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Safety First Is A Bad Ideology

Safety First Is A Bad Ideology

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Safety First Is A Bad Ideology Tyler Durden Sat, 07/11/2020 - 13:50

Authored by Diana Thomas and Michael Thomas via The American Institute for Economic Research,

When you walk out of your house, or enter the public street, you are on shared ground, a community space. During the pandemic of 2020, community spaces that are private venues, like Disney, have closed down just as often as community spaces that are public venues, like schools and playgrounds. 

Public and private distinctions do not make a difference. Risk is the key factor to understanding why common spaces are closed and likely to remain so, at least in the way we were used to. In what is called the asymmetric loss function, a decision maker’s cost of a mistake in one direction is many times greater than the cost of error in the other direction. 

Individuals with asymmetric loss functions are extremely risk averse when it comes to potential losses. Individuals often employ asymmetric loss functions in everyday life. For most people being 30 minutes early for a flight, for example, is much less costly than being 30 minutes late. 

But, because people are different, individuals decide for themselves how late they can arrive and risk missing a flight. Things get trickier when decisions regarding risk tolerance are made for common spaces and groups, because one size doesn’t always fit all.

Weighing downside risks too heavily can be socially costly, because some valuable private activities are prohibited. 

Historically and across cultures, individual risk-taking is associated with growth and prosperity while minimizing risk and emphasizing potential social losses is not. In the last several decades, public tolerance of risk has shifted towards lower socially acceptable levels of risk-taking and in the long run, these changes may leave us all worse off.  

In her Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce, Deirdre McCloskey details how attitudes toward risk-taking transformed at about the same time as the birth of capitalism. It was the ability of individuals to take risks and still recover from failure that paved the way for radical experiments. Prior to this, to take a risk and fail was to be labeled a prodigal, if one was thought to have wasted the money, or a projector, if one’s idea failed.

Some of this dishonor would extend to the guilty party’s family as well. As a whole, society’s ethical norms were to avoid risk and as a result, many good ideas which were technically possible stayed as abstract thoughts and not as steps on the road of progress. For McCloskey, this, more than any other explanation, explains the when and how of the birth of the great divergence since all other factors that have been attributed occurred elsewhere in various combinations. 

Risk, therefore, can be expressed as an attitude about the commons more than anything else. If the rules of society protect those who are willing to take risks, this increases risk not only to the risk-takers but also has various effects on others around them regardless of their risk tolerance. There is no escape; the status of risk legally and socially impacts everyone. The risk-taker arrived in English via the French word, entrepreneur, describing the willingness to undertake risk. Jeremy Bentham, in a letter to Adam Smith, colorfully compares risk-taking in business to Marcus Curtius, a Roman martyr described in Livy’s history. Bentham was arguing against Smith’s defense of an interest rate cap, suggesting it would stifle innovation and advantage incumbents. 

We find ourselves at the other end of a collective conversation on risk-taking today. The tolerance of any level of risk is often cast often as a threat. We have justified unprecedented economic losses based on very uncertain risks. Merely mentioning a potential downside seems to carry more weight nowadays than it did in the past. 

Part of this might be due to years of public health rhetoric about externalities; e.g. second-hand smoke, the collective costs associated with obesity, and the health costs of pollution. 

In 2020, the implicit calculation of risk relating to the pandemic would have to be very large to justify the trillions of dollars in terms of economic losses that have been incurred so far, with a cumulative total economic cost that is even higher. We also must account for the human costs of worldwide economic contraction, measured in terms of starvation deaths alone. 

During the current pandemic, two astronauts boarded a previously unmanned rocket and rode it into near earth orbit to meet up with the International Space Station. As a percentage of people injured while attempting this feat, astronauts bear a much larger risk than ocean bathers. Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken took this risk which is understood as heroic by a society that is anxious for the technological progress that comes from making space accessible to human exploration. 

In an everyday sort of example, on June 2nd, a 17 year old named Paige Winter was attacked by a shark standing in waist deep water on the coast of North Carolina. A shark attack is precisely the sort of thing we remind people of when they visit beaches, but most of us consider the activity of standing in five-foot-deep water a reasonable risk. This activity is socially understood, currently, as a risk worth taking. The beaches remain open for this sort of activity.

Related specifically to the current pandemic, what message are venture capitalists getting about local businesses; smaller retail shops, restaurants, and venues? The shift from evaluating risk as an individual to collective risk evaluation may ultimately empower local public health officials to return to 2020 measures any time seasonal flu peaks. 

In all of these examples, we understand the role that perceptions play in evaluating risk. The recent willingness to elevate risk as a primary category cannot be understood without a growing concern over liability. The asymmetric loss is not only with respect to individual decisions, but it is a mental habit that administrators also take. 

From your school’s principal to your city’s mayor, to your governor or president. The focus they have is on the potential loss. Not only in terms of legal liability, but also in terms of social response. Every governor knows that they will get very little credit for a situation that is unremarkably safe, but they will get all the credit for rising numbers of deaths and hospitalizations. The calculation almost has to be toward safety. 

What we see, in addition to this, is that some safety measures people are taking do not actually move the needle on risk, but probably increase the risks we expose ourselves as well as others to. Wearing gloves to the grocery store is one discredited example of misguided safety measures. 

The logic of glove wearing requires changing gloves each time you touch a contaminant, and if you cannot do this, then you are far better off washing your hands and using hand sanitizer between washes. 

No one knows, of course, when they have touched a contaminated surface and so gloves give a false sense of security and may increase cross contamination. In this example as in many others, compliance alone doesn’t ensure best practices.

The use of ritualistic safety measures is as effective as a batsman making the sign of the cross on their bat as they step up to the plate. It does confer an important advantage, however, to the decision maker. The longer the list of safety measures a decision maker can point to when inevitably something undesirable happens, the better exonerated they are from popular sentiment. 

In the court of public opinion, the failure to enact more extreme safety protocols is seen as contributory negligence. The concept of due care, which does not hold an individual liable as long as they can show that they have taken due care has almost entirely disappeared. As a result, our leaders are focusing on compliance with popular standards rather than experimenting to find the right standard of safety.

In this environment it becomes excruciatingly difficult to argue for what is lost on the other side of the equation of risk. The implied trade-offs are of no consequence when compared to safety. We lose scientific advancement if the benefits of experimentation, even when it is risky, could not sometimes outweigh the costs—including the low but positive risk of losing astronaut lives. If all but the lowest risks are considered too large to take, then progress is essentially halted. 

In a time where the socially acceptable level of risk-taking is up for debate, we are moving toward too little risk tolerance. The attitude of low risk tolerance was the norm among aristocratic families, monarchies, and totalitarian regimes throughout history. All of these structures were essentially conservative in the worst sense of the word: they could not allow for change because it would threaten the power structure. 

With the birth of capitalism, we tolerated social mobility: both downward and more heroically, upward. The churning of the social space is consistent with a greater toleration of risk. Maybe we haven’t convinced you with regard to public health issues during a pandemic, but at least consider the weight placed on safety the next time you use a satellite connected device, visit a beach, or take an antibiotic.

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“The Real President Is Whoever Controls The Teleprompter”: Musk Delivers Scathing Criticism Of Biden

"The Real President Is Whoever Controls The Teleprompter": Musk Delivers Scathing Criticism Of Biden

Authored by Jack Phillips via The Epoch…

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"The Real President Is Whoever Controls The Teleprompter": Musk Delivers Scathing Criticism Of Biden

Authored by Jack Phillips via The Epoch Times,

Tech billionaire Elon Musk this week warned that the United States must take steps to address inflation or it will end up like socialist Venezuela.

Musk, who is currently in the process of acquiring Twitter, told a virtual conference that he believes the government has printed too much money in recent years.

“I mean, the obvious reason for inflation is that the government printed a zillion amount of more money than it had, obviously,” Musk said, likely referring to COVID-19 relief stimulus packages worth trillions of dollars that were passed in recent years.

U.S. inflation rose by 8.3 percent in April, compared with the previous year. That’s slightly lower than the 8.5 percent spike in March, but it’s still near the 40-year high.

“So it’s like the government can’t … issue checks far in excess of revenue without there being inflation, you know, velocity of money held constant,” the Tesla CEO said.

“If the federal government writes checks, they never bounce. So that is effectively creation of more dollars. And if there are more dollars created, then the increase in the goods and services across the economy, then you have inflation, again, velocity of money held constant.”

If governments could merely “issue massive amounts of money and deficits didn’t matter, then, well, why don’t we just make the deficit 100 times bigger,” Musk asked. “The answer is, you can’t because it will basically turn the dollar into something that is worthless.”

“Various countries have tried this experiment multiple times,” Musk said.

“Have you seen Venezuela? Like the poor, poor people of Venezuela are, you know, have been just run roughshod by their government.”

In 2018, Venezuela, a country with significant reserves of oil and gas, saw its inflation rise more than 65,000 percent amid an economic crash that included plummeting oil prices and government price controls. The regime of Nicolas Maduro then started printing money, thereby devaluing its currency, which caused prices to rapidly increase.

During the conference, Musk also said the Biden administration “doesn’t seem to get a lot done” and questioned who is actually in charge. 

“The real president is whoever controls the teleprompter,” he said.

“The path to power is the path to the teleprompter.”

“The Trump administration, leaving Trump aside, there were a lot of people in the administration who were effective at getting things done,” he remarked.

Musk’s comment about the White House comes as Jeff Bezos, also one of the richest people in the world, has increasingly started to target the administration’s economic policies. Bezos, in a series of Twitter posts, said the rapid increase in federal spending is the reason why inflation is as high as it is.

“Remember the Administration tried their best to add another $3.5 TRILLION to federal spending,” Bezos wrote on Monday, drawing rebuke from several White House officials. “They failed, but if they had succeeded, inflation would be even higher than it is today, and inflation today is at a 40-year high.”

Tyler Durden Tue, 05/17/2022 - 15:05

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Type-I interferon stops immune system ‘going rogue’ during viral infections

Hamilton, ON (May 17, 2022) – McMaster University researchers have found not only how some viral infections cause severe tissue damage, but also how…

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Hamilton, ON (May 17, 2022) – McMaster University researchers have found not only how some viral infections cause severe tissue damage, but also how to reduce that damage.

Credit: Georgia Kirkos/McMaster University

Hamilton, ON (May 17, 2022) – McMaster University researchers have found not only how some viral infections cause severe tissue damage, but also how to reduce that damage.

 

They have discovered how Type I interferon (IFN) stops the immune system ‘going rogue’ and attacking the body’s own tissues when fighting viral infections, including COVID-19.

 

Their paper was published in the journal PLOS Pathogens today.

  

Senior author Ali Ashkar said IFN is a well-known anti-viral signalling molecule released by the body’s cells that can trigger a powerful immune response against harmful viruses.

 

“What we have found is that it is also critical to stop white blood cells from releasing protease enzymes, which can damage organ tissue. It has this unique dual function to kick start an immune response against a viral infection on the one hand, as well as restrain that same response to prevent significant bystander tissue damage on the other,” he said.

 

The research team investigated IFN’s ability to regulate a potentially dangerous immune response by testing it on both flu and the HSV-2 virus, a highly prevalent sexually transmitted pathogen, using mice. Data from COVID-19 patients in Germany, including post-mortem lung samples, was also used in the study.

 

“For many viral infections, it is not actually the virus that causes most of the tissue damage, it is our heightened immune activation towards the virus,” said Ashkar, a professor of medicine at McMaster.

  

First co-author of the study and PhD student Emily Feng said: “Our body’s immune response is trying to fight off the virus infection, but there’s a risk of damaging innocent healthy tissue in the process. IFNs regulates the immune response to only target tissues that are infected.

 

“By discovering the mechanisms the immune system uses that can inadvertently cause tissue damage, we can intervene during infection to prevent this damage and not necessarily have to wait until vaccines are developed to develop life-saving treatments,” she added.

 

“This applies not just to COVID-19, but also other highly infectious viruses such as flu and Ebola, which can cause tremendous and often life-threatening damage to the body’s organs,” said first study co-author Amanda Lee, a family medicine resident. 

 

Ashkar said the release of harmful proteases is the result of a ‘cytokine storm’, which is life-threatening inflammation sometimes triggered by viral infections. It has been a common cause of death in patients with COVID-19, but treatment has been developed to prevent and suppress the cytokine storm.

 

Ashkar said that steroids like dexamethasone are already used to rein in an extreme immune response to viral infections. The authors used doxycycline in their study, an antibiotic used for bacterial infections and as an anti-inflammatory agent, inhibits the function of proteases causing the bystander tissue damage.

 

Lee added: “This has the potential in the future to be used to alleviate virus-induced life-threatening inflammation and warrants further research.” 

 

The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

 

-30-

 

Editors:

Pictures of Ali Ashkar and Emily Feng may be found at https://bit.ly/3wmSw0D

  

 

 


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mRNA vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna fare better against COVID-19 variants of concern

A comparison of four COVID-19 vaccinations shows that messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — perform better against the World…

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A comparison of four COVID-19 vaccinations shows that messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — perform better against the World Health Organization’s variants of concern (VOCs) than viral vector vaccines — AstraZeneca and J&J/Janssen. Although they all effectively prevent severe disease by VOCs, the research, publishing May 17th in the open access journal PLOS Medicine, suggests that people receiving a viral vector vaccine are more vulnerable to infection by new variants.

Credit: Carlos Reusser Monsalvez, Flickr (CC0, https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/)

A comparison of four COVID-19 vaccinations shows that messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — perform better against the World Health Organization’s variants of concern (VOCs) than viral vector vaccines — AstraZeneca and J&J/Janssen. Although they all effectively prevent severe disease by VOCs, the research, publishing May 17th in the open access journal PLOS Medicine, suggests that people receiving a viral vector vaccine are more vulnerable to infection by new variants.

By March 2022, COVID-19 had caused over 450 million confirmed infections and six million reported deaths. The first vaccines approved in the US and Europe that protect against serious infection are Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which deliver genetic code, known as mRNA, to the bodies’ cells, whereas Oxford/AstraZeneca and J&J/Janssen are viral vector vaccines that use a modified version of a different virus — a vector — to deliver instructions to our cells. Three vaccines are delivered as two separate injections a few weeks apart, and J&J/Janssen as a single dose.

Marit J. van Gils at the University of Amsterdam, Netherlands, and colleagues, took blood samples from 165 healthcare workers, three and four weeks after first and second vaccination respectively, and for J&J/Janssen at four to five and eight weeks after vaccination. Samples were collected before, and four weeks after a Pfizer-BioNTech booster.

Four weeks after the initial two doses, antibody responses to the original SARS-CoV-2 viral strain were highest in recipients of Moderna, followed closely by Pfizer-BioNTech, and were substantially lower in those who received viral vector vaccines. Tested against the VOCs – Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Omicron – neutralizing antibodies were higher in the mRNA vaccine recipients compared to those who had viral vector vaccines. The ability to neutralize VOCs was reduced in all vaccine groups, with the greatest reduction against Omicron. The Pfizer-BioNTech booster increased antibody responses in all groups with substantial improvement against VOCs, including Omicron.

The researchers caution that their AstraZeneca group was significantly older, because of safety concerns for the vaccine in younger age groups. As immune responses tend to weaken with age, this could affect the results. This group was also smaller because the Dutch government halted use for a period.

van Gils concludes, “Four COVID-19 vaccines induce substantially different antibody responses.”

#####

In your coverage, please use this URL to provide access to the freely available paper in PLOS Medicine:

http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1003991

Citation: van Gils MJ, Lavell A, van der Straten K, Appelman B, Bontjer I, Poniman M, et al. (2022) Antibody responses against SARS-CoV-2 variants induced by four different SARS-CoV-2 vaccines in health care workers in the Netherlands: A prospective cohort study. PLoS Med 19(5): e1003991. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1003991

 

Author Countries: The Netherlands, United States

 

Funding: This work was supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) ZonMw (Vici grant no. 91818627 to R.W.S., S3 study, grant agreement no. 10430022010023 to M.K.B.; RECoVERED, grant agreement no. 10150062010002 to M.D.d.J.), by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (grant no. INV002022 and INV008818 to R.W.S. and INV-024617 to M.J.v.G.), by Amsterdam UMC through the AMC Fellowship (to M.J.v.G.) and the Corona Research Fund (to M.K.B.), and by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program (RECoVER, grant no. 101003589 to M.D.d.J). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.


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