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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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AMC CEO Looks To Refinance Debt Amid Dip In Stock Price

A skittish stock market and a struggling box office are complicating the theater chain’s attempts to turn around its debt situation.

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A skittish stock market and a struggling box office are complicating the theater chain’s attempts to turn around its debt situation.

Let’s give credit where it’s due. Most people don’t follow through with their New Year’s Resolutions, but at least AMC Entertainment (AMC) - Get AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc. Class A Report CEO Adam Aron is trying.

Following a Tweet earlier this month in which the head of the beleaguered movie theater chain announced plans to “refinance some of our debt to reduce our interest expense, push out some debt maturities by several years and loosen covenants,” he’s now making moves to try to get the job done. 

Aron has reportedly been “in advanced talks with multiple parties” about refinancing, according to The Wall Street Journal. But the ongoing volatility of the stock market, amongst other factors, is complicating matters.

Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Rough Years For AMC

To make it through the pandemic, AMC ended up having to take on a great deal of debt. It reportedly owed $5.5 billion as of last September and also owed $376 million worth of lease payments, which were deferred for a while during the pandemic. 

But as we’ve previously mentioned, the past few years have been tough for theater chains such as AMC. Even before the pandemic put a pause on theater-going in 2020, leading to an absolutely brutal total box office gross drop of 81.4%, general audiences were increasingly only heading out to movie theaters for blockbuster films and franchise installments, often from the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the “Fast & Furious.”

AMC had a reported net loss of $13.5 million in 2019, even as total revenue was up 2.4% to $1.44 billion from the year before. Things improved for the company last year once people felt safe returning to the theaters, as access to vaccines helped unlock some pent-up demand, and the box office rose by 112.5% to $4,468,850,254. 

A big chunk of that rebound is due to the jaw-dropping success of “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which recently returned to the top of the box office, on its way to making $1.69 billion worldwide. (Will Peter Parker eventually conquer the blue aliens from “Avatar” to become the highest-grossing film of all time? Stay tuned.) 

But you can’t turn around a struggling industry based on the success of one film, and even Marvel and Disney  (DIS) - Get Walt Disney Company Report can’t put out a general-audience pleasing blockbuster every week. 

Even with a new “Scream” film out, last weekend’s box office total barely totaled more than $43 million, a far cry from five years ago. “That's down from a pre-pandemic $105 million in 2020, $73 million in 2019, $102 million in 2018, and $111 million in 2017, according to data from Box Office Mojo.”

Memes Saved AMC (For A Little While)

Last year AMC received an unexpected lifeline when it became the subject of an internet-driven rush that turned it into a short-lived meme stock. 

After a Reddit-incubated army of internet investors, who dubbed themselves “apes,” began buying shares in AMC through trading applications such as Robinhood, shares of the company temporarily rose to a robust $62.55 a share. Prices would eventually return to earth, hitting $35 a share after the hype dropped down. But the boost allowed Aron to buy the company some time. 

AMC used the cash infusion to repurchase $35 million worth of debt that carried a minimum interest rate of 15%, according to Yahoo! Finance. The deal cost $41.3 million, but it is expected to reduce the overall annual interest on its debt by about $5.3 million.

This year Aron is stepping up his efforts to refinance AMC’s debt, but it’s rough out there at the moment. 

Amid Wall Street’s current market contraction, AMC’s stock has dropped by 41% this year, erasing the meme stock gains, and AMC’s $1.5 billion in secured 10% bonds “traded as low as 92 cents on the dollar, down from 99.5 cents at the start of the year,” according to The Wall Street Journal. 

AMC isn’t looking to refinance all of its debt. Instead, it is targeting some of the bonds with especially high interest, as a way to cut expenses even as bond prices continue to drop.

But it seems like the meme stock rush has turned out to be a double-edged sword. 

AMC was able to stay in business by “selling new shares, taking on new debt, and getting landlords to agree to delay collecting rent payments.” But meme investors have objected to Aron’s plans to allow more AMC shares to be sold, out of fear that it would dilute what they’ve already purchased. 

Aron and AMC have a skittish-at-best stock market and an industry that is struggling to get people into theaters for all but event films. On the other hand, it has a loyal group of investors that are nonetheless limiting the company’s options. 

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About 35% of People Who Received Placebo in Vaccine Trials Report Side Effects and More COVID-19 News

According to a recent study conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 76 percent of the adverse side effects (such as fatigue or headache) that people experienced after receiving their first COVID-19…

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About 35% of People Who Received Placebo in Vaccine Trials Report Side Effects and More COVID-19 News

The placebo effect is where a person who received a placebo instead of a drug or vaccine shows clinical signs, positive or negative, associated with the actual treatment. Much has been made about the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines, but a new study found a startlingly high number of adverse events associated with people who received placebos in clinical trials. For that and more COVID-19 news, continue reading.

COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects: Real or Placebo Effect?

A recent study out of Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center evaluated 12 COVID-19 vaccine trials with a total of 45,380 participants. The study found that 76% of the adverse side effects reported, such as fatigue or headache, after the first shot were also reported by participants who received a placebo. Mild side effects were more common in people receiving the vaccine, but a third of those given the placebo reported at least one adverse side effect. The statistics from the study showing that 35% of placebo recipients reported adverse side effects is considered unusually high. Several experts suspect that there’s such a high report of adverse events because of the amount of misinformation found on social media about the dangers of the vaccines and the amount of media coverage.

This is not to say that the adverse side effects felt by people who received the vaccines are all in their heads. People do have side effects to vaccines, but this study reports on an unusually high level of the placebo effect. Nocebo is used to describe a negative outcome associated with the placebo.

Source: BioSpace

“Negative information in the media may increase negative expectations towards the vaccines and may therefore enhance nocebo effects,” said Dr. Julia W. Haas, an investigator in the Program in Placebo Studies at Beth Israel Deaconess and the study’s lead author. “Anxiety and negative expectation can worsen the experience of side effects.”

Four Factors for Long COVID

A study published in Nature Communications identified specific antibodies in the blood of people who developed long COVID. Long COVID is not well understood and has a range of up to 50 different symptoms, and it is difficult to diagnose because there is no one test for it. The study, conducted by Dr. Onur Boyman, a researcher in the Department of Immunology at University Hospital Zurich, compared more than 500 COVID-19 patients and found several key differences in patients who went on to present with long COVID. The most obvious was a significant decrease in two immunoglobulins, IgM and IgG3. The study found that a decrease in these two immunoglobulins, which generally rise to fight infections, combined with other factors, such as middle age and a history of asthma, was 75% effective in predicting long COVID.

75% of COVID-19 ICU Survivors Show Symptoms a Year Later

A study out of the Netherlands found that a year after being released from an intensive care unit (ICU) for severe COVID-19, 75% of patients reported lingering physical symptoms, 26% reported mental symptoms, and up to 16% noted cognitive symptoms. The research was published in JAMA. The research evaluated 246 COVID-19 survivors treated in one of 11 ICUs in the Netherlands. The mental symptoms included anxiety (17.9%), depression (18.3%), PTSD (9.8%). The most common new physical symptoms were weakness (38.9%), stiff joints (26.3%), joint pain (25.5%), muscle weakness (24.8%), muscle pain (21.3%) and shortness of breath (20.8%).

Pennsylvania Averaging Most COVID-19 Deaths Per Day in a Year

In general, COVID-19 deaths are dropping across the country. However, in two states, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the numbers are increasing. Pennsylvania is averaging 156 COVID-19 deaths per day over the past seven days, which is a 17% uptick compared to two weeks ago. The number of deaths per day in Pennsylvania is below what was hit in January 2021, largely due to the availability of vaccines. New Jersey averages 111 deaths from COVID-19 per day, an increase of 61% over the last two weeks and the highest since May 2020. Similarly, New Jersey cases and hospitalizations are declining.

Omicron Surge: Shattering Cases and Hospitalizations, but Less Severe

According to the CDC, although the current Omicron surge is setting records for positive infections and hospitalizations, it’s less severe than other waves by other metrics. Omicron has resulted in more than 1 million cases per day in the U.S. on several occasions, and reported deaths are presently higher than 15,000 per week. However, the ratio of emergency department visits and hospitalizations to case numbers is lower compared to COVID-19 waves for Delta and during the winter of 2020–21. ICU admissions, length of stay, and in-hospital deaths were all lower with Omicron. They cite vaccinations and booster shots as the likely cause. Although the overall result is that Omicron appears less severe, it’s not completely clear if that’s because the viral variant doesn’t infect the lower lung as easily as other variants, or because so much of the population has either been vaccinated or exposed to the virus already. It is clearly far more infectious than other strains, which is placing a real burden on healthcare systems. The number of emergency department visits is 86% higher than during the Delta surge.

J&J Expects Up to $3.5 Billion in COVID-19 Vaccine Sales This Year

Johnson & Johnson projected annual sales of its COVID-19 vaccine for 2022 to range from $3 billion to $3.5 billion. This was noted during the company’s fourth-quarter 2021 report. In December 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the PfizerBioNTech or Moderna shots over J&J’s due to a rare blood condition observed with the J&J shot. By comparison, Pfizer and BioNTech project their vaccine will bring in $29 billion in 2022, after having raked in almost $36 billion in 2021. Moderna expects approximately $18.5 billion this year, with about $3.5 billion from possible additional purchases. Although final figures for Moderna aren’t in yet, they projected 2021 sales between $15 and $18 billion.

BioSpace source:

https://www.biospace.com/article/about-35-percent-of-people-receiving-placebo-in-vaccine-trials-report-side-effects-and-more-covid-19-news

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Spread & Containment

COVID-19 cases at highest ever in Americas – regional health agency

New cases of COVID-19 in the Americas in the past week were the highest since the pandemic began and the very contagious Omicron variant has clearly become the predominant strain, the Pan American Health Organization said on January 26.

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COVID-19 cases at highest ever in Americas – regional health agency

BRASILIA, Jan 26 (Reuters) – New cases of COVID-19 in the Americas in the past week have been the highest since the pandemic began in 2020 and the very contagious Omicron variant has clearly become the predominant strain, the Pan American Health Organization said on Wednesday.

There were more than 8 million new cases, 32% higher than the previous week, while fatalities throughout the region also increased by 37%, with 18,000 new deaths caused by COVID-19.

The United States continues to have the highest number of new infections, although cases decreased by nearly 1 million over the last week, the regional health agency said.

Mexico’s southern states have seen new infections triple and Brazil has seen new cases surge 193% over the last seven days, PAHO said in weekly briefing.

Medical workers take care of patients in the emergency room of the Nossa Senhora da Conceicao hospital that is overcrowding because of the coronavirus outbreak, in Porto Alegre, Brazil, March 11, 2021. REUTERS/Diego Vara

Children in the Americas are facing the worst educational crisis ever seen in the region, with millions of children yet to return to classes, according to PAHO, which recommended that countries try to get them safely back to school to protect their social, mental and physical wellbeing.

It urged parents to get their children vaccinated.

Many countries have already authorized and are safely administering COVID vaccines to adolescents, PAHO said.

Last week, the WHO’s expert group on immunization authorized the COVID vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) for children aged 5 to 12 years, offering a roadmap for countries to roll out vaccines for them, the regional agency said.

Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by David Gregorio

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

 

Reuters source:

https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/covid-19-cases-highest-ever-americas-says-regional-health-agency-2022-01-26

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