(Reuters) AstraZeneca vaccine not ready for quick European approval, watchdog official says

(Reuters) AstraZeneca vaccine not ready for quick European approval, watchdog official says.

I agree. I said as much on August 24, before the first neurological complications were reported, in Why I Would Not Take the Russian or Oxford – AstraZeneca Vaccines – Part 2.

A plausible mechanism is given in (CNN) NIH ‘very concerned’ about serious side effect in AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine trial.

 

Nashville Explosion; Bomb Forensics; Related to Antifa?

(CNN) ‘This vehicle will explode in 15 minutes.’ Witnesses describe surviving the Nashville explosion.

The forensics so far released permits some comments about the device, followed with attempted profile of the perpetrator(s).

DEVICE

The damage is much less than expected,  inconsistent with the size and effect of a typical vehicle IED. The lack of total wall collapse of adjacent buildings is indicative of a much smaller device than a camper could  carry. It was either intentionally under-powered, or a fizzle. Since  there is no mention of nails or ball bearings as lethality enhancers,  lethality was not maximized. This fits well with an intentionally small device.

Since ANFO, ammonium nitrate/fuel oil, is the almost universal choice for car bombs, as well as the leading industrial explosive, a bomber’s illegal contacts would have to be very unusual to choose something else.

The color of the smoke is usually a clue to the type of explosive. In this case, the black smoke is likely an indication of a bomb maker’s error, or intentional sloppiness. Gross simplification: Almost all explosives, with the notable exception of TATP, contain all four of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen.

  • Nitrogen oxides tend to make orange smoke.
  • Water, from hydrogen and oxygen, white smoke.
  • Carbon, black smoke.

Which color you see depends upon which of the above is dominant. An optimal ANFO bomb produces orange smoke.

  • An excess of fuel oil,  more than the optimal 6%, results in black smoke from the carbon in the oil.
  • An attempt  to “boost” the IED by surrounding it with fuel oil in some dispersal scheme, perhaps for a fuel-air effect, could result in black smoke.
  • If the bomb maker was environmentally minded, he might have mixed in PPC (Pittsburgh Pulverized Coal), to suppress toxic nitrogen oxides, with black smoke resulting.

PERPETRATOR PROFILE

An AT&T switching center is adjacent to the blast site. The choice of targets have been suggested as police, infrastructure, or a combination, where police would be drawn to respond by risk to infrastructure.

Goals of maximum loss of life or widespread emotional impact are not supported. The 15 minute countdown recording suggests a conscience more conditional than we have come to associate with Islamic terror. Since impact was actually minimized by the recorded warning,  it is unlikely to have links to Islamic terrorism.

  • The absence of a social media footprint suggests higher intelligence than typical of recent right-wing extremism.
  • The possible human remains are consistent with a suicide attack.
  • There has been no claim of responsibility.  A lone wolf is possible. 

If the perpetrator has ideological motivation, it may derive from

  • Anarchism of the late 19th and early 20th century.
  • Anti-fascism, as typified by the Weather Underground of 1969-1977, and the first and second wave Red Brigades of 1970-1988.
  • The nascent potential for similar terror in the current Antifa movement.

Neo-naziism and Antifa are not simply polar opposites. The extreme right wing in the U.S., and probably elsewhere, is intellectually challenged. The further right we go, the dumber they get, eventually aligning with significant mental impairment.  This broad grouping is almost incapable of ideating  anything more sophisticated than the use of violence to incite more of the same. Notorious acts, such as the Oklahoma City bombing,  have caused unselective loss of life.

We don’t have to love left-wing or anarchic radicals more than the right to acknowledge that the radical left, and the classical anarchists, think because they can. The intelligence of the modern Antifa  grouping encourages elaborate ideations, typically actions of surgical scope.  The Nashville bombing has, by design, noticeably limited scope.

The likely political sympathy is left.  Whether it converts to political group association depends upon investigation. At best, this is a lone-wolf suicide. At worst, another Unabomber,  difficult  because of the intelligence of the perpetrator.

If Antifa is involved, publicity is key to the goal, and key also to the investigation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New COVID Strain VOC 202012/01, More Lethal? Argument #1

This is a dangerous question. If this blog were mass media, I’d skip it. But readers of are a pretty intelligent bunch, so they can handle it. Several plausibility arguments  suggest that VOC 202012/01 will be found to be more lethal. This is not the same as proof. But it will be seen that spin is a powerful influence on how the public would view this.

Spin is in the paternal tradition of  public health and medicine. Manage the truth, because the public are largely incapable of responding to the unspun version. If they were, they would be wearing masks.

The first step is an assumption, that VOC 202012/01 really spreads more easily.  The Dice of the Universe, statistics, have great fake-out moves. We have to assume that  “increased infectivity” is not a simply the result of an improbable superspreader event, or chain of events. We have to make this assumption, because statistical fact takes  months to emerge.

This is discussed in For Pros Only: (CNN) Fauci says task force seriously considering new testing strategy; Vilfredo Pareto. The crux of that article is that the concept of R_o, the basic reproduction ratio, is not close enough to reality for good models.

But when statisticians report that VOC 202012/01 spreads 70% more easily, they are relying on R_o as a useful simplification. They are stating that R_o of VOC 202012/01 is 1.7 X  R_o of the dominant COVID strain. That’s OK, provided we understand that R_o is useful in conversation,  not for sophisticated modeling. Now we’re ready for our first argument.

Argument #1. Suppose the dominant strain of COVID  arrives at a sleepy mountain village in the mountains of southern of Italy, or an isolated native American settlement in the far north.

  • Each settlement has a population of 1000, with typical distributions of young and old.
  • Everybody in the village gets COVID, but only symptomatic cases are tested and detected.
  • 40% never have symptoms, so they aren’t tested. This reflects testing in the real world.
  • 60% of each population develop symptomatic COVID.
  • 6% of the infected die, 3.6% of the population of each village, 36 people.

Now repeat this with VOC 202012/01.

  • R_o appears to be higher, because 100% of the inhabitants develop symptomatic COVID.
  • Purists may object that this is a misuse of the concept of R_o, but the concept is fatally flawed anyway.  It is a useful proxy.
  • 6% of the infected die, 6% of the population of each village, 60 people.
  • Yet the sick were no sicker, nor more likely to die than from “standard COVID”.

We find ourselves in public health spin-land.

  • More village inhabitants people die when VOC 202012/01 comes to town, so it’s more lethal.
  • If VOC 202012/01 is the dominant strain, you are more likely to die from COVID.
  • If you have VOC 202012/01, you are no more likely to die than from standard COVID.

Why is this so hard to understand? Because it’s more than a single question can hold. A lot of things in life are that way. And it’s spinnable. In spinning a public health statement, which of the below concerns have more weight?

  • Avoid panic, though, so far, panic has not been a problem.
  • Puncture the egotism of the mask and vaccine deniers. This could offer them  a second chance, without even the private admission they were wrong in the first place.

Argument #1 is unique.  It does not come out of experimental science, logic, or statistics. It’s interpretation o f consequences. Yet it is real.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coup in the United States? In May of 1964, this almost happened…

It happened in fiction, in the movie (YouTube) Seven Days in May.

In case something happens to the link, Wikipedia synopsis here.   Buy it or rent it.

L. Fletcher Prouty, Chief of Special Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President John F. Kennedy thought an event closely paralleling Seven Days conjoined the Kennedy assassination.  His book, JFK: The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy, cannot simply be dismissed (or believed). His later descent into the sinkhole of conspiracy theory robs it of an author’s stature. Yet it lingers, at least as counterfactual history, with tantalizing possibilities to touch reality.

To those of you who swore your allegiance, not to a person or party, but to the Constitution of the United States, the words of Thomas Paine beckon:

December 23, 1776

THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value…

 

(CNN) Researchers reject Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s misuse of their studies to support mask denialism.

(CNN) Researchers reject Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s misuse of their studies to support mask denialism.

Upfront: Laura Ingraham may be stupid, evil, or both, but this is a missed opportunity for CNN to explain the science in an accessible way. It could be done in three sentences with schoolyard vocabulary. Comments for CNN at the end.

The study in question: (Annals of Internal Medicine) Effectiveness of Adding a Mask Recommendation to Other Public Health Measures to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Danish Mask Wearers. The study authors present conclusions valid to professional statisticians, yet fail to inform public health policy. The  implication that masks fail to protect the wearer is unjustified. How can this be?

Imagine you are a scientist investigating coin tosses. You use your funding to buy a single penny. You toss it six times; you get five heads.  The chance of this happening is 5%. The chance of five tails  is 5%.  Is 5% sheer random chance definitive? This is a demo of the Central Limit Theorem. Maybe you should drop your plan to write, “Random Variation of Coin Tosses With Implications for Gang Warfare”. The study is weak, lacking statistical power. 

Instead of a binary outcome, the study observes:

  • 5% chance mask use reduced any degree of COVID  infection, including asymptomatic by 46%. This is statistically weak. A study that measured reduction of severe infection could be much stronger.
  • 5% chance mask use increased infection by 23%, which is absurd. This connects with weak statistical power.
  • In case you haven’t noticed, the above is contradictory, a red flag.
  • Severity of infection was not measured, only immune reaction, likely a limitation of sample size limited by budget.

Reduction of severe infection is crucial and unmeasured, which the authors acknowledge:

“Masks have been hypothesized to reduce inoculum size (34) and could increase the likelihood that infected mask users are asymptomatic, but this hypothesis has been challenged (35).”

There is a 5% chance of absurdity, that masks increase infection. The study authors are completely honest, acknowledging this with stated limitations:

“Inconclusive results, missing data, variable adherence, patient-reported findings on home tests, no blinding, and no assessment of whether masks could decrease disease transmission from mask wearers to others.”

Now for the journalism. Laura Ingraham is untouched by CNN as long as CNN’s scathing criticism is confined to the political domain. “Follow the leader” is a strong political meme that can’t be countered with “believe us not them”. Some significant minority of our society is amenable to reasoning with facts. Any political piece that goes beyond sheer tactics deserves a few nibbles of reason from the natural world, with companion schoolyard logic.

 

 

(CNN) George Bush’s Greeting Card; Complement to the Image

(click to enlarge)

(CNN) George W. Bush sends holiday card with pointed message as Trump denies election loss. My  secular complement appears above. The painting previously appeared  in COVID-19 and Augury; A Painting for Today, a dismissal of blind hope.

But as with poetry, a painting contains its diametric opposite. This is the season for hope, not blind hope, but firm hope that turns into resolution.

If we pull hard enough on those bootstraps, maybe we can do it.

 

 

(CNN) White House chief of staff told FDA chief vaccine must be authorized Friday or he needs to resign

(CNN) White House chief of staff told FDA chief vaccine must be authorized Friday or he needs to resign.

Stephen Hahn’s dilemma is real:

  • The Pfizer vaccine will certainly save lives of those who receive it. It is relatively safe compared to immunizations commonly given to international travelers, but  not as safe as a flu shot.
  • Unless administered in locations well equipped to handle anaphylactic shock, a few people may die in a very public manner.
  • People who die in public view are amplified by the media, transcending numbers and the net benefit of the shot to the public.
  • Those few casualties would greatly inhibit uptake of the Pfizer shot, and  even safer vaccines yet to come.
  • The result would be prolongation of the epidemic, possibly with more total deaths than if approval were denied.

(CNN) Allergy warning for Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine after UK health workers with allergy history suffer reaction

(CNN) Allergy warning for Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine after UK health workers with allergy history suffer reaction.

This was anticipated, but I did not want to risk being identified as an antivaxer.  I would take the Pfizer vaccine, but only in a hospital  or well equipped clinic.  The presentation of anaphylactic shock is sudden and often severe. Sometimes it requires transfer to an ER. If anaphylactic shock does not occur within the first half hour, it is unlikely to occur, or be severe. mRNA decays rapidly. So unlike the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine, the known risk factor is short term.

It is oft said that one cannot be allergic on first exposure to a potential allergen, but there is a big loophole, cross-reactivity of IgE antibodies to a substance with a similar shape.

The synthesis of a class of antibodies  is restricted to  processes that do not require a lot of energy, and without toxic byproducts.  This means that all antibodies of a class are more similar than different. An antibody binds very weakly to the target, like the crummy adhesive of a Post-It note. The bond is so weak, antibodies are constantly falling of their targets.  Shape — lock and key — target and antibody, is crucial to  the grip.

Since most targets with interesting shapes are proteins, virtually all allergens are proteins, or protein complexes. mRNA, the active constituent of the Pfizer vaccine, is not a protein. Yet RNA is known to be allergenic, meaning that on occasion it can be misidentified as harmful. How can this be?

Proteins are made of small nitrogen containing molecules called amino acids, which can make chains called peptides. If a peptide is long enough, it’s called a protein. RNA is made of nucleobases, which contain sugars, nitrogen-containing compounds and other stuff. The presence of nitrogen is key to molecules with complex, distinctive shapes, a requirement of  allergens.

All proteins contain nitrogen, but not all nitrogenous chemicals are proteins. Four different nitrogen-containing nucleobases form long chains that spell the message of life, or in the Pfizer vaccine,  instructions to the molecular factories of a human cell for making COVID-19 spike protein, which provokes the immune system to manufacture spike protein antibodies.

Someone or something searching for a shape in the mRNA chain sees randomness unrelated to the purpose of mRNA as a carefully coded message. So it’s practically impossible to identify the cross-reactive region that caused an allergic reaction in a particular patient.  But the problem is even worse.

All molecules vibrate. They barely resemble the colorful sticks-and-balls models of illustration. Some molecules are pretty stable. Double-strand DNA is strong enough you could make golf-club shafts out of it. mRNA is the extreme opposite, constantly twisting and gyrating like a crazed break-dancer. Only  weighting the ends of the strand with molecular tails, and ultra-cold storage, keep it from tearing apart long enough to reach the patient.

Injected, the mRNA  is warmed to body temperature and exposed to hostile enzymes. Quickly vibrating to destruction, mRNA and its fragments present zillions of different, unpredictable shapes to circulating IgE antibodies. A few recipients will be unlucky, with antibodies cross-reactive to this mRNA or its fragments.

The unlucky few can be treated  in a well equipped clinic or ER, and the drama will be over in a few hours.  If you know how to play the odds, get the Pfizer shot.  Better vaccines will come a few months later, but I wouldn’t wait. I would only choose if choice is immediate.

 

 

 

(CNN) Florida police raid home of former state Covid-19 data scientist

(CNN) Florida police raid home of former state Covid-19 data scientist.

The article left me scratching my head. Is Rebekah Jones merely a rebel, or has she been faithful to the charge of her undergraduate major in journalism, which in public service means blowing the whistle?  How could I know more about her as a person?

Watch the first seven minutes of (YouTube) Conversation with Rebekah Jones ’12, an interview by one of her former Syracuse University professors.

Then tell me what you think.

(CNN)’Sonic attacks’ suffered by US diplomats likely caused by microwave energy, government study says

(CNN)‘Sonic attacks’ suffered by US diplomats likely caused by microwave energy, government study says.

Download the National Academy of Sciences report (pdf) here.

I wrote 16 articles on the attacks, which advance the theory that:

The ultrasound theory was not one of the four mechanisms identified as plausible by the NAS authors:

  • Directed radio frequency energy, that is, microwaves, with basis in the Frey Effect. Frey is still kicking, and thinks it might be correct.
  • Chemicals.
  • Infectious agents.
  • Psychological and social factors.

Since I “invested” in the ultrasound theory, the reader may suspect a bias against the NAS Report. I am not above suspicion. But it should not prevent a critical look at the Report.

Point 1: The Report is skimpy and weak.  Of the 77 pages, only pages 17-20 address microwaves. The bulk of the report is boilerplate, bibliography, and incomplete refutations of the other three mechanisms. The committee biographies actually occupy 8 pages, versus 3 for the microwave theory. This report wants you to accept because of who they are.

Point 2: The copyright is 2020.  Even if the report was completed in 2018, with delayed publication, that allows two years in which no  experimental work was performed.

Point 3: An equally eminent group, JASON, have different conclusions. Quoting from (Reuters) Special Report: Inside a Trump-era purge of military scientists at a legendary think tank,

More recently, the Jasons determined that a rare jungle cricket, not a mysterious radio frequency weapon, likely caused the odd sound that U.S. diplomats in Cuba had suspected caused them to fall ill in late 2016. No definitive cause of the illnesses has been determined.

Point 4: Kenneth R. Foster and I share a concern about a missing tell-tale of destructive microwave intensity, heat. (WAPO) Scientists and doctors zap theory that microwave weapon injured Cuba diplomats. Quoting,

It’s crazy,” said Kenneth R. Foster, a professor of bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania who studied microwave phenomena while working at the Naval Medical Research Center in Bethesda. Foster, who was not involved in examining the diplomatic personnel, said that the reported illnesses remain mysterious and that he doesn’t have an explanation….“But it’s sure as heck not microwaves,” he added….University of Cincinnati neurologist Alberto J. Espay said, “Microwave weapons is the closest equivalent in science to fake news.”

Skin is a very sensitive detector of heat. In a simple undergraduate lab experiment the power of 25 milliwatt 5 gHz Gunn diode oscillator is measured with a thermocouple. No student can resist the temptation to briefly stick a finger in the beam. It’s warm. In the public reports of these attacks, there is no mention of warmth. Surely, in drill-down questioning, this would have been asked.

The lack of any experimental work is inexcusable. The research arm at Kirtland AFB was supposed to look at this, but we haven’t heard back.

  • A few sets duplicating the Havana residences would have provided insight into the propagation and directionality of  directed energy, EM or sonic.
  • From a propagation survey on these sets, the wavelengths can be inferred. From the wavelengths and locations within rooms of the sensations, the physical properties of  a directed energy beam can be inferred.
  • These properties must be consistent with depth of penetration into the skull. If they are, we have something resembling a solution.

Without, better to continue wondering, than repeat the error of Aristotle.