Archive | March 27th, 2020

A Russian Doctor on Developing a Coronavirus Vaccine

By VT

So, an antiviral vaccine is a drug consisting of a virus or its components, which is able to form a strong immunity against this virus, i.e. to build such immunological “defensive lines”, which the virus has few chances to break through. Immunological defense is deeply ‘layered’ (I will not go into details), but most vaccines used in medical practice use only one of these lines – the production of antibodies in response to the ingestion of viral antigens.

The vast majority of antiviral vaccines are designed to prevent virus infection. In other words, a person must be vaccinated (synonym: immunized) BEFORE the virus “attacks” (in the literature it is called pre-exposure vaccination). Ideally, by the time of the “attack”, the vaccinated person should already have a strong immunity. In practical terms, this means that protective antibodies must be present in a sufficiently high concentration (immunologists say ‘in high titers’) at the time of the viral ‘attack’. It is important to understand that not all antiviral antibodies are protective. Knowing which antibodies are protective is crucial in developing a vaccine. One example is that in the case of hepatitis B virus (HBV), anti-surface antigen (HBsAg) antibodies called anti-HBs are protective, and antibodies against the “internal” HBV antigen called anti-HBc are not protective. It is easy to guess that the vaccine against hepatitis B virus (by the way, a very good vaccine, such would be from coronavirus!) Consists of HBsAg antigen.

Very rarely, antiviral vaccines are used after infection (post-exposure vaccination). So usually the rabies virus vaccine is used. This type of vaccination is possible only when the incubation period is long (weeks, or even months) and the immune system has enough time to build “defensive lines” after the vaccine has been introduced. Obviously, in the case of coronavirus, this approach is not applicable. A vaccine is needed that is administered to HEALTHY PEOPLE in advance before the virus attacks them.

The “shelf” is the first – what component of the virus should the vaccine consist of (which coronavirus protein is an analogue of HBsAg, in the context of vaccine development)? In answer to this question, there is practically a consensus – it is surface protein S (glycoprotein S), a product of the viral gene S. There are a large number of modern technologies with which you can make various preparations of this protein or its ‘pieces’. Even more laboratories, institutes, firms that own such technologies. Reconfiguring these technologies to coronavirus is relatively simple and does not take much time. As a result, there are now dozens of different drugs based on Coronavirus Protein S, which can be called “vaccine prototypes” or “pre-vaccines”. But, sometimes, unreasonably, they are called vaccines. The vast majority of reports on the successful development of a prototype coronavirus vaccine can be put on this shelf. To become a vaccine, these drugs must successfully pass preclinical and clinical trials. During these tests, most of them are eliminated.

‘Shelf’ second – preclinical trials. These are tests on laboratory animals. Their relatively simple stage is a safety test – the absence of obvious toxicity or any other serious side effects. Most likely, the “pre-vaccines” this stage will pass. The next step is more difficult – an assessment of the ability to trigger the synthesis of antiviral antibodies (immunogenicity). Most likely, most vaccines and this stage will pass. Indeed, if a foreign protein is introduced to an animal, antibodies are almost always formed. But the trick is that not all antibodies are needed, but protective ones. And exactly which antibodies are protective, in the case of coronavirus, is not yet known. But there is an opportunity to get a ‘hint’. Protective antibodies are typically able to neutralize the virus in vitro i.e. they can block the ability of the virus to multiply in an in vitro cell culture. This is relatively easy to verify. When such experiments are carried out, “pre-vaccines”, in response to which neutralizing antibodies are poorly developed, will be rejected. The fact that some kind of “pre-vaccine” gives a good yield of neutralizing antibodies is encouraging, but does not give guarantees of protection against the virus in vivo. And in order to check whether there is a protective effect in vivo, not just laboratory animals are needed, a model of infection and disease on laboratory animals is needed. This is the hardest part in preclinical trials.
Virus vaccine development. Conceptual framework 2.

In “regular” conditions, clinical trials begin after the successful completion of preclinical trials. But in an emergency, “cutting the corner” is possible. This is exactly what is happening with the US mRNA-1273 candidate vaccine trial (no preclinical trial information is available, but phase 1 of the clinical trial has already begun). The same situation is possible with the Chinese vaccine Ad5-CoV, but at least it stated that preclinical trials were successful (but no data confirming this were published).

Let me remind you that in clinical trials there are three phases:

1 – safety check (no serious side effects)

2 – immunogenicity test (ability to cause the formation of antiviral antibodies)

3 – test of effectiveness (ability to protect against infection)

In the case of SARS-CoV-2 such clinical trials are, in fact, human experiments. Is it necessary to say how negative emotions the words ‘human experiments’ evoke. Immediately I recall Dr. Mengele and the like. Less lively, but also disgusting experiments on humans, such as the study of Taskigi syphilis, are also known (google or add Taskegee or Taskigi). There are other examples, moreover, not from such a distant past. But this is a separate issue. Now no one needs to be convinced that such “clinical trials / trials” are absolutely unacceptable. But there’s no way to get away from the fact that research on a person of a new medicine, vaccine, treatment method is always accompanied by the possibility of negative effects, even fatal. And without clinical trials, a new progress in medicine is impossible. Therefore, the question is not whether it is possible to “experiment on people,” but how to do it so that the risks for the subjects are minimal and that everything possible is done to maintain their psychological comfort and compensation in the event of any negative consequences. Therefore, there are many regulatory rules, international and national, that articulate how clinical trials should be conducted. In short, the main condition is to maximally inform the potential subject about the purpose of the test and the possible risks. It is extremely important that this be done in a manner that is understandable to a layman. The decision on whether to participate in the tests as a test subject or not, a person must make consciously and absolutely voluntarily. It is very important that the subject has the right, despite initial consent, to refuse to participate in the tests at any time. Finally, measures should be provided for adequate emergency medical care in case of unforeseen consequences (for example, hypersensitivity reactions) and compensation in case of negative consequences. Everything should be done to maximize the psychological comfort of the subjects. This, incidentally, involves the non-use of expressions such as ‘human experiment.’ In this text I use this bad phrase, but only in order to “expose” the meaning.

People, as you know, spoils the ‘housing problem’, in the modern version – money, in a bad sense of the word. In modern clinical trials, participants are often recruited for a fee. By the way, a clinical trial is being prepared in England in which participants will be infected with a live coronavirus. You need to dial 24 people. Payment of 3,500 pounds. Wishing a few thousand. Do not worry. This is not about SARS-CoV-2 infection. They will be infected with the usual “cold” strain of coronavirus. But this model of recruitment is widely used. There are many companies specializing in this. Are all ethical standards observed in commercial recruiting? On paper, probably yes. I don’t know in life. But this is also a separate issue, outside the scope of my professional competence.

Returning to the phases of clinical trials of coronavirus candidate vaccines. Phases 1 and 2 of such trials actually duplicate the similar stages of preclinical trials. Of course, it is better if candidate vaccines are pre-tested for safety in animals. But, the acceptable result of such a preclinical trial, even on monkeys, does not guarantee that everything will be the same in humans. In general, serious side effects from the administration of various protein S preparations are unlikely for people, and I do not see a significant increase in the risk for subjects when moving to phase 1 clinical trials directly (or with minimal preclinical trials). But, of course, the national authorities governing the conduct of clinical trials must decide this. As for phase 2 clinical trials, then in the ‘normal mode’ it must be carried out on a new group of subjects. However, preliminary immunogenicity data can be obtained already in Phase 1 trials. Indeed, a candidate vaccine is administered to these subjects.

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Coronavirus and the Rise and Fall of Humanism

by JOSHUA SPERBER

Contemporary engraving of Marseille during the Great Plague in 1720 – Public Domain

It is a truism that the Black Death helped produce the age of humanism. Through making death ever-present, the plague undermined a system of religious authority in which the church and the church alone claimed to have answers to the fundamental questions of human existence; the priests naturally still asserted that this was the case but were now as likely as not to drop dead once they did so. Amid the dissolution of the church’s legitimacy as well as, more specifically, its monopoly on truth and salvation, survivors began tending to all that was immediate and material, specifically in the form of the particular and the human.

It was out of this reorientation in which humans became the central focus of concern and inquiry — a worldview in which the secular and the particular were seen as valuable in and of themselves — that the Mona Lisa and Vitruvian Man, Rousseau and Marx, and Hitchcock and Dylan emerged.

Humanism has simultaneously been cogently condemned, as the civilizational project elevating above all else human interests has led to a particularly ferocious rapacity that views other animals and the environment as means merely to be exploited for human ends. It is but one of many ironies that Europe’s mining industries, and with them European concentrations of lead, dramatically expanded in the centuries following the Black Death. And, of course, in reality there exists not some monolithic humanity but instead a minute ruling class that justifies its atrocities through speaking for, while extracting the life and wealth from, the vast majority. From the annihilation of the Peasants’ Revolt to the mass slaughters committed by Leopold II and George W. Bush, the exaltation of humans always implied in practice not humanity per se but a self-appointed elite living through the subjugation of everyone else.

That said, it is interesting to note that the current pandemic is, aside from its exponentially growing number of victims, primarily being experienced through highly mediated online apparatuses including so-called social media. If 9/11, perhaps the most recent major crisis of a comparable order in the US, was largely experienced passively through watching television, coronavirus has of yet been experienced mainly through not only reading but also writing out one’s fears and anxieties to an audience of readers on attention-economy sites such as Facebook.

Such virtual interaction laid the groundwork for and meshes with the physical distancing that governmental and other authorities are currently mandating. All you had to do was observe some friends hanging out in a bar to see that we have long been isolated from one another. This goes beyond the supposedly stodgy lament of one who agrees that attention is the highest gift we can give each other. If the discourtesy of not listening to a friend is supposedly beyond politics, the reason that we are ignoring each other is not. We are lost not in beautiful mountains or other wonders of existence when we endlessly ask our interlocutors to repeat themselves but in social media and dating sites in which algorithms determine the distribution of physiologically addictive rewards and thereby shape intrinsically individualistic and competitive behavior that not only isolates but also homogenizes us. Quarantining us in our apartments or houses, proscribing human interaction within six feet, and sanctioning society’s revulsion toward human secretion, breath, odor, and matter, the state has committed its authority and coercive force to the digital revolution as well as the broader transhumanist projects of Musk and other powerful misanthropes whose fantasies of self-obliteration are peddled as mystical transcendence.

Locked into a hyper-capitalistic internet whose material purpose is the commodification of our subjectivity and an ensuing eradication of our interiority, the particular is, more systematically than ever, being erased from human reality. If the Black Death helped usher in humanism, coronavirus, for better or worse, may well hasten its end.

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The Nazi occupation continues to isolate four prisoners from the “open”

By: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

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Nazi Occupied Palestine: The Nazi Occupation Prison Administration continues to isolate four prisoners from the Fatah movement’s organization in Raymond Prison, since ten days ago.

And Al-Asir Club, in a statement today, Sunday, that the prison administration transferred them to several prisons after it decided to isolate them, where the two prisoners, Hatem Al-Qawasmeh, who was sentenced to 4 life imprisonments, and Osama Saeed, who was sentenced to 5 life imprisonments, were transferred to isolating the “Gilboa” prison.

While the prisoner Omar Kharwat, who was sentenced to 4 life imprisonments, was isolated to the isolation of “Megiddo” prison, and the prisoner Ibrahim Abdel-Hayy in isolating the “Hadarim” prison.

The Prisoners Club pointed out that the prison administration has escalated the isolation operations since the beginning of this year and targeted a number of prisoners in the regulatory bodies, and a number of them have been subjected to investigation.

It is noteworthy that the prisoner Al-Qawasmeh has been detained since 2003, Saeed since 2001, and Kharwat since 2002, and they are from Hebron Governorate, while the prisoner Ibrahim Abdel-Hayy has been detained since 2002, and he is from the Burin village of Nablus district. 

It is noteworthy that the number of prisoners in the prisons of the occupation until the end of February 2020, about 5,000 prisoners, including 43 prisoners, about 180 children, and 430 administrative detainees.

The Nazi occupation decides to withdraw a large number of items available in the prisoners “Kantina”

Prisoners

Ramallah: The Nazi Occupation Prison Authority of Prison Administration decided today, Monday, to withdraw a large number of items available in the “Cantina”.

The Prisoners’ Information Office said that the Nazi Camp Administration informed the prisoners of the withdrawal of a large number of items that are provided to them through the “Cantina”.

The Nazi occupation continues to restrict and abuse Palestinian prisoners, by depriving them of the most basic basics of life in its prisons, the last of which was preventing the visit of their families to their captive children.

Prisoners’ Affairs: Two prisoners are still in protective custody in Ramla

Prisoners’ Authority: Repression units storm Section (4) of “Gilboa” Detention

Prisoners’ Authority: Two Zionist prisoners, suspected of having Corona, will be released


Tuesday morning: 7 detainees in the West Bank and Jerusalem

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Nazi Occupied West Bank: At least early today, at least 7 Palestinians, from the Nazi occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank, were arrested by the Nazi occupation forces.

And the Nazi occupation forces arrested, at dawn, two young men from the city of Qalqilya, namely: the former detainee Raafat Douiri (25 years) and Nepal Ali Qara’an (18 years), after they raided and searched their homes.

The arrests also included the young man Sameh Barakat Farhat from the town of Beita, south of Nablus, and the young Mujahid Dirar Awad from the village of Awarta. Ayoub Khadr Al-Masalmeh from Dura, south of Hebron. 

The Nazi occupation forces arrested the young Anas, according to Barghouti, from Beit Rima, northwest of Ramallah.

According to local sources, more than 15 Israeli soldiers stormed the house of the young Anas Hassan Al-Barghouthi, and destroyed the contents of his house, before they arrested him.

The sources added that the Nazi occupation soldiers fired live bullets and sound bombs as they withdrew from the town on foot towards the village of Kafr Ein, which is about 5 kilometers east.

The arrests also included an activist in following up the prisoners’ cases, Nasser Qous from occupied Jerusalem.


In response to the latest restrictions, the prisoners are escalating against the occupation

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Ramallah: The Prisoners and Editors Affairs Authority said that the prisoners in the Nazi occupation camps decided to start escalating steps against the Nazi Camp Administration starting from next Friday and Saturday, in response to the administration’s procedures to delete more than 140 items from the prisons of the prisons. And vegetables and food.

The authority explained that the Nazi occupation authorities and its prisons administration decided, about a month ago, to remove more than 140 items from the Nazi Camp cantina and deprived the prisoners of their purchase, including many types of vegetables (such as lemon and avocado), spices, foodstuffs, and meat, and many detergents, such as soap and shampoo, under the existing exceptional circumstances Corona virus, through cleaning, sterilization and disinfection.

The Prison Administration informed the prisoners at the end of last month that it was working on implementing several escalatory measures towards them, such as preparing food only in the hands of civilian prisoners, downloading 140 items from the cantina, reducing the number of TV stations from ten to seven, and reducing the number of loaves of bread from five to four For a single prisoner, to withdraw the tiles used for cooking, which the prisoners depend on for cooking food, and for the colors of the sheets and blankets to be in one color.

The Nazi occupation continues to restrict and abuse Palestinian prisoners, by depriving them of the most basic basics of life in its prisons, the last of which was preventing the visit of their families to their captive children.

Captive Movement: The Nazi Camp administration did not take any measures to prevent corona

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Ramallah: The captive movement affirmed in the Nazi occupation prisons that the prison administration is not taking any real preventive measures against the “Corona virus”.

 In a statement today, Tuesday, the movement accused the prison administration of using the status quo to confiscate more of its rights. It indicated that the detention of administrative prisoners without charge in light of the spread of the Corona epidemic is a humanitarian crime, as it is their right to be with their families in this circumstance.

And she said: “Preventing our family members from visiting,” Corona, “does not give us the right to communicate with them through contact, and the prison administration must provide this to us without condition or restriction.”

She added: “Piracy of rights; by preventing visiting our families, reducing the number of people present in the outburst, and preventing detergents from the canteen, is what the Prison Administration took as a precautionary measure against Corona.”

She noted that the Prison Administration prohibits 170 items from the two counties, including cleaning materials and essentials for prisoners, which are needed in light of the preoccupation of the human group with the epidemic of Corona.

She said: “It is the jailers who will transmit the epidemic to us because the prison environment is closed and there is no change in it except the prison that mixes with the outside world.”

She affirmed that, despite the difficult circumstances, she will not stand helpless, and that her leadership is conducting consultations to counter this attack in proportion to the size of the violation and individualization.

Prisoners of human rights organizations: “Save us from Corona, so that our prisons will not turn into our graves.”

Emoji picture

Nazi Occupied Palestine: The prisoners in the Nazi occupation Camp sent a letter to the human rights institutions in the world, to move urgently in order to release them, and to force the occupation to provide them with the means to protect them from “Corona”.

The Palestinian Prisoners Committee for the Defense of Human Rights said: “Our sense of danger to our lives increases in the occupation prisons, with the spread of Corona virus, this epidemic that threatens the whole world.”

She added: We hear about instructions from the governments of the world to prevent the virus from spreading further, but we do not hear any serious measures that answer our questions. What if the disease spread in prisons? What are the practical measures that can be implemented humanely by the prison administration ?!

And the prisoners ’message stated:“ We do not hear from the prison administration except to say that we take precautions. This is nothing but ash in the eyes, especially with hundreds of prisoners who are sick with health problems, some of which are very serious. ”

The prisoners directed their appeal to the world and to those concerned with human rights, what remains of our rights and disease threatens our lives day after day, and there are no real procedures or even logical preparations. Medical neglect and delay in treatment haunt the prisoner in Israeli prisons, and many of us spent and died as a result of medical and health neglect.

They added: “The only way to prevent the spread of the epidemic is by taking care, prevention and hygiene measures, and the administration of the occupation prisons does not provide us with the required sterilization tools or even gags.”

The prisoners indicated that they “do not contact the outside world, except through the jailers who are indifferent to their approach to them and perhaps the virus has transmitted them to them, and they in turn can take their measures by moving away from the public and the necessary treatment.”

The prisoners affirmed that “the prison administration and the occupation government, and all those who are silent in the world, and who claim to defend human rights bear the responsibility of our lives.”

And they concluded their message: “To the free people of the world, we say: Do not let us die for our family in prisons, and infection will spread without anyone treating it, or be certain of it.”

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A Brady Bond Solution for America’s Unpayable Corporate Debt

by MICHAEL HUDSON

Photograph Source: Jim Linwood – CC BY 2.0

Even before the Covid-19 crisis has slashed stock prices nearly in half since it erupted in January, financial markets were in an inherently unstable condition. Years of quantitative easing had loaded so much credit into stock and bond prices that stock price/earnings multiples were far too high and bond yields far too low by any normal and reasonable historical standards. Risk premiums have disappeared, with only a few basis points separating U.S. Treasury bills and corporate bonds.

The Fed’s Quantitative Easing since 2008, plus large companies using their earnings for stock buybacks, drove the prices of financial assets into a realm of unreality. The result was that markets already were teetering on the brink of fragility. Any rise of normal interest to more normal conditions, or any external shock, was bound to crash the artificial value at which financial markets were priced. The Fed’s policy was to perpetuate this situation for as long as possible, acting in effect as the Republican re-election team by pumping in yet more credit. But at near-zero interest rates, there was little that could be done.

A close parallel to this situation was the state of Third World debt in the mid-1980s. Mexico’s announcement that it could not meet its foreign debt service was the shock that brought ugly financial reality into conflict with the assumption that somehow any government debt could be paid – even debts denominated in a foreign currency.

The international financial system was rescued by the issue of Brady bonds – “good” new bonds for old “bad” ones. The capital value of these bonds was still far below the original debt, but they had the virtue of setting realistic levels by bringing the debt balance more in line with the actual ability of debtor countries to earn the dollars or other hard currencies needed to service these bonds.

The current crisis requires a similar wrote-down and recognition that fictitious price levels must give way to reality at some point. In fact, we have reached the end of an illusion – the illusion that bond (and stock) prices could be sustained indefinitely simply by financial engineering, without an economic base capable of producing enough surplus revenue to justify existing bond and stock prices.

So attractive were the former unrealistic bond and stock levels that the markets are still in the “denial phase” hoping that the Corona virus bailout may be used as an opportunity for yet further infusion of capital into the financial markets. But that merely postpones the inevitable adjustment to bring back financial asset prices in line with real economic capabilities.

There certainly is a financial panic, and prices are not necessarily more realistic in a panic then they were in the bubble leading up to it. The question is, what is a sustainable asset-price level? What needs to be supported is a realistic value of stocks and bonds. Bad debts should be taken off the books, not supported in an attempt to recover the unrealistic pre-virus levels.

A successful way of coping with overpriced bonds and other debts

This was the situation with Third World debt in the early 1980s after Mexico triggered the Latin American debt bomb by explaining that it did not have the money to service its foreign bonds. Prices for Third World bonds plummeted as investors calculated the dollar-earning power of countries that had to export goods and services (or sell off their assets) to pay their foreign-currency debts. But their export proceeds simply could not cover the debt service that was owed.

The Sovereign Debt market was trading at such low prices that these foreign government bonds had become illiquid. Unable to obtain further credit, countries confronted by this financial state of affairs were threatened with political instability.

That is not presently the state of the U.S. bond and stock market, thanks to the Federal Reserve’s long Quantitative Easing and support of the financial markets (euphemized as the Plunge Protection Team). This artificial life support aimed at saving banks and large companies, pension funds and state and local finance from insolvency. But in doing this the Fed was subsidizing illusory values that could not be sustained.

The reality is that large swaths of the remarkable expansion in the post 2008 corporate bond market boom have seen a proliferation of corporate bonds that cannot be paid. The economy’s shutdown makes all bond and stock prices “virtual prices,” as if they would be in the absence of a virus and debt crisis. The fracking industry is only the most visible example. Airlines, entertainment, hotels and retail companies are facing losses that threaten their solvency.

The Fed fears a free market when it comes to asset prices. Or at least, it fears the political and economic consequences of withdrawing artificial support. But reality overpowered the Fed’s mid-March intervention – until an even larger infusion was anticipated. Even before the Corona virus, markets were debt-strapped that even the announcement of $1.5 trillion in a day did not stem a steep DJIA sell-off.

In recent days the Fed “announced that it would buy corporate bonds, including the riskiest investment-grade debt, for the first time in its history.”[1]

This is the “Denial stage” of the grieving crisis over the loss of an illusion – the illusion that the stock and bond run-up could be turned from government manipulation into an actual market reality.

Where is this supposed to end? The Fed could buy up all the bonds – from corporate junk to state and municipal bonds as a way to prevent their prices from falling. At an extreme, this business-as-usual scenario would lead to the Fed owning the junk- bond market and a large swath of the stock market.

This could admittedly have a silver lining: having concentrated the debt in its own hands, the Fed would then have a free hand to write off the debt, privatize the companies and start all over again with a lower debt overhead. That is what China’s central bank has been doing: simply forgiving debt that is owed to itself. The Fed would swap “good” public debt (good in the sense that the government can print the money to pay) for bad (meaning unpayable) bonds and stocks.

Bringing financial markets in line with reality would mean writing off a large swath of corporate debt and realizing that much corporate equity “wealth” has been created by decapitalizing corporations in stock buybacks instead of investing in the country’s productive capacity, including decent wages for workers. The American airline industry over the last decade has spent as much as 96% of its cash on stock buybacks – giving financial wealth to their CEOs and shareholders rather than buying up real wealth in the economy. Such financial wealth, if not underpinned by real wealth, is built on quicksand, and it is now disappearing as all asset markets are plummeting. So stock buybacks and other artificial ways to ‘create wealth’ were “investments” that have had drastically negative returns.

To implement a rationalization of bond and stock prices bringing them in line with reality, it has to be in the interest of holders of these securities. Acknowledging that bonds are not worth as much as the price at which the Fed is supporting them will not appeal to bondholders as long as prices are artificially supported. A bond-swap (new good bonds for old bad bonds) can only be achieved in a situation where it is more realistic and less risky to have a sound good bond than a low-priced (or fictitiously high-priced) bad bond.

Therefore, the Fed should let prices sink to their “market” level sans interference.

The Fed is trying to support the unsupportable. By doing this, it has blocked a reasonable solution bringing financial asset prices in line with the realistic ability to carry debt.

Without the Fed’s support, bonds would need to be written down and stock prices continue to plunge. That would prepare the ground for something like the Brady Bond solution for Third World debts in the 1980s. Latin American and other Third World bonds were selling around 25 cents on the dollar in the wake of Mexico’s announcement that it could not pay its scheduled debt in 1982. There was widespread recognition that Latin American governments couldn’t pay their bonds. That was because these bonds were denominated in US dollars, and foreign governments can only print their own currency. When they did this to throw domestic money onto foreign exchange markets, their exchange rates plunged.[2]

Brady bonds addressed the problem by a swap of “good bonds for old.” The new bonds would receive IMF and other support, and were based on what foreign countries actually could pay in foreign exchange (mainly U.S. dollars). Bondholders could swap their old bonds, which were selling from 15 to 25 cents on the dollar, for new bonds priced higher than the market price but less than the original issue, but which at least were secure and less risky. They were “reality bonds.”

The government can organize something similar for corporate bonds after the market takes the artificial QE-added values out. However, to create a market environment for such an alternative, the Fed must let bonds and stocks fall to their natural “realistic” level recognizing that the existing debt overhead can’t be paid. Then, new “reality bonds” can be issued and the economy can start again with a non-crippling debt level.

Banks and major creditors would have to absorb much of the loss resulting from the runup of stock and bond prices to overvalued levels. But something similar was a feature of the Brady reforms, which called for burden sharing by banks (the London club) and also governments (the Paris club) who had to provide debt relief.

The alternative is that we will face reality without a solution.

Notes.

[1] Jeanna Smialek, “The Fed Goes All In With Unlimited Bond-Buying Plan,” The New York Times, March 23, 2020. This report adds: “Because the Fed cannot take on substantial credit risk itself, the Treasury Department backs its emergency lending, using money from a fund that contains just $95 billion. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Sunday suggested that the new money in the Republican bill could be leveraged by the Fed to back some $4 trillion in financing.”

[2] The situation was much like German reparations in the 1920s. (I have chapters in my Trade, Development and Foreign Debt on the German experience and subsequent IMF theories that were equally disastrous.

 * Dirk Bezemer and Paul Craig Roberts provided much help in this article.

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Mexico and the Pandemic

by KENT PATERSON

Photograph Source: U.S. Department of State from United States – Public Domain

As Mexico counts its first deaths from the dreaded COVID-19 coronavirus, different but not uniform measures were implemented throughout the country in an effort to prevent the spread of the disease.

Large events like the spring’s massive San Marcos National Fair in Aguascalientes (an event which attracts an estimated eight million attendees and is an economic driver of the central Mexican city) have been postponed or cancelled, gyms closed, museums and theaters shut down, masses cancelled, and public schools and universities put on extended breaks.

Cities and states have enacted varied public health rules ranging from the closure of bars and discos (Jalisco state, home of Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta) to a 50 percent reduction in customer capacity at bars and restaurants in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, bordering Dona Ana County, New Mexico, and El Paso, Texas.

Although Juarez sits next door to New Mexico and Texas, and economic, social and cultural interactions in the borderland collectively known as the Paso del Norte are a historic daily routine, Juarez’s Phase 1 social distancing rules unveiled March 19 don’t go as far either New Mexico or Texas, both of which have ordered bars closed and restaurants restricted to take-out service.

Until now, Juarez reports four confirmed cases of COVID-19, with all of them involving young people who’d traveled outside Mexico, according to Mexican press accounts.

As of March 22, El Paso counted 9 cases of Covid-19, including 3 soldiers at the U.S. Army’s Ft. Bliss, El Paso-based media outlet KVIA reported Sunday, March 22.   

In the mold of the Mexican president’s daily morning press conferences, Mexico’s Secretariat of Health is giving regular briefings on the status of COVID-19 in the country that are posted on YouTube and on Mexican media outlets like El Universal.  

On March 22, the federal agency reported that the nationwide toll of COVID-19 to date included two deaths, 316 confirmed cases, 793 suspected infections and 1,667 negatives. The numbers change daily, and a sharp spike is noted after March 7.  

The Mexican Response

Last week, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) announced the Mexican armed forces are being enlisted to help manage the crisis. At his March 19 morning press conference, AMLO said the armed forces count on specialists and trained nurses who can lend a hand in a time of need.

Concretely, the Mexican leader said the military is preparing a DN-III-E emergency plan to address the public health crisis. At the same time, he said the new National Guard will distribute advance payments of national pensions to elders residing in hard-to-reach places.

Sporadic medicine shortages and the overall, taxed condition of many hospitals were polemical issues in Mexico even before the novel coronavirus outbreak, but AMLO assured reporters that Mexico has enough hospital beds and medicine to weather the COVID-19 virus storm.

“We’ve prepared ourselves for some time to have the necessary infrastructure when we are confronted with a bigger demand for hospitalization and care of the sick,” AMLO said. 

The days ahead will test AMLO’s optimism.

Mexico’s President was the subject of ample criticism recently after he waded into crowds and was photographed kissing a little girl on one of his frequent public appearances across the nation.

Though he has asked people to stay home as a preventative measure to contain the virus, AMLO reiterated that heavy-handed policies won’t be employed and discounted ordering a curfew.

“This is what suits us, and I am sure the people will pay attention to us,” he said. “Nothing by force. All of this is being done in a responsible way.”

In an interview with the Reforma news agency run in El Diario de Juarez on March 21, two representatives of the World Health Organization and Pan-American Health Organization in Mexico, Cristian Morales and Jean-Marc Gabastou, assessed Mexico’s preparedness and prospects for confronting the pandemic.

The two health professionals assessed the current stage of the virus outbreak in Mexico as falling within Phase 1, but credited many entities for already adopting Phase 2 measures. Morales predicted the Mexico would rapidly enter Phase 2 and then Phase 3 “probably in the next few weeks,” but that a big-and critical-unknown was how the cases would stack-up geographically.

On the plus side, Gabastou said Mexico has learned from the experience of other countries, possesses “high quality technology and very well prepared personnel,” and has sufficient testing capacity at this time.

Gabastou and Morales expressed concern about the exposure of senior baggers at big box stores like Walmart who work only for tips, and contended that the country’s high rates of diabetes and obesity could contribute to elevating the number of deaths from COVID-19.

Will the junk food diet that became so implanted in Mexico during recent decades now come back to bite the country in a big way?  

Economic Blows

While AMLO maintains that Mexico has sufficient financial reserves to overcome COVID-19, the emergency is already slamming the economy, with the peso hitting historic lows in relation to the dollar, tax revenue earning oil plummeting to its lowest price in 21 years, the Mexican Stock Exchange tanking, and auto plants closing.

Moreover, the record remittances sent home by migrant Mexican workers in the U.S. during the past couple of years will surely plunge amid the mass layoffs now sweeping El Norte. 

The U.S.-Mexican decision to close border travel to all but “essential” purposes, is very bad news for U.S. border cities like El Paso, where Mexican shoppers account for a large chunk of the city’s retail sales revenues. 

Scattered accounts of price-gouging and panic buying similar to the U.S. have appeared in the Mexican press, touching such places as Mexico City and Mexico state. Earlier this month, in Ciudad Juarez, desperate shoppers from El Paso were blamed for helping strip store shelves in Juarez’s big box stores of such essentials as paper products.

The emerging economic crisis gravely jeopardizes the key tourism sector, a business which represents nearly 9 percent of Mexico’s gross domestic product- and at one of the most inconvenient moments of the year.

When the crisis struck, Mexicans were preparing for their annual Holy Week-Easter tourism pilgrimages to Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco and other beach destinations that stay afloat from the tourism economy.

“The lights of a city that lives by night are starting to turn off, an unusual and historic development that will drastically impact the economy of distinct sectors of society, where the immense majority live day by day,” editorialized El Sol de Acapulco.

Posted in USA, MexicoComments Off on Mexico and the Pandemic

US Senate’s Final Stimulus Bill: Why It Won’t Be Enough

by JACK RASMUS

Photograph Source: Brady-Handy Photograph Collection (Library of Congress) – Public Domain

Just after midnight March 25, 2020 eastern time the US Senate passed a compromise bill of fiscal spending to address the accelerating economic decline. Both Democrat and Senate leaders agreed on the terms. US House of Representatives Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, indicated she would rush approval of the package seeking a unanimous voice vote of the House.

Here’s what the terms of the stimulus package looks like, according to initial summaries by the Washington Post and CNN released within minutes of the bill passage:

Middle class and worker households would get $500 billion in the form of direct checks ($250B) and increased unemployment insurance benefits for the next four months ($250B)

Corporations and businesses would get $867B–$367B of which would go to small businesses, and another $500B to large corporations like airlines, defense companies, cruise lines, hotels and other companies.

Additional funding of $130B would go to hospitals to purchase needed medical supplies. State and Local governments get $150B. Other funds would be provided by the government’s Small Business Administration  ($10B) to help pay their debt. Reference is made in the package as well for another $20 in farm bailout, raising that total from the $30B spent to date during the US-China trade war to $50B.  While it appears the $130B for hospitals and $150B for local governments is in addition to the $867B to business and $500B to households, it’s not clear if the $20B farm bailout and $10B additional SBA are included in the $867B or not.

Here’s a further detail in breakdown of these amounts:

$500B to Business

The Airlines get their $58B they’ve been lobbying for. And if past breakdowns still apply, it means roughly half the $58B will take the form of outright grants, not loans, to the airlines and the remainder as loans.  It is also unclear if the loans will be ‘forgiven’ after six months, as had been proposed before in past versions of the Senate bill.

Another $17B of the $500B is earmarked for defense companies considered important to national security. No details are released who these are and why such companies, not affected by consumer demand, should receive such an increase. (Possibly to back fill money that has been transferred from them by Trump to help pay for his wall).

Trump has also indicated he intends to have some of the $500B go to cruise lines and hotels which, along with airlines, are critical to his own company’s business.

The remainder of the $500 is designated for spending to support other industries. Whether in the form of loans, grants, or other forms of assistance is still unclear.

$367B to Small Business

The Senate bill always included $350B in loans for small business, and the provision that the loans would change to outright grants if used to pay wages and payroll costs. It won’t take clever accounting to use the $350 to cover wages and compensation (and payroll taxes, etc.), as companies move the money that would have been used for such purposes to other areas of their income statements. So consider the $350B as money without repayment—i.e. not a loan.

In addition to the $350B, another $17B is added now for small business to cover interest on their existing loans for six months. Finally, there’s the $10B from the Small Business Administration to help pay debts, which may or may not be part of the other totals.

Add in the $20B for farm support, the $10B from SBA, and the $130B to hospitals, it means Business Large & Small thus get $1,027B in direct assistance by the government in the new agreed on Senate-House stimulus package. 

Another item that the Democrats demanded and received in part was to have an Oversight Board to review how corporations and businesses actually spent the government money. In the previous emergency economic recovery legislation in 2009, much of the direct assistance was ‘gamed’ by businesses that received it. Some even used it to buyback their stock and award bonuses to managers. The Oversight Board is supposed to prevent that. It remains to be seen, however. Who will by chosen to manage the Board will make all the difference. It can assumed the Senate or Trump will.  As Trump has said publicly when asked who will ‘oversee’ the distribution of the funds to business, he replied “I’ll be the oversight”.

Middle class families and workers get a total of $500B under the agreement, which is what it was before. It appears that the money was just ‘moved around’.

Direct Household Cash Assistance

Talk of $3,000 per household is now changed to a check of $1,200 for a single household member, or $2,400 for married couple, plus $500 per child. (It’s unclear if that’s for all children in a family or just up to two).

To qualify for the full $1,200/$2,400 an individual must make no more than $75,000 income annually. Income above $75,000 phases out until $99,000 after which no payment is made. For couples, the phase out is at $199,000 per household.

Increased Unemployment Insurance Benefits

The package includes an increase of $600 to the state’s defined level of unemployment benefits paid (that vary by state quite a bit). But it’s unclear if the $600 applies to the highest paid state benefit payment or to all levels of state benefit payments. For example, in California the top payment is $450/week. The new payment would be $1,050/week. But will those below the top payment level also get $600?

A plus to the unemployment insurance provision is that it will also apply to contingent work: that is, to part time, temp, contract labor not just to full time employed who are laid off due to the effect of the virus on company shutdowns.

On the negative side, all the improvements in unemployment insurance will take effect for only 4 months, then will expire.

It is clear, therefore, that middle class families will receive only the $500 billion that had been allocated before—in the form of cash assistance one time worth $250 billion and improved unemployment benefits for four months costing another $250 billion. It appears some of the cash assistance was redirected toward improvement in unemployment insurance benefits, but no net increase in the total $500B on the negotiating table before.

In other words, in the final stimulus bill businesses get more than twice as much as do households and the working class!

State & Local Governments

An additional $150 billion is allocated in the bill to assistance to state & local governments.

THE TOTALS

The totals in spending thus appear to be approximately $1,650 billion! It is being reported as a $2 trillion stimulus effect and increase in US GDP overall.  AS Trump’s advisor, Larry Kudlow, has said on a previous occasion, the $2T represents the spending plus the ‘multiplier effect’. $2T is not therefore the actual spending. That is less, around the $1,650T estimated here. The difference is a multiplier effect of about $400B.

But that’s a generous estimate of the multiplier. It’s based on normal economic conditions. And the current collapse of the real and financial US economy is anything but normal. The multiplier will be much less. That is because much of the spending by the government, to business and households alike, will be used to pay down debt, hoard the money due to expectations of future profits and employment insecurity, or to cover price gouging by businesses selling necessities.

The US economy spends monthly the equivalent of $1.7 trillion. The Senate’s stimulus package is thus a one month stop-gap at best! As this writer has been arguing in recent days, the stimulus needed to get through the summer will have to be $4 trillion, not $1.65 trillion.

The $2 trillion (spending + multiplier) is estimated at around 9% of US Gross Domestic Product, GDP, at present.  A 20% increase of GDP is necessary, raising total government spending in GDP terms from the roughly current 21% of GDP to 40%.

40% of GDP is what the US government raised spending to in 1942, when we went to war at that time. It was an increase from around 15% pre-war.  If the fight against the new enemy, the virus, is a kind of ‘economic war’, then the US will have to mobilize its economy again on a war footing. Trump’s activation of the War Production Act, and then doing nothing about it further, is not a war mobilization. Trump is not a ‘war president’, as he claims. Indeed, he allowed the enemy to actually penetrate our shores and spread amongst us with his delayed action to stop airline travel and cruise travel. It’s not an accident that the largest concentrations of the virus infections are in our coastal ports and airports—Washington state, California, New York, and now increasingly New Orleans, Philadelphia, Chicago and Miami.

Trump as ‘War President’ & Other Fictions

Unlike our prior war presidents, Roosevelt and Truman, Trump is not mobilizing production and distribution of key resources and supplies to fight the enemy. He simply asks the private sector to do it and then gives his daily ‘sales pitches’ to the nation press conferences to say what he’s doing when he’s not actually doing it. War supplies (masks, ventilators, PPE) are promised and promised but are slow to appear, if they ever do.

The question follows then whether the current Senate-House stimulus bill represents a sufficient stimulus to protect the US economy. The answer is no. It’s not even half way there for Main St.

In contrast, however, the Federal Reserve US central bank has quickly allocated no less than $6.2 Trillion so far to bail out the banks and investors, even before they fail this time. And promises to do more if needed and for as long as necessary. It is writing a blank check for the bankers and investors.

Meanwhile Congress provides one-fourth that, and only one third of that one fourth, for the Main St., workers, and middle class families.

Finally, it is clear from Trump’s statements in recent days that he knows this stimulus is only a one month hit to the economy.  That’s why he—and the capitalist investors who have been lobbying him hard the past week—are turning up the message we should all start going back to work by mid-April.

As Trump put it, the timing is ‘beautiful’, at Easter. But it won’t be so beautiful when a surge in infections and death occur on top of the current surge underway occur by early summer.

But profits and money are more important to this wheeler-dealer, commercial property speculator capitalist in the White House. With the US budget deficit this fiscal year almost certainly to exceed $3 trillion, and his election looming on the horizon, Trump and friends see Wall St. and US business interests as more important than the rising death rate that is inevitable should we  return to work prematurely by mid-April.  Such action will all but ensure the eventual overwhelming of the US hospital system sthree months from now, an even higher death rate, and an even greater collapse of the US economy and financial system in the aftermath.

Trump may think he’s at war with the coronavirus, but it is the virus that is winning! And his poor generalship is aiding and abetting that enemy. Unfortunately, the American public—and especially the old and infirm—are becoming the ‘cannon fodder’ in Trump’s phony war.

Posted in USAComments Off on US Senate’s Final Stimulus Bill: Why It Won’t Be Enough

The Coronavirus and the Urgent Need to Redefine National Security

by MELVIN GOODMAN

Photograph Source: CDC/Dr. Fred Murphy – Public Domain

For far too long, the United States has been wastefully spending its precious budgetary resources on a nineteenth-century military strategy and a strategic arms policy that has brought no advantages to the American people.  For the past three decades, our national security policies have been ineffectual and irrelevant to the genuine threats we face today.  These threats do not emanate from Russia or China. Rather, they stem from an underfunded and highly vulnerable public health system, a cyber world that is out of control, and a crumbling infrastructure.  In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave a grade of D-plus to the nation’s infrastructure, with the lowest grades going to roads, bridges, mass transit, and water management systems.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us 60 years ago that military demands on U.S. spending would become a “cross of iron” that would limit spending on domestic needs.  The United States has been profligate, ignoring real enemies, particularly the climate catastrophe that awaits the global community as well as the domestic evidence of economic deterioration.

Despite its standing as one of the richest nations on earth, the United States has enormous poverty and the world’s highest level of economic inequality; an archaic system for health care that has been exposed by the novel coronavirus pandemic; and the highest level of child mortality in the industrial world.  We worship a gun culture and find no inconsistency in endorsing capital punishment while endorsing right-to-life.  Unlike most of the industrial world, we lack universal health care and no guaranteed sick leave.

Meanwhile, as the only superpower since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, we have misused our military power because there was an absence of the restraint that Soviet power had ensured. We were careful in some scenarios because we could not be sure how the Kremlin would react.  More recently, resources have been wasted in pursuing fool’s errands in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, where the United States wages war without clear objectives.  Increasing bipartisan majorities see defense spending as a jobs bill and, as a result, support record-level defense spending that finds the United States in an arms race with itself.

The bloated military and intelligence budget has the United States spending more on defense than during the worst years of the Cold War, outspending the entire global community.  Defense spending and procurement must be linked to actual threats to the United States, acknowledging there are no challengers to the United States in the key areas of power projection; naval power, and overall air power.  No other country has huge military bases the world over or access to countless ports and anchorages.  No other country has used lethal military power so often and so far from its borders in pursuit  of dubious security interests.

The Trump administration has abandoned the world of arms control and disarmament, which every presidential administration since the Eisenhower administration has endorsed.  In December 2019, the United States tested a ballistic missile that would have been forbidden by the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty that was signed in 1987 and abrogated by Donald Trump three decades later.  Secretary of Defense Mark Esper wants to put new missiles in Asia “sooner rather than later;” fortunately, U.S. allies in the region are uninterested.  Meanwhile, the treaty to reduce strategic nuclear weapons that was negotiated in the Obama administration expires in less than a year, and there is no indication of U.S. interest in resuming negotiations.  Russian President Vladimir Putin called for a moratorium on new missile deployments, which French President Emmanuel Macron considers a “basis for discussion.”

What is Needed to be Done?  

Interestingly and ironically, we have a statement from the former Soviet Union for the substantive speech an American president should issue.  On the eve of the inauguration of President Jimmy Carter in January 1977, General Secretary Leonid I. Brezhnev, a persistent advocate for detente, presented a new military policy that renounced the pursuit of military superiority and endorsed strategic arms limitations and reductions.  Brezhnev’s Politburo was committed to reducing Soviet defense programs and the high level of defense spending.  It was a signal to the Soviet military that it had been receiving more than its fair share of Soviet resources and investment, and that it was time for the military to share this largesse with a civilian economy that was falling behind.  This is exactly what the United States must do, particularly in the wake of the current pandemic that has exposed U.S. domestic weakness.

Brezhnev’s speech was a seminal statement of Soviet policy that offers ideas to American national security policy more than four decades later.  First of all, the Kremlin understood that there was a rough parity between the strategic forces of the two sides.  Moscow led in the area of the overall number of ICBM and SLBM missile launchers as well as strategic missile throw weight.  The United States led in the numbers of missile warheads, forward submarine bases, and strategic bombers.  The existence of strategic parity, which continues to this day, allows for significant reductions in strategic capability.  Moscow was objecting to Washington’s preoccupation with military power and the military balance, which continues to this day and has worsened in the Trump era.

Donald Trump’s first secretary of defense, James Mattis, wanted to transform the U.S. military into a more effective fighting force that would waste less money and pursue greater cooperation within allied arrangements.  Trump stood in the way of this with his pursuit of a Space Force; a wall and National Guard deployment on the southern border; strategic modernization; and national and regional missile defense.  The Pentagon was initially spared the politicization that Trump inflicted on the Department of State, the Department of Justice, and the intelligence community, but his appointment of Secretary of Defense Esper points to politicization of the military as well. U.S. hostility toward Russia and China have driven Beijing and Moscow to forge their best state-to-state relations in the past 60 years.  Pulling out of the Iran nuclear accord and manufacturing a crisis with Iran have worsened U.S. interests in the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, and Southwest Asia.

Now, at a time when there are no serious challenges from abroad to U.S. security or military supremacy, more than 60 percent of U.S. discretionary spending goes to support defense, including the budgets of the Pentagon, Veteran’s Affairs, Intelligence, Energy, and Homeland Security.  No other agency in the U.S. government gets as much as 10% of U.S. discretionary spending, and Trump’s current budget calls for cutting the budgets of domestic agencies such as Health and Human Services, Education, and Housing and Urban Development even further.  The pandemic crisis should remind us that these non-defense agencies must be bolstered.

In order to address serious domestic concerns, the United States must seek significant savings by reducing the Pentagon budget, ending endless wars, and returning to the arms control and disarmament arena.  Security assistance programs must be more transparent and accountable, and alliances with corrupt dictators and monarchies must be ended.  As defense analyst William Hartung notes, the question is not “whether military spending creates jobs—it is whether more jobs could be created by the same amount of money invested in other ways.”

Posted in USA, HealthComments Off on The Coronavirus and the Urgent Need to Redefine National Security

Russia confirms attack on Turkish forces in Idlib

The head of the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria, Admiral Oleg Goralev, said that the militant forces placed explosive devices on the patrol path of the Turkish military on Tuesday.

He said in a press conference on Tuesday: “An improvised explosive device exploded during the passage of a Turkish patrol in the Sufahan region, today, Tuesday, where two vehicles were damaged as a result of the explosion, and two Turkish soldiers were wounded.”

According to him, the militants groups not controlled by the Turkish side continue to take steps to destabilize the situation in the Idlib region.

He stressed that the militants carried out during the past 24 hours seven bombing operations in the Idlib Governorate, while no violations of the ceasefire system were observed by armed factions loyal to Turkey.

He concluded by saying: “The Russian Reconciliation Center calls on the leaders of the illegal armed formations to abandon provocations with weapons, and take the path of a peaceful settlement.”

Posted in Russia, Syria, TurkeyComments Off on Russia confirms attack on Turkish forces in Idlib

What happens to people if they are infected with the coronavirus?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 10-New-Delhi-India-wait-test-AP_20073302849638-600px.jpg

Indian doctor walks past patients waiting to get examined for coronavirus symptoms at a free screening camp at a government run hospital in New Delhi, India. Photo: AP

As we understand right now, COVID-19 starts in the upper respiratory system. For an average of five days after infection, patients have no symptoms, but scientists believe they can spread the disease at this stage. Symptoms usually start fairly mild—commonly a fever, dry cough, and fatigue. And again, in this stage many people continue to go about their lives, visiting friends and family—and spreading the disease. (Many infected people may have no symptoms, but can still spread the disease to others.)

After this, particularly if the person’s immune system is not strong, the infection moves into the lungs and potentially causes pneumonia. If the pneumonia becomes severe, people will need assistance breathing—oxygen, ventilators, and other medical interventions.1 If they don’t get this help, they may die, and a significant number of people who reach this stage die even with proper medical help.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 80 percent of confirmed cases—those who test positive for the virus—experience “mild to moderate” symptoms, lasting a week or more, that can range from symptoms similar to influenza to a pneumonia that is not bad enough to require hospitalization. They then recover, though some may experience long-term respiratory problems. The other 20 percent will have a more severe pneumonia marked by difficulty breathing that requires hospitalization. Of those hospitalized, as many as one in four may require intensive care unit (ICU) treatment, often needing ventilators—complex machines that force air into the lungs of people who cannot breathe effectively on their own.2

So it is currently estimated that up to 20 percent of confirmed cases require life-saving care that only hospitals can provide.

In terms of fatalities or deaths from COVID-19, it varies by the age of the person who gets it. The older you are, the more dangerous it is. It is estimated that around one person out of 100 in their 50s, and about 18 out of 100 people over 80, will die from it.3

The estimated death rates for different age groups are based on the data from the first outbreak in China, but it is not clear if data from outbreaks in other countries breaks down in exactly the same way. But we can say that older people are the most at risk, but that for all adults this can be a very dangerous diseases⏤the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on March 18 that nearly 40 percent of the people hospitalized with COVID-19 were between 20 and 54 years old.

Along with age, a major factor in mortality is the health of the patient. People with conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or serious lung disease or whose immune systems are compromised (like people with HIV/AIDS or people taking drugs that suppress their immune systems as part of cancer treatments) are more likely to die than people in their age group who do not have these conditions.

Another big factor influencing death rates is not the health of the individual, but the functioning of the society as a whole. If everybody who is seriously ill with COVID-19 receives the needed medical interventions, death rates drop dramatically. For instance, in the early stages of the epidemic in China, the city of Wuhan was hit hard and suddenly, hospitals were overwhelmed, physicians did not know how to treat it, and the death rate was 5.8 per hundred people. But its spread in other parts of China was much slower, health care systems were not overwhelmed, and the death rate plummeted to about nine per thousand infected people.4

Because of all these variables, combined with the fact that—because of insufficient testing—we don’t know how many people have the disease to begin with, it is hard to state with any certainty what the death rate has been, or what it will be. Estimates run as high as 3.4 percent and as low as 0.2 percent. But as a rough guide, most experts are currently using a figure of 1 percent—one death per a hundred people infected.


Indian doctor walks past patients waiting to get examined for coronavirus symptoms at a free screening camp at a government run hospital in New Delhi, India. Photo: AP

Posted in HealthComments Off on What happens to people if they are infected with the coronavirus?

How the Revolution Would Deal with Health Care, Including Epidemics

Excerpt from the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America.

The following is from Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, authored by Bob Avakian. (The Constitution is available in PDF format online here.)

H. Health and Medicine.

1. The goal of the New Socialist Republic in North America with regard to health and medicine is to promote the all-around health and well-being of the people and, as one key dimension of this, to provide the people in society as a whole with access to medical care–at low cost and eventually free of cost–and to continually develop and improve this medical care. The government of this Republic also acts to ensure that the food and nutritional needs of the population are met.

Research and other work will be done to anticipate, as much as possible, and to prevent to the greatest degree possible, outbreaks of disease and epidemics, and to detect and treat such outbreaks and epidemics as quickly and effectively as possible where and when they cannot be prevented.

2. In line with this overall orientation, while due attention will be paid to the treatment of disease, including highly specialized treatment, and to medical research (and in this regard the basic principles discussed above with regard to science and scientific endeavor will be applied), the emphasis will be placed on prevention of disease, through the promotion of healthy nutrition and exercise, as well as other means, and on early detection and treatment of disease, to the greatest degree possible.

3. In keeping with a scientific approach, as well as an internationalist orientation, research and development, and practical developments, in the field of medicine shall be shared, as fully as possible, with people in this (and related) fields in other parts of the world, and cooperation shall be promoted and effected in detecting, combatting and preventing outbreaks of disease and epidemics, as well as in the treatment of disease, and the all-around development of medical science and its practical application, throughout the world.

4. The orientation that shall be promoted, and established as the standard, for professionals and others in the field of medicine shall be to serve the people. In the treatment of disease, and in other aspects of medicine, the sensibilities, as well as the experience and knowledge, of patients, and of the people broadly, shall be taken into account and drawn on fully as a basic requirement and a basic resource in the practice of medicine and the development and application of medical science.

Posted in Health, WorldComments Off on How the Revolution Would Deal with Health Care, Including Epidemics

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