Is the lockdown of schools and businesses creating more problems than it solves?

Writing in The New York Times Friday, Dr. founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center at Yale University in Connecticut, suggests that the all-out war against the spread of the coronavirus just might result in greater danger to those most vulnerable to the disease in addition to devastating the economy and destroying countless jobs and individual well being.

Katz is urgently calling for a more “surgical strike” approach, instead of this carpet bombing approach adopted by the governors of Nevada, California, New York and Illinois — closing businesses and schools. “This can be open war, with all the fallout that portends, or it could be something more surgical,” Katz says. “The United States and much of the world so far have gone in for the former. I write now with a sense of urgency to make sure we consider the surgical approach, while there is still time.”

He notes that data from South Korea indicate 99 percent of cases are “mild” and do not require medical treatment. It is the older population that is of greatest risk — “those over age 70 appear at three times the mortality risk as those age 60 to 69, and those over age 80 at nearly twice the mortality risk of those age 70 to 79.”

According to Science magazine, South Korea has been highly successful in battling the disease through its use of widespread testing. “The country of 50 million appears to have greatly slowed its epidemic; it reported only 74 new cases today (March 17), down from 909 at its peak on 29 February. And it has done so without locking down entire cities or taking some of the other authoritarian measures that helped China bring its epidemic under control.”

South Korea tested and isolated those carrying the virus. It conducted 5,200 tests per million people. The U.S. has tested 74 people per 1 million.

Katz further pointed out that closing businesses and schools winds up putting family members in close proximity. Because of the lack of testing asymptomatic youngsters may be infecting parents and grandparents.

“I am deeply concerned that the social, economic and public health consequences of this near total meltdown of normal life — schools and businesses closed, gatherings banned — will be long lasting and calamitous, possibly graver than the direct toll of the virus itself,” Katz warns. “The stock market will bounce back in time, but many businesses never will. The unemployment, impoverishment and despair likely to result will be public health scourges of the first order.”

Worse, he says, we are actually doing little to contain the disease itself.

In fact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that closing schools has little affect on the spread of the coronavirus. “Available modeling data indicate that early, short to medium closures do not impact the epi [epidemic] curve of COVID-19 or available health care measures (e.g., hospitalizations). There may be some impact of much longer closures (8 weeks, 20 weeks) further into community spread, but that modelling also shows that other mitigation efforts (e.g., handwashing, home isolation) have more impact on both spread of disease and health care measures. In other countries, those places who closed school (e.g., Hong Kong) have not had more success in reducing spread than those that did not (e.g., Singapore),” the CDC reports.

Katz concludes:

This focus on a much smaller portion of the population would allow most of society to return to life as usual and perhaps prevent vast segments of the economy from collapsing. Healthy children could return to school and healthy adults go back to their jobs. Theaters and restaurants could reopen, though we might be wise to avoid very large social gatherings like stadium sporting events and concerts.

So long as we were protecting the truly vulnerable, a sense of calm could be restored to society. Just as important, society as a whole could develop natural herd immunity to the virus. The vast majority of people would develop mild coronavirus infections, while medical resources could focus on those who fell critically ill. Once the wider population had been exposed and, if infected, had recovered and gained natural immunity, the risk to the most vulnerable would fall dramatically.

A pivot right now from trying to protect all people to focusing on the most vulnerable remains entirely plausible. With each passing day, however, it becomes more difficult. The path we are on may well lead to uncontained viral contagion and monumental collateral damage to our society and economy. A more surgical approach is what we need.

Medics transport a patient in Seattle. (Reuters pix via NYT)



Editorial: Goal of zero emissions on public land a futile gesture

Democrats in the House of Representatives this past week unleashed their latest pie-in-the-sky legislation intended to save the planet from frying like an egg due to catastrophic global warming due to carbon emissions.

The bill, if passed, which thankfully is highly unlikely, would require zero emissions from drilling, mining and other activities on federal public lands by 2040, and immediately halt oil and gas leasing for at least a year, according to a Reuters dispatch.

“To solve our climate crisis we need to solve this problem from two sides,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva, chairman of the Democratic-controlled House Natural Resources Committee. He said the bill would slash emissions from energy production on federal land and preserve vegetation and forests so they may absorb carbon.

“Putting a stop to all new fossil fuel leasing on public lands and waters is a vital first step in stopping the climate crisis, and it’s heartening to see Chairman Grijalva propose a framework that could ultimately achieve that,” Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a press release. “But much more is needed to undo the incredible damage the Trump administration has caused through its massive increase in fossil fuel leasing, to say nothing of the decades of reckless fossil fuel leasing that has already occurred.”

The same press release notes that the United Nations Environment Program issued a report this past month stating world governments plan to greatly increase fossil fuels production. So what good will cutting production on public lands do?

Never mind that the brunt of the burden of this foolish venture would fall on the Western states, where the majority of public lands lie and especially on Nevada, 85 percent of whose land is controlled by the federal bureaucracy. This would cost countless jobs and shrink the economies of rural areas of the West. While Nevada is not rich in oil and natural gas, its mining jobs are some of the best paid in the state and mining taxes support many communities.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world is shrugging off its share of the emissions control effort. Of the nearly 200 countries that signed off on the Paris climate accord a couple of years ago, only two have actually met emissions reductions goals, Morocco and Gambia, according to a PBS report in September.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that China, the top carbon emitter in the world, is adding more coal-fired plants than the rest of the world combined and is building coal plants in other countries, too. The U.S., the world’s second-largest emitter, saw carbon emissions rise 3.4 percent in 2018.

Also, pay no attention to the fact there has been no significant global warming since 2005. Those hottest years on record claims are well within the margin of error.

The bill is a senseless and futile gesture, but Democrats are just the ones try it.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

All the news about the paper’s owner that fits

There is a story on the Las Vegas newspaper’s website about how Vice President Mike Pence and House leaders plan to honor the paper’s owner Sheldon Adelson and his wife at a June 7 fundraiser for the National Republican Campaign Committee. The fundraiser is asking for contributions of up to $50,000 per couple. Adelson is a major Republican donor.

But for some reason the Reuters story about Adelson being questioned by Israeli police as part of an ongoing criminal investigation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t appear to have been posted yet. Adelson is a Netanyahu supporter

Reuters reports Netanyahu is suspected of abuse of office, but he denies any wrongdoing.

Reportedly Adelson talked about suspicions that Netanyahu negotiated a deal in 2015 for favourable press coverage with Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. Adelson owns a competing Israeli newspaper.

Adelson arrives for Trump’s recent speech in Israel. (Reuters pix)


When money is no object ask the government for it

Faraday Future prototype on display. (Reuters photo)

Faraday Future prototype on display. (Reuters photo)

If you have to ask you can’t afford it.

The story in the morning paper about the unveiling at a local convention of the prototype for Faraday Future’s electric car that is supposed to be built at a factory in North Las Vegas was full of numbers.

The plant is to cost $1 billion. The car’s range will be 378 miles on a charge. It will generate 1,050 horsepower. Nevada ponied up $215 million in tax breaks and improvement projects. (Well, actually that was $215 million in tax abatements and credits, plus another  $120 million in infrastructure that includes water, rail and road improvements that may include widening I-15 and improving the freeway interchange near the Apex industrial park. But what’s a few hundred million in tax money?) You can reserve one by depositing $5,000.

But the story never says what the cost of the car will be.

Reuters is reporting that the tricked out FF 91, as it is dubbed — replete with holograms, sensors, cameras and radar — will be priced, according to insiders, at $180,000. That’s even higher than the high-end Tesla, which is getting $1.3 billion in tax exemptions and credits for promising to build a battery plant in Northern Nevada.

That’s right, your tax money is going to support the possible construction of cars you can never in your wildest dreams of avarice afford, even if they ever get built. Ain’t socialism grand?

Maybe if Faraday Future finds enough suckers to part with $5,000 deposits it can actually pay its contractors to build that factory.


All the news that fits your presumptions about global warming

So, by now you’ve heard or read that 2014 was the hottest year in recorded history. It was in all the papers, many with headlines denigrating global warming skeptics.

“Last year was Earth’s hottest on record in new evidence that people are disrupting the climate by burning fossil fuels that release greenhouse gases into the air, two U.S. government agencies said on Friday,” Reuters exclaimed, adding that the 10 warmest years since the 19th century have all occurred since 1997.

Most of the stories failed to point out that 2014 was hotter than the previous hottest year by four-hundreths of a degree.

Nor did many of them note that satellite readings, rather than ground-level devices, found that 2014 was merely the third warmest, according to John Christy, am atmospheric science professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He said satellite data show temperature changes since 2001 are “statistically insignificant.”

Put that in your climate change model and crank it.

Judith Curry, a Georgia Tech atmospheric science professor, said, “This ‘almost’ record year does not help the growing discrepancy between the climate model projections and the surface temperature observations.”

For its part The New York Times news story did quote Dr. Christy but dismissively editorialized in the next paragraph, “Despite such arguments from a handful of scientists, the vast majority of those who study the climate say the earth is in a long-term warming trend that is profoundly threatening and caused almost entirely by human activity.”

All the news that fits your presumptions.

Satellite temperature readings ((Graph courtesy of Steven Goddard via The Daily Caller)


All the news that’s fit to censor

Reuters photo in today’s R-J.

Today for the first time the Las Vegas newspaper has printed an image of one of the Charlie Hebdo infamous Muhammad cartoons — in this case the cover of the post-attack issue of the French satirical newspaper. The photo is on an inside page.

Elsewhere the issue of whether to publish such “offensive” cartoons continues to roil journalists.

The New York Times’ public editor Margaret Sullivan even questioned her own boss’ decision to not publish any such image, saying the cover of the latest issue was newsworthy.

“I can understand why The Times would not have published ‘the most incendiary images,’ as the executive editor, Dean Baquet, described them last week. He felt those extreme cartoons would not have been necessary to illustrate the story about the terrorist attack that killed eight members of the satirical newspaper’s staff,” Sullivan writes.

But then she concludes:

“Here’s my take: The new cover image of Charlie Hebdo is an important part of a story that has gripped the world’s attention over the past week.

“The cartoon itself, while it may disturb the sensibilities of a small percentage of Times readers, is neither shocking nor gratuitously offensive. And it has, undoubtedly, significant news value.”

Over at NPR this is its position:

“At this time, NPR is not posting images of Charlie Hebdo‘s most controversial cartoons – just as it did not post such images during earlier controversies involving the magazine and a Danish cartoonist’s caricatures of the prophet. The New York Times has taken the same position. The Washington Post‘s editorial board has put one of Charlie Hebdo‘s Prophet Muhammad covers on the print version of its op-ed pages, but not online. News editors at NPR and other organizations continually review their judgments on these types of issues when the materials are potentially offensive because of their religious, racial or sexual content. That review process will continue.”

The Associated Press has stated:

“AP tries hard not to be a conveyor belt for images and actions aimed at mocking or provoking people on the basis of religion, race or sexual orientation. We did not run the ‘Danish cartoons’ mocking Muhammad in 2005, or the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of the same type. While we run many photos that are politically or socially provocative, there are areas verging on hate speech and actions where we feel it is right to be cautious.

“This policy is consistent with our approach to sound bites and text reporting, where we avoid racist, religious and sexual slurs.”

Reuters has posted a few of the Muhammad cartoons. The Las Vegas newspaper did publish one of the so-called Dutch cartoons several years ago under previous management.


Did R-J pick a fine time to quit the AP?

Lloyd Bridges’ character in the comedy movie “Airplane” kept saying he picked a fine time to quit drinking, smoking, sniffing glue, etc.

Did the Las Vegas newspaper pick a fine time to dump The Associated Press and replace it with Reuters, Washington Post, CNN, Sports Xchange, etc., which have no presence in Nevada? Today the print version used a free-lance banner story by a former AP Nevada reporter on the amount of water the Tesla Motors battery plant in Storey County will require and two stories with bylines from the Reno newspaper. There appears to be a need for additional resources across the state.

But what makes this interesting is an AP blog posted recently in which the newspaper cooperative promises to reverse a trend and beef up statehouse coverage in 50 state capitals:

Brian Carovillano (AP Photo)

Building on The Associated Press’ unmatched presence in all 50 U.S. statehouses, we are adding to our competitive advantage by creating a team of state government specialists.

As announced today to the AP staff, the specialists will collaborate with statehouse reporters, as well as on their own projects and stories focused on government accountability and strong explanatory reporting. Their over-arching goal will be “to show how state government is impacting the lives of people across the country,” said Brian Carovillano, managing editor for U.S. news.

Specifically, the AP says it has hired 13 statehouse reporters in the past year and plans to add 40 or so contract reporters to cover legislative sessions in 2015 — over and above the current staffing level.

The cooperative promises additional reporters for beats such as such as politics, immigration, crime and education.

“Beyond that, we are really pushing our state bureaus to focus their time and effort on content that is exclusive to AP and that our members and subscribers can’t get anywhere else. That needs to be our guiding principle,” the blog says.

It goes on to say the AP will set up editing operations to handle “shared” news from the members of the cooperative. That apparently will not include the R-J.


Another cost cutting measure at the Las Vegas newspaper?

I guess you’d probably have to be a newspaper curmudgeon to notice something as ubiquitous as bylines — you know, the attribution atop the story that identifies the writer and his or her organization. It’s such a part of the scenery hardly anyone notices.

In the past three days, the Las Vegas newspaper has been nearly bereft of bylines by The Associated Press. Today there was a sports round-up and a couple of AP photos. In its stead were Washington Post, Reuters and something called Sports Xchange.

I’d heard that the paper had given AP a cancellation notice, but that’s nothing new. Because the AP contract requires a years-long cancellation notice many papers have taken to putting AP on perpetual notice. Besides, it works as a kind of threat against price hikes.

The Review-Journal has had AP on notice of cancellation for years.

But it looks like the paper may be getting ready to dump the hugely expensive cooperative, which has extensive and unmatched coverage through its worldwide network of member newspapers who are required to provide AP with their content.

The pages of sports agate that provide standings carry no byline, but that used to come from AP and there was no alternative that I recall. Perhaps the paper can buy that a la carte or get it elsewhere.

Cutting expenses is a common precursor to putting a newspaper up for sale. Goodness knows the R-J has cut plenty of personnel costs over the past couple of years. Just speculating.

One of the few things in today's paper attributed to AP.

One of the few things in today’s paper attributed to AP.



You can tell a lot about a newspaper by how it is edited

The Reuters news story about the FBI and SEC investigating possible insider trading lists one of those involved as “Las Vegas gambler William Walters.”

The headline on that same story in the print version of the Las Vegas newspaper reads: “Source: Feds probing developer Walters.” The lede was edited to “Las Vegas developer and gambler Bill Walters.”

Billy Walters in the middle at a county commission meeting. Then-head of McCarran Randy Walker is in foreground. (R-J photo John Gurzinski)

The Reuters version doesn’t mention Walters’ involvement with the Computer Group or his multiple federal indictments on gambling charges, all of which he beat. But the local newspaper did note:

Walters (sic) gambling habits have drawn attention of federal prosecutors in the past. In 1992, he was acquitted in federal court of illegal gambling charges.”

Then added:

Walters is a generous contributor to local political campaigns, and he owns the Bali Hai Golf Club. Walters is also closely associated with local charity Opportunity Village.”

The story did not mention, as John L. Smith did a couple of years ago, that Walters’ golf course deals often left taxpayers holding the bag. “Some of Walters’ biggest scores have come in the chambers of local government,” Smith wrote. “His golf course land proposals at the city and county were tailored like Sinatra’s suits to fit his needs. The fact the public didn’t get the best of it rarely crossed the minds of mesmerized members of the City Council and County Commission.”

Such as the deal in which Walters leased land for his Bali Hai Golf Club from McCarran International for 10 years without paying a dime in rent. McCarran was to receive 40 percent of the course’s net profit, but there was no profit because Walters paid his own company a management fee of $6 million.

As for that indictment, Smith noted:

“Walters was a founding member of the infamous and feared ‘Computer Group,’ the breakthrough collective of gamblers, handicappers and investors who processed the day’s sports schedule at such a high level they consistently produced better odds than those on the wall of your local sports book. The Computer Group banked millions, and the bookies took a beating. The Computer Group spawned a generation of imitators, some of whom pounded the sports books to pieces.

“But the FBI and Metro were watching, and indictments followed. A trial came later, and Computer Group lawyers mopped the floor with the feds. The FBI and U.S. attorney’s office were so embarrassed they put gambling cases on the back burner of their list of prosecutorial priorities.”

That Smith column also pointed how Walters got the best of “60 Minutes” in this interview:

Developer, generous contributor and philanthropist. It is just how you edit it.