corona marginalia: techno-tyranny

“How do we really use new technology in the economy of tomorrow? And that’s the lesson that we’re all learning right: work from home; telemedicine; tele-education. It’s all about technology, and a better use of technology, and really incorporating the lessons into that. And probably the best mind in this country, if not on the globe to do this, is I believe a true visionary, especially in the field of technology, and that’s Eric Schmidt.”

This is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s effusive welcome to former Google CEO Eric Schmidt when he joined him for the daily coronavirus briefing on Wednesday May 6th. Cuomo continues:

“[Schmidt] saw a future that no-one else envisioned and then developed a way to get there. And we’ve asked him to come work with us to bring that kind of visionary aspect to government and society. Let’s look at what we just went through. Let’s anticipate a future through that lens. And tell us how we can incorporate these lessons. And Mr Schmidt who has tremendous demands on his talent and his time has agreed to help us and head an effort to do this.”

Eric Schmidt, no less lavish in his praise for Cuomo, says:

“Thank you Governor. You have been doing an incredible job for our state and frankly for the nation, and I’m really pleased to help. The first priorities of what we’re trying to do are focused on telehealth, remote learning and broadband. We can take this terrible disaster and accelerate all of those ways that will make things much, much better.”

The author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein begins her latest article entitled “Screen New Deal” with reflections on this video meeting and Cuomo’s announcement that Schmidt “will be heading up a blue-ribbon commission to reimagine New York state’s post-Covid reality, with an emphasis on permanently integrating technology into every aspect of civic life”:

This is a future in which, for the privileged, almost everything is home delivered, either virtually via streaming and cloud technology, or physically via driverless vehicle or drone, then screen “shared” on a mediated platform. It’s a future that employs far fewer teachers, doctors, and drivers. It accepts no cash or credit cards (under guise of virus control) and has skeletal mass transit and far less live art. It’s a future that claims to be run on “artificial intelligence” but is actually held together by tens of millions of anonymous workers tucked away in warehouses, data centers, content moderation mills, electronic sweatshops, lithium mines, industrial farms, meat-processing plants, and prisons, where they are left unprotected from disease and hyperexploitation. It’s a future in which our every move, our every word, our every relationship is trackable, traceable, and data-mineable by unprecedented collaborations between government and tech giants.

She continues:

If all of this sounds familiar it’s because, pre-Covid, this precise app-driven, gig-fueled future was being sold to us in the name of convenience, frictionlessness, and personalization. But many of us had concerns. About the security, quality, and inequity of telehealth and online classrooms. About driverless cars mowing down pedestrians and drones smashing packages (and people). About location tracking and cash-free commerce obliterating our privacy and entrenching racial and gender discrimination. About unscrupulous social media platforms poisoning our information ecology and our kids’ mental health. About “smart cities” filled with sensors supplanting local government. About the good jobs these technologies wiped out. About the bad jobs they mass produced.

And most of all, we had concerns about the democracy-threatening wealth and power accumulated by a handful of tech companies that are masters of abdication — eschewing all responsibility for the wreckage left behind in the fields they now dominate, whether media, retail, or transportation.

That was the ancient past known as February. Today, a great many of those well-founded concerns are being swept away by a tidal wave of panic, and this warmed-over dystopia is going through a rush-job rebranding. Now, against a harrowing backdrop of mass death, it is being sold to us on the dubious promise that these technologies are the only possible way to pandemic-proof our lives, the indispensable keys to keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe.

Adding:

Thanks to Cuomo and his various billionaire partnerships (including one with Michael Bloomberg for testing and tracing), New York state is being positioned as the gleaming showroom for this grim future — but the ambitions reach far beyond the borders of any one state or country.

And at the dead center of it all is Eric Schmidt.

Klein notes: “Lest there be any doubt that the former Google chair’s goals were purely benevolent, his video background featured a framed pair of golden angel wings.”

Click here to read Naomi Klein’s full article published on May 8th by The Intercept.

*

Eric Schmidt and the NSCAI

“[D]ata is the new oil. And China is just awash with data. And they don’t have the same restraints that we do around collecting it and using it, because of the privacy difference between our countries. This notion that they have the largest labeled data set in the world is going to be a huge strength for them.”

— Chris Darby, President and CEO of In-Q-Tel, an investment arm of the CIA and member of NSCAI. *

The second part of Klein’s article moves on to discuss the Sidewalk Labs division of Google’s parent company Alphabet and specifically their “smart cities” Toronto project. This is a topic I have addressed in my last post published as it happened on the eve of the project being shut down following what Klein describes as “two years of ceaseless controversy relating to the enormous amounts of personal data that Alphabet would collect, a lack of privacy protections, and questionable benefits for the city as a whole.”

But central to her article is an investigation into Schmidt’s other roles both as Chair of the Defense Innovation Board, which advises the Department of Defense on increased use of artificial intelligence in the military, and as Chair of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) which advises Congress on “advances in artificial intelligence, related machine learning developments, and associated technologies.”

Specifically, Klein draws attention to slides from a presentation made by Schmidt’s NSCAI back in May 2019, that have since been released following a Freedom of Information request made by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

In fact a week prior to Klein’s excellent piece, independent journalist Whitney Webb had already brought attention to the same document release; the presentation in question is titled “Chinese Tech Landscape Overview”.

Webb writes:

This document suggests that the U.S. follow China’s lead and even surpass them in many aspects related to AI-driven technologies, particularly their use of mass surveillance. This perspective clearly clashes with the public rhetoric of prominent U.S. government officials and politicians on China, who have labeled the Chinese government’s technology investments and export of its surveillance systems and other technologies as a major “threat” to Americans’ “way of life.”

In addition, many of the steps for the implementation of such a program in the U.S., as laid out in this newly available document, are currently being promoted and implemented as part of the government’s response to the current coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis. This likely due to the fact that many members of this same body have considerable overlap with the taskforces and advisors currently guiding the government’s plans to “re-open the economy” and efforts to use technology to respond to the current crisis.

Webb then highlights Eric Schmidt’s “similar concerns about ‘losing’ technological advantage to China”:

[Schmidt] argued in February in the New York Times that Silicon Valley could soon lose “the technology wars” to China if the U.S. government doesn’t take action. Thus, the three main groups represented within the NSCAI – the intelligence community, the Pentagon and Silicon Valley – all view China’s advancements in AI as a major national security threat (and in Silicon Valley’s case, threat to their bottom lines and market shares) that must be tackled quickly.

Naomi Klein likewise draws attention to the NYT op-ed headlined “I used to Run Google. Silicon Valley Could Lose to China”, in which Schmidt had called for “unprecedented partnerships between government and industry” and is, in Klein’s words “once again, sounding the yellow peril alarm”. She then quotes the salient passages:

A.I. will open new frontiers in everything from biotechnology to banking, and it is also a Defense Department priority. … If current trends continue, China’s overall investments in research and development are expected to surpass those of the United States within 10 years, around the same time its economy is projected to become larger than ours.

Unless these trends change, in the 2030s we will be competing with a country that has a bigger economy, more research and development investments, better research, wider deployment of new technologies and stronger computing infrastructure. … Ultimately, the Chinese are competing to become the world’s leading innovators, and the United States is not playing to win.

On this pretext of regaining competitive advantage over China, the NSCAI presentation goes on to cite the kinds of “structural factors” that need to be altered.

Here is Whitney Webb again:

Chief among the troublesome “structural factors” highlighted in this presentation are so-called “legacy systems” that are common in the U.S. but much less so in China. The NSCAI document states that examples of “legacy systems” include a financial system that still utilizes cash and card payments, individual car ownership and even receiving medical attention from a human doctor. It states that, while these “legacy systems” in the US are “good enough,” too many “good enough” systems “hinder the adoption of new things,” specifically AI-driven systems. […]

The document also defines another aspect of government support as the “clearing of regulatory barriers.” This term is used in the document specifically with respect to U.S. privacy laws, despite the fact that the U.S. national security state has long violated these laws with near complete impunity. However, the document seems to suggest that privacy laws in the U.S. should be altered so that what the U.S. government has done “in secret” with private citizen data can be done more openly and more extensively. The NSCAI document also discusses the removal of “regulatory barriers” in order to speed up the adoption of self-driving cars, even though autonomous driving technology has resulted in several deadly and horrific car accidents and presents other safety concerns.

Who are NSCAI? Webb provides us with a list of members and their interests:

Other members of the NSCAI are as follows:

  • Safra Catz, CEO of Oracle, with close ties to Trump’s top donor Sheldon Adelson
  • Steve Chien, supervisor of the Artificial Intelligence Group at Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Lab
  • Mignon Clyburn, Open Society Foundation fellow and former FCC commissioner
  • Chris Darby, CEO of In-Q-Tel (CIA’s venture capital arm)
  • Ken Ford, CEO of the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition
  • Jose-Marie Griffiths, president of Dakota State University and former National Science Board member
  • Eric Horvitz, director of Microsoft Research Labs
  • Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services (CIA contractor)
  • Gilman Louie, partner at Alsop Louie Partners and former CEO of In-Q-Tel
  • William Mark, director of SRI International and former Lockheed Martin director
  • Jason Matheny, director of the Center for Security and Emerging Technology, former Assistant director of National Intelligence and former director of IARPA (Intelligence Advanced Research Project Agency)
  • Katharina McFarland, consultant at Cypress International and former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition
  • Andrew Moore, head of Google Cloud AI

As can be seen in the list above, there is a considerable amount of overlap between the NSCAI and the companies currently advising the White House on “re-opening” the economy (Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Lockheed Martin, Oracle) and one NSCAI member, Oracle’s Safra Katz, is on the White House’s “economic revival” taskforce. Also, there is also overlap between the NSCAI and the companies that are intimately involved in the implementation of the “contact tracing” “coronavirus surveillance system,” a mass surveillance system promoted by the Jared Kushner-led, private-sector coronavirus task force. That surveillance system is set to be constructed by companies with deep ties to Google and the U.S. national security state, and both Google and Apple, who create the operating systems for the vast majority of smartphones used in the U.S., have said they will now build that surveillance system directly into their smartphone operating systems.

Click here to read Whitney Webb’s full article entitled “Techno-tyranny: How the US National Security State is using Coronavirus to Fulfill an Orwellian Vision” published on May 4th at her official website Unlimited Hangout.

*

Tele-everything!

In her article for The Intercept, Naomi Klein supplies an update and a glimpse of the headway already made by the tech giants in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Responding to a subsequent op-ed by Eric Schmidt [passages in Italics], Klein writes:

Less than two weeks into New York state’s lockdown, Schmidt wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal that both set the new tone and made clear that Silicon Valley had every intention of leveraging the crisis for a permanent transformation.

Like other Americans, technologists are trying to do their part to support the front-line pandemic response. …

But every American should be asking where we want the nation to be when the Covid-19 pandemic is over. How could the emerging technologies being deployed in the current crisis propel us into a better future? … Companies like Amazon know how to supply and distribute efficiently. They will need to provide services and advice to government officials who lack the computing systems and expertise.

We should also accelerate the trend toward remote learning, which is being tested today as never before. Online, there is no requirement of proximity, which allows students to get instruction from the best teachers, no matter what school district they reside in. …

The need for fast, large-scale experimentation will also accelerate the biotech revolution. … Finally, the country is long overdue for a real digital infrastructure…. If we are to build a future economy and education system based on tele-everything, we need a fully connected population and ultrafast infrastructure. The government must make a massive investment—perhaps as part of a stimulus package—to convert the nation’s digital infrastructure to cloud-based platforms and link them with a 5G network.

Indeed Schmidt has been relentless in pursuing this vision. Two weeks after that op-ed appeared, he described the ad-hoc homeschooling programing that teachers and families across the country had been forced to cobble together during this public health emergency as “a massive experiment in remote learning.” The goal of this experiment, he said, was “trying to find out: How do kids learn remotely? And with that data we should be able to build better remote and distance learning tools which, when combined with the teacher … will help kids learn better.” During this same video call, hosted by the Economic Club of New York, Schmidt also called for more telehealth, more 5G, more digital commerce, and the rest of the preexisting wish list. All in the name of fighting the virus.

His most telling comment, however, was this: “The benefit of these corporations, which we love to malign, in terms of the ability to communicate, the ability to deal with health, the ability to get information, is profound. Think about what your life would be like in America without Amazon.” He added that people should “be a little bit grateful that these companies got the capital, did the investment, built the tools that we’re using now, and have really helped us out.”

Click here to read Naomi Klein’s full article published on May 8th by The Intercept.

*

* From an article entitled “In-Q-Tel President Chris Darby on the intelligence community’s innovation challenges” written by Olivia Gazis, published in CBS News on April 24, 2019. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/intelligence-matters-in-q-tel-president-chris-darby-on-the-intelligence-communitys-innovation-challenges/

8 Comments

Filed under analysis & opinion, mass surveillance, USA

8 responses to “corona marginalia: techno-tyranny

  1. I feel as if we’ve simply rolled over in front of Vogon Constructor Fleet. Am especially alarmed by the apparently large resistance to alleviating lockdown, let alone ending it. The terror-mongering has worked so well that many people are never going to believe it’s safe outside. Ever.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We are certainly living in interesting times! My stance on the lockdown remains different to yours as you may have guessed. The main issue for me is how the government has botched the whole response from the get go and in just about every conceivable way. If they had followed the lead of New Zealand (for instance), which also has the advantage of being a comparatively small island, we could move on as they are now doing. But the policy here has been totally nonsensical, since, for one thing, it locks down the people but leaves the borders wide open. For another there has been no testing and no contact tracing to speak of. In fact they stopped testing and contact tracing about the time the numbers in Italy began to explode (and about the time I caught it). Shortly afterwards, they abandoned us to herd immunity, but then, having let the virus spread throughout the country, they abruptly changed course again, shut down the economy and applied a quite stringent lockdown. All of the incompetence that finally led to their decision to lock down (if indeed it was incompetence) is unforgivable in my view.

      As for the severity of the disease itself, the best data we have so far still points to a CFR (indeed an infection fatality rate) of between 0.5% and 1% (based on the most recent studies from New York, Germany, Switzerland and Spain) which is where the number has always been – in fact, it matches the original figures released by South Korea that I first quoted back in mid-March. In my view, such a rate (5 or more times as bad as flu) is quite bad enough to justify some fairly drastic action – the issue is what kind of action and to whose benefit? However, I would agree that people are being traumatised in quite a number of ways, but again this is a consequence of the response per se.

      Of course my own position puts me at variance with quite a number people I usually agree with, and this is not a happy position to be in. But then, I can’t help feeling that there is a deliberate divide and conquer psy-op that is also playing out, not to mention the complete madness being pushed by David Icke about 5G being the cause. The risks posed by 5G are real enough, of course, but having been dragged into the coronavirus debate, the waters are now completely muddied. So the whole debate surrounding coronavirus has become exceptionally divisive especially within the alternative media. As issues go, it can be nearly as bad as Brexit for losing friends. Nothing is as bad as Brexit though!

      Thanks for the comment Tish. I think we may have to agree to disagree on the underlying issue about the virulence of the disease – I imagine we agree on the rest more or less. Your Hitchhiker’s Guide reference took me back. Although the Vogon’s seem rather charming compared to the plutocrats at the helm of this small blue dot!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lots to be discovered about the virus, and obviously it IS serious for some people. But the question is why is it more serious or fatal for some, and barely noticeable for others. I think Iceland has some interesting data according to Dr Malcolm Kendrick’s blog here on WP. He also thinks there should be more research as to why some people have complete immunity. A good case study at Eyam of course. The descendants of families who survived the plague seem to have immunity to HIV.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s very true. For instance the blood clotting and this quite extraordinary symptom they are now calling ‘happy hypoxia’ that seems to be medically unprecedented. It might actually explain some of my personal experiences of feeling breathless but without gasping and also of waking up in the middle of the night thinking I was suffocating – which I have heard happens at altitude to some people. I can honestly say for a week or so it felt like a war was taking place inside me: an existential battle of good (my immune system) against evil – many of the symptoms I find very hard to describe, No illness before has overwhelmed me in quite the same way (doubtless because I’ve been lucky). But my own conclusions based on those experiences and medical findings is that this is certainly no ordinary virus. Indeed, the more we learn the more reasons to suspect it was engineered. Fortunately, the latest research from South Korea shows there should be widespread immunity after infection and that the virus does not penetrate the nucleus of cells and produce chronic infections. I wish I knew more about biology but dropped the subject at secondary school basically because I hated doing dissections. That fact about Eyam is very intriguing.

        Here’s an interesting article I just came across: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/science-and-disease/revealed-long-term-severe-effects-covid-19-can-go-months/

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve just skimmed the article and will go back to it, but this progress through the system seems to be the key feature and for some who become rapidly very ill – a cytokine storm. The lack of oxygen seems to be a key aspect, but ventilation for those worst affected absolutely the wrong treatment for most of them, and an actual and major cause of death. The Chinese reported this in a scientific paper – 86 % mortality if I remember rightly. Then there was the New York surgeon who spoke out, basically saying that what he was seeing was people with the equivalent of ‘the bends’, or being at high altitude, but when he tried to stop the ventilation was moved from the ICU.

        Dr. Judy Mikovits – THE US expert on HIV and retroviruses and a whistle blower believes the virus is a lab creation. And in fact there are published papers from the Wuhan lab that describe their work on bat corona viruses. I’ve seen scientific papers by Shi Zhengli on-line. Anyway Mikovits says (and I’m crudely paraphrasing because I’m not a biologist either) Covid 19 appears to trigger reaction from cell to cell which is why hydroxychloroquine may work well if taken early because that’s how it behaves as an anti-malarial. Her book Plague of Corruption does some further serious whistle blowing on the vaccine business. Contaminated cell lines during production seem to be a particular issue. Also her film interview Plandemic which is being taken down all over the internet. She believes a safe vaccine can be made – an oral spray based on interferon (used effectively on viruses and much else besides for decades) plus a small amount of virus, and peptide T. Her overall contention as to why covid 19 is likely to be lethal to those with co-morbidities is because it triggers gamma retroviruses likely to be in the system of such people due to contaminated vaccines, parasites etc. Once you start looking there have been many cases of flawed or contaminated vaccines. The Danish physician Prof Peter Gotzche has done a lot of whistle blowing too. And then there’s Prof Dolores J Cahill – a recoverer from Covid 19, head of a bio research lab. She says hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment along with zinc, vits D and C. Large doses of the latter as an antioxidant (I’ve read elsewhere) can mitigate the hypoxia symptoms. Also astaxanthin. Low vit D levels also seems to be a key to susceptibility, and recent research from the US veterans hospital, on top of anecdotal evidence seems to indicate people with dark skins are especially vulnerable. The Finns have long recognised that low vit D levels in the population need to be addressed and they add it to basic foods. The UK had just come through a completely sunless autumn and winter, to say nothing of the poor nutrition of a large segment of our impoverished society.

        Like

      • That article is v. interesting. It seems to document the movement of the virus through the system. We need more such testimonies and investigations. Dr. Judy Mikovits, world expert on HIV and retroviruses is certain that this is a lab produced virus. (And actually there are Wuhan research papers by Dr Shi Zhengli on line that describe their nano ‘doctoring’ of bat corona viruses – the kind of work which according to press exposes was also being funded in Wuhan by Dr F and US gov, some funding cut in July 2019). A quick look at Pirbright patents show what kind of virus tinkering is going on.
        https://patents.justia.com/assignee/the-pirbright-institute

        Dr Mikovits is a whistle-blower and has been punished for it. She says the pursuit of RNA vaccines is dangerous and a safe cheaper alternative – an oral spray – could be produced using interferon (known efficacy for decades), a small amount of virus plus Peptide T. She suggests that it is likely that hydroxychloroquine is effective (if taken early) because it stops the virus replicating from cell to cell. This of course is how it works as an anti-malarial. Her exposure of the current vaccine business is based on her findings (she has worked at US bio lab Fort Detrick which was closed down in July) that many are contaminated with gamma-retroviruses. She suggests that covid 19 in some way triggers retroviruses that are dormant especially in the systems of people with co-morbidities usually the elderly who will have had many vaccines. Apparently the cell line production (using cells from different animals down the line) is prone to contamination. Her interview on the Plandemic film is being taken down from the web left, right and centre, but her book Plague of Corruption which exposes the industry is now a best seller. I haven’t read my kindle copy yet. Naturally she’s being written off as an anti-vaxxer by the MSM. She says, on the contrary, her expertise is immunology and she is for safe vaccines.

        Another bio-researcher (head of a bio-lab) Prof Dolores J Cahill ( a covid 19 recoverer who describes symptoms like yours) is adamant that vit D, C, zinc and hydroxycholoroquine is a good protocol. Elsewhere I’ve read that high doses of C, in its antioxidant capacity mitigate against the hypoxia event. Also astaxanthin. As to this particular symptom, I guess you’ve seen the YT vids of the NYC doctor whistleblowing on how ventilation was the wrong treatment for most hospital cases. He describes the symptoms of patients he was seeing as akin to those suffering altitude sickness or the bends. The Chinese also have documented that ventilation had an 86% mortality rate. WHO were recommending it.

        The thing that most worries me about lockdown, a) there is no scientific basis for it, in fact a recent Chinese paper suggests most infections where in close domestic or transport settings, and the least amount in people who were still out and about doing front-line jobs. and b) the effect on the national psyche. According to various polls and the vicious responses to people who dare to suggest gettting on with life, too many people seem to want to stay locked down. The paranoia is resulting in exceedingly nasty behaviour, finger pointing and snitching. A small eg: one of my neighbours posted on FB this week a notice suggesting visitors to our town were infecting our seats and benches. First there are no ‘visitors’ and secondly, we are not talking about the black death. Hand washing anyway ought to be everyone’s habit – irrespective of pandemics. And as for the behaviour of the police – utterly alarming.

        My other fear is because of the induced massed paranoia unfit vaccines will be rushed into production, proliferating the whole wretched problem, and people will beg to have them. Or else we’ll be forced to have them. A quick trawl of the web e.g. Prof Peter Gotzche/Indian Supreme Court inter alia exposes extreme harms of some recent vaccines.

        My other thought is if we’d had antibody testing straight off we would have a better idea of actual infection rates. i.e. there’s the doctor’s (John Wright) anecdotal evidence of an outbreak amongst a Bradford choir group back in December-Jan. This suggests, as Prof Gupta at Oxford Uni proposed, that the virus has been around in the UK through the winter and so there may be good immunity by now. The early PCR tests seem so dodgy that many results may simply be other corona viruses i.e. the actual flu, as reports suggest the early tests at least couldn’t differentiate between different corona expressions whether in animals and/ or humans. Roche said they were entirely inappropriate in clinical settings. So I guess that’s why the testing stopped in many places. The mortality figures are therefore all up the creek – which I think is also being increasingly recognised.

        All of which is to say, I don’t doubt that covid 19 for some is deadly or a very unpleasant experience. You clearly had a bad time, and such an event must be shocking to your system on top of the virus. I’m not sure that I didn’t have a mild version in Feb. It was a very weird set of multiple symptoms, one following another, and I dosed myself with everything I had handy, including large doses of vit C and also zinc. I’m also finding I’m having to do a serious mental adjustment re the MSM, because a lot of the most common sense stuff is being aired by the right wing press. It all adds to the sense of a world gone mad. Anyway, I do hope you’re beginning to feel that you are fully recovering.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Tish, that’s an incredibly detailed reply so please forgive my rather limited response. Firstly on a personal front, I do think I’ve finally over it and lasted about eight or nine weeks (depending on when I begin counting – from time of first symptoms or date of probable infection). I am very grateful for your concern by the way. During the period when it was worst (a period of about a fortnight) I actually dosed heavily on a variety of nutrients making a special point of taking cod liver oil every day (primarily for Vit D) and eating plenty of fresh fruit (for Vit C) as well as multivitamins every night. The decision to boost my intake of vitamins and nutrients was inspired by John Campbell and his consistent recommendation of Vit D on the grounds that it is a good preventative against all respiratory infections.

        On the whole, I also agree with you about the lockdown which I regard at best as just a failure of govt policy. Lockdown meant shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. And the fact that there is still no end in sight is yet another failure of the same (lack of) policy. If I was assuming a more conspiratorial line I’d say the lax approach that allowed unchecked community spread in the first place was purposeful since it provided a pretext to lock down society. In truth, however, I genuinely think it was probably a monumental cock up and one we ought to expect from our business-first laissez faire administration – same goes for Trump and Macron too.

        More broadly, there do seem to be just two basic approaches to tackling an infectious disease of this kind. The first involves trying to stop the spread by whatever means are available: some combination of quarantine, testing, contact tracing. These are the Chinese, S Korean, Australian, New Zealander and Danish approaches (let’s say). Or there is “flattening the curve” option which is the one adopted here, and America and Sweden (although Sweden also has measures to protect the elderly I believe).

        This second approach relies on establishing herd immunity at the cost of sacrificing an unknown number of lives – a flattened curve may ultimately sum over the same area which means the total fatalities are no lower but just occur over an extended period. Almost inevitably it also involves the imposition of some kind of measures including strict social distancing and lockdowns. The end point happens only when there is herd immunity i.e., a vaccine or 60-80% of population infected. I cannot really see how this is ever a good idea.

        Like you I do think it’s very possible that the virus has been around longer than is widely believed. Not sure we will ever know for certain, but there seems to be evidence from autopsies that it may have emerged in America months before it got to China. This is backed by the Cambridge University study that traced the genetic evolution of three strains of the virus and found the original strain A is far more prevalent in America and almost undetected in China (where strain B is predominant).

        Regarding the mortality rates, this is one area I have looked into fairly closely. There was one study in particular that I saw repeatedly cited by alternative media sites since it claimed a remarkably low estimate (lower even than seasonal flu). I searched for this particular paper which was an investigation based on test data collected around the Silicon Valley area and read through it. Although obviously I couldn’t understand many of the more technical details, even as a physicist I could see that the methodology was badly flawed and biased in ways that would significantly push the estimate down. It appeared to be such a bad piece of research (at the time unpublished) that it actually firmed up my suspicion that too many in the alternative media are quite happy to cherry pick their facts on this.

        Whenever it comes to serious studies (as I mentioned in the previous comment), I repeatedly find estimates that lie between 0.5% and 1%, and so find no good reason to expect a mortality rate outside this range. The range will vary a little of course due to differences in demographics and the availability of good medical care, so it seems all the more remarkable how steady these values appear to be in regions as different as South Korea, Spain and New York.

        Well, I’ve gone on longer than I anticipated, but then you gave me plenty to think about! I really appreciate your attention to details and the trouble you take in every reply. You’ll have to forgive me for not addressing ever point, but on the whole I do agree. Take care and keep taking the vitamins.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Good to hear you are over the worst. Lots of cock-ups, I agree. Plus a big dose of too much vested interest – corporate and political. I suppose I’m thinking that either or both end up distracting people’s attention from demanding some decent concentrated science by reputable unbought researchers. It seems that those independent and scientifically/medically qualified individuals who try to give an informed and rational approach to dealing with the virus are increasingly being censored. Meanwhile I read that US billionaires are clocking $3 trillion in profits over the lockdown period – the usual suspects who are all heavily involved in corporate ‘medicine’. So yes – keep taking the vitamins sounds like good advice.

        Liked by 1 person

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