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US Record Smallest Monthly Budget Deficit Since December 2019

US Record Smallest Monthly Budget Deficit Since December 2019

After spending like a drunken sailor over the past two years, and even launching helicopter money to fund its unprecedented spending spree in the post-covid era, the US has become.

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US Record Smallest Monthly Budget Deficit Since December 2019

After spending like a drunken sailor over the past two years, and even launching helicopter money to fund its unprecedented spending spree in the post-covid era, the US has become borderline austere in recent months.

According to the latest Treasury monthly statement, in December, the US budget deficit was a paltry $21.3 billion, which while slightly more than expectations of a just $5 billion deficit, was a huge drop from the $143.6 billion deficit record in December 2020. The deficit was the result of $487 billion in receipts, a whopping increase of 40.6% Y/Y and $508 billion in outlays, which was just a 3.7% increase vs a year ago.

The December deficit of $21.3 billion was also the smallest deficit going back to December 2019.

On a year to date basis, in the first three months of fiscal 2022, the US has collected $1.052 trillion while spending $1.430 trillion, for a cumulative deficit of $378 billion.

While overall spending was not at the insane level observed in the aftermath of the covid pandemic, when the Treasury was funding various stimmy plans, it is still about $100 billion higher than the biggest pre-covid spending month.

The good news is that in December, receipts clearly jumped and were also one of the highest on record excluding the traditionally strongest month of April when taxes are due.

Finally, on a cumulative basis, the insanity of the second half of fiscal 2020 and 2021 appear to be over, because the YTD deficit of $377.7 billion was in line with pre-covid years and far below the $573 billion cumulative deficit that was record one year ago.

Tyler Durden Wed, 01/12/2022 - 15:30

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Economics

Reduced myocardial blood flow is new clue in how COVID-19 is impacting the heart

Patients with prior COVID may be twice as likely to have unhealthy endothelial cells that line the inside of the heart and blood vessels, according to…

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Patients with prior COVID may be twice as likely to have unhealthy endothelial cells that line the inside of the heart and blood vessels, according to newly published research from Houston Methodist. This finding offers a new clue in understanding covid-19’s impact on cardiovascular health.

Credit: Houston Methodist

Patients with prior COVID may be twice as likely to have unhealthy endothelial cells that line the inside of the heart and blood vessels, according to newly published research from Houston Methodist. This finding offers a new clue in understanding covid-19’s impact on cardiovascular health.

In a new study published today in JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging, Houston Methodist researchers examined the coronary microvasculature health of 393 patients with prior covid-19 infection who had lingering symptoms. This is the first published study linking reduced blood flow in the body and COVID-19.

Using a widely available imaging tool, called positron emission tomography (PET), researchers found a 20% decrease in the ability of coronary arteries to dilate, a condition known as microvascular dysfunction. They also found that patients with prior COVID-19 infection were more likely to have reduced myocardial flow reserve – and changes in the resting and stress blood flow – which is a marker for poor prognosis and is associated with a higher risk of adverse cardiovascular events.

“We were surprised with the consistency of reduced blood flow in post covid patients within the study,” said corresponding author Mouaz Al-Mallah, M.D., director of cardiovascular PET at Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center, and president elect of the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology. “The findings bring new questions, but also help guide us toward further studying blood flow in COVID-19 patients with persistent symptoms.”

Dysfunction and inflammation of endothelial cells is a well-known sign of acute Covid-19 infection, but little is known about the long-term effects on the heart and vascular system. Earlier in the pandemic, research indicated that COVID-19 could commonly cause myocarditis but that now appears to be a rare effect of this viral infection.

A recent study from the Netherlands found that 1 in 8 people had lingering symptoms post-covid. As clinicians continue to see patients with symptoms like shortness of breath, palpations and fatigue after their recovery, the cause of long covid is mostly unknown.

Further studies are needed to document the magnitude of microvascular dysfunction and to identify strategies for appropriate early diagnosis and management. For instance, reduced myocardial flow reserve can be used to determine a patient’s risk when presenting with symptoms of coronary artery disease over and above the established risk factors, which can become quite relevant in dealing with long Covid.

Next steps will require clinical studies to discover what is likely to happen in the future to patients whose microvascular health has been affected by COVID-19, particularly those patients who continue to have lingering symptoms, or long COVID.

This work was supported, in part, by grants from the National Institutes of Health under contract numbers R01 HL133254, R01 HL148338 and R01 HL157790.

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For more information: Coronary microvascular health in patients with prior COVID-19 infection. JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging. (online Aug. 16, 2022) Ahmed Ibrahim Ahmed, Jean Michel Saad, Yushui Han, Fares Alahdab, Maan Malahfji, Faisal Nabi, John J Mahmarian, John P. Cook, William A Zoghbi and Mouaz H Al-Mallah. DOI: www.doi.org/10.1016/j.jcmg.2022.07.006

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Economics

New principles for biological fieldwork will build equity for researchers and local communities

LAWRENCE — For hundreds of years, teams of biologists have carried out fieldwork around the globe, often trekking to remote places to collect specimens…

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LAWRENCE — For hundreds of years, teams of biologists have carried out fieldwork around the globe, often trekking to remote places to collect specimens and data about our natural world. Today, such work can demand collaboration between large international teams of biologists, extensive permitting with authorities, interaction with local communities and research plans often led by one or two senior investigators.

Credit: Michael Cuesta

LAWRENCE — For hundreds of years, teams of biologists have carried out fieldwork around the globe, often trekking to remote places to collect specimens and data about our natural world. Today, such work can demand collaboration between large international teams of biologists, extensive permitting with authorities, interaction with local communities and research plans often led by one or two senior investigators.

Too often, these factors can result in power imbalances between researchers and local communities where fieldwork takes place. Moreover, inequities based on race, gender, sexual orientation and seniority can develop within the teams of researchers themselves.

Now, a new paper appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences lays out a set of principles for biological fieldwork designed to lessen inequities between researchers and local populations, as well as internally among research teams themselves. Many “best practices” in the paper are adapted from procedures for permitting and licensing developed over years at the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum.

“When I was invited by colleagues at Berkeley to be part of this conversation, I was really happy to contribute,” said co-author Rafe Brown, curator-in-charge of the Herpetology Division at KU’s Biodiversity Institute. “After more than 30 years of working in the Philippines, I had lots of experience in managing groups of people working together in the field. I’d seen a lot of things work out well, and a lot of things work out so-so, where we needed some improvement in the way we interact, as groups of people, working often in remote and stressful field conditions. I’ve seen some real trainwrecks of group psychology during fieldwork — and things that just struck me as potentially dangerous. I never had any real disasters myself, but I saw some risky and even scary behavior, and heard a lot of stories over the years, in my early career, and in grad school.”

KU’s Biodiversity Institute is seen as a leader in collaborating with local authorities and populations to make sure biological fieldwork is ethical, legal and safe — in part because of its extensive checklists and procedures for permitting and licensing. Supplemental documents to the PNAS paper — a Field Safety Plan Template and a Scientific Permit Checklist – are adapted in part from KU’s procedures.

“I’d like to see these shared widely and adopted by institutions around the world as a foundation for fieldwork planning,” said Lori Schlenker, assistant director of collections and facilities at the Biodiversity Institute. “We’re committed to participating in safe and legal fieldwork and training the next generation of students to be able to lead their own programs and mentor their own students in these practices when they graduate from KU. We’ve been building on our experiences — good and bad — and have developed procedures so that prior to departure, permits are in place and researchers have considered how they will collect, export and import research specimens safely, legally and ethically. This ensures that resources are not expended on specimens that we cannot legally accession into our collections. Most importantly, the safety of all field team members is critical. Applying the experience of our BI researchers, and with guidance from KU, emphasis is placed on communication and transparency as part of the fieldwork planning process.”

Much of this to hone the way KU biologists tackle permitting and interacting with local authorities and communities has taken place in the Philippines, where Biodiversity Institute personnel strive for locally inclusive fieldwork.

“Our 15-year, multi-institutional collaboration with KU has resulted the traditional products and outputs — like students trained, papers published, grants obtained — but it has also profited from many deep discussions and steps taken, to correct the past landscape of exclusively foreigner-led, expeditionary fieldwork,” said co-author Tess Sanguila of Father Saturnino Urios University in the Philippines. “Additionally, here within the country, our own scientific community often only considers and prioritizes the contributions and inputs from the so-called experts in the capital city over those of the researchers from the provinces in the southern Philippines, who are stereotyped as being of inferior expertise. This paper provides a simplified and practical starting point, from which we hope to establish a solution to this whole imbalanced culture, and from which we fundamentally advocate to ‘support local’ for more inclusive and invigorated long-term collaborations of the future.” 

The PNAS paper advocates four main principles for fieldwork to promote “equity, reciprocity, access, benefit-sharing and safety”:

  • Be collaborative: We embrace collaborative science and fieldwork practices with our partners, field teams and the communities with whom we work.
  • Be respectful: We prioritize local sovereignty and long-term benefits for the community, and we invest time and effort in learning about and respecting local history and cultures.
  • Be legal: We commit to obtaining all necessary permits, authorizations, and land permissions, and to following all legal guidelines and requirements.
  • Be safe: We work proactively to promote a safe physical and emotional environment for all members of research teams and local communities with clear guidance and communications.

Lead author Valeria Ramírez Castañeda, doctoral student in integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, said her own time conducting biological fieldwork in the Amazon inspired her work on the paper.

“My own personal experience comes from the Global South,” Castañeda said. “I’m Colombian, and my focus was in particular on how we interact with local communities when conducting fieldwork. My research in biology takes place in the Colombian Amazon, where I work with predator-prey interactions between snakes and frogs. The local community — biologists, drivers, field assistants, among others — sustain and inform my work there. However, are we scientists reciprocal when it comes to thinking about benefits and acknowledgments for the community? I’ve been trying to change or at least acknowledge practices that exclude the local communities from research. I was born in the biggest city in Colombia — Bogotá — so I was an uninvited guest in the Amazon territory. I’ve been trying to get to know the community where I work, ask for consent for every procedure, explain my research, collaborate with biologists and field assistants from indigenous and local communities, and participate in community-science projects.”

In addition to working with local populations and authorities, the new paper offers recommendations to alleviate power asymmetries that can plague fieldwork teams internally.

“With all the recent civil unrest in the U.S. and the existing inequities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, it’s a good time to reevaluate how we do things in our profession because people are listening and reflecting,” said Rebecca Tarvin, assistant professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley. “Personally, I’ve wanted to think more deeply about field biology for some time. I didn’t receive any formal training on how to do collaborative science involving fieldwork and I think this is largely true for others in field biology. The way people conduct fieldwork thus often depends on the norms and culture of their lab and on the default approaches to doing science. However, doing equitable science takes intentional planning, and many default approaches are not equitable. That’s why we wanted to provide some general guidelines that can help anyone proactively plan more equitable research programs.”

Tarvin added that data show diverse teams can produce more innovative and robust research.

“Having diverse groups doing fieldwork in a way that is fair, open and collaborative with the people living where we work has the further benefit of including everyone in conducting, communicating and benefiting from science,” she said.


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Government

Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act “Secretly” Brought To You By Bill Gates

Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act "Secretly" Brought To You By Bill Gates

The Democrats’ "Inflation Reduction Act" – which according to…

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Joe Biden's Inflation Reduction Act "Secretly" Brought To You By Bill Gates

The Democrats' "Inflation Reduction Act" - which according to the Congressional Budget Office will raise taxes on the middle class to the tune of $20 billion - not to mention unleash an army of IRS agents on working class Americans over the next decade, was made possible by Bill Gates and (in smaller part) Larry Summers, who have been known to hang out together.

Pals hanging out

The bill, of course, was signed yesterday.

In a Tuesday Bloomberg article that reads more like a newsletter for the Gates fan club, the billionaire Microsoft co-founder recalls how earlier this year, as moderate Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema continued to block the tax-and-spend legislation over concerns that it would raise taxes on the middle class (it will), Gates says he tapped into a relationship with Manchin that he'd been cultivating since at least 2019.

Gates was banking on more than just his trademark optimism about addressing climate change and other seemingly intractable problems that have been his focus since stepping down as Microsoft’s chief executive two decades ago. As he revealed to Bloomberg Green, he has quietly lobbied Manchin and other senators, starting before President Joe Biden had won the White House, in anticipation of a rare moment in which heavy federal spending might be secured for the clean-energy transition.

Those discussions gave him reason to believe the senator from West Virginia would come through for the climate — and he was willing to continue pressing the case himself until the very end. “The last month people felt like, OK, we tried, we're done, it failed,” Gates said. “I believed it was a unique opportunity.” So he tapped into a relationship with Manchin that he’d cultivated for at least three years. “We were able to talk even at a time when he felt people weren’t listening.” -Bloomberg

We know, gag us with a spoon.

Apparently Gates and Manchin's bromance began when the billionaire wooed the West Virgina Senator at a 2019 meal in Seattle, in an effort to garner support for clean-energy policy. Manchin at the time was the senior-most Democrat on the energy committee.

"My dialogue with Joe has been going on for quite a while," said Gates.

After Manchin walked (again) on the bill last December over concerns that it would exacerbate the national debt, inflation, the pandemic, and amid geopolitical uncertainty with Russia, Gates jumped into action. A few weeks later, he met with Manchin and his wife, Gayle Conelly Manchin, at a DC restaurant, where they talked about what West Virginia needed. Manchin understandably wanted to preserve jobs at the center of the US coal industry, while Gates suggested that coal plant workers could simply swap over to nuclear plants - such as those from Gates' TerraPower.

Manchin apparently wasn't convinced, announcing on Feb. 1 that "Build Back Better" (the Inflation Reduction Act's previous iteration) was "dead."

In an effort to convince him otherwise, Democrats pulled together a cadre of economists and other Manchin influencers - including former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, who convinced Manchin that the bill wouldn't raise taxes on the middle class, or add to the deficit.

Collin O’Mara, chief executive officer of the National Wildlife Federation, recruited economists to assuage Manchin’s concerns — including representatives from the University of Chicago and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware brought in a heavyweight: former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, who has spent decades advising Democrats. 

The economists were able to “send this signal that [the bill’s] going to help with the deficit,” O’Mara said. “It’s going to be slightly deflationary and it’s going to spur growth and investment in all these areas.” Through this subtle alchemy, clean-energy investments could be reframed for Manchin as a hedge against future spikes in oil and gas prices and a way to potentially export more energy to Europe. -Bloomberg

Gates also sprang into action again on July 7, when Manchin was spotted at the Sun Valley media conference in Idaho - which Gates also attended.

"We had a talk about what was missing, what needed to be done," Gates said. "And then after that it was a lot of phone calls."

Gates looks back at the new law with satisfaction. He achieved what he set out to do. “I will say that it's one of the happier moments of my climate work,” Gates said. “I have two things that excite me about climate work. One is when policy gets done well, and this is by far the biggest moment like that.” His other pleasure comes from interviewing people at climate and clean-tech startups: “I hear about this amazing new way to make steel, cement and chemicals.” -Bloomberg

"I don’t want to take credit for what went on," says Gates - in the article about how he gets credit for what went on.

Tyler Durden Wed, 08/17/2022 - 10:11

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