Friday, October 30, 2020

Wyoming Libertarians hope for breakout in 2020

Could Libertarians shake up Wyoming elections this year? | Casper Star-Tribune - Nick Reynolds: 

October 24, 2020 - "Wyoming, like the rest of the country, has a two-party problem. Despite the libertarian streak running through the state’s strong, conservative tradition, Wyoming has never elected a third-party candidate to the Statehouse, never nominated a non-Republican or Democrat to its two seats in Congress, and never boosted one to the governorship.

"The state’s third-largest political party, Wyoming Libertarians have been ... focusing their efforts more on retaining access to the ballot rather than winning it. In 1980, party activists fought tooth and nail to get presidential candidate Ed Clark on the ballot on his way to achieving less than 2% of the vote. Four years later, the party sued the state for access to the ballot and won and, two decades later, managed enough of a following to earn the major party designation it still enjoys today.... [H]owever ... the party has never gained a serious foothold in Wyoming politics, and even contemplated disbanding in 2015 due to a lack of members.

"But that was then. Five years later, the still-fledgling party of just under 1,600 members could be a disruptive force in this year’s election. In addition to fielding candidates for president, U.S. Senate and Congress this year, Libertarians will be on the ballot in six different Statehouse races this year, with several presenting credible chances at winning.

"In House District 55, Bethany Baldes — a Riverton resident who was narrowly defeated by longtime Republican lawmaker David Miller two years ago — is running a highly competitive campaign against Republican prosecutor Ember Oakley. In House District 47, Lela Konecny will take on Republican Jerry Paxton after he survived a taxing, four-way primary where he split the vote with three different challengers. In Sweetwater County, railroader Marshall Burt will take on train conductor Stan Blake in a House District typically dominated by union Democrats. And in Casper, several Libertarian candidates will take on moderate candidates like Sen. Charlie Scott and Rep. Pat Sweeney in districts that have demonstrated some division among Republican voters in the primaries over the last several years.

"'We’ve really gotten organized over the last year or two' said Shawn Johnson, the current chairman of the Wyoming Libertarian Party and a member of Casper’s City Council.... 'The last couple years we’ve organized elected party officers and really put our heads together to get some serious challengers around the state'.... Johnson said the national party has been taking an unprecedented step to provide resources to the party this year and potentially help establish a third-party presence here....

"As Democrats work to capture as many moderates as possible from the state’s Republican supermajority, Libertarians seek to tap into the state’s already massive wellspring of conservative voters who are potentially fed up with the current disarray of the Wyoming GOP, which has been plagued by infighting and anemic fundraising efforts over the past year. The Libertarian Party has also sought to avoid debates over hot-button social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage that have long been a lightning rod within the state GOP and exacerbated tensions among the party’s ranks....

"Among all the candidates running this year, Baldes is likely the most viable.... Urged to run as a Republican — and endorsed by several Republicans in the community — Baldes’ platform resembles that of many conservatives around the state. She is pro-gun and anti-tax and, in her bid to get to the Legislature, has called for reforms to the way government services are delivered, rather than raising taxes or cutting essential services under a system she believes is inefficient. Freedom from party leadership, she said, is essential in helping make that happen....

"Wyoming and the rest of the nation, its conservative coalition splintered, seems ripe for a change, Johnson said. He hopes the first step could take place here. 'Once people see that Libertarians can be elected to a partisan state office, I think that our numbers as far as party membership will increase quite a bit,' he said. 'Once people see that Wyoming is that catalyst for change, I think it can happen on a national level.'"

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Thursday, October 29, 2020

More national lockdowns, in France and Germany

Covid: Merkel warns of 'long, hard winter' as lockdowns return | BBC News:

October 29, 2020 - "German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned of a long, hard winter ahead as she defended the reinstatement of a national lockdown.Mrs Merkel was heckled by right-wing MPs as she outlined the new measures in parliament. Rising coronavirus infections and deaths are triggering tougher restrictions across Europe.

"France restores a lockdown on Friday, ordering people to stay at home unless for essential work or medical reasons..... Germany's new measures, which come into force on Monday, are not as far-reaching as in France, but they include the closure of restaurants, bars, gyms and theatres, Mrs Merkel said.

"Addressing parliament on Thursday Mrs Merkel said that 'winter will be hard - four long, difficult months - but it will come to an end'. During her speech, Mrs Merkel was heckled by members of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party who oppose the restrictions. Leader Alexander Gauland accused the government of 'corona dictatorship'.... Germany, like other countries, has seen protests by people claiming restrictions are unwarranted.

"Germany's partial lockdown will last until 30 November under terms agreed by Mrs Merkel and the 16 state premiers. Bars and restaurants will close except for takeaway, but schools and kindergartens will remain open. Social contacts will be limited to two households with a maximum of 10 people and tourism will be halted.... 

"Meanwhile in France, Mr Macron said that under the new rules, people would need to fill in a form to justify leaving their homes, as had been required in the initial lockdown in March. Social gatherings are banned. But he made clear that public services and factories would remain open, adding that the economy 'must not stop or collapse'.... Prime Minister Jean Castex told parliament on Thursday that all students aged six and over would have to wear face masks in class.... He said companies would be strongly urged to have their employees work from home 'five days a week'....

"[E]lsewhere in Europe ... Poland ... has imposed a nationwide 'red zone' lockdown that includes the partial closure of primary schools and restaurants. Italy ... has already introduced new restrictions which will be in place for a month. All bars and restaurants across the country have to close by 18:00, although they can provide takeaways later. Gyms, swimming pools, theatres and cinemas have to close, but museums can remain open. Gatherings for weddings, baptisms and funerals are banned.

"Spain began its nationwide curfew on 25 October after the government declared a new state of emergency. People in all regions, with the exception of the Canary Islands, have to stay at home between 23:00 and 06:00....

"The Republic of Ireland went into a second national lockdown earlier this month for a six-week period."

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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Sweden experiments with local non-lockdown

 Sweden is moving away from its no-lockdown strategy and preparing strict new rules amid rising coronavirus cases | Business Insider - Adam Payne:
October 18, 2020 - "After opting against lockdown measures throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Sweden is said to be shifting strategies toward the kinds of restrictive measures adopted by most of its neighbors.... Unlike its Nordic neighbors and most other countries, Sweden did not deploy wholesale lockdown measures in response to the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year. Sweden has recorded a much higher per capita death rate than its neighbors since adopting this strategy. It had recorded 5,918 deaths as of Sunday, compared with 278 in Norway and 346 in Finland."
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October 19, 2020 - "In a statement provided to TIME, however, a spokesperson for the Public Health Agency of Sweden rejected that characterization. 'It is not a lockdown but some extra recommendations that could be communicated locally when a need from the regional authorities is communicated and the Public Health Agency so decides,' the spokesperson said."

Uppsala goes into voluntary lockdown because of spike in coronavirus cases | Politico - Charlie Duxbury:

October 24, 2020 - "Uppsala, a city of 230,000 people about an hour’s drive north of Stockholm, on Tuesday became the first place in Sweden to announce tougher localized guidance aimed at slowing a spike in cases of COVID-19, which authorities say has put hospitals there under pressure. Residents were told to avoid public transport and not to socialize with anyone they don’t live with. On Thursday, signs stuck to bus doors told passengers to board 'only if they had to.' Posters on the sides of rubbish bins said: 'The danger is not over.' 

"While this city is hardly unique in announcing new rules this week — a similar tightening of restrictions has occurred across Europe, from Manchester to Brussels to Prague — what makes Uppsala’s approach different is that it is almost wholly voluntary. As it did with its light-touch national approach to fighting the first wave of coronavirus — when borders, schools and businesses were left open — Sweden is now breaking new ground with the hands-off nature of its localized approach. 

"In Uppsala, there are no officials checking why people are using public transport. Shops and restaurants remain open for those who want to use them, and nothing hinders groups of people from getting together. The authorities are just telling people not to do these things and hoping they respond....

"Sweden’s national approach this spring received both plaudits and condemnation.... Swedish lawmakers believe that by giving citizens a greater sense of control, they might be able to achieve greater compliance with restrictions for longer....

"The rules in Uppsala are in some ways just a restatement, if more sternly worded, of what Tegnell and the Swedish government have urged Swedes to do since March: keep their distance from each other and in particular avoid larger social gatherings. But by restating and strengthening the guidance and focusing the message on a specific city, officials hope to get more traction."

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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Dem PAC spends $1M on Libertarian in Kentucky

Dems Boost Libertarian in Kentucky in Hail Mary to Defeat McConnell |Washington Free Beacon - Collin Anderson:

"October 26, 2020 - "A liberal PAC is spending more than $1 million to bolster Kentucky's Libertarian Party nominee in a last-ditch attempt to funnel votes away from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.). Ditch Mitch Fund, an anti-McConnell PAC founded by national liberal operatives, has ... spen[t] more than $10 million on ads slamming McConnell and championing Democratic nominee Amy McGrath. But in the closing days of the campaign, Ditch Mitch Fund is instead spending big to sing the praises of Libertarian candidate Brad Barron.

"The move is part of a larger liberal strategy to peel votes away from red-state Republicans by putting substantial funds behind little-known third-party candidates. One anti-McConnell super PAC — Fire Mitch Save America — has spent more than $250,000 on pro-Barron mailers in October....

"Federal Election Commission filings show that Ditch Mitch Fund launched an affiliate PAC called True Kentucky Patriots on October 13. Just days later, the group pushed back on reports that it was pulling its TV ads in the race's final two weeks, instead saying it was 'simply adjusting and moving around' the ad buys. True Kentucky Patriots went on to report more than $300,000 spent on TV, radio, and digital spots that call Barron 'Kentucky's true conservative for U.S. Senate.' According to ad-buying tracker Advertising Analytics, the total ad blitz is worth more than $1 million....

"The ad campaign dwarfs Barron's own spending in the race. The third-party candidate has disbursed less than $17,000 as of June 30 and has failed to file the last two required FEC reports.

"McGrath has personally boosted Barron throughout her bid to unseat McConnell. The Democrat in August invited Barron to join three proposed debates against McConnell 'so Kentuckians can hear from all of the candidates on the ballot.' She later retreated from an attempt to reject any debate invitations that excluded Barron, facing McConnell one-on-one in October. McGrath's campaign, which has denounced 'excessive money in politics,' also encouraged donors to contribute to Fire Mitch Save America in January.... 

"Ditch Mitch Fund has close ties to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), having raised more than $24,000 from Schumer's Senate Majority PAC, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. True Kentucky Patriots has paid Washington, D.C.-based advertising firm Beacon Media thousands for its ads boosting Barron — the firm has also received more than $25,000 from the Nancy Pelosi-affiliated House Majority PAC since 2018."

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Monday, October 26, 2020

More European governments lock down

Italy imposes harshest coronavirus restrictions since spring lockdown as second wave sweeps Europe | Washington Post - Ruby Mellen:

October 25, 2020 - "Italy became the latest European country to announce new restrictions to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus on Sunday as countries across the continent continue to report surging infections.... Beginning Monday, restaurants and bars will be required to close by 6 p.m., and gyms, pools and movie theaters must shut down entirely. The restrictions are the fourth round of tightening this month in Italy, and the most severe since the country lifted its nationwide lockdown in May....

"Spain, which flattened its spring curve with a three-month-long lockdown that started in March, announced new national restrictions Saturday. Under a new state of emergency, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez imposed a national nighttime curfew, banned gatherings of more than six people and gave regional governments the authority to restrict movement. 

"On Thursday, Ireland became the first European country to go back under national lockdown."

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New Lockdowns in Europe Amid Coronavirus Resurgence | Voice of America:

October 25, 2020 - "Both Spain and France, which enacted nighttime curfews to quell the spread of the virus, have surpassed more than 1 million cases, according to data compiled by the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center....  

"The European Union's disease control agency, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, has joined the World Health Organization to sound the alarm over a new surge of the coronavirus across the continent, as the WHO warned that the infection is rising exponentially. ECDC Director Andrea Ammon said Europe is facing a major threat to public health and a 'highly concerning epidemiological situation.' All EU countries except Cyprus, Estonia, Finland and Greece fell into a 'serious concern' category, as did Britain, the agency said.

"Elsewhere in Europe, Poland has seen a sharp increase in infections, with 13,628 new cases reported Saturday. Polish President Andrzej Duda is among those who have tested positive, as the country imposed more lockdown measures including a two-week closure of bars and restaurants and students beyond third grade moving to distance learning.

"As coronavirus infections in Belgium continue to reach record highs, authorities ordered the closure of the country’s cultural facilities on Saturday and announced a longer curfew beginning Monday..... 

"In Greece, authorities imposed a nightly curfew Saturday in the Athens area and in other regions of the country with high infection rates and made it mandatory to wear face masks indoors and outdoors."

Sunday, October 25, 2020

How Iceland beat the coronavirus (for now)

 How Iceland Beat the Coronavirus | The New Yorker - Elizabeth Kolbert:

June 1, 2020 - "On the morning of Friday, February 28th, Ævar Pálmi Pálmason, a detective with the Reykjavík police department, was summoned by his boss. Iceland did not yet have a confirmed case of covid-19, but the country’s Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management wanted to be prepared....'We were just talking' ... Pálmason recalled. 'And then, two hours later, we got the call.' A man who’d recently been skiing in the Dolomites had become the country’s first known coronavirus patient....

"Anyone who’d spent more than fifteen minutes near the man in the days before he’d experienced his first symptoms was considered potentially infected. ('Near' was defined as within a radius of two metres, or just over six feet.) [Pálmason's] team came up with a list of fifty-six names. By midnight, all fifty-six contacts had been located and ordered to quarantine themselves for fourteen days.

"The first case was followed by three more cases, then by six, and then by an onslaught. By mid-March, confirmed covid cases in Iceland were increasing at a rate of sixty, seventy, even a hundred a day. As a proportion of the country’s population, this was far faster than the rate at which cases in the United States were growing. The number of people the tracing team was tracking down, meanwhile, was rising even more quickly.... All were sent into quarantine.... If you were returning to Iceland from overseas, you also got a call: put yourself in quarantine. At the same time, the country was aggressively testing for the virus — on a per-capita basis, at the highest rate in the world.

"Iceland never imposed a lockdown. Only a few types of businesses — night clubs and hair salons, for example — were ever ordered closed. Hardly anyone in Reykjavík wears a mask. And yet, by mid-May, when I went to talk to Pálmason, the tracing team had almost no one left to track. During the previous week, in all of Iceland, only two new coronavirus cases had been confirmed. The country hadn’t just managed to flatten the curve; it had, it seemed, virtually eliminated it....

"Iceland, which has three hundred and sixty-five thousand residents — about half the population of Denver — is a famously tight-knit country. Almost everyone, quite literally, is related to everyone else, and if two people want to know how exactly their families are intertwined they can consult a genealogy database run by an Icelandic biotech firm called deCODE Genetics. Iceland was able to test so many people because, at the height of the outbreak, deCODE turned its state-of-the-art facilities over to screening for the virus.... Iceland’s university hospital was already testing people who had symptoms of covid-19. But by testing people who had no symptoms, or only very mild ones, deCODE picked up many cases that otherwise would have been missed. These cases, too, were referred to the tracing team. By May 17th, Iceland had tested 15.5 per cent of its population for the virus. In the U.S., the figure was 3.4 per cent.

"Meanwhile, deCODE was also sequencing the virus from every Icelander whose test had come back positive. As the virus is passed from person to person, it picks up random mutations. By analyzing these, geneticists can map the disease’s spread.... By sequencing the virus from every person infected, researchers at deCODE could also make inferences about how it had spread. 'One of the very interesting things is that, in all our data, there are only two examples where a child infected a parent,' [deCODE head Kári] Stefánsson told me. 'But there are lots of examples where parents infected children.'

"[W]hen I asked Stefánsson about the Icelandic government’s response to covid-19, he had only kind words. 'This was done in an extremely balanced way,' he said at one point. 'And I think the authorities did pretty much everything right.' At another point, he told me, 'The remarkable thing in this whole affair is that in Iceland it has been run entirely by the public-health authorities. They came up with the plan, and they just instituted it. And we were fortunate that our politicians managed to control themselves.'"

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Saturday, October 24, 2020

Don't expect vaccines to end the pandemic

If you're pinning your hopes on a Covid vaccine, here's a dose of realism | The Guardian - David Salisbury:

October 21, 2020 - "Much has been said about how the world will return to normal when a vaccine is widely available. But that really won’t be true. It is important that we are realistic about what vaccines can and can’t do.

"Vaccines protect individuals against disease and hopefully also against infection, but no vaccine is 100% effective. To know what proportion of a community would be immune after a vaccination programme is a numbers game – we must multiply the proportion of a population vaccinated by how effective the vaccine is.

"The UK currently has among the highest national coverage of flu vaccine in the world, vaccinating around 75% of the over-65s against flu every year; most countries either do worse or have no vaccination programmes for older people. It is reasonable to expect that this level of coverage could be achieved for a Covid-19 vaccine in that age group in the UK. Therefore, if the Covid-19 vaccine is 75% effective – meaning that 75% of those vaccinated become immune – then we would actually only protect 56% of that target population (75% of 75%). This would not be enough to stop the virus circulating. Almost half of our highest risk group would remain susceptible, and we won’t know who they are....

"Now let’s look at people younger than 65 in medical risk groups. In a good year, the UK vaccinates 50% of them against flu. That means just over a third of them are going to be protected (50% of 75%). Just to make matters worse, regulators such as the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency have said that they would accept a 50% lower level for efficacy for candidate Covid-19 vaccines. If that efficacy level is fulfilled, we have to multiply coverage by 50% efficacy, not 75%, and suddenly it all gets more concerning....

"If we want to see population protection from a Covid-19 vaccination, we are going to need high levels of protection (coverage x efficacy) across all ages – vaccinating not just the at-risk groups, as is being planned. To stop transmission, we must vaccinate anyone who can transmit infection. Anything less means that our goal is only individual protection and not the interruption of transmission. A recent announcement from the head of the UK vaccine taskforce, that the strategy will be targeted vaccination, makes it abundantly clear that the UK vaccine strategy at the moment is not to try to interrupt transmission....

"Even if countries do decide to switch from a personal-protection policy to a transmission-interruption strategy, obstacles remain. Much will depend on the successful vaccination (probably with two doses) of people who have not previously seen themselves to be at elevated risk. The challenge will be persuading the young, for example, to be vaccinated, not for their own benefit, but for the benefit of others.

"Adherence to recommendations for any Covid-19 interventions – social distancing, lockdowns, home working, cancelled holidays or vaccinations – depend on trust. If politicians are telling us that the present impositions on our lives are only going to last until we have vaccines, then the reality is that a false hope is being promulgated.... While hope and optimism are much needed in these dark times, it is important to be transparent. We need to communicate the clear message that although targeted vaccination may offer some protection, it will not simply deliver “life as we used to know it”.

• David Salisbury is a former director of immunisation at the Department of Health and associate fellow of Chatham House’s Global Health Programme

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