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Articles by Yves Smith

Germs in the Family: The Long-Term Consequences of Intra-Household Endemic Respiratory Disease Spread

12 days ago

Yves here. I’m normally leery of economists attempting to model non-economic questions, but this looks to be a well-defined study examining the effects of childhood respiratory infections. And mind you, the diseases in question are “just” respiratory ailments, as in they do not afflict other organs the way Covid does.
The conclusions are worrying in and of themselves as well as in terms of their implications for Covid, given that Omicron in particular is producing a much higher level of serious cases, including hospitalization, among children up to nine years old, than earlier variants. This study found infants were two to three times as likely to be hospitalized as older children, and that their hospitalization damaged their educational and job prospects without producing greater

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Links 1/5/2022

12 days ago

Photographer Captures the Perfect Moment When a Bunch of Snow Falls on a Tiger’s Head My Modern Met (David L)
Chasing the Night Parrot: The ‘Ghost Bird’ of Australia’s Outback New York Times (resilc)
Discovering Dr. Wu Washington Post. Chuck L: “Long, personal and touching, but well worth the time.”
AI’s 6 Worst-Case Scenarios IEEESpectrum (David L)
The mathematics of mind-time aeon
Psilocybin Has No Short- Or Long-Term Detrimental Effects In Healthy People Kings College
#COVID-19
Say it with sheep? Flock forms syringe shape in COVID jab push Reuters (resilc)
Science/Medicine
The hyper-transmissible SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant exhibits significant antigenic change, vaccine escape and a switch in cell entry mechanism University of Glasgow Center for Virus Research. Pre-print.
Nationwide

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More Omicron: Diabetics Appear Even More Vulnerable as Diabetic Ketoacidosis Strikes

12 days ago

Our IM Doc sputtered early on in the Omicron wave about not only continued lack of guidance about treatment but also clues as to how Omicron symptoms and progress might differ from earlier variants, particularly given the lack of sequencing in many hospitals (including his) and now even test shortages. As we’ll discuss, there is yet more confirmation that Omicron is much less likely to produce debilitating and often deadly viral pneumonia than early variants. However, the ongoing claim that it is mild may be overdone.
We are not alone in wondering if the apparent higher frequency of less debilitating cases is a statistical anomaly due to incomplete data. We aren’t alone; Yaneer Bar-Yam has expressed similar concerns.
Take two populations of 1000 people.
Assume 200 of one group got

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Covid Crisis Hits New York City Schools

12 days ago

Yves here. Apologies for being heavy on Covid coverage, but Omicron is in overdrive while the political and business worlds are still getting up to speed after the holidays. New York City may be a canary in the coal mine as far as the impact of Omicron on schools is concerned. One reason for running this post is to elicit reader intel on how schools in their communities are faring.
Many elements of this story are striking: the plunge in attendance rates, the level of teacher absences, and the fear among students. But this stuck out and was part of the subhead: “unvaccinated children fill hospital intensive care units.”
Recall that children under 5 cannot be vaccinated. Pfizer found its vaccine didn’t elicit a strong enough antibody response on 2 to 5 year olds to justify its use.
So school

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Is the Doom of Humanity Really Inevitable? Maybe Not.

12 days ago

Yves here. I hate to be my usual downer realist self, but if something like the Jackpot does come, the most likely trajectory is that the decline in what passes for civilization will be steep. So much of what passes for knowledge is now stored electronically. Those media are not long lived (save I believe for optical storage) and what happens when the supply of new chips (and related know-how) becomes scarce or non-existent?
By Lynn Parramore, Senior Research Analyst at the Institute for New Economic Thinking. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website
David Graeber, the electrifying social thinker who helped spark the Occupy Movement and challenged our acceptance of crippling debt and bullshit jobs, died at the age of fifty-nine in 2020. Lucky for us, he left

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Some Quick Thoughts About the Conviction of Elizabeth Holmes on Four Counts of Fraud

13 days ago

While many observers seem not entirely satisfied that blood test scamster Elizabeth Holmes, briefly a paper billionaire, got what is called a mixed verdict yesterday (guilty on four of eleven counts, with three hung and therefore fair game for a second trial), this is a far better result than one of the best informed observers expected. Wall Street Journal reporter Jon Carryou, who brought Theranos down through his relentless reporting, stated he was concerned the jury would acquit Holmes because she was such a charismatic self-justifier.
A few comments: so far, there’s not a lot of great commentary, perhaps because the punditocracy needs to ponder a bit more. Or perhaps Holmes’ downfall has been so well covered that it’s taking a bit of work to come up with a new spin. But for some great

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COVID Cases Fill More City Hospital Beds, Threatening Halt on Elective Surgeries

18 days ago

Yves here. This article makes explicit something that’s not hard to infer from coverage of Covid strain on hospitals: in the first wave, the limiting factor was physical capacity, in particular beds. Now the constraint more often is manning…which is harder to measure well and can be stretched in the short term.
By Greg B. Smtih ([email protected]). Originally published at THE CITY on December 29, 2021
With hospitalizations for COVID patients rising rapidly, the number of available beds at several city-run hospitals has dropped to levels that could trigger a suspension of elective surgeries.
The state Department of Health has the power to impose this restriction on hospitals with low numbers of available beds in regions experiencing a high rate of COVID hospitalizations. Areas averaging

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Chronic Underinvestment Could Push Oil Prices Higher In 2022

18 days ago

Yves here. Those who care about climate change and the health of the environment will probably despair at the fracking booserism, given that shale gas projects are big methane emitters unless the developer incurs costs to reduce that sort of thing. And more generally, continued solid demand for oil is yet another reminder that advanced economies aren’t far enough along in weaning themselves off fossil fuels.
Alex Kimani is a veteran finance writer, investor, engineer and researcher for Safehaven.com. Originally published at OilPrice

After the fracking revolution left the U.S. shale patch bleeding cash and deeply indebted. Wall Street ramped up pressure on companies to cut debt and boost shareholder value.
The U.S. shale industry has exercised incredible restraint during this year’s oil

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Administration’s Obvious Covid Flail: Officially Abdicates as Case Count Hits Record; Scientists and Press Misrepresent Data to Put Happy Face on Omicron

19 days ago

Forgive me for doing a cursory job on such an important and sorry set of Covid developments. But I had really intended this to be a holiday week and instead I’m up to my eyeballs in family duties. But the raw facts are so bad that to a fair degree, they speak for themselves.
It’s become painfully evident that the “follow the science” and Biden Administration campaign promise to act as the adults in the room are a sick joke. Policy all politics. Public health long ago left the barn and is now in the next county. Biden threw in the towel on Monday after having promised on the campaign trail to shut down the virus:

In case he doesn’t remember, somebody please tell Biden the United States is not a country in which each state controls its borders and can therefore set up its own separate

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My “Wealth Effect Monitor” & “Wealth Disparity Monitor” for the Fed’s Money-Printer Economy: December Update

19 days ago

Yves here. Wolf is correct in his depiction of the effects of Covid economic policy, even if he is a bit off base as to the causes. One wag said something like: “White collar employees got to stay home while low-income workers brought them stuff.” Super low interest rates, which is what the Fed likes to use in crises because fast and easy, benefitted the rich, particularly leveraged speculators (private equity, real estate, hedge funds) and not much ordinary folks. At the same time, officials have adopted a “Let ‘er rip” Covid policy even when making some gestures otherwise. That results in supply chain disruptions which increase prices, particularly of essentials like food. The fact that bad weather (often credibly climate change driven) is also goosing ag prices does not help.
By Wolf

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Links 12/28/2021

20 days ago

Dear patient readers,
Big big thanks for your thoughtful and moving words about my mother’s death, both on the site and via e-mail. It means a lot to me.
Yesterday in Water Cooler, some of you converged on the idea of having “an NC mini-fundraiser in honor of Yves’ mom.” That is not only exceedingly generous, but also a way to help preserve the health of this community. The drift of the thread was that this would be for the site, but if some/most of you were thinking instead of giving to a charity in her name, please pipe up, because I don’t want to offend based on a difference of understanding about what seemed to be a largely shared view in that discussion.
This week I am already sleep deprived due to having to make a lot of decisions (including managing relatives), so it is also

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Links 12/25/2021

23 days ago

My mother went to the ER yesterday and has been admitted for one night, more likely two. Her blood ox crashed but she had no other Covid symptoms. I had thought she might have pneumonia (she’s bedridden, bedridden people are really prone it, as are those who had a previous case, as she also had last summer). No signs on an Xray and her lungs sounded good. And a negative on a fast Covid test. They put her on oxygen, IV fluids, and are giving her antibiotics as a precaution. They will Xray her again since sometimes pneumonia won’t show on an Xray if the patient is dehydrated. They think if she has pneumonia it’s early and so should be treatable.
If she does not have pneumonia, the hospital does not seem to have a second thesis. “Oh it’s her COPD” doesn’t wash since she’s had a not too bad

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Manchin Takes Aim at Build Back Better, but His Real Focus is on West Virginia

23 days ago

Yves here. This post performs the useful service of trying to explain Manchin’s position on Build Back Better (which is such an awful name that it suggests Team Dem never had its heart in it). The author also believes a deal can be had. But that may ignore whether House progressives will swallow further concessions to Manchin.
By Samuel Workman, Professor of Political Science, West Virginia University. Originally published at The Conversation
Joe Manchin isn’t averse to taking a shotgun to policy he dislikes.
In 2018, the senator starred in a political ad in which he explains how a lawsuit to repeal the Affordable Care Act – something his opponent, state attorney general Patrick Morrisey, was at the time trying to do – would strip health care from numerous West Virginians. Manchin then

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12 Charts for 21

23 days ago

Yves here. This is the season of 2021 retrospectives. Bruegel, an EU think tank, does so though a series of data-rich interactive charts. Hopefully you will find some of them informative additions to your view of the year we’re about to ring out.
By Hèctor Badenes, a Visual Communications Assistant at Brugel, who worked at European Parliament giving graphical support, Henry Naylor, an Assistant Editor at Bruegel, Giuseppe Porcaro, Head of Outreach and Governance at Bruegel, and Yuyun Zhan,Press and Communications Assistant. Originally published Bruegel
Year end is always the time for lists. There were hopes 2021 would be a year of recovery and emergence from the pandemic, but unfortunately this does not seem to be the case just yet. This year has also been marked by many other developments

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Filth, Automobiles, and Our Misguided Obsession With Traffic

24 days ago

Yves here. I find this article not really satisfactory, perhaps because it focuses on traffic rather than work/residential density. I really like densely populated areas; the part of Sydney I lived in briefly was the highest density post code in all Australia. They are vibrant, always changing, always interesting. And I regard a certain level of trash, or as this article has it, filth, and other signs of gritty urban realities, like the homeless, as a part of big city living that the collective “we” should handle better but doesn’t so much.
Dense parts of cities tend to a certain level of untidiness even with aggressive policing and very good lighting. Admittedly Singapore is a counterexample, but the locals sometime have so had it with the regimentation and surveillance that they throw

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Subway Service Delays Feared as Omicron Hits the Express Track

24 days ago

Yves here. This post describes yet another Covid stress point that may get worse under Omicron. It’s acute in New York City due to the dependence of the city on its subways and busses, but other cities are likely having similar headaches, albeit presumably not to the same degree.
And like so many Covid disruptions, this one hits low and middle income workers disproportionately.
By Jose Martinez. Originally published by THE CITY on December 22, 2021

Riders take a southbound 1 train on Wednesday.Jose Martinez/THE CITY
The latest COVID-19 surge has delivered another blow to the MTA workforce, with a growing number of positive tests among transit employees threatening to chip away at subway and bus service.
According to internal MTA data obtained by THE CITY, 169 subway workers reported

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Build Back Better Verges on Collapse as Manchin Attempts to Kill Child Tax Credit

December 16, 2021

Yves here. As indicated in Links, this outcome comes as no surprise, even if the particulars of Manchin’s machinations might be. If Manchin could be moved by any bribes or threats or punishments that Biden were willing to deliver, this bill would have been passed months ago.
And not passing this bill doesn’t just mean that the Biden Administration is prematurely in lame duck territory. It also means less spending just at Omicron is about to give a big pounding to travel, hospitality and brick and mortar shopping, as well as do secondary economic damage, like lead to the postponement of elective surgeries.
By Jake Johnson. Originally published at Common Dreams
The Build Back Better Act is teetering on the brink of collapse following reports Wednesday that right-wing Democratic Sen. Joe

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Links 12/16/2021

December 16, 2021

Buffalo flipping over a turtle reddit (drumlin wookchuckles)
Bird songs bump stars off Australian music chart BBC (David L)
Beavers Misbehave. Canadians Love Them Anyway. New York Times (resilc)
Neandertals were the first hominids to turn forest into grassland 125,000 years ago Science News (Kevin W)
After a Tornado Blew His Roof Away, He Played Piano Under an Open Sky New York Times
Inching Toward His Due: On Two New Translations of Kleist Los Angeles Review of Books (Anthony L)

See also the parallel fertility decline among diverse subpopulations in India (rural/urban, Muslim/not-Muslim, educated/not, north/south).
Some groups higher level of fertility than others, but the rapid decline seems universal.
(from https://t.co/oMBBgKwQ0R) pic.twitter.com/ZL4HEQU8yP
— Leopold Aschenbrenner

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Omicron: Fog of Information and Definitions

December 16, 2021

It’s a bit disconcerting to find we are a day further into a fast moving crisis yet I don’t have the sense anything both new and meaningful has emerged. But it still seems useful to try to clarify some of the claims floating about as well as a few new Omicron factoids that that have emerged but seem a lot less dispositive than the press enthusiasm would have you believe.
As usual we are very grateful for the help of our Covid Brain Trust and I am quoting more liberally from them than I did our also very valuable Brexit Brain Trust. The reason for hewing to our sources’ words more closely is I don’t want my interpretation to distort meaning.
And What Pray Tell Do You Mean By Severe?
Alarms appear to have gone off at WHO and the CDC after a spell of “initial signs are that Omicron isn’t

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Thomas Ferguson: Is the U$A a Democracy?

December 16, 2021

Yves here. Political scientist and expert on money in politics, Thomas Ferguson, returns to his “Golden rule of politics” theme, that elections in America are determined not by what average voters want but by the spending of well heeled, mainly corporate, interest groups.
Ferguson describes how the pattern has been made worse by the explosion in wealth inequality. He also has some choice words about the rest of the world having caught on to American-style democracy as free-market globalization as not what it is cracked up to be.
By Paul Jay. Originally published at theAnalysis.news

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Hi, welcome to theAnalysis.news, I’m Paul Jay.

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Colorado Hospitals in ‘Critical Condition’ as State Weathers Another Surge

December 16, 2021

Yves here. This piece describes is what is coming to pretty much everywhere in the US soon. Hospitals and medical providers are effectively rationing care in Colorado, which is merely in the midst of s Delta wave. It is also sadly presenting vaccines as the only defense against Covid, and ignoring wearing protective masks (N95/KN95), limiting interactions, and ventilation.
By John Daley, Colorado Public Radio. Originally published at Kaiser Health News
Harold Burch’s home has a spectacular view in Paonia, a rural part of Colorado’s Western Slope at the foot of Mount Lamborn. But the landscape has been little consolation to the 60-year-old as he has battled a cascade of health problems during the pandemic.
“It’s been a real rodeo,” Burch said. “It’s been a lot of ups and downs and lately

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Being Rich Does Not Make You More Generous. It Makes You Meaner.

December 15, 2021

Yves here. Too many who ought to know better depict charity by the rich as a viable alternative to a decent level of social services and safety net. The sorry record of late Soviet era America should scotch any such delusion. Our average height, a measure of population-wide nutrition levels, used to be tops in the world. No longer. From Vox in 2016:
Recently [Mariachiara] Di Cesare [a public health researcher with Imperial College London], along with several hundred researchers around the world, compiled data from surveys in 200 countries (in a some cases, they mined military records when no such studies existed). The data set, recently published in the journal Elife, spans a century and contains data derived from 18.6 million people born between 1896 and 1996…. In the early part of the

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‘If We Want to Tackle Climate Change, We Want Them to Go Bankrupt … Right?’

December 15, 2021

Yves here. I have to confess not to having paid much attention to the failed nomination of Saule Omarova for Comptroller of the Currency. And I am having trouble seeing her climate politics as having anything to do with her not winning approval.
A financial regulator has absolutely no nexus to climate policy. Of all people, former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson is a long-standing conservationist and has helped fund some well-publicized research on how close we are to serious climate change damage. I recall the press back in the day treating his environmental activism as a charming hobby. No one in their wildest dreams though Paulson, in a vastly more powerful position with a large bureaucracy compared to the Controller of the Currency, would use his post to advance his environmental

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Links 12/11/2021

December 11, 2021

Friendly, foul-mouthed crow befriends entire Oregon elementary school before state police are called in Oregon Live (Alex C).
The inner lives of cats: what our feline friends really think about hugs, happiness and humans Guardian (furzy). My cat Blake could count to four. He got four vitamins every evening before dinner. If I was at the end of a bottle and gave him only two, or one rolled away from the others, he’d poke around with some urgency for the missing vitamins. When he’d had four, he stopped searching.
Darwin in a lab: Coral evolution tweaked for global warming Star Tribune (Chuck L)
To See Proteins Change in Quadrillionths of a Second, Use AI Wired (Robert M)
What Happens in Our Cells After Exercise? Neuroscience News (David L)
Cannabis clinics set to mushroom Bangkok Post

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Book Review: Demystifying the Idea of Consciousness

December 11, 2021

Yves here. This article uses a sci-fi trope, and now a pet fantasy of squillionaires, as a point of departure: what if you could upload your consciousness so it could carry on? We learn below that the mind is not as separable from the body as we would like to believe, as the effects of lobotomies attest. And why is what would be seen as a continuation of our existence? It’s far more likely to be a copy, producing at best what was called in Dune a ghola, a clone of a dead individual with its memories carried over too.
By Emily Cataneo, a writer and journalist from New England whose work has appeared in Slate, NPR, the Baffler, and Atlas Obscura, among other publications. Originally published at Undark
If you could upload your consciousness to the cloud and live forever as a mind in the

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How ‘Big Oil’ Works the System and Keeps Winning

December 11, 2021

Yves here. Among other things, this article gives some of the high points of how the oil industry has used highly honed PR skills to burnish its image and minimize government intervention.
By Naomi Oreskes, a science historian at Harvard University, and the author of several books, including Merchants of Doubt and Why Trust Science? who has extensively researched the efforts of the fossil fuel industry to deny the reality of manmade climate change and its links to the tobacco industry and Jeff Nesbit is the author of Poison Tea, which exposed for the first time the close ties between the tobacco industry and Koch donor network front groups. Originally published at Yale Climate Connections
Despite countless investigations, lawsuits, social shaming, and regulations dating back decades, the

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Daily E-Mail Switchover This Weekend

December 11, 2021

Dear patient readers,
We have been using Google’s Feedburner well past July, when Google warned it would be “deprecated”. The service was apparently sometimes sending out what is supposed to be a 7AM missive later even as early as March but more of you have been writing about tardy delivery in recent weeks.
We will be starting to use a different service over the weekend. If all goes well, the result will be that subscribers will get two e-mails, one from Feedburner and one the new service. We want to make sure that the new service is working as expected before we get rid of the Feedburner blast. So please be patient.
And if you no longer want to receive e-mails, each one has an “unsubscribe” button at the bottom. Conversely, if you’d like to start receiving e-mails, we recommend waiting to

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How To Compare Incomes Across Countries

December 10, 2021

Yves here. Americans outside the private-jet-using class have no idea how poor they are compared to the middle classes of most other advanced economies. They are not overpaying for lousy health care. They have solid social safety nets and an at least adequate level social services (child care, elder care, public transportation). And they generally prefer to have less housing and more vacation. Matt Bruenig explains how the comparisons of incomes that the US is wont to use conveniently obscures all these issues.
I got an odd reminder of the state of the US earlier this month when I went to New York City to see doctors (I wore an N95 with a procedure mask underneath and kept them on in transit, which was not pleasant). New York looks…tawdry. It’s not as down and dirty as it appeared after

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Bloomberg, Other Publications Criticize CalPERS’ Leverage on Leverage Plan to Boost Returns While Missing Additional Types of Borrowing

December 10, 2021

The financial press has gone into a round of hand-wringing over CalPERS’ efforts to chase higher returns in a systematically low-return market, now by planning to borrow at the CalPERS level on top of the leverage employed in many of its investment strategies, in particular private equity and real estate.
These normally deferential publications are correct to be worried. Not only is this sort of leverage on leverage dangerous because it can generate meltdowns and fire sales, amplifying damage and potentially creating systemic stresses, but the debt picture at CalPERS is even worse than these accounts they depicted. They failed to factor in yet another layer of borrowing at private equity funds and some real estate funds called subscription line financing, which we’ll describe shortly.
As

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Health Experts Worry CDC’s Covid Vaccination Rates Appear Inflated

December 10, 2021

Yves here. I am mildly kicking myself. I had noticed this article’s point of departure, the CDC’s claim that 99.9% of the over 65 age group was vaccinated, and it was obvious it was bogus. Even in my miniscule circle of people I know personally, as in people I see or have not all that long ago seen in the flesh (and forgive me, but I am excluding NC readers at meetups), I know of three people over 65 who have not been vaccinated, and they are all upper income, highly educated, and only one is a Trump fan. And I’ve also wondered about what Lambert has called the “stately rise” of 0.1% a day nearly every day in the vaccination rate. As I said in comments, that much regularity is reminiscent of Madoff.
The question is whether these exaggerated levels are fabrications to help the

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