Monday, May 16, 2022

WHO calls China's ZeroCovid policy unsustainable

WHO offers rare criticism for China's steadfast and strict COVID-19 measures | CBC News - Thompson Reuters: 

May 10, 2022 - "The head of the World Health Organization [WHO] said on Tuesday China's zero-tolerance COVID-19 policy is not sustainable given what is known of the disease, in rare public comments by the United Nations agency on a government's handling of the virus. 'We don't think that it is sustainable considering the behaviour of the virus,' WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a media briefing.

"Speaking after Tedros, WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan said the impact of a 'zero-COVID' policy on human rights also needs to be taken into consideration alongside the effect on a country's economy. He also noted that China has registered 15,000 deaths since the virus first emerged in the city of Wuhan in late 2019 — a relatively low number compared with 999,475 in the United States and more than 500,000 in India. With that in mind, it is understandable that one of the world's most populous countries would want to take tough measures to curb coronavirus contagion, Ryan said.

"WHO guidelines have never recommended mass screening of asymptomatic individuals — as is currently happening in China — because of the costs involved and the lack of data on its effectiveness. China's zero-COVID-19 policy has drawn criticism ranging from scientists to its own citizens, leading to a cycle of lockdowns of many millions of people. Under the policy, authorities lock down large population areas to stamp out viral spread in response to any coronavirus outbreak, even if just a small number of people test positive. 

"Shanghai, with a population of 25 million, was enduring its sixth week of a city-wide lockdown. Shanghai's measures have been particularly strict, with residents allowed out of compounds only for exceptional reasons, such as a medical emergency. Many are not even allowed out of their front doors to mingle with neighbours. Its quarantine policy has also been criticized for separating children from parents and putting asymptomatic cases among those with symptoms....

"China has been hampered by the fact its strict pandemic-long approach left the population with little acquired immunity through infection, with the highly transmissible Omicron variants spurring infections. In a contrast to what has been seen in most developed nations, the working age population has had higher rates of vaccination than the generally more vulnerable cohorts of seniors. The approach its taking a heavy toll on the world's second largest economy, with significant knock-on impacts on global trade and supply chains. China's export growth slowed to its weakest in almost two years, data showed on Monday. Unemployment was also near two-year highs."

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WHO chief censored on China’s internet after calling zero-Covid unsustainable | CNN - Nectar Gan

May 11, 2022 - "The criticism from Tedros, who was accused of being too close to China earlier in the pandemic, came just days after Chinese leader Xi Jinping vowed to double down on the policy and 'resolutely struggle' against all critics. The United Nation’s official press account on China’s Twitter-like Weibo posted Tedro’s comments early on Wednesday morning, drawing a wave of sarcastic comments from Chinese users.

“'Resolutely fight against any words and acts that distort, doubt or deny our country’s epidemic prevention and control policies! Down with the World Health Organization!' a top reply said. 'Should the UN’s verified account be blocked this time?' another said. By mid-morning, the post was no longer viewable on Weibo 'due to the author’s privacy setting'.... A Weibo hashtag of Tedros’ name has also been censored, with images featuring his face being scrubbed from the platform, though posts containing his name are still visible.

"On WeChat, an article from the UN’s official account that included Tedros’ comments has been 'banned from sharing due to a violation of relevant laws and regulations' as of Wednesday morning. Video clips of Tedros’ speech have also been removed from the platform.

"Tedros’ comments, though in line with the assessment of most scientists, have also drawn the ire of Beijing.... 'We hope relevant people can view China’s epidemic prevention and control policy in an objective and rational way, learn more about the facts and refrain from making irresponsible remarks,' Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a news briefing Wednesday."

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Sunday, May 15, 2022

Judge allows Alex Berenson suit against Twitter

Twitter loses bid to toss Alex Berenson lawsuit | Politico - Susannah Luthi:

May 5, 2022 - "A federal judge on Friday gave the green light for an independent journalist’s lawsuit against Twitter to proceed — a blow to the social media giant, which had tried to get the case dismissed. But U.S. District Judge William Alsup dismissed the free speech claims made by independent journalist Alex Berenson.... The case won’t challenge Big Tech’s Section 230 shields, but it could still test Twitter’s power to banish users from the site as Elon Musk moves to take over the company following his $44 billion purchase.

"Berenson, a vocal critic of the government’s pandemic response, sued Twitter after the company kicked him off the site for describing Covid vaccines as an advance therapeutic with risky side effects. The complaint got its first preliminary hearing in a San Francisco federal court on Thursday....  Alsup focused his ruling on Berenson’s allegations that the company changed the ground rules on the content Twitter would allow on its platform, despite assurances from an executive that his posts weren’t up for censorship.

"'Collectively, these actions plausibly qualify as a clear and unambiguous promise that Twitter would correctly apply its COVID-19 misinformation policy and try to give advance notice if it suspended plaintiff’s account,' Alsup wrote in his decision. He also noted that “[a]ny ambiguities in a contract like Twitter’s terms of service are interpreted against the drafter, Twitter.'

"However, he deemed that Section 230’s powerful protections are broad enough to shield twitter from Berenson’s other claims — including the complaint that the company violated his First Amendment free speech rights. 'For an internet platform like Twitter, Section 230 precludes liability for removing content and preventing content from being posted that the platform finds would cause its users harm, such as misinformation regarding COVID-19,' Alsup wrote."

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Alex Berenson on substack.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Canada's war on free speech

Canada’s proposed speech and media bills are a buffet of bad ideas | The Hub - Peter Menzies:

May 11, 2022 - "Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government gained fame this winter when protestors opposed to COVID-19 restrictions took over the streets of the nation’s capital.... In response, the Trudeau government used the Emergencies Act — giving it powers designed for wartime — to disperse the protestors. Assertions of a seditious white-supremacist-led insurrection have to date proven unfounded, no weapons were found, and the government is still struggling to explain why it had to take such drastic action. Unrepentant and undeterred, Trudeau and his Heritage Minister, Pablo Rodriguez, are moving forward with a buffet of speech and media legislation.

"The Online Streaming Act [Bill C-11] places the internet under the authority of the Broadcasting Act and Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which is best known for enforcing mandated levels of Canadian content (Cancon) and ensuring that which it governs is 'of good standard.' Rodriguez says the aim is to make streaming companies such as Netflix, Disney Plus, Pornhub, and Amazon Prime pay into funds used to make Canadian films and television programs. But the ... regulator will not only get money for the funds, but it will also be expected to force YouTube et al. to give priority to approved content as well as governing TikTok, podcasts, and social media posts. The impact on consumer freedom, preferred speech, online creators, and what has been a flourishing film and television sector fuelled by foreign investment is expected to be significant.

"Next up is the Online News Act [Bill C-18], which forces American companies such as Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, etc to make payments to Canada’s struggling news industry, which insists it should be compensated for the value its posts add to social media. Facebook and the others believe the value they provide to news organizations (free access to billions of eyeballs) is much greater than any they receive but, regardless, Trudeau’s government is anxious to send revenue the publishers’ way....

"The overreach doesn’t end there: the money comes with catches. Newsrooms wishing to benefit must be approved by a government-appointed panel that assesses applicants’ bona fides and also approves which media may (or in the case of Rebel News who may not) qualify for a tax credit which is not to be confused with another panel that doles out funds to pay reporters on panel-approved beats. (This year, one of those beats involves enhanced coverage of the Trudeau government’s presence in British Columbia)....  

"The Online News Act also makes the CRTC responsible for appointing arbitrators when needed and approving agreements that must detail how newsrooms spend the dollars they obtain.... The chill created by government involvement in newsroom decisions (Canada is going far beyond legislation elsewhere in the world, including Australia) has already been pointed to by experts such as Michael Geist who say op-eds critical of C-18 have been spiked by nervous editors. And, when last checked, only one columnist from media standing to benefit from what critics are calling a shakedown — Andrew Coyne — has published an objection to his industry’s pending subservience. Editorial boards have been unanimous in their approval.

"Meanwhile, a bill amending the definition of hate speech [Bill C-36], an offense within the Criminal Code since 1970, is also underway. The original law set a very high bar, targeting only speech likely to incite a breach of the peace against members of an identifiable group and/or that willfully promotes hatred against the same. Going forward, hate will be further defined as an 'emotion that involves detestation or vilification and that is stronger than dislike or disdain.' More significantly, the new Act will allow for pro-active censorship, albeit with court approval.... It remains unclear precisely what problem the government is addressing with this change, although that may become more obvious within its next piece of legislation.

"Waiting in the wings is the Online Harms bill which is, we are told, needed to deal with terrorism recruitment, unauthorized sharing of intimate images, child pornography, hate speech, and perhaps also the spread of misinformation and disinformation, about which the Prime Minister and cabinet members complain frequently. All of those are already illegal. Nevertheless, Rodriguez’s department initially envisioned creating a new online regulator with powers so extreme they were denounced across the board by civil rights organizations and many others. Twitter, for instance, referred to the government’s desired control over internet speech in the name of public safety as similar to authoritarian regimes such as Iran, North Korea, and China....

"It remains unclear whether these measures will be broadly debated, let alone opposed in the public square. At the moment, the only venue available for Canadians wishing to do either is via the free and open internet where, if Trudeau and Rodriguez have their way, they will soon be communicating only in manners of which their government approves."

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Friday, May 13, 2022

Costa Rica drops Covid mandates for public

Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chaves eliminates mask requirements | Tico Times - Ileana Fernandez:

Costa Rican flag mask. Image:

May 9, 2022 - "Newly elected President Rodrigo Chaves, eliminated the mandatory use of masks for the population, as well as the obligation to be vaccinated against covid-19. In addition, not being vaccinated will no longer be a cause for dismissal in the public sector. The Decree is yet to be published in La Gaceta, but will become effective as soon as it is. 

"The strict use of masks and vaccination is only enforced for front-line public health care workers. For the rest of the population, the use is voluntary, explained President Chaves. 'To the rest of the people, I recommend that they wear a mask on the bus if they feel like it, especially those who have not been vaccinated three or four times.,,, 

Ticos are intelligent people and Ticas even more so. I respect the population, and if a new covid wave comes, we will reevaluate,' Chaves further elaborated.

"The Association of Physicians and Surgeons of Costa Rica, the Association of Pharmacists of Costa Rica and the National Medical Union of Costa Rica, publicly spoke against lifting the mask mandate.

"''Eliminating the obligatory use of masks in enclosed places, as well as vaccination against covid-19, is inopportune,” read the statement issued. 'Costa Rica is on the verge of a fifth wave, so it would have been ideal to wait for its behavior before taking a decision such as the one that has just been communicated', affirmed the president of the Association of Physicians and Surgeons....

"'We express our concern regarding the non-mandatory vaccination, as it was a reasonable and proportional measure, with a valuable which has represented a very valuable contribution in terms of public health, due to the coverage achieved,' said Lidiette Fonseca, president of the Association of Pharmacists.

"The Association of Physicians and Surgeons of Costa Rica, clarified it is respectful of the decisions made by the authorities; however, it urged citizens to voluntarily maintain the use of masks and asked the population to get vaccinated."

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Thursday, May 12, 2022

Pandemic showed need for freedom message, says Libertarian Tisdale

Libertarian candidate hopes to ‘increase freedom’ of York-Simcoe residents | Bradford Today - Rob Paul:

Zachary Tisdale

 May 6, 2022 - "With the provincial election just under a month away and [Ontar]ians set to head to the polls on June 2, Zachary Tisdale is hopeful to offer those in the area a candidate they feel more aligned with politically. Representing the Ontario Libertarian Party, Tisdale believes the key to prosperity in Ontario is through reducing the size and cost of the provincial government.

"Formed in 1975, the party is running on a platform that focus[ses] on the freedom of choice behind party leader Mark Snow. 'It promotes the ideas and the political philosophy of libertarianism, which upholds freedom and liberty as core values that are ideals we should strive for,' said Tisdale. 'That means having individual rights and autonomy over the state, protecting individual rights, standing up for freedoms like speech, freedom of association, and bodily autonomy.'

"It wasn’t always Tisdale’s plan to run in a provincial election, but after seeing what happened throughout the pandemic, he felt it was his obligation to get involved.... 'I’ve always been interested in politics, but throughout the pandemic I saw time and time again, instance after instance of government overreach. They stepped over the line and violated people’s civil liberties, violated property rights, violated bodily autonomy and medical rights. I grew concerned over the increase in censorship through the mainstream media and government by vilifying and silencing any dissenting voices'....

"Tisdale’s platform focuses on both economic and social freedom. 'To me the only way to achieve that is with less government,' he said. 'That means deregulation, striking down unnecessary laws and laws that restrict mobility rights and zoning laws that prevent development. We have a housing supply crisis in the region with housing becoming more and more unaffordable for young people and new arrivals to Canada. The price of housing has gone way up, and I believe it’s fundamentally a lack of supply to meet the demand. A key part of my platform is encouraging development of new housing and reducing red tape to build the infrastructure needed to support the high population growth we’re expected in the region.'

"With economic recovery at the forefront as Ontario works to rebound from the impact of the pandemic, Tisdale says it starts with the issue of inflation.... 'We have an inflationary crisis going on across the country, and particularly in Ontario. We’re looking at generational level highs with inflation, especially the prices of the day-to-day items that we need—food and gas.' To help balance the issue of inflation, Tisdale suggests cutting taxes would do wonders for the wallets of Ontarians.... 'I believe cutting taxes like the provincial sales tax portion of the HST from eight per cent down to five (bring the HST down to 10 per cent), would allow us to give more money back to people and eas[e] the burden. I’d also look at cutting additional punitive taxes that are embedded in various products. I’d fight back against the carbon tax—I see it as a program that will have little impact on reducing climate change — I believe fighting back on some of the consumption taxes on beer and wine, and fighting back on the gas and fuel taxes permanently to give more purchasing power back to the people.'

"Having spent part of his childhood in Bradford, Tisdale wanted to come back to represent the like-minded people of York-Simcoe. 'I grew up in Bradford, it was my hometown and some of my oldest memories are of growing up there going to school and playing hockey,' he said. 'That’s why I felt compelled to run in the area, to stand up for the rights of the residents in the region. I wanted to come back and make a statement to say that there are other ways to approach some of the problems we face....

“'The big establishment parties all kind of have the same idea and approaches to problems,' he said. 'One of the reasons I wanted to represent the Libertarian Party ... to say that there is a different way we can be looking at our issues and different types of solutions that we can bring to the table while promoting that sometimes the government is the problem and creates some of the issues. That’s why it’s important to push the idea of the party and get it out there to inform others of the political philosophy.'

"Learn more about the Ontario Libertarian Party here. Follow Tisdale on social media @ZTisdale."

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Wednesday, May 11, 2022

China trashes economy in pursuit of ZeroCovid

China’s Covid lockdowns are hitting more than just Shanghai and Beijing | CNBC - Evelyn Cheng:

May 5, 2022 - "While the bulk of China’s new Covid cases are in Shanghai and Beijing, data show the impact of business restrictions is more widespread. For one, nearly 60% of European businesses in the country said they were cutting 2022 revenue projections as a result of Covid controls, according to a survey late last month by the EU Chamber of Commerce in China.... Among Chinese businesses, monthly surveys released in the last week showed sentiment among manufacturing and service businesses fell in April to the lowest since the initial shock of the pandemic in February 2020. Official and third-party versions of the survey, known as the purchasing managers’ index, pointed to further contraction in business activity from March....

"Power generation rose in the first two months of the year, but slowed to zero growth in March, according to figures cited by Larry Hu, chief China economist at Macquarie. He expects a drop in power generation in April. In the massive real estate sector, Hu noted that lockdowns also make it 'physically impossible to buy property,' sending sales in the top 30 cities down 54% in April from a year ago.

"On the consumer front, companies like Starbucks are reporting a widespread impact from Covid. In the quarter ended April 3, the coffee giant said 72% of the 225 Chinese cities it operates in experienced omicron outbreaks....  Starbucks’ China chairperson Belinda Wong ... noted that most of the stores still able to operate do so under 'strict safety protocols that interfere with our traffic and operations.' Starbucks said as of Tuesday, a third of its stores remain temporarily closed, or only offer delivery or takeout....

"Since March, mainland China has faced its worst Covid outbreak since early 2020 — using the same zero-Covid strategy.... Manufacturing areas from the northern province of Jilin to the southern city of Shenzhen were among those initially forced to lock down.... Shanghai, China’s largest city, essentially remained locked down for all of April. The capital city of Beijing began tightening travel and business restrictions toward the end the month to control a spike in Covid cases. With China’s two largest cities by GDP under Covid controls for the five-day holiday that ended Wednesday, national tourism revenue for the period only recovered to 64.68 billion yuan ($9.95 billion) — 44% of pre-pandemic levels, official figures showed.

“'During lockdowns, residents only consume daily necessities, so consumption will inevitably slump, not to mention that price could easily triple during city-level lockdowns,' said Yue Su, principal economist at The Economist Intelligence Unit. 'Lack of confidence in the private sector will drag investment and employment, which will take a much longer period of time to restore even if China introduces more stimulus,' she said. China reported better-than-expected first quarter GDP growth of 4.8% from a year ago. But retail sales fell in March, while unemployment in the country’s biggest cities set a new high for the pandemic so far.

"Lockdowns are affecting 'consumers’ ability to reach stores, grocery stores, department stores,” American household products giant Procter & Gamble said in an earnings call last month. 'Even online shopping is significantly constrained due to the inability to deliver.' The company said the market for its products in China didn’t grow in value in the first three months of the year, and that 'with the continued lockdown and difficulties in the market, we would expect April to be flat to negative.'

"While Shanghai’s prolonged lockdown experience could help other cities better organize food and medical services, the EIU’s Su said that local governments with poor finances would find it difficult to maintain the zero-Covid policy without transfers from the central government. This week, among smaller cities tightening Covid controls, the city of Zhengzhou ordered residents to work from home and for schools to move online through the end of Tuesday....  Other than Shanghai, large cities such as Fuzhou, Suzhou, Tianjin, Shenzhen and Xi’an were partially locked down in April....

"Nationwide, about 327.9 million people in more than 40 cities are affected by the latest lockdowns, Nomura’s chief China economist Ting Lu estimated Wednesday. That’s about 31% of China’s GDP, down slightly from last week’s 35.1% share, he said."

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Tuesday, May 10, 2022

40% of Covid deaths among vaccinated: CDC

Covid deaths no longer overwhelmingly among the unvaccinated as toll on elderly grows | Washington Post - Fenit Nirappil and Dan Keating: 

April 29, 2022 - "Unvaccinated people accounted for the overwhelming majority of deaths in the United States throughout much of the coronavirus pandemic. But that has changed in recent months, according to a Washington Post analysis of state and federal data. The pandemic’s toll is no longer falling almost exclusively on those who chose not to or could not get shots, with vaccine protection waning over time and the elderly and immunocompromised — who are at greatest risk of succumbing to covid-19, even if vaccinated — having a harder time dodging increasingly contagious strains.

"The vaccinated made up 42 percent of fatalities in January and February during the highly contagious omicron variant’s surge, compared with 23 percent of the dead in September, the peak of the delta wave, according to nationwide data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed by The Post. The data is based on the date of infection and limited to a sampling of cases in which vaccination status was known.

"As a group, the unvaccinated remain far more vulnerable to the worst consequences of infection — and are far more likely to die. 'It’s still absolutely more dangerous to be unvaccinated than vaccinated,' said Andrew Noymer, a public health professor at the University of California at Irvine who studies covid-19 mortality. 'A pandemic of — and by — the unvaccinated is not correct. People still need to take care in terms of prevention and action if they became symptomatic.'

"A key explanation for the rise in deaths among the vaccinated is that covid-19 fatalities are again concentrated among the elderly. Nearly two-thirds of the people who died during the omicron surge were 75 and older, according to a Post analysis, compared with a third during the delta wave. Seniors are overwhelmingly immunized, but vaccines are less effective and their potency wanes over time in older age groups. Experts say they are not surprised that vaccinated seniors are making up a greater share of the dead.... As more people are infected with the virus, the more people it will kill, including a greater number who are vaccinated but among the most vulnerable.

"The bulk of vaccinated deaths are among people who did not get a booster shot, according to state data provided to The Post. In two of the states, California and Mississippi, three-quarters of the vaccinated senior citizens who died in January and February did not have booster doses. Regulators in recent weeks have authorized second booster doses for people over the age of 50, but administration of first booster doses has stagnated.

"Even though the death rates for the vaccinated elderly and immunocompromised are low, their losses numbered in the thousands.... But experts say the rising number of vaccinated people dying should not cause panic in those who got shots, the vast majority of whom will survive infections. Instead, they say, these deaths serve as a reminder that vaccines are not foolproof and that those in high-risk groups should consider getting boosted and taking extra precautions during surges....

"Hospitals, particularly in highly vaccinated areas, have also seen a shift from covid wards filled predominantly with the unvaccinated. Many who end up in the hospital have other conditions that weakens the shield afforded by the vaccine. Vaccinated people made up slightly less than half the patients in the intensive care units of Kaiser Permanente’s Northern California hospital system in December and January, according to a spokesman. Gregory Marelich, chair of critical care for the 21 hospitals in that system, said most of the vaccinated and boosted people he saw in ICUs were immunosuppressed, usually after organ transplants or because of medications for diseases such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. 'I’ve cared for patients who are vaccinated and immunosuppressed and are in disbelief when they come down with covid,' Marelich said."

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Read study:

Monday, May 9, 2022

Bill C11 lets gov't regulate content YouTube warns

YouTube says bill could cover user-generated content, despite minister's assurances | CP24 - Marie Woolf, Canadian Press:

May 4, 2022 - "YouTube has warned that cooking videos made in people's kitchens and other home videos could be regulated by an online streaming law, despite assurances from the heritage minister that this will not happen. Speaking publicly for the first time about Bill C-11, Jeanette Patell, head of government affairs at YouTube Canada, ... told the National Culture Summit in Ottawa that the bill's text appears to contradict Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez's public assurances that it does not cover amateur content.... 

"The online streaming bill, known in Parliament as Bill C-11, contains a clause excluding from regulation videos uploaded by a user for other users to watch. It is followed by qualifying clauses saying the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission can make regulations relating to 'programs,' which YouTube claims would give the regulator the discretion and scope to oversee a wide range of content, including home videos.

"Patell told the summit that if the government wants an 'option in the future' to regulate YouTube users' videos, 'that's a conversation we need to have.... It's incumbent on us to have clarity in the law,' she told the summit. Patell indicated that YouTube accepts that full-length professional music videos should fall within the bill's scope, but she said she wants the legal text of the bill to explicitly reflect the minister's insistence that amateur videos will be exempt.

"In February, when the bill was unveiled, Rodriguez said 'cat videos' or social-media 'influencers' would not be covered by it. A spokeswoman for the minister said the government has been very clear that user-generated content does not come within the scope of the bill and the text reflects that. 'We have been extremely clear.... Users and creators will not be regulated. Platforms are in, user-generated content is out,' said Laura Scaffidi.

"The bill would make online streaming platforms, such as Netflix, Spotify and YouTube, promote a certain amount of Canadian content and contribute financially to the Canadian cultural sector. It also gives the CRTC wider powers over digital platforms, so they are regulated along with traditional broadcasters.

"Patell said in an interview that the bill 'provides the CRTC the discretion to regulate user-generated content like a fan doing a cover song or someone making cooking videos in their kitchen or doing how-to-fix-a-bike videos.'"

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Sunday, May 8, 2022

Covid in New Zealand (1): Why ZeroCovid failed

The Glorious Flop of New Zealand Virus Control | Brownstone Institute - Ian Miller:

February 26, 2022 - "An infuriatingly consistent aspect of the mainstream media’s COVID coverage was their determination to prematurely credit a country with a wildly successful set of policy interventions. While there has been no track record of universally accurate predictions or expectations, the desire to claim victory as far back as spring 2020 has led to subsequent embarrassments as trends change. 

"Naturally, New Zealand is no stranger to such untimely praise, with the BBC in July 2020 doing an in-depth look at how New Zealand became 'COVID free.' Of course, it was because New Zealand 'locked down early and aimed for elimination' and achieved 'effective communication and public compliance.'

"This is really the whole problem in a nutshell, isn’t it? Assuming that elimination was possible through effective communication, compliance and early lockdowns ignores the inevitably that COVID will eventually spread throughout the population, whenever you 'open up.' Elimination of COVID throughout the world is and always was impossible, and [the] assertion that COVID could be 'eliminated in certain countries' was inane and virtually impossible.

"So how successful has New Zealand been in eliminating COVID in the long term through effective communication, public compliance and early lockdowns? Well. The numbers speak for themselves. When the BBC wrote the article explaining New Zealand’s remarkable success in eliminating the virus, they were averaging 1.5 cases each day. It’s now 2,918 cases each day.... No matter what policy interventions they’ve added, no matter how many early lockdowns they’ve tried, COVID has not been eliminated.

"New Zealand’s amazing tracking and tracing system allowed them to identify transmission that could have only occurred via aerosols.... And recall how all of the pre-pandemic guidance on masking suggested that masks could not stop aerosols? Did that stop New Zealand from using mask mandates to try and continue their elimination goals? Of course not! The following are the currently enforced rules on face masks in New Zealand:  

  • As a general rule, you should wear a face mask whenever you are indoors. The exceptions are at your home or your place of work if it is not public facing. Your employer may encourage you to wear a face mask even if your job is not public facing.
  • When it is hard to physically distance from people you do not know, we encourage you to wear a face mask.
  • Everyone must wear a mask that is attached to the face by loops around the ears or head. This means people can no longer use scarves, bandannas or t-shirts as face coverings.

"We know New Zealanders are complying because the BBC assured us that their success was due to population compliance, but the survey data backs that up as well: Mask wearing has been consistently high since the mandate came into effect in August, yet cases have exploded anyway.

"None of it has mattered. And this isn’t an insignificant increase. New Zealand’s now [as of February - gd] reporting more new cases adjusted for population than the United States, and identical numbers to the United Kingdom....

"[O]ver 88% of the population had received at least one vaccination dose in New Zealand by February 15th. The numbers are even more impressive when considering only those over 12 years of age..... 94% are fully vaccinated: Nearly 2.3 million people over 12 have been given boosters, roughly 53% of that entire population. Clearly those incredible rates of uptake must have been enough.... 

"Whenever you reference the dramatic failure of Australia or New Zealand to maintain 'zero COVID' lockdowns and 'elimination' strategies, adherents to the cult of inaccurate expertise will respond by claiming their goal was only to eliminate cases until widespread vaccination. By allowing for vaccines to blunt the impact of cases, these countries would prevent surges in hospitalizations. But ... Hospitalizations have risen dramatically since January and continue to rise significantly each day. News reports from New Zealand sound like those from any generic location in the US where local doctors report concerns of hospitals being overwhelmed:

"Authorities anticipate Omicron will become the predominant Covid-19 variant in New Zealand within just two to four weeks of it being introduced into the community – and hospitals are bracing to be 'swamped'. Dr John Bonning, a frontline emergency department doctor and immediate past president of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, said EDs were already under 'enormous duress'.

"So their elimination strategy did not prevent a dramatic increase in cases, nor a concerning, overwhelming surge of hospitalizations. And deaths, while thankfully still low, have increased in recent months as well:

"New Zealand’s supposed 'elimination' through their zero COVID policy has completely collapsed. Mask mandates, as their own research indicated, have not prevented surges. Elimination until vaccination has not prevented surges. Zero COVID has been an unmitigated failure, as any rational person would have known and suggested as far back as summer 2020.

"They’ve maintained an unearned sense of superiority, exemplified in this quote from the BBC’s story:

[one of New Zealand's top epidemiologists, Prof Michael Baker] says it is “a bit of a puzzle for us at a distance to understand why” with the UK’s extensive scientific expertise and health care, “you haven’t looked at the evidence and worked out a pattern like New Zealand’s”.

"That undeserved attitude can no longer be maintained. The policies that never had the slightest possibility of long term success, the policies that Fauci claimed could be successful in 'certain countries,' have turned into yet another example of the delusions of hubris.

"While many areas are lifting mandates, they’re doing so without acknowledging the underlying flaws in their strategy. Iceland’s health ministry summed up the inescapable reality of COVID while announcing an end to all restrictions:

“Widespread societal resistance to COVID-19 is the main route out of the epidemic,” the ministry said in a statement, citing infectious disease authorities. “To achieve this, as many people as possible need to be infected with the virus as the vaccines are not enough, even though they provide good protection against serious illness,” it added.

"Until they understand and accept those sentiments, there will always be excuses for politicians and public health officials to bring back their prized, ineffectual interventions. 

"New Zealand is the latest in a long list of countries to be hailed as showing the world the 'right' way to prevent surges; to keep COVID under control. But as with masks, vaccine passports and 'early' lockdowns, zero COVID never had a chance of working — despite the endless media and expert praise."

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Covid in New Zealand (2): The mandate era

New Zealand Used Selective Science and Force to Drive High Vaccination Rates | Brownstone Institute - J.R. Bruning:

April 26, 2022 - "[O]ver the last two years New Zealand’s Ardern government has designed policy, regulation, and information to coercively steward citizens to accept a drug under provisional consent.... policy endpoints required population-level uptake of novel technology, no matter whether the individual was at risk or not. In addition, data production was contracted by the department intent on a 90% vaccination rate. For decades governments have promoted ‘evidence-based science’ as the gold standard for public reasoning and risk deliberation. What we saw was internally produced and contracted science that focused on case rates, while (inconvenient) information in the published scientific literature on vaccine risk, waning and breakthrough was ignored. 

"This produced a tightly controlled scope of knowledge production that then failed to adhere to long-established democratic and public health principles. Responsible risk governance requires that governments must be responsive to data that indicates a technology is not as effective or is possibly more harmful than estimated, – for a democratic government’s primary role is the protection and safety of all citizens. Technology must not be valorized, and uncertainty set aside, in order to achieve policy ends.... 

"Even though the clinical trials did not demonstrate that the vaccine prevented transmission and infection, the Government promoted ‘the jab’ as a way to protect families in the Unite Against Covid-19 campaign. Persistent reporting of case rates fostered a perpetual state of fear and uncertainty among the population, who perceived infection from the SARS-CoV-2 virus to be something more like Ebola. 

"The Ardern government’s intention for the entire population to get the mRNA vaccine was declared through the signing of a supply agreement. This intention was then embedded in policy and regulation via the Traffic Light system, designed to nudge the population over 12 into compliance. It was known by July 2021 that the vaccine waned and was leaky. Breakthrough infections were relatively common and for many. The clinical trials remain incomplete, lacking long-term safety data. The trials did not demonstrate that the vaccine prevented hospitalization and death. However, in April 2022 in New Zealand, mandatory vaccinations remain compulsory for border workers, and workers in health and disability; corrections; defence; Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) and Police. These professions must be vaccinated and have received a booster vaccination against COVID-19.... 

"Kiwis ‘must wear a face mask’ in retail businesses, on shared and public transport, in government facilities and when visiting a healthcare service. This is despite the fact that Omicron ripped through New Zealand in February. In the first week back at school and university after the summer holidays –the obedient mask-wearing young friends of my kids, including my son, from Otago and Canterbury down on the South Island up to the capital Wellington and Auckland – were locked down with Omicron in their first weeks back at university. No evaluation of Omicron and mask efficacy has been provided by the state.

"Government policy processes have persistently excluded uncomfortable knowledge that suggested uncertainty or risk. 

  • First, the policy accompanying and justifying Covid-19 legislation and Orders, and modelling by the contracted institution Te Pūnaha Matatini (TPM) contained narrow reasoning central to the state’s claims, locking in the narrative that infection was the predicator of risk, modelling wave after wave of infection. 
  • Second, policy supporting the legislation excluded consideration of age-stratified risk and failed to address common principles of infectious disease management embedded in the New Zealand Health Act. 
  • Third, reviews of the scientific literature that could publicly identify and communicate risk relating to vaccine-related harm and issues relating to efficacy simply never occurred.... 

"The Government’s Covid-19 Unite campaign failed to communicate age-stratified risk of hospitalization and death as the pandemic evolved. New evidence on infection fatality rates were not reported to the public. In modelling papers, TPM used old infection fatality rate statistics that overestimated death rates. 

"The potential for the vaccine to wane or for breakthrough infection to occur was ignored in a major policy paper focussed on elimination and by the modellers at TPM. The role of natural infection in producing a broader, and protective structural response, assisting populations to shift to herd immunity status was downplayed. While herd immunity was recognized, testing and data modelling was undertaken to identify naturally derived herd immunity in the population. Later modelling exclusively associated herd immunity with vaccination.

"Perhaps the problems addressed here are not surprising, when most modelling was undertaken outside of New Zealand’s public health institutions. Instead, number-crunching was carried out by data analysts, mathematicians affiliated with TPM, with scarce few infectious disease epidemiologists trained in public health ethics participating. And of course, the science and data modelling were directly funded by the government departments and Ministries dedicated to over 90% vaccine compliance. 

"Global vaccination policies ignored the fact that infection-related risk always centered on the aged and infirm and those with complex multimorbid conditions. Disconcertingly, the clinical trial data had conceded that vaccine efficacy remained uncertain for the most at-risk of harm from Covid-19 – the immunocompromised, autoimmune and people who were frail, and those with inflammatory conditions.... In addition, as coronaviruses readily mutate, it was highly probable the vaccine would have a short shelf life....

"There was always a role for safe, established drugs with a long history of safe use that had undergone complete testing before launching onto the market. Early treatments could have been integrated as a major tool to prevent hospitalisation and death. Early treatments avoid the dilemma of mutating variants while acting to protect at-risk groups whose immune systems might not be as responsive to a vaccine. Conventionally doctors are at liberty to repurpose drugs for their patients, such as antivirals with a long history of safe use. However, in July 2021, the government locked in approved drugs for treatment. 

"From at least October, New Zealand doctors were instructed to ‘not use any other antiviral outside of a clinical trial’ while Medsafe warned against use of the safe antiviral Ivermectin for a respiratory virus.... These directives have fractured the practice of informed consent, which forms the basis of trust in the doctor-patient relationships. Even the New Zealand Medical Council, the organisation that grants licences to practice medicine, declared that there was ‘no place for anti-vaccination messages in professional practice.’ These actions may unwittingly undermine trust in vaccines and the doctor-patient relationship for years to come. The implications of silencing doctors, some who have had their medical licenses suspended, when observed alongside the above-mentioned data gaps, are extraordinary. 

"Ethical questions continue to be sidelined. The principle of proportionality, embedded in the 1956 Health Act, has been effectively dropped. Proportionality, which allows for individual risk, is a core consideration in public health. Medicine is a technology, and the space where biology meets technology – including medicine – is never constant, and requires value-based judgement. Risk management of a medical intervention for a pregnant woman, young person or child requires significantly different deliberation to a 75-year-old. 

"Since January 2020, a tsunami of rights-limiting has been rolled out purposefully and consistently. There was scant citizen consultation with public input limited to a few short days in most cases. The unprecedented barrage of rules and orders released by the Ardern government entrenched requirements for almost everybody to get the mRNA vaccine. 

"By mid-2021 – before most mandates – the scientific literature was revealing that the vaccine waned; that breakthrough infection occurred and that there was extensive evidence that it produced a wide range of side effects, and even death. This knowledge should have invalidated any workforce vaccine mandate, but instead by October, the state doubled down and locked in mandates and regulations that would legally and socially coerce most of the population over 12 into accepting the shot. 

"It’s probable that the mountain of legislation produced over the last two years never fulfilled democratic norms of accountability and transparency. For science in a pandemic to be harnessed to serve the public interest, the institutions that set those terms of reference must be guided by principles that protect health. The failure of government agencies to draw on peer-reviewed scientific literature while prioritizing internal modelling is clear from tracking the literature stored online with the relevant agencies. Most compellingly, it is documented in the policy supplied in support of the unprecedented quantity of law-making. 

"It appears that from late 2019, institutional interests anticipated that there would be hesitancy around vaccine safety. Yet there was no public forum. Instead, groups who sought to question the safety of the novel mRNA vaccine remained outside ‘accredited’ media, possibly due to the chilling effect of unprecedented Covid-19 funding and advertising boosts which effectively captured mainstream media. 

"That the New Zealand state mandated not-at-risk people accept a novel technology, creating rules (as nudge policies) that limited economic and social life for the non-vaccinated when there was early evidence the vaccine was leaky and potentially harmful, will take years to unpick. As mandates continue, injured groups continue to face barriers to justice following vaccine injury and death. Ultimately, practices such as this raise nagging doubts concerning the state’s capacity to honor broader obligations to protect health and the public interest in future emergency situations. New Zealand’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic serves as a case study – a precedent, for future health emergencies."

Read more:

A deeper dive on this discussion can be found in the paper, Covid-19 Emergency Powers and on Rumble.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Libertarians step up to run in Ontario election

Eric Cummings 

Eric Cummings is running for the Libertarian Party | Timmins Today:

May 2, 2022 - "Temiskaming Shores resident Eric Cummings has announced his candidacy for the upcoming provincial election as a candidate for the Ontario Libertarian Party in the Timiskaming-Cochrane riding. Cummings grew up in the Temagami area and has an education background in natural resource management and work experience in both the public and private sectors.

"He ... is an advocate for conservation and has sat on the Fisheries Management Zone 11 Committee and has been a long-time member/supporter of Ducks Unlimited Canada. In a news release he says he 'is adherent to the principles of the Ontario Libertarian Party, individual freedom, personal responsibility, respect, and fairness.'"
Read more:

Ontario election officially on | Brantford Expositor - Michelle Ruby:

May 4, 2022 - "It’s election time in Ontario and races in Brantford-Brant and surrounding ridings are underway. In Brantford-Brant, six candidates are registered so far for the June 2 election, attempting to unseat incumbent Progressive Conservative Will Bouma, who is seeking his second term as MPP. They are Liberal Ruby Toor, Harvey Bischof for the NDP, Karleigh Csordas for the Green Party, Tad Brudzinski for the New Blue Party of Ontario and Libertarian Rob Ferguson.... 

"Ferguson served as the interim Libertarian party leader in 2019. He has been a candidate municipally, provincially and federally. In 2019, he withdrew from both the federal election and the leadership race for the Ontario Libertarian Party due to health reasons."
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Gventer seeks NDP nomination ahead of provincial election | Owen Sound Sun Times - Postmedia News:

May 3, 2022 - "Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound’s runner-up in 2018 ... Karen Gventer is seeking the local NDP nomination ahead of the 2022 Ontario general election.... If successful in the nomination bid, Gventer will join a field that includes Grey County Warden Selwyn Hicks, who is running for the Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound Liberals. Rick Byers has been appointed by Ontario Premier Doug Ford as the Progressive Conservative candidate. Grey Highlands Coun. Danielle Valiquette is running for the Green Party, paralegal Suzanne Coles will represent the Ontario Party, while Great Lakes freighter engineer Dan Little runs for the Ontario Libertarian Party and Vince Grimaldi has entered the race for the New Blue Party of Ontario."
Read more:

Provincial election: Who are the candidates? |

May 5, 2022 - "With the Ontario Legislature dissolving yesterday, it’s official provincial election season in Ontario between now and voters hitting up polling stations on June 2. That is, in addition to the 10 days of advance voting that have been allowed this election season. Although candidates have until 2 p.m. on May 12 to file their nomination paperwork, the following are Greater Sudbury’s candidates as of today.... 

Ontario Libertarian Party – Adrien Berthier....

"The Ontario Libertarian Party follows the libertarian mindset of independence from government and 'challenges the right of government to restrict trade in any way, or to force citizens to support through taxes projects they will not willingly support on the free market,' according to their website."
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Ontario Election Roundup: Who will represent ridings across Simcoe Muskoka | CTV News - Kim Phillips:

May 5, 2022 - "Campaigning is underway for the June 2 provincial election, with several familiar faces vying for a seat at Queen's Park....Here's a look at the candidates in Simcoe Muskoka and surrounding areas....

Zachary Tisdale - Libertarian."
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Thursday, May 5, 2022

Homeland Security sets sights on "disinformation"

New DHS Board Seeks To Counter What It Thinks Is Disinformation | Reason - Joe Lancaster:

April 29, 2022 - "The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Wednesday that it had formed a new board meant to counter disinformation. According to the Associated Press, the so-called Disinformation Governance Board will focus, in part, on Russian disinformation campaigns. The board will be headed by Nina Jankowicz, a Wilson Center fellow who studies disinformation and technology.... Jankowicz has advocated for an anti-disinformation agency in testimony before the House's Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Regarding social media companies, she said that she 'would like to empower a new oversight body to make sure that there is transparency and that the platforms are doing their due diligence by their users.'

"But a government entity tasked with policing incorrect information online is both unlikely to succeed and also a potential threat to free speech.... Russian-affiliated entities did engage in influence campaigns targeting the 2016 presidential election. (The actual effectiveness of these efforts is far from certain.) But many politicians and pundits in the years since have painted their ideological opponents as Russian agents spreading Kremlin propaganda. Some, including sitting senators, have referred to contrarian takes on Russian actions as 'treasonous.' Even without a dedicated government entity, some politicians still tend to overprescribe the 'Russian disinformation' label.

"And there is reason to question Jankowicz's appointment. After being announced as the head of the new board, some of her past tweets resurfaced regarding her promotion of the idea that the story of Hunter Biden's laptop in October 2020 was a product of a Russian disinformation campaign. Indeed, at the time, Jankowicz referred to the official story—that then-candidate Joe Biden's son abandoned his laptop at a Delaware repair shop—as a 'fairly [sic] tale.'

"In fairness, there was plenty in that story to be suspicious about.... But despite the far-fetched details, The New York Times reported last month that the laptop's contents had been authenticated. And that is exactly why the idea of a 'disinformation' agency is so alarming: Multiple times, social media companies have responded to both public and political pressure to constrain users from sharing false stories that, with time, turned out to be either completely or partially true....

"On Thursday, Sen. Rob Portman (R–Ohio) issued a statement that he was 'deeply concerned' about the board: 'I do not believe that the United States government should turn the tools that we have used to assist our allies counter foreign adversaries onto the American people. Our focus should be on bad actors like Russia and China, not our own citizens.'

"On Wednesday, in announcing herself as the board's executive director, Jankowicz tweeted that she will seek 'to maintain the Dept's committment [sic] to protecting free speech, privacy, civil rights, & civil liberties.' But earlier this month, in an interview with NPR promoting her recent book on online harassment, Jankowicz told host Michel Martin, 'I shudder to think about if free speech absolutists were taking over more platforms, what that would look like for the marginalized communities all around the world… We need the platforms to do more, and we frankly need law enforcement and our legislatures to do more as well. And in other countries that are looking at this, you know, the U.K. has an online safety bill that's being considered right now where they're trying to make illegal this currently, quote, "awful but lawful content" that exists online where people are being harassed.'

"While a free and open internet may certainly facilitate abuse, it also represents one of the best ways for marginalized communities to offer and receive support. And it is not clear what she means by 'free speech absolutists,' but it is chilling that she then advocates for legislation to constrict speech that, while distasteful, is protected by the First Amendment. If Democrats lose the White House in 2024, it is not difficult to imagine a President Trump, President DeSantis, or President Haley getting to appoint his or her own Disinformation Governance Board, tasked with pressuring social media platforms to disallow information embarrassing to the administration.

"No government body should have the ability to determine what is and is not the truth, much less one headed by someone so hostile to free and unfettered speech."

Read more:

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Disinfectant mania lives on in China

China is obsessed with disinfection against Covid. But is it causing more harm than good? | CNN - Simone McCarthy:

May 2, 2022 - "Hazmat suit-clad workers spraying clouds of disinfectant over city streets, building fronts, park benches and even parcels have become a common sight in pandemic-era China. In Shanghai, the epicenter of the country’s largest outbreak, state media report that thousands of workers have been organized into teams to disinfect areas.... Seemingly any outdoor area is at risk of being targeted by workers wielding leaf-blower-style disinfectant machines, as China’s rigorous 'zero-Covid' policy drives an obsession with sanitizing everything. In Shanghai, fire fighters have been plucked from their duties to take up roles as disinfectors, a local youth league has recruited volunteers for disinfection squads, and emergency rescue teams from far-flung parts of China have been enlisted in the drive – often strapping on heavy equipment and full hazmat.

"In some Shanghai neighborhoods, special chemical producing stations have been set up, while in others vehicles have been outfitted with chemical tanks and cannon-like devices to shoot disinfectant onto the streets, according to local media. Disinfection robots have been stationed at railway stations, and have been set up to patrol some quarantine centers. But these efforts – and others, like the insistence that workers wear hazmat suits and the blaring, recorded messages playing on loop reminding people of how to prevent the disease – may be a waste of time, effort and resources. Experts say transmission of the virus via contaminated surfaces is exceptionally low – and that sanitizing outdoor areas such as parks and city streets is largely pointless and worse still, could even pose a danger to public health.

"'The robots and street-spraying are performative acts designed to bolster public trust in government actions,' said Nicholas Thomas, an associate professor at City University of Hong Kong, who pointed to how Chinese authorities have long cited environmental contamination as part of their rhetoric that the virus may not have originated in China. 'It is a problem when politics dominates and diverges from the science of the pandemic response – more and more effort has to be placed on bolstering the politics through acts that do not necessarily increase the bio-safety of the affected populations to the same degree as the effort it requires to undertake them,' he said....

"In a science brief last year, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said scientific studies suggest that each contact with a surface contaminated with Covid-19 has less than a 1 in 10,000 chance of causing an infection. Such research has prompted many to view an overt focus on disinfection as 'hygiene theater'.... According to Emanuel Goldman, a professor of microbiology at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School[:] '(It’s) highly unlikely that any cases result from touching contaminated surfaces. The virus dies quickly outside an infected person … and transfers very inefficiently by fingers.... Hand washing with soap, or alcohol hand wipes, is all you need to get the incidence down to zero'....

"[C]oncerns about contaminated surfaces date back to the early months of the pandemic, especially after Chinese officials said an outbreak at a market in Beijing likely began due to a worker being infected from handling imported, frozen salmon contaminated with virus.... This has lead to a raft of measures ... like testing the surfaces of imports for traces of virus and mass disinfection of frozen goods from overseas, while some cities have rolled out various orders to disinfect international mail and parcels.... And as Beijing has sought to reframe the narrative around the origin of the coronavirus, first detected in China, officials have pitched a theory that the virus could have been imported on frozen goods in the first place – a hypothesis broadly dismissed by international experts....

"In places like Shanghai, where resources are already stretched thin as the city struggles through a weeks-long lockdown, deploying volunteers and workers for disinfection purposes may put the focus on the wrong risk.... There can also be downsides to such work, according to Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School’s Goldman, who says that people can be harmed by exposure to harsh disinfection.... Earlier in the pandemic, a group of Chinese scientists warned in a letter to the journal Science that the over-use of chlorine disinfectants runs the risk of polluting water and even putting ecosystems in nearby lakes and rivers at risk. 

"There are signs of similar concerns from Shanghai authorities, even as they press on with disinfection measures. Late last month, officials put out recommendations for residents on how to disinfect, urging them against 'spraying disinfectants directly on people,' using 'can[n]on trucks” and drones, or disinfecting outdoor air.'These practices are essentially ineffective, and can cause health hazards and environmental pollution,” a Shanghai official said."

Read more:

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Austria and Italy end most Covid restrictions

Austria’s Capital to Lift Vaccination & Recovery Certificate Requirement for Access to Public Places | Schwengen Visa Info:

April 15, 2022 - "The Austrian authorities have announced that the capital of the country, Vienna, will no longer apply COVID-19 restrictions starting from April 16. Vienna was the only Austrian region to keep in place the vaccination and recovery certificate requirement, as the other parts of the country already dropped them on March 5, reports. Speaking at a press conference, the city councillor Peter Hacker said that the authorities have decided to go along with the steps that have been taken throughout the whole country. This means that from tomorrow, citizens of Vienna, as well as visitors, will no longer be required to present a valid vaccination or recovery certificate when attending bars, restaurants, museums, theatres, and other public places and events.

"In addition, it has been revealed that the mask requirement will also be dropped tomorrow for the majority of places. However, Hacker emphasised that the requirement will still remain in place for those who wish to enter healthcare institutions, essential shops, and public transport."

"Despite facilitating its domestic restrictions, Austria still keeps in place its entry rules. The Austrian authorities explain that all travellers, regardless of their country of origin, need to present a valid vaccination, recovery, or test certificate in order to be permitted restriction-free entry."
Read more:

Image courtesy ETIAS

Italy bids farewell to covid Green Pass | Wanted in Rome:

Apr 30, 2022 "The Italian government is to drop practically all requirements for the Green Pass - the digital certificate proving the holder has been vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from covid - with effect from Sunday 1 May. The lifting of these restrictions also includes those relating to the so-called Super Green Pass which can only be obtained by those who have been vaccinated or recovered from covid. The Super Green Pass system will however remain in force until 31 December for those visiting hospitals and nursing homes, as well as for healthcare workers and employees of care homes.

"When it was first introduced last June, a few weeks before the EU digital covid certificate, the Green Pass was designed primarily to allow people to attend large events, such as weddings, or to visit nursing homes. However its scope was expanded progressively by the Italian government, steered by health minister Roberto Speranza and prime minister Mario Draghi. .... Over recent weeks however the Green Pass system has been gradually wound down following the expiry of Italy's covid state of emergency - after more than two years - at the end of March.

"Also from 1 May the obligation to wear masks will no longer apply in restaurants, bars, shops, supermarkets and museums. [U]ntil 15 June masks will continue to be required on all forms of public transport, in hospitals and nursing homes, in cinemas and theatres, at concerts and indoor sporting events, and in schools and universities."
Read more:

Monday, May 2, 2022

Progressive panic over Musk's Twitter purchase

Elon Musk Buys Twitter, Twitter's Biggest Egos Melt Down | Reason - Liz Wolfe:  

April 25, 2022 - "SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk [has] arranged $46.5 billion in financing to follow through on his unsolicited offer to Twitter's board to buy the social media site from them. This afternoon, the board accepted Musk's offer to buy the company for $54.20 a share. Long a Twitter power user/troll/loudmouth, Musk bought a 9.2 percent stake in the company last month, becoming the largest shareholder, before deciding he'd rather have the whole thing.

"Cue hysteria! Musk haters have taken to the site to declare that Donald Trump will now probably win the 2024 election, that Musk's bid is really about white power, that Section 230 must be reformed, and that, yes, Musk's new policies will be lethal."
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Amid Twitter's Musk meltdown, Mark Hamill pledges to stay on 'no matter who owns it' | Yahoo News -  Christie D'Zurilla, LA Times:

April 26, 2022 - "When word exploded online Monday that Elon Musk had struck a deal to buy Twitter for $44 billion ... many users announced they were leaving the social platform. Star Wars" luminary Mark Hamill was not among them. 'No matter who owns it, no matter who's on it, I'm staying to engage with you ...' the actor wrote Monday afternoon. Soon after, Hamill tweeted, "Weird. I just lost more than 8,000 followers in the last couple of hours. Was it something I said?' Same. Was just wondering the same thing," replied actor Josh Gad.... Commentator Keith Olbermann chimed in, 'I'm down about the same (proportionately) — around 1800'... Gary Whitta, a screenwriter with a "story by" credit on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," replied, 'Happening to many. Prevailing theory is that it’s people canceling their accounts following the Musk buyout'....

"'Ah he got twitter,' actor Jameela Jamil tweeted Monday. 'I would like this to be my what lies here as my last tweet'.... Bette Midler tweeted Tuesday, '"'Free (hate) speech is the (destruction) of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of (pedophilia, racism, & facism) humanity are promoted,' Mr. Musk said in a statement announcing the deal." There. I fixed it.'

"Actor-activist Alyssa Milano let others speak for her, retweeting people who argued that social media platforms should be 'owned and operated as public utilities' and warned that billionaire ownership in key industries was 'what oligarchy looks like.' By Tuesday morning, the #LeavingTwitter hashtag had been hijacked by people who found it amusing that Musk's move had people pledging to leave the platform."
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The Left’s Twitter meltdown proves Elon Musk’s point | The Telegraph - Madeline Grant: 

April 27, 2022 - "Over the years, linguistic hyperinflation has enveloped virtually every aspect of the online world, with Twitter at the forefront. Words like 'fascist' and 'racist' have been overused to the point of meaninglessness. Rather than being a worthy concept in itself, 'free speech' is sometimes represented as little more than a sinister pretext to engage in 'hate speech'. Perhaps because the two definitions are often used interchangeably, Elon Musk – a free speech 'absolutist' who made his fortune in electric cars, and donated a chunk of it to Obama’s re-election campaign – is often, absurdly, described as a 'far-Right' figure.

"Twitter also favours explosive over-reaction, one reason for the deranged response to the announcement of Musk’s takeover – as if this were digital armageddon, the end of the world as we know it.... Amnesty International deplored the move from its official account, tweeting 'Two words: toxic Twitter'.... Vivian Schiller, Twitter’s former head of global news, treated listeners of the Today programme to a dystopian vision of the platform’s future, describing her 'existential dread' at the takeover....

“'I fear this free speech bid is going to help this hell platform reach its final form of totally lawless hate, bigotry, and misogyny', lamented actress Jameela Jamil in a valedictory tweet.... 'Freedom of speech is vital, but free speech does not mean a free pass for hatred', said [London mayor] Sadiq Khan. President Biden’s team are reportedly worried that Donald Trump might be readmitted and will use his beefed-up Twitter following to secure the next election....

"Perhaps the most hilarious reaction is from those who piously characterise Twitter as some sort of noble public square when in reality it is a character-limited social media platform, where petty one-upmanship and unsolicited intimate pictures abound.... On occasion, Twitter stifles free speech – de-platforming Trump, yet allowing Taliban leaders to tweet, for example. During the pandemic, social media moderators often used their powers to silence particular viewpoints. On Facebook especially, proponents of the Covid lab leak theory were, for some time, labelled spreaders of “misinformation” until the US Government acknowledged the evidence in their favour. Shouldn’t we welcome someone who wants to spend their own money unwinding these sorts of attitudes?"
Read more:

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Biden flip-flops on wealth tax

Biden's Desperate Wealth Tax Flip-Flop } Reason - Peter Suderman:

March 29, 2022 - "In December 2019, when Joe Biden, still campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, released his tax plan, much of the coverage focused on the contrast between his comparatively [moderate] plan and the plans issued by his more progressive rivals. A CNBC report on his plan was labeled 'wealth tax wars. A Washington Post headline noted that  Biden's $3.2 trillion tax plan highlighted 'divisions' with Sens. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.). Among the starkest of those divisions was that the former vice president had rejected calls by Warren and Sanders to back a wealth tax on the richest Americans. 

"On the campaign trail, Biden himself played up that contrast. Among the criticisms lobbed at the Sanders and Warren wealth tax proposals was that they were fundamentally punitive, because they taxed wealth of a small, specific group of individuals. He told a wealthy crowd of supporters in Los Angeles that while they shouldn't expect a tax cut from him, there would be 'no punishment either'.... He complained about divisive tax policy, and rejected the idea of a 'a single tax, on a single group of people'.... 

"Yet now, as president, Biden has embraced a wealth tax of his own. In his latest budget plan, Biden proposed something the White House has dubbed the 'Billionaire Minimum Income Tax,' which applies to all income, realized and unrealized, for households worth more than $100 million. The Biden administration is framing this as a form of 'prepayment' on future capital gains — which is to say it's a form of taxation on money that someone has not actually seen, based on the value of their holdings. It's not exactly the same as the wealth taxes proposed by Warren and Sanders, but it's designed around the same fundamental idea: the taxation of personal wealth, rather than of cash income, which often takes the form of difficult-to-value assets. 

"Most of the same criticisms that applied to the Warren and Sanders plans still apply: Biden's plan probably wouldn't raise nearly as much money as the administration assumes: Wealth taxes are exceptionally difficult and resource-intensive to administer, which is why most OECD countries that have implemented wealth taxes eventually dropped them. It's also quite likely to be unconstitutional. At minimum, if it passed, it would be tied up in court.  

"But ... it's not intended to pass, which makes this exercise even more of a charade. Biden's latest wealth tax proposal is part of the White House's annual budget proposal, which is always a sort of wish list rather than a realistic path forward for the budget. Biden's wealth tax, then, is a desperate policy gimmick by a White House struggling with low approval numbers on the economy.... 

"It's a publicity stunt, however, that tells us something, not only about Biden's leftward drift, but about his comportment as president, given his previously stated opposition to the idea. Biden is willing to make an obvious phony of himself, embracing a policy he knows is punitive, divisive, unworkable, and virtually certain not to pass — and he's willing to do so simply to get attention. Not only is Biden not a moderate, he is evidently not trustworthy either."

Read more:

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Covid killed the left/right spectrum

Political Loyalties Have Been Blown Up | Brownstone Institue - Jeffrey A. Tucker: 

April 18, 2022 - "Before lockdowns of Spring 2020, media rhetoric had divided the American population into two camps: pro- and anti-Trump. It was an easy way to think even if it came nowhere near describing me, my friends, or most people. Then came the virus. It made an enormous mess out of this simple outlook. 

"[President Donald] Trump kept changing his position not only on the threat level but also what to do about it. He went from comparing the virus to the annual flu in January 2020 to calling for a nationwide lockdown at a March 16 press conference, before changing his mind again a few months later and urging everyone to move on. Of that lockdown order, center-left publication Vox, which had been firmly in the anti-Trump camp for the previous five years, immediately praised the press conference. For the astute, this should have been a sign that something fishy was going on. 

"But this praise for panic – and the use of despotic power without precedent to wield against a virus – was itself very strange. For the previous two months, the center left and left in the media were very clearly downplaying the virus and nowhere calling for lockdowns. In other words, they were saying in January and February what Trump was saying at the time. 

"Here are some examples of what people have entirely forgotten.... 

  • January 30, 2020, MSNBC... 'Americans are too worried about the new coronavirus that’s spreading rapidly across China,” former White House health advisor Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel told CNBC on Thursday. 'Everyone in America should take a very big breath, slow down, and stop panicking and being hysterical,' said Emanuel, who served during Barack Obama’s presidency. “We are having a little too much histrionics on this'....
  • Slate ... March 4, 2020. "There are many compelling reasons to conclude that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is not nearly as deadly as is currently feared. But COVID-19 panic has set in nonetheless ... which is frankly understandable given that initial reports have staked COVID-19 mortality at about 2–3 percent.... Allow me to be the bearer of good news. These frightening numbers are unlikely to hold. The true case fatality rate, known as CFR, of this virus is likely to be far lower.... Even some lower estimates, such as the 1 percent death rate recently mentioned by the directors of the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, likely substantially overstate the case'.... COVID-19 is a relatively benign disease for most young people, and a potentially devastating one for the old and chronically ill, albeit not nearly as risky as reported'.... 
  • Psychology Today: "The coronaviruses are cold viruses.... We know how cold viruses work: They cause runny noses, sneezing, cough, and fever, and make us feel tired and achy. For almost all of us, they run their course without medication. And in the vulnerable, they can trigger a more severe illness.... Yes, this virus is different and worse than other coronaviruses, but it still looks very familiar. We know more about it than we don’t know….It’s scary to think that an invisible enemy is out there to make you sick. But your doctor is not panicking, and you don’t need to'....
  • Or we can look to Fauci himself, writing on February 28, 2020, in the New England Journal of Medicine, in an article co-signed by Charles Lane (of junket fame) and CDC head Robert Redfield: "If one assumes that the number of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic cases is several times as high as the number of reported cases, the case fatality rate may be considerably less than 1%. This suggests that the overall clinical consequences of Covid-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1%) or a pandemic influenza (similar to those in 1957 and 1968) rather than a disease similar to SARS or MERS'....

"Whatever you think about these predictions, and there is still vast uncertainty about many aspects of this virus (thanks to testing inaccuracies and the degree of death misclassification), these voices were clearly counseling calm. Two weeks later, all hell broke loose, and this same ideological camp spent the next two years in a state of panicked meltdown and an attempt to keep the public living in fear for as long as possible. This was followed by a demonization campaign against the unvaccinated, from the very people who all swore that the 'Trump vaccine' would surely be dangerously corrupt.... What changed and why? It wasn’t the data,,,, Something else was going on. The entire pandemic became politicized....

"Two years later, with Trump out of power, the same public voices have again defaulted to dividing the population by the old terms: “liberals” vs “conservatives.” It’s become tremendously annoying not to mention wildly inaccurate. Oddly, most of the views attributed to the 'liberals' are essentially illiberal: opposed to free speech, against choice on vaccination[;] supportive of lockdowns and restrictions, segregating the population, making fun of people who want freedom and resent how it has been stolen from people in the guise of pandemic planning....

"Meanwhile, there is nothing about the people labeled 'conservative' who favor conserving anything about the current-day operation about politics. Quite the opposite: they are defending free speech against censorship, angry at elite management of life, and for toppling the administrative states’ power to rule the country and world without democratic consent. And this group is also more likely to favor diplomacy over saber rattling in foreign affairs. 

"I can’t imagine how confusing this must be for people whose English is a second language, much less those who have only a passing familiarity with American political culture.... From your own experience and conversations, you know what hardly anyone wants to admit. There has been a massive scrambling of political and ideological loyalties throughout the population over these past two years, as trust in so many institutions has dramatically fallen. There is no longer a predictable way to discern the friends of freedom from its enemies based on past loyalties and opinions.

"The last two years have confounded everyone who believed in the stability of American law, politics, public opinion, and the ideological attachments of both pundits and the general population. It’s all been turned upside down and inside out several times over. Anyone who thinks that we’ve all settled back into some mythical comfort bubbles of 'liberals' vs 'conservatives' is refusing to face post-pandemic politico-cultural realities.  

"Similarly, terms like left and right, and even independent and libertarian, have proven almost useless in predicting people’s responses to a respiratory virus and hence attitudes toward pandemic policy. The last two years have challenged political and ideological conventions like no other force in our lifetimes, and will likely lead to a rethinking and realignment, same as war and depression have in the past."

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