Tom's Coronavirus Blog
Coronavirus Blog

Recent Writings on the
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Epidemic
June 23, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Public Health

Thinking of a career in Public Health? You might want to think a little harder. Folks are leaving the profession in droves.

Seems like a lot of folks don't care to be healthy. Worse than that, they don't care if others are healthy either. And even worse than that, they'll viciously attack anyone who works to keep folks healthy.

Well, we are a free people. We have a Right to our diseases. And we have a Right to spread them around freely. We are a free people; and as former president George W. Bush once remarked, "They hate our freedoms." Maybe this was what he was referring to. Maybe they hate our freedom to spread disease.

Well, cases of COVID-19 are, very predictably, on the rise in the United States. Having fallen briefly below 20,000 new cases per day, we have now, for the first time since April, surpassed 30,000 new cases in four of the last five days. A rise in mortality will very likely follow on the heals of the rise in new infections.

==================


June 16, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Corona Virus Appears to be Mutating

The COVID-19 virus appears to be mutating and may be becoming more contagious and more virulent. It is moving into war-torn countries on the heels of invading soldiers and foreign bureaucrats. In Afghanistan, confirmed cases increased almost four-fold from 6,664 to 26,310 over the past 30 days. In Yemen, confirmed cases increased almost seven-fold from 128 to 885 in 30 days. These numbers are likely grossly under-reported.

Here, in the United States, we remain by far the country with the most COVID-19 cases and our numbers continue to increase at an alarming rate. While daily new cases have been falling over the past two months; with the reopening of business and social life, new cases have leveled off and appear to be set to rise again.

==================


May 26, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Coronablog: First the Good News

Italy has recommended the Cuban medical brigade, which has been active in Italy helping to fight the COVID epidemic, for the Nobel Peace Prize. Meanwhile, here in the USA, we sanction Cuba and make it difficult for them to buy ventilators and other medical equipment.

With the help of Cuba, Italy has brought new infections down from a high of over 6,000 daily to less than 500.

Coronablog: Now the Bad News

Looks like the “healthcare” industry is making a killing (literally) off the coronavirus: Timothy Regan who went to the emergency room with COVID-19 symptoms was socked with over $3,000 in charges of which has medical insurer, United Healthcare, paid about 1/3, leaving him with a bill of more than $2,000.

The “healthcare” industry is making record profits amid the coronavirus pandemic. (In case you are wondering what fuels all these conspiracy theories about COVID-19, you need look no further.)

And Gallup finds that 14% of people in the US would not get checked out if they had fever and a dry cough, typical COVID-19 symptoms, due to the cost.

Let's do a little seat-of-pants calculation here: Taking 14% of the 1.7 million confirmed cases in the United States (the actual number is thought to be much higher), we get 238 thousand people. And each one infects about 2.5 other people, that's 595 thousand. And of those 595 thousand around 2.5% will die. That's almost 15 thousand people who may have died so that the healthcare industry can make record profits.

Question: So, why aren't the CEOs of these corporations being charged with crimes against humanity?

Answer: We live in a country that values profit more than human life. That's Capitalism!

Of course, that is not the whole story. In our rush to reopen Missouri's economy, how many will have caught COVID-19 over Memorial Day weekend? And how many will they infect? And how many of those will die? I'll let someone else do this calculation.

==================


May 12, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Tired of Writing About COVID-19

I'm tired of writing about COVID-19. If you wish, you can get the latest numbers at worldometers.org. (Really love this site! Hope you do too. Their data is basically the same as everybody else's — as reported. However, I find their tables and graphs more up-to-date and easier to read than those on other sites.)

It cannot be stressed too much that the numbers therein are only as good as the reported data, which may or may not faithfully represent the situation on the ground.

I would, however, be remiss if I didn't recommend to you this article by Belle Chesler, who is a teacher of visual arts in the Beaverton, Oregon public schools. Chesler talks about how inadequate distance learning is as a replacement for the hands-on classroom experience.

I sure do miss reading to my classes at Mark Twain. (No, I'm not going to start reading on Zoom.)

STOP now and read Chesler's article.

==================


May 5, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Global Military Spending Up

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has come out with their 2019 asessment of global military expenditures. The world saw a 3.6% annual increase in military spending to over $1.9 trillion, the largest growth in a decade. As you might have guessed, the United States leads the pack spending a whopping $732 billion on its military in 2019, roughly equivalent to the ten countries with the next highest military expenditures, in order: China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea and Brazil.

And the world has topped 3.6 million reported cases of COVID-19. The United States again leads the pack with over 1.2 million cases, slightly more than the six countries with the next highest number of COVID cases, in order: Spain, Italy, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Russia.

Lots of overlap in the two lists. I don't think it's coincidence.

Nor do I think it coincidence that the country responsible for over 1/3 of the world's military expenditures has been afflicted with almost 1/3 of the world's reported COVID-19 cases.

Imagine! if the world had spent that $1.9 trillion on public health infrastructure, instead of the wherewithal to kill each other. Perhaps, there would have been no pandemic at all.

But, sadly, it seems that a lot of folks are more interested in fighting each other than staying healthy.

Some Scriptural References to Pandemics

Here's an amazing hadith (Saying of the Prophet Mohammed, Peace and Blessings be upon him):
“If you hear of a plague in a land, then do not go into it. If it happens in land where you are, then do not go out of it.”
Today we would say, “shelter in place,” and we would say “pandemic” instead of “plague.” The Prophet knew 1,400 years ago that this was the way to fight a pandemic.

And this hadith about plague is even more amazing:
“It is a punishment that Allah sends upon whoever he wills, but Allah has made it a mercy for the believers. Any servant who resides in a land afflicted by plague, remaining patient and hoping for reward from Allah, knowing that nothing will befall him but what Allah has decreed, he will be given the reward of a martyr.”
One who dies in a pandemic while sheltering in place will receive in the hereafter the reward of one who chooses death, so that others may live.

Ancient scripture tells us that pandemic disease is a punishment from God.
“But the transgressors changed the word from that which had been given them; so We sent on the transgressors a plague from heaven, for that they infringed (Our command) repeatedly.”
Qur'an 2:59 (translation of meaning by Yusuf Ali)

“So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men.”
2 Samuel 24:15 (KJV)

This chapter from 2 Samuel, often called the “Census of David” is particular pertinent to this discussion. Here are the results of David's census:
“And Joab gave up the sum of the number of the people unto the king: and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men.”
King David was apparently only interested in men who could draw sword. His great sin for which God sent a pestilence upon Israel was preparing for War, perhaps even aggressive War against his neighbors.

And the pestilence ended only after David learned humility and spake unto the LORD saying:
“Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father's house. ... And David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the Lord was intreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel.”
Since the European “Enlightenment,” people have stopped believing that pandemic disease is a punishment from God; but today, when modern science finds itself helpless to protect against emerging diseases like HIV/AIDS and COVID-19, I think many are returning to the ancient belief.

Think about this: The best protection available today against COVID-19 was advocated to his followers 1,400 years ago by Prophet Mohammed.

==================


April 28, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

From Our Readers: Is COVID-19 Primarily a Disease of Wealthy Countries?

A reader writes in:
“I read the Rolla news this morning and clicked into your article about coronovirus/wealthy countries. I agree with your premise: you'd think poor countries with less access to handwashing facilities and such would be harder hit. On the other hand, wealthy countries with people who travel more are more likely to spread it. Also, all the stats are based on where tests are available, so hard to say how many cases are where. I agree that we don't know a lot. ... I think the correlation you're making is interesting—I've wondered why we aren't seeing more spread in less developed countries.”
My response:

Many very important points in your response. I've included them along with a few others in the Is COVID-19 Primarily a Disease of Wealthy Countries? article (the article).

I reran the correlation using numbers as of 0:00 hours gmt April 28 (7pm cdt April 27). There were 43 countries in the top 50 in both Gross Domestic Product and number of coronavirus cases reported (the same number as at 0:00 hours gmt April 7 although a few of the countries had changed). Including the other 14 countries that are in the top 50 in one but not both categories, this time we get a correlation coefficient of 0.43 as opposed to 0.46 on April 7. However, using only the core 43 countries, we get a correlation coefficient of 0.57 as opposed to the previous 0.50.

Statistically speaking, It would seem that little has changed over the past three weeks.

The new graph and table have been added to the article.

There are many interesting factoids that can be gleaned from this data.. For example: Ten of the 11 countries with the highest GDP are among the 15 countries with the highest reported number of COVID-19 cases. And these ten countries comprise 62% of the worlds GDP and 66% of the world's reported COVID-19 cases.

But, putting numbers aside, I think the reason COVID-19 has struck such fear into people in wealthy countries is that they are so used to catastrophes striking those others in poor countries, not us. Now, here's one that seems to strike us more then them. (Doesn't God work in such marvelous ways! Perhaps we will learn humility and the importance of sharing from this, although it doesn't seem to be happening.)

It cannot be stressed too much that the numbers herein are only as good as the reported data, which may or may not faithfully represent the situation on the ground.

Anybody out there with a statistics background interested in playing with these numbers? I'd welcome an informed opinion.



Wherefrom Cometh the COVID?

According to the gurus at
Johns Hopkins (and many other respected institutions and publications in the United States):
“TRUE or FALSE? The new coronavirus was deliberately created or released by people.

“The answer is false.

“Viruses can change over time. Occasionally, a disease outbreak happens when a virus that is common in an animal such as a pig, bat or bird undergoes changes and passes to humans. This is likely how the new coronavirus came to be.”

Likely? Huhhh? If you don't know where COVID-19 came from, how can you rule out human creation?

I'm no expert on genetic manipulation; but if I wanted to create a deadly disease and release it, I'd sure try my hardest to mimic natural selection to cover my tracks. Wonder whether these “scientists” thought of that. Actually, mimicking natural selection in Nature has been going on for millennia. It often goes under a name like selective breeding or grafting. However, genetic engineering can speed up this process many fold.

Neither you nor I know what goes on in these ultra-secret military and commercial laboratories. And if you think scientists are so hard to fool, remember the Piltdown Man.

But here's the kicker:

Unlike COVID “myth-buster” articles in the United States, like this one, the World Health Organization does not mention man-made creation as a myth. They have apparently refused to jump on this bandwagon; and maybe this has something to do with why the United States just terminated funding for the World Health Organization.

Here are three other reasons why I stand by my previous statement that:

“In my opinion it is quite likely that the COVID-19 virus was genetically engineered and released in China in an act of economic or political sabotage.”
1. Many of these folks in high places are pure sociopaths. They think nothing of killing millions of people.

Remember Iraq? During and after the First Gulf War, Iraq's ability to provide clean water and sanitation was deliberately destroyed; leading to the death of at least 1/2 million children from easily preventable water-borne disease. And then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright crowed on 60 minutes that “the price is worth it.”

And then there's Flint Michigan, where the city water supply was deliberately poisoned and the perpetrators covered it up for years. So far these perpetrators have not done one day of jail-time for this.

Sanctions applied to Iran and Venezuela have killed thousands through degradation of the public health infrastructure. This seems to have become a favored method of attack.

Other examples of mass murder abound.

2. Earlier this month a report was leaked that US intelligence had picked up information about the COVID-19 epidemic in China as early as November. But, Dr. Li Wenliang did not become aware of the existence of seven cases of a SARS-like infection in Wuhan until December 30. How could this be, unless US intelligence already knew about the virus and was actively monitoring its spread.

3. In January, as the COVID-19 epidemic spread in China, US Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross remarked, “I think it will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America, some to the U.S., probably some to Mexico as well.” It was almost like he had planned it this way.
Keep in mind that all the above evidence is purely circumstantial. Nothing has been proved or disproved. Unlike some “science gurus,” I am not claiming to know what I do not.

The term “quite likely” is purposefully vague. How about, “with a probability of 65% or greater?” instead.

Note (added May 15): Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the World Health Organization, said in a recent interview:
“We have listened again and again to numerous scientists who have looked at the sequences and looked at this virus; and we are assured that this virus is natural in origin.”
But that is totally different than saying it is false that “the new coronavirus was deliberately created or released by people.”

This Is Disgusting

Seems some folks are worried that China or Russia might steal our research into COVID-19 vaccines.

Huhhhh?

Why aren't they sharing? To date over 200 thousand people have died with COVID-19 including over 50 thousand in the United States. Apparently, the important thing is the money and prestige that would come from developing the first vaccine — very little concern over how many more people might die in the meantime.

Humor?

If you are having trouble keeping a sense of humor about all this, try this article.

==================


April 21, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

November Intelligence: When Did the US First Learn About COVID-19?

It was reported first by ABC News and a week later by the Times of Israel that US intelligence became aware of the coronavirus epidemic in China back in November, perhaps as early as the second week of November, at least partially through intercepted Chinese messages. US intelligence reported this to the White House and shared with Israel and NATO. Apparently, nobody did a thing.

This doesn't make a lot of sense. It wasn't until December 30 that Doctor Li Wenliang became aware of the existence of 7 cases of a SARS-like infection in Wuhan.

But, lets assume the reports are true. It makes authorities in China, the United States, Israel and Europe all look bad — sitting on their duffs while pandemic disease spreads out of control.

Now let's assume the report is only partially true. US Intelligence became aware of the spreading epidemic in China in November; but only because they were looking for it. Why? Could it be that they had brought the virus to Wuhan themselves?

We could also assume that the whole report is simply “fake news” and ignore it.

Take your choice; but as for me, whereas in the past I have stated:
“in my opinion there is a significant probability that the COVID-19 virus was genetically engineered and released in China in an act of economic or political sabotage;”
I now have to upgrade “there is a significant probability” to “it is quite likely.”

If you are part of the “blame it all on China” cabal, read this article from Moon of Alabama. Moon of Alabama opines:
“China took extreme and drastic measures at high economic costs to prevent a larger outbreak. It did not do that to deceive anyone but because it saw the seriousness of the problem. It acted in the global interest and to defeat the virus.

“China gave the world time to prepare for the pandemic. Unfortunately, that time was not used well.”
 
COVID-19 Pandemic: The United States and The Countries It Sanctions

Let's look at how the United States, and countries under US sanctions are fairing amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic:



Perhaps, if the United States were more concerned with the health of its citizens; and less concerned with empire building, war making, pampering the rich and brutalizing the unfortunate, our numbers would look more like the other numbers in the table above.

And here are the numbers for a few more selected countries. If I've omitted your favorite, check the worldometers.info site.



Data from worldometers.info as of 0:00hrs gmt April 21 (7pm cdt April 20). Note: All statistics are “as reported.” There is an excellent discussion of this on the worldometers.info website.

Nicaragua: How to Avoid Shutting a Country Down

While Sweden is often cited as a country that has remained open in spite of the COVID pandemic, Nicaragua is a far better example. There is actually no comparison. (See tables above.)

Here's a description of how they are doing it from an Estadounidense who has lived in Nicaragua for over 20 years.
“Yesterday I went to a Nicaraguan government office to take care of necessary paperwork. At the door I was politely asked to wash my hands in one of two outdoor sinks with soap. The nice man at the door then checked my temperature with an infrared thermometer and waved me in. Just inside the door was a disinfectant mat, I was asked to wipe my shoes and then my hands were sprayed with alcohol. At the check-in desk I was given a squirt of alcohol gel for my hands and my ID, which I handed over in exchange for a visitor's ID that had also been disinfected.

This was my experience everywhere I went — polite people in masks attending in each business, 1 meter markings on the floor for social distancing, disinfecting at the doors, alcohol gel available — the Ministry of Health is inspecting businesses (our Clinic too) to make sure they're following guidelines. No, Nicaragua is not shutting down right now, but the government is definitely not ‘doing nothing’ — in our blog today we break down what's going on and why Nicaragua's response to COVID-19 will not be the same as developed countries' response.”

And this is how NOT to avoid shutting a country down.

And if you are of the opinion that COVID-19 is no different from the flu, read this article from Science.

Ceasefire Everywhere

While most countries are onboard with a ceasefire in all conflicts so humanity can unite to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States and Russia apparently think a global ceasefire should not pertain to them.

==================


March 13, 2020 (last updated April 17)

Has COVID-19 Caused Changes in Atmospheric CO2?

The underlying data for the accompanying graph, which were provided to me by NOAA, are daily averages for CO2 in the atmosphere in ppm, as recorded at Mauna Loa. The lines in the graph represent 30 day running averages (leftmost: March 14 – April 12, 2020; rightmost: Dec. 1 – Dec. 30, 2019). 30-day average concentrations, as expected, rose up to mid-February when they unexpectedly started to level off, peaking on Feb. 25 at 414.21 ppm, and then falling to 413.84 ppm on March 13 and rising to 414.57 on April 1 and 415.48 on April 12.

Historically, concentrations or atmospheric CO2 should rise from October through May. So what caused the late February – early March decrease? My best guess is COVID-19. More precisely, the decrease in economic activity in China caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 was first confirmed in late December. Less then 2 months later, atmospheric CO2 peaked and started to decrease.

But then, what caused the uptick in atmospheric CO2 after March 13? Again, my best guess is that it is related to the COVID-19 pandemic, this time to the Chinese bringing the pandemic in China under control, and to the concomitant resurgence of industry in China.

It should be noted that there are other possible explanations for the February and March changes in atmospheric CO2. For example, the March uptick could have been caused by the atmosphere making up for the February deficit by drawing carbon out of our ocean sinks. However, I think the explanation above by far the most likely.

If the conjecture holds that these changes are, to a significant extent, due to COVID-19, it would mean that a decrease in economic activity, particularly in China which is now responsible for more CO2 emissions than any other country, could result in an almost immediate decrease in atmospheric CO2.

It should be noted that the pandemic is still raging in North America and Europe. Why is this not affecting atmosphic CO2 concentrations? Again, I would conjecture that the shutdown in North America and Europe is no where near as complete as it was in China.

In other words, it is likely that we could begin to reverse global warming immediately, simply by decreasing unnecessary economic activity. It is also noteworthy that Nature simply did what we could have easily done for ourselves in an orderly manner, without the death and disruption caused by COVID-19. This certainly demonstrates the old adage, “Nature Bats Last;” or as Kumi Naidoo put it, “Nature does not negotiate, it responds to our intransigence.”

While some toot the decrease in anthropogenic CO2 emissions, on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, it should be noted that this has had little, if any, overall effect on atmospheric CO2. Average atmospheric CO2 concentrations rose 2.36 ppm in February 2020 over February 2019 and 2.53 ppm in March 2020 over March 2019, as compared to a 50+ year average increase of 1.74 ppm per year. In the first 12 days of April 2020, CO2 concentrations rose 3.62 ppm above the equivalent period in 2019.

Caveat: Four+ months is less than a blink of an eye in climatological terms. It will be interesting and exciting to see what tomorrow brings.

==================


April 14, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

The Peace Virus
“And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention. It looked at you with a vengeful aspect.”
—Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness)

Here inside, all is still. You wouldn't know that outside rages a tiny, but deadly, assassin, a coronavirus, not even a micron in diameter.

Perhaps, COVID-19 ought to be renamed the Peace Virus. We have been calling for an end to the bombing of Yemen for years. COVID-19 has succeeded where we failed. Saudi Arabia has unilaterally called a truce to go home and fight the coronavirus. And in both Syria and Afghanistan, truces seem to be holding and progress continues to limp toward Peace.

And in the US Navy, COVID-19 has forced a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to port, and forced the acting Secretary of the Navy to resign. That is no mean feat.

I had hopes that the Peace Virus could have helped to reverse global warming, and it yet may. But, in spite of the global disruption and recession, concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide continue to rise; and March 2020 was the second warmest March on record.

No, I wouldn't count on the Peace Virus to set everything straight for us. But, Nature has powers that we humans can not even dream of.

So all is still. We hunker down indoors, afraid to go outside, and I think of another Joseph Conrad line:
“And outside, the silent wilderness ... struck me as something great and invincible, like evil or truth, waiting patiently for the passing away of this fantastic invasion.”
==================


April 7, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Is COVID-19 a Disease Primarily of Wealthy Countries?

In mid-March, I suggested that COVID-19 seems to be attacking primarily wealthy countries such as the United States and many European countries. I think the case is a lot stronger now than it was three weeks ago when I wrote that. I've written a short article here.

New COVID-19 Cases in Iran Fall for Eight Consecutive Days

In spite of US sanctions that have severely degraded Iran's health care abilities, Iran appears to have stopped the COVID-19 virus in its tracks. New cases have fallen for eight consecutive days, and the number of active cases is coming down too. On top of this, Iran appears to have prepared for the worst, which may not come.

==================


March 31, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Is Satire Obsolete?
“Sometimes, reality outraces our capacity for satire.”
—John Acheson

I was just feeling a little silly that evening, when I photocollaged The Lone Ranger meets the Coronavirus cartoon, Within a few days, as coronavirus cases exploded exponentially around the world, it morphed into dark humor. It wasn't funny any longer.

Decades ago, Tom Lehrer was asked if he was going to return to writing political satire. His response, “political satire became obsolete when they awarded Henry Kissinger the Nobel Peace Prize,” was political satire at its best.

Recently, I saw an article on CNN that reported that gun and ammunition sales were booming on account of the coronavirus pandemic, which made me think of Lehrer's remark and my cartoon.

Think about that: As a nation, our response to any adversity is to arm ourselves, no matter how inappropriate that might be. This, I think, is a big part of the reason that the United States now leads all other nations in COVID-19 cases.

I still don't know whether political satire is obsolete; but perhaps Lehrer was right.

And here is Tom Paxton singing, Buy a Gun for your Son (1965).

Solidarity

So many of the threats we face are global threats, and require a global response. Besides Global Warming and Nuclear Warfare, the current pandemic is an obvious example. All people must stand together to successfully oppose these threats.

In order to allow all peoples the ability to fight the current COVID-19 pandemic, clearly, all nations should place a hold on warfare and sabotage and, at least temporarily, lift all sanctions and blockades that degrade the ability to fight the pandemic. Unfortunately, the United States is doing exactly the opposite, placing new sanctions on Iran at a time when sanctions should be lifted.

Interestingly, Iran which has suffered for years under US sanctions that have degraded their ability to provide the people with adequate healthcare, appears to being doing far better than the United States at containing the pandemic. By the numbers, the US now has more COVID-19 cases, both in absolute numbers and relative to its population than Iran. The US has also experienced a greater mortality than Iran, in absolute numbers although not relative to their populations. However, perhaps most importantly, the United States now has more than six times the number of currently infectious cases than Iran has. Since future cases come from those currently infected, this numeric disparity seems likely to increase.

The United States is also ramping up attacks on Venezuela, declaring President Nicholas Maduro a “narcoterrorist,” without a shred of evidence and placing a bounty on his head. So far, Venezuela has kept the pandemic mostly at bay, with currently a mere 135 cases.

The closest ally of the United States, Israel, also appears to have done a lackluster job at containing the pandemic. Israel now has 4,695 COVID-19 cases, more than all but 16 other countries. Israel maintains the world's largest open-air prison, Gaza, with 1.8 million Palestinian inmates, half of whom are children. Gaza is ripe for a disastrous epidemic having inadequate clean water and medical facilities due to the long-standing Israeli blockade which clearly should be lifted immediately.

By contrast, China and Cuba are going around the world providing aid in combating the pandemic to many countries in need, including Italy, Iran, Jamaica and Venezuela.
Note: The above statistics on the COVID-19 pandemic come from worldometers.info and are as of 0:00 hours gmt on March 31 (7:00pm cdt on March 30). Statistics are “as reported” and may or may not truly represent the reality on the ground.
Whither To?

But maybe there is an upside to all this. I see very little in the news now about War. Perhaps nations are too busy fighting the pandemic to fight each other.

And perhaps this pandemic is giving Nature a chance to make a comeback. Purportedly, the waters in Venice, Italy have never been so clear.

But this will pass. Eventually humanity will develop herd-immunity to the COVID-19 virus.

However, I suspect COVID-19 will prove to be a terminal illness for the Great American Empire. Weakened from without by Perpetual War and Climate Change, hollowed out from within by corruption and inequality, I do not expect the Great American Empire to survive intact. COVID-19 may well be the final nail in its coffin.

What will follow? I don't have a crystal ball. All I have are Leonard Cohen's prophetic words: “You're not going to like what comes after America.”

==================


March 24, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Corona Blowback
“I read the news today, oh boy,”
—John Lennon/Paul McCartney (A Day in the Life)

Oh boy! What a day. Don't know where to begin; so lets start with the numbers: over 10,000 new COVID-19 cases in the United States yesterday — up from over 9,000 the day before — an 838% increase from a week ago. We're setting new records day after day. No other country has come even close: not China, not Italy, not Iran, none. Among the ten countries with the most COVID-19 cases, United Kingdom is next with a 331% increase over the past week. Worldwide cases have increased 108% over the past week. And in China cases have increased less than 1% over the past week.

On January 28, I wrote:
“The United States is perhaps particularly vulnerable. We've gutted our public health infrastructure in favor of for-profit health care. When people are afraid to seek medical help because they might end up paying for it for the rest of their lives, how are we to keep contagious disease from spreading?”
On February 11, I elaborated:
“The United States, with it's for-profit health industry, is perhaps the least able of all wealthy countries to respond positively to such an epidemic. How do you fight an epidemic when a large part of the population is too poor to afford to go to a doctor? How do you fight an epidemic when a large part of the population is so afraid, that it would not bring itself to the attention of the authorities anyway? How do you fight an epidemic in a society that has become so used to blaming others for everything that goes wrong, that it has lost its power of introspection?”
So why is this happening? Many reasons:

1. This can't be happening to us! So, let's go to the beach and party. This is abject stupidity: Californians ignoring a “shelter in place” order and crowding onto the beaches en masse amidst a global pandemic.

2. How can we profit from the coronavirus? Profiteering is rampant. Even the President reportedly tried to buy up exclusive rights to a promising German vaccine that is under development.

3. A total lack of national leadership. We've spent decades getting “big government off our backs”. So it's hardly surprising to find big government missing in action when it is most needed.

4. While the world needs to pull together in face of the COVID-19 pandemic, instead of putting a hold on sanctions which degrade the ability of others to fight the pandemic, the United States is ramping up sanctions on Iran, one of the hardest hit countries.

5. Blame it on the Chinese. Donald Trump insists on calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus”, sparking racist assaults against East Asians in the United States. This, in spite of that nobody knows where and how COVID-19 came.
Note: I stand by my previous statement that, “in my opinion there is a significant probability that the COVID-19 virus was genetically engineered and released in China in an act of economic or political sabotage.”
Last week I quoted Shakespeare on hand-washing. Here's another Shakespeare line describing a similar situation:
“For ’tis the sport to have the engineer
Hoist with his own petard:”

(Hamlet III:4)
The Chinese have a much older saying:
“To pick up a rock only to drop it on one's own foot.”
Some other statistics:

1. There appear to have been few cases of internal transmission in China recently. China is ramping up surveillance at airports and border crossings in order to identify travelers with COVID-19 infections.

2. Israel, with a population of around 9 million, has reported almost 1,500 cases of COVID-19. Meanwhile, Palestinian prisoners are held in unsanitary conditions without access to the means to prevent the spread of disease. Israel also holds 1.8 million people, in the world's largest open air prison, Gaza, without adequate medical supplies or clean drinking water.

3. Europe has far more cases than any other continent: around 200,000.

4. Cuba and China are helping Italy and other countries fight the pandemic. Meanwhile, the United States is not even helping itself.

Juan Cole has written an excellent article on the US response to COVID-19.

5. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has tracked the rise and fall of the COVID-19 pandemic in China pretty closely. The epidemic spread in China throughout January, peaking in early February and then falling below 100 new cases per day by early March. The 30 day running average of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere peaked on February 25 and fell until March 13 tracking the earlier decrease in economic activity in China caused by the pandemic. After March 13, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere rose again, this time tracking the resurgence of economic activity in response to China's bringing the pandemic under control.

Historically, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations rise from October through May.

Maybe now that China has shown the world how to beat the coronavirus, next they will show the world how to beat global warming. It won't be easy; but I believe it can be done. Maybe they could also show the world how to live in Peace. It's never been done before. But, maybe, the time is now.

Note 1: Most of the statistics on COVID-19 above come from the tables and graphs at worldometers.info. The worldometers.info day begin at 00 hours universal (Greenwich mean) time which is 7:00pm cdt the previous day. Thus, yesterday refers to 7pm Sunday, March 22 to 7pm Monday, March 23 cdt. Weekly growth rates refer to 7pm Monday, March 16 to 7pm Monday, March 23 cdt.

Note 2: By time you read this, many parts of this post are likely to be out-of-date.

==================


March 17, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Corona Blowback
William Shakespeare on Hand-Washing
Gentlewoman
It is an accustomed action with her, to seem thus
washing her hands: I have known her continue in
this a quarter of an hour.
LADY MACBETH
Yet here's a spot....

Out, damned spot! out, I say!...

What, will these hands ne'er be clean?...

Here's the smell of the blood still: all the
perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little
hand. Oh, oh, oh!
Doctor
This disease is beyond my practise: ...

Foul whisperings are abroad: unnatural deeds
Do breed unnatural troubles:
William Shakespeare, Macbeth 5:1

Sanctions: an Attack on Public Health
In truth, I am tired of writing about the COVID-19 coronavirus; yet, here I go again.

Here are three articles on Iran, Venezuela and Cuba and how US sanctions have degraded Public Health in these countries. I suspect Iran, Venezuela and Cuba will continue to do the best they can under the circumstances to inhibit the spread of the Coronavirus. Perhaps, in the long run, better than many far wealthier countries.

Iraq is another case. Sanctions of Iraq, 1990-2003, probably killed well over a million, mostly children, of preventable disease. It was known in the halls of government that this was happening, yet it continued for 13 years.

Kudos for China
China appears to have the COVID-19 coronavirus under control. Over the last 10 days, China has averaged 20 new confirmed cases per day.

China claims that if the rest of the world takes appropriate measures, as China has, the pandemic will be over by June.

China has objected to the use of the name Wuhan Coronavirus, pointing out that the virus may not have originated in China.

I agree. And I apologize for having used that name in the past.

And I think the Chinese and some others know exactly how it originated; and I suspect at some point they will go public. If I had anything to do with starting this pandemic, I'd be quaking in my boots right now.

Disease of the Wealthy Countries
Taking a look at the 20 countries with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases. They are, in order:

China, Italy, Iran, Spain, Germany, South Korea, France, United States, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Belgium, Sweden, Japan, Malaysia, Canada, Australia, Portugal.

Except Iran and Malaysia, they are all relatively wealthy countries in North America, Europe, Australia and East Asia.

One can ascribe various reasons for this, but I can't help thinking:
“But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.” —Matthew 19:30 (KJV)

What's Next?
This is what really scares me. As I've stated before, I think the world is primed for a really serious epidemic, one which will make COVID-19 look like the common cold. Think, for example, of a respiratory infection like COVID-19, but with all the characteristics of HIV/AIDS. That's scary.

The world better learn to put aside its differences and learn to work together.

==================


Coronavirus Poem: for children and advanced grownups
The Coronavirus

Bad Coronavirus!
He wants to crawl upon us;
This how we're gonna keep him off.
We'll wash out hands often,
With soap and warm water;
And cover our mouths when we cough.
And Here is a video of me reciting this poem to my grandchildren.

Coronavirus cartoon: The Lone Ranger meets the Coronavirus



March 9, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Coronavirus Update

As expected, on March 5,
new cases worldwide surpassed new recoveries for the first time since February 18. The number of contagious cases, which had been decreasing since February 18 are now on the rise again.

New cases in China fell to 40 on March 8. Meanwhile new cases outside of China stood at 3,847.

Parts of Italy have been placed under partial quarantine. Will this work in Italy the way it has in China? Will the Italians show the dedication and discipline the Chinese have shown? We'll see.

There are now over 500 cases in the United States including one in Missouri. 22 have died.

Globalization

John Feffer notes how fragile our global civilization is and how it is literally disintegrating before our eyes under the scourges of climate change, pestilence and militarism. Feffer recommends a new globalization where the world hegemons, the United States and China, work together against climate change, disease and inequality. This is an important article. Please read it.

==================


March 3, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

Worldwide, recoveries have exceeded new infections since February 18, mainly due to the work of the Chinese in containing the virus. However, if the trend of the last few days continues, new cases outside China will soon dwarf recoveries in China.

To date, the world has seen close to 100,000 cases with over 3,000 deaths.

The coronavirus epidemic in China appears under control, probably due to draconian measures taken by the Chinese authorities, including the quarantining of millions of people. New infections in China fell to 202 on March 1, 125 on March 2 and 119 on March 3.

In many other locations, new infections are on the rise. Coronavirus cases in the United States reached 124 today. Nine deaths in the United States are attributed to the coronavirus epidemic.

Iran has experienced 2,336 cases and 77 deaths, perhaps partially due to US sanctions that have hit the healthcare sector very hard.

Previously I have stated that in my opinion there is a significant probability that the COVID-19 virus was genetically engineered and released in China in an act of economic or political sabotage. I stand by this statement. If true, with the coronavirus spreading worldwide, the perpetrators have a lot to answer for.

I have also stated previously that I felt that among wealthy countries, the United States, with its for-profit health care system and its corrupt government, is among the least prepared to combat an infectious epidemic. I stand by that statement too.

It appears that the Wall Street healthcare moguls are charging folks thousands of dollars just for COVID-19 testing. The cardinal principle of public health is to win the trust of the public. It appears that the cardinal principle of the United States healthcare system is to make as much money as possible off of the public's misfortune. How many will forego testing and spread disease simply to avoid these exorbitant charges?

For my part, I've written a short six line poem stressing the tried and true method of inhibiting the spead of respiratory infection: wash hands and cover mouth when coughing. Here's a video of me reciting this poem to my grandchildren.

On a lighter note, for all you Lone Ranger fans, here's a cartoon: The Lone Ranger meets the Coronavirus.

But lets keep this all in perspective. HIV/AIDS has killed over 32 million and still infects hundreds of thousands each year.

Note: Most of the statistics above come from these graphs on worldometers.info.

==================


February 25, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

From Our Readers: Wuhan Coronavirus

A reader sends in this article from the Washington Post dated Feb 2 on the early spread of the Wuhan coronavirus with no further comment.

My response:

This article highlights a major drawback of top-down authoritarian social systems: They can be slow to react. In the case of the Wuhan coronavirus, precious weeks were lost during which the spread of the virus could have been slowed.

However, the article does not mention the strength of China's system: that once the national leadership began to react, it quickly mobilized all the powers of the State to combat the spread of the virus: quarantining millions and building hospitals at break-neck speed.

Here are some statistics from a graph posted on Worldometer:
New cases appear to have peaked on February 4 shortly after China began to mobilize against the virus.

On February 18, recoveries began to outpace new cases, meaning the number of infected people began to decrease.

Don't be fooled by the spike of new cases on Feb. 12. It stems from a change in how new cases were reported.
And some final notes:
While new cases outside of China have spiked in the last few days, the transmission rate within China appears to have fallen.

Hindsight is always 2020. It is very easy to look back and say what should or should not have been done. It is much more difficult to make correct policy in real time.

It is still too early to say much about the future course of this epidemic. With the spread of the virus to other lands, only time will show how well others outside of China handle it.
Like other existential threats, such as climate change, it is imperative that humanity start working together against the common enemy, instead of making War on each other.

==================


February 18, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

From Our Readers: Wuhan Coronavirus

In response to last week's post in which I wrote:
“The United States, with it's for-profit health industry, is perhaps the least able of all wealthy countries to respond positively to such an epidemic. How do you fight an epidemic when a large part of your population is too poor to afford to go to a doctor? How do you fight an epidemic when a large part of your population is so afraid, that it would not bring itself to the attention of the authorities anyway? How do you fight an epidemic in a society that has become so used to blaming others for everything that goes wrong, that it has lost its power of introspection?”
A reader writes in:
“You say that the United States is the least able of the wealthy countries to respond to the epidemic. I have no idea whether you consider China a wealthy country, but it is certainly an economic powerhouse. Because of its secrecy and stonewalling it has certainly proved itself the least able to deal with such a crisis. I suspect that if Trump stays out of the way, our infrastructure will handle it okay. The CDC is very professional, and seems to be dealing with this correctly.”
My response:

I stand with World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and many others in believing that China has done an admirable job in responding to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. Do you think the United States could have quarantined a city the size of Wuhan? Do you think the US could build hospitals as quickly as China has? China has a system of universal health care and a history of top-down social control that permits rapid responses to public health emergencies. We do not.

Reading US Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross's gloating remarks about the damage the coronavirus will do to the Chinese economy and the possible boost to the US economy, the first thing that popped into my mind was biological warfare and sabotage. Apparently, I was not the only one thinking along these lines. Here is a three part article about US biological warfare and sabotage including attempts to spread plague and other disease among the North Koreans and Chinese during the Korean War.
Part 1: Biological Weapons: A Useful and Timely Factual Overview

Part 2: The Geopolitical Deployment of Biological Weapons

Part 3: Genetically Modified Seeds: Conceived as a Weapon
[Hey, Wilbur, You're getting senile. You weren't supposed to say that in public.]

This article comes to me by way of Gary Kohls.

I highly recommend this three part article on biological warfare, although I would have liked to have seen mentioned:
1. The use of smallpox as a biological weapon against our Amerindian population. Smallpox could be as much as 95% fatal to a population that lacked immunity.

2. HIV/AIDS, which (in my opinion and that of others) was quite likely manufactured in a US military laboratory.

3. The use of bogus vaccination campaigns by the CIA to gather information. Such campaigns sow distrust of health workers and public health in general. (Consider the case of Shakil Afridi and the CIA attempt to gather information on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden through a bogus hepatitus vaccination campaign in Pakistan.)
And don't forget that 30 miles down the road from Rolla lies Fort Leonard Wood, home of the U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School.

==================


February 11, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Two New Statistical Milestones
“I hate statistics. What I got to know, I keep in my head.” —Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean
1. Yesterday the daily average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at the Mauna Loa observatory surpassed 416 ppm for the first time since record-keeping began. (Just nine months ago the 415 ppm milestone was also surpassed at Mauna Loa.)

2. Yesterday the number of people killed by the Wuhan coronavirus surpassed 1,000.
What do these two statistics have in common? They both demonstrate the inability of “human civilization” to respond positively to global threats.

We've known for well over 30 years that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will heat the planet and make it increasingly hostile to “human civilization.” Yet, we seem totally unable to shed the behaviors that drive this crisis: Fighting wars, burning fossil fuels and eating meat (in that order) may be the three most important of these destructive behaviors.

“Human civilization” is primed for a global epidemic of gargantuan proportions. The Wuhan coronavirus epidemic may be only a harbinger of what is to come.

The United States, with it's for-profit health industry, is perhaps the least able of all wealthy countries to respond positively to such an epidemic. How do you fight an epidemic when a large part of the population is too poor to afford to go to a doctor? How do you fight an epidemic when a large part of the population is so afraid, that it would not bring itself to the attention of the authorities anyway? How do you fight an epidemic in a society that has become so used to blaming others for everything that goes wrong, that it has lost its power of introspection?

Here's an interesting article from Science about the World Health Organization and its director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Russia and Cuba are actively helping China to contain the coronavirus epidemic. US Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, gloats over the damage the coronavirus may do to the Chinese economy and the possible boost to the US economy.

==================


February 4, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Wuhan Novel Coronavirus

The Wuhan novel coronavirus, so far has infected at least 20,000 people, mostly in China and killed over 400, all but two in China. It's first cases appeared in December, 2019. While the world panics and markets fall, it is important to put this novel coronavirus in perspective.

Here is a list of epidemics from Wikipedia. Going through the list, the Wuhan coronavirus doesn't appear to distinguish itself. It's kill rate is 2 to 3 percent. Some of those infected early, appears to be healing which is a sign that the epidemic may be peaking. China is now testing the Russian antiviral drug, Triazavirin, on the virus.

Compare to the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic that has killed over 30 million since its onset in the 1960s and still kills hundreds of thousands annually and infects millions each year. All attempts to develop an HIV vaccine have failed including this most recent one.

Both HIV and Wuhan coronavirus are thought to have jumped from other mammals to humans, although we should not rule out that these viruses may have been man-made.

==================


January 28, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Wuhan Corona Virus: This Could Be A Big One

With all the existential threats the human race faces, lets not forget this one: Pestilence. The Wuhan Corona Virus (aka 2019-nCoV,) has so far killed at least 132, spread to over 6,000, and caused China to place at least 60 million people under quarantine. The virus is thought to have jumped to humans from a bat or possibly a snake in a live animal market in Wuhan, although no one is really sure.

While it's too early to know how far this epidemic will spread, one thing is certain: humanity is ripe for a major epidemiological catastrophe. There are many reasons: war, poverty, a changing climate and overpopulation are just some that come to mind.

The United States is perhaps particularly vulnerable. We've gutted our public health infrastructure in favor of for-profit health care. When people are afraid to seek medical help because they might end up paying for it for the rest of their lives, how are we to keep contagious disease from spreading?

So wash your hands often and well, cover your mouth when you cough, and your nose when you sneeze and if you don't know how disease is spread, Tom Lehrer explains it in song in this two minute video.

###