventions were implemented at an early phase of the epidemic also showed a trend toward lower cumulative excess mortality, but the difference was smaller (20%) and less statistically signi´Čücant than that for peak mortality.”

The lower cumulative mortality rate is the most encouraging finding from the 1918 flu experience, although this finding is less robust than the effect on peak mortality.

Should we follow the Swiss in dealing with COVID-19?

go to

Within Europe, the Swiss are caricatured as deliberate, unemotional, and  imperturbable. Their reaction to the Corona Virus pandemic fits this stereotype. Of course, it helps that the Swiss are better positioned than other countries with a debt to GDP ratio of 40 percent (versus 81 percent for the US) and a fully funded unemployment insurance fund. (In the US, impending shortfalls at the state level will require huge federal bailouts).

Unlike raucous US politics, the Swiss formed a swift national consensus, and their rescue package is already underway, at an estimated cost of 5 percent of GDP. At this juncture, the US rescue package awaits approval by the House at a cost  that will well exceed ten percent of GDP.