Category Archives: Covid-19

The Federal Republic of New Normal Germany

So, the government of New Normal Germany is contemplating forcing everyone to wear medical-looking masks in public from October to Easter on a permanent basis. Seriously, the fanatical New Normal fascists currently in charge of Germany’s government — mostly the SPD and the Greens — are discussing revising the “Infection Protection Act” in order to grant themselves the authority to continue to rule the country by decree, as they have been doing since the Autumn of 2020, thus instituting a “permanent state of emergency” that overrides the German constitution, indefinitely.

Go ahead, read that paragraph again. Take a break from the carnage in non-Nazi Ukraine, the show trials in the US congress, monkeypoxmania, Sudden Adult Death Syndrome, Sudden Bovine Death Syndrome, family-oriented drag queens, non-“vaccine”-related facial paralysis, and Biden falling off his bike, and reflect on what this possibly portends, the dominant country of the European Union dispensing with any semblance of democracy and transforming into a fascist biosecurity police state.

OK, let me try to be more precise, as I don’t want to be arrested for “spreading disinformation” or “delegitimizing the state.” Germany is not dispensing with the semblance of democracy. No, the German constitution will remain in effect. It’s just that the revised Infection Protection Act — like the “Enabling Act of 1933,” which granted the Nazi government the authority to issue any edicts it wanted under the guise of “remedying the distress of the people” — will grant the New Normal German government the authority to continue to supersede the constitution and issue whatever edicts it wants under the guise of “protecting the public health” … for example, forcing the German masses to display their conformity to the new official ideology by wearing medical-looking masks on their faces for six or seven months of every year.

In addition to a ritualized mass-demonstration of mindlessly fascist ideological conformity (a standard feature of all totalitarian systems), this annual October-to-Easter mask-mandate, by simulating the new paranoid “reality” in which humanity is under constant attack by deadly viruses and other “public health threats,” will cement the New Normal ideology into place. If not opposed and stopped here in Germany, it will spread to other European countries, and to Canada, and Australia, and the New Normal US states. If you think what happens in Germany doesn’t matter because you live in Florida, or in Sweden, or the UK, you haven’t been paying attention recently. The roll-out of the New Normal is a global project … a multi-phase, multi-faceted project. Germany is just the current “tip of the spear.”

Sadly, the majority of the German masses will mindlessly click heels and follow orders, as they have since the Spring of 2020. They’re all enjoying a “summer break” at the moment, but come October they will don their masks, start segregating and persecuting “the Unvaccinated,” and otherwise behaving like fascists again. I hesitate to blame it on the German character, because we’ve witnessed the same mindlessly fascistic behavior all around the world over the past two years, but, I have to admit, there is something particularly scary about how the Germans do it.

Meanwhile, Germany’s FBI (der Bundesverfassungsschutz, or BfV) is hard at work enforcing the new Gleichschaltung. According to a report in Die Welt, the BfV is not just surveilling people who use terms like “Corona dictatorship” (and presumably a long list of other “wrongspeak” words), but it is also “surveilling people and groups that disseminate conspiracy theories, or call the democratic nature of the state into question.” Politicians are insisting that the BfV “toughen up the classification of political crime, especially regarding the Corona deniers.”

Yes, that’s right, publicly challenging the official Covid-19 narrative, or protesting official New Normal ideology, is a political crime here in New Normal Germany. It has been since May 2021, when the Bundesverfassungsschutz established a new official category of domestic extremism … “Anti-democratic or Security-threatening Delegitimization of the State.” I covered this in one of my columns at the time (“The Criminalization of Dissent” ) as did some corporate press, like The New York Times (“German Intelligence Puts Coronavirus Deniers Under Surveillance“), but, for some reason, the story didn’t get much traction.

“Delegitimization of the State” … let that language sink in for a moment. What it means is that anyone the New Normal authorities deem to be “delegitimizing the state” can be arrested and charged as a “political criminal.” I wasn’t entirely clear on what is meant by “delegitimizing,” so I looked the word up, and the definition I found was “to diminish or destroy the legitimacy, prestige, or authority” of something, or someone, which … I don’t know, sounds a little overly broad and subject to arbitrary interpretation.

For example, if I, right here in this column, were to propose that the German government had no legitimate reasons whatsoever for locking down the entire population, forcing everyone to wear medical-looking masks, and demonizing and segregating “the Unvaccinated,” that might make me a “political criminal.” Likewise, if I were to describe Karl Lauterbach, the Minister of Health of New Normal Germany, as a fanatical fascist, and a sociopathic liar, that might make me a “political criminal.” Or, if I were to point out how the German state media have deceived and gaslighted the German public for over two years like the proverbial Goebbelsian keyboard instrument, that might make me a “political criminal.” Or, if I were crazy enough to publish a book of essays written over the past two years documenting The Rise of the New Normal Reich, including essays about New Normal Germany, that might also make me a “political criminal.”

Naturally, I am a little uneasy, living in a former-Nazi country where I could be classified as a “political criminal” for my activities as an author and a political satirist … which, of course, is the point of the new classification. It is meant to scare dissidents like me into silence. Or … OK, it isn’t meant for me. It is meant for German dissidents like me. I’m an American, not a German citizen. So the chances of a heavily-armed “Special Commando” team storming my apartment in the wee hours of the morning and arresting me on trumped-up weapons charges — as they recently did to Dr. Paul Brandenburg, an outspoken opponent of the New Normal Reich — are probably (hopefully) fairly remote.

In any event, I would never do that; i.e., attempt to diminish the prestige or authority of the Federal Republic of New Normal Germany, or in any way compare it to Nazi Germany, or any other totalitarian system, or describe it as a nascent biosecurity police state wherein the rule of law has been supplanted by the arbitrary edicts of fascist fanatics, because that would just be asking for trouble. After all, if we’ve learned anything from history, the smart thing to do during times like these is to keep one’s mouth shut and follow orders, and if you hear a train coming … well, just look the other way.

The post The Federal Republic of New Normal Germany first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Monkeypoxmania

Lock yourselves down inside your homes! Break out the masks and prophylactic face-shields! Switch off what’s left of your critical faculties and prepare yourselves to “follow the Science!”

Yes, that’s right, just as the survivors of The Simulated Apocalyptic Plague of 2020-2021 were crawling up out of their Covid bunkers and starting to “build the world back better,” another biblical pestilence has apparently been unleashed on humanity!

This time it’s the dreaded monkeypox, a viral zoonotic disease endemic to central and western Africa that circulates among giant pouched rats, squirrels, dormice, and other rodents and has been infecting humans for centuries, or millennia. Monkeypox causes fever, headaches, muscle aches, and sometimes fluid-filled blisters, tends to resolve in two to four weeks, and thus poses absolutely zero threat to human civilization generally.

The corporate media do not want to alarm us, but it is their duty as professional journalists to report that THE MONKEYPOX IS SPREADING LIKE WILDFIRE! OVER 100 CASES OF MONKEYPOX have been confirmed in countries throughout the world! MONKEYPOX TASK FORCES are being convened! Close-up photos of NASTY-LOOKING MONKEYPOX LESIONS are being disseminated! The President of the United States says “EVERYBODY SHOULD BE CONCERNED!”

The WHO is calling it “a multi-country monkeypox outbreak!” Belgium has introduced a mandatory quarantine. The CDC has gone to “Alert Level 2!” “Enhanced precautions” are recommended! In New York City, the nexus of probably the most paranoid, mask-wearing, quadruple-“vaccinated” New Normal fanatics on the face of the planet, the Department of Health is instructing everyone to wear the masks they are already wearing to protect them from both Covid and monkeypox, and smallpox, and largepox, and airborne cancer, and God knows what other horrors might be out there!

Here in the capital of New Normal Germany, Karl Lauterbach, who, despite wasting hundreds of millions of Euros on superfluous “vaccines,” attempting to compulsorily “vaccinate” every man, woman, and child in the country, and otherwise behaving like a fascist lunatic, remains the official Minister of Health, is excitedly hopping up and down and hooting like a Siamang gibbon about “recommendations for isolation and quarantine,” and other “monkeypox containment measures.”

As Yogi Berra famously put it, “it’s like déjà vu all over again.”

Except that it isn’t … or it probably isn’t. Before I could even finish this column, the United GloboCap Ministries of Truth started dialing down the monkeypox panic. It appears they’re going with “it’s a gay pandemic,” or an “LGBTQ pandemic,” or an “LGBTQIA+ pandemic,” or whatever the official acronym is by the time I click the “publish” button, and making other noises to the effect that it might not be absolutely necessary this time to order a full-scale global lockdown, release the drones and robotic dogs, inject everybody with experimental drugs, and start viciously persecuting “monkeypox deniers.”

You didn’t really believe they were launching a shot-by-shot remake of Covid, did you? The showrunners at GloboCap may be preternaturally evil, but they aren’t stupid. Only the most hopelessly brainwashed New Normals would go along with another “apocalyptic pandemic” before the current one has even been officially cancelled. No, unfortunately, odds are, we’re just getting a preview of what “life” is going to be like in the New Normal Reich, where the masses will be perpetually menaced by an inexhaustible assortment of exotic pathogens and interchangeable pseudo-pathological threats.

The New Normal was never about Covid specifically. It was always about implementing a new “reality” — a pathologized-totalitarian “reality,” not so much ruled as discreetly “guided” by unaccountable, supranational, non-governmental governing entities, global corporations, and assorted billionaires — in which Covid, or monkeypox, or kangaroopox, or any other viral zoonotic disease, or any climate-related or economic development, or aberrant ideological or behavioral tendency, could be used as a pretext to foment another outbreak of mindless mass hysteria and impose additional restrictions on society.

That new “reality” has been implemented … perhaps not as firmly as originally intended, but implemented nonetheless. We are being conditioned to accept this new “reality,” as we were conditioned to accept the War on Terror “reality,” to pointlessly remove our footwear at the airport, place our liquids in travel-size containers, submit to groping by “security staff,” and otherwise live in a state of constant low-level fear of a “terrorist attack,” as we are now being conditioned to wear masks where we are told, submit to mandatory “vaccination,” and live in constant low-level fear of the next purportedly deadly pathogen.

Sadly, most of us will accept this conditioning, and adapt to the “minor inconveniences” that are being imposed on us at every turn. After all, what difference does it really make if we have to wear a little mask on an airplane, or on public transport, or at the doctor’s office? And is it really such a breach of our fundamental rights to freedom of speech, freedom of movement, association, privacy, and basic bodily autonomy if we have to allow governments and global corporations to censor our political opinions, prevent us from traveling, forbid us to protest, and force us to submit to invasive medical treatments in order to hold a job? We got used to taking off our shoes at the airport and watching the “security staff” fondle our kids’ genitals, and invading and bombing other countries and murdering whole families with drones, didn’t we? Surely, we’ll get used to this.

Or … OK, I won’t, and neither will you, probably, but the majority of the masses will. They just demonstrated that pretty clearly, didn’t they? As they demonstrated it during the Global War on Terror. As they demonstrated it during the Cold War. As they demonstrated it … oh, never mind.

Sorry, I really wanted to end this column on a positive note. All right, here’s one! A little good news, finally! According to the professional fact-checkers at Reuters, it turns out “there is no evidence at all that the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting [which is taking place in Davos right now] was scheduled to coincide with these outbreaks of monkeypox,” and anyone who says there is, or implies there is, or who deviates from or questions the “facts,” or the “Science,” or whatever, is a “monkeypox-denying, conspiracy-theorizing, anti-vax, Putin-loving disinformationist,” and so everything is actually hunky-dory, or it will be as soon as we teach those evil Rooskies a little thermonuclear lesson!

I don’t know about you, but that’s a load off my mind. For a moment there, I thought we were in trouble.

The post Monkeypoxmania first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Squelching dissent on both sides of the Atlantic

The current repression of dissent in Germany is startlingly similar to that in North America. In 2019 as the virus started to spread, the government ordered drastic measures against it. Several distinguished doctors and professors, including an MD who was a former member of parliament, asked the government for evidence and explanations justifying these measures. When they were ignored, they called a rally and gave speeches again asking the government for answers. The government ignored this too, but their press launched a smear campaign labeling these people as unscientific and incompetent. When several current members of parliament spoke out against the mandates, they were defamed and isolated.

The government forced the mandates through, and as the effects of these turned out to be more damaging than the virus, large-scale protests broke out. Politicians warned of the danger to our democracy from right-wing fanatics whom they claimed had taken over the protests. To defend democracy by disrupting the rallies, groups of Antifa tried to drown out speakers by shouting, “Halt die Fresse!” – “Shut your mouth!” Of course, the real danger to democracy comes from trying to silence or exclude anyone, right or left.

Establishment media refused to publish reports of severe side effects from the vaccines. A government statistician who gave evidence that the mandates and vaccines were ineffective and harmful was removed from duty, as were police officers who took part in peaceful rallies. Professors who spoke at demonstrations were shunned by their colleagues and passed over for promotion. Doctors who certified that their patients didn’t need to wear masks were suspended from practice. Some careers were destroyed, many damaged.

People were stunned by the savagery of the response to their demand for more public input into virus policies. They discussed possible reasons for the government’s attack. Conspiracy theories began to circulate, some of them quite wild.

The government broadened its attack. The press was full of interviews with psychiatrists discussing the dangerous psycho-pathology of conspiracy theorists. Wherever vaguely possible, parallels were drawn to Nazi Germany. Aged Holocaust victims were interviewed about their trauma caused by such people. One victim, though, Vera Sharav, made a video saying the government was behaving like the Nazis, but her statement was ignored by the mainstream and appeared only in the alternative media.

Rationality disappeared from public discourse. A seething polarization began to spread. The government recognized a growing threat of losing its hold on the people.

It cut back on testing. The “pandemic” faded. Russia invaded the Ukraine. A new enemy replaced the “killer virus” as a focus for fear.

The government’s campaign of forced lockdowns, masks, vaccines, and repression has unnecessarily and massively damaged millions of people, far more than what the virus has done. But on the positive side it has also turned millions of people against the government, a prerequisite for real change. The next step is ours.

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What’s missing from the gun debate [sic]?

The shooting in Buffalo has once again ignited an ill-informed “debate” on the topic of guns. Thus, I feel compelled to re-share some of the missing context. 

Male Violence (as usual) Must Be Factored In

Please allow me to introduce some damn good reasons to consider some kind of gun control:

  • On average, 57 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner every month in the United States
  • Over half of female victims of intimate partner homicide in the U.S. are killed with a gun
  • Over the ten-year period between 2008 and 2017, there was a reduction in intimate partner homicides of women involving weapons — except homicides by guns, which increased by 15 percent
  • When you factor in attempted murders using guns, nearly 1 million women in the Home of the Brave™ have survived being shot or shot at by an intimate partner

Translation: Male violence remains the world’s number one problem and the omnipresence of guns makes it easier for men to commit their violent acts. The common denominator of mass shooters is not their whiteness. It’s their male-ness.

Don’t Trust Your News Feed, part 1

Unless you do a little digging, it would be easy to believe that the United States is the gun death capital of the world. Clickbait headlines, news feed posts, and conversations based on emotion distract from the fact that the U.S. has the 32nd-highest rate of deaths from gun violence in the world: 3.96 deaths per 100,000 people.

In 2019, there were 37,200 reported deaths by firearm in the Land of the Free™. Is that 37,200 too many? Of course, it is. Is it comparable to, say, Guatemala, Venezuela, or El Salvador? I suppose that depends on your definition of “comparable,” but the rate per 100,000 in El Salvador is 36.78.

Crash Course

Meanwhile, more than 38,000 people die every single year in crashes on U.S. roadways. An additional 4.5 million (on average) are injured seriously enough to require medical attention. Road crashes are the leading cause of death in the U.S. for people 54 and under — an average of 102 per day. (Context: About 500 Americans are killed per year by rifles.)

Let’s be clear, I’m not comparing guns to cars. But I am comparing the media coverage, public perception, and psychological manipulation. Where are the rallies and petitions related to 100 Americans needlessly dying per day in road crashes? Where’s the outrage and the legislation and the campaign speeches and the Time Magazine covers for the lives lost to the car culture? Why do we hear about mothers fearing their sons won’t come home because a cop might shoot him when, in reality, she should be WAY more nervous about him getting into a car?

We’ve just spent two-plus years allegedly trying to keep people “safe” from a virus with a fatality rate that Lord Fauci himself says “may be considerably less than 1%.” But, if widespread safety and risk avoidance is our collective (but futile) aim, why are we still manufacturing vehicles that can attain speeds higher than, say, 30 MPH? Why is the speed limit so damn high when we all know that the fatality rate rises with a vehicle’s speed?

Think about it: We’re obsessed with things like Covid and guns but yet we still ingest carcinogens, use toxic chemicals, and drive our death machines at dangerous speeds. If the powers-that-shouldn’t-be really gave a shit about us, they would’ve taken action to stop all of that and more. Instead, we’re being divided over flawed mitigation tactics, lethal medical protocols, and manipulated statistics.

Back to my point: The U.S. gun fatality rate is much lower than advertised while a worse problem — road crash fatalities — is barely ever mentioned. But, that’s not it. I have one more major component of the gun debate that is tragically omitted by just about everyone.

Don’t Trust Your News Feed, part 2

A small number of gun-related deaths in the U.S. can be chalked up to accidents, law enforcement incidents, and other undetermined circumstances. Roughly four in ten gun-related deaths are murders. Wait… what? Yep, when we get the numbers recited to us in the name of headlines and fear-mongering, a pretty important detail is always left out: 60 percent of annual gun-related deaths in God’s Country™ are suicides. About 24,000 per year — out of about 45,000 overall per year. Let that sink in.

Please allow me to address the statistical manipulation at work. If you subtract gun deaths related to suicide and accidents, the annual gun-related murder rate drops to about 13,000 per year. Is that 13,000 too many? Of course, it is. Is it anywhere near the death rates of cancer, heart disease, suicide, or road crashes? Nope. Why are we fixated on guns when, for example, medical error is at least the third leading cause of death in the U.S. — taking anywhere from 250,000 to one million lives per year?

Fact: Doctors are far, far more dangerous than any AR-15.

A Culture in Crisis

Finally, here is my primary point: If “we’re all in this together,” why do we patently ignore the rising suicide rate? While we squabble over which lives matter or not, suicide is now the twelfth leading cause of death in the U.S. For those between the ages of 35 and 54, it is the fourth leading cause. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among individuals between 10 and 34. Suicides outnumber homicides in the U.S. by more than 2 to 1. Since 2001, the suicide rate in America has increased by 31 percent.

Gun control won’t stop this trend. Gene therapies disguised as vaccinations won’t protect us from a culture steeped in despair and division. Marches and protests remain as impotent as ever. We like to pretend that “our way of life” is so exemplary. Meanwhile, more and more of us are choosing death over it. The solutions must be more foundational and compassionate than the so-called debates we’ve been programmed to embrace.

When pondering hot button “issues” like gun control, I urge you to NOT surrender your capacity for critical thought. Do your own research. Make up your own mind. On a much deeper level: Collectively, we are a culture in crisis and our problems run far deeper than the current gun control debate (sic) allows. It’s long overdue that we recognize the desperate imperative to do much more than “win” a Twitter debate. Let’s choose to connect rather than compete.

The post What’s missing from the gun debate [sic]? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

COVID Brain Fade at the Australian Elections

It’s the last week of an election between the uninspiring and the unspeakable.  Australia’s conservative incumbents – the unspeakable ones – are even desperate enough to concede to a lack of popularity.  Dislike us, but for heaven’s sake, vote us in.  The times are wretched, the cost of living is rising, and we are going to look after you in the spiral.  The opposition, in contrast, is being stingy on detail and sparing on scope.  Memories of 2019 continue to traumatise the Australian Labor Party.

Scouring the election platforms, statements, and town hall debates, is a glaring absence of one particular field of policy.  Virtually no candidate or major political party is mentioning that troubling issue of COVID-19 and the global pandemic.  That was the dark past, and, like released jailbirds, voters find themselves preoccupied with other matters.

Sporadically, mention is made about the Morrison government’s tardy ordering and supply of COVID-19 vaccines – at least in the initial phase.  At that time, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, rather infamously, dismissed the slow rollout.  This wasn’t, he opined, a race.

In his first campaign video, Morrison burnished his own credentials as a warrior against COVID-19, having been responsible for saving thousands of lives.  (The States and Territories, all far more engaged in the matter than Morrison ever was, are ignored.) But the primary message was that of,  “A choice between an economic recovery that is leading the world, and a Labor opposition that would weaken it, and risk it.”

Despite Australia’s enviable record, the emergence of the furiously transmissible Omicron variant and a death toll this year surpassing the combined figures of 2020 and 2021, have seen a departure from previous policy.  As Raina MacIntyre of the Kirby Institute remarked in January, Australia “swung from one extreme in pandemic control to the other – having great control of COVID, to now having the world’s highest rise in daily cases.”

Scenes of chaos ensued.  The vulnerable had to queue for hours as testing centres were overwhelmed.  A number of such centres were also closed, often without good reason.  The Commonwealth and State governments tinkered with definitions on eligibility regarding testing, all the time refusing to expand capacity.  MacIntyre was distinctly unimpressed.  “There was no planning for expedited third-dose boosters, expanded testing capacity, rapid antigen tests, hospital in the home, opening of schools or even guidance for people to protect their household when one person becomes infected.”

None of this has made a difference in the political platform, nor, it seems, in voter interest. The COVID brain fade has well and truly set in.  According to data generated by the ABC’s Vote Compass, a mere 1 per cent of Australians consider COVID the most important issue in this election.  Vulnerable members of society are being seen as “collateral” to the overall scheme.  Living with the virus has also meant suffering and even perishing from it.

The only party making much of COVID-19, and not from the perspective of praising vaccines and sound pandemic management, is the United Australia Party. Bankrolled by the quixotic mining magnate Clive Palmer, millions have been spent on media campaigns that have seen no discernible shift in the polls.

By default, health officials and experts have become crying Cassandras and the concerned oracles.  Virologist Stuart Turville has observed, with exasperation, that the federal election campaign has been afflicted by “a case of COVID Fight Club.  Don’t talk about it.”  Future policies on the subject are virtually absent. “What will happen if we don’t get our third or fourth dose?” wonders Turville.  “Will we see the death rate creep up from 40, to 60, to 80 before we start to talk about this again?”

Another figure of some woe and worry is Burnet Institute director, Brendan Crabb, who claims that politicians and governments have resolutely kept their “heads in the sand”.  There was a dangerous sense of “COVID now”.  Continuing high rates of transmission was “bad for business”.  The longer health impacts were also being neglected.  “How many of the 350,000 plus active cases in Australia right now will have chronic impacts?  Overseas data suggests 20 per cent of them.”

Epidemiologist Nancy Baxter, based at the University of Melbourne, is another who can always be relied upon to deter any emerging complacency.  “We’re at a point,” she gravely states, “where COVID is now one of the major killers of Australians, and probably by the end of the year is going to be one of the top three.”  She adds further lashings of doom.  “And with increasing case numbers, new sub-variants [will be] coming in.  This may drive it even further, which would have a bigger impact.”

If the current mood prevails till May 21, we can expect little purchase from such attitudes at the ballot box.  Fiscal responsibility, the consumer price index, climate change and the China bogeyman, are likely to feature ahead of the most disruptive pandemic in a century.

The post COVID Brain Fade at the Australian Elections first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Morbid Matters: Estimating COVID-19 Mortality

It has dominated news cycles, debates and policies since 2020, but COVID-19 continues to exercise the interest of number crunchers and talliers.  While the ghoulish daily press announcements about infections and deaths across many a country have diminished and, in some cases, disappeared altogether, publications abound about how many were taken in the pandemic.

The World Health Organization, ever that herald of dark news, has offered a revised assessment across of the SARS-CoV-2 death toll associated either directly or indirectly with the pandemic.  Between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021, the global health body suggests that the mortality figure is closer to 14.9 million, with a range of 13.3 million to 16.6 million.

The number considers excess mortality, the figure reached after accounting for the difference between the number of deaths that have occurred, and the number expected in the absence of the pandemic.  It also accounts for deaths occasioned directly by COVID-19, or indirectly (for instance, the pandemic’s disruption of society and health systems).

The impact, as expected, has been disproportionate in terms of which countries have suffered more.  Of the excess deaths, 68% were concentrated in 10 countries – Brazil, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Peru, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, and the United States.  Middle-income countries accounted for 81% of excess deaths; high-income countries, for 15%, and low-income countries, 4%.

The United States, if only for being ascendant in terms of power, wealth, and incompetence in dealing with the virus, finds itself in the undistinguished position of having lost a million people.  “Today,” remarked President Joe Biden, “we mark a tragic milestone here in the United States, one million COVID deaths, one million empty chairs around the family dinner table, each irreplaceable, irreplaceable losses, each leaving behind a family, a community forever changed because of this pandemic.”

Chief Medical Adviser to the President, Anthony Fauci, rued the fact that “at least a quarter of those deaths, namely about 250,000” might have been saved by vaccinations.  He also warned about the ugly prospect of a resurgence in numbers, and not bringing “down our guard”.

In light of such figures, WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, reiterates the line he and his colleagues have done so for months.  Pandemics demand more “resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems”.  His organisation “was committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes.”  Much of this will be wishful thinking.

Figures, certainly when they concern matters of mortality, can become the subject of bitter dispute.  COVID-19 has proved no exception.  In Africa, 41 of 54 countries reported insufficient data.  Some countries have released incomplete data sets; others, none to speak of.  This meant, inevitably, that the WHO’s Technical Advisory Group for COVID-19 Mortality Assessment could only model the missing figures to fill gaps.

As a result scrapping and arguments over methodology duly emerged.  India, for one, has very publicly objected to the way the WHO has approached the compilation, communicating its concerns in no less than six letters between November 2021 and March 2022 and in a number of virtual meetings.  Concerns have also been registered by WHO Member States, including China, Iran, Bangladesh, Syria, Ethiopia and Egypt.

The case with India is particularly telling, given WHO modelling showing 4,740,894 excess deaths, almost triple that of New Delhi’s own figures.  Such figures imply, as epidemiologist Prabhat Jha of the University of Toronto claimed back in January, that the authorities were “trying to suppress the numbers in the way that they coded the COVID deaths.”

In an indignant statement from the Union Health Ministry released early this month, much is made of “how the statistical model projects estimates for a country of geographical size & population of India and also fits in with other countries which have smaller population.”  This constituted an unacceptable “one-size-fits-all approach and models which are true for smaller countries like Tunisia may not be applicable to India with a population of 1.3 billion.”

The WHO model also returned two highly varied sets of excess mortality estimates when using data from Tier 1 countries and when using data from 18 Indian states that had not been verified.  “India has asserted that if the model [is] accurate and reliable, it should be authenticated by running it for all Tier 1 countries” and the “result of such exercise may be shared with all Member States.”

WHO assistant director general for emergency response, Ibrahima Soće Fall, concedes that any accurate picture is only as complete as the data provided.  “We know where the data gaps are, and we must collectively intensify our support to countries, so that every country has the capability to track outbreaks in real time, ensure delivery of essential health services, and safeguard population health.”

The degree of fractiousness that persists in public health shows that sharp fault lines remain in each country’s approach to the pandemic problem.  Disunity and factionalism, petty nationalism and self-interest, remain imperishable, even at the direst of times.  And all governments, given the chance, will err on the side of inaccuracy rather than risk acute embarrassment.

The post Morbid Matters: Estimating COVID-19 Mortality first appeared on Dissident Voice.

In a World of Great Disorder and Extravagant Lies, We Look for Compassion

Francisca Lita Sáez (Spain), An Unequal Fight, 2020.

These are deeply upsetting times. The COVID-19 global pandemic had the potential to bring people together, to strengthen global institutions such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), and to galvanise new faith in public action. Our vast social wealth could have been pledged to improve public health systems, including both the surveillance of outbreaks of illness and the development of medical systems to treat people during these outbreaks. Not so.

Studies by the WHO have shown us that health care spending by governments in poorer nations has been relatively flat during the pandemic, while out-of-pocket private expenditure on health care continues to rise. Since the pandemic was declared in March 2020, many governments have responded with exceptional budget allocations; however, across the board from richer to the poorer nations, the health sector received only ‘a fairly small portion’ while the bulk of the spending was used to bail out multinational corporations and banks and provide social relief for the population.

In 2020, the pandemic cost the global gross domestic product an estimated $4 trillion. Meanwhile, according to the WHO, the ‘needed funding … to ensure epidemic preparedness is estimated to be approximately US$150 billion per year’. In other words, an annual expenditure of $150 billion could likely prevent the next pandemic along with its multi-trillion-dollar economic bill and incalculable suffering. But this kind of social investment is simply not in the cards these days. That’s part of what makes our times so upsetting.

S. H. Raza (India), Monsoon in Bombay, 1947–49.

On 5 May, the WHO released its findings on the excess deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the 24-month period of 2020 and 2021, the WHO estimated the pandemic’s death toll to be 14.9 million. A third of these deaths (4.7 million) are said to have been in India; this is ten times the official figure released by the Government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which has disputed the WHO’s figures. One would have thought that these staggering numbers – nearly 15 million dead globally in the two-year period – would be sufficient to strengthen the will to rebuild depleted public health systems. Not so.

According to a study on global health financing, development assistance for health (DAH) increased by 35.7 percent between 2019 and 2020. This amounts to $13.7 billion in DAH, far short of the projected $33 billion to $62 billion required to address the pandemic. In line with the global pattern, while DAH funding during the pandemic went towards COVID-19 projects, various key health sectors saw their funds decrease (malaria by 2.2 percent, HIV/AIDS by 3.4 percent, tuberculosis by 5.5 percent, reproductive and maternal health by 6.8 percent). The expenditure on COVID-19 also had some striking geographical disparities, with the Caribbean and Latin America receiving only 5.2 percent of DAH funding despite experiencing 28.7 percent of reported global COVID-19 deaths.

Sajitha R. Shankar (India), Alterbody, 2008.

While the Indian government is preoccupied with disputing the COVID-19 death toll with the WHO, the government of Kerala – led by the Left Democratic Front – has focused on using any and every means to enhance the public health sector. Kerala, with a population of almost 35 million, regularly leads in the country’s health indicators among India’s twenty-eight states. Kerala’s Left Democratic Front government has been able to handle the pandemic because of its robust public investment in health care facilities, the public action led by vibrant social movements that are connected to the government, and its policies of social inclusion that have minimised the hierarchies of caste and patriarchy that otherwise isolate social minorities from public institutions.

In 2016, when the Left Democratic Front took over state leadership, it began to enhance the depleted public health system. Mission Aardram (‘Compassion’), started in 2017, was intended to improve public health care, including emergency departments and trauma units, and draw more people away from the expensive private health sector to public systems. The government rooted Mission Aardram in the structures of local self-government so that the entire health care system could be decentralised and more closely attuned to the needs of communities. For example, the mission developed a close relationship with the various cooperatives, such as Kudumbashree, a 4.5-million-member women’s anti-poverty programme. Due to the revitalised public health care system, Kerala’s population has begun to turn away from the private sector in favour of these government facilities, whose use increased from 28 percent in the 1980s to 70 percent in 2021 as a result.

As part of Mission Aardram, the Left Democratic Front government in Kerala created Family Health Centres across the state. The government has now established Post-COVID Clinics at these centres to diagnose and treat people who are suffering from long-term COVID-19-related health problems. These clinics have been created despite little support from the central government in New Delhi. A number of Kerala’s public health and research institutes have provided breakthroughs in our understanding of communicable diseases and helped develop new medicines to treat them, including the Institute for Advanced Virology, the International Ayurveda Research Institute, and the research centres in biotechnology and pharmaceutical medicines at the Bio360 Life Sciences Park. All of this is precisely the agenda of compassion that gives us hope in the possibilities of a world that is not rooted in private profit but in social good.

Nguyễn tư Nghiêm (Vietnam), The Dance, 1968.

In November 2021, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research worked alongside twenty-six research institutes to develop A Plan to Save the Planet. The plan has many sections, each of which emerged out of deep study and analysis. One of the key sections is on health, with thirteen clear policy proposals:

1. Advance the cause of a people’s vaccine for COVID-19 and for future diseases.
2. Remove patent controls on essential medicines and facilitate the transfer of both medical science and technology to developing countries.
3. De-commodify, develop, and increase investment in robust public health systems.
4. Develop the public sector’s pharmaceutical production, particularly in developing countries.
5. Form a United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Health Threats.
6. Support and strengthen the role health workers’ unions play at the workplace and in the economy.
7. Ensure that people from underprivileged backgrounds and rural areas are trained as doctors.
8. Broaden medical solidarity, including through the World Health Organisation and health platforms associated with regional bodies.
9. Mobilise campaigns and actions that protect and expand reproductive and sexual rights.
10. Levy a health tax on large corporations that produce beverages and foods that are widely recognised by international health organisations to be harmful to children and to public health in general (such as those that lead to obesity or other chronic diseases).
11. Curb the promotional activities and advertising expenditures of pharmaceutical corporations.
12. Build a network of accessible, publicly funded diagnostic centres and strictly regulate the prescription and prices of diagnostic tests.
13. Provide psychological therapy as part of public health systems.

If even half of these policy proposals were to be enacted, the world would be less dangerous and more compassionate. Take point no. 6 as a reference. During the early months of the pandemic, it became normal to talk about the need to support ‘essential workers’, including health care workers (our dossier from June 2020, Health Is a Political Choice, made the case for these workers). All those banged pots went silent soon thereafter and health care workers found themselves with low pay and poor working conditions. When these health care workers went on strike – from the United States to Kenya – that support simply did not materialise. If health care workers had a say in their own workplaces and in the formation of health policy, our societies would be less prone to repeated healthcare calamities.

There’s an old Roque Dalton poem from 1968 about headaches and socialism that gives us a taste of what it will take to save the planet:

It is beautiful to be a communist,
even if it gives you many headaches.

The communists’ headache
is presumed to be historical; that is to say,
that it does not yield to painkillers,
but only to the realisation of paradise on earth.
That’s the way it is.

Under capitalism, we get a headache
and our heads are torn off.
In the revolution’s struggle, the head is a time-bomb.

In socialist construction,
we plan for the headache
which does not make it scarce, but quite the contrary.
Communism will be, among other things,
an aspirin the size of the sun.

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