Note: This is Part 2 of a two-part article including sections 4 – and 5 – please read Part 1 for sections 1) COVID-19 Unique Event, 2) Virus Drives the Economy, and 3) Outlook for the U.S. Economy
“The economy was a very nice photo, than the pandemic turned it into a jigsaws puzzle that’s all messed up, now we’re trying to put it together and figure out if all the pieces are still here or not.”
Mohammed A. El-Arian, Chief Economist, Allianz
The novel COVID-19 virus has driven the world economy into the deepest recession since the Great Depression while shattering the linkages that previously held it together. Two months into the crisis and economists are still trying to figure out what has happened to supply chains and demand channels. As El-Arian, notes key components of the economy may be missing.
Some components will need to be created. Then all these components will need to realign into a “New Economy.” The challenge of rebuilding the economy will be influencing consumer behavior. Consumer spending is 70% of GDP. Thus, growing employment is crucial toward increasing consumer confidence and recovery. The central question is: how will the economy shift a growth track? We’ll look at crucial signposts along the way in building a new growth track by presenting the following topics: (The first three are from Part 1)
- COVID-19 – Unique Event – Examines the unique characteristics of the pandemic and how they set up certain economic trends. Part 1
- Virus Drives the Economy – Looks at how the virus is driving the economy, how it is out of control and what strategies are working toward containment – Part 1
- Outlook For U.S. Economy – Takes a new perspective by overlaying the virus cycle with a deep U shaped economic cycle and how economic activity changes during each stage. – Part 1
- New Economy – Describes the transformation of our society and how these changes will create losing and winning new businesses and how consumers will likely have conservative spending and saving habits – Part 2
- What We Need To Do To Create a New Economy – Recommends a federal team of scientific experts to be authorized to lead virus containment, investment in self-renewing innovation centers in hard hit pandemic areas and focus employment development on climate change solutions – Part 2
The New Economy will feel different, much more virtually driven by software, the Internet, and be home centric. All major aspects of consumer behavior will be affected by the panipression (combination of panic, recession, and depression) experience opening new opportunities for products and services. In contrast, others will see reduced demand and be forced to close. Investors will want to watch these social trends as they cluster into a set of needs where businesses can flourish and become profitable.
Similar to the deep psychological scars of the 1930s, it will take time to repair the emotional, social, and mental damage of the pandemic. Today, a social trend called the Ameri-Can spirit is helping to heal people in a wave of unifying, uplifting virtual programs. Celebrities, social groups, and crowdsourced teams are using Internet hashtags links to raise funding for charities to provide financial assistance to restaurant workers, hotel workers, farmworkers, meat processing staff, entertainment crews, and thousands of others that have been furloughed or laid off. This Ameri-Can spirit plus our culture of entrepreneurship will create a new economy that will be robust.
Businesses will provide new services or products targeted at a cluster of behaviors related to values, social styles, and desires. Social distancing will change our behaviors so groups of behaviors will disappear, be sustained, or begin to emerge. Socially people will have to be encouraged to take a trip, get on a plane, or have an experience outside of their home when they have so many alternatives.
Let’s look at key consumer and business segments and how they may be transformed:
Consumers will be seeking experiences they cannot get at home. We expect to see more experience-based travel packages that include hotel, meals, and an experience like a Costa Rica eco tour as a destination. For sought after destinations like Hawaii, Europe or Disneyland, the attractiveness will still be there. However, for small resorts, villages, or towns with a singular appeal, they will have to differentiate and create traffic in innovative ways to hold out during the contraction and trough stages of the recession. Airlines are already making ‘pandemic cleanliness promises’ and will continue to build on making passengers feel safe. Hotels will need to make guests feel safe as well and focus on the destination appeal, amenities, and service to a far greater degree than they needed to in the past. Local restaurants that shifted to take out during the pandemic and survived will be able to go back to their usual food fare if it has new appeal. The foodservice industry is likely to be even more competitive than before, with the major chains surviving and the local community restaurants failing during the lockdowns. The rental car industry has many choices with some firms with high debt levels, so we may see industry consolidation.
Work At Home
Home will become a central focus for new services. More services will come to the home than ever before with added twists and features for: meal delivery and pickup, car servicing, pet grooming, mobile dentistry, and laundry delivery. As workers are likely to have little savings and limited credit, so car sales will likely drop, replaced by even more ride-sharing. The auto industry will be faced with declining auto sales yet, there will be increased demand for cars by ride-sharing drivers and new autonomous car services. Personal fitness or yoga training will be offered online, along with many personal development classes held virtually. The number of car trips to work will decline causing gasoline demand to drop lower than pre-pandemic levels. Car rentals for out-of-region trips will be in even higher demand as fewer consumers will own a car. E-Commerce will continue to grow as people have become accustomed to most things being delivered to their homes. Retailers will need to differentiate their offerings by expertise that consumers can’t get online. For example, going to a nursery to buy a plant means seeing the plant’s condition. To close the sale, the consumer will want to ask an expert gardener how to plant it and care for it. Shopping malls will need to develop attractions or experiences to motivate consumers to leave their homes and shop.
Work at Office or Plant
Companies will soon discover that having employees work at home as many days as possible will reduce their costs. The need for office space will likely be reduced, and the need for a variety of support services like cafeterias, lounges, team rooms, etc. will decline. The need for shared office tenant spaces will fall. After all, except for key meetings, it is cheaper to have their employees work from home and eliminate or reduce office space, computer systems, utilities, and all the overhead of an employee office. Manufacturers will figure out how to achieve the same level of production using fewer employees. Production management systems will continue to be installed with sophisticated automation systems using artificial intelligence features. As more robots are installed we expect they will stay in place so manufacturing employment will not return to pre-COVID-19 levels. Features like non-touch time clocks, automated employee temperature monitoring, and other pandemic related services will probably be kept in place post-COVID-19.
Consumers already using the internet 24 hours a day will be looking for more ways to use laptops and internet services. Demand for high-speed internet services will be even greater. Many consumers use personal assistants like Alexa. We expect using personal assistants to gain new users after their shelter-in-home experience. We can expect to see more artificial intelligence features added to ‘dumb’ devices like refrigerators to provide monitoring of food usage, make recommendations, and suggest food purchases based on usage. Home security systems do surveillance today like turning on lights while a person walks from room to room. These systems may add employee temperature surveillance, so companies will know how healthy their employees are at home. There is likely to be increased stress from the blurring of family versus home life, and issues related to child care. This stress may impact work from home so firms will be interested in monitoring work at home activity. Firms will be able to use retina scans to determine how focused a worker is on his screen. The scans will be reported back to companies to know when their employee was at their computer, and for hourly workers, how many hours they have worked.
After their pandemic experience, consumers will be obsessed with their fitness. Some consumers may look for their doctor to become a ‘health consultant’ helping them to stay healthy with a focus on preventive medicine, diet, and lifestyle management. Artificial intelligence will be applied to diagnostics as medicine becomes ever more complex and expensive to reduce doctor’s hours and costs. Telemedicine will become the norm for visits as patients will want to stay home if they can. In some cases, doctor’s offices and clinics will shrink in size as being ‘on-premise’ for doctor visits will be a premium service. Clinics will shift some services to urgent care. Consumers will take even more control of their health, use more online advice services, and drug delivery apps. The use of stress reduction virtual apps will soar to help people transition into normal life as they use mindfulness to go out ‘into the real world’ again.
The merging of the internet with television and streaming channels will be accelerated. Internet applications like polling, audience interaction, and 3D experiences will merge with consumers doing things at home they would otherwise go out to do. During quarantine, entertainers have opened their homes to produce programs they used to do from studios. We expect more mixing of these personal entertainer ‘home visits’ to create an artificial intimacy with audiences that are not with them in person. The boundaries between movies, television shows, and gaming will continue to blur. For example, group ‘Minecraft games’ with a host and multi-player options become the norm. The focus on delivering entertainment to the home means less need for studio space and expensive studio crews. Audiences will still demand live concerts, though we expect to see more tie-ins with virtual pre-concert events and games along with post-concert follow up with entertainers.
Higher education will transition into lower-cost online learning. College online learning will become the standard. In person education will be ‘extra’ at the college level. The emphasis online learning to the home in elementary grades will place new stress on teachers and require far more sophisticated software for learning than is available today. Small colleges that focus on ‘in person’ learning experiences will be hard pressed to attract students during the lockdown or reopening phases of the pandemic control. We expect that many small colleges may be forced to close or merge their curriculum and teaching staff with other larger schools that have the ability to attract a large enough student base to be financially viable.
Home sales will take a long time to recover from the market contraction of the pandemic. Millennials have often been the first to be laid off, have little savings, and spend more on experiences than saving for large purchases. Major incentives will have to be offered by builders and existing homeowners as the market will be slow to return to pre-pandemic sales levels. Homes will be remodeled, and new homes built to accommodate the home centric needs for office space, closed off family rooms, and sound dampening for video conferencing privacy. Apartments that offer ‘work-at-home’ floor plans and capabilities will be in demand while smaller apartments will see reduced demand. The pandemic may force home buyers to think about leaving the city and its density to suburbs or even further out since they can use the internet to do their job. An essential homebuyer requirement that their home is near their office will no longer be as crucial in locating a home for purchase.
Many banks have closed their retail offices due to social distancing. We expect banks to close many retail offices as being too expensive. Thus, customers to see a banker will need to make an appointment to see their banker at a specific branch. Virtual banking relationships will be the norm. Direct digital transfer of funds will grow leaving banks out of money transfers, particularly between customers and small businesses. Tap and go credit cards will be a standard way of handing a transaction at stores without touching cards or receipts. Digital wallets with financial account information will be readily adopted as tech savvy millennials become the dominant consumer group.
Consumers will think about money differently as a result of a panipression experience. Not having money for food, rent, or utilities will leave emotional scars and teach new habits. Similar to the Great Depression generation, consumers are likely to use less credit, increase their savings and be careful about getting over-leveraged with significant purchases. They will make conservative investments similar to baby boomers after the 2008 recession, who did not reinvest in stocks. Building consumer spending will likely take three or more years to reach previous levels.
The New Economy will feel different, much more virtually driven by software, the internet and home centric. All major aspects of consumer behavior will be affected by the panipression experience opening new opportunities for products and services. In contrast, others will see reduced demand and be forced to close. Investors will want to watch emerging social trends as they cluster into a set of needs where businesses can flourish and become profitable.
What We Need To Do To Create A New Economy
Challenge: The most crucial next step is to contain the virus and provide people with the confidence to go about their social life without the fear of becoming infected.
Proposal: Provide unifying intelligent leadership at the federal level to overcome the virus. The people need support, compassion, and hope, not divisive politics, bickering, and conspiracy theories as a basis of policy. A federal team of scientists using facts, research, and the latest techniques for pandemic containment needs to be authorized to bring the virus under control quickly. Other countries like Germany have focused their efforts on containment without politics leading to moderate success in virus containment.
Self-Renewing Economy Investment
Challenge: Rural areas of the country were already in recession from being hollowed out by manufacturing moving overseas. The pandemic has ravaged inner-city areas where many hourly workers lived in tight quarters. Small businesses across all regions are reeling from the lockdowns temporally shutting their businesses down, forcing them onto a financial cliff.
Proposal: Build New Economy innovation development centers using the Silicon Valley model. We see promise in using a Silicon Valley model of integrated partnerships between venture capitalists, company incubators, universities, and local government to build new businesses. The model has been used in places like Portland, Oregon with their Silicon Forest and in Salt Lake City with their Silicon Slope to build successful self-renewing economies. We recommend that this model be used to target inner-city regions, rural areas, or any area where the pandemic has taken a toll on the local economy. Since the federal government has limited funding we recommend the government act as a ‘seed’ investor to jump-start these development centers with partner investments by venture capitalists and cash rich firms like Apple, Google, and Microsoft. To ensure a well-trained labor force, the centers could be located near university campuses and integrated into degree or certification programs. The Department of Education could assist with scholarships for workers that need tuition and fees financial aid to study at the universities.
Climate Change Solutions
While the focus over the next three to five years will rightly be on containing the virus and rebuilding the economy, the existential climate change problem continues to go unsolved. The impact of climate change is already felt in rising seas flooding coast side cities and mega wildfires destroying millions of acres.
Focus employment development in renewable industries. The pandemic economic slowdown has reduced carbon emissions by 8% during the past two months, according to experts. The latest U.N. climate change analysis recommends that an 8% a year reduction in emissions be continued until 2030 to achieve the global emissions reduction target of 2 degrees Celsius. A U.N. sponsored Science Based Targets Initiative organization of 890 companies has endorsed shifting investments and employment toward reaching the 2030 emissions reduction target. A diverse set of 165 U.S. companies are SBTI members including: Walmart, Target, Coca-Cola, Adobe, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Owens-Corning, Whirlpool, Proctor & Gamble, and Verizon. We should start now solving the next major global challenge by focusing on federal, non-government organizations, private research, and business development on innovative solutions to climate change problems. Focusing on climate change for job creation ensures that we tackle two major issues: employment and climate change. With so many workers unemployed we should shift their skills to a new industry that has been growing fast and is urgently needed while offering long term careers
We expect corporate leaders to take the lead in employment development for a long term economic transformation as political divisions will continue. We noted in our post: A Pandemic Iceberg Hits the ‘Unsinkable’ US Economy’ that the fabric of a robust labor safety net needs to be built to mitigate the impact of an economic crisis like COVID-19 on labor in the future. It is in the interest of executives to build businesses where workers are thriving, not just surviving. The focus must be on building an innovative economy that is creating new jobs through entrepreneurship. Otherwise, we are faced with a stagnating economy dependent on government transfer payments. We conclude with the following declaration from that post:
“Americans built the most innovative, self-renewing, wealth building economy in the world. It is the American spirit of entrepreneurship combined with invention, self-sacrifice, equal opportunity, and creativity that will build the businesses of the future. These new businesses will adjust to new social realities and pave the way for workers to gain job security and become confident enough to spend at robust levels.”
Patrick Hill is the Editor of The Progressive Ensign, writes from the heart of Silicon Valley, leveraging 20 years of experience as an executive at firms like HP, Genentech, Verigy, Informatica, and Okta to provide investment and economic insights. Twitter: @PatrickHill167
The post COVID-19 Triggers Transformation into a New Economy – Part 2 appeared first on RIA.
Alzheimer’s, Now A Leading Cause Of Death In US, Is Becoming More Prevalent
Alzheimer’s, Now A Leading Cause Of Death In US, Is Becoming More Prevalent
Alzheimer’s disease is now one of the leading causes of death…
Alzheimer’s disease is now one of the leading causes of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative and incurable brain disease that predominantly affects older people.
Early symptoms include memory loss and lapses in judgment, but at a later stage these can progress to problems with a wider range of functions too, such as balance, breathing and digestion.
As Statista's Anna Fleck details below, while heart disease, cancer and Covid-19 claimed by far the highest numbers of lives in 2021 (which was the latest available data), Alzheimer’s disease ranked in a high seventh place with 119,399 deaths that year, equating to 31 people per 100,000 population.
You will find more infographics at Statista
The rate of people dying of Alzheimer’s disease in the United States more than doubled between the years 2000 and 2019, according to the Alzheimer’s Association's latest report.
Where an average of 17.6 people per 100,000 died from the form of dementia at the turn of the millennium, the figure had climbed to 37 per 100,000 people nearly two decades later.
You will find more infographics at Statista
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, this is likely the result of an aging population, since age is the predominant risk factor for Alzheimer’s dementia. However, they note, it could also reflect a rise in the number of formal diagnoses of the disease or even in the number of physicians who are reporting Alzheimer’s as a cause of death.
The charity’s analysts forecast that by 2025, the number of people aged 65+ with Alzheimer’s dementia in the U.S. could reach 7.2 million, and up to 13.8 million by 2060, if there were to be no medical breakthroughs in that time to prevent, slow or cure the disease.
On that note, pharmaceutical companies have a number of drugs in development, targeting different symptoms, from inflammation to synaptic plasticity/neuroprotection pathways.
According to AgingCare, neurological damage and muscle weakness can lead to patients finding it difficult to manage even simple movements such as swallowing food without assistance. This is the most common cause of death among Alzheimer's patients, since it can result in the inhalation of food or liquids to the lungs, which in turn can lead to pneumonia, since it more difficult to fight off bacterial infections.
The Alzheimer’s Association stresses the importance of seeing a doctor when someone develops Alzheimer’s symptoms. This is because an early diagnosis allows for treatment from earlier on, which may be able to lessen symptoms for a limited time as well as to make more time for people to plan for the future.
God bless nana.
American Pandemic ‘Samizdat’: Bhattacharya
American Pandemic ‘Samizdat’: Bhattacharya
Authored by Jay Bhattacharya via RealClear Wire,
On May 15, 1970, the New York Times published…
On May 15, 1970, the New York Times published an article by esteemed Russia scholar Albert Parry detailing how Soviet dissident intellectuals were covertly passing forbidden ideas around to each other on handcrafted, typewritten documents called samizdat. Here is the beginning of that seminal story:
Censorship existed even before literature, say the Russians. And, we may add, censorship being older, literature has to be craftier. Hence, the new and remarkably viable underground press in the Soviet Union called samizdat.
Samizdat – translates as: “We publish ourselves” – that is, not the state, but we, the people.
Unlike the underground of Czarist times, today’s samizdat has no printing presses (with rare exceptions): The K.G.B., the secret police, is too efficient. It is the typewriter, each page produced with four to eight carbon copies, that does the job. By the thousands and tens of thousands of frail, smudged onionskin sheets, samizdat spreads across the land a mass of protests and petitions, secret court minutes, Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s banned novels, George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and “1984,” Nicholas Berdyayev’s philosophical essays, all sorts of sharp political discourses and angry poetry.
Though it is hard to hear, the sad fact is that we are living in a time and in a society where there is once again a need for scientists to pass around their ideas secretly to one another so as to avoid censorship, smearing, and defamation by government authorities in the name of science.
I say this from first-hand experience. During the pandemic, the U.S. government violated my free speech rights and those of my scientist colleagues for questioning the federal government’s COVID policies.
American government officials, working in concert with big tech companies, defamed and suppressed me and my colleagues for criticizing official pandemic policies – criticism that has been proven prescient. While this may sound like a conspiracy theory, it is a documented fact, and one recently confirmed by a federal circuit court.
In August 2022, the Missouri and Louisiana attorneys general asked me to join as a plaintiff in a lawsuit, represented by the New Civil Liberties Alliance, against the Biden administration. The suit aims to end the government’s role in this censorship and restore the free speech rights of all Americans in the digital town square.
Lawyers in the Missouri v. Biden case took sworn depositions from many federal officials involved in the censorship efforts, including Anthony Fauci. During the hours-long deposition, Fauci showed a striking inability to answer basic questions about his pandemic management, replying “I don’t recall” over 170 times.
Legal discovery unearthed email exchanges between the government and social media companies showing an administration willing to threaten the use of its regulatory power to harm social media companies that did not comply with censorship demands.
The case revealed that a dozen federal agencies pressured social media companies Google, Facebook, and Twitter to censor and suppress speech contradicting federal pandemic priorities. In the name of slowing the spread of harmful misinformation, the administration forced the censorship of scientific facts that didn’t fit its narrative de jour. This included facts relating to the evidence for immunity after COVID recovery, the inefficacy of mask mandates, and the inability of the vaccine to stop disease transmission. True or false, if speech interfered with the government’s priorities, it had to go.
On July 4, U.S. Federal District Court Judge Terry Doughty issued a preliminary injunction in the case, ordering the government to immediately stop coercing social media companies to censor protected free speech. In his decision, Doughty called the administration’s censorship infrastructure an Orwellian “Ministry of Truth.”
In my November 2021 testimony in the House of Representatives, I used this exact phrase to describe the government’s censorship efforts. For this heresy, I faced slanderous accusations by Rep. Jamie Raskin, who accused me of wanting to let the virus “rip.” Raskin was joined by fellow Democrat Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, who tried to smear my reputation on the grounds that I spoke with a Chinese journalist in April 2020.
Judge Doughty’s ruling decried the vast federal censorship enterprise dictating to social media companies who and what to censor, and ordered it to end. But the Biden administration immediately appealed the decision, claiming that they needed to be able to censor scientists or else public health would be endangered and people would die. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals granted them an administrative stay that lasted until mid-September, permitting the Biden administration to continue violating the First Amendment.
After a long month, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that that pandemic policy critics were not imagining these violations. The Biden administration did indeed strong-arm social media companies into doing its bidding. The court found that the Biden White House, the CDC, the U.S. surgeon general’s office, and the FBI have “engaged in a years-long pressure campaign [on social media outlets] designed to ensure that the censorship aligned with the government’s preferred viewpoints.”
The appellate judges described a pattern of government officials making “threats of ‘fundamental reforms’ like regulatory changes and increased enforcement actions that would ensure the platforms were ‘held accountable.’” But, beyond express threats, there was always an “unspoken ‘or else.’” The implication was clear. If social media companies did not comply, the administration would work to harm the economic interests of the companies. Paraphrasing Al Capone, “Well that’s a nice company you have there. Shame if something were to happen to it,” the government insinuated.
“The officials’ campaign succeeded. The platforms, in capitulation to state-sponsored pressure, changed their moderation policies,” the 5th Circuit judges wrote, and they renewed the injunction against the government’s violation of free speech rights. Here is the full order, filled with many glorious adverbs:
Defendants, and their employees and agents, shall take no actions, formal or informal, directly or indirectly, to coerce or significantly encourage social-media companies to remove, delete, suppress, or reduce, including through altering their algorithms, posted social-media content containing protected free speech. That includes, but is not limited to, compelling the platforms to act, such as by intimating that some form of punishment will follow a failure to comply with any request, or supervising, directing, or otherwise meaningfully controlling the social media companies’ decision-making processes.
The federal government can no longer threaten social media companies with destruction if they don’t censor scientists on behalf of the government. The ruling is a victory for every American since it is a victory for free speech rights.
Although I am thrilled by it, the decision isn’t perfect. Some entities at the heart of the government’s censorship enterprise can still organize to suppress speech. For instance, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) within the Department of Homeland Security can still work with academics to develop a hit list for government censorship. And the National Institutes of Health, Tony Fauci’s old organization, can still coordinate devastating takedowns of outside scientists critical of government policy.
So, what did the government want censored?
The trouble began on Oct. 4, 2020, when my colleagues and I – Dr. Martin Kulldorff, a professor of medicine at Harvard University, and Dr. Sunetra Gupta, an epidemiologist at the University of Oxford – published the Great Barrington Declaration. It called for an end to economic lockdowns, school shutdowns, and similar restrictive policies because they disproportionately harm the young and economically disadvantaged while conferring limited benefits.
The Declaration endorsed a “focused protection” approach that called for strong measures to protect high-risk populations while allowing lower-risk individuals to return to normal life with reasonable precautions. Tens of thousands of doctors and public health scientists signed on to our statement.
With hindsight, it is clear that this strategy was the right one. Sweden, which in large part eschewed lockdown and, after early problems, embraced focused protection of older populations, had among the lowest age-adjusted all-cause excess deaths of nearly every other country in Europe and suffered none of the learning loss for its elementary school children. Similarly, Florida has lower cumulative age-adjusted all-cause excess deaths than lockdown-crazy California since the start of the pandemic.
In the poorest parts of the world, the lockdowns were an even greater disaster. By spring 2020, the United Nations was already warning that the economic disruptions caused by the lockdowns would lead to 130 million or more people starving. The World Bank warned the lockdowns would throw 100 million people into dire poverty.
Some version of those predictions came true – millions of the world’s poorest suffered from the West’s lockdowns. Over the past 40 years, the world’s economies globalized, becoming more interdependent. At a stroke, the lockdowns broke the promise the world’s rich nations had implicitly made to poor nations. The rich nations had told the poor: Reorganize your economies, connect yourself to the world, and you will become more prosperous. This worked, with 1 billion people lifted out of dire poverty over the last half-century.
But the lockdowns violated that promise. The supply chain disruptions that predictably followed them meant millions of poor people in sub-Saharan Africa, Bangladesh, and elsewhere lost their jobs and could no longer feed their families.
In California, where I live, the government closed public schools and disrupted our children’s education for two straight academic years. The educational disruption was very unevenly distributed, with the poorest students and minority students suffering the greatest educational losses. By contrast, Sweden kept its schools open for students under 16 throughout the pandemic. The Swedes let their children live near-normal lives with no masks, no social distancing, and no forced isolation. As a result, Swedish kids suffered no educational loss.
The lockdowns, then, were a form of trickle-down epidemiology. The idea seemed to be that we should protect the well-to-do from the virus and that protection would somehow trickle down to protect the poor and the vulnerable. The strategy failed, as a large fraction of the deaths attributable to COVID hit the vulnerable elderly.
The government wanted to suppress the fact that there were prominent scientists who opposed the lockdowns and had alternate ideas – like the Great Barrington Declaration – that might have worked better. They wanted to maintain an illusion of total consensus in favor of Tony Fauci’s ideas, as if he were indeed the high pope of science. When he told an interviewer, “Everyone knows I represent science. If you criticize me, you are not simply criticizing a man, you are criticizing science itself,” he meant it unironically.
Federal officials immediately targeted the Great Barrington Declaration for suppression. Four days after the declaration’s publication, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins emailed Fauci to organize a “devastating takedown” of the document. Almost immediately, social media companies such as Google/YouTube, Reddit, and Facebook censored mentions of the declaration.
In 2021, Twitter blacklisted me for posting a link to the Great Barrington Declaration. YouTube censored a video of a public policy roundtable of me with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for the “crime” of telling him the scientific evidence for masking children is weak.
At the height of the pandemic, I found myself smeared for my supposed political views, and my views about COVID policy and epidemiology were removed from the public square on all manner of social networks.
It is impossible for me not to speculate about what might have happened had our proposal been met with a more typical scientific spirit rather than censorship and vitriol. For anyone with an open mind, the GBD represented a return to the old pandemic management strategy that had served the world well for a century – identify and protect the vulnerable, develop treatments and countermeasures as rapidly as possible, and disrupt the lives of the rest of society as little as possible since such disruption is likely to cause more harm than good.
Without censorship, we might have won that debate, and if so, the world could have moved along a different and better path in the last three and a half years, with less death and less suffering.
Since I started with a story about how dissidents skirted the Soviet censorship regime, I will close with a story about Trofim Lysenko, the famous Russian biologist. Stalin’s favorite scientist was a biologist who did not believe in Mendelian genetics – one of the most important ideas in biology. He thought it was all hokum, inconsistent with communist ideology, which emphasized the importance of nurture over nature. Lysenko developed a theory that if you expose seeds to cold before you plant them, they will be more resistant to cold, and thereby, crop output could be increased dramatically.
I hope it is not a surprise to readers to learn that Lysenko was wrong about the science. Nevertheless, Lysenko convinced Stalin that his ideas were right, and Stalin rewarded him by making him the director of the USSR’s Institute for Genetics for more than 20 years. Stalin gave him the Order of Lenin eight times.
Lysenko used his power to destroy any biologist who disagreed with him. He smeared and demoted the reputations of rival scientists who thought Mendelian genetics was true. Stalin sent some of these disfavored scientists to Siberia, where they died. Lysenko censored the scientific discussion in the Soviet Union so no one dared question his theories.
The result was mass starvation. Soviet agriculture stalled, and millions died in famines caused by Lysenko’s ideas put into practice. Some sources say that Ukraine and China under Mao Tse-tung also followed Lysenko’s ideas, causing millions more to starve there.
Censorship is the death of science and inevitably leads to the death of people. America should be a bulwark against it, but it was not during the pandemic. Though the tide is turning with the Missouri v. Biden case, we must reform our scientific institutions so what happened during the pandemic never happens again.
Dr. Bhattacharya is the inaugural recipient of RealClear’s Samizdat Prize. This article was adapted from the speech he delivered at the award ceremony on September 12 in Palo Alto, California.
Disney World finally brings back parking trams
The theme park giant very rarely gives back things it has taken away from ticketholders, but people will be happy with this change.
Walt Disney made a lot of changes at its theme parks during the covid pandemic.
Many of them were unpopular but necessary. Health checks, masks and social distancing were beyond the company's control. Moving to only digital ordering at many casual eateries and limiting park attendance were also logical, given the need to keep people safe from the virus.
During the pandemic, however, the company also made some changes at Disney World that people did not like and that had nothing to do with covid. Walt Disney (DIS) - Get Free Report dropped the FastPass system and replaced it with the paid Genie+ and Lightning Lane offerings.
Disney World also added a reservation system during the pandemic to manage crowd levels at its parks, while it also stopped so-called park hopping. Now, the company has largely restored park hopping to the way it worked prepandemic and reservations are needed only in certain situations.
Also during the pandemic Disney World dropped another popular customer convenience. After nearly three years, the company finally restored something that Disney World visitors had missed a lot.
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Disney World made careful choices
Disney World has some very large parking lots. On a crowded day at any of its four theme parks, people who don't arrive early can end up parking very far away from each park's entrance. It's possible to walk to the entrance at Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Epcot or to the monorail or ferry boats at Magic Kingdom, but the walk can be a long one.
Walking is, of course, a major part of any Disney World visit. Having customers make a long trek before they even enter a park has never made much sense.
During the covid days, however, limited crowds allowed people to park closer to the entrances. That enabled people to walk to the entrances and made parking trams an unnecessary luxury.
Disney removed the trams partly because they weren't needed and partly because they created a covid risk. In the social distancing days, having people fighting for space to queue up for a ride to the entrance required policing and seemed like a bad idea even when things returned to closer to normal.
Now, Disney has finally fully brought parking trams back to Disney World.
Disney World brings back parking trams
Disney had promised that its parking-lot trams would return, but actually bringing them back took longer than expected.
"After more than 1,100 days and nine months after a self-imposed deadline, parking lot trams have returned to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios – marking a full return of the service," BlogMickey.com reported. "Parking-lot-tram service returned to Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom last year, but Disney only brought back service to Epcot and Hollywood Studios today (Sept. 21),"
The website implies that the reluctance to bring the service back could have been labor-related or it may have been Disney not wanting to spend the money. The trams have a driver and each park has attendants helping keep the lines orderly (although the system is not as organized as most Disney lines).
Disney World has mostly returned to how it operated before covid. The company has kept parts of the reservation system and digital ordering is still encouraged.
In addition, the company continues to manage attendance and has kept capacity at lower numbers than it did before the pandemic. Disney has also increased the number of days that it sells admission to at least one of its four Florida parks at the lowest price on its dynamic pricing scale.
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