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Got pandemic anxiety? You might relate more to COVID memes than non-anxious people

Humour can be key to coping with pandemic-related stress.

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Public health measures to combat COVID, such as lockdowns, quarantines and social distancing, have made many people anxious. In many countries, including the UK studies found that rates of anxiety and depression rose following the onset of the pandemic.

Coping with anxiety can be a challenge even in the calmest of times, so it’s no surprise that the pandemic affected the mental health of so many people. One antidote to newfound anxiety may be found in the many COVID memes that have proliferated on the internet during the pandemic. Positive humour has been found to be an effective coping mechanism for anxiety, and this may also be applicable to pandemic-related anxiety.

Humour helps people reassess negative situations and see them in a more positive light. The internet provides an endless supply of memes, funny videos and images to make us laugh about any topic. Many online groups and forums have emerged dedicated to sharing and discussing COVID memes.

As a psychologist, my research seeks to better understand the nature of mental health difficulties. Like many, I also enjoy laughing at internet memes on social media and sharing them with friends and family. My colleagues and I in the research group MEMELab are interested in the connection between humour and mental health and how memes can play a role in helping people struggling with depression and anxiety.

In our latest research we wanted to know how people experiencing clinically significant levels of anxiety perceive COVID memes differently to their non-anxious counterparts.

This study followed our earlier work, where we found that people experiencing clinically significant levels of depression showed a preference for internet memes about depression, compared with non-depressed controls. The participants with depression found the memes more relatable and funnier compared with those in the non-depressed group.

We wanted to know whether these results would apply to people who were struggling with anxiety during the pandemic, and encountering memes about the pandemic itself.

A photo of a man looking sad at his desk
Many COVID-19 memes commented on how everyday life changed (or stayed the same) during the pandemic. Reddit.com/r/CoronavirusMemes/

First, we gathered 45 of the most popular memes related to the pandemic from a page on the online forum Reddit titled “coronavirus memes”. These memes referenced aspects of the pandemic such as social distancing, mask-wearing, lockdown, COVID symptoms and remote working.

We then asked 160 people, 80 of whom had clinically significant anxiety, to rate the memes on aspects like relatability, humour and offensiveness. We also asked about the likelihood they would share the memes with another person.

COVID memes and anxiety

We found that people with severe anxiety rated the memes as funnier, more relatable and more shareable when compared with a non-anxious control group. This suggests that anxious people may use humour to make light of an uncertain and worrying situation, in this case, the pandemic.

The greater likelihood of anxious people relating to and sharing COVID memes suggests that these memes might be a helpful tool to express feelings about the pandemic, which may otherwise be difficult to verbalise.

Two side by side images of a toddler holding a gun and crying. Caption suggests that this is how families of six would react to Austria's lockdown announcement banning gatherings of more than five people.
The humour in COVID-19 memes touched on some dark subjects. Reddit.com/r/CoronavirusMemes/

In another recent study, members of the public completed a questionnaire where they observed three memes that were either related or unrelated to COVID. The researchers found that people who viewed the COVID-captioned memes reported lower levels of COVID-related stress compared with those who looked at memes unrelated to the pandemic. This suggests that viewing memes related to the pandemic may help people cope with the negative psychological effect of the pandemic.

Taken together, the outcomes of these studies show that viewing and sharing memes may change how people view the negative aspects of the pandemic, which may help them cope with their anxiety.

Umair Akram does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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The Great Realignment: Countless More Americans Will Be Moving From Blue States To Red States In 2022

The Great Realignment: Countless More Americans Will Be Moving From Blue States To Red States In 2022

Authored by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse blog,

We are rapidly becoming two very different nations with two very different cultu

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The Great Realignment: Countless More Americans Will Be Moving From Blue States To Red States In 2022

Authored by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse blog,

We are rapidly becoming two very different nations with two very different cultures.  At one time we truly were the “United” States of America, but now we have been split into two opposing camps that deeply hate one another.  As a result, in recent years we have watched millions of Americans relocate for ideological reasons.  This has caused “red states” to become even redder and “blue states” to become even bluer.  At this point, there are just a handful of “purple states”, and it is in those states where our presidential elections are determined.  It is really not healthy for just a few states like Pennsylvania and Michigan to have such power, but that is a topic for another article.  In this article, I want to discuss why the mass exodus from blue states to red states is actually going to accelerate in 2022.

Right now, there is no issue in the United States that is more divisive than the COVID vaccine.

Most conservatives want to be able to have the freedom to choose whether to take the injections or not, while many on the left want to use the power of government to compel people to get injected.

It has truly been frightening to watch many on the left embrace authoritarianism so eagerly, and many leftist politicians just continue to tighten down the screws.

For example, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio just decided to impose a very strict vaccine mandate on all private employers in his entire city

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced what he called a first-in-the-nation vaccine mandate for private companies Monday.

He said the combination of the Omicron variant and holiday gatherings forced him to take “bold” steps. He’s giving businesses just three weeks to make sure their workers are vaccinated.

If you don’t get the jab, you won’t be allowed to keep your job.

There will not be a “testing option” under this new mandate, and so anyone that refuses to comply will be kicked to the curb two days after Christmas

De Blasio said the city will release specific rules on Dec. 15, before the mandate takes effect Dec. 27. He said it will apply to in-person employees, but would not provide any details about enforcement. He also said there will not be a weekly testing option.

This is complete and utter lunacy, but of course we are witnessing lots of that in blue states these days.

We are being told that this new mandate will apply to approximately 184,000 businesses, and that means that vast numbers of New Yorkers will soon be forced to search for greener pastures.

One of them is a woman named Cynthia.  She told a reporter that this mandate gave her yet another reason “to get the hell out of New York”

Cynthia, an employee at a Midtown marketing firm who refused to share her last name due to fear of blowback, told the Post that the new requirement is ‘another reason’ to leave the city.

‘Just terrific. Bill de Blasio just gave me another reason I need to get the hell out of New York, or at least find a job that lets me work remotely,’ she said.

Where will thousands upon thousands of displaced New Yorkers like Cynthia go?

One conservative member of Congress that represents New York fears that many of them will head to “the free state of Florida”

‘Mayor de Blasio can’t leave fast enough. He has crushed small business, the economy and quality of life. How many more New Yorkers does he want to see move to the free state of Florida?’ said US Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, who represents Staten Island and Brooklyn.

So New York is going to get even bluer in 2022, and Florida will be getting even redder.

Down in Massachusetts, hundreds of hospital workers were just ruthlessly canned because they refused to comply with a vaccine mandate…

About 200 UMass Memorial Health employees are out of a job because they missed the health care system’s COVID vaccination deadline.

UMass Memorial announced the mandate over the summer with a deadline to get vaccinated or receive an exemption by November 1.

Employees were let go on December 1 if they did not get the vaccine.

Many of those displaced health workers aren’t going to be able to find similar work in Massachusetts, and so they will head to red states.

As for UMass Memorial Health, I am not sure exactly what they plan to do.  You can’t just pull people off the streets to be medical professionals.  They will probably be short-handed for a long time to come, and that is just going to hurt the people that they are supposed to be serving.

In Oregon, a different sort of mandate has people thinking that it may be time to relocate.

If you can believe it, officials in Oregon are actually thinking of making their indoor mask mandate permanent

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) assembled a Rules Advisory Committee (RAC) earlier this week to address a permanent indoor mask mandate in the state. Oregon is one of a few states that still retain one nearly two years into the pandemic.

The committee included several community stakeholders, including representatives from the hospitality industry, the business sector, and faith communities, according to local ABC affiliate KATU.

I cannot understand why any rational decision maker would want to do such a thing, but apparently they are quite serious.

There are a whole lot of very conservative people that live in eastern Oregon, and I think that even more of them are going to be moving over the border into Idaho in 2022.

Before I end this article, I want to mention what Canada has just done.

Beginning November 30th, all unvaccinated individuals are now banned from using any form of public transportation

In Canada, any travelers older than 12 years old must show proof of full vaccination to take any form of public transportation including domestic and international flights as well as trains.

“Starting November 30 at 3:01 am EST, vaccination will be required for travel within and to depart Canada,” the Candian travel website states. “A valid COVID-19 molecular test will no longer be accepted as an alternative to vaccination unless you’re eligible for one of the limited exemptions.”

Trudeau and his minions have completely gone off the deep end, and I feel so sorry for freedom-loving Canadians that are deeply suffering under his regime.

Of course the Biden administration is considering something similar for domestic travel inside the United States.

Let us hope that they never pull the trigger on such a move.

All over the globe we are seeing governments become more authoritarian, and that certainly sets the stage for some of the things that I warned about in my latest book.

Here in the U.S., countless numbers of freedom-loving Americans are fleeing to red states as they seek to escape the oppression that they have been experiencing in blue states.

Unfortunately, blue state tyrants have no intention of backing down, and this is going to create a tremendous amount of tension in our nation as we head into 2022 and beyond.

*  *  *

It is finally here! Michael’s new book entitled “7 Year Apocalypse” is now available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.

Tyler Durden Tue, 12/07/2021 - 18:05

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Gold Trends 2021: Price Sheds 6 Percent Following Record 2020

Click here to read the previous gold trends article. After soaring to an all-time high of US$2,058.40 per ounce during 2020, gold has faced headwinds in 2021.Values for the yellow metal started the year at US$1,898, but the level proved unsustainable…

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Click here to read the previous gold trends article.

After soaring to an all-time high of US$2,058.40 per ounce during 2020, gold has faced headwinds in 2021.

Values for the yellow metal started the year at US$1,898, but the level proved unsustainable and gold had sunk to US$1,700 — still its year-to-date low — by the end of the first quarter.

Positivity in the second quarter pushed the precious metal to its annual high in May, when the price touched US$1,903; however, it soon retreated to the US$1,760 range a few weeks later.


Since then, the currency metal has struggled to breach US$1,800, and many experts are pinning its price volatility on broader monetary issues. Read on for a look at trends that impacted gold in 2021.

Gold trends 2021: Key headwinds keeping the metal down


2021 gold price chart

Speaking to the Investing News Network, Brian Leni, editor of Junior Stock Review, explained that 2020’s pandemic response led to a massive expansion of global debt and was accompanied by low interest rates, “which the market knows is a recipe for disaster, but it keeps the ‘party’ going, so to speak.”

This environment facilitated gold’s 32 percent price increase between January and August of last year, and ultimately allowed the yellow metal to end 2020 up 21.18 percent from its January start of US$1,552.30.

“Over the last year, however, the gold price has drifted mostly downward,” Leni said.

“In my view, this isn’t because of any fundamental gold market reason. I think that negative price action is the market predicting or expecting the US Federal Reserve to raise interest rates to quell the rampant inflation that we have endured over the last 12 to 16 months.”

With economic stimulus winding down and growing uncertainty emerging around new COVID-19 variants, the Fed is in a precarious position.

“The problem for the Fed is twofold,” Leni said. “First, debt levels are so high that any significant interest rate hikes at this point could easily destabilize the market, causing a cascade effect around the world.”

He continued, “Second, the broader stock market is at all-time highs. Easy money, low interest and lockdowns have given the public more access or interest in the stock market than ever.”

The result is a delicate situation the Fed will have trouble balancing.

“If the Fed raises rates and begins its tightening process, I have no doubt that this will be negative for the broader stock market,” Leni noted. “It’s a big risk to many people’s savings, and the Fed knows it.”

Because of this, he thinks it will be challenging for the Fed to raise rates to the projected 0.25 or 0.5 percent amount in 2022 without causing a widespread ripple effect.

“Ultimately, an investment in gold is an investment in real money,” added Leni. “Real money that can’t be debased and is not simultaneously someone else’s liability.”

Gold trends 2021: ETF outflows preventing ​price growth


After dropping to a year-to-date low of US$1,700 in Q1 and rallying to this year's high point of US$1,903 in Q2, gold remained rangebound between US$1,700 and US$1,800 for most of Q3.

In addition to the factors mentioned by Leni, gold's flat price performance in the third quarter has been attributed to a 7 percent decline in investment demand from the exchange-traded fund (ETF) segment. This trend continued in October, when gold ETF holdings shed 25.5 tonnes.

"Global gold ETF holdings fell to 3,567 tonnes (US$203 billion) during the month — notching year-to-date low levels — as investor appetite for gold diminished in the ETF space following price declines in August and September," an October World Gold Council gold ETF report states.

In comparison to 2020’s record-setting 877 tonnes of inflows, so far 2021 has seen outflows of 269.1 tonnes and modest inflows of 87.6 tonnes. What's more, six of the last 10 months have registered net outflows in the gold-backed ETF segment. The ETF exodus has been attributed to investors adding more risk to their portfolios.

That said, Juan-Carlos Artigas, head of research at the World Gold Council, noted that 2021’s outflows seem disproportionate because 2020, especially Q3, was such a record-setting period for the gold ETF space.

However, he did point out that significant moves in the gold price tend to be influenced by the investment demand segment on a short- to mid-term basis. Looking longer term, overall demand from all segments — including jewelry, technology and bars and coins — is the price driver.

As investment demand shed 7 percent, or 831 tonnes, the gold price was further impacted by total mine production, which ballooned to 959.46 tonnes, up almost 90 tonnes from Q2’s 876.77 tonnes and significantly higher than the 842.72 tonnes mined in the first quarter.

All of gold’s headwinds combined in late September, forcing the metal to a six month low of US$1,726.10.

Gold trends 2021: Inflation threat gaining traction 


As new lockdowns began to emerge toward the end of the year, and stronger variants of COVID-19 started to be detected, some positivity in the broader markets began to erode.

This uncertainty benefited the yellow metal, which edged higher throughout October, starting the session at US$1,761 and ending the 31 day period at US$1,775.

“Gold price strength happened amid higher nominal yields: gold had been generally inversely correlated with nominal bond yields this year,” a November WGC report notes. “However, a rise in inflation expectations outweighed the move in nominal rates and resulted in lower real rates.”

As inflation began to exhibit signs of being more structural and less transitory in the fourth quarter, gold appeared to benefit from the looming uncertainty.

"If you look at the performance of interest rates versus gold over the last 20 years, as interest rates go up, gold sells off,” said Gareth Soloway, chief market strategist at InTheMoneyStocks.com, in early November.

"We haven't seen gold sell off, we've seen gold more chop sideways over the last couple of months as interest rates have gone up. And what that again tells us is that the market is starting to realize inflation is here, and big money is buying every single dip on gold. So I continue to be very, very bullish on gold over the longer term.”


Watch Soloway discuss where gold may go in the months ahead.

These factors are anticipated to be further heightened by changes in asset allocation, which have been fueled by historically low interest rates, pushing investors to add risk to their portfolios earlier in the year. “Because of that, investors are looking for ways to hedge some of that exposure, and that can be supportive of gold,” Artigas said.

By the end of November, gold had rallied to a 60 day high of US$1,803.20 ahead of December volatility courtesy of the Omicron variant, which hampered air travel and forced countries to reimplement quarantine-style protocols.

The spreading variant pushed markets lower during the first week of trading in December. However, gold also faced headwinds, retracting to the US$1,762 level before rebounding to the US$1,780 range.

Gold trends 2021: Industry waiting for a market correction


Despite gold's lackluster 2021 performance, those in the industry have a positive outlook for next year, with many suggesting that the Fed won't be able to stay in control for much longer.


Barisheff explains why gold is the best investment right now.

"The market is due for a major correction. What will cause it and when it will happen is anybody's guess — it could be tomorrow, it could be six months from now," said Nick Barisheff, CEO of BMG Group, who advises investors shed some of their risk when initial losses start to mount.

Rather than rushing to cash, a popular move amid market turmoil, he has other ideas. "Instead of taking your money off the table and going into cash … you go to gold (because cash is devaluing daily),” Barisheff said.

“Gold will at least hold its own and probably appreciate ... so by sitting it out in gold you can wait until the market finishes correcting and then buy back in.”

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Resource for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Georgia Williams, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Editorial Disclosure: The Investing News Network does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported in the interviews it conducts. The opinions expressed in these interviews do not reflect the opinions of the Investing News Network and do not constitute investment advice. All readers are encouraged to perform their own due diligence.

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Lessons From Pearl Harbour And Future Threats

Lessons From Pearl Harbour And Future Threats

Authored by Bill Blain via MorningPorridge.com,

“May God have mercy upon our enemies, because I won’t.”

On the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbour, it’s worth asking could it ever happen…

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Lessons From Pearl Harbour And Future Threats

Authored by Bill Blain via MorningPorridge.com,

“May God have mercy upon our enemies, because I won’t.”

On the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbour, it’s worth asking could it ever happen again? A conventional war over Ukraine is clearly a threat – but is it one the Russians would risk without first trying to significantly weaken the West’s resilience though a cyberstrike? As they sow, so would they reap.

Today is the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbour. “A Day that will live in Infamy”, said President FD Roosevelt. It was the pivotal moment of the Second World War – the event that precipitated the US into the conflict. Many modern historians believe the administration was secretly relieved it happened – overcoming isolationists at a stroke. Although the death toll was lower than 9/11, Pearl Harbour still reverberates around the globe – don’t poke the hornet’s nest. There is nothing like this Morning’s quote above from General George S. Patton to sum up the American attitude to an unprovoked war.

Churchill said he slept “the sleep of the saved” on hearing the news, delighted the Arsenal of Democracy had finally joined the fight. He was right – whatever short-term reverses and stumbles subsequently occurred, the USA’s economic might and production capacity ensured final victory. It’s worth remembering America never declared war on Germany. The Reich declared war on America on Dec 11th – thus also reaping the Allied whirlwind.

We’re all familiar with the story of Japan’s mistake.

The Japanese simply didn’t understand America. They bet the farm on a quick devasting strike, hoping it would encourage the Americans to negotiate on embargos. They achieved a solid tactical win sinking 7 old Battleships, but it was a strategic disaster. They failed to cripple America by sinking the two American Aircraft Carriers on exercise close to the Islands, although they probably could have by adopting a more flexible approach to operational planning. American emerged pre-eminent from the conflict. Japan remains the only nation to have been nuclear bombed into submission.

Does Pearl Harbour hold many lessons for the modern age?

Later today Joe Biden will meet President Putin on the diplomatic equivalent of the Zoom call. Biden will warn about Russia’s troop build-up around Ukraine, while Putin will confabulate about Ukraine being a Nato thorn through Mother Russia’s heart.

It will be a poker game. Putin is betting the West will prove unwilling to sacrifice “boots-on-the-ground” defending an Eastern European nation that essentially was part of Russia for centuries. As is typical in today’s geopolitics, it all accompanied by fake news, misleading headlines, bots and outright misdirection – designed to persuade western audiences its hardly worth intervening.

The US intelligence services sound pretty certain Putin intends us to think he will make a play for Ukraine early in the new year. The units around the border can quickly be brought up to strength with reservists. However, defence analysts have pointed out Russia has limited economic resources, and even scarcer military ones, to sustain any conflict with NATO – should it go to Ukraine’s aid. The days of 8000 Soviet tanks and 57 divisions set to roll over the North German plane are history.

What if Putin has no intention of risking his precious military assets on recovering Ukraine? His best hope is persuading the West to let him have it. The troops on the border may be there as part of a maskirovka – the finely honed Russian strategy and art of deception. Let the enemy see one thing while doing something else.

Maybe the maskirovka is to cover joint action with China – the Ukraine being a front for something gruesome in Taiwan. Unlikely.

What else might it be? The threat of withholding gas from Europe? It would certainly cause misery, but with the ultimate consequence of bankrupting Russia if Europe permanently disengages as a purchaser. A move against the Baltics would be met by trip-wire Nato forces and harden European attitudes even more than a move against Russia.

Perhaps war by other means?

Asymmetric warfare is commonly understood as a bunch of Kalashnikov wielding tribesmen swamping a modern, trained army. A tad embarrassing, and an effective way to undermine apparent military credibility. Just because the Americans so decisively “advanced backwards” from Afghanistan has little bearing on Ukraine.

The other end of the military spectrum – hypersonic missiles able to take out US Carrier groups in the South China Seas and Drone Swarms set to clear the beaches of Taiwan are also unlikely. Ukraine is more likely to be conventional slog – should it come to that.

The threat is more likely to come from another vector.

The West’s critical vulnerability could prove our addiction to digitisation. Western Economies have gone fully digital, making them vulnerable as a prime cyberwar target. The Russians, as we know, are no slouches when it comes to cybercrime.

Yesterday I fired up my new company laptop for the first time. It takes longer to boot up because it’s got multiple new security features built in, plus dual factor authentication. I now use a 12 character password – which would take a normal computer decades to break. The delay is a momentary distraction, but its state of the art software keeps my data and the firm safe. Unfortunately, most UK banks are running code nearly as old as me, and I can pretty much guarantee many businesses are running programmes on a host of obsolete operating systems.

Could the Russians be planning a major cyberstrike to break the West’s resilience ahead of any move on Ukraine? Over the last few years they have attacked and brought down many of the key elements of Ukraine’s economy – and made it clear it was them, demonstrating their abilities. Power, transport and banking have all been attacked, serving notice they won’t hesitate to do it again.

If the Russians can add to the current coronavirus gloom and deepen the sense of foreboding about the stagflationary threat, then why not further break the resilience of the West, and deepen the sense of siege mentality by taking out hospitals, transport, power and mobile phones with targeted cyber-attacks? All of these attack vectors have been tried and tested.

We tend to think the West are the good guys when it comes to Cyberwarfare. As well as hacking into Hillary Clinton’s email, we’ve all read about the Ruskies trying to take out US pipelines and infiltrate Nuclear power stations. There is a great story how a Chinese cyber-warfare unit hacked their way into US oil rig systems by means of a back door via the internet menu of a local Chinese takeaway restaurant.  Cyber warfare has evolved fast.

But so have the Americans and Brits. Under Trump the Whitehouse made no secret it was hitting back at Russian systems. The most successful cyber attack of all time was under Obama’s watch: the Stuxnet worm in 2010, when the Americans and Israelis took out Iran’s nuclear processing ability, got the programme inside the computers and caused uranium refining centrifuges to spin out of control. Earlier this year, the Israelis did it again – taking out a newer layer of Iranian machines.

The Americans let the information on the attack leak out, apparently convinced Iran would never catch up in terms of its cyberwar abilities. How wrong they were. Iran took out Aramco just a few years later with a strike leaving an image of a burning American flag on every PC in the firm. Since then they’ve attacked banks and infrastructure across the US.

The cyberwarfare risks to markets are perhaps as great as a conventional attack. Crashing western banks could trigger a chain of defaults. Banks are effectively only as strong as their counterparties. Even if most banks have strengthened their cyber defences, even one banking default could spread all kinds of financial mayhem.

If the attack is made on soft-targets, hospitals and transport, the effects could make Covid look like a picnic. Taking out satellites and coms would be equally destructive.

The West is more vulnerable because we are now totally reliant on digital apps and function. If the Russians can collapse our system the damage will be greater than anything we can immediately inflict on them.

But, here’s the key lesson from Pearl Harbour. A cyberstrike may well cripple the West. It could prove a devasting tactical victory. Yet, it would ultimately prove a strategic defeat as you can bet the Americans and the West will get more than even over time.

Keep an eye on the Cyber space.

Tyler Durden Tue, 12/07/2021 - 16:45

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