New Research Casts Doubt Coronavirus Epidemic Started At Wuhan Food Market
Although practically all of the western media reports from the city of Wuhan have claimed that the city’s hospitals have been completely overwhelmed by cases of pneumonia as more cases of the Wuhan coronavirus are confirmed, the South China Morning Post reports that a team of researchers at Wuhan’s Jinyintan hospital have retraced the movements of the first individual who was diagnosed with the virus, and determined that he had no links to a shady seafood market selling live snakes and bats for human consumption.
Amazingly, SCMPcaveated its report by claiming that other patients among the earliest cases had “continuous exposure to the market,” which was shut down on Jan. 1 by Wuhan authorities over fears that its trade in wild animals was linked to the viral outbreak. Authorities have since banned the selling of live animals at markets.
The researchers, seven of whom work at Wuhan’s Jinyintan hospital, designated for patients with the illness, revealed on Friday in The Lancet medical journal that symptoms of the new disease were first reported on December 1 – much earlier than the Wuhan government’s initial announcement on December 31 of 27 cases of the pneumonia-like infection.
According to the report, the first patient had no exposure to the Huanan seafood market which was shut down on January 1 over fears – later confirmed – that the new virus was linked to its trade in wild animals. The researchers added that none of the patient’s family had developed fever or any respiratory symptoms. There was also no epidemiological link between the first patient and the later cases, they found.
The researchers analysed data from 41 patients with confirmed infections who had showed an onset of symptoms up to January 2. Six of those patients died, putting the fatality rate of the group at 15 per cent. The researchers noted that clinical presentations of the patients greatly resembled severe acute respiratory syndrome.
The first patient to die from the new coronavirus had continuous exposure to the market before he was admitted to hospital with a seven-day history of fever, cough and breathing difficulties, according to their report.
Doctors also identified 13 other patients who had no contact with the market, which helps build the case for human to human transmission.
The absence of a link to the seafood market is one of the indicators for human-to-human transmission of the virus and the researchers identified another 13 patients who also had no direct exposure to the market.
“Taken together, evidence so far indicates human transmission for 2019-nCoV,” the report said. “We are concerned that 2019-nCoV could have acquired the ability for efficient human transmission,” the researchers added, along with a strong recommendation for precautions such as fit-tested N95 respirators and other personal protective equipment.
Much to Beijing’s chagrin, a team of Chinese scientists on Friday revealed that symptoms of the virus first emerged as early as Dec. 1, much earlier than the Wuhan government’s initial announcement of the first 27 cases on Dec. 31. The notion that the virus may have been transmitted to humans via consuming bats, rats, badgers or snakes was widely reported in the Western press, even by CNN.
Though the possibility of zoonotic transmission hasn’t been entirely ruled out, these researchers apparently believed that there’s reason to doubt that the fish market was the source of the virus. However, the situation is still very much in flux, and it remains true that some of the other patients did have contact with the market.
Either way, do the researchers findings lend more credence to the other conspiracy theory about the virus’s origin? Wuhan reportedly has two labs that participate in China’s bio-warfare program, as Radio Free Asia first reported, and a handful of US outlets, including the Washington Times, have picked up the story.
Was CoV manufactured by the real-world equivalent of Umbrella Corp?
Rabobank: What If… The Protectionists Are Right And The Free Traders Are Wrong?
Submitted by Michael Every of Rabobank
“When I used to read fairy tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one!” (Alice in Wonderland, Chapter 4, The Rabbit Sends in a Little Bill)
What if… the protectionists are right and the free traders are wrong?
2020 starts with markets feeling optimistic due to a US-China trade deal and a reworked NAFTA in the form of the USMCA. However, the tide towards protectionism may still be coming in, not going out.
The intellectual appeal of the basis for free trade, Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage, where Portugal specializes in wine, and the UK in cloth, is still clearly there. Moreover, trade has always been a beneficial and enriching part of human culture. Yet the fact is that for the majority of the last 5,000 years global trade has been highly-politicized and heavily-regulated. Indeed, global free-trade only began following the abolition of the UK Corn Laws in 1846, which reduced British agricultural tariffs, brought in European wheat and corn, and allowed the UK to maximize its comparative advantage in industry. Yet it took until 1860 for the UK to fully embrace free trade, and even then the unpalatable historical record is that during this ‘golden age’, the British:
Destroyed the Indian textile industry to benefit their own cloth manufacturers;
Started the Opium Wars to balance UK-China trade by selling China addictive drugs;
Ignored the Irish Potato Famine and continued to allow Irish wheat exports;
Forced Siam (Thailand) to open up its economy to trade with gunboats (as the US did with Japan); and
Colonized much of Africa and Asia.
As we showed back in ‘Currency and Wars’, after an initial embrace of free trade, the major European powers and Japan saw that their relative comparative advantage meant they remained at the bottom of the development ladder as agricultural producers, an area where prices were also being depressed by huge US output; meanwhile, the UK sold industrial goods, ran a huge trade surplus, and ruled the waves militarily. This was politically unsustainable even though the UK vigorously backed the intellectual concept of free trade given it was such a winner from it.
Regardless, the first flowering of free trade collapsed back into nationalism and protectionism – bloodily so in 1914. Free trade was tried again from 1919 – but burned-out even more bloodily in the 1930s and 1940s. After WW2, most developed countries had moderately free trade – but most developing countries did not. We only started to reembrace global free trade from the 1990s onwards when the Cold War ended – and here it is under stress again. In short, only around 100 years in a total of 5,000 years of civilization has seen real global free trade, it has failed twice already, and it is once again coming under pressure.
What are we getting wrong? Perhaps that Ricardo’s theory has major flaws that don’t get included in our textbooks, as summarized in this overlooked quote
“It would undoubtedly be advantageous to the capitalists of England…[that] the wine and cloth should both be made in Portugal [and that] the capital and labour of England employed in making cloth should be removed to Portugal for that purpose.” Which is pretty much what happens today! However, Ricardo adds that this won’t happen because “Most men of property [will be] satisfied with a low rate of profits in their own country, rather than seek a more advantageous employment for their wealth in foreign nations,” which is simply not true at all! In other words, his premise is flawed in that:
It is atemporal in assuming countries move to their comparative advantage painlessly and instantly;
It assumes full employment when if there is unemployment a country is better off producing at home to reduce it, regardless of higher cost;
It assumes capital between countries is immobile, i.e., investors don’t shift money and technology abroad. (Which Adam Smith’s ‘Wealth of Nations’, Book IV, Chapter II also assumes doesn’t happen, as an “invisible hand” keeps money invested in one’s home country’s industry and not abroad: we don’t read him correctly either.);
It assumes trade balances under free trade – but since when has this been true? Rather we see large deficits and inverse capital flows, and so debts steadily increasing in deficit countries;
It assumes all goods are equal as in Ricardo’s example, cloth produced in the UK and wine produced in Portugal are equivalent. Yet some sectors provide well-paid and others badly-paid employment: why only produce the latter?
As Ricardo’s theory requires key conditions that are not met in reality most of the time, why are we surprised that most of reality fails to produce idealised free trade most of the time? Several past US presidents before Donald Trump made exactly that point. Munroe (1817-25) argued: “The conditions necessary for Free Trade’s success – reciprocity and international peace – have never occurred and cannot be expected”. Grant (1869-77) noted “Within 200 years, when America has gotten out of protection all that it can offer, it too will adopt free trade”.
Yet arguably we are better, not worse, off regardless of these sentiments – so hooray! How so? Well, did you know that Adam Smith, who we equate with free markets, and who created the term “mercantile system” to describe the national-protectionist policies opposed to it, argued the US should remain an agricultural producer and buy its industrial goods from the UK? It was Founding Father Alexander Hamilton who rejected this approach, and his “infant industry” policy of industrialization and infrastructure spending saw the US emerge as the world’s leading economy instead. That was the same development model that, with tweaks, was then adopted by pre-WW1 Japan, France, and Germany to successfully rival the UK; and then post-WW2 by Japan (again) and South Korea; and then more recently by China, that key global growth driver. Would we really be better off if the US was still mainly growing cotton and wheat, China rice and apples, and the UK was making most of the world’s consumer goods? Thank the lack of free trade if you think otherwise!
Yet look at the examples above and there is a further argument for more protectionism ahead. Ricardo assumes a benign global political environment for free trade. Yet what if the UK and Portugal are rivals or enemies? What if the choice is between steel and wine? You can’t invade neighbours armed with wine as you can with steel! A large part of the trade tension between China and the US, just as between pre-WW1 Germany and the UK, is not about trade per se: for both sides, it is about who produces key inputs with national security implications – and hence is about relative power. This is why we hear US hawks underlining that they don’t want to export their highest technology to China, or to specialize only in agricultural exports to it as China moves up the value-chain. It also helps underline why for most of the past 5,000 years trade has not been free. Indeed, this argument also holds true for the other claimed benefit of free trade: the cross-flow of ideas and technology. That is great for friends, but not for those less trusted.
Of course, this doesn’t mean liked-minded groups of countries with similar-enough or sympathetic-enough economies and politics should avoid free trade: clearly for some states it can work out nicely – even if within the EU one could argue there are also underlying strains. However, it is a huge stretch to assume a one-size-fits-all free trade policy will always work best for all countries, as some would have it. That is a fairy tale. History shows it wasn’t the case; national security concerns show it can never always be the case; and Ricardo argues this logically won’t be the case.
Yet we need not despair. The track record also shows that global growth can continue even despite protectionism, and in some cases can benefit from it. That being said, should the US resort to more Hamiltonian policies versus everyone, not just China, then we are in for real financial market turbulence ahead given the role the US Dollar plays today compared to the role gold played for Smith and Ricardo! But that is a whole different fairy tale…
“We All Knew About Epstein” Admits Cindy McCain – Who Did Nothing About It
Sen. John McCain’s widow says “everyone” knew about Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking ring, but were “afraid” to do anything about it.
“Epstein was hiding in plain sight,” said McCain, during an appearance at the State of the World 2020 conference in Florida, according to the Washington Examiner.
“We all knew about him. We all knew what he was doing, but we had no one that was — no legal aspect that would go after him. They were afraid of him. For whatever reason, they were afraid of him.”
McCain said a girl from her daughter’s high school was one of Epstein’s victims and that she hopes Epstein “is in hell.”
Epstein’s massive wealth and his connections to powerful politicians and celebrities allowed him to continue trafficking young women and girls long after many had exposed his devious interests.
Dr. Barbara Sampson, the New York City medical examiner, said Epstein died by suicide at a Manhattan federal detention facility last August. His death and the circumstances surrounding it have created controversy after the former medical examiner of New York, Dr. Michael Baden, told 60 Minutes that he believes Epstein was murdered. –Washington Examiner
While most of the focus in Congress is on the impeachment, Congress has still found time to advance some votes relevant to the potential war with Iran, and are set for some such votes next week.
Two votes are planned in the House, and expected on Thursday. One is from Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) prohibiting any funding for a war in Iran without Congressional authorization. The second will attempt to reveal the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF).
The 2002 AUMF was meant to authorize the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. With the Hussein government long gone, many have questioned the relevance of the AUMF, though the administration has at times claimed it authorizes other wars, including military action against ISIS in “Syria or elsewhere.”
The votes are seen not only as a rebuke of Trump’s unilateral action against Iran but a win for House progressives, who have spent years seeking limits on presidential authority. The Trump administration has claimed the 2002 AUMF legally justifies military action against the Islamic State group “in Syria or elsewhere.” — Defense News
While the Iraq AUMF isn’t directly related to a possible Iran War, repealing it would go a long way toward Congress reasserting its war-making powers, and emphasizing that the authorizations aren’t open-ended after the intended war is long over, allowing them to be reinterpreted indefinitely for other operations.
The Senate is not expected to take up any of the Iran War votes this week, though the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will be given a briefing from the State Department on the matter. The State Department had previously canceled this briefing weeks ago.
While we understand that the information we’ve shared can be distressing, we’d like to take a moment to remind readers that all of the information and research we have cited is legitimate, having originally been conducted by credible epidemiologists, like the UK’s Jonathan Read. The fact is, the Chinese government hasn’t been nearly as “transparent” as it promised, and it seems like the more we learn about the true scope of this outbreak, the more concerned we become.
The reality is that – as the Architect told Neo in “The Matrix: Reloaded” – denial is the most predictable of human responses. And while the world’s public health authorities certainly still have time to get their arms around this outbreak before it becomes a massive, global pandemic with deadly consequences, the WHO’s dithering response the other day (asserting that they don’t yet have enough evidence of human-to-human secondary transmission to declare a global health emergency) certainly doesn’t inspire confidence.
Now that we have that out of the way – let’s move on to Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, a public health scientist on the faculty at Harvard.
A few days ago, Dr. Feigl-Ding tweeted that he was “really, deeply worried about this new coronavirus outbreak” because the virus seemed to have an”upward infection trajectory curve much steeper than SARS.”
I’ll be honest – as an epidemiologist, I’m really deeply worried about this new coronavirus outbreak. 1) the virus has an upward infection trajectory curve much steeper than SARS. 2) it can be transmitted person to person before symptoms appear — I.e. it is silently contagious! pic.twitter.com/5Kjo6DkbQj
On Friday, the doctor, a well-respected epidemiologist who has worked as an advisor to the World Health Organization, tried his hand at a few projections based on an infection rate much higher than the RO (r-naught) rating of 1.4-2.5 recently estimated by the WHO. As we explained last night, when determining the infectious potential of a virus, arguably the most important variable is RO. This represents the average number of secondary cases resulting from every new infection in an entirely susceptible population.
Of course, government interventions and more vigilant hygiene practices once the public is aware of the threat will help lower the virus’s r-naught variable. But remember, nCoV (the WHO’s name for the virus) has already been quietly spreading among the people of Wuhan for weeks. And as Dr. Feigl-Ding explains, early evidence would suggest that nCoV is contagious before symptoms appear.
Last night, we published the findings of a team of UK epidemological researchers led by Jonathan Read. Read published a paper with four colleagues that estimates transmission parameters for the Wuhan coronavirus and calculates that the true R0 of 2019-nCoV is between 3.6-4.0 or roughly the same as SARS, and reaches a conclusion about spread of the coronavirus epidemic that is frankly terrifying. With an r-naught of 3.8, the virus could eventually cause hundreds of thousands of deaths in China alone.
In fact, it’s not simply terrifying: With an r-naught of 3.8, this virus could be “thermonuclear, pandemic level bad.”
As Dr. Feigl-Ding goes on to explain, using Read’s findings as a jumping-off point, the 4,000 number being kicked around by some scientists as the true number of viral cases in Wuhan might be much too low. By early Feb., the doctor warns that nearly a quarter of a million Chinese could be infected.
2/ “We estimate the basic reproduction number of the infection (R_0) to be 3.8 (95% confidence interval, 3.6-4.0), indicating that 72-75% of transmissions must be prevented by control measures for infections to stop increasing…
3/ … We estimate that only 5.1% (95%CI, 4.8-5.5) of infections in Wuhan are identified, and by 21 January a total of 11,341 people (prediction interval, 9,217-14,245) had been infected in Wuhan since the start of the year. Should the epidemic continue unabated in Wuhan….
4/ we predict the epidemic in Wuhan will be substantially larger by 4 February (191,529 infections; prediction interval, 132,751-273,649), infection will be established in other Chinese cities, and importations to other countries will be more frequent. Our model suggests that..
5/ travel restrictions from and to Wuhan city are unlikely to be effective in halting transmission across China; with a 99% effective reduction in travel, the size of the epidemic outside of Wuhan may only be reduced by 24.9% on 4 February. Our findings are…
To be sure, these findings should be taken with a grain of salt. They are based on a set of assumptions that could change as scientists learn more about the virus. But as things stand, it appears that nCoV has a higher infectious potential than other coronaviruses, meaning it will be more difficult to contain. And the possibility of an unchecked pandemic on par with the 1918 Spanish flu shouldn’t be ruled out yet.
6/ …critically dependent on the assumptions underpinning our model, and the timing and reporting of confirmed cases, and there is considerable uncertainty associated with the outbreak at this early stage. With these caveats in mind, our work suggests that…
7/ a basic reproductive number for this 2019-nCoV outbreak is higher compared to other emergent coronaviruses, suggesting that containment or control of this pathogen may be substantially more difficult.”!!!! #wuhanvirus#CoronavirusOutbreak#ChinaCoronaVirus …
9/ …cannot be stopped by containment alone. A 99% quarantine lockdown containment of Wuhan will not even reduce the epidemic’s spread by even 1/3rd in the next 2 weeks. Thus, I really hate to be the epidemiologist who has to admit this, but we are potentially faced with…
10 … possibly an unchecked pandemic that the world has not seen since the 1918 Spanish Influenza. Let’s hope it doesn’t reach that level but we now live in the modern world 🌎 with faster ✈️+ 🚞 than 1918. @WHO and @CDCgov needs to declare public health emergency ASAP!
12/ What is the typical R0 attack rate for the seasonal flu in most years? It’s around an R0=1.28. The 2009 flu pandemic? R0=1.48. The 1918 Spanish Flu? 1.80. This new #WuhanCoronavirus reproductive value again? R0=3.8. (Flu reference: https://t.co/ldAWBlFkvA)
13/ …and it gets even worse, the Lancet now reports that the coronavirus is contagious even when *no symptoms*: specifically: “crucial to isolate patients… quarantine contacts as early as possible because asymptomatic infection appears possible”! https://t.co/FZr3Es1VwZ
Even if we assume a much lower r-naught, like, say, 2.8, which is just above the upper band of the WHO’s estimates, the results could still be “pretty bad”.
14/ Let’s pretend the 3.8 estimate is too high (there’s unpublished estimates of 2.5). even if this virus’s R0=2.5, that’s still 2x higher than seasonal flu’s 1.28 (ref above), and higher than 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic of 1.80 that killed millions. So 2.8 is still super bad folks
15) My response to some people who think I’m trying to stoke fear… I’m a Harvard trained scientist with a doctorate in epidemiology (and the youngest dual doctoral grad from Harvard SPH). Here are my response: https://t.co/tdxg3gJQ72https://t.co/AgL4idz8Yc
Based on the above thread, the situation might seem especially dire. But as Dr. Feigl-Ding explains later, actions like China’s mass quarantine of 46 million and other public-health precautions should help to contain the virus and reduce its ability to spread.
Small note: While there were reports of SARS having 0.49 after containment started, a WHO cited experts who said SARS had initial R0 of 2.9 then 2.0-3.5, which which fell to 0.4 after quarantine. But SARS is more symptomatic than this Wuhan virus. To be updated. pic.twitter.com/wNXf3rgcqg
Now, Feigl-Ding’s critics have pointed out that this is only one estimate, and that Read and his team have already revised down their r-naught calculation.
“there is considerable uncertainty associated with the outbreak at this early stage.” & yet you tweeted: “HOLY MOTHER OF GOD”. A Public health scientist should KNOW better than to be an alarmist. https://t.co/2Z5meAFnSx@stgoldst
The doctor repeatedly said as much during the thread, but we suppose there’s something about people tweeting in all-caps that some find extremely off-putting.
Some folks think I’m trying to incite fear. I’m not trying—I’m a scientist. This #coronavirus#WuhanCoronovirus is serious. Over 50 million people are quarantined + case counts will go up much more. Predict @WHO will declare emergency. Let’s hope for the best, prepared for worst. https://t.co/H3UcR9eAjs
And of course this isn’t 1918 – medical technology is far more advanced. In the event of a mass infection, a vaccine could be found to save the day. But that doesn’t mean we should simply dismiss the more dire projections out of hand. This virus could still leave thousands dead before it peters out.