Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Beirut "mushroom cloud"

Alex Horton of the Washington Post analyzes what we know about the “mushroom cloud” blast in Lebanon. 

A lot of conservative pundits are speculating about terror, but hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate in one location (a hundred times as much as at Oklahoma City) can be dangerous no matter what.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Melbourne, Australia under nearly absolute lockdown because of surge in coronavirus

Crown Casino Complex Melbourne 20180723-002

The premier of Victoria, the smallest state in Australia, has completely locked down Melbourne, to the point that only one household member can leave per day and must shop within about a 1.5 mile radius of home.  It is not acceptable even to go other places and socially distance, because then the authorities don’t really know what is happening.

The lockdown will last six weeks, or three incubation cycles.

What happens is something at home breaks down?

Victoria’s cases have been rising but deaths are moderate. But in Australia and New Zealand, authorities believe they must eliminate coronavirus completely so that places can open more or less normally.
At least one apartment building is totally locked inside.

CNN story

 Here is a report from Twitter on just how aggressive Victoria is in enforcing the lockdown.  Unbelievable. 

Picture: Mebourne casino, Wikipedia embed, click for attribution 

Saturday, August 1, 2020

"Rabbis for Human Rights" website taken down for fictitious TOS violations when webhost is threatened (in 2016, I now learn)

Rabbis for Human rights logo

There is a very disturbing story from Israel about a website  run by Rabbis for Human Rights, apparently to defend Palestinians especially in occupied territories, being attacked with a dDOS and then being taken down by its hosting company (ClubVPS).  A new hosting company has gotten “threats”.  It also sounds, from the report, that the hosting company framed the suspension as a TOS issue, as if it were threatening Israel’s national security. Of course, anything involving settlements is very controversial morally.
This reminds me of the film “Advocate” (on Movie Reviews July 28) about attorney Lea Tsemsel.

This is a very disturbing precedent, that a web host would shut down a site merely for presenting political controversy.  There were some similar problems in the United States after Charlottesville in 2017.

Oded Yaron story link on Haaretz (paywall). 
Facebook page   (does not yet mention the incident).

Organizational emblem embdded from Wikipedia article (q.v.)   

Update:  The group tells me on Facebook that his actually happened in 2016. 

Thursday, July 30, 2020

WSJ: "Model" EU and Asian countries having resurgence; why to open schools

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board looks at “The World’s Covid Resurgence”. Then the byline, “Countries seen as role models see a virus case revival.”

There are surges for various reasons: migrant workers (Spain), housing projects (Australia) and simply, as in the U.S., more house partying by private citizens, and more bars.
The Journal also offers (in an embedded video) the case for reopening schools (as of July 28) according to European models. One reason given is that virtual learning is problematic for pre-teens who may be over addicted to digital devices and need more real world play.  Except that right now they can’t. 

The Journal (understandably, as a somewhat conservative newspaper) also claims that Sweden is doing about as well now as other countries and that its high death rate is the result of socialized medicine which at some point cuts off saving lives of the elderly, which it sees as morally dubious at best. 
The WSJ may not have been aware of a new JAMA study showing that young children may have even more coronavirus in their nasal passages as older kids and adults, meaning more transmission from school to family at home, potentially. 
WSJ link

JAMA link

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Asylum seekers face enhanced danger of coronavirus exposure at many points

Jason Dzubow, on his Asylumist blog, warns that asylum seekers faces considerable risk of coronavirus exposure in Master Calendar Hearings.

(2017 video from LegalED Web on immigration preparation for client.) 

He also notes that some detention facilities, like one in Virginia (probably Farmville) have reported up to 75% testing positive.

Monday, July 27, 2020

NIH releases paper indicating that "European strain" of Sars-cov-2 may have higher fatality rates for some cohorts of patients; but some people may have high innate immunity to all strains

NIH has published a paper “SARS-Cov-2 genomic variations associated with mortality rate of COVID-19”, link,  This story was emailed to me today by a reader. 

A study suggests that in some populations, the S614G variant may be associated with a higher fatality rate, which might be related to the larger volume of virus transmitted in some encounters.

However the study seemed also to suggest that a substantial part of the population has HLA genetic components and T-cell activity that does indeed protect them with a great deal of innate immunity, regardless of the G variant. This may account for the large number of reports of younger adults with almost no symptoms.  However, the same people may be capable of giving the virus to others.

It is common to have many severe cases in one large household, and many very mild infections in others.  That suggests genetic variations in innate resistance (HLA is a good place to look.) But in superspreading events nearly everyone exposed tests positive, though many people won't become ill. 

The S614G variant is associated mainly with Europe and seemed to develop in Italy.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Glenn Greenwald on cancel culture; private citizens in many countries are not allowed to boycott West Bank settlement commerce

Glenn Greenwald has a bizarre Twitter thread where apparently he was expected to sign some sort of document supporting government’s forbidding companies or even their own citizens from organizing commercial boycotts against the West Bank settlements.  Canada and France reportedly have such laws.

 I haven’t followed all the details, but here is one article by Greenwald in The Intercept with Andrew Fishman from Feb. 2016.  Curiously, this was linked in Tweet #2 in the thread and that disappeared. 
The thread ends with a long YouTube video, “Elites are Distorting the “Cancel Culture” crisis.
This seems to be a developing story.

Friday, July 17, 2020

China plans to conquer Mars, Moon, and then some, and keep US out of space

The Wall Street Journal today offers a perspective on China’s plans to settle the Moon, Mars, and more (maybe Europa and Titan).

The refusal of the US to work with them under Trump could wind up keeping the United States out of space forever.

I remember how I felt as a boy when Sputnik beat us into space in 1957.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Bolton's book said to show the author's complicity in foolish policy in Venezuela, North Korea and Iran

Crooked Media, with Ben Rhodes and Tom Vietor, foreign policy gurus, decode John Bolton’s book, “The Room Where It Happened”.

The pair is particularly critical of Trump’s interventionism in Venezuela and siding against Maduro, and don’t seem that concerned with the failure of Communism.  They maintain that Trump’s policy has given China and Russia a foothold in Latin America.

They also maintain that Trump essentially allowed himself to be manipulated by North Korea as he really did realize he couldn’t take more risk of nuclear war on the American homeland. They seem to see Bolton as foolishly complicit even though he cries wolf now. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Harvard, MIT sue DHS over rule deporting foreign students if universities switch to all online education because of COVID-19

Harvard and MIT have sued the Trump administration for implementing a rule that if a university switches to 100% online education, the foreign students will not have visas removed and they may be deported.  The University of Pennsylvania also added an amicus brief.

The Harvard Crimson explains here.

The CBC Canada report does not say that Canadian students would be exempted. Students could presumably remain home and do the work online.  But quarantines would complicated any campus visits.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Yahoo! article argues Americans need to accept European style hard lockdowns until they stop getting infected (Spain is the example)

Calle Caballeros de Lleida

Andrew Romano discusses  (om Yahoo! and AOL) the recent local lockdowns in Spain to control outbreak fires as an example of what he thinks is necessary in the U.S.

These include locking people into towns with roadblocks, and even locking down apartment buildings completely (like cruise ships).  It’s all rather frightening,  Individual lives are ruined in the name of safetyism.


Melbourne, Australia has reinstituted a lockdown after a moderate rise in cases,  with probably further economic damage to bars and restaurants (Bloomberg). One public housing project has not allowed residents to leave the building even for food, which must be brought to them (some of it by volunteer groups). 

Picture: Lleida, in Segria, Catalonia, under lockdown.  Autonomous regions of Spain seem to have no effect on public health.  Click for

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Former British spy and the possibility that the coronavirus was in a (Wuhan) lab

A long article in Australia’s Sky News (by Deborah Haines)Sir  examines the possibilities that SARS-Cov2 might have been engineered by gain-of-function experiments.

Sir Richard Dearlove, a former M16 spy, analyzes all the scenarios.

BGR has a more brief story  

A Fact-checking company looks at the claims.  

These claims would need to consider the idea that the virus was found in Mediterranean wastewater as early as March 2019 (June 30 post).  In fact the UK Evening Standard has a video claiming it has been around the world near food processing plants for years. 

Update: July 6

Now the Times of London and Bloomberg report on workers exposed to a cov2-like virus in a bat cave in SW China in 2013, sent to Wuhan, link

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Densely populated Hong Kong collared coronavirus without extensive lockdowns, by heavily automated contact tracing

HK Chater Road LegCo view

Here is an intriguing story: How Hong Kong defeated coronavirus and avoided a major lockdown.

Biggest answer: Masks, because people there were severely affected in 2003 by SARS. In western countries, the need to wear a mask is viewed as a societal failure and abnormal, and an admission of weakness and failure, something that should not be allowed to happen. That has been forced to chage this time.

The other part of this is very strict contact tracing.  People, when quarantined or isolated (when entering the country) must wear a wristwatch that monitors them.  Gyms and bars reopened but would close again if anyone testing positive had visited them.

Wikipedia picture, supreme court, click for attribution. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

China is starting to vaccinate its own military, which sounds like very good news; Pfizer's vaccine trial is small but promising; JAMA on excess deaths from Covid19

SARS-CoV-2 without background

Reuters is reporting that a vaccine from a Chinese company CanSino is approved for vaccination of the Chinese military against COVID-19 right now.  China has enough vaccine for two million doses.  The fact that China is willing to use the vaccine with its Armed Forces is encouraging and western companies will want to know how this works.

This should be very good news. 

A vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech is reported to have stimulated immune response in 34 and 36 volunteers.  But many of the participants reported fevers for one day or more (which means cellular immune reaction to the messenger RNA fragments).  Some applicants had two doses with more fever the second time. (StatNews, Matthew Herber report). 

There is an important JAMA paper about excess deaths which could be interpreted as extending the death toll from COVID in the US by 28%,

Also important is a Swedish study reported in Sky News, indicating that many people are developing hidden "dark matter" or cellular immunity gradually to the virus despite disappearing antibodies;  this is likely to "protect" many protesters and journalists.  In this interpretation, repeated very small exposures to coronaviruses may tend to produce a practical immunity to the Cov2 virus in healthy adults (only those with fully intact cellular immunity).  It is not simple to test for this kind of immunity. 

We also have to pay heed to this new story about a new H1N1 strain in pigs (and pigs to humans) in China, CBS News.  And we need to watch H5 and H7.

Wikipedia illustration (click, CDC public domain) of virus illustration.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

European cities report Sars-Cov2 in wastewater as early as March 2019, indicating virus has been around for a while (possibly "bombshell" breaking news); EU bans US travelers (for now, until we do better)

Everyone has heard that the European Union will, for now, ban travelers with US passports starting July 1.  But not Canada.  The many get detention for the sins of the relatively few (in red states). 

All Americans are being “punished” for the sins of those in red states, it seems, who suddenly lost control of the epidemic.

John Campbell, a retired nurse in Britain who maintains a very informative video channel on Covid-19, has gathered together information about wastewater or sewage testing in Europe that seems to suggest that Sars-Cov2 was present, at least in Barcelona, in March 2019.

There are other stories, such as in Reuters, by Nathan Allen et al, and a (not yet peer reviewed) paper in Medrxiv.

Furthermore, a paper in Italy (EU link tax?) reports that virus was found in wastewater in Italy in mid Dec 2019.

It would be important to know (1) if this is found in other cities in Europe and when (2) the genetic relationship of viruses from that time, particularly with respect to the addition of the #prra string to the genome.  Could this unusual addition have occurred naturally.   Do viruses “add new chains” and make their “record lengths” longer naturally? (a computer analogy to a variable length record). Do viruses have “length bytes” or “schedule records”?   

Such research could clarity nagging questions as to whether a virus this “diabolical” could arise naturally. 

It is true that European cities have had workers from China all the time, including Wuhan.  Various stories about Wuhan communications blackouts and parking lots in Oct. 2019 are odd.  But there is still no clear idea when the virus appeared.  It is now looking like it circulated in humans for months before it became more virulent or infectious.

There has been a lot of attention to a new mutation (a G spike protein) from Europe that makes the virus easier to transmit but not more virulent (Washington Post).  It seems to have been around since late February so it isn’t new.  

Jack Andraka, who has apparently finished his ME at Stanford, worked extensively on wastewater projects in the Bay Area (and apparently overseas as a Truman Scholar) this year. There are many links to (overseas) news articles on wastewater in comments on his Facebook page.