Omicron BA.2; 2022 COVID Forecast; Napkin Calculation #8

Friday: (CNN) BA.2, the newly detected version of Omicron, is not a cause for alarm, scientists say. Quoting,

There’s no indication that BA.2 causes more severe disease or spreads more easily than the original strain of Omicron. A report released Thursday by the UK’s Health Security Agency offers additional reassurance, suggesting that current vaccines protect about as well…

Monday: (medRXiv)Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron VOC subvariants BA.1 and BA.2: Evidence from Danish Households. Quoting,

We conclude that Omicron BA.2 is inherently substantially more transmissible than BA.1, and that it also possesses immune-evasive properties that further reduce the protective effect of vaccination against infection, but do not increase its transmissibility from vaccinated individuals with breakthrough infections.

What a difference three days make! BA.2  is now dominant in Denmark.  Now look at (JHU) Timeline Comparisons; Data Sources: Cases and deaths data. Scroll down to the interactive timeline charts, Jan. 1, 2020 to present. Nota bene. Napkin calculations are not to be trusted. They can still inform.

  • Napkin Calculation #8 begins with the most primitive form of prediction, extrapolation of the smoothed chart.
  • Time between the first two  peaks: 9 months.
  • Smooth the 9/21 peak and the 1/22 peak into one, 11 months. Smoothing is necessary to avoid overfitting the data.
  • Prediction via extrapolation: A peak 9-10 months past 1/22.

Three points on a noisy graph do not make a valid extrapolation. We add factors  that could push/pull/confirm the extrapolation,  acting as substitutes for the missing graph points, a crude form of data fusion:

  • The current daily death rate is about the same as the 4/20 peak, likely the result of the countervailing effects of better interventions and less fear.
  • Assumption. Effective immunity, which wanes with time, as opposed to official vaccination status, is approaching a plateau.
  • Argument. Community presence will stabilize around levels  influenced by fear, caution, and irrational exuberance. From (CNN) CDC’s big announcement: Take Off Your Mask,

As of today, China, with 5X the population, and a poorly protective vaccine, records deaths to our 596,646. China citizens are compliant with public health regulations; U.S. citizens are not. By this metric, COVID-19 could be defined as a social problem, not medical.

  • In the U.S., BA.1 has a big head start over BA.2, delaying the next wave until  immunity induced by BA.1  wanes.

The above factors converge broadly on fall 2022. Most infectious respiratory disease is influenced by season.

  • October is favored for the next wave as a traditional seasonal factor.

Intuitively, the added factors are worth one or two more graph points.

What of severity? The speculation of Omicron, a Good Thing? is wrong. Omicron infection provides some cross immunity, at terrible cost. Whether faded immunity from Omicron, 9 months hence, reduces severity is an open question, which only a variant can answer.  Mortality will probably decline, due to increased human immune  system experience, but remain at uncomfortable levels.

Since napkin calculations are not to be trusted, what’s the takeaway? If vaccine uptake/effective immunity is plateauing,

  • Mortality statistics are likely to revert to the characteristics of earlier decades, perhaps the 1950’s.

For the foreseeable future,

  • Work-from-home is a good idea.
  • Keep immunization status current.
  • Avoid activities favored by crowds of risk-taking extroverted strangers.







(CNN) Ukrainian soldier kills 5 in shooting rampage at military factory; Russian False Flag Op?

(CNN) Ukrainian soldier kills 5 in shooting rampage at military factory.

Two perspectives compete for our attention, legal and intelligence. Legal is deliberate and fair, where speculation is frowned on. Intelligence is time-urgent, a product of unilateral judgement that usually presents as probabilities. This is the current perspective. It is speculation,  of possible use to investigators.

Dnipro is about 100 miles from Donetsk. The Line of Contact is just west of Donetsk. The cities are connected by European route E 50, and parallel secondary roads.

Hypothesis. There was a getaway driver, intended to lead Ukrainian forces in high speed pursuit down E50, with carefully orchestrated cell tower pings, always behind the actual location. The Russian intent, to give the illusion of a high speed Ukrainian strike force, intercepted while in pursuit of the shooter, near or in the Line of Contact. The appearance, a Ukrainian “provocation.”

The crime is of small importance. But if the hypothesis is substantiated, it implies that war has been decided.






Note to Sergey Lavrov

(CNN) Blinken warns any Russian ‘invasion’ of Ukraine would be met with a ‘severe and a united response’ following Lavrov meeting. Quoting,

“You claim that we are going to attack Ukraine, although we have repeatedly explained that this is not the case,” Lavrov said when asked about a potential invasion by CNN Senior International Correspondent Frederik Pleitgen.

You’re in great form, Sergey Lavrov. I’ve never heard better.

Edit. It appears to require clarification. A reader with native tongue sophistication would understand. Sergey Lavrov was not speaking with candor.


Ukraine; Let’s Make a Deal; Suggestion to Vladimir Putin

(CNN) US weighs more military support for Ukraine to resist Russia if it invades. Quoting,

US officials left the meetings in Europe last week even more pessimistic about what Putin could be planning, and how limited the west’s leverage is to stop it—even with the punishing sanctions and increased NATO presence in eastern Europe currently on the table.

Regular readers may have wondered about my silence.  It has to do with  how this blog is perceived outside the U.S. Some foreign readers may have the suspicion that this blog is an occasional back channel, or is  in some way “influential.”  This has never been the case. Nor I have ever been privy to affairs of state. Nevertheless, since the suspicion is impossible to dispel, I try to  avoid the moral equivalent of violating the Logan Act.

With previous Russian aggression in Ukraine, there was no significant U.S. response so  the issue did not arise. This time, the U.S. response, in the hands of Secretary Blinken’s capable team, is really on the ball.  The CNN quote, exposing some of the inner debate, allows some limited commentary, as a private, unaffiliated person. Blinken’s team has these choices:

1. Maintain the current level of support. Bleed the Russians in subsequent guerrilla war. This has historical irony, since there was such a war. See Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. This history may give Putin the feeling it can be dealt with.

2. Go heavy on equipment provision. Some of this equipment contains classified elements. After inevitable Russian capture of samples and reverse engineering, NATO stockpiles would have to be modified at considerable expense. If Putin can be deterred by the human and economic costs, it has a shot at success.

If Putin is undeterred, this strategy encounters the same military reality that has cursed Poland’s history, flatness. The vast bulk of Ukraine is flat, part of the East European plain. This landscape works to the benefit of a mobile force with air superiority. Ukraine forces would become what are described in war games as “static divisions”, against which Russian thermobaric weapons would be effective. A lot of Russians would return to the motherland in coffins, without saving Ukraine for democracy.

3. Make a deal for a kind of Austrian neutrality.  It is illogical to sacrifice Ukraine to preserve NATO expandability. It would not be helpful to go into specifics in any way, shape, or form. Let’s skip to justification, which is provided by one or possibly two famous men.

George F. Kennan was the original author of the policy of Containment for the postwar Soviet Union. See Kennan’s Long Telegram. On Feb. 5, 1997, the NY Times published his opinion piece, A Fateful Error. Quoting,

…expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-cold-war era…. Such a decision may be expected to inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion; to have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy; to restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations, and to impel Russian foreign policy in directions decidedly not to our liking.

Did Kennan get anything wrong? His description of the present is eerily prescient. The argument it would have happened anyway has an uphill fight. Might a neutral Ukraine posthumously honor his prescience?

On December 19, 1994, the Washington Post published Henry Kissinger’s opinion piece, EXPAND NATO NOW. Loud and clear. But on July 1, 2008, the NY Times published Kissinger’s Unconventional wisdom about Russia. Quoting,

…the movement of the Western security system from the Elbe River to the approaches to Moscow brings home Russia’s decline in a way bound to generate a Russian emotion that will inhibit the solution of all other issues…

This statement was made against a hopeful background for Russian politics that no longer exists. His opinion is doubtless available to the Administration. Kissinger is an advocate of diplomacy backed by force. He may question whether the available measures are sufficient.

Note to Vladimir Putin. You are on the verge of an historic error. Prior to 2014, Europeans had forgotten the meme of war for the sake of war. It had simply become inconceivable. Think thrice before you cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war. Once loosed, they cannot be recaptured in our lifetimes. China, not NATO, has claims on Russian territory.










(WaPo) The battle to prevent another Jan. 6 features a new weapon: The algorithm; Intel9 Prediction

(WaPo) The battle to prevent another Jan. 6 features a new weapon: The algorithm. Quoting,

The sentiment comes from a small group working in a cutting-edge field known as unrest prediction. The group takes a promising if fraught approach that applies the complex methods of machine-learning to the mysterious roots of political violence…

On December 21, 2020, I anticipated a coup: Coup in the United States? In May of 1964, this almost happened…

I have worked in AI, but I didn’t use it here. I used:

  • The unique capacity of some human minds to know the minds of others, and simulate them, in a process known as empathy.
  • Reflection on prior actions and pronouncements.
  • See  (1/17/2021) Coup Still Possible from Inside Government for ideation analysis.

Unrest prediction has value primarily for societies we know less well than our own, where it competes with domestic intelligence, leaks, and close observation of key personalities.