Alexandria by Paul Kingsnorth: a review

Alexandria is a 5 star book for a variety of reasons. If you don’t know Paul Kingsnorth, you should. I f you haven’t read Paul Kingsnorth, you should.  Very few people know of Paul Kingsnorth. Let me give you a brief bio. Yes I will get around to reviewing ALEXANDRIA but you need to know a little about Paul in order to appreciate his latest effort. Paul is an Oxford educated “ recovered”environmentalist poet and  writer, mostly of essays. For the past 5 years he has been writing novels and Alexandria is the last in a trilogy which includes. The Wake , Beast, and now Alexandria. He is more well known in the UK  and he resides with his family on his farm  on the West coast of Ireland. He is one of the cofounders of “The Dark Mountain Project”, a literary project exploring new ways of art, writing and philosophy. Paul gave up ‘trying to save the world” by environmental activism about a decade ago as a feckless quest and has been trying to  point to a new way of thinking and writing about this human experience outside  of  the rubric we call “civilization.” He thinks our civilization has passed its sell by date. In some of his essays he has called for “Uncivilization.” One quote by Emerson in one of his books says”the end of the human race is that it will eventually die of civilization.” Paul says that before the industrial civilization and the beginnings of the novel, mankind lived by its stories, a way of thinking and living that has been lost by a world of industrial warfare,  economic expansion and technological narcissism. Paul wants to bring back storytelling as something far more than an art form, back to the function it enjoyed since not long after man climbed down from the trees.In a sentence, civilization is doomed and  we need better stories, not more novels which spring from the brains of urban writers who only know of urban things. Now to Alexandria……..

    Alexandria takes place somewhere in SE England about 900 years hence in the same boggy peaty wetland of the previous two novels. The SHTF some time previously with global warming, ocean rise, dieoff and all the rest. We are introduced to our little family unit living a Neolithic lifestyle of hunting and gathering and paying rapt attention to animism and prophesy and dreams and of course story telling. All the while this little survivalist cult is dodging the “Stalkers” who are spying on them and trying to encourage exile to the gated community of Alexandria which is some sort of soul only Utopia established by someone or something called Wayland. Think of Wayland as God and Alexandria as Heaven. But not really, and it’s hard to figure out what it’s all about other than a way to finally clear the earth of the last humans who of course wrecked the planet for the last 900 years. The stalker has some luck peeling off some of the members of this extended social group until there are only 5 left, Father and mother, Sfia(Sophia?) and Nigel and El, their girl child. The narrative unfolds via soliloquys from the group. Eventually they are forced to abandon their settlement and voyage by canoe on a quest to the west following Father who has already left after having a dream prophecy which among other things predicts the fall of Alexandria” when the Swans return.”

It’s more entertaining than it sounds and it has elements of other dystopian fiction like Brave New World and The Road. It is life after the collapse in a matriarchal society.

 I was curious about the people and place names like Alexandria and Wayland. Alexandria was founded by Alexander the great and became a center of culture  and trade and science with a huge library. It fell to Islam in the 7th century and dwindled over the next millennium plus . Wayland also spelled Weyland as well as a host of other names comes from Icelandic and Germanic mythology. This paragraph from Britannica.com lays out the saga:

Wayland the Smith, Wayland also spelled Weland, in Scandinavian, German, and Anglo-Saxon legend, a smith of outstanding skill. He was, according to some legends, a lord of the elves. His story is told in the lundarkvida, one of the poems in the 13th-century Icelandic Elder, or Poetic, Edda, and, with variations, in the mid-13th-century Icelandic prose Thidriks saga. He is also mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon poems Waldere and “Deor,” in Beowulf (all from the 6th to the 9th century), and in a note inserted by Alfred the Great into his 9th-century translation of Boëthius.

Wayland the Smith.

Wayland the Smith.Edda Sämund den vises by Fredrik Sander

Wayland was captured by the Swedish king Nídud (Nithad, or Níduth), lamed to prevent his escape, and forced to work in the king’s smithy. In revenge, he killed Nídud’s two young sons and made drinking bowls from their skulls, which he sent to their father. He also raped their sister, Bödvild, when she brought a gold ring to be mended, and then he escaped by magical flight through the air.

  Later versions have Bodvild pregnant and happily married to Wayland.

Your guess is as good as mine on why Paul Kingsnorth chose that name but Paul has long been a fan of Celtic and Norse mythology. Wayland was a mythic and godlike figure who got his revenge and wound up with the girl to boot.

      If you subscribe to the vision of the Dark Mountain Project, this book should be on your bucket list. The book has a beguiling dreamlike quality which really pulled me along to a not surprising ending.

Brave New World:my review

4 Show more
ReviewBrave New World was a hard book to find here in high, wide, and windy Wyoming. Not only did our local Teton County Library not have a copy,no library in Covid besotted Wyoming had a copy to lend so I had to visit ABEbooks and buy my own. There were lots of copies of 1984, the flip side of BNW. So if you have read 1984, you need to read BNW to blend your yin with your yang, to complete your binary view of the world, to view two of the futures that our flesh might be heir to. There are certainly more however in my opinion.
For those of you who have not read Brave New World, a brief summary is in order. Huxley wrote the book in 1931 which itself seems improbable and amazing given the technology displayed in the novel. I suppose it is a world some hundred(s) of years in the future after 1931. Dates are given not by AD or CE but AF, which stands for “After Ford”, which I assume is a satirical reference to the industrialist du Jour in 1931, Henry Ford. It is a Utopian world of eugenics with layers of castes with the brightest, the Alphas at the top and the moronic epsilons at the bottom with betas and deltas etc in between. The goal of the society is to match intelligence to tasks so the stupids do all the grunt work while the brains do jobs that need brains. This ensures social stability as all the classes embrace their eugenic servitude, happy in their work. Stability and community of unequals is the goal. Everyone belongs to everyone else and nobody belongs to anybody. That rules out mothers and fathers, husbands and wives and their assorted relatives like children which of course the state raises. The people are all clones of course which simplifies the social stratification. A variety of drugs and bottle baby manufacturing ensure no one visibly ages until their “sell by date.” Everyone is designed to be happy by repeated propaganda starting as children so everyone has the same opinions. In case something goes wrong with this happiness, everyone gets a dose regularly of the miracle drug SOMA which smooths out life’s ups and downs without nasty side effects like hangovers and liver disease. Promiscuity is the rule so “erotic play” is started early and everyone screws like rabbits without having to get involved in disrupting practices like love and marriage. Most of the women are freemasons who have all the equipment of a woman but who are conveniently sterile. A freemason has an XX/XY karyotype and if you are a dairy farmer like me, you are well familiar with freemasons as a heifer calf to avoid at all costs. You can’t milk a freemason………but I digress…… As you can imagine, some of these practices did not go over real big in 1931 and his book got some pretty bad reviews at the time. One character is introduced midway into the book, John, who goes by the name “the savage” is rescued from a Southwest Indian reservation where he had the misfortune of being born to Linda, a woman who got trapped accidentally behind the high voltage fences of the reservation. The natives were locked inside their reservation and allowed to maintain their lifestyle because the area had little in the way of resources to interest the Utopians who were living in far away England. The savage rails against the prevailing order and eventually goes into exile along with a few Alphas who started to get independent ideas of their own. If you are a fan of dystopian literature, this book is certainly one you need to read. There are certainly parallels with our current civilization replete with propaganda, conventional wisdom, mindless entertainment, and drug induced stupors and of course totalitarian mind control states. Go ahead and make your own parallels. Highly recommended.

Book Review Of One of Ours by Willa Cather

This lesser known novel by Willa Cather is a 5 star effort equally as good as her well known Prairie Trilogy novels. The novel depicts the life of Claude Wheeler, a member of the wealthy Wheeler Farm during the period of the first world war. Claude is a troubled soul searching for meaning and yearning for a life outside of what appears to be his preordained destiny to grow up , get married and manage the family farm. He marries Enid , a loveless religious girl which doesn’t help his quest for meaning. You know things will be going south when she asks him to sleep on the couch on their wedding night. Meanwhile back in Europe Germany and France and England are locked in trench warfare waiting for America to come to tip the balance. The last third of the novel has Claude Wheeler as Lieutenant Claude Wheeler leading his men against the Bosch in an absolutely vivid depiction of war writing equal to the best male authored novels of the period such as All Quiet on the Western Front. The strength of the novel is the character development of Claude Wheeler and the people in his life in Nebraska and war torn France which also includes heart rending details of the Influenza epidemic of 1918 swirling through the horrific conflict. The novel earned Cather her first and only Pulitzer. The prairie Nebraska sections are vintage Cather but her gritty at times understated depiction of battle conditions writing mind you as a woman presumably without combat experience is amazing.

Rise of the Super Virus

Well just when you thought that it was safe to get back in the water we have news of the rise of mutant corona viruses proliferating seemingly at will. I have covered this likelihood repeatedly and even joked with my brother about the Jackson Hole mutant heading to him in California. In fact mutant variants are popping up all over even in Ohio and Texas. Recall  a recent post where I showed an almost vertical exponential spike in Ireland from the B1.1.7 UK variant. The other major variant is the B1.3.5.1 variety originating in the East Cape of S. Africa. However it is the Brazilian variants that are the most concerning and there are at least three labeled P.1, P.2 and P.3. The P.1 is the major one to be worried about. It seems that Manaus , a city of 2 million in NW Brazil had encountered its big pandemic last fall . It was estimated that 75% of its inhabitants had had Covid by late December when all of a sudden a new spike hit and hit hard. Among its unique features was rapid spread and infection of ever younger people. 40% of the victims were under the age of 60. Most alarming was the increase in pathogenicity. Dr Leopolina, a front line Doc, said that this new virus was more transmissible and more pathogenic. He described details such more rapid progression of symptoms. As an example he said while it used to take about 10 days for the lungs to show clinical and radiologic changes, it now only takes seven or eight days and the chest xrays looked far worse than clinical auscultation of the lungs would seem to indicate. It is certainly not coincidental that these new and possibly more pathogenic viruses are emerging from poor and populated areas in the world where the governments response has been weak and ineffective. Keep in mind that our US response and the Russian response has also been ineffective. It does appear that the incoming Biden administration is gearing up for a fight with a mass vaccination program. But will it be effective  against these new variants? In Brazil which  finally has been vaccinating with the Chinese Sinovac product, authorities are finding that it is only about 50% effective. It was 90% against the original Wuhan Covid virus according to Chinese researchers. Similarly in Israel which has vaccinated the largest percentage of any country , the Health minister Nachman Ash yesterday in the Guardian said that the immunity after the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine was “less effective than we had thought” or that Pfizer had indicated.I saw no mention of which virus was dominant in Israel.  13000 people were coming down with Covid after vaccination “at a greater rate than expected“. This includes at least 69 who were infected after the second jab. Specifically,at 14-17 days post jab there was only a only a 38% improvement in protection as compared to a matched unvaccinated group of 2000,000. This fact alone should be prove positive that we need to question the dubious strategy of trying to vaccinate US citizens with just one dose at the very least even if it means a delay getting the second dose. My opinion is that this was a dangerous and stupid idea  emanating out of an administration of dangerous and stupid ideas since last January. A recent long article in Der Spiegel  goes into greater detail over the risk of Germany falling victim to these new variants. Here is a telling comment from that article: The virus from Wuhan ravaged the world like a smoldering fire, but the pandemic now more closely resembles a sea of flames raging across the globe.

I have some final comments before closing this post. I said a year ago that this Covid pandemic was likely to be a very big deal but even I may have underestimated how big it was to become. I am willing to speculate that it is going to be a VERY BIG DEAL this year as well because of several factors. The most important is that this Trump Pandemic  was ignored for far too long allowing the virus to get a firm toehold just like in Brazil .Incompetence by the government and resistance from US citizens has in many ways sealed our fate. Most of us are sick and tired of living under the cloud of Covid and whether we can at this late date gird our loins and do what needs to be done to abrogate the spread of the Wuhan parent virus and its evil spawns remains to be seen. I have a nagging fear that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines may underwhelm but they are the best we have for now and we need to push forward at warp speed while not neglecting ongoing testing and research. Importantly we need more new and rapid testing far quicker than the plodding PCR nasal swab and we need massively increased genomic testing. In Denmark the government wants every positive PCR test to be sent for genomic sequencing and I read that a similar program is being proposed in Manitoba. That will be a difficult task here because the US has only between 21 to 45 sequencing facilities that I was able to find. If the Pharmaceutical companies are to keep ahead of the curve they will need to be developing upgrades and without current genomic information they will fall behind. It would seem to me that right now we should be developing  and administering multivalent vaccines to address these variants and not waiting to be overwhelmed by them after they arrive. We KNOW they will arrive. I also think we need to stop administering the vaccines to the aged and nursing home population. It should be given to the groups encountering and spreading the virus. Forget prioritizing the aged. After front line personnel are taken care of, give it to all ages ASAP especially those people like teachers who sit in rooms with 30 to 40 children. My final demand is that we shut down all international air travel. We should also stop all domestic air travel except in an emergency as well. Close the airports to stop the circulation of the virus. For example in Wyoming Teton County at 21000 people has had as many or more new cases than the other two largest counties with the cities of Casper and Cheyenne. They have 4 to 5 times the population and yet we have the same number of cases! Why? We have the busiest airport in the state. Do you think there might be a causal connection? The reason we have a world pandemic is because of unrestricted excessive cross pollination of millions of  infected people crowded into small aluminum tubes without adequate ventilation. Shutting down arrivals from only certain countries hasn’t worked.

Covid-19 info, corporate cronyism, and some recomendations

In my last Corona virus update I presented optimistic projections about the pandemic from the CDC and why I feared they may be wrong yet again because I feared a worsening of the current pandemic  instead of an improvement. I truly hope I am missing something and would be pleased to to be wrong.

In this post I would like to present some information from recent viral research and corona virus case studies along with treatment options beside what Trump’s Warp Speed program is offering.

 I was recently doing my morning scan of covid websites and stumbled upon this graph which really caught my eye: notice that flat green line at the very bottom. That represents the death rate in Chiapas state compared to the death rates in all the other states.

This second image happens to be a graph of Mexico’s Covid deaths, state by state. It comes from Mexico’s Public health website which appears excellent but which limits inquiry from unregistered people like me.

The second image as I stated is the death rate per 100,000 before and after July 2020 after Chiapas sent out Ivermectin kits to their population . I was not able to ascertain whether this was to be  a prophylactic or a treatment trial but the effect is jaw dropping, over a 90% decrease in deaths. Correlation doesn’t always imply causation but what else could explain such a decline? I was able to find out the dose regimen which I present: It was a 5 day course of Ivermectin(a antihelminthic) given at 12 mg/day if you are less than 80 kg and 18 mg/day if over 80 kg(176 lbs). It appears Hydroxychloroquine was also given(?) as 400 mg BID for one day and then 200 mg BID for the next 4 days. That dosing regimen is also being trialed somewhere in Mexico currently I believe but I have no access to the results at the moment. The CDC has debunked these drugs early on but their recommendation was based upon a poorly structured trial with high does in animals and in hospitalized patients  with late stage Covid. This regimen is also being used in India at the moment but I have not investigated how that is working out yet. Unfortunately there is variability in how the tests were performed and until large double blind studies in a variety of patients are performed, the jury will remain out. The best anecdotal reports I have seen is when Ivermectin with or without zinc and with or without doxycycline and hydrochloroquine is given very early in the infection, it seemed patient outcomes were improved. What about antiviral drugs, like the “miracle” drug remdesivir?

Early on Remdesivir was purchased by the US government as a potentially landmark antiviral drug . It was administered to trump as you may recall. We purchased  the world supply of 500,000 doses at a cost of $ 2300/ea and the delivered cost to the patient was to be $3200 to $4100 for a 5 day course. This from NPR last year.  Remember that? The US government had already underwritten over $70 million given to Giliad in development costs and allowed Giliad to secure a patent to prevent open source use. As you may know, Remdesivir was a colossal and expensive DUD.  The trials were either poorly structured or worse. It seems every month or two there is a new miracle antiviral being touted. The latest is Molnupiravir from a Georgia company which allegedly kills the coronavirus at 99% when trialed  with ferrets and now is in human trials according to an Atlanta TV station. I personally hope for such an effective immediate treatment for Coronavirus as the most effective way to stop the Covid epidemic in its tracks but I’m not holding my breath.I do hope the ferrets are still doing OK.  I should mention a study involving mouthwashes containing cetylpyridinium chloride having strong antiviral properties in an inviro study. It was assumed it would be effective against covid-19 in their conclusions. It is present in a variety of mouthwashes, toothpastes and nasal sprays such as those made by Colgate, Crest and Sensodine among others. This seems to me to be a no brainer if you regularly use mouthwashes. Keep taking your Vit D.

 I bring these treatment options up  because of my skepticism about long term vaccine efficacy which has not been established because establishing such efficacy will require long term rigorous phase three clinical trials which were not done  by Trump’s Warp Speed program. Here are some of my concerns and I will try to use solid research already done to justify my concerns.

    There is a long established phenomenon of “Antibody  escape” which occurs when the virus “escapes” the antibody . There was some good work done recently  at the U of Washington at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center  in which they used convalescent plasma rich in antibodies which targeted particular regions of the Sars Coronavirus spike proteins. They tested all possible mutations in the spike proteins which could offer escape pathways to escape mutants. The surprise to me was that these escape pathways differed from person to person. Here is a statement from the paper:

The findings suggest that peoples’ responses to a vaccine that targets the spike protein are unlikely to be uniform, say the researchers. I guess that means vaccine efficacy may also be unlikely to be uniform.

I should note that this finding while worrisome is just released and not yet peer reviewed but there have been some SARS virus studies similarly done challenging viruses over a period of 5 months in which later versions of the virus became resistant to convalescent serum challenges. I  Do not recall which immune proteins were being tested and there are quite a few.  There is a case study out of Brazil again just released on 5 Jan describing a patient infected by the SARS corona virus who recovered only to be reinfected 5 months later by a variant and she became much more  deathly sick. It is studies and reports like this  with corona virus immune responses that make this observer concerned about long term efficacy of vaccines or reinfection after their initial episode. It is common knowledge that immunity from a corona cold virus doesn’t prevent getting another cold in the same cold/URI season.

Finally to close out this post I would like to state my preference for a particular vaccine. I base my decision on several factors. The vaccine is finishing up phase three trials and is the J&J vaccine produced and developed in Belgium and at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.  It uses a tried and proven technology well researched and tested against the Ebola virus. Their proprietary technology is called ADVAC  and instead of using a grafted RNA  spike protein subunit like Pfizer and Moderna, it uses a common noninfective adenovirus in which no RNA is used. Instead it is DNA and it resides within the nucleus of the inactivated virus. After the corona virus invades the cell a process is initiated in which mRNA is elaborated to make the spike proteins that are released and which stimulate an immune response with a variety of immune cells. Among them are Helper and killer T cells,  and Beta cells. I assume a variety of neutralizing antibodies are also elaborated. The results using participants’ worldwide look promising so far and if I was betting on a horse race, J&J’s Ad26.Cov2.S vaccine would be my bet. It is a stable rugged vaccine and can be stored in any refrigerator. Best of all it is a one shot. Unlike Pfizer the J&J trials have included testing to include the elderly with and without a variety of comorbidities. Recall that Pfizer and Moderna stopped their trials at age 55 and now most vaccination programs are targeting the elderly as next in line after front line doctors and nurses. In other words they are vaccinating this group absent any phase three trials ever being done!!! And now there are reports out of Norway and elsewhere tying more than a dozen deaths of elderly over the age of 80 dying after receiving their second Pfizer poke. These reports need immediate investigation and not by Pfizer, to establish the level of risk/benefit of mRNA vaccines to the elderly. Good thing for Pfizer stockholders that their lawyers negotiated indemnity against lawsuits. I have also been hearing anecdotal reports that the second Pfizer shot has more unpleasant side effects. My prediction is that if Ad26.Cov2.S is as effective as its competitors and is priced properly it will out compete the fragile and less rigorously tested vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. I should also mention again that the Oxford Zeneca uses similar technology with a Chimp adenovirus. Stay well out there and use a real N95 or N99 mask like my SPERIAN valve mask. These variants from the UK and S Africa and Brazil are out to rumble and mean business!

Covid-19 info, corporate cronyism, and some recomendations

In my last Corona virus update I presented optimistic projections about the pandemic from the CDC and why I feared they may be wrong yet again because I feared a worsening of the current pandemic  instead of an improvement. I truly hope I am missing something and would be pleased to to be wrong.

In this post I would like to present some information from recent viral research and corona virus case studies along with treatment options beside what Trump’s Warp Speed program is offering.

 I was recently doing my morning scan of covid websites and stumbled upon this graph which really caught my eye: notice that flat green line at the very bottom. That represents the death rate in Chiapas state compared to the death rates in all the other states.

This second image happens to be a graph of Mexico’s Covid deaths, state by state. It comes from Mexico’s Public health website which appears excellent but which limits inquiry from unregistered people like me.

The second image as I stated is the death rate per 100,000 before and after July 2020 after Chiapas sent out Ivermectin kits to their population . I was not able to ascertain whether this was to be  a prophylactic or a treatment trial but the effect is jaw dropping, over a 90% decrease in deaths. Correlation doesn’t always imply causation but what else could explain such a decline? I was able to find out the dose regimen which I present: It was a 5 day course of Ivermectin(a antihelminthic) given at 12 mg/day if you are less than 80 kg and 18 mg/day if over 80 kg(176 lbs). It appears Hydroxychloroquine was also given(?) as 400 mg BID for one day and then 200 mg BID for the next 4 days. That dosing regimen is also being trialed somewhere in Mexico currently I believe but I have no access to the results at the moment. The CDC has debunked these drugs early on but their recommendation was based upon a poorly structured trial with high does in animals and in hospitalized patients  with late stage Covid. This regimen is also being used in India at the moment but I have not investigated how that is working out yet. Unfortunately there is variability in how the tests were performed and until large double blind studies in a variety of patients are performed, the jury will remain out. The best anecdotal reports I have seen is when Ivermectin with or without zinc and with or without doxycycline and hydrochloroquine is given very early in the infection, it seemed patient outcomes were improved. What about antiviral drugs, like the “miracle” drug remdesivir?

Early on Remdesivir was purchased by the US government as a potentially landmark antiviral drug . It was administered to trump as you may recall. We purchased  the world supply of 500,000 doses at a cost of $ 2300/ea and the delivered cost to the patient was to be $3200 to $4100 for a 5 day course. This from NPR last year.  Remember that? The US government had already underwritten over $70 million given to Giliad in development costs and allowed Giliad to secure a patent to prevent open source use. As you may know, Remdesivir was a colossal and expensive DUD.  The trials were either poorly structured or worse. It seems every month or two there is a new miracle antiviral being touted. The latest is Molnupiravir from a Georgia company which allegedly kills the coronavirus at 99% when trialed  with ferrets and now is in human trials according to an Atlanta TV station. I personally hope for such an effective immediate treatment for Coronavirus as the most effective way to stop the Covid epidemic in its tracks but I’m not holding my breath.I do hope the ferrets are still doing OK.  I should mention a study involving mouthwashes containing cetylpyridinium chloride having strong antiviral properties in an inviro study. It was assumed it would be effective against covid-19 in their conclusions. It is present in a variety of mouthwashes, toothpastes and nasal sprays such as those made by Colgate, Crest and Sensodine among others. This seems to me to be a no brainer if you regularly use mouthwashes. Keep taking your Vit D.

 I bring these treatment options up  because of my skepticism about long term vaccine efficacy which has not been established because establishing such efficacy will require long term rigorous phase three clinical trials which were not done  by Trump’s Warp Speed program. Here are some of my concerns and I will try to use solid research already done to justify my concerns.

    There is a long established phenomenon of “Antibody  escape” which occurs when the virus “escapes” the antibody . There was some good work done recently  at the U of Washington at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center  in which they used convalescent plasma rich in antibodies which targeted particular regions of the Sars Coronavirus spike proteins. They tested all possible mutations in the spike proteins which could offer escape pathways to escape mutants. The surprise to me was that these escape pathways differed from person to person. Here is a statement from the paper:

The findings suggest that peoples’ responses to a vaccine that targets the spike protein are unlikely to be uniform, say the researchers. I guess that means vaccine efficacy may also be unlikely to be uniform.

I should note that this finding while worrisome is just released and not yet peer reviewed but there have been some SARS virus studies similarly done challenging viruses over a period of 5 months in which later versions of the virus became resistant to convalescent serum challenges. I  Do not recall which immune proteins were being tested and there are quite a few.  There is a case study out of Brazil again just released on 5 Jan describing a patient infected by the SARS corona virus who recovered only to be reinfected 5 months later by a variant and she became much more  deathly sick. It is studies and reports like this  with corona virus immune responses that make this observer concerned about long term efficacy of vaccines or reinfection after their initial episode. It is common knowledge that immunity from a corona cold virus doesn’t prevent getting another cold in the same cold/URI season.

Finally to close out this post I would like to state my preference for a particular vaccine. I base my decision on several factors. The vaccine is finishing up phase three trials and is the J&J vaccine produced and developed in Belgium and at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.  It uses a tried and proven technology well researched and tested against the Ebola virus. Their proprietary technology is called ADVAC  and instead of using a grafted RNA  spike protein subunit like Pfizer and Moderna, it uses a common noninfective adenovirus in which no RNA is used. Instead it is DNA and it resides within the nucleus of the inactivated virus. After the corona virus invades the adenovirus cell a process is initiated in which mRNA is elaborated to make the spike proteins that are released and which stimulate an immune response with a variety of immune cells. Among them are Helper and killer T cells,  and Beta cells. I assume a variety of neutralizing antibodies are also elaborated. The results using participants’ worldwide look promising so far and if I was betting on a horse race, J&J’s Ad26.Cov2.S vaccine would be my bet. It is a stable rugged vaccine and can be stored in any refrigerator. Best of all it is a one shot. Unlike Pfizer the J&J trials have included testing to include the elderly with and without a variety of comorbidities. Recall that Pfizer and Moderna stopped their trials at age 55 and now most vaccination programs are targeting the elderly as next in line after front line doctors and nurses. In other words they are vaccinating this group absent any phase three trials ever being done!!! And now there are reports out of Norway and elsewhere tying more than a dozen deaths of elderly over the age of 80 dying after receiving their Pfizer poke. These reports need immediate investigation and not by Pfizer to establish the level of risk/benefit of mRNA vaccines to the elderly. Good thing for Pfizer stockholders that their lawyers negotiated indemnity against lawsuits. I have also been hearing anecdotal reports that the second Pfizer shot has more unpleasant side effects. My prediction is that if Ad26.Cov2.S is as effective as its competitors and is priced properly it will out compete the fragile and less rigorously tested vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. I should also mention again that the Oxford Zeneca uses similar technology with a Chimp adenovirus. Stay well out there and use a real N95 or N99 mask like my SPERIAN valve mask. These variants from the UK and S Africa and Brazil are out to rumble and mean business!

Can Covid go Exponential from here?

(Coronavirus Update 14 Jan 2021)

 Hello folks. I just did an update less than a week ago and I do updates based upon anything new I might happen to unearth in regional, national and world news on Covid. I have recently returned to trying to watch this pandemic more closely since just after Thanksgiving when I noticed increases in cases worldwide. I follow Covid related information on the CDC and WHO websites. I also have access to some research abstracts from a variety of sources without pay walls  and on a variety of other websites that most of you may be familiar with such as woroldometer , The Covid Tracking project at the ATLANTIC, and particularly our excellent Wyoming Covid site: Tetonwy covid response overview. My wife opens that website every morning and she pointed out the recent jump in daily cases from about 12/day at Christmas to now over 60/day. That marks a 5X increase in about the last 2 or 3 weeks. I also happened to notice that Ireland in about the same time period experienced a 30X(!!!) jump in cases along with continued increases in the UK. This merits a graph:

Yowza! Our recent Wyoming spike bears a morphological similarity to this Ireland disaster spike but instead of 30X it is just 5X:

https://teton-wy-ema.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=74c5259d154446aa9afc5916ac67055e

I am sorry I can’t insert this graph but click it to view if you wish. Here is a headline on CNBC today that caught my eye along with a comment from Larry Kudlow, one of the resident economic geniuses in the Trump administration:

“Up to 30% of Americans may be infected with coronavirus by year-end,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb says.

White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said Tuesday that the U.S. has “contained” the threat of a domestic coronavirus outbreak”, breaking with the warnings of officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We have contained this, I won’t say airtight but pretty close to airtight,” Kudlow told CNBC’s Kelly Evans on Tuesday afternoon.

SO with this I decided to look at what data Larry Kudlow and Scott Gottlieb were referring to at the CDC  and I found this graph of current and projected cases.

The first thing I noticed was that it sure didn’t look like Ireland or Teton County and I wondered why. ….Text from the CDC website:

  • This week, CDC received forecasts of new reported COVID-19 cases over the next 4 weeks from 32 modeling groups that were included in the ensemble forecasts.
  • This week’s national ensemble predicts that 900,000 to 1,800,000 new cases will likely be reported in the week ending January 30, 2021.
  • The state- and territory-level ensemble forecasts predict that over the next 4 weeks, the number of new reported cases per week will likely decrease in 8 jurisdictions, which are indicated in the forecast plots below. Trends in numbers of future reported cases are uncertain or predicted to remain stable in the other states and territories. There are 32 models displayed here!

I wondered how they came to this prediction based upon what seemed to be happening not just in Teton County and Ireland but in England, Europe, and hot spots in the US like CA and AZ.  If you click on countries in Worldometer to check their cases graph, you will notice that even formerly well contained countries like Switzerland, Denmark and Sweden have exponential curves. Everything in these jurisdictions seemed to be going exponential;. By the way I need to insert a famous quotation from Albert Einstein which has been patently obvious for this whole pandemic:”The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.”

Gottlieb in that CNBC article said that about a third of the US has either had the vaccine, an asymptomatic infection or a symptomatic infection and with the hopeful increase in vaccine production we may be peaking based upon the cdc models.

So here is how I think the models break down (this from several sources and one recent blog:

10 million Americans have had asymptomatic covid

23 million have tested positive for Covid

5 million or more are immunized and more each day

And get this: 70 million have already had Covid with symptoms but decided not to get tested and ride it out.(????)

There. That’s your 1/3 that Scott Gottlieb is talking about. If his educated guesses are right you can make a plausible argument that the graph may be right. But I don’t buy it.

 Here is my take on this. Even if these numbers are correct this projection does not seem to take into account the variants of the Corona virus now starting to sweep the world: The UK and the S. African variants seem to be far more communicable (40-70%) than the Wuhan virus.  Increase in percentage is VERY IMPORTANT , as it is percentage increases or decreases that form the basis of exponential functions. I have read reassuring comments from a variety of political and media sources that it may be no more lethal even if it is more communicable.  Comments like this are absolutely nuts because just a 50% increase in communicability changes the shape of an exponential curve drastically in a short period of time. Another question I have asked but rarely answered is what does an increase in communicability really mean?  I have read that it may mean that the virus binds more tightly to the ACE Receptors primarily in the Respiratory tract. It probably also means that a smaller inoculum may be needed to induce disease in that case and just those two factors are enough to kickstart new and larger  outbreaks. If the variants bind more tightly in the lung will they bind more tightly in the heart or gut as well? Will that alter the percentage of people  becoming “Long Haulers?” These are just some of the speculative questions that occur to me.  Will the vaccines work as well on these new variants? Pfizer seems confident their vaccine will handle these few mutations so far elaborated by genomic testing. Well it turns out that there are not just single mutations on these viruses. The UK has had 23 and the S. African at least 21.(Sorry…lost that source).

Somebody else must have noticed these tidbits I am throwing out and questions I am raising and I am certain they have, but questions like these tend to undermine trust in the Trump Warpspeed Rollout. The Trumpian response to the epidemic has been botched from the very first press conference almost a year ago and trust is not a word that can be associated with his administration. “Mistakes have been made,” as the politicians love to say and of course I hope that a new administration might reduce the frequency of mistakes but there is a lot of complexity and unknowns around this pandemic and what we believe today may be rejected tomorrow. Think System theory also. The mistakes made have stemmed from structural failures of the entire system and not just individual mistakes.

  One of the long standing questions in epidemiology is why bacteria and viruses behave the way they do. Basically they are smart little buggers. Their goal like most of us is more reproduction. The more individuals they can infect, the more successful they become. If they become more lethal that becomes self defeating. If the host dies, they die. The host’s immune system fight back with antibodies to stay alive and kill the invaders which often prompts a retaliatory response from the microorganisms. And so it goes.But I digress………

    I will take up and elaborate  in future posts issues such as immune responses, new vaccine and treatment options , changes we need to make to our Public Health System as well as big picture questions I have covered for years about how this little detour in the trajectory of the civilization affects our future. Stay tuned.

 

Review of Far from the Madding Crowd

If you are romantic or a romanticist of enjoy a tumultuous romantic love triangle or quadrangle in this case, you will love this book. If you are a man who wonders about the structure within a woman’s mind, you may be mystified, bewildered and confused. But this book was written with a mystified, bewildered girl as the central character, written by a 19th century Brit and if there were  a world populated by many such women there would be many more men willing to give up the heterosexual life forever!.

 Bathesheba Everdene is her name and fickle is her game. On a foolish and cruel whim she sends an anonymous valentine to the local confirmed bachelor farmer, William Boltwood with only 2 words: Marry Me. Up until then Farmer Boltwood wouldn’t know a woman from a ewe and this card turns his life upside down as he turns into a lovesick maniac when he finds out who wrote the note, his next door neighbor, the aforementioned vixen Bathsheba, also a sheep farmer. Bathsheba is a hottie teenager with great managerial skills and diligence to succeed on her new inherited farm which of course only a man could handle but she proves to the serfs in the little  Southwest England burg of Weatherbury that a sheep farm and haying 1000 acres is woman’s work. We are introduced to a salt of the earth shepherd Gabriel Oak, who  falls for her hook, line and shepherd’s crook.   He woos her and has his hopes dashed but he stays on as hired help carrying his secret flame burning in his breast.

Boltwood, our love sick puppy, begs Bathsheba to marry him and she is almost persuaded to do so if for no other reason than to shut him up when a red coated blue blooded  soldier/lothario  by the name of Frank Troy sweeps her off her feet with ridiculous flattery and amazing swordsmanship and the knot is quickly tied. But it turns out he has been bonking a blonde maid, Fanny Robin, who he loves better. So much better that she gets a swelled abdomen leading to complications.  So Bathsheba’s marriage turns to sheep manure as he blows

her money on gambling and booze. I’ll stop now.  Hardy now has to decide if true love will ever come to Bathsheba or anyone else. The strong points are Hardy’s floral descriptions of Wessex(SW England) with its farms and fens and moors and horrific weather. If you love nature, you know Hardy by now. The characterizations are at times clear and brilliant and at times not so brilliant. Bathsheba Everdene at times is presented as a self assured independent level headed woman in full command of her life and at times a whako teenager with poor impulse control and terrible judgment.  I’d say the first half of the book is a solid 4 star read but Tom Hardy really ramps up the last half with crises and conflict enough to satisfy anyone who loves hopeless romantic entanglements. Five star for me. Disclosure: I am a sheep farmer which may have influenced my rating.                                                                                                          Addendum: The title comes from a line in Thomas Grays poem “Elegy in a Country Churchyard” which is a 5 star poem. The term refers to a life far from the bustle of civilization, preferably in a calm, private and rural setting.

Covid Vaccine Jan 2021 Update

Covid update  January 2021

 Well I’m back with an update to my last update and I think I may do this as needed as new facts emerge.

Since my last post my wife who is 63 and working as a nurse has received her Pfizer poke. She had no side effects whatever. She even joked that maybe she got a placebo. The politicians, and pharmaceutical pundits continue to hammer home the safety and efficacy of the vaccine which of course is still in question. Vaccine recipients continue to contract the Covid but I have not seen any ICU admissions noted in that small subset and immunity isn’t maximal for at least 4 wks post poke. Deaths are being reported in poke recipients some days later in previously healthy people  as well as anaphylactoid or anaphylactic reactions but Pfizer has denied any connection to their miracle drug. A recent death of a healthy 55 yr old OBGYN doctor from Miami is somewhat disturbing. He developed Immune thrombocytopenia Purpura (ITP) a few days after his first shot and  has succumbed recently despite heroic attempts to save him. ITP is a rare disease (2.6 per 100,000)  where your platelet count drops precipitously. It often follows viral infections and may resolve spontaneously or become chronic. The doctor’s wife is blaming the Pfizer vaccine but don’t worry if you own Pfizer stock. They enjoy immunity from prosecution which was granted to them by the Trump administration. There have been vaccine disasters in the past. In the 1950’s Cutter Labs put out a flawed batch of polio vaccine to 120000 children. 40000 came down with polio, fifty five were paralyzed and 5 died. The so called killed vaccine hadn’t been killed after all during manufacturing. There have been many other similar stories with poorly tested drugs, Thalidomide being the most notorious. Granting indemnity to a globalized corporation is scandalous in this blogger’s opinion. Some older nursing home patients have also died following the shot but nursing home patients die all the time, right? In the absence of an autopsy  or other testing you can’t call it an adverse effect. So says Pfizer. It should be noted that after age 30 the body responds with lower immune responses following vaccination and right now many older folks are the tranche getting these shots despite the fact that people older than 55 were not part of the rushed 2 month Vaccine trials this past summer.  I have not yet seen any antibody response analysis in the older groups yet.  Clearly there are reactions to the vaccines but whether they are caused by the antigens in the vaccine or added adjuvants or even the virus carcasses used to carry the mRna protein units remains unknown. Pfizer had about 50000 enrolled in their trials as did Moderna but I could not  find the exact incidence of “adverse” reactions. Half of the group had salt water of course and adverse reactions to salt water tend to be pretty low. 

   I who am 76 have not been offered a vaccination but I am holding out for the time being until  efficacy/safety data becomes available and I want that data on all the current and proposed vaccines before I receive any shot.

A june 2020 article in Scientific American speculated on whether the  coronavirus vaccines might lead to ADE, (antibody dependent enhancement) which is a situation where the vaccine could in fact worsen the consequences of a covid infection. This has been reported in the Dengue Fever vaccines.  A recent paper in the J of Inf Diseases just 2 wks ago seems to discount that possibility but after a careful reading of the paper I am not so sure.

  The Long Haulers which are the Covid patients with persistent symptoms long after their infection are a growing concern. These are hapless people often with mild infections who develop all manner of symptomatology lasting months and months. These symptoms are varied and sometimes disabling. They include CNS manifestations like headaches, dizziness, “brain fog.”, and depression as well as fatigue, chest, somatic and cardiac pain, myocarditis and pericarditis, rhythm disturbances, as well as shortness of breath, chronic fatigue and the well publicized loss of smell and taste. Treatment has been disappointing and the whole syndrome is poorly understood. Chronic fatigue syndrome has been reported with other corona viruses like SARS and MERS as well as a variety of other virus types. I experienced  this about 25 years ago  for several months and disabling doesn’t even describe it! I have read 3 papers   that list the incidence as over 50% months after the infection. One Italian study said that only one in eight people were free of any persistent symptoms 2 months following. I have also seen a paper long since lost which said the long haul syndrome was far less common. I would be interested to see how common long haul is in vaccinated   folks especially those who get reinfected.

       Joe Biden intends to have 100 million Americans vaccinated in his first 100 days. Let’s say that the incidence of adverse reactions is 1 in a 1000. That means that 100 million people will yield adverse reactions in 100,000 folks if I did my math right. That would be a pretty high rate of adverse events which is way exceeding the incidence of say, influenza vaccines.   My final comment recapitulates my previous comment that each of us has to use our own metrics in deciding when and whether to get our shot. I will hold off as long as I can unless my personal situation changes.

The Pfizer Vaccine:To Take or NOT to Take: That is the Question

 I have studied and blogged about the Covid pandemic since early February and I have followed treatment and vaccine development with interest since then recommending tiered approaches of prevention and management to friends and family. The first tier is to build up your natural immunity with diet, exercise and vitamins and supplements thought to be useful. I have scoured the world literature and media reports and one does need to maintain skepticism no matter the source. Early on the WHO and the CDC issued misleading and entirely wrong assessments and recommendations and I relied upon European and Asian studies early on. It does appear that Vitamin D in 5000 units/day along with selenium and zinc confers resistance to Covid but this is not well supported by properly constructed US studies. There is no downside to their use in moderate amounts. There are many companies rushing their vaccines to market utilizing some tried and true vaccine technologies while others are using revolutionary genetic sequencing methods. Most companies use either  injection of messenger RNA of the Spike protein of the sars covid-2 virus. Pfizer and Moderna’’s trials use this technique.  Messenger RNA is very fragile and these RNA chunks are encased within a protective fatty shell or nanoparticle. They then get into your body’s cells and instruct your protein making machinery of ribosomes to make copies of the virus spike proteins which allow the body to recognize the real Covid invaders spike protein and thereby mount an immune response firing up the various components of the immune system.  This is a new technology and may have risks to some in our population such as those with autoimmune diseases, a class of diseases poorly understood. There has been a worry expressed about antibody dependent enhancement(ADE) in which the severity of a contracted disease is worsened by the vaccine itself. I will cover that in subsequent posts. The clinical trials were run by Pfizer and Moderna and were not large or lengthy. Only 95 cases of Covid occurred in the Moderna  trial and most were in the placebo group. Eight in the vaccine group contracted the virus. In the Pfizer trial eight people also contracted Covid as compared to 162 who got it in the placebo group. The PCR test used did not mention how many”cycles” were used in the run which influences  positive results. Side effects were  said to be minimal. The vaccines were not administered to all age groups and duration of immunity is unknown. The immunity does appear to last at least two months which is when the results were released. The Oxford(UK) AstraZeneca vaccine uses an inactivated Chimpanzee cold virus bonded to the mRNA spike protein. Participant numbers were small and only vaccinating those between 18 and 55(Moderna) and there was some question of dosing regimens. The most widely distributed vaccine is the Chinese vaccine by Sinopharma using traditional methods of an inactivated corona virus which has been given to over a million people. Unfortunately data on the efficacy is sketchy and hampered by poor US/China relations.

The Russian Sputnik vaccine also uses a human adenovirus bonded to spike protein. Results and efficacy is anecdotal and there was nothing resembling anything like a Phase 3 trial.

Novovax is a US company using a wacky idea of selecting the baculovirus, an insect virus to get the spike protein into Moth(!) cells who then produce the proteins which are somehow captured. This technique is called “protein subunit” technology. Sanofi/GlaxoSmithKline are also using this protein subunit method.  Johnson and Johnson has a Phase 3 trial underway since September  and they have announced they are including Black, Hispanic and Native American as well as people with and without comorbidities . They also are offering it as a single dose injection.

  Here are my conclusions based upon preliminary reliable information. The trials are relatively small in extent and duration.  They are certainly RUSHED. The project is called Warp Speed. Duration and intensity of immunity is unknown. Not all age and racial groups both healthy and those with compromised health were tested nor were children, infants or pregnant women or patients on chemotherapy or immune rejection regimens. Could these RNA subunits provoke genetic mischief down the line?  Corona viruses are sturdy stable viruses but mutations in the spike protein or in the parent virus might  doom these vaccines requiring nimble  changes in their configuration. DNA is robust and RNA falls apart quickly so this is probably a safe new technology but there is no way to know for sure. One thing is certain. The companies are in it for the money. Billionaires are being minted daily under their roofs. These vaccines are not polio vaccines which were open source vaccines in the public realm. Unregulated profit driven proprietary vaccine development is problematic by its very structure. The US medical establishment is rushing new and expensive vaccines into distribution and not bothering to test inexpensive promising vaccines from other countries from non US companies. They are also not waiting on other vaccines from domestic companies. I plan on waiting.

UPDATE: Dec 28 2020): Since this initial post the Pfizer variety has been released and several million doses administered so far. There have been  some anaphylactoid and anaphylactic reactions  but to my knowledge no deaths. I have read that Pfizer will cost $40 for the 2 doses and both Moderna and AstraZeneca are considerably less.Astra Zeneca is said to cost $2 and  has waived obtaining a patent. Pfizer is patented. Duration of immunity remains unknown. Frontline medical people are prioritized as well as older people. People over 55 were not part of the Moderna Trials, nor were anyone under age 18 or people with comorbidities including pregnant women. There is a new variant originating from the UK which appears more infectious and does appear to infect children and young adults which is worrisome. Will the vaccine be effective or safe in these groups? Ideally all the vaccines need to be trialed on all population groups with an without comorbidities and followed for at least a year or two. That is a true Phase 3 trial!!! It also appears dosing regimens in Moderna and AstraZeneca have been shifting to find the sweet spot.  If you are vaccinated can you still transmit the virus ? . Likely not, but still an unknown.  Now perhaps the most worrying factoid: Pfizer negotiated a “Heads I win. Tails you lose” contract with the US Government.  That means  no legal liability  with their Covid vaccine.   Do the American people know that if the vaccine is ineffective or dangerous that they will have no legal recourse to sue Pfizer? It would seem that this needs to be understood before anyone presents their bare shoulder. To take or not to take. ?? Every person needs to decide for themselves based upon their heath risks.  Once all or most of the US companies have had  their vaccines approved and released to significant numbers of people and quality and duration of immunity established, I will seriously consider joining the line of willing guinea pigs. Until then, I plan on waiting.