Category Archives: Economy and Meltdown

“Super Spreaders” Cause More Than 4 Million COVID-19 Infections Across India, New Study Finds

“Super Spreaders” Cause More Than 4 Million COVID-19 Infections Across India, New Study Finds

Tyler Durden

Wed, 09/30/2020 – 21:00

In what scientists have billed as the first major analysis of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in a developing country, a new study published Wednesday in the journal Science shows that a small number of “super spreaders” caused as much as 2/3rds of infections in India.

The data was gathered over months while tracing more than 3 million contacts in the southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Until recently, most of the research on the virus came from the US, Europe and China. But with India set to surpass the US as the world’s largest outbreak over the next 2 weeks or so, the research has arrived at a critical time. It shows that roughly 8% of confirmed cases later led to 2/3rds of the outbreak.

With India teetering on the cusp of passing 100,000 deaths – it would be the third country to top that number after the US and Brazil – Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy and author of the study, said in an interview with Bloomberg that his research marks the first time that scientists have had granular data allowing them to actually map the spread of the virus from contact to contact in two Indian states.

But on the flip side, the researchers found that 71% of infected people never passed the virus to anyone.

“We’ve never had this degree of information to say, hey, some people are really transmitting the virus in a massive way,” Laxminarayan said in an interview. In contrast with the super-spreader minority, 71% of confirmed cases whose contacts were traced weren’t found to have spread the virus to anyone.

Data for the study were gathered by thousands of contact-tracers during the lengthy lockdown imposed by the Indian government.  Almost 130 million people live in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

Combined, their population represents roughly 10% of all of India. Both states reported their first infections on March 5. The data examined ended on Aug. 1.Now, India has nearly 6.25 million confirmed cases of the virus.

Source: Science

Health workers traced the spread using the same skills they’ve used to trace the spread of HIV and tuberculosis. In settings like public transit, coming into close contact with an infected person could carry as high as a 79% risk of infection.

One notable finding of the study was the role that younger people played in spreading the virus. In the two Indian states, children under the age of 14 often “silently” spread the virus to their parents and family members.

An analysis of the risks for different age groups found that the rate of mortality for the youngest cohort was 0.05% for ages 5 to 17. On the other end of the spectrum, the mortality rate hits 16.6% for people aged 85 and up.

 

Read the full paper below:

Science.abd7672.Full by Zerohedge on Scribd

Global Food Shortages Are Becoming Very Real, And US Grocery Store Chains Are Preparing For Worst Case Scenarios

Global Food Shortages Are Becoming Very Real, And US Grocery Store Chains Are Preparing For Worst Case Scenarios

Tyler Durden

Wed, 09/30/2020 – 20:40

Authored by Michael Snyder via The End of The American Dream blog,

The head of the UN World Food Program repeatedly warned us that we would soon be facing “famines of biblical proportions”, and his predictions are now starting to become a reality.  We have already seen food riots in some parts of Africa, and it isn’t too much of a surprise that certain portions of Asia are really hurting right now.  But I have to admit that I was kind of shocked when I came across an article about the “hunger crisis” that has erupted in Latin America.  According to Bloomberg, “a resurgence of poverty is bringing a vicious wave of hunger in a region that was supposed to have mostly eradicated that kind of malnutrition decades ago”. 

We are being told that food shortages are becoming acute from Mexico City all the way down to the southern tip of South America, and those that are the poorest are being hit the hardest.

Let me ask you a question.

What would you do if you didn’t have any food to feed your family?

Fortunately, for the vast majority of my readers that is just a hypothetical question.  But for many families in Latin America, the unthinkable is now actually happening

He couldn’t feed his family. Matilde Alonso knew it was true but couldn’t believe it. The pandemic had just hit Guatemala in full force and Alonso, a 34-year-old construction worker, was suddenly jobless.

He sat up all alone till late that night, his mind racing, and fought back tears. He had six mouths to feed, no income and no hope of receiving anything beyond the most meager of crisis-support checks — some $130 — from the cash-strapped government.

I once had a friend that is a hardcore prepper tell me that his worst nightmare would be for his daughter to tell him that she was hungry and he didn’t have anything to give her.

Many of us can’t even imagine being in Matilde Alonso’s shoes.  Sadly, this is going to be happening to even more families soon, because the UN World Food Program is projecting that the number of people facing “severe food insecurity” in Latin American and Caribbean nations will rise by a whopping 270 percent in the months ahead.

Thankfully, for the moment the United States is in far better shape.  But there have been serious shortages of certain items throughout this pandemic, and many grocery stores have had a very difficult time trying to keep their shelves full.

For example, during my most recent trip to my local grocery store I noticed more empty shelves than I had ever seen before, and that greatly alarmed me.

And now we are being told that grocery stores all over the country are attempting to stockpile goods in an attempt “to avoid shortages during a second wave of coronavirus”

Grocery stores across the United States are stocking up on products to avoid shortages during a second wave of coronavirus.

Household products – including paper towels and Clorox wipes – have been difficult to find at times during the pandemic, and if grocery stores aren’t stocked up and prepared for second wave this winter, runs on products and shortages could happen again.

When even CNN starts admitting that more shortages are coming, that is a sign that it is very late in the game.

And the Wall Street Journal is reporting that some chains are actually putting together “pandemic pallets” in anticipation of more shortages

According to the Wall Street Journal, Associated Food Stores has recently started building “pandemic pallets” to ensure cleaning and sanitizing products are readily available in its warehouses to prepare for high demand through the end of the year.

“We will never again operate our business as unprepared for something like this,” Darin Peirce, vice president of retail operations for the cooperative of more than 400 stores told the outlet. If grocery stores sense something is coming and are preparing for another “wave” of this scamdemic, it may be something worth taking note of.

Most of these grocery chains believe that another wave of COVID-19 is the worst case scenario that they could possibly be facing.  Sadly, that isn’t even close to the truth.

We have entered a time when global food supplies are going to become increasingly stressed, and it is going to be absolutely critical to keep U.S. food production at the highest levels possible.

Unfortunately, U.S. farmers have been going bankrupt in staggering numbers during this downturn, and the federal assistance that was supposed to help them survive has mostly gone to “large, industrialized farms”

Five months into the pandemic, farmers say the federal payments have done little to keep them afloat, as these favor large, industrialized farms over smaller family farms. In fact, initial payments under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program – which provided $16 billion in direct support and $3 billion in purchases – revealed an uneven distribution of financial aid.

An NBC News analysis of the first 700,000 payments showed how corporate farms and foreign-owned operations received over $1.2 billion in coronavirus relief – or over 20 percent of the money – with average payments of almost $95,000. Smaller farms, meanwhile, had average payments of around $300. The figures did not take into account other struggling farmers who are ineligible for assistance.

Reading those numbers greatly frustrated me, because family farms have always been so critical to our success as a nation.

U.S. farm bankruptcies hit an eight-year high last year, and they are on pace to go even higher this year.

This should deeply alarm all of us, because we are going to need as much food production as possible during the years to come.

In 2020, we have just seen one major disaster after another all over the world, and many of these disasters have directly affected global food production.  For example, in my previous articles I haven’t even mentioned the historic flooding that has been going on in China for months that is wiping out crops on a massive scale

Experts from the global financial services group Nomura said that although the flooding is among the worst that China has experienced since 1998, it could still get worse in the weeks to come, with the nation poised to lose $1.7 billion in agricultural production.

However, since the start of the monsoon season, the area of flooded croplands have almost doubled. Nomura’s estimates also do not include the potential loss of wheat, corn and other major crops. Therefore, China could be facing a far greater economic loss than current projections.

On my news headlines website, I am going to start posting stories like this on a daily basis so that people can keep up with what is really going on out there.

We really are facing a very serious global food crisis, and the number of people without sufficient food is only going to grow as the months roll along.

For now, most Americans still have plenty of food, and we should be very thankful for that.

But everyone should be able to see that global conditions are rapidly changing, and we should all be using this window of opportunity to prepare, because very, very challenging times are ahead of us.

Bill Gates: West Must Finance Global Vaccine Distribution Network If It Wants To Defeat COVID-19

Bill Gates: West Must Finance Global Vaccine Distribution Network If It Wants To Defeat COVID-19

Tyler Durden

Wed, 09/30/2020 – 20:20

In an interesting choice of venues, Bill Gates has just published his latest editorial in the Nikkei Asian Review, the English-language flagship of the Japanese financial publishing and data giant. In it, the billionaire Microsoft founder argues that the US and its European allies should dedicate more government funds for guaranteeing supplies of vaccines for poorer countries, which don’t have the wherewithal to strike deals like the $2 billion agreement that Washington struck with Pfizer.

Hoarding supplies of vaccines isn’t just wrong, Gates argues, it’s counterproductive – since the only way we can truly eradicate COVID-19 is to vaccinate everyone, in every country.

But it’s not just a question of donating supplies. The Western world and its leading corporations must collaborate with government to start ramping up supply chains to ensure that production of billions of doses of the vaccine can be produced quickly once emergency approval has been granted.

Because we can immunize against the disease, governments will be able to lift social distancing measures. People will stop having to wear masks. The world’s economy will start running again at full speed.

But elimination will not happen by itself. To achieve this goal, the world first needs three things: the capacity to produce billions of vaccine doses, the funding to pay for them, and systems to deliver them.

Right now, most of the world’s supply of COVID-19 vaccines is slated to go to rich countries. These nations have been making deals with pharmaceutical companies, securing the right to buy billions of doses as soon as they are produced.

But what about low- and lower-middle income nations of the world, everywhere from South Sudan to Nicaragua to Myanmar? These nations are home to nearly half of all human beings, and they do not have the purchasing power to make big deals with pharmaceutical companies. As things stand now, these countries will be able to cover, at most, 14% of their people.

To support his case, Gates cites new modeling from Northeastern projecting that the death toll will be twice as high if vaccines aren’t widely distributed in the developing world.

New modeling from Northeastern University helps illustrate what will happen if vaccine distribution is so unequal. The researchers there analyzed two scenarios. In one, vaccines are given to countries based on their population size. Then there is another scenario that approximates what is happening now: 50 rich countries get the first two billion doses of vaccine. In this scenario, the virus continues to spread unchecked for four months in three quarters of the world. And almost twice as many people die.

This would be a huge moral failing. A vaccine can make COVID-19 a preventable disease, and no one should die from a preventable disease simply because the country they live in cannot afford to secure a manufacturing deal. But you do not even have to care about fairness to see the problem with the “rich-country-only” scenario.

As Gates claims: The only way to eliminate the threat of SARS-CoV-2 anywhere, is to eliminate it everywhere.

Fortunately, corporations like Pfizer and Gilead are collaborating to ramp up supplies not just of vaccines, but of therapeutics like Gilead’s remdesivir.

Remarkable progress has already been made on this front when it comes to therapeutics. Pharmaceutical companies have agreed to expand drugmaking capacity by using each other’s factories. remdesivir, for example, was created by Gilead, but extra quantities will now be produced in Pfizer factories. No company had ever allowed its factories to be used by a competitor in this way, and now we are seeing similar cooperation when it comes to vaccines.

In addition to the manufacturing capacity to make them, we also need the funding to pay for billions of vaccine doses for poorer nations. This is where the ACT Accelerator can help. It is an initiative supported by organizations like Gavi and the Global Fund. Not many people have heard of them, but they have spent two decades becoming experts in the task of financing vaccines, drugs, diagnostics.

After all, trying to “shame” developed countries for simply trying to protect their citizens isn’t a strategy.

The best way to close this vaccine gap is not by shaming rich countries. They are doing something perfectly understandable — trying to protect their people. Instead, we need to vastly increase the world’s vaccine manufacturing capacity. This way, we can cover everyone no matter where they live.

While President Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed” handed billions of dollars to vaccine developers, Gates claims that the UK and Japan, which have both publicly promised to set aside vaccine supplies for poorer nations, should be emulated by other western nations – cough, the US, cough.

But it’s not enough to simply manufacture the vaccines, an endeavor that would likely cost billions upon billions of dollars. The west should help the developing world create a network of on-the-ground health-care workers around the world to help administer the vaccines, and report any new threats of zoological transmission.

The United Kingdom is a good model for what other wealthy nations should do. It has donated enough money for the Accelerator to procure, probably, hundreds of millions of vaccine doses for poor countries. So do countries like Japan. The Japanese government was the first advanced economy to announce a public commitment of 17.2 billion yen ($16 million) on Sep. 15 to secure doses for poorer nations.

But more are still needed. I hope other nations are as generous.

Finally, even when the world has the manufacturing capacity and funding lined up, we will need to strengthen health systems – the workers and infrastructure that can actually deliver vaccines to people around the world.

There is a lot of be learned from the ongoing effort to eradicate polio. One of the most famous photos of the polio eradication effort in India was of a line of health workers. They were carrying vaccine coolers over their heads as they waded through waist-deep floodwaters to reach a remote village. Spotting COVID-19 cases in the poorest parts of the world will take a similar network of primary health workers – one that can reach places where even roads cannot. With good diagnostics, these workers can also sound the alarm if another disease jumps from a bat – or bird – to a human.

There are, in effect, three parts to Gates’ plan, as he teases in the headline: vaccines are the only solution (not “herd immunity” – God forbid), going “global” is the only right way to do it, and – most importantly – more public money is needed to make it happen.

Typically, self-interest and altruism require opposite behaviors, but in this rare case, Gates argues, the altruistic thing is also an act of self-interest, since the only way we can eradicate COVID-19 would be to ensure the entire world is vaccinated, spending public money on vaccines bound for poorer nations makes sense.

In other words, in eliminating COVID-19, we can also build the system that will help reduce the damage of the next pandemic.

One thing I have learned studying the history of pandemics is that they create a surprising dynamic when it comes to self-interest and altruism: Pandemics are rare in cases where a country’s instinct to help itself is tightly aligned with its instinct to help others. The self-interested thing and the altruistic thing — making sure poor nations have access to vaccines — are one and the same.

And by building a global on-the-ground health-care network, we will be able to detect the next killer virus before it becomes a pandemic.

To sum up: Americans don’t need all those vaccines! They’re not even going to take them! Maybe the federal government should turn supplies over to the Gates Foundation and WHO, which are already working on expanding access to vaccines.

Wait a second: Didn’t President Xi say China was going to provide vaccines to the entirety of the developing world as part of its quest to “atone” for unleashing the virus in the first place?

Japan’s Stock Exchange Halts All Trading “Due To Network Issue”

Japan’s Stock Exchange Halts All Trading “Due To Network Issue”

Tyler Durden

Wed, 09/30/2020 – 20:03

As Asian markets open for the start of Q4 trading, Japanese markets have hit a ‘glitch’ resulting in the halting of all buying and selling of securities.

Tokyo Stock Exchange operator Japan Exchange Group said in a statement:

We would like to express our sincere gratitude for your exceptional support for the operation of the Securities Market on this exchange.

Today, there is a failure to deliver market information, and we are pleased to let you know that we will stop buying and selling all stocks on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

At the same time, it is not possible to accept orders from that time.

Recovery is currently undecided, but we will contact you again about future plans.

Seems like it’s a system-wide issue:

  • *NIKKEI, TOPIX ARE NOT TRADING DUE TO SYSTEM ISSUE

  • *JPX: TOSTNET ALSO NOT EXECUTING TRADES

  • *JAPAN SAPPORO EXCHANGE ALSO HALTS TRADING

  • *JAPAN NAGOYA STOCK EXCHANGE ALSO EXPERIENCING SYSTEM ISSUES

Nikkei futures are modestly lower with the halt…

And Yen is weaker…

What will the BoJ do when it can’t buy Topix ETFs?

The Individual Against The Odds

The Individual Against The Odds

Tyler Durden

Wed, 09/30/2020 – 20:00

Authored by Kym Robinson via The Libertarian Institute,

There is a genre in fiction that celebrates an individual’s adversity against seemingly impossible odds. Whether this is a person who takes the war to organized crime (Mack Bolan), a secret agent saving the world for their government (James Bond), a wronged loner lost and bullied by the law and the society that rejects them (John Rambo), one who wants something so bad that they will defy social conventions (Velvet Brown), or even a rogue that hides behind a mask and inspires a revolution against tyranny (V), they are in some way inspiring. They are better than most not just because of courage, but also often principle. They are the outsider, the curmudgeon, and blowhard, or worse.

In the coming eclipse of cancel culture and layered censorship, certain allegories and metaphorical fiction will become a dangerous device for story tellers to use. It is no longer a method of sedition to lift a mirror up to a wider culture or society, to reveal an imagery that the victims or an outsider may see. The marketplace of varied opinions and diverse perspectives that is supposedly a hallmark of the abstract known as western civilization is becoming less welcome to such variations. Instead, through technology and a paternalistic tendency society is becoming a dystopia tinkering between the prose of Huxley and Orwell, but especially that found in the film ‘Demolition Man.’ It is a creation of the timid, those who shy away from difference while claiming to champion it.

“First Blood” (1982)

Social media, like most innovations, was a promise to open our worlds and to connect and share so many different ideas and experiences. Instead it becomes a series of cultivated echo chambers that snuff out certain viewpoints and celebrate others, always confirming a particular bias. It is with an unofficial handshake that the public, made of shrill and easily offended individuals, unite with corporations and states to mash out a new moral order that mutates in instances of outrage and crisis. It clings to central planning and yet it is not necessarily centrally planned. It is a negative instinct to constrict and subvert any desires and needs for liberty. It is the widespread transformation of language to duplicate words into meanings that could only be conjured up inside the laboratories of intellect inefficiency. It is born from a need to be safe and correct, but it is a dangerous approach to any issue or problem.

The story of the individual saying no or wanting to be left alone is now one that is deemed selfish and dangerous. It is bad that one or a few may defy the collective good. The abstract religion of social contracts and duty to the state are the order and safety that a majority cling to. A society of so many dependents who demand and extract from the individual hinder productivity and creative instincts while demanding more. It would be as much of a cliché to invoke Ayn Rand as it would George Orwell—both would simplify the moment—but alas, the Randian term “moocher” is perhaps apt at times. The moochers rule. Tyranny inevitably is like a kind chef cooking a frog in warm water slowly until it boils, so that it may not leap for freedom until it’s too late.

It is with great concern that if the fiction of the past is not censored, redacted, or destroyed that it will be viewed, and that many will view the villains of the story as the hero. The individual, those who fight for freedom and liberty, are now the bad guy.  Those with the imperial conviction to control and impose law and order, however maniacal, are the true heroes, the pillars of society. John Rambo after all was carrying a knife and Sarah Connor was stockpiling weapons. Will great firemen like Guy Montag burn the pages of dangerous books and char the words of seditious thought to maintain a society of ignorance?  It is after all a state of bliss to be hidden from such dangers.

What does it say about a society or culture that will not leave people alone? That it will not let them be or demand that they must not merely comply, but pay tribute? The one who does not want these conditions is considered selfish, while those who exist at the expense of others are normal. The myth is that the elites and rulers are the only benefactors from the centrally planned nightmares that always lead to tyranny. There are many who benefit from such a regulated society, where grants, welfare, and subsidies feed the ineffective and perpetuate an ideology of employment over outcome. The many planners, agents, and ‘moochers’ all benefit, enjoying the trappings of such a state.

The individual must speak in whispers like a thief, yet they are the one getting stolen from. They must plan around impositions as though a conspirator, but it is those in conferences and on committees who conspire against them. They are the ones whose homes are invaded if they possess contraband, do not pay enough tribute to the state, or if they speak wrongly on social media. The terror regimes of North Korea and the Peoples Republic of China are often pariahs, yet the more the open nations of the west condemn them, the more they seem to employ their methods of control and order.

The majority tends to yearn for a comfortable status quo that allows them to enjoy life, often at the expense of others. They are the opulent living city dwellers of the Capitol in ‘The Hunger Games.’ They are the humans inside the pods that will not swallow the pills in ‘The Matrix,’ and those who refuse to wear the sunglasses in ‘They Live.’ To have a bitter truth revealed is painful. That means the victims of the wars, the unintended consequences of regulation, the trampled innocent of policy, all cannot have a voice, and if they do it is often skewered and redirected. The status quo is always preserved. Partisan politics allows the steering wheel to keep turning, even as the direction stays the same.

Linda Hamilton playing Sarah Connor in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991)

A man like John Rambo—a vagrant used by his government and then rejected—is a danger not because of his skills and experiences, or because he carries a large knife, but because he wants to be left alone. He is directionless and does not have a generic path in mind. It is a long road, but it is his to take. In time the radical individual becomes embraced and utilised by the state, in life and fiction. In the United States, for example, Martin Luther King Jr. is no longer a dangerous emblem of civil rights defying the order of his time, but a murder victim of cause, likely killed by the very government that now enshrines his name. But his ideals?

Mack Bolan, a former Vietnam war veteran like John Rambo, comes home to a society that no longer needs him. His family is murdered and wronged by the Mafia. So, Bolan deserts the military and wages his own war. In time, as the franchise succeeds and the 1970s climate of anti-establishment thinking grows into Reagan’s America, Bolan fights the Soviets and terrorists. He works with the CIA and other covert government agencies, and like the Punisher (inspired by Bolan), he serves Uncle Sam. Around the same time as this switch, so too does John Rambo in the sequels. These individuals become implements of the state, however begrudging it may be.

As the new century loomed it was not merely the state itself that was the danger, but corrupt actors from within. Gene Hackman and Will Smith as an ‘Enemy of the State’ do not go up against the U.S. government but instead rogue elements of it. This becomes the theme as the individuals continue to defy the odds, but only in a watered-down way. Mark Wahlberg in ‘The Shooter’ is a wary ex-serviceman, a loner, living remote with conspiracy inclinations. We are shown this as the camera pans across his library. He is bought in by the government as a consultant but is betrayed and used as a patsy. But again it is the secret agency of corrupt individuals, not the government itself.

Perhaps the peak of this genre was the 1990s when so many things culminated: the promise of a technological future where liberty and decentralized markets could thrive, and where no more would Cold War threaten the globe with nuclear misery and endless proxy wars. Instead the new century arrived, and it was like the last one. All those promises were betrayed. Like the fictional individuals ultimately going on to serve the odds, Arnold Schwarzenegger would become the governor of California. The man who championed Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose and appeared in the documentary series introduction, the Austrian ‘Austrian’ economist of free markets who starred in many ‘individual against the odds’ films, ultimately became another statist. ‘The Running Man’ would go on to run the show in the sequel. It defeats the point.

The animated film ‘Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron,’ perhaps one of the greatest tales of individual liberty told, shows a defiant horse that does not want to be owned and broken in by humans, whether that’s by a native American boy or a U.S. army cavalry officer. In the end the native American boy accepts the horse’s wishes and the cavalry officer realizes that he cannot break the stallion’s spirit. It is a beautiful and basic story, that if you love something you should let it to be free. To respect freedom itself is in a sense love.

In the follow-up sequel, the whole point is missed. It is a cynical defeat of an established franchise, an all too common theme for any fan that has seen the terrible litany of remakes in the modern era. Instead of Spirit the stallion being free—a rebel—he becomes submissive and a prop to a city girl. It is a complete about face of what the original film was about. The hero of individual defiance is again saddled and broken in by the very odds that he was heroically defying. No longer does the individual stand up to do the right thing despite personal risk, but instead he is relegated to be a vapid avatar for contemporary consumption, spiritless and all too common.

Perhaps this is the theme: no longer will individuals be this feral radical, but instead be tamed in the end. The uniqueness and dignity of their principles becomes perverted by a mandate devised inside the cauldron of academia by a committee of experts or the reactionaries on social media. In the end, like Spirit the stallion they must be broken in and ridden for some collective monolith. Maybe in the future the spirit of the individual will be found inside the broken algorithms of a machine’s mind, like WALL-E, a lowly robot with basic AI that eventually sees the world for what it is. And the comfortable obese humans wrapped in technology, having destroyed nature—both their own and the wider world’s—will be saved by the touch of a machine who simply thinks for itself and says, “no more.” By then will it be to late? Will the sacred beauty of the individual flower pushing through the filthy mess of the collective be plucked for good?

Bryce Courtenay, in The Power of One, wrote, “Pride is holding your head up high when everyone around you has theirs bowed. Courage is what makes you do it.”