Results for “south africa”
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Monday assorted links

1. NYT tech coverage still a train wreck.  And reporters using aliases to stalk non-criminal subjects?  Isn’t that against NYT rules?

2. Scott Sumner on the Romney child plan.

3. Update on South African strain, vaccines, and confidence intervals.

4. Monopsony it ain’t.

5. “The average EV increases overall household load by 2.9 kilowatt-hours per day, less than half the amount assumed by state regulators. Our results imply that EVs travel 5,300 miles per year, under half of the US fleet average. This raises questions about transportation electrification for climate policy.”  Link here.

6. Vaccine efficacy update.

Tuesday assorted links

1. Is the English strain picking up some features of the South African strain? And the new strains do seem somewhat more dangerous.

2. Joe Stiglitz comes perilously close to the Austrian theory of the business cycle.

3. Update on the Russian vaccine (New Yorker).  And this WSJ piece.  It seems to work?  And yet more.

4. ““What we didn’t anticipate was that they would break the law,” Goldenfeld said — that some students, even after testing positive and being told to quarantine, would attend parties anyway.”  A look at some of the models.

5. “Dubai announced Monday the creation of a “space court” to settle commercial disputes, as the UAE — which is sending a probe to Mars — builds its presence in the space sector.”  Link here.

6. My on-line talk to PayPal.  Mostly Q&A, and they did ask me about Nirvana’s “Aneurysm.

7. Incoming vaccine data from Israel.

The Experts are Very Worried

Here is an interview with Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and the lead developer of a COVID vaccine being produced in India. He thinks the AstraZeneca vaccine should be approved immediately, as I have long argued.

President Biden himself announced Tuesday that we’re going to have maybe enough additional doses of the mRNA vaccines to fully vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of summer or fall.

I’m saying, “Well, no, that’s that’s not gonna work.” Telling us “by the fall” is like telling us “when the glaciers are gonna come back down from Quebec.” I mean, that’s not adequate.

We’re going to have to figure out a way to vaccinate the American people by late spring. That’s a tall order. To beat back the virus we need to give two doses to three-quarters of the population, to 246 million Americans. That’s half a billion immunizations. To get there, we’d need a rate of immunizations two or three times higher than what’s proposed.

….We need vaccinations now.

..things have been slowed down with the AstraZeneca-Oxford adenovirus vaccine. My understanding is that the FDA insisted that they conduct a full-scale Phase Three trial in the U.S., and we won’t have results for that until April. Meanwhile, the European Medicines Agency, the EMA, is going to make a ruling on the AstraZeneca Oxford vaccine on Friday based on studies done in Europe and also probably on data from Brazil and South Africa. [The EMA authorized, AT].

Those are large, reliable studies?

Yeah….Because of these new variants, there’s great urgency here in the U.S. So I’m saying that sometimes we have to do things that take us out of our comfort zone in order to save lives. That means, rather than focusing only on the new study that we’re doing in the U.S., we also look at the dossier presented to the EMA.

As a regulatory agency the EMA is up there with our U.S. FDA. They’re the two best regulatory agencies in the world. So if they sign off, I think we should say, “Look, let’s do it. Let’s use that vaccine.”

We’ve already bought 300 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine. We’ve paid for it — over a billion dollars — so let’s use it.

…And there’s also the recombinant protein vaccine our lab has developed at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital. In India they’re scaling that up to a billion doses. Nobody from the White House has approached us to say, “Hey, Peter, what can we do to bring that vaccine in.”

There seem to be blinders: All they can see is getting the mRNA vaccines. I don’t quite know what’s driving that. We have to figure out a way to bring the other ones on board.

And soon! We’re in the eye of the hurricane.

Hat tip: Jim Ward.

Sunday assorted links

1. Fauci.  Compare that to revisiting the Balaji thread.

2. Why are grandiose narcissists more effective at organizational politics?

3. Angus and I joke around.

4. What is the quality of CDC software?

5. Migrants to the U.S. are much more productive than migrants to other locales.

6. Atif Mian is still caught up in the Junker Fallacy.

7. Why the South African strain may not become dominant in the U.S.

Friday assorted links

1. The next Michael Lewis book (NYT).

2. Novovax data, including against the South African strain.  And wide confidence intervals.

3. Carolyn Hopkins.

4. Chinese government is collecting Americans’ DNA.

5. John Cochrane on GameStop, etc.

6. And how Robinhood ran out of cash (NYT).  The misinformation in the MR comments section and elsewhere on this is egregious.  Here is yet more common sense, though I don’t quite agree with all the framing.

It is a marathon, not a sprint

For all of its achievements, we still do not know if New Zealand will have ended up doing a good job against Covid-19:

New Zealand’s “go hard, go early” strategy to combat Covid-19 attracted global praise and eliminated local transmission of the virus. But the country’s slow rollout of vaccines is putting people at unnecessary risk and threatens to delay its economic recovery, critics warned.

Wellington plans to start vaccinating frontline workers in April and the general public from July under a cautious strategy that avoids the emergency authorisation of vaccines pursued by crisis-stricken nations such as the US and UK.

And note this:

There are at least 19 cases of the coronavirus variants first identified in the UK or South Africa in managed quarantine facilities in New Zealand for overseas arrivals, according to government data.

And this:

Mr Hipkins said there was “absolutely no complacency” in the government’s response.

Here is the full FT story.

Friday assorted links

1. SinoVac vaccine looking pretty good, and 300 million doses already sold (NYT).  And Pfizer-Biontech seems to work against the South African strain.

2. “Marginal-utility neglect.”

3. Covid in Zambia.

4. Alex redux: why do experiments make people uneasy?

5. Cocanha.

6. Sperm markets in Covid times, and disintermediation (NYT).  Recommended.  But a 1400 chess rating is nothing to boast about!

7. Angry people are more vulnerable to misinformation — Serenity Now!

First Doses First? — show your work!

Alex has been arguing for a “First Doses First” policy, and I find his views persuasive (while agreeing that “halfsies” may be better yet, more on that soon).  There are a number of numerical attempts to show the superiority of First Doses First, here is one example of a sketched-out argument, I have linked to a few others in recent days, or see this recent model, or here, here is an NYT survey of the broader debate.  The simplest numerical case for the policy is that 2 x 0.8 > 0.95, noting that if you think complications overturn that comparison please show us how.  (Addendum: here is now one effort by Joshua Gans).

On Twitter I have been asking people to provide comparable back-of-the-envelope calculations against First Doses First.  What is remarkable is that I cannot find a single example of a person who has done so.  Not one expert, and at this point I feel that if it happens it will come from an intelligent layperson.  Nor does the new FDA statement add anything.  As a rational Bayesian, I am (so far) inferring that the numerical, expected value case against First Doses First just isn’t that strong.

Show your work people!

One counter argument is that letting “half-vaccinated” people walk around will induce additional virus mutations.  Florian Kramer raises this issue, as do a number of others.

Maybe, but again I wish to see your expected value calculations.  And in doing these calculations, keep the following points in mind:

a. It is hard to find vaccines where there is a recommendation of “must give the second dose within 21 days” — are there any?

b. The 21-day (or 28-day) interval between doses was chosen to accelerate the completion of the trial, not because it has magical medical properties.

c. Way back when people were thrilled at the idea of Covid vaccines with possible 60% efficacy, few if any painted that scenario as a nightmare of mutations and otherwise giant monster swarms.

d. You get feedback along the way, including from the UK: “If it turns out that immunity wanes quickly with 1 dose, switch policies!”  It is easy enough to apply serological testing to a control group to learn along the way.  Yes I know this means egg on the face for public health types and the regulators.

e. Under the status quo, with basically p = 1 we have seen two mutations — the English and the South African — from currently unvaccinated populations.  Those mutations are here, and they are likely to overwhelm U.S. health care systems within two months.  That not only increases the need for a speedy response, it also indicates the chance of regular mutations from the currently “totally unvaccinated” population is really quite high and the results are really quite dire!  If you are so worried about hypothetical mutations from the “half vaccinated” we do need a numerical, expected value calculation comparing it to something we already know has happened and may happen yet again.  When doing your comparison, the hurdle you will have to clear here is very high.

When you offer your expected value calculation, or when you refuse to, here are a bunch of things you please should not tell me:

f. “There just isn’t any data!”  Do read that excellent thread from Robert Wiblin.  Similar points hold for “you just can’t calculate this.”  A decision to stick with the status quo represents an implicit, non-transparent calculation of sorts, whether you admit it or not.

g. “This would risk public confidence in the vaccine process.”  Question-begging, but even if true tell us how many expected lives you are sacrificing to satisfy that end of maintaining public confidence.  This same point applies to many other rejoinders.  It is fine to cite additional moral values, but then tell us the trade-offs with respect to lives.  Note that egalitarianism also favors First Doses First.

h. “We shouldn’t be arguing about this, we should be getting more vaccines out the door!”  Yes we should be getting more vaccines out the door, but the more we succeed at that, as likely we will, the more important this dosing issue will become.  Please do not try to distract our attention, this one would fail in an undergraduate class in Philosophical Logic.

i. Other fallacies, including “the insiders at the FDA don’t feel comfortable about this.”  Maybe so, but then it ought to be easy enough to sketch for us in numerical terms why their reasons are good ones.

j. All other fallacies and moral failings.  The most evasive of those might be: “This is all the more reason why we need to protect everyone now.”  Well, yes, but still show your work and base your calculations on the level of protection you can  plausibly expect, not on the level of protection you are wishing for.

At the risk of venturing into psychoanalysis, it is hard for me to avoid the feeling that a lot of public health experts are very risk-averse and they are used to hiding behind RCT results to minimize the chance of blame.  They fear committing sins of commission more than committing sins of omission because of their training, they are fairly conformist, they are used to holding entrenched positions of authority, and subconsciously they identify their status and protected positions with good public health outcomes (a correlation usually but not always true), and so they have self-deceived into pursuing their status and security rather than the actual outcomes.  Doing a back of the envelope calculation to support their recommendation against First Doses First would expose that cognitive dissonance and thus it is an uncomfortable activity they shy away from.  Instead, they prefer to dip their toes into the water by citing “a single argument” and running away from a full comparison.

It is downright bizarre to me — and yes scandalous — that a significant percentage of public health experts are not working day and night to produce and circulate such numerical expected value estimates, no matter which side of the debate they may be on.

How many times have I read Twitter threads where public health experts, at around tweet #11, make the cliched call for transparency in decision-making?  If you wish to argue against First Doses First, now it is time to actually provide such transparency.  Show your work people, we will gladly listen and change our minds if your arguments are good ones.

Sunday assorted links

1. Scott Sumner movie reviews.

2. Eli Dourado on the future course of innovation, recommended.

3. Further claims about Oumuamua.  And early NBA results not correlated with “how reality ought to be.”

4. Even in hard-hit Manaus, hospitalizations are reaching a new record high.  And more (speculative) worries about the South African strain.

5. Quantitative analysis of Darwin’s reading choices.

6. A blind date.

Tuesday assorted links

1. Why companies are not interested in single dose trials (NB: there is a more radical approach available here).

2. By Feb.1, 90% of all UK cases will be of the more infectious strain. But not yet significant in the United States.  And stability in Denmark continues.  And a good overview thread.

3. The excellent Dana Gioia on Ray Bradbury.

4. Japan is building wooden satellites to cut space junk.

5. Bad news from South Africa about the new Covid strain.

6. A new population of blue whales is discovered (NYT).

7. Some drone deregulation has arrived.

Update on the new Covid-19 strain

Here is a very good article with many points, here are two in particular that caught my attention:

People with a weakened immune system may give the virus this opportunity, as Gupta’s data show. More evidence comes from a paper published in The New England Journal of Medicine on 3 December that described an immunocompromised patient in Boston infected with SARS-CoV-2 for 154 days before he died. Again, the researchers found several mutations, including N501Y. “It suggests that you can get relatively large numbers of mutations happening over a relatively short period of time within an individual patient,” says William Hanage of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, one of the authors. (In patients who are infected for a few days and then clear the virus, there simply is not enough time for this, he says.) When such patients are given antibody treatments for COVID-19 late in their disease course, there may already be so many variants present that one of them is resistant, Goldstein says.


These could impact the binding of the virus to human cells and also its recognition by the immune system, Farrar says. “These South African mutations I think are more worrying than the constellation of the British variant.” South African hospitals are already struggling, he adds. “We’ve always asked, ‘Why has sub-Saharan Africa escaped the pandemic to date?” Answers have focused on the relative youth of the population and the climate. “Maybe if you just increase transmission a bit, that is enough to get over these factors,” Farrar says.

Developing…the speed premium of course is rising…

Saturday assorted links

1. Computer science rejects computer science (link corrected).

2. A substantive management/corporate culture piece on the L.A. Clippers.

3. A new paper from Treasury suggesting the job effects of PPP loans were significant, WSJ Op-Ed version here.

4. New strain in South Africa?  Probably a red herring, but not entirely reassuring to read that it affects young people more.  Boris Johnson is saying that the new strain in the UK is 70% more contagious (whatever that means).  That too may be speculative, more information here.  The general point is you wish to minimize the “reservoir” for such mutations, and that is another reason to want to keep cases low.

5. “It’s not clear why the U.S. Army, the most powerful fighting force in the world, required nearly a year to develop a mask that would have taken the civilian sector mere days—if not hours—to develop.

6. “1947: 5,000,000 NYC residents were vaccinated for small pox IN TWO WEEKS

7. Moderna vs. Pfizer comparison.