Doctor and activist


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Tag: COVID-19

Medicine, Reality and the US vote 11/11/20

Doctors tend to assume that everyone knows certain things, particularly because everyone they meet usually does. They also tend to think that everyone knows the order of importance of what they know.

Many years ago as I started to campaign against tobacco, Henry Mayer, the first Professor of Political Economy in Sydney, who had a regular column in the SMH told me that the health people were invisible in the media on the tobacco issue. I said that this was ridiculous, it was the most studied subject in the history of medicine, with over 60,000 papers and growing daily. He pointed to a person called Tollison, who wrote in the non-medical media that was read by the business sector. There were no medical responses there. The mainstream also media had relatively little on tobacco, as tobacco advertising was one of the major sources of revenue.

So the harm of tobacco was known, but ignored, like the fact that you are going to die one day.

It came home to me, when I amputated the leg of a smoker for vascular disease. He had bad lungs and a bad heart. I said, ‘Look mate, if you keep smoking, you will lose the other leg.’

To my amazement he replied, ‘Look, all you doctors go on about smoking, but if it was as bad as you say it is, the government would do something about it’.

He had internalised the government’s non-action as being mute testimony to it not being a problem. Doctors are, after all a subculture that claims to have expertise in a certain area, as do engineers, educators, weather forecasters and many other groups. In tobacco, the Tobacco Industry, the Australian Hotels Association, Clubs and Pubs and the advertisers and sponsorship recipients fought like tigers to stop reasonable public health policy. They are probably still retarding it- there has not been a Quit campaign in Australia for over a decade.

Trump’s denial of the significance of COVID19 must have struck a chord with those who knew that in the absence of decent welfare system a lockdown would send them broke. They needed to believe that they could carry on, and he and his denial were their salvation. A lot of business interests supported them- they would go broke too.

So it was interesting that the health facts became politicised, and wearing a mask was as much a political statement as a medical one. Politics was not, and will not be in future a good basis for personal preventive heath decisions. So controlling the COVID epidemic in the US will be harder than here, where mainly apathy and complacency are in the way.

The figures that only 4% of people in the US changed their view on the dangers of COVID goes some way to explaining why Biden did not have a landslide. For many people, COVID was not an issue, Trump’s rhetoric was plausible if you did not fact-check, and the economy had been going OK prior to the epidemic.

SMH today:

Virus neglect didn’t infect Trump vote

Shaun Ratcliff

📷

Since the first person was diagnosed with COVID-19 in the US, more than 10 million cases have been confirmed and nearly a quarter of a million people with the virus have died.

Watching from afar, in a country where the coronavirus has been significantly less lethal, it is surprising the incumbent president did as well as he did.

While the pandemic probably did cost him votes, surveys we have run over the course of the year showed there are strong partisan effects on attitudes towards COVID-19, with supporters of Donald Trump mostly unconcerned about the risks from the virus, and getting less worried as the year went on.

These surveys were run in May and September. Both surveys consisted of responses from more than 1000 Americans.

In May, approximately 40 per cent of all Americans were very or extremely worried about the possibility they or a family member might catch the virus. Almost the exact same number were only a little or not at all worried. According to our data, this level of concern actually declined slightly between May and September.

This was largely a partisan affair. Respondents who said they were going to vote for Joe Biden retained a similar level of concern during this period, with 48 per cent very or extremely worried in May, and 50 per cent in September.

However, respondents who said they would vote for Trump were not very concerned about COVID-19 in May – about 19 per cent reported they were worried about it in the first survey and just 11 per cent of Trump voters reported this level of concern in the second survey.

The partisan differences, and the declining trend in Republican concern about COVID-19, are largely the product of the extremely polarised media and political environment in the US.

Trump voters are less trusting of information on COVID-19 from medical experts than Biden supporters, and between May and September a quarter of Republican voters became less likely to trust information from these experts.

This difference may, in part, stem from the media through which they obtain information. Those with the lowest levels of trust tended to rely upon more conservative cable and online news like Breitbart and Fox News, for instance, which have played down the risk posed by the pandemic.

Republicans who rely more on these conservative media outlets were more likely to have lower levels of trust in medical experts, even after controlling for demographic differences between Democrats and Republicans. They were also as likely to trust Donald Trump as medical experts for information on the coronavirus.

In this polarised environment, very few voters abandoned Trump between May and September (only about 4 per cent in our data), and hardly any shifted to support Biden.

Trump supporters tended to align their position on the coronavirus with their political allegiance. Relying more on media that downplayed the significance of the coronavirus, and taking cues from Republican leaders, they decided the pandemic was not a significant threat.

Our data indicates Biden was able to win over a small number of voters who supported neither candidate at the start of the year. It was enough to win in the end, but not enough to deliver the predicted landslide.

Shaun Ratcliff is a lecturer in political science at the United States Study Centre, University of Sydney.

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COVID19 Second Wave is Happening in Europe 9/10/20

Europe is trying to get out of lockdown, but did not have the COVID19 epidemic under control, so the numbers are rising quite steeply, and look likely to be more than the first wave.  I tried to put some graphs together, but it has proved beyond my computer management competence, so I can only refer readers to the Worldometers COVID home page and ask you to click on the individual countries and scroll down to the ‘New Infections’ graph if you want to check what I am saying.

The UK, Ireland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal, Poland, Czechia, Austria, Denmark are all rising.  Spain was following the same pattern, but has just started a new lockdown.  Germany is ticking up, somewhat more modified, as is Norway.  Sweden continues to have cases, but there is some doubt now about how they collect their figures.

The lesson for Australia is clear.  We have to be conservative and go for elimination.  Suppression will not work.  There is danger that NSW has people no longer getting tested, presumably because admitting that an infection is possible means you have to self-quarantine for 2 weeks and have a nasty thing stuck up your nose, when you might just have a cold. 

Daniel Andrews has taken the flak, but implemented a policy that has probably saved Australia.  No thanks to Morrison, whose advice has been frankly mischievous.

Stephen Duckett, one of the architects of Medicare, tells it like it is.

www.smh.com.au/national/go-for-zero-what-victoria-can-teach-nsw-about-covid-19-20200908-p55tp2.html

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Truth in the COVID-19 Era: Australia

Prime Minister, Scott Morrison is perceived to have done well in managing the COVID-19 crisis as, smarting from his bushfire debacle, he took expert advice.  He has used the crisis to shut down Parliament and with his use of State Premiers as a sort of wartime Cabinet he has bypassed the Labor opposition.  Now he […]

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The China Trade Reality

China is a rising power with 1.3 Billion people. Its government is totalitarian, and focussed on improving its place in the world. From a Chinese point of view the West exploited it when it could, and it is now taking its rightful place as the Middle Kingdom, in the centre with others coming to it. […]

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Truth in the COVID-19 Era: The USA

Some of us watch the COVID-19 statistics with fascination try to work out which policies will stop the march of the virus.  This has become all the more urgent as countries try to break the lockdown to restart their economies. The US has overtaken Western Europe (29 countries) in the number of cases by about […]

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COVID-19: A large range of Pathological Processes

It seems that COVID-19 affects not only the lungs, but the heart, kidney, brain, gut, clotting and blood vessels, and that a lot of facts are still not clear.Here is an article from ScienceMag from the Australian Association for the Advancement of Science.www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/04/how-does-coronavirus-kill-clinicians-trace-ferocious-rampage-through-body-brain-toes

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COVID-19: The Swedish Response. Is it OK? 27/5/20

Sweden likes to present itself as a highly sophisticated welfare society where a caring State looks after all its citizens. But conservative governments have been quietly undermining its welfare system for some time, and this opening up of the country and talk of ‘herd immunity’ may be both hypocritical and very poor public policy.

The assumption that healthy people will not die, and the rest do not matter is a very callous moral judgement. The assumption that without normal commerce the economy will not function and thus it is the economy versus a few oldies welfare is a morally appalling position, which is creeping in by default.

When I was a NZ sheep and beef farmer standard practice was that the breeding females had a performance criterion. If they did not get pregnant before winter, they went to the abattoirs as they were too expensive to feed over winter.

Managers love performance criteria, and as Management now dictates political actions people now have to perform also. Not strong enough to survive a COVID19 infection? Funeral for you! It is assumed that the rest will be infected once and then be immune. And when most people have been infected so that the virus cannot propagate in the society, we (hopefully) have ‘herd immunity’.

Politics being what it is, things have to dressed up a bit. Less tests, fewer masks, omit certain types of hospitals, change the death certification. Do not state the policy bluntly, and give no mandatory orders from the top, but make it vague enough with scope for non-implementation of best practice and plausible deniability. Make concerned statements of good intent, select some good figures to quote, and praise the people for their fortitude. If the odd whistleblower says something and manages to get publicity, be surprised, deny, promise to investigate and call it a ‘one off’ case or situation.

Brave New World is here. The only surprise is that it has started in Sweden.

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CoronaVirus COVID-19: Did China do a good job?

23 May 2020

I am not sure of the answer to this question. China obviously hid the facts initially as whistleblower Dr Li Wenliang revealed, later dying of COVID19 himself[1].  Dr Ai Fen of Wuhan Central Hospital also blew the whistle and has now disappeared[2].


China clearly suppressed information initially, and may not be telling the truth now, particularly on the numbers affected.


It used very authoritarian tactics and now claims that the infection of controlled. It seems hard to deny this, if we presume that millions of deaths cannot be hidden. The SARS virus was successfully suppressed with an unprecedented lockdown, and this would appear to be the same. Probably few other countries could have suppressed movement of people as effectively as China could, which is good and bad.


The initial cover up allowed movement to other countries which has allowed the epidemic to spread world wide.


Here is an Indian TV station calling out the WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus for not standing up to China, and giving a pretty damning assessment of his actions, both in not getting the facts from China early and then ignoring their delays. The circumstances of his election to WHO seems to be a reliance on China’s lobbying at WHO, and also his debts to China from his role as Health Minister and then foreign minister of Ethiopia. He is contrasted with the previous head of WHO Health, a Norwegian, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, who called out China and embarrassed them over SARS, so China had an incentive to get a more malleable person in the job.


The TV station seems to have a good story and also claims to be daring and young, though it is owned Esselgroup, which is owned by Subhash Chandra, an Indian billionaire with links to the BJP.  Things are not always clear in politics , but it does seem that the Director-General is a Chinese patsy.


www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1NGzmDVWxA&feature=youtu.be


[1] www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-51403795, 7/2/20

[2] https://nypost.com/2020/04/01/whistleblowing-coronavirus-doctor-mysteriously-vanishes/

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COVID-19: Origin of the Pandemic- 2nd Article

21 May 2020

Readers may recall that I posted on this subject on 19/4/20, and had Dr Li as the original whistleblower on social media. He was an ophthalmologist who died of COVID-19. The origin of the virus was via the markets, but possibly via a bat research project in a secondary Wuhan research laboratory.

The document I used was cited but was from the web and not from a standard journal and sounded very plausible.
Now this document that again seems very plausible casts doubt on the previous story.

Presumably there will be a WHO investigation which will come up with a conclusion. This probably would have happened without the ham-fisted and tactless intervention of Morrison. Whether the US or China is deceiving us all may or may not become apparent. Both have quite a lot of prestige riding on the inquiry, and Trump needs someone to blame if he is win the November election.

The more the United States struggles with the ravages of COVID-19, the more President Donald Trump and his Republican Party will blame China. The facts hardly matter, as their exploitation of the tragic case of Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang shows: If Trump and the GOP think a conspiracy theory will win v…

 

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The Fable of the Chinese Whistleblower | by Stephen S. Roach & Weijian Shan – Project Syndicate

The more the United States struggles with the ravages of COVID-19, the more President Donald Trump and his Republican Party will blame China. The facts hardly matter, as their exploitation of the tragic case of Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang shows: If Trump and the GOP think a conspiracy theory will win v…

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COVID-19 Non-Treatment, American Style Points to the Need to Fix Medicare

10 May 2020 As Australian political parties slowly and steadily dismantle Medicare to move us towards a privatised system American-style, it is worth noting the major feature of the American system. Everyone says it is a hopeless system. It depends what you want it to do. It is the world’s best system at turning sickness […]

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