Thursday, April 30, 2020

Amash unanimous 1st choice in Maine LP primary

by George J. Dance

Only 9 people voted in the Libertarian Party of Maine's presidential preference primary. But those 9 voters have completely upended the Libertarian Party (LP) nomination race, and perhaps the U.S. presidential race itself.

The COVID-19 pandemic, and the government responses, have caused tremendous damage – and the LP has not been immune, with primaries and state conventions being cancelled or postponed right and left. The LP of Maine, too, postponed its April convention: at this time they hope to run a full convention in July. But July would be too late to elect state delegates to the national convention, still scheduled for May 22 (although that date may change).

So in April  the state party also held a special convention on Zoom, with a limited agenda focussing on selecting the  national delegates.

Following the election of the 8 delegates (and 3 alternates), the Maine LP held its presidential preference primary. A party spokesman explained to me via Facebook that they tried to give the voters maximum choice: "The ballot was a very inclusive one. Every candidate listed on the national party's presidential candidate page was included along with all candidates on Wikipedia's page on the race for the LP nomination. This included the candidates who had withdrawn months ago, and prospective candidates." Only 2 candidates – one who publicly quit the LP, and one who is seeking another party's nomination – were excluded.

That made Maine's the first primary ballot to include Michigan Congressman Justin Amash. Amash, the only member of Congress to identify as a libertarian, had long been touted as a presidential candidate, and had always left the possibility open. In February, he paused his re-election campaign to seriously consider an LP presidential run; and was still doing so in April.

While Amash was playing Hamlet, libertarian thinktank founder Jacob Hornberger was building an impressive narrative of wins in the LP race. By the Maine convention he was the clear frontrunner, having won 7 of the previous 10 primaries and caucuses.  By April, given the limited opportunities to campaign, it was doubtful that any other declared candidate could beat Hornberger. But could Amash? The Maine primary, the first time both Hornberger and Amash had appeared on a ballot together, would be the first test.

The Maine LP used an Instant Runoff Voting (IRV)-style ballot: voters were asked to vote for 5 candidates (corresponding to 5 rounds of voting at a convention), and rank them from 1st to 5th choice (to correspond with each round). A voter with less than 5 preferences could either vote None of the Above, or leave the line(s) blank (not vote), for the remainder. There was also an option to write in names not printed on the ballot. Nine LP members voted for 5 choices each, making 45 possible votes.     

The Maine LP released the vote result on April 23. Of the  37 votes cast, NOTA received the most (11), simply because  anyone could vote for NOTA more than once. However, applying the method of IRV – where voting proceeds only until one candidate gets a majority – yields a different  winner. For the result of the first-choice count (corresponding to a first round of voting) was:
  • Justin Amash - 9
  • Jacob Hornberger - 0
  • Everyone else - 0
As the Maine LP announced on its webpage: "A candidate who has yet to even declare his candidacy, Justin Amash. was the first choice of all those who responded." (The Party has since expanded the poll to include all Maine LP sustaining members, which is presumably why the result has not been posted on Wikipedia).

Within the week, Amash entered the presidential race, launching an exploratory committee on April 28. On April 29, Hornberger wrote on his blog: "Today, this is a brand new race for the LP presidential nomination, one in which – I make no bones about it – Amash is now the clear favorite."

Once again, it was just 9 votes. The 2020 race for the LP nomination has not turned into a coronation of Amash. But it is now no longer a coronation of Hornberger, either. For the first time, it has become a real contest worth paying close attention to. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Justin Amash launches exploratory committee

Justin Amash announces presidential exploratory committee | CNN - Haley Byrd:

April 28, 2020 - "Justin Amash, a Republican-turned independent congressman from Michigan, announced Tuesday night that he is launching an exploratory committee for [a] long-shot presidential bid as a Libertarian. Amash launched a website announcing he has formed an exploratory committee for a presidential campaign.

"'Americans are ready for practical approaches based in humility and trust of the people,' he said in his announcement. 'We're ready for a presidency that will restore respect for our Constitution and bring people together. I'm excited and honored to be taking these first steps toward serving Americans of every background as president'....

"In recent days it became more evident that Amash was likely to launch a campaign for the presidency. Earlier this month, he said he was looking 'closely' at a bid and two weeks ago he said in a statement that he stopped actively campaigning for his House seat in mid-February while he considered jumping into the presidential race....

"If he is to run in the general election for president, Amash will have to win the Libertarian Party's nomination at their convention in Austin, Texas, which is currently set for the end of May. That timing could change depending on the coronavirus pandemic. While it is very unlikely a third-party candidate could win the presidency, a high-profile third-party contender has the potential to reshape the race. In 2016, Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico, was on the ballot in every state and won a little over 3% of the national vote [~4.5 million votes]....

"Amash was first elected to represent Michigan's 3rd congressional district in the 2010 tea party wave. A traditional libertarian, he stood out from many of his House Republican colleagues to begin with, opposing expansive federal surveillance powers and American intervention abroad. Over the years, Amash has been consistently willing to take controversial votes according to his view of limited government, often being one of the only House members to vote against legislation with broad bipartisan support, such as an anti-lynching bill in February.

"In 2015, Amash was one of the founding members of the House Freedom Caucus, an influential group of hardline conservatives that clashed with House Republican leadership and pushed for a more open legislative process and curtailed federal spending.... He made waves last May when he announced his support for impeaching Trump over the findings in former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. He was the first and only House Republican to support impeachment, eventually voting for both articles of impeachment against the President as an independent late last year....

"On July 4 of last year, Amash announced he was leaving the Republican Party for good. 'The Republican Party, I believed, stood for limited government, economic freedom and individual liberty — principles that had made the American Dream possible for my family,' he wrote in a Washington Post op-ed. 'In recent years, though, I've become disenchanted with party politics and frightened by what I see from it. The two-party system has evolved into an existential threat to American principles and institutions.'

"Amash, 40, is the son of a Syrian immigrant mother and a Palestinian refugee father. Before entering Congress, he worked as a lawyer for his family's business and served ... 2008-2010 in the Michigan  state house.

"In recent days, he has criticized the President's comments about federalism amid the coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, Trump said at his daily press conference when discussing states staying locked down that 'when somebody's president of the United States, the authority is total, and that's the way it's got to be.' 'Americans who believe in limited government deserve another option,' Amash said of Trump's remarks."

Read more:

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The man who forecast 2.2 million US deaths

When it came to dealing with an unexpected surge in infections and deaths from SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID-19 symptoms), federal and state policymakers understandably sought guidance from competing epidemiological computer models. On March 16, a 20-page report from Neil Ferguson's team at Imperial College London quickly gathered enormous attention by producing enormous death estimates. Dr. Ferguson had previously publicized almost equally sensational death estimates from mad cow disease, bird flu and swine flu.
 - Alan Reynolds, "How One Model Simulated 2.2 Million U.S. Deaths from COVID-19," Cato Institute, April 21, 2020 (stress added)

Six questions that Neil Ferguson should be asked | The Spectator - Steerpike:

April 27, 2020 - "Below are six questions Steerpike would like to see Neil Ferguson pressed on the next time he embarks on a media round:

"In 2005, Ferguson said that up to 200 million people could be killed from bird flu. He told the Guardian that ‘around 40 million people died in 1918 Spanish flu outbreak… There are six times more people on the planet now so you could scale it up to around 200 million people probably.’ In the end, only 282 people died worldwide from the disease between 2003 and 2009. How did he get this forecast so wrong?

"In 2009, Ferguson and his Imperial team predicted that swine flu had a case fatality rate 0.3 per cent to 1.5 per cent. His most likely estimate was that the mortality rate was 0.4 per cent. A government estimate, based on Ferguson’s advice, said a ‘reasonable worst-case scenario’ was that the disease would lead to 65,000 UK deaths. In the end swine flu killed 457 people in the UK and had a death rate of just 0.026 per cent in those infected. Why did the Imperial team overestimate the fatality of the disease?....

"In 2001 the Imperial team produced modelling on foot and mouth disease that suggested that animals in neighbouring farms should be culled, even if there was no evidence of infection. This influenced government policy and led to the total culling of more than six million cattle, sheep and pigs – with a cost to the UK economy estimated at £10 billion. It has been claimed by experts such as Michael Thrusfield, professor of veterinary epidemiology at Edinburgh University, that Ferguson’s modelling on foot and mouth was ‘severely flawed’ and made a ‘serious error’ by ‘ignoring the species composition of farms,’ and the fact that the disease spread faster between different species. Does Ferguson acknowledge that his modelling in 2001 was flawed and if so, has he taken steps to avoid future mistakes?

"In 2002, Ferguson predicted that between 50 and 50,000 people would likely die from exposure to BSE (mad cow disease) in beef. He also predicted that number could rise to 150,000 if there was a sheep epidemic as well. In the UK, there have only been 177 deaths from BSE. Does Ferguson believe that his ‘worst-case scenario’ in this case was too high? If so, what lessons has he learnt when it comes to his modelling since?

"Ferguson’s disease modelling for Covid-19 has been criticised by experts such as John Ioannidis, professor in disease prevention at Stanford University, who has said that: ‘The Imperial College study has been done by a highly competent team of modellers. However, some of the major assumptions and estimates that are built in the calculations seem to be substantially inflated.’ Has the Imperial team’s Covid-19 model been subject to outside scrutiny from other experts, and are the team questioning their own assumptions used? What safeguards are in place?

"On 22 March, Ferguson said that Imperial College London’s model of the Covid-19 disease is based on undocumented, 13-year-old computer code, that was intended to be used for a feared influenza pandemic, rather than a coronavirus. How many assumptions in the Imperial model are still based on influenza and is there any risk that the modelling is flawed because of these assumptions?"

Read more:

Monday, April 27, 2020

The flawed model behind the shutdowns

How One Model Simulated 2.2 Million U.S. Deaths from COVID-19 | Cato @ Liberty - Alan Reynolds:

April 21, 2020 - When it came to dealing with an unexpected surge in infections and deaths from SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID-19 symptoms), federal and state policymakers understandably sought guidance from competing epidemiological computer models. On March 16, a 20-page report from Neil Ferguson's team at Imperial College London quickly gathered enormous attention by producing enormous death estimates. Dr. Ferguson had previously publicized almost equally sensational death estimates from mad cow disease, bird flu and swine flu.

The New York Times quickly ran the hot news about this new COVID-19 estimate: 'The report, which warned that an uncontrolled spread of the disease could cause as many as 510,000 deaths in Britain, triggered a sudden shift in the government’s comparatively relaxed response to the virus. American officials said the report, which projected up to 2.2 million deaths in the United States from such a spread, also influenced the White House to strengthen its measures to isolate members of the public.'

A month later that 2.2 million estimate was still being used (without revealing the source) by President Trump and Doctors Fauci and Birx to imply that up to two million lives had been saved by state lockdowns and business closings and/or by federal travel bans....

[Dr. Ferguson's model] came up with 2.2 million deaths by simply assuming that 81% of the population gets infected* – ­268 million people – and that 0.9% of them die.... Neither the high infection rate nor the high fatality rate holds up under scrutiny.

To project that nearly everyone becomes infected the report had to assume that each person infects 2.4 others and those people, in turn, infect 2.4 others and so on, with the result that the number infected doubles roughly every four days. This 2.4 'reproduction number' (R0) was 'based on ... the early growth-rate of the epidemic in Wuhan.' But the reproduction number always appears highest during the early phase of an epidemic (partly due to increased testing) and has now fallen to nearly zero in China....

The worst-case Imperial College estimate of 2.2 million deaths if everyone does 'nothing' did not simply mean no government lockdowns, as a March 31 White House graph with two curves implied. It meant nobody avoids crowded elevators, or wears face masks, washes their hands more often, or buys gloves or hand sanitizer. Everyone does literally nothing to avoid danger. The Ferguson team knew that was unrealistic, yet their phantasmal 2.2 million estimate depended on it.... The obvious reality of voluntary self-protective actions makes it incorrect to allude to the extreme Ferguson death estimate, consciously or not, as evidence that heavy-handed government interventions prevented 'hundreds of thousands' of deaths....

The key premise of 81% of the population being infected should have raised more alarms than it did. Even the deadly 'Spanish Flu' (H1N1) pandemic of 1918-19 infected no more than 28% of the U.S. population. The next H1N1 'Swine Flu' pandemic, in 2009-10, infected 20-24% of Americans.

To push the percentage infected up from 20-28% to an unprecedented 81% for COVID-19 required assuming the number of cases and/or deaths keeps doubling every three or four days for months (deaths were predicted to peak July 20). And that means assuming the estimated reproduction number (R0) of 2.4 remains high, and people keep mingling with different groups....  Long before 8 out of 10 people became infected, however, a larger and larger percentage of the population would have recovered from the disease and become immune, so a smaller and smaller share would still remain susceptible....

In short, the Imperial College projection that 81% of the U.S. population could be infected if everyone just did literally nothing to protect themselves or others is inconsistent with rational risk avoidance, history and recent experience. Even with a much smaller percentage infected, however, deaths could still end up extremely high if nearly 1% of those infected died, as the Ferguson team assumed.

The assumed 0.9% death rate (within a range of 0.4% to 1.4%) was tweaked from a smaller estimate in a study of deaths in China by Robert Verrity and others, which found a 'case fatality rate' (CFR) of 1.38% among known and tested cases. By assuming that such confirmed cases underestimated actual infections by only about half, they inferred an 'infection fatality rate' (IFR) of 0.66%.

Epidemiologists have since found growing evidence that the number of undetected cases with few symptoms or none is much larger than merely doubling the small number of known and tested cases. A review of such research by the Oxford University Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine finds 'a presumed estimate for the COVID-19 IFR somewhere between 0.1% and 0.36%.' A middling estimate of 0.22% would by itself reduce the infamous 2.2 million death estimate to half a million even if 81% were somehow infected....

The trouble with being too easily led by models is we can too easily be misled by models. Epidemic models may seem entirely different from economic models or climate models, but they all make terrible forecasts if filled with wrong assumptions and parameters.

Read more:

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*Prof. Ferguson's foundation for the 81%  figure was his estimation of the initial reproduction number (Ro, or 'r-nought'): "In such scenarios, given an estimated R0 of 2.4, we predict 81% of the G.B. and U.S. populations would be infected over the course of the epidemic." However, the herd immunity threshhold for the disease is a standard function of Ro: (Ro-1)/Ro ; if Ro=2.4, herd immunity would be reached at 58.33% of the population. -gd

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Beijing theory: coronavirus came from US lab

Chinese Officials Blame US Army for Coronavirus | The Scientist - Lisa Winter:
March 13, 2020 - "A Chinese official who has a history of attacking the United States online has lent a voice to a conspiracy theory that blames American soldiers for bringing COVID-19 to China.... According to the unfounded accusation, which reports say has been widely shared on the popular Chinese social media platform Weibo, the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 was introduced to China when 300 US military members arrived in the Wuhan region for the Military World Games in mid-October and infected the local population. None of the servicemembers who made the trip have tested positive for the virus.

"The rumors seemed to begin when Chinese respiratory specialist Zhong Nanshan stated at a February press conference that 'though the COVID-19 was first discovered in China, it does not mean that it originated from China,' planting the seeds of doubt. On Thursday (March 12), Zhao Lijian, the spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, took to Twitter, a social platform banned in China, to ask, 'When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!'

"Lijian has also retweeted a link to a known conspiracy site that claims the virus may have originated at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Ft. Detrick in Maryland, which was shut down in August after biosafety lapses with a number of pathogens. The website goes on to speculate that the virus went from Ft. Detrick to e-cigarettes to Hawaii to Wuhan. There is no evidence the pathogens in Maryland ever left the lab and there’s an equal lack of evidence supporting any of the other claims."
Read more:

Coronavirus ‘escaped from US lab’, China’s state TV anchor claims | - Emma Brazell:
April 21, 2020 - "A Chinese state TV presenter has claimed coronavirus came from the United States rather than China in an online opinion show. An anchor who goes by the name 'Ms V' listed several conspiracy theories during an episode of China View on CGTN to show 'it is clear that the virus in China was transmitted from abroad'. On March 14, the Arabic-speaking host suggested Covid-19 could have escaped from a US lab or have been transported into China during the Military World Games in Wuhan last October – theories that have been denied by researchers. The video ... has received millions of views online....

"Ms V told the camera: ‘The outbreak may be earlier than expected. In September 2019, some Japanese were infected with the new coronavirus after returning from Hawaii, though they had not visited China before. This happened two months before the beginning of the outbreak in China. Shortly after, the CDC shut down the facilities – after claiming that the Fort Detrick Biological Weapons Laboratory had failed to fully prevent the loss of pathogens. Now, all the data related to this lab has disappeared on the internet. The virologist reported he had carefully researched the cases, as well as his Japanese colleague, and they got the same conclusion. ‘It is expected that the new coronavirus has started outbreaks in the United States for a while, and its symptoms were like symptoms of other diseases, so it was easy to hide the truth'....

"Ms V then cited an alleged news report made by Japanese broadcaster Asahi Corp 'indicating the possibility of new cases of coronavirus in the United States among deaths caused by influenza infection and the US government recently recognised this possibility. ‘This news has caused a widespread debate on social media about the possibility of the virus being transmitted to China from abroad during the period of the Military Olympic Games in Wuhan, which was attended by 109 countries, including the United States.'"
Read more:

China Continues to Push Conspiracy Theory That U.S. Was Source of Coronavirus | The New American - James Murphy:
April 24, 2020 - "Shi Yi, a microbiologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, spoke at a press conference on Thursday and complained that the United States had 'not given any public response' to Chinese accusations that the coronavirus pandemic now raging throughout the world did not actually begin in Wuhan, China, but at Fort Detrick, Maryland. Shi's remarks were reported in the Global Times, a subsidiary of the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China....

"The Global Times also advanced the theory that patient zero in Wuhan was actually an American.... 'Some other posts on social media platforms also alleged that a US armed diplomatic driver and cyclist who was in Wuhan in October 2019 for the cycling competition in the Military World Games, could be patient zero for COVID-19 in Wuhan.'

"The accusation that the coronavirus, which was first reported in Wuhan, China, in November of last year, was actually an American virus appears to have originated on Chinese social media prior to being picked up by Chinese government news outlets. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian took the fallacious assertions global by sharing them on Twitter. The Chinese then had their propaganda tool the Global Times push the story about the origin of the virus being a laboratory at Fort Detrick in Maryland....

"Thus far, neither the Chinese government nor any of its scientists have shown one iota of evidence of an American origin of COVID-19."
Read more:

Saturday, April 25, 2020

The sloppy statistics behind the lockdowns

On SARS-CoV-2 and Methods | Bleeding Heart Libertarians - Jason Brennan:

April 9, 2020 - "For me, what’s been most startling about the COVID crisis (other than how it has exposed how many academics are mentally unstable) is how willing world leaders and journalists are to rely upon bad data, and how willing medical journals are to publish papers using bad data. Even as someone who writes about government and institutional failure, I was surprised.

"Most of the early models we saw in the news and in the medical journals relied upon obviously flawed data collection techniques, techniques which violate what everyone learns within a few weeks of taking a statistical methods class. If we want to know how dangerous a disease is, we would want to do random sampling of large numbers of people, to determine not current infections, but what percent have ever been infected. If we instead – as governments and epidemiologists have been doing – tested non-randomly (by looking only at people who present themselves as sick) and tested for current infection, we will bias our estimates of the danger upward, perhaps by orders of magnitude. In principle, if we had reliable data about baselines, we could make use of this kind of data with certain Bayesian methods, but we don’t even have the baselines to make that work. In short, for the purpose of determining the danger, governments have been testing the wrong thing (current infection), and testing it the wrong way (non-random samples)....

"The most charitable thing to say about governments is that they faced a dilemma: Given that they had a limited number of tests available, it was better to test people who present themselves as sick, so they can be isolated and treated, than to test people at random. Governments had to choose between helping the sick or getting better information. They chose the former.

"But this is a weak defense because it takes governments’ constraints as a given rather than something which resulted from their own choices. Governments were aware of the possible risks many months ago. They could have 1) invested in acquiring millions of serological tests and 2) could have acquired more tests for current infection. They could have hired and trained people to take these tests. Hell, if they are willing to force people to stay home, and willing to destroy people’s livelihoods, they could have forced people to submit to serological testing. In short, governments are doing more extreme and more expensive things now, so they could have done less extreme, less expensive, and much more informative things previously.

"Only now are we starting to see serological testing, and, as expected, early results show that the disease is far less dangerous than originally reported. We don’t yet know how much less dangerous, though, because early serological tests are mostly in isolated, non-representative towns. Why didn’t we do this sooner? Why did we cause so much pain and suffering? Why did we choose to stumble in the dark when we had access to candles and torches?'

'"Some academics defend these radical political choices by saying that in a catastrophic crisis, we must act quickly and are forced to use bad information. Again, I’m skeptical of such defenses, because governments could have done things months ago to acquire better information. I’m also skeptical because the claim 'We are in a catastrophic crisis' depends in significant part upon having good data, which we didn’t (and still don’t) have. Back in mid-March, thanks to the absence of mass, random serological testing, we didn’t know any of the following: what percent of people had ever had the disease, what percent of people who get the disease become ill, what percent become severely ill, what percent died. The results published by governments or in the leading medical journals (yes, I read them) relied upon the wrong kind of data collected the wrong way.

Friday, April 24, 2020

FDA permits first at-home COVID-19 test kits

LabCorp’s at-home COVID-19 test kit is the first to be authorized by the FDA | Techcrunch - Darrell Etherington:

April 21, 2020 - "LabCorp’s at-home COVID-19 test, which is called ‘Pixel,’ has received the first Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for such a test issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The test is an at-home collection kit, which provides sample collection materials including a nasal swab to the user, who then uses the included shipping package to return the sample to a lab for testing.

"Until now, the FDA has not authorized any at-home testing or sample collection kits for use, and in fact clarified its guidelines to specifically note that their use was not authorized under its guidelines when a number of startup companies debuted similar products for at-home collection and round-trip testing with labs already certified to run molecular RT-PCR tests to detect the presence of COVID-19.

"The FDA notes that only LabCorp’s COVID-19 RT-PCR test has received this authorization, and that it still requires any such test to have an EUA before they can being offering services, whether or not the test is administered at home with the help of guidance from an authorized medical professional via telemedicine. Some labs facilitating at home serology tests using an exception in the FDA guidelines, but these are not viewed by the agency as tests that can confirm a case of COVID-19.

"Opening up at-home testing (even via just sample collection, vs. full at-home test administration) is a big step in terms of a change in the way the agency has operated thus far. The FDA has recently updated its guidelines to note that it is working with at-home test providers to determine the best way to make those available to the public, since it 'sees the public health value in expanding the availability of COVID-19 testing through safe and accurate tests that may include home collection'....

Testing for COVID-19 in the U.S. currently relies on drive-through sites, as well as in-clinic and hospital testing. These tests have a high bar for access in terms of risk profile and symptom presentation, and their administration also exposes the healthcare professionals running them to risk of contracting the infection themselves. At-home testing could increase overall testing rates, while decreasing risk to frontline healthcare workers, providing a better picture of the true extent and depth of the COVID-19 pandemic."

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Judge puts Libertarians on POTUS ballot in Illinois

Libertarian Party Wins COVID-19-Related Lawsuit Over Ballot Access in Illinois | Reason - Brian Doherty:

April 22, 2020 - "A judge in Illinois yesterday paved the way for the Libertarian Party (L.P.) to actually get on the ballot in her state after COVID-19 made traditional petitioning to gather signatures for ballot access impossible. Richard Winger reports in the indispensable Ballot Access News that Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer, in an as-yet-unwritten opinion in the case of Libertarian Party of Illinois v. Pritzker, decided that if a third party was on the ballot in 2016 or 2018 for an office, it can be on the ballot again this year with no petition signatures required. For the L.P., this includes the presidential and Senate ballot slots.

"For other legislative seats, candidates will only need to collect 10 percent of the normal requirement this year (which will mean 2,500 required instead of 25,000). The previous deadline for the petitions of June 22 has also been pushed back to August 7. The petitions can also be collected via e-signed electronic documents (although 'the candidate or party must then print out the results and transport a piece of paper to election officials.')

"L.P. national chair Nicholas Sarwark says no longer needing to collect a huge number of Illinois signatures is a 'big story' for the L.P. Actually meeting the original Illinois requirements with COVID-19 would have been an 'impossible dream,' but with this legal win behind them, he's confident similar arguments, either made inside or outside formal lawsuits, can be expected to win over other judges or state officials....

"The L.P. is facing COVID-19-related ballot access problems in many states, with traditional petitioning methods essentially illegal or impossibly difficult. (Ballotpedia is keeping a running tally of every election law or requirement change that COVID-19 is inspiring.)

"The L.P. as of today is on 36 ballots (plus the District of Columbia), and involved in active lawsuits against Maine, Georgia, Maryland, and Connecticut over ballot access issues (though not all of them are strictly about COVID-19-related problems).

"The L.P. would prefer to get concessions on impossible signature rules via negotiation, not lawsuits, and its members are in discussions with many states about these issues. However, L.P. Executive Director Daniel Fishman says some states, such as Alabama, have so far ignored their communications."

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Pandemic risk from Wuhan labs warned of in 2018

China, conspiracy theories, and the murky coronavirus origin story | Columbia Journalism Review - Jon Allsop:

April 15, 2020 - "Josh Rogin, of the Washington Post, published a column [April 14] that appeared in the paper’s Global Opinions section, but contained bombshell new reporting. Per Rogin, in early 2018, officials from the US Embassy in Beijing repeatedly visited a laboratory in Wuhan where researchers were studying coronaviruses in bats, and their possible transmissibility to humans. Embassy staff were so concerned about safety issues they said they’d observed on their visits that they sent two warnings back to the State Department, urging the US government to give the lab support. In the first of the cables, which Rogin obtained, officials warned that the lab’s work on coronaviruses 'represented a risk of a new SARS-like pandemic'....

"Two years later, with a new SARS-like pandemic sweeping the earth, the warning cables 'have fueled discussions inside the US government about whether this or another Wuhan lab was the source of the virus,' Rogin reports. There’s no evidence that the new coronavirus was manufactured; most scientists agree that it came from animals. But as Xiao Qiang, a scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, told Rogin, 'that is not the same as saying it didn’t come from the lab, which spent years testing bat coronaviruses in animals.'

"Rogin’s story was shared widely on social media, including by prominent mainstream journalists..... This was not surprising: earlier this year, Tom Cotton, a hawkish Republican from Arkansas, mentioned the Wuhan lab in an interview on Fox News ... but was pilloried by major news organizations for spreading a “fringe' 'conspiracy theory' that 'was already debunked'....

"The US intelligence community reportedly believes that the Chinese government has grossly understated the full extent of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, and it’s far from alone in that assessment. According to the [New York] Times, officials in Wuhan have, in recent weeks, broken up virtual groups set up by victims’ relatives, censored photos of relatives collecting victims’ ashes, and even assigned minders to supervise burials. In the early days of the virus, Chinese authorities silenced Li Wenliang, a doctor who tried to raise an early alarm.... Journalists who tried to blow the whistle disappeared. Last month, Beijing expelled American reporters working for the Times, the Post, and the Wall Street Journal....

"Last week, China imposed tight restrictions on the publication of academic research linked to the origins of the coronavirus. As Rogin notes, its government won’t answer even basic questions on the topic, and has tried to suppress investigations into the possible involvement of the two labs in Wuhan. 'Beijing has yet to provide US experts with samples of the novel coronavirus collected from the earliest cases,' Rogin writes. A Shanghai lab that published the virus genome in January 'was quickly shut down by authorities for "rectification"'....

"The most useful response, here, is not to get sucked into the right-wing fever swamps, but to isolate legitimate questions, and try and report out the answers. As Rogin writes, the coronavirus origin story 'is not just about blame. It’s crucial to understanding how the novel coronavirus pandemic started because that informs how to prevent the next one.'"

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

LP will 'sue everywhere' to keep ballot status, vows executive director

Will the Pandemic Keep Third Parties Off the 2020 Ballot? | Politico - Bill Scher:

April 19, 2020 - "In 2016, the Libertarian Party was on the general election ballot in all 50 states; this year, it has secured ballot access in just 35. Similarly, the Green Party ... has qualified for the November ballot in only 22 states.... At present, neither the Libertarian Party nor the Green Party has qualified for the ballot in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Iowa or Minnesota....

"To get on the ballot in the remaining states, they need to collect and submit petition signatures.... But because of the deadly coronavirus — and the social distancing and stay-at-home orders to minimize its spread — after March 6, 'petitioning was over in the United States,' as Libertarian Party executive director Daniel Fishman told me....

'What the Libertarians and Greens want most is for states to waive all remaining petition signature requirements. On March 30, Vermont did just that, via emergency legislation signed by the governor. (The Libertarian Party was already on the ballot in Vermont, but the legislation added a state to the Green Party list.) Ballot Access News [also] reports that '[i]t is believed that Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont will soon issue an order declaring political parties that are ballot-qualified for at least one statewide office to be deemed ballot-qualified for all partisan federal and state office, for 2020' (though the Libertarians and Greens have already qualified for the presidential election there). A few states have taken smaller steps, such as allowing electronic signature gathering and delaying deadlines, and more states may follow.

"Since the third parties are not expecting uniform assistance from state executive and legislative branches, they are gearing up for more court battles. 'We’re prepared to sue everywhere that we have to,' Fishman said, adding that he feels 'very confident that we’re going to win all of those court cases' since 'there’s never been a stronger case that the petition requirement is unreasonable'....

"[T]he first court battle to waive all signature requirements is now being waged by the Libertarians and Greens in Illinois, with a hearing scheduled for April 17. The two parties have also teamed up for a Georgia lawsuit, asking the state to pro-rate the number of signatures required, accounting for the days during which canvassing is no longer possible. (Unlike the Greens, the Libertarian Party already met the Georgia requirements for its presidential nominee, but are hoping to aid a Libertarian U.S. House candidate.)

"Another possible legal obstacle looms for Libertarians in states with relatively early filing deadlines that require the name of the presidential candidate to be specified. The Libertarian convention is scheduled for May 21 in Austin, Texas, but a delay is expected and alternative plans are not set. This poses a particular problem for the party in New Hampshire, which requires candidates from parties that have not prequalified for the November ballot to issue a statement of intent by June 12.

"Other states allow third parties to submit names to serve as stand-ins until an official nominee is selected. But Washington State, Wisconsin and Alabama could present deadline problems similar to New Hampshire’s, though their deadlines are in late July or August."

Monday, April 20, 2020

Health authorities flip-flop on face masks

Face Masks in a COVID-19 World: To Wear or Not to Wear? By Dr. Michael Szabo - Come Back Alive:
"Should we wear a face mask when out in public right now? It’s a question many people have since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued its new recommendation that people wear face masks when leaving their homes. Canada’s chief public health officer has echoed the recommendation.

"There is confusion because the CDC and the Public Health Agency of Canada had initially suggested that face masks not be worn in public. The flip-flop in recommendations has triggered many questions."
Read more:

The CDC's Revised Face Mask Advice Is Based on Information That Was Available Months Ago | Reason - Jacob Sullum:
April 6, 2020 - "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its advice concerning face masks and COVID-19 last week, telling us to 'cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.' The CDC had previously said that 'if you are NOT sick, you do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask).'

"The official justification for this shift is that the CDC suddenly realized people can transmit the COVID-19 virus even when they do not feel sick. Yet that is something we have known for months.

"'Here's what's changed,' Surgeon General Jerome Adams claimed on Meet the Press yesterday. 'We now know that about 25%, in some studies even more, of COVID-19 is transmitted when you are asymptomatic or presymptomatic.' While that particular estimate, which CDC Director Robert Redfield began floating on March 31, is relatively new, it has been clear at least since February that people can carry the virus for days before they develop symptoms and that some carriers never feel ill.....

"A January 30 letter to The New England Journal of Medicine, based on several cases in Germany, warned that 'asymptomatic persons are potential sources of [COVID-19] infection.' A February 13 letter to the International Journal of Infectious Diseases estimated that 31 percent of people infected by the COVID-19 virus do not have symptoms.... A February 26 Global Biosecurity report noted that 'asymptomatic transmission has been documented' and 'the viral load in symptomatic and asymptomatic people is not significantly different.' A report from the World Health Organization published around the same time nevertheless depicted asymptomatic infection as rare....

"'Seriously people—STOP BUYING MASKS!' Adams tweeted on February 29. 'They are NOT effective in preventing [the] general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can't get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!'

"By that point, it was clear that transmission by asymptomatic or presymptomatic carriers was playing an important role in the pandemic. Now Adams wants us to believe no one knew that until last week. The misguided advice from Adams and the CDC needlessly endangered people who could have benefited from the precautions they are belatedly recommending."

Read more:

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Coronavirus trail leads to Wuhan labs (I)

Don’t buy China’s story: The coronavirus may have leaked from a lab | New York Post - Steven Mosher:

February 22, 2020 - "At an emergency meeting in Beijing held last Friday [February 14], Chinese leader Xi Jinping spoke about the need to contain the coronavirus and set up a system to prevent similar epidemics in the future. A national system to control biosecurity risks must be put in place 'to protect the people’s health,' Xi said, because lab safety is a 'national security' issue.... [T]he very next day, ... the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology released a new directive titled: 'Instructions on strengthening biosecurity management in microbiology labs that handle advanced viruses like the novel coronavirus'....

"[H]ow many 'microbiology labs' are there in China that handle 'advanced viruses like the novel coronavirus'? It turns out that in all of China, there is only one. And this one is located in the Chinese city of Wuhan ... the epicenter of the epidemic.... China’s only Level 4 microbiology lab that is equipped to handle deadly coronaviruses, called the National Biosafety Laboratory, is part of the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

"People’s Liberation Army’s top expert in biological warfare, a Maj. Gen. Chen Wei, was dispatched to Wuhan at the end of January to help with the effort to contain the outbreak. According to the PLA Daily, Chen has been researching coronaviruses since the SARS outbreak of 2003, as well as Ebola and anthrax.... Does that suggest to you that the novel coronavirus, now known as SARS-CoV-2, may have escaped from that very lab, and that Chen’s job is to try to put the genie back in the bottle, as it were? It does to me.

"Add to this China’s history of similar incidents. Even the deadly SARS virus has escaped — twice — from the Beijing lab where it was (and probably is) being used in experiments. Both 'man-made' epidemics were quickly contained, but neither would have happened at all if proper safety precautions had been taken.

"And then there is this little-known fact: Some Chinese researchers are in the habit of selling their laboratory animals to street vendors after they have finished experimenting on them.... One Beijing researcher, now in jail, made a million dollars selling his monkeys and rats on the live animal market, where they eventually wound up in someone’s stomach.

"Also fueling suspicions about SARS-CoV-2’s origins is the series of increasingly lame excuses offered by the Chinese authorities as people began to sicken and die. They first blamed a seafood market not far from the Institute of Virology, even though the first documented cases of Covid-19 (the illness caused by SARS-CoV-2) involved people who had never set foot there. Then they pointed to snakes, bats and even a cute little scaly anteater called a pangolin as the source of the virus.... It turns out that snakes don’t carry coronaviruses and that bats aren’t sold at a seafood market. Neither, for that matter, are pangolins, an endangered species valued for their scales as much as for their meat.

"The evidence points to SARS-CoV-2 research being carried out at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The virus may have been carried out of the lab by an infected worker or crossed over into humans when they unknowingly dined on a lab animal. Whatever the vector, Beijing authorities are now clearly scrambling to correct the serious problems with the way their labs handle deadly pathogens.

"China has unleashed a plague on its own people. It’s too early to say how many in China and other countries will ultimately die for the failures of their country’s state-run microbiology labs, but the human cost will be high."

Read more:

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Coronavirus trail leads to Wuhan labs (II)

The Trail Leading Back to the Wuhan Labs | National Review - Jim Geraghty

April 3, 2020 - " {A] documentary filmmaker who used to live in China ... Matthew Tye, who creates YouTube videos, contends he has identified the source of the coronavirus — and a great deal of the information that he presents, obtained from public records posted on the Internet, checks out. [see video]

"The Wuhan Institute of Virology [WIV] in China indeed posted a job opening on November 18, 2019, 'asking for scientists to come research the relationship between the coronavirus and bats'.... On December 24, 2019, the [WIV] posted a second job posting. The translation of that posting includes the declaration, 'long-term research on the pathogenic biology of bats carrying important viruses has confirmed the origin [in] bats of major new human and livestock infectious diseases such as SARS and SADS, and a large number of new bat and rodent new viruses have been discovered and identified'....

"Scientific American verifies much of the information Tye mentions about Shi Zhengli, the Chinese virologist.... 'Shi — a virologist who is often called China’s "bat woman" by her colleagues because of her virus-hunting expeditions in bat caves over the past 16 years — walked out of the conference she was attending in Shanghai and hopped on the next train back to Wuhan. "I wondered if [the municipal health authority] got it wrong," she says. "I had never expected this kind of thing to happen in Wuhan, in central China" Her studies had shown that the southern, subtropical areas of Guangdong, Guangxi and Yunnan have the greatest risk of coronaviruses jumping to humans from animals—particularly bats, a known reservoir for many viruses. If coronaviruses were the culprit, she remembers thinking, "could they have come from our lab?"'....

"In his YouTube video, Tye focuses his attention on a researcher at the [WIV] named Huang Yanling: 'Most people believe her to be patient zero, and most people believe she is dead.' There was enough discussion of rumors about Huang Yanling online in China to spur an official denial. On February 16, [WIV] denied that patient zero was one of their employees, and interestingly named her specifically.... Press accounts quote the institute as saying, 'Huang was a graduate student at the institute until 2015, when she left the province and had not returned since. Huang was in good health and had not been diagnosed with disease, it added'

"The web page for the [WIV]’s Lab of Diagnostic Microbiology does indeed still have 'Huang Yanling' listed as a 2012 graduate student, and her picture and biography appear to have been recently removed.... Her name still has a hyperlink, but the linked page is blank....

"Tye says, 'everyone on the Chinese internet is searching for [Huang Yanling] but most believe that her body was quickly cremated and the people working at the crematorium were perhaps infected as they were not given any information about the virus'.... As Tye observes, a public appearance by Huang Yanling would dispel a lot of the public rumors, and is the sort of thing the Chinese government would quickly arrange in normal circumstances — presuming that Huang Yanling was still alive....

"At some point in February, Botao Xiao posted a research paper onto, 'The Possible Origins of 2019-nCoV coronavirus'..... The paper was removed a short time after it was posted.... The first conclusion of Botao Xiao’s paper is that the bats suspected of carrying the virus are extremely unlikely to be found naturally in the city, and ... bats were not sold at the market.... Botao Xiao’s paper theorizes that the coronavirus originated from bats being used for research at either one of two research laboratories in Wuhan....
Within ~280 meters from the market, there was the Wuhan Center for Disease Control & Prevention. WHCDC hosted animals in laboratories for research purpose, one of which was specialized in pathogens collection and identification. In one of their studies, 155 bats including Rhinolophus affinis were captured in Hubei province, and other 450 bats were captured in Zhejiang province.... Surgery was performed on the caged animals and the tissue samples were collected for DNA and RNA extraction and sequencing. The tissue samples and contaminated trashes were source of pathogens. They were only ~280 meters from the seafood market.... The second laboratory was ~12 kilometers from the seafood market and belonged to [WIV]....
"[I]t is a remarkable coincidence that the [WIV] was researching Ebola and SARS-associated coronaviruses in bats before the pandemic outbreak, and that in the month when Wuhan doctors were treating the first patients of COVID-19, the institute announced in a hiring notice that 'a large number of new bat and rodent new viruses have been discovered and identified.' And the fact that the Chinese government spent six weeks insisting that COVID-19 could not be spread from person to person means that its denials about Wuhan laboratories cannot be accepted without independent verification."

Also read: Coronavirus trail leads to Wuhan labs (I)

Friday, April 17, 2020

Trump halts World Health Organization funding

Coronavirus: Is President Trump right to criticise the WHO? | BBC News:

April 15, 2020 - "US President Donald Trump has accused the World Health Organization (WHO) of mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus after it emerged in China. He added he would halt WHO funding while his administration reviewed its actions.... Trump has accused the WHO of failing to challenge China's early assertion there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus.

"China first informed the WHO of  'a pneumonia of an unknown cause,' on 31 December. On 5 January, the organisation said the information it had from China at that time showed there was 'no evidence of significant human-to-human transmission'. And on 14 January, it tweeted preliminary Chinese investigations had found 'no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission' of the new virus.

"The same day, however, the Wuhan Health Commission said the possibility of limited human-to-human transmission could not be excluded, although the risk of sustained transmission was low.... And on 22 January, the WHO, following a brief field visit to China, made a much clearer statement saying that human-to-human transmission was happening in Wuhan. It's worth adding that a full WHO delegation with international experts did not visit China until the second week of February....

"Trump said there was 'credible information to suspect human-to-human transmission in December', an apparent reference to a warning Taiwan says it sent to the WHO. Taiwanese scientists had visited Wuhan shortly after the virus first emerged. But the evidence published so far shows Taiwan's exchanges with the WHO did not mention human-to-human transmission.

'Taiwan is not one of the WHO's members as the territory is not recognised by the UN. The WHO says it has been sharing all information with Taiwanese health experts. But last month, after a senior WHO official refused to discuss Taiwan's response to the outbreak, the organisation was accused of being unduly influenced by China.

"'Constructive criticism of the WHO's effusive praise for China is warranted,' public health expert Lawrence Gostin told BBC News. 'The WHO should have been more critical and looked more closely at the situation.' But he added President Trump's remarks were an attempt to shift blame for the US's own lack of preparedness."

Read more:

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Ohio protest against state-ordered shutdowns

Coronavirus In Ohio: Protesters Gather Outside Statehouse To Criticize Shutdowns |WOSU 89.7 NPR News - Gabe Rosenberg:

April 9, 2020 - "Around 75 protesters gathered outside of the Ohio Statehouse on Thursday to criticize the government's restrictions during the coronavirus outbreak. Many wore Guy Fawkes masks over their faces, and at least one held a gun. Their signs criticized the governor's stay-at-home order, closure of schools and shutdown of the economy: 'My constitutional rights are essential,' 'Ohio dies when government lies,' 'Quarantine the sick not the Constitution,' 'A free people in a pandemic are still a free people.'

"Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton acknowledged the chanting that often could be heard during Thursday's press conference. 'There are people protesting right now outside the Statehouse. And people are worried. They're afraid. They're afraid about things like their jobs,' she said. Earlier in the day, the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services reported that 695,519 residents had submitted jobless claims over the past three weeks.

"[Governor] DeWine said the protesters had every right to be there, although he urged them to 'try not to shout on each other.' The state's ban on mass gatherings includes allowances for expressing First Amendment rights.... [H]e said .. 'I can guarantee to you that we're not going to keep these orders on one day longer than we have to.'

"The Ohio Department of Health on Thursday reported 5,512 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 84 counties, based on limited testing availability. As of Thursday, 213 people have died.... Even the most optimistic projections, DeWine cautions, show that social distancing must continue at the same level for the near future to avoid burdening the health care system....

"Acton said the state will start releasing data indicators that are being used to figure out when business and other restrictions can be lifted. DeWine said he expects next week to share longer-term plans for Ohio's response."

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Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Libertarian parties ask for petitioning relief

Third parties call for ballot access relief | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Kyle Mullins:
April 7, 2020 - "Much of politics is based on personal interactions, but in the midst of a global pandemic, such interactions can be potentially deadly. The COVID-19 outbreak has left third parties in Pennsylvania out in the cold, concerned that they may not be able to get on the ballot for key races in November due to an inability to collect signatures.
"'People aren’t willing to take a pen, or a piece of paper' from a petitioner, national Libertarian Party executive director Daniel Fishman said. Additionally, Gov. Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home orders — extended to all 67 of Pennsylvania’s counties on Wednesday — have blocked petitioners from attending now-canceled public events or going door-to-door. In response, both the national Libertarian party and the Green Party of Pennsylvania have called on Mr. Wolf and the state Legislature to waive the petitioning requirements.....
"Republicans and Democrats congressional candidates must submit 1,000 signatures to run for Congress, whereas third-party candidates must submit ... from 1,800 in District 12 to 5,753 in District 3. To run for attorney general, third parties must submit 2,500 signatures, including 250 from at least five counties.... This year, the major parties’ timeline [for petitioning] fell before many of the restrictions from the COVID-19 outbreak. The timeline for the third parties did not."
Read more:

Libertarian Party looks for NH to waive ballot requirements due to COVID-19 | Keene Sentinel - Mia Summerson:
April 7, 2020 - "The Libertarian Party of New Hampshire has asked the state to waive the required number of signatures to put its candidates on the ballot this fall, due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The N.H. Libertarians have determined it would be a risk to public health if their members go out into the community to circulate petitions, the party said in a news release....
"[M]embers had been out collecting signatures since early January but have halted those efforts to protect 'voters, activists and those who will eventually handle these petitions....'
"The release says that, in the past, the party has regularly been able to secure the 3,000 signatures required for unrecognized parties to gain ballot access for gubernatorial or U.S. Senate candidates, the only statewide races that could get the party listed on the ballot....
"Since March 27, New Hampshire has been under a stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Chris Sununu. The order asks that people stay inside their residences as much as possible to help slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19."
Read more:

Libertarian Party of Wisconsin asks governor, legislative leaders to lift petition requirement to get on 2020 ballots | Channel3000 - Amy Reid:
April 10, 2020 - "The Libertarian Party of Wisconsin sent a letter to government leaders on Thursday asking for the petition requirement for getting on the ballot this fall to be lifted. Matthew Bughman, the chair for the state party, sent the letter to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and the state elections commission....
"Given the state’s Safer at Home Order and the current public health emergency, Bughman said it is widely believed that petition drives around the state will not be able to safely continue and asked for the petition requirement for all offices be deceased or that parties that had ballot access in 2018 be granted automatic ballot access in 2020."
Read more:

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Jim Gray / Larry Sharpe ticket enters LP race

Judge Jim Gray To Seek Libertarian Presidential Nomination | Reason - Matt Welch:

April 13, 2020 - "Judge Jim Gray, the 2012 Libertarian Party (LP) vice presidential nominee and the first sitting jurist to come out against the drug war way back in 1992, announced to his email list Monday that he will seek the party's presidential nomination in tandem with vice presidential candidate Larry Sharpe. The L.P., America's third-place finisher in the previous two presidential elections, is scheduled to determine its 2020 ticket during a national convention on May 21-25.

"Gray, 75, was a Superior Court judge in Orange County, California, from 1989 to 2009, during which time he was best known for his pioneering stance on marijuana prohibition and his unsuccessful Republican primary run against longtime Rep. Bob Dornan in 1998. Gray switched to the LP soon thereafter, finishing in fourth place with 1.8 percent of the vote in a 2004 U.S. Senate race.... After being cultivated by former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson for the vice presidential slot in 2012, Gray became part of what was then the party's second-most successful White House ticket in history, earning 1.0 percent of the national vote.

"The announcement ... was, in Gray's telling, set into motion with the demise of the presidential bid by ex-mayor/senator/governor Lincoln Chafee, who Gray had backed. 'After [Chafee] hung up the phone,' the judge recounted in his email newsletter, 'his staff members asked if I would consider running in his place. My answer was no. But, since they were persistent, I told them that I would take two days to consider that possibility.

"'During those next two days,' Gray continued, 'I spoke to several high-ranking and well-respected Libertarians around the country, and they were all supportive and even enthusiastic. So, also considering the fact that I always thought I would be a good candidate, I called Larry Sharpe, who is a friend in New York who was a great Libertarian candidate for Governor in the 2018 election. During the discussion, I told Larry that if he would be my running mate, I would throw my hat in the ring. On Friday, April 10 he agreed. So that afternoon we had a Zoom meeting of Governor Chafee's staff, along with the campaign manager of Riverside County Board of Supervisor Jeff Hewitt's campaign where we introduced ourselves to each other and then started planning our campaign'....

"Sharpe, one of the party's leading and most ubiquitous figures (he is scheduled to deliver the keynote at the national convention, though the physical status of the gathering is currently in doubt), was certainly not expected to make a second consecutive run at the vice presidential nomination.

"'The two guys that I adore most are the two people I voted for first as Libertarians: Gary Johnson and Judge Gray,' Sharpe told me. 'They are literally the only two people who could have gotten me to run for anything….If Gary Johnson had decided to run and asked me, I would have said yes to him, too.' (Sharpe, a former Marine, had told me back in 2017: 'I will always be loyal to Gary Johnson. Without him I'm not a Libertarian.')

"Until now, the primary and caucus season has been dominated by Future of Freedom Foundation founder Jacob Hornberger, who has received the most results among human candidates in six out of the eight nonbinding state contests.... Team Hornberger is likely to laser in on Gray's presence on the 2012 ticket, his prior support for the Weld-like northeastern party-switcher Chaffee, and his enthusiasm for the ex-Massachusetts governor himself....

"Sharpe will likely be Gray's best asset within the party, though the coming days should indicate whether the party's money and political talent (such as either exist) will come off the sidelines and rally around an old familiar face.... As of now, Sharpe would seem to have much better chances of securing the veep slot than Gray does at besting Hornberger."

Read more:

Monday, April 13, 2020

Coronavirus testing failure in Canada, too

The country doesn't have enough testing capacity, and might never get it | CBC News - Kelly Crowe:

April 9, 2020 - "'We're ready, we're prepared.' Those were the confident words from Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health in a news briefing [January 25]. The province already had a 'specific and reliable' coronavirus test that could deliver results in 24 hours.... 'Folks, it will still be business as normal,' said Peter Donnelly, head of Public Health Ontario, at the same briefing. Through the unforgiving lens of hindsight, they could not have been more wrong....

"One week after the province closed schools, shops and prohibited large gatherings [on March 17] many labs were overwhelmed. By the first weekend, Ontario had a backlog of more than 7,200 tests. B.C. also reported a backlog, as did Alberta, Quebec and Manitoba. Almost immediately, provinces began restricting who could be tested — limiting it to front-line health-care workers, people with severe symptoms and those who work with vulnerable groups.

"Over the past week, the backlogs have cleared, but restrictions on testing still remain in most parts of Canada. And ... testing will continue to be limited, even in Ontario which has just announced it will soon be able to test 19,000 people a day.... 'Even when we're at 19,000 tests a day we're not going to be able to test everybody and that would be the same in every other jurisdiction,' said Vanessa Allen, chief of medical microbiology at Public Health Ontario, the government agency responsible for provincial labs....

"Media reports on Tuesday [April 7] revealed that Ontario's testing rate was dropping to just over 2,500 per day, but the province said it could run about 13,000. Why isn't Ontario testing more?

"The Ministry of Health had the accounting firm KPMG organize all the labs in the province that are capable of microbial testing. That includes 10 hospital networks, six public health labs and three private lab networks. Added up, they can do 13,000 tests per day, and expect to reach 19,000 in three weeks. But that extra capacity was created suddenly, which means there weren't enough patient samples waiting to be tested, because there are still testing restrictions in place....

"One consequence of the low level of testing across Canada is that no one has a clear idea how big the epidemic is in this country ... said Ashleigh Tuite, an epidemiologist with the University of Toronto. The low rate is frustrating Tuite and other epidemiologists who are trying to create models of the disease, which politicians are using to support their decisions.... Right now, the reliability of the models is affected by the under-reporting of cases. 'Until we have a consistent amount of testing in the population I think it's hard for me to say that I have confidence in those projections,' said Tuite."

Read more:

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Retired doctor's struggle to get a COVID-19 test

Coronavirus: One case lays bare America's testing failure | BBC News - Aleem Maqbool:

March 25, 2020 - "Claudia Bahorik ... a retired physician ... had recently been on a trip to New York with her great niece, and soon after developed a cough and a fever, though it appeared to subside. She carried on as planned, performing jury duty, attending the funeral of a friend and travelling to Washington DC for a medical appointment.

"While she cannot be certain when she got infected, in early March, Dr Bahorik became extremely ill. 'By 9 March I was coughing so hard and I could hardly walk, and at that point I really suspected I had the coronavirus.' So began Dr Bahorik's quest to get tested....
  • 9 March.... Bahorik sees her family doctor who agrees that she should have a coronavirus test. The local health system's protocol requires that he first carry out an influenza test, a test for RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus), a chest X-ray and some laboratory work to rule out other possibilities....
  • 10 March... The doctor informs Claudia that while tests ruled out the other causes, Pennsylvania Department of Health did not give approval for her to get a coronavirus test. She does not meet the criteria of having known exposure to someone who had tested positive for coronavirus, or travelled to a country deemed to be high risk.... 
  • Dr Bahorik calls the Department of Health. Despite exhibiting symptoms, and given her age and previous spells of pneumonia, they were inflexible....
  • [A] nurse suggests she speak to her congressman. She calls the office of Senator Bob Casey, where she is advised to contact the Department of Health.
  • 15 March.... After several terrible days of sickness, Dr Bahorik hears of eight coronavirus testing sites in the neighbouring county ... an hour's drive ... to the test centre in Macungie, Pennsylvania. Once again she is told that because she had not travelled to a high risk country or been in known contact with someone with coronavirus, she cannot have a test.
  • "Having once been a doctor in the US Army Reserve, Dr Bahorik contacts her Veterans Affairs hospital. They later tell her that they do not have Covid-19 testing kits.
  • 17 March.... Bahorik calls back her family doctor. She is told to go to the emergency room at nearby St Joseph's Hospital, where the clinician in charge has given assurances she can get a coronavirus test. At the hospital, she has to do another flu test and RSV test [but] this time, however, ... Dr Bahorik gets a [coronavirus] test.... She is sent home with antibiotics and told to wait 3-5 days for result....
  • 23 March.... Bahorik calls the hospital to be told that the wait for test results is now 10 days because the samples were sent off to laboratories that are currently overwhelmed. She has not responded to the antibiotics, and remains ill....
"'They keep reporting that there are so few cases in my county, but they are not testing,' Dr Bahorik tells me.... Bahorik accepts that a test would do nothing to help her condition, but if she does have coronavirus she could at least definitively tell that to all of those that she came into contact with in the early days.... 'If I was carrying it then I could have infected up to 150 people.... A lot of my friends want to know the result of my test.' But nothing has yet been done to trace where she might have got her infection or to isolate those she came into contact with....

"None of the hospitals or clinics Dr Bahorik visited were prepared to talk about the specifics of her case, but we did hear from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, which had twice denied her a test on the basis she was not eligible. 'We were following established criteria from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention),' says Dr Rachel Levine, the Pennsylvania Health Secretary."

Read more:

Saturday, April 11, 2020

The coronavirus testing failure (video)

How the CDC and the FDA Wrecked the Economy | Reason - Jacob Sullum:

April 8, 2020 - "Public officials across the United States are flying blind against the COVID-19 epidemic. Because of a government-engineered testing fiasco, they do not know how fast the virus is spreading, how many people have been infected by it, how many will die as a result, or how many have developed immunity to it. The failure to implement early and wide testing, which was caused by a combination of short-sightedness, ineptitude, and bureaucratic intransigence, left politicians scrambling to avoid a hospital crisis by imposing broad business closure and stay-at-home orders....

"At first, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) monopolized COVID-19 tests. When the CDC began shipping test kits to state laboratories in early February, they turned out to be defective.

"The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration initially blocked efforts by universities and businesses to develop and conduct tests before relaxing the restrictions ... [and] the CDC set irrationally narrow criteria for testing, which meant that carriers without severe symptoms or obvious risk factors escaped detection.

"The CDC still insists that 'not everyone needs to be tested for COVID-19.' But without testing everyone — or at least representative samples — for both the virus itself and the antibodies to it, we can do little better than guess its prevalence, its lethality, and the extent of immunity among the general public.

"Even now, months after the Wuhan outbreak and the first reported case in the U.S., we have managed to test less than 1 percent of the population, and those tests have been limited mainly to people with symptoms severe enough for them to seek treatment. Since people infected by COVID-19 typically experience mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, that's a real problem....  Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, estimates that 'somewhere between 25 percent and 50 percent' of COVID-19 carriers are asymptomatic. But he cautions that 'right now we are just guessing'....

"Our ignorance about COVID-19 will have profound consequences, potentially leading to an overreaction that wrecks the economy while saving relatively few lives or (less likely, given the current political climate) an underreaction that costs many lives and allows hospitals to be overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases. You can thank the same agencies on which we are relying to guide us through this crisis."

Read more:
'via Blog this'

Also read: Coronavirus testing failure in Canada, too

Friday, April 10, 2020

Ending CDC monopoly = better COVID-19 testing

A Government Monopoly Led to Botched COVID-19 Test Kits, but Private Labs Are Now Saving the Day | Foundation for Economic Education - Ben Johnson:

March 16, 2020 - "The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus a global pandemic. As of Friday afternoon, there are 132,000 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, and the global death toll has topped 5,000 people. The fast-spreading virus claimed 196 lives in Italy, on Tuesday alone....

"As the rampaging virus wields its way around the globe, prevention and early detection are key to limiting its reach.... [But] government regulations needlessly slowed the detection process for weeks. Federal regulations barred any labs outside the federal government from developing a test to diagnose coronavirus. When the CDC sent out its test[s] on February 5, it soon learned many of them were defective. The kits produced false positives. The MIT Technology Review explains: ...
FDA rules initially prevented state and commercial labs from developing their own coronavirus diagnostic tests, even if they could develop coronavirus PCR [Polymerase chain reaction] primers on their own. So when the only available test suddenly turned out to be bunk, no one could actually say what primer sets worked.
"The government reversed course on February 29 and allowed private labs to begin developing their own tests. The results have been spectacular.

"The old tests took two to seven days to process.... Within a matter of days of the government dropping its restriction, the Cleveland Clinic developed a test that delivered results within eight hours. The change is due directly to the 'federal government being responsive by changing those regulations,' said Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, at a press conference on Tuesday. The newly instituted, 'unbelievable waiver system' has increased competition by 'bringing the super-large, high throughput companies into the system'....

"An artificial federal government monopoly on testing produced a faulty kit and slowed progress in detecting and fighting the coronavirus. Socialism is an instituted government monopoly, not just on medicine, but on all economic life. The results are inefficiency, a sterile-sounding word until it means that Americans will lose their lives.

"'The great strength the US has always had, not just in virology, is that we’ve always had a wide variety of people and groups working on any given problem,' Keith Jerome, the head of virology at the University of Washington, told the MIT Technology Review. 'When we decided all coronavirus testing had to be done by a single entity, even one as outstanding as CDC, we basically gave away our greatest strength.'

"The basic economic truth that competition improves results lies at the heart of all human endeavor. The enormity of the coronavirus has driven this truth home in grim and unforgettable ways."

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Lockdown makes ballot petitioning impossible, Illinois 3rd parties tell court

New parties sue over Illinois election rules | Illinois Times - Rebecca Anzel:

April 9, 2020 -  "Social distancing and stay-at-home orders, instituted to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic, are in direct conflict with Illinois’ ballot eligibility requirements, the Libertarian and Green parties of Illinois allege in a lawsuit filed Thursday. Both are considered 'new' parties under state election rules, meaning a candidate running for office under those banners must receive a greater number of in-person petition signatures than those with 'established' parties — typically, the Democrats and Republicans.

"Libertarians and Greens have from March 24 until June 22 to gather enough signatures — in person with a canvasser watching — to qualify for inclusion on the Nov. 3 general election ballot. But party officials allege meeting that threshold will be 'practically impossible' given Gov. JB Pritzker’s social distancing and stay-at-home orders.

"The parties are asking that Illinois’ signature collection mandates be waived or suspended this general election cycle so their candidates may be on the ballot, and also that the state reimburse their attorney’s fees. Pritzker’s office did not respond to separate letters sent from the two parties in mid-March, nor did a spokesperson return a request for comment from Capitol News Illinois.

"The Illinois State Board of Elections, in a letter, said it is unable to assist.... It would take a court order or the General Assembly amending current law to address this concern, an elections board spokesperson said.

"Candidates running as Democrats or Republicans already have a guaranteed spot on the general election ballot. Under statute, the parties were allowed to petition in autumn and candidates were chosen in the March primary election. Those running under the banner of a 'new' party or independent must collect petition signatures in the spring.

"An 'established' party candidate for president ... needs at least 3,000 signatures or more if someone challenges their validity. That same person would need 5,000 signatures to run for U.S. Senate. Independents or those in a 'new' party, including Libertarians and Greens, need at least 25,000 signatures for both positions.....

"The Libertarian and Green parties point to action taken by other states as examples of what Illinois’ government should consider. Voters in Arizona and New Jersey can sign candidates’ petitions electronically and those in Denver, Colorado, and the District of Columbia can use an application called E-Sign, which validates signatures against voter rolls."

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Maine Libertarians trying online convention

Apr 05, 2020 - "The Libertarian Party of Maine will hold an online convention Saturday, April 18, at 11 a.m. EDT [to] ... elect its eight delegates to the national convention ... scheduled for May 21-25 in Austin, Texas....

"Speeches and other announcements will be saved for a later, in-person gathering.... This convention is solely to elect national delegates.

"To run for one of the eight delegate positions, a candidate must be registered to vote in Maine and a dues-paying member of the Libertarian Party of Maine or of the national Libertarian Party.

"To cast vote for delegates, the same criteria apply. Only 50 slots are available for the online meeting, so those wishing to vote must reserve a spot by 6 p.m. Friday, April 17, by contacting the organizers at Once party membership is confirmed, applicants will receive a link to the online convention.

"A special in-person convention is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, June 6, at a site to be determined; it might be held outside.... For more information, email or visit

"The Libertarian Party of Maine has its headquarters at 235 Camden St. in Rockland."

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Lincoln Chafee ends his campaign

Lincoln Chafee Ends Campaign for Libertarian Presidential Nomination | Florida Daily - Kevin Derby:

April 6, 2020 - "Former Rhode Island Gov. and U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee, who held office as a Republican, an independent and a Democrat, ended his bid for the Libertarian presidential nomination over the weekend. Chafee, who started his campaign back in January, bowed out of the race on Sunday.

“I enjoy campaigns. It is rewarding to participate in our electoral process; to exchange ideas with other candidates, to offer to the voters our experiences, visions for the future and open to inspection our past records,' Chafee insisted. 'As a new Libertarian, I entered the race for the nomination for president and have met Libertarians from California to Alabama to New Hampshire. This adventure obviously changed with the frightening coronavirus outbreak even as our campaign made a successful transfer to virtual connections via social media.'

"'However after a tremendous amount of thought, I am no longer going to be a candidate for our Party’s nomination. I look forward to helping other Libertarians seeking office,' Chafee added. 'I share with Libertarians many views but especially our aversion to foreign entanglements. In the eighteen years since I voted against the Iraq war, I have experienced the difficulty of having intelligent discussions on American foreign policy and the use of our military overseas. It is almost a forbidden subject. Others who have tried, such as Ron Paul and recently, Tulsi Gabbard I’m sure would agree. The invasion of Iraq was based on a falsehood, a falsehood supported by so many in government and the media. The ramification of this mistake is with us today as we face the COVID 19 epidemic trillions in unnecessary debt.

“I am still motivated by my personal experiences as an anti-war candidate but accept that the timing is difficult for me as a Libertarian in 2020. Thank you to supporters and volunteers, your energy, passion and smarts added to the joy of campaigning,” he concluded. “Stay safe, best wishes'....

"In 2016, former Gov. Gary Johnson, R-NM, won almost 4.5 million votes and took almost 3.25 percent as the Libertarian presidential candidate. With Chafee now out of the race, the current pack of Libertarian candidates does not include any prominent politicians who won a major elected office though buzz continues that U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, I-Mich., could seek the party’s nomination."