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Need some good news? Markets, economy do offer some

Need some good news? Markets, economy do offer some

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John Krasinksi of The Office and Jack Ryan fame recently initiated a web series entitled “Some Good News.” It’s a news program devoted entirely to good news. I wish I had thought of that. Since I didn’t, I’m left to borrow the concept. This blog, and subsequent ones in this series, will be devoted entirely to producing lists of good (or less bad) news. After all, as Dwight Schrute says in the episode of “The Office” in which Jim Halpert mockingly takes on Dwight’s persona, “Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. So, I thank you.”

Admittedly, I’m not entirely clear how citing the positive news will be received. I have concerns about being viewed as Pollyanna in the middle of an ongoing pandemic and disastrous loss in jobs and economic activity. However, at this point, our depth of despair is largely a given. Plus, Krasinksi has millions of subscribers, a fact that suggests there is an appetite for some positivity, even as we recognize that many challenges persist.

Here goes:

  1. Many countries appear to have successfully “bent the curve” in the number of new daily coronavirus cases. In the US, the 7-day average of new cases peaked on April 11, at 31,942, and that number has been consistently below 30,000 since May 3. The 7-day average of new cases on May 15 was 22,988, the lowest since early April.1
  2. Australia is reporting a 90% drop in case growth and is on course to remove all domestic restrictions by July.2
  3. Testing in the US appears to be ramping up, although it is still below the levels recommended to fully control the virus. During the week of May 5, the US averaged nearly 300,000 new coronavirus tests a day, nearly double the roughly 150,000 daily tests performed in early April.3
  4. R0 (pronounced R naught) has fallen below 1.0 in 46 states. The R0 in Europe is currently being estimated at 0.8.4 R0 represents the number of new infections estimated to stem from a single case. An R0 below 1 suggests that the number of cases is shrinking. New York, the hardest-hit state, has seen its R0 plunge below 1,4 although, admittedly, mobility remains very limited. We will be watching the R0 closely in states that are opening, while also recognizing that changes in mobility and testing could change these numbers.
  5. There are currently more than 90 COVID-19 vaccines in development.
  6. Despite everything, the S&P 500 Index is up 25% since Christmas 2018.5 Market volatility, as measured by the CBOE VIX index, has been more than halved since reaching an all-time high at the end of March 2020.
  7. Financial conditions have eased meaningfully since the middle of March.6 Conditions have remained relatively tight from a historical perspective but have been relatively stable for over a month. That has been driven by the relative stability of both the US dollar7 and US investment grade corporate bond spreads.8
  8. The price of oil, as represented by the US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) benchmark, has rebounded and is closing in on $30/barrel as the supply overhang appears to have peaked.9
  9. The peak increase in jobless claims came the week of April 3. Jobless claims have  still been increasing each week at a catastrophic clip. But the rate of change in that increase has been slowing, from early April, when 6.6 million new claims were filed in the week, to mid-April, when 4.4 million new claims were filed in the week, to Thursday, May 14, when it was reported that 2.9 million new claims were filed in the week.10 The numbers have been alarming, but they have been deteriorating at a less alarming rate. Historically, markets tend to trough around the time that jobless claims peak.11
  10. The Economic Cycle Research Institute’s Leading Weekly Index, which comprises real M2 (all the money available in an economy, including cash and checking deposits), commodity prices, and jobless claims, among other indicators, appears to have bottomed and has been slowly recovering for six consecutive weeks.12

Figure 1: Leading economic indicators appear to be turning

Source: Economic Cycle Research Institute as of 5/1/20.

So, is the glass half empty or half full? As Dwight Schrute says, “False. The glass is always full, as it is half water and half air.”

Footnotes

  1. Source: Johns Hopkins, as of 5/14/20
  2. Sources: Johns Hopkins, Evercore ISI, 5/14/2020
  3. Source: Centers for Disease Control, 5/14/2020
  4. Source: Evercore ISI and YYG 19, 5/14/2020. The R0 estimates data are from the YYG 19 model. It is a machine-learning based model, developed by Youyang Gu, an independent data scientist.
  5. Source: Bloomberg, L.P., 5/14/2020
  6. Sources: Goldman Sachs, Bloomberg, L.P., 5/14/20. Financial conditions are represented by the Goldman Sachs Financial Conditions Index.
  7. Source: Bloomberg, L.P., 5/14/20. The US dollar is represented by the US Dollar Index.
  8. Source: Bloomberg, L.P., 5/14/20. Credit spreads are represented by the average option-adjusted spread on the Bloomberg Barclays US Corporate Bond Index.
  9. Bloomberg, L.P., 5/14/20. The price of oil is represented by the US Crude Oil West Texas Intermediate Cushing, Oklahoma spot price.
  10. Sources: US Department of Labor, Bloomberg, L.P., 5/14/20
  11. Source: Comparison of jobless claims from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics with the performance of the S&P 500 Index from 1966, when jobless claims were first reported, through 5/14/20.
  12. Source: Economic Cycle Research Institute, 5/14/20.

Important Information:

Blog header image: d3sign/ Getty

Index definitions:

The Bloomberg Barclays US Corporate Bond Index measures the investment grade, fixed-rate, taxable corporate bond market. It includes US-dollar-denominated securities publicly issued by US and non-US industrial, utility and financial issuers. It is not possible to invest directly in an index. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

The CBOE (Chicago Board Options Exchange) Volatility Index is a financial benchmark designed to be an up-to-the-minute market estimate of the expected volatility of the S&P 500 Index, and is calculated by using the midpoint of real-time S&P 500 Index (SPX) option bid/ask quotes

The Economic Cycle Research Institute Weekly Leading Index identifies turning points in the economic cycle that are indicated by pronounced changes in the index. The index contains money supply data, stock prices, an industrial markets price index developed by the organization, mortgage applications, bond quality spread, bond yields, and initial jobless claims.

The Goldman Sachs Financial Conditions Index (FCI) is defined as a weighted average of riskless interest rates, the exchange rate, equity valuations, and credit spreads, with weights that correspond to the direct impact of each variable on Gross Domestic Product.

The S&P 500 Index is a stock market index that measures the stock performance of 500 large companies listed on stock exchanges in the United States. It is not possible to invest directly in an index. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

The US Dollar Index (USDX) is a measure of the value of the US dollar relative to the value of a basket of currencies of the majority of the United States’ most significant trading partners.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) is the main oil benchmark for North America as it is sourced from the United States, primarily from the Permian Basin. The oil comes mainly from Texas. It then travels through pipelines where it is refined in the Midwest and the Gulf of Mexico. The main delivery and price settlement point for WTI is Cushing, Oklahoma.

A credit spread is the difference between Treasury securities and non-Treasury securities that are identical in all respects except for quality rating.

The opinions referenced above are those of the authors as of May 20, 2020. These comments should not be construed as recommendations, but as an illustration of broader themes. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future results. They involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions; there can be no assurance that actual results will not differ materially from expectations.

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Gaslighting: The American People Are Trapped In A Textbook Abusive Relationship

Gaslighting: The American People Are Trapped In A Textbook Abusive Relationship

Authored by Daisy Luther via The Organic Prepper blog,

Imagine…

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Gaslighting: The American People Are Trapped In A Textbook Abusive Relationship

Authored by Daisy Luther via The Organic Prepper blog,

Imagine this.

A woman, for the sake of my story, is in a marriage with a partner who does not respect her. He insults her regularly, belittles her efforts to improve herself or her situation, and minimizes her feelings.

In fact, when she tries to stand up for herself, things get even worse. The partner calls into question her memories of the event. He dismisses the way things made her feel, calling the emotions “ridiculous” or “stupid.” He convinces her she’s overreacting and that he was only trying to do what was best for her. When she brings something up, he completely rewrites the event, causing her to doubt what actually happened because she’s in a vulnerable state due to the constant abuse.

In a situation like this, the abused partner often feels powerless, confused, and unable to leave the situation. They are at a disadvantage because they’ve been influenced to doubt their own reality. This leaves them trapped deeper and deeper in the abusive scenario. They feel unable to escape because they’re really not sure what actually happened. Were they blowing things out of proportion? Are they, in fact, stupid, forgetful, and inept?

Abusive relationships follow a pattern. There’s a period of breaking the victim down, isolating them from their support systems, and making them dependent on the abuser. Then, the abused partner is maneuvered into the belief that she can’t get by on her own.

This master manipulation is how people become trapped in abusive relationships.

And, as I’m about to show, not all abusive relationships are one-on-one romantic relationships.

What is gaslighting?

Medical News Today defines gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which a person or group causes someone to question their own sanity, memories, or perception of reality. People who experience gaslighting may feel confused, anxious, or as though they cannot trust themselves.

The term “gaslighting” comes from the 1944 classic film (and before that, the play), Gaslight. In the story, a husband tries to make his wife believe she is suffering from a mental illness. Starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer, it’s well worth a watch.

Gaslighting is a form of narcissistic abuse. For a quick refresher on the definition of a narcissist and the techniques they use, go here.

Forbes offers the following signs you are being gaslit:

Signs to watch for include:

The “Twilight Zone” effect. Victims of gaslighting often report feeling like a situation is surreal—like it’s happening on a different plane from the rest of their life.

Language describing you or your behavior as crazy, irrational or overemotional. “When I asked women about their partners’ abusive tactics, they often described being called a ‘crazy bitch,’” Sweet writes in “The Sociology of Gaslighting” in American Sociological Review. “This phrase came up so frequently, I began to think of it as the literal discourse of gaslighting.”

Being told you’re exaggerating.

Feeling confused and powerless after leaving an interaction.

Isolation. Many gaslighters make efforts to isolate victims from friends, family and other support networks.

Tone policing. A gaslighter may criticize your tone of voice if you challenge them on something. This is a tactic used to flip the script and make you feel that you’re the one to blame, rather than your abuser.

A cycle of warm-cold behavior. To throw a victim off balance, a gaslighter may alternate between verbal abuse and praise, often even in the same conversation.

Gaslighting is a deliberate attempt to provoke self-doubt, confusion, and dependence.

How does someone gaslight another person?

Again, let’s look to the experts. Medical News Today provides these examples of how gaslighting might take place:

  • Countering: This is when someone questions a person’s memory. They may say things such as, “Are you sure about that? You have a bad memory,” or “I think you are forgetting what really happened.”
  • Withholding: This involves someone pretending they do not understand the conversation, or refusing to listen, to make a person doubt themselves. For example, they might say, “Now you are just confusing me,” or “I do not know what you are talking about.”
  • Trivializing: This occurs when a person belittles or disregards how someone else feels. They may accuse them of being “too sensitive” or overreacting in response to valid and reasonable concerns.
  • Denial: Denial involves a person refusing to take responsibility for their actions. They may do this by pretending to forget what happened, saying they did not do it, or blaming their behavior on someone else.
  • Diverting: With this technique, a person changes the focus of a discussion by questioning the other person’s credibility. For example, they might say, “That is just nonsense you read on the internet. It is not real.”
  • Stereotyping: An article in the American Sociological Review says that a person may intentionally use negative stereotypes about someone’s gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, nationality, or age to gaslight them. For example, they may say that no one will believe a woman if she reports abuse.

After a period of time, this emotional barrage results in the target of the gaslighting suffering from confusion, doubt, and self-blame.

  • feeling uncertain of their perceptions
  • frequently questioning if they are remembering things correctly
  • believing they are irrational or “crazy”
  • feeling incompetent, unconfident, or worthless
  • constantly apologizing to the abusive person
  • defending the abusive person’s behavior to others
  • becoming withdrawn or isolated from others

The Forbes article offered these specific examples of gaslighting in romantic relationships.

“Ebony’s partner would steal her money and then tell her she was ‘careless’ about finances and had lost it herself.”

“Adriana’s boyfriend hid her phone and then told her she had lost it, in a dual effort to confuse her and prevent her from communicating with others.”

“Jenn described her ex-boyfriend as a ‘chameleon’ who made up small stories to confuse her, like lying about what color shirt he had worn the day before to make her feel disoriented.”

“Emily described her ex-husband stealing her keys so she could not leave the house and then insisting she had lost them ‘again.’”

But if you think this phenomenon is limited to women being abused by their husbands or boyfriends, you’d be wrong.

Gaslighting doesn’t just happen in romantic relationships.

Gaslighting is a complicated thing. While it’s common in abusive romantic relationships, it can also occur in unhealthy parent-child relationships, sibling relationships, or even workplaces. But that’s not all. It can also occur on a much broader scale.

Racial gaslighting

According to an article in Politics, Group, and Identities, racial gaslighting is when people apply gaslighting techniques to an entire racial or ethnic group in order to discredit them. For example, a person or institution may say that an activist campaigning for change is irrational or “crazy.”

Political gaslighting

Political gaslighting occurs when a political group or figure lies or manipulates information to control people, according to an article in the Buffalo Law Review.

For example, the person or political party may downplay things their administration has done, discredit their opponents, imply that critics are mentally unstable, or use controversy to deflect attention away from their mistakes.

Institutional gaslighting

Institutional gaslighting occurs within a company, organization, or institution, such as a hospital. For example, they may portray whistleblowers who report problems as irrational or incompetent, or deceive employees about their rights.

This often occurs to cover up a mistake that could result in the person who erred facing punitive consequences or to keep people “in their place.” It’s a control mechanism, pure and simple.

Have we been gaslit by our own government?

I don’t think it’s farfetched to say that we, the people of the United States of America, have been gaslit.

Does this sound familiar? Lockdowns that keep you away from friends and loved ones? Losing your income and becoming dependent on handouts doled out by the government? Being censored and mocked when you say anything that is not in line with the official narrative? Being treated like a crazy conspiracy theorist who should be punished because of the harm you’re causing to others if you refuse to go along?

When you look at it this way, it feels like the entire US government and media have colluded to abuse the people. Many of the Covid-related “truths” that were promoted by the government and the media that we were not allowed to dispute have now been proven to be false. Stories we couldn’t question about the origins of the pandemic have been proven false. In another incident of broad-scale gaslighting unrelated to the pandemic, a lot of evidence has been produced that shows the Biden family may have received money from influence-peddling, but the media tells us not to believe it.

And like good little victims, it seems like a hefty portion of the country is refusing to believe the evidence, instead believing in the good intentions of their abusers. They’ve been gaslit, brainwashed, and are unable to break free of the manipulation.

And it’s still going on.

Recently Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote a scathing opinion of the US government’s handling of the Covid pandemic, saying that we “have experienced the greatest intrusions on civil liberties in the peacetime history of this country.”

“Executive officials across the country issued emergency decrees on a breathtaking scale. Governors and local leaders imposed lockdown orders forcing people to remain in their homes. They shuttered businesses and schools, public and private. They closed churches even as they allowed casinos and other favored businesses to carry on. They threatened violators not just with civil penalties but with criminal sanctions too. They surveilled church parking lots, recorded license plates, and issued notices warning that attendance at even outdoor services satisfying all state social-distancing and hygiene requirements could amount to criminal conduct. They divided cities and neighborhoods into color-coded zones, forced individuals to fight for their freedoms in court on emergency timetables, and then changed their color-coded schemes when defeat in court seemed imminent,” he said.

At the federal level, he highlighted not only immigration decrees but vaccine mandates, the regulation of landlord-tenant relations and pressure on social media companies to suppress “misinformation.”

The gaslighting blowback was immediate, with breathlessly outraged headlines.

Slate eloquently opined, “Neil Gorsuch’s List of “Civil Liberties Intrusions” Is, Uh, Missing a Few Things.” making sure to throw plenty of insulting talking points into their introductory paragraph in their attempt to liken a Supreme Court Justice who was educated at Harvard Law, Oxford, Georgetown, and Columbia, to an ignorant relative one merely tolerates. And they insinuated he was a racist.

Gorsuch has long railed against such policies, and his opinions have taken on an increasingly shrill tone, like the Fox News–poisoned uncle who hectors you about the plandemic in 3,000-word Facebook comments. The justice’s rant in Arizona v. Mayorkas, however, hits a new low, moving beyond the usual yada-yada grievance parade to issue a thesis statement of sorts…

…As Vox’s Ian Millhiser quickly pointed out, this sweeping claim leaves out two “intrusions on civil liberties” that any person with a basic grasp of history and sanity would surely rank as worse than pandemic policies: slavery and Jim Crow.

An opinion piece published in the NY Times gasped, “Neil Gorsuch Has Given Himself Away,” made it seem as if the Justice was belittling every other civil rights mishap in the history of America while also blithely disregarding the folks who died during the pandemic.

The New Republic condescendingly liberal-splained to the rest of us “What Neil Gorsuch Got Wrong About the Pandemic,” stating that “The justice’s vision of the judiciary’s role in public health may be more dangerous than any Covid-era restriction.”

The site Above The Law literally said Gorsuch was stupid in the piece, “For An Originalist, Gorsuch Is Clearly Slacking On His Definitions And Their Historical Meanings.” The subheading reads, “Is what he said stupid? Yes. But let’s be technical here.”

Law and Crime website also played the race card and did so right in the headline: Neil Gorsuch implies COVID restrictions were worse than slavery and Jim Crow, and the internet noticed.

Let’s look at that definition of political gaslighting again…

For example, the person or political party may downplay things their administration has done, discredit their opponents, imply that critics are mentally unstable, or use controversy to deflect attention away from their mistakes.

Oof. If that textbook case of gaslighting isn’t embarrassing, it should be.  Then again, narcissists are rarely embarrassed.

The gaslighting will escalate.

Another thing about narcissists: they just get angry when they’re called out. They will respond by gaslighting you harder or seeking to “ruin” you. (source) They’ll punish you with a loss of “privileges,” money, material goods, and freedom. We’ve watched it happen again and again in our cancel culture media. Some of us have been unfortunate enough to have personal relationships with narcissists and learned this the hard way.

The only way to end narcissistic abuse and gaslighting is to recognize it and remove yourself from the situation as much as you can. Obviously, when it’s our entire government and society, that becomes complicated. You may be stuck with just recognizing it. But that in itself gives you a certain amount of freedom and personal power. It helps you get off the hamster wheel, and you begin to spot the manipulations more easily.

One thing we can be sure of is that this will escalate as more and more people say, “No, that’s not what happened.” This is something we can expect, and in some small way, maybe we can take comfort in the response. Perhaps we can smile to ourselves because we know those who were trying to manipulate us all are on the defensive.

Tyler Durden Mon, 05/29/2023 - 18:20

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Spread & Containment

The Great Silence

The Great Silence

Authored by Jeffrey Tucker via DailyReckoning.com,

The kids are two years behind in education. Inflation still rages. White-collar…

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The Great Silence

Authored by Jeffrey Tucker via DailyReckoning.com,

The kids are two years behind in education. Inflation still rages. White-collar jobs are disappearing thanks to the reversal of Fed policy. Household finances are a wreck. The medical industry is in upheaval. Trust in government has never been lower.

Major media too is discredited. Young people are dying at levels never seen. Populations are still on the move from lockdown states to where it is less likely. Surveillance is everywhere, and so is political persecution. Public health is in a disastrous state, with substance abuse and obesity all at new records.

Each one of these, and many more besides, are continued fallout from the pandemic response that began in March 2020. And yet here we are 38 months later and we still don’t have honesty or truth about the experience.

Officials have resigned, politicians have tumbled out of office and lifetime civil servants have departed their posts, but they don’t cite the great disaster as the excuse. There is always some other reason.

This is the period of the great silence. We’ve all noticed it. The stories in the press recounting all the above are conventionally scrupulous about naming the pandemic response much less naming the individuals responsible.

Maybe there is a Freudian explanation: things so obviously terrible and in such recent memory are too painful to mentally process, so we just pretend it didn’t happen. Plenty in power like this solution.

Everyone in a position of influence knows the rules. Don’t talk about the lockdowns. Don’t talk about the mask mandates. Don’t talk about the vaccine mandates that proved useless and damaging and led to millions of professional upheavals.

Don’t talk about the economics of it. Don’t talk about collateral damage. When the topic comes up, just say, “We did the best we could with the knowledge we had,” even if that is an obvious lie.

Above all, don’t seek justice.

Where’s the National Commission?

There is this document intended to be the “Warren Commission” of COVID slapped together by the old gangsters who advocated for lockdowns. It is called Lessons from the Covid War: An Investigative Report.

The authors are people like Michael Callahan (Massachusetts General Hospital), Gary Edson (former deputy national security adviser), Richard Hatchett (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations), Marc Lipsitch (Harvard University), Carter Mecher (Veterans Affairs), and Rajeev Venkayya (former Gates Foundation and now Aerium Therapeutics).

If you have been following this disaster, you might know at least some of the names. Years before 2020, they were pushing lockdowns as the solution for infectious disease. Some claim credit for having invented pandemic planning. The years 2020–2022 were their experiment.

As it was ongoing, they became media stars, pushing compliance, condemning as disinformation and misinformation anyone who disagreed with them. They were at the heart of the coup d’etat, as engineers or champions of it, that replaced representative democracy with quasi-martial law run by the administrative state.

The first sentence of the report is a complaint:

We were supposed to lay the groundwork for a National COVID Commission. The COVID Crisis Group formed at the beginning of 2021, one year into the pandemic. We thought the U.S. government would soon create or facilitate a commission to study the biggest global crisis so far in the 21st century. It has not.

That is true. There is no National COVID Commission. You know why? Because they could never get away with it, not with legions of experts and passionate citizens who wouldn’t tolerate a coverup.

The public anger is too intense. Lawmakers would be flooded with emails, phone calls and daily expressions of disgust. It would be a disaster. An honest commission would demand answers that the ruling class is not prepared to give. An “official commission” perpetuating a bunch of baloney would be dead on arrival.

This by itself is a huge victory and a tribute to indefatigable critics.

‘We Didn’t Crack Down Hard Enough’

Instead, the “COVID Crisis Group” met with funding from the Rockefeller and Charles Koch foundations and slapped together this report. Despite being celebrated as definitive by The New York Times and The Washington Post, it has mostly had no impact at all.

It is far from obtaining the status of being some kind of canonical assessment. It reads like they were on deadline, fed up, typed lots of words and called it a day.

Of course it is whitewash.

It begins with a bang to denounce the U.S. policy response: “Our institutions did not meet the moment. They did not have adequate practical strategies or capabilities to prevent, to warn, to defend their communities or fight back in a coordinated way, in the United States and globally.”

Mistakes were made, as they say.

Of course the upshot of this kvetching is not to criticize what Justice Neil Gorsuch calls “the greatest intrusions on civil liberties in the peacetime history of this country.” They hardly mention those at all.

Instead they conclude that the U.S. should have surveilled more, locked down sooner (“We believe that on Jan. 28 the U.S. government should have started mobilizing for a possible COVID war”), directed more funds to this agency rather than that and centralized the response so that rogue states like South Dakota and Florida could not evade centralized authoritarian diktats next time.

The authors propose a series of lessons that are anodyne, bloodless and carefully crafted to be more-or-less true but ultimately structured to minimize the sheer radicalism and destructiveness of what they favored and did. The lessons are clichés such as we need “not just goals but road maps,” and next time we need more “situation awareness.”

There is no new information in the book that I could find, unless something is hidden therein that escaped my notice. It’s more interesting for what it does not say. Some words that never appear in the text: Sweden, ivermectin, ventilators, remdesivir and myocarditis.

‘Look, Lockdowns and Mandates Worked!’

Perhaps this gives you a sense of the book and its mission. And on matters of the lockdowns, readers are forced to endure claims such as “all of New England — Massachusetts, the city of Boston, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine — seem to us to have done relatively well, including their ad hoc crisis management setups.”

Oh really! Boston destroyed thousands of small businesses and imposed vaccine passports, closed churches, persecuted people for holding house parties, and imposed travel restrictions. There is a reason why the authors don’t elaborate on such preposterous claims. They are simply unsustainable.

One amusing feature seems to me to be a foreshadowing of what is coming. They throw Anthony Fauci under the bus with sniffy dismissals: “Fauci was vulnerable to some attacks because he tried to cover the waterfront in briefing the press and public, stretching beyond his core expertise—and sometimes it showed.”

Ooooh, burn!

“Trump Was a Comorbidity”

This is very likely the future. At some point, Fauci will be scapegoated for the whole disaster. He will be assigned to take the fall for what is really the failure of the national security arm of the administrative bureaucracy, which in fact took charge of all rule-making from March 13, 2020, onward, along with their intellectual cheerleaders. The public health people were just there to provide cover.

Curious about the political bias of the book? It is summed up in this passing statement: “Trump was a comorbidity.”

Oh how highbrow! How clever! No political bias here!

Maybe this book by the Covid Crisis Group hopes to be the last word. This will never happen. We are only at the beginning of this. As the economic, social, cultural, and political problems mount, it will become impossible to ignore the incredibly obvious.

The masters of lockdowns are influential and well-connected but not even they can invent their own reality.

Tyler Durden Mon, 05/29/2023 - 16:00

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Pandemic babies’ developmental milestones: Not as bad as we feared, but not as good as before

Research findings are mostly reassuring for parents — despite the disruptions to nearly every aspect of life during the COVID-19 pandemic, most children…

Scientists and physicians raised concerns early in the pandemic that increased parental stress, COVID infections, reduced interactions with other babies and adults, and changes to health care may affect child development. (Shutterstock)

The COVID-19 pandemic created conditions that threatened children’s healthy development.

Scientists and physicians raised concerns early in the pandemic, pointing out that increased parental stress, COVID infections, reduced interactions with other babies and adults and changes to health care could affect child development. Furthermore, some children could be especially vulnerable to the pandemic circumstances.

With these concerns in mind, we started a longitudinal study of pregnant Canadians to understand how pandemic stressors might influence later child development.

Our initial findings were alarming: the rates of anxiety and depression among pregnant individuals were two to four times higher during the early phase of the pandemic compared to numerous pregnancy studies prior to the pandemic. This worrisome increase in mental health problems was seen worldwide.

Impact on children’s development

To determine how the pandemic might be affecting children’s development, we measured developmental milestones in 3,742 12-month-old infants born during the first 18 months of the pandemic. We then compared these infants to a similar group of 2,898 Canadian infants born between 2015 and 2018.

A pregnant woman and a doctor both wearing face masks in the doctor's office
Rates of anxiety and depression among pregnant individuals were two to four times higher during the early phase of the pandemic compared to numerous pregnancy studies prior to the pandemic. (Shutterstock)

The study evaluated developmental milestones using the Ages and Stages Questionnaire-3. The ASQ-3 is a parent report of child behaviour that can help identify children at risk of developmental delays in five separate domains: Communication, Gross Motor, Fine Motor, Personal-Social and Problem Solving.

In a study to be published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, we found that most children born during the pandemic were doing fine, with almost 90 per cent meeting their key developmental milestones in each area. This should be reassuring for parents, caregivers and communities, because it suggests that most children are developing normally despite adverse early circumstances.

However, a slightly higher proportion of children born during the pandemic were at risk of developmental delay in Communication, Gross Motor and Personal-Social domains, compared to children born before the pandemic. Our findings are consistent with prior smaller studies showing only small increases in the risk for poor verbal, motor and cognitive performance among 12-month-old infants born during the pandemic.

A woman smiling and playing with her baby in her lap
Engaging an infant in conversation or song (even a pre-verbal infant) is a powerful way to encourage language learning. (Shutterstock)

The largest effects we observed were in the Communication and Personal-Social domains. Infants born during the pandemic were almost twice as likely to score below cutoffs compared to pre-pandemic infants.

This represents an increase of about one to two additional children in 100 who are at risk, but highlights some potentially concerning effects of the pandemic on early child development. Across Canada, this could result in service demands for 20,000-40,000 additional preschool children.

Although small in absolute terms, these increases have important implications, since already limited resources will need to increase to meet the needs of more children. Certainly, it will be important to continue monitoring infants/children born during the pandemic to determine how long-lasting these effects are.

Reassuringly, early interventions can be highly effective for children who are struggling.

Concerns about child development

A smiling baby crawling towards the camera in the foreground, and a young man smiling in the background
Provide your child with many opportunities for one-on-one interaction with a caring and responsive adult. (Shutterstock)

Parents should be mostly reassured by these findings. Despite the disruptions to nearly every aspect of life during the pandemic, the majority of children continue to show healthy development. Parents with concerns about their child’s development may find these suggestions helpful:

  1. Provide your child with many opportunities for one-on-one interaction with a caring and responsive adult. The Harvard Center on the Developing Child describes the back-and-forth interactions that form the key processes of child development as “serve and return.”

  2. Believe in “ordinary magic.” This is the phrase that child development expert Ann Masten uses to describe how resilience emerges from ordinary, everyday processes and interactions. Children develop resilience when they have access to the right environments, the right relationships and the right chances to be able to safely explore themselves and the world around them.

  3. Talk and sing with your child. Engaging an infant in conversation or song (even a pre-verbal infant) is a powerful way to encourage language learning.

  4. There is a wide range of development that is considered “normal.” It is okay for your child to be at a different stage than other children their age, as long as your child is still showing signs of development.

  5. If you are concerned about your child’s development after some time of monitoring, discuss your concerns with a qualified health professional to determine if further investigation is needed.

Overall, the findings of our study (and others) suggest that the effects of the pandemic on infant development (at least to one year of age) have not been as bad as we feared. However, a greater number of children will likely require further evaluation and support compared to pre-pandemic.

Gerald Giesbrecht receives funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation.

Catherine Lebel receives funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Brain Canada, the Azrieli Foundation, Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation, and the Canada Research Chairs program.

Lianne Tomfohr-Madsen receives funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), Brain Canada, Calgary Health Trust, the Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation and the Weston Foundation.

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