We Need to Change Our COVID-19 Strategy

We would like to think that we can eliminate COVID-19, but doing so is far from certain. The medical system has not been successful in eliminating HIV/AIDS or influenza; the situation with COVID-19 may be similar.

We are discovering that people with COVID-19 are extremely hard to identify because a significant share of infections are very mild or completely without symptoms. Testing everyone to find the huge number of hidden cases cannot possibly work worldwide. As long as there is hidden COVID-19 elsewhere in the world, the benefit of identifying everyone with the illness in a particular area is limited. The disease simply bounces back, as soon as there is a reduction in containment efforts.

Figure 1. One-week average new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Israel, Spain, Belgium and Netherlands. Chart made using data as of August 8, 2020 using an Interactive Visualization available at https://91-divoc.com/pages/covid-visualization/ based on Johns Hopkins University CSSE database.

We are also discovering that efforts to contain what is essentially a hidden illness are very damaging to the world economy. Shutdowns in particular lead to many unemployed people and riots. Social distancing requirements can make investments unprofitable. Cutting off air flights leads to a huge loss of tourism and leaves farmers with the problem of how to get their fruit and vegetable crops picked without migrant workers. If COVID-19 is very widespread, contact tracing simply becomes an exercise in frustration.

Trying to identify the many asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 is surprisingly difficult. The cost is far higher than the cost of the testing devices.

At some point, we need to start lowering expectations regarding what can be done. The economy can protect a few members, but not everyone. Instead, emphasis should be on strengthening people’s immune systems. Surprisingly, there seems to be quite a bit that can be done. Higher vitamin D levels seem to be associated with fewer and less severe cases. Better diet, with more fruits and vegetables, is also likely to be helpful from an immunity point of view. Strangely enough, more close social contacts may also be helpful.

In the remainder of this post, I will explain a few pieces of the COVID-19 problem, together with my ideas for modifications to our current strategy.

Recent News About COVID-19 Has Been Disturbingly Bad


It is becoming increasingly clear that COVID-19 is likely to be here for quite some time. The World Health Organization’s director recently warned, “. . . there’s no silver bullet at the moment and there might never be.” A recent Wall Street Journal article is titled, “Early Coronavirus Vaccine Supplies Likely Won’t Be Enough for Everyone at High Risk.” This article relates only to US citizens at high risk. Needless to say, creating enough vaccine for both high and low risk individuals, around the world, is a long way away.

We are also hearing that vaccines may be far less than 100% effective; 50% effective would be considered sufficient at this time. Two doses are likely to be needed; in fact, elderly patients may need three doses. The vaccine may not work for obese individuals. We don’t yet know how long immunity from the vaccines will last; a new round of injections may be needed each year.

new report confirms that asymptomatic patients with COVID-19 are indeed able to spread the disease to others.

Furthermore, the financial sector is increasingly struggling with the adverse impact shutdowns are having on the economy. If it becomes necessary to completely “write off” the tourism industry, economies around the world will struggle with permanent job loss and debt defaults.

Shutdowns Don’t Work for Businesses and the Financial System 

There are many issues involved:

(a) Shutdowns tend to lead to huge job loss. Riots follow, as soon as people have a chance to express their unhappiness with the situation.

(b) If countries stop importing migrant workers, there is likely to be a major loss of fruits and vegetables that farmers have planted. No matter how much money is printed, it does not replace these lost fruits and vegetables.

(c) Manufacturing supply lines don’t work if raw materials and parts are not available when needed. Because of this, a shutdown in one part of the world tends to have a ripple effect around the world.

(d) Social distancing requirements for businesses are problematic because they lead to less efficient use of available space. Businesses can serve fewer customers, so total revenue is likely to fall. Employees may need to be laid off. Fixed costs, such as debt, become more difficult to pay, making defaults more likely.

Shutdowns cause a major problem for the economy, because, with many people out of the workforce, the total amount of finished goods and services produced by the economy falls. Broken supply lines and reduced efficiency tend to make the problem worse. World GDP is the total amount of goods and services produced. Thus, by definition, total world GDP is reduced by shutdowns.

Governments can institute benefit programs for citizens to try to redistribute what goods and services are available, but this will not fix the underlying problem of many fewer goods and services actually being produced. Citizens will find that some shelves in stores are empty, and that many airline seats are unavailable. They will find that some goods are still unaffordable, even with government subsidies.

Governments can try to give loans to businesses to help them through the financial problems caused by new rules, such as social distancing, but it is doubtful this approach will lead to new investment. For example, if social distancing requirements mean that new buildings and vehicles can only be used in an inefficient manner, there will be little incentive for businesses to invest in new buildings and vehicles, even if low-interest loans are available.

Furthermore, even if there might be opportunities for new, more efficient businesses to be added, the subsidization of old inefficient businesses operating at far below capacity will tend to crowd out these new businesses.

People of Many Ages Soon Become Unhappy with Shutdowns

Young people expect hands-on learning experiences at universities. They also expect to be able to meet possible future marriage partners in social settings. They become increasingly unhappy, as shutdowns drag on.

The elderly need to be protected from COVID-19, but they also need to be able to see their families. Without social interaction, their overall health tends to decline.

We Are Kidding Ourselves if We Think a Vaccine Will Make the Worldwide COVID-19 Problem Disappear

Finding a vaccine that works for 100% of the world’s population seems extremely unlikely. Even if we do find a vaccine or drug treatment that works, being able to extend this solution to poor countries around the world is likely to be a slow process.

If we look back historically, pretty much all of the improvement in the US crude death rate (number of deaths divided by total population) has come from conquering infectious diseases.

Figure 2. Crude mortality rates in the United States in chart from Trends in Infectious Disease Mortality in the United States During the 20th Century, Armstrong et al., JAMA, 1999.

The catch is that since 1960, there hasn’t been an improvement in infectious disease mortality in the United States, according to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Society. As progress has been made on some longstanding diseases such as hepatitis, new infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS have arisen. Also, the biggest category of infectious disease remaining is “influenza and pneumonia,” and little progress has been made in reducing its death rate in the United States. Figure 3 shows one chart from the article.

Figure 3. Mortality due to influenza or HIV/AIDS, in chart from Infectious Disease Mortality Trends in the United States, 1980-2014 by Hansen et al., JAMA, 2016.

With respect to HIV/AIDS, it took from the early 1980s until 1997 to start to get the mortality rate down through drugs. A suitable vaccine has not yet been created.

Furthermore, even when the US was able to reduce the mortality from HIV/AIDS, this ability did not immediately spread to poor areas of the world, such as Sub-Saharan Africa. In Figure 4, we can see the bulge in Sub-Saharan Africa’s crude death rates (where HIV/AIDS was prevalent), relative to death rates in India, where HIV/AIDS was less of a problem.

Figure 4. Crude death rates for Sub-Saharan Africa, India, the United States, and the World from 1960 through 2018, based on World Bank data.

While the medical system was able to start reducing the mortality of HIV/AIDS in the United States about 1996-1997 (Figure 3, above), a 2016 article says that it was still very prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2013. Major issues included difficulty patients had in traveling to health care sites and a lack of trained personnel to administer the medication. We can expect these issues to continue if a vaccine is developed for COVID-19, especially if the new vaccine requires more than one injection, every year.

Another example is polio. A vaccine for polio was developed in 1955; the disease was eliminated in the US and other high income countries in about the next 25 years. The disease has still not been eliminated worldwide, however. Poor countries tend to use an oral form of the vaccine that can be easily administered by anyone. The problem with this oral vaccine is that it uses live viruses which themselves can cause outbreaks of polio. Cases not caused by the vaccine are still found in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

These examples suggest that even if a vaccine or fairly effective treatment for COVID-19 is discovered, we are kidding ourselves if we think the treatment will quickly transfer around the world. To transfer around the world, it will need to be extremely inexpensive and easy to administer. Even with these characteristics, the eradication of COVID-19 is likely to take a decade or more, unless the virus somehow disappears on its own.

The fact that COVID-19 transmits easily by people who show no symptoms means that even if COVID-19 is eradicated from the high-income world, it can return from the developing world, unless a large share of people in these advanced countries are immune to the disease. We seem to be far from that situation now. Perhaps this will change in a few years, but we cannot count on widespread immunity any time soon.

Containment Efforts for a Disease with Many Hidden Carriers Is Likely to Be Vastly More Expensive than One in Which Infected People Are Easily Identifiable 

It is easy to misunderstand how expensive finding the many asymptomatic carriers of a disease is. The cost is far higher than the cost of the tests themselves, because the situation is quite different. If people have serious symptoms, they will want to stay home. They will want to give out the names of others, if they can see that doing so might prevent someone else from catching a serious illness.

We have the opposite situation, if we are trying to find people without symptoms, who might infect others. We need to:

  1. Identify all of these people who feel well but might infect others.
  2. Persuade these people who feel well to stay away from work or other activities.
  3. Somehow compensate these people for lost wages and perhaps extra living expenses, while they are in quarantine.
  4. Pay for all of the tests to find these individuals.
  5. Convince these well individuals to name those whom they have had contact with (often their friends), so that they can be tested and perhaps quarantined as well.

Perhaps a few draconian governments, such as China, can handle these problems by fiat, and not really compensate workers for being unable to work. In other countries, all of these costs are likely to be a problem. Because of inadequate compensation, exclusion from work is not likely to be well received. Quarantined people will not want to report which friends they have seen recently, if the friends are likely also to lose wages. In poor countries, the loss of income may mean the loss of the ability to feed a person’s family. 

Another issue is that “quick tests” are likely to be used for contact tracing, since “PCR tests,” which tend to be more accurate, often require a week or more for laboratory processing. Unfortunately, quick tests for COVID-19 are not very accurate. (Also a CNN report.) If there are a lot of “false positives,” many people may be needlessly taken out of work. If there are a lot of “false negatives,” all of this testing will still miss a lot of carriers of COVID-19.

A Major Benefit of Rising Energy Consumption Seems to Be Better Control Over Infectious Diseases and a Falling Crude Death Rate

I often write about how the world’s self-organizing economy works. The growth in the world’s energy consumption since the advent of fossil fuels has been extremely important.

Figure 5. World Energy Consumption by Source, based on Vaclav Smil estimates from Energy Transitions: History, Requirements and Prospects, together with BP Statistical Data on 1965 and subsequent

The growth in world energy consumption coincided with a virtual explosion in human population.

Figure 6. World Population Growth Through History. Chart by SUSPS.

One of the ways that fossil fuel energy is helpful for population growth is through drugs to fight epidemics. Another way is by making modern sanitation easy. A third way is by ramping up food supplies, so that more people can be fed.

Economic shutdowns lead to reduced energy consumption, partly because energy prices tend to fall too low for producers. They cut back on production because of unprofitability.

Figure 7. Weekly average spot oil prices for Brent, based on data of the US Energy Information Administration.

Given this connection between energy supply and population, we should not be surprised if shutdowns tend to lead to an overall falling world population, even if COVID-19 by itself is expected to have a small mortality rate (perhaps 1% of those infected). Poor countries, especially, will find that laid off workers cannot afford adequate food supplies. This makes poor members of those economies more susceptible to diseases of many kinds and to starvation.

Epidemiologists Based Their Models on Diseases Which Are Easily Identifiable and Have High Mortality Rates

It is clear that an easily identifiable illness with a high mortality rate can be easily contained. A difficult-to-identify disease, which has a very low mortality rate for many segments of the population, is very different. Members of segments of the population who usually get only a light case of the disease are likely to become more and more unhappy as containment efforts drag on. Models based on very different types of pandemics are likely to be misleading.

We Need to Somehow Change Course

The message that has been disseminated has been, “With containment efforts plus vaccine, we can stop this disease.” In fact, this is unlikely for the foreseeable future. Continuing in the same direction that has not been working is a lot like banging one’s head against a wall. It cannot be expected to work.

Somehow, expectations need to be lowered regarding what containment efforts can do. The economy can perhaps protect a few high-risk people, but it cannot protect everyone. Unless COVID-19 stops by itself, a significant share of the world’s population can be expected to catch COVID-19. In fact, some people may get the disease multiple times over their lifetimes.

If we are forced to live with some level of COVID-19 (just as we are forced to live with some level of forest fires), we need to make this situation as painless as possible. For example,

  • We need to find ways to make COVID-19 as asymptomatic as possible by easy changes to diet and lifestyle.
  • We also need to find inexpensive treatments, especially ones that can be used outside of a hospital setting.
  • We need to keep the world economy operating as best as possible, if we want to stay away from a world population crash for as long as possible.

We cannot continue to post articles which seem to say that a spike in COVID-19 cases is necessarily “bad.” It is simply the way the situation has to be, if we don’t really have an effective way of containing the coronavirus. The fact that young adults build up immunity, at least for a while, needs to be viewed as a plus.

Some Ideas Regarding Looking at the Situation Differently 

(1) The Vitamin D Issue

There has been little publicity about the fact that people with higher vitamin D levels seem to have lighter cases of COVID-19. In fact, whole nations with higher vitamin D levels seem to have lower levels of deaths. Vitamin D strengthens the immune system. Sunlight raises vitamin D levels; fish liver oils and the flesh of fatty fishes also raise vitamin D levels.

Figure 8 shows cumulative deaths per million in a few low and high vitamin D level areas. The death rates are strikingly lower in the high vitamin D level countries.

Figure 8. COVID-19 deaths per million as of August 8, 2020 for selected countries, based on data from Johns Hopkins CSSE database.

The vitamin D issue may explain why dark skinned people (such as those from Southeast Asia and Africa) tend to get more severe cases of COVID-19 when they move to a low sunlight area such as the UK. Skin color is an adaptation to different levels of the sun’s rays in different parts of the world. People with darker skin color have more melanin in their skin. This makes the production of vitamin D less efficient, since equatorial regions receive more sunlight. The larger amount of melanin works well when dark-skinned people live in equatorial regions, but less well away from the equator. Vitamin D supplements might mitigate this difference.

It should be noted that the benefit of sunlight and vitamin D in protecting the immune system has long been known, especially with respect to flu-like diseases. In fact, the use of sunlight seems to have been helpful in mitigating the effects of the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918-1919, over 100 years ago!

One concern might be whether increased sunlight raises the risk of melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer. I have not researched this extensively, but a 2016 study indicates that that sensible sun exposure, without getting sunburn, may decrease a person’s risk of melanoma, as well as provide protection against many other types of diseases. Non-melanoma skin cancers may increase, but the mortality risk of these skin cancers is very low. On balance, the study concludes that the public should be advised to work on getting blood levels of at least 30 ng/ml.

(2) Other Issues

Clearly, better health in general is helpful. Eating a diet with a lot of fruits and vegetables is helpful, as is getting plenty of exercise and sunshine. Losing weight will be helpful for many.

Having social contact with other people tends to be helpful for longevity in general. In fact, several studies indicate that church-goers tend to have better longevity than others. Churchgoers and those with many social contacts would seem to have more contact with microbes than others.

A recent article says, Common colds train the immune system to recognize COVID-19. Social distancing tends to eliminate common colds as well as COVID-19. Quite possibly social distancing is counterproductive, in terms of disease severity. Epidemiologists have likely never considered this issue, since they tend to consider only very brief social distancing requirements.

A person wonders how well the immune systems of elderly people who have been cut off from sharing microbes with others for months will work. Will these people now die when exposed to even very minor illnesses? Perhaps a slow transition is needed to bring families back into closer contact with their loved ones.

People’s immune systems can protect them from small influxes of viruses causing COVID-19, but not from large influxes of these viruses. Masks tend to protect against large influxes of the virus, and thus protect the wearer to a surprising extent. Models suggest that clear face shields also provide a considerable amount of this benefit. People with a high risk of very severe illness may want to wear both of these devices in settings they consider risky. Such a combination might protect them fairly well, even if others are not wearing masks.

Conclusions – What We Really Should Be Doing

Back at the time we first became aware of COVID-19, following the recommendations of epidemiologists probably made sense. Now that more information is unfolding, our approach to COVID-19 needs to change.

I have already laid out many of the things I think need to be done. One area that has been severely overlooked is raising vitamin D levels. This is being discussed in the medical literature, but it doesn’t seem to get into the popular press. Even though the connection is not 100% proven, and there are many details to be worked out, it would seem like people should start raising their vitamin D levels. There seems to be little problem with overdosing on vitamin D, except that sunburns are not good. Until we know more, a level of 30 ng/ml (equivalent to 75 nmol/L) might be a reasonable level to aim for. This is a little above the mean vitamin D level of Norway, Finland, and Denmark.

Social distancing requirements probably need to be phased out. A concern might be temporarily excessive patient loads for hospitals. Large group meetings may need to be limited for a time, until this problem can be overcome.

 

 

This entry was posted in Financial Implications and tagged , , , by Gail Tverberg. Bookmark the permalink.

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.

2,353 thoughts on “We Need to Change Our COVID-19 Strategy

  1. “High-profile bankruptcies, refinancing deals, and drastic cost-cutting involving the likes of Brooks Brothers, JCPenney, Hertz, Neiman Marcus, Ford, and GM are testament to the financial distress wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic.

    “But a less visible crisis deep within supply chains is destabilizing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and could add to the woes of the global economy.”

    https://hbr.org/2020/08/a-financial-crisis-is-looming-for-smaller-suppliers

  2. “The IEA has lowered its oil demand projections for the first time in several months, saying that the economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic “has plateaued in many regions”.

    “In its latest Oil Market Report (OMR) the IEA forecasts global oil demand to fall by 8.1mn b/d this year to 91.9mn b/d, which is 140,000 b/d lower than it forecast a month ago. It said this reflects “stalling of mobility as the number of Covid-19 cases remains high, and weakness in the aviation sector.””

    https://www.argusmedia.com/en/news/2131962-iea-cuts-oil-demand-forecast-on-recovery-uncertainty?backToResults=true

        • New York comes out very badly, in deaths from COVID-19. Relative to population, it has had 1,686 deaths per one million people, so far. Of the US states, only New Jersey comes out worse, with 1,788 deaths per 1 million people.

          In comparison, the worst European countries are much lower. Belgium comes out with 859 deaths per million, so far. The UK comes out with 703 deaths per million population.

          In terms of total cases reported per million population, New York comes out fifth (surprisingly low), but that is probably because case reports at least initially missed an awfully lot of cases.

          The top states in terms of cumulative reported COVID cases per million population are

          1. Louisiana (Two Humps)
          2. Arizona
          3. Florida
          4. Mississippi
          5. New York
          6. Alabama
          7. Georgia
          8. New Jersey
          9. South Carolina
          10. Rhode Island

          • Gail,I would keep in mind that, in the US, leaving aside political factors, instructions to doctors and financial incentives served to label many deaths as “covid” when they clearly weren’t, or were undetermined (no test, no autopsy).

            Do countries with national health services have incentives to overcount covid..? Anybody have an idea?

            • I think a major thing that is looked at after-the-fact is how much deaths surged above the expected level. They also look at antibody tests for the population as a whole.

              It is very hard to tell how many cases there are, especially at the beginning. There tends to be under-reporting, when symptoms of the new disease are not well known.

              This is a link to a site where the CDC shows reported COVID cases shown on death certificates, both by week and by state. Some of the states with low deaths relative to actual are ones that report much their death data very late. North Carolina has been given as an example.

    • The key quote:

      “It is too early to be certain about the exact reason for the rise.”

      As the Guardian, so typical of its political stance, blames the rise in murders on anything and everything *except* the murderers. As usual, only victims can be evil.

      • As you will know, violent crime has gone straight back up again here in Britain: let the wrong people from certain ‘communities’ out to wander freely again and the result is not at all surprising.

        It must have been hard for them to contain their sense of injustice and oppression for so long under lock-down: I’m sure this must be a relief for them.

        • The issue may be that the people from certain communities are even poorer than they were in the past. The only way they have to try to mitigate the problem is crime of some sort.

          In the US, jails are indirectly a way of housing people who cannot earn an adequate living, for one reason or another. Some people may consider being in jail a better option than being homeless. There seem to be a lot of drug addicts that are in and out of jail for one reason or another.

          • Does poverty cause crime? Or is it more consistently related to race?

            You have to be able to read between the lines. We are told that “more segregated” areas have more crime. What does that mean? Does it mean areas where there are proportionally more blacks have more crime?

            https://www.huduser.gov/portal/periodicals/em/summer16/highlight2.html

            Racially and ethnically segregated neighborhoods also tend to have higher rates of violent crime. [This is the PC way of saying “more blacks = more crime”.] Essentially, Peterson and Krivo”s analysis of nationwide neighborhood crime data for the year 2000 demonstrates, however, that violent crime rates in predominantly African-American and Latino neighborhoods differ little from predominantly white neighborhoods after controlling for segregation and disadvantage. In particular, spatial disadvantage — that is, adverse characteristics such as poverty or crime among nearby neighborhoods — appears to drive disparities in local crime rates between these neighborhoods. As Pattillo-McCoy writes, crime from disadvantaged areas in Chicago often spills over into middle-class, predominantly African-American neighborhoods. Moreover, the effects of citywide segregation extend beyond majority-minority neighborhoods: neighborhoods nationwide, regardless of their racial composition, tend to experience higher rates of violent crime when they are located in cities with higher levels of segregation.

            And here is a non-PC newsflash from HUD for Burn Loot Murder:

            Poverty, segregation, and inequality are related to neighborhoods’ access to resources and ability to solve problems, including problems that foster crime.48 These resources include access to institutions, particularly effective community policing and the swift prosecution of violent crime. In 2015”s Ghettoside, Leovy explores how underpolicing of violent crime spurred high homicide rates in segregated [“segregated” means “black”, right?] South Central Los Angeles neighborhoods as an alternate “ghettoside” law emerged. This alternate law [Ha ha, so they want to call “crime” “alternate law”] involves witnesses scared to testify, the formation of gangs for protection, and cascades of disputes and violent crime among interwoven communities. As Massey writes, “In a niche of violence, respect can only be built and maintained through the strategic use of force.” Evidence suggests that a greater propensity for arguments to escalate to lethal violence, combined with easier access to firearms, contributes to higher rates of homicide in the United States. As Leovy points out, the absence of law has fostered violent crime in communities throughout history.

            • “Does poverty cause crime? Or is it more consistently related to race?”

              Not on OFW please!

            • “Does poverty cause crime? Or is it more consistently related to race?”

              The countries with the ten highest crime rates in the world are:

              Venezuela (84.49)
              Papua New Guinea (81.93)
              South Africa (77.49)
              Afghanistan (76.23)
              Honduras (76.11)
              Trinidad and Tobago (73.19)
              Brazil (68.88)
              Peru (68.15)
              El Salvador (67.96)
              Guyana (67.66)

              https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/crime-rate-by-country

              There is no racial constant in this list but there is plenty of poverty.

              This is not to excuse or deny the existence of nihilistic, violent subcultures in black US communities or indeed anywhere but, Kim, again I am uncomfortable with the agenda underpinning all of your posts on this issue, which is that black people are inherently criminal, selfish, predatory etc. It is a simplistic and mean-spirited worldview.

              I would have more respect for you if you simply owned up to the fact that you have had negative experiences with black people and can’t now get over your visceral dislike of them. Instead you build an edifice of cherry-picked arguments around your dislike to justify, explain and propagate it under the guise of logic and objectivity.

              I have known many black people throughout my life. Some I’ve got on with very well; others less so. They’re just people – complex and nuanced like everyone else.

              Is it of no consequence to you how black readers might feel reading your comments, either subtly or overtly denigrating them on the basis of their race? If you have fully digested the ramifications of Gail’s blog then you know the future for our species is challenging, to say the least. If you have this awareness, wouldn’t now be a good time to be kind rather than creating more unhappiness and discord?

            • I would be willing to bet that declining energy consumption per capita is associated with the high crime rates. Of course, there are likely other countries with declining per capita energy consumption that express the problem differently. They may have demonstrations for example. It would be interesting to look at.

            • The Ten Commandments clearly represented an early attempt to provide guidelines. Of course, “Thou shalt not kill” had narrow boundaries. Wars were perfectly OK.

          • I should also say that I live in one of the poorer places on this green marble, and I never, never, never see any crime and only very rarely hear of it.

            In a country where schools provide – free – every meal a child eats, poverty has nothing to do with the extreme levels of crime in black communities.

            • The crux of the matter is, what factors have the biggest impact on generating or supporting extreme levels of crime?

              Having black skin or black genes has never seemed to me to be a reasonable explanation. Poverty by itself doesn’t explain it either. Socioeconomic and cultural factors would appear to be overwhelmingly important, although how they play out is a vexed question and the subject is complicated and far from totally understood even by the specialists.

              One of the nastiest crimes is murder. If we go to Wikipedia (for convenience) and look at the UNODC murder rates by continent, we see that the Americas have the highest rate at 16.3 per 100,000. Africa follows with 12.5, Europe and Oceania trail far behind on 3.0 and Asia is dead last on 2.9.

              This indicates that the blacks of Africa are significantly less murderous than the combined black, white, yellow, red and orange peoples of the Americas.

              Looking at individual countries, apart from ten very minor countries or regions the largest of which is Singapore, the country with the lowest rate is Japan at 0.26 per 100,000. Indonesia is also very low at 0.4 and the lowest major European country is Norway on 0.47.

              Two countries in west Africa—Benin and Guinea Bissau—are on 1.1, despite having mostly black populations, making them a little less murder-ridden than Scotland or Bosnia.The UK as a whole and France are a little higher on 1.2 Canada is on 1.76, the US is on 4.96. Intriguingly,. Liberia, a country founded by former black slaves repatriated from the US is on 3.23.

              Moving up, the Philippines is on 6.46, Yemen and Afghanistan are on 6.66 and Zimbabwe is on 6.67. Peru is on 7.85, Russia is on 8.21 (significantly higher than Ukraine at 6.2), Puerto Rico is on 21.09, Columbia on 25.34 and Brazil on 27.38. Mexico is on 29.07, South Africa on 36.4, Venezuela on 36.69, Jamaica on 43.05, and El Salvador tops the list on 52.02.

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

              One can’t blame the level of violence in El Salvador on black genes. 86.3% of the population are mestizo (mixed European and indegenous Native American), 12.7% are of full European descent, 1% indigenous, 0.8% black, and 0.64% other. The breakdown is similar for many mainland Latin American countries. I think we must look elsewhere for answers. And the most fertile ground for the search is in the field of socioeconomic and cultural differences.

            • Quite correct: it’s crime as a chosen way of life and a business, an expression of total personal and social failure; but so many politicians and academics have a vested interest in pretending otherwise.

              Most pernicious of all are those politicians and ideologues who represent crime and rioting as ‘political protest’ and legitimate it.

              One could give these people everything they want, and they would in a very short time be living in smouldering ruins, indulging in casual everyday murder, rape and theft.

          • Lock them up in their homes, as under lock-down, or execute them would seem to be our best option for a peaceable society.

            Or perhaps a sterilisation programme so that their bad habits can’t be passed on to future generations, which is the worst of the whole problem?

            What else can one do with criminal families? Empathy, generosity and compassion are of no use at all: welfare and housing merely a convenient and free foundation for their criminal activities.

  3. “It’s not a good sign for any economy when debt collectors are booming and in China right now, the industry is on a hiring spree…

    “China is the midst of “an unfolding debt crisis”, says Joe Zhang, a business consultant and until last month vice chairman at the country’s largest debt collector YX Asset Recovery.”

    https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-china-lending-consumer-analysis/chinas-debt-collectors-flourish-as-consumers-flounder-in-a-covid-hit-economy-idUKKCN258323

  4. “Islamabad will send its army chief to Saudi Arabia this weekend to try to resolve a growing diplomatic spat in which Riyadh is demanding Pakistan’s early repayment of a $3bn loan…

    “The dispute between the two longtime allies is putting pressure on the fragile external finances of the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan…”

    https://www.ft.com/content/49d24c4b-345e-492b-8a8f-c1a550173ee1

    • “South Africa is in a “debt-trap twilight zone” that will cause of the cost of borrowing over 30 years to sharply steepen in the next year over that of 10-year debt, according to the country’s biggest independent fixed-income investor.

      “A collapse in tax revenue because of the impact of a coronavirus-related lockdown has exacerbated surging debt levels…”

      https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-08-12/south-africa-is-in-debt-trap-twilight-zone-futuregrowth-says

      • ““In 2008, the world had a big problem because of too much debt. Since then, the debt has skyrocketed everywhere… Ten years ago China had virtually no debt. Now they have got a lot of debt. Everywhere does.

        ““The next time we have a problem and we are having it now, it is going to be the worst in my lifetime. It is a simple statement. The debt is much, much, much higher now. It has to be worse… The next [crisis] is going to be horrible.””

        https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/markets/expert-view/debt-is-going-through-the-roof-we-will-pay-the-price-jim-rogers/articleshow/77502748.cms

        • Loot the country, then exchange your worthless Yuans for gold, proceed with fleeing to the west. Thats how the CCP BAU gears grind.

          SEIZE all CCP assets in the west. Crack down on the micro money laundering with obscenely expensive luxuries, Swiss watches, clothes, sports cars, etc.

          Require all gold produced to be certified by a unique identification number paired to an owner database in the west. If any gold is being found that is a copy of, or lacks ID, charge them with money laundry and seize all their assets, banks specially.

          Require all countries wanting to trade in dollars to comply with these rules. No gold should be unaccounted for.

          • Kowalainen, I respectfully offer an alternative: do nothing. Or, if you prefer, 無爲, “Wu Wei”. The Chinese Communist Party regime is doomed; it is on the wrong side of history. But we latecomers have no standing to interfere with the Middle Kingdom; let them solve their own problems, which a new dynasty surely will.

            Gold is another issue, but Archimedes taught us how to measure the purity of gold with a balance and a bathtub; we have no need of yet another invasive and almost certainly corrupt bureaucracy.

    • Imran Khan. What a good cricketer he was….sorry, off topic.

      But on a similar note, Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran has been reported to have the rona. 69 years old. Let’s see if it can go 12 rounds with him. I wager it’ll say “No mas!”.

  5. “Like banks in the 2008 financial crisis, Facebook and other tech giants are “too big to fail”, according to research from Oxford University that calls for new regulations to protect users, and society, in the event of a possible collapse…

    ““The demise of a global online communication platform such as Facebook could have catastrophic social and economic consequences for innumerable communities that rely on the platform on a daily basis,” Öhman and Aggarwal write…”

    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/aug/11/facebook-too-big-to-fail-says-oxford-university-research-paper

    • When an institution is officially declared “too big to fail”, you can bet the farm that it is failing. It is spending money not on customer service or technology improvements, but on tame sock puppets who will make a case for a taxpayer bailout. As here.

      • Facebook “too big to fail”? That is the most ridiculous statement ever in the history of mankind.

        What a cesspool of vanity and superficial nothingness it is.

        The faster it fails, the better for humanity.

          • It will fail if and when the vast majority of users desert it.

            I think it’s a question of when, but it won’t happen until something even more insipid comes along to take its place.

            • You might think that these things run to make a profit. What if they don’t? What if the propaganda and control angles are far more valuable than some number of ad clicks? What do you think keeps CNN going? It’s not popularity, I don’t think.

            • You are quite right that profitability is not the most important consideration for mass media, including mass social media.

              But if most users were to desert a social media platform, I would count that as a fail.

              CNN is not a news medium. It’s a freak show. I assume that people who have not taste watch it for entertainment value. The same holds for Fox although I think it’s marginally better.

              Personally I would rather watch female pro-wrestling. 🙂

        • Well said! Facebook is a mirage created by useless technology incompetently applied. And, as so often in IT, the bad product drives out the good. And, as so often in marketing, the advertisers spend a lot of money on the bad product, only to find it sells hardly anything.

          • AI-driven “gentle” goddamn spatiotemporal subversion and filtering. Which in all fairness could be competently executed if it wasn’t a bunch of sanctimonious hypocrites implementing it to suit their regressive agendas.

            Blending in opposing voices is of course good for discussion, but forming these heavy handed censored “filter bubble” echo chamber partitions to create division is lunacy.

        • Um … maybe this ridiculous statement runs it close: “You will be home before the leaves fall from the trees.” Kaiser Wilhelm II, August 1914.

      • You have to remember that there is quite a bit of “collateral damage” by shut downs. People don’t call 911 when they have a heart attack. People are depressed in nursing home settings, so that they die earlier. Cancer surgery is put off, because of a fear that sometime in the future, the beds might be needed for COVID-19. So these people die earlier.

        Also, the death cause on a death certificate does not necessarily match up with what was earlier reported to the Johns Hopkins data base, so these will necessarily be different. Doctors are supposed to consider the various diseases going on simultaneously, and somehow figure out what was most important on the death certificate.

        A link was posted earlier to an interesting study by age cohort of the immediate changes in death rates by age group.

        Click to access Lessons-from-the-Lockdown-vF-6-17-20.pdf

        The biggest group is the 85+ group. It would seem like it would be hard to attribute cause to a lot of these deaths. Many of these people would be in care homes of different types. Any little thing would push them over the edge. There may be misattributions in this age group, especially. As time goes on, I would expect loneliness and depression to play a bigger role in the deaths of the very elderly.

        • There is a story from this city relating to the side-effects of an epidemic: when the city partly emptied out and business died in the last great plague of the 1660’s, Mr Hobson (of ‘Hobson’s Choice’ fame), rich, rather old but until then still running his business every day, got so deeply bored that he lost the will to live and died.

          • Unfortunately for that nice tale, Mr Thomas Hobson died in 1631 at the ripe old age of 87.

        • Gail, what do you think about the top 3 age groups where the death rate now (right side) is lower than the death rate on the left side of the graph?

          • I think they are using data for which reporting is delayed. Each amount tends to increase over time, with the most recent dates increasing most. I wouldn’t pay much attention to the lower death rate at the later dates.

            I know when I looked at some of the data available on some CDC reports, the CDC remarked that the amounts weren’t recorded until the death certificates were available, which could be several weeks after the death.

          • Mightn’t a lower recent death rate reflect slightly premature deaths of people who were very old and very sick to begin with? Those people are no longer available to be affected.

            • that could be what the graphs are showing.

              covid-19 swept through, and pulled forward the deaths of lots of more sickly older people who were going to die soon anyway.

              so after the rise in deaths, there is a drop to below the previous plateau.

            • It might. I am always skeptical of the most recent points in analyses, however, because as an actuary, I realize that an awfully lot of data is affected by “reporting lags.” The people using the data may try to fix this problem by adjusting by factors based on past data, but experience shows that this approach doesn’t work very well.

  6. I feel the same way about a lot of channels and videos and websites that YouTube and WordPress and PayPal have shut down and censored and demonetized.

    I am sure that the Guardian and Oxford will be onto that doubleplus fast.

  7. Trouble in the US grain belt!!

    Massive “derecho” devastates US corn crop, with tens of millions of acres of corn affected. As well, many grain silos and elevators were destroyed, and with them tons of “on farm storage” — what remains of the US Strategic Grain Reserve. Yields will be reduced for ALL of those acres, particularly where damage was severe or irrigation was destroyed.

    • I read an article today saying that the US corn crop was expected to be unusually large because of good weather patterns, so far. I wonder what the net impact will be. This storm affected a swath of Iowa, but there is a whole lot of corn grown elsewhere.

        • Quite a bit (45% if I remember correctly) of US corn is used for ethanol production. Actually, the percentage is hard to count because the process takes part of the kernel of corn and uses it for ethanol and leaves quite a bit of the remainder for animal feed. The animal feed is not well tolerated by animals. The percentage that can be included in the food mix without significant harm varies by the type of animal. Part of the corn is used for “high fructose corn syrup,” which food manufacturers like to add to many processed foods. There are many recommendation that Americans cut back on added sugars of this type. Corn oil is another product of the corn. This is not really a recommended product either.

          In some sense, a loss in corn production would not be a big catastrophe.

          There would be less problem if the corn were simply fed to animals as part of their feed.

          • They keep trying to feed animals with rubbish. Sometimes it goes wrong. Remember bovine spongeiform encepalopathy? That was from feeding cows spines and thyroid glands from other cows…

            Sometimes, when your gut tells you something is wrong…

          • Gail, depends on your position, “a loss in corn production would not be a big catastrophe.” As mentioned above, there aren’t that many people farming now, lose a few and replacement is very difficult. There is a great deal to farming that most of us are not aware of, I only see it because it is close to me. Loss of local control of food production has not worked well for nations that have tried it. A surplus can in worst case rot, a deficiency can lead to mass riots.

            Dennis L.

            • You are right about that. Also, these farmers may default on their loans, if they have enough problems.

              Ethanol is subsidized (or mandated in a way that constitutes a subsidy), leading to a whole lot of corn production. Most of the rest of Iowa corn is used for animal food, or is exported.

              I notice that the US Grain Council says:

              In the 2018/2019 crop marketing year, (Sept. 1- Aug. 31) the United States grew more than 14.42 billion bushels (366 million metric tons) of corn. Roughly 14.3 percent of production was exported to more than 73 different countries.

              Mexico (31 percent), Japan (25 percent) and Colombia (9 percent) made up the top three U.S. corn export destinations.

              My guess is that Mexico and Japan would be hurt by a lack of exports, before the US would suffer from a supply point of view.

        • “Ukraine is set for its biggest corn crop on record.”

          Yet more evidence that we are fast approaching a climate change catastrophe. Jolly hockey sticks!

          • If the crop in China goes south it’s good to have some carbs from the Ukraine in the pipeline.

          • “… the US corn crop was expected to be unusually large because of good weather patterns, so far.”

            I am well pleased to read this, and I would suspect Judith Curry would be also.

          • Yet more evidence of… nothing. One has to look at the long trend, not at a one-time event.

      • My crop is suffering from lack of moisture in SE MN, not good, rain is going around us. Ethanol was a boondoggle, in IA a patient of mine was president of the IA Corn Growers” Association, the ethanol was primarily a way to use surplus corn and have a ready cash market that was less cyclical. It works, perhaps indirect, but it works in a very cyclical business.

        Farming has been a low profit margin business forever, more land is appearing with for sale signs around my area. Land is a good store of wealth, but cash flow is variable for a number of reasons.

        I have concerns over who will rent land going forward, mine is leased to a relative with two younger sons, university educated in farming, OJT since diapers. They are the most valuable part of the farm operation. If there are issues with the crop, I shall take a hit in rent this year rather than enforce the contract, these people are very valuable to me.

        There don’t seem to be many positive cash flow businesses around, sometime soon one would guess every asset will have been financialized and debt issuance will cease. It must be getting close with a trillion here and a trillion there.

        Dennis L.

        • Food crops are another type of energy for which prices have been too low for a long time. Farmers get caught in the middle.

          Weather is a very local condition. One area gets too much; another area is too dry.

          I have relatives in Owatonna, Minnesota. I am quite familiar with the area.

  8. Mike Maloney, Chris Martenson and Jeff Clark (Jeff new to me) discuss some articles on the internet. I have got the impression over the last few months that Mike is increasingly of the mindset that no matter how much gold and silver he has, it is not going not help. In this video we find out that Chris is a farmer (farm manager?), and at 12 min. they discuss an article entitled: “One-Third of American Renters Expected to Miss Their August Payment”.

    I have seen Mike refer to this before – if he mentions China or Covid-19, his videos get censored, I presume on YT, I am not sure.

    The Gold Silver Show – Inflation, Deflation or Crisis?

    • Someone can put the silver coins on your eyes for the Ferryman; that’s about it in all likelihood.

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