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Ghost Dog

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Gender: Do not display
Hometown: Canary Islands Archipelago
Home country: Spain
Member since: Wed Apr 19, 2006, 01:59 PM
Number of posts: 16,679

About Me

A Brit many years in Spain, Catalunya, Baleares, Canarias. Cooperative member. Geography. Ecology. Cartography. Software. Sound Recording. Music Production. Languages & Literature. History.

Journal Archives

The coronavirus did not escape from a lab. Here's how we know.

The coronavirus did not escape from a lab. Here's how we know.... A group of researchers compared the genome of this novel coronavirus with the seven other coronaviruses known to infect humans: SARS, MERS and SARS-CoV-2, which can cause severe disease; along with HKU1, NL63, OC43 and 229E, which typically cause just mild symptoms, the researchers wrote March 17 in the journal Nature Medicine... Kristian Andersen, an associate professor of immunology and microbiology at Scripps Research, and his colleagues looked at the genetic template for the spike proteins that protrude from the surface of the virus. The coronavirus uses these spikes to grab the outer walls of its host's cells and then enter those cells. They specifically looked at the gene sequences responsible for two key features of these spike proteins: the grabber, called the receptor-binding domain, that hooks onto host cells; and the so-called cleavage site that allows the virus to open and enter those cells.

That analysis showed that the "hook" part of the spike had evolved to target a receptor on the outside of human cells called ACE2, which is involved in blood pressure regulation. It is so effective at attaching to human cells that the researchers said the spike proteins were the result of natural selection and not genetic engineering.

Here's why: SARS-CoV-2 is very closely related to the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which fanned across the globe nearly 20 years ago. Scientists have studied how SARS-CoV differs from SARS-CoV-2 — with several key letter changes in the genetic code. Yet in computer simulations, the mutations in SARS-CoV-2 don't seem to work very well at helping the virus bind to human cells. If scientists had deliberately engineered this virus, they wouldn't have chosen mutations that computer models suggest won't work. But it turns out, nature is smarter than scientists, and the novel coronavirus found a way to mutate that was better — and completely different— from anything scientists could have created, the study found.

Another nail in the "escaped from evil lab" theory? The overall molecular structure of this virus is distinct from the known coronaviruses and instead most closely resembles viruses found in bats and pangolins that had been little studied and never known to cause humans any harm. "If someone were seeking to engineer a new coronavirus as a pathogen, they would have constructed it from the backbone of a virus known to cause illness," according to a statement from Scripps...

https://www.livescience.com/coronavirus-not-human-made-in-lab.html

Life after lockdown: has China really beaten coronavirus?

... Some of the concerns about China’s reporting stem from how Beijing classifies patients. While the World Health Organization and South Korea consider anyone who has tested positive for the virus as a confirmed case, China does not include asymptomatic infections in its final tally.

Late on Monday night, Wuhan’s health commission published a Q&A explaining how asymptomatic cases are dealt with. On why such cases are not included as confirmed cases, the commission said that patients were quarantined for 14 days and if they began to show symptoms they would be designated as confirmed and that data would be published.

“A small number of asymptomatic infections may progress to becoming confirmed cases, but the vast majority [of patients] will heal by themselves,” it said.

Critics also question why recovered patients who retest as positive are not counted. Data from quarantine centres in Wuhan showed that the possibility of recovered patients testing positive again was between 5% and 10%, according to the state-run Global Times. Officials in Hubei have said those patients would not be recorded as new confirmed cases because they had been counted previously...

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/23/life-after-lockdown-has-china-really-beaten-coronavirus


The article contains a few quotes, such as:

“I am really worried that there are still many asymptomatic infected people inside Wuhan. As soon as everyone goes back to work, everyone will be infected,” said Wang, 26, who lives in the city. Another resident added: “I don’t believe [the numbers]. This epidemic will not disappear so easily.”

“Any rational person would doubt these figures,” one internet user wrote in response to an essay posted by a volunteer in Wuhan questioning the statistics.

Cuban doctors head to Italy to battle coronavirus

Source: Reuters

HAVANA (Reuters) - Communist-run Cuba said it dispatched a brigade of doctors and nurses to Italy for the first time this weekend to help in the fight against the novel coronavirus at the request of the worst-affected region Lombardy.

The Caribbean island has sent its “armies of white robes” to disaster sites around the world largely in poor countries since its 1959 revolution. Its doctors were in the front lines in the fight against cholera in Haiti and against ebola in West Africa in the 2010s. Yet with the 52-strong brigade, this is the first time Cuba has sent an emergency contingent to Italy, one of the world’s richest countries, demonstrating the reach of its medical diplomacy.

This is the sixth medical brigade Cuba has sent in recent days to combat the spread of the new disease abroad. It has sent contingents to socialist allies Venezuela and Nicaragua as well as Jamaica, Suriname and Grenada...



Read more: https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-cuba/cuban-doctors-head-to-italy-to-battle-coronavirus-idUKKBN219051



This is also reported by the NYT, which adds:

Cuba built a healthcare system that was the envy of the developing world with economic aid from former ally Soviet Union, though some of those advances have been lost since the communist bloc collapsed. Many Cuban hospitals have fallen into disrepair and Cubans say they have difficulty finding medicine, a situation the government says is largely due to decades-old U.S. sanctions although analysts blame also the inefficient state-run economy. Still, Cuba has one of the highest ratios worldwide of physicians per capita even when excluding those doctors abroad, and its medical brigades for disaster relief continue to earn Havana goodwill worldwide.

"In a time of crisis, the Cuban government, the Cuban people ... have risen to the occasion, they have heard our appeal and they have responded," Jamaican Health Minister Christopher Tufton said on Saturday upon greeting 140 Cuban medical professionals at Kingston international airport. Britain also thanked Cuba last week for allowing a British cruise ship that had been turned away by several Caribbean ports to dock on the island and for enabling the evacuation of the more than 600 passengers onboard...

https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2020/03/22/world/europe/22reuters-health-coronavirus-cuba.html

England (Westminster) is doing almost nothing to halt or slow infection spread,

and is hardly counting now...

... On Thursday, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said there was “zero prospect” of any restrictions on travel in and out of London, and that there were “no plans” to shut down its transport network. However, the city’s transport authority had already closed parts of London’s Tube network, and the government did not rule out introducing further social distancing measures in the coming days.

Johnson was due to meet the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, on Thursday to discuss plans to fight coronavirus in London, a spokesman for City Hall told CNN.

Giving evidence to the London assembly on Thursday, Khan said too many Londoners were failing to follow official advice. “We are clearly still in the early phase of this crisis but the spread of the virus is at a more advanced stage in London than in other parts of the country. This means that further measures will need to be introduced at the point at which they will have the biggest effect,” he said...

https://edition.cnn.com/world/live-news/coronavirus-outbreak-03-19-20-intl-hnk/h_8475cae995722937659f77eb53aa2441


It is a huge source of potential infection for the rest of the world.

There has to be an implementation of a Universal Basic Income.

It has to cover everyone: Those in the gig economy, on or off the books, those running down and out of their life savings, the unemployed and the homeless. The latter will need to registered and be ID-d somewhere.

Potentially viable businesses also must be supported to prepare for the future. A future difficult to discern in these early days...

Peacetime constraints ditched in the war for economic survival (Larry Elliot)

... The pandemic has highlighted the need to work together for both public health and economic stability reasons. Sadly, the world has rarely looked less prepared to act in concert and that matters, because this time it is not the banks that need bailing out, it is the people. Some are able to work from home: millions are not. Covid-19 is already a health crisis; it is set to be an economic crisis too.

A month ago, when financial markets belatedly woke up to the threat posed by Covid-19, the assumption was that there would be a painful but relatively short shock. But even if countries have emerged from quarantine by the summer – a very big if – the speed of economic recovery is going to depend on the collateral damage caused in the meantime: how many businesses go bust; whether laid-off workers have reached the limit of their credit cards to pay the regular monthly bills; the time it takes for confidence to return.

Politicians are starting to use the language, and deploying the policies, of wartime. The UK government wants manufacturers to switch production lines to making ventilators in the same way that factories switched from consumer goods to making planes and tanks.

They are also adopting the language and policies of the left: the need for social solidarity, the importance of intervening to help struggling firms, the urgency of bailouts for hard-hit industries. In a battle for economic survival the constraints of peacetime have to be ditched. When the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said this was not a time for ideology or orthodoxy, what he really meant was that this was not time for free-market ideology or orthodoxy. Just as in 1940, the size of the budget deficit is seen as irrelevant. All sorts of hitherto taboo policies become possible...

https://www.theguardian.com/world/commentisfree/2020/mar/19/peacetime-constraints-ditched-in-the-war-for-economic-survival

There are three freedoms essential to any proper democracy

These are:

1. Of Access to Information;
2. Of Thought;
3. Of Speech.

Of, these, beautifully expressed by Founding Fathers of the USA, these, the first is still (it is the foundation of the power of the powerful) restricted (but less so than usually); the second is, in the minds of so many, heavily manipulated; and the third is under threat.

GD.

'Get ready': Italian doctors warn Europe

... In the note, sent to the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine, critical care experts Professor Maurizio Cecconi, Professor Antonio Pesenti and Professor Giacomo Grasselli, from the University of Milan, revealed how difficult it had been to treat coronavirus patients. They said: “We are seeing a high percentage of positive cases being admitted to our intensive care units (ICUs), in the range of 10 per cent of all positive patients... We wish to convey a strong message: Get ready!”

They said Italian hospitals had seen “a very high” number of intensive care patients who were admitted “almost entirely” for severe lung failure caused by the virus and needing ventilators to help them breathe. They said hospitals across the UK and Europe needed to prepare for a surge in admissions and cautioned against working “in silos”. They said it was vital hospitals had equipment to protect staff and that staff were trained in wearing the kit. They added: “Increase your total ICU capacity. Identify early hospitals that can manage the initial surge in a safe way. Get ready to prepare ICU areas where to cohort Covid-19 patients – in every hospital if necessary.”...

... In a separate note, Italian intensive care doctor Giuseppe Nattino, from the Lecco province in northern Italy, has shared a clinical summary of the patients his unit has been treating, which doctors described as “frightening” in terms of what it could mean for the UK. The technical note spells out how patients with coronavirus experience a severe infection in all of their lungs, requiring major ventilation support. It also reveals the effect of the virus, which affects blood pressure, the heart, kidneys and liver with patients needing sustained treatment...

... In an alarming development, Dr Nattino said younger patients were being affected, saying the ages of patients ranged from 46 to 83 with only a small number having important underlying conditions. He added: “The last days are showing a younger population involved as if the elderly and weaker part of the population crashed early and now younger patients, having exhausted their physiological reserves, come to overcrowded, overwhelmed hospitals with little resources left.” ...

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/coronavirus-italy-doctors-intensive-care-deaths-a9384356.html

Command and Control vs. the Civil Service

... After a crisis following the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease early in his first government, Blair discovered “the wonders of Cobra,” Cummings writes, referring to the U.K.’s disaster-response system, named after the chamber in which it is held—Cabinet Office Briefing Room A. The military response to the crisis showed Blair what could be achieved through command and control, and when further crises emerged, Blair turned to Cobra. Today, Cobra is the go-to response taken by prime ministers when a crisis occurs. Johnson himself was seen to take control of the growing concern over the new coronavirus only when he convened his first Cobra meeting on the matter on Monday.

For Cummings, though, the reliance on Cobra shows not a system working but “a symptom of Whitehall’s profound dysfunction.” The problem, in his view, is the very thing the Civil Service is most proud of: its apolitical permanence. The Civil Service’s defenders say this is what makes it the best in the world, producing “Rolls Royce” diplomats and officials who are experts in their field; free from short-term political pressures; able to give honest, impartial advice; rounded by experience across government. Cummings counters that this is exactly what is wrong with the Civil Service, entrenching its destructive imperative to preserve the status quo, unable to imagine an alternative to the way it works, wasteful of time and resources, and ultimately incapable of adapting to sudden change it never foresees—Brexit chief among them.

The point is not that the Civil Service should have forecast these events, but that it should confront its inability to predict the unpredictable. To Cummings, politics is like the weather: Forecasts are valuable, but limited. In politics, he wrote: “Unfathomable and unintended consequences dominate. Problems cascade. Complex systems are hard to understand, predict and control.” The key is the ability to adapt—and to adapt, one has to embrace the reality of uncertainty. Government machines instead are built to try to eliminate uncertainty. What is required is a more scientific approach to government, learning from experience as Buffett proposes. The British government should take its cue from the human immune system, Cummings argues, where there is no plan or central control; its strength lies in reacting to attack, experimenting, doing whatever works, discarding what doesn’t. Such a system is messy but adaptable, and therefore stronger...

... They argue that Britain needs to free itself from centralized bureaucratic control, rather than rely on it, to be able to react both to domestic crises and the ever-changing international environment. This is a project to remake Britain into a country agile enough to adapt quickly to the dramatic change that is inevitable and unpredictable, not to perfect an existing system that avoids unwanted shocks... The question, taking Cummings at his word, is whether Britain is institutionally capable of adapting to make it work.

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2020/03/boris-johnson-britain-dominic-cummings/607363/



... For some reason I want to call this the Pirate Ship model of government.

Texas is an open primary. Is there a way to know how many GOP and Independents vote

strategically in the Dem primary?

Unlike voters in most other states, Texans don’t sign up with a political party when they register to vote. That’s because Texas is one of 17 states with open primaries, which means regardless of which party voters identify with, they can choose from year to year which party’s nominees they’d like to select in the primary election.

When you show up to your polling location, you’ll decide whether you want a Democratic or Republican primary ballot. But after choosing a side in the primary, you have to stay in that lane through the runoff. You can’t vote Republican in the primary election and then participate in a runoff election between top Democratic candidates. That said, voting in a primary does not commit you to vote for a particular candidate in the general election. You can vote for either party’s candidate in the November election.

Voters who live in states with closed primaries are required to register with a political party in order to vote in that party’s primary. If you wanted to vote in the Republican primary in New York, you have to register as a Republican. Oftentimes, third-party voters are locked out of the Republican and Democratic primaries. But some states, like Oklahoma, are a bit of a hybrid and let independent voters choose which primaries they want to participate in...

https://www.texastribune.org/2020/02/28/texas-open-primaries-republican-democrat-vote/
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