June 3, 2020

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MY USA TODAY COLUMN: A new era: The Space Age is making a comeback, but it’s cheaper this time with SpaceX. “Though the news is filled with stories of riots and a pandemic, the most transformative things going on at present are in a totally different sphere.”

BUT THE RIOTS ARE FINE: Infectious disease specialists call for an end to tear gas during COVID-19 pandemic. A friend on Facebook comments: “I don’t even have words for anyone who can’t see through this coordinated charade. I am so over it. If we let these dirtbags win in November, we are so done.”

The public health community has not behaved in a way that enhances trust. That’s an unfortunate dereliction.

THE OTHER COST OF THE LOCKDOWN: Tragedy only 3 blocks from my house. According to my neighbors, the mother of a “special needs” child could no longer take the lockdown and being denied the respite provided to her by daycare. Day before yesterday, she shot the child and then turned the gun on herself.
The little girl was six years old.

SEEN ON FACEBOOK:

U.S. STATE DEPT SHACKLES TARGET MADURO’S VENEZUELA KLEPTOCRATS:

In 2020, the military continues to support Maduro. Why? The ranks participate in the regime’s theft racket, so obedience pays in cash and privileges. Maduro’s clique has maintained control over major economic assets, like oil production. Regime military loyalists control food distribution and deny food to his opponents. However, they are willing to sell starving citizens food and, presumably, toothpaste, for cash — the bribes paid in jewelry, euros or dollars.

Read the entire column.

LEARN TO CODE: Microsoft lays off journalists to replace them with AI.

SO OBAMA’S GOING TO ADDRESS THE NATION? Funny, because I remember what a running joke this became during his presidency.

Obama could have been a racial healer. But — and this is very important — he never wanted to be one.

Related: Former Obama Intelligence Official Helps Secure Bail for Molotov Cocktail-Throwing NYC Lawyer.

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WITH ALL THE DEMOCRATS BUYING GUNS SINCE THE PANDEMIC AND THE RIOTS, IS GUN CONTROL EVEN A THING NOW? Virginia’s Gun Rights Battle Spawned the Second Amendment Sanctuary Movement.

MY USA TODAY COLUMN: A new era: The Space Age is making a comeback, but it’s cheaper this time with SpaceX. “Though the news is filled with stories of riots and a pandemic, the most transformative things going on at present are in a totally different sphere.”

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THE NARRATIVE THAT WILL NOT DISPERSE: No, Peaceful Protesters Were Not Tear-Gassed So Trump Could Do a Photo-Op.

RECREATE ’68: How to destroy civilization — Thanks to tenured radicals, we are witnessing the retribalization of the world.

(Classical reference in headline.)

ALSO, “VORTEX LASER” JUST SOUNDS SO 21ST CENTURY: Vortex Lasers May Be a Boon for Data.

WE’LL TURN THEM ‘ROUND AND ‘ROUND: Arrested Looters in NYC Are Immediately Released Because of Bail-Reform Law.

I know Glenn is done with the Steely Dan references, but I just haven’t been able to resist today.

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE “PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY?”: Remember when we had to listen to the allegedly unanimous opinion of public health experts that nothing, literally NOTHING, was more important that social distancing to prevent the spread of Coronavirus?

I agree that it’s important (regardless of whether the particular incident of excessive use of force by police in question was a product of racism or just routine police brutality). I also think that putting 30% of the public out of work is important, indeed more important, especially given that racism is a persistent issue that will create plenty of protest opportunities, whereas destroying millions of people’s livelihoods was immediate.

Some of my social media friends have been insisting for some time that many of the hardcore lockdown/social distancing advocates were less concerned about public health and more about imposing their own value system against what they considered an unenlightened public, and some subset of those people actually welcomed the lockdown because they prefer people to live on the government dole that to allow “capitalist exploitation.” I’m not, to say the least, a big fan of the political and public health establishment, but I nevertheless thought this was too cynical.

Yet today we see Mayor DeBlasio arguing that protesting racism is more important than being banned from attending religious services indefinitely, and Governor Murphy of New Jersey stating that protests against racism may flout social distancing rules, but he’s going to continue to enforce them against lockdown opponents.

Worse yet, Slate reports that:

Facing a slew of media requests asking about how protests might be a risk for COVID-19 transmission, a group of infectious disease experts at the University of Washington, with input from other colleagues, drafted a collective response. In an open letter published Sunday, they write that “protests against systemic racism, which fosters the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on Black communities and also perpetuates police violence, must be supported.”… By Tuesday afternoon, more than 1,000 epidemiologists, doctors, social workers, medical students, and other health experts had signed the letter.

I don’t think anyone who knows me would describe me as at all credulous, but I think I need to get even more cynical.

UPDATE: Just a few days ago, Yale epidemiologist Gregg Gonsalves, was literally accusing President Trump of “genocide” for not taking stronger measure to contain Covid-19. Today, he signed the “protests against racism are more important than stopping the spread of Covid-19” letter.

AS THEY SHOULD: After Crew Dragon soars, some in Congress tout benefits of commercial space.

Although the saying probably originated with one of the greatest Roman historians, Tacitus, President John F. Kennedy popularized the phrase—”Success has a hundred fathers, and defeat is an orphan.” This aphorism can be applied to commercial space now that SpaceX has successfully launched two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station on a Falcon 9 rocket inside Dragonship Endeavour.

Since this flight, several congressional leaders have begun speaking more about commercial space, an approach in which private companies self-invest in their hardware, own their vehicle, and sell services to NASA. Prior to Dragon’s flight, no private spacecraft had ever flown humans into orbit before—only large government space programs in the United States, Russia, and China had done it. Now, private companies such as SpaceX are demonstrating their capabilities.

Just a reminder that I’ve been strongly supporting commercial space since the 1980s.

CHRISTIAN TOTO: Stars Bail Out Protesters, Silent on Helping Victims. “Steve Carell, Seth Rogen and more mum on helping minority-owned businesses.”

NO, I’M NEVER GONNA DO IT WITHOUT THE FEZ ON: Masks During Sex? One Crazy COVID-19 Study Says Yes.

WELL, PAYING PEOPLE TO BE UNEMPLOYED CERTAINLY GOT RESULTS: New coronavirus stimulus plan would pay you $1,200 to go to work.

MICHAEL WALSH: ‘Resistance’ Has Become Insurrection.

NOW OUT POSTHUMOUSLY, FROM JERRY POURNELLE: Mamelukes (4) (Janissaries).

I LIKE THE CUT OF HIS JIB: Boris Johnson on the Hong Kong crisis: We will meet our obligations, not walk away.

Britain would then have no choice but to uphold our profound ties of history and friendship with the people of Hong Kong.

Today, about 350,000 of the territory’s people hold British National (Overseas) passports and another 2.5 million would be eligible to apply for them. At present, these passports allow visa-free access to the United Kingdom for up to six months.

If China imposes its national security law, the British government will change our immigration rules and allow any holder of these passports from Hong Kong to come to the UK for a renewable period of 12 months and be given further immigration rights, including the right to work, which could place them on a route to citizenship.

This would amount to one of the biggest changes in our visa system in history. If it proves necessary, the British government will take this step and take it willingly.

Many people in Hong Kong fear that their way of life — which China pledged to uphold — is under threat. If China proceeds to justify their fears, then Britain could not in good conscience shrug our shoulders and walk away; instead we will honour our obligations and provide an alternative.

Read the whole thing.

BUT IS IT ENOUGH? COVID-19 cases drop slightly in warm weather. In my own community, interestingly, cases are up (possibly due to much more testing), but hospitalizations remain rare, and we haven’t had a death in weeks. So maybe it affects severity? Also, most of the increase in cases seems to be clusters in the Hispanic community, for some reason.

BUT ORANGE MAN BAD OR SOMETHING: Doubt looms over hydroxychloroquine study that halted global trials.

In the Lancet study—which was published May 22 and reported by Ars—researchers aimed to provide some clarity of the drugs’ effects in COVID-19 patients. The researchers claimed to do so using the largest set of data to date, involving more than 96,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients from six continents. According to the authors, a thorough hashing of the data indicated that those taking either hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine had significantly higher risks of death and heart complications compared with COVID-19 patients who did not take either of the drugs.

The safety issues were concerning enough that on May 26, the World Health Organization announced that it was suspending the use of hydroxychloroquine in its global Solidarity Trial, which is evaluating several potential COVID-19 therapies. Regulators in the UK and France also changed their recommendations surrounding the drugs.

Amid the global influence, outside researchers began closely examining the data behind the study—or at least tried to do so—and have been left concerned.

Maybe next time don’t halt the ongoing studies until after assessing the value of the new study?

ON THE UPSIDE, THE REPORT GENERATED HEADLINES AND FUD AT THE EXPENSE OF AN INEXPENSIVE, GENERIC, OFF-PATENT TREATMENT FOR A WIDELY FEARED DISEASE: A mysterious company’s coronavirus papers in top medical journals may be unraveling.

On its face, it was a major finding: Antimalarial drugs touted by the White House as possible COVID-19 treatments looked to be not just ineffective, but downright deadly. A study published on 22 May in The Lancet used hospital records procured by a little-known data analytics company called Surgisphere to conclude that coronavirus patients taking chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine were more likely to show an irregular heart rhythm—a known side effect thought to be rare—and were more likely to die in the hospital.

Within days, some large randomized trials of the drugs—the type that might prove or disprove the retrospective study’s analysis—screeched to a halt. Solidarity, the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) megatrial of potential COVID-19 treatments, paused recruitment into its hydroxychloroquine arm, for example.

But just as quickly, the Lancet results have begun to unravel—and Surgisphere, which provided patient data for two other high-profile COVID-19 papers, has come under withering online scrutiny from researchers and amateur sleuths. They have pointed out many red flags in the Lancet paper, including the astonishing number of patients involved and details about their demographics and prescribed dosing that seem implausible. “It began to stretch and stretch and stretch credulity,” says Nicholas White, a malaria researcher at Mahidol University in Bangkok.

Today, The Lancet issued an Expression of Concern (EOC) saying “important scientific questions have been raised about data” in the paper and noting that “an independent audit of the provenance and validity of the data has been commissioned by the authors not affiliated with Surgisphere and is ongoing, with results expected very shortly.”

Plus:

Meanwhile, the questions swirling around the Lancet paper have left leaders of the halted chloroquine trials weighing whether to restart. “The problem is, we are left with all the damage that has been done,” says White, a co-investigator on a trial of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 prevention that was halted at the request of U.K. regulators last week. Headlines proclaiming deadly effects will make it hard to recruit patients to key studies, he says. “The whole world thinks now that these drugs are poisonous.”

Mission accomplished. But whose mission?

Related: Surgisphere and their data.

Meanwhile, from a new Indian study on HCQ prophylaxis in health care workers: “Consumption of four or more maintenance doses of HCQ was associated with a significant decline in the odds of getting infected.”

WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY: ‘Destroying Property Isn’t Violence,’ Says Pulitzer Prize-Winning New York Times Writer.

MY USA TODAY COLUMN: A new era: The Space Age is making a comeback, but it’s cheaper this time with SpaceX. “Though the news is filled with stories of riots and a pandemic, the most transformative things going on at present are in a totally different sphere.”

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Liberal Cities, Radical Mayhem: Democratic mayors and governors seem unable to stop the destruction of their own cities.

The “broken-windows” school of policing says that you can help maintain public order by taking care of even small examples of disorder—such as fixing broken windows. Liberals scorned that policy in the last decade as somehow racist. Well, in recent days we’ve learned that America’s left does have a broken-windows policy: Let rioters break enough windows and loot enough stores and maybe their righteous anger will be satisfied.

That’s certainly how it looked when the June sun rose Tuesday over the broken glass, looted storefronts, burnt-out cars, and vandalized buildings in New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Madison and other American cities. Public officials let rioters exploiting the memory of George Floyd run wild in the streets. Even after nearly a week of violence, these and other liberal Democratic cities let lawless radicals harass and plunder almost at will.

In downtown St. Louis, four police officers were shot after midnight. “I believe some coward randomly shot at the police line,” said police chief John Hayden. A 7-Eleven was looted and set afire, but firefighters were deliberately slowed by protesters in responding. “We had people lying down in the street” and trash cans were placed as obstacles to block fire trucks, said fire chief Dennis Jenkerson.

In Philadelphia, city of brotherly vandals, gangs of rioters rolled through several neighborhoods Sunday burning businesses and cars. They returned for more on Monday, shutting down the highway that bisects the city at evening rush hour.

Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said a crowd of more than 100 surrounded a lone state trooper inside a vehicle and began rocking it. When two SWAT teams arrived, the crowd pelted them with rocks from the road and above. Police had to fire spray pellets, bean bags and tear gas to escape. . . .

This isn’t merely about damage to property. It’s about destroying the order required for city life. Non-criminals are afraid to go into these cities to make a living. The police pull back from active policing, which creates more opportunity for criminals, especially in poor and minority neighborhoods. Businesses that are finally starting to emerge from government lockdowns have new costs to absorb and more reasons for customers not to return.

What all these cities have in common is that they are led by Democrats who seem to have bought into the belief that the police are a bigger problem than rampant disorder. They are either cowed by their party’s left, or they agree that America is systemically racist and rioting is a justified expression of anger against it. They offer pro forma disapproval of law breakers but refuse to act to stop them.

The upshot is that a message is being received — even by those loudly posturing as woke at the moment — to the effect that you and your properties aren’t safe in big blue cities, and maybe even in medium-sized ones. All the talk about the reurbanization of America just went up, literally, in smoke. Thanks to the pandemic, cities were already looking like centers of disease. Now they’re looking like centers of violence, too. As I said earier, three decades of image rehabilitation for big urban centers has been undone in just a few weeks.

BATTLESWARM BLOG: Scenes From The Antifa/BlackLivesMatters Riots. “Even Democrats are wising up to the fact that the violence was organized.”

THIS IS CNN: Antifa Supporter Chris Cuomo All but Lights Matches for NYC Rioters in Despicable On-Air Rant. “Now, too many see the protests as the problem. No, the problem is what forced your fellow citizens to take to the streets, persistent, and poisonous, inequities and injustice. And please, show me where it says that protesters are supposed to be polite and peaceful.”

Related: “Well, besides the fact that there are laws against being violent, it’s right in the First Amendment:” “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Flashback:

MICHAEL WALSH: ‘Resistance’ Has Become Insurrection.

TYLER O’NEIL: Trump’s Latest Religious Freedom Move Is a Warning to China. “Trump’s order also directs Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to employ ‘economic tools’ against countries the violate religious freedom, including ‘imposing sanctions’.”

WALTER OLSON: “You can’t gather for a graveside memorial or to visit your terminally ill relative, even if everyone wears a mask and refrains from hugging. Now you’re encouraged to join large crowds in public gatherings. People notice these inconsistencies, and they ask questions. How good are your answers?”

My answer, that we’re ruled by lying weasels with an agenda, seems fairly robust at this point.

IN THE MAIL: Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking.

THEY CHOOSE… POORLY: Looters Break Into Philly Gun Store. It Doesn’t Go Well for Them.