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August 16, 2022 5:37 am

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Michael Novakhov - SharedNewsLinks℠

Opinion | What We Can Learn From How the 1918 Pandemic Ended

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Most histories of the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed at least 50 million people worldwide say it ended in the summer of 1919 when a third wave of the respiratory contagion finally subsided.

Yet the virus continued to kill. A variant that emerged in 1920 was lethal enough that it should have counted as a fourth wave. In some cities, among them Detroit, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Kansas City, Mo., deaths exceeded even those in the second wave, responsible for most of the pandemicxe2x80x99s deaths in the United States. This occurred despite the fact that the U.S. population had plenty of natural immunity from the influenza virus after two years of several waves of infection and after viral lethality in the third wave had already decreased.

Nearly all cities in the United States imposed restrictions during the pandemicxe2x80x99s virulent second wave, which peaked in the fall of 1918. That winter, some cities reimposed controls when a third, though less deadly wave struck. But virtually no city responded in 1920. People were weary of influenza, and so were public officials. Newspapers were filled with frightening news about the virus, but no one cared. People at the time ignored this fourth wave; so did historians. The virus mutated into ordinary seasonal influenza in 1921, but the world had moved on well before.

We should not repeat that mistake.

True, right now we have every reason for optimism. First, Omicron cases are declining in parts of the country. Second, nearly the entire U.S. population will soon have been either infected or vaccinated, strengthening their immune systems against the virus as we know it now. Third, although Omicron is extraordinarily good at infecting the upper respiratory tract, which makes it so transmissible, it seems less able to infect the lungs than earlier variants so it is less virulent. It is entirely possible and perhaps even likely that, spurred by a better immune response, the virus will continue to decrease in lethality; indeed, there is a theory that the 1889-92 influenza pandemic was actually caused by a coronavirus called OC43, which today causes the common cold.

All of which makes overconfidence, indifference or weariness, after two years of battling the virus xe2x80x94 and one another xe2x80x94 a danger now.

Signs of weariness xe2x80x94 or misguided hope xe2x80x94 are everywhere. Although more than 70 percent of the adult population is fully vaccinated, progress has stagnated, and as of Jan. 27, only 44 percent had received boosters, which provide vital protection against severe illness. Although most of us, especially parents, want schools to stay open, parents have gotten only about 20 percent of children ages 5 to 11 fully vaccinated. As in 1920, people are tired of taking precautions.

This is ceding control to the virus. The result has been that even though Omicron appears to be less virulent, the seven-day average for daily Covid-19 deaths in the United States has now surpassed the Delta peak in late September.

Worse, the virus may not be finished with us. Although therexe2x80x99s a reasonable likelihood that future variants will be less dangerous, mutations are random. The only thing certain is that future variants, if they are to be successful, will elude immune protection. They could become more dangerous.

That was the case not only in 1920 with the last gasp of the 1918 virus, but also in the 1957, 1968 and 2009 influenza pandemics. In 1960 in the United States, after much of the population had achieved protection from infection and a vaccine, a variant caused peak mortality to exceed the pandemic levels in 1957 and 1958. In the 1968 outbreak, a variant in Europe caused more deaths the second year, even though, once again, a vaccine was available and many people had been infected.

In the 2009 pandemic, variants also emerged that caused breakthrough infections; one study in Britain found xe2x80x9cgreater burden of severe illness in the year after the pandemicxe2x80x9d but xe2x80x9cmuch less public interest in influenza.xe2x80x9d Researchers blamed the governmentxe2x80x99s approach for that. In the first year, the public health response was xe2x80x9chighly assertive,xe2x80x9d chiefly in providing information; there were no lockdowns. In the second year, they found, xe2x80x9cthe approach was laissez-faire.xe2x80x9d As a result, xe2x80x9ca large number of deaths, critical care and hospital admissions occurred, many of these in otherwise healthy people of working age.xe2x80x9d

Such precedents should make us wary. Vaccines, the new antiviral drug Paxlovid and others could end the pandemic, once billions of doses become widely available globally and if the virus does not develop resistance. But the end is not going to arrive anytime soon. The immediate future still depends on the virus and how we wield our current arsenal: vaccines, masks, ventilation, the antiviral drug remdesivir and steroids and the one monoclonal treatment that still works against Omicron, social distancing and avoiding crowds. As a society, we have largely abandoned the public health measures on that list. As individuals, we can still act.

John M. Barry is a distinguished scholar at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and the author of xe2x80x9cThe Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History.xe2x80x9d

Michael Novakhov - SharedNewsLinks℠

Infographic: Endemic vs pandemic diseases | Infographic News

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from Al Jazeera – Breaking News, World News and Video from Al Jazeera.


The WHO has said calls to treat the coronavirus as endemic are premature as cases in parts of the world remain high.

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic xe2x80x93 a new disease that has spread around the world, affecting a large number of people.

The term pandemic comes from the Greek word xe2x80x9cpanxe2x80x9d meaning xe2x80x9callxe2x80x9d and xe2x80x9cdemosxe2x80x9d meaning xe2x80x9cpeoplexe2x80x9d.

In comparison, an endemic xe2x80x93 with the prefix en- meaning xe2x80x9cin or withinxe2x80x9d-xc2xa0 is the constant presence of a disease within a region, making its spread more predictable.

Many experts expect COVID-19 will not be eradicated, and the disease will become endemic and stay with us, in a milder form.

While the conditions to reclassify COVID-19 as endemic are not precisely defined, many countries xe2x80x93 particularly in Europe xe2x80x93 have begun lifting restrictions as they move towards living with the disease.

Last week, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called on European officials to treat COVID-19 as endemic due to falling death rates.

Classifying COVID-19 as such could mean that fewer resources would be allocated to combat the disease and people would be subject to less testing as it would likely no longer be considered a severe public health emergency.

But the World Health Organization (WHO) has said it is too early to treat the coronavirus as endemic as cases in parts of the world remain high.

INTERACTIVE - COVID19 - Endemic vs pandemic diseases

Comparing endemic diseases

Endemic diseases are all around us, from the common cold to more severe diseases including HIV, malaria and tuberculosis.

Epidemiologists, scientists who study the spread of diseases, consider a disease endemic when its levels are consistent and predictable. Endemic diseases are constantly present in a population within a particular region.

Below we compare the number of cases and deaths per year from endemic diseases.

INTERACTIVE - COVID19 endemic diseases

For COVID-19 to become endemic, several factors would need to be considered, including how the disease continues to evolve as well as the type of immunity people acquire through infection and vaccines.

The dominant Omicron variant

Like all viruses, the SARS-COV-2 coronavirus has been mutating since it emerged in late 2019.

Mutations xe2x80x93 changes in genetic code xe2x80x93 in a virusxe2x80x99s spike protein can affect its ability to infect cells.

Omicron, a more transmissible variant first detected in November 2021, has now been detected in at least 165 countries and territories worldwide.

It has pushed COVID-19 cases to record highs around the world with at least 100 countries recording their all-time highest daily confirmed cases since the start of 2022. There are also an unknown number of people who may have been infected with Omicron but were not tested.

INTERACTIVE - COVID19 - Omicron variant

Varying worldwide immunity levels

The WHO predicts more than half of the people in Europe could catch Omicron by March which, coupled with high vaccine rates, should lead to higher levels of immunity.

Herd immunity occurs when a large proportion of a community becomes immune to a disease through infection or vaccines, halting the disease from spreading.

As variants become more infectious, the herd immunity threshold increases. This is why the threshold percentage has gradually been increasing from about 60-70 percent during the original strain to 85 percent with Delta and upwards of 90 percent with Omicron.

Meanwhile, many poorer countries that are still waiting for vaccines may be a long way from seeing the end of the pandemic.

Only 5 percent of people in low-income countries are fully vaccinated according to the latest figures by Our World In Data.

INTERACTIVE - COVID19 - Global vaccine divide

Michael Novakhov - SharedNewsLinks℠

EXPLAINER: What’s known about ‘stealth’ version of omicron?

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Scientists and health officials around the world are keeping their eyes on a descendant of the omicron variant that has been found in more than 50 countries, including the United States.

This version of the coronavirus, which scientists call BA.2, is widely considered stealthier than the original version of omicron because particular genetic traits make it somewhat harder to detect. Danish scientists reported this week that preliminary information suggests it may be 1 1/2 times more contagious then the original variant.

But scientists say therexe2x80x99s a lot they still donxe2x80x99t know about it, including whether it causes more severe disease.


More than 18,000 genetic sequences of BA.2 have been uploaded to GISAID, a global platform for sharing coronavirus data, according to data collected by Scripps Research labs. The strain has been detected in at least 54 countries and 24 U.S. states.

xe2x80x9cThus far, we havenxe2x80x99t seen it start to gain groundxe2x80x9d in the U.S., said Dr. Wesley Long, a pathologist at Houston Methodist in Texas, which identified three cases as of earlier this week.

The mutant appears much more common in Asia and Europe. In Denmark, it has spread quickly and become the dominant variant, according to State Serum Institute, which falls under the Danish Ministry of Health.

xe2x80x9cPreliminary calculations indicate that BA.2 is one and a half times more contagious than BA.1,xe2x80x9d the original omicron, the institutexe2x80x99s Dr. Tyra Grove Krause said in a press release earlier this week. If it is more contagious, xe2x80x9cit may mean that the wave of infections will be higher and will extend further into February compared to the previous projections.xe2x80x9d


BA.2 has lots of mutations. About 20 of them in the spike protein that studs the outside of the virus are shared with the original omicron. But it also has additional genetic changes not seen in the initial version.

Itxe2x80x99s unclear how significant those mutations are, especially in a population that has encountered the original omicron, said Dr. Jeremy Luban, a virologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

For now, the original omicron BA.1 and its descendant BA.2 are considered subsets of omicron. But global health leaders could give it its own Greek letter name if it is deemed a globally significant xe2x80x9cvariant of concern.xe2x80x9d

Scientists at the UK Health Security Agency found that vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease appears similar for BA.1 and BA.2. Looking at all vaccine brands combined, scientists found they were about 70% effective against symptomatic disease from BA.2 two or more weeks after a booster shot.

An initial analysis by scientists in Denmark shows no differences in hospitalizations for BA.2 compared with the original omicron. They are also looking into how well current vaccines work against it. Itxe2x80x99s also unclear how well treatments will work against it.

Doctors also donxe2x80x99t yet know for sure if someone whoxe2x80x99s already had COVID-19 caused by omicron can be sickened again by BA.2. But theyxe2x80x99re hopeful, especially that a prior omicron infection might lessen the severity if that happens.

The two versions of omicron have enough in common that itxe2x80x99s possible that infection with the original mutant xe2x80x9cwill give you cross-protection against BA.2,xe2x80x9d said Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes, an infectious diseases expert at Brigham and Womenxe2x80x99s Hospital in Boston.

Scientists will be conducting tests to see if antibodies from an infection with the original omicron xe2x80x9care able to neutralize BA.2 in the laboratory and then extrapolate from there,xe2x80x9d he said.


The World Health Organization classifies omicron overall as a variant of concern, its most serious designation of a coronavirus mutant, but it doesnxe2x80x99t single out BA.2 with a designation of its own. Given its rise in some countries, however, the agency says investigations into its characteristics xe2x80x9cshould be prioritized.xe2x80x9d

The UK agency, meanwhile, has designated BA.2 a xe2x80x9cvariant under investigation,xe2x80x9d citing the rising numbers found in the U.K. and internationally.


The original version of omicron had specific genetic features that allowed health officials to rapidly differentiate it from delta using a certain PCR lab test because of whatxe2x80x99s known as xe2x80x9cS gene target failure.xe2x80x9d

BA.2 doesnxe2x80x99t have this same genetic quirk. So on the test, Long said, it looks like delta.

xe2x80x9cItxe2x80x99s not that the test doesnxe2x80x99t detect it; itxe2x80x99s just that it doesnxe2x80x99t look like omicron,xe2x80x9d he said.


Doctors advise the same precautions they have all along: Get vaccinated and follow public health guidance about wearing masks, avoiding crowds and staying home when youxe2x80x99re sick.

xe2x80x9cThe vaccines are still providing good defense against severe disease, hospitalization and death,xe2x80x9d Long said.

The latest version is another reminder that the pandemic hasnxe2x80x99t ended.

xe2x80x9cWe all wish that it was over,xe2x80x9d Long said, xe2x80x9dbut until we get the world vaccinated, wexe2x80x99re going to be at risk of having new variants emerge.xe2x80x9d


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institutexe2x80x99s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Michael Novakhov - SharedNewsLinks℠

Дмитрий Песков ответил на вопрос о встрече Владимира Путина и Владимира Зеленского в Пекине, последние новости :: Политика :: Дни.ру

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from Дни.ру.


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Last spymaster of East German foreign intelligence dies at 92 | THE DAILY TRIBUNE

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Last spymaster of East German foreign intelligence dies at 92


Agencies |xc2xa0Berlin

The Daily Tribunexc2xa0xe2x80x93xc2xa0<a href=”” rel=”nofollow”></a>xc2xa0xc2xa0

The last head of East Germany’s foreign spying agency is dead, his daughter confirmed to dpa on Friday. Werner Groxc3x9fmann was 92.

Groxc3x9fmann had insisted on the righteousness of the work of the communist East German dictatorship right up until the collapse of that country’s government in 1989 when multiple communist regimes fell apart in Eastern Europe. He called his agents operating in the West “scouts of freedom.”

Groxc3x9fmann was arrested on October 3, 1990, the day of German unification, but only spent one day in jail. Courts ruled that efforts to prosecute East German spies would be unconstitutional. An effort to have him tried for treason was ruled out of order in 1995, dpa reports.

After the collapse of East Germany and the creation of a whole Germany, his public appearances usually drew protests in the country, mostly because he was so unapologetic.

“We didn’t carry out coups, murders or abductions like other secret services,” he said during a meeting with former East German agents in 2007. On another occasion, he said his organization always followed the law and that human rights violations were not the norm, though he did allow that there might have been individual exceptions.


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Profiling Putin: Russian President or Global Mafia Boss? – KyivPost

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xe2x80x9cConsider Putin not from the perspective of policy analysis, but from the perspective of forensic psychologyxe2x80x9d

In the context of Vladimir Putinxe2x80x99s current moves against Ukraine, one of the biggest errors the West can make is to see him through the prism of legitimate statecraft. Namely, Western decision-makers would be wrong in the view that Putin is like other national leaders xe2x80x93 a rational actor who similarly seeks strategic and geopolitical advantage for his state.

To normalise Putin in this way risks adopting the wrong responses to his aggression toward Ukraine, NATO and the liberal democratic West. It plays into his hands.

An alternative and more effective approach is to consider Putin not from the perspective of policy analysis, but from the perspective of forensic psychology. In profiling Putin, we better understand his xe2x80x98whyxe2x80x99 and thereby can counter actions he may next take.

Mob boss archetype

One plausible profile for Putin is that of a Mafia boss.

After all, decision-making structures and processes in the Russian Federation, such as an economy based on protection rackets, look very much like the operations of the Mafia. Putinxe2x80x99s state and the Mafia share modus operandi: authoritarian rule, secretiveness and lack of due processes, the use of force over the rule of law, corruption, brutal reprisals against foes, the quest for new operational territories, and patronage.

To act in such a way, and to be the leader of such a society, requires a specific mentality. Francesca Calandra and Antonio Giorgi, academics who study the Mafia, have suggested it requires xe2x80x9cthe development of a psychological identity that allows the exclusive pursuit of power and widespread control of societies.xe2x80x9d

Adriano Schimmenti, another academic on the Mafia, has conducted detailed evaluations of 30 Mafia members convicted of murder and other violent crimes using the Hare Psychopathy Checklist.

Among his findings are that Mafiosi typically have: a very strong capability for compartmentalisation; a lower tendency to psychopathy than among other highly violent criminals; a greater tendency toward high IQs, social adequacy and high engagement with the media and current affairs. Schimmenti suggests that Mafiosi are not somehow blindly sadistic, but rather see victims xe2x80x9cas vehicles for psychological release.xe2x80x9d

This characterisation resonates in terms of Putin and his regime. There is no inherent conflict xe2x80x93 in a Mafiosoxe2x80x99s mind xe2x80x93 between killing an opponent and being a loving father. Similarly, in Putinxe2x80x99s mind, there seems to be no inherent conflict between, on the one hand, using deadly force against a neighbouring state, or assassinating political or economic competitors, and, on the other hand, seeking credibility on the world stage and maintaining at least the appearance of civic structures.

Perhaps, this incongruence is why Putinxe2x80x99s annual mass press briefing is so unnerving to watch for many xe2x80x98normalxe2x80x99 observers.


A key reference is the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) which is the globally-accepted principle authority for psychological diagnoses, and its diagnosis for Anti-Social Personality Disorder (ASPD), which The Mayo Clinic defines as pervasive and persistent disregard for morals, social norms, and the rights and feelings of others. Many of those with APSD can have a weak or non-existent conscience and a superficial or compensatory charm.

Psychiatrists, psychologists and researchers generally agree that APSD is very difficult to treat and is generally life-long.

According to DSM, among ASPDxe2x80x99s diagnostic criteria are:


  • failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviours as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;
  • n

  • deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;
  • n

  • aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults, and;
  • n

  • lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.
  • n

Putin ticks these boxes through: a) a pattern of unilateral and illegal military interventions resulting in thousands of deaths of both innocent Ukrainians, Russians and others; b) huge scale and sophistication in the use of deception and deceit through his propaganda machine and the countless false narratives of the hybrid war, and; c) total lack of recognition of any wrong-doing.

The possible diagnosis ASPD also lets us see why the KGB may have initially seen a young Vladimir Putin as a suitable recruit and why he had a successful career in the espionage agency. As outlined by operational manuals made public, a cornerstone of KGB doctrine was the exploitation of individualsxe2x80x99 vulnerabilities. It also provided a vehicle and basis for legitimising Putinxe2x80x99s potential ASPD.

The weakness of Putin

There lies an important insight for responding to Putin in the current context. As a trumped-up Mafia boss with an underlying psychological condition, Putinxe2x80x99s default setting and his training is to exploit the weakness he sees in others.

Hence, the prerequisite for those who oppose him, or who need to counter his aims, is to show complete resolve and no weakness through forms of recognition or appeasement. The further challenge and opportunity are, in turn, to recognise that Putin is hardly all-powerful and to exploit Putinxe2x80x99s own weakness xe2x80x93 the fact that he is highly flawed and acting from those flaws.

Found a spelling error? Let us know xe2x80x93 highlight it and press Ctrl + Enter.

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